Baptized by Spirit and Fire

Did you know that you can’t have an encounter with God and walk away the same?  When you have an encounter with God your life is going to change.  Moses spent 40 days on the mountain with God his face radiated with the glory of God.  When you spend time with the LORD people are going to know it.

I called a friend a couple of weeks ago and when he heard my voice he said, “I must have made an impression on you back in college.”  I asked, “Why are you saying that?”  He replied, “Those you leave an impression on will always remember you.” 

What sort of impression do you leave on others?

You were not created to be normal.  God’s desire for you is not compliance and conformity.  You have been baptized by Spirit and fire.  Asleep within you is a barbarian a savage to all who love the prim and proper.  You must go to the primal place  and enter the presence of the Most High God, for there you will be changed by His presence.  Let Him unleash the untamed faith within you.  (Erwin McManus, The Barbarian Way, 82).

Seek. Find. Live. Others will follow.

Conversations in the Sky

Why is it that some of the best conversations happen at 30,000 ft.?  Some of the best conversations I have with strangers are on airplanes.

On the flight to San Antonio, I sat with someone who had just attended the inauguration.  The interesting thing about the conversation was something he said about being there.  He told me the best part of the event was hearing Rick Warren.

I sat there and was amazed by what he was saying.  He didn’t give me anything real specific about what Rick Warren said… he was just very impressed and that he was the best part.

My flight back I sat next to Ann.  She lives in Atlanta.  I was reading The Barbarian Wayby Erwin McManus.  (Yes there are going to be  a couple of more posts from this book).  This opened up a great conversation about purpose and seeking God. 

After I finished talking she asked me if I ever fasted.  She went on to tell me that she is reading a great book on fasting that is/was on the New York Times Best Seller list.  It’s called Fastingby Jentzen Franklin.  Some of the things she said to me reminded me of what Craig Groeschel had to say while at Catalyst.

To see Jentzen Franklin’s teaching on Fasting click here.

I wonder if the conversations are always so good at that altitude because so much prayer goes into each flight?

Whom shall I fear?

I asked the question a few weeks ago, “If you could be doing anything you wanted to do (right now) what would it be?”  I’m surprised the stirring this question has raised.  I asked this of several people and I still get responses from it.  This little question is packed with a lifetime of challenge.

Does the answer to this question bring about job change?  Does it lead one to go back to school?  Does it confirm to another they are doing what God has chosen for them to do?  The answer is different for everyone.  But the challenge is the same.

God has placed “a call” on each of our lives to live out for His glory.  We are all chosen by Him to follow His leading.  God uses so many different experiences in life to get us thinking about where we each belong in the sight of eternity.  While reading the series called “Chaplain Turner’s War”in the AJC, I found that Chaplain Turner was moved to become a Chaplain while going through Wild at Heartby John Eldredge.  I wonder how many lives have been altered by the reading of that one book?  Then there is Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God and so many other books that have been written throughout history that have literally helped people understand what God had created them for. 

I know when I was a young 20 year old still in college, I wanted to know “the will of God” more than anything else.  I was caught up in “hearing” from God through some supernatural experience that never came.  I had my thoughts and mind focused on hearing some booming voice to tell me what I was to do with my life.  I know I missed out on so much as a result.  I was looking for that “call of God” to validate whatever it is that I chose to do in life.  That booming call never happened… yet I was called none-the-less.

I recall after graduating from college and feeling sort of “stuck” working in Cartersville.  I remember loudly the words of someone closest to me at that time telling me, “You can’t do that… being a youth pastor or any other minister… that’s not you.”  During this time of struggle with those words echoing in my head I went to the Full Gospel Business Men’s Advance at Rock Eagle.  Begging God to speak to me.  I don’t recall anything from the Advance but I remember the trip back from Rock Eagle riding with Dan.  He is a Real Estate Broker.  I was looking for direction in my life at the time.  Looking for something to do.  I talked to him about selling Real Estate. I was hoping that maybe I will find significance there – my place in the kingdom…  after-all God has used Dan so much.  I ended up pursuing my license and going to work.  That lasted six months.  A couple of years later I’m off to seminary

For me, there has always been this fear I have had to really launch out into the deep waters with God.  I don’t know why… that’s just the way it has been.  All I know is that once I took that chance without hearing that booming voice but rather following that still small voice life changed.  It literally electrified my soul.  I experienced the power of God in the decision and the steps that followed.  But I never quiet overcame that bit of fear I felt… I guess I could call it lack of confidence in myself or faith in God.

