Archive - October, 2009

Is the Upper Room gathering in the District?

In anticipation of registering for classes, I’ve been doing some exploratory research into some possible capstone topics. I came across this handy dandy flash map produced by USA Today using data collected from the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey.  

According the the survey’s findings, 8% of people in Washingtion, DC consider themselves “pentecostal/charismatic”. 8%? After clicking around a bit, I discovered 8% is more than any state. More than the 2% in Kansas despite its close proximity to the International House of Prayer, more than the 3% in Missouri even with the  Assemblies of God’s Mecca, more than the 3% in Florida where the Lakeland revival controversy occurred, more than the 4% in Ohio in the aftermath of the Catholic renewal, more than the 1% in California where the mega churches have popped up. According to this survey, DC would have a higher concentration of charismatic crazy people than any state, and double the national percentile collected by the PEW forum that indicates that roughly 4% of Americans self identify as pentecostal/charismatic. 

I came to DC to find the center of politics, but apparently I found the center of Pentecostalism as well… or at least that is the portrait that statistics paint. Numerical fallacies or a legitimate surge of charismatic faith in the nation’s capitol?

“Crazy people don’t sit around wondering if they’re nuts.”

” -They don’t?
-No. They’ve got better things to do.
-Take it from me. A very good sign that you’re crazy is an inability to ask the question, “Am I crazy?
-Even if the answer is yes?

- Crazy people don’t ask, you see?”

I love the movie Proof, and also refer back to it when I feel like I am losing my mind. The character in the movie’s greatest fear is going crazy, and she is constantly asking herself if she is losing her mind. My greatest fear is not insanity per se. My greatest fear is that my relationship with God is a figment of my imagination. What if I am making up this stuff? What if I later discover I have been sinning against God every I attempt to glorify Him?

My greatest fear is becoming one of the false prophets, teachers, and preachers in the Bible. I am terrified of becoming the person described in 2 Peter 2.

1But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves…. Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; … 12these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish…

17These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 20If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,:…”

I’m pretty sure that my fear of becoming this is the very thing that will ensure that continually surrender to God.. A holy fear is a necessary component of a healthy faith. The one who is not afraid of screwing up his relationship with God may be the one who is actually farthest from God. After all, Paul does tell us to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.“(Phil 2:12-13) . Let’s play substitution here with the Proof quote. Those who are false prophets and false teachers and making themselves their own gods don’t sit around wondering if they are following God and asking others if they are on the right path. They have better things to do than to cry out in prayer and beg God to correct them if they are wrong. A good sign that I am following God is the ability and desire to constantly ask God “am I following you God?”.

If we spent time asking God if we are following Him, asking Him to show us how to be sure to follow Him…His word clearly says that He will answer our prayer and guide our steps. The very hand that penned the verses that terrify me, also writes:”

“make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

10Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2Peter 1:5- 11)

If I am making every effort to try to increase my relationship with God and continually asking Him if I am walking in the right directions, I can never fail. The fact that I ask the question is my election sure and search for the answers to make sure I am on the right path, means that God will never let me fail. And if I stumble, He will drag me back to the place of surrender.

It is the questions that we are too confident in or unwilling to ask God that should send up red flags… as I search my own life looking for these hidden areas. I ask you, have you asked if you are crazy lately? =]

‘Til I collapse…

Friday night: home alone at 7 pm. Tension. Frustration. Can’t describe it. I just feel really anxious. Like somethings built up that won’t release. Pacing the hallway in prayer. Something snaps. Pacing becomes sprinting.. I’m sprinting suicides up and down the hallway. Lungs heavy, can’t sprint anymore. Must run. Running suicides up and down the hallway. Chest tightening, here comes the wheezing. Jog. Jogging up and down the hallway. Until, I can’t breathe. Walking, up and down the hallway. Gasp becomes a wheeze. Back to a jog… back to a run.. back to a sprint… to a full fledged asthma attack, and I stop. The world suddenly stops after a half hour of madness. All is at a stand still. Never felt better.

The intro to theme song of my high school career is on repeat in my head.

