Essential workers, please rise!

As the Coronavirus pandemic broke out, the government called for “Essential Businesses” to stay open. As we all know those employed at these businesses were then called Essential Workers. They were required to show up day after day to keep life functioning.

In addition to this, the US recently had an election. Yet, what was most glaring to me wasn’t the two candidates, but the policies. Policies that shouldn’t have fallen into the government’s hands in the first place. Let me explain.

“Care for the widows and orphans.”

“Feed the hungry”

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Speak the truth in love.”

Sound familiar? These are commands that Jesus gave us – His church. Essential workers should be the church. We should be the ones showing up for those who need help — not the government. We should show up NOT because we are better than anyone, but because Jesus was broken for us and we are called to walk as Jesus walked (1st John 2:6). How much pressure do we put on the government simply because we haven’t stepped up to care for those around us? Please know I include myself here. If we gave generously, would we need welfare? The list could go on and on.

A few weeks ago, I was watching Joe Vs. The Volcano with my friend Connie. In the movie, Joe says, “only a few of us are awake.” Are we, as the church, awake? Or are we laying on our spiritual couches? Or hiding out in fear? Again, preaching to myself.

My former pastor, Leroy Hill, said, “the coronavirus got us so scared to die; we forgot how to live.”

I know we live in a fallen world, and life is a lot more complicated, but my challenge is to myself, and you are how and what are we doing to impact our community? And, if we already are, can we do more? Can we put our agenda on hold and see what God’s agenda is for us?

I recently wanted to undertake a challenge— mind you, it was for a great cause, but the initial cost to join was way more than I thought. I was so discouraged. I was like, how am I going to do that?! I felt like the Lord gently corrected me by asking me, “Christi, is this about the people you’d be raising funds for? Or is it about you?”

Until that moment, I genuinely thought it was for the cause and the people, but I realized it was more about me. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and have done things for me. I don’t want to be known as remarkable person but as a servant of Jesus Christ. Because apart from Him, I can do nothing! Absolutely nothing!

Are we hunkering down in fear? Or are we showing up day after day for those around us?

Proximity to pain can infuse courage; whereas, withdrawal can infuse more fear. I pray that we remember that this is NOT our home. We are just passing through. Friends, please do not forget that we come from a kingdom that has already overcame darkness and overcame death

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28).  God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church (Ephesians 1:22). You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday (Psalm 91:5-6). The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion (Proverbs 28:1). 

Through Christ, we have all we need, NO matter how hard difficult the days are. His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness (2 Peter 1:3) 

So, my question for us is, will the essential workers please rise?

Where is the Miracle?

They were with him during the wedding at Cana when He turned water into wine. They were with Him when He healed a blind man from Bethsada. They were with Him when He fed the four thousand and then the five thousand. They walked with Him for years. They’d seen Him raise the dead, walk on water, and calm the waves. So where was the miracle now? On that dark Friday afternoon? Surely it wasn’t really finished. Like He said, as He breathed His last breathes. He was the Messiah, the ONE they had waited for. He was going to be their ruler, their king. But instead, He was being carried to a grave.

I came across a verse today that echoed in my soul.

“…And where are all His miracles?!” Judges 6:11.

Gideon is the one asking the Angel of the Lord this question. The Midianites had overtaken and been ruling Israel. Gideon, being brought up as a good Jewish boy, would have known the stories of the Red Sea parting, the provision of water, food and clothes for 40 years in the wilderness, and of the miracles that took place in Noah’s, Moses’ and Joseph’s life… But Gideon questioned: Where are the miracles now? If You are who You say You are… Why haven’t You shown up?

I’ve asked this a couple times in my life. “God, why did this hurt have to take place? Why couldn’t You have had me go another route in life?” or “Why didn’t you save my Dad. Where was the miracle then?”

As Easter approaches, I am reminded that Friday was not only an earth shattering event but also faith shattering week. I wonder if the disciples asked themselves, “Were we all deceived? Were the ones who mock us all along actually right? Because, He’s gone and so are our dreams of a new kingdom.”

I just want to pause here… Because, if we are honest, we have all had times when the dream in our heart died. The trajectory of where we thought our life would go, or what we thought it’d be, died. Every loss has to be fully felt in order for it to be unshackled from our hearts. We will always feel the ache but we don’t always have to carry the full weight of it. That was the disciples. They had lost their friend who was, up until this point, immortal. No one could touch Him. He was invincible until He succumbed to the cross .

