Friday, August 15, 2014

Awaken...the Sleeping Giant

I saw the streets of America look like the streets of war last night.  I watched as crowds of angry, frustrated people threw molotov cocktails into gas stations and stole everything they could get their hands on while shooting at police officers.  I saw an old man stirring the crowd with his old manipulation tools, which were thinly veiled by words such as peace, justice, and personal rights.  Because…evil must be repaid with evil.  That is justice…

Then I watched the plight of many in a desert place.  Children covered in their own filth, mothers who looked as if they would drop dead of exhaustion if it were not for the tiny hand that held onto their skirts, fathers who had no answers, no way to protect his beloved family.  And behind them…in hot pursuit of the hunted were angry men with guns, screaming of religious cleansing, of a war for Allah, and holy jihad.  Because their god calls for it, their god demands it.  That is justice. 

Then I saw the crushed stones that used to be houses.  Bullet holes in the sides of buildings.  Bombs flying through the air when a time of truce was supposed to stop them.  War on a people because they have the wrong blood, the wrong God, all in the name of Allah.  All in the name of holy jihad.  Because their right to life supersedes all others’ right to life…that is justice.

We, the sleeping giant of America, the church, have become a cowardly thing.  We have somehow adopted the lie that our greatest days are over, that we are no longer relevant to this world.  This world is at war, this world is hurting, this world is on fire and we cannot play our fiddle while it comes down around our feet. 

I hear the drums in the distance; I hear the calling of the Lord.  Rise up, O sleeping ones!  Rise up and be the church I called you to be before the foundation of the earth was laid!  Walk the ancient path of truth…Seek Justice, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly before Me! 

Our greatest days are not behind us.  Christendom might be coming to an end in America, but Christ is not!  He is once again standing in our churches, reading from the sacred scroll as he did that day in Capernaum…

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed

We must do our part.  Bring the good news, comfort the brokenhearted, proclaim to the captives his truth and SET THE PRISONERS FREE!

Rise up…O Sleeping One.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

My two dead friends

Because it’s Read from the Great’s Thursday….(If you are thinking I just made that up…you are right…and you should stop being so cynical)

I wanted to recommend 2 ladies who would be my very best friends.  Who would sit and talk for hours over a hot cup of coffee or a delicious glass of Red with me.  Who would laugh at all of my funny jokes (cause they are Hil-AR-i-ous…to my mother and myself), and who would undoubtedly want to do brunch…every Thursday.  These two ladies would do all of this with me…if they weren’t dead.  Having dead friends is hard, and could get you a very special bed in a very special closed-off wing of a mental hospital.  So…here are two dead ladies that still have the power to move my spirit and bring me to the deeper places of life where God’s mysteries are found. 

The FIRST lady in my dead best friends club is Amy Carmichael.   Amy was born in 1867 in Ireland.  She lived her entire life as a servant in India.  She  worked for 55 years in the trenches without any furloughs.  She was a woman who followed God into her calling without anyone behind or beside her.  She lived her last days after a terrible fall in immense pain, but choose to write and glorify the Lord during that time as well.  She rescued women and children from temple prostitution in India; she fed the poor and loved the least of these.  This woman had grit and perseverance.  I like a woman who gets her hands dirty and sees her hands better for it.   

 Here are some of my favorite quotes from this amazing woman.

“We profess to be strangers and pilgrims, seeking after a country of our own, yet we settle down in the most un-stranger-like fashion, exactly as if we were quite at home and meant to stay as long as we could. I don't wonder apostolic miracles have died. Apostolic living certainly has.”

“God’s way of passing by, of letting His “hem” come near us, is to take some single word in His Book and make it breathe spirit and life to us.”

“Have you lost your reputation?  To lost it—and to keep on being willing to lost it daily for His sake and for the sake of those for whom He died—means this: To take up your cross daily.”

“A crucified life cannot be self-assertive.  It cannot protect itself.  It cannot be startled into resentful words.  The cup that is full of sweet water cannot spill bitter-tasting drops, however sharply it is knocked.”

Her Books:

I Come Quietly to Meet You  (excellent collection of her writings put into a daily devotional…good meat for breakfast)

IF (will ROCK your world)

Plowed Under

Candles in the Dark

(any many many more!!!  Go look her up online)

SECONDLY, I want to introduce you to my dead friend, who seems so alive on paper that she might just jump up and slap yo’ grandma.  Not really…she was a nun…so she probably didn’t slap a lot of people.  Spiritually, yes she still slaps me each time I read her.  

            Meet St.Teresa of Avila.  Born in 1515 in Goturrendura, Spain, she was committed to nunnery after a scandalous relationship with her cousin.  Which could have been scandalous or could have been as innocent as talking without a proper escort around.  Praise the Lord for women’s freedom in America.  I would have been put in a nunnery by the time I was five with all my sassiness. 
            Teresa, (we are on a first name basis), not only flourishes in the nunnery she does something amazing.  She finds and cultivates a relationship with the Lord that is so deep, so inspiring, that the Spanish Inquisition could not kill and time cannot weaken.  In her book, The Interior Castle, she paints a picture of the soul which longs for the Lord so eloquently that the words I read hold on long after I have put the book down.  She writes of prayer.  How to break through the ease of prayer and get into the seven dwellings of meditation, transformation and the very presence of God. 

