Sunday, April 27, 2008

Forgotten Love

I just got done watching Talladega Nights: The Ballard of Ricky Bobby so you’ll have to excuse the silliness of the opening illustrations, but they are pretty darn funny. So yesterday I had this great moment of clarity that I was not trusting in God’s plans and felt like I would just be able to sail into Sunday feeling like I was on my A game. Big mistake…The Holy Spirit came at me like a spider monkey, He was all jacked up on mountain dew, He scissor kicked me in the back of the head! We are going through this new series called Kingdom Come at Indy Metro. It’s an eight week jet tour through Revelation. I’ll admit Revelation is a book I avoid reading because of all the mystery and me not being able to understand a lot of it. That’s weird to because you would think that I’d love it because of all the beautiful metaphors and poetic imagery, that’s normally right up my alley. Anyways, today we got through the first letter written to the churches by Jesus, the letter to the church at Ephesus.

Write this to Ephesus, to the Angel of the church. The One with Seven Stars in his right-fist grip, striding through the golden seven-lights' circle, speaks: "I see what you've done, your hard, hard work, your refusal to quit. I know you can't stomach evil, that you weed out apostolic pretenders. I know your persistence, your courage in my cause, that you never wear out. "But you walked away from your first love—why? What's going on with you, anyway? Do you have any idea how far you've fallen? A Lucifer fall! "Turn back! Recover your dear early love. No time to waste, for I'm well on my way to removing your light from the golden circle. "You do have this to your credit: You hate the Nicolaitan business. I hate it, too. "Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches. I'm about to call each conqueror to dinner. I'm spreading a banquet of Tree-of-Life fruit, a supper plucked from God's orchard (Revelation 2:1-7, The Message)."

Jesus commends the church for their works, their deeds, and dedication to righteousness and the right ways, but finds fault in them because they have turned away from their first love. We’ve all seen the horribly cast soap-operas or TV talk shows, maybe you’ve been unfortunate enough to be a part of or witness a real life situation where a couple madly in love falls apart. The one party is oblivious to the fact they have fallen away while the other party is deeply in pain, heart broken. You always hear, “it happened so fast,” “you stopped spending time with me,” or “I’m just not in love with you anymore.” These are heart breaking remarks. What I realized this morning sitting in my chair with somewhat of a chip on my shoulder was that I’m good at doing, I’m a great at doing stuff, activities, or other tricks, but suck as a lover. I’m no good at loving God. So, I need to stop and think back to a time when I was infatuated with God, where the love was passionate and my heart almost burst with joy at the mention of His name. In those days I sought after His word relentlessly. For some reason now I find myself not wanting to pray or read the bible.

Part of this comes back around to my view of Scripture. I wrote a blog recently about this very subject. “Where we are in our lives, in our church, and what we do depends on how we feel or see Scripture (its authority).” That was the quote. Well, it makes sense that I would not want to read some old, archaic book about old Hebrew people. My eyesight is all messed up man! The reason I sought so hard after God in those early days of my love for Him was because I viewed the Bible appropriately, as a living, breathing Word. According to John, Jesus is the Word. If Jesus is the Word, it would make perfect sense for me to need to seek the Bible out as a time to spend with Him. How can I continue to love someone if I do not spend time with Him, if I fail to learn about Him. I’m a fool to believe otherwise!

I must be honest and confess that the only thing that has been consistent in this “funk stage” as I endearingly call it, is my failure to stay grounded in reading the Bible. So this morning as we read these words aloud, these words of a God who gave it all to be with us, I thought to myself, Yes, I have forgotten my first love. Oh how I miss it, how I miss the excitement of being in love with God. So on top of realizing I don’t trust in His plans I also realized I have forgotten my first love by not spending time with Him. Today was a rough day, we took communion and the entire time I prayed I would remember Him and the love my heart first had for Him, and although it was rough it was just what I needed.

May you find your first love, hold on to it, cherish it, may you not come to forget the love and continue in the works, this leads to burn out and frustration. May you love to love Him.

Plans

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.

