December 25, 2008

When the Enemy Comes In Like a Flood


When we've been hit by the floods of the enemy, there's something that will cause the Spirit of the Lord to come against those floods in swift defeat. The Confession given by the remnant of Israel here in Isaiah 59 is all too appropriate for each one of us, esp. when we're overwhelmed by darkness. First off, there's a genuineness in their confession. You know they mean it. I wonder how often we try to fool God with a quality impersonation of true repentance. I know I'm guilty, anyway. Those times when I don't really want to deal with my sin and issues. Sometimes - thankfully not anytime recently - it's taken the Spirit of God to viciously remind me of how far I've fallen and just how desperate my condition really is. Once I'm serious about confession, though, everything changes. It's like the light illuminates every ounce of my darkened heart to reveal the weighty redemption of Christ. Redemption that so quickly soaks up, like a sponge, my deep regret and heart of error.

The beauty of true confession is that it always comes with two very distinct and supernatural works. The first is that it redeems us to our Father through the forgiveness of the Son. Confession prompts the heart of God to take pity on His kids and puts into practice the power of the cross. Secondly, it Heals us. It restores us to a place of worship, experience, understanding, and softness of spirit in such a way that we're once again set free in liberty. I'm such a proponent of true confession. I've seen it so powerfully at work in my own life but also in the lives of so many others.

I have no idea why this passage in Isaiah came to me again today, on Christmas Day, other than maybe the appropriate reminder it is to each of us that without the gift of Christ, none of us would even have an ounce of hope. Through confession and repentance, we have not only hope for our own lives but hope for a brilliantly bright future. Merry Christmas!

Isaiah 59: 9-21

Therefore justice is far from us,
Nor does righteousness overtake us;
We look for light, but there is darkness!
For brightness, but we walk in blackness!
We grope for the wall like the blind,
And we grope as if we had no eyes;
We stumble at noonday as at twilight;
We are as dead men in desolate places.
We all growl like bears,
And moan sadly like doves;
We look for justice, but there is none;
For salvation, but it is far from us.
For our transgressions are multiplied before You,
And our sins testify against us;
For our transgressions are with us,
And as for our iniquities, we know them:
In transgressing and lying against the LORD,
And departing from our God,
Speaking oppression and revolt,
Conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.
Justice is turned back,
And righteousness stands afar off;
For truth is fallen in the street,
And equity cannot enter.
So truth fails,
And he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.


(Note: This is a frightful but great reminder that when you turn away from evil, and confess your sins, you should expect an attack. There's also a great promise in Isaiah 59:19 below).

The Redeemer of Zion
Then the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him
That there was no justice.
He saw that there was no man,
And wondered that there was no intercessor;
(God, would you raise us up to be both true man and intercessor?)
Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him;
And His own righteousness, it sustained Him.
For He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
And a helmet of salvation on His head;
He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing,
And was clad with zeal as a cloak.
According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay,
Fury to His adversaries, Recompense to His enemies;
The coast lands He will fully repay.
So shall they fear
The name of the LORD from the west,
And His glory from the rising of the sun;
When the enemy comes in like a flood,
The Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him.


(Note: This "lifting up of the standard" is also translated as "To put to flight" or "to drive out hastily". After doing a little research I found a commentary that suggested the idea here was the high rushing waters coming down a narrow river canyon, wiping out everything in it's path and rushing towards you. God, in His power, simply stands with you and breathes out towards the oncoming waters. They instantly are forced to retreat back up the mountain from which they came. Amazing)

“The Redeemer will come to Zion,
And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,”
Says the LORD.

“As for Me,” says the LORD, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,” says the LORD, “from this time and forevermore.”

So, two things that are with us always and forever. The SPIRIT of the Lord and the words (or Word) of God. My prayer lately has been: "Jesus, I request more of the Spirit and more from your Word, regardless of the cost". It's been a dangerous prayer but i wouldn't change it for the world. Come in your power, Almighty Spirit of God!

December 19, 2008

The Riches of Jesus

"Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor" (2 Corinthians 8:9)

The poorest man that ever walked the dirt roads of earth! Born in poverty, reared in obscurity, yet He enriched all mankind! For twenty years He worked as a carpenter in that village which bore the scorn of men: "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?"

As far as we know He never possessed the value of one penny. In the wilderness without food, by Jacob's well without water, in the crowded city without a home-thus He lived, and loved and died!

"The foxes find rest, and the birds have their nests in the shade of the forest tree, But they couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God, in the desert of Galilee."

He preached without price, and wrought miracles without money. His parish was the world. He sought breakfast from a leafing fig tree. He ate grain as He walked through the fields of corn. Without money, did I say? He sent Peter to the sea for the fish that they might have money for the tax! He had no cornfields or fisheries, yet He could spread a table for five thousand and have bread and fish to spare! No beautiful carpets to walk on, yet the waters supported Him!

So poor was He that He needed bear His own cross through the city, till fainting He fell. His value was thirty pieces of silver-the price of a slave, the lowest estimate of human life. But, on God's side, no lower price than His infinite agony could have made possible our Redemption! When He died, few men mourned; but a black crepe was hung over the sun. His crucifixion was the crime of crimes! It was not merely human blood that was spilled on Calvary's Hill!

- Chas. E. Cowman (Springs in the Valley, 1939)

He did not have a house where He could go when it was night - when other men went down small streets where children watched with eager eyes, each one assured of shelter in the town. The Christ sought refuge anywhere at all: A house, an inn, the roadside, or a stall! He borrowed the boat in which He rode that day. He talked to throngs along the Eastern lake; It was a rented room to which He called the chosen twelve the night he bade them break the loaf with Him, and He rode, unafraid, another's colt in that triumph-parade. A man from Arimathea had a tomb, where Christ was placed when nails had done their deed. Not ever in the crowded days He knew, Did He have coins to satisfy a need.

They should not matter, these small things I crave.
Make me forget them, Father, and be brave!

- The Transient by Helen Welshimer

I'll pose the question: if the greatest example of generosity relied fully on His father to provide for his every need (even when it seems He went without), how dare we expect a life of comfort & plenty? In a world loaded up with selfishness and greed, God help us to live generously!

(Photo: three boys in the hood - taken at a sugar plantation in the Dominican Republic this past summer with Compassion. These were my boys!)

December 16, 2008

File Under: Mind Blowing

My friend sent this over to me today and it def. blew my mind, hope it does the same for you.

It's taken from the book that every believer should read; "My Utmost For His Highest" by Oswald Chambers.

You must learn to wrestle against the things that hinder your communication with God, and wrestle in prayer for other people; but to wrestle with God in prayer is unscriptural. If you ever do wrestle with God, you will be crippled for the rest of your life. If you grab hold of God and wrestle with Him, as Jacob did, simply because He is working in a way that doesn't meet with your approval, you force Him to put you out of joint (Genesis 32:24-25). Don't become a cripple by wrestling with the ways of God, but be someone who wrestles before God with the things of this world, because "we are more than conquerors through Him..." (Romans 8:37). Wrestling before God makes an impact in His kingdom. If you ask me to pray for you, and I am not complete in Christ, my prayer accomplishes nothing. But if I am complete in Christ, my payer brings victory all the time. Prayer is effective only when there is completeness --"take up the whole armor of God..."

Always make a distinction between God's perfect will and His permissive will, which He uses to accomplish His divine purpose for our lives. God's perfect will is unchangeable. It is with His permissive will, or the various things that He allows into our lives, that we must wrestle before Him. It is our reaction to these things allowed by His permissive will that enables us to come to the point of seeing His perfect will for us. "we know that all things work together for good to those who love God..." (Romans8:28) - to those who remain true to God's perfect will...His calling in Christ Jesus. God's permissive will is the testing He uses to reveal His true sons and daughters. We should not be spineless and automatically say, "Yes, its is the Lord's will." We don't have to fight or wrestle with God, but we must wrestle before God with things. Beware of lazily giving up. Instead, put up a glorious fight and you will find yourself empowered with His strength. - Oswald Chambers, "My Utmost For His Highest" Dec. 16.

