Why the Beauty of Jesus is My Life Message

A few years ago, someone asked me what my “life message” is. I don’t remember what my answer was at the time, but having taken some time to think about it, I think I know. My life message is the beauty of Jesus.

As I put it on my teaching resources page:

I want people to see the supremacy of the beauty of Jesus in a way that makes their hearts come alive with love for Him and catches them up into the Story of what He’s doing in our generation.

First, here’s what I mean by the beauty of Jesus. The Bible repeatedly refers to this idea, and here are a taste of my favourite references:

“One thing I have desired of the LORD…to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD…” (Psalm 27:4)

“You are fairer than the sons of men…” (Psalm 45:2)

“My beloved is white [radiant, ESV] and ruddy, chief among ten thousand…” (Song of Songs 5:10)

“Your eyes will see the king in his beauty…” (Isaiah 33:17)

The beauty of Jesus is mostly the beauty–the excellence–of His personality. I used to think of Jesus’ beauty as only the visual aspects of light and glory described in passages such as Revelation 4 and 5. While those are certainly a part of Jesus’ beauty, the full truth is so much deeper than that. Jesus is beautiful because of who He is. Every single facet of His character is gloriously beautiful. His love, joy, playfulness, fierceness, humility, honesty, cleverness, justice, dedication, wisdom, faithfulness, and a thousand other traits are what make Him stunning. As mere humans, we can never be all of these things as fully as we wish we could be, and no person in our lives could fulfill all of these needs for us, but Jesus possesses all of these characteristics to their fullest possible extreme, all at once!

I’m going to say that the beauty of Jesus draws us into four things: 1) Worship, 2) Relationship, 3) Discipleship, and 4) Partnership.

1. Worship

“Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” (Psalm 29:2)

Jesus’ beauty is directly tied to His holiness, which is His complete OTHERness. Part of what this means is that His every characteristic is higher and more pure and perfect than its earthly equivalent.

Jesus is beautiful in every single facet of his character, in His love and mercy as well as His wrath and justice. Think about that. Every justice system on earth is guaranteed to screw up. Human justice will always be imperfect, no matter how hard we try to refine the system, because no man can really see into the heart of another. But Jesus’ justice is completely perfect. Every single time.

That moves me to awe. Everything He is and does is absolute perfection, and not just harsh, to-the-standard perfection, like a starched white cleanroom. No, this is vibrant, colourful perfection, like an overwhelming symphony of music and movement and colour in wild extravagance and perfect harmony. There is a fullness and a richness to His personality that is completely unique and stunning.

How can I not give myself over in awe and worship before such a God?

2. Relationship

My favourite quote about the beauty of Jesus is from the book Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge:

We all know brilliant minds who could do with a touch of humility, humble folk who ought to stand up for themselves, driven types who need to lighten up, jokesters who should grow up, and gracious souls who really ought to get good and mad once in a while…

But imagine if you found it all in on person—superb before a jury, terrific taste in movies, ready at the drop of a hat for a riot of a vacation, and also able to handle your deepest, darkest secrets. Wouldn’t you want that person to be your friend?!…

He is not glistening white marble. He is the playfulness of creation, scandal and utter goodness, the generosity of the ocean and the ferocity of a thunderstorm; he is cunning as a snake and gentle as a whisper; the gladness of sunshine and the humility of a thirty-mile walk by foot on a dirt road. Reclining at a meal, laughing with friends, and then going to the cross.

This is what we mean when we say Jesus is beautiful. (Beautiful Outlaw, page 136-137)

Isn’t that a Person you want to know?

This is someone I would never get tired of spending time with. This is someone I would never get bored of discovering more about. He is fun, and fascinating, and brilliant. He’s infinitely gentle and wise and also knows how to kick my butt when I need it.

And He wants to know me. He deeply, achingly desires relationship with me. Knowing who He is, knowing how perfect and amazing His love is, how could I not fall in love in return?

3. Discipleship

“What a beautiful example You are to me, Jesus”
Caleb Andrews, “Beautiful Example” [click for youtube]

The more I see of the beauty of Jesus’ character, the more I want to be like Him. Just being told to do things doesn’t change my heart. Moralism isn’t enough. My heart changes when I become captivated by the beauty of those charactersistics in Him.

Growing up, I always knew that being humble was a good thing, but my attempts to “be more humble” were almost completely without vision until I caught sight of the remarkable humility of Jesus… how He came so low to take the form of a servant and become obedient to the point of death (Philippians 2:6-11), and even when He comes back as a warrior He’s coming to fight for truth, meekness, and righteousness (Psalm 45:4).

There’s a principle in Scripture often stated as “what we behold is what we become,” taken from 1 John 3:2, which says “when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see him as He is.” That’s true of our physical bodies on the day of His return, and it’s also true to a lesser degree of our hearts now. The more clearly we see Jesus, the more we are empowered to become like Him–and in fact, the more we want to become like Him.

