Apartheid American Style

anti-apartheid-demonstration-in-johannesburg-h“American preachers have a task more difficult, perhaps, than those faced by us under South Africa’s apartheid, or Christians under Communism. We had obvious evils to engage; you have to unwrap your culture from years of red, white and blue myth.

You have to expose, and confront, the great disconnect between the kindness, compassion and caring of most American people, and the ruthless way American power is experienced, directly and indirectly, by the poor of the earth.

You have to help good people see how they have let their institutions do their sinning for them. This is not easy among people who really believe that their country does nothing but good, but it is necessary, not only for their future, but for us all.”

While many white South Africans were kind, hospitable people under apartheid, they let their government commit racial sins and oppress, he said, advising: “Take care that your institutions are not sinning for you around the world in ways that would make you ashamed.”

Peter calls good-willed Americans and people of faith to be part of a groundswell calling for “being strong in a different way,” because “history shows no empire survives by throwing its military weight around.  Having U.S. bases in 200 countries will not save this empire.  God has a way of humbling empires.”

Peter Storey, South African Methodist Pastor who worked for 40 years to dismantle the injustices of apartheid.

Waiting Room Blues

innmon-1_000 Sitting in a waiting room on the 6th floor of MCV’s Ambulatory Care building, anticipating the moment when a too busy neurosurgeon would have time to see us, I had ample time to think and wonder what the future held for my 79 year old mother.

For two years she has been losing the use of her legs and no doctor, no matter how confident in appearance, has yet been able to unlock the mystery behind her condition. Nor has one ventured to describe what she can expect in the remaining years of her life.

Oddly, as I sat thinking how much I would like to know her future I was flipping through magazines that dated back to the year 2000.  Yes, the wait was so long that I began reading about Brittany and KFed who had just returned from their honeymoon!  They were aglow–enjoying all that we think will assure a bright future –thin bodies, overt sexuality, expensive cars, designer clothes, and of course, well defined abs.

I moved on and was reading an interview with Kirstie Alley who was weary of being the “Fat Actress” and was determined that the time was right to lose the weight. Her reasons were that it would jump start her career and give her a better chance of finding someone with whom to sleep.  I was pretty sure that she meant that euphemistically.

I was reading about the “true” love between Brad and Angelina.  This article was written right after he abandoned one wife to take up another and before he began preaching to us about how we should be more caring people.

What a weird sensation to sit there and know “the rest of the story” in these people’s lives.  How ironic– I knew their futures but really wanted to know Mom’s.  I also knew that while I was not focusing on gaining a bright future in the way that Brittany, Kirstie and Brad were, that we all had the same longing for things to turn out right.

IMG_1397[1] (Small) Still waiting on the doctor, looking out at the skyline of Richmond from the sixth floor, rescuing thoughts flooded my thinking. First, I recalled Hebrews 4:13,

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

Mom belongs to a God who sees what we cannot, she belongs to a God who has promised that

if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” 2 Corinthians 5:1

Mom belongs to a God who so captured my heart that when the doctor pronounced that she had a systemic problem rather than a surgical one, I was not disappointed.

In my mind I heard, Lissa, I came and defeated the greatest systemic problem your mother has.  This one will last for a few months or a few years, the victory I won will last forever. I can see your mother’s future and I promise it is very bright!”

Those words did not come from outdated magazine stories that with the vantage point of time mock the main characters’ bright hopes. 

Those words came to me from a precious book of revelation that is thousands of years old and never mocks the main characters.  It is a book that promises an unfading bright future as a gift from a loving, eternal, unchanging God.

Mom passed away March 11, 2014 and entered the eternal house of God.

