A Letter to My Kids After the U.S. Election

This is the letter I wrote after the recent election to my kids who are living in the US.

Dear Rahel and Kaleb,

I write to you with a heavy heart.  I’m saddened for you, for our family, and for our country.  There have been difficult elections in our nation’s history but it seems this time that Trump, and sometimes Clinton, were the ones making things worse instead of better.cyb2ayuweaqwjtx-jpg_large

Here are 6 points to help you wrestle through this:

1 – It’s OK to lament the current state of politics in the US right now. I think everyone agrees this was not a proud time for America.  One of the great freedoms we have as Americans is the right to speak our mind and let others know what we think.  You don’t have to hide your opinions, but you do need to be respective of those who differ from you.  Sometimes it’s better just to keep quiet so that you can have peace.  Other times, you better be out marching, writing letters, and having intense, intellectual discussions with those around you.

2 – There are going to be people with whom you disagree with on political issues.  This does not mean that they are not Christians, that they are racist or sexist, that they hate the poor, or that they are greedy and prideful.  There are thoughtful people who love Jesus on both sides – Republican and Democrat.  God is calling you to give people the benefit of the doubt.  We must think the best of people if at all possible – this is part of what it means to live by grace.

3 – You need to remember that your relationships with your family and friends are way more important than winning any political argument.  This doesn’t mean we can’t talk about issues with family or friends but be very careful with your words.  And in the end, you need to love even if you disagree.

4 – The American political system encourages the citizens to look for a messiah.  We saw the same thing 8 years ago when Obama was elected, as Democrats were overjoyed that they now had the power.  And yet life goes on; America still has it’s problems.  Watch out when you get too emotional about politics. It’s a sign you are setting yourself up for problems.

5 – Thoughtful people know that it’s not just about one person – there are political principles at stake which go beyond Trump and Clinton.  This is why Trump was such a nightmare for some Christians.  They hold conservative political principles – fine – but disliked the person at the top of the Republican party. With Clinton, they were faced with a candidate whom they didn’t respect nor did they think that the Democratic political principles were best for the country in the long run.

6 – I know it seems easy to say that God is still in control when life doesn’t seem to be working the way you think it should, but it’s still true!  Our faith should give us hope for the future.  And real hope doesn’t come from a politician – Trump or Clinton or anyone else.  My prayer is that you have real hope that comes from knowing that your Father in Heaven is leading you and our country.

I know this feels like our country is going backwards on race issues and the like.  And maybe it is.  Or maybe Trump has exposed the divisions which were already there and he’s given an opportunity for them to be exposed.

But it is a wonderful honor and responsibility to hold that passport with USA on it.  We should be thankful that America is a country that is generally ruled by laws which apply to everyone, even though we know there have been, and continues to be, significant areas of injustice.  Let’s be thankful for where God has placed us and work to make it better – for us, for our family and friends, and for the world.

I love you two dearly,

Dad

A Glimmer of the Kingdom

This Sunday was an atypical but typical day of worship at New City.  When I walked into the room a few minutes before the service, after teaching our new adult education class, I was pleasantly surprised to see one of our neighborhood homeless men sitting quietly waiting for the service to begin.  Dante (not his real name), is Italian, in his mid-sixties and has a big white beard.

During the sermon, Dante started to make comments loud enough for everyone to hear.  Pretty soon it was awkward enough that I had to stop and let him know that I would love to talk more over the dinner, but he needed to be quiet for now.  As I continued to preach and mentioned the name of Jesus, Dante would yell out “Jesus isn’t real!!” as Oong (our pastoral assistant) and others tried to calm him down.  Finally, Oong escorted Dante out as he was just too disruptive.

I was a little shaken but managed to finish my sermon as planned.  As we sang our final song, I began to formulate a few words for God’s people before communion.  I shared how we are all broken like our friend, Dante.  If we think we’re so much better than a poor homeless man, than we don’t understand the gospel and we’re not ready to receive the Lord’s Supper.