“Cause sometimes you feel tired, feel weak, and when you feel weak, you wanna just give up. But you gotta serach within you, you gotta find that inner strength and just pull that shit out of you and get that motivation to not give up and not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse.”

Phase out Eminem, phase in worship last night…
” You’re the source of light. I can’t be left behind… I will follow. This world has nothing for me. I will follow you”

The switched flipped on, revelation. The last piece of the puzzle that needs to fall into place before I am complete again. Physically, I have to be me again. This broken body is not mine. I am hindering my own walk with Christ by neglecting the passion that God has given me for athletics and physical activity. My health, my personality, and my ability to socially network are all diminished by this issue. And, I’m unhappy about it. Ask me what I am most dissatisfied with at the moment… and I’d tell you- the fact that I don’t feel like my body is mine. I am not a holistic person at the moment.

Why does this matter? Well, scripture does say that our bodies are temples. And, more importantly it says to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. My heart is torn because it longs for the past, my mind is distracted by my insecurities, my soul is missing one of its passions, and my strength is slowly fading because I am constantly sick and mentally irritated. All in all, I am not 100% and as a result I can not give 100%.

To be entirely honest, God has been speaking to me about this issue for the last year and a half. I, in my laziness and shame, have ignored him. This isn’t an issue of me embracing who God created me to be, it’s an issue of me not preparing myself to be the person He created me to be. I fully believe that this is the missing link, this is the sin of omission that is holding me back. I am neglecting the spiritual discipline of putting one’s body under submission and preparing myself to serve God with all that I am. Now to change it..

Good Stuff:

This is why I like my life better than yours.

It’s 3 A.M. I have paper due in five hours that I haven’t started because I spent the last four hours talking about God and praying with three amazing people. We shifted from talking about prayer to a teaching about the baptism of the Holy Spirit to personal testimonies to struggles we have with spiritual gifts to actually praying. Here is the facebook commentary forever documented by request…

FB Status: Natalie is hearing Kera’s life story.

Me: For the record, I didn’t want to share my life story; I wanted to pray and study. And now, it’s 2 am and I still haven’t started my paper. I blame the rest of you.
well thanks to you and your gift of prophesy, we never got to do any of our work. instead we’re forced to spend hours praying….gosh….
Me: well, maybe if you all would embrace your own gifts and stop asking me to explain the Biblical doctrine behind them, we wouldn’t need to spend hours praying…
Natalie:it’s not my fault that the devil sucks.
Brittany: i’m going to plead the blood over this facebook thread.
Natalie:what can wash away my sins?
nothing but the blood of jesus.
what can make me whole again?
nothing but the blood of jesus.
oh, precious is the flow
that makes me white as sno-ow.
no other fount i know -
nothing but the blood of jesussssssssssss.
i’ve got another one:
brittany, it’s kinda weird for you to be praying over a computer….oh wait………sorry, kera. :)

I didn’t pray over the computer… the computer was just thrown during prayer once. I prayed over a printer. PRINTER. Entirely different… and a GPS system once which was not nearly as traumatic.

And, I think Brittany was pleading the blood over your devil suckage problem, not the computer. I mean I know the gift of discernment isn’t necessarily your thing, but I would think that even you would know that a electronic device in and of itself is not a mechanism of spiritual warfare.
i think the devil can use whatever device necessary to cause spiritual warfare. don’t undermine satan and his workings, kera.

oh, I don’t. remember the computer was thrown. even so, I think you give the punk a little too much credit… doesn’t the Bible say something about him already being defeated? Oh ye of little faith…

i like to give him some credit because it makes it even more amazing that God defeated him! why don’t you like to think of God as super super powerful?

Ah, but my God is all powerful… giving Satan too much credit diminishes the fact that he is a punk that has no hold over our lives. Do you not realize the true power of the cross and the light of Christ to overcome the darkness of the world? Giving Satan too much credit gives him space to continue building the walls in our lives that keep us from accessing the super powerful presence of God. Hmm…

i’m pretty sure the punk being defeated is the only reason i can plead the blood over facebook/satan/all of you. just saying..
Natalie:and now for some hillsong united
the enemy’s been defeated
death couldn’t hold you down
we’re gonna lift our voice in victory
we’re gonna make our praises loud…
i think in spiritual wittiness and worship songs…

Wedding Dress

The image is stuck in my mind.

