"[Nebuchadnezzar said] "Now I am going to give you one more chance. If you bow down and worship the statue when you hear the music, everything will be all right. But if you don't, you will at once be thrown into a flaming furnace. No god can save you from me." [Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego] replied, "Your Majesty, we don't need to defend ourselves. The God we worship can save us from you and your flaming furnace. But even if he doesn't, we still won't worship your gods and the gold statue you have set up.""(Daniel 3:15-18 CEV)
"It was a test we could all hope to pass, but none of us would want to take…." the haunting words of the song by Wes King and Michael W. Smith echoes in the hallway of my mind……"Faced with the choice to deny God and live, for her there was one choice to make…." Cassie Bernall, in the final moments of her life here on this earth, spoke her affirmation of her love of her Father in Heaven and was killed on April 20th, 1999 at Columbine High School with too many others….
It is the ultimate expression of love; to lay down your life for another……it is the ultimate choice and one few of us would want to make for ourselves, let alone for ones that we love….
Did Cassie hope that God would perform some sudden intervention in the sudden evil that came into the high school that day and forever tore open the hearts of the youth that walked the halls or did she view it as an opportunity like Paul to be with Christ? I don't know, we will have to ask her after the homecoming we who are her brothers and sisters all will have one day soon….
Bernall isn't the reason for this post today, though, as I struggle with the sermon notes of a powerful Valentine's Day sermon given by Oakpointe's East Community Pastor Joe Snyder……which spoke of the starting place, the timing, the example, the scope, the attributes, the results, the supremacy, the discipline, the permanency of Love, and the command to love…………(if you want the notes to the sermon, email me…if you want the audio, check the mosaica2 page on facebook or email me for the link)……. a love that Paul was convinced 'neither life or death, neither angels or demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height or depth, not anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God….'
Not the bullet that ended so many lives that day at Columbine, or the countless other heartaches that have been visited upon the educational campuses of our nation since that evil day. Many Valentine's Days have passed since Bernall and others were taken from us…..many more will be taken in the countless Valentine's Days to come, but even that is not what burdens my heart this day after the 'recognized day of love' has become a stomach ache to some and a sigh of relief for others.
I began to read with Shannon the book recommended to us by our dear sister in Christ, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Unleashing A Revolution In Your Life In Christ by Pastor Peter Scazzero, of New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York. Reflecting on the 'tip-of-the-iceberg spirituality' that seems to haunt the Christian experience in the halls of our churches, Scazzero remarks on 'church leavers'….some of whom are leaving for the right reasons…"These men and women made a genuine commitment to Christ but came to realize, slowly and painfully, that the spirituality available in the church had not really delivered any deep, Christ-transforming life change ---- either in themselves or others."
No doubt I've confused you further…the verse from Daniel about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego coupled with a sermon of love and a song reflecting the choice of a teenager in Columbine High School saddled up to a book obviously about spirituality…..and a quote about 'church leavers'……would seem to be nothing than the randomness of the life of a crazy man. Maybe so…..maybe so……
"The combination of emotional health and contemplative spirituality addresses what I believe to be the missing piece in contemporary Christianity," Pastor Scazzero writes. "Together they unleash the Holy Spirit inside us so that we might experientially know the power of an authentic life in Christ." (Emotionally Healthy Spirituality back cover)
"The disconnect I see is that while "life" keeps dumping on you, you are quick to quote scripture and profess faith in God's goodness and provision." a dear brother in Christ wrote in response to a question not quite a year ago I posed to him as to whether he had seen definable growth because of my connection with a ministry or not…."I wonder how much of this reflects the true condition of your soul, and how much might be pageantry that distracts you from asking the really hard "WHY…?" questions to God?" Liberties were taken, for sure, with the question and the response to its query…..but he was always welcomed to take 'liberty' where God would lead him……especially with me.
Though the liberty was taken and the intentionality of his direction was noted…..I would come back to this statement of his time and time again over the six months or so that have passed since it's electronic delivery…..
The pageantry of Christianity……
A moment of time in the space of our lives; the tempest of the storm or the calm echoes of the night sky lit with a starry carpet is often what we have before the consequences of our sinfulness or the blessings of our obedience come in rapid succession…..one moment, maybe even one where we do not realize it's passing or mourn its loss……
The three young Jews in our Daniel voice recognized that moment…..and faced the daunting realization that whether they were saved or perished in the flames, there was one choice to make…….Cassie Bernall had but one choice……God Himself, as Pastor Joe put it in the powerful sermon, had one choice to make and Pastor Peter faced in the journey he speaks of in his book…..one moment…..
It is in that moment we have a chance, an opportunity, and a monumental decision that wraps up for us this experience, this life, that we were promised (like Pastor Scazzero says) 'free and abundant.' We either become what we were meant to be or wallow in the despair of not being who we were promised, equipped and empowered to be. It is either real, powerful and affirming spirituality or it is nothing more than the pageantry of our beliefs that have never truly become a faith. Either we take that leap and trust in God's authority and ability to deliver upon the promises that love has driven Him to make or we fall into the same pit of sin that broke our parents, Adam and Eve and created a wedge between Creator and created.
Many people I know are facing tests in their lives……unexpected complications to a life lived as best as can be lived in the desperation of quiet isolation; deep scars that haunt the memories of children who are now adults; sadness that permeates a nation's soul as another 'promised statesman' becomes nothing more than a power-hungry politician, leading us all into the position to be part of a world that is not of God…..individually and corporately, the body of Christ is facing a moment; a test………one we all hope to pass but are praying we would never have to face.
A sister in Christ walks into her job and faces giants one more time……..bearing a sling and five smooth stones from the riverbed. A brother in Christ coming to a moment in his life where the realization of his very faith means the loss of everything he held dear……corrupted and rotten, he has faced the moment where Christ's salvation means more to him than a life spent in quiet desperation for a love he will never get from those who chose to live in the darkness. Other brothers and sisters in Christ, who but for the ease of a change of clothes and the warm meal served upon the dining room table of their own homes…are but momentary glances of ourselves in dire circumstances. I hope to spend some time with those brothers and sisters serving them at the Bowery Street Mission.
Even in my own life, as time progresses from winter to spring and then summer…….these moments are coming that will test the very fabric of my faith and bring me to my own moment……..where I face that one choice, to follow God in truth and proclamation or deny Him and live a life of emotionally divorced spirituality. Moments we all face over and over again as we journey home…….It is a moment that, like Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Cassie Bernall, and Peter Scazzero, we all must make a choice…….to move from the point of painful inaction into some kind of action……..right or wrong……but action all the same.
Six years ago…..I made a choice to accept the salvation purchased by Christ upon a cross…………..the journey began that day and has been full of disappointments, sorrows, pain and anguish. Joys and peaceful victories have filled the cracks and crevasse of my path home….all for this moment, this test:
This is your time, this is your dance.
Live every moment, leave nothing to chance.
Swim in the sea, drink of the deep,
Follow the mercy and hear yourself praying.
I prayed for a dear cherished one last night…….and my soul cried out this song…..tomorrow she'll face her choice and then God will write the next portion of the journey, the next paragraph or the next chapter……….
Whatever your moment, whenever it comes and comes and comes again, step into the realization of what God can do, will do and is doing in all the aspects of your life even as you cry out for mercy upon the tenderness of His Son……
Will you deny God or will you come gather at the table spread out before you……..
I will drink of the deepness of my God's love and live in its permanent realization, because there is only that choice to make for me....................
I can only hope this made sense……thank you for journeying with me on this grand adventure…...