Monday, July 16, 2012

ALL Are Broken

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" Romans 3:23

Hello readers.  Welcome to my heart.  Let's begin. 

I'll start out by saying that this blog is specifically for the believers.  I had an interesting revelation about us.  Let's chat. 

So, I think a lot of us can get very settled in the truth that we were once lost but now we are found.  Now again, that is truth, definitely not denying that and it's definitely not a bad place to get settled.  But I think we can forget that just because we're playing for Team Jesus, that doesn't exclude us from possible injury during play.  Here's the story. 

So, like I said, I had an interesting revelation last Friday night.  I was off on a Friday night after working an 11 hour shift at work.  I was in a neutral state of mind of not really wanting to do anything at all because I was exhausted, but I would if something fun jumped off.  So I ended up watching a fairly decent movie with 50 Cent as the lead actor playing a college football superstar who tragically gets a rare form of cancer.  And after the movie, I got the idea for some ice cream from Dairy Queen.  So I slipped into my flip flops and drove across town to the Dairy Queen.  I was on an uphill swing from a spiritual and emotional rut that I had been dealing with the entire week, so the comfort dessert was definitely going to do its duty of temporarily satisfying my issues. 

So as I turned into the Diary Queen, I almost ran over this homeless lady that was walking across the poorly lit entrance.  But, this was a special homeless lady--- because I had been seeing this homeless lady in random places almost regulary for the last few weeks.  And by random, I mean I was doing something I normally don't do and in places I am usually not at----and there she would be, continuing to be in my path.  And here she was again, in my path!

"God, what are you trying to tell me?  I never like to over spiritualize things but come on, this is crazy.  I'm all the way across town, how could she possibly have walked way out here?"

And I felt that, ya know, that heart pluck of doing something for her.  But again, I pushed it to the side like I had been doing every time I saw her.  But this time, my heart broke. Tears starting to drip from my eyes and I let out this deep groan of frustration at myself and my lack of faith and lack of balls or whatever it is that keeps me from acting on my heart for people.

"God, I don't know what to say to her!  I don't want to buy her some ice cream, that'll do nothing for her!  I don't know what to say, or do, so, just whatever!"  I wiped my eyes so I could order my Reese's Cup Blizzard and not look like a punk at the drive-thru window.  And so as I was leaving, I began to condemn myself for my lack of compassion and love and passion for God's lost children.  I groaned at my inability to have enough gumption to just make the initial contact and trust that God will give me what to say or do.  I groaned at the countless times I have continually ignored the opportunity to share with one of God's broken children that He still loves them and has an eternal hope for them..........

And then it hit me. 

As the idea of her being broken compelled me to want to point her to Jesus, I realized that I hadn't even been doing that for myself the entire week.  So, let's say generally, a bad week for a believer is when Satan has done a great job of getting us to believe a lie.  Or life has decided to smack us in the face or things aren't going the way we planned, whatever the case may be.  But in my case, I was just frustrated with the daily fights and struggles of life, or more so now that I think about it, I was just elevating things that aren't even an ultimate gain.  But specifically, what I saw from myself the entire week was a guy responding to his hopelessness and his brokenness and his insecurities by pursuing empty things and empty gains and empty passions, and in that moment, I was just like that homeless lady.  In that moment, I was just another broken human being.  In that moment, I was just another person that falls short.  In that moment, I was just another human that was experiencing and responding to the symptoms of a fallen world because of sin. 

In that moment, I was just like her----broken. 

And the illustration that comes to my mind is a junkyard, where everything in it is broken or worn out or torn apart.  Some things may be broken by just being chipped or warped on a corner is burnt off, and other things are shattered and unrecognizable.  But overall, it's all still in the junkyard.  It's all still broken. 

This is why we are to share the hope of Jesus with others, but also be ready to share it with ourselves.  Especially since we know that we've all fallen short because of the slow destruction of sin on our hearts which is causing us to be broken.  And if you don't know the next verse after Romans 3:23, here's verse 24. 

and ALL are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:24

ALL are broken, but ALL are justified---meaning ALL are loved.

So let's be honest here.  The gospel isn't just for unbelievers.  It's for believers as well.  Just like I wanted to share with that woman the hope that is in Jesus, I was needing to realize that truth as well instead of pursuing those empty gains.  So as a believer, I should rest my hope in what I wanted to share with her.  So I'm sure we can conclude that the gospel is for unbelievers and believers.  It's for the unbeliever as to offer them to put their faith in Him, and the believer to continue to regurgitate it whenever they need Him---just for a reminder.  And sometimes we need to be reminded.....

that we are ALL broken.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Daddy's Rocking Chair

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” Luke 15:28-32

Hello readers.  Welcome to my heart.  Let's begin.

