Friday, September 7, 2012

I Am Sure......?

     The biggest thorn/sword in my side is answering the question, “Are you sure?” If you struggle with this same uncertainty on everything, I am not sure I can help you (quite the paradox isn’t it?). I am willing to open up this topic a bit though, and share a few things I have learned.
      I was sitting at Dunkin Donuts a few days ago doing homework and reading a book for class when a friend joined me at the table I often occupy alone. She was reading her Bible and we got to talking about our faith, what it looks like, and upon hearing I planned to pursue vocational ministry she asked me, “So you’re definitely going into the Ministry?” “Yes, I am,” I replied confidently. “How are you so sure that is what you are suppose to do?” I am fairly certain that last question was prefaced with a groan of anxiety and a rubbing of her face with her hands. This groan was not out of disdain for my calling. Let me make sure I clarify that before you think the friends I have are the worst of friends. Come to find out she struggles with know for sure what she is called to do with her life.
      After days of scrutinizing this question, and pondering on if I really am called to ministry, as well as questioning everything else in my life, I have found the peace to once again say I am sure I am called to full time ministry. So to my friend that asked, “Are you sure?” allow me to reply at length on how I know:
1)      There is literally nothing else I can do.
·         We talked about this a little in person and I told you that I was advised by every pastor I know that if I could do anything else to do it. I have tried being  a chemistry major, followed by engineering major, after calculus and chem II wrecked my world I tried business only to have economics further the holocaust on my GPA, twice.
·          God has blessed me with a disproportionate amount of love for his Word, and to spread that love with every one that I can. Several times I have laughed out loud in humble amazement at what God revealed to me in His word. You would think after being around for thousands of years the Bible would be exhausted and fully understood, but it becomes a whole new animal to each person that studies it and allows a living and active truth to infect their hearts.
2)     “I have a particular set of skills, skills that make a man like me…”
·         So Liam Neeson doesn’t say it completely best, but part of it applies. I recognize that God has blessed me with skills that are conducive to the ministry. I Timothy 3 gives a list of requirements for an overseer or what we call a pastor. That said, those are all things that other pastors have looked at my life, and agreed that I am within the bounds of scripture to pursue the office of pastor.
o   Hear me on this: I am far from perfect. I tend to quarrel sometimes, have no household that I run so some things are left to be seen, and I would still consider myself young in my faith. However I try to lead a life of repentance on all sin. I pray constantly for conviction on unseen sin in my life, and God has constantly answered that prayer, often times with tough things that even now suck to have revealed. I remark on this because I don’t always see a spirit of repentance in all Christians. I say that in all humility knowing this tendency is not my own. Thank you, God, for growing this in me. So though I am not perfect, God has assured me He can use me.
3)     So what about people that do not feel called to ministry? How do we know what we are called to?
·         A wise friend once told me that your calling is where one’s talent and desires meet. Think about this: If I am really good at planting a garden but have no desire to ever put a shovel to the ground and plant things then surely I am not called to that. Conversely, if I had the burning desire to be an Olympic volleyball player (sad confession, I do) but am not 6’9 and still coordinated (confession, I am not) then no matter how much I want it I am still not called to that. Your calling is somewhere in between. For me I have always been good at learning, reading, and investing into people’s lives. What I have always longed to do (other than volleyball) is have a job where I make lots of money and work somewhere impacts the world. You add those and average them out you come up good ole’ Pastor Thig (maybe, hopefully!).
·         Pray, fast, and seek. Those are three things that I suggest every Christian get use to. In the case of choosing a career or finding your calling, these are a must.
o   Pray to God that He would reveal to you your strengths that He alone has equipped you with, and that He wants to use to build His Kingdom.*
o   Fasting is an overlooked aspect of the Christian faith. Fasting makes one totally dependent on God for strength, and brings the Christian to a place where they have no other source of energy besides God. I challenge you: seek as many places in scripture as you can that talk about fasting, as well as examples of God’s response to His people fasting. Then consider whether fasting is something worth your while.
o   Seek the Lord in His Word. Dig into scripture, and start rearranging all of your life to fit what the Bible calls God’s people to. Treat it like your own personal mirror, and hold your life up in reflection to scripture.
§  Infuse all of this with trust. This is another struggle of mine. None of the above matter if our hearts are not solely trusting in God. Think about this: if we do not trust God’s sovereign plan for what we are “called” to what other voices are we listening to? Our own? Our friends? I won’t get into how  both of those are bad decisions (though maybe I should). I will implore you to trust one Voice, and to trust in God.
*I put a little **** thing up there after Kingdom to speak on a specific thing. Every single thing you are gifted with is from God. Your gifted desires were given to you by God, and your gifted talent is given to you by God. Therefore, your calling is to serve God and build up His Kingdom with your desires and talents. Keep this in mind wherever you go and with whatever you choose. You are “called” to love God, bring glory to God, and to edify whatever local church you attend wherever you wind up. The local body of believers is the responsibility of the pastor, and the body itself. You in particular are gifted with lots of ministry blessing talents and I beg of you one thing; serve your God, pour into His people, and bless the church as God has blessed you.

