Are we sure we understand the concept of "big things for Christ"?Read More
Once upon a time, I found Jesus. More accurately, He found me. After spending a really long time not knowing how much I need Him, I finally saw myself for who I was, and I called out to Him in response to His call to me. That was almost seven years ago. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew that I didn't love, not truly. I knew that in order to love, I needed to accept His. I needed to really believe He loved me. So I did. My whole paradigm changed that day.
That doesn't mean anything else changed. I was already on a trajectory away from Him. I was on a road I didn't belong on. As an excellent Wavorly song says, "Turning around was never so hard til I found us far apart." At that point, I was really far away, heading further, and had no idea which way to turn. Imagine yourself lost on a dark night with a broken light and a broken compass, and nothing but two ears and a voice guiding you home. Even better: imagine yourself in the Millennium Falcon, crashing toward Starkiller Base, unable to pull up, not knowing the defector storm trooper was a janitor and new nothing about blowing the place up.
I had no idea what was in store. I really didn't. I knew things would be difficult, but I had no clue of the depth of it. I don't remember being as bombarded with temptations and heartaches as when I started following Christ. Yet I don't know that I've seen more personal growth happen in me than when I started following Christ.
I'm not going to blather on about all the things that happened between 2009 and 2013. If you've read my blog before, you know. If you want to know, read it.
In one respect, I'm glad for how far I've come, but it hasn't been without cost. That cost has been my ability to care.
I don't care.
Those are three words no one wants to hear. "I don't care" is giving up. On what? Anything.
Have you been told that before? It hurts, doesn't it? Knowing that you're not seen, not heard, invisible, inconsequential.
I hate that about me, which is great because that means all hope is not lost. But right now, that's a problem. The whole reason I decided to follow Jesus was so I could love, not so I could withhold love in apathy.
I'm not sure entirely how I figured it out, but I suddenly noticed lately how much of what has been happening in my life indicates that I don't really care.
The stagnancy of my romantic relationships?
Because I didn't care about anything beyond the moment, escaping the rest of my life.
My lack of reading scriptures or praying in a meaningful way?
Because I didn't care about anything beyond the moment, escaping the rest of my life.
My isolation from people I claim to care for?
Because I didn't care about anything but my own problems.
My inability to focus long enough to do successful studio takes?
Because I didn't care about them as much as I care about the things distracting me.
My inability to loosen up?
Because I don't care enough about living healthily enough to stop obsessing over the things I want.
Because I don't care about much else than what I want.
Why I don't try hard enough to change any of this?
Because I don't care to keep failing or hurting, which is, by default, keeping anything good from coming of anything I'm going through.
I don't want to run away from my issues, but I also don't want to run into a worse place. Another song, by Linkin Park this time, says, "Sometimes I think of letting go and never looking back, and never moving forward so there'd never be a past."
Relatable? Too much.
Good way to live? Not ever.
The irony of the whole thing is that we tend to stop caring because of the weight that caring becomes. But to stop caring means your heart has to stop working, and if your heart stops working, you really can't go anywhere. You collapse. You stay where you are. You die.
When you stop caring, you are dead. And it definitely feels the part. At least pain lets you know you're alive, even though it means you're fighting to stay that way. When joy happens, you know you're alive and free.
That's what I think is so powerful about the "joy of salvation" that people talk about. Not only are you alive, not only are you free, but you are now set on a path of becoming more like Christ until His coming, when everything corruptible in us will be replaced with something incorruptible, and we enter eternal life and eternal freedom, where all darkness ends and the light only grows, extending into every corner of creation. It's unstoppable. It's unstoppable good, unstoppable beauty, unstoppable life.
That's something that's actually worth caring about. When we lose sight of that, it's not hard to stop caring about things, especially the more we know about evil and hurt.
I guess that's what I've been missing. With something lasting to care about, whatever else is valuable to us, whatever else brings joy, although temporary, finally gains its true meaning. We finally have a reason to care about it.
A reason to care about him.
