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!

 

 

 

The language and currency of Heaven: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

For the last year I’ve been watching how a few of my heroes of the faith live their lives. Bill Johnson, John Crowder, Tim Wright, Georgian and Winnie Banov, and Jared Gustafson just to name a few… these guys are all connected by a single denominator: they live lives of praise and thanksgiving each day.

Positive

Something I’ve noticed about people who seem to walk in divine favor and are extremely happy and satisfied are those who are always positive. These are people who always have something good to say even when the critics, teeth sharp like sharks, are foaming at the mouth. These people can only see the glass half full. They can only see the light at the end of the tunnel. They can only see the positive direction things are going!

But this is something more than just a positive attitude. Remember those posters in school your teacher had hung up over the board? They didn’t help much, but they were cute!kitten-poster

This is attitude with some whack on it!

Everyone I know who walks in favor and ease are people who have embraced the Song Lifestyle — people who are in love with Jesus and walk in easy restful relationship with him!

Psalm 100:4-5 encourages us to “Go through his open gates with great thanksgiving; enter his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name.”

Jeremiah 30:18-20 tells about how God will restore the fortunes and tents of Jacob and how the people will respond: “Out of them shall come thanksgiving, and the sound of merrymakers.”

And God gives them a promise! “I will make them many, and they shall not be few; I will make them honored, and they shall not be disdained.”

Song People have positive attitudes because they are consumed by God’s grace. They are absolutely convinced that they are going to thrive, have absolute favor, and will only see good things happen to them because they walk with Jesus.

We clearly see in scripture that good things happen to those who love the Lord (Romans 8:28).

Personal Story

Over the last year I’ve experimented with scripture. Instead of freaking out at everything that went wrong, I instead made it a point to praise and give thanks. I didn’t always remember. I forgot a few times who I was and what power I had in thanksgiving, but overall I was able to turn every circumstance into a reason for thanksgiving. I was able to cast aside anxiety and fear and challenges and praise God because he’s worth it.

And stuff started happening!

Spending so much time thanking God for being so good and for trusting him for taking good care of me really paid off. We ended up moving into a house big enough for our large family in a beautiful rural area we were desiring. I had gotten laid off work and God provided another job quickly. We had hope where we hadn’t had hope before! God was building history with us!  That increased our faith for when other challenges comes along–then we’ll be able to look back and remember what God did before. What God did before, he’ll do again. What he did before, he’ll even OUTDO himself.

Hope

Thanksgiving and praise produces hope. And hope is nothing to take lightly! Hope does not put us to shame. We have been saturated in God’s love by Holy Spirit! That’s HUGE! Hope will take an average day and turn it around to an extraordinary one! Hope tells us that there’s something better…there’s SOMEONE better and that we have an all access pass to him.

We get to nuzzle up with our blessed bridegroom and snuggle close. Jesus our faithful Mr. Happy scoots closer and closer until he’s right center on the inside of us. He’s closer than a brother; he’s our mystical Mr. Mystery who’s head over heels in love with us!

So if things go wrong and the future looks bleak just praise! Don’t ignore the problem and hope it all goes away. But thank God for how good he is. Thank God for how he’s going to give you solutions. Thank him for EVERYTHING. Praise him! You’ll soon see that life begins turning around and you’ll find you have the power within you to calm storms and change the atmosphere.

 

The Safety of Jesus

The Love of the Kind One

For the last year I’ve had this picture in my head that I can’t shake. I’m sitting on a sofa watching t.v. and beside me is this man who is strong and secure and compassionate. He puts his arm around me and I snuggle down close to his side and I feel so safe. There’s no anxiety in this picture. It’s just safe and warm and kind.

I’ve gone back to this picture a lot this year. It’s safe to say that I’ve thought about it almost daily for an entire year. The amount of love and safety and rest that this image in my head exudes is overwhelming because it’s something I’ve always wanted…someone to completely take care of me.

This is a picture of love. And it’s love from the Kind One.

Jesus our Safety

“I will lie down in peace and sleep, for though I am alone, O Lord, you will keep me safe (Psalms 4:8).”

I’ve had this picture of Jesus keeping me safe for nearly a year now. As described above, it’s exactly what all of us really want. We want someone strong and kind to wrap us up and keep us safe from any number of rational and irrational dangers.

