Orphans in Your Heart
I have a friend on fire for adopting orphans. He once shared his frustration about many orphan relief efforts like building orphanages, wells, and feeding orphans. “Give the kid a place to live and you’ve still got an orphan.” You’ve met a felt need for the child, but haven’t gone to the root issue.
Knowing I’m not in any position to adopt (in this current season) makes my heart immediately bleed for the organization that is building the orphanages, digging the wells, or feeding the children. But, deep down, I know I’ve merely given them a fish, instead of planting them lakeside with a fishing pole and proper instruction.
“A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty;
rescue them, and you will have to do it again. (Prov. 19:19)”
Some people are just bound to be angry all the time. Don’t hate them. Anger itself is not a sin, it’s what we do with it that gets us into cahoots with God. We’ve all been discipled by our family of origin what “appropriate” expressions of anger are. Some internalize, others explode, still others manipulate, calculate, or plot revenge. Many fail to learn how to “dump” their anger – they hang onto it like an orphan without an adoption plan. We live in a culture that disciples us deeply in personal revenge rather than trusting in God’s vengeance. Just go watch an action movie.
Know Thy Enemy
Anger is a debt-debtor relationship that happens when someone or something fails to meet our expectations. It says “you owe me”. Holding onto a ledger full of debt is a toxic condition that turns Prov 19:19 into a prophecy. An outburst of anger is biologically accompanied by the release of the hormone cortisol. God designed our bodies to handle cortisol in short bursts, to protect us in fight or flight situations. Long term, it’s toxic. It’s terrible for their health: “fretting” or holding on to “you owe me”s can keep cortisol levels high leading to stroke, heart attack, low bone density… overall, bad stuff. No wonder God tells us not to fret.
If you have their permission (“can I help you solve this problem?”), you may be able to offer them some help. This can’t be removing the problem or solving it for them – you’ve merely built an orphanage, not answered their deeper need. It must be in helping them understand the debt at the bottom of their heart. “What does <person/circumstance> owe you?” Understanding that we don’t war against flesh and blood is vital to clearing the emotional confusion surrounding an outburst (or inburst) of anger.
The deepest need of the person struggling with anger is Christ at the center of their life. A proper understanding of the sovereignty of God equips them with a new Father who is never surprised by their “igniting circumstance”. They need to repeatedly answer through fervent, desperate prayer during many lucid moments: “How does God use affliction to transform us (Psalm 119:75)?”
Practical surrender to a sovereign God includes acknowledging He is in the good and the bad, trials are necessary (James 1:3), and it is okay to be angry, but not to sin against others or God.
Power of Prayer?
Prayer is crucial. While the temple in Israel was rife with the stench of death as thousands of animals were sacrificed daily, the priests would go out with censers filled with incense (representing prayer) that brought a sweet smelling aroma into the outer courts. So, what? Prayer may not change their circumstances, but it brings a sweetness amidst the carnage of unmet expectations. If you can teach them to pray with that understanding, you’re leading them to the answering of their deepest needs.
The gospel isn’t about “try harder” and “do more” it’s about the impossibility of pleasing God with our own efforts and His unfailing love despite that fact. It’s about what He’s already done. As today’s verse explains, behavior modification doesn’t fix the angry person. Get them out of a bind and they’ll just be angry again about the next thing that goes wrong. Only a new heart can do that.
Sometimes, a discipleship relationship with another godly man or woman is the critical link needed to help them sort through things on a regular basis. We meet with men, women, and couples often to provide an outside eye and biblical perspective on living the gospel and handling these kinds of issues. Maybe, they just need to grab coffee with a guy like me who’s battled anger frequently, lost often, but found lasting victory in Christ. Give them my card or connect us via a three way email. Aarron at Seasons of Life Ministries dot org.
Pray hard and without ceasing. Love deeply. Forgive thoroughly and often.
“Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. (John 6:15)”
I’ve often wondered as I’ve read the Gospel accounts of Jesus why He would do a miracle and then tell someone not to make a big deal of it. I mean, he heals a guy of leprosy and tells him – “Just show the priests and offer sacrifices and keep the rest on the down-low. (Matt 8:8, Mark 1:44, Luke 5:14)” What’s with that?
