The Need For Community

The Need For Community

Community isn’t always going to be readily available, but you won’t get through this life without needing it because God hasn’t designed us to function independently of the body of Christ. So if you can’t find a community, create one. Create a solution.

Be Rooted in Family

"that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

– John 17:21-23

Jesus prayed that prayer for us. Let me say that again. Jesus prayed that prayer for us. He asked God to make us one in him. To unite us, so he could use us as a city on a hill, a light in the world of darkness, salt in a life of weak flavor, family in a species of broken relationships.

He prayed that we would be completely one. Other translations read perfectly oneperfected in unity, and brought to complete unity.

But when we look around, we know are clearly not completely unified. Did God decide not to answer his own prayer? If so, surely our prayers our doomed.

Of course not. Through his death and resurrection, Christ provided the answer to his own prayer. There is a constant paradox in the Christian life: the already/not yet. We are already justified in Christ, but not yet sanctified. We already have new life in him, but are not yet resurrected and glorified. We are already one in Christ, but not yet a perfectly unified family.

And we won’t be in this life. Because we’re human. It’s impossible to always be one when our tendency is to make ourselves the only one. But, as with many of the other not yets, God uses the reality of the already to push us toward the not yet. He desires for us to ache and claw and strive to be one, even while we are not yet one. God wants us to act like family, because that's what we are.

So we pray for oneness, for there to be unity in our churches and in the global Church. We pray that He would break down the walls that we've built– cultural differences, theological disputes, bitterness, and preferences. We pray for our eyes to be opened to see the needs, joys, and potential of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

But we don't want to just see our family. We want to engage them with love. We can't be afraid to step out and make amends or to begin a new friendship. We know sometimes we are going to feel alone. We know our efforts can be misinterpreted, ignored, or scoffed at. But our prayer is that God would help us endure, with courage and peace, knowing He is calling us to this oneness, and has already done the work of ultimately binding us together in Him.

Jon Foreman writes, “We struggle better than we salsa. The habit of the fight seems easy to explain: Dominance is easier to achieve than friendship; consumption is easier than love; and objectification is easier than empathy… all too often I’m distracted by the fight: sidelined by the little battles along the way.”

We are so easily distracted; we so often trade the eternal for the temporal. Love isn’t about agreeing with everything someone says. It’s not about a relationship status or mutual friends. Love isn’t a feeling or emotion. It’s a choice, a commitment, a change.

Jesus told us to love the poor, the lost, the sick, and the disenfranchised. But also he said the world is going to know we belong to him because we love one another. That should change everything about how we interact with others in the Church. In Christ, love is the essence of family. The Church is family.

"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

–John 13:35

We get some excellent descriptions of love throughout the Bible. Paul’s now famous lines in 1 Corinthians 13 are a good place to start. Love is patient, kind, doesn’t envy, isn’t selfish or egotistical, rejoices in truth, and more. But that's not all. The pages of Scripture practically leak love. Here are a few other passages that remind us how to love our Family:

"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?"

–1 John 3:16-17

"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

–Romans 12:9-12

"And he said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'"

– Matthew 22:37-28

God is love (1 John 4:7-10). Without His love for us, we wouldn’t have a clue as to what it means to love. But He proved His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We know we fail at loving like He does, but we also know He gives us the inspiration and ability to love. We do love Him, even though we fail. And we want to love one another, even though we fail.

Let us love with abandon, without boundaries or conditions. Let us not just say we love, but let us show love to our brothers and sisters with our actions and our lives. Let us love those in the world, but let us also love one another with a ferocity that makes the world take notice. Let's ask God to teach us to love like He loves-- with the sacrificial, deep, eternal love that He lavishes so freely on us.

 

(Post adapted with permission from related posts on LauraCoulterwrites.com.)

Courage in Calling

“Without your wounds where would your power be? It is your  very sadness that makes your low voice tremble into the

hearts of men. The very angels themselves cannot persuade

the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one

human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service

only the wounded soldiers can serve.”

-Thorton Wilder

Having clarity doesn’t always translate to courage. Clarity is a catalyst for courage-- but we’ll get to that. Courage is a word we throw out often and misrepresent almost as much as we throw it out. Interestingly enough, we can't walk courageously if we don’t know what courage looks like. I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the main reasons we have an inadequate definition and view of courage is because we have an inadequate definition and view of fear.

Fundamentally, we view fear negatively-- and because of that we try to suppress or dismiss it altogether. Suppressing or dismissing fear doesn’t do away with it; it just causes it to be expressed in unhealthy ways. Maybe you’re super controlling and you’ve masked your fear with a desire for predictability. Maybe you’re irritable and you lash out periodically, masking your fear with anger or frustration. Maybe you’re full of anxiety and the past, present, and future drowns out joy and the sweetness of life because you’re tying to prevent past mistakes from invading your present and “ruining” your future. Or maybe the sweetness is drowned out because you’re trying to relive past successes in the present to “ensure” your future.

Dismiss it or suppress it if you want, but it’s coming out in some way or another. Because we don’t deal with our emotions by starting with suppression, we start by embracing that we actually feel the way we feel. Though fear is one of those emotions we view negatively and rush to suppress or dismiss, there is such a thing as healthy fear, and fear has the opportunity to produce faith if we let it and courage is a fruit of faith. We can’t walk courageously in calling unless we embrace there are some things that cause us to be afraid…

Courage…

The most fearful I’ve been in my entire life was 2 years and a half years ago. I was battling depression, wrestling with purpose, trying to figure out what being a good father and husband looked like (not just on paper), and scared out of my mind. That fear came out as sarcasm, withdrawing emotionally from relationships, working harder, and trying to be overly charming so that people wouldn’t notice what was wrong (I know that's hard to believe… me try to be charming…).

Despite all of that, I knew there was a fear that ran deep into my soul. That fear was rooted in my disbelief that God was who he said he was and  that he really cared about my family and me. My heart was fragile and I was afraid I would wake up one day and forsake the God who I proclaimed as King over creation and my soul. I saw the same hands that fashioned galaxies and formed humanity, allowed me to be wounded deeply and I was afraid that they weren’t capable of healing, and that the owner of those hands wasn’t worth giving myself for. If you’ve ever felt or thought along those lines, please know you’re not alone. Before I get into essay/sermon/private journal mode, let me start to land the plane on some thoughts that I think may be beneficial:

1. I had to embrace how I felt and the fear that was present. Embracing it put a face and a name to what was hindering my intimacy in relationships and effectiveness in life. I wasn’t fighting against some secret enemy, I was warring with my soul and the very tangible fear present there.

