Monday, December 7, 2009

Can't Help But Say So...

Precious Lord Jesus, sometimes I wish to live out in experience what only my heart can describe, and at other time my heart yearns to describe what only I can live out in experience... but here goes... 

Praise be to the Almighty Maker of Heaven and earth! There is none like You! 

Robed in splendor and majesty, high above every name - every power, every circumstance - every thought - You are God. You make public spectacles of Your enemies, while lifting the head of the widow, the fatherless, even the adulterer. You are not in king's palaces, but in the hearts of kings that fear You; You make yourself known to the hungry, the thirsty, the impoverished. And while You love so much that You - for a time - allow the grievious consequences of True-Love's free will to be experienced here on earth, still constantly reveal Your mighty arm on behalf of those who fear you - and their children never lack bread.

You are returning and will gather Your bride to Yourself, even as she has longed for your appearing. Arrayed in light, heat, glory and fire, and with eyes like limpid pools of living love. Hands that worked, labored for a time in a natural father's house, but that labor for eternity -unto rest - in Your Heavenly Father's house. Robe dipped in blood, an olive branch at your side, fury and compassion interwoven into a single man of righteousness that rises with healing in His wings. 

A final gathering - of shepherds, adulterers, doctors, pilots, priest and peasants, business men and moms - the throngs gather in unending satisfaction, in captivated gaze on the One who alone is victorious...not in imagination, not in teaching, not in fairy tale worlds, not in coffee-shop conversations, not dimly or through a veil - REAL, right here, right now, present, He stands before you - the One who was and is and is to come! And all Heaven, all hell, all of creation, in awe, bow their knee for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Lamb that was slain and has received the reward of His sufferings...for HE alone is worthy. 

Monday, August 10, 2009

Farwell DLA Class of 2009

My Beloved DLA tribe,

I can hardly believe we've blasted through eight months already. It seems like only yesterday we were sitting in orientation looking at one another as awkwardly as couple of high school kids on a first date. All of those thoughts and questions... all of us wondering if we really were going to become the incredible friends that we each hoped we would. Somehow we hit a time warp along about the second week, and popped out the other side eight months later... but with a wealth of friendships and memories that usually take years to accomplish. Like the Chronicles of Narnia, one minute we're just ordinary people sitting on a bench in a train station, and few moments later we're swept into the most incredible adventure of our lives. In that place we've learned to love, to trust, to hope, to have courage, to believe in what we never thought was possible before. Now, back on the train bench and back into our daily lives, we look very much the same on the outside, but something entirely different is true on the inside. We're not ordinary. You're not ordinary. You've become kings and queens, rulers and servants, and maybe most of all - a band of brothers and sisters willing to do anything for one another in a dark and dangerous world. As we pass this season to the next I pray that you all remember three key things.

First, your reward is and always will be Jesus. No experience or event or relationship can compete with the intimacy in Jesus that you have come to know. That alone is the greatest currency and residual you can ever carry from this place. It is the only thing that will ...go anywhere, do anything, and pay any price...with you for the rest of your life. Never betray it. Never underestimate it. Never grow weary in your pursuit of it. Jesus. That is the summation of what you came for. Let not your journey here ever be in vain. Jesus obsessively - THAT is the vision. There is no other.

Second, value and respect the shared experiences of your fellow sojourners. Tell the stories often. Remember to remember. Memories in your mind become like legends and fables that transcend the intellect and take you back to the place of heart - where the deepest truths in you are held, determined and lived out. These in turn become traditions and a sort of life-liturgy that begins to form the contours of your belief systems and values for community, mission and the body of believers.

Third, love beyond all recognition. All the leadership principles in the world are useless without love. The apostle Paul says in I Cor 13 that if you can't look into the eyes of the very ones burning you at the stake and have genuine love for them, then you've missed the point of the Gospel. Leadership isn't about taking over, it's about using the influence you have on loan to transport the heritage of Jesus ministry to the next generation. Whether leading in the office, the church, or the home, remember that the most valuable commodity any leader can possess is love. It is the fuel for living. It is the cause for dying. it is the ultimate reward of serving the ONE whose name is Love.

