Friday, May 24, 2013

Immodest Culture

Lol.  I have gotten exhausted with this subject.  I've looked women in the face and had conversations about modest dress and they laugh at me.  Almost like a "Dude, are you crazy?"  And even though the Bible offers scripture speaking directly to the way women should dress, still, no submission.  But ladies breathe, this is not what I'm talking about today.  I am, however, addressing why maybe you fear it.  Or why you have not considered it.  Let's work.

I think we live in an immodest culture.  Before we begin, we must define what the word "immodest" means.  It means: Not modest in conduct, utterance, indecent, shameless.  Not modest in assertion or pretension; forward; impudent.

So you can get a clearer understanding, the word modest means:  Having or showing a moderate estimation of one's own talents, abilities, and value. willing to call attention to oneself; Observing conventional proprieties in speech, behavior, or dress. Free from showiness or boastfulness or attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed.

So immodest is that our culture is NOT the things above.  Crazy huh?  And how much of what we do everyday is subconsciously to glorify ourselves?  I said subconsciously, which means we do it without even thinking about it.  There's a lot of things that points to this being true.  I won't call you out, I'll just be brutally honest about myself.  Ready?

Deep within my heart, what's the purpose of this blog?  Yes, I enjoy sharing my heart with you all and hoping to encourage you, but what if a little bit of me has my ego struck when you're reading it?  I feel good when 70+ people are reading what I have to say.  And how many of my "encouraging" Tweets is for self glory? "Yeah, look at me. I got this Jesus thing down don't I?"  How many times do I dress nice to go anywhere to impress?  Maybe I like to hear people say, "You look nice today Claude."  How often are the things I say only to promote myself?  How often do I name drop so people will know who I hang with?  "Yeah, I'm in that club and that level at the church.  You're not."  I may walk into my church with a certain swagger because people know me.  Everyone runs up to me saying, "Hey Claude", and yes, maybe I enjoy it. 

Scary huh?  God and I deal with that pretty often in my quiet time, one of the first things I pray for is for Him to remind me that it's not about me and my own glory but Him. That the influence I have is not mine but His.  But I have that reminder.  Our culture doesn't.  And look at our culture.  I mean all the social media is for YOU to express your opinions about everything.  Sportscasters sit in their comfortable chairs and share their "valued" opinion of everything in sports.  And we don't live in a modest culture at all when it comes to sexuality.  Every TV show talks about sex as if it's not a personal, intimate, and private moment between two couples committed to each other.  And we'll watch sex scenes that we wouldn't allow to happen right in front of us.  The level of profanity and disrespect to each other. The selfishness expressed throughout our days.  When I'm mad that I have to wait in line at Wal-Mart.  I'm mad when someone pulls out in front of me on the road and then drive slow!  Are you kidding me!?  Do they not know who I am?  I deserve to go to Wal-Mart for one thing and not have to wait 32 minutes in a line!  I deserve to drive in peace and ease to my destination without someone cutting me off or slowing my speed down.  ME ME ME!  I, I, I!

So even trying to speak with a woman about modest dress is funny now.  Because I love their response.  "Well nothing is cute in modest dress."

Sadly and terribly true.  And why?  Because our culture is telling them that showing their bodies is womanly.  It's women's fashion to wear tight and revealing clothes.  So why would I dare call women to conform to scripture rather than the culture?

I'll say it again.  Who am I to point women to conform to scripture and grow in godliness by doing so with the pressures of culture for them to look a certain way?  

So anyways, with our immodest culture, how do we even pursue modesty?  Because from the definition, it isn't just women that need to get better at it.  I'll just ask some questions for you to measure the motives behind some of your actions.

Why do you Tweet those godly sayings?

Why do you post when you've given to charity and paid for someone else's meal or left a big tip for a waitress?

Why do you share with us on Facebook that you ministered to somebody and they started crying?

Why do you post pictures of you on your glorious and beautiful vacation?

Why do you post pictures of your food?

Why do you dress the way you dress?

Why do you do the things you do at the church?

Why are you leading that small group?

Why are you tweeting the lunch you were just on?  

Claude.  You're asking me to be honest with myself?  

Why yes. Yes I am.

