Thursday, October 20, 2011


October 20, 2011

Today I woke up quite annoyed. Was it because of the sound of a wood chipper outside my window shredding through what sounded like an entire tree? Not so much. Was it because I had a bad dream? I don’t think so because I can’t really remember my dreams from last night. I do, however, remember waking up in the middle of the night and wondering if I was actually awake or dreaming, and if I was dreaming I was probably going to be really upset that I was using the bathroom.

No, I woke up today annoyed that I wasn’t going to work. What an American thing to think, huh? But yeah, I was upset. I was told I would be working at this job full time for weeks, and I was really enjoying it at first, but it has not turned out to be what I was told it would be, and today was further proof as I found myself done with my work for the week, and also done making money for the week.

It’s been a frustrating few years for me to say the least. Nothing has quite gone according to plan, or anywhere near the plan.

So like a great man of faith, I reluctantly and without even the weakest desire opened up my Bible, only because I just knew I should. I’ve been reading through the Psalms and today I read Psalm 74. It seems to me that I’m not the first person in the world to have felt like I am feeling.

Psalm 74:1,9
“Why have you rejected us forever, O God? Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture? – We are given no miraculous signs; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be.”

That stuff is IN the Bible. That’s real life. And here’s something straight out of my journal this morning:
Maybe this is just my own Psalm that is similar to that one as I write out my frustrations. It honestly sucks right now and I have no hope. And if I feel like I’m getting hope it just scares me because I know it’s not going to work out. I feel like I should now never tell anyone about anything going on until it actually happens because I’m so sick of having to follow up with “It didn’t work out.” And right now, nothing has worked out. If this is a fistfight, I feel like I haven’t given a solid punch in forever. I just keep taking the blows.

At the risk of being a huge nerd, I am going to reference The Dark Knight right now, because this is what has been going through my mind for the past few days, and it fits so just go with.

In the film, Bruce Wayne is about to reveal that he is Batman because he feels responsible for the deaths of the people the Joker is killing, because he said he would kill someone every day until Batman came forward. Bruce asks Alfred, “What would you have me do?” Alfred replies, “Endure, Master Wayne. Take it.”

And this thought has been going through my mind constantly. Endure.

Maybe it will get better, so endure.
Maybe it will never get better, so endure.

I really don’t know too much of what is an absolute guarantee when it comes to life and faith in God. Some may tell you that you will be delivered from any conflict or trial, but I don’t know if that’s a guarantee. What about the martyrs who die for their faith in Jesus? They were not delivered. The men and women locked in prison walls that God never breaks down. They are not delivered, but they endure. There are men and women of faith fighting through cancer and another life-taking diseases, crying out to a God who has healed countless people but is not healing them. They endure.

If you’ve never prayed a Psalm 74, I don’t know if this can make much sense to you right now. I’ve never had cancer or been in prison, but face down in tears I’ve prayed, “Why have you rejected me forever, O God? I am given no miraculous signs and I don’t know how long this will be.” I’ve thought so many times that things were about to change, and then they did not. But somehow I endure, and it simply cannot be by my own strength.

Matthew 24:12-13
“Lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”

James 1:12
“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

Interesting. These verses give us some guarantees, but there aren’t any guarantees for freedom in this life. Jesus did not say, “He who endures until the end… of the year.”

The end? Death? Maybe some fights do not end until we end.

God may never deliver you in front of your family and friends. I don’t know if it is a guarantee that if you struggle for a while in life, eventually something will click and you will be rewarded and redeemed in life for what you went through.

You may never feel justified in this world, but maybe this is not the world that God is preparing you for.

Romans 8:18
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

What is coming in the next world cannot even be compared to this present one. I don’t think it should be called an “afterlife” because for those who believe, heaven is where life truly begins.

Endure, saints. Endure! God would not let you bear it if he did not think you could take it. Our Father, who is in heaven, looks upon us from eternity’s view. Eternity will reveal more to us than we can imagine, and it will reveal more in us than we ever knew was there.

I’ve seen God move mountains, and I’ve seen mountains crumble onto men. I have only come to realize that it is not my place to understand it all; it is my job to follow. You can stand there with your fist to the sky and demand God give you justice, which I’ve done, but I’ve found that it only produces more unrest and pain. If I have to be at odds with the world, then I want to be at peace with God.

