How activists against racism may be reinforcing it deeper into our culture.

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I watched a video the other day of a passionate young adult working to prove that racism is a very real problem that must be dealt with.  By the time it appeared on my Facebook feed it had been watched hundreds of thousands of times. 

Actually, he did a good job identifying problems that do exist and areas in our culture that need to be improved.  The problem is HOW he was making his viewers aware.  He basically said repeatedly in different ways, “You’re a racist!”  He was bold and passionate. 

Before we proceed let’s assume his information was 100% accurate and his heart was in the right place.

I still think he, along with many others, are making things worse. 

Here is why.

There is an important piece to the maturation process psychologically – identity.  Professional counselors and educators have been aware of this for a long time.

If an alcoholic is trying to improve, it’s one thing for him to admit he has a problem.  It’s something else to have him come home night after night to a spouse that calls him a “worthless drunk.”  Counselors long ago realized that berating and name calling doesn’t help.  In fact, it makes it worse.  Being made aware of a problem is very different than being told your problem is your identity… repeatedly. The wife may hate that he is an alcoholic– and at the same time reinforcing it IS his identity more deeply into his heart and soul! 

In education, it’s the same way.  If you have a young child who struggles with math, it’s one thing to identify there are places he needs extra attention; it’s another to remind him repeatedly he is “stupid.” You can absolutely point out an area in which he needs to improve, but ratifying in him that being “stupid” is a part of his identity will do more damage than good.  He may even actually come to believe it is who he is, accepting it even deeper into his identity. 

Moreover, social uniqueness (identity) is formed by what you are for AND by what you are against, from religion, politics, national identities, even artistic preferences.  Identity IS divisive and being unique is a basic human desire.  What’s important is HOW we approach uniqueness.  Racism (used broadly), by practice, is not only preferring a unique trait, but also believing the PEOPLE who have or prefer other unique traits are somehow less valuable or even worthless.  Our culture has ignorantly tried to throw out both sides of this by pretending to be blind to differences in general.  Trying to say there is no gender, color, intellectual or athletic gifting and the like is silly and limits the beautiful diversity of humanity.  For example:

People need to stop saying things like “kids don’t see color.”  Yes, they do.  They just aren’t bothered by the difference.  In fact, they can openly talk about it because a difference in skin color is a vastly inferior issue to the friendship they have.  What needs to be elevated is the priority of love.

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”- Martin Luther King, Jr.

We don’t want to live blind to the complex beauty that is humanity, or be afraid to see differences in each other. However, the binding agent of this uniqueness is love. 

Lastly, abhorrent name calling, violent marches, and belittling trigger the primal fight or flight instinct.  There are countless articles and research papers showing that people struggle to learn when they are deeply angry or afraid.  Every well-intentioned video or article that provokes the primal fight or flight may be highly effective click-bait (meaning a lot of people see it) but will not help move hearts toward love and respect.  In most cases as your blood pressure goes up, your ability to reason goes way down. 

So, what do we do?

In my home: I will not label my kids as a racist, idiot, bully or the like. Even if I think their values are wrong. That’s not their identity and not who they have to become.  That said they are unique and absolutely can improve themselves in many ways.  Not everything they like or dislike will be right, but that has no bearing on their value as a person.  In Christianity, human value is not subjective but objective. I will teach them there is space to love people deeply and talk about differences, even debate them. As a Christian, I tell them all humans are made in the image of God and have immeasurable value– from the unborn baby to the elderly dementia patient, from those born in the heart of India to those born in the heart of Kansas– and we should treat all as Christ sees them over how we may feel about them.  So, in our home we may challenge each other’s ideas and prefer different music styles, but love remains.

Identity: People are eternally valuable creations of God. 

Objective: Teach my children to approach a complex world the way Jesus did. You can challenge people, wrestle with ideas and ideals, but you cannot take away their transcendent value.  You don’t have that power.

