Your Role in the Story God is Writing.

Those who know me know that I’m a big fan of the Harry Potter books and movies. I started reading the books when I was 8th grade. So, like many people now in their mid 20s, I grew up with the books. This christmas my mom and dad gave me the last Harry Potter film on Blu-Ray and just yesterday I was watching the special features when something caught my attention.

Emma Watson, who played Hermione, was talking about her relationship with Jo Rowling, the author of the series.  Jo based Hermione loosely on herself and she considered the casting of Hermione more important than any other character. In this Interview, Emma Watson mentioned that after the 3rd movie was released Jo sent her a letter that began, “To my perfect Hermione.” Emma talked about how much that meant; receiving such accolades from the woman who created Hermione was an enormous compliment.

As a person who dabbles in both acting and writing this is not lost on me. To have an author say to an actor that they are ‘perfect’ in their role – that is truly the highest praise possible. For a moment I wondered what that would feel like – having the originator of a character tell you that you did it perfectly. Jo Rowling started the creation of that Character even before Emma Watson was born and yet she felt that when Emma played the part she did so perfectly.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, being a member of the Millennial Generation means that I was given a lot of ‘Be the best you you can be’ talk. And ‘no one can be you but you.’ I always felt that those were vague and even foolish sayings. Sure, you don’t need to copy what everyone else is doing to be you, but everyone needs some guide – some template or role model. It was when I was watching this little featurette that it clicked for me.

As I was thinking ‘It must be amazing to have an author tell you as an actor that you played the part perfectly.’ I had a revelation. I would say that it was inspired by the Holy Spirit. I remembered this passage:

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…”

Hebrews 12:2a NIV (emphasis added)

I may never write a book that is made into a blockbuster film and I will almost certainly never be a character in one such movie. I will likely never have a role to play that the whole world will see and critique. Despite this, I still have a part to play – not a mask to wear, but rather a role to fill in my life. The Author has written it for me. Does this mean that I have no choice but to read his narrative with no expression of my own? By no means. He is expecting me to bring myself to this role. He is expecting me to take what is on the page and create my own artistic interpretation of his prose.

It isn’t about ‘me being the best me I can be.’ I’m a prideful, self-centered, boring person on my own. If left to my own devices, I’m only a sad shell of a human being. Instead, it’s about me finding a way to play that role that God has written for me in his great narrative. It’s about me giving a living interpretation of his story – the story he is writing now. I realize that I cannot be ‘perfect’ in the human sense of the word; I cannot be without any apparent flaws. What I can do, however, is be me as he meant me to be – such that God sees me as his perfect Will Adams.

It is my conviction that the greatest privilege we have in this life is simply being a living expression of the prose God is composing throughout history, in hopes that when our part has been played, Christ stands proud as the author of salvation – as the writer who tells the actor ‘you played the role perfectly.’

Pride comes before a Catastrophic Failure

I learned something interesting recently: the phrase “Catastrophic Failure” is an actual technical term in engineering. It refers to what happens when a structure, vehicle or machine has some small part that wasn’t built to spec or otherwise was weakened that then causes a domino effect that leads to the whole thing to falling apart. There’s a page about it on wikipedia which includes a list of famous catastrophic failures like the disaster at Chernobyl and the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion.

The most recent was the collapse of a the I-85 west bridge going over the Mississippi river. When it happened it was remarkably instantaneous. Despite how large the structure was – it happened in just seconds.

Security Camera Footage of the bridge collapsing

 

This catastrophic failure cost the city of Minneapolis millions of dollars and thirteen people their lives. No one saw it coming. Experts spent months investigating, trying to discern what could have caused the collapse of a seemingly perfect bridge. They were able to determine that it was most likely caused by one faulty joist.

 

Someone found this picture from four years before that shows a very slight bowing of the joist that may have lead to the eventual and sudden collapse of the entire bridge.

When I saw this I thought of all the times that we Christians have some small thing in our lives – some little joist, some little piece that needs attention, but we ignore it – we don’t replace it – we let it sit. I know that there have been times in my life where I’ve allowed a faulty joist to exist. I knew about it, even though no one else did – then one day, boom- Catastrophic Failure. Usually its anger at someone, but it could be many things.

The only reason why one doesn’t examine these small things that eventually lead to failure is Pride. My question is what is your faulty joist? What piece in your life needs attention? What needs to be reinforced or replaced? What is keeping you from replacing it? Is it because you may have to seek the help of someone else? I’ve found the only way to strengthen those joists in my own life is to remain humble by being held in honest accountability.

