Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Haiti Mission 2011: We Have Seen the Lord

Photo by Irene Pruitt, © 2011

Scripture: John 20:19–31

“We have seen the Lord.” –John 20:25

In the gospel of John chapter 20, verse 19-31, we see record of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance to His disciples. In verse 25, the disciples, to whom Jesus appeared and showed His wounds from the crucifixion, said to the disciple Thomas that they had seen the Lord. Thomas, who often gets a “bad rap” for doubting, wanted more. Thomas wanted to see and touch his Lord. He wanted to experience Jesus’ resurrection.

The disciple Thomas gets a bad rap sometimes for his “unbelief.” Many have called Thomas the “Doubting Thomas,” which is a lot like calling someone “Rude Rudy,” or “Bad Breath Betty,” or “Dangerous Dan.” No one wants an adjective like this in front of their name. And we all have our doubts, don’t we? I actually like the disciple Thomas. He is one of my favorites. If Thomas can be a Christian, a follower of Jesus, then I believe that I can be one too.

Thomas wanted to experience Jesus first hand. In John 11:16, at the news of Lazarus’ death, Thomas with all his zeal said, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” We don’t often hear this about Thomas. What is important is not that Thomas wanted to see and touch the nail holes in Jesus’ hands and put his hands in Jesus’ side so that he could believe; what is more important is that Jesus allowed him to do it. Jesus welcomed Thomas’s desire to experience Him first hand. Jesus said to Thomas, and says to us today, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing (John 20:27).”

Just as Thomas wanted to experience the Risen Lord firsthand, so we want to experience Jesus first hand. Just as God invited Thomas to belief, so we are invited to belief. We are invited by Jesus to “not be unbelieving, but believing.” Our response should be the same as Thomas who responded: “My Lord and my God!”

On a recent mission trip to Haiti in April 2011 our team witnessed the Risen Lord Jesus in the most unlikely of places, where one would expect doubt and uncertainty. Haiti was hit by an earthquake on January 12th 2010, about a year and a quarter ago. The earthquake killed over 250 thousand people, injured over 300 thousand people, and left over a million people homeless. The homeless are living in tent cities, some of which were literally in the middle of the streets of Haiti. Today around 600 thousand people remain homeless, and about 2% of the rubble has been removed. Many survivors are left as orphans, widows, and widowers. Many have lost family or friends, and are currently living on one meal a day. Haiti has about an 80% unemployment rate and many Haitians live on less than a dollar a day as Haiti’s food prices are on the rise.

Even in the midst of this tragedy and brokenness, “We have seen the Lord.” Like Thomas, we figuratively got the opportunity to touch Jesus as we shared life and served together with the Haitian people who had been through and are going through so much. As Jesus Himself proclaims in Matthew 25:40, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” As we served the Haitian people, “We have seen the Lord.”

We have seen the Lord in the Haitian people as we have participated with them in praising our God in packed church services. We have seen the Lord in people worshiping Him without reservation or hesitation. We have seen the Lord in people making first time commitments to follow Jesus with their lives. We have seen the Lord in people repenting and turning to Christ. We have seen the Lord in the resurrected life that the Haitian people so beautifully displayed in the midst of their poverty and need. As Romans 8:11 expresses, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” We have witnessed this resurrection life displayed in the Haitian people. We have seen the Lord.

Jesus proclaimed that the poor are blessed in Luke 6:20-21 when “He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said: ‘Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.’” We saw the Lord in the Haitian people. We saw Him in their poverty, in their contentment and joy, and in their laughter. We saw these beatitudes come to life in Jesus’ resurrected life being displayed through His Haitian children. We have seen the Lord.

Now that we have returned back home, I find myself asking another set of questions. What about all of us in America? What about us in one of the wealthiest counties in our nation, Fairfax Virginia? Do we believe in His resurrected life? Do we believe that there is life outside of materialism? Do we believe that there is life beyond these “walls?” Do you believe that there is life beyond “the walls of Northern Virginia?” Are we willing to believe in His Resurrected Life?

