“You Stopped Being a Son”

At RLM, we just finished up our annual Prophetic Conference. It was a very powerful time. For me personally, the Lord really took some time to speak some different things to my heart. You know, as Christians, we are always going around talking about how much we want Jesus to speak to us. We want direction for this, instructions for that, a yes or no for some particular question, and so on and so forth. And then there are those times he gives an answer to a question that we never actually asked. He really is still in the business of reading our hearts.

I had not realized how “cold” and “dry” my heart was until about a week ago. This is not a dark time in my life and I haven’t spend months or years in this spiritual place, but nonetheless, i noticed that not very much was “moving” my heart. It seems my faith had become a little more cerebral and much less passionate. When this happens to a person, one’s worship, love for the Word, desire to help others, generosity with time and money, and a host of others things wither.

The Psalmist wrote, “My heart…is withered like grass” (102:4).

The Psalmist wrote, “My soul clings to the dust” (119:25).

The Psalmist wrote, “My soul melts with heaviness” (119:28).

Every person’s spiritual bones get dry from time to time (Ezekiel 37). As of late, mine have been. It really started to concern me. I talked to the Lord about this. Now, part of this I know is the lack of sleep due to my wife and I’s newborn. Less sleep is the price you pay and it is totally worth it. However, not only have I been really run down, but I my routine of spending time with God in the morning by my window with a cup of coffee has gone out that same window. Things have been turned upside down. I am a firm believer that God gives you time and grace to adjust to new seasons. He has not been mad or frustrated at me at all. He is giving me space to learn and grow. Yet, that does not change the fact that my heart is missing him, his tangible presence, and the fuel that fills my inner tank.

In the midst of my heart growing a little cold and my bones getting a little dry, I did not realize something until the Lord whispered it to me during the conference. Here is what he spoke into my deep heart: “You stopped being a son.” OMG, he is right. It never occurred to me. Funny how sometimes, the person we understand the most and the least is ourselves. I knew my symptoms but I had no idea as to the source of my illness. But the Lord did, and he cared enough to show me in a loving way. He wasn’t mad, frustrated, or even sad. I sensed he was simply pointing something out so I could quickly get back on track. How ironic that in the midst of having our first son and the business of being a husband, father, pastor, and professor, I had gotten away from my core identity being, “I am God’s son.” When you exchange this identity for something else, even if for a short amount of time, coldness and dryness begin sneaking through the back window of your spiritual house. There is a chill in the air. You may be a good person, keep going to church, throw some money into a tithe bucket, help a person in need, or who knows what else. But your heart, the thing God wants to burn up with his presence and root in his love, goes into hiding. When the Lord spoke this convicting, wonderful word to my heart, I immediately had an ah-ha moment. You know when something is right. I knew he was right and was thrilled he showed me. I asked the Lord to get me back to that place in which the main song I hear beneath the surface of all of my everyday activity is, “You are my son. I love you. I accept you. I enjoy you. This is who you are. Do everything today with the peace and joy that results from knowing that the One who matters most is passionately in love with you and for you!”

Daddy God fixed my heart. He restored my center. John writes, “Yet to all who did receive him [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 NIV). We are all God’s creation, but only through Christ does one become one of his children. When you lose the sense of son-ship (or “daughtership”), you lose peace, joy, a deeper sense of vision behind what otherwise would seem very mundane, a drive to help others, and even your physical body can suffer additional fatigue.

If you have gone crooked as of late, hurry back to that center you were created to live out of: That you are God’s child and he loves you. When you move away from this, even for a day or week or month, things can dry up quickly. So come back to Dad, open your heart, and let him remind you that he did not save you to be a machine for his glory. He saved you to know him, love him, and rest in him. Anything you do for him will flow out of that and therefore, will be interwoven with the peace of trust rather than the sweat of self-effort and religion.

