The Weeping

All I know is that I am to run to Mercy and take as many people as I can with me.

I was only 12 or 13 years old when the couple that I regularly babysat for were called to the mission field. He was a night stocker of groceries at the local grocery chain and slept during the days, and she worked at a local bank during daytime business hours.

They lived in a modest house in my hometown, and both worked hard to make ends meet and build their new life as a now family of four. I never asked them about their “American Dreams”, but perhaps that doesn’t matter, because I instead saw what happens to a person when God gives them a dream. They weep.

Their “Call” came through an introduction to a foreign nation to a foreign people by a missionary. This missionary shared his heart. He shared his love for his people. And my friends, Steve and Andrea were gripped to the core with a knowing that those people in Thailand, were to be “their” people and they were to sell all they had and move to Thailand.

I don’t know if I’d ever seen a grown man cry like Steve cried. His 6 foot, 6 inch frame would shake and tears would fall as the love for the people God had just put on their hearts began to grow and enlarge their capacity. His wife Andrea also was so overcome by the pulling of her heart to this nation they had never lived in, and people they did not yet fully know, and she would cry as one waiting to be reuinited with her family.

They began to ask, “How long do we need to continue to remain in America when God had clearly moved our hearts to Thailand?” They cried out for Thailand in their prayers. They spent their meal times fasting and praying for this thing that God had called them to. And in doing all of this, I watched them change before my eyes.

When they sold their home and temporarily moved in to an old farm house in a remote part of the area they discovered that it was infested with insects due to its long tenure without tenants. This home gave them more opportunity to save more money towards their mission goal, and as Andrea would smash spiders in the house, and chase off garter snakes, she would say, “I’m training for Thailand!”

The “Call” of God on a person’s life begins to change them. His desires become the gloves that the hands of the one “called” fit into. His heartbeat is the One that they hear when they lay their head down on the pillow at night. His longing for His people becomes the ache and the tears that run down the faces of those who have said, “Yes, I will go.” And suddenly their everyday life seems to lose focus, and the opportunity to share in the harvest of what God is doing begins to take shape as the only life worth living.

I am in that ache.

I weep more often. I find myself wishing for more time in prayer. I feel His call on my life, and it stirs in me like nothing else can.

My whole life has revolved around ministry since I was a small child. I love the Lord. I love being in His service. I love His church (with all her messes), and I love His servants whom I have had the privilege of joining the yoke with in many countries, states, and cities. And yet…

God spoke to me last Spring and told me to clear my calendar in order to learn some things He wanted to teach me. Not fully knowing what was in store, I answered “yes”, to some events that God used to shift my heart and renew my purpose. I wrote about them in earlier blogs.

I attended “Azusa Now” in Los Angeles, California in April and joined with over 65k people in prayer and intercession for our nation. A month later, I attended Reinhard Bonnke’s School of Evangelism, and have been weeping ever since. If you’ve forgotten about how good the news is that the Gospel brings, listen to Reinhard Bonnke preach on the “Jesus and the Adulterous Woman“, and like Paul Manwaring says, “You will fall in love with the Gospel all over again.”

God is renewing His call to me to the harvest fields. To the unsaved who need to know Him, who need to hear Him and who need Mercy and Grace to meet them right where they are. So right now I am in the season of weeping as the “Call” of God becomes formed in me. As I wait for my mission to match my commission, I weep, and pray, and fast.

If you find that my eyes puddle with tears more than they used to, all I can say is “God is forming me, and breaking my heart with the things that break His.” All I know is I am to run to mercy and take as many people as I can with me.

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Conviction vs. Condemnation

The voices are distinguishable if you ask this question: “Which of these voices is offering me hope?”

img_0633When the voices in your head tell you that you can never change, that you will always be “this way”, and that it is not worth trying to change, you are under the influence of condemnation. Condemnation offers no hope, only escapes. But the escapes it offers you you will need to seek rehab to later get free from, because the escapes are not actually a free pass from your pain or trouble, but rather an open prison door inviting you in, until the door slams shut. If you are an addict, you are likely talked to often by the voice of condemnation.

Condemnation reviews your history. All of your mistakes and shortcomings are paraded before you. Every negative word spoken against you or by you becomes the narrative that will now loop in your head like a seige. And if your history isn’t enough, condemnation will drum up your family history. “Remember Uncle Ralph was an addict and mentally unstable. Your dad was a workaholic and your sister ran away at 13 years old….” Condemnation spins its web of futility until you feel that you are destined to be trapped in a mind and body that wars against you and you will never break free.

