Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I give up!

As much as I try to control my life, it seems that I can't. If I had it my way, I would just spend my life making movies. But something has prevented me from doing that. You could say that I don't have enough drive and ambition. Maybe there's some truth in that. But I think it goes deeper.

The truth is, at least for my life, that my desire for filmmaking goes against God's desire for my life. You may say I sound too religious. Maybe I am. I don't care. When you fight against God for long enough, eventually He will win. He always does. The tragedy is that too many people fight against Him until death, and never realize His ultimate plan for them.

For the last 10 years I have been fighting against God's plan for my life. I'm tired of it. I'm tired of rationalizing and justifying things so that I can get my own way.

Use whatever language you want. God's called me to ministry. And I'm fighting against that. Assuming you know the story of Jonah, I don't want to end up in the belly of a whale, if you will. But that's exactly where I feel I am at.

If we pursue our own way for too long, eventually God allows us to wallow in what we have chosen. I did that once. I don't ever want to do it again.

This morning I was reminded of the mudpit I was wallowing in two years ago. I was reminded because I was seriously depressed. Depressed in a way I haven't experienced since those days. I kept wondering what was going on, but ultimately realized - I'm not doing what God wants me to do.

So I'm setting the record straight. I don't care about being labeled a religious fanatic. I don't care if I come across as irrelevant. Truth be told, I can't think of a person more irrelevant to this culture than myself. I've never really lived the wild and crazy lifestyle that so many Christians used to and use as a testimony to speak into lives. I've never lived on the streets. I've never had a near death experience. I've never been healed or seen a healing. I've never seen a dead person raised, or been a part of raising one.

What's so relevant about me? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Except I know the truth about the One who is Relevant to every single need.

What is my deal? Why am I so afraid of being upfront, blunt, and bold?

I don't know, but I'm tired. Tired of pursuing what I want because I'm too afraid of what God wants for me. Too afraid to speak out when it's necessary. Too afraid to speak the truth, no matter how harsh it may seem.

So I go back to the basics. Christ and Him crucified. That's about the only thing I can rely on. The Word. The truth, and the relentless pursuit of it.

If I could choose one thing to spend all my energy on for the rest of my life, something that I believe deep down inside of me truly pleases the heart of God, it is to know and understand His Word more and more.

Too many times the Church either depends too much on factual information and the intellect, or it completely ignores it. I found a verse the other day that blew me away:

"And I will give you shepherds (pastors) after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding." (Jeremiah 3:15)

The Hebrew word for "understanding" refers to the intellect. In a culture that day by day is losing the power to think, I think one of the things the Church needs to be doing is teaching the flock to think. Throughout history the Church has looked at education as a way to glorify God. If you can read, you can read the Bible. If you can analyze thoughts, you can analyze the Bible. We can never allow our intellect to consume us, but there is a balance to be made between faith and reason. We must have faith, but the Word says to "know for certain" what we have faith in, or who we have faith in.

A truly engaged mind affects the heart, and a compassionate heart is one that can understand the world around it.

The enemy has attacked us by sending us to the extremes of our hearts and minds. It's time that we seek the balance.

This seems like a hodgepodge of things I am thinking about right now. I guess it's because I haven't been listening to God very well, and now that I've opened my ears he has a lot to say. I don't know. I just know that I'm sick of the misery of being apart from Him. And if it means giving up any dream or desire I've ever had just to be close to Him, then so be it. Because I know the promise is that He will give me something that I can never imagine.

So keep me accountable. For me, it's either all the way or not at all with God. I've got two speeds. Light speed or backwards. I don't want to be going backwards anymore. I don't want to be ashamed of the life God is calling me to anymore. I just want to be able to live it like He wants me to. Because every time I get in the way, I just screw things up. That may sound like I'm deflating my own ego, but the truth is, it's just an acknowledgement that I'm not God, and that God is God. Who should I trust for my life's path, myself, or God? Sounds like a duh statement, but why is it so hard to live out?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The State of Things

The spiritual state of this nation, of this state, and of this city are all the same... Bankrupt!

We are like the Church in Laodicea: "For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked." (Rev. 3:17).

Whatever we think we are, God calls us the polar opposite:
Faithful ----> "Whore"
Rich --------> "Bankrupt"
Blessed ---> "Cursed"

Why? Why is it this way? Because we have not obeyed the Word of God, either as an unbelieving culture, or as a supposedly believing Church.

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)

Jesus didn't say, "The world will know you are my disciples because you agree on every point of doctrine." No, He said, "By your love, the same way I loved you."

The Church may call itself "Universal", and may believe in the concept of "unity", but until the "Back-Row Baptists" and the "Charismaniacs" can stand to even be in the same room as each other, it's all pretense. (DISCLAIMER: I am not name-calling. These are terms that I have personally heard people use. I invoke them to make an example)

We worship in pretense when we ignore the churches across the street. They have needs, we have needs, and Jesus Christ is the giver of all needs. And the last time I checked, He is still Lord over both households of faith!

