Category: Church

Spiritually Open Borders. Is the Church Ready for the Work of Welcoming?

We sit in their living room on mismatched chairs and smile at one another trying to determine what we are all trying to say to one another. Their bright teeth shine beautiful out from their dark, warm African skin. They speak Swahili. We speak English. We laugh at what we cannot understand and hope that each of us will one day know one another.

IMG_2331They fled Democratic Republic of Congo sometime this last year and came to America only a month ago, thankfully with other families. Fear of fighting is what I understand. I ask the father in English and make guns with my fingers. “Did you leave because of war?” He doesn’t understand. “Did you leave because of fighting?” Guns pointing. He nods yes.

These refugees have run from what all refugees run from: fear of persecution, fear for their lives and their children’s lives, fear that all will be taken from them. They come here for shelter and safety.

However, in this case, they are Catholic. We share the same God. We speak the same spiritual language. We know the same Savior.

IMG_5379

If we didn’t share the same God, would that mean I didn’t want to know them? No, but in light of the knowledge that we are facing the ever-increasing fact that Muslims, by the thousands, are coming either as immigrants or refugees, we have some thinking to do.

This post isn’t about whether or not we should welcome the refugee, the lost, the wanderer. I dare not challenge my Lord’s directive. This post is more about these questions:

  • Is the church ready? 
    Is she ready for the months and months it takes to help a refugee family implant in our culture? Ready to help them shop, learn the language, go to school, ride the bus, find a job? Is she already partnering with the agencies that do this? Does she understand the undertaking? Is everyone ready for the long haul? Because it is a long haul.

It’s more than welcome banners and hugs at the airport.

  • Has she already done the work of engaging immigrants, refugees, the lost, the wanderer, the displaced, the lonely?
  • Is her compassion for the Syrians an extension of the compassion she has already shown to those here? In many cases, I’m sure it is.

But more than this, are we ready for the spiritual implications of spiritually open borders?

woman-812070_640Islam is not a religion that is the same as Christianity. Neither is Buddhism, or Hinduism, or Animism. They do not serve the same God, and in fact, serve a false god. This kind of false religion will bring with it strongholds and demonic powers that can, and will, influence us if we are not both intellectually and spiritually ready and equipped, in the Spirit and in the Word, to open our arms, homes, churches, and country to more and more false religions.

This is not to say we do not do such things as make friends with Muslims, or engage in our neighborhoods with Muslims. What we must understand is that while we find it heartwarming to be able to engage as a community, even move beyond acquaintances to friendships, there is an entire iceberg of cultural differences, an entire worldview, underneath our warm hellos and friendly dinners together.

Above the waterline of our deeply entrenched worldview we find the easiest cultural differences to overcome. They, and any other refugee or immigrant, will come see how we interact, what we eat, how we sound, what we smell like, what is considered rude, what is considered to be gratitude. On and on there are things that are considered to be “above the waterline.”

Below the waterline is a giant iceberg of differences. Values and beliefs that will not, and cannot, be compromised are buried deep in all of us. There are ingrained cultural habits that will not be moved nor changed. There are spiritual DNA strands unchangeable unless touched by the Holy Spirit. The worldview of the American Christian and the worldview of the Hindu, the Buddhist, the animist, the atheist, or the Muslims will clash and rip at one another under the waterline. What I value as deeply embedded beliefs about God, humanity, the heart and soul of a man, salvation, the afterlife, war, ancestors, and the future lies under the waterline.

As does theirs.

Are we even remotely ready, spiritually and prayerfully ready, for our icebergs to glide together in close proximity? Do we have the spiritual fortitude to pray against the evil attached to the false religions? Do we understand the gravity of the war we wage in the heavenlies when we so passionately want to welcome those who are fleeing to our country?

And welcome them we should.

Shrewdly, and in love. 

Jesus, when he sent out the disciples told them to be “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10.)

As I read the posts and the blogs about whether or not we welcome the refugee, I actually want to sit with everyone, look at the ones who are saying, “Mercy! Love! Welcome!” and say “YES!” And I want to sit with the ones saying, “Pause! Wait! Think! Prepare!” and say “YES!”.

It is yes to all.

Yes to love.
Yes to open arms.
Yes to helping, serving, housing and sheltering.
Yes to prepare, be patient, understand, study, pray…deeply pray.

It will take all the the Body of Christ to show Christ to the nations. It is His heart’s passion that all men come to the only name that will save them. It is is intention that the manifold wisdom of God be made known by and through His church. In our love for one another, they will see we are Christians. It is not our love for them that prove that we are Christians, it is our love for one another.

IMG_5146

We must stop the fighting, and come together and unite. Not because “they” are coming, but they are already here! There is no good purpose in fighting. Humility is the way. We must unite in love, hope, mercy, prayer, intelligence, resources, strength, and spiritual preparedness for what we are so quickly wanting to happen and so ready to open our hearts and lives to. We must work together, prepare together, and most importantly, pray together.

This is no game. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but “against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6)

As we welcome, we must also be prepared to fight in the heavenlies in prayer. Protect your home in prayer, not by locking your doors (unless you’re threatened). Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Be the mouthpiece of the Gospel. Be the light of the World. Be the enemy’s greatest nightmare. We are ready to be welcomers. It’s in us because Christ is in us. Let us prepare ourselves for the work.

“Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all the believers everywhere.” Eph. 6

The Hebrew God I Choose

I’m an American.

cropped-IMG_5886.jpg

I am white.

I am a woman.

I am a Christian.

 

 

I am a product of Greek philosophy, but have chosen Hebrew theology.

bustos-756620_640

I no longer follow the way of my own desires. I have given up my American dreams.

This Hebrew God I have chosen to follow has a Way about Him that bumps and bullies my Greek philosophical ancestry in my way of doing life. My instinct is to run after things that make me happy, or make sense, or show I am successful and that I have made my way in the world. It crushes my need for individualism with a call that is inclusive and calls itself The Church.

Individual privileges are no longer the priority. There are others.

