My First Blues Concert

I will never be asked to play music for the mayor of Roseville. It just wouldn’t happen. I’m sure he wouldn’t like spontaneous prophetic music even if he did want a concert of local musicians playing for him.

But let’s create a hypothetical scenario: I’ve been asked to play awesome blues on my cello for the mayor of Roseville (Lord willing I will be able to play awesome blues someday. For now I will be content with my hypothetical scenario.). You bet your hiney that I would practice night and day for that concert.

Without drawing out my imaginary blues concert for the mayor of Roseville, I’ll get to my point: when do we musicians who play 4-5 times a week for God practice to become excellent? How do we challenge ourselves so we can become the best? I mean, isn’t that what we should be, since we play for the most important person/audience/God?

And yet, in our carnal man-pleasing spirit, we see more value in being excellent for man rather than God. The writer of Hebrews said that Jesus is our great High Priest. I want to be one who plays with excellence, always improving, so that I can be worthy of that great High Priest. It’s not about a performance mentality, it’s about getting a new theology of grace. Do I come before God’s throne because of grace? Absolutely. Does an understanding of grace mean that God doesn’t want me to grow? No. He accepts me as I am — immature and selfish — but I don’t want to stay there.

Persistent Prayer

I want to continue the thought I started in my God of Secrets post about Luke 11. I don’t know how most people interpret the parable of the friend at midnight, but for me, it is one of the most significant passages in the Bible about prayer.

“And [Jesus] said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.” Luke 11:5-8

Now we have to backtrack a little. In verse 1, the disciples had asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. Then we see the part we all know so well, the Lord’s prayer. But Jesus doesn’t take a breath between verses 4 and 5…He is still answering their question. (Please understand that the following is my interpretation/revelation on the chapter and is completely original.)

First of all you (the green guy) have a friend (the orange guy) who traveled from afar to visit you. You want to be hospitable and pour into him (i.e. give him food). So you think, “Hey! I have another friend who OWNS the bakery! He can give me bread for this friend!”

See, the friend didn’t ask anything of you (they represent whatever/whomever you are praying for), but you wanted to give what you knew you did not have (true humility – I am nothing outside of Christ). But, you know a guy (Jesus) who has what you need – and more.

So you go to your friend and knock on his door, even though it’s midnight. “Hey man, I’ve got this friend who needs food, can you give me some? ‘Cause I don’t have any.” And then your friend answers, “Don’t bother me, man! I can’t give you anything right now.”

When you pray, God always answers (“he will answer”). But what if His answer surprises you? See, you knew to go to Him, you knew He had what you needed, but even though you are His friend (you have some relationship with Him), He’s asking for something more from you:

“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture…I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.”   John 10:9,14

Jesus is asking you to come to a new level: yes, you are His friend, but when you don’t understand why He won’t give to you, will you take that as an invitation to ask again? It’s not favoritism for those who persist more: it’s the nature of God’s kingdom. It’s the same reason why Jesus spoke in parables – so that only the hungry would seek out what they meant. Jesus is the door and He wants you to persist, to keep knocking to find what you are looking for. See, once you’re in the door, you have access to fellowship with Him, to the knowledge of God.

It is because of your persistence that Jesus will give to you: and that’s always more than you asked Him for initially. Now, knowing the context, the following verse should make a lot of sense:

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you: seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”   Luke 11:9

Note: I hope you don’t feel demeaned by my childish illustrations. I wanted to make this rather confusing parable as clear as possible. And feel free to give me kudos for my amazing drawing skills too – especially my camel. (Yeah, I’m joking.)

Somebody’s in Love with Me

When I first went to IHOP, I thought prayer was boring. When I did pray, I would draw out my little prayer list so that it took a half hour and then go on with my day. I can’t pinpoint the exact time, but when I began to hear the people around me talk about God everything changed; they began to tell me that God’s plan didn’t start at the cross.

