Friday, March 19, 2010

Blood, Jesus and the Soviet Union...

Early this morning I went to a clinic to have some blood drawn. I had to fast overnight so I was in the twilight state of dad-with-an-infant-with-no-coffeeness... a very sad state indeed. The last thing on my agenda was talking about the centrality of Jesus to the Christian Faith to a Polish immigrant who had seen the destruction of Churches in an attempt to erase a the history of Christianity from an entire country but God always seems to have a different agenda for me... (dang, and without coffee)

Her name was Celina and noticing her accent I started small talk asking where she called home. Poland, she told me...how do you say hello (I love to learn a bit of language) so she told me and smiled and that opened the flood gates and we talked all about Poland...

I was taught about the hills, the plains, the mountains, the people. I asked her when she came and she told me she had been in Poland when it was occupied by the Soviet Union. "I'm a priest" I told her, "what was it like for the Churches then...do you have a faith background?"...Yes, she said she was Catholic and spoke with pride of Pope John Paul II. It was good for them all because before that they never saw the faith, it was all hidden in Rome but now it was in their villages.

The Churches were knocked down and burned during the Soviet Occupation she told me, and they were taught in school that Jesus did not exist, a vastly different story from what they were told my their parents at home. They (the Soviets) had no idea about Jesus. She told me of a Soviet doctor who had come to America; she had pulled her aside one day while she was doing some blood work and asked her "what is this Christmas?" ...It is the birthday of Jesus! Celina told her...

Can you imagine, she asked me, not knowing about Jesus? It is sad, she said, especially all those whose religions practice hatred...like the violent Muslims. If you just practice your faith well, we are all OK! You practice what you do and we practice what we do...we all worship Jesus but in different ways...I could understand how her parents taught her this. They had been forced by death and fire to recant their faith...and now they could not stomach to "force" anyone to accept a faith that seemed exclusive. She came from a land and a time where you didn't talk back to your parents, where you accepted what they said...

And I was left to speak the Truth to a woman whom I had just met, an Ancient Truth, the Truth, that went against what she had learned from her parents in the village...
"Celina, that is not Christianity. Only the Christian Faith worships Jesus." He is the only hope to reform the hatred you have seen. It's about being in Christ and worshiping Him. "

How do you convince someone who has been told by their fathers, fathers, father something else? "You can't" I told her, "that is the job of the Holy Spirit", the power that your Pope knew. "Only the Holy Spirit can transform a heart of stone to a heart of flesh."

"This is not what my parents taught me" she said. "I will have to think about it".... so I told her to not believe me but to search the Scriptures and ask a Priest. She looked intense, not offended.

I was struck by the conversation and went off to have breakfast at Starbucks, sitting by the window, reading, eating and praying...and I found myself struck yet again by how God is so ridiculous...
a woman had watched her country destroyed by a Godless power and had come to America for opportunity...and one morning while drawing blood from a sleep-deprived man heard about Jesus in a way she never had...

So I have this haunting thought in my mind from the whole conversation; she said she was very glad that John Paul II was from Poland because they could finally see the faith and it was no longer hidden in Italy...how true for the rest of the world...folks don't see Jesus because He's hidden in the Church...
b

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spirit-driven mission according to Scaredy Squirrel


I am an Anglican, and as such I believe the Word of God to be True, the Master to have paid my price, Jesus to be alive and active, and to be called to proclaim Jesus to the ends of the Earth.

I am Anglican, and I trust God to be God, and His plans will succeed.

But I have not always felt this way, and I, along with Paul (the wretch formally known as Saul) live a daily struggle to release my meager, futile attempt of control of the universe to the one who created it....

As I have journeyed this Lent I have seen God in the midst of my life and the lives of others. I have seen and heard the Voice which spoke creation into existence in the homeless, the natural order, within the wall of my house and the interior of my soul. He has used ancient Words from the Patriarchs, Words from my Spiritual Anglican Fathers and from my daughter's story books...

I have learned from Scaredy Squirrel that we can pack all we wish to bring for all of the unforeseen emergencies yet it is God alone who knows what we will need, and it is He alone who can provide what is needed along the way. Scaredy Squirrel never left his tree for fear of the presumed known (green martians, sharks, killer bees, poison ivy, tarantulas, and germs) looking and checking day after day at his emergency kit packed with all that would be needed in case the dreaded expected unexpected happened upon him....

...and when he finally did fall out of his tree (an accidental reaction to a misconception of reality) he found that he was not in need of all he thought he was...God had made him a flying squirrel.

And so it is with Christians who experience what Brennan Manning calls "the second conversion", a point in life when they are exposed to the reality of their futile attempts and the greater reality of God's Grace in the midst of their fear. Sometimes they jump, other times they are pushed, but in the midst of the free-fall if they will but release their lives to the Spirit of God He will appear...the relief may not come in the way they expected; they may not sprout wings and fly, but God will come...