We call each other brothers and sisters.

tallit-444427_640

My ancient Greek influences make me want to know the why of everything and wants to know the next step, the next goal, what the next season will hold. My Hebrew God smiles and reminds me that I won’t know every reason, but I will know His Name. He tells me that the next step is just illuminated by His Word and that in faith I take a step. He teaches me that there is a season for everything, and it’s not what I get out of it exactly, but how much glory He receives in my worship, honor and faith in Him.

Makes Him sound selfish, doesn’t it?

Rubs against our “God loves me for me” mantra.

There is no higher god or person above this Ancient One who gets any glory or honor, there is only He. From the Beginning to the End, His greatest passion is His own Glory. His own Name.

His fame.

His Happiness, if you will.

sunI, in my Greek, individualistic, self-absorbed knowledge of how humans should feel find this unnerving, but… I have chosen to follow this God.

I don’t get to say who gets the glory.

I chose to say, “I follow this God and His Word and His Son and His Holy Spirit.”

I don’t then get to say my dreams and happiness come first.

I am a Greek philosopher who has chosen to adhere to a Hebrew theology.

Which one will bow to which?

jerusalem-475110_640Is logic all bad? Of course not. My Hebrew God says in His son are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and that I can have depth of insight in Him. But He also says that He is a mystery, a consuming fire, one that has higher ways than me. Logic cannot touch.

Can’t I be myself? Indeed. Beautiful personality made in the image of my Creator…placed in the family, the faces, the sea of other humans who have turned their face and their posture to this Hebrew God.

We are One.

bible-888292_640

And we have purpose.

My Greek instinct is to find my own purpose. My Hebrew God says, “I AM and there is no other.” I must know His purpose.

It is His glory. 

There is no other purpose.

How? How do I fulfill that purpose?

That glory freed the Hebrew slaves of Egypt with plague and promise.

That glory fell in the wilderness on the tabernacle with Moses and the Israelites. It consumed the sacrifices and they fell to their faces.

That same glory fell on the temple of Solomon. Consuming sacrifice and they were undone, falling to the pavement with their faces to the floor, worshipping.

How do I bring glory to Glory?

I don’t.

I can’t.

He brings it to Himself…through me, in me, because of me, in spite of me.

That same Glory falls on me. In me. Consuming me.

He is Holy Spirit.

This Hebrew God needs not me to serve Him, though I want to. He needs nothing from me, other than my faith, my devotion, my worship. My yielding to His Indwelling.

Then He calls us. He calls us to take this Glory to the Nations. There is no other thing. There is no other purpose. This Glory brings salvation and full redemption. It brings with it hope and wholeness. Worship and honor of this great and mighty Hebrew God brings satisfaction and rest.

matchstick-20237_640So, I do what I can to see that happen. I pray for people I love. I pray for darkness to be pushed out of the lives and nations of the enemy. I pray that others go and then are protected, and unified, and rested, and more.

It is not just them to take the Glory to the nations. It is those of Us who work in the marketplace. Those of Us who sit at desks and look across our offices to those we know do not know the Glory.

child-251920_640

It is Us who hold babies and raise small humans. It is also Us who work late nights and early mornings. It is Us who work in the schools and hospitals. We hold the hands of the aged. We bring new humans into the world. We cry with the world. We gasp at the horror. We can be extremely lovely. We drink our coffee and sigh as we ponder our lives. We smile at strangers. We hold the unlovable. We give water. We give food. We visit the sick. We talk to those in prison. We drive our cars and pass you on the street.

people-690810_640

We are of The Way

Carriers of The Light

Revealers of The Glory.

We are frail. We are bold. We are united.

We are the nations going to the nations to reveal the great and holy Glory of this great and mighty Hebrew God. It is no small task. It cannot be all individualistic without a global unity. It cannot be a faceless mass of people either. We are called a Body for a reason. Individual parts working together to bring maximum health to ourselves and beauty to our Head, Jesus Christ.

To Him be the Glory through the ones who have said Yes.

trees in sun

 

I Wanted Us to Suffer a Little, Then I Saw a Tree and Changed My Mind.

IMG_7399Just above me is a giant tree in our backyard. Growing up in Oklahoma the giant trees were few and far between, and were put on display at Christmas and people drove from miles around to take a look. Here, in Tennessee the trees are quite different. The rise so tall that you hurt your neck looking up for too long. They cover the landscape like a blanket and provide shelter and shade for everything below them.

Trunks so large it takes arms and arms to reach around.

treehugThey sway in the breeze and climb the hills together to display their gold and orange change every fall.

tree4fall

They are wonderous.

There is a verse in Revelation that has been tucked in my heart for over a decade

On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

trees in sun

I sit under that tree in my backyard many times a week. I look up at it and that verse runs through my mind as I stare at the thousands of leaves whispering over my head. “How are the leaves the healing of the nations?” I don’t know, but I do know scripture says it. I also know that is Psalm 1 a righteous man is compared to a tree by living water. And although Jesus said he is the root of the vine, why not be the root of the trees? Would that not be a stretch to think that the leaves are….us? 

Are we the leaves that are to be the healing of the nations?

He is healer, no doubt, but we are the messengers, the ambassadors, the one reliant on the root of the vine, where we are admonished to be “root and established in love.” Rooted. Roots that go down into someone who provides all we need for life. Roots so deep that when they are threatened, they cannot be uprooted, even when storms shake and whip the tops.

tree in storm

What if when we are rooted and established in love, even though he slay us, we never stop trusting him? What if our roots were the only thing that kept us from dying in the worst of times? What if our roots in Christ, though we are pruned and changed, we grew stronger and more powerful as a whole collective?

natchez

treepath2

 

I wanted, for awhile, to be really upset with the Church, not a particular church (notice the capital “C”) but at the church of America. I was even thinking “Bring on persecution! It will only cause us to grow! We deserve a little tough times. We don’t know what persecution is! Let the storms come and cut us down a bit. Let the lightning strike and strip us of our pride!”

Angry

Bitter

Arrogant

Then I realized that the church of Acts, when persecuted was scattered. Scattered like ants when their little ant piles are messed with. Scattered like roaches when the lights come on. They, our first brothers and sisters, were forced out of homes and displaced by persecution. Much like what is happening even now to our brothers and sisters.

