Aug 22, 2013

Broken & Complete

In reviewing some of the key elements surrounding the sacred and priestly task of leading worship for some of our young budding worship leaders on OM's Ship Logos Hope earlier this year, I was pondering the dire necessity for the Christian virtue of Brokenness.
 This has been especially brought home to me as our Egyptian brothers and sisters in Christ are being martyred.

Brokenness identifies us with Christ, Who is the true worship leader, and was Broken for us as the ultimate living sacrifice.

Brokenness identifies us with a crushed world.

Brokenness identifies us with those we are trying to "lead" into worship,

Brokenness is one of those common denominators that connects us to all that is relevant in worship - God says that He will only draw near to a humble and contrite heart.  I am also pretty convinced that you can't have true authenticity without it.

Brokenness does not fit easily into a "western-impacted" theology that has mixed physical and tangible success along with a pragmatic economic to produce a prosperity-influenced apologetic which basically equates financial gain with God's blessing.

But to deny Brokenness is to deny our fallen condition. To deny Brokenness is to deny what Christ went through to make the journey through the veil possible. To deny Brokenness is to be in some kind of denial about the state or condition of those we are trying to lead, and empathy notwithstanding, makes it much more difficult to engender trust. To deny brokenness is
to deny our dependance upon God.  

Utter Dependance is the truth about our standing in reality.
Independence is a lie, and it is the enemy of the church and of the Christian.
Interdependence is the work of the Holy Spirit amongst us, that empowers and holds the broken pieces of the Mosaic called the Body of Christ together, and makes us
complete in Christ.

Aug 16, 2013

A Christian Perspective on the current Violence in Egypt

I would normally not do this, but given the fact that people are dying as I write, I thought that for you who read my blog, it would be helpful to hear about what is going on, from followers of Christ who are in the middle of this, and to ask you to please pray (and organize prayer), as these Egyptians Christian Brothers do, at the end of this article.

Article by Dr. Terence Ascott, CEO and Founder, SAT-7 International - Special to ASSIST News Service


Many of us involved in Christian ministry in Egypt are appalled at the misunderstandings about the situation in Egypt being propagated by even normally balanced international media like the BBC, and the way it has, in general, portrayed the Muslim Brotherhood as the victims of injustice.


So, on behalf of myself, Ramez Atallah (General Secretary for The Bible Society of Egypt), Pastor Fayez Ishaq (part of the leadership team at Kasr El Dubarrah Evangelical Church), other ministry leaders in Egypt and the leadership of Middle East Concern, please allow me to paint a bigger picture of what has been going on the past year or so:


Yes, former President Morsi was elected "democratically" in June 2012, but only by the slimmest of majorities, and only 13 million people (out of a total population of 83 million) voted for Morsi at all. And yet he took this as a mandate to do as he wanted, with a winner-takes-all attitude. His new government was not inclusive and he quickly appointed former Muslim Brotherhood leaders (some with previous convictions for violence or incitement to violence) to serve as regional Governors or government Ministers. In November 2012, he illegally gave himself new sweeping powers to act without censure, and rushed through a new pro-Islamic constitution despite the protests and boycotts from liberals, moderate Muslims and Christians, and then he refused to call for new elections - as had previously been agreed to do after a new constitution had been adopted.


And, of course, the economy was very poorly managed by the new Ministers, whose only apparent qualification for office was the fact that they were Muslim Brotherhood loyalists. By the end of 2012 the country's infrastructure had begun to fall apart, electricity and fuel supplies became unreliable, prices for basic commodities soared and Egypt struggled to get much needed international financing.


By June 30, 2013, on the first anniversary of Morsi's election to office, the Egyptian people had had enough! Perhaps as many as 30 million people came out to demonstrate against Morsi continuing in office - this included many who had voted for Morsi a year before and, even if the figure of 30 million cannot be independently verified, it is clear that the number of people on the street was far more than the number of people who had ever voted for Morsi. But, unlike the President of any normal democracy, he refused to go, or even seek a renewed mandate through new elections - confirming to many that the Muslim Brotherhood were just using the new democracy in Egypt to establish a theocracy.


In a situation like this, the last line of defense for democracy is the army. They alone have the power to re-start the democratic process and, by (very) popular demand and with due notice, the army did step in and remove the former President - to the absolute delight and relief of MOST Egyptians!


In the past six weeks the Muslim Brotherhood has occupied a number of public spaces, to demonstrate for the reinstatement of the former President (currently being held by the army and facing charges related to abuse of power, including substantial material and intelligence support to Hamas).

Unlike the peaceful occupation of Tahrir Square by demonstrators in January 2011, and again at the end of June 2013, these Muslim Brotherhood occupations were dominated by calls for violence against the army, the police, the liberals and, specifically, the Coptic Christians in Egypt - all resulting in the violence witnessed on August 14th, when police stations, hospitals, private and public property were destroyed. Many Christian churches (at least 40 so far), homes and businesses were also attacked, as well as a monastery, three religious societies, three key bookshops belonging to the Bible Society in Egypt, three Christian schools and an orphanage.


The Coptic Orthodox Pope, HH Tawadrous II made a statement about the attacks on churches this week, saying that "this had been expected and, as Egyptians and Christians, we are considering our church buildings as a sacrifice to be made for our beloved Egypt". Other church leaders have made similar statements, stressing that church buildings don't make the Church but the Church is the Body of Christ, made of people who have their faith in Him, and that is getting stronger as it passes through these challenging times.