And what's funny, we really don't want to do this to ourselves.  And I'm not saying these things are bad within themselves, I'm just asking you to ask the tough questions and see if you don't experience some convictions.  I've gotten a funky answer for some of these questions and I don't do certain things because of the answer I got. And who knows, your answer to these questions may be 100% Godly and perfect.  That's fine too.  But, it's beneficial to ask just to be sure. 

My goal for this blog is for you to realize how much culture is discipling you.  It is shaping everything we do.  And if you're a believer in Jesus, you must know that this is unacceptable.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2

Why is this important?  In the context of Romans 12, Paul makes a statement that is powerful.  

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Conforming to God and not the culture is our true and proper worship.  Living sacrifices, which means while we are alive we are to be sacrificially living our lives that reflects our relationship with Christ, in which since Christ calls us under His Lordship, that means we are constantly adjusting to being made into the likeness of Him.  So yes, it doesn't matter what culture says----Christ is the ultimate authority.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

For The Lonely

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:28-30

I'm aware of the transparency a topic like this requires.  But I'm honestly sharing this in hope of being a help to my friends who struggle with the same things I struggle with.  Because deep into the root of ALL of us we want to be loved.  Now we pursue those things in different ways because we define it in different ways, but it is all from the pursuit of love.  And I'm praying that you are able to grow in your understanding of how the "all who labor and are heavy laden" looks like, and how it sounds.  Here's how I read the world around me. 

When I'm listening to people boast in how drunk they got the previous night, to me I see them trying to show the people listening that they are acceptable.  Acceptance is a pursuit of love.  Being in any kind of community or sense of family is better than none at all.  That's why guys join gangs.  A sense of family is a strong connection.  A feeling of belonging is strong, and it runs deep within us creating connections and usually behavior follows.  

I also know some people who are deeply desiring to be successful.  Nothing wrong with ambition, but the pursuit of status is simply still a desire for love.  We associate great status with again being accepted, which we have somehow equated as love.  I've seen this in myself, when I'm notice the football players on campus getting attention and somewhere within me a jealous cord chimes, and I feel less loved because they love this football player because of his status.  

Now I love the text above because it seems to be pointing at the fact that these pursuits are exhausting.  These vain pursuits are exhausting because they don't fully satisfy.  We always want more.  We always want more money, a greater high, greater drunken nights, higher status, higher profits, higher acceptance.  That's why we name drop.  That's why we puff our chest out because we got new clothes or shoes.  We want to be admired and loved, we all want this.  

Christians, why do we struggle with this?  I mean, it makes sense that an unbeliever would fall into this toil and tiresome cycle because they don't believe in the God of love, the Creator and Sustainer, the Joy and Peace of our souls and salvation.  We actually know the Jesus that's saying come to Him so we can have rest and yet.....

We choose not to. 

I'm starting to have grace for the atheists.  I mean, Christian's don't live like there's a God.  I don't blame them for thinking there isn't one.  Doesn't make it true, just saying I understand it now.  

But you, if you are a Christian and a follower of Jesus, what are you doing?  Do you not know who you are connected to?  Do you not know who you are in communion with?  Do you not know who you are in fellowship with?  Do you not know who your Father is?  

You betta recognize!  

No seriously, we NEED to do a better job of this.  We of all people should not be turning to the things of this world to find satisfaction when we serve an infinite God.  We of all people should know how to find love because we know the God of love.  Can't have true love without God.  Don't care how many Live, Laugh, Love shirts you wear.  You're not getting to the fullness of your being without God.  You'll never truly experience love without experiencing the Cross where God displayed His love for you.  But in that, for the believers, what am I saying?  

We are connected to the ultimate source of love.  When I'm laying up at night praying for God to send me my wife ASAP, and He calls my name to come and rest in Him because He's still preparing her and me, and I turn Him away because he's not a woman and I want her now.  He usually hands me over to my desires and I get hurt.  I'm sure some of you can relate to that.  

Do I really realize what I'm saying in that moment?  God isn't as good as a woman?  Like, the Creator of the woman isn't good enough?  God isn't as good as marriage, so I have to help Him out because He's being slow? 

