Archive for the ‘Spiritual Growth’ Category

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Here is an excerpt from my sermon last week at Resonate Church.

This story of Mary who anoints Jesus with her tears and costly perfume occurs in each one of the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These were all written by Jewish men who spent a lot of time with Jesus. I have taken these 4 accounts of the same story and compiled them together so you can take all the pieces of evidence and get a clearer picture of what happened on that day.

If you want to look them up individually you can find them here:

Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:1-9, Luke 7:36-50, John 12:1-8

Six days before the passover, while Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead, Jesus was reclining at the table. Here a dinner had been given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table. A woman in that town, Mary, who had lived a sinful life came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, about a pint of pure nard. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them (his feet) and on his head. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. Particularly Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him objected saying, “Why this waste? “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. And many others rebuked her harshly. The Pharisee who invited him said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is– that she is a sinner.”

Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? Leave her alone. She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. It was intended that she save this perfume for the day of my burial. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Jesus answered (the man who invited him) saying, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Here we have quite the scene! We have a woman, who is unnamed in most of the accounts, but John lets us know that this woman is Mary. It could have been Mary Magdalene who had seven demons driven out of her. Or more probably, it was Mary, Martha and Lazarus’ sister who sat at Jesus’ feet to learn while her sister Martha slaved away serving them. Regardless of which Mary this was, we know that women were very mistreated and looked down upon in those days, particularly among religious men. Men would go to bed at night repeating the phrase, “thank God I am not a dog, a Gentile, or a woman.” So Mary was in the company of people who, by way of their culture, thought themselves superior. We also know that Mary was a prostitute, so that also didn’t do anything for her social status. But when Mary encountered Jesus, she was moved. She was moved beyond the restrictions of her culture. Something stirred inside her. She couldn’t explain it, but she also couldn’t resist it.

You know, I think sometimes we fear our emotions. And for good reason. We know that following our emotions can often get us into trouble. We can fly off the handle in rage or we can be vulnerable with someone and then that someone can hurt us more easily. So, we naturally distrust our emotions. It’s because we’ve had such bad experiences handling them from ourselves and from others.

But the reality about emotions is that they are indicators of what is going on inside. If we learn how to harness our emotions, we can learn to use them to benefit us and others. Instead, we too often try to ignore them or push them aside. I think that we in Western American culture we need to be taught how to celebrate, how to mourn, how to feel. It’s just healthy to feel.

The main thing we need to remember about our emotions is that it is always okay to point our emotions toward God. Have you ever actually read the Psalms? If you haven’t, I challenge you to read it. You can find every emotion known to man expressed in those pages. And you won’t find God editing man’s expression of emotion. I believe that part of the reason these psalms are there is to prove to us that God can handle the range of human emotion. We don’t need to clean up our act in order to open up to him, he takes us as we are.

Expression. We need expression to live. It’s part of being human. It is part of how we were created as worshippers. Remember when Jake talked about how the word for “work” in the garden was also the word for “worship.” And Adam had a creative work to do in his first task of naming all the animals. He was created for expression and so were we.

So, we want to be sure that our expression is right, pure, and holy? How can we be sure? Well, I think that we tend to over think this one. Here is the only scriptural qualification I see for unleashing your expression. That your eyes are focused on God.

It’s not whether you read your bible yet today, it’s not whether you fasted last week, it’s not even that you avoided sinning in the past 5 hours. If, in the moment of your expression, your eyes are truly focused on God, you won’t go wrong.

From what we know about this woman Mary, she had a bad reputation. She was not exactly someone they’d have asked to teach the Sunday School class or serve on the PTA. But, here’s what Jesus noticed about her… her eyes were pointed in the right direction. She saw what no one else saw, she expressed what no one else felt. She was overcome and began to weep, she took her jar and broke it like the sweet smelling brokenness of her soul. Jesus didn’t appreciate her in spite of her brokenness, he appreciated her because of her brokenness. Her brokenness before him was what made her beautiful to him.

As he delighted in her brokenness, he also delights in ours. All around her were people who by all worldly standards were better than her. Even by moral standards, they were superior. But when Jesus saw what had happened, he shut their mouths. See, they may have had their ducks in a row, but there was one thing missing. In that moment, their eyes were not fixed on Him. Okay, maybe their physical eyes were fixed on him, but they did not see him the way that she did.

You have a voice, an expression to unleash on the world. But you will face distractions that will try to keep you from fixing your eyes on Jesus as Mary did. So here are…3 Distractions to Passionate Expression.

1. The Demands of Practicality
When these guys saw Mary pouring out expensive perfume on Jesus, dollar signs went up in their eyes. They didn’t see Jesus as a worthy use of her resources. They pointed to all the need and suffering in the world as a reason not to lavish Jesus with so much love, with so much ‘waste.’
I have seen this same kind of poverty mentality in the church. Let’s not ‘waste’ our money on lighting equipment or “waste” our time practicing music when there are so many people in need of Jesus. This kind of thinking ends in mediocre churches, mediocre kingdom advancement, mediocre blessing. Admittedly, we are being extravagant. But when Mary looked at Jesus, she saw he was worth the extravagance. That he was worth her best and nothing less. Jesus is worth my best, he is worth your best and nothing less.

There is a burning deep inside of us to express our best. But some of you have shut off these desires because of worshipping practicality. I know I have.

– Maybe you have a desire to learn a musical instrument and you’re in your fifties and you think its not practical to spend your time doing that.
– Maybe you have just been wanting to give an old friend a call and you reason you haven’t is that you don’t want to “bother” them.
– Maybe you have a burning desire to write a very large check and give it away, but you can’t justify it in your mind.

Some of these desires God has put within you are for a single moment and some may last your entire life. This was an act of passion in Mary’s moment. Little did she know, it was an act that put her in four of the the greatest history books of all time. You never know how big or important it is to “waste” your life on Jesus until you do it.

You see, when we extravagantly invest in things that God has placed upon our hearts, it can open the windows of heaven over our lives in ways we will never understand.

I have this dear artist friend and her name is Joy Lynn. She kept talking to me about how she needed to get paid for what she did or it wasn’t worth it to her. I challenged her on this point and said. Is the value of what you do or who you are based on the price people are willing to pay for what you do? Well, in our practical world, yes, that is exactly how things our valued. But, by God’s standards, our value was established by what Jesus Christ was willing to pay on the cross. Joy Lynn began to realize that her art was valuable whether or not a single person wanted to buy it. She began creating from a place of extravagance, lavishing her love on God while she did it. As soon as she set her mind to “wasting” it all on him, God began blessing her with financial opportunities beyond her wildest dreams. But one thing she had to get straight. God is worth every second, every resource that I have on him.

Are you willing to waste your life away on Jesus? Whatever that may look like? Even if it doesn’t make practical sense? That is a kind of life that God cannot wait to defend, to validate, and to honor.

The second distraction to expressing our passion is this:
2. The Confines of Culture

The important men who were in the room with Mary were spiritually nearsighted. Spiritually, they could not see beyond their own experiences with Jesus. It’s hard to understand why someone would worship Jesus so passionately when you yourself have never experienced Jesus that way. Just because you don’t understand someone else’s relationship with Jesus, don’t discount it.
Jesus perceived what was really going on. He perceived even beyond what she may have perceived. He was so spiritually aware that he interpreted her actions as a prophetic statement. He told them that she was preparing his body for burial. Jesus knew what would happen to him, people were seeking his life while they spoke. When he smelled the perfume, he could also smell his death coming in just a little while.

