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It’s possible to change the world’s political architecture through prayer! The most recent (and most grossly under-reported) example of this is with regard to the fall of the Berlin Wall. This post will be the first in a series where that story gets told, including interviews with those who were in the battle behind the battle.
Kristen and I both read a great book (loaded with pictures!) recently on the Berlin Wall and it’s fall called “Check Point Charlie and the Wall” but regrettably only one sentence in the book spoke of what really took down the wall… “In the top secret document ‘MfS, ZAIG, nr. 496/89’ he confirmed the rapid increase in politically motivated meetings organized by religious institutions and the sharply higher numbers participating in open air demonstrations.” Another book I ordered and can’t wait to read also mentions what I will tell you about more fully here – that book is Voices in Times of Change : The role of Writers, Opposition Movements and the Churches the Transformation of East Germany. (The role of writers and churches?? Uh oh, perhaps this will only encourage my blogging!!!)
I know of only one book (in English, though now out of print) that is devoted to this topic, Candles Behind the Wall. Author Barbara Von Der Heydt writes… “Six candles in Leipzig did more to topple the wall than 6000 missiles in Western Europe.”
The guy behind those six candles is named Rev. Christian Fürher. It is perhaps my only regret on my six weeks this summer in Europe that a meeting between us didn’t materialize. However, we are in communication and a meeting is pending. There are few people alive today who more encapsulate nearly all of my callings; strategic-level prayer, pastoring and politics, Bonhoeffer, the culture war and the Sermon on the Mount. (If only he was a church planter too!)
His name, Christian Fürher, is the first curious thing about him, at least to the English speaking world. When we hear “Fürher” we think of Hitler, but in German the word simply means leader. (Two weeks before Hitler was elected, Bonhoeffer rebelliously said on German radio, “Jesus is my Fürher. “) Christian Fürher was born March 5, 1943 in Leipzig, just south of Berlin. Little did the world know that as one murderous Fürher was ascending in power, God saw to it that another was being born – Christian Fürher – his name, Christian Leader, is quite prophetic in terms of how God used him.
The Berlin Wall (1961-1989) was 65 running miles of concrete, another 79 miles of alarm-equipped electrical fence in the rural areas, 20 earthen bunkers and 302 watchtowers. Unlike other city walls throughout the centuries, the wall was built not to keep people out, but to keep people in. Over 170 people died trying to defect by crossing the wall from East Berlin to West Berlin.
Here I am at one of the only remaining segments of the wall today.
This pic is of a hole in the wall – I’m bummed the view on the other side is blurred. Family members on each side of the wall would gather at these types of places to talk or exchange things. When that got out of hand, even the windows of the buildings facing West Berlin were bricked shut.
A museum and place for old ladies to die OR a grassroots counter-movement
In 1980, Rev. Fürher, started a November teaching series in his church (Nikolaikirche) in Leipzig on the theme of peacemaking. His zeal on the topic was fueled by the rising nuclear threat from proposed Soviet SS20 missiles and American Pershing Missiles. Rev. Fürher took the bold political step and opened the doors of his church to “alternative” young people who were forming protest groups for disarmament. He’s says “I suddenly realized that if we would open our doors for these types, the communists would no longer be able to say the church was a museum, a place for old ladies to die. The church could again become a grassroots counter-movement.”
In 1982, Rev. Fürher started a Monday night prayer meeting at his church – the prayer meeting lasted seven years (until the wall fell). Every Monday night at 5 p.m. a handful of people gathered, and at every meeting the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount were read in unison. These prayer meetings marked a new level of engagement. The meetings were called Friedensgebate (Prayers for Peace).
In 1988, a few protesters were arrested in Berlin and Rev. Fürher dialed up the prayer resistance a notch… he held his prayer meetings daily. Rev. Fürher frequently quoted Bonhoeffer, “the church is only the church when it is there for others.” People coming to pray daily for the release of the protesters quickly reached two thousand in number. Obviously the government was on high alert and they sent hundreds of their undercover STASI agents into the prayer meetings. Rev. Fürher began the meetings and joked about the undercover agents there – everyone laughed except the agents and everyone could easily look around identify who they were by who wasn’t smiling. (STASI secret police had over 100,000 agents and had assembled files on one-third of the East German population!!) Rev. Fürher did not mind the agents in his meetings but said “this is great that the government sent its employees to church and they were forced to listen to Jesus’ teachings!”
In September of 1989, other churches around Germany began to hold similar prayer meetings. At first that sounds like something great to report, and it is certainly. However, as one who has been in some similar battles what I see there is that Rev. Fürher had little help from other churches for six and a half of the seven years of his struggle. In his book, only available in German, he speaks of the discouragement he had to deal with of being the lone radical following the path of the Sermon on the Mount. He comments that he and his church experienced ten years of suffering and defamation prior to this point.
In October 1989, 60,000 people gathered in and around the church which was the largest demonstration ever held in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). All the people came with candles in hand. Rev. Fürher says “the Lord reminded me of this Scripture that says, ‘It’s not by might, and not by power, but by His Spirit.’ The only successful revolution in Germany was a non-violent one. Later the police said they were prepared for everything but not for prayers and candles.”
With two hands on a candle you can’t pick up a stone
The Berlin newspaper reported that the counter-revolution would be put down on Monday October 9 by “whatever means necessary.” Rev. Fürher reports that the day before some doctors came and visited his church to tell him that “hospital rooms had been made available for patients with bullet wound…
…So we were absolutely terrified of what might happen. The police had NOT been briefed for this possibility (candles and prayers). Had we thrown stones, they would have known what to do. They would have attacked. But the tanks had no choice but to withdraw without a single shot being fired…. we had the sense that something extraordinary had happened but we really only understood the enormity of it later… thousand of people with candles. People who have never met before, suddenly a family. They lay their candles at the feet of the armed soldiers and police. The steps of the STASI building, the organization that spied on, abused and sold people out, now awash with candles. It looks like a river of peace and light. …When more than 2000 of us came out of the church – I will never forget the sight – tens of thousands more were waiting outside in the square. They were holding candles. When you hold a candle you need both hands. You have to guard the flame, stop it from being blown out. You can’t hold a stone or club at the same time. And then the miracle occurred. The Spirit of Jesus, a spirit of non-violence, took hold of the masses and what resulted was material, peaceful violence. The army, fighting patrols and police were drawn in, started conversations and retreated.
