Hope

I put my hope in You and nothing less
Not in Time – time does not heal all wounds
But You do

“Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”–Psalm 42:5b-6a

Creating Culture (Part 2)

Receiving Culture

In my last post, I talked about transmitting culture by sharing with and teaching others. Today, I’d like to talk about the flip side of that: creating Kingdom culture by learning and receiving it.

Kingdom culture is good, and it is a thing that we should have. The values, power and character of God are very good things. And God is a good Dad. First of all, we must understand that the deep things of God are things He wants to give us, things He will give to us who ask Him. Jesus put it this way:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”–Matthew 7:9-11

Since God is the greatest of fathers, we have only to look to Him for everything we need, including a good heart, good character and exceptional morals. He is the source of all wisdom, boldness and life.

Positive Freedom

There are many ways to look at the concept of freedom. “Negative” freedom seems to be the call of the world today; it is the freedom to do whatever we want: good, bad or ugly. Positive freedom, on the other hand, is the freedom to do as we ought to do. This is what God intends for all of us: to be bound, choked and destroyed in matters of the flesh, but completely free to do His will, inside and out. The enemy intends to trap us in fear, comfort and reservation, but God desires us to be completely, utterly, lavishly and unashamedly living out of love for Him, in total freedom.

This concept of positive freedom applies to our reception of God’s Kingdom culture. If we are to know Him and do what He says, we must be free to believe and act. Thank God that He made a way for us! As we live with our hearts in complete submission to Him, we are continually washed by Jesus’ blood, free from the power of sin and death, free to live our lives in righteousness. God has broken the chains from our hearts.

Posturing Ourselves

Since God gives us freedom and responds to our requests, what is there left for us to do in our pursuit of God’s heart? Our role is simply to ask and receive. Reception can be tricky, though. Sometimes we miss what God is saying, because we are distracted by many things. We must “choose the good part”(Luke 10:42) by positioning ourselves to receive from God.

Our physical posture even plays a role in this. We can get down on our knees. We can raise our hands high. We can even dance wildly! Our physical posture often directs our emotional posture, aligning our mind and heart with Heaven. The purpose here is that our whole being be fully engaged with what God wants to place in us.

And so we pursue Him by waiting on Him, for He is faithful to give. Whether we wait in a prayer closet by ourselves, small meeting room with two others or outdoor stadium with ten thousand others, our Dad will show up. May we never fail to recognize Him and be changed by Him.

“John answered, ‘A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.’”–John 3:27

Creating Culture (Part 1)

It’s a new year! I realize I haven’t written in this blog in about seven months, and so much has happened. I married my amazing wife, bought a house, among many other things! I finished reading a great book, but more on that later. Today, I’m starting this new season of posts with a commentary on creating Kingdom culture.

“Culture” is actually a fairly new sociological concept, but we can trace its roots all the way back to when groups of people started to move as one, for whatever reason. Personally, I love looking at different church cultures, the different ways people experience and live out the heart of God. I love seeing groups that are committed to holiness, prayer, worship, healing, discipleship, evangelism, training, the prophetic, all on different levels. But it’s all good! I love seeing people encouraging each other in the things of God, and that’s ultimately what makes culture happen.

Let’s dive in! In my research, I found two definitions of culture:

  • An integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning

  • The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization, or group

Capacity for thought and learning

Reading into the first definition, we find a dependency for creating a supernatural culture: the individual capacity for spiritual learning.  This is the renewed mind of each individual.  A willingness to repent, to change both the way we act and what we believe, is key.  At our core, we as members of the body of Christ must receive the Holy Spirit.  He teaches us to repent, “to say no to ungodliness.”  He opens our eyes, and He produces virtuous fruit in our lives. (One incredible thing about spiritual learning is that we don’t need a huge intellect to comprehend the things of God. Small children can understand. People with extreme brain injuries can receive a renewed mind, because it’s ultimately a miraculous gift.)

Set of shared… everything

Looking at the second definition, we find an action point in creating culture: sharing.  Under this model, those of us who have more must give to those who have less. It’s the process of creating a culture of love and generosity. For example: the Apostles laid hands on new believers, and they received the Holy Spirit(Acts 8:17). Evangelism is simply the sharing of the good news of Jesus. Reading in Acts 2:42-47, we find that the church had “everything in common,” because they were devoted to learning and sharing with each other. There’s joy in the midst of it all. It’s a beautiful thing.