Brother, all that sexual drive you have is your pursuit of love.  Whether you're looking for it through porn or you're one of the fortunate ones and can get girls to have sex with you on the regular, listen,--- You're exposed.  The cross already exposed you.  You want love.  You want it pretty bad too.  You need love.  And you're looking for it in terrible places, and that's why you're never satisfied.  You're probably more lonely that you realize.

Sister, your desire to be married is, well, your pursuit of love.  You beautifully desire the security of what marriage CAN AND SHOULD bring to you.  I wish somehow culture could leave your minds alone and let you see the beauty of the cross, that in it you are already loved securely.  That white wedding dress you're desperately waiting to wear is already wrapped around you because Jesus's holy blood has covered all of your sins, and you are now seen as holy and blameless before God.

But hear me. I'm not saying these desires are bad within themselves.  Sex is from God.  Marriage is from God.  But see's FROM GOD.  So get in your mind how good sex feels and how good marriage is....JUST IMAGINE WHAT THE CREATOR OF IT CAN DO FOR YOU!?

You have to hear that.  The Creator of all you crave is wanting your heart.  

So I charge you with this.  Know your God.  Know who you're connected to.  Those things you are longing for, trust in God's timing and enjoy the Creator of those things until He hands those precious gifts to you.  Love the giver of the gifts, not just the gifts. Let's love God.

I mean, let's really love Him.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I Gets Money!

Hahaha.  I would love to see your faces when you read that title.

Anyways, today I want to address how the Bible completely destroys cultural manhood.  Not Claude, but how the Bible smashes the American dream, the American pursuit of happiness, the culture's definition of success.  I just wanna be, I just wanna be successful (Drake voice).  The Book of Ecclesiastes completely blows culture's definition of success right out of the water, especially if you believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God.  If you do, you're going to love this.  Ready?  Let's go.

The Book of Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon who was known for his wisdom, wealth, and power.  I'm going to do a lot of paraphrasing to get through this.  It's written with a lot of metaphors and imagery, so it can be a little difficult to read.  So I'll give some assistance but definitely recommend you going to read it for yourself.

When I look across the landscape of the American Dream as it is defined in our culture, I see a high pursuit of money.  I see a consistency of Tweets and Facebook statuses of people pursuing their dreams and wanting to be successful and make money and let me stop and say this before we get started---I'm not anti college or anti dream chasing.  I'm not anti work hard or whatever.  However, out of conviction and recognition of God, I must be more concerned about the true hope, and that's salvation security because of Jesus, life granted and sins forgiven, rescued from destruction. Okay?  Cool. I'll continue.      

So the first chapter, King Solomon seems to be in turmoil because he is realizing how vain this world is.  The same thing happens everyday.  Babies are born.  People die.  The sun rises, it goes down.  There is nothing really new, everything has already been done.  Then in Chapter 2 he talks about how he is going to test out how vain life really is.  Now, remember King Solomon is very wealthy,  so he conducts this experiment to give himself everything his body calls for to see what happens to him.  "I said in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself."  Eccl.2:1  And "whatever my eyes desired I not keep from them.  I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil."  Eccl.2:10

So he enlarged his works.  He built houses and vineyards for himself.  He made himself gardens and parks, and planted in these parks fruit trees.  Then he made ponds of water to irrigate the FOREST of growing trees.  (Note that please.  He's building forests.  Don't sleep on how wealthy this man is).  He bought male and female slaves. (A sign of wealth in his day) He had great possessions of herds and flocks, more than anyone before him. (Another sign of great wealth in his day)  He gathered silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces.  He got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man.  Which means, "I had what every man wants."  Eccl 2:4-8

So in case you missed it, I'll repeat.  So this man has money to where he is building anything he wants.  He's building forests for himself.  Not planting trees, but building forests.  He even has to build ponds to keep them watered and nourished.  So clearly this isn't a regular garden where he can turn a sprinkler on to water the plants.  This makes your garden look like a sandbox to a beach.  He's building parks and has great numbers of herds and flocks, more than anyone.  And check this out, when he mentions concubines, here's the number according to historical data--King Solomon over the span of his life he had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

So if you're a guy, here me right now.  King Solomon is the envy of our hearts right?  He has the status, the wealth, the position, the glory, the girls, the girls, and....the girls.  He has it all.  He's the Cam Newton of Cam Newtons, and the LeBron James of that Cam Newton who is above the Cam Newtons, and the Michael Jordan who is above the LeBron James who is above the Cam Newton of the Cam Newtons.

