Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Violin Prodigy

This was Tasha's first violin, and Areyna's first opportunity to play it! I'm a blessed man!

Let's Go

I'm going to this and so should you!

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Funeral, A Testimony

I just got an e-mail this morning from my friend Alex Anders from Journey Church in Raleigh, NC where my brother, Smooth, is on staff. Alex's brother, Adam, is a songwriter and producer and knows Steven Curtis Chapman's family really well. He sent out this e-mail after attending the funeral the other day, and wow, what a testimony it was to the power of the Gospel and the sustaining grace of Christ! Read it for yourself.

Hey Everyone,

I just got back to LA from the funeral of Steven Curtis Chapman's 5 year old daughter in Nashville. The service was unbelievable! More a worship service and celebration than funeral. It really shows the power of the cross, and what it means to have put your faith in Christ. I saw it lived out yesterday morning in a most powerful way. God was there.... it was a life changing moment for me.

Please keep praying for them. Here is a note from a friend of mine that was there with me:

Hi Everyone,

Thanks for all your prayers for the Chapman family. They certainly have felt the love of God over the past few days from all those who have lifted them up in prayer during this unimaginably difficult time.

Kari and I are flying back to LA as I write after an amazing two days in Nashville. This was life changing. The name of the Lord was exalted in ways that we could never retell. We are in awe at His grace, compassion and mercy. Little Maria's life, although short, has already moved mightily in peoples lives to bring Him glory.

Last night the entire family stood in the church as a long line of friends and acquaintances greeted them, hugged them, cried with them and loved on them. The Chapman family and Steven's ministry has obviously impacted so many. They stood there for more than 4 hours before one of the pastors finally stopped it and had hundreds still remaining in line just sit down and then Steven apologetically, but so graciously addressed the entire group.

At the funeral, both Michael W. Smith and Matt Redman helped lead everyone in worship. Matt led us in a song we often sing that he wrote, "Blessed Be the Name of the Lord." It was amazing to watch the Chapman family sing with loud voices as they hugged one another, "He gives and takes away. He gives and takes away. My heart will choose to say, 'Lord, blessed be your name.'" This song will never be the same to me personally.

We worshipped and sang for 30-minutes. And then the Chapman's celebrated Maria by sharing stories and talking about her for almost an hour and a half, praising God for her life and acknowledging that she was safe in the arms of Jesus. All the while pictures of Maria flashed on two big screens behind the stage - her little white casket at the foot of the stage. She was buried in the "flower girl" dress she was going to wear in Emily's upcoming wedding.

Jeff Moore sang Steven's song "With Hope" which Steven wrote for a family years ago, going through the same type of tragedy. All of Maria's little friends came forward and placed a flower at the foot of the casket while Jeff sang.

The Chapmans are unwaivering in their love for Christ and doing well. Their entire family was a display of faith in practice at the most difficult time of their lives. No one in the family wore shoes, because the veil had been lifted for Maria. They were on "Holy Ground" and God's presence was felt.

Caleb (19) said in his prayer, "while we've always been excited about Heaven, it seems so much more real now...and gets us that much more excited to be there ourselves someday. So we'll live life on Earth as if each day counts until we get there.". He also said that although they are "confused" they've never been so sure about Christ and His saving grace. Caleb likened this to one of those abstract pictures that when you're up close, you can't see what it is, but as you step back, you start to see what the artist wants you to see. He said, "And this is a big picture, so we may have to stand waaayyy back."... but we will see what the Artist has designed and what the picture is.
He has his dad's wisdom - well beyond his years.

Emily Chapman (22) just got engaged and said that after the proposal, Maria was the only one who asked, "What did you say?". Maria asked it multiple times. (Of course Emily said "yes" to her future husband). But Emily addressed the 3000+ crowd and turned Maria's question back to everyone listening in regards to their answer to Christ's proposal to each of us,. "What did you say?". Powerful under these circumstances. The good news of the Gospel was presented four times throughout the ceremony by the family.

Steven was a rock and just gave all the glory to God. The model of a humble, Godly man. I'm so proud to call him a friend. His humility and appreciation for everyone there, which was a testament to his character and his sincere faith and love for his God and His son, Jesus Christ. As he hugged and cried with Kari and I, he just kept reminding us that "Heaven is real."

