Category Archives: Identity

Thanks be.. (or Little Candle Boy)

thanksbe

Well, yesterday was Thanksgiving here in america. It is a wonderful time for food, family, and football. But it’s original purpose was a say to give thanks. Sadly this aspect has become a tertiary purpose at best.

We relegate thanks to one team per person before the meal. Then, often we seem to give ours begrudgingly. If we are truly thankful, we should be bursting with Joy when we tell of our blessing.

So, with joy bursting inside of me, I would like to share one of my favorite things to be thankful for…

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?”  (2nd Corinthians 2:14-16 NKJV)

How great a passage is this?

I rejoice over this passage. I celebrate this passage. I will never forget the time my good friend Pastor Alan Koch sat down and explained how he derived his church name, (Christ Triumphant Church in Lee’s Summit, MO) from this passage.

So let me dig into this passage a little and take just a moment to show you why it has been so meaningful to me.

First, Paul begins by giving thanks to God. However, He doesn’t just say thank you, He explains to us what He is thankful for and this allows us to share in His thanksgiving.

He is thankful because God always leads us in Triumph. Think about that, God never leads us in fear our doubt, no! God leads us in Triumph. But not just any triumph. Paul is very specific. We are lead in triumph in Christ Jesus.

It isn’t enough to know that God is leading us in triumph. God wants us to know what Triumph looks like. Triumph looks like a slain Lamb who overcomes the world, sin, and the grave.

But Do not stop there… The passage continues. Paul is thankful because God uses us. He uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere. We literally become God’s candles. Jesus said we are the light of the world. that light descended in Acts two like a flame over our heads. This is the image of the Candle.

God allows us to spread His knowledge like light and like fragrance. However, just like any candle there will be two reactions. First there are those who love the candle and want to have it in their home. these are the people who are being saved. But to others our fragrance will be rank. These are the people who are far from Christ and on the fast road to death.

We should intend in our hearts today to be like Paul. We should be thankful that we are in Christ. We should rejoice that we are walking in His victory. We should Celebrate that He uses us to spread His knowledge. We should Give thanks that we smell like Him, even when it causes others to gag.

“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?”

Thanks Be…

 

Handling our own…

haseltine1

Recently, yet another controversy happened in the body of Christ that had to do with homosexuality. It’s a big issue, and as a general rule we are handling it poorly. This time the issue was over comments made by Dan Haseltine. Dan is the frontman of the Christian troubadours known as Jars of Clay. (Let me be clear I am not discussing their music. Its fine, I enjoy it sometimes)

Dan is in trouble with many people over a series of tweets he made. (Perhaps Mark Driscoll should lend him support.) These tweets were a stream of consciousness from Dan concerning the issue of Homosexuality, and Homosexual rights.

These tweets come across differently depending on who reads them. Some read it and think that he is supporting gay marriage. Some read it and are confused. Some read it and get offended. These are all legit immediate responses.

This is why we cannot make our decisions off of our immediate reactions. We need to be quick to listen and ask questions, but slow to speak and condemn. Yet, once again the Christian community has failed to do this. People jumped off the cliff right from the get go and wrote off the band because they think they know what is what simply by a few tweets.

Dan Himself responded to the critics on his website. Here is a summary.

  • Twitter is the wrong place to discuss this.
  • I ought to be clear with my words and not leave room for misunderstandings
  • I need to be sensitive when discussing sensitive topics
  • If you want to read the article yourself, go to Dan’s personal website. DanHaseltine.com

But to be honest, I am not even here to discuss Dan’s thoughts, or even tackle the questions concerning homosexuality. What I want to discuss is the way we handle our own.

Whether or not you like him, agree with him, etc… Dan Haseltine professes faith in Christ Jesus, the Lord who came in the flesh, was crucified for the sin of the world, buried and then resurrected to reconcile humanity back to God. Being that he is a brother, we need to respond to him as such we have certain ways we need to treat him and respond to him. So let’s look at the way the Bible tells us to deal with our brothers.

Step 1: Personal Discussion

Matthew 18:15“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”

The first thing to do is to discuss the issue with your brother directly. ALONE! This means calling him out over twitter is wrong. Long before you get to twitter, you should have emailed him personally and shared your thoughts. Generally with folks like Dan, who are famous, or well known, many people will be emailing and this will cause them to publicly discuss it further. It is not your job to bring public rebuke, or public shame.