Did I lose you?  He's the icon of cultural manhood.  If he was alive right now we'd all be secretly wishing we were him and hating on him for it.  Like, bro, come on son, you know you ain't getting 1000 girls in your life time.

So King Solomon is sitting at the pinnacle of the American Dream.  Like he's bigger than the richest person in America, balling out of control with the things he's doing.  So he's saying, "Listen people, I've seen it all, I've done it all, I've accomplished it all, I've reached a place many, okay, lets be honest, most of you will not ever reach."  And the purpose of this book, written by a man with his vantage point, guess what he is saying?

"Don't waste your time chasing that stuff.  It's like chasing after the wind.  It's all vanity.  It's worthless.  It gets you nowhere."

Now I believe the point of this book of the Bible is to illustrate the vanity of life without God, and King Solomon in all his wisdom is dropping some major nuggets for us.  That this life is just like chasing after the wind.  We're hear for such a short time.  The accolades and the accomplishments can not be taken with us.  The money and the fame and all the sexual partners does nothing in the end.  Yeah it gives us credibility and good stories and jokes and Twitter ReTweets, but its all vanity.  King Solomon even calls us out by saying Chapter 4, "Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors.  But this, too, is meaningless---like chasing the wind."  

Hahaha, dang.  Now that's a call out.  He goes so far as to say you just want to be successful because someone else is.  You just want the status and girls because someone else does.  Hahaha.  The Bible cracks me up sometimes.

So what's the point of the book?  Is it to depress you about life and make you a couch potato and not to pursue anything?  Haha. No.  Here's the point of the book.

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.  This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?  Eccl 2:24

See that word toil?  It's referring to our lives. It means somehow we must find enjoyment in the fact that this life is worthless work and effort towards nothing.  Like think about it, that college degree is not eternal.  That career is not eternal.  So why do we work so hard for these things?  But he's not saying DON'T work for these things.  King Solomon is suggesting just know that there's something greater and bigger going on.  You have an eternity to think about.  You have an eternity to consider.  And when I say consider, I mean being sure I'm taking seriously this question, "Where do I want to spend it?"  Because whether you agree with it or not, the day will come when you die and you are faced with the reality of  "my life was wasted away doing nothing.  I made big deals out of nothing.  I got hyped up about nothing.  I stayed up long nights dreaming and chasing after nothing----and ignored the truth of I have an eternity to consider."  Like if you were on your death bed, you won't be whining about some of the stuff we whine about.  Instead, you'd be thinking about what's next for me?  When I close my eyes in a few seconds, what's on the other side?    

And what are we doing to prepare for it?  Have I made things right between God and I?  Because what I'm finding consistently is that not many people want Hell.  You'll run into a few rappers and whoever else dare to make statements about Hell as if they're sure of their destruction, which grieves me by the way, but everybody wants Heaven--but not God. We want the fried chicken but not the high cholesterol.  We want the high calorie food but not the weight gain.   We want the security and goodness of eternal salvation in Heaven but not the God, the Giver and Sustainer of life.

So sir, madaam.  I'm glad that you gets money.  I'm glad that you're super focused on your career and your dream chasing.  But here me right now, just for a second.

That will fail you.  It will prove to be vain and pointless.  You'll long for something greater when you reach what you're so consumed with and finding your entire identity in.  And trust me....this something greater, it's what you want.  You want the fact that life is bigger and greater than what we're running around doing right now.  You want that.  You want a God that's bigger and greater than you.  You want a God that provides life and joy so that you can enjoy the vanity of this world, because you are resting in the true hope, knowing that greater is ahead of you.  Without that, we'd be doomed for a game with no ending.  Wasted energy.  Busy work.  The race with no prize.  Volunteers for nothing.  We'd be left just chasing after the wind.

Imagine yourself doing that, chasing after the wind.  Lol.  You'd look like an idiot.