Endure. Take it. I can guarantee you eternity will prove worth it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

2 Psalms, 1 God

I love David. No not like that. King David, by the way. Although I do have a friend named David that I love… anyways… I love his writings and his life. I relate so much to him.

I’ve been reading through the Psalms and today this struck me about Psalm 21 and 22. I’ve said in my journal entries before that it seems like every other page is a different emotional trip for me. Some days I’m super excited, happy, and at peace. Some days I sound so depressed. Well, David makes me feel a little bit better about myself, and a little more normal.

Let’s just look at the beginnings of Psalm 21 and 22 to show what I mean.

Psalm 21:1-2
O Lord, the king rejoices in your strength. How great is his joy in the victories you give! You have granted him the desire of his heart and have not withheld the request of his lips.

Psalm 22:1-2
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.

It almost sounds like David is praying to two different Gods. One that is super attentive to him and gives him whatever he asks for, and another that doesn’t seem to care much about his needs and has perhaps even walked away from him.

So what does this tell us? Does David have multiple personality disorder? Is God playing some kind of good cop/bad cop thing?

What it tells me is that this is just real life. Sometimes your emotions will shift greatly from one page to another, because our days shift in their troubles from one day to another. Jesus even said it himself, “Each day has enough troubles of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

We must also remember that just because the days are changing and the seasons are shifting, it does not mean that God is doing the same. God is just as much loving David in Psalm 22 and he is in Psalm 21. He is just as faithful in Psalm 22 as he is in Psalm 21.

You can say, “Well, I don’t feel like God is being loving towards me, he won’t even answer me when I call out,” but just because you don’t feel like he’s loving you, it doesn’t mean that he isn’t. We humans can’t even begin to know what the full extent of love looks like.

Some days are easier than others, that’s just the way it is. But God is worthy of praise and thanksgiving in all moments and days. And maybe that’s what David knew better than most.

Psalm 22:26
“They who seek the Lord will praise him.”

Not praising the Lord much? You’re probably not seeking him. This was a very big shot in the chest for me. True worshipers worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23), not in feelings. If you seek the Lord you will praise him. So seek the Lord.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Weak Strength

2 Corinthians 12:7-9
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

I think my anxiousness, frustration, and fear are pretty clear signs that I am not on the same tracks as God.

After spending some time repenting this morning, I realized just how weak I am. But God, being the wise and merciful teacher he is, showed me that I am just like he wants me to be: weak, and conscious of my weakness.

I know many people are the first part (weak), but finishing up the second part is where we can so easily miss it, as I have so many times.

A person who is not conscious of their weakness believes that the outcomes of life are based on their abilities and actions, not on God. They might be aware of God, and even give thanks to God for their blessings, but in their mind they think it was because of their hard work and determination, will power, etc… It always comes back to how hard they worked. I believe a person that is not conscious of their weakness asks many questions about how hard one is really trying with things in life, and makes more suggestions for them to do than they make offers to pray for them.

So many times I get so frustrated and discouraged, and the reason is that I have lost sight of the importance of my weakness and total dependence on God. And perhaps that’s why I have been going through it so much. God wants me to get this down, and this is what it takes to get it.

A real Christian should be weak and conscious of their weakness. I’m beginning to understand why Paul says, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

The weaker we are, the more glory the Lord receives. It doesn’t seem to make sense, does it? But it’s true. The Lord even says that weakness is what gives God the chance to show us not just power, but perfect power.

2 Corinthians 12:9
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

A person who understands their weakness will walk in more freedom than the wisest and strongest people in the world, because they won’t feel the weight of believing that everything in their life depends on their actions. They realize it is up to the work and grace of God to bring about anything good in their lives.

James 1:17
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

Now I’m not saying this is a call to sit around the rest of your life and do nothing; you don’t know you are weak until you actually try to lift something or do something else. Make efforts. Do stuff. But remember your weakness as a human, and remember your strength as a child of God. We’ve got to learn to see both at the same time. Maybe that’s why God gave us two eyes.

God is some kind of chemist, isn’t he? Always mixing things, like weakness and strength, but somehow it just works.

2 Corinthians 12:10
“For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Guilt and Love

Read Luke 22:47-62 before you read this post.

This morning I was reading in Luke 22 about Jesus’ arrest and Peter denying him. Such a heartbreaking story. We all like to think that if we were Peter we wouldn’t have denied Christ, but I am not so sure I wouldn’t have.