Galatians 6:1-2 “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

I want to make a clear note here. Dan Haseltine has not been caught in a transgression, but rather a miscommunication. So be careful with your words. But the key in this verse is “Spirit of Gentleness” Perhaps you need to take time out and do a word-study on Gentleness. It’s important. While on the topic of gentleness, remember the words of Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Colossians 3:13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Walk in forgiveness. Be quick to let things go and do not hold onto grudges. Ok, now suppose you have an issue, and you have personally spoken to him and he didn’t agree, didn’t repent, and didn’t change. Then the bible tells us to take a few brothers and go to him. Matthew 18:16

This one is harder to do with someone like Dan Haseltine, this is simply because chances are, as a general rule you do not know him. You might know all about him, but if you have never spoken to him before, you do not have a voice in his life. If you take the time to send him a private email, he may respond, but He doesn’t know you. You have no relationship, so do not assume he is required to engage you personally.

The big key to dealing with these kinds of issues is communication and Love. We need to discuss with one another to truly begin to understand where our hearts lie. Our goal shouldn’t be to shame or lose a brother. Our goal should be to restore a relationship, and while this is not always possible, it is possible far more often than we admit. The big key is our ability to value the others over our own need to be right.

We need to love our brothers and have open and honest dialogue. We need to recognize what is the heart of our brother. Sometimes we cannot find a common ground or an understanding, but often we could if we are willing to let go of our need to be right and our need to assume our understanding is truth.

It is a political spirit that tells us to value “truth” over relationship. Jesus met us while we were in sin and loved us. He never once left us alone. He never wrote us off. He chose to be connected to us no matter the cost. He was willing to die for people who hated him and stood against everything He was.

The issue is not Dan Haseltine. The issue is not even homosexuality. The issue is how do we handle our own? The world is watching and the world is supposed to, “Know we are Christ’s disciples by our Love” Perhaps We need to learn to walk in love more than we walk in correction. I challenge you, next time someone treads this line, take the moment and pause and pray. Ask God what his heart and his plan and his goal is in this situation.

Dried Out and Living in the Desert

drydesertI am reading a book. It is called “Make Fear Bow” by Gary Whetstone. This book is challenging me to deal with the areas of fear I still hold in my life. It was recommended to me by a friend, and even though I am not finished with it, I already recommend it. It will challenge you to deal with fear, as well as helping identify the root causes of your fears. However, that is not exactly what this article is about. I could discuss fear, but really its a minor aside he made that prompted this writing. He briefly mentions a passage in Jeremiah which has had me stuck for about a day. Its chapter 17, verses 5-10 let me share them here.

Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
Jeremiah 17:5-10

The Desert Shrub

So let’s begin with the first verse. In it, God shows us three stages of falling away.

  1. Trusting in Man
  2. Trusting in Self (Arm of Flesh)
  3. Turned Heart

I believe that these three things are actually a pattern. We do number one, then when it fails we do number two. When we realize number doesn’t work, we blame God as if it was His fault that our strength failed. So finally our heart turns from Him. In reality our heart has been turning in each of the previous stages, but stage three is where we actually acknowledge it for ourselves.

What is interesting is that God tells us that following this pattern brings a curse. Its actually a cause and effect. Because you followed this pattern it leads you to its natural end. The Curse. So what is this curse? ” He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.”

Now we know that you don’t physically become a shrub in th desert, this passage has prophetic implications. You see, the bible tells us that there is a river that flows from the throne of God and it a river of peace, pleasure, and gladness. (psalm 46:4, Psalm 36:8, Isaiah 66:12) When your heart trust in God, you are connected to this river. Its life giving waters overflowing within your soul. When you are connected to this river you bear fruit and grow, and live. (Ezekiel 47, Revelation 22)

However, when you are disconnected from this river you are not being fed from its waters. Instead of partaking in the life of God, you are dry and barren.  Instead of the life giving fresh water that never runs dry, you get salt water, barrenness, and desert dry living. How awful is that.

What’s worse is that the scripture says, “…and shall not see any good come.” This doesn’t mean there is no Good, but rather that you are blinded from seeing it. Because God is the source of everything Good, when you are not recognizing Him, you are unable to recognize His goodness, and His blessing.

