Life-Changing Touch

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“Touch has a memory.” John Keats

The Gospel of Luke records a life-changing touch:

“As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him.”

The needs of this world are massive.

Physical. Emotional. Relational. Spiritual.

Ultimately, there is a God-Shaped hole that humanity is trying to fill.

Argentinian poet Antonio Porchia wrote, “We become aware of the void as we fill it.”

St. Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

“And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her.”

The length of people’s pain and the despair of not knowing if it will ever go away are excruciating.

The multitudes try so many ways to take away the pain.

The masses pray so many prayers to remove the chains of injustice.

I am reminded of the pain of young girls I have met in Niger, Africa who have been sold off to marriage much too young, whose bodies are too immature to carry a baby and are now experiencing the shame of a medical condition called fistula, where they cannot hold their fecal matter and urine, and have become outcasts to their own families and in their own villages.

The operation to fix them is simple in the western world, yet it seems like an impossible dream in the deserts of West Africa.

Maybe you can relate somehow.

Your pain has caused you shame.

You have tried everything. You feel hopeless. You feel like an outcast.

Redemption seems like an impossible dream, very far away.

“She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.”

Jesus has the power to heal and two thousand years later, those of us of faith, we are called the body of Christ and now we have the power to heal.

We have the power to heal through touching people’s lives with dignity, love, hope and prayer.

Mother Teresa said it like this:

“Christ has no body now but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good
Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes
You are his body”

“‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked.”

While being crushed by the masses, Jesus notices the touch of one woman.

With the overwhelming needs of the crowd, he feels the pain of one.

With the noise of our world at an all-time deafening high, can we still hear the one?

A young man walked into our early morning Sunday church service, beaten up and bleeding from a bar fight, his clothes and pours emitting the stench of  way too much alcohol he had consumed the night before. He sat down 4 seats away from a woman in her 70’s who was properly dressed and had come to worship her Lord and learn about his goodness.

When she saw this bloody, smelly young man, her heart broke and she moved over to the seat next to him and touched his hand, and she became the body of Christ, and with no judging or shame, she held it while the music played, and healing began.

This man has not missed a Sunday since that fateful morning and now he has become an agent of healing himself.

The New Testament writer James wrote, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?”

Today, with all the noise, be still, listen and you will be surprised how God wants to use you to heal others.

English scholar and Bible translator William Tyndale stated boldly, “The Church is the one institution that exists for those outside it.”

“When they all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.’”

Peter saw the crowd, Jesus saw the individual.

Jesus saw an individual in need of individual redemption.

I have a friend who used to see the homeless as a crowd and he judged and looked the other way.

And then he met an individual homeless man, heard his story and his heart broke and now he is one of the leading advocates in our county for the rights and resources for the homeless.

Do you see mankind as a faceless crowd or are you asking God to show you the individual who has a name and a story and needs to know that healing is possible?

“But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.’”

When we see each person as an individual, redeemable by God, we will get drained and we will need to be refueled by the Holy Spirit.

Being drained is part of the process of being an agent of healing for God.

If we see everyone as a crowd, we will not get drained and not have to depend upon the spirit.

Because Jesus came to heal the broken-hearted, he would spend much time alone with his Father before he would spend time with the crowds.

Early in my life, I tried to pace myself too much, trying to preserve my energy that I was mustering up on my own.

20 years later, I have more energy, I am more involved, more invested, depending on Jesus to refuel me.

We pace ourselves, waiting for the moment to give it our all.
Stop waiting, the moment is now. SEIZE THE DAY!

Do not be afraid to be drained. God will fill you back up again.

The beautiful and talented Sophia Loren once stated, “If you haven’t cried, your eyes can’t be beautiful.”

Entering into the pain of humanity and becoming an agent of healing is hard and painful, but it will make your soul beautiful.

“Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.”

I have learned that broken, hurting desperate people lead the way in transparency and humility leading to transformation and healing.

Like the tax collector standing in the shadowed corners of the temple, beating his chest crying out, “God have mercy on me, I’m a sinner!”, people who know they are broken are the ones who come to God just as they are and are ushered into his redemptive, healing arms.