Jesus told his followers to go and spread the Gospel and take no staff or bag (the Gospels record this story differently...take/don't take the staff) for His promise to Abram (later Abraham) of protection and reward holds true to them...for God is not man that He should lie nor son of man that he should deceive. Don't pack an emergency kit, for you will have no need for God. That is trust, and that is where the power of God lives...

So at New Hope my folks are jumping out of the tree into a housing complex a mile away from us that people steer away from because of things more real than green martians and sharks in the woods...and we are taking no staff nor purse but we are praying and jumping. If we stay in the tree where will they hear of Jesus?

We jump out of our tree because our Savior was nailed to His tree for us...
Will you jump too? This Lent, pray that God shows you where your plans hold back God's desires and dreams for you and the world.
b

So

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Barney's beat shoes


So I have a real problem with deception...to know that what you are trying to conceal is not palatable and to package it so that others will start to swallow the lie....until it's so far down their throats that they can't spit it back out...that's just wrong.

I have a truth that many will not agree with, that Jesus is God, that the Cross on which He died paid a ransom for my soul and brought me back into relationship with God the Father, and that at some point in time Jesus will return and bring those who profess to His name along with Him...

My being right with God is because of Jesus...Christianity has nothing to hide...it professes a ridiculous truth and does not try to soften it.

One of the letters in the Bible, called the Second Letter to the Corinthians says in chapter two, verse 17 that "unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God". The Greek behind the word there for "peddle" means to water down, like wine, to take what was strong and make it weak. That is what Barney is doing with the Cross of Christ, he tells people that it did not buy our sins, that Jesus was not God....

And Barney is committed to going to many places to tell this lie...I've seen him in many places in town, most recently today at the Children's Museum...
I had taken my daughters for a daddy-day-date and there was Barney and his friend in white shirts, black pants and name tag...working as a volunteer...

As I've mentioned before, I have no problem with folks wearing their symbols (the uniform is such I had been told) but tell the truth behind your outfit please...so I said hey and he remembered me and started some small talk...we were on our way out so I sat down and put my youngest in her car seat and put my oldest coat on...and closed my eyes and began to pray for these two young guys who had been lied to for so long by so many...and when I open my eyes I noticed Barney's beat shoes...he was talking to a person on the other side of counter and had one foot resting behind the other so that the sole of his shoe was exposed..and I noticed that the heal of his left foot had completely worn through so that a large waffle-looking section of the inside of the heal had been exposed...and the Holy Spirit began to move my heart...why could he not afford new shoes? Why was he comfortable with bad shoes? Did folks in his "church" know he had such crappy shoes?" And then I was convicted of the fact that his shoes had been worn out by all his walking in my town spreading lies about Jesus...and I was sad because my shoes were not...
What do your soles look like? What does your soul look like? What do your shoes wear out from? Spreading the Gospel, working, exercise? Why don't Christians in North America have to buy multiple pairs of shoes each year because we walk around so much spreading the Gospel?
Ahhh So many questions! It's been some Lent let me tell you....I pray that my shoes wear out, and that my Gospel is not peddled...
b

Sunday, March 14, 2010

living water in the midst of the chaos

video My church was really blessed today by a friend of ours named Annie. She's part of the thing that God is doing to her generation...living a life following Jesus like the world hasn't see in a long, long, long time. Her testimony is powerful, her love for Jesus gut-wrenching, and her passion for seeing people live Holy lives unquenchable.

I arrived early to help set up the church as I do each Sunday at the middle school where we met. It was a pretty crappy day by North American Standards..a bit of rain, a bit of cold, but I was moved to get out of my truck and pray for the area around us...

So I walked across the parking lot to look at this little brook and find that it's raging. It's amazing how a little water over a wide area can turn into a powerful river when focused....
so I found myself praying deeply, and loudly, that the Church would become the torrent in the midst of our towns, that God would concentrate His Spirit and pull the people together and that the river formed would carve a path that cannot be stopped...

Annie preached on the Living Water that flows out from us...and we later spoke of the water that flows from under the Temple in the Throne Room that pours from the four corners...

But around the river was a whole lot of trash...beer cans, nip bottles, and just garbage...so I found myself praying for all those who are outside the source of the Water of Life, and picked up the junk and placed on the floor in front of the alter...and as we went up for communion, we were had to walk past it all...praying for those outside the river...
a powerful day indeed.

Do you see the river flowing under your school too, or is it just me? Do you stop and pick them up just like Christ did for you, or is it too wet, or too cold? Did anything stop Jesus? I pray that we all jump in the torrent and pull those in with us along the banks...