Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Grace = Death?

Ever had a thought that just will not leave you alone? I'm having one of those now. I mean, this thing is relentless! I just can't get it out of my head, or heart, for that matter. It's something that I used to think was entirely too difficult to carry out, but the more life I live, the dearer it becomes to me.

It's the notion of death to self, particularly in the area of what I own, or what I think I have the "right" to own. I, like many others, have dealt with the struggles associated with trusting in money and possessions to make life live-able. However, we see countless instances in the New Testament where Christ tells us to chuck that theory out the window and to get down to a real, dirty life walk with Him.

The main text I'm talking about at this point is found in Mark 10:17-31. It's the story of the rich young ruler. You know it well, I think, but let's recap briefly: a rich young man runs to Jesus, bows at His feet, and asks what he can do to inherit eternal life. Jesus responds that he must keep the commandments, which the young man says he has done since his youth. Then Jesus looks on him with love and tells him to sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, store up treasure in heaven, and to follow Him. Sadly, the man walks away because of his love of and entanglement in his many costly things.

What's the deal here?! Why does this guy not just do what Jesus says? Well, hindsight is 20/20, right? And to be perfectly frank, those of us with cool stuff have a hard time trusting that God will give us what we need. If you think about it, there are a lot of "Christian" zombies out there...the kind who take the easiest step (that is, giving away our souls to Jesus for eternal life), but who have not done the harder thing (i.e., getting rid of our stuff so we aren't hampered down as we follow the path Christ laid out for us).

Don't be fooled, though. The problem is NOT in having the things. The problem is loving them. You see, Jesus knew (and still knows) that when we are surrounded by certain things/elements, we're likely to enjoy them for the sake of comfort or for the sake of mere survival. Humans are fickle. We see glittery objects (or in my case, guitars, amps, and pedals), and we tend to think "I've got to have that!" Snare #1. Then, we step right into the real deal Snare #2 by getting so involved with them (or money) that we can't see a reason to trust God first in our lives. I'll give you an example that recently took place with me and my band.

We just helped lead worship at an event called Momentum in Hickory, NC. We opened for some "big name" bands; Remedy Drive, Brandon Heath, Britt Nicole, and Third Day, as well as rockin' the stage with our good friends from The Outpouring and 7Miles. It was an awesome event and we felt the presence of God's Spirit hovering over the people. Amazing is a good word for it.

We were promised payment as a band. Keep in mind, we'd never been paid for this event in the past 3 years that we'd been on the lineup. However, this year looked hopeful, and we, as individuals in Elishah, had already budgeted according to what we were to be paid.

Momentum came...Momentum went. No money for Elishah. But check this out.

We had two options: get upset, which, sadly, most people in our position would have done, because, hey, we gots ta pay da bills, too, ya know? Or, we could take it in stride because God was not caught off guard by this instance, and since He is indeed in control of all things, He knows what we need and will provide it. HE IS OUR PROVIDER, NOT OUR PAYMENT! What a lovely truth to live by. When you grasp it, you understand that you're free to do WHATEVER God says, WHENEVER he says to do it, regardless of the cost.

So, God spoke, we listened, and we let go of the "right" we had to demand our payment that had been promised. I want to make it abundantly clear that this instance did not come about because of a man-made mistake. Rather, I believe in my heart of hearts that God initiated it to teach our band something valuable that we had to have as a core value before ever making this a full-time venture. And, in the end, God blessed us more than the mere money would have (because it would have been gone in less than a week anyway) by wiping clean our outstanding debt, and allowing us a free space to breathe in financially. We now have our own trailer, van, website, and all the things that make this ministry go, while we are able now to look forward feasibly at our new record.

Just an easy example, but it says what we all, as Christians, should say at the outset of ANY venture God is in: "I must decrease so He can increase."

I lost my rights to anything when I gave up my life to Christ. Now, to follow Him and be drawn up to the full stature of Jesus, I lay down my trust in the "horses and chariots" of my life, and give my trust wholeheartedly to Jesus.

