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Getting Back in the Groove

September 12, 2013 Leave a comment

Well as you can tell I have been away for a bit. I put the blog on a hiatus last fall (a year ago) to work on the format of it all and try to build a blog that better encapsulates who I am.

Well….I obviously haven’t done that. But I assure you, it’s for good reason. The last 365 days of my life have been eventful, to say the least. I’ve moved to a new part of the country. Lived in two different locations. Started a few different careers. Made a few friends. Gotten married a few times. Had a few dozen kids. (Those last two weren’t even remotely true)

However, over the past few months I have been feeling more and more convicted to get this blog back in action. Is it in its structurally and aesthetically finished form? No. But I’d rather get back into writing even if it’s not done for a few reasons. Hopefully writing consistently will be the cattle prod I need to work on the physical structure.

The first reason I want to get this thing rolling again is that I like the IDEA of journalling. But I need accountability in my journaling. Hopefully this blog can meet that need in my own life.  There is a lot happening in my life and writing about it helps me process it or else I blink and 9 months have gone by and I’ve barely processed any of it. Expect me to be transparent. In fact, hold me accountable to do so! I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect. I wanna get real and talk about imperfections, dreams, questions, and anything else life related.

Secondly, I have friends and family across the country who have tried to keep tabs on my life through phone calls, emails, texts, Facebook posts, tweets, etc. Well when I am in my busiest seasons I am admittedly and regretfully terrible at keeping my communication up. Hopefully this can help folks stay in the loop on what’s new with me.

Lastly, I want this to be a place where I can maybe impact other folks’ lives. That sounds somewhat conceited. But I am asking and trusting that God would use my thoughts, experiences, antics, etc. to encourage, challenge, and inspire the folks that would read it.

So who knows what’s going to happen. I have a few posts that I’ve been thinking on over the past few months. Some are about everyday life. Some are about what Jesus is teaching me Some are about music. Some are about social media. Some (most) will probably be stupid and mean nothing to anybody other than myself (and probably my parents because they seem to be interested in whatever I do…which I don’t always get because I don’t think I’m that interesting. But I guess that’s what parents do…).

All of this is to say, that I would love for you to stay tuned. I would love to get your feedback and thoughts on my future posts. Comment on it. Hit me up on the social mediums. Send my a carrier pigeon.  New posts will be coming soon. If you want to hear my thoughts on a certain topic (which would thoroughly surprise me), tell me!

Thanks for reading!!

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First Post from BigStuf

June 10, 2012 Leave a comment

The past few days I have been thinking about what I wanted to say in this first blogpost since starting my internship with BigStuf.  What words could I say that would accurately capture all that is going on down here?

Surreal.

At a very surface level, life is simply surreal.  This very minute I am sitting on my 5th floor balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico as a storm rolls in while listening to some pretty epic music (Explosions in the Sky, for those wondering).  How did I get here!?

As I’ve been thinking more and more about where I am and what I am doing, I can’t help but giggle at the way in which God moves and uses us. I am laughing just thinking about what I would have said if, four or five years ago, you had told me that I would spend my summer after graduation as a BigStuf intern.  It’s actually humorous to me.  But as humorous as it is, I am excited because I know that the Lord placed me here.  There really is no other logical explanation as to how I got here other than that God has had this planned for me for a long time.

We have just finished week 1 of camp.  My head has finally stopped spinning and I am starting to take things in.  Firstly, I am so incredibly blessed to be working with the people that make up the BigStuf team this summer.  My intern team is a great, fun group of folks that I get to work and laugh with all day long.  Our staff team is made up of a slew of gifted and talented individuals who are wonderful at inspiring us by their hard work and encouragement.

I have the absolute privilege of working in Reggie Joiner’s room this summer.  That man is too cool.  I cannot say it enough.  Getting to hear him speak all summer is such an insane blessing and privilege.

I get to watch the passionate and talented BigStuf band lead students into worship every night.  After spending the past year being on the stage every week, it has been surprisingly refreshing to be able to sit back and enjoy being lead.  I can’t wait to spend more time with those guys.

