Christian Living, Church Life, spirituality

amend your ways

“Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.” – Jeremiah 7:3, 5-7

At my church’s midweek service last night, my pastor spoke really strongly on returning to a spirit of prayer. Not just a “pray every now and then” kinda prayer life, but an intentional, “pray without ceasing,” determined, prioritized prayer life. My pastor talked about how people don’t prepare themselves when they come to church, how they don’t really even think about church until they’re there.

And then this morning I read this passage in Jeremiah. Amend your ways. Why? So that you can dwell in this place. Looking at this passage in context, we see that the Lord was issuing a call to repentance to the Israelites during one of their seasons of rebellion, but if we apply this passage to ourselves we see how God is calling us also to amend our ways, to make position ourselves in a place to receive, so that then, having done that, we may dwell.

I think I want to start to spend more time preparing my heart and my spirit before church because I’m in a place right now where I don’t want to miss out on anything that God has for me. In fact, I’m in a place right now where I’m trying to rid my life of certain things – some of them harmless – just so I can make more room for God.

There is more.

So I’m striving to amend my ways that I may dwell where He dwells. If only we all had a heart like John, who was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day,” (Revelations 1:10) and subsequently gifted the Revelation. If only we all positioned ourselves in the Spirit even before the allotted Sunday gatherings began. Then, maybe, we would begin to see things we’ve never seen before.

Christian Living, Life, Living, Ponderings, spirituality, Thoughts

the problem of evil

“Evil will continue to exist in spite of us, so it doesn’t matter what we do.”

Recently, I decided to watch The Purge with some friends. I wasn’t really sure what to expect except for the few reviews floating around the webosphere. What I got was a giant: “This pissed me the fuck off.”

I’m not even joking. Those were my words at the end of the movie. (Yes, I repented for my slip up in case you were worried.)

The reason why, though, is hard to explain. At the beginning of the movie one of my best friends said something to the effect of: “It would make sense for them to do this in real life.” Now, mind you this is one of my Christian friends. So I was confused because to me it sounded like they were condoning a heinous act such as “the purge” to occur. 

So I’m sitting there through the whole movie thinking – and saying – “you would honestly be okay with this happening?” Their response was merely: “Well, it basically already happens.”

While this is true, the dilemma arose within myself where I was forced to ask the question, “if evil exists in spite of our best efforts, do our efforts even matter?” I must say without doubt, “Yes. Yes, they absolutely matter.”

You see, God knew. He knew that evil would remain in the world even while His Redemption story unfolded. Even still, He sent His Son to continue that story. Two-thousand years later, evil still rages against the light, but that light does not die. Because the valiant struggle persists. Because there are still those who resist apathy and silence in the face of darkness. Because there are still those who know that the war is already won and there will only be one Victor in the end. Because there are still those who know that, in spite of the evil in our world (racism, murder, rape, all manner of violence), their efforts matter. Their efforts are the very means by which the light remains in this world.

The light is not yet gone. Until it is, our efforts matter. Our decisions, our allegiances, our opinions matter.

Yes, darkness is an enormous reality which we must face every day. But heaven is the greater reality. And, thank God, it is the reality in which I live.

Christian Living, Life, Prayer, spirituality, Thoughts

making conversation

I’m the type of person that is extremely conversational when it comes to how I pray. Like, I’ll laugh with God, talk with Him just like I talk to my friends. I just make conversation with Him.

Why? Because I believe that’s what God wants. Yes, I know, He said, “This, then, is how you should pray…” But I believe God delights deeply in authenticity when we talk with Him. And why shouldn’t He? The Bible is ripe with comparisons between human relationships and our relationship with God. Why should our prayers – our conversation – be so formal and traditional and uptight and scripted? Where is our authenticity?

As a youth pastor, I always tell my students when they make comments about feeling awkward when they pray out loud the exact same thing: “God loves the awkwardness. He loves the stumbling and the humor and the little bits of your personality that shine through. He loves the realness, because it is wholly and completely you. It sounds like you and nobody else. And that’s all God wants. You.”

I sometimes wonder about non-charismatic believers. Those who are cessationist, or simply pay no attention to the supernatural realness of God in the world today are missing out on a huge part of the character of God and the depth of this life and the next. But I wonder how that also plays a part in their personal relationship with God. Void of a heavenly prayer language, ignorant of the prophetic power of the Holy Spirit, unaffected by words of encouragement, words of knowledge, words of faith, what does their prayer life look like? Do they keep it traditional and pray in the mornings when they wake, in the evenings when they go to sleep, and over every meal? Or does their prayer life come alive? Do they talk with God throughout the day. Every person I know in my circle of believers who identify as charismatic/Pentecostal has a very living prayer life. They spend not just minutes, but hours talking with God, making conversation, but also crying out to Him, laying themselves down before Him.