2. Biblical courage is anchored in the presence of God. God’s presence reminds us of who he is, full of compassion, love, wisdom, purpose, and power! So for me the very person and place I was fearful of was the very person and place I had to run to. There are many verses in the Bible that remind us of the confidence we can find in God's presence, such as:

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you;

Matthew 28:19-20

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

3. God's presence is felt most, through His word (the Bible), through His people (community), His Spirit (in prayer), and His purposes (on mission/serving). Here are a couple of sermon resources that may help: Upside Down and EN-Couraged.

Community is the x-factor, because while all of those environments or conduits of the presence of God seemingly fluctuate with fear, community is the component that depends the least on you. God’s people can come alongside you and help you fight when fear is crippling.

The quote at the beginning of this post was shared with me when fear was ruling.  It reminded me that wounded soldiers fight with dependence on the one who enlisted them, Jesus. Those words spoken to my soul from God’s people invigorated me to run towards God and beg him to be with me---to which He replied and reminded me He never left.

4. Calling is both a journey and a destination. A lot of times we get bogged down in either the destination or the journey, but embracing both dynamics helps us walk courageously. Embracing the destination reminds us that there’s an endgame we can be confident in, one that doesn’t rest on us. Embracing the journey reminds us that there’s a process we work and live in that’s much bigger than us. Both help bring and reinforce clarity.

There’s no courage button that zaps you with emotions and energy to do what you feel called to. Walking courageously is a daily decision and a daily fight but life in a cell wasn’t/isn’t God’s intent.  When calling becomes a cage that traps us in a cycle of work, choosing courage frees us to live purposefully and passionately, knowing the work doesn’t rest on me and the natural fear we all feel isn’t something to be dismissed but a door to have courage lead us to dependence.

My Broken Plate

For our Utopia series, we wanted to invite our community to share their brokenness on plates and break them to symbolize how God takes that brokenness and makes something beautiful.

Here’s what I was going to write on my plate Sunday:

I have a mind that is easily distracted and a heart that easily grows lukewarm and numb.

The general, albeit honest, confession of a mature Christian woman. I watched the film played during service, and I felt for Jackie as she talked about her broken family. But I couldn’t relate. Maybe this is the pride that contributes to my lukewarm heart, but I kind of think we have a utopian family. We’ve weathered the frazzled years with infants and toddlers, the frustrating years with teenagers, and now we have these grown up men with wives and children of their own. And we have healthy relationships with them.

But then I got distracted from my self-satisfaction long enough to hear Jackie say something I realized—like an arrow shot—I could relate to. She spoke of a family that “stigmatized” her. It’s a harsh word, one I’m fairly certain none of our sons would say was inflicted upon them in our home. But there it was, out loud and pointed and very clearly meant for me to hear.

***

We’re personality test kind of people. We, Bill and I, relish the inner-dissection you can perform once you have a viable label to apply to yourself. I’m a High I on the DISC, an ENFP on Meyers-Briggs. But you know how it goes with your kids. You don’t need the tests. You know who they are before they can speak. It’s like they wear a personality profile penciled on their chests that you, the insightful parent, can see more clearly than anyone else. So our Matt was a rebel, David was sneaky, Stephen was driven, and Andrew was a responder. You see what I just did?

These labels represent our children’s strengths, but I’ve given them a subtle negative twist. A weakness is the immature version of a strength. And because children, by definition, are immature, their strengths emerge as weaknesses before they begin to look like strengths.

Early on, I began to identify each of my children’s unique strengths. Soon that became their identity. But it also—because the other side of that strength was an equally unique weakness—became the stigma I attached to them. And because sometimes, to survive, you have to laugh, the stigma became the punch line in our family jokes about each other.  By assigning a stigma to each of our kids, I put them each in a box. Maybe it didn’t have a lid nailed to the top, but still it was a box. A limitation.

I had to write that on my plate Sunday. The plate broke, and right after I flinched at the sound, I went to my seat, lifted my hands, and sang. Free. Whole.

Our youngest may need to hear me confess this to him. He is the only one I fear may still be wounded by the label I’ve placed on him. But he is not limited by it. The other day, when we were discussing one of his interests, he said to me, “I don’t want that to be my identity.” He, like his brothers, is stronger than any box.

Our children have also had the privilege of being loved the way we all need to be loved: by being known. I know they are more than one-dimensional beings. The stigmas are nothing more than their particular flesh patterns. I have mine and they have theirs. And maybe, just maybe, by identifying those and even laughing about them together, we have all learned that brokenness isn’t something to hide.

I don’t know what to do with Sunday’s exercise in worship. As an ENFP, I live my life on the outside, thinking that everything should be shared as openly and verbally and immediately as possible. (Which is why I fired off a blog post about it, of course.) But that is not all I am. I have learned the stillness and quiet of an inside life by spending time with the only One who defies any stigma. My stillness and quiet may not look like yours, especially if you are an introvert, but for me it is a miracle.

Pray for me Blueprint, that I would know what to do with the brokenness I wrote on my plate Sunday. Maybe I need to have a conversation with my sons, although Bill thinks not, and he’s usually right about these things. But maybe all I need to do is remember the sound of breaking and sing along with you as you hear it, too.

This Is No Utopia

A few weeks ago, while closing his sermon, John prayed a prayer that I hope will change our church forever. Tucked inconspicuously in his prayer was this statement: “Father, send us the people no one else wants.” I mean, it sounds good. We are the church, and we should be a refuge for the broken and abandoned in our city. Our doors should be wide open to receive whoever comes, or more so, we should be out in the city trying our hardest to find them.

Since then, I’ve probably heard Dhati quote John’s prayer in every meeting I’ve been in and every time I’ve heard him speak. But I don’t think that it has penetrated his heart because it is a prayer that sounds good to champion. Quite the opposite, actually. I think this prayer hits home so hard, because, quite simply, we are not ready for this.