As you can maybe tell, I am still having a hard time gathering my thoughts.  All I know is that the Spirit of the Lord is at work here at BigStuf.  I ran ragged this past week.  Looking back, I have no idea how I was able to function, other than that the Lord gave me the strength to do it.  It is humbling to look back on this past week and know that nothing that I accomplished this past week was really done by me.  It was the Lord working and ministering through me.

I am looking forward to the coming weeks.  I am excited to grow and develop my relationships with my fellow interns, the BigStuf staff, the band and the speakers.  I am excited to see the Lord open up new ways for me to serve and minister.  I am excited for the opportunity to start conversations with students that can have eternal significance.  I am simply excited to see what the Lord has to do.

This post is not very spiritually deep.  Not to say that I am not learning things.  I am.  This post just serves as something of a “I’m still alive! Here’s how I am doing!” kind of deal.  But I will leave you with this quote I have been mulling over.

I’m reading Gospel by JD Greear, finally.  The book is blowing my mind.  Here’s a quote for you to think about until my next post.

“Always ‘begin again’ with the gospel.  Abide in it; swim in it; make your home in it.  See more and more of your life through it.  Be absolutely convinced at every moment of every day of the goodness of God in your life.  That’s the only way you’ll ever really grow.” – JD Greear.

Surviving Finals Week

May 2, 2012 Leave a comment

In light of finals week (and my desire to do a wee bit of procrastinating) I thought I would blog this thought out that I have been wrestling with a bit as of late.

Historically, I cave under pressure. What I mean is that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. I do that. While it sounds good, I’m not sure it’s completely Biblical. I found myself listening to a song by Casey Darnell called “When The Waters Rise.” The song is about how when the waters rise, God is always there to protect us. That’s some truth right there. But then I though about how, especially in finals season, I don’t always see….or maybe feel is a better word…that song doesn’t feel true.

God wants to protect and provide for us. The biggest barrier to Him doing that is US. The biggest barrier to Him doing that is ME. When finals approach and papers are to be written, 97% of the time I end up putting God in the lobby while I go back to the office to cram for the tests and blast through the papers. In the course of those efforts I get sick. I get tired. I get exhausted, really. And every time that makes me more susceptible for the tricks and games of the devil. Sin tends to manifest itself most in those times.

The only way in which I can successfully get through a finals week is to be preparing my heart everyday and asking the Lord to teach me to walk by the power of His Spirit. To teach me to lay down my weapons and allow Him to fight for me. To teach me how to rely on Him and let Him be God.

I don’t have too many regrets from my last four years of college. But if I had one major regret, it is that I never allowed the Lord to teach me how to let him provide in those stressful times. I wish there were an easy solution to such a problem (there may be and I’m completely oblivious). The only solution I know of is to insure that finals week is a week like all the rest where each and everyday is focused on and revolves around Jesus. Sure there will be studying for tax exams and writing papers about Post-Soviet Thailand-Australian relations, but those are just opportunities for God to wow us with his provision. If we deprive Him of that opportunity, we’re hurting ourselves more than anything.

When the going gets tough, the tough get Jesus.

Take heed underclassmen…

What’s next in my life!

April 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Four years ago I embarked on a journey.  That journey was to get a business degree from Indiana University.  I am finally coming to the end of that journey.  Today I walked out of a college class for the last time (though I still have final exams next week).  If you had asked me four years ago what I would be doing with my life today, I can only imagine the answer I would have given you.  If you had even asked me a year ago what my outlook on life would be coming in to today, the answer would have been completely different.  But I can confidently say that I know what the Lord has for me next…at least until August.

If you have read any of my prior blogs (there hasn’t been a new one in a while), you probably have an idea of the work the Lord has been doing in my life in the past year.  I went from wanting to play music, to wanting to get a job in the music industry, to wanting to do ministry, back to wanting to get a job in the music industry, then to wanting to make playing music my ministry.  That’s an incredibly abbreviated reader’s digest recap.  Well, last fall I began seeking wisdom and advice from various people in my life as to what steps I should take once May arrives and it’s time for me to leave IU and begin my “life.”  I got a slew of feedback and ideas, but one that kind of stuck out was to apply for an internship with an awesome organization called BigStuf.

