For Those I’ve Left Behind

Close to two years ago I spoke in front of my now previous church. I shared a dream I’d had some time prior, and a vision. I spoke from my heart about the generational divide that church had been experiencing for some time and the response I received was phenomenal. But my question today is, what happened? What happened to my vision of a united body of Christ? And what happened to the seed that I scattered? Did any of it make it to good soil, or did it fall where it only withered away? Something I’ve learned is that humans cannot be entrusted to your dreams; they will fail. I’m not cynical (I don’t think) just a realist. Thank-you Father that You are faithful!

I just want to lay out a bit of my heart tonight in reflection, so if you’d rather read something educational or logical this might not be the post for you.

I know I slacked off. I phrase it in that way because 1) that’s how the voice in my head says it and 2) because saying it that way shows me the realities of the works-based strongholds still remaining in this old man. I never thought about it in this way before, but satan is continually condemning me with a works spirit, and that has been the case in these years since I gave that message. When I look back and question why it didn’t “work”, satan says, “You didn’t carry your end through..no wonder it never lasted.”

I rebuke you devil in the name of Jesus whose blood has done the work for me. Go back to your pit; Christ has granted me DOMINION over you.

But really now, why didn’t it work? Or perhaps I should ask, why did nothing appear to change? Because being led by the Spirit, anything I step out in faith to do works, because He works. We’re getting really deep into the works here but just bear with me (and no puns intended!). So I can assume that because I followed the promptings of the Spirit, the purpose was complete, and the outcome is in His hands because that is where I left it.

But what those who heard that message that day don’t know, especially considering my recent departure from them, is that my heart still has a place with an ache for them. And it only became stronger the more truth I learned, the more I allowed the love of Christ to love them through me.

This, I suppose, is why I wonder at all in the first place what became of those seeds that I scattered there.

The nature of that system was that it never really took much to scrape through the superficial surface and start dealing with root issues, because people are always real people – you just have to go deep enough. But deeper was rarely an initiative, because deeper means change, eventual discomfort, vulnerability… oh that they could have the heart for themselves as I do now. Oh that they could have the courage to step outside of the mold and feel the vulnerability and the discomfort–and the life more abundant–that cannot reach them in their doctrinal coffins.

Because they have many fundamentals to wrap around themselves to keep the unpredictable, uncontainable wind of the Spirit out, but Christ only required two: “Believe in Me, and love everyone the way I love you.”

Oh if they could see that freedom lies beyond the fog, that following Christ is always a hardship, but never a burden.

But the flames that I saw for a moment flickering to life, they died down again. And I’ve wondered, why doesn’t such change last there? If I could only make a difference, tear a hole through the veil covering the sonlight… And that old devil comes back and whispers suggestions to me, “Well do something–oh, but you can’t do anything.” And the truth is, I can’t do anything. I can’t do anything, but I don’t need to. Because maybe there are still seeds waiting in good soil for the rain, for the Spirit to pour Himself on them. Maybe the more that I ask, intercede and agree, the more good soil those seeds will be given, and the sooner will come the rain. Maybe I’m still planting though I might not realize it. Because the truth is I can’t do anything, but the Holy Spirit can do everything.

And so I will take up that armor, it’s all I can do to put on the helmet which is salvation and the defense against my enemy’s attempts to discourage, the breastplate which is righteousness and the defense against my enemy’s attempts to dishearten, the belt of truth which upholds, the sandals which are peace, that I would go in peace wherever I go. The shield of faith, which covers all again, and finally the sword which is the Spirit, because every warrior needs a weapon to fight with. And this is when I relate with Romans 8:26, because I don’t know what to pray. Not for myself, not for my wife, not for that people on my heart, not for anything.

So Spirit, make intercession for me. I don’t know what to pray, my mind only gets in the way. But I’ll speak it and agree, if You will put it in my mouth.

Love Notes from Faithful and True

Being yet rather encumbered several years back by a debilitating inability to cook, I one day had made myself a rice casserole. Back then–those were the dark ages–if I had to cook for myself, it was pretty basic, and I held primarily to those staples I could actually make something of, being rice, potatoes and pasta. Needless to say, most meals weren’t too exciting.

