CAST Voices Devotion: Loving the Foreigner

CAST Voices Devotion: Loving the Foreigner

By Laura Mbugua-Mwaura

28 February 2017

Scripture:

Leviticus 19:33-34 When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him.  The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born.  Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt.  I am the Lord your God.

Devotion:

Throughout the Old Testament, God reminds his people to care for the vulnerable living among them.  God specifically mentions a few groups of people: widows, orphans and aliens or ‘foreigners’.  I think God knew we would always be a bit selfish, and mostly focus on the interests of ourselves and our family.  However, the Bible directs us to be outward-focused people who care more about the rights of others than ourselves.  In Leviticus, we are told to specifically love the alien, or those who are from outside our nation.  Not only are we supposed to not harm them, but we are also called to treat them exactly the same as a citizen of our country.  In fact, God reminds his people that they too were foreigners in Egypt at one point.  By reminding his people of their slavery experience in Egypt, God was hoping to motivate his people to compassion.

In the world today, we are experiencing major refugee crises in Africa, Syria, Yemen and many other nations.  As Christians, we are called to love those who are outsiders in our nation and culture.  Loving the foreigner might mean mentoring a refugee family, standing up for the human rights of migrants or inviting a foreign student to your church.

The heart of what the Lord is asking us to do is treat the foreigner the way we would want to be treated.  The plight of refugees, migrants and immigrants should bother us because it matters to God.  We should also remember that everyone is a foreigner – we all come from somewhere else, even if it is a few generations removed.  Ultimately what matters is that we are all citizens of God’s Kingdom.

Questions:

  1. How would you feel if you were a refugee, forced to leave your home country because of war or persecution? How would you cope living in a foreign land?
  2. What is your opinion on being open to foreigners living in your land?
  3. What is your experience with foreigners living in your country?
  4. How can you practically fulfill God’s command to love the outsider?
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CAST Voices Devotion: Who is Your Neighbour?

CAST Voices Devotion: Who is Your Neighbour?

By Sandy Reid

23 February 2017

Scripture: Luke 10:25-37

Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”

He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”

He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”

“Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”

Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”

Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.

“A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’

“What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?”

“The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded.

Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”

Devotion:

The word “neighbour” in the Greek means “someone who is near,” and in the Hebrew it means “someone that you have an association with.”[1] When Jesus told this parable a neighbor would have been a Jew and definitely not a Samaritan. Samaritans were despised by the Jews. Jesus was really challenging this religious scholar to love those he despised.

The first character in the parable is a Priest who showed no love or compassion. If anyone should have shown love it should have been the priest.

The next person in the parable was a Levite. The role of a Levite was to assist the priests in the Jewish temple.  A Levite would have known the law to love, but he does just as the Priest did – walks right by.

The next person who comes along is the Samaritan. Samaritans were considered the low class of society, as they had intermarried with non-Jews and not kept the law. Jews would have nothing to do with them. We do not know if the injured man was a Jew or a Gentile. It made no difference to the Samaritan. He did not consider race or religion. He saw a man in need and acted on this.

Jesus used a Samaritan in this parable because he knew the religious scholar asking the question hated Samaritans. In verse 36 when Jesus asks “Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?” he could not even say the word Samaritan because he hated them so much.

It is so easy for us to read this parable and think of course we would stop and help this man. Maybe we need to put some characters from 2017 in this parable.

Questions:

  1. Who would be your Priest?
  2. Who would be your Levite?
  3. Who would be your Samaritan?

Tell the parable again with those characters in the story.

  1. Who is your “neighbour”?
  2. Do you love your neighbour?

Jesus said “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”

[1] https://www.gotquestions.org/parableGoodSamaritan.htm

CAST Voices Devotion: Love

CAST Voices Devotion: Love

By Sandy Reid

21 February 2017

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13: 1-7

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always “me first,” doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end.

Devotion:

The verse that really challenged me was “If I give everything I own to the poor…, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere”.