On Oct. 18, these prayer meetings (protests) led to the resignation of Erich Honecker, the communist East German politician later tried with crimes against humanity. Honecker was contemplating the “Chinese Solution” to shut down Rev. Fürher’s prayer meetings – the Chinese Solution referred to the massacre at Tienanmen Square in Beijing only five months earlier. A leader in the old GDR regime said before his death… “We had planned everything. We were prepared for any eventuality. Any except for prayer and candles.”
Ronald Reagan’s famous speech at the Brandenburg Gate was June 7, 1987 – “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Rev. Fürher contends that the reason Gorbachev didn’t come and tear down the wall is because the request was made “in a spirit of war.” Two more years on contending in prayer were necessary to undermine the real foundations of that wall. Rev. Fürher stood at the same wall (on the other side) and led hundreds of thousands of others to call on God to tear down the wall. God answered and the Belin Wall fell November 9, 1989.
That’s a pic of us at the Brandenberg Gate a couple weeks ago.
The Sermon on the Mount in two words
Later when asked how he was so confident that peaceful prayer protests would work Rev. Fürher commented, “we were not in the least confident. We were afraid day and night, but we had the courage of our convictions. The Bible had taught us the power of peaceful protest and this was the only weapon we had. Resorting to violence makes us no better than our enemies, and then we are no longer blessed.” Obviously he’s strong in the flow of the Sermon on the Mount.
About the Sermon on the Mount he said; “It still moves me today to recall that in a secular country the masses condensed the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount into two words – NO VIOLENCE (KEINE GEWALT!) and they practised what they preached.” Keine Gewalt became their slogan.
In the same way this unjust system has fallen
There was a particular Saturday in 1989 about which Rev. Fuhrer writes: “Fourteen hours, uniformed men beat the defenceless people, who did not retaliate, and took them away in lorries. Hundreds of them were herded into stables in Markkleeberg.” During this period, Markus Laegel was only 13 years old. Today he heads 24-7 Germany and has written here of his memories of that time. Later, at the fall of the wall Markus says he sensed the Spirit of God saying, “in the same way as this unjust system was fallen, so every other unjust system will fall.” He notes that the reason he is doing this 24-7 prayer thing is because he sees his generation has “merely swapped communism for consumerism and they are no more free.”
The street and the altar
This is long enough, but it’s powerful stuff. I have a number of specific questions for Rev. Fürher and I’ll post again on this topic and include his replies. I’ll have to arrange another time/place to meet – perhaps in January. I believe that his story and testimony need to be told in the prayer movement outside of Germany. Here’s a pic of him today in his cut off jean-jacket and white spiked hair, both of which have become his signature look. Also, here is the New York Times article which was a story about his retirement from the church last year. I’ll conclude here with his statement: “I always wanted also to move in the earthly realm. It is not the throne and the altar but the street and the altar that belong together.”
Wow– this week my blog has really turned into more of a slideshow of my pictures rather than my commentary. But, there are still more things to say and show.
Many times I’ve mentioned the privilege I had to study for three years under one of the world’s leading Bonhoeffer scholars – Dr. F. Burton Nelson. Burton died in 2004, he was a personal friend of the Bonhoeffer family. He challenged me to pick a theological companion to walk through life with, so I picked Bonhoeffer. What a treat for me to visit Bonhoeffer’s home (actually his parents home) in Berlin a few weeks ago and be given a private tour. Thank you Knut Hämmerling for that treat. Here we are in front of the home at Marienburger Allee 43.
For those of us who’ve seen this address written in his own script, even walking up to the home is pretty cool. A couple days before he was stripped naked and hung in the concentration camp at Flossenbürg, he wrote that script in the front of a book that he wanted returned to his parents. His body was cremated with thousands of others in the ovens and his family didn’t learn for certain of his death until months later. Bonhoeffer was killed on April 9, 1945. Hitler committed suicide twenty days later. Germany surrendered on May 7.
For a couple of hours Knut downloaded details of Bonhoeffer’s life for me and my family. I won’t take up space here introducing you to Bonhoeffer if his name is new to you. Take a couple moments and read about him here. Here I am in Bonhoeffer’s bedroom/study. (One of the things I’ve given much thought to here is my new home office – I am borrowing a couple ideas from his here – one is the big window which I plan to install when I get home.)
At this desk he wrote what was to be his life work Ethics. He was arrested by the Gestapo in this house and did not complete Ethics. Pages of it were found ten years after his death hidden in the rafters of this home. His good friend Eberhard Bethge compiled them and that is the version of Ethics that is readily available today. Also in this house conspiratorial discussions took place which included Bonhoeffer, other family members and leaders of the resistance movement – plots to assassinate Hitler were discussed here.
As a Sermon on the Mount junkie, I’ve always been quite dialed in on how Bonhoeffer held to the high pacifist ideal in his writings (turn the other cheek, love enemies), but compromised (and justifiably so in my view) that ideal by participating in a secret assassination plot on Hitler. His (and Karl Barth’s) view of the myth of the separation of church and state very much appeals to me. Separating the spheres, Bonhoeffer insisted, is a denial of God’s having reconciled the whole world to himself in Christ. He said the Church wasn’t just to tend the victims of society run over by the wheel, the Church has a God-mandated responsibility to shove a spoke in the wheel and stop the victimization. He said the church may not keep out of politics if the state abrogates basic human rights. He demanded the church be prepared for political resistance and he was very much alone in that opinion.
Bonhoeffer criticized Luther for two things; 1) focusing the Reformation only on the church (whereas Zwingli sought to influence – salt and light – all of society). Bonhoeffer believed Luther’s views on this set the stage for the German Church of the 1930’s to stay out of Hitler’s business. In the 1000+ plus pages of Reformation history I’ve read this month, I’ve had the sense that had Zwingli been in Germany and not in Switzerland, the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened. Bonhoeffer also was one of the earliest voices in the German Lutheran Church to renounce 2) the anti-Semitism and treatment of the Jews.