So where do we go after we experience our Friday afternoon? The moments when our life seems to be crumbling and our faith is shaken. After you grieve, and you must grief. And after you question, because you will question. And after you wrestle… You get up and let God use you to be a miracle in someone else’s life.

What do I mean? Gideon, although scared out of his mind, obeyed God. He let God used him to bring liberation to Israel.

God used the disciples to turn the world upside down, but it wasn’t until they surrendered their grief, and what they thought their lives would look like. And acknowledged that His Kingdom was greater than theirs— no matter how well intended.

So, what does a miracle look like today? It looks like girls in India who had been sold into slavery, being freed and then raising enough money to rescue another girl. It looks like individuals stepping up to take a child in who has been removed from their home due to abuse or neglected. It looks like volunteering in your community. It looks like a bone marrow or kidney donor. It looks like walking down a hospice hallway to be with someone whose about to lose their loved one. It looks like a million different things in a million different ways.

But, before we rush in, let us be very aware that the only reason we are able to be a miracle in another’s life is because of the miracle Jesus did in our life. Maybe it wasn’t the miracle we asked, begged and petitioned for, but it far outweighs the one we were or are asking for here. His miracle is the fact that we can spend eternity with Him. God whose ways are perfect, who is always kind. Who is good beyond measure and abundantly gracious. Who is just and true and pure. Who does not waver but holds steady. Who is our Rock, our Fortress and our Defense, Who is present, and sees us as He created us to be. Who has our names engraved on the palm of His hand. This is a the ultimate miracle. The fact that a perfect and holy God would bring heaven to earth to save a wretch like me. I am once again humbled and amazed all over again.

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found was blind but now I see.

Click image to hear “Glorious Ruin”

A Disciple’s Life

I was one of twelve chosen, I still don’t know why I was picked. Some were related and others complete strangers. Some had a radical turn around and some just quietly left to follow. But we were a force to be reckoned with.

I have never felt so passionately about anything in my life, which is probably why it was easier for me to say goodbye to the life I once knew. Being with these men made me feel alive. I had a purpose. I had a reason to live. Sure, some of the things our leader said were different. A lot of things I didn’t understand, but he was patient and he cared. Besides, I saw so many things I never even thought were possible. Food overflowing from a simple basket, water being turned into wine, lepers cleansed, the blinded eyes restored, the deaf able to hear and the dead being raised.

I knew I was headed in the right direction. I felt as if I were born for this. I could never grow tired of this life. I never knew what was coming next. I’d sometimes be frightened that things wouldn’t pan out; like the one time we crossed the sea and the storm rolled in, but then He walked on water! Or, that time when we had fished all night and caught nothing to eat. I almost lost it when He told us to throw the net on the other side; like we hadn’t done that 100x already! But, true to His word, we had more fish than we knew what to do with. I don’t know how He did it.
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Then there was that day that He called us together and said:

Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.  As you go, proclaim this message: The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker, is worth his keep.  Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town (Matthew 10:5-15)

Heal the sick? Raise the dead? Cleanse the Leper? Drive out demons? I thought that was His job. I thought only He could do that. But, we went out anyways. He didn’t really negotiate with His commands.

It was incredible! We did those things. I actually did those things. I was so tired when we returned, but it was exhilarating. I felt invincible. I couldn’t believe I was chosen to do this. This MAN had changed the course of my life forever.

But after we got back, things started to change. I had learned to love our leader like I never loved anyone in my life. I loved to hear him teach. I tried to protect Him at any costs. But He started saying things like, I must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and the chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and raised the third day” (Matt. 16:21)

I didn’t understand why He’d say these horrible things. Suffer? Be killed? Was this a new parable? I thought to myself. HE must be using those words in a different way than I think.

Tension started rising among the scribes, elders, and priests. I knew they didn’t like what He was doing… But I thought they would come around. How could you not like this MAN? But, the more time passed, the more the tension grew. I was growing a little more concerned, but then, I’d witness another miracle, or have another long talk with Him. He knew just how to settle my uneasy heart.

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Then, the most wonderful thing happened! He was given a King’s welcome! The moment we all had been waiting for. We knew He was going to reign; and now, it was coming to pass!  People were throwing down their tunics so He could ride on something other than the ground. The people were shouting. I had tears in my eyes from the sheer joy of it all. Our King is here. It was such a wonderful day. I never knew so much joy could be contained in such a short amount of daylight.

A week passed and I still felt like I was floating from all that had transpired a week prior. He decided to have a dinner with us all. It was a quiet night, but it was nice for it to just be us. It seemed we always had others around. But something was different about Him. He looked sad. He and Judas had a brief discussion and then Judas left. I didn’t think much of it because it was Judas. He always had his own ideas about things.

