We are all bandwagon activists.

Hey.  Did you notice that we are one week removed from the attack on Paris, one day removed from the governmental leaders declaring their position on refugees, and even though IS had 170 hostages this morning at a Radisson Hotel in Mali, society has, by-in-large, already moved on?  The house has suspended Obama’s refugee placement program, so we can all rest comfortably again, so please enjoy this picture of my cat.  (Yes, I do have the two cutest cats around).

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I am impressed that we, as a nation, focused on the Syrian Civil War for nearly a week.  Did you hear that Charlie Sheen announced that he is HIV+?  The press, by in large, did not even let that bombshell outweigh our focus on the war, refugees and IS believing itself a major world power.  Well done, America.

Refugee placement services felt an influx of support nationwide.  I read that the Kentucky Refugee Ministries has received more support in the last week than they have in the last twenty five years of service, even as they welcome Syrians.  Did you know, however, that the Civil War started four and a half years ago?  Did you know that Syrians have been fleeing for their lives, by the masses, since that time?  Did you know that we have received Syrian refugees here in the US?  Not many, but already over 1,800.

Did you care two days ago?
Will you care tomorrow?
Probably not.  But we all sure cared yesterday.

Why?  Because we are all bandwagon activists.  The age of the internet allows us to hear the headlines of the news, read a few opinion articles and form a thirty-second opinion, and anyone who disagrees with us is uninformed and a irrational.  Forget the fact that many have given their lives to the study and development of international relations and foreign policies, and there are a very few who have devoted their lives to helping refugees learn a new life in a foreign country.

Sadly, this is characteristic of our culture and we, as Christians, prove ourselves to be just as guilty as the rest.  We cite Scriptures about loving our enemies, praying for the world, espousing devoutly how it is our Christian duty to care for the widow and the orphan.  But when was the last time you visited a widow or took care of an orphan?  You might nobly disagree with our nation at large and declare that we should help refugees, but did you donate money to those organizations who have a plan in place?  Did you go to the airport and pick up a family, help set up their new apartment, start teaching them English or help them in any way?

We have not progressed very far on the spectrum of sanctification.

We are chronically immature, selfish Christians who can get on the bandwagon vocally, but do not sacrifice our money, our comfort, our time or our energy to actually do something.

“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress,and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

– James 1.27

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”

– Matt 5.44

“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.  Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.  “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

– Rom 12.17-21

These are steep commands.  These are steep commands against which our culture is squarely opposed.  No, not necessarily in value, but in action.  The elderly are considered irrelevant and we send them off to nursing homes because they get in our way and are a nuisance.  We confine orphans to foster care and group homes because we want to have our own babies and are not interested in the baggage that comes along with a child who has been through serious trauma.  We consider it honorable to turn the other cheek and practice patience, but cannot control our reactions well enough do so.  Our comfort and our security come first.  Justice – our own perception of it anyway – is rarely sacrificed for the sake of serving someone who just took advantage of us.  No, I [intentionally] don’t carry cash, so stop begging me for it at every intersection.

Our American Dream worldview has stunted our Spiritual growth.  Our expectation of and desire for immediate gratification has made us a bunch of pansies who cannot invest long term for a goal or persevere through trials.  We get depressed.  We take medicine to feel better.  We give up and find something easier.  We should enjoy our jobs, we should get paid that outrageous salary because I deserve it.  My life should be comfortable.

Scripture teaches us that Spiritual maturity comes through trials and tribulations.  We will not grow unless our faith is systematically tested by God:

“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

– Rom 5.3-5

God orchestrates situations in our lives to develop our faith into maturity.  The walk of the Christian is the process of becoming more like Jesus:  dying to our sin and our flesh, and taking on the persona of the Holy Spirit.  A person who is being led by the Holy Spirit is exemplified by the fruit of the Spirit:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

– Gal 5.22-23

So let us stop and consider our hearts and actions over the last few days.  How many conversations did you have about the Syrian Civil War, which is now going on five years?  How many conversations did you have about permitting Syrian refugees into our nation, and/or into your community?  How many times did you pray about it?  Did you actually do something, or did you just convey your wisdom to anyone who would listen?

This is a test, folks.  And we, as a church, are headed down the path of failure, if we do not seek God, ask Him how we should respond, and invest.  God many not be calling your church or your community to respond specifically to Syrian refugees.  You might live in Indiana where that family was diverted, mid-travel, to Connecticut because your governor refused them entrance.  But there is another widow or orphan that God wants you to care for.  She might even be your own grandmother.  There is another enemy to which you need to offer grace and love.  It might even be your own brother when you go home for Thanksgiving next week.

Let’s not be bandwagon Christians.  Let’s grow in perseverance and fight the good fight of faith.  Let’s do something, and not just talk about it.

“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”

– James 1.22

Purposelessness is Kindred to Lifelessness

“Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work’.'”

– John 4.34

Do you have purpose in your life?  On any level?  When you get up in the morning, do you set goals for yourself?  Do you think about how you can best honor God throughout your day?  Or do you just coast through the mundane?  Are you making a difference?

In American grade schools we are indoctrinated to believe that you can be whatever you want to be – do whatever you want to do – when you grow up.  As collegiate students, idealism is often embraced and students aspire to change the world.  My dad often quotes a lesson he was taught as a child “Dare to be Daniel”.  The premise, obviously, is to aim to live as courageously as Daniel did and by consequence change the world.

But then sometime in our early twenties, we graduate from college and the “real world” smack us square in the face.  We have to find a stable job with a good income.  We get married, have kids, buy a dog and settle into the American Dream of the nine to five, barbecues on Friday nights and sleeping in on Saturdays.

But what exactly does living a life of purpose mean?  Do we necessarily need to be about changing the world to have purpose?  Jesus said “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work”.  He literally ate purpose.  He survived on purpose.  And God had a very specific and clear plan for Jesus’ life.  To live as a man, perfectly without sin, to establish disciples, to die on the cross and to raise after three days and to fulfill the Old Testament through His life.  He did this so perfectly that He was able to say at the end of His life, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17.4).

And we know that God has a perfect plan for us.  He has established our steps and our ways.  No two people’s paths are exactly the same.  So to be purposeful, we much each daily submit our paths before the Lord and “eat” His purpose for us.  Every action we execute in our life does not in-an-of itself have to change the world, but it should glorify God and affect us.

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10.31).

It’s not about being the best.  It’s not about fulfilling your dreams.  It’s not about success or money or prestige.  It’s about honoring God in the daily activities that He sets before you.  Have you surrendered your all to Him?  Are you willing to cook breakfast, to dress your kids, to work your job, to eat and sleep, to sell your belongings and move to a foreign country as a missionary – only to His honor?  Every river has two banks.  If there are no confines to direct its flow, you are left with a flood.  Or a still lake.  Let’s go somewhere.  Let’s flow within the banks of God’s direction and honor Him with our every action.  Let’s change the world, starting with our daily lives, eating and drinking and sleeping to His honor.