I’ve been in this really ugly stage of my walk with the Lord lately. I’ve been frustrated with the balance between being a child of God and an employee of a religious affiliation, the church. This is not to knock the establishment of our churches around America, it is just being honest and saying it is hard to separate the work from personal time. So many times we think it is circumstances that ruin our mood or people that come into our lives. I’ve actually had the thought that this whole church planting, bible college thing was a mistake. It’s like the more I learn the more and more disinterested I become with it all. I have all these dreams of what I want to do for the kingdom of God. I want to start a church myself, but more like a small community that infest the people around it with love and really start to see Jesus’ Words come to life in the context of an urban setting of broken people. I want to go over seas, specifically Africa, and serve orphans and HIV/AIDS victims. I want to teach and preach. I know this is my gift. I want to use it to help others understand who God is and why it is something beautiful and liberating rather than cantankerous and boring. I want to see revolution, Spirit led worship, and people walking in the Spirit that will change this world and that way see many lives changed by this living God, Jesus Christ.

Yeah for me right? That seems really cool right? There’s nothing wrong with a man being passionate about doing things for God is there? We’ll I invite you to go back and read the highlighted words again. There is one consistent problem in the words… Do you see the word “I” a lot or is it just me? It’s amazing how simply truths are that we over look or at least I do (over look simply truths). I meet with a friend every Saturday (or at least we try to be consistent) and this Saturday he was just talking about how encouraged he is to see a young man so passionate about the Lord like me and how he wishes he could be where I am at my age. I had to interrupt him in the middle of the flattery and confess who I was and break down his unrealistic views of me. I told him I was in a weird stage where I felt like walking away from it all, not the faith, but all this church mess, ministry and such you know? I had to be honest and tell him that I get overwhelmed with all this doing and feel like all this ministry and bible college is ruining my relationship with God.

Nothing wrong with ministry or Bible college though, it is me. He simply responded to me with this, “Boy, you sound like you are so anxious right now and you need to know that God has you where He wants you to be, you just have to trust His plan.” What beautiful words those were for me to here. Ouch! I realized in that painful moment of self reflection that I trusted my plans. Even though my plans boast to be for Him they are still my plans. It is me trusting that He is completely in control right now and that although I may be frustrated with not doing all that I want to do for Him that He is in control and His plans are to prosper me. No circumstances have changed, I haven’t quit ministry or bible college, haven’t taken a 3 day isolated hike or anything, but everything has changed. Because I have realized where I was putting my trust I can now adjust and trust His. How refreshing not to be in control. I feel loads lighter.

May you trust in His promise to have plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. May you love in the moment of frustration and cry out to Him, but never loose faith in His control or His plan.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Painful View

"Where we are in our lives, in our church, and what we do depends on how we feel or see Scripture (its authority). "

This statement has stuck with me since Monday evening. It’s amazing how much knowledge and conviction comes into me by just being a room with other people who love Jesus and are seeking Him out. Anytime I look at my life, whether I am on fire for God, apathetic, sad, happy, or anywhere in between, it is a direct result of my view of Scripture.

The question in the most simplistic form would be, “Do I really believe it, does it have power over my emotions or experiences?”

I am getting increasingly more frustrated with the man I find myself being, especially lately. I move across country on faith, live with great faith within the first 6 months of being here and all of the sudden cards get placed right in my life and I forget all about the Word being my foundation.

In those days, I didn’t have insurance, no steady pay, tons of questions about God and why and what He was doing with me…I got a steady job, benefits, good pay, great place to live, and am now in Bible college. Sometimes I am realizing that I am relying on my own knowledge rather than the knowledge He ha given me. Do you see the difference? It’s almost like all these secure (at least they appear to be) factors have numbed my heart and raped me of the innocent faith I once knew and now long for. So now I know I get paid semi-monthly at a certain rate, I know I can depend on my insurance to pay the bills when I clumsily smack myself into some hazardous peril, I know I will read the bible and learn about God in school, I know that I am helping others experience something by being involved in this church plant.

So the many things I have prayed for and been blessed with are now things that I am becoming more and more frustrated with because they are taking my faith away. But is it the things that are taking away my faith or am I being like Israel? The trend in the Old Testament for Israel was to build alters to God, place stones in certain places, set boundaries, etc anytime they had an experience with God. Feasts were celebrated in celebration to remember what God had done. Into the New Testament, Jesus introduced communion and breaking of the bread in remembrance of Him.

