Refugees – Around the World

We began a new series at Gateway Church in Austin called “Refugee.”

Discuss ways to apply the message here:

Next Steps for your life group or family dinner.

Listen to my message from Gateway South here:

Here are notes from the message from John Burke here:

Can you imagine?

  • What would it be like to be forced from our homes?
  • Running with only the clothes on our backs through war-torn streets?
  • Trying to protect children from bombs, gunfire, biological weapons?
  • Walking for weeks, scavenging for food until we cross the border where our only choice is make-shift tents and refugee camps?

This is reality for over 65 million people in our world. 1 of every 113 people on planet earth are now refugees and half – over 30 million of them are children.

We are witnessing the largest displacement of people from their homes ever in human history.

How should our hearts respond to this information?

As people who follow Jesus, why is this important?

Why would we talk about this leading into Christmas?  What’s the connection?

The Real Story of Christmas

We don’t understand the point of Christmas at all if we don’t care for those in need.

The story of the little baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger has become so cliché… so ordinary… so commercialized… that we’ve missed the shocking and revolutionary message of Christmas.

Listen to some of the words from the prophet Isaiah as he wrote of the coming of this Christmas Child and what that would mean to people…

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress… 

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. 

You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders… the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
– Isaiah 9:1-7

Now that seems to be a much different image than many of us are accustomed to isn’t it?

This season I want us to come to grips with the real meaning of the Christmas story because as some of you might have already gathered from that passage it’s not the cutesy, cuddly, story of baby Jesus wrapped up warm and safe… surrounded by doting shepherds and smiling animals like in our nativity scenes.

There is something much more profound going on here:

  • an event that brings an end to hopelessness
  • that brings joy in the midst of suffering
  • that brings light in to the darkest places
  • that brings freedom from slavery and justice to the oppressed.

Sometimes I think people prefer the sweet baby Jesus best at Christmas… and just like Ricky Bobby, the red-necked NASCAR driver in Talladega Nights so many of us prefer praying and relating to the “sweet little baby Jesus” at Christmas because we like the way he sits up on our shelves, amidst all the other Christmas decorations, but he doesn’t actually intrude upon our Christmas plans.

Ricky Bobby prays: “Dear Lord Baby Jesus…we thank you so much for this bountiful harvest of Domino’s, KFC, and the always delicious Taco Bell….”

Carley, his wife cuts in and says: Hey, you know, sweetie, Jesus did grow up. You don’t always have to call him ‘baby.'”

Ricky says: “Well, I like the Christmas Jesus best and I’m saying grace.”

We’d rather not consider the harsh reality of the world that Jesus was actually born into and the real reason he had to come. We struggle to do that because when we do, we realize that this Christmas Child didn’t come to sit on our shelves He came to invade and interrupt every part of our lives and to invite us to a revolutionary way of living outside of ourselves for the sake of changing our world!

Remember, the angels appeared to shepherds that Christmas night:

Praising God and saying,“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” – Luke 2:13-14

Literally, the greek text reads “peace among men” then the word after is translated his “good will, favor” – Jesus came to bring peace and demonstrate God’s favor, that God holds out good will and peace toward all people. And interestingly, he ended up born in Bethlehem, because the ruler of that region was a Syrian governor who declared a census, and so Jesus’ father Joseph had to go to his home town of Bethlehem. So Jesus was born in Bethlehem, just as Micah the prophet foretold 8 centuries before Jesus was born:

But as for you, Bethlehem…from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” – Micah 5:2

So what does Christmas have to do with Refugees?

Well, a refugee is someone who has been forced to leave his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence—due to evil.

Maybe you’ve never thought about it, but that’s the harsh reality of the story of Christmas. Jesus, the One whose goings forth are from days of eternity—the One who was, and is, and is to come—the Alpha and Omega, Beginning and the End. The One True God, claimed to enter our world to save it—to save us from ourselves. Because peace on earth without God is NOT our history. So God became one of us—because God created every human in His image, to be His children, His family for eternity…evil made it necessary for Jesus to be displaced from His rightful home, from Heaven, and to enter our persecution, our poverty, our betrayal, our torture, our death.

Think about what God chose for Himself:

  • God chose to enter humanity in the Middle East, strategically where the world’s trade routes of that day came together from Africa, Asia, and Europe because he did it for all mankind.
  • Jesus was born under a Roman oppressor, and a Syrian Governor, into an oppressed Jewish minority, with teenage parents rocked by scandal and gossip that they got pregnant out of wedlock—and he grew up in poverty.
  • The manger represents the worst welcome into the worst conditions a King of Kings could ever get.
  • Jesus became like a Refugee—leaving Heaven because of evil, entering earth’s poverty and suffering to bring many Spiritual Refugees safely home to God where we belong!

We Are Refugees

We too are Refugees. Due to the evils of this world, we all turn from God, we run from our rightful home, we are the prodigal sons and daughters, and that’s why Jesus was born into our suffering:

Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. – 1 Peter 3:18

He did this for all humanity – not just you and me. God loves every person, and He created us all to be his adopted family. He adopts all who willingly turn to his love and forgiveness and grace (his favor, his good will toward all men and women). Jesus paid the adoption price to bring peace to humanity—because there’s no peace on earth without first finding peace with God.

Christians should care about Refugees because God cares and He commands us to care.

