Safe Place

Pastor Lee Jong-rak shows the“baby box” where parents who decide not to raise their babies ― mostly disabled children ― can leave them. (Korean Times)

Have you ever used a night deposit box to pay a bill or a Redbox machine to rent a DVD? Imagine a “Drop Box” for unwanted newborns who are in danger of being abandoned.* Are you ever afraid that your deposit won’t go through? It takes a level of trust. Each one must be safe and secure otherwise no one would leave an important payment, a DVD, or a baby there.

As 2016 ends, I continue to hear people say how anxious and unsafe they feel. Add to that the numerous throngs who say they have lost hope, and it’s enough to cast a dark, foreboding pall over 2017. While much of the angst is due to political upheaval in the US, I would say that 99% of it is misplaced. We trust Redbox, but…

In my opinion, if we are afraid of what America is going to look like after the inauguration, perhaps we are giving way too much credit to our government. If we’re afraid of some attack by a lone-wolf terrorist or a coordinated act by ISIS or other Muslim extremists, perhaps we are grossly underestimating the power of love and peace-loving followers of Allah. If we are afraid of cancer, Zika virus, Ebola, H1N1, etc., perhaps we think too much of our own vapor-like lives. Where have we put our trust?

Years ago at a men’s retreat I heard author Steve Farrar say, “Don’t worry about how long you have to live. God will not allow you to die until He has accomplished His plan for you.” That sounds good on the surface because it aligns with God’s Word and His sovereign nature, but mainly because I think that I’m a pretty worthwhile guy! Pride. Even though I might think that I’ve got a bunch of great things to offer God and the rest of the world, I have to want what He wants, in His time, whatever it costs me. (Gulp. I expect that sentence will be tested again in 2017!)

The more I jump into the flow of what the Holy Spirit has called me (and my family) to do, the more I sense God’s peace, a peace in which I can place my full trust. Sorry, Obama. Sorry, Trump. Neither of you even register on that scale. I do have fears. That reminds me of two quotes, one from a Peter Gabriel song and one from Jesus. I’m a fan of both.

When I allow it to be,
  there's no control over me.
I have my fears,
  but they do not have me. - Peter Gabriel, "Darkness"

And Jesus? Well, His quote is an excerpt from the greatest sermon ever preached as recorded in Matthew 5-7. Here’s a condensed bit from the New Living Translation

"I tell you not to worry about everyday life...
Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
So don’t worry about these things... Seek the Kingdom
of God above all else, and live righteously, and he
will give you everything you need." - Jesus

alfred-e-neuman_worryI’m not going to quote Bobby McFerrin here. I am not saying put on a happy, Alfred E. Neuman face and say “Buck up, campers!” But I will say that 2017 is a great time for the Church to step into our worry-filled world with the message of peace and hope that has been at the core of Jesus’ message since He, “became human and made His home among us” (John 1:14, NLT). If Christ-followers can’t trust the Lord and giver of life, what do we have to offer? God is our refuge, brothers and sisters! He will show us the way of life and give us joy in His presence, (Psalm 16). That sounds like a lot better option than to run around like a collection of worry-worts, whiners or chicken-littles who have lost hope and are waiting for the sky to come crashing down.

So is your church a safe place for people overwhelmed by fear? When doubt, shame, and hopelessness are in control, how can we share the hope that we have, God-honoring, well-grounded, unshakable, trustworthy hope? If we are truly a church that is not afraid, how are we making that evident to our community? And what about you and I? We had better lead by example and put our trust the Lord in 2017.SignJRGBlack300

*Lee Jong-rak is a pastor in South Korea who started the Baby Box for unwanted infants. I would encourage you to watch the documentary “The Drop Box” with some friends and ask the tough questions that might arise.