Saturday, December 25, 2010

Emmanuel


A night this cold should have
Been left long ago to a much warmer dream
But holiness does not fall away
Because it is in danger of being corrupted

Holiness is set apart
For not only today but for all of history
And on this night holiness has come
Not in fear of any of us

For corrupted and desolate we sit around
Singing songs and drinking to our failures
But holiness comes in the cold
With the sun in His grasp

The depths of humanity have been deeper
Than they were that beautiful night
When that blessed baby’s cry
Was the very Glory of God Most High

In His hands He held the world
At a moment’s motion, we would fall into the sea
Now those hands are holding a woman’s fingers
Squeezing for attention and shining of majesty

Out of dark comes a light
Of whom we were made after
Ready to extinguish our innermost
Thoughts of nothing but cold

He has come to redeem the world He created
Emmanuel, Emmanuel
He has come to bring the Fullness of Glory
He has come to show us the way

He has come to give us His very self
Emmanuel, Emmanuel
He has come to allow us to breathe
He has come to fall upon His knees

He has come to give Himself away
Emmanuel, Emmanuel
He has come to completely gain us
He has come to glorify His Name

Be glorified and lifted high
Hallelujah


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How I Learned to Mourn

Once upon a time I thought it was unmanly to cry.  I believed that since I was a young man I couldn’t cry.  It’s a sign of weakness, of immaturity, and of a child.  And I was no child.  I was mature.  I was tough.  And really, Christians don’t cry, we have our lives together; we know what’s going on.

But just like with so many things in my life, how beautifully wrong I was.

Two summers ago I went to Uganda Africa and my life changed forever.  I saw actual poverty.  I saw evil that wasn’t disguised in a fancy mix of church pews or the latest greatest technology.  There was evil and darkness in that place that I had never, up until that point, been aware of.  My eyes were opened to the fact that people are broken, truly broken, not just that partially fractured junk that is fed to you in church.  I’m talking about absolutely severed.  There is injustice running rampant all over this earth and we, as the Human Race, are shattered people.  And there in the middle of Africa, Jesus shattered my heart just as we are shattered. 

I remember getting back home and just randomly crying because of how bad I felt to open a bottle of water and neglect to finish it only to do the same thing an hour later.  I remember giving dirty looks to people who wouldn’t finish their food at the restaurant I worked at.  I would say things like, “Who the hell do you think you are? You have no idea what people would do for that food you spoiled rich hypocrite.”

To be completely honest it wasn’t a spiritual thing for a while.  I was just mad.  I didn’t understand how we could have so much and everyone else could have so little and we how we could just look the other way.  I didn’t understand how evil could exist with such a good, Health and Wealth God.  I questioned so much. 

As the months went on, slowly but surely the pieces of the puzzle became to come together.  I didn’t understand why I was so mad, really.  I guess what’s funny, is I think that Jesus shattered my heart so hard while I was in Africa it actually took me three good months before I realized how shattered I was.  When I would cry and get mad, I didn’t really realize why I was so mad or sad.  I felt like a little kid more than anything and stupid.  The world has always been this way?  The world has always been broken.  I had fully convinced myself until one night when Jesus taught me how to mourn.

I was watching Extreme Home Makeover (the irony! haha) with my parents and I was actually devastated over the goodness of these people.  The whole episode I was tearing up… it didn’t make sense.  Why was I crying over goodness?  Why was I so heart broken over goodness?  And to this day, I can’t give anyone a solid answer to that question but I think it was, was that I was heart broken over how good people could be and how mostly we just aren’t.  We choose to turn the other way when someone needs help.  We choose to put our hands over our ears when we hear our sister being raped or cover our months when injustice is slaughtering our lives.  I think that I finally began to see how sinful we are.  And not sinful in the way we learned in Sunday school but truly disgusting and sick people.  Collectively as people, I saw that we are in every way as bad as the cereal killers and dictators that have killed millions in cold blood.  After all everyday thousands of children are dying from starvations and AIDS and I am choosing, knowing that truth, to live comfortably in my two story West Little Rock house and not do anything to acknowledge the horror that is taking place just thousands of miles away from my home.  And not to even mention the horrors and evils that are taking place right here, in front of us!  The poverty in inner cities, rape, murders, the list goes on and on and on.  How people who are already millionaires can cheat and lie and steal for even more money when more than 80 percent of the world lives on less than 2 dollars a day.  How we can pay athletes millions of dollars to throw a ball and sit in our living rooms without any emotion watching them.

