Tuesday, August 28, 2012

For What Cause Are You Living?

Two boys go fishing.  One is on a guided trip on a Texas lake and will catch 37 fish in his four-hour trip.  The memories of this trip will last for a long time.  The other boy is working at the hands of his master in a wooden boat on Lake Volta in Ghana, Africa.   He will work somewhere between 10-12 hours today catching fish that we would throw back here in Texas.  He has memories too but most he would be fine to forget. 
The similarities between these two boys go beyond fishing.  Both are 7 years old. Both were created by God and both aware, deep in their bones, that boys love to run and play and laugh.  But their differences are obvious as well.  One fishes for fun.  The other fishes because he was sold to his master and is forced to work long hours – cleaning nets, picking fish out of the nets and setting the nets for the next day’s catch. The latter boy would love to have the opportunities that the former boy has but he doesn’t have a say in the matter.  Yet. 
This past May I had the opportunity to visit the second boy and dozens like him on Lake Volta.  It is estimated that around 7,000 children are in slavery on Lake Volta at this moment.  Several years ago two friends of mine, Chris and Stacey Field started an organization called Mercy Project (www.mercyproject.net) that is working to rid the earth of slavery beginning on Lake Volta.  In addition to making the trip to Ghana in May, one of the great privileges of my life is serving on the board of directors for Mercy Project. 
As you meet with the people in the villages surrounding Lake Volta you see that they grasp that slavery is wrong but you also sense that they are operating in a cycle that has not given them much choice.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that God is using the ministry of Mercy Project to announce “that God’s kingdom has come and that his will is to be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  Mercy Project has a plan to help and is inviting people to live for a cause that is bigger than any one person by joining in this world-changing ministry.  And if it isn’t this ministry then find other ways to make an eternal difference.  7-year-old boys need grow up in the way God intended and the world is looking for answers. 
This Sunday, September 2nd, Chris Field will be speaking at Kaufman Church of Christ at 10:30am.  We would love have you join us to hear more of the story and the plan for how God is using Mercy Project in Ghana, Africa.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Mercy Project

I would like to ask that you take a few minutes and watch this video.  Mercy Project is an organization that I believe in.  I'm privileged to serve on its board and support the difference that is being made in the world through this ministry.  Take a few minutes and hear our story and pass this on to others who might be interested.  Chris Field, my friend and the MP executive director will be speaking at Kaufman Church of Christ, the church were I serve, on Sunday, September 2nd.  Come Join Us!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Who's in Control?

I was reading through the story of Esther again this week and saw something I have never seen before. I love it when this happens with Scripture.

The story tells us that Xerxes is powerful, influential king.    He throws himself a party that is unlike any other party in an attempt to put his wealth and control and influence on display.

Xerxes has all the control.

His queen, Vashti, is asked to come out and parade in front of all the men at a party that king Xerxes has thrown for himself.  She asked to come out in her royal crown, a reference that a number of people think means come out in only your royal crown.
Queen Vashti becomes one of my favorite characters in the story at this point because she refuses to do the thing she has been asked to do and parade herself naked in front of the men in Xerxes kingdom.

Xerxes may not have as much control as he thinks.

But because the story tells us so much about Xerxes power and influence you know it isn't going to end well for Vashti.  She's banished and the search for a new queen begins.

So the unlikely jewish girl Esther is chosen after her cousin Mordecai reminds her that she may have come to her royal position "for such a time as this."

In the midst of all of this a guy named Haman, is being elevated to a high position in Xerxes kingdom and convinces Xerxes to sign a decree that all Jews need to be killed.  The story tell us that Haman is a descendant of Agag, I guy Saul should have killed back in 1 Samuel 15.  But Saul didn't kill him and now his descendant is influencing this story hundreds of years later.  Haman is holding a grudge because of what the Israelites in almost wiping out his people and would like to return the favor.  

But the powerful Xerxes let's Haman issue this decree.  A signal that he has less control that we were first made to believe.

So the story goes on and Esther musters the courage to go the king and point out that Haman is trying to wipe her people from the earth.  This makes Xerxes angry and he hangs Haman and elevates Mordecai to Haman's position.

The drama becomes a comedy.

A decree issued by the king cannot be reversed so the Jews are still awaiting their annihilation at the hands of the people in Persia.  But now Xerxes also allows Esther and Mordecai to issue a decree that Jews will be allowed to defend themselves when attacked.

And defend themselves they do.  Killing more than 75,000 non-jews.

Esther and Mordecai were responsible for issuing the decree for Jews to defend themselves.   Because of this a war breaks out in Xerxes powerful provinces and 75,000 people die as a result.

The king who controlled everything actually controls nothing. 
But something we might miss unless we were looking for it is that God is not mentioned by name in the story of Esther.  The unnamed character has more control than the character who we are told from the beginning has the greatest amount of influence.

Maybe you, like me, can identify with Xerxes.    I do my best to make it clear that I have control.  I'll tell you, I'll behave in a way that works to convince you and I can even talk, teach and preach about it.

And I can do this on some days without a mention of God.  I've got this.
And then the foundation gets a crack.

The person who thought they had control over everything is actually out of control.  Maybe it is overworking, stress at home, with family, relationships or something else.

"For such a time as this" gets a lot of attention in the story and rightfully so.  But let's remember to notice too that all the characters in the story (and all of us) can get caught thinking that we have all the control.

God, the unnamed hero is in control at all times...even when life seems out of control.