In those days of uncertainty in my first months living in Indianapolis I was always in the word, listening to different sermons, asking questions, really seeking Him through His Word. I have forgotten that I still need Him and that all these things I think are distracting me are really not the problem, it’s my memory and my view of Scripture. I know I’m not alone, I just happen to have a big mouth and a good eye to be critical of myself. Hopefully this hits some soft spots in your soul and you will recognize that it’s not circumstances that affect you, it’s your view of Scripture. May you come to love His Word, may you remember Him, His sacrifice, His great mercy and love for you, may you long to know Him more and more by reading His word.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Holy Hamsters

“I can rest in Heaven, this life is too short.” While I appreciate this passionate view of working for a ministry or church, I must raise an eyebrow at it. The best, most exciting thing, I’ve done for God thus far has been helping start a church. I wouldn’t change anything, I have learned things that no school could teach me, the experience of church planting and serving others and helping create something that others can come and experience God is priceless. However, there comes a time when you look at your life, schedule, and blood shot eyes and think to yourself, why am I so busy, is this what God has in mind when He had His only Son brutally murdered on a cross? I have school on Monday night, staff meeting (for church) on Tuesday morning, creative ministry on Wed night, corporate gathering on Sunday, small group on Sunday morning, and on top of all that I have to keep up my own personal relationship with Jesus. My wheels are always spinning and often I find myself at this point of tension.

But then what is that rarely used word, Sabbath, mean? I get to feeling like I want to take my hand out of the hundreds of things I am involved in, but then feel like I should keep going because like a well meaning new friend said, “this life is too short, rest in Heaven.” But then what about me? Is it about me? No, but doesn’t Jesus want a relationship with me? I think He cares more for me being deeply involved in an intimate relationship with Him then running around like a hamster in one of those little balls. All too often I feel like a little Holy hamster, just running around doing things and never resting. How effective can I really be on an empty tank? Jesus should be the busiest person in history, He was sent to save the world, why wouldn’t He be busy? Although He had much more things to do and accomplish than we do, He still took out time to rest in the Father. Am I so arrogant to think I do not need rest in Him? I can resting Heaven and will, but I should rest here too, so I can fill up my cup only to pour myself out like a drink offering (like Paul).

So wrestle with that, rest or work, is there a way to healthily balance the two and/or should we? May you find rest, may you fill your cup before pouring yourself out. May you not become a Holy Hamster, running around in circles, but become a powerful tool for the kingdom, full of the Spirit and able to do work for the kingdom with more passion, more fulfillment, more efficiency.

Horton Saves

I took my little brother, Tank, to see Dr. Suess’ Horton Hears a Who this weekend. I knew it would be pretty funny because Steve Carrel and Jim Carey were both in it, but I didn’t expect to see any biblical themes. If you have not seen this movie or taken your little on to see it, do it, it is a great opportunity to share the message of Jesus Christ and a loving God with a child in a simplistic manner.

Horton is this elephant who hears a little scream on a speck floating through the air and emphatically chases it down and captures it on a flower. Horton vows to take care and protect this speck. Horton has no reason to love the speck the way he does, but continues to go through much pain in order to protect it, even to the point of risking his own life to save it. There is a scene where the evil kangaroo lady tells Horton to deny the speck is important and he will be set free, but he refuses and lets the jungle people lock him in a cage and beat him.

On the flip side, on the speck the major of Whoville who is in contact with Horton is isolated because of this greater being (Horton) that he thinks exist and has contact with. He is picked on and even publicly called out in front of the entire town of Whoville. The elders call him crazy because he believes in Horton. He grasps this idea that there is a greater being that looks over them and protects them.

Both themes are seen in the bible and are great conversation starters. I was very encouraged to see mainstream media portray such a strong message.