Okay, so Jesus had a reason. I get it.
Why Are You Here, Lord?
But, he does this awesome, public miracle where he feeds over 5,000 people and comes up with leftovers and then “withdraws” to a mountain. We all know that Christ’s miracles were never done for the sake of spectacle, rather to authenticate the power of God in Christ and for His glory. So, in front of a crowd of thousands – AUTHENTICATED! Your Kingdom come, we’re with you, Lord – now BE OUR KING!
So, why doesn’t Christ just come out and say it? “I’m the Christ! Repent and come to God!” Instead: Withdrew again to a mountain? Come on!!!
The Core Issue
The trouble in this scenario is identical to 1 Samuel 8. It is the familiar cry of the depraved soul that says “I want to be like everyone else!” Or, in Israel’s case – “Give us a KING!” The Lord’s reply is similar to the prophet Samuel’s. God told Samuel that the nation hadn’t rejected Samuel, rather God himself. And, so in tragic irony, despite the fact that they wanted to make Christ their king, the people were still rejecting God as their king.
Though they were asking God in a body to be their king, they didn’t really want to make God their king. In classic Jesus form, Christ knew the motives of their hearts: it wasn’t God they wanted. It was freedom from oppression. But, not as Christ would have it. They wanted freedom from the oppression of man, not the freedom from the oppression of sin, self, and spiritual depravity. The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom, not like the kingdoms of men…
So, Lemme Askya:
Lemme ask you this day: do you want Christ, right now, or do you want merely His blessings? Paul Washer once said even the devil himself would like to be back in heaven as long as God wasn’t there and he didn’t have to bow his knee to Christ. So, what do you want? An earthly king to provide for you and go out and fight your wars like the rest of the nations, or do you want a Holy, sovereign, and worthy King that you can worship and serve for eternity? Do you want Christ because you don’t want hell or because you want Christ?
The Bible asks the same question over and over from Genesis to Revelation: “will you trust Me?” So asks the Lord of you right now: “Why Me? Do you want Me for Me or for my blessings?” Let us resolve to answer that question daily.
Jesus is usually sought after for something else, not for his own sake. – Augustine
in it with you,
Even An Atheist Can Articulate the Gospel
The mid 1800s were approaching and a church organ in the south of France had recently been restored. The parish priest asked a friend to compose a poem to celebrate the event. That friend was a professed atheist named Placidde Cappeau. His poem was entitled “Midnight, Christians”. It was soon set to music by Adolphe Adam and would later be translated into what we now know as “O Holy Night”.
It’s been my number one favorite for many years now, although recent arrangements of “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Go, Tell It On The Mountain” by the acapella group Pentatonix now threaten its reign. Cappeau’s original text clearly marks Christmas as a celebration that God sent Christ to the world to eradicate the stain of sin. Wiki it and you may be astounded that an atheist could comprehend the facts of the gospel. Or, you may just be saddened that he, like many, would understand the facts, yet not respond as even he commands his listener:
“Fall on your knees,
O hear the angel voices.”
How Will You Surrender?
One day, we will all see the Christ, the risen Lord and returning King. The Bible teaches us that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father. It doesn’t say “every believer will bow”. It says “every knee”. In other words: whether we hear the gospel message and believe on it unto salvation or reject it as Cappeau did, we will acknowledge Christ as king.
From that point, we will either know Him as Savior King or Supreme Judge. The question is, will you surrender to the truth of the former while there is still time or surrender to the latter after time runs out?
As we approach the “New Year”, I want to encourage us all to remember – Christ is returning. Some say as early as this week. Others say years or generations off. Regardless, the gospel call is this: fall on your knees in surrender to the Lord as redeemer, savior, brother-slave, and coming King today. Celebrate His incarnation, life, death, and resurrection not only at midnight on a day that’s not even His real birthday, but everyday.
What Is Surrender?