Monday, June 11, 2012

My Obnoxious Brag-athon

      I felt a strange urge today. After another long day of planning to get [these set of expectations] accomplished and actually only accomplishing {this set of expectations}, which were completely externally driven by the worldly system called “my boss,” I find myself rushing to get two loads of clothes washed and my Bible studied up on. I see no need to expound on what each of the previous two list compiled of, but I would like to brag for a little while. Upon sitting down at the Chatman’s family dinner table, opening my Bible, turning on my laptop, and rifling through all the things I have not done today I find myself musing that I have not boasted in a while. So hear me out as I get my brag on for a little bit.
      Everyone is in shocked giggles at this point thinking, “Jordan? Bragging??” and some of my younger, less sanctified friends might be grabbing stones as we speak (I use to be that guy). That’s okay I still have love for these people. Some of my closer friends (I hope anyway) have caught on at this point, however, and know where this is going. In light of these last few weeks I have a lot to brag about. Looking back on my entire life I would estimate I have even more to brag about.
      To who it may concern, I try to be as biblical in my thinking as possible, and so when the thought of boasting comes to mind I have a pretty narrow list of things biblically permissible to brag about. This works out perfectly for me though because the listing of things to boast in (God) has blessed me exceedingly and abundantly all my life, but I am going to focus on what the Lord has laid on my heart this busy Monday night while doing laundry (I swear I am an old man).
      2 Corinthians 10:17 quotes Jeremiah from the Old Testament that God has commanded his people, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” Let’s pause and come back to this. Don’t you love the back story? As I was sitting here talking to Mrs. Kate and her son Victor and his friend Shadi (which I prefer to pronounce shotty and in a T-Pain voice when he is not around) I was thinking, “I am not getting my clothes washed, I am not getting my study time in, I am not doing anything productive at ALL!”
     After this selfish, mentally composed temper-tantrum, God gave me a “big picture” moment. I realized I had just committed to doing an in depth study of 1 John with two committed growing Christians in Shadi and Vic. My whole day had consisted of being tutored by one of the cutting edge church planters in the nation. We got to go visit some church members from Pillar that just had a baby boy, and be the church to them. We prayed with them, and celebrated their babies birthday! In short, God gave me a peace about my day that, though I did not do MY Christian activities, He was more pleased with His child doing HIS Christian activities, and that activity was being the Church to his body of believers. God was pleased with me investing hours of my day to simply building credible relationships with folks up here, and earning a chance to speak truth with them, and not just shooting truth at them from afar.
     As if my mind was not already blown, the Father gave me another step back from the “big picture” previously mentioned and said, “Jordan, I’ve been doing this your entire life. I’m glad we had this moment for me, God, to make this known to you.” Praise you Father. Now let me proceed with my bragging: I left my entire family back home to come up here. God one upped me by giving me at least five families that have accepted me in, fed me, opened up their washer and dryer to me, and took the time to ask the motherly questions I hear back home, “How ya holding up, Jordan? Are you getting enough sleep? We just wanted you to know we are blessed to have you up here for the summer.” If kind-hearted people such as these aren’t God-sends then I don’t know who is. They are something worth bragging about. Going even deeper into family, the Chatman family has been like a home away from home. Vic has been a great friend to me; we got back to back milkshakes at Jo Jo’s, he helped me set up for a huge event I had to organize, and has made himself available to be a buddy in a time when I am in a new place. Mrs. Kate has kept my waist line furious all summer with what feels like a buffet of leftovers and fruit at my disposal. Mr. Alex has been very fatherly with advice, intentional time spent in conversation, and even playing tennis with me. Though these wonderful people could never replace my real family, they sure do a great job of showing me God’s grace.
     God is such a show off in my life right now. I was scheduled to lead a Bible study this summer for Pillar. However, this plan was terminated, and to let you in on the secret I am a huge fan of leading Bible studies. To stifle my disappointment God has given me a youth group to lead (heavy wagon there), and three guys already that I get to really disciple this summer and pour into. All three guys are dedicated to learning more about God’s word, and took notice of what God has done in my life. A blessing like that is by far worth bragging about.
     For all the blessing I receive, every bit of it is needed. I am far too weak to succeed apart from God stepping in and making something of the sand-castles I hopelessly construct two feet from a rising tide. He always does something infinitely and abundantly more than I could have anticipated. That is what has me on this key board tonight; I simply could not justify doing laundry when there is so much about God that I just have to brag about.
     This part of my blog is dedicated to my homeboy Bobby and his hilarious wife Brittany. I want to brag on two things with these two people: 1) God’s work in their life is evident and they are sold out to His calling. 2) They have incredibly gracious to be friends to me since I have been here. They have included me in their plans, saved me a seat when they didn’t have to, and been a perfect example of how easy it is to be the Church to people. To you two, Bobby and Brittany, I give a lot of thanks, and want to brag on God for being a God who supplies, even if it is something as simple as friends. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Just Two Quick Points

Two quick points of interest I feel most will agree with: Transitions are the worst, and I need around 42 hours in a day rather than 24.