I had heard of BigStuf.  But I had never actually gone to BigStuf.  BigStuf is an organization that puts on a summer’s worth of camps that minister to middle school and high school aged students from all over the country who travel to Florida, usually with their church youth groups, to spend a week of their summer experiencing the truth and power of the gospel through worship, speakers, activities, and community and end up leaving that experience changed like never before.  In the past, BigStuf has hosted speakers like Andy Stanley, Louie Giglio, and Francis Chan along with worship leaders like David Crowder and Kristian Stanfill, just to name a few.

I never got to experience BigStuf firsthand, but I had friends that had gone when I was in middle/high school and all I heard was how amazing it was and heard/saw the way it changed their lives.  I asked around a little bit and continued to hear nothing but good things.  I had also heard from a few people who were familiar with the internship program  (some who actually got to intern themselves) who said it is an absolutely life changing program.  So after doing the research and praying over the idea, I decided to apply (what’s the worst that could happen!?).  I had to get letters of recommendation, write essays, take a strengths assessment test, turn in my resume, record a video about myself (which you can view here: bit.ly/Is5qZu) and THEN go through a phone interview.  TONS of people apply for this internship every year.  So I figured it was a bit of a long shot that I would get in, especially considering the fact that I have never actually gone to BigStuf.  But I continued to pray that if BigStuf was where the Lord wanted me, then He would open those doors.  If not, then I asked Him to close them.

A few weeks went by….then the call came.  I was accepted!  I am now one of 14 awesome guys and girls that get to intern with BigStuf this summer.  I will fly to Atlanta on May 21st for two weeks or so of training and team building.  After that, we travel to Panama City Beach to help run the camp through June and July, with the internship ending in August.  Over the course of this summer we will minister to roughly 15,000 students from across the country.  We will be running cameras, lights, merchandise tables, volleyball championships, security, and so so so much more.  It’s going to be exhausting.  I will be working from 8 in the morning until 11 at night, if not more.  I will be running around like a chicken with my head cut off (sorry for the graphic description).  But I get to serve JESUS.  I get to serve Him by serving the other staff and leaders of BigStuf.  I get to serve Him by serving the BigStuf Band.  I get to serve Him by serving the other interns.  I get to serve Him by serving the youth leaders that bring their groups to BigStuf.  And I get to serve Him by serving the students that come to BigStuf.  I honestly cannot think of a better way to start my post-college life than spending my summer exhausting myself to serve the Lord and expand the kingdom.

NOW HERE’S WHERE YOU COME IN!

Some of you reading this may have gotten a letter from me recently, others of you may be hearing about this for the first time.  With such a daunting task ahead of me (and the other interns), we have a number of needs that must be met to ensure that the Lord has the most room to work and move how He will.

Needs:

1.  PRAYER!! – I need your prayers.  Everyday will be an absolute battle, both physically and mentally.  I will be physically tired.  I will be emotionally tired.  I will be spiritually tired.  There is no possible way that I could do any of what the Lord has already laid out for me to accomplish this summer without the power of the Holy Spirit and the support and prayer of my friends and family back home.  This summer is going to have an eternal impact on the lives of thousands of students and leaders across the country, myself included.  As a result, the Enemy is going to do his best to make sure that problems arise, that we as an intern team and BigStuf as a whole is disrupted as much as possible, and that each individual that takes part in this camp is under constant attack.  Already, I have seen the Devil trying to get into my life to bring up junk to distract me from the work God has in store.  Please be praying.  This is the absolute more important thing I could ask of you. Pray for the leaders of BigStuf, the band, the interns, the students, the youth leaders, and any other aspect you can think of where the Devil can take a foothold.  We need this summer SOAKED in prayer.

2.  I could use your support financially.  Part of the BigStuf internship experience is support raising.  Our leadership team has set a goal before us that, when raised, goes to pay for all of our living expenses throughout the summer along with paying for our training materials and other tools we will need throughout the summer.  So far, this has been a huge challenge for me.  I absolutely HATE asking people for money (which really stems from my own pride).  However, the Lord has promised to provide and I am claiming that promise with confidence.  Already I have had an amazing group of people come to my need by giving of their funds to see that I am able to help in the expansion of the Kingdom of God through BigStuf.  However, I am still not anywhere near meeting my goal.  The goal for this summer is $2,800. Considering all that this goes to pay for, it is a very reasonable figure.  However, I start with BigStuf on May 21 and at this very moment I have raised $1,625.  That means in the next 25 days I am going to have to come up with $1,175 ($47 dollars per day).  If one person would give $50 per day over the next 25 days, this need would be met.  Anything I raise over that amount goes to pay for the expenses I incur in traveling to and from Atlanta.  I have been praying, and will continue to pray that the Lord would be providing these funds.  In doing that, I ask that you, whoever you are that is reading this, would consider joining with me.  I would love your support in any way you can provide it!!!

