March 20, 2016

Hosanna!

It is a blessed Sunday here in sunny and warm Phoenix. It is Palm Sunday, the day when we commemorate Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. For Christians, this is the Sunday when we begin to prepare our hearts and minds for what will be the biggest religious celebration of our tradition, Resurrection Sunday (Easter)!

Easter is one of my favorite times of the year. Not only do I have fond remembrances of our Easter celebrations as a family and as a church, but also because I love this section of the Bible where we read about the people's response to Jesus as He returns to Jerusalem on His way to the cross. I am always amazed at how responsive the people were when He was serving them, caring for them, healing them from diseases, yet when the time came for Him to be betrayed and tried before Pilate, how quickly the crowds turned on Him to go along with the minority rule. This story always reminds me of what seems to happen when we place someone in a position where they are viewed as serving our needs rather than when we treat them as someone worthy and valued in their own right. Let me explain...

The Vanity of Idols

I am not sure why the Lord put this particular Psalm on my heart this morning, but He did. I didn't sleep well last night. In fact, I woke up twice during the night. Each time, I struggled to get myself back to sleep. The second time, near 6 a.m. left me feeling unwell, so I reached for my iPhone and did a little bit of reading (hoping that would help). The Lord pressed in on me, and before I knew it, I was reading my YouVersion Bible app. Psalm 135 verses 15-18 AMP say this:

The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
The work of men’s hands.
They have mouths, but they do not speak;
They have eyes, but they do not see;
They have ears, but they do not hear,
Nor is there any breath in their mouths.
Those who make idols are like them [absolutely worthless—spiritually blind, deaf, and powerless];
So is everyone who trusts in and relies on them.


I read the entire psalm, but when I got to these verses, I couldn't help but think about all that is taking place in our current political scene. I mean, just yesterday we had protestors, violence, and even law breaking in order to keep Donald Trump from speaking at his planned rally in Phoenix and Tucson. I am not a Trump supporter, but still I am shocked to see how badly people behave at these planned events. In my view, if you don't like the man, fine. But to stop others from attending and listening to him is very scary indeed. Yesterday's events made me think of where we are in this world, and made me consider the nature of the way people are behaving. They are no longer thinking rationally, but instead, they are thinking like animals, like creatures without any sense of moral right and wrong. I think the Apostle Paul said it best when he wrote in Romans 1:32 NLT:

They know God's justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.

Moreover, we read in Judges and in Proverbs that this type of behavior, whereby each person was living according to their own rules rather than abiding in and obeying the Law of the Lord, existed in Old Testament times.

Judges 21:25 - In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.

Proverbs 21:2 - People may be right in their own eyes, but the LORD examines their heart.


We are living in the end times for sure. We are seeing people behave without any thought to what is right and proper, and doing what they think is best in their own eyes. It is scary to think that mob rule or mass oppression are on the horizon, but the Bible does speak about these things. Even when Jesus' entered into the city, there was the potential for mob rule. In the end, we read about his trial and his execution at the hands of the masses. Nothing that has happened previously to our Lord is far from our very own gates and doorways. We must remain steady, be alert, and remember that the time is coming, His return is very near. Do not shy away now. Do not be lead astray by what appears to be happening all around you daily. Selah!


Today, I am thinking about our world, and about how difficult it will be to live in it as we move forward in time. I had hoped to be spared living through the build up to fascism, but this is what I see. Fascism is on the rise once again, and while it is slightly different in color to what happened in the early part of the 20th century (in Germany and Italy), it still is the same goat. According to Merriam-Webster, Fascism is defined as "a way of organizing a society in which a government ruled by a dictator controls the lives of the people and in which people are not allowed to disagree with the government." The full definition includes this characteristic, which is the one thing that I see happening most recently. Fascism includes the "forcible suppression of opposition" -- whether in views, speech or conduct. We must remember our history, and we must remember what lead up to the Fascist rulers in Europe. The same thing is happening in America, and because the people do not know their history nor do they care about anything but their own welfare, they are easily being led astray to think that forced oppression by all who do not follow the majority or minority rule is acceptable as a means of justice. These are the same folks who decry others as intolerant of their view, yet seek to suppress anyone who speaks out against them.

It is a scary thought, indeed, to know that this is the planned progress of our world. The setting of the stage has begun, and soon we will see the anti-Christ take his place on the world scene. We may be unwittingly voting for that person now or we may simply be preparing the way for his predecessor. People, Christian people, in particular, must be aware of what is happening all around them and they must act in accordance with God's word and His will. Selah!

Sigh! I am not sure why I am on this rant today, of all days, but I am. It is 9:06 a.m., and I have some time before I need to head over to church. My heart is all aflame thinking about what is happening in my own local community, and my mind is racing back and forth just thinking about what might be. How can I maneuver through all this turmoil? How can I keep my mind focused, my head in gear, and do the work the Lord has called me to do?

As I consider my life today, one thing comes to mind: I am called specifically for this purpose. The Lord has chosen for me to study communication in order to help the Church learn to communicate faith more effectively. I assumed that I was to teach the Church, through teaching tapes or some other avenue, how to engage in more meaningful conversation (interpersonal, intergroup, etc.). Today, however, I am sensing that I am called to teaching them how to engage in spiritual conversation that will be used for the purpose of evangelizing, apologizing, and taking ground against the enemy combatants rising up against God's Church.