In the years prior to his arrest he organized pastor strikes, signature drives, etc. and was very much political. As the Reich/State increasing silenced pastors, even friends distanced themselves from Bonhoeffer. He experienced the loneliness of the loss of friends and reputation. Honestly, I can really relate. Had I been called to trumpet the HIVAIDS issue I would be celebrated, but those of us who recognize the humanity of the unborn and the injustice of abortion and walk in a clear call from God to stop the shedding of judicially innocent blood — we are vilified. But, to quote one of Bonhoeffer’s more famous lines… “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
Recently I was told I cut the target of those I’m called to reach in half when I get political. Hmm, half. If I was a pastor in Alabama in the 60’s I’d be marching across the bridge with my black brothers and sisters even if it meant 99% of the white folks in my town spit me out. Today we don’t question the humanity of blacks – previous Supreme Court decisions denying blacks full humanity have been reversed. Science now confirms separate and unique living human beings are the product of conception. It’s a human rights issue, a justice issue. And, who does God have on the earth to be his “spoke” in the wheel that is running over the most vulnerable and helpless members of human society? Is it any wonder I’m the only pastor in our state to receive numerous death threats this year? I vote we apply a little Sermon on the Mount to our treatment of the unborn… let’s do to them what we’d want done to us – did you know they feel pain at 8 weeks? Wow– yet they have no voice and they use no anesthesia to dismember them while they are yet living.
For those of you interested to dive into Bonhoeffer a bit – first, buy two books. 1) Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Spoke in the Wheel by Renate Wind. Kristen, Caleb and I read this together a few weeks ago and that made for great discussion just prior to our visit to the Bonhoeffer Haus – it’s an easy 182 pages. Next read 2) Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer. This is now universally considered a Christian Classic – this is where you’ll read his ideas about “cheap grace” and the entire middle section is his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount.
After that I recommend my professor Burton Nelson’s book – really a compilation of Bonhoeffer writings – 3) A Testament to Freedom and I also recommend Bonhoeffer’s best friends biography of his life 4) Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography by Eberhard Bethge. Bonhoeffer’s other works and letters are all readily available. If you are not much of a reader and just want a DVD version of his life I recommend – Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Pacifist, Nazi Resistor– which we show during the Omega Course. Those who are hard-core can join the International Bonhoeffer Society. Hope all that is helpful to somebody.
My kids need some kind of special award in heaven for their patience with me on my Reformation outings. Like the day they said “where are we going today dad?” And I answered, “Eisleben.” And they say, “cool, what’s in Eisleben?” And I say, “Luther’s death house.” And they say… “oo ooh K?!”
Here’s the kind of thing one sees in Luther’s death house. Pardon the bad pics, as usual, I’m snapping photos against the rules – like this one I took of his death bed – the pic was taken with the camera hanging indiscreetly around my neck down my belly – I felt like I had a wild west six shooter at my side firing off rounds.
Interesting to me that Luther was born and died in the same town. For a guy who changed the entire world he sure didn’t wander far from home. This pic creeped us all out – the photo does not do justice to the spooky glow in his eyes as he gives up the ghost. The pic also doesn’t do the size of this painting justice– it’s ten feet long, 8 feet high. Trust me, you notice it when you walk in the room!
As is customary with important figures, a death mask was made. Unusual though was to also do a hand cast. Here, rigor mortis had already set in so they had difficulty making his one hand look like it was holding a pen and his other hand holding flat a paper as if he’s ready to write yet something more.
Here’s what they call his “deathbed portrait” of which many copies were made and circulated.
And here is his burial spot at the foot of his pulpit in the Castle Church in Wittenberg. The kids took one look at this thing and wondered if he was a midget. Answer… no. We did see a full size burial cloth that sat over his full size casket. And I saw a rusty iron handle from his casket (now in the Luther House, Wittenberg) that they found when they were doing church renovations 150 years ago. My guess is at that time they collected what was left of him and made this new burial box for his bones. But, I’m not sure. Maybe since they we never able to contain Luther’s influence while he was living, they appeased his foes by stuffing him in a small box for the centuries he awaits resurrection.
Sorry for such a creepy, and pretty much pointless post, at least up until this point. I’ll try here to share a few of my thoughts as you can imagine I have a lot flowing through my head in these types of places.
First, you will find none of the type of stuff I’ve included above for the Swiss Reformer Zwingli. No deathbed, deathmask, portrait, or even tomb. The reason is Zwingli was a chaplain in the Swiss army and died in a battle fighting the pope’s forces. His body was quartered, burned and his ashes were mixed with dung and thrown to the wind.
I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be masked and preserved as Luther was, but I’m no fan of cremation either. (Why? It’s more fitting for Hindu or Buddist theology than Christian eschatology. As N.T. Wright says about cremation, “the underlying implication, of a desire to be merged back into the created world, without any affirmation of a future life of new embodiment, flies in the face of Christian theology.” He says the huge swing toward cremation in the last century reflects the total confusion in the church and the world about the future resurrection.)
Did you know I am related to CH Spurgeon? He was a mega-church pastor in London in the 19th century. I’ll share a Spurgeon quote with you… in Lectures to my Students he tells all the students at his pastors college about the importance for the minister of frequenting the death bed. He says it’s critical to our ability to keep eternity and salvation at the forefront of our thinking that we are regularly with the dying.
I feel as if I’ve had more than my share of exposure to death, in my immediate family and certainly as a police chaplain (and hospital chaplain before that). I’ve been on a leave of absence from my police chaplaincy post for 18 months and I’ve been asked by the PD and Sheriffs dept (even while I’ve been here) to jump back in with both feet in September (which I will). With the deaths in my family, I was really having trouble doing death notifications and being on the scene of bad accidents and suicides.
In terms of my reading plan for this sabbatical, I completed all the Reformation reading I had planned and am now into the first of three NT Wright books on my list – more on them later. For now, Wright’s book “Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church” has been just what the doctor ordered. He totally dismantles sloppy and errant ideas most Christians have about heaven and the future resurrection. It should be required reading for those taking the Omega Course. (Randy B…. get on that!)
The KC Times article yesterday on the 24/7 prayer at IHOP-KC has caused me to reflect again on a massive 24/7/365 prayer movement that emerged from here (Germany) a couple centuries ago. I’ll have to rely on pictures from our time in Herrnhut a couple years ago because we haven’t been able to get there during our time here this summer. Here we are at the edge of town. The tree-lined one lane road behind us went a mile from Zinzendorf’s home (Berthelsdorf) to the prayer community in Herrnhut. As you can see on this map, Herrnhut is as far east in Germany as one can get, it’s right on the border of the Czeck Republic.
