Salvation is Not the End

The whole point of getting a business off the ground was to prove to people that this “model” works, that you can trust God, you can live a bold, courageous, exciting, adventurous life of passion and love towards others, doing your good works with great faith. What I have found, and suspect y’all will too is that the point becomes the dreamers so much more than the dream. Meaning, God has always been more concerned with you than he is your dream.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the dream, in its grandeur and promise, but many have persevered, pursuing the grand dream only to find themselves on top, achieving all they wanted, but finding their success empty and without the fulfillment they once imagined it would bring. That’s why it’s about the dreamers. This life is about relationships so much more than it is about anything else. Our Father knew this, look at the two great commandments; Love God and love your neighbor (everyone else). He wants a loving relationship with you and he wants you to have loving relationships with everyone else.

I think the corporate church may have gotten lost in the dream. So many congregations have gorgeous buildings with concert level performances, great marketing, big audiences and big names, but I’m meeting more and more people, like myself, that are walking away from the hype and wondering if there isn’t more to all of this? Did Jesus die for three songs and a 20 minute message every Sunday? Is salvation the whole point or does something come after it?

Jesus was so controversial, he turned so much upside down and contradicted the knowledge and ways of man. It’s like someone who was living a “wayward life” full of despair and loneliness, fear and suffering, who was approached by someone who shared the gospel with them and responding to the call of God, they got saved. “Now what?” they ask. Our response sure seems to be “Well, now you go to service every Sunday, then you volunteer.”

Sounds life changing, doesn’t it?

This is what so many people have suffered and died for? So we can go to church once/week? No. In the beginning of the Church forming, there was a grand vision, a big dream, there was a world before them to be saved, there were entire populations of people to be freed from the bondage of darkness. Jesus, the disciples, Paul, the apostles, these guys were out Braveheart-ing the world. They were out bringing freedom to people, freedom from death and dead-ends. As the movement moved along things got organized, sometimes for better, sometimes for not. Politics got involved. People got involved, fallible people. The dream turned into massive feats of stone architecture, war and dominance, and wealth beyond counting. (Though I’m sure someone was counting it.)

My goal is not to be cynical.

My goal is freedom. That was, is the vision, that all would be freed from the darkness. Salvation is but the first step. Salvation is accepting the gift of freedom that Jesus paid for. All the darkness washed away, all our crimes forgiven, we’ve been given freedom.

Now what?

If you’d been in prison your whole life and someone just let you out, what would you do?

**

“Your heart is free. Have the courage to follow it.”

 

 

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Love as The Big Bang

I just had this thought only minutes ago.

While I spoke to my wife and a child that we, God willing, we would one day have, I felt such a swell of love in me. I had to stop the thought, because just the mere thought of this child, which doesn’t even exist yet, brewed a size of love in me that I felt as if something from the inside was trying to push beyond my own body. I’ve felt this way when I’ve been around my best friends children. I have so much love for them. When I think about literally holding my own…how would I bare that feeling, that wanting to scream there’s so much love, wanting to explode?

That’s when the thought hit me.11059_sheldon-cooper-en-big-bang

If that’s how I feel concerning just one child, just one person, what does God feel like when He feels love for one of his children? His love is so much bigger, grander, purer than our own. Now, times that by every child of God ever to have walked earth, ever to walk this earth. That amount of love, how could He bare it?

Maybe He didn’t.

Maybe the only way God could really express that love, really get it “out of Himself” was to literally get it out of Himself. The Big Bang.

What if the mere thought of all these people He would create, all His children, created such a love in Him…that that power of love created everything?

What a beautiful way to create a world.

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There’s only One Church

We are a Church. We are a Church without walls. We are a Church with no limits, no boundaries. We are a Church for the un-churched. We do things a little differently, not to say we’re better, not to say we’re more right. We do so because we felt led by God to do so.

We have no desire to build a building. We’d rather build community.

We have no desire to create programs. We’d rather spend time with each other, build relationships and friendships in a way that is more akin to just spending time together.

We have no desire to create and manage a staff. We’d rather do life together with family.

