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3 Ways To Respond to A World With Changing Values

Written By Julian Panga, India

Julian grew up in India and then lived in Australia for 12 years. While working in the banking and finance Industry in Melbourne, he also served as a church elder, missions trainer, and Bible teacher. In 2014, he returned to India in response to God’s calling and is currently involved in pastoral ministry and theological training. He is passionate about teaching and training as well as engaging the youth and those in the marketplace with the Gospel.

On 6 September 2018, India’s Supreme Court overturned a 157-year-old law which had previously criminalized consensual gay sex.

This may come as a surprise to many, since India has long been known for its family values and traditional views on marriage. But all over the world, same-sex relationships have become more and more accepted, so this move by India’s Supreme Court was inevitable.

The LGBT community in India—which used to be a hidden minority—are now coming out in the open and reveling in their victory. This landmark decision was a huge relief to the LGBT community, as well as activists and supporters who stood by them. Celebrities and politicians across the country have expressed support and congratulations over social media, reflecting the increasing acceptance of same-sex relationships.

This news has highlighted a growing trend towards changing values that are at odds with the Bible. Going forward, we will more and more frequently encounter people with ideas, mannerisms, and desires different from ours. How then should the Church respond?

Should we respond in protest and anger, or should we continue to spread the message of love, acceptance, and inclusion? Should we seek to hold on to our core beliefs revealed in the Bible, or compromise our message in favor of being progressive and accepting? What is clear is that we need to make these choices with sensitivity, wisdom, and with the help of God’s grace and love.

Here are three ways I believe we can respond to a world of changing values with love and gentleness:

 

1. See each person as made in the image of God

Regardless of what someone’s views on sexual relationships or any other divisive issue may be, it’s important that we remember that we are all broken, sinful, and in need of Christ. All of us need the good news of the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We all need to learn that our identity does not come from our sexual orientation, social status, or even personality—but in the privilege of being called Sons and Daughters of the Living God.

This begins with being committed to seeing each person we meet as made in the image of God and valued by Him. As long as we focus on showing people the love, grace, and mercy of God, the Holy Spirit will bring about transformation in our lives and the lives of those around us. Take time to build relationships and trust with genuine love.

 

2. Demonstrate the love of Christ through practical ways

As Christians, we are called to love God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40)—and our neighbor is anyone around us who is in need and hurting. This call remains the same regardless of the legal changes or societal views that prevail. There is no list of requirements our neighbors need to meet before we shower them with our love. No one is out of bounds.

Instead of retreating in fear or shame, or inciting anger or hate, we must seek to be the hands and feet of God in practical ways. As Christians, we recognize that only Jesus Christ, the Son of God, can offer real hope to this lost, broken, and damaged world. And His love is demonstrated when we serve others in practical ways.

This could take the form of taking the time to listen to the stories of those who struggle with same-sex attraction with sensitivity or empathy, helping those who are hurting find counseling avenues, and keeping our hearts and doors open to anyone seeking refuge.

 

3. Get to know those who are different from you

Many churches have already begun doing this by breaking down age-old stereotypes, educating themselves, and reaching out to those unlike them. This often comes about through church services that are welcoming, intentional acts of compassion and mercy, friendship evangelism, and providing counseling and pastoral care.

There are also focused ministries that are committed to reaching out sensitively to LGBT communities as well as many others, presenting the message of the Gospel. Much fruit can already be seen as a result of the persistent efforts of these ministries.

My church, for example, has organized a seminar for youth and young adults to hear from experts and ask questions relating to our sexuality. These young people are also encouraged to invite friends who are either curious or troubled about these changes and are seeking frank answers to difficult questions.

As a church, we have also taken steps to proactively approach the transgender community in parts of our city, and invited them to a special service at our church. Many attended, and were received with warmth and genuine love. We desire to continue building relationships with the leaders of this community, so that we may have more opportunities to engage with them and share the transforming love of Christ.

 

In a world where ethical and moral values are shifting endlessly, it’s even more pivotal that we understand our role as Christians—to be the salt and light that will draw others to the Light of Christ and His offer of eternal life. Let’s hasten to do this and ask God to lead us in our interactions with the world around us.

4 Tips For Reaching Out To The Homeless

“Excuse me, miss, do you have any spare change?”

