Archive | June, 2010

You said…

30 Jun

You said, Ask and you will receive

Whatever you need

You said, Pray and I’ll hear from heaven

And I’ll heal your land

You said Your glory will fill the earth

Like water the sea

You said, Lift up your eyes

The harvest is here, the kingdom is near

You said, Ask and I’ll give the nations to you

O Lord, that’s the cry of my heart

Distant shores and the islands will see

Your light, as it rises on us

You said Your glory will fill the earth

Like water the sea

You said, Lift up your eyes

The harvest is here, the kingdom is near

You said, Ask and I’ll give the nations to you

O Lord, that’s the cry of my heart

Distant shores and the islands will see

Your light, as it rises on us

O Lord, I ask for the nations

-Hillsong United

This incredible song has been running through my head since we sang it at our Monday morning community worship service here at YWAM Kona. These words truly are the cry of my heart as I leave for India. I am all packed and ready to go. I leave tomorrow at 4:30 AM, and I have never felt so sure of anything in my life. This is what I was created for. Stay tuned, it’s going to be quite the adventure as I ride the waves of His wild, unbridled love all the way to Dharmapuri.

All my love,
Erika

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Last Minute Revelation

29 Jun

As our entire DTS rushes frantically, packing and making final preparations for outreach, our class took a much-needed break from lecture this morning to rest in the presence of the Lord and enjoy a time of worship as led by the Holy Spirit. Morgan Perry, our speaker this week, asked her friend Isaac if he would pick up his guitar and lead worship. He obliged, and with absolutely no preparation time, led our class in one of the most incredible worship experiences I have ever had. He began singing prophetically,

“I’ve already gotten you this far, don’t you believe I’ll take you all the way, all the way home?

And if you think you’ve already experienced all of Me, oh my child,

You don’t know the first thing about wild, don’t know the first thing about wild unbridled love.”

My heart soaked in those words deeply, as I basked in the presence of the Lord. Amidst the stress of our outreach looming on the horizon, I had once again lost sight of the sovereignty of God. My stress level is not an indicator of His power level. Rather, it is an indicator of how fully I have surrendered my life and how deeply I trust Him to be my Provider, my Protector, and my Father. So, for the millionth time, I surrendered my cares and worries to the Lord. Of course He will take me all the way. He always has.

Well… Hello There World

27 Jun

It was my heart’s desire to be able to take the time to respond to each and every person who commented on my blog individually, and in time I still plan to do so. For now, however, since I am leaving for Dharmapuri, India this Thursday and still have many preparations to make, I am praying that this post will some how communicate what is in my heart to you, my wonderful readers.

First of all, I want the whole world to know that I had no idea I was going to be on Freshly Pressed. “Becoming famous” via WordPress is a laughable thought to me. I am far more interested in cultivating relationships with people and encouraging them in their journey with the Lord. I am interested in answering tough questions from those who seek answers, though I don’t have all the answers myself. Please feel free to ask me questions and offer your own opinions, but please be respectful of this place and of the people here.

That being said I want to offer some context to those of you who are newer followers of my blog. Since no post or opinion or blog was created in a vacuum, it may help you to understand what I mean if you understand a bit more about me. I am a 21-year-old American girl from California. I’m a follower of Jesus and I’m currently following Him on a mission with an amazing interdenominational organization called Youth With A Mission (or YWAM). I have been in a Discipleship Training School in Kona, Hawaii since April of this year and this Thursday, July 1st, 2010 I am heading with a team of 20 young people to India to: serve the people, live among them, learn from them, and share with them the Good News of Jesus Christ. I will be stationed in Dharmapuri (in Southern India) for three months.