Herrnhut, Germany is the home of the renowned Hundred-Year-Long Prayer Meeting. In 1722, persecuted Christians from Moravia fled to Saxony and found protection in the domain of the regional Count Nicolas Ludwig von Zinzendorf. (I’ve always loved to say his name!) Here’s what he looked like:
Zinzendorf was influenced by his godfather’s (P.J. Spener) pietism and the pietistic renewal movement in the Lutheran church – that faith (prayer and Bible study) should be personal and that we can relate directly to God – that religion should be from the heart, not the head. I’ve been quoting Karl Barth on this trip so I thought his comment on Zinzendorf would be fitting here; “Zinzendorf is perhaps the only genuine Christocentric of the modern age.”
The Lord’s Watch
Zinzendorf established a Christian community for oppressed religious minorities on his land. When a fleeing Moravian named Christian David showed up at his door, Zinzendorf welcomed him and invited him to invite others. A Moravian settlement was established on Count Zinzendorf’s land. When the community started to experience discord and division in 1727, Zinzendorf called them to prayer. They later named their praying community Herrnhut (Herren hut), which means “the Lord’s Watch.”
Initially, twenty-four people took one hour shifts during which they committed to pray – the Lord’s Watch. More joined the watch and this prayer watch went on unbroken until 1847. Throughout the decades hundreds attended these prayer meetings and worship services – many of the people were overwhelmed by the strong presence of God and would sing and lay prostrate on the floor for six to eight hours. The anointing touched the children and led to a revival among children.
Prayer births a mission movement
As Moravians at Herrnhut started to sense God’s missionary call to take the good news to the lost, they would hold funerals for the missionaries before they sent them off to places like Jamaica. (We found Moravian missionary graves when we were in Jamaica a couple years ago!) Imagine holding a funeral for someone who is about to leave because it was understood that the call of Jesus was to go give your life reaching lost people and that you’d not return in this life. To reach the slaves in Jamaica, the Moravian missionaries would sell themselves into slavery as it was the only way to gain access to Caribbean slaves. Stories of supernatural visitations and provision accompany each missionary account of the Moravians.
John Wesley wrote that he was led to Christ by a Moravian missionary from Herrnhut while sailing on a ship to America. When the ship was nearly overtaken by a storm, and he and the other passengers panicked, however the Moravian fellow on the ship was calm, had peace and prayed. In his revivals Welsey often talked about the “warming heart” moment of his born-again experience with the Moravian missionary.
Here is Caleb in the Moravian graveyard at Zinzendorf’s grave. About fifty yards away we found the grave of Christian David. This stuff comes alive when you read this book released a couple years ago from 24/7 Titles – Regal.
The goal for Zinzendorf and his friend Christian David was to form ecclesiolae in ecclesia—”little churches within the church”—to act as a leaven, revitalizing and unifying churches into one communion. Caleb, I, and our good friend Andy spent several days out in Zinzendorf’s forest – it was a powerful time – a strong prophetic flow and presence of God – we even commanded storms with our prayers! Here’s a pic of wet heads Andy and Caleb after that experience…
We stumbled on places in the forest called “bandengrubens” – these were earthen dugouts with rock benches in a circle where Herrnhutters came each day to study the Bible together and pray. Caleb has plans to build a bandengruben dugout in our shelter belt along the creek at home. Here’s a bandengruben we found in Zinzendorf’s forest…
In the forest we also found a well which is curiously named Isaac’s Well (all this is in Saxony – sacs sons – Isaac’s sons – some of you reading this know why I’m underscoring all of that). Here’s a pic of that memorable spot…
A new sound released in Christian worship – JOY
In the first 65 years of this Herrnhut prayer meeting 300 missionaries were sent and the modern missions movement was born. Also, equally significant, joy came back into Christian worship as the uplifting Moravian hymns were embraced by the church worldwide. (Their music was led by trombone choirs – I bought a CD when I was there – wild stuff!) Isn’t this amazing… this a 100+ year long 24/7/367 prayer meeting produced the global missions movement and changed the worship expression of Christianity for generations. Here’s the prayer tower that now stands above the Moravian graveyard at Herrnhut.
Heads up – – the following is not rated PG. But I share what I’m about to share to show how good and Godly people are not perfect people and that even the greatest move of God has it’s fleshly moments. (I’ve also recently written here on what I see as one of Luther’s two faults). Some today throw the baby out with the bathwater in terms of those God is using today – they see the great work, but are unable to get over some doctrinal quirk the minister has, or whatever. (Relating this back Mike Bickle and to the difficult but incredible days of the KC Prophets, those who’ve never read his book “Growing in the Prophetic” will never see how Bickle was able to change the dirty bathwater without throwing out the baby.)
An unfortunate controversy
Zinzendorf was involved in an unfortunate controversy about the wound of Christ. During a later period of his life he started to reflect on the wound of Christ (In Latin, “wound” is a form of the word vulva–opening, vagina– no kidding). In all the crucifixion pictures of Jesus’ wound Zinzendorf noticed the wound of Christ indeed did bear a remarkable vulva-like resemblance. He postulated that the “wound” that gives life to all of humanity is the vulva of Jesus. He encouraged followers to visualise Christ’s vulva in great detail – critics hammered him for this intense psycho-erotic meditation on the wounds of Christ. Feminist theology today embraces this reasoning. Zinzendorf later backed off this sexually-charged theology and agreed it was aberrant.
Also, I want to report that the Jesus Haus in Herrnhut is emerging in the house of prayer and missionary flow that historically came from Herrnhut. It was a blessing to be with those folks in that community and we also so appreciated the hospitality of those at the YWAM base in Herrnhut. YWAM has an intercessory prayer training focus today at Herrnhut.
So, Jesus says (Luke 4:18)… “Will not God bring about justice for his elect who cry to him day and night?” Yet the moment someone stands up to do just that – here come the “cult” labels from those who don’t have a clue what they are looking at. Remember this – a fanatic is someone who loves and obeys Jesus more than you do.