Myself, I pray rather constantly. When I’m at work and it’s slow, I’ll just talk with God. Often, I’ll be praying over my coworkers, over my city, over my church, over my youth. Isn’t that what it should look like? Isn’t prayer supposed to be an active part of our everyday lives – not an appointment we’re obligated to keep?

I believe so. Awhile ago, I posted a post titled You Can Have Your Dead Gods. In it, I said, “You can keep your rights and your opinions and your attitudes. You can tout your dead gods and old religions and rusty traditions. You can have it all. But me? Give me Jesus.”

Again I say, you can keep your dry bones, your traditions, your sacraments, your ceremonies, your liturgies. But me? I need something that’s alive, something that I feel, something that lives inside of me, something that I breathe. Faith is never meant to be dead; it’s meant to bring the dead to life.

Letters, Letters to My Future Soulmate, Life, Living, Love, Poetry, spirituality, Thoughts

letters to my future soulmate // the third

Mon amour,

Where are you? I’m waiting. Waiting for you to arrive. Waiting for that moment when you walk into the room and I know – just know  – this is it, this is the woman I’ve been waiting for. I’ve finally found you. I wait because when that moment comes, I want to remember exactly what it felt like. I want the moment I fell in love to be indelibly written upon on my heart. So that for the rest of our lives when we go through the hard times and the painful times and the dry times I can hold onto that feeling of first loves and it will carry us through.

Where are you? I’m floating. People tell me I need to learn to be happy loving myself first. That I need to figure myself out first. That maybe God’s going to make me wait longer so that I can keep growing. I’ve dreamt since before I can remember that I would find you and we would marry young. The same age my parents were when they married, in fact – 21. Well, here I am at 21 and you’re nowhere in sight. People tell me that maybe God’s going to make me wait. Three, five, ten more years. I’m not okay with that. Because I’m floating. My life is great. I have a great family and amazing friends. But my life isn’t moving. I’ve paused. And I’m frustrated because I can’t see my future. I can’t see you anywhere. I can’t see the family I’ve always wanted. All I can see is the lonely nights. And all I can hear is people telling me to trust God and I’m trying, but how do I do that when that means letting go of you. At least for now. Because there’s an empty place in my heart where my future belongs.

I don’t understand. Why does this generational curse linger upon me? Why am I forced into the stereotype by the millennial generation? They tell me, “You millennials are getting married older anyway. It’s okay.” No, it’s not okay. I’m different. I always have been. And I’m my own person. I don’t deserve to be confined by a group of people who are known for being lost. That’s not me. I know what I want. But I’m forced into waiting by a God who apparently thinks I’m not ready and I’m just supposed to be okay with that.

I’m angry and I’m learning to let go of you, to trust God. Because apparently that’s what I’m supposed to do. I know God hears my prayers, and sees my tears, and He feels the lonely nights. I know He wants to see me grow stronger. I don’t doubt that. But why does He have to crush me to do it? Why does He have to take the one dream I’ve always had and crush it?

I can only hope He knows what He’s doing. I can only hope He doesn’t forget me in the chaos. I can only hope whatever it is He’s making me wait for, it’s good. And I can only hope that I learn to trust Him in time.

But for now, I wait.

With love,

Yours

Christian Living, Life, Living, spirituality, Thoughts

when the Spirit breathes

If there’s one thing I know about God it’s that He loves to speak to the heart of the seeker. Even when I’m in a season of struggle, or pain, or temptation, or darkness He is faithful to speak when I consecrate myself to Him. I know there are some people who believe that God doesn’t speak anymore, that what’s written in Scripture is all He’ll ever speak to His people. Well, yes. And no.

I’ve found that God will often speak to me by putting an image or a phrase in my spirit and I’ll start to pray about it and think about it to try to figure out what He’s saying until finally it just clicks. The Spirit is very alive and real today, and He loves to be active in our lives. The interesting thing about it, though, is that we always have to line up what God’s saying (whether it’s a personal word, a prophetic word, a word of encouragement, etc…) with the Word of God. Why? Because that’s how we determine whether or not the word we’ve heard in our spirit is Holy Spirit or not. Holy Spirit will never undermine the Word of God because it is the plumb-line, the thing we measure our lives by.