What kept these other so-called “spiritual” men from seeing the prophetic statement she was making? Their sense of cultural propriety was offended, which rendered them ignorant of the spiritual meaning. Sometimes God will intentionally do things that don’t make sense to baffle us, to get a gut reaction from us, to see if we will be offended or accept what he is doing in faith. When he does this, he brings hidden sin to light.

I have read that even the act of letting down her hair would have been viewed as suggestive and improper for a woman to do in front of a man. It was a big cultural no no. All those religious men were offended on many levels. Judas’ selfish heart was revealed. Simon’s pride was revealed. But Jesus didn’t see her with the eyes of his culture. He saw into the purity of her soul.

When you step out and do something that God puts in your spirit, it can offend others. We don’t go seeking to offend, but we have to accept the fact that it’s gonna happen.

When we step out into what God wants us to do, people will react very differently. The sin of some may be exposed and that is hard. But we have to have faith that there will always be good fruit from it. Whether you know it or not, your very life can be a prophetic statement to the world, just like Mary’s was.

The third distraction in expressing our passion is:
3. Preoccupation with Shame

The gospel of Luke points out that Mary had a sincere and greater measure of love than any of the others in that room. And she had that love because she was forgiven much. Jesus pointed out how the others in the room did not even show him the simplest acts of love and hospitality but how her gifts of tears and perfume far surpassed the party they threw for him. It was her best and it came from her heart.

By contrast here’s our host, Simon, said to himself, “If Jesus was really a prophet, he would know that this is a sinful woman.” Simon’s heart revealed that he didn’t really believe that Jesus was who he claimed to be. Simon was a mere “fan” of Jesus, not a follower. I’m sure if Jesus had a Facebook page, he would have “liked” it and he would have subscribed to his blog, but he was not willing to really invest personally in Jesus.

Mary gave her tears, the product of emotions that were completely wrapped up in love. She gave him her resource. Now this resource was probably offensive in and of itself. I mean she was a prostitute, remember? This bottle of perfume was probably payment from one of her “regular customers.” When she poured this perfume on his head and his feet, it was proclaiming that Jesus had turned her sinful life into a life of beauty.

Another thing we need to see is that the cost of this sacrifice was immense for her. If she was leaving her life of prostitution, how else was she going to make money to live? It’s not like in our day where she could get a job at the corner drug store. This sacrificial move was also an act of faith that God would provide for her needs even if she left her life of sin.

Those of you who have been around the block and lived a life of sin sometimes steer clear of church and God, thinking that your sin disqualifies you. When in fact, it is the exact opposite. Your sin and the magnitude of the forgiveness you have experienced gives you a doctorate level ability to love God. You know better than anyone the extent he went to love you.

I love what Jesus says, “She has done a beautiful thing to me.” Don’t you want Jesus saying that about your life? When everyone might mock or criticize you… Don’t you want Jesus to say, “Leave him alone. He has done a beautiful thing to me.” I care that Jesus declares my life beautiful, not what others declare about me.

After all the uproar, Jesus prophecied over the legacy of her life from here on out saying this: “Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will be told, in memory of her.”

What an honor to have Jesus say that! This woman would no longer be known as Mary the Prostitute, but as Mary the Lover of God, Mary the one who loved him with such a beautiful extravagance that all four of the gospel writers felt compelled to mention her. And 2,000 years later, across the globe in a country she never heard of, here we are talking about her, honoring her.

Notice Jesus first defended her, then he validated what she was doing, then he honored her for all history. If you are unafraid to let your voice and expression out, he will do the same thing for you: he will defend you, validate you, and then honor you among many.

What will be the legacy of your life?

Which distractions do you most struggle with: the Demands of Practicality, the Confines of your Culture, or your Preoccupation with your Shame?

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Part 1 of our “Impassioned” series at Resonate Church.

So many symbols of passion are of a liquid nature. We have expressions like, “I poured my blood, sweat, and tears into that.” What we are really saying is that we poured our lives, our passions into something. But I’m going to focus on two liquids: blood and sweat. And blood and sweat point to a Work of Passion.

Work is this constant thing that we can’t avoid, although some people might try. I’m going to take a look at Genesis, where work originated. What I notice in Genesis is that the kind of work that happens in the garden of Eden is very different from the kind of work that is done since the fall of Mankind.

Genesis 2:5-7
Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

The task God gave Adam was to “work” the ground. But I want you to realize that the Hebrew word for work was different from what we normally think of work. This kind of work was the word “avodah” and it is basically synonymous with being a servant or worshipper. So when God is commanding Adam to “work” the ground, he is inviting him into an occupation of a worshipper or servant of God.

Adam had a pretty good job description at that point. He got to name all the animals, so he got to engage his creative mind. He and Eve got to have dominion over all the land giving him a sense of ownership, and they got to enjoy the fruit of that worship/work.

Another great word that combines this idea of worship and work is the word “cultivate” we cultivate a garden and watch it grow. We cultivate our relationship with God and watch us grow ever closer to him. It denotes life giving rise to more life.

Only after Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, did the word “sweat” enter into their vocabulary. And this particular Hebrew word used for sweat in Genesis was only used once in the whole Bible. Now Adam was entering into a whole new world of work, one by which he would experience constant struggle and sweat. He was going to have to deal with thorns and thistles. He was now going to have to deal with unfavorable seasons, beasts and pests devouring his food.

Genesis 3:7-19
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you;
 through painful toil you will eat food from it
 all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
 and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
 you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
 since from it you were taken;
 for dust you are
 and to dust you will return.

Not many of us are in the farming business, but we still feel the effects of the curse, don’t we?

We experience missed deadlines, personality clashes, constant stress, pouring out our sweat for a few measly bucks, finding out that we still can barely make ends meet. So often our work and the toil we labor under feels very little like worship to us. It feels more like slavery, or false worship, if anything. All of us were born into a fallen world, so that’s all we know. But what if we were meant to live life a little differently.

Skip ahead several thousand years to the life of Jesus. Jesus was a man born to a human mother. He felt the effects of this fallen world, just like everybody else. But he had a radically different perspective on work. He spells out his philosophy for us in

John 6:28-29
“Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Don’t you see how he is restoring the original intention of work, the way God wanted us to do it before the fall? Substitute the word “worship” for the word “work” in that sentence. “My worship is to believe in the one he has sent.”

Either way, it makes perfect sense. Our work and our worship should be one in the same thing. Now we know there are many different expressions of worship, but in all our activities, we should be infused with passion, with a sense of purpose, knowing we are serving someone greater than ourselves.

Studies have shown that only about 30 percent of people are actively engaged in their workplaces. The rest of us are just trudging along, surviving rather than thriving. Even a lot of businesses are waking up to this idea that we are so much more proficient at our jobs if we are doing something we are created to do, if we feel some level of ownership in our jobs and if we feel compelled to do them. Of course, they don’t use the God terminology, but they are trying to tap into the God-given passions of the unique individual. Countless tests and tools have been created for you to figure out that God-passion inside of you.

This idea of drudgery, like you have to pay your dues of being miserable seeps into our ideas about God as well, into our churches, even into some pulpits. So many people who believe in Jesus feel as though duty is enough to keep them going. They try to be good and not break any rules, but deep inside their lives lack passion. Deep inside they are afraid to step out into the unknown.

Some of you may be like that. You are more driven by obligation than by passion. I can tell you from personal experience that you won’t last long trying to work for God like that. You will either burn out and turn away from God, or you will just feel perpetually frustrated like a caged bird. People like this are really good at obeying the “do not” rules, but when God says, “go!” they sit paralyzed.

I want to take you Luke’s account of that fateful passion week– to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed on the night of his betrayal. I believe that in the Garden was Jesus’ real place of victory. After he had wrestled with all of his questions and came to the conclusion that he would submit to the Will of his Father at all costs, then he had only yet to play it out.