4. Partnership

Part of being friends with Jesus is caring about what He cares about and doing what we see Him doing. We want Him to have the dreams of His heart come to pass, and we want to be part of making those things happen, because of love. Falling in love with Jesus drives everything else I do in my life. Intercession, discipleship, evangelism, social justice–they’re all about Him. I want Him to have what He so deeply desires, because I know that He is beautiful and worthy, and because I know the things He wants are beautiful and worthy. His desires are perfectly pure and holy. The more clearly I see His sense of justice and fall in love with that quality in Him, the more I want to see justice done in the earth–because I have connected with the beauty of true justice in the heart of Jesus.

 

There is truly no one like Jesus. He really is “fairer than the sons of men” and “chief among ten thousand.” He is worthy of all of our worship and all of our trust and all of our lives lived completely for His glory– because the extravagant beauty of His character actually deserves such an extravagant response.

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3 Truths That Keep Me Coming Back to the Prayer Room

…And None of Them Are Actually About Me.

I’m five years into this prayer room lifestyle now. And to be honest, every day is not sunshine and rainbows and oceans of glory. Motivation is sorely lacking sometimes. So when I’m not feeling it, here are the core truths that keep me coming back. (You’ll notice that none of them are really about me. That’s because the house of prayer is primarily something GOD established for GOD, and any blessing I get is just a bonus.)

1. Jesus is worthy.

No matter how I feel, Jesus is still the name above every other name and the angels are still singing “Holy, holy, holy… Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” (Revelation 4:8, 5:12). I actually believe that the greatest injustice in the earth is that Jesus does not get the worship that He is due from every heart worldwide. I can’t change that singlehandedly overnight, but I can do my best to make sure He gets everything He deserves from my life.

2. Jesus wants to talk to me more than I want to talk to Him.

I am so dull of heart sometimes. Like, a lot of times. My flesh can so easily convince me on that I’m okay without having a real conversation with God that day. That’s probably the biggest lie my flesh tells me: “You’re fine. It’s okay. It doesn’t matter.” And so I zone out in the prayer room, or choose to endlessly scroll through Facebook at home. But the truth is that Jesus wants to talk to me way more than I want to talk to Him. Some days the only thing that can get me out of bed to go to the prayer room is the fact that Jesus says “Let Me see your face, let Me hear your voice.” (Song of Solomon 2:14) He really wants to talk with me, and He misses that connection time when I’m not there. I may feel like I’m fine if I miss out for a day, but how dare I deprive Jesus of something He so earnestly desires.

3. This is part of a big, big story.

The house of prayer — corporate, sustained gatherings specifically focussed on worship and intercession, especially 24/7 — has been on God’s heart for a long, long time, to the point that the first thing He did in establishing a nation for himself was to establish the house of prayer (the tabernacle of Moses). David took this idea even further in his tabernacle model, and God promised to reestablish David’s tabernacle in the final generation. (Amos 9:11) The Church will be a praying, singing, lovesick Bride that functions as a house of prayer and partners with God to push back the darkness, bring forth revival, and usher in the return of Jesus. My getting out of bed to go to the prayer room is literally part of God’s strategy to prepare the earth for the second coming. It doesn’t get much more epic than that.

Awakening the Dawn at 5:00 am

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Every Saturday night after service as I’m getting into bed at about 11:00 pm, I set my alarm for 3:45 am. The goal is to be out the door by 4:25, backpack and tea (earl grey, hot) in hand. It takes me about five minutes to drive to my destination. I rarely see more than three or four cars on the road. The Starbucks I pass isn’t even open that early.

But I have a fire to start.

The Prayer Room is open 18 hours a day, 5:00 am to 11:00 pm, every day, no matter what. Literally. We’ve NEVER missed a day since we started 11 years ago, and only two or three times have we ever missed so much as a single minute.

Every Sunday I have the privilege of serving as the morning section leader and opening The Prayer Room at 5:00 am with (usually) two other people. Sometimes it’s just me and my worship leader. He always starts playing his guitar a minute or two before 5:00, so that when the clock shows those zeroes the fire is already on the altar. At 5:00, I pray an opening prayer over the room, which usually goes something like this:

“Good morning, Jesus. We love You. Thank You for another day we get to sing love songs to You for 18 hours straight. We ask that Your presence would fill this place today, that You would speak and move however You want… You are so, so worthy of all of this and more.”

And then I get to sit and pace and sing and pray in that room for the next six hours (I do spend a bit of that time in the lobby as I’m ushering) overseeing the fire on the altar until 11:00 when the afternoon section leader takes over.

5:00 am prayer meeting this morning

5:00 am prayer meeting this morning

I am very much not a morning person. When I have no schedule at all, I’m likely to be awake 10:00 am to 2:00 am every day. I knew this section leader assignment was going to be a stretch for me. But even though it’s dang early, there’s something really, really precious about giving God the sacrifice of love songs at dawn.

Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!
Psalm 57:8

O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.
Psalm 5:3

I believe dawn is a really special time to God. Even though nightime is also beautiful and holy, there’s something truly remarkable about the freshness of a new day.

The light breaking over the horizon, chasing away the shadows.

The fragrance of dew on the grass.

The quietness of a world just waking up.

His mercies are new every morning. (Lam 3:22-23)

Scripture likes to use the image of dawn to describe Jesus’ return. Revelation twice calls Jesus the “Morning Star”. (Rev 2:28, 22:16) The same phrase is in 2 Peter 1:19, where Peter instructs the church to stay faithful to the prophecies of Scripture “until the day dawns and the morning star shines in your hearts.” The Old Testament, too, is filled with prophecies of God delivering Jerusalem and filling her with the light of His glory at dawn. (Psalm 46:5, Isaiah 58:8, Isaiah 60:1)

Will Jesus literally appear in the sky one day just as the sun peeks over the Mount of Olives on the eastern horizon in Jerusalem? I don’t know… but knowing His penchant for fulfilling things more literally than we expect, maybe! At the very least, it’s going to be the darkest hour of human history, and Jesus’ sudden return to make all things new will feel very much like morning light breaking through the black of night.

And in the midst of these prophecies, we have prophecies of songs of worship breaking out with the dawn. In the midst of a dramatic prophecy of end-time judgment on the whole earth, Isaiah prophesies:

Therefore glorify the Lord in the dawning light…
From the ends of the earth we have heard songs:
“Glory to the righteous!”
Isaiah 24:15-16a NKJV

And to bring it full circle, we come back to Psalm 57:8 (and identical phrasing in Psalm 108:2):

Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!
Psalm 57:8

When I think of my 5:00 am prayer meetings, I think of the preciousness of giving Jesus that morning offering of love, that He is being glorified at the very beginning of the day. But I also think of the big picture of “awakening the dawn” of His appearing. Our worship is actually paving the way for His coming. 2 Peter 2:12 says we can “hasten the coming of the day” of His return, and every sleepy little 5:00 am prayer is filling up the bowls of incense before His throne. One day, the prayers of the Bride will reach a crescendo, and everything will be in place for Him to split the sky and stand on earth again.

There will come a day when the dawn will break over the horizon; just when it looks like things couldn’t get darker, the Morning Star will appear to make all things new.

As Aslan himself says it,

“The dream is ended: this is the morning.”
(C. S. Lewis, “The Last Battle.”)

Come, Lord Jesus.

 

The Earth is the Lord’s, and the King of Glory is Set on Zion.

Worship leading today. Photo: Brad Stroup

I’m here in Texas! I arrived Wednesday night and have spent the past couple days getting settled in. Today, I was asked to come help fill in for a few hours at The Prayer Room, and so I ushered the 3-5pm and led worship for the 5-7pm.

While I was ushering, God put a verse fragment on my heart: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” I looked it up and found it in Psalm 24. I was familiar with the last stanza of this Psalm but forgot how it started.screenshot_20170120-235916

.   The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,
.        the world and those who dwell therein…
.   Lift up your heads, O gates!
.        And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
.        that the King of glory may come in.
.   Who is this King of glory?
.        The Lord, strong and mighty,
.        the Lord, mighty in battle!
.             Psalm 24:1, 7-8

This was exactly what my heart needed to hear today, on inauguration day of all days. I had spent some time in the morning sharing some thoughts on Facebook regarding President Trump, but on the whole I think praying through this passage today was far more productive.

Whenever I worship lead, I always take around 15 minutes in the middle of my set to sing through a passage and spontaneously sing some devotional thoughts on it. This is a normal part of the harp and bowl model that I learned at IHOPKC and which we use at The Prayer Room. Today, I felt God leading me to sing these verses from Psalm 24.

I had a few cross-references in mind as backdrop, especially Colossians 1:15-18:

[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together… He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
Colossians 1:15-18

God owns everything. He created everything. He is sovereign over everything. Everything exists FOR Him, for His glory. He will be preeminent – in first place, front and centre, completely.

In one sense, this is already true; right now, heaven is His throne and earth is His footstool, and He is absolutely sovereign. But there is coming a Day when His throne will come to Earth–to the city of Jerusalem, to be precise–and He will be fully, actively engaged in personally ruling the nations in perfect righteousness and justice.

The gates and “ancient doors” of Jerusalem will open and the King of Glory will ride in on a white horse and begin to reign like never before.

