Jul. 7, 2016

Hear ye, hear ye!

I believe this is one of the most Spirit-inspired blogs I’ve written. There are times too much of me slips through my writing. This time, I believe this particular blog is more of Him and less of me. I am going all out with this blog. I realize it is long and hope you will choose to read it all even if it takes 3-4 days.

Just about everyone knows by now that I recently toured the Holy Land <smile>. Our tour guide was a Christian Palestinian who graduated from a Jewish university and who is raising his Palestinian children in Jerusalem.  The picture (left) shows an offline discussion that Nasser and I held during a break from our tour on the Mount of Olives. The scene reminds me of the verse Matthew 23:37 where Christ said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

Mine and Nasser’s conversation, with very few people looking on or over hearing, revolved around America’s perspective on world affairs – most especially in the Middle East. Nasser remarked that Americans have a tendency to hear one side of the story and decide they understand the entire issue and always have an answer for everything based on half-truths. (I am paraphrasing; not quoting exactly.)

America is still comparatively young. We seem to be moving into our teenage years as a country. With that comes rebellion, selfish disagreements, and the lines of communication move from listening to demanding to be heard. Are our well-meaning efforts redemptive or destructive? I don’t know. (I know…you are shocked that I am willing to admit I don’t know everything.)

We form cliques based on church beliefs, denominational practices, and political ideologies as we find freedom in surrounding ourselves with people who believe just like us. We prefer to sit pretty without being challenged to know more. In doing so, we are freed from the responsibility to close the national spiritual generational gap. We call our cliques “righteous” and I truly believe we somehow believe in our hearts that we are right. What’s even more frightening is that most of us believe our self-righteousness will be rewarded someday.

I realize many will read this blog and label me “sarcastic” or accuse me of being anti-church with an overly-critical spirit. Oh, contraire. These words spring from my own confession of needing God’s forgiveness and fresh revelation. I ask the Lord to help me be born again, and again, and again; never allowing me to sit in my ego and believe I already know everything there is to know about Him or others.

We hurt the gospel if we present it as a one-time event. I venture to say that we are so deadly incorrect that we are selling the gospel as a bill of goods and expecting everyone to see life exactly as we see it. We must accept Christ daily. Now, I am not saying to go jump in a baptistery every day. I just believe the churched world forgot that personal, spiritual growth and constant congregational improvement is vital to keeping God’s truth alive. Each and every day should teach me something and lead me into a deeper understanding of God’s grace. Spiritual growth should not stop until we are called home.

From what I observe, we (the church) really think we know it all. We see spiritual growth as nothing more than reading and memorizing scripture. We cry for justice when we, ourselves, live unjustly. We forget to show grace and mercy to anyone on our black list despite the fact that He showed us grace and mercy placing us on His White List.

Where is Christ in our condemnation of others? True spirituality is deeply rooted in the person of Jesus Christ. What did He say? How did He behave? Who did He focus on? Who did He ignore? How did He treat people? Who did He forgive?

I venture to say that you cannot truly be saved if you choose anger and hate towards the poor. Christ’s key audience was the poor, the undereducated, the hurting, the outcast, the oppressed, and the sick – both sick in body and sick in mind. Angels declared His arrival to poor and dirty shepherds. His first proclamation of being Messiah was to a sinful woman. Then, again, the first person He connected with upon rising from the dead was a woman.

Why? Because He did not just come to save the world, He came to teach us that change is necessary in order to redeem it.

We cannot cherish violence and slander if we claim Him as the Prince of Peace and the Great Physician to all. We cannot be okay with neglecting the foreigner or the poor if we believe He is the Great Shepherd and that every life matters to Him. We cannot remain angry and divisive with one another if we believe God is love and believe we are of God.

We cannot shout for the rights of the unborn if we refuse to feed all children in need. We simply cannot claim to be on the same wave length as Christ if we are not standing up for His message of forgiveness and reconciliation. We either stand for His gospel in its entirety or we live a lie.

By now you are deciding if my beliefs match your political preference and your candidate’s agenda. Therein lays the greatest lie in all of Christianity. We are bearers of Light. Light is not politically or financially motivated. He is Light. In Him there is no darkness. So if you are in Christ, why is it that you are willing to only share what is dark about the world instead of sharing the Light you claim to possess?

I love you. God does, too. It is time for us to hear Him say, “Oh, America, America, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”