Friday, June 28, 2013

Apocalyptic Invasion

Once upon a midnight dreary, an apocalyptic dream ransacked my slumber. And as nocturnal suspense transformed my cozy bedstead into a space station drifting into the ominous outskirts of outer space, I became a front row observer to my own surreality. As I adjusted to alien surroundings and a starcraft under siege, I began to notice some familiar undertones. Then it hit me. The space station was my church, re-designed to help refugees escape an imploding world. Yet, despite its Firefly resiliency and state-of-the-art security systems, the deep-space sanctuary could not evade extraterrestrial attacks from darkseeking reavers. While staff and elders warred against the swarm, women and children evacuated into secret chambers, as the ethereal Helmsdeep scene played on. But as doors collapsed and alarms sounded, panic began to overcome. With climax imminent, all attention zeroed in on a man opening a mysterious, fluorescent portal - our final hope for survival.

Then I woke up.

As I pondered my bizarre chimera and mulled over its intense imagery, I couldn’t help but wonder if this dream carried a specific purpose - if God was strategically using the night to enlighten hope. After all, it’s not like I splurge on Star Trek or regularly submerge myself in page-turning thrillers like Ender’s Game.

So I dug…and dug…and dug some more, as dream slowly morphed into reverie. Then at the peak of workday solitude, the light came on.

By launching my subconscious on a space odyssey, God unveiled a fascinating concept: we have every reason to delight in the ongoing spiritual battle we find ourselves in. Regardless of one’s personality, mental wiring, ambitions, influences and religious beliefs, we are constantly pursued from both sides of the spiritual spectrum. Yet, since victory has already been accomplished, why not view temporary turbulence on this earth as an entertaining adventure until we’re called home? Why not apply God-fearing certitude, even at the signs of end times?

Although we may be passive in the natural, the forces striving for our soul are aggressive in the supernatural. Rebellion knows only one direction and the modern evidence of perversion declares its increase; however, the spread of deception, tolerance and lukewarm agenda is not entitled to disenchant us. Contrarily, we are sufficiently equipped by the God who enlivens us to see His way amidst the decay. For we were not designed to divide our trembling or part absolute faith with a conditional soul. The earth may quake, moral foundations may shake, but our hearts, our worship should only tremble before the Lord.

Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.”~ Proverbs 28:14 (ESV)

The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake. Great is the LORD in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations. Let them praise your great and awesome name - he is holy.” ~ Psalm 99:1-3 (ESV)

God is in the business of renewed inspiration, and like Motel 6, He always leaves the light on for us. The question we must regularly ask ourselves is: will we, as a redeemed people, accept the invitation to enjoy the light? (Job 33:28) And in doing so, will we dwell in transcendent joy when being chased by a paranoid Satan? How faithful is the God who uses dreams with exhilarating plotlines to drive home important truths. The way may be narrow and discouragement may tempt, but we’d be entirely sheepheaded to not see our destiny as an illuminated path with everything we need to press on.

Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” ~ Psalm 37:3-7 (ESV)
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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Parable of a Parody - "Some Nights"

How often are we overcome by the world’s negativity and its effect on us? How often are we overwhelmed by depravity and despair fogging up our understanding of who we are, what we’re supposed to do and why it all matters? Why is it we’re afraid of being known, but also afraid of being overlooked (“I could use some friends for a change, some nights I’m afraid of you’ll forget me again”)? Why is it we split our spiritual drive in half by occasionally pursuing the right thing the right way and pursuing the right thing the wrong way other times. Should we be surprised to end up dazed and confused, frozen by fear? What will it take for us to realize how turning the light on, even in weakness, is all it takes for God to do something powerful within us. The question then becomes: are we putting ourselves in position to do just that? Are we placing ourselves in situations to look up and reach out when the quicksands of life seek to pull us under?

We can become blindly satisfied (“I was never one to believe the hype, save that for the black and white”) in being unsatisfied, passively accepting life as a turbulent roller coaster. We enjoy the highs when they come, yet even in the midst of blessing and favor, we anticipate the next series of lows to hit us like a ton of bricks. Upon their arrival, we tread through them with face to the ground instead of face to the wind. We perpetuate what we’re called to break whenever we play our hand in the game of hopelessness. Yet, in order to punch through the pain and pressure, we have to take our mind off of the difficulty and re-center on what holds the key: our relationship and identity in Christ.

