The Need for Transparency within Christianity.

Hey guys! Hope you’ve been enjoying the stuff I’ve been writing. There’s a book I’ve been working on that is tentatively titled Transparent: Be Vulnerable. Especially When It Hurts. This is the rough draft of the introduction. I’d love your feedback on it. Check it out below:

I don’t know if you, reader, have ever listened to the Backstreet Boys, but there’s a song they put out called “Shape of My Heart.” It might be my favorite one. I even sang it as part of a five-piece group at a church talent show during my sophomore year of college. I sang one-time-CCM-singer Brian Littrell’s opening verse. My performance was just OK, I think it’s on YouTube somewhere. I haven’t looked too hard to find it.

The chorus goes: “Lookin’ back on the things I’ve done, I was trying to be someone. I played my part, kept you in the dark. Now let me show you the shape of my heart.”

First, what does that even mean? Even in the context of the song, it’s a bit confusing. It makes no sense. But a lot of the Backstreet Boys’ lyrics don’t really make much sense. However, that doesn’t prevent me from thinking some of their songs – including “Shape of My Heart” – are awesome.

Anyways, back to that chorus. The singer talks about how he was trying to be someone before, he played his part and kept his lady in the dark. He prevented his lady, apparently, from seeing the true shape of his heart. But now he’s done with that, he’s realized he was hiding, and he wants to show her the true shape of his heart.

As a general rule, and the reason why I’m writing this: sometimes in the church, we don’t like being ourselves. We don’t like exposing the true shapes of our hearts. We don’t want people to see the “real” us.

Now, before you come at me and say, “No, I know PLENTY of people who are ‘themselves.’ Sometimes I’m even myself before others!” Maybe you are. Maybe you aren’t. But I’m going to make a statement that might surprise you. As a body of Christ, we would be much more reflective of what God wants of us if we were honest about everything in our lives.

Honest about everything? Everything? Every little detail?

Yup.

Jesus was honest about everything. Paul was honest about everything. Yet we want to be the people that hide our flaws and hide our thoughts about others, ourselves, the world, etc., and therefore we misrepresent ourselves. We put on masks. We put on disguises. We go to church and act like everything is OK, but we go home and look at pornography because we’re longing for satisfaction. We lie to our spouses because we don’t want them to know the truth. We cheat on our taxes because we want to save money for that toy. We force ourselves to puke after meals because we don’t want to be fat. We misrepresent ourselves every day because we’re afraid that people might not like who we actually are.

I could write the umpteenth thousandth book on not being two-faced, but that wouldn’t do us any good. If you’ve been in a church in the last x number of years, you’ve probably heard a pastor or Sunday school teacher or somebody else talk about the importance of being who you say you are, a Christian. And I agree! If we’re Christians, we should pursue obedience and holiness because our actions are a reflection of the status of our faith.

But when they don’t match up, which is going to happen all the time, we hide it.

Some of us are pretty good at being “vulnerable,” being honest about our sins. But even sometimes in our sins we qualify our confession with, “But I’m getting better!” Even if we really aren’t. Sometimes we don’t tell the whole truth.

We’re afraid to be honest because we don’t want people to think we’re weak. That’s a universal thing, I think, but I think it’s even more of a problem in the church.

I write this because you can replace “we” with “I” and “us” with “me” in pretty much every sentence and it describes me to a T. I’ve spent the majority of my life as a Christian thinking that my faith was defined by how good I was at being obedient, how good I was at studying the Bible, at praying, at sharing the gospel, at living in community, at seeking ministry opportunities. I didn’t want other believers to know that I was struggling with hidden, debilitating sin or feeling like I was worthless as a Christian and as a person. Sometimes I would be open and honest with people. And sometimes what I heard back was encouraging.

But I think sometimes my well-meaning brothers in Christ wouldn’t know what to do with that level of honesty and transparency, maybe because we’ve been trained to put on a face and a smile. I think of the penguins in the Madagascar movies. The moment that was the funniest when I first saw the first movie was when they were standing in the zoo being watched by the crowd. The lead penguin instructs the others, “Smile and wave, boys, smile and wave.” Then he turns around and talks to the penguin named Kowalski who was working under a manhole cover covered by fish, planning an escape. That line has always stuck with me and sometimes I’ll insert it in conversation when I’m with people and we’re taking a picture because it’s kind of funny.