I’ve denied him so many times in my life. Denied his way by not waiting and listening to him. Denied his convictions and willfully sinned. He commanded us to “deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him,” (Matthew 16:24) but I have done just the opposite. I’ve denied him, taken up my desires, and followed them to where they would lead.

Luke 22:61 is so sad. I can see it in my mind’s eye. Peter had just lived up to Jesus’ prophecy about how he would deny Jesus three times, and then the rooster crowed.

“The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him… And he went outside and wept bitterly.”

Could you imagine the Savior of the world, on his way to the greatest human suffering of all time to save you from your sins, starring you in the eye right after you disowned him? Man, this story has so much weight to it. No wonder Peter went outside and wept.

The Gospel of Luke doesn’t talk about it, but the 21st chapter of Gospel of John tells us how Jesus reinstates Peter on a beach one morning after his resurrection. Jesus asks him three times if he loves him. Peter wasn’t an idiot; he knew what the three times meant. Jesus asks him if he loves him, then gives him instructions to feed and take care of his “sheep.”

Jesus chose the man who had just rejected him when the pressure was on to be the man he builds his church on. Jesus had told him earlier, too, that the devil had desired to sift Peter like wheat, but Jesus had prayed for him that he wouldn’t fail (Luke 22:31-32).

It is my personal thinking that Peter never forgot the face of Jesus on the night he looked at him right after he denied him. I don’t know how you could forget something like that. But if that was all Peter remembered then he would have just moved forward in guilt. All his works for the church would have been fueled by his guilt and inner regret.

When we are motivated by regret, I don’t believe we are moving in the power of God, because “there is now NO CONDEMNATION for those that are in Christ Jesus!” (Romans 8:1) None! Only the Son of God can set you free like that.

Peter didn’t go forth in ministry by being pushed on by his own regret and guilt; the Savior’s love, forgiveness, and call is what motivated him onward. And Peter moved forward under the power of Christ, and under his encouragement.

I don’t think Peter ever forgot the face of Jesus on the night he denied him, but more importantly, I don’t think he ever forgot the words of Jesus that morning on the beach.

We cannot serve the Lord out of guilt, regret, or sense of what we owe him. It makes it a game of works to be accepted by God. We serve the Lord because he loves us, and he has called us.

There is no scale with God where we have to fill up our side with works to balance out all that he’s done for us or given us, his side of the scale will always incomprehensibly outweigh ours.

He loves you. He desires you. You can’t earn love like that. You just can’t. Jesus desires those that deny him; he calls those that curse him. You can’t earn relentless love like that. His love is a fire that consumes our past mistakes, sins, and regrets until there is nothing left but his grace, truth, and love.

Jesus loves me, this I know.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Faith, Failure, and Hope.

Do you ever get scared to pray prayers because you’re afraid God is going to answer them immediately? I’ll give you an example I’m kind of embarrassed of. I don’t pray for patience anymore. I honestly don’t because I’m scared God is going to cause my car to break down, or somebody will rob me, or someone will ask me if I can watch their brat 8-year-old who has found the only remaining bottles of Surge left on the planet and drank them right before I came over. I’m only 25, but quite frankly I don’t feel like I have the nerves left to learn patience anymore. Obviously, I am way wrong and have much more to learn in patience, and plenty more nerves left to burn out. I’d just rather pray for “supernatural patience.” You know, the kind God just downloads into your soul and you get it. Like Keanu Reeves learned kung fu in the Matrix.

But as you’ve probably learned, as have I, it doesn’t usually work like that. Life is full of lessons that can only be learned on the streets pain and in the schools of hard knocks. Mr. Rogers did his best while I was growing up, but there are some things that expressionless puppets can’t teach you. Who knew?

Yeah, I am afraid to pray, sometimes. Am I the only one who ever treats God like he’s this fortune teller/genie thing that is just waiting for me to screw up the magic words only for it to only result in the exact opposite of what I want to happen? I have somehow done it. I’ve minimized my Almighty God down to a bad made for TV movie.

I know the verses like Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God,” and Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” But it is a whole other challenge to actually believe them and implement them into your mind. Isn’t it funny how we can know things are true and still not believe them? We’ve been conditioned to be doubters.