Then I looked at the tree and wondered, “So, what happened between the times of persecution?” What happened as they rebuilt their lives and started again? What did they do?”

 

They grew.

treepathShe discipled. She spread the gospel. She took care of her own. She fed the poor and took care of the sick. She supplied food and money to missionaries and housed them when they returned. She prayed for each other and encouraged them in Christ. She met for communion and eating, and I’m sure, laughter and tears.

She healed nations.

Now, we sit in a nation, one that is sick and dying, and I’ve wanted the Church of America to feel the pain our brothers and sisters around the world are experiencing, but have realized what an awful thing that is. I only meant it like how we talk to our kids “When I was your age!” as though our experiences might make them different. I wanted the experiences of others who were persecuted to guilt the American church into feeling bad about herself, and maybe even wanted us to “suffer” a little more and grow up.

There might be some truth in that. We have a tendency to be spoiled. Our freedom has made us comfortable and we can easily miss the suffering around the world, but that’s not true for all of us.

Obviously

tree5

We have more than a great opportunity here. We have a great gift, obligation, responsibilty as the Church to be the turning tide of our Nation, and to be the ones who fund other other nations to take care of the displaced, the refugee, the poor, the homeless, the persecuted. We, as millions of believers in Jesus, have the time, resources, technology, and freedom to be those healing leaves, not only to the world, but to ourselves, to our neighbors, to our politicians, to our enemies.

No more do I say, “Bring on the persecution and watch us scatter!” No, I say,

Bring on the Holy Spirit and watch us explode!

I pray the prayer of the founding Church,

“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant, Jesus.”

And I pray, that through our unity, the same thing will happen among us:

“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”

We still live in a free country. We still have the freedom to pray and gather and stand up in boldness. Not in anger, not out of guilt, but in a great unity of believers, full of love and hope and faith, so that we will be filled with the Spirit to expand the kingdom. While we are in this freedom, let us not squander it. I pray we take advantage of it.

IMG_2995

And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Rev. 22

 

Why We Don’t Pray

209I’ve sat silent before God, unable or unwilling to talk. He’s been in my heart’s peripheral, while being on my blog’s front page, my next tweet, my sunset Instagram.

I lift my hands before him in church, and then find myself looking around to see if anyone else has their hands up. Losers with your hands in your pocket! Don’t you know who we are singing to! *fixes shirt* Oh! I’m worshipping. La-tee-da! She’s pretty. I’m hungry. *guilt for the judgment filled loser thought*

I sit to pray and seek God for my life and others. *we need milk and creamer and some brussel sprouts* Thoughts fly through my head. *oh my word, it’s dirty under that couch!* Humanity wins over the spirit. The pull on my mind to pay attention and “fix my eyes on Jesus” can be annoying. I can be very mean to myself about how easy it is for me to bear the weight of the Beheadings in my chest, and in my next thought wonder how on earth I’m going to ever find the right pair of jeans!

We are tragic. We are messy. We are beautiful. We are full of hope. We are tired. We are wired. We are longing for things to be drastically different, and then are swallowed up in the joy that things can be calm and clean and the same.

We want to eat ourselves silly on books and blogs that feed a peaceful and carefree, full-of-Jesus, all-about-me life.

We want it easy. We so desperately wish things were easy! I know I do. I want the white-walled life with the right lighting and soft hues. I want the life that polishes Jesus and makes him my pillow, my comfort, my peace. We desire to have a kind-hearted, blissfully balanced life full of complementary colors coupled with the right chairs and blankets.

God, I want that.

But, it doesn’t fit what I see is the call to follow Christ in the Word. That? That’s messy. That’s challenging and wild and crazy and really irritating because it goes so much against what I want. And the mess in my heart is just messier. How desperate I am to surrender to him. Just give up because the more I say I am a Christ follower, the more I realize there is no pretty way to do it. And I want to do things his way more than I want the cushy life that begs for me to run after it. I really do want to follow him.

 

face

There is indeed a time to center and let the Holy Spirit fill the space in my life that is nothing but all the space in me. There is no God-sized hole in my heart because God isn’t in the business of filling holes. He is in the business of fulfilling his glory in our lives. He wants to dominate. Take over the life he died for. Have complete control. Fill the fullest measure.

There are no God-sized holes. How trite. How dare we use such pathetic descriptions of what we are without God.

If we have any holes in us that need to be filled by God it should be the unending black hole of desperation for his presence. Moses did not even want to go the promised land without God. The promised land! All that was promised, all the dreams, all the hopes, all the stuff that God told him would be his was nothing if God was not there.

Can I say the same thing? If I looked just at tomorrow, just tomorrow, never mind any dream I may have, never mind any goal I might have prepared, would I say, “I cannot go to tomorrow if You are not with me.”

What does that say about my today? What does that say about what and how I pray? What does that say about my intimacy with Jesus? The answer to that question leads us to look at how personal and seriously we take this intimate, messy-life thing we call prayer.

Taking a few moments to take inventory on the reasons I haven’t prayed in the past (or not so distant yesterday), I came up with a short list.

 

Maybe we don’t pray because…

 

we do not think that He is everything we need, not only for us, but for the world. Is he really everything you need? Or do you “got this”? Could you remove God from all facets of your life and it look the same?

we are swimming in unbelief. We believe that our tomorrows rest on our shoulders. We believe that our talent, our charisma, our connections, our feeds, our blogs, our next thing, can be done in our power, our way. We believe he won’t come through, or that we couple our little strengths with his, like he is a spotter as we lift the weights of ministry. We believe certain things about God and other things about God for other people, but have a heck of a time believing things that he says in his Word about us.

we have been pacified and babied in our walks with Jesus. We have fed each other spoonfuls of grace and love and forgotten to drop on our knees, grab the arm of the person next to us, pull them down and spend our strength in prayer before a holy and awesome God. We’ve forgotten to chew on the sinew of maturity and be grown up in Christ.

we do not see needs beyond our own teeth. And those needs get tiresome and boring and we get sick of hearing ourselves ask for the same thing over and over and then when “it” doesn’t happen, we are pissed and he is a lousy provider.

we forget that we are filled with the Spirit, the same Spirit that hovered over the waters at creation. The same one that dropped life-fire on the men in Acts. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead. The same Spirit that is sealed up in us and has the power to stop your breath just after you take the next one. We do not pray because we forget…and we grossly underestimate.

we are blinded by lights and shows of greatness. Great people writing great things and tweeting great stuff. We watch and like and retweet and laugh and applaude and then move on to the next thing like this blog post.

