eyes wide open

the second Jars of Clay inspired blog of the day….

So God bruise the heels we’ve dug in the ground
That we might move closer to love
Pull out the roots we’ve dug in so deep
Finish what You’ve started
Help us to believe

This song can take on multiple meanings I’m sure, but to me it means that we’ve GOT to find a way to get over our old fashioned/self centered/comfortable/blind views on the world.  We’ve got to eradicate comfort zones.  Basically, we’ve got to GET OVER OURSELVES.

The bible says “love your neighbor as yourself” but that doesn’t simply mean the nice person that lives right next to you.  Neighbor means everyone else in the world.  We are not called to stay within our communities and comfort zones.   Some take this to the FULL extent and travel across the world, but today, I want to challenge everyone to allow neighbor to mean the part of town that you often avoid because the people there are different.

“Different” takes on many meanings…

for some it means not going to the poor part of town, with housing projects, because its “not safe”…..

for others it means not going to the town where you’re the only person of your race ….

for some it even means going to the city and you’ve always been in the country….

for some it means something different..

but whatever it means, we have to be willing to step outside of our own little worlds (cue another song) and see the world as God sees it.  To Him, everyone is His child.  All of us.  and all of  “them”.  We are called to love everyone and to get over ourselves and stop separating ourselves.

We are not called to create and further an us-them mentality, yet as the church, we do it SO often.  It used to make my skin crawl with anger, but now it just makes me sad.  What makes me the saddest about it is how far it goes.  Yes adults make mistakes that cause negative circumstances in their lives (and family’s lives) BUT those kids in the situations that we allow ourselves to call “them” did NOTHING wrong.  Children have no play in how much their parents make or where they spend it.  Children have no play in their parents occupations.  Children have no play in their house choice.  Children have no choice in their skin color.  Yet, too often, I hear judgement made about children living in housing projects, children living in the bad parts of town, children whose parents do this or that, and i want to break down and cry.

We are called to love.  We are called to break down the barriers of judgement and hatred, yet we build them.  So I challenge you.  The next time you drive to “that” part of town or see “them,”  think about the children, and think about how your judgement of their family affects them.  Then, STOP, change your thinking, see those people the way God sees them,  see that neighborhood as simply another neighborhood without your opportunities, and do something about it.  We were ALL created equal in God’s eyes, we are all GOD’S children.  So we need to stop building walls and start tearing them down.  We need to get out of our comfort zones.  What does that look like for you today? What does it look like for you to get out of your own little world?

shelter, love others

How do we as Christians miss the simple love of God so often?  Why do we continue to allow ourselves and those around us try to complicate God?

I know those are powerful statements, but they’ve been on my heart lately.

Love God

God loves us.

Love others the way God loves us. Unconditionally

 

I could quote scripture after scripture about loving your neighbor as yourself, loving your enemies, turning your cheek, caring for the poor, widowed, and needy, and go on and on, but we all KNOW those.

So why is it so hard to put those into action on a day to day basis??

I’m not talking about “oh next week i’m going to do _____” or  “last summer i _____”  Faith is not a checkbox. You don’t get to “check off”  a “love others” box.  It doesn’t work that way.  Following Christ is a lifestyle, not a to-do list.   You don’t get to say “I did my Christian duty for day/month/year/lifetime”   It DOES NOT work that way.  Yet we often practice this through our actions, words, and teachings.  We do not focus on putting things into DAILY action, we give tangible once in a while, destination opportunities.   Going and serving on a mission trip or taking monthly trips to serve a specific group or weekly meetings with people who can’t come are GREAT things, but those things should be an overflow of our daily lives and an overflow of our hearts, not something we do to meet a criteria list.

Does anyone else see this happening?

I’m not saying it’s easy to love everyone, forgive others, or any of the other things God has called us to do, BUT we aren’t called to do these things on our own either.  God is with us through his Holy Spirit and we were given that gift to call upon when we are in need.  God wants to be in relationship with us.  He wants us to know Him.  God doesn’t give us anything we cannot handle.  I’ve FIRMLY come to believe that over the past several years through my life experiences and watching those around me.  He will be with us if we simply call on Him.  Even if we don’t, He’s still there, right beside us.

