July 5, 2012 – the day after

Posted on www.lifelinecdc.org   by Monika Grasley  Merced, CA

July 4th  the day we celebrate independence, the day of BBQ’s and fireworks, the day we remember our history. The day of community gatherings and parades, the day when we come together, often as strangers, to enjoy the park, the beach, the events.

Today is July 5 – nothing has really changed! We are still the same country, still have liberties, we still have a justice system and we still can pursue happiness. So why does today look so different? Why do 24 hours make such a difference?

We all seem to be running; running to get things done, make more money (or enough to pay the rent), running from event to event, day to day, week to week….without ever stopping to celebrate what we have.

We are busy ‘pursuing happiness’ only to find that we are missing out on justice, and that the liberties we have really mean imprisonment for others.

How do we live ‘the day after’ or better the next 364 days in a way that reflects the real values of America? It never was about how much faster we can run to pursue our ever more eluding dream, it always was about a bigger picture.. Justice for everyone, opportunity for everyone, liberties for everyone.

There is so much talk about the welfare system, the healthcare reform, the agenda of the future president, that we often forget the here and now.

When have you looked into the eyes of a homeless instead of handing him a buck? When was the last time you heard the story of a drug addict, listened to his pain, heard his struggles instead of condemning him? When was the last time you helped a senior citizen, not because she was not moving fast enough in the checkout line, but because she had a story to tell that might teach you something?

I am finding myself tired of politics, where people are numbers and only measured by outcomes, where the individual dream does not matter as much as the results that are required to fulfill the grant requirements, where we herd people through appointments and systems only to give them one more handout.

My experience with people is that we all want to pursue happiness, that we don’t always want a handout but want to relearn how to live on our own feet, that there is way more potential and ability in people than we can ever imagine.

That is why at LifeLine we don’t do handouts (except in emergencies) because we know that dignity is more important than hot dog buns, and that their dreams and values are as valid as yours and mine.

So for the next 364 I want to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with a creator God who is for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (although happiness might look much different from His perspective).

Want to come along?

Ask, Listen…ACT!

Jay Van Groningen

Talk is action…it’s not cheap. How do you see your role in the story of your neighborhood? What would you improve about your street? If resources were unlimited, what is the first area you would address?  What about your neighborhood keeps you up at night? How would you describe a good neighbor?  A great neighbor?

Start with questions not answers, one of the many principles of Asset Based Community Development discussed on February 24th and 25th at a recent CFA training in Minneapolis, MN.  Facilitators Jay Van Groningen and George Montoya spent two days with 18 participants presenting practical and powerful methods of ABCD as an approach to effective community development work. Participants included neighbors, nonprofit workers, church leaders, professors, agency leaders, and others seeking to develop more connected and engaged local communities. Topics covered included:

Twin Cities Training at Calvary Church in inner city Minneapolis.

  • Methods to discover individuals’ gifts and their voluntary associations, including churches.
  • How to build more community engagement and involvement.
  • Approaches to sustain community organizations and leaders.
  • Ideas for building successful agency-resident partnerships.
  • Finding and mobilizing organizational and community assets.
  • Practical ways to expand social networks and local connections.

In addition to covering the fundamental principles of taking ABCD and community building and organizing into action, the trainers and participants spent time dreaming and believing together. See CFA events page for upcoming training opportunities.

ABCD training activity

Mt Airy Community Church Launches Community Ministry

Al Santino – Northeast Community Transformation

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Northeast Community Transformation has recently developed a partnership with Mt Airy Community Church, a new church plant which is part of the Philadelphia Christian Reformed cluster of church plants affiliated with Spirit and Truth Fellowship.  Through the training, coaching and encouragement provided by NECT Mt Airy created the position of Community Advocate around one of its community gifted members, Cindy Lees.  Cindy tells the story of their recent progress.

