The Way of the Cross – Lenten Season 2018
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (II Corinthians 5:17-21 NIV).
The Gift of Significance
When God uses you to intervene in the lives of people, anything can happen…and that’s what makes life interesting and our lives significant. Who cares about making money, having a large house, getting to the top of your career ladder? Once you’ve tasted the gift of significance, being involved in the transformation of the human heart, there is no going back. You are hooked for life.
It makes me wonder what He might do next…..
At some point, Vero and I will decide to take our first trip in years and go to the Hillsong Worship Conference in Australia. Melu and Michu would come with us of course. Melanie would never miss an opportunity to be on the same continent as Ashton Irwin from 5 Seconds of Summer….lol.
Vero and I would go to the first meetings on Friday night and then again all day Saturday and just soak it all up. The kids are visiting with friends. I want to meet Pastor Brian Houston and some of the worship leaders but we would be lost in the enormous crowd of over 5,000 people that filled the local stadium. That night, Saturday night, was going to be a worship service for the conference attendees and Vero and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
As we lined up to make our way into the auditorium, somebody with a mike wrapped around her head and a clipboard in her hands came up to us and asked if our names were Bert and Veronica Amsing. We nodded in agreement and she asked us to go with her backstage. Everything was relatively dark of course, both backstage and in the auditorium. Vero and I were holding hands, quietly excited at the prospect of meeting the Pastor or one of the worship leaders.
The worship band started to sing my favorite song, Saviour King….
“Let now the weak say I have strength. By the Spirit of Power that raised Christ from the dead….”
I closed my eyes and listened to the words and I was so thankful to be there. My wife and I raised our hands in worship as we focused on our Saviour King, Jesus Christ.
As the song was coming to an end and the great crowd of worshipers were crying out to God in holy communion, I felt, as I always do when listening to that song, a stirring in my heart and an urgent need to share the message of God’s glory in Christ with His people.
The young girl with the clipboard came up to us and said, “It’s time” and clipped a mike to my lapel and handed me the battery pack which my wife took from my hands and shoved into my pocket. I just stood there confused.
“Wait!” I said, but the clipboard lady was already moving me on to the stage. I cast a bewildered look at my wife who was laughing. Why was she laughing?
But it was too late. I was on stage blinded by the lights, only able to see the first few rows of faces waiting to hear what I had to say…
There must be some mistake.
I turned to go backstage but the young assistant waved me back into the limelight and my wife was nowhere to be seen. Then I heard someone introduce me as the Desert Warrior from Buenos Aires, Argentina. There was a thunderous applause and the picture of the desert from my blog with my logo was projected on to the Jumbo screens proclaiming “Desert Warrior Ministries – A Burden of Glory.”
I walked to the middle of the stage in silence looking at the Jumbo screen over my shoulder and said, “Wow, I think I’m in heaven.” Laughter broke out with a smattering of applause and then silence again.
“I am overwhelmed by this opportunity to speak to you for a few moments.” I paused. Then I realized what must have happened. I spoke my thoughts out loud without really meaning to. “My wife must have paid someone a lot of money to create this surprise for me. I’ll kill her later.” More laughter and applause.
“But since I am here, I would love to say a few words to you in the way of a short greeting.”
I tried to peer into the darkness to see my audience, to connect with them somehow but I could only hear and feel the quiet murmur of a great crowd of people.
“This is a great privilege for me to stand up here and speak to you. C.S. Lewis, in his book, The Weight of Glory, tells us that each one of us has the incredible privilege and responsibility of influencing those around us in the direction of glory or horror. If you could see your friend, your co-worker, your neighbour as they will be in eternity, you would be either horrified or tempted to fall on your knees in worship for the beauty and glory they have become. In this life we influence one another everyday towards that eternal horror or that eternal glory. C.S. Lewis called it the Weight of Glory, the responsibility we have for the glory or eternal horror of those we come into contact with each day.”
I took a deep breath. I was just warming up. Oh, Lord, thank you for this gift.
“That is why I use the words “A Burden of Glory” as the byline of my blog which is to say that Desert Warrior Ministries recognizes that what we write and publish is part of a burden of Glory that we have for those who follow our blog. Our LifeMinistry, how we live our life in the power of the Spirit, is a burden of Glory. It affects the people around us. It influences them by the grace of God to move closer to Christ or to move away from him.”
“John Eldredge, of Ransomed Heart Ministries, wrote a book called Waking the Dead, in which he said that there were three truths that we, as Christians, need to deal with. First, that all is not what it seems in this world. There is a spiritual dimension to life. Second, that we are a world at war for the hearts and souls of people, and third, that each of us has a crucial role to play in this drama of redemption.”
“It takes holy imagination to see the spiritual dimension of life and to understand that there is a great rescue operation in progress and that how we live plays a crucial role in the lives of those around us.”