What then is conviction like?

Conviction is the voice of the Holy Spirit that shines a light on the wrong that we are stumbling in. His voice sounds like hope. It sees us in our trouble and points us to the remedy. “Forgive that person. Turn off that website. Walk away from that argument. Call someone to pray for you. Follow through on your promises. I will help you.”

The voice of conviction never points out a wrong without offering a hope that things can change. It says, “Yes, I see you are drinking again trying to drown your pain, but I have a better solution for you and it includes me walking with you through your pain to the other side. I can redeem all of your lost years and your broken promises. I can give you a new heart, and work all things together for good.”

Conviction does not bring up past wrongs, especially if you have already been forgiven of those. God says He throws our sins into the “Sea of Forgetfulness” when we ask Him for forgiveness. The record is blotted out, and He does not see them anymore. So He will not bring them up. Nor does He use your family tree as a weapon against your hope and future, but, instead, strengthens you to become a new branch that bears fruit, that puts down new roots, and has the potential to create brand new orchards that grow strong and fruitful.

The voices are distinguishable if you ask this question: “Which of these voices is offering me hope?”

 

The “We”

Who is responsible for the condition our nation is in? The anger, vitriol, fear, and war-mongering ideas have now saturated every part of our nation’s fiber so that even our neighbors are looking over their shoulders to be sure they are not a target of the ideologies of their angry “friends”. I believe we have reached a tipping point.

Before you begin to tell me of the corrupt governments, greedy political parties, derelict leadership, and eroding values; before you offer as evidence the quotes, sound-bytes and public statements of candidates, agencies, and major corporations, would you do me a favor? Would you pause and consider these words from scripture?

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (Emphasis mine)

Before you unfriend that person on Facebook who has opposite views from yours, and before you accuse others of not “being able to handle the truth”, Would you pause and pray this prayer with Daniel, and with me:

Daniel 9:1-19
In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes[a] (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.

4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:

“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.

“Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.

17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” (Emphasis mine)

Now together, the “we” of this nation, with the stones dropped from our hands, as Jesus writes in the sand of our generation, let’s join the “sinner” at the feet of Jesus. Let’s run to mercy.Three crosses

 

All scripture from the NIV version of the Bible

Thank…

I picked up my cell phone, pushed the home button and said, “Text ‘So and So’.”

Siri responded, “What would you like to say to ‘So and So’?”

I began to articulate my message then paused and waited for Siri to respond.

“Would you like me to send, cancel or edit this text?” Siri asked me.

“Send.” I replied.

“Sending now.” Siri responded.

“Thank yo….” I began to say. Then I stopped myself.

It’s habit for me. A good habit–to be thankful when a task has been performed for me or if I have received assistance from someone. I want to convey my gratitude, and I want it to be received. Often, if I am thanking a person and they do not hear me, I will repeat myself to let them know I am thankful, and that their efforts meant something to me. But what does Siri do with my appreciation?

What about the act of “mindfulness” where we say what we are thankful for and try to appreciate feelings of gratitude? Who is receiving the thanks? siri

If all of life is energy–space+chance+time, and there is no ultimate reality, then my gratitude is an offering to a universe that does not care that I am here, nor did it plan my existence. The act of thankfulness to the universe becomes an empty action devoid of ultimate meaning.  Giving thanks to Siri for sending a text for me amounts to nothing, as there is nothing really meaningful received by Siri or appreciated. Giving thanks is a good practice, but just an empty exercise if there is no recipient.

It seems that we have plenty to be thankful for, but have no one to be thankful to.

One of the beautiful things about humanity is that we are capable of giving and receiving love, thanks, and appreciation. We are wired that way. We excel when we are loved and appreciated, and we deteriorate and languish when we are not loved, or noticed for who we are and the things we do. This is the Image of God stamped into each one of us. It reflects His design and character. When we give and receive love and appreciation, we develop relationships, and out of those relationships flow the most meaningful issues of life.

Thankfulness at its core declares intrinsic value. It is an acknowledgement that the deed performed was understood and recieved as a gift from the one who gave it, thereby stating that the one who gave it has value, and that their gift in some way added value to our lives by our receiving it.