If you want to give you can go to the link below.  The easiest way to give is by giving online with a debit/credit card of some kind.  However, you can also send your money/check in to BigStuf directly.  If that is how you would like to roll, they ask that you still fill out the form on the website to pledge the amount (it also gives you a number to identify that I am to receive the funds and instructions on where to send it, etc).

THE LINK: http://intern.bigstuf.com/ryanharvey

If you have any additional questions about BigStuf or the giving or anything I have mentioned in this blog, feel free to get ahold of me.  Comment on here, shoot me an Email (rystixx89@gmail.com), shoot me a text if you have my number, Facebook message, Tweet, whatevs!  I’d love to talk to you more and answer any questions or hear your thoughts!

So there you have it!  I am jacked for what God has in store!!!  I will definitely work to keep this blog more up to date in the coming days with my needs for prayer, what the Lord is doing, and all sorts of exciting news from my experience with BigStuf.  This got rather long (in true Ryan Harvey fashion).  Thanks for reading and for any support you can throw my way!!

Worship Is….

January 5, 2012 2 comments

“Worship is…
our response,
both personal and corporate
to God –
for who He is!
And what He has done!
Expressed in and by the things we say
And the way we live.”
– Louie Giglio, The Air I Breathe

I wrote this on the car ride from Bloomington to Atlanta for Passion 2012. However, it has not been until this evening that I have had the time (and free WiFi) to post it. The things that I typed on Monday, on the way down to what may be THE best worship conference in the world have only been reaffirmed as I sit here Thursday night to post it. So here goes……

This past semester, I have been asking the Lord to give me a crash course in what real worship really is. I figured if I want to make worship my life, I should probably try to get a thorough understanding of exactly what the Bible says about worship. I mean up until this point, the only real education I have received on worship is what I learn about it through music practices. While that has been really educational, I knew/know that worship is so much more than just playing music and singing some words about God.

So I asked a few of my “worship role models” about some good books that teach about worship (other than the Bible of course). I got a pretty long reading list, which has made up the bulk of my reading time. I have to say, the Lord has been blowing me away.

The quote above is Louie Giglio’s definition of worship. At first I was not a huge fan of it. I thought it was somewhat too broad. However, as I have read more books about worship, I realize how great that definition truly is.

Let me explain.

I think that most Christians would agree that our primary purpose as people/Christians should be the same as God’s purpose. Where some will agree and disagree is what exactly God’s purpose is. Without going into too much depth, I am a firm believer that the primary purpose of God is to bring glory to Himself. I have held this opinion for a while, but as I have been reading Isaiah for the past couple of months I have been convinced more and more of this claim. God repeatedly talks about how He has saved His people not for their sake but for the sake of His name. One isolated example would be Isaiah 48:9-11. I will trust you to look that up if you want. Or you can just trust me on it. Regardless, it is just one of the many times God makes such a statement.

But what does that have to do with worship?

Well at the base, everything we are to do should ultimately serve the purpose of glorifying God. But in our sinfulness we do not have a full knowledge or understanding of who God is. In essence, it is as though someone has knocked on the door to our house and asked us to go door-to-door campaigning for a political candidate who we know nothing about.

This is where worship comes in.

All of the books I have read thus far have said that, in addition to glorifying God, worship is intended to help us get a more full or complete image of the Lord. But what does that mean?

It helps me to think of it this way:

Imagine a big painter’s canvas. But this canvas has these black marks all over it; maybe even some dirt and grime. By every onlooker’s standard it is nothing but trash. This is our canvas before we have asked Jesus to be the Savior of our lives. Then the very second we ask Jesus for forgiveness and to be our Lord, He comes in with a huge paint roller and paints it completely white; white as snow. It looks like brand new.

So now we have this blank canvas. What do we do with it?

