In light of terror

When I think about the evil and the world today and consider what terror is - I see it as evil that doesn't have a "face to name."  While we do label the evil we see in the news today in numerous ways: ISIS, racism, guns, religious extremism, etc. there doesn't seem to be a specific name, a specific place or a person "to blame."  While in the past, we were able to name and target evil, for instance saying "Hitler" we knew if we could take him down then the majority of the issues could eventually reach a resolution.  But now, as we awake each morning, holding our breath to see if and where tragedy has hit and through whom, there does not seem to be a specific evil that we can unite together, attack and eliminate.

This has caused me to stop and reflect on God and His ways.  Jesus described the Kingdom of Heaven as a mustard seed - it starts small yet it grows.  Our world looks for and asks for leaders who dominate, take over, lead.  But God approaches leadership in the opposite way - discreet, with time, allowing roots to grow deep, being established and then emerging in such a way that there is stability, strength and protection.  In addition, He is well aware that His kingdom currently coexists with evil and for now He allows this.  Understanding this should help us not to be overwhelmed, in despair or without hope.

Instead, we should recognize that we are set-up precisely in the way that God intended and that we are the carriers of His kingdom here on earth.  While we can't pinpoint these atrocities to one face, what we do see through the news are individuals.  Individuals who worked jobs, were married, went to school etc.  People who rubbed shoulders with others on a daily basis.  This world is full of individuals who need to not only hear about the truth of God's love but need to see it, feel it and receive it.  The way this is done is through His individual children seeing, hearing and providing the reality of that love.  This is the kingdom way.

My prayer is that we as the body of Christ, would not lose hope in the light of terror.  That we would not be confused, overwhelmed or at a loss for what our role is today.  That we would be faithful to our call to love and would open our eyes to see that the very individuals we interact with on a daily basis, whether through work, at home, in the grocery store etc, are the very human beings whose lives we touch and spread the seeds of His kingdom.  May His Kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In Christ,

I mourn, with hope

Today I mourn.

Yesterday I mourned.

I mourned for the history that has brought us to these days.  I mourned for slavery, for lynching, for Rodney King to Philando Castile and everyone in between.

I mourn for the officers killed in Dallas last night.

I mourn for the African-American man who's heart beats faster today when he passes a police car in the street.

I mourn for the loved ones who send their officers to work today, unsure if tragedy and pain will meet them today.

I mourn that though we've come so far, there is a chasm threatening to grow that causes us to choose sides,  to use the words "they" & "them" instead of "us."

As my husband and I discussed Philando last night, unaware that tragedy was co-occurring in Dallas, he adamantly asked, "What is the solution?"

"I don't know, I don't know, I don't know."

As I read the news of Dallas this morning and coupled it with the sorrow I was already feeling for Philandro, I wanted a way to express my sorrow, my anger, my frustration.  I wanted the biblical sackcloth and ashes to rip and display that I indeed am mourning.  So today I wear a black cloth on my arm, cut from clothing as a sign to simply show that I mourn.

As Johnny Cash expressed in his song, "Man in Black,"

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he’s a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.

The black is there as a reminder to me that things are not right, that I need to pray.  It also serves as an opportunity to talk to others and say, "I am listening, I care, I hurt and I too want to see change."

After I wrote the first part, I also tore white and added it to my arm band.  I added white to show that I mourn with hope and belief.  I know that we are capable of change, I know that we are capable to love better.  I know that the people who mourn today, need to be ministered to, need to be loved, need to make a choice with where their hearts will land - if they will choose to forgive or not.  The cycle needs to be broken.

The Lord God has put his Spirit in me,
    because the Lord has appointed me to tell the good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to comfort those whose hearts are broken,
to tell the captives they are free,
    and to tell the prisoners they are released.
He has sent me to announce the time when the Lord will show his kindness
    and the time when our God will punish evil people.
He has sent me to comfort all those who are sad
and to help the sorrowing people of Jerusalem.
I will give them a crown to replace their ashes,
    and the oil of gladness to replace their sorrow,
    and clothes of praise to replace their spirit of sadness.

In Christ,

Why is it important we know we are loved?