Anyway. I had gotten rice pretty well down to a science and after devouring half the pan I reasoned that I would have eating for another meal–hurrah! The next day I spread the rice back out in the dish and put it back in the oven. Once it was heated I commenced to eat the other half of the casserole, roughly the same amount as the day before.

And when I was finished, there was half a pan of casserole left.

In fact, from taking the pan out in the first place I’d noticed a general full-ness going on in my meager lunch plans. So I said–paraphrasing–“Thank-you Jesus for more than enough,” and went on to eat my fill. The day after that I had my third meal of rice casserole.

Yeah, so God might’ve just multiplied my least favorite food.

That’s just the trivial part of the story. I just happened to throw up a comment to my Facebook profile saying something along the lines of “God just multiplied my rice”. It might’ve been more in-depth than that, but you’ve already got the gist.

Someone whom I had respected and looked up to for some time (who will of course, also remain nameless) commented on my post and basically discredited the whole thing with an attempt at a natural explanation. I immediately felt about 2o founds lighter as I heard my respect hit the floor.

Bam.

So that’s what you think of the goodness of God.

I wasn’t devastated. I knew not to put infallible stock into a person. But I was surprised and my eyes were opened; previously if anything I would have expected some positive affirmation from this person in particular. But now I realized something: faith bigger than a mustard seed misses God’s romantic subtleties.

Let me explain why I use this expression.

I looked up to this person because I perceived that they had a lot of faith–and I still believe that they did. They’d been into God’s presence and seen some mighty things–movements of the Spirit, healing, hearts changed.

But where there is no doubt, where there is no weakness, where there are no visible cracks, there is that much less room for the goodness of God to be manifest fully.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t desire faith, strength, or even perfection. I’m not condoning the idea that being under grace, we should sin to increase the power of God. That’s not what I’m getting at.

What I mean is simply this: God spoke to me in a little thing. He wrote a love note to me in rice and veggies and signed it with a wink because just maybe He saw the humor and the irony in me eating rice for three days instead of two, and challenged me to accept His goodness as it comes new every day.

And the miracle was passed over by this one who was more interested in moving mountains. But what they never knew was that it was more than just a little extra rice for another day, it was God showing up in the white noise of my doubts.

I don’t look at people the same way any more. I don’t look up so much to those people that are on the “cutting edge” of Spiritual moves of God. I look at people who hear God in the silent moments, in the small things. I look at the man who said “Lord, I believe; help now my unbelief!” and the man who said “Lord, forgive me, I’m a sinner.” when the “leaders” around him waere standing tall to boast of what they had accomplished for God, to boast in what they were and what they were not. Those Pharisees missed Jesus in the minute things, in the sparrows and the lilies of the field dressed more radiantly than King Solomon. And it seems to me, that people missed when Jesus said “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” for a meal for 5,000 from five loaves and two fish.

Gifts and Fruits

(context: Galatians 5)

16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.

           – Galatians 5:16-26

I am a rock-star.

I’ve known it for quite some time, though I rarely, if ever, thought it.

I’m also a dancer. I’m moved by rhythms and vibrations. It’s just “Me”.

I wanted to say “And primarily I’m…” But whatever would follow that statement I probably would later revoke as a lie, because my immediate response to realizing my giftings and passions is to shut them right down again, usually with something along the lines of “There are much more important things to do than dance around like a fool.”

I’m not putting my paper heart out on my sleeve. But neither am I bragging. I recently heard someone declare openly what their giftings were, and my first response was something along the lines of “Please. How arrogant can you get?” But my mind didn’t stop there, because my second thought was, “Well, why not?”

The reality of my life is, those closest to me don’t really know my deep passions. They don’t know what makes my heart beat, what fills my lungs in every breath. They don’t know because I have never found the courage to trust them with things so deeply ingrained in me. My heart says “Just let it out, express yourself!” My mind says, “They won’t understand what it means to me, they won’t respect the significance of my passions,” or flat out, “They won’t care.”

I take myself too seriously. It is the most crippling of my disabilities, because I do not allow the Spirit the freedom to express Himself throughin or to me.

It’s all well and good when Christ has set me free by spiritually cutting off my sinful nature of Galatians 5:19-21, but I make the work of Christ no benefit to me by denying and disallowing the working of the Spirit of Galatians 5:22-23 that keeps me free. Ignoring Paul’s exhortations of Galatians 5:1 to not fall back under bondage to the law, I condemn the fruits of the Spirit before they even begin to ripen in me.

