Sep 23, 2011
With all the coverage of the events commemorating the terrible happenings on 9/11 something became painfully obvious to me.
Before I share what it was I will admit to being one of "them there foreigners" and so my view is from the perspective of one who has only lived here 9 years but who has always loved the USA. I guess I am a little unique - many Americans claim Irish roots while I am an Irish man who has American roots - my mother's parents met and married in New York and all her siblings were born here.
What became evident to me (I would believe many others also) is the stark contrast between the US in the days after 9/11 in 2001 and now 10 years later.
10 years ago we had a Christian statesman Billy Graham give a message outlining our need, as a nation, of God. He said, "we desperately need spiritual renewal....my prayer is that we will feel the loving arms of God wrapped around us." We had scripture reading and prayer in the name of Jesus. Our president said that these events "lead us to pray....prayers that yield our will to a will greater than ours.....may He always guide our country." Today the same event was held excluding evangelicals and certainly was a far cry from the messages we heard 10 years ago. It was more of a muddle of syncretism and political correctness.
10 years ago the solution in 2001 was to turn to God and today it seems to be "if we can come together." Difficult for God to wrap His arms around a people who distance themselves from Him. In regards to the New York service Mayor Bloomberg stated, "what religion would we chose anyway?" A strange question for a leader in country which states in their pledge, "under God," a God who the founding fathers had no doubt as to His identity.
10 years ago this country was united in an unprecedented way - Americans stood shoulder to shoulder hand in hand. I remember visiting 6 months afterwards and still every house, every yard had at least one flag flying. Today this country is as divided as it has been in decades.
10 years ago people flocked to churches with a new understanding of their deep need of the Judeo Christian God and a desire to feel his comforting touch. Church attendance immediately increased by 25% that Sunday. The following week, half of American adults attended a church somewhere. Today many churches are far below pre-9/11 numbers. Surveys show us that there seems to be more acceptance of other ways and sources of peace and God has been downgraded to one among many.
10 years ago our president called out on our behalf to Almighty God and challenged us to do the same. Today our president deems national prayer unconstitutional.
We have come a long way......in the wrong direction.
God gives us a simple solution.
If we would humble ourselves, pray, and turn from our wicked ways He would heal our land. Could it be that the pain that we are feeling as a nation today is somehow linked to our unwillingness to do these three things. 9/11/2001 humbled us and caused us to pray like never before. I fear that we we have not simply become passive in this regard but have taken clear steps to move in the opposite direction of doing these things.
May God have mercy on us and turn the hearts of this nation once again to Him.
May we personally learn the lesson of how easy it is for us as individuals to also slip and forget some of the foundational principles of our faith.
Sep 16, 2011
Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God's Mighty Deeds of Salvation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishing, 1992), 102-103.
One of the great things about doing the Master's Course on Worship Studies at IWS in Jacksonville, Florida, was that it really helped me to see things from a different perspective. For example, looking at the "Four-Fold" pattern of worship that seems to have permeated the life of congregations from very early on, until even now in our more liturgical expressions. Entering in to God's presence, or even being reminded of Jesus entry into this world, however you look at it, we "enter" intentionally into meetings, seasons, and experiences that are designed to make us more keenly aware of God's presence. The same goes for the ministry of the Word, The Table, and of course, the Dismissal.
But what got my attention about the above quote, were two things that are usually not intentionally done or communicated well in our congregational gatherings beyond a closing prayer:
1) The Story - of service in the world - being sent into that world
2) Why does this incredibly important aspect of worship need to be brief?
The emphasis on service (Romans 12:1&2) is so important to how we live - daily - in an extremely complex world. Making direct application, and moving from propositional truth to incarnation truth is so imperative in today's postmodern world, not only for relevance sake, but also for our own - we really do need to keep it real.
And an exhortation to really consider how we can, as is said in Hebrews 10, "Stimulate one-anther to love and good works" is so necessary in an environment today that is so fed up with talk, and really wants to see reality in people's actions. How might our congregations meetings look if we took one Sunday a month and emphasized this all too often passed over critical element in the life of a congregation's worship?
Sep 4, 2011
IF this is true, what is to be said of the Incarnation,
not to mention nails, thorns, and blood?
