BE MADE NEW

So tonight I realized something about a real relationship with Jesus. It sounds simple, but I would venture to guess in reality is unemployed by the majority of Christians on the planet. Its something that I believe will determine our passion, confidence, attitude, motivations, and effectiveness.  So as i thought about it tonight, this concept is of utmost importance.

This may sound funny, but do you take a shower every day? If so, why? Probably for multiple reasons. Possibly because it’s refreshing, maybe so you don’t stink and embarrass yourself in public, possibly just to clean off dirt or uncleanliness. I would say the majority of people place a high value on showering daily or at least every other day. Tonight God challenged me with this question. Why do you not place the same value on taking a “spiritual shower” as you do on a physical one?  What do I mean by this? Every day that I don’t connect with Jesus I begin to stink more and more like this world. I begin to lose my spiritual bearings and begin to forget who I am in Christ. It’s also when I begin to embarrass myself and Jesus in public because no one really wants to be around me because I am unappealing to those who I come into contact with.

Some people go for their whole life without the kind of spiritual “cleansing” that I am talking about. I have found that way to many times I go for days or even weeks at a time without a powerful connection and quality time with my maker.  I am desperate for something that can purify my waywardness and wandering heart. That can lock me in to consistency in this area. I don’t want to be known as “that guy” who thinks he is ok, but in reality needs a shower and deodorant badly. No wonder why I sometimes fail to bear fruit, its because I am not starting each day by taking a “spiritual shower” and renewing my commitment to Jesus. Luke 9:23 says this:

23 Then Jesus said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

Romans 12:2 puts it this way

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

My interpretation of this is simple. If you don’t want to conform to be just like the world. Take a spiritual shower every day. It will renew your thinking, your hope, get you back on track, help you remember who you are, give you undeniable confidence as you soak in the truth, and you will have the awareness that you actually smell good to those around you and will know how to distinguish the “stench” of the world and lies around you. Spiritual depth is usually found in the discipline of coming to Jesus with the intention and motivation to grow. It’s time for us to begin to live DEEP lives, and to shower daily! 🙂

Here are a few things that are currently helping me to connect and be cleansed daily: (I’m still figuring things out- feel free to comment with your ideas too)

1. I love to go on prayer walks. Just have one ear listening to worship and the other talking out loud to God about anything and everything on my mind. This is a time where I pray for others, my church, family, friends, it’s also when I pray and ask God for the things I need to be a better follower of Him.

2. I love hot chocolate, coffee, or other hot drink that helps relax me and calm my nerves. This helps me to focus on connecting with Jesus.

3. I love listening to worship music and singing songs out at the top of my lungs. Whether this is playing piano or guitar or just going acapella style it doesn’t matter.

4. I love to talk about Jesus with my friends or strangers, it energizes me and get’s me excited about what God is going in the world and the story of my life.

5.  I love to create, write, journal, blog, and let my feelings out. This helps me to remember who I am in Christ and encourages me later on.

6.  I love to serve others. This can be a powerful way to connect with God. Whether its the homeless, at home, church or any other place that there are people in need.

7. I love to read, learn and grow in leadership and character. This happens by reading the bible, great books from pastors, great minds, and influential leaders.

I guess you could say that the things listed above are what helps me daily to remember who I am and to BE MADE NEW.

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Someone worth losing everything for

David Platt writes in his book Radical this statement:

This is the unavoidable conclusion of Matthew chapter 10. To everyone wanting a safe, untroubled, comfortable life free from danger, stay away from Jesus. The danger in our lives will always increase in proportion to the depth of our relationship with Christ.

Maybe this is why we sit back and settle for a casual relationship with Christ and routine religion in the church. It is safe there, and the world likes us there. The world likes us when we are pursuing everything they are pursuing, even if we do put a Christian label on it. As long as Christianity looks like the American Dream we will have few problems in this world.

Ouch, that cuts deep into the deepest views of our faith and convicts me to the core. We have bought into a view of Christianity that is tame, safe, and ineffective in doing much of eternal value. In living this out we have also been handcuffed to the ineffectiveness it invites us into. We wonder why people aren’t coming to Christ and there is so much need in our world, maybe its because our view of what it means to be a Christian is tainted to it’s very roots. That includes me, i limit risk every day. I hesitate when I know things could get dangerous or complicate my life. I believe its because i still haven’t finished the process of truly dying to myself so that Christ can live fully in me. When this process is complete in us, fear will be ripped away and nothing will be able to stop us because the fear of death, persecution, or trouble will have died in the truth of the apostle’s Paul’s words. “To live is Christ and to die is gain” The only way this brings us hope is if we have already died to Christ, and we are so focused on an eternal God that temporal human beings strike no fear in us. Wow! Imagine the powerful lives we could live if we just gave everything to pursue dying to ourselves. That gets me excited!

