Don’t Even Look to the Right or Left: a response to a political e-mail I received

About two weeks ago, I had just come from a prayer meeting that was rich with the presence of God, when I stopped by a coffee shop next to the comic book store on 7th street. When I got there I walked straight to the bathroom, while I was washing my hands a gentleman banged on the door and kind of startled and frustrated me. I opened the door wondering who would do such a thing. When I opened the door a round sweaty man rushed passed me and said “what were you doing taking a s#!t”.
 
I walked out into the store and was circling around trying to find words and grasping for peace. About that time the man came back out, and I said, “Sir, I’m sorry if I frustrated you.” He smiled with a venomous grin and said, “I’m not frustrated with you, Your just a liberal and I’m a conservative.” After that he preached his gospel of right wing conservativism. Of which I found very entertaining and just listened to the man; and more than that I was listening to what the Lord wanted me to say.
 
Finally, I had a chance to speak and this is what the Lord gave me to say, “Sir, you are mistaken, I am not a liberal, nor am I a conservative, I am a Christian and I believe that Jesus Christ is Lord of Lords and King of Kings.” I continued to explain to him that the Kingdom of God is very political and very present. My allegiance is first and foremost to the one who paid the price for my salvation.
 
Brothers and Sisters, we serve a mighty King who reigns in faithfulness, choosing justice and righteousness for His children. He is always faithful and never will let us down. “At the end of this election the person in the white house will not be the anti-christ nor will he be the Messiah.”
 
I challenge you to render to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s, and render God to what is God’s. 
 
Blessings,
Jason G.

My Heart is Like a Comb Over

Well, I began my graduate level theological studies and immediately I was bombarded with the spirit of pride. Now as I have fought off that beast, for the mean time, I find myself frustrated with many strange and beautiful perspectives that challenge me and some perspectives that just flat out frustrate me.

This morning in my intimate time with God I found myself thinking of Jeremiah’s calling where God says that “I knew you from before you were in the womb.” Calvinists take that scripture and say “there it is, God foreknew and predestined”…. But I see this passage and say that, before we were on this planet we were with God, that God breathed His spirit into us, so before I was in my mother he knew me because I was with him. So plainly I have it all figured out right? (Tongue firmly pressed in cheek)

Then this morning, I ran across some scripture that I just could not get away from I read them over and over.   

Luke 18:9    To some who were confident in their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else he told this parable:

The more I read it the more I tried to step out from the weight of it to somehow encourage me like I was not one of “those” people or the other deflecting idea that maybe this would help me understand “those” people. I reinterpreted my conviction to mean “well it is by Christ’s righteousness that I am saved not my own”, so this can’t be me. Which in all practical terms may be correct… but this was not what God was trying to tell me this morning. You see it’s thinking like this that makes my heart more calloused, and my head more hardened, and my soul more endangered.

Paul worked his salvation out with fear and trembling…. and this man was more pivotal in the spreading of the Gospel than anybody ever in History next to Christ himself. He wrote that “He was striving to the goal of salvation… not that he achieved it…”. Paul was never at the place, like I am, where I say in my mind “by my faith in Jesus I am in right standing before God”. My false comfort before God has made me lazy. It is a poison that I need to repent from and have removed from my soul before it kills me and my hearers.

I had the strangest insight the other day and when I say strange I mean strange. Have you ever seen balding men who have a “comb over”. Comb over being the weird long hair that covers older men’s balding area of the top of their heads. Well I was thinking of this when it hit me that there are barbers around that cut these guys hair to look like this. There is someone out there who helps these men pull off this stunt of a disguise.

As I wondered about this strange phenomenon I was reminded of the many “preachers” who just tell there congregations what they want to hear. They “tickle the ears” of the people in their congregations in stead of speaking the real living word of God (2 Tim 4:3). These barbers just keep right on covering up these men baldness like it doesn’t even exist.

We are people who would rather not have confrontation even if it kills us. If my arm had an infection that was possibly life threatening I would probably avoid going to the doctor. The doctor might say, “we will have to amputate your arm to save your life” and I would rather not listen to that nonsense and let the infection spread. This is why we need spiritual authority in our lives that are really seeking to speak the words of truth into our lives and this is why we cannot be people who avoid the presence of the Lord.

