April 27, 2009

Anxiety is not my friend

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication (to humbly and earnestly petition God), with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 6&7)

This verse is massively monumental to me right now. I've found myself praying and seeking God like never before, but as my prayer life increases I have also witnessed an increase of the enemies attacks on both myself and my family. In the past 10 days, God has challenged me to start every morning by spending time in committed prayer with Him. Not hollow or empty prayer but the kind of prayer that starts relocating some mountains. The prayer that believes the promise of Matthew 7:8 - "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." It wasn't until this weekend (where I spent a couple of days with my friends in Ascend the Hill, The Ember Days and Preson Phillips in Tampa, FL) that I really realized what was going on. As I was talking to a friend it dawned on me that I was seriously worrying (being anxious) about how in the world God was going to take care of my financial situation as this month (May) would be the first month where I did not know how I would pay my bills. As much as I was going to God in prayer, I was still finding myself extremely anxious. Even to the point where I began to question God. Began to question how real He really was, because I wasn't "feeling" His realness. Questioned the work He had called me to, even though I know beyond a doubt that it was Him calling me to it. The first time I noticed my own insecurities, doubts, unbelief was when I put David, my near four-year old, in bed one night and was praying over him. As I was praying my heart was in despair. Right then and there a light went off in my head. I instantly began rebuking the devil and commanded him in Jesus' name to be gone. I invited the blood of Jesus to cover me, fresh and new. Within seconds I felt a peace come over me and realized that all my doubting/despair/mistrust was a work of the enemy to get me to pull away from total reliance on the Lord.

I was worshiping with The Ember Days during church this past Sunday and started weeping as I cried out to God. My cry was something along the lines of "God, I can't even provide for my own family! I can't even provide for my own kids! Your word tells me that the man that doesn't provide for his family is worse off than a sinner (1 Tim. 5:8), but I know you've called me to this work." I was so frustrated because for the past seven years I've always provided for my family. This was the first time in years where God began force-stretching me like crazy (yes, I asked to be stretched so it wasn't truly forced). I've been learning to DEPEND on God for my daily bread, and it is honestly one of the best (to my spirit) and worst (to my flesh) feelings in the world.

The Lord did some amazing things during the worship time at church. For the first time ever, I was able to share the vision behind Come&Live! in a corporate church setting. God's presence was very strong during the service and one thing God has been teaching me is to value the time in His presence more than anything else. We, as Americans, have the hardest time placing value on time with God as we are so easily distracted by some of the most shallow of excuses. Not only do we struggle with getting quality time with Him but it is so hard-wired in us that church should be no more than a 90 minute session, all perfectly laid out and predictable. On the other hand, I realize how hard it can be to keep children happy for an extended period of time/etc. All of this is simply to say, the service was long but God was so obviously in our midst.

As the service came to a close, we had several people walk over to us and tell us how excited they were for what God was doing in us. One lady had tears in her eyes and handed us a check. Another offered to pray for us and another offered his business services. Yet another lady hugged us and told us to keep going. Right as this lady walked out the door I felt the still small voice of the Lord prompt me to go after her, hand her a business card and ask her to remember Come&Live! as I believed she was a real woman of prayer. She stopped and started praying over me. It was beautiful and God spoke some incredibly powerful prophetic words through her to me. Then she stopped and asked me a question. She said, "what have you been praying for the most lately?". Without even skipping a beat, I responded with, "financial breakthrough". She said, "that's what I thought". She then reached into her purse, pulled out a white envelope and handed it to me. With a "God bless you", she turned and walked away. All said, by the end of the service we walked out with nearly 2,000 dollars! Enough to cover quite a few bills for the month and a huge boost of confidence that a company relying on God's generosity through His body is not nearly as crazy as some might think.

It's easy to praise God when things go as we hope they will but this should serve as a reminder that we are told never to be anxious, even when things aren't going as we hope, but to always go before the Lord with our requests, knowing that His peace will guard our hearts and minds through Jesus.

Will you set time aside each day to come into the presence of God, regardless of how busy you might be? If you are depending on God for a breakthrough in your life then I don't believe you have a choice but to get serious time making your requests known to Him. Lord, please teach us how to pray and how to spend time with You.

April 20, 2009

Endurance Expedition

The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-17), also known as the Endurance Expedition, was the last major expedition of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. Conceived by Sir Ernest Shackleton, the expedition sought to achieve the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent. After the conquest of the South Pole by Roald Amundsen in 1911, the crossing remained, in Shackleton's words, the "one great main object of Antarctic journeyings". The expedition failed entirely to accomplish this aim, but it remains memorable as an epic of heroism and survival.

