Lean into the Light 

I sat down at my kitchen table, the warm sun beaming in and finding a resting place across my face. It was a welcomed warmth. The past few days had been hard. Sick babies, which makes ill babies, which leads to a frazzled set of parents. That wasn’t all though, my soul felt worn. Worn from the war. Even though it couldn’t be seen, I had felt like I was standing in the middle of the greatest heavenly battle that’s ever occurred in the cosmos.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over the present darkness, against spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12

Our eyes aren’t in tune with that realm. Thank goodness, I’m not so sure we could handle it. Yet, our souls are. The pull, the strife, the darkness invades….an invisible reality with visible side- effects. The effects can be felt; they can be seen on a downcast face, heard in the voice of the stressed, in the tears of the battered.The evidence of this war leaves its mark all over our lives; darkness. Camouflaged as an ill spirit, hidden within a snappy word, seen as discord takes over harmony,as peace is slain and joy surrenders.

Your fight isn’t with your boss, your co-worker, your spouse or your kids, your sister, your mom, your car, your bank account…their all bystanders in this battle of Light and darkness. The darkness will slip through any outlet it can; a thought gone awry, a run away emotion, a train of anxiety, an unredeemed memory. And with those  conduits something within shifts and in comes the darkness of temptation, the darkness of pride, the darkness of our past, they all seem to eclipse the light. But yet we have good news:

The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

Light symbolizes Gods presence throughout Scripture. It can be seen in the desert as God lead His people to the Promise Land, It was the penetrating force of light that transformed Saul into Paul in Acts.  

Psalms 43:3 says “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!”

It pulls us to the heart of God. John the beloved wrote the most of any New Testament writer about koinonia; fellowship. Koinonia is the Greek word meaning: partakers, joint participants. It’s a word that connotes intimacy and togetherness. John knew about this kind of intimacy. He was one of the inner three (James, himself, and Peter), the ones Jesus would pull aside and show the “deeper things”. Not because they held any more clout than the others, but because their hearts were hungry for more. He was also the one who hung close by the night of the crucifixion, so close that in some of Jesus’s final words He entrusted His own earthly mother to the beloved disciple. And then there was the time at the Passover meal, as Christ inaugurated the New Covenant, John leaned into the bosom of Jesus. He was so close to The Teacher that as the question arose of who would betray Him, Peter told John to ask. Why? Because John was closet; he was leaning in. And when you lean into the heart of the Savior, He tells you His secrets. So, it’s no wonder John uses the word “koinonia” so frequently. But as you read the letters of John, another word jumps out; light. John seems to see the two coupled to each other some how.
Fellowship brings light. As we draw near to the presence of God, His truth cuts through the deception of the darkness. Lies surrender at the penetrating truth of The Light. 

The key to victory for the powers of darkness is simple; deception. We see that all the way back in the garden, as the serpent deceived Eve and darkness fell on mankind. Darkness is born out of deception, it hides and covers up. That’s the point of it all, to get us to hide away from God; hide the questions, hide the hurts, hide the shame. All the while, The Light is calling our names, beckoning us to come to join Him, to partake of the goodness of His presence. 

 Deception hides behind the fake facade of entitlement and lurks behind the shadows of fear. Its purpose is never revealed, not until your caught in the snare of darkness.So it begins, this plot of darkness, to get us to believe a lie over the truth. The enemy uses many things as bait for deception: love of money, pride, insecurity, unchecked desires, emotions, heartaches…anything that we do not turn over to the Lord is a battlefield for darkness. The enemy loves to use our secret places against us. Don’t let him. Invite in the Light, Turn it over to Him, don’t leave any weapons in the enemy’s arsenal.

Light illumines, it reveals with purity. It dissects the complex anatomy of our hearts and pin points the cause of darkness. The place where a lie was believed and glory exchanged for shame.

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 1 John 1:6

 Where we find ourselves will depend on which one we are leaning into: darkness or The Light?

