Monday, October 18, 2010

Table For Two, Please

It always amazes me of how God deals with each person in their own way. The destination is always the same, but the journey is very unique. And in each of us, there are all sorts of different gifts/talents/abilities. Sometimes it seems like everyone either plays guitar or piano. My mom always wanted me to learn piano… I ended up learned the drums. The other night while at an all night prayer meeting (of which I made it until about 3 am or so), we were at a location that uses some resources of a particular ministry that I don’t necessarily prefer. None the less, hopefully someone is able to still meet God in some form or fashion. There are God given gifts (Rom. 12:3-8), Jesus given gifts (Eph. 4:11) and Holy Spirit given gifts (1 Cor. 12:7-11).

Right now, the ‘church’ is undergoing a major transformation. People are just looking for more. They’re tired of meetings… they’re looking for true relationship and true fellowship. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong w/ meetings. A corporate gather has it’s time and place. But Christianity is about a relationship. A relationship between you and God, you and other believers and you and the world. Some folks won’t even SAY the name of God because they feel it’s not reverent enough for them. And that’s fine per say. It does bother me some when some people are wearing ball caps in a corporate gathering. Especially when that cap has NOTHING to do with God. But I usually let it slide, although I would prefer them take it off at the time. Just like it’s polite to take your hat off when your praying OR during the national anthem. It’s just something done out of reverence for a particular time. So in that aspect, I can understand a little why some may not feel comfortable in saying or printing the name of God or other aspects of His Divine nature.

I for one did not grow up saying Mr. or Ms. and the person’s first name. But when living in the south and parents are trying to train their kids to address me properly, they throw in the Mr. Shawn (for the record, I personally don’t like it). I grew up calling my religious leaders by their first names. Respect is a position of the heart, not just in a title. In my talking with them, my respect and given and shown. And most leaders nowadays just introduce themselves by their first names anyways. So, needless to say, it gets confusing at times. I personally don’t want those of whom I’m ministering to not looking at me because their trying to be respectful. I want to make eye contact with people and show them that they matter to me. I love it whenever people I’m friends with come up and give me a hug.
I’ve personally found over time that the more love you have for someone, respect and reverence comes automatically. But all this to say that I see a different way of the church learning to ‘fight’ a battle: in the Spirit, in a position of son ship, knowing our full authority which is as a child of God. I’m not talking about just having proper theology (which is important), but it’s out a love relationship you have with Jesus.

It’s like there is a difference between saying “I don’t want to watch that particular movie or engage in that particular behavior because of these reasons” and “I can’t watch this particular movie or participate in this particular behavior because my church doesn’t allow it.” The first one is moreso addressing that fact that YOU as someone who is in a relationship with the Lord and knowing it will hurt that relationship that you don’t want to engage in a particular behavior. The second one is rules and laws put on by someone else. I just spent a couple days at a local apologetics conference, listening to various messages about defending the Christian faith. That’s good and well, but sometimes it’s like if you can be argued into the kingdom of God, there is probably a good chance you can be argued out of it.
If you look in the Old Testament, the Israelites were given rules via Moses from God to not engage in certain activities. If you look in the New Testament, Jesus starts to make it more relational. He wants to examine the heart of the person and their motives. That’s because He wants the relationship with the person more than just a list of do’s and don’ts.

One of the most impactful things that has happened for me was to experience the presence and love of God for myself. When you experience God, there is something that happens that goes beyond comprehension. Mere seconds in the presence of Abba Father can do what listening to hours and hours of sermons will never be able to accomplish. Why is it that whenever a child is hurt, the first thing they do is run into the arms of their parents or someone they know loves them?

Monday, October 4, 2010


I do a decent amount of work on computers. Whether it's fixing them up for friends or just using them, they can tend to have problems from time to time. And there are quite a few factors that go into that. Such as if they're well maintained or not. Today in talking with a friend of mine, we were talking about just sharing life and what exactly does it mean to be a Christian, or someone who is hopefully 'Christ-like'. But what does that even mean?