December 10, 2008

Sailing the Seas by Faith

"For We Walk By Faith, Not By Sight" - (2 Corinthians 5:7)



Faith is taking God at His word. Faith is not belief without evidence. It is belief on the very best of evidence - the Word of Him "that cannot lie" (Titus 1:2). Faith is so rational that is asks no other evidence than this all-sufficient evidence. To ask other than the Word of Him who cannot lie is not rationalism, but consummate irrationalism - Dr. R.A. Torrey

When we can see, it is not faith but reasoning. Look at the faith of the master mariner! He looses his cable, he steams away from the land. For days, weeks, or even months, he sees neither sail nor shore; yet on he goes day and night without fear, till one morning he finds himself exactly opposite the desired haven toward which he had been steering. How has he found his way over the trackless deep? He has trusted in his compass, his nautical almanac, his glass, and the heavenly bodies; and obeying their guidance, without sighting land, he has steered so accurately that he has not changed a point to enter port.

It is a wonderful thing - that sailing or steaming without sight. Spiritually it is a blessed thing to leave altogether the shores of sight and feeling; to say "Good-bye" to inward feelings, cheering providences, signs, tokens, and so forth. It is glorious to be far out on the ocean of Divine love, believing in God, and steering for Heaven straight away, by the direction of the Word of God (and the instruction of the Holy Spirit - cj's note).

- Charles Spurgeon

December 2, 2008

Faith is the evidence

....of things not seen (and the substance of things hoped for). - Hebrews 11:1



This image is riveting. The vulture appears to just be patiently waiting for the minute that this child lets go so of life in eager anticipation of swooping in on an easy meal. It's eerily similar to how I've been feeling over the last few days. A sense of darkness has permeated my world. I told my wife a couple of days ago that I felt as though the enemy was making every move he could to steal, kill and destroy my faith. God's enabled me with incredible faith to believe Him for the impossible as I step out into a deeper calling, but lately I've found it more of a challenge to cling to His promises.

Last night my 3 year old woke up in the middle of the night complaining of knee and stomach pain. We prayed the Lord would heal him and about 30 minutes later put him back in bed. He slept through the night and woke up feeling fine. Thank you, Jesus. I found it hard to fall back asleep once we had put him back down and spent nearly an hour just praying. On several occasions I felt a clear presence trying to make it's way in. Like a black veil being gently tossed down on me from behind. I prayed fervently against whatever was trying to come against me. Now that I think about it, I had even asked that some friends at our church pray over us as I felt we were going to experience a spiritual attack this week. There is so much I can't explain but one thing I can is that wherever the Lord is leading me, the devil seems eager to interfere. One of my favorite passages is 1 John 4:18 - Perfect love casts out fear. It's amazing how praying the name of Jesus will instantly cast fear out of my spirit and cause His enemy to cower. Such power is in the Name that I doubt we'll ever fully realize until we're home. All that to say that I awoke this morning feeling really sleepy but entirely refreshed and renewed.

My encouragement to any of you that may be going through something similar in terms of stepping in faith even when you're not seeing the end result is to cling to the promises of His word and to pray Jesus over any attempts of the darkness trying to steal your faith and your joy. Be reminded that "without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He IS, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 4:6)

By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace. And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again.
Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. - Hebrews 11: 30-40

Live by Faith!

November 24, 2008

ThanksGiving

We are nearing that time of year when everything goes completely schizophrenic around us and we are somehow drawn into certain chaos. Traffic gets crazier, retailers are desperately clinging to the hope that God will perform the miracle of transforming red ink to black. Starbucks is banking on the fact that all things cinnamon and spice will draw you in. Moms are busying themselves with Turkey dinners and stuffing, dads are hanging lights and inflatable snowmen, and kids can't stop telling you what they want for Christmas. Our lives begin moving at such an increased pace that we rarely have time to just sit down and soak it all in. I'm writing this to remind each of us that if there's ever been a time to stop and savor the moment, that time is now.




"Let us come before (or into) His presence with THANKSGIVING; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is the great God, and the great King above all gods. In His hand are the deep places of the earth; the heights of the hills are His also. The sea is His, for He made it; And His hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He IS our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice: Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion." - Psalm 95: 2-8

What I mean by "savoring" or "soaking it in" is by literally making the time to come into the very presence of God almighty. That, as His children, we are not only afforded but offered the right to enter into that heavenly presence. So, as you are going about the insanity of the next few days and weeks, take extra time to consider the God you believe in and have trusted your life to. The same God that made the seas, the mountains and all the earth is the God that welcomes you into His presence. Into the deepest of all depths. I'd even go so far as to say that this passage invites you to take a step further. Rather than just sit on the couch (or in your bed) to talk to the God of the universe, get on your knees. "Submit yourselves to God". Kneel before the Lord your Maker and invite His presence to consume you. Pray that you would hear His voice clearly and that He would enable you with His grace to obey. Pray against the natural tendency of a hardened heart. Pray that you would not withhold your heart against God or against anyone in your life that may have wronged you or vice-versa. Now is the time to go to those people that you may have harbored bitterness towards and ask their forgiveness. Come clean and then as you come into God's presence your heart won't be burdened by the weight of your sinfulness. Invite God to do a work in the last 5 weeks of this year that would radically change the outlook of your life as long as you live. Big things are happening in the world around us and the days are getting shorter. Pray that God would reveal His good and perfect will for your life and that you would have the God-given desire to walk it out.

This is where I am at right now. With every day that goes by in 2008 I realize that I'm that much closer to finishing my time with Tooth & Nail. I'm about to be stepping more fully into the promises of God's provision and calling over my life. Potentially hazardous times lay waiting ahead but there's nothing that can replace the joy in my spirit and the increased faith in my heart to do what God has called me to. We can't even step out in faith without first being caught up in the very Presence of God and then being transformed by it. Let's make God's presence our first stop this Holiday season. Nothing else will suffice and as the world seemingly spins out of control around us, we'll be established by the deep root of God's love for us.

November 20, 2008

Hands Dirty


This week I saw a news article on CNN.com and headline read "Catholic Church calls For Catholics to repent for voting for Obama." I was so blown away by this. Repent for voting? How confused are we as a body of believers that we really feel as though our vote is so important that it has eternal consequence tied to it? Every Presidential election to which I have paid any attention has consisted of candidates who have campaigned on the back of "moral topics." For Example: How many decades will the republicans campaign against abortion and the democrats campaign for it? How many decades will nothing change?

All of this has made me think about whether or not we really think that voting is all we have to do as believers? The church is obviously saying that there are eternal implications tied to our vote and we all become moral activists when it comes to voting. How does this happen? Do we, as the body of Christ, really believe that our vote is the end all, be all, expression of our allegiance to Jesus? My pastor phrased it in a much more convicting way this past Sunday. He said, and I'm paraphrasing here, "an overwhelming amount of Christians will vote for a republican because said candidate opposes Abortion. But how many of those voting Christians would actually do more than just talk, vote, etc and actually do something about it?" It's really easy to vote for the guy that opposes abortion and it's really easy to protest outside of abortion clinics but what if we all gave those girls considering an abortion an option? What if we said "I hate abortion, and I hate that you are in this position, don't kill your baby, I'll adopt it."

You see, I don't think that Christians are really willing to get their hands dirty. I think we all talk a GREAT talk but we definitely don't walk that walk and we DEFINITELY do not take that cross with us. I'm one of them! Shane Claiborne said it best in his book "Irresistible Revolution" when talking about the wealthy in America. He said that most wealthy Christian people don't know how to help the poor. They don't understand poverty. They definitely do not want to get in the trenches and tear down walls and make connections and invest in the poor and destitute and this is why we have The Salvation Army and Goodwill and Soup Kitchens, Shelters, etc. The wealthy can write a check, send some clothes and food and that is ample care. Shane then goes on to say that when we get to heaven, he doesn't imagine Jesus will say, "when I was hungry, you gave food to the pantry to feed me. When I needed clothes, you sent them to the salvation army so they could clothe me. When I need a place to sleep you wrote a check to the local shelter so they could house me."