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.”

– 1 John 4:1

Sometimes, the words He speaks aren’t even new revelations that have never been spoken; sometimes they’re revelations already hidden in the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit speaks to us until we discover them. There’s beauty in discovering the Living Word, in discovering Biblical truths through the breathings of the Holy Spirit. It reminds us that God is active and He is speaking and He loves us enough to not remain silent in the seasons of our life.

I’ve come to this point in my life where I’m being convicted of a lot of things. A few weeks ago, during a church conference, this was said: “Don’t let the standard touch the ground.” And immediately Holy Spirit started speaking to me, saying, “Why is it that so many believers are satisfied with holding the standard just high enough rather than holding it has high as possible?” From there, my life has been a constant cycle of discovering things about myself that need correction. Interestingly, immediately after returning from the conference my church began a series called “Re-Calibration”, examining Hebrew 2:1, which says,

“We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”

So basically what happens, is God starts speaking to me, telling me to fix some areas in my life that I’ve lowered the standard, and then my church launches into this journey of re-calibration, “fixing our drift.”

And it’s been hard. Correcting your course is hard, especially when you have to take a “hard left” from the direction you were going. As humans, we’re always drifting too; so we have to constantly fix our position. But one thing I’ve found is that whenever I fix my drift, whenever I fix my position, whenever I set my sails to the Spirit of God, He speaks, loud and clear. And through all this, the cry of my heart has simply been, “God, silence any noise that drowns out the sound of Your voice.”

I don’t want anything in my life to even bear the potential to silence God’s voice in my life. Like TV. How silly would it be to let television be the one thing that manages to silence God’s voice in my life? (No, I’m not giving up TV, though there are certain programs I, personally, have been convicted to give up.)

Believers these days shy away from the words “conviction” and “holiness” and “consecration.” They think that these words lack grace. The thing is, these words describe grace in action. When we’re convicted to consecrate our lives to the Lord, we finally make room for God to speak. God won’t move where He isn’t welcome. It is through the grace of God that Holy Spirit alerts us (through sermons, through song lyrics, through whisperings in our own spirits, through the words of trusted leaders, friends, and family…) of when we’re drifting. It is the grace of God that gives us the opportunity to fix our drift so that we can hear His voice loud and clear in our lives. It is not wrath that brings conviction, it is not legalism that teaches holiness; it’s grace.

I guess it comes down to whether or not we want to hear the Spirit breathe in our life. If we do, then there are some things we’ll have to set aside so that we can fix our drift. I, for one, have made up my mind.

I want to be ready, with heart open wide, for when the Spirit breathes.

Christian Living, Life, Living, Ponderings, spirituality, Thoughts

you can have your dead gods

You can have your boycotts and your protests and your marches. You can keep your rights and your opinions and your attitudes. You can tout your dead gods and old religions and rusty traditions. You can keep your comfort and your safe spaces and your happy feelings. You can stuff your ears with lies that make you feel good and words that feed your constantly shifting ideologies. You can fill your life with entertainment and pleasure and sensationalism and everything you could ever conceive of. You can have all this world – the fame, the fortune, the glamour, the rights, the freedom, the entitlements, the attitudes, the sex, the pride, the comfort, the ego, the power, the drugs, the anger, the tragedies, the chaos, the pain, the agony of constant wondering, the struggle, the insecurity, the sickness, the mental oppression, the physical and emotional addiction, the fear. You can have it all.

But me? Give me Jesus. He is all I want. He is all I need. He is everything. You can spend your life striving and striving for everything that you think will give you a moment’s happiness. But me? Give me Jesus. Give me just a moment longer in His presence. Give me that gripping deep inside my gut that causes me to fall to my knees in broken surrender as I realize just how heavy the burden of brokenness is on this weary world. Give me the tears that stream from my eyes as the faces of the lost and the hurting and the deceived and the broken flash across my mind because all I desire is for them to know the peace that I have come to know. Give me the sheer wonder I feel whenever He walks into the room, whenever He breathes revelation into my heart, whenever He speaks life into my soul, whenever He revives these dry bones. Give me the fire of His presence as He consumes me from the inside out with a passion that goes beyond emotion, but is a thing birthed inside my very DNA. Give me the freedom that comes when I have the courage to not settle for anything less than what comes next. Give me the liberty that comes when I toss the broken chains aside – the chains of grief, of fear, of insecurity, of shame, of pride, of rejection. Give me the joy that comes when I know that I am loved and I am chosen by the very creator of the cosmos. Give me the fearlessness that comes when I set myself aside long enough to let Holy Spirit open heaven inside of me. Give me the hope that secures me in this life, that allows me to not tremble with anxiety at the mention of the next disaster. Give me the confidence and the courage that comes from knowing that I don’t have to measure up to anyone or anything. Give me the Living God who laughs in the faces of the gods of wood, flesh, and stone as He performs miracles, signs, and wonders across the world while they sit on their shelves gathering dust.