C.S. Lewis tells us that God is in the business of creating a certain type of person, one that is moral and good, sure, but even more, one that is passionate about God, someone who takes God seriously, who lives by faith, who focuses on hope and is filled everyday with more love for God and others. People who are radical disciples, who understand that God asks us to do the impossible every day, to love our enemies, to tame our tongue, to give all we have to the poor and live a simple life, to guard even our thoughts, to walk in the desert with God and be happy about it. Someone, like Job, who learned that loving God is its own reward. No matter what happens. We are not in it for the benefits. We are in it to please Him.
I saw something flicker on the giant Jumbo screen behind me. I looked up amazed as I saw the screen switch to a post of a poem that God had given me that has meant so much to me over the years. I was a bit bewildered. How did they know I wanted to show that post next? And who was behind the power point and how did they know where everything was on my blog? But there was no time to dwell on these mysteries. I started to read the words out loud…
Created For His Pleasure
The Joy of the Lord is my strength
Getting rid of all my small ambitions
to make this one thing the hallmark of my life
To please God.
To give Him pleasure by living on the edge of faith
by risking everything on His Promises
and trusting all things
even life itself, to His providence and care
To count on his protection
and to pay the price for letting God be God
whether I get what I pray for or not
whether my circumstances change or not
whether I am healed or not
and to consider every sacrifice a small price to pay
to obtain the pearl of great price
I do not seek the hand of God but rather His face
I want to hear Him say, “Well done.”
I want to see Him smile
when He sees my feeble efforts
emboldened by a strong desire to please Him
I would rather make mistakes
I would rather fail trying to please God
than succeed at anything else in life
I want to be a beloved child of God
for no other reason than
because I was created for that very purpose
and that thrills me to the core of my being.
It is His pleasure,
His joy, that is my strength
That is power enough for any life
That is what makes my life significant.
I was created for His pleasure.
As I finished the poem, an urgency came over me and I started to walk around the stage and spoke about the glory of God in Christ that can change the human heart and transform each one of us into living testimonies of his grace not because we are perfect in ourselves but because we are forgiven.
Our struggle, our weakness (and his strength in us) is the testimony of grace that people needed. The transparency of confession. The faithwalk of repentance. The power of forgiveness and the ministry of reconciliation. Each one rooted in the cross. I spoke about all of it.
Stories poured out of me. Truths that I had never realized myself seemed to appear on my lips and the silence was deafening. The darkness out in the audience did not allow me to see what effect my words were having but I didn’t care. I felt swept up in a great storm of emotions, confessions of sin and bold transparency, rising and then falling again, swirling and settling and all the while there was nothing more than a collective sigh from that great cloud of witnesses as we were swept into the throne room of the Almighty God and the Spirit of the Lord was upon us and people would cry out and laugh and sing and clap and stand up and stamp their feet and break out in spontaneous worship and then, after it was quiet, I would begin to speak again…
A chair appeared at some point and I sat down. A Bible was thrust into my hands, my Bible, I realized dimly…and then I was teaching again….no, it wasn’t me….even I realized that….and it both thrilled me and scared me.
That is when I realized that this Burden of Glory was not really my burden at all. It was a yoke that Jesus and I wore together. It was a burden that caused the Holy Spirit of God to groan and travail within us for the hearts and souls of men and women. This Burden of Glory belonged to Christ and we share his burden, his ongoing sufferings for his people, so that we may also share in his glory.
A long time later, I stopped. It was over.
I was done. He was done.
The seats in the front row were empty except for a few hardy souls here and there. The majority had left. I was stunned at what I had done and was immediately filled with shame. I stumbled off the stage and overheard someone say, “It was only supposed to be a five or ten minute thing…” I started to weep. My wife was there and we left, memories of other shame filled moments from my past rising up to chase me out of that sanctuary.
My wife didn’t say anything. She looked at me with more than a hint of fear in her eyes. When we got back to the hotel room, I flung myself on one of the double beds and fell asleep fully clothed. Our children were staying with friends so we were alone. I slept like a dead man not wanting to awake and face my shame.
That Sunday morning was overcast and rainy and reflected my murderous mood. Like Elijah on the mountain, I was angry with God for letting me get carried away like that. I wanted to hide in my cave and be miserable by myself. My wife tried to encourage me to go to church but I was afraid someone would recognize me. She went. I stayed.
After an hour of flipping through channels on the television, I suddenly realized that I had gotten the Sunday morning worship service being broadcast live from the Stadium. They were doing it like a news report…..no, wait. It was a news report. Something was going on. The local news was reporting a disturbance at the worship center that morning. I hoped my wife was alright. I threw out a spontaneous prayer and then listened intently to the broadcast.
“This is Lisa Jennings with CJNK reporting live from the Hillsong Conference at Westend Stadium.” The pretty reporter looked stunned and disheveled. “Nobody can quite understand what is going on here at the conference, John.” Apparently she was talking to the news anchor back at the studio. “Thousands of people are headed to the stadium here in Westend,” she was saying. “Far more than anybody had planned for. Traffic is a mess. People are abandoning their cars on the road and parking on the grass or wherever there’s a spot available…”
She listened for a moment on her headset.