And it was in a garden. Interesting how we’re back in a garden, reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. And we see that word again “sweat” this time in Greek instead of Hebrew, as the New Testament is written in Greek. It is the only time we see this Greek word for sweat in the whole bible.

In the NIV, the word sweat is only used 2 times, once in the passage I read in Genesis, and this one in Luke.

Luke 22:41-44
He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

It says that he literally sweat drops of blood. I’m sure that there is fascinating science to explain how a man could possibly sweat drops of blood, (actually the name for this condition is rare but is called “hemotohidrosis”) but I’m not getting into that today.

Let’s catch the symbolism here. There is so much symbolism in the Bible that we can miss the beauty of it. The blood mixed with sweat foreshadowed the sacrifice of his blood shed on the cross to put an end to the curse of sweat (or meaningless toil) that was placed on mankind after the fall.

Jesus’ work was to put an end to striving and toil that was never ours to bear. It was not to put an end to all “work” but it was to put an end to the kind of work that makes us frustrated, the kind of work that is futile, the kind of work that is meaningless.

When Jesus said, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” he wasn’t saying, “sit on the couch and take it easy with a bag of potato chips in your hands.” Instead, he was saying, you don’t have to do this yourself. I’ve got the weight of all the responsibility on me. Just do and be what I created you to do, who I created you to be and I’ll do the rest.

It’s like the birds that soar in the sky. They make it look effortless, but all their flapping would be to no avail if there was no air, no invisible force underneath their wings to make them fly. I know it’s kinda cheesy to say he is the “wind beneath our wings” but it’s true. Flying is work to be sure, but without the wind, we are just flapping our wings, going nowhere.

Sometimes it is hard to believe that God really wants more for you than what you are currently experiencing. Sometimes good news is harder to believe than bad news, especially when we are so accustomed to bad news.

Jesus’ death and resurrection finalized that work that was done once and for all. Jesus was rejected by his closest friends, accused by the ones he came to save, and put to death on a cross. The most excruciating invention of torture known to man. He swallowed the bitter pill, or as he put it he “drank the cup” of suffering for you and I. Along with this cup he drank down the effects of the curse, which was the daily striving we experience in order that we might have peace.

Through faith, Jesus’ passionate DNA can be infused into us and we get to participate in the worship/work that God created us to do from the beginning of time. Yes, we may experience blood, sweat, and tears in the process, but it will be worth it. It won’t be as hard as it was trying to work out our own lives through self reliance.

Some may wonder how people can follow Jesus so hard core. When people are really following Jesus hard core, it is Jesus accomplishing it in them, not them mustering it up for themselves.

If you trust what I am telling you and ask Jesus to infuse you with his passion, you will find that your work is much easier and lighter than you imagined. You will be able to go through almost anything because he will fuel your passion all the way.

Ask yourself this question. Are you tired?

I don’t mean necessarily physically tired. But are you tired of keeping up appearances? Are you tired of pleasing others? Are you tired of working and seeming to have nothing to show for it? Are you tired of believing in only yourself? Are you tired of trying to fix your relationships? Are you tired of trusting in only yourself to provide for what you and your family need?

Matthew 11:28-30
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

But, you might say, “I thought being a Christian was about doing more, not getting rest!” Well, yes and no. Doing without passion is exhausting and life-sucking. The key here is passion. When believers are infused with the passion of Jesus they do more and accomplish more, but they barely realize they are doing it.

They know that they are not doing it alone. They will serve with blood, sweat, and tears because they know the One they serve and they have an inkling that he is really really wonderful and worth serving. Notice that he talks about rest, but then he talks about a yoke. Is a yoke made for rest or for work? It is made for work. So, he is saying in your work, which is really worship, I will give you rest or peace.

There is a kind of rest that Jesus bought for you on the cross. Remember, that line in “What about Bob?” The doc says to Bob, “Here’s a prescription. Take a vacation from your problems.” Jesus’ blood bought you a permanent vacation from your fears, from your failures, from your endless striving, from your worry and anxiety.

There is more life to live for you. Will you let Jesus infuse you with his DNA of passion today? Will you rest in his finished work on the cross today?

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Here is an excerpt from the Launch Sermon from Resonate Church. It was part 3 of our Misfits series, Misfit Jesus.

You know we, especially as Americans, love to root for the underdog, don’t we? Just think about some of the movies we love. Forest Gump, Rocky, the Pursuit of Happyness, and even Kung fu Panda speaks of the little guy coming out on top. The unlikely hero.

These were the ones who were the misfits. Though no one said it could be done, they were out to prove the world wrong. They were going to make their mark, maybe even change the world. Maybe it’s because we’ve all been there, we all know what it’s like to feel like the underdog.

There is a great underdog story in a movie called, August Rush. Ever heard of it or seen it? It is a great movie, especially for music lovers. Two musicians, the woman a classical cellist and the man, a guitarist in a rock band, find themselves one morning awake in each other’s arms after a night of romance and passion. They depart and do not hear from one another again. Come to find out, the woman has conceived and given birth to a little boy. Since the birth was premature, the woman’s father tells her that the baby died, but in reality, the father secretly gives consent to having the baby adopted. This little boy, August Rush, lives in an orphanage all his life, never knowing of his origin, assuming he was rejected by his parents, who simply have no awareness of his existence. He turns out to be a savant musician who can do amazing things on a guitar. August is the classic underdog in a world that seems to be dead set against him.

There is something about the underdog that hits us so deeply. It gives hope to all those oppressed. It speaks to all of us misfits who have experienced the stinging pain of rejection.

Jesus is the “underdog”, so to speak, that we are going to be discussing. But he was so much more than the underdog we hope will win. He was the conquerer, destined to reign over all heaven and earth.

Let’s take a look at a text that was written 700 years prior to the birth of Jesus, when Jesus’ ancestors, the Jews, were taken as captives into Babylon.

These people had become major underdogs. They were oppressed in many ways. They could not worship as they pleased or even speak their own language. They were given new names and their identity as the people of God was stripped from them.

It is in this difficult time that Isaiah begins speaking of this mysterious “servant of the Lord” in Isaiah 52:13:

See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him — his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness— so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand. (Isaiah 52:13-15 NIV)

Did you notice in verse 13 how he says that his servant would be highly exalted and prosperous? But then it goes on to talk about how is face was highly disfigured, scary even. We’re talking like “freak show” here.

If you are taking notes, point one would be this.

1. The servant of God experienced deep suffering.

As deeply as he sunk in grotesque disfigurement, he was to be even more highly exalted. None of the rulers of the day saw this coming.

This man was going to cause shock and awe in all who encountered him. He was a walking enigma. No one could figure him out. He was the underdog…

So we go on to read the famous passage in chapter 53

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. (Isaiah 53:1-3 NIV)

This must have really resonated with the Israelites at the time who were themselves being despised and rejected. But even as much as we are aquatinted with rejection or they were aquatinted with sorrow, this shows us that this servant was more acquainted.

If you are despised and rejected by the Rejects themselves, how low is that? I mean, big deal if you don’t make it into the country club, but it really bites if you get kicked out of your local dollar store. You can’t get much lower than that. This man was rejected by the rejects themselves.

So, I’m thinking, this is God’s way of exalting and prospering his servant? How strange of God!

Skip down to verse 7

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7-9 NIV)

If all we read was this portion of the chapter, we might get the idea that God and those who believe in him are gluttons for pain and punishment. Some of you may have the idea that we who believe are just people with an overdeveloped sense of guilt.

You’d rather not come to church too much because you’d rather not have a weekly reminder of your own sin. You know you’re not perfect, you don’t need someone rubbing it in your face. These verses are a real bummer if they were all we read.