The Psalmist understood this perfectly. “Many say that God will never help us. Prove them wrong,” he writes, “by letting the light of your face shine down upon us.”

If you thought that maybe it was a little strange that me, a man, has long desired for someone to sweep me up and care for me and keep me safe, well..I’m not alone. From reading Psalm 4, we can clearly see that David wanted it too. And David was no girly-man either. He was a shepherd–those guys had to be tough. This was the same dude who took down Goliath! And we can’t argue his virility either since he, uh, had that little mishap with Bathsheba…

Our Strong Lover

Men are known to be the protector of their homes; the warrior for their wives and children; the strength when things are scary. We are the ones who wake in the night and check out the strange noise. We keep our families feeling safe and secure.

But who keeps us safe and secure?

Jesus–the delightful Bridegroom.

God’s strong love and protection keeps us anchored. When we were boys, our fathers wrapped us up in their arms and we knew we were safe. That has never changed. Although we keep our own children safe from their fears, our God is still our Father who wraps us up and takes us to ecstatic places with Him.

Our God keeps us rooted and grounded in love.

Love is the Answer

Everything is about love. When we learn to love, everything else falls into place.

Need patience? Love.

Need rest? Love.

Need a financial miracle? Love.

God IS love. And we know that love makes a person feel safe and warm and protected from outside dangers. We know that love is not perverse or something that can be bought or sold. Love is just this wonderful, exciting more-than that keeps us glued together. It’s Jesus.

So let’s sit down this week in the midst of the busy Christmas season, and let’s allow God our Comforter to wrap us up in his big, strong arms and snuggle us close. Let’s burrow our faces in his side and rest in the delight of his protection.

 

 

Humble Bundle

Humility and Unity

Philippians 21-4 is the ultimate thesis on humility and unity in Christ; it’s a treatise on the good life — the Christian Lifestyle.

Paul suggests we “Consider Christ as [our] model” and teaches that “Christ relates to us with encouragement…showing us compassion and forgiveness (vs. 1).”

Jesus was the ultimate Humble Bundle–both savior and humility advocate. Putting off his own needs and expressing his love for mankind by going lower and lower unto death, Jesus showed us the way to live a strong life of peace and unity.

Lately our days have been filled with the most political upheaval our country has seen in years. With those protesting Trump’s win and mourning Clinton’s loss of the election, there is a disunity among our fellow citizens. Politics and elections are important, but they are not worth the disunity we see around our country.

As believers, we must consider Jesus as our model for living a whole life. Jesus encouraged those around him. Jesus showed compassion and forgiveness for those who had different opinions than him. He was vehemently against the religious right of his day–those who put tremendous burdens of dogmatic rules and regulations on people as a way of getting near to God. But where he fought against religious idiots, he still loved them.

Let’s make Christ our model. Let’s look at everyone as who they are–our neighbors. Mark 12:31 teaches us to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Who exactly is your neighbor? It’s everyone you come into contact with. Are you a Clinton supporter? Your neighbor voted for Trump. You support them. You love them. You allow Jesus to be your model, and you put yourself last by loving them even though you have different political views. You seek to understand, and you love despite your differences of opinion. 

Unity and Grace

Paul continues, “Relate to each other as Christ relates to you…express the love for each other that Christ expresses to you (vs. 2).”

You can heal the sick and raise the dead, but if you don’t have love for humanity, your works are worthless. No one cares how miraculous your lifestyle is unless you have fervent love for everyone…not just those in your little circle.

Jesus died for you while you were still a sinner (Romans 5:8). He had the most compassion on you when you didn’t deserve compassion. He loved you despite your having differing viewpoints on how life should be lived. He picked you up from the mire and set you up on a solid surface, himself!, and by his life and sacrifice made you holy and pure. Relate to others in this same fashion. 

Mother Church should be the most unified and grace-filled group of people on the planet. Not because we belong to some morality bless-me club, but because we are in love with the same man, Christ Jesus, the bridegroom! At the end of the day, it all comes down to one thing with us: Like the song goes, It’s all about a wedding to come! It’s all about a God who’s a lover! 