With hearts bent toward deception it will take an act of the will to lean into the Light. A conscious surrender of our secret places. Sin thrives in the dark, it longs for secrecy. It screams for silence and denial. That’s  part of deceptions tactic; to make us believe our secret places are not harmful. All the while they are growing and getting stronger with each passing day, as the incubate in the darkness. Then one day it is awakened from its hibernation and it turns on us. It ends up being our ruin. 

Throw open the doors to the secret chambers of your heart, for all secrets are safe in The Light.

  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1John 1:8-9

Darkness stands no chance when brought into the light. When backed up into the corner, deception has to bow, for Light never compromises on truth – NEVER. Not for the enemy, not even for you and I. 
On the darkest days; lean in. On the frustrating days; lean in. On the days you have no answers; lean in. On the brighest of days; lean in. He’s calling your name…

…even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. Psalm 139:12

Embrace the New

This is just a warning; your definition of a mega church will determine how you take this post.

Like always I was greatly moved by a beloved teachers post about the times we as the body of Christ are facing- however as I scrolled through the comments I saw where one individual stated “watch out for the mega churches” I didn’t think much about it but as that comment rolled through my mind, the Spirit started roaring in my soul.

If you would define mega church as too liberal, too contemporary or even going against biblical authority, I want to make a confession; I used to think the same thing.  Honestly, they scared the daylights out of me. Biblical literacy is what makes my heart keep rhythm, I would get the sweats just thinking about it. After all, being Baptist to the bone, coming from a church of 200 strong (on Easter) I knew what the word said, that in the end times people would flock to false teachers, and I was sure that’s what was happening. That was a few years ago now. I’ve become more comfortable in what I believe and why I believe it. I know now that’s why I was so scared of “them”, I wasnt sure I really “knew” what I thought I “knew”.  In hindsight, this “Mega Church” awakening made me evaluate by belief system. So I challenge you, if your perspective of these large contemporary churches is a negative one than I want you to consider this definition that the researchers of the Heartford have constructed:
The term megachurch generally refers to any Protestant Christian congregation with a sustained average weekly attendance of 2000 persons or more in its worship services, counting all adults and children at all its worship locations.

Likewise, there are significant numbers of megachurches throughout the world, especially in Korea, Brazil, and several African countries, although no exact count exists for this worldwide phenomenon.  Visit Leadership Network’s non-USA megachurch list for more information on these. The largest megachurch in America averages 60,000 in attendance; however, many global churches are much larger including one church in Korea that claims over 250,000 attenders.

Although very large congregations have existed throughout Christian history, there has been a rapid proliferation of churches with massive attendance since the decade of the 1970’s.  As such, some researchers suggest that this church form is a distinctive organizational response to cultural shifts and changes in societal patterns throughout the industrialized, urban and suburban areas of the world.

While size is the most immediately apparent characteristic of these congregations, the Protestant megachurches in the United States generally share many other traits. Virtually all these megachurches have a conservative theology, even those within mainline denominations. ( If this is true, there goes the ground for ANY opposition.)  A large number are nondenominational but the majority are affiliated with a denomination.
According to these stats, the church in Acts  would match up pretty close, after all it grew by 3000 in just one day at Pentacost.  Yes, some dispersed  to there home region but what they took with them rocked the known world.

“A worldwide phonemenon” is what the article calls the “megachurch”, that’s a remarkable statement. Isn’t that what the disciples were accused of doing? Turning the world upside down for Christ?

Think about this…if you lived in the time of The Acts would you embrace this rising church or oppose it??

What does it matter what your definition of a Megachurch is? Why do I even care that this woman maligned this part of the body of Christ? I guess I answered my own question in my question; they are the body of Christ. Yes, I totally understand and see in the latter days false teachers will arise. We have got to be grounded in scripture, times of seduction are at a all time high. Deception is at our doorsteps but let’s not get so fixated on that aspect of the end of days that we forget the glorious promise of Acts 2 referring to the prophecy of Joel…that the Spirit will poured out on all people’s. We absolutely need to be on guard for the enemy knows his time is short (Revelation 12) but let’s not get cynical. From what I have witnessed Cynicism can be a cover up for unbelief. Don’t let the threat of evil steal the joy from the promise of the Spirit. Discernment is key. Not opinion but discernment. Too many times, if we will be honest, we let opinion stomp out any discernment we have been given. God have mercy on us. If we really believe Gods word is powerful and that the gospel message is life changing, why are we shocked to see so many flock to the church? 