     We’ll come back to that. First off I have to say I am thankful for where I am, what God has me doing, and every detail of it that could be listed. Colossions 3:15 ends with this command after telling Christians to let the peace of Christ rule our hearts, “And be thankful.” I think this command was given because God knows how ill-spirited mankind was going to be about the little nuances in life that can be called “curveballs.” I can lose sight of how blessed I am to be in such a favorable season of life that I will complain about traffic, odd location, living out of a bag, or any number of things that are what I feel C.S. Lewis would refer to as “bloody irritating.”
     Okay, generous reader, I’ll be even more specific and be a little vulnerable. Why not? It’s Tuesday night, I’ll give it a spin. Getting from one place to another in an unfamiliar city can be really defeating. Back home, or even in the whole state, I can get around as if on auto-pilot and not really have to think about it. Up here near D.C I have to resort to a GPS daily almost, and constantly watch for road signs and trust iffy directions. Eating becomes a strategic plan of attack instead of relaxation because I don’t know where places are, or if a place I want to eat is around here. Once again, Google maps are recruited, and I think we all can attest that Google often has a mind of its own. Working out is straight up lonely. I don’t mind working out alone, but motivation and conversation are big help. Heck, there are hardly even strangers in the gym. Most of the time, I have the gym to myself (although the gym is pretty legit). Speaking of lonely (I say this half kidding) it is an odd reality not having a friend to call on up here and just say, “Hey bro, NBA Finals are on, pizza at my place?” or “Yeah I know I am an idiot, but can you help me do this real quick?” Of course I have my pastors, but they’re also bosses with families. I almost feel intrusive or incompetent if I just don’t get it done myself. That aspect pans itself out more times than not; as an only child I am use to being alone, and enjoy the quiet. I more times than not just look at myself and say, “Suck it up, Thig,” and move on.

     One more and I’ll stop whining. I’ve had to move since moving up here. A little fun fact about Thig (yes, that is the last time I refer to myself in third person), I am very comparable to a gypsy in my skill of packing up and moving. Kansas’ song “Wayward Son” was written with me in mind. However, one can only move so many times before the “new” wears off of that dog and pony act pretty quick. This is the part in my blog where I transition to how blessed I am. I was living in the basement of our church planting pastor Clint Clifton (@dirtyclint for my twitter fam) for the first week of the internship. Before I go further, I adore their family. All four of their kids are hilarious balls of energy, his wife, Mrs. Jennifer, was perfectly hospitable, and Dirty C, as I like to call him, and I share laughs all the time. He had some family come into town and I was simply to spend a few days at another member of the churches house. Long story short it has worked out that I am just moving in with them for the summer, and it is just tiresome on top of getting all my work done.
Within all of these minor issues, which I turn into Titanic-sinking, glacier sized worries, God has been gracious enough to show me why I can still obey the command, “And be thankful.” The family I moved in, the Chatman’s, have been so helpful, thoughtful, and hospitable to say the least in my transition. I have the entire basement to myself with a good sized bed. Their son, who is a freshman in college, has been a good friend to me. I have seen Mr. Alex, the father of the house, put on a display of some excellent parenting in the face of some tough issues that a father has to face (literally I was caught in the middle of the conversation). Another grace that I have had is the council of two phenomenal, gospel driven pastors. Colby, the teaching pastor, has been a great friend as well as teacher during my stay here. He is very intentional about grooming me and maturing me into a man that is capable of leading a church, and we have enjoyed several laughs along the way (most of which involve some form of slight on my southern draw). Clint has been teaching me the cutting edge techniques involving successful church planting. Flat out, this church is like nothing I have ever seen. They bring a whole new meaning to discipling the members of their church. Speaking of members, almost every member at Pillar Church has opened up their homes, wallets, and time to me in effort to welcome me and make me feel at home. Jack Catalano in particular has been a real pleasure to get to know. He has this Bostonian accent, and real flavor for life that makes everything laughable, and constantly is in prayer to God. I love that guy.