Carrying His heart

A key in Kingdom Culture is faith–really believing what we believe.  But faith in what?  As Christians, we know that our faith is in God, His love for us, the gift of Salvation in Christ, forgiveness of our sin.  We must believe in Jesus, and not only that, but shape our entire value system around Him as Lord.  So, if Jesus is Lord of our group of people, and we call Him that, if God is our Father, and we call him that, we should value the things that are on God’s heart.  What does He value, and what are His goals for humanity?  Righteousness and holiness; freedom from sin, sickness, hopelessness and bondage.  Maturity.  Intimacy.  Power.  Humility.  Love.

Generational blessing

To spread culture, spiritual leaders must model their faith publicly.  Full of the Holy Spirit and unashamed of the good news of Jesus(His death and resurrection, present lordship and coming reign as everlasting King), they act out of the value they have for Him and His Kingdom.  Sharing these values produces discipleship, which produces more mature leaders, able to skillfully share as well(2 Tim. 2:2).  If done well, this produces exponential growth of Jesus’ Kingdom/Family.

More to come!

“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”–2 Timothy 2:2

I Want to Live

Pages turning,
Ashes burning,
And I’m learning,
TODAY is JOY.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”–Romans 12:18

written 4/26/2012

Drink

Drink of His Spirit,
And you will never thirst.
For nothing else compares.

“Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you.’”–Matthew 26:27

The Book

The words of the Book resonate inside me.
Shall I say them?
Shall I do them?

“Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”-James 3:18

Oil and Fire

While praying at the court a couple weeks ago, I had a vision.  In it, I saw several angels lowering down a giant pink water balloon from Heaven.  It was slightly wider than the distance between the two flag poles.  When it was lowered down from the sky, the edges of the balloon touched the eagles on the tops of the poles, popping the balloon.  Inside the balloon was not water, but glistening oil, pure and untarnished.  It completely soaked the court building, filling every crevice, saturating the stone.  Then, like long wispy tufts of light, streaks of fire began to rain down.  Slowly but brilliantly, the oil caught fire.  Fire was also coming from the bodies of us who were praying, and a kind of reverse fire waterfall was created as the oil dripping down the steps was lit up from the base.  The fire didn’t burn high and scorching, but it remained, everything lit with the continually burning flame.

Here is the revelation I received from the picture: oil is the key to sustained revival.  The oil represents intimacy and relationship with God.  Oil is a gift from God that we can bring into every situation.  We have received it.  We are the ones who have treasured it, and we have the authority to expose it to the atmosphere around us.

People talk about being “on fire for God.”  But what happens when we burn out?  Oil, intimacy, is what keeps us burning.  In the place of prayer, worship and encounter, sometimes we can literally reach up and catch the fire of God.  But how do we carry that fire into the dark?  We must light our oil lamps and carry the light of God into those places.  That fire will shine brightly, and if the oil keeps pouring in, the fire will burn for eternity.

“Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil from beaten olives for the lamp, that a light may be kept burning regularly.”–Leviticus 24:2

The Inner Man

It’s easy to set up external structures for your life.  Go to school, and they’ll teach you how to think.  Go to work, and supervisors will dictate how you act.  Go to Church, and the structure of the service will facilitate your encounter with God.  But what about when systems fail?  What do you have left when all you have is yourself?

Community is a great thing, especially Christian community.  We really do need each other, to lift each other up and give encouragement.  Tasks that only one person can’t do, a group of many can do easily.  Yet, a community can’t save anyone.  As great as our leaders are, individuals must make decisions for themselves.  God is not a puppet-master, and we are not puppets.  We are sons and daughters with the ability to make powerful decisions.  When testing comes(and it will), we each have the responsibility to make right choices.

An old pastor of mine once told me that he believes a lack of self-control is the number one issue facing the Church today.  From what I’ve seen, I believe it’s pretty high up there.  The Holy Spirit is the one who teaches us self-control.  If we’re relying on our knowledge, our intellectual tact, we will fail.  Self-control is a dynamic series of right decisions we have to make every single day, and successful execution of that control (fruit) will only manifest from the close personal relationship we each have with God.

Deep down inside ourselves, we have an internal structure called character.  That character is tested, tried and grown through conflict and glory, and it gets stronger every step of the way.  Every act done in faith is nourishment.  Every heart-cry of love is a stepping stone.  Every testimony of God’s grace further solidifies that truth we hold in our deepest part.

