Now, even though I am free from obligations to others, I joyfully make myself a servant to all in order to win as many converts as possible. I became Jewish to the Jewish people in order to win them to the Messiah. I became like one under the law to gain the people who were stuck under the law, even though I myself am not under the law. And to those who are without the Jewish laws, I became like them, as one without the Jewish laws, in order to win them, although I'm not outside the law of God but under the law of Christ. I became "weak" to the weak to win the weak. I have adapted to the culture of every place I've gone so that I could more easily win people to Christ. I've done all this so that I would become God's partner for the sake of the gospel.
- 1 Cor. 9:19-23
I thank God I was raised by a nerd.
My Dad was an amazing man. To the world he was a great pastor. To the people that knew him he was a great friend and mentor. To our family he was a wonderful father and husband.
He was also a huge nerd, and I adored that about him.
My father loved fantasy, especially Lord of the Rings. He famously (in our family) had seen Empire Strikes Back 13 times in the theater. He loved good fiction, especially in movies and shows. He considered himself a Trekkie, once taking us on a family vacation to Las Vegas to visit a Star Trek exhibit. He loved to be transported to other worlds where his imagination could run wild. This culminated in him writing his own fantasy novel, thankfully finishing it before he died.
You really took your family to see me on family vacation? NERD ALERT...
What I really enjoyed about Dad's love of fantastical fiction was that he taught me to see value in it. We would regularly discuss how these stories could teach us aspects about God and life. Unlike most pastors in his generation, my father never bowed to the religious pressure of avoiding anything seen as "secular". He taught me that anything with redeeming value was worth consuming. And though my dad had very little grid for the prophetic, he knew God could speak through anyone at anytime.
Thanks to my father, my family never fell into one of the greatest failings of the American church: the total withdrawal from culture.
The last few weeks a number of new Christian films have released in theaters. This tends to be the yearly trend the month before Easter. Over the last few weeks Samson, I Can Only Imagine, and The Apostle Paul have come out. Being a pastor myself, I can tell you that many people in the church have excitedly run to these movies. The first two have turned out to be modestly successful. They've made money and have even garnered better reviews than most Christian films (of course, that's not hard to do...).
I have a confession to make, I haven't seen any of them. And while I actually have plans to see Paul I probably won't see the other two until they're on video, if I ever see them at all. Meanwhile I've seen Black Panther twice, and am already planning a trip to see Ready Player One on IMAX. My father's legacy of nerd-dom is alive and well.
There's a reason the Apostle Paul wrote that he became adapted to every culture he visited; he knew the greatest tool of evangelism was to connect with people on a personal level. In America the language is often pop culture, take it or leave it.
The Matrix, one of the best movies ever made, full of Biblical themes and a monster hit. Ignored by most Christians.
One of the biggest problems in the church has been its tendency to run away from culture instead of embrace it. The past 50 years in America have been especially egregious. Religious leaders in the 60s and 70s, recoiling in horror from the rebellion they saw in the youth during that time, completely withdrew their churches from the main culture. During that time we saw the rise of the Christian counter-culture. Christian TV, Christian movies, Christian fiction, Christian music, all these differentiated genres started up during that time.
Before that point in history, Christians just made movies. They just wrote music and books. There was no differentiation. All art, Christian or otherwise, was just art. And that is always how it was intended to be.
I'll be honest, I have a real problem with Christian pop culture. Let me be clear that I think movies with Christian themes can be awesome. I think music about people's walk with Jesus can be amazing. Some of my favorite books are full of obvious Christian themes (like Narnia). I think it's extremely valuable for people to express the beauty of their revelations about God through their artistic talents.
But Christian pop culture as its own stand-alone thing, is awful. By nature it excludes the rest of the world, which goes against the very nature of Jesus! Jesus sat at the dinner table with the "sinners" of his day, offending the Pharisees. Jesus didn't just hang out in the temple every second of every day. He didn't only eat with the religious. No, he was a man of the people, which is why they flocked to him despite the opposition of their religious leaders.
Why was The Passion of the Christ such a hit? To this day it still is the highest grossing R-rated and foreign language film of all-time. Before you answer "well it was about Jesus and people were attracted to that!" remember that the movie Son of God, also a modern Jesus movie, was a complete flop. What's the difference? Christian pop culture.
The Passion of the Christ wasn't produced by a Christian company for Christians. It was made by a Hollywood star who wanted to get raw. And boy is that movie raw! It holds back nothing. It's R-rated because Jesus' death was R-rated. It didn't water down to avoid offending the religious. And because it was free of the bondage of Christian genre culture it was something that 90% of Christian genre films/music/books are not. It was EXCELLENT.
I'll tell you why I'm not going to see Samson. I'm not going to see it because I know the story already. It's a wonderful story, full of action, intrigue, romance, and more. It would be an awesome movie! It could be like Gladiator or Braveheart. But I'm not going to see it because there is no excellence attached to it. I have no trust for the director of that movie nor the company that made Samson. I've seen their stuff, and I have no desire to support them anymore. I don't want to give my money to them to encourage them to keep making bad movies. Yes, I've heard Samson is better than most Christian films, and I'm glad to hear it, but that's not saying much. I don't trust Christian films to be good, so I'm not going to pay to see it at the theater.
I once heard this called the "greatest scene in movie history." Apparently this person had seen approximately 3 movies in their lifetime. My critic score: 6/10 for this scene, 2/10 for this movie.
But if Mel Gibson makes another movie about a Bible story, I'll be first in line!
I want to be clear. I love the Bible and I want its stories to be told. I love the movie Prince of Egypt, about Moses. It was produced by Steven Spielberg, the greatest director of all-time. It was excellent, and I loved it. So do my kids.
I love the Narnia movies. They are blatant in their Christian themes. They are also made excellently by a Hollywood studio. Not by a Christian culture company.
My favorite books of all time are Lord of the Rings. They were written by a devout Christian in J.R.R. Tolkien. I think they are the most excellently crafted fiction of all-time, full of Biblical values and life lessons. Yet you'll never find them in the Christian fiction section. (Tolkien books have actually been banned by many Christian schools and churches. So stupid!)
I love worship music, especially anything by Bethel Music, Hillsong, and Jesus Culture. Listening to these takes up almost all of my music listening time. But I haven't turned on K-Love or Christian radio in 10 years. The difference is excellence. The difference is culture. The worship I listen to is raw worship, made by churches and artists unrestrained by the conditions of Christian music companies. Most Christian music is designed not to offend, and in that it loses its power. I love Christians in bands like P.O.D, bands that didn't change to accommodate Christian pop culture. And as a result they impacted culture-at-large, and in the early 2000s they were one of the biggest bands in the world and were regularly played on "secular" radio. That's how you reach the world.
Art by Christians can change the world. Mozart was a Christian. So was Beethoven and Shakespeare. Rembrandt and Raphael were some of the greatest artists to ever live. Johnny Cash influenced a generation. U2, for a time the biggest band in the world, is openly full of Christians!
Ay Bono, do you regret not being on Christian radio? Why are you laughing?
Today Chris Pratt is one of the biggest stars in the world. He's a born again Christian. So is Denzel Washington. They aren't alone in Hollywood.
Tell me, who has more influence? Those who are going out into the world, or those refraining?
