This week (3/11/2011) Japan was devastated by one of the largest, most powerful earthquakes in recorded history. Hundreds, possibly thousands are either dead or missing. Cities and homes have been destroyed and as of the writing of this message there is a chance of a reactor meltdown at a nuclear power plant. It is both overwhelming and heartbreaking to see devastation on such a massive scale.
Governments, charities and relief organizations are deploying to help those affected as quickly as possible. Ministries are also deploying to bring aid in the form of medical supplies, food and water. The world is answering the call of Japan’s need and doing what is possible to help. Please pray for and give to help the people of Japan in this time of crisis.
The earthquake struck at approximately 9 pm PST on Thursday, March 10, 2011. At that time my family and I were sitting in the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California attending the Rock & Worship Road Show. We had been planning this event for months. We decided to spend extra money this year and purchase VIP tickets so that we could get a great seat. We had taken half a day off from work and school. We ate at an awesome BBQ restaurant before the event and thoroughly enjoyed singing, dancing and worshiping with all those in attendance. We knew nothing of the earthquake until approximately 1 am PST, just a few minutes after we arrived home. Needless to say words cannot express the shock of pulling up the news page to see what we had missed.
The concert was amazing. It was sold out with approximately 11,000 in attendance. MercyMe has organized and headlined the tour for the last three years in partnership with several ministries. They have kept costs extremely low so that attendance can be high, making general admission seating $10 at the door. My family and I have been all three years to the event and have truly enjoyed the artists that have shared and performed. Each year there has been an appeal to sponsor a child through Compassion International. Many in attendance choose to answer the call and sponsor a child in need of relief but the overwhelming majority does not.
I am not writing this to pass judgment on anyone that chose not to sponsor a child. I have no idea what ministries or giving they are already engaged in outside of Compassion International. I only know that it appeared that many of my brothers and sisters seated in rows next to me seemed more interested in the next band that was going to play than they were in the plight of children in third world nations. I know for the last two years I chose not to sponsor a child either. I chose to continue to give where I have always given. This year was different.
My wife and I have faithfully given to multiple ministries over the years that are engaged in helping those who cannot help themselves. Feed the Hungry, founded by the late Dr. Lester Sumrall has been a part of our giving for over 17 years. Each of the last 10 years at Christmas time we have partnered with Pastor Rod Parsley to purchase the freedom of two slaves in the Sudan. Since the day I accepted Jesus I have been a 10% on the gross tither. This year at the Rock & Worship Road Show the Holy Spirit whispered, “Sponsor a Child,” and so we did. I have included the hyperlinks to these other ministries in this paragraph. Please honestly and prayerfully consider partnering with them. They are sharing the love of Jesus in powerful ways. God seems to have a way of calling us to consistently give more of ourselves.
When events like the earthquake in Japan happen it should remind us as Christians that following Jesus involves more than prayer, praise and faith; it demands actions of both justice and mercy. There are those who are being oppressed that need our strength, our voice, our love and our finances. There are those who are in need that require our compassion, our time and our finances. There is a lost and dying world outside the doors of our sanctuaries and the truest test of our faith and love is what we are doing to “rescue the perishing” because they are literally perishing.
This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, God will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’
If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places— firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again. (Isaiah 58:6-12 TMB)
There are hundreds if not thousands of causes or areas of need that each one of us could choose to fulfill this verse with. There are oppressed and hurting people all over the planet and even though the size of the problem may be overwhelming there is something that each of us can do. There are lives that can be changed and saved because of what we do in response to the call of God upon our lives.
The message of salvation is one that calls us to be like Jesus. We are asked to deny ourselves, take up a cross and follow Him (Mark 8:34). Jesus came to seek and to save those who were lost (Luke 19:10). Once He has found you and me He asks that we help Him find others.
We are called both to preach salvation from sin through faith in Jesus Christ and to do good to all that we can. Justice and mercy are a part of the gospel and therefore should be a part of our lives.
The King James Version of Isaiah 58:7 ends with “and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh.”
I am writing this message because there is a world that needs you and me. There are people who need to hear the message of the cross but who also desperately need to see the love of God demonstrated through acts of justice and mercy.
There are many opportunities for you to share Christ and His justice and mercy. I urge you to get involved. Get out of the house. Get out of the sanctuary. Get out into the community and give yourself to the people that Jesus came to save.
You may end up volunteering at the local crisis pregnancy center or you may end up half a world away feeding the hungry. You may take up the fight to end human trafficking or you may visit the elderly in retirement homes. You may mentor a teenager or rebuild homes in communities that have suffered disasters. These are just a few things and all of them are necessary. The important thing is that we carry Jesus to those who are hurting, to those who are in need; to those who are lost.
We are the hands and feet of Jesus to this world. Pray, Preach, Give, Go, Help and Love. These are our action steps. This is our calling.