We do not pray because we give time to what really matters to us. Think about what you give your time to. What fills the ticking minutes of your day? I know what fills mine and, wow, I need to put that stupid phone down.

we do not know the Word of God. You cannot pray to a God you do not know and cannot pray for what he wants if you have no idea what his agenda is or what he has even asked you to pray.

we are ignorant. Ignorant because we go day to day without engaging in the tough news of life and putting that up against God’s Word. Ignorant because we do not practice prayer and learn more and more and more.

 

1238273_10151686961763323_1516459338_n

These judgements are harsh, but I can only say them because I have lived every one of those. They are life-drainers. The only way we will every have a breakthrough in how and what we pray is when we have a breakdown of ourselves and a soul willing to be interrupted and overrun by the great God we say we serve.

We greatly, and I mean, greatly underestimate the power of prayer in our lives, and even more so in the outcomes of what can happen in the world. We dismiss it as something other people do and aren’t even sure about how to do it. But, we must pray. We must change the list of reasons we don’t pray and write a list of reasons that we do pray.

 

So…

We pray because

He is everything we need. Everything. 

we believe. We believe there is nothing in us, or given to us by him, that we can do without him. We believe that he is the only way we can do anything he has called us to. We believe and take him at his Word at every turn of the page and then we bow in prayer in belief that the Holy Spirit is making those things possible in our lives and in the world.

we realize we must grow in maturity and move beyond being babied and coddled and rise up in the power and strength afforded to us.

we see a world in need of Jesus and we have the power to give him to them. We can go and send people into the world, both down the street and into the places where the Gospel has never been heard. We can do that!

we have been given the power and the freedom to do so. Our enemies can take everything from us, but they cannot take the Spirit in us or our freedom to pray. Don’t squander that freedom now, use it like it could be threatened tomorrow.

we are filled with the mighty and awesome and powerful prayer-instilling and prayer-answering Holy Spirit who causes us to fight in the Spirit and know the Word of God so that we can stand against the enemy, send the forces of the Gospel into the darkness, and rise up in strength against persecution and hardship.

we forcefully humble ourselves to be caught up in the greatness of Jesus and not each other.

we realize the importance of it and we give our time and effort to it knowing that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

we have ingested and digested the Word of God so deeply that we cannot not pray because of the truth that dwells in us. The Word of God shows us the greatness of God and we will make our mark in prayer because prayer is where courage is unleashed.

we are incredibly smart and ingenious men and women of God who will not let being ignorant of God’s Word stop us. We learn, we read, we understand, we go after knowledge of Christ in each other and in prayer.

We pray because we know the need is great and our hearts should be so full of fire for the name of God to be displayed that we can do nothing without prayer. We pray because we are so for certain that there is no greater need than the need to pray.

 

So, what do you do?

Find out what to pray.
Learn how to pray. (You’re you. It’s between you and him)
Join with others to pray.
Pray at church.
Pray at home.
Be aware and pray for others.

This list is almost endless. But, if we do not pray, I fear we cut of the very power afforded to us by the Holy Spirit. Will you join me in the great and mysterious wonder of humble and deliberate, life and world altering prayer?

At the end of the age, you’ll be glad you did.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18

So, You Don’t Have a Tragic Story. Me Either.

1984 6th grdI’ve heard it preached like a million times and it goes something like this:

“Jesus uses the talentless, the forgotten, the screwups, the marginalized, the poor, the least likely to make his kingdom grow and expand and to take his gospel around the world. He will use your weakness and the little you have to offer for himself.”

Something like that.

 

And I always cringe. I want to adjust myself in my chair and I try not to look around because I know people are looking at me because they know.  I kinda scrunch up my face and begin to feel a sense of “Well, looks like I’m out of the game.”

 

Now, before you think I think too highly of myself, I don’t. What I mean when I feel like “I’m out of the game” is that I grew up in a upper-middle-class home on the north side of the city. I went to the “rich” schools and got poked at by my friends on the south side because I was “rich.” My parents are Christ followers who love each other and are approaching 50 years of marriage. Being raised by them was both fun and easy. I have two siblings whom I love and have more good memories with them than bad. I wasn’t bullied. I never had want for money. I had plenty of food and clothes. I had more friends than I could shake a stick at. I cut my baby teeth on the leather Bible cover and the back of the wooden pew. I was never abused or hurt. I was never lonely. I didn’t go without normal pains like friends hurting my feelings, or loss, but I don’t have a tragic story that has left me feeling like I’m a nobody with nothing to offer.

Quite the opposite. I was always told I was a somebody, dearly loved and valuable, full of talent and could be or do whatever I wanted. I was set.

 

 

While I heard that preached many times, I also heard this:

“You’ve been given gifts and talents by God. Some are in your nature and some are spiritual gifts to you by the Holy Spirit. Now, we need to discover those and God will show you how he can use you to advance his kingdom! Go and make his name famous. Do something! Do something great in those talents God has given you. Be strong! Don’t let your weaknesses stop you!”

Got it.

So, God uses the ugly and untalented and least likely, but then he wants to infuse us with talents and make us awesome warriors for the kingdom so that we are strong for him, but be sure to keep your weaknesses close so that you stay humble, but be strong in your talents and gifting and make sure you are taking time to hone those in so you can do a great work.

I’m getting mixed messages here.

Out of one side of our Church’s face we preach that you don’t have to be somebody to do something. In fact, the worse off you are, the better it will be for you in what you will do for the the kingdom. Out of the other side, we couple that with the elevation of the most talented and the most dynamic and and then they, in turn, tell us we don’t have to be somebody to make a difference.