That's basically what King Solomon is saying.  Don't be an idiot, chase after God instead.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Poetry Lounge

I bet you didn't know I wrote poetry? I took a creative writing class this Spring semester and here are three poems I produced.  Hope you enjoy.  They're in order by favorite.  

I Am

I see them on the manicured grass
I see my father strutting
under the bright lights of the football field,
his helmet reflecting the starry sky. I see
my mother, cheering loudly in her modest uniform,
pom poms in hand, her smile revealing
her heart’s fulfillment.
They are in love,
so he says,
and so she believes. 
His words bring her security
even though they are arguably hollow.
I wish I could warn
her; that in this moment
in front of her locker as they exchange
kisses and sweet messages, her standing
still and he walking in the opposite
direction would become her reality.
I wish I could warn her of the coming pain. 
That the responsibility of being a father
would scare him away, and he would abandon
her with the consequences of their tango---
in which, I am.   
I am her pain,
the memory of first loves lost. 
I am her regret,
made in his image so she never forgets.
I am her reminder
of college dreams deferred.
As an infant I helplessly nag for milk
only concerned about my own needs,
unable to understand her loses.   
But I am her joy,
evident by her sharing the baby boy’s innocent smile.
I am her motivation,
her grudge with the world to prove
that single moms can persevere.     
From this, the pain seems to have reason. 
Reason for her, and maybe even
reason for me.      
So I choose not to warn
my mother of the coming sorrow.
Without it, I am not alive,
and neither does she become.     


We are like robots, programmed
to answer everything with, “I’m doing fine.”
Though we are coded to desire
companionship, love, and acceptance, somehow
giving snapshots of ourselves has become status quo. 

We accept the culture’s grace, and put on a smile and faulty disposition,
knowing that a smile isn’t an accurate meter of our heart’s condition.

When watching the news, the hearts
of man can be clearly heard screaming
“I just need someone to love me!” 
Sadly, we fail to express this. Instead, we say,
“I’m doing fine.”    

The news claim to have live video coverage,
But really they only have snapshots,
missing the reality that we are broken,
and becoming less aware of our need for a Savior.

Instead we have chosen to be our own saviors,
benignly content with front facing
cameras that reflects our own glory. 
Man has chosen to worship themselves---

which only means we have been blinded by the flash.

Love Defines Love (Italian Sonnet) 
Is love to us defined clearly today? 
Does a love of pancakes share in robust
with a love for someone unstained with lust?
Since loosely used, its value fades away. 

So who is to blame for our negligence?
That first love who said it prematurely?
Though they had no clue it’s meaning, surely
word spoken from ignorant innocence. 

Whatever is to blame there is one thing.
We seem to be misgauging this word love,
perhaps because we have chosen our fates.

We reject the Creator of all being
whose name is Love, virtues it sits above.
In all things, Love defines since it creates.  

Beauty in the Broken

Seriously, what is my problem?

I have yet to figure out why my heart breaks in the most ridiculous ways, and why it is naturally drawn to the things it is drawn to. I also haven't figured out why I do not delight in the same things that a lot of my friends delight in.  Let me explain. 

I don't respond to nature the same way most people respond.  A lot of people I know worship God when they are gazing up the sunsets and the sunrises.  Or when they see sun rays penetrate through the trees creating bursts of shine and color.  Or when they see the ocean waves, as they fearlessly flow in combination of finesse and dominance.  Or when they see the snow capped mountains as they glisten in the distance.  Or when they see the flowers at first bloom with their intoxicating aromas. Or when they see the trees begin their discoloration showing early signs of Fall.

And here I am, finding myself staring at the sky at a storm approaching in admiration.  I shudder in awe at it's beauty.  I also find myself mesmerized by a picture of a tornado, bending and destroying all in its path.  I can't get over this thought, "That thing that's destroying homes and lives is just organized and compressed winds?"  The thought of that causes something deep in my soul to jump in excitement even though I know that lives are in jeopardy,  but for some reason I'm amazed at God when I see it.  Even when I went on a cruise, I remember sitting at the edge of the ship and trying to enjoy the sun-setting over the horizon.  But I was more concerned of the unknown and the depths of the water this ship was passing through.  The thought of God creating all of this and only He knows what's beneath this ship.  Only He knows how deep the oceans go.  Only He knows...and again I start to worship God.