One thing I did come to know is with each step in following God – each step requires more faith than the first step.

The closer you walk with Christ, the greater the faith required.  The more you trust Him, the more you’ll risk on His behalf.  The more you love Him, the more you will love others.  If you genuinely embrace His sacrifice, you will joyfully embrace a sacrificial life.  Your expectations of Jesus will change as your intimacy with Him deepens. (Erwin McManus, The Barbarian Way, 53).

So, the question I raise now:  “What keeps me from moving forward?” “Why do I feel stuck once again?”  “What keeps me from continuing to “fight the good fight“.  It’s as if I’m still wearing the uniform of Christ but I’ve taken myself off the front lines because I have been wounded.  I’m reminded of one of the episodes from Band of Brothers.  I think it was called “The Replacements”.  There is this one soldier that was hit in battle… not seriously wounded but he took his time at the hospital to get well… he waited for a full recovery before going back to combat.  As a result, it took some time for those still in battle to take him back in as one of the Band of Brothers.  There were others with more serious wounds that checked themselves out of the hospital against medical advice to go back and fight the war with their brothers.

I would guess according to McManus I would be “civilized” and not “barbaric” in my quest to follow God.  I believe the same as always… like I said I still wear the uniform.  I guess the wounds have made me a little gun shy from going back to the front-lines.

Perhaps the tragedy of our time is that such an overwhelming number of us who declare Jesus as Lord have become domisticated – or, if you will, civilized.  We have lost the simplicity of our early faith.  Beyond that, we have lost the passion and power of that raw, untamed, and primal faith. (Erwin McManus, The Barbarian Way, 12).

I have a difficult time truly committing to the idea that I have become civilized after all my passion to head back to the front-lines is strong.  I just have this fear.  I’m listening to this song written by Darin McWatters called, “Consuming Fear”.  It has been a perfect time for it to come back to my mind.  The first verse is me.  The chorus at the end of the song is powerful!  While listening and worshipping I am filled with so much faith… I want to be able to capture that faith and live it out boldly with a trust in the Lord I’ve never known before.

I have so many dear brother’s in Christ that God has used in so many ways in my life.  I have been reading, writing, and praying not knowing how to tie all of this together.  During my time to pause from writing in order to worship, I received an email from one of those brothers – The email subject line reads, “Psalm 27“. 

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation—
       whom shall I fear?
       The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
       of whom shall I be afraid?

 2 When evil men advance against me
       to devour my flesh, [a]
       when my enemies and my foes attack me,
       they will stumble and fall.

 3 Though an army besiege me,
       my heart will not fear;
       though war break out against me,
       even then will I be confident.

 4 One thing I ask of the LORD,
       this is what I seek:
       that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
       all the days of my life,
       to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
       and to seek him in his temple.

 5 For in the day of trouble
       he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
       he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
       and set me high upon a rock.

 6 Then my head will be exalted
       above the enemies who surround me;
       at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
       I will sing and make music to the LORD.

 7 Hear my voice when I call, O LORD;
       be merciful to me and answer me.

 8 My heart says of you, “Seek his [b] face!”
       Your face, LORD, I will seek.

 9 Do not hide your face from me,
       do not turn your servant away in anger;
       you have been my helper.
       Do not reject me or forsake me,
       O God my Savior.

 10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
       the LORD will receive me.

 11 Teach me your way, O LORD;
       lead me in a straight path
       because of my oppressors.

 12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
       for false witnesses rise up against me,
       breathing out violence.

 13 I am still confident of this:
       I will see the goodness of the LORD
       in the land of the living.

 14 Wait for the LORD;
       be strong and take heart
       and wait for the LORD.

Did he get inside you?

