Throwback

I’ve always believed in new and progressive ways to do things.  I will almost always be the staunchest advocate for doing things in the fresh, innovative, relevant way that maximizes the ability to engage and reach people in our communities and culture. However, I believe that there is an underlying call from God that never ceases to echo throughout all of creation; we may not always hear it, but I’m sure it’s there.  I’m certain that call is rising to the surface in our church today.  I want to put that call to print here today and challenge all of us to hear it loud and clear.  It is a call that will spur on the awakening that we are so desperately seeking for our churches and community locally and around the world here at the beginning of this new year.  I hope it helps you to hear….

God take us
back,
the place we be
gan
The simple
pursuit
of nothing but
You,
The innocence
of
a heart in Your
hands,
God take us
back,
oh God, take us
back.
To an unswerving
faith in the power of Your
name.
A heart beating
for Your kingdom to
reign.
A church that is
known for Your presence
again.
God, take us
back.
Nothing and no one comes
close to You.
Nothing could ever come
close.
Nothing and no one;
it’s You, and You only,
nothing could ever come
close.
Keep our hearts
real,
keep Your
grace close,
You’re bringing us
back,
You’re bringing us
home.
To an unswerving
faith in the power of Your
name.
A heart beating
for Your kingdom to
reign.
A church that is
known for Your presence
again.
God, take us
back.
Nothing and no one comes
close to You.
Nothing could ever come
close.
Nothing and no one;
it’s You, and You only,
nothing could ever come
close.
(“Simple Pursuit” the Passion album “Salvation’s Tide Is Rising”)
As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize that a throwback shouldn’t be considered a bad thing.  There are things that never change, and the simple pursuit of God is at the top of that list.  Our personal awakening begins there, and that will give life to the great awakening that we’re praying for.  If things seem to have gotten away from you somehow, let God take you back to the only thing that really matters…the simple pursuit of nothing but Him.
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What’s On My Mind…

Hello.  It’s been a while, right?  That seems to happen where writing these is concerned.  I suppose that’s why so few read them.  Or, blogging is dead; some would say that it has been for some time.  Interesting thought.  I think it has more to do with consumer overload.  We have so much that we can process, and for a while, I think we liked it. However, too much of a good thing tends to breed some level of contempt and even backlash, and I’m somewhat certain that we just look at things these days.  I look at lots of blogs while basically ignoring my own.  It’s also rather obvious that everyone thinks we want to hear their opinions or think we need to hear them on every possible platform which I find nauseating most days.  So, I respect the fact that people just don’t care to hear what I have to “say” whether it’s through this, social media, or any other forum.  Anyway, the bottom line is this:  I just need to a place to talk things out besides in my own head sometimes, and this really helps me clear the decks of my mind.  I also like to put good reads in front of people out here from time to time, so please don’t hold it against me, and I say thank you if you take the time to read any of those.  Good books bring me great joy, and I love to pass that along to others.  I had to add that….hope that’s o.k.

I’ll do my best to not be so meandering during the rest of this post.  O.k., dude….FOCUS! I’ve been thinking a lot about grace lately.  More specifically, I’ve been thinking about how much grace has been given to me versus how much grace I dispense to others.  I’m not sure what it is about my make-up, but I can be incredibly hard on people.  I don’t mean to be, honestly.  It’s innate to my nature, and I have only recently come to fully realize that I must fight against that behavior.  I was granted the most extravagant grace of all time when Jesus gave up so much to reconcile me to Himself.  How can I not return that long-suffering type of grace to others?  But, in that is a conflict that I struggle to resolve…where does that grace need to be balanced with a responsibility to hold people accountable for poor choices that lead to things that cause relational breakdown between them and me? Jesus didn’t pull accountability off of the table in the way He went about His business. There was a balance of both.  I guess I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to put it together, but I’m trying.  I really am trying.  I believe that counts for something in His economy, and I hope it does in yours if I’ve failed you in this.  Jesus, help me to get it right.