As an extension to my last post, If I had a magic wand and could impart any spiritual gift, what would it be?, I want to share why it is so important to know we are loved.  I believe it is important to know we are loved so we can be effective in bringing His Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.  I have seen (and experienced) as a Christian many days, weeks, hours, months, years, decades trying to get "right with God."  At times, there has been an overwhelming fear that salvation would soon be lost if and when I made the "wrong decision," had the wrong theology on a specific mater, etc.  Instead of resting comfortably on His lap with child-like faith and asking, "What's on your heart, Lord?" I was walking around feeling guilty, ashamed and wondering what I had to do to make "penance" for my latest sin.  While I know we may now scoff at the religious tradition of buying penance for sins, I can see why people would do it and I believe that for some this physical act would relieve the guilt.  I guess what I'm saying is that even today people walk around feeling guilt-ridden and having no seemingly way to get rid of the guilt.   But I really believe that this obsession with guilt is a misunderstanding of Jesus and His and the Father's heart towards us.

 It was through Christ’s circumcision, that is, his death, that you were made free from the power of your sinful self. 12 When you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and you were raised up with him through your faith in God’s power that was shown when he raised Christ from the dead. 13 When you were spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were not free from the power of your sinful self, God made you alive with Christ, and he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the debt, which listed all the rules we failed to follow. He took away that record with its rules and nailed it to the cross. 

Do you see what the cross did for us? It forgave ALL our sins, it canceled the debt - it has been nailed to the cross, left behind.  But perhaps we metaphorically run back to the cross, tear that piece of paper off and hold it before God saying, "But what about this one?"  However, it doesn't say that the record was resurrected with Jesus. Perhaps the nails on His hands should serve as our reminder that the record was left behind so we can move on.

Hebrews 1 & 2 work through these struggles with us.  We see that the Israelite people were never able to enter God's rest and we are warned that we too do not want to be caught missing out on His rest.  While that passage has made me uncomfortable, as I've struggled with it, I've come to realize that they never wanted to accept God's grace, which is why they were unable to enter His rest.  And as I've seen in my own life and the lives of others, when we are trying to  live for the law, from the law and/or in light of the law, we continue to miss out on the promised rest.

14 Since these children are people with physical bodies, Jesus himself became like them. He did this so that, by dying, he could destroy the one who has the power of death—the devil— 15 and free those who were like slaves all their lives because of their fear of death. 16 Clearly, it is not angels that Jesus helps, but the people who are from Abraham.[b] 17 For this reason Jesus had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way so he could be their merciful and faithful high priest in service to God. Then Jesus could die in their place to take away their sins. 18 And now he can help those who are tempted, because he himself suffered and was tempted.

Understanding that we can confidently come before God's throne of grace in our times of weakness is key, key, key.  So this is just the background information that lays the groundwork for the question, "So what then?"

His Kingdom come, His will be done

(If you really want to work through these concepts with an expert check out Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright

I was struck the other day by Jesus words considering the kingdom:
Luke 17:20-21
Some of the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the kingdom of God come?”
Jesus answered, “God’s kingdom is coming, but not in a way that you will be able to see with your eyes. 21 People will not say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ because God’s kingdom is within you.”

We are the carriers of His kingdom!  Our world and our churches ask, seek and looking and searching for God's kingdom daily and I think they main reason they are missing seeing it is because they are looking in the wrong places.

Deuteronomy 30:11-14 
11 This command I give you today is not too hard for you; it is not beyond what you can do. 12 It is not up in heaven. You do not have to ask, “Who will go up to heaven and get it for us so we can obey it and keep it?” 13 It is not on the other side of the sea. You do not have to ask, “Who will go across the sea and get it? Who will tell it to us so we can keep it?” 14 No, the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

NT Wright says in his book, Surprised by Hope:

The method of the kingdom will match the message of the kingdom.  The kingdom will comes as the church, energized by the Spirit, goes out into the world vulnerable, suffering, praising, praying, misunderstood, misjudged, vindicated, celebrating: always - as Paul puts it in one of his letters - bearing in the body the dying of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be displayed.

We need to be captured by God's heart and understand His heart if we want to be reflections of it in the world today:
Psalm 146: 6-9
Who gives justice to those that suffer wrong 
and bread to those who hunger.
The Lord looses those that are bound;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; 
the Lord loves the righteous;
The Lord watches over the stranger in the land;
he upholds the orphan and widow;
but the way of the wicked he turns upside down.

