In the Aftermath of Easter…

I’ll warn you from word one: today’s post is a cry of my heart. I’m sitting and letting my fingers do the talking. If you care for what my heart cries out for our King, read on. But if you are comfortable putting God in a “box” and have no desire to step out of your comfort zone, then these words are too beautiful to fall on deaf ears, and you might as well click away from this page now…

I apologize for not posting yesterday, on such a beautiful Easter Sunday.  I would have loved to have taught on the meaning of that day. That one day–the most beautiful and passionate and celebratory day in our eternity. The day that changed everything–the day we were freed.  I had no access to a computer or to the internet. I would love for that to have been my excuse for not writing, but to be completely honest, I’m not sure I could have typed a word, anyways.  You see, when I was not rejoicing, I was in tears. When I was not celebrating, I was on my face on the floor. Though the festivities of the day carried on like everyone else’s Easter Sunday, my heart was in a different realm. I’m not sure I have ever had such an emotional reaction to such a simple day…but this year, Easter held new meaning to my soul. And as fulfilling and joyful and overwhelming as that emotion was, my tears were exacerbated by the state of the world around us.

You see, this past week was a week of growth. A week drowned in the Word. Reading, studying, reading, praying.  Every time I opened my Bible, I learned more about the grace of our King and the heart of our Savior than I have ever known before.  Understand, it’s not like I intended to spend my Spring Break with my face pressed between the pages of my Bible, but my spirit sparked a thirst. If any person on this Earth ever tries to tell you there isn’t power in the Word, they are lying and they are cowards.  If you discount the words that drown the pages of the Bible, you are foolish.  Because there are words between the covers of that book that have the power to stir your heart and change your life and convict you to the fibers of your being. LET THEM.

When I woke up Easter morning, I felt the heat of emotion stirring in my chest more violently than it has since the day my dad died. A heat that pressed its way up into my throat and inspired a violently joyous cry. A humbled, broken, gracious cry that boiled in my heart. I laid in bed and tried to pray–but how do you adequately thank a God that is SO REAL? How do you thank a King that DIED for OUR SOULS?! What words do you construct to thank a God that DID IT! That made the ultimate sacrifice and fulfilled His Word? Who rose from the dead and redeemed our hearts and showed his face and showed the scars on his hands and smiled upon us and LIVED?! How do you sculpt a prayer that is adequate and encompassing and passionate and ENOUGH?! I couldn’t. The greatest I could do was cry out. To vomit the passion that was leaking from my heart in the form of joyous praise.

HE LIVES! HE LIVES! CHRIST JESUS LIVES TODAY! HE IS RISEN!

Don’t read those words with a settled heart. That HAS to stir something inside of you! That HAS to warrant a response! That HAS to ignite a fire in you so passionate and real and hot that you cry out! Do you understand the magnitude of that grace?! YOU DON’T DESERVE IT! I DON’T DESERVE IT! NONE OF US DESERVE IT! But that’s just it. That is the point. That is the GRACE! We are sinners and we are gross and we are prideful and we are arrogant and we are materialistic and we are selfish and we are everything He taught us NOT to be, but He still loves us enough to offer us salvation. What? What?! I can’t even wrap my head around that. He STILL died for us. He died for the men who were murdering Him. He died for them because He loved them. And He loves us. He loves you.

If anyone in this world has ever made you question your worth or your value, they know nothing. If anyone on this earth has tried to tell you that you aren’t worth it, or you aren’t good enough, or you aren’t valuable enough, they are fools. If YOU have ever tried to define someone’s worth by the standards of this world, YOU are a fool. Because to JESUS CHRIST, you are worth HIS LIFE. YOU. In all your flaw, in all your sin…you are worth EVERYTHING. There is nothing you can do in this lifetime to prove your worth to Him. There is nothing you can do in this lifetime to affect the love He has for you. Because IT IS DONE. He did it. He knows it. Your worth hung on a cross and rose from a tomb when everything in the world said it couldn’t. Your worth is miraculous. Your worth is limitless. Because your worth is in Christ. Whether you know Him yet, or not. He knows you. He already died for you.