About anyone, anything.
But without context to something eternal, how can anything temporary have meaning?
"Our light affliction, which only lasts for a moment, is working toward an eternal glory that far outweighs anything else. That's why we look not on the things that can be seen, but the things that cannot be seen. Why? Because the things we can see are temporary, but the things we cannot see are eternal." --Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 paraphrase mine)
We're about to close the first half of our crowdfunding campaign! If you haven't heard, I'm making a record with some amazing musicians and friends, and we're raising money for gear. When you pre-order the record for just $10, you'll get an instant download of one of the singles, "Find You In The Light." We're currently at 12% of our goal, which is amazing! When we first launched this campaign, I was as nervous as ever. Correction: I am nervous! But the response so far has been great, both in feedback about our music and in the generosity of friends and family. We've raised $580 of the $5000 we're shooting for to make this the best record it can possibly be. We actually crossed that 10% mark by the end of week 2!
As awesome as that is, we've hit a pretty big slump since then.
We have barely over a month left to go, so if you can help by preordering our record "Love And Fear," picking one of our perk packages (including anything from downloads to signed CDs, to t-shirts, posters, and microphones), sharing the campaign on social media, and most importantly praying that God will make a way for this to happen and that His will would be done.
As much as we love making music and having fun, though, this is our ministry above all else. We want to reach a world that is afraid by offering them the love of Jesus Christ. We're just looking for the means to do that the best way we know how. :)
ALSO, here's some exciting news! A fantastic friend of mine asked to interview me about the new record. She has an amazing devotional account on Instagram, so head over there and check out @shinejesus_ for some excellent words from the Father, and watch out for the interview, coming soon!
Thanks for all of your support! :)
Hey, everyone! So, I've spent the past few months planning, praying, etc. And I've come to a decision. Beginning early 2016, I'm going to launch a crowdfunding campaign to begin recording an album that I'm hoping will be a defining move in my music career. If you've known me for any decent amount of time, you'll know that all I care about is giving back that which was given to me in 2007, when I first became serious about professional music, and when it began to have serious personal impact on me. I think God both made me for this and called me to it. All I can do is respond to that in the way that I best know how. So save this. Bookmark it. Find me on the interwebs. And pay attention, because I'm gonna start putting things together ASAP. Thanks for all of your support, and I'll be seeing you very soon.
It's really interesting to see where your relationships with people go. If you're like most people, you see friends, enemies, in between, come and go. Some stay longer than others. Some just go. Some, defying all odds, seem to stick around. It's really cool when that happens. I've been blessed to spend the past almost-seven years with the same group of people consistently in my life in some way or another. My immediate church family is especially hugely important to me, along with a ton of the people I've met as a result of meeting them, even the ones who have moved away or I don't get to be in touch with as consistently. There still always seemed to be consistency there.
It's a fantastic feeling, welcomeness, wantedness, neither of which are actually real words. It's an awesome contrast to my life before. I won't say I had no friends. That'd be a lie, but they were few and far between. I look back on that time, and I'm glad I'm not there anymore. It makes where I am so much sweeter. Knowing that the people you've chosen to surround yourself with don't have some agenda, some mold, some criteria for you to fulfill in order to be kept--people who don't just want to use you--is liberating in so many ways I can't even list them all, and I'm just getting started with the list myself.
Not because intend to be this way, but it's taken me longer to grow closer to some than others. But it's happened, and I'm grateful. These are people that I will cherish for life.
After a while, the people who deserted you start to fade in the glow of Christ in the people who chose to stay. I will always remember the feeling of being alone, and that will be valuable in ministry to people who have felt the way I have, been treated the way I have, and those who will. I'm totally fine with that. It's not that I resent the past. I just have no reason to dwell in it.
The thing about that glow, is that it leaves an impression. By abiding in light, darkness seems darker when it comes, at least at first, if you don't get used to it.
