The Promises of God We Don’t Want

We love to claim God’s promises in scripture — at least some of them. Some we prefer not to think about.

Some promises — we might call them “consequences” — are promises that come as the result of our bad choices.

This topic comes to mind because of Friday’s Executive Order by the President stopping the refugee program for 120 days and severely crippling it thereafter.

Never mind that America is built on immigration; or that most economists say immigration is good for our economy; or that refugees have hadfence-978138_1280 little to do with domestic terrorism. It’s true that three Americans have been killed by refugee terrorists — they were from Cuba back in the 1970s, before the Refugee Act of 1980 created systematic entry procedures. Targeting refugees, which the State Department already describes as the “most highly scrutinized” and “most vigorously vetted” path to entering the US, is like fixing a dripping faucet while a broken pipe pours gallons of water into your kitchen.

But let’s assume everything in that last paragraph is wrong. If Christians are going to claim the Bible as the ultimate authority on how we are to live our lives, none of that is as important as the teachings of scripture.

What does the Bible teach about immigration and refugees in particular? A 2015 Lifeway Research survey determined that only 12% of Evangelical Christians consider scripture to be the primary influence on their view of immigration.

I can make a Biblical case for protecting our country and our families. But that isn’t a strong theme in scripture. It’s a stronger theme that God will defend those who are committed to His purposes. One of the strongest of those purposes is care for the most vulnerable (widows, orphans, homeless, and foreigners) and especially those who are victims of injustice — e.g. refugees.

In case this isn’t clear, refugees are those who have left their home country because of “a credible fear of persecution based on race, religion, political opinion, national origin, or social group.” You’re not a refugee because you want to find a better place to make a living, or because there was an earthquake in your home country. You are a refugee because of a credible fear of injustice.

Here are just a few of the hundreds of verses that apply to refugees:

Deut 10:19 Love them
Deut 14:28-29 Use tithes to bless them
Deut 31:11-12 Assemble with them to listen to God’s Word
Deut 16:11 Celebrate God’s blessings with them
Deut 24:19-20 Take care of their physical needs
Deut 27:19 Cursed is he who distorts the justice due them
Eze 22:29-31 God’s wrath on those who wrong them
Zech 7:10-13 God won’t listen to those who oppress them
Mal 3:5 God’s swift judgment against those who turn them aside
Isa 58 promises God’s blessing when we stop seeking our own pleasure to bring them into our own homes and care for them.

So we get to choose — individually and as a nation — which promises of God we want to experience.

God is faithful to deliver on His promises.  Like it or not.

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Expecting the Unexpected

caterpillar-butterflyWho would ever see a caterpillar for the first time and predict that it would become a butterfly?

Who would look at an acorn and predict it would become an oak tree?

But that’s the nature of God’s transformative work. He does the unexpected.

Explain it as nature if you wish, but you still have to marvel at where nature got that kind of power and imagination.

But our awareness of God’s work is easily dulled and we can take it for granted. Especially when change isn’t instantaneously or it isn’t explicitly obvious from our immediate vantage point.

Think about some of the transformations that we experience as we give up our selfish pursuits and live our lives more solely focused on revealing God’s glory through demonstrating His love for others:

  • The servant is honored – if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. – John 12:26
  • The humble is exalted – Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. – James 4:10
  • The weak are made strong – for when I am weak, then I am strong – 2 Corinthians 12:10
  • The most unworthy are forgiven – her sins, which are many, have been forgiven – Luke 7:47
  • The poorest become the richest – He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, and inherit a seat of honor – 1 Samuel 2:8
  • The dirtiest become clean – having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience – Hebrews 10:22
  • The oppressed are set free – He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives…to set free those who are oppressed – Luke 4:18

We want honor, but do we pursue it through serving others? We want to be exalted, but do we pursue it through humility? Do we find strength, forgiveness, and purity through acknowledging we are weak, unworthy, and unclean? Find riches through not striving to be rich? Or freedom by seeking justice for others rather than focusing on our own oppression?

Once we step out on faith and take our eyes off our own desires, we discover an amazing truth: The results aren’t unexpected after all.  God delivers exactly as He promised.