A Remembrance

Posted: January 5, 2012 in Word of Encouragement

This weekend I heard an awesome message from my pastor Bill Copeland, and not surprisingly I was inspired and encouraged   to bring intense focus on what God is doing in my life. The Hebraic word for remember is not simply a recollection of the past, but an active manifestation of the past to the present. Living in the past is usually the downfall for a human trying to recover or grapple with tough times, however if we relive the awesome victories, and the words of power and truth, those then can become our reality. 

I relived for a moment the CCEF conference my wife and I went to, and how it made a physical, mental, and spiritual impact on my living future. I relived the moments I made efforts to spend time outside of my own confines to enter into what my wife and daughter call “fairy land”. I began to focus my energy into HumbleDown Productions, and began to take myself seriously. I started to answer questions about my worth in God’s kingdom, and what my calling was. This eventually led to the beginning of my journey back into the world of academia, and my first couple semesters at Liberty University as a seminary student.

My question to a friend, a brother or a sister, is really not about the good times and the bad times. It’s not maximizing potential  to be a better you, and it’s certainly not a new resolution.

The million dollar question is: will you commune?

My friend’s father-in-law introduced me to this new idea of relationship where the savoring of the little moments, with loved ones, produced a “love cycle”, where sensitive and timely information was shared and expressed in a manner that bared the soul, and all that made it beautiful and redeemed. In this way life is breathed into and drawn from these relationship building moments. 

Community and relationship with people gave me a better image of what God wanted to do in my life. It never ended up being a happy perfect life with everything ending right side up. It was God’s image and perfection laid on top of an upside down world where nothing is completely right, and know things are wrong because we experience beauty and peace in the midst of the chaos.

What makes more sense now, is that I’ve begun to allow God to [fill in the blank]. I’ve let him in to some torn up places, allowed him to supersede my situations of pain, tragedy, and shame.

I will not forget that God has raised me from many a miry pit, and I will not forget that someday I will be seated in righteousness with Christ the king. I will remember today and tomorrow his perfect plans that are in motion.

Remember and Rejoice.

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Recently God began a work in me that will finish with me completing a masters program with Liberty Universty. Thankfully its all online, and will take about 3 years to complete. Already I have given the vision of learning from the past, being sharpened as a tool, and being used for this generation. No one knows when Christ will come back, and it’s with that attitude that I will persevere. All the while I learn how to stregthen my family who is essentially my first church, and the most important part of the body of Christ to me. M y wife and daughter are a tremendous encouragement, and I hope I can bless them in return.

An epiphany came to me as I told Laura of the plight the inter-testamental Jews found themselves in. They were in captivity because their forefathers, and leaders forgot or simply took no care in keeping Gods commandments and law. The Jews of this time ( the 400 years after the Old Testament, and right before Jesus was born),  held tightly to a in order to come back into God’s good graces. They were working off their salvation while waiting for the Messiah to bring about a new political and social situation, one without captivity, and a Kingdom under God’s headship. When Jesus came it radically changed their game plan, and the course of history for that matter. Those who were to follow as his disciples, teachers, and theologians for centuries held on to a common notion that Jesus was savior, was the way to true life, and eternal life, served under the pre-tense that they were parts of a whole.

 

What intrigues me is that as I learn about God’s history, his people and his plan for this world, I learn about how I fit into the equation. Some parts are obviously no brainers. Holding down a job, and supporting my family spiritually, emotionally and physically is the call God has for me, until there ceases to be breath in my lungs. I have some giftings in which I think God wants to move through, and I have a slight idea that I might help lead a generation to call him Abba.  What has caught my attention is that all leaders have seen the cycle of this world in some fashion. With our own uniqueness, we will and must articulate what we see, with the vision God has given. What that looks like I don’t know. What I do know, is prayer and intentional heart living must lead us towards Christ, and “away” from the things that distract, steal, and kill what truth is evident in our lives.