Hebrews 2 says that Jesus tasted death for everyone BY GRACE. It was God's plan for Him to die so we could live. It's time to reciprocate. Let us die to ourselves, our trusts, our rights, our money, our ideas of success and comfort, and let us do it so Christ can truly live and accomplish in and through us.

And while we meditate on these things, let us remember the first verse of that same chapter, so as not to forget what Christ wants and is teaching us:

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Romantic Foolishness of God

I've been learning a lot lately, as undoubtedly, you have. God has a funny (and sometimes, downright frustrating) way of leading us away from those things we love to show us what we've been lacking, only to lead us back to them to show more clearly His amazing power, grace, mercy, and will.

This is one of those things for me. I love to expound on Scripture, but in order to do that, Christ showed me I have to be IN the Scriptures in order to have a firm foundation. Aren't you glad? It makes about as much sense as Oreos and milk, or a crowd smiling as they sing my band's song, We Are Happy. (sorry for the shameless plug....or am I?)

I've been wondering why we have lost our passion....maybe you haven't, but as a Church, let's face it. If we were truly passionate about Jesus, little things wouldn't halt us from screaming His name in a desperate attempt to show the dying world that they are indeed at death's door. And I don't just mean hell. I mean walking zombies....life is too GOOD with Christ to let everyone we meet walk through it without living it, ya dig?

Along that same line, we hear in so many songs and in so many Scriptures the awe-inspiring love Christ has for us, His bride. There is an unimaginable, and yet, unquestionable romantic love there. So why aren't we embracing it? I have a few things to add to this table.

First, especially where I live, men are only really men if they're manly. That seems funny at first glance, but you catch my drift. The minute you begin talking about the beauty of nature, poetry, reading books, and the wonder of your wife, you've lost points on the Men's Scale of Manliness. So to say that I'm in LOVE with Christ denotes a certain inferior, effeminate trait that most males do not want associated with their name. I'd even venture to say that we, as males, struggle with it because it seems homosexual.

But, here's the kicker. Christ set it up, so it's not like we see it. Remember, "my thoughts are higher than your thoughts, and my ways are higher than your ways." Sin is the only thing that distorts God's great plan for romance in each of our lives.

Read 1 Cor. 1:18-31.

We find here that it seems downright stupid to the world how a Christian is destined to act, speak, love, see, etc. In fact, God prefers this method of showing Himself, simply because it is so set apart, that is, sanctified, from the world's perspective.

Take faith, for instance. All "good" Christians say they have faith in Christ. But a large (more like enormous) majority of them only hold to that as far as eternal security is concerned. How about that abundant life that was promised by Jesus Himself? Why don't we trust Him with that?

Here are a few examples: the world says you should panic because of the economy...you should save, save, save, and the other person is on his/her own. What's the first thing we do? Stop giving "frivolously" to our neighbor in need (if we ever listened to the Holy Spirit enough to actually do something about it in the first place), put all the money back you can afford to, cut corners, and most times, the first thing off the list is the tithe. Now I'm no Biblical scholar, but I know the difference in the tone of a command and a suggestion. Christ's plan for tithe was that it be the first off your income, that it is mandatory as one who has been saved by God's grace, and that it helps sustain His lover, the Church. Seems absolutely foolish, right? That's how Jesus rolls.

What about jobs? The world says nobody has 'em, nobody's gettin' 'em, and the way they see it, if you have one, you're not gettin' paid enough. What happens when God wants you out of that job? Do you hold on tightly because it seems "logical" in your own mind, or do you jump ship when God says to, holding tightly to the confession of your faith in Christ?

You see, folks, we're so Greco-Jewish. That is, we are exactly what Paul describes in verse 22:

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and a folly to Greeks...

