The Thing about Mountains

What then shall we say to these things? If our God is for us, who can be against us? –Romans 8:31

God is passionatly seeking every moment of our little existence. Desiring His sons and daughters to come to fruition. He has a great plan for us. It may not be our plan for us. Most likely it will be incredibably different than our will. But His will is incredibly devine and often difficult. If God’s ways where for us to be victorious in mundane earthly wants He would never have promised us the Holy Ghost. If His ways were to be comfortable there would never be a need for a Comfortor. If His will was ours then we would not need the Savior. He is not an absentee father or a distant benevolence or a well meaning but often forgetful politician. He is for us. EVERY. STEP. OF. THE. WAY. Cheering us on and many a times picking us up. He is not a crutch we lean on but a Physician who teaches you how to walk. He fights like a husband for a wayward bride, from a position of victory, from intimacy. He is an active voice in a world of white noise and pychological fallicies.

This is a joyous conclusion to a lifetime of failures. And even in moments of our own achievements the arduous task of succession begins again. A never ending climb of plateaus and mountains. The thing about mountains is when you climb one there is another one on the other side. The thing about mountains is there is never just a one and done, they come in ranges. But with God the mountains melt like wax- they are ripped up from there deep sedimentary roots and thrown into a deep sea of mercy- so that when we are at our weakest moments, out of breath, dying of thirst, there is a tidal wave of grace that sweeps us away in transcendent love.

…nor hieght nor depth, nor anything in all creation will be able to seperate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:39

With a God like that who needs the present when we have all the victory in the beauty of His presence. I have climbed a few mountains in the past. I remember on our way to climb St. Helena and Enchanted Rock (a megalith) people would be at the top doing yoga or praying. Even though my wife and I marveled at the beauty of Gods workmanship we were never any closer to Him than we were in the car. Be thankful in every circumstance because God is for you.Image

Faith like a Necklace

Last night after work I was talking to a few of my co-workers while sitting outside on the picnic tables. After a while the conversation changed when Michael said the he needed God in his life. I told him that He is right here. We began to engage in intentional conversations about the gospel but not everyone at this table was a fan of what we were doing.

We work at a hip tex-mex restaurant in the River Oaks/Montrose area of Houston, TX. If you don’t know about this area it is the place to be for nightlife in the fourth largest city in America. So nevertheless the sometimes-hostile environment of being a Christian in the service industry, but also between the bars, nightclubs, and hipster hangouts, a gospel centered relationship is not an easy one to build. But for some reason Michael and a few of my other co-workers feel comfortable talking to me about Christianity, no matter how much they do or don’t know about or agree with the faith. Sometimes the things I say about the Bible confuse them because that is not what they have heard about Christians or seen from the church.

These conversations are very difficult to walk though. I am a pretty open-minded guy and I don’t pretend to be anything that I am not, sometimes to a fault. Being in this place is sometimes hard for my faith because in all honesty I am a skeptic by nature. I have not always been a Christian much less a very good one, but the work that God has been doing in my life is progressive to say the least. All the questions that people throw at me I can field, sometimes with difficulty, sometimes with ease but always with conviction. See it was not very long ago that I was giving the same arguments to myself about Jesus. Trying to excuse my lifestyle by rationalizing my morals and what I believed about believing in “god”.

But last night as I was heading home I really started evaluating what my witness is. Do I offer a good witness to the world as a follower of Christ? What is the reason that people feel comfortable asking me these questions? Why do people enjoy getting into friendly debates with me? Is it because the Holy Spirit is drawing them near or is it because they think I am just a hipster with a cross necklace? Do I look any different to them than the next guy or do they see me as a minister of the gospel of Gods love?

19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel,that I may share with them in its blessings. -1 Corinthians 9:19-23 ESV

How does this look for our lives, testimony, or the building of the Kingdom? How can we become more intentional but less influenced?

The line between looking like a hypocrite and fool is very thin. If your witness is to be just like those you are surrounded by but wear faith like a necklace then your character shows no grace. Grace does not exist so that we may continue on in our old lives. Your testimony then becomes foolish. But at the same time to be so disconnected from the reality of our society and the relationships before us is to ignore the message of Christ. To distance ourselves from the world and continue to live in the arrogance that is our own lives is a masquerade of humility. People are not drawn to either person. Maybe they are but that is how cults get started.

