"Reminding ourselves of the gospel is the most important daily habit we can establish. If the gospel is the most vital news in the world, and if salvation by grace is the defining truth of our existence, we should create ways to immerse ourselves in these truths every day. No days off allowed."
-CJ Mahaney, "Living the Cross Centered Life"
Early this morning, our staff got together and visited in young man in the hospital named Chris, who is continuing to fight for life against Leukemia. He’s an amazing young man who , after being diagnosed in high school, has followed hard after Jesus while his body is being ravaged with disease. After months of hospitalization, the medical community is frustrated at his lack of progress. So yesterday his parents called and asked if we would send some elders to come lay hands on him, pray and anoint him with oil, according to James 5:14.
And you bet we did.
As we prayed I was struck by the words of Greg Boyd, that prayer is foremost an act of warfare. We pray because it changes the future. Otherwise, why bother?
And because we are living in the midst of a now-and-not-yet conflict. In prayer, we are drawing a line in the sand, choosing sides. Yes, Jesus is King, but the battle is far from over. We elect a new president in November…and he takes office in January. But meanwhile we’re still living in early December.
And in December, we are still fighting Hell. Still working for Change. Still praying. Still living in defiance of the soon-to-be-outgoing Ruler of this world. Still an enemy of the state until January.
But January IS coming…
Please pray for Chris Ratliff.
– Thomas Merton, from his book, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
As I posted before, sometimes ridiculous things done in the name of God make my head want to explode. Things like wars. Boycotts. Televangelism.
This time, we're spinning our socks over our heads as an act of worship, while channeling the 80's New Wave/dance pop group Dead or Alive.
*warning: may cause nausea.
I wonder what I do that embarrasses Jesus and His bride….
I’m afraid many Christians see the Holy Spirit like some kind of spiritual appendix: they’re not really sure why he’s there in the first place. And if it was removed, we’d probably get along just fine.
Most of us believe we need the Holy Spirit’s power when we worship God, but we’ve minimized his role. What does it mean to ‘worship in spirit and in t
ruth’? Paul reminded the Philippians that ‘we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory of Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh’ (Phil. 3:3)
When Heather and I were moving to our new house in Pflugerville, I foolishly carried our dining table (by myself) into the house. The next morning I could hardly get out of bed. I spent the entire day being dependent on her to take care of me. That day I was constantly reminded of one thing: I hate feeling dependent.
The truth is that I am weak and needy and dependent every time I step up to lead worship. Sinful desires wage war against me in my heart (1 Peter 2:11). The world has been calling me all week to immoral pleasures, ungodly attitudes, and passing rewards (1 John 2:15-17). And the Enemy is looking to devour me (1 Peter 5:8)
We are desperately dependent.
The Holy Spirit is here to help us. We show our dependence by asking him to empower us. Guide us. Lead us. That’s why we’re taught to pray in and by the Spirit and to pray for the Spirit’s working. He helps us in our weakness when we pray.
Confessing our utter dependence on the Holy Spirit should produce a deep sense of gratitude, humility, and peace in our hearts. It should free us from anxiety about how the service will flow, if band members will play correctly, if vocalists will be on pitch, and how people will respond to us. After all, it’s not our strength that displays God’s power, but our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)
But we also need more than a simple acknowledgement of God’s Spirit. We also need to have an expectancy that He will act. Do our actions communicate that we believe God is actually with us? Deep down, do we expect him to reveal his power as we worship together?
Ultimately it is about what you and I believe about God. If he really is the great Jehovah, he really is unchanged, unchanging, and unchangeable. He really is the everlasting and eternal God. He really does still act.
Some of us believe in the Holy Spirit’s empowering presence theoretically, but don’t seem to believe God is active when we meet. He’s the Spirit of power in name only. Our focus is more on executing our plan than expecting God to do anything. We move through a song list without considering what the Spirit may want to accomplish as we sing.
The Holy Spirit is present and at work every time the church gathers. When people grasp something of God’s glory, the Spirit is at work. When people are convicted of sin, the Spirit is at work. When people receive hope and strength in the midst of a trial, the Spirit is at work. The Spirit reveals himself in any number of ways each time we gather.
God may not reveal his power in spectacular ways every time we meet, but we can expect him to reveal it in some way. And I’m fairly certain he wants to show his power much more often than we expect him to.
A young single mom came to my office yesterday. A young mother of two who is not plugged into our ministry, but simply ‘saw the cross’ on top of the building from across town and made her way to find someone to talk to. I just happened to be in the hallway when she came in.
For an hour, we talked (I mostly listened) about life, kids, unemployment, parenting, and Jesus. We both cried. She wasn’t looking for a handout. She was looking for hope. And for a safe place to shamelessly confess her problems and admit her guilt. She talked, leaving a trail of brokenness behind her…choices she was forced to make, unhealthy relationships she was in and out of, guilt and regret from years of ‘trying’. All the while, searching for something…someone….to make her feel complete. She had had enough of looking in the mirror each day and seeing a reflection that didn’t feel like it belonged to her. “This is not what I think I should have become..”