Consider proverbs 16:18 from the message:

First pride, then the crash—
the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.

Proverbs 16:18

My Mission, My Adventure

The Mission:

In Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey asserts that everyone should have a purpose statement in life. This is the 2rd habit “Start with the end is mind.” Its about defining the word ‘important’ for your life. The 3rd habit, “put first things first,” asserts that if you have a standard for what is really important in your life then you can use that to determine how should should spend your time and money.

My life group has been reading through 1 Timothy, a book filled with advice for a younger man from his mentor. In chapter 3 the Apostle Paul outlines the qualifications for church leaders and one of them is that they be ‘temperate.’ One commentator points out that later on Paul says ‘not given to drunkenness’ so its unlikely that he means the same with his use of ‘temperate.’ The same commentator suggested that the word would be better translated as “vigilant.” The Message paraphrase goes as far as to use the phrase “cool and collected.” These may seem like unrelated terms, but where I see them all connected its this: To be temperate, vigilant or cool and collected, you must be purposeful and therefore prepared. The key to this is know what’s important – know the mission so you can be vigilant, so you can be collected, so you can know what to temper towards. Its about personal leadership.

The Adventure:

My lifegroup also recently read the book Wild at Heart by John Eldridge. I read it for the first time when it was first released ten years ago, so it was interesting to return to the book now as an adult. The authors argues that men in the church have become ‘nice guys’ when they’re actually called to be dangerous men of God who seek some kind of adventure. I don’t agree with every point in Eldredge’s book, but with this I agree whole heartedly. Consider Matthew 25, the parable of the talents: The risk-taking servants were rewarded. God doesn’t want us burying our riches in the back yard.

If the mission is about personal leadership, then the adventure is about personal vision. And as we know proverbs 29:18 says ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish.’ A more literal translation of this verse is ‘where there is no prophesy, the people cast of restraint.’ This may sound like a totally different message but it isn’t; both translations mean – when you stop seeking God’s perfect will for your life, you won’t get God’s perfect will for your life.

So I thought it was about time that I defined a few things: My mission and my adventure.

My Mission:

Its difficult, but I think I managed to get it down to one statement:

My mission is to find creative ways to disciple christians and communicate the gospel using film, theater, photography and teaching.

This will change over the years, I’m sure. At the very least I hope to add in the word “lead” and then “mentor others” in the future as my role changes, but for now I think this gets to the central message of it.

My adventure:

Part of the difference between the mission and the adventure is the fact that it is not a simple statement. After all, if you can express it in just a few words, how adventurous can it be? (Unless one of those words is “flamethrower”) Using both scripture and the desires I believe God has placed on my heart, this how I see my adventure at this point in my life.

I seek to accomplish everything I do – through arts, through teaching, through relationships with others – to the glory of the one true God. I seek to chase after God and His will for my life in such a way that others might say of me ‘If the gospel isn’t true, Will has totally wasted his life.” I seek to push myself spiritually, mentally and even physically, pouring it all out as a praise offering to God. I want to visit other parts of the world for the purposes of spreading the Good News and collecting stories to bring back home to tell others so that a desire for missions might awake in their hearts. I seek to live a pure and holy life that inspires others to do that same. I seek to have the kind of selfless, contented confidence that the disciples had, that others might say “He has truly been with Jesus.”

I seek to have a network of friends with whom I can share life who want to join me on my adventures – who hold me accountable and support me when I’m down. I seek to prepare the next generation so that when it is no longer my place to lead or work that there will be others, even more capable, who will take my place. I seek to have lived such a full life that when I am old, young men will say of me “I hope that I will one day be as used up, so I might have equally amazing stories to tell.” I seek to live such that when I am gone that the world around me won’t miss a beat – they’ll merely shed a single tear for the temporary loss of my company, but then smile with the knowledge that I carried the torch as long as was needed and that they’ll see me again one day – carrying on the task that God gave me. Carrying it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Hallelujah, praise the Lord!

This is my adventure – you can’t have it. Though yours may look similar, it might have more specifics than mine as God’s vision for your life might be clearer. I suspect as I live my adventure that it will become more specific.

Now its your turn

So, whats your mission? What’s your adventure?