Steven shared that after the accident, in the hospital, he held Maria's lifeless body and cried out to God. He cried out, asking to somehow see some kind of sign that she was going to be okay...to see that she was going to be safe. When they got home that night, they found the last picture Maria drew on that Wednesday afternoon on her little art table (she loved to draw!). It was a flower and a butterfly and folded in half like a card. When Steven opened the card up, she had written one word on the inside - a word he didn't even know she knew how to spell. It was "See." A simple answer to his cry to 'see' that she was safe.

Please keep praying for them. They are worn out, sad and yet rejoicing in the Lord. Please pray for Will Franklin Chapman. He seems to be the one that is having the hardest time and struggling with the guilt of the accident. It truly was an accident. Will pulled the car into the driveway and because the family was throwing a party that night for Caleb's graduation, he decided to back the car up onto the grass just as Maria ran out behind the car to welcome him home. There was no way for him to know that Maria was behind that car. The Lord was ready to take Maria home. He knew the number of her days. Will stood with Maria's favorite pink blanket draped over his shoulders both days.

All in all God was glorified. Praise Him for His sovereign ways.

Rick (and Kari)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Devotion or Devotions?

Many of you know by now the incredible impact that Keith Green had on my life as a young man. As a teenager, I lived on his music and read and re-read his biography, No Compromise. Keith was a Christian musician during a time when it wasn't the "popular" thing to do. Throughout the 70s and early 80s, Keith paved the way for the modern Christian music industry as well as the modern worship movement in many ways. He was a prophet. No, he didn’t foretell the future. But he did do a lot of forth-telling—truth-telling. Saying what was unpopular because he had a burning passion to speak the truth that the modern American church needed so desperately to hear. He made a lot of enemies. But more than that, he brought countless souls to a saving faith in Jesus Christ because of his strong convicting message. He was blunt. He was straight to the point. And he didn’t water it down. His lyrics cut hard, penetrating through the fluff of common Christianity.

Recently I ran across a series of 8 videos posted on YouTube of a lecture that Keith Green gave at Dallas Theological Seminary sometime just before he boarded the small plane with his two children that would end all three of their short lives. In this lecture, Keith borrows and elaborates on ideas from a man named Charles Finney, a great evangelist of another generation. Toward the end of his life, Finney began writing more frequently than he preached. He began publishing his own paper entitled, The Oberlin Evangelist. The one particular letter that caught Keith’s attention was simply called “Devotion.” For Keith’s purposes, he retitled it “Devotions or Devotion?” In his talk, Keith expanded on some of Finney’s ideas, the basis premise being that often, in Christian circles, we speak of “having our devotions” or “having our quiet time” as if it’s simply something we check off of our list so that we can move on with the rest of our day. Both Finney and Green detested such a notion of Christian spirituality. And as I read Finney’s article for myself and listened to Keith’s encouragement on the subject, I began to realize the hypocrisy in my own life. Bear with me as I pull from a few of Finney’s thoughts:

“I am to show what is true devotion. It is a state of the mind or of the heart. It is that state of the will in which every thing—our whole life, and being, and possessions, are a continual offering to God; i.e. are continually devoted to God. True devotion, so far from consisting in any individual act, or feelings, must, of necessity, be the supreme devotion of the will, extending to all we have and are—to all times, places, employments, thoughts, and feelings.”

And further he says,

“Devotion is that state of the will in which the mind is swallowed up in God, as the object of supreme affection, in which we not only live and move in God, but for God. In other words, devotion is that state of mind in which the attention is diverted from self, and self-seeking, and is directed to God; the thougths, and purposes, and desires, and affections, and emotions, all hanging upon, and devoted to him.”

In other words, devotion to God involves setting our mind and heart upon Him at all times. That means that anything done without this motivation in our lives is sin. Elaborating on this point, Keith quoted Romans 14:23, “…and everything that does not come from faith is sin.”

As I sat there in front of my computer, watching Keith share in front of a bunch of seminary students, and myself being reminded of this verse, I began to think and wonder about the common things that make up my day—the things that are neither right nor wrong in and of themselves, but the way that I go about them, without a conscious choice of my will to do them in such a way that my mind is “swallowed up in God.” And I began to wonder how sick I must make God. How sinful I really am. That I don’t often eat to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). That I don’t often play volleyball to the glory of God (one of Keith’s examples). That I don’t often send e-mail, or chat with my wife, or check the mail, or get my oil changed for the glory of God. But I MUST! I MUST, OR IT IS SIN!

