Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Misunderstood Prophecies

Allow me to be vulnerable----which means this could get really ugly.

When I walked across the stage receiving my bachelors degree from Auburn University and packed up all my stuff and moved away from Auburn, I was picturing the movies.  You know the movies.  The one where the young man is all packed away to go to college, but he gets this mysterious note to take his box of toys down the street to a little girl who is as cute as any puppy you'll ever see, and he introduces each of his favorite toys to her, but then she finds his cowboy doll that he wanted to take to college with him, and he hesitates, dramatic pause and quivering of the lips from both characters, but then he gives in to the darling little girl and they play together and after a few minutes he gets into his car and he drives away down the long street with the toys watching him drive off.

For some reason, we expect this.

If you missed that, that scene was from Toy Story 3.  But we expect this dramatic scene as we are transitioning into new seasons of our lives.  We picture the glamorous movie scene where we are driving off to face new adventures, new voyages, new beginnings, with trumpets playing and slow classic tunes are creating this emotionally driven moment where you just know something great is about to happen.  But then, the credits start and the movie scene deflates and you see the real thing.


Hey, I won't be a negative Nancy.  Maybe for other people this actually happens, but see, that's been my problem.  The other people. And I've had to force myself to stay off of social media sites because Satan is using it as a playground to throw doubt in my face.

"Look at all the people that everything they want is happening for them.  And look, another Save The Date invitation.  Oh look, you just got back from a wedding and here's three more this year that you're going to.  They look so happy don't they?  Oh Claude. Where are those great things everyone has told you that you are going to do for God?"

That last one stings.  It stings hard my friends.  I've had SOO many people tell me that I'm going to do these great things for God.  And my idea of GREAT THINGS FOR GOD did not look like this.  I pictured me going to this great NEW city and joining a new church and getting plugged into some revival somewhere and letting fire fly out of my mouth as I proclaim the Gospel.  I was so ready for a new season.  The chapter of my life entitled Auburn was closed and I was headed towards a new season.  But my NEW season was not supposed to be an old return.  It was not supposed to include my old bedroom, which has been updated with nicer furniture and a nicer smell.  Did I not steal away in the night from Auburn only to return to this mediocre existence?

This is where my 6.14 ounces of faith kick in.  I can't help but think about Abraham when God first tells him the promises of making him a great nation through a son.  And Abraham laughs and says he and his wife is old and God reassures him that it can be done because He's God.  But can you imagine the next day?  Waking up, making breakfast, expecting something cool to happen all day.  You put on some Marvin Gaye or Trey Songz and you have sex with your lovely wife------but she doesn't end up pregnant.

God? What the heck?  Didn't you say I would have a son?

But they shake it off and go try again.  And...still...no pregnant wife.  Can you imagine the gut feeling?  God? Um?  What's up?

So that's where I am.  Before all the prophecies coming from other people of the great things God was going to do in me and through me, God had whispered some dreams deep into my heart as he did Abraham and today I am nowhere near achieving them!

Or yet?  Am I?

What is "great things for God"?  Is everything done for the glory of a great God not considered to be of great worth?  Is my Father's will not great?  Because I feel that my church has conditioned me to think that "great things for God" looks like big ministries and big movements and big gatherings and big salvations.  But what are great things?  I'll say great things are things that my Father wills to be done through me.  That's it.  And here I am, sitting on my butt complaining about what God isn't doing for ME and I'm hearing story after story of my hurting family and I have yet to go visit them to share the love of Jesus.  Want to know why great things are not happening in your life? Because you're misunderstanding the prophecy.  No one ever got to the great you're imagining over night.  They started with the one.  My pastor, Chris Hodges, did not reach 9 campuses as soon as he received the call from God to do full-time ministry.  It started with the voice, with a relationship, with a God who intimately speaks and shepherds and loves His sons that He breathes these big dreams into their hearts and positions them to have to depend on Him fully with no room for doubt.  Son, do you not TRUST ME?!  Abraham, I'm going to tell you about this son and it'll be years before you see it happen, but I want you to trust me, and I'll make you great.  And people, he was made great.  Why?  Not because of what he did, but because what his father willed for his life.  Abraham was just a man who had a son, but God willed for this man to have a son who would father nations--therefore he was made great.

So here I am...with just a faith in a God in a place I really don't want to be.  But my Father has willed it, therefore it is a part of a great work He is doing.  Great things does not always look like churches being filled, but instead a God who is willing for things to happen.  The ultimate gain is Jesus.  And at the end of the day, I could end up being stuck in Oxford for the rest of my life (GOD FORBID!) but joy will rise from deep within the Holy Spirit within me and breathe new life and give me new desires because I have all that I need in Jesus.  I have all that I need in my Savior.  I can be stuck in a mud pit being forced to watch Miley Cyrus twerk videos with no way out, (couldn't help that), as long as I have my Jesus I am really alright.