At CAST we are involved in many programmes in the community and interact with many people. We give a large amount of our time and energy to these programmes and people. The question is: Do we serve in love? Read through the list of love from verse 4. Imagine if we could love like that – Jesus loves like that.

There is a song that I love by For King and Country:

“If I sing but don’t have love, I waste my breath with every song. I bring an empty voice, a hollow noise.  If I speak with a silver tongue, Convince a crowd but don’t have love, I leave a bitter taste with every word I say.

So let my life be the proof, The proof of Your love.  Let my love look like You and what You’re made of. How You lived, how You died, Love is sacrifice.  So let my life be the proof, The proof of Your love.

If I give to a needy soul but don’t have love then who is poor?  It seems all the poverty is found in me.  When it’s all said and done, When we sing our final song, Only love remains.”

Questions:

  1. How is your life proof of His love?
  2. How do you show love, even when you struggle to love someone?
  3. How can CAST ensure our programmes are implemented in love?

We are to “Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”  1 Corinthians 13: 13

CAST Voices Devotion: Welcoming Such as These

Welcoming Such as These…

By Thandi Gova

16 February 2017

Scripture: Mark 10:13-16 (NIV)

13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them.

14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

Devotion:

We easily forget that being Christ-like is not cheap. It tests you and challenges you daily. It is making a conscious decision daily to act justly with love, even if it means standing alone. When you think about it, the cost of standing alone is not as expensive when compared to the cost that Christ paid with His life.

We love the “Christian” title yet we fail to take on the full responsibility that goes with it. We fear jeopardizing our friendships, being rejected by family, losing our status, or being vulnerable in the presence of colleagues, with strangers or even in church.

Yet the very Man whose life we are trying to imitate on earth belittled Himself to the lowest of lows. He served others, loved the unwanted, went to the pubs and the ‘not so decent streets’ because that is where the “people” were. The people who were condemned and written off. He reached out to them, heard them and related to them.

We need to be intentional about leading the life Jesus led in word, act and deed.

Questions:

  1. Who are the people ‘such as these’ in our communities?
  2. What is the cost of being hospitable?
  3. What is the cost of not being hospitable?

CAST Voices Devotion: Welcoming the Stranger

Welcome the Stranger

By Thandi Gova

14 February 2017

Scripture: 1 Peter 4:7-9

7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.

8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

Devotion:

We live in a hostile world where our first reaction is to be hostile to the stranger, the foreigner, one of a different cultural background, socio-economic class, community, church or any sort of difference that doesn’t suit or fit into our ‘comfort zone’ or our ‘normal’. This hostility is our way of protecting ourselves, our belongings, our status, our social circles and our jobs because we have become so self-centred that everything has become about ‘us’ and what we can gain and keep.

  1. In this scripture Peter tells us to “Be watchful in prayer”.
  • We need to watch ourselves, our attitudes and actions towards others.
  • We need to watch our world in prayer by calling out all its challenges in prayer as well as noticing the stranger and how the stranger is treated.
  1. Love each other…
  • Where there is love many “small things” and “big things” can be overlooked.
  • Where there is no love there is suspicion, lack of trust and misunderstandings.
  1. Be hospitable without grumbling
  • Love will show itself in hospitality.
  • Hospitality is a practical, openhearted act of love.
  • It is allowing yourself to be vulnerable by inviting another vulnerable person to be in your sacred place/home: a place where you feel loved, protected, safe, secure and free.  The hope is that they will feel the same while opening themselves up, and sharing meals together.

Questions:

  1. How does hostility show itself?
  2. How can we create safe spaces?
  3. How do we practically show love to strangers without taking away their dignity?

CAST Voices Devotion: Jesus’ Way

CAST Voices Devotion: Jesus’ Way Part II

By Jean-Ray Knighton Fitt

9 February 2017

 Scripture: Philippians 2:9-11

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father

 Devotion:

This is the second part of the passage we read on Tuesday – all about Jesus giving up his privileged position and becoming like us. And that’s what He asks us to do too… not to look for recognition and reward for ourselves, but to be willing even to lay down our lives.

