Creativity in the Mundane

Creativity in the Mundane

inspired man

Last week I wrote about how there is glory in the mundane. All our average weekly experiences are just as spirit-filled as going to some big conference with high profile speakers and professional worship teams.

There’s nothing wrong with conferences and professional worship teams…but there’s nothing more spirit-filled about them compared to your average everyday life of picking up the kids from soccer practice or spending an evening balancing your checkbook.

Creative Conception Boredom

Although there’s glory in the more boring parts of life just as there’s glory on being a missionary or a popular itinerant preacher, it’s not a lot of fun to be bored. Living a normal life of doing the laundry, going off to work, and playing the same board game with your kids every evening can get monotonous.

But being bored can be a tool.

We teach our children that boredom is a blessing. Unless we get bored, we’ll never have an original idea to keep us entertained. Although I’ve not done the research, I can imagine that some of the most profound inventions were created out of some aspect of boredom. The late Steve Jobs, although wanting to revolutionize the world with the personal computer, likely would never have had the idea to build that first computer in his garage unless he was sitting around bored wondering what to do.

The mundane is a blessing in that it causes us to look deep into our hearts and discover just what it is that makes us tick.

For many Christians, the notion of “God’s will” is an elusive one. To know God’s will for one’s life is the principalis finis — or the main goal — in Christian living.

Knowing God’s Will

God’s will is not a mystery. It’s simply a matter of looking deep inside yourself and figuring out what it is that you want to do. Wait. That doesn’t sound very spiritual. It doesn’t. That’s because it’s not. Not really.

When I was fresh out of high school I joined a ministry based out of Texas that, for it’s primary function, existed to be a place for young people to spend a year seeking God’s will for their lives.

There was so much talk back then, maybe even more than today, about getting a vision for God’s will for your life. The idea was to get the vision as early as possible, create a 5 and then 10 year plan, and never give up. That way a person wouldn’t waste any time in doing what it was that God wanted them to do.

I remember the leaders made it so difficult. It was like chasing the elusive white rabbit of destiny. We took classes, we fasted, we prayed, we memorized scripture, and had lengthy discussions about just what it meant to gain God’s will for our lives.

For me, I wa convinced that God was uninterested in showing me his will. I couldn’t get it. Like so many young people, I was too interested in too many things to really nail it down. And like so many young people in the church, I was absolutely convinced that it would not be God’s will for me to have a secular job and make money. That was heresy!

The general rule of thumb back then was that if you didn’t want to do something. If it was the one thing you couldn’t imagine doing with your life, you were likely being called to do that thing.

It was such bondage. We’d say, “I have no desire to move to Africa and live a lonely life out in the bush, so that’s clearly what God wants me to do. I have to kill the flesh in order to wrap my head around God’s will for my life.” Then we’d fast longer, pray harder, memorize some obscure scripture taken fully out of context…you know…something about suffering or going lower and lower in order to be accepted and loved by God.

God’s will is not elusive.

It’s not some fantastical idea that you have to strain and strive for in order to get it.

You can get it right now. That’s right…right now you can get God’s will for your life.

Just rest.

Sit back. Close your eyes. And think this thought: What would you do with your life if money didn’t matter? What’s the one thing (or group of related things) that you would like to do every day or every week? If you could make money doing something, anything, what would you like to do?

The answer to those questions will be God’s will for your life.

See. You didn’t have to fast or strive or memorize Leviticus in order to attain it. God’s will was right there inside you all along.

John Crowder, in an article titled Christological Ecstasy, writes this on the subject: “We have considered the will of God to be against our human will–quite often pictureing our deepest desires to be in direct conflict or contradiction to God. But in reality, there is a heavy duty ecstasy that comes along with doing His will because we are created for a divine synergy of the deepest levels of our longing.”

Generally speaking, we are taught that if we enjoy something, it’s probably not from God. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! God is a ravenous LOVER of people! He’s been hijacked by his love for us! Gladness is at the center of His heart (Heb 1:9).

Crowder goes on to write, “What if He is the one who has kindled our core desires, while the gnomic twist simply offered us cheap, unsatisfying fixes to those infinite longings? Let me clarify: when I speak of the will, I am speaking of our deepest heart’s desire that results in action.”

God has placed his will inside you and it looks a whole lot like the things you love to do. Do you love doing ministry and helping people? That’s God’s will for you. Do you enjoy starting businesses and making money and employing people and encouraging them and mentoring them? That’s God’s will for you! Do you want to be a stay at home mom or dad and raise kids and manage a home and personal finances? That’s also God’s will.

God has planted his will deep inside you so that you will do the very thing that He has willed for you to do! Going out and being a miserable missionary to Nigeria because that’s the Christian thing to do is against His will.

You cannot make God like you any more than He already likes you! You can’t work up any more favor by sacrificing your desire (God’s will) for something that you don’t enjoy.

For the sake of length, we will finish this post next week when I write about work and enjoyment and how both are the will of God.

For this week, go into your work week meditating on how good God has been to you. Take a few moments each day and ask yourself the questions I provided for you. I bet by Friday you’ll be closer to the will of God than you’ve ever been in your life.