I have seen an interesting new twist in this Prodigal Son story.  I want you to see what I see now when I hear this story.  So, welcome.

So, have you ever wondered why the older brother didn't respond the same way the dad did?  I'm assuming most of us know the story (if not, go read Luke 15).  Okay, its obviously because he was too busy working and trying to be a good boy for Dad, so, what should he have been doing instead?

I invite you to just go with this illustration I'm about to paint, because I asked myself the question, "Where was the Dad while the boy was working?"  Well, we can imply that the Dad was waiting and looking for His son to come home because of this verse, "But while he (the lost son) was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him."  Luke 15:20.  

So imagine a large house with a front porch.  And the Dad, every morning, walks out to the front porch and sits in His rocking chair to watch for His son.  He stares down the long driveway, heart burdened that His son is still gone.  But, He's hoping that He'll see His son again soon.  And just imagine if the older brother would have came and sat down next to the Father on the porch?

Can you imagine the intimacy?  I see it as similiar to sitting in a hospital room with someone in the hospital bed, and you can't help but have an intimate time with the person in the hospital bed because in that moment they're suffering, they're weak and vulnerable---and there's nothing they can do about it.  So you're seeing them in their weakest moment---this is how I imagine the Father sitting on His porch. The Dad is suffering for His son, I'm sure praying and hoping that he would return home. 

Can you imagine the intimacy?  Sharing in the Father's suffering for your brother.  The intimacy of trying to relate in His pain, and the amazing conversation available as you wait.  The wisdom the Father can pour into you as you wait.  I mean, just being where the Father is, of course you'll recieve an overpour of information and wisdom and love and discipling as you just be near the Father.  And I love what the Father tells the young boy, "you are always here with me, and everything I have is yours."  Almost hinting at why do you need anything more than just me? And even if you need anything more, everything I have is yours.  If you want a goat, go get one.  If you want a calf, go get it.  But you're here, enjoy me.

I realize that a lot of Christians are missing this key element of their Christian walks.  Yes, God wants you to grow in knowledge of Him, to learn how to explain the trinity and to learn how to pray and to learn how to disciple others, but ultimately, He wants us to enjoy Him---to return to the place of Adam and Eve where they had full connection and full intimacy with Him. 

If we're ever reaching a place that we're focusing more on working and being obedient to the Father's orders than sitting on the porch and enjoying time with the Father, then we're missing the point of being home.

If you're a believer, you're home.  Take a break and just sit with the Father on the porch. 

If you're not a believer, your Father is waiting on the porch for you---and He's not concerned with the state you're in or what you've done.  He's more concerned about you being back with Him----He's waiting to shower you with compassion and love.   He's just waiting for you to come home. 

The Nagging Wife

Hello readers.  Welcome to my heart.  Let's begin.

I'm a pretty open minded person.  I have my beliefs and opinions, but I'm not so strong on them that I won't hear you out.  That sounds like a good thing, but when I allow too many opinions and beliefs to crowd my own, it gets overwhelming.  So I hit the "Move To Recycle Bin" button and deal with it later.  But, I honestly love this topic I'm about to share with you all, and again, maybe these are my opinions.  Hopefully, you're a reader of this blog because you value my opinion---hope it doesn't stop here.

So here lately, I've been doing a lot of comparing, or spatial thinking.  Visual learning works best for me.  And I generally love a good PowerPoint slide with images and text that slides and moves, the animation and transitions working in spontaneous ways, entertain me please as I learn---it's not that hard to add that element to learning.  Anyways, so as I've been learning, I have found it interesting that God compares husband and wife to Jesus and the church. But let's pull out a specific detail in this relational comparison and see that when it comes to submitting to authority, here's the layout: the wife to the husband, the church to Jesus, the citizen to the government, so on and so forth.  Are you following that?

You have to get that framework in place for you to get what I'm saying.  So when it comes to us submitting to anything, I've been looking at it through the lenses of wife to husband.  That seems to be easier for me to wrap my mind around.  I'm a product of this cultures having no clue how to honor and submit authority, but when the word "authority" is instead "husband", I can handle that.  So, people, let's talk.