Bottom line: It’s easier to forget what we stand for (“Some nights I wake up chasing in my bad luck; some nights I call it a draw.”) But when confusion comes, the best way to jumpstart your faith is to meditate on who we stand for.

"Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God." ~ Romans 5:2 (ESV)

"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." ~ Galatians 5:1 (ESV)

As Christians, we should be more known for what we stand for, than what we stand against. As followers of Christ, we often express our exasperations about the pride-laden issues inundating our culture, politics, education and even the church.

While we should be more coherent when voicing the reasons why we stand on the Word of God and why we stand against relative, self-centered standards pertaining to life, freedom, reason and justice, when pondered on, they actually stem from the very things we advocate in the name of Jesus! Though some of the verses that I mention below relate to spiritual conditions and disciplines, they should without a doubt transform how we see, treat, minister to and pray for the world around us.

When we do this, we’ll discover how the heart of God is everything. Only in Him, can we replace "*sitting on the premises" with "standing on the promises." The world needs to hear the truth. But we're not going to reach the world by opening our church doors for a few hours a week and dishing our sermonettes. Ask yourself: what truly changes people?

"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for conscience people to remain silent." –T. Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, an unsaved man, had more sense than the average Christian does. Jefferson knew the road which leads to tyranny...silent citizens. If America's Christians don't speak out, then who will?

*Theology book by James W. Moore


Fun - "Some Night" lyrics

Some nights, I stay up cashing in my bad luck.
Some nights, I call it a draw.
Some nights, I wish that my lips could build a castle
Some nights, I wish they'd just fall off

But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
Oh Lord, I'm still not sure what I stand for oh
What do I stand for? What do I stand for?
Most nights, I don't know anymore... oh woah, oh woah, oh woah oh oh oh woah, oh woah, oh woah oh oh

This is it, boys, this is war, what are we waiting for?
Why don't we break the rules already?
I was never one to believe the hype - save that for the black and white
I try twice as hard and I'm half as liked, but here they come again to jack
My style

And that's alright; I found a martyr in my bed tonight
She stops my bones from wondering just who I am, who I am, who I am
Oh, who am I? Oh, who am I? mmm... mmm...

Well, Some nights, I wish that this all would end
Cause I could use some friends for a change
And some nights, I'm scared you'll forget me again
Some nights, I always win, I always win...
But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
Oh Lord, I still not sure what I stand for
What do I stand for? What do I stand for?
Most nights, I don't know... (come on)

So this is it? I sold my soul for this?
Washed my hands of that for this?
I miss my mom and dad for this?

No. When I see stars, when I see, when I see stars that's all they are
When I hear songs, they sound like this one, so come on
Oh, come on. Oh, come on, oh come on!

Well, This is it, guys, that is all - five minutes in and I'm bored again
Ten years of this, I'm not sure if anybody understands
This one is not for the folks back home; Sorry to leave, mom, I had to go
Who wants to die alone all dried up in the desert sun?
My heart is breaking for my sister and the con that she called "love"
Man when I look into my nephew's eyes...
Man, you wouldn't believe the most amazing things that can come from...
Some terrible nights... ahhh... oh woah, oh woah, oh woah oh oh
Oh woah, oh woah, oh woah oh oh

The other night, you wouldn't believe the dream I just had about you and me
I called you up, but we'd both agree
It's for the best you didn't listen
It's for the best we get our distance... oh...
It's for the best you didn't listen
It's for the best we get our distance... oh...


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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Won to be One

Core Scriptures: Ephesians 4, 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, 

Victory has a way of marking those who believe in Jesus. Whether we know it or not, the light we carry inside us bears a fragrance divinely designed to lead people to Christ. And as we live a life pleasing to the Lord, we grant God access to work through us, allowing His victory to become known to not only the lost and downcast, but also to our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Although our actions do not negate Christ's victory (i.e. salvation, eternal life, conquering death and sin), they have the power to reveal or conceal it, while influencing the quality of unity we experience.

The Bible has much to say about victory in Christ and how we're won by Him (see Romans 8, Philippians 4, Ephesians 2, etc). In the same way we love because we were first loved, we can conquer (sin, self and schemes of the enemy) because He first conquered. Our unworthiness combined with God's worthiness should motivate us to live "a life worthy of the calling [we] have received" (Ephesians 4:1). But sometimes, it's hard to muster up the want to live Jesus-first and others-centered. In this day and age, many confess God as #1, but lack supportive evidence to the claim. We rather have our own flock of followers and watch our notifications skyrocket, then corporately die to ourselves and perpetuate the goodness we take credit for instigating. Truth is: regardless if life seems fun or miserable, when we take our eye of the ball of Christ's victory, we rob ourselves of seeing how God sees. With the loss of spiritual definition, the marks of spiritual maturity can become hazy to us. 