But when we are able to do this – really do this – let go of those things we love so much, the things that hold us back from loving others as Jesus does, and from being everything God calls us to be in this dying world… God so often flips it on its head and gives back everything we gave up and more, just like He did to Jesus. In fact Jesus promises to reward us, and give us back everything we have left behind for His kingdom sake.

The thing is that when we accept God’s blessings and we realise that they come from Him, and not from our own cleverness and hard work, we are able to enjoy them with freedom from self-centredness, and they become part of our worship to Him. As God lifts us up and honours us, He is glorified—not only by us, but by people around us. But if we lift ourselves up in our own strength we look for glory for ourselves.

If we, as followers of Jesus, become the kind of people who are willing—wholeheartedly—to lay down our pride, privilege, status, comforts and opinions for the sake of the people Jesus calls his brothers and sisters, “the least of these”… then we should not be surprised when God lifts up our programmes and our reputation and rewards us with the blessings we gave up. Then we’ll know it was always about Him and never about us, and He will be glorified in everything we do.

 Questions:

  1. Have you ever laid something down for the sake of God’s kingdom, and God gave it back to you?
  2. In what ways do we experience the blessings of God when we look to Him rather than ourselves?
  3. How can we be better at turning our successes into his glory rather than our own?

CAST Voices Devotion: Jesus’ Way

CAST is starting an exciting new weekly devotional resource, written by our very own staff!  Our goal is to share from our experience with social justice and development issues in South Africa, as well as sharing what the Bible has to say about these issues.  If you are looking for devotional material that speaks to living out your faith in a practical way, you’ve come to the right place!

CAST Voices Devotion: Jesus’ Way

By Jean-Ray Knighton Fitt

7 February 2017

 Scripture: Philippians 2:5-8

In your relationships with each another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to cling to; rather, he made himself nothing by taking on the nature of a servant, being born as a human being. And when he appeared in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Devotion:

This is the great mystery of the Christian faith – that God himself didn’t try to hold on to all the authority and power that was His anyway. But he let it go so that he could become like the people he loved and needed to save: not just like them in the way He looked, but in every experience – even the most final and fearful experience: death.

He didn’t just take a couple of steps down so that he could get closer to us and shake our hands … he came all the way down to the bottom, to the very bottom, even lower than the bottom actually! He willingly walked through the very worst of being human – and that is why he overcame it. And the Bible says we need to have the same attitude.

Why did he do that? Could he not have saved us some other way? Of course he could have – he is God! But it was his choice to do it this way, and God always makes the best choice. And so we have it from God himself – not just in his words, but also in his actions: Humility and letting go of all the things that make us feel important is the very best way to show love and to save.

So often people have used development to make themselves feel important and look important. They give to others and lift others up so they can feel good about themselves, seem important in the eyes of people they are helping, and seem successful in the eyes of donors and other stakeholders. Instead of lowering ourselves and becoming like those we serve, seeking to really know them and understand their lives while we walk in their shoes, we try to do it another way – find an easier, less sacrificial option.

Perhaps this is why we are still fighting poverty more than 2000 years after Jesus came.

 Questions:

  1. When you look around at Christian leaders, are they leading Jesus’ way?
  2. As disciples of Jesus, everything we do should be about showing love and bringing salvation.  How good are we at doing it Jesus’ way?
  3. What are some of the practical things you can do today to serve people Jesus’ way?

Taking a Chance

refugees-are-human-beings-oki

In December 2012 I gave my first academic presentation about psychological traumas that often impact refugees.  I had a glimpse into the problems that they faced such as PSTD, but I had no emotional connection.  There was no compassion or empathy, just comprehension of the clinical issues.

It wasn’t until 2013 that I was hit by the weight of all the problems these individuals carry.  The stories I heard still ring in my mind, reminding me of what it means to lose everything.