This makes religious people nervous.

Religious people work so hard at looking dignified and well-put together that they miss out on the healing touch of God.

When the church I go to started welcoming broken, hurting people into our services, the rawness and honesty of their confessions of who they were and how God had taken their darkness and replaced it with grace made the more established, well-rehearsed religious people nervous.

One man, seeing people who were far from God now finding God and his mercies, actually stated in disgust, “I wish it was the way it used to be.”

The way it used to be was a few dozen people, all dressed in suits, toting Bibles from the same translation, coming to church, judging the world, thanking God they were not like them and going home feeling justified.

NO THANKS! I never want it to be the way it used to be.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”

Henry Ward Beecher said, “The Church is not a gallery for the exhibition of eminent Christians, but a school for the education of imperfect ones.”

“Then he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’”

When we treat each person with dignity, as an individual, understanding they have been created by God for eternity, and when we take the time to notice them, invest in them, redeem them…then…somehow…supernaturally…their faith begins to rise…and in the words of Jesus…THEIR FAITH WILL HEAL THEM!

Their faith!

Faith rises in people when we pay attention and notice them.

As we choose to love our world, faith will replace fatalism, hope will replace despair.

My job is to pay attention, love and accept everyone.
My job is to bring value to their life. No exceptions.

Now is the time. Yesterday is over. Tomorrow is far away.

In the words of Bridget Willard, “Church is the human outworking of the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s not go to Church, let’s be the Church.”

Half Full or Half Empty?

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Perspective in life is everything.

per•spec•tive /pərˈspektiv/ the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance

Have you ever lost perspective?

Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, poet, theologian, social critic and religious author once said, “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”

In this life, perspective is everything!
We can see a problem as a burden or an opportunity.
We can see the rain as an irritant or a gift that supports life.
We can see the poor as a nuisance or we can see the poor as a chance to meet God.
We can see difficult times as God’s curse or we can see difficult times to grow patience, character and hope.

We see the glass half empty or half full.

When Goliath came against the Israelites, the soldiers all thought, “He’s so big we can never kill him.” David looked at the same giant and though, “He’s so big I can’t miss.”

Abraham Lincoln once said, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

Jesus taught us to pray a prayer of perspective daily when he said, “May your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

I call this “The prayer of the cup that is half full.”

I grew up in church where I was taught that this world was going to hell in a hand-basket and that we were supposed to get saved from our sins and then hide out and hold on until Jesus comes back.

That was very unbiblical.

Jesus came proclaiming that the cup was half full, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted and to announce that captives shall be released and the blind shall see, that the downtrodden shall be freed from their oppressors, and that God is ready to give blessings to all who come to him.”

Doesn’t sound like hiding out and holding on to me.

Jesus’ prayer was that his kingdom would come, right now, on earth as it is in heaven, then he commissioned and enabled the church to storm the gates of hell and rescue the poor, the blind, the lost, the addicted, the judged, the hungry and the gates would not prevail.

Name some kind of hell someone is living in, and Jesus has demanded and empowered us to go there and rescue them.

In my opinion, Jesus never intended for the church to look like it does today.

There is a lot of resources going to the “already convinced” and most programs are designed to placate the “already converted” and there are a lot of empty buildings and wasted space, except for an hour or two on Sundays.

Jesus always intended the church to be on the leading edge of rescuing people from hopelessness, brokenness, darkness and despair.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice.” Isaiah 58:6

It looks like Harry Rheder and Steve Baker who lead an auto-ministry overseeing dozens of volunteers, fixing cars for single moms so they can get to work and have safe transportation for their children.

It looks like a local auto sales owner, Ron Wells, who regularly gives cars away for single moms and those trying to get back up on their feet and Marty Robinson, who owns a local mechanic shop who donates parts so the auto ministry can continue to flourish, even though they may actually be taking business away from him.

It looks like Marsha Rose meeting weekly with the mentally ill, who have been forgotten and marginalized, to create life-saving support and letting them know the love of God.