In the beginning of April, Allen (our pastor) and I helped out at a local community cleanup that was sponsored by West Mount Airy Neighbors (WMAN).  That day I met the Chair of the Nominating Committee for WMAN, who asked me if I had any interest in becoming a board member.  As I thought and prayed about it, it seemed like a significant opportunity for me to become more relationally connected with some of the “gatekeepers” in this community (WMAN is a VERY active organization with a lot of influence in our neighborhood).  As of June 14th, I officially began a three-year term serving on the Board of WMAN (monthly Board meetings start in September).  Please pray for much wisdom for me!

Mt. Airy Day (which is sponsored by WMAN), was the large, annual community celebration that took place in the beginning of May.  This was another good opportunity for me to meet and work alongside folks from WMAN and begin building relationships with this group.  Several folks from our church helped “man” our table (at which we advertised community resources) and they began doing some community surveys as well.  I was encouraged as I reconnected with several folks from the community whom I knew from previous events; it was good to interact with them and let them know about our church and our desire to serve the community.

MACC is also coordinating with another local church, Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church, to run a Summer Kids Program (essentially a vacation Bible School) on Wednesday evenings in July and August.  These evenings will begin with a free “community dinner” for the kids and their parents and families.  This will be followed by teaching and activities for the kids, as well as worship time for teenagers and adults.  This is one of the ways we are seeking to reach out and serve our community.  We have posted flyers in the neighborhood, placed an ad in one of the local newspapers, and have also made some individual phone calls to “get the word out” about the program.  We also plan on handing out flyers door-to-door to folks who live very close to the church.

Faith In Action Committee Visions

Al Santino – Northeast Community Transformation

Fordham Manor Reformed Church
By Doncine Kelly, Coordinator

On Nov 4, 2010 Doni Kelly and Margaret Donato attended the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition Leadership Council Meeting as co-chairs for Fordham Manor Reformed Church.  As representatives of Fordham Manor, it was determined that a Faith In Action Committee would be formed at the Church.  The Faith In Action Committee is a bible based self-advocacy group that meets the third Monday of every month, and has dedicated its energy to the betterment of the residents of the neighborhood it serves.  It has become the voice of the Church and the community in regard to housing, employment, and education.

On Nov 18, 2010 The Fordham Manor Reformed Church Faith In Action Committee held its first meeting.  Immediately, landlord-tenant and Dept of Education issues took center stage.  One of the congregants, Rose Rehfield expressed the horrendous conditions in her apartment that her landlord had refused to correct.  The Committee determined that a fact finding mission was in order.  Rose and Amanda Altman, our staff member from NWBCCC, literally tracked the none existent landlord office to the landlord’s home address at which time a letter was sent requesting his immediate attention to the matters at hand as well as to our local politicians.  Within three weeks, not only had the work been done in Rose’s apartment but work had begun throughout the building.  It was a successful resolution to an ongoing problem.

The Dept of Education, in its infinite wisdom, decided to use P.S. 86, one of the best elementary schools in the city, as an experimental project by eliminating the 6th grade class and importing 7th graders.  Because their logic escaped us, we decided to protest along with numerous parents associations, teachers, principals, NWBCCC education staffers and local politicians at the Community Education Council Meeting at P.S. 447 on Thursday, Nov 18, 2010.  At least 300 plus were in attendance.  As a result, the motion was shelved until 2012 at which time we will again present logical, cogent points and principles for why this project should be defeated.  As of this time, we have yet to receive an explanation as to why this was being done.

In the future, the Committee will endeavor to address the following:

FIAC Core Organizing Workshop with Al Santino, Director at Northeast Community Transformation

Four part workshop on organizational skills and application

FIAC Low Income Housing Application Workshop with Marcus Soler FIAC Member & NWBCCC Board Member

Meeting eligibility requirements
Understanding application process
Alternative resources
Information access

Pathway Community Church Launches Community Ministry

This past fall I spent working with Pastor Tony Brown to educate the congregation on what we are doing in the community and how it fits in with God’s plan to transform communities. We had one major project, which was to help a neighbor to finish his shed. This was in the Elm Street Trailer Park. The gentleman was unable to do the work due to injuries, and was being threatened with eviction. Four people attending Pathway Community Church were involved, as well as the young man’s step-father. Two of the men from the congregation also live in the neighborhood. Joe Robles and his family live next to Bryan Hetherman, who is the gentleman that needed the help. Some time later the church  held a prayer walk in the neighborhood and we met a few more of our neighbors. I was also involved in helping another woman from the congregation build a shelter for her horses.