A Culture of Giving

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

My father played basketball at his high school in Indiana, during his time there he was on a team that won the mid-state championship. It was a small school and so the experience wasn’t all that unlike the plot of the movie Hoosiers. This is perhaps why that movie is one of my family’s favorites.

When my Dad’s team returned from the championship game the entire school had shown up to congratulate them. Several of the players spoke to the student body on behalf of the team. When my dad spoke up he told this story:

A certain saint asked God to show him the difference between heaven and hell. So God sent an angel to take him, first to hell. There he saw men and women seated around a large table with all kinds of delicious food. But none of them was eating. They were all sad and yawning. The saint asked one of them, “Why are you not eating?” And he showed the saint his hand. A long fork about 4ft long was strapped to their hands such that each time they tried to eat they only threw the food on the ground. “What a pity” said the saint. Then the angel took him to heaven. There he was surprised to find an almost identical setting as in hell: men and women sitting round a large table with all sorts of delicious food, and with a four-foot fork strapped to their arms. But unlike in hell, the people here were happy and laughing. “What!” said the saint to one of them, “How come you are happy in this condition?” “You see,” said the man in heaven, “Here we feed one another.”

My dad told this story and then explained that the team wasn’t selfish; they fed one another and that’s why they won the championship. The funny thing is that at this point in his life my dad didn’t know Jesus from Buddha, yet he grasped a simple truth about human nature and Christianity; selfishness is common but generosity is the key to success in community.

I’ve had the honor these past four years of being the class sponsor of Asbury University’s class of 2011 and I don’t use the word ‘honor’ lightly. I really consider it to be one of the greatest outpourings of God’s grace on my life. The responsibility included being involved with the class’s activities during their freshman year at school and later returning for their major events over the next three years. This past weekend they had their senior retreat and commencement. I and my partner, Tiff Hassler, were in attendance and I had one of the best weekends in recent memory.

I’m not sure how to describe why I enjoy the culture at Asbury so much, but I think that the closest phrase I can use to explain it is ‘a Culture of Giving.’ And when I say giving, I don’t mean money or anything material, though those things aren’t excluded. I mean a whole attitude of giving to the other people – in conversation, in competition, in creativity and in every other kind of interaction. This is what I think Jesus meant when he told us to love one another.

Late one evening on the retreat I just sat watching groups playing cards and boardgames and time and time again I saw this form of social grace extended in the way people just showed love to each other in common interaction.

I know that I often feel like the most selfish person in the world, so don’t think that I’m trying to claim any sort of perfection in this realm, but I do know this: when everyone decides that the other person is more important than themselves, something amazing happens in a community. So often even in the churches and in Christian families people are looking out for what they want, looking out for their own needs and desires, but we claim to love our neighbors as ourselves. Have you ever considered what that means? What it really looks like to care as much about the people around you as you do for your own good? We say that all the time, even secular humanists call it ‘the golden rule,’ but what does it really look like in practice?

It looks like a whole culture of giving. It looks like Acts 2:44 where all the believers were together and they had everything in common. It starts in conversations where everyone is genuinely engaged in listening as much as they are in talking. It starts in misunderstandings and moments of frustration and says ‘I will show them the same grace that Christ has shown me.’ It starts in times where I don’t get my way and it says ‘that’s ok, it wasn’t about me anyway.’

What if we turned John 13:35 into a question: “Will everyone know that you are my disciples by this?” And we asked it about our behavior when we’re interacting with a friend or colleague, meeting a brother-in-Christ for that first time or dealing with a fellow church member who really gets on your nerves – “Will everyone know that I am your disciple by this?” Or when you’re talking to your siblings, parents, children or spouse. “…by this?” Jesus says that it is by our treatment of other Christians that the world will know that we are His. That’s because the pull of heaven is irresistible: when people see it in others they have a longing in their heart to live in a culture of that kind of generosity. It is something that both convicted and encouraged me. As long as we choose to sit and complain about our forks while we starve to death – that’s Hell. But when we feed each other – that’s real Christian community. That’s Heaven.

So my fellow Christ followers, are we feeding each other? By this does everyone know that we are His disciples?

The Core of Christianity.

Whenever I read blog posts or status updates by my non-believer friends its clear to me that most atheists are under the false impression that the belief in God is at the core of Christianity. Maybe you’re a believer and you think the same. I’d like to offer you a challenge.