In our culture: The battle is won by education and in relationships. I decided to do a little “research” and spent an evening watching interview after interview on YouTube of people who overcame racism.  I couldn’t find one that overcame racism with more physical or emotional violence.  The victory was always won through relationships and education.  If the objective is to win HEARTS– tangible forgiveness, mercy, and love are far more powerful than taking up arms and stone-throwing. If you want to change hearts, don’t work to prove there is hate without also working to demonstrate how it can be overcome. Don’t divide people further, build a bridge to speak into their life.

There are a lot of people in this world I disagree with and I actually enjoy a well-mannered debate.  Yet, I do not have any power to remove someone’s value. Even if I disagree with them. In my opinion their value is assigned by the Creator. 

He loved people so much that he sent what was dearest to him, his son, to die, so that they may be rescued.  The very people he knew had wrong affections and values.

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

I’ll let pastor King be my final thought…

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

picture: https://www.pexels.com/photo/portrait-dark-black-and-white-eyes-12087/

 

Is God really a narcissist?

Worship

“So I visited your church and I have to say, it’s weird when people worship God.  People lifting their hands up.  Someone was even crying.  Does God really need this?  Is he really this big guy in the sky demanding that we all give him our attention and worship?  That’s kind of weird and honestly doesn’t make God look good. It makes him look needy.” *Beyonce

Is God really like a narcissistic, needy rock star obsessed with being worshipped and admired? Before we proceed let’s get a good picture of what God does want of us.  Exodus 34:14, “For you shall have no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”  This theme holds true through the Old and New Testaments.  God wants our greatest affection and attention.  So it’s true?!

I believe there are two parts to this.

First, it isn’t because he needs it.  It’s because we do.  Humans are idol factories, all of us, and what we choose to worship shapes everything about us.  By worship I mean what captures our affection, what we want, find pleasure in, and ultimately place our hope in.  We could worship totem poles and carved images like primitive man or we can worship our 401k, medicine, plastic surgery, shoes, or even a new electronic device like modern man.  Either way the actions are the same. At a minimum we give our resources to our idols, and some even exasperate or mutilate their bodies, just like primitive man. From a narcotic, to cars, plastic surgery or gym membership, we all put our hope in something.  God wants to free us from putting our deepest hope in temporal, empty, corporeal things, things that don’t really have power to satisfy for long.  God doesn’t need our worship.  He is fully complete without us.  However, we need set free from trying to quench deep eternal longings with dry lifeless things that waste away or have no lasting power.

Second, expressive worship is done because we are grateful and in love with Him, not because he has void.  If I buy my wife flowers only because I think she needs it the act is centered on a perceived void or need in her.  If I buy my wife flowers solely as a visible expression of my love and gratitude for her it has nothing to do with a void (real or perceived) but rather is an expression of my love for her!  God doesn’t need our worship; He has no void.  If there is void it is in us and when this void is satisfied, when the cup is filled to overflowing, people cannot help but express it!

Lastly, I would add that God knows what will truly satisfy and often says no to things, even good things, that may stand in the way of that.  We don’t love God because he makes us rich.  We don’t worship God hoping he will get us that raise or promotion.  God is not the means to another idol end.  Presence with God is the end goal!

So when God says “look at me” he isn’t at all a needy child.  It is the rescuer calling out to those lost at sea, it is the treasure calling out to the treasure hunter, it is the father saying “over here” to a young, scared lost child.  Moreover, when you walk into a church and see people worshiping with deep gratitude, yes even some in tears, or even cheering at times, it is not because you see a needy God.  You see someone lost who has been found, you see the treasure hunter who finally found what he was looking for, and you see the child elated because he is now home.

*I have received many comments like this over the years.  This quote has been created in an attempt to make it anonymous yet include the main ideas.

Live in the Indianapolis area and looking for a church?  We would love to have you! Check us out by clicking here: www.encountertrinity.com

Here is the full teaching on this.

 

 

Davey and Amanda Blackburn: What the media won’t share.

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I was finishing up a team building activity with my staff on Tuesday morning when my phone lit up. Text messages and phone calls started pouring in.