Being disconnected from the river of God is equivalent to giving yourself over to spiritual death. You turn from God, and all of His goodness and instead are met with death, dehydration, and depravity. If this is you, I want you to take a minute and realize that God does not desire this for you. His heart for you is to prosper you, to bless you, and to give you good things. (Jeremiah 29:11) The dry and barren land you feel is a direct result of your not trusting in God and trusting in self and others.

If this is where you are, turn your heart to God. Even though all you can SEE is dry, death, broken, and barren. You need to know that God has good things for you. You need to be willing to trust God and His plans even though at the moment you cannot see them. Take a moment now to pray and ask God to forgive you for trusting in others, for trusting in yourself, and not trusting Him. Ask Him to pull you out of the barrenness and bring you back to the living waters and His blessing.

The Tree Rooted to the River

river treesNow, the second portion of the passage shows us the blessing for those who do trust in God. ” He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

This is literally the exact opposite of what happens when you turn from God. You are planted with roots that go deep and reach the stream. His water continually supplies life. You are green with life and you produce fruit. Not only once in a while, but continually. You consistently bear fruit as you are planted in Him, because His living water gives you the nutrients of His Spirit to produce fruit in your life.

Further, being securely rooted in the ground and attached to the river means you do not have to fear the heat. When you have the water, the heat can’t destroy you. But if you are dry, you become tinder for fire, and the heat can burn you up and leave you with only a pile of ash.

The Human Heart

The final portion of the passage deals with the human heart. God says through the prophet Jeremiah, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

The world constantly tells us cold clichés like “Follow your heart” or “Listen To Your Heart.” but this is stupid. It doesn’t take a bible scholar to tell you the heart is a liar. That is why people who follow their heart often find themselves hurt and broken. Half of the time we don’t even know our own heart. In fact its not till we are truly tested by fire that we begin to realize what is truly down in our heart. Some find nobility and character, but the majority of us find ourselves lacking.

This is the reason that time and time again the Bible encourages us to Trust in the Lord. Becuase He knows the human heart better than we do. He made it, formed it, and has the ability to truly read it. So instead of relying on man, or your own heart. Let God be your source and your supply. Let Him guide you. So I want you to think on it. To pray on it. To meditate on the scriptures we have discussed. Finally I have one last scripture to leave you with. I know you are already well familiar with it. So Read it and then live it out.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

The Hero We Need…

I want to say upfront that this is not a synopsis of the movie, so I will try to hold off from major spoilers. However, Captain America: The Winter Soldier presents a world-view that is very unique and seems almost inconceivable to many. So if you read this, be warned you many see minor spoilers. You may want to have watched the movie before you read this.

So Captain America is a man with a unique take on the world. He was born an raised in the era Leading up to and during the second world war, but thanks to being frozen has found himself in the modern age. These two worlds couldn’t be more different. Or perhaps they are much more similar than we would care to believe.

During the war, everything was pretty clear. America Good, Hitler Bad. If you just knew that everything fell into place. You knew that the villains intended to kill, steal, and destroy. So you did what you had to in order to stop them. This is how it worked. But this world is not that world. So thee is this struggle with the world trying to convince Captain America to conform to the modern era. This is exemplified in a scene where Captain America is Speaking with Nick Fury after being shown the helicarriers (Flying aircraft carriers) Where Fury explains that they ships will take out threats before they happen. Captain America has a strong reaction…

“That’s not freedom. That’s fear.”

When he says this, Nick Fury get a little angry and retorts,

“We take the world as it is Captain.Not as we would like it to be. It’s about Damn time you got with that program…”

Right here we see the chief struggle of the movie. The Captain is a man of Absolutes; Good and Evil, Right and Wrong, Freedom and Fear. Captain America doesn’t dance in the grey areas, and he doesn’t hide in the shadows. The fact that the world wants him to conform to secrets, shadows, and moral ambiguity doesn’t sit well with him.

This is the modern life. The world has definitely changed. There is no good and evil. There is no right and wrong. There is only life. The thing tat is right for me is wrong for you and thats OK, because we are tolerant. Its this shadow that gives Evil a place to grow. Because S.H.I.E.L.D. thrived and embraced moral ambiguity and a life in the shadows, there was no light to shine on the evil that had grown within their own ranks.