Christ gave himself so we could give ourselves. So whenever we stop giving ourselves, it's like refusing to shower. When we stop showering, our fragrance changes and affects how we impact not only the unsaved, but the saved. In Ephesians 4, Paul alludes to this concept by emphasizing the maintaining of "unity". In v. 3, he stresses maintaining the "unity of the Spirit" (the bond of peace) in addition to "the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God" in v. 13. But what does Paul really mean by these uses of unity?

Unity is much more than a general sense of camaraderie. It is both product and provision: it's the product of calvary and God's work in Christ and an organic provision by the Holy Spirit (organic in the sense it starts from within and manifests itself outward). Without the cross, without sanctification, Christian unity cannot stand on its own. 

When we examine our unity in calling and purpose, we understand how all believers are the called of God. Our calling is our responsibility to respond to what we have already become in Christ: to live as an extension of Christ to the world. Our purpose is to mature into the likeness of Christ, being conformed to the measure of the stature of His fullness. In this, we are continually equipped to know more of God's character and heart. And it's here where the snowball of unity gathers momentum. 

As a uniquely created people, our lives speak. However, it's not about what we say, but what our actions and very presence reflect. As Paul declares,  "Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of [Christ's victory], we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life" (2 Corinthians 2:15-16 MSG). And it's in the victory, we discover the unity, and how Christ designed the two to co-exist. Ultimately, he relentlessly pursues us so we may know in greater detail how we're 1 (won) to be 1 (one) with Him and one another.

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Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Perks of Being Accepted

Seldom does a cinematic experience inspire the mind, refresh pensivity and elevate hope in perfect unison. But in case you’re on the hunt for the rare trio, consider Steve Chbosky’s “Perks of Being a Wallflower” (starring Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson), a film with a savvy script, accomplished by not only blending dark emotional content with charismatic eccentricity, but by merging human delicacy with authentic transparency. Likewise, by abandoning cliché techniques and creating relatable characters, the film does more than stir the soul, but advances perspective through an energizing dose of cadence and originality. And despite its whimsical charm, the heart of the film is never compromised: Sometimes, we just need to roll down the window and look up.

By delicately addressing the deep places of identity, the audience is given the chance to relate to various elements on multiple levels, especially through each character’s emotional intersection. No doubt, this is most succinctly evident in the movie’s tagline, boldly declared by an awakened protagonist:

“Right now we are alive and in this moment I swear we are infinite.”

Talk about an inspirited heartcry from an outcast wallflower. Even with a checkered past, nothing could discourage Charlie from embracing real, communal admission for the first time. And it’s here where many find themselves – pressed between the insecurities and thrills of being misunderstood loners longing for genuine relationship, willing to ride the wave of courage into fragile yet formative moments. So as we witness Charlie’s transformation in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, we connect to his awkward innocence within the ebb and flow of his maturation. As his confidence grows, we root him on. As philia love ripens, we find satisfaction. And as the turbulence of brokenness is corporately navigated, we anticipate breakthrough and rejoice in its fulfillment. By the time the credits roll, our sentimental soundtrack is passionately resonating with the reality of contagious love.

So in light of unconditional acceptance, why wouldn’t we want to perpetuate it? Why wouldn’t we take greater leaps of faith? Why wouldn’t we pursue the importance of being vulnerable? For we were made to enter in. We were made to be accepted. We were made to be peacemakers. We were made to forgive. We were made to confront injustice. We were made to put others before ourselves, while overcoming popular pressures with authentic action. Truly, the movie trumpets these truths in brilliant fashion, but it’s not until we look beyond the film’s capped candidacy that we begin to see glimpses of what God sees. And as scope broadens, we soon realize how no concocted buzz or spiritual high in the world can ever compare to the all-consuming, unrelenting mystery known as God’s absolute acceptance. His love is the only power worthy of intoxication. And by opening ourselves to believe this, we ultimately discover how his sovereign authority is everything - how his perfect providence is more than enough to complete us and dare I say... makes us feel infinite.

In this life, we're primed to accept the love we think we deserve. But if we accept the love we think we deserve, are we truly accepting love at all?

"But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted." ~ 1 Peter 2:8-10 MSG

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