Leaving Kalisz

How in the world did a week go by so quickly?  It seems like we had just arrived, and then it was suddenly the last day of the feast.  The last worship session was marked as Poland, but involved each country’s worship group.  Throughout the week, our musical men (Giuseppe, Roberto, and Daniele) were asked to support other groups: Czech Republic, Germany, Russia, and England.  And they did.  Of all the people at the Feast of Tabernacles, the only ones who worked harder than our three guys were our hosts, who cooked, cleaned, set up the sound, and helped in a thousand different ways throughout the week, and at all hours.

During the last session, they were asked to help Czech Republic and Germany, and then Poland took the platform again.  I went to speak to the musical organizer because Italy hadn’t gotten an opportunity to do a last song.  He said, “Yes, but they got the chance to play.”  I said, “But only supporting, not as Italy.”  He told me it was too late.  I went back to where our group was sitting, I was too sad to even give them the bad news, only Felicity, who gave me a hug.  About a minute later, the musical organizer came up behind me and said, “OK, you have the chance to play one song.”  So we went onto the platform, to the astonishment of the Polish performers, who thought it was theirs for the rest of the hour.  They graciously stepped down and we did one last song.  After that we all took Communion together as the Polish team performed a quiet worship song.  Then we all sang together in joyful worship.

We had one last dinner together, and said our goodbyes.  It was so hard to say goodbye to everyone, hard to believe that the week was done.  We had a harrowing two-hour ride to the airport the next morning, at high speed on narrow two-lane roads most of the way, with big trucks, rain, and passing two or three cars at a time.  Each of us had a unique reaction to the drive:  Felicity was in the front seat, enjoying the speed.  I was in the back seat, thankful to know where I’m going if this is my time.  Bethany was next to me, hanging on for dear life, unwilling to glance toward the windshield, and praying in tongues.

The thing that has remained with me has been the very tangible presence of God.  This morning, having returned to Italy, I woke up at about 4 AM, and prayed for about three hours.  Yes, there is something so addictive (in a good way!) about the presence of God.  I love being in His presence so much that I just don’t want to leave.  So with God’s help I want to continue a practice of praying even more each day—three, four, or more hours.  God is good!

The Bells

One thing that you hear all over Europe is bells.  Just about every church in every town has bells.  Some ring daily, some ring hourly, but bells are a very familiar sound throughout Europe.  This morning, here in Hungary, I heard a church bell ringing and ringing, and it reminded me to write about the bells in London from my recent visit there.

In London we went to visit John Newton’s church, St. Mary Woolnoth.  In the entryway there was a bell rope in red, white, and blue, the three colors of the British flag.  I had such a strong urge to pull the bell rope that it was literally all I could do to keep from reaching out and giving it a tug.  Those who know me, know that whenever I pass a bell, I’ve got to ring it—a character trait that’s often gotten me scolded.  But, honestly, what are bells for, if not for ringing?

Safely inside, we heard the story of John Newton’s life.  John Newton is the writer of the most famous and beloved hymn in the world:  “Amazing Grace.”  Newton’s life is actually reflected in those lyrics (http://www.constitution.org/col/amazing_grace.htm).  Then we prayed and sang.

Someone in the group shared a prophecy in which it was predicted that the bells will ring all over the country.  That’s when I realized that I had been in London for four days and had not heard one single bell.  What I had heard was a lot of cars honking, and it seemed that honking had replaced bells in London.  Someone else, having also noticed the bell rope, said, “Let’s ring the bells!”  So we went to the entryway and one of the men unhooked the bell rope and began to pull it.  Nothing.  He pulled harder.  Still nothing.  He pulled even harder, getting a rhythm going.  Silence.  Somebody had either removed or silenced the bells.  I was so disappointed and saddened that tears came to my eyes.  A member of the group had noted that bells are rung to call people to worship and also to proclaim freedom.  I had felt disappointed at the lack of worship and saddened by the lack of freedom.

So we left the church, and I was still feeling very sad.  Then suddenly we were surrounded by bicycles, and all the bicycles were ringing their bells—we were surrounded by ringing bells!  It was like God was reassuring us that even efforts to silence the bells will not succeed.  We were all rejoicing like crazy people there in the streets of London.