I am not at all interested in changing the culture of India. God loves India with her beautiful colors and bustling cities, and I know I will love her too. An organized system of degradation, however, is not culture. Whether it is upheld through religion or social structure is irrelevant. Basic morality, I believe, transcends culture, religion, and society. It is universal. Human beings are created equal. I believe they are created equal because their Creator loved each and every one of them and made them in His image. God loves His children more than we will ever understand, and He has called us to love each other as He has loved us. Wherever there is hate, wherever there is injustice, wherever there are lies that slander the very image of God, I will stand in opposition.

What right do I have to do that? Long before there were wars, long before the idea of conquering land and drawing political lines of power, long before taxation or presidents or kings or queens, this world belonged to its Creator, the one true King. Though pride and greed and hatred have invaded this planet, God never signed over the deed. This world is still His. India is His. America is His. And His culture is one of love. So when God’s children bring His pure, unadultered love, what they are really doing is restoring this planet to its true culture.

Through prayer, married with action and sacrifice, this world will be restored. Lasting restoration, not through human strength, but through the power of God is a reality. I know God longs to heal the hearts of His children, to lift them out of their darkest pit, to give them a new identity. To those that cry, “Where is God in this world of heartbreak and despair?” I cry with you! Jesus told us to weep with those that weep and my heart literally breaks for the heartbroken. This is a fallen world made broken through the free will of man. And though I’m just a broke missionary, I offer you a priceless gem…

Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee…

All I have is love. I will love you. I will care for you. I will cry with you and work with you. Take heart, love will restore this world.

To those of you that love me, I love you.

To those of you that hate me, I love you.

In Him,

Erika

A People Called “Untouchable”…

24 Jun

During my study of Hinduism and the culture of India, nothing gripped my heart quite like the story of the “untouchables” in the caste system. Although many other nations are characterized by social inequality, perhaps nowhere else in the world has inequality been so elaborately constructed and supported as in the Indian institution of caste.

Hindus believe that a person is born into one of the four castes based on how well they observed the idea of dharma, or righteous living, in their past lives.

The highest caste, the Brahmins, are the priestly class. They are entitled to study the Vedas, or religious texts, and perform the Hindu rites and rituals for themselves and others. They are the middle men between the gods and mankind. The Brahmana is considered the highest on earth, the lord of all creation, and is entitled to anything he desires.

The second highest caste, the Kshatriyas, are the warrior class. They are commanded, by tradition, to protect the people, bestow gifts to the Brahmins, offer sacrifices to gods, study the Vedas, and dispense justice. The authority of the Kshatriyas is that of a king and should never be questioned.

The third caste, the Vaishyas, are the merchant and peasant class. They are expected to tend cattle, offer sacrifices, study the Vedas, and trade goods. They have the right to perform and participate in some of the medic rituals, but they are not allowed to marry women of higher castes.

The lowest defined caste, the Shudras, are the laboring class. Their only duty is to serve the higher three castes. They are not entitled to observe any medic rituals or samskaras, unless given explicit permission by the higher castes. They are not allowed to study the Vedas or even hear the sacred chants. They are also banned from eating food in the company of higher castes or marry their women.

The “Untouchables” are literally outcastes. They are the fifth class, so unworthy it doesn’t even fall within the definitions of the Hindu caste system. Also called Dalits, members of this class are considered impure from birth and so perform jobs that are traditionally considered unclean or exceedingly menial, and for very little pay. Dalits often work as agriculture workers or manual scavengers, cleaning latrines and sewers by hand and clearing away dead animals.

The Facts:

-More than 160 million people in India belong to this class. Nearly 90% of all the poor Indians and 95% of all the illiterate Indians are Dalits.

-In the year 2000, every hour two Dalits are assaulted, every day three Dalit women are raped, two Dalits are murdered, and two Dalit homes are torched.

-That same year, 68,160 complaints were filed against the police for activities against Dalits ranging from: murder, torture, and collusion in acts of atrocity, to refusal to file a complaint. Sadly, 62% of these cases were dismissed as unsubstantiated.

40 million people in India, mostly Dalits, are bonded workers, many struggling to pay off debts that were incurred generations ago. Of these, 15 million are children working in slave-like conditions hauling rocks or working in fields and factories for less than $1 a day.