Some of you may have gone to church in the past and all you got was one side of the story. Your sins were shoved in your face and you were scared of hell, so you said the prayer, buying your “fire insurance” to keep you out of the flames of hell you heard about.

If that was you, we owe it to you to tell you the rest of the story. You see, the pain of Jesus, the rejection we all face, our own guilt and sin is not the gospel. That is not the good news.

Every good story has to have a moment of conflict and so far, all we know is the conflict, the struggle, the bad news.

We see all the pain and trouble in the world and, yes, some are trying to ignore it, sing a song, and pretend it doesn’t exist. But others stare at it and blame others even themselves for it, feel endless guilt or anger over it, but it doesn’t change a thing.

Have you ever asked God, “Why?” Have you ever been told not to ask that question? Well, I think that God wants us to ask him why. I will show you a little later that Jesus even asked the question, “Why?”

And he tells us why in the remaining verses of Isaiah 53, the verses I skipped over earlier.

Watch how the following principle unfolds, point 2:

2. God transforms rejection into honor and prosperity.

Let’s read Isaiah 53:4-6 now.

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6 NIV)

And then in verse ten through the end of the chapter.

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:10-12 NIV)

What did the suffering of this servant secure for you and me?
– gives us peace
– heals us
– justifies us and takes away our sin

What does it do for himself?
– makes him see the light of life and be satisfied
– gives him a portion among the great, spoils of the strong
– makes him see his offspring and prolong his days

Even if you know very little about Jesus, doesn’t this sound a lot like him to you?

Jesus was a walking enigma.

He was considered poor, even homeless, but he possessed all things.

He was honored and praised like no man of his time, but he was equally as rejected and disdained.

But he did not do this for nothing and that is very important to understand. Jesus Christ is not to be pitied. In the New Living Translation it says, “When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied.”

So, something was actually accomplished by his anguish suffering and rejection. We all know what it’s like to suffer, particularly to suffer as a result of our own stupidity or sinfulness.

But this was not the kind of suffering Jesus experienced. It was because of sin, but not because of his own sin. It was not needless, wasted suffering, it was accomplishing the salvation of humankind.

We talked a little bit earlier about whether or not it was okay to ask the question, “Why?” Let’s look at Jesus and his heart while he was hanging on the cross. In Matthew 27:45-46.

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” ). Matthew 27:45, 46 NIV

Jesus, because he was the initial light of the world, experienced a darkness and a rejection deeper than any of us will ever know. His Father, the one he loved, the one who loved him, for a brief moment, had forsaken him.

And Jesus, though he probably knew why he was suffering intellectually, the suffering of his human soul could not bear it.

He had to ask the question anyway. And then he gave up his spirit. It was as though he was asking God, “Is it really all going to be worth it?”

I believe that when he gave up his spirit, it was his last act of submission and trust that his Father would soon make it all worthwhile.

The secret of the life of Christ and the principles from Isaiah 53 are this. And it’s going to be our third point.

3. There are certain rewards that only the pain of rejection can secure.

Think about it. It really starts to make sense. So many of the people we consider eternally significant in our history have had the guts to put themselves in a position to be rejected. Just think about it.

Can you think of one very well loved and respected person on this earth who was not hated and rejected by many as well?

Those who are willing to face rejection, in the end, receive some of the highest honors. This principle works both in the spiritual and the natural world.

Most of us aren’t that courageous. Instead of embracing rejection as a necessary part of reaching something better, we tiptoe around rejection.

We fear it. As a result, we remain in the shadows, bound to live mediocre lives, falling far short of the destiny that God has for us.

God loves the underdogs. God identifies with them, and God even expects us to embrace rejection for a greater reward. God wants to use the underdogs to show his power through us in an even greater measure.

Are you getting excited about the rewards that your own personal rejection could produce? Well, the Apostle Paul was excited about suffering.

He says something that has always astounded me in Colossians 1:24.

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. (Colossians 1:24 NIV)

I do not pretend to fully understand what Paul was talking about when he said that he “fills up in his flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions,” but I do know this.He didn’t enjoy suffering one bit, but he suffered for a clear purpose. And this is what we can glean from Jesus’ and Paul’s example.

We should never shrink back from the sting of rejection when we are walking in the way of Christ. There is a greater joy that only the Rejects or the Misfits enjoy. There is a freedom that comes when we willingly embrace rejection for a cause. Paul’s cause was for the sake of the church. What is your cause? What are you made to do? You are made to do what you do for God. Jesus was made to carry the sins of humankind. Paul was made to serve the church, the Bride of Christ.
Whatever you are made to do will take courage. But the degree to which you walk in that courage is the degree to which you will be rewarded.

Paul reminds us of this reward in Romans 8:17

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:17 NIV)

Not one of us will have to suffer and be rejected like Jesus was. However, we have a great opportunity to participate in his sufferings, to share in it in big and small ways so that we can also receive some of his glory. Sharing in his glory does not diminish it from him.

Jesus actually wants to share his glory with us. But the road to that glory is just a bit of suffering, a bit of rejection. It is a cost, but nothing worth comparing to the glory that is to come.

Through the course of events in the life of our character, August Rush actually begins attending Juliard to improve his musical skill. But his “street dad” played by Robin Williams yanks him out of the school and forbids him to attend. August had a choice at that point, to allow the pain of this rejection to cause him to build walls around his life. Instead, through the avenue of music, August refused to close up his heart. Meanwhile, August’s real dad was walking through the streets of New York. After pursuing his long lost love, August’s mother, he had left dejected thinking she had married someone else. As he roamed he happened upon a boy near a park bench. He was intrigued by this boy’s surprising talent and friendliness. Little did he know that he had encountered his son, the son he never knew he had. Both father and son had felt the sting of rejection, but their rejection led to them ultimately meeting and eventually finding unconditional acceptance and love.

See, the sting of rejection can do one of two things to us.

What we can do with Rejection:

1. We can use it to isolate us from others. We can use the stones of rejection to build walls around our lives so that no one can ever hurt us, or even touch us again.

or through the help of God

2. We can use the stones of rejection to build a bridge to Jesus, the one who got his doctorate in rejection.

– I can tell you with certainty that you never fall from another’s good grace as hard as Jesus fell. You have never had your Father God forsake you.

– You never loved as hard as Jesus loved.

– You never had so many looking to you for salvation as Jesus did.

– While he never minimizes your personal pain, he can certainly say he understands what you are going through.

You may have put walls up to keep God at arms length. You may have built walls between you and others because you are afraid of being hurt again. Don’t build walls, build bridges. Like August Rush, you may not know God as your “real dad,” but keep looking. He is out there. In fact, he is right here among us. For those of you believe, I challenge you to live life without fear of rejection. There is one who has already accepted you. Who cares that people reject you when the Creator of heaven and earth has accepted you fully and unconditionally? He is for you, so go after what he has set before you boldly and without fear.

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Hi Friends, here is an excerpt from my teaching at Resonate Church. Enjoy!

Legalism binds us to the burden of rules (written or unwritten) that were never meant for us to bear. God started out in the garden of Eden with one rule. Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

We read it in Genesis 2:16-17 and he gives the command to Adam before the creation of Eve.

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Then Satan came in the form of a serpent and notice the details of his conversation says in chapter 3: 1-2:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

Satan is a great lawyer. He picks apart God’s words for Eve’s analysis when Eve was not even there when it was spoken from the mouth of God.

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ “

See, Satan has two tactics he tries to use to get us away from God: they seem like opposites and he loves them both: legalism and licentiousness. He says to Eve, did God say you can’t eat any of the trees? He said this to Eve presumably because she was not there when God gave the command. She is hearing this command second hand, presumably from Adam.

