Even if you’re afraid of heights, this is one pinnacle I wish you could stand upon.September 28th, 2007
Even if you’re afraid of heights, this is one pinnacle I wish you could stand upon. Many consider it one of the most sacred sites in all of Dark Ages history. Today I’ve invited my young friends from the School of Architecture here at Andrews University to share with you the story of that unforgettable day when together we stood atop the Castelluzzo, that infamous rock tower high above the alpine valleys of northwest Italy and immortalized in John Milton’s sonnet, “On the Late Massacre in Piedmont”:
Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones
Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold;
Even them who kept thy truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worshiped stocks and stones,
Forget not: in thy book record their groans . . . .
But how can one brief moment of worship possibly capture the crimson drama of the Waldenses? And why make their intrepid preservation of the light of Holy Scripture through five hundred long years of spiritual darkness our theme for Alumni Sabbath? After all, the world and Christendom have long forgotten the “Bloody Easter” (April 24, 1655) massacre of those hapless innocents—a crime against humanity so unspeakable that when Sir Oliver Cromwell read the eyewitness accounts of the slaughter, he declared a day of fasting and prayer across England. But why should we care today?
Because in the fulfillment of the Apocalypse’s cryptic words in Revelation 12—the vision tale of a woman fleeing from an ancient Serpent into a barren wilderness and there hidden by God for the long, dark ages of medieval Christianity—in that fulfillment still witnessed to by the silent rocky sentinels of the Piedmonts is the unspoken assurance that the God who has preserved ancient truth through the crimson centuries since Calvary, the same God who raised up this university over a century ago, is the very God who will yet proclaim that very truth to this generation through the remnant seed of that very woman. For that reason their story is ours.
For as surely as Almighty God called upon the men, women and children of those cloistered valleys long ago, he is calling upon the men, women and children of this generation to embrace the missional legacy of the Waldensian people, captured in their Latin motto, Lux lucet in tenebris. “The light shines in darkness.” Indeed it did. And indeed it must. Yet. In your life and mine. Shine into the gathering darkness of a culture and world desperate for even the fragments of the only Light who can yet heal this world he loves.
Would you like to know what a group of students…September 22nd, 2007
Would you like to know what a group of students, faculty and community members identified as God’s top four agenda priorities for our world and our university? For the past two weeks our House of Prayer has been focusing on “Seeking God’s Agenda.” The premise to that quest is simply that the goal of the Christian’s prayer life is to embrace God’s agenda as your own agenda. (Have you noticed—so much of our praying focuses on our own agendas for ourselves, our needs, our wants, our problems, our desperations. Nothing wrong with bringing those to God, to be sure. But the great prayers of the ancient scriptures reveal a compelling focus on the divine agenda first.)
But then, coming to a sense of agreement as to what the divine agenda might be isn’t really a complicated task, is it? For example, if I asked you to list right now what you believe God’s most important priorities are in his agenda for this university or for your own life, for that matter, would it be hard to come up with them?
After prayerfully preparing our hearts through music and reflection, I was surprised at how quickly last week these agenda items were suggested by individuals in our prayer fellowship. If God has a prayer list, what do you suppose is at the top of that list? Here were their responses: #1—that this world of lost sinners might be saved (Isaiah 45:22); #2—that all might come to personally know Him (Jeremiah 9:23, 24); #3—that Christ might be lifted up and draw all to him (John 12:32); and, #4—that God’s name might be glorified upon the earth (Revelation 14:7).
Wouldn’t you agree? I do. After all, what would God want more than to save every lost heart on this campus, and this world? Go down that list of four agenda items—is there one you would take off that list? Sure, you may think of one or two you’d want to add to that list.