The following is an excerpt from a National Geographic article on the issue:

Human rights abuses against these people, known as Dalits, are legion. A random sampling of headlines in mainstream Indian newspapers tells their story: “Dalit boy beaten to death for plucking flowers”; “Dalit tortured by cops for three days”; “Dalit ‘witch’ paraded naked in Bihar”; “Dalit killed in lock-up at Kurnool”; “7 Dalits burnt alive in caste clash”; “5 Dalits lynched in Haryana”; “Dalit woman gang-raped, paraded naked”; “Police egged on mob to lynch Dalits”.

Despite the fact that untouchability was officially banned when India adopted its constitution in 1950, discrimination against Dalits remains pervading to this day with numbers of attacks actually on the rise. The strength of the caste system lies in its strict tradition, superstition, religious beliefs, and fear of punishment. It is passed on to the next generation as a birthright (or curse) and remains divisive in marriage. The caste system prohibits marriages outside one’s caste to avoid blurring the distinctive lines between the castes. The three upper castes also possess nearly all of the wealth in the country. They enjoy the advantages of their role in society and fight ruthlessly against change in the system. Police corruption due to payoffs by the upper classes also contributes to the continuation of this evil system.

This breaks my heart. An entire class of people, 160 million to be exact, has been defined as worthless from the moment they were born. I can’t even imagine how the Lord must weep over this daily. This system of evil must be crushed. These beloved children of God need to know their worth, their potential, their calling in their lives. Please join me in prayer against this system. We must combat hatred with love, exclusion with open arms, discrimination with equality, injustice with justice. Let’s pray that the Spirit of the Lord would pour down on India this very day, changing lives for eternity.

The power of the Lord was not merely in healing the leper, it was the love in His heart that drove Him to touch the leper.

Understanding World Religion: Hinduism

23 Jun

In an attempt to renounce my inherited ignorance, I have committed myself to the study of world religions and cultures. Since I am leaving for India in only 8 days now I decided to first study Hinduism. Beginning in 5500 B.C., Hinduism is widely accepted as the world’s oldest living religion. It is also the world’s third largest religion, after Christianity and Islam. With 1 billion adherents worldwide, and 828 million in India alone, Hinduism is undoubtedly a powerful driving force in the shaping of Eastern culture.

Hinduism has no single founder and is a self-proclaimed monotheistic religion, though it also recognizes subordinate gods. Though understanding Hinduism in its entirety is a complicated process, mostly because of varying beliefs within the religion itself, some core beliefs remain constant.

Prominent themes in Hindu beliefs include, but are not restricted to:

-Dharma (ethics or duties)

-Samasara (the continuing cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth, also known as reincarnation)

-Karma (action and subsequent reaction)

-Moksha (liberation from the cycle of reincarnation, the equivalent of Christian salvation)

-Yogas (paths to enlightenment)

Following Dharma (the ethics or duties as described by Hinduism):

-The Hindu Dharma has 10 main rules that lead to righteous living. They are split into things you should not do (Yama) and things you should do (Niyama).

-The Yama states that the righteous Hindu will not:

  • lie
  • steal
  • be envious
  • destroy or injure anything
  • overeat, overdrink, or overindulge in sex

-The Niyama states that the righteous Hindu will:

  • keep themselves clean, both inside and out
  • be content
  • practice self discipline, tolerance, patience, and mental calmness
  • pursue education
  • surrender their mind to the higher power

The Vedas, the sacred texts of Hinduism, are the strongest authority in learning the practice of Dharma and are considered to be among the most ancient religious texts still in existence (written from about 1500 – 300 B.C.). The Vedas are composed of: hymns, chants, verses of praise, proverbs, historical accounts, and explanations of ancient rituals. The word Veda, in Sanskrit, means “knowledge” or “wisdom” and followers of Hinduism pursue the study of these scriptures, along with other sacred texts to achieve Moksha, or salvation.