The act of thankfulness is another reason I believe there is a God. The fact that I can recognize the value in another person tells me that people are created with intrinsic value. And if people have intrinsic value, it would have to be because there is a  God who both planned us, loves us,  and cares very much about our existence. He pours out His blessings on purpose, and we in turn “well up” with thankfulness. When we aren’t tossing up words to the space/time continuum, but to a Person–to God, relationship forms. And in a relationship with God we find our deepest meaning and purpose. It is then that we are able to see the beauty and value of those around us He has made in His image, and our gratitude finds a place to both be anchored and freely given.

 

 

We Want a King Pt.6

I’ve always been afraid to feel. I’ve dodged feelings most of my life. I’ve numbed myself for so long that this day is terrorizing me. I’ve awakened to my own nightmares.

I passed out once already. I don’t know how long I was out, but I was awakened by the cold splashing of vinegar on my face as another nail was driven into my other wrist. I screamed and spit at the executioners. They bound my feet and nailed them too.

When they lifted up the cross and let it drop into the hole, I passed out again.

I’m awakened again, but by the screaming of the thief two crosses down. He’s cursing and thrashing like someone trying to hasten their death. God is being blasphemed in words I wouldn’t dare utter.

I hurt. Excruciatingly I hurt. The pain I was most afraid to feel, however, is the pain that weighed on me heavier than the cross I carried up this hill. 40 years of grief, of sorrow, of sin, of guilt, of shame. This pain I cannot bear. These are blows of a damning variety, and they have bludgeoned my soul more than the Roman executioners could ever bludgeon my back.

There’s a crowd gathered below our crosses. The man in the middle…they’re calling him the “King of the Jews.” ……Jesus??…..

People are taunting him to come down from the cross and save Himself. The thief on his other side has joined the jeering. The crowd below is full of mockers…except the small band of women and a handful of men whose attention is transfixed in mournful silence on the man in the middle.

Listen, I don’t know who this man in the middle really is. I have only ever believed what the religious rulers said about him (a lesson learned too late about trusting them to tell the truth), but something tells me this man is hanging here because of a lie and he is innocent, and although lies incriminated me, I’m hanging here because of the truth…I’m guilty.

“Save yourself! Save us all!!” sneered the crucified thief.

I breathed in a sharp shallow breath. “Don’t you fear God,” I yelled to the thief two crosses down, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve! But this man has done nothing wrong!”

I shocked myself. I shocked the crowd below…but not the ones gathered at Jesus’ feet. Their eyes met mine with pain-filled approval.

My head is spinning…my heart is aching…

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Those are the first words I have heard from Jesus.

He’s forgiving sin? Is he really who John the Baptist said he was “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world?” Could he forgive mine? He’s calling God his father…

Flashes of images, conversations, sound bytes are flooding me all at once…The adulterous woman…He forgave her….”Your Messiah will come to you riding on the foal of a donkey”….”If I by the finger of God cast out devils, surely the kingdom of God has come unto you.” “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except by me…” I heard the Roman guards quoting him while in my prison cell…

My lungs are losing capacity. My conscience has condemned me. My guilt has stabbed my heart and I’m bleeding out…but hope is rising in me…

“Jesus, if you really are a king, the Son of God, the Messiah, remember me when you come into your kingdom!” I cried out.

Jesus answered me, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

***************

“As if a million rivers washed me, all my guilt was swept away, as this Savior in His mercy somehow carried all my pain.

And the Father God embraced me, and I heard Him call me “son”, because the penalty of  sin was now resting on that One…

Jesus, the man in the middle.”

I wanted a king…I needed a savior.

Three crosses“He paid a debt He did not owe. I owed a debt I could not pay.”* (Crum)

*”He Paid a Debt He Did Not Owe” © 1977 Ellis J. Crum, Publisher (Admin. by Sacred Selections R.E. Winsett LLC)

 

We Want a King Pt. 5

My death sentence was handed to me today.

There’s not enought time! My whole life…every dream, every hope, my plans….ripped from me! I curse Caiaphas! I curse Pilate! I curse the entire Roman Empire! Tyrrants! Blood-sucking murderers! My life has been diseased by the edicts and trickery of the leaders in this nation…

Death row gives you time to think.