What is going on?

Which is it?

A nobody or a somebody?

 

I know, I know, I get it. But there is still the feeling in me that I’m at risk at being the least compassionate, the most Pharisaical, and the least like Christ because I’m not the broken, abused and marginalized person.

Preachers do not mean to do this. I know. But, it’s very much a thing. And those of us who have been raised the way we have with little tragic tales to tell, begin to feel like we won’t be as effective or as used as others. We get the sense that we won’t understand or won’t connect. And, you’re right. I can’t really connect with a woman who has come out of prostitution or has had an abortion or has been raped. I can’t relate to parents who abandon me or a husband that has walked out. I don’t have the tragic story marked by a redemptive meeting with God. I have some tragedies, but my life isn’t marked by a life of trouble and heartache.

 

I got saved at nine years old at church camp. We all did.

 

But, here’s what I do have.

I have a story of a woman who has testimony to what a family looks like who has been devoted to Christ for generations. I have testimony that when the “perfect” family, or life, has a tragic moment, we cling to Jesus, and to each other. I have testimony that when I chose a life of sin, and I had known the Truth my whole life, God is still in the business of forgiveness and redemption. I have testimony that generations can love and serve a great God for the advancement of His kingdom. I am living proof that the generational blessing is a real thing and I can point to a family tree, though not perfect, that has deep roots, firmly founded in Christ. I can tell you it works.

Stay true.
Stay steadfast.

I can tell you the Word of God is true, and even though I might not be able to sympathize with you, I know a God who can, and does. Even though I don’t share the exact same story, I understand grace, and love and forgiveness. I am a living testimony to the great Word of God being taught from one father to the next and then to his children and that the years in church and Bible college have armed me with the Word of God, rich and deep, for my life and those lives around me. It has saved me from more sin than I care to remember that I even thought about committing.

I am proof that though I don’t fit the bill of the “least of these” and the marginalized, I am still someone in desperate need of a Savior, who saves me from my pride, and a million other things. I am willing to give my all to God, and use both the talents and gifts he has given me, and the failing of my human weaknesses so that he may be glorified.

 

We are all in this together. We have all fallen short.

You, with the shattered life story, you are desperately loved and Christ wants you to be filled with him so that his name is made famous in your life.

 

You, with the pretty story, you are desperately loved and Christ wants you to be filled with him so that his name is made famous in your life.

 

Jesus hung out with a blue-collar hot head, a dirty government tax man, a greasy betrayer, prostitutes, and status seeking brothers. But, he also hung out with a Pharisee, a good man who loved God, but had some questions. He had a doctor write two of the books of the New Testament. He saved a well-to-do, dyed-in-the-wool Law abiding man (though a murderer thinking he was doing the right thing), and made him one of the most famous ministers of the gospel the world has ever known. Rich and powerful women advanced the gospel with their generous giving. Prominent men and women, those we don’t know their stories, made it possible for the gospel to march it’s way through the world.

The rich, the poor, the lonely, the one with the awful story, and the one with the pain free story, we all need him. We are all loved and used by him if we are filled and desperate for him.

Your story is yours.
Mine is mine.

But, both of ours plays a vital role in his

 

To God be the glory.

You Do Not Believe God

photo 1-4Pick a table, any table. Or a couple of chairs. Or a couch. Maybe a restaurant. Just pick someplace where you have sat with or sat across from someone and you’re talking about God, His Word, what He has done, who Jesus is, prayer, etc. I’ve been here many times and heard something like this:

I just don’t know if God loves me.
I’m not sure God hears me when I pray.
I don’t know if God has a plan for me.
I still feel so guilty.
Why would God want to save me.
I don’t think God really cares about what is happening to me.
I’m not sure I can change.
I’ll never understand the Bible.
I’m just not gifted.

Ever heard or said any of these? Raise your hand.

To the person who has not followed Jesus ever, or the one that maybe has just become a believer, you can just go back to browsing or Instagram. This isn’t for you.

For you, the one who has been in church a thousand times, who has been a professed follower of Jesus for more than 5 years, who has sat in Bible study, gone to the conferences, read the books, watched the videos, listened to your pastor, had lunch with your Godly friends, I need you to keep reading. If you still say those things up there, or something similar and are still living in those kinds of thought processes, I have one thing to say to you.

You do not believe God.

I can only say that to you from experience, from facing what ever string of sentences I would say over and over to Him and to others, and then realizing that, according to the Word of God, I did not actually believe Him nor take Him at His word.

When I would say, “God doesn’t see me. I’m overlooked” I was actually professing that I didn’t believe what Scripture is crystal clear on. I was actually allowing what I felt to determine what I believed and how I then behaved. I was saying to God, “I know what your Word says, but because I have baggage, brought on by humans, I will go ahead with my tender broken feelings and believe that You act the same way, instead of taking You at Your Word and allowing Your Holy Spirit to transform me according to it.”

And you are doing the same thing.

Whatever line you say to yourself, or others, that is in direct opposition to the Truth of God’s Word is unbelief. It’s not that God has a problem, or that you need to work through something…again. It is that you need a face to face with God on your unbelief.

There is no pastor, no conference, no book, no self-help article that will convince you of what you’re dealing with. You’ve heard it a thousand times and then still…you wonder. It’s time for you to stop that. Get on your knees and confess your unbelief. Tell Jesus of how you have chosen to follow Him, but then have also chosen what to believe and not to believe. When you do this, when you say to Him, “Your Word says _____________, but I believe _______________, and I now chose to believe Your Word, regardless of how I feel, and let your Holy Spirit transform me” you will begin to see yourself become unattached to that unbelief. It will be replaced with a Truth fashioned by the Holy Spirit in you, for the Word of God teaches the Jesus is the Author and Perfector of our faith.

Believer, follow of Christ, rise up in faith! Look to the Word of God and believe it! If you say you have been found by God and have chosen to believe and follow Him, then take the whole package of faith! Let Him be all your fulfillment in faith! Believe Him and move on from your hang-ups and tragic lines of false belief. Our God has made plain in His Word an answer for every need you have. His name is Jesus and He has a plan in you to make His name famous in all nations.