My prayer time in the past couple of weeks has been going to a place I have not been to in some time. Maybe it is due to the lessons that were put together for our small groups… they have all been pertaining to prayer.  I also think it has a lot to do with dreams God desires to see lived out in my life and those around me. 

For some reason, God has seen fit to lead in this manner.  I look forward to seeing the dreams God is going to unleash as a result. I am blessed to see how God has been working in the lives of several people around me and am deeply grateful for the opportunity to be a part it.

“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? Did you take God into your mind only, or did you also embrace him with your heart? Did he get inside you?” Acts 19:2, The Message.

Paul’s questions of John’s disciples took them each to a deeper place that can only be found in Jesus.  They had a head knowledge as it pertains to life change but had not come to a place of heart knowledge… heart change… intimate fellowship. 

Once our hearts are changed by the power of God there is no limit to what God can do with us because of what He has done in us.   The dreams that He gives those who follow Him are limitless.  The only limits placed upon those dreams are those we impose. 

To be filled with the Spirit of God is to be filled with dreams and visions that are too compelling to ignore.  Live or die, succeed or fail, barbarians must pursue and attempt such dreams and visions.  The barbarian spirit dreams and finds the courage to live them… For the Spirit of God to unleash dreams and visions within our souls, we must become free to risk and to fail.  Every dream born of God is fueled by love. (Erwin McManus, The Barbarian Way. 100-101).


Bullet the Blue Sky

Is there a difference between “American” faith and “Biblical” faith? Our society tends to Americanize everything – to the point that what we preach is only relevant to Americans.

“What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen.” Hebrews 11:1, NLT. “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living.  It’s our handle on what we can’t see.  The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.” Hebrews 11:1-2, The Message.

Faith is “used” for a variety reasons these days.  Ultimately, our faith is to please God and is not a tool to be used for ourselves or to bring attention to ourselves.  Hebrews 11:6 states, “It is impossible to please God without faith.”  Each one of us has been given a measure of faith… 

Living a life of purpose unto God is never about ourselves.  Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life starts off with this sentence, “It’s not about you.”  This life we live by faith does not have me and you as the central focus.  It has always been and always will be about God…  The author and finisher of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2)

I keep a piece of paper with this quote on it in one of my Bible’s.  I don’t recall where I heard it but it was meaningful to me at the time. “Faith does not get you around trouble… it gets you through it…” 

A crucified life is a faith-filled life.  A life of sacrifice.  I life of giving of yourself so that others may live.  It’s carrying the mark of being a follower of Jesus.  Again, Galatians 2:20 rings loudly,  “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”(NJKV).

I’ve always thought – as a body of believers – we have put too much attention on the blessings that come from following Christ over the cost -thus making the blessings our central focus and not Christ.  (I guess that sells more books…).

I know several men right now who are in the midst of a storm.  They are each in a dangerous place right now in following God.  They are at places where strong and deep decisions are being made.  It’s not a fun place to be… yet exciting.  I have walked that road and there is no doubt that I will return.  One of the men I know made this statement the other day, “It’s better to go with God in the storm than to be without him in the calm.” Erwin McManus writes, “If the safest place to be is in the center of the will of God, then why is the biblical word for witness actually the word for martyr?” 

So this guy comes up to me – His face red like a rose on a thorn bush – like all the colors of a royal flush and he’s peeling off those dollar bills – slapping them down – 100, 200… and I can see those fighter planes – I can see those fighter planes – Across the mud huts where the children sleep, through the valleys and the quiet city streets – we take the staircase to the first floor – we turn the key and slowly unlock the door – A man breathes into a saxophone and through the walls we hear the city groan – Outside it’s America… outside it’s America…. I feel a long way from the hills of San Salvador where the sky is ripped open – the rain pouring through a gapping wound  – pounding the women and children – pounding the women and children…. And run into the arms of America. Bono, “Bullet the Blue Sky” Live version from Rattle and Hum.

Too often we run for safety and too quickly remove ourselves from the difficult road we are walking.  Too often we blind ourselves from the troubles of others and run from their troubled road to travel our “safe” paved roads. 

Faith is not about what we receive but rather what we give away.