My quote calendar today read as follows: “God walks with us, He scoops us up in His arms or simply sits with us in silent strength until we cannot avoid the awesome recognition that yes, even now, He is there – Gloria Gaither

Now, I don’t know who Gloria is, but she get it.  She’s clearly been there.

God is pretty simple and pretty straight forward…..if we let Him be.  So stop complicating things.  Stop trying to tell people they have to fit in certain boxes to be with God/come to church/be your friend/etc.   We are called to love as God loved, and if that means scooping up, then scoop up, but if that means sitting in silent strength, then sit.

I realize this post is pretty sporadic, but I hope you find something in it that speaks to you.  I really feel that when I’m going through something or wrestling with something, God speaks to me through my fingertips as I type, and I know I’ve heard Him in these moments.

This has been sparked by various life events, but they all (mostly) boil down to the fact that by complicating God, and things related to Him, we are DESTROYING the Church as He meant it to be.  By gossiping, twisting, complicating, and adding things on to God’s word, we are doing an EXTREME disservice to ourselves and those around us.

So just be.

Be who God called you to be.  Be where you are and rest in Him.  That’s all we can do, and if we listen, He will tell us the rest.  Rest in the shelter of those in your community, your faith community.  If you do not have a faith community, let’s chat about it.  I’ve learned lately that faith communities take on MANY more shapes than simply pews and stages.  they may be Google Hangouts, fireplace breakfasts, long walks, text messages, or any number of other places.  God is everywhere, not just the Church, so let’s chat about it.

For now, after your mind has been boggled by that post’s sporadicness, I leave you with a beautiful song by Jars of Clay

Racism is Against Christianity

The title is pretty bold.  But pretty true too.

Racism is an issue that has been on my heart heavily lately. I now work for an organization which has “eliminating racism” as part of it’s mission statement.  I’ve been reading through a book by Francis Chan lately called “Erasing Hell” which is a great read so far!  I debated trying to go into an extensive blog post on MLK day about how racism doesn’t mix with Christianity, but I couldn’t quite find the words and knew that this was an issue that needs the right words for people to continue reading.  In talking with a friend, we’ve both concluded that it can be quite difficult to speak on ‘controversial’ issues without offending people to the point where they quit reading. Well read on or stop, but the text below from “Erasing Hell” might rock your world, in a much needed way.  I’ve found Chan’s words to be some of the most fitting on the topic.  Racism is wrong in all sectors, but especially and ultimately in the community of Christians, so I encourage you to take these words to heart, and please leave your thoughts.  I’d love to start a conversation about this.

Racism. The Christian church in many ages and in many places has stood on the wrong side of this issue, and its damnable-literally.  What’s racism got to do with hell? you may ask.  According to Jesus, it’s got everything to do with it.  In Matthew 8, Jesus smuggles a warning about hell into the context of racism and ethnocentricism (the belief that one ethnicity is superior).  The entire context of Matthew 8-9 depicts Jesus reversing all of the cultural and social assumptions of the Jews f that day.  One assumption is that the Jews as the “people of God” are much more fit for the kingdom than all those other nasty sinners – those Gentiles, those Greeks, those Romans.  But in Matthew 8, Jesus is absolutely floored by the faith of a Roman Gentile military leader.  This leader of high standing had the faith and humility to submit to the authority of Jesus.  And Jesus accepted him as he is, a Gentile.  From this encounter, Jesus spins out a short message about many people of all nations and colors and ethnicities that will flood into the kingdom.  And it is here that Jesus says that the “sons of the Kingdom” who think that God values one ethnicity over another (in this case the Jewish people) are damned to hell: “the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12 NASB).  The teeth that once gnashed at the person of another race or color will gnash in the agony of eternal torment.

Why is it that only 5.5% of the American evangelical churches could be considered multiethnic (where no single ethnicity makes  more than 80% of its congregants)?  Why is that?  5.5%!  And we’re supposed to be living in the melting pot, the place where hundreds of languages and colors often live within a few miles -or feet- of each other.  What’s so sad about this is that many pople outside the church are FAR less racially divided. Consider the military, our places of work, or athletics.  Yet there are three places where racial division still persists: bars, prisons, and the American evangelical church.