So how do we live intentionally? I think abortion is murder, but will I adopt a child? I think poverty, homelessness, starvation, etc are all atrocities but will I commit to redistributing wealth, will I live simply, will I open my home to house someone? Will I invest in another life and make sure their most basic needs are met? It's a tough thing picking up my cross. In fact, most days I would like to leave it in the garage. So how do we do it? I want to start doing it. - Mark LaFay (mark@middlecoastmanagement.com)

November 11, 2008

Moving Forward


Hey Everyone,

I've spent over 6 years working with Tooth & Nail and it's been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I've met so many wonderful people that I never would have met otherwise. I've had so many stellar opportunities afforded me. One of the best was without a doubt just the opportunity to serve as an A&R guy. When I sold Takehold Records to T&N I had no idea that I'd end up honing in on A&R. All in all, I believe I've worked with some of the best bands in this business. Over the course of nearly 10 years that list has grown to include over 50 artists and more records than I care to count.

I've always been a firm believer that God's will is PERFECT and He doesn't even have the capacity to mess it up. I, on the other-hand, was in a hole up to my neck when Brandon first showed interest in purchasing the deeply debt-laden Takehold Records. My wife and I had literally been praying that God would bring a miracle. Never would I have guessed that it would come in the shape of a one-liner email that just posed the question "How much would you sell your company for?". Had you been there to see the reaction on my face it would have reminded you of the cartoon character who's eyes just turned to green dollar signs. I was ecstatic. In the end, between three deals struck with T&N, Hopeless and Century Media I was able to pay off my $114K worth of accumulated debt and start anew in Seattle. That was in the spring of 2002. It was snowing when we arrived, but it was a fresh start.

The time has come for me to part ways with Tooth & Nail Records, and at least on a business level, with each of you. It's with a heavy heart that I type this as I'd rather just pick up the phone and express my heart to each one of you individually. Reality is that I'm greatly outnumbered. It's 1 against hundreds. Some of you I've known for well over ten years now. Others I've just begun to discover a relationship with. I consider all of you my friends and a storm of amazing memories flood my mind when I consider the last few years of my life in Seattle. I can think back of snowboarding with the mewithoutYou brothers where Rickie was sacked out for hours with the stomach flu while we enjoyed one of the best days of our lives high in the Cascades. "What if you don't know what the word Traverse means" is what Aaron asked the ski-attendant as we arrived at the Double Black-diamond peak. Her response was "you should not be here!". Little did she know. We came and we conquered, well...sort of. Without a doubt one of my fondest memories was the time that Underoath was going through some personal difficulties and Aaron Gillespie suggested we rent a Pontoon boat and spend the day out on the warm Florida waters. We nearly sunk the boat and the band will never let me live down the fact that I literally dove off the boat as the bow started plunging in the water. I swear it was momentum, dudes!!!
Or I can think of the first time I saw Anberlin play (they were still SAGOH 24-7 at that point). I felt they were so bad that I called Brandon and told him we should not sign them. Thankfully, he ignored me. The phone-calls that I've received over the years of bands deciding it was their own time to call the band quits. Those were never easy conversations. The time that Josh Scogin informed all of Furnace Fest that he was leaving Norma Jean, one would have thought the world had just ended. So many memories. Mostly very fond ones. A few that will remain unmentioned but what a wild ride to be a kid, facing bankruptcy, living in the dirty south, that was given the chance of a life-time. It was a true privilege to work alongside all the wonderful Tooth & Nail staffers and every one of the bands that I've tried to help.

I chose to walk out of T&N's doors, not out of a spirit of bitterness, anger, resentfulness or of a hardened heart, but because I've felt God's call so clearly on my life to move into a full-time Ministry role. I was afforded many amazing opportunities to share and live my faith as an A&R guy but most of my time was operating as a business man. Although God enabled me for the tasks at hand, I don't know that I was ever cut out to be much of a business man. I feel more like a simple peasant that's been blessed by God's favor than a savvy employee that always made the right calls. My heart just doesn't beat for conventional music business anymore. When I really started thinking about all of this, I discovered how passionately alive I was about helping others discover a deeper connection to Jesus. As it stands today, I really do not know what exactly God's will is going to look like for myself or my family's future. I do know that God has asked me to step out in the kind of faith that will either prove me the idiot of all idiots or prove God to be the great provider who is worthy of being trusted at all times (even when the economy is retreating and music business is turbulent, at best). In the Old Testament, the Israelites were not given the promise land without having to first walk into a raging river. It wasn't until the water was knee deep that the Lord pulled the water back for them to pass through. The waters I'm about to walk into might be allowed to reach my neck but I know that God has not, nor ever will, let any of us down when we chose to obey His call. If I were to do it all over again, I would have tried even harder to have reflected Jesus more brightly in everything I did. There were the early years at T&N where I was more focused on my pride and selfish flesh fulfillment then anything that would bring glory to God. It wasn't until 2005 that God really grabbed hold of my heart (or that I allowed Him to). Reading Piper's book "Don't Waste Your Life" was the beginning of the end for me. I'm learning to be a better friend, stronger husband, a devoted daddy and a more focused believer of the hope I've found in Jesus. I recognize that all of my life would be worthless had it not been for the obvious extension of grace offered me. The same grace is always extended to each of us. Not because of anything we've done but as the gift from God that surpasses a whole lifetime of presents found under any tree.



This is my act of surrender to follow God's will alone, with a purposeful commitment and an eager expectation of what is to come.

My final day at Tooth & Nail will be January 5th, 2009 and I will do my absolute best to end strong and cover any needs that will arise over the next few weeks. You should also know that T&N is working diligently to find the right replacement for me.

Thanks to everyone of you for allowing me to be a part of your lives, for trusting me with your business, for listening to my silly ideas, for just being friends.

I love you all so much and look forward to how our lives continue to intersect. My prayer is that God grows us all into the depth that pleases him most.



cj

John 15: 16 - You have not chosen me, I have chosen you. And appointed you to bear fruit - fruit that will last. Whatever you ask of the father in my name it will be given to you!




























P.S. For the sake of my own nostalgia, here's a list that compiles each of the bands I've been completely blessed to have worked with over the years:

Takehold Records

1. The Backups
2. Withstand FTHC
3. Twothirtyeight
4. Underoath
5. Not Waving But Drowning
6. Few Left Standing
7. Stairwell
8. Hopesfall
9. The Operation
10. Tantrum Of the Muse
11. Sleeping By the Riverside
12. Chalice
13. Fable
14. My Spacecoaster
15. Carry The Dead
16. Narcissus
17. Further Seems Forever
18. Recess Theory
19. Through The Eyes of Katelyn

Tooth & Nail/Solid State Records

1. Anberlin
2. And Then There Were None
3. As Cities Burn
4. Dead Poetic
5. mewithoutYou
6. The Almost
7. Beloved
8. Watashi Wa
9. twothirtyeight
10. Spoken
11. Life In Your Way
12. The Chariot
13. He Is Legend
14. Showbread
15. Mae
16. Corey Crowder
17. Destroy The Runner
18. Haste The Day
19. Inhale Exhale
20. Ivoryline
21. Jonezetta
22. The Death Campaign
23. MYCHILDREN MYBRIDE
24. Oh, Sleeper
25. Further Seems Forever
26. Once Nothing
27. The Classic Crime
28. Sever Your Ties
29. Trenches
30. Discover America
31. Waking Ashland
32. Terminal
33. The Fighting Jacks
34. Sullivan
35. Secret & Whisper
36. The Glorious Unseen
37. The River Bends
38. Underoath

November 10, 2008

Down with the Dream!

(Note: This is a post written by my friend Mark LaFay, who manages several artists and who God has redeemed from wasting time. In case you hadn't heard yesterday was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted church. I'd strongly encourage you to bookmark http://www.persecution.com and read it at least once a week. It's humbling. I believe what Mark has written here is totally prophetic in terms of what we living in western or developed countries experience as "persecution" or "trials". God's been working overtime lately to allow us to see just how empty the American "dream" is. Just take a look at our economy and see where the dream is taking us. God give us the strength to endure such foolishness as is offered to us daily. I renounce a dream that is only available to a select few and not to all of our brothers & sisters through-out the world.)



