Thursday, October 21, 2010

Humility

There is something to be said for humility.  Not the pious, self-righteous fa├žade that has too often embodied the images in our minds when the word is heard or seen.  No.  True humility resonates from a place too deep to be manufactured with convincing display.  It conceals nothing.  It reserves nothing.  It judges nothing, and it feels everything. 
Its depth cannot be measured in the character of a person because, when you feel you’ve found its boundaries, it will surprise you again.  Still, it is not weakness.  Though sometimes severely taken advantage of, humility will rise to trust again.  Is it because it plays the fool?  Decidedly not.  Humility looks beyond the weak displays of man, and sees the potential that lies therein.  It cannot be satisfied with the superficial, and yet, it does not glory in the prize at the end of the pursuit.  It is not presumptuous, but hopeful.  Its promotion is in the glory of others, and its pleasure is in the happiness of truth and justice. 
And though it feels too often lost, it can be found.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Vision

It was out there.  The quote –
“What we behold-we become.  Where we look – is where we go.  Correct vision is crucial.  Be intentional with your attention.”
One time, my little boy was having a wonderful time playing in our living room.  He was running through the kitchen, giggling and laughing, and he was headed to the hallway leading to his bedroom.  I think he was about 3 years old.
Anyway, picture this – belly laughs, fat rolly thighs bouncing, and a little man looking back over his shoulder.  There was no time to react, he was going too fast.  BAM!!!  He missed the hallway and hit the wall.  Bounced about 3 feet back into the room and sat there staring at the wall.  No more laughter.  It was like he couldn’t believe someone hat just put the wall there – and it had been there since he was 6 months old.  Same son is now notorious for riding his bike watching over his shoulder at his sister.  Do you think he’ll ever learn? 
This really speaks to me!  Pursuit is not reflection and remembrance.  Sure, that’s part of learning, growth, and maturity, but if we spend our entire lives wishing we could go back to the times when things were great, we will run to that same wall.  I’ve done it. 
My college years were amazing.  I went to Brownsville Revival School of Ministry for 2 years and graduated Magna Cum Laude in December of 1999.  I was in the 3rd class, and was smack in the center of an amazing period of church history.  I loved it!  During that time I lived in a tiny one room apartment above someone’s garage – no TV, no internet, no radio.  Just me, my CD’s, my Bible and my piano.  I gorged myself on my education – and I was given the opportunity to travel with music teams on more occasions than I can count.  I played on the school worship team with Bill Ancira (though I think I was more of support than a necessary instrument), and even got to lead a couple of songs at the revival on a Friday and Saturday night.  Not as much as some, but more than others.  I consider myself VERY blessed!
Still, in pursuit of the Kingdom agenda that involves me and moves through me, I cannot spend all of my time wishing I could go back to those days.  God has given me the opportunity to pour my life into a hurting people who have been abandoned by everyone in the name of religion.  
I needed this quote – what we behold, we become.
I have many friends on facebook that point to different seasons in my life.  Some were in bands with me at Brownsville.  Others were friends from high-school.  They both represent where I was – who I used to be.  But I don’t want to be Evan running straight for the wall while I laugh, and carryon looking over my shoulder and enjoying my past. 
Do I miss it?  Sure. 
I miss the full teams of talented musicians who were pursuing God as much as I was.  I miss the amazing things that used to happen in the music practice room on the back side of the campus.  The creativity – the harmonies – the instrumental blendings!  Wow!  People used to follow the Spirit of the Lord as they played and we would have some incredible sessions.
But the reward for that has been earned. 
What am I going to do with where I am now?  Will I regret that I don’t have a stacked team with passion for Jesus?  Will I despair that I haven’t worked with a full band in a year? 
Sure I miss it – but no I won’t.  God has chosen to give me as a gift to these people, and I will do everything in my power (and then rely on the Lord’s strength) to create an atmosphere of worship in the midst of their hurting and broken situations.  If I’m constantly missing where I’ve been, I will become bitter with where God has placed me now. 
So I will choose to be intentional with my attention – just as Jesus was when He set His face like flint toward Jerusalem and the cross (Luke 9:51).  The Message Bible says it this way:
“…he gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem.”
If you’re not watching where you’re going, you’ll end up flat on your face.  Guaranteed.  And if your vision is a skewed, it will lead you where you don’t want to go.  Take your eyes away from the Author and the Finisher of our faith, (who, for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the Throne of Majesty) – take your eyes away from Him and you’ll end up someplace you never intended to go.  Your sight is your steering mechanism.  You might not like that, it might prove inconvenient, but it is absolutely true. 
Consider these passages:
“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come?  My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)
“Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained” (Proverbs 29:18)
Eve saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to her eyes (Genesis 3:6).  Sin inevitably followed.  She being deceived fell into transgression (1 Timothy 2:14)
Abraham raised His eyes and looked while the knife was in his hand to slaughter his own son.  There he saw a ram (Gen 22:13)  He was vigilantly watching for the Lord’s provision!
Moses sought out God!  He climbed the mountain and he pleaded for God to “show me your glory.”  (Exodus 33:18) And yet the children of Israel couldn’t bear to look upon the Lord, or hear the voice of the Lord (Deut 5:25-27).  It seemed too great a responsibility – they’d be obligated to respond. 
Before Joshua led the army of Israel to Jericho he “lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand…”  He saw the Captain of the host of the Lord, (Joshua 5:13-15) and then led his nation into a battle drama that was incomprehensible!
And during the cycle of the judges, men would do what was right in “their own eyes,” and the nation fell into sin, disrepair and judgment! (Judges 21:25)
But what about the New Testament –
Matthew 13:15 – “For the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them.”
Mark 8:18 – “Having eyes, do you not see?”
And what about when Jesus told the disciples to lift up their eyes to the harvest (John 4:35)
And Paul’s message that the Lord sent him to people in order “to open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light.”  (Acts 26:18)
Your sight – your attention – your perception… they lead you.  Where your eyes wander is the direction of your heart.  And if the direction of your heart is for anything other than Jesus, your life will follow.  What you sow, you reap.  Peter mentions eyes full of adultery, and the fact that they never cease from sin.
But what happens if your eyes are full of Jesus?  What happens if you are pursuing Him?  What happens if your great quest in life is to please your Father?
I can only imagine….