Did you know that when you become serious about weight training that you have to trick your muscles into getting sore and trick them into growing because they build up a defense that you have to work around. How much more then my brothers and sisters are our bodies are fighting to resist the life changing word of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters, we need to become vigilant and determined to touch the hem of our Lord Jesus. We need to deny our flesh and seek the things in the unseen.

Luke 18:10-14 Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

 “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  

 

 ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’

 “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’

 “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

So, even though you pay your tithes, fast twice a week, go the prayer meeting, and perform great religious roles; May you find a brokenness in your heart for the life giving presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. May you seek to be challenged and changed by scripture instead of challenging and changing scripture. May your time spent with Christ be from the only posture that brings justification before God… brokenness.  

 

An Apocalyptic Mind

Hello friends!! Sorry for spending so much time away from the blog. Honestly I have been having a hard time finding time to write and I have been kind of torn by the reaction or lack there of to the past couple of blog entries I have written. Anyways, I’m back and I have a couple good ideas I plan to present soon. So hang in there and if something spurs a reaction please tell me, I would hate to be sharing my heart so openly and not at least get a rise out of you.

About a month ago, two of my best friends, Gab and Phoenix were playing grocery store at our house while I was on the computer writing (Gab is 3 years old and Phoenix is 2). Spurred on by a new toy grocery cart, the kids and my wife were having a ball. Theresa had out some groceries from the pantry and plastic bags to bag them. More often than not I am an active participant in their games and this was no different, that day I was the sales clerk. As I was checking them out I asked for the money to pay for the groceries and Phoenix said that she had “pink”. At first I thought she misunderstood and I tried to explain it, Later I discovered that what she said was incredibly profound. She loved pink, it is what she valued, so it was what she was offering to me…  I want to dive into this idea of value and the perspective that we hold to as people but most of all as Christians.

When sin entered the world so did the need for payment. Up to that point there were no worries about the Home Owners Association in the Garden of Eden. All of what Adam and Eve ever needed they had because they were participants in a trusting relationship with God, without any doubts or fears. But when division was created through sin a new and awkward way of life was created. The only way to redeem this selfish and unloving system was to destroy sin which Jesus Christ has done for us through the cross. This redeeming act brought a new way of the life called the Kingdom that is present right now and accessible by all those who accept Jesus as their savior. As a result in the book of Acts after the life altering Holy Spirit came to bring truth, the apostles had all things in common, if people owned land they went and sold it and gave it to the entire community.

Unfortunately, things are a little different in the 21st century as Christians… It doesn’t take long to see that the love of money is the root of all evil. I’m sure you know of a friendship or two that has been destroyed over money. I bet you can even feel the desire to cling to money and trust it instead of God. We like to buy and sell land and even covet others possessions, but if we believe in the God of the scriptures more than in the cultural portrayal of possessions, none of it is really ours, but it is owned by our Father in heaven. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.

So we have Netflix and recently we were sent a movie that I don’t remember putting on the cue. It was Imitation of Life, a movie made in 1934 about a widowed mother and daughter who hired a wonderful woman named Delilah to be their maid. Delilah worked for room and board for her daughter and herself. While Delilah was taking care of this family she made pancakes for them that were so good that they went into business together. After years of work they boxed up the pancake recipe that Delilah had brought to the family and made a lot of money. After they had received one of the first huge checks, Delilah was told that she didn’t have to work anymore, and that she could have a house of her own. At that, Delilah became instantly sad, she wanted to continue to live with the family and take care of them, She said, “who would take care of you and the kids”.   Delilah valued taking care of others and having a family to share life with, money did not mean anything to her. Now from the typical American mind you would probably say that she was ignorant. But I say that she has an Apocalyptic mind.

