A Pathway to Citizenship

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: John 1:12 KJV

Acceptance is something all of us long to experience. Feeling hopeless because of war, poverty or violence many travel across borders without documents searching for a place to belong. There is plenty of debate today over the subject of illegal immigration but no matter which side of that issue you are on it may help you to picture how Jesus was treated. In the opening chapter of the Gospel of John it is noted that Jesus came into the world, but that the world did not accept Him. In fact just after His birth Herod ordered His soldiers to kill Jesus. During His public ministry His neighbors tried throwing Him over a cliff. (Aren’t you glad you don’t live in that neighborhood!). Later some of the most powerful religious leaders of His day plotted to have Him executed. Their biggest issue was He was a threat to their power and that He wasn’t one of them.

But some welcomed Jesus. They were folks whose identity was also not well received. These were societal outsiders, like a five time divorcee from Samaria, a blind beggar, a demon possessed man who lived in a graveyard and several rough fishermen. They were accustomed to being shunned by polite society and did not hold to popular notions of acceptability. To them, the power of  Jesus’ words and the love they felt in His presence could only be explained one way – He must have come from God. That simple faith granted them a very special right: -the right to be called God’s children and accepted into citizenship in Heaven!

Imported from phone 147

The New People

For the entire ten years we lived in a rural Pennsylvania community we were considered the “New People”. I felt better when I learned that there were other “New People” just up the road from us.  They were from New Jersey and had lived there since the 1950’s!

In a more serious light the hysteria and anger over “New People” (Mexicans, Arabs, Muslims, Asians) has culminated in the most recent massacre in New Zealand. How we as Christians to respond must be linked to how Jesus responded to hatred and prejudice.  Jesus loved the immigrant, the stranger and amazingly so even His enemies. Jesus was not angry with Samaritans who had come from another place and worshipped differently than Jews.  Jesus did not protest about the brutal Roman rule or even agitate for the removal of Herod, who had murdered his cousin John the Baptist. Maybe Jesus was accepting of the “New People” because he knew what being rejected felt like. 20171231_232022

He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.  He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. John 1:10-11 NKJV

Change can be difficult and unsettling, especially if we feel we are threatened by those new and different circumstances. But no matter what situation we find ourselves in the only true place of peace and acceptance is not in being surrounded by “Our People”. Real peace comes as a result of being adopted into God’s family by the blood of Jesus Christ.

I was thinking how last Wednesday a friends of ours; who is one of those,  “New People” became a U.S. citizen. He and His family eat different food, speak a different language and has a different culture.  But today Raj and I both have exactly the same rights, responsibilities and privileges. In the same way, when Jesus laid down His life on the cross to pay for our sins, we gained the privilege of citizenzenship and includsion in the community of God. Yes as His children,  we may always be treated as the “New People”; but God calls us His own. How much more should we  be ready to embrace whoever He has allowed to live just down the street in our town?


For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, Philippians 3:20 NKJV


The Other Side of the Window

applying for a real jobor entering into college so she cleaned houses and prayed for God to help her find a way to reach a legal status. Maria struggled with all the same issues that other teens struggle with here in America but always behind the smiles lived the fear of what might happen if she were to be found out. For a time Maria began to come only rarely to church then it seemed something slowly began to change. Step by step she began to commit her life back to the Lord and with halting steps to find a new path.


But one afternoon shortly after, as she drove home from house cleaning Maria was pulled over for a minor traffic violation. One of her turn signals was not working and when she looked into her mirror she saw a police car. All the things she had feared came crashing down into her life that day. Her father called our pastor and asked him to pray because his little girl was now locked away behind the doors of the County prison.


One day not long after I sat in the visiting room of the prison. I still could not

believe that Maria was really there. At the time for the visits to begin a guard called everyone to line up and pass through a metal detector and then into a long narrow room with tiny cubicles, each facing a window. On the other side of the windows were the prisoners waiting next to a telephone receiver. As I sat in my assigned place I saw Maria sitting on the other side. “How are youMaria?” I asked in Portuguese. “I am good Pastor how are you?”

“Not good at all Maria.” I answered and tears began to roll down my cheeks. This isn’t the right place for you!”  “Don’t cry Pastor!” She said. Then Maria began to encourage me that God was taking good care of her there. had few options but inside that prison she began to pray also. Her first prayer was just a simple request. She prayed, “Lord Jesus it is so cold here and the clothing is so thin, please help me to stay warm!” Then she explained how she felt the warmth of God’s presence around there in her cell and fell fast asleep that night and each night afterward.

We joined together as a church to pray for Maria. She was alone, afraid and vulnerable. She had no money and no lawyer. So we had a special offering and a fund-raising dinner to raise the $1500 needed for legal counsel. So we prayed, we cooked, we sold meals and soon we were able to present her family and friends with the money needed to get an immigration lawyer. On the day of Maria’s hearing about ten of us drove the 2 1/2 hour trip to the hearing. Yet in spite of our hopes and prayers the answer was 42 days to gather her things together to go back to Brazil.

For those who have not never had a friend or family member pass through this the matter may seem simple.

Maria came without the documents – she was an “illegal” and she got caught. Logically she should go home (at her own expense). But real life is never as simple as it seems. As a young girl could she have stayed behind alone in Brazil? Had she been asked her opinion about leaving her friends and family behind to go to a far away country? Did she have any means by which to get the paperwork she needed at any point along the way? Add to the mix of official problems, all the normal average growing up teenage problems such as boyfriends, a desire for independence, and hoping and dreaming for things beyond your grasp. Maria’s story is just the first I will share. All the incidents are exactly as they happened with only names being changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

I will end this first installment with the thought that Jesus left us, because one day it may our own face on the other side of a window!

 Do to others as you would like them to do to you Luke 6:31