The last time God came and fulfilled prophesy about His coming to earth, He received the same response I think we are seeing now. Rejection by some, acceptance by others. The Spirit is God, that’s a foundational truth that must not be thwarted. And just like the Father promised to send the Son, He also promised that at the end times He would pour forth His Spirit in a new way. Yes, the Spirit is here now, living in us. But a time is coming when He will be poured out on all flesh. I’ve taken some classes on end time events, heard countless preachers opinions, read several books and honestly at the end of the day none of us know if this is the end of times and how exactly they will play out, but we can all relax because we’re not suppose to know. But we are suppose to be prepared, scripture makes that clear.
I couldn’t help but get a bit riled up thinking about this. How exciting! What an honor if we are, if we are chosen to be apart of the outpouring!

Many of us good church people have probably considered what it would’ve been like to live during Jesus’s earthly ministry. Of course we would be one of Christs followers-no doubt. Yet, we would never abandon him like Peter, or take Him for granted like Philip, or be irreverent like James and John (Sarcasm intended) but what if the Spirit was poured out right now-today- before our eyes, doing the like wonders and marvels they saw in that time frame, how would we respond? Like the religious leaders or like the “commoners”?
The Sadducees were students of the word, they clung to the authority of Gods written word. (I’ve read where they would’ve been equivalent to a Scholar or Seminary professor today. Yet in the time we live in, with technology at its zinth a layman can have the knowledge of a seminary student. We have a entire seminary library at our fingertips.) Yet, the Sadducees missed Him. The very One they sought, they crucified. The very Word  they hung their life on, they hung on a tree. How could this be?? Jesus told them plainly in Matthew 22:29   “But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.”

The word for wrong is the Greek word plano and 24 other times in the KJV it is used for deceived. Their pride had deceived them. It had told them that they “knew” exactly how the messiah would act, what he would do and not do. They THOUGHT they had him figured out-but they were wrong. They searched the words of Moses yet missed the One he spoke of….because they thought they knew.
What scared me most about this passage is, it was the well read ones who missed Him. The pious. This shakes this girl, who was born and raised in the church, to my core. This is what I’m scared of: that tradition will rob us of revival. That pride will blind us to Gods work, that the staleness of our worship will suffocate the fire of the Spirit and we who should’ve known, will miss Him. Oh, how that thought slays me. For what if we miss the outpouring of His Spirit because He overshadows what we think we know- and with pious pride we will call the very coming of The Spirit-Hersey. The religious leaders marked Jesus as a blasphemer, the Word made flesh, they believed was a heretic. Tradgicly ironic.