This is what Jesus was alluding to when the disciple came to him at the well after he had discussed the Messiah with the woman at Jacob’s well in John chapter 4. He said that he had food that they didn’t know about. He said that His food was to do the will of the Father. And in a fashion very much like Phoenix’s remark about “pink” Jesus relates to the disciples about a principle that was beyond there understanding. Jesus got fulfillment from doing what God wanted, he got satisfaction, and he got life. So we must continue to readjust our lenses to the world as we learn more about God. Some people honestly think that it is God’s will to be rich and God’s will for someone else to be poor.  It is God’s will that you share with those in need.

So today I pray that you will allow God to open you eyes even further to the otherness of His Kingdom and I pray that the things of the world will grow strangely dim. That what you use to value will soon be lost from sight and that you will have a dire hunger for the Father’s will.

The Revelation of the Cross

Today I sit and meditate on the cross. Many different perspectives and many different teachings tell me of what this cross of self defiance means but none seem to satisfy the depths of my soul. I have found that only in the presence and council of God Almighty can I comprehend and begin to understand the meaning and implication of a cross for me.    It has seemed to be of varying meanings in my life in the past in which I have found comfort and redemption. But now as I step into my calling it has an all new purpose and definition. 

To live in the presence of the almighty administering his words and caring for humanity is the most blessed role in all of life in all of humanity. What role could be more interesting and fulfilling? But to see the rejection of God through the words that are administered through me… to see the lack of attention and ease of rejection and even further to be personally rejected because of the Gospel is more than upsetting. It is heart breaking.

It is not a new role and a new thought that I have just shared, in fact it started with Cain and Able and has maintained consistency all the ages, through the prophets of old Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel, Jesus, Stephen, the disciples, and millions of others who represent God to the world. Sinead O’Conner says in a newer song of hers that “if God lived among us we would bust out his windows.” This is true and it becomes more of a reality as I press into God further. I can now see that CharlotteNorth Carolina, America, and the World as we know it is not my home. I am just a passer by waiting and watching.

It is amazing to have lived a life of hope in myself, desiring success, and self fulfillment and to come to the cross fleeing the world in utter abandonment. It is not at all something that can be taught or mentally understood. I have done my best to explain the redemption that was wrought through the cross and that began in the garden, and I have explained the purpose of the relational life with God. But as Bono has said, “I knew more then than I do now”. 

Now it is the cross before me that relieves my inner turmoil, it is my comfort in this life. I lay myself before the Lord in abandonment of all that is seen and it alone gives me joy.

As much as I desire and am called to minister to the Church I find such hardship as humanity and divinity intersect. I have spent so much time in the world disobeying what God has desired for my life; all I know is that I want to do my best to please the Lord. It is in the American church and in the mirror that I begin questioning my motives. When I stray from the deep communion of prayer and read Christian writers, they seem all too comforting some times… some teachings sound really great but lack something, they write of self preservation through the isolation from the world, while others speak to the depths of my soul about drinking the cup of death and life. To accept the fact that the redemption of the cross is the ministry I am called to. I cannot accept a gun and a mansion where I can punish the lost and needy. I can feel the sincerity of brothers like Watchman Nee and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and I see the death that was there result. And I find the Kingdom. 

At the end of Acts chapter 5 Peter and other disciples were doing the miracles of the Church when they were brought to trail before the Sanhedrin. When the apostles where commanded not to preach in the name of Jesus, They spoke with boldness and said that they could not disobey God. As a result they were flogged and after words they went  away   “rejoicing    because    they     had     been      counted     worthy      of     suffering      disgrace      for      the     Name.” What a remarkable passage and more than that a supernatural concept. To be beaten brutally and somehow have the perspective that resulted in rejoicing.

So I know this blog is not anything especially poignant… but this has been my heart lately. I have been enduring hardship in my pursuit of ministry and a deeper relationship with God and the only resolve and the only council that I have found fulfillment is that in my pursuit I have found my goal… I have seen a vision of my future and it ends in the glory of the brutal self relinquishing cross of my Jesus Christ and the cross I surrender to. There is nothing more exciting than to see my Lord. To receive his instructions with a whole heart because I know now what I must accept. I know now what the finish line looks like. I have been running hard for a long time now and have been tempted to slow down and maybe even run off of the track and make my own path… I have looked to the right and left and have just gotten confused. So now I have gotten my second wind and I have gotten my pace.