But He started worrying me. He made sure we had wine and bread and He said, drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. (Matt 26:227-29)

His blood? The phrases He spoke months earlier came flooding into my mind: I must suffer, and be killed. It’s just a parable, it’s just a parable I continued to repeat to myself.

Later that night, we went to the garden we sometimes went to. I was so full of dinner I fell fast asleep. He asked us to stay awake, but I didn’t think it was that important. We prayed all the time. I think we had enough prayer to cover us that night.

But then something woke me up. I heard a crowd. I immediately woke the other two disciples with me. I saw Judas, but he was with the scribes. Whatever this was, didn’t sit right with me. I was too fearful to stand beside our leader, so I hid not too far away. I couldn’t hear very well, but I saw Judas kiss Him.

Suddenly, the soldiers, who had accompanied the scribes and Judas, bound His hands. Nooooo, I wanted to scream, but I didn’t want to be heard. I knelt down and wept. I was so angry at myself for not staying awake to pray… Why are they taking Him?

Eventually, I learned where they had taken my beloved leader. I went there immediately. He was being question, accused and then they took Him outside to be beaten and whipped. Tears poured out of my eyes and down my cheeks. Why? Why is this happening? Why don’t they believe Him? He’s the most compassionate man I have ever met. One lash turned to two, two lashes into four, four into thirty-nine. I couldn’t watch anymore. He was barely recognizable.

I found a place to cry until I felt as though I had nothing left in me… I decided I needed to go back. When I did, I found my beloved friend and my hero hanging, like a criminal, on a cross. People were shouting at Him, “Save yourself.”

I prayed to God, His Father, to give Him the strength to get off that cross. It wasn’t too much. I still had hope, despite the fear. I’d seen Him do miracles on top of miracles. Time pressed on and still, He hung there.

The sky began to grow dark, it felt like I was watching a picture of my own heart. I saw Him struggling to breathe. The ground began to shake and He cried out, My God, My God why have you forsaken me. (Matt 27:46) Never before had I ever heard Him say anything close to this. He was always talking about how He and His Father were one and that if we knew Him, we knew the Father. I couldn’t understand what I was seeing.

My heart was breaking in me; yet, I had seen this same man bring back others from the gripping hand of death. I couldn’t make sense of it.

Then He said, it is finished and He breathed His last. A groan from the deepest part of my soul came out. I fell to my knees, NOOOOO, Jesus, Noooooo…. This cannot be…. Please, God, you can’t take Him!

It all moved so quickly; yet, it also felt like time stood still. He was taken down and buried. I couldn’t grasp what was happening. It felt like a nightmare. I couldn’t connect my mind with the reality in front of me. The tears came easily as my heart was broken into a million pieces, but my mind was still not able to process it.

This MAN was my life. I left everything to follow Him. Everything I believed in revolves around His words. How could we do all that we did and the outcome be standing at His grave? So many questions flooded my mind. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t get out of my cot. Fear encompassed me. The moment He died, something inside of me died.

I don’t remember much of that Saturday. But Sunday I heard a stirring of women…
He’s alive!

What? I questioned.
He died, I saw His, don’t mess with me, I already have enough to process. I said.

No, He’s alive they insisted.

I ran all over looking for Him. When suddenly, He found us… I couldn’t believe my eyes! He was here. One day turned into two, and two into four, and four into forty. He was with us for forty days. But, this time, it was different.

Part of me doubted. I knew He was the way to eternal life but so much of this MAN I just did not understand. He did everything backward. Why did He have to die? Why cause all of us and His own mom and family so much grief? Why couldn’t He just saved Himself, and not put all of us, including Himself through that agonizing situation?

But, I noticed one thing. After His death, I listened more carefully to what He said. He allowed a great wound in my heart to awake my ears and heart to listen more intentionally. Losing Him once made me more grateful for the time I had with Him and the people around me. I was also grateful for His love for me. One breathes more deeply and feels more intensely when pained.

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He told us He’d have to leave, and this time I knew it was not another parable. He would really be leaving and handing us the mantle.

So, the day came. Before He left, He instructed us to, go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the earth.

 

He said His goodbyes and ascended to heaven. To be honest, the mayhem from all the chaos in the past month or so caused us a lot of fear. We all were a little lost after He left. He’d left us with more instruction than the first time, but we were hoping His next return would be around the corner, but as time passed we realized we had a mantle to carry and a gospel to spread…

After a large gathering, known as the Day of Pentecost, the church began and the gates of Hell have not and will never prevail against it!