People leave impressions. I'm so glad for that, but the whole idea about an impression is that it stays with you. So when I say that I've got a lot of people on my mind, it's an understatement. It's not that it hurts. It's a beautifully diverse picture full of tons of different people who have each meant something to me. I'm not unaware of the blessing of brothers and sisters that I have.
But sometimes, it does hurt. Eventually, you get around to those people you miss. Sometimes, you miss them a lot. Sometimes, life has you too occupied to dwell on it, which can be sweet relief, but it can make you question how much you care. It probably shouldn't. Or maybe it should. I guess it depends which is actually true.
The contrast between the time in my life before people kept me around just for me, and where I am now, just makes everything seem a bit more vivid. The joy of loving and knowing I'm loved is even clearer because I know what it's like to not know I'm loved, or to know what it's like to be hated, or worse, dismissed and ignored. And with such a vivid joy comes an equally vivid sorrow when those who light your life aren't near.
Don't get me wrong. I refuse to live consumed with either blind joy or blind despair, but they're both there. They're both present at all times, warring against each other. At least that conflict makes sense, even if it doesn't help.
It's times like these that the over-quoted words "the joy of the Lord is [my] strength" (Nehemiah 8:10) pop out of the mouths of people who seek to encourage you. It's good to have people who try to encourage you. They are gold. But I'm not convinced that most people think through the implications of that statement.
A lot of people claim "the joy of the Lord" in an attempt to make you (or them) happy. But that's not what it's really about. The joy of the Lord is not my happiness... okay, sometimes it is. I'm grateful for those times on a level I cannot convey with words. But let's not get it twisted. It can bring happiness, but that's not what it is.
The joy of the Lord is strength. It's not that you feel better, or your situation changes, because you have the "joy of the Lord." It's not a magic, cure-all happy pill. It's strength, meaning that when your mind is in chaos, when your heart is shredded, when you've been betrayed, when you're lonely, when you're longing, when you miss those you care for, when you hurt for those who are hurting, Jesus strengthens you. He stays with you "so that you will be able to bear" the weight you carry (I Corinthians 10:13).
It's okay if it doesn't go away. It's okay to feel joy and pain at the same time. It's okay if you have a lot of people and stuff on your mind. I do. All the time. All at once. And it's actually okay. It really doesn't feel like it sometimes. I don't always feel okay. But even that's okay, because somehow, I make it through, and that is joyous. I know my Father is with me, always, and that good will come of all things that face the people of God.
The story about Jesus calling Peter out to walk with Him on the water is commonly used to tell people to trust God. That's kind of the point, right? But how quickly do we gloss over what's really going on there?
What Peter experienced made absolutely no sense by human standards. We are heavier than water, so we sink. Storms are huge, so how could we be expected to hold our ground within them?
The problem is not that walking on water makes no sense. Jesus is the Lord, right? All things are possible through Him! The problem is that it makes perfect sense, but we believed something else. What doesn't make sense is sin. It doesn't matter if it's the perceivably "little" white lies or the thefts or the abuses or the addictions or the perversions or the violence or the murders or the genocides. It's not just what we do, and it's not just others have done to us and each other.
The adversity for we who now live is that society tells us to question everything, and the fact is that, yes, there really is merit to skepticism, but the amount of that merit is much smaller than we think. Bear this in mind as I speak to you, though: I'm not condoning naively putting oneself in absurdly dangerous situations without a worthy cause.
As followers of Jesus, we believe that everything that we were meant to be is now working in reverse, meaning that we do not live by reason or sanity but rather by lust and psychosis. Our worldview flipped nearly instantaneously in Eden from being sustained by an omnibenevolent God to questioning whether or not His word was true and what He was holding back from us. (Now, whether or not our initial motives were pure cannot be determined, but it can be reasonably assumed that we were as guilty as lucifer of arrogance and lust for power upon temptation.) Now, we live in a world inhabited by three kinds of people: those who prey on others, those who merely try to survive, and those who think that there must be a better option than either.
