On the heels of the first December snowfall, Sunday morning’s thermometer read 27°. Snow & black ice battered and threatened families in Dawson and surrounding counties. Some still had no electricity. We half expected a half-empty, chilly sanctuary for this Sunday’s “That Day” performance…
Instead… over 200 people from Gainesville, Cumming, Suwanee, Cleveland and beyond filled the room to around 80% capacity – WHOA! Further, our whole family was SO warmly welcomed by the Set Free Church family. It was amazing! We had heard the Dirt Road Disciples (pictured, left) play before, but they really kicked it into high gear with the worship set, including the 70s classic “Spirit in the Sky”, “Amazing Grace/Chains are Gone”, and “Where I Belong”. Set Free was originally founded as a biker church in Dahlonega, but has grown into a thriving family congregation with a wide outreach.
Pastors Marty & Jamie Dunkerly and us at Set Free Church
Great Set Up,
Dressed in a business suit, Dan Matthewson doesn’t exactly “fit in” with the leather jacket, biker boot, and Carhartt wearing crowd. His opening line is a bit curt. After Thursday’s dress rehearsal, the pastor’s son, “Tank” Dunkerly highly recommended no segue between worship and the opening line of the show. Since Pastor Marty Dunkerly (pictured, left) agreed and hadn’t given the church at large a heads-up about the play beforehand, the crowd was perfectly set up for a shock. The potential culture clash and abrupt opening presented a fantastic opportunity to capture and hold the crowd’s undivided attention with the unexpected tale of Dan Matthewson coming to the judgment seat. And, it paid off.
Scott Biddulph, church member and editor-in-chief at Two Drops of Ink, later commented on the surprise opening:
“…to be transparent, at first I thought, ‘Here we go, [Pastor] Marty’s done brought some yuppie speaker into our church’ (laughing), but when he got going, it was such a powerful message.”
Later, he also said,
[That Day] “reminded me that the little things in life, the prayers, taking a moment to love on someone who needs love, to listen to somebody who needs to be heard, to hug somebody that needs a hug, and so many other things that remind me of what Jesus meant when he said, ‘What you do to the least of these, you have done unto me.’Our father is so loving, merciful, and penetrating with his Holy Spirit. Praise the mighty name of Jesus.”
Another attendee commented:
Lots of things he spoke on hit me hard…balancing my daily routine has been thrown into the pit of hell these last few months and to be honest it has caused many many problems emotionally, physically etc.. I honestly have become so bitter to others it’s overwhelming..I’m just ready to be back normal…” – D.W.
Associate Pastor Sandy Reece (pictured, right)pointed out
“It makes me look back and think ‘there are some places my walk could be tightened up with Jesus’. I mean, even as a pastor… [we all need to keep our] eyes on eternity.”
In the play, a character named Mickey explains the gospel to Dan Matthewson through a thick, iconic New Jersey accent. Ministry professional Casey Sanders from Men Step Up called it “pretty idiot-proofed… the clearest presentation of the gospel I’ve ever heard.” Praise God.
These are just indicative of the reaction this story brings. We were so honored to share this story with Set Free Church and grateful for any chance to help others live every day with that Day in mind. A look at life from the judgment seat is setting people free from the disappointments, disillusionment, and drudgery of living in a Genesis 3 world and resetting their eyes on the eternal glory that awaits us all in His presence!
A Unique Point of View?
As the performer, I have the blessing of being able to see the crowd reaction from the stage, for nearly the entire 75 minutes. People were visibly moved by thoughts of what it will be like to witness our lives as we account for them before Jesus. There were plenty of laughs (even from Bulldog fans, when the “Go, Yackets” line played!), lots of wide eyes and pensive looks, and plenty of heartfelt tears. The menfolk would have you note this: many of the women cried, too! 🙂 Thoughts were provoked, eyes filled, hearts moved, and many came to the altar at the endfor prayer.
To God be the glory for it all. (Including the fact that I pinched a nerve in my lower back the night before while lifting a bin of That Day hoodies! God alone sustained me through seventy-five minutes of jarring, unpredictable back pain! Let’s hear it for the healing power of prayer!)
We’re so grateful for the opportunity to share this story with the body of Christ in this part of North Georgia. We look forward to whatever God has next for That Day. If you’d like to help bring That Day to your church or other organization, reach out to us online here.
Friends, new and old, visited Set Free for a That Day performance
I’ve known of Michael Todd Wilson for many years, but we only finally met a few months ago. Since then, I’ve been greatly blessed by his Christ centered perspective on the broken, fallen world we live in and the many obstacles that sets up on the path of walking with Jesus.
Today, he put this article in my inbox and I’d be remiss if I kept the blessing rather than sharing it with you.
Can you read this and take 5 seconds to find Jesus?