My friends 2 Tim 1:7 says that “For the Spirit of God gave us does not make us timid, but gives power, love and self discipline.” This is the verse that is on Bonhoeffer’s grave. It has been noted by one of the guards who witnessed Bonhoeffer’s hanging as saying that when he came into his cell to take him to the gallows that he was praying with a supernatural faith in a confidence that God was hearing. As Dietrich walked to the gallows he knelt and said another prayer. Then with an amazing obedience he peacefully allowed these men to take his life.    My friends, that is what gives man the perspective to accept the cross… fervent prayer that results in a faith in God and in His son Jesus Christ.   

1 Cor. 1:18

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Concealing Our Identities as Disciples

Many months back I wrote a number of blog entries with the theme of the Martyr. As I continue to run this race the cross is always at the center of my life. Sometimes it is a comfort representing my forgiveness through Christ and other times it is the torture device that I must embrace to bring glory to God.

Today I want to reflect on the latter… One of my favorite bands in the whole world is U2. I remember when I first began to listen to them; it was love at first “note”. As I was living my life in a Christian community U2 came under fire because of their lifestyles that didn’t seem to match up with the folks I was in fellowship with. It is not a scandal that rock stars cuss and drink, that is the world that they live in, but I believed that I saw evidence of faith in Christ Jesus so I had a major conflict of interests. U2 has always played their cards very carefully when it came to expressing there spirituality. Yet from what I understand concerts are a kin to worship services, and their faith in Christ seems to resonate through most of their songs. Bono and U2 have historically been relatively quiet about there faith and yet there is evidence that they struggle in it. I want to express here why publicly pronouncing there faith in Jesus would be most beneficial to them and to the Church. But more importantly I want you to see this truth and make it your on reality.  

When we conceal our identity as Christians two very important things happen. First of all we hide the standards that we know we are called to live by. We have the freedom to gossip, talk about crude topics, entertain bad jokes, and just plainly let our guard down. We hide our witness for the sake of avoiding any sort of accountability. If you have any had any encounters with any one outside the faith you know that when you reveal your faith you are looked at differently. Others act differently, they say awkward prayers over their food, they “act” nice around you, they use religious words that are not a part of their vocabulary… things are dramatically different. This is our natural attempt to avoid persecution as a believer. But as Christ says, if you deny me I will deny you before the Father. So obviously this is wrong but the primary problem is that we as believers are not committed to the Father enough to spend quality time with Him allowing Him to train us to stand strong in the face of adversity. But spending time with the Father demands your life it demands the cross so many believers try to impress others with there mortal Christianity by doing the Christian thing. The Christian thing can be cut on and off when appropriate. It is superficial and when you truly encounter a chaotic situation or a tragedy, your strength collapses. For example a lot of folks have lost faith in the Churches ability to care because we have ceased to utilize, the comforter, the Holy Spirit in our counseling and our comforting. Another person is not capable of bearing another’s burden outside of the real presence of the true and living God.

Galatians 6:12 those who want to impress others by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.

When we avoid adversity we eliminate the physical persecution and we close the door on the spiritual progression Christ could spearhead through our witness. 

Philippians 1:12-14 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of my brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

Paul saw the big picture and expressed it clearly here. What I believe is being said here is that when Paul embraced the persecution of his faith it busted wide the door for others to be Christians themselves and to preach the gospel with boldness.

In contrast to conceal your faith you not only make it harder on yourself to live a Christian life you close the door for others to express there faith.

This is how these words make sense…Philippians 1:29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him.

If Bono would step on to CNN tonight and proclaim openly His faith is Jesus….

1. Sales would drop 2. People would reject him 3. All kinds of comments would be made against him making fun of him 4. A lot of other Christians world wide would be willing to profess their faith in Christ 5. A door would open wide across the entire globe for all professing Christians to preach the gospel 6 Bono and U2 then would be held up by the truths of the doctrine of Christians and be held accountable to act like professing Christians 7. Life would be a whole lot less complicated

 

So may you not put your lamp under a bed, but put it out on a lamp stand for all to see. And may the Lord give you the courage to step into every aspect of you life as first and foremost a disciple of Christ. May you realize that you do not fear the adversary but believe that He that is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

Listen…..He is speaking.