Is your neighbor a Clinton supporter who advocates for gay marriage, civil rights, and is pro-choice? Great! Stop the condemnation and love them! Show the love and life of Jesus, your lover, and give them a hug, bake them a pie, help pay their utility bill! Smile at them, be kind, BE A FORCE OF GOODNESS in their lives! And don’t be preachy. In fact, don’t preach at all. Just be love. 

Holy Spirit will take care of the rest. All by himself. God doesn’t need your help. But he’ll use you if you just settle back and rest in him.

Grace and Peace

This isn’t about Donald Trump being right and Hillary Clinton being wrong. This isn’t about Hillary Clinton being right and Donald Trump being wrong. They both have valid points about why their politics are correct.

This is about being Song People who are absolutely in love with Jesus and allowing that love to spill over into our world.

This isn’t about pro-life vs. pro-choice, right and wrong, moral and immoral. This is about love and allowing love to conquer all sorts of sins. You may be pro-life, but your hatred for those who voted for pro-choice politics is still sin! You may be anti-immigration, but defacing a pro-immigration person’s mailbox is still sin. Being rude and disrespectful to people is sin. Remember: if you hate your brother, the Bible says something about that. “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen (ESV 1 John 4:20).”

Who is your brother?

Well, it’s humanity. Christ died for the sins of the world. He died over 2,000 years ago. He died while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). He saved the world from sin before we were born. Our sins were forgiven, our debt reconciled, before we took our first steps or could slurp milk through a straw. This gives a whole  new meaning to the word brother, doesn’t it? We don’t have an issue of saved/not saved. We have an issue of believer/un-believer. Jesus saved everyone from death– I’m not taking away Hell or saying all roads lead to Heaven. See this post for clarity.

There’s a better way to live, and it’s the way of love and compassion.

“Have an accurate estimate of yourself and of others,” writes Paul in verse 3. “focus on [other’s] strengths and on your weaknesses. Be concerned about your brothers’ and sisters’ fulfillment as well as your own.”

Let’s try something new for a change. Let’s put others first. Let’s take the log out of our own eye before we take the speck out of someone else’s. Let’s do something spectacular and concern ourselves with our neighbor’s well-being even when it makes us uncomfortable. If we do that, I bet God will have a field day with the harvest that comes from it. 

 

 

The Affection of Christ

Today we will be looking at the text of Ephesians 3:19.

Paul writes, “…and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

In context, Paul is writing to the church about being rooted and grounded in the love of Christ. He is encouraging the readers of the early church to to be strengthened in Christ and to allow Him to dwell in their hearts through faith. Just prior to verse 19 Paul exhorts the church to know the height and depth and width that is the love of Christ.

Christ’s Deep Affection for the Church

Looking at verse 19, “…and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” and going back to the Greek roots of two of the words: LOVE and KNOWLEDGE — we will soon clearly see that there is something special about the rich affection Christ has for the church…and we’ll see that it extends much further than we may have previously thought.

The Greek word for love here is agape — a word you’ve likely heard if you’ve spend more than a day at church. Besides simply meaning love, or friendly love the word is better translated as affection or beloved…it’s also translated as love feast.

Agape is metaphorically the effect or proof of love — it’s the proof of the true and real benefits conferred by God through Christ.

When my friends show me affection by giving me a hug or placing their hand on my shoulder, I feel a sense of satisfaction and I know that they love me and care about me.

To think of Jesus as being affectionate toward us changes the way we view ourselves in him and changes the way we view him! Christ as an affectionte savior goes beyond Christ as simply the salvation of my soul.

It is expected that Jesus loves us. It’s no secret that Jesus has saved us from death. But for him to be affectionate is something all-together different. For him to show me affection tells me that this is something is is deeply more intimate than previously thought. He not only saved me and loves me but he cares for me and purposefully wants to comfort me as well!

Experiencing the love of Christ that surpasses KNOWLEDGE

The Greek word for knowledge here is gnosis. The root of the meaning of gnosis is intelligence and comprehension. However, it goes much deeper than that. From gnosis is derived gnosticism—a cult of pre-Christian and early Christian centuries distinguished by the conviction that matter is evil and that emancipation comes through gnosis, knowledge. 