Welcome to the real world. If you are reading this, you know that I am a Christian. Chances are that you would call yourself one too. Therefore you know that we should be Captain America. The problem is that more often than we care to admit, we bow to compromise. Despite the desire to be the Super Soldier, more often we become the man who lives in the shadows. Whilst we talk like the idealist, our actions betray us. We are Nick Fury.

As the movie continues, we see something interesting. Captain America and his resolve proves to be right. In the end the compromise of S.H.I.E.L.D. leads to its downfall, and even Nick Fury himself has to admit tat the whole system is broken. This is troublesome, and difficult for Fury to accept. The people he has believed in, the thing that he spent his life fighting for was ntohing more than a broken system and a failed ideology.

Welcome to the real world. A system of moral ambiguity will always fail. If a game doesn’t have set rules it can never be won. The best you can do is to hold of defeat a little while longer. But eventually the compromise you have given in to will eventually rise up and take you out.

Welcome to the real world. No matter how hard you try to ignore it it creeps up on you. That is why in a world filled with men like Nick Fury, Captain America is the Hero we need. We need men who lack compromise. Who live in the Light and shine the light in the darkness to make all the roaches scatter.

We do not need another person comfortable with secrecy, shadows, and fear. We need FREEDOM, We need TRUTH, and we need LIGHT. Will you stand and be counted as a Captain America? Or will you fall with the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D. and try to survive the failure of the world? Other heroes have claimed to be the Hero we needed, but none have actually been. Captain America, the man out of time, the man without compromise. He is the Hero we desperately need.

BE A MAN

MAN

Chances are if you have spent enough time on the Internet you have heard of the Legend that is Ron Swanson. Ron is a character on the NBC television comedy “Parks and Recreation” which is played by actor Nick Offerman. Ron is hilarious, and have become a pop culture icon.

Clips of Ron Swanson are all over youtube, if you are not familiar with Him you could watch one and understand a little bit about him. However, I would like to define him. Ron is a MAN. Perhaps he is a bit of a stereotype, but He is definitely a man. From His love of nature and woodworking, to his affinity for meat and mustaches. He is a no nonsense, type that does what he says, and means it when he gives his word. The show is a bit of an absurdist comedy, which is why Ron is a bit of a stereotype, but none the less, he has become very, very popular.

Now, you are probably wondering why on a blog about Christianity I would be discussing Ron Swanson. So let me explain. America is in love with Ron Swanson because He is a Man. No, not because He has the physical characteristics of a man, but the personality of one. You see, on the show there are several other men.

1. Chris Traeger: Overly health conscious, emotionally unstable, and a little weak willed
2. Tom Haverford: Butt-Kisser, obsessed with celebrity, wimpy
3. Jerry Gergich: Push Over, clumsy, not good at his job
4. Andy Dwyer: Young, Sloppy, Uninspired, slightly stupid

Out of the five males on the show, Ron shows confidence, conviction, authority, and many other traits. While we laugh, and find some of His one liners amusing, we are inexplicably drawn to him. Well, I shouldn’t say inexplicably, because I can tell you why. Ron Swanson is the man that we wish we could be.

Right about now you are probably thinking I am crazy. But think about it deeper. Ron doesn’t back down from people. He is confident. He eats what he wants. He knows his strengths. He works to improve his weaknesses. He is able to do things for himself. He is what many men wish they were able to be. However, the majority of men these days are not Swansons, but rather we find ourselves more like one of the other men from the show.

Our modern culture has worked to make Manhood a villainous thing. We try and encourage men to be more mild, often effeminate. We are moving to a gender neutral society where men are not men. However, Ron Swanson is not like this. Now Ron is a television character and is not perfect, but He displays a manhood that has been lost on many of our children.

I look back on the men of the Bible and I see men that are very different from our men today. In the Bible men were encouraged to lead. Men were encouraged to be strong. Men were encouraged to work hard and produce. Look at David. He wasn’t the strongest or the biggest, but he worked hard and excelled in everything that he did. He went from being a shepherd boy, to being a King.

Look at Abraham. He left home and started his own company for lack of a better word. He gathered a huge fortune and a lot of land. These are the men we see celebrated in the Bible. The twelve disciples they had a message and they carried it across the earth in the midst of opposition. There was a time when Men were Men. When they were strong, driven, and had true courage. However in our modern culture, much of these traits are looked down upon.