My guess is that the majority of us would characterize our faith as fairly “comfortable”. When was the last time that we felt a little unsafe or insecure in our pursuit of the people that God loves. When was the last time we have seen our faith become dangerous to the kingdom of hell? What was the last risk we took that freaked us out to even consider pursuing? This is what we are called to as Christ followers and is a life worth risking everything for. Dangerous sounds exciting in some ways until it is equated with:

  • Selling your house in the suburbs and moving into a poor neighborhood
  • Going into an area known as hostile to Christians and sharing your faith. (this could be a workplace, school, or even your own home)
  • Giving large amounts of your time or money to people who need it
  • Giving up months or years of your life to do missions work throughout the world
  • Speaking up to defend your faith when others are silent
  • Changing jobs or career paths in order to reach people more effectively for Christ.
  • Being alone by breaking up with a person who isn’t right for you in order to follow the call that God has on your life and hear from Him.
  • Giving up addictions to pornography, lust and selfishness by doing whatever is necessary to cut them out of your life.
  • Standing firm when others ridicule, attack, and treat you unfairly for the stands you take for Jesus.
  • Digging in deep in studying the Bible, spending genuine and quality time in prayer, fasting, and communication with God and being shaped by it.

Platt goes on to write “But if we identify with Christ, we will lose much in this world.” Are we ready to lose much of what we at time’s have felt entitled to in this world, in order to see the true work of God in our generation. I pray the answer for us is yes Lord, send me.

Humility

I feel like I just had a moment of clarity. I guess they come and go. I have been extremely humbled recently in my realization that at my core, without Christ, I am nothing. So many times I have begun to believe that I am something special on my own, that I can stand alone outside of Jesus and be good enough, wise enough, loving enough, spiritual enough. That I can rely on my history, or my upbringing, or education, or experiences to “float my boat” and it will be enough to impact this world. I am wrong, so so wrong in my reliance on myself and the good in my past. I feel like God just said to me, if you want to follow me and move in power you must learn to be humble. That means that if you and I are not in a place where we are broken and unquestionably surrendered to Jesus knowing we can’t breathe another breath without Him, then we aren’t there yet. I felt like his voice was saying if you aren’t humble yet- do something that will humble you. Fail at something, put yourself out there for my glory, take a risk, take a chance, do something hard that there is a good chance you will fail at. Do it daily. Keep doing it for the rest of your life. Live in utter dependance on me. Do it so that you will never forget that in order to succeed in the kingdom of God you must first know and be comfortable in a place of the unknown. That’s when you will begin to see His kingdom come. So that can be a challenge to myself more than anyone. I believe we have become so comfortable in our American Christianity that we have lost the desire to move towards humility because we have bought into an idea that we don’t really need it. It has become a “nice thing” but not a necessity. True humility requires a daily sacrifice, it means living by Galatians 2:20 and going to that place in our own life at least daily, for some of us like me… possibly more than that.

Galatians 2:20 Says:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live. But the life I do live I live by faith in the Son of God who not only loves me, but gave Himself for me.”

Here are a few questions I am currently considering:

1. What places, situations, and dependencies can i place myself in that will humble me? I mean REALLY humble me.

2. How can I make humility a habit?

3. How can i learn to pray scary prayers and not be afraid of humility. “Lord wreck my plans” “Father take the parts of me away that are unpleasing to you” “God break my addictions” “I submit to your will for my life Jesus” “Lord where you lead me, no matter what, I will follow”

These are the prayers that we don’t really want to pray and sometimes don’t really even want answered that we need to pray and we need answered to be a humble person. These are the people our God uses. God help us to run your race well, take the broken pieces and form your artwork out of us.