A number of months ago I was lying on my bed halfway sleeping when I had a dialog with God. I remember it very vividly because it was almost dreamlike yet very real… it happened on the edge of sleep and on the edge of consciousness. I was having a conversation with someone, (who later to find out happened to be the Lord), about spiritual things and basically in the midst of a great conversation I demanded that they hush up and let me explain to them the real truth of the matter. 

When I woke up from my sleep or whatever it was, I was heart broken and I knew what God was telling me. He was saying in a round about way to shut up, my ways are higher than your ways or for the sake of this blog to listen.    

The more I have been in this walk with God the more I find that listening to God is most difficult and important aspect of being a follower of Christ. In fact it is the basics of being in the faith. Let me drop a note here and define what I mean when I say listen… when I say listen I mean to hear and obey the same meaning that James mentions when he says to be doers of the word not just hearers. Listening to God is one of the basic principals to being a disciple, listening to God is like getting a new baseball glove for the new season.  The glove is what you use to play in the first game. The glove is not just for some of the players but for all. It is not the purpose but a tool to use.

Praise God for the many oracles he has sent into my life that speak truth into my life. But what is the use of an oracle if I do not obey the words I here. God is merciful this is true; he forgives to the uttermost when we disobey and is He is longsuffering and patient. But for those of us who desire to grow closer to God and to be used by God, listening has to come and play center stage in our lives.

If we do not listen here is what happens, as mentioned in Luke7:29 “When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized?”

You see the people who heard God’s messenger John and obeyed were given the ability to receive further instruction from Jesus. But those who did not listen the God’s messenger John the Baptist could not hear any further.

As a church we are addicted to good feelings, good sermons, goose bumps, words of encouragement, words of wisdom, words of prophecy, but do you know what we really need? Do you know what will grow us closer to the warm embrace of the father? A word of correction.

That’s what the children of God need to hear from there heavenly Father. Our heart has to be bent toward the will of the Father. It is absolutely primary to the Christian faith that our desires be in line with the will of the Father. James speaks of a person’s prayers not being answered because they have a divided heart. “You kingdom come your will be done” has to be our goal. 

For prayer of any sort, the first task in praying for any need is to do your best to discern what the will of the Father is, and firmly agree with it. If you want to have a great time in prayer and feel the goodness of God pray for his will.

In Ezekiel 37:3-4 God spoke to Ezekiel and said,” Son of Man can these bones live?”  Ezekiel then said to God “Sovereign Lord, only you know” Then God spoke to Ezekiel and told him to speak to the dry bones. If you notice that the prayer began with God speaking to Ezekiel and as God spoke to Ezekiel, Ezekiel responded “only you know”. Or we could substitute it your will be done.

So may you ask for the Father to help you hear and obey. May you dare to ask the Lord to reveal anything in your life that is unpleasing and may you see the ultimate and necessary value of being doers of God’s word. Father your kingdom come your will be done.

 

 

Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done…

My friend Erin has been visiting her grandmother a lot recently in the nursing home. Her Grandmother had sold her house and was now fighting depression and having trouble finding any joy in her newly acquired nursing home. She complained about everything and blamed everybody. Until something miraculous happened, she came to terms with her own death. She embraced the fact that she was going to die and there was not a whole lot she could do to stop it. So do you want to know what happened? She started redecorating her room and inviting people over…. Amazing huh?   

What if I told you that I am part of a revolution that requires that I die? What if I told you that I am part of a revolution that started 2000 years ago and millions on top of millions have died in it and for it? Would you want to join? What if I told you that you would have to learn to give away the things that you have earned? What if I told you that you would have to forgive others for what ever sin they commit against you? What if I told you would have to love your enemies?

The Church has too long held up the cross like a trophy to be handed off and too long discredited the absolute demand that the cross has on our lives. The demand the cross has is death. No ifs, ands, or buts. The Church has done a poor job dieing and now the world is confused. I plan on unfolding the amazing demands that we have as Christians and there unseen benefits.