It looks like Paul Geddes, who is passionate about farming, who helps plant and maintain a 20,000 square foot volunteer garden to supply fresh fruits and vegetables to the hungry.

It looks like an 82 year old, Berkeley graduate, civil engineer, Art Edwards, spending his twilight years running a non-profit transitional homeless shelter, and against all odds, is helping people move from despair to dignity and hope.

It looks like a 10 year old girl, Claire Cockrell, who after seeing a movie on the true Isaiah 58 fast and how a $10 mosquito net prevents malaria, so she goes to her local public school and raises $1000 to purchase 100 nets and saves hundreds of lives.

It looks like Justin Morsey, in his early twenties, who moved to the Philippines to a very dangerous, religiously militant area where being a Christian puts your life at risk, and became a director of a home where young girls who have been sex trafficked and have been rescued, are rehabilitating and learning about real love, by seeing a young man of integrity who respects women and loves God.

It looks like a retired, firefighter Doug Shelstad, walking the halls of our local hospital, praying for the sick and introducing the dieing to a Savior who offers eternal life.

When people start viewing and expressing the Gospel, “May your kingdom come, may your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” through their passions and talents and resources, injustice is fought at ever level.

How’s your perspective these days?

My prayers lately have been a Mother Teresa prayer:

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How are your prayers lately?

Are your prayers, “Jesus, there is no hope, I’m digging a bunker, the government is a mess, I’m going to play it safe, I’m going to let fear control me and pessimism be my guide.”

Our can you pray boldly, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Will you live with the perspective that light trumps darkness and love defeats evil and the unseen is more powerful than the seen.

Will you dream big dreams and live with the attitude that in God’s kingdom THE GLASS IS HALF FULL AND IT’S GETTING FULLER!

Will you live with two promises, “That nothing can separate us from the love of God” and “One day, suffering, striving, sickness, injustice will cease and he will wipe every tear from your eyes.”

The #2 Reason We Don’t See Miracles

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Answer: WE MAKE EXCUSES

Benjamin Franklin said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”

The writer of Proverbs wrote, “The lazy man is full of excuses. “I can’t go to work!” he says. “If I go outside, I might meet a lion in the street and be killed!”

Try that one with your boss.

Soren Kierkegaard talks seriously how excuses damage our world when he says, “For like a poisonous breath over the fields, like a mass of locusts over Egypt, so the swarm of excuses is a general plaque, a ruinous infection among men, that eats off the sprouts of the Eternal.”

Excuses, we have all have them and make them.

There are 3 that stop miracles.

Excuse #1: What difference can I make?

The statistics seem overwhelming.
The problems seem insurmountable.
The odds seem to be against us.

There are more people in slavery today than in the 18th century:

Trafficking is the third largest illegal trade behind illegal weapon trade and drugs.

Every fourteen seconds a child is orphaned by AIDS.

500,000 children are in foster care in the United States; 118,000 are eligible for adoption.

Over 70% of sex trafficking in U.S. comes from kids who have aged out of the foster system.

Seemingly overwhelming statistics paralyze us and influence us to ask the question, “What difference can I make”, which ultimately then turns into an excuse to do nothing.

When Jesus told us to follow him for the sake of the hurting, the poor and those who are facing horrific injustice, he didn’t say to do it if it looks like you can make a difference.

He just said, “Follow Me.”

And when he did, people made excuses about why they couldn’t.

And his response to them was, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.”

Miracles happen when we seize the day and act in obedience to a need, against all odds, simply because it is the right thing to do.

We can and are making a much bigger difference than we think.

Dr. Scott Todd writes, “We can end extreme poverty in our lifetime and see God get the credit and we can do it engaging and practical ways of putting our faith into action to impact our world.”

In the last 30 years, extreme poverty has been cut in half from 52% to 26%. (Miracle)

Between 1990 and 2010, maternal mortality worldwide dropped by almost 50%. (Miracle)

AIDS related deaths are down 24%. (Miracle)

But more miracles can happen if everyone of faith will change the question from “What difference can I make?”  to “How many miracles will happen if I choose to be obedient with what I’ve been given?”

