Christine Caine - Simple Not Easy - Part 1
I am so grateful that you've joined us today. I know that God has a word for you. In fact, I am so fired up, I'm probably going to be teaching on my favorite thing in the scripture today, and I love it when God makes things easy, don't you? I mean, often we could get so just complicated in our thinking and just kind of go, "God, what is it that you want? What is it that you want me to do"? And you are sitting on the other side of the screen going, "Chris I wish you could just tell me what is it that God wants from me".
Well, let me just tell you, God makes it so easy and it's not often that I'm just going to use one verse as a launching pad for an entire series. But Micah 6:8, makes this whole thing simple, not easy but simple. In Micah 6:8, we read, "He has shown you, oh, mortal, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you"? Here it is, this is easy, "To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God". "Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God". I think this is so profound because basically this one question that the prophet Micah answers is actually the thing that keeps a lot of us up at night, wondering, God what is it that you want? But the fact is in the most simple and very, very difficult to misinterpret, concise way possible, Micah answers it. He says, "This is what God wants".
So throughout this whole book, in the book of Micah, the prophet Micah exposes the unjust economic practices of Israel's leaders and prophets, who were oppressing and exploiting the weak and the vulnerable, by ruling through bribery and bending justice to favor the wealthy, and depriving the poor of their land, and their security and their hopes. So in chapter six, Micah here is very poetic throughout this whole chapter. His writing style is defined by questions and answers, and Micah represents both parties involved. So the first part of chapter six, Micah spoke for God, and then in verse six and seven, he represents the people, and in verse eight, he speaks for himself, and he's posing as the priest between the people and between God.
So then the people of God ask him, "What would be a proper offering to be restored back to fellowship with God"? And basically the central issue with all the questions about the quality and the quantity of sacrifices, is that people want to know, God, please just tell us what is it that you want from us? And we'll give it to you. Your favorite offering, God, just tell us what it is that you want. And Micah ask, "What does God expect of you"? There should have been really no mystery or question about what God had required. And it had nothing to do with the sacrifice and with the offerings. There were simply three things that God required of his people. He said, "Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God". Yet, Israel at this was just the exact opposite. They were unjust and oppressive and their hearts were far, far from God, the word justice has a really broad meaning and it involves right and fair relationships in the community and especially in legal and in financial affairs and justice is necessary for people to live amongst each other in the way that God intended.
So to love mercy is to have a heartfelt desire to do good to others and to obey God, to walk humbly with God is the opposite, the exact opposite of walking proudly or self righteously, to walk with implies intimacy and relationship, to walk with the God who saves, and who reconciles and who heals and who transforms, these three pillars are what was expected of Israel, and of you and me, incidentally, not rituals, not sacrifices, God wants our heart. He wants his people to want his will and to serve in love of others and of God.
You know, the interesting thing is, nick and I oversee a church in Warsaw, Poland called Zoe Church, and on one of my trips out there to Warsaw, I had just a couple of extra days and decided that I wanted to go to Auschwitz. And I had majored in German economic history in university, back in Australia, and I always had a huge interest in World War II, just because it had such a profound impact on people in my own family and you know, as much as I read about the extermination camps, nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced when I went and I literally wept all day as I walked throughout Auschwitz, all of that compound.
And I remember coming to the place where the ovens had been, which is almost unfathomable that I'm saying this even that, you know, ovens where they literally burnt human beings, I started sobbing and I was asking God out loud, you know, so God, how could people let this happen? How, how did this happen in our lifetime? How were 6 million Jewish people just killed in this way? How do we allow this genocide to happen? And, you know, I was reminded Erwin Lutzer in his book "When a nation forgets God", he tells the following story, from an eyewitness who lived in Germany during the 1930s and forties, and it was when people were being transported to the death camps.
This is literally what he wrote in a quotation from his books. He said, "I lived in Germany during the Nazi holocaust. I considered myself a Christian. We heard stories of what was happening to Jews, but we tried to distance ourselves from it because what could we do to stop it? A railroad track ran behind our small church and each Sunday morning, we could hear the whistle in the distance, and then the wheels coming over the tracks, we became disturbed when we heard the cries coming from the train, as it passed by, we realized that it was carrying Jews like cattle in the cars. Week after week, the whistle would blow. We dreaded to hear the sound of those wheels because we knew that we would hear the cries of the Jews on route to the death camps. Their screams tormented us. We knew the time the train was coming, and when we heard the whistle blow, we began singing hymns. By the time the train came past our church, we were singing at the top of our voices. If we heard the screams, we sang more loudly and soon we heard them no more".