God is good!

Let it Reign!

I recently had the privilege of hearing Pastor Alexandre Guzzardi preach.  Pastor Guzzardi is one of those rare individuals with an honest-to-goodness supernatural gift for preaching God’s Word.  Not everyone who preaches has a gift for preaching, which doesn’t make them bad preachers, it just means that they may be more scholarly, and therefore, lean more toward the teaching gift than the preaching gift.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  I enjoy teaching, too.  In addition to his gift, Pastor Guzzardi is also a delight to hear because of his bust-a-gut-laughing hilarious delivery (not all of which translates with such hilarity into English, and some is purely visual).

Pastor Guzzardi, who is Brazilian, lives in England, and has for many years.  But he preaches in Italian.  Since the pastor of my home church in Milan is Brazilian, I am used to hearing Brazilian-accented Italian, but it really throws some people.

The “it” in my title is the Body of Christ, and “Destined to Reign” was the title of Pastor Guzzardi’s sermon.  In Genesis 1:20-21 God filled the waters with fish and other sea creatures, and the air with birds.  In the Amplified version it says, “Let the waters bring forth abundantly and swarm with living creatures, and let birds fly over the earth in the open expanse of the heavens,” (emphasis mine).  And in verse 24 it says, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creeping things, and [wild] beasts of the earth according to their kinds,” (emphasis mine).   The sea creatures are actually made of water, and the land creatures (including humans) are actually made out of earth, and in Genesis 2:7 we actually get to see God at work making the first man, and indeed, he is made from the earth.

Pastor Guzzardi said that when a creature gets too far away from the environment it was made from, it is in mortal danger, for example a fish out of water or a land animal in the middle of the ocean.  Then in Genesis 1:26 it says:

God said, “Let Us [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] make mankind in Our image, after Our likeness, and let them have complete authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the [tame] beasts, and over all of the earth, and over everything that creeps upon the earth,” (emphasis mine).

(Note that the word “tame” that the Amplified version inserts is something I disagree with.  Before the fall (and this is clearly before the fall), all the animals were tame.)

Other versions use words like dominion, rule, and reign, it all amounts to the same thing:  humans were made to rule over the earth and all the creatures on earth and in the sea and skies.  Then Pastor Guzzardi showed a picture of a flower, like this one:

He said, “People sell their souls, rob from their mothers, and even kill to have this.  It’s an opium poppy.  If you don’t reign over the earth, the earth will reign over you.”  Then he showed another picture:

He said, “People sell their souls and lose their families to have this, too.  Paper money is made mostly of cotton.  If you don’t reign over the earth, the earth will reign over you.”  Then he showed other pictures:

He said, “Men sell their souls and walk out on their families to have this.  Women sell their souls and leave their children to have this.  We just read that these bodies are also made from the earth.  If you don’t reign over the earth, the earth will reign over you.”

Anything you can think of comes from the earth and can rule over you, if you don’t rule over it.

We have been given the authority to reign on the earth and over the earth.  When sin entered the picture, we forfeited that authority to the devil.  But through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, He bought back our right to reign.  But we have to take authority, which is an active thing.  It won’t do us any good just to know that we have authority, we have to take it and use it.  If we don’t reign over the earth, the earth in one way or another will reign over us.

The only one who doesn’t have any legal rights on this earth is the devil.  True, he tempted and tricked us out of our authority, but without a physical body made from the earth, he has no legal right to rule over the earth.  He is called the prince of the power of the air because he has no physical body.

Great sermon!

And here’s how I took authority over the earth:  when I was almost too tired to keep going, and do what I needed to do, I took authority over the earth (specifically the earth that my body is made of), and I said, “I speak strength to keep going over my body.  Thank You, Jesus for giving me back the authority to reign over the earth!”  And I did feel stronger and was able to complete my work.  Then it occurred to me that we can do the same thing with sickness, injury, and any other earthly need.  Jesus was the perfect example of a man who reigned with authority over the earth.

Reign on!