Monday, April 21, 2014

Home Is Here.

Yes, so life has been a little crazy.  It has been full, busy, and exciting as I've adjusted to a new position at work while simultaneously - and finally - settling into my life here in Nashville.  I feel like I have had to grow up a LOT since moving... figuring out all the fun adult stuff, like health and dental insurance, doing taxes for two states, and working through many, many days of missing family and friends back home.  It's funny, actually, when I refer to or think of home, because while California will always hold a special place in my heart (west coast, best coast y'all!), I feel strongly that the Lord is challenging me to think of here as home now.  I mean, I have been living here happily for over six months, and I do not feel much of an urge to move back most days.  Not that I don't miss it, because I really do, but more due to an unshakable confidence that I am exactly where the Lord wants me to be right now, doing what He wants me to do.  Will I be here forever?  I really don't know, but I do feel like Nashville will be home for a good amount of time, which is exciting.

And through all of this adjustment to my new home in Tennessee, God has been immensely gracious with me.  So much more than I really deserve - and ain't that always the truth?  He is so much better to me than I am to Him, so much more loving and devoted and faithful than I have or can reciprocate.  And these days, I am simply thankful for His grace. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Just No.

Y'all.  I came across this article yesterday on Facebook, which initially made me sad.  Sad for Jon Foreman and Switchfoot for having to deal with it, but even more sad for the people who witnessed it and may have not been believers.  Then I proceeded to watch the video at the end, and it literally made me sick to my stomach.  I was (and still am) extremely, righteously angry about the contempt and hate displayed in that video.

Here is what I believe: preaching condemnation and hate does not and will not open up people's hearts to the message of the gospel. If anything, my experience has shown that this kind of behavior repels people from God.  I would never claim to be a Bible scholar, however I am fairly certain that what Jesus asks of His followers is to love others out of our love for Him. 
"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

"Above all, love each other deeply, for love covers over a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." 1 John 4:7-11

Now, does loving others mean accepting or excusing sin?  I don't think so.  But I sure as heck do not believe that real, Christlike love can be acted out in the form of judgment or condemnation (see Matthew 7).  Jesus never condemned those who were living in sin... just think of the woman at the well (John 4).  Rather than yelling at them about their sin or exhausting phrases such as "you will burn in hell,"  Jesus simply spoke to people - to those who were following Him and those who were not - in love and in grace (the only exception I can think of was when He was in the temple in Matthew 21:12).  He acknowledged their sin in a way that they would recognize their brokenness and, ultimately, their need for His mercy and grace.  And as Christians, we are supposed to/called to act like Christ:
"I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." John 13:15

And the saddest thing is, it's not just in this video where that this kind of stuff happens (probably not a surprise).  I recently read another article where it's noted that, while at the Oscars, people representing Christianity were "yelling inaudible sermons and others [are] just shouting...Right before you get to the red carpet, you get of Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Walker saying "BURNING IN HELL" and other despicable things. It's so surreal and hate-filled..."  

Looking back, I realize that even I experienced these kind of scenarios - before I was a Christian - when I was in high school in the Bay Area, California (which, by the way, is a spot in need of serious spiritual revival).  I can remember standing in line at concerts in San Jose and San Francisco, where across the street there were people with picket signs with images of blazing fires and words like "SIN," "HELL," "REPENT," etc. (by the way, their hate-filled words led me to think that the god they proclaimed was also one of hate and condemnation).  Now, while those words do represent true facets of being a follower of Christ, they should not be used as scare tactics or fuel for hateful speeches to "evangelize."  You're likely not going to lead people to the true Christ if they believe you are judgmental, or worse, insane, and that is then a lost opportunity for the Kingdom.  It is a shame.

Let me try to clarify something I believe about the calling on Christians: Set apart?  Yes.  Crazy?  No.  Holy?  Yes.  Condemning?  No.  In the world?  Yes.  Of  the world?  No. (Romans 12:2)

Just no, people.  This is not okay and it breaks my heart.  In my humble opinion, this kind of behavior does not represent Jesus Christ or His love for His people at all.  I wholeheartedly believe that Christ loved me before I understood who He really was (and is), what He had done on the cross, and long before I acknowledged that I was (and still am) a sinner in need of His grace.  Therefore, I think that the same is true for those who do not yet acknowledge and follow Christ. [I realize this sentence could easily become a Calvinist vs. Arminian debate, but let's not get into that here.]  I believe that God loves His creation, even those who are far from Him, and that His desire is for them to turn to Him for ultimate and eternal redemption.

This post is just a thought, a rant, something very heavy on my heart.  I long desperately for people to know and love Jesus Christ, for them to encounter Him in a way that changes their lives dramatically for the sake of the gospel, and I just DO NOT see how this kind of crap can do that. 

Thoughts?  Opinions?  Anyone else want to join me at the 2015 Oscars to share Christ's LOVE with Hollywood?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

In The Gap.