And then the eyewitness shared with pastor Lutzer, "Although years have passed, I still hear the train whistle in my sleep. God forgive me, forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians, and yet did nothing to intervene". You know, this story is so deeply disturbing and on so many different levels, but I think it helps to show how easy it is for any of us to drown out the cries and the pain and the suffering and injustice of the world that is around us. And we can drown it out with our religious services, and our spiritual songs. In Amos 5:21-24, and I love how Eugene Peterson says this in the message translation, he says, "I can't stand your religious meetings, I'm fed up with your conferences and conventions, I want nothing to do with your religious projects, your pretentious slogans and your goals, I'm sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making, I've heard it all, I can't take any of your noisy ego music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice, oceans of it. That's what I want, that's all I want".
A couple of years after my experience in Auschwitz, I was invited to speak at a conference in Thessaloniki Greece. You know, I was waiting at the small regional airport and I was at the baggage carousel, and when I was there, I saw all of these posters, and I saw a little girl, same name as my daughter, and she's missing. I went on to find out that these were the alleged victims of human trafficking, and in that moment, when I saw that little girl, you know, I went from looking at someone else's missing child to seeing someone that could have been my own daughter. You know, when you look, you can look away, but when you see you can never unsee. And I found out that these were the alleged victims of human trafficking. I couldn't believe it. I thought there can't be slaves on the earth today.
We've signed the Emancipation Proclamation act, the slavery abolition act, you know, and then I went on to find out that there are in excess of 40 million slaves, more than ever before in the history of humanity, on the earth today, on our watch. As the church of Jesus Christ, the one thing that is trafficked more than guns and more than armaments is human beings, and I thought this is not okay. This is not okay. I was so deeply moved by these images and these faces of these women and children, the thought that people were being trafficked around the world and bought and sold as goods, and sold for sex and forced labor and forced trafficking. It was inconceivable to me that this could happen.
You know, I went from the baggage claim, got my bags and went to the hotel, and I was preparing a sermon on the good Samaritan. I was going to be speaking at a women's conference and the sermon was on that and you know the story, the story is so known so well known to all of us, but the scripture says, and it's one of my favorites to this day, in Luke chapter 10:25, "And behold a lawyer stood up and put him to the test saying teacher, what shall I do to inherit life? He said to him, what is written in the law? How do you read it? And he answered, you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself, and he said to him, you have answered correctly, do this and you will live. But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, and who is my neighbor? Jesus replied, a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and he fell among the robbers who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side, so likewise a Levite when he came to the place and saw him pass by on the other side, but a Samaritan as he journeyed came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him, bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine, then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him, and the next day he took our two Denari and gave them to the innkeeper saying, take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back. Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers? He said the one who showed him mercy, and Jesus said to him, you go and do likewise".
You know, it was so interesting as I was reading this and preparing to speak to this conference, I sense the Holy Spirit say to me, "Hey Chris, you think you're the Levite and the priest in this story, don't you"? There was the Levite, the religious man, the priest, the religious man, the Samaritan with the three people that were very busy going somewhere. There was a man that was beaten, that was lying on the side of the road, and three people with an agenda and a busy life, two religious people, one Samaritan who was the most marginalized and outcast, they were on their way somewhere else and what happened was the Levite and the priest went straight past, they saw the man, the Bible says, they saw him and passed by on the other side.
And I felt the Holy Spirit say to me, "Christine, you think you're the Samaritan in this story don't you"? And I'm thinking like, yes I do. Yes, I do. I'm traveling the world and preaching and teaching, and you know, nick and I are taking two kids around the world, and helping to build the church and doing missionary work, and I felt the Holy Spirit say, "No, Christine, you're more like the Levite and the priest in this story, you are so busy going to your next Christian event, that you see these people as an interruption to your ministry rather than the object of your ministry". And the only difference between the Samaritan, and the Levite and the priest, is the Samaritan, he was busy too, he was on his way somewhere, but the Bible says that he had compassion, and I felt the Holy Spirit say, "Christine, my church has confused, compassion with sympathy".
We think because we watch a sad video, or we like a post on Instagram that we've done something, and that we are showing compassion, but compassion is never compassion until you're willing to roll up your sleeves, to cross the street, to give of your own time, to give of your own talent and to give of your own treasure, that's when it's compassion. And the only difference between the Levite and the pharisee, and the Samaritan, was that the Samaritan was willing to be interrupted, to cross the street, to give of his own time, and talent and treasure. But the Levite and the priest were so busy going about their religious activities, that they did not stop and cross the street, and saw people that we should be crossing the street for, as interruption to our ministries rather than the object of it.