Racism.  I hate it.  I hate everything about it.  Everybody is struggling with it.  You don’t have to admit it, but EVERYONE is.  I wonder if we could actually have civil conversations about its existence if we could simply admit that.  I’m white.  I don’t apologize for being white.  God made me white.  He decided that would be the color of my skin before He created a thing in nothingness.  What I don’t understand is why I am afforded so many perks and privileges in life because of the color of my skin?  How did that get to be such a big deal?  Who decided white was better?  How is any color of skin considered better? More perplexing to me is why anyone would suffer the withholding of perks and privileges to a human being because they AREN’T white?  I believe systemic racism is absolutely real, and I despise it.  I despise all that happened long before I was born that caused it to exist.  It may not look like it did in the past, but it certainly hasn’t disappeared.  I believe current events make that abundantly clear.  I am blessed to know more people of color now than I have at any point of my life. I can tell you that I longed for that as a kid.  I’ve reached a place where it is my great desire to understand….to understand how they feel and how they’ve been impacted by this societal epidemic.  I can’t identify.  I wouldn’t even try.  But, I want to be a part of the solution.  I want the Church to be a part of the solution!  I want to start a journey that culminates in the end of this thing even if it’s long after I’m gone.  I just want it to not be! I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

I mourn the loss of David Bowie.  Glenn Frey, too.  I didn’t personally know either of them, but I knew them in another way.  I knew them through “Let’s Dance,” “China Girl,” “Fame,” “Take It Easy,” “Smuggler’s Blues,” and so many more.  They were a part of my life’s soundtrack and always will be.  Their absence leaves a void in the creative universe that I’m sure will never be replaced.  Why do I say that?  It’s not because they aren’t artists out there who could pick up the reins and continue to innovate and create in amazing ways; it’s because most if not the majority of those artists will never be heard on a meaningful scale commensurate with their talent.  They are out there, but they are forced to operate in anonymity, because the music industry doesn’t want to do the work of creating new legacy artists that will shape the landscape in unforetold ways.  They just want the next cookie-cutter hit single and the money that comes with it.  What will we do when we lose other irreplaceable names that I dare not mention here in light of the swiftness with which we’re losing them right now?  I implore you, if you read this, to dig deep and find the treasure and substance that exists in music today that you don’t hear at all the “popular” outlets.  Secular and spiritual, new and old….there is so much AMAZING stuff out there if you’re willing to seek it out.  If you don’t find them, they’ll disappear and that would be an absolute travesty.  Fight for great music!  It’s worth it.

Well, that feels better.  Like my friend, Doug Messer, always says, “…just something to think about.”

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It’s Not What You Think

Three years ago Jefferson Bethke took the world by storm with his YouTube video “Why I Love Jesus But Hate Religion,” and it has now been viewed in excess of thirty million times.  I was immediately fascinated with his voice.  Not the sound of his voice, mind you, but the things he had to say.  He put into words what so many of us who call ourselves Christian had been trying to say for a very long time.  He followed that up a little over a year later with his first book, “Jesus > Religion,” a book I was lucky enough to help launch.  It took a compelling conversation further, and I still highly recommend it to many as a must read about how Jesus truly is a game-changer who forever changed what church and religion were supposed to be about.

Today, I get the honor of sharing my thoughts with you on his second book, “It’s Not What You Think.”  This time around, Jefferson takes on the thought that following Jesus is about more than just going to Heaven when you die.  As a lifelong church-goer, I have to admit that up until recent years, I looked at being saved through that very lens.  It was, to put it plainly, fire insurance.  I just didn’t want to go to hell.  What I’ve come to understand in the past few years is that missing hell isn’t even almost the point, it’s just a fringe benefit.  Being saved is a jump-off to the real deal behind what Jesus did, KNOWING Him.  It’s about relationship, and that truth changes the colors on everything tied to what it means to follow Jesus.  Actually, it changes the colors of everything in your world.

It’s with that in mind that this book takes you on a journey with the intention of leading you to a whole new place concerning nine areas of life that are impacted by your faith in Christ.  Bethke intends to “flip the script” on what you thought you always knew about yourself, the people around you, worship, brokenness, and more transforming black and white thought processes into new paintings rich and vibrant with color.  Two dimensional thinking is thrown out the door in favor of seeing concepts in high-definition giving them new life and meaning.  It’s another step in taking the reader from looking at Jesus as an add-on to a living Savior that desires to impact your life and make it FULL!  Jesus intends not to just deliver you from punishment; he intends to give you a life fraught with meaning.  Everything and everyone has purpose in Jesus’ economy, and Jefferson doesn’t want you to miss what that means for you.