I was nine when Herod ordered baby boys ages 2 and under to be murdered in my village. My mother was nursing two twin boys, who were 15 months old when that Heinous Villain ordered his police force to break into homes to slaughter Jewish boys. I wasn’t strong enough to fight them off, and I’ll never forget how my mother screamed when they tore those boys away from our arms. She threw herself at the feet of the commanding officer and begged for their lives. He kicked her. He kicked her so hard she hemorrhaged from the inside out, and she was never able to bear children again. I spit and swore and fought with all my might, but I couldn’t stop them. I couldn’t save my brothers…

We were never the same. My mother “disappeared” after that–stolen away by depression, and numbness. I could never get her back. My father, who was gone when the murders came, could never make sense of it all and drank himself to death within a year. But I, I, on the other hand, decided I would never be a fool of this regime! What they stole from me, I would steal 100 fold in my lifetime. But I would be clever!

Now I’m in the same prison as Barrabas, that infamous murderer and I feel as poisoned as he in my heart.

Am I bitter? Heck, yes! Now I’ve been betrayed by the ones who supposedly are closest to God! I’ve been sold out in exchange for what? For what?

My every waking thought is murder, darkness, destruction, hatred, bitterness, envy, and pride…and severe regret. No, I’m not innocent. But death? Crucifixion?

Tomorrow I’ll carry my cross. Tomorrow  I will die alone. Not even God is going to look my direction. I’m a lying, murdering thief. I know it now, and it’s too late.

We Want a King Pt.4

Part 4 of a short story for Holy Week

I’m an idiot! I should have known better!

Passover is happening in the city this week. Pilgrims from all over are gathering here in Jerusalem to celebrate with family and loved ones. The town is inundated with tourists, and every market buzzing with the fresh clientel. Of course a person in my line of work gets a little excited. In large groups you can do a little pushing and shoving, and lifting of belongings without much notice.

Of course the Roman government would “up” their security measures during this holiday. He must have been a new guard on the policing force because he was cocky, and I didn’t recognize him. At least I hadn’t seen him before. But he saw me. I was helping an older gentleman “offload” his cart in the market place. I helped him offload a few of his coins too when his back was turned. Petty theft, I was sure. But this guy blew it all out of proportion! I’ve been arrested!

I thought that Caiaphas, the High Priest, should be able to get me out of this. I’ve done a few jobs for him, and surely he needs my help if he is going to successfully get rid of that Jesus character. But I should have known that Pharisees have no loyalties. Instead of coming to my defense, Caiaphas sent false witnesses to my jail cell who have now blown my cover and exposed me as a criminal. Why would he do this to me? Instead of standing trial for petty theft, I am now going to stand trial for all of my crimes! What is happening to me? How did I become so disposable?

I’ve always had an alibi! I’ve done so much good for the Jewish rebellion. It can’t be ending like this for me. I know the penalty for thieves like me…

To add insult to injury, the only topic I hear talked about in this prison cell is that man Jesus. Some have said he is a miracle worker who has come from God Himself. The stories they are telling are extravagant. There’s no way that so many miracles could be attributed to one guy. I saw the man. He was riding on a donkey! There was nothing powerful about him. He gets his influence from the stupidity of people. That’s all.

This is madness! I’ve got to get out of here!

 

 

We Want a King Pt.3

Part 3 of a short story for Holy Week

National pride is a beautiful thing. Especially when you know what you could be as a country, or what you used to be. It’s the stuff post cards are made of, and wall calendars that hang in our homes.  Our balladeers sing the songs of the glory days, and we listen with longing. This is where we freedom fighters draw our inspiration. We’ve got to get our country back!

Okay, I’ll be honest. I started out a Freedom Fighter, but I got a little jaded, and maybe a little greedy. When you start showing some initiative to make changes, some of the most interesting people come out of the woodwork. Cash starts exchanging hands for “secret operations,” and I’m talking BIG cash! That’s when I learned about the how deep the treasury is with the religious ruling class. Oh, they’ll pay alright, but their “jobs” are some of the most devious. But hey, for the right price, I can be devious!

You know, when you’ve got nothing to live for, you can be bought for the right price. Some people call it “selling your soul”, I just call it making a living. Everyone knows outside of a miracle, there just isn’t any future here. I hate to have to live like a thief, (sort of), but a man has to make a buck. Heck, I’ve got nothing but what I aquired with my own hands–legally or not, and I’m sure not giving it up for some big government. I’m not going to be their slave! No, I’ll be a thief before I’ll be a slave!

