the invisible

At the church that I am attending until we launch our church this coming Spring, they have been doing a series all summer called “Hot Topics”. They have basically hit on all the hot buttons right now in Church and culture. This weekend they ended with the final topic of “The Problem with Porn”. A guest speaker, Jeremy Johnson, spoke the message this week. He has an awesome ministry that helps women in the porn idustry that have given their lives to Jesus, to get out of the industry, which is very difficult once you’ve entered it. Anyways, the message was incredible and it brought light onto a subject most keep quiet about and never discuss openly, and even most don’t discuss it privately. It’s a very taboo, very secretive isssue. The big thing though is that this is the fuel that keeps the porn fire going…the secrecy of it. Once that secrecy is broken, it dramatically quenches the fire that burns for porn and when someone who is involved in it has a place that is “safe” that they can be open and honest about the issue, without judgment or guilt, it lessens the weakness that once held you so strongly when your struggle was in secret. . When people know your struggle, especially one that tends to remain so private, it really takes a lot of the temptation out of it. The enemy hates the light and when you shine it on the place he tends to reside the most and make visible that which was previously invisible, he cowers back into the darkness of the shadows, and as long as the light remains in these areas, the enemy will never return. The goal would be to become completely naked (no porn pun intended) before God and others so that the enemy will have no unnecessary “clothing” to hold on to. This can only happen in an environment that is grace-filled and non-judgmental. We all have to come to grips with our own sin and realize the great need we have for the Gospel of Grace, then apply that to our community and we are well on our way. The church needs to be a place where the worst of sinners can come and be vulnerable without even an inkling of being looked down upon or made to feel as an outsider. Jesus has a way of welcoming and wooing even the worst of sinners, and he does it with a Grace almost impossible to understand but very powerfully real! I thank Him for that Grace every day…without it I am nothing! Check out the podcast for the latest message, or past ones from Illuminate at http://www.illuminatelife.org. Grace and Peace! rock on- jeff

“this world”

I was just reading in Romans, when Paul says to no longer conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds. I had a thought about this world we live in and what it means to conform to it. I mean, what does our world represent really. When it boils down to it the thing that makes “this world” different from the Kingdom of God is the contrast between “I will” and “not my will”. It all stems from self. It’s all about me and what I want and my desires…this is the world we live in. Jesus was the opposite of that. He said that the one who lays down His life for another show the greatest love. This is foreign in a world that is pretty much out for “number one” and whose pattern consists of being all about “me”. I believe this is the core of what it means to follow after Christ and it really reflects how much we fail at this simple, yet impossible goal… to lay down our lives for others. I don’t think a day goes by without us putting ourselves first in our priorities (at least a couple times a day I’m sure). This is why we need God’s grace so much, because we do fall short in this simplest of ways. But, when we look after the benefit of others before our own, or give up our time to help another, or take away our rigid plank to try to see clearer and possibly understand what someone else might see, despite their minute splinter, we begin walk along the path that Jesus walked. We must think differently in every area of our lives, because every area of our lives struggle with self. This is our daily call, our daily struggle and our daily glory; to renew our thinking and affect the world around us by living out such radical grace that they are convinced that you are from another planet. There is no law against this kind of love.

Love and Marriage…

I am finding some of the best analogies for our relationship to Christ and what He desires of us is that of marriage (or at least, how a marriage should be). It is no coincidence that Jesus calls the church His bride. Just as we are to show our spouse love out of our heart’s desire and not out of obligation or coersion, neither does the Lord desire legalism in our relationship with Him. Serving God with a list of ‘do’s and don’t’s’ is, at best, a forced attempt at what should be done (or shouldn’t be done, as the case may be), instead of a real love from the natural outflow of a heart empassioned for another. This is why holiness has a lot less to do with “ridding ourselves of our sin” and a lot more to do with a relationship; setting apart our lives to know our True Love and to also make Him known. Too many times we get stuck on the first part and never get to the second, when it is the second that becomes the gateway to the first (often times we think we are persuing the second, but are really only chasing after ‘knowledge about God’ and not actually knowing Him or His heart). Could you imaginew learning about your spouse by asking another person for their experience with them, but never experiencing them for yourself, or perhaps going to someone else to find out what your spouse is thinking or feeling or what their opinion is? What would enable you to know your spouse more but your experience with them, spending intimate, personal time. You would gain more than a ‘head knowledge’ about them. Your heart beats as one with them and you would resonate together. This is what our Lord desires of us. Fall in love with Him and you’ll want to do nothing but put Him first and bring Him pleasure. Your desire to please your Love will overshadow your desire to please yourself. If your spouse gave you a list and said ‘these are the things you need to start doing to show me that you love me’, you would feel pretty stupid and somewhat ashamed to then begin to perform those tasks when you had to be told what to do like little child, and that you didn’t seek these things out first and begin to act on them prior to having to be told to do them, and your spouse would not be that pleased at the fact that they had to tell you what to do and that the reason behind your actions were based on some list of rules and not from a desire of your own heart to bring pleasure. So that is why we must seek out our Lover, learn what brings Him pleasure, and our instincts will then be to bring that pleasure to pass. (Seek first His kingdom…) This is holiness…being set apart…not some pious, self-righteous set of ‘do’s and don’t’s’ to follow, but true, unconditional love in action.