30 September 2012

As Yoda Might Say, Worship You Will.

We were made to worship.

If we don't worship God, we will always find something to worship-- ourselves, money, sports, sex, anime, celebrities, politics, cars or motorcycles, religion, knowledge, life, death...

Until people really meet and know God, they will find something else to worship. This should not surprise us.

When we let ourselves become estranged from God, we will find something else to worship. This should not surprise anyone.

We were made to worship. Worship we will.

29 September 2012

Dear Austin Revivalist Diaspora...

The last year or so has seen many Austinites on fire with God's love spread across the globe. Some of you went with community or into community. That's awesome, and makes the transition pretty easy.

But some of you went alone to new territory. You're looking for community, for family, for the depth and height and breadth of love, peace, joy, encouragement and passion you knew in Austin. You aren't finding it. That's not quite so easy.

But it could be easier.

If you aren't finding it, quit seeking it, At least the way you have been. Just as people here saw who you were and called that out, saw the gold and dug for it, helped you bring it into that joyous, refining, fiery love, now it's your turn to do that for others!

Everywhere you go, take those chances. Smile. Look. Speak. Say what you see and hear to total strangers, to neighbors, to co-workers, to kids, to old people, to everyone. Hug. Buy coffee or meals. Just love on people, intentionally, fully.

That's what Jesus did, and look at that 33AD community. That's what happened here in Austin, and look what we ended up with.

Yours won't look the same, any more than what we have in Austin looks identical to Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. And yet, it's the same, and so will what you find there be. You'll just have to find it differently than you did here.

You're the only Jesus some people will see. Be your awesome Jesus self. Go for it!

And know that we love and miss you!!!!! Hugs! Mwah! From all of us.

28 September 2012

Devastation in the Name of Truth

Pam had died, but nobody seemed to know. Obviously someone knew, and word was getting passed around. Here's how Desiree heard it.

"Hey, did you know Pam died?"
"Pam who?"
"Pam Lafleur."
"That's my Mom's name!"
"Yeah, it was your Mom."
"That's no way to tell someone her Mom died!"

That was my dream just before I woke up today. People found out when the fact was tossed out casually, even to her daughter. What a horrible way to find something like that out.

And yet, we treat people almost this badly. We have a problem with their church, their spouse, their kid or parent, their boss, their attitude, their clothes, whatever. And we casually toss that around with total disregard of how it might feel to them.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

We "love" to quote this passage, or parts of it, in ooey-gooey, romantic ways, or when defending something precious to us. But love also rejoices with the truth and the truth is that this is not a passage about romance (although it can apply), and that it is universal.

So before we open our mouths, not just to complain, but even to speak truth, let's make sure the truth we speak is truly in love-- that it's kind, honoring, strengthening others rather than tearing them down, protecting, spoken in a way to bring hope, to encourage.

Otherwise, no matter what you say, no matter how "true" it is, it's just trash can lids banging together, tapping out dismal news in Morse code. Nobody wants to hear that.

Bible verses from the NIV.

23 September 2012

In the Name of What?

I grew up in a mainline denomination. There was a lot of good stuff there, but they were missing out on things. They'd given up on, or turned away from, miracles (they aren't for today) and the gifts of the Spirit (ditto, though the fruits of the Spirit are mostly fine today, thank you).

But just as the mainline denominations were missing some things, so were the charismatics and the non-denominations. Many have missed wisdom in one area in particular.

Some of us have wasted a lot of time looking for the secret formula, the right phrases, the right attitudes, some hidden message we've all somehow missed, the secret to getting God to do what we want done. "The Answer" has allegedly been revealed many times under many guises: Name it and Claim It, Word of Faith, Positive and Negative Confessions, etc. While all of these had a grain of truth to them, they ultimately became either an attempted means of controlling God (the very worst form of sorcery) or The Thing We Needed To Do To Please God (a kind of works-based grace).

The phrase "Christian Sorcery" is, I trust, an obvious oxymoron. But what are sorcery and witchcraft except finding the key words or works to force someone or something supernatural to cause a desired effect in the natural? God makes no distinctions I can find between "black" and "white" or "good" and "bad" witchcraft. He simply says, "No. Don't be trying to manipulate." He doesn't distinguish between killing curses and love potions, between lightning strikes and rain dances. He just says, "No."

There are even prayers that get into this territory. It's irrelevant how they are phrased; if what we're after is getting God to force someone to do something they don't want to, we're in a dangerous place. It's one thing to cry out to God that we need rain; it's another thing altogether to demand it, much less to try to to do something to force him to rain where and when we want.

Some Christians get irate at this concept. "Sorcery involves the Devil!" If you want to be picky, we can be picky. That's Satanism, which is a subset of sorcery or witchcraft. But it makes no difference. God is about relationship, not rules. God cares about the means, not just the ends. The means involve our relationship with him, and if that relationship isn't about getting to know him and trusting him, if it's about getting our way, it's an attempt to manipulate God. Do you really think that goes well?

Quit looking for the secret, the magic words, the right gestures and attitudes, the correct phrasing, to produce miracles, healings, or provision. If you pay any attention at all as you read the Gospels, you will notice that of the recorded things Jesus did, he seldom did them the same way twice. How many different ways did he heal the blind? How many different ways did he approach the lame? In some cases (the woman in the crowd) he did nothing, the woman reached out in a desperate faith and was rewarded.