See, Christian spirituality is not about checking off our “time with God” first thing in the morning. It’s not about our checklist. It’s not about punching the God-clock and then moving on to other things. God must be all in all. Our primary joy. The One to whom belongs all things and to whom we do all things. The One to whom we direct all of our devotion, all of our affection, all of our attention with a conscious state of the will and of the mind. It’s a conscious choice we make when we get out of bed. When we brush our teeth. When we commute to work. When we eat lunch in the break room. When we tuck our kids in bed at night. We consciously decide to give God the praise due His name in those moments—many of them typical and uneventful—but that’s when God wants our hearts the most, I believe. In the mundane. In the common. That’s why Paul said what he said in 1 Corinthians 10. So that we might eat and drink to the glory of God. What does that mean? That we might bring God glory in the routine stuff of life. The common-place. The typical. The unglamorous. This is what God desires from us, but so often what we refuse to give Him.

As I reflected on Charles Finney’s words translated and adapted through Keith Green’s words, both whom have now gone to be with the Lord, I mused at how these two men of God lived out what they preached to the very end of their lives. Two men who loved their families. Two men who loved Jesus. But two men who were both simply men, like me. Men who changed diapers. Men who brushed their teeth. Men who read books, and played kick-ball with their kids. But men who chose, in those routine, common-place moments of life, to live them out for the glory of God. To make a consious choice of the will to bring glory to God in all of their actions and deeds, no matter how insignificant they may have seemed at the time.

Letter from Arizona

If you've ever wondered what our ministry is all about, and what type of people it is who support it, here it is in a nutshell. This is a letter I received recently from a couple in Tucson, AZ who support our ministry. These are the kinds of people who make this happen. Normal individuals who love Jesus and love His Church.

"Dear Via Family,
It is such a privilege to serve our Lord Jesus Christ in such a way of supporting your ministry not only monetarily but prayerfully. We realize what we send is not a large amount, but it is heartfelt . . . I know our Lord Jesus can multiply this to encompass each--if He can expand the Hebrew language to where each individual person heard the gospel message in his or her own language, He can do all kinds of miraculous things in your ministry and in your lives . . .

Our church has a prayer request for you. We are in our Jubilee year--49 years of this church being in existence, which is a definite praise; but the prayer request is: In all of these almost 50 years we have had the same pastor who will be retiring this year. July 6th is his last day to preach. We are getting together a pastor search committee. Just pray please, that we will rely wholly on God for direction. This is a new venture for our church. We know God is in control; my prayer is there will be none who do not relinquish their control over to God. Pray we will be a humble people before Him. I want nothing. I want God's control of my life.

Father, I praise You for all the blessings You have given to Your children. Thank You . . ."

Wow. That one statement has stuck with me since I first read this letter: "My prayer is there will be none who do not relinquish control over to God." If we could have more people like this in our churches--people who will go to any cost to get out of the way of what God is doing--people with absolutely no control issues--people who have no desire for recognition--people who view themselves as deserving nothing--people who simply have a heart for God and want to follow His every step--then I think the Church of Christ will begin to be who God created her to be. Then barriers will fall. And the Gospel will penetrate hard hearts.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pray for the Chapman family

Fox news just released a tragic report concerning the family of Christian recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman. You can read the article for yourself here, but apparently their youngest adopted daughter, Maria, 5, was tragically and accidentally hit and killed in their driveway by one of Chapman's teenage sons. Pray for the Chapman family as they struggle to find God's hand in the midst of this tragedy especially the son who must be experiencing unimaginable mental trauma and anguish.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Worship 5.17.08

Today at Southbrook Church:

1. Kingdom Come (this was the preliminary test for this new one of mine and I felt pretty good about it. I wrote it out of a sense of urgency -- the fact that we desperately need a mighty move of God's hand in this land -- a revival -- a spiritual awakening -- that we might be desperate for God to move in this land again, bringing masses of lost souls into His kingdom and awaking His Church out of our apathetic slumber.