When I was 21 I read the passage in Cor. 9 that I put at the top of this blog. I read it and took it seriously, and from that point on I committed to knowing culture. And I've found that I love pop culture. I love films and have even been a film critic for a local paper. I also love music, especially 90s rock, classic rock, country, and R&B. I regularly listen to podcasts talking about the latest in pop culture, keeping me abreast of the latest stuff so I can know. All of this keeps me culturally relevant, and as a result I have yet to meet a person I have not found something to connect about.
When I worked at Starbucks and in restaurants I was never the "Christian guy" who didn't know how to relate. They knew I was a pastor. They knew I loved Jesus, but I'd wow them when I could sing the Nirvana song that was playing in the kitchen. The people I worked with loved that I could talk for hours about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I cared about the things they cared about. I was interested in the same thing. And while most of them didn't know Jesus, I was able to still love them. They trusted me. At the last restaurant I worked at I was labeled "my favorite pastor" by a guy who was openly Wiccan. Yet he loved me and even bought my book. I could talk to him about Jesus because I showed him that I was more interested in relationship with him that I was in being right. Many of the people there were agnostic, yet they'd let me pray for them when they were hurt or sick, and when some of them were healed it opened their hearts even more.
I have never been interested in being a part of the Christian genre culture, because I know from experience that it doesn't reach the lost. In fact, they couldn't be less interested.
Alright, who thought it'd be ok to remake one of the worst movies of all time (Left Behind)? And is that NICOLAS CAGE!? Is this a joke? Am I on Punk'd?
(Sorry Nic. Loved you in Matchstick Men though!)
To conclude, I am not putting down any person. I believe most people, if not all, who write Christian books, make Christian genre movies, or play music designed only for Christian radio, are wonderful people truly wanting to make a mark on the world. They are not the problem. The problem is the acceptance of something less than excellent in order to avoid offense. The problem is the mindset which says "secular=bad, Christian=good." The problem is religion, which convinces people to run away from culture. It's a spirit and a lie, meant to keep the church from truly impacting the world it was always meant to change.
The problem is the exclusion that Christian pop culture and genre has created. We don't need to be isolated as Christians, we need to be out in the world! We are the Salt! Salt doesn't just preserve, it flavors. We need to be able to speak to people about the things they love. We need to understand them, because we can't love them well otherwise.
My hope is that Christian genre and pop culture eventually cease to exist. That the greatest Christian artists once again seek to reach all of culture. That their songs are heard alongside Taylor Swift and their movies are the biggest blockbusters full of the biggest stars. It is then, and only then, when we will lead culture again. When we lead by excellence and trust that the best will rise to the top, as it always has.
If you like the latest Pure Flix or Hallmark movies, there's nothing wrong with that. Watch them and enjoy them! But if you like movies so much you should also see the other big hits. Know what the people are watching so you can relate to them.
If you love K-Love, awesome! Keep listening. But at least give the latest Taylor Swift a chance. It doesn't matter if you don't like it, it matters that you know about it.
We cannot afford to be culturally ignorant. No one wants to learn from a prude. No one is ever going to trust a church that is looking down on them. To love a people is to know them. We cannot love the world if we do not know it.
It's time we go back to following the example of Jesus and Paul. The church needs to learn to be all things to all people once again, as we were always intended to be. If Paul, the greatest missionary of all-time, saw the need to adapt to every culture he went to, who are we to think we know better?
Last Sunday at church I went up to give my weekly word to the congregation. Usually I get what I'm going to release in my morning prayer time or during worship, so I go up in front of the people prepared. This past Sunday, however, I had no idea what I was going to say.
As I received the mic and made my way to the center of the stage, a boldness rose up in me and words just started to flow out. I declared that this week there was coming restoration and abundance. That God was beginning to pour out the fruit that had been waiting all winter to be released. That this Spring was significant, for this year is significant. I implored the people to keep their eyes open for what was coming, and to celebrate even the small breakthroughs. For often we get the acorn that, when stewarded correctly, becomes a mighty oak of blessing.
I released the word and made my way out, electric with the buzz of adrenaline, and hoping that I hadn't just made all that up!
Then, two days ago, we received this in the mail:
It was a notice offering us money owed to us from over 4 years ago. I had no idea this was even owed to me!
Then today this word was released by Lana Vawser. What she says is very similar to what I was stirred to speak out.
Also today I just found out that someone in our congregation just got their inheritance released to them. It had been in limbo for some time. Another person in the office just got a substantial check. And yet another person just had a breakthrough in their family that they had been praying into! The reports just keep coming in!
In prayer time this morning I heard "Psalm 147". I went to read it and came across this:
He blankets the earth with glistening snow;
painting the landscape with frost.
Sleet and hail fall from the sky,
causing waters to freeze before winter's icy blast.
Then he speaks his word and it all melts away;
as the warm spring winds blow, the streams begin to flow. (Psalm 147:16-18. Emphasis added)
Every year Spring is about abundance. It's when things warm back up, allowing the earth to take in the life-giving rain and sunshine. In the cold of winter the seeds dig deep, taking root beneath the cold surface, biding their time and growing in preparation to sprout and blossom. The seasons are purposeful, designed by God to bring abundance. In winter we are reminded that old things must die to produce more.
Let me make this clear: A single grain of wheat will never be more than a single grain of wheat unless it drops into the ground and dies. Because then it sprouts and produces a great harvest of wheat -- all because one grain died. - John 12:24
This past winter lasted longer than usual for many. But it had to. Last year, 2017, was declared a Year of Breakthrough, and oh, did the breakthrough come for many! Person after person entered new levels last year. I've had it confirmed to me by several, as well as multiple instances in my own life.
With such great breakthroughs a time of taking root was needed. There needed to be a time of allowing old things, things unable to pass into the new seasons of our lives, to die. So the past few months have been trying for many. As a result it left some wondering, "did I really get my breakthrough?" Some have wanted to give up
But now the perseverance is paying off! Spring is here, and God is releasing the abundance that was promised! Wrongs from the past are being restored. The new land that was taken is starting to bear fruit. It's time to rejoice!
As we enter this season we can expect renewal and refreshment. God is building us back up after the long winter, the long fight. He is making all things new as we move from glory to glory!
It is imperative that as we move forward in this we resist any temptation to dig up the former things that were allowed to die. As we enjoy this new season, as we grow in strength, we must continue to look forward. The breakthrough, the entering of your "Promised Land" also requires you to keep moving ahead and taking ground. God doesn't pour out His blessing and favor for us to squalor it or to selfishly fatten ourselves (metaphorically speaking). He does so that we can steward and grow it further, and then pour out that blessing onto those around us. This is a season of equipping and strengthening His children so that we can build up those around us.
The greatest revival in history is at our doorstep! We must be healthy in order to rebuild the broken, to give them a safe place to be restored. We all once knew that place of brokenness ourselves, but God would not have us stay there!
So enjoy this season! Enjoy the abundance coming from our Almighty Father! Thank Him every day and count your numerous blessings. Celebrate them all, large and small, that He might pour out more!
And prepare yourself for stewardship. The storehouses are being filled. God is building up His church. He is restoring us to our identity and destiny. To be the healthiest, most joyful, safest, most blessed, and most loving people on earth! He is inviting us back to exuding excellence and providing the means to do so.