But how often do we take that very same attitude to church with us? To conversations with believers outside of church? We smile and wave, putting on a front that everything is OK, that nothing is wrong or nothing is fishy behind the scenes. We hide what’s actually going on in our lives.

Sometimes, nothing is good. Nothing is OK. Everything is terrible. Everything is awful. Everything is going wrong. We feel terrible about ourselves and our sin, the way we look, the way we speak, our grades, our work performance, our friendships, how we handle situations x, y and z. So we hide.

It’s a perfectly natural human reaction, foreshadowed by our forefather Adam in the garden. What was the first thing he and his wife Eve did when they discovered their sinfulness? They hid. They were naked and ashamed. Thing is, God still saw them. He saw their insufficiencies and their failures. He saw their shame.

However, God gave them the opportunity to have their shame covered. It’s a foreshadowing of the shame-covering we get from the blood of Christ. And it’s the same thing we can take into opening our relationships with other people.

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Three Tips for Maintaining a ‘Solid’ Beard

Note: So normally my posts are about spiritual things, encouraging songs or Bible verses or convicting passages, even sometimes touching on music. This is none of those things. 

I was having a conversation with my brother today about facial hair – which happens once in a while – and he said that my beard was “solid.” It wasn’t the best beard he’s ever seen, apparently, which is slightly insulting, but, no matter.

When I was in high school and even into college, a beard seemed to be a sign of masculinity, being a man. So I would grow one as often as I could and leave it as long as possible before my mom complained or I just felt like getting rid of it. I still think beards can be very masculine, but it doesn’t make you a man.

Anyways, I’ve gotten many compliments on my bearding skills over the years – and a couple over the last few days, that’s why this is so fresh in my mind – and I wanted to share my tips for growing a perfectly adequate, apparently “solid” beard. This applies to people who have beards that are grown and that they keep, not for those who shave every day.

1) Trim often.

This cannot, I repeat, CANNOT be overlooked if you want to grow a “solid” beard. I shudder sometimes when I see facial hair creep up the cheeks or down the neck in an unruly, un-groomed manner. There’s a difference between being a “mountain man” and a “live-in-the-woods-with-no-running-water mountain man.”

No. Just no. Never.

No. Just no. Never.

Guys, for real, take the time to trim. The advantage to trimming is that you can shape your beard how you like. No one wants to see those nasty neards. They’re not cool. I can’t emphasize how much. Also, cheeards are no fun either. The cleaner it looks, the better it is.

I trim once every two or three days. All it requires is taking a razor and just shaving the neck and cheek areas to remove any hairs that have started to grow. Maybe you need to do this every day. It’s 100 percent worth it.

2) Wash it. Every day. Twice a day.

This also cannot, I repeat, CANNOT be overlooked if you intend to grow a “solid” beard. Having nastyness hanging off your face is no fun for anybody. For you, it’s like smelling a sweaty sock all day. For your significant other, imagine trying to kiss with that junk in the way. For your other family, friends and co-workers, it’s just really unseemly.

Ben Affleck can rock a beard, if I do say so myself.

Ben Affleck can rock a beard, if I do say so myself.

Every time you shower – which I hope is at the least once-a-day, preferably twice – wash your beard like you wash your hair on top of your head. Get some good shampoo and scrub it. Get your fingers in there. You don’t know what might have nested within the thickets of facial hair.

I cannot emphasize this more. I do this every time I take a shower. It might be hard to remember at first, but just remember all the people who will suffer if you don’t. Including you. Friendly reminder: don’t forget the mustache. It’s just worth it.

3) Make sure the hair (or lack thereof) on the top of your head doesn’t clash. 

The whole picture has to look like a Monet, not a Picasso. This isn’t really that hard to do, but you’ve got to be careful. There was one year I kind of shaved and left a goatee around Christmas time, but I hadn’t had a haircut in a long time. It looked real ratchet. And I don’t use the word “ratchet” lightly. I hate looking at pictures from that Christmas. It scares me to think I could be that silly.

Brian Wilson. No, not the Beach Boys' one.

Brian Wilson. No, not the Beach Boys’ one.

You can really make just about any hairstyle work with a perfectly “solid” beard. If you need help making sure, ask someone, anyone who has ever seen a beard before. They should be able to tell you what the deal is. This is just like not wearing stripes with plaid. No beards with mohawks. No. Just don’t. Sorry Brian Wilson, just no.

4) BONUS: If necessary, comb/brush.

