LCPC Blog
By Darrell Fernandez
March 14, 2017

 
  Lately I have been listening to the old testament “Bible on Tape” instead of news or radio when I have time and it has been such a pleasure to listen with focused intent to better understand the Old Testament.  I have listened to much of it multiple times and have found it very intriguing how God’s people have been on the move for the land of milk & honey….  And while God provides for the Israelites in many ways they continue to be foreigners and strangers.  Aside from God providing for them in their travels as migrating homeless going to their chosen land, they continue to disobey their Lord.  Aside from so much guidance from God and such visible actions by God, I found it hard to imagine how they struggled to follow God’s commands.

  Like the Israelites, I can see that I wander in the direction I choose, and not always in the direction of God’s will.  I think about how I am not hearing with open ears, or listening for God’s guidance as often or carefully as I should.  Today’s Lenten verses are great and also very clear, yet the execution will require thought, discussion and intention.  

Deuteronomy 10:18-19

18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. 

  I look forward to loving strangers and foreigners with awareness and intention.  I want to challenge myself to follow this guidance from God and love those who are strangers.  

  In our world today, it’s hard not to notice the masses of people that are displaced migrants looking for a place or space, or country they can call home.  Also, I can’t help but think about how the Israelites found it so difficult to obey God, aside from all God had provided.   But turn the clock ahead 2000 years, and consider those displaced today.  Wow…  It’s same in many ways yet a very very different world.  While we have many different perspectives about how we should react to the needs of strangers or foreigners we hear about in media, these verses help me see more clearly that we should love foreigners and strangers.  Unlike the Israelites who were chosen, the foreigners in today’s world have extreme adversity far beyond.  Since our Lord calls on us to love foreigners, I think there are many ways I can love strangers and foreigners with clothing, food, and a welcoming spirit.  I have found, and you have also I am sure, that when you welcome a stranger in a caring and loving way, they are quick to be loving in return.  And much easier for us to love when we are not the stranger.  Let’s keep this scripture in mind to love the foreigners who reside with us whoever they are.  I know from experience that we can warm the hearts of strangers very easily when we follow as God commands.  And I know that I feel fulfilled with happiness from loving strangers.  While we are unsure about how we are to react to the vast need of strangers, we should listen carefully to hear God, discuss openly in our community, and have open our hearts to love as God commands us.
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By Mary Braswell
March 13, 2017

 
“And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the disputes between your people and judge fairly, whether the case is between two Israelites or between an Israelite and a foreigner residing among you.’ ”  
~ Deuteronomy 1:16

“And justice for all.” We can all get behind that, can’t we? But deep inside our fallen human hearts, something festers.

We are called to be just and compassionate to all, including those who speak, dress and worship in a way that strikes us as “foreign.” We insist to ourselves, “Of course I’m not bigoted. Well… I’m not as bigoted as that guy.”

But there we go, making snap judgments about the kid with the tattoos, clutching our bags tightly as we walk past the homeless man, seeing skin color first, instead of a soul created in God’s image.

Across town, at the Museum of Tolerance, visitors come to a point where they must pass through Door No. 1, marked “Prejudiced,” or Door No. 2, marked “Unprejudiced.” Those who choose Door No. 2 will find that it is locked. The message is this: All of us bear biases in corners of our hearts that we don’t like to look at.

We are imperfect. We do judge others based on their appearance, occupation and address. We may even use the Bible to justify our biases.

God calls on us to shine light on these dark corners. With His help, we can confront and conquer our own prejudices. We can reach out to strangers who make us a little uncomfortable. We can strive to be more like Him. How else will we reflect the Light and Truth of Jesus across all borders and into every heart?

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.”
~ Psalm 139: 23-24
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By Dr. Cindy White
March 11, 2017

Numbers 15: 15,16
"The community is to have the same rules for you and for the foreigner residing among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the foreigner shall be the same before the LORD. The same instructions and regulations will apply both to you and to the foreigners living among you.”

Numbers 15 consists of a set of instructions given to Moses to help the Israelites maintain a right relationship with Yahweh once they were settled in the promised land. Verses 15 and 16 speak of justice. Foreigners who lived among the Israelites were to follow the same laws and be subject to the same consequences as the children of Israel. This principle of equality before the law is central to this chapter and is repeated several times. 

The idea of treating outsiders not just fairly, but as equals, must have been pretty radical in the ancient world. But it is clearly something that we are still struggling with today on global, national, and individual levels. It is a principle that speaks against tribalism and privileging of the in-group. Beyond that, I believe it calls us to respect those among us who are different or unfamiliar.