More than anything, such a prayer brings a lot of conviction. For instance, I’ve always wondered why there are very few, if any, young, single mothers in our church. Perhaps it’s a good thing and points to the uncommon number of strong men and strong families. Perhaps. But, part of me can’t help think it has more to do with the way single mothers would, or wouldn’t, fit into the social circles of our church. Small example, but it breaks my heart nonetheless, and makes me wonder: Are we even the people who would want the people no one else wants? And If God answered that prayer and started sending us the people that no one else wants, what in the world would we do?

I’m convinced that we have a habit of romanticizing everything. We sing songs of the beautiful flowing blood of Jesus. We write bars about being martyred. We hype up community, “getting it in” and “chopping it up”(as the young folks say). Ministry in the city is the sexiest thing happening right now and our favorite rappers are finally getting recognition for being legitimate artists. Life is good. Well, life is good if romantic ideals are good enough for you. And we want them to be good enough. Even in our passion for the city, I think we’ve created a romanticized expectation. It’s as if we mean that by successfully impacting Atlanta, there will be an end to sex trafficking, an end to homelessness, an end to abortion, an end to socio-economic disparity, an end to homosexuality, an end to divorce, an end to rape and molestation, an end to addictions, and an end to pain altogether. But, to be quite honest, our worldview makes no room for such shallow notions of utopia. The vices of our city are going nowhere. At least, not in this life. There is no romance in our mission. There is grace and there is darkness. We live in the paradox. We embrace, as good news, a faith that promises pain and suffering here. But that’s the whole point: This is not my home! This is no utopia. Yes, Jesus promises comfort. Yes, he promises peace and joy. But in those promises, there is the inherent assumption of discomfort, persecution, pain and sadness. Jesus, our hero, will indeed make it all right eventually. But here, now, we live in the thick of the wrong. We hurt. We weep. We are the people that no one else wants! And our call is to join together, constantly reminding one another of the hope we have in Jesus’s return.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

We are beginning a new sermon series this week called utopia and our hope is that God would break our hearts to the point where we are, as a united church, willing to live in eager anticipation of being used to answer John’s prayer: To welcome into the body the people in our city that no one else wants. But that means taking care of some in-house issues and opening our eyes to the deep need for grace in our family right now. We hope that a new spirit of confession and vulnerability would define our community. We pray that we would stand firm in one Spirit, ministering grace amidst the deepest, darkest and most genuine pains of our family. It is our desire that we would strive side by side for this faith we cling to, carrying each other’s burdens. We pray that we would live knee-deep, together, in this beautiful mess we call life. We hope that grace would define everything about us, our current relationships with one another and the new relationships that God brings when He answers our prayer.

Father, give us the people no one else wants!

Show's Over

As John spoke Sunday and encouraged us to stop pretending we have a real, life-giving relationship with God, I smiled. And not because I had invited someone to church that I knew needed to hear that--how often I've missed an opportunity to be challenged myself because of the familiarity of a message. But it was because last week, Iactually stopped pretending. I finally admitted that I often spend more time looking right and saying the right things than actually being transformed. While I may not be living a completely different, secret life, the life I do live is not always truly lived in faith.  I live it because it’s what I know to be right. But there is quite a distance between my brain and my heart. Some would call it discipline and applaud me for doing what I should (reading, praying, sharing). But what good is there in doing the right things for the wrong reasons? And even if my motivation is sometimes obedience to Scripture and not necessarily my heart's desire, that means my reasoning is still not the best.

"God is MOST glorified in us when we are MOST satisfied in Him."

He gets glory from a number of things and people whose heart's intent is not on glorifying Him. Is that all I want to strive for? Default, inadvertent glory? Certainly not.

But what do you do when you are discipling people, working at a church, and doing other things for God, yet realize you haven't truly been delighting in Him? Well, you just keep saying the right things and convince yourself that you are happy in God. Until one day, your tears tell a story you can't wipe away. And you realize all that you do for God comes from a theological reckoning, but if asked, "Do you believe God loves you?" your heart skips a beat. Something so simple to affirm based on Scripture, but a truth that hasn't quite overwhelmed and satisfied your soul. And as a result, has left your love tank in need of constant filling--making people big and God small.

I've tried months of prayer, reading scripture, meditating, social media breaks, etc. but nothing has produced lasting change. So, I decided to stop. In my mind, I decided to quit trying to be a Christian. I gave up. I started asking myself why I did certain things in relation to God, and if I couldn't say it was out of love, faith or delight, then I would no longer do them. (Not advising you to do that, but I was running out of options. And I can be dramatic at times.) I said goodbye to willpower and my perfectionist/athletic mentality that was bent on performing well regardless. And I erased 'I' out of the equation of my "faith" walk, which left me with only the founder of my faith to show Himself strong.

And He did, He has and still is.

He's showing He has me. And all I have is need. Apart from Him I can do nothing. I can do a bunch of nothing!

Did I cry every single day because I felt helpless? Yes. Did I doubt my salvation a few times? Yes. Did I feel numb for a few days with a neutral view of sin? Yes. Did I listen to some spiritual songs and hope that my inner groanings counted as prayer? Yes. Did I have the strength to say more to God than, "Help me," each day? No.

Lessons Learned

I confessed all this to others along the way and asked them to pray for me. And after several days, guess what I found out? God never left me, and He won't. Sure, scripture says that so I could just say it, but I've seen it for myself now.  I didn't lose my salvation last week, because I hadn't won it years ago. I couldn't extract the Spirit from within me, because I wasn't the One who sealed me with it. I realized that so many of my works were being done for me and others but not God. I saw that giving up is hard to do when you really love your self-image. Not only have I thought of God seeing me more impressive because of my works, but I've also wanted to feel more impressive within so that I'd feel more valuable. We all want to be great at something, but salvation and sanctification instead reveal our suckiness and God's greatness. We want to be able to say we did this and that to please God, when God is saying I want you to see that your righteousness is like filthy rags. As I sat in a courtroom the other day and listened to a guy try to plead his case despite the prosecutor already deciding to drop the charges, I couldn't help but get frustrated. Sir, you didn't know something was against the law, it has just been shown to you and you have been extended grace and mercy. Why not just receive it, thankfully? Why are you standing here trying to prove your rightness? Take the gift! It's free! (I screamed within.)