I’ve been largely silent here for some weeks; I spent some time pouring over the epistle of James and my faith has been tested, challenged, and developed. I’d like to say I’ve been taking time off to ponder James, but that wouldn’t be consciously true; my life virtually shut down for a while and I’ve been reduced to a state of basic function. I’ve had to realize again and still again that all my knowledge, wisdom, abilities and strengths are nothing, and if I rely on them I cannot be any greater or more functional in the Kingdom of God than they are. If I do not allow the power of the Spirit to abide in and work throughout my life, I will continue to live under the law and my own sinful nature.

You might be wondering where the passions I was talking about fit into this. You’re not alone; I’m wondering too.

I think I got it backwards, or turned around. Actually, I’m not sure how I got it, because I stepped away and lost the train of thought I had when I wrote that opening sentence. So here it is straight: my deep inner passions are not the moving of the Spirit in me, but my response to the moving of the Spirit in me. The passions of my heart are a personal strain of worship of the Lord of Lords. When I deny my passions, I deny the outcry of my heart in revere of God. These  passions I’ve had ingrained in me from the very beginning, then, are not the fruit, they are my response. I’ve recently been pondering worship, and it fits now, just what worship is really about, and how it takes shape in my own life. I’ll leave a fuller explanation of this realization for a later post, but I now have a fuller picture of what it means to be a worship leader.

Intimacy = In-To-Me-See

 “God, You are my God, and I will ever [always] praise You

   God, You are my God, and I will ever praise You [right now]

   And I will seek You in the morning [before all else]

   And I will learn to walk in Your ways [teach me]

   And step by step, You lead me [I follow]

   And I will follow You all of my days [forever].”

I will follow You Today.

If I call [cry] He will answer me–will not be able to resist answering.

If I speak audibly He will respond audibly.

If I speak clearly and with clarity, He will respond with clarity.

This is what I wrote in my prayer journal on November 18, 2011, about the kind of intimacy God wants to have with me:

“God is indescribable. He is amazing. He is wonderful, beautiful, incredible… My Father…

“This is what He showed me last night. I was praying and thinking about how I wanted to hear Him audibly. And so I asked Him out loud, “God, if I speak audibly to You, will You speak audibly to me?” I asked three times before I suddenly heard… this ticking of a clock.. the babble of my artificial waterfall… even my own heart-beat crying out “Yes!”

“I had just turned out the light when I heard the puppy crying in the entryway. God told me to go minister to the puppy, and as I walked out to the entry He gave me the scripture to use–“Be still and know that the LORD, He is God.” After declaring this to the puppy several times I went back to my room and God began speaking. The puppy had begun to cry much louder after I left and I could hardly resist. God showed me that it is the same when I cry to Him; He can’t resist coming to me when I cry to Him like that puppy did.

“A little while later I asked Him a question and I wasn’t sure what He was saying, my mind became so boggled. And so I asked Him this. “God, if I speak with clarity will You respond with clarity?” and I made sure to talk audibly and ask clearly. He said yes. Then I asked Him my question again, with clarity, and He gave me a clear, clarified answer.

“Thank-you Jesus. I am learning to speak sincerely with You in the secret place. You are amazing… More than amazing!”

—–

The new covenant is chalk-full of this intimacy:

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”

–Jeremiah 31:33 – 34

God promises essentially to personally teach us His ways; “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts.” Not only do we receive His direct instruction, we receive it deep within us, written on our very hearts. God promises personal relationship with everyone, made possible by Christ’s offering on the cross which bridged the gap between God and man. Now, all have an opportunity to know God personally. And the final promise: “and I will never again remember their sins.” There is no longer condemnation (Romans 8:1, 33-34) in this relationship; God is free, even in all His holy justness, to be intimate with men–even such as you and I. And there isn’t a thing in existence that could ever separate us from this love God has for His people, revealed in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:31-39). I used to think Paul left out the obvious; that I could, if I wished, choose to separate myself from God’s love. But how can I? How high, how wide, how deep is the Father’s love for us? It is displayed in all creation. As long as I live in this universe, I can’t get away from the reality of God’s love for me. And there is only one separation from God – the eternal death of sin, which none need fear who belongs to Christ.

BAM! Take that.