December 23, 2009

He Endured.

"He endured, as seeing Him who is invisible" - Hebrews 11:27

The life of Moses was a much-enduring one. He endured the banishment from palatial surroundings and the most brilliant court then in existence; he endured the forfeiture of privilege, and the renunciation of splendid prospects; he endured the flight from Egypt, and the wrath of the king; he endured the lonely exile in Midian, where for years he was buried alive; he endured the long trudge through the wilderness at the head of a slave people, whom he sought to consolidate into a nation; he endured the ill manners and the countless provocations of a froward and perverse generation; he endured the lonely death on Nebo, and the nameless grave that angels dug for him there! And here we have the secret of his wondrous fortitude disclosed to us: "He endured, as seeing Him who is invisible."

He realized the presence of God. He lived in the consciousness, "Thou God seest me." He looked up, and had a habitual regard to the heavenly and eternal. In the upper chambers of his soul there was a window that opened skyward, and commanded a view of things unseen. As an old author puts it, "He had a greater than Pharaoh in his eye, and this kept him right." Yes, and this will keep any of us right: to live under the sense that God is overlooking us - to walk by faith and not by sight.

- S. Law Wilson.

December 14, 2009

Dwelling Deep


"The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." (Philipians 4:7)

There are depths in the ocean, I am told, which no tempest ever stirs - beyond the reach of all storms that sweep and agitate the surface of the sea. And there are heights in the blue sky above, to which no cloud ever ascends; where no tempest ever rages; where all is perpetual sunshine; where naught exists to disturb the deep serenity. Even at the center of the cyclone there is rest. Each of these is an emblem of the soul which Jesus visits, to whom He speaks peace, whose fear He dispels, whose lamps of hope He trims.

During the test of a submarine it remained submerged for many hours. When it had returned to the harbor, the commander was asked: "Well, how did the storm affect you last night?" The commander looked at him in surprise and said: "Storm? We knew nothing of any storm!"

Dwell deep. When doubts assail and stealthy shadows creep across your sky, filling you with a sense of doom. Where thunders roar, and lightnings frighten with their glare, and old foundations seem to crumble beneath your feet. Dwell deep and rest your soul amid eternal things. Upon the surface storms may rage, and billows break on every beach of life, and fling disaster far and wide. If your soul is dwelling quiet in the depths, naught can harm you evermore. Therefore dwell deep, and rest your head upon the heart of God.

- Anonymous

"When He gives quietness, who then can make trouble" - (Job 34:29)

December 10, 2009

Holiday Presence


We are upon that time of year when everything goes completely schizophrenic around us and we are undoubtedly drawn into the certain chaos of the Holiday season. Darkness surrounds as early as 4PM, traffic gets crazier, families are scrambling, and retailers are desperately clinging to the hope that “god” will perform the miracle of transforming red ink to black. Even Starbucks is banking on all things cinnamon and spice to daily draw you in.

Moms are busying themselves with Turkey dinners, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, while dads are hanging lights and inflatable snowmen. Kids have lost all touch with reality other than telling you what they want under the tree. It seems our lives begin moving at such an increased pace that we rarely have time to just sit down and soak up the true treasures in our lives. I'm writing this to remind 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

Read the full blog, featured on Ransom.tv, here.

November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I recorded a very simple (and short) video to just say thank you and to pray over all the families getting together tomorrow and this weekend. Check out the video here. Apologies for the poor quality, please don't tell Andy Reale that I shot this using my laptop.

I'm so thankful for everything the Lord has done in my life. He's blessed me beyond what I deserve. Lately, in the midst of serious financial trial, He has been increasing my faith, my hope, and my joy. I feel as though I'm learning daily how to grow into more of the man that God has called me to be, and I'm forever grateful for the lessons.

Praying that you all have an incredible time with friends and family.

Blessings and love,

chad

November 13, 2009

Fire


In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6-9)

"What makes this set of china so much more expensive than that?" asked the customer. "It has more work on it. It has been put through the fire twice. See, in this one the flowers are in a yellow band; in that one they are on the white background. This had to be put through the fire a second time to get the design on it."

"Why is the pattern on this vessel so blurred and marred - the design not brought out clearly?" "That one was not burned enough. Had it remained in the furnace longer the dark background would have become gold - dazzling gold, and the pattern would have stood out clear and distinct."

Perhaps some of those who seem to have more than their share of suffering and disappointment are, like the costly china, being doubly tried in the fire, that they may be more valuable in the Master's service.

"The potter never sees his clay take on rich shades of silver, or red, or cream, or brown, or yellow, until after the darkness and the burning of the furnace. These colors come - after the burning and darkness. The clay is beautiful - after the burning and darkness. The vase is made possible - after the burning and darkness."

How universal is this law of life! Where did the bravest man and the purest woman you know get their whitened characters? Did they not get them as the clay gets its beauty - after the darkness and the burning of the furnace? Where did Savonarola get his eloquence? In the darkness and burning of the furnace wherein God discovered deep things to him. Where did Stradavari get his violins? Where did Titian get his color? Where did Angelo get his marble? Where did Mozart get his music, and Chatterton his poetry, and Jeremiah his sermons? They got them where the clay gets its glory and it shimmer - in the darkness and the burning of the furnace." - Robert G. Lee

My prayer has been shaped (through this same fiery furnace) from a previous plea of, "Lord, please finish this process as quickly as possible and let me on my way" to a more desperate cry, "Lord, I want the purest of refinement. Please take as much time as you need to rework and reshape my heart. Whatever you do, please finish the process fully and completely - just allow me to endure it."

God help us not rebel at the second breath of the flame if (and when) You send it.

November 11, 2009

Prayer: Power of all powers

“Up in a little town in Maine,things were pretty dead some years ago. The churches were not accomplishing anything. There were a few Godly men in the churches, and they said: 'Here we are, only uneducated laymen; but something must be done in this town. Let us form a praying band. We will all center our prayers on one man. Who shall it be?' They picked out one of the hardest men in town, a hopeless drunkard, and centered all their prayers upon him. In a week, he was converted. They centered their prayers upon the next hardest man in town, and soon he was converted. Then they took up another and another, until within a year, two or three hundred were brought to God, and the fire spread out into all the surrounding country. Definite prayer for those in the prison house of sin is the need of the hour.” - Dr. R.A. Torrey

Do we believe in the power of prayer to alter our circumstances, especially those of which no other power could alter?

October 22, 2009

Where is God when His Provision Dries up?

"And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up." (1 Kings 17:7)


God sent Elijah to the brook and it dried up. It did not prove equal to the need of the prophet. It failed; God knew it would; He made it to fail. "The brook dried up." This is an aspect of the Divine providence that sorely perplexes our minds and tries our faith. God knows that there are heavenly whispers that men cannot hear until the drought of trouble and perhaps weariness has silenced the babbling brooks of joy. And He is not satisfied until we have learned to depend, not upon His gifts, but upon He Himself. - Rev. Percy Ainsworth

It's incredibly easy to experience a full range of earthly emotions when we can no longer see God's outstretched hand of provision before us. How do we respond when God gives us a clear directive and yet the brook of His provision seems to dry up on us? We all know that He is supposed to provide for all our needs. And, if the God of the Bible is true, why would He fail to care for us? The Israelites (post miraculous deliverance from Egypt) experienced this very thing. A wilderness wandering for 40 years before they received the fulfillment of the promise. In this story of the prophet Elijah, the Lord Himself had called forth a drought on the land and then instructed the prophet to head for the wilderness and be supplied by the flow of a small brook. The same God who supplied was the same God who declined. This is the God we serve. If we could perfectly understand His will in every circumstance we would have no need for the mediator in Jesus and no help from the Spirit that guides us into all truth.