” The Marriage of the Lamb has come;
his Wife has made herself ready.
She was given a
bridal gown
of bright and shining linen.
The linen is the righteousness of the saints. ” – The Message;
Revelation 19:7-8

You have here a description of the bride, how she appeared; not in the gay and gaudy dress of the mother of harlots, but in fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousness of saints; in the robes of Christ’s righteousness, both imputed for justification and imparted for sanctification–the stola, the white robe of absolution, adoption, and enfranchisement, and the white robe of purity and universal holiness. She had washed her robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; and these her nuptial ornaments she did not purchase by any price of her own, but received them as the gift and grant of her blessed Lord.” – “Matthew Henry’s Commentary

Familiar images? We as the Church are the bride of Christ, clothed in His righteousness, preparing for His return. Such imagery is encouraging and humbling. But, does this picture stir the same sentiment?

” I am a whore I do confess
But I put you on just like a
wedding dress
and I run down the aisle
and I run down the aisle
I’m a prodigal with no way home
but I put you on just like a ring of gold
and I run down the aisle to you”‘ – Derek Webb,
Wedding Dress

The Church is a whore. I am a whore. We’re all whores. Putting on Christ and running down the aisle. Running away from sin, from other affairs, running in desperation toward the bridegroom. Christ gifted us this attire, and we fall under His authority and cloak ourselves in His righteousness. Still we’ll always be whores clothed in garments that we don’t deserve to wear. Aware of this and anticipating our reunion with our Beloved,we should be motivated to continue to purify our lives as we deepen our relationship with Christ.

The imagery is heart -wrenchingly beautiful. Yet, this imagery is mind-numbingly horrifying…

“If we desire people to be happily married to Jesus as his loving bride, it makes sense to let them go out on a few dates with him instead of just putting a shotgun to their heads and asking them to hurry up, put on a white dress, and try to look happy for the photos.” – Mark Driscoll, Radical Reformission

Is it possible that we can be encouraging our brothers and sisters in church to jump into a relationship too quickly? Encouraging others to jump into a covenant that they neither understand nor can fulfill. Shotgun weddings. Quick come to the altar, accept Jesus into your heart. Say a sinner’s prayer, take the vow.

Too often, there is no courting, no wooing, no love. The vow is empty. It is insincere. It is a shotgun wedding. Maybe not in the sense of a barrel to the head, but a shot was definitely fired. The barrel is still smoking, and the bride has little recollection of what happened. Some time later, the bride either falls deeply in love with her husband and looks back on the day of the vow… wishing her words meant more. Or, perhaps, she looks back and remembers the pressure and the smoking barrel, and despises the day and searches for options for divorce.

if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9). The key word in this verse commonly referenced in sinner’s prayer theology is AND. The confession of the mouth must accompany a transforming of the heart.

Evangelism details both the romance and the wedding. How do you get a whore to love Love himself (1 John 4:8), Love who demands no other gods before Him (Exodus 20:3) , Love that requires that you love everything else less (luke 14:26), Love that requires your heart, soul, mind and strength (Luke 10:27), Love that is fueled by passion and a jealous eye (Exodus 20:5)…. ? If you want someone to love Christ, introduce them to who He is and why you love Him. Step back and allow Him to woo them, pray for them, share your faith and life with them, occasionally check in to see if they have had a DTR recently. Be supportive, encouraging, and even push the relationship…. but please don’t force a vow too early.

Don’t push a wedding unless a bride is willing to wear the dress…

We cannot clothe one another in Christ, we can only clothe ourselves and we can’t even do that alone. We must submit to Him daily and ask Him to cloak us in His righteousness… and until we are able to wear the dress, we are unable to walk down the aisle and enter into the blood covenant with the Bridegroom.
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