Only three days later, people go around with these crosses right on their foreheads.
It’s only three days after the world found out that The 21 died for being The People of the Cross, three days after that incomprehensible video stated they were “chopping off the heads of those that have been carrying the cross illusion in their heads” —-
that people all around the world people wear these sooty crosses right there on their faces, right above their eyes. Right there on their heads, the shaping of their minds.
Like they want to be known and marked and counted as one of those. One of His.
There are these sooty crosses smudged on countless foreheads and that’s what is murmured like a brave and honest refrain around the world today, words from our Genesis beginning:
Humanity was formed of dust and our human bodies will return to dust.
Three days later people wear it like a like a courageous confession of reality: For all our beautiful bluster — we are just beautiful dust.
It’s like this early echo of what will be said over all our graves: “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”
There’s hardly falling snow in the orchard. The trees are white and perfectly still out in the woods. There’s dust on the windowsills by the stove.
Wiping down the sills and the countertops and the stove, it’s like a refrain in my head: We’re all just dust. Just dust.
And if I’m only dust — just my love will not be enough.
If love is all we need — I’ve got a problem.
Because, honest? Our love isn’t enough to absorb the evil that decapitates men’s heads, evil that rapes little girls, evil that steals and sells children as sex slaves.
Our love struggles to really love the masked man who sharpened a blade and whacked off the head of Luqa Najati who didn’t know his wife was pregnant when he left to search for work in Libya — and never met his infant daughter.
Our love wrestles how to genuinely love the man who put his head on a pillow and slept last night after he severed the head of Samuel Stephanos who was working hard to save up for his wedding.
Or maybe you can love hypothetically love that masked murderer — until it’s literally your son whose rolled head is making the ocean run red with blood.
Until it’s literally your 12-year-old daughter who doesn’t know what rape is, but she was bought by a 50-year-old man and she was torn into and she can’t stop thinking about the blood that ran out of her innocence. Months later, and no words come out of her anymore. And there’s no mother to hold her — because her mother was bought in some sex slave market herself and no one even knows where she is.
There’s real active evil that’s not simply people acting — there’s real evil that’s more than a social construct, that’s more than someone’s bad choices, that’s not from any heart in this world, that’s not from any place in this world, that’s not from any mind in this world — there’s a supernatural evil that slithers into the corners of this world and pythons around hearts and minds until it strangles out the light and we scream against the dark.The only Love that can come take down the kind of evil that’s invaded our world, has to come from beyond the walls of the world.
The only Love that can crush undeniable evil is the undeniable love of the Cross.
When you’re just dust — your love alone will not be enough.
Super evil can only be absorbed by a supernatural kind of Love.
The kind of love that sings Kumbayah can’t shake a swaying candle at this kind of otherworldly evil — only an otherworldly Love that lets the hammer ring and took on the iron of the nails, that bore the weight of the world on that Cross, can torch straight through the hellish dark of this kind of evil.
Sometimes, for the love, your heart can’t love— which is exactly why Jesus offers you His.
The whole story isn’t “Everyone’s in.” It’s “Everybody’s invited.”
Everybody’s wanted. Everybody’s loved. For God so loved the world.
Our love will eventually fail and leave somebody out — but Cross love never fails to take all the willing in.
His Love has no boundaries — and then He binds all the beloved to Him, to shape them to be like Him.
And He knows the only way for your love to be transformed to be like His — is for Him to give you a heart transplant. For Him to give you His heart.
When you don’t think you can forget the evil that’s been done —
When you don’t think you can forgive the evil that’s been said —
When it’s His supernatural heart beating in you — it lets you supernaturally love in a heart beat.Only the undeniable love of the Cross can crush undeniable evil.
If evil — not people acting, but real active evil — is out to behead us, then Kumbayah love will never be enough — only Cross Love that willing offers itself for us as a Living Ransom will rescue us.