We need to see the glaring contradiction in saying we believe in hell making no effort to tear down the walls of racism and ethnic superiority.  If we are going to take Jesus’ words seriously, we have to make more of a concerted effort to forge the avenues of racial reconciliation and unity under the banner of the Gospel of Christ.  

One day, Christ will come back and there will be an amazing worship celebration – with African bongos,  Indian sitars, and an ensemble of Mariachi trumpets – where every tribe, tongue, nation, and color will bow to the knee of the King and celebrate!

If this sounds irritating, go back and read Matthew 8, its written for you.

College students raised over $1,000,000 this week!! Check this video out

Just watch the video.

Amazing.

This is what its all about.  This is something all 18-25 year olds should be a part of in their life.  the Passion conference.

WATCH THIS passion

A quoted article:

One of the year’s biggest youthevangelism events ended today when Passion 2012 closed its 4-day conference at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. Louie Giglio, the movement’s founder, urged the audience of 42,000 collegestudents to advance the Gospel of Christ in all that they do.

  • passion youth
    (Photo: Passion Conference)
    Some 42,000 college students gathered at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome from Jan. 2-5, 2012, for the Passion 2012 conference.

“Can we just stick a pin in the balloon that says, ‘What is God’s will for your life?” Giglio asked the roaring crowd in the part-church-service, part-rock-concert gathering as part of his closing remarks. “You don’t have to wait to participate fully in the plans and purposes of God. It’s now that God can use you.”

Giglio said he founded the Passion movement in 1995, convinced that an untapped audience for the Gospel lies in the world’s college students. This year’s speakers included Passion conference regulars Francis Chan,John Piper and Beth Moore. It also featured music fromChris TomlinMatt Redman, Charlie Hall and other prominent Christian musicians.

This year’s Passion conference goal was to raise $1 million to fight slavery and human trafficking, but students donated an astounding total of $3.1 million as of Thursday morning, instead.

“Freedom is ringing all across the world because of us and your generosity in this moment,” Giglio said after the total was tallied. “Can we just give God praise and not a number praise? The holy spirit just recalibrated what can be done.”

Passion 2012’s large bounty was built on $2.6 million in donations from students and another $500,000 from a private donor. It will fund a variety of anti-human trafficking projects, Giglio said, including recovery programs for former sex slaves, border stations to halt human traffic in Nepal and a prevention program which will teach an estimated 48,000 Ukrainians about ending their region’s underground slave trade.

Such generous giving for a good cause, Giglio said, is evidence that college students can help change the world around them. The evangelical leader urged listeners to make praising God their top priority. By living out loud for the Lord, he said, they’d find their way forward in life with God’s grace and blessings.

“Jesus has come on the scene and he has stretched out his hand to the funeral procession to awaken you to the reality that God can do anything and everything,” Giglio said. “The day that happens is when you declare the power and mystery of the Gospel. That’s why you’re alive.”

Such a mission, Giglio contended, isn’t without hurdles marring the way. A particularly brutal barrier, he said, is the “brokenness” of adversity and hardship. Giglio cited the story of 20-year-old NASCAR racer Trevor Bayne, who won the Daytona 500 race last year, only to miss the rest of his season after contracting Lyme disease. Bayne’s faith in God never wavered, Giglio said, and as such, the racer’s remained strong no matter his misfortunes.

“Brokenness is the bow from which God launches the arrows of healing,” said Giglio, who next introduced Bayne to an applauding audience. “If your past is brokenness, sorrow, disappointment or a mess, God says that’s awesome. God’s will for your life is right where you are right now.”

Another attack on faith, Giglio concluded, is fear. He admitted to audience members that he initially worried about getting the Georgia Dome again for next year’s conference, only to find the property is letting Passion return in 2013. Next year’s conference will have full seating, meaning it could seat nearly 71,000 attendees. Sending off students to spread the conference’s message, he told them to go and boldly declare the truth of Christ in all experiences they encountered.