You are the Sun that Rises While We Sleep

I have been thinking a lot lately about honest, and sincere worship. I often find myself focusing on words or melodies instead of being overwhelmed by who God is. It is very difficult for me to be vulnerable in church or even in my car (while singing terribly!) about the presence of God. I realize now that I have truly missed the heart of worship for a very long time. There has been hints and moments when everything fades away and I just marvel at Jesus, not just for what he has done for me, but because of who He is.

So I wrote this song. It’s not a worship song like you’d see on a sunday service, but its as honest as ive been lately. Because when I look around I see a world that is so easy to get lost in and I often do. But when I slow down I can see God through that. Through the awkwardness drawing me into His presence.

My idea of great worship is being set aside, called out, living differently. Because I idolize so many aspects of everyday life that separate me from who God is and ultimately who I am in Him. My desire is to cast these things down and look upon Jesus’ face and desire nothing else but to worship.

You are the sun that rises while we sleep

You are the reason we suffer this earth

You are the hope of our second birth

You are the secrets we can never keep

You are the I Am…

Everything around us moves in perverted progression

How long can I depend on our own voice?

When all the praise we see comes from creation.

Our lives will become worship submitting our choice.

Our Father, who art in heaven, circumcise our hearts.

We will wait in fervent yet reverent zeal.

While You take our lives and tear us apart.

Rebuilding our souls revealing what is real.

We walk by faith and not by sight,

but God we can see you all around.

In the loneliest nights you still gave us this light.

We once were blind but by grace we are found.

You are the Potter and we are you clay

You are the love that is calling us in.

You are the grace that forgives all our sin.

You are the light that gives us this day

You are the I Am…Amen

There is nothing that will satisfy our need.

Looking around there’s a awkwardness about this place.

The promises you gave we have made our creed.

We won’t stop until we see your holy face.

Take this life, oh Lord, we have nothing left to bring.

We lay down our flesh to be resurrected with You.

You give us this joy, for you alone we sing.

We find your hand in everything we do.

You are the I Am

 

Even if you can’t see your self worshiping to this song.

Can you see yourself worshiping this God.

Because worship isn’t about a song or lyrics but about adoration for who God is, in every aspect of life.

Journey To LOVE Park

This is a narrative essay my wife Ashley wrote for her college Literature class.

Journey To LOVE Park

For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” -Matthew 25:35-36.

I hadn’t traveled on a plane in years and even then it was only a short flight from Houston to Dallas. Before Christmas, my husband and I agreed to take a trip to Philadelphia to visit a friend of his that he hadn’t seen in almost five years. This flight was longer so we had a lot more time to plan out the next few days and what would happen. When we arrived to Philadelphia, Raleigh took us to his community house and we told him about our plans to do something radical. Raleigh then explained about how in Philadelphia there are a rising number of three-thousand homeless people on the streets every night, and how the city officials are cracking down to prevent homelessness; even making it illegal to be vagrant. The passion in our hearts to change the world started in a city which we had no clue would change our lives.

The morning that we finally built up enough courage to actually get out on the streets, I woke up to find my husband had already walked to the local market and back with three loaves of bread, peanut butter and a jar of jelly. We were really going to do this. As we made the fifty sandwiches and crammed them into an old backpack, my husband, Raleigh, and I prayed for God to align divine appointments in our day. We didn’t quite understand what that meant but it sounded right and prayer is always a good thing.

We set out in what felt like the coldest day of winter. I felt like a child in a candy store gazing in awe of snow.  As we walked two hours, we came across no one. I felt a little crushed with all of these PB & J’s and no one to give them to. Jokingly, I remember the Raleigh and Byron saying we can just pass them out to anyone we ran into and eat the rest. Our plans were on the verge of termination. Raleigh then made a point that we should just make our way to the Art Museum a few blocks over and call it quits. As we turned the corner there was what looked like a party happening right in the middle of LOVE Park. People were standing everywhere, from corner to corner, all in about as much amazement as I was.