What we can see from Scripture is that the Lord is constantly good and even when He dries up the brook - He also brings instruction and opens wide another way. Had the Lord not dried up the brook, here is what the prophet Elijah would have missed out on:

1. He never would have met a widow who on their introduction said, "I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die."

2. Elijah met the widow to not only be provided for but to be the provision for them. The Lord used him to save both the widow and her son.

3. Not just once, but on two occasions does the Lord use Elijah to spare the widow's son.

4. He may not have gone back to seek King Ahab (who had turned his back on God and began worshiping Baal)

5. It's likely that Elijah would not have called out the 450 "prophets of Baal" and experienced one of the more incredible miracles in Scripture where he strikes a deal with these prophets saying, "Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD; and the God who answers by fire, He is God.”

6. Drought may not have ended and the rain may not have come.

So, if you are anything like I am, the first place you run when it becomes clear that the brook of the Lord's provision seems to be drying is a place of complaining, a place of grumbling, a place of hardening the heart. I pray the Lord would give us the vision to see what He has planned far beyond our stay out at the wilderness brook. Maybe he plans to touch some orphans and widows through you. It's possible that His good will is to release you to influence even the Kings and Presidents of the nations. Could it even be that He would work such miracles through your hands that even a whole nation would be turned back? Highly unlikely for the skeptics in us. Praise God that He is never skeptical of His work.

I pray that Jesus would soften our hearts, setting straight our unbelief/grumbling/hardness/whatever-it-is-we-deal-with and move us into the glory of His perfect will, even in the midst of a drying brook.

October 14, 2009

When the Silence of God is the Answer

“So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.” (John 11:6)



And so the silence of God was itself an answer. It is not merely said that there was no audible response to the cry from Bethany; it is distinctly stated that the absence of an audible response was itself the answer to the cry – it was when the Lord heard that Lazarus was sick that therefore He stayed two days still in the same place where He was. I have often heard the outward silence. A hundred times have I sent up aspirations whose only answer has seemed to be the echo of my own voice, and I have cried out in the night of my despair. “Why art Thou so far from helping me?” But I never thought that the seeming farness was itself the nearness of God – that the very silence was an answer.

It was a very grand answer to the household of Bethany. They had asked not too much, but too little. They had asked only the life of Lazarus. They were to get the life of Lazarus and a revelation of eternal life as well.

There are some prayers that are followed by a Divine silence because we are not yet ripe for all we have asked; there are others which are so followed because we are ripe for more. We do not always know the full strength of our own capacity; we have to be prepared for receiving greater blessings than we have ever dreamed of. We come to the door of the sepulcher and beg with tears the dead body of Jesus; we are answered by silence because we are to get something better – a living Lord!

My soul, be not afraid of God’s silence; it is another form of His voice. God’s silence is more than man’s speech. God’s negative is better than the world’s affirmative. Have thy prayers been followed by a calm stillness? Well! Is not that God’s voice – a voice that will suffice thee in the meantime till the full disclosure comes? Has He moved not from His place to help thee? Well, but His stillness makes thee still, and He has something better than help to give thee.

Wait for Him in the silence, and before long it shall become vocal; death shall be swallowed up in victory!

Think not that God’s silence is coldness or indifference. When birds are on the nest preparing to bring forth life, they never sing. God’s stillness is full of brooding. Be not impatient with God!

When the Lord is to lead a soul to great faith, He for a time leaves his prayer unanswered.

- George Matheson “The Blind Preacher”

October 8, 2009

A Native Psalm


"The Lord is my Sphepherd" (Psalm 23:1)

The great Father above is a Shepherd Chief. I am his and with him. I want not. He throws out to me a rope, and the name of the rope is love, and he draws me to where the grass is green and the water is not dangerous.

Sometimes my heart is very weak, and falls down, but he lifts it up again and draws me into a good road. Sometime, it may be very soon, it may be longer, it may be a long, long time, he will draw me into a place between mountains. It is dark there, but I'll draw back not. I'll be afraid not, for it is in there between the mountains that the Shepherd Chief will meet me, and the hunger I have felt in my heart all through this life will be satisfied. Sometimes he makes the love rope into a whip, but afterward he gives me a staff to lean on.

He spreads a table before me with all kinds of food. He puts his hands upon my head, and all the "tired" is gone.

My cup he fills, till it runs over.

What I tell you is true, I lie not. The roads that are "away ahead" will stay with me through this life, and afterward I will go to live in the "Big Tepee" and sit down with the Shepherd Chief forver.

- An American Indian's Version of the Twenty-Third Psalm.

October 6, 2009

The Ice Harvest of Life


"He that loses his life for My sake shall find it." (Matthew 10:39)

Below is an excerpt from the devotional book, "Springs in the Valley":

In my early life I entered into a partnership with a friend in the wholesale ice business. For two seasons in succession our ice was swept away by winter freshets. In the winter of which I speak, things had come to a serious pass and it seemed very necessary that we should have ice. The weather became cold; the ice formed and grew thicker and thicker until it was fit to gather. Then there came an order for thousands of tons of ice which would lift us entirely from our financial stress.

Not long before this, God has showed me that it was His will that I should commit my business to Him and trust Him with it absolutely. I never dreamed what testing was coming. At midnight there came an ominous sound - that of rain. By noon the storm was raging in all it's violence; by afternoon I had come into a great spiritual crisis in my life.

By mid-afternoon of that day I had come face to face with the tremendous fact that down deep in my heart was a spirit of rebellion against God. And that rebelliousness seemed to develop in a suggestion to my heart like this: "You gave all to God. This is the way He repays you." Then another voice: "My child, did you mean it when you said you would trust me? Would I suffer anything to come into your life which will not work out good for you?" And then the other voice: "But it is hard! Why should He take your business when it is clean and honest?"

At the end of two hours (during which waged one of the greatest spiritual battles of my life) by the grace of God I was able to cry out, "Take the business; take the ice; take everything; only give me the supreme blessing of a will absolutely submitted to Thee." And then came peace!

By midnight there came another sound - that of wind. By morning the mercury had fallen to zero, and in a few days we were harvesting the finest ice we ever had. He gave back the ice; He blessed the business; and He led me on and out, until He guided me from it entirely into the place He had for me from the beginning - that of a teacher of His Word - James H. McConkey.

"Give your life to God, and God will give you back your life!"

September 24, 2009

The Famine Is Severe In The Land

"Now the famine was severe in the land.....and it came to pass, when they had eaten up the grain which they had brought from Egypt, that their father said to them, "Go back, buy us a little food."....For if we had not lingered, surely by now we would have returned this second time.....and they took double money in their hand, and Benjamin; and rose up, and went." (Genesis 43: 1-15)


Praise God for the famine in our life, that drives us in utter helplessness back to Him! Praise Him that what we have gets eaten up, and we must turn to Him for more! But how like unto the faltering, fearful family of Israel we act! We could find absolute relief, sufficiency, satisfaction in Jesus Christ; yet we delay, debate, wonder, waste time, and stay hungry.

When finally in desperation we are driven to Him we think we must do some great thing to meet His terms, and we try to carry "double money" in all sorts of ways, to make sure of what He is yearningly waiting to give us. He does ask us for one thing, and one only: and that is the dearest possession of our lives. With Israel's family the dearest possession was Benjamin. When we lay down our dearest possession, then the treasures of the kingdom are flung open to us and lavished into our life.