How many times do we say, "I'll be a faithful follower when that trial comes my way, never doubt it!", but when that trial makes its way to our house, we fold? It happens all the time, and way TOO often in the Church.

To revisit Oswald Chambers, he says about the above quote that nearly all American Christians today share, "YOU WILL NOT unless you have risen to the occasion in the workshop, unless you have been the real thing before God there."

Remember the old phrase "Practice makes perfect?" Though not Scriptural, we can definitely apply it with God's stamp of approval to our prayer-closet times. Speak your faith and believe in the small things, be amazed, and watch the bigger things turn smaller before your eyes and the might of our incredible God. This only comes with submitting to His power and romance.

Be in love with Him; trust Him. These are the first steps to revitalizing the Church. Do the things, say the things, think the things that you know Christ is telling you to, no matter how foolish they seem, and you'll find that the next part in verse 24 is absolutely, unequivocally true:

...but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men, and the weakness of God is stronger than the strength of men.

Be bold in your faith. After all, God's bold in His.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Stay tuned!"

Have you ever felt like you have to go through a complete overhaul on your mind? That may seem like a stupid question to those of us who are followers of Christ, but I've come to find that many people are, to use a coined phrase, "sleeping giants." Now, I know that this colloquial term usually encompasses the entirety of the Church of Christ, but since we're "more than conquerors," it follows that we should be living our lives larger than, well, life.

A few months ago, our church was given a sort of guide for reading through the New Testament together in a couple of months. Well, that couple of months has come and gone, and quite honestly, I'm nowhere near the mark that was set for us. But, I have been taking very seriously the challenge that was posed alongside the schedule: read everything about Christ as though you'd never heard of, let alone read about, Him.

This is getting difficult.

You see, my whole mind feels like it's going opposite ways. To use an illustration here to let you gather a better picture of how I feel, imagine a chocolate chip cookie. Oh, yeah. You know what I'm talking about...it's the perfect one, straight out of the oven in a Nestle's Toll House commercial. Warm, and when it pulls apart, you see all the strings of that heavenly chocolate pulling away from the halves they were once member to.

Yeah...that's NOT how my mind feels.

Now imagine with me The Hulk. You know, the big green dude who really should take a few anger management courses, but it's probably better that he doesn't, because he'd likely murder the group leader and other members? Now imagine him holding a tank in his hands. You see where this is going? As he rips the Panzer apart, the metal squeals, shrieks, and pries apart with a stubborn tenacity only found one of those tiny fruit flies that goes kamikaze into your mouth as you're trying to enjoy your dinner. Got it?

That's more like what I'm going through...but don't be disillusioned. I'm actually really happy with it, because it means there's hope.

Case in point: in the book of Matthew, after Jesus is finished feeding the 5,000 on the hillside, walks on water to the disciples, heals many people, and ticks off the Pharisees, He encounters a Canaanite mother. Let's read it together to refresh our memories of the story:

And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon." But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and begged Him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying out after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and knelt before Him, saying, "Lord, help me." And He answered her, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table." Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly.
---Matt. 15:22-28 (ESV)

Whoa...we tend to glaze right over that one, don't we? What has often been used as a passage for sermons based on faith and determination has been transformed in my mind. Yes, this passage speaks of those things. Be like the Canaanite woman, don't stop knocking on the door, stay at Christ's feet until He answers. But there's a HUGE theme here that most people miss, unless we ask ourselves a vital question: "Why is this even in the Bible?" It's NOT about the healing. In fact, I don't necessarily think it's about faith as much as being about Christ's availability. But not to man. Rather, this passage is about Christ's availability to God.

Keep in mind, right before this incident, Christ was said to "withdraw" to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Withdrawing tends to share the meaning of "getting away from it all." We see Him doing this all the time throughout the Gospels. Basically, Christ ministered and then withdrew to a place by Himself or just with His disciples to pray. What would He pray for? Strength, determination, love, communion with the Father? Yes, all of these, because these are the things He taught us to pray for. However, I believe that there was something more.