With such deep, rich subject matter, it would be easy to get bogged down in “church speak” losing the reader or even confusing them.  The great news is that Bethke goes to great lengths to make every concept understandable to any reader who might decide to take a chance on the book.  He also shares many personal stories which give practical application to what he is saying and also give you a glimpse into who he really is.  You’ll leave feeling like you were able to sit down across from Jefferson and have a quiet, personal conversation; you feel like you know him and the Jesus he talks about better for having spent the time.

So, I highly recommend that you take a trip to your favorite bookstore or online retailer and pick up this book.  If you would like to explore further, you can go to http://www.itsnotwhatyouthink.tv and pick up a free chapter to take for a test drive.  You also have the option to order from there as well as learn more about Jefferson and others thoughts on his writing.

My advice to you is to take the plunge and give it a try.  Once you do, spread the word!  Tell your friends and family about “It’s Not What You Think.”  And, if you’re willing, drop back by this blog and leave your comments about the book.  I’d love to hear about your experience.

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If

The word “if” is powerful.  It is all bound up in cause and effect; it is tied to the idea of possibilities.  It can also be tied to a word that none of us particularly like to use:  regret.  Every day is full of the opportunity for accomplishment and the chance to make a difference in your world whether it be in a personal fashion or a very public forum.  The key is what will you do with these “if” possibilities.  You may be one decision away from a completely different life.

Mark Batterson has written an entire book all about “if.”  It’s quite a journey full of stories of not only his experience with “if,” but also those of others that he has shared life with.  He breaks things down into “if only,” “as if,” & “what if.”  The entire book is a study in Romans 8, and it breaks down that chapter verse-by-verse showing you the journey from eschewing needless regrets to living in the fullness of the promises of God.  This allows you to live a “no ifs, ands, or buts about it” life of boldness and certainty free in a wide open existence of faith and confidence alongside the God who made you to have that kind of abundant life.

As I stated earlier, the book is broken down verse-by-verse in short corresponding chapters for each.  This makes it easy to consume, because you can choose to go in chunks or you can digest one chapter at a time and chew on it until you’re ready to move on.  The reader doesn’t need to be overwhelmed at any time by the content, and, coupled with Mark’s unique and upbeat writing style, make for great enjoyment each time you choose to engage its pages.  He works hard to make each concept as easy to grasp as possible with timely illustrations and stories designed to drive each point home and make it memorable.

Romans 8 is considered by many to be the greatest chapter in the Bible.  It lays out the great turning point in our existence when we understand who we actually are relative to Jesus when we surrender our lives to Him, and He begins to transform everything about us.  It screams of freedom, and I’m thrilled with Mark’s choice to break it down and make it real to all of us who take the time to read this book.

So, please head out to your favorite book retailer or head over to IFbook.com to pick up a copy today.  Don’t miss out on these inspiring and life-giving words; take the journey and find all that is available to you through Jesus today!

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‘Til Death…

“…To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part…”

I don’t know if my heart has been as heavy in a very long time as it has been for the past few weeks.  Marriages have been disintegrating in our world at a frightening pace for decades now, but it’s different when it begins to touch the people nearest you.  Divorce is such a hateful word.  A word that describes the process of destroying a home should be seen that way.  It gets thrown around so casually that it doesn’t cause any emotion within most of us, and I, for one, think that’s so very sad.  How could we become desensitized to such a painful thing?  What’s happened to us?

I could spring right into a lengthy diatribe with Scripture references about how God feels about marriage and how heinous it is in His eyes to see someone divorce, but I won’t.  If I did, it wouldn’t even register as a blip on the radar to anyone who takes time to look at this post.  Truthfully, a great many people wouldn’t go any further, and I would’ve never gotten to speak into their lives on any level.  People are pretty sick of that kind of thing from pastors and church people anyway, so I’m just going to “not” if it’s all the same to you.

I married my beautiful bride 17 years ago as of September 26 of this year.  I dated her for 5 years before that, so on December 5 we will have been in each others lives for 22 years.  People, that’s a long time; in today’s world that’s an eternity. Sadly, I know some who’ve been together far longer that decided it wasn’t worth it anymore and have ended their marriage.  There is no safety in a number….just a lot more that is lost when two people decide it isn’t worth it anymore.  Neither of us would presume to tell you that we have figured out the secret to staying together.  You know why?  Because there is no secret.  There isn’t magic to be recaptured or feelings to be rekindled.  There’s only two people who made a decision a long time ago that there would be no bailing….no running….no trap door if things got tough.  We knew that when we placed those rings on each others fingers that it would be forever, because there simply wasn’t another option.  We didn’t WANT another option!  We came with no other intention but to stay.