A drying well will often lead the spirit to the river that flows from the throne of God.

- Messages for the Morning Watch taken from "Springs in the Valley".

If the famine in your heart is as severe as mine, you are left with only one option and that option is throwing yourself into the arms of God, confessing your lack, inviting Him to replenish every part of you so that, once again, "your cup will overflow" with living waters. Only believe that there is one true fulfillment of your plans, your purpose, your dreams, your passion. His name is Jesus and He is the lover of our souls.

Lord Jesus, Revive some dry hearts and mouths today for Your glory.

September 17, 2009

Divine Support?


One thing we've learned in the few months since trusting God to lead this vision is that everyone in the Non-profit world is looking for "support", including us. There are heaps of resources that provide insight towards properly raising this "support". As much as Come&Live! is currently being funded fully through the generosity of individuals like you (meaning we trust God daily to use people like yourself to provide for our basic needs such as placing food on our tables, covering the costs of printing promotional materials, album recordings, spending time loving and caring for artists, etc.), we should be clear in reminding you, and mostly ourselves, that none of our efforts can even begin to compare to the "support" that God provides - even when there is no sign of financial "provision" on the horizon.

We live in a time and place where financial resources are at a premium. No cash = No opportunity, No opportunity = No Hope. How shallow we are to think that God needs the material currency of our world in order to provide for us. Of course He loves to provide for our every need, and He is always concerned and more than willing/able to care for us. If we are to "love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, soul, and strength" then is it only logical that God's "support" would be to each of those areas? Do you have a need? Be it material, financial, spiritual, relational, emotional - or anything else - Divine Support comes from God's unlimited and unrestrained treasury. The catch is that it only comes on HIS terms. He is the Lender and you and I are just the borrowers. God provides the minute He knows we can receive it and that we will handle it with total responsibility and proper stewardship. If we had the very best of intentions and were to walk into a bank asking for an unsecured loan in the amount of 3 Million dollars to build an empire with, the bank would never give it to us without first being 100% sure that we would repay, with proper interest. The same is true of God's lending. He demands an interest on His provision in the form of fruit bearing. Do we bear fruit under our current circumstances or are we looking ahead to a payday that will give us what we "need" in order to truly bear fruit? We are called to bear fruit wherever we are and whatever our outward circumstances might look like. Divine support is freely given to the borrowers of grace in order to pass it along so as to see much fruit growing all around us. I don't know about you, but we here at C&L! want to be in the fruit business. We want our interest on God's loan to be such pleasing fruit that He continually trust us with more.

A wonderful reminder comes through this puritan prayer from the 1800's, let's make it our prayer for Divine Support:

"Thou art the blessed God, happy in thyself, source of happiness in thy creatures, my maker, benefactor, proprietor, upholder.

Thou hast produced and sustained me, supported and indulged me, saved and kept me; Thou art in every situation able to meet my needs and miseries.

May I live by thee, live for thee, never be satisfied with my Christian progress but as I resemble Christ; And may conformity to His principles, temper, and conduct grow hourly in my life.

Let Thy unexampled love constrain me into holy obedience, and render my duty my delight. If others deem my faith folly, my meekness infirmity, my zeal madness, my hope delusion, my actions hypocrisy, may I rejoice to suffer for Thy name.

Keep me walking steadfastly towards the country of everlasting delights, that paradise-land which is my true inheritance.

Support me by the strength of heaven that I may never turn back, or desire false pleasures that wilt and disappear into nothing.

As I pursue my heavenly journey by thy grace let me be known as a man with no aim but that of a burning desire for thee, and the good and salvation of my fellow men."

******************

Would radical generosity be the new currency of our generation! It starts with you and I.

August 30, 2009

Need of Grace



O Lord,
You know my great unfitness for service,
my present deadness,
my inability to do anything for Your glory,
my distressing coldness of heart.

I am weak, ignorant, unprofitable,
and loathe and abhor myself.
I am at a loss to know what You would have me do,
for I feel amazingly deserted by thee,
and sense thy presence so little;
You make me possess the sins of my youth,
and the dreadful sin of my nature,
so that I feel all sin,
I cannot think or act but every motion is sin.

Return again with showers of converting grace
to a poor Gospel-abusing sinner.
Help my soul to breathe after holiness, after a constant devotedness to thee, after growth in grace more abundantly every day.

O Lord, I am lost in the pursuit of this blessedness,
and am ready to sink because I fall short of my desire;
Help me to hold out a little longer,
until the happy hour of deliverance comes,
for I cannot lift my soul to thee
if thou of thy goodness bring me not close.

Help me to be diffident, watchful, tender,
lest I offend my blessed friend in thought and behavior;
I confide in You and lean upon You,
and need You at all times to assist and lead me.

O that all my distresses and apprehensions might prove but Christ's school
to make me fit for greater service
by teaching me the great lesson of humility.

- The Valley Of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions.

If this doesn't summarize how I've felt in recent days, I'm not sure what does. It's refreshing to express so genuinely to God how little I'm able to accomplish of my own energy and strength. He is not caught off guard, surprised, nor does He sit back and scoff at my weakness. Christ's power in us is made perfect through weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), so the weaker we become - the more we admit we can't carry our load alone - the more powerfully God works in and through us. It's obviously backwards from what we've all been taught or experience in this life. You don't "climb the ladder" by admitting you are weak or unable to even climb at all. "Suppress your fears, deny your insecurities, climb on your own strength and don't bother knocking people off the ladder on your way up." - that's more along the lines of how the world deals with weakness. Thankfully God is bigger than this world and loves to overcome weakness through His bold power.

If you are anything like me, very weak and fragile at times, then you'll relate with this Puritan prayer. Pray it with me, and trust that God will renew your strength. Jesus, we need You at every hour, at every turn, during every trial, storm and distress, we need You when we are sailing and when we are drowning. We need You in both good times and bad. Help us not to keep going without You. Help us not to fall behind or get too far ahead of You. Help us to stay steady on the course You've mapped out for us. Give us ears to hear and eyes to see. Give us Love and all the Fruit of Your Spirit. Give us Grace.

August 13, 2009

Sleeping Church, Awake!



I'm currently about half way through the book "Living Water" by Brother Yun. The Chapter I'm on is titled "Sleeping Church, Awake!". I couldn't help but post a portion of it. My life has been deeply impacted by both of Yun's books - "The Heavenly Man" and "Living Water". If you have yet to read either, you are missing out on not just the incredible testimonies of God but a powerful message to all of us living in "plenty" - it's time that we arise from our slumber and begin seeking the Lord with diligence. God has so radically shifted my focus over this past year. It feels as though He continues to literally open my eyes to a reality I never seriously considered. That reality is one of taking God at His Word and believing that "nothing is impossible" with Him - even when every circumstance around me begs the opposite. My love for the Lord (and others) has increased to such a degree that it's not uncommon anymore to find myself in a mess of tears just weeping over the fact that God left the 99 sheep to pursue a train wreck, like me. If anything, I feel such a desire and hunger to grow deeper and further. To not find myself satisfied with an increase of spiritual desire but to allow God free reign to continue this process of tearing me down to build me back up.