     On top of all these humbling blessings God has pointed out, I have also been blessed by so many prayers, texts, and kind words from back home. Shout out to Katelyn and Billy for the care package! That was the most thoughtful, caring thing anyone could have done. That alone makes me want to run back to exit 116 Statesboro, Georgia and get to work doing ministry with you guys, and I am more than excited about what God has in store for the fall.
All of that said, it is only week 2 of my internship and I see more and more how dependant I will have to be, because only God can keep me energized, satisfied, joyful, and worth anything up here in Dumfries, Virginia. I am His empty vessel ready to be poured out. Keep me lifted up in prayer, ya’ll. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Internship Week 1

First Week in Dumfries

     Repentance: That was the first lesson that greeted me here in Dumfries, Virginia. Like an old friend its presence resonated within me as soon as conviction revealed its beckoning to repentance. In hindsight repentance is always refreshing, however as it is occurring it is like a swift kick in the pants. God did not bring me up here to Virginia to run the show, and He let me know that immediately. I had been praying during the weeks leading up to coming to Dumfries for my internship, “God, give me a humble heart; give me a servant’s heart that is quick to listen and obey, and take away my flesh that urges me to instruct, compare, contrast, and judge.” God certainly acquiesced to my request.  The Lord illuminated a wicked misconception that I had about ministry. Before arriving here I had the mindset that my ministry would look something like this: I would finish Georgia Southern and while I was there continue leading a Connect group, minister to the guys I built relationships with, graduate, go to seminary somewhere, get a degree while working at a church near the seminary, and eventually start teaching at a church after I graduated and lead that congregation to excellent relationships with God. After some much needed vacation time with God this week I am not so sure that my future looks like that.
     Let me start by listing the things I do know. My entire life is going to be ministry; I also know that every Christian’s life is ministry. We do not go “off duty,” nor should we want to. I am almost ashamed at what I thought being a Christian meant before this week. Did I really think that I was just supposed to focus on building my relationship with God? To find a wife that suited my billing? That seminary was the benchmark for preparedness? That heaven was us singing in a huge choir in the clouds for eternity? Did I really think this life had any kind of calling outside of sharing Christ-crucified with every person put before me? Jordan, did you really think that your ministry was about how much time you made available to do stuff for God, instead of being constantly in intercessory prayer for your Church family, those far from God, and fertile hearts to hear the gospel??
     This is just a glimpse at the heart change I have had since being in Dumfries. God humbled me by bringing me to repentance of thinking ministry was anything other than being in prayerful obedience to the one next step He will lead me too. Here is a small tidbit of information free of charge; there are only two commands, to my knowledge, that God tells us to do without ceasing: pray and love people. The most loving thing I can do for anyone is go to the Father in prayer for them. I can teach the bible from cover to cover, but if God has not opened the hearer of my teaching’s heart I might as well be talking to a bed of flowers; even though they are living they won’t grow based on my words. However, if I go to God on those “flower’s” behalf in intercessory prayer He can send rains of healing and salvation to that person’s life, and that is worth giving up hours of my day to.
     Upon seeing how the rich young man was turned away by Jesus in Matthew 19 the disciples were in a panic about who could even be saved. “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” This is Jesus famous response in verse 26 of Matthew 19. But do we really live like this is true? I know I haven’t lately, and find myself at a crossroads of choice. I can either repent of the false version of Christianity I have been living, or continue in sin. It’s like the Matrix; do I take the red pill or the blue pill? Do I chase the rabbit-hole, or do I not? Since we have all seen the Matrix we both knew when the question was asked which “pill” to take that Neo was going to choose the pill of a new experience. Similar to Neo’s track, an irreversible truth has been placed before me. I have to repent (also like Neo) and go to God for forgiveness and healing. God is the only one that can save my lost friends, and the only way I am useful at all in that dynamic is praying for them, loving them at every turn, and being obedient to God’s prompting in steps of faith. Right now where God has me is at a church plant in Dumfries, Virginia, so God has me asking how can I serve these people, who can I share God’s grace with, and how can I leverage my life to make Jesus known?

**For anyone reading this blog I ask you to prayerfully consider if you have walked down a false path of Christianity like I have. Also, I ask that you hold me accountable to this life change and obedience, as well as to keep me in your prayers.
     After wiping out everything I thought ministry was this week God has started rebuilding with His own timing what His plans are for me. I am seeing more and more that ultimately what my ministry is, particularly for right now, is to be in constant step with the Father’s guidance, and to be obedient to His calling wherever and whatever it may be. Looking back I see God has allowed me to experience a multi-faceted equipping in ministry types. I have worked with middle-school kids, high school kids, and sleepless weeks of church camps, college age ministry, evangelistic mission trips, service teams, big churches, small churches, and now church planting. The curveball is that God has not really kicked me in one direction or another definitively, but I have a feeling it is going to be “all of the above.” Fortunately I know God is here and walking with me, and that really His “all of the above” is “stay in step with where I lead you, in Isaiah 30 I told you I would tell you ‘this is the way, walk in it,’ in 2 Corinthians I told you ‘My grace is sufficient for you,’ just trust me, and in Matthew 3 I told Jesus ‘This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased,’ and when I see you I see Jesus. Just trust me.”    