Previously, we took a look at how the comparison game clutters the field of our minds with shame, doubt, and fear. Shame, doubt, and fear only take hold when we fall into the familiar rut of man centric thinking (woe is me, look what’s happened to me, why me?) rather than God-centric thinking. Through our troubles, God’s primary purpose and outcome for us is that we would know Him better. (See Eph. 1-16-19) Wallowing in shame, doubt, or fear can quickly become an obstacle to the main thing: knowing God and being fully satisfied in Him.
Roll your eyes and say “whatever that means”, please. But, I struggle with this, myself. In fact, I’m rolling in the deep of it right now.
When things don’t turn out the way we planned or those around us seem to have it all going for them there’s either a gap between expectation and reality or hope and reality. Either way, it’s an unpleasant gap that seeks to wedge itself between us and our Creator. I submit that the best bridge over this gap isn’t jumping into the canyon of anxiety or shame or doubt, but to span the canyon through proper mourning.
What’s So Proper About That?
Huh? “Proper” mourning? Does that mean, putting on your best “Downton Abbey” accent and weeping to your Puppah? Perhaps. But, as we look at some of the greatest mourners in history we find they didn’t ignore the gap or chide themselves “real Christians don’t fall all to pieces over small stuff.” We’re not called to fall to pieces over small stuff. But loss without mourning is self defense. Self defense is self deception. Job lost everything and his friends said nothing more to him for three days than harmonizing with his sobs. Jesus sweat blood in the garden. And, Nehemiah tore his clothes, wept, fasted, and prayed. All of them started with a proper attitude of mourning by simply calling out the gap for what it was.
“When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 1:4)”
Mourning helps us to know God because it first acknowledges His sovereignty and second, empties our inbox of the demon of minimizing. Granted, these giants of the faith were mourning pretty massive gaps. But, saying “it’s really not a big deal” is tossing dirt in your inbox. Can you imagine? I’ve had a lot of different things in my inbox (even right now), but dirt? I can’t even think of a reason to put dirt there. And, that’s exactly what minimizing the gap does. We weren’t meant to hang on to ungrieved loss, un-mourned gaps between hope and reality or expectation and reality. It’s totally out of place and eventually spills out of our inbox, contaminating our workspace and the floor where we step.
Emptying Your Inbox
I’m big on clearing out clutter. I work on it regularly and even teach it. But, because this is the kind of clutter I can’t see, it takes a little more intentionality than “control, alt, delete”. Sometimes, I have to pull over (even literally) and admit that my disappointment is even worth the time with all I have going on. But, I know while a spoon full of dirt won’t upset my whole inbox, I’m a fool to let pounds and pounds of dirt accumulate for very long.
Proper mourning begins with proper attitude like Jesus, Nehemiah, Job, even David had – calling the loss by name without minimizing, denying, blaming, or excusing it. From there, processing it is like a really important phone call with God.
It can go like this: repeat after me – “God, it’s me [again]. I’m a little [anxious/ashamed/fearful/disappoointed] about x. This isn’t how I planned it. This isn’t what I wanted. Show me more of who You are in the midst of disappointment. Turn my disappointment with this moment into an appointment with You. I’m listening.” And, then, seriously listen. You’ll never catch a revelation on the run. Nehemiah had a lot to mourn about – so he fasted, wailed, and communed with God for days. Your situation may be much less consequential and thus warrant far fewer tears and skipped meals. But, it’s no less personal [pause…] nor valid.
It’s your inbox. Let’s clean out the clutter, shall we?in Christ,
Doing Two Things at Once…Have you ever been on the phone with someone while you were driving to work, get to work and think “Wow, how did I get here?”
Auto-Pilot Explained There’s great brain science out there that explains this phenomenon. Without getting hyper-biological, let’s just say that God designed our brains to do really great things. One of those things our brain yearns to do is to embed familiar routines into the “auto-pilot” section of our brain. We’ve subconsciously trained ourselves how to get to work by storing “directions to work” in the routine-function section of our minds (also called the basal ganglia). When we shifted our “full” attention to the phone conversation, auto-pilot is what helped us arrive at work instead of Peru.
Much of what you and I have learned as children has been broken down into easily recalled “chunks” (how to go to the bathroom, how to lift a glass, what to say when someone gives you a toy, how to respond to someone who yells at you, etc.) and stored it in autopilot. This saves us from wasting time and energy rethinking the routine each time we have to do it.
The Old Testament teaching from Proverbs 22:6 is echoed in Jesus’ teaching “…but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. (Luke 6:40)” Which, begs the question:
Who (more often, what) has been your teacher?