I woke up one morning with the verse in my head (melody and lyrics) pretty much straight from Isaiah 45:8. It rarely happens that way for me, but it's cool when it does. Here are the lyrics:

Salvation's rising from the ground. Hearts are stirring at the sound. His voice steady raising dead hearts, breathing in new life. Righteousness pouring from the clouds is the rain that heals the ground, dry and weary from no water, pleading toward Your sky.
Sound the alarm, make it loud in our hearts
Let Your Kingdom come, let Your will be done, pour out Your Spirit in this barren land.
Let salvation's song sing over hearts of stone. O, Lord, we're desperate for a move of Your hand.

2. Sing, Sing, Sing (new one off the Passion God of This City CD. Great tune to do corporately!)
3. All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name/Raise Up the Crown (trad. Chris Tomlin, Passion Hymns CD.)
4. Majesty (Delirious, Charlie Hall version)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Vintage Jesus

I recently finished reading Vintage Jesus by Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. I loved this read. It's basically a theological treatise on the doctrine of Christ put in layman's terms with the humor of Dane Cook, minus the vulgarity. It's a brilliant read. For anyone struggling with what a Bible-believing church really believes about Christ and what the New Testament teaches about Him, especially in the midst of the cultural and ecclesiological (church-related) milieu of our world, this is a fantastic resource. Here's a few tidbits that I loved. Many of them humorous!

  • "Because Jesus worked in a day when there were no power tools, he likely had calluses on his hands and muscles on his frame, and did not look like so many of the drag-queen Jesus images that portray him with long, flowing, feathered hair, perfect teeth, and soft skin, draped in a comfortable dress accessorized by matching open-toed sandals and handbag. Jesus did not have Elton John or the Spice Girls on his iPod, The View on his TiVo, or a lemon-yellow Volkswagen Beetle in his garage." (p. 31, Chapter Two, "How Human Was Jesus?")
  • Jesus' priestly intercession makes both our prayer and worship possible. We pray to and worship the Father through Jesus our priest by the indwelling power of God the Holy Spirit, who has made our bodies the new temples in which he lives on the earth." (p. 76, Chapter Four, "Why Did Jesus Come to Earth?")
  • "Some early church fathers (e.g., Origen), some Catholic and Protestant theologians (such as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and Wesley), along with the Second Helvetic Confession and the Geneva Bible say that Mary was 'ever virgin,' or semper virgo. I am assuming that her husband, Joseph, was semper bummo, or 'ever bummed.'" (p. 94, Chapter Five, "Why Did Jesus' Mom Need to Be a Virgin?")
  • "On the Internet, the top word searched for is 'sex,' with 'porn,' 'nude,' 'Playboy,' and 'erotic stories' also in the top twenty. Furthermore, 70 percent of porn traffic occurs between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. while people are sitting at work unable to focus on their job because the god of Eros continually beckons." (p. 170, Chapter Nine, "Why Should We Worship Jesus?")
And here's one of the best quotables to finish off:
  • "Jesus' legacy is truly without peer. Jesus never wrote a book, but the Library of Congress holds more books about Jesus (17,000) than about any other historical figure, roughly twice as many as Shakespeare, the runner-up. One University of Chicago scholar has estimated that more has been written about Jesus in the last twenty years than in the previous nineteen centuries combined. Jesus never ran for a political office, but more people have chosen him to be their leader than anyone else who has ever lived. Jesus was not formally educated nor did he lecture in a classroom, but he has more students than anyone else ever has or will have. Jesus was not a therapist, but he has helped more people than all the counselors, therapists, and psychologists combined. Jesus was not an artist, but more artwork has been commissioned of him than of anyone else who has ever lived." (p. 211, Chapter Eleven, "What Difference Has Jesus Made in History?")
In summary, you should get this book.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Identity Crisis - Final

The Right Conception: Jesus is I AM

The I AM Jesus is perfect love. The I AM Jesus has always been and always will be. The I AM Jesus loves sinners, and judges sin. The I AM Jesus is both a forgiving God, and a just judge. The I AM Jesus spoke the world into existence and breathed the breath of life into every human being. The I AM Jesus bore the sin of the world on His body and bruised the body of His One and Only Son at the same time. The I AM Jesus felt both the rejection of God on the cross and the unbearable turning away of His own face from His Son. The I AM Jesus was prophesied by men of God and created the very breath of the prophets who spoke the words. The I AM Jesus is both transcendent and immanent—He is holy and far removed, yet He is personal and very near to His children. The I AM Jesus revolutionizes the identity of His followers.

