Category Archives: People

Now That Changes Everything

Everyone wants the good life. But what if the good life isn’t good enough? What if God’s best is different than our ideal dreams?

I wrestled with this today while listening to Pastor Charlie Hill’s message at Steamboat Christian Center. What if it isn’t that our desires are too strong, but they are directed toward the wrong things? What if our desires are trully too weak?

I am reminded of this famous quote by author and theologian, C.S. Lewis. He wrote in the Weight of Glory, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

The forces of darkness want us to run after things that are a lot like Chinese food. These things may taste good in the moment, but they leave us feeling hungry in less than 30 minutes.

I live in a vacation paradise. It is beautiful in Steamboat. But this town also has a dark secret. This county has fairly high suicide rate. I first discovered this reality when I moved to town and talked with a friend who works with the local hospital. He is called in to help counsel and minister to those who are suspected of trying to commit suicide. He told me that he gets more calls than you would imagine.

People come to the Boat expecting this vacation mecca to solve their problems. But funny thing, after a while the world-class skiing, biking and fishing doesn’t seem to satisfy. Many people have pinned their hopes on the  wrong things. Sure, those activities are fun and fulfilling. But I believe that God designed us all to have deep connections both with Him and with others.

Pastor Charlie preached on John 14:6 where Jesus made a pretty radical statement. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This seems like a pretty exclusive statement. What about those who have not known or believed in Jesus? And what do you have to believe to realize this blessing? Is this just a creed you must believe? Or is it an invitation to something more?

Back during Jesus’ earthly ministry, many people wanted to know the way to eternal life. This was a question sometimes asked of rabbis and teachers. Jesus made it clear that other paths lacked something critical — a personal relationship with God through Jesus. This statement wasn’t about keeping people out. Its purpose is to clarify what works. It is found in a passage where Jesus is going to add rooms onto His house so that more people can stay there with Him forever. This is an invitation to deep intimacy. The kind of love that says, “Come move in forever.” Now that is love.

Jesus was making it clear that lives apart from God will never be enough. There will always be emptiness and brokenness. The good life we seek is not found in stuff, other people or experiences apart from God. It can only be found in a deep relationship with God where He makes all those things more enjoyable. You can’t truly have forever fun until you find your for real freedom.

This news Jesus spoke may seem exclusive. But it is open to all. It may only seem restrictive if you rebuff his invitation. Jesus said, “Come to me, and I will give you rest.”

If you want peace and purpose, there is no better place than the arms of Jesus. Please go to a Christian friend or a godly church in your area and chat with a minister or member who can help you. If you have tried everything else, why not try Jesus? You may just discover like I did that He truly changes everything.

Advertisements

Dangerous Dreams

One of the most common supernatural experiences in the Bible besides healing is people having incredible dreams or visions of the future. From the first to the last book of the Bible, dreams are part of the human experience. DawnChere Wilkerson spoke at the recent Vous Conference on the impact of our dreams on our lives. She focused more on “dreams” as our hopes and plans for the future. But these dreams are just as important as the supernatural kind because they can impact the course of our lives.

Looking at Acts 4:29-31, the early disciples faced serious risk after Jesus ascended. They were in danger for their very lives. They looked to Christ for strength and miraculous power. And the Holy Spirit showed up and shook the entire place. They were anointed to boldly speak the Gospel.

The experiences of the early Church were likely different than what the disciples had dreamed or imagined. In the middle of persecution and challenge, it would have been easy for them to give up. Disillusionment likely knocked on the door of their hearts. They may have wondered if the words and predictions of Jesus would come true. They may have thought, “Are we being guided by the right dream?”

Peter, John and the others knew that they lived by faith and not by sight. DawnChere warned in her message, “Living the dream is different than dreaming the dream.” You will face challenges living the dream that you may have never imagined when you dreamed the dream. She added, “God is not honored by the size of your dream but your faithfulness to it.”

Dreams can be funny things. They can propel us forward. But they can also sap our strength when they take too long in coming true or work out in a way far different from what we imagined. How can you know if a dream is worth following?

DawnChere offered this key piece of advice. She said, “A dream is not worth following unless it is centered on Jesus.” As Christians, our starting and ending point is new life in Christ. Is this dream taking you closer or farther away from the heart of God?