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Glory in the Mundane

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Life and Boredom

Fun will always trump boredom. I cannot stand to be bored. I need to be moving, doing something productive, or I need to be using my brain and thinking deeply about a topic. Aside from some late evening viewing with my wife, sitting around on Netflix waiting to be entertained by the next Netflix original kills me inside.

There is nobody who likes boredom.

But boredom is good for you.

There’s glory in the mundane parts of life. There are few people who are constantly entertained, always on some adventure, and engaging their minds in deep, meaningful thinking. Life gets monotonous sometimes–and it’s what we do with that boredom that will make all the difference.

Two Types of Boredom

There are two types of boredom:

  1. The Everyday Mundane (which we will discuss this week)
  2. and Creative Conception Boredom (which we will discuss next week)

The Everyday Mundane

This boredom is the everyday life of the average person. There’s laundry piled high in the laundry room; the kids’ rooms are a mess; the dog shat on the living room floor last night and nobody bothered to pick it up or “didn’t see it”; the baby (or babies, if you’re like us and you have twins) won’t stop crying, getting into things, escaped, etc…; bills need to be paid…

These are just a few examples of the Everyday Mundane. It’s work, and kids, and housekeeping…and LIFE.

For so many (myself included), we look at other people’s lives and wonder how they got to be so lucky. How they managed to always be on the go, living an adventure, and successful. It seems like they can up and create an adventure anytime they please! They’re always in some far off country doing something amazing, or in an airport waiting to do something amazing, or they’re on Facebook talking about the amazing things they’re planning…it can take a toll if you don’t watch out.

But there’s hope!

Our lives are relevant even if we aren’t preaching to ten thousand people in some amphitheatre in Australia. Our lives are relevant even if we haven’t written a national bestseller or some award winning blog. Our lives mean something…even if that something is that we managed to find ALL THE MATCHES to our kids’ socks in the dryer (GLORY! That’s a miracle…call the archdiocese or whoever you call. It’s like finding a weeping Virgin Mary statue).

It makes me think of the Greek word for life…or at least one of them.

Zoe (Strong’s G2222): simply it means life or the state of one who is possessed of vitality or is animate.

This is all of us. We are all living a Zoe life. We are alive, we are vital, and we are animate. Even if it’s folding socks or picking up toddler mess, we’re alive. And there’s WHACK on it! There’s glory in living this kind of life.

But there’s another Greek word, the root word that comes from Zoe, that catches my attention even more.

It’s Zao (Strong’s G2198): It’s meaning is packed with glory! It means to live, breathe, to be among the living (not lifeless, not dead); to enjoy real life; active, blessed, endless in the Kingdom of God.

This is the life we’re living. Zao. Our lives are active and blessed. We are breathing and living. We are living a life that is endless in the Kingdom of God.

Living Zao

The next time you are tempted to be down about your boredom, look around the room (or the playground, or the boardroom, or the classroom, or the front lawn scattered with toys) and remember that you’re living Zao! God has put you in a place and has declared it good!

There is nowhere we can escape the love and power of God. There is not a place on earth we can get away from the goodness and romance of our Lover. Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ (Romans 8:39).

You are an open heaven. Christ died and placed his life inside you in order that you would co-labor with him. For some, that means that they’ll travel the globe and preach to far off people groups. For others, that means that you’ll work and encourage your co-worker. For even more, it means that you’ll be a stay-at-home mom or dad and raise good, healthy, loved kids.

Live Zao — enjoy this real life that you are living. See how you are blessed and endless in the kingdom of God. You ARE endless. You are never going to die…not for real. You’re life is eternal.

Next week we will talk about Creative Conception Boredom and how it can completely revitalize your living.

In the meantime, check out a book by Lily Crowder about living a regular life full of glory while doing the normal, everyday mundane tasks most of us do. It’s a real eye-opener and quite encouraging.

Interview with Nathan Horst: Contemporary Worship

Wall_painting_depicting_saints_at_worship_-_Google_Art_ProjectWorship; noun. The feeling and expression of reverence and adoration of a deity.

Christians are well acquainted with worship sets in the church. Two up tempo songs followed by a reverent one and then a  contemplative song. Some days that one is followed by a spontaneous song with the worship team singing around a specific theme. We enjoy worship. Finding ourselves lost in the music, introspectively examining who God is in that moment, allowing divine inspiration to spark something new–it’s good.

But is the worship music we enjoy during services biblical?

The Gospel according to Paul tells us that salvation came at the point of Jesus’ death on the cross. This Gospel, this good news for all nations, is universal in that it’s meant for everyone and no one who wants it gets left out. We see in Romans 6:5-6 that we have been united with Christ in his death so we have been unified with him in his resurrection and that we are no longer slaves to sin. Paul has given us our death certificate again and again and removed our old identity of sinner without hope of salvation to saint because of the finished work of the cross.

Where does that leave worship lyrics that call us to agree that our identity is not one of freedom but of still being a sinner, dazed and confused? In an email interview with Nathan Horst, who is pretty busy in the worship world–he was a former band member of Farewell Flight and the worship band Sister Brother–he’s also owner/operator of a music studio called Attic Studios in Harrisburg, PA, and is a worship leader at Life Center in Harrisburg. I asked for his thoughts on the theological soundness of worship in today’s modern culture.

“Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) tends to glean from the various stories we as Christians represent,” writes Horst. Because much of the music we listen to, and in turn sing during worship services, tends to focus on the Christian lifestyle — like times of questioning and doubting — some could pigeonhole Christian music as depressing. But Nathan sees some light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. “I’ve seen a recent trend in worship becoming more introspective, in hopes, I presume to make worship songs honest, relatable, and less distant feeling,” he wrote. Which is definitely good since so many in church culture talk about being real, being honest. But being real or honest is not the root of why we worship. According to Nathan, who not only writes worship music but rubs elbows with some of the top musicians in the industry, “worship is about pointing people, and their attention, to the goodness and nature of God.”

This is where many in the church find their theology that they glean from the Bible collide with what they hear from the worship team. Paul’s gospel message is unarguably grace-driven–he clearly writes that Jesus finished the work of salvation on the cross. Often said by John Crowder of The New Mystics, “Paul gives us our death certificate over and over in Romans 5-8” saying that we are dead to sin and free to righteousness in Christ; however,  so many popular worship songs we sing don’t seem to reflect this message at all; rather, they have people agreeing in song that they are still sinners lost in a sea of evil.

The grace message, and many “grace preachers”, have gotten a bad rap in recent years because many in the church find the message dangerous. To some it seems that singing or preaching grace is giving an open license to sin freely with no eternal consequences. Nathan was able to shed some light on this for me from his unique perspective. “The pure grace message is freedom,” wrote Horst.  “More songs should point back to the revelation that the work is finished; we don’t have to earn God’s approval, or strive to attain status in the kingdom of God.”

Yet so much worship music seems to be striving for holiness and begging for God’s favor. In addition to that, many songs are apologetic for our sin rather than celebrating what we have in Christ–freedom from a sin-dominated nature. And what about the songs that seem to justify sin? “The idea that even though I’m a sinner and will always fall short but God still loves me is not enough,” Horst wrote.  “We’re called to live above that ideal.  We should be dwelling more on his gift of righteousness than our sin nature.” Theologically speaking, songs that focus on Jesus’ righteousness, him becoming our sin so we could be made holy, would be more theologically sound than songs that explain away our sinfulness or apologizing for what we’ve already been forgiven. “These types of songs, according to Paul’s message, should be about how He’s adopted us into His family and how we’re now all welcomed to the table to feast on the Lord,” Nathan wrote.

There’s nothing wrong with modern worship. I don’t know anyone who wants to go back to hymnals and tambourines. But the message of the cross, and the implications of the cross on our lives, is what’s at stake in modern worship. The theology that entwines itself in our worship music must correlate to what the writers of the Gospel meant when they wrote it. Are we merely sinners saved by grace or were we once sinners now living in the freedom of Christ? It’s unimaginable that we can be more than one thing at a time. We cannot be both sinner and saint. Paul, in Ephesians 1:4, uses the word saint to describe his audience. The Greek word Paul used is hagios. It means morally pure, upright, blameless in heart and life; holy.  “There needs to be a stronger emphasis on the implications of the cross,” Nathan wrote during our interview. “We are alive in Him, raised to life, seated in heavenly places. These are topics I’m continually coming back to in my own writing.”

Worship is vital. We adore our Father. We sing and contemplate the fatness of what we have in Christ. There’s a sacred charge, though, to keep in step not with what sounds good or makes people comfortable, but to keep our worship theologically sound. Perhaps there can be a stronger shift from making the focus on ourselves and more of a celebrant beat of what Christ has done and who he became for us.

To learn more about Nathan Horst and his work go to www.atticrecordingstudio.com

 

Guilt and Shame Continued: Not Guilty

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Not Guilty

In order to be fully righteous and guilt free we need to be justified and have our sinful nature eradicated. The law tells us exactly what we must do in order to please God and be holy.

But keeping the law isn’t all that easy. I’ve heard John Crowder say it like this, “if you’re going to clean yourself up, you’re going to have to mutilate yourself.” God’s law requires you to chop off body parts that cause you to sin, pluck out your eyes, and punish yourself.

Self-help religious practice will never get you to your goal though. There’s nothing you can do to clean yourself up enough.   You’re guilty.

Or at least you were.

Romans 3:23 tells us something we know: all sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. What’s unfortunate is that so many stop here. They wear vs. 23 as their identity. But our identity is in vs. 24.

We “are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (ESV).”

We are justified through Jesus.

It’s interesting to note that the word gift used here means something far greater than how we use it in English. In Greek the word that is used is dorean and it means more than just a birthday present. Dorean is without payment; or for no reason. 

This verse could easily be read this way: We are justified by his grace for no reason through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

We’ve done nothing to deserve a gift of this magnitude. At least with a birthday you were born…there’s a reason for a gift. When it comes to the business of salvation, the gift is free for you. You didn’t pay for it in any possible way. It was given to you for no reason at all.