Judas Iscariot, was one of those guys who joined the rebellion early on, but then he just seemed to disappear. I found out recently that he has been hanging out with that Jesus guy, and I thought, “That’s interesting! What the heck is Judas doing? “True, I’ve never seen a homeless man with as much influence as Jesus, and He does have quite a big following these days, especially now that the Jewish community wants to make him king! Then I learned Judas was the treasurer for that entire band of men who followed Jesus! “That Rascal! I should have become better friends with that guy!”

Jesus….He’s aquiring quite a following, but He is political suicide! Judas better play his hand well, because I don’t think that Jesus will be around much longer if you know what I mean. Judas picked a loser, but he may still make a buck yet.

You got to hand it to people like Judas and me. We found a way to provide for ourselves while sticking it to the man! We are inside saboteurs! You’ll probably read about our names in history some day. We are a different kind of “war hero.”

 

 

We Want a King Pt. 2

Part 2 of a short story series for Holy Week.

What I love about political turmoil, is that you can take advantage of the fears of people. I mean, when people are insecure about their futures, you can make them any kind of promise, and they will latch on to it. The promise becomes a distraction of sorts, because while people have their hopes set on the promise, you can steal their rights out from under them. Yes, political turmoil contains just the right conditions for thieves. That’s why I got in the business.

Dominating powers pay well to have their agendas pushed. I am fortunate to work for the ruling religious class of my day. I wouldn’t call myself religious, but I’ll fake it for the cash. Pharisees are pretty eager to spend their fortunes if it means buying themselves position, and as a thief I’m pretty apt to accept their deals.

It’s just too easy, I mean really! Take for instance the political rally yesterday when that guy Jesus came riding through town on a donkey. The crowd went wild! They were shouting and dancing, waving palm branches, and making such fools of themselves falling all over this guy, that they weren’t minding their wallets, their children, or their houses back home. Well, I wasn’t exactly “on the time clock” yesterday, but, come on, it was too much of a temptation not to pass up. I stole some things. Okay, I stole a lot of things…for myself. Every good thief needs to be tipped once in a while.

I don’t know what people see in this Jesus guy. I’ve heard that he supports paying taxes to Caesar. Not only that, when corporal punishment was due for an adulteress caught in the act, (a scenario I helped set up with the Pharisees for a handsome sum), Jesus refused to stone her, and somehow pursuaded the others with rocks in their hands to put them down and walk away. Absurd! This is who they want for king?

I usually keep my political views to myself, so forgive me, but there are lots of things about this guy that just don’t add up. However, I’ve heard some of my bosses talking about getting rid of Jesus…now that’s a paycheck that might add up just right. Who cares about politics when cash is being doled out, right?

We Want a King

A short story series for Holy Week

I think I get it now. Our country is run by tyrants. We believe we can be better than this. We have a dream for a better country…one without oppression, where our children can grow up in freedom and opportunity. A country where everyone lives from the same moral page, and the Golden Rule is still esteemed.

We have some fighters among us trying to start a revolution, but we are getting weary having to wait.

Whoever our next leader is has to be strong. He has to be able to throw off the oppression of the over-reaching government. He has to re-calibrate our monetary systems and get rid of the dishonest scales and the pilfering tax collecting agencies. He must be strong and give us national pride again. Give us something to believe in!!

They say our next leader is riding in today from the East Gate of the city on a donkey. You can be sure we will be there lining the streets. We have large palm branches to wave, and slogans to shout!

“Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!!”

Oh, did you think I was talking about America?

Yes, this candidate looks very promising!! He appears humble now, we just need to see if he has any military training. Someone said he once kicked dishonest merchants out of our local religious temple by making a whip out of cords and throwing tables over. Yes, we could use a guy like that in our national government! Clean up house!!

What we need is more force! More “in your face”leadership! Someone who can’t be bullied! Someone who is willing to unite our country again. We want a king!!

“Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!!!”

…….

If this guy can’t get the job done, I say we kill Him. We’d be better off to release a murdering criminal back into society than deal with another lame candidate.

Lucky for us, crosses are being constructed this week.palm branches

Welcome to Holy Week. AD 30