Every time I go visit my mom in Ft. Pierce, FL thereI usually try to go to the jetty at the beach and pray at night. It’s pretty much pitch black there so many of my prayers are to not get shanked and robbed. After that fear subsides I just look at the ocean and talk to God. That’s right Sunday School teachers, I am praying with my eyes open. I’ll return all my Bible bucks if you want. But not the candy, I earned it.

One night I was out there and I was praying and just thinking about the future and my life. Places I felt like I’ve failed. Areas I wish I could change but can’t. Overall frustrations with being a young man in pursuit of God. Now you can say that God no longer speaks, or that we can’t really ever know that it is God, but I would like to clearly state that I believe God still does speak to his children. I felt like the Lord told me that night that I have become a doubter. He told me that I was always looking over my shoulder waiting for something to break or to lose something I loved. I’ve become good at praising God through the hard times, and maybe so much so that I forget the blessings the Lord has promised his people. I’ve had some things in my life happen to make me kind of not the wide-eyed, optimistic believer that I once was. Some of it is part of the maturity process of getting out of new born faith in God, and some of it is just not of God.

I guess I’ve just become someone who is tired of getting his hopes up and being let down. So better to just be surprised than disappointed, right? While that might make sense in some worldly wisdom form, I don’t think it is how a God follower’s mentality should be. And the Lord cut me to the core that night.

People love a good underdog story, but no one wants to be in the beginning of one. We love the story of Joseph in Genesis, look at how glorious it ended! Second in command of all of Egypt!? Come on somebody praise the Lord! Can I get an “amen?” And yes, that is one of my favorite stories. The guy went through hell and God exalted him. We all want to be Joseph from Genesis 41, but no one wants to be Joseph from chapters 37-40. Having your own brothers throw you in a pit, getting taken out of the pit and sold as a slave, turning down sex and getting accused of rape, put in prison, and helping people in prison who get out and forget about you for years. No one wants to be that guy.

The world is quick to look at a chapter 37 Joseph and call him a failure. Give up man. It’s over. Quit trusting in your God that doesn’t bless you. Give up on your “dreams,” they were just dreams.

But if they would only wait until chapter 41. If they would only consider the end of the road. If we would only consider that maybe it is all a part of a process bigger than ourselves and bigger than our weak minds. That maybe God HAS indeed heard every single prayer we’ve prayed and seen every single tear we’ve cried. And maybe, just maybe, he knows and loves his precious children like he says he does.

One of my favorite verses is 1 Corinthians 13:12.
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

This verse clearly states that we just won’t understand some things. Many times we can see that God is up to something, but we just don’t know what it is fully. We get so frustrated that we don’t know the whole story or every detail of the work being done, but honestly, we’re just not going to know some things. At least not right now. But soon, we will see it face to face. We will see the completeness of the love of God and we will understand it. We will know fully. We really will get it.

The frustration of not knowing can lead to doubt. One time I felt so confused about things going on in my life and I was becoming convinced that I must have totally been missing God because I was confused, and God is “not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).” Then I heard the Lord say, “You’re not confused; you’re just discouraged.”

If I feel like God is not being faithful, it’s because I don’t know what faith really is.
If I feel like God is not being good, it’s because I don’t know what good really is.
If I feel like God is not being loving its because I don’t know what love really is.

God is not a magician; he is the Creator. God is not a genie; he is the Good Shepherd. As my friend Mike once put it, “A really Good Shepherd.” It is all part of the journey in faith. Learning to bet it all on God. Accepting the hard times but trusting that the Way actually knows the way.

Pray on, prayer.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Viva La Resistance!

On this Friday afternoon in Arlington, Virginia, I find myself sitting in a park I didn’t know existed. I’ve been up here a few weeks visiting my sister and brother-in-law. I don’t have a car so I’ve been walking around today. I saw this park so I decided I would stop here for a bit.

To get to this picnic table I am currently sitting at, and to hang out with these wonderful ants wandering around it, I had to walk down a somewhat steep little hill with no walkway or stairs. I’ve been walking around in the sandals I have been wearing for about the past four years, and being a Florida boy, I’ve worn them a lot. Upon my descent down the hill I quickly realized just how much I have worn them. I might as well have been wearing skis. There is little to no traction left on my sandals and I found myself going down the hill much faster than originally expected and intended. I even did one of those little hops near the end so I wouldn’t fall. I didn’t fall but I sure looked like a girl pirouetting around as I landed. Nancy Kerrigan style. Win-lose.

