I am not sure if I could ever clearly communicate the things that have occurred in my heart, as well as my brain, over the last 12 months. To be honest, I feel like 2011-2013 was a build up to prepare me for 2014. Now I am not one of those “God is going to do a new and better thing tomorrow because we-never-seem-to-come-into-the-new-thing-today” kind of guys. I believe 2015 will be an incredible year for the Kingdom of God, I am simply saying that 2014 was an amazing year in the Lord for me personally. I read a few books that were game changers for my worldview, heard God speak some unique things and saw God do some amazing things in the lives of those around me. What I would like to do is simply point out a few moments along the journey of 2014:
1. Best books I read in 2014:
Waiting on God by Simone Weil
Surprised by Scripture by N.T. Wright
Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard
A Farewell to Mars by Brian Zahnd
A Wind in the House of Islam by David Garrison
The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard
Dynamics of Faith by Paul Tillich
Tea with Hezbollah by Carl Medearis
Speaking of Jesus by Carl Medearis
2. What God is saying to me:
God is dead! More and more the evidence for resurrection is exploding all around us. We are finding that when people tell us they don’t believe in “God,” we are learning to ask them what “God” they are talking about, because it is likely that we also do not believe in that “God.” American Christianity is Christless, filled with apologetics and celebrations of sacred violence creating our own movies where we succeed in proving wrong atheist professors, etc. All the while, we do not prove resurrection by rhetoric, we prove resurrection by resurrection happening all around us. The way we prove the resurrection of Jesus over 2,000 years ago is by bringing about resurrection today, otherwise our faith is worthless and vain, leaving us as Christ-followers most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15). It is possible that people believe in God, but do not believe in the version of God we are giving them, and this needs to change. God has been reduced to glorified mythology likened to the Santa Claus, where we sing the songs and re-indoctrinate our kids into the Santa myth, yet as we sing there is a look in our eyes that we do not ACTUALLY believe this stuff. Which God is dead? In Jesus, the gods of old and our perceptions of what God is really like must be crushed. Jesus is a false perception killer. All false perceptions of God can be found in full expression in the gods of the ancient peoples, but all of that is ripped down and destroyed in Jesus.
Faith! God is showing me that faith is not strong conviction in the absence of evidence, it is the evidence that tomorrow is possible and going to happen. Too often faith and reason are compared to each other, as if they are two wings on the bird of Christ-following. Unfortunately, reason has been exalted to the highest place in our evangelism and the result is that meekness has been lost in all of our doing, thus thwarting the purpose of God in many of our lives. Faith is actually higher than reason and belief. Reason can only take you so far, because eventually we are asked to do things which thwart convention and fly in the face of life as we have always known it. The only way to actually change world-view is by faith. Reason convinces us outside of an experience of the truth, whereas faith ignites us into the truth. Faith is not the result or the lens by which we view the world, faith is the eyes we all see everything with. The lenses we wear are guided and placed either by culture, teachers, parents or community influence. The lenses are constantly in motion, but the eyes of faith are impossible to be removed. In fact, it is the eyes that are closed which lead to deception.
Inclusion! God truly judges the heart. Too long the church has operated with an inclusion and exclusion mentality. Who is “in” and who is “out.” Religion is always a status issue, but Jesus was never about status, He was about the Kingdom of God as the reign of God under the Grace of God. The Kingdom is born witness by Joel 2, when God poured His Spirit on all flesh which was fulfilled on the day of pentecost. Pentecost in Acts 2 was not simply about a bunch of guys speaking in tongues and declaring the Gospel as if for the first time, with staggering results! It was about the God of Israel revealing Himself to the whole earth and the ones who can not see are the ones who close their eyes, and the ones who can not hear have closed their ears. Therefore, we run around our communities declaring to whoever will listen, “Open your ears to what we are saying! God has come to us, in the person and work of Jesus the Messiah, and it good for you to change your mindset to receive Messiah in your life so that everything may begin to change all around you, the Kingdom of God is hear!” According to 2 Corinthians, Paul states that we should be careful to not put anything in the way of people coming into the Kingdom. It would be good of us to take time to think on the mindsets we maintain to please man, and not God, thus leaving the lost outside of the gate wandering aimless. God is not an evangelical, even though I am, because there are no borders He can not penetrate if we will shed our systemic, sinful religion in order to bring the nations into an encounter with the one who made them. Your jaw would drop if you heard of the numerous stories of people who I saw discover Jesus this year through the most unorthodox means.