“Pastor Mike did you know Davey’s wife Amanda was shot!?”

I prayed with my staff and headed up to the hospital. I imagined the worst as I stepped off the elevator and made my way to the ICU.

As I walked into the room I expected the worst.  As a pastor I have walked into a lot of terrible situations.

I was floored, literally tearing up with what I experienced.

Hope.

Powerful, deep hope.

Not hope like I hope the doctors can fix this.  It was a hope that was bigger than medicine or anything temporal. Their stability seemed to stand independent from any earthly fix and it was bold and clear. Their faith in heaven and in Christ was just as clear as the sun breaking through the clouds after a storm.

Then it hit me. Hope in Jesus stands clearest when it isn’t competing for anything else.

They had hope and it clearly wasn’t in anything like money, health, or medicine.

I could see the powerful effect of years of deep, generational spiritual formation. No one could ever be ready for this type of tragedy, but in a way,  they were.  Absolutely there were tears and sorrow, but there was an aura of hope that hung above it all.

When you see a family rooted so deeply in their faith standing boldly in the face of something so tragic it makes Jesus look so powerful. Not powerful because he stopped the tragedy, but powerful because of the hope he gives people through it.

I, even as a pastor, was in awe of the power of hope.  After spending time with the family I walked away thinking three things.

First, the world is broken. No doubt.

Second, real faith in Christ is very powerful!  I can’t underscore this enough.  The greater Blackburn family is amazing! I watched Dr. Jim Blackburn (Grandpa) reassure the family and bring hope in a way I have never seen before.  I pray I can be a man of hope like him one day!

Third, I pray I am giving my children a cornerstone as rock solid as that of the Blackburn family.

I am afraid popular media is missing the real main story.  The truth is people die every day.  Christians are even killed regularly around the world.  The real story isn’t the hardship this awesome family has to face, it’s the strength that is carrying them through.  That’s what is truly newsworthy.  The extended family has a real faith and wow, is it powerful.

Here is how you can help.

  1. Share the hope, not just the tragedy.  So, share this blog.
  2. Grow your own heart!  This is one of the best books I have ever read on spiritual formation.  N.T. Wright is one the the leading Christian authors alive today and this book absolutely can change your life.

AfterYouBelieveBook

As I reflect on this all I can think is how powerful Christ is as our Cornerstone.  That’s the real story.  I am also certain this is the story the greater Blackburn family wants to be known.  

#sharethehope

The song that rings in my spirit is one our worship leader at www.encountertrinity.com wrote awhile back.

Great Christians are not born, they are forged.

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If you feel like your life is falling apart read this.

There is a mysterious growth engine, a tool used by God over and over again to form amazing men and women.  It’s misunderstood and many avoid talking about it.  So, what is it?

Suffering.

Great Christians are not born that way, they are forged into it and this process can hurt!  However, your story isn’t done.

Let’s go back in time to the inception of the church. Jesus has died and risen.  From the religious halls of Jews to the Roman governmental chambers, instead of seeing Jesus disappear into history He had become the most famous person in all of human history.  About 500 eye witnesses saw the resurrected Jesus.  His core team has moved from fearful to fearless.  They have gone from hiding to publically proclaiming the good news of Jesus.  Peter boldly delivers his first sermon as the head of the first church and thousands come to believe in Jesus.  Listen to what came next, “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:41-44).

Doesn’t this sound awesome?!  It’s the perfect church.  United, quickly growing, miracles are happening.  The worship services don’t end!  The church is filled with passion, commitment and wonder.  The following few chapters in Acts are filled with bold sermons, miraculous activity, and victory over opposition.  The church at this specific stage of her life is the church we all keep hunting for.

Until the end of chapter 6.

Like others Stephen is seized and in the vein of the church’s momentum he courageously proclaims the mystery and majesty of Jesus, but his story ends differently.

He is killed.

This begins heavy persecution and suffering in the church.  If a small church is like a cup of water and a large church is a bucket of water, this was a huge drum filled with people who were loving life.  Everyone is happy, enjoying each other and the miraculous presence of God.  Then God allows the huge drum of water to be smashed!