A man willingly endured unbearable torture and was crucified for you. Can you say that about anyone else in your life? Can you name another human being that has lived without flaw and has died for your heart and has risen from the dead to prove to you God’s love? I can’t. I can’t say it about my mom. I can’t say it about my dad. I can’t say it about any human being on this earth. Because NO human being compares to our King. So tell me, WHY DO WE PUT THIS KING IN A BOX?! Why is it that when the Saints win the Super Bowl, this city erupts in celebration and brags about it for a year?! But when a child tries to pray in school, we have legislation passed to silence him? Why is it that when everything is going great in life, we are so quick to tweet a ‘God is so good!’? But when adversity is thrown our way, we are suddenly lost and confused and want to question His power and spew hate to others? Why is it that when Easter rolls around everyone’s facebook status is so quick to proclaim a shallow faith and the other 364 days out of the year, we forget what He did for us? WHY IS THIS CULTURE SO COMFORTABLE MAKING GOD “FIT” WHERE WE WANT HIM TO?

Newsflash guys: it doesn’t work like that. I couldn’t stop crying yesterday because, yes, I was in awe of His grace. But another reason I was brought to tears is because of how utterly empty our love for Him is in return. I’m guilty of it, too. And I’m disgusted with myself.  Look around—we want to idolize celebrities and celebrate sin and base our worth on our wallets and base our value on what the media tells us we should be and strive, strive, strive to have more, more, more, and nothing is ever enough. HELLO–wake up! HE IS ENOUGH! End of story. “The American Dream” is a load of crap. Yeah, I said it. What this society prizes is a load of crap. Because what this society tells us is that we aren’t adequate enough. And that there is always MORE. And that we don’t have enough. And that we are defined by our roles–that we are defined by our jobs and our social status and bank accounts and our beauty. WRONG. SO very wrong. Don’t you get what He did for us? We are defined by HIM.

How can we look ourselves in the mirror after what He did for us, and still “box” Him into an hour and a half on Sunday? We “box” Him into holidays–Easter, Christmas, etc. We “box” Him into tweets and facebook statuses when we want all our friends to know we achieved something great. We “box” Him into jewelry and fashion and design when it’s all the rage to wear crosses. We “box” Him in everywhere He is convenient for us. We are foolish. Every one of us.

I want to see 50,000,000 hits on a YouTube video worshiping Christ–not one worshiping Lady GaGa. I want to see people tweeting #humility and #grace and #worship and #Christ–not #winning. I want to see people sacrificing their time and their money and their efforts to the poorest and the hungry–not to cosmetic surgery and newer cars and bigger houses. WE NEED TO GET OVER OURSELVES. AND START LIVING RADICALLY FOR OUR KING!! He doesn’t fit in your “box”. He never will. He is infinite and we have no right to question Him. No right to “box” Him. No right to stifle Him.

We are NOTHING compared to Him, yet we are EVERYTHING to Him. Think about it…

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What Is Palm Sunday?

“…Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:9

Good Morning! What a beautiful morning it is. I know I am again jumping off-route with our relationship topic, but there is certainly significance in today’s teaching.  We are nearing a time of year where a lot is recognized in our faith. And days like today, Palm Sunday, and next Sunday, Easter, are such significant times of the year to worship, but even a lot of Christians don’t understand what they truly represent.  So I wanted to break down the basics of what today really means…

Today is Palm Sunday. Just as the date of Easter changes every year, so does the date of Palm Sunday. You see, these dates are marked by the beginning and ending of seasons in the faith, including the Jewish season of Passover.  But Palm Sunday is ALWAYS the Sunday before Easter Sunday.  This week between is known as the “Holy Week” because it recognizes the time frame of Jesus’ journey to the cross–His celebration, condemnation, persecution, and resurrection!

So why is Palm Sunday significant? What actually happened? Let’s take a look…

We talked about who Jesus Christ was. We talked about the life He lived, the struggles He faced, and the unbelievable works that He did. We also talked about how, as time passed and Jesus began to acquire followers and disciples, He began to stir up nations.  Throughout Jesus’ life, it became harder and harder for people to ignore His teachings. And this infuriated the Pharisees and leaders of the nations.  Because they refused to recognize power greater than their own and grew more and more hostile towards this man who proclaimed to be the Son of God.  You see, much of the Old Testament predicted that there would be a Messiah. So many of the prophets of the Old Testament had recorded that the Son of God would come, and they had recorded so much detail of what His life and death would look like.  As people began to see affirmation after affirmation of these truths, divided opinions grew. People either (1) recognized that Jesus Christ was, in fact, the Son of God and worshiped Him, or (2) became so stirred and shaken, by the fulfillment of these predictions, that they refused to believe the Truth.  The Pharisees definitely fell into group #2.