This might sound a little silly, but no use coming into work or going on that date with hairs strewn all over the place. What does that really accomplish? Will it give you that rugged look? Perhaps. But what good does that do if you’ve got a piece of hair sticking straight at your date’s face? People seem to like 3D, but not with your “solid” beard.

So use that brush or comb in the morning. A well-groomed “solid” beard is complete when the hairs are straight and in-place. Again, this might ruin the whole “mountain man” idea. But let’s be honest for a minute about “mountain men.” They’re in the mountain by themselves because no one wants to spend a lot of time with someone who’s got a nasty beard!

————–

Well, I hope you soaked in my tips. Those of you who have “solid” beards like mine or wish to one day get there, I wish you well in your quest. I don’t promise to have all the answers, and I definitely don’t have as much experience as some, but I hope this will help you.

Perhaps the best example of a “solid” beard I’ve seen is Drew Holcomb from the band Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors.

Well-kept, clean, a gorgeous beard.

Well-kept, clean, a gorgeous beard.

Oh, to have that kind of beard. It’s not over-the-top, it’s just beautiful.

Note: When I started writing this post, I had a beard. I no longer have a beard. Sometimes, to be honest with you, when that beard starts getting out of control, is to start over.

The Truths in the Greatest Christian Rap Album I’ve Ever Heard, Part 1

That’s a pretty bold statement for sure. But God has used Trip Lee’s The Good Life to pour truth into my life when I needed it. And I want to share with you each song and the truths found in each of them. Thanks to Rapzilla.com for having a listening session with each on their front page here. Check it out.

NOTE: This is part 1 of the series. There are 15 songs on the album, so there will be three parts of 5 songs each.

1. New Dreams feat. Sho Baraka and JR

“If I find I have a need this world cannot meet, then I know this life is a place my hope should not be. I’ve been chasing those things that are real fake. This is not a real place, this is a dream state. Functional saviors ain’t hip, they’re a real waste.” – Sho Baraka

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” Jesus asked his disciples, as recorded in Matthew 16:26. All throughout the Word, the world and its pleasures are spoken against. In 1 John 2:15-16, John wrote, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the love of the father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world.” Sho Baraka’s bit emphasizes that the world cannot fulfill our needs. And any dreams we have on earth that are not glorifying to the Lord are worthless.

“To the Lord, the good life is really dying.” – Sho Baraka 

“The good life is the life that’s been laid down.” – Trip Lee

Check out Matthew 16:24-25, where Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” It’s very reminiscent of PRo’s album Dying to Live, and the song “A Life Worth Dying For.” It also reminds me of 1 Peter 5:6-7 — “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the might hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” If we really humble ourselves to God’s power and God’s will, and be patient on His timing, we will see His care for us and His guidance.

TRUTH: Jesus asks us to deny our selfish dreams, anything we personally want for ourselves, and totally submit ourselves to His will for our lives. Only then will we see His will.

2. Robot

“So I was still a drone, nothing but a clone, I only knew the lies cause that’s all that I was shown. But I been remade, my heart is no longer stoneWhere my ex-Robots who can sing this song? Now I’ve been remade, I’m no longer hollow. A real man came, changed everything that I know. He gave me truth, that’s a hard pill to swallow. He gave me new commands, and He freed me up to follow.” – Trip Lee

Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of the beat of this song, but the message is truth. Trip talks about how he used to be a “robot,” sitting under the commands of his flesh and what man is naturally. But once He became a Christian, his life was changed. He saw his heart had once been subject to the ways of the world, but it had been changed to be submissive to the Lord and “freed…up to follow” God’s commands.

It makes me think of Romans 8:2-6 — “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of the sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

TRUTH: Once we have been set free from control of the flesh by Christ’s death on the cross, and the imputation of His righteousness on us cleanses us from sin’s control, we can follow God’s commands. We’ve got a new Master, and we follow Him alone. We want the good life till it’s gone.

3. I’m Good feat. Lecrae

“I know that I’ma suffer, that’ll only make me tougher. Death is just a doorway to take me to my faithful lover. The lover of my soul’s with me, you can shake a brother. But you’ll never knock me down or take me under, bring the thunder. Let the storms come behind us and hurt us. They can’t take our Lord from us, we got us a verdict. Not guilty. He’s with us and He stays present. He never leaves me, He even gives me stage presence.” – Trip Lee

Great video, by the way. This video really puts the entire song into perspective. It really hits hard on persecution.