Persecution and suffering break up their Jesus party, but this isn’t a loss, this is the engine that was used to change the world. Persecution and suffering is part of the story.  The Christians spill out all over the country running for their lives, taking the stories of Jesus and their hope in Him with them.

The church didn’t fail at all.  Hardship does not necessarily mean failure!

In fact, the second part of Acts is just as important as the first.  Jesus told his disciples to go to the ends of the earth and make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20), not to hide out in holy clumps.  Suffering and persecution have always been like vegetables for the church.  They don’t taste good, but they are essential for healthy growth.  Often in life what looks and feels like failure and loss may not be at all.  Fertile ground for Christ to work is often found in brokenness, humility, and total surrender.  The rest of the book of Acts is the refining of the mission.  A mission that becomes so powerful it literally changed human history.  Think of if.  The very tool used by Rome and religious leaders to destroy the church God used as the engine to cover the world.

Suffering does three things, be it individual or within a group:

  1. Suffering sobers the soul. It reminds us of what is most important and causes us to seek deeper meaning.
  2. It silences temporal things that compete for our hearts and reveals the futility of pursuing them.
  3. When our happiness in life is found in Jesus alone, unchallenged by other temporal things, our lives reflect how amazing He is. Remember, our greatest witness is our satisfaction in Jesus.

So, the next time hardship rolls your way remind yourself – Jesus is at work even if you don’t see it.  Take this time to draw close to him.

As you talk to others don’t make your suffering famous, make your satisfaction and trust in Jesus famous.

You are okay, not because life is working out the way you want, but because you trust that God in the end will make all things right.  That is our hope.

I promise, God is not done with you.  He is doing a great work and one day you will see how He was made famous and you were made better prepared for a greater eternal joy!

When the world’s offerings fall short, #jesussatisfies.

Want more?

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Abandon the American Peace machine

This post and the following sermon is brought to you by Trinity Church in Indianapolis.  www.encountertrinity.com

A truly traditional view of sex (and other appetites)

book heart

A truly traditional view of sex. * (and other appetites)

“I was born this way.”

“I just wish God would take this desire away, it isn’t fair!  Is he punishing me?”

“What if God put this desire in me and never gives me a way to satisfy it?”

These are statements I have heard from men unsatisfied in their own marriages, single men struggling to stay pure, and those whose bodies were severely damaged from tragic accidents.

Let’s examine a few of these a bit more.

A young man in his mid-twenties married a delightful young lady who ended up having almost no sexual drive.  The normally good-natured young man found himself regularly exploring other outlets sexually.  He, like most who come in my office in a moral dilemma, worked to emotionally pull me into their situation.  “Can’t you see how hard this has been?  What else was I supposed to do?”

Another young man came to me who, for lack of a better way to state it, wasn’t attractive at all.  It wasn’t his fault and he was actually a wonderful individual whose company I enjoyed.  As he aged his fear of not having an outlet to satisfy his sexual desires pushed him ever further away from what he felt was his moral center.  By the time he came to me he was afraid he would never have a sexual outlet with another person.  In desperation with no other option, would a prostitute be a viable option?

No matter what situation is presented me in counseling I find a common thread – all of us tend to hang primarily on causation and use it as permission.  When people come into my office they often try to emotionally convince me that the painful cause of their struggle should permit them to act as they see fit.  Moreover, I have found that people also will tell me all the morally good things they are trying to do in their situation…they are trying to witness in their affair, they are praying that God would provide a better solution or change their appetite.

Here is my thought.  What if debates over the cause alone is the wrong place to focus our energy?

The meta-themes (overarching ideas offered) in the Bible juxtapose (to place apparent opposing ideas alongside each other) the call for man to be holy as God is holy (1 Pe 1:16) and that all have fallen short of the glory of God and cannot be righteous without Christ’s work (Rom. 3:21-26).  We are called to be holy but literally cannot do it on our own.