Look carefully at what she quotes as God’s command. Is there any difference between God’s original command and her version of the command? Yes, one tiny, but important difference. She adds something. She adds the part about touching the fruit. God never said they could not touch it. We don’t know if Adam added this part because he didn’t want her to even go near the tree or if fear just caused her to add it in herself. Regardless, what happens when we start adding to the requirements of God is that we are beginning to move further from his heart. We begin to question his heart toward us and distrust him. When Satan noticed she had slightly misquoted God, he was able to lodge his lies deeper into her heart that God didn’t have her best interests in mind and she obviously fell into sin.

See, false religion is like a teeter totter. Satan lures us away from relationship with God in order to stand on this teeter totter. He subtly gets us to think outside relationship and focus on words, laws, and commands. We become excellent lawyers, but poor lovers. On one side of the teeter totter is legalism. It is all the man made rules that we are trying to obey apart from relationship. On the other side is licentiousness– license to do whatever the heck we want. See, as long as Satan can keep us on that teeter totter, back and forth between what I know I “should” do and the freedom I crave, he has us trapped. It is like a game between that little angel and demon on our shoulders. Neither the angel or the demon is God, neither one is inviting us into relationship. Both are just shouting at us trying to get us to do what they want. God is altogether different in his approach toward us. On this teeter totter, it is only a matter of time before we fall into an abyss of walking away from relationship with God altogether.

So, because of the sin that was now in the world, God gave laws to Moses. These laws were created to help us manage or reign in our sin nature. All of these laws were created out of the general intention of drawing us to God not away from him.

But the Jews began to back away from relationship and get on that teeter totter of false religion. They maintained a religious form of the outward actions to appease the legalistic side of the teeter totter, but their hearts were far from God. They lacked the substance of God’s heart for them. We have to have both form and substance. Legalism is the form without the substance.

So, as the Jewish people grew in their legalistic skill, making themselves look holier than others, they came up with a huge code of laws called the Talmud, which added to the biblical rules and muddied the waters between what was acceptable and unacceptable in the sight of God. Jesus condemned their actions and gave two genius commands to fulfill the heart of all God’s commandments.

1. Love The Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

You will find that each of the Ten Commandments and all the additional commands in the Old Testament had to do with loving God first and loving others next.

Lets look at Colossians 2:14-23

He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Legalism transcends cultural traditions but it looks different in each….

In Paul’s day it looked like this:
– Why does he eat meat sacrificed to idols? You can barely tell the difference between him and a pagan!
– I fast once a week and I hardly ever see her fast. Do you think her faith is genuine?
– Even though I am a Gentile, I attend all the Jewish new moon festivals and I observe the Sabbath, how does he call himself a Christian when he does none of that?

Legalism in an evangelical church today may look like this:
– OMG, he does not bring his bible to church. Instead he uses his phone. How can we be sure he is not texting?
– That lady is getting a little carried away in worship, she is probably succumbing to emotionalism and her faith must not be genuine, she is just drawing attention to herself.
– I suspect he didn’t even do his quiet time today.

Legalism in a charismatic church might look more like this:
– What is wrong with that lady? She never raises her hands during worship, she must be hiding sin in her life.
– That family took their kids trick or treating. Don’t they know that Halloween is a pagan holiday?
– I heard from God in a vision this week. I must be way more spiritual than my pastor who never seems to have any experiences like that.

Characteristics of False Religion:

– Appearance of wisdom
– Self-imposed worship
False humility
– Harsh treatment of the body
– Lacking any value in restraining sensual indulgence

So, how do we break free of legalism?

We focus on our dependence on Jesus and that we can not do anything apart from his empowerment. Legalism sets our sights on what we can do in our own strength and ignores the position of the heart. We cannot remain bound by legalism if we throw ourselves into authentic relationship with God. We must make a conscious choice to avoid binding others to our own personal convictions, but allow God to be God in their lives. In our relationships with others, God is not paying us to be anyone’s Holy Spirit. Rather, we are called to love one another, side by side on the journey of life. Let’s get off that teeter totter and begin walking with God.

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Stubbornness. It is a word that is laden with meaning that is unique to each person. Most of the time when we describe someone as stubborn, there is a negative connotation to it. Tenacity is the more positive counterpart to stubbornness. I’ll venture to guess that many great leaders throughout history have been described as stubborn by their opponents and tenacious by their proponents.

I have been called both stubborn and tenacious and I have wondered what it means, what to do with this information about myself. I have also known other leader-type people who struggled with this sense of stubbornness/tenacity, like me, not knowing quite what to do with themselves. So, I wanted to explore the difference between the obstinate type of stubborn and the good tenacious brand of stubbornness. When is it good to hang on and when is it good to let go? Especially in the realm of leadership, and especially we who are women in leadership, we need to know the difference. We cannot allow even well meaning people to keep us down, but we cannot be pigheaded and set in our ways, or we will be stunted in our personal growth.

One key to navigating this stuff is first in knowing where your personal power/influence begins and ends. We have to be willing to allow another person to affect us. Bad stubbornness builds an impenetrable wall to protect ourselves from being affected by people. Obstinate people shut down when they don’t win, rather than opening up and learning something from the whole experience. They use the silent treatment; they resort to punishing others. Obstinate people think that they can exert unearned, illegitimate power over others. So often they do not even recognize the state that they are in. That is why if you respectfully disagree with an obstinate person, they may only accuse you of being stubborn.

When we dig our heels in on issues where we have no or very little clarity of thought and are unwilling to explore the issue further, those are also seeds of obstinance. Sometimes we don’t know why we do this. If we are constantly drawing a line in the sand and vowing never to change even though we have no reasoning to back it up, we need to take a look at some of the deeper causes of our behaviors. Are we acting this way because of how we were made to feel as a kid or because we feel powerless and frightened inside? What are the underlying fears that cause us to behave the way that we do?

Tenacious people stick to their convictions, but they know the limits to how they can exercise these convictions within their spheres of influence. They are willing to reap the consequences of the decisions that they make. This trait is valuable to a leader because they can patiently stick with something they believe in and forge the path ahead of them with confidence. Their principles are in line with the way that they behave. It helps to be able to articulate these principles for others so that they can decide if this is the type of leadership they will be willing to follow.

Part of the reason we perceive people stubborn or tenacious is the fact that we all have different issues we think are important. We can label someone stubborn about something because an issue close to their heart is not something we think is worth fighting for. This is where I think we have to be careful about the stubborn label. A passionate person cannot impose his or her passion on another, but he or she has every right to express that passion respectfully and peacefully.

I cannot decide for you which issues are negligible and which mountains you should be willing to die on. I can try to influence you one way or another, but in the end it’s your life, your choices. Some people are born to give their lives to a cause, a belief, a way of life. Those people will display tenacity in areas where you may not.

How do you show tenacity? And how do you know the difference between tenacity and obstinance in your life?

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Ever wonder why the stork doesn’t bring babies? Why do people have to go through the mess of being pregnant? Why can’t we at least just lay eggs and sit on them every once in a while? It’s hard enough being a woman. At least if we had eggs, we could make our husbands share the responsibility of incubation. In fact, we could even pay someone to do it for us. But no, made in the image of God, we as humans are destined to experience a very personal procreation process.

When I think about the Christmas story, I ponder in amazement how God implanted his holy seed into this young girl’s womb. He chose her and called her by name. The gospel says that the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and she conceived. When a woman conceives, her body chemistry immediately begins to change to accommodate for the new life. God is not Jewish, but he chose for his son to be born as a Jew, to have the genetic makeup of his mother. Mary was not just a surrogate mom, a carrier. She was part of this creation. She absolutely could not have done it without God, but Jesus would not have been the man he was without her contribution as well.