“Out of brokenness, fearlessness,” Giglio said. “The only thing I’m afraid of is living an insignificant life. When God shows up, everybody knows that God is in the house and everyone experiences an awakening from the dead.”

Another article: http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/05/college-kids-vow-to-end-slavery/?hpt=hp_bn2

I’m SO proud of my sister for being a part of this, I can’t wait to hear all about.

Why Young Adults are Leaving the Church

RELEVANT Magazine – Why Young Adults are Leaving the Church.

By Kara Powell

http://www.twitter.com/stickyfaith

The reasons 20somethings are giving up on Sunday morning

What does it say about our generation that 40 to 50 percent of young Christians fail to stick with their faith or connect with a church after high school? Most likely, you’ve experienced or been witness to this exodus of twentysomethings from the faith community. At this point, it’s not even surprising to watch young adults become disillusioned with church as they go to college, build a career, start a family or begin their “real life”. But can it be stopped?

We recently spoke to Kara Powell, executive director of Fuller Youth Institute and co-author of Sticky Faith, to answer just that. Drawing from her extensive research with Fuller Youth Institute, she gave us a little more insight into what it takes to find a faith that sticks.

Do you think young people are just leaving the church, or leaving faith? Or is it both?

Probably my best answer to that is to describe what Tim Clydesdale—who is a sociologist in New Jersey—refers to as “the identity lock-box.” What students tend to do after they’ve graduated from high school is place important parts of themselves in an identity lock-box, and their faith is often part of that. The good news is that you put something in a lock-box when it’s important to you. So there is some sense that students still value their faith at one level. But the problem is when your faith is in a lock-box, especially as a college student or emerging adult, you’re making so many important decisions about worldview, and marriage, how you engage in risk behaviors, and vocation, and calling, and all those considerations are made while your faith is locked up in that lock-box. So there is some sort of residual sense that students value the faith, but it’s not influencing their day-to-day, or even major decisions. Given the long-term impact of those decisions throughout their adulthood, it’s pretty disconcerting.

Do you think there are any misunderstandings or misconceptions that contribute to young adults leaving the church?

The students involved in our research definitely tended to view the Gospel as a list of dos and do-nots, a list of behaviors. We asked our students when they were college juniors, “How would you define what it really means to be a Christian?” and one out of three—and these were all youth group students—didn’t mention Jesus Christ in their answer; they mentioned behaviors. So it seems like [young adults] have really picked up a behavioralist view of the Gospel. That’s problematic for a lot of reasons, but one of which is that when students fail to live up to those behaviors, then they end up running from God and the Church when they need both the most.

Are these mindsets limited only to young adults, or does it affect all ages?

Oh, yes, absolutely, [they] aren’t making this up on their own. They’re getting this from adults. Another issue that is particularly relevant to church leaders across the board is the importance of intergenerational relationships. We looked at 13 different youth group participation variables in our study, things they did in the context of youth group, to try and see what would be the biggest levers for sticky faith. To our surprise, the participation variable most highly related to mature faith both in high school and college was intergenerational worship; helping them connect with adults of all ages is a vital part of building adult faith. What we’re seeing is that not only are [intergenerational relationships] transformative in the lives of the teenagers, but they make a difference in the overall church. Imagine what a church would be like, what the adults in church would be like, if they were infused with the vitality that comes with teenagers? At the very least, if they were getting to know a few teenagers by name so they could pray for them, how life-giving would that be for the adults in a church?

What is an ideal model for the relationship between different generations in the faith community?

The original churches in the first century were multi-generational, were multi-ethnic. Especially as youth ministries become more professionalized in the last 50 years, [we’ve] ended up segregating kids from the rest of the church. Having said that, there’s definitely a time for 6-year-olds, and 16-year-olds and 86-year-olds to be together on their own. We need to provide space for folks in similar life spaces to chat and share community, but balance is something we swing through on our way to the other extreme.

It’s a common story: Young adults stop going to church, then once they have kids they return. It’s not like that’s a new phenomenon. Do you think this generation is different—or will they return to church again in a few years when they start having kids?