So, the husband is the leader of the family.  He ultimately has the say on the vision of the family.  So, let's say this husband really feels God is encouraging them to have their children home schooled.  The wife disagrees.  (This is getting good already).  So, the wife's natural response is? She disagrees, so she instantly wars against him.  Not intentionally, but, since she disagrees, she wars against him because usually her first response is that she doesn't go and ask the husband and find out the heart behind his decision.  She may find out that his heart is he wants the best for THEIR children and he feels the best is them to be home schooled.  But she never confronts him, she just disagrees without consideration.  She'll even hold conversations with her girlfriends about the stupid decision, and spreads the venom among their circles. But, this Christian wife has two options, well, actually just one, she has to submit.  The husband feels strongly about it so she must submit.  Now, here's where the options get interesting---she can either submit and commit willingly, or she can submit forcefully with grumbling.  Both SEEM desirable and godly because she's submitting, but only the first one is truly godly.  Because if she chooses the second one, this is what happens.

By the way, I'm going somewhere with this.  Hang in there.

So, the wife bitterly agrees to home school her children.  "I just don't believe in this.  I don't want my children home schooled.  I don't want them to be socially awkward and too sheltered and, I just don't agree.  And it's a terrible way to really teach them.  I can't teach them like a public school teacher can.  This is not going to work.  And that's more work on me. And I have to do this and do that."  Only pointing out the negative effects.

So within this grumbling she's half-heartedly going through the motions of teaching her children.  Since she really disagrees and only submitted because she "had to", she's not giving it her all.  Her arm was twisted, so she only serves her children in home schooling them only because she had to and God told her to submit and this suck. So a few years go by and the children are not on a reading level as their peers in public school, and she pulls the husband to the side and tells him, "See, I told you it wouldn't work."

Crazy isn't it?

Glad you agree.  And guess what?  We do this ALL THE TIME.

I'll just hit it in the mouth---church methods.  I'm exhausted with debating and discussing church methods with other believers.  Because I know what we do, we weigh the entire thing based on a few individuals.  We'll say "this method" doesn't work because it hasn't enticed you yet. Only seeing the negative.  Or you don't "see" how it can change anybody.  Only seeing the negative.  Or you want discipleship over evangelism, pastor feeding or self feeding, communion every Sunday, or just on special occasions, Methodist, Baptist, sprinkle or immerse, salvation prayer or explaining what salvation mean and seeing if they still want to receive it or not---(that personally crack me up).

Where's the power at people?  In God? Or the methods?  

Then, this is my favorite part, we'll grab a Bible verse to support our opinion.  Like I'm about to right now.  Mark 5:25.  The story about the woman with the issue of blood had faith that if she touched Jesus's garment, she would be healed.  WHERE IS THAT IN SCRIPTURE?  Were there any other example of that in scripture?  Let me know if it was, where in Exodus Moses commands people to touch the hem of his garment for them to be healed. I mean, help me if there is.  Because I haven't had the privilege of reading the whole Bible yet--working on it---but maybe it's in there.  And I can hear how we would tear this woman to pieces.  With our culture's critical minds.  We see the wrong in everything, and feel the right and need to express our opinion.  I love Twitter and Facebook during high profile crimes, man, everyone has an opinion and a moral code then.  And we'd probably preach an entire sermon on why touching the hem of a garment is wrong, and have three points, and miss the fact that it worked for her.

It worked for her.

The key word is her.  She had the faith that Jesus would heal her, so that worked for her.  This is my opinion and my desire----I just want us to choose a church, submit to the church, and love the husband, willingly and with all we got---oh, and just shut up.  Yes, there will be times, ladies, when you disagree with your husbands, but first hear him out, you might be on the same page, but if you still disagree, just TRUST in HIM.  Not the method, but just TRUST IN HIM.  Just love your husband.  Can we just love our husband?  Can we just choose a method that works for us and love our husbands, put faith in our husband, just love our husband?  Let's commit covenantly to ANYTHING for that matter, and submit our lives to building it up.  You see a crack, go fill it.

Stop nagging.  All the church is doing is praying for a healthy marriage but we're warring against the husband because we don't believe in His methods.  Hey, here's the funny thing.  If you haven't noticed, it's never been about the methods for Jesus.  You realize that He healed people in many different ways.  So he did, ONE THING, multiple ways: by touching them, them touching him, spitting, just speaking, calling their name, commanding them---ahhhh!!! WHICH ONE IS THE RIGHT METHOD!? 

Hey, listen to me.  ALL OF THEM.  Every method is right because all of them have worked.  And why did they work? Because He works.  I mean, God is speaking through burning bushes, why not send a pet coyote to speak to Moses?

Nawww...I want the flaming bush today, that'll really freak him out.

Remove the faith in the methods, and put it on Jesus.  Notices there's never been a message on discerning the voice of God without a burning bush?  It's ALL about God.  Submit to something that's following Him, covenantly, and just...