In Matthew 6:19 Christ says “Do not store up for your selves’ treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for your selves treasures in heaven….”  Heaven here is the term the Jews of this time used to describe the unseen world around them, not up in the sky off far away from them, but in the sky and air right there in front of them. When you collect things like money it begins to become your idol, it can make you happy or sad, and everything begins to depend upon whether or not you have it. But when you give away something like a gift there is a freedom and joy given to you from God that you can’t see. You give away money that can be some people’s god and God gives you a freedom and joy from Him that can not be bought or paid for. God gives you treasures in heaven for your giving now.

In the same absurd and true way James 1:2 says “Count it all joy my brethren when you encounter trials and tribulations because the testing of your faith produces perseverance…” Count it joy? Is he crazy? That’s the way I saw this passage for many years until I realized that that is the ultimate truth. God loves his children enough to grow them by any means necessary. Revelation 3:19, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.” But some say that God is not capable of harming us, “He loves us too much.” But don’t we really know that real love demands a change for the better, it demands that we become what we are supposed to be. When you get this message from James (and further detailed in Amos 4:6-13 as well as Romans 8:28 ) there is nothing to fear, there is nowhere to hide, and there is no one to blame. You come to the realization that every bad or uncomfortable situation is given to us from God to grow us. He allows hard situations to lure us to his side and to receive His comfort and strength. We need to quit casting out the demons and start turning to God for His will to be done. This is not to harm us but to help us turn to the best thing in the universe…God.

To forgive our enemy is to free them from the sin that they have committed against us. It is to turn the other cheek knowing that anger does not eliminate anger only love can do that. Look at the great Martin Luther King Jr. the only way to combat violence and ignorance is with love and wisdom. The myth of redemptive violence has plagued the world long enough and the way we can stop it is to put down our weapons, quit talking behind each other’s back and love from the depths. This  

That’s all well and good and all but what about death and the cross what does that mean to me? It means everything…. Just as Erin’s grandmother found Joy after her own acceptance of death, so we too find joy. We die to our desires to be the best and to be liked. We die to our desire to do things that would displease God. We die to the influence of those around us and show them how life is suppose to be lived through the power of the spirit. We receive ridicule and are excluded. We speak convictiing words and more importantly we live out the hard words we speak. We demand to be last in line always making others look better than ourselves. We give up our own desires and live for the desires of God. We live to be encouraged by God and not by man. But the rewards and the blessings from God are unmatched.

Look through out history at the numerous martyrs that gladly laid down there lives. The truth is that those who die to themselves in this life through Christ actually can look forward to dieing to be with God. That is the most mind blowing revelation any one could have. To not fear death, but have the life of Christ in your mortal body.

2 Cor. 4:11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death of Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body.

He has given His life so we could have it. As we lay down our lives in obedience He fills us and gives us new life. This life is an eternal life that is not swayed by death… it is not swayed by finances… it is not swayed by trials… it is not swayed by enemies.  

Jesus died to bring us to be with God. We can be with God right now and suffer with Christ as an Alien to the world He created. We can have our purpose lie in the unchanging arms of God. We can stand securely in this life and forever more. “Thy Kingdom come they will be done.”    

So I pray that you will embrace your own death, that you will embrace the death of Christ Jesus. That you will see that the Cross must of cost a lot because what the whole world received is incredibly valuable. May you begin to understand that salvation was wrought by the cross not by any other source. May you find the heart to give up your desires in exchange for the Lord’s. May the Lord’s refreshing presence remind you that you can not seek the glory of man and of God (John 5:44). And may this message hurt you enough to make you turn to the loving embrace of our Father. 

 

Invalids? Not in Christ’s Eyes.

“You know that the rulers of the gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—, just as the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life ransom for many.”   Matt. 20:25-28

I’ve always seen pastors and Christian leaders as an elite group of people who wear starched shirts and talk very loftily about things that I don’t quite understand. And then I read scriptures like the one above and get incredibly confused. From my observations of the churches I’ve attended there has been a huge disconnect between what happens in the church and what the congregation does outside of the church. I believe that this disconnect can be identified in the nature of Jesus described in the gospels.