The potential miracles are mind-blowing!

If 1 out of every 3 churches in America would find one family to adopt one kid there would be no orphans in America:

If the 138 million American Christians who attend church at least twice per month were to tithe, their income is 2.5 trillion, it would result in 250 billion dollars per year in philanthropy.

World renown economist Jeffrey Sachs says that we could eradicate stupid, preventable poverty with just 78 billion dollars a year.

Imagines the miracles, which seem insurmountable, if we are just simply obedient!

“No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.”

Excuse #2: It’s too hard

Helen Keller became deaf & blind at the age of 19 months, but grew up and became the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Sydney J. Harris says, “When I hear somebody sigh, ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?’”

Most things worth doing in this life are hard.
Most things that change the world are hard.

Miracles are God intervening when we are willing to do the hard work.

Dr. Troy Dickson and his wife Kim, she has a degree in global health, moved with their two daughters from their comfortable home and lifestyle in California, to the intense and difficult streets of New Delhi, India to help start, against all odds, a home for girls who can be rescued from the horrors of sex trafficking.

With so much government bureaucracy, red tape and a culture of ignoring this horrific injustice, Troy and Kim decided that no matter how hard and seemingly impossible this might be, they said yes to the challenge and within a year, Courage Homes opened and the miracles have begun.

This email came from the directors when the home had just opened: “Just wanted to rejoice and share with you, and beg for your prayers! Courage Homes in India just got EIGHT girls from a brothel raid on GB Road (big red light district in Delhi) yesterday! That puts us at 12 girls, which is our bed capacity right now. We have a high profile case right now, which has resulted in a lot of arrests of people in the trafficking rings and awakened the whole nation to the issues of trafficking – laws are even being changed because of it. God is definitely in the middle of what we are doing! Our licensing procedures are being sped up because the government is really recognizing the value of a home devoted to the healing of these girls, and only because the home has been so safe and nurturing have the girls been willing to testify against the perpetrators and tell their stories. It’s amazing!”

I heard a former FBI agent and now an employee of International Justice Mission who is on the front lines of rescuing girls from sex trafficking in some of the most dangerous places in the world say, “Find out the hard things God is asking you to do and do them. It will be the greatest thing you will ever do.”

Watch this 2 minute video before we get to the last excuse that stops us from seeing miracles.

Excuse #3: I’m too old or I’m too young to make a difference

The video you just watched ends this argument.

Throughout the history of the world, God has used the young and the old alike to bring about change and progress.

Anne Frank was 12 when she wrote the diary of Anne Frank.

God spoke through a little boy named Samuel in order to correct the evil religious leaders who were ignoring justice.

Nelson Mandela was 76 when he became president of South Africa.

Abraham and Sarah had been collecting social security for years when she gave birth to Isaac.

Albert Einstein was only 26 when he wrote the theory of relativity

Josiah became the king of Israel when he was only 8 years old, eventually purging Israel of idols and leading a spiritual revival.

Dr. Seuss was 54 when he wrote “The Cat in the Hat”

JRR Tolkien was 62 when the “The Lord of the Rings” books came out.

My friend, Eldon Bough, at the age of 86, serves 75 meals weekly with “Meals on Wheels” to the elderly and sponsors 22 children through Compassion International, helping to create a huge dent in eradicating child poverty.

Martin Luther King Jr. was only 34 when he gave the speech “I have a dream”

Jesus of Nazareth was only 33 when he saved the world.

It is never too soon and it is never too late to be a part of a miracle. It just takes eliminating the excuses.

What are some of the excuses in your life that are keeping you from being a part of a miracle?

“I am only one. But still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something: Yet, just because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can.” Helen Keller

The #1 Reason We Don’t See Miracles

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Simple answer: WE JUDGE.

Even though Jesus stated very succinctly, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others and the standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”

Yet we still judge.
What kind of lifestyle do they have?
What political party do they belong to?
What kind of responsibility have they taken in their life?
What kind of faith do they cling to?
What theology do they hold?