I told you that there is no secret, and I stand by that.  What there is is a truth:  the couple who chases after Jesus together stays together.  The couple who surrenders all of themselves to Jesus rather than to the whims of emotion will endure.  If you expect to feel the same way you did the day you got married at the end of year 17, you will wonder what in the world you did this for?  Emotions are a fickle beast and they will fail and desert you.  Nothing of lasting value was ever built on them.  You need a much surer foundation, and the Rock of Ages is the surest you’ll find.  It’s an enduring and growing love for Him and from Him that gives us the ability to have a growing and enduring love for each other.  I tell you with the greatest of confidence that it is the ONLY way to have that kind of love.

I often sit in my living room or in a restaurant and look at my wife when she isn’t paying attention.  I am amazed that I get to be with her.  I can’t imagine how God would trust me with His girl who is of such beauty and substance when I know who I am and how I didn’t value her as I should in the early part of our dating relationship.  I don’t deserve her.  But, I also didn’t deserve to be died for on a cross and be brought out of death and into life.  God shows us so much love and lavishes grace upon grace upon grace on us in spite of our rebellion against Him. He takes us and makes all things new.  All I know is that every moment has been worth it with her…good, bad, awful, beautiful.  I wouldn’t have wanted to do them with anyone else, and I don’t want to do any of the ones to come with anyone else either.  You DECIDE to love ’til death.  We decided, and it’s been all the difference.

If you’re reading this and you’re at the crossroads of decision, please don’t leave. There may be some work ahead, but it will be worth it if you and your spouse grab hold of Jesus and move forward together from this moment on.  Decide.  Decide to stay.  Find everything that God has in store together and show the world something it has long forgotten and needs now more than ever.

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“For The Love”

“I can’t say enough about how real, affirming and challenging this book is. There are so many things here I wish someone would’ve spoken into me years ago. My life as a JESUS-follower…as a person in general would have been so much richer. The fight for grace is necessary, and I’m challenged all the more to wage that war as a result of what Jen has written here!”

I thought I’d start out by giving you the short version of how I feel about Jen Hatmaker’s “For The Love.”  That’s right; I am a man and I read Jen Hatmaker books.  You may be thinking, “aren’t those for women?”  Well, I will admit that females are Jen’s target audience.  She, like Beth Moore, thinks ladies first, but there is no reason to believe that we men can’t gain a great deal by gleaning wisdom from their teaching and words.  In fact, I think we would stand to gain a greater understanding of the women in our lives by taking the time to do so.

So, let’s face it, the women in our world are up against it.  They are judged against what can be a crippling set of standards that have become the basis for deciding whether or not they are a “success.”  These standards are applied to everything from the home to the workplace to the gym and even to the church; the pressure to have it together and to be perfectly in control of everything can be overwhelming.

So, how do you cope?  What is the escape?  Is there an escape to be had?  In this book, Jen responds with a resounding “YES!”  There is hope to be found in the grace of God.  The God who sent His son to die for you offers grace for the daily journey as well.  The blood that saves you from the impossible debt of sin will also save you from the impossible benchmarks that are placed on you, not just by the culture, but by yourself.  Take a deep breath…..grace let’s you off the hook.  Embrace it!

It’s o.k. to be real with yourself, your family, your friends, your neighbors, and even your church folks.  “For The Love” is a call to jettison the image of perfection in favor of relationships and real interaction with the people in our lives.  It’s a call to help each other by admitting that not a single one of us has it all together.  It’s a call to just be plain honest and embrace the imperfections of being a human being and the struggles and stresses that those things cause.  It’s a call to just love each other well, because that’s what all of us need the most in our day-to-day lives.

All of these points are interspersed with lots of fun asides and observations from everyday life and even a few recipes for the get-togethers that she encourages you to have with those closest to you.  It’s a truly fun read and you will thoroughly enjoy every minute you spend in its pages.

So, go give “For The Love” a go!  You can find it at your favorite book retailer or at forthelovebook.com today!

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My Challenge

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:34-35

“Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it.”  Ephesians 4:29 (Amplified Bible)

A little back story for you:  these two blocks of Scripture have been in front of me in some form or the other for a couple of years now.  They are not new revelations to me; they have been pulling into my heart’s driveway and blowing the horn repeatedly.  Why?  Because I have consistently been terrible at carrying them out.  In the past 4 days, they have shown up again.  Only this time, they arrived almost simultaneously.  So, neither is new individually to me, but as a duo, they are coming at me in a fresh and hard-hitting way.