You can have your dead godsBuddha, Allah, Odin, Self, pleasure, entertainment, fame, glamour, luxury, comfort, vanity, apathy, addiction, self-righteousness. But me? Give me the Calm in the Storm, the Prince of Peace, the Lover of my Soul, the Great I Am, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Abba Father, the Deliverer, the Strong Tower, the Cornerstone, the Living Flame of Love, the Bright and Morning Star, the Soon Coming King.

You can have all this world. But give me Jesus.

Christian Living, Culture, Life, spirituality, Thoughts, Work

the big picture

So, I’m sure many of you are aware of the decision Target’s corporate office made to allow transgender into whichever restroom they identify with. I’m sure many of you are either livid or don’t care – or maybe if you’re like me, you have mixed feelings.

I don’t think that the decision was right. I’ll start by saying that. I think that it’s opening up a lot of bad doors for perverts to take advantage of. Because, sadly, we do live in a world where someone will fake being transgender just to get inside a restroom to spy on someone. That’s our reality. And Target’s decision just opened the door for that.

target

BUT – and this is where things get sticky – I just can’t support a Target boycott. I’ve had to take a step back and examine this situation in the grand scheme of things. Yes, I’m biased. I work at Target. However, I’m not emotionally attached to the company, so I’m not that biased.

It does make me angry, though, when I hear of all these people trying to destroy Target. If enough people boycott it, Target could very well go bankrupt. And the reality is that the head honchos at the corporate offices, they’re lives are not going to be affected. They’ll still leave the company with a decent amount of money in their back pockets. People like me, though? People who make our living as cashiers or cafe employees or sales floor team members or guest services advisers? Thousands of people like me will be out of a job – we’ll be collateral damage in this endless, bloody social “revolution” that’s going nowhere.

Think for a moment about how many fellow believers – brothers and sisters in Christ – work at Target. How many young Christian men and women like myself have to work 40 hours a week at Target just to pay for their seminary bills? And you want to destroy that?

Yes, I get it. You’re taking a stand. You’re fighting the power. And I’m sure it feels good to be a part of something great and potentially “revolutionary.” But you’re not looking at the big picture.

Let me tell you why Target is important to me. I’ll bullet-point it for you:

  • Without Target, I would not just be a poor, tired college student – I’d be poor, tired, and unemployed and broke.
  • Without Target’s employment, I would not be able to afford my college classes, which are helping me achieve my ministerial license.
  • Without Target, I wouldn’t have met the amazing people I’ve met. God’s placed me in an incredible place of ministry there and he’s placed such a burden on my heart for my fellow workers who don’t yet know the joy of Jesus and sometimes the only time I have to show them who He is is when I’m working with them. Without Target, that mission field is gone.

It’s three simple points, but they’re big ones.

Some of you may be stuck on where I said, “bloody social revolution that’s going nowhere.” Let me explain.

When it comes to things like homosexuality, moral decline, tolerance, etc…. the only revolution that will change things is a spiritual revolution. Taking a moral stand is good, of course, but there’s a line that we have to be careful not to cross; that line falls between separation (we are not of this world) and segregation (we have no connection to the world).

Boycotting Target, you destroy the opportunity to minister to the beautiful people working there or shopping there – and, yes, those beautiful people exist. Boycotting Target, you could potentially destroy lives and families if Target were to go bankrupt. Boycotting Target, you could make yourself look even worse in the eyes of the world, the people we’re called to win for the Kingdom. Boycotting Target, you’re forgetting the focus of our faith. It isn’t to boycott every company that flaunts its liberal values. (If that were the case, I’d expect you to boycott Starbucks, Amazon, and a plethora of other companies.) The focus of our faith is found in Jesus’ command to, “Go into all the world and preach.”

That being said, do what you need to do. If you’re a woman and you don’t feel comfortable using the Target restrooms, don’t. You have the right to the protection of your privacy and well being. But ask yourself if boycotting Target, in the long run, is worth it. If the collateral damage is worth it. If the consequences are worth it.

“Respect what is right in the sight of all men. And if possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” – Romans 12:17-18