Yesterday my hometown paper, the KC Star, decided to do a lengthy story on the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, founded by Mike Bickle. Read the story yourself. In case you are wondering, we are thrilled that Caleb returns in a couple weeks for his second year there. Kristen and I have often wondered over the years what our lives would have been like had we stayed there in the 80’s. We fully support what is happening at IHOP-KC. (For those of you who feel led to “fill me in” on this some more, don’t bother, maybe you aren’t aware that we were there in the 80’s during the days of the KC Prophets and though we were young and dumb, what personally hurt us was the adultery of Bickle’s accuser, not Bickle – he stayed faithful).
I thank God for Mike Bickle and that God has used him to raise up 24/7/365 prayer all over the earth. Like I told one cynic recently, he who has a better prayer life than Mike Bickle can cast the first stone. He who lives the Sermon-on-the-Mount lifestyle more closely than Mike Bickle can cast the first stone. I should have said this: I wonder what they’d write and say about you if you were even a tenth as successful at raising up tens of thousands of twenty-somethings to pray non-stop night and day for mercy and justice for every concievable issue facing planet earth.
Also in the newspaper, the Washington Times, is this op-ed by my friend Pastor Walter B. Hoye II. I honored Pastor Hoye recently on my pro-life blog. But more than what I have to say I hope you’ll read what he has to say about black genocide and abortion. It’s no secret that Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger was a eugenic racist – calling for abortions and forced sterilizations of those she dubbed “human weeds” (the blacks Jews and the other, as she called them… “dysgenic races.”) Planned Parenthood has never renounced their racist roots and continues to target poor communities and countries with their population control programs.
Pastor Hoye is trying to let others know we are aborting more black babies than are being born – that because of abortion, Black America now has a negative population growth rate. Thanks to those who profit from abortion, as Pastor Hoye states, “Black American’s are no longer replacing themselves.” And, at the present rate of birth, “the entire black community in the United States could be wiped out by the year 2100.” (And America’s first black President is leading the charge! Oh the irony of that! ) Can you imagine a black pastor who remains silent about the genocide of his people? Thank God for Pastor Hoye!
Here’s a good place to plug my friends Darlene and Danielle Wibeto children’s book… Justice Loves Babies.
A few things in me have been settled this past month or so on this sabbatical– one of which is that it’s time to release my Sermon on the Mount book. It’s been over twenty years in the making, sits at 350 pages right now, and it’s time. My plan is to teach it one more time this year – probably as an elective this fall – putting the final tweaks on each chapter as I go – and release it in 2010. It’s really a life work but even the release of this book would be no finish line for me in terms of my life-long journey with the Sermon on the Mount.
Here’s a pdf link to the first 25 pages. Let me know what you think. The working title for the past five or six years has been “Obtainable Expectations: Timely Exposition of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount” and that, in terms of Biblical studies, is the angle in which I approach the Sermon on the Mount. The original plan was to release four books in an “Obtainable” series. My first was Obtainable Destiny which came out in 2004 (1/2 Timothy, Titus), then was to come Obtainable Expectations (Sermon on the Mount), then Obtainable Greatness (Hebrews), and finally Obtainable Victory (Revelation). Dr. C. Peter Wagner, a seminary prof for forty years at Fuller, says what I’m doing here is the “new wineskins in Biblical Studies.” He did a similar style commentary on Acts.
Yet the latest counsel from my publisher is go with my other title suggestion which is “Living in the Second Mile” as that too captures what I see as the main thread running through the Sermon on the Mount. The thought is that more books will sell under that title. Some of you will recognize the artwork I’ve used here on this post as it was done the last time I preached through the Sermon on the Mount at Church at the Gate. There has been cover artwork done for “Obtainable Expectations” title but I can’t find that file on this computer. It matches the fonts/look of my Obtainable Destiny book only it’s in red tones not blue.
I’d be honored if you did read these first twenty-five pages and I particularly welcome a conversation or comments from you on what I say about the difference between magnificence and the miraculous, the first mile and the second mile and the importance of the Sermon on the Mount lifestyle today. Which title do you like more and why?
Earlier I posted on what, to me, is “art” that has no place anywhere near the House of God. My earlier comment on skulls on altars was something to the effect that at best it’s a distraction, at worst it’s a defilement.
Check out what I spotted near the eaves of the SW exterior wall of town church in Wittenberg. (Luther did not nail his 95 Theses on the door of this church– the 95 Theses were nailed on the door of the Castle Church is just down the street.) But this town church was there in Luther’s time and he would have certainly be aware of what you are about to see;
Obviously you are looking at a pig. But there is more to point out in this disquieting image. Also clearly visible is a Jewish rabbi looking into the rear of the pig. (I can’t make out the Latin script except the prominent word “Rabini”.) Jewish children can be seen sucking on its breasts. (You can see a pigeon built a nest behind the rabbi’s head.)
It is well-known that Luther had nothing kind to say about the Jews – he condemned them for killing Jesus. To be precise, in his early writings he sought to persuade them and win them to Christ. Later when his preaching and persuasion failed to convince Jews, his heart hardened and he wrote a 65,000 word treatise called “The Jews and their Lies” where he called them, among many other things, “a base, whoring people.” Sadly, he advocated concrete, violent action against the Jews.
Luther wrote that the Jews should be shown no mercy or kindness and afforded no protection under law. He wrote these “poisonous envenomed worms” should be drafted into forced labor or expelled for all time. He referred to the synagogue as an “incorrigible whore and an evil slut” and that synagogues and Jewish schools should be set on fire, their prayer books destroyed, rabbis forbidden to preach, homes razed, and property and money confiscated.
His anti-Semitism was embraced and celebrated by the German Christian (Nazi) churches a few centuries later. Spend a few moments on the googles and you’ll be able to see pics of Reich church meetings where the Reformed and Lutheran nazi churches and nazi leaders are embracing Luther as a forerunner for their hatred of Jews. Here Thomas and I are at Luther’s burial spot in the Castle Church.