We then begin to bring the Lord this canvas in our times of worship. In our times of worship, like Louie said, we are acknowledging God for who He is and what He has done. Look at the lyrics of most worship songs. They usually contain at least one of two things. They are either filled with words that speak to who God is by declaring attributes of His character, or they contain words that talk about what He has done like how He saved us. So as we sing these words, we are affirming with our mouths (and hearts) that these things we are saying to/about Him are true. As we enter into times of worship through serving we are still declaring who God is. We are declaring who He is to others by saying that He is gracious and giving as we extend grace and give of our time, energy, and sometimes money to the people we serve (we cannot limit our times of worship to simply singing a few songs every week).

Regardless of what form of worship we are engaging in at any given moment, as we worship, God raises His brush and paints on our blank canvas. The first thing we should like to see painted on our canvas is the Cross. If it were not for the Cross, God would not even be able to approach our canvas, much less make it new or touch it with a single bristle of His brush because of our sin. But the Cross enabled us to come into communion with the Lord. Therefore, it is the very first thing we should expect the Lord to paint on our canvas. From there, I think our canvases will begin to vary by each individual person. I mean each canvas will, of course, contain a lot of the same elements. But each person tends to have accentuated views of the Lord based on the experiences of their lives. For some, we will see a scene of God being a loving father; maybe because that person’s father failed in the past. For others we may see Him as more of a sacrificial lamb that took a punishment on their behalf because of the intensity of the sin with which they were battling. The new believer may just have a cross on their canvas. Maybe another more mature believer has Jesus hanging on the cross amidst images of their own sin to acknowledge that Jesus has saved them but these sin struggles are still a very real daily challenge. Each canvas is as unique as the fingerprint on the believer to whom the canvas belongs.

But as we continue to engage the Lord in worship more and more, I believe our canvases will begin to look the same. Every time we give our time to acts of worship, be it music, serving others, communion, prayer, fasting, etc. (there are many forms of worship; “Expressed IN and BY the things we say and the way we live”), God will add more to our canvases. Maybe in one worship experience he adds a little bit of detail, kind of like how Bob Ross will add a couple of “happy trees” to his mountainous winter landscape. Maybe other times he adds a major focal piece, like a stream through the center of Ross’s landscape. Inevitably our canvases will have to conform to one image: the true image of the Living God. However, I do not think we will ever really get such a canvas until we are in Heaven gazing upon His face, when all question and room for interpretation are eliminated. God is a god of unity. He longs for ONE body with ONE head. Read Ephesians 4:1-16 to learn more about unity in Christ.

Every single time we engage in worship, our hope and prayer should be that when we walk away we would be able to look at our canvas and see that the Lord has made some change in it, whether it be a big or small change. I believe that if we enter into a time of worship trusting and believing that He will make such changes, then He will. As the Lord works more and more on our canvas, we will be able to look at it and, with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, see which areas are more accentuated than others; which areas could use a little more detail. Upon such realizations, we can then enter into worship asking the Lord to help give us more detail, or a better view or understanding, of this area. We may even see the Lord change the surface of the painting altogether. He desires that we have BIG views of Him because He is a BIG God. We may walk into a worship encounter with a regular sized canvas and, after experiencing the Lord, walk out with a image of the Lord that looks like a mural on a city wall. We will begin to see these changes appear if only we ask the Lord for them. As time wears on, we will learn to love and appreciate these changes more and more. We will take joy in something as simple as the Lord proportionally adding a tiny bird to a tree miles away in a Bob Ross painting or blowing our image up to fit on the side of the Empire State Building.

Our image, or understanding, or view, or “canvas” of the Lord that we hold is one of the most crucial elements of our beings. This canvas, as we reflect on it, should do many things. It should excite us. It should bring us to repentance. It should evoke us to action. Maybe it evokes more worship. Maybe we are compelled to go share the Gospel. Maybe we are compelled to go serve the poor. Regardless of exactly what our reflection on our image of the Lord causes to do, the result of each response should ultimately be the glorification of the Name of the God of the Universe.