3. God is doing amazing things:
She was scared and anxious, desperate to talk to someone about God, and I suppose that is why she approached me at the college. I was simply studying and she said,
“Excuse me. I don’t mean to bother you but I was wondering if you knew anything about God?”
“Yes!” I said. “How can I help you?”
Over the course of the next hour she unloaded to me that she had two boys from her first marriage, and was presently living with her atheist boyfriend, whom everyone in her life who went to church kept telling her to drop like a bag of hot potatoes and move on into righteous living. Funny how quick we are to tell people what to do, because what seems obvious to us is not always what is obvious to God. She then asked me what I thought about her situation, because the boyfriend had been talking about marriage and she had to make the decision by January. So, I told her exactly what I thought: “I don’t know!” Most of us think we know what to do, but we have deceived ourselves, if we are honest.
I told her that the only thing we could do was listen to God. After a few minutes we begin to pray. How did we pray?? I told her to look at me, and I said, out loud, “Jesus, what lie does she believe about you?” Very quickly, “money” came to her mind and she realized that she didn’t trust God with her provision. As she kept hearing God speak, she saw all of the lies she was trusting and the deception she was living in. Quickly she gave her life to the Lord, even though she claimed to have grown up in the church and the way she decided she wasn’t a Christian was through me telling her what my experience in Jesus has been like. When she said she didn’t have that, we prayed and the presence of God came upon her. Although she was filled with new life and immense joy, she still wondered what she must do with the boyfriend she was living with. Here is the issue: as containers of truth, we think our job is to give truth to people and let them sort it out, as if that is the answer they need. What actually needs to happen is that we know the truth, but we need to give people the Way. This is far more difficult and is only possible through the Holy Spirit. So I ask God what she should do about the boyfriend, and He says, “Jon, tell her you will meet with him and to go in peace.”
She drives home and tells the boyfriend everything that happened. He seems excited for her, but is still not believing. The next day, she goes to work and during her lunch break finds an unmarked envelope on her windshield full of money. She immediately takes it as God providing for her, tells her boyfriend what happened and the next morning (2 days before we are scheduled to meet) begins to seek God. He asks, “Lord, if you are real, then I need proof and facts to back up your existence.” Immediately, he hears a voice say, “Why do you seek for facts for that which you already know to be true.” This becomes the phrase he hears all day long. The next morning he wakes up and reads the Bible to continue his search for truth.
The Saturday morning we meet, the first thing I do is read out of John 5, which happens to be the very passage that the boyfriend was told by God to read. I look at him and ask if he wants to give his whole life to Jesus. He responds in the affirmative and as we pray he feels a fire come upon his chest, and God tells him to take this good news to as many people that will listen. There they are before me, excited and the couple is all smiles because he has just come into the Kingdom and she didn’t think this was possible merely 5 days ago. The girls asks me, “Okay Jon, now that we are in the Kingdom, what should we do? We still live together!” “You know what to do, but you should ask God, okay, have a good day!” I leave them to it and head home, not knowing what they are going to do. Two days later I hear from the girl who tells me that as they drove home that day, they spotted a guy on the side of the road and shared the gospel with him, immediately! When they got home, they prayed to God about their living situation. The guy got up, packed his things, and moved back home with his parents that very night. They set a date to be married in february and are currently in pre-marital counseling.
I believe that it is time for all of us to get a lens change in God this year. This post is not the full extent of my revelation and experience in God for this year, but it was merely a glimpse I wanted to share with you. May we all realize in 2015, how much God wants to take us from nothing to something. More to come…