Remember, Christ was God, but He was also COMPLETELY man. That said, I don't believe He saw the future the way He inevitably does now...there were things that God the Father gave Him in glimpses as to where He was going, but I don't think He saw everything coming a mile away. (viz., being "surprised" at the centurion's amount of faith, and even the exclamation point at the end of this passage shows surprise at the Canaanite woman's logic) The point is, you're not surprised if you already know what's going to happen. Jesus didn't know everything that was going to happen so He could maintain a fair amount of humanity. Otherwise, it's an unfair advantage and we don't have the Perfect Sacrifice. Make sense?

As I was reading this, I began to see that Christ did everything purposefully. We all agree with that. He had a road to walk and neither looked to the left nor the right. THIS is why this passage is necessary. Jesus knew His purpose was to save the "lost sheep of the house of Israel." But more than that, His purpose was to "do only what the Father does, and say only what the Father says." He knew that His whole existence hinged on God's glory. At this moment, God decided His glory would be best shown through His Son by doing something that, until that moment, had been hidden from Jesus' mind.

So, re-imagine the passage with me:

Jesus is getting away from the crowds to commune with God the Father, and is in an area that is not inundated with Jews. While there, a non-Jewish woman comes to Him with a request. Jesus has already heard from the Father that His goal is to save the lost Jews, not anyone else. As He walks, though, Christ is continually listening to keep Himself in check with the Father. And then, this woman comes along, and at first Christ doesn't pay her any attention. Is He being cold to her? Or, is He listening to hear from the Father what to do about her?

She continues to plead with Him, and He tells her honestly what He's here to do. And she uses a logic that not only astounds the human part of Christ, but also speaks to the Spirit-led part of Him, allowing Him to turn from the road He's on momentarily to show the others NOT that He was here at that time for anyone else but the Jews, but that He WAS here to obey EVERYTHING the Father told Him to do.

Basically, it's a first-class scenario of God telling you to jump, and the correct response being "how high?"

This passage is about obedience. And Christ set the mark, and He did it perfectly.

Do you hear God say something, get the message, embrace it, and then turn off the spiritual "walkie-talkie" until you get to a fork in the road? Or, like Christ, do you constantly listen to that walkie to hear God's voice as you go. He may tell you to do things that don't line up with your idea of His vision for you. But that doesn't matter. He's God, and we're not. Listen always...pray without ceasing. Do what the Father says do and say what the Father says say, and you'll be in perfect harmony with God's will.

My challenge is simply this: ALWAYS listen for the Holy Spirit's prompting, whether you feel like "you've got this one" or not. Then, and only then, will the sleeping giant be awakened. We can do it. Let's do it, then.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"Let the Children Come to Me"

Hello again...it's good to be back.

Ever since I began writing this blog, life has taken on a new scope for me. At least, I think of life in terms of "between the blogs," if that makes any sense at all. Basically, I let a few days (or weeks, if I'm too busy or too lazy...they can be interchangeable at times, I'm sad to admit) go by to "refresh" my lens and get a grasp on something a bit different, or even updated from my last posting. Not that life revolves around the blog; no, it revolves around Christ, but He opens my eyes to different things all the time. So, without further ado...

I'm involved with a movement called KIDZ ROCK in my area. Actually, if you want to get right down to it, it's the brainchild of mine and my father's vision for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Well, at least one leg of it, anyway. I cannot begin to describe how desperately excited I am about this move.

You see, the children are the Church of tomorrow. And as the Church of today, it's our job to get them involved in the Church of today so they can have an even greater and more Biblical Church of tomorrow. Following?

Often times, we see youth groups that are stagnant and dying, or we see them bursting at the seams with event after event and full schedules of great fun and outings, and even some outreach. However, the reason people say that youth leaders have it the hardest is sometimes because adolescence is a very difficult time for teenagers, what with hormonal changes, life readjustments, and the struggle to become someone who is NOT self-serving or egocentric. (Don't we all struggle with that on a day-to-day anyway?) And, many times, we can trace that back to a slightly faulty method of raising those kids in the admonition of the Lord.