The one other phrase that has been dominant, and that I did not completely understand for the longest time, was that worship begins and ends with Jesus. To relate this to our running canvas analogy, every painter marks a finished painting with his/her signature. It is frequently a very important mark to identify a genuine from a fake. However, unlike every other painter, immediately after God paints over our dirty, scratched up canvases, he signs His name. In His eyes, we are finished the very minute we ask for a new canvas. But what name does he sign?

JESUS

Meat and Potatoes

November 8, 2011 5 comments

I have been mulling over this blog for a while.  Writing it. Scrapping it.  Rewriting it.  It’s been a process.

“In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.  You need milk, not solid food!  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

“Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ to go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.”  – Hebrews 5:12-6:2 (NIV)

Ouch.  Ouchouchouchouchouchouchetc

That has convicted me so much the past month or so.  So let me first say, before I say anything else, that I am so guilty of what I am about to say, and that I speak from a place of conviction and sympathy.

Over the past few months, I have found myself wondering what would happen to Christians in America (and maybe even around the world) if every single Christian resource, other than the Bible, just disappeared.  I mean one day we wake up and every book by Francis Chan, John Piper, and C.S. Lewis were gone.  Every worship album disappeared.  Every prominent pastor vanished.  Maybe our recollection of all people and resources was gone as well.  What would happen to today’s Christians?

Ultimately, the church will survive, and maybe even thrive more than ever.  But how long would that process take? And at what cost?

I create that hypothetical situation to say this:

In my life, and the life of other Christians I know and love, our faith is prominently built upon books, songs, teachings, and sermons based on the Bible and not the Bible itself.  We, especially college students and anyone else who frequently utilizes the wide world of technology, have used such access to great materials to build our faith upon the shoulders of spiritual giants like Francis Chan, David Platt, and Mark Driscoll, and not on the Bible upon which those men are feeding and growing.  If those men did not exist, the spiritual legs upon which my generation is walking would  be swept out from underneath us, as we allow our faith to be influenced more by the men God has been building up across the country and not on the God that has been building them up.  We live with a false sense of maturity, as we allow the spiritual maturity of others to define our own.  Then we get out into the real world and wonder why day after day we get smacked in the face with our own spiritual inadequacy and immaturity.

On numerous occasions I have read a book or heard a sermon and find myself asking, “Man! How did these guys get such revelations!? Do I need to go to their seminary to be able to take such deep lessons away from the Bible?” Well the message from Hebrews speaks to that!

These men (and women) are teachers.  They are mature in their faith.  Yet I still frequently feel immature in my faith… What is the difference between what they are doing in their time with the Lord and what I am doing?  Well according to Hebrews, the difference seems to be what they are spiritually feasting on.

“But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

Would I say that I am an infant? No.  But I know some people are.  I mean if you just became a Christian last week, no one is expecting you to be on the evangelism circuit next week (though it is not out of the realm of possibility for the Lord do something of that sort in our lives).  However, it’s not typical.  If you identify yourself as an infant in your faith, you should be feeding on “the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.”

However, what about those of us who feel stuck somewhere in between infancy and full maturity?  Those of us who have been Christians for a while.  The author of Hebrews identifies us as those who by this time ought to be teachers. What characterizes our adolescence and what can we be doing to allow God to lead us to maturity?

While I can’t speak to each and every person’s situation, I believe that one of the biggest obstacles to our spiritual maturity is our avoidance, and maybe even fear, of the Bible.  Let me explain….

“Radical” by David Platt.  “Forgotten God” by Francis Chan.  “The Air I Breathe” by Louie Giglio.  “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. “Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  The list goes on and on.

These are great books.  I may even say they are amazing books; awe-inspiring even.  These books have the ability to radically change the life of a Christian.  But I contend that they are not solid food.  They are not milk.  But they are more like pureed food.  They are pre-digested food.  They are like the chewed up worms that a mother bird feeds to her babies.  They are good stuff.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love pureed pizza and chewed up worms as much as the next guy.  But these books are NOT solid food.  I will even say it again.  They are NOT solid food. These books are solid food, THE BIBLE, processed and shaped, for people to better digest, by mature believers “who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

Did you catch it?  I just typed it (well I actually Copied and Pasted it from earlier, but I typed it then).  I just revealed the secret to having a faith like JD Greear and Matt Redman.  Mature Christian faith is marked by the constant use of solid food; the Bible.