This isn’t a political issue. The politics have changed the narrative, but it doesn’t matter if you’re republican or democrat, it doesn’t matter whether you think we should halt all immigration or let more people in, if you call yourself a follower of Jesus there’s a higher government you must live under first. We can actually hold different views on immigration and our government’s policies, but as Christ-followers we can’t ignore God’s commands.

See, if you have turned back to God, asked for His forgiveness offered through Christ, then you are a Citizen first of Heaven, second of the United States.

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. – Philippians 1:27

This means we don’t conduct ourselves first according to the fears of the news, but we first ask: “What is Your will King of Heaven and earth?” “What’s your opinion God, before I allow myself to be swayed by so many loud opinions of earth?” Again, we’re not talking about politics—but God’s will, regardless of what our government does.

God’s Heart for Refugees

To understand how to think about this Refugee crisis, we must start with the End in Mind.

In the first book of the Bible, God made every human in His image and good! Which means every human is of equal value to God—of greatest value—He paid the ultimate price humanly speaking.

Most of our problems are caused by humanity turning from God’s will to try to get “My will be done on earth and in heaven.”

So the only solution must start with allowing peace in my life as I allow God’s Kingdom to rule in my heart and make me an instrument of His Peace. That’s what God is doing—building a New Humanity who will bring His love and peace to earth wherever we have influence, and ultimately we will live in Peace forever in His Kingdom.

So in the last book of the Bible, Revelation, John is given a vision of Heaven and the Angels proclaiming about Jesus:

“You were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.… After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language…. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb [Jesus].” – Revelation 5:9-10, 7:9-10

We will miss this incredible opportunity to bring the Peace of God to earth this Christmas if we operate only according the fearful narratives of this world, and not according to the narrative of God’s Kingdom. God is at work, among every nation, tribe, people, every language—using what was meant for evil to bring people safely home to God forever. He’s going to do it—the only question is will we choose to partner with Him as citizens of heaven in what He’s doing and gain the reward of that privilege?

Caring for the Refugee has been on God’s heart since the beginning. As a church, we’ve been involved caring for Refugees for over a decade because God commands us to. It’s not just a footnote, when God created the Jewish nation about 4000 years ago, He took 2 people Abraham and Sarah, God told them even though they were barren, they would have children and a nation would come through them…to preserve God’s word and foretell His coming Messiah so that All the families on earth will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:3)

God’s heart has always been for all nations and families of earth. Christmas was for the Syrian Refugee and you and me equally. It was what God promised to Abraham in 2000 B.C.

As the Jewish nation grows, God uses what evil meant for harm to send the Jewish people into Egypt where they became displaced foreigners in Egypt. They ultimately got horribly mistreated and abused. God leads them out of Egypt through Moses, telling them not to forget to care for the foreigner, and those oppressed, unseen, and mistreated. And it’s not a footnote…let me just read you a small sampling across 1500 years of God speaking to his people through various prophets:

“Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.”
– Exodus 23:9 

“Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land. 34 Treat them like native-born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
– Leviticus 19:33-34 33 

So God’s people are to remember what God has done for us as spiritual refugees, and love foreigners among us as we love ourselves. But God gets more intrusive than that—he even asks us to be generous financially to the refugee and foreigner:

“When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. Leave it for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 23:22 

And God commands us to treat them as equals with equal justice and protection…

Native-born Israelites and foreigners are equal before the Lord and are subject to the same decrees. –  Numbers 15:15-16 

God commands us to provide food and clothing for the refugee and foreigner:

He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. 19 So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. – Deuteronomy 10:18-19

This is just a small sampling, but you get the point—God cares about the displaced foreigner, Refugee, the oppressed and forgotten. Jesus told us, when God’s Kingdom does finally come—when His peace rules over all His Children fully—the King of the Universe will reward us for everything we did to care for the least, the lost, the forgotten

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.”  – Matthew 25:34-35

And they will say, “When did we do this for you, Lord?” And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Matthew 25:40 –“the forgotten, the neglected, the refugee child—whatever you did for them…you were doing it to me.”

That friends, is why we must care about this Global Refugee Crisis—God cares.

Our Response

God has given you and me incredible power to love and do good—just because we were born in America.

Every year end we do an Epicenter Challenge to give above and beyond what you normally give to Gateway, and we send those fund out to make a difference in our city and around the globe.

This year, we can do something about this Refugee Crisis.

We’re challenging each other to give above and beyond what you normally do to keep our church serving and ministering to people all year long.

Consider this:

Globally

$400 will provide a safe place for a refugee child a full year of  (food and basic household items, education in their language, counseling, safe play and learning areas, health training, special needs assistance) in Turkey, Jordan and Syria.

We care for 900 kids and students of our own each Sunday as a church—let’s do this for 900 refugee kids through World Relief and local churches.

Locally

$200 will provide health and dental, after school sports and mentoring for kids and families in Austin to serve over 1000 refugees in the name of Christ.

Our Goal

We believe Gateway’s Generosity at year-end could impact nearly 2000 refugee children and families here and around the globe. I as you think about your year end giving—let’s go above and beyond to be the hands and feet of Christ in this Crisis.

To get involved, go to www.gatewaychurch.com/refugee.

 

 

 

Free Consultation

If you're interested in a free 30-min consultation with me, simply fill out this form and I'll contact you!