As I Go…

Sept. 29Oct. 7, I participated in the American Revival Heritage Tour led by the Sentinel Group, a ministry focused on equipping believers to pray for transforming revival in our communities.  

This experience–a prayer journey immersed in church history–was life changing.

Among many takeaways, I was impressed with a sense of responsibility to steward what’s been entrusted to us by those who’ve gone on before.  With the Spirit’s help, I committed to obey Jesus by applying what He taught me. Over the next weeks, I’d also like to share with you some of what we discovered.  I’d be honored if you would take this journey with me…

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The morning I left for the Milwaukee airport (9/29), I woke up with a phrase in my mind and a song in my heart.

The prophetic song was the classic by Don Moen, “Thank You, Lord.”

I come before You today
And there’s just one thing that I want to say
Thank You, Lord, thank You, Lord
For all You’ve given to me
For all the blessings that I cannot see
Thank You, Lord, thank You, Lord…

The phrase was “As I Go…”

Although I’ve already returned, that phrase birthed this post, compiled from audio recordings as I drove (I’ll omit the Google Maps directions).

As I go… I go as a student of church history, asking questions to learn from heroes of the faith.  

I take a problem-centered approach to historical theology, which acknowledges we each come to the table with specific questions and issues we’re looking to answer.  In this case, our communities are desperate for revival and God’s transforming nearness.

I seek to respect characters from history as “voices with whom we enter into theological conversation,” Colin Gunton’s phrase.  This space at the table allows us to chat on common ground and dialogue about differences.

As I go… I go as a systematician.  Say what?  

I employ the systematic sense of a scientist, asking questions and hearing whatever answers may come.  I seek to do this removed from bias, to learn with a humble and open heart from the data that stories of the past offer us.  We all get off the plane with biases from our upbringing, our spiritual experiences, and what we’ve heard in the past.

My goal is to be aware of my own history but not allow it to discolor the new stories I’ll hear.  Behind our tour guides, we’ll hear voices, who like Abel, through their faith still speak (Heb. 11:4).  This is the great cloud of witnesses, gone on ahead, and I couldn’t be more excited to learn from their perspectives (Heb. 12:1).

As I go… I go as a person of prayer.  

I so love being in relationship with Jesus!  Since prayer is the primary avenue He has graced us with for connecting with Him, I love prayer too!  Prayer is also the most powerful way His people change the world.

A friend prayed with me over the phone the day before my trip: “LORD, give him eyes to see the things that only You can help him see!”  What expectancy a faith-filled prayer like that stirs in my heart!  It sets my spirit ready to be watchful (1 Cor. 16:13; 1 Pet. 5:8).  I’m on the edge of my seat excited for all He will reveal.

As I go… I go as a friend of Jesus.  

This means I’m a disciple who obeys my Master and shares what He teaches me with others.  Jesus said we show our love for Him by obeying Him (Jn. 14:15).  In His final commission, Jesus calls us to teach others “to obey” all the commands He’s given us (Mt. 28:17-20).  We pass on what He shares with us, inflow-outflow personal conversations.

This means… I go as a disciple-making disciple, seeking to equip, encourage, and impart to others even as I receive life myself.  It’s never a stagnant swamp that ends with me but always a living channel, an ever-flowing river.

As I go… He’s with me (Mt. 28:20).  

And we go with others.  I’m not alone.  Though I haven’t yet met them, I go with brothers and sisters from various streams in the Body of Christ with similar hearts for revival and prayer, for learning from our Lord Jesus and the voices of the past.  I’m sure we’ll become fast friends.

May all the streams flow as one river…
~to wash away our brokenness
~to heal our land (2 Chr. 7:14)

Revive us again, LORD, for the glory of Your Name!  We ask for awakening, transforming revival, and reformation in the wonderful Name of Jesus.

I’d love to hear from you!

What have you been praying for your community lately?

The dangers of becoming a "professional" Christian

Yesterday was my sabbath, the day I chose this week to rest from everything that feels like work and to refocus on the LORD.  Because I have the privilege of serving full-time with our church, I work on Sundays.  Though it’s usually a blessed day, it’s far from a rest day.  So this week, I chose Saturday to sabbath.

As I drove to the grocery store on my chosen day of rest, I saw two young men on the sidewalk, dancing as they walked to the beat booming from a cell phone that one held (their version of a “boom box on your shoulder,” I suppose).

I heard a whisper, “Tell them about the destiny I have for their lives. Call out the treasure I’ve deposited in them. Invite them to use the gifts I’ve given them for Me.”

I smiled and waved as I drove by.  I did this so quickly, I didn’t see if they even noticed.

“Hmm… not exactly what I had in mind,” Holy Spirit whispered.  I drove on.

Down a busy road, I saw a minivan parked in an industrial lot with kids peeking out the open doors.

Two adults stood outside with a sign: “Help us get home. God bless”

The whisper: “Stop. Hear about their need. Bring a taste of My Kingdom.”

Wonderings of a calloused heart: “Scammers who go from city to city? A family truly in need? I’ll stop to find out, if they’re still there when I get back from grocery shopping. After all, it’s my sabbath.”

I never found out, as they were gone by the time I drove home.  I even excused myself, thinking: I would’ve stopped if I’d had a friend with me.  I sensed a sadness in my heart but shook it off to continue on with my sabbath observance.