In reading these words, I find myself challenged to reflect on ways that I treat outsiders as less-deserving than my family and friends. I can take time in this Lenten season to find ways to welcome those I have labeled as "other." As I move towards that ultimate expression of grace that is found on Easter Sunday, I can seek out ways to express grace and inclusion in my own life.
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By Dr. Randall Wetzel
March 10, 2017

Leviticus 24:22 You are to have the same law for the alien and for the native-born. I am the Lord your God.
Wow, this is a challenging scripture passage.    
One law is to apply to citizens and aliens alike -sounds good.  Nevertheless, it is challenging because this scripture portion is about an alien who has blasphemed the Lord and the Lord tells Moses to have the assembly stone the blasphemer, be he a foreigner, stranger, alien or native born.  Then it goes on with the ‘eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth and life for a life…’ passage.  The sojourner is not excused by claiming ‘not my law, not my God’; but the same law is to apply to the alien and native born.   This may be a comfort to those who want ‘illegal’ aliens punished - but where is the love?
The law is an expression of God’s love.   The law is His love for us to put into action.   The law is the very source of our freedom.   It is our delight (Ps 1:2). It is the perfect law which gives liberty (James 1:25).  It is the nation of laws that provides the greatest individual freedom.    Extending the law to the alien, sojourner and stranger in our midst is love and justice and fairness; equal justice under the law is the ideal upon which our country was established and is based on this biblical principle.  The alien – legal or illegal is to be held accountable to and protected by the nation’s laws.  
But stone the alien blasphemer?  Perhaps this is only Old Testament, harsh law.  We have a new covenant in Jesus where mercy and love temper the law. To whom does this new covenant apply? Surely our sisters and brothers in the Lord, but does this new dispensation apply to the unsaved stranger?  There may be some debate about who the stranger, alien or sojourner in our midst is, but we have no shortage of strangers in need all around us.  Indeed, it is we who are strangers in a strange land.  If we do not know who the stranger, alien, sojourner is, if we do not know who our neighbor is or even who our enemy is that we are directed to love – then we have the opportunity to ask our Lord to show us.   The Old Testament law has been tempered by mercy and love.    Indeed, we live in a new dispensation and our Lord reinforced this message – ‘when I was a stranger…’Love thy neighbor, show mercy and compassion to the alien in your midst.
But this passage is challenging for a greater reason.  Why is loving the alien so hard? Is it because I fear the terrorist, the economic burden to me and my nation of caring for the refugee, alien or immigrant? Do I fear what may happen to me and those I love?  Do I fear those here illegally, ‘living of the state’ consuming tax dollars for health care, education, food and housing?  I may even fear disease and contagion.  And it is those fears that lead to anger and anger that gives rise to hate.  This fear inspires a wall, or mass deportations, or travel bans. I have these fears.  How do I respond to these fears?  The Lord shows us a better way of love.  Fear has an antidote and that antidote is Love.   He tells us that in a perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4: 18).  But this is love I don’t have. The source of that love is God and He must (and will) provide.  I am, as so often, left begging of the Lord for a better way.  Begging God to open me to showing His love to the stranger, to fill my heart with love for the alien, for apart from Him I can do nothing.
1 John 4:16-20
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the Day of Judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  19 We love because he first loved us.
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By Cindy Guenther Williams
March 09, 2017

“‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.’” (Leviticus 23:22)
The magnitude of the global refugee crisis is mind boggling. The number of refugees and internally displaced now stands at more than 65 million, the largest figure ever recorded. Half are children. In Syria alone, an estimated 12 million people have been uprooted by the conflict since 2011, including registered refugees and the internally displaced, representing more than half of the pre-war population of the country! (source: www.crisisgroup.org)
Thoughtful, sincere disciples of Christ can hold very different opinions on the right macro strategy and governmental policies to address this crisis. What we cannot differ on is our conviction that we must individually DO SOMETHING for the “poor and the foreigners residing among us”. (And, given how much “smaller” and interconnected the world has become since Scripture was written, I would argue that the boundaries of “residing among us” easily extend beyond our nation’s borders.)
As an individual, I can’t solve this problem. In fact, I can’t even make a dent in it. But God’s not asking me to. Instead, He is clearly asking me to open my eyes to this suffering and take action.
It’s worth noting that at least part of the solution for this suffering that God provides for in His commandment (through Moses in Leviticus) is to give the poor and the foreigner an opportunity to work to meet their needs. I find it interesting that God didn’t say, “Harvest everything and then give some to the poor.” Instead, He seems to be telling us, “Don’t just feed them – provide for them the means to live with dignity.”
Mark and I had the opportunity to participate in a World Vision conference recently. Rich Stearns, the President of World Vision US, gave a short but compelling talk on exactly why we, as followers of Jesus, are called to serve the poor and the foreigner. He called it “Matthew Math”, and the formula was simple:
Matthew 25 + Matthew 28 = Matthew 5
The parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25 (verses 31-46) makes clear our call to serve the poor and the “stranger”. The “Great Commission” in Matthew 28 (verses 16-20) makes clear our Lord’s commandment to share the good news with all people, “making disciples of all nations”.
And then Matthew 5 (verses 14-16) tells us, in Jesus’ own words, how these two commandments work together:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
In other words, the gospel message is illuminated in our acts of mercy to the most vulnerable. That is why the Great Commandment precedes – and in fact, is the catalyst to – the Great Commission. In Matthew 22 (verses 36-40), Jesus is asked which is the greatest commandment in the Law. He replies:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Without showing this love, we cannot fulfill Jesus’ final commandment to make disciples of the nations.

What is God calling you to DO today, this month, this year, to put the Matthew Math formula to work?
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