About 50 percent of those who drift from church seem to return, and it’s often because when they get older they get married and have kids. We at the Fuller Youth Institute are still grieving over the 50 percent who don’t return, and even in the 50 percent who do return—you make those important life decisions as college students, and then there are consequences you live with even after you’ve returned to the faith. It seems like students are drifting at a slightly higher percentage than in the past, and as adolescence is lengthening, they’re staying away from the church longer. As age of marriage is being delayed, having children is being delayed, so it’s just more years under the belt apart from God and full of the heartbreak and disappointment that comes from living your life apart from God.

Know.Love.Act Resolution – Blood Water Mission

Know.Love.Act Resolution – Blood Water Mission.

Every New Year, we make resolutions to lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier, give up caffeine, have a cleaner house (or room), and on and on. These are all fantastic goals that help us live healthier, more organized lives. I suggest that we continue to set these goals, but I also find one area that these resolutions could use improvement in; they don’t engage the people around us.

What if, on top of these personal goals, we also set New Year’s resolutions that affect the lives of our friends, family, our local communities, and even people on the other side of the globe?
I would like to propose a guide that will help you create such a New Year’s resolution. Like all good (and earth-shattering 😉 ) guides, this is a three step process to help you create a resolution that can better your life and the lives of the people around you. Are you up for the task?
Here it is: Ask yourself (and answer) these three questions:
1) What (or who) do I want to KNOW this year?
2) What can I do to show LOVE to the people in my life?
3) What can I do to ACT in a way that betters the lives of the people around me?
My own resolution looks like this:
1) I would like to KNOW more about the developments in the prevention of the HIV/AIDS virus by reading more newsletters and case studies 
2) Love those around me by being more connected and involved in the lives of the people around me
3) I want to ACT to better the lives of those around me by volunteering at the free clinic in my neighborhood.
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for mattclark.jpg Blog post written by: Matt Clark – US Programs Asst.

Keep Your Eyes Open

Needtobreathe – Keep Your Eyes Open – YouTube.

Cause if you never leave home, never let go
You’ll never make it to the great unknown till you
Keep your eyes open, my love
So tell me you’re strong, tell me you see
I need to hear it, can you promise me to
Keep your eyes open, my love

Using some of my Christmas iTunes cards, I stumbled across this new album from NeedtoBreathe (a band you should all check out).  As cliche/cheesy as it may seem, this is a great “New Year Resolution” song.  The song is about going out to explore the world, keeping your eyes open, stepping out of your comfort zone….something so many of us never do.   I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone more over the past 2 years than in the rest of my life combined and God has done AMAZING things!

I encourage you to find a new way each month this year to step out of your comfort zone, open your eyes to something once unseen, do something that scares you but your gut tells you you need to.  You won’t regret it!  Better yet (and stronger), do something you feel God urging you to do.

Lean into your faith.  Or seek out to develop your faith in a deeper manner. In my life, I’ve found that really digging deep into my faith was hands down the scariest thing I ever did, but (this is true, not some lame cliche) it was also the best thing I ever did.  Giving up control.  Surrendering it all into the hands of my Father, our Creator, the Lord of all.  When you look at it from the perspective of who God really is, it makes no sense not to surrender to Him, but there’s a step there, a leap, if you will, that has to be made, and that’s hard.

Find a support system.  Join (or start!) a small group in your church, school, dorm, community, on Google+’s cool new features, find a way to get an accountability support system for your faith and others who are willing to go on that journey with you.  You’ll be surprised/shocked/amazed at what He can do through you and those around you.  How He can open your eyes (cue Brandon Heath song) to the world around you.

Never limit yourself, your world view, or your potential.  Or that of those around you.

This year I, once again, encourage you to step out.  Make it to the great unknown!

Since I stepped out for real, I have…..gotten back together and married my best friend and love of my life, made some great new friends, traveled to Nicaragua and learned so much about the true lack of barriers on God’s love, mentored, co-lead mission trips, served as a “work project” coordinator for 12 weeks in Minnesota with hundreds of people I had never met before on a Native American Reservation, moved 8 hours from everything I’d ever known, and countless other little things…. it’s been a great ride!  I want you to join me!