Oh God, save us.  Oh God, have mercy on us. 

But the real horror that was revealed to me that night, the thing that cut my legs from under me and left me weeping, not just crying softly, but sobbing on my floor for hours is how we have spit in the face of Jesus.  I am so eager to praise Him in church but when I get home I am also so eager to lock my door and do as I please with whatever is at my disposal.  I wept because I saw Him on the Cross, covered in blood, being held up by the nails that I put into Him… and me spitting in His face.  I saw the “body of Christ” selling themselves as prostitutes.  How dare we claim Christ and then go off and pretend not to know Him.  Who do we think we are?  My heart was pulled out of chest (already shattered) and hurled against the wall that night. 

That night Jesus began to show me what it means to mourn.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:2

I believe that this verse is talking about us mourning over anything that separates us from God, anything that breaks God’s heart.  And the sad, ugly face of truth tells us that we break God’s heart.  That I break God’s heart.  Those words sting to write, to read, and to say.  I have broken God’s heart.  And there is no way I can begin to fix that. 

This morning I read John 14 through 17.  I read it completely different than I have ever read it before.  I read it as though Jesus was a real person, talking with passion and emotion to real people.  Sounds crazy, but think about it.  Haven’t we always just been accustomed to reading the Bible like the people are cardboard people?  Isn’t that why Noah and the Ark has ever been taught in Sunday School?  Really.  I sure didn’t realize than everyone was dying in a terrible horrible and grotesque way when I read that story.  I just always thought of Moses and his family playing paddy cake with the zebras on board.  But this morning I saw Jesus, through gritted teeth and tears talking to His beloved disciples one last time before He would be put to death by humanity.  I saw Him, with pure, violent, and beautiful love look into the faces of His disciples and promise them life.  He was giving Himself for them, for us and I can just imagine how amazing that moment was.  From the beginning of time, this had been the plan.  Jesus is the plan, He is the way.  FROM THE BEGINNING OF TIME.  And on this night, before Jesus’ death, He was explaining to them what no one else, in all of history, had heard.  He had come to die and rise from the dead and give to us the Holy Spirit.  He had come to know them and live with them, to dance and sing with them.  He had come for us.  The fireworks in that room that night must have been glorious.  Here is Jesus, God in all His fullness, revealing IN FULL His plan that had been so intricately and beautiful in place since the beginning of the world.  I can’t even begin to imagine.  

And in reading those chapters, my heart could not bear the sick tragedy that unfolded before me.  We have forgotten Jesus.  He tells us so clearly what our lives are about in His beautiful prayer for us.

“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one.  I am in them and you are in me.  May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.  Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am.  Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!” John 17:22-24

We are alive to know Him, to make Him known.  But it’s so awesome how we are to do that.  Jesus intended us to bring Him glory by loving Him and loving others.  By discipling others, doing life together, following His Name would He be made known great throughout this world.  He longs for us and for people to know His love. 

One of my fifth grade guys I teach at church asked me one time, “Isn’t it bad to be Catholic?” Isn’t this such a clear answer to where we have gone wrong.  Jesus’ words are so clear.  He longs for us to be one, to love each other.  He even goes so far as to say, “This is my command: Love each other”… we don’t love each other.  Churches split over differences in theology, but not things like whether Jesus is God, things like if we’ll be raptured or not.  Issues that don’t matter.  Kids grow up Baptist thinking that every other denomination is from Satan and kids grow up Non denominational believing it’s heresy to speak in tongues.  We have convinced ourselves that our way is better.  We have lost it.  We have run so far from the truth that Jesus so clearly and passionately laid out for us.  We have sprinted away from His heart. 