The church is well acquainted with gnosticism — Mother Church for years has taught that material things are evil, fun is evil, pleasure and enjoyment are evil. And likewise, she has taught that knowledge, or using your logic, will save you alongside giving your life to Jesus.  We have in the US a deeply logical (knowledgeable) church.

The Surpassing Greatness

The verse we are looking at though tells us that  Paul wants his readers to “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” and that they “be filled with all the fullness of God.”

We are told that we are to know the love (affection) of Christ that surpasses knowledge (comprehension, logic, reason, intelligence).

Let’s re-write this verse: …”and to know the affection of Christ that surpasses comprehension and reason and intelligence, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

So what’s the point?

The point is this: the affection of Christ extends must further than the shell of our church walls. This love, this wild and dramatic love, this affection which comes from the very Son of God surpasses our logic, reason, and intelligence for one reason. That reason is so that we will be filled with all the fullness of God.

How Does This Change Anything?

This changes everything. Think about it — it doesn’t make logical sense that a serial killer who killed children for years and years gets the exact same affection from Christ as does the priest who has committed his life to serving the poor in the Dominican Republic.

This means that the prostitute who walks down the church aisle on Sunday morning has the same access to the Father as the pastor’s two year old.

This means that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have access to Jesus and access to his unfathomable love.

This means that every protester, protesting Trump’s win, has the Father of Lights smiling down on them.

Am I suggesting that there’s a Heaven for Everyone and a Hell for no one?

No! That’s not what I’m saying. By saying that God’s love is bigger than we may have originally thought and saying that God smiles down on his creation even when they’re acting like idiots, I’m not suggesting that we can live like Hell and get away with it. I’m not taking away Hell…But I am suggesting that there is a lot more grace and a lot more surpassing knowledge of love than what may be preached from some pulpits on Sunday morning.

Christ’s love runs a lot deeper than only touching those who confess him and live for him.

The truth is this: Christ died for ALL. While we were still sinners Christ died (Romans 5:8).

Jesus died for all of our sins..the sins we were going to commit as well as the ones we already committed. Salvation did not come the day you went to the church alter and prayed the sinner’s prayer. That’s the day you came to the realization that salvation was there for you all along. 

To comprehend the love of Christ is to understand that Christ died for all and that all are cared for and appreciated by God. That serial killer on death row has a Heavenly Father who loves him. He may have killed twenty small children, but God is very protective of his life. Just like a good father would be.

If my son went on to be a mass murderer, I’d be sad that he went that way, but there would be no way I’d be able to separate my love for him. Despite his sin, I’d still love him and would be able to find areas in his life where I could be proud of him. My affection for him would remain the same as when he was born.

The same is true of Christ.

This is what life is about: to be filled with the fullness of God and give it all away.

Let’s stop looking at people as evil, wicked sinners and waiting for God to send them to eternal torment for their sins and let’s start looking at people as our brothers and sisters in Christ since that’s who they are! Jesus didn’t save some and leave others for the fires of Hell. We were all predestined for salvation from the foundation of the world — the only difference between some of us is that some of us believe what Jesus did while others haven’t become believers in his affection yet.

 

 

 

 

The Taste of Cotton

Psalm 73:25 delivers a piercing soul cry. In The Passion Translation is reads like this: Who is there in heaven for me but you! You’re all I want! As long as I have you, life on earth has nothing more I desire. 

The NRSV this way: Whom have I in heaven by you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you.

And The Message says it this way: You’re all I want in heaven! You’re all I want on earth!

The Taste of Cotton

At home we have what I call the Whack Wall. It’s a wall in the Homeschool and Art Room that anyone can write on. We paint on it, we write using sharpies, and usually it’s scripture or art that has inspired us to turn our focus from Earth to Heaven.

I was writing on the wall one evening this very scripture and it seemed as if everything in the entire earth had begun to make sense. There’s NOTHING on earth I desire besides YOU, I was praying. My heart was alive and burning within me. Revelation had taken firm hold: this Earth with all its splendor and majesty tastes like cotton. Dry, fibrous cotton that’s impossible to swallow down without choking.

There are great things about Earth. Family, friends, the Church…to name a few. Who doesn’t love a good glass of wine or an exciting party? How about vacation and flying and learning new things? These things are good. Enjoying any of them is a form of worship all in and of themselves. But desire…this desire for something whole and true and rock-solid…that’s something else all together.