Rejoice! Winter is over and Spring is here! Embrace the blessings of the Father, the fruit of your toil. Steward it well and generously pour it out upon others.
I believe wholeheartedly that these next few months are going to open up the doors for many to enter into a place of abundance where they will never know lack again. The responsibility is to recognize this season, and begin to prepare plans of stewardship. Last year the Lord told me to sit down and put together a Wealth Plan. So I put into writing a strategy for growing and maintaining whatever was released to my family. With the Lord's help I determined a Biblical plan of sowing generously, investing for the future, and living excellently. While I haven't yet received what I need to put this plan into action I have made sure I'm ready for when it comes.
Blessing is pouring out almost everywhere I look. Be ready, for your turn is coming!
The season of abundance, of fruitfulness, is here! Hallelujah!
There are facts, there is logic and reason, and there is Truth.
More often than not, they all line up. In fact, over time I've found that they always line up once everything is brought to light. As well they should, for Truth transcends the limits of the others. Yet facts, logic and reason will eventually always end up at Truth.
Your choice is to take the slow road or the fast lane.
I get to see the limits of facts, logic and reason every day. I'm a pastor, and I counsel several people regularly. These people are hurting, they are looking for answers, and they are bravely seeking help. Something inside them knows something is off, that there has to be something better.
Some of these people are sex addicts. Some are drug addicts. Some are upstanding citizens who can't connect with their spouse. Some are afraid of their own shadow. All of them are tired of the destructive cycles in their lives.
And every single one of them that doesn't give up finds freedom. Every. Single. One.
It amazes even me, but I've seen it happen enough now that I confidently believe it. No one has to stay stuck.
We are spiritual beings, first and foremost. When the Bible says that we were created in the image of God (male and female) it means spiritually. You look just like your Daddy! God is a person, and He's a spirit. Those things aren't mutually exclusive. Your spirit is who you are. It's the purest, most real version of you.
When we receive salvation, in that instant, our spirits are reborn. They are made pure and perfect. From that moment on our body and soul are simply playing catch-up. But the hard part, the impossible part, is already done. The rest is just the process of renewal. It's what the Bible calls sanctification.
We need to be sanctified from all the facts, logic and reason that accumulated living apart from God.
In Romans 12:2 the apostle Paul wrote that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This is the same guy that writes over and over again that we died and are now new creatures. So if we're new, why do we need to be transformed still?
Let's have some fun and get weird, shall we?
God is Three-in-One, One-in-Three. Every Christian with basest theology (correct theology, I should say) knows this. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Well guess who else He decided to make like Him? (Hint: I already gave you the answer)
Just like God, we're three parts. We're our physical body, our soul (mind, will, emotions), and our spirit. If you've said yes to Jesus, your spirit is now new and perfect and seated in a heavenly place. Your soul and body, on the other hand, still need some tuning up. The good news is that our spirit and the Holy Spirit give us a direct pipeline to Truth. Every answer we've ever wanted or needed we now have access to.
The other good news is that when we accept and believe Truth we will grow in soul and body.
Unfortunately, too many of us are doing things backwards. We witness or experience something physically, our souls agree with those things, and we ignore our spirit. We ignore Truth in favor of facts, logic and reason. In doing so we allow a whole lot of mess into our lives.
Almost every single person I counsel had a traumatic childhood. They were abused or neglected. They were taught they are insignificant, ugly, worthless, stupid, etc... Some of the things I've heard from people couldn't be written in books or put in movies, because it would seem too horrible to be true. These people, broken and bruised from a young age, often go on to do horrible things themselves. You can't do what I do unless you partner with God to love everyone. To see past the mistakes and abuse and see who God made them to be.
These people have witnessed and experienced a whole lot of facts processed through human logic and reason. What they've arrived at is misery, hopelessness, anger, fear, and addiction. It's heartbreaking.
And yet, I've never seen someone too far gone to not find joy, peace, love, and hope again. All I do is introduce them to Truth.
As we sit and pray together, God meets them. He takes them to the places they were hurt the most, and they forgive. He exposes lies they believe based on their facts, logic and reason, and He gives them Truth instead. I watch as they light up, hearing the voice of the Lord. I watch as darkness leaves their eyes as they let go and find out that they are loved, they are valued, they are beautiful. Tears fall as they feel anger and fear leave, replaced by peace and boldness. Several times even physical healings have manifested as the Truth saturates their souls!
Such is the power of Truth. Such is the power of perspective.
I'm writing this today because this morning I read multiple stories about sex-trafficking. They just happened to be in the news today. There are few subjects that hurt my heart as much, and it's easy to feel hopeless for the millions around the globe being abused in this horrific industry. I'm especially moved by the stories of children, and I cry out to God on their behalf. Thinking of those little ones breaks my heart, and I want justice. For I know the pain even the rescued ones are still going to have to process. I know because I've met them before.
The facts are terrible, and it would be so easy to apply my own logic and reason and come out hopeless. It would be so easy for me to start cursing this world for being a terrible place. It would be so easy for me to take those terrible facts and make the conclusion that everything is getting worse.
Or I can partner with Truth.
Truth says that there is an answer to sex-trafficking, there is a solution. Truth says that I need to be glorifying that it is finally being exposed on a national and international level. That governments are finally strategizing about how to save these victims and bring justice to their abusers. Truth says to keep fighting, and we will bring them freedom and end it, once and for all. Truth says not to give up, not to give in to hopelessness. Do we need to do more? ABSOLUTELY! We must NOT give up. Thankfully, God knows this and already is working.
I could easily lose my perspective. I could lose the forest of Truth for the trees of fact. But I won't.
As Christians, as the powerful children of God in the world, the triumphant siblings of Jesus, we must keep our perspective. Our perspective is that if we persevere and keep fighting injustice with Godly strategy, we will see things like sex-trafficking and abortion come to an end.
Our perspective is that there is no end to the spread of His government. Our perspective is to be encouraged that the world is, in fact, getting better by almost every global metric. The Truth says that far more good happens every day than bad. The facts, the broader perspective, line up with Truth. It always does.
As Christians we do not ignore facts, we acknowledge them. But we process them through Truth.
The Truth says that we are beautiful and amazing. Truth says that no one is beyond redemption. The Truth says that God has a purpose for each and everyone of us, making us all valuable. Truth says that the world will always get better as we work together to change it.
Truth acknowledges our pain, our failures, our hard circumstances, but it does not allow them power. It denies them influence.
The Truth says we are over-comers, and it says we're never alone. The maker of all things, the one who is Love, the all-powerful one is on our side. And He is more interested in our success, growth, and fullness of life than we ever could be.
I'd say that's a pretty good perspective.
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.
- Genesis 3:15
When woman first came on the scene she was the fulfillment to a longing of Adam's heart. Despite his intimate relationship with the Lord, Adam still desired a mate to share his life with. Being made in the image of God, this made perfect sense. Even God exists as Three-in-One, One-in-Three, announcing Himself plurally from the beginning of the Bible. Literally, the beginning. In Genesis 1:1 the word for God is elohiym, it's a plural Hebrew word.