I read here in one of my Bonhoeffer books that right here at this spot, in 1933, Joachim Hossenfelder, the Reich Leader of the German Christians (Nazi) stood to attention and called out over Luther’s tomb… “My Reich Bishop, I greet you.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer was present for that occasion and his friend, Franz Hildebrandt, whispered to him… “I now believe in the doctrine of the real rotation of Luther’s bones in his grave.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Spoke in the Wheel, Renate Wind, page 75)
That made me chuckle but honestly, from the anti-Semitism of Luther, some of which I’ve noted above, I’m not sure he would have protested. When I saw this dark anti-Seminitic pig in Wittenberg I had the thought that the real anti-Semitic pig in Wittenberg was Luther. I found this line in some literature available at this town church;
This hateful, anti-Jewish portrayal was there long before Luther, but the pig and its affront were given life by some of Luther’s words, and by the words of others, over the centuries.
To be fair to this church, I must mention that on the sidewalk directly below this dark pig is “a new monument pushing up from the earth to make its protest and to call to remembrance all of the 6 million Jews, God’s chosen people, murdered by hatred. The new monument marks out a Cross, reminding one of the darkness and death faced by God’s Chosen One.” Here’s a pic we took of this monument pushing up from the earth…
In Wittenberg, I also spotted this curious depiction of a little boy clutching a skull. It doesn’t depict any anti-Semitism but I put it here because, to me, it belongs with the other things I’ve pointed out that seem very ill-fitting for church decor.
The Latin above it reads: HODIE MICHI CRAS TIBI which translates “it is my lot today, yours tomorrow.” The frequently returning plagues and mortality were such daily realities that much of the artwork from the fifteen and sixteenth centuries was of death, fear of disease and hell.
Thomas has been having some fun with a little blog series he’s been calling “What should we get Pastor Dennis?” At each gift shop things just seem to remind us of Pastor Dennis. Here’s his latest gift idea for Pastor Dennis. Here are some earlier ones. My favorite is still that yodeling marmot.
A recurring blog theme for me this past month here has been to show a few cool clocks and time measurement systems I’m finding here in the epicenter of the world of horology (Switzerland). Links also here and here and here.
In that vein I share some of my latest finds. First, the pulpit hourglass– sorry the pic is so bad, one of the kids stood in the way of the security camera so I could take a quick pic (we always seem to be sneaking around the no-foto Gestapo here.)
This “pulpit hourglass” can be seen in the Luther House in Wittenberg. Some of you are thinking that I perhaps need one of these as each weekend back home I seem to fully ignore the present clock we have hanging in the CATG worship center.
During the main Reformation controversies and debates this type of pulpit hourglass stood next to the lecturn and Luther was alloted a certain amount of time to present his views and his Catholic opponents were given equal time.
One of my Luther museum guidebooks says “it is also known that Luther possessed a number of timepieces.” In 1532 he wrote… “The invention of the clock is a truly remarkable thing because it can measure time so accurately as one cannot express with words. It is certainly one of the most important human inventions.” Sounds to me like he likes clocks too!! Here is one of Luther’s table clocks (it stands about 15 inches high). I really like the little brass guy with the big hammer ready to sound the bell!
Here’s a common sight – this is a sun dial outside the town church in Wittenberg. I thought we had, but I guess we don’t, a picture of another one that had a Latin inscription around it that describes the irony of the sun dial; “First the shade shows the light.” That’ll preach!! (It was an overcast day so no shadow is visible on this one.)
Here’s another one that is on the outside of the church in Basel where Erasmus is buried. You can see the shadow and the light and the dial clock below it confirms the sun dail reading of two o’clock. (The brown square border and the ten lines to each number are paint.)
What I can’t take a very good picture of is the sound of church bell towers that chime on the hour IN EVERY EUROPEAN TOWN. I often think when I hear them that God intended for his people on earth to be his metronome in every metropolis. Sad that the church is so often behind the times. Here’s a pic from inside a church clock tower we climbed in Innsbruck Austria – this is some of the mechanism behind the faces of the enormous town clocks. The rod extends to the center where it enters a gear box. So, four rods extend from this center gear box and go forth from there to each of the four faces of the clock tower.
One more pic. This is from a chapel in St. Pierre’s Church in Geneva (Calvin’s Church). Note the Latin phrase on the wall – Post Tenebrae Lux. It means “after darkness, light.” That little phrase became the slogan of the Protestant Reformation. After centuries in the dark ages, God’s timing shifted and the light of the gospel came forth again. I discern a greater shift in our day in terms of God’s times and seasons.
There are a number of important Martin Luther sites in Germany besides Wittenberg. (I’ll devote a few posts later to some things that are significant to me about my time in Wittenberg.) I’m writing in the order of what is in my head and right now I want to share my favorite historical happening at the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach. Here I am with the boys right after the tiring hike up.
After the famous Diet of Worms (where Luther was condemned as a heretic and enemy of the state), he fled north toward Wittenberg (fyi- Worms is the name of a German town, a “diet” was a meeting of church/govt. legislators). En route Luther was captured by horsemen and taken to the Wartburg Castle where he stayed for ten months. At the castle he discovered that those behind his capture were actually on his side and sought to get him to safety before others did him harm. They actually saved his life as the Edict of Worms declared him an outlaw and anyone killing him at that point would not have been tried for murder. He referred to his time at Wartburg his exile or wilderness period. He grew his hair and beard (as a monk he only had the ring of hair) so he’d be unrecognizable and adopted the name “Junker Jörg.” He was unrecognizable even to friends.
At Wartburg he was restless, lonely, and in his words tormented “by many devils.” He struggled there with severe depression and had an extended digestive infirmity (due to the rich food they fed him, far different from a monks simple diet). He lamented of his struggle with insomnia during this period and how for eight days he wrote nothing, read nothing and prayed nothing. Dreadful noises in his chamber at night would awaken him from sleep. Howling as of a dog could be heard at his door. As the spiritual warfare intensified, he felt abandoned by God. Even so, his time at Wartburg proved to be one of the most productive periods of his life. In these ten months, in the very room I’ve pictured below, he translated the New Testament into German and wrote 14 other important works.
I found it fascinating during the tour to learn that centuries earlier a regional Count Ludwig der Springer climbed the peak of this hill on a hunt and, impressed by the beauty of the spot, cried out “Wait mountain you shall be my castle.” In German “wait mountain” is “wart’ burg”. Interesting to me that God brought Luther here to the wilderness of Wait Mountain. These days I feel a bit as if God has me on my own wait mountain.