Desire for the greater things, the better things, desire for Jesus is far greater. Don’t get me wrong. You’re not less spiritual enjoying a glass of Malbec than you are with a Bible open across your lap meditating on the Wine of the Spirit. It all counts as joy and worship, but the real wanting, the true satsifaction of the soul can be found in Christ alone.

Holy Priesthood, the Very Sons of God

I feel God has called the Church to the priesthood. So much so, in fact, that when we had a Halloween party on Friday night I went dressed as a priest in real clerical clothing. Prophetically I was accepting what I heard in my spirit: we are a holy priesthood, we are the very sons (and daughters) of God.

This is a setting apart for the people of God. I sense that God is shepherding us to a place of purity and washing not unlike the kind of washing Esther went through before she met the king. God is calling his lover, the bride, aside and offering her a chance to be lost in the cloud-filled chamber, the very house of wine to meditate on his grace and experience over and over his romantic and kind love.

This is not work either. I’m not preaching a clean-yourself-up gospel here. There is nothing you can do to make yourself pure for an encounter with God. Esther’s cleansing is a prophetic view of how Christ was going to clean up Mother Church in order to bring her into glory.

I’m not coming anywhere close to asking you to spiritually cleanse your house or fix yourself up so you’re ready for Jesus.

You died with Christ and he pulled you up from death with him (Romans 5-8). You were cleansed from the very beginning. You are a holy priesthood and the bride of Christ! He washed you and set you apart. What I’m encouraging you to do here is to meditate on who you are in the blessed Lover. You are clean and pure and washed! You are the favored of God!

Set your mind on things above, where Christ is because you died with Christ and your life is now hidden with him in God! (Colossians 3:1-2)

Assess your desires. Is Christ your only affection? Your only desire? Is it he who can truly make your heart sing? Are you able to fathom another lover?

If you’re married or wanting to be married, I’m not suggesting you love your spouse less. Same if you have children or pets or really really love chocolate. Remember: enjoying the pleasures of Earth within a Biblical context is holy and right and worship.

But assess your desires. Can you live a Psalm 73:25 lifestyle? This isn’t asked in some pious way. I’m not accusing you of not loving God rightly or even proposing that I’ve figured it out. We’re all in this together and there is no condemnation. This journey with the Lover, the Christ is a personal one. We’re all figuring it out together as a church. God delights in our process. He delights in our searching and when we set our affection on him if even only for a moment.

Brother Lawrence in Practicing His Presence, the monk from the 1600s discovered this concept. He writes that he would turn his affections on the Lord for only a moment and then fail the rest of the day. But he didn’t feel condemned. Rather, he writes that he felt encompassed and embraced by God in his failure and it was in that embrace that led him to be able to keep the Lord before his eyes every moment of each day!

God is kind and will honor the process of setting your affection on him!

I’ll leave you with a great song by Misty Edwards this week. Enjoy HIM!

I Will Waste My Life by Misty Edwards

 

 

Eternal Contemplation

Perhaps it’s because I run in a certain stream of believers who are drawn to contemplation (or soaking, or drinking, or getting whacked…whatever you want to call it). But as of late, most people I talk to lately feel a great call to contemplating the mystery of Christ. And it’s not just sitting during a “quiet time” and meditating on the daily devotion or the selected number of chapters in your Bible Through a Year–I’m talking about active contemplation where you’re putting the Lord before everything you do; this is a continual whack, a constant buzz that permeates all of life that you touch.

Contemplation as a Lifestyle

If you’ve never read The Practice of the Presence of God you should pick up a copy stat! This was a monk who lived a life of active contemplation. He was so whacked that people would come from miles away just to watch him do the dishes! He connected with God and never disconnected himself. He put the Lord in front of his eyes and never took his eyes away.

There are people in our modern society who have chosen to give themselves to active contemplation because they love the Lord with all their heart, mind, and soul. I’ll detail a few for you below.

Monks

I’ve been researching monks a lot lately and listening to a lot of their music. Specifically I’ve been reading about the Monks of the Desert — those lovers in the desert in northern New Mexico of the Roman Catholic Benedictine monastery. Their passion for the Lord is tangible when listening to them talk about the Lord. Their lifestyle of constant contemplation is appealing. Their love for God and their life of devotion is noble.