The other day, I was asked for some money by a man sitting outside the local supermarket. He was wrapped up in a blanket, with his hoodie over his head and a torn paper cup in his hand.

“Really sorry, I don’t have any on me,” I replied. “But can I buy something for you? What do you need?”

I squatted down beside him and looked him in the eyes, and I could tell it made him a bit nervous.

He appeared timid but I could tell was also eager to have a chat.

“My name is Rachel,” I said reaching out my hand. “What’s yours?”

***

As someone who works for a homelessness charity, I frequently get asked what one should do if approached by a homeless person on the streets.

What do I do if a homeless person asks me for money? Do I give them money? Should I just avoid them?

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, homelessness is a crisis. The reasons are many and complex—family breakdown, community upheaval, poor mental health, or individual struggles with addiction. But whatever the reasons, no one should have to sleep rough on the streets—especially in the dead of winter—or be in search of a place to stay because they were kicked out of their home by a family member.

Because local governments are often unable to help the hundreds of people in need, I strongly believe that this is where we, the Church, come in.

In Matthew 25:40, Jesus urges us to care for those living in poverty as an act of obedience to God: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

While I do not have all the answers to this complex problem, I do have a few thoughts that I hope you find helpful the next time you encounter someone on the streets.

 

1. Be compassionate

Embody compassion. Freely give to people you come across, especially those who find themselves on the margins of society. While we should not lightly cross personal boundaries or put ourselves at risk, we certainly don’t need to be a social worker to show compassion. Showing compassion can be anything from saying hello to someone on the street, to offering to buy them a hot drink on a cold night.

As Christians, kindness should come naturally to us. And when it does not, we need to ask God to show us how He sees and loves the people around us. Pray for our hearts to be broken by the things that break His heart.

 

2. Help out when you can and where you can

After all, you and I are mere individuals. We cannot possibly help everyone we come across who begs for money on the street.

However, if we want to help people living in poverty and experiencing episodes of homelessness, we can always start small and see where it takes us. After all, no act of kindness, no matter how small, is insignificant.

Instead of giving money to someone on the streets, I will often buy them a sandwich or a hot coffee. And sometimes, it is enough just to have a conversation with that person.

If you’re just starting out on this journey, something as simple as smiling and saying “Hello” is a positive step. Ultimately, we want to show dignity and respect to people who have been robbed of such.

Jesus Himself treated social outcasts and sinners with dignity and compassion. He even shared a meal with prostitutes! Maybe there’s something we could learn from His interactions with the poor and downtrodden.

 

3. Use common sense

On the one hand, we need to think about how to better serve our local communities and reach out to people who are homeless. But on the other hand, we also need to exercise common sense.

While some of us have no qualms about speaking to a homeless person outside of a supermarket, that is a personal choice and not necessarily right for everyone. There have been times where I have seen people on the streets act aggressive. If that happens, we need to decide on a safe course of action. Definitely not all homeless people are dangerous or addicts, but we need to exercise common sense when interacting with people on the street.

 

4. Get on board

There are many charities that support homeless people in local communities. These charities offer a variety of services and projects, such as overnight shelters, addiction recovery programs, or community development.

Supporting a charity is a great way of partnering with others to tackle the issue of homelessness. We can do so by giving to charities, donating food and clothing at local food banks, or participating in an outreach program through church.

 

It’s easy to think “I’m just one person. How can I possibly make a difference?”

While we may not be able to perform the miracles Jesus did—raising the dead, restoring sight, casting out demons—we can extend the same life-changing dignity that He offered during His time on earth. Jesus treated each and every person He came across with dignity, knowing that they are made in God’s own image. We can do so as well.

Brothers and sisters, if there is one thing to remember when encountering the homeless, it’s this: treat everyone you meet as Jesus did—men and women, homeless and homeowners, rich and poor.

Let’s go back to the story I started this article with. After I introduced myself, the man told me that his name was David. I sat down beside him on the busy city street, watching people make their way home in the post-work commute.

“People can be really kind,” he said. As he munched on his sandwich, David told me all about how several local people had taken an interest in him and would buy him meals on occasion. A couple of women even told him about Jesus and His love for him.

“They told me that even though I’m homeless that God loves me and I’m still valuable to Him.”