blessed are the desparate

So I love to give my life away. It has truly become my reason for existence. The past few years of my life I have been very involved in ministry in the inner-city of Columbus and have truly been drawn to the broken, restless, convicted, helpless, downtrodden, empty people of the streets of Columbus. I truly have realized so much more about what it means to be a Christ-follower in my experiences serving and loving the least of these. This may seem overboard, but I truly believe that You and I will never understand God’s heart until we learn to serve the poor. In all reality, we ARE the poor whether we have been given the grace to realize it, we are in constant and desperate need of help. When we start to view the world as though we have all that we need, we immediately begin to trust in our abilities and soon afterwards take our eyes of Jesus. I have done it way too many times to count. Its why Jesus talks about the rich having such a hard time finding the kingdom, its because our laptop, Ipod, Iphone, car, boyfriend/girlfriend, Tv, (you fill in the blank) Is taking up to much of our attention and excelling at blocking our view of personal mission and more importantly ability to see and experience the love of God.  I would not trade my adventures behind closed buildings, in parking lots, food pantries, and tent communities for anything. I grew up in middle class suburbs around the rich and privileged of Columbus and have regretted the thought that I spent so much of my life so far removed from what I have found as God’s treasure in the inner-city. Why did i neglect the poor for so long, they are some of the best people I know. I can now say with confidence that I can, and I am doing something about poverty, that I am not neglecting what God has placed minutes from my doorstep. There are prostitutes, drug dealers, convicts, runaway kids, unstable veterans, mentally disabled and average people like you and me that need JESUS and for us to be the hands and feet that reach them. They are craving real relationship, safety, true community, and a powerful move of God to rescue them from their position. I am nothing special and have nothing to offer my friends on the street other than the simple gift of friendship, the Spirit of God within me, love, generosity and quality time together. I don’t think that anyone is disqualified to reach those in need. Neither are you and I, no matter how messed up we are. I have recently started to think….what if these people that we meet outside are actually better off than we are? Isn’t the kingdom of God backwards anyways? The first shall be last….love those who persecute and hate you?

Jesus says “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Phillip Yancey writes  “One commentary translates that ‘Blessed are the desperate.’ With no where to turn, the desperate just may turn to Jesus, the only one who can offer the deliverance they long for. Jesus really believed that a person who is poor in spirit, or mourning, or persecuted, or hungry and thirsty for righteousness has a peculiar ‘advantage’ over the rest of us. Maybe, just maybe, the desperate person will cry to God for help. If so, that person is truly blessed.”

Monika Hellwig lists several advantages to being poor:

  1. The poor know they are in urgent need of redemption.
  2. The poor know not only their dependence on God and on powerful people, but also their interdependence with one another.
  3. The poor rest their security not on things but on people.
  4. The poor have no exaggerated sense of their own importance, and no exaggerated need of privacy.
  5. The poor expect little from competition and much from cooperation.
  6. The poor can distinguish between necessities and luxuries.
  7. The poor can wait, because they have acquired a kind of dogged patience born of acknowledged dependence.
  8. The fears of the poor are more realistic and less exaggerated, because they already know that one can survive great suffering and want.
  9. When the poor have the Gospel preached to them, it sounds like good news and not like a threat or a scolding.
  10. The poor can respond to the call of the Gospel with a certain abandonment and uncomplicated totality because they have so little to lose and are ready for anything.

This draws me to the point of asking Jesus to break me to a point of DESPERATE and GENUINE repentance and dependance on HIM. Without it, we are lost in a lukewarm, half-hearted, and watered down version of our faith. God grant us the ability to see you in the strange and maddening days ahead. Help give us more of your heart for the lost.

Suffering

“Show me any great runner and ask him how he got so strong and so fast and he will tell you that he suffered. Show me any civilization that has become strong or powerful and they will have suffered. Any civilization that makes it their point to avoid suffering is already past their prime. I feel like as a nation we have made it a point to avoid suffering”.- John Foreman.

Our natural instincts are to push back against any situation that causes us to be uncomfortable. It may be because we feel entitled to a life free of pain, suffering, or discomfort. It could be that we are natural infants in our understanding of what the Christian life is all about. It could also be that we just want the mundane, or easy way out.  We have bought into the idea that we deserve to live life free of pain when it is VITAL in defining us for our future. Our pain refines us, it helps sort out our unfaithful hearts and show who we really are. It develops character and understanding and gives us access to the hearts of others who have lived in the same places of brokenness. Pain is essential to growth and becoming the people of God we must become.

Romans 5:3-5

New International Version (NIV)

3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

If your gospel isnt touching others, it simply hasnt touched you. ~ Curry R. Blake

Transparency

Sometimes in leadership I think transparency is one of the hardest things to master. I believe the key in life to clarity in leadership, mission, and personal purity is to consistently put ourselves in situations where we are forced to be candid, real, honest with not only ourselves, but to be able to experience the freedom of letting others see the messiness inside of us so that we are never alone in it. Webster’s dictionary defines the word transparent as the ability for light to shine through a subject as to let whatever is within or behind to be “distinctly seen.” that means for my ability to grow to be realized, I must let my heart be “distinctly seen” by others. Not just seen from a distance, or casually talked about, but brutally thrown into the spotlight for God’s light to be shown through me. This takes great humility that is surely uncommon in our culture. As the bible says “in our weakness HE is STRONG”, I believe the same is true for our transparency. Until we are honest with our sin, shortcomings, and failures, God’s power to heal and restore is placed on hold until we begin to realize our need for it and desire the clarity to live life a different way.