“Is this it, is this the moment we have been praying for? What do I do?” My eyes grew wide and I began to feel a rush of excitement. Byron and Raleigh said to just start giving out the sandwiches. I dropped the backpack on the bench and heard a homeless man yell out “Hey! They have sandwiches! They’ve got some sandwiches!” Soon enough, a line formed with each dirty, tired, and forgotten man and woman walking up to us with a smile of gratitude. It was almost as if this had been their first time not being invisible. As I glanced down into our backpack, the number of sandwiches we started out with began to disappear. Everything was happening so fast I could barely process it all. After we began talking to people we realized what all the commotion was about. Before we had shown up there was a man who was giving away blankets and jackets to the homeless. Also, right after he had shown up a woman drove by with the entire trunk of her car filled with shoes. When I found this out it seemed so strange, yet all too convenient of my God to work in such extraordinary circumstances. I began to think how this couldn’t just be coincidental that three complete strangers from the opposite sides of the country all merged together on one corner in downtown Philadelphia to change the world. Sharing the goodness of His love came so easy.

Afterwards, before the high of generosity left, we began to make our way to the museum. The snow got a little colder, and the ground became wetter as my face started to become numb. I told my husband and his friend “this is what Jesus said when He said ‘I tell you truth whatever you did unto the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me.’” I still carry this truth with me to this very day, that at anytime or any place I am exactly where God wants me to be.

Trading in the Anti-American Dream

I don’t want to trade in the American Dream for an Anti-American dream. Even the Anti-American dream still has America in it.

I think a dangerous mindset we can get into is to be critical of our nation and the people too. Where we are looking at other people’s things and not focusing on the issues of the heart. There are reasons that people pursue things they can see, because they cannot understand things that they can’t. (1 Cor 2:14) This is our call as Christians in America, do not forget the poor amongst you, let’s not forget the poor in spirit either.

[3] for we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. [4] But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, [5] he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, [6] whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, [7] so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7 ESV)

First off- I am not speaking about political movements, I am speaking on behalf of our social clout. But because so much of our faith and values tie into how we view government, it shouldn’t be to hard to align with this idea. In reading, try to keep in mind that I am focusing on our views of the American Dream.

Secondly- at the same time as I write this I do wish for you to keep in mind the underlining political aspect. (bear with me)

Yes, there are injustices in America. Yes, we do need to bring awareness to these issues. Houston (and the area I am from) is home to the second most human trafficking and sex-slave exploitation in America. [ http://www.humantrafficking.org/updates/807 ] This is a disgusting and terrible practice that I drive by and never even realize. My eyes have been opened to the hunger and pain that surrounds me. Two counties away is the 17th poorest in the Nation with a per-capita income of nearly $10,000 a year. My car I drive was once more than twice that amount. Yes, this is terrible. It is in our rights as Christians to draw attention to this, but is it America’s responsibility or is it the church’s? God’s mercy extends to both the oppressed and the oppressors.

The criticism I am speaking about is this. It’s beneficial to draw attention to injustice, but another to condemn men because of their apathy. We are not to judge because we do not know how to judge with love, only God does. We should be praying just as much for the white-collar SUV-super bowl-church on Sunday-Americans as we should for the abused, starving, sex-slave boys and girls in America. Because while we were not slaves to man we were once slave to sin. Just like them. (Romans…all of it!)

(I have to admit that I am just as guilty. I have way more money than I need. Over the past few years I have hoarded money away and become a workaholic. My obsession with numbers drives me to the point of forsaking relationships for a better portfolio. I have more money in my bank account than the average American. God has definitely blessed me with a financial mind-set and an uncanny ability in savings. But even though I know how to save I am not being a good steward of my money. God’s passion for blessing me financially is not so that I can be comfortable, but it is that I can be uncomfortable, so I can be a blessing to others in need. I now realize that I am to give until it hurts. And this is not an anti-American dream…this is me trusting Jesus.)

Can you change the world without Jesus? Yes- and no.

We can bring about reform. We can bring awareness. But who brings salvation? God. (John 3:16)

If we become so critical to the point that we forget about grace then we have became the exact replica of those we hate. Forsaking riches for rags still leaves you wearing something that is not yours.

Love is not in what we do, but why we do it. (1 John 4:19)

Remember the rich young ruler who couldn’t give up his “stuff” and follow Jesus? Remember the scripture that follows this? It is often left out in this conversation; “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him!” (Mark 10:21) We must not forget the poor; let’s not forget the poor in spirit.