Hey Guys, so I have not sent one of these in a LONG time. Sorry about that. I am going to try to get back on a regular schedule of doing these again.

So this Sunday at church we heard a lot about missions and our mission partners and our mission trip headed to India and at the heart of it all was a message about the persecuted Church. Persecution for following the way of Jesus. We heard some startling statistics regarding martyrdom, governmental oppression and more. Christians all over the world are still persecuted for their belief and the crazy thing is that the Word says that this is a blessing (Mathew 5:10).

This Sunday really brought forth some personal revelations. Here in the US and Canada we are very sheltered. We don't deal with persecution in the form of bodily harm or imprisonment. We live a part of the world that actually legislates "Christian Morality." In America, you can't be elected president unless you fly the banner of Christianity. We fight for things like keeping "In God We Trust" on our coins and paper notes.

During His time on earth, Jesus preached about the poor and the persecuted and the downcast because all they had nothing else than to trust in His good news. Mathew 5:11 "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." Jesus' way was and is so opposite to the way of the world that he knew persecution would come to those that took up his yoke. If persecution didn't come, then you probably weren't doing something right!

In modern North America there isn't that type of persecution. So does that mean we should sell everything and go move to the hood or be homeless and seek it out? I think not. I think though we do need to put aside the distractions and really listen for the Holy Spirit to guide. Jesus doesn't call us to be reckless but he does ask us to have a willing heart so that he can use us. I think in our lives, persecution comes in a completely different form. I think it looks like consumerism, capitalism, the American Dream. If we don't buy into it then we will miss out on something. If we don't fight to be the biggest fish then we will be swallowed whole. If we don't have the latest and the greatest in technology and amenities then we aren't good enough.

Persecution in OUR hometowns is complacency because our basic needs are covered by our jobs, insurance, etc. Why cry out for God and I mean REALLY cry out for God every day when we really have no need for Him? In a lot of ways I think we have replaced God with our own ability. I think Jesus is no longer our lifeline, he's our band-aid.


I'll end with this Scripture: 2 Cor 12:9-10

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

And a few questions:

What are the distractions in my life? What things do I never give God credit for? How often do i rely on my own ability rather than trusting in the power of Jesus? Why is it so hard to believe that i am more precious than the flowers in the fields to Jesus and that he will always provide?

Feel free to post a comment or hit up Mark at mark@middlecoastmanagement.com

November 4, 2008

Old School Journal Entry - November 4th, 1994

"You are the light of the world, a city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand and it gives light to everyone in the house." - Matthew 5:14&15


Here's the 2nd in an on-going series of "Old-School Entries" from my college days. This one was written on Nov. 4th of 1994.

My Lord Jesus,

I give all thanks and praise to you because you alone are worthy of it. I lift Your name on high. You are the king that stands higher than any king (or President), the prince that rules over all other princes! I need your peace, your love and your joy Lord Jesus. I have no reason to live apart from you. Thank you, my God, for having changed my empty and totally unfulfilled life! You have given me a heart that only wants to know you.....I pant as the deer and I tremble like the demons - because you, O God, are alive and you alone are my deep satisfying well. Please use me tonight Jesus (I led a Bible study called "Jesus in the House" on our campus every Tuesday night which is what this prayer is regarding), I have no reason to be working in this world unless it is to bring glory to you.

Wrap your arms around those I love because you love them all the more.


Note: It's quite appropriate, even after 14 years, to be sharing a prayer that claims God's deity above any King, Prince or President. As much as we are told to "vote" for this country's future president, I would challenge us to cast our allegiance wholly on the President of all presidents. The President that will never fail us, never leave us hanging, never forsake us, never do wrong, never make a foolish move. The kind of President that calls every single one of us by our names. A President that knows everything there is to know about each one of our seemingly insignificant lives and then invites us into a life of glorious significance. We are brilliant lights even able to cast down shadows in the dark as we follow a President that doesn't just take office, but has, is and forever will be owning office.

P.S. Illustration by Mike Maihack (http://www.cowshell.com)

October 28, 2008

Don't Waste Your Life (or your time) on Prosperity


Give us more, give us more....wealth? Comfort? Ease?

A friend of mine turned me on to a beautiful sermon that pastor John Piper preached this past Sunday. It's very appropriate to our current global economic disaster and it really resonated with me through and through. The title of the sermon is "Proclaiming the Excellencies of Christ, Not Prosperity, Among the Nations." This blog is just a simple encouragement to go watch/listen or read the Sermon. You won't regret it. Click on the Blog title or this link to view the sermon page:

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/2008/3361_Proclaiming_the_Excellencies_of_Christ_Not_Prosperity_Among_the_Nations/

I've been a huge fan of Piper's work since I read his book "Don't Waste Your Life". In all honesty, that book set me on a path towards utter ruin in terms of how unfocused I HAD been living my life (how small my focus was of the cross) and the way I've been living my life since. It's caused me to rethink everything; the way I live my faith, how I act as a Christian, how I view the world around me, how much God should be my EVERYTHING. God is far too big to fit as just a little piece of my life. After reading Piper's book I made the decision to make Christ my everything and I'm still feeling the tremors from the quake that took place in my life. I recently had the wonderful opportunity of meeting Piper and hear him speak on the topic of worship. Life changing conference. Sometime in the near future I'll share how much that event has continued to wreck havoc on my future. The friend that first gave me this book asked me during this event as to what portion of the book really impacted me. My response was "I can't really recall which chapter or page it was but about 3 or 4 chapters in, I was done with". After thinking that comment through, I would have responded with "The whole thing is what wrecked me". I think Chapter 5 is what really got me, though. It's titled "Risk is Right - Better to Lose Your Life Than To Waste It". If you haven't read this book, you should do yourself a favor and pick it up. Watch the sermon and then buy the book. I've only begun to skim the surface of where God has deeply inspired my life through, most importantly, His word, but also through this book.

P.S.

My only comment against the false teaching of prosperity is that at the absolute base of the error are fingers pointing at something that distracts from, not towards Jesus. I'll just give you one example of my encounter within this world of Prosperity. In my college days I was part of a wonderful prison ministry. Before we would enter a jail we would be split up two by two with a partner. Prisons are obviously a bit scary but we'd always say that Born-again prisoners we met were far more free than most people we met at church. I was split up with a man who was much older than I was in age but was much younger in the faith. The first cell we came to was an African-American man that had stolen something and ended up in the slammer. My "partner" goes on to tell him that ever since he received Jesus he was given a new job, a bigger home and just purchased a brand new red Corvette. No lie. I took him aside and asked him what Jesus gave each of the apostles for following Him. He looked dumbfounded. Jesus actually did the opposite. He instructed them to leave everything behind and "Take nothing with you for the journey--no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic." He almost instantly saw my point and said "I've never really thought about that". Imagine that. You and a whole slew of Fancy Evangelical dressers. I believe we need a Jesus-sized reality check that we were never meant to be so possessed by our possessions. I'm not saying that God doesn't ever allow us to have anything and that it's wrong to own anything. I'm just saying it's wrong to be OWNED by anything other than God himself. It's just that we've replaced the word "need" with "want" and what we "want" we usually find a way to get. We're good at chasing down our wants. God redeem us.

October 22, 2008

Hell Is Far Too Often Where The Heart Is

Luke 12:32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."



This is such a popular verse within Christian circles and yet it's so challenging to us as it deeply pries into the core of who we are, especially living in developed countries where we're easily enticed by the this multiple choice society. It pulls us one way and then towards another. But I think we'll all agree that it never pulls us towards heaven. I mean, does it? Have any of you been taught by society, or by the mass consumer marketing within it, to drop all that you have, provide for the poor and make the kind of investment that offers a high-yielding gain only once you've died??? No wonder the stock and world markets are crashing, everyone's worried they'll die poor and better get out now before it gets any worse! Jesus' words stand in complete and total opposition to any 401K retirement plan. Maybe I'm missing the point but it seems clear that the only investment worth considering is the one being described in these verses.