You never realize the importance of good traction until you are without it. There is just something about friction and resistance that makes things work. In no way do I understand physics or have even attempted to take a physics class in college, but I do know that life is built around it. Physically and spiritually. God has a way of taking things that seemingly work against each other and using them to produce growth and good things. Sometimes the friction hurts. Sometimes we don’t understand it or why it is happening, but either we believe Romans 8:28 or we do not.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

One of my favorite stories as a kid was the story of the prophet Balaam and his donkey that talks to him in Numbers 22. I thought talking animals were so cool. I guess I watched “Homeward Bound” one too many times.

The story goes like this: This guy Balaam would go around and speak what the Lord told him to, and inevitably upset a lot of people. (Another example of the friction a life for God can create.) One day Balaam saddled up his trusty donkey and hit the road. Problem was, he was headed down a road the Lord did not want him on. So God sent an angel to stand in the middle of the road. And it wasn’t one that was bringing “glad tidings of comfort and joy,” this one had a big sword ready to swing. The donkey was able to see the angel, so she stopped heading towards it. Three times the angel appeared on the road in their way, and each time the donkey would either try to walk away or sit down, to which Balaam would get angry and beat her for.

After the third time of this, God went Disney on them and opened the mouth of the donkey so she could speak. And she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” And what is funny to me is that Balaam talks back to the donkey like it’s no big deal that she is speaking. “You made me look like a fool! If I had a sword I’d kill you!” The donkey said in reply, “Haven’t I been your donkey for a while now? Do I ever do stuff like this?”

Then God allowed Balaam to see the angel, and then he hit the ground. The angel said, “I am here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. If your donkey had not turned away I would have killed you.”

God spared Balaam that day, more than just by not taking his life-breath. I wonder what would have happened if Balaam would have made it all the way to the destination God did not want him to go to.

When I think back on my own life I can think of multiple different times I was heading in the wrong direction without even knowing it. And that’s just in the metaphorical sense, let’s not even talk about how many times I’ve actually been lost in a car (especially in D.C. this week!) God has been so merciful to me and closed doors and gotten me off of paths that lead to destruction.

I wonder how many times God has put an angel in the road and we didn’t even know it.

We try so hard to make things work. The way of America is that if you have anytime to actually breathe then you’re not running hard enough. When we face hard times and opposition, we beat the donkeys we’re riding on to make them do what we want. Because if something is not going as we planned or as we’ve desired, the problem must be that we’re doing something wrong or not working hard enough. And we try our best to force the outcomes that we feel are best, or worse, that we feel we deserve.

I wonder how many times God has put an angel in the road and we didn’t even know it.

Psalm 37:23
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and he delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”

If we are seeking the Lord, and seeking his will, then he is going to be leading us, even when things are hard or confusing. It is the traction we need to actually get anywhere on our journeys. Psalm 23 makes it clear that the Lord is our Shepherd that leads us, but we still go through valleys of the shadow of death. Does that mean that God has led us to the valley?

I’m not saying that this is an easy thing. When things don’t work it is frustrating. I’ve literally laid my hands on people, prayed, and seen them healed right on the spot. I’ve prayed the same prayers with the same faith and seen them die. There really are no formulas to faith in God. Sometimes I don’t get it.

I have spent many times kneeling by my bed in tears, begging God to hear my requests. Wondering that if God is truly for me then why are there so many things against me? Why does it seem to work for others but not for me? “Why haven’t you come in power, Lord? Why haven’t you stepped in? How many mustard seeds of faith does it take to see a mountain move?”

Real life is full of questions like these. We may never get answers to many of our questions, but we don’t serve God because he is the question answerer, we serve him because he is the King.

Paul says in Philippians 3:10-11 we go through the journey with him “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed by his death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

Perhaps the greatest example of friction is the friction between death and life. You can’t get much more opposite than that. In the Kingdom of God it takes death to get life. Death of our will. Death of our desires. That we may know him. We share in his suffering, but even greater, we share in his resurrection and life!

Things are difficult? You’ve tried all you know to do? I wonder if there is an angel in the road. You can’t get them to love you? Your boss won’t notice you? I wonder if there is an angel in the road.