This morning in prayer I felt led to read John 4, where Jesus goes to Jacob’s well and asks the Samaritan woman for a drink. She’s surprised by this, a cultural divide existing between Jews and Samaritans. Kind of like regular Church attendees and believers that don’t attend regularly; never felt they fit in, sometimes actually weren’t really accepted. (I understand this is a generalization and mean nothing derogatory by it.)

Jesus says “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” He goes on to say “Everyone who drinks this water (from the well) will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Revelation: the modern churches – congregations – are like this well. We keep coming back to get our water, keep working for that which we thirst for…God, Fullness. We don’t have to keep going back to the well to find fullness, to quench our thirst, for the Spirit of God has been given to us and once we drink it in, accept it, invite it, we find life growing inside of us. Our thirsts for God becomes quenched by God, regardless of what day of the week it, regardless of where. (Do not make the mistake of doing it alone though. We need each other and Christ says “Where two or more gather together in my name, there I’ll be)

What was so striking about this is that just a few verses later the Samaritan woman says, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jerusalem is where the temple was. A building. The chapel. A “church.”

Jesus’ response?

“Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.”

Not the way our Fathers did? Not at the temple?

Jesus continues, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and truth.”

The Samaritan woman seems to understand what He’s saying enough and responds with “I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

It’s like she was saying, “Ok, so the way we “do church” will change, but that probably won’t happen until Jesus comes.”

Jesus responds to her. “I who speak to you am he.”

The time is here. The time is now.

The Church is not a building, not a temple. We are the Church. Simply by following Christ and his commands, love God, love others (all others), we DO Church.

 

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BANGARANG!

From years of study and my own personal journey I have come to the conclusion that it really all comes down to just three primary things:

1. Seek Him – forego the opinions of the world, put the opinions and advice from family and friends and even trusted leaders and mentors in second place, and find a quiet place and seek God for the answers you need.

2. Abide – Remain “connected.” Do not let worry or fear or sin separate you from your connection to the Father, for surely sin may not dwell in the Kingdom of God. In this abiding we are filled with his abundant love and direction.

3. Give – From out of the abundance that was given by our Heavenly Father we then turn right around and give to others. We give time and money and our talents and skills. We give love as he gave love to us to the greatest of our ability.hook movie

It is that simple and that hard. It is so hard. I can’t believe how challenging it is at times. If you can imagine an alternate dimension existing simultaneously with ours…like if I gave you magic glasses, you could suddenly see it. Like that scene out of Hook where Peter Pan’s imagination suddenly kicks in and he can see all the food. The Kingdom of God is like that. We only see it when we believe, not the other way around. (Seeing and then believing) I know, it’s crazy.

Imagine, you find a quiet place and start praying and there before you an ethereal structure starts to form. As you continue to pray to God, as you continue to go after Him for whatever it is you seek, this ghost like vision becomes clearer. It is a large door. The gate into the Kingdom. You let go of your fears, you sense the peace come over you and you enter in. In this place is comfort. There is no fear here. Only love. There are no worries, no condemnation. It does not take long for things to surface that are in you, guilt from decisions and/or actions. Forgiveness sweeps them away. The longer you remain, the more is “cleaned out.” The way you feel is incredible, more free, more loved, more safe than anywhere else, like you’re in the very arms of the Father; loved and protected.

In this absence of fear and worry, in the abundance of love and generosity, you can’t help but want to give to others. So you give as you like, as much as you like. In whatever way you love best, you do that. Maybe it’s artistic, maybe it’s leadership, maybe it’s comforting, maybe it’s laughter and fun, maybe it’s teaching. The way of it all is incredible, amazing, that something that could bring you such joy would also give joy and love to others.

hook peter panYet at any time the danger of submitting exists within us. Fear, worry and doubt stand outside, using every trick in the book to get our attention, to get us to step out for just a second. They want us to come out, they want us to think about their questions, they want us to doubt, they want us to be afraid. If we follow, they’ll take us as far away from those doors as they can. They’ll try to convince us it was all a dream, that the doors don’t even exists.