I’d suggest that perhaps the core of Christianity isn’t belief in God at all. Now, the foundation of christian belief starts with the fear of God.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” Prov. 1:7

So yes the belief in and fear of God is foundational, but I’d suggest that it’s not at Christianity’s Core. While belief, faith in the unseen God is the foundation of Christianity, Its center column (to continue with the building analogy) is far more visceral than the simple belief in God. This core element is pivotal, because while the existence of God cannot be irrefutably proven or disproven, this core piece is so innate and so key in all of humanity that it is Christianity’s greatest proof when present and also its most difficult apologetic question when it is absent.

The existence or God is not at the Core of Christianity; Love is. If it were not so wouldn’t the Bible be filled with philosophy; arguing for the existence of the diety around which it is centered? No, His existence is presupposed throughout all of its pages; instead, it tells the story of our need for an unstoppable love, created by a relentlessly loving God.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8

Theologically, 1st john is one of my favorite letters. It gets right down to it: God is love. Why was it that God sent his only begotten son? Was it for Anger at our disobedience? Was it for a desire for the world to be morally righted according to his law? No – For God so LOVED… Why is there a whole chapter dedicated in 1st Corinthians to explaining one word? Is there any other word that is so extensively defined anywhere else the Bible? And could it be any more clear when that chapter ends with these words:

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Cor 13:13

Better than Faith: mere faith is important – even foundational to Christianity. Better than hope; we have hope for eternal life and yet we’re told that something is better than that hope. Love is the greatest of these.

So, go ahead tell me I can’t prove the existence of God. I wasn’t supposed to prove it anyway; that’s what faith is for. Go ahead tell me that the world is a terrible place and that its getting worse; I know that man is fallen and I have hope anyway. But I’d like to see you try – I’d love to see you try to disprove Love – true, relentless, fierce undying, sacrificial, love. Love wins.

3 Things My Grandfather Taught Me


My Granddad Billy “Poppy” Key

I get my first name from my maternal granddad, Billy Key. He’s a retired Methodist pastor who is still very well known in south Georgia Methodism. At age 87 my grandfather is still a great blessing to my whole family. This morning I woke up thinking of what a great life he’s lead and all the things I’ve learned from him. There have been many, many great stories that I hope to tell and retell, and many more simple scripture lessons and poems that he’s shared over the years through his many sermons.

 

I think I can narrow it down to three things that summarize what I’ve learned from him.

1) Always be ready to share the gospel, anytime anywhere.

Long before I even knew it was scripture I would hear my granddad quote 2nd Timothy 4:2

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine”

For many of my growing up years, I actually thought that he was the first one to say that. I didn’t realize it was in the Bible – he says it like he owns it. (would that we may all take such ownership over the Word, that it comes out of such conviction)

My Grand Father has never met a stranger and is never afraid to speak the name of Jesus to anyone he meets throughout his day. In today’s world the word ‘preach’ isn’t very cool. We think it sounds dictatorial, dogmatic, long-winded or boring, but we’re told in scripture to preach – and Billy Key is never afraid to ‘preach’ even if its just a few words of truth to the clerk at the grocery store.

2) Always be grateful for what you have and what you are given.

He has always displayed an attitude of thankfulness. Still today, he’s very thankful for any small everyday blessing that friends and family offer him – the kind of things that many of us would take for granted. Many times at thanksgiving he reminds us of an story of a woman who would say before every meal ‘Much obliged for the vittles, Lord.’

When he was a young boy in Adrian, Georgia, he was walking out of Church with his family one day and it was particularly beautiful outside. He turned to his mother and he said “Isn’t this a great world we live in?” and that sense of wonder and joy at the simple blessings has never left him throughout his life.

To this day he begins prayers with “Thank ya, Thank ya, Thank ya, Lord” as a simple expression of how grateful he is for God’s hand on his life.

3) And finally, bless the socks off of everyone around you.

My granddad is a blesser. He blesses people. We throw the world ‘blessing’ around a lot in churchianity and I think it looses its meaning, but what I mean by this is literal and intentional spiritual blessing passed from one person to another.

I hope that every one of you is fortunate enough to receive a Billy Key-style blessing in your life, if not from him, then maybe from someone else. He often grabs hold of you – by the arm or the shoulder. Then he stares at you right in the face and he addresses you. “Will” he’ll say, “You have been blessed with a great many gifts and the Lord is with you. You’re a capable young man. We’re proud of you and what you’re doing and we’re excited to see where the Lord is leading you!” Then he’d give me a big slap on the back and smile. Other times he’ll just grab you and quote from Numbers Six

“The LORD bless you
and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”

Again, much of my growing up years I didn’t know this was scripture – he said it so sincerely I could’ve believed they were his words.

