name='verify-v1'/> Big God - little d: January 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

They Said,"Yes."

Another moment from youth camp:

It is Saturday evening. A group of adults gather in the middle of the empty Tabernacle. Without the rows of chairs, which are now stacked against the walls, it is a cavernous space.

Josh, the youth director, guides the adults in a prayer inviting God to come and fill the room with His presence. Soon the air echoes with the voices of men and women calling on God to come and change the lives of the youth who will soon enter this place.

At the same time, from behind a curtain near the stage, the worship team gathers. Pastor Ryan leads the group in a prayer for God to move in a mighty way. His voice is joined by the other members of the group as they simultaneously raise their voices in prayer.

From both sides of the curtain voices mingle in a heartfelt cry for God to reign down on us. There is an air of expectation. We know God will show up and we are ready.

Young people begin to enter the room and are hugged by the adults who stand waiting. The hugs break down invisible defenses. The youth talk and laugh as they wait for the rest of the students to take their seats. They are a relaxed and happy bunch.

Most of the worship band has taken their place on stage. Surrendered to the Father's will; they watch, they pray, and they wait. Mark, the worship leader is still back stage behind the curtain.

Mark is stretched out on the floor, deep in prayer. The very air around him vibrates as he communes with the Holy Spirit. I pray for his strength and obedience knowing he is being prepared for the word he will speak tonight.

Finally, Mark takes the stage and straps on his guitar. He begins singing the opening lines to a worship song. Even though I am behind the curtain, I can sense that the youth are unfocused and not ready to worship. The air is thick with the presence of the Holy Spirit and yet they have not recognized His presence.

I am grieved. I am frustrated. I am impatient. A part of me wants to step up on the stage, grab the microphone and demand that they be still. In my mind, I cry out to each of them,

"Do you not know what is coming? Indeed, Who is already come?"

In an instant, I am filled with remorse. I seek the hard concrete and lie down, face first in repentance.

I am sorry, Father. Forgive me for my judgmental thoughts. Remove them now for I am of no use to You in this state of mind.

I will trust Your timing, Lord. And I do trust Your plan for the lives of each person in this room. I am here in agreement with You. Do what must be done in me, Lord. Do what You must in each of us, Lord. We need You. Call us to Yourself.

I stay on the floor. I can't get up. My role for this evening is submissive prayer. Numb from the cold concrete, eyes closed and with no sense of time...the rest of the evening's events run together.

Mark stops singing and begins talking. Restless teenagers settle down. Mark shares a story of how God recently made Himself evident through his young daughter, Lauren. The story is simple yet powerful. It brushes against that hungry place inside each of us that longs for the loving touch of Abba, Father.

More words from Mark give way to worship with song. Music gives way to Pastor Ryan's voice. God's Word is opened. Scripture is proclaimed.

Ryan shares the story of a pivotal moment in his life. He paints a vivid picture with words. When he is done, the pleading eyes and the determined voice of a little orphan boy from Africa sear my soul.

"Papa, allez." Father, let's go.

I know that little boy. I am that little boy. Ryan has given words to the inexpressible longing that is always with me...a child who longs for the Father...who knows that a life apart from Him is no life at all. I find myself weeping and praying,

Yes, Papa. Allez. Let's go. Take me with You.

I sense God acknowledging my tear stained face and I am comforted by His presence. But even as He wipes my tears away, He multiplies them. I understand. I am no longer crying for myself but for the very ones I condemned just a short time earlier.

Papa, allez. Take us with you.

At some point in all of this, invitations are issued:

"If you would take Jesus as your Lord and Savior..."

"If you have already accepted Jesus Christ and are ready to follow live a life that matters..."

Hearts are opened and searched. Egos are poured out and emptiness revealed. The Spirit is invited to fill in the void.

In an overwhelming response, they say, "yes." Youth and adults, alike, say, "yes," to the Father, "yes," to the Son, and, "yes," to the Holy Spirit.

"Yes," to a life that matters.

"Yes,"to a life of sacrifice and meaning.

"Yes"to becoming a part of the Movement of God.

And because of their response, the ground shifts in the room.

I may not have seen a thing but stretched out on the floor, behind the curtain, I feel the earth move. I hold on tight as the entire room tilts with the redistributed weight of youth and adults who move closer to the cross.

They said, "Yes."

And we will never be the same.

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." -- Matthew 16:24-25

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sword of the Spirit

(Photo taken by Alessio Miceli )

Another moment from last weekend's youth camp.

The building designated for worship is located at the far end of camp. Rows of beat-up plastic chairs line the concrete floor. Rough wood paneled walls are painted white. Save for the large wooden cross that stands to one side of the stage, there is nothing in this room to identify it as God's house.

Adult volunteers begin to arrive ready to serve. Many are greeted with a question,

"Do you have a favorite Scripture?"

"Yes, why?"

"Would you write it down on this index card so it can be placed on one of the walls?"

A Bible is opened. The pages of God's Holy Word are stirred. Men and women bow their heads in thoughtful concentration. Busyness is stilled as spirit reaches out to Spirit.

The smell of magic markers fills the air as letters take shape on paper. Letters give way to words and words to full sentences.

One by one the completed cards are taped to the walls, window sills and doorways.

God's Word copied out by hand.

The Father is pleased.

More blank cards are requested. How do you limit your favorite Scripture to just one? The movement of the Spirit is palpable as God's promises take their rightful place around the perimeter.

