Thursday, June 25, 2009

He Went Away

The last couple weeks have been a little rough, but pretty enlightening. I got a lot out of the time I was able to spend with God, away from the hustle and bustle of the Internet. Although a couple weeks was not very long, I was still able to spend some time reflecting. Maybe next time will be longer. Anyway, like I said, I was able to focus on some real truths, all of which are gonna stay between me and God for right now.

With that said, I did want to share something I recently got from Matthew. My church is currently doing a sermon series called “One Prayer” and through that we are reading Matthew together. A few days ago we read Matthew 19, in which Jesus encounters a rich young man. The man asked Jesus how he could receive eternal life, to which Jesus answered, “...
If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." Easy enough, right? The man responded that he had and inquired what else he lacked. Then Jesus hit him with his proverbial “Jesus stick” (reference to Mr. Echo's scripture stick from the television show Lost). Jesus said, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." That's huge, a lot of commitment, right?

If you know the story, then you know that the rich young man did not accept Jesus' invitation. Unlike other's that Jesus called, one's that dropped everything to follow Him, the rich young man chose not to. The bible says, “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” I always got hung up on the fact that he “went away sad”. I always thought it made some sense though. Of course he'd be sad, maybe he was unsure that Jesus was actually The Messiah and he had a lot to give up. Doesn't make it right, but maybe he was afraid to give up everything for someone that was “just another prophet”. How could he have known the trade off for all his wealth would be a relationship of true and real love with our creator that would last for all of eternity. That's just me speculating, but that is how I've thought of it in the past.

Lately though, God has helped me see a different part of that story. Not that he went away sad, it doesn't matter that he was sad. The important part is that “he went away”. Just that, “HE WENT AWAY”! Jesus told him exactly how to receive eternal life and the young man chose to go away from Christ. It doesn't matter how he felt when he went away, just that he went away. How many times do we do that? How many times does Christ tell us what we need or ought to do and we decide the cost is too high, it makes us angry, sad, doesn't fit our plans or whatever excuse we use and just go away from Him? How about this...How many times do we ask God to deliver us from some trial and when He does, we're happy, we thank Him, then we go away from Him? Oh, we come back. When things get tough again, we come back, but the fact is we still went away.

Why do we go away? I wrote a blog (Here) awhile back about God running to us and us running to Him. But this is more than that. It's not about us running to God (although we should EVERY single chance we get), it's about not going away from Him. He will always pursue us, Psalm 23:6 says, “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” He will NEVER take His love from us and He will always take us back if we go away, but I'm sure of this: He would prefer to never loose us. We may not always like the path God has laid out or the answer He gives us, but rest assured God's plans for you “are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

It doesn't matter whether we leave Jesus because we're angry, hurt, sad, disenchanted, disappointed, or even happy (because for the record, a lot of people walk away when things are going good). The point is that you left. Our feelings have nothing to do with who God is. Make no mistake, God cares about how we feel, where do you think we got our feelings from. But God does not waiver in the way He is, like we do. Our feelings do not play any role in who He is. God has not changed. He is the same everyday, ALWAYS. C.S. Lewis put it like this in his book Mere Christianity, “But the thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not.”

God loves you ALWAYS FOREVER, don't just go away from Him.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Blog Break

When I started this blog it was strictly to record the excitement with my new walk with Christ. I intended to use it to look back, at some later date, and see all the amazing things God has done in my life. I figured if it helped someone or revealed a some truth to anyone, then bonus. Recently, God has been beckoning me to spend some personal time with Him. With that said, in keeping with my FB hiatus, I have decided to break from blogging also.

I plan to continue writing (albeit for me only, as it currently stands), but who knows, maybe God will prompt me to share some great truth He'll reveal during this break. Regardless, I know I'm being called inward to focus on me and Jesus. I know God is going to continue to do just awesome stuff for me and I'm excited to see what that is.

Talk to you later and God bless.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

God Right Now!