The Story of a Man, Woman, Dog, and a Goldfish

ImageI am currently reading a book entitled, Boundaries in Marriage, by two of the BEST Christian psychologists ever. Their names are Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend. Here is an excerpt from my reading today:

(Dr. Cloud) “I was talking to a young man one day about  his girlfriend. He was thinking about getting married, and he had questions about their relationship. Several times during the conversation, he said that something she did or something about the relationship did not ‘make him happy.’ It was clear that this was a theme for him. She was not ‘making him happy.’ When I asked, I found that she wanted him to deal with some things in the relationship. He needed to do some work that took effort. It was not a ‘happy’ time. When he had to work on the relationship, he no longer liked it. At first, I was trying to understand what the difficulties were, but the more I listened, the most i saw that he was the difficulty. His attitude was, ‘If I’m not happy, something bad must be happening.’ And his immediate conclusion was always that the ‘bad’ was in someone else, not him. From his perspective, he was not part of the problem, much less part of the solution. Finally I had heard about as much as I could take from his self-centered ramblings.

‘I think I know what you should do,’ I said.

‘What?’ he asked.

‘I think you should get a goldfish.’

Looking at me as if I were a little crazy, he asked, ‘What are you talking about? Why do you say that?’

‘It sounds to me like that is about the highest level of relationship you are ready for. Forget the marriage thing.’

‘What do you mean by the highest level of relationship?’

‘Well, even a dog makes a demand of you. A dog has to be let out to go to the bathroom. You have to clean up after it. Other times, it requires time from you when you don’t want to give it. A dog might interfere with your happiness. Better get a goldfish. A goldfish doesn’t ask for much. But a woman is completely out of the question.'”

Now for a few final thoughts.

  • The pursuit of happiness can be ultimately selfish (doesn’t have to be though) if you are not careful.
  • If you are single, what attitude will you take into marriage one day?
  • Single or married, will you and I TODAY must take responsibility for the selfish pieces of our heart/life? Be honest with yourself. We are invited to bring our selfishness to the cross of Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to begin cultivating in us the heart of Jesus which is SO other-centered. Jesus didn’t tell us to love others and ignore our own heart. On the other hand, he didn’t tell us to love ourselves and ignore others. In a brilliant tightrope maneuver, he instructed us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Matthew 22:39). It is both/and, not either/or.
  • Don’t make any more excuses for bad and/or selfish behavior. Do not blame shift. Do not write things off as, “Well, that is just my personality.” Do you have not the Holy Spirit in you, or, is your personality something He has not interest in redeeming? The moral choices you make toward others, including the people closest to you, are not a personality issue. Your moral choices are not hard-wired. You really can hold your tongue if you love the person across from you. You really can keep your tone of voice down. You really can watch your language. You really can let someone besides yourself get the last word in. You really can admit you are wrong. You really can start growing today. What you excuse is still hidden in darkness. Only that which is brought into the light can be dealt with. If you are married, stay in prayer until you see your spouse with God’s eyes. It will change everything.
  • Change what you can, lay the rest at God’s feet.
  • Don’t focus on what needs to change in that person you are thinking of right now.

If the love of Christ will burn up our hearts for other people, I will live for other people’s success. I want this in my life as a person, as a husband, as a professor, and as a pastor. Everywhere I turn, I want my heart to beat for other people’s success. I have a ways to go, but I’m going. You can too. Don’t stop short of radical heart of love that Jesus didn’t just model, but promised he would LITERALLY deposit inside of us. Come Jesus, here is my heart.

“Happiness is a result. It is sometimes the result of having good things happen. But usually it is the result of our being in a good place inside ourselves and our having done the character work we need to do so that we are content and joyful in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.” (Dr. Henry Cloud)

 

 

 

What to Expect at a Prophetic Conference

1. Jesus will be there. Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” This is not just the time that individual words are spoken by the prophets. This includes the time that we are greeting each other, the time during worship, and the time during the preaching of the word. More than for us, this is a special time for Jesus. It’s like a birthday party. People are showing up to see him. Let’s have this heart!