His “study” in Wartburg is a place I’ve long wanted to see with my own eyes. Here’s why… in this room, while he was translating the New Testament into the language of the German people, a demon manifest and he threw his inkwell at the harassing spirit leaving a large ink-stain on the wall (visible for centuries). You’ll notice today that treasure seekers throughout the centuries took knives to cut slivers (initially) and even entire sections of the ink-stained wood panels home as souvenirs. Here is a very difficult-to-find centuries old oil painting depicting that demonic encounter. There was a no-flash-rule so the pic is very difficult to see (we actually took this pic in Wittenberg at the Luther House). Thomas adjusted the brightness/contrast on photoshop which helps some.
I’ve been looking in the Luther gift shops hoping to find a copy of this print. No such luck. I really want one for my office. A flash of entrepenurial ingenuity did come over me in one of these gift shops and I have been talking about it for a few days with the family. My idea is to screenprint, sew, stuff and sell little inkwell-shaped bean bags. Hundreds of thousands of visitors tour these sites each year and every pastor I know needs a little bean bag inkwell on his desk to throw at his office wall. If they’d have sold these I would have bought ten. (If you are reading this, don’t steal my idea, I’m seriously thinking about producing these. They’d sell like hotcakes to pastors back in the states. Not sure quite how to go about it, but we are praying about additional streams of income for our work and this one really makes me smile. Maybe it’s just pastor humor.)
What they did have for sale in the gift shop is this frog-looking demon for €19.90 euros. Scroll back up and look really close in my picture from his study and you will see an old dark iron one hanging there just to the right of his desk (follow the line on the top of the picture above his desk to the top of the green stove, the iron demon is hanging about halfway). Nobody there could tell me why it looks like a frog but my friends in deliverance ministry may have a hunch (Rev. 16:13). Here’s the “toy” version available in the gift shop. It would seem to me that whoever decided to put blue/white striped boxer shorts on this thing has never personally dealt with the manifestation of a harrassing demonic spirit.
This post is part two of my reflections on the Cathedral (Kölner Dom) in Cologne Germany. You can read part one here.
In this post I will focus on the Cathedral Treasury which, curiously, I had to pay €8 euro to see. No photos were allowed so I’ll have to use this stock photo. This is one section along one wall on just one of the four floors of 13th century vault rooms under the cathedral which have been updated to display millions and millions of dollars of gold, silver and jewels. The Cathedral Treasury was robbed in 1975 and so security today is quite tight.
While this wealth sits here, just outside sat a hungry beggar (who only got a measly one euro in his paper cup from me).
The Immorality of untouchable church Memorial Funds
Back in my denominational days I ruffled feathers with my suggestions that it was immoral for all our American churches to be sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars in “memorial funds” (waiting for the rainy day when the church may need new siding) —all the while we had no funds to start life-giving churches that could help people in our communities. There was once an audible gasp in a room of 1000 when I suggested from the platform that all our empty dying old churches sitting on prime downtown real estate ought to pray about selling their properties and using the money to launch ten new churches and outreaches to the hurting and the poor in the city. All this came back to my mind as I toured the Cologne Cathedral Treasury.
An ornate tomb for gold-plated skulls
I briefly mentioned this in part one of this post, but here are the details… the Cologne Cathedral was built to house the gold-plated skulls of the three wise men. These skulls are consider sacred relics and this church is a shrine intentionally built to house them so people can worship them. I’ll quote directly from the literature handed out at the Cathedral;
In 1164 Archbishop Rainald von Dassel transferred from Milan the bones of the Three Magi. A precious reliquary shrine was ordered to house these relics…. the famous relics drew the faithful from all of Europe and the Cologne pilgrimage became one of the largest of the Middle Ages.
Here’s a pic of the gold box that contains the skulls – I’d estimate it’s four feet high, six feet long.
While others (hundreds) were lighting prayer candles all around this gold box I was praying that some day the church would melt the box down, bury the bones in dirt and use the money to advance the Kingdom of God. What do you think that amount of solid gold is worth? I’ll let you read this last sentence from the literature yourself…
And that is where all the wealth in this treasury came from – relic worship. Kings and noblemen throughout the centuries have come here with priceless gifts paying homage to these three skulls. I underlined the word “imprimatur” which in Latin means “let it be printed” because an imprimatur “is an official declaration from the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church that a literary work is free from error in matters of Roman Catholic doctrine.” Really, do they not see any “doctrinal” error here? I just know those who brought gold to Jesus at his birth (the wise men) would reject the practice of bringing gold to their bones. Geesh.
One of the forerunners to the Reformation, Erasmus, was a satirist. He viewed these “relics” as a fraudulent fund-raising scheme to raise money for Rome. Erasmus decided one day to take an inventory of the relics of Rome and he published his findings which included two heads of John the Baptist, two bodies of St. Anne, three of Lazarus and a bottle of breast milk from the Virgin Mary. Calvin later continued the biting sarcasm in his published Inventory of the Relics which showed there were fourteen churches in Italy, Germany and France that each “had” one of the three nails that held Jesus to the cross. You get the point.
Treasure in heaven?
If you have read this blog for any length of time perhaps you are able to see a pattern in how I think – you’ll have to track closely to process this as I do. Here we have an ornate tomb built for three gold-plated skulls adorned with millions of dollars of gold and millions of dollars in jewels. While all that is still fresh in the forefront of my thinking, I then read today’s LA Times story about how hundreds and hundreds of bodies in the LA morgue are going unclaimed because poor families can’t afford funerals ($348 to pick up ashes at the LA county crematorium).
Having recently buried both of my parents and my grandmother I’m sensitive to these poor families. Only my mother had adequate insurance to cover her funeral – my brother and I split the cost of my dads and grandmothers – things were so tight when my grandmother died at age 95 in 2006 we didn’t even order a spray of casket flowers (and that offended one of her two yet-living friends).
Perhaps only a few at Church at the Gate know that we have bought gravestones, burial plots, hotel rooms, flowers and caskets for people in our church family and community who had no means. Yet here at the Cologne Cathedral, we have a highly guarded billion dollar church treasury adorning the supposed bones of the Wise Men. If the wise men were to come back to life today I’d think they’d take the gold to Jesus. And, Jesus would spend it on the poor families in Los Angeles.