But here’s the proposition: what would happen if you took these four divine agenda items and began weaving them into your own private praying? What could be more fulfilling than to know that what is preoccupying your praying are the very longings that preoccupy the heart of God? After all, “can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3)
“When terror comes, they will seek peace…”September 13th, 2007
“When terror comes, they will seek peace, but there will be none. Calamity upon calamity will come, and rumor upon rumor.” At this sixth anniversary of 9-11 these cryptic words of an ancient prophet (Ezekiel 7:25, 26) give pause for reflection, don’t they? Run through your mind a quick scan of the national and global headlines since that fateful September Tuesday in 2001. Tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes—the more than usual intensification of nature. Madrid and London and Baghdad—new hot spots in a post-9-11 world. While Ezekiel wasn’t describing the United States, his stark prediction remains unsettling: “When terror comes, they will seek peace, but there will be none.”
But then, not to worry. Because life goes on, doesn’t it? Neither this nation nor its citizens need live in the paralysis of fear, should we? After all, isn’t human history the seemingly endless cycle of predictable headlines? Doesn’t every generation have its 9-11 or Pearl Harbor or Gettysburg? Not to worry. Or in the words of Bobby McFarren’s 1988 bromide, “Don’t worry—be happy!”
And yet, anniversaries such as this one deserve some reflective thinking, don’t they? Candidly, in the course of my sojourn on this planet I do not remember a time when the brightest thinkers of this generation have seemed so much at a quandary for lack of a workable solution to this civilization’s greatest challenges. Too many are concerned that predictable cycles can no longer explain the growing morass.
Two thousand years ago, after giving a prescient description of what could be our generation, Christ offered his counsel: “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). Not exactly a “don’t worry—be happy” quip, but it certainly rings with a very positive call to hope and courage, does it not? Irrespective of the anniversaries or headlines, look on the very bright side—the deliverance of the human race is drawing near!
Which is why you and I can celebrate the hope we find in Jesus. “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” And no wonder. Because from beyond the terror comes riding the Prince of Peace. And that is one piece of history I don’t want to miss!
If God were standing up front beside a white board right nowSeptember 7th, 2007
If God were standing up front beside a white board right now, and we asked him to please write on that board what his top agenda is, what do you suppose he would put up as #1? For Andrews University? For Pioneer Memorial Church? For our world? What if you asked him to write up his top priorities for your own life? What would he write up for my life? Ever wonder what God thinks is most important around here?
John Franklin in his stirring book, And the Place Was Shaken, makes a point that I’ve continued to ruminate over these past few weeks. He writes that the secret to transformational prayer—praying that turns the world upside down, or at least right side up—is moving from our own agendas to God’s own agenda. I.e., moving from a prayer-paradigm that focuses on me-me-me, to one that focuses on God-God-God. As evidence Franklin directs our attention to the greatest prayers of the Bible—from Nehemiah 9 to Daniel 9 to II Chronicles 6 to Acts 4 to our Lord’s prayer the night of his betrayal in John 17—in all of them, note how the prayers are radically God-focused from the very outset, and how the personal agenda of the pray-er is saved until the end of the prayer. Whereas in my prayers, how often do I plunge immediately into my list of wants and needs, i.e., my personal agenda?
What would happen if when we gathered to pray together corporately, or even when you and I prayed privately, we were proactive in seeking to keep God and his revealed agenda for us front and center during our prayer time? What if the psalmist was right, that in prayer to God, we are to “enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4)?
I’ll be honest with you. John Franklin’s counsel regarding corporate prayer in particular is challenging me and the way we’ve always “done” prayer meeting in the past. But as I wrestle with what God must be longing for for Andrews and for Pioneer, I’m burdened to bring our corporate prayer life into harmony with the way God’s people prayed long ago. If you’d like to join me this fall in seeking to know God’s mind and heart for this university in particular, I wish you would come and help me reshape our House of Prayer experience on Wednesday evenings. It may not “feel” comfortable at first, but with your help and prayer partnership, I firmly believe that together we can learn God’s agenda for this place and that our prayers can consequently be ignited as we embrace it (and Him) as our own.
Student, faculty, community—come, and let’s pray together. House of Prayer. Wednesday, 7 p.m.