Anyways, one of the final miracles that Jesus Christ performed was raising a man named Lazarus from the dead. (If you want to read about this miracle, look at John  11: 1-43. Or, more specifically, John 11: 38-43.)  When Jesus Christ performed this miracle, it sparked a fire. Many Jews who had seen what had happened became believers and put their faith in Him.  Then, the word spread like wildfire.  People began to worship Jesus, and praise Him, and put their faith in Him. And when the Pharisees found out that He was performing miracles that were stirring nations and gaining great attention, they were livid. They met and decided that Jesus must be put to death. They basically put a hit out on him, and if anyone saw or knew where He was, they were instructed to turn Him in. (John 11:45-57)

So what did Jesus do? Here comes the best part! Jesus knew how all of this was going to play out.  He had been predicting His death for some time, and He knew exactly why it was that He had to die–to save our souls. So, rather than run, Jesus took some time to collect himself and then made His way to Jerusalem where He knew, full well, that His trip would end in His sacrificial death for the sin of humanity. (Now if that isn’t courage and fearlessness and humility, then I don’t know what is. What a boss!)  This is where Palm Sunday comes into the history…Jesus came to Jerusalem and made, what is known as, the triumphal entry.

If you want to read the scripture about Palm Sunday and His triumphal entry, look at:

Matthew 21:1-11…or…

Mark 11:1-11…or…

Luke 19: 28-44…or…

John 12:12-19

There are a lot of really amazing things that occur in this short passage in the Bible.  First, as Jesus and His disciples came near the city , they stopped in the city of Bethphage at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Jesus told two of His disciples to “Go into the village ahead of you and find a donkey tied there, with her colt beside her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the LORD needs them, and he will send them right away.” (Matthew 21: 2-3). You’re probably thinking, so what, he asked for a donkey. But hold up, there are TWO incredible things present in this first passage. First and foremost, Jesus refers to himself as the LORD. Which is a definite proclamation of His divinity. Powerful stuff for such a humble man…this proclamation is once again emphasizing, there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. He is LORD. Secondly, He asks for a donkey and when His disciples brought it to Him they laid their cloaks over the animals and Jesus rode them into the city. What’s so significant about that? BOOM! By riding into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey, Jesus fulfilled yet ANOTHER ancient prophecy from the Old Testament–Zechariah 9:9. This prophecy said, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Keep in mind, this was the ONLY instance in the gospel where Jesus rode an animal. And in that humble action, Jesus fulfilled just one of many prophecies that were written thousands of years before His life. It’s not like Jesus carried around a Blackberry and googled the prophecies and figured out, step by step, what He was supposed to do next. No chance! God spoke truth to the prophets of the Old Testament, and God lived truth through our Savior in the New Testament.

Anyways, back on track…So Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem with His head held high. As he entered the city, people rejoiced and cried out “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” They celebrated and cheered Him and the masses threw their cloaks into the path of the donkey and laid down palms along His path.  This is why we call it Palm Sunday. you see, laying down your cloak for an animal to walk over, and laying down palms, and fanning Jesus with palms, were acts of absolute homage and respect. This signified people’s submission to Jesus Christ.  This represented their recognition that He was the promised Messiah! (And just to clarify, the people’s cries of “Hosanna” originate from Psalms 118:25-26, meaning “save now.”)

You better believe that at the sight of all of this celebration, the Pharisees were FURIOUS! They were so jealous of Jesus and so fearful of the Romans. You’ve got to picture it like this–these high priests were in straight panic mode.  All the authority and order they had instilled was being shaken up and stirred by a humble man riding on a donkey–dressed in humble clothes. No riches, no jewels, nothing…Jesus was a man of the masses. He was a carpenter, by trade. He was an average Joe. Yet He brought NATIONS TO THEIR KNEES! Unreal. He was nothing the Pharisees expected.  They expected the Son of God to be some unbelievable, earthly man of power and prestige! Everything they expected Him to be…Jesus was the complete opposite. He was the underdog. And the people were beginning to love Him. This sent those Pharisees into fits. They refused to believe.