What Does This Mean?

I think what this means for me, in particular, is that God intends for me to teach His people how to fight well with words. Yes, I think this is what it means -- though not in the sense that it may sound -- fighting antagonistically against others who do not share the same view. No, I think He intends for me to help His people regain their rationality, and He intends for me to show them how to use logic, reason, and strong Biblical evidence to stand their ground.

I have spent the past three years teaching my students how to write argument, how to persuasively argue using evidence to support their opinions and views. I believe I am to take this experience, this practice, and now turn it out toward His people so that they can learn how to publicly defend their position and view point as Christians. Keep in mind that I don't believe I am to teach them how to engage with others in direct confrontation. No, this is not it at all. There are some who are called to do this type of work, to engage directly through confrontation. My ministry is going to help people learn how to stand their ground without engaging directly. Thus, I will show them how to do this through indirect communication, how to use their words to nullify the argument of the enemy.

The Lord has a great plan for my life, and I am sensing now that this is what He intends for me to do. I am not sure how I will do it, but I am yielded and submitted to doing it. He knows what He needs from me, and I have relinquished all so that I can do whatever He is calling -- ASKING -- me to do. I am willing to go to unknown places, even if that scares me, to do this work. I am willing to go alone, should He call me to go on my own. I am willing to stand in the gap, to do this work, day in and day out, as He leads and guides me. I know He can do it through me because He has already done fabulous work, intense, and amazing work through me. He is able. Nothing is impossible for God. I am relaxed, I am responsive, and I am ready. Let's do this thing, Lord. Let's get going!

I am sitting here thinking now about all the "things" that need to be done for me to be prepared in this way. I have completed my PhD, so my training, study, and preparation in communication is finished. I still don't know as much as I would like, but the basics of communication are set and fixed. I have practiced argumentation for the past three years, so I feel confident in this aspect. I think what is needed is some classical training in the art of rhetoric. Yes, I believe I need to study the art of rhetoric in order to be ready, really ready to teach people how to persuade others with facts and not with opinions. I am ready to take a stand, to be strong, and to teach others how to be God's people in this terrifying and diminishing age. May it be so, Lord, may it be so!

Moving On and Making Plans

Last night, I had a good conversation with my friend who lives in the South. He is such a good companion to me, and so much of our interests are intertwined. He loves apologetics too, but he has a different appreciation for it than I do. I think his interest compliments my interest, and as such, we enjoy discussing and 'conversating' (as he says) with one another. He mentioned something to me last night that has stuck with me, and I think it is part and parcel to the reason why he feels stuck (in some ways) and I feel stuck (in some ways) when it comes to our ministry calling. He said that it is very difficult to make plans when you don't know what the Lord intends to do in your life (my paraphrase).  I thought about his words a lot last night, and I agree with him. It is very hard to know where to go when you are unsure of what the Lord intends to do in your life. For example, I have been wanting to relocate somewhere -- to the southeast -- and yet, the Lord has not chosen to move me there. I have in my heart desires that I believe are of His will, yet, He is not making progress toward that end. What does this mean? I also have strong desires toward Ohio, yes, Midwestern Ohio. Why? Where has that come from and why do I feel a pull toward this state in particular?

My life is transitory. I am stuck where I am for a number of reasons, namely lack of a full-time job, and the situation here at home. I am also stuck here until my son graduates from ACU (Lord willing), which is a no-brainer, really. I mean, why incur outside costs so that he can finish his last year in college, right? I am not so sure. I feel the Lord may choose to move me before my son graduates and that would mean figuring out some plan for his living arrangements during his last year in school. He told me the other day how he would be "OK" with living in an apartment for a time. Ok, how will that work out? How will I pay for him to live in an apartment in Phoenix?

My heart wants what it wants, yet I hear the Lord say to me, "Carol, you cannot have what you want" and that is what I believe is the crux of all my suffering of late. I want something that the Lord has in essence denied. He has said "no" to me. It is possible that it is "not yet or not now," but I feel strongly that He has simply said "no." My heart wants this thing, and yet, He is adamant that I must do what He wants, I must go where He wants me to go. I cannot choose my own way -- not now -- not when I am ready to begin His work. I cannot do His work in any other place. I cannot do His work in any other way. I must do His work in His way, with His provision, and for His Name and Praise. Anything less than His best will be an imperfect substitution and will not be accepted. At this point in my life, I realize that I must concede my wants to His wants and desires. I must let go. I must relent, and I must go where He intends to send me. There is no other option, and the longer I refuse to abide, the more uncomfortable it will get for me.

Moving on and making plans, then, must be done in accordance with His will for my life. I must do it His way or no way. There is only one option, and I must choose it.

Dear Lord,

I realize that much of my struggle of late has been generated by my own wants and desires. I have caused this to happen, caused upset in my own life simply because I wanted my own way. I have lost my focus when it comes to what I must do, and as a result, I have gotten myself turned around and twisted in knots. I ask now that you unravel my life, pull out the threads and cords that seem to be tangling me up, and let me walk free. I ask now that you have your way, completely, fully, and with all authority so that you can reorder, rearrange, and ready me for these next steps. I lay all idols at your feet. I pull down all the high places, the ashera poles, and all the altars where I have placed people, things, and even myself. I remove all these people, things, and my own wants and desires so that the only thing that is worshiped is you and you alone. May you have your way in me this good, good day.


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