I’ve Looked at Clouds that Way

There are clouds in human life, shadowing, refreshing, and sometimes draping it in blackness of night; but there is never a cloud without its bright light. “I do set my bow in the cloud!”
 clouds21
If we could see the clouds from the other side where they lie in billowy glory, bathed in the light they intercept, like heaped ranges of Alps, we should be amazed at their splendid magnificence.
We look at their under side; but who shall describe the bright light that bathes their summits and searches their valleys and is reflected from every pinnacle of their expanse? Is not every drop drinking in health-giving qualities, which it will carry to the earth?
O child of God! If you could see your sorrows and troubles from the other side; if instead of looking up at them from earth, you would look down on them from the heavenly places where you sit with Christ; if you knew how they are reflecting in prismatic beauty before the gaze of Heaven, the bright light of Christ’s face, you would be content that they should cast their deep shadows over the mountain slopes of existence. Only remember that clouds are always moving and passing before God’s cleansing wind.
Streams in the Desert, May 15

Holding On

If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.”  John 8:31

Christ is saying, ‘Many hear the gospel and stick with it because it’s useful to them.  They gain money, possessions, and honor from it.  Yes, dear friends, who wouldn’t want that?  That is why I teach that if you live by what I say, you are truly my disciples. There are only a few who hold tightly to the Word when there is a cross to carry.  Where can I find those who will stand firm?  Therefore, I say, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.’

rock-climbing As I read this verse and Martin Luther’s thoughts about what Christ is saying, the idea of “holding on” really captured my attention.  When I think of that phrase, images come to my mind of people clinging to tree trunks in violent storms, of climbers clinging to a rock face for dear life during a challenging climb, or a toddler who feels threatened embracing the leg of his parent.

“Hold on” assumes something precious is at stake and would be forfeited if intentional clinging was forfeited. When I read John 8:31 with those vivid images in my mind I understand why the winds of suffering blow so hard against us in this life.  I sense that our sufferings are coming as the merciful wind of the Spirit pressing us to cling to what is eternally precious.  Beyond that,  the winds that cause us to hold on are the same winds that reveal which followers are true and which are false.

Murray_clinging_to_life_by_a_thread People would gladly believe in Christ if it meant becoming rich and acquiring a kingdom.  But if it involves suffering, then their faith is finished.  So Christ knows many of them won’t keep on following His teaching.  Remaining true to His teaching is rare, especially when evil winds blow.  Many become Christians and hold to the gospel in the beginning.  Afterward they fall away just as the believers in this passage did.  It’s similar to the parable about the seed that fell on the rock.  When the heat of the sun beat down on it, it withered and dried up (Luke 8:6).  But those who stick with the gospel are true disciples of Christ.” ((Martin Luther, Faith Alone, Zondervan, 1998, May 14 Devotion))

Beyond Cameraman Prayers

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Matthew 21:22

cameraman So, I ask for relief from financial distress, safety in travel, smooth relationships, healing from every sort of malady that I hear about.

Aren’t they the best prayers?  Don’t those requests reveal my belief in the truth of this verse?

Yes and no.  I think my eye gets so fixated on what comes after the comma that I fail to weigh the significance of the words that come before.  “If you believe…”

The second part of the phrase really has no substance or benefit apart from the first.
It raises the question, what do I have to believe in order for the second phrase to stand in all its truth?  Psalm 145:13 answers that question.

The LORD is faithful to all his promises.”

“This, then, is the prayer of faith: to ask God to accomplish what He has promised in His Word.  That promise is the only ground for our confidence in asking.” ((Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone, Reformation Trust 2007, p. 146))

So, if I believe — that is, have unswerving confidence in the promises of God, how will that affect my prayer life?  Both Peter and Paul address this question:

“He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”  2 Peter 1:4

“Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”  2 Corinthians 7:1

These verses reveal that through God’s promises He reveals His goal of holiness.  The promises that I believe impact what I will pray and what I pray is intended to impact what I become.  With promises in mind, my prayers would be focused not on health, comfort, ease, convenience, prosperity and approval but for God to progress His promised plan of transformation within me!

“It’s as though we each look at life through a video camera and ask for changes in everything except the person filming.  The cameraman is never in view.  We will pray with parents for their straying teenager to straighten out; we rarely pray for the parents not to be fearful, bitter or controlling.  We will pray for a person to get a job; we rarely pray that he would grow in faith as he learns not to fret about money.  We pray for the conversion of someone’s loved ones; we rarely pray that the believer would grow more loving and honest in the way she treats the loved ones.”  ((David Powlison, Speaking the Truth in Love, New Growth Press 2005, p.118))

As a cameraman whose view finder is full of the disruption of joblessness, today I want to believe more and pray something bigger than, “Lord, please bring us a good job.” Today, with reverent trembling I want to pray, “Lord, you have promised to perfect holiness in me–that will mean purifying my heart from so many contaminating loves that reside there. 

