My heart has been breaking lately over the seeming chasm that exists between races in this country. I cannot understand how anyone can look at another human being and see less. Each and every person in precious in God's eyes. How can any turn a blind eye or a cold shoulder to the suffering of another? How can anyone claim to be a Christian and not be moved to empathy, compassion, indignation, and justice?
Grace. Mercy. Humility. These are the hallmarks of the Christian message--the Gospel.
In mercy God saw humanity in our helpless and hopeless state and had mercy on us, devising a plan to rescue and save us.
In humility Jesus left His throne in Heaven to be born as a human; to live among us, experiencing our pain, and to die for us so that we might live again.
Grace is extended to every person who acknowledges his/her need of a savior and believes in Jesus' death and resurrection as the means of salvation.
These also ought to be the hallmarks of the Christian life. But are they? Can Christians in America (primarily those who have benefited from the status quo) truly say we have lived in humility--the kind of humility Jesus displayed and the kind He asks of us?
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."
What does it mean to value others above yourself? If I'm honest, I don't know that I personally have done much of that in my life. Certainly not for people who are not my dearest friends and family. But it is what we are called to as Christians. Humility.
Can we in America truly say we have shown mercy? Think about the kind of mercy God has shown to us:
“But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.” (Ps. 86:15)
“The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” (Ps. 145:8-9)
"But because of His great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions..." (Eph. 2:4-5a)
His mercy extended to us before we knew we needed it. It extended to us while we were still sinning. It extends to us every day of our lives through the good and bad, through the ups and downs, through our faithfulness as well as our stubborn disobedience or ignorance. Perhaps our mercy (on both sides of the fence) should look the same, genuine. Mercy.
“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” (Jm. 3:17)
Can we in America (white, black, and every shade in between) say that we have truly lived by grace? Do we rest in God's grace for us?
"He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."
(2 Tim. 1:9-10)
Do we extend grace to others (regardless of the color of their skin)?
“Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." (Heb. 12:13-15)
Extending grace means I don't hold a grudge. It means I don't seek retribution. It means I don't assume the worst. It means I seek the best for the other person--their best, not my version. Grace by its very nature costs the giver something. It cost God something. It cost the great men and women of faith something. And if I am in humility seeking to promote the Gospel--the good news of God's grace, mercy, and love--it will cost me something too.
"However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace."
Mending the walls of racial division in our country is going to require that all parties (of all colors) put on humility and forgiveness. It is going to require extending mercy and grace. It is going to require that we grow in understanding and empathy. (Do you really know as a white what your black brothers and sisters are going through? Do you need to educate yourself?) And it is going to require that we grow in love for one another--true brotherly love, motivated by a familial bond that goes deeper than we have been accustomed to acknowledging. Because everything else--grace, mercy, and humility--can be summed up in that one word and posture. Love.
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." (Col. 3:1-14)
As the coronavirus quarantine drags on, we’ve all had to find creative ways to socialize. This has been tricky for large groups such as Scout troops and faith-based youth groups. Online Pictionary can only go so far. In an attempt to connect the youth of our church, our family came up with an energetic and crazy scavenger hunt that can be done virtually. It can accommodate groups as small as four people or as large as fifty. It can also be adapted for use with your own family in your own home. I hope you enjoy the fun and laughs this zany game provides.
This game works well with video group chat platforms like Zoom or Skype. All players need to be connected via the chosen platform and must have their video option activated. Each person also needs to select a base location (the living room couch, for example) to which he/she will return after each hunt.
Depending on the size of your group, you can play this “every man for himself” or on teams. One person will serve as a moderator and judge.
If playing on teams, divide the players equally and assign them first a number (for what team they are on) and then a letter (for the order in which they play). At the beginning of each “hunt,” the moderator will say (for example), “All the A’s are hunting this time.” He or she will then announce the item to be found followed by the word “Go!” Then every person assigned that letter has 30 seconds to hunt through his/her perspective house to find the required item. The first person back to their chosen base location with the item gains a point for his/her team. (If you have a lot of teams playing, you can give 2 or 3 points for first place and 1 or 2 points for second place and so on.)
Items brought back after the 30 second time limit has expired do not count for points or bonuses. Items that have a bonus attached to them net the player/team an extra point. No item can be used more than once for any given player/team. (For example, a roll of TP or a bar of soap cannot be repeated for “Something from the bathroom,” nor can player 1A bring a scarf for “Something plaid” and then player 1D bring a scarf for “Something you wear in winter,” even if that scarf is not plaid.) If a player brings back the wrong item, he/she forfeits any points for that round. HINT: It is suggested that the moderator stress at the beginning of the game that players pay attention to what their teammates bring back in order to avoid forfeiting points by bringing back repeat items.