What Jesus said next were some of the most beautiful words He ever uttered, in my opinion.  Luke 19:39-40 tells us this: “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’ ‘I tell you,’ Jesus replied, ‘if they keep quiet, even the stones will cry out.”

HA! Do you understand what He just said here? Let me break this down in the simplest of terms: The Pharisees are telling Jesus to keep His disciples from praising Him because they think it’s blasphemy. And Jesus is like, ‘Listen dude, I’m God. There’s nothing you can do to keep anything on this Earth from praising me. In fact, everything will praise me–even the things that don’t hold life. If you try to silence one thing, the next thing will begin to cry out, and so on and so on until even the rocks will scream that I am God!’ HAHA! AHHHH..I love it!

So long story short, the summary of today is that Jesus is a straight BOSS. He performs miracles…the haters put a hit on Him…rather than hiding, He rides into the city and fulfills a prophecy…the people go crazy for Him…the haters try to call Him out…He makes them look like fools. 🙂 I love Him! What a humble, gracious, UNBELIEVABLE KING WE SERVE!!

Happy Palm Sunday!

What Does It Look Like?: Godly Men (Part 1)

Well, it’s time to pick back up where we left off a few months ago. Now that we have discussed the fundamentals of our faith–the gospel, salvation, righteousness, etc–it’s time to step back and take another look in the mirror.  Like I stated a while back, I really want to break down what it looks like to be Godly men and Godly women. What are our roles? How, exactly, should we strive to live? How do knowing those roles translate into daily life?…into our relationships?…into our marriages?

I think it is JUST as important for a male to understand what a Godly woman looks like, as it is for him to understand the standard that he, as a Godly man, is called to. And vice versa, from a woman’s perspective.  Knowing how we are called to live our lives and knowing what it looks like to see another individual striving for the Kingdom is CRUCIAL in our ministry, in our relationships, in our friendships, etc. The sole purpose of EVERY SINGLE RELATIONSHIP on this earth is to, first and foremost, glorify God. We are all called to love one another–and it’s vital to know what that love should look like.

So, with all that said, I want to first break down MEN! (Ladies, pay VERY close attention, because this will take all the guess work out of “the game”…and men, time to check yourself–are you a man? or a boy?)

In April of 2010, I was spending some time in the Word and started reading 1 Timothy. (What has now become one of my favorite books in the Bible) 1 Timothy is a book in the New Testament that was written by Paul.  We talked about Paul earlier, but I’ll recap. He was a horrific man. He was a liar, a thief, and a murderer–he literally persecuted Christians. But Paul accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Once a blasphemer and a murderer, Paul became one of the most unbelievable examples of God’s fantastic grace and mercy.  He wrote the majority of the New Testament and, as flawed a man as he once was, he was redeemed by Jesus Christ and SO profoundly moved by the power of God’s love that He became one of the greatest teachers of Christ’s power long after Jesus was gone. (So amazing! God can change ANYONE’S life and use ANYONE in His plan–no matter our past sins.)  Anyways, Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, who was responsible for leading the church of Ephesus. It was spiraling downhill, fast, and Paul knew Timothy needed instruction on how to properly lead the church and how to properly lead as a Godly man.  1 Timothy is all about leadership–it can be applied to leadership in the church, leadership in relationships, leadership on a sports team, leadership in ANYTHING!

So you might be sitting here wondering why I’m blubbering on about 1 Timothy and leadership, but there is intent, I promise.  The entire New Testament paints a picture of what love looks like, the righteousness we should strive for, and how we are called to live our lives.  And while there are countless passages and scriptures that articulate what it looks like to be a Godly man, time and time again through the Bible, it is repeated that the man is called to be the LEADER. So I want to zoom in on 1 Timothy 3:1-7, and explain to you exactly what that means.

1 Timothy 3:1-7 says…“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.”

And Titus 1:6-9 goes on to say…”An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”

Wow, so much said in so few sentences. What does all this mean? Is there a difference between what a man is called to before marriage and after marriage? How does this make a man a leader? Take some time to re-read these two passages. Break them down. Look up words that you may be confused about. Study them.  Then check back to the blog soon and we’ll study it together…there is much to be explained…are you a real man?