I couldn’t help also singing a bit of Psalm 2. I only sang a couple of phrases from it, but this was the whole context I had in mind:

.   Why do the nations rage
.        and the peoples plot in vain?
.   The kings of the earth set themselves,
.        and the rulers take counsel together,
.        against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
.   “Let us burst their bonds apart
.        and cast away their cords from us.”
.   He who sits in the heavens laughs;
.        the Lord holds them in derision.
.   Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
.        and terrify them in his fury, saying,
.   “As for me, I have set my King
.        on Zion, my holy hill.”
.   I will tell of the decree:
.   The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
.        today I have begotten you.
.   Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
.        and the ends of the earth your possession.
.   You shall break them with a rod of iron
.        and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
.             Psalm 2:1-9

As I sang, “You have set the King on Zion, You have set the King on Zion, He will reign” over and over, I could feel the prophetic declaration going out into the atmosphere. No matter how unrighteous the ruler–no matter how the nations rage–God’s answer is to set Jesus as the King of Glory in Jerusalem. The nations belong to Him. He won’t tolerate injustice forever. Even as we fight to advance to Kingdom inch by inch now, it will one day be absolutely complete and Jesus will rule in perfect righteousness on earth forever. I believe that Day is right around the corner.

I don’t think this means God says, “Oh well, I’ll fix it all eventually, guess it can all just fall to pieces in the meantime.” Oh no! If a man is engaged to be married, he’s not going to just ignore his bride until the wedding day. What’s in his heart for that day very much affects how he treats her on this day. When I get frustrated with the state of our world and feel tempted to say, “God, are you seeing this? Do something!” He would say, “Don’t ever think I don’t care. I have far more zeal for righteousness than you do. I am doing something in response to the prayers of my people, in many ways you don’t even see, and there will be a Day when I stage the ultimate intervention. Keep the faith.”

I’m not swearing off political Facebook posts. I want to continue having these conversations online and in person; I believe keeping our government accountable is important. I don’t want to use “Jesus is still on the throne” as an excuse to sit on my butt the next four years. But on days like today when I feel overwhelmed by how far we have to go, I remember:

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.

 

He has set the King of Glory on Zion.

 

He will reign.

9 Things I’ve Learned About Partnership Development: Candid Thoughts on Support Raising

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My partnership postcard!

The past few months, I’ve been spending much of my time sending letters, postcards, and texts, making phone calls, and having meetings with people to share the story of how God called me to full-time prayer ministry at The Prayer Room DFW and the vision of 24/7 prayer. I’ve been inviting people to partner with my financially, since as a missionary I won’t have any kind of outside job. I’ve learned a lot through this process, and I’d like to share some of these insights with you, for the sake of encouragement and understanding.

1. People are excited about 24/7 prayer!

When intercessory missionaries approach partnership development, our primary fear is often that our calling won’t be seen as legitimate. However, to my recollection, every single person I’ve talked to has been enthralled by the concept of night and day prayer and worship. I’ve heard in many meetings, “That’s so beautiful and powerful; I’m so glad there are people doing that.” Hearts come alive to imagine Jesus being exalted without ceasing. This is astounding because even ten years ago, intercession as a missional focus was met with much more skepticism than it is today. God is stirring the hearts of His church to pray and worship as we never have before. This is not a Kansas City thing or any other group’s self-made “thing.” GOD is raising up a praying, singing generation.

2. Relationship trumps money every time.

I’ve never walked away from a meeting feeling like I wasted my time, even if the person didn’t commit to partner with me. My goal is simply to build relationship, share the vision, and extend the invitation. I want us to both walk away encouraged, reenvisioned, and more in love with Jesus. That to me is a WIN.

3. Financial partnership strengthens relationship.

A good friend of mine is raising partnership to embark on a mission trip with The World Race. Early this year, she sent me a letter, invited me to coffee, and shared her heart with me. I gave as I felt led, and since then I’ve enjoyed reading her updates, exchanging letters with her, and praying for her journey– because, in addition to the fact that I love her as a friend, I’m invested now in her ministry. I’m part of what she will go on to do. Spiritually speaking, I receive a portion of her reward. I LOVELOVELOVE it when my friends who are on a tight budget still carve out a little corner of their budget for me, because they have committed to join me in the journey. They’re not necessarily called to vocational ministry in the house of prayer, but they are choosing to be an active, ongoing partner with me in what God is doing. This is why I use the term partner rather than supporter or donor we’re all in this together, and it shows when we stand hand in hand, make our dreams— um, I mean, God strengthens church unity through financial partnership in ministry.

4. Jesus is inviting His church into His story.

I really believe that GOD is the one raising up 24/7 prayer and worship across the globe, that there will be a swelling song of worship arising that will climax in Jesus’ return to the planet. This is HIS story. I believe He wants to invite believers to join Him in that story. It’s nice when old friends support me because they like me, but it’s not about me and my little thing. It’s about the glory of JESUS filling the earth. This is His story. I’m just an ambassador. He’s the one who’s inviting people into it. This takes so much of the pressure off of me to “convince” people to partner. Like Paul said, it’s not about wise and persuasive words, but the Spirit’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:3-5) I’ve spoken to people who have told me that from the moment they first read my letter, they felt the Holy Spirit speaking to them. This is mostly on Jesus, not me.