And that's what I too have to swallow. That's what's backwards about the Gospel. I can't do enough right to get a free pass, but I feel like I have to do something. I want to feel right in my own ability to do good. I don't want to feel desperate, helpless and needy. I want to feel deserving. I want to do what God says do and be what He says be and not miss a beat. Yet, as John O. shared, "God's primary concern for man is not compliance, it's conversation." And as John Piper adds, "God doesn't just want decisions made for Him, He wants delight in Him."

No, God doesn't want us to not read His word, pray and share our faith with others. But He wants us to do those things out of a true love for Him and others. Being committed to God is not enough. As Piper so brilliantly and terrifyingly puts it, "Satan has more theological knowledge about God than we ever will. His issue isn't doctrine, it's delight." God wants our affections. He wants a personal relationship with us, and He can handle our ups and downs and days off that come along with that. And He won't take His love back when we mess up. He doesn't want rule-keeping; He wants relationship. The most loving, unconditional one we could ever experience.

Why would we settle for less?

 

Careless Disregard

A week ago I read an article called My Virginity Mistake by Jessica Ciencin Henriquez. I was saddened by her description of the night she decided to wear a purity ring at an emotionally-charged youth rally, where the leaders worked several hundred kids up into a wholesome frenzy and where she drew a moral line in the sand of her young life. And lived to regret it. Conversations about right and wrong make me break out in hives. Even so, I’ve been wanting to write my own rebuttal to this article for days, imagining how I could delicately explain the wonders of waiting as they have unfolded in our own marriage and in our marriage bed. How waiting is right. How the trust and the freedom and the downright pleasure we’ve experienced for thirty-five years made the waiting worth it. And I’ve held back only because I can’t figure out how to say all this without embarrassing our children.

My friend, honorary niece, and honest-to-goodness writer, Caresse Spencer, who is braver than I will ever be, had an actual conversation with Ms. Henriquez on Huffpost Live. Live, as in an unscripted discussion with four other people, none of whom agreed with her, who stopped just short of ridicule. Live, as in a comment reel scrolling to the right of the screen, with comments by people who didn’t stop short. Throughout, Caresse was gracious. That niece of mine, I love her.

The raw, righteous courage of it all aside, this conversation left me unsettled. I chalked that up to the hives thing until today. Today, although I applaud Caresse’s rebuttal, I felt I still needed to write my own.

Today I read John 4.

Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well made me seriously question if most of our discussions about right and wrong miss the point. Is the point really making sure everyone knows what is right and what is wrong? Is the point really debating until everyone agrees with us?

Jesus walks up to this woman who, by every cultural and religious norm, is a bad woman. Sometimes I get frustrated with the gospel writers for the way they whittle down the action to the bare minimum, offering no emotional clues to help me see it, you know, cinematically. But I can safely assume that what emerges in these spare scenarios, given my view of what this book actually is, is true. Sometimes the bare bones of a story speak loud and clear.

So Jesus walks up to this woman and asks her for water. She is stunned because Jewish men do not talk to women like her, and she says so. He counters with this statement:

“If you knew the gift of God and who it is who is saying to you ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

If you knew what God has in his heart for you, to pour over and into you, and if you knew who I am, we would have a different conversation altogether. You’d ask a different question.

Jesus describes the reason he came, the reason he would die and rise again. To satisfy our thirst for heaven, to fill us from within so that heaven flows out from us. It’s an unprecedented, almost unbelievable proposition.

Not until the woman asks him for a drink of this water does Jesus make any reference at all to her moral behavior. And even then he simply coaxes her into admitting it. It’s beautiful, the way Jesus elicits raw honesty and drains the shame from her life all at once. Beautiful and, seemingly, ancillary.

Today I noticed a phrase in the story that—I think—gets closer to the main point of this conversation. A little detail I’d never seen before:

“So the woman left her water jar…”

When Jesus said “if you knew the gift of God,” he wasn’t kidding. This gift makes you forget everything else. It is more precious than the air you breathe. More valuable than sex or intimacy or security or friendship or whatever it is that drove you to choose one partner after another. It is a gift more satisfying than a drink of clear, cool water at high noon in the desert.

I want to tell Jessica Henriquez: This is the point.

Somewhere in all the moral haranguing and emotionalism of your experience with Christians, you missed the point. I grieve that you missed it, and I want to apologize for the misguided leaders who pointed you just enough askance from it that you didn’t see. I want to tell you that sometimes Christians can be like parents, saying almost anything in our fear that you’ll go and do something you shouldn’t. (Is life really about avoiding STDs? And what value is purity apart from pure water within?)

But I wonder if I miss the point, too. Am I so enthralled with Jesus that I become forgetful of everything else? Do I leave behind what others might deem essential, not in a deliberate disavowal, but in a careless disregard for anything but him? Do I understand that he can fill—over the top—my needs for intimacy and security and friendship? Am I ever so taken with him that I leave my own agenda and run into town to shout the news that he is here, he has brought us a gift? That it’s ours for the taking.

Do I ever leave my water jar?

Restless Leg Syndrome

In Matthew 12, Jesus said something that has always mystified me. After healing a whole bunch of people he “ordered them not to make him known.” (12:13) This wasn’t the first time he told people to keep his ministry on the down-low, and every time I read this particular instruction (which almost no one ever obeyed, by the way) I wonder why on earth Jesus gave it. But in this instance, Matthew explained:

“This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah.” (Verse 17)

Jesus, it seems, was God’s chosen method in his mission to “proclaim justice to the Gentiles” (Verse 18). What’s implied is that if the mission advanced too quickly, it would jeopardize his intent of getting the gospel to the outsiders, the Gentiles. And so, in order to keep from upsetting the Jewish leaders and thus getting to the crucifixion too early, Jesus proclaimed justice stealthily… for now.

What I get from all of this is not necessarily Jesus’ patience; it’s the singularity of his intention. Jesus’ intent is to get the gospel from where it is to where it isn’t. He is restless until it happens. It’s as if the gospel itself—by its very nature—is restless. The gospel has restless leg syndrome.

And so I have to ask myself: Do I have restless leg syndrome? Am I restless until the gospel gets out? Does the gospel animate my life outward? Am I anxious to tell others about the most important and life-giving and life-changing encounter that has ever happened to me? Do I share in Jesus' intent to get the gospel from where it is to where it isn't?

