Thursday, July 10, 2008

Red Letters by Tom Davis - Part 1

Last fall my friend Aimee sent me a link to Tom Davis' blog. He had just released his new book "Red Letters" and I had heard about it on some other blogs/forums. I still hadn't had a chance to read it and then I heard that Tom Davis and Seth Barnes were both offering free copies of their latest books if the recipients would agree to blog about what we learned! So I jumped at the opportunity!

I have almost finished Red Letters, but don't know if I'll be done before our Guat trip (next week). So I decided to split the book in two and write about the first 1/2 of it before leaving.

The full title is "Red Letters - Living a Faith that Bleeds".
Tom starts out by apologizing to the 50 million people infected with HIV/AIDS on behalf of the Christian church for our lack of help. I have personally had to ask forgiveness to God for my general apathy toward the "least of these" in our world. I am not sure why I have been so blind for most of my Christian life. Now that my eyes have been opened the Scriptures just seem to scream that Jesus' heart was turned toward the poor & oppressed. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I spent the past school year in BSF studying the book of Matthew. Over and over again, Jesus spends his time ministering to the outcasts of society - women, children, poor, crippled & diseased.
One of main truths that has stood out to me from this book and the other reading I have done lately is that when we minister to the outcasts of society we meet JESUS! How often do we say to God "I just want to know you, to see you, to experience you". I sense that God is telling me that if I get out there with the people that He has called us to minister to I will find Him in them. It seems such a paradox, but it is just like God to work that way. Tom quotes Mother Teresa "The dying, the crippled, the mentally ill, the unwanted, the unolved - they are Jesus in disguise... [Through the] poor people I have an opportunity to be 24 hours a day with Jesus." This inspires me, although I am still lacking in experience.
Tom goes on to explain poverty. "Poverty is having very little food to eat. Poverty is having lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is losing a chid to illness brought about by unclean water."
He wonders why with so much wealth at our disposal in America we tend to hoard and protect our wealth rather than acting on behalf of the poor in this world. Tom challenges us to live with a "What can I offer?" mentality, rather than a "never-enough" mentality.
Tom reminds us of the way that Jesus views the world. He lived COMPASSION - even after He had given and given He still gave. "He knew they were all created in God's image. He knew they had eternity marked in their hearts. He knew they were capable of so much more than what they were currently living for. And he knew they had a destiny to fulfill". Can I see each person on this earth through that lens? Especially when I am worn out and beaten down?
In the third chapter Tom brings the focus on Africa. He gives a brief historical overview of how present-day Africa has gotten to where they are - covering the tradegies of slavery and genocide and HIV/AIDS. It is hard for me to admit that I have been so unaware of atrocities that are happening even currently to my "neighbors" in Africa. It is appalling to me that people could think that Africans are an inferior race - yet although I don't actively oppress Africans, my lack of action is also a disgrace.
The fourth chapter explains that HIV/AIDS in now defined as pandemic. "A pandemic is an epidemic over a wide geographic area that affects a large proportion of the popualation". Africa represents 10% of the world's population, and also represents over 60% of people with HIV. The church MUST become involved in this crisis. The church brings something that no other organization or government can offer - HOPE!
The fifth chapter is titled "An Inadequate Response". How do we move beyond the statistics - which only temporarily cause our hearts to stir - and begin to make a difference? Tom points out that we are overwhelmed both by the magnitude of the problem and by the pace of our lives. He uses the passage about the Good Samaritan. I feel like this passage has come over and over for me recently! I used to think of it in more of a figurative sense, but lately I see it as much more literal! There are people beaten and dying and I go about my life in such a way that I never have to look at them.
This paragraph from Tom jumped off the page for me. "So why don't we do more to help others? Sadly, many of us live in a world of shadows. In the realm of shadows, we seek only those things that help us to remain in the fog of comfort and safety. This isn't to say that comfort and safety are bad things, but when we fall into the trance of believing they are the only things, we become isolated from greater truths. Two things keep us in the shadows: discomfort with interruption and fear". This would describe my life up until this point. If I am honest, personal comfort and safety have been VERY high on my list of priorities. I wonder how many amazing adventures & blessings I have already missed out on, or withheld from others out of my discomfort and fear?
There's so much more I could say and quote - and it's gets even more challenging as I get into the second part! I am hoping that in my life I begin to move furthur out of the shadows and that my one life can make a difference for the Kingdom.
I know that I have the opportunity to live this out in my neigborhood, but I am also looking forward to this faith adventure in Guatemala. I know that God will continue to stretch me and open my eyes and soften my heart and use me for His will, for HIS glory and purposes!

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