Maybe we don’t know the scriptures like we think we do or maybe tradition has such a grasp on us it drowns out truth. ( like the Pharisees) I pray not. Oh, Lord help us.
I’m not claiming the end times are here, but I do believe we are closer then we were 100 years ago-we have to be. So, I want to be ready. I don’t want to miss it because I thought I knew what it would look like. I’m a simple woman, with simple thoughts. Nothing too profound happens between these ears. But it doesn’t take intellect to see that the Spirit is stirring. It only takes a moment, when we pull back from tradition and loosen the noose of pride, that we see something is being shaken awake. Heed the warning-don’t sleep through revival. Test your heart now, for sometimes the only way we know we are asleep is when we wake up and then it’s too late.
I know some won’t agree, that’s fine. My finger has hovered over the trash button all night. But this word has been bubbling deep within for weeks and today it erupted. My hearts motive is never for division in the body, never. Christ destroyed the barrier of division on the cross. However, my heart is bleeding with this plea to the entire body…don’t miss the new because your focused on the old. Please. I’m not saying the Spirit is only being poured out on the “megachurches”, that simply is not true. I just don’t want any of us to miss the New because we are holding onto the old. The leaders of Jesus time fixated on the old, the law, and missed the One who fulfilled the law. My heart aches at the thought of the body of Christ, the one He died to make one (Ephesians 2) tearing each other to pieces. I guess what I’m asking is that maybe us who tend to side with the traditional outlook should not be so hasty to label the contemporary and maybe the contemporary not so ready to scold the traditional. There is but ONE body and yet ONE Spirit that unites us all in the family of God. Don’t be scared to embrace different. Unity doesn’t mean sameness, it means oneness. Maybe if we all laid aside our pride, we could learn from each other. For what I have noticed is that we all got some right, but none of us got it all right. And if we think we do know it all-that friends is a Sadducee at its finest. Unity will be vital for the gospel in the end times. The enemies strategy can already be seen; divide and conquer.
Embrace this time, for YOU we’re appointed to this generation for such a time as this my friend. Embrace Jesus, not tradition or man taught beliefs, but Jesus…only Jesus and you will find yourself unified with the body.

Kingdom Cause

I wake up and my feet hit the cold hardwood floor. I quietly throw back the covers and try to sneak through the house undetected. As I look around at the dirty dishes, clothes laying on the banister, baby bottles here and there, a pop tart that was forgotten and left on the table, a half drank glass of milk accompanying it. As I glance around something jolts me awake, no it wasn’t coffee but the presence of God as He whispered to my spirit “On the surface it seems to be a mess. But if you look a little deeper you can see these relics as evidence of life.” I looked around and my heart sang “life happens right here…the mess is evidence.” 

The evidence of the Kingdom is all around us, disguised as a “mess.” Kingdom work is at times “messy” and it is happening right here, right where you are. In the classroom, behind the tellers desk, in the carpool line, at the gym, in the factory, at the ball field…all are provinces of the Kingdom of Heaven. 
Does the mess distract us from the message? Do we have eyes that see the Kingdom abounding in the mediocrity of life or do we excuse the divine because it is draped with normalcy? 
 Kings determine the nature of their kingdom and so Christ set the bar for how the kingdom runs. We are witnesses of the reality of the Kingdom through little kindnesses; gentle encouragement from a friend, a child’s voice erupting in praise, a stranger who opens the door, the authentic question of “how are you?” to the cashier, a smile, a wave, a hug…all carry the weight of the kingdom.  When we see the world through the filter of the cross, when the veil of busyness pulls away, the Kingdom can be beheld through causul moments. I keep a notebook  tucked away and easily accessible. I call it simply, my “Kingdom” book. In this notebook I write down the small or large occurances of the Kingdom reality. Sometimes I miss it, when Heaven is revealed to Earth, but every once and a while through eyes of grace I see it; When the Kingdom is made clear to the natural realm. It could be in the prayer of a child or the simple text of a friend. Luke 17:21 tells when the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come He answered “The Kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say “Look here it is! Or “There!” For behold the Kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” Its here, right now. The reality of The Rule is among us, in all the littles that make up our days. The Greek word for midst is “enhon” which means “within your soul” it’s used in Matthew 23:26 when Christ uses it to tell the Pharisees to clean the inside of the cup. The throne of the kingdom sits inside you, The Kingdom is where the Spirit is. Just like leaven, It works from within to manifest the inward reality to the visible realm. It’s inconspicuously tucked within the being of man but as devotion is mixed in something rises; kingdom influence. 