5. Persistent follow-up is actually appreciated.

I know, it feels weird to leave voicemails and texts for days, but when I’ve finally gotten a hold of those people they’ve been so glad I didn’t give up. These are good people who love Jesus and love me– they’re not mad. They respect what I’m doing and are quite willing to get together when they’re free.

6. Partnership development often becomes ministry.

I frequently end partnership meetings by praying for the person I’m meeting with, especially if they’ve shared a prayer request. I want to keep track of that prayer request and keep lifting it up. I want these people to feel blessed and cared for by talking with me, whether or not God is asking them to partner with me. Partnership is a two way street; I want to bless them as much as they’re blessing me.

7. It’s about faithful stewardship.

This is one of the most freeing things I’ve learned about partnership: Each of us as believers has a stewardship from God. (Matthew 25:14-30) We each have different things He’s entrusted us with — ministry calling, relationships, money, etc. I need to be a faithful steward of my calling to ministry, which includes partnership development. (I wouldn’t be a very faithful servant if I just sat on my butt and waited for a silver parachute full of cash to drop down from the sky!) Similarly, the friends I’m reaching out to have a stewardship of their finances, and part of that includes sowing into the Kingdom. When I ask someone to partner with me, I’m just asking if our stewardships might overlap.

8. God provides unexpectedly.

Sometimes, the person I’ve ruled out as a potential partner will be the very person who will approach ME and ask how to give. Sometimes, the meeting I go into with low expectations will turn into a lengthy heart-to-heart with prayer and monthly partnership on top of that. Sometimes, a friend of a friend will unexpectedly write me a $1000 check. WHAT?? God provides in very unexpected ways. It’s an adventure partnering with Him to knock on every door to testify of His story and discover if He has a partnership waiting there for me.

9. Jesus is worthy of the struggle!

Partnership development isn’t easy. It can be overwhelming, intimidating, and discouraging. But Jesus is worth the battle. He is worthy of 24/7 adoration. He is worthy of me being free to respond fully to His calling without hindrance. He is worthy of the awkwardness. He is worthy of this introvert making dozens of phone calls a week. He is worthy of every hour spent writing postcards, because this is all going towards fulfilling the dream in His heart: “From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One.” (Isaiah 24:16)

 

He is faithful. He is a generous Father. Every single time He has called me somewhere, He has provided the means to make it happen. He WILL provide yet again, and He will draw His children into deeper relationship with Himself and each other along the way.

I hope reading this has been encouraging to those who are seeking to develop partnerships for missions and to those who may be called to partner with a missionary. Nearly everything I know about partnership development comes from an IHOPU class taught by Rob Parker, and his book, “The Fully Funded Missionary“. Check him out at PartnershipDevelopment.org. If you’d like to hear more about my story and the vision for 24/7 prayer, feel free to email me at caitlyn.r.lutz@gmail.com or check out the My Story and Partner With Me pages on this blog.

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

I Always Took You Where You Needed To Go

As I’m preparing for the next major transition in my life (moving to Dallas!!), I find myself looking back over some of the previous turning points in my life. As I think is common for most people, a number of the things I was expecting to happen… didn’t.

  • I planned to meet my husband at APU… nope.
  • I planned to begin an acting career after I graduated… complete 180.
  • I planned to do OTI summer 2013… plans changed.
  • I planned to stay in CA after OTI… ha.
  • I planned to meet my husband at IHOPU… that didn’t happen either [as far as I know].

That’s the thing about making plans… they don’t always turned out as, well, planned.

Enter this golden Doctor Who quote.

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The woman, Idris, (my car’s namesake) is currently housing the consciousness of the TARDIS– the Doctor’s space ship/time machine. (Yes, the ship has a consciousness… just go with it.) The Doctor takes this unique face-to-face opportunity to accuse her of being unreliable:

The Doctor: “You didn’t always take me where I wanted to go.”

Idris: “No, but I always took you where you needed to go.”

In my experience, God is like that too. He most certainly had not always taken me where I wanted to go. If I had been writing my story, quite a few things would have been different.

But if I had chosen my own path ahead of time, I would have missed out on so much that was meant to be part of my journey.

If I had married someone I met at APU, it probably wouldn’t have been someone connected to the prayer movement and I probably wouldn’t have ended up involved with IHOPKC.

If I had gone into the industry as an actor… who knows where my life would have led. Again, probably not to the prayer movement.

If I had done OTI summer 2013 instead of summer 2012, I would have met completely different people and would still be in IHOPU, if I had even decided to stay.

So many times I had my plans and desires all laid out, and God knew what was better. I knew what I wanted, but He knew what I needed.

Jesus is really good and I trust Him. He has never led me astray, and He never will.