Now before you get all mad and call me misogynistic, hear me out. Women are great and are often strong, and courageous. However, I am not discussing women. I love women and I encourage them to excel in all that they do. Right now I am talking to men. I am talking to guys who would rather sit inside playing videogames than being outside actually learning to do the things those video games simulate.

There is a real joy in creating something. I remember the first time I built something in wood shop. It was a clock and it was not perfect, but I had made it with my own two hands. I was proud of my clock, because it didn’t just come from a store. It came from my left hand and my right hand, and a little bit of work.

But today instead of belaboring my point. I want to share a link. http://31kings.com/category/manhood/ This is the website of a local pastor here in the Kansas City area who does a great job of exploring biblical Manhood. Take some time and scan through. I specifically highlighted the posts tagged with Manhood, but there is a ton of things on His webpage that you should check out.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you are willing to take the challenge to Be a Man, and not simply live as culture has dictated.

Live Worthy of the Grace….

liveworthy

“Now that you are free, live worthy of the grace God has given to you.”

I once said this to a man who was in some legal trouble. He was looking at jail time, and no one wanted that. We prayed together and had others who were praying. We asked God for mercy, and grace. That the judge would look favorably on him and let him off. Sure enough that is exactly what happened. This brother was set free. No fine, nothing, just freedom.

When we picked him up, he gave me a big hug and thanked me for standing with him and praying. I was glad he had gotten the miracle he need. However after all of that, I looked at him and simply said;

“Now that you are free, live worthy of the grace God has given to you.”

He knew instantly what I meant. It wasn’t an angry statement, or a judgmental statement. But he knew God had given him grace, and he knew he had to shift his mindsets, and actions so he wouldn’t make the same mistakes again. But this article is not about him, its about me.

I was born a sinner. I deserved Hell, but Messiah Yeshua intervened and gave me grace. I love the way Bono, the lead singer of the world famous U2 put it.

Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.

Assayas: I’d be interested to hear that.

Bono: That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

source: http://bit.ly/bonograce

The power of the cross completely overwrote what I earned, it overcame my sin and shame. I am free. However, If I am honest, I still make mistakes. I still need grace.

There are hundreds if not thousands of messages on grace and they cover a wide spectrum of opinions. Some would tell you we have grace, and therefore we cannot sin, everything is cool. Some would tell you, you got grace, but if you sin again you are going to hell. Someone will tell you just about any wild thing you can imagine when it comes to grace.

But I think Paul can share some great insights with us. Remember that he was the man who hunted and killed people who followed Yeshua, and yet God extended grace, and transformed him into one of the greatest missionaries of all time. In Romans, he discusses Grace and Sin.

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
Romans 6:8-13

I would love to quote all of Romans 5-7, but its just to much. Read those passages and let grace wash over you through the word. This specific passage is great because it reminds us of several key facts;

  1. We died with Christ, and are no longer alive to Sin
  2. Sin does not reign in our lives.
  3. We are to be instruments of righteousness

So many people go around proclaiming themselves as sinners. Their mindset says they are still tied to sin. However this is just not the case. You were born a sinner because you had the DNA from Adam, but by virtue of being burried with Christ, you have been brought back into newness of life with Him. That Life, and that Blood is free from a sin nature. You can still choose to sin, but your IDENTITY is no longer a sinner.

The more you identify yourself as a sinner the more you will be likely to sin again. The more you identify with Christ the more you are likely to become like Him. You will probably sin again, but it is not your identity. Grace doesn’t prevent sin. Grace enables you to overcome sin by the Blood of Jesus and frees you from the consequence of that sin, which is Death.

Is grace a license to sin? NO! Grace will never encourage you to sin. Grace encourages you to stop looking at yourself as a sinner, and look at yourself as the Child of God, Washed and cleansed by His Blood. Now, because you have been given such grace, stop living like you used to. Look to Jesus and learn to live like Him.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
2nd Corinthians 3:18

The Blood took the veils off our eyes to help us behold the Risen King. Grace helps us to keep our eyes on Him, so we become like Him. We are not sinners if we have been saved, and baptized. Instead we are the children of God by the spirit of Adoption and we are called to be the Bride of Christ. Stop Identifying with your sins. Stop letting them reign in you.