Jesus is the better option. His death in our place for our sins and His resurrection overcoming the punishment for the same sin is the single most revolutionary act anyone has ever done. Had we never exposed ourselves to sin, this fact would make sense to us all. We wouldn't view the world through the murky lense of fear. The idea that there is a perfect Lord of all would not seem so idiotic, because it isn't! In fact, it makes the more sense than anything in this world! Our problem is that we base our perceptions on what we've seen and heard, and what we've seen and heard is nothing but the evil proceedings from man's heart!
So when Peter was called to walk with Jesus on the water, his lense was already murky. He already had doubts, but they didn't surface until he refocused on how many ways walking on water could possibly go wrong. In a world where man had not chosen corruption, he would have understood and not doubted that this call from Christ were absolutely possible and that it was going to happen.
The real kicker here is that Jesus didn't just call Peter out on the water; Peter asked Him to do it! He already doubted that it was Jesus on the water, but he had learned so far that Jesus had a habit of doing things that were, by human judgments, completely insane! So if Jesus called him out with Him, shouldn't he have understood that it was going to be a little crazy? Yet he doubted Him anyway! I'd bet he didn't mean to do it, but he did. How could you not when there's a hurricane raging around you, right? But Jesus is Lord of the hurricane and the water!
I dare you, reader, to ask God to do something absolutely insane with you, and even more, I dare you to trust Him to lead you in the correct way. It's our disbelief that is insane, not His sovereignty over all things, because the reality is that He is the most sane thing alive.
I once asked someone if they thought I could make it as a musician. They told me they believed God could do big things with me. At the time, I thought they were just avoiding the question because they knew that I already knew that to be true. "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength," said Paul the apostle. See, I was saying, "I know God can do big things with me, but can I make it?" But my career success was never really the point of my life, was it?
I was asking an impossible question, and the wrong one, at that. Sure, I have some tricks up my sleeve, but who put them there, and what are they really worth if Jesus isn't directing them? They're just tricks, sleight of hand to get applause. A sentence doesn't have room for both our potential and God's. We will always rely on one or the other, and one will always run dry while the other will not.
A million things vie for our attention every day, things and people that want our soul in a way that only the Lord can truly handle it. A person can become overwhelmed. Personally, I find myself extremely susceptible to this for many different reasons, but one stands out more clearly than the rest: a tendency to experience anxiety attacks.
It's one of the least enjoyable experiences I've had -- the shallow-yet-quick heart rate, the racing thoughts, the fear, the silence. To be clear, I don't have them often, and I know that people have them with greater severity than I. When they do, though, I don't really know what's happened until I've come out of it for a while. One thing I do know is that many times, for me they are self-induced.
What that looks like is that some thought will be in my head, and that will connect to another thought. That's just my nature -- super-analytical [sometimes to the extent of self-micromanagement]. The ugliness appears when one of those thoughts that my mind is tearing through, like a child through wrapping paper on his birthday gifts, leads to another that is painful, like a bad memory from elementary school, or something from home that I try to forget, or maybe some inconsiderate and heartless thing someone did to me as an adult, or maybe it was a mistake that I made that I can't seem to let myself live down... All of that to say that a lot of it is self-induced for me.
To realize that a lot of the extra pain we feel is self-induced is to accept that fact that it is our responsibility to learn the solution. If Jesus died for me, lives again for me, is headed back here for me before or after I die, then that means that He loves me -- if you took conscious effort and energy and time to make something, you probably love it -- and puts a value on me and on all of us.
If you read the last issue of "Entering Rest" (see end of this article for a link), you'll remember that the things that vie for control of our soul will weigh us down, try to make us drown, and that only by letting go and calming our mind can we be saved from ourselves and from the water and gravity. Erik wanted revenge so badly that he was willing to die to get it, but maybe he really didn't believe he'd die, not until Xavier came along and convinced him otherwise, pulling him from his demise... but Charles didn't force Erik's hand to save him. Erik had to say NO in his own mind. Say NO to immediate gratification and thereby NO to death.