While it is possible that some of the content of those books may have come from nothing more than prayer and worship, I can, with absolute certainty, say that the lives and faith of those authors was tremendously marked by long periods of study and mediation in the Bible; the book breathed from the mouth of our living God, himself.

If you want to find out if you are spiritually mature, try to identify a constant use of the Bible in your life.

Many people I have talked to over the years, myself included, don’t spend enough time in the Bible.  We like to read a book based on the Bible, or better yet, a devotional book.  But we don’t get into the Bible itself.  We depend upon someone else’s understanding and explanation of the Bible and rob the Lord of the chance to speak to us directly through our own struggle to understand the teachings of the Bible. We substitute these devotionals and Bible-inspired books for the real deal.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying reading the Bible is easy.  No. Flippin. Way. is it easy.  The Bible is tough to read.  It can be confusing.  It can be vague.  It can be more than we can chew at times.  I have been reading nothing but the Old Testament since last spring.  Trust me.  I have been as confused as it gets.  I am sure that our favorite Christian authors do not read through the Bible once and all of a sudden have an entire catalog of life changing topics about which they could write about at the drop of a dime.  No.  Such revelation comes from being hunched over a Bible, sweating from concentration, for hours, begging the Lord to give us some kind of revelation and to allow our eyes to see, our ears to hear, and our hearts to change.

Am I contending that every Christian should be writing 100+ page books about the mechanics of the trinity? No.  I am not even contending that every Christian should be writing at all.  The author of Hebrews does identify that we “ought to be teachers.”  However, the Bible says that some are called to be teachers, not all. Why this disconnect? The author is asserting that we are to have the knowledge and understanding of teachers.  As a result, I am asserting that every Christian is called to spend time in their Bible.  Just them and the Lord.  Is it daunting? Yes.  But through “constant use,” we can “train ourselves to distinguish good from evil.” Maybe that means just a couple of verses a day.  Maybe that’s all you can handle, and that is OKAY.  But “through constant use,” I can guarantee that the Lord will give you the ability to take on more each time we get into the Word.

When reading the Bible, we have the opportunity to come before the Lord completely helpless, asking for His mercy and love and for the Holy Spirit to teach us, and then see Him respond. I cannot neglect to say that the only way we are able to understand the Bible at all is through the power of the Holy Spirit, but for the sake of brevity I will leave it at that.  Now are we going to walk away from every quiet time in the Bible with life changing revelations? Not necessarily.  But every time we read, we can expect God to show up in some way.  Maybe we walk away utterly confused by a passage.  We have the opportunity to then ask the Spirit to give us clarity.  It may not come immediately, but the Lord will grant that clarity.  Then not only do you have a better understanding of the Bible, and the God about which it speaks, but you will have seen the Lord, Himself, give you an understanding.  How cool is that!? It’s like a two-for-one deal.  We get to understand the Lord and see Him move all at once!!

I am not advocating that we go out, collect all of the Bibles, and then burn down every Christian bookstore in existence for diverting our attention away from the Bible and the God who gave it to us.  No.  However, I am saying that we, as Christians, need to be examining our quiet times and our times with the Lord; our Christian diet.  Are we grabbing a quick Bible milkshake on our way out the door?  Or are we having deep conversations over dinners with the Lord, where He provides the meat and potatoes through His word? We can always have the milkshakes for dessert….

Stuck Between a Legalist and a Hard Place

November 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Welcome to the first ever (and probably one of the few ever) Double Blog Post Tuesdays!

First, let me say that I am eating a box of Zours, and they are not nearly as “zour” as I remember them being.  I have noticed the same of Sour Patch Kids.  It’s unfortunate to see companies compromising on their principles for the sake of greater market share.  What’s next? Is Nickelback going to stop making chart smashingly authentic rock monstrosities that speak directly to my heart!?

And we wonder why America’s economy is in the tubes…..

I think that just about every blog post I have ever written has made some sort of statement or been an update on where I am in my life.  Today I have nothing but questions.

It’s strangely beautiful outside today.  I can’t believe that on November 8th we are having arguably the most beautiful day of the entire year.  Virtually no humidity, a cloud speckled sky, sunny, upper 60s/lower 70s.  It’s gorgeous!! However, I have learned today that gorgeous weather brings out the “weirdos.”  On my bike ride to class today, I came around the bend past Ballantine Hall and saw a huge crowd of people outside Woodburn Hall.  From a distance I could see a few people in the middle of the crowd and what looked to be a banner saying something.  As I got a few feet closer I could make out the words on the banner.