I pray you are blessed by this excerpt from "Living Water";

{Believers often use Revelation 3:20 as an invitation to salvation (note: this includes me!). It says, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me." Closer examination of this passage reveals that Jesus wasn't knocking at the door of unbelievers' hearts when he said those words. He was knocking at the door of the backslidden church at Laodicea. Jesus was standing outside the door of the church, knocking and asking to be let in! It's a sad indictment, but Jesus continues to be an unwelcome guest in many churches today. Many continue to operate in their lifeless religiosity, "having a form of godliness and YET denying it's power" (2 Timothy 3:5).

Wake up! Repent! Let the Lord Jesus come into your lives and into your churches. He loves all people, and as long as you have breath in you, it's not too late for Him to use you for His glory.

A spiritually dull church or believer is a poor witness for the living, resurrected Jesus. A church is meant to be a training centre and command hub for war, not a social club for pleasantries and hypocrisy, where people give lip service to Christ while refusing to obey His commands. Not only does God want you to wake up, but He has a work for you to do.

As I have traveled around the world, I have met many wonderful brothers and sisters. They listen intently to every word that is spoken, but there is one major thing missing in their spiritual lives. They need to start obeying the Word of God. They need to step out and start being doers of the Word instead of just listeners. James said, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (James 1:22).

You see, when you only listen to the Word of God, your heart gets filled up with spiritual food. This is good, but it is there to serve a purpose. That purpose is for you to go and share the food you have with the hungry, so that they too can know Jesus. If you just keep God's blessings to yourself, you will become a bloated and sick Christian. When you share them with others, the Holy Spirit will give you more so that you can share more. It is a wonderful thing.

The greatest battle in the history of humankind is taking place right now. No, it's not the "war on terror", but a conflict far more intense and far-reaching! It is the battle for the souls of humankind. This war affects every single person in the world, for their eternal destinies depend on the result. Satan is busy trying to drag as many people to hell with him as possible. The Bible tells us, "Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short" (Rev. 12:12). } - Brother Yun

Almighty God of whom belongs all power, glory, and honor - WAKE YOUR SLUMBERING BRIDE!

To read more about Brother Yun's story, go here.

August 5, 2009

Fruit of the Vine



Jesus said: “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” {Matthew 12: 33-37}

It was a few years back when I was seated at the end of a conference table in a closed room, surrounded and outnumbered by what most would assume to have been a local gang of homeless youth. Despite their appearance, these were not mere vagabonds, they were homeless with a purpose. I always loved the times where bands would come by the offices and spend time with us - which usually meant a BBQ or in the case of mewithoutYou, our favorite pizza from Mad. I especially loved it when the Philly boys came to town as it almost always meant quality conversation and good fellowship. This day was no different. I believe it was Aaron who posed the pointed question in reference to the "Christian" Music Industry: "Can a good tree bear bad fruit?" - a question that I wasn't sure how to answer at the time and that has stuck with me over the years. It's a question that applies more broadly than to a single record label or even an entire industry. It is a question we should all be asking ourselves. The notion of "fruit" - the obvious, tangible product of faith expressed in our daily behavior - is how Christ told us we could differentiate the real expression of faith from that of an attempted counterfeit.

Jesus spoke these harsh words (possibly the harshest of all His words) to the Pharisees - a group of Jewish theologians who studied the Word but did not live by or under it's power, nor did they recognize the Word himself (In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. - John 1:1) even though He performed incredible miracles right in front of their eyes. What is evil can not speak what is good, though it may try hard to fool us all. Authenticity in a jewel may not be something most of us could recognize with our untrained, naked eyes. Take the same jewel to a qualified jeweler and he could tell you straight away that it wasn't worth a penny. Do you and I have the discernment to recognize when God is truly at work? I don't know about you, but I do not want to miss a single work of God because I was too busy focusing on a tree that was never even capable of producing good fruit.

Jesus shed His innocent blood for us that we would not end up like the Pharisees - whose name ironically meant "separated ones" or "loved by God". He died for us that we would actually live. Not just even live but bear fruit; “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned." (John 15:5-6) We can do nothing without Him. Bearing good fruit is not an issue of trying exceptionally hard to succeed. Setting our minds towards success does not guarantee we'll reach it. Working as hard as humanly possible with our hands still isn't enough to bear good spiritual fruit. Abiding (or continuing to remain) in Jesus is our only hope.

Idle words. Did you know that you'd be judged for them? That by our words we will either be justified or condemned? Were it not for the blood of Jesus, we'd all be guilty simply on account of idle words. Think of a car when it sits idling at a stop light - no gas is being supplied to move the car forward. As much as it might keep you from an accident, an idle car doesn't get you anywhere. Our idle words do about as much good as the driver of an idling car trying to make it across the country. Idle words don't empower those around us. They're not encouraging nor do they speak life where there has been death. Only God can empower our speech in the way that we read in Colossians 4:6 "Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person." Your words matter. Pray that God would not allow them to fly out of your lips unless they are aimed at producing fruit in someone. Pray God allows you to bear the kind of fruit He intends for you.

Remain in Him and He will remain in you.

July 29, 2009

Seeking First the Kingdom


"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25-34)

When is the last time any of us worried about food or drink? Clothes? Not only do we rarely show signs of anxiety over any of these but our options are limitless when it comes to where we'll eat the next meal or cover our bodies in garments. Read this passage to someone in an underdeveloped country (or possibly even your local homeless person) and it will probably relate quite differently.

Jesus was talking about the essentials for human survival. Eating is essential. So is drinking water. Being clothed helps keep our sensitive skin from all the elements - heat, rays of the sun, rain, snow, cold, insects, etc. So, why would Jesus talk about a passage that is likely difficult for most of us in the western world to truly relate to. Maybe the prophet Isaiah will help;

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
"I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite. (Isaiah 57:15)

God does not only make His home in the heights of Heaven. He also finds a place with the lowly and the contrite - those who show a sign of remorse for their sins. It explains why Jesus had such a heart for the poor. Even to the extent of comparing Himself to the poor - "whatever you do to the least of these, my brothers, you do unto me" (Matthew 25:40). Will it ever be possible for us to start looking out for the needs of others way before our own? Only if God fills our hearts with His concern and care for His children - especially the poor and those who can't help themselves.

God cares for us. Even when we worry or become anxious, He still cares. Our internal (or external) circumstances don't change how much He is willing and wanting to express His love towards us in the form of care. "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you" (1 Peter 5: 6&7). If we truly believe God is creator of heaven and earth; when will we believe that He cares enough to love and look after us?

I'm challenged by the perspective Jesus gives us in overcoming worry. It boils down to priorities. Not seeing our condition as a hindrance but an opportunity for God's deliverance. God's point of view is from beginning to end. He sees our lives not in the way we do. He know "the plans He has for us" - all the way through.

Pray God helps us to:

Seek FIRST His Kingdom - all things that glorify Him in our lives and bring us under submission to His will.

Seek FIRST His Righteousness - a right-standing relationship with God through the salvation of His son, Jesus. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, seeking first Jesus over everything else.

Trust that All "these things" will be added - food, drink and clothing (and even our very worry taken from us).

God, fill our eyes with the right perspective and focus. Guide us towards seeing your Kingdom and Jesus, Your righteousness. Give us hearts that are hungry for all things everlasting and pleasing to you. Keep us from treasures that will spoil. Help us to lay up treasures that will last. Fruit that keeps on producing. Give us the full measure of your Spirit so that we can live in right-standing with You. We can't do this alone. Forgive us for even trying. Forgive us our worry, the burdens we are weighed down by, and the anxiety that holds us back. We welcome Your presence into our lives anew today. I welcome Your presence into my life today. Prepare me to be a sanctuary for your freedom to someone in need of it today.