C.S. Lovett offers commentary on the gift in his book Lovett’s Lights. He writes, “The gift of God is not a DECREE of righteousness. The real gift is JESUS. When a person receives Christ, he gets a package deal. In that package is a death of the believer did not die. It is someone else’s death, though ow it becomes his. Also in the package is a righteous life he did not live. It too was lived for him. Because of the living union between the believer and Christ, the Christian shares in all that Jesus has DONE and IS (77).”

You’ve been declared NOT GUILTY because you share in all that Jesus has done and all that Jesus is.

“When Christ offered himself on the cross, God was declaring that our failures and futile efforts to fulfill our lives are completely forgiven through his patience and love (Rom 3:25 BCJ).”

You don’t have to live another sinful day of your life. It’s a demonic lie that says you have to struggle with sin because you live in an adamic body. Can a Christian Sin? Of course a Christian can sin. But he doesn’t have to!

Everything evil that was done in the past is completely gone for the believer. We were “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed…(Rom 3:24-25 NKJV).”

I really like this word that Paul uses when he says “God had passed over the sins that were previously committed…” because, again, the Greek says it so much better for clarity-sake. The word for passed over is paresis – it means overlooking or absence of punishment. But it doesn’t JUST mean the absence of punishment. The word goes further meaning the removal of guilt.

Let’s read those verses anew: in His forbearance God removed our guilt over the sins that were previously committed.

You don’t have to live guilty anymore. Whoever you took advantage of, whatever horrible thing you did, is all gone through Christ.

Lovett writes it another way. He explains that redemption means “the release of prisoners of war or deliverance from a state of danger or misery by the payment of a ransom (77).” Our ransom is Jesus.

We are delivered (past tense) from the GUILT of sin. We are delivered from the POWER of sin, if we want to be. And in the very end, we will be delivered from the PRESENCE of sin (Lovett 77).

You don’t have to sin if you don’t want to. That’s grace. You get a choice in the matter. You’re good! You get to act like it.

 

 

Guilt and Shame

paul-writingYou never have to feel guilt or shame again. Ever. Guilt and shame are not your portion.

Romans 3:19-29 makes it clear. Man tried to earn salvation through obeying the law and failed. The only remedy was for God to give a free gift — Jesus Christ, our salvation, would take away the sins of the world and justify us.

Today we are going to dive only into the first couple verses in the portion I mentioned above.

Law

“Now we all know that everything the Law says applies to those who are under the Law. Who, then, can offer an excuse for his sin? The Jew?…The Gentiles? No. Every mouth is closed. The entire human race stands guilty before God (Lovett’s Lights).”

But you thought we weren’t guilty. Right?

We’re getting there.

Under the law we are all guilty. The law, according to Romans 3, shows us clearly that we are sinners and guilty. “No one can ever be made right in God’s sight by doing what the law commands. For the more we know of God’s laws, the clearer it becomes that we aren’t obeying them…(Rom 3:20, Living Bible).”

There are many in the church today who are striving to show God just how much they are willing to love and obey him. So many offer their lives as sacrifice, their time to service, all their free time to clocking in their hours of prayer and study each day in an effort to prove something to God and earn their keep…and usually to prove something to all those who are watching too.

C.S. Lovett paraphrases verse 20 this way: There is no way, you see, for anyone to make himself righteous by doing what the Law asks. The Law is merely a straightedge to show people how crooked and corrupt they are in God’s sight. 

The law was simply God’s way of showing people that they needed something (someone) a whole lot bigger and wiser and kinder than themselves in order to attain salvation for themselves. In fact, what God was doing with the law was to simply say that mankind cannot possibly act right enough to attain anything, not even a jot or tittle of salvation.

Lovett, in his commentary on verse 20 goes on to say, “…there is no way for a person to become righteous by keeping the Law…the Law can save no one–it was not given for that purpose. It was not designed to save people or deliver them from the power of sin. Its job is to show men and women how sinful they are, and that’s all (74-75).”

Law is simply a mirror in which mankind can look at itself and realize that they got it all wrong! Have you ever checked yourself out in the mirror thinking you probably looked decent enough to run out and go to the grocery store only to realize you looked like a hungover ogre?

You had some work to do. You had to run a comb through your hair; brush your teeth; wash up a bit until your face had a bit of shine to it. Perhaps you changed from the ratty sweatpants you were wearing and put on a nice pair of khaki chinos and a grey button down. Then you blew your nose and headed out the door.

Law vs. Grace

And grace wins!

This is the difference between law and grace. The law has you clean yourself up, obey it, and look nice and clean to prove something to God and everybody that you’ve got it together.

Grace is totally different. And it’s a whole lot easier.

The Mirror Bible helps us understand. “…the gospel unveils what God did right not what we did wrong!…Jesus is what God believes about you! In him the righteousness of God is on display in such a way that everyone may be equally persuaded about what God believes about them, regardless of who they are; there is no distinction (Rom 3:21-22).”

The Living Bible says it this way: …God has shown us a different way to heaven — not by “being good enough” and trying to keep his laws, but by a new way…Now God says he will accept and acquit us–declare us “not guilty”–if we trust Jesus Christ to take away our sins.

The plan all along from the genesis of creation was for mankind to be united to God. Jesus could be the only answer. God didn’t make some cosmic mistake, like some mad scientist, when he created humanity. He wasn’t offended at our lack of ability to keep the rules. God knew it was impossible from the beginning.