So here we have something really interesting emerge.

There is a perfect example we are to strive toward but all of us have things that prevent us from achieving it. The vast sea of causes would be impossible to list here, yet I find it interesting the like causes tend to draw people together and they often belittle people who struggle in ways they don’t.  For example, a relatively wealthy, suburban Christian church filled with mostly traditional families may be full of pride, arrogance, gossip, and material gluttony and not even see it in themselves.  While blind to their sin they vocally denounce the struggles that very few of them have.

The older and more well read I become I find myself evermore gracious towards those who struggle in ways that I do not.  Now I find myself encouraging everyone to pursue the ways and nature of Christ instead of keeping our focus on causes.  I now ask people this question: What actions and heart conditions could move you most towards the nature of Jesus?  My objective is to move their focus off their obsession with their struggle and on to the work, nature, and ways of Christ.  I love the way C.S. Lewis says it, “Every disability conceals a vocation, if only we can find it, which will turn the necessity to glorious gain.”

Therefore, when someone comes into my office obsessing over their perceived disabilities and the life permissions they believe it gives them I change the conversation to the holiness of Jesus and ask how they could move that direction.

“I was born this way.”

Maybe this is so, but the deeper question remains.  Are you moving more toward the ways and nature of Jesus or are you using your life allotment as reason to excuse yourself from this journey?

“I just wish God would take this desire away, it isn’t fair!  Is he punishing me?”

Possibly this struggle was allowed to hone you spiritually.  So, are you moving more toward the ways and nature of Jesus or are you using your life allotment as reason to excuse yourself from this journey?

“What if God put this desire in me and never gives me a way to satisfy it?”

Appetites unfulfilled happen all the time.  Just ask the young wounded soldier I met a few years ago who will never know many joys that others have.  The core question still remains.  Are you moving closer to the ways and nature of Jesus or are you using your life allotment as an excuse not to pursue the ways and nature of Jesus?  Moreover, as you pursue Jesus you will find your appetites fulfilled in other ways.

Finally, I have found when a pastor or Christian counselor places primary efforts towards the spiritual direction one is moving rather than just obsessing on a single issue you give them a spiritual life skill that will carry over into many areas of living.  You also show them how to make Jesus famous in their struggle.  As the Apostle Paul so eloquently states, he can now “…delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10) Just maybe your struggle, whatever it may be, could make your satisfaction in Jesus ever more profound and visible.  That I believe is our primary objective.  Jesus satisfies most. I quite enjoy the way Dr. John Piper says it, “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in him.”  And this should be our primary objective – to glorify God.  In the light of eternity this is our greatest pleasure.

Can you see it? Our hurts are often the very places Jesus shines the brightest.

Two things to pray:

  1. Father help me to forgive those who sin differently than I.
  2. Lord help me to become aware of sin I have allowed in my own life by causal justification.

Two things you can do:

  1. Work to befriend someone whose struggle is different than yours and show them grace and encouragement to move towards “be holy as I am holy” and what that means in the greater story of Scripture.
  2. Stop obsessing over specific sins and always work to help people see how they could make Jesus famous through their areas of imperfection, whatever it may be.

Back to the cultural hot topic of our day.  Sex.  Like any appetite it can be abused, twisted, worshiped, obsessed over, and made into a god itself.  Whatever the hunger, whatever the perspective of it, I still ask the same question.  How can you move more toward the ways and nature of Christ with what you have?  No one gets this fully right and that is where the work of Christ on the cross comes in. 

* I must state that I am going to do my best to transliterate, if you will, the works of a few authors, most notably C.S. Lewis into a colloquial format.  For more information, please read the letters between Sheldon Vanauken and Lewis as well as his book The Four Loves.

Why the Baltimore mom is a big deal!

Why the Baltimore mom is a big deal! 

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The story has gone viral.

Baltimore is in chaos. Live footage from the riots is streaming into millions of homes from camera crews on the scene. One mom watching the news on her couch notices a young man. It’s her son! He is live on TV throwing rocks at police officers. This mom takes action like a Special Forces soldier on a mission, marches down into the chaos and accomplishes what the police force could not.