I would like to say to Jana Philbrick - keep pressing in; what He has begun in you He will carry into completion, never doubt it... to Morgan Clark - believe that you really are who you've dared to believe you are this year; a man of courage and might - a man that loves extravagantly with no reserve... to Carter Moore - bro the same way that you take snapshots of people's lives, the Lord is taking snapshots of your life! He is crazy about you, your picture is posted all over His fridge, He is proud of what you have become and insatiably excited about who you're going to be...Alana Settle - you are a breath of refreshment; your greatest contribution is not in what you do, but like a wild flower - in who you are; your inner beauty is a delight that causes all who pass by to pause for a moment and see a piece of their God in you, His creation... to Kenneth Gracia - never let anyone talk you away from a cliff, to stay IN the airplane, at the bottom of a mountain, to settle for less - you live on the edge, you were designed to live on the edge, it is His preference in and for you; enjoy taking life to the extreme - you'll probably experience God most there...CJ Hock - every once in a while God breathes energy and life into a being in double portions, that is surely you! May the passion and zeal for living that you possess always take you where others have not the strength to tread, you are one of a kind...Jessica Bowles - may what you most earnestly desire and what He has planned for you become inextricably one; may you truly seek first His kingdom and see all other things added to your life...Jessica Seigler - had the South won the civil war, I would have been first in line to hear the sweet Southern accents in these Norther parts :) You light up a room by your presence, wit and gracious candor; I could wish for twenty more just like you, but there will always be just one Jess Seigler... Megan Cox - if fervency and joy are a recipe of Heaven, they you must be it. You are one of the most encouraging and life-giving people I've known...Kacee Saxe - may the wisdom and preponderance that you possess lead you deeper and deeper into the mysteries of God. You're intellect and desire for truth are a gift of God that He has given you for that very purpose; enjoy the greatest journey ever known in to the depths of the Unknown... Sean Shepherd - your steadiness and integrity are telling; one could accurately project that thirty years from now you will be loving God, loving people, and changing the world, no doubt about it...Megan Kallenback - overcomer; there is hardly a better word to describe. It is not the great heights that men accomplish externally that are most impressive, but the greatness of the wars won inside - that I believe will be most noteworthy on That day...Chad Prytula - it is your humility, not your strength, that is most impressive; may every venture find you being exalted by our Father in Heaven as you continue to be the incredible servant leader that you are... Joshua McGinely - you are a man of wisdom and steadfast patience; tempered men often accomplish more in their focus than ten others in their untrained zeal. You will conquer mountains, being undaunted, one step at a time...Brandon Smith - no height, no depth, no distance is beyond the vigor and passion He has put in you to reach. May your gentle spirit and zest for life lead you from the forgotten paupers of the third world to the palaces of Kings, and may favor be granted wherever you put your hand to succeed...Jacob Wheeler - may the dedication and excellence you have garnered thrust you into realms of leadership and responsibility that are prepared for you; stay the course, never give up taken ground...Jennifer Bell - if joy and laughter could be bottled and sold, every one in DLA would be millionaires! Your love of life is a gift beyond measure; it is not to be squandered or mistaken, but employed to love the hurting, the forgotten, the lost, and the very ones around you that need you most. You are a pillar in this community...Ryann Miller - may the melodies and harmonies of tune be indistinguishably woven into the heart-cry's and passions of our Savior. What you possess in music and worship is only a foreshadowing of what is yet to come in adoration at the Throne; use it well to speed the day of His return...Abigale Dean - with child-like simplicity of heart and compassion for people, I pray that you are continually ushered into the presence of our King as surely as literal children were of His day; you are precious, let the image of being His daughter remain the untarnished truth of your life... Jaylynn Widmark - like Joseph in Potiphar's house, while you still serve in yet unknown places, may our God train you in all wisdom and truth that you might one day rule as one approved unto God for purposes that only His heart can unfold... Nicholas Burgess - may no giant, no storm, no foe, no philosophy or intellectual ascension ever steal from you the raw fervor of spiritual things that you posses. May He continually bear fruit in you unto eternity, may you, like Peter, walk on water when all others stay in the boat...Leah Shaw - you are a beautiful jewel, made to reflect and adorn all others around you with joy and life; wherever you are, there is a greater degree of love and happiness in that place...Jacob Nash - you are ready in season and out of season for whatever comes your way; you seize opportunities that many others may miss because of your willingness and preparation. You are a model of ready anticipation...Aaron Gambrell - let love and faithfulness never leave you; you are a loyal friend and willing ally; may your journey be littered with friendships that are as committed as you are...Hailey Miller - you are a women of wisdom and skill; I pray that the dreams and passions of your heart are fulfilled in His timing and way. Love fiercely and never deter from His plans for your life...Melissa Zackman - may the strength and commitment to principles you possess always be used for the glory of the our Lord; may He continually place you like a guidepost for all who cross your path...Abree Manton - women of valor and zeal; you have such joy and consistency; may you lead many and be yourself led to heights unimaginable...Kinzli Schroeder - you are a vast treasure of unknown strength and beauty; may the Lord continually lead and unveil you before many people as His chosen one in whom He takes great delight...Jessica Teske - you are full of life and vigor; I have no doubt that wherever the Lord leads you, you will take ground for His kingdom; remember who you are, remember the authority that resides in you, never shrink from the battle line, the battle is not yours...Charity Luce - you have wisdom and posture beyond your years; you are a women of great patience and faithfulness; you have served when no one was looking, or maybe you thought no one was looking :) You are a rare and significant treasure, a pioneer or sorts, paving the way for many others to follow... Sarah Hanback - you awe your Creator; he delights greatly in you as the apple of His eye; for those around you, you are strength, commitment, excellence, and a safe place to be loved and listened to... Jeremy Dare - you earnestly desire to accomplish great things for the Lord; remember that you are a prince and a king in His court; serve from that place, not out of obligation or duty, but out of delight and the pleasure of co-creating with your King... Andrea Davis - you have the zeal of ten women, and the raw determination to accomplish whatever task is before you; be faithful and enjoy the incredible joy of partnering with Him for your life's purpose... Josiah Carlson - it is not great men before an ordinary God, but ordinary men before a great God that change the world; may your view of God continually increase beyond your own imagination and may you serve mightily in all the works of your hands... Alyssa Rose - true to your name, you are a rose; one which gives off the aroma of Jesus in all seasons and places; allow Him to continually build in you the power of child-like faith, faith that will move mountains and cause giants to tremble before you... Kylie Erwin - you are so full of life; I pray that the joy and timing of all that the Lord has for you will find its perfect fulfillment in you; trust that all of His purposes will be fulfilled in you in this generation...