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I Put On

     Let’s just think about some things that we, as people, put on every day. Obviously we put on clothes; this hasn’t changed since the Garden of Eden except we have upgraded from fig leaves. Between showers, deodorant, and toothpaste we put on cleanliness. On a deeper level some of us put on a smile to seem more inviting, or we put on a friendly disposition even if our disposition is more displaced with sadness. There are a million things we “put on” in many different senses for any number of reasons.
     I love what a friend of mine said in a conversation we were having, “There are a million different things that have happened to make me who I am. People act a certain way because of whatever has happened in their life.” What a powerful thought! Of course my mind immediately jumped to all the bad things that have happened to me to possibly shape who I am today. (Allow me to gnaw on this thought for a moment, and then I shall return to the idea of putting on). There is no sense in laying out all the possible catastrophes that might have happened in our lives, so let’s agree to just be cognoscente of them while following this thought.
     With those life events in mind I want to turn to two verses in Colossians 3. Verse 2 says “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Sure, Paul, sure. Easy to say when you have actually seen Jesus; Friggin Apostle. If Paul had left off with that verse without including verse 3 that is exactly how I would react. But what an enormous promise that follows in verse 2! “FOR(so, in light of what verse two says, therefore, because, here is the reason to trust in verse two right here, continue reading) you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Literally every sin that you have committed, every heinous act, any confounding big string of words I could tie together to describe depravity that we have committed is hidden in the beautiful, radiant glory of Jesus Christ. God no longer looks down on a wretched lowly sinner who is dangling by a thread over hell. He literally sees His most prized possession in place of me and you, His son Jesus.
     ***For anyone reading this that might not know Jesus as your Lord, and Savior, all of this forgiveness hinges on the fact that you trust in Christ as the son of God; that Jesus died on a cross, was buried, in three days rose from the dead, and ascended in to heaven. By trusting in that, and submitting your entire life to God there is forgiveness for any and all sin.***
     Back to things we put on. First, before you can put anything new on one must certainly take off the old that is already there. No one goes to American Eagle with nothing on, and then take an arm full of clothes to the dressing room to put the new on. You are required to come just you are to receive your new clothes. The same is true with Christ. We do not clean ourselves, and then come to Christ. No, we come just as we are, with our sinful, dirty Hollister clothes already on, and then He imputes His righteousness upon us, taking away our sin.  
     Immediately after Paul tells us as Disciples of Christ that our lives are hidden with Him, He gives us some substantial commands. In verses 5 through 11 there are several things that we, as believers, must be sure to remove from our lives. The joy of it is if you are in Christ you will want to remove these things; hence repentance. Non-specifically Paul tells us to “Put to death what is earthly among you,” but very specifically he lists out “sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Also, he lists “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.”
     I implore us as believers to not just “put off,” which implies that we could put them back on, these things that are sin in our lives, but to do as Paul said and “put to death” these sins. Here is why, so that we can “put on” noble attributes that are only possible to “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved” (Colossians 3:12a). Because we are hidden with Christ in verse 3 we as believers have the blessing to “put on” for Christ through modeling the very character that makes Jesus the son of God. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12-13a). He goes on to also tell us to be forgiving as Christ forgave us (which means forgiving to entirety), and to love one another.
     All of these commands of things to put on are not a burden. They are blessings from of God. How loving of a God do we serve that He would write out for us the character He looks for in His children? That He makes it so plain is incredible. Before I go further I want to define “put on.” In some cases, to put on means to put up a front, or to proceed in false pretenses. For instance, Barry Bonds puts on as if he didn’t do steroids, O.J. puts on as if he didn’t do it, Craig Lawson puts on as if he thinks Manning is better than Brady. When I say put on I mean put on as in equip ourselves with, or to put on like represent for a team. Like Young Jeezy said, “I put on for my city,” but my city is heaven, and my life is Christ’s.
     I want to close with verse 15 from Colossians. “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which you were called in one body. And be thankful.” My mentor challenged me with this verse, and to use it in my daily life. It has been a life changing verse for me. In more situations than I can count I ask myself if I feel a peace about it, and let that peace rule whether I partake or pass over an opportunity. To apply it to the previously used text, I challenge you, and I, to ask ourselves if we have a peace about the character we are currently putting on. Not that we will immediately be everything that verses 12-14 entail, but there is no more worthy a task than to put on the character of Jesus in order to win souls to Christ.

“And be thankful.” –Colossians 3:15b

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

This Is All That I Can Say Right Now...