July 16, 2009

Some Trust in Chariots


May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble;
May the name of the God of Jacob defend you;
May He send you help from the sanctuary,
And strengthen you out of Zion;
May He remember all your offerings,
And accept your burnt sacrifice.

May He grant you according to your heart’s desire,
And fulfill all your purpose.
We will rejoice in your salvation,
And in the name of our God we will set up our banners!
May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.

Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed;
He will answer him from His holy heaven
With the saving strength of His right hand.

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.
They have bowed down and fallen;
But we have risen and stand upright.

Save, LORD!
May the King answer us when we call. (Psalm 20)

This Psalm has been a bright shining glimmer of hope in the midst of those days where I find myself overthrown by the reality of the impossible. Those days where I haven't known how I would keep moving. Times where I've wondered whether God was truly with me, even on the single occasion where I began cursing in my prayer time because I was so frustrated at my outward circumstances. I've even felt the voices challenging my faith to believe His Word that "with God ALL things are possible"(Matthew 19:26). Voices love to flood my heart and mind like sharp arrows hungry to celebrate my defeat. I can genuinely say that my faith has been tested over the past several months (and I pray will continue to be tested until the day I die - with the testing comes perfection - James 1). There have been times where I have, be it ever so slightly, entertained the voices of doubt and unbelief in such fundamental faith basics as the existence of God, the resurrection, God's concern for my seemingly insignificant life, the infallible Word, etc. When honesty trumps our fears, haven't we all questioned this or am I more human than most?

How much God has delivered absolute power and might to my spirit during this time of testing continues to shock me. His ways of overcoming doubt/unbelief have been many and varied. He has used primarily Scripture to come alive in my heart, to the point where I sometimes read a passage (like this Psalm) and wonder with astonishment at how beautifully it applies to my exact feelings or situations. My hunger for His word has grown so much and I find that if I don't have a daily dose, I begin to experience the adverse affects. The Lord has also used many friends and family members to speak sweet words of encouragement and support. On occasion, He has used a few key individuals to give me very specific "words" of wisdom/knowledge as outlined in 1 Cor. 12:8 - these have usually come as a total surprise (I have not gone looking for them) and have at times, brought me to tears because of how accurate they are to where I'm at or where I've been. Through it all, He has provided more abundantly than I could have ever imagined.

In the event that you haven't been keeping up with this blog or my walk so far this year, you can fill yourself in here and here. The short and sweet of it is that I left a very comfortable salary job to trust God to use my life 100% for the furthering of His kingdom. Most of my posts are directly attributed to what I've experienced personally as a result of this desire to follow Jesus where He has called me. I hadn't started this blog with the intent of sharing this with you, but it seems to apply appropriately. July marks month seven of having left behind a great job and committing all of my time and attention towards a vision God gave me to raise missionaries out of artists (and anyone else, really - aren't we all, who claim Christ as Lord, missionaries in one capacity or another? I don't believe discipleship-making was ever meant to be optional. "We are all called according to His purpose" - Romans 8:28). In the past seven months my family has never gone without food, water, or a roof over our heads. I haven't received compensation from an employer in those seven months and yet God has allowed us to pay every bill and our mortgage (to be fair, I have had one bank overdraft and the Lord has many times stretched us about as thin as possible). He has provided provision in just about every way possible - the generosity of others, retirement funds, unexpected inheritance money, selling off of earthly possessions, etc. etc. Just this past Sunday I was able to tithe more money to our church (at one time) than I ever had done working a full-time, salaried job. Only God! Now, none of this is to say that I've done even an ounce of it on my own, it was (and will always continue to be) ALL His mercy. Times ahead may still be very tough going - so much work is yet to be done and we have many obstacles/situations to overcome, but God's faithfulness in seeing His plan through has been a daily wonder.

I have likely prayed Psalm 20 nearly every day for the past three months, that's how much it has meant to me. If you are enduring any trial, testing, tribulation, or any obstacle larger than what you are able to accomplish, I'd encourage you to begin the daily meditation of this passage. You should also look at it in different translations (I love Bible Gateway for this). Here's the same passage from "The Message":

God answer you on the day you crash, The name God-of-Jacob put you out of harm's reach,
Send reinforcements from Holy Hill,
Dispatch from Zion fresh supplies,
Exclaim over your offerings,
Celebrate your sacrifices,
Give you what your heart desires,
Accomplish your plans.

When you win, we plan to raise the roof
and lead the parade with our banners.
May all your wishes come true!

That clinches it—help's coming,
an answer's on the way,
everything's going to work out.

See those people polishing their chariots,
and those others grooming their horses?
But we're making garlands for God our God.
The chariots will rust,
those horses pull up lame—
and we'll be on our feet, standing tall.

Make the king a winner, God;
the day we call, give us your answer.

The Psalm sums it up far better than I ever could. For the sake of a closing statement, please stop trusting in your own chariots or horses. Remember the Name of the Lord your God. May the Lord answer you, May He defend you, May He send you help, strengthen you, and remember every one of your offerings/sacrifices. May He grant your heart's desire and fulfill ALL your purpose. We'll rejoice and set up banners in God's name over your success.

May our King answer you when you call!

July 6, 2009

So You Wanna Be A Rock Star


For as long as he could remember, Keith Green's greatest dream was to be a musical success. After he gave his life to Jesus, however, he felt the need to surrender those dreams and aspirations by laying down his music...perhaps never to perform publicly again. Ironically, when sometime later he felt God release him to pick up his music again, he soon had a recording contract and his first album soared straight to the top of the Contemporary Christian Music charts.

The following message was birthed out of Keith's encounters with those who approached him, usually after a concert, to ask how they too could "make it big" in Christian music.

(Note: This is an all too familiar repeat question I've heard over the years and I actually thought about writing on the topic until I came across this piece by Keith Green. If you don't know who Keith is, click here and then do yourself a favor by running to Amazon.com and picking up a copy of his autobiography titled "No Compromise". If there's ever been an individual in the music world who has inspired me to walk more like Jesus, it's been Keith Green)

Today, so many people ask me if I can tell them how they can start or enter into a music ministry. At concerts I get countless questions about this, and I also get lots of letters and even some long-distance phone calls from many people who feel they are only "called" into the music "ministry." One day I began to ask myself why so few have ever asked me how to become a missionary, or even a local street preacher, or how to disciple a new believer. It seems everyone would prefer the "bright lights" of what they think a music ministry would be, rather than the mud and obscurity of the mission field, or the streets of the ghetto, or even the true spiritual sweetness of just being a nobody whom the Lord uses mightily in small "everyday" ways.

My answer to their question is almost always the same. "Are you willing to never play music again? Are you willing to be nothing? Are you willing to go anywhere and do anything for Christ? Are you willing to stay right where you are and let the Lord do great things through you, though no one may seem to notice at all?" They all seem to answer each of these questions with a quick "yes!" But I really doubt if they know what their answer entails.

My dearest family in Jesus...why are we so star struck? Why do we idolize Christian singers and speakers? We go from glorifying musicians in the world, to glorifying Christian musicians. It's all idolatry! Can't you see that? It's true that there are many men and women of God who are greatly anointed to call down the Spirit of God on His people and the unsaved. But Satan is getting a great victory as we seem to worship these ministers on tapes and records, and clamor to get their autographs in churches and concert halls from coast to coast.