Over the last 9 months, God has done some amazing things in my life. Obviously the greatest, in my view, was His calling me to ministry on January 14, 2009. Since then He has clearly defined the path that will get me where He wants me. It hasn't always been straight, but it has been very visible. God hasn't stopped doing those amazing things for me and I have faith that He'll continue to do so. Goes back to that whole obedience thing (I have a two part blog post on it, HERE & HERE). Long as you're obedient, God is faithful and generous with His blessings (may not always be what you want, but it will always be what you need). Anyway, I intend to actually keep this shorter than normal (maybe), so here it is.

I've actually spoke with a friend about this topic a number of times and I actually talked about it the one opportunity I had to preach, but it keeps coming back around. Specifically having to do with the plans that God reveals for our future. I have NO doubt that God routinely shows us what He has for our future (not always, but He has for me quite a bit over the last 9 month). Probably more often than not, He won't show you. That way there isn't this “shiny” object off in the distance that can side-track you from what He is trying to teach you and develop in you. But whether He shows us or not, how often do we find ourselves trying to serve a God of our future or our past? With that said, I'm not talking about hope for the future. On the contrary hope is essential to our faith. Ephesians 4:4 says, “For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.” We have been called to hope for the future and I can't wait for it. On the other hand, we can also get hung up on the God of our past. We look back and see all the stuff He has done for us. When a time comes that we don't perceive the future to be as promising as what He has done for us already, we long for the “good times”. Again, not talking about detaching from past blessings. His sacrifice on the cross was the most amazing thing He has ever given us. And, all of how God moved in our past (long as we were obedient) shaped who we are today, God is good that way. What I am talking about is when we live so much for the future or hold so tight to the past, being so focused on what He might have for us or what He's already done for us, that we forget what He is giving us right now.

God is a God of right now moments. He wants us to appreciate and remember what He did for us. He wants us to look ahead and hope for the future. But more than anything, He wants to affect us right now. He wants to be with us today. To pour out His love and favor in this moment and every moment. 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 says, “1As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. 2For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.” Paul is quoting what God said in Isaiah 49:8. NOW is the part of your life that God wants you to see Him working in. NOW is when God wants to be with you.

So, do you serve a God that is only concerned about your future? Or a God that you can only look back and see what He’s done in your past? Or do you serve a God that is right here, right now; a God that is present and fully concerned with you walking the path He has currently laid out for you? I can tell you this, we serve an ALWAYS present God, that wants our obedience and wants to impact us right now. Not just a God that has impacted us or will impact us. Our relationship with him is and always should be active and dynamic. He is constantly moving in and trough our lives, we just have to open our eyes and see Him.

I know God has marvelous things for my future, but He also has marvelous things for my right now. I'm loving what He has done, is doing and will do.

Living in God Right Now,

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Motions

Since I've started to understand what an actual relationship with Christ is supposed to look like, I've had a few opportunities to share my faith and new things I've learned about that relationship. All of those opportunities have been very easy and not at all aggressive. I don't know if aggressive is actually the right word. Maybe there was more passion for what was being said on my side, than on the other's side. At any rate, the conversation was usually very mild, with little opposition to what I was saying.

Not the case last Thursday night. I actually had the opportunity to defend and share my faith. It was rather odd, because the person I was defending my faith to is a friend. He wasn't attacking my faith, but the amount of passion that he argued with was like none I'd ever actually dealt with in regards to religion. I will say that he attends my church and although he is not "religious" he does appreciate the messages that Jeff preaches and is willing to consider much of what he hears. He has a lot of questions and some deep convictions, but I would worry about him if he didn't question. When God gets him to come home (notice I said WHEN), he'll be a strong man of God. At the end of the night he told me he loves me and we were good. I actually think God set that situation up with a friend to throw me off. Like He was saying, "Things won't always be sweet when you talk about Me." But I also think he picked my friend to have this exchange with to make it safe, kind of a practice run of sorts.