The True Follower Identity

The true follower identity says that because Jesus suffered for my sins, I want to live my life for Him simply because I love Him—not from a sense of obligation—not from a sense fear—not because He forces my hand—not because I think I can earn more God-points. No. Only because I love Him. And since He gave His life for me, the least that I can do is live for Him. The true follower identity is totally wrapped up in the identity of Christ, the I AM, the never-changing, always-present Maker of the universe. That’s the identity that I want to be true of my life. I hope you can say the same.

“If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).

Now, I’m gonna go rest in I AM, watch Andy Griffith and try to forget that I helped finance terrorism.

Feeding Your Appetite

  • How has Jesus proved Himself to You as I AM? In other words, how does your perception of Him as I AM, the always-existing One, move you into greater worship of Him as He moves and works in your life?
  • What are some specific ways that You have been guilty of having the homeboy misconception (treating God’s forgiveness lightly) or the tyrant misconception (driven by fear more than love)?
  • How does having the right conception of God affect the way you view your own identity in Christ?

  • Spend a few moments thanking God, the I AM, for the intimate relationship that He makes available to you through His Son Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Mother's Day to Remember

We just had a weekend for the scrapbook. Our weekend started on Thursday as my wife, my sister-in-law, Kelly Via, and another friend, Jennifer Hambrick, all took a childless road trip to Woodbridge, VA to IKEA, the Scandinavian furniture superstore. They were gone from Thursday till Saturday with the Dads all pulling overtime hours to watch 6 kids together in one house. It was a reality show waiting to happen. Momentous, to say the least. The weekend getaway was a special Mother's Day gift from the husbands to the wives--a gift that only communicates itself as a gift if you're a woman. Nonetheless, the ladies had a great time, and much bonding took place between me, Rainy and Zeke.

Saturday night and Sunday morning, we led worship at Journey Church, an amazing community of believers in Raleigh, NC doing an incredible work for Christ. My brother, Smooth, is on staff at Journey as an Associate Pastor and doing great work. Journey is less than 3-years-old and already experiencing explosive growth and life-change. The band at Journey is awesome and they all have incredible hearts for God and hearts to see His people connect with Him in worship. It was a privilege to lead with them. The Pastor's wife, Beverly Carroll, brought a timely message from 1 Samuel 1 & 2 about Hannah's commitment to God in the midst of barrenness. It would definitely be worth your time to listen to it here or go ahead and download it.

We played:
1. Sing, Sing, Sing (Chris Tomlin)
2. Here in My Life (Hillsong)
3. Inside Out (Hillsong)
4. Hallelujah, Our God Reigns (tag, Hillsong)
5. Our God Reigns (tag, Delirious)

Identity Crisis - Part 3

(make sure you've read parts 1 & 2 before continuing)
Misconception #2: “Jesus is a Tyrant”

The tyrant mentality is the polar opposite. It says this: “Since Jesus hates sin and especially hates when I sin, He is up there in heaven somewhere waiting for me to mess up again so that He can slap another ticket on the windshield of my life.” The tyrant mentality views Jesus as the cop with the chip on His shoulder, like the Jack Bauer of heaven—the rogue agent out for revenge waiting for His next victim to slip up. And here’s the resulting identity.

The Legalism Identity

The believer who lives by this misconception lives in fear. As we talked about in chapter five, legalism shadows Jesus’ real identity. But not only that, it shadows the identity of the follower of Christ. It says that I must live in worry that I haven’t done enough to please God and I’ve done too much to displease God. Having an identity of legalism means that I must live by a list of dos and don’ts. I must cross all my T’s, dot all my I’s, read ten chapters in my Bible everyday, pray three hours, witness to at least thirty people a day, eat my greens, recycle my cans, cover my mouth when I sneeze, don’t kick the cat, bla bla bla. Not that any of those things are wrong. But it’s the attitude that accompanies the actions that make them wrong.

What’s wrong is when I think that what I do earns me points with God, or helps to reduce the demerits I have with God.