In the same way, when we feel like things are out of control (which is probably honestly most times) and we are being pulled in a million directions by people and things that have no interest in us besides what we can do with/for them, including all the sins with which we all struggle, we must say NO. I am a child of the KING. I am NOT perfect. I am NOT capable of playing god in any and all aspects of my life... BUT I AM loved. I AM saved by grace through faith. Jesus did pay for my crimes against Him, others, and myself. I am free. I AM NO LONGER a slave to sin. I AM NO LONGER bound to choices that other people have made. I AM NO LONGER measuring my value by things that are temporary but by things that last forever.
So NO, you may NOT have your way with me, world. You may NOT have your way with me, my own crippled mind. You may NOT dictate my every actions, old heart. NO.
That's where it starts. It's sure to get a lot more complicated for each person. Saying NO takes on different forms for each person and what they're going through, but with Jesus, we have the power to say NO.
“See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc; no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord.
-- Isaiah the prophet
If you've got something good going on, you'll want to make more of it, right? Look at the very screen on which these words are "printed," and you will see a prime example of something good: technology. Digital, mechanical, whatever -- technology is one of the greatest things we have. It makes life simpler, faster, more efficient. We spend less time in the means and more time in the end -- well, I suppose this wouldn't be true for facebook junkies like myself... ANYWAYS.
The point is just that technology has been something that has grown since day one. We've always looked for an easier, more efficient way of doing things, and that's okay. In fact, it's great. Instead of setting aside weeks to travel on foot, the world can be cross in a day. Awesome? I think so. Less wasted time doing the intermediate stuff? Fantastic! Taking airplanes, cars, and bicycles to your destination has caught on with such force. Rarely in our corner of the world do you see horse and buggy travelling interstate distances. Why? Because it made sense to use new technology instead, so they rolled with it. They made more, the demand went up, and both the supply and demand have fed each other ever since.
So when you start growing in your life, what happens? Well, you see the benefit. A new way of life, some kind of change, may give you a new perspective, a different level of appreciation for what you have and what you don't, and whom. No longer are you a dormant seed, but you've sprouted into something different, bigger, changing, branching out, integrating into the world around you, and even shaping it. You provide shade from the sun, security for the ground, and food for wildlife... and you bear fruit.
What is fruit? It's seeds buried in nutrients. Think of an apple. It's meat and core right? And when the seeds finally hit the ground and become buried, once they've received warmth and nourishment, BAM! -- up springs new life where once there was none. Is it not a miracle?
The Bible has numerous passages about the "fruit of the Spirit," list off different things that indicate genuine spiritual growth. "Love, joy, peace, patience," are among these. One of the passages (Galatians 5) also lists "works of the flesh." Why? Because when we're trying to grow spiritually, we are also at war with the impulses of our flesh. One part of us only is sensitive to what we crave, and that's what we call the flesh. When we begin thinking spiritually, though, things start to change. You start to see what come from you rather than only what you want to consume. And why is this so? Because God doesn't want us to hurt ourselves, nor each other. He gave us life, and it wasn't meant to end.
We were made good, and we were commanded to be fruitful and multiply, and I have a feeling that purpose may have been in a spiritual sense, even though His immediate command was more literal. The Scriptures say that God "withholds no good thing from us," so He's not going to hold us back if we're trying to grow. He will be that "river of water" that David talks about in Psalm 1, that feeds us and makes us grow. Sure, along the way, weeds might grow up around us, we might run into rocks, and birds might circle to try to eat us up, all of which happens to ensure that we don't grow.
A lot of times, our growth is hindered. It can be by the environment around us, or the sin nature within us. Regardless of which is true, if stagnancy is propagating, don't be afraid to check your source. See where your water is coming from. Is it clean water, or is it polluted? In today's society, people tend to act as though social, psychological, and behavioral pollution does not exist, but they are just as dangerous and real as polluted water, and we're all victims of it. The question is: when we see it, how can we not do something about it, let alone deny the reality of it?
