Saturday, May 19, 2012


I am thoroughly enjoying life right now!

So many exciting things are happening:

    I finished my thesis and graduated from Grad School.
    I proposed to the love of my life and she said "yes!"
    Trying to figure out how to "do church," our little community has seemed to rediscover the
      importance of pursuing God's presence and we're excited to see what happens when we give Him
      room to act.
    And just this week, a church in St. Pete, FL expressed interest in financially backing a non-profit
      coffee house & sandwich shop business that Cary and I could potentially start up & manage and
      use to foster community and belonging. Now there's a lot of things to research and people's brains
      to pick in the months/years to come.

I have much for which to be thankful. I've pressed through adversity only by the grace of God and His generous provision and emerged victorious. I've prioritized community and relationships that edify and uplift me - that foster growth and maturity - and have begun to see my true self surface. Doors have been open for opportunities in the future. And my faith is dynamic and the power of God is manifesting!

Within the last few weeks, God has re-taught me an important lesson about Himself:

God doesn't fit very well in a box. He is unpackageable.

I think that's why the Ark of the Covenant was temporary; God was compelled to reveal Himself in newer, fresher, more spectacular ways. Only through the dynamic person of Jesus of Nazareth, and the Spirit's movement through a multi-million member Church could He truly be adequately represented on earth.

I am blogging all of this to remember; Scripture commands us to remember the good works of God. In a recent sermon by my friend, brother in the faith and ministry partner, Michael Clancey shared how God had ceased to "show up" as he entered a new season of his life. No longer could he rely on his trusted method of encountering God through solitude and worship. Michael used to trust that if he postured himself on the floor, put on worship music in the privacy of his room, and attributed praise to the worthy God, that He would show up and His presence would be felt... That method worked great for that season, when he needed to foster an intimacy with his Heavenly Father. But too much isolation can become harmful. God wanted to show up in a new way. I think He also doesn't like to become part of a formula; do this + that --> encounter with God. The lesson Michael took from this was that God wanted to reveal Himself in community, where He would be encountered in the midst of a community of grace.

When he shared this, I was reminded of a similar box-breaking experience I had in college.
I had only known & walked with God for about 7 years, and only attended one church. I knew I could expect God to interact with me in a select few ways: I could feel comfort and peace in worship, I could learn wisdom and truth from Scripture, and I could glean guidance from partnering with other Christians, as they share their insights.

When it actually came time for me to transfer to a four-year university to finish my undergraduate degree, I made a pretty big life change and moved away from the only home I ever knew. This change occurred in a time of my life when my faith was considerably unstable; I had had nearly all my understanding of Christianity challenged, and seriously doubted whether my core identity as a Christian was merely founded on wishful thinking.

So entering a private Christian university culture was a bit unnerving to me as a disillusioned, skeptical, confused young man. I wanted out in some regards (waking up for early prayer with roommates, when I seriously doubted anyone was listening to us was cause for many grumpy mornings), but more than anything, I wanted to be reassured that all I had known throughout my adolescence was not a sham.

That reassurance came as the box in which I held God burst at the seams...

It was shortly after my 21st birthday, when I had come to enjoy taking pictures with my birthday gift, a digital camera. There was a particularly captivating sunset that afternoon, and seeking a higher vantage point, I visited my upstairs neighbor in order to use her balcony. She permitted me access to her balcony, and I took this panoramic shot.

As I left, my neighbor Amber stopped me and told me to read Psalm 77. I thought that odd, but thanked her nonetheless and left. That night, I sat at my desk and opened my Bible to read that Psalm.

It opened directly to Psalm 77.

Thinking that was interesting, I then proceeded to read the following:
I cried out to God for help;
    I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
    at night I stretched out untiring hands 
    and my soul refused to be comforted.
I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; 
    I mused, and my spirit grew faint. Selah
You kept my eyes from closing;
    I was too troubled to speak
I thought about the former days, 
    the years of long ago;
I remembered my songs in the night.
    My heart mused and my spirit inquired:
“Will the Lord reject forever? 
    Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
    Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful? 
    Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” Selah...

I was dumbfounded. This Scripture perfectly reflected the state of my heart. Why did this girl tell me to read this? My mind began to race, searching for some reasonable explanation for this perfect alignment of Scripture, timing and personal circumstance. Surely this girl must have heard what I was going through and wanted to encourage me, or had read it herself recently and wanted to share.