Can't you see that you are hurting these ministers? They try desperately to tell you that they don't deserve to be praised, and because of this you squeal with delight and praise them all the more. You're smothering them, making it almost impossible for them to see that it's really Jesus. They keep telling themselves that, but you keep telling them it's really them, crushing their humility and grieving the Spirit that is trying to keep their eyes on Jesus.

Ultimately, what we idolize we ourselves desire to become, sometimes with our whole heart. So a lot of people who want to become just like their favorite Gospel singer or minister, seek after it with the same fervor that the Lord demands we seek after Him! And again, we insult the Spirit of Grace and try to make a place for ourselves, rather than a place for Jesus.

How come no one idolizes or praises the missionaries who give up everything and live in poverty, endangering their lives and families with every danger that the "American dream" has almost completely eliminated? How come no one lifts up and exalts the ghetto and prison ministers who can never take up an offering, because if they did they would either laugh or cry at what they'd receive?

Because (1) we're taught from very early on that comfort is our goal and security… and (2) that we should always seek for a lot of people to like us. Who lives less comfortably and has had less friends and supporters than the selfless missionaries who have suffered untimely, premature deaths trying to conquer souls and nations for the whole glory of God? Do you really believe we're living in the very last times? Then why do you spend more money on Gospel records and concerts than you give to organizations that feed the poor, or to missionaries out in the field?

There are ministries all over the world where "penniless" people are being saved and transformed. They are broken people who have promise and qualities, but just need someone to bring them God's light during the times when their lives seem so completely hopeless.

I repent of ever having recorded one single song, and ever having performed one concert, if my music, and more importantly, my life has not provoked you into Godly jealousy (Romans 11:11) or to sell out more completely to Jesus!

Quit trying to make "gods" out of music ministers, and quit desiring to become like them. The Lord commands you, "Deny yourself take up your cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23). My piano is not my cross, it is my tool. I'd never play it again if God would show me a more effective tool in my life for proclaiming His Gospel.[God gives us each our own unique tools. But we may never use them if we become more interested in someone else's. Seek God, ask Him for His plan for ministry (true, God glorifying ministry) in your life.]

To finish, let me say that the only music minister to whom the Lord will say, "Well done, thy good and faithful servant," is the one whose life proves what their lyrics are saying, and to whom music is the least important part of their life. Glorifying the only worthy One has to be a minister's most important goal!

Let's all repent of the idolatry in our hearts and our desires for a comfortable, rewarding life when, really, the Bible tells us we are just passing through as strangers and pilgrims in this world (Hebrews 11:13), for our reward is in heaven. Let's not forget that our due service to the Lord is "... not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake"(Phil. 1:29).

Amen. Let us die graciously together and endure to the end like brave soldiers who give their lives, without hesitation, for our noble and glorious King of Light. - Keith Green

P.S. I had not stumbled upon this article until a few days ago but I don't think a more perfect piece exists to help clarify why I've walked away from the music business to turn my every effort towards raising missionaries out of artists. I've seen many incredibly gifted people run dry on their faith; I've witnessed countless bands go from barely nothing to nearly something, but rarely ever have I seen "rockstars" willing to leave it all behind just to pursue a depth of relationship with Jesus by serving others. God help us.

June 29, 2009

Prayer at Thirty Thousand Feet



7/25/08 - Taken from my journal on the way out to a three day Veil Arms event with The Glorious Unseen and The Ember Days - "30,000 ft. above sea level en-route to Amarillo, TX via Dallas via Nashville". This prayer really hits home as so much has changed in my life in less than a year's time. Much of the change was prayed about in this prayer, of which I had no idea at the time, that God would so willingly and quickly respond to.

Come Lord Jesus! Meet me here as I'm closer to heaven now than I've ever been. The skies reflect the beauty of your hands. The clouds are perfectly set to the rhythm of your voice. Peace abounds in this space between the dimension of earth below and vast blue sky above. I feel as though I'm nothing more than an ant or a speck of dirt in the grand scheme. You extend power and opportunity, in one single breath, to transform even dirt into refreshingly vibrant life.

Teach me to pray, teach me to serve, teach me to speak, to write, to trust, to believe in the impossible, to see potential in every person, place and time. Teach me to prophecy Your kingdom come and will be done on earth as it is in heaven. You have my heart, please perform the surgical work of minimizing what is mine and maximizing what is Yours. Give me eyes to see that in You, all things are converted from the formula of impossible to the all-caps, POSSIBLE! Forgive me for years spent doubting your plan and ability to put me to work. Praise you for using me even when I've brought nothing to offer. Would you pour open the blinds of heaven to shine forth glory to a people so quick to hide themselves from you? Do a work that could only be attributed to the inspiring creativity of your plans. Move anything/anyone out of the way and please shine forth.

Give us eyes to see and ears to hear. Teach us to live so differently that we can't help but run to you under any situation or circumstance. Set the devil and his friends under the watchful weight of your feet. Give them not an ounce of leash with which to disrupt your plans. Teach us to be on guard, quick to drop to our knees - ready at any time to rush into battle. Not quick to judge or deflate but nimble to move according to the Spirit's voice. Speak. Speak. Speak.

Holy Spirit, you are recognized here as my much-needed helper. You are invited to be my guide. Counsel me in all God's truth. Fill this mind and heart with a burning passion to see the Father glorified in the Son. Teach me diligence, teach me devotion, teach me total reliance on you. The burden is not mine to carry but you offer to carry both the man and the burden. Thank You. What can my words express without the firm action required of true faith? Keep me close to the humble and far from the proud. Pour out salvation that the lost would once again be found, that sight would be returned to the blind.

Have mercy God, in Your Son's name. Have mercy on the hungry and bring hunger to those who believe the lie that they are full. Teach me true hunger. Remove distractions from holding me back. Empower me with a Spirit of boldness. Lovingly bold, truthfully blunt. I have no options outside of faith in Your Son's death, resurrection and glorification. Here I am. Not as anyone other than servant to all and undeserving friend of the only Almighty Power that is able to keep me flying forward. I am forever grateful. Thank you God.

May God direct each of your path's this week and would you once again lay all of your cares on Him.

June 24, 2009

Upon the Grindstone


Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

This excerpt is taken from a book written back in the 1930's that I can certainly relate to as I'm sure many of you can as well:

The best steel is subjected to the alternatives of extreme heat and extreme cold. In a cutlery you will notice that knife-blades are heated and beaten, and then heated again and plunged into the coldest water in order to give them the right shape and temper. You will also observe a large heap of rejected blades, rejected because they would not bear the tempering process; when put upon the grindstone little flaws appeared in some that up to that point had seemed perfect; others would not bear the tempering process.

Souls are heated in the furnace of affliction, plunged into the cold waters of tribulation, and ground between the upper and nether stones of adversity and disaster. Some come out ready for the highest services; others are unfit for any but the lowest uses.

Would you be of account among the forces which are working out the salvation of the world? Be still in the Hands of God until He tempers you!

"Stop Now!" says the knife-blade to the Cutler. "I have been in the fire often enough! Would you burn the life out of me?" But again it goes into the glowing furnace and is heated to white heat. "Stop hammering! I have been pounded enough already." But down comes the sledge. "Keep me out of this cold water! One moment in the fiery furnace, and the next in ice water. It is enough to kill one!" But in it goes. "Keep me off the grindstone! You'll chafe the life out of me!" But it is made to kiss the stone until the Cutler is satisfied. Now see! You may bend it double; yet it springs back straight as an arrow. It is as bright as polished silver, hard as a diamond, and will cut like a Damascus blade. It has been shaped, tempered and polished; it is now worth something.

