Written by guest contributor, Karen Sytsma
In his book Whisper, Mark Batterson recaps scene from the movie The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and notes that Lucy, Edmund, and their cousin Eustace enter Narnia through a painting of a ship on the high seas that comes to life.
Batterson writes: It is their portal to a very different reality, a world called Narnia and a lion named Aslan. The picture reframes what is possible. The picture frame reframes who they are—boys and girls who become kings and queens.
The Bible is our picture frame. It redefines possibility: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It reframes reality: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him….I’m afraid that for some, the Bible is like a painting that hangs on the wall. We occasionally give it a glance, but it’s nothing more than a pretty picture to look at. It’s as static as the status quo. Why? Because all we do is read it. We don’t do it. The Bible comes alive only when we actively obey it.
Last September our women’s Life Group began a journey through the book of James. Most of us had studied this book many times. During this study, in this season, however, all of us had our hearts pierced in life-altering ways.
Perhaps the biggest stop many of us got came from the repetition of the phrase What good is it in James 2:14 and 16. We really want faith that IS good and DOES good in the sight of King Jesus. We want faith that has feet . . . faith that does mercy . . . faith that oozes compassion . . . faith that looks outward . . .faith that sees with Jesus vision.
You might be thinking, well, a good faith is good, but just what good things should I do? The James solution we discovered: pray, keep watch, and do the things the Holy Spirit puts right in front of you.
So, when Jen Stanbro contacted Grace Life Groups with the blessing of participating in a Christmas giving program her friends Heather and Mark Lojeski, founders of Faith Hope & Love in Racine were spearheading, we saw it as something put right in front of us.
The program was simple: agree to sponsor a child, pick out a gift, pajamas, and socks. Wrap it up. Drop it off.
Now, in the big scheme of things, you might be thinking of a Christmas gift as a big SO WHAT. I don’t think James did. And, I bet the children who received gifts from Faith Hope & Love certainly did not.
“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:16).
According to Jen, 10 Grace Life Groups participated in the Christmas giving program, and all the contributions from Grace were able to make a wonderful impact. In the end, every single child in the program received Christmas gifts.
Here are some of the reasons women in our Life Group got involved:
- “Anytime I hear someone is in need, I’m immediately drawn to help—no matter when or where or before I can even think through whether or not I’m able. Truly this is Christ’s work in my heart, and as we’ve been studying in James, this desire has only grown deeper. The Bible tells us not to be hearers only, but doers (James 1:22) and that he has prepared good works for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Giving a gift is such a small gesture, but it brings great joy to my heart to be a part of God’s master plan. It was a seed watered that someone had already planted and my earnest hope and prayer is that the Holy Spirit will bring that sweet little boy and his entire family unto salvation. God blesses his children that we may bless others and bring glory to his name. And, so, as a child of the MOST HIGH, I will DO at every opportunity He provides for me to DO.”
- “My faith is meant to do some good was a theme from James that kept coming home to me. As God touched my heart in a deeper way, he also gave opportunities right away to look after those who are vulnerable, helpless, orphaned, widowed, and neglected around the world and right in my neighborhood. (James 2:14-16, James 1:27) Getting involved with this foster kids program was easy, too, because our family is experiencing such joy and love for two little boys who were foster babies.”
- “I choose to participate in the Christmas giving as I have had a soft spot in my heart for foster children for many years. To see that they usually lack daily necessities while I have more than I need causes my heart to break. During our study of James, we talked about remembering the poor and needy and that there will always be poor people. This just confirmed to me that I should participate.”
- “I participated in the Christmas giving due to a huge nudge from the Holy Spirit. My family has been blessed so much, and I wanted to help bless someone else. James 2:15-16 really rang true for me as we were studying it at this time.”
- “It was the right thing to do. Whenever I’m presented with a need, especially at Christmas, I always feel compelled.”
Jen got involved and offered the opportunity to Grace to participate because she was amazed at how Heather comes across areas of need and immediately takes action to meet them.
“She is not one to shake her head and feel discouraged that the problem is too big, or she doesn’t have the time or resources,” Jen said. “Even with 10 kids of her own, this homeschooling mom still makes the courageous choice to put feet to pavement so that thousands of precious kids in crisis in Racine county and surrounding areas can feel the love of Christ in their time of great trauma.”
Faith Hope & Love has three main projects Duffels for Kids, BlastPacks, and New Beginnings bags. Each of these projects reach out and bless kids who are forgotten or overlooked in times of great devastation. Currently the Lojeski’s are raising funds to open a house that creates a safe temporary home for children entering foster care before out-of-home placement is established. One benefit of this will be siblings will be allowed to remain together rather than being separated until they find a home that can take them all. If you are interested in Faith Hope & Love or contributing to the house, you can find more information at http://www.fhlforkids.org.
The Stanbro’s have been involved with Faith Hope & Love and its missions for three years.
“As a foster family ourselves, we’re so thankful for the sacrifices they make to spread the love of Jesus to the neediest children right here in our city,” Jen said. “Heather and her husband Mark work tirelessly, fearlessly, and bravely to connect people across government organizations, businesses, churches, and beyond so that we as a community can serve the least of these, in Jesus’ name.”
Our Life Group will be wrapping up our study of James in January, but the lessons we have learned will cling to us. Beginning in February, we are taking Mission Director Danny D’Acquisto’s New Year’s Eve sermon suggestion to read through a Gospel and document what amazes us about Jesus. But, we’ve added our own little twist, inspired by Peter Marshall author of Mr. Jones, Meet the Master: Sermons and Prayers of Peter Marshall.
When we see a command to obey, we are documenting it and how we might love and glorify King Jesus by not just reading it, but by doing it.
Marshall wrote, “I wonder what would happen if we all agreed to read one of the Gospels, until we came to a place that told us to do something, then went out to do it, and only after we had done it. . . began reading again?
“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:12-13).