None of that was the case, however. When I inquired, she simply told me that God had told her to say it...

This was my first experience of the unexplainable. I had never known God to display Himself in such  a miraculous way. When God used someone to speak to me in the past, I could always just caulk their words up to their own intellect or understanding for composing the content. Someone from church once said that God gave us minds, so we should use them. In this sentiment, God remains transcendent, intangible. But here, God was immanent, personal, and involved directly. 

My faith was restored and enhanced from this experience. I had a new fervor and hunger to encounter God in fresh, new, exciting ways.  I went to a church that had a prophecy ministry and received a message about my life that was uncanny; with incredible accuracy, these people I have never met before were disclosing things to me about my walk and character that they had no business knowing. I didn't feel exposed or violated; being known only through God's revelation was comforting. I was known by the God that created the universe, and according to this prophetic message, He had big things in store for my life. I have always held on to the message to encourage me and remind me of how big God is. That message I received back then seems to be ready to manifest in my life at any moment.

You see, as our community continues to choose to pursue the presence of God through His Holy Spirit, inviting Him to participate in our experiences, we are beginning to see incredible things happen. There is a phenomenon that happens when the Spirit decides to move powerfully, where when one is prayed for, the weightiness of the Holy Spirit can become so gloriously heavy and lovely that the person is overcome and collapses. It is a state of incredible comfort and love. We are starting to experience that in our church! Other gifts are bound to follow. We are hungry to prophesy, speak in tongues (foreign or even a heavenly language is uttered), heal diseases, injuries, and deformities... Scripture commands to eagerly desire spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:1). There are many ways God desires to manifest in willing believers to display His glory so long as we honor God by loving others with these gifts. They are not our possessions to hoard; they are for others to encounter the power of God and the advancement of His Kingdom.

Is this not what is missing in most churches in America? 95% of the things we do as a Church are doable apart from God, when 95% of what the early church did was doable only by the power of God. 

I am so excited to be a participant of a community that eagerly desires God to be intimately involved in the process of our lives. I want to tell really cool stories of the caliber of amputated limbs being re-grown simply by proclaiming it in the Name of Jesus. I want to tell how drug addictions are conquered and marriages are restored. I want to tell how people who have only known isolation and loneliness now have found belonging and family in the Church. I want to show the world that the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ is capable of transforming a lost nation to truly know joy and purpose.

If the Church in America actually exhibited these types of experiences of God, many will be freaked out, including those in the church. Some may be offended, intimidated or challenged to re-examine their perspective on life and the choices they make.  Some will repent and adjust their lives to make room for such an unpackageable God. Some will not. This is both the beauty and tragedy of our state. Some come to faith and others deny God the honor due His Name. My prayer is that He be known, however. As it is now, God can be ignored in our culture and that just doesn't sit well with my soul... The world needs to encounter God again, and it will only happen when His Plan A (the Church) decides to take their gift of faith seriously and partner with Him.

There is more to Psalm 77 that is fitting for this post, and when I read it all those years ago, I don't think I understood its significance.
Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
    the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will meditate on all your works
    and consider all your mighty deeds.
Your ways, O God, are holy.
    What god is so great as our God? 
You are the God who performs miracles; 
    you display your power among the peoples.
With your mighty arm you redeemed your people
    the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
The waters saw you, O God,
    the waters saw you and writhed; 
    the very depths were convulsed.
The clouds poured down water, 
    the skies resounded with thunder; 
    your arrows flashed back and forth.
Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, 
    your lightning lit up the world;
    the earth trembled and quaked. 
Your path led through the sea, 
    your way through the mighty waters,
    though your footprints were not seen.
You led your people like a flock 
    by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

The Psalmist recalled the miraculous deliverance of the people of God from Egypt as a testimony to God's faithfulness and provision. When times seem dire, it is the past experiences of God that are incredible gifts to sustain us in faith. I know this exciting and enjoyable season of life will wane, and I will again know despair and confusion. This is the rhythm of life as we know it this side of eternity. But I will choose to remember and believe that God does indeed move powerfully in our lives. He is alive, and He loves us dearly, for He gave us His Son to make our connection complete and unbreakable.  

What is next? I have no idea! But it sure will be an adventure, and that ignites my heart to live richly.  If all these dreams of the miraculous occurring fizzle and deflate, if nothing comes of the opportunity to operate a community-fostering business, I choose to remember God's faithfulness. His grace is sufficient for me. And for that I am thankful.

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