Sunday, June 27, 2010

This is Only a Test

Dear Viewers, we regret to inform you that this week's episode will be preempted by a test of the emergency broadcast system.

It seems with the extreme moving team that pushed through a Friday-Saturday move into the new house, this blogger's system hard wiring overloaded and may have fried.

The outages have been pretty wide spread, affecting even the most basic actions, language usage, and processing, overall diminishing efficiency to unacceptable levels. The final straw was this blogger's struggle to merely stay awake (without even talking about staying focused and thinking logically) during worship service this a.m. The issue has reached critical stage, and as such, a full system reboot is needed.

If you plan to continue using the system over the next week, some other intermittent problems you may experience include complete lack of short term memory recall, uncharacteristic spacey looks of indecision when asked "Where do you want this?", seriously delayed understanding of witty humor, or an inability to comprehend anything above the third grade reading level (which the intricacies in the word of God definitely are).

Since I read somewhere that people without sleep are more dangerous than drunks on the highways, I'm sure someone will be calling Child Protective Services to turn me in if I don't take this mandatory downtime.

Here's hoping the joint-muscle-brain rewiring can be done quickly. I plan to meet you back here next week...without this "duh" look on my face.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Calm After the Machetes

Imagine waking up each morning, wondering if today is the day. You've heard the stories of the fanatical gangs swooping into sleeping villages in the dead of night. You've seen the damage their sharpened machetes have done, killing and maiming to the point where some villages resemble a butcher's shop more than a human dwelling place.

So far, your village has been spared. But you live each day knowing they will come, that there is no escape.
As one who has left Islam for a life committed to Jesus, you are an apostate.

And so you wait, knowing your country has enacted Sharia Law, the law of Islam that orders apostates to be killed if they refuse to repent, to return.

The name of Christ is written on your heart; it might as well be stamped in cross-hairs of blood on your forehead, too.

Sadly, this is reality for thousands of people around the globe. And Scripture says we're next; Christians can all expect persecution.

John teaches if we belong to Jesus, we can expect the world to treat us as they did him: "Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also" (15:20). Even Timothy makes sure we understand that persecution "will" happen to "everyone" who claims Christ: "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim. 3:12).

But honestly, how many of us live daily expecting to be persecuted just as we expect the sun to rise?

Just two months ago in March, 300 Muslims entered three villages in the African country of Nigeria. In one night, they selectively burned houses and massacred with guns and machetes more than 500 Christians. 80 percent of those slaughtered were women and children.

Days later, Medical Director at Voice of the Martyrs, Dr. Kim, visited the villages to provide much-needed medical care. He wrote, "It looks to me like the Muslims had sharpened their weapons before the attack, because the wounds on these folks were significantly deeper and more destructive than any of those I saw in January when Muslims attacked Christians in Jos."

The full story of these all-too-common attacks on Christians is recorded in Dr. Kim's full report.

Yes, the savagery is horrifying. The images of mutilated toddlers no larger than my own twins crushes this mother's heart. But what really breaks me is the image at the end of the video of the remaining Christians gathered round outside the remains of a charred church building, worshiping God in song.

The tongue may be foreign to my ears, but that familiar tune connects my heart to theirs:

"'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
and to take him at his word;
just to rest upon his promise,
and to know, "Thus saith the Lord."

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust him!
How I've proved him o'er and o'er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust him more!

What a testimony--to sing of God's grade, of His a literal valley of the shadow of death.

Thank you God for those of us who are able to publicly worship you, the one true God, without constant fear for our lives. Prepare our hearts for the persecution we know must come to us as your children. In time of trial, help us to overcome our humanity so that we can stand firm, honoring and glorifying your name for all the world to see.

Photo: The Voice of the Martyrs. June 2010: Special Update Report.

**For More Information on praying for, receiving information about, or donating to the VOM ministry to help persecuted Christians, visit Voice of the Martyrs.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I Know That I Know

Bookstores abound with historical and fictional stories of people searching for their past, trying to find out where they came from. Even many popular films show a main character on a sometimes lifelong quest to discover herself.

This search for who I am, to know myself, is a major step to becoming what I can be. To know who I am is to avoid being swayed by any other versions of myself that people or society may try to impose on me. To know who I am means I don't have to prove myself to anybody.