No matter the dream. At some point, you have to choose what you will believe and follow. In order to live the dream, you have to believe in it enough to follow it. Following God’s dream is a team sport. One of the things you will see in this chapter is how the early Christians supported each other and provided encouragement to hold to the words of Christ. They needed each other to realize the dream. We pick up courage and strength in community.

One of the big reasons that so many people stop chasing the dream is that they get disillusioned along the way. They think they will never reach the dream. But many times, God is doing more than you can see. He is working behind the scenes and is way ahead of you. As DawnChere challenged, “First comes faith than the fortitude.”

Frequently in life, you will have huge setbacks in realizing your dream. Joseph in Genesis is a great example of this reality. He had amazing dreams. Then, he was abused by his brothers, sold into slavery and taken to a far-off land. He was falsely accused of rape and thrown into prison. He was forgotten in jail by those he had helped. Joseph had a lot of experiences stacked against those dreams. DawnChere admitted, “Just like Joseph, sometimes living your dream is a nightmare.”

Even though the number of bad days may have far outnumbered the good days, what God did in the good days overcame and restored what was lost in the many bad days. God can restore in an instant what we have lost in a lifetime. Joseph had to activate his dream by choosing to forgive and do what was right. There are some opportunities you can’t enter into until you forgive and let go of the pain in the past. This isn’t letting others off the hook. It is allowing God to administer justice. You may struggle to do this on your own, but the Lord is right there to help you.

Going back to the early Church in Acts, they prayed and sought the Lord even though they weren’t sure what was going to happen. Along the way, they discovered that knowing and realizing the presence of the Holy Spirit in greater measure is living the dream. The Holy Spirit produced courage and brought assurance that they were not alone. The reality is the early believers were in over their heads. As DawnChere pointed out, “God hasn’t called you to do hard stuff but impossible stuff.”

That is why every believer needs a growing relationship with the Holy Spirit. He convicts the world of sin, equips the Church and reveals the thoughts and mind of Christ. This dream is a dangerous dream because it will upset our self-focused, little worlds. But in the end, it is the only dream worth really dreaming.

Doors Open, Doors Close

Over the last few years, I have been on an amazing ride with a number of other believers to create a gap year discipleship program for young adults in the Richmond area. After a successful first class last year, I thought the dream was really catching on. But over the the last year despite a significant recruiting efforts, RVA LEADS has not been able to obtain enough students to launch a second class in 2017/2018. We might have been able to reach our goal if we significantly changed the model and cut our costs structure. And at the same time we faced some staff challenges with major members of our core team experiencing some major life shifts. With all of these things going on, it became clear to me that we couldn’t really pull off LEADS this year and have it be the caliber program we want with the right number of students.

At the same time, some opportunities have opened up for me out West in Colorado. It is amazing how one door closes and another opens. I am reminded of what it says in Scripture, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

I have lived in Richmond for so long. It is hard to imagine moving. But in late October, I am going to be moving out West to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I will be serving on the leadership team for Protege, the discipleship program run by my good friend, Daniel Susenbach. In addition, I expect to jump right into some leadership opportunities at Steamboat Christian Center. And I am looking forward to finally realizing a dream of living out West in the mountains.

Don’t fret my Richmond friends. 🙂 I will still be traveling back and forth from time to time as my job and family still reside in the Richmond area. Hopefully, some time in late October I will have a final going away shindig for friends to stop by and see me before I depart.

I am very excited for what God is doing. The Protege participants are amazing, and I look forward to working with them to spur them onto deeper discipleship.

It is hard to see a dream sort of die. But I think that God used LEADS to teach me so much. I am so thankful for all of the work of our staff and volunteers. I am so grateful for the students who went through the first year’s class. And I believe that the Lord is going to use what I learned to help others in some way in the near future with the gap year movement. I am just not quite sure how yet.

I am still around for about a month or so. Call or text me if you want to connect in  person. Godspeed — Chaille

The Enemy Wins When We Hate

Jesus said, “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:25).