But we stick to our doctrines like glue, unwilling to budge or consider that another tradition may be right on a point or two. Our tradition becomes entangled with our pride, and soon we can't tell which beliefs are truly biblical, and which we simply believe for no particular reason.

No, Church, we've had it all wrong! Here in the West with our excess of spiritual information. We are spiritually obese! Our minds are overflowing with so much knowledge that we can't even think straight! One minute we support one view, the next we are unwittingly arguing against it!

My, how the Church resembles Fox News! We can't talk about issues we disagree about, we must yell and be divisive! We resent to name-calling, using false information to prove a point, manipulation, guilt, anger... In short, we resort to propaganda instead of the Word of God!

The sort of overflow we desperatly need does not come from full minds, but full hearts. To do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God we need gracious and merciful hearts, bearing with one another in love when we disagree with them. Not sending them to Hell in our hearts.

Disagreement can be bad, but it can also be good. It can have a tragic end, like in Acts 15:39, when Paul and Barnabas split up. But the Greek word for "contention" used in Acts 15:39 is also used in Hebrews 10:24-25:

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."

The word for "stir up" is the same as "contention". In the King James, the word uses is "provoke".

Have you ever had those people in your Bible Studies or Lifegroups who always bring up something controversial? Who just seem to see things in a different way? As long as everything is done in love, it is not wrong. Imagine getting Paul, Peter, James the head of the Church in Jerusalem, John the Apostle, and John the Baptist in the same room. Do you think they always agreed on everything? The Word says they didn't, but they loved and honored one another just the same.

Today's Church needs to learn how to handle such disagreements. Churches split over issues as controversial as speaking in tongues to more inconsequential issues like worship styles and pastor personalities.

If only we knew how to handle those people who are vocal in their different point of view. If only we could foster and environment where everyone feels free to speak up, even if they disagree.

But sadly, all across America our mindset is "Assimilation! Resistance is futile!"

If God had not spoken to people in their time and place, allowing them to see things differently than their culture around them, even the religious culture, we would have never heard of:

Noah
Abraham
Joseph
Moses
Joshua
Caleb
Gideon
Samuel
David
Elijah
Elisha
Job
Isaiah
Jeremiah
Ezekiel
Daniel
Hosea
Joel
Amos
Obadiah
Jonah
Micah
Nahum
Habakkuk
Zephaniah
Haggai
Zechariah
Malachi
John the Baptist
Jesus
The Apostles
St. Augustine
Martin Luther
John Calvin
John Wesley
Jonathan Edwards
The Abolitionist Preachers
Charles Spurgeon
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Billy Graham

The list is inexhaustible. And the range in beliefs varies, especially among the non-Biblical, historical figures. But their impact on Christianity and on the world cannot be denied. Because of their revolutionary ideas, we have many of the methods of interpretation we have today. During hard, dark times when the light of the gospel did not look very strong, their lights kept burning. They may have been occasionally wrong, they are human after all. But their love of the lost and love of Jesus Christ was unwavering.

They didn't see things as the world saw them, and they didn't exactly see them as the Church at the time did either. But God was with them.

If God can use 51 people, including Himself, to change the world, what can He do with a truly unified Body of Christ spanning the globe? We will never know until we lay our disagreements aside and truly show the world we are his disciples.

We've got to love each other. It's not a suggestion. It's a command. And we are disobeying it. We prove our love to Jesus by obeying Him.

What's it going to be? More doctrinal disagreements and denominational quarelling?
Or love?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A New Law

A New Law (Derek Webb)

don’t teach me about politics and government
just tell me who to vote for
don’t teach me about truth and beauty

just label my music
don’t teach me how to live like a free man

just give me a new law

i don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy
so just bring it down from the mountain to me

i want a new law
i want a new law
gimme that new law

don’t teach me about moderation and liberty
i prefer a shot of grape juice
don’t teach me about loving my enemies
don’t teach me how to listen to the Spirit

just give me a new law

what’s the use in trading a law you can never keep

for one you can that cannot get you anything

do not be afraid
do not be afraid
do not be afraid

There's something about reading a song's lyrics that just awakens the song in my heart.

Too much fear in this country.
Too many people trying to change each other
From the outside in.
That's a message the Church needs to hear in America.
In art.
In culture.
In politics.
In daily life.

"Do not be afraid"

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Cylent Lark

The Lark Ascending Or (Perhaps More Accurately, I'm Trying To Make You Sing)
by: David Crowder
"And I’m trying to make you sing
From inside where you believe
Like it’s something that you need
Like it means everything

And I’m trying to make you feel that
This is for real, that life is happening
That it means everything
I’m just trying to make you sing"

I've always felt like I've had something to say. Something to sing, if you will. But at the same time I've always felt like an invisible hand coveres my mouth, preventing me from saying the things I feel most deeply. Everything I am most passionate about stays locked inside, only seeing the light of day in my thoughts.

My life is an endless pursuit to open the prison doors of my heart and let the song fly out.