Knowing Adam's desire for intimacy with another of his kind, he created Eve. He had Adam lay down, removed his rib, and from it formed Eve. God then presented Eve to Adam as his equal. Adam knew this, immediately declaring "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” (Gen. 2:23) The Bible affirms this in the next verse recording that from now on man and woman were meant to be joined together, becoming "one flesh." (2:24) This brings full circle the truth written in 1:27, that male and female were created in the image of God.
And so the controversy begins.
In Gen. 3 the serpent, the enemy, deceives Eve, who in turn deceives Adam, and from that point on the majority of mankind has regarded woman as lesser. God's intention for woman has been disregarded because of deception. Because we should know better, there is no one guiltier in this than the church.
And it's time for this to end.
Starting in Genesis 3 many have made the mistake of believing that God curses man and woman because of their sin. This is simply not true. The curses God pronounces are upon the serpent (v.14) and the ground (v.17). To the woman He declares that her pain in childbirth will be increased and that she will long for her husband to the point that it will give him power over her (16). However this is not a curse, just as Adam's "painful toil" (17) plowing the ground is not a curse. No, rather they are repercussions of allowing sin (and therefore, death) into the world. With sin came pain, sickness, and death. Things that do not exist in heaven were now a part of earth because of their choices. Adam and Eve had given up their authority, their fullness, through their sin, and with that came consequences.
Many use this story to explain why woman will never rise to the same prominence as man until heaven. These people believe it is God's will to keep women subjugated to man until we're all in heaven.
But this simply is not true.
Firstly, Jesus paid the price for sin. Now anyone who accepts the gift of salvation enters into His permanent rest (Hebrews 4). Curses no longer have any power over us. Jesus seized back the authority Adam and Eve once relinquished and now lives in us, restoring to us that same authority (Matt. 28:18-20). The sinful one we were is now dead, and we are raised back to life in Christ (Rom. 6:11).
Our identity is now restored! All that came about because of sin is no longer to be part of our lives. This includes hierarchy based on race, culture, class, or sex.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
- Galatians 3:28
To God the difference in value between man and woman is negligible. There is none!
Unfortunately many in the church still do not see this. They instead put limits on women because of bad understanding of two passages in the New Testament.
1 Timothy 2:9-15
And that the women would also pray with clean hearts, dressed appropriately and adorned modestly and sensibly, not flaunting their wealth. But they should be recognized instead by their beautiful deeds of kindness, suitable as one who worships God.
Let the women who are new converts be willing to learn with all submission to their leaders and not speak out of turn. I don't advocate that the newly converted women be the teachers in the church, assuming authority over the men, but to live in peace. For God formed Adam first, then Eve. Adam did not mislead Eve, but Eve misled him and violated the command of God. Yet a woman shall live in restored dignity by means of her children, receiving the blessing that comes from raising them as consecrated children nurtured in faith and love, walking in wisdom. (TPT)
Read apart from the larger context of scripture, this passage can seem to mean that Paul is reasserting the dominance of man brought about by sin. But to believe that requires ignorance of Paul's other writings. He is the same man that wrote the above verse in Galatians. Surely the same man that clearly stated "nor is there male and female" and also affirmed female apostles (Rom. 16:7) would not also ban women from speaking in church, would he?
No, he would not. Paul does not contradict himself here, he was far too brilliant and intentional for that. The letter to Timothy was written when Timothy was in Ephesus. In Ephesus was the temple of the goddess Diana, and Ephesians had a worship system built around female leadership. In their pagan system the women had all authority. Therefore one of the challenges Timothy faced were women unwilling to learn from men. In response to this Paul stresses that the women must be willing to learn from the men. He didn't need to mention the men learning from women, for that was their tradition anyways! This is why similar instructions are not included in letters to other locations.
Also, Paul mentions the forming of Adam first as a response to Gnosticism. The gnostics taught that Eve had been formed first, which would have been an especially popular teaching in Ephesus. Paul is simply affirming Biblical truth.
Finally, when Paul says a woman will live in restored dignity through her children he is not saying that she can only be restored through childbearing, that is a bad translation. Instead he is affirming she is already restored, and that restoration is displayed through her children that walk with the Lord. Also the Greek text implies that the restoration came through "the Child", which would mean Jesus. Either way, the emphasis is on the woman's restoration, not the need to do something in order to receive favor.
1 Corinthians 14:34-35
The women should be respectfully silent during the evaluation of prophecy in the meetings. They are not allowed to interrupt, but are to be in a support role, as in fact the law teaches. If they want to inquire about something, let them ask their husbands when they get home, for a woman embarrasses herself when she constantly interrupts the church meeting. (TPT)
This is another passage used to keep women silent in many churches. But once again that represents a poor understanding of what Paul is communicating here. Just three verses before, in v. 31, Paul stresses that all may prophesy in their turn. Also, in the same letter, Paul gives women standards for leadership in church, the implication being clear that they could speak (11:2-16). Like Ephesus, Corinth worshiped Diana (Artemis) and was used to women carrying the spiritual authority. This again put Paul in the position of correcting these women to respect the men as having authority as well.
And out of your reverence for Christ be supportive of each other in love.
For wives, this means being supportive to your husbands like you are tenderly devoted to our Lord, for the husband provides leadership for the wife, just as Christ provides leadership for his church, as the Savior and Reviver of the body. In the same way the church is devoted to Christ, let the wives be devoted to their husbands in everything.
And to the husband, you are to demonstrate love for your wives with the same tender devotion that Christ demonstrated to us, His bride. For he died for us, sacrificing himself to make us holy and pure, cleansing us through the showering of the pure water of the Word of God. All that he does in us is designed to make us a mature church for his pleasure, until we become a source of praise to him-- glorious and radiant, beautiful and holy, without fault or floaw.
Husbands have the obligation of loving and caring for their wives the same way they love and care for their own bodies, for to love your wife is to love your own self. No one abuses his own body, but pampers is-- serving and satisfying its needs. That's exactly what Christ does for his church! He serves and satisfies us as members of his body.
For this reason a man is to leave his father and his mother and lovingly hold to his wife, since the two have become joined as one flesh. Marriage is the beautiful design of the Almighty, a great a sacred mystery-- meant to be a vivid example of Christ and his church. So every married man should be gracious to his wife just as he is gracious to himself. And every wife should be tenderly devoted to her husband. (TPT)
One of the most popular phrases used to promote male dominance is in verse 22, which many translations record to say "wives, submit to your husbands." Interestingly, there is no Greek word for "submit" here. It literally is not in any text! The true, direct translation is "Wives, with your husbands." The word "submit" or "support" or "be subject to" was added through the contextual understanding of the translators. The actual Greek word for submission is hypotasso, and it is used in vs. 21 when Paul writes that we should be supportive of, or "submit to", each other. There is no singling out of women in the original manuscripts!
Knowing this, the greater responsibility is clearly with the husbands, who are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. That means we are to be ready to die for them! The women are called to be devoted to us and to respect us, but we are called to live sacrificial lives of love for them.
Isn't the power of context amazing?
There are other, less popular passages also used to belittle the role of women in the church, but the breakdown of these three should make it clear that keeping women down was never the intent of the early Apostles, and especially not of God!
The Secret Weapon
Now that it should be clear much of the church has been wrong about the role of women for a long time, what does that mean for us looking forward?