I remember stories of families living in refugee camp squalor for 20+ years and forgetting that they ever had a home,

a mother losing her newborn in a fire that destroyed the entire refugee camp,

a teacher trying to give the children in the camp a chance at an education with little to no resources,

a family so persecuted because of their ethnicity that they had been forced to move to three countries before they found refuge in the States,

families who had been stripped of their dignity in order to survive and eat,

and individuals who had lost everyone they loved through civil war.

This is their reality.  It’s why two Nepalese refugees committed suicide within the first month of my internship.  It’s why when a child was killed in a hit and run, the whole community remembered the pain of losing a loved one.  Because they’ve all seen and experienced it.

However, I cannot even begin to describe the joy and hope that can exist when refugees are just given a chance.  It doesn’t matter that they can’t speak English, or don’t know how to flush a toilet, or are forced to take night-shift jobs at a meat-packing plant hours away.

Give them a chance at life, and you will see the world change.  I’ve seen community leaders rise up as advocates, social workers, teachers and pastors.  I’ve seen a malnourished child with rickets, tuberculosis and autism able to go to school, learn English and eventually attend community college.  I’ve seen women who are illiterate able to support their families through small businesses and learn to read and write for the very first time.

But my favorite story of all is of a family I mentored with my husband and a few other friends.  The family arrived from Nepal around 2013, with literally nothing.  I remember standing outside their apartment in the snow, waiting to be invited in.  They were scared, we were scared and we had no way to communicate.  There was a lot of confusion as to why a bunch of white people (and one African) were standing outside their door.  Finally the refugee agency translator arrived and explained that we were there to help them acclimate to the US.

We visited on a regular basis, and tried the best we could.  Loving this family meant driving to their apartment at midnight to take their sick little girl to the emergency room.  It meant advocating for them with doctors.  It also meant showing them how to use the bus system.  And eating loads of spicy food and chai tea.  And making sure the kids had their immunizations up to date.  And helping them figure out the grocery store and Sams Club (Nepalese LOVE Sams Club – I think I still have rice left in my car from that).  And dancing to Gangnam style with the kids.

But it took time to see progress.  At some point, we had to say, “Okay, it’s your turn to take the bus to the grocery store all on your own.”  We had to let them stand on their own two feet, even if that meant they were going to stumble.

When I left for South Africa, the mother of the family presented me with all her gold bangles and jewelry.  I cried, she cried and we stood there realizing that God had brought us together for a reason. In that moment, I needed her just as much as she needed me.  She had taught me how to live out my faith in a way that asked me to give up my selfishness.

Two years later, we found the entire family speaking English, working, going to school and fulfilled with life.  After having lived in a refugee camp for 20 years, the family had somewhere to call home.  They were living the American dream.  Even if that dream meant a tiny apartment in a dodgy neighborhood.  Or a job that paid peanuts.  They were safe and they were together.

My heart still aches for refugees.  Right now the political climate does not reflect God’s heart for the outsider.  However, I am seeing Christians forced to deal with this issue for the first time.  I’m seeing the reality that we in this field of work have always known, finally flashing all over CNN.  Families are being ripped apart, just because of their nationality.

One thing I know is that is that we have to take a chance on refugees. Yes, it cost money and resources.  Yes, it might be risky.  But if you and your family were being persecuted because of your religion, race or ethnicity, what risks would you take to protect your family?  What would you not do to ensure your children had an opportunity to succeed?  What would you do if you had no financial safety net or resources to get you out of a civil war?  What would YOU do?

It’s this mindset that challenged me to leave my 4 month old baby with a Congolese refugee when I had to go back to work, or what motivated me to be a part of the xenophobia relief response in South Africa when I was entirely too pregnant.  It’s this mindset that keeps me up at night, thinking about what it must be like as a Syrian refugee.

I pray you don’t let the photos disappear from your mind.  The photos of families, children and elderly fleeing for their lives.

I hope you allow those photos to motivate you to compassionate action and justice.  This is the heart of God.

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