Hindu society has traditionally been categorized into four classes, called Varnas (in Sanskrit meaning “color, form, and appearance”). These classes make up what is called the “caste system.” The four castes are, from most to least “important”:

-the Brahmins (teachers and priests)

-the Kshatriyas (warriors, nobles, and kings)

-the Vaishyas (farmers, merchants, and businessmen)

-the Shudras (servants and labourors)

Sadly, an entire class of people has been so ostracized by Hindu society that they aren’t even defined in the Varnas. These people are referred to as Dalits, also known as “untouchables.” Confined to this class only by their birth and the color of their skin, this class is considered worthless and is hated and abused by all.

While I respect the followers of Hinduism, as they are all also God’s children, I am so deeply saddened by their level of confusion. How devastating that 1 billion people worldwide would believe in a religion that publicly endorses discrimination of any kind, let alone merely because of skin color and birthright! What a tragedy that so many people would strive their whole lives to live up to the standards of the dharma because their crippling fear of failing in this life and suffering in the next. Hinduism inevitably lacks grace, because it also lacks a savior. This study has fueled my love for the Indian people. I am so excited to introduce them to their loving Savior, Jesus Christ! I am so thrilled to offer them grace and eternal peace.

We, as believers, must pray for truth to be revealed. We must intercede against the confusion birthed by the lies of Hinduism. We must, respectfully, reveal these lies and bring God’s lost sheep back to the fold. The Lord wants all of His children to live with Him forever. It breaks His heart to lose even one of His treasured creations. It is His will that the Hindus will come to know Him, and when we act in accordance to His will, miracles happen. There will be miracles in India.

Voice for the Voiceless: Illegal Property Seizure

23 Jun

According to the International Justice Mission, illegal property seizure is the “taking of property through violence, intimidation, communal pressures or fraud without any legitimate agreement between the rightful owner and the person assuming possession.” The issue of illegal property seizure is widespread. Across the globe, the strong are preying on the weak, robbing them of their home and their very livelihood, leaving entire families homeless and without income.

The Facts:

-In rural areas of developing countries, very few landowners execute wills and land is frequently passed through customary or traditional arrangement, often leaving women with a huge disadvantage.

-In 2007, less than 1% of the adult population in Rwanda held a legally valid written will and not one landowner had a legally valid title deed.

In Uganda, 30% of widows and orphans surveyed reported being victimized by property grabbing following the death of a parent or spouse.

-Even though rural women produce an an estimated 74% of the food in developing countries, they own less than two percent of the land.

-In China between 1998 and 2005, more than 1 million cases of illegal seizures involving at least 815,447 acres of land were reported.

-In China, an estimated 100 million farmers have been victims of property grabbing between 1994 and 2006. Between 2003 and 2005, the estimated resale of seized farmland brought in $600 billion USD, mostly to corrupt officials, rich developers, and construction companies.

-Even when they are compensated, Chinese farmers are lucky to get 1/50th of what their illegally seized land is worth.

-In China, about 80% of the nearly 12,000 square miles of land turned into new development zones as of 2004, had beed acquired illegally.

Often when land is seized illegally, farmers are woken up in the middle of the night and given only a few hours (or a few days at most) notice before bulldozers arrive on the scene to tear down their homes. Those that complain about these injustices are often beaten and jailed. These displaced farmers are forced to find new jobs, a nearly impossible task with such specialized skills and no land. Their families suffer and their children are malnourished and starving.

Our Lord is a lover of justice! We must pray, in accordance with the will of God, that the weak, the oppressed, the marginalized, are offered legal protection and are treated fairly. We must intercede on the behalf of the homeless, the displaced, those left empty-handed because of the greed of others. Let’s raise our voices for those whose cries are muffled by selfishness. Let’s take a stand for justice.

“Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the LORD your God is giving you.” -Deuteronomy 16:20

To find out more and get involved check out these websites:

The International Justice Mission

IJM Fact Sheets

Get Out of the Box

22 Jun

Do you feel stifled: creatively, personally, professionally, spiritually? Have you been confined to the box of your own design with seemingly no way out? According to Joseph Avakian, creative genius, father, husband, and speaker extraordinaire, there are 6 strongholds of the enemy that are highly effective in crippling our progress as followers of Jesus Christ. They are:

1. Fear: Fear can be mentally and physically paralyzing. Often irrational and unfounded, fear is poisonous. It leaves us stagnant, unable to move forward. And it disqualifies us from success before we even begin.

2. Comparison: Comparison always leaves one party labeled as “lesser.” God uniquely hand-crafted each of His creations. They were not made to be compared to each other.

3. Criticism: Criticism is the byproduct of a prideful heart and an insensitive spirit to the perspective of others. This plague rapidly affects all within earshot, destroying everything in its path (leadership, credibility, positive attitudes, evangelism, opportunities, etc.) The critical tongue is a razor blade, inflicting deep wounds that can take years to repair. It also assumes that it has the right to criticize, coming from a place of superiority that should be reserved for God alone.

4. Egoism: Egoism is the ignorant belief that your way is the best way. It neglects to place value on other cultures or attempt to understand different people. It also fails to consider the Lord’s perspective on His creation.

5. Arrogance: Arrogance isolates. It puts itself on a pedestal, exalted above all others, yet at the end of the day the pedestal is a lonely place. Arrogance is a deadly cancer to community, and opposed by God Himself. (Proverbs 8:13)

6. Control: Are you a control freak? The illusion of control is a strong addiction to many. It cripples faith and attempts to do things on its own, without help from the Lord or others.

So how do we get out of the proverbial box? We must begin to move in the opposite spirit. For each stronghold of Satan there is a directly opposing (and stronger) force of God. Joseph’s 6 ways for overcoming these strongholds are:

1. Agape love: Agape love is not just any kind of love. It is the unconditional love of the Father. It is not contingent upon our performance, and it never fails. Most importantly, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18) Knowing and understanding this love makes us capable of living a life unconstrained by the paralysis of fear.

2. Identity: When you truly begin to know and understand your identity in Christ, the spirit of comparison evaporates. You were fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of your Heavenly Father, created to be a unique being incomparable to others. When we grasp our eternal identity, we are free to pursue our own unique callings, putting into practice our individual giftings and talents.

3. Exhortation: Simply put, exhortation is speaking the truth in love. Rather than producing the cutting wounds of criticism, exhortation produces lasting change because it is driven by love and founded in truth. Instead of criticizing others, take the harder step and disciple them, spend time with them, understand their perspective, and establish relational equity with them. We must refuse to take the easy way out, for only when an unconditionally loving relationship has been established can we be empowered to walk beside someone as they pursue righteousness.

4. Generosity: Generosity is a powerful warrior against the self-centered spirit of egoism. It requires you to die to yourself to freely give of your time, encouragement, forgiveness, compassion, finances, affection, etc.

5. Humility: Humility is taking an accurate assessment of yourself and walking in the truth of who you are. It does not minimize itself, nor does it puff itself up with pride. It is willing to follow the Lord wherever He may take them, doing whatever He asks along the way, slaughtering arrogance, and building a strong community based on authenticity.

6. Freedom: When we are willing to let go of the metaphorical reins of our lives and let the Lord take over, we are free to experience the incredible plans He has designed for us. When we stop trying to control every aspect of every situation, we are free to enjoy life the way God wants us to. I love the song that proclaims: “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” So true it is.

Walking in the things of the Lord empowers us to crush the constraints of this world, live in freedom and righteousness, and progress into deeper intimacy with God and others. The Lord didn’t design us to be confined. He created us for freedom in Him. It is my fervent prayer that you would let Him let loose your chains today!