Where so many of us have gone astray in this whole thing is thinking that we needed to actually keep the law in order to stay in God’s good kindness.

But the whole time all we had to do was let Jesus do it for us! Where we can’t keep the law, Jesus can. This is grace.

Jesus steps in and does all the work for us. Think back to my story about looking at yourself in the mirror. The reality is that you look at yourself in the mirror (the law) and realize that you’re sunk. You’re too far gone to clean yourself up with some self-help religiosity. Instead of you picking up that comb and toothbrush, Jesus does it for you. He gives you a complete upgrade! He shines you up and makes you not only look new, but makes you a whole new person!

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Rom 6:3-4 ESV).”

You died with Christ and he raised you with himself as a whole new creation!

You need to be guilty no more. You need to stop feeling like you need to make retribution for your sins. Retribution has a name…Jesus. Jesus made retribution for you.

We’ll continue this next week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mystery of Union

union-with-godEcstatic Union and Separation from God

To say that we’ve had a one track mind when it comes to the ecstasy of our life with Jesus would be a gross understatement. Once I got the revelation that God, in all his holiness, was also an ecstatic lover, I was ruined.

And what a way to be ruined.

Coming into the revelation of my (and our) union with God was the next chapter in my divine ruin.

Before we get into just exactly what this union is that we have with Christ, it’s pertinent that we explore where we came from: separation.

For quite a while now the church has wrongly believed that God separated himself from humanity because he couldn’t stand being around sinners. Citing Habakkuk 1:13 where it says that “[God is] of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness (NKJV)” many believe that our separation originated from God.

But this couldn’t be more wrong.

It only takes one to read a bit further in that same chapter to see that although God is holy and cannot even look on wickedness, he does that very thing! “Why do you look on those who deal treacherously, and hold your tongue when the wicked devours a person ore righteous than he? Why do you make men like fish of the sea, like creeping things that have no ruler over them?” 

Though God is holy and cannot look upon sin…he does! And not only does he look upon it, he tolerates it. And makes men “like fish of the sea.”

In writing that God tolerates sin, I’m not saying that he’s okay with a sinful humanity. I’m not suggesting that it’s okay to go out and sleep with your grandmother or do strange things with your stepmother.

I am suggesting something far more scandalous. 

God did not separate himself from humanity. We separated ourselves from God, and that separation existed in our minds.

Colossians 1:21 puts it this way: “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind,  doing evil deeds… (ESV)…”

Our separation was on us. Not on him.

The rest of that verse goes on to say “He has restored persons like you through Christ’s self-giving act. He intends for you to be complete, guiltless, and free of negative judgment in your relation to him (BCJ).”

Ecstatic Union

This leaves us at only one conclusion: God the Father, knowing our sinfulness and wickedness, chose to come among us anyway because of his love, mercy, and grace. And his method was union.

Romans 1:17 in the Mirror Bible says this: “…there is no good news in [the gospel] until the righteousness of God is revealed! The dynamic of the gospel is the revelation of God’s faith as the only valid basis for our belief.”

It was by God’s faith, not our own, that saved us. We could not put faith in him without his faith motivating us. God’s faith in himself is what draws us to him. It is his righteousness that makes the gospel work!

And what is God’s righteousness?

The word righteousness here is derived from the word “rightwiseness” fro the Anglo Saxon. The Greek word for righteousness is dikaiosune.

From Dike (Dikay) referring to what is right; it’s a relationship word that indicates “two parties finding likeness in each other (Mirror Bible notes).”

God’s righteousness points us to harmony in our relationship with him.

This righteousness makes union with God possible.

“Because we are now in right relationship with God through trusting his promise to accept us, we are united to him through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:1 BCJ).”

The Gospel is Simple

Our loving Father (not maniacal, egotistical, or demon possessed) sent his son, in whom all his fullness was in (Colossians 1 & 2) in order to save all sinners from death. Jesus died our sinners death for us. Jesus died once for all.

The finished work of the cross says this: all mankind was saved at Calvary.

This means that each person you come into contact with has already been set apart for the Lord. They’re saved in other words. They may not know it yet; they may not have had the revelation of their salvation, and they may not be living like they are in right standing with God, but they are saved because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross. Jesus doesn’t save some and then save some more later. Blood was shed, the veil ripped, and dead were raised.

More Union

Romans 5:11 tells us that “We are not only glad about the future (we’re going to Heaven!), but at this very moment we are happy because God has made us one with himself through Jesus Christ (BCJ).”

Jesus and his righteousness brings us union. We are one with the entire Trinity because the entire Trinity is one with each other! We have fullness because of Christ.

This whole thing boils down to this very message: it’s all about Jesus; he brings us union, salvation, freedom, and grace. We are no longer living a sinful, beat-up lifestyle because we have freedom from that old way of living through him.

Grace is the ability to choose differently.

I hope you enjoy this mysterious union we have and come to realize that the mystery is solved: the answer is always Jesus.

The Currency of Heaven

Heaven’s currency is praise

And everyone is rich!