We’ve All Been Discipled by Someone Many of my teachers growing up were contrary or marginally average examples of godly behavior. It took time in the Word and the Holy Spirit to expose to me the places where I’d learned wicked examples of auto pilot. Today, I was interviewing a mental health professional and he reminded me that when men and women are under great pressure they tend heavily to fall into default modes of thinking learned from their childhood/family of origin. The brain science I’m reading right now fully confirms this assertion: while we may have new ways of thinking and be a “new creation” in Christ, we don’t always let go of our old programming. Could this perhaps explain why some of the following passages appear in scripture: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12.2a)” “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor. 10:5)” “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Phil. 4:8)” All Things New? When we come to faith in Christ, we do, indeed, become new creations, but this does not mean our most basic programming is completely erased. How much good would we be to God’s kingdom if our mind were erased, personality wiped clean, and we had to learn reading, writing, even potty training all over? We have been “trained up (Prov. 22:6)” for a reason. But, submission to God in all we do, abiding in Christ and walking by the Spirit, demands that we are constantly renewed in our minds. We have much to relearn and the Holy Spirit who is our teacher, but we must dedicate time and mental bandwidth to the process.
Take an inventory of “pretension that set up against the knowledge of God” and pray – multiple times daily – that the Holy Spirit will renew those old, bad, faulty thought patterns, giving you a “new” auto pilot. But, make sure to do this on paper – soon, I’ll be posting on how your brain isn’t designed to hold too many important things in the forefront – there’s great practical value in getting things out of our heads and onto paper.
Think on these things – don’t just say “I’m going to not do x.” There’s great truth to “garbage in, garbage out”. Ask God to fill you with new desires and that’s likely what you’ll get. We’re in charge of our minds and what we consciously let in. Memorize the fruits of the Spirit – (Gal 5.22-23) and Philippians 4:8 and actively pray that God leans you toward these new ways. Life in Christ is not about good behavior, rather a changed heart that puts out godly behavior. But, let’s at least have a Holy Spirit Wish List.
Say “no” to self-condemnation when you “fall off the wagon”. Looking in any mirror can show any of us far more faults than we’d care to think about tackling. But, at least now, we’ve got a more exhaustive list of what to pray for. Remember that while you are imperfect, God is leading you to perfection that will only be complete in His Kingdom reign.While you will make mistakes, Christ already paid the price for them – no sense beating yourself up when Christ has already been beaten for you.
This January, I’ll be running a half day workshop called “Getting Things Done God’s Way: Restoring Order to Your Mind, Your Work, and Your Life”, where we’ll be covering how this stuff is just as related to getting your inbox to “empty” as it is to sharing the gospel at work and loving your enemy while you’re under attack. Be Encouraged God wouldn’t have put this stuff in the Bible if He didn’t intend to help us on the journey. in Christ, AP
Context is King. But, Jesus is the King of Kings and He offers not only salvation for those who believe, but also some desperately needed context for our worldview.
Trials and troubles and annoyances and tragedies exist. No getting around that in a Genesis 3 world. So, Jesus gave us a heads-up – “In this life, you will have troubles.” But, what is the context in which we are to interpret these troubles? In chapter 15 of John’s gospel, Jesus has just spent a bunch of time telling his disciples some bad news: the world is going to hate them “for no reason (John 15:25)”. Then He moves forward into the “you will have trouble” part of the speech. As if the “they’re going to hate you” part wasn’t bad enough, He explains two things:
“I’m telling you this so you won’t get freaked out when it happens. I’m giving you a heads-up now that I’m on my way out.” (John 16:1 – paraphrased)
“It’s going to be so bad, people are going to try to kill you because of me, thinking by killing you they’re serving Me.” (John 16:2-4 – paraphrased) “So, what do you guys want for dessert?”
Can we skip to the end of the story? For some context?
The End That Satisfies the Means Here’s why “the end of a matter is better than its beginning… (Ecc 7:8)”: At the “end of the story” – Revelation 2 & 3, where God dictates seven letters for John to address to the seven churches in Asia Minor, Jesus reminds them who He is. “I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (v. 23)… To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations (v. 26)” At the Bema seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5.10), believers in Christ will receive their eternal rewards, including many crowns promised throughout scripture.
Bottom line – in a world where trouble is the everyday landscape of our walk, everything you and I do [within God’s will for us and that’s not done with selfish motive (Mt. 6:2, Mt. 6:5, Mt. 6:16)] will be repaid with eternal reward.
So, here’s the compensation structure when it comes to persevering under trial:
Get paid now – “Atta boy!!!” (remarkably temporary)
Get paid in eternity – “I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” or
Both – “do everything without arguing or complaining. (Phil. 2:14)” and “I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (Rev. 2:23b)”
We’ve been warned. We’ve been told it won’t be easy, but given the Holy Spirit to guide, empower, and protect us. We’ve been given the context of our trials, persecution, and our eternal rewards. We can take the recognition from men now or we can take a rain check in our eternal 401K. What would you prefer, a compliment that lasts a little while or a portfolio that lasts forever?
If you’re a man within 30 minutes of California Dreaming in Duluth, GA – do whatever you have to do to get there tomorrow morning (Friday, 05.11.2012) at 6:30 for Men Step Up. There, we’ll be thinking out loud about the lies of the enemy and the truth that sets men free, specifically this stuff. Hope to see you there!