Today, as I drove from the church building to the beach for our student event, I passed a worn-down house with a woman standing outside in the sun wearing a thick hoody and jeans.  The temp was in the high 80s.  Her face looked, in a word: “hopeless.”  I didn’t have a full word of encouragement to deliver to her, but I was prompted to stop and had one word: “HOPE.”

Was that her name?  Was that what she needed to hear?

I slowed down as I drove by.  While I stalled like a child delaying bedtime, she began walking toward a side door and entered the house.  I deliberated turning around to knock and share some “hope.”  I didn’t.

At our beach event, the sister who shared an anointed message spoke on stepping out in faith and listening to the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to work through us to speak to and touch others.  Ouch… “I’m listening, LORD.”

I returned to that house after the beach.  When I knocked, I learned firsthand the importance of timely, immediate obedience.

A man gruffly asked, “What do you want?”

“This might seem out of the ordinary, but I felt God…”

“Not interested.”

I didn’t get to see the lady who needed hope.

Holy Spirit, draw her nearer to Jesus and bring other Christ followers into her life who will share Your hope!

Jesus worked miracles on the sabbath, and it triggered the religious crowd (Matthew 12:9-14).  He didn’t stop to touch everyone or fix every problem.  But He did stop every time His Father asked Him to (John 5:19).  No matter what day it was.

Followers of Jesus do need regular rest (Mark 2:27-28).  But, we take no break from obeying Abba, from following the promptings of His Spirit.

Following Jesus is not my “job.”  I refuse to become a “professional” Christian.  If you minister to others for your livelihood, you might be tempted to think of your service as your source and yourself as a professional.

I am not a “professional” Christian, however.  It is not my day job to follow Jesus.  It is not even my duty.  It is my honor and privilege.  He died for me.  I live for Him.

“Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe.”

I willingly choose, in response to His love, to live for Him.

I need to repent.

I am not a 9-to-5, punch-in/punch-out “Christian.”  I live on mission.

I am not part of the religious crowd.  I live in relationship with Holy Spirit.

I am not a duty and obligation, “have to” kind of guy.  I get to serve the most wonderful Master!  Living for His glory is my joy!

I’ve learned recently from a friend that repentance is much more than feeling sorrow over my sin or even just asking for forgiveness.

In Acts 26:18, Paul retells the mission that Jesus gave him:
“…to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.”

Paul says he obeyed this calling by preaching “that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds” (v. 20).

All the facets of verse 18 fulfilled in preaching repentance!

Peter shared that repentance brings times of refreshing from the Presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19).

I’ve discovered: repentance is turning from sin to face Abba, declaring, “This old pattern is not who I am. I embrace You! I believe what You say about me is true!”

We are called to live lives of repentance.  We are ambassadors of His Kingdom, ministers of reconciliation, those who run with the good news of His love!

Lord Jesus, tenderize my heart.  You died and rose again, so we can live in relationship with You, be filled with Your Spirit, and demonstrate the reality of Your resurrection.  You rose from the dead and so nothing is impossible for You!

I am a student, a learner, an obedient follower, walking in the footsteps of my Master, led by His Spirit.  I rest: daily and weekly.  I can’t fix everything.  I’m not the savior or messiah.  But I do know Him.  And I follow Him.  What He says goes.  As a disciple of Jesus, I will obey Him without question or hesitation.  I love Him, and I trust His heart that much.

I am not a “professional” Christian.  I am following Jesus.  How about you?

 

Be fully dependent

“Dependence is a dirty word.” That summarizes several comments posted on my Facebook status. My status read, “In life, you have two choices: either become independent or fully dependent on Jesus.”

The unbelieving world deems the college years a period when youth should become independent. As usual, the world is wrong.

I, a dependent college student, wager the college years are an opportunity to become utterly dependent on the Lord Jesus. Yes, students usually leave home and family; In Chicago, I’m 600 miles away from mine. Sure, they often become self supporting, more responsible and mature. Of course, battle plans and personal goals are refined. However, independence should never be the aim of a Jesus-follower. He calls His disciples to complete reliance on Him.

Christ-loving students should expect college to be a stretching, painful experience wherein the Lord of Glory trims the fat from their lives. I propose God does this on purpose. That way, absolute surrender to Jesus and connection with the Body of Christ arise as the only antidotes to our need.

Let’s euthanize the myth that students should church hop and sample as many local assemblies as possible. Plug in. Be dependent on Christ’s Body. Be faithful. Commit yourself to a local church family as soon as possible. You’ll be obedient to Jesus and set yourself up to experience the operation of spiritual gifts in the context He intended.

If I aim to become dependent on Christ, I must learn to redeem the time for “the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16; Col. 4:5). Every second two people die, and there’s nothing I can do about it.  Unless of course, I surrender to Jesus and in the power of His Spirit declare the Gospel in and out of season, making the most of every opportunity (Acts 1:8; 2 Tim. 4:2).

A dependent disciple of Christ is driven by the will of God and not the needs of man. One who attempts to meet everybody’s needs commits ministerial suicide. Those who depend on Jesus must be attentive to the Holy Spirit’s voice minute to minute and do what He says.

I am dependent on the only Source, who can always provide (Take that, the world, the flesh, and the Devil!). And I plan to keep growing in that dependence until the day I see Him, Face to face.