Because don’t ever be fooled: Cross Love that lays itself down is the only power that can lay the sharp edge of an axe right into evil’s head.
Cross Love that looks upside down, weak, surrendered and sacrificed is the only strong power that ultimately upends the evil and conquers the dark.
It comes back to me a thousand times – how a missionary told of this snake— a snake longer than a man—that slithered its way right through their front door and straight to the kitchen.
And the woman had flung outside screaming and a machete-wielding neighbor had calmly walked into her kitchen and he sliced off the head of the reptilian thing. But a snake’s neurology and blood flow make it such that it slithers wild even after it’s been sliced headless.
For hours the missionary stood outside.
And the body of the snake rampaged on, thrashing hard against windows and walls, destroying chairs and table and all things home and good.
A snake may wreak havoc — but it has no head. It’s really dead.
Evil can go around beheading — but it’s the thing that has no head.
Even if the tail still rampages, the snake’s head is crushed.
Only the undeniable love of the Cross can crush undeniable evil.
Either Jesus is the answer to the ultimate problems of the human condition — or there is no ultimate answer.
On Ash Wednesday, when the The 21 aren’t scattered ashes at sea…
but are a wildfire of love in our bones…
maybe now is the time that there will be countless thousands of us who we will bend our knees at the great shores of history and let ourselves be counted as The People of the Cross.
Maybe that is all there is on an Ash Wednesday?
On an Ash Wednesday, The People of the Cross repent of wanting to be greatly known for anything other than for loving greatly.
On an Ash Wednesday, the People of the Cross repent of a love and life that does anything less than “Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.”
The People of the Cross repent of not daily, relentlessly, extravagantly loving our neighbour next door though we keep saying we want to change the world, repent of hating, avoiding, and dreading suffering though we say we want to be found worthy to suffer for the cross of Christ.
The People of the Cross repent of not dying to dead things so there can be resurrection in us of real things, The People of the Cross repent of loving our agendas more — instead of interrupting our agendas because we love Jesus most.
On an Ash Wednesday, it’s happening in quiet, unseen places and churches and cubicles, this quiet bending of the knee in a thousand places today, a bending with The 21, and these murmured prayers of The People of the Cross:
God, forgive us for our lack of prayer, because the very root of our lack of growth is almost always a lack of prayer.
Forgive us for more interest in the paparazzi, motion pictures & famous personalities and People Magazine than in praying for The Persecuted Church.
Forgive us for our lavish church building plans, instead of our plans to love lavishly as a church, forgive us for not serving the outcast but serving the outcast notice to go further away…
Forgive us for not loving our enemies otherwise known as our brothers — and for turning those who were known as our brothers into our enemies and forgive us for wanting safe lives of comfort instead of living dangerous lives of love that speak of the comfort found in You.
On an Ash Wednesday, The People of the Cross just get down on their knees and say it through cracks in their broken hearts: We repent of loving You, Lord, so little because we have loved ourselves too much.
There’s a love that murmurs on a thousand lips of The People of The Cross:
May The 21 who actually died for their faith, compel countless thousands of us to actually live ours.
Out by the barn this morning, you can see them from the kitchen sink —
They’ve gotten out the tractor and they’re clearing a path through the snow, finding a way through a strange wilderness of white, so that there’s this way through.
Maybe three days after, there’s a whole lot of us longing for a 40-Day journey through into something more — more than we ever have before. Maybe because the world feels more like a strange wilderness that it ever has before.
Libya. Iraq. Paris. Denmark. Here.
The last seven days of global news may have CNN headlining, rightly or wrongly, as “Religion’s Week from Hell” — but the People of the Cross can look away from the headlines long enough to know:Whatever we look at is what we become.
What if for 40 Days we looked to the Cross — so we might become Cross Love in a world caught in the cross hairs of war and heartache and pain?