Now, before you behead me mentally, hear me out. I am not a father, so I am NOT about to say the all-time favorite cliche of "I know how I'd raise my kid!" Nay, I don't want those words put in my mouth...rather, I'd like to speak on behalf of children and youth having recently (that is, in the last 15 years) been a product of either of those groups in the Church.

I remember having a lot of fun in "Children's Church." I remember hearing Bible stories. I remember snacks, glorious snacks. And that's about it. I remember singing, but not being LED. That's not to say that my teachers/guardians at the time were ungodly. They were some of the sweetest and loving people I've ever known. But I think, all too often, we undermine the imagination and mindset of a child.

Remember what Christ said about children? In Mark 10:13-16, we see that children were brought to Jesus (by a very wise parent, no doubt) and the disciples rebuked them and tried to turn them away. (hmmm, does this sound familiar?) But Jesus did something unprecedented, like He seemed to always be doing. He said:

Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.

Now, to unpack that, we're not just talking about a child's ability to believe things that adults have a hard time believing. That's gullibility in many cases. That's not the business Christ was in. However, in the ancient Jewish lifestyle, children were at the bottom of the totem pole, often times viewed as lower than those who were sick with leprosy, which when you think about it, is pretty low.

Jesus turned the whole hierarchy on its head with those two statements. Children not only believe the "unbelievable;" they also see the invisible. That is, they see the plain truth when our older, wiser spiritual eyes get fogged up with the surrounding elements of that truth. If this is true, then why not challenge the young to become even wiser in the Word and the truth?

Back to KIDZ ROCK. It's our hope to raise a generation of children who become so enthralled with Christ, so in love with Him, and so uninhibited in their worship of Him, that it overtakes their being and allows them to walk with Him closer than any of us could at their age. And DO NOT think or say "that's impossible," for as we all know, "all things are possible with God."

This is why we choose songs that are a good mix between children's "party" songs, where Biblical principles are present, but they're mostly played to get the kids' attention, and those songs that even adults sing to entice the spiritual being of the child to come to foot of God's throne in a way that Christ described as the only way to "receive the kingdom of God." Sure, we sing "Undignified." But we also challenge the next generation with songs like "Sweetly Broken," which, until now, has been viewed as a song "too deep" for our children. I say let 'em try. They tend to believe Jesus better than us anyway. Why not let this time be one where we let THEM lead US in how to worship?

I've got no beef with anyone on this subject, by the way. I just love kids and want to see them stick with the move of God's kingdom through their adolescence and young adult years, all the way until they're seniors who are dancing, still uninhibited, in the aisles of church buildings, just to show their kids how to worship freely.

It's possible. And it's necessary. So, let's do it together.

By the way, if you're interested in KIDZ ROCK, just find the Organization page on Facebook. You really don't want to miss it. There's NOTHING like a couple hundred children singing/shouting/dancing/whooping/hollering their love of Christ.

And just in case you're a skeptic, re-read the Scriptures, come see what this whole thing is about, and be open to God's move through our future. You won't be disappointed.

We have one life to live. Everyone wants to leave a legacy. Let ours be through our children in a Biblical and Spirit-led way. I promise we'll see Christ glorified through it and because we allow His Spirit to build His kingdom through us and our kids, we'll be able "to enter it."

And as the kids say at KIDZ ROCK..."OH, YEAH!"

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mad Like Jesus

Hi again. It's been quite some time since my last post, and I have to get something out so I don't self-combust! (ever felt like that?) So, in order to keep myself from becoming the headless horseman, I'll spill something that's been on my heart for several weeks.