Our enemy would like us to be so self-engrossed, so introspective, so ready for the next “fix” that we fail to see our true purpose here on earth: to know God and to go and make disciples. 

To know God is to be known by Him and there we find complete and joyful satisfaction. In that, we are compelled to go, go to our neighbors, help send others to the ends of the earth, or go ourselves.

We are not saved to sit and wonder if God’s Word is true. We are saved because a great and awesome God made a way for us to be delivered from death in Jesus Christ. This is the God you have said yes to and He is faithful to His Word.

Will you believe?
What lines do you repeat that mark your unbelief?

Why I Watched Him Die

Squaready20150206181548It popped up in my Twitter feed. I had heard about it all week and even read just a bit on the situation, but this link, this click, took me to the video.

I clicked on the play triangle. 22 some odd minutes appeared at the top. 22? Twenty-two minutes of this?

I sat on my piano bench and turned down the volume. I didn’t want to hear it.

I grabbed the little dot with my left index finger and moved the time line down to around 5 min. My heart rate increased. My stomach began to fill with anxiety. I knew what was coming. I let the seconds tick on.

The cage. One man standing in it in an orange uniform. Some distance away, another man, outside the cage stood facing him holding a torch.

Dear God, no. This can’t be real. It’s a reenactment. Surely, this clean, edited version complete with transitions and HD video capability isn’t the real thing.

I wanted that to be the case.

4 min.

The man outside the cage lit the torch and stooped over to light the wet line on the ground. It ignited and it sprinted to the man in the cage, covering him in seconds. His initial reaction was pathetic, like a child. Then, he put his hands over his eyes and left them there as the fire overwhelmed him.

The next moments were the ones I wanted to scream, vomit, beat someone to death because of what I was seeing.

Horrific.
Terrifying.
Evil and sadistic.

Thank God I had my volume down.

Why did I keep watching? I hit pause and stared out the window. My kids were running by me and someone was watching cartoons.

Play.

God!

He fell on his knees. His face. Oh Jesus. He fell over. A bulldozer came and poured concrete on the cage, putting out the fire and putting out the terror.

The screen stopped. It was over.

I rallied myself and told my family, “Hey. I’m going to take a walk! Be riiiiight back.”

That video is like porn. It will never, ever leave my conscious. It will forever be an image in my mind. A running video that will for sure pop in at the most unexpected times of life and at the least appreciated moments. I will hate it forever.

But, unlike the smut I’ve seen in my life, I don’t want it to go away. Sounds awful, right? But here’s why:

That image I now have in my mind is nothing new in this world. What happened to that young man is not the new thing our enemy is doing. They’ve always been doing it. What I witnessed, and nearly couldn’t stomach, is not something we should turn our eyes from. This is our enemy. And this is what they do, what he does. What these men did is our spiritual enemy’s agenda made manifest in their lives. What we witnessed is what our enemy would do to every one of us if he had the chance.

So, when the video was over, I got my shoes on, hit the pavement, and began blasting the heavens with prayer.

This image should push us to our knees. This image, this video, is one of the representations of not only a real enemy to our country, to our beliefs, but a spiritual enemy to all who call Christ King. An image like that will cause you to suck in air, bug out your eyes, and tempt you to cover your ears and scream, “NO! I will not see it!”

And I understand.

But, listen to me, that kind of torture, destruction, agony and evil is who we are up against. You think ISIS is bad? You think those guys have anything on our spiritual enemy?

We need to think again.

And we, the Church, need to wake up and get to battle. 

I prayed, not only for that young man’s family, (Dear God! Be close), but I also prayed that ISIS, and the men and women like them, would feel the wrath of God on behalf of His beloved. I want that. My flesh, my defense for mankind wants them to be wiped out.

But…. my prayer changed because I know a God who made a deadly decision to send His son in this world for crazy losers like that (like me). I do not want any man or woman to go to hell. I don’t wish the pain of our spiritual enemy on anyone, not even those men. I want more than anything for that man, holding the torch, the one who filmed it, the guys standing around, to know and face the one true God, repent in fear and trembling, and be made new in Jesus.

Impossible for us.

Not impossible for God.

I began to pray that God would send irritating and beautiful visions and dreams that would send those members (and the others like them) to a place of wild tantrums because they can’t get them out of their minds. I asked Him to send them visions of Jesus, much like what happened to Paul on the road to Damascus. I asked that He would do the impossible! And then I asked that He would provide a way for those Believers, who I know are there, to come face to face with those who have had the visions and dreams and explain to them what they saw and show them the One and Only True God.

A video like that, with all it’s horror, with all it’s disgusting violent content, did not make me shy away in fear, but it made me rise up in prayer! I can’t go to Iraq and try to reach ISIS with the Gospel. But I, a small, white Gentile in America, can use the power of prayer to ask for the impossible and the miraculous! Those men can’t stop me praying and calling out to my God for His wild love to bug the literal hell out of them! They can’t keep us quiet! They can’t stop us from crying out to God for Him to break the darkness and shatter the enemy!

While I am here, I will use the freedoms I have and spend my spirit on behalf of others. We are called to be the light of the world, to go and make disciples, to pray for our enemies, to listen to the Spirit, to know God’s will, and to fight.

If you can’t stomach the video, I understand. But don’t let something that you can’t handle deter you from facing the realities of this world.

Pray.
Get angry.
Use that anger to become a fighting force of God in Spirit and in truth.

Because…

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Eph. 6

The “Be still and know that I am God” verse…and the part we overlook.

IMG_5414I like God. I mean I really like God. And, I like what the church teaches about God when it comes to me and my feelings. I like knowing He is good and kind and will give me peace. I love to feel His presence and know that He sees me and lives in me. I really, really like that about God.

I like knowing I’m saved and will live forever with Him. I like knowing I’m blessed and have the promises of God at my disposal. I like being called a daugher of a King and a chosen one. I like knowing Jesus is my Savior and my brother and that we already sit with Him in heaven. I really like knowing that this body will one day be awesome.