These are the values we are called to carry.  This is the heart we have the honor and privilege to represent.  His Kingdom is here today, it is within you and you can easily spread and extend it by simple acts of love to anyone who walks in your path today - whether family, friend or foe.  Be confident in His love, beloved.

In Christ,

If I had a magic wand and I could impart any spiritual gift, what would it be?

If I had a magic wand and I could impart any spiritual gift, what would it be?

It would be that that people would know that they are loved by God. 

Perhaps this seems silly, or obvious, or a no-brainier.  So perhaps I should 'expound' on what I mean by this knowing that they are loved to help it make sense:

It would be that that people would know that they are loved by God: not because of anything they have done or can do or will do...

That just made it a tad bit harder to swallow, didn't it? Here's my last expansion on those thoughts:

It would be that that people would know that they are loved by God: not because of anything they have done or can do or will do... and that this is true despite what they have done, are doing or will do.

This last part, my friends, seems to be one of the biggest hurdles for Christians to cross.  And why? Because, more often than naught, we put our paramount focus on our sin (and the sins of others). But what would happen if we put our focus on the LOVE of God?  How would we then live? Would anything change?

I have hundreds of verses running through my head that I want to share to "prove" that this fact is true to you - He loves you with an everlasting love.  But what I've learned is that our intellect is only one of the many pieces to this puzzle.  When I get lost, confused, disillusioned with this fact of love one simple starting point is to go back to seeing Jesus and hearing His Father's heart:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

His motivation? LOVE.
His gift to you? Eternal life: it starts here, today; it is now.
  • Do you feel you are experiencing life?
  • Do you feel you have peace?
    • Peace with God?
    • Peace with others?
    • Peace within yourself?
If you answered no to one or more of these questions, I would encourage you to go back to the top: do you believe that God loves you? If you can, allow Him to see you as you truly are the "good," the "bad," and the "ugly."

I'm not saying it will be easy. I'm not saying it will be magical but what I am saying is that it is worth it.  It is worth allowing yourself to be washed with the truth that God loves you and this was proven through Jesus.  He, Jesus, truly is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  He is the Prince of Peace.

Today, may you know you are loved as a child of God.

In Christ,

Blessing: That which I cannot change

The last couple of days during Daily Prayer I've been covering the story of Balaam being hired to curse the Israelites (Numbers 22 - Numbers 23).  This story is fascinating to me on many different levels but one strain has captured my attention for the last few days.  The strain being the fact that God wanted to bless Israel because they were His and He would not allow them to be cursed.

Based upon the descriptions from the text, the setting has the Israelites spread out on a plain and it sounds like the Moabites are able to view them from above.  From this vantage point, Balaam is paid to curse them, but God doesn't allow it.  He turns the plans to curse into blessings.  Meanwhile, the Israelites have no idea that this is happening and yet God is putting them in the palm of His hand and He is protecting them.

While they meander below in the dailyness of life, God is making sure that blessings and not curses are spoken over them.  Here are a few verses that stand out to me:

Numbers 22:8
How can I curse
    those whom God has not cursed?
How can I denounce
    those whom the Lord has not denounced?

Numbers 22:19-20
19 God is not human, that he should lie,
    not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
    Does he promise and not fulfill?
20 I have received a command to bless;
    he has blessed, and I cannot change it.

This story has inspired me in my own personal prayer life.  Often times my prayers can focus on people's sin and me "helping God" figure out what He needs to do to help those people turn to the right way.  However, through the years, God has gently pulled me from this perspective and has continued to lovingly invite me to a new method of praying for others.  For me, these passages point towards an invitation towards a renewed perspective.

The call on Abraham's life was that he would be a blessing to the nations.  As Christians, we've been invited to extend that call to the nations by being the hands, the feet and the spirit of Christ to this world.  Like Balaam, I think that we've been invited to pray blessings over His people's lives, without them even needing to know that it is happening:

 I have received a command to bless;
    he has blessed, and I cannot change it.

Oftentimes the reality of God's call for our lives seems lofty, ethereal and unrealistic for our daily life.  But I think that may be because we make things harder than they need to be.  We have been called to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves.  And who are our neighbors? Whomever, God has put into your sphere of influence.  From that simple place of reality ask the Lord to teach you how to pray blessings over your neighbors, whomever they may be.


In Christ,

Daily Prayer

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