Only God is capable of the sort of heart transformation that we're all desperately needing. I feel part of why Christianity appears so boring anymore (both from within it and outside of it) is because so few of us are willing to consider living our lives so as to place all of our hope and all of our treasure in what IS to come, not in what currently exists. Don't misinterpret me, it's really easy to type something that reads in such a way as to imply that I've arrived. In all reality, I'm struggling as much as anyone else to figure out how to follow Jesus with my all. I just don't want anyone thinking that Chad's got it all figured out when, truth be told, we're really no different at all. Actually, we're far too similar. I'm at the point in my walk with Jesus where I'm so hungry to follow Him the way He is calling me. Done playing games. Done messing around. Finished with the half-hearted attempts at living a compromised example of the Master I claim to serve. Frustrated by the reality that some days I honestly want my old life back. Wishing someone would have told me that when you take the "red pill" things get pretty wild and you start looking at life through very different lenses. But I wouldn't change this for the world. I feel so liberated lately. Forced into trusting Jesus is trusting none-the-less.

What I'm getting at is that we call our lives "heaven on earth" when many of us are living our own hells every day. But it wasn't Jesus who offered us the hell we somehow claim as life. He offered us the heaven to come but also a completely fulfilled life while we're here. My aim is to live this life to the full while I'm here, no more time wasted, so that when heaven comes I will have stored up many treasures. I get very excited when I think of treasures as the investments we make in each other. That, quite possibly, because I chose to invest in someone's spiritual life, I might experience the "treasure" of spending all eternity with them. Doesn't get much better than that.



Jesus, please enable us to live the impossible. We can't do it without you. I give up the attempts at trying on my own. Feeble attempts. Replace the temptation to live heaven here with the reality that life is a vapor and that we really only begin to live once we've died. I don't want the treasures that this hellish earth hurls at me. I just want to know you and be known by you. Fill our hearts with mercy for the poor. Show us that we are the poor. Give us the Kingdom and enable us to do what you call us to. Strengthen our brothers and sisters that are suffering daily on Your behalf.

(P.S. the pictures taken were from my recent trip to the Dominican Republic this past summer)

October 12, 2008

Bring us back from exile.



Psalm 51: 10-13 (The Message):

"God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don't throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways so the lost can find their way home."

Don't we all qualify for this? Who can't relate to a growing fear that God isn't capable (or for some reason, that remains unknown to you, doesn't seem willing) to redeem you from time spent wasted. My experience tells me it has nothing to do with God's lack of willingness and all to do with my desire to be brought back to God's good grace. Consider the thief on the cross and what he lacked in a redeemed life, but even with so little life left, God used it to further His glory. So, be reassured that it's never too late for you to live your life spiritually full of blazing fire. I'm living proof that God "redeems our days". I've been all over the board; frozen cold, worthlessly warm and thankfully, increasingly glowing with heat. It's His heart to set us free from every ounce of baggage that holds us back and to replace that baggage with opportunity and a calling.

Is it just me or does everyone else feel like you are in desperate need of some fresh wind blown your way? I know I'm pretty worn out by exile. I can't imagine that the Jews who experienced exile ever enjoyed it or considered it something they'd run back to. But God proved, and still proves, his faithfulness by bringing us out of exile, daily. Every time we get set free from destructive patterns, hollow thinking, empty promises and addictive materialism, we experience God's goodness and mercy. I'd rather stand on the promise of fresh wind then fall back into a pattern of mediocrity. My heart resounds with praise to Jesus for pulling me out of my own emptiness and placing my feet on fruitful soil. Every ounce of who I am is grateful and thankful for the way God has been teaching this rebel heart of mine. I've been so inspired to be in scripture and not just in it, but really soaking it up by way of memory. I feel literally forced into the Bible and have such a hunger to have it ingrained on my brain. This is rather unusual, coming from someone who rarely spent consistent time in the Word, but there's no place I'd rather be. "God's word never returns Void".

He is always able to Redeem you from your exile!

October 5, 2008

Pursuit of God


In the early 1950's A.W. Tozer wrote in his book, The Pursuit of God (pg. 69,70):

Failure to see this (Receptivity towards God as a gift from God) is the cause of a very serious breakdown in modern evangelicalism. The idea of cultivation and exercise, so dear to the saints of old, has now no place in our total religious picture. It is too slow, too common. We now demand glamour and fast flowing dramatic action. A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals. We have been trying to apply machine-age methods to our relations with God. We read our chapter, have our short devotions and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy....
The tragic results of this spirit are all about us: Shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies, the preponderance of the element of fun in gospel meetings, the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities, quasi-religious fellowships, salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit. These and such as these are the symptoms of an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul. We have been too blind to see, or too timid to speak out, or too self-satisfied to desire anything better than the poor, average diet with which others appear satisfied. And for a generation the trend has been downward. Now we reached a low place of sand and burnt wire grass and, worst of all, we have made the Word of Truth conform to our experience and accepted this low plane as the very pasture of the blessed.
It will require a determined heart and more than a little courage to wrench ourselves loose from the grip of our times and return to Biblical ways. But it can be done. What God in His sovereignty may yet do on a world-scale I do not claim to know. But what He will do for the plain man or woman who seeks His face I believe I do know and can tell others. Let any man turn to God in earnest, let him begin to exercise himself unto godliness, let him seek to develop his powers of spiritual receptivity by trust and obedience and humility, and the results will exceed anything he may have hoped in his leaner and weaker days.

I read through these paragraphs this morning and was shocked by how accurate Tozer's description of our culture was. Considering he wrote this nearly 60 years ago makes me wonder what he'd be writing if he was living now. If you haven't ever read "The Pursuit of God", it's an incredible challenge towards our halfhearted variation of Christianity and it has been a totally inspiring read.

October 1, 2008

Proud of MYCHILDREN MYGUYS


MYCHILDREN MYBRIDE (http://www.myspace.com/mcmb) posted this quote today and it just floored me:

"After touring this summer God really revealed a lot to us, and we really feel we're supposed to be more than just another band with Christians in it, that barely say anything on stage or do anything to portray a Christ-like image. We are about to be part of the front line, for a huge movement for God."

First of all, whether the band knows this or not I believe the last 4 words in this quote are totally prophetic and something that God has been speaking to many of us. There IS going to be an increased MOVE of God. So get ready for it, pray His will be done on earth as it is in heaven, invite the Lord to make you aware of what's happening around you in a world that is not made of flesh and blood. Confess your sins, ask Him to redeem your days spent wasting time and then petition that He would unleash revival in empty, hollow hearts. If He can do it in mine and in MCMB, He is more than able to do it in yours.

Every band in the world that consists of Christian members has (or will have) this identity crisis. Most bands would rather not be known as Christian due to the hypocrisy in the church but that doesn't excuse them (or any of us) from stepping out boldly as genuine people completely in love with Jesus and willing to reflect Him in every area of our lives. The days are getting progressively darker meaning that the options are more pronounced. The first option is that you allow your love of God to grow totally cold (which many already have), or secondly you live a life of lukewarmness whereby you are promised to be spat out of God's mouth or thirdly a fire starts blazing inside of you for spiritual heat that gives you renewed energy and a passion for Holy things you may have never even expected.

The time is coming where we will not be afforded the so-called "luxury" of living life in the margins of supposed Christianity but that we either rise up with a fierce pounding in our hearts for battle or we shrink bank in utter defeat before even stepping out on the field. Pray with me that the Lord unites us for what is coming and that he would continue to rescue our fellow brothers and sisters daily from the error of their own ways.

Matthew 10.33 "whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven."

September 26, 2008

We live BY faith (or do we)?


Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:7 says "For we walk by faith, not by sight". But when I consider my life am I really doing that? I believe that I'm actually just now learning what it means to live in such a way that I'm no longer depending on my own abilities, talents, work-ethic, etc. to get me anywhere. I'm being forced into trusting God at every turn and that He is going to be the much better portion, even when I can't see that portion with my own two eyes. As a culture, we are taught to do well in school, get a job, go to college, get a better job, get married, get a better job, have kids, work harder and then someday send your kids to college, work some more, retire, die. Wow! Could it be any more depressing? At what point did we forget to insert the "if God will's it" element? Might there be something so amazing for us (even in this life, not even looking to the "eternal" destiny) that would be so God-glorifying that it would convince us to give up and start living by faith? I wonder how much we (or I) miss out on just because we don't walk by faith. It might be staggering to realize how much we pass up by assuming we should only follow what we see. This entry is more of a quick rant as I'm on the run but I guess my prayer is that Jesus would teach us what it means to trust him even when we can't see what's going on ahead of us. I'm excited to share some of my story in recent days with you, but I can so clearly and boldly say that God has been coming through for me in ways that only He could. Praise be to God.

September 18, 2008

Dirt Makes For A Worthless Empire

On Apr 13, 2007, Chad Johnson wrote a letter to his bands and fellow workers:

Dudes.

You're either someone I work with or someone I've met along the way.

I'm flying 31,000 feet above sea level and I don't know if this happens to everyone else and I'm just the last person to realize it, but I've noticed that I'm commonly inspired when I'm flying. Maybe it's the lack of quality oxygen, maybe it's the fact that I'm 31,000 feet closer to God, maybe it's that I'm forced to be still because I'm surrounded by complete (and often times overweight) strangers. Maybe it's the reality that, up here, the only thing I've got control of is my bladder and even that is a loosing battle. Maybe it's all of the above. Whatever it is, my heart is thinking a bit more than my mind.

It's obvious that I hear God more clearly when my brain and mouth aren't running a hundred miles a minute.

Something that God's been speaking to me is the opportunity that I/WE have to invest in the deeper things of life that really matter over those shallow temptations to keep it all together and pretend like every-thing's cool and under control. Truth is, most of life is completely out of my/our control. Thankfully, that's the way God saw fit to ordain it. Totally void of any "real" control. Any control we do experience is fleeting and normally not very reality based. Especially the kind of control that we'd like to think we have ownership over, namely, material possessions & relationships. Along with the seemingly chaotic experience we call "LIFE", God has also given "those that keep His law in their hearts" the promise that "None of OUR steps shall slide (Psalm 37:31)".

Which of you would have given up your higher education, your hometown, dedicated girlfriend, loving parents and warm bed to hit the road and never look back? Correct me if I'm wrong but you do it because A. you believe in something greater than yourself, B. any chance to experience rock stardom is worth the possible downside, C. You might actually "blow up" and D. You love it and wouldn't trade it for the world

I'm convinced that I've been allowed to have a place in this industry because God cares equally about a hurting scene kid (or band dude) as he does a starving Ethiopian.

For all the foolish things I've done in my days, I'm here to remind you that the only real investment worth pursuing is the one with the greatest pay off. As much as everyone and everything around you screams "more, more, MORE", I'm quietly whispering "In all things, whether you eat or drink, or WHATEVER you do, do it ALL to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31)". Whether you realize it (or even accept it now), it's your absolute highest calling and strongest yielding investment. God has an incredible plan for your life and it's completely focused to bring Him glory through how you reflect Jesus to others and to share his glory with you. That might sound lofty or impersonal or as though I have it all together and you don't, but I believe it with all my heart as I continue to experience God's hand in my life. All of the soundscan numbers (or lack thereof), big tours, myspace "friends", web banners, radio adds, TV spots and shallow conversations of trivial meaning are all huge hints that I/WE are building an Empire. I don't know about you but I don't want an empire of DIRT. I want an empire of living, breathing, growing, hungry hearts. I'm praying that God gives you eyes to see His eternal reality and inspires you to pursue that deep that calls unto deep.

I've lost count of how many bands I've signed in my 9 years of being in the "record industry", and honestly, it doesn't even matter. Up until about a year and a half ago I had mostly avoided my true calling which is to serve others in love and to do it all to God's glory. I was mostly serving because I was paid to and it was my means to make an end. I'd like to start serving you because I want to see God move powerfully in your lives and to remind you that I care deeply about your personal life and even more importantly your walk with Jesus. How sad that a sincere phrase can sound so cliche. I mean it, regardless of how it might sound and despite of how often I loose focus on what matters.

If there is anything I can do for you, just name it. Prayer, honest conversation, even meaningless soundscan numbers. I'm learning to be a better servant. If Jesus could wash feet, I've got a lot of room to grow..........

I confess and apologize publicly for the years that I've focused mostly on the DIRT and not on the seeds growing (or dying) in it.

With Love & hope for what God Almighty, Jesus the Son and the Holy Ghost have in store for each of you,

Chad

"Now to him who is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all that we ask or imagine according to the POWER that works in us, to him be the glory in the church to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:21)"

September 14, 2008

Titanic Disaster



Every Second 2 People Die
Over 180,000 People Will Die Today

I saw this poster recently that was a tribute to the Titanic. One part of the poster really caught my eye and basically blew my mind. It was this young man holding out a copy of the daily paper and the entire headline just read "Titanic Disaster Great Loss of Life". It instantly dawned on me that I didn't comprehend the vast scope of life and death in the way that God would have me understand. God's heart is that we would not only recognize the "Great Loss Of Life" but that He would completely transform us. We don't have to look very far to see Biblical reality that points us to this. The all too familiar verse of John 3:16 reveals clearly how God sees this Titanic Disaster: "This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. (The Message)

If God loved the world, then why don't we? Do we really understand that there is currently such a great loss of life that it's mind-numbing? That the vast majority of fellow humans on earth have so little compared to us and will likely end up spending eternity apart from God? The fact that we aren't completely wrecked by our own hardened hearts when it comes to the way we SEE the people in the world around us proves we have a long way to go. I'll use this analogy to prove my point; when you went out on the town on Saturday night for a dinner & movie you likely came across hundreds of people. Did you even stop and pray for a single ONE of those people? The fact is we don't Get It! What's the greater Disaster, that we as God's kids don't see the need or that our world is going to hell in a handbag? We need the eyes of Jesus to see through the huge wall of our own caloused hearts before we see our "neighbors" as those whose lives are hanging in the balance of eternal destiny.

God, would you give us those eyes that Jesus had. Would you provide us with strength, energy, creativity, endurance, and a massive amount of love to pour out on our fellow man. Not because we are better or that we have anything figured out aside from the blood of Jesus as our covering but because it's absolutely necessary that we see them as You see them. We confess our need for help. Help us as an entire generation to see this Titanic Disaster as something that You would use to bring glory to yourself. Would you allow us to be in Your business of saving lives, as You've saved ours. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, and since heaven is full of those chosen by you (and who responded) would you enable us to pour ourselves out freely on anyone we come across.

Soften our hearts. Teach us real Love. Do Your work.


September 10, 2008

Are We Zealous Men?

Zeal in religion is a burning desire to please God, to do His will, and to advance His glory in the world in every possible way. It is a desire which no man feels by nature, —which the Spirit puts in the heart of every believer when he is converted,—but which some believers feel so much more strongly than others that they alone deserve to be called "zealous" men.

This desire is so strong, when it really reigns in a man, that it impels him to make any sacrifice,—to go through any trouble,—to deny himself to any amount,—to suffer, to work, to labour, to toil,—to spend himself and be spent, and even to die,—if only he can please God and honour Christ.