You see, for the first time, I see the unavoidable link between the two.  To be who Jesus wants me to be, I must practice both in order to satisfy the demands of each.  He is calling us to be a people who make a difference in the world, but we cannot do that until we become a people who make a difference inside of our own churches.  We must love each other well in our seats/pews before we can ever hope to make a move in the outside world.  We must stop tearing each other down and speaking so loosely as to make our brothers/sisters stumble to have any hope of loving each other well.

So, here’s what I’m going to do:  I’m setting out to accomplish what God has been calling me to all along.  I’m going to commit to putting into action the second passage, so I can take a step toward the first one.  It isn’t going to be easy, and I’m going to fail on the front end, but I WILL get back up when I do and start again until it becomes an everyday practice in my life.

I challenge all of you who read this to consider the implications of these verses on your life.  Consume them and allow God through His Holy Spirit to make them personal, real, and applicable to you.  Let’s see how far that takes us to being the disciples God has called us to be.

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Through The Eyes Of A Lion

I enjoy a good book!  “Understatement of the year!” says everyone who knows me.  I have been honored to participate in a few book launches over the past few years, and I consider it an honor to be trusted with bringing awareness to an author’s work.  That being said, when I signed on to help launch Pastor Levi Lusko’s new book, I had no idea what I was about to experience.

I became aware of the Lusko’s story on social media some month’s back.  I knew that they had lost a daughter under heartbreaking circumstances, and my heart hurt for them as I’m certain it did in many others.  We didn’t know the Luskos, but the loss of a loved one is something we can all connect with.  Let’s be honest, though, how could most of us possibly comprehend the loss of a child?  And, she was so young….

Fast forward to news of this book, “Through The Eyes Of A Lion.”  It is a brave thing to step out and share the story of the kind of pain Levi and his family must have gone through.  What will this be like?  What direction do you take?  What could possibly motivate you to want to go so public with such a personal matter?

It didn’t take long to find the answers to those questions.  This book is an honest telling of a heart-crushing story.  But, the heart of it is the triumph of coming through and finding purpose in the unthinkable.  It’s about seeing something with a new vision refined through tears of grief.  It’s about learning the lessons taught in the short but potent life of a 5 year old girl that show us adults what the real purpose is in our lives and that we should pursue it with the same ferocity that she displayed in her time here on earth.  This is Lenya’s legacy, and it is awesome!

I’m not here to provide details or to impart all of this book’s wisdom in a blog post.  I’m here to tell you that YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK.  If you know someone who is suffering through an impossible situation riddled with pain, you should put it in their hands.  No book will solve the problem of pain and grief, but I believe this book’s message is one that many have needed to hear; the trouble is that we never knew how to speak it.  The raw honesty on every level is a kind that you cannot share unless you have been there.  It isn’t a book so much as it is a gift to all of us that we can introduce into circumstances that are beyond us.  It is a way to say “I love you” and “I want to help” without trying to say something when you don’t even know where to begin.  It’s an invaluable resource in a circumstance where they are sadly lacking.

“Through The Eyes Of A Lion” offers hope.  Hope…the thing we all need and can’t live without.  It’s a compass for those who have never felt more lost.  It’s “beauty from ashes.”  Thank you, Lusko family, for allowing us access that none of us deserve, because others needed to hear a story that only you could tell.  Lenya, if you somehow get to see this little blog, I want to thank you for challenging me.  You are making a difference in countless lives….thanks for your roar!

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Will You?

If all the posts I planned to write actually made their way to this page, I would be the most prolific blogger in history.  But, I stop more than I finish.  I can’t write what my conscience considers “fluff.”  I want my words to have substance; I want them to be genuine.  I definitely don’t want them to be rehearsed.

So, I just finished reading a pre-release copy of Levi Lusko’s “Through The Eyes Of A Lion.”  I’ll write much more about it later, but, in summary, the point behind the work is that you have a purpose and every moment of your life should be devoted to that purpose.  It’s just one of the things that has me doing some soul-searching.