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See, the police and National Guard eventually did CONTAIN people. That’s not the deeper issue though. Did you notice the boy didn’t fight back against his mom? He will go to war against a system he doesn’t believe in, but he doesn’t dare try to come against mom!

I love the way Ruben Navarrette, a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post states it:

“The video shows Graham furiously grabbing her son’s sweater, yelling at him, and shoving him away from the crowd. It also shows her slapping him in the head and ripping off his hoodie and mask, as if to say: ‘I’m your mother! You’re not going to hide from me!’ The same young man who — just a few minutes earlier — hadn’t been afraid to hurl rocks at police was frantically trying to get away from his mother.”

Nowhere in history has a state taken the place of a family successfully! Do you see it?

An unarmed mom subdued a rioter. Why? Because she has his heart!

I’m not saying I hold her up as the model parent.  Whether you agree or disagree with her method, the fact is even imperfect parenting has MORE power over the heart then any court or legal system.

A family has MORE POWER than any state over individuals. Let that sink in deep for a moment. Relationships trump law.

Law alone can’t contain the human heart for long. There is only one tool powerful enough to grab our hearts – love. And yes, even tough love!

Ruben continues in his article:

“Where were the parents or guardians for the rest of these kids? They need to step up, too. No more tolerating lawlessness, or making excuses, or blaming misbehavior on societal ills. Normally, this young man might be arrested, put in a cell, and hauled into court. In this case, Hero Mom was the police, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner — all rolled into one.”

Do you see it? She did this with no riot gear, no weapon, no tear gas, and no need for superior strength.

Just maybe there is more to the power of family than popular politics would like us to think.  It’s almost like we were designed for them.  🙂

References:

Pictures 1: http://cdn.inquisitr.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/baltimore-mom.jpg

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRlmCf1Kj2o

Picture 2: http://legalinsurrection.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Baltimore-Mom-Hits-Rioting-Son-2-620×437.jpg

Navarrette, Ruben http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/04/28/hero-baltimore-riots-mom/

Something needs to change.

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Have you ever known deep inside that something needs to change but don’t know what the change should be?

Have you ever known the right thing to do and just really didn’t want to do it?

Have you ever felt God put something on your heart and then quickly work to justify why you shouldn’t do it?

Me too…

Honestly, I didn’t want to go into ministry.

I started down the road of personal training through the Cooper Institute at the same time I was working on my ministry degree at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.

The truth is I was kind of hoping for a back door out of the ministry before I even started.

Most would say I shouldn’t have ever entered the ministry feeling that way. That is probably wise.

Growing up in a pastor’s home I had seen the hypocrisy in the church firsthand.

Let me be really clear. My parents are amazing! They truly do love people, even people who treated them poorly. For me the problem wasn’t my parents, it was the church.

I watched my dad love people who I would overhear talk about him behind his back.

I observed people who would give to “God’s work” when really they were trying to manipulate their will in the church using their money as leverage.

I grew up watching people I knew drive $60,000 cars to church who looked the other way when a barely surviving missionary made a plea for help.

I worked with people in our church that would “bend” the truth to manipulate business deals during the week and lead on Sunday. Really? Even as a kid I could smell the stench of hypocrisy.

Oh, I was no saint either! Maybe I didn’t like these people because at some level I knew I was one of them.

Did I feel called to the ministry? Yes. Did I want to do it? No.

My heart was off track and I didn’t like the people I would have to work with.

Then it happened…

During those years of wrestling with God I was hit with depression. I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t shake the darkness. If you haven’t been through it you won’t understand how empty and dark it feels.

One night while closing down a youth center I was working in I laid on a pool table and prayed, “God I am yours. If you get me through this, I will do whatever you want.” And He did. As mysteriously as the depression came, it went away.

The problem was I wanted the pain gone, but I didn’t want to change my life’s trajectory.