At the very least, he’ll walk up to you and grab your arm, pat you hard on the back and shout “Bless ya, Bless ya, Bless ya!” It makes me think of Genesis 32 when Jacob wrestles with God and says “I will not let you go unless you bless me!” If it had been Billy Key, he would’ve said “I will not let you go unless I bless you!” He does it so easily, its as if he doesn’t even have to try.

Furthermore…

Over the past several years, my Granddad, who I call “Poppy” has preached fewer and fewer sermons. And when we get together as a family he doesn’t speak the same homily that he used to, but he still says one thing. After the Thanksgiving, Christmas or Independence Day celebration has ended, and all the grandchildren and great grandchildren are sitting in wake of a big family meal, Poppy stops and says this simple poem. Written by the Georgia poet, Sidney Lanier (who lived in Montgomery, AL for a few years), this little poem has become a treasure of my family’s. I think it sums up the kind of faith that Billy Key Has.

I know not how such things may be
I only know He speaks to me.
Not through the grass nor through the sod
but in my heart the voice of God
Speaking spirit unto spirit,
and if I listen I can hear it.
Voice of God that speaks to me
out of His infinity.

I called my grandad and asked him to recite it to me so I could copy it down and he was over joyed – upon finishing it he paused and said “There it is, its yours for the rest of your life now.” I couln’t’ve have ask for a richer inheritance.

These things have been a blessing to me, may they be a blessing to you.

I got my Confidence at Wal-mart!

I did a search on Amazon.com and there are around 8,000 books available for purchase that are on the subject of confidence. The listed categories of books range from business to Arts & Photography (“Drawing with confidence”) – it appears the everyone wants confidence in what they do. One of the popular statistics that’s been thrown around lately involves this subject. In an international study of teenagers it was found that (no surprise) American teens are bad at Math – some of the worst in the world apparently. What makes this statistic interesting is that American teenagers scored the highest in another area: Confidence. The same group of people that scored lowest in math scored highest in confidence.

The reason is clear – when my generation started arriving on the scene back in 1984 many of our parents and teachers decided that it was important that we be confident so they worked hard to make us feel good about ourselves regardless of what we were actually capable of. They gave us ribbons for participating even if we did a terrible job. They had people come to our schools who did magic tricks, gymnastics and motivational talks all of whom told us to be confident. They told us if we believe in ourselves that we can achieve our dreams as long as we just be ourselves because we’re unique and wonderful. This, of course, is total crap, but it actually accomplished something: many of us believed it and we developed disproportionate and totally unfounded confidence.

I’ve worked with some very talented people over the years, but the most impressive human trait I’ve seen is humility when coupled with skill. That’s because to be humble while possessing great ability is to be Christ-like.

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!”

Philippians 2:1-8

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having confidence, in fact I think that its safe to say that anyone who really succeeds has a healthy measure of it. I think that the real issue with confidence isn’t as much about having the right amount as much as it is getting it from the right place and putting it in the right person. You can put confidence in yourself, your parents, your pastor, your boss, your job, your spouse, your spouse’s job, your children, the government, your school, your sports team, your car, technology, your favorite author, a diet, your favorite news station… and the list goes on and on. As I said there’s nothing wrong with confidence. Look at these two verses from first Corinthians:

“Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Cor 1:31

“Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” 1 Cor 3:4-5

I’m going to say something that might sound crazy to us americans. I believe that God basically doesn’t want us to have confidence in ourselves. I know that sounds crazy to some of us. He doesn’t want us to hate ourselves either – he wants us to have self respect; to believe that we’re vessels capable of containing the holy spirit. But he wants our confidence to be in him and him alone so that he can do through us things that we never thought were possible. Its like Oswald Chambers says:

‎”We can only be used by God after we allow Him to show us the deep, hidden areas of our own character. It is astounding how ignorant we are about ourselves!” – O.Chambers

Our ability to accomplish the work of God is directly corollary to our surrender to him; until we submit to him we have no way of knowing what we’re truly capable of. To reach that place of surrender our confidence needs to come from God and it needs to be placed back in God alone. But we have to believe we’re capable of being use by God – that his power can work in us and that it can overcome the challenges around us. Look at Peter when when Jesus calls to him to walk on water:

And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Matthew 14:29-30

Based on this, I’d propose that confidence is a cycle. We submit to God and he gives us confidence saying “I’m giving you this task because I made you capable of doing this and I will strengthen you” we then say “I can only do this because God is strengthening me.” therefore we submit to God and he continues to strengthen us.