“No, nobody seems to be able to tell us what is going on.” She was obviously flustered. “Apparently, people have been here all night, sleeping on the floors…” She paused and then looked straight into the camera. “I can’t confirm the details,” she said, “but apparently there are hundreds of people inside the stadium crying and laughing and praying. It’s all quite disturbing.”
She took a deep breath. “There are reports of miracles. People able to see again, walk again…..everyone is coming here.” Then she blushed as she heard her producer shouting at her over her headset. At least that’s what it looked like watching it on television. Apparently, she was told to get some eye-witness accounts.
She turned toward someone walking by and tried to ask a question but she was ignored. Finally a couple stopped.
“So, what’s going on at this conference?” she asked. “Were you here last night?”
My heart hammered loudly in my chest as I watched the drama unfold.
“No,” the woman was saying. “I got a call from my sister and she insisted that I come down this morning. I don’t know what’s going on but they say that God is at work and we don’t want to miss it.” Her voice rose a bit at the end and they pulled away.
The reporter let them go only to quickly grab another. She physically grabbed his arm and pulled him towards her.
“Do you have any idea of what’s going on here this morning?” she asked and shoved the mike in front of his face.
“Yes, God is at work,” the man replied. “It started last night and it’s probably too early to tell but it looks like a revival has begun.”
“A revival? What do you mean?”
“Well,” the big, black man said, “a revival is when God breaks out of church and starts to invade the community and city, and even the country with miracles and healings and, especially, transformed lives.”
“Invade?” the reporter said. “That sounds dangerous…”
“Yes, it is,” the big man said. Then he was quiet for a long moment looking at her. The reporter didn’t know what to say. “Would you like to join us inside?” he finally asked her quietly.
She nodded and then handed her mike to the cameraman without a word and turned to face the stadium. The big man crooked his arm as an invitation and she walked with him arm in arm toward the stadium joining the streams of people already going inside.
The last thing I heard before they cut back to the anchor in the studio was the cameraman shouting after her, “What am I supposed to do now?”
I smiled. God was at work and I loved it.
Then, out of the blue, there in that hotel room, I heard Him. He spoke. I know that people say that all the time, but I’m serious. He spoke.
He said it as clear as a bell. “It’s not about you.”
I knew those words, of course. They are the famous words of Pastor Rick Warren that opens his book, The Purpose Driven Life. What is life all about? What is the purpose of life? It’s not about you.
I knew it was true.
My shame the night before was rooted in the flesh. It doesn’t matter if I spoke too long. It doesn’t matter if people leave. It doesn’t even matter if anybody accepts what I said. It wasn’t about me. God had spoken through me and that was all that mattered. He could have used the dog next door if He wanted but He used me.
He was pleased to give me the gift of significance. To matter not just because I was His son but also in joint ministry, in common purpose with Him empowered by the Holy Spirit, a chipped, broken clay pot wanting nothing more than to share the treasure placed within.
I didn’t need to go back to the church to take my bows. That would spoil it. It was time to go back into the desert with God who is my true Promised Land.
When my wife got back bubbling over with news a few hours later, she quickly agreed and we left for Buenos Aires that night and were happy to go home. She shared all her news on that 36 hour flight and the time flew by.
Apparently, she was behind it all initially. When they saw that we had registered for the conference, they contacted her and my wife had suggested keeping it as a surprise. The pastor and most of the worship leaders were followers of my blog. My wife was the one managing the power point and blog posts on the Jumbo screen. It all made sense now.
But it didn’t make any sense at all.
Nobody expected what happened next. Not even me. Yes, I was only supposed to speak for a few minutes before Pastor Houston came on stage. Yes, it had gone on for seven hours and most of the people eventually left. But around 700 people had remained, many on the floor praying so that the seats looked empty.
The pastor had personally sought out my wife that Sunday morning to send his thanks and promised to stay in touch. Apparently, the leadership of the church had been hit hard, decimated in the back room while watching everything on close circuit television. God had shown up in a powerful way. The reality of His Presence had changed everything. The focus on continuous renewal and walking in the Spirit at that church over the years had prepared the way and now it appeared that God was breaking out into a community wide revival the likes of which Australia had never seen before.
Where it would all end, only God knew but we were thrilled to be used for His purpose and His glory….the burden of Glory that we share with Christ.
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…..
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Jesus Christ, the true Desert Warrior
Matthew 11:29,30 (NIV)
The Desert Warrior
P.S. Let’s pray….
Lord, I want to be used by you in significant ministry as well. That is not pride or arrogance because I think I’m important (at least I hope it isn’t). I just want to be with you, doing your kind of ministry, making a difference in this dark and dangerous world. Lord, give me the gift of significance. You say that my role is crucial and that you have chosen to work with me, to use my experience, my testimony to grab people’s attention, to show them that it is real and not just words on a piece of paper. Lord, I want to be used by you. Maybe not on a stage in front of thousands. Maybe not in front of the church. There is plenty of work in the back of the church as well. In the basement Sunday School classes, in the kitchen, in the hallways, in the homes and cars of people where spiritual conversations can be held. Give me a deep desire to be used by you. In your name I pray. Amen.