Ever read 1 Peter? It was written by the disciple Peter to a group of scattered exiles from Rome who were kicked out of the city when the emperor Nero blamed them for the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64. The group was undergoing intense persecution. Peter encourages them with verses like this — “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5). Despite being under intense persecution, those Christians had a great reward to look forward to. Romans 8:1 says we have no condemnation if we’re in Jesus Christ. Death is gain for the Christian (Philippians 1:21) because we get to see Jesus.

“Partner, you know I’m good to go. Pressure creates diamonds and fire refines the gold. Ain’t nothing on this planet that’s satisfying my soul. I’m living for tomorrow, today is out of control.” – Lecrae

1 Peter 1:6-7, following that awesome bit of verses 3-5, says, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” As you see in those verses, we go through trials and tribulations, which may include persecution for our faith, but it’s to make us stronger. And we go through it because nothing on this earth will satisfy us.

TRUTH: We’re good because we have a place in heaven if we trust Christ with our life. No matter what persecution we go through, any earthly thing we lose is worth losing. We know where our eternal resting place is. That’s the good life.

4. War

“This is war, like you ain’t seen. This winter’s long, it’s cold and mean.” – Dustin Kensrue.

“Entombed souls everywhere, dead bodies rottin’. Big glocks poppin’, bodies still droppin’. But I ain’t gonna cry though, ’cause death’ll get swallowed. The Father sent His Son, and the troops gonna follow.” – Trip Lee

Life is spiritual warfare. And this song speaks to it. Life (God) and death (Satan) are in a continual battle over the earth and its inhabitants. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Consider Tedashii’s “Make War.” In the beginning, it has a sample of John Piper — “I hear so many Christians murmuring about their imperfections and their failures and their addictions and their shortcomings, and I see so little war! Murmur, murmur, murmur, why am I this way? MAKE WAR!” Tedashii then goes into a diatribe against Christians who don’t fight their sin.

In this song, I think Trip’s simply saying – there’s spiritual war in the world. Life is fighting against death. But because Christ conquered death, life will win, God will win.

The song samples Dustin Kensrue’s “This is War,” the official music video of which is above.

TRUTH: Check Romans 5:18-21 — “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

5. Fallin feat. J. Paul

“Feeling like throwing in the towel, the guilt is kicking in. Sometimes I climb to heights, but I’m at my lowest sin, cloaked in deception and overdosing on potent sin…now I’m doubled over with my face on my knees, and decide it’s where I want to be. There I go again, I’m fallin.” – Trip Lee

“Face to the pavement, once again faced with the same sin. I don’t think I’mma make it, don’t know how much longer I can take this. So I’m caught up in this sin, I wonder if I’ll see Your face again. Fallin’, fallin’, fallin’, there I go.” – J. Paul

I love this song because it talks about the process Trip goes through once he’s committed a sin. He talks about how sin calls out his name and entices him to join.

I think Romans 7, the entire chapter, is good background Scripture of what Trip’s trying to say here. Paul writes in verses 18-20 — “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”

When we reach that stage in our week or our day, it can be very easy to wonder if God really does love us, or if He really will pick us up from the sin we find ourselves in.

Everytime I fall He go’n pick me up. The Lord is my shepherd, homie, He go’n pick me up. I fell into the trap again, but He go’n pick me up, remind me of His promises, in Him I put my trust.” – Trip Lee

“So I gotta face this, but I know there’s nothing that He can’t fix. Looking to the cross where they placed Him, ’cause I know His grace is amazing. He’s covered all my sin, it’s gone, never to be seen again. So we’re callin’, callin’, callin’, out to you.” – J. Paul

The amazing part of this is that God’s grace is amazing. Romans 7:24-25 — “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Also, Romans 8:38-39 — “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

TRUTH: That’s one of God’s awesome promises, that He will never leave us nor forsake us, that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Despite our sinfulness, if we are God’s children, He will always love us.

Check back soon for Part 2, covering the songs “iLove,” “Know Me,” “One Sixteen feat. Andy Mineo and KB,” “Heart Problem” and “Take Me There feat. Jimmy Needham.”

Putting the Crucifixion in Perspective

I had a friend tell me once that she struggled watching The Passion of the Christ as put in Christian worship artist Matt Papa’s music video for his song “It Is Finished.”