A zealous man in religion is pre-eminently a man of one thing. It is not enough to say that he is earnest, hearty, uncompromising, thorough-going, whole-hearted, fervent in spirit. He only sees one thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing, he is swallowed up in one thing; and that one thing is to please God. Whether he lives, or whether he dies,—whether he has health, or whether he has sickness,—whether he is rich, or whether he is poor,—whether he pleases man, or whether he gives offense,—whether he is thought wise, or whether he is thought foolish,—whether he gets blame, or whether he gets praise,—whether he gets honour, or whether he gets shame,—for all this the zealous man cares nothing at all. He burns for one thing; and that one thing is to please God, and to advance God's glory. If he is consumed in the very burning, he cares not for it,—he is content. He feels that, like a lamp, he is made to burn; and if consumed in burning, he has but done the work for which God appointed him. Such a one will always find a sphere for his zeal. If he cannot preach, and work, and give money, he will cry, and sigh, and pray. Yes: if he is only a pauper, on a perpetual bed of sickness, he will make the wheels of sin around him drive heavily, by continually interceding against it. If he cannot fight in the valley with Joshua, he will do the work of Moses, Aaron, and Hur, on the hill. (Exod. xvii. 9-13.) If he is cut off from working himself, he will give the Lord no rest till help is raised up from another quarter, and the work is done. This is what I mean when I speak of "zeal" in religion. - The classic description of zeal for God, given by Bishop J.C. Ryle

Does our culture have this level of Zeal for anything? Do we as Christians even understand what it means to have feelings so strong for Jesus that we would do ANYTHING he asks? What will it take to get us there? I personally confess the years I've wasted in luke-warmness and invite God to make me zealous for all things that bring glory to Him. If you'd like to join me in that confession, leave a comment and I'll pray with you that God would instill His zeal in our hearts.

Check this amazing video: http://www.4-14.org.uk/thats-my-king-s-m-lockridge

September 6, 2008

Grocery Store Vision

Mark 8:34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37 Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."




I recently had a vision/picture/revelation where Jesus was leading children through a grocery store and they were struggling to follow. They would grab items off the shelf that were not theirs (or at least not meant for them yet). Jesus was loading a cart full of canned goods and was occasionally giving them out to the children once they had walked out of the store.

The significance of this vision was in our (His kids) inability to follow Christ without being side-tracked by so many things on the shelf. Those things being "stored up" for us by Jesus represent those times where we DO obey and in turn, bear fruit. The fruit is collected and stored in heaven. The items being handed out by Jesus represent the gifts that He gives us to live our lives completely focused on fruit that will last. One day, we'll have the entire cart full of every good gift and we'll see clearly the fruit of our labors.

Jesus, would you teach us what it means to follow hard after you, to take up our crosses DAILY and to deny ourselves. We confess the struggles of being easily distracted. Please put us on your path towards righteousness that we would glorify you in every area of our lives. Teach us to lose our lives so that we might gain them forevermore. Teach us to boldly live as kids committed to following a worthy King. We are kids in desperate need of your power to turn us away from foolishness. Do your work in our lives. We invite your presence to rearrange our priorities. Holy Spirit give us gifts that point others towards genuine love.

September 4, 2008

Taking Back The Streets

My Friend Brian Morgante (http://www.myspace.com/brianmorgante) wrote this overview of what went down at the "Taking Back the Streets" Fest in Pilot Mountain, NC on August. 21st and 22nd. He did an excellent job and although it's a lengthy read, I believe it is well worth your time and I can attest to the fact that this was truly a very significant and incredibly special opportunity for those of us present. Thanks Brian! (Note: this picture rules but it's from The Call in DC not TBTS)



There is something new in the air. Something that seems to be stirring in small country towns, large over populated cities, overcrowded venues, and smelly 15 passenger vans. From coast to coast, from churches to bars, from friends to enemies, there is a spirit beginning to stir that cannot be contained, and cannot be denied.
Taking Back the Streets 2008 was scheduled to be a festival modeled closely to anything we may have attended this summer, or the summer prior. A large open space in the middle of no where, campers from around the country, stages with generators under tents, and all of the usual hype, community, worship, fun and ungodly heat that comes with most summer concert festivals. Old friends reacquainted. New friendships stirring under the blaze of the morning sun (or the midnight campfire). One last fun-filled gathering for the summer, and then on with the rest of the year.
At least that's what we all thought upon arrival. God had plans much bigger than our own, much bigger than we could imagine, to create an atmosphere, and let a new spirit and perspective fall that would make us all re-think the meaning behind the name of the festival we were partaking in. There was a vision to be poured out, a revival to be stirred, a hope to be revitalized, and a culture to be restored to its roots and its passion.
On both Thursday and Friday night, the evenings were concluded with a worship set by The Glorious Unseen. All other stages closed up for the night, and all attention focused on bringing everyone on the grounds together for communal worship, prayer, admittance, and restoration. We came expecting, and the Spirit of God came expecting so much more than we could have even begun to imagine. There was an undeniable fact that we would not leave this place unchanged. We would not leave a small campground in Pilot Mountain, North Carolina without a breath of fresh air in our lungs from our Creator. Something was about to explode, and you could feel it all around you.
After a beautiful worship set on the first night, Chad was called to speak a few words, and instead of mere preaching from a pulpit, it became a message brought down to everyone in attendance, as he left the stage, and asked us all to form a tight knit circle around him. Everyone gathered close, friends and strangers alike, we were called to be one body, as we listened intently. We all began to pray together, for one another, for ourselves, for our culture, for our church, and through this intimate time we began to openly make outward confessions to one another in this unified experience. One after another, we would cry out to our Lord, and cry out to our brothers and sisters of those things we grew tiresome within our lives. Begging for forgiveness from our attitudes, our complacency, our addictions, our denial, our hatred, our irresponsibility.
Cries were raised, and some people smiled, as others wept openly. Strangers embraced, while close friends made amends. There was restoration in the air, and there was a spirit of forgiveness all around. We were ready to be filled with something new and beautiful that would transform us into the people that we knew we have been called to be. The people that we know we should be in each and every moment of our existence. Communion was served, and became a body of thanksgiving, singing songs of praise and redemption to our creator in one unified voice, still in our circle, with nothing more than Ben leading from an acoustic guitar and handclaps that rose loud and proud to our Father in heaven, who was smiling down upon us. Praise be to the Lord of forgiveness, the Father of love, and the Redeemer of our souls.
With a rejuvenation flowing through the festival from the night before, spirits were high, and expectant as the festival continued on. Worship was slated again for 10:30 on the main stage, and we were eager to come together once again to give praise to our Father. After a long day of honest and beautiful music, the Spirit was already starting to prepare hearts for what was coming. We knew that tonight was the night we would be changed and challenged in ways we never could have imagined.
Once again, an absolutely beautiful and honest worship set as people really set in to discover the heart of their Savior, really anchor themselves to a spirit that was so graciously arriving to sweep us away on that Friday night. As the music itself began to wind down, Tommy from Sleeping Giant came up and began to pray for the body, and Chad directed that in prayer before worship had begun, God had revealed that we were to go to the top of the hill in which we were at the bottom of, together, as one body, and begin to earnestly pray for the Holy Spirit to come upon us in ways we never thought possible. Tonight was the night chains would be broken. Tonight was the night we would dream dreams, and have visions, and feel the undeniable presence of a Spirit that Christ himself promised would be instilled in us. Hands were latched, and we spread into an enormous circle. Leaders were spread out and every individual was prayed for and together with to see a Spirit become prevalent in our lives, and demand a radical change to our lives. As we cried out, His presence reigned down in a way that I, personally, have not seen in ages, but gave all the signs that something big was about to happen, something so much bigger than I feel myself, or anyone there even realized as the night began.
Kids and adults alike, began to sweep across the circle, praying for any and everyone. This was unity. There was no hesitation as strangers spoke into the lives of fellow brothers, and encouraged, discerned, and embraced one another. Relationship through unity made us all closer than we could have ever imagined, and there were no inhibitions as we cried out as one. The focus was the Spirit, and there was an authenticity in the words and tears and laughs and confessions of each and every person present. There were no more shows, or talk of who did amazing that night. There was no more focus on status, or reputation, band or fan, old or young, new faith or seasoned warrior. It was about love, consolation, healing, restoration, uprising, radicalism, movement, and change. We would not leave until we knew one hundred percent that His Spirit had met with us, and had moved through us, radically transforming who and what we were, and who and what we were to become!
There was an invitation to be filled with the Holy Spirit, an invitation that is not usually given to many people you find involved in our culture. A culture that has abandoned conventional church, and people that have come to a festival maybe not evening knowing what the act of being filled with the Spirit entailed. There was an earnest understanding of the power that was about to be unleashed, as it was accepted and welcomed. People eager to learn and understand and be filled stepped forth, as those who have experienced what was going on began to welcome this Spirit to fall, welcome this Spirit to fill these open hearts and minds, these surrendered lives to the power of the Most High. At this point, everything changed, and became so much bigger than we expected!
Gifts were poured out almost instantly, and we began to see outward evidence of what the Spirit was beginning to do within individuals, as well as the body. People were slain in the Spirit, collapsing literally under the full surrender of themselves to the Spirit. Tongues were spoken in an orderly fashion, one at a time, as others openly interpreted the intimate messages to the body. We began to see healing, and words of knowledge and truth spoken out. With such innocence reigning in this obedient body, we saw an authentic move on the Spirit in a large group of people, many of us, for the very first time in our lives. We saw the REAL power of the gifts, and we experienced the most intimate love our human-ness is able to experience.
Hours passed, and there was a rejuvenation poured out upon us through this revival, and as things were winding down emotionally, we knew this was more than hype. We knew this was more than a feel good mountain experience. We knew this wasn't a revitalization that would keep a smile on our face for a mere moment and fade as we all went our separate ways. This was a call of knowledge, a call of responsibility, a call to radical change in our individual lives, homes, churches, towns, cities, communities. With understanding comes the responsibility to grow that. To spread passion from person to person and create a unity in what the Lord is trying to tell us each and every day. We knew without a shadow of a doubt we were given something special, that would be spread to the farthest corners of our country and our world, and new wondrous things instilled within us that would give us a peace and foundation to many of our questioned beliefs. There is no denying we experienced the power of almighty God, and we would return home to instill this new revival to those around us.
Be alert to what is happening. Be a voice of truth and discernment in all that you do and everywhere that you go. There is something new stirring, and God is ready to use the willing to bring forth truth in our culture, in our church body, in our relationships, and in our lives once again. God willing we will be obedient to that small still whisper he is pleading with us to recognize once again. Praise be to Him!