Yet, we can overcome. We can even expand that Kingdom. We can show others where the secret door is. We can show them how incredible it can all really be. It is not easy, but it is worth it. And the life we are searching for is not an easy one, it is one worth living.

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Learning How to Love is a Neverending Story

First and Foremost, THANK YOU Joshua for your very kind words and constant encouragement and for your very generous donation to our efforts here. It makes such a difference for us – thank you, from our hearts to yours.

While I woke up this morning with a slightly achy back, I opened my eyes and smiled wide. I rolled off the partially deflated air mattress and stood up with a grunt, stretching and looking around at our mostly empty, but new home. I walked through the two bedroom apartment, my feet soft on the faux wood floor, noises echoing in empty rooms and a vaulted living room ceiling. From outside was clear sunshine and the sound of birds. I love the sound of birds, especially in the morning.

Perspective is so important. We are still several months behind on several accounts, have less than $200 to our name, I am still without a strong source of income, we have no microwave or pots and pans (grocery shopping becomes very interesting without those things), no internet, no cable, no furniture, barely any gas in the car…

Yet, I feel as if I have all I need. Why is that?

Perspective.

artax sinkingI had spent the last weekend feeling so great about everything. My wife just had a job offer, we got accepted into the community ministry we we’re hoping for, and I was 99% sure the job I interviewed and tested for was mine. So when I woke to a voicemail Tuesday morning learning that the job was not mine…my entire mood shifted. I didn’t want to be worried, I prayed for strength, I tried to focus on God and forget my concern, but it was not working. I was sinking.

My entire day was effected by it. I barely got any work done. I had no peace, no joy and it was just a waste of a day. It wasn’t until the next morning with a fresh start that I opened my journal to write down a few things. I began to realize that, actually, a lot of great stuff had happened the day before. My wife had started a job she likes, we got a new retail account for Hope Soap, we got an online order, and it was the first time I was getting to meet a Be An Acorn follower, in PERSON, to be an encourager and point of hope for someone else. I think it was my conversation with him that changed my outlook.

I think one of the reasons, if the not the number one reason, God was so pleased with Solomon’s response – asking for wisdom instead of wealth or long life – was because of Solomon’s focus. It’s also the reason I had a bad day when it was actually a good day. Focus, or said another way, perspective. I argue “Heads,” you argue “Tails.” We’re both talking about the same coin, just from two different angles. If Solomon would have asked for wealth or long life, the focus of those requests would have been himself. He asked for wisdom:

“Therefore give to your servant an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and evil.” (1 Kings 3:9 NKJV)

His focus was towards others, towards the consideration of others. It was not love for himself, but love for others. When I realized that, it was like the veil came off and I remembered so much of what I’d forgotten. It was in that excitement that I wrote the previous blog, trying to capture in words what I was understanding. I think perhaps I did that in haste. So I understand a little more now when Jesus said:

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7)

“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:10)

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (John 15:16 Emphasis mine)

neverending story falcorSuddenly, it’s dawning on me that all this miraculous provision and progress lately, I think,  is because not only have I been abiding in Him, seeking Him daily, but that the things I’ve prayed for, asked for, have been to communicate love or serve others in love, over myself. I have made loving others my priority. Worrying about the job, fear of not having money, paying bills, was honestly more of me thinking about myself than anything else.  Today, and I hope all the days following, my focus becomes how I can love others to the greatest of my ability, using whatever skills and talents I have to do so. This feeling, this awareness, is setting me free and I think maybe this is what God had in mind; we take care of the work he has for us, loving his children (each other) and he’ll take care of us. He is the Father. We are the children. Feels like freedom.

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Love > Knowledge

“Don’t tell yourself you can’t lean on someone else, because we all need saving sometimes.”

 

We all need saving sometimes.

I often have found myself making the same mistake over and over. The times I get it right I become aware of just how pervasive this mistake is all around me, not just in my own culture and community, but from what I can tell, in many cultures, many communities. It is the belief that we have to do it on our own, that absolute self-reliance and independence is the goal.

Independence from everything and everyone is not the goal.