I found myself in her story. And we both cried. I tried to explain that she was loved already. That she was worthy of love and infinite value because she is an image-bearer of God Himself. That no man on the planet will satisfy her like Jesus will. That we all medicate in some degree to numb the hunger. Sometimes its alcohol or pornography or overeating or relationships. Sometimes its busyness and obsessive work habits and debt and being a ‘performer’ for those we want to impress. As Tyler Durden says, “[we are] working jobs we hate, buying stuff we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like.” Yet nothing really satisfies. Nothing outside of, or in addition to, Jesus really brings peace.
But our Hope is in the Prince of Peace. And our strength is in our confession and the bearing of each other’s burdens. We, the The Church, must be a place of shameless confession, where we admit struggles and failures…and receive Hope. Where we are real and honest and welcoming of anyone…anytime…in any condition. Where we each see ourselves as image-bearers of God who still desperately need the handout of amazing grace.
She came because she ‘saw the cross’.
BTW, that is the only way any of us come.
People will always do ridiculous things in the name of God. Things like wars. Things like book burnings. And televangelism. And I try not to criticize, because I know I do some really stupid things with great sincerity.
But sometimes I see something and my head wants to explode. There are so many things wrong with it, I can't decide what to rant about. Does anyone really believe this is God-honoring worship?
Save me from some of your followers.
I wonder what I do that embarrasses Jesus…?
Today I celebrated my 43rd birthday.
I received lots of birthday wishes from dear friends–all of which I appreciate more than you know. Some were simple tweets/texts/ Facebook messages…and some were longer wishes for a blessed, caffeinated day filled with Chuy's and shiny pants. (Long story).
After another year on the planet, I'm even more convinced that the only things that matter are those which last forever: the Word of God, His Kingdom, and relationships with other eikons created in His image. So, I owe a very heartfelt 'thank you' to you all.
To top it off, a good friend sent me this:
"Never challenge an old man.
If you lose, you lose to an old man.
And if you win..so what?"
And, no, I'm not old.
To be honest, I wasn't sure I could keep up at times, but reading the Bible through in 90 days is a pretty amazing experience. And, as my life usually is, it's ironic that I finished with Revelation on Hopeless Saturday (the day before Easter Sunday). There were 3 major things that are lodged in my mind now that the dust has settled.
1. We start in a Garden and end up in a City. When I was young, I was told that cities were sinful places where people fornicated and became intoxicated and indulged in all kinds of desires of the flesh.They were dirty places where people danced, played cards, and took God’s name in vain. But, out in the country, where people evidently worked hard (harder than lawyers and doctors and businessmen in the city..), lived closer to nature, and only drank beer and fornicated with distant cousins (OK..that was a cheap shot. Sorry.), life was better. Holier. God smiled more. And Jesus would rather we become missionaries to Africa than to Austin. But Scripture is clear and God desperately loves cities, because cities are filled with people. If you and I are to live missionally, we must become people of the city. Businessmen and businesswomen. Mechanics. Landscapers. Accountants. Coaches. Teachers. Lawyers. Film directors. Artists. Architects. Garbage collectors. Men and women who virally, passionately pursue Christ and work to redeem our communities. So it’s interesting to see humanity get its start in a Garden, with the mandate to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ and ‘have dominion over the earth’. Dominion is not limited to vegetation and cattle and the Dollar Weed that runs rampant in my backyard. It includes managing civil matters well. It includes redemptively governing well. It includes cultivating good and restorative laws and movies and art and education and, yes, health care. One day we will all live in the City.
2. Heaven never gets over the Cross. Even a casual reading of Revelation reminds us that when our redemption is complete, all creation points to the restoration work done at Golgatha. In Eternity, worship is proclaimed to the Lamb who was slain to take away the sin of the world. And the Lamb is no wuss: Jesus’ robe is stained with blood, his hand and thigh are tattooed, and He comes bearing a sword. Hollywood has a long way to go.
3. Some of my favorite stories in Scripture will never be found in that devotional book you picked up at the Christian bookstore. Too bad for you. For instance:
- Did you know Isaiah talks about men who were made to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine? Go find it and see for yourself.
- Young brides are told in Deuteronomy to hang on to their honeymoon bedsheets in case they need to show it to the city council as proof they were a virgin on their wedding night.
- The book of Exodus commands God’s people to tear down their stripper poles. Turn in your clear heels and dollar bills…
- Abraham was circumcised when he was 99 years old.
- And instead of asking God for advice on a matter, Saul consulted a woman that talked to spirits–and God killed him and gave his kingdom to David.
- Did you know in Song of Songs, the man says to his lover that he wants to be with her and desperately wants to ‘get in her garden’? Her reply is something along the lines of ‘grab the keys and let’s go...’.
And the list goes on and on and on… If your experience of Scripture is a devotional book with a cute story and a coffee mug slogan, I challenge you to put down the bottle and pick up a steak knife. Things are better when your belly is full of meat.
Wanna take the challenge? Don't be scared. Go HERE.