On Monday, I received this note from one of our regulars:
I just wanted to say how proud and encouraged I was to be a part of the body of Christ last night. Seeing how each of you cared for a broken man in the public view of God’s people was a glimmer of the Kingdom of God breaking into this world and it was much needed for my heart this week, and I’m sure for others as well.
Your words during Communion, Chris, cut to the quick just as the passage you spoke on and I was convicted of my self righteous heart against those that I consider broken in America, and in this city. Thank you for giving us all courage to continue doing the difficult work of loving moment to moment, and the renewed faith that our God is good and will keep his promises, in and through his church!
 
I was encouraged – that’s for sure!  And I pray that you too may occasionally see “a glimmer of the Kingdom of God breaking into this world.” 

Face-to-Face

I’m writing this on the plane back to London after a short visit to see my kids in the US. We keep up regularly with texting, Facebook, email – the social media img_2522options seem endless.

But none of this compares to sitting down face-to-face with my son or daughter. This weekend, I took my 16-year-old son to lunch at Culver’s, a local fast food place, to discuss his future. Talking over french fries and ice cream was soooooooo much better than having that conversation over Skype!

It’s interesting that John had some of the same thoughts: Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete. (2John12)

John knew that it is best for relationships to be conducted with personal interaction. He couldn’t just write a letter from afar and expect that to do the job.  John dearly wanted to see the family of God – the church – in person.  Letters or social media are OK but face-to-face is so much better!

The questions is: Do you treat your spiritual family like a long distance family member whom you see occasionally?

Watching a sermon video or listening to a Christian podcast is no replacement for the face-to-face interaction we have when we’re committed to a local group of Jesus followers. Your joy will never be complete if you keep your church family at arm’s length.  If you never take the time to invest in face-to-face relationships, you are stunting your spiritual growth.

It’s time to end long-distance relationships with the family of God.

Engage with God’s people in your local church face-to-face.

And over time, enjoy the fullness of joy that John spoke about in his second letter.

Joy while suffering?

My friend Shafkat Khan passed away in Nairobi, Kenya recently.  Here’s my eulogy which was read at his memorial service:

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There have been times when I read passages in the bible about suffering and they just didn’t make sense to me. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

Can one have joy in Jesus when life stinks?

I know the answer is “yes” intellectually but in reality – I’m wasn’t so sure. That is until i met Shafkat. Shafkat was the walking answer – no, make that, he was the rolling answer – to my questions about joy in suffering.

I met Shafkat years after his accident and faith in Christ. My wife, Josephine, is from Nairobi so we’ve been making trips to visit family and friends every few years since 1991. During one of those trips, Josephine and I met Shafkat and Sabia. In their home over food, at the Muutuki’s and at New City (Nairobi), our friendship continued from one visit to the next.

Shafkat was the kind of man whom one does not easily forget. It was obvious from seeing him that there had been struggles in his life, and yet, there was a joy in his speech that was almost beyond comprehension.

The reality of a man who had suffered & was yet filled with joy was stunning.

Conversations were marked with passion and laughter and energy. Shafkat had a mind that moved – moved in ways that displayed the love of Christ he knew personally and deeply wanted to share with others.

Can God use suffering for his glory? Yes. Can those who suffer experience joy right now – not just later in some “by and by”? Yes. Can those who suffer now be used by God to bring hope and peace to others? Yes. God brought Shafkat to me and to many others to let us know that the answers are “YES and YES and YES!!”

We thank God for the life of Shafkat Khan. Not just because he was a godly man in a wheelchair who was used by God. If that’s all we focus on, we make him out to be some sort of unusual example that’s not really relevant for the rest of us. No – we thank God for the life of Shafkat because he was a humble and yet energetic man who loved Jesus.

We thank God for the life of Shafkat Khan because his life pointed us to a God who redeems us AND then uses us in all of OUR shortcomings for His glory.

Paul also wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:17 that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”. God prepared Shafkat over many years for the glory he is now experiencing.

May our lives honour Shafkat in such a way that we too, live with joy now as we are filled with hope in the days to come.

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