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Desperation

There are no words to describe the place that I've been in lately.  I heard a song today that seemed to explain it perfectly. 
"To know You is to want to know You more."
That's just it.  It's a beautiful place to be longing for the presence of God in your life.  It's desperation.  Hunger.  Thirst.  It's a ravenous need to be connected to the Savior King who calls us Friend. 
I once heard a man make the argument that we should never be desperate for God.  He rationalized that God has given us everything we need in order to commune with Him, and therefore to be desperate is to not grab hold of what God has already offered us through His Son Jesus Christ. 
I cannot disagree more.  It sounds good.  The statement that God has given us everything we need in order to commune with Him is absolutely true.  Through the cross He has made a way for us to live in an actively engaged relationship with Him.  But I have known what it means to be desperate....I know it right now.... and to be in the midst of a battle when I needed God to intervene on my behalf.  And I have longed to be with Him more than I have ever wanted to be with anyone in my life.  I have loved Him when I couldn't sense or feel His presence around me, and in those times I have been overwhelmingly desperate - just to hear His sweet voice, to feel the warmth of His presence around me.   He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). 
We are humanity.  And He is Divine.  How can we not be desperate?  I have known people absolutely desperate for God to heal.  I have heard their desperation through their songs and prayers.  I've seen the people of God pursue.  Seeking.  Desperately seeking.  One of my professors once said that the closer he got to God the farther he felt he had to go.  I didn't understand that at first, but as my life grows more deeply attached to Jesus, it makes so much sense.   The more I know Him, the more amazing I see that He is - the more I absolutely adore Him - the more I desperately long to run to Him.
It's funny, my kids demonstrate this all the time to me.  Sometimes it just seems like I have velcro attached to me, and they can't get close enough.  Ethan's four years old, and there are some times when he just can't get close enough.  I watched him do this with his daddy just last night.  They were fine all evening - nothing spectacular.  Just family.  And then Ethan got closer to his daddy.  They started to play.  And then - as Ethan got closer, he just wasn't close enough.  He had to completely monopolize his daddy's attention.  It wasn't enough to play WITH daddy.  He had to play ON daddy - and the wrestling  began.  I've said it before, as I squeezed him super tight, "Am I close enough, Ethan?"  He always says "no." 
It doesn't make sense to people who haven't experienced it, and that's okay.  I just know that I have never been so at peace in my life as the times when I am pursuing God.  Desperately pursuing. 
But is He not desperate for us?  Does He not pursue us?  Did He not pursue me?  Was He not standing at my door, knocking... calling to me?!  Calling my name?  Did He not pursue you?  Shall we not desperately pursue Him together?!
Can you believe that?  We are His prize just as He is ours!  He sent is sinless, perfect Son to suffer and die so that the absolute wretch that I am could be rescued and brought to Him.  He suffered for me.  I was His treasure.  I'm still His treasure!  He pursued me when I rebelled.  He opened doors for me to find Him when I wasn't even looking for Him.  He knocked on MY door. 
Here's the deal.  I lead worship for a small church in a very small town in the middle of the country.  It's where God has placed me - I know this more than I know anything else in my life.  These are the people I'm given to minister to.  And I love them.  But not because they're beautiful, rich, or even spiritually attentive.  They are a broken people.  They have been despondent.  As I get to know each one of them I can hear the struggle that has marked their lives - scrounging to make ends meet.  Watching their own children being broken by the consequences of their life-choices.  When Derrick and I first started ministering with these people I was always overwhelmed with how hurt, broken, and devastated they were.  If anyone needed God - it was them. 