To live for Christ is to die to self, the manifestation of the inward reality of the kingdom rises up and out of the ashes of our own kingdoms demise. The ruins of self become the foundation for Kingdom iniative. Yet sometimes what happens instead is the  cause of The Kingdom dies to the cause of self. The cause is lost. Not meaning the cause lacks hope or worthiness but that the cause, the matter of importance, was lost on us. It was wasted because we were focused on another cause; self. 
For a cause to be lost it must have lost its weight along the way. Somewhere in the rush of life, the reason for living was swept away in the tide of indifference. The busyness of life has left our hearts idle (1 Tim) and complacent. The church in Sardis (Revelation 3) was examined and the truth revealed;their works were dead. That means they were still doing the works but it was all void of meaning. The shrill of hollow works echoed throughout the church. Their hands were moving but their hearts were empty. The cause was lost on them. Somehow they missed it. Someway they drowned out the pounding plea of the gospel; The Kingdom of God is at hand. 
Hollow works are much easier to form, they cost very little. For most of us if the shell of our works was split open there would be nothing at the core. Void of love, compassion, mercy, sincerity, gentleness, peace, patience…void of meaning. The works of faith are pulsating with the cost of life, the heartbeat of good works is the cause of The Kingdom.

 I was watching the classic Gone with the Wind and the word “cause” kept falling off the tounges of the Southern Cavilers and ladies. As their way of life was threatened, a cause arose, a cause that was greater than themselves, a cause that encased thier very life, a cause that was worth dying for. 

“Until we find that something worth dying for, we are not apt to find anything worth living for.”  

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44

The kingdom is more than just a treasure it is the treasure, the only one that’s holds any weight and worth. Once we have found it, we have found all we need and could desire. 



We will be willling to die for The “cause” that enwraps our lives, be it our country, our families, our jobs, our Lord….Passion rarely counts the risk. 
Rhett Butler said “I believe in Rhett Butler, he’s the only cause I know. The rest doesn’t really matter much to me.” He fought for the confederacy for profit, his devotion was hollow. He fought the fight but for the wrong cause. He was a blockade runner, risking his life to bring the people what they needed. All the while under the fake facade of “cause”, he was doing it all for himself and there we see a cause that was lost. A cause that lost its meaning in the war of self promotion and selfish ambition. Pride covers our selfishness with piety. Many times we find ourselves fighting but could it be we are fighting for the wrong cause? 
The reason we may not be living for the Cause of The Kingdom is simple; we do not believe it is worth our lives. We believe it’s important enough to be apart of our lives but it lacks the prominence to be our life. It doesn’t carry enough weight. Somehow, someway just like the Church of Sardis the emptiness of self outweighs the heaviness of splendor and glory and just like them our works prove it. Casualness is a laughable offense to the Kingdom. Because if we truly understood what was before us we would laugh at the temptation to make little of the Kingdom.

In the ancient pages of Scripture we find it, we find the reason for living in the person of a Nazarene. A Nazarene that encased the cause; the cause of the Kingdom of heaven. He showed us by example that the Kingdom is worth dying for and that by dying for the cause we find something worth living for; The Kingdom of God. 
“O lord let this be where I die, my Lord with thee, crucified. Be lifted high as my kingdoms fall…once and for all…once and for all.” Lauren Daigle 
My 5 year old daughter sees crosses everywhere she looks. She sees them in the trees, the clouds, in street signs, in her cereal…just about everywhere. Just today as we were driving down the road she pointed out one on the front of a car. The emblem and the chrome met insuch a way that she saw a cross. Curious, I asked her “how do you see a cross everywhere you look?” Her response took my breath, she said “because I’m looking for them.”

Look for them. Look for the occurances of the kingdom scattered in the mundane. Look for the instances when the Kingdom is made know. Look for it-don’t let it be lost on you.

 

Dive 

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. Psalm 42:7

I could list affliction after affliction that has hit my family over the last year. A tidal wave of turmoil and heartaches has pounded relentlessly. Some where visible to the public eye, some where not. Some I shared with others, some are locked in the treasury of my own heart. If we have lived long enough, most would remember a season “at sea”. Where the waves of pain and heartache have been overwhelming. As I pondered over the past few months,something was deeper than any pain-Gods presence. What I have learned is that the deep pain of suffering is meant to cause us to dive into the deep presence of God. Deep calls to deep. Pain ushers in more pain. Suffering brings more suffering. Trials breed trials and deep affliction brings deep fellowship. Suffering can escort us into the presence of God or it can drown us in despair. And the choice is completely our own. It’s in the deepest waters where we experience the depth of Gods faithfulness. The deeper we descend the greater the mercies. The mightier the waves, the mightier His love. The darker the storm, the brighter His promises.