I wanted God to heal me so I could get back to MY life. Yet that is exactly what God really wanted to heal, the direction of my life. He wanted to heal the part of me that I didn’t want healed, my plans for the future.

Fifteen years later my heart is full. I love the ministry more today than ever before. People are still messy, I am still messy, but being right with God and faithful to his call satisfies so deeply.

If you are going through a season in life where you feel at war within yourself, I challenge you to watch the message below.

A Prayer Warrior’s Prayer

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Historically Christians have put deep time and thought into prayer.  That art is almost forgotten.  

Most prayers these days are either short and simple with efficiency in mind or an emotional overflow that is a bunch of random thoughts.  Neither is wrong necessarily, but the deep intentional prayers of the past are nearly gone.

I wanted to offer a prayer that has been on my heart.  A prayer theologically woven together within the tapestry of Scripture, one designed for spiritual warfare.

If you are in the middle of a difficult season I challenge you to pray this prayer continually.

A Prayer Warrior’s Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, I confess You are my Creator and Lord over all. [John 1:3-5] You are sovereign over my (name your struggle or concern by name).

I confess that You are also my Savior, that You have ransomed me with Your blood. [Matt. 20:28; 1 Cor. 15:3] I have been bought with the blood of Jesus Christ; my life and my body belong to God. [1 Cor. 6:19–20] Jesus, I submit myself to be made whole and holy because of your sacrifice on the Cross.  Your work covers all my brokenness.  I lay (name your area of struggle or concern) at your feet Jesus because only you can bear the weight of it. [Rom. 6:23]

Jesus you are faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness [1 John 1:9]. I ask You to cleanse me of my sins of (name things specifically).  Jesus you have made me pure and therefore I reject any lie about myself that doesn’t produce the fruit of your spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. [Gal. 5:22-23] Those lies are now broken by the cross and blood of Jesus Christ [Col. 2:13–15].

I can now present myself pure and holy because of what you did on the cross. [Rom. 12:1; Rom. 6:12-14] I commit to make time in my life to continually learn your ways and live them out, for apart from you I can do nothing. [John 14:21, John 15:5] I will do this through (Name specific things you will do to continue to grow in your faith.  Examples may be prayer, daily Bible reading, volunteer work, or even church attendance.).

Lord Jesus, I thank You for offering me total and complete forgiveness. I receive that forgiveness now. I choose to forgive myself and forgive those that have hurt me. (Be specific here; name people, and forgive them.) I release them to You. I release all my anger and judgment toward them. Come, Lord Jesus, into the pain they caused me, and heal me with Your love. I now bring the cross of my Lord Jesus Christ between me and (name your concern or struggle). I commit to seek out Godly counsel and accountability to encourage me and pray over me. [James 5:16, Heb 10:24, 1 Thes. 5:11, Prov. 27:17, Gal. 6:1-5]

Restore the joy of salvation in my spirit. [Psalm 51:12] Jesus, let your peace wash over me and guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. [Phil. 4:7] I now turn my mind towards what is true, noble, right, pure, and lovely before you.  [Phil. 4:8]

I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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This was developed partially from the incredible work of John Michael Cusick, Timothy Keller, Dawn Colaw, Oswald Chambers, C.S. Lewis and my own experiences from years of helping people in many counseling sessions.

Where do you feel most manly?

lumberjack

I know this isn’t always wise, but I want to “think” out loud.

How would you respond to this question?

Where do I feel manly?

I was listening to a lecture and the speaker asked an interesting question. Where do you feel the manliest? Two trains of thought competed for space in my mind. First the graduate school response jumped into my mind, “Define the term manly.” I wondered what he really meant by that question. The other train of thought that preceded was just to answer the question based solely on my raw first thoughts.

I feel most manly at the gym. That’s the first place that came to mind.

After a few more minutes the speaker made a statement that really hit hard. He said after a few decades of counseling with men NO ONE has ever said they feel most manly with their spouse. No man feels MOST manly with his wife anymore… Wow… really? That really caught me off guard. I even wanted to challenge his statement!

