In my last posting, I said we would focus on four types of sin to repent and three themes of God’s immense privilege in birthing this day of repentance. The master categories of sin – this is to say virtually all sins fall under one of these headings – are shedding of innocent blood, covenant breaking, sexual sin, and idolatry.
The shedding of innocent blood – in California alone – speaks to the millions of abortions performed, many of them funded by taxpayers who could elect pro-life legislators before the next budget cycle if we cared enough – and the historic massacres of First Nations people from Bloody Island to Natural Bridge to Etna and the Oregon border. To this day, our lawless government denies some of these events took place, although I have seen photocopies of contemporary newspaper accounts of the Etna Massacre. Our legislature has adopted – on the Day of Repentance – legalization of murder in what it terms an “assisted suicide” bill. Our God is a God of life; when we serve ourselves instead of Him, we bring death wholesale.
Covenant breaking refers to the many treaties made and subsequently trashed with those same First Nations. But it references as much or more the faithlessness that tears families apart, and the addiction and abuse that destroys so many that remain technically intact. Covenant breaking – by the way – nearly always occurs when we worship our inadequacies. By that, I mean we would like to keep the promises we make, but exigent circumstances force a re-evaluation. We would like to honor the boundaries–but these Indians need to understand there is a gold rush underway, and our wives need to understand we just fell in love with our secretary who understands us better and so forth. Yet our God is a God of covenant; in serving Him, we become like Him. When we serve ourselves, we become victims of circumstance; and we victimize others along the way.
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Sexual sin occurs when we turn people into objects in our minds. Women become body parts and curves engineered for our gratification, and men become voices that sound like both security and adventure. The pornography industry is centered in Southern California, and Adult Superstores dot the interstates in Oregon. There is ready access in all our states through the internet and such web sites as Ashley Madison – a business dedicated to facilitating adultery. Our spouses – up to their elbows in kids and laundry or the stresses of professional life – cannot compete with the mysterious other who lives only to gratify our fantasies. Our God is a God of giving, but we too often want to be people of receiving; we need to be givers to become authentic persons in His image. The more we receive of false and non-nourishing humanity, the more we need in order to keep on pretending we are alive.
Idolatry functions in much the same way as sexual sin. It is all about gratifying our need to connect with God without sacrificing our prerogatives; we think token gifts will do. The problem is worshiping idols is a lot like eating food with no nutritional value. The more we eat, the hungrier we become; and we eventually starve to death and wonder how that is possible with so much food available. In California, we set up idols in public places – like the Hindu goddess of assassins, Kali, in front of our old city hall in Redding and the Greek and Roman deities that decorate so many state capitols. Our favorite idol in California seems to be our own ingenuity. This leads us to ignore the arrogance and lawlessness in which so many of us live – this is disgusting to God – and address our drought by building larger storage and distribution networks to store and transport the water we do not have. Our God is a God of sacrifice; the world always functioned in this way until we began sacrificing others and their interests in order to have our own. Our way works so well that we have wars, poverty and disease instead of the peace and prosperity that passes understanding and comes only as gift.
What do we do? Repentance is obviously the key from a Biblical point of view, and fasting is a traditional form of repentance. To give up something in order to better focus on God is liberating in many ways if we recognize the essence of the fast as a focus on God instead of on the object we sacrifice. For the Trifecta of Repentance, those who participate have engaged in fifty-two days of fasting and prayer prior to the day(s). Some have come on board later and even at the last minute. Our God honors participation at any point (Matthew 20:1-16) in the process.
Many Christians know – and some practice – a water or juice fast; these are exactly what they seem to be. Others engage a Daniel fast; only vegetables are eaten during the time of fasting. Still others forgo a meal or even two each day. But the essence of fasting is the letting go of something we think we need and God is pretty sure we do not. It becomes a bonus even in the period of deprivation.
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I happen to be addicted to the caffeine in diet soda. My excuse is that I make a lot of long drives and I need it to stay alert. The Lord’s view is that addiction is addiction, and it brings only bondage. The same holds for my use of profanity. Of course, I know pastors are not supposed to curse; I excuse myself by rationalizing that I rarely curse out loud but that it is a default in my mind when I am frustrated or stressed. Abba spoke to me as we entered this fast. He said He knew I think I need the soda and the mental catharsis of swearing; He allowed as He was quite sure I did not. I said yes to Him, and my body stopped craving the soda after about three weeks; the profanity has been more of a struggle. Yet He has led me into peace and patience I have not known before.
As this post is published, the fast and the Trifecta have run their course for this year. Some of God’s blessings are manifested and some still awaited. But three things are crystal clear.
This period – we identify it so much with Nehemiah and his city wall – is only the beginning. When Nehemiah completed his wall, the temple had yet to be restored and the Covenant yet to be re-engaged; Ezra had not yet called the Solemn Assembly and read the Torah from the steps of the temple to the people assembled. Leaders of this movement will be praying and sharing in the next few weeks as to where God would lead us from this point on. We know it will be about more than a drought.
Just as important is to recognize the degree to which we stand on each others’ shoulders whenever we approach God in a 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 context. God gave me the original vision for a California Day of Repentance. He gave to others the concept of the Trifecta, the revelation of Nehemiah as a roadmap, and the call to fifty-two days of prayer and fasting. The idea of rebuilding a wall of prayer on the coast and all of the materials for the prayer bulletins that have come weekly came from others in several states, and the leaders in Alaska and British Columbia have added their own invaluable contributions. As I traveled to the Midwest and Uganda, it fell to others to keep the communication and coordination alive through conference calls. We have practiced honor and respect for each other and our God throughout – preferring the other to ourselves. Only good can come from this.
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Finally, we have discovered on a daily basis that we serve a God of More. Who could have known that an idea or vision hatched in early 2014 would gain favor with hundreds and later thousands in first three and then five states? Who could have known how God would orchestrate the fast of exactly fifty-two days stretching from the anniversary of the first manned moon landing to the day an Old Testament prophet completed a building project of Kingdom ramifications? And who could anticipate the creativity of so many groups as they seek God’s face in the way He calls them rather than slavishly following directions issued by leaders who do not know them in all their snowflake diversity?
Small wonder the Psalmist echoes in our ears today: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.” May God bless those who read this; may He bless even more richly those who have already acted on it; may He bless more richly than that those who say, “My time of repentance and service begins today because my God is a God of new beginnings every day.”
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