"If it were all God, it would have been a whole lot better."
We are truly in dark times right now. This I understand and am not naive to. But alas there are some ways I do not find myself reacting with the larger population when I see the realities of our world playing out. There are a couple things I keep hold of in my heart and mind. 1. I do not place my faith, trust, or confidence (or lack thereof) in what I see on the news or in the world. 2. I have to clamor for more of the important dependence of life instead of living in fear of what I see outside.
First, truth is not anchored in my feelings or my circumstances. I believe truth is anchored in God's Word, and I will align all my confidence there. The Christian life is one of faith lead by Scripture (Jn. 15:7). In all parts of life it is critical that I have the Word of God and always ask, "God, what are YOU saying?" My ears need to be far more in tune to His voice than to the world around us (Ps. 28:1-2, 7). I am not moved by what I see, I am moved by what God says (2 Cor. 5:7). So is it does not matter what I see on the news; I do not pray what I see on the news, I pray what God says.
Secondly, a German philosopher said, "the more a man has in his own heart the less he will require from the outside; excessive need for support from without is proof of the bankruptcy of the inner man." In times that are truly dark, I am more frustrated by own and others' dependency on what they see outside themselves. My level of worry reveals the emptiness of my heart; it reveals how little I trust God. AW Tozer wrote, "Is it not a strange thing that in an hour when mature saints are so desperately needed vast numbers of believers should revert to spiritual childhood...?" We are in a dark time, yes, but I fear more for the faint of heart Christians with eyes dimmed.
We have come to be affected far more by what we see around us, and this is because we have not spent inordinately more time taking care of our inner lives. We ought to be clamoring to hear from God far more than we hear from FOXNews and facebook posts.
We cannot, and I do not propose here, we avoid reality by sticking our heads in the sand like an ostrich, but we also cannot run around like another bird with its head cut off. As my pastor, Banning said, "We are so impressed by darkness, we have all the statistics about it. My prayer life is not based on statistics."
Today my heart and mind are tired and weary from waiting. I am worn out from hoping and longing. Yet I must continue. These are my feelings, but my feelings do not determine my faith and confidence in God. While I am weary and tired, I have to maintain desire for more of Christ. I have to continue to desire for God's action and presence. If I cannot do this, I am utterly lost.
When my desire to pray is lacking, I have to pray for the desire to pray. If God gives desire to the human heart, and He gives if we ask according to His will, then I have to ask for more desire in the dry and weary places.
E.M. Bounds wrote, "Prayer is the oral expression of desire...the deeper the desire, the stronger the prayer. Without desire, prayer is meaningless mumble of words."
When that desire runs out, I have to pray and ask for more. I never fully arrive, and I certainly need more and more of Christ in my understanding, my looking, my speaking, my thinking.
Several years ago I quit making resolutions or new years goals. I accepted, then, a challenge to choose only a word for the year. "One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live or what you want to achieve by the end of 2015. One word that you can focus on every day, all year long. It will take hard work, and will require intentionality and commitment. But if you let it, your word will shape you and your year. It will guide your decisions and help you grow.”
This year my word is: PRAYER.
While I would say I am a man of God's Word, I want to be more of a man of prayer. Prayer is not an element of my relationship with God, it IS my relationship with God. I have to realize my relationship is dependent upon communication and time together.
If I wrote my autobiography, someone could read it inside and out, over and over again. They could highlight important parts about my story and things that mater a great deal to me. But that person does not know me. That person and I have no relationship. We have never sat and spoken together.
Much like this, I can study God's Word inside and out, over and over again. I can highlight important parts and dedicate years and whole college degrees to studying things very important to God. But I could do all of this and still not know God. I do not have a relationship. I have not sat and spoken with Him.
I am a man of God's Word and a man after God's heart, but I want to be MORE of a man of prayer than I have been before. I want to be more of a man of prayer at the end of 2015 than I am right now. I want to know Him more intimately. I want to be terribly close to His heart, and that will only come as we sit and speak together with more intentionality and frequency.
Once I come face to face with the real gospel of Jesus, it will well up within me either of great appreciation or joy or a rebellion and resentment. Many of us, particularly many Americans, resent a vital part of the gospel, namely the giftedness of it. Once many are face to face with the fact they have to accept a gift rather than give and give and give of their earning efforts, we are resentful of the gospel.
The gospel makes clear we are "justified as a GIFT by His GRACE through the redemption which is in Jesus Christ" (Rom. 3:24). Oswald Chambers writes, "We cannot earn or win anything from God; we must either receive it as a gift or do without it."
Here is a stark challenge to the way many of us try to understand the gospel. If you are not receiving it as a gift and trying to work for it with all your own efforts, you are missing it. If you are trying to work and earn God's love, you are choosing to do without it.
It is gift and it is to be received. It does not require your giving or your work. It is selfish pride just as much for me to refuse a gift, because even in that refusal I make way more of myself and less of God.
The Body of Christ has been preached for centuries, but something I do not recall hearing about the body and its parts, which we are, is what happens when they are severed from the body.
The Body of Christ only grows when it is held together. When it is disconnected parts, those parts die and cannot continue forward. Stay close and connected to the gospel and to the Body of Christ.