As I have watched the events unfold both before and after the election, I am aware that my real enemy is not the person who disagrees with me politically. It is not the person who has a different worldview or follows another religion from mine. My real enemy is Satan, the forces of darkness, lying spirits and sin. In the Beatitudes, Jesus called on His followers to love those who hate you. As a Christian, I am called to love everyone, including those who anger or annoy me. It is hard, and I struggle with it just like the next person.

The real enemy is anger, hate, sin, pride, lies and those things that would divide the body of Christ. Some “Christians” have said some horrible things over the past six months. And any way that I have fueled those flames, please know that I apologize. I am asking for forgiveness for the body of Christ for those who claim to be Christians and have spewed hatred, malice and anger.

Can we disagree? Sure, we can. Can we vote for different people? You bet. Can we believe in different futures for America and the world? Yes, we can. But at the end of the day, we need to treat each other with mutual respect. This means allowing those who are upset about the outcome of the election to vent or mourn. And it means those who are happy with the result can celebrate. This situation calls on everyone to be aware of the feelings of others. The guy who I openly liked (Gary Johnson) didn’t win either.

Elections have real outcomes, and those who win get to decide what the agenda will be. So this is not an editorial calling for the Republicans to fold up and sheepishly put away their agenda. But it is a call for civility to listen and understand the other side. All the major players in the presidential stage have acted with extreme grace and maturity since the election. This includes President Obama, Secretary Hillary Clinton and President –elect Donald Trump. I hope and pray this continues even though I know the various sides will work to defend the principles they hold dear.

As President Obama said this is an intramural scrimmage not a war between two different countries. I have friends and family on all sides of this election. And I want them to know that I love them. I want them to know that I am here to listen. Do I believe that God is still in control? You bet. Do I understand how that thought might not be very comforting to those who are overcome with grief in the moment? Yes, just like it may not have seemed a comfort to the Israelites in the Bible who were oppressed and lived in exile.

Even though I was not a fan of Barack Obama, I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt and pray for him. I was a bit afraid when he was first elected because of strong disagreements with his policies. As a person, I liked Obama and was proud that the country had overcome racial barriers. As a politician, I feared his solutions would only make our problems in the country worse. And I understand that at this point in time, there are millions who feel the same way about Trump.

I have no idea what the man I have called “Hair piece” will do as president. But I am going to give Trump the same benefit of the doubt as Obama. And I hope that Trump can be a better man in the White House than he has shown on the campaign trail. I do believe that people can change. Otherwise, the cross would be useless. I do believe that Jesus can redeem anyone.

If Trump turns out to be a nightmare and tramples on the rights of U.S. citizens or acts in inhumane ways, I will be right there with the oppressed standing for them. And I will publicly stand up for them in any way that I can. I will fervently defend the Constitution if Trump tries to become some sort of fascist leader.

Do we need to move on from hysteria? Yes, at some point. And I will be patient enough to realize that some people need a chance to decompress. Do many people have legitimate grievances with Trump and his rhetoric? Yes, I think so. I have personally criticized many things that Trump has said and done in the past. But even for Trump’s harshest critics, the best thing they can do is be vigilant, pray and act to mobilize socially to defend their rights in peaceful, non-disruptive ways.

Upon reflection, the real enemy is within when I and others let anger, fear, frustration, disillusionment or resentment lead me/them to act in ways that do not reflect Christ, who is the essence of love. The real enemy is not the other person but the powers of sin and darkness in the world. The real enemy wins when we hate.

Can a Christian Be a Libertarian?

It seems that the core of the Libertarian worldview is both very Biblical and also anti-Christian at the same time. I am not talking about particular political positions as much as its  focus on individual liberty and what it means to be free.

Christianity is full of apparent paradoxes. One of the hardest to cope with is the fact that to be free from sin we have to submit and give over our liberty to Christ.

The official Libertarian party platform preamble states, “As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.” It goes on to further state, “We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.”

Scripture in many places suggest that God has given man free will to make decisions, and that we will indeed be held accountable for our actions. Instead of stamping out robots, God created humanity with the ability to reason and make choices. Although God does intervene in many cases, He also takes a very hands off approach at times allowing us to discover for ourselves the folly of our ways. The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) is a perfect example of this situation. Just like that father who allows his son to squander away his inheritance, God doesn’t micromanage our lives, and indeed in many cases He seems to hide so that we have to really search to find Him. God could blind us with His glory at any given moment and create a situation where we would have little choice to acquiesce to His demands. But God doesn’t want that. He wants us to truly love Him and become like Him in character. And that is more caught than forced upon us by an edict.