In Matthew 20 mother Zebedee approaches Christ and asks for the best seats in the new kingdom to come. Christ has to explain that the Father makes those decisions and then proceeds to explain the way of the Kingdom. He tells them they are to serve others and not to lord over those who are less than them. He explains that He in fact came to serve and not to be served.  Then something amazing happens as He is traveling with the crowds two blind men, who Matthew didn’t care to mention there names, where sitting by the side of the road were crying out “Son of David have mercy on us!”.  The crowd told the blind men to be quite and I’m sure the recently instructed disciples were to first to speak. Christ stopped and showed all of the little lambs what the master does. He loves the unlovable and ministers to them the deepest. After he healed the blind men they fell in line with the others.

What a heart rending passage to think of how much the Lord loved and ministered to those who were the last on the list of influential people. The Pharisees came to Him to accuse and question Him, and even in John 3 to ask Him deep questions, But Christ took all of His time to look for the lost sheep. He sought after those who no one else loved or could be capable of loving.

Romans 12:16 Says to, “Live in harmony with one another; do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not think you are superior.”  As a side note this scripture is incredibly powerful. After spending some time meditating on it I have begun to see it in many different lights. For example, Live in harmony with one another is the goal and to accomplish this goal you, 1. Humble yourself, 2. Push aside your desire to be recognized by those in high position it is not going to give you any acknowledgement before God. 3. Think you are inferior lowlier than others… when others do something wrong don’t look down on them remember that without the grace of God you would be doing the same things probably worse things.   

This lowliness is the little hinge that the entire great commission swings on. In John chapter 5 the invalid is sitting by the pool, and once again John didn’t think his name was important, Jesus came and healed him. 

I think we all need to look in our lives at those who we have been overlooked. We need to seek out ways to humble ourselves and make much of others. Can we just seek to be like Jesus, can we exemplify the servant leadership in life, can we come into any setting and pray to the Lord to lead us to those who need us. Can we identify with the lowly so that they could feel comfortable enough to run to us when things are bad? Are we posturing ourselves as if we have earned God’s grace?

Jesus, may your spirit inside us allow us to take in deeply the humility and profundity of Matthew 20:28 the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.      

 

 

 

Evangelism and Prayer

 

What is the first thing you thing of when you hear that word… EVANGELISM? Well, I won’t speak for you, but I think of an overweight man in downtown Charlotte wearing cowboy boots and telling us all that “you all goin’ to hell”, or I think of a very strange man, boldly handing out tracts, or I think of Billy Graham telling the story of the prodigal son. Evangelism is one of those priceless Christian concepts that I want to see redeemed not only in the understanding of the concept, but to even redeem the meaning of the word evangelism, showing it’s beauty and joy.

Growing up in the South is the most polluted religious areas in the entire world, I believe for those who want to study Ecclesiology there is not a better place to see some of the best and worst “church” models. There are really old Episcopal churches where practicing homosexuals minister in the church, there are legalistic mega churches that carry guns and judge everyone according to there own merit, then there are those who have good doctrine but would not know the holy ghost if he was rattling chains in the attic. I don’t mean to be harsh, but this kind of environment has boiled out all the spiritual curiosity of the melting pot of Charlotte North Carolina.

Evangelism as most devoted Christians have come to understand it has become an act that happens in the will and in the time that the Christian acts. It has become likened unto the sale of a used car… “Just sign the dotted line”. “Oh you don’t want to pay $12,000, just give me $11,500 and you have a deal…” The act of legalism, praying for things against God’s will, and selling evangelism like a get out of Hell free card, is WITCHCRAFT. Only the Father’s love through the blood of Jesus by the Holy Spirit can start someone on a path towards everlasting life with God.

So let’s take the Etch-A-Sketch and shake it a couple times…. Matthew 24 says that those who “endure to the end will be saved.” So salvation is not an act to be had like a notch in the belt, but one to be attained and sought after.

