Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Why the Extinction of the Black Rhino Matters
Yesterday, I found out that the Western Black Rhino was declared extinct. That breaks my heart.

Here’s the thing. The rhinoceros wasn’t declared extinct because of natural causes. It has gone extinct because of greed. Poaching. People got so obsessed with money that they killed them off.

I don’t want to be misunderstood in this post. I understand that as the church, our first priority should be people. I understand that our main goal is leading people to Christ. I would never, ever, put anything else above that.

Greed is the sin at the heart of most extinctions. Plain and simple. That is the main thing I want to discuss in this article. 

In the United States, the idea of the American Dream has permeated everything we do. We are obsessed with having it all. We are obsessed with our homes being prettier than the next. We have to have the absolute best of everything. We are wasteful. 

Our nation is greedy. Plain and simple. We have too long ignored this sin. We obsess over that next big thing we want to buy. We give as little as possible. We fill our houses with stuff we don’t need. In reality, that money could have gone towards something better.

I am not saying there is anything  wrong with having these things. Yet, we need to consider our true intent. Is there any way to use those things to God’s glory?  Will this item just get lost in the piles of junk we don’t ever use? Am I really, truly going to use this? If the answer is no, yes, and no, we should try and reconsider. 

I think of the parable of the talents in Matthew 24:18-30. The wicked servants buried or didn’t do anything with their talents.  Same thing with us. What are we doing with God’s blessings? Burying them and keeping them to ourselves? Or are we sharing them with the world? Compared to the rest of the world, we've been blessed with great material wealth. 

How do the rhinoceros, bees, butterflies and other endangered animals tie into this?

Read this verse in Genesis chapter one:

“And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit…” (Genesis 1:28-29, emp. added.)

Notice something. He gave us every plant. He put all the animals under our rule and care. Wouldn’t you say that this earth is a gift to us from God?

What if you gave someone a gift? A handmade one? You picked out everything to be perfect for them. You worked hard on it. How would you feel to find out that person tosses that item around carelessly? They walk all over it. They are rough with it. They break it and don’t seem to care.

God gave this earth as a gift for us to use. Everything on this earth is at our disposal for our needs, and even our wants. However, many use it selfishly.

In the case of the rhinoceros, people’s hearts became ravaged with greed. They hunted without any regard for what might happen. People forget that once you destroy an entire animal population, the reason you did goes with it.

We can't be that bad, right? I mean, hey, it’s not like I’m an extortioner. It’s not like I am blackmailing anyone. And I definitely am not a poacher. So, I must be okay right?

Greed takes many forms. The rich young ruler was greedy (Matthew 19:16-22.). He had many possessions. But he wasn’t willing to give it up for Jesus. He had so much and gave so little. We don’t want to admit it or want to face it--

--but the rich young ruler is us. 

We believe with all our hearts that we are good people. We have so much, and give so little.

This sin has recently come to focus in my life. And I think it is a problem for most people in our western society. But I don’t want to be one of them. I don’t want an obsession with stuff. I want to be a good steward. As with the case of the rich young ruler, we HAVE to want God more than anything else.

This is why the rhino extinction matters. We are to be good stewards of God’s blessings. Animals are one of those blessings. What is our response to God's blessings? We abuse and waste every good and perfect thing He gives us. That is one of the ways sin works.

I am not saying we have to run around with picket signs. I am not saying we have to go around shouting, “SAVE THE ELEPHANT!” or, “SAVE THE BEES!”

 I am saying that to change these things, we have to choose God over money, stuff, and  selfishness. We must teach others to do the same. When we decide to be good stewards and overcome greed, these things can change. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Are You Ready for the Most Unexpected Event in the World?

A few early mornings ago, I was asleep; like every other person in the house. Well, not every person. It was about 3:40 in the morning. Ear-piercing screams began to rattle through my door. I jolt awake and realize it is my little sisters screaming their heads off. The first thought in my mind was that someone had broken in and was terrorizing my sisters.

I rushed out of my room, ready to fight whatever demented person had wandered in. Then, I see three little girls come rushing out of one of their bedrooms. They were panicking and screaming. In my sleepy stupor, I found it odd that they were  dressed in their Sunday dresses. The youngest girl also had eyeliner on. Between the screams and repeated words of “We’re dead we’re dead we're dead…..”  and “WE’RE GOING TO DIE!”,  I caught that there was flooding going on in one of the bathrooms.