When our circumstances are not so good and all around us it seems as though we are going to fall away into destruction, we praise the Lord. We sing a song of thanksgiving, we shout his praise. This is our weapon of choice, praise is the key to victory in our warfare.

Psalm 37:4 tells us to delight ourselves in the Lord. If we make God our utmost delight and pleasure of our lives, every longing within us will be fulfilled.

Delight in who God is will be the key to unlocking every victory and winning every battle. No matter what the circumstance it is that we are facing, going into a place of praise and deliberate thanksgiving will be our choice weapon.

This is Heaven’s currency. It’s the way in which all transactions are made in the Heavenly realm. As new covenant believers we have full access to the accounts of Heaven. We get to make withdraws at any time, day or night.

Fighting the Good Fight

David knew about fighting battles. He’d been anointed king and was being hunted by Saul. His life was in a constant state of danger. At every turn, David’s life was close to death. But David learned to praise God in the midst of his circumstances. In Psalm 27:13 he writes, “I am expecting the Lord to rescue me again, so that once again I will see his goodness to me here in the land of the living.”

David held onto a promise

He knew God was good. And if God was good, nothing bad was going to overtake him. Again in Psalm 18 we clearly see David hanging onto promise: “All I need to do is cry to him — oh, praise the Lord — and I am saved from all my enemies.”

David rejoiced, he praised, and he was saved from his enemies.

David had unlocked a surefire way to place himself in the safety and comfort of God: praise.

In the past, whenever I’d read the words cry out to the Lord, I assumed these Biblical heroes were doing what I do: freak out; panic; whine and complain; shout.  But this is not at all what David was doing.

The scripture says, “All I need to do is cry out to him”…and then David tells us what he cried out: “oh, praise the Lord…”

David, in the middle of his circumstance, began rejoicing and praising God! He held a worship service in the middle of his problem in order to find safety and get clear perspective.

I’ve been really into the promises of God lately. I keep two cheap notebooks, one named Teaching and Promises and one called God’s Thoughts. In Teaching and Promises I record everything I’m learning about God and all the promises I can collect in scripture.

Collecting promises does two things: it allows me to clearly understand the nature of God right now and when the time comes, it will allow me to go back and meditate on what God has already said so that I can have fodder for rejoicing and thanksgiving in the middle of whatever circumstance I’m in.

 

Circumstances used to completely freak me out. I thought it was my goal to avoid negative circumstances at all costs, and when I found myself in one, I was paralyzed with fear and begged God to get me out. “Rescue me!” I’d cry out. “Come on, get me out of this!”

Circumstances and Process

If we avoid the process of going through negative circumstances, we will never gain a proper perspective of the heart of God.

So many Christians want to experience the supernatural reality of God. They want to have fun stories to tell and experience God in unique and powerful ways. But most Christians don’t want to go through tough times.

It’s in the tough times, our circumstances, that we are going to get those great stories of God’s supernatural power working in our lives.

I’m not suggesting we go on demon hunts and try to put ourselves in harm’s way just to have an experience with God. That’s foolish.

I’m simply saying that when we find ourselves in the middle of a problem, we should find joy in it because we are getting ready to see Daddy thunder into the room and break the teeth of the enemy before us!

But it all starts with praise

The very minute we start to smell a problem, we should set aside the time to praise loudly and fill our minds with all the promises he’s given us. It’s smart to begin getting God’s promise on all sorts of issues that could crop up, like health and finances, so when those circumstances rear their ugly heads we’re ready for them.

God doesn’t hide us away out of sight from our enemy. Psalm 18 tells us that “He rescues [us] from [our] enemies; he holds [us] safely out of their reach and saves [us] from these powerful opponents.”

We aren’t hidden away and out of sight. We get to see the whole show so that we can gain perspective of who God is in the midst of adversity. We are out of the enemy’s reach, but we are in clear view. All we’re doing is rejoicing and holding a worship service, rejoicing in God’s ultimate goodness, while the fight rages around us. We rest, God fights for us, and we get a good story to tell.

So don’t shirk process; don’t run from circumstances. Praise, and praise loud!

Enjoying Process

Process has never been my favorite

Some people are process people. They really enjoy the journey.

These are people who will say getting there is half the fun.

My idea of a journey is to the airport. And while I’m getting to my destination I’m enjoying a stiff drink and reading a good book.

But God doesn’t work that way.

God enjoys the process. He loves the journey.

It’s because while we’re in the middle of process, while we’re smack in the center of a circumstance, God gets to shape us and see just how we are going to respond when in a crisis or some unfavorable situation.

 

It sounds rather mean, doesn’t it? We’re going through something terrible and God, in his power and strength, could sweep in and pick us right up and save us from the big bad problem.

But that doesn’t always happen. It does happen. Sometimes.

And when it does happen that God sweeps in and rescues us and miracles are breaking out and our circumstances are melting away in obedience to the Lord and we’re being victorious…that’s great. Enjoy those times. You’ll need to use those times as remembrance stones for your next crisis to remind you how good God is for you and how much he cares for you.

Remembrance Stones

When God was leading Joshua and his people across the Jordan River with the ark of the covenant, he told Joshua to have twelve men take stones from the bottom of the river and place them where they would make camp for the night “so that this may be a sign among you (Joshua 4:6).”