What if we, for 40 Days, what if The People of the Cross looked to the Cross and prayed 1 Samuel 7:3 at 7:03? “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods…and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out…”
And what if for the next 40 days we prayed repentance and redemption and revival and for The Persecuted Church and for the Church that is us, praying every morning from 7:03 until 7:14 and said our Amen with 2 Chronicles 7:14 : “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
What if we really committed to that kind of prayer for the next 40 days at 7:03? … till 7:14?
What if the next 40 days is asking The People of the Cross to do more than Give Up something — but to Take Back something?
Take Back our time so we can turn back to our First Love,
Take Back our hypocrisy and our complacency and our apathy and Love Lavishly,
Take Back our excuses for not committing to Give Back every day in some tangible, real way — to the local food bank, to a woman’s shelter, to the refugees and the foreigners and the Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and to the forgotten neighbour next door with her meowing stray cat.
Maybe now is the time —
Now is the time to Take Back what it means to humbly and genuinely live the love of The People of the Cross.
There was once a spring here on the farm, long after the snow had melted out in the orchard and the cold had gone and the strange white wilderness had resurrected into green, that I had laid out in a field of dandelions to the west of the barn.
Not only could you witness it — that when you behead a dandelion in full head — you sent a thousand more bravely out on the wind…
But you could hold the dirt, dust, right there in your hand — dust holding dust.
And you could feel that dust and know that if were the kind of good soil to break open for the otherworldly miracle of seeds coming in on the wind — that revival would rise right up from the dust, spread like love across the land …. like a Cross across the land.
Music: Aaron Strumpel
How to Carry “The Call For the People of the Cross” Prayer on Your Phone
(The audio of the The Call of the People of the Cross Prayer is downloadable and we’ve included a tutorial on how to add it to your iTunes playlist so you can attach it to an alarm to play everyday on your phone. And we’ve also created a set of foldable prayers for your Bible. So no matter where you go, you’ve got a mobile sword of PRAYERS.)
2. Move the downloaded audio file of The Call of the People of the Cross Prayer to your iTunes following this 1 minute tutorial:
3. Then simply set an alarm on your iPhone and then edit that alarm, setting that alarm’s ringtone from your iTunes “songs” selections on your iPhone to be the actual The Call of the People of the Cross Prayer — so come 7:03 or 10:59, when that alarm goes off on your phone, it will start automatically.
How to Use the Downloadable
40 Lenten Daily Card Devotional-Ornaments
“A Lent to Repent & Refresh: #PeopleOfTheCross”
Now could be a time of soul revival.
Each of these 40 mini cards are meant to be ‘sticky notes for your soul‘ — mobile faith, portable grace — 40 SIMPLE, small cards of prayer, intention, reflection and repentance, for your pocket, desk, kitchen sink, to carry around as a compass to orient to the irresistible beauty of Jesus, to the Cross, throughout the day.
Read the prayers slowly. Give each line time to do its work. Revisit the prayers throughout the day. Make space, physically and spiritually to sit with the handful of Scripture verses for the day. Linger with the Word. Reflect on them. Return to them throughout the day. Let them shape you. These 40 days will stir a deep soul revival to the extent that you return & revisit & let yourself be shaped by His loving heart, His Sacred, Living Word.
Then at day’s end, to quietly hang that day’s compass/card/ornament on a Lenten/Easter Cross Tree, a powerful visual of how we are the People of the Cross, people literally saved through Christ’s sacrificial love on the Cross — people whose lives are literally shaped by our repentance at the foot of the Cross, shaped by the hope, grace, redemption, supernatural love and resurrection we find through our King’s Cross.
This could be a Lent to repent. To refresh. To revive.
This could a season to fix our eyes on Jesus as He goes to the Cross —
And become those who go to the four corners of the world with His supernatural love because we are The People of The Cross.
Drop your email in here for The Free 40 Lent Devotionals-Ornaments that focus not on Giving Up for Lent but Taking Back what it means to be The People of The Cross