To be honest, I didn’t disagree with her. It’s violent, bloody and uncomfortable.

The truth of the matter is, the death and suffering of Jesus Christ is something that should shock us and should inspire us to do more for the kingdom of the Lord.

But our culture, including the Christian culture, likes to play it safe. We want to ignore the bloody, the bold and the outrageous because our society only wants that around election time.

Let’s be honest, we shy away from pain, we shy away from wanting to be broken or hurt or in any kind of emotional or physical pain. It’s difficult for us to handle. It requires humility because we first have to admit that we have been knocked down from the high pedestal that we place ourselves on, whether we intend to or not.

But consider this: Christ suffered pain unlike any human in history.

According to the historical definition of crucifixion, the victims were nailed to the cross at their wrists and at their feet. The nails were placed into the wrists in a position in which they would cause a lot of nerve pain. The nerves being hit would produce bolts of pain in both arms, which would be out-stretched but not taut in place. The victims would hang on their wrists. The same thing happened at the feet, the nails hitting nerves that would set off an enormous amount of pain.

But probably the most excruciating (Latin “excruciatus,” or “out of the cross”) part of death by crucifixion was how it affected one’s breathing. The way one normally breathed would be thrown into limbo by the form the body took while on the cross. Because one would more or less “sag,” the body was not in a position to breathe properly. When the victim would try to lift himself up to breathe properly, the pain of the nails on the hands and the feet would be agonizing and eventually lead to asphyxia. Plus, the scourged back of the victim would scrape painfully against the wood of the cross.

This is not by any stretch of the imagination a pretty picture to the human eye. In fact, it’s just a piece of the full, painful truth. He also suffered under the burden of sin, a burden that would take a whole other article to write about. Just trust Scripture in that it was a huge burden.

But to the eye of the Christian, it should be the most stunning, beautiful image to behold.

Jesus’ death on the cross did many things for us.

First, it showed us a picture of ultimate suffering. As has been described, crucifixion was painful. Not something that anybody would want to go through.

Second, it allowed us to see a picture of humility. Philippians 2:6-8 says, “(Jesus) who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Paul implies that dying on a cross is a perfect example of humility.

Third, probably the greatest thing it did, was the removal of the power of sin over us. It eliminated the barrier between God and man, it allowed us to have grace through faith alone. As Papa sings in “It Is Finished,” “the keys of the kingdom were placed into hands of children and priests, and of fishers of men.” We have access to the kingdom of God because Christ said, “It is finished.”

The veil of the temple was torn. Luke 23:45-46 records that “the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.” By the way, that’s not a normal curtain. It was protecting the Holy of Holies, the place on earth were the presence of God dwelt in Jerusalem. Matthew 27:51 says the curtain was torn “from top to bottom.” No man could do that. It was a heavy curtain.

Through Jesus’ death on the cross, we are able to pray, able to receive the Holy Spirit, able to spend time just meditating in the presence of God. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, we can receive salvation, justification, sanctification, glorification. It is the most central event in the history of the world, and it is the reason for our existence.

As has been said, the crucifixion of Jesus is bloody, uncomfortable and disgusting. The Passion displays it very well. Director Mel Gibson was criticized for the overly violent portrayal. In an interview with Diane Sawyer, Gibson said this:

I wanted it to be shocking; and I wanted it to be extreme … So that they see the enormity – the enormity of that sacrifice; to see that someone could endure that and still come back with love and forgiveness, even through extreme pain and suffering and ridicule. The actual crucifixion was more violent than what was shown on the film, but I thought no one would get anything out of it.

Gibson’s record post-Passion has not exactly been spotless, but he makes a great point. Christ suffered all of that at the hands of man, yet he chose to not only forgive them, but love them.

That’s why the crucifixion is important. That’s why we should be more than okay with the blood and violence. It’s the pain we should be taking seriously because it allows us to feel no pain when we reach eternity.

The Most Beautiful Marriage…But The Bride Cheats

One of the best metaphors in the Bible, I think, is the metaphor that Christ and the church are married like a husband and a wife, respectively.

It’s found in Ephesians 5:22-25 and 32.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

Paul’s my homeboy. I want a t-shirt that says that. But that’s beyond the point. The Holy Spirit’s inspiration in this passage is incredible because we can take so much from this. And it’s something that I’ve been contemplating and meditating on a lot today. I’ll try to take this one at a time.