In my daily time with Oswald Chambers today, he wrote that I could actually speak so well that it could get in the way of people hearing from the Holy Spirit.  He said that I could be a distraction by being good at what I do.  I’d never thought of that before.  I felt like I could be a hindrance to Him being able to speak through me, but I never considered the possibility of “excellence” in my economy being an excuse for someone else to miss the point.  So, although this isn’t a sermon, if you really like the way that I have with words, please ignore the writer and hear what’s written.  SEE what’s coming from my heart, because I believe that even here Jesus desires to speak through me.  All of our words are important; none of them are designed to be “throw away.”  I want to say something REAL when I write, and I want it to be a means to cause you to think and maybe be changed not by my writing but by what the Holy Spirit wants to say to you through it.

My heart has been especially heavy since the first couple of days of our first summer camp back in early June.  It was the day that the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision that wasn’t unexpected at all.  But, when I read the news on my iPhone during a break in the action, I couldn’t help but feel like something shifted that day.  It seemed clear to me that society changed course and was set on a path that she would never come back from.  The majority of people would probably tell you that it was a good thing, that it had been a long time coming, that it was progress.  I am certain that isn’t the case.  In my spirit, I felt for this first time the clear recognition that we were heading for our end.

It wasn’t just about that issue.  I had been watching the racial tensions in our nation explode for months listening to people try to explain it away.  People trying to deny that systemic racism still exists in our country.  People saying that blacks need to let bygones be bygones like they could even understand the depth of the generational scars handed down by the heinous behavior of our ancestors both historic and even contemporary.  A camper from our 2014 season was on the run with a convicted sex offender which indicated that there was something she was trying to escape from in the first place that would lead her to leave with a man she didn’t even know that was more than twice her age.  Jesus followers on the other side of the world were losing their lives, heads being separated from their bodies, by people spewing such hatred that it makes me cringe still just thinking about it.  It had been a rough year, and it rose to a crescendo that day.  I knew that in America something had been lost.

I can honestly say that I’ve heard that the end is near all of my life.  I’m 43 years old, and I was hearing it 30 plus years ago as an elementary school student.  We’ve lamented the state of the world for the whole of my existence, and, if I’m to be honest, I’d become desensitized to it.  So, I’ve soldiered on thinking there is probably a lot more existence out there beyond me than I’ll see.  I believe that God’s still got plans, but the fruition of them will likely happen long after I’m gone.  I’d settled on being in at the ground floor, but I’d never truly believed I would see the conclusion of anything.  I’ll celebrate in Heaven when those who will be here to see it meet up with me up there long after I’m gone.

Over the past few weeks, a change has taken place inside of me.  I’ve steadfastly stated for a few years now that I believe there will be a supernatural awakening in our country before Jesus returns to bring all things to conclusion.  I’ve said it with conviction.  I can’t find it anywhere in myself to believe that God is finished here.  But, I fear that I actually convinced myself that I would have a minimal role in that event.  I decided that I was just a part of the workforce laying some sort of foundation that others would build on, and I wouldn’t actually be a part of the “real action.”  I’ve decided that I was wrong.

I’ve decided that I will ask the questions and sound the call.  “Why not here?”  “Why not now?”  “Why not us?”  “Why can’t we be at ground zero for the next great awakening that brings Jesus back to center of our country and culture?”  I WANT to be in the action!  But, I now know that it will not look like what most of the people in American churches have in mind.  We aren’t going to change anything by being “for something” or “against something.”  I’m pretty sick of the church being defined by those phrases.  It was never meant to be that way.

There is no leader, parliament, or court that can legislate the things of God.  I’ve read numerous writings in the past few weeks from people much smarter than me who have said, in essence, nothing has changed.  Society has decided they aren’t going to go along with God’s way of doing things, but it hasn’t changed a thing He set as true from before the foundations of time.  So, let’s stop expending ridiculous amounts of energy trying to get things back to the way they used to be.  Scripture tells us that’s not going to happen.  It’s time for the Church to play the hand it has been dealt with the only culture changing tool it has:  love.

Jesus states clearly in John 13 that if we’re going to be identified as His disciples it will be based on how we love.  Moreover, it won’t be just how we love them, but how we love each other.  You see, the hardest part of the past few weeks for me is the cracks that have been exposed inside of the Church.  The truth is that there are clear dividing lines between us.  We don’t agree on basic Biblical principles, so we go to war with each other which makes everyone on the outside wonder why they should even listen to us.  We must stand firm on the truth, but we have to stop taking each other into the coliseum to throw ourselves to the lions.  If you know Christians who are absolutely wrong in their stance on an issue, agree to disagree and love them well. It’s God’s job to bring them to a proper understanding of Scripture….not you.  Let’s calm the noise within, so we can make a difference without.