Love our husband.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mission Field

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and surely, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28: 19-20

Hello readers.  Welcome to my heart.  Let's begin.

It was a hot Monday in July.  If you've ever experienced a hot Alabama summer day, you know the weight of that word hot.  I was headed to a nearby city to met up with some of my students from SWITCH.  And it pains me every time I drive up to the foreign town, because its an area still with evident poverty and brokenness.  But I wasn't in town to address that, simply just to play a little basketball with the students.  So as I pulled into the parking lot of the high school, which was in the middle of a neighborhood that consisted of wearing away homes, I realized that my first thought was "be sure you lock your doors."   

That was when my heart started to break.  Because I asked myself, "Why are you thinking that?"

So anyways, I got out the car and gathered my basketball shoes and walked into the gym.  Now my agenda was to again, simply, just to play basketball.  Nowhere in that agenda was I planning on being an emotional wreck.  But it started when I immediately entered the gym.

As I entered the gym, everyone knew I was a visitor.  Even the ones in the middle of their games shot gazes at me.  The town is small, so everyone pretty much knows each other---or they are able to find a connection by figuring out who family they belong to.  So I found my students.  And I gave them big greetings and sat next to them.  I watched how they interacted in their environment.  The gym was filled with just guys.  And a large range of age was represented, from 5 years old to 20 years old.  So I began to people watch, as I shyly sat on the side bleachers and became instantly afraid to play basketball with these guys.  Over the past few years, my inactivity has driven me into playing less basketball than I used to growing up, which has caused my confidence in my game to shrink to little to non-existent.

My first interaction with a foreigner was a little boy.  Strangely, he walked pass me and gave me a weird look.  This little boy, probably around the age of 5, was a bold little stinker.  He looked me up and down and his first words to me was, "Give me that necklace."  I smiled at him.  I liked the thought that I was being bullied by a 5 year old.  He then leaned closer to me and reached for my necklace. I grabbed his hands and held them in mine.  I was instantly in love with the kid.  He was my first new friend in this foreign town.  I then asked him his name, hoping he could tell me.  He told me it was J.R.  I said my name was Claude and I extended my hand for him to shake.  He fived me instead---which is far more cooler.  So then I asked, "So how are you trying to take my necklace and we just met?"  Pretending to ignore me, he smiled and reached for it again.  I grabbed his hands again and offered a deal with him.  "What will you give me if I give you this necklace?"  He smiles back at me, seeing a glimmer of hope for my necklace, he says the first thing that comes to his mind.  "What kind of animal you like?"  I grinned and thought to myself, "This will be easy.  Don't say one he can actually get me."  "My favorite animal is a tiger."  He says, "A tiger?  I can get you one.  I can get my dad to take me to the zoo, he works at the zoo, and he can get me a tiger for you.  Do you want it killed?"

"Um? No.  Why would I want it killed?  I want it alive, so I can pet it."  I responded. 
"You sure you want to pet a tiger?"  His face was precious.  It was like he knew I was crazy for wanting such a dangerous pet.  "You know they growl really loud right?"  I'm laughing at this point, because I'm holding a fairly intelligent conversation with a 5 year old. "Yes, I know they growl loud.  That's why I want one.  Can you show me how they growl?"  He leans his head back and let's out a baby tiger growl.  "Really?  You sure that's how they growl?"  I lean my head back and growled with him.  He laughs and does his growl again--much better this time.

"So here's the deal."  I bargained with him.  "Next time I come, you have the tiger, you'll get the necklace."  He laughs and runs away, which I'm assuming doesn't finalize any deal.  But, he's getting the necklace either way next time I see him.  He later came back to me with an interest in just small talk.  He grabbed my hands and brought them together.  He started to put all of his weight on my hands as a balancing act.  So I asked him, "Did you know you can fly?"  He smiles and tells me no he can't.  "Lean back on my hands."  And as he does that, I lift him up off the ground and up into the air.  His face lights up as is he's legs off the floor in flight aboe me.  I lower him back down and he tells me to do it again.  So I do it a few more times until some calls him away.

But at this moment, my heart is warmed over.  But then I return to the hopelessness running around in the gym.  Not to judge a book by its cover, but, let's just be honest.  