We are part of the whole sum, and without a doubt God is pleased with our efforts, so this leaves no reason to wonder as to how much more God will or won’t love us if we do not perform in the spirit 24/7. We will stumble and grow, fall down, and be humbled. The question is will we take up the “cross”, be used in that moment of being called to a position or task?

It took way too long to finish an analysis on John Piper’s book titled “Desiring God”.  I first want to start out by pointing out that this book is a good read, however, its a long read, with great amounts of scripture to off set John’s grand thesis of Christian Hedonism.

Christian Hedonism is what this book hinges on, and in his arguements he goes to great lengths to have us as the reader understand that being a Christian allows us the opportunity to take great joy in the Lord. He even goes as far as to say that taking joy in the Lord, in all circumstances is actually a commandment, and that in doing so we fully understand the character of the Lord. John Piper invites us to fight the temptation to make our faith a religion, and maintain it as a relationship full of affections and Love for our Father and maker in heaven.

Overall I think he is spot on and takes a swing at the ultra conservatism that has almost quenched the Holy Spirit, making Christianity lifeless, cold and often distant for many. The life blood of Christianity is a faith in a Savior, who in obedience, joyfully followed his Father’s every command. It wasn’t merely dutiful, it was a pleasure and a joy.

It is with great pleasure that we as Christians are allowed to share in his glory, no matter the trial, tribulation or triumph. Our God is victorious always and thus, we have an eternal perspective that gives us hope, which strenghthens faith.

If you are looking for a quick read steer clear. Give yourself a good couple of weeks to dive into this book, its a good read, and is intellectually stimulating.This is recommended for the Christian yearning to feast on something other than spiritual milk (which, by the way,  is alright for anyone, in any stage of their walk).

God Bless

Chi Alpha Worship

Posted: April 1, 2011 in Word of Encouragement

As apart of my ministry, I look to beautify, restore, and document what God’s kingdom is looking like in these last days.

I am always skeptical when a new book comes out, especially in a time where it is increasingly vogue to comment on a new movement within the Christian community. God is definitely moving, and he definitely is at work in this present day, bringing forth a small number of grounded leaders who have a vision to engage the culture we live in. This book outlines some trends that have either separated Christians from society from culture all together, or have allowed us to blend in with no real distinction, and sadly no real imprint on the culture we are supposed to be introducing Christ to.

Gabe Lyons makes it clear that this movement has just begun, and it is up to this current generation of Christians to start taking the walk seriously and embrace a radical brand of faith and fellowship that actually brings about lasting change.

Gabe Lyons calls this next group of Christians “restorers”, because in whatever setting, they are searching out a way to be the hands and feet for the God who became a man to serve, searching to restore communities, and the many facets of society, in order to make God’s name and identity famous. The book, “The Next Christians” is about servants who aren’t trying to be relevant but counter-cultural, and in a way that is grounded in community, a knowledge of the scripture, and prayer and fasting. He makes it clear that the next Christians will not be perfect, and never will make that claim, but will definitely contend and make it apparent by example,  through good deeds and big hearts, that there is a perfect God and  a perfect Savior.

This is a must read if you are looking to share the true Gospel, and live out the real Gospel in your life. Encouragement, words of wisdom, personal experience, and testimonies are all shared in this uplifting book which charged me to continue going forth to proclaim the truth about God’s everlasting kingdom.

I am now happy to say this book has allowed me evaluate my walk, my doubts and fears, and put them aside so that I can be one of these Next Christians, making the Gospel more of a centerpiece in my life.

Check out the link  and video below for more info.

The  Next Christians Book

The political climate is heating up and both parties are weighing in on what they think are the main issues we need to tackle in today’s economy, society, and ever-changing culture. At the basis of these bi-partisan arguments are codes of ethics, financial strategies, and years of bias attitudes leaning to conservative  or liberal slants. President Obama is calling for a more unified government focused more on better fiscal standings that effect the future greatly. He has taken a lot of flack, and if my opinion matters he could stand to continue focusing on subject matters he said he would handle at the beginning of his presidency.