WE JUDGE and often times, very subtly and smugly, we decide who should receive a miracle.

The prophets never said, “Love, serve and defend if you approve of the way they are living”, or “Love, serve and defend if you think they deserve it”, or “Love, serve and defend if you think they will appreciate it.”

They just declared, “LOVE, SERVE, DEFEND!”

Judging might help justify not getting involved.

In the ninth chapter of John, the disciples ask Jesus whose fault was it that a man was born blind.

They inquired, “Was it his fault or his parents?”

2000 years later we could ask, “Jesus, why was this little boy born HIV positive? Whose fault is it? Why was this young girl born in a dangerous, drug infested no hope neighborhood? Whose fault is it? Why have these kids, on the border of Mexico, been orphaned? Whose fault is it anyway? Why are people addicted? Why are people homeless? Why are people lonely? Whose fault is it?”

Nothing wrong with asking why, but we can get stuck on the why and justify our lack of involvement by judging.
They were promiscuous.
They were lazy.
They were sinful.

We can get so theologically convoluted, we can miss the whole point and more tragically we can miss the miracle.

Jesus answered his disciples, “It was not anyone’s fault. This man was born blind, so that God’s mercy could be demonstrated.”
And a miracle happened. The blind man’s eyes were opened.

I don’t know the answers to all the “whys” of this world but I do know this:

When a baby born HIV positive is offered God’s mercy by being given an antiretroviral drug, a miracle happens.

When a prostitute is offered God’s mercy by being loved by a local church and given support, resources and life skills to change her life, a miracle happens.

When a homeless person is offered God’s mercy by being given shelter, food and transportation, a miracle happens.

When a foster child is offered God’s mercy by being given a healthy home and support system, a miracle happens.

When a person far from faith is offered God’s mercy in a grace-filled church service, a miracle happens.

There are a lot of dark places of judging in our world today.
There are a lot of hopeless people who have been judged.
There are a lot of people who don’t know where to turn for help and the church has too often judged “who” they are and “why” they are where they are at, to decide if they are worthy of being offered God’s mercies and miracles.

Jesus asks people of faith to not judge. It’s that simple.
The book of James in the New Testament reminds us, “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

It is important to remember what the scriptures DO NOT say:

Treat those that work for you fairly and give them what they earn…if the economy is good.

Share your food with the hungry…if they are thankful.

Shelter those who are helpless, poor and destitute…if it wasn’t their fault.

Clothe those who are cold…if they are working on their issues.

Don’t hide from relatives who need your help…if they will pay you back.

Love those who are hurting…as long as you approve of their lifestyle.

Make sure those who are in prison know they are not alone…as long as they say they are sorry.

The scriptures are very clear:
Care for the orphan.
Defend the widow.
Rescue the girl that has been sex-trafficked.
Love the foreigner.
Invite into your home the alien.
Visit the prisoner.
Accept the rejected.
Lift off the burdens of people who have been crushed by religion.

No caveats. Just do it.
Offer mercy so miracles can happen.

We have all been created equal so I have a question for you. What race, socioeconomic, political, religious, lifestyle or age group do you struggle with judging?

A gay person?
A democrat?
A homeless person?
A drunk?
A republican?
A Muslim?
A relative?
A neighbor?
A co-worker?

I challenge you to offer them mercy, let God break your heart and prepare for a miracle.

Sometimes the greatest way we can start to offer mercy is to pray!

One of the most powerful prayers I have read was uncovered from the horrors of Ravensbruck concentration camp.
Ravensbruck was a concentration camp built in 1939 for women.
Over 90,000 women and children perished in Ravensbruck, murdered by the Nazis.
Corrie Ten Boom, who wrote “The Hiding Place”, was imprisoned there too.

The prayer, found in the clothing of a dead child, says: “Lord, remember not only the men and woman of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us: Instead remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering, our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble. When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.”

Wow! That last line gives me chills and brings with it a deep conviction to my heart.

I really do believe the #1 reason we do not see miracles is because we judge instead of offer mercy.