To the CORE, Kelly Edgett - may the skills and willingness that you possess allow you to serve in measures you never dreamed of; you are a delight to lean on and trust with as a faithful steward...Kristina Trent - like a sister and a daughter to me, you have grown so much over the past two years; you have served faithfully, loved extravagantly and risked to become who you are today, I am so proud of you...J.D. Small - a mighty warrior my friend; the sky is the limit of what will be done through you in this generation; I pray that ministry never becomes a burden, but always a delight as you pursue and fulfill God's utmost for you; I love our friendship...Joel Newby - bro, you are a diamond in the rough; this year has been one of a great uncovering for you as you've begun to lead and take the steps to risk and become all that God has designed you to become... Tyler Griffith - you are a man's man, simply being around you causes men to be men :) You are faithful, steadfast, humble, willing, a servant, full of courage, willing to sacrifice and a man of immeasurable strength. It is a privilege to journey with a man such as yourself, really...Benjamin Martinez - you have been heavily gifted with so many talents its hard to know where to start; in the end, as at the beginning, I pray that you are more aware of your incredible capacity to love people than anything else; you have been given a tremendous gift to lead; I pray that no matter where or how, we have many many years together...Jimmy Jones - an unknown hero, and I'm convinced one of DLA's best kept secrets! :) You have overcome so much, led from a place of humility and patience, and been willing to take a lower job even though you may be qualified for a much higher one; I respect you greatly and am so very proud of you... John Mark Lohner - you are man of tremendous compassion; may our great God use you mightily to display His glory around the world, and may many people from yet unknown tongues call on His name because of your life...Brandon Kelly - You have loved unapologetically and with great care; I am excited to see you spread your wings and risk to see perhaps what magnificent things the Lord will do through you...Aaron Thomas - you are a rock; men with wisdom, humility and integrity like you are incredibly few and far between, I'd trust you with my life... Jamie Dunham - with patience and poise you have led and loved well this year; there is no limit to the number of children you will love; I think 20 is waaay to little :) There will be many who line up behind you on THAT day that will tell of your great love and compassion for them; may it be so... Jessica Reitveld - friend you are a pastor of leaders; I pray that the wholeness of what God has put in you would come to fruition, that you would know fully who you are and the purposes that He has for you; may many leaders come under your care... Sarah Schroeder - I believe you barely know the tip of what He has put in you! You are a queen and princess to your Heavenly father and He has plans for you as such; I am so proud of what you have become and are becoming...