Be still, and let God temper and polish you, and you will be worth something, too. Allow yourself to be prepared for usefulness. He will give you a post of holy renown if you will let Him fit you for it.

Be still in the furnace fire while the Holy Ghost moulds and polishes your soul.

Rev. R.V. Lawrence

Lord, forgive us for the many times that we've assumed our every trial and tribulation is something to be avoided. For all those times that we run from distress or persecution, questioning how in the world we would manage. Jesus, help us to survive life's beating and come out on the other end completely transformed into useful tools in your service. Would you allow us this week to be still and know that our hardships are designed by You for the perfecting of our faith. Had they not been from you, or had they not been meant for us, You never would have allowed them in the first place. Thank you for not giving us more than we can handle. (1 Cor. 10:13)

June 15, 2009

The Peril of Not Progressing


Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.

But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6: 1-12)

Are you being constantly driven forward by the Spirit of God or are you finding yourself in a frustrating position of being stuck? Do you see signs of fruit in your life and in the lives of those you spend time with? Is God your utmost priority or has He taken the back burner? All of these questions beg to be answered and I'm personally challenged in the asking. As much as we're all well-trained to put on a smile and cheerfully declare that "everything is fine", most of us fall prey to the condition of half-hearted living. It's all too easy, especially in the times of testing or trials, to trade in the "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" fruit-of-the-spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) for a lack-luster attempt at just getting by. I've been guilty of this recently and I'm so grateful for God's undeniable mercy. He never let's us sink to the point of no return....but He does allow us to sink. More times than not, the Lord wants us to sink to a point of realizing that we have not a single glimmer of hope other than His deliverance.

This passage starts out by speaking to the position that tempts any of us who are striving to be more Christ-like. That temptation is to make the quick turn into theological debate over what seems like deep, intellectual (even spiritual), conversation - that, at the end of the day, lacks the vitality of true Spirituality. We will only move into the place that pleases God IF He wills it. Which, by the way, He absolutely wills. How do we know? Because Jesus himself made it clear; "For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:40) The difference between a real relationship of not just understanding, but mostly practicing, are:

1. Being enlightened
2. Tasting the heavenly gift
3. Becoming partakers of the Holy Spirit
4. Tasting the good word of God and the powers of the age to come
(For deeper study go here)

The warning for those who have experienced all of the above, and then turn their backs on Christ, is powerfully frightful. But, as frightening as it might be, it should also be reassuring. Reassuring in the sense that many of us have claimed Christianity but lack in experiencing one or more of these areas. The commentary by Matthew Henry says it far better than I ever could.

Every part of the truth and will of God should be set before all who profess the gospel, and be urged on their hearts and consciences. We should not be always speaking about outward things; these have their places and use, but often take up too much attention and time, which might be better employed. The humbled sinner who pleads guilty, and cries for mercy, can have no ground from this passage to be discouraged, whatever his conscience may accuse him of. Nor does it prove that any one who is made a new creature in Christ, ever becomes a final apostate from him. The apostle is not speaking of the falling away of mere professors, never convinced or influenced by the gospel. Such have nothing to fall away from, but an empty name, or hypocritical profession. Neither is he speaking of partial declinings or backslidings. Nor are such sins meant, as Christians fall into through the strength of temptations, or the power of some worldly or fleshly lust. But the falling away here mentioned, is an open and avowed renouncing of Christ, from enmity of heart against him, his cause, and people, by men approving in their minds the deeds of his murderers, and all this after they have received the knowledge of the truth, and tasted some of its comforts. Of these it is said, that it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance. Not because the blood of Christ is not sufficient to obtain pardon for this sin; but this sin, in its very nature, is opposite to repentance and every thing that leads to it.

If you feel as though you haven't truly experienced the four conditions listed in this passage as descriptions of the true believer, than as Henry' suggests, cry out for mercy and ASK God to help you. Pray through each of them and ask that He would open your eyes and ears to what He has in store for you. "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." (Matthew 7:8) God WILL help you and He will give you what you need.

What I need more than financial breakthrough (much-less financial "security"), greater opportunities, more friends, nicer belongings, good health, or anything else on earth is "faith and patience to inherit the promises". We can exist on very little but we can't even begin to breathe eternal oxygen apart from a "full assurance of hope" that, by faith and patience, will bring us through to the very end. There's not a thing we can pull off on our own strength other than God's divine ability to strengthen us for the journey.

Join me in asking the Lord to draw us deeper into all things that bring Him glory. Progress is not a good thing, a noble accomplishment, or even a lofty goal. Progress in our spiritual maturity is ESSENTIAL.

God, please empower us to enter your work and labor of love which we desire to show toward your Son, Jesus. Strengthen our feeble hearts so that we long to minister to the saints. Keep us from our own natural tendency to fall into the trap of sluggards, even the kind who seem to busy themselves in every way but in pursuing You. Take our focus off everything around us that is not essential towards our progress as kids acting in quick obedience towards their Daddy. We love You and desperately need You. Enlighten us, allow us to taste your heavenly gift, to become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and to taste your good Word along with the powers of the age. Forgive us our unbelief and overcome in us any hurdles that might prevent your desire to force us along in progress.

June 10, 2009

The Promise of Wings


Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the LORD,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

(Isaiah 40:28-31)
Keep silence before Me, O coast lands,
and let the people renew their strength!
(Is. 41:1 - the passage that immediately follows 40:31)


The latter portion of this passage is all too familiar to most of us. We've probably seen the countless plaques, posters, and other random merchandise inspired by the verse of Isaiah 40:31. But, have we ever stopped to consider the context or implication of this verse? Do we even believe this to be true in our lives? This verse is Christian "cliche" but I'm not convinced that we take it seriously enough. Have we ever noticed the passages both before and after 40:31? Before (my paraphrase): Everlasting God, creator of the entire universe, never faints in giving power to the weak. After (my paraphrase): I can silence the earth just to renew their strength.

There is a certain cause and effect in this passage that, simply put, looks like this:

Reality: God is so strong that He never tires or grows weary from helping us.
Condition: waiting on the Lord
Result: fly like eagles, run and not grow weary, walk and not faint.

I know I'm guilty of passing up this promise of endurance because I lack the patience to wait on God's timing and perfect will. Usually I'm in such a hurry to make something happen that I'm willing to step out on my own flimsy limb, assuming it will hold. It never does, and time after time, God teaches me the lesson of total dependency on Him. Earlier in the chapter a verse really caught my eye; "Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has taught Him?" (vs. 13). Who are we to think we can push our agenda on the Spirit? It's so simple and still so easy to lose track of. We are not at all captains of our own ships, steering our lives in whatever direction we please. Instead, we're more like helpless passengers who, once on board, learn to enjoy the voyage trusting the Captain is in charge with a crew who are fully aware of the conditions. In our case, even after waiting this short vapor we call life, and the ship goes down, we are still being held by the Anchor of our very souls. I don't know about you, but there is such confidence and reassurance in the thought that God lacks nothing, He is stunned by nothing, He is held back by nothing, and He spares no expense to come to our aid. It is best said here:

Behold, the Lord GOD shall come with a strong hand,
And His arm shall rule for Him;
Behold, His reward is with Him,
And His work before Him.
He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young. (Is. 40: 10&11)

If you feel (or think) as though you are failing in your walk as a believer in Jesus, maybe it's time you surrender your own efforts to please God (or especially others) and begin to wait on His renewing strength to take you up in flight, to run life's marathon, or even to endlessly walk without ever growing tired. The beauty of this passage is that He doesn't just promise wings, which at times, seem nearly impossible to fathom, much less, achieve. He gives us what we need, when we need it - even if that is helping us with only the simple act of walking. We might be praying that God would turn us into spiritual giants who are gifted at soaring high like eagles but He might see fit to teach us first how to walk or run. Regardless of the sequence of flying, running, or walking - God promises supernatural help along the journey IF we wait on Him. Don't get ahead of yourself. Stop trying to strap on your own wings. It's not worth the battle to run (or even walk) on your own, you will collapse in the end. Wait for the Lord to come upon you with His strong hand and even the most daunting of impossibilities turn optimistic possibilities.