I love the idea of having God given dreams and goals. Good ideas. I like seeing people help other people who need it; hungry, lonely, old, rejected. I like seeing them know that Jesus loves them and died for them.

I like knowing I can pray to God anytime, anywhere, and I like knowing He hears me at all times. It’s like when my little kids come to me, I know they want something and I love that. It’s the same with God, and that makes me happy. I like knowing He will give me wisdom when I ask for it, and grow my faith. I like knowing He is a God of compassion and holiness.

All that makes me feel good, safe, protected.

All of those wonderful things, promised and real, are the most predominant thoughts in my life, and yet, there is a danger in that.

WHAT? What, you say?

Do you like this verse? “Be still and know that I am God;”?

I do. How many times have you heard that in context of needing peace or comfort? How many times has it been preached for when you need to calm down and reflect? How many times have you (and I) used it to get a grip or force ourselves to think about God and not ourselves (which is impossible, by the way. We cannot think of God and not think of ourselves, but that’s a different post.)

I mean, it says “Be still and know that I am God;” but there is more. There’s even a semi-colon at the end of that phrase indicating, “Hey, there’s more here. Keep reading.” But how many placards, posters, pictures, cards, Instagrams, Facebook posts do we just see the “Be still and know that I am God”? And man, we like that. The feeling that comes over us, and we sigh, and smile and keep going.

But what comes after that semi-colon? Do you know? Here, let me show you…Psalm 46:10 (the whole verse)

“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, 
I will be exalted in the earth.”

The words, “Be still” don’t really mean, “Hey, calm down, breathe in deep, look at the sky and think about how God is God or how good He is to you.” Those words indicate, “Enough!” or “Stop!”. They also mean “to sink, to drop, relax, sink down, be disheartened” and know.

In other words, this isn’t a verse for us to say over and over in our heads so we can bring our heart rate down and hope to God our day goes better. This is a verse with much more powerful implications and more of a wake up call to God and His purposes, rather than a call for us to calm down and take a breather. It is His own words calling out that our enemies will be silenced and know He is God. It is His own words calling out to His people to stop and sink into His greatness in the world. To realize and feel the weight of this thing of global glorification. It is a heavy, awesome, and powerful thing.

When God says, “Be still, Enough! Stop! and know that I am God” and then says, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth”, I don’t see anything that has to do with me getting a word from God, or a peaceful sensation coming over me that everything will be okay. I also do not see that verse having really anything to do with me… or us. I see that is has everything to do with God, and His declaration of Himself. It is a call to sink down in ourselves and know that He is the world-saving, all-knees-will-bow God. A call not to stop and sigh and reflect on what God means to us, but a call to stop and contemplate and understand what God means to the world and what He will expect from it.

In our self-centered, modern day, Americanized church, we have fashioned a culture around the wonderful and powerful things of God that make us feel good about ourselves.

We even take verses out of context and make them pacifiers. God is not a pacifier, He is a mighty, powerful, wrathful, you’re-saved-by-my-Son God!

He is a satisfier, on His terms, and for His glory. 

This Gospel promises peace, yes, but that does not mean we have carefree lives. (this makes us squeamish).

This Gospel promises that I will be filled with the Spirit of Christ, but not just for my introspection and calculated goals of trying to be like Christ (but, we have crap to fix, I know, except we can’t fix them, and around we go.)

This Gospel promises that He is great things planned for us, but only when it has to do with the expansion of His Kingdom (we kinda miss this and call it dreams).

This Gospel comes with the Spirit of God, given to us for the task of making disciples. Oh! The wonder that comes with His Spirit is beyond our comprehension, but not beyond our interaction and grasp! But, He is not for us to just feel okay and sane. He is in us for His name’s sake. He doesn’t change us for just our own satisfaction (though, that is amazing!), but He changes us for His glorification, for His name’s sake.

His name’s sake.

His.

And His alone.

We must wake up as a church, stop stuffing ourselves with self-helps and fattening ourselves on what makes us feel good. Only Christ can do that, but it comes with a calling, a command. It comes with the charge of taking Christ to the nations. It’s not a good idea, it’s His idea, His plan, His goal… and it will happen.

“Be still. (Enough! stop! Feel the weight. Know.) that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.

Do you read it a little different now? Me too. And I like it.
Now, what do we do about it?
What do I do about it? Still working on that, and I like that too.

Round Tables Meant Engaging. Gag.

face2004

I’m reluctantly taking a class called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. And by reluctantly, I mean I flat out don’t want to take it. JT took it and I don’t want to. And yet, I signed up. I drag myself to the church, keeping my eyes down in case Jesus was looking for people with bright eyes willing to shoot their hand in the air and say “YES!”

I know, I just know that if I take this class God will make me want to leave the country and live in the jungle. That’s not something I am willing to do. I mean, where is the good mascara and air conditioning? Doesn’t He know I have issues with sweating, like I don’t sweat very well at all and can break out in a migraine? God, this isn’t funny. I cannot leave America. (Note: I still live in America.)

I’m dreading the class.

Dreading. It.

But because I am a submissive wife and listen to my husband when he says, “Honey, I think you will really like the class. There is homework and reading. You’ll love it!”, I’ll go. New pens. Drive to church. My Tuesday nights are about to be hijacked by sixteen weeks of “WILL YOU BE A MISSIONARY AND GROW OUT YOUR HAIR AND WEAR DRESSES?” I’m not looking forward to never wearing pants again.

I am greeted by smiling people behind eight foot tables. They are armed with computers, pens (thanks, I already have some), books, nametags and plenty of offers for help if I needed it. I appreciate that, but I can find where to sit. Dang. We are at round tables. Round tables mean talking with people I’m sitting with. Round tables mean engaging, sharing and “ice break-ing.” I’m thinking, “How do I tell these people I’m not in the mood to be a missionary? How do I tell them that I’m here because I told my husband I would come? How to I tell these bright-eyed, eager-to-learn weirdos that I don’t want to be there?”

Round tables mean exposure. It’s not looking good.