The stones were so they would always remember that God did the impossible for them (in this case, parted the Jordan River).

When God does a miracle for you or lifts you out of a rather nasty circumstance, write it down. That way you’ll be able to remind yourself of how good God is when the next circumstance comes along.

Don’t Despise the Process

Graham Cooke the other day said something along these lines: If you reject the process, you’re rejecting the thing God’s doing in you.

When we are in the middle of a humdinger of a circumstance, we can do one of two things:

  1. We can wait God out by digging our heels in the sand and telling him that we’ll just wait until he has to come get us. We can stay put and run in circles refusing to learn how good God is and grow in our faith.
  2. We can find out who God wants to be for us during that time, choose to praise, and then see ourselves out of our circumstance as much stronger Song People.

I don’t know about you, but number two sounds a whole lot easier.

Writes Graham Cooke, “The process is always about our development into the place that the Father has set aside for us in Christ. Through all the cups and downs of our life’s journey, when we commit ourselves to the process of God, we grow up in all things in Christ (Qualities of a Spiritual Warrior 126).”

The process of getting through a certain circumstance has nothing to do with our comfort. God cares about our comfort and has given us The Comforter as a gift, but going on the journey through a rather challenging circumstance is more about God developing us into a lover completely wrapped up in Christ than it is about us feeling cozy where everything is going right.

If everything went right all the time, we’d not be very strong or mature would we?

Graham continues: “We learn in process that the purpose of problems is to produce faith…tribulation is designed to produce patience and endurance. The objective behind conflict is to increase God’s love in our hearts and bring us to full maturity in His nature (127).”

Enjoy the Process

Let’s start embracing our problems. Let’s enjoy the process of our circumstances. Because we know God is going to come through. Praising God in the middle of a problem will always be more productive than zeroing in on the problem and worrying about it.

This isn’t waiting for him to come sweep us up though. God wants to partner with us and teach us how to battle.

Like a father teaches his son how to wrestle or box in an effort to stand up for himself, God enjoys teaching us the proper methods of how to overcome adverse circumstances. The father who teaches his son to fight enjoys the act of teaching because he’s building relationship with his son! God builds relationship with us while he’s teaching us to fight.

Let’s not forget a very strong weapon of warfare: rest.

Graham Cooke writes that “rest is a weapon.” Matthew 11:28-30 tells us that God will provide rest in order to see us through. When we find ourselves on a tumultuous journey, we can rejoice because God is going to become something for us that we would not have had the opportunity to experience him as otherwise.

And rest is always the weapon of choice. Laying on the floor praying in the spirit seems like laying down on the job. But God honors our rest. When we choose to look away from our problems and instead look at Jesus, we are in the right place. Everything going to hell around us, but we are glued to God’s eyes and going in his direction.

It’s in our problems and circumstances where we will grow and mature into the kinds of Song People we want to be. We’ll have the best stories to tell of how God did something and we’ll have victory over the enemy who will run away when we say boo!

 

 

 

 

Thus Saith the Devil

You’re Stupid

You won’t amount to anything; you’re an idiot; you’re unsuccessful.

These are things we feel about ourselves often. Depression and anxiety seem to be the norm for so many.

How often do we set out to change the world…or simply make our families better and suddenly we are in the throws of tantrums, feelings of inadequacy, and depression?

This year there are a lot of negative voices telling us that 2017 is going to be horrible. And for any number of reasons: ISIS; Trump as POTUS; Clinton’s loss; Obamacare; already a shooting in Fort Lauderdale. The list is long. The list, to some, is daunting.

But what if we thought differently? 

Romans 12:2 tells us “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (ESV).”

The word transform in Greek is metamorpho. Meta denotes “change of place or condition” and morpho  means “to form”. In other words, transform (metamorpho) means to change one’s form. 

In the BCJ translation Romans 12:2 is bit more descriptive: “And don’t pattern your life after the culture around you; rather, permit the Spirit of God within to transform your being and behavior by uniting your deepest thoughts and feelings with your actions so that you demonstrate God’s intention which is positive, acceptable, and fulfilling.”

Renewing our mind is key to resisting what lies the devil has to say about us and about the world around us. We don’t believe that everything is going to hell in a hand basket. Only grumpy, burned out preachers who don’t really believe the good news of Jesus Christ say such things.

Song People look to heaven, find the will of God, and then think from heaven’s perspective about situations and events on Earth.

What is the Will of God?

The will of God is simple: it is to bring heaven to Earth. Jesus showed us exactly what it was in Matthew 6:9-10.”Pray then like this: Our Father in haven, hallowed be your name. Your kinds come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (ESV).”

What exactly does it look like in heaven? Bill Johnson, in his book “The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind” tells us just what is allowed in heaven.

“What is free to operate in heaven? — joy, peace, wisdom, health, wholeness, and all the other good promises we read about in the Bible… (26).”

Jesus tells us to pray for his will to be on earth as it is in heaven.

It is our job as Christians, Song People, to bring the goodness of the Kingdom into our earthly reality! How do we do it? We have the living Christ living inside us! Everywhere we walk we have favor and we bring the goodness and ecstasy of heaven along with us!