So in many ways, God seems like a classic Libertarian. But then again, He is far from it when you see the values that He demonstrates and calls His people to follow. The perfect symbol for Jesus is the cross. And that is the ultimate example of Him setting aside his rights and making sacrifices. It was direct divine intervention to solve humanity’s biggest problems. Instead of running the show, Jesus submitted to the will of His Father. Jesus demonstrated complete humility and selfless love. True, it was His own decision. But he set aside His rights for a greater glory and purpose. For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross. And that joy was you and me coming to salvation and true freedom. Jesus knew that freedom comes at a cost. And many times it requires us to set aside our rights.

One of the pitfalls I see for Christians when it comes to Libertarian political philosophy is the emphasis on individual liberty can easily turn the focus to self and our own desires. But that is not what Jesus promoted. He said that whoever would follow Him, must take up a cross, deny himself and follow Christ’s example (Luke 9:23). This is symbolic language with a real world application. We are to put aside our desires for actions that achieve God’s purposes in the world. And that is exactly what Jesus did. He is our example.

Libertarians came make their arguments so much about freedom that they don’t realize the things they fight for actually cause addiction, depression, bondage, self loathing, or possibly even death. While God calls us to be His sons, we are also His slaves. And that means true Christians lay down their rights knowing that they can trust God and His ways to be best.

I am reminded of what Michael Card wrote in his book, A Better Freedom, “The New Testament does not offer the choice between slavery or freedom, but only whose slave we will be — the world’s or Christ’s. Jesus does not offer freedom from slavery but instead a a new kind of slavery that provides the only true freedom. I cannot buy my own freedom. Only Jesus can.”

This is difficult if not impossible to do without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. So it isn’t that liberty and personal choice are bad. The problem for a Christian is when we elevate personal choice over the Word of God.

These are tough words, and nobody really wants to hear them – certainly not Americans. What the Christian Gospel offers is a radical reversal to the values of humanity. The cross is freedom. Death leads to life. And renouncing our rights to God’s direction leads to true freedom. Our pursuits are our undoing when they lead us away from God’s best. It isn’t that desire is bad. It is that our desires take pleasure in lesser things  that lead to less and less freedom.

Can you be a Libertarian and be a Christian? Yes. Just like you can be a Democrat, a Republican or a third-party voter and be a Christian. We are not saved by our politics. But our spiritual beliefs should guide our political stances and positions. The problem with some Libertarians that I have met is that they value their freedom above all else. And in that they will find it difficult to let go and truly trust God who offers the greatest freedom imaginable.

What Does God Want from Me?

A lot of people talk about doing the will of God. But to do that, we must know what He truly wants. God could have made this easy on us by writing in the sky, sending angels to answer all of our questions or making the Bible more like a manual or Life for Dummies book. But He didn’t do any of those things. Why is this hearing from God thing so tough? Some people talk as if everything is clear. Others honestly admit that they listen for God and all they hear is the sound of crickets. 

If there are so many paths in front of us, why doesn’t God simply remove the distractions? The good Lord could remove all room for doubt. But then would we really ever have faith or free will?

When many people think about the will of God, they automatically gravitate toward what they are supposed to do for God. But honestly, if God is really God, He doesn’t need us to do anything for Him. His plan does include human involvement. But that isn’t out of necessity. It must be for some other reason.

Talking with a high schooler today, I was inspired to write this post. Too often we think of God’s will as a place, action or destination. But what if it is something bigger and yet more basic? What if our thinking about this question is all wrong?

The Bible says we are to take up our cross daily, which seems to suggest that sacrifice is required to do God’s will. But the Old Testament also states that “obedience is better than sacrifice.” The Apostle Paul encouraged believers to become mature in their faith and the fruit of the Spirit. And yet, Jesus said that we could not even enter the Kingdom of God unless we have the faith of a little child. Jesus commanded His disciples to go and make more disciples, which suggests the focus of our mission should be about other people. But Jesus also said that we can do nothing apart from His power and life. So which mission is primary to know and love God or to share the Gospel, make disciples and extend His Kingdom on the earth?