I want to keep this short and sweet, so I’ll resist from getting on my soapbox about how our country has steadily, successfully accomplished independence for everyone, from everyone. We don’t know who our neighbors are, we attend a big church, but don’t know, really know, a single person there. We don’t connect at work, we come home, go straight inside and close the door. We have lost community. The finger I’m pointing is at a situation, not a person.

We, myself included, make this mistake of thinking the solutions to our lives exist in our minds. They do not. A voice backs us into a corner, assuring us that we just have to do this on our own, just have to figure it out for ourselves, that we just need to focus more, just need to think harder, work harder, beat our heads against the wall until we figure it out, how to fix something, change something.

If knowledge alone could bring joy and peace, then it would be logical to conclude that the happiest and most peaceful people on earth should be the most educated. There is nothing inherently wrong with the pursuit of academics. I love learning. The fault is created when we put our hope in it. Beyond knowledge, more than books, what we need are sincere relationships and genuine love that overflow, pour out in abundance to each other, because it was first poured into us in abundance.

Love > Knowledge.

Understanding how to use knowledge in accordance with love is wisdom. I believe God blessed Solomon so abundantly when he asked for wisdom over everything else because what Solomon was really doing was putting his concern for others, not himself, in top priority. (1 Kings 3) To and from the heart is where love lives, not as mathematical electromagnetic charges in the brain. Those charges are the result, not the cause. The heart trumps the brain. Reliance upon our own brain and ourselves is entirely circumstantial. Our joy and peace rely on us knowing what to do, on having the correct answer. While our reliance on the heart, which is a reliance on love, can result in joy and peace, as we can be comforted through love, regardless of our circumstances.

We need knowledge. Our mind needs to be renewed. But the thing that will do that is love. Love first, then knowledge.

How do you obtain knowledge? (Think about it a second)

How do you obtain love? (Think about that for a minute)

Love can only be found in a relationship, between at least 2 people. It has to be given and received. We need each other. We need to give to each other and we need to receive from each other. I think the receiving is the hardest part for most of us. We all love to give. It’s much harder to be the one in need, but always remember that you would never be able to give in the first place if someone else wasn’t receiving. To never be open or willing to receive would be hypocritical, saying that you’re allowed to give to others, but others aren’t allowed to give to you. Even our Father, Almighty Creator, who needs nothing from us, gives us free will so that we may choose to give him our love and trust. So, even God receives.

Regardless of what is happening around us, whether we know what to do or not, we can rest safely and securely in the arms of our Father, the one who loves us beyond our comprehension. We can put our trust in Him and not in ourselves, trusting that He will take care of us. When we just don’t know what to do, when we have no control of the circumstances…He does. Trusting in His love for us, we will be comforted, knowing that no matter what happens He has good plans for us.

Maybe that’s why so often, in my challenges and trials, I realize what the challenge really is… is trusting Him a little more, always being asked to stretch a little more, to step outside the comfort zone again. We must never stop growing. It’s that little bit of trust, even the smallest amount, that is like a tiny seed of faith, a mustard seed. It will keep growing and growing and growing…

Take heart friends. Reach out to our Father, give him your worries and fears and he will give you something greater in return.

 

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It All Started There

ChattahoocheeI was walking trails near the river within an apartment community here in Atlanta. It’s one of my most favorite places. I was pacing, praying, wondering what was next for us? I wanted to see the fruit of my faith, of such a long and unpredictable journey. I wanted to pray and believe and see. I kept reminding myself of what happened in Rosemary Beach, how foolish it was to think that I could find a rental within my price range in that place. What I needed to pay a month was what they charged for a few days. The market was saturated with vacation rentals thus drastically elevating the cost of living. But on that day I knew what I wanted, I wanted to live there in that fantastic place, and after reading so much about having faith for things prayed for I was going to believe that those things would really happen. If for one day, only one day, I was going to believe to a state of absolute delusion that God would answer my prayer.

He did.

That day was game-changer. Not only did I get offered a place that day, but on that very day I was also offered a promotion that would help me cover new costs. God is an abundant and generous giver.