These are guys who feel the call to contemplation because they have the unceasing desire to put the Lord before their eyes constantly. Day and night, night and day, they commune with the Lord. David wrote about this kind of lifestyle in Psalm 27:4: One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.”

IHOP

The IHOP community in Kansas City is unique in that the music and prayer in the prayer room has not stopped since its inception in 1999. IHOP’s model of night and day prayer, although not a new concept in Christian history, is doing it with a modern twist. Interns come worldwide to serve at the campus and offer themselves for short spurts of time as intercessory missionaries. Like David in Psalm 27, they gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and practice not peeling their eyes away.

It’s understandable if you’re shaking your head and thinking that maybe I’ve lost my mind. I’m not trying to get you to become a monk. Though truthfully, maybe if my life were different and if I hadn’t wanted to have a family, maybe I’d roll up to an unsuspecting abbey and profess my desire to live a contemplative lifestyle! Whether you make a pilgrimage to IHOP to soak in the prayer room is not important. In fact, there are glaring issues with both monasteries and IHOP that gives me pause.

However, I believe that God is calling the church into a lifestyle of contemplation. You don’t have to join a monastery or book a flight up to Kansas City to commune with the Lord in a deep and meaningful way.

The Lord is Calling the Church to Contemplation

David contemplated the goodness of the Lord while he was working. A shepherd, alone in a field, he wrote most of his psalms. He meditated on the glory and the promises of God and wrote thing like this: “Oh god, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory (Psalm 63: 1-2).”

I believe that God is calling the church to active contemplation. Learning how to meditate on Jesus while doing the work you do to make a living is not only possible but it’s fun! I’m a teacher, and although I don’t get it right 100% of the time, it’s so rewarding to think on the promises of God while working with middle school kids. Maybe you are a lawyer, a nurse, or a stay-at-home parent. The goal is all your own…you get however much of God as you want!

But God is calling the church to contemplation (soaking, drinking, being in his presence) because he’s so in love with us! Living a Psalm 27:4 lifestyle is easy. Don’t make it a work. If you go a while without thinking of God, don’t beat yourself up. Just think on God. You are training your mind to be God focused. There is power in a transformed mind.

It is my hypothesis that you will get more work accomplished, with better quality, when you are actively contemplating Jesus.

Here’s to a week of starting down a deep and riotous love relationship with your Lover!

Some tips to get you started:

  1. Set an achievable goal. Try to contemplate the Lord by meditating on a scripture or a promise he’s given you through a prophetic word for at least 30 minutes a day. Then, once you’ve gotten yourself to a place where you can keep the Lord before you for 30 minutes, raise the benchmark to an hour and then an hour and a half. Have fun with it!
  2. Be purposeful about selecting scripture you are going to meditate on. You’re not choosing a weekly memory verse. Memorizing is beneficial, but it’s not the goal here. Contemplation is the goal. You are rolling this verse around in your mind for the sole benefit of thinking on the Lord and getting into a deeper place with him.
  3. Know that you already have it all! All of Heaven is inside you. You have ALL the promises of God…it’s your glory to seek them out. This is not a work. This is a fun and restful activity.
  4. Share your experiences with friends and family. Tell them what you’re doing and try to get them to do it too! Like anything, it’ll be a lot more fun and easier when you’re practicing contemplation with others. You can share with each other your triumphs and struggles.

Hidden in Love

Hidden in God’s Embrace

The Song Lifestyle is finding yourself hidden in the ecstasy of God’s embrace and at rest in his love for you.

God is always on your side. Circumstances don’t matter. God is for you and not against you.

David got this concept. In Psalm 27:3 he writes, “I know that God will be there for me so I will not be shaken (Passion Translation).”

Although commentators aren’t sure exactly when David wrote Psalm 27, many believe he wrote it in two different parts: one part when he was not in trouble and the other part when he was in trouble. It is clear, however, that David is writing about how he will be confident in God when trouble comes. Earlier in that verse David writes, “Even if an army rises to attack me, my heart will not be afraid (Passion Translation, emphasis mine).”It seems that David hasn’t seen trouble yet. But he’s living the Song Lifestyle by setting himself up for success while things are good so that when trouble comes, he’ll be prepared. Bill Johnson of Bethel Church calls this strengthening yourself in the Lord, and he wrote a book about it of similar name.