Imagine the PR mileage the Catholic Church could get if just one of these priests here at the Cologne Cathedral sold just one piece from this “treasury” and used the money to pay for hundreds of funerals for poor grieving families in LA. The priest would surely get defrocked but at least he’d amass great treasure in heaven.
How much is a body part worth?
St. Mary’s College in my homestate of Kansas houses over 1200 relics, including the finger of St. Odilia. Apparently that young gal’s body part is priceless today. You’ll need to keep tracking with me here as I try to spell out the connection in my head between relics and human organ harvesting here in Europe.
One of the two main reasons I’m in Europe this summer is to work with church planters here to put on paper a strategy to establish lots of local mission outposts for the Kingdom of God all over Europe. A few days ago we were focusing on Moldovia and I mentioned our heart to start orphanages and how God spoke to me in 2004 about “becoming a blessing to women going through life alone” – widows, single moms, sex trade, etc, etc. – you know… the pure religion stuff of James 1:27). I did not know that besides poverty and sex slavery, Moldova is one of the top countries in the world for organ harvesting.
I was then told about the hundreds+ of 15 year old Moldovian girls who are taken each year and used in the sex trade and that after they’ve “served their purpose there” they are bringing a quarter of a million dollars each as they are sacrificed to harvest their organs (which are kept in cold storage and air lifted and sold to illegal distribution centers in the United States, Germany, Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, Israel, and South Africa).
We talked about starting a church/rescue mission there this year. I told our CATG congregation last year that one of these weekends I’m going to stand up at offering time and say… “one hundred percent of today’s offering is going to buy 13 year old girls out of the sex slave trade— so give generously.” I will do that this year. As we continued to talk about what God was calling us to do here we talked about chartering flights to the US full of these girls and Kristen and I figured we could house ten in our home.
Pardon me if this has gotten way long for you, I’ll end soon. In one of our church planting planning sessions I was asked what the obstacles are – of course money is always at the top of the list. A few days later I then find myself in this “sacred treasury” and I’m sorry if my report here is so critical and negative of what I saw there. It screams insanity to me that the “religious” are hoarding shocking amounts of wealth to adorn skulls while precious girls are being sold and slaughtered on the black market for parts.
Sorry to have been off-line for the better part of the week. Really, at this point, I’m not sure where to start as there is so much in my head right now. I’ve been meeting with great leaders here from Switzerland, the Netherlands and Germany. I’ve done some interviews for a video we’ll use back in the states to help us promote a strategy to plant lots and lots of life-giving local churches all over Europe. Europe is so thirsty for God and I’m truly overwhelmed at how the church, throughout the centuries and today, has gotten in the way of the path to him (Jesus is that path). I’ll save the righteous indignation that is churning in me until part two of this post.
Since I’ve got to start somewhere I’ll comment on my visit to Cologne (Köln) Germany yesterday. Cologne has a chocolate factory and museum which was a big hit for the rest of the family – I’ll let them comment on that on their blogs. However, the main attraction in Cologne is the Cathedral (Kölner Dom). It’s the third tallest church in the world. Wow! What a sight! Here’s a pic we took while sitting in traffic on a bridge.
The history of it’s construction is a powerful illustration of visionary leadership. In 1164 – for reasons I’ll mention shortly- a man envisioned a great edifice here and work started within the century. IT WAS COMPLETED SIX CENTURIES LATER.
I’ve been through some grueling church building projects, but it’s truly remarkable to me to think that a guy started building something that his grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren would one day complete. I have a small sense of the vision-casting it takes to get a project going, and the effort, the sacrifice, resource acquisition, the problem-solving and set backs, the leadership changes and the momentum, but to have the vision to start something that would take centuries to complete is remarkable to me. And that successive generations owned that vision and took it up as their own is amazing. It makes me think that what I envision is always far too small and that leaders today need to look far past their own generation in terms of what they are going to give their lives to build.
Today just outside this Cathedral is a hub of activity – a hub of LIFE – sidewalk artists, street musicians, people protesting stuff, others promoting causes, great shopping, restaurants, etc., all this literally sits in it’s shadows. What an opportunity for the church!! But it’s an opportunity that is fully squandered. The Bible says to whom much is given, much will be required – and considering the platform this church has been given in that city, it’s a waste. More on my thoughts there in part two.
Here’s another of Kaitlyn’s pictures.
I’m aware this is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture of which I am admittedly no fan. Nothing about it says LIFE to me. (In fact, it IS just an ornate tomb – you’ll have to wait for part two of this post for details, but for now, this wasn’t built to house LIFE, it was built to house the gold-plated skulls of the three Wise Men. No kidding. I about titled this post “Kölner Dom: an ornate tomb for gold-plated skulls” but Kristen vetoed it.)
I decided to check my heart as we got close because an offense was growing in me toward this – so I prayed and asked the Lord to show me what he saw – the only thing I got was a strong sense that Jesus, being far more gracious than I, was saying “this is not what I had in mind.” I’m assuming that is in reference to his statement to Peter about building his church.
My kids commented it looks like Isengard or Mordor from the Lord of the Rings. Aesthetically, it would seem to me, the only time it truly fit in with it’s surroundings was here in 1945 after the bombs of Allied Forces reduced the city of Cologne to ashes in WWII.
Don’t read anything into that statement, I’m just saying it is dark architecturally and spiritually. Allied Forces may have shown mercy on this place by leaving it stand, I’m saying I’m not sure on the Day of the Lord that he will be so sentimental – the Bible says judgment starts in his house. I’m told Cologne today is a seat of spiritual darkness in Germany – we saw secularism in full bloom. Is it any wonder when the church there is stuck in the dark ages? Forgive us Lord.
Here’s the verse I was reading this morning – it’s from Stephen’s speech in Acts 7:48 – “the Most High does not live in houses made by men.” Immediately after that verse the Lord asks “where will my resting place be?” To balance some of the negativism above, I must say Jesus CAN BE found in Europe today! Every day for me here it’s been a bit like “Where’s Waldo” – I’ve been asking Jesus to show me where he can be found here. I can report God has a remnant here on whom his Glory is resting and that remnant is growing in strength and number and in the supernatural power the people here desperately need.
Here’s the link to part two of this post.