2. For other people to be blessed. It is so easy, especially if you were in a desperate or painful time in your life, to come with one expectation and one only: to get a word for yourself. This narrow expectation can block our spirits from receiving encouragement via someone else’s experience with the Lord. Come with a heart toward others as well as yourself. This is about the individual and the community.

3. Fresh life. I’m glad I just checked this, AutoCorrect substituted “life” with “wife”. This could of made for an interesting blog and loss of my job. Ha! Life is up and down. Sometimes we get busy and lose focus. Sometimes we go through hard times. At other times, everything is fine, but we are compromised. Maybe we stop spending time with Jesus. Our spirit is dry, it might even be our own fault, but the bottom line is, we need a fresh touch to get going again. The Lord comes tonight to build us up, to bless us, to challenge us, and to lead us to a place where our hearts are renewed and on fire again.

So come tonight to Resurrection Life not to just see if you get a word, but to bless the heart of God and see others blessed.

The Bible Contradicts Itself…

…or does it? 

I want to be careful not to treat this issue superficially. Let me state up front that this is a far cry from an exhaustive treatment of the issue. Matter of fact, in this particular blog, I will address only one in particular. 

Early on in my undergraduate Philosophy work in Kansas City, I heard someone say something in one of my classes that I did not have a response for. That bothered me. I have attempted to live my life in accordance with the following rule (not my only rule, but indeed one of them): When someone mentions or references something I do not know or understand, go immediately that same day and look it up, read about it, and study it until I possess a solid command over material. This rule has served me well. 

In my class, a girl spoke up and said, “I am a Christian, but don’t get me wrong, the Bible does in fact contradict itself. For example, the Bible says, ‘Do not judge,’ while it also says, ‘Judge all things.'” This bothered me to the core. If I am honest, I immediately became angry. I could tell my her comment that this was not something she had really wrestled with. It was a flippant remark. And even worse, she did not seem to sense the weight of her remark. Essentially, she was telling everyone that this book that serves as a foundation for all that a Christian believes and professes, is full of nonsense (what else could “contradiction” really imply?). I wanted to respond so bad. However, I could not. I knew my response would be emotional in nature. Truth was, I did not know how to respond. I had never looked into this purported “contradiction.” Does the Bible really contradict itself? Unlike this girl, I knew in my deep heart, that if it did, this is no small matter. So I went home and looked up this particular contradiction.

In Matthew 7:1, Jesus says, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (NKJV). 

In 1 Corinthians 2:15, Paul writes, “But he who is spiritual judges all things…” (NKJV). 

Jesus tells his followers not to judge, while Paul, a follower of Christ, tells Jesus people to judge all things. What gives?

That afternoon, I looked up the original Greek for the word “judge” in each passage. I was so relieved to find out that, unbeknownst to the young lady in my class, there is no contradiction at all.

When Jesus uses the word judge, it is the Greek word ‘krino‘. Strong’s reports that this word means, “to distinguish, that is, decide…by implication to try, condemn, punish.” 

When Paul uses the word judge, it is the Greek word ‘anakrino‘. Strong’s reports that this word means, “to scrutinize, by implication, to investigate, interrogate, determine…to discern.” 

WHAT A DIFFERENCE! Jesus is essentially telling his followers not to go around beating people up, condemning them, acting as if they are God rather than mere agents called to communicate the message of reconciliation. Are people in sin? Absolutely. But we are to witness to them as a fellow members of the human race who are saved by grace. In other words, I am not someone else’s judge. This does mean that I can’t call something sin or have a difficult conversation with someone, it just means, at the end of the day, Jesus does not want me to pick up the judge’s responsibility to acquit or condemn. I am to love. 

Paul, on the other hand, is using the word as a way of encouraging Christians to be able to exercise a wise and mature discernment. As Christians, we must seek wisdom, made tough decisions, and sometimes have honest conversations with people about the sin in their lives. However, even in the midst of this, there is no condemnation residing in us or flowing through us. That is what Jesus was condemning. 