If, when an item is announced and a player knows he/she absolutely does not have that item in their house (a Slinky, for example), he/she can say “Tag In!” The rest of the team now has the opportunity to search for the item in their place. Each team has a total of 3 Tag In’s to use during the course of the game. The moderator needs to keep track of this and announce when a team has used all of its Tag In allowances. HINT: If the moderator realizes that players/teams are using up their Tag In’s too quickly, he/she may choose to select some rounds as “Earn an Extra Tag In Round” and award every player back with the correct item an extra Tag In for his/her team, regardless of whether they come in first or not.
You can play for a specified amount of time or until all the items on the list are found (there are enough items to last a typical group. Either way, at the end of the game, the points are tallied up and the high scoring player or team is the winner. (See next page for a list of items to be found.)
ITEMS TO BE FOUND
It is just another little reminder from our Creator that He’s made us to be in fellowship with Him. We can drown out that call when life is sunshine and roses, but when life takes us out at the knees, well, that’s when our souls remember we need God.
That stability and peace of mind is one thing that Christians cite as a benefit of their faith. And prayer plays a big part in that. It’s an integral part of the Christian life. Interestingly, though America is solidly a praying nation with 79 percent praying regularly and 55 percent praying daily, many of those who do pray (over 70 percent) report being less than satisfied with their prayer life. Even seasoned Christians struggle with prayer.
I understand struggling with prayer. It is not something that comes naturally for me. I have to work at it, both in consistency and in substance. People all the time tell me they see me as a great prayer warrior, but I'm not. I just muddle along as best as anyone.
Over the years I’ve tried several different methods and techniques to increase the consistency and the substance of my prayer. Here are some of the practices I currently do or have done in the past:
1) For years I journaled and wrote my prayers out by hand. It helped me stay focused. It took a lot of time, though, so as life got more complicated (i.e. children) I found it unsustainable.
2) I have been setting alarms for prayer for a couple of years now. I set an alarm for a specific time of day and pray for something specific when the alarm goes off. The focus of those prayers has ranged from prayer for a specific request given me by another to prayer for political leaders to prayer for salvation. Currently I have committed to pray daily for the salvation of a loved one until it happens or until I die. That's a pretty big commitment, but I really feel passionately about it. Still, I know myself, and I knew I would forget or peter out which is why I've been using an alarm. It keeps me accountable.
3) I've used various books over the years to help focus my prayers and make them deeper. My favorites are by Stormie O'Martin: Power of a Praying Wife and Power of a Praying Mother. These books helped me learn how to pray Scripture and gave me areas to pray for my family that I might not have considered otherwise. I would like to write my own someday, but for now I heartily recommend those.
4) I also feel like it's so important to pray beyond our family. Some years I have focused on praying for America (president, Congress, local leaders, and issues, etc.) and used the alarm on my phone system for that. Some years I have prayed for the nations using YWAM's guide. For several years I prayed for our pastors and my neighbors, using an index card system. This year I am praying for persecuted Christians using a guide put out by Voice of the Martyrs. Over the years I've involved my kids in this by tying our prayer focus to our homeschooling (praying for America when studying American history for example). It has been such a great way for them to learn how to pray in general (especially losing the timidity of praying aloud with others) and how to pray beyond what they want for themselves.
5) When people ask me to pray for them, I often stop and pray with them right then and there. That's because I know that more often than not I'll forget to pray for them later. It's a bit awkward and takes some getting used to, but most people appreciate it. And that way I don't have to feel guilty if I do, indeed, forget. At very least I have agreed with them in faith at least once.
All this being said, I still very much struggle with offering up general or half-hearted prayers. I struggle with being selfish in my prayers, with getting distracted while I pray, and with doubting that God will answer certain prayers. Still, I press on, and I hope that by sharing my struggles and my ideas I can encourage you to press on as well.
The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call in him in truth. –Ps. 145:18
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Aimee Fuhrman is a full-time homeschooling mother of four (some of whom are now grown) who moonlights as an author. She loves Jesus, encouraging others, books, knitting, and coming up with delicious allergy-friendly recipes. She lives at the foothills of the Colorado Rockies with her husband of 25 years and their brood.