It means that it's time to lift them up to their rightful place!
Women are equally gifted to lead the church as men. With powerful and free women leading beside men, the church can finally begin to grow into the maturity it has always been meant to grow into. Women were made in the image of God just as much as men were. They carry with them aspects of God that men cannot and do not.
For the past 2000 years the church has literally been moving ahead with only half of its body given the chance to reach its full potential. It's like we've been lifting weights for 2000 years, but only developing our legs! The arms have been left alone, and that makes a funny looking person!
The men have had our chance to lead by ourselves. We've led a church that has accomplished many amazing things, but has also fractured because of our need to be right. Our competitive streak has led to church-sponsored wars. It has led to a church that often values logic over truth. We have been operating at less than our full capacity because of the deception that women are lesser in spiritual authority.
It's time to put that lie to rest forever! It's time to take the glass ceiling off our women!
It's not going to be easy, for we will be given every excuse not to empower our sisters, our wives and our daughters. The enemy knows what is coming to him when the women are finally valued the way they were always meant to be valued.
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.
- Genesis 3:15
It's through the woman the Seed (Jesus) came that crushed the serpent's head. She was the source of our greatest breakthrough! God gave the honor of carrying the Savior to woman, and her role did not end there.
From the very beginning it's the woman who was prophesied to provide the stomp on the head of the enemy. She is God's secret weapon for defeating his works on the earth. As men it's our job to see that she is promoted to this task. It's our job to empower her. We are to assist her until she is given the same platform we are, the same opportunity. Men and women, as one, are the only way we can see the church come to its rightful place, to its fullness in preparation for Christ.
Women are capable of carrying out the same roles as men. Deborah was a judge in the Bible. Junia an apostle.
Jesus treated women as equals, often baffling his disciples in the process. He may have only had male disciples, but His ministry occurred before the New Covenant was established, and Jesus perfectly kept the Law in His life for the sake of the Jews, whom He came to first. If He had meant for male dominance to continue in the church, He would have declared it in His teachings. He never did so.
Jesus came to earth through a woman. He calls His church a "bride". It is obvious God's favor toward women. It's also obvious the enemy is doing everything he can to keep them oppressed, as the most backward-thinking nations in the world are male-dominant and hateful toward women.
Church, we need our women to be powerful! They are a great weapon against the enemy we have been holding back because of religious tradition. We have ignored God's heart toward them in favor of tradition.
It's our turn to lead on this. No longer should the church be known as one of the last places women are valued as equals.
Unified, male and female, it's time we stand together. The revelation of this is spreading, as God no longer wants to see His daughters held back. The more we discover about original scriptural manuscripts, the more God opens our eyes, the less excuse we have to fight this. It's no coincidence that movies like Wonder Woman have been major hits lately. It's not by chance that oppression and abuse of women is being exposed at all levels of culture. The glass ceiling is starting to break.
It's our choice to run with the momentum or keep fighting against it.
Woman, thou art about to be loosed! And I, for one, am very excited about that!
(I first wrote this nearly 2 years ago, but was recently stirred to update and share again. I personally feel the attack against millennials comes because religion and the spirit behind it are deathly afraid that this generation holds the key to it losing its grip in America. So we need to be educated about them, lift them up, and help them achieve their destiny.)
I keep hearing it and seeing it. Even some of those I know and love will say it.
"I don't understand this generation."
"They don't want to work!"
"They just want to play video games!"
"I'm worried about the future in their hands."
"These millennials are so entitled."
Over and over again the curses against this latest generation continue. It's no wonder their problems seem to keep piling up. When no one believes in you it's really hard to succeed in anything.
I'm a millennial myself. In fact, I just found this out. After years of mistakenly thinking I was a Gen-Xer, (I could have sworn I had just made it!) someone pointed out to me that you now were considered a "millennial" if you had been born after '82.
Now I'm the first to admit that it probably doesn't matter. A generational label doesn't mean much of anything in an individual sense. But I have to admit, my first reaction when I heard that was disgust. I mean, really? Did I really want to be identified with the generation that everyone over 40 seems to hate?
The truth is, no, I really didn't.
There's such a stigma going around about the millennial generation that I hadn't even realized I had been affected by it too. Apparently getting negative about the next generation is a twisted rite of passage into grumpy adulthood, and, well, I passed!
Unfortunately, that's not something I want to pass. I to be the kind of person who believes in everyone just as I want to be believed in. My parents raised me to always go after my dreams and what was in my heart. They raised me in a way that I always felt believed in. It has impacted my life in such a positive way that I want to be someone who does the same.
So I went looking. There had to be some good stuff about this generation, right?
It didn't take long. Thanks to Google (I love you) it took me about 5 minutes to come across a massive report published by the Pew Research Center. Some of its findings were fascinating:
* exhibit more respect for their elders than previous generations
* claim less moral superiority than previous generations (I personally find this as a positive)
* are more racially tolerant
* get along better across generations
* are the highest educated generation
* care most about family
* highest priorities are to be a good parent and have a successful marriage
* third highest priority is to help others in need (all of these over being famous or making money)
* earn the least of any generation, but are the most optimistic about the future
* are the happiest generation
There's more but I'll stop there. Suddenly I'm pretty proud to be part of this generation! My peers are respectful, less pious, less judgmental, less selfish, more educated, more optimistic, and happier than previous generations. I'll take it!
All of that is pretty amazing and runs hugely counter to what most of us have been led to believe. But let me put it in a perspective that is even more impressive:
Millennials have had a tougher start than the last couple generations.
Google "harder for millennials" and these are some of the headlines that will immediately pop up:
We're Making Life too Hard for Millennials - NY Times
It's Harder to a 20-Something Than Ever Before - Washington Post
Millennials Are Still Struggling to Find Jobs - The Atlantic
The Number Behind why Millennials are 'Generation Frustration' - Huffington Post
... and so much more
Millennials have grown up in a stagnant economy where good jobs are hard to find and college education doesn't bring with it the guarantees it once did. (Although it should be noted that the economy is finally turning around!) A bachelor degree today is worth the same as a high school diploma was worth in the 60s. For every corporate job there are 250 resumes. We are facing the most difficult economy to succeed since the Great Depression. Sure there are more jobs then back then, but wages stink.
The facts speak for themselves. The median income for age 18-34 is $3472/yr LESS than the previous generation, yet they have more bachelor degrees. Their median net worth is 43% LESS than Generation X in the same age range. They have more debt from school. They face higher costs of living.
Yet they remain optimistic and happy. Why?
In previous generations even the uneducated could get a manufacturing job and make a decent wage. Those are all but gone now. In the 1970s a teacher could buy a 3-bedroom home in San Diego. Now a teacher is lucky to be able to afford a house in the countryside.
The more I look the more I realize that millennials have gotten a bad rap. The more I realize that I'm proud to be a part of this generation. We are a generation of dreamers who want to change the world. We're a generation who has been given a great deal of technology but not careers. We are smart but face the highest climb to financial success of any generation in decades. Yet we are positive! We believe in ourselves and in the world! I can proudly be a part of that.
Do we play video games? We do. We like to play, period. It's part of being in a good mood, which is essential when your best job prospect at the moment is working at Starbucks for $10/hr even with a college degree.
