Many of you, who know me well, know that I love Ann Voskamp's writings. Her words today, so powerfully crafted, have brought me to my knees and have impressed upon me to share some thoughts of my own in the shadow of hers.
This past weekend, 21 Christians in Egypt were martyred as Islamic Extremists beheaded them. The killers' chilling message to AMERICA was:
"A Message Signed With Blood To the Nation of the Cross". *(See photos on Ann's blog)
The nation of the cross. They actually identified America as a Christian, cross-shaped nation. Really? A nation, who now, through political correctness, is seeking to distance herself from the shaping of that cross; the cross of Jesus Christ?
For ISIS, the cross is offensive.
For America, the cross provided the path for our very existence.
For ISIS, the cross is what they're fighting against.
For America, the cross has become what we're fighting against as well; from the illiteracy of the Scriptures, the softening of our speech, our non-convicting tone, our tolerance of sin, to the abuse of our freedoms, the recklessness of our responsibilities to one another, our lazy work ethic, selfishness and an ungrateful attitude, as well as our ignorance of our US Constitution and the understanding of why we became a country in the first place. The "shining city on a hill" is quickly losing her flame and the shape of her heart.
How is the Church appearing through all of this? Powerless, apathetic, and heartless.
The HEART of the cross is LOVE. "For God so LOVED the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
Those 21 brave martyrs walked with their heads held high into the presence of God that day, because of their belief in Jesus Christ. They WON! The murderers didn't take their lives. Their lives belonged to God. He gave them eternal life. They are with Him at this very moment!
You know what I love most about the picture of the martyrs kneeling? It's how they are facing away from those who thought they controlled their fate. They weren't kneeling before ISIS, they were kneeling before and towards their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Their heads were up as their hearts bowed low before their King of kings and Lord of lords. No one took their lives. God rescued them, redeemed them, and ushered those brave souls into His glorious presence the instant they breathed their last breath.
"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (I Corinthians 15:55 NIV)
Our Jesus conquered death on the cross, and the grave through the resurrection!
"But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (I Corinthians 15:57)
Christ's heart took on the shape of the cross. Because of the cross, my heart is being molded and shaped to look like His. If you believe, so is yours.
The cross of LOVE is offensive to those who refuse it.
The cross of LOVE is offensive to those who abuse it.
The cross of LOVE is offensive to those who haven't knelt before it, believed it, been overwhelmed by it, or received grace because of it.
But, for those of us who have believed and received the LOVE of the cross, we have knelt there, died to self there, surrendered our lives there, and have been covered there with His blood; the blood that saves, the blood that paid the price for our sins, the blood that was spilled out so we could live and love as Christ did - with an obedient heart.
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He that loves not, knows not God for God is love." (I John 4:7-8)
LOVE, as God Himself is defined in I John 4:8, is why Jesus came, lived, was crucified, buried, and raised.
LOVE is what the cross was for. God's heart revealed, His Son sacrificed, in the shape of a cross.
Dear Lord Jesus,
Examine my heart today. I know it has shifted and isn't in the shape it should be. Please forgive me for wiggling out from under Your divine pressing upon my heart. My heart's desire is to look like Yours, act like Yours, and beat like Yours. I want to know You more so I can love You deeper. With Your cross imprinted on my heart, help me to be brave, in life or death, and to not be ashamed to proclaim You to the nations. Give all Christians, here at home and abroad, a brave heart to be obedient as we testify in Your name. Give us cross-shaped hearts that beat with Your mercy, Your grace, and Your LOVE.
In the powerful name of Jesus, I lay my heart before You, Amen.
*To read Ann's blog, go to www.aholyexperience.com