Not enough. I'm finally admitting to myself that my calendar is a good gauge of my intentionality. If I must do a thing, or if I don't want forget to do a thing, I write it on my calendar.  I have several people with whom I desire to share the gospel, but their names are not on my calendar. Hmmm. Maybe I don't really intend to share the gospel with them at all.  Maybe I'm not serious about sharing the gospel until I block off a chunk of time with their name on it and call or email (or message or tweet) and invite them to get together. Everything else is pure chance.

Lord, give me restless legs for the gospel.  Grant me the privilege of taking the gospel from where it is to where, for now, it is not.

The next Charles Ramsey

You’ve probably heard about Charles Ramsey.  A wonderful citizen who was just minding his own business and through an act of heroism will now undoubtedly appear on countless radio interviews and morning shows.  He’ll be referenced on Saturday Night Live and late night talk shows.  His YouTube clip will eventually be autotuned and remixed and countless articles will be written as this story starts to unfold.  Do you know another thing that is likely to happen?  “Regular” and ordinary people will start to feel the burden to be the “next Charles Ramsey.”  

I know this all too well because in Christianity, especially in the US, people are driven by fame and being recognized, and they feel pressure from all sides to do something great for God.   This pressure has a way of making people discontent with the life that God has given them, and motivates them to pursue some greater opportunity to really authenticate their faith.  Time and time again, this great pressure has probably been one of the greatest deterrents from people actually doing anything.

One of my guiding philosophies of life is to be driven by need rather than opportunity.  To clarify, there is nothing necessarily wrong with making certain decisions based on the best opportunity.  I don’t want to place a false dichotomy here as if need and opportunity are in some kind of battle. What I mean is that when faced with a decision to take a great opportunity that may be more beneficial or comfortable for me or to meet a need that God has placed right in front of me, I’ve learned that I tend to navigate through life trying to meet the needs.  I may be reacting, but in our culture of fame-chasing, I’ve seen way too many guys (including myself) chasing opportunities to advance their name and platform at the expense of meeting real needs right in front of them.  I’m disgusted with myself when I fall into this trap, and looking over my life I’ve realized that I am more confident in God’s leading when I’m meeting needs.

Simply put, the only way that I know how to be led by God (granted there may be other ways, I just haven’t experienced them thus far) is to meet the needs that are right of front of me.  I’m a fixer; I’m a helper.  I rarely have great vision for the future or the horizon, because I’m constantly focused on compassion for what is right in front of me.  I know vision for the horizon is needed; that’s why I surround myself with men of great vision for the horizon.  (I’ve learned it’s better to surround myself with someone that is authentically something than to try myself to be something that I am not).  Anyways, I find myself being led by God by meeting the needs that are right in front of me.  I’ve known Him to be faithful in that way and to lead me right where He would have me.  The Bible and my past experience have only reinforced and cemented this philosophy in my life:

I mean:

  1. That’s how David ended up fighting Goliath (1 Samuel 17) – he stumbled on this fight, and met the need that was right in front of him.

  2. That’s how Paul ended up gaining a platform to lecture at the educational and philosophical center of the day (Acts 17) – he stumbled into this conversation and met the needs that were right in front of him.

  3. That’s how the Good Samaritan etched his way into our vocabulary and became a term that even people who hate the Bible use freely. – he stumbled onto a half dead guy and met the needs that were right in front of him.

  4. And…that’s the way that Charles Ramsey became who he was – he stumbled onto the needs of 3 girls that needed his help.

Our society takes guys that do these things (which are extraordinary) and then praise them (and rightly so).  And here’s the problem—not that society praises them, but that we covet that praise and attention so bad that we now begin to attempt to try and gain it.  We hope to be the next David, so we go out and feel like the right thing to do is to look for a Goliath. We want to be the next Paul, we want to be the the next Charles Ramsey, we want to be the next [insert your hero here].  And we think the way to get there is to change our activity.

And here is where the pressure starts to build.  We can’t help it.  We look at all of our neighbors, especially those we used to eat ribs and listen to salsa music with, through new lenses.  We daydream of being the guy that was the hero.  We feel the there’s a need to run and break down the door of your next door neighbors’ house if you think you hear a faint scream.  There’s this pressure to try to become the Good Samaritan by your activity--scouring the road, looking for damsels in distress, etc.  We want that affirmation so bad that we end up believing the only way that we get it is just to emulate the activity of our heroes.  In doing so; however, we completely miss the point.

Do you know what all of the “heroes” on this list (and probably on your list) have in common?  (1) At one point they were just “regular” people.  (2) They experienced a “real” burden that they just couldn’t shake or ignore. (3) They responded to that burden with initiative (to actually solve a problem and not to get recognition), and (4) when onlookers saw them, they received praise.

Do you know what’s worthy to be copied?  I’ll give you a hint; it’s not their activity.  It’s their identity.  It’s becoming the type of person that would respond to burdens that are placed right in front of them.  The world is messed up as it is, you don’t have to go looking.  You don’t have to finagle a plan or a pathway to fame; no need to feel the pressure to start a non-profit (not now at least); no need to feel like you have to earn a title by what you do.  All you have to do is to be faithful and respond to the needs that are right there.  Trust God to guide you in such a way where you find yourself on the same path with an issue that needs to be addressed, and become the type of person that would address it.

Relax.  But not too much.  Live life in such a way that you are expecting God to interrupt your “regular” life and take advantage of those opportunities.  Trust Him to lead and guide you into the activity.  You worry about your identity; you worry about becoming the type of individual that’s gripped with compassion when you walk by the same homeless people every day.  Don’t spend time trying to fabricate a burden to prove your loyalty.  Be faithful to the needs that are right in front of you.

I guarantee you, the people that you admire would have done it whether or not they knew the cameras would be coming.  To be quite frank, some of the things that God brings our way won’t get the recognition that other people get.  Some of us will spend our entire lives outside of the limelight and we’ll never do anything “great” (in the eyes of the world) for God.  But that’s okay, stay the course. Spend your time learning what would make God say, “Well done.” Aim for that.  How the world defines their heroes changes, so if that's your target, you’ll spend your life aiming for a moving target.  While God’s standards stay consistent.  That standard is something worth giving your life to.

Besides, someone making an autotuned version of your YouTube interview is overrated.  I haven’t used my Antoine Dodson app in at least a few weeks.