 

The natural response of man to the threats of turmoil, is to focus within. To become laden with the responsibility to save ourselves, we gasp for air, arms failing, eyes searching for something to grab. When true salvation lies beneath. Down below the waves. The self focused, dare not look below, that’s what scares us the most; the deep. The deep seems to be our enemy, it threatens us with darkness, it’s seems to be after us to devour our lives. All the while that is where calm lives. The storm on the surface doesn’t penetrate the deep. A picture is worth a thousand words, or so I’ve heard. Look at the featured image attached to this blog. This picture was taken from the depth of the ocean during a fierce and deadly storm. From that perspective everything seems calm. The storm has lost its bite. Light even penetrates through the raging waves and slices the darkness of the deep. This is where we belong, in the deep soaking in the Light not battling for our lives on the surface.

 
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever saves his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Luke 9:23-24

 

To dive below will cost us our lives but the irony is that’s where true life is found.Life is found in the deep not on the surface.

 
I read an illustration about the posture of diving. As we dive below the fierce hammering of the waves, our hands come to a horizontal position, and for just a moment our body makes the shape of a cross. A cross;Take up your cross daily and follow me…Follow me to the deep…Follow me to calm….Follow me to life. But first, our life must be cruciform; the cruxifixction of self. A cross shaped life, a cross centered mind. Without it we can not get to the depths of the struggle, we will drown in the shallows of self. Life begins at the cross. When we struggle for the surface, that’s when we drown, the waves beating us relentlessly . As we dive through the depths with arm stretched out in cruciform shape, thats where we experience the calm of the deep.

 

We’re trying to make it out alive, that’s our first mistake- the deep calls for us to lay down our lives and dive into true life. A life without the hindrance of self consumption, a life free from the burden of worry and the weight of fear. How many woes a man will face in one lifetime, yet how many actually dive to the depths of the struggle, to the place of love, comfort, and mercy? How many joyfully enter the fellowship of Christ?

 
So many of us are exhausted from the struggle. As we stop trying to figure it all out and dive into the true meaning of the struggle, a deeper awareness and experience with your God will be awakened within you. Calm and solace will wash over your soul despite the harsh storm around you. As we struggle for survival, trying to beat the fierce waves of affliction, we can end up missing it, missing the opportunity to experience the depth of God. For some will be afflicted more than others. We are all tried differently. I read this treasure this week: Shallow trials bring shallow grace. The author wasn’t measuring Gods grace but what he was doing is measuring trials. And the more trials you go through the more grace you receive. So Maybe instead of cursed you are indeed graced; Graced with the opportunity to know Christ more intimately, graced with the knowledge of Gods faithfulness. We will never truly appreciate the heart of God without afflictions.
Trust. That’s what it takes to dive below the proud waves of affliction to reach the calm and rest of the depth of Gods presence. To trust the providence of God, the sovereign reign of Jehovah Jireh even as the waves beat you relentlessly. The amount that we are willing to trust God in the midst of the chaotic waves will determine how much we get out of our suffering. Clinched fists and a scattered resolve will drown us quicker than any turbulent circumstances.

 
Some go through horrendous times of trials and persecutions and still remain gentle and loving, their faith stronger at every crash of the waves on their back. Then others will become loaded down with questions as their faith wains and their heart hardens. They seem ok on the surface but deep within they are drowning. I believe asking questions is not wrong- but when we have been asking the same question after getting the same response, often times it is because somewhere along the way we have started to question God instead of the circumstances. Never focus your eyes on the question. Focus them on the Deliverer, for he is the answer to all our questions. The struggle is His …”your breakers and waves have swept over me…”.The waves are summoned by God to sweep us to the deep; to His presence.

 
So as the breakers pound against your mind and the waves threaten to drown your faith-dive deep. Dive into the mercies of God.

 
When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled. Psalm 77:16