The problem is many of us don't know who we are...or even if we do know, we sometimes forget, questioning whether what we know is true. And that forgetting, questioning, uncertainty is where we stumble and lose our effectiveness.

Jesus? He knew who He was. The religious leaders hated him. The people wanted Him to be something He was not. Even His disciples really didn't understand Him.

But He knew, and that was all that counted, what determined His actions.

One interesting demonstration of this concept is found at the Last Supper. Scripture says: "Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him" (John 13:3-5).

Look at the connection between the first and second parts of verse three. Taking out all the extra words, the verse reads simply, "Jesus knew...SO..." He "began to wash his disciples' feet."

It's like saying, "I was thirsty SO I drank some water." But in this verse, it's not readily apparent why Part B of the verse is caused by Part A. What's the connection? How does "Jesus knew" and His subsequent actions relate?

The answer lies in Jesus' knowing who He is.

He knew His position in the godhead. He knew He was royalty with a throne awaiting Him. There was no questioning, no forgetting, no doubting.

He knew that He knew that He knew.

And because of that knowledge, He had no problem washing the disciples' feet, lowering Himself below the role of a servant, making Himself a servant of servants.

Many times, I wonder if it would be easier to follow Jesus wholeheartedly if we really and truly knew with 101% of our being who we were.

Imagine the difference it would make in our actions and attitudes if we knew that we knew that we are royalty, too? If we didn't question it--ever?

How much easier it would be to turn the other cheek, do the selfless duties nobody else wants to do, and live life fully as a servant, sacrificing everything for the sake of Christ...and not worrying about how crazy our actions made us appear to the world.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Adding to the Hat Rack

I wear a lot of hats. Mom, professor, wife, preschool Sunday School teacher, pianist, interior decorator, chef, personal shopper, landscaper...just to name a few.

But priest? That's never a hat I considered for myself.

I'm not Catholic...and besides, I'm a woman, so I figured those two qualities pretty much put me out of the running.

And yet, Peter says as part of the body of Christ, I and all Christians are part of Christ's holy, royal priesthood: "you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ....But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:5,9).

Being a priest is a calling, truly a calling by God to enter His salvation. And with that calling comes expectations. In the previous verses, Peter shows three duties we Christians must fulfil as priests.

First, one should seek to be "holy," set apart from participating in the evils of the sinful world. Later in the chapter, Peter even admonishes Christians to "abstain from fleshly lusts" and to "Keep your behavior excellent" (v. 11-12).

Secondly, a priest should offer "spiritual sacrifices" to God--the sacrifices of worship, praise, devotion, prayer, fasting, submission, and adoration come to mind.

And finally, a priest should "proclaim" the good news of Jesus Christ and His saving power. I believe this responsibility to share the gospel is two-fold. First, it involves sharing with other non-Christians in the world, but other Scriptures back up the idea that it also involves sharing with our children and the spiritually immature to help preserve, pass down the knowledge of God from one generation to the next.

These instructions match up with what the Old Testament tells us about God's priests from the tribe of Levi. In fact, much of what is written about the priests in Scripture shows them not living up to their calling...and the national fallout because of their unfaithfulness.

Ezekiel condemned Israel's priests for ignoring the first duty--they failed to set themselves apart by demonstrating holiness in obeying God's laws. Instead, their actions were no different than those of the average, sinful person: "Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths, and I am profaned among them" (Ez. 22:26).

This lack of holiness that Ezekiel speaks of led directly into a lack of the second duty--spiritual sacrifice. The sacrifices of a defiant, sinful heart are either nonexistent or cannot please God, a fact God makes clear throughout the book of Hosea.

Malachi also critiqued Israel's priests, this time for not fulfilling the third duty to teach the people about God: "For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But as for you, you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by the instruction" (Mal. 2:7-8).

The result of this lack of a holy example, spiritual sacrifice, and lack of Godly instruction? Increased sin among the people because God's law was not properly passed down through the generations...and increased judgment. God even said, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hos. 4:6).

As priests in Jesus' royal priesthood, our calling is sacred. Wearing this hat requires Christians to seek to have a pure, upright walk with God for all the world to see so that others may turn from their sin. It also requires Christians to give proper Godly instruction, not merely moral instruction that is "popular" or politically correct.

Scripture shows the downfall and destruction of Israel because its priests did not lead by example. Imagine the national fallout in America if we do not take this role seriously...or reject it entirely.