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”
Proverbs 16:9

7 Simple Things I Learned At IHOPKC

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Every time I come home from studying at IHOPU in Kansas City, and especially now that I’ve graduated, I am frequently asked about what I’ve learned. I’ve started realising that the question sort of makes me feel a little awkward because I’m not really sure how to answer. On the one hand, my whole life has changed and I know I understand things now that I didn’t before, but on the other hand, they’re really not deep, massive, mystically profound things. Most of them are the same old simple things we’ve always known.

It’s like when you grow up hearing “Jesus loves me” and then one day you find yourself on the floor weeping caught up in the realisation that “JESUS! LOVES!! ME!!!”

I didn’t learn a new gospel. Maybe I just saw the gospel a little bit more clearly.

So here are 7 simple things I learned at IHOPKC:

1. Jesus really likes me.

Not only does Jesus love me because “God is love” and He loves everyone, but He actually enjoys me and my personality. He loves that I’m a sci-fi geek. He loves the way I dance, differently than He loves anyone else’s dance. He enjoys my sense of humour. He gets a kick out of the way I talk to Him! He thinks about me all the time. He enjoys suprising me, making me smile, and providing for me. He wants me to be with Him all the time, and He wants to share the things that are on His heart with me. There are things that He urgently cares about, and He wants me to feel the same way He does, because that’s what friends do.

2. I don’t have to be awesome for God to like me or use me.

(This is kind of an extension of #1, but it’s huge so it gets its own point.) All of the above is still true when I screw up. I may get distracted or stuborn and wander off the path pretty frequently, but I still want to follow Him and I still let Him lead me back every time. That counts. He knows my heart better than I do. To quote Mike Bickle, there’s a difference between weakness and rebellion, and weak love is still real love.

3. The Bible is good stuff.

I mean, duh, but my enjoyment of the Bible grew like crazy when I was eating it up, searching it out, praying it, and singing it in the context of prayer and worship where my only priority was to love Jesus. I fell in love with stories I’d known since kindergarten and passages I could never make sense of in high school. The Bible is fun and super interesting when you read it with the Holy Spirit.

4. Jesus is worthy of everything.

“Worthy” just means “deserving.” Jesus deserves the full love and worship of every person, and He deserves to rule the earth forever. Everything that exists is meant to be in submission to Him– not only because He’s Creator GOD, but He actually deserves it because He is the most kind, humble, just, and wise person to ever exist. He proved it on the cross. We can confidently invite Him to rule this earth and our hearts because we trust that He can do a really, really good job.

5. Worship and intercession are a big deal and they go really well together.

Worship is super important because it’s the 24/7 activity of heaven and God fully deserves it (see #4). Intercession is super important because that’s step 1 in how we partner with God to make the things that He wants to happen happen. Combined, worship and prayer support each other and help our hearts stay connected to what we’re doing– and this effect, like, quintuples when we put the Word smack dab in the middle of everything we pray and sing. Hence, the 24/7 prayer (and worship) room.

6. God really loves Israel, like, a lot.

I’m not even sure what my theology of Israel was before IHOPU. I understood some things and had other things a little mixed up, but I had certainly never wept over Jesus’ heart for His people before. Praying through passages like Zechariah 2 peirced me. Jesus REALLY, REALLY loves and is COMMITTED to the people He originally chose as His bride. He’s really, really faithful–all His promises are yes and amen–and He will fulfill every word He ever spoke.

7. Jesus is coming soon and we are part of the story.

He promised He would come, and by all indications this era of history is nearing a climax. There will be a pretty dramatic series of events leading up to Jesus standing on the earth again, and we’re not supposed to be on the sidelines or swept out of the way. Jesus wants us awake, informed, and involved in what He’s doing. That starts now, because Jesus is looking for a global Church that is fully mature and alligned with Him when He comes. A major way we grow into that is by giving ourselves wholeheartedly to prayer and worship (see #5). Another major way is through evangelism and missions. Jesus said that the gospel will be preached to all nations before the end. There are actually a number of passages that talk about 24/7 prayer and worship arising from all over the earth in the final generation of history… so worship, prayer, and missions together are HUGE elements in the story of Jesus’ return.

 

I would have agreed with these points even before IHOPU, but while I was there, spending hours nearly every day in the prayer room, they were driven much more deeply into my heart. Of course they’re profound truths, and I am so grateful that I now have conviction, passion, and personal heart experience with each of them, but they’re so simple!

I admit, in my first few months I walked around with my head spinning thinking “WHOA, I HAD NO IDEA! THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE HAVE BEEN REVEALED TO ME!”, and yeah, I was studying areas of the Bible I hadn’t before and hearing a wider range of theories on a few details, but by my senior year I realised that none of what I was learning was dramatically new revelation. Mike Bickle isn’t a prophet or a theological pioneer, and IHOPKC reads the same Bible as everyone else. (We just sometimes preach it a little more dramatically!) Besides, at the end of the day, the more intriguing and debatable theories aren’t what I cherish. It’s simple truths like these.