Don't misunderstand your prophecies.  Don't misunderstand what God is trying to do in your life.  The ultimate gain is Him.  And He will not stop until His glory is made known...and that's from my life and yours.    

Monday, August 19, 2013

Mirror Preaching

Oh dear God, who would have thought that you actually had to practice what you preach?

Hello reader.  Thank you for reading today.  As some of you may know, I have graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Environmental Design, which is one of those majors invented for future jobs.  "Future jobs?" You ask.  Yes, the kind of jobs that Auburn has said, "This is going to be a real "thing" one day," and they have chosen to create a major that can support it when it comes.  Which means what?  Are there any present jobs?  Oh, that is why I'm writing the blog.

My ideal post graduation time looked differently in my head.  I was not sitting in my old home in Oxford Alabama, sleeping in my old room and driving up in my old driveway.  Instead, I was seeing me transitioning to some big boy job in some big boy city and tackling some big boy transition problems.  NOT the "you're back at home" transition problems.  Those are lame.  No one likes those.  That's not the American Dream kind of path you're supposed to take after graduation.

Says who?

I don't know, those people that have us under their thumbs.  You know the people, the ones who make you feel like you should be married by...well now, and the ones who says you should be making more money, or you should be thinner or taller or---yes, those people.  Sometimes those people have faces, sometimes those people are just expectations created by movies and TV shows and relatives that you don't even think about unless they post something on Facebook.  And I have found myself mirror preaching.  I'll explain.

Mirror preaching is pulling out all the counseling and encouraging and sermons I've done in the past in my tenure in Auburn and serving in my church and sharing the content with yourself.  And there was a lot of content.  From talking to college friends to high schoolers to middle schoolers and even to some adults, I've done my share of me being the mouthpiece for some simple biblical trues for God's mighty work to be done and in hopes of pointing people to Him in their trials.  Well...now it's my turn.  And since I've done so much counseling and encouragement and sermons, maybe I'm decent at it so I go to the mirror and ask myself what the heck are we supposed to do.  And this guy in the mirror, he doesn't look like me.  He seems confident and assure of himself.  Confident in his faith and confident in the God that made him.  And he's a good listener.  He listened to me vent about my doubt but exhibit some level of faith in the doubt.  He had this gentle smile where I felt comfortable telling him anything.  And he had this reassuring look that I would seriously be okay.  But it was when he opened his mouth was when I really felt like man, this guy must know something.

"Jesus".  He says.  

"Excuse?  That's it?  I need something more practical than that Mr. Guy In The Mirror."  I asked.

"No you don't.  You just need Jesus.  And you have Him.  So you have everything you need."

"Well I know that, but.."

"Dude, there is no but.  You remember all those times you pointed people to Jesus.  Well now it's your turn.  You turn your head and go to Jesus."

"That's it?"

"Yep.  That's it.  And of course, there's practical things for you to get done today, but first, go to Jesus."

And immediately, this flood of words and moments enter into my mind like a picture slide show, all the times I looked people in the eyes or crowds in the eyes and said your hope is Jesus.  Your only hope is Jesus.  Your circumstances does not define you, if you have Jesus, you are alright.  We're alright.  He will take care of us. And even if He doesn't according to OUR will and interpretation of what He should do for us, I AM WITH HIM SO IT IS ALL ALL ALL GOOD, IT IS ALL RIGHT.  

And I stare at the guy in the mirror and now he looks just like me.  He doesn't look like some Mr. Know-It-All with his wisdom and calmness and superior faith.  That guy is me.  And I'm staring opposition in the face like "Yo, my God is so much bigger than you."  I'm staring my insecurity in the face like, "Yo, my God is so much cooler than you."  I'm staring "them people" in the face like, "Yo, my God's plan for me is so much bigger than your expectations for me".  So I may look like a failure or a whatever, but my God has the last say.  He always has the last say.

Don't miss that.  My God has the last say.

And thank goodness for that huh?  You remember Satan when he tempts you into sin and you fall short and you're just a terrible person?  Remember that?  Well don't you worry.  God has the last say.  He does.  And He said He loves you and He paid the price for that sin that is tempting you.  Satan doesn't have the last say.  God does.  God does.  Every time.  That's why He is the ultimate gain.  He is the last.  You get Him, you get eternal victory, because He always has the last say.  Thank you Jesus for the peace that surpasses all understanding.  I should be freaking out, but I'm not.  Why?  Because my God has the last say.

Good job mirror preacher.  You have blessed me today.  I'll put a little bit more in the offering plate.  ; ) See you next Sunday.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Jesus, Do You Not Care?