God has done some pretty awesome things throughout American history (but He’s done the same for other nations too) If you have change in your pocket and place to crash you are in the top 75% wealthiest peoples in the world. We need to be mindful of the blessings we receive because of our freedoms, yet also remember the same freedoms go for outsiders as well.

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. (1 Pt 2:16 ESV)

If you hate America so much you need to be on your knees begging God to make you a missionary!

If you love America…read 1 Timothy 6.

I want to be a Christian. Nowhere in the Bible mentions America but it does testify of the body of Christ. My attention turns to the church. We need to become unified as a kingdom authority, rich and poor, right and left. When you see a need, give generously and often. As a church we have to get our hands out of our pockets, the flag off our cross and worship the Son of God for who He is, our salvation. (Acts 4:12) Our Hope. (Rms 5:2) Our Glory. (John 17:21) Developing relationships is the only way we will ever change the world, because this is how Christ has changed us.

<Perfect example of this is Sean’s previous story>

Your riches will do well. But my God is better.

Your protest will do well. But my God is better.

Charity and Revolutions will die when the contributors dies.

But Jesus never dies. (Rms 6:9) Neither do we. (John 11:26)

Trading In the American Dream

James Truslow Adams first coined the American dream in 1931. He spoke of America as such: “a dream in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain the fullest stature of which they are innately capable of and be recognized by others for what they are.”

This in its self isn’t a terrible thing. I work, and I work hard to be able to provide for my family. I desire to be a good husband and when I have children I want to be able to give to them the life I never had. What is wrong with wanting to be a better person and achieve a higher status?

Well first of all is it biblical?

The words that Adams uses are very important. Innately means natural. If we only rely on our natural means we can do a lot of good. We can make money, we can move forward, we can buy that house that car and our new boat, we can even feed the homeless and support charity, but if we rely on supernatural means we can do so much more. We can cure the disease of the soul; with God we can satisfy the hunger of the heart. These are things that no government can ever do. No HealthCare reform or tax break could ever bring joy to those in pain. That is called grace, and that is the stimulus that Christ paid for on the cross. The dangerous thing about the American dream is that we begin to think that our own ability is all we need for gain when in reality without Christ all we have is stuff.

[6] For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6 ESV)

Ebhart Arnold talked about this kind of “stuff” in “Why We Live in Community” He says that material possessions aren’t bad in themselves but when you begin to put things about people then you have become an idolater. (not saying God is people, but God’s plan is that we show His glory in our relationships, not with our possessions) (Psalms 49:16)

Secondly this “dream” is that we will be noticed for who we are.

Who are we anyway?

Who do you think you are? (Rm 12:2)

If your life does not show the glory of God in direct relationship to the world around you then what is the point? The point of the church is to bring Heaven to the world (America too!) Surely God has done some miraculous things here in America, (if you don’t think so ill address this in part 2) and I am thankful that my family settled here. (my wife’s family is from Korea; she is a first generation American. I was about 20 years away from never meeting her, PRAISE GOD!) I am thankful that I have the ability to sit down with my wife to read our bible(s), pray and make this post. But would I still pursue God if it were all stripped away from me? (like Mr. Booze said previously; we are all one day away from the Sunday Breakfast Mission.) Who am I apart from God? I am no one. My identity does not rest in these things, but in Jesus Christ.

So at this point the Gospel and the American Dream are in stark contrast of each other. One says I can bless myself with my own natural ability, and the other says in order to save my self I can only rely on Christ. The former creates a world where we become our own god worshiping ourselves. One says, “look at me” while the other prays “look at Jesus!”

[16] In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

What do you guys think?

Next week ill post part 2: I don’t want to trade in the American Dream for an Anti-American dream. Even the Anti-American dream still has America in it.

I think a dangerous mindset we can get into is to be critical of our nation and the people too. Where we are looking at other people’s things and not focusing on the issues of the heart. There are reasons that people pursue things they can see, because they cannot understand things that they can’t. This is our call as Christians in America, do not forget the poor amongst you, lets not forget the poor in spirit either.

The Hiddenness of God

this guy is very inspiring to me and my faith.
my friends and i talk about this a lot, thought i’d share quickly.

what do you think?

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