Christ is our husband, as the church. The imagery is incredible. You think about a perfect husband: he’s faithful, he’s loving, he’s serving, he’s sacrificial. That’s how I define a perfect husband because Christ is the perfect picture of a husband and Christ is all those things. The crazy thing is…

We are the most unfaithful of brides. This is put best in Derek Webb’s song “Wedding Dress,” which I posted about a week ago. He sings, “So could you love this bastard child? Though I don’t trust You to provide, with one hand in a pot of gold, and the other in your side. ‘Cause I am so easily satisfied by the call of lovers less wild, that I would take a little cash over Your very flesh and blood.” What a charge made against Christians, a charge that landed Webb in some hot water. But I stand behind it because it’s so true. The fact that we walk around as perpetual whores is convicting. We are constantly, through our sin in word, thought and deed, betraying the love that Christ has for us.

But He loves us anyways because HE IS JEALOUS. A couple lines in songs hit the nail on the head here. The popular worship song “How He Loves” starts, “He is jealous for me.” “Wedding Dress” has a line that goes: “Because money cannot buy a husband’s jealous eyes when you have knowingly deceived his wife.” That particular line has been hitting me upside the head today. God is SO JEALOUS for us that nothing Satan does can take away His love for us. Christ the ultimate jealous husband. And it’s beautiful.

It’s the most beautiful wedding. It’s the most beautiful wedding when a person becomes a Christian. There’s Jesus, the husband. He is loving and sacrificial. He gave His life so that us, the bride could have life in Him. And then there’s us, the bride, the selfish, self-seeking person that Christ loves unconditionally when we submit ourselves to Him. It’s such a beautiful picture because it’s forgiveness and love! Two of the greatest things in the history of the world!

Just some thoughts on what God’s been revealing to me. There’s so much more to this but blog posts need to be relatively short.

Dio ti protegga,

Zach

The Perversion of Manhood, Part 1

The one thing that I am super passionate about in life is Jesus Christ.

Below that, and right below that, is seeing young men, men in general actually, become on fire for Christ and treat women with respect, bring home the bacon and work their tails off to provide for their families and glorify God.

I’m not married yet. I haven’t graduated college. Regardless, I’m angered by the fact that I fail at being a godly man. In so many areas, I fall short of treating girls with respect and bettering myself to glorify Christ in all of my actions.

Also, I’m angered by the way I see other “men” treat women these days. For instance, a couple weeks ago, I was walking out of my dorm and looked over to the dining hall which sits right next to where I live. I saw a guy and a girl headed towards the door. The guy opened the door, and I was thinking, “Yes! Chivalry is alive.” However, this did not actually happen. The guy stepped (IN FRONT OF THE GIRL) in the building and did not even hold the door open for the young lady behind him.

This makes me mad.

But it’s what our culture teaches us.

I was listening to a Jesse McCartney song called “Leavin’.” I had heard it before, but today I started actually thinking about it.

So let’s talk about how classy Mr. McCartney is in this song. And how self-absorbed he really is.

Hey baby girl, I’ve been watching you all day. Man, that thing you got behind you is amazing. Make me want to take you out and make it rain. I know you’ve got a man, but this is what you should say.

The first verse. So he’s been watching her, and he thinks her rear end is “amazing.” That’s the first thing he says about this girl. Again, the definition of classy. I mean, that would make me fall over him if I were a girl…right?

Anyways, so he then says he wants to go spend money on her, EVEN THOUGH she has a man already, and he wants her to tell her man that she’s leavin’. And if you listen to the chorus, you hear this:

Why don’t you tell him that I’m leavin’? Never to come back again. You found somebody who does it better than he can. No more making you cry, no more them gray skies, girl we flyin’ on the G5, G5. And we’re leavin’, never to come back again. So call your shawty and tell him you found a new man. The one who’s so so fly, the one that keep you high, have you singing all night night night.

So he wants the girl to dump what she already has and go with Jesse. Okay, fair enough. Can’t say I’ve never wanted that before. But I don’t know if it sends off the right message when he sings that he’s “so so fly” and that he will keep her “high” and “singing all night.”

I mean, I don’t know exactly what that means, but…

That’s really the majority of the song. He sings another verse, but it’s rather unforgettable.

Another song is the old (read 2009) pop hit “Right Round” by Flo Rida featuring Ke-dollar sign-ha. What names.

I don’t know where I should begin with this song. Basically, he’s spending money on strippers and dancers.