Endurance became beset in the ice of the Weddell Sea before reaching Vahsel Bay, and despite efforts to free the ship, she drifted northward with the pack throughout the Antarctic winter of 1915. Eventually, the ice crushed and sank the ship, stranding her 28-man complement on the ice and subjecting them to a series of harrowing episodes--months spent in makeshift camps on the ice, a journey in lifeboats to Elephant Island, an 800-mile open-boat journey in the James Caird, and the first crossing of South Georgia--that led eventually to their rescue without a single fatality.

Like the Endurance Expedition, we will likely face many obstacles, challenges and seemingly impossible odds to overcome, especially when we step out to follow God and trust Him with all our hearts. We are not promised success in the world's eyes, but there is no greater challenge than to go the farthest distance with God Himself as our guide.

There are a few words that I think most accurately describe the current state of where God has me and what He is doing in my life. A couple of those are prophetic in nature and all are an amazing reminder of how much we are being taught to depend completely on Christ. Those words are: Consecration, Endurance, and Refinement/Sifting. By my definition these words mean something along the lines of:

Consecration = being set apart for the purposes of God.

And the LORD said to him: "I have heard your prayer and your supplication that you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built to put My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. 1 Kings 9:3

Endurance = weathering the storm.

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 2:3

Refinement/Sifting = producing Gold from what would otherwise appear to just be sand, rocks and dirt.

I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. Revelation 3:18

I just began reading this incredible book by the pastor Yong-Gi Cho, pastor of the largest church in the world (1 Million members) titled Prayer That Brings Revival - you can pick up at Amazon for 2 bucks. It's a MUST read for anyone serious about following God. In just the first chapter I feel like my world has been rocked and my hunger/desire to seek God diligently through prayer has increased ten-fold.

Know that each one of you who claim Christ as Lord are set apart as children following the heart of the Father, and therefore, are a total and complete threat to Satan and his empire. We will not see the increase, the fruit of our labors, or any good thing coming from our efforts if we are not spending time in the presence of almighty God. He has called us all to be missionaries, regardless of how different that might look from one person to the next, therefore we have no option but to rely fully on God for His total provision in every area of our lives.

I, along with the team God has placed around me, are here to intercede (stand in the gap) for each of you. If you are feeling discouraged or experiencing doubt, unbelief, laziness, or anything else that is not pleasing to the Lord, then we ask right now that God would unleash His spirit afresh on you.

Feel free to email me (chad@comeandlive.com) with any prayer requests/needs/praises/etc, I would love to lift you and your needs up in prayer. I believe 100% that prayer is what will bring about the revival that we seek and pray for. Be reminded that God's plan for your lives is so much bigger than you could ever even dream, even though it may right now seem to be nothing more than a fleeting thought. With man, all of this is impossible (and most men will look upon faith in Christ with skepticism or doubt), but with God - all things are POSSIBLE!

Endure! Endure! Endure!
Love you all very much.


P.S. I will be posting a Vlog here on this page very shortly that I can't wait to share with you. It's the story of some huge things God did in my life last week and believe it will really encourage your faith.

April 16, 2009

Surrounded by Mountains

Psalm 125
A Song of Ascents.

Those who trust in the LORD
Are like Mount Zion,
Which cannot be moved, but abides forever.

As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
So the LORD surrounds His people
From this time forth and forever.

For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest
On the land allotted to the righteous,
Lest the righteous reach out their hands to iniquity.

Do good, O LORD, to those who are good,
And to those who are upright in their hearts.

As for such as turn aside to their crooked ways,
The LORD shall lead them away
With the workers of iniquity.

Peace be upon Israel!

Do you realize that you are surrounded? Are you saturating yourself in the promises of scripture that God so generously delivers? If you follow Jesus then you are offered the promise of being surrounded by the Creator of the entire universe. Creator of the very air you breathe, the water you drink, the earth you stand on. Whose very existence and breath has put your life in motion. The Beginning and the End; Alpha and Omega. He surrounds you. I'm not normally reminded of how much I am surrounded by The Lord, much less how this passage reminds us that we are mountains that can NOT be moved, but "abide" forever. I looked up the definition for the word "abide" and it's meaning is, "to endure without yielding", or "to bear patiently". In other words, God responds to our efforts of TRUSTING Him by removing the possibility that we would be moved. The concept seems almost impossible, but this is the very God we claim to believe in. God of the Impossible. I'm reminded of the verse in Psalm 16:8 "I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved."

The secret in all of this is to "remain upright in our hearts". Is it even possible for us to achieve this position without the blood of Jesus covering us and interceding for us? I don't think it is. Once again we are in a position of trusting God with the very thing that is required of us. If only we realized how little is required of us, in terms of what we can accomplish on our own, we'd probably be much quicker to rely on God. Father, help us to trust you and know that your promise is to make us into mountains that will endure. We can't do a single thing to please you without the power of Jesus enabling us. Teach us to give up well so that you can take full control.