Someone once said that God doesn’t need us. That he is fully complete within himself. There may be elements of that statement that is true. However, I do not find it helpful to think of him that way. I love my son and I don’t “need” him, but in another sense, I do need him. I choose to make myself vulnerable to him in relationship. I want to partner with him to watch him become the great man he is destined to be. When God placed his seed in Mary, he was saying, “I choose to partner with humanity. I want to show them how I can be one with them just as I am one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. I choose to make myself known as a vulnerable one of them just to show them what love really looks like.”

The letter of Colossians speaks of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Why would he choose imperfect people through which to shine his hope? I mean, he could have a much easier time showing the world purity without our convoluted attempts to shine. Jesus Christ is the hope of glory all by himself, but this Master Designer doesn’t think that the picture is right without you in it. He wants to be implanted in you. He wants to express himself uniquely through you.

When you enter the scene, this is where the story gets beautiful. In order to create the masterpiece of redemption, God had to present the grime along with the grace. He had to present the pain along with the purity. His masterpiece had to speak to us in our current state, the ones he formed from dirt. He needs the thorns to complement the beauty of the rose. It is the rose petals that inspire us toward something greater, but it is the thorns of the world that we identify with. They are reminders that his love is deep as it is wide.

If this hope of glory resides in you whether you are a man or a woman, you are pregnant. There is a God-expression, a God-dream burning inside of you. You were meant to feel the weight of it. You were meant to carry it to term. You were meant to make a mess bringing it into the world. It was meant to be personal. That thing that comes out was meant to look a little bit like you. But the thing about it is that whatever you give birth to will soon be strong enough to walk and to run. You participated in giving it life, but you will not be able to control it, only guide it and love it. What you create with God will be beyond the bounds of you. Are you ready? Is it worth the pain and the mess to you? God thought you were worth the pain and mess. Please do not abort it. Please do not ignore it. Get ready, it’s coming soon!

Engage!

Posted: November 26, 2012 in Leadership Development, Spiritual Growth

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Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and getting some input. I went to a conference, watched a documentary on people who are obsessed with Star Trek…. So I am trying to put all these thoughts together, to make sense of humankind– what we want and what we need as people.

About 5 years ago, I visited Alaska from Missouri and met Pastor David Pepper from Church on the Rock. After talking with us, he gave Jake and I a book called “Living Your Strengths.” In it is a code to take a test to tell you more about you. It is not the typical personality test, but rather it gives you your top 5 strengths (not your weaknesses, only your strengths) out of a list of 34 strengths. To give you an idea of some of the strengths, mine came out as: Maximizer, Strategic, Ideation, Activator, and Achiever. To know more about the individual strengths you can read the book or buy me lunch and I’ll tell you all about you.

Anyway, this test and the book proved slowly revolutionary for me. Our church leaders give this book out to almost everyone in our church, but I am amazed at the large numbers of people I meet who take the test and then promptly forget their strengths. Granted, maybe the fact that I am a Strategic Maximizer causes me to care more than the average person, I’ll give you that. But I am still convinced that all of us could be more in tune with who we are and how we work best.

The revolutionary premise of all this strengths stuff is this: God has designed you so uniquely that the chances of someone having the same strengths as you in the same order is 1 in 33 million. The chance of someone having the same strengths, experiences, DNA, and personality as you? Incalculable. We all know in our minds that we are amazingly unique, that we don’t have the same fingerprints, blah, blah, blah… We ask ourselves, “So what?” We still don’t get it. We go and live out our lives as though we were identical. We measure ourselves next to people who are wired completely differently from us. In our jobs, homes, and relationships, we try to be “well balanced,” which is often code for, “miserable.” We also don’t get other people. We don’t even see who they are, let alone value them.

Many believers are slowly learning that God doesn’t need us to live in abject poverty to prove that we are faithful. We are slowly learning that he is a God who longs to give us the desires of our hearts. What I’m wondering now is if we can have the faith to believe that God really gives us permission to focus on who he’s made us to be, rather than the “ideal” person he did not make us to be.

Back to the Star Trek documentary I watched. There is a group of people in our society who are obsessed with Star Trek. You have heard they are out there. Maybe you are one of them. Some people feel the kinship of it and others simply marvel at the others who spend their time, money, and energy going to conventions, creating costumes, and living vicariously through Star Trek. Maybe some “Trekkies” or “Trekkers” marvel at others who spend time and money on their favorite sport. As I watched the documentary, I noticed that these people felt a sense of significance watching Star Trek and going to the conventions. They felt that they were part of something larger than themselves. They felt that they could freely enter this world and create their own identity, even their own reality through it. In this world, they could let out some creative energy and find connection and meaning for themselves. In this world, people valued them for the gifts that they had lurking underneath the surface. In Star Trek, they found a way to “engage.” Pun intended.

At the Leveraging Your Strengths conference I attended, I learned that only 30 percent of people are actively engaged in their lives. They are living from a place of strength. They are doing the things that they would do all day long even if they were not getting paid. They know how to live according to the things they do well, and they are not obsessed with their weaknesses. They are the most effective people on planet earth. Often, they are the people most honored, valued, and rewarded for what they do. They have found significance in it. They refuse to believe that God is going to say no to all the things that they enjoy.

If Star Trek marketers have found a way for people to find significance, acceptance and engagement in what they do, why can’t we do the same in the church? Why can’t we teach people to find a life of meaning and abundance now, even before they make it to heaven? I know that we can. But we have to believe that God knows how we are designed, that he pays attention to our internal flame, that he knows what makes us come alive. Rather than ignore us or nitpick at our weaknesses, he calls the best out of us.

I want to be a life “Trekker” so fully alive and engaged in my life that I am supremely effective in the work that I do. I want to know what it is to live life, and live it to the max. Jesus had a word for it: the abundant life. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I will say this: (Trekkers, you will appreciate it.) God is the captain of your ship, and he is pointing his finger at you. He gives the command by saying, “Engage!” What are you waiting for?

Just Water

Posted: October 16, 2012 in Spiritual Growth
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A while back, I saw this really clever Evian ad in a magazine. It was the typical bar scene with gorgeous people sipping from their fancy glasses, laughing and really living it up. It takes a second for you to realize that all these sophisticated and lovely people are simply drinking water. Years after viewing this ad, I am still thinking about its implications. We tend to place a low value on water simply because in our society, it is free to come by. Maybe people would really pine after water and end up forking out money to drink more water if they were charged the price of a Starbucks cup of coffee each time they consumed it. What if it were served in some exquisite container that was more of a status symbol than a cup? Would we finally be coaxed into taking a sip?

The stupidity of not drinking water reminds me of the crazy movie Idiocracy, where they only use water to flush their toilets. Most of us are not that dumb; we know that water is good for us. That is not the problem. But it’s truth time. Do I place a very high value on water? Though it is one of the most powerful life sustaining forces on the planet, considered to be the essence of life itself, I must admit, no, I do not value it for its inherent worth. I have fallen victim to the lie that because something is free, that is has little value.

We know in our heads that the grace of God is free but certainly not cheap. Though we know this, do we really value it or do we only use it to “flush our toilets?” Do we turn to the empowering grace of God for our everyday existence or do we just use it as a get out of jail free card? It works just the same no matter when you use it. The properties of grace remain unchanged: they are always life sustaining and freeing. We can be so much healthier and so much stronger if we would only place value on the gift that costs us nothing. All we have to do is take a drink, but for some reason we refuse to pick up the cup.

Did you know that if you are a Christ follower, then you are a water sales rep?