I’ve long believed the Bible to be a collection of inspired and inerrant (in their original manuscripts) books that all ask the same question from the perspective of God: “Will you trust me?” That’s what this kind of surrender is all about: full time dependence on and trust in Christ. Not just uttering niceties one day or a few weeks out of the year…
We all have a tendency to be event oriented rather than process oriented. Salvation is both an event and a process – depending on how you understand “sanctification”. We err when we spend so disproportionately our money, time, and effort on one event when the eternal Lord is Lord of our process. Christmas shouldn’t be relegated to just one day or even a season – ransom from sin and death should be an everyday joy. I pray that now that “Christmas” is past (or approaching in another couple of months, depending on what sources you believe) that we (myself included) may begin to celebrate our Savior more fully regardless of the day of year.
Merry Christmas today, tomorrow, and everyday.
On our knees before the Savior,
My bad – here’s my favorite arrangement. North Point Community Church’s ten year old recording has held my #1 spot for a decade now. Thanks, to everyone who made it possible and Jeff Scott for the “money note” at the end.
My “Final Four” – #4 The Little Drummer Boy
Nothing you can’t find in a quick Wikipedia search, but noteworthy enough for holiday chit-chat around the egg nog bowl. Written in 1941, first recorded in 1955 by who? The Trapp Family Singers. Yep, that quaint little family who brought you “Doe, a Deer, a Female Deer”, made Julie Andrews a household name, and currently has Carrie Underwood looking… out of place. Based on a Czech tune and originally published as “Carol of the Drum”.
Though Jesus isn’t the main character, I’m still okay with playing and singing it because Christmas is the season when Holy God became incarnate: the earthly merger of the magnificent with the mundane. The story juxtaposes wise men from far off with the Wisest of all, who would now come nearer than any earthly man would have ever known. Great men, great gifts, cow dung, and a precious and Holy King in an animal’s feed trough – magnificent, meet mundane. Perfect, meet profane. Yet, God ordained it all.
Enter, Scandalous Child
The religious people of Jesus’ time had become so emphatic about the law, they were drifting from true relationship with the Law Giver. They’d begun to call worthless many of the things that God truly valued. Women and children in this time were “to be seen and not heard”.
Yet, the scandalous Christ would later scold (in three different gospel accounts… OUCH!) His own disciples: “Let the little children come to me!” Mt. 19:14, Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16 So, what an insulting scandal that a little boy, bearing no tangible gift would be given audience with the King of Kings? Isn’t it already scandal enough that His birth to a virgin mother was proclaimed first to lowly shepherds (not exactly the top of the socio-economic ladder of the day) and his birthplace a barn?
Hallelujah, yes! Bring on the scandal.
And, so the scandal of the gospel is proclaimed in this song – that a little child, in the face of the wise who offered great, majestic gifts, would bring but a humble song, yet would garner the smile (favor) of the child born to live, suffer insult, and die to erase the scandalous sin of the rich, the poor, the wise, the foolish and all in between! Wow. Majesty amidst the mundane.
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. (1 Cor. 1:20-21)
Here’s My Favorite Version – What’s Yours?
I’ve been through a few favorites on this song – first time I heard Candi Shelton (then, Candi Pearson, on North Point Community Church’s first Christmas CD) do her acoustic version, my jaw dropped. “Who does that to that song?!” If you look around the iTunes store, Grooveshark, or even Pandora, you might get yourself a listen.
When I heard these next two versions, I thought the exact same thing. “Who’d have thunk THAT?!” The following videos are my #2 and #1 favorite versions of this song for obvious reasons. Alicia Keys at Rockafeller Center in ’09 and my new favorite – Pentatonix.
Drop us a comment below with your favorite version, will ya? Merry Christmas, and may Christ be at the center for you this season and all year long.