(artwork from Bruce Herman)
Aug 30, 2011
What word do we have in the English language that comes close to expressing this idea: "brokenness is the beauty"? The Paradoxical collision of sacrificial selfless love with the nefarious nature of crucifixion unleashes a tidal wave of impact: the defeat of the powers of sin and death, and the provision of the saving grace made available for mankind - all met at the cross of Jesus Christ. No wonder this hideously beautiful moment stands as the center-point of human history. Perfect love, total wrath, graceful beauty, complete brokenness, malicious cruelty and compassionate kindness all occupied the same space in one climactical moment. Such was the truth that God gave us for Baja, Hungary July 10-17, 2011. The Hungarian word for beautiful miracle: Csodalotos.
A visual arts team (Artslink - led on this trip by Pat Butler, who actually came up with the theme word that became the focal point of our outreach), a Dance team (Dancelink), a contemporary band (Bill Drake Band), and a Church team from Peachtree City, GA, all converged on this beautiful Hungarian city just a few miles from the Serbian border. The results were eternal.
Arts Camp, English language learning, a city square concert, regular team devotions, nightly praise and worship, all great opportunities for God to work on campers and Short Term missionaries alike. We worked together, played together, worshipped together, struggled together, and triumphed together.
The Tipping Point came on a Wednesday evening when the leader of the Dancelink Team, Cheryl Vigereaux, spontaneously began to dance to the song "How Great Is Our God" in the little cellar/converted into a chapel of the Language School where we were based in Baja (boy-a), Hungary. Sharing in devotions on Thursday morning, one of the team broke down as she tried to convey a vision she had seen during that dance - the bricks in the cellar exploded outward in an array of blinding light, and all of a sudden Cheryl, who hadn't missed a step, was dancing before the King of Kings, who was on His throne. Our team-mate expressed that our Lord was pleased with this worship, and was pleased to see us glorify Him with our talents and gifts. This set the team up for an expectancy for Thursday evening, and God did not disappoint. After a full day of drawing, sculpting, dancing, and harmonizing, the Hungarian campers were ambushed by the love of God. Hungarian Translator Bence exhorted the campers to come up and share what they were experiencing. Camper after camper related how loved they felt here, and in that love, they were experiencing God. Bence related the love of Christ, which compels us to share Him, His truth, and His love. A number of Hungarians were in tears, and a number gave their hearts to Christ. It was an awesome evening, But nothing prepared us for the explosive response we were to experience the following evening outdoors in Baja City Center.
The high-water mark of the Camp/Outreach was Friday night in a stage in the city center square. Hundreds of Hungarians were drawn to the vibrant sound of our Bands, the colorful power of our Dancers, and the awesome spectacle of our visual artist's graffiti wall, painted on a huge canvas during the last song of the Bill Drake Band concert. Bill, who had been leading from behind his keyboard, came to the very front of the stage, and pointing to the graffiti wall, asked the crowd who would like to declare that they would like Jesus to do in their hearts and lives what was so colorfully and skillfully displayed on the canvas: Csodalotos. Bill exhorted the audience to indicate a decision to follow after Jesus Christ by coming up on the Stage, wetting their hand with paint, and putting their hand-print on the canvas around the word. Many came forward, and the Artslink team had the joy of helping all those who were making decisions to come forward and make their mark for Christ. Around 30 came to Christ that evening.
Praise God for what He did there in Baja, a miracle of New Life in Christ for many young Artistic Hungarians who had the experience of the Ultimate Artist calligraphy His truth on their hearts. Csodalotos.
May 2, 2011
Apr 18, 2011
Mar 5, 2011
N.Africa: "A young man was very dedicated to Islam. His parents were very proud of him. However this young man became very sick psychologically. It happened very suddenly. His desperate parents looked everywhere for help to heal him, even trying witchcraft. Nothing worked. One night the father dreamed that his son was in a pit full of snakes, all biting him. In the dream he tried to pull his son out of the pit. All in vain. Suddenly, a man appeared, of tremendous beauty and glory wearing a white robe. The man reached down into the pit and took his son by the hand to lift him out. But the son was holding on to something in his other hand. The shining man told him to release it. It was a copy of the Qu'ran. As soon as he released it, he was lifted out of the pit and the snake bites disappeared. The father was so happy to see his son rescued and healed. He woke up, fascinated by the dream and began to search for its meaning. Some who follow Jesus heard about it and visited him, telling him who the man in white was. On hearing this, the father gave his life to Christ. They then prayed for the son, and he was healed. The entire family now has begun to walk the path!"
Feb 6, 2011
-- Richard Rohr