Green Beans and Feet

What can I say….that is what the roomed smelled like. The elevator made ominous noises that made me feel like it was going to fall from the sky, on top of the already fear of being infested with the germs I am sure were all over this little nasty elevator. The doors open up on the 15th floor to that smell, green beans and feet. There was a guy with a guitar and two girls singing. No power point showing the words, no official greeting team, no cool graphics, or special presentation. There were people there in this government housing building, black, white, poor, alcoholic, drug addicted, disabled, mentally disabled, in this little room and you could feel the presence of God in the midst.

I looked around and saw hands raised, heard sweet broken voices, and saw church. Most professional church planters would put there nose up at this idea. There is no leadership model, no budget, special committees, no speakers, special lighting, drama team, or any of the new age churchy stuff going on here. It was just people earnestly seeking out this great God that they hear about. No agendas outside of leading folks into an authentic experience with God, an introduction to a loving savior, Jesus Christ. It was not what you would call a pretty church or an organized body. This was church, poor, broken , rugged, smelly, a little uncomfortable, but overall beautiful.

May you seek God in organic ways and find beauty in simplicity, see through the programs and find the God that burns with passion to have a relationship with us through Jesus Christ.

The reason for my absence

For those of you who do keep up with my blog, I must apologize for slacking… I got a new job, a promotion, from the last one. With this new job I have to be licensed in the states I deal with so I had to take a CT state test for an adjuster. This is because the CT license is reciprocal in every state. Well the first time I took it I failed. I took it again last Friday and past it! So I’ve been consumed with learning a new job and studying for a crazy examine that took my two tries to pass. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

So now that there is no studying going on outside of normal school I can keep this whole blog thing up and entertain you with my crazy thoughts.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Big Whoop

Big Whoop!

just think about that, let it marinate in your mind, then when you get it, say it loud and proud...

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Hiding Under Something

There is this extreme tension that I have come to feel and think is a common trend for anyone involved in what we refer to as “full time ministry” So that goes out to all you people who help set up the church building for service on Sunday, organize events, teach, preach, or act in any other capacity within the organization of the church. I remember I used to have fanatical thoughts about what working for a church would look like or in my case being a part of a group of people who helped start one would be like. Oh such great thoughts, I’d be so close to God, be reading my bible more than anyone else, be able to quote something for every occasion, be a straight holy roller! I think the entire time I thought those things romantic music was playing in the background and then all of the sudden the music fades away and I wake up a couple years into it all wondering where the roses and mushy thoughts went. They have not been replaced by bitterness in any means, but just disappeared for some reason. So then you begin to do all these things within and for the church, set up, tear down, calling new visitors, going to staff meetings, and generally helping set up anything that will help others experience God. Then you meet these great points of tension in this whole Christian thing where you stop and just throw your hands up and say, “is this it?” Not in any disrespectful way or anything, but you just feel like you are grinding it out for God, but for some reason because of all the things you are doing you are totally missing out on Him. Like church gatherings on Sunday mornings just aren’t a place you can sit back and worship any more because you are busy worrying about people meeting there cues, the speaker being on time, the service ending on time, if that or this was done right, and on and on these thoughts carry. So no longer are the things you help create something you can enjoy.
I will be the first to tell people that Sunday mornings are not my time of intimacy with God, most of the time I have to go home in the quiet and listen to a podcast from one of my favorite teachers, then study on my own, pray, and jack up some Hillsong United and just get lost in worship. I enjoy those moments, I wish they came more often than they do. I start thinking that I can only experience God within the context of something churchy. I get lost in this thought process that my access to God is limited to a service, worship time, small group, or youth group. Then when I’m not getting to enjoy these access points I feel like I am far from God, don’t you? There is this great book in the Bible called Romans. Paul is writing to a group of people to assure them that they are no longer bound to a God with limited access, the alter was broken, the holy of holies opened up for all to be in (those who trust in Christ). Often times we send new believers to one of the Gospels to understand Jesus and His ministry. I suggest letting them read Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus to learn about how God originally set it all up, the alter, rituals, rules, and access points to Israel, then let them read either Romans or Hebrews and realize that when Jesus came and died on that nasty cross, that all those temple worship things were broken and completed. No longer does God sit in one place at a temple for only a priest to access, He grants us immediate access to Him. Take a look at Romans Ch 5. We have all gained access through faith in Christ to direct access to God!
This is exciting! This is revolutionary and ground breaking. So as I go through this tension of wishing I could just go to church and relax and experience God, I often have to remind myself that I can experience Him in a powerful way just like the lay person who comes to church right in my living room or local coffee joint. So may you stop looking for God under rocks, under your bed, around the city, in books, or whatever else it is you think He is hiding in and realize that the Holy God of Heaven, Almighty creator of heaven and earth is all around you and you have complete access to Him through Christ Jesus.