Classy.

This is part 1 of a series, so I’m going to stop here before I keep going. The main message I hope you got out of this post is:

Our culture teaches males to seek getting pleasure from women however they deem necessary. It is easily relevant in the music industry. This is bogus ideology. It’s stupid.

Check back soon for Part 2.

I Am a Whore, I Do Confess

Christian musician Derek Webb got in a bit of hot water in the Christian music community in 2003 when he released his album She Must and Shall Go Free. The song “Wedding Dress” included the uses of the word “whore” and “bastard” in these contexts:

“I am a whore, I do confess, but I put You on like a wedding dress and I run down the aisle, I run down the aisle.”

“So could You love this bastard child, though I don’t trust You to provide?”

Listen to the song. This version from RELEVANT Magazine’s podcast is my favorite because we can see and hear the raw emotion behind a live version of the song. This recording is on replay on my iTunes and iPod almost every day recently.

When Did Love Become Unmoving? When Did Love Become Unconsuming?

Part of being a Christian is dying to yourself. Such a common phrase for sure. Romans 6:8 says, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” We are supposed to die to our selfish desires and follow Christ solely.

Sidewalk Prophets’ song “You Can Have Me” has been on repeat on my iPod for the last day. The lines just hammer home in my heart and in my head. The vocalist claims, “Forgetting what the world has told me, Father of love, You can have me.”

The wonderful thing I want to say about this is solely that Jesus Christ died for us and, if we come to Him submissive, He will give us forgiveness. There are many places in Scripture where this is evident, but I’m going to look at Isaiah 6:1-7.

1In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

4And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

6Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.7And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

This passage could be dissected so many ways, but there’s really one thing I want to hit on, and it’s what God is speaking to me about today.

Verses 6 and 7 tell of how an angel goes to Isaiah the prophet and touches his mouth with a piece of coal. And then the angel says, “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

By the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we are able to go before the Father, proclaim our brokenness and have our sin atoned for. It’s such an awesome thing to contemplate, an awesome thing to behold. We need to daily be shaken by that.

We need to be shaken by the love that God has for us. If the love of God becomes unmoving, what are we doing? If the love of God does not consume us, how are we living our lives? It sure is a reality check to see how much the love of God is changing us on a daily basis.

God’s love won over Isaiah’s sin and depravity. If we have come to God humbly seeking forgiveness, His love will win over our sin and depravity. ONLY if we come to Him repentant and humbled.

Even more amazing is the fact that God loves us despite our depravity.  Another Sidewalk Prophets’ song takes care of that for me.

Be changed for Christ. Don’t let His love pass you by without being changed by it.

God bless,

ZH

 

 

 

 

 

Make War

“I make war, ’cause sin never sleeps, it’s got me in a trance, you can see it in my dreams. I make war, I beat my flesh to the death, every breath, like I beat my chest. I make war, sun up, I make war, sun down, I make war, against lust, I make war, against pride, I make war, against me, ’till I die.” – Tedashii, “Make War” featuring Flame

Making war against sin has been the main focus or theme of Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters’ camp this summer. There are t-shirts that we sell at the Snack Shack with the words “MAKE WAR” and an outline of a gun on the front and a quote on the back that goes like this:

Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.

The quote, from 17th century theologian John Owen, has really challenged me this summer. Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.

There’s two parts to this quote, and I kinda want to look at both of them individually. Ok, I want to, not kinda want to.

Let’s take the first part: BE KILLING SIN. Sin is anything that goes against God. Selfishness, murder, lying, cheating, stealing, sex before marriage, cursing, drinking to drunkenness, et cetera. Anything that’s against God’s law is against God. And it drags us away from God.

We have to kill those things in our lives. It sounds like it would be very simple, but we are deceived if we think so.

I can speak from experience about a sin that really plagued me for a couple weeks during my freshmen year of high school. I remember one day just yelling, “Get off of me (fill in the blank)!” on the basketball court. It was the beginning of me going on a cussing streak for a couple weeks. The reason: pure selfishness. I wanted people to like me and get along with me and think I was cool.

Foolishness on two parts. First, that wasn’t going to make people like me. Second, it was displeasing to the one true holy God.

After about two weeks, I cut it out. I’ve let a word loose every now and then, very rarely. It was a sin that plagued me, and I made war on it. Through the grace of God and discipline, that cussing problem was gone.