I’m sad to say the state of the union and  its dismal outlook is  mixed with signs of hope, sort of like a beacon of light off in the distance. The light is shallow, flickering, and many of us are optimistic because we remember brighter days . Fingers are pointed, judgments are made, and emotions run high as America’s future is on the line in many areas. The problems are very apparent, it’s the solutions that people differ on.

History never fails to teach us lessons, it usually repeats itself, and what seems to be happening is that throwing money in the wrong direction is not getting to the root cause of the problems. Well structured programs, budget cuts, and new inventive ways are needed to turn things around.  We require new inventive ways that stay close to base models that have  proven effective.

Almost synonymous to the state of the union, is the state of the Church. Factions, denominations, and many leaders calling Christ as their Savior can’t seem to come to a consensus on where to take the problems of a nation, and most importantly a broken world, head on. Some see getting church attendance as the answer, some view missions as the greatest calling, and still others see political or social involvement as the most relevant direction to move in.

The state of the church is in quite a disarray just as our nation is. Different manifestations of disorder are apparent in the church, but the emergent leaders of the Western Church are citing the biggest problems are not problems dealing with the lack of activism or a lapse in intellectual capacities, but a false impression of the body, and a bad perception from the outside world who already looks through a tarnished looking glass at fragmented  and broken parts of a whole.

The perception of the Western Church is that of a non sympathetic body of people, who have no real heart for the things that matter to the people they are supposed to be serving. Widows, orphans, and the poor are the last on the Church’s mind, and the hot button issues are at the fore-front. Typically they are abortion, homosexuality, sex before marriage, and whether or not the local church will reach mega-church status in 5 years. Whether its the U.S. economy or God’s economy how the people receive its message and credo is largely due in part to societal cues and it’s leaders and  the more easily identifiable followers. We as a church must be an image of Christ here on Earth.

We can blame the economy on Reagonomics, Bill Clinton, Two Bushes, or Obama. We can blame the Dems, Republicans, or the  negative political banter that has made the headlines in light of the Tucson, Arizona shooting involving Gabrielle Gifford and an attempted assassination by Jared Loughner. The bail out was not just for the corporations but also for all the citizens across the nation who thought they could just put responsibility on credit, who were represented to be  innocent bystanders that had no part in the economy tanking the way it did. We all share some responsibility in this, even though it may not be our fault, this is what we sign on for when we become apart of a larger union, and we all have to pick up our proverbial shovel and bucket and put our backs into it.

As Christians we are tempted to blame negative conceptions of “us” on the Catholic Church or the Jerry Falwells of our time. In general, those claiming to be followers of Christ  who are committing the sins that make others wonder about this faith,that tend to make the headlines,  give us glimpses yet again of evidences of “the fall” .

All brothers and sisters serve a purpose in God’s kingdom, and not one person can take ultimate responsibility for how the world sees Christ’s Church, whether good or bad. A fair assessment in my opinion is that the Gospel has not been central in the lives of Christians in our Western world today. Christ’s Church, whether we are protestant, catholic, or any other denomination is our responsibility to take care of. We are to be the hands and feet of Christ, to be representative of Christ’s Good News, which sets us free, not just from ourselves for ourselves, but for the rest of the body and then for the world.

The state of the Christian Church unites on this non-exhaustive list. Creativity, Prayer, Fasting, REAL Community, Love, Passion for God’s Heart, a Christ like attitude towards cultural arenas, piety, Biblical understanding, vision, LOVE (can’t emphasize that enough).

I think that if our future as a Church is going to give off that little flicker of light, then it has to begin with unity being something of a perceived goal rather than an afterthought of a select few of “Next Christians” Gabe Lyons describes. Rob Bell talks about giving dreams feet, Mark Driscoll says lets put an end to the idolatry killing our souls, and the 9 Marks guys are saying lets get back to basics.

Is there any reason we can’t make a difference here this side of heaven? I think not, we all just need fresh insight from the Holy Spirit to bring about an awakening and a breath of reality to get the “Body” reviving again.