Interesting… If manly means intense, abusive, and overbearing then it is a good thing we put an end to it! There is however an interesting immerging social reality.

We have tied our gender identity into something bad. It is almost like culture is implying that being manly is antiquated, barbarian, or maybe even Neanderthal.

We don’t know what it means to be a man anymore.

Here, in my humble subjective opinion, is what I think happened and is still happening. Humanity went through a powerful social liberating season in the mid 1900’s that led into gender equality in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Honestly most of this was really good! To mirror the heart of Jesus ALL humans are equal in worth before God. (Gal. 3:28) Culture desperately needed to make a social evolutionary move. Pastor Martin Luther King Jr. was so right when he proclaimed, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Amen! I include gender in this too! Our worth as human beings is not tied into our gender or race.

But something happened…

Instead of carefully taking a scalpel and removing the social cancer of superiority some took a machete and hacked away at everything remotely connected to what they believe hurt them.

The end of manliness is coming fast and it is socially taboo to push back. Interestingly the homosexual movement is trying to revitalize a version of “manly” and few push back because it is MORE taboo to push against sexual preference in our day and age.

Wow, the concept “man” is truly under fire. What in the world does it look like to be a man? In other words, what does “manly” really look like?

So when the question is proposed “where do you feel most manly?” I am not sure we even know what “manly” is anymore.

Almost everything I have heard is what men SHOULDN’T be. So what should we be?

I fear I might grow to love my prison

Henry Fonda

I fear I might grow to love my prison.

The hunger in humanity that longs to escape this geocentric trap can be seen everywhere.

Man isn’t satisfied.

Primal man wasn’t satisfied on his continent so he set sail across the seas. He wasn’t satisfied glued to the surface of the earth so he set sail through the clouds. He wasn’t satisfied with this planet so he explored the solar system. Now the galaxy isn’t even enough and the cosmos beckons. History teaches us that no amount of money, resources, or even human life will stand in the way of seeking freedom.

No, it’s not death I fear, it’s accepting this cage is all there is.

I believe that deep longing, the hunger that is in us is a residual mark from our Maker. I think C.S. Lewis is right, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” Our relentless searching proclaims our desire for the glory of God. Something inside us longs to be fully free – free from the confinement of this world. Everything we do revolves around this. We know we are deeply unsatisfied. We want purpose and meaning way beyond this temporal world where we are limited by restricted space and time.

Some grow so tired of the metaphysical brawl they respond in one of two ways. They either pretend it doesn’t exist when all evidence proclaims the contrary or they attempt to feed the hunger in unsatisfactory ways. Like eating moldy bread and pretending it’s a delicious cake, or satisfying our desire for love and intimacy with pornography. When the real thing seems unattainable we begin to settle for something much more feeble. C.S. Lewis says, “After all, almost the main work of life is to come out of our selves, out of the little dark prison we are all born in.” There are so many things that delay this process or numb us from it.

Some have come to accept their prisons…

The prison of self-numbing through medication, legal or illicit.

The prison of self-numbing through sexual sin.

The prison of self-numbing through material pursuit.

The prison of self-numbing through an attempt to deny the longing even exists.

We all know none of these have ever fully satisfied.

Man in his most sober state knows deep longing for eternal meaning and purpose exists. My fear is many come to accept their prison. Some even develop affection for it. Instead of seeking the answer they just numb the longing and it feels better to be numb than to be fully aware of this divine hunger.

This is what I fear the most. It’s not death; it’s loving the cage I have chosen.

Maybe C.S. Lewis is right when he says hell is locked from the inside.

I choose to keep growing, to keep searching. This is why I love Jesus. Without ever leaving the surface of this planet he shows us how we can pioneer eternity. He shows us the way. Studying theology is like a cool drink on a hot summer day. It satisfies. That is why I love Jesus and must proclaim His good news. Your deepest metaphysical hunger can be perfectly fed and it is so good!  

I know that there is a longing in my heart that began in primal man. We are made for more than this.

 

Image from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man.