“Be assured that the more progress you make in loving your neighbor, the greater will be your love for God. “

“Humility is the ointment for our wounds.  If we are truly humble, then God, the great physician, will eventually come to heal us.”

“Remember: all you have to do as you begin to cultivate the practice of prayer is to prepare yourself with sincere effort and intent to bring your will into harmony with the will of God.”

“The soul in the state of prayer is like the silk worm, it dies to the world and emerges a little white butterfly.”

She has spunk and her personality can be found between the lines of the pages.  She writes such things as, Have I already told you about this thing?  Well, I am old and cannot remember everything, so I will just talk about it again.

And she does.  And it is awesome.  Her book opens a door to a disciplined prayer life which walks you into the depths of God. 
The Interior Castle by St.Teresa of Avila
These are two women who can inspire us today, just as if they were here to talk over a cup of coffee.  So, for Read from the Great’s Thursday….Amy Carmichael and St. Teresa of Avila. 

Let me know if they are in your best-friend club as well….or share other names you have in your club!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Warning: Graphic Apathy

I thought about walking out of church this morning.  It wasn’t that the songs were not the right ones, or that the message was not the right message, or that the coffee was too hot or the cream too cold.  It wasn’t the childcare or the lack thereof; it wasn’t the hypocrisy of the people or the kindness in their handshakes.  It wasn’t because they asked for too much of my money during offering time or that they didn’t call on me during Sunday school.  These things, the things that I, at some point in my extremely entitled life, have complained about were not what caused me to almost walk out of church today.  Those things don’t matter.  It wasn’t something that the church did that caused the weight to build and ache in my chest, it was what they didn’t do. It was this that I could not stomach: We didn’t pray for the Christians in Iraq, we didn’t even mention them. 

In the middle of the third song about my relationship with Christ, my need for grace, my need for help from the Strong Tower, something seriously cracked inside of me.  Heat ran through my body and I felt the need to hide my face.  I was embarrassed in front of the Lord.  I was embarrassed that we, the sleeping giant, the American church sing songs and pray for ourselves more than we pray for the church.  I felt embarrassed that in Sunday school we spent 20 minutes on prayer time for ankle surgery, and travel mercies and only briefly mentioned the hurting church.  Y’all, I know you are thinking I’m being harsh, that these things matter (and they do), but we need to be a little harsh on ourselves.  We need to realize that the rest of the world is falling apart, that Christians are being murdered in the streets, that mothers are holding the bodies of their decapitated children and crying out to the Lord for mercy and we…we…we are singing songs about our relationship with Christ and praying for our very blessed ankles. 

I would like to hear from you today.  Did your churches pray for those who are for the first time in my life, being murdered in a way that even the Nazis would find brazen?  Was it a simply mention over coffee with sad eyes and chatter of how terrible it is for ‘those people’?  Or was it a church, getting down on their faces and crying out for our brothers and sisters? 

I wonder…is it denial?  As I listened to a very nice sermon this morning… good words, from the Good Book, I could not help but wonder.  When did we become so disconnected from the rest of the church in the rest of the world?  When did we become so internally focused that we don’t even mention the systematic genocide of our brothers and sisters in church because it might be disturbing or unsettling for our members?  When did we forget that we are the body of Christ, and they…those we see on TV, those are our arms and legs that are being cut down for their belief in Jesus?  When did we become so apathetic that we believe that the chasm between us and them is too great for the Holy Spirit to bridge through prayer and fasting?  That in the wake of one of the worst persecutions the church has seen in my lifetime, we don’t even mention in it church.

This is the time to put away our differences, those things that we make soapboxes out of when there is something out there that truly, truly matters.  Lets start today caring less and less about if alcohol should or should not be drunk, if offering should be 10% or more, if we should sing hymns or choruses, if we can use instruments or not, if we can raise or hands or sit still, if we like this speaker or that one.  Let us let go of what divides us and be united this day in prayer.

This is a time to rip our robes, to put ash on our foreheads, to cry out to the God of the Universe and call for action!  This is a time to remove the cloak of apathy that we wear over our hearts in the name of self-control and order.  Tear your clothes, put ash on your foreheads.  Let us mourn for the dead and let our voice rise to the heavens for those living in the midst of hell on earth.  Because who will sing  for them if not us…their brothers and sisters? 

God said, IF my people pray….IF.  So I am asking us all to do something.  To not sit by and sing a comforting song about Jesus being our refuge in the hard times, to not simply quote the verse that all things work out for the good for those who believe in him…but to care enough to fast and pray.  This week I will fast and pray on Tuesday and Thursday.  Will you join me? 

Because this morning when I sang the words…I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.  I saw this picture in my mind and my soul cried out, “I have no idea God, no idea what those words mean.”

Join me in prayer and fasting this week.  IF MY PEOPLE PRAY…