Sanctum

Posted: January 24, 2011 in Word of Encouragement

Sanctum

Recently I  had the epiphany that I was trying figure out the God of all creation, to plot his movements in my life, and calculate common trends. Sort of like a weatherman does the weather. The last couple years of my journey  with Christ has truthfully been a battle of finding some rest and reprieve from myself, to capture what I think holiness and righteousness looks like. Regiments of discipline, and a rule and order for action have all been my self prescribed way of keeping my self to a standard worthy of my calling as a believer and lover of Christ. What I failed to realize is that I had forgotten my first love, or rather I had forgotten why Christ loved me. No matter the dissiapointments, shortcomings, and out right sin in my life, Christ took me as I was at the point of my conversion. He allowed me to come to him, as broken as I was, so that I could be cleansed. It is  Hebrews 6 and 7 that gives us glimpse into the old testament, of the regulations the priests would have to perform to make themselves clean first, and then the people’s souls they were responsible in atoning for. I likewise for sometime have had a habit of ritualizing my reading of scripture, my prayers, and the way in which I approached my problems on a day to day level. I wanted to make myself clean enough and good enough to talk to God in the “inner sactuary”. Hebews 6:19-20 says this “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,  where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

Life had seemed to be unfruitful and uneventful at times because God seemed distant, I had forgotten very  easily that a faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior was the only way to “bridge the gap”, and become clean enough to enter into the holy of holies. I somehow missed it in the book of life where it said I must repent of my sins, and have faith in our Lord and Savior as the only atonement, FOREVER.

My conversion point, and other moments of sin called my attention to the cross, but moments in between had me focusing on myself, and what I could bring to God’s harvest table.

I’ve repented of my American Dream cookie cutter Christianity which breeds complacency and sins of ommision. I’ve repented of my sins of commision, where I gave my doubts, fears and thoughts a playground to roam in the physical. Now I repent of my unbelief, faithlessness to my Savior, and an overall distrust.

The question came to mind last week, why would he send his only begotten son if he didn’t love us? Willingly sacrificing anyone’s life is the tallest order of sacrifice ever known in the history of man. My pastor Bill Copeland gave us a picture at the beginning of his sermon about Clint Eastwood’s character in a western coming into town from the desert, taking a bath at the nearest inn, and putting on the same dirty clothes.  This is our story as humans in a broken and fallen world, with pasts that were once broken and pathetic representations of what our lives could be in Christ.

Life on Earth is not perfect, and will never be for that matter. We will go through boughts with depression, fear and anxiety will loom when the bank account wains, and of course we will come face to face with mortality when a loved one passes on into eternity. The Great Comforter, a gift from Christ himself, and his Great Atonement on the cross, allow us to overcome a great deal of our sinful and fallen natures, and many trials and tribulation, in spite of ourselves.

The kicker is that faith is the only way we can put on clean and white robes of righteousness, which over time God uses to produce in us and through us the fruits of the spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22. A faith in Christ translates into a trust in the Father and his will for my life.

God gave me a word recently to focus on what God making me to be, instead of my unhealthy focus on only my shortcomings, pitfalls, and fears of things I can’t control or influence greatly.

The sanctum is defined as a holy place, the place where we enter in to commune with the Living God. With my tailor made robe of righteousness on, I step into the center of his will for my life, in good deeds, prayer and Christ like sacrifice, for the Glory of God and enjoyment of all men.

Enter In with a new found joy and a peace founded in the fact that it has been finished, and the work of the cross, and the will of God is going to bring about a work of completion.