The Bible covers a lot of different issues. There are wars and battles, romance, hatred, love and many other things. One thing I noticed is that God doesn't use folks who have it all together necessarily. A lot of the main folks of the Bible had issues. Some of them were murderers or adulterers or had other various forms of problems. And yet, God still used them. (Sweet, there is still hope for me yet :) ).

Some of the buzz words that fly around me a lot are things like revival, prayer, fasting, Bible reading, community, authenticity, life, Holy Spirit ... just to name a few. I have been in more 'church services' in the past few years than some have been in in their life! Sometimes, i just get burned out on meetings, and I just want to spend time with folks. Luckily, it's very Biblical to eat together with food (a lot of times, we call it 'breaking bread' which is just another term for eating together.

I've also done some street witnessing/evangelizing. The idea is is to go out and tell people about Jesus. Usually we'll go to the malls and look for our victi.. I mean people to talk to. I've found a couple things out in my day.

1. Oddly enough, this kind of evangelizing isn't my strong point. I prefer the small group or one on one and discussing issues and really digging into people's lives.

2. There is a right way of doing this and a very wrong way. Some people prefer the all out hell fire brimstone type of preaching, usually done with a bull horn and saying things like "everyone who doesn't believe in Jesus is going to hell", which is a very true statement. This is called the 'turn or burn' approach. But just because it's a good idea, doesn't mean it's a God idea. There is a difference.

I've had it said to me that some people speak or preach in such a way that it sounds like they WANT you to end up in the fiery pit.

So what am I getting at? What I'm getting at is that there is a search going on in many people's lives for truth, love, satisfaction, fulfillment and over all general purpose. People are looking for love. People want to connect with other people. We are made for relationships. Christianity is about relationships. God wants to reconcile us, His Children, to Himself through Jesus. Even the atheist knows John 3:16. God loved us first. (I'm His favorite by the way.) He started it.

Have you ever been in a crowded room and felt very alone? There is nothing quite like being in a crowded room with music blaring and trying to have a nice conversation with someone. Nothing like telling your life story to someone a foot away from you while loosing your voice in the process. Sometimes, I just feel burned out on church meetings. Today I had an AWESOME afternoon talking with a friend from my church body. We talked for probably a couple hours straight I think. We just shared life! Unfortunately, there wasn't food involved (I know, that's breaking the Mennonite 11th commandment). But it was still just sooo very life giving!

Nowadays, there is a lot of talking about what kind of church bodies there are out there. We have bodies that are thousands strong (mega churches) and then there are some that are many a dozen or so (house churches or micro churches) and there are some that are maybe just a couple hundred strong (a typical community fellowship). And there is the difference between church growth and church transfer. But it's about you growing spiritually that makes the difference.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm looking for the Life of God to be brought out. Sometimes I feel like I have spiritual ADD or ADHD. I just can't sit still for the life of me! You could glue me down to a chair and I'd probably end up just carrying that chair with me as I pray for folks. I can't sit still at times!

Some of my current favorite scriptures are John 14-17, Romans 8, Psa. 42:1-2 and Psa. 84. Just to name a few. I don't know about you, but I'm on this search for authentic Christianity. I'm looking and searching for authentic life in Jesus. You may be messed up as all get out but desiring a change. You may be thinking "yeah, I've got issues to work through, but I'm gonna look to Jesus for the real change." Hop on board and we'll figure this thing out yet. God's looking for open and willing hearts.

Women Serving 'In The Church'

Does the Bible ever seem to contradict itself at times? Keyword there is “seem”. The Bible is the infallible Word of God. It is complete truth. People all down through time have tried to prove it wrong and have ended up believing in the Word.

I like to ask tough questions. I don’t mean to get controversial, but I do like to get to the bottom of things for myself. Just recently, I threw the question up on Facebook about women in ministry and in preaching roles. For myself, I have sat under some ladies and it was evident that they had studied and what they had to bring is very scriptural. Other times, I was wishing I was back at the sound board and little by little keep turning them down. I’m sitting there thinking “is this going somewhere?” I also know that women like to talk. I know that women can talk for hours and not say a thing.

All this brings up an interesting situation. Because certain verses in the Bible say that women should be silent. But then other verses say that if women prophesy, they have to have their heads covered. Seems a bit contradictory. “Ok, so you can’t talk. But if you do, you need to have your head covered.” It’s like ‘what?!?!’