Allow me to start with a disclaimer; I am not writing this blog for any other reason than to bring glory to God. All of this material is what God divinely lays on my heart, and confirms it over, and over to where it just burns in me to no end to share the life God has given me with those that make their way to this page. With that said, I have a bombshell of a hope that God has shown me numerous times. So I ask very specifically for you to stop right where you are, and pray that the Lord would open your heart to this thought, and that your eyes would be seared with the glory of God as He plays this thought out. Ask Him to give you faith to buy into this, and boldness to be a part of it……
People, the world WILL end in 2012……. Kidding! Actually in all seriousness God has given me a sense of the opposite to come. Over numerous instances a reoccurring theme has resonated in heart as a shocking explosion of truth and marvel that my soul longs for the actualization of this incredible theme. This theme is REVIVAL. Just one of many instances, God floored me with the thought, and the blessing to know 44,000 people heard it. As Christine Caine spoke she nailed us with the cold hard facts of the darkness of sex trafficking, and slavery that has exploded in the world that we have let slide by, she proceeded to speak on how we had to be a light to this darkness, and to make a change. Then she said it, "It is time for a REVIVAL!" followed by several reasons why it is time for a revival. But the word just rang in my ears, REVIVAL. It literally took me from sitting up in my chair, to forcing me into the back of my seat almost in tears at the realization that the Lord had just confided in me something incredible! The thought of revival intimidates me in so many ways! Can’t you just feel this? I look around, and everywhere I turn God whispers in my ear this thought, “Look at what I am doing in people’s lives; this half commitment to me will not fly anymore. It is time for this world to be reminded I am GOD!” Also, He quickly reminds me that this takes the dedication of people to be non-conformist, and to rebel against what society is (shout out to all my hipsters! Rise up!). Romans 1:16 is a loaded verse, stew on it with me a moment. “For I am not ASHAMED of the gospel, for it is the POWER of GOD for SALVATION to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Let me kind of break down where I am going with this.
In this verse I feel it is safe to say that there is a big responsibility that we have to uphold, and that is to share the gospel. As believers in Christ His love compels us to share the grace we have been saved by with other people. Lets say your mother was rushed to the hospital, and doctors were doing everything they could to revive her heart beat, and that no earthly force had not been exhausted to bring her back to life, to fill her lungs with air, and to bring a person near and dear to your heart back to life, but failed even though they did their best. They throw up their hands, and tell you, “We are terribly sorry, we just couldn’t do enough to save her, we did all we could.” But just then the heart monitor begins to beep, and again, and again. Your mother miraculously comes back to life! She was saved in a way that could only be explained by God. You would tell everyone you know!!! You would tell every reporter that came knocking about your mother coming back to life, and every person that simply asked, “How is your day going?” you would ecstatically tell them, “I am freakin’ fantastic! My mother was dead, but now she is alive!” That is what happens every time a sinner’s life is changed to conform to the image of Christ! I want to tell the WORLD that, “Look, I was dead, but by God’s grace and mercy I am alive because of Christ! It is a miracle!” The gospel is not this intimidating debate where you convince a raging mob through impeccable apologetic logic that has developed unprecedented hermeneutics in your life, and if they do not do the same hell awaits. The gospel is speaking the truth in love that you were headed for destruction, and Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sins, and that kind of love has transformed your life to tell others the same. 
There is something else in Romans 1:16 that compels me to be unashamed of the gospel. As I step out in boldness to share the great news of Jesus, I am wielding the power of God! (I say that humbly, and prayerfully that God shows up every time I share the gospel.) The verse not only says it is the power of God, but it is the power of God for salvation! We have the power to be used by the Holy Spirit to raise the dead to life! We get to be a part of expanding the Kingdom of God! We are coheirs and conquerors through Christ! These life changing, incredible FACTS lead me to my next point. The way we rid ourselves of the sin in our lives after Christ changes our hearts is to foster, and grow our affections for God. This was a very foreign idea when God put