The great thing is that a lack of growth, nor a difficult circumstance, isn't powerful enough to altogether stop growth from happening, and it definitely cannot stop God from giving you strength to grow more! Remember the parable of the sower? I mentioned it in PROLOGUE. I've been wondering if it ties into another parable, about the wheat and the weeds (see Matthew 13.) In fact, these two parables are in the exact same passage. In short, weeds begin infesting a crop of wheat, and the harvesters want to uproot the weeds so that they don't hinder the growth of the weeds, but the master (hint, hint, Jesus) says not to uproot them so that the wheat is not uprooted with the weeds. The heart of this parable is: He's watching over you.
He's got a plan, and He's not going to let weeds win out over what He's sown in the end. They won't stop your growth, and they won't get in the way of the end result. They may wrap around you, and they may crowd you, and they may even sap strength from the soil that surrounds you, but they cannot stop you because the sower is watching over you, and He is faithful.
When a seed finally receives enough warmth and water, it can finally start growing, but when it does, it always grows in two directions. It grows shoots and roots. The little stem pops out from the ground, beneath a surface that appears only one-sided.
While we admire the outward beauty and fragility, the leaves absorbing the sunlight and the carbon dioxide in the air, beneath the surface, a whole different world is springing -- or maybe digging would be a better word -- to life. Beneath the surface, from the same seed, have sprouted roots, and even though they remain unseen by the surface world, they serve a purpose much... hehehe... deeper than we know.
Roots are dirty and damp, taking in nutrients from dead plants and wildlife, all through the medium of water. Aside from that water, roots, essentially are mingled in death. Depth and darkness are it's home. You're probably thinking, "Wow, this is getting gloomy." Well, it kind of is. Turn back now if you don't like gloom, but I promise you that something good will come of it.
Roots can be fibrous, branching out every which way beneath the ground. They can be fibrous, one massive root burrowing directly downward to find the best possible source of water. They can be bulbous or tuborous, like a potato or an onion, with tiny roots feeding one massive root-ish thing. How does that relate to spiritual growth? Well, do you learn things by tapping into one main source of wisdom, or do you have a diverse, complex social system from which you attain life? From where do you gain your depth, and what is that depth feeding? Are you a potato, whose depth fosters a centralized depth? Are you taproot that looks for one super deep source of knowledge? Are you fibrous, finding wisdom in the little things, the diverse things, a little bit closer to the surface yet not foreign to the concept of depth?
Taking things a little further, how does this depth show? What do people see? How do you breathe? How do you let the byproducts of your growth out? Eventually, growth will force old things out. Eventually, nutrients and old, damaged, decayed parts go away to be broken down, recycled into the dirt, back into their primary building blocks, yet again to be used as nutrients for new, growing beings. The same goes for us. As our minds expand, old ideas are expelled from our minds, ideas we now see didn't work as well as we initially thought, ideas that weren't built to last, behaviors that could not be maintained.
It's okay if you aren't the most outgoing person, or if the span of your growth doesn't always breach the surface like an oak tree. Maybe you show up more like grass, something small, but nonetheless valuable. People will recognize that, and people who know what growth looks like will be able to see if your growth is being hindered by some external force. Maybe the dirt is eroding beneath you, or maybe you're not seeing enough sunlight. Maybe the brighter side of life hasn't met your eyes as often as would be condusive to your growth, to your thriving in life, and that isn't always up to you. Not always can the plant be blamed for the ground in which it was sown.
In the very end the reason for all of this interaction between different parts of this social-spiritual biosphere we're in is this: grow up, and make more -- or it might be appropriate to say this: "Be fruitful, and multiply." I'm taking that phrase way out of context, but think about it! Jesus compared our spiritual lives so many times to something agricultural, in one specific instance, seeds. Not only He, but David the king, made mention of someone following the paths of righteousness being "like a tree planted by the rivers of water, which brings forth his fruit in his season." So what is this "fruit," and how do we bring it forth?