What’s wrong is when, out of a sense of duty, I help an old lady carry her groceries while all along envisioning the Jack Bauer God peering overhead. Here’s what John said about living in fear:

“There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment” (1 John 4:18).

Did you catch that? That is the right conception about God. Fear is driven out when God’s love is brought in. So here it is ... (check back tomorrow)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Identity Crisis - Part 2

(If you haven't read part 1, click here and do that now before continuing.)

When Moses asked God what name He should use in defending his authority before pharaoh, God simply said, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). I love Louie Giglio’s explanation of I AM:

It’s an amazing name. In Hebrew the word for I AM is Hayah. Hayah carries with it the idea of the very breath of God. In English the name I AM translates into the verb to be. Or simply be. Therefore God’s name is Be. I AM – I Be. I AM is the present tense, active form of the verb to be. As God’s name, it declares that He is unchanging, constant, unending, always present, always God. (Louie Giglio, I Am Not But I Know I AM, p. 38.)

That’s an amazing title. Think of I AM as one of the top steps in a series of escalating stairs—the lower steps being titles that we’ve already looked at, the Living Water and the Bread of Life. John escalated to a breaking point—I AM. Now there was no doubt to anyone in earshot of Jesus that He was claiming to be God.

I love it. I love that this is the title by which God chose to reveal Himself to Moses—the unchanging God—the always-present God—always there by Moses’ side. The always-existing One knew Moses—in the same way Jesus knew Nathaniel before they ever met (John 1:48)—in the same way Jesus knew the Samaritan woman with all of the baggage of her past (John 4:29)—in the same way Jesus knows you and everything about you—every detail, every mistake, every thought, every action, every intention. Jesus knows. Jesus knows you.
Here’s a fundamental truth that we can’t afford to miss.

Our identity as followers of Christ is totally wrapped up in Christ’s identity.

In other words, Christ is our life (Col. 3:4). So the converse must also be true. Our misconceptions of Jesus misconstrue or blur our identity as followers of Christ. In my experience, there are at least two misconceptions about Christ that most Christ-followers believe at some point in their relationship with Him. So I want to clear these up briefly.

Misconception #1: “Jesus is my Homeboy”

The homeboy mentality says this: Since Jesus is my best friend, He’ll let me do whatever I want, and He’ll always be there to forgive me when I mess up. The homeboy mentality makes Jesus nothing more than a confession box that I spill my guts to once I mess up. It views Jesus as a passive parent, like the mom from Gilmore Girls—the idea that I can mess around with my boyfriend or girlfriend, masturbate, view internet porn and repeatedly push the boundaries of right and wrong simply because I know Jesus will always forgive me. It’s the idea that I have an endless supply of get-out-of-jail-free cards—since Jesus is one of the guys I can sin as much as I want and simply ask for forgiveness because He understands how I really am anyway. But Romans 6:1-2 says just the opposite:

“What should we say then? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

And here’s the resulting identity of the follower of Christ who falls prey to this misconception.

The Cheap Grace Identity

The cheap grace identity laughs in Jesus’ face as the blood flows down from the cross. The cheap grace identity says, “Jesus, thanks for dying for my sin so that I can mess up as many times as I want and not really feel bad about it since you paid for it all anyway!” It says to Jesus, “Jesus, thanks for caring enough for me that You would let massive spikes be driven through your hands into a wooden beam so that I can use my hands to get in my girlfriend’s pants!” The cheap grace identity is nothing more than a cheap imitation for coward Christians.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Fields and Creeks

Happy Cinco de Mayo everybody. We just rolled back into town about an hour ago from a crazily hectic weekend. But a good one.

Friday night and Saturday we led worship for Wakefield Baptist Church's Women's Conference in Wake Forest, NC. It was great to have my friend, Tim Norton, back with us playing djembe. Tim, his wife Anna, and new addition, Judah Elijah Norton, will be embarking for the DRC (District Republic of the Congo) later this year as missionaries through the IMB. Pray for them as they rigorously pour over the endless paperwork and details before they can leave.

Ruth McWhite
, director of Women's Studies at North Greenville University in Tigerville, SC, came and brought the Word to the ladies each session. Here's a couple of quick highlights from one of her talks:

* "For everything I would have called an inconvenience, there was compensation if I looked hard enough and had the grace to be grateful." - Elisabeth Elliot, referring to the toughness of jungle living after her husband Jim died.