Luckily, God did not let the “who” or the “why” get in the way of his mercy.

The words of Brennan Manning share with us the gracious mercy of God that led to the ultimate miracle that reverberates throughout the infinity of time.

“Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. (see Revelation 7:9)

I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me that she could find no other employment to support her two-year-old son.

I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with grueling alternatives.

I shall see the businessman besieged with debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions.

I shall see the insecure clergyman addicted to being liked, who never challenged his people from the pulpit and longed for unconditional love.

I shall see the sexually abused teen molested by his father and now selling his body on the street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last ‘trick’, whispers the name of the unknown God he learned about in Sunday school.

‘But how?’ we ask. Then the voice says, ‘They have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’

There they are. There ‘we’ are – the multitude who so wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life’s tribulations, but through it all clung to faith.

My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace.”

THE 6 C’S of CHANGE (Part 2) Finding Courage in a Modern Day Crisis

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Esther was a Jew who grew up as an exile in Persia hundreds of years before Christ.

King Xerxes was the powerful King at the time who ruled over 127 provinces.

Queen Vashti was the beautiful wife of Xerxes who refused to show off her beauty in front of King Xerxes party guests which set in motion the rise of Esther.

Mordecai was Esther’s older cousin.

Haman held a royal title with the Amalekites, who were long standing enemies of the Jews.

These are the characters of an epic story that brings us from a wicked, evil plot to a risky, life-saving commitment.

At the end of a 7 day binge party, with the King’s judgment impaired by alcohol, Xerxes makes an arrogant and voyeuristic order to have Queen Vashti, his extravagantly beautiful wife, to parade provocatively in front of all of his guests.

Sadly, the Persia of Xerxes’ day was much like what too much of our world is today. Women were used, abused and exploited with very little rights.

She refuses to do it, which infuriates and embarrasses the King and she is banished from his presence, demoted and no longer queen.

The King begins to look for a new queen.

Those who become candidates to become the new queen have to go through twelve months of beauty treatments before being seen by the king.

Esther becomes one of the candidates.

And because of her beauty Esther is chosen by King Xerxes to become queen.

Meanwhile Mordecai, Esther’s older cousin, saves the King by alerting him of an assassination attempt on his life. This heroic deed is recorded in the record books, which becomes an important part of this story.

At the same time, Haman is given a high position in the kingdom by the King and becomes annoyed when Mordecai refuses to kneel down to him. Haman’s anger leads him to plot the execution of all the Jews of the kingdom.

Here’s the CRISIS: The extermination of the Jews.

To try to stop the execution of all the Jews, Mordecai calls on his younger cousin, Queen Esther to intercede to the King.

There are two problems to that request.
One, the King does not know that Esther is a Jew.
Two, she could be killed because it was illegal, upon penalty of death, for anyone, even her, to appear before the king uninvited.

As a Jew, Esther is convicted to do something, but there is much risk to actually following through.

And here we have this very familiar, human tension: We have CONVICTION, but will it turn into a COMMITMENT to act?

In the words of Thomas Carlyle, “Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into commitment.”

Esther is queen and she knows the right thing to do. But life is good, life is comfortable and here in lies the tension.
Have you ever known the right thing to do, but you are comfortable, and to do the right thing might inconvenience you?

Mordecai is concerned about this tension between conviction and commitment and he sees Esther’s reluctance to approach the King so as an older cousin he challenges her with some stern, challenging words.
“If you keep quiet at a time like this, God will deliver the Jews from some other source, but you and your relatives will die; what’s more, who can say but that God has brought you into the palace for just such a time as this?”

With these words, Esther makes the COMMITMENT to appeal to the King.

And the COST is she could be demoted as queen
The CONSEQUENCES could be she could be killed.

Before she approaches the king, she asks Mordecai to organize a time of prayer and fasting for her. She is well aware that she needs God’s favor if she is to succeed.

She needs another C word: COURAGE

To do anything significant and worthy we must allow courage to win over fear.
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”

The great 20th century theologian Karl Barth is famous for saying, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”

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Meanwhile, Haman’s hatred for Mordecai is growing so he has a special gallows built beside his house on which to hang Mordecai.