The problem is that we tend to look at this as an either or situation. And in reality, outreach flows from our personal walk with God. As I have pondered this question, I believe the true mission for every Christian is the prayer that David prayed in Psalms 27:4, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”

The primary mission of a Christian is to know and love God. It all starts with our personal relationship with Jesus. He is the living water as Scripture explains. Just as we need water to sustain life, we must have a relationship with God to live in the way as the Creator intended. This involves a wide variety of experiences and actions, such as reading and following sacred Scripture, prayer, obedience to the Word of God, thanksgiving, recognition of God’s power and presence in daily life, sacraments, spiritual gifts and miracles, confessions of faith, sharing the Gospel, etc.

And in order to have living water that remains alive and pure, it must have an outlet. Otherwise, we become like a stagnant pool where disease and bacteria can grow. That is why part of the Christian mission is to share the love and truth that God has deposited into our lives.

The Lord has given us a picture of this reality in the Dead Sea, which has no outlet. It is one of the saltiest bodies of water on the planet because it is located at such a low point. Everything flows downhill and mineral deposits collect killing aquatic life. If you simply receive from God and do not give it away, you will become full and not be able to receive any more. And what had previously been living water can become stagnant, less useful and a breading pool for disease. This picture demonstrates the dual nature of God’s ultimate purpose for humanity. It can be seen in the words of Jesus. He summed up the law and the prophet by saying, “He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27).

How you go about doing that is what makes you unique. The key is realizing that God’s will for your life is more about the journey you take with God and the person you become along the way than what you do for God or which path you choose to take.

The Holy Spirit Inspired the Dream

If you have ever heard Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech it is impossible not to be stirred and feel that you are listening to something epic. It is as if that speech was not mere words. It was a spiritual experience that broke a yoke off the necks of millions of people.

I always thought that when I heard it I was reminded of some of the most moving sermons I had listened to in my life. King was a preacher before he was a civil rights icon. And he knew what it meant to be inspired by God to action. And when I heard a recent TV show exploring the story behind King’s famous speech, I knew that I was right. Those were not mere words.

On This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Congressman and civil rights leader, John Lewis, spoke about that day. ABC News journalist Byron Pitts spoke with Lewis and former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young, one of King’s top aids, about King’s speech. This transcript is incredible.
———————————————————-
Andrew YOUNG: He was determined not to speak more than 10 minutes. And he did. He finished his prepared address in just about 9 minutes.

PITTS: But he wasn’t finished. Sitting behind Dr. King was famed gospel singer Mahalia Jackson who shouted to her friend, tell them about the dream. It’s a theme he’d used before in smaller settings.

KING: I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

PITTS: Why do you think he made that transition to talk about the dream?

YOUNG: As a preacher, there’s something we, we call being led by the spirit.

LEWIS: The spirit told him to lay that paper down and just go for it.

KING: I have a dream. My four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

PITTS: And it’s a dream that still lives on 50 years later.

(See more on this news discussion at
http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/08/rep-john-lewis-remembers-historic-march-on-washington)

——————————————————–
This transcript clearly shows that the Holy Spirit inspired one of the most incredible political moments of the last 100 years. When people ask, “Where is God with all this injustice in the world?” I can point to moments like King’s speech and know that God’s Spirit stirs mens’ souls. The Holy Spirit moves behind the scenes, and one day, we will realize that the Lord was in those moments after all.

I am not surprised that the Holy Spirit breathed life into words that King had said at other times without the same effect. It was the power of the Spirit that made those words electric. He is moving in history. We just have to see it and know that the Spirit brings the fire that changes history.

I don’t say this in any way to disrespect King’s impact or his personal sacrifice to gain what he fought for. While those were his words, the concept he fought for is deeply rooted in the vision that the Apostle Paul outlined in the New Testament. Primarily, I am pointing out that King was divinely inspired, which should give more credence to his dream.

Praise be to God that we have come so far because Scripture says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” May we continue to bring God’s principles of love, hope and mercy to those who are not free or struggle due to injustice. While our job is not done, history shows that we have come a far way in establishing liberty and freedom in many places in the world.