Pastor Tony and I will continue the education of the congregation. One of the projects that I want to finish before the month of January is up is to interview a couple of the people in the church that live in the trailer park. I intend to ask the basic initial survey questions starting with what they like about the trailer park. After doing the interviews, which I will be recording, I will edit them and we will play the video for the whole congregation to see. We would also like to hold a prayer tour so that people will at least be able to see the neighborhoods we will be working in and pray for their neighbors. We also have two people in the congregation who need help to make it through the winter. One gentleman needs a shed built so that he can supplement his income by raising dogs, and another gentleman needs help winterizing his house.

The biggest challenges we are facing right now is to get people educated enough in Asset Based Community Development so that we can expand beyond doing individual projects in response to needs and help build community among our neighbors.

By Ted Bessey
Community Development Team Coordinator

Neighbors Supporting Neighbors in Germantown

Penny Meads, along with church and community volunteers, is making a difference in her Germantown, Philadelphia neighborhood. Since January she has been serving as an AmeriCorps Member through Germantown Hope Community Church, which is an NECT partner. However, being a community organizer or “mother” to her Tacoma St. block is not a new role for Penny. She has been a concerned and caring neighbor for the nine years she has been living there. Six years ago Penny started attending Germantown Hope where she has grown in her faith and is now a deacon. The Lord is using her “gift of community” to draw others to Himself and to each other as neighbors supporting neighbors.

Along with faithful volunteers such as Sis, Hanna and Donna, Penny is encouraging neighbors to work together. Flower pots are now seen alongside the row houses. A monthly clean up day has been established. Activities for the children such as a movie night are underway. Neighbors are meeting to discuss street crime issues.

The work is not always easy, as Penny and her team often encounter an atmosphere of apathy, despair and fatalism. Through it all Penny has been persistent, with a passion to make life better on Tacoma Street. She comments on what brings her joy; “Having the people respond and come together…helping neighbors and connecting them to resources…removing the drug trafficking…seeing our young people being productive.”

Pastor Kyuboem Lee comments on the effect of the AmeriCorps program: “Not only has Ms. Penny grown, her supervisor, Scott, another deacon, also has grown in his leadership. Others in the church support the work through prayer and volunteering, especially the other ladies from the community who live on the same block as Ms. Penny. There is a growing awareness in the church and excitement over ministry with the community-and that means a growth in our appropriation of the kingdom life and in more fully living out our mission.”

Working for Justice

NECT & Christian Reformed Campus Ministry sponsored two days of “Justice Action” activities, Friday, November 13 & Sunday, November 15.

On Sunday, April 26, Rev. Ken Vander Wall went to the National Mall in Washington, DC for a “Display of Shoes For Darfur.” Forty-thousand pairs of shoes–symbolic of the 400,000 people killed in the conflict in Darfur (the western part of Sudan) stretched almost as far as the eye could see. God laid it on Ken’s heart to have a similar display in northern New Jersey.

The goal was to collect at least 20,000 pairs of shoes (one for every 20 victims of this horrible tragedy). Colleges, high schools, grade schools and churches in MA, PA, NJ & NY participated. All of the shoes were displayed Sunday Afternoon, November 15 at a location in northern New Jersey. Following the display, all acceptable shoes were distributed to homeless shelters across the nation by Soles4Souls, a nationally recognized charity.

Thanks to all who participated and made this a success!