Have you ever wondered why those guys preaching on the street corner freaked you out? Well it is probably because the Christian witness is a holistic transformation of a person to be like Christ and as Isaiah (42) prophesied “He will cause His voice to be heard in the street”. Christ was a gentle, loving, giving, forgiving, self-sacrificing individual. He loved the nobodies deeply, He did not go to the Pharisees to minister they came to Him, he healed the invalid. He humbled Himself as Andrew Murray said, “Even in the midst of the throne, He is the meek and lowly Lamb of God”… Humility is what brought Him from heaven and Jesus is what brought humility to the earth.

Evangelism is what flows from the life of the praying Christian. It the witness that preaches Christ and sometimes it uses words. Evangelism points to the joy and stability of a life dedicated to Christ. I’m not saying that there is not a place and time where people turn to Christ from their wickedness and follow Christ in the will of the Father. I’m saying that the will of the Father and the yoke of Jesus Christ is freedom… freedom from quantitative analysis of souls saved… freedom from stepping in to weird situations of Judgment and bitterness that makes you feel awkward and others feel condemned.

Evangelism is the salt in the mouth of the unknowingly thirsty so they can choose to drink. Evangelism is not an act of the believer it’s an act of God though the believer who is submitted to God.  

Do you want to be a preacher? Get to know God, pray always. Want to lead worship?  Get to know God, pray always. Want to become and Evangelist? Get to know God, pray always. Want to serve on the leadership team?  Get to know God, pray always. Want to be a Missionary? Get to know God, pray always.     

Like a deep sea diver with an air hose reaching to the surface, Prayer is the life line to the Christian. The question is are you breathing easily enough to enjoy your time here or are half way panicked. The people of Israel spent most of the time grumbling under the direction of Moses. But do you know what God wanted them to do? Pray.

 

 

 

Silence Has No Language Barrier

Recently I have been struggling with pride before man and God. The scriptures say that the Lord resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. So especially leading in leading others He began to remove some of the grace that I had begun to think was my own. It’s amazing that God desires to work with us to reveal the glory of God but to think that we can do it ourselves is ignorant to say the least.

So the Lord has begun to remind me of the practice of silent meditation. Throughout the years I have had great insight from Father John Hoover, Thomas Kempis, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The essence of silent meditation is not chanting a scripture or thinking on the throne of God, or even meditating on scripture; Silent meditation is quieting your mind and heart before the creator and opening your self up to His depths. My friend Father Hoover does this two times a day for twenty minutes.

Yesterday I began to experiment with this again; I spent all of my allotted prayer time before work completely quiet. It was strangely refreshing… almost new. About 10:00 the enemy sent someone to test my peace and amazingly I had the ability to completely quiet myself and not respond to them. Actually the Lord gave me the grace to bless them and pray for them. About 1:30 a Spanish speaking employee in association with my job came by the store. I have seen him maybe 3 times in the past year. As we spoke very briefly about what had done I felt the rich presence of the Holy Spirit. I prayed momentarily about what to do with this feeling since I know very little Spanish and this guy didn’t know hardly any English. So I approached Him with the broken Spanish I knew asking him if he was a believer in Christ. Immediately he lit up and we fellowshipped as best we could with the huge language barrier, He told me he was a worship leader in Columbia. I remembered that just that morning I had read Colossians 3:11… We are no longer slave nor free, Jew or Greek but we are all in Christ and Christ in all. I read this scripture to Him and encouraged him that I was not American and he was not Columbian but we were one…. It was a rich time in the spirit. He had a word from me from Jeremiah 29:11 which he could only tell me the scripture reference because of the language barrier. After he had left I read the scripture and I don’t know when I felt the presence of the Lord more richly than in those moments where those sometimes generic words from Jeremiah came alive to me for the first time… “I have plans for you not the harm you…”  

Yesterday was amazing and it was not because I earned it… it was because God is good.

So today I spent a little time in silent meditation and had an interesting vision that I thought had rich purpose. I was quiet and looking up in the darkness of the quiet and I saw a skull of a demon or devil with pointy horns and all. And I felt the Lord revealing and confirming the power of silent mediation. Silent meditation is the place where the authority and power of God is bestowed on the children of God.

 

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