The Flames in Ferguson

August 27, 2014

One of the most well-known images in Scripture is that of the flames of Hell.  That image, while no one’s favorite, is clearly cited in several places in the New Testament.  Jesus himself makes reference to it on more than one occasion.  Here is Jesus quoted in Luke 16:19-26…

19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.”

We see a gulf or a divide between the rich and poor in this life and the next in this parable, symbolized with flames.

There is such a divide in Ferguson, Mo. right now and at least one observer and commentator recognizes these hostilities, violence, and obvious tension (characterized by flames) is not about differences of race as it is differences of class.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar, for Time magazine, wrote,

“We have to address…what it really is: class warfare.  This fist-shaking of everyone’s racial agenda distracts America from the larger issue that police overreaction is based less on skin color and more on an even worse, Ebola-level affliction: being poor.”

It is vital to the integrity of our Christian ministry that we serve the poor with commitment and self-sacrifice.  While most of us are neither desperately poor or sumptuously rich, we must be willing to associate with, befriend and serve those of the poorest classes.  This is an issue that transcends race and is, quite possibly, the lynchpin to cure (or at least affect) all social ills–including racism. 

Jesus said in Luke 4:18-19, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

This year at Light and Life Goleta church we are trying to establish our ministry identity firmly as a foundation for all we do.  In seemingly every way, LLG qualifies as a “missional church”, but we can do much more.  And we can do what we already do (as a multi-cultural, multi-generational church which loves and serves the poor of Isla Vista) better.  We need to call others to join us and equip/disciple new Christians more effectively.  And we are going to do it!

Let us make sure ours is an “acceptable year”.



As I sit on the front porch of our cousin’s house in the country and look out at all the green growing things, water, and wide open spaces, my thoughts turn to reflecting on what exactly is abundance and prosperity

Throughout our time in Mississippi, my eyes have been drawn to the bodies of water EVERYWHERE.  It seems that every third house in this part of Mississippi has a pond in the front or backyard!  From the picture above, you can see that it is raining right now.  Clearly, water is in abundance. 

And we could seriously use some of that abundance in California these days!

Acreage for a home is abundant as well.  The houses around here all sit on at least 2 acres of land.  Kids ride in their 4-wheelers or trucks (yes, 14 kids drive trucks in their yards) because there is enough grass to do that.

Water and land are in abundance here.

I confess that I have spent more than a few moments imagining how large of a yard (perhaps with a pond?) we could enjoy if we lived in Mississippi.  Maybe buy a truck?  Or a 4-wheeler?

Do I feel deprived or impoverished because we can’t afford those things living in California?

Maybe for a moment I do…

And then my eyes and my spirit settle on 1 Timothy 6:6-10…

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

I then look back inside the house and realize what a wealthy man I am. 

Family and the Lord Jesus Christ are in abundance here.

As we prepared to eat on our first night here, the family gathered to pray and engaged in the family tradition of singing a hymn together.  We sang, “I woke up this morning with my mind…staaayed on Jesus!”  Two days later there were only about 150 or so of us at the family reunion.

Just a little gathering of folks is all.

And as I sat on the porch this morning in Mississippi with my cup of coffee I remember that godliness with contentment is great gain.

Great gain indeed.