As I listened to David share his story, it struck me that one simple thing we can do to love people well and to treat them with dignity is to listen. Let us learn how to listen purely so that others have the privilege to share their story.

Next time you pass by someone on the streets, give them just a few minutes of your time. Even the simplest of acts like having a conversation with someone who is homeless isn’t just saying “I hear you”; it’s demonstrating “I see you because He loves you.”

Be a representative of His incomprehensible peace, undeserving grace and overwhelming love.

Why I Meet Dying People Everyday

Written By Susan Randall, USA

As I walked the streets of Baltimore, USA, I saw many addicts and homeless people.  One of them, an elderly man with his belongings all around him, was sitting in a wheelchair and only his face was visible between all his bulky clothes. Another man was walking with his tongue hanging out; many of them appeared to be mentally ill.

Working in a hospice as a hospice nurse gives me a greater understanding of the importance of loving everyone. I try to practice what it says in Matthew 12:31, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” This is especially needful since I’m sent into the homes of people I have never met, and I need to care for them along with their personal issues.

These homeless people were on my mind as I visited Mia, a cancer patient who also has paranoid schizophrenia. Someone had arranged for her to get off the streets and into a home with a caregiver. The cancer had come through her skin and was painful, but being paranoid, she refused to take her medicine. She thought that everyone was trying to kill her, including me. When the caregiver tried to help Mia walk the night before, she accidently touched the tumors. It caused her such excruciating pain that Mia called the police to have the caregiver evicted. Instead of evicting the woman, the police insisted that Mia take her medicine for schizophrenia. They threatened to take her to a psychiatric unit if she did not comply. She didn’t trust the police as they gave her pills to her, saying they were trying to kill her too.

Even though she wouldn’t take the pain pills, she asked me to put a topical Morphine cream on the exposed cancer tumors. She told me to be gentle because they hurt. When I touched the tumors with the cream, she started slamming her fists on the bed and cried out in pain until the cream began to take effect.

She didn’t trust the caregiver, didn’t trust the police, and didn’t trust me for trying to give her medicine. She said a friend took one of those pills and it killed him. I found it hard to watch her suffering; I knew the effects of the morphine cream wasn’t going to last very long.

The only way I realized I could truly help her was to pray. A prayer in my favorite devotional that morning read, “Dear God, help us to set our sights on the prize of eternal life so that we may endure and even overcome our struggles. Amen.” I included Mia in my prayers, knowing that the eternal life in heaven would be a welcome prize for her—a place where she would no longer experience any pain or suffering.

The next night, I visited a 50-year-old woman who had fluid in her abdomen which caused her discomfort. I hooked up the tube to drain the fluid and we sat on the sofa together. We sat in silence, waiting for her to get relief. The television was turned on in the background with a scene of a son talking to his dying father. The son said, “It will be cold and scary, but just swim hard to Jesus.”

I didn’t like what the son was saying. I was sitting beside a woman who was going to die soon. I couldn’t let her hear those words without responding. “I don’t think it’s going to be like that at all. I believe death will be peaceful.” She looked down at her diseased-filled body and with a smile replied, “I think it is going to be wonderful!”

Her liver was full of cancer and the fluid had been resting on it and other internal organs.  Her pain was so bad, it required a pump for narcotics. I couldn’t imagine how awful it must be to live with cancer. Her words made me realize that she was looking forward to that wonderful place called “heaven”.

The third night of that same week, I went to visit a hospice patient, Ella, to help with her symptoms that were getting out of control. After my intervention, she fell asleep comfortably. Her son and daughter-in-law, John and Betty, sat with me in the room with Ella. They described how just a few months ago, she was dancing at a family gathering—the life of the party. Seeing her this way was difficult. For two hours John and Betty told me stories about the whole family. Occasionally, John cried when he looked over at his mother and Betty put her hand on his shoulder to comfort him, but with all their family problems, there was so much stress that they got into an argument. John walked out of the house.

About that time, Ella’s breathing changed. I told Betty it was getting close. She sent a text to John telling him to come back, his mother was going to pass away very soon. He came back and stood beside Ella’s bed. She was alive but her breathing had decreased. When John looked at her, he started crying and ran out of the room; it was too difficult for him. Betty sat on the sofa unable to come to the bedside.