The gym was filled with broken young men, probably most of them without dads or good male role models. They want so desperately to change their situations, but they have no idea how.  And sadly, every way to work towards changing their situation isn't much encouraged in their community and culture.  I mentioned reading to one of my SWITCH students that was sitting next to me and he laughs, like reading is for squares---which I'm sure was a shared belief in the gym.  And if you've ever wanted to know why I have such a beef with the rappers now-a-days, this is why.  I see a gym full of guys who listens to these rappers music and adopt their words as if it was Bible, because they're just looking for someone to look up too.  And it was interesting to watch how the younger boys would stare and watch in awe at the older guys whizzing and darting around the basketball court, clearly in a search for a role model----but for the older guys, they're searching for the same thing and don't even know it.

So I finally get enough courage to play, with the kids.  To my defense, the court I was playing on was with guys younger than me but taller than me, so... good trade off.  So anyways, I'm praying for an opportunity, but honestly I was a little overwhelmed.  Like, God, there's 80+ guys in here, there's no way I can reach out to all of them and try to build relationships with all of them, that's impossible.  I'm sure most of them need you.

Just reach out to 1 or 2.  

So I did, and God was faithful with the opportunity.  I went after the guy guarding me the first game.  His name was Zinn.  He was a quiet one.  I had watched the entire gym and had quickly realized that it was filled with loud mouthed tough guys, but this guy had a gentleness to him, almost emotionless.  And Zinn was good at basketball.  I had a difficult task of guarding him, but I managed.  I made a few moves, got a little confidence, lost it again with a bad move.  That will be the story the rest of my time there.  So after we lost, we waited a few more games and we got to play Zinn and his team again.  This time I was determined to get a smile from him.  I started to trash talk.

"Hey, Zinn isn't scoring this game.  I guarantee it."  I looked at him and smiled.  And he just looked back at me, again, emotionless.  So the entire game, I was play tight defense on him, still saying he wasn't going to score.  And of course, he still manged to score, and I'd follow up with some praise for still managing to score on my tight defense. (yeah right).  The whole game I talked and talked, and he still scored 11 of their points.  After he made one his shots, I made a face at him and I got a slight grin from him.    Didn't last long, almost as if he was had a quick laugh at my pathetic attempt to stop him.

So that was my dealings with Zinn.  And there was one more guy on his team.  He was one of the loud-mouthed tough guys, so he was the majority.  Earlier I had overheard him talking about some girl,  it was a very vulgar conversation.  A tad dirty of a mouth, and all of this was entering into the 8th grade.  I was standing on the sideline watching him play and he got hot from behind the three point line.  He made two in a row!  And every time he would make one, he would do this silly dance while holding three fingers in the air.  It made me laugh, and it also reminded me that he was an 8th grader.  A "love to have fun", 8th grader.  So I yelled from the sideline, "Bet you can't do it again." He heard me and accepted the challenge. And sure enough, he got the ball and shot another three pointer, nothing but net. He did his dance again while looking at me.  I laughed.  So the next game, he invited me into his world.  He walked up to me and said, "I want you to guard me this game."  I grin and agreed to it.  His name was Boobey.  I'm sure that's not his birth name, but whatever, I can identify him now.  So the entire game, I played overly aggressive defense on him, which always seems to entertain people.  He was quicker than me so he was usually able to blow past me all the time, but he liked to somehow tease me with his dribbling. He tried a few threes on me and I wasn't having it, okay, he just missed them.  But after listening to his language and his disgusting look on women, it was fun just to laugh with him in a basketball game, because in that moment, we were just the same, a son of somebody, a breathing human, loved by a holy God, chosen to be adopted into His family.

So I left the gym a few hours later, heart heavy.  I've fallen into the trap of creating convictions because I've never had the passion for overseas missions, and in that moment as I drove the 30 minutes back to Auburn, God revealed to me with vision up vision of how He has given me a heart for missions.  My heart longs for the hopeless...period.  Doesn't matter what race or country, age or gender, my heart breaks for the ones who live without purpose, who live without love, who live without family, who live without life.

I'll share one of the visions with you that brought me to tears.  I was standing in a room, perhaps a church service was going on, and I saw arms raised praising God.  And it was arms of former thugs and heathens,  or better described as sons of God, tattoos running down their arms, the past shackles falling off of them in worship as they realize that their Creator adores them, and He's provided and conquered their generational curse with the gift of salvation, which IN THAT, their hope has been found.  Not a prosperity gospel to only focus them on getting a better Earth situation, because their aspirations for NBA and NFL and famous rapper satisfies that enough, but THE GOSPEL, the only one there is, to get them to focus on getting a better eternity.  To be back in the presence of God, to be living sacrifices for their communities, to proclaim the gospel with their lives----that's my vision.  To show them and labor with them until they are able to feel the weight of how dearly loved they are by God.  Again, that's my vision.

That's my mission field.