 

 

Ugly People Hate Mirrors

Being a member of the Blueprint family for the past three years has been an incredible blessing for me. One of the primary things that the Lord has taught me is the importance of the community’s role in my growth as a believer. I’ve heard Dhati hammer the point home on countless occasions: Community exists for the purpose of sanctification. Makes sense. I mean, you can’t really exercise the gifts of the Spirit alone, and you certainly can’t bear the fruit of the Spirit alone.

This is one of those statements that sounds really good on paper (Yeah, lets challenge each other and grow closer to Jesus!) but gets pretty messy once you actually try and do it. Being merciful when you’ve been wronged is not easy. Giving cheerfully when you’re broke? Not easy. Longsuffering? It is as unpleasant as it sounds. But that is the reality. For whatever reason, God in His wisdom has ordained the community as the primary environment for discipleship and spiritual growth. And within this community, marriage is set apart with special significance.

Marriage is the most intimate relationship that two adults can share. My wife sees aspects of my character that other people would never have the opportunity to witness. Because of this, marriage exposes, more than any other relationship, our own sin and deficiency. I don’t want to sound as if marriage is not a wonderful blessing, full of joy and happiness as well. It most certainly is. But I always have an audience to serve through the Spirit; there is always someone there in need of gentleness, goodness and love. In marriage, there is constant opportunity for growth and sanctification, even when I don’t feel like taking advantage of it.

Constant opportunity. That is one thing that the Holy Spirit has been confronting me with lately. Probably more than in any other season of my life since He first drew me to Himself. God has been exposing deep levels of sin and selfishness in my heart, and He has been doing it constantly. And if I am honest, it has been one of the more frustrating experiences of my life. At every turn, it seems, I have been making mistakes, failing to meet expectations, losing patience and succumbing to discouragement.

Ugly People Hate Mirrors

At the same time, my wife has been feeling that I haven’t been genuinely enjoying her presence lately. She wonders why she gets the least of my patience; she laments how I seem to run to everyone’s rescue at work, but not notice her struggles; and questions why my attention defaults to my phone, tv or the computer. I typically deny any legitimacy to her claims, but I’m realizing that it is just that—denial. And she’s right. She does get the least of my patience, creativity and energy. I'd been struggling to see the correlation for a while. If I’m frustrated at work by my shortcomings, I just try harder. If I’m discouraged because things didn’t work out the way I had planned with family, I just make up some way to rationalize the failure. But then it hit me: None of these failures really expose the depths of my heart. Sure, they cause the facade that I’ve built to fall apart, but it wasn’t really me anyways. In my marriage, though, when I fail my wife, it is a failure at the core of who I am. And it explains so much as to why my demeanor and affections toward her would change. Simply put, ugly people hate mirrors.

What I mean is this: people who struggle with body image don’t typically sit in front of the mirror, gazing proudly into their own reflection. No, they avoid the mirror at all costs—hating to be reminded of their reflection, hating to see their flaws and the blemishes that they think make them ugly. And in our marriage, my wife is my mirror.

If God uses marriage to sanctify us, then my wife is the primary tool that God has been using to expose my sin.

Poor thing. She wasn’t/isn’t the problem, I am. It’s not that she follows me around criticizing everything that I do, either. She doesn’t. But it’s as simple and practical as this: Deana needs me to lead her spiritually, to pray with her and guide her in the Word. She should need that from me, and I don’t do it. And when I see the effect my failure in leadership has on her faith, her ability to hope, and her overall temperament, it makes me want to retreat. It doesn’t make me want to draw closer to her, because in my twisted thinking, she is the reason why I keep falling short. If her hurt reminds me of my failure, it is no wonder why I tend to withdraw my affection. That’s obviously not fair to her, and I unfortunately don’t have a solution.

So my prayer is this, that the Holy Spirit would protect her from my selfishness and give me the grace to lead and love her. I pray that as he exposes my sin, He would also give hope and a confident expectation of change and growth. I pray that He would inhibit me from accusing Deana of being the cause of my sin, but force me to accept the fact that my sin is my own and to fight it daily. I pray that if Deana is to be a mirror in our relationship, the reflection would be that of Jesus and not of myself. And as He exposes my own sinfulness I hold  to 1 John 3:2,3 as my hearts cry:

 but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Talking to Strangers

How do I say hi? To answer, I posed the question to MizChatty, an experienced conversationalist (and fictitious persona).

This is what MizChatty says: "Start with Goodbye." "Yes, That's what I said. You heard me. Let me explain."

"When I was a teen I noticed most of the other teens looked like this:"

"Then again, I probably looked like them too."

"I like fun; so, what do I do? I had to say 'Goodbye' to: Do they like me? Do they think I'm pretty? Am I funny? Can I impress them?"

to get them to look like this:

"And then the fun started!"                                                                                                                          

"By asking questions about THEM that couldn't be answered with YES or NO. Questions like: Where do you live? What is your dog's name? Why? What kinda music do you like? What is your favorite subject? Why? How's your day so far?"

So that's what  MizChatty says.

How do you say hi?

By saying Goodbye to

YOU.

A Preview of Acts

This Sunday at Blueprint, I’ll be preaching Acts chatper 1, and we’ll spend the next 7 months (at least) walking through all 28 chapters of the book. At this juncture in the life of Blueprint, it’s critical that we take the necessary time to walk through a book like Acts.  To date, we’ve been in the city almost four years now and have experienced some “success” as a church.  Although our building is small, each week it’s packed to capacity three times over. People come to worship, are encouraged, and then leave each week.

And that's where there's room for improvement.

Some share life with others in the congregation throughout the week, but there is a good number who don’t. With all of the things that are going “right”, it becomes increasingly easy for us to begin to celebrate and settle.  Complacency can start to set in.  The funny thing about complacency is that it only really becomes a potential problem in the lives of those that have achieved “something”.  The more successful you are, the more you’re in danger of falling victim to complacency.  What that means for us as a church is that since God has blessed us, we are in danger of becoming complacent.