(to be continued…)

Swimming Upstream

Hey there! Today’s post was inspired by an acquaintance of mine, and a brother in Christ.  He contacted me in regards to a speech he was preparing to give.  It was a speech about leadership, and He was wondering if I had any insight. I put his question into prayer for a few days and as I finally started to type my response, God painted the most beautiful metaphor in my mind. So, naturally, I wanted to share it with you all…

When we break down what leadership is, there are countless definitions, fundamentals, and examples of great leadership. One powerful element of leadership is radical fearlessness.  Now, that may sound cliché, but bear with me here and I will explain a little further…

Take a look around this world. Take a moment to think of a handful of leaders. Who are the leaders who you really notice? Who are leaders who you truly respect? The ones who move with the masses and blend in…or the ones who radically set themselves apart? The ones who are fearless of what will be thought of them, and are convicted in what they believe. Those are the individuals who have the power to lead because they can’t help but be noticed for swimming against the stream.

Think about a fish that swims against the stream. It swims with purpose, it swims with drive.  It stands out from the crowd and the flow, because it stirs up attention and doesn’t conform.  But it faces a lot of adversity–resistance from the masses, resistance from its environment. Everything tells that fish that what its doing is much harder than simply turning around and swimming with the flow. A fish that’s swimming against the stream faces a challenge, but faces it with intent.  It has a goal. It’s journey is uncomfortable and challenging, but it swims with heart. And IT CAN’T HELP BUT BE STRENGTHENED THROUGH THE JOURNEY. It can’t help but be noticed. Being a radically fearless leader is tough. When you swim against the stream, you undoubtedly meet a lot of resistance. It’s hard, it’s uncomfortable at times, it’s challenging. But if you persist, it can’t help but strengthen you.

Jesus Christ was the primary example of a leader who was radically fearless. I mean, wow, take a look at any passage in the Bible. Jesus Christ was the definition of CONVICTED. He knew what He believed and He stood by His word. He completely set himself apart from everyone and He stood strong as He met resistance, faced adversity, and was criticized by the masses. But He was fearless. He set himself apart and swam against the current with humility, love, and courage. He was fearless in His teachings, He was fearless in the way He lived and, ultimately, He was fearless at the cross when He was condemned by those who couldn’t handle the power of His leadership. He was beautiful. And He was so radically fearless.

Now, as His followers, and as vessels for His truth and His light, we have to be radically fearless, as well. We have to believe in His love, beyond a shadow of a doubt, in our minds AND in our hearts. Then we have to begin swimming upstream from this world. We have to swim with the passion of chasing a Kingdom. We have to swim with the passion of striving for sanctification–a passion inspired by our beautiful Salvation. Swim with such passion and power that the resistance we meet stands no chance at altering our course. This world, everything in our society, everything our popular culture tells us is pleasurable and rewarding and fulfilling–it’s all empty. We have to be radically fearless in setting ourselves apart from this world. We have to be like Jesus–fearless of those that will judge and convicted in what we believe. In being radically different and setting ourselves apart, people will HAVE to see a difference in us. They will undoubtedly be inspired by Christ through us and we will, in turn, become leaders as well. But only if we can be radically fearless in our pursuit of Christ.

Does that metaphor make sense? Really think about it–are you fearless? Are you passionately in pursuit of Christ? Are you willing to swim up stream? 1 Timothy 6:12 calls us to “Fight the good fight of faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses.” And Galatians 6:9 encourages us by saying, “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Fight the good fight! Don’t grow tired! Be radically fearless and swim passionately against the stream!


*How He Loves*

LOOK WHAT JESUS CHRIST DID FOR YOU…so that YOUR soul could be saved. I wanted to share my favorite version of one of my all-time favorite songs with you. The video attached to the song is an unbelievable recreation of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. SEEING what this man did for us will make your skin crawl..but it is TRUTH. This is what He went through to save our souls. If it is too graphic for you to watch, minimize the video but continue to listen to the song. Let the lyrics move you and the beat slide through your veins…He loves us SO much. No matter our past, no matter our flaws. He is so jealous for you…

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BetW_6vtNU&feature=related

 

“How He Loves”

David Crowder Band

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all

Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
So Heaven meets earth like an unforseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…

He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Oh how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.