Our leader leads the way as a leader should lead and we all watch and clap and pray. There is worship every night and snacks (please note: as a leader, provide snacks. Keeps people happy and coming.) But, there is something more. Each night provides a different teacher or instructor. Something is happening…

The stories, the wisdom, the knowledge are blindsiding me and I am realizing I didn’t know jack about what God had been doing around the world for His name and am appalled at the ignorance and pride in my life.

Week after week, chapter after chapter (of a very large book, by the way), open book test after open book test (which, if you really pay attention at the beginning of class, you will know these are open book tests. I, did not hear that for the first two. But, nailed it anyway!), I was exposed to God’s love and plan for the nations.

It wasn’t a class about missionaries…

It was a class about God’s mission for the world and our part in that plan. 

2004-2014

That class was the pivot point for what God would want me to do with my life. Even since that class, I have, in some ways, kept trying to dodge the world of missions. Oh, I haven’t completely stayed out or away, and He didn’t call us to Africa, but, I have tried to do other things and keep this whole idea of being in the Global Movement to the side. I wanted to be a famous Bible teacher, or publish books that would not only bless your life, but change it forever!

*crickets*

I thought I could become a blogger that had millions (thousands) of readers and keep their hearts warm with all my brilliant parenting tips and ways to be a godly woman.

These things haven’t happened, but what has happened is a deep and unending draw to the world of global impact in the kingdom. I dream about it. I can cry when I think too long and hard about missionaries. I want to know what is happening in the underground church and pray for the persecuted. I worry about believers who are being hurt and killed. I wonder what they do from day to day. I wrote a prayer blog for those who support missionaries and the people they serve. I want to have a furlough house in the states someday. Through the last decade I have been in and out of a committed heart to this. But in all these years…it doesn’t go away.

The want to publish….gone.
The desire to be a Bible teacher in some mainstream “famous” way… gone.
Blogger extraordinaire? vamoose!

There is nothing wrong with these things, it’s just they have been wrong for me.

In 2015 I will be diving head first into the world of the global movement of God. I don’t know what that looks like, but I know where to start. I’ll begin with being the coordinator the the class I never wanted to take, here, in Nashville. Perspectives has been gone from Nashville for three years. It’s time to come back. Also, I will stop the nonsense of not talking about what is near and dear to my heart. It doesn’t matter who reads what I write, but it does matter that I do what I think God is telling me to do. Write.

So, come back if you want. Read. Enjoy. Learn. I will do my best to present what God has asked me to in regard to His heart for the nations. Who knows, maybe someone who doesn’t want to read this will someday be in it neck deep.

 

To find a Perspectives course near you or learn more about his life changing class, please visit the Perspectives website.

The Snake Guy was Murdered

Baughmans

Don and Marianne Baughman

The Snake Guy drove me to my junior high on a very stormy day. I can remember being in car and watching the torrential rain slam into the windshield. My seventh grade memory fails me as to why, exactly, he would have taken me that morning. I try and reconstruct what must have happened. I assume he had come over for breakfast, realized that mom was going to have to get out in that weather, and offered to take me since it was on the way to our church. That had to be it. The Snake Guy was back in town visiting our church, telling us stories of what happened on the other side of the world (Africa) and brought with him a slide show and, yes, snakes. He was captivating. And he stayed with my grandparents when he came.

 A few years later I was back a church, this time in high school. I was there making copies for some up and coming very important youth group shindig when my pastor came in to tell me that the Snake Guy had been murdered on his front lawn. Bandits. No reason. Shot dead. He was in that country for Jesus.

Martyred. Don, the Snake Guy. 

I walked down the hall to the sanctuary. The stain glass window faced the West and the sun was just low enough to pierce the colors. The whole room was warm and thick with silence. It was just me, the green carpet and pews, and a glow in the room from the sun. It’s like the light was hugging me. I didn’t ever really know how to comprehend all of it, but I sat on the front pew and cried. Wept. Stunned.

Murdered? Unbelievable.

But, his story is one of thousands. Millions. Those over the years who have died for the name of Jesus. Those who have given their lives so that the name of Jesus would be made famous around the world are by no means a small amount of humanity.

It happens everyday. All the time. When I am shopping for shoes on Amazon or am weeping over the nations, they are dying. Who will go in their place? Maybe some will. Many will rise from the places they fell and take up the cause right there. Over and over the name of Jesus is taken round the world, fulfilling God’s desire that all men would know his name and the redemption he offers.

So, what does the Church do?

What about those of us who live in the States?

What do we do?

We pray. We pray for the power of the Spirit to consume us and show us how to pray and what to pray for. We pray that our strength and vitality to complete the task is armed and made steady. We pray.

We pray…and we pray again.

We study. Most of the Church doesn’t know exactly what God’s desire is for the nations. Start reading. Find out. Take a Perspectives course. Go through “Xplore” with Center for Missions Mobilization. Study the Bible. Read Andrew Murray and John Piper. Learn. Don’t just say, “I don’t know.”! Find out! What IS God’s plan and heart for the nations? If you can’t answer that…find out the answer. (or ask me)

We join. Find out what your local church does to send missionaries around the world. Find out what trips you can go on and do it.

We give. Global impact can only be successful (outside of prayer and commitment) if the Church is not only sharing her time, and prayer, but her money as well. Send. Give money to those who are going into the nations who have yet to hear Christ! Get them there and then support them ferociously.

We go. If you have a burning to see the name of Jesus go into all nations, then by all means, GO! Find a team and join them. Talk to your pastor. Get trained, get support and get out of here!

We wake up. Our society feeds us with the mantra that more is better and your dream is exactly what God wants to do in your life. Man, that sounds amazing. I want him to make me happy and give me a dream to fulfill, but, oh (and I know I am swimming upstream) I struggle with our constant state of “Make my dreams come true, God!” when how many of us are asking, “God, will you make your dreams and passions come to pass and use me to do it?” Church. Wake up. It is HIS dream and HIS passion we should be studying, searching, praying for and living for. Not ours.

Will your 2015 be more about you and your dreams and plans, or will you take the time to find our exactly what God wants from his Church, from you? Will you pray, study, join, give, go and wake up? I pray you do. I pray I do.

Psalm 46:10 I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.