I think we all understand this reality and potential to fall into complacency.  What we try to do, however, is cure complacency by rallying a group of people and telling them how much they need to be on “mission.”  We’ve all seen how effective that has been.  It’s produced a lot of great catch phrases about evangelim and missions with very few actual converts.  So, it’s important that we go back to the Scriptures and look at a time where the church began and how it exploded.  We’re going to go back to the beginning to remind ourselves of a few things that I really believe will create a major shift for us as a church in the way of missional living.  We need to establish a new normal for the typical Christian experience, and the book of Acts does it in at least three ways:

Erasing moral victories by erasing the ambiguity of our role

You don’t have to be a Christian for long to know that we as Christians measure “success” by so many different standards.  Church attendance, building size, reputation in the community, how much we serve the community, fame, recognition, etc.  We want to erase all of that.  We are called to be witnesses.  Our identity is rooted in the fact that we are a group of people who are witnesses to the goodness of our God.  A God who rescued us from our self-destructive lives and is willing to do the same for any and every one.  Once we understand this is our identity, we can quit settling for moral victories and start celebrating the victories that actually matter.

Exposing the potential of what can take place with a group of people who faithfully fulfill their role

When you look at Acts, you see that we have all the resources at our disposal to start a revival.  In a matter of days, the church in Jerusalem exploded from 120 people to over 5,000 people.  Simply by witnesses talking about what they'd seen and experienced.  We live in a city with a population that is 100 times as large as Jerusalem, and we have the same Spirit that they did.  We have all the resources at our disposal for revival to break out. What we’re lacking are individuals who are faithfully fulling their role.

 Anticipation and expectation of the supernatural

Lastly, as we walk through this book, our goal is that you would see and understand that God’s supernatural works follow His word.  Where witnesses are talking about Him, there is an expectation that He’ll use His word (as he has since the creation of the world) to bring light into darkness. Anticipation that God won’t leave us out to dry is in my opinion the best motivation for mission.  He’s doing all the heavy lifting.

The church is built on the back of witnesses.  We pray that you’ll see that, you’ll feel it, and you’ll embrace your role as one the building blocks of God building something amazing in Atlanta.

 

God In Us

When Dhati kicked off our new series, One, by looking at the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church he gave the challenge to study the person of the Spirit as depicted in John 14-16. What follows are my thoughts.

The story depicts the emotionally charged account of Jesus’ last night before he was betrayed and delivered over to be crucified. In John 16, Jesus is trying to warn his disciples of His fastly approaching death. The man who they had come to know and trust as Lord, who they left families and gave up everything to follow, would no longer be there to guide, teach and love them.  I don’t think there is a louder cry in the human heart than the desire to know God. And they had him: tangibly, intimately and very personally.

And he was leaving.

I can’t imagine the sorrow that must have permeated the environment. Right in the thick of this sorrow, Jesus makes an ironic and almost incomprehensible statement, “It is to your advantage that I go away” (John 16:7). Advantage? What could have possibly been more advantageous for the disciples than Jesus staying with them forever? It would seem to me that having God in the flesh with me would be the best way for me to know him, but Jesus says otherwise. “It is to your advantage that I go away. For if I do not go away, the Helper (The Holy Spirit) will not come to you.” Jesus says it’s better for the church to have the Spirit of God living within us than to have the Son of God standing before us! But why?

My thought is this: Jesus being there in the flesh could only do so much to enact the type of heart change that would be needed to love like him. And loving like him is the primary command to us (John 13:34) and the primary task that the Holy Spirit is to help us with. It’s easy for [pull_quote_right]The work of loving one another is a matter of the heart, not the flesh. It is a work that must be accomplished from the inside out.[/pull_quote_right]me to think that if Jesus were physically present it would be so much easier to avoid sin. I’m sure I would never have looked at any pornography if Jesus was actually sitting in the room next to me. I would never yell at my wife, if Jesus was sitting in the room next to me. But the interesting thing is that it doesn’t mean I would never lust in my heart if Jesus was in the room next to me. It doesn’t mean that I would never be angry and bitter and hateful in my heart toward my wife, if Jesus was in the room with me. It doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t want to be selfish with my time and resources when my friends need my help. If anything, it just shows that I value the presence of the Spirit less than I value the presence of Jesus, physically. Maybe that’s why Jesus says the Spirit is a more advantageous helper than himself. The work of loving one another is a matter of the heart, not the flesh. It is a work that must be accomplished from the inside out. My heart is flimsy, and as sad as it is to say, I would probably find reason to doubt God’s goodness even if he stood right in front of me.

In light of that, it makes sense why we would need a different helper. If Jesus is God with us, then the Holy Spirit is God in us! He is in us (John 14:17), empowering us with courage (Acts 4:31), convicting us of sin, teaching us about our Father (John 16:13-15) and giving us gifts to love one another with (1 Corinthians 12:7). If we are to grow together in the gospel, in the context of family while living on mission, we must come to embrace the Holy Spirit as our Helper in knowing the Father and loving one another. He is to us what Jesus was to the first disciples, only more advantageous! I pray that his presence would be very real to us and that we would see that having God in us is even better than having God with us.

It's All God's

So often you see sibling rivalries in families—competition, catty fights, disrespect.  I grew up in a home like that and honestly my sister and I never recovered.  I was never made to honor my sister and never had to share or consider her as more important than myself.  We had our own room, own tv, own toys, own clothes and we were not allowed to touch the other's property without asking.  It created a sense of entitlement and individualism in the both of us.  I didn't need her.  She didn't need me. In regard to raising our own family, our philosophy in parenting and in defining family is that we need each other.  Dhati and I see the need to train our kids in a way that prepares them to be others focused.  I have trained my kids that in being a part of this family, there are responsibilities that each of us will own.  Tonight, it is my job, for instance, to cook a healthy meal; it is Trinity's job to do the dishes, Jade's job to sweep, Briaiah's job to bath Nathaniel, Dhati Jr's job to take out the trash and Brayden's job to wipe down the table.  Everyone has a role.  We need everyone to do their part.  From a very early age (two years) my kids have loaded and unloaded the dishwasher; now with a 9,8,6,5,4,and 3 year old, I have worked myself out of a job in that regard.  The kids learned very early to hang clothes and fold towels.  All six of them are completely responsible for putting away all the clean clothes, which I am responsible for washing two times a week.  We need each other.  If any one person tried to do it all, it would be impossible.

Every day when the kids get home, it is their job to unload their backpacks, unpack and pack their lunches for the next day, put their shoes away, lay out their own clothes, do their own homework, and read for 30 mins without Mommy reminding them to do so—this is their job.  My contribution is helping each of them with their homework, providing the lunch stuff for them to put in their boxes, etc.  We all have a role.  I need them to do their part.  They need me to do mine.