this on my heart. I thought, “Sweet, God, I want my affections to grow for you! But how do I do that??” And God was faithful to show me, and is still showing me more and more. The first way he has shown me is that my heart is warmed and affections increase when I share the gospel, and God calls a person to Himself! To see a person walking down the path I was headed down, and then to see God step in and say, “This one is mine, you will follow me now,” absolutely makes me rejoice in the God I serve because He is a God that is in the business of saving lives. The dilemma is I do not always “feel”(ugh) like sharing the gospel, and that comes from the sin in my life. God gives me victory over this by beckoning me to my knees, and calls me to pray intently for forgiveness, and to be empowered by His Holy Spirit to wage war!
Let us discuss this thing I struggle with greatly, this thing called prayer. I know we Christians are not suppose to admit this, but I am a weak prayer that does not do it enough. My knees are not scarred enough, and my reactions are not sharp to respond with prayer in all situations. The good news is that I am convicted about it, and that I desire to change. I desire to incorporate prayer into all of my life, largely because that puts me in constant community with God. Also, prayer keeps me from sin. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may  lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” What would Francis Chan say about this verse? “Why don’t we just do that? Let’s take all the excuses out and just do that!” If anyone knows me, they know I am not always peaceful, or quiet, certainly not godly, and I lack any kind of desirable dignity. But the implications of this verse are that through prayer in every facet of life, these characteristics are attainable! So there is hope for this poor sinner!
Another thing that gives me hope is what I see in my brothers and sisters in Christ around me. Strangely (I say sovereignly) all of my dear friends desire these same changes! Just sitting around talking with some friends the other day the conversation was brought up about how shallow, and unbiblical our friendships are most of the time. We replace encouragement and exhortation with crude humor and belittlement (and this was mostly aimed at me! Dagger to the heart! Oh what cruel/honest friends I have!). The best way to fix this is to 1) pray for God to give us new desires in friendships 2) come together as friends and 1 Timothy 2:1-2 together! Also, it is time for us to start DOING and stop talking about doing! Practicality>>>>Theory
I have found two common results of sharing the gospel in my life. My affections for God grow, and I come to know Him more. As a result, the life I live becomes infectious to other people. The most attractive thing in the world is the gospel! That attraction grows your affections for God, and infects other people with the truth of the gospel! I find that as I step out and portray the life change that has come from giving my life to Christ, when people hear that the sin I was stuck in has been stripped away by a savior that replaces my desires, with His desires, Christ becomes infectious in people, and they find Christ's affection for them produces affections within themselves for Christ! It’s a crazy circular argument, but any good argument is self sustaining. Take the Bible for instance!
All of these last two paragraphs substantiate the feelings of revival God has placed in me. It is no coincidence that our generation is a generation that tends to be sold out believers, we walk with a different faith than past generations, and we come together and brandish our faith together as a community to advance the gospel. I don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like, or the timing of it, but I know this; that if we as the church come together, stop the petty drama amongst ourselves, start portraying the attractive gospel we have been entrusted to, pray for an unnatural desire for God’s word, and ask God to move through us in a way that is disproportional to ourselves, the time for revival is now! In the words of my good friend, “This is our generation.” God hit me with a thought the other night before I spoke at a church. So much of our past affects what we choose, and how we feel in the present, and what we choose in the present has vast ramifications on our future. I look at the past generations with the lethargic faith, and lackluster ambitions for the gospel, and I KNOW that is not the choice for me right now, or ever! So if I am not going to choose apathy as my path, what does that mean for my future? What does choosing authenticity with my faith, and chasing after a biblically founded life mean for the future of Jordan Thigpen, and those around me? This is the sense that I have gotten, the prayer I want to be actualized, and the spirit I long for tangibly: REVIVAL.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Spiritual Roller Coaster aka LIFE