I really don't know what my problem is.  Looking back, I see that I have always stayed clear of things that were hyped up, even though I probably would have enjoyed it.  I remember never liking the girl that every other guy liked.  I remember when I stopped trying to fit in with a specific crowd-- all the crowds had flaws and inconsistencies that I didn't like about them.  I'm turned off by arrogant show offs.  "Stop pretending, you're broken just like everyone else".  I'm turned off by things that get praised more than it deserves.  I get annoyed when people are clearly looking for attention.  I get annoyed with the facades and veneer.  I do not like the fact that people cannot be honest about their feelings because everyone tells them not to.  I do not like that beautiful smiles can show joy, but can also hide evil.  I do not like that its easy for so many people to come to church and pretend to be in love with Jesus but are really enemies of the cross because of how they act.  I do not like that its easy for hurting people to come to church and never feel loved.  I do not like it when someone doesn't feel included.  I do not like it when people pick on people.  I do not like when someone doesn't like God because His children cannot get their attitudes in check.  I do not like that churches focus a lot on making pretty and excellent and happy services. I do not like it that as a black man I still get treated strange if I dare date someone outside of my race.  I do not like traditions.  Anything people can say, "well we've always done this", I think are easily deceived and are lucky that this "tradition" is not a dangerous cult.  I do not like that people will not investigate and search God for themselves, but instead they'll just depend on whatever the pastor tells them.  I do not like that we are broken and blind.  I do not like that sin controls people and that Satan will conquer them.  I do not like that people reject Jesus.  I do not like that many of my friends will go to Hell because they won't respond to the truth.  I do not like that Christianity is seen as a joke in our culture, therefore people think Jesus is a joke, therefore missing out on the BEST AND GREATEST LOVE THEY WILL EVERY EXPERIENCE.   I do not like that girls can be pretty and "make it" far in life, and the less attractive girls have to figure out something else to do.  I do not like that the prosperity Gospel is leading people astray, robbing and cheating them from enjoying God in His fullness.  I do not like that churches will not preach the Gospel, especially since it is the very depth and essence of God's love for us.  I do not like that my heart cannot pretend like everyone else's heart seems to be able to.  I do not like that I cannot turn off my feelings.  I do not like that I get easily connected and attached to people.  I can barely do my job as a bellman at the hotel I work at without wanting to befriend some of the guests.  I've had guests pull away from the hotel and I'm nearly in tears because I'll never see them again.

Seriously, what is my problem?

For some reason, I'm drawn more to the ugly and broken.  The dolled up girls and the ones with beautiful smiles and sweet voices, I'm glad they have been protected and loved and are very confident and assure of themselves.  I love that.  I do not disagree with that.  But for some reason, I'm not interested in the sunsets.

I'm more interested in the storm.  The mysterious "calm before the storm" excites me.  Like, you don't know how bad it's going to be! I'm more interested in the dirty,  the rejected, the misused and the insecure.  I'm more interested in the ones with the issues.

I remember having a friend that trusted me enough that she told me her entire past, and I remember the more she told me of her horrible past the more I was drawn to love her.  She was accustomed to people running in the opposite direction because of her brokenness, and she didn't know how to respond to a friend doing the opposite, running towards her.  Little did she know, and probably many of you, this is really the reason why I love this man named Jesus.  He seems to love like I love.  Or, shall I say, I find myself loving how He loves.

I remember the first time I understood the glory of Jesus.  The power and the majesty, that He was God in the flesh.  GOD!

God.  In the flesh.  The Holy of Holies.  The Creator.  The...EVERYTHING, came in the flesh to this filthy and stupid world.  He came to be with us crazy people.  He for some reason loved the broken.  "God, we're fine", we like to pretend, but He saw through the smiles and the sacrifices and saw that deep down we were not okay.  THANK GOODNESS HE SAW THROUGH OUR FAKE SMILES.  So in His glory and for His glory, He came to be with us and even took on our sin.  Please wrap your head around that.