Sin does not have power over you. The blood of Jesus and the Spirit of the Living God has power over sin. Let that power guide you into righteousness and shape you into an instrument of His righteousness. Let me end with one final encouragement from Paul. The man was just like us, and overcame to become great in the kingdom. The one who Identified himself as the chief of sinners, was the instrument of righteousness that God used to bring the gentiles back into the family of God where they belong.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:1-2

Father,

I pray that you would teach us to Live worthy of the Grace that You have given us. Teach us how not identify as a sinner, but rather as Your child. You have called us to be overcomers. You have not meant us to continue to undergo. Help us to live worthy of the Grace that You have given us.

Amen

Identity Fraud…

People take titles, and definitions far too seriously. What are you? Punk? Hipster? Prep? Old? Young? Pastor? Doctor? Leader? We have worked ourself into a corner culturally. In the early 1990’s, Michael W. Smith had huge success with a song called “Place in this world” It was a song about people trying to find out who they were. This is the culture we have developed in the last 30 years. We are so concerned with Identity. WHO AM I?

This is seen everywhere, but especially in our churches. We are so concerned with being somebody, and finding an Identity. We all want to be someone important in the Body of Christ. We want to be the “Pastor” or the “Worship Leader” or the “Elder” but these aren’t forms of Identity, they are titles. We have gotten so caught up in a case of mistaken identity that we have confused our Job description with our identity.

People have called me many different things throughout the years. I have been labeled a Hippie, a Jerk, a Recluse, Wild-Man, Worship Leader, Prophet, Monk, Punk, and many more. However, none of these define who I am. I am sure each of these has been an accurate description of the way I live at one point or another, but these aren’t who I am.

Child of God…

Chief among the things I describe myself as. “Child of God” John 1:12 and Ephesians 1:5 tells me that . Here they are in the NASB.

John 1:12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name”

Ephesians 1:5 “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will”

If you know nothing else about me beyond this. I would say its good. I have been made a child of God. All of my identity is wrapped up in this single fact. God loves me enough that he planned out a way to bring me into his family. He sent his son Yeshua to redeem me back into the family. This is true of you as well. If you have been bought with the Blood of the Lamb, you have been redeemed to God.

But aside from this, who am I?

Worshiper…

The next thing you need to know about me is worshiper. Notice I did not say worship leader, because my identity as a worshiper is not dependent on others. If no one else would worship with me, I would still worship. I was actually created for the purpose of worshiping God. You can find a scriptural basis for this in Revelation 4:11

Revelation 4:11 “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”

God is worthy. Plain ans simple. He is worthy. In fact Revelation tells us that Jesus was the only one who was found worthy. No one else is worthy of worship. In fact, Jesus is the king of Heaven. In a kingdom, if you take from the King, you are guilty of treason. So, if we are worshiping anything other than God, we are not only breaking the First 2 commandments, but you are robbing from King Jesus.

I am a son of God, and a worshiper of the Lord. Everything that I do, is a subsidiary of these things. My current position at my church is “Worship Leader” this is a title that describes my Job. In fact, given the choice, I would actually call myself a worship architect. I am building the platform for worship. I am creating a culture that is centered on worship.

What about you?

Are  you struggling to find your place in this world? Are you looking for an identity? Find your identity in Christ. Do not look for it in titles, or positions, or labels. These things fade and pass away. In fact, I would suggest that if your identity is tied up in your job, your position, or your label, you are committing Identity Fraud. The worst kind of identity fraud, because you are not only are you defrauding those around you, but you are defrauding yourself.

Who are you? Do you struggle with this question?  Perhaps you need a list of scriptures that will reassure you of who you are? Click Here This is a list of scriptures taken from Neil T. Anderson’s “Victory over the Darkness” Dr. Anderson gives us. He breaks down Identity into three primary Areas, “Accepted, Secure, and Significant” but the first of these is “I am a Child of God”

Do yourself a great service and learn who you are. If you are more concerned with what you are doing than who you are, you will lose yourself. Every great minister needs to be secure in his personal identity. He needs to be satisfied in Christ. He needs to be devoted to Christ. If you are secure in him, you are able to go deeper in relationship with him.

If you are too busy trying to find out who you are, you take your eyes off of him, and put them on you. This is pride, pure and simple. Matthew 6:33 tells us to keep our eyes on Christ.