Dare I suggest church that God is calling us to cross the street. The beginning of the a21 campaign was right there, when I could no longer be so busy going to my next religious thing, that I wasn't stopping to help the people that had need on the way. And the fact is that I believe that the Holy Spirit of God wants to interrupt us, and the degree to which we're willing to be interrupted and inconvenienced is the degree to which the spirit will work through us to transform the world around us. There are people metaphorically speaking, lying on the side of the road, everywhere you walk, every single day, in your workplace, in your school, in your college, in your community, all around us are people that are lying there that have need of good news, that have need of hope and life and purpose, and we are so busy staying focused on our own lives that we're not willing to cross the street, but if we do it will change everything.
I had a thousand good reasons why I was too busy and working for God to do justice and to love mercy. Don't we all? Like, God, how could I do this? And I remember having this argument with God and doing my, but God list, you know, I was going, "But God, I can't do this, I'm 40 years old". You know, as if the Lord's like, oh, I didn't know how old you were. Like, did we celebrate your birthday? But God, I live in Australia. I mean, this is Greece at that time, you know, it was a 20 something hour flight to go to Greece. I'm like, God, don't you know, geographically, Greece is on the other side of the world? God, I've got two kids, Lord, I don't have the money, I don't have the resources, Lord, I don't have the right education. I've never, you know, prayed about this area, I never even knew it existed to pray for it. It's nothing that I ever had in my heart before.
You know, the fact is, God, I dunno if this is my gift or if this is my talent, Lord, the church in Greece is so embryonic and small, and Lord, corruption is rampant in this nation, the Russian and the Bulgarian mafia, they like kill people. You know, I sort of felt like Moses, remember in Exodus 3:11, when the Lord said, "I'm going to set my people free, Moses, I want to use you" and Moses said, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt"? I feel like laughing, and the Lord's probably thinking who cares, who you are, this has got nothing to do with who you are. I was exactly the same, I'm going, but God, but God didn't you know I'm 40, but God I'm a woman, but God I live in Australia, but God I've got two kids, but, but, but, but, but, we need a but-ectomy in the body of Christ. We need to get our big buts out of the way, because we just keep going. It sounds so pious, doesn't it? But it sounds like, oh, but God, I'm just so humble, I'm not educated enough, I'm not talented enough, and it sounds humble, but actually the root of it is pride because what we're actually saying are, my limitations are too big for God to be able to do anything to use me.
And so sometimes I think we need to stop and think like, as I'm sounding so pious, as I'm trying to minimize, you know, I really can't do anything. I think what we're doing is saying to God, you're not powerful enough to do something through my life. And the fact is throughout scripture, from Genesis to revelation, God has always used ordinary people through whom to do extraordinary things, because it is never about what we are not, it is about who he is. It is never about our limitations, it's about God's supernatural ability to do exceedingly, abundantly above and beyond anything that we could ever ask, hope or think, our eyes have not seen, our ears have not heard, nor has it entered into our hearts, the things that God has for those that love him. God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above, above. And yet we keep talking about what I can't do. We keep talking about our own limitations.
I'm sure when I gave God my but list, he's sort of like rolling his eyes, going as if Christine, I had no idea, I am the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God, I know how old you are, I know how many kids you've got, I know how much money's in your bank account, I actually know geography really well, I'm better than a GPS system, I made the whole thing, I get it, I know how it operates, and I still choose you. I don't know what it is that you've been saying no to God for, some of you, you've been talking yourself out of your own God given purpose. You've been just reminding yourself and telling God, I can't do what you've called me to do, God, I'm not smart enough, I'm not talented enough, I'm not gifted enough, I'm not resourced enough, Lord, I don't have enough, and we just keep telling him what we're not.
We need to change the narrative, flip the script. Don't talk about what you are not, talk about who God is. Talk about what God wants to do in and through you. Understand the fact that you are not qualified is what qualifies you to do what God has called you to do. 'cause then God alone will get the glory. I think now in my life with what the Lord's doing through a21 and through propel, God alone can get the glory because we all know that I'm not that good. That's the bottom line. God is glorified. So when people say, "Christine, you know, you're not qualified enough". I think I know, I know, but God does not call the qualified every time, he qualifies the called every time. God will qualify you for the thing that he's preparing you to do in Jesus name.