Fighting sin also really involves being in the Word, as it is our sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). By memorizing Scripture and first applying it to situations and second using it to stay away from giving in to temptation, we are more equipped to fight sin.

Second part of the quote: OR SIN WILL BE KILLING YOU. Sin has a way of taking us down into the depths of the darkest part of our mind and soul.

1 Peter 2:11 says:

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

Simply, the passions of our flesh, which is sin, are waging war against us. Daily it’s fighting. And daily we lose. We either fight to the end and fall or retreat and let sin conquer us.

It takes someone really pursuing holiness and sanctification, spending time seriously studying the Word of God and actively disciplining themselves to fight sin.

Psalm 73:25-26 says:

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart my fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

We’re not always going to succeed in defeating sin. We are infirm, depraved men living in a twisted world. We will fall. It’s what we do after we fall that matters. It’s how we represent Christ that matters. And to do that, we need to rely on Christ’s strength to be the well we draw from.

That Tedashii song that I quoted at the beginning of this post has been on my mind a lot the past couple of days. It reminds me how little I’m making war on sin in my own life. Every time I hear it and sing along (or rap along, whatever you want to call it, it’s a rap song), I am constantly reminded that I need to be following my own rapping/singing/whatever and make war on the sin in my life. It’s that constant reminder and that conviction that keeps me humble and reminds me of my need for a Savior.

And that’s what all of life is for. A constant reminder of our need for God and our call to serve Him.

Make war.

The Heart of the Contrite

“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” – Isaiah 57:15 (ESV)

I was reading John Piper’s Desiring God this morning and was in a chapter about worship. He wrote in that chapter:

…because we are all sinners, there is in our reverence a holy dread of God’s righteous power. “The Lord of hosts, him you shall regard as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (Isaiah 8:13). “I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you” (Psalm 5:7).

But this dread is not a paralyzing fright full of resentment against God’s absolute authority. It finds release in brokenness and contrition and grief for our ungodliness: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). (Desiring God, 86)

Then the Isaiah 57 verse popped up. Piper had quoted a part of it earlier and I had looked up the verse and been encouraged. Then he quoted the entire thing. Obviously this is an important verse, one that I needed to look at further.

My favorite part of the verse is “to revive the heart of the contrite.” The heart of the contrite is something the Lord will revive. In my Bible’s commentary, John MacArthur wrote, “After all the years of Israel’s sin and backsliding, and of Israel’s punishment, God’s grace will prevail and spiritual healing and revelation will come.”

The only way that our heart and mind can be revived after a pattern of sin and disobedience is for us to be genuinely contrite. The Hebrew word used for “contrite” is “daka’.” Other uses of the word in the Old Testament include “crushed” (Job 5:4, 6:9, 22:9). Possibly my favorite use of the word is Isaiah 53:5 – “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”

Jesus was “crushed for our iniquities.” His body was destroyed, His emotions were crumbling and His will was most assuredly shaken. Otherwise He would never have asked His Father to “let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39). He was broken.

When we sin, we must be broken. We must honestly feel like a train has run over us spiritually and emotionally for God to revive us. Psalm 51:17, as Piper quoted earlier, says, “A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” We must be “broken and contrite and trusting in the Christ,” as Lecrae said in his song “Desperate.”

To do it honestly? We need to have the Holy Spirit working inside of us to feel that way. Our sinful flesh will not respond negatively to sin that “satisfies” or “pleasures” us, for “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

That same verse tells us that “the spirit is willing.” The Greek word for “willing” (which is prothymos) is only used in this verse, in the same story in Mark 14:38 and in Romans 1:15 where Paul tells the Romans that he is “eager to preach the Gospel” to those that are in Rome. Our spirit must be shaped by God’s will and be broken by the sin in our life.

Contrition is a conscious decision of our mind to feel bad or convicted about something, but our minds must be shaped by the Holy Spirit to truly feel it about our sin. In those circumstances, God will “revive the heart of the contrite.”

Working here at Snowbird this summer has taught be a lot about contrition. I’ve been broken about so much in my life that it gets to the point where I almost live in a state of contrition. While conviction and contrition are great things and necessary to be revived by God, we need to be accepting of His grace and salvation because we serve a loving and holy God who wants to use us. Even though we struggle with sin and go through numerous trials, they’re made to strengthen our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7, James 1:2-4) and encourage us to love him more.

God bless.

A Ransomed Soul.