Walking to the center of the room, I slowly turn in a circle while surveying the walls. Every five to ten feet, a card testifies to His goodness, His plan, His love, and His victory. We are surrounded, enveloped, hemmed in by the very Word of God.

An ordinary room. Ordinary walls. Ordinary 4x6 notecards. Ordinary, no longer.

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power." -- Ephesians 6:10
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." --Ephesians 6:17

Friday, January 22, 2010

Broken For You

"And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.'" -- Luke 22:19

I had the privilege of serving at a church youth camp this past weekend. Over 350 jr. and sr. high students were in attendance. The weekend was filled with the kind of moments that just beg to be shared with others.

Sunday night was a Communion Service. We gathered in the Tabernacle. A sea of youth sat on the concrete floor while most of the adults (100+) opted for chairs located along the sides and back of the room.

Josh, the Youth Director, began the service by talking about how each of our faith journeys has been paved by the sacrifice and faithfulness of the men and women who have gone before us. We stand on the shoulders of spiritual giants...not one of us stands alone.

He spoke of the 60 years of ministry of Pastor Greg Robertson and his wife Donna...of the spiritual legacy they have established in the name of Jesus Christ. Pastor Greg - tall, white haired, wise and faithful, with a voice so deep it makes me think of the prophets of old. Donna - lovely, Donna, always smiling with a joy that radiates from within.

Josh presented Pastor Greg with a plaque from the youth ministry and to Donna he gave a lovely bouquet of flowers. We prayed a blessing over this holy man and holy woman. It felt good and right to do so. Pastor Greg spoke of his love for us, "You are my family." We felt loved and we loved them, in return.

Then Pastor Greg conducted the Communion Celebration. And I say celebration because that is exactly what it was. Pastor Greg held the microphone as he spoke the words over the bread and juice. When he was finished speaking, he set the microphone down and slowly picked up the loaf of bread. You could have heard a pin drop as he raised the bread slowly, reverently up to the heavens.

We waited as he prepared to break the bread as we have seen done so many times before. Only this time was different. Pastor Greg grasped the ends of the loaf and instead of gently splitting it apart, he tore the bread in a way that sent crumbs flying every which way.

He literally ripped it in half.

With strength.

With violence.

With finality.

I involuntarily sucked in my breath at the image of Jesus' body being broken for me.

And then the oddest thing happened...

the youth began to clap and cheer...spontaneous, joyful if they couldn't help themselves.

Thank you, Jesus, for your body which was broken for us!

The room returned to silence as Pastor Greg set down the bread. All eyes watched in anticipation as he picked up the cup filled with juice. Ever so slowly he raised it in thanksgiving. Once again, the room broke out in clapping and cheers.

Thank you, Jesus, for your blood which was poured out for us!

That night, Pastor Greg led us in a Communion celebration that I will not forget. Never before have I seen youth celebrate communion with such joy and thanksgiving. Never before has the sacrifice of Jesus Christ been so clear to me. My heart is full of gratitude.

Thank You, Abba, for the spiritual giants who have gone before us on this journey of faith. Thank You for their selflessness, their faithfulness, and their obedience that has helped pave the way for me to follow You. And, thank you, Jesus, for your body broken for me that my sins are forgiven. I am eternally grateful. May I never forget the joy of this special day. In your name I pray, Amen.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Shield of Faith

"In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." -- Ephesians 6:16

Last night my phone rang. Caller ID let me know that it was a friend. I answered my phone in anticipation but was stopped in my tracks by the exhaustion in her voice.

"Do you have a minute? I have had a really hard day and need to talk to someone."

I listened as she briefly recounted the difficulty of the day's events. The Lord had placed her in a position to speak to many fearful people in a short period of time. In conversation after conversation, she was called to remind others to take their eyes off of overwhelming circumstances and to focus on God's goodness and sovereignty.

As she spoke to me I envisioned my friend on the battlefield, in full battle gear, holding up her shield of faith. One by one she shielded herself and those she spoke to from all the flaming arrows of the evil one. She stood firm and each fiery dart was extinguished as it landed. But there was no time to remove any of the arrows from her shield. They were coming too fast and furious.

By the end of the day, the added weight of the arrows had taken their toll. Her knees were buckling and her arm was unable to support the now heavy shield. That is when she called me.

I prayed for my friend using words supplied by the Holy Spirit. I praised our God; who gives and takes away. I lifted high the name of the Lord who has authority over all things. I bound the work of the enemy and loosed the blessings of God - all in the name of Jesus Christ.

I prayed words of promise to stand over my friend with my shield of faith as she rested on the battlefield. I agreed to cover her until she could remove the accumulated arrows and, once again, pick up her shield for herself.

There was power released in that prayer. It was tangible on both sides of the phone. It was evident in the immediate relief in my friend's voice. Almost 24 hours later, I am still amazed at the way God moved in that moment.

I confess that this thing called prayer remains a mystery to me. I do not ever expect to understand how it works. I only know that it does. Praise God that this is so!

You are so good. Thank you for the armor of God: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with readiness from the gospel of peace, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit and the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:14-17). Lord, I lift up my brothers and sisters in faith who are weary from fighting the good fight. Strengthen them, Lord. And show me when I am to offer my own shield of faith so they may have time to catch their breath, remove old arrows, and stand firm, once again. In the mighty name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.