On Friday, November 13th Al Santino and Campus Minister Ken Vander Wall spoke at Cedar Hill CRC in Wycoff, NJ. They spoke about the need for justice action in our communities and in our world. This spurred discussion of practical ways to be involved in “releasing the oppressed” in the name of Jesus.

An Immigrant’s Pathway of Hope

Northeast Community Transformation has established a partnership with Nachman and Associates, which is providing vital education and legal assistance to our partner ministries and their communities.

Lisbel first came to the US in 1994 as a six year old burn victim through Healing the Children, an agency which brings medical care to poor children throughout the world. Dan and Jule Ann Martin of Covenant CRC, and their children, became Liz’s host family. They cared for her while she made visits back and forth from the Dominican Republic to receive treatment. Indeed, Liz and the Martins had become family. By age 20, with the support of her family in DR, Liz had decided to stay in the US to fulfill her hopes and dreams.

She desired to attend college and study psychology so that she could become a counselor helping people like herself who have been through trauma. However, as the case with many immigrants who are seeking to live fruitful lives in the US, they are subject to a “broken” and often arbitrary system. Liz was initially turned down for her Student Visa for what David Nachman considered no good reason. However through the advocacy of his law firm, the persistence of the Martins, and Liz’s determination not to quit, she was granted her Visa a few weeks ago.

Liz and the Martins attribute this victory to the grace and plan of God. Liz states that she was “wondering what was going to happen but I am now excited, happy and relieved.” She did not lose hope after the initial rejection believing that God wanted her in the US to fulfill her dreams. She also believes that “God did not want it to be easy. If it was too quick, you don’t value it.”

The story of Liz is one example of how NECT’s partnership with Nachman and Associates has helped to create hope and justice for “aliens” seeking to dwell in peace in our land. NECT is also supporting efforts such as ESL, citizenship classes and advocacy for immigration reform along with the Office of Social Justice of the Christian Reformed Church. Please pray for and consider participating in these efforts through a financial contribution and by being actively involved as a servant of justice. For more information about NECT’s Justice Education Program, contact Al Santino.

The Power of The Resurrection…The Power of ‘With’

At our Easter service at Open Door Fellowship our pastor, Johnny Acevedo, expounded on the transforming power of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The new life and new creation unleashed through our risen Lord includes the marvelous transformation of His people being conformed to His image. It also includes the transformation of all creation for His glory for He is Lord of all things. At His coming there will be a new earth as well as a new heaven. In this new community there will be perfect justice for all; “the poor will eat and be satisfied.” Until then, “the creation waits in eager expectation” for its redemption. However, the Kingdom has come in Christ and until then God is graciously restoring all things, giving us signs and tastes of things to come.

The recent “Power of With” Conference sponsored by agencies of the Christian Reformed Church in North America focused on one of the signs and tastes of God’s Kingdom: Communities working together to bring His shalom, His intended purpose for their well being. Several NECT partners were in attendance including Ted Bessey, Holistic Ministries Coordinator from Pathway Community Church in Newport, Maine. Ted comments on what he learned:

The Christian Reformed Church and many of its member organizations sponsored this conference to promote working “WITH” the community you are in. What exactly does this mean? Most people especially churches and other civic organizations still look at the poor as “them” and the well off as “us”. This view promotes the idea that we have to help the poor and we know exactly how we are going to do it. By having this attitude not only do we do a disservice to those we are trying to help as it promotes both the attitude of dependency and a sense of entitlement. It does nothing to solve the core reasons behind the poverty.

The Power of “WITH” promotes going out into the community and learning each other’s skills and gifts. We walk amongst those we are “helping” and become their friends and true neighbors. This empowers all of us to become better people and to make the changes needed to improve our own lot in life.

Al Santino, NECT Director

Diaconal Network ESL

Al Santino, NECT Director

This September, the Community Diaconal Network launched an English as a Second Language (ESL) class which is being hosted by Unity Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in Prospect Park, New Jersey.