A couple of Sundays ago my pastor recommend we try at least one of the prescribed challenges the author (David Platt) said would allow us to consider how our hearts have manipulated the gospel to fit our cultural preferences. As a result our church family is corporately seeking of ways to redefine our manufactured form of Christianity. The message in this book represents what I and many other Christians have been thinking and praying about for quite sometime, that the multitude of believers who call on Christ as their saviour, would also be excited to follow him as their king, and less compelled to go along with status quo of todays society.  At every corner it seems we are confronted with the choice to build up securities and comfort, or to build up Christ’s Kingdom. The author argues that this change is so difficult to make because it calls into question the  mini-“empires” humans like to build. It calls into question the hd tv with sorround sound etc…He writes ” Jesus placed a fundamental priority on disciplemaking relationships, and such relationships cannot play a merely supplemental part in our Christian lives.” The author doesn’t leave us hanging with big questions and ideas with no real tangible  outlet to pour our energy into. He learned some hard lessons being a pastor of a mega church with a typical growth model, and shares with us his ideas of a radical experiment. It calls us to give 1 year of our life to some small things that lead us to live more for Christ’s mission and less for the American Dream. In short we are challenged to read  more of the bible, pray more for the world, and get more involved in our communities, which allows us to spend more time in a Jesus glorifying context. This book is a must read for anyone who asked the same questions I did. What is God’s plan in our lives? Aren’t we here to change things in this world? What more can I do to make an impact on this generation? This book gives us some great resources and insight to help us wake up from an American Dream.

Check out These “Radical Resources”

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Skinny on Fasting

Posted: January 4, 2011 in Word of Encouragement


Fasting is probably one of those great mysteries that somehow, no matter the amount of research we put into it, will never fully be deciphered. However, God’s word gives us insight into the nuances of fasting, and what it should mean to us as believers. Jesus says it himself in Mark 9:29, that fasting coupled with praying is a tool which can free us from bondages, and allow us greater insight.

One thing I must comment on is that fasting is not just about dieting, and if thats your main mission and goal, you are better off setting yourself a regiment of 2 miles a day and the south beach diet! I write that in jest and seriousness at the same time, our fasting is a tool meant to enhance our relationship with the Lord, and to give us insight and/or freedom that only the Holy Spirit can produce.

It has been my personal experience, through two extended fasts of 40 days with just juice, broth and water, and a Daniel fast of 30 days, that God has not only worked in my life, but with those whom I’ve prayed for and ministered to. I will not go into all of this in great detail, however, from what I’ve gleaned, God has made things known that I would otherwise not notice if my eyes were not “open”. Fasting has us in a place that takes away from the distractions of every day life. Our time isn’t focused on eating, or rather around eating, which ironically is where a good portion of our money goes, but on him and the work he wants to do.

I will be honest, the first 3-5 days were the most difficult, as i was getting accustomed to a new habit and way of thinking. My wife and I found ourselves planning out meals, and thinking of what restaurant we would hit up next even though we had at least 30 days left. Looking back on it, three things were a great discraction besides missing the comfort and nourishment of food. First off, my outlook on fasting needed to change, I saw it primarily as a change in diet, and had no real understanding as a fast being a sacrifice and offering. The second thing I lost sight of was the fact that my prayers are always heard, and even if it takes a year to see the fruit of those prayers, God is at work. The third thing was that my prayer time was not focused and for sometime the fast became just a fast, not an intense focused time with a “mission” in mind. In Acts for instance we see numerous times how fasting and praying were used to either ready themselves for ministry or to hear God’s wisdom on a matter.

At the start of his 3 year ministry, Jesus fasted for 40 days. Many will say that this is one of the most important things Jesus did, allowed him to focus on the will of the Father. I will not leave out the fact that, as a Christian, I have overlooked the importance of fasting in my life, and that as an act of obedience to being a follower of Christ, fasting is something that is important. Fasting from things, or rather abstaining from things of the world is very important. What I failed to realize is that fasting from food is not the same as staying away from things of the world that can become idolotarous. Fasting from food is a whole new ball game in some respects.

Please be encouraged as you embark on this spiritual journey. There are many fasts to choose from, each having a different intensity depending on length and type. The one thing that stays constant is Gods love, and hopefully our hearts which are in a posture towards being molded to better reflect God’s glory.

Be Blessed