We need the resistance of the world. Our spirit needs the friction with the world. We need the traction, the uncomfortable ridges and breaks in our would-be smooth surfaces. You know what something with no traction is? It’s a slide. And there’s only one direction a slide will take you. Psalm 24 says, “Who will ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?” Go try to climb a hill in bowling shoes.

We need the trials and pain sometimes. Don’t be afraid to wait upon the Lord. I know waiting goes against everything most people tell you to do, but hey, maybe it’s time for a mutiny on what is ruling this world. VIVA LA RESISTANCE!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

This is a Little Much

This is one of my more transparent journal entries. I wrote it at 2am on Sunday night, and I almost didn't post it. But I hope that someone can relate to my struggles and screw ups and see that the grace of God is a powerful thing. Some people might not agree with this, but nobody agrees with everybody. Remember these are my thoughts, they don't have to be yours. anyways here goes...

In Luke 16:10 Jesus says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much…” Christian “entrepreneurs” use this a lot – “If you are faithful with a little, God will make you faithful with a lot.” And I am just now realizing there is a small, but major difference from the verse to the saying. And the difference is the words “God will.”

It is not sinful to desire growth and increase. God speaks many times to Israel about increase. It is not sin to want to become better at your craft and more skilled each new day. Ambition is not evil, and many possess what I believe is a spiritual gift to make things grow. If a small group grows because more people are being discipled by disciples, great! If a ministry grows because people have dedicated themselves to prayer, faith, and good works, then praise God! There is healthy growth that I believe God is all about.

The danger I am coming to see, at least in my own life, is that growth has become expected. It should be deserved like hourly wages for labor. You work hard, then you deserve a better life. You give, then you should be given to. It’s only fair. What goes around comes around and you reap what you sow. If you’ve been faithful with the little, then the clock is ticking down for when God makes you faithful with a lot.

Jonathan, you’ve been faithful to serve God in the prison by preaching and leading the music and doing other gigs for free, you deserve your reward of an increased career in ministry and entertainment. The crowds will only get bigger and your songs and sermons will only get better. Because God said, “If you’re faithful with the little, I will make you faithful with much.”

Wait. No. That’s not what he said. What he said was, “Whoever can be trusted with very little CAN also be trusted with much.”

And that is true. It has to be, I mean it’s in the Bible. And I think many, many times that if you are faithful with little that God will make you faithful with much. Sure. But our expectations and our sense of what is owed to us is what is killing us.

I find myself active in ministry and in pursuit of my dreams to do full time and funded what I love doing even now for free. But this American “I deserve” mentality has crept its way into my head and drilled a pipeline that has been feeding into my heart. I go and do what I do because I think it is going to lead to something bigger. All I am doing is paying my dues, getting my street cred, and building bridges that will inevitably take me to my dream life. I’m constantly looking over my shoulder for the right connection that is going to finally see me, love me, and take me to the top. And while, yes, I am doing good works that really do come from good motives, they are not solely fed by Godly desires. And this is the path that leads you out of the anointing of the Lord.

Want to see an effective man go to work and become ineffective? Get him out of the anointing of the Lord. Want to see someone full of potential go chase their tail? Get them out of the anointing of the Lord. That God-given, supernatural ability to be used. Just ask King Saul what it’s like when you lose the Lord’s anointing.

What if God’s whole plan all along was for you and I to serve where he places us, and to be content with what he has called us to do. God may have given you big dreams and desires to see a great accomplishment for the Kingdom that is off the scales, and he does give us dreams and visions like that. But I think that true faithfulness is about being committed and passionate for the work God has given you to do where you are. Only God can open doors anyhow. You can run yourself to death but if God doesn’t want to open a new door, he’s not going to do it. Oh sure you can go kick some doors open yourself, but don’t be surprised when it turns out to be one that leads to emptiness. And isn’t it so much better to knock on doors that God is waiting on the other side of? All this sounds like something Jesus talked about once… (Matthew 7:7)

God’s goal isn’t to screw with your head and heart. He’s not out to make you doubt your calling or your faith in him. But we must daily check our motives for our work in the Kingdom. God will reward us, that is a promise, but it might not be what we think that the reward should be.

There’s a line of a Lifehouse song that has been banging around in my head lately and I feel it lines up well with this—“I didn’t get what I want I got what I need…”

If you’re being faithful with the little, you can probably be faithful with much. But I wonder if there are some things that we are calling little that God is calling much. Perhaps some of the greatest accomplishments for the Kingdom of God show the least amount of results for the kingdom of this earth.

