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“We are watching one of the most horrendous human rights crises of our generation.”

Try to imagine that your government wants to harm you and your family, maybe even take your life. You desperately seek refuge in another country, only to be turned away. With effectively no citizenship in any country, no place to legally live, what are your options? That is the situation for thousands of refugees at this very moment. We are watching one of the most horrendous human rights crises of our generation. I know firsthand the fear, dejection and hopelessness they feel. I’m receiving a constant flow of calls from refugees served by Gateway of Grace. Each one filled with fear and hopelessness, evoking doubts of worth and dignity.

There is no shortage of political discussions and media’s coverage of it, and that certainly has its place. But, what has been among the most unsettling comments is the reactions of some Christian leaders. I won’t enter the political wrangling of the matter, but I accept the obligation to correct a gross denial of Biblical authority on God’s love for the refugee.

I have yet to hear a more theologically inaccurate statement from a Christian leader than the one given a few days ago by Franklin Graham in which he stated that the refugee crisis is not a Biblical issue. From the brightest Biblical scholars to the Christians who faithfully read the Holy Scriptures daily, it is clear that God cares deeply for the refugee. And, how we respond or not respond reveals a lot about our knowledge of God.

We became refugees and were expelled from the presence of God the moment we sinned. God in His mercy reached out to us, repeatedly and lovingly to welcome us and bring us back to himself. God gave his only son WHILE we were still sinners, far from Him. He did not wait for us to convert before He loved us.

The theme of exile and finding refuge is undeniably the most prominent theme of the Scriptures. Acts 17 and 2 Chronicles 6:32-33 are very clear about the reason for welcoming the stranger. God’s desire is to bring ALL people to himself and restore them into the fullness of His image. God does not have a favorite nation and He has called us to be His redeeming, loving, and restoring presence to those who are hopeless. If as the Psalms point out over and again, God is our refuge, as little christs, we are the representative of that refuge to those in need.

For the sake of the Gospel, we are also called not to live with the spirit of fear.

We share the Good News of Jesus Christ with our loving actions and loving kindness and by obeying the commandments of Christ that fulfill that purpose. As Pope Francis poignantly said, “You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian,” he continued, “You cannot be a Christian without practicing the Beatitudes. You cannot be a Christian without doing what Jesus teaches us in Matthew 25.” This is a reference to Christ’s injunction to help the needy by such works of mercy as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and welcoming the stranger.

“It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help,” he said. “If I say I am Christian, but do not do these things, I’m a hypocrite.”

As I write this, I see faces of our refugees, their tears as they share their stories and prayer requests, their hopes for the future, and their hard work to make a new life out of the ashes of the old one. As my friend Pastor Paul Wheatley puts it, “We are only as good as our ability to help the least of these.” And, that is what we will be held accountable for by our Lord.

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Author Samira Page is Executive Director of Gateway of Grace, a multi-denominational church-based ministry to refugees in the Dallas, TX area. She is an Anglican who studied at Southern Methodist University Perkins School of Ministry. She is herself a naturalized American citizen.

Samira adds: “Gateway of Grace will hold a cross-denominational prayer vigil to seek God’s wisdom, mercy, direction, and healing, and to pray for all who are involved in the refugee process. Consider this your personal invitation. The prayer vigil will be held next Monday at 6:30 at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Dallas. A reception will follow. Please RSVP to samira@gatewayofgrace.org”

(reposted by permission)

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The big day is tomorrow, and I’ve been looking forward to it all week.  I’ve even got special Super Bowl food planned for the evening.

But what should be a time of celebration and enjoyment for football fans everywhere has become a nightmare for people caught in the world of human trafficking.

This blog post reminds us the Super Bowl is also the biggest human trafficking event in the world.

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery.  It’s the fastest-growing crime in America, faster than even the drug trade.  And while women make up the largest percentile of victims, they’re by far not the only ones.  Increasingly children and men are disappearing into this world, where they are forced to work without pay, often forced to ‘serve’ ten or more ‘customers’ a day.