The Community Diaconal Network is a collaboration of churches and organizations seeking to bring the deeds of the Gospel to the Haledon‐Prospect Park community through ministries of mercy and development. The Network came together in 2007 as a result of a series of meetings facilitated by Al Santino, Director of Northeast Community Transformation (NECT).

There are several Christian Reformed churches as well as two affiliated community organizations in or near the towns of Haledon and Prospect Park. As we met together, we soon realized that bringing together volunteers, resources and community relationships could have a significant impact on the well‐being of these two towns. The current Network members are: Bridgeway Community Church, Unity CRC, Covenant CRC, New Horizon CRC, Good Shepherd CRC/Apoyo Community Center and New Hope Community Ministries.

The ministries are participating in the ESL program in a variety of ways, such as publicity (including inviting people already participating in their ministries), teaching, conversation practice, hosting and child care. There are currently eight students divided into basic and intermediate classes.

Guillermo, who lives in Prospect Park, is from Costa Rica and has been in the US for six years. He runs a business from his home and works long hours. As I spoke with him, I sensed his zeal and joy to learn English. He wants to learn English “for communication, my job and my children… and I need to practice.”

Bill Reitsma, of Unity CRC, is coordinating the ESL program. He describes the benefits of the NECT‐fostered Diaconal Network: “Networking with ministry partners brings greater resources to the ESL program making it more efficient and effective. And I think most importantly it is exposes both the participants and the volunteers to meaningful ministry experiences. The more people whose lives are touched on both sides of the program, the more opportunity for seeing God work. This builds energy for more ministry.”

Indeed, the Network has plans to expand into other areas of community service such as citizenship classes, working with the New Hope women’s mentoring program and reaching out to other churches and organizations for partnership.

An Open Door for Shalom in Harlem

Dear Friends,

We thought it would be a good time to catch you up on the latest Santino venture, as well as introduce ourselves to those of you who don’t know us well. My wife Haydee, son Lorenzo and I have recently become members of a core team launching a new church in East Harlem – or “El Barrio” – the center of Puerto Rican culture in New York City. In recent years East Harlem has been growing into a community of diverse ethnicity and social class, representing much of the “flavor” of the Big Apple.

Several years ago we began asking the Lord to lead us to a church that would enable us to express our gifts and passion for community development. We especially wanted to be in a Christian Reformed Church, which would work in concert with my role as Director of Northeast Community Transformation (NECT). In His providence, the Lord reconnected me with Johnny Acevedo, who had been a long-time friend. It soon became obvious that the Acevedos and the Santinos shared a common vision for a church that would be engaged in its community as a good neighbor working to represent God’s Kingdom in word and deed. This reconnection helped catalyze Johnny and Melanie becoming church planters with the CRC and thus Open Door Fellowship was born.

Haydee, a native of the Dominican Republic, has served as a middle school teacher and math coach at PS/MS 15 in the Bronx for 14 years. Her dedication to seeing her students excel is evident in the lives of many who overcame personal difficulties and have gone on to be successful in high school, college and vocation. She envisions leading an after school program as well as a ministry to the single mothers. My own desire is to connect with residents and help them come together as a community of responsible citizens addressing social needs and justice issues. Our son Lorenzo is a first grader at Manhattan Christian Academy. He loves learning piano, Little League baseball, trains, and the city life. He has recently been wrestling with the deeper issues of his heart and what God is all about. He is becoming a good example to his classmates and friends.

In this new and challenging venture we see a wonderful opportunity to share the glorious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. We want to be used by the Lord to lift up the name of Jesus especially to the least of these…people who are broken and oppressed who need the healing of our Lord in body, soul and spirit. Open Door Fellowship will indeed be an open door for God’s shalom to come upon East Harlem.

To the Least of These – The Undocumented

by Al Santino, NECT Director

My wife Haydee and I have been ministering to Juanita (not her real name), a 19 year old single mother who is an immigrant from Mexico without documentation or as some would say, “an illegal alien”. Juanita was a middle school student of Haydee’s in the Bronx. As with several of the girls at her school, Haydee had become her mentor, “mother” or “big sister”. She took the opportunity to invite Juanita to a recent movie night hosted by our church, Open Door Fellowship of East Harlem and this gave us an “open door” to minister the Gospel in both word and deed.