To the ATeam... Jonathan Miller - we're just getting started; may the wisdom and willingness you have grant you a place before Kings; you win... Taylor Brooke-Donaldson - you are one of the most steady and reliable people that I know, truly an unsung hero; I could not have done this year without you...Bethany Diehl - your laughter and joy are contagious; you have been an inspiration and model for so many people these past two years, and the best days are ahead! Remember who you are... Benjamin Johnson - you have the heart of a lion and the loyalty of King; wherever you turn I am confident you will succeed; may His strength and joy be your unending delight.

To the staff of DLA... Amy Perkins - I don't know that I have seen someone spin as many plates as you do without dropping any of them! You are amazing. I appreciate your honesty and willingness to have open discussion; I have much respect for you and look forward to leading together in the years ahead. Thank you for all that has gone noticed, and the many many more things that no one has seen. You truly are incredible. Daniel Well - Geeza, you have been a breath of fresh air and at times a life boat; thank you for your wisdom, temperance, and incredible ability to bring things to cool place when they have been at a simmer. I respect you immensely and pray that God continues to open every door for you and the dreams that He's put inside of you. I love working together. Yo-yo - brotha you are one incredibly gifted and talented man! I have sooo loved your incredible heart and passion for this ministry and in how you have served. I am so grateful for God's goodness in bringing you to Colorado. Love you like crazy. Michelle Vette - you are a tremendous well of wisdom and spiritual discernment; I know that those who sit under your leadership will walk away having experienced more of wisdom, and much more of Jesus. It has been a privilege to serve with you these past two years! Phil and Bonnie - you are the best parents a tribe could have! We love you all dearly! Justin - thanks for making happen with one man what should take eight men; you are incredibly impressive my friend, I look forward to all of time the Lord allows us to journey together.

To our leadership in Dan, Dave and Renata - thanks for your vision, your patience, and your commitment to fulfilling the mandate on your lives from God. You have been faithful where so many others have fallen away, you are examples to the rest of us and pillars in the Body.

To my beloved wife of almost one year... you truly are my best friend, partner in ministry, and greatest dream ever come true! I love you beyond what words can express... our journey begins!

DLA, I love you, I am proud of you, I am so excited to have started a journey with you that will continue until the day of our Lord's return. Until then, remember... If you love God and you love people, you can knit socks and change the world!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Wounded to Love

Most of us are willing to love people but few of us have an experiential understanding of what it really means to love sacrificially the way the Lord loves us. How could someone leave the indescribable glory and intimacy of Heaven in exchange for a life of betrayal and torture on earth? If what you’ve experienced here on the planet is anything like what I’ve experienced, then you’ve observed the grand disparity between what most people would refer to as love and what we see in the love of the Lord Jesus. How did the Lord courageously endure the pain and suffering of the cross, in love? The uncompromising conclusion I have found was His willingness to be wounded for the sake of loving.

The issue each of us must wrestle through is our own willingness to be wounded. What we ultimately desire is love, and we’re well aware of the command of Jesus to love. But simple awareness of our responsibility does not produce the sacrificial living that births true love.

Love that doesn’t cost the lover is not love at all.