As we grow in maturity, our inner man becomes mighty.  Our goal as believers is to grow up into the image of Christ.  We must be people completely confident in who we are, knowing our God-given authority, character, responsibility and love.  So as a family of brothers and sisters, we move forward.  At the end of the age, we will truly be the spotless bride of Christ.

“In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?  ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.’”–Hebrews 12:4-6

Watching and Waiting

“Sit in your yard and watch the leaves fall,” said the message in my Dove chocolate wrapper.  It was New Year’s Eve, and the message was supposed to be a fun suggestion, perhaps a small resolution easily kept.  But it was the middle of winter!  The leaves had already fallen, and it was cold outside.  Plus, my yard isn’t anything to write home about: just a tiny patch of grass with a short brick wall outlining it.  We didn’t have any lawn chairs, and the doors and windows of our inner-city row house were barred–an indication of a neighborhood that was anything but savory.  Still, that message whispered simply of peaceful times.  Maybe next fall, I could see that promise fulfilled.

Who knew that the fulfillment of that vision would come just one day later, on New Year’s Day, 2012.  I had just driven home after a glorious weekend of fun.  It was Sunday night, and it was time for a good night’s rest.  I found a great parking place, just across the street from my house.  After waiting a few seconds to soak in a few more notes of music from my radio, I shut off the engine and went to the back seat.  I pulled out everything that had sustained me over the weekend: my sleeping bag and pillow, my unused change of clothes in my duffel, my book bag with Bible inside, leftover salmon and green beans from New Year’s lunch.  Taking them all to the door, I remembered one thing I had missed.  I went back to my car, grabbed my jacket and locked the doors, not realizing that my keys were sitting in the back seat.  I had locked myself out.

Upon discovering my mistake, I quickly called my roommate.  I had an extra car key in my room, so I wasn’t worried about calling a locksmith or anything drastic like that.  I just had to wait for my roommate to come home.  So I waited.  I found myself sitting on my front step next to a pile of luggage and bedding.  It was dark, but the street lights illuminated the DC street.  I looked up and saw the trees, a few leaves still remaining, clutching the branches tightly as the strong breeze danced through them.  I remembered my message from the night before.  How interesting, I thought, that I might witness the exact thing which last night had seemed so unlikely.

I watched and waited.  One minute turned into two, which turned into three.  Minute after minute, my expectancy grew, but the orange leaves continued to hold on.  They were the strong ones, the last few remaining after one long year.  I continued to sit in peace, the fifty-five degree air cooling my lungs while the Spirit soothed my soul.  Finally, gloriously, a sizable gust shook the branches, and several cold leaves drifted to the street below like a curtain of natural confetti.  I became a witness to the fulfillment of a dream.

That was just the first day of 2012.  What more does this year have for all of us?  What promises will be fulfilled?  If January first was any indication, I believe we are in store for incredible things.

“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so.”–Genesis 1:14-15

Conformity

The world puts a lot of pressure on us to stand out, “break the mold.”  Even in our Church culture, so much emphasis is placed on dreaming big.  It’s dangerous to try to dream like that without having a proper perspective.  If we don’t dream with God, our aspirations will be skewed and our vision tainted by selfish desire.

Recently, my heart has been kindled anew with a holy desire for conformity.  You see, there is a man, a new man, who is me.  God created me with gifts, talents and purposes.  I want to know those things and mature in them.  I was created to be like God in holiness and righteousness.  It’s already been birthed in me.  The more I conform to those ways, that brilliance, the very image of Christ, the more fulfilled I am.  It’s the way I was designed!

Rebellion is a very subtle spirit.  It gives false promises it never keeps.  It silently whispers, “This is a good thing.  This is fun.  This will help you,” while step-by-faltering-step it leads you away from the heart of God.  What futility of mind is that deception!  We must cast that thing far away if our desire is for true greatness.  Every hint must be removed.

It takes a lot of humility to submit ourselves to God, to surrender to His will.  Honestly, it takes a complete laying down of our lives.  But I am sure we’ll find, after all the death that must happen, that this new life in Christ is infinitely more glorious than anything we have ever dreamed.  What depths of love and peace and joy are there to be discovered!  I will declare that my glory is His glory!  All my love belongs to Him!

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”–Ephesians 4:15-16

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