They need each other

The kids share rooms—we have enough rooms in our home to give at least the oldest kids their own rooms, but we find such training in having them share that space.  We have explained to the kids that when they leave our house and move to a dorm, they will share a room; when they get married, they will share a room; might as well learn how to do that well now, since that is what awaits.  We flesh this out by the way we talk about ownership—the kids don't own anything.  What we have is not our own, but ultimately God's.  The house we live in is not ours; the suburban in the driveway is God's, not the Lewis'.  For the kids, that shirt is not yours, it's God's, and you are stewarding it.  That toy you just received for your birthday is not your own, it is God's.  Those Christmas presents, that bike that is too tall for everyone else, that belt, those shoes, that cupcake, is not yours.  It is all God's.  And if it is all God's, and he is sharing it with you, you have to have the same mentality and willingly be ready to share it with others.  This is so bizarre for others and certainly counter-cultural.  However, I will say, it has been a change agent in the kids (and in me). They enjoy sharing, they give toys away to friends, and they do not hold fast to material things like so many of us do.

We are trying to create in our kids a healthy sense of community—a need for one another.  We open up our home when people need a place to stay. We have had to have homes opened up for us.  We loan the cars out. We have been given cars.  We share the food in the frig with neighbors as we have been given food and shared with so often.  We are trying to develop in the kids a healthy sense of needing others. If Dhati wants a spider (like the one Brayden received on his birthday), we will not buy him a second one; he needs Brayden to share with him.  That sounds so simple.  But, too often you see parents buy two or three of the same thing so that it's "fair."  In my opinion, what that does is teach materialism and diminish the need for others.  Trinity needs Jade to take care of her shoes, because those will be hers one day soon (yes, Jade's feet are bigger than Trin's).  Nathaniel needs Brayden not to lose his lunch box, because that may be his next year.  I need the kids to turn off the lights upstairs, because that is God's money they are wasting (ok through that one in because its a pet peeve, but still holds true).

My boys know that their number one responsibility to our family is to protect and to honor.  The girls know that theirs is to respect and to honor.  We do not allow (without reprimand) them to speak down to, laugh at rudely, demean, yell at, or disregard each other.  They are to honor one another.  They need to be on one another's side.  The boys need respect from the girls, so that it helps train them on what to look for in a wife.  The girls need tenderness and protection from the boys, so that it teaches them what to look for in a husband.  In a dark world, the public school world, the kids need each other.  It feels good to know that your sister has your back when you are being bullied on the bus.  It is esteeming to feel that gentle hand reach over and hold yours when an adult is wrongly yelling at you (as the kids faced this past week).

Yea, we're training them to need each other.

TIME: it doesn't heal or forgive

So many emotions were mounting in my heart: fear, excitement, uncertainty, expectancy and joy. The anticipation was tremendous, but I had to lock in. As such, the only logical thing to do was to shut my phone off. I had to meet with Jesus in a real way before I spoke on His behalf and rallied college students to take up the mission to see their campuses changed with the Gospel. In my heart, I knew this day would be remembered forever… That was 9-15-2011. I relive it often.

It wasn’t long before people started piling into the sanctuary to help set up, sound check, or just hang.  Among those people was my wife, who just so happened to get a hold of me and told me she was on her way…

She stood in my office and changed my life forever.

I don’t know what she said to comfort me, by that time hysteria had already set in and things seemed to be in an inescapable haze. I’ll never forget what she said that led to it…

Chijioke’s dead. They shot him in the head. I’m so sorry…

My little brother—21 years old—was murdered 9-14-2011, around the same time we were praying for him as a community. A more cynical person would call that irony. I’ve learned to call it design.

What I know:

I know that event will undeniably forever be linked to my relationship with Jesus. I already wrestled with the goodness of God (still do). I already wrestled with whether God was for me (still do). And I wrestled with could I trust God with the unknown (still do). I knew that my doubt just got some tremendous ammunition, and in truth I was scared, real scared.

A year later…

I reflected a lot last week as the undesired anniversary neared. In the midst of the myriad of emotions swelling in my heart and soul, here’s what I can say with 100% clarity and certainty: time doesn’t heal or forgive...Jesus does. Time is a tool at best. When you experience a tragedy, everyone (good intentions or not) has advice for you. On this grief journey, I’ve got plenty of it! The phrase I heard repetitively was, “Just know it will get better with time.” I’ve had over 8,760 hours or 365 days worth of time. And yes, things are better, but I would be foolish to thank time for that. Because there was a good chunk of that time spent in bed crying, trying to muster energy to smile for my daughter Serenity, and contemplating how I was going to will myself to lead people when I felt like I couldn’t even lead myself.

What else I know:

I know that part of me wanted to be made whole (only part); the other part didn’t want to come out of this season.  Those things made up my will. God couldn't care less about my will at this point, because He stepped in and showed me He never left. God was infinitely more determined to show me peace and purpose than my heart was. Left to my heart and time, I don’t know where I would be. But God intervened and has used this time to mold my heart and posture into surrender.

Why I share this:

Pain is still here, but God’s presence is as well. Questions still abound, but God’s purpose soothes my anxiety. Apathy towards his murderers fluctuates; the Gospel wont let me be okay with that (continue to pray for me). But I share this because as I prayed and reflected last week, of the many conclusions and thoughts I had, one stood out.  God, in His mercy, has seen fit to reveal to me the true extent of this phrase: my effectiveness is inseparable from my intimacy.  People have said I was gifted, and my flesh has used that to rely on itself more times than I know...heck, I thought I was going to release a music album! (But I can’t even write anymore without crying, this time included.) NO MATTER HOW GIFTED YOU ARE OR ARE NOT, your heart is inclined towards idolatry and it’s deceitfulness! I would always say I want to change the world (still do and forever will), but somewhere on the journey, world change became the endgame whether I said it or not. Difference isn’t the endgame, and it’s a terrible god. The endgame is Jesus and people engaging in intimacy with Him.  Before I start rambling, let me sign off saying over this last year my journey got a whole lot more interesting, but all of it is so that Philippians 3:10 is made real…”that I may know Him…”

Time, life, fill in the blank are all tools in the hand of a gracious God who wants me to know Him more than I do, so NOTHING is off-limits.