I stood beside Ella’s bed with one hand on her hand and my other hand stroking her forehead. I told her it was okay to go. She took one deep breath and passed away; her spirit lifting from her physical body. I felt so close to something divine, like God had just taken her out of my hands into His own to join others in heaven. The memory of this still brings tears to my eyes.

Some people think I have a dreadful job, but I think of it differently. It is a privilege to be side-by-side, or even hand-in-hand, with a God that is so vast. I’m reminded of John 14:2-3 which says, “In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

This gives me hope, that in spite of our present sufferings we can persevere, knowing that one day we will all end up in that wonderful place called heaven.

“My home is heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.”  – Billy Graham

We Are Not the Sum of Our Bad Choices

Written By Ruth Lawrence, UK

You might have encountered them on the streets. The lonely, the homeless, and the addicted. They started off just like the rest of us, but somewhere along the line, one wrong choice after another led them on a downward spiral. Now, they think it’s too late for them to try and amend their ways—God wouldn’t possibly want anything to do with them anyway.

Or perhaps you have a friend or have heard of someone struggling to take care of her baby on her own after a series of bad choices. Life is hard and lonely for her. Even if God exists, He wouldn’t know or care about her predicament, she tells you.

All around us, there are plenty of such people. In fact, some of my neighbours have the exact mind-set like those homeless guys on the streets. I find it sad that they’ve allowed their past choices to trap them into living such defeated lives—because it doesn’t need to be this way.

That’s what I’ve learned from my recent study on Nehemiah 9. At this point, the people of Israel are making their way back to Israel, after spending 70 years in exile in the land of Babylon. Nehemiah has been rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem amid some fierce opposition. Now all those who have returned are gathered together and they have a decision to make: Would they follow God?

The answer is a resounding yes—they want to follow God. Nehemiah 9 therefore is their prayer of repentance. It’s a long prayer and it covers all that God did for them as a nation and all their mistakes. Just like the people we see around us, the Israelites made some very poor choices. They rejected God and did what they wanted, even when they had just witnessed God doing amazing things for them—like rescuing them from slavery.

They must have been filled with regret and shame as they recounted their past mistakes. But what struck me about their prayer was not so much the extent of their sinfulness, but how God responded to them each time they failed. Interspersed through Nehemiah 9 are beautiful phrases like these:

But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them,” (Neh 9:17)

Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness.” (Neh 9:19)

But when they were oppressed they cried out to you. From heaven you heard them, and in your great compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the hand of their enemies.” (Neh 9:27)

And when they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven, and in your compassion you delivered them time after time.” (Neh 9:28)

But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.” (Neh 9:31)

And that made me think, wow! What an amazing God we have, who has compassion and still loves us even when we do our own thing and ignore Him. In my own life, I too have failed God’s instructions like the Israelites. And one of the things that gets to me the most is when I choose not to tell someone about Jesus, because I’m afraid how that person might react.

In the UK, people often don’t know or don’t speak to their neighbours. In my street, we might say hello to each other as we leave our houses at the same time, but our conversations never go further than the weather. So even though I can see that my neighbours need Jesus, I say nothing more than “hello” when I see them, because I’m afraid that they will think that I am crazy.

When I think of all the opportunities that I’ve missed this way, I’m left feeling horrendously guilty. I know I’ve been ignoring what God has instructed to me to do: to tell people about Jesus. And I can’t help but think that He must be really mad at me.

So to read these verses is a huge relief. It feels like someone has lifted a heavy weight off my shoulders. And that is what God promises if we take time to pray, confess and ask for His forgiveness; He will free us from guilt and cleanse us from our sins. Sure, I still need to be responsible to tell people about Jesus, but I can do that because I want to obey God and not because of my guilt conscience.

So here’s the thing. Maybe you’ve made some bad choices. You’re hanging out with the wrong crowd or you’ve gone too far in a romantic relationship and you know that your actions haven’t honoured God. Or maybe the choices you are making leave you feeling hollow and guilty. If you’ve messed up and feel like there is no way God could forgive you, then have a look at what God says in His Word. Look at who God is and what He has done for you on the cross.

Come back to the God who is “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” He won’t turn you away. Let’s not be trapped in our past choices.