Just the other day I was talking to a friend who’s had an exciting, but daunting opportunity put before him. He admitted as the time drew nearer that he was getting nervous. He said he wasn’t sure he could do it. I told him that I didn’t think that he could either. That might sound like I was being a bad friend or just hurtfully honest, but I also said that I believed that God could do it through him. I told him that he’s having those nervous feelings is God’s way of drawing him closer. If you feel like you can’t do something that you’ve been called to do, maybe that’s because you can’t – and you need to realize that before you can let God do it through you.

False confidence can come from lots of places. And whether I buy the fitness magazine “Get in shape and everything will fall in place” myth or the Wizard of Oz “you had it all along” myth or the motivational speaker “you can do anything if you follow your dream” myth, I’ll never reach my full potential until I put my confidence in Christ.

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

All In

I’m not a big poker player but on occasion I have caught clips of professional poker being played on ESPN7. I remember seeing part of a championship game of Texas Hold ‘em that had one particular player who was known for going ‘All In’ in almost every game he played. Apparently it worked – he made it all the way to the championship game using this method. In poker, when you go all in it forces everyone else in the game to do one of two things: they have to go all in or they have to get out of the game.

Today, the senior pastor at Frazer issued a challenge to the members of the Frazer Family; he asked that in 2011, all of our members choose to go all in for Jesus. Much in the same way that poker player did in every game, we have to decide if we’re going to take the plunge – take the risk and invest all we have in Christ.

The average American church-goer would probably tell you that the Christian life isn’t terribly difficult because we generally still get to have our comfortable, safe lives. That’s not the picture that Paul gives us in 1st Corinthians:

“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” 1 Corinthians 15:19

The early Christians were so invested in Christ that if it were all a hoax, they would have been men to be pitied. They knew that to be all in, they would have to give of themselves such that everyone around them saw the sacrifice in their life. It reminds me of something a friend of mine posted on his facebook page, I don’t know where he first heard it, but he said

“The kingdom isn’t advanced by technological progress, military tactics, or economic growth. The kingdom is advanced by sacrifice”

To be all in means to sacrifice. Many people have asked Jesus to be their Savior, but have they decided to be all in for him? I’ll leave you with the words of “I have decided to follow Jesus.” You may not know that this song is attributed to Sadhu Sundar Singh, a man who was born in India. He grew up in an entirely different religion until he had a vision of Jesus one night. When he converted to Christianity, his family forced him out of the house, only after his father tried to poison him. He witnessed for Christ for the rest of his life. Think about the sacrifice that he made – how he went all in, as you read these words.

I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;

No turning back, no turning back.
Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back.
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.

Postvenient Grace

John Wesley talked a lot about the idea of “Prevenient Grace” which is a basic belief that even before you are born, God is at work in your life – already drawing you towards a relationship with Him. This idea appears throughout scripture. Perhaps most clearly in this verse in Jeremiah:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…” Jeremiah 1:5 (ESV)

I’ve heard lots of great sermons and many great stories that illustrate the truth in this principle. I absolutely love examining prevenient grace, because when we look back at our lives we so often see where God was working long before we knew it. It is a great reminder of His faithfulness to us, but that’s not what I’m posting about. I just wanted to write a brief post to introduce a thought to you.
On Christmas Eve this year my dad preached a sermon in which he mentioned that the word ‘prevenient’ comes from the latin roots “pre” and “veni” and literally means to ‘come before’ – this got me thinking about other words that have the same root: “intervene” – to come between, “convene” – to come together. Then I thought about the opposite prefix and I asked “Is there such a thing as postvenient grace?” If you’re curious, the word ‘postvenient’ does not exist, but this non-word suddenly took on a great deal of meaning to me.
If God is faithful to us before we’re even born, it stands to reason that he’s faithful to us after we’ve left this earth. God carries out the works that he begins in us.

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (NIV)

God is big on promises and covenants to families. Scripture is clear that God blesses those who bless him – and his people.

“I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:3 (NLT)

So the only difference in prevenient grace and ‘postvenient grace’ is that we get to participate in our postvenient grace by honoring God and blessing his people in and through our lives. So, how are you being a blessing to God and his people right now?