Are we less committal to jobs? Absolutely. Why wouldn't we be? Our job situation hasn't been great. But we are going to keep trying! We'd rather work for love than money anyways.
Are we entitled? Turns out no. We're actually one of the most charitable generations most willing to sacrifice time and money.
Are we lazy? No. We're dreamers. And we actually tend to work smarter and more productively. We just don't take it as seriously.
I could keep going, but I don't need to. I can now proudly say I'm a millennial. I believe in my generation. I've gone from believing that millennials were a kind of lost generation to believing that maybe, just maybe, we could be remembered as the greatest one.
That's not a knock on other generations either. We've all had our moments! Each generation has done amazing things and was put in place by God for the time they were in. But everything with God is about improvement, about moving from Glory to Glory. So as I see this generation growing in optimism with the deck stacked against us I can't shake it. The millennial generation cares about the right things and believes in ourselves. They are innovative and are willing to lead. They want to change the world, not just work for a paycheck. They care about others more than growing our bank accounts. They are the most highly educated generation the world has ever known.
All of this speaks of greatness to me. Do they have our issues? Absolutely! But who doesn't? The positives are here in full effect. So I'm not going to entertain bad thoughts about millennials anymore. I'm not going to let it affect me and I'll be quick to forgive. I know it's just spoken out of ignorance anyways. We are more tattooed, more easy going, and far more techy than they could have ever dreamed of being, and people often fear what they don't understand. So I can let that go.
Millennials want what's real. They care about passion and meaning in their lives and work. They don't want rules, they want inspiration. Therefore religion has little value to them. This is a wonderful thing! Jesus came to bring us an experience and a relationship, not a bunch of rules to live by. That's what the Jews had for 1300 years, and we see where that got them!
I believe God has ordained this generation to stir up the church and the country. As a result millennials are attacked because they are offending the religious spirit. This attack has been prolonged and very effective, yet it cannot be allowed to win. More than anything millennials need spiritual fathers and mothers who believe in them and will guide them. They are prone to be experience driven, which is fine so long as its accompanied by solid understanding. They will not be controlled, but they flock to community, and they are openly teachable.
If we love them, they will flourish. Church, that's our job to do.
As Generation Millennial starts to grow into our own element I'm firmly convinced they are going to change the world for the better. One day history will look back and marvel at how they impacted history. It's coming. I know it!
Now about that Generation Z... (just kidding)
If I were to speak with eloquence in earth's many languages, and in the heavenly tongues of angels, yet I didn't express myself with love, my words would be reduced to the hollow sound of nothing more than a clanging cymbal.
- 1 Cor. 13:1
There are some things you never want to address. Some things you hope you don't have to.
Earlier this week I was online, watching a group of Christian intellectuals at a conference. They were all well-known apologists whom I highly respect. However I'm not going to name them here, because what I saw grieved my heart.
At one point their conversation turned to lambasting a well-known pastor in America. They avoided using the man's name, but gave enough details (including titles of the man's books) that anyone with two seconds and Google at hand could easily determine who it was. The person they took turns criticizing has done a lot of good things and has led thousands to Christ, yet they all expressed deep concerns and disapproval that Jesus wasn't mentioned in some of the man's writings. In other words, they were accusing this pastor of not spreading the gospel.
With the momentum of criticism (and borderline slander) at their backs, another one of the speakers brought up that he had been watching Christian television the other day and heard something that deeply troubled him. He then said he would refrain from using this person's name in order to "protect the guilty." And while he spoke that jovially, you could tell it was said in attack.
What he recounted watching was someone saying that, "no matter what you've done, how far you've fallen, how badly you've screwed up, God is not mad at you." As soon as the quote was released there was an audible groan from the crowd. The speaker then launched into how such a statement negates much of the New Testament. From there turns were taken explaining how people must be made to known the wrath of God in order to be saved. The crowd cheered.
Makes you want to cheer, doesn't it? That was a joke.
Other pastors demeaned, slandered and mocked. Fear promoted as the path to salvation. Worst of all, a profoundly wrong representation of the gospel presented. All before the cheers of men. All coming from men I've admired and respected for years.
My heart's been heavy ever since.
After the sweet initial experience of my salvation I soon gravitated toward the intellectual trend of western Christianity. To me, the more I knew and understood the holier I became. I studied and studied. I listened to every apologist I could find. My knowledge about God and the Bible grew and grew for years.
Over that time I never stopped to talk to God about it.
As I grew more confident in my knowledge I grew more political and more religious. I also grew more depressed. The more I knew the harder it was for me to keep going in my own strength. Everything simply got harder.
I'm so thankful I was delivered from that life!
My story is recorded more thoroughly in other places, but the short of it is that I started to have radical encounters with God. Like, for real. Experiencing Him and learning how to hear His voice. In a short time much changed as He led me to understand things on a deeper level. I learned that my knowledge wasn't bad, but my understanding of much of that knowledge was. For the past seven years I've been on a journey of learning the heart and nature of God. It's a journey that will last me through eternity, but in these short years I've learned more than I ever imagined.
Seven years ago I could have been a younger, less seasoned one of those panel members. I would have fit right in. Now I see them and hear them, and it hurts. They are so close, but so far.
One of the greatest deceptions in intellectual circles is the inherent belief that knowledge is power. This belief comes from Greek tradition and not God, yet because of the great influence of Enlightenment thinking in the early years of the Protestant Reformation most of our Christian tradition in the western church equates rationality and reason with the Gospel and greater holiness. This is exactly why large conference halls are filled to the brim when Christian intellectuals are hosted. We yearn to always know more.
Inherently there is nothing wrong with this. The danger lies in when we focus only on knowledge and ignore the heart. Without understanding the heart of God the words of scripture become cold and often harsh. When Scripture is reduced to factoids about God, when memorization takes the place of meditation, when reasoning replaces revelation, our knowledge becomes exactly what Paul warned about in 2 Corinthians 3:6:
He alone makes us adequate ministers who are focused on an entirely new covenant. Our ministry is not based on the letter of the law but through the power of the Spirit. The letter of the law kills, but he Spirit pours out life.
What I watched on that video was brilliant men, men who have been studying scripture much longer than I, who could think and reason circles around most of the world. They were also men who, at least in this instance, displayed a legalistic, wholly religious portrayal of the gospel. They missed the heart, the very part that gives those words life. They were speaking death and being celebrated as defenders of the faith.
Yes, death. Scripture is that powerful. When Biblical knowledge is used with the wrong heart it ensnares and imprisons. Paul knew this and warned about it. We're also given another warning in seeing the temptation Jesus experienced in Matthew 4. When satan speaks to Jesus, he quotes scripture:
(He) said to him, "If you're really the God's Son, jump, and the angels will catch you. For it is written in the Scriptures:
He will command his angels to protect you
and they will lift you up
so that you won't even bruise your foot on a rock."
- Matthew 4:6
The enemy quoted Psalm 91:11-12 to Jesus, putting Jesus in the unenviable position of having to disagree with Scripture. Yet Jesus knew better, and without missing a beat Jesus countered with more Scripture. Both Scriptures were true. Both were inspired by God. One passage used by satan for evil, one passage used by Jesus to defeat evil. The difference between the passages was the intent, i.e. the heart.