If, indeed, there is An Answer, it's simply to have a desperate faith, a faith that recognizes there is no other answer, that one has nothing to lose. But that's not something you can work up. It has to be real, from the heart, giving up hope in anything else. If nothing seems to happen right away, just keep asking, reaching, touching. I can't tell you why we sometimes need to keep on this way, but Jesus recommended it. And when something does happen, recognize it is simply grace, a gift from God, a work of love. Don't check the last thing you did and think it's The Answer, a way to reproduce the miracle, a way to force God to do it again and again and again. He knows what we want and what we need, and he's capable of doing all those things. And he loves us. Trust in that, and see what happens. You won't always get the miracles you wanted, but you will always get expressions of his love. It's simply a question of whether we're willing to recognize and accept them.

15 September 2012

God Is Enough... But Not In The Way You Think

Fellow blogger and all round cool sister Alise Wright recently wrote that God is not enough (do not bother to reply to that unless you read her blog). It was in reply to something on her Facebook wall that said, "If God is all you have, you have all you need."

This was my reply.

God saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone (note that God said this even though, technically, Adam was not alone-- Adam had God there!), so he gave Adam and Eve the gift of each other, then gave them more family and friends and community, growing over time. I would contend that if you have God, you have family and friends and community. That's what I see in the Bible, and what I see all around me. Those who try to live without family and community have serious problems.

If, indeed, God alone is all you have then he will be and provide all you need. But how many of us end up like Jonah or John in the book of Revelation? Precious few, thankfully.

I suspect the provider of the quote above was trying to encourage people (or themselves) in the latter situation, but honestly, if we have a computer and internet access, we probably have no clue what it is like to have nothing but God.

I've known people who went through times they had no one but God, and he became enough, but he brought them to a place with others in their lives. Because we were never meant to be alone.

One of the last things Jesus did on the cross was to provide family for two people he loved dearly-- Mary and John. Every time his followers turned around he was loving on people, and doing things that caused relationship... with their Father first, but never just with their Father.

Don't try to make it on your own. Love people. Let people love on you. Does it open the door to hurt? Yeah, it can. But in the words of Alfred. Lord Tennyson, "tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." But if you really, really love people, you don't lose. They might, but you won't. I think I Corinthians 13 covers that one pretty well. (I'll try to address that soon.)

13 September 2012

The Morning After (Burning Ones)

I wrote the original version of this on Oct. 4, 2009 about an experience the night before at the Burning Ones Youth Conference. Nolan Clark blew us all away explaining what it meant to be a burning one, whether the beings of flame such as Isaiah saw (Is 6), or the human kind. I've expanded a little here.

I've prayed for years for God to burn out of me the things that were unlike him. I prayed this Saturday night as I have many times. Only this time I wasn't letting go; like Jacob I was wrestling with God until I got what I came for. If I ended up with a limp (metaphorical or real), so be it.

When God really got hold of me back in my hippie days, I had a vision. At the end of the vision I was floating before God, like we were the only two things in existence. I was this tiny speck, and he was an all consuming, blazing sun of pure love and holiness (among other things). I couldn't understand how I could continue to exist; I should have been reduced to subatomic particles.

As I prayed at Burning Ones, that fire reappeared-- only this time I was inside the fire, and it was inside me. God's holiness, his utter otherness, his alien-ness, overwhelmed me and became part of me, became me. The things that were not of him were suddenly as other to me as they are to him, and they just vanished.

Another thing I've prayed many times was to be able to see people as God does. A while back he told me clearly that if he did that for me, it would destroy me. "The intensity of even simple aspects of their nature-- like their maleness or femaleness-- would overwhelm you." So I quit asking, somehow knowing this wasn't a forever answer.

In the midst of the fiery experience last night, one of the things God said was, "Now you can ask." I knew immediately this was what he meant so I asked. And he did it. Everyone around me was now made of living fire-- holy, beautiful, pure. So this is what it means that we are made in the image of God! Or at least a glimpse of it.

The rest of the night was beyond anything I had ever experienced. It made the most intense acid trips in my college days look boring and pathetic. I knew who to pray for as God would let me see a dark spot in someone's fire. But I not only knew who to pray for, there was no question of how to pray. God showed me what to pray, or at times just prayed through me, or just spoke through me deep down into the beings of whomever I was praying for. I don't even know everything I prayed for; it wasn't for me. This was beyond prophetic insight. It was beyond merely understanding that I was made in God's image. I recognized God's image that was (is) me, that spoke and moved through me and everyone else. It happened again today a couple of times, too, though much more matter of factly, without the overwhelming awareness of the Burning One above all other burning ones.

And that's my prayer for everyone; that you not only see who God is, and who God made you to be, but that when you look in the mirror, you see the image of God he made you to be. And that you can then see others the same way.

I've only seen people as beings of fire a couple of times since, but the clarity, intensity, purity, and sheer joy and power of that night remains. To God be the glory, but a special thanks to Nolan, who brought us to a place where such things could happen.