Over and over again I watch people disconnect themselves from the Body of Christ and attempt to go it alone. With the fervor of Hebrews 10, I say, "DO NOT give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing. " I have told people more times than I care to count: if you attempt to grow and move on your own, you will fail. If we play out the realities of a Body, not only will you fail, your will likely die.
While we realize she does not understand the water Jesus is referring to, there is a strong reflection for me to find myself in reading this story.
She does not know the power and ability Jesus has. She does not look at the circumstance at hand and think anyone could even possibly make this request happen. Jesus makes a request of her, and she is simply showing him the request is literally impossible. She does not yet understand or trust that what Jesus asks of her is actually possible or He would not have asked her to do it. She does not trust that what Jesus asks of her is possible, because of Jesus, to actually be done.
I sit here looking over my life at this time and of the things Jesus has called me to do and pursue in life. I look at my circumstances in life and will almost always wonder how in the world he could expect me to draw from such a deep well without a pail. Life is not exactly conducive to what you are saying, Jesus. Those things are literally impossible.
It is easy enough to think, "I only doubt myself, but not Jesus." But if I am honest, I do not doubt myself. I know what I am capable and incapable of. Suddenly I am stricken with the reality that I do not trust Jesus.
Every once in a while, I come upon an obsession. More often than not, that obsession is a music artist or spoken word artist. For years, my favorite band has been the Counting Crows. While they may remain my all-time favorite, it is possible they are being replaced as my favorite artists. They are being replaced by Beautiful Eulogy. Listen, I realize hip-hop as a genre is not for everyone. There is one radio station here in Sacramento whose entire tagline is "All of todays hits without the rap". (There IS a difference between "rap" and "hip-hop" but that is for another post). Even if you do not especially enjoy hip-hop, you still ought to give Beautiful Eulogy a shot for a few diffferent reasons.
1. Theologically Rich (not watered down truth)
"The beautiful lyrical theology is the driving force of the group's music. They have taken the approach of presenting 'meaty' theological truths and addressing biblical concepts, imploring listeners to join them on the journey of growing in understanding and in love with the one true God." - Christianity Today
2. Talent Rich (not "crappy Christian" art)
An enormous pet peeve is watching Christians create art that is only a crappy carbon copy of the art being produced in the culture outside the faith. As those created in the image of the ultimate creator, those with a relationship with Him ought to be creating great art. Beautiful Eulogy would kill it in the market if they were not speaking such solid theological truth. They are that great at what they do.
3. You don't have to be rich (its free)
All the artists on the Humble Beast label give their albums for free on their website. You can get both of Beautiful Eulogy's albums for free at the website, and while you're there, check into all the other artists. I could affix these same praises to every other artist at Humble Beast.
Below are two great Beautiful Eulogy videos for you to check out:
Release Me From This Snare (most recently released video) [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YggGjJfUONA&w=640&h=360]
Beautiful Eulogy [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gz09EF4obYQ&w=640&h=360]
"But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." John 4:23-24
How often do I truly worship God in spirit and truth? This is the worshiper that God desires, and I wonder on a daily or weekly Sunday basis if I truly worship God in the fashion He seeks from me.
I may, if I am really on my game some days, worship God with my mind as I think about the things of God and this by no means is non-worship, but can I say I have engaged my spirit in moments of worship?
Have I allowed the very heart and core of myself be engaged to and with my worship? Have I been able to lay aside distraction and noise for even an hour on Sunday or a few minutes throughout the week for worship so that my spirit might fully engage with God, who is spirit?
Before I ever sit, stand, or arrive for worship have I prepared my heart, spirit, and will for worship? Can I pray beforehand with John Baillie, "God, grant me, I pray you, a clearer vision of your truth, a greater faith in your power, and a more confident assurance of your love."
What then of worshiping in truth? Can I say I have worshiped God in truth? When I worship God on a daily or weekly Sunday basis, do I do so in alētheia (truth), more than a factuality, but in sincerity? More than fact-checking the words I say, but can I say my heart is sincere in its worship?
I desire to be the sort of worshiper God seeks. That an all-knowing God must seek anything makes the thing he seeks truly hard to find. [Tweet That]
God, may you seek and find a sincere worshiper in me. May I worship you in spirit and not only in mind or empty words. May I not wait until Sunday but know that today and with my whole life I am to give you honor and praise from my spirit to yours with sincerity and honest desire.
"Let me know that you hear me. Let me know your touch Let me know that you love me. Let that be enough."*
I listened to the song and prayed it sincerely almost 5 times on repeat from my home to the church. I sat in the parking lot, BEFORE church already preparing my heart in honesty with a basic cry, "God, please let me know that you hear me. I don't ask you to solve my problems, my anxieties or my fears. I merely pray that you let me know that you hear me."
There are times we thirst for and grow parch for lack of God's presence.
I remember worshiping and singing to a God I knew loved me, but whom I had needed to just BE with. I remember standing to worship again and choosing to only mouth the words and let them really speak and scream from my heart,
"You're all I want... You're all I need..."
* Let That Be Enough by Switchfoot