Would I have denied Christ?

I’ve debated whether I should write about this or not.  The debate is over and I have chosen to write about it.  It’s going to be difficult to keep it short.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Peter today.  He did so much as a disciple and follower of Christ.  So much is written about all he has done.  He gets made fun of for a lot of the bone-headed things he did.  The one thing that I have been thinking about today is Jesus’ statement to Peter that he would deny Jesus 3 times that day.  I have wondered what really went through his mind and emotions that led him to deny Christ. 

I had an experience this weekend that my good friend Joel brought to my attention that was not much different than Peter’s denial. 

Our church held what I hope will be the First Annual Egg Drop.  I missed the entire event while I was out at the back entrance to the park directing traffic.  When the Sheriff’s deputy showed up to help with traffic – as people were beginning to leave – I began to walk back to the football field where the egg drop took place.

As I made my way to the field, I encountered several people who had just attended the festivities.  I heard comments like, “Needed more planning.” “Next year don’t let the adults on the field.” “Thank you!!  It’s amazing that you all would do this for the community.” “My child only got 2 eggs… this was ridiculous.” “Fine job…”  That last comment was not a happy one… it was with much sarcasm and anger.  I didn’t realize it until I laughed and smiled and started to say thank you.  I listened and asked questions of this individual.  Apologized and told him I would relay his comments to the leadership.

As I made my way to the stage, all I wanted to do was take off my yellow t-shirt that labeled me as a volunteer.  I didn’t want to hear any more comments like that one.  I was a little un-nerved by that last individual. 

I think everyone was rather overwhelmed by the event.  There were some 5,000 people there.  Way more than what was anticipated.  After we loaded up the gear that was on the trailer Joel pulled with his vehicle we headed off to unload and drop off the trailer.  We were debriefing the day.  I was hearing really for the first time what all happened while I was still out at the street directing traffic. 

I told him how at one point I wanted to take off my volunteer shirt so I wouldn’t have had to hear anymore comments like the last one.  Joel reminded me of Peter and his denial of Christ prior to the crucifixion.  When he made the comparison internally I froze.  And the thought of that has stayed with me all day today.

I’m reading Erwin McManus’, The Barbarian Way and am being challenged.  I highly recommend this book!! McManus states, “God’s will for us is less about our comfort than it is about our contribution.  God would never choose for us safety at the cost of significance.  God created you so that your life would count, not so that you could count the days of your life.” (44-45).

After telling you the story of what I experienced at Saturday’s Egg Drop – I still wonder what would I have done if I had been wearing Peter’s shoes.  Would I have denied Jesus?  Would I have wanted to take off that which labeled me a follower of Christ?  Would I have wanted to walk a much easier road than the one chosen for me?  I want to live a radical life for God… but how far am I really willing to go?  Is it just to the point of being uncomfortable?  Has my faith become “civilized”?

I’m reminded of Galatians 2:20 where Paul states, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”(NJKV). 

The Message reads, “I identified myself completely with him.  Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ.  My ego is no longer central.  It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God.  Christ lives in me.  The life you see me living is not ‘mine,’ but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I am not going to go back on that.

Paul was marked by Christ.  100% identified with Jesus.  He was known without shame or compromise as a follower of Jesus!  He chose the dangerous road.

I’m thankful for the insight Joel brought my way on Saturday.  It’s been a tough lesson to learn.  God wants nothing less than my full unashamed attention… for me to be identified with Christ.

The Barbarian Way…

…Unleash the Untamed Faith Within                                         Choose a Dangerous Road

This is a new book I bought today at church.  It is written by Erwin McManus one of my favorite thinkers and writers.  I was reading on the back cover and discovered it goes with the ideas and thoughts I have been having… and conversations I have been having with Joel and Randy about a deeper walk with Christ.  It reads…

“Jesus never made a pristine call to a proper or safe religion.  Jesus beckons His followers to a path that is far from the easy road.  It’s a path filled with adventure, uncertainty, and unlimited possibilities – the only path that can fulfill the deepest longings and desires of your heart.”

I’m ready to embark on the journey through this book… who knows what’s on the otherside once I’m done.