Juanita came to the US as a one year old child. She currently lives with her mother, 18 year old brother and younger sister. Juanita dropped out of high school but wants to work to help support her family and eventually get a GED and go to college. We accompanied her to an Immigration Clinic in East Harlem sponsored by the CUNY Law School hoping and praying that a lawyer could lay out a pathway of hope. However, there was little to rejoice about since she has no documentation and short of any immigration reform, no viable pathway to citizenship. Her brother was born in the US but cannot petition for her until he is 21 and even then there could be a 10 year wait for a Green Card. Upon hearing this sobering news, the look of despair upon her face was obvious. Juanita, like many in her condition, is trapped in poverty and despite her willingness to take responsibility has no open door to a fruitful life for her and her child.

Recently, myself and several local Hispanic ministry leaders in our denomination, the Christian Reformed Church, attended an Immigration Forum at Princeton Theological Seminary. One message was central to all of the presentations; “Will the Church be a herald of justice for the aliens among us or remain on the sideline in indifference.”? Through our Justice Education Program, Northeast Community Transformation is seeking to take an active role in educating and advocating for accessible and just legal services and immigration reform that will reflect God’s care for the least of these…the undocumented. Recently we began a partnership with David Nachman of Nachman and Associates, an excellent immigration attorney who is consulting us on some of these matters. We will continue to keep our partners and friends updated about workshops, legal services and other important information.

The immigration debate is complex. Emotional, simplistic or knee-jerk answers will not do. Neither will indifference or apathy. The Lord is calling His people to seek His wisdom and fulfill His call for mercy and justice. Those like Juanita are not “illegal” in God’s Kingdom. May God grant us mercy over our failure to work for justice and may He grant us conviction to love those such as her, ones whom Jesus called “the least of these, my brethren.”

Accepting God’s Challenge at Unity CRC

As deacons in the church, we encounter many needs.  A call may come in from the community, or a church member who pulls you aside after worship, or a family in the neighborhood who loses their house to fire…  We may not have the resources to assist in every need, and that’s OK.  We do the best we can with what we have.  But when we do decide to provide aid, how we do it is critical.

Many of us have heard of, or attended the workshops provided by Al Santino and the Holistic Ministry Team.  They teach deacons how to accurately assess the need of the benevolence caller, and how to respond to the need in an effective and biblical way, helping return the person to self-sufficiency.

For deacons who were used to writing a check and wishing them well (like we were), the workshop curriculum is pretty intimidating.  You wonder to yourself “how can we ever do this?”  Don’t let it psyche you out!  Our deacon board is living proof that change can happen, and it’s not as hard as you think!  The hardest part is taking the first step.

After realizing the only way to truly help someone effectively and biblically, is to walk with them back to well-being, we called Al Santino to meet with us and give us our own personal workshop using a current benevolence recipient as the subject.  We were given real life, real time advice and solutions to effectively assess the need and put together a game plan to return this child of God to self-sufficiency.  We even discovered that God had a mentor for this person prepared in advance and ready to go.

If you really want your benevolence to be effective and God glorifying, go to a workshop, get educated, and take ownership of the curriculum to make it work for you.  And when the next need arises, be bold.  It’s not as difficult as you think.  If you get stuck or need help in any way, ask for it!  The HMT is there to help you.

Doug Boydston and Bill Cook

Doug Boydston is a board member of the Holistic Ministry Team and a deacon at Covenant CRC of North Haledon, NJ.

Bill Cook is the Deacon Chairperson at Unity CRC of Prospect Park, NJ, and a board member of New Hope Community Ministries.

Single Moms, Unique Challenges

Recently two single moms came to us because they were in trouble with their landlords and facing possible eviction.  In speaking with Anyelis Diaz of New Hope Community Ministries, who has organized a Single Mother’s Network, we discerned that the problem is widespread.  We were able to connect one of the moms to the network.