Ever wonder what the "birth pangs" Christ talks about allude to, or how they feel in a spiritual sense? I imagine that women who have been pregnant and had children will more readily understand the metaphor, but for those of us who haven't had that experience (or won't), I'll try to talk it out and hope it doesn't come across as misinterpreted or confusing.

I know I have the spiritual gift of administration, among others such as teaching, prophecy, and exhortation. Thing with those gifts is that often, those that hold them are easily discouraged by looking around and seeing all the things taking place outside the will of God. I find myself constantly battling these "darker sides" of the gifts I've named above, and so, wishing for the day when all of God's own will act out to reclaim the world around us for Christ. That's not to say that I'm always doing my very best to reach the world for Jesus. On the contrary, I typically find myself overly aware of what I don't like about myself in others, particularly laziness and apathy. And, if you understand this point of view, you also see that when this kind of mind takes a hold of me, I count what I'm going through as "suffering."

This is why I want to look at Paul's letter to the Romans, particularly, chapter 8, and beginning in verse 18:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

If this is true, and mark my words, it is, then neither you nor I have any reason to stop going forward with what Christ's Spirit has indeed told us in our hearts. And the beautiful thing is, if Christ says it to me, He won't say the opposite to you, for "a house divided against itself will fall."

I often feel as though I look around at many of my brothers and sisters, and I'm talking about Christians, not the lost, and see them "biting and devouring each other" until no forward progress or fruit of the Kingdom of God is being shown to the world right outside our doors. And then comes the anger. And, I believe, I'm justified in my anger. However, if I let it inhibit me from making any more forays into the battlefield, I've completely lost all that justification. Anger is God-made, but we typically count it as sin because of what accompanies it. We hardly ever act Christ-like in our anger, which is to "be angry and sin not." However, that quote from Scripture does NOT mean to "be angry and act not."

Take, for instance, Christ turning over the tables of the money-changers in the Temple. He was irate. (that's a $2 word for really super angry) But what did He do? Did He just leave the problem? Nope. If I'm not mistaken, He went after the problem's throat...not the people's. That's how He avoided sinning. He uprooted the evil of the moment without hurting anything but man's pride.

Pretty radical, when you actually think about it. Can you worship that man?

Or, better yet, do you care little enough about yourself to be angry and act, only not in sin, but in righteousness, as long as it was for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom?

Look at another passage with me: Matthew 17:14-21...to summarize, Christ is asked to heal a demon-possessed boy. And according to the account of the Scriptures, His disciples had tried and failed at doing what He was about to do. What was His response? "O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me." And when they asked him why they couldn't do what He did (and by the way, told them they were able to do), He simply said, "Because of your little faith." And He proceeded to do the very thing the disciples were not able to.

So what about us? It's really easy to say "as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." But, often times, and sadly, we tend to tack on a phrase at the end of that statement to the effect of "unless it's something I don't think I can do or don't want to do." Let's put that away, because as we read on, Jesus then gives us hope and an understood command that "nothing will be impossible for you."

I, for one, do not want to spend my life in anger, but I am embracing a Godly way of being angry when it does take place. That said, I'm not following the time-honored tradition of "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all," mainly because when we do our Christian right and responsibility to point out wrong in our brothers and sisters in the Body (AFTER taking the log out of our own eye, mind you), it does NOT sound "nice." However, as Christ did, I am taking strides to act in anger, and to do so in a Christ-like and loving way.

I know this sounds heretical. But so did Jesus.

Let's move on past the only anger we know, that of "I'm mad so I hate." Let's open our hearts up to a Godly, righteous anger, that says, "I'm angry with how things are, and I love, so I'm going to be a Christian agent of Godly change in the Church first and then in the world." I know, it's a longer sentence. And rightly so...it holds a much larger Spirit.

Oh, and the reason we get angry, if we're Godly at all, is because we want the Church to be better than She is at present...so we end with the last bit of the first passage we studied..."Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."

So, let's hope for the best, and progressively move toward making it happen. After all, "nothing will be impossible for you."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Do You Hear What I Hear?