And, about those outside of the walls, love them no matter how far “off the reservation” they may be.  Welcome the opportunity to know them and be a part of their lives.  We rub shoulders everyday with people who don’t know Jesus, and if we want them to even entertain the notion of Him, we have to display Him in the way He always wanted us to with love and compassion.  Nobody ever compromised the truth by loving someone and caring about what they were going through.  Love them well, spend time with them, KNOW them.  It’s the only way you’re ever going to be a difference maker in their live

People need Jesus.  Time is short.  He’s chosen us to help Him reach them.  Awakening is coming.  I’ve chosen to participate….will you?

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Starting Over

Starting over.  No, it has nothing to do with writing again for the first time in over a year although it could certainly apply.  I’ve been thinking through the events of the past couple of months, and I realized that “starting over” is the most applicable phrase that I can come up with for where I am right now in this new season of following God.  These circumstances are directly tied to the house I serve in here in Rogersville; the truth is that Hope Community Church, in a sense, is “starting over,” too.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence.  We celebrated our 10th. anniversary as a church last year….a decade of ridiculous happenings that can only be credited to God.  We couldn’t give the credit to anyone or anything else.  It would be preposterous to think that anyone but Him could pull off the things we’ve seen!  I believe that when we were celebrating 10 years, God was saying, “You haven’t seen anything yet!”  And, He then set out to take us on a journey that, to date, will require more faith in Him than we have ever had to exhibit before.  After all, how would He get the credit He deserves if what He asked from us was easy?  God is completely into His glory, and He’s ready to show it to us in a whole new way in the dawn of our second decade.

I think that a cold, hard fact about people is this:  we like comfort.  No, we LOVE comfort.  We settle into what we enjoy and know especially if we’re in what we perceive to be a good place….a successful place.  As followers of Jesus, we do the same thing.  I think about the Israelites after Moses led them out of Egypt; after years of slavery, when the thing they were doing became, in their minds, difficult, they reverted to wanting the “comfort” of being back in Egypt where they were “fed and cared for.”  What?!?!?!  That was a lousy circumstance, and they would have willingly returned to escape something they deemed hard and uncomfortable.  In chapter 43 of Isaiah, the Israelites are actually being reminded of some of the very circumstances where God led them out of Egypt i.e. the parting of a sea and the destruction of their pursuers, but God drops a shift of gears into the mix.  Isaiah speaks these words by inspiration of Him saying, “But forget all that–it is nothing compared to what I’m going to do.  For I am about to do something new.  See, I have already begun!  Do you not see it?  I will make a pathway through the wilderness.  I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”  Think of it!  God saying yes, I have done some pretty phenomenal things, but I still have more up my sleeve.  I have new things in store.  I’m certain God has now spoken the same thing over me….over our church, and you know what?  I…AM…BEYOND…EXCITED!!!!  Here’s the kicker:  I don’t even know what all this new thing entails!  I don’t know how it ends!  I just know that I am moving in faith on a level higher than any I’ve ever had to operate in before.  But, isn’t this the adventure of walking His trail?  Isn’t this what pleases Him?  Yes, it is!  Scripture tells us that without faith it is impossible to please Him.  I choose to believe that this means the higher the level of faith exhibited, the more joy and honor it brings Him.  The more He is honored and we draw near to Him, the more He will honor that faith.  Why?  Simple!  Because it brings Him more glory!  And, did I mention, that He is all about His glory?  We win, but more importantly, He wins!  The world sees Him operating in supernatural ways, and they must acknowledge that such things can only be attributed to God.

I’ll write more about all of this in the coming days.  Many of you will already know the whole story, but many won’t, and I want to chronicle this amazing journey we’re on.  For now, will you pray with me for all of us as we move in what’s next?  We don’t know what to expect, and we’re more than a little nervous, but we stand on the Rock, so steady footing is only a remembrance away.  Trouble is that can be a pretty hard thing to recall when we’re scared or uncomfortable….sometimes it requires us to believe Him for what we can’t see, and that’s not easy for people like me.  But, if I’ve learned one thing in recent years, it is this:  I’m always in the best place I can be when God pushes me out into the unknown.  It’s there that He has me right where He wants me!

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