I found that as I gave my time and attention to prayer and worship, simple truths came alive to me. Jesus loves me, He wants me to talk to Him, and He wants me to be part of His story.

Three Reasons I Love Getting Rid of Stuff

Donation-Box

Since I’m moving to Texas in January, I’ve been trying to minimise the amount of STUFF in my life. I’ve given away dozens of bags of clothes, books, fabric, trinkets, etc, and thrown away quite a few bags as well, and I actually find it quite refreshing.

Here are three things I tell myself as I’m getting rid of stuff:

1. If it doesn’t bless me, it doesn’t belong in my home.

This statement is paraphrased from something I read in a FLYlady book of my mom’s years ago. It easily applies to the clothes I never wear and books I never plan to read, but it also helps me sort through memorabilia I kept because I felt I “should.” Of course I don’t want to get rid of everything that holds a memory! But not all memories are good ones, and I should never feel obligated to keep a thing just because it’s tied to a memory. The first time I put this principle to use was when I got rid of a soccer jersey from a year I didn’t really have fun on my team. I still remember the revelation of freedom I felt when I finally refused to be guilted into holding onto something that wasn’t blessing me!

Everything I own should “earn its keep” by adding value to my life–be that spiritual, emotional, intellectual, or practical. Even some things that once added value may eventually overstay their welcome. (There’s really no reason to stash a decade worth of birthday cards from everyone I’ve ever known!) If it doesn’t bless me, it doesn’t belong in my home.

2. I know who I am without all this stuff to remind me.

Another reason I often keep stuff is to remind myself that things happened and touched my life. It’s as if I believe that all these old show tickets, event fliers, and crew tshirts are puzzle peices that add up to who I am today, and if I get rid of them, I’ll be losing a part of myself. But guess what – those experiences are part of me. I don’t need the memorabilia to remember that they happened. I don’t need all my old character journals to remind me that I’m an actor. I don’t need all the little toys to remind me that I had a good childhood. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with saving some things, but I’m not betraying those parts of myself by letting go of the physical evidence. I think there was a time when I relied on all the evidence of my experiences to tell me who I was. I’ve grown and become so much more secure as a person, and I don’t need them anymore. I know who I am.

3. I’m more free to say “yes” when God calls me to travel.

This is the reason that has prompted my frequent donating sprees recently. I’ve moved so many times in the past six years, and every time I’ve managed to live for months or years out of just what I can fit in my car. It’s astomishing how little I “need” to live a full and happy life! When I own less stuff, I’m more free to be available and responsive to God’s call to move to Crestline, or Kansas City, or Dallas. If in the future God calls me again to move suddenly, I don’t want the amount of stuff I own to be any kind of hindrance to saying “yes.”

 

I’m far from a true minimalist, but I really do want to live unhindered by material possessions. I’ve been inspired by a number of books and blogs on the subject of minimalistic living, and if you’re looking for something to fuel your own motivations, I suggest you start with a few of the posts at Becoming Minimalist.

Don’t Waste It!

“Ten thousand Americans turn 70 every day… Billions of dollars are spent every year trying to get us to waste the last chapter of our lives on leisure. I’m spending one afternoon to plead with the rising seventy-somethings: Don’t waste it.”

John Piper, “Hilary, Bernie, Donald, and Me”

I read this article recently when it came across my Facebook newsfeed as a post from the Desiring God page. John Piper, as he frequently does, was enthusing at length about the incredible opportunity the 65+ crowd has to serve the Kingdom of God with “maximum zeal” in their retirement years. His argument is simple, and it applies to believers of every age: Why should we waste God-given opportunities for passionate, radical, sacrificial living for the Kingdom and instead settle for the cheap comforts of this world?

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with vacations, days off, and the occasional Netflix binge. But if that becomes the primary way we spend our free time, we’re in trouble.

I’d like to introduce you to my Grandpa Rey. There’s a lot I could say about what he’s meant to my family over the years, but for the sake of this blog post I’d like to focus on something very recent. This was posted on Facebook by the youth pastor at his church.

grandpa rey fb 2

Grandpa Rey’s wife, my Grandma Jean, passed away this March. Grandpa Rey had been spending nearly all his time taking care of her, but when she went home to Jesus and he suddenly had more free time, he almost immediately began serving in the youth group at his church. During the evening youth services, he sits in the back of the room and prays for the students, and afterwards many of them come to him seeking wisdom, prayer, and hugs. My grandpa loves Jesus, loves the Word, fellowships with the Holy Spirit, believes in revival, and puts it all into action by praying for and loving the people in front of him– in fact, he seeks out people to pray for and love. God is using him at age 79 to powerfully touch young people, which wouldn’t be happening if he hadn’t chosen to sow his time into the Kingdom– time which many others in his position would have chosen to spend on themselves.