I don’t know how to fix any of this.  But the reason I even post this is because we have got to begin to mourn for what breaks God’s heart.  Because if we mourn then we ourselves are broken and that will move us to action.  I don’t know where to start but it is so clear that we are lost and missing what Jesus has for us.  Isn’t it obvious, because although Jesus tells us to be one and make His glory known, I couldn’t tell you 90 percent of the names of the people that worship beside me at “church” every Sunday.  Isn’t it obvious, we spend millions and millions of dollars on church buildings and new useless things when we give maybe at most, a couple hundred to missions, poverty, aid.  Something is missing and I believe that is truly knowing Jesus.  We are so far away from the intimate and authentic relationship that Jesus meant for us to have with Him.

But Hallelujah, He is forgiving.  We have gone so far away from, but I believe that it isn’t too late.  As I just said, I don’t know how to fix any of this but I do know that Jesus’ arms are wide open.  He wants us so badly. 

√† Oh Jesus, lead us back to your arms.  Show us what being your Church actually means.  Jesus, be our hope and our lives. Hallelujah. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Radical?

For a long time I thought that being radical was the whole idea.  I thought that if people looked at me and remarked at what a radical life I was living for Christ, then I would indeed be completely fulfilling the whole mission of Christianity.  Don’t all Christians just simply want to live radically for Jesus?  That’s the truth that I chased after for a very long time. 

When I began to chase this idea, I changed the way I dressed, took off my shoes, and started randomly wearing bandanas.  I went to Africa and believe me, when I got back from the first trip I thought I was pretty radical.  I began to actually tell people about Jesus at my high school and began to actually pray out loud when I met with people at Starbucks and other coffee shops.  Boy.  I thought I was big stuff to be completely honest.  I mean really, how many kids go to Africa multiple times before they turn 18?  I was pretty convinced that since I was doing all the things American Christians see as radical, I had stuff together.  That was it, right?

When I was in Africa for the second time this summer in Ethiopia I told a friend of mine, “I simply want to live the most radical life for Jesus that is possible for an American teenager.”  Oh how soon, Jesus would open my eyes to how ignorant, arrogant, and young I was being and had been for so many years. 

On that same trip to Africa I met a guy named Mik.  Mik is from Germany and was in Ethiopia with his wife for 9 months.  He had served in various places around Ethiopia but somehow, by the grace of God, had ended up staying on the same campus as I was during his last two weeks in the country.  I saw him walking quite often around the complex for the first week I was there and finally mustered up enough courage one night to introduce myself and talk to him.  Because you have to understand, Mik looked exactly like I thought a radical Christian should (and I wanted to look).  He had “the facial hair” and the long pulled back hair and dressed in a really simple way that just screamed, radical!, to me.  So we began to talk and within minutes I saw how different he was from almost anyone I had ever met.  He talked in a way that didn’t make me guilty for not loving Jesus the way he did, but in a way that pushed me to want Jesus more, to truly know my Savior.  He told me that he was in training for the pastorate in Germany and as a part of the training had to do a mission trip for 9 months.  He told me about the amazing time he and his wife had had in Africa and the amazing things he had seen.  One story he told me blew my mind, completely.  Just days before he had gotten into a cab and gone into the city of Addis Ababa not knowing where he was headed.  When he felt like the Spirit was telling him to get out, he did and wandered with only Jesus’s guidance to his unknown destination.  Where he ended up was pretty astonishing.  There is a place is Addis where a whole community of people lives solely off the trash of the rest of the city.  When he got there he soon met a man named Michael who was known as the “pastor” of the area.  Michael had zero pastoral training and didn’t even have a Bible, but oh how intimately he knew Jesus.  People from the dump would come to Michael and ask him for prayer and he would give any clothes or food he got away.  Mik told me that the first time he met Michael, Michael looked at him and said, “There is a man with leprosy that is not far away.   I feel like we should go pray for him.”  Needless to say, I was at this point speechless, listening with a thirsty soul to my friend Mik talk.  Mik went on to tell me how he believed that Michael should get some training and was praying how that would be possible.  Within one week, Mik had Michael enrolled at a local Seminary to study the Word and be able to love people and God even more.  WITHIN A WEEK.  The time I was blessed to spend with Mik and his wife was amazing.  In the talks, I heard of lives fully abandoned to Jesus.