This post has seriously taken me a long time to sit down and pound out.  I have been reflecting and praying about my time at Passion 2014 Atlanta, about the intense moments of worship and the messages that so permeated my heart, and I think that I am finally ready to share with y'all.  Let's start on night one.  Since they did not do community groups this year as the conference was much shorter, on the first night we were encouraged to meet in groups of 5 with people that we didn't come to the conference with (easy for me since I went alone, which is a crazy story by itself) and to spend 15 minutes answering a question and praying for one another.  That question - "What do you want/hope to learn from the Lord here at Passion?" - was a tough one for me to answer.  I just wasn't really sure  what I was hoping for.  But then I remembered my word for the year - pursuit - and I realized that the thing I wanted God to reveal was some clarification on how I should begin pursuing some of the dreams/visions He has put on my heart.  So I shared that in my group, and we all prayed for one another.

Fast forward to day two.  The first speaker of the day was someone I greatly look up to, Francis Chan.  He spoke out of 2 Peter 1:3-9, teaching about the Holy Spirit and the things we can do, in His power, to fully partake in the divine nature that God has given to us.  What was so emphasized was to "make every effort" to supplement our faith... with goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love.  Chan made it clear that through each of those virtues we have a responsibility... we need to be DOING something in order to grow as followers of Christ.
"For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (v.8)
We are never done growing in our character, and growth in who we are leads us closer and closer to our ultimate calling and thus the dreams that God gives to us.  BAM.  I remember thinking, "Shoot Lord, okay.  You are simply wanting me to grow in my faith, my knowledge, my self-control, etc. and in that I trust You will lead me to the places and opportunities that are a part of these visions You've given me."  I realized, through Francis' words, that the Lord was telling me not to strive, or work, or feel like I need to check off a long list of things to do in order to get my dreams going.  Rather, I need to just be in His presence, growing in my faith in and knowledge of who He is, serving those around me where He has placed me, and continuing to pray fervently and expect great opportunities that WILL ultimately bring me exactly where God wants in order to make those dreams and visions into reality.  Making every effort, one step at a time.

After that I thought the Lord had fully answered my prayer.  Wrong, because then out came Christine Caine, the Australian firecracker with a true and vibrant heart for Jesus.  Now I could honestly go on and on about her message, it was that good.  She started with a portable darkroom, inside of which she had all different kinds of cameras: and old-time camera, a polaroid, and an iPhone.  Her point?  Back in the day, to take a photograph required a process.  One would have to go into the darkroom multiple times to do multiple different things before a photograph would actually result.  Nowadays, we take a picture with our phones, upload it to Instagram, and call it a day.  No real process, just an instant photo.  An instant result.

Enter in 1 Samuel 16, the story of David's anointing to become king of Israel, where Christine reminded us of something that we often overlook: David was anointed at age 17, but didn't become king until he was 37.  Y'all, that's a 20 year gap between his anointing and his appointing.  And that was her point.  In the gap between the anointing and the appointing, God put David through a mighty process, making him more and more into who he needed to be through different circumstances in order that he would be ready to best lead the nation of Israel.  In a culture and time when we are so accustomed to the instantaneous [read: we do not do patience well... can I get an amen?] we do not understand the process.  We do not understand the gap.  But, as Christine pointed out, God builds our destiny and our calling over a long process, over time.  It is not instantaneous; there is always a gap between the anointing - the vision, the dream, the clear calling - and the appointing - actually getting to the point of doing it and living it out.  I loved that she said, "the degree to which you are willing to endure the process is the degree to which you will fulfill your calling."  And that process?  It's about getting into the darkroom over and over and over again, each time coming out looking more and more like Jesus.  After all, "greatness isn't measured by what we do, but how much we are like Him!  It doesn't matter if or how many people like you... what matters is getting rid of self."  Embrace the gap, embrace the process, head into the darkroom as many times and for as long as God deems necessary, and then get ready to really live out what God has called you to.

After that I was simply BLOWN away by the Lord's goodness.  He had answered my prayer on a level that I never could have imagined, and I what I learned is that I am in the gap.  I am in that time between my own personal anointing and the time that will be my appointing, and that means I need to be ready and willing to get into the freaking darkroom.  Over, and over, and over until the time when God chooses to appoint me.  And I am so truly excited about the process.  I believe that in this season, however long it may be (which I suspect will be quite a few years), the Lord is going to challenge me to bigger and tougher things, circumstances that I am sure will that test my faith and make me stronger, and that I will hopefully come out of each situation looking and acting more like Christ.  It is also in this season that I know God is beckoning me to make every effort to truly know Him, love Him, and give up my life for His sake.  It's going to be an awesome, undoubtedly challenging process... And I really believe that I am ready.

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For those of you who might be interested in hearing either of these messages from Passion ATL, please send me an email and I would be happy to share a link to the audio.