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. (Revelation 21:6 NIV)

I hope I’m a vessel that successfully “sells” the real thing to lots of others. But no matter how appealing or humble the vessel, the stuff inside can be real, it can be legit, and it can be the unending spring of living water welling up to eternal life for you and for me.

When we think of people that are good, usually we picture someone who is chaste, reverent, and well behaved. I don’t know if it’s because ask kids we were taught to stay quiet, to pay attention, and to do what we’re told, or what. Of course, gentleness, the ability to listen, and the ability to obey are all excellent qualities that we want in increasing measure. However, I wonder if our families, schools, and churches have so feared the freedom of individuals, that we have not encouraged people to excel in the virtue of boldness.

Usually boldness is equated with obnoxiousness. We say, “How dare you be so bold as to…” We mistake boldness for pigheadedness. Boldness marries truth with love. Pigheadedness possesses neither truth nor love. When I look at the early church, I see a church that prayed together. They asked for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Their prayer meetings almost always resulted in speaking the word of God boldly. Along with peace, joy, and love came boldness.

Jesus said, “I come not to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34).” Ouch. But Jesus, what about “Peace on earth good will toward men?” Well, Jesus said that the kind of peace he offers is not the kind of peace that the world promises (John 14:27). The kind of peace that Jesus offers is not flower-child peace, but it is a gritty kind of peace, the kind of peace that pierces like a sword. It is powerful peace.

Sometimes I get kind of tired of talking about our struggles as Christians. We struggle with sin, we struggle with trusting God, we struggle with our relationships. Somewhere along the line, I thought were more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). You see, we are not just defined by the things that we have conquered like a former substance abuser or one who has conquered sexual sin. No, we are more than that. It’s time we got on to the “more than” part of conquering. It is time we got on the offense.

So many of us are over fed and under empowered. We reserve super holy stuff for the men and women who are paid to be super holy. We are so used to our old boundaries that we stay within them, not thinking that there is much more.

I had a dream once that I was trying to keep some kind of bugs off of me. I was trying to trap them in a trash can at church and run away. Another lady I knew was going after these bugs. She not only helped get them off me, but she went after them even in the trash can. She kept searching for more as if to say, “Go ahead, make my day!” This dream really spoke to me of how I was in error. I thought it was good enough to keep evil away from myself, to keep my distance from the bugs. What I lacked was the confidence and holy boldness to completely annihilate the entire bug population. I wasn’t thinking about others, only myself. You see, getting into the trash to kill bugs is messy and unpleasant. But if you don’t want to have a major problem on your hands, someone has got to do it. Someone has to roll up their sleeves and go on the offense. When it boiled down to it, in this dream, I only cared about me. My cowardice was proof of my self-centeredness.

The next time you are temped to shrink back instead of taking your God given authority in Jesus Christ, think about this. What is at stake if you don’t take your stand? What people will remain in ignorance and bondage? What piece of spiritual meat do you have that spiritually starving people need?

Holy boldness is a willingness to risk rejection from some for the sake of others who would be made whole. You may have a very loud opposing party, but you may have a quiet, but even larger supporting party that will directly benefit from you willingness to risk it all.

“Therefore since we have such a hope, we are very bold.” (2 Corinthians 3:12)

So, where are you? Are you on the defensive team or are you bold enough to take then offense?

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Here is the basic message Jake and I taught at Resonate 2012. Enjoy!

As people, we know that we are created in the image of God. One of the essential characteristics of the nature of God is that he is infinitely creative.

That means that within each person he has placed the capacity to be creative.

As kids we all create things confidently, we innately know we were made to create. Then as time goes by, we lose our confidence in creating. We begin labeling ourselves as “not very creative.”

We tend to limit our view of creativity to the realm of the arts, not realizing that creativity can be expressed in a unlimited number of ways: through business, in medicine and government, through child rearing, even in sports.

To tap into creativity is to tap into the heart of God for your life. Even our life of worship is guided by our nature to create.

God is calling for a new breed of artists. We want to be on the lookout for artists God has set apart and gifted for his purposes. You may or may not be on stage in front of thousands. Your art may bring hundreds to their knees or it could be for God’s eyes alone.

1. You are appointed as a worshipper of God and a herald of hope to the world.

I want to show you a little story. This story is about a man named Jehoshaphat. This man was king of Judah, and a devout follower of God. He came to power and followed the ways of David. He worshipped God and God alone.

He made some mistakes yes but God was with him and had delivered him out of war between king Ahab and Gilead. Here in chapter 20, he was being attacked by three different armies.

Notice Jehoshaphat’s response to calamity…

I’m going to start in 2 Chronicles 20, verse 2:

Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.

Now here is where Jehoshaphat shows his heart leading the people in worship. It says this in verse 6:

“Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’

Now I’m going to skip on down to the second part of verse 12:

“For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

This is so cool how Jehoshaphat worships The Lord for his great power over all and confesses before all his people that he and none of them had any power or any idea what to do.

This is a man who is accustomed to humbling himself before his people and his God. This is a worshipper of God.

Then a special man arises. Let’s see who they are in verses 13-14.

All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord. Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly.

Here is where the artist arises. How do I know Jahaziel is an artist? It says he was the grandson or great grandson of Asaph. Asaph was the Chief musician appointed by King David to minister before the Lord to put the psalms to music. He was put in charge of all the of artists that David had appointed to minister before the Lord day and night. In those days, people were assigned jobs based on their families. The sons of Asaph became also became musicians, who were the worshippers, whose job it was to worship the Lord through music.

Here we have all the people waiting to hear the voice of God for something to put hope in. And Jahaziel, an artist, rises up as the voice of a prophet among them. Among all the people God entrusts the message to his worshipping artist.

And what is the message God delivers through Jahaziel? Let’s read on in verse 15:

He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.'”

Stand firm take your positions and see the salvation of your God.

Doesn’t it kind of remind you of a verse in the New Testament? Ephesians 6:13 says this:

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then….”

You see, when Jehoshaphat admitted that they had no power within them to save themselves, he was right. God was about to show them just how much he wanted them to rely on Him. So this artist speaks by the spirit of The Lord. He encourages them to be strong and stand, to take their battle positions. But instead of fighting, they were merely to stand.

You see, we as artist are called to the battlefield, but we are called to fight an entirely new way. Instead of throwing punches, we are called to stand. We are called to stand in our confidence of the word of The Lord.

He said, “Take up your positions.”

You were called to sound the war cry to the troops in the army of The Lord. You were called to bring them hope. Without your voice, the church is weakened. Without your voice, the message will not reach those who are lost.

You are appointed and anointed to take up your position on the battlefield, whatever position that may be. The presence of The Lord is enough for us. We will not be afraid. We will stand.

Let’s keep reading. Take a look at verse 18.

Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord. Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.

Now we can see that the one voice of Jahaziel calls out to many more voices of artists. All the people fall down in worship but the Spirit falls on some of the singers, and more of them begin to arise.

Can you imagine the sound of those who had been appointed by the Lord to sing and praise him for the nation of Israel? They stood up and began to belt out their praises empowered to do so by the spirit of the Lord. Have you ever thought about how understated scripture can be? It says they praised the Lord with a very loud voice. If the Bible said it was loud, it was loud. If it says very loud, it must have been almost deafening. All you sound engineers, if our congregations would have heard it, it would have probably sent half of the people back to the sound board with complaints. Of course, there was no amplification needed here.

It says that those from the tribes who were appointed (the tribes of the Levites) rose up. It was as though the Spirit of the Lord came upon them and united them as one voice. Each of them simultaneously had a revelation of the fact that they were indeed appointed and that this was their time to rise up. Will you get a revelation of who you are appointed to be as an artist?