I talked on the phone with him last night, and he shared with me a story of a crisis that one of the students experienced, which resulted in dozens of church members gathered at the hospital praying and worshipping. Several people got healed and 15 people got saved!! What a testimony! I’m so excited that my grandpa got to be part of such a move of God!

It’s easy for me to brag on my grandpa, but that isn’t actually why I’m writing this. I wanted to share his story because I’m provoked by him, and by John Piper and dozens of others, to make good use of the days I’m given. I’m several decades away from potential retirement, but right now, I am kind of “retired” from college. I’m still working part-time and preparing for my transition to ministry in Dallas, but I have a lot more free time now than I did even six months ago. (Plus, I’m not married and I don’t have kids, so I have the 1 Corinthians 7:34 thing going for me!)

I’ve been entrusted with these hours, these days. How am I spending them?

I’m not saying we all need to jump and go sign up for ministries at church, but I am encouraging us to check our hearts and motivations. When God gives us the great stewardship of Time, do we rush to spend it on our own flesh without a second thought, or do we consider how our time can be sown into something of eternal value?

The stakes are high. Time is short. Let’s not waste it.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”
Ephesians 5:15-16 ESV

The Power of Coffee and Awkward Conversations

coffee and awkward

I really didn’t want to talk to her about this.

I had already made small efforts to smooth things over, but I still hadn’t just sat down, looked her in the eye, and said what I needed to say.

We used to be quite close, but enough had changed that I didn’t know what to expect. The truth is, I was afraid. I was afraid of awkwardness, of saying it wrong, of not hearing the response I wanted to hear… of being hurt again.

It took strong prompting from people whose wisdom I trust to get me to ask her to coffee. We went to a local cafe, I bought her a latte, we made very friendly small talk that felt like old times… then I took a deep breath and carefully broached the subject.

Over the next hour, we talked, listened, shared our hearts, laughed, affirmed and encouraged each other, and hugged. By the time I walked out of that coffee shop, my heart felt a thousand times lighter. I drove away enthusiastically gushing to God, “Yes!! This is what it’s supposed to be like! Thank You for unity, humility, and RECONCILIATION in Your people!”

This will probably shock people who grew up with me, but I can honestly say that at this point in my life, I am a huge fan of awkward conversations. Preferably over coffee.*

I think this is because I hate division. I really, really, really hate division. I hate when people who ought to be showing the love of Christ to each other can’t bring themselves to just lay the awkwardness on the table and deal with it. I hate it when someone I really do like and respect can’t bring him- or herself to make things right with me. Some things are better left unsaid, but many times, unspoken words fester like a wound that won’t heal.

I’ve actually been on the receiving end of these “awkward conversations” toward reconciliation more often than I have initiated them, and I can tell you, I’ve always walked away with more respect for the other person and feeling like a wall had been broken down. Every time, when the conversation is approached with love, tenderness, honesty, and humility, I know God is rejoicing with us.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God… So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
Matthew 5:9, 23-24

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.”
Colossians 3:12-15

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
Romans 12:18

We’re a family. We’re one body in Christ. We have no right to let unspoken words build up walls between us. Love and unity is our mandate, and I’m determined to fight for it – Every. Single. Time.

So if you need to initiate an “awkward conversation” with someone, here’s my advice:

  1. PRAY. Get God’s heart for the situation. Ask Him for love to abound (Philippians 1:9).
  2. If you can without breaking anyone’s confidence, talk to someone you know will give you wise counsel and pray with you before the conversation takes place.
  3. If at all possible, ask if you can take them out for coffee (or tea, or fro-yo, or whatever). Avoid the “business meeting” feeling. Let them know that you value spending time with them.
  4. Don’t launch right in. Chat, ask questions, show interest in their life and heart outside of this one issue. This is part of loving and honouring them well.
  5. Share your feelings as simply, honestly, and tenderly as possible. Ask forgiveness in any area you can think of.
  6. Embrace the awkwardness. Laugh about it! They’re probably as uncomfortable as you are. Acknowledging it robs it of its power.
  7. Ask questions and listen. Let them say whatever they want. The goal is mutual understanding for the sake of unity.
  8. Encourage the other person! Tell them what you love about them. Affirm what you see God doing in their life.
  9. Don’t be paranoid about saying everything exactly right. The point is to expose what’s been hiding. It’s okay if it’s a messy process.
  10. GO LOW. Humility is your best friend. Humility will win the war when every other weapon fails.

It’s amazing how much healing can come from a cup of coffee and open communication soaked in love, humility, and honour.

So go forth and be boldly awkward for the sake of unity, my friends!

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*I love the cultural phenomenon that is “going out for coffee” together with someone, but I’m actually not a huge coffee person, so if you ask me out for coffee, I’m probably going to just drink tea.

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