As I looked at the Word closer, I had to ask myself the question, “Why did Jesus go to the cross for me?” It seemed a simple question with a cookie-cutter answer, but was it? Why would God come down from heaven, leave all of His glory and take on a little Jewish man’s body forever? (And Isaiah said Jesus wasn’t even good looking!) What was it in the heart of the Godhead that took such drastic measures to save a few creatures He formed from dirt?

In the American church, we tend to throw around the term, “we are the Bride of Christ;” I had heard that term a thousand times but I never stopped to think about it before. I think that somewhere back before Genesis, the Godhead wanted companionship: not because He lacked something, but simply because He wanted to share His pleasure, joy, love – with someone else. I can almost see Jesus going to His Father and saying, “Father, We have so much to give, is it good for God to be alone? Father, I desire a companion, someone whom I can love and who will love me voluntarily in return.”

I can’t prove this exact scenario, but once I begin thinking of myself as the Bride of Christ, I saw something amazing woven throughout Scripture: Jesus came and gave me the dignity to be His partner; He didn’t need me, He only wanted me! And He says that He will actually change His mind if I pray! (Examples: Ex. 32:7-14, Zeph. 2:3, Jer. 29:12) Without going really into depth regarding Jewish traditions, I believe Jesus died on the cross to pay the traditional bride price: He said we were worth the blood of the Son of God.

I’ve only scraped the surface of this whole “viewing myself as a bride” thing, but the reason why I connect it to prayer is this: prayer isn’t boring to me when I see that God created me because He wanted to, because He enjoys me and that He loves me so much that my prayers actually change His plans.

Something Called Hypocrisy

Something that I utterly detest is hypocrisy; especially among Christians.

I am by no means a saint. In fact, as I am sure anyone who “lives” in a prayer room can tell you, the more time I spend with God, the more I realize that I know SO LITTLE. But something that I have lived, breathed, supported – and now whole-heartedly avoid – is hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy: a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially : the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion. I find it interesting that these three words are so similar: hype, hyperbole, and hypocrisy. All three surround the idea of something which appears to be what it is not.

Jesus called the scribes and the pharisees hypocrites repeatedly (Matt. 23), yet they were the ones who knew the most about Jesus. They knew the Torah the best, they kept the law to the literal dot and tittle. I have lived this kind of Christianity…Oh yes, when I used to worship in church, I sure looked like I was the full-engaged super-Christian. In reality, I stood on “Pebble Beach,” raised my hands, closed my eyes…and proceeded to wonder for 20 minutes what everyone around me was thinking of my outfit, Christianese posture, etc.

I don’t want to know about Jesus; I want to know Jesus. I would rather have a weak, broken, real relationship with Jesus and admit that I don’t have it all together than have the pretense to live something on the outside that is not an internal truth.

As Misty says, “I don’t want a name that I’m alive, if I’m dead on the inside.”

Jesus, come and make me real.

Standing in the Counsel of the Lord

I am studying Jeremiah right now and last night I was studying chapter 23; specifically:

For who has stood in the counsel of the Lord, and has perceived and heard His word? Who has marked His word and heard it?…I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in My counsel, and had caused My people to hear My words, then [Israel] would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings. ‘Am I a God near at hand,’ says the Lord, ‘And not a God afar off?’

I am so gripped by this standing in the Lord’s counsel. The context of this passage in Jeremiah is that Jeremiah is preaching a message straight from the heart of God because he has spent time in His presence (Jer. 15:16). However, all the other prophets around were prophesying what they desired to be true. It was what made the people happy, but it was not of the Lord.

Yet the Lord says His judgment could have been prevented if someone had stood before Him! If someone had taken time to fellowship with Him. If only the prophets were spending time in His presence, asking Him what was on His heart…if only they knew the One they called Holy. You can’t just know about someone and say that you know them; you have to spend time with them to know their heart, know what they would do in each situation, know what would get under their skin…

Yet the prophets ran without waiting to hear words of life which were unpopular. How I desire rather to stand with Jeremiah:

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.”