Yesterday, we started off the week with a look at the error we often make in preaching, proclaiming, sharing the gospel: reliance on personal skill and/or clever methodology. Today, I imagine it’s no coincidence that my inbox would contain this post from Oswald Chambers:
(direct link: http://utmost.org/classic/the-concentration-of-spiritual-energy-classic/)
“But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Gal. 6:14)”
If you want to know the power of God (that is, the resurrection life of Jesus) in your human flesh, you must dwell on the tragedy of God. Break away from your personal concern over your own spiritual condition, and with a completely open spirit consider the tragedy of God. Instantly the power of God will be in you. “Look to Me. . .” (Isaiah 45:22). Pay attention to the external Source and the internal power will be there. We lose power because we don’t focus on the right thing. The effect of the Cross is salvation, sanctification, healing, etc., but we are not to preach any of these. We are to preach “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). The proclaiming of Jesus will do its own work. Concentrate on God’s focal point in your preaching, and even if your listeners seem to pay it no attention, they will never be the same again. If I share my own words, they are of no more importance than your words are to me. But if we share the truth of God with one another, we will encounter it again and again. We have to focus on the great point of spiritual power— the Cross. If we stay in contact with that center of power, its energy is released in our lives. In holiness movements and spiritual experience meetings, the focus tends to be put not on the Cross of Christ but on the effects of the Cross.
The feebleness of the church is being criticized today, and the criticism is justified. One reason for the feebleness is that there has not been this focus on the true center of spiritual power. We have not dwelt enough on the tragedy of Calvary or on the meaning of redemption.
My Mea Culpa
This year, I’ve had great opportunity to talk with men, reason through the scriptures, and pray about the difference between fault and responsibility. In hindsight, I’ve failed to communicate in many areas the great things happening at Seasons of Life. Please forgive me. It’s both my fault and my responsibility.
When you talk to people regularly about personal issues, sensitive matters, and their walk with Christ, you experience a tension between sharing what God is up to with the ministry (BIG NEWS! I can’t tell you about it, though…) and maintaining full confidentiality, therefore cultivating trust. Many of the men I’m locking arms with this season are experiencing breakthroughs in their faith, marriages, and careers. But, I must respect their privacy as I report from the field.
Some are experiencing new seasons – a season away from their children because of divorce, a season of their children being away from them while at school, a season of focus on a marriage after taking it for granted, reconciliation and rebuilding of trust after a fight, a loss, a betrayal, overcoming an addiction… etc. Today, I even got to have a great conversation with a guy about walking with God through the challenges of toxic relationships, maintaining godly standards, and boundaries in the home. God was honored and we both walked away sharper!
These are the vagueries that are “okay” to share publicly because they don’t break confidentiality. But, I want you to know – I get to hear some raw stuff from time to time… And, by God’s grace, I get to point these men back to scripture and watch them recalibrate when they see where they were out of alignment. Other times, it’s just about the basic blocking and tackling of the Christian life. Falling deeper in love with the Word of God and knowing more intimately the God of the Word. Life transformation is happening.
I also get to share some raw stuff about my own failures from time to time… And, I get to cheer them on when God brings a job their way after 18 months of unemployment… a godly relationship after years of “sorting through counterfeits”… Six weeks of deep and devoted regular quiet time… And, through it all, we’ve been able to trace God’s Providential hand at the helm and His grace sustaining it all.
The Way Forward
As Cristine and I step into our 7th year of public ministry, we’re seeing her schedule pick up again, potential dates for “That Day” performances on the horizon, and the continued vision of men, women, couples, and families abiding in Christ, surrendered to their Savior, and serving His kingdom daily. We continue to thank God for the work, the people He entrusts to our care, and the calling He’s placed on our lives. One thing is for sure: no matter what the years ahead have in store, He will continue to test our trust in Him just as much (or more) than those we urge to do the same.
For those of you who are praying for us and those who support this ministry financially, we want to thank you for all you do for the community you serve: the body of Christ and the Kingdom of God. Your prayers matter. You resources make it a reality.
We encourage you to engage with God’s work through us via our Facebook page, Twitter, and weekly on our blog. It is my prayer that after a year “deep in the trenches” with a select few, I am able to devote more time in 2014 to reconnecting with many of you I haven’t been able to make such time for.
If you find yourself in the “it’s been too long” category, email, text, or private message me… Or, go really old school and pick up the phone. I’ll do my best to have my 2014 calendar ready!
Executive Director, Seasons of Life Ministries, That Day, Speak Life, The Uprising