April 12, 2009

The Lord Is Risen!

Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”
So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.

And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.” (Matthew 28: 1-10)

It doesn't get any more glorious than this! Death, burial, and resurrection on the third day. Thank you, Jesus. Please teach us to follow you the way you intend to be followed. Forgive us our unbelief and grow our faith. We don't have an ounce of hope outside of the price You paid for us in blood. Help us to recognize just how lost we are without You to find us. Please work a wonder in our lives and use us to work wonders in the lives of others. We bless You, praise You, honor You, and adore You on this special day for the gift You have brought to us.

April 3, 2009

What we do unto the least of these

I spent the past couple of days shooting video footage for an upcoming promotional video for Come&Live! A huge THANK YOU to our friend Andy Reale. He is a trooper. We spent an entire day on the streets of Nashville with one objective: talk to people, get them to repeat a few key phrases after me, and hopefully encourage them. I can't even recall how many people we must have stopped and talked with, but it was a great time. God provided a beautifully epic day here, 68 degrees and clear blue skies.

It has been quite some time since I randomly approached people on the street. I was very accustomed to doing this all through-out my college years. It's been even longer, or actually never, that I had a camera crew in tow. I wasn't sure what the response to an on-the-fly camera interview would be. What we found is that the vast majority of individuals were willing to give of their time. The only exception being business people. Interesting how few business-types were willing to give us even a minute of their time. Understandable that they're the responsible ones who are on a schedule.

Homeless people, on the other hand, proved to be the most responsive and some of my favorite interviews. This reminded me of several passages in scripture.

Psalm 74: 21 - "Let the poor and needy praise Your name"

Psalm 140: 12 - "We know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy"

Deuteronomy 15: 11 - "For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, "You should open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and the poor..."

Luke 4: 18 - "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because he has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor."

Matthew 5: 1-3 - And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Our time on the streets reminded me mostly of what I believe to be the greatest promise/warning in all of scripture:

Matthew 25: 37-40 - “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25: 45 & 46 - Then He will answer them, saying "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it unto Me. And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

I stumbled upon a beautiful prayer by Mother Teresa at the National Prayer Breakfast back in 1994. You should really take the time to read all of it. You can find it here. Below are several excerpts that really impacted me:

And as if that were not enough, as if it were not enough that God the Son should become one of us and bring peace and joy while still in the womb of Mary, Jesus also died on the Cross to show that greater love. He died for you and for me, and for the leper and for that man dying of hunger and that naked person lying in the street, no only of Calcutta, but of Africa, and everywhere. Our Sisters serve these poor people in 105 countries throughout the world. Jesus insisted that we love one another as He loves each one of us. Jesus gave His life to love us and He tells us that we also have to give whatever it takes to do good to one another. And in the Gospel Jesus says very clearly: "Love as I have loved you."

Jesus died on the Cross because that is what it took for Him to do good to us - to save us from our selfishness in sin. He gave up everything to do the Father's will - to show us that we too must be willing to give up everything to do God's will - to love one another as He loves each of us. If we are not willing to give whatever it takes to do good to one another, sin is still in us. That is why we too must give to each other until it hurts.

It is not enough for us to say: "I love God," but I also have to love my neighbor. St. John says that you are a liar if you say you love God and you don't love your neighbor. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live? And so it is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is not true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.

It hurt Jesus to love us. We have been created in His image for greater things, to love and to be loved. We must "put on Christ" as Scripture tells us. And so, we have been created to love as He loves us. Jesus makes Himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one, the unwanted one, and He says, "You did it to Me." On the last day He will say to those on His right, "whatever you did to the least of these, you did to Me, and He will also say to those on His left, whatever you neglected to do for the least of these, you neglected to do it for Me."

When He was dying on the Cross, Jesus said, "I thirst." Jesus is thirsting for our love, and this is the thirst of everyone, poor and rich alike. We all thirst for the love of others, that they go out of their way to avoid harming us and to do good to us. This is the meaning of true love, to give until it hurts.

Jesus, would you teach us to love our neighbors, especially those who don't seem so lovable, the way that you have chosen to love us? Teach us to see you in others, especially those who don't have the time, the means, or the interest, to make themselves out to be all that attractive. Teach us to recognize our brothers and sisters everywhere we go - in church, at school, when we are shopping at the grocery store, but especially in those places like the streets, where we are least likely to gain anything in the material from them. Teach us to do unto the least of our brothers and sisters as though we were doing it unto You.

On a somewhat unrelated, and mostly self-promoting note, Come&Live! has recently launched a Myspace page and has a group on Facebook. Join me on either (or both).