They were already in church, and yet the power of the Spirit of God seemed like a pie-in- the-sky fairytale that was meant for everyone but them.  Just thinking about it now breaks my heart.  Have you ever felt that way?  Like the promises and the good things that God has given to His people were for everyone else but you?  I have.  During the seasons when my faith is tested - it's easy to feel like everything I do and believe is out of sheer will, because the blessings and favor were destined for someone else.    
But did God send Christ for those who were not in need?  Are these not the meek of the earth?  A broken people who have been ravaged by pain.   Did He send the Healer for those who are well?  No - but He sent the Healer.  Sickness, brokenness and pain - there is a Healer, and He wants to heal.  Think of the woman with the issue of blood in Mark.  She pursued when Jesus was headed someplace else entirely.   Think of the man with the demon possessed son - Jesus said "All things are possible to him who believes."  The response? - "I BELIEVE! HELP MY UNBELIEF!"  (Oh, how many times I have cried this.)  Then my Jesus brought restoration - saving, healing, deliverance - to the man's brokenness and tormented son.
I have had the amazing privilege of ministering in some remarkable places, and I would not be who I am today if it were not for those experiences.  So I can say from my heart that I know God longs to pour His Spirit out on all flesh.  Here, though, I've met a people who adamantly hold on to the knowledge that Jesus is the Son of God , but they almost can't imagine that the blessings and the favor of God could ever apply to them.  When we worship together, the idea that God is present - and not just present for the sake of receiving adoration - but with the intent of loving on and meeting the needs of His children - it's just now becoming a reality to them.  It was so SO foreign.  God touching His people was as much a fairytale to these as I'm sure the Israelite people felt during the 400 years of silence between Malachi and Matthew.
But recently things have changed.   I have felt the power of His presence almost tangible in the room during our times of honest, open worship.  In the past 6 months I have seen men who were strong, resolute, power-houses weeping in adoration as they, for the first time, felt the affection of their tender Father.  The atmosphere absolutely full of grace - you could feel it!  And the freedom that came from that forgiveness ..........there are no words to describe that. 
This is probably not making much sense right now - I'm bawling as I write.  Just thinking about the awe-inspiring favor of God toward His children.  His broken, hurting, visionless children. 
Oh God - I resonate with Isaiah when he wrote - "Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down!" (64:1).  I don't ever want a relationship of distant satisfaction - but God I long for you.  I'm desperate for you.  And not just for your healings, or blessings, - but Father I desperately long just to be close to You.  And to know the beauty of the love you give to me!  Oh - you made a wretch your treasure.  You gave Your sacred Son to be wounded so that I could pursue You.  O Lord, forgive me for the times I have been complacent.  Arrogant.  Proud.  And distant.    Forgive me for the times I thought I had this whole thing figured out.  I ask you to forgive me for all the times I have failed You and Lord, for the times I have not respected You, honored You, glorified You. 
And God - I ask you to empower me to pursue You more!  By Your grace I will run the race for YOU are the prize!  The treasure, the gift, of seeing You absolutely overwhelms me.  Will you show Yourself to me?  Will You allow Yourself to be found by me?  I know You will - You said "Seek and you will find.  Knock and the door will be opened." 
I'm seeking.  I'm knocking.  I'm pursuing Jesus through grace.  Desperately pursuing.  And I'm more alive than I've ever been in my life before!
Paul wrote - (Philippians 3:7+) "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord....(14) I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."  And to the Corinthians he wrote, (9:24)"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win (Italics mine)." 
Paul was writing of desperation.  Many run in a race - but there's one more desperate for the prize, and he wins.  Desperation was the Syrophoenician woman pleading with Jesus to heal her daughter who pursued and pursued until He taught her what it meant to be rewarded for her quest.  And the woman who pleaded with the Judge for justice and she was rewarded for her persistence and faith. 
After all,  He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Proverbs 8:17; Hebrews 11:6)  To diligently seek is to desperately pursue.     
 
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