It's been a while since my last post, so I thought I'd take a few moments and update on what's been happening in my life, and more importantly, the life of the people of God.

I'm very tired right now...not to whine or complain, but the last 2 weeks have been made of nights filled with dreams (which doesn't really allow for much REM sleep, and thus, rest). And quite honestly, they're getting more and more descriptive. What was once just a handful of images and the odd face here or there has become a series of dreams with amazing amounts of detail. Often, I find myself taken back by how much I recollect of the dreams, and I can't help but think that God is trying to tell me something. And I don't mind saying that though these dreams seem silly when describing them to others, in the moment, they're very real and quite frightening.

I also can't help but think of the passage in Joel 2:28-29, in which the prophet of God speaks God's own point-of-view of the future.

"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit."

Now, I'm not one to make it sound like "hey, it's me, Jimmy...you know, that super cool guy who dreams dreams and sees visions? Yep, that's me!" However, I do wonder if God is not using my dreams to not only speak to me for me, but also for the world I'm in. Come to think of it, I have experienced more of an urgency in almost every area of my life to be a "fuller" vessel, someone who is zealous AND knowledgeable in the Word and who has a great heart to see the world around me change because of the Christ who lives in me. I'm really dying to see this kind of change happen.

Honestly, nothing else matters to me.

And let's talk about the Bible, eh? Remember my post about the lame beggar, how when we even turn a little tiny bit towards our Creator, He immediately sets us to a task that He knows we can handle and will stretch our faith? There is NO growth apart from the Word of God, and now, for the first time in my life, I see it...we ask for answers, and yet we don't want to look at the place they're waiting for us in. I'm not here to berate anyone on their study time, or lack thereof, but I assure you, I've found that reading the Bible is a MUST HAVE for my daily sustenance. Grab a good, godly commentary, talk with trusted ministers and Christians (preferably older in the faith than you are), and dig in. The more I read, the more I'm convinced that although the Church hasn't been doing many things right for centuries, God still has control and the remnant of His chosen people who love Him for Him are hearing His voice. I don't know about you, but I want to be one of the remnant.

My heart has been struck with a passion to worship Christ, too. This sounds really bad at first, especially coming from a leader of worship, both in my home church and on the road, but I assure you, it's real. It's amazing how little I really know, and how much Christ really wants me to know. How compassionate and patient He is with me!

It's March now, and there are so many other things going on right now in my head and heart that I can barely keep them in order. But, the wonderful thing of it all is this: Christ is changing me. Not church. Not a particular subject study. Not a great band or a stunning speaker. Not even the people around me. And I can almost hear some of you out there asking, "But Jimmy, doesn't Christ speak to me through all these things?" And my answer is "yes." But that's not enough anymore.

You see, I've typed all of this to get to this one vitally crucial point: The mature Christian, the true man of God, the lover of Christ is the one who spends time alone with Christ and learns to hear from HIM first...then all the other modes of communication are just icing on the cake, or rather, more and more reassurance that what happened in private actually took place. I'm ready to hear the voice of God speak to my heart directly from His with no middle-men. That's not to discount the way He uses other people or things to speak...rather, it's a wake-up call to go deeper with Him until all the other ways He speaks shore up the truths He's told us in secret. It's intimacy, really.

Think about it...Christ went up to be alone on hillocks, mountains, and the countryside to hear the voice of God the Father directly. And it WORKED. And we're told to be holy as He is holy. It can be done. My challenge? To listen for God with only His Word as your source of hearing. Get in there and grab the answer He's already ordained you to have from the foundations of the world.

I hope you're excited. I know I am. And by the looks of this post, though it be piecemeal and scrapped together, I can see the outline of a beautiful story being told, and I'm just waiting for the next piece of the puzzle. Tell someone you love them today. Share what God's saying now to you. And go somewhere by yourself to hear Him tell you what you'll tell them next.