Single moms feel particularly vulnerable when they bring up issues of safety or maintenance and if they withhold rent to draw attention to these issues they can find themselves facing legal action or intimidation.

Speaking directly to the landlord on their behalf can resolve many disputes and if the landlord knows that the church is supporting their tenant they may not view them as a problem or high risk but as someone who may need a little mercy.

Perhaps short-term benevolence is the answer and you just need to bridge the gap until the crisis is passed.  If, however, more systemic problems are evident you will need to consider that God may be calling you to make a long term commitment to an individual or a family to encourage development or restoration to full health both spiritually and socially.  Financial counseling, job placement services, and even finding a new home may be involved.

Many different resources are needed to take someone ton the brink of homelessness to wholeness.  This takes time and perseverance but there is help and no one Deaconate needs to tackle all the issues on their own.

Northeast Community Transformation Communities First Presentation

This PowerPoint Tool, developed by Northeast Community Transformation, is used to promote Communities First in churches, Classis meetings, workshops and other group meetings.

Download PowerPoint

On Justice, Opression, and Suffering: Our Present Hope in Future Glory

by Al Santino, NECT Director

As God’s people we are called to bring relief and hope to those who are suffering under poverty, oppression and all manner of calamity.  Now at times this may seem to be a futile mission for in the ebb and flow of history there appears to be no lasting remedy and we can only cry out, “How long Oh Lord!”

So many of the old Negro spirituals speak of a yearning to go to the Promised Land “up yonder.”  In their chains, the slaves could envision no earthly restoration to remedy their suffering.  The Apostle Peter wrote to Christians who faced imminent torture and death at the hands of Rome, “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:13).”  Indeed, when the Lord returns and establishes the new heaven and earth, there will be no more tears and suffering for His people.

Are such notions just “pie in the sky” theology being used to explain away suffering or deny its harsh reality?  Yes and no.  If we offer pious platitudes about the restoration of all things and neglect to weep with those who weep, render deeds of comfort, and cry out against oppression, then we are certainly being too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.  However, if we are also not certain of the hope that the Lord will complete the good work He began in us, then we will spend our days in dissipation; angry and depressed in our travails.  We will not be zealous for the Lord and for good works in His name if we do not hold fast to the hope set before us when Christ appears.  As we have shared in His suffering, we shall also share in His glory.

Justice will ultimately roll down when our Lord Jesus Christ returns.  In the Psalms we hear David crying out to the Lord that there appears to be no justice.  The wicked are prospering through their exploitation of the righteous-or so it seems.  Reformed theologian D.A. Carson comments, “Assessments of fairness and proportionality based solely on what takes place here and now in this world are bound to be premature at best, entirely misguided at worst.”  We do see manifestations of the Lord’s shalom in this present world as the Gospel is restoring people to dignity and fruitfulness as His image bearers.  However, our ultimate hope is in our covenant God who has made us the sheep of His pasture to dwell with in Him in eternal joy.  The Lord will triumph over every evil and make every path straight and so His people will glory in the triumph of His justice.  In Revelation 19:1-2, we hear the multitude in heaven proclaiming, “Hallelujah!  Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are His judgments.  He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.  He has avenged on her the blood of His servants.”

In the New Jerusalem, the City of God, children will play in the streets without the fear of erupting gunfire.  Mothers will no longer be lamenting the plight of their young sons given over to drugs and gangs.  Children will no longer be ravished by AIDS.  Every race and ethnicity will be around God’s throne, worshipping as one, without envy and strife.  The promise of this glorious future should give us hope for working out our salvation with fear and trembling her and now.  The healing of the poor and oppressed begins as they receive a foretaste of this glory to come.  When we pray, “They will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” that is a call for us to do the works of mercy and justice today, albeit in a glass dimly, but still as a reflection of the Gospel and the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus, with its power to transform people, communities, and cultures.


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