September 2, 2008

Vision of The Dam



I was in Albuquerque, NM on July 26th when God gave me this vision. It was immediately after the Glorious Unseen/Ember Days set at around 11PM.

I received a mental picture of a huge body of water. Very still, placid water. A massive man-made dam was holding back the water. The dam appeared to have been in place for year and years but stretched for miles. It was enormous. For years it had lived up to it's intended purpose of holding back the waters. On the dry side of the dam I noticed that there were cracks and fissures, indicating it's aging weakness. I felt the Lord saying that the work that had happened that night in ALBQ did some serious damage in a spiritual sense. Again I saw the body of water held back by the dam but this time I noticed that one of the cracks was starting to pour forth a small but steady stream of water. God was saying that WE had caused the growing weakness with our intercession for this country (and especially UNITY amongst believers and there respective "Denominations" - Demon nations, ha?). The last picture I saw was accompanied with God saying "look and see what I will be doing". I saw the body of water being held back by a weakening dam and then, in an instant, the pressure caused by the weight of the water completely crushed the dam and broke it down to pieces. Huge swells of water rushed out over a green, hilly land and didn't leave anything in it's path untouched. Trees were uprooted, boulders were being carried away by the massive flow of water and it was pouring fourth without being held back an ounce.

At the time I didn't completely understand what the body of water symbolized but felt God explained it later as his Body of believers here in the US. and that he was going to use the youth to uproot years and years worth of man-made opposition to His plan. All summer I've had the verse in 1 Corinthians 1:27 - "God will use the foolish things of this world to bring shame to the wise and the weak things of this world to bring down the Mighty things".

I firmly believe that a Movement is coming where the youth will be living their lives in complete abandon to anything but the power of the Holy Spirit guiding them onward towards the cross. It's already happening. Maybe not in easily defined terms, but the work God is doing is reaching kids at the core where previous generations had not considered going. I pray that we would be prepared to live our lives as though the end is upon us and we're quickly exiting the scene. I'm beyond tired of living a luke-warm Christian faith and God knows I'm hungry to feel some heat.

August 26, 2008

Hanging Hands Feeble Knees

I just stumbled across this verse in Hebrews 12 this past Sunday that I had never really noticed before. It says "Strengthen the hands that hang down and the feeble knees" (Hebrews 12:12). This is a verse that has applied itself to my role with several friends in positions of authority and who are out there doing God's work. The picture of hands hanging down and weak knees is one of a worker that just can't do the work any longer or has exerted him/herself to the point of uselessness. It's obvious that anyone in a leadership position is going to face increased attacks against the work that God is doing in and through them. Any of us who would allow God to use us more fully to advance His Kingdom should expect to experience hands that hang down in weakness and trembling, feeble knees. It's also (and possibly only) in these times of weakness that God is able to show up and completely prove His strength. He'll do it in a number of ways but He loves to use His own kids to speak life and encouragement to people (not just in leadership) who are wearing thin. God, would you make us really mindful of those that are experiencing the weakness described in this passage. Give us eyes to find those people as we live our daily lives and to not just see them, but take on your character of providing strength to them. In order to give strength out, we've got to be receiving strength in. God knows each of our needs and my prayer is that He would really show us how needy we are. Once we recognize how needy we are, we're so much more effective in recognizing the needs of those around us. Jesus - help us to see the weakness, both ours and then that of others. And enable us to provide your strength in both cases.

August 20, 2008

Old School Journal Entry - August 2nd, 1994

I decided to share some entries from time to time out of an old Journal. The only time I seriously kept a journal was my Junior year (1994/95) of college. Kind of sad that I haven't really spent the time (nor cared) to keep a record of what was happening (or what God was doing) in my life over the past 12 years. I had a friend tell me today that he felt the word "Wilderness" was something I could relate to. I guess if I had to apply that thought to my journal you could easily see that I've spent a ton of time in some dry lands. More on dry wilderness in a future post.

Not sure if anyone will care but it's a great excuse for me to go back in time and re-live a very special period in my life. Here's the first in a series of "Old School Journals".

August 2nd, 1994

Context: Headed back from a summer discipleship program in Panama City Beach, FL to start my junior year of college. In case you are confused, Beth is my wife of 12 years and at the time was my lady friend.

"Lord, I am scared of leaving here. I have learned so much this summer; Sharing your love with others, giving more of me to you, being taught to give this love freely, and growing deeper with you and stronger with Beth. I wish that I could take her (Beth) with me but your plans are perfect. Please teach me to love her more and more. I pray that one day I will have her as my wife (prayer answered on 08/03/96), but only if this will bring you glory! Take away my small fears and insecurities and remind me of how deep your love is for me. I love you with all my heart."

August 18, 2008

We all want to believe in Miracles

I'm a witness to the miraculous, on both sides of the fence. On one side, I see how much God moves in my life and on the other I see how much he has yet to move in my life. My hunger and desire for God's will has been growing more pronounced over the last couple of years. I feel there is a call to obedience that we all have to give ear to. I'm struggling day by day to submit myself to that call and admit that I can't do any of this on my own. I need help. I'm pretty sure you need help. I hope to encourage you a little bit along the way as you see and read God's faithfulness towards us. I've repented of living a lukewarm life, confessed that I'm in dire need of a savior and that the only true savior is found in the Biblical Jesus Christ, that confession is to occur daily as we lose sight of God's plan for our lives, that we're called to live a life full of love for our neighbors (of which I openly admit I really don't know how to do) and I believe that there is healing promised to anyone who recognizes the need of a Physician. Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will Be done. That's a dangerous prayer but I mean it and invite God to use this page as evidence of His will being done in me and in you. My prayer is that God would instill in you (and me) such a hunger for truth that we would not be content to live another day without discovering where that truth is to be found. I'm here as an example to the fact that God will use anyone to accomplish his will and I have no special gifts, talents or abilities aside from the obvious mercy that God has so generously poured out through the relationship with his Son, Jesus. I'm learning to love more deeply and pray that God would teach us what that should look like.