God, in the flesh, came to become sin so that we may become the righteousness of God.  Yes, He adores the beautiful things, but He loves the broken things as well.  And He turns ashes into beauty.  How?  He knew it could be done.  He knew the ashes could be made beautiful.  He didn't step over the ashes or drive past them or reject the ashes, but for some reason..................but for some reason, He loved us enough to bring the filthy and the broken and the ones offending Him, spitting at Him, rebelling against Him, He chose to bring us into fellowship with Him by slaying and crushing His son....and in Ephesians it even says He took pleasure in it.  What kind of love is that?

That's why I love Jesus.  That's why I adore the broken things.  And that's probably why I love art.  Taking a blank piece of paper and producing art.  No one takes beautiful art and makes it prettier.  The mundane and the plain, turned beautiful because a creative artist loves it enough to do so.

So your smile does not impress me.  Your answers, "I'm doing fine." Does not fool me.  Want to know a secret about me?  If I ever ask you how you're doing and I'm staring at you waiting for you to answer, this is why.  I'm searching you, looking for the truth behind your answer.  If you are really fine, hey, that's beautiful and wonderful.  Of course that's what I'm hoping for you to be---is fine.

I remember reading Redeeming Love, a fiction book based on the book Hosea in the Bible.  The main character in the book, Michael Hosea, feels God called him to marry this prostitute.  And it's a love story that is symbolic of Jesus marrying His bride, the church--you and me.  And we've been incredibly unfaithful in this marriage.  I love that God uses the word prostitute.  The definition when not being used as a person selling themselves for sex is this: to devote to corrupt or unworthy purposes.  So here is Jesus, being extremely faithful to His bride---and what are we doing--devoting ourselves to corrupt desires and unworthy purposes.  

I'm thankful that true love is ugly.  If it wasn't, Jesus would have bailed and went to a prettier and more faithful bride.  But our security in our salvation is that He is in covenant with us---faithful----here to stay.  Nothing can separate His love from us, because He chose to love us...He found beauty in the broken.     

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Pretender's Good News

In a culture where we are comfortable with a veneer of reality.  Veneer, defined as: A deceptive, superficial show; a facade.  To conceal, as something common or crude, with a deceptively attractive outward show.

I see us all as pretenders, posers, actors in a play we are calling "life".  We know our lines.  We know the scenes.  We know when to come in and when to exit.  We know when the crowd should laugh and we know when they should cry.  Want to know how we know?  Because we control what they know.  We control the audiences perspective of us.  The same actor can play a villain and a hero in the same night, and guess what, could pull it off beautifully!  Have you giving a standing ovation for their performance.  Bravo! Bravo!

Who are you fooling?

Me?  Or yourself?

I'll answer it for you.  You're fooling yourself.  Me, yes---I matter a lot don't I?  You fooling me will do nothing but make me say something like, "Man, that so and so is such a nice person."  And I'll go home and sleep peacefully because it doesn't really matter to me if you tell me you're okay.

But you?  You have to deal with your veneer and false facade.  You have to look in the mirror and know you're lying on Twitter and Facebook.  You have to look in the mirror and know that the smile you portray on social media and the pictures you take is actually a cover up of the pain and turmoil you're dealing with.  And even in that you've managed to push your pain aside for some terrible doctrine some church has fed you and has you believing that your life should be better because you've accepted Jesus and it's not happening, which forces you to pretend.  Live Your Best Life Now.  21 Ways to Finding Peace and Happiness.  Act Like a Lady, Think Like A Man.  5 Ways to End Depression.  And the list goes on.

And for some reason, you avid church attenders have conformed to this silly assumption that if you have not mastered your pastors message series on Fresh Air, you're behind.  And you begin to compare yourself to the other avid church attenders and servants of the church who appear that they have it all figured out, as if they've mastered Christianity.  You compare yourself to their veneer, their mask, their costume, and you create your own.

And the sad TRUTH about've already been exposed.  There's already been a price paid for your sin and brokenness.  Which means someone knew you were going to need it.  Which means it was predestined, predetermined that you would need saving, healing, helping, assisting.  There's already been a cross, which is a beautiful proclamation of the reality that you and I are wicked and corrupt people, incapable of doing anything good.  Read Romans 3, Paul gives a good list of how none of us are righteous and that none of us are able to stand before God as if we have anything good to offer Him.