You are Embraced by the Lover

As lovers of God, we have full access to Heaven and all the goodness there, including God, through Jesus (Ephesians 2:18). We don’t need to place ourselves in God’s loving and kind embrace. We are already there!

I used to believe that we needed to put ourselves in his love. I thought we needed to place ourselves in a place of romance. I had the idea that we were crawling up into his lap.

However, since I’m growing, my theology has shifted a bit.

We cannot crawl into his lap or place ourselves in his love. We just REST in the fact that we are there already by GRACE!

We don’t have to ask God’s permission to crawl up in his lap and take comfort in His love. We get to walk right up to Him and hold onto Him because He is ours! Song of Songs 2:16 in the New Living Translation says, “My Lover is mine, and I am His.”

As a lover of God, you get to “approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16).” You don’t have to be shy about taking advantage of our Perfect Papa’s love and comfort. He belongs to you and you belong to Him! 

Getting All of God

The great thing is that we don’t only desire Him, but we GET HIM. Some teach that we must desire more and more of God; that we must constantly be cultivating passion for Him in our hearts. I have a hard time with the idea of “desiring God” because we already have Him. You don’t desire what you already possess. God lives on the inside of you. He is already right there next to you, above you, behind you, ALL AROUND YOU. Stop trying to cultivate desire and begin resting in Him!!!

You get to have as much of God as you want. 

The Shulamite discovered this in Song of Songs:

In chapter two of the Greatest Song, the King finds the Shulamite and says, “Come, my dearest, hurry my darling, come away with me. I have come as you have asked to draw you into my heart and lead you out (SoS 2:10 Passion Translation).” Earlier, back in chapter one, the Shulamite asks for the Lover to take her away into His heart and lead her out. “We will run away together into your cloud-filled chamber (SoS 1:4 Passion Translation),” she says.

Later in chapter two, the Shulamite gets cold feet (SoS 16-17). She is offered as much of the King as she wants. He’s right there to sweep her away, but she changes her mind and sends him away.

I believe this is exactly where the church is today. For years the church has been crying out for more of God and working hard at cultivating our passion for Him. We’ve been so preoccupied with stirring ourselves up in order to desire Him more and more that we have missed Him trying to get our attention.  He’s RIGHT THERE saying, “Here I am! I’m here! Come away with me!”

 

The Ultimate Hiding Place 

David writes in Psalm 27:4 “Here’s the one thing I want from God, the thing I seek above all else: I want the privilege of living with Him every moment in His house, finding the sweet loveliness of His face; filled with awe, delighting in His glory and grace. I want to live my life so close to Him that He takes pleasure in my every prayer (Passion Translation).”

This one verse, if there is just one, sums up the Song Lifestyle. Wanting (and getting) all of God is summed up here. Living with Him in His place and gazing on His beauty is the Song Lifestyle. This is living a lifestyle of worship and choosing to delight yourself in Him no matter what is happening. This doesn’t mean to pretend your problems aren’t there, but it’s choosing to look at God and delight in Him no matter what. Graham Cooke says, “Remember, your circumstances are not the problem. Your perception of your circumstances is the problem!” He also says, “Whatever we focus on, we give power to. Take your eyes off the negative and you will disempower it.”

“Whatever we focus on, we give power to. Take your eyes off the negative and you will disempower it.”

What Graham Cooke is talking about here is choosing a different thought pattern. We delight ourselves in the goodness of the Lord and our circumstances will not matter anymore. So often when we choose to look at Jesus instead of looking at our problems, the problems tend to either go away miraculously or they just don’t bother us anymore. What was once a major problem for you turns into something that is just there trying to get your attention. It used to grab at you and get you down, but now that your perspective has changed and you’re looking at the bright Morning Star, you just can’t seem to focus on the negative any longer.

Choosing to live close to the Lord will always turn out to be the best decision. Choosing to put yourself, like David did, in a place where you are gazing at our Lover in the secret place of worship will never turn out to be a mistake. Living a hidden life in God is ultimately our only option. He is our hope. He is the truth. He is our Wild Lover.