At the same time, King Xerxes cannot sleep and asks for the record books to be read aloud to him. (I could think of better bed time reading material.)
But while the record book was being read out loud the deeds of Mordecai in saving the king in the past are read.

In an ironic and almost humorous twist of fate, the King asks Haman what should be done to a man who the King wants to honor and Haman, in his arrogance, thinks the king is referring to him and advises a lavish display of wealth and praise to be bestowed on the man publicly.
The King orders Haman to do this for Mordecai. Imagine the shock and humiliation Haman must have felt,

COURAGE: Esther finally goes to the King and reveals that she is a Jew and Haman has plotted to kill them all.

CHANGE: The kings responds by not killing Esther, but honors her request and save the Jews and Haman ends up getting hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai. (That is the definition of irony!)

God brought Esther into the palace for such a crisis as this so that the Jews would be saved, but she had to go through the 6 C’s of CHANGE, where a conviction had to move to a commitment where she had to count the cost and be willing to face the consequences.

It’s an amazing story of a crisis that led to a miraculous change:

But there is another CRISIS I would like to talk about. It’s a modern day crisis that you and I are in the middle of.

The CRISIS:

There are 163 million orphans in the world and counting

Every 14 seconds a child is orphaned by AIDS

There are over 400,000 children in the U.S. foster system

There are over 100,000 children in U.S. foster system waiting to be adopted

An estimated 80% of children who are sex trafficked come from the U.S. foster system.

When children “age-out” of orphanages around the world they often become homeless or become part of the slave trade or sex trade.

My nephew and niece, Jacob and Kelly Ricketts adopted two beautiful boys, who were 1 and 2 years old at the time and the boys had already been in 8 different foster homes.

The plight of abandoned and orphaned children in our world globally and locally is the CRISIS of our day.

CONVICTION: From the teachings of the prophets to the teachings of Jesus and those who followed him, the scriptures have been very clear that we should live with a deep conviction to be a defender of the orphan.

“Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families.” Psalm 68:5-6

“Defend the cause of orphans…” Isaiah 1:17

“…speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.” Proverbs 31:8

“Pure, unstained religion, according to God our Father, is to take care of orphans and widows when they suffer and to remain uncorrupted by this world.” James 1:27

“Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to death; don’t stand back and let them die. Don’t try to disclaim responsibility by saying you didn’t know about it. For God, who knows all hearts, knows yours, and he knows you knew! And he will reward everyone according to his deeds.” Proverbs 24:12

And here we are again at the tension between CONVICTION and COMMITMENT.

COMMITMENT: God is asking those of faith to move from conviction, knowing the right thing to do, to commitment, actually doing the right thing.
God is asking us to get involved in another C word, and that is to CARE!

Change the future of a vulnerable child.
Accept an orphan or vulnerable child into your family.
Reinforce orphans and the families who have accepted them.
Energize others to care for orphans.

Change the future of a vulnerable child globally by sponsoring a child through Compassion International, by supporting a home that rescues girls from the horrors of sex trafficking or invest in an orphanage where abandoned children are given love and support.

Change the future of a vulnerable child locally by being a mentor through Big Brothers, Big Sisters, or volunteer at a local Boy’s and Girl’s Club or sign up to be a student leader at your local church.

Accept an orphan into your family globally by adopting the most vulnerable and at risk children.

Accept an orphan into your family locally by adopting or fostering a child or becoming a SAFE family.

Reinforce orphans and the families who have accepted them by taking mission trips to orphanages and supporting adoptive, foster and SAFE families. Become a CASA. (Court Appointed Special Advocate)

Energize others to care for orphans by sharing with others what you have learned, being a voice and an advocate to get those around you involved.

What will this commitment cost us?

COST: Our TIME, TALENTS and TREASURES.

But I don’t know what could be a better investment of these things?

Jesus said, “Don’t invest your time, talents and treasures in temporary things that are fragile and vulnerable to going away.”
Jesus gave great investing advice when he said, “Invest in things that will outlast this world. Invest in heavenly treasures where the dividends continue to pay throughout eternity.”