—Father, give us eyes to see things as you see them, and willing hearts to serve as you’ve called us to.—

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Justification and Sanctification

I thought this was a really good look at what the difference between Justification and Sanctification are. You hear these words a lot in church, but I honestly get confused on them. They are separate workings but should never be separated from each other. Meaning, they are 2 different acts, but they go together. I spent some time studying this morning about it and found this website that has a pretty good explanation.

check out that page, it give some good bullet points that helped me a lot.

Friday, February 11, 2011

All the Single Babies, All the Single Babies

Ah, wedding season is here again. But does it ever really end? If you’re like me then you have more wedding invitations on your refrigerator right now than you do pudding snacks on inside of it. I currently am living with two roommates who are engaged and getting married this semester, and last year I attended three weddings of my roommates from that year (not to mention all the wedding showers and engagement parties, etc…) And I went to a few more weddings of friends who I didn’t live with. I’ve been a groomsman, given speeches, DJ’d, MC’d, and sang in weddings for the past few years and there are five weddings on the radar for the next three months. So I have been around a lot of this stuff. And if anyone needs any kind of bridal magazine or pre-marriage books let me know, I’ve got a billion of them lying around the apartment and shoved under couches.

This is not to provoke sympathy, although it is welcomed, but this is to let you know that I have seen my share of nuptials. And I’ve gone solo to all of these weddings as well, which as you may know, is one of the things that can make you feel less confident in yourself than any other type of event. It can even be worse than going to the gym and seeing a girl bench press more than you. Not that that’s ever happened to me before.

Before I go any further let me just say that all of this is not directed to anyone who’s married. If I thought you were stupid for getting married I wouldn’t have attended your weddings. Even if I do think you are stupid for getting married, do you really care what I think? Why don’t you just go run to the arms of your spouse for consoling? Go on! Get out of here! We don’t need you! Right, guys? No but seriously, this is not directed at the married folks.

So here many of us sit. Single. Ready to mingle. No one to mingle with. It can get pretty depressing and discouraging sometimes. I mean let’s just be honest, watching everyone else seem to find their soul mates while you sit on the couch watching documentaries about nature on Friday night can be a bummer. And then they show all the animals finding their mates and you’re like “Ah come on, Discovery Channel!!” And then to top it all off, even Michael Scott is finally finding love.

You start to wonder why the heck God even has verses in the Bible like Genesis 2:18.
“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable helper for him.’” Or Proverbs 18:22, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.”

So apparently this whole marriage thing is a good thing because they keep using the word good, and doesn’t the Bible also say that God will withhold no good thing from us? (Psalm 84:11) So what game is God trying to play here? Is it that old gag from the cartoons where they dangle the carrot in front of the horse to get it to move but the horse doesn’t realize he can’t actually get the carrot? Is God dangling this idea of love and marriage in front of us even though it’s not something we will ever get to?

If there’s something good then why don’t I have it? Why am I getting older and older and having less and less single friends while I stick it out by myself? Have I not sought the Lord as much as everyone else? Am I caught up in some kind of sin I don’t know about? Am I way behind everyone else in maturity and I’m really not ready for a relationship still?

Are any of these questions you have asked? I have asked all of them, and some I still ask.

You start to re-analyze your life and situations and thought patterns. You move from feeling you deserve love straight to thoughts that you’re in the wrong because you want the love of a spouse when really you should just desire God only. There’s got to be some middle ground there doesn’t there, though?

No, we don’t deserve love. We don’t deserve any good thing that the Lord has already blessed us with or will bless us with. But that being said, he still wants to bless us. And the Lord has given us an innate desire to be with someone. I don’t think it is evil at all.

I believe that the Lord should be the one who satisfies us, but what does the Bible say? “He satisfies your desires with good THINGS,” (Psalm 103:5). So God establishes relationships in our lives (with spouses and friends alike) that allow us to be satisfied, and though it is through a person, it is part of God satisfying us.

You’re not evil for wanting to belong to a loving relationship. It’s as natural as desiring food to eat. It’s a God given instinct. But just like with food, too much desire for it is where the problem comes in.