So since we like to compare ourselves to the "got it together" Christians, let me use that compare game to your advantage and explain the Gospel.

Imagine a ladder.  The ladder is a measurement of growth.  Each step is a level within Christianity.  Now the lie you've believed probably your entire life is that Jesus rest on, let's just say Level 4.  Some of you may think He's at  Level10.  Some of you may think He's at Level 200, impossible to obtain.  But with anything, you think Jesus is at a level you're not at.  I think this is the heart of why we say things like, "Spiritually, I'm not where I want to be".  Because I think subconsciously we are saying this, "I want to be on the level where Jesus is, and I'm not there right now."  Or it's "I'm not on the level Jesus wants me at."  Which makes you think if Jesus is on Level 10, I'm probably still on Level 1.  Some of you won't give yourself that much credit and you're not even on the ladder.  And some of you are really hard on yourself and you'd say you're on the floor, face down sobbing, soaking in your own tears because of how much you suck at this Christian thing.  Let me do something real quick.

I'm sorry that your church does not preach the Gospel.  I deeply apologize that for some reason you have no understanding of the Gospel. You deserve to hear it, because it's the true proclamation and description of God's love for you. It's the Good News! 

Back to the ladder.  So the Gospel tells us of our condition, that we are all sinners and in need of a Savior, so it calls us to understand that the ladder doesn't even exist without Jesus--- but the Gospel is not just salvation.  So it's not the fact that you're even present with the ladder.  It goes deeper to the point to where the Gospel is for every level on the ladder.  So do you hear what I'm saying?

JESUS IS WITH YOU ON EVERY LEVEL OF THE LADDER!!  AND HE WANTS YOU WHERE YOU'RE AT! THAT'S THE POINT OF THE GOSPEL!  When you get to Level 4, Jesus is there!  When you get to level 200, Jesus is there!  When you are on the ground, face down, sobbing, soaking in your own tears and failures, Jesus is there!  He's not in love with a future version of yourself.  He's not in love with Level 45 of Claude.  He loves the version of Claude where Claude is at.  The same for you.  If you're on Level 4, He is delighting in you and wants you.  If you're on the ground sobbing, soaking in your own tears and failures, He is delighting in you and wants you. 

So stop pretending you silly people! You're already exposed!  You have already been called out that you're a failure.  That you're not that awesome.  That you are wicked and terribly ridiculous.  But this should not cause you to tense up, but breathe.

Do it again.  Breathe.

God knew you were going to be a screw up.  That's why His grace is sufficient.  That's why He didn't wait for you to figure it out, He went ahead and took care of that.  All you have to do is breathe in deep about this Good News and respond to the truth of Him with your life.  Your salvation is the beginning of a new life.  And the sanctification process is a dirty and gruesome time of development and healing.  No "5 point message" is going to force you to get in the ring with God and battle out your issues.  Oh, and your church probably didn't tell you this too.

When Jesus comes into your life, He is Lord, which means He is master of all.  All or none.  LORD.  Meaning He makes commands and expects your obedience of love and worship.  Meaning He is alive and active in your life because He is beginning to flush the Gospel through your life in efforts of making you more like Him.  Guys, it's dirty work.  The encouraging feel good messages are lies because this thing is not pretty.  It's not cake on your birthday.  It's ugly.  God is bringing you to Himself even while you're offending Him, that's not a pretty love story.  None of us are falling in love with someone who hates us.  But God did.  This thing is not mushy warm fuzzies tears in the rain, but more like the husband who jumps in front of the bullets that are aimed for his children.  The love that jumps on top of a grenade to save his friends.  Get it right.  God is furiously in love with you, but it ain't sweet songs and soft kissy face love letters.  It's deeper than that.  He's saving you from death and an eternity in Hell because of His love----- and offering you life.  Not a boyfriend, but a Father, a Redeemer, a Rescuer.  

The cross exposes you, pretender.  So breathe and rejoice because you don't have to pretend anymore. 

Breathe my friend.  Breathe.  This is Good News.