One night I was walking with a girl who was on the trip with me named Corinne.  I was telling her about these stories and how the kind of life Mic was living was exactly what I longed for.  I kept saying how I wanted to be radical and all that jazz.  As the conversation went on she began to almost question my motives (in a very loving way of course) and push me to look at why I wanted to be radical and live like Mic.  And then she said, “You know, I don’t think Mic would think of himself as radical.  I think he would probably just say he was following Jesus.”  It might not sound like much, but those words hit me like an arrow right between the eyes. 

Literally for the first time in my life I saw that following Jesus isn’t about being radical, it’s about following Jesus. 

I realize that might sound extremely clich√© but think about it.  When someone starts to follow Jesus, or “prays the prayer”, as we Christians like to say it, they do it primarily because they don’t want to spend eternity in Hell or some other strings- attached reason.  They want to live a decent life with not a lot of problems.  Maybe even because everyone else is doing it and it seems like the “American” thing to do.  There are so many things attached to becoming a Christian in today’s world and I believe very strongly that the greatest part of becoming a Christian is being overlooked.  We get to know Jesus.  We get to walk with, each day, the King of all the Universe!  Know Him, experience Him, worship Him, learn to love like Him and be loved by Him.  We get to receive the sweet salvation of Jesus blood and not only receive it but know that Salvation. It breaks my heart at how apathetic so many professed Christ Followers are about life.  We get to know the same God who has made everything!  The same God who hand crafted every tree, every blade of grass, everything is by His design.  And He knows our names, He knows my name.  When we speak, He hears us! What an amazing and mind blowing truth, but we take it so lightly. Why?  Have our hearts become that hard?

With that being said, my heart was opened in a new way when Corinne said that about Mic.  It made so much sense, it was so real.  I am almost willing to put money on the fact that he doesn’t look in the mirror and remark on how radical he looks and lives.  He simply wants to know Jesus.  He is seeking Jesus with everything He is and then everything else is being added to Him. 


“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need!”
-Matthew 6:33

I saw so clearly that my life was not about being radical or living a crazy lifestyle, even if that was for Jesus.  My life was about knowing Jesus.  It’s about glorifying His Name and each day learning to walk in the Spirit. 

We have so much to live for.  The Glory of God is here. 

The past six months since I have gotten back from Ethiopia, I have learned so much.  I have seen how un-radical my life truly is, even though I, in my little stupid prideful mind, believed that I living radically.  People give their lives for Jesus in the most dangerous places in the world, and they wouldn’t even tell you they were living radical.  They would tell you that they were following Jesus.  It’s as simple and as beautiful as that.

My good friend Zac once said to me, “It’s one thing to go to a high school and risk maybe be turned down, it’s another thing to go somewhere and love people and risk your life.”

I want to follow Jesus, to know Jesus.

As Paul so passionately and beautifully put, “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead.  I want to suffer with Him, sharing in His death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead.”
-Philippians 3:10-11

-> Oh Jesus, lead us to your heart.  Open up our tired eyes and show us your Glory, your Love, your face.  Allow us to seek you as hard as you seek us.  You are great my King.  Allow me to sing Hallelujah with my heart, not just my head. 








DISCLAIMER-- I am in no way bashing David Platt's book, "Radical".  I read that and absolutely loved it.  It's a great book that we can all learn from, I strongly encourage reading it. This post is honestly just about how Jesus showed me that living a life for Jesus is so much more than being radical.  And I know that Platt's book was about living for Jesus and i'm sure he doesn't have the same struggle with the word, "radical" that I have had in my life.