Sunday, June 22, 2008

painful truth

"My dad's mean, but at least he didn't hit or choke my mom when he was with her like my mom's new boyfriend does." These words from the mouth of a 10 year-old neighborhood girl I walked home today. A beautiful, bright, chipper, African-American sweetheart. At such a young age her innocence is slowly stripped away by harsh realities. She has already experienced more darkness in the past decade of her life than I have in two.
My heart breaks. Not only because of her situation, but because her story is only one of many.
It overwhelms me. Partly because I never had to face that kind of hardship. How can I possibly respond to something so difficult for my mind to truly grasp? How can I even attempt to make a difference in these kids' lives?
Sometimes I feel hopeless. Then I feel guilty for feeling hopeless about the hopelessness I see. Perhaps the problem is that I'm trying too hard to relate. The truth is, the only common ground I may ever find with another person is our desperate need for Jesus Christ. I guess that is all that matters.
I have experienced the love of our Savior. That is a message that brings hope. It ministers by itself.

Use me where you see fit Lord, not where I see fit.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

a continuing struggle...

I am trying not to fear what the Lord is placing so heavily upon me. My heart is burdened for the Western church. I want to see change. Sure, there are some great steps being made, but overall I am dissatisfied. Some people argue that there is no perfect church. True, if they are referring to the church as an institution. Church as an institution brings disunity in the Body. It separates us by tradition, denomination, rules, and politics. It becomes a country club.
Church as a Body unites believers together with Christ as the head: brothers and sisters made perfect in Jesus' image. A Church made perfect by the blood of our Savior. A Body that lives in freedom, and longs to share it with those in bondage. A Church that moves and breathes. A Church that recognizes its universality.
The Western church must think outside of its walls. It must claim its identity in the Body. It must completely surrender control and place Christ at the head to direct and guide. Perhaps that is the problem of the church today: a lack of surrender.
Is this not an issue of obedience? Are we listening to the Spirit's whisper? Upon whom do we rely?
There are weighty questions we must address, but we often avoid them out of fear that our flaws will be exposed.
Once I began to ask these questions, God stirred in me a desperation for change in the Western church.
This desire intimidates me. Change is no small task. It is a process that I must devote my life to. I am aware of the path God has set before me, but am cautious to start walking.
Some days I want to abandon this passion. Some days I feel like giving up, and moving to a place like Kenya where the persecuted Church is thriving- a Church that recognizes their need for the Lord.
I tire of the complacency I feel here. I tire of a Church distracted by comfort and pleasures. I tire of a faith that is put on the back burner. Yet, because of these things I feel all the more sure of my call to the States, and I long for something different. Something greater.
Frustration can lead to more bitterness, or it can inspire a pro-active solution. I'm hoping for the latter.
Lord, I'm broken and ill-equipped. Give me strength. Give me vision.

Isaiah 58

Monday, June 16, 2008

the capital "C" Church

Last summer I went to Kenya. To say it was life-changing is an understatement. It wrecked me. It introduced me to a radical faith I'd never known before. The experience teaches me lessons still today.
I'm sure these blogs will have finger prints of my time in Kenya as I continue to write. Here is a journal entry I thought I would share that I wrote while debriefing in Nairobi - days before we flew back home to the States. It was during this time that God began to really put the Church on my heart, and this passion continues to intensify. I'm daily trying to discover what the Lord wants me to do with this renewed passion for the Body. I desperately want to surrender to His will. Why is that a daily struggle for me? Praise God for His patience and grace.

Kenya- Journal Entry: 7/31/07

I feel that the biggest problem with Christianity in the U.S. is that while people believe in God, they lack a dependency on God.
Most Christians I've met here in Kenya have no choice but to rely on the Lord. There are no fancy hospitals to go to when they're sick, no fancy house to call home, no idea when their next meal will be, and work is hard to come by.
They truly believe and trust that the Lord will provide...and He does. They have an unwavering faith, and in faith, God works.
Jesus tells us, "Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the Kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:23).
For those who have wealth, dependency easily focuses inward. Comfortable living is a dangerous thing. The Almighty becomes a teddy bear. He comforts, loves, forgives, and blesses. He is no more than a close friend.
The Lord is bigger than that.
He wants us to see Him as our Provider. He wants us to fear Him, and Him only.
"Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf" (Proverbs 11:28). Those who do have riches should use them for God's glory rather than their own. The church in Acts understood this concept. "There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need" (Acts 4:34-35). Those who had plenty provided for those who had none. If a family was without food, the entire community would fast until they were fed.
The book of Acts is not a story of the past as much as it is instructions for the present. We are called to live in community.
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (James 1:27). We are called to care. We are called to love. If Jesus really meant what he said when he commanded us to "love our neighbor as ourself", then no one should be living on the streets. No one should fall asleep at night with an empty stomach, or a shivering body.
Church, it is time to be the Church. We are not an institution. We are a people. A Body of believers. Why do we hesitate? The time is now. For a culture that is so impatient, why do we wait?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

reality check

I ponder the dual nature of our beings. Our flesh cries out for things of this world, while our soul cries out for things greater than the pleasures of this earth. Our heart pants for the Lord, but our body keeps us grounded. Our selfish desires battle God's will for our life. Our flesh makes its home here, while our soul longs to be home with the Father. We are torn between two realities, one more truer than the other. Yet, the one that is truer can be harder to see as it forces us to look beyond ourselves and the present reality we live in.
Why do we hold so tightly to things that are fleeting, rather than things that are eternal? Why do we fear the unknown when we live in the unknown? God is the truest reality there is. It is Him only that we should trust. Trusting in this unstable and changing world will only lead to more confusion. It will leave us empty and hopeless. We must look beyond the answers of the flesh, and see with Kingdom eyes.
As the great C.S. Lewis once said, "If i find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that i was made for another world."

Home is calling us.

Hebrews 11:13

Thursday, June 12, 2008

an imperative privilege

I have grown up as a Christian. Pause. I have not actually figured out if I like to use that word. There are far too many connotations behind it. Good and bad. That blog will come later. Perhaps it is best for me to say I have grown up with a faith in Jesus Christ. Of course it has changed dramatically over the years, but nonetheless, it has been with me since I can remember.
For years I have reflected at how blessed I am to have been raised in the faith while others struggle to find it, and some never do.
It was not until I grew older that I recognized the great responsibility this places on me. I was not given this faith to keep to myself. The one with the lights shines it for those in darkness. I was given a heart that beats for Christ and a mouth to confess that He is Lord. This is not news you keep quiet.
My duty is to proclaim. Peter and John understood this: "For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20). They did not shove it down people's throats. They did not force their faith on anyone. They simply spoke of their experience because it was great. Their witness to God's goodness was enough. It was powerful.
They knew the call that Christ had placed on their hearts. They understood the urgency to awaken sleeping souls. They devoted themselves to spreading of the Gospel. The were bound to Christ Jesus- a bondage that gave freedom.

Proverbs 3:27-28
Do not withhold good from those who deserve it,
when it is in your power to act.
Do not say to your neighbor, "Come back later; I'll give it tomorrow"-
when you now have it with you.

II Timothy 3:14-15
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
II Timothy 4:1-5
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

...well. I'm convicted.

love all. serve all.