Jesus has given us His invitation to “not be unbelieving, but believing.” How will we respond? Jesus says in Matthew 16:24-26, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Are we willing to give up that which we cannot keep to gain that which we cannot lose? Will we believe in His resurrected life? Will we live a life that allows others to proclaim, “We have seen the Lord.”

Lord Jesus, you are the resurrection and the life. Help us, as you helped Thomas, in our own doubts and disbelief that we may proclaim, like Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” Help us to “not be unbelieving, but believing.” When we doubt, help us to pray as your servant in Mark 9:24 prayed: “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” God we thank you that you daily allow us to experience firsthand your resurrection life. We thank you for the poor, “the least of these,” and the Haitian people who illustrate your resurrected life. Help us all to proclaim together, “We have seen the Lord.”

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Biblical View of Justice

WaPo: U.S. forces kill Osama bin Laden, Photo By justgrimes,http://www.flickr.com/photos/notbrucelee/5680354671/

Guest Post By Pastor Trey Pruitt

I decided, based on recent events and many people approaching me on the subject, to comment on the death of Osama Bin Laden.

The Bible states, “Justice executed is a joy to the righteous but a terror to those who practice iniquity.” - Proverbs 21:15

It is certainly ok to celebrate justice. It is certainly ok for Christians to rejoice when there is justice in the world. However, this must be different than celebrating vengeance. “Vengeance is mine…” says the Lord.

In addition, we must be cautious… the Bible also tells us this, “Do not gloat when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart rejoice when he stumbles. Or the Lord will see, be displeased, and turn His wrath away from him.” (Proverbs 24:17-18) The enemy here is terrorists and their idolatrous ideology founded in the religion of Islam. God does not want us celebrating death or else we will be no better than our enemy!

Where is the balance in these? First we must understand the difference between our response as Christians and the Government’s response to evil. The Bible states, “For government is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong.” (Romans 13:4)

The Bible tells us that the execution of Osama Bin Laden is a good thing, and we can have joy in the fact that justice was served. What happened is good because it was carried out by God’s instrument for justice. We can also take joy in the fact that we live in a God fearing nation that promotes justice and defends the weak. I pray for the fulfillment of Proverbs 21:15… that the just acts of the United States has brought terror upon those who seek to work iniquity in this world. Military and law enforcement “use of force” is God ordained when it is carried out in a God honoring manner. I am grateful that our President recognized the need for justice and had the courage to act. We must continue to pray that God will guide President Obama! In addition, I am grateful for all of our veterans, our service members and our law enforcement professionals who do the Lord’s work in dangerous situations!

Now, we must not forget about our response as Christians. A Christian can certainly use force under the authority of government, when it is just. However, there is an even greater calling for the church of Jesus Christ! I am reminded of a quote from Henry David Thoreau, “For every one hundred men cutting the branches of evil there is but one who strikes the root.” The job of the church of Jesus Christ is to cut away at the root of evil. We are grateful to our military and law enforcement officers who consistently chop away at the branches of evil… but there is only one group of people who are equipped and called to address the root of the problem, and those people are you (Christians)!

The Bible tells us not to be overcome by evil but to overcome evil with good. Love conquers hate! Forgiveness, and sharing God’s love with the world strikes at the very root of evil! As a church, we must do our duty. The only way to conquer evil is to see the hearts of mankind transformed by the loving power of Jesus Christ.

The United States has the Navy Seals and the CIA but the God of heaven also has His special forces; the Church and the angelic hosts under the command of Jesus. As this great nation exports justice with firepower, we must export the love of God with spiritual power. “For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” (Ephesians 6:12)

We must share the love of Jesus Christ with the Muslim world. Yes, even to those who seek to do us harm. After all, they cannot terrorize us because we do not fear man but God (Matthew 10:28). And we are not of those who shrink back in fear but we are bold in faith. (Hebrews 10:38-39)

Take joy in justice but do not allow yourself to gloat and do not allow a vengeful heart… God will honor both you and our nation if we do this.

Pastor Trey Pruitt

Hope Baptist Church
Columbia, SC