Monday, February 15, 2010

I Love Her, I Love Her Not

I like stuff.

I know, it seems a spacial waste for me to say it that bluntly, but I do. I think this is the root of what a lot of events in my life stem from. I like guitars. I like guitar pedals. I like good albums by my favorite artists. I like my iPod Touch. I REALLY like chocolate.

I also like a lot of intangible things. For instance, I like respect from others for what I do. I like being recognized as a follower of Christ, albeit, not always for the right reasons. I like a feeling of accomplishment after I've cleaned the house from top to bottom and knowing that Chassta will be pleased when she crosses the threshold. But this leads me to another question: What do I love?

Well, I know a few things/people to start with. I love my wife. I love my family. I love my position as a leader in Elishah, and I love the guys that comprise the band. I love meeting new people and sharing with them what God's given me. I most certainly love Jesus Christ....or do I?

I've been mulling over the latter phrase for about a month now. Every now and again, I think it's good to question my allegiance so I can allow the Holy Spirit to speak to me about who I really am, no matter how painful it gets. And I've gotten a haunting response: with the mess that I've allowed in my heart over the years, how could I possibly say with truth that I really love Christ?

I've found the answer, at least for this time in my life. We all have struggles with each other...we all fall short of our expectations for one another....and this inevitably leads to wounding that takes a perfect Savior to heal, but should never have been there in the first place. Which, in turn, leads to the bad fruits the Bible talks of: envy, malice, pride, bitterness, anger, hatred and so on.

I'm in a catch-22 it seems. I was recently talking with my brother over the direction of ministry and writing our band, Elishah, must take to not only continue on, but to do it in a way that lines up exactly with God's will for this journey. We came to the conclusion that each of us in Elishah has a unique relationship with the Church (the American/global church, which trickles down to the community of local churches we attend). None of us is completely satisfied with the way our generation has viewed or "does" church. We typically find several things that do not line up Scripturally or are not redeemed for Kingdom work that are done in church gatherings. We have, in the past, felt disconnected, disillusioned, and many times, rejected by people who were supposed to be on our side. A verse comes to mind: "For we don't wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." (Eph. 6:12)

Regrettably, I have fallen before into the trap of believing that my enemies were my brothers and sisters in Christ. Not so, not even a little, according to this verse. And my brothers-in-arms in Elishah believe this truth as well. This is where the turn-around takes place. While we are discontent with the state of the Church, we love the Church.

I heard a quote once that has literally screamed in my mind each time I feel a pull to my fleshly desire to fight my brothers. It says, "You can't love Jesus and hate His wife." It's true. The 2 greatest commandments Christ gave us were to love God first and love your neighbor as yourself, and He made them equal commandments. That means loving God comes with a "proof," if you will. That "proof" is to love our neighbors.

So, back to mine and Mike's conversation. We came to terms that we are leaders in worship, and that almost all of our lyrics are comprised of challenges for those who are already believers in Christ. That said, why would we waste our time on people if we didn't love them? We believe Christ has placed a burning desire in our hearts to see the Church come together again and love one another beyond our faults and failures, to work together for the building of the Kingdom of God, and to fulfill the Great Commission. There's really not enough time to dawdle on anything else, I've come to realize.

My challenge this post, then, is to encourage you to stop finding things in others, especially Christians, that you don't like. Because, indubitably, that kind of criticism leads to thoughts of pride ("I don't do that!"), and hate ("I hate them because they..."). Christ is NOT cool with this kind of thinking. In fact, it's the kind of thinking He warned us to "not be conformed to the image of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

True, it's a dog-eat-dog world, but there does not have to be a dog-eat-dog Church....lift up those who hurt you in prayer...watch God do a miracle. He may not change them (keep in mind that they DO have free will), but He may change your heart toward them because you've been humble enough to let God work in YOU.

Let's see it happen...you know the truth now...don't waste it by doing nothing.