I tend to be a person that feels better about something after saying it out loud. Whether that benefits anybody but me I am still trying to figure out, but for the sake of what I am trying to discuss I believe there is something we all need to admit, and just get out in the open so that it can be dealt with thoroughly. Christians are in a daily war against a powerful enemy, and because of this war we go through spiritual ups and downs. Sadly we as Christians also forget the Commander in Chief of our side of the war is the most powerful Force ever, and we have but only to draw into God, and listen to his instructions to turn the tide of any spiritual battle. Now that we have the knowledge of being in a war, how will we respond? 
Just to give a little background on me, I grew up with a family that took me to church, and told me to believe in God. That was all well and good, but unfortunately for my parents I was a child that liked to know the “why” of the orders I was given. My parents told me I was hard headed and insubordinate for wanting to know why about everything, I like to think I am merely using my logical muscles! To my dismay however, this chasing of “why” also led me to try alcohol to learn “why” it is not okay to drink it, the same with drugs and figuring out for myself “why” they are not okay to use. (Oh how I wish “because I said so” would have sufficed on those two!). I say all that to say God saved me by His divine grace, and opened my eyes to “why” He is the way, and the truth, and the light. You see I had a dilemma with this order from my parents to worship God, I didn’t know how! The same principle applied with reading my bible. My parents told me to read my bible, but I didn’t know how (not in an illiterate sense, I just had no idea what the words on the page were saying). Also in my prayer life, I was told to pray, but I felt insufficient in my ability and therefore did not want to because I didn’t know how. Since God saved me he has set me on an incredible journey of uncovering the “why” and “how” portions of my walk with Him that I had never understood. We can call this finding the logic behind my worship.
So let us apply this to the before mentioned spiritual war we are in. Specifically I want to discuss the process of going through spiritual highs and lows. Unless your life is different, I have found in my life that I go through ups and downs in my walk. This often depends on the season the Lord has me in, and a lot of times it has to do with the most current events in my life. For example, a real spiritual low for me came during finals week this past semester. Every day consisted of hours of studying, and left no real time for me to get into the Word. Satan attacked me with all kind of concerns about school, relationships, insufficiency, and just sinful desires. He attacked me at a time when I was weakest, and tried to drag me as low as possible. I kept thinking “God what in the crap is going on? Please forgive me for these thoughts, this is not my desire my heart desires you Lord, please take this away!” Then God hit me with some truth, and made me realize a few things. It is good for me to go through this low because it helps me relish the good times! The lows also force me to cling, and depend on God for ANY sort of comfort and joy, which I think is what He wants from me ALL the time.  Psalm 119:50 says “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.”  God showed me that it was a BLESSING to walk through what we’ll call a spiritual valley, where the forecast was not religious rainbows, but rather was met daily by a 100% chance of conviction, and what felt like isolated storms that God left me alone to walk through. This was not the case though. God revealed that He was glorified even in my own self proclaimed “lows”, that as my mentor puts it “everywhere, and everything is a training ground spiritually”, and that the best thing to do when my flesh was killing me, and my spirit felt weak is to THANK God for this time in my life. He showed me to PRAISE Him for valleys, because He is able to make something beautiful out of circumstances that we find less than ideal. Psalm 119:71 says “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” Think about that; apply it to your walk. It is good for us to experience trials! It is a good thing to feel conviction! I fully believe that God has led me through numerous difficult situations so that I might be better equipped for my walk. I know that God will put me through various trials to build my character, test my faith, and show me marvelous things unseen! It is good for me to be afflicted, that God might be glorified in my ministry all the more through the wonderful things He reveals to me!
Now let me talk to my FCA campers. Going through camp is always an amazing spiritual high, but every time we get back home (yes huddle leaders included) we meet temptation and sin as soon as we arrive. We immediately think oh no, here comes this spiritual low, it’s just too hard to live this faith away from camp, does God not realize the sinful people there are out here to tempt me? We make the excuse about no time to read the bible, no time to pray, and there are no believers to fellowship with. Check it, Herschel Walker made time every day to do over 5000 pushups and 6000 sit ups while going to college, practicing football, and the grind that comes with college life. You wanna know why? Because being a football player is who Herschel WAS. He made time for the most important thing in his life because his identity was wrapped up in football. You see until your walk with Christ is WHO you are, and not just SOMETHING you do, you probably won’t have time to read your bible because your relationship with God doesn’t mean that much to you. If you claim to know God, you’ll make time to spend time with the Lord, and hopefully you’ll come to know Him in a way that you walk all day with Him. By the way, those pushups and sit ups would take hours a day; how can I say I don’t at least have time to have a quiet time? My advice to you is to look at leaving camp as not entering a spiritual low, but look at it as your entering a battlefield. Go to war daily against your flesh that tells you not to get in the Word, that tells you it is okay not to pray, and that says it is okay to fall back into sin. Prepare yourself for temptation in this way, Psalm 119:92 says “If your law (God’s Word the bible) had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.” As I look at this verse it shows me that if David had not been reading God’s word, thinking about God’s promises, and reminding himself that He was in God’s hand he would have been destroyed by the sin in his life. So as we begin this journey of life after camp, prepare yourself with God’s word. Be unashamed of what God is doing in your life, and step out in boldness to follow Jesus!
Something also has to be said for walking through spiritual highs. I find in my walk that during spiritual highs I tend to coast. God starts doing incredible stuff, my quiet times become amazing, and life just seems good yo! So riding off of that I’ll just say “God you’re really doing your thing through me! I can just ride your coat tails, not read as much, and just chill for awhile. No need for me to press into you, I am spiritually full to the point you couldn’t fill me anymore, and I’ll hit you up next time I get into a spiritual low.” How sinful am I? Totally depraved. And now we are at a point where I cannot tell you the best advice on how to walk through the spiritual mountains in the Christian walk. God has magnificently shown me what not to do which is stated above, and He is graciously walking me now through the balance of staying strong in my faith, and clinging to Jesus when it is easy as well as when it is hard. For now I feel confident saying God desires ALL of my life. From the mountains to the valleys God calls me to find my complete identity in Him. He reveals to me daily something new and magnificent in His word; He beckons me to love people regardless how they act, and to be patient with people because He is patient with me. Jesus convicts me when I start to try and do things my way again, and calls me to repentance when I sin (daily).
 I want to conclude in this way; your life reflects what you are excited about. The thing that pumps you up the most is what people will hear and see in your life. True fulfillment will only come when that daily excitement comes from your entire life making much of God. Until your life is submitted before the Holy God that gave His son that we might also be called righteous, you will find no satisfaction, and that goes for people trying to do religious acts. You are not made holy by sitting in a church pew or even going to church camp. You are made holy by what Jesus did on the cross. Your debt for your sin was fulfilled on the cross, and as such the life you have been given should be fulfilled by the God that paid that debt.