2. You must release your expression boldly.

As artists, I want to tell you that now is the time to raise your voices, let out your expressions in a bold way. Some of you have been sitting on your hands, afraid of what people may think of you and your expression. All of us deal with these fears. No matter what your skill level or perception of yourself, you may have a prophetic utterance, something you need to proclaim through your unique expression. You are uniquely designed to proclaim it in your own way.

We went to a conference by Dan McCollam which was put on by Northgate Alaska church. It was fascinating to learn that each person has a unique part of their DNA which can actually be translated into notes and made into a song. Musicians can decode this information and actually play you a copy of your DNA song. Everyone has a song, even animals. It is amazing to see…look it up on YouTube. You can actually hear the song of a swan or a dolphin. And it sounds exactly like what you think it would sound like. I heard one human song and it sounded like a dramatic movie score.

The point is that God has created this song within us. The song can be expressed even in visual ways. When God spoke his audible voice, light came into being, and all the spectrum of color with it. You realize that music is wavelengths, the spectrum of light and color are also wavelengths of a different size. So whether you do something that is related to sound or something visual, it is all within the realm of creativity.

In the temple of God, the Spirit moved upon the craftsmen to create the beautiful images the Lord commanded them to create. He moved upon the musicians to create music that elevated the name of the Lord.

You see, the arts are not an afterthought to God. They are essential just as worship is essential. For the earth to resound with the glory of God, the artists need to release their expressions without shame or fear. Now is the time. You don’t need a platform. You just need the spirit of God to give you the boldness to express what he has appointed you to do.

The next part of this scripture gave me a realization that totally rocked my world. It’s easy to miss, but let me show you starting in verse 20.

Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord,for his love endures forever.”

I want you to notice something here that seems subtle. But before when I read this, I assumed that the Lord told Jehoshaphat to send his singers out first, but right here it says nothing of the sort. You see, all the Lord said was this back in verse 17 was this:

You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.'”

So the next morning, after mulling over the promises of God, they set off to obey the word of the Lord. But something occurs to Jehoshaphat. He is not satisfied with simply doing the bare minimum of what the Lord asked. He didn’t say, “Oh, man, this’ll be a cinch. All we have to do is stand there guys. God will do the rest.” Instead, he has a burning desire to do more. After consulting with his people, he decides that it would be a great idea to send his singers out first.

Here we are, singers, right there on the front lines. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that any commander in his right mind would have thought it was a good idea to put the singers on the front lines, do you? People on the front lines are supposed to look intimidating. You’d at least think that he’d give them an intimidating song to sing. Something like, “Run away, run away. We’re gonna blast the pants off you!” or if it’s gonna be a worship song let it be, “I went to the enemy’s camp and I took back what he stole from me.” Instead, they sing, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever.”

They decided it would be a great idea to go out on the front lines of a battle and sing a love song to The Lord. It was a crazy idea. But it was was an idea that arose from the heart of worshipping people and God thought it was great!

You see, Jehoshaphat displayed something I like to call creative obedience.

3. You must be free to exercise creative obedience.

Some of you may naturally think that God would chastise the king for adding to the Lord’s command. We think he’s gonna say something like this, “Did I tell you to sing? No! How dare you sing? You didn’t even ask me if it was okay if you sing. And I didn’t even tell you what song to sing, you had the audacity to pick your own song! How dare you be so presumptuous!” In our own churches we say, “Hey man, it better be all God and none of you.”

Jesus was 100 percent God, but he was also 100 percent man. God does not despise human input as some of us may assume.

We have this idea that God is a dictator who literally dictates to us everything we are supposed to say and do and then we get the word from on high and do it. And God does do that once in a while. He has written on a wall with his own finger on one occasion, and gave very detailed instructions for building the ark and the temple.

But there are times when God is itching for some collaboration. There are times when God puts a burning inside us to be creative and he actually wants us to respond to that desire, to give into it, to express it. When we are creative, we resemble the character and nature of God. So often it is God that put that desire there within us.

You who are parents may know what it’s like to create with your children. You know you could do it better by yourself, but you love to watch your children create. Once my son made an instrument out of a stapler. He played it and sang the stapler song he made up. It was goofy, it was feeble, and I loved it. It brought joy to my heart to watch my son create. You know why I loved it? Because it was genuine, it was fun, and because he is my son.

It’s not that God is so dumb that he doesn’t have enough good ideas on his own. But by drawing us out, even in our humanness, he seeks to touch us more deeply. You see, God could write his own worship songs. God could preach his own sermons and paint his own artwork. But 9 times out of 10, he wants us to do it. It gives pleasure to his heart because we are his kids and he enjoys us.

The key for them was that their eyes were focused on God. Remember at the beginning of the story when Jehoshaphat said, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” They didn’t have all their ducks in a row. They were not a perfect people, but at that moment in time, their eyes were upon him. That’s all it takes to be qualified to create before the Lord. If our eyes are on him we qualify. God can use our expressions to do mighty exploits in the spiritual realm.

Bill Johnson reports that when his church began to release people into greater levels of creativity, they began to notice an increase in the number of creative miracles that begin to occur. You know, a creative miracle, like when God forms something out of nothing, flesh and ligaments and body parts growing back from nothing? I don’t know about you, but I’ll take some of that!

Now, Jeoshaphat was a leader, he was not an artist per se. But God stirred creativity within him and he made a way for it to happen. Some of you here are more leaders than you are artists. I’d say I fall into that category. Like Jehoshaphat, you are a worshiper and you are noticing the rumblings of the creativity of God around you. You are hearing the sounds of the artists and you are compelled to express your obedience to God in a more extravagant way. I believe God is calling more and more leaders to consult with more and more artists, to find out what they are thinking and feeling. Look around you and see if there are those you need to release. Command them to arise, not to shrink back, but to put forth their best efforts for the King of Kings. There are leaders that are coming to realize that there is a prophetic release that only the artists can bring.

I am more and more convinced every day that if the hearts of leaders and artists in a city have their eyes upon the Lord, that God will usher in an awakening like never before.

Others of you consider yourself an artist, but there is also a leadership call upon your life. Do not shove this aside, but listen to the Lord and step up to the plate. You can be an artist and a leader. Your leadership skills can help your artistic endeavors and your creativity can influence the way that you lead. Others may need you to help propel them to the destiny God has in mind for them.

4. You must not shrink back from your calling to the front lines.

As an artist you are called to lead the way in this spiritual battle! You cannot sit in dark corners and hide behind other people, or your own fears anymore. You have been given gifts and talents to be used. Why? Because God wants to touch specific people through you.

So these artists went out before the army under the direction of the King. As they sang powerfully, the Lord sent ambushes against their enemies and the enemy crumbled before their eyes. These guys were skilled. They were ready.

He wants to bring you into a place of greater blessing and anointing. After the battle was won, they were able to go in and enjoy all the plunder of three nations. There is a poverty spirit over some of you. You never think you will have enough. You are not willing to invest in what you do. You are always complaining about no one appreciating you. I believe that God wants to unlock unprecedented provision to the church through his artists. But he can’t do it unless we are willing to go to the front lines.

Those who are called to the front lines have a spirit of excellence. Excellence shows something in you. It means you had to discipline yourself to study and become that way. If you have become that way it means that you on some level have proven yourself trustworthy. We cannot sit back and hope that things come to us or that maybe one day we will wake up magically amazing at our craft. No we must work at it we must study it! Artistic expression through a medium is powerful and must be stewarded.

You must learn how to use the gifts talents and abilities that God has gifted you with to their fullest potential. Only then will you be able to fully be able to lead with the power that God has intended.

Will you be gutsy enough to go to the front lines?