I can sum up both statements in the following formula: krino+anakrino = Be a mature Christian who discerns without condemning.

The “contradiction” that that girl spoke of was superficial. It was not real. It only resided in her mind because she had never taken the time to investigate on a deeper level. The world is CRAVING Christians who have put thought into their faith (Tommy Clark and I were talking about this the other night). You don’t have to have all the answers, but you do need to show that you have looked into, wrestled with, and grappled with the Scriptures as well as relevant issues. This type of Christian will be attractive to unbelievers.

There are many other apparent contradictions, and I can’t take them one by one right now. But this example suffices to say that we as Christians are RESPONSIBLE to present and discuss a faith that shows the world that we done more than just accept the “party line” (what Tommy called it). Our mind is a part of our faith, and though the mind has it’s limits, we have not discarded. We are employing our faculty of reason in order to put sinews and flesh upon the bones of our beliefs.

After all, is not our faculty of reason from God? Did he not say to love Him with all of our heart, soul, and MIND (Matthew 22:36-40)? So next time someone challenges you with a contradiction or some other argument against the Christian faith, relax! Love that person, pray for that person, and go on a journey with that person to figure out what is occurring under the surface.

 

“I Want My Voice To Be Special”

IMG_2408A couple of weeks ago changed my life…forever. Allison gave birth to our first son, Ezra Max Condrey. I love him so, so, so much and he has never done one thing for me. For the last 4-5 months of Allison’s pregnancy, she kept telling me to talk to Ezra while he was in the womb. She informed me that research shows that not only could Ezra hear me, but that he is able to start learning and eventually recognizing my voice. This way, when the child is born, he would be able to recognize my voice, bond with me quicker, and know that I am not just “another” person in his life. By talking with him for months pre-birth, I would be preparing him to recognize my special role in his life. This meant the world to me, so I took advantage of this and began, especially in the 2nd and 3rd trimester, to talk to him all the time.

So here we are a tad bit over two weeks since Ezra entered the world. It would take too much time to express all of the wonderful things I feel toward my son. That being said, I found myself feeling something a little odd the other day. I discovered the other day that out of nowhere, I was afraid that he wasn’t recognizing my voice. I was afraid that my voice was not that much different to him than other people who had said something to him. I have no doubt that he is bonding with Allison for two reasons: (1) She carried him for 9 months, and (2) She is breastfeeding. But here I am. What can I do right now to bond? How can I make sure that I am someone just as special in his life right now? I may be too early for me to expect him to recognize the God-given role of daddy I have been given to him. Yet, I thought it interesting that out of my love for my son, I have at moments come face to face with a quiet little fear that he might not yet be recognizing my voice. I think he is to some degree which is absolutely amazing. But my point is that, as his dad, I want my voice (along with Allison’s of course) to be absolutely set apart, distinct, and like no other in his life. I want that special place in his heart. I want him to feel love, peace, strength, courage, security, and a host of other wonderful emotions when he hears that I am somewhere near. And, if I am honest, I don’t want anybody else’s voice to do that for him quiet as much as mine. I am his dad. I want to be that special in his life. I am jealous for him to see that nobody will love and fight for and protect him more than me.

Then, my thoughts shifted to my/our heavenly Dad. There is NO DOUBT in my mind that He must feel the exact same. Matter of fact, He probably experiences this jealous love to a degree that my psychological inner circuitry will not even allow. He wants that special place of trust in my heart. He wants, as my Dad, to be able to do in me and for me with His voice what no one else can. He is jealous to fill my/your life with his voice. Psalms 29 is a wonderful meditation upon the power and comfort that comes to us through God’s speaking.

God wants to speak.

God wants His voice to be to me/you what no one else’s voice can be.

He is our Dad, and though we might not understand everything as Christians, He is hoping that when He walks into the room, our head turns to find Him even if we don’t know everything about Him.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

(Jesus – John 10:27)

And your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left.”

(Isaiah 30:21)