Ignition; What is this Fire?

3 – 2 – 1 . . . Ignition!

I’m a big fan of metaphors. My church just finished a teaching series today. ‘Ignite’ was its title and I’m pausing today to meditate on the image of ignition because I think that it’s a powerful metaphor. References to fire are very common in the Bible; there are over 500 times where fire is referred to in some way. Here’s one Patrick has used a few times for his messages.

I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!

Luke 12:49 NIV

Though 1/5 of the fire mentions in the Bible refer to God, In this particular metaphor Jesus isn’t the fire. As Jesus is a member of the trinity, to me it seems that he’s not referring to God the Father or to the Holy Spirit. I think the fire refers to something else. More on this in a moment.

About a month ago we finished a series called “Breathe” Another powerful image. Let’s take a look at another verse of scripture:

And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

John 20:22 NIV

The Holy Spirit is often referred to in scripture in terms of Air.

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

John 3:8 NIV

The Holy Spirit – breath, wind, air, oxygen

___________ – Fire, ignition, kindling

So what is this fire?

I looked up a scientific description of what take place when fire is created. Here’s a paraphrasing of what I found on citizendium.org:

The flames of a fire are the result, or side-effect, of a chemical reaction between oxygen and a fuel source (wood, or gasoline, for example). The steps for fire creation are as follows:

  • a fuel source is touched by heat until it reaches its ignition temperature
  • oxygen breaks down larger molecules into carbon dioxide and water vapour
  • this reaction produces visible, glowing heated gas

If you’re like me this gets your mind going. And going. I think that metaphors are often weakened by over-explaination, so if you want to stop there and just consider this for yourself, I don’t blame you.

So, really what is this fire?

If the Oxygen in this equation is the Holy Spirit then we are the fuel. We are what gets set on fire. So what is this fire? Craig Groeschel, pastor of LifeChurch.TV calls it … “It.” He wrote a whole book entitled “It.” Upon first reading, I thought that “It” was just the Holy Spirit, but after discussing the book, I realized that “It” had to be a special interaction of the Holy Spirit with the people of the church. So what is this fire? Well if it isn’t God – and it isn’t us I think the only thing that it could be is… Fire. Sorry if that’s anti-climactic.

When people are excited don’t we say that they are ‘fired up?’ When a sports star scores a streak of points don’t the commentators say “He’s on fire!” I don’t think there’s a better word for fire than “fire.” If you need to get specific, it’s the ‘fire of the spirit’ described in 1st Thessalonians

“Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.”

1st Thessalonians 5:19 ISV

Step by Step

I think there is a TON you can draw out of this metaphor. Assuming the Holy spirit is Oxygen and we’re the fuel – consider…

  • Heat is applied to ignite something
  • Different fuels have different Ignition Temperatures
  • Oxygen breaks down the molecules within the fuel
  • The reaction produces a visible, glow.

Here’s the part  where I over-explain.

To ignite, you need Oxygen and Fuel you need people to be interacting with the Holy Spirit.

You also need the heat to be turned up. Similar to the way that a sick person’s fever burns away the flu, heat turned up on people burns away the junk in their lives. As much as no one wants to be in crisis – don’t our priorities fall in line when the heat gets turned up? Mark Batterson said “Everyone wants a miracle but no one wants to be in a situation that necessitates one.” You still need oxygen though, so be sure to allow the Holy Spirit in.

You have to reach the ignition temperature. You know, striking a match is easy – getting a large bonfire going isn’t quite as easy, but once you get it going, it’s even harder to put out.

Once the fire starts, the Oxygen has to break some things down. The person or people who are on fire will experience life-change and some of it may seem destructive or even be painful. Some relationships may change or break down – some habits and may have to come to an end while new disciplines have to replace them.

The reaction is always evident to anyone watching; it produces a glow. You cannot hide fire. It produces more heat (yes, more heat) to all those around and it creates light, chasing away darkness. The funny thing about fire is that it tends to spread the more it touches things and you can’t really control it. But keep in mind, without oxygen the fire goes out.

I could go on – there are so many good images that come out of this metaphor – pulling a coal away from the rest of the fire will cause it to burn out more quickly, putting it back in the fire reignites it. But you get the picture.

In Summary…

So when you feel like the heat is getting turned up and you can’t take it any more, try not to worry, you’re just that much closer to being ignited. So make sure you’re getting plenty of fresh air.