Weigh the Words
he understanding of God's nature changes everything. It changes how we read scripture, how we interpret it. It's the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Only with the help of the Holy Spirit, with God's voice and perfect mind, can we get the fullest amount of wisdom from what is written.
Those brilliant men I once looked up to missed the heart of God, and they did it to the tune of thunderous applause.
Jesus faced the same problem with the religious Pharisees of the day. They knew their scripture but had no wisdom to accompany their knowledge, so it became simply religion to them. Those who were supposed to know God the best, who were looked up to by the people, found they couldn't recognize God when He stared them in the eye in person. Instead it was the people they were most critical of whom received the most from the King of Kings.
The deception of religion hides behind intellectualism just as much today as it did then. These men I watched possess powerful minds, yet their pursuit of knowledge apart from the pulse of God's heart has put a veil over their understanding. As they enjoyed the validation of one another and the crowd they forgot much of the very gospel they were claiming to teach. Deception closes the mind to simple truths. They displayed that in the following ways:
1. Dishonoring Fellow Ministers
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
- Phil. 1:15-18
The pastors who lead the church well should be paid well. They should receive double honor for faithfully preaching and teaching the revelation of the Word of God. For the Scriptures have taught us: "Do not muzzle an ox or forbid it to eat while it grinds the grain." And also, "The one who labors deserves his wages."
Refuse to listen to suspicious accusations against the pastors who lead the flock unless you have two or three witnesses to confirm the accusations. But if indeed you find that they have sinned, bring correction to them before the congregation so that the rest of the people will respect you.
- 1 Tim. 5:17-20
Paul gives us two interesting examples here. Firstly, he says very clearly that he doesn't really care about the motives of those sharing the gospel, he simply rejoices that it's being preached at all!
Secondly, he very clearly states that leaders in the church who preach and teach should be treated with double honor. This is because they have such a weighty task ahead of them! Double-honor means respect and also giving them the benefit of the doubt. Furthermore, he describes how issues with them should be handled in the cases of sin. Two or three witnesses for confirmation then correction.
What I watched the intellectuals do was not honorable. It also had nothing to do with sin but rather, disagreement. They got so caught up in being right that they blatantly disregarded the scriptural guidelines for how to treat other ministers of the gospel. In the process they promoted dissension over such disagreements to thousands more who look up to them. They put being right over being in relationship, which is completely against Jesus' desire for unity (expressed in John 17).
2. Ignorance of Gospel Truth
Do the riches of his extraordinary kindness make you take him for granted and despise him? Haven't you experienced how kind and understanding he has been to you? Don't mistake his tolerance for acceptance. Do you realize that all the wealth of his extravagant kindness is meant to melt your heart and lead you into repentance?
- Rom. 2:4
This royal promise was not fulfilled because Abraham kept all the law, but through the righteousness that was transferred by faith. For if keeping the law earns the inheritance, then faith is robbed of its power and the promise becomes useless. For the law provokes punishment, and where no law exists there cannot be a violation of the law.
The promise depends on faith so that it can be experienced as a grace-gift, and now it extends to all the descendants of Abraham.
- Rom. 4:14-16a
Love never brings fear, for fear is always related to punishment. But love's perfection drives the fear of punishment far from our hearts. Whoever walks constantly afraid of punishment has not reached love's perfection. Our love for others is our grateful response to the love God first demonstrated to us.
- 1 John 4:18-19
There was no love in the exchange I watched. I realize I could be countered with the response, "It's actually loving to express truth!" and that's not necessarily wrong, but the way in which that "truth" was communicated was not loving. Also, as the verses above prove, it was not truth.
The greatest uproar from the crowd came when it was quoted that God is not angry with us, or anyone else, for that matter. The collective gasp and exasperation from the speakers about this phrase was disheartening. It displayed such a lack of understanding about God. it also showed a disregard for scriptural truth.
Romans 2:4 is very clear that God does not use fear to bring us into repentance. He uses his kindness and overwhelms us with his love. Furthermore John clearly writes that God is love, and love drives fear away. In other words, God has no desire to stir up fear in any of us. Does that sound like an angry God?
Finally, punishment (or "wrath", depending on the translation) was only a response to the Law. There is no wrath for us anymore, because none of us are under the Law. We have received the grace-gift of faith now, and that gift leads to righteousness. It also now rains on the righteous and the wicked (Matt. 5:45). There are consequences for our actions, but they are from the natural order of things and from spiritual or relational dynamics. They are NOT sent by God from heaven. There is a final punishment for those who don't choose God, but the lake of fire was never meant for man. Choosing eternal torment is not God's will for anyone. Rather it's the only place completely separate from him, the only place people can go if they never accept his gift of salvation. God will not be angry when he speaks the judgment, "I never knew you." He'll be doing it with tears in his eyes.
Nowhere, I repeat, nowhere is there any evidence in the New Testament, in the unveiling of who God is from the example of Jesus, that God is angry with sinners or his saints. This belief is a complete fallacy and horrible inaccuracy.
Must be that "Oil of Gladness..."
Once again, knowing the Bible does not also mean it's understood.
One of the greatest dangers in the church is the elevation of the intellectual over actual Truth. Those who sound smart all too often draw itching ears. But if what they are sharing isn't communicating love, unity, peace, joy, and righteousness, we don't need to listen. In fact, we're better off looking away.
Without love behind them our words are more harmful than helpful. God is not a God of wrath and anger. He's a God of love. Yes, he can get angry, but not at us. He gets angered at sin, and injustice, and the spirits behind them, but not at people. Your actions can anger God, but who you are cannot. You're made in his image, after all.
One of the best things to ever happen to me was for me to lay down my right to be right. To lay my intellect at His feet and say, "God, I really don't know if I know anything. Teach me your heart." He did, and he still is. And what I've found is that he didn't take away what I already knew, he didn't have me throw out all my years of study. Rather He amplified it. He added Truth to my knowledge. He added heart.
I didn't want to write this because it hurt to see some of my old heroes doing something I knew was blatantly wrong and against the heart of God. It hurt to see men I respected and admired choose religion over Truth. It hurt to see many other Christians celebrating them as they did so. It hurt because it showed me how far we still have to go.
But I have hope. New intellectuals are springing up all over the place. Men and Women who carry the brilliance and the right heart. They carry understanding, and when they speak crowds flock to them. Because they carry truth, and they do it with the love of the Father.
God is making all things new. That includes apologetics. It's getting better, and will continue to do so. I pray that those that previously knew the Bible so well but didn't understand it will come along for the ride. I know deep down they truly love the Lord, so I believe they will. If many of the Pharisees could finally come around to Truth (Acts 15:5), so can they.
I'd love to hear what they'd have to say.
O God, to the farthest corners of the planet
people will stand in awe,
startled and stunned by your signs and wonders.
Sunrise brilliance and sunset beauty
both take turns singing their songs of joy to you.
- Psalms 65:8
May we never lose our wonder.
This morning my wife and I were talking about how easy it is to take for granted the wonder in life. She related to me a story she had read the previous day, about a man who had grown up loving the beach but at some point lost his wonder of it and moved away. Years later he realized that he had taken for granted his time there, and he found the awe again.