So, walking those trails a few weeks ago I held onto Rosemary Beach. “God, let it be today. Let today be the day where it starts, when I look back on everything, let today be the very day that I point to and say it all started there.” I walked in circles around and around on those trails, trying to not look like a crazy person talking to themselves. Sometimes I think I need to just buy a bluetooth earpiece so people don’t get weirded out when they see this guy going on and on in the middle of the woods.

Not long after, pondering over my job search – not only not knowing where we were going to live, but also at a loss of how we would pay for everything, anything. Hope Soap sales are good, but not amazing enough to live off and we’re doing our best to reinvest profits instead of eating them – I had the thought pop into my head, seemingly from nowhere, that I should go and ask the property if they were hiring. I did. I shared with them that I didn’t really want to be a leasing agent, but I loved the community, it’s potential and the company. Maybe something that had to do with community events or something?

“Oh that’s the CARES Team, they plan our events.” She tells me where to look online for their job openings. I do. I don’t see anything about CARES Team openings. Then, I get a text from my wife, who knows nothing of the conversation I’ve just had.

“Our friend just told me we need to check out this awesome ministry called CARES Team.”

Pause.

I hear you loud and clear God. Too coincidental, especially when I don’t believe in coincidences anyway. I look into it. They place couples into apartment communities who are responsible for organizing events and taking care of the residents. Additionally, they also act as micro-church, being their for residents and evangelizing in a very relational, non-door knocking, handing out tracks, heartless kind of way and instead a more real, relational, people don’t care what you know unless they know that you care kind of way, the only way I do it. I’m not selling something, I’m introducing someone. Oh, and the apartment is basically free to us AND we get to do something we’re passionate about; love people. (Like 75% off rent)

We apply. A week goes by. Then we get an interview. Then they tell us how our home church needs to be within 10 miles of our placement. It was 26. We had only just started attending, but we really liked it. Another week goes by. We continue praying about everything and ultimately decide to look at other churches. We returned to Passion City, a place we’re familiar with and have been listening to Louie Giglio way back since the days of 7:22 at Northpoint Church. It’s the church I was attending when I made the sincere decision to follow Jesus. 5 minutes into service and I knew this was our church. After all, who says we can’t attend two places? Yes, we need to be really connected into one, but our, my big thing is that our churches need to be connected to each other anyway, instead of all this division.

We let them know of our change of churches. It changes things. We get an email, they’ve found a community they think we’d fit perfectly in! We keep reading the email… it’s the one we’ve been praying for, the one I was in when it all started! We couldn’t believe it, God gave us exactly what we asked for!

This believing thing works!!! And God is so awesome, so generous, so loving, so abundant.

To top it all off that very same day I had noticed one of the restaurants I wanted to work at had posted a now hiring ad. I went in to fill out an application and turn in my resume. The manager was on the phone. So I waited. He hands me an application and goes away while I fill it out. He returns with two copies of my resume and I see a weird look on his face. (I had sent one in when we first arrived in Atlanta, the place being in my top 5 places I wanted to work.) Turns out, he had been on the phone talking to someone associated with a restaurant group I use to work for, he was talking to this guy about needing to hire someone. He had someone in mind who had previously turned in a resume…me. So the reason I had to wait for him was because he was on the phone talking about ME! Even he said it was “intriguing.”

I’m more apt to use the word “orchestrated.” :)

God, you are so awesome. I love the way you work.

Cherry on top of this ridiculously awesome day…I wanted off on the weekends, no Saturdays, no Sundays. Getting this in the restaurant industry is a pretty rare thing, seeing as that is when they are busiest, but somehow it wasn’t a problem, no problem at all.

Thank you Father. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

May this be an encouragement for you all! And know that the story is really even bigger than what we’ve shared. We’ve been praying to start a ministry and have had no idea how it would start in the first place. We still the finances to move out stuff and get situated, actually a somewhat substantial amount. But He didn’t bring us this far for nothing, so I’ll keep fighting, keep believing, keep holding onto to the truth that He loves us so much and He truly does provide. Everything that has happened recently, how it happened, and who we’ve suddenly been connected to in the process…I’m really believing that day a few weeks ago really will be the day I look back to and say “It all started there.” Godspeed guys.

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