A large part I think is what do we consider as a ‘church meeting’. I know Sunday mornings ‘we have church.’ First off, people are the church. A building is just a building. You can’t have a meeting without people. Try it and let me know how it works for you. Given the fact that people are the church body, that opens a new can of worms. Because then it’s like ok so when do we decide we’re ‘having church’? Is it just a Sunday morning or given the fact that we are the church, you could almost eliminate women speaking altogether! I’m not advocating that by any stretch of the imagination. But what is going on here?

To be honest with you, I’ve had some downright awesome encounters with God on a road trip in a van! We were praying and singing and people were reading different scriptures…. Is that church? Can you see how the lines would get a little blurry when you take the official meetings idea out of the picture? When you set aside the foul notion of ‘going to church’ rather than ‘being the church’ (quote from Dr. Brown… gotta give credit where it’s due).

I understand that at the time of Paul’s writings, there were certain things going on in the culture whereby he would’ve wrote what he wrote. But if it wasn’t for modern day, why put it in there then? There is a lot about the Bible that I have yet to learn. After graduating Bible school, it seems that the more you learn, the more you don’t know to an extent.

For myself, I see different ladies in the Bible who had leadership roles or positions of authority. Ladies like Deborab, Esther, Priscilla, Pheobe, just to name a few there. And I know for myself, I’ve been taught by some AWESOME ladies who have been able to really speak into my life. They didn’t hold any titles and/or positions, but they were just ladies who were mature in the Lord and I trusted to speak into my life. And their words were on the mark. But it wasn’t in any kind of official setting, but it was just a time of fellowship. So this is stuff that goes on in my mind. Just thought I’d share it w/ you all.

Healing Is In The Blood

One of the things about Jesus and what He did for us on the Cross is the job of reconciling us to God the Father and restoring us to our rightful place and position in Christ. This morning as I joined a prayer meeting before our church service started, we were praying along the lines of abiding in the presence of God and allowing Him to fill us up. Out of the blue, I started to think about one of the quote that is found on the Statue of Liberty. It reads "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" (Or this is at least one of the quotes that is there. There are a few other quotes as well.)

In any case, as I was praying into this, the Holy Spirit brought Matt. 9:12 to mind. It's where Jesus is sitting and eating w/ the sinners and tax collectors (a big no no) and He tells those inquiring about what He's doing that its not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick. And that He hasn't called the righteous but sinners to repentance.

During this time, I was praying that God would save me and our church from just mere boring services and church meetings. But that we'd be a people marked by the very presence of God. When someone comes in that is messed up, they find a people that want to work w/ them to get them back on track with the Lord. For some folks, this is quick and over in no time. For others, it may take some time.

I don't know about anyone else, but I know of folks who have some messed up lives. Luckily, I personally was spared from a lot of junk, although the Lord is always working on me to refine my character (He disciplines those that He loves.) But I was thinking about the spiritual implications of the above quote and how it applies to the church. America was founded by immigrants. It was founded by those who wanted to start over. It was seen as the land of opportunity. And a lot of that stuff is still the case today. (It's a generalization, I know we have our share of problems and issues. I'm quite well aware of a lot of the junk that happens in the political sector.)

But I was asking the Lord about the implications and what He was showing me. Part of our job as the church is to be like a hospital. We bring in the wounded and we get them cleaned up. We pray with them and look out for them and love on them. My friends list on here includes some interesting characters. But I love it because I'm able to love on people as Jesus did and hopefully I'm representing at least a little bit of the life of Jesus in me.

What was really neat was that later on during the service, during a part where prophetic words are given at times, one of the speakers mentioned the exact same verse above! I was like "wow, the Lord is saying something right now about this..." I knew all of this before, but sometimes, you just need a fresh revelation of it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

God Is Variety

During my last visit to my parents, I was on my computer and youtubing various videos of different worship songs. At one point in time, I put in “joyful joyful, we adore thee” and I found a version of that song done by a house of prayer in the United States. My mom and sister were in the room and they asked me to turn it up. So I did and just walked off and did some other things for a moment and just let the music fill the house. We all kind of started singing along.