A simple story, but profound.
I have had the realization before, but it never loses its welcome, that I'm taking things for granted. That I'm living outside of the moment in my own mind. Such a simple oversight, but in reality it's terrible and tragic.
We are surrounded by beauty. In everything, in everyone. Every second of every day we are witnessing miracles. The miracle of life, the miracle of nature, the miracle of physics. It's all around us. Even as I type this I'm convicted. How can I be so quick to ignore all that God is doing?
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
- Genesis 1:31
How do we miss it?
It's all good, all of it. He didn't make a mistake. He gave us a world of miracles, a world of beauty and wonder, and too often we don't take even a minute a day to be blessed by it all.
We all have our reasons, some legitimate, some not. And I'm not meaning to belittle anyone's troubles. There also is ugliness in the world, and mistakes. But that's our fault, not His.
And the good far outweighs the bad.
What if we just took five minutes a day to start? Five minutes to close our eyes and feel the sunlight on our cheeks. Five minutes to smile as a child learns something new. Five minutes to marvel at the birds of the air. Five minutes to be impressed by the loyalty of a dog. Five minutes to gives thanks for the air we breathe. These things are simple, they are all around us, and we all too easily overlook them.
Awe and wonder should be a regular part of our lives. They shouldn't be reserved for only the uncommon. The common are just as wonderful, just as good. We are not a people living in a world of lack. There is abundance all around us, if we'd only recognize it.
We know that all creation is beautiful to God and there is nothing to be refused if it is received with gratitude.
-1 Tim. 4:4
Let your heart be always guided by the peace of the Anointed One, who called you to peace as part of his one body. And always be thankful.
- Colossians 3:15
Awe and wonder bring peace and thanksgiving with them. Resting in the realization of the beautiful life we've been given resets our perspective. When our perspective is correct, it's impossible not to be thankful. We've been given so much, and He never stops giving us more.
So I'm making it a point to take more time to be in awe, to experience wonder. To live in a place of thankfulness. In that place it's hard to get caught up in the hard things, the bad news of the world. I don't want my perspective to ever be influenced by something other than Him. He's made a beautiful world, full of beautiful people, full of far more good than bad. I can't afford to forget that. None of us can.
Bright-eyed and mystified, may we be just like a child. Staring at the beauty of our king.
May we never lose our wonder.
In John 1:1-4; We find that In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
Jesus told his disciples that they were the light of the world. (Matt. 5:14) and then in verse 16 He encouraged them to let their light shine before men so that the Father would receive glory.
So why is it that some of His children seem to shine brighter then others? Is it because God loves some of His children more and He is playing favorites? Or could it be that some of His children have more of something then the others do even though it is freely offered to all?
We see that in John 1:4 that in Him was life and the life was the light of men! So if we are to let our light shine then we must first have the life in us. In John 14:6 Jesus once again says I am the Way,Truth and Life!
So is it possible to grow your light?
The answer is Yes! God is light and in him is no darkness at all! I John 1:5
Isaiah 9:2 says the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light!
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying I am the light of the world! Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life!
So the more we are yielded to the light then we will shine as stars in a dark world! In I Thessalonians 5:5a it says; for you are all children of light, children of the day. As we walk in the light and mature in the light then we become brighter lights! In fact, we will begin to see the darkness respond to the light in us even more because light shines into the darkness!
Here are a few ways in which we increase the light from within!
1. Reading the scriptures
Psalms 119:105 says; Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
2. Praying and praying in tongues
I Cor. 14:4; He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself.
Psalms 69:10 says; When I wept and chastened my soul with fasting.
when we fast it helps bring our soul into subject to our spirit which keeps us from walking in darkness.
4. Praise and Worship
Psalm 22:3 says; But you are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, Walk as children of light. (Eph. 5:8)
Let us embrace the same attitude as John the Baptist by decreasing so that He can increase in us!
Philippians 2:5 says; Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, He made Himself of no reputation taking the form of a bondservant .
As we grow our spirits we make room for more of the Holy Spirit and the Light grows brighter!
So Let Your Light Shine!
In (Luke 9:55-56); We see the disciples specifically James and John asking Jesus if He wants them to call fire down on the people like Elijah did! For this comment they were rebuked! Jesus told them you know not what matter of Spirit you are of!
See James and John had the same problem we face today! What problem is that you may ask? It's the issue of not understanding of what matter of Spirit we are of! See when the Holy Spirit hovered over your life and revealed Christ in you and your spirit man took it's first breath you once again were in right standing with the Father!
The issue at hand is not understanding the nature of our Father who is Spirit! For us to fully understand what matter of Spirit we are of then we must understand what are spirit is made of and who made it!
In (Genesis 2:7) God breathed the breath of life into man and he became a living being (Nephesh).
In (Job 32:8) it says this: But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes man understand. See it takes God to know God! So our spirit which is the breath of the Almighty gives us the ability to understand God Spirit to spirit!
In (Proverbs 20:27) it says; The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts. Your spirit is a light of the Lord revealing the darkness and dispelling it by His presence and power. We have been given the mind of Christ! (I Cor. 2:16)
David said in (Psalm 77:6); I said, "Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart." Then my spirit made a diligent search.
David's spirit made a diligent search which means he was cooperating with the Holy Spirit in the process of maturity.
See the more we know our God then we will know that mercy triumphs over judgement! Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us! The earth its self is waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. This will not happen though until we understand what matter of Spirit we are of!
Have you ever been tested? Very few people like taking test but the truth is all of us are being tested wether you like it or not and even if we are not aware that we are being tested!
This is exactly where Hezekiah found himself after he was healed and God gave him 15 more years to his life! In 2 Chronicles 32:31 Hezekiah finds himself unaware that God had left him to test his heart! (And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart.)
Hezekiah made the mistake of showing the envoy sent from Babylon all of his riches and because of the pride of life he brought judgement once again on Israel!
The funny thing about all of it in 2 Kings 20 when Isaiah came to him and prophesied judgment Hezekiah thought it was good because at least in his days there would be peace!
Have you ever been unaware that you where being tested? Here are some signs that you are either going through a test or you are about to:
Signs that you are being tested!
*When you find yourself going through circumstances that you have never gone through before!
*When you have a dream that you are back in school and you are taking a test!
*When you are being tempted in ways that you have never been tempted before!
*When you are being persecuted in ways that you have not been before!
*When you have been betrayed by someone you trusted!
*You have just received a powerful prophetic word!
*You have just had a vision of your future!
*Everything is going wrong and you don't know why!
*When you are right on the edge of breakthrough and then it falls apart again!
If you are being tested take heart every test was designed to promote you and not kill you!
Jesus was lead into the wilderness by The Holy Spirit and came out of the wilderness in the power of the Spirit!
God is the one who leads us into testing and He is the one who leads us out!
We even have a promise in I Corinthians 10:13, that we will not be tempted above what we can handle, God will always provide a way to stand up in the midst of it!
So when testing comes don't give up! The power that raised Christ from the dead dwells in you if you belong the The Lord!
This was a test and only a test of the emergency broadcasting network! :)
Justin Carpenter has a passion for Christ and His body. Justin longs to see the body of Christ be equipped and sent out into all the world preaching the gospel of the kingdom with authority and power.