The major difference between the promise of wings and that of weary less running or faint less walking is that, with a lot of practice and hard work, most of us could run and walk fairly well. Growing wings is in a category all together impossible apart from the supernatural supply of God's power.

"Those who wait upon the Lord shall obtain a marvelous addition to their resources: they shall obtain wings! They become endowed with power to rise above things. Men who don not soar always have small views of things. Wings are required for breadth of view. The wing-life is characterized by a sense of proportion. To see things aright we must get away from them. An affliction looked at from the lowlands may be stupendous; looked at from the heights, it may appear little or nothing. This "light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." What a breadth of view!" - (Springs in the Valley, Chas E. Cowman)


For deeper digging, read Isaiah 40 & 41 - both are loaded!

June 3, 2009

Waiting On The Lord



I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD! (Psalm 27: 13&14)

I can't even begin to tell you how much I can relate with this passage. Yesterday morning I awoke with such a heavy feeling of desperation, heavy enough that I just couldn't shake it. As I began to seek the Lord and ask Him what in the world was going on and how much longer I could take this testing in my life, He responded with the phrase, "Wait on Me". The feeling of desperation and despair didn't leave me instantly, but within a few hours I really began to understand what God was doing in my heart. He's been in the business of breaking me down, to the point where I am utterly and hopelessly dependent on Him. I can attest to the fact that I've never been at this place of brokenness before the Lord, ever. As hard as the daily trials can be, I find such comfort in the simple truths of God's word, the peace He places over me to "guard my heart and mind through Christ Jesus", and the massive encouragement from friends and family who realize the depth of my struggle. This waiting is not of the kind that we can all easily relate to, whether it be in an airport, at a bus-stop, or in a long line. This is the kind of waiting that is fixed on the hope of a divine breakthrough, an expectation for a supernatural release. Waiting, when it is fueled by hope and expectation, should feel more like the child who is eagerly on edge to see what gifts he's received on his birthday. Waiting proves and refines our faith. If all we were required to do was pray a simple prayer and wait 10 seconds for our desired response, what faith would we really be setting forth? "Without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God!" (Hebrews 11:6). I believe it pleases the Lord to see us waiting with great expectation on His deliverance. It proves that, despite the odds, we are holding fast to the only God who hears, and answers, our cries.

We recently posted a video clip (you can view it here) that briefly summarizes the vision and heart of what God has called me to. One of the points I make is that there is just no way to compare my past, present (or future) sufferings with the possibility that even ONE single soul would come into God's Kingdom for all eternity. When I made that statement, I really believed it and meant it. But now, I actually feel it. I believe the Lord is allowing me to feel desperation for Him so I can relate His desperation towards others. He loves and pursues every opportunity to lead even one lost sheep back into His heavenly fold. "I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance." (Luke 15:7) God is teaching me to feel His heart for the lost. I've always had a passion for sharing the Gospel with others, so there has always been a part of who I am that is drawn to those lost and in need of finding their way home. It's an entirely new process and position to allow God the room to do whatever He wants in my heart, though. He is pulling out of me all those deep roots, some of which I didn't even know to exist. One of those areas is pride. I've always considered myself a fairly humble person. A very humble person by music industry standards. But God is teaching me humility based on the standard that Jesus alone was qualified to set.

As I learn to wait on the Lord for pretty much everything in life right now, but especially the establishment of the vision He's given me for Come&Live!, I find that, now more than ever, He is strengthening my heart with a determination and passion that I could never muster on my own. On a good day, I feel as though I'm standing on a mountain and can see for miles in every direction, just breathing in the crisp air of God's height and depth, His length and width. On a bad day this vision seems like nothing more than a late night dream, one that passes quickly by, leaving hardly a thing but a faint and distant memory. Through the good and the bad there is a strength in my heart that believes that God is best defined by the word POSSIBLE. "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." (Mark 10:27) So, once again, God allows His Spirit to intertwine with the depth of who I am, shedding off all things that do not bring Him the utmost glory, reminding me that I am already victorious by choosing to arm myself with the weapon of faith.

If you are wondering where God is or why He hasn't shown up just yet (especially in the ways you assumed He would), ask yourself whether there might be a grander work that He is interested in building within you. He cares about us more than the birds of the air or grasses of the field, to the point where He will allow us to be tested and tried for His greater good in us. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1: 2-4)

God is on your side, even today. Even when it feels like He has ended all communication with you (which I have certainly experienced). It is not for any other reason than the required work of transforming you from child into Man (or woman) of God.

I pray that God would release His presence to you, that He would strengthen your heart even right now, that He would give you the grace, peace, and patience to "Wait on The Lord". That, through it all, you would be of good courage! Your testing will not last forever. Breakthrough is on it's way, even if it would tarry until He carries you through Heaven's gates. Wait on Him (He is deliverance), and be of good courage (He is strong when you are weak). Wait on Him (Help is coming)!

May our cups overflow with love for our neighbor and Savior today.

Blessings,

chad

A few other sweet "Waiting" verses are:

Psalm 130:5
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,And in His word I do hope.

Isaiah 8:17
And I will wait on the LORD, Who hides His face from the house of Jacob; And I will hope in Him.

Isaiah 25:9
And it will be said in that day: “ Behold, this is our God; We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the LORD; We have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”

Micah 7:7
Therefore I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; My God will hear me.

James 5:7
Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.

May 21, 2009

Consider the Joy!

As I have experienced significant testing over the past few months I have also experienced a much greater measure of joy and rest in my life. Joy that I am so much closer to God, growing daily in my spiritual walk and discipline. Rest in the reality that God is carrying me through, regardless of how challenging my outward or inward circumstances. God loves it when we find our joy in Him, especially when the world around us is lunging for joy - in all the wrong places.



Instead of writing a few paragraphs on how much God has taught me about Joy (second in the "fruit of the Spirit" list behind love), I'd rather show you some of my favorite scriptures on the topic.

1. The most common verse on Joy:

Nehemiah 8:10
The Joy of the Lord is your strength.

2. James 1: 2-8
My brothers, consider it pure Joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

3. 1 Kings 1:40
And all the people went up after him; and the people played the flutes and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth seemed to split with their sound.

4. Psalm 16:11
You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is the fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

5. Philippians 4:4
Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say "rejoice"!

6. Psalm 5:11
But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You.

7. Isaiah 12:3
Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

8. Jeremiah 15:16
Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.

9. Luke 15:7
I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

10. Romans 14:17
for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Do you struggle to experience Joy, especially when all of life's pitfalls, trails, and challenges overwhelm you like a flood? Pray that God gives you a real expression of joy! Every situation and atmosphere is changed by the spirit full of joy. God, please teach us to be constant in our rejoicing. Fill our hearts with love and with deep-rooted joy in Your character. Make us like those who can shout for joy, regardless of how depressing our environment. Help us to discover the joy in Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit - fresh and new today. Take us as deep as we can go with you.