“The renewed mind, then, reflects the reality of another world in the same way Jesus shone with heaven’s brilliance. It’s not just that our thoughts are different, but that our way of thinking is transformed because we think from a different reality–form heaven toward earth…(Ibid 35).”

Thus Saith Truth

If the devil is telling you that you’re a loser, you know that in reality you are a winner!

If the devil is telling you that you’re unsuccessful, you know that you’re well on your way to being mega-successful!

If the devil is telling you that you’re not going to amount to anything and that you’re just an idiot-savont , you know that your future is bright like the sun and you’ve got the intelligence of Einstein!

The devil’s natural language, the tongue he speaks fluently, is that of lies (John 8:44). So if he’s telling you something, don’t believe it. Just believe the opposite!

This year is going to be great! How do I know? Because the devil is telling so many that it’s going to suck. There are loud voices everywhere shouting that THINGS ARE GETTING WORSE!

But we can’t believe that. We aren’t sticking our heads in the sand and hiding. We are just choosing to believe God. Things are not getting worse. They are getting better. With Christ, everything is better.

Our job on Earth is not to become Christian and then die and go to heaven. That’s a fairy tale. Quite frankly, it’s irresponsible and selfish thinking.

Our job on Earth is to let Christ shine though us and bring heaven to Earth. So when you hear a lie, corrupt it with the truth. When you hear that Trump is going to wreck things, speak the opposite. When you hear that ISIS is going to take over the world and we are all going to nuke each other, speak the opposite. When you hear that 2017 is a copy-paste only worse of 2016, speak the opposite.

There’s power in our words. God created the world with just a word (Genesis 1:3) and we have the same power coursing through us.

So go and make the devil angry and change the atmosphere around you. Speak truth, even when it all looks grim. There will be a miracle waiting.

 

 

 

New Year Resolution – Learn to Love

This New Year’s Eve resolve to ditch the boring resolutions. Instead, make your new year goal one that matters — Learn to Love.

In an article called Something Greater Than Loving God, John Crowder writes, “One of the biggest misconceptions in the church today is ‘love is a verb.'” Many in the church wrongly believe that by performing good works they are proving their love for God. We are told to pursue the Lord and build up a healthy appetite for him. Straining and stretching our faith to get hungry for the Lord is often taught as one of the higher, loftier goals Christians should pursue.

However, this could not be more wrong…and devastating. Crowder continues by quoting Song of Solomon 2:7 – I adjure you you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the wild does: do not stir up or awaken love until it is ready! (NRSV). “Rather than an action, love should be defined as a desire or enjoyment of someone,” writes Crowder. “Action divorced from desire is religion.”

This New Year I want to encourage lovers of God — Song People — to choose love. Let us learn to be like Mary, who always chooses the best place to sit in the house — at the feet of the Lover. Rather than being works oriented, striving to earn our keep and spinning our wheels to please God (who is already pleased as punch with us), let us focus on resting in him.

There’s not a thing wrong with doing good works. We know from scripture that faith without works is dead, but we equally see in the sacred text that spending our time gazing upon the beauty and majesty of Jesus (Psalm 27:4) is valuable as well. Mary chose to sit at the Lord’s feet and glean from him while Martha worked her fingers to the bone to impress him. Both women were loved by Jesus, but Mary had chosen better.

I had a vision the other day of a mime singing. The Lord told me that the mime was the church and that she was going to find her voice this year. I believe that in order for the church to find her voice and truly be a loudspeaker for the Kingdom, she is going to have to choose the better seat in the house — right at the feet of Jesus. It’s my hope that we find ourselves lost in the wonder and ecstasy of our Savior, Jesus the Lover. I hope that we have churches filled up with wild-eyed lovers of God who are so intoxicated by the weighty glory of God that they can’t help but stagger about like drunk men who’ve had too much wine. God the Father has opened up the House of Wine and left the door WIDE OPEN for all to come drink their fill!

It’s my prayer that we’ll take on the voice of the Shulamite and repeat her sacred words “Suddenly, he transported me into his house of wine — He looked upon me with his unrelenting love divine. Revive me with your goblet of wine. Refresh me again with your sweet promises. Help me and hold me, for I am lovesick! I am longing for more–yet how could I take more? (SoS 2:4 Passion Translation).”

Mother church has been focused on so many important, yet hazy things for so long. It’s time to look past differing opinions on certain pet doctrines, political angles, and differing views and it’s time to be star-crossed, lovesick lovers who are so busy feasting on the lamb they don’t notice a thing more! This is what the world is looking for: lovers obsessed with their lover rather than religionists dead set on being right and looking moral. Jesus didn’t have a group of moralists as followers; he had a ragtag group of passionate lovers as followers. Morals are good, living right matters, but being lost in the eyes of our lover, Jesus the Christ, is far more beneficial and speaks far louder than any list of rules and ceremonial washings ever will.

This year let’s commit to be being lovers of God. And let’s allow ourselves to be loved by God. We can’t do a thing to make him love us more. Let’s be satisfied in him and he’ll be fully satisfied in us! This will be the church the world so desperately wants!