Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A Letter to the Church in America

I'm on vacation. Two weeks off while my parents are in town, though they are currently in Chicago until Friday. So it's been just Brooke and me for yesterday and today. We were at Jump Mania today for three hours and I brought a book with me, The Hole in our Gospel by Richard Stearns. This is one of the most powerful, personally convicting, and difficult books that I've read in a long time. I can't imagine how awkward and uncomfortable I looked while reading this in a public place...

Everyone should read this book. Everyone.

I'll be writing a review of it in a few days for a program I've enrolled in, but this excerpt will have to do for now. It is the result of the author's desire to write a Revelation style letter to the "Church in America" using pre-existing scriptural verses....and he makes special note of how he's knowingly destroying every rule of biblical exegesis, and thinks you need to get over it. One line in it sent a special shiver at me, if you've come to NPC in the past month you'll immediately recognize it:

To the angel of the Church in America write:

These are the words of the One who holds the seven stars and walks among the golden lamp stands. I know your deeds. You live in luxury and self-indulgence, and you have forsaken your first love. I hold this against you. Woe to those of you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left. Surely the great houses will become desolate, the fine mansions left without occupants.

Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.

Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded your wealth in the last days. You say, "I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing." Yet it is those who are poor in the eyes of the world that are rich in faith. I have chosen them to inherit the kingdom I have promised to those who love Me. Therefore, do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Seek first My kingdom and My righteousness, and all these other things will be given to you as well. Remember, even I, the Lord Jesus Christ, though I was rich, for your sakes became poor, so that you, through My poverty, might become rich.

Why do you call Me, "Lord, Lord," but do not do what I say? Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says, for whoever obeys My commands--that is the one who loves Me.

What does the Lord require of you, you ask? To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. In fact, the entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

There will always be poor people in the land. I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in the land. Defend the cause of the weak and the fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.

Now let's talk about fasting. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable tot he Lord? No, this is the fast that I have chose: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to see the oppressed free and break every yoke. It is to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter--when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?

Even now, return to Me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity.

I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Why spend money on what is not bread and labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to Me and eat what is good, and your soul will delight int he richest of fare. Then you will call, and I will answer; you will cry for help and I will say, "Here am I." If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and the malicious talk, and if you spend yourself in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become as the noonday. I will guide you always; I will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

Therefore, My dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.


P.S. I am coming soon! My reward is with Me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.