I don’t know about anyone else, but there is just something about the hymns that just hit me every time. There is just soo much meat in them… I listen to some of the modern songs that are sung in a worship service and some of them just seem superficial and lacking any real substance. None the less, I’m sure those songs are ministering to someone somewhere.

But I got to thinking about the various music varieties and even the various sermon varieties out there. I know for myself, I like a healthy mix of both. There are times when in listening to music, I like the softer soaking genre and then there is the time when I’m looking for something more upbeat. Same goes with looking for a message or a sermon. There are times when I’m looking more for like a teaching one and then there’s the time when I’m looking for a really challenging message. One to really get me stirred up and ready to do something.

I find when going to minister somewhere that it’s vitally important to get the Lord’s heart for the people and not just something that YOU think is necessary. The Lord knows what His people need. When we minister out of what WE think is necessary, I can guarantee you it will most likely flop. Sometimes, the Lord puts a burden on your heart and it’s meant to just pray into it. It’s not something that is meant for corporate prayer at the time but it’s just a private thing right now.
Some like to just focus on repentance, which is necessary but that’s all they ever focus on. They never get anywhere else. They never mention about the life and power of the Holy Spirit and the grace that is given to succeed. Others just focus in on worship. Some are very strong in the Word but there is no life in it. Some are all just into the Holy Spirit but there is no grounding in the Word.
All in all, it’s vitally important to see what is on the Lord’s heart and receive from Him to give off to others.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Intimacy Factor

I have been in countless church services throughout my life. I grew up in the church. Mainly, the ‘charismatic/Pentecostal’ circles. So believe me when I say I have experienced many different things. I’ve been on foreign missions trips and ministered in various churches in the region where I currently live (Charlotte, NC) and growing up (Lancaster, PA). During these services, I’ve experienced some really awesome things like prodigals coming ‘back home’, the sick healed, the lost finding Jesus. I’ve experienced a lot of interesting ‘manifestations of the Holy Spirit’. Some quite bazaar to your natural mind. All that to say that I’ve been around the proverbial block.

And can you believe that all that stuff really doesn’t satisfy? I mean, all the above is really neat and interesting and it gives you some awesome stories to tell around the dinner table or some awesome conversation pieces. But I don’t think that when I stand before God on Judgment Day, He’s going to be asking about that. I don’t think that it’s something that is of importance to God. Yeah, He’s proud of me for being a son and pursuing Him. But it’s more about a relationship between me and Him that He’s concerned about.

A number of years ago, I was asked to speak at a youth retreat. So in the time leading up to it, I was praying and asking the Lord what was on HIS heart for this event. I wanted to preach a good “revolution” message, rally the troops, that sort of thing. But during the prep time, it just wasn’t coming together. I had a few notes and some awesome compilations I thought would be neat to share. But it still wasn’t coming together. The morning of, I was sitting in a room with two of my friends who came to help minister and the speaker from the previous night, Steve Hoffman. Steve looked at me at one point in time and said “Shawn, these kids have grown up in church. They know all the right things, they know all the rules. But most of them have never had an encounter with God Himself to make a difference in their life.” Those words went like a dart right into my heart.

That morning, the Lord gave me John 15. I quickly read it and knew somewhat of where I was going. We can have all the services we want; you can do all the conferences you want. But when there is no intimacy with the Lord, I wonder at how much of a difference all that is going to make. People nowadays are crying out to be heard. They’re crying out to feel needed and wanted. They’re crying out for relationships! They’re crying out for a depth of a reality! They’re open to the supernatural and wanting to see if the church has anything to offer more than just meetings and hype and a whole lot of talk. I think that many people want to see if we as the church can put actions to our words.

Let me take a step back here really quickly. There is nothing wrong with church services and meetings and programs necessarily. But when that is replacing a true intimacy with the Lord, it gets scary. Whether you attend a small house church or a community church or a mega church, that isn’t the point here. My question to you is do you know the Lord in a deeply personal way? Do you have a life giving relationship with Him? I know that at times its hard to pray and hard to read the Bible. Sometimes you may have those times where you feel like all the prayers you pray and the Bible reading you’re doing isn’t amounting to anything. But it does make a difference. Remember, a relationship takes work. There really is no cookie cutter way for it. There are emotions and feelings involved.