Matthew 6:33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Seek the Lord. Run after Him, pursue Him, lose yourself in Him. When you are chasing after him, everything else comes easy. Don’t be lost trying to be the Good leader, because if your eyes leave Christ, even for a second, you will sink just like Peter did when was walking on the water. When you are secure in your identity in Christ, or more directly, secure in Christ, you aren’t looking to the left and the right. You are focused on him and only him, because he is everything.

Acts 17:28 “for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, For we also are His children.”

Let Christ become everything. Don’t let your title, or your label be everything. I assure you when you find yourself in him, the rest will not matter.

My life in 140 characters or less…

I have many friends, many followers, and a few people I actually know. Welcome to the world of Social Media. On facebook I have about 608 “Friends” and on Twitter I have about 1000 followers. However, how many of these are people I contact regularly? How often do we get together? How often do we share life together?

This is the question I have been contemplating. Last Sunday I met @russhutto in person for the first time. Russ and I have ‘known’ each other for a few years thanks to a website for worship leaders called, The Worship Community. However this was just an online knowledge and really didn’t have much basis in fact. We followed one another on twitter and had the facebook friendship, but this was still a man I had never met. I never actually spoke to him orally.

As we sat and ate chicken, we regaled each other with stories of what God has been doing in our lives and saying to us.  But there was one thing Russ said to me that really hit a chord with me. He said, “Mat, I love reading this things God is doing through you, on twitter.” In other words, he actually read my tweets and followed my story.

but what was that story. If you only read my twitter, or saw my facebook, what kind of tale would you be reading? This is a chilling thought to me. Because if you see me at church, you might view me one way, because you always see me in a spiritual environment. However my tweets come at all different times, for different reasons.

If you  followed me on twitter would you see the same person you see on a Friday night or a Sunday morning? I think my twitter may be a more accurate assessment of who I am than many other windows into my life. It has caused me to really evaluate who I am and how I live.

What about you, if people judged your life solely on your social media, who would you be? Would you be the kind of person you would want to follow? Are you someone who is actually worth following?

 

P.S. Having met Russ in person, I can say he is a great guy, and in real life he is the same person he appears to be on line. I hope the same could be said of me.

Desiring God Revised Edition [Review]

Thanks as always to the kind folks over at Waterbrook Multnomah for providing me with a free copy of John Piper’s Book “Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist [Revised Edition]” With that said, here are my thoughts on this excellent book

John Piper presents a simple thesis, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”

In other words, The more we desire, enjoy, and Love God, the more he is exalted in our lives, and by extension the lives of those around us.

Desiring God: Meditations of A Christian Hedonist was written 25 years ago, a whole year before I was born. Yet in that time, I never have gotten around to reading it.

I can honestly say I am glad that I did. In reading this book, nothing was radically changed in my theology. This book did not give me an epiphany or turn my world upside down. Instead it gave me language to better express the Life I already live.

Chapter One really helps define Piper’s term “Christian Hedonist” which is what he calls those who live out the thesis of this book. Then as the book progresses, he gives you insight as to how you can live this out in 9 key areas of your life; Conversion, Worship, Love, Scripture, Prayer, Money, Marriage, Missions, and Suffering.

This practical guide gives you theology and simple thinking that shows you how to most Glorify god in these areas. To really make him to focus, and the be able to look at these area with happiness and joy. These are areas that would otherwise be points of contention in our lives, especially money, and suffering.

I so throughly enjoyed this book, that I am intending on reading through it a second time. I would highly recommend it. If you can adopt this lifestyle, you will tap into untold joy and strength, and peace in your life by the simple act of enjoying Jesus Christ.

The Packiam Pickle… (Theology in Worship)

“If I based my theology off the songs you were singing, what kind of faith would I have?” as soon as he said it, I knew I was in for a long night. The quote was from Glenn Packiam. He is a great worship leader and is a pastor atNewLifeChurch inColorado Springs. Glenn as a way to pose a thought; sometimes in question for, sometimes just a statement. But often those thoughts become the things that turn my gears for some time.

When I read Glenn’s first book “Secondhand Jesus” it took a while because he kept challenging my notions of theology. If you haven’t read it, get a copy, sit down with a nice cup (or many cups) of tea and read it. If you don’t know I am an avid tea drinker, so if you need flavor suggestions ask me and I will help you out. But I digress.