Let me love your transforming work and the tools you use to accomplish it. I believe you are accomplishing your promised goal of helping me escape the corruption of this world, so I am bold to ask now, allow me to be a participant in the divine nature. 

That is a promise prayer too wonderful for me to comprehend.  I believe that you are working out 1 John 3:2 and so I say, your will be done Father.  In the name of Jesus.  AMEN

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure

The Gospel is Strong Wind!

"For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep doing…What a wretched man I am!   Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!…Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

Romans 7:19, 24-25, 8:1

mistress1 What a gift to a believer’s heart are these words from Romans 7-8!

From his own experience, Paul describes the struggle of having new creation wants and desires coexisting and battling within the same body that still houses the desires that he had before being indwelt by Christ. 

He turns not to the law to resolve the inner conflict–he turns to Christ and the glory of the gospel!

"The law can tell us what obedience looks like and can chart our course for it, but it cannot give what it commands, and this is as true for the Christians as it is for unbelievers. 

Continue reading “The Gospel is Strong Wind!”

Christ Colored Lens

two-eyes (Small)Recently, I studied the Book of Hebrews with a group of women in my church.  Sometimes, when you lead a study you forget to reflect and think personally about how God’s Word is changing you.

This morning as I reflected on the 13 chapters of Hebrews, I realized God has taught me to look at my circumstances, my culture, and my future through Christ colored lens.

Here are some of the glorious truths that are newly precious to my heart:

  • God speaks to us through His Son Jesus (1:2)
  • Jesus represents God exactly (1:3)

christJesus provides the solution for my sin problem (1:3)

  • Jesus is supreme over all that is created (1:2, 4; 2:8)
  • Jesus authored–or pioneered my salvation (2:10;5:8-9)
  • Ignoring Jesus is ignoring salvation (2:3, 10)
  • Jesus is making me holy and is not ashamed of me (2:11; 10:14)

Jesus’ death defeated the devil and freed me from the fear of death! (2:14-15)

Jesus’ incarnation made it possible for Him to become a merciful and faithful High Priest who can help when I am tempted and in need. (2:17; 4:14-16)

  • Jesus is my destination and the source of perfect rest. (4:2-7)
  • The Word of God is my guidebook to spiritual maturity.  By constant use it trains me to distinguish good from evil  (4:12; 5:14;6:1)
  • Jesus is my anchor in heaven–firm and secure (6:19)
  • Jesus is praying for me day after day–how can I fail? (7:25)
  • Jesus is my guarantee that God’s standard of perfection has been met. (7:18-22)
  • Because of Jesus, my sins are remembered no more–ever–ever–ever (8:12;9:15)
  • Jesus has written His law on my mind and heart so that I am more inclined to care about what He cares about. (8:10)
  • Jesus’ sacrifice is the basis of my service — even when my conscience wants to accuse me of unworthiness (9:14;10:22)
  • With Jesus, believing is seeing! (10:39-11:1)
  • Jesus (Small)Jesus’ indwelling Spirit gives me "eyes" to see and believe the reality and activity of the invisible God (11:1-3)
  •  
  • With eyes fixed on Jesus,  I can face the future with hope regardless of my circumstances.  (11:13, 12:2-11)
  • With eyes fixed on Jesus, I can endure hardship sure that it is productive rather than destructive! (12:7-11)
  • Because of Jesus, I have entered a kingdom that cannot be shaken as the Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Roman, German, Japanese, etc. have been. (12:28)
  • Because Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever– there is no possibility of being disappointed in or by Him (13:8)
  • Jesus is a great Shepherd–He equips me–His sheep with everything I need for doing His will. (13:20-21)
  • Jesus is able to strengthen my heart for the journey of faith–it does not come by my efforts but by the sweet gift of grace

Hallelujah!  It is all about you Jesus!