* When we tell our kids, "Don't tell God what you don't want to do because that's exactly what He'll make you do", we make God look more like a ticked-off father, rather than a loving father. When we emphasize this to our children it makes them scared of God's will.

Well, Saturday afternoon we drove up Route 1 to Henderson, NC to New Sandy Creek Baptist Church, the church where I served as youth pastor and worship leader for 4 years. It was awesome to be a part of their groundbreaking celebration for the new Family Life Center that they are building.

It's refreshing to see what God is doing there. This little country church in the tobacco fields of Henderson has baptized over 30 new believers since this past October. Unbelievable! Praise God! New Sandy, we love you guys. You'll always be home to us. (Daniel Atkins and Robbie Watson are seen here with me. They rocked Henderson with their delicious harmonies and to-die-for licks.)

Sunday morning we were back at Wakefield Baptist leading worship for their 2 services. Pastor Scott Parkison is one of those guys that I feel like I've known forever because of the mutual friends we have, though I only met him for the first time this weekend. I'm sure we'll be reconnecting with them down the road. Scott, thanks again for having us. We love you guys. Thanks for making us feel right at home.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Identity Crisis - Part 1

I'm excited to say that my first book, The Discovery: Beyond the Jesus of Flapjacks and Grilled Cheese is in the production stage, and should be out in about a month or so. We had a tiny set-back in production, but now things are rolling. It's a 21-day devotional journey through the Gospel of John geared toward students and young adults. I'm pretty psyched about it! I'm praying that God will use it way beyond what I'm capable of doing in my own strength. It will be available on Amazon.com shortly after it's release next month. I'll keep you updated. But for now, here's the first of several posts I'll do using excerpts from the book. Also, in honor of Flashback Friday, this seems appropriate!

Chapter 8 - Identity Crisis

There’s no feeling that leaves you quite as vulnerable and helpless as having your identity stolen. A few weeks ago this happened to me. The sad part is, it wasn’t stolen. I gave it away. Like a bumbling idiot I gift-wrapped my identity and merrily handed it to a zit-faced hacker sitting in his mom’s basement. To my credit, the e-mail looked legitimate—the famous last words of many a victim of ID theft. But it did! It was two days before Christmas and I received one of those mass phishing e-mails that looked identical to other PayPal e-mails that I occasionally receive. I followed through with it, thinking that I was doing my duty as a privileged PayPal customer.

The instant I clicked send on the form I knew I had made a mistake. Call it instinct. Call it Firefox instantaneously popping up a bright red warning box with flashing skulls and slogans like “Death to the passerby” and “You idiot, you just funded a nuclear warhead aimed at a small island!”

“Wonderful,” I thought. “It’ll arrive just in time for Christmas!” I held myself close and rocked in the fetal position in the corner of the room.

I gave the world my identity—everything about me—everything important—all of it. It was out there—every bit of it. Nothing hidden. That’s exactly what John wanted. That’s what he wanted people to know about Jesus—everything. Nothing hidden. No misconceptions. This was his number one goal—that no one misses the real identity of Jesus—the ultimate discovery. This was his number one concern—more than my concern that America never loses its love and admiration for The Andy Griffith Show in the wake of reality TV and the I-bet-you-can’t-out-do-this-one mentality of television programming—more than my concern that brown sugar and cinnamon Pop Tarts never go out of production—more than my concern that my kids understand that running around naked in our house is cool, but not so much out in public, and not so much fifteen years from now—more than my concern that my kids never take up playing in traffic as an extreme sport—and more than my concern that my kids never know or at very least never speak the name of the purple singing monstrosity Barney in our house as long as I live. As passionate as I am about those things, John was even more passionate about communicating Jesus’ true identity.

Over and over he reiterated this one essential truth. Again and again John drove home the point that Jesus is the Christ, the prophesied Messiah. And more than that, that Jesus is God wrapped in human flesh.

John 8:58 is a crucial verse in John’s depiction and increasing awareness of who Jesus is:

“Jesus said to them, ‘I assure you: Before Abraham was, I am.’”

This is one of the clearest arguments for the deity of Jesus in the entire Bible. By using the title I AM, Jesus very clearly claimed to be God. He claimed for Himself the divine title found throughout the Old Testament.