ORPHANS are those eternal treasures he was talking about.

If those of us who call ourselves followers of Christ lead the way humbly, we can change this crisis.
Imagine if every person of faith made a COMMITMENT in this CRISIS to CARE?
Hundreds of millions of volunteers using their time, talents and treasures would be mobilized.

If 1 out of every 3 churches in America would find 1 family to adopt 1 kid there would be no orphans in America.

History has shown that people of faith have tended to be late to arrive to the major crises of the world, but it’s not too late.

There is a Chinese Proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.”

If the 138 million Americans who call themselves serious, committed followers of Jesus would engage locally and globally in this CRISIS, we will begin to see some miraculous CONSEQUENCES:

The consequences in the words of the prophet from the 58th chapter of Isaiah will be, “Those of us of faith will be known as those who can fix anything and we will be known as restorer of old ruins and re-builders and renovators who are making our communities livable again.”

Jesus said that when we have that kind of reputation, then God will be glorified.

And the orphans and most vulnerable will be the leaders of CHANGE:

Dr. Scott C. Todd gives us some prophet words when he writes,
“No major spiritual, social or economic change of any significance can happen in this world without the permission of children.
We tend to think of children in terms of needs and vulnerabilities. They need guidance, education, nourishment, and protection from the evil threats of this world. Absolutely true. But we also need to recognize the catalytic power in children for change. They are God’s agents and opinion-shapers. We need to engage, invest, sacrifice and re-focus and recognize the power of children to change the world.”

From CRISIS to CHANGE.
It will take COURAGE and CARE.

You may be wondering why I shared with you the Esther CRISIS before I shared with you the orphan CRISIS.
Well, one reason is because it’s a powerful study of COURAGE, but the main reason was because Esther was an ORPHAN and her older cousin, Mordecai adopted and invested in her.

I wanted you to see the power of an orphan.
An orphan saved an entire nation, but it took someone believing in her.

History is full of orphans who have made this world a better place.
Moses, who left a comfortable, safe life and led Israel out of slavery, was an orphan
Esther, who had the guts to stand up to a king and risk death to save a nation, was an orphan
Saint Nicholas, the patron saint and protector of children, was an orphan
Founding U.S. father, Alexander Hamilton and two U.S. presidents, Andrew Jackson and Herbert Hoover, were orphans.
Nelson Mandela was an orphan.
Eleanor Roosevelt was an orphan.
J.R.R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings and the key to leading C.S. Lewis to become a follower of Jesus which led to so many important Christian writings, was an orphan
Musicians, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Johann Sebastian Bach, Ella Fitzgerald, Faith Hill, Tina Turner, were orphans.
George Washington Carver, scientist, inventor, was an orphan, and if he really invented peanut butter, then I owe him an eternal debt.
For all of you addicted to your cell phones, Steve Jobs was an orphan.

The power of an orphan! The power of a child!

God leads by example on this because spiritually, we were all orphaned, and God adopted us.
“His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did this because he wanted to!” Ephesians 1:5
And when we defend and adopt, we are being exactly like God.

He doesn’t want us to defend the orphan out of guilt, but out of love, because like God, we want to.
This is not about obligation but about opportunity.
This is not a burden but a blessing.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the numbers and statistics. Just take a step forward and do what you can.

“I am only one. But still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something: Yet, just because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can.” Helen Keller

MAY WE HAVE THE COURAGE OF ESTHER TO DO SOMETHING TRULY GREAT! May Esther 4:14 be paraphrased for our generation.

“If we keep quiet at a time like this, God will deliver defenseless orphans from some other source, but our spirits will shrivel and God’s credibility will die; yet who can say that God has not brought us, our global knowledge, our compassionate hearts and our blessed resources into this generation to defend the orphan and change the world for such a time as this?”

http://www.compassion.com/default.htm

http://www.ijm.org/

http://www.live58.org/

http://www.127online.org/

http://www.safe-families.org/