Recently, Fred McKinnon and Russ Hutto over at The Worship Community submitted questions from the website’s readers to Glenn. Being the gracious leader he is, he took the time to answer the ten questions in a video. That whole video is available to watch for free over at The Worship Community. But one of the questions was “What do you believe are the core values in developing a worshiping community?” (Worshiping church)

I will attach the video so you can listen to his whole response. You see having been a Worship Leader on Staff at New Life for several years before becoming an associate Pastor, Glenn has a unique perspective. In his answer he discusses Theology, Church History, Worship, Prayer, and Liturgy. Now growing up as a Charismatic/Pentecostal, Liturgy was a terrible word, Church history only went back as far as Azusa, and my theology, well I was a Kid, my mother told me what I believed and I said ok.

In my adult life, all six-ish years of it, I have become much more independent. I started to form my own opinion on theology, church history, liturgy, and the like. Not that I threw away my past, but I reshaped and added to it. These days I love church history, and books that teach me about it. I have grown fond of many of the Liturgies of the past. I am still a Charismatic/Pentecostal, but I learn as much from the writings of the reformation as I do from Bill Johnson or Smith Wigglesworth.

So now you see that I am a unique bubble in my theological world. I have a burning passion for the scripture, and the person of God. But since I fancy myself a worship leader, does my worship reflect my belief system? In the video Glenn quotes some Latin. I love it becase I think other languages especially ones like Greek, Hebrew, and Latin, just sound magnificent. He quotes, “lex orandi lex credendi lex vivendi” The English translation is roughly, “As we worship/pray, we believe, and as we believe we act.”

To quote Michael Scott, “Boom Roasted.” Right there that single simple Latin quote just threw me into a night of theological upheaval. My worship defines my beliefs which shape my actions. Does my worship truly do this?

When David worshiped, people knew something was different. His harp made demons flee (1st Samuel16:23) His worship is the rock upon which much of our theology is built. And his worship has been quoted more than all the great hymns of the Church Ages.

I began to think about the songs that have been impacting me lately. What have I been playing to myself, and in the church? Here is a short list of some songs that I have been doing; ‘Heaven’ and ‘Like a Lion’ by Daniel Bashta, ‘Made Me Glad’ by Merriam Webster, ‘We are an Ark’ by Dave Fitzgerald, ‘Be Thou My Vision’ an Irish Hymn, ‘The Anthem’ by Planetshakers, ‘Still Saving Me’ by Chris McClarney and Dave Fitzgerald, ‘Find my own Flame’ ‘Come Away’ and ‘Let Me In’ By United Pursuit Band.

As I began to think about what this reflects, I began to see an interesting story. It is the story of a broken man who is weak and alone; A King who is in love and wooing his children into his kingdom. Its the Story of redemption and purpose, but also the Story of someone desperate for the presence of his God.

As I piece it together, I see a story unfolding that I am desperate to tell. I was created by God, his child, for his pleasure, and I turned my back on him. I was broken and desperate, and he never gave up on me. He continued to pursue me and draw me into him. He even went so far as to die, on a cross, knowing it was the only way he and I could ever come back to one another. Eventually I relented to his wooing; I gave up my stubborn, stiff necked ways and fell in love with him. I became desperate for him, for his presence.

But, when I share this message, what do others receive? What is the purpose of this message? Do others see the Christian journey though my eyes now because we worship together? Does their concept of God grow, change, and reshape itself? Better yet, as we worship as a community does my view of God change its shape as I interact with the other around me?

There is a lot of talk in the church these days about ‘organic’ church. What is that? Am I even close? There are a lot of questions I have about myself, my faith, my theology, and my church. But there is something I know for sure. Every time I pick up my guitar, and worship the Lord, he comes into the room. Is it because I am great? No! Truth be told, I am not that good at guitar. I know enough to play but not enough to go where I want to go with it.

Glenn, I need some encouragement, because I am losing my grip on reality. I address it to him specifically because he got me thinking about this. He will most likely never read this post and I am ok with that, because I am not writing for him, but because of him.

This blog doesn’t give you an answer, mostly because I do not have one, but I can tell you this. My worship is growing, changing, and I pray it reflects him more and more every day.

Well, as always, thoughts and comments are always welcomed. Now I will leave you with the video and you can think on it as you will. Well, I am off to try and get a copy of The Book of Common Prayers and maybe a copy of Glenn’s newest book Lucky. I want it, just haven’t had the cash to get it yet.