There was a lot that he brought up, but one of his biggest complaints was with how worship is conducted. He argued that if singing at church was intended to be worship to the "one and only God" (he did the finger quotations thing), everyone at church should be on the same page and not be singing off key, especially if you're on the stage. He said something to the effect of, "If you are going to worship God, (emphasized) I MEAN - THE GOD, then everyone should be on the same page, the same rhythm and do it right, even the band. Otherwise, it's not worship." He continued by saying that it was somewhat hypocritical to be singing off key, not even following what was on the screen and really think that because you put your hands up, that you're worshiping God.

With that said...I think Element's Praise team brings the heat every time they play, I love'em. You can tell Adam (Blog love HERE) gets on stage every time with the intent and desire to chase after God's heart.

I really felt ill prepared to defend some of the points that were being made. But I put my trust in God and a lot of stuff, some I don't even remember reading or hearing necessarily, came running out of my mouth. I tried to explain the relationship part of Jesus, we talked about the Church being "intolerant", and a variety of other topics, but when the music thing came up, I was floored. I thought, "Seriously? This is your big issue with church, the music?"

Our conversation at that point turned to talking about worship being more than just singing at church. It's about the way you live, the time you spend with God, the rejoicing in Christ in the light and dark times. But it did get me thinking about worshipping in my daily life and it made me think of the song "The Motions" by Matthew West. Matthew West talks about not spending our life asking, "What if I had given everything, instead of going through the motions?"

So that begs the question, "If I don't feel up to worshiping or 'off', shouldn't I just not do it, instead of going through 'the motions'?"

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not going to win the next season of America's Got Talent or American Idol with my singing. So for all I know, my friend may have very well been speaking of me, although he didn't say that. Without even getting into the deeper parts of worship, i.e. the way you live, time spent with God, etc., worship at church has nothing to do with the actual verbal singing or the hand movements. There are sometimes during worship that I don't even sing. Sometimes I simply stand there, listen to what's being said and pray. Sometimes I raise my hands, sometimes I don't. There are even sometimes that I don't feel "it", when it comes to worship. In the past if I felt "off", I would go to church, stand and sing and still raise my hands. I would simply, go through the motions. Now, I'm not content with that. This last Sunday I felt "off" at the beginning of worship, but not by the end. When I go to church, I always pray for the Holy Spirit to move and worship with the full understanding that I am worshiping a God that glories in my praise and I have an absolute expectation for God to show up.

I think sometimes, regardless of how you feel, even if you feel "off", you need to understand one very important thing with regards to worship: It's not for you or anyone else, but GOD! I don't concern myself with anyone else during worship, except my Lord. There are times that I don't hear anyone but me. I try to always sing just as loud as God wants me to, without regard for how excruciating it may be for the person standing next to me.

When I feel "off", I still sing and still "go through the motions", but my intent is not to show everyone I'm a "good Christian", its obedience. God wants that obedience and discipline. Even if you have a bad day, God is still there and wants you to talk with Him and sing praises to Him. He wants to comfort us; he wants us to delight in His comfort. That is done through our praise.

Sometimes we assume that God will understand that we're having a bad day, that's why I didn't read, pray, praise, _________ (you fill in the blank). God is worthy of our praise ALL THE TIME, regardless of the day we're having. Who are we to take away and withhold that praise from a God that pours out His perfect, undeserved love on us? The real answer is we're no one, we have NO right. But the better answer is, to God we're everything, important enough to die for. How can we have a bad day and as Mercy Me says it, let "circumstance possibly change who we forever are Jesus?" In Psalms 84:4 David acknowledges God promise that if we live in God's house ALWAYS singing His praise, what joy we will have.

I think Matthew West is saying is even in the midst of everything, he wants his worship of our mighty God to be real. Even if you feel "off" you can still offer real worship without "going throught the motions". Worship is between you and your Lord. It doesn't matter how you feel, what anyone else is doing or what anyone else thinks about how you sing/dance/raise your hands/etc. God is God no matter OUR circumstances. What matters is that you ALWAYS sing His praises. Then no matter how you feel, He will make sure you have joy (that's different than happiness and another blog for another time).

Always Singing His Praises,