Rerun: Birds and Flowers

This is an oldy but goody I was reminded about today. I'm so good at giving advice, but fail to listen to myself or God at times. I know what you're going through, I've been there and visit it often, I was inspired to remember this one I wrote back in Novemeber, called Birds and Flowers. Enjoy.

Truth is a funny thing. It doesn’t matter in your own mind until it affects you. Truth is truth and will not change, but it is funny how a person can have no concern for it until it affects them. Even if you believe something is true, when its implications and consequences actually hit home and sit on you, then it becomes such a different type of truth or belief that you have. I have always pulled the Christian card when things were going wrong and say, “I trust the Lord, He will provide!” This is a great thing to say, but an even more powerful thing to actually believe with all that you are made of. Lately I’ve been going through this little funk of stress, doubt, questions, worries, and fears. Where will I be in a year? Do I feel like I am in the right place? Do I feel God is using me? How in the world am I going to pay rent this month? What if things don’t work out in Indy, then what? When I graduate I’d like to move somewhere new, but what if God doesn’t want me there? How am I supposed to survive if my budget doesn’t make sense on paper? I’m sure you are already pulling your hair out and that is why I keep mine cut so short, honestly, because I want to rip it all out when I think about all this. It is maddening to worry about all of this. Worry? Yes Worry!I get these feelings of just giving up and sleeping all day. When I worry about all this stuff my attitude changes, my prayer life is horrible, and my time in the Word is non-existent. You would think God would say something about this right? Ding ding ding ding, He did! I knew He did but this statement really hit me yesterday and tore all these burdens off my chest and freed me from insanity! Jesus is talking to the disciples in Matthew Ch 6 and in verse 25-34 goes on with this chat about not worrying. I’m sure He had heard them worry about stuff in His time with them. So Jesus gives them practical examples of how the Father cares for the birds and flowers without them worrying. Then He infers with a rhetorical questions, “Are you not much more valuable than they?” Jesus then says don’t run around worrying about all these things, what to eat, what to wear, what to drink, as the heathens do. “Seek first the kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matt 6:33-34).” God plans are the one’s that will be done anyways. They are always right. Proverbs 19:21 says that many are the plans of a man’s heart but it is the Lord’s that will prevail. I need to stop planning and trust God will provide me with my needs when I am seeking His kingdom first. We often like to give the disciples a rough time for being thick headed but I often wonder if Jesus would like to give me a swift slap to the back of the head when I miss beautiful truths like this. May you submit your worries to God and trust He will provide for you as He does the birds and flowers.

That Kid is Choking!

“The heart of man must change before anything else will. A man’s actions reflect his heart.” – Dr. Eugene Crouch

Recently I had a really difficult time learning about this groovy little thing called Liberation Theology. Big words excite me…I’ll be honest. So I sat there and listened to this lecture on this new movement of theology that is “tearing apart” our church and was just perplexed by this negative presentation of Liberation Theology. So what is it then I’m sure you are wondering.

Liberation Theology is basically the new wave of my fellow generation y people who are passionate about fighting social injustice.

I guess my difficulty in understanding why this was bad is because what the people are doing is great, things I agree with. The problem is that they just do these things, there is no reason for it. Now if you are like me, you just sat back, looked at the computer screen with an odd gaze, took a sip of coffee, tilted your head, and said, “and, so what?” Well that is what plagued me the entire night too. Why is it a bad thing for them to just be doing these good things without reason. I was getting my own verbiage mixed up though. It is good to do things because you do not expect something in return from your action, but it seems meaningless to just do something doesn’t it?