A number of years ago while in Bible school, the leaders decided to shut the school down for a couple days and just have a time of prayer and fasting. I was noticing a difference in the direction of the school and it was starting to concern me just a bit. This school was known for its revolutionary mentality and it seemed like we were getting soft. And then it dawned on me: maintaining intimacy in the church truly is a revolutionary idea! As I said earlier, being in different churches I have seen a lot. All these programs that were in effect didn’t seem that productive. The church was being more influenced by the world rather than the other way around. The saints weren’t being equipped for the work of the ministry. It seemed like a lot of it was a one man show done by the pastor or leader of the church.

I remember one time, I was having ice cream with an elder in a church. I simply looked this gentleman in the eyes and asked “Can you name me one time when you had a life changing encounter with the presence of God?” He sat there for a bit and eventually just shook his head no. My heart broke for this guy. You can have all the proper theology and it’s important to know the Word of God! But is it coming out of a heart attitude that says “I NEED to do this” rather than “I WANT to do this”? Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is take a theological truth and turn it into an experiential reality.

Take this as an encouragement to develop and maintain true intimacy with the Lord. The Bible says that we’ll be known by our fruits. One of the best ways, if not the best, is to spend that time with Him. Since each person is different, it’s going to look different for each and every person. Dig into the Bible and ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to cultivate that intimacy with Him.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Remembering The Wonders Of The Lord

For New Year's Eve, my church did a little bit of testimony time. And during that time, the Lord was bringing to my remembrance things that He has done for me over the years and the things I have done.

The Lord has been truly good to me over the years... I'm not surprised on that at all. There have obviously been some awesome points and then some things I wish I could go back and change.

But as my testimony goes, (see "The Hardest 18"' for that) I grew up in the church. I would have to give a VERY big thank you to the Krasley's for their servants hearts to take a bunch of rowdy teens down to a youth conference in Pensacola, Florida. I had heard about the Brownsville Revival and decided to go and check it out. My life has never been the same since. But it was during this time that the Lord really started to change things around for me. It was also during this time that I had to make some decisions about future schooling. What kind of school am I going to go to. I decided in the next coming years to first go to Bible school. I ended up @ FIRE School Of Ministry.

I remember after moving down to Charlotte, NC to attend FIRE that FIRE had just moved everyone up from Pensacola to Charlotte. During our first church service, Dr. Brown asked for everyone who wasn't living in Charlotte a week ago and now is to stand up. Almost the whole church body stood up (about 300 people. I can imagine what Moses must've felt like, only he had to move a few more people than what FIRE did). And then FIRE was getting settled in and starting a new school in a new city. The sacrifices that had to be made, but most folks didn't mind. The Lord was doing stuff in our midst, and that's what we cared about.

We had some explosive/powerful classes and church services. But most importantly, the presence of God was in our midst. Sometimes I feel like I'm ALWAYS in transition. Probably because in certain terms, I am. Always being transformed from glory to glory but the Lord keeps changing things, keeping me on my toes. The relationships I've made over time are priceless... wouldn't change it for the world. Having all sorts of varying opinions around keeps one sane and level headed. If there is one thing I've learned in the past couple years: the more you learn about God, the more you realize you know nothing about Him and have more to learn.

If there is one thing I can say that has drastically changed my life is coming into an understanding of who you are as a son or daughter of the King of Kings. When your secure in your sonship with the Lord, trivial things just don't really affect you like they have before. Because you know who your Daddy is and you know that you have full authority to go into the Throne Room at anytime you want and desire. You don't have to wait for someone else, you have access yourself. You can cease your striving and just relax and contend for rest in His presence. A chapter that I have continually go through my mind is John 15. Now, that's just me perhaps. It's different for each person because each person is different.

I've been in mega churches that just seemed dead and I've been in small groups and we started to pray and worship and His Presence just sweeps in. And I've been in mega churches that the presence of God was very evident and small groups that very dead. It's not the quantity but the quality. And quantity doesn't guarantee quality.

These are just a few of the things I think about when Remembering the Wonders of the Lord.