The danger I see in the American church today, though, is that in our efforts to uphold the sanctity of marriage and push for husbands and wives to live holy and fully in love with each other and in service to each other (which is a great thing to be preached and it very much should be) is that we’ve turned marriage into a destination and an idol. Now grant it, I am on the other side of this thing, but so many times it seems to me that we treat marriage like the starting point of actual, real life. “Alright, you’re married, now you’re officially a man.”

We think that people are just magically shot with a new dose of wisdom because they now wear a ring, or now they are way more advanced in their maturity than the single folks. And so, warped by this view, we turn marriage into a necessary achievement to obtain peace and to have purpose in life. It can so easily become an idol to people who are single. We desire it so deeply and passionately that it transforms into lust. Like some kind of Transformer from the movies… Optimus Bride? (ok yeah that was stupid.)

Church people do a great job of putting it on a pedestal, too. I truly believe that people may be in good intentions with me, but it’s crazy how many times someone has asked me how I’m doing, only to follow it up with, “Are you dating anyone?” I know they are just curious and want what’s best for me, but Church, how are we supposed to expect people not to view marriage as an idol when it comes up every conversation, and like it is something we are supposed to have by now that we don’t have.

>>Side note: Now for Jonathan Tony, I admit I bring a lot of it on myself with my stupid songs and “clubs” I’ve started. (But doing comedy you gotta use what’s in front of you, and then you blow it up.) And you won’t and don’t usually upset me if we talk about relationships and my views on them. And if you really know me I hope you can tell that I joke around about it a lot. That’s kind of how I view the power of humor- it can keep things in perspective. And I enjoy talking about it. If you’re ever unclear on what I’m really thinking just ask me. Ok side note over.<<

I know that God never intended marriage to be this. This destination. This goal. This idol that it can so easily turn into. Anything that takes the place of God is sin, and isn’t it just like sin to take a blessing of the Lord and pervert it so it becomes what takes us away from the Father?

When marriage changes from a blessing to a beginning point we miss out on so much of what God has done and is doing. The blessings and purpose of our past seem meaningless, just time we had to spend in time out until teacher let us back onto the playground. The work that we were able to accomplish because we were single seems pointless because we didn’t have anyone to share it with or take dorky pictures with and put them on Facebook. To put it bluntly- this is so stupid.

YOUR LIFE DOES NOT BEGIN AT MARRIAGE! See what large letters I use as I type to you with my own hand. People, we have got to get past the glory of a wedding and the thrill of changing a status to “In a Relationship.” We must grow up! I am speaking all of this to myself by the way. Jonathan, quit being silly. See? I really believe that the church cannot rise up until it grows up. And this is part of the growth process.

Let’s look at what are the facts for the singles out there. You are single. God is not rejecting you. You are single. If you seek the Lord and fear him, I truly believe that there is not much room to screw up something as lifelong and important as marriage. So apparently God has a plan for you right now that does not involve a partner yet. So what are you doing now? What are your advantages? I’ve heard it said of aspiring missionaries that if they are not serving like missionaries right now, then what makes them think they will do it when they get overseas? I believe the same goes for us. What makes us think marriage will kick life into high gear if we’re not already at work in what God is calling us to do?

Our lives must have completeness and meaning based on something that no man or woman can give. The source of our strength and realization of purpose must come from the Lord.

And now let me just be clear, I am pro-marriage. Yes, it’s a good thing. You don’t want to be standing at the altar on your wedding day and saying something like, “Hey, my life is perfectly fine and I’m wholly content without you, you know? But… I guess this is ok, too.” Of course a spouse will add joy and blessing to your life, but it cannot be what defines our lives. The truth is, we may never be married, and if we die unwed I don’t want to be going out feeling like I did not accomplish something. Marriage is not an accomplishment. It is a calling, and in itself a ministry of service to God.

So as we watch our friends ride off into the sunset with their husbands and wives, we must not sit back and wish the whole time that it was us... and like cut out their faces from the wedding pictures and put ours in them. Or randomly walk around throwing bouquets of flowers into random crowds of people. That kind of stuff can get you arrested. So let us remember the command from Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice!” Let’s be happy for people when good things are happening! And pray to God they remember we did and then will get us huge gifts when it’s our weddings!

You know who the happiest person I saw lately was? It was a little baby in church. Laughing and smiling at everyone. And I’m pretty sure that baby was single. So hey, if a baby can be single and happy with life, why shouldn’t we be, too? This is a call to be big babies.

Matthew 6:8
“Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”