Saturday, October 10, 2015

I am a Christian

The horror which unfolded in Roseburg, Oregon is still painfully fresh. The faces of the martyrs in Umpqua are becoming familiar as their stories are being told. Christians dying in the Middle East at the hands of Muslim extremists is something we've seen. It’s horrible but remote—clear on the other side of the world. But Christians dying in their classroom in Oregon is up close and personal—and forces me to think.

The word martyr means “witness.” And there is no more powerful Christian testimony than those who would die rather than renounce their commitment to Jesus. It’s become standard to elevate martyrs to a kind of 'super Christian' status. We think, they must be made of sterner stuff than me. I just don’t think I could measure up to what they did. And each time the enemy helps our uncertainty by whispering, “You couldn’t do that. You’re not that kind of Christian. You’re too weak, too lazy, too immature.” Each whisper is designed to weaken faith and camouflage the real issue—that our loving, generous God can be trusted to give us exactly what we need in every situation.

As a child, Corrie ten Boom had an encounter with death that left her shaken and afraid. Her father comforted her with this, "When you and I go to Amsterdam...when do I give you your ticket?” She responded, "Why, just before we get on the train". Her father then went on, "Exactly. And our wise Father in Heaven knows when we're going to need things too. Don't run ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need--just in time". Just so. The enemy wants stories of martyrdom to make us afraid and uncertain. God wants such stories to fill us with faith—not in our own strength or ability, but in Him. I can trust that my wise Father in Heaven has the necessary ticket for where I’m going.

I’m grateful that the courage the Roseburg martyrs exhibited isn’t something they learned in a book or gritted their teeth to produce. Those brave souls who overcame the enemy and went to glory last Monday couldn’t do what they did either…without the indwelling, super-abundant power of God. That’s not to downgrade what they did; it’s to encourage us. I don’t have to worry that my Christianity won’t pass the test, because there is no test. The same God I trust for my daily bread can be trusted to provide the power to face the unfaceable. Every.Single.Time.

That’s not to say that this isn’t a tragedy or that we shouldn’t grieve. I can only imagine the pain and anguish of those affected. I am praying for the friends and family of those who’ve lost loved ones and for the others healing from their wounds. My heart hurts for them, but I am also praying for us. The enemy would have us conclude that God was powerless to stop evil in Oregon. But we know something he’d rather we didn’t. When we trust our wise Father with everything…even the well-being of our physical lives, we overcome satan. In this world we will have trouble, but our Jesus is faithful. He has overcome and promises that we will as well.

And they overcame and conquered [the Adversary] 
because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony,
for they did not love their life and renounce their faith
even when faced with death. Rev. 12:11

Friday, October 2, 2015

Sukkot, 2015

I recently saw something on the internet that has captured my imagination. A video filmed in Jerusalem of a giant wedding dress flying like a flag over the Tower of David in the Old City. I did a little research and discovered that it is part of an art installation for a show at the Tower of David Museum which began the day after Yom Kippur. It is by artist Motti Mizrachi and entitled "Engagement."

The gal who shot the video was very excited, because to her and the many Christians in the city to celebrate Sukkot it spoke of the Body of Christ waiting for the arrival of Jesus our Bridegroom, ala Revelation 19. On the Plaza near the tower, she found a Messianic Jew (a Jewish person who has received Jesus as the promised Messiah) and asked her what it would mean to Jewish people in Israel. The lady talked about Jewish wedding traditions, and how weddings are like Sukkot in that you are commanded to rejoice and celebrate for seven days. She said it's like the city of Jerusalem is waiting for her bridegroom, the Messiah. Wow, what a wonderful picture!

All I could think is how the natural speaks of the spiritual and how God is using a secular Jewish artist to speak a prophetic word over the city of Jerusalem. All day my thoughts kept returning to the image of the historic Tower of David and that dress (eighteen feet tall!) floating from the roof like an icon of yearning for the coming millenial reality. The King is coming for His Bride and one mark of His nearness is His covenant people beginning to recognize and ask for Him.

When the show is over, the artist intends to loose the dress from its moorings atop the Tower, allowing it to float freely over the city. I pray that that image sparks a desire for God; a heart cry from the City of David for relationship with Him; a new, deeper yearning for the coming Messiah, their King. As I meditated on that image, my heart was stirred anew that this is what Sukkot is ultimately about. Thankfulness for all that God has provided--not just food and shelter, but the gift of salvation, a plan to restore the Earth, a way to be forever with Him. So the booth doubles as an annual wedding chuppah (canopy) to remind us that the end of days is not a Hollywood disaster movie, but the conclusion to a love story. God became a man in order to woo and win a people to Himself. He is returning to put our great enemy under His feet and take us to Himself. 

So as Sukkot winds to a close this weekend, consider your heart. This is the season for gratitude and rejoicing. But also the season to ask the Lord to refresh and renew hope and expectation deep within us for what God has promised yet to do. Our bridegroom is coming back. He is looking for those who are yearning for Him. Waiting for Him. Expecting Him. Like wise virgins, let us get oil for our lamps so that when the shout is heard, "Look! The Bridegroom is coming. Go out to meet him. (Matthew 25). We will arise, trim our lamps and go with our great King to the wedding feast.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!”
He who testifies and affirms these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

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