Public awareness is the key to fighting this devastating practice. Learn to recognize the victims of human trafficking including victims in lines of work other than sex trafficking.  And because victims of trafficking are moved around the country frequently, learn how to spot a trafficker in a crowd or on a plane.

If you suspect you see a trafficker or know someone who is being trafficked, DO NOT take direct action yourself .  Instead notify authorities or call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 and report your observations.

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It’s rare to find religious commentary that is level-headed, fair, and downright funny (though it begins on a serious note).

A blog post entitled Evangelical Drama Needs Mainline Experience explains it all in terms of high school drama.

There’s the ecclesiastical equivalent of the Football Team (“pretty sure football is only for boys, and the only sport for girls is cheerleading”), the Rich Kids (“oblivious to the fact that there are other students at the high school”), the Valedictorian (“bright and well-liked, but constantly at odds with the football team”), the Debate Team, and more.

Click the link above and relate!

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The debate has been running for centuries: what is and is not acceptable for women in terms of church ministry? Can we teach? Prophesy? Serve communion? Be ordained?  No two denominations answer these questions in exactly the same way, but beliefs generally fall into one of two categories: Some say women must take a subordinate role with limited participation (complementarianism); others say Scripture teaches full gender equality (egalitarianism).

The problem with these two terms is they confuse the issue.  Definitions of the terms are unclear and open to endless tweaking of minutae; but more importantly, all but the most backward of people would agree genders are equal in the wider world outside of church.  With this in mind, New Creation blog has proposed new terminology: “restrictive” and “non-restrictive“.  I agree with the author – these terms are far more accurate and much clearer not only for churchgoers but for outside observers as well.

Color me pleased to have useful words to work with.

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Anyone who knows me knows about my love for cats.  (I can’t resist posting at least one cat pic on Facebook every day!)  Truth be told I love and enjoy all animals, and nature in general, and deeply appreciate God’s creativity, love of variety, and pure joy displayed in this world He’s created.

And I’ve been puzzled, and sometimes hurt, by the lack of interest the Christian community often shows in being good stewards of God’s creation.  From being told there are “more important things to do” (more important than obeying the first command God gave to humanity after “be fruitful and multiply”?) to being accused of “seeking popularity with nonbelievers” because “supporting the environment is cool” (huh??) my love for God’s creation has been discouraged for decades.

So tripping over this site (“Not One Sparrow: A Christian Voice for Animals“) today brought tears to my eyes.  Here’s a quote:

“We want to help Christ’s community become better caretakers of animals, for the sake of our own response to the gospel and to show the world that the good news reaches to all creatures.  We’re committed to supporting animal advocacy cause where we can, and contributing a faithful perspective to it.  Our hope is to consistently encourage affirming and empathetic relationships with animals, and to speak out against neglect and abuse of all kinds.”

In a nation where literally millions of animals are abused and/or euthanized every year, and where the consumption of natural resources continues at an alarming rate, it seems to me God’s people should be at the forefront of caring compassionately for our Maker’s creation.  Amen to the above, and if others are aware of similar resources, please post in the comments.

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The Facebook post read: “to see the fruits of complementarianism (the teaching that women are “equal but different”) google ‘Does God Hate Women?’ the results are heartbreaking!”

They are indeed. Stories of abuse, lost faith, lost hope.

And among the brokenness, a gem of an article: Why Does God Hate Women?.  Ladies and gentlemen, if you’ve ever wondered about religion’s gender biases, been hurt by misguided pastors or counselors, been shut out because of your gender, been puzzled over how we got where we are… read this.  Every word is golden.

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Recommended by friend and Anglican priest Christina V, this article talks about who Mary the mother of Jesus really was and what she was really like.  Not quite the way she is portrayed in many churches… not quite the kind of role model Christian women are often told to emulate.  Rather, an amazing woman of chutzpah, courageous beyond the power of words to describe: Hail Mary, Bad-Ass Queen of Heaven.  Check it out!

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