Sure enough, one of the sinks was lying on the ground, completely detached from the wall. Water was squirting and spraying everywhere like a banged up artery. To make matters worse, the basement was flooding. The basement ceiling tiles were scattered everywhere.

Well, if you’re going to make a mess that early in the morning, might as well go big or go home. (Or, er, go somewhere else because we were already at home!)

The girls also described how none of them could get back to sleep. So, they decided to get ready for school…at 3:00 in the morning. Which is why they were up playing dress up at unholy hours of the morning.

I am not sure I have ever experienced such craziness early in the morning.

This brings me to the point of this article. Life is about the unexpected. As prepared as we think we are (or convince ourselves we are) life happens. There are many things in life that we can’t control. (Such as little munchkins getting up early and making a mess.)

The biggest thing we can’t control is God. He lives outside our realm of understanding and human ideas. He knows everything that is going to happen, and when. He knows when we are going to do this or that. He knows when we will die.

Moreover, He knows the day the world will end.
God says that day will come as a “thief in the night”. (1 Thess. 5:2) When it comes to being prepared, His return is the one thing we CAN be ready for. It takes faith. It also takes submission. It is to allow God to rule every single part of your life. When Jesus finally comes back, be honest with yourself. Will you be ready? Can you be confident that when you stand before God you are filled with Him? Overflowing with Him?

We can never do enough to earn our salvation. However, we accept His grace by obeying Him, and allowing Him to rule our lives. When we truly want God in our life, it will show. It will show because we will sin less. We will sin less because we want more of God than we do of ourselves. We will want to know what God wants from us, so we study His word hungrily. We will love others. Speak more kindly to them. We will be more willing to help others than to walk by them without a second glance. We will declare God’s name. We will boast of God’s great love. 

There is a Great Day coming. A day when the Church and those who aren’t in the Church will be separated. A day that is full of sorrow and terror. There is a day coming that is glad and joyful. There is a day coming that those who deny God will be humbled. There is a day coming that those who love Him and are looking for Him will want to run and embrace their Savior. There will be relief. There will be pain. There will be the Lost, and there will be the saved. There is no in-between. 

Don't be taken unaware by His return. Repent, put on the Lord in baptism, and live for Him from this day forward. Things like flooding in your home can take you by surprise. Don't let Jesus' return take you by surprise.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

It's the Little Things....

I am sure a lot of us feel this way sometimes. I recently began to wonder if I was doing enough for God.  I began to pray for more opportunities. Of course, I was thinking big scale-like mission trips.

So I prayed about it. I asked Him to help me not forsake opportunities to give, to love, to share. I wanted to do all the big things. Not out of pride, but because I really, really want God to use me to my full capacity. I want to serve Him and honor Him.

However, the more I looked at my life, the more I realized that I am in no place to do the “big things” yet. I began feeling bad about it. My circumstances at the moment prevent me from doing those things right now.

Then it began to occur to me...maybe I just need to stop worrying about what I can’t do for now. What if I just need to look at the opportunities around me?

I think about my little sisters at the children’s home. These little girls have been neglected, abused, and who knows what else.  I love them so much. What if right now, God wants me to minister to and love the little girls at the home?

I had a conversation with my Aunt tonight about my concerns about whether I was doing enough. She reminded me the impact of the “little things”. She talked about how she has seen God work, from her simply being kind or being there for someone. We need to work with what we have. We can bear much fruit by serving with our whole heart. Having a willing, servant’s heart is the key. Keeping eyes open for opportunities around us is also key.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”-Colossians 3:23

When we fully submit to God, we say, “I am available for You to use me in anyway. Anything You want me to do, I will do it.”

Sometimes, the Lord needs you where you already are.  It can be difficult when you want to do the big things. I continue to pray that someday I will be able to serve in a mission field. However, God is showing me right now that there are a group of girls who need my love and example.

My foster sisters have come to mean the world to me. They need that unconditional love and support. They need to see God.  I must show that love to them. It could happen one day they give their lives to Christ. Then they can tell the world what God has done for them. It would have started with the fact that we loved them.

Believe it or not, loving those around us and giving them the gospel is a great place to start. Even if something seems little, it can lead to big things.

If you are in the same spot as me, remember- you don’t have to be doing the “big things” now. Pray about it. If you have that big of a heart for missions, or anything else, God will offer the opportunity when the time is right. Just maybe not right now. Patience is a virtue.