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.  And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Mark 4:35-38

I really enjoy this Bible story.  First of all, for some reason picturing Jesus asleep is a little funny.  God Himself, actually becoming man and is fully man so much that He take naps.  And you think God is not for your joy...Jesus napped.  Come on.  That's great.  

Anyways, I wanted to point at some things in this story.  But let me set it up in modern day terms because I think we do this a lot.  The "they" in these verses are the disciples Jesus were traveling with. They are observing the windstorm and the waves crushing their boat.  Symbol?  When storms come into our lives.  When life hands us lemons.  When life punches us in the gut.  When bad things happen to good people.  When the good die young.  When troubles arise.  When something doesn't go our way.  I've heard time and time again from avid atheists or agnostics or unbelievers that they have a hard time imagining a "good" God with so much evil in the world.  
Great concerns.  

If anything, I give atheists and agnostics credit for being extremely and painfully honest about their concerns about God.  A lot of Christians are afraid to bring their frustrations to Jesus just as the disciples did in this story.  But let's go there and look at what is being said and who its being said to.  Because I think stories like this point to the depths of human pain and our awareness of our condition.  God, why does bad things happen?  Why have you forsaken us?  Why are you allowing so much evil?  How can you just sit there and let it happen?  Why did you let me get raped?  Why did you let me get abused?  Why did you allow sex trafficking to plague women across the world?  Why are people homeless?  Why are people starving to death?  Why are we hurting?  Why are we sad?  Why are we broken?  God, can we have answers!?  

Jesus!??  Do you not care that we are perishing!!!??? I mean look at us!?  

Let's finish the story.  

"And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm." Mark 4:39 

Can you imagine that?  Put yourself in the boat.  Put yourself in your situation, staring at something so frightful, so pressing with fear and anxiety nearly consuming you, and Jesus wakes up and says to the storm, "STOP IT!"  And it does..........

What is this saying?  

Well it's saying a lot of things.  First, I can picture Jesus after calming the storm answering their question."You ask me if I care?  Am I not here with you?"  

My friends.  Hear that.  Is Jesus not here with you?  

Why was He even in the boat?  Why was He even on the Earth?  I'll give you the answer.  To proclaim the truth of God and to redeem man from sin and death.  So....OF COURSE HE CARES!  IT'S THE WHOLE REASON HE WAS EVEN IN THE BOAT!  

All your questions about the evil you see in the world is the whole point of the Gospel.  We're the ones putting all this credit in man, even when we see how evil man is continuing to become.  And Jesus sees us as wicked sinners BUT STILL chose to love us and claim us as His own and reconcile us back to God.  And in all of that we get life and life more abundantly.  We get a hope....the hope of eternity with Him.  The evil you see points to the cross and Jesus taking the sins of the world and absorbing the wrath of God.  The evil you see is why God's wrath had to be satisfied with the death of Jesus.  Your awareness of the storm should point to this-----> THANK YOU JESUS FOR COMING TO REDEEM MAN FROM THIS WICKED WORLD.  

And yet...we do what the disciples did.  We see the storms and we fear for our lives and we freak out and run to Jesus and scoff and form other religions and stop going to church and hate Christians, "Jesus, you don't care if we die at the hands of this storm.... you lousy savior"  and Jesus wakes up and speaks to the storms and it stops immediately.  Let's finish the story.  

He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 

We gotta stop there.  Your awareness of your storm is great, but your current fear may be because you have no faith in Jesus?  So a lot you atheists and agnostics, it's hard to see God move without having faith in Him.  He doesn't work like that.  And maybe you've been around some faithless Christians posing as having "the faith" but you haven't been able to experience their faith.  Let's keep reading.  

And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:40-41   

You see how the fear shifted?  Remember that bully in high school?  And you're afraid of the bully, but then another bully comes along and beats that bully up.  So now you're more afraid of the bully that beat up the bully?  That's what  just happened.

The disciples feared the more powerful presence---and it wasn't the storm----it was Jesus.  

And friends.  Your storms are not the most powerful presence.  The present evil is not the most powerful presence.  Jesus is.  And He is a loving Savior, compassionate and gentle.  Have fun trying to wrap your mind around something being for your joy but has completely and fully conquered evil.  So you shouldn't be afraid of the mysteries of the Illuminati and the Bermuda Triangle...or UFO's or underwater dragon sharks...(or that's probably just me) Jesus speaks to those things and they listen.  So lose the faith in your storms ability to kill you, and place the faith in Jesus who is able to make those storms obey His command.  

And of course He cares.  He came and died didn't He?  The cross is the proof that He cares.  He never promised a better today, He's promising a better eternity.  You don't have to die...you can live forever in Him.