I’m often drawn to the story of Hosea, who among the prophets had one of the lowliest routes to Biblical fame. I’m not sure that if I woke up one morning and received a word from the Lord to go and marry a prostitute I’d be super quick to get out of bed that day. Doesn’t sound like my idea of building a spiritual fan club. But Hosea is obedient, and what is even more amazing is that after Gomer leaves Hosea and returns to her ways, God instructs Hosea to go again and bring her back. As odd as it all seems I can only imagine the pain and confusion that Hosea must have suffered. “God, isn’t there a better way to get the point across to Israel? Don’t you think we could just write it in the sky or something?” I can only imagine the Lord’s response, “No, Hosea I want you to know in the pain of the human experience what I feel in the eternal reality of the Lover’s experience. “You’re love of Gomer must cost you in reflection, what my love of people will cost me in my son”. Pain, suffering and trials – all these are the alibi and footprint of Love.

Is there no better way?

For many years we’ve been told the stories of brilliant soldiers, sons and daughters of Christ that endured great personal tragedy for the very chance to love as Christ loved. We’ve read passages like, “I’ve been crucified with Christ…” and, “I’ve resolved to know nothing but Christ, and him crucified…” and all along thinking that we have something beautiful to offer in the laying down of our lives. However you approach it, the undeniable truth is this: our death is His invitation to end all the selfishness and all the pride and all the failure. The doorway to life-abundant was hewn from the cross of life-forsaken.

Love breathes outwardly what it lives inwardly.

Our great folly in the Christian life is that it often requires a larger withdrawal of love than most of us have within our resources to pay out. The Apostle Paul stated it this way; if you cannot look into the eyes of the very ones burning you at the stake and have genuine love for them, then you’ve missed the entirety of living as Christ lived (I Cor 13:3 paraphrased). Did you ever wonder that “God so loved the world that he sent his only son…” (Jn 3:16) was followed by, “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him [Jesus] and cause him to suffer….” (Isa 53:10). Could it be that in the same way the Lord was pleased to wound Jesus for love’s sake, he could also be pleased to wound you and I? For, indistinguishably woven into the fabric of love is the golden strand of pain.

As Christians, if we do not choose to be willing to be wounded to love, then all else we endeavor to do will become irrelevant.

May we never feign love. May we never sow with our words what we refuse to reap with our hearts. Get alone and be honest with God. Wrestle with him through your fears. Confess that you’ve vested more in your ability to avoid pain, than in his ability to carry you through the great depths of love. Then, tell him that you are willing to be wounded. Give Him permission to injure you even before circumstance demands it, so that you might truly have counted the cost of loving sacrificially. Ask Him for a soft heart that will allow you to love freely, uninhibited and resonating with the powerful expression of Jesus Christ. Let us be a people that from our very deepest recesses are willing, even at great personal cost, to love beyond all recognition.

Our hearts are epic.

They were never meant to be hidden from the wilds of life. They were not designed to be stowed away in the cargo bays of our existence. They were meant to be challenged, motivated, stirred, impacted, even wounded. They were meant to lean into the wind from the bows of great ships, forging the vast ocean before them. They were meant to savor the highest highs and endure the lowest lows. We cannot harbor them safely in the confines of protected living. No, they must sail through experiences and face the perils of life’s voyage head-on.

We must risk living. We must risk loving. For if not, then what have we gained in our existence?

There will be those times and places when we will inevitably be wounded. These experiences will leave scars on our hearts. But the last thing I want to do is enter Heaven with an unscathed heart that has no scars from loving and losing. At the end of my days I expect that my heart will be strong, but not flawless, powerful, but not beautiful in the smooth untested sort of way. I expect that it will have a great many battle stories to tell of loving, losing, and loving again. And the deepest scars will be a testament to the things that I fought, and if necessary died for. Therein I pray will be found the wounds that came from the rescue of many lost souls. I want it to be so. Not because I am a masochist, but because I want my heart to bear the remembrances of a life that loved with reckless abandon.

May our great Heavenly Father who fashions hearts help each of us be willing to be wounded to love. This is the greatest commandment and doorway to loving as Christ first loved us. For when we’re willing to love even unto death, no fear remains in us and we truly become fully alive!