Basically, the problem with Liberation Theologians is hermeneutical. Yes, indeed, I totally did bust out a groovy little word! Hermeneutics is the way you view scripture. These people do not have a foundation on which they do things. They just act without reason outside of trying to rid the world of social injustice. This must be a hard fight to battle without a reason I would imagine. I imagine this because social injustice isn’t going anywhere, it will always be around. That does not mean we can do nothing because it will always be here, but we cannot fight a raging fire by spitting on it. There is this reality that one must get to the source of the flames to make it all stop, then your spitting begins to quench the beast that rages within the fire, in our case social injustice. The world is dark and it needs light. They need Jesus! So go out and do as much as you can to be a part of any group that is bringing about positive change to help humanity, but don’t just do it to do it. We are not called to be Nike people. Just do it is not our motif.

Finally I sat back form this lecture and raised my hand to look for affirmation of my own understanding and say, “So this Liberation Theology is a group of people who fight for social justice with no reason, no foundation?” Yes was the answer. So is there something wrong with just doing to do? When Jesus became what He had created, man, is that what is was all about, just doing some nice things? My generation treats the secondary things as primary and primary as secondary. This means we treat symptoms of a bigger problem and never address the problem. If a kid is choking to death, you don’t just sit there and continue to treat the symptoms and give him mouth to mouth, you eventually reach down there and take whatever it is out of his throat to stop the choking. It’s something like that. The world is like a kid choking, we just need to take that little piece of matchbox car that hey chewed up and tried to swallow out of their little throats so they can breathe. Treat the source of the problem and the rest will get better, their vitals will begin to recover. So, the world needs Jesus, not just the cool things He wants us to do because the only reason He calls us to do things like that are to reveal Him.

Interesting thoughts I think, what do you think?

Caffeine, Thumbs, and Free Wifi (kind of)

I sit here in Starbucks (imagine that huh?) and amaze myself at how connected my generation is. Blessing or curse? Is technology tearing apart our world? I’d say anything created by man that is not controlled can break loose and become a monster that rips stuff up. The point is not to make this argument, but simply to reflect upon how “connected” my generation is…

Here is a snap shot of what I look like right now in Starbucks:

I’m writing on my lap top, checking Facebook, Gmail, and Google talk, just sent a text message to a friend, checking my phone’s email account, and answering phone calls, all while drinking my white chocolate mocha and listening to my new sweet iPod nano.

So as I toggle between laptop, gmail, google talk, facebook, and pda/cell phone internet, email, and text messages I sat back and laughed to myself. I can contact anyone in the world practically within under a minute. I have the ability to stay connected to anyone anywhere. Go ahead, chuckle at yourself. You may even be reading this from your iPhone or other nifty mobile device or laptop while sitting at a coffee shop indulging in society, abstract music, and espresso.

How many friends on facebook or myspace do you have? We like text messaging primarily for one reason, it doesn’t require us getting into a conversation in which we can get lost into what we may think to be meaningless chatter, off subject material. Facebook and myspace are so appealing because we don’t have to allow people in on our turf, we can keep them at a safe stiff arms distance. It’s not comfortable when someone gets in your “bubble” is it?

So as I lay in this riverbed of dried up spirituality within the urban context I wonder within our endless ways of staying in touch and keeping relationships current, there must be something we can do to see them become what they were intended to be….intimate. One man says that the ideal intimate relationship can be described when, “two souls experience each other.” I think task is impossible with the means we use today. These tools we use are and can be great tools to create and maintain relationships, but I’m always held speechless as I look around at the activity of people within the coffee shop in my local neighborhood, iPods on, text messaging on your phone, checking myspace and facebook pages, chatting on aim and google talk, etc. Its like we do a really good job at doing this relationship thing but fail miserably at being in them in the purest since of the word. I suggest it is due to a lack of substance within. What I’ve noticed is that when people begin to get into each others spaces, ask tough questions, go through life together, share fears, pains, doubts, and experience each other, then this relationships stuff starts to slow down and be less of a blur. We move so fast that we leave broken pieces of ourselves laying around yearning for a true relationship (friendship) and it isn’t until we slow down to actually look into someone’s eyes, listen, and share ourselves do we see these broken little fragments of our broken attempts to fulfill what we were meant to be alone, do we see healing.