It is also important and encouraging to note that some Muslims went to protect churches and that, in return, many Christians then sent messages to their fellow Muslim citizens saying, "Buildings can be rebuilt again, but you are priceless, so stay safe, and don't worry about the churches". And the Egyptian government also announced today that the State would take the financial responsibility for the rebuilding of damaged churches.


The Muslim Brotherhood have been, and remain very effective in portraying themselves as the victims to the media, pointing to how Morsi had been "democratically" elected and that the army "coup" was a major setback to the country's democratic progress. They have known what buttons to push with the Western press and this seems to be the version that most of the World is hearing - but it is not a version of truth that resonates with the vast majority of Egyptians.


And, while the loss of life these past few days has been most regrettable it has not only been Muslim Brotherhood supporters that have died, and there has been scant reporting on the Muslim Brotherhood's attempts to destabilize Egypt, its calls for violence against the government and its supporters; and there has been a total lack of reporting concerning weapons that the Brotherhood had in the camps and used against the army as it sought to dismantle the sit-ins.


In closing, can I ask for your prayers for this important country - the largest in the Arab World, with the largest Christian Community in the Middle East.


Please pray that:

·         The current violence will end soon

·         The effective rule of law and order will be re-established for the benefit of all citizens

·         There will be effective protection of church and other property against attacks by extremists

·         Egypt will be governed for the benefit of all its citizens, with people of different persuasions able to live alongside one another peaceably

·         Egyptian Christians will have opportunity to play an increasingly prominent and effective role in addressing the needs of all Egyptians and helping to bring healing and reconciliation in the country


Aug 8, 2013

Growing Up

Lynchburg, Virginia

Teri and did something the other day we've never done before: we moved our daughter Sharayah and her new husband, Bence, up to Lynchburg, Virginia.  After 10 hours of driving, we decided to immediately start unloading their U-Haul Truck in the cool of the early morning hour of 1:00am, toting an assortment of furniture, going up the stairs countless times, discovering muscles we had forgotten were even there, spent the night exhausted in their new apartment, woke up, did some more moving, and then left!  We collapsed for three days down the road in Charlotte, North Carolina, making low moaning noises, and soaking in a hotel swimming pool.

Granted, three years ago we moved her to Liberty University about this time, and it was extremely emotional - facing the fact that our youngest child was now growing up and entering college, and that our little girl would be 8 hours away in a different state, and at a very large school.  What we may not have fully grasped at that time, is that we too were being asked to "grow up".

Then (August, 2010), seemed to us the beginning process of "Letting Go".  And now (August, 2013), another step in that journey - that our lives as parents will no longer be defined by old paradigms, but rather by new ones.  And isn't this the way it is supposed to be?  ... a man should leave his mother, and woman leave her home …

Many people struggle with this season of life - it even has a diagnosis:  The Empty Nest Syndrome.  And fair enough, you invest 18+ years in your children through blood, sweat, and tears, and then you have to stand back, let them cross the road on their own, and cheer them on.  

This road, from nurturer, to teacher, to coach, to mentor, to cheerleader (and then consultant, when they have kids and realize they don't have all the answers anymore!), is all part of a progression God has set in motion when He invented family - guaranteed - your role will change.  And this goes back to the age-old truth - that our lives should be so much more defined by who we are, and not by what we do.  Otherwise, we get lost in the backdraft.

It was a deeper blessing to Teri and I, that this time, we felt much more at peace leaving Sharayah in Lynchburg, knowing that she is there with a loving, capable husband who is going to look after her, along with the familiarity of having been there already.  And while there will still be challenges of a different kind, we know that ultimately The Lord will be taking good care of them as they put their trust in Him.  And we are also that much more aware that we too are growing up, into a fuller stature in Christ...

Aug 6, 2013

R & R

South Africa 7 - Copper Leaf Spa, Bloemfontein

OK, OK, those of you who know me well, know that when it comes to things like "Spa", I am not a frequenter of such places, nor one who is well versed on the world of things related to them!  I hate to admit it, but I don't know how to "relax" real well!

In defense of myself (NOT a good place to start, I know!), I love what I get to do - serve Christ in the capacity of the giftings He has poured into my life, which includes the experiences He has allowed, and the places He leads.  That I am radically addicted to the Kingdom of God is not in doubt!

What may be in doubt (!) is if I have a thorough understanding of the word 'Sabbath'.  Or a well developed understanding of the fuller biblical understanding of the word:  Rest.

Which is why God has put some very special people in my path from time to time.  One of those is my manager in South Africa, Helena.  We have been partnered together now for 20 years, and the ministry has taken us to almost every corner of South Africa, and into Namibia as well.  Tens of thousands of people have heard the Gospel, as well as the exhortation to repent, get involved in world mission, and forgive to get freedom.  It has literally been one of the highlights of my entire ministry life.  South Africans are very special people, and I cannot say enough about doing ministry there.

On this last tour to South Africa, amidst a very busy schedule, and coming off a 16 day tour in Hungary and Serbia, Helena had the idea, and I had the opportunity to be ministered to - in the form of a gift: to go to the Copper Leaf Spa in Bloemfontein.  It is run by Lynette, and even though it is a business, I can attest - it is a ministry as well.  The moment I walked in the place I was being blessed.  And the sensation of those hot rocks on my tired shoulder, arm, and back muscles was something I won't forget.
I left the place refreshed, and a slightly more renewed understanding of the Peace that passes understanding - that it is OK to be quiet, still, relax, and let someone else minister to you.  Thanks Lynette.  Thanks Helena.  And Thank you Jesus!