“All SINNERS Will be Destroyed Psalms 37:38”

I could then see IU’s infamous Brother Jed, along with a woman and another man, surrounded by students.  As I got closer I could hear laughter (undoubtedly at Brother Jed’s expense), yelling, and sense an overall aroma of hatred and disdain.

I was en route to class, so I unfortunately could not afford to stop and be “educated.”  As I continued on, I passed another IU legend: The “Help Stop Violence” guy.  This guy comes out multiple times a year to hand out pamphlets that speak about the animal cruelty inflicted upon chickens and other animals bred for mass consumption.  Fortunately for me, both hands on the handlebars meant that I could not stop and take one of his pamphlets, which showed gruesome pictures of bloody chickens.  I am not sure if such pictures would have caused me to regurgitate the Bagel Bites I had eaten just minutes beforehand, or if they would make me crave a Spicy Chicken Sandwich.  Regardless, I didn’t really want to carry the pamphlet around.

Class went on, and the whole time I found myself curious as to what was going on at the Brother Jed rally. I hoped that he would still be outside so I could hear what he had chosen as his topics of the day and if he had found an effective way to cover them.  Based on the laughter I heard in passing, my assumption was no.

Class got out and I hopped on my bike to hurry down to Woodburn.  There he was; just as I had left him. It was in between classes, so the circle was as large as it had ever been.  I couldn’t really follow the current speaking point he had selected.  It was something about manifest destiny and the inhabitation of America by explorers…not really sure what that had to do with the Lord.  I can only imagine. The next point he picked out was about how he had been tempted to seduction by a girl at a university in Florida.  To be honest, I had no idea why he was telling us any of these stories, other than to go off on side tangents about how pre-marital kissing was a sin and how girls were temptresses and men were perverts.

Then a man wearing a bike helmet (with no bike that I could identify) began to take over the spectacle.  The man identified himself as a Jew.  The helmeted man proceeded to hold an open, heated, debate with Brother Jed over the legitimacy of the sacrifice of Jesus and the redemptive nature of God.  As this progressed, I realized that, at the core, Brother Jed was not too far off from the truth in regards to Biblical Christianity.  He had a fairly thorough knowledge of Scripture and theology.  To be honest, in that moment I even felt a bit sorry for him (not that I want to criminalize the helmeted man).

I didn’t stay a whole lot longer.  Soon I was back on my bike and riding home, but I felt torn.  Is Brother Jed truly benefitting the Kingdom of God?  Since his appearance on campus is a yearly event, I have had this conversation in years past with friends.  Of course, the conclusion of discussion always comes down to “He’s a legalist who has missed the heart of the Gospel; focusing too much on the wrath of God and not enough on the salvation offered through Jesus. Maybe if he changed his approach he may be a bit more successful in his efforts.”

I think I still believe that….But I can’t help but ask questions.

For example, could/has the Lord ever worked through the words of Brother Jed?  Sure his yelling, wrath-filled message does not appear to best the most effective method of sharing the gospel to the students of Indiana University.  However, can we safely say that his method is not completely ineffective? There have been seasons in my life where I really needed a swift kick in the pants when I was up to my eyebrows in sin, shame, and desertion of the reality of the Gospel.  While, on the whole, people would approach and leave Brother Jed’s circle with looks of disgust, could there have been one person who walked away today convicted and inquiring of the Lord as to the condition of their soul and its place in eternity?

Another question I have is this: Why don’t I have the same passion and conviction that Brother Jed has?  Sure I would like to say that Brother Jed just has a few screws loose and the hateful responses he received from college students has no effect on him.  But is it out of the realm of possibility that Brother Jed is in his right mind and the power of the Gospel has drastically changed his heart and life?  What if Brother Jed’s story is not much unlike that of Jonah?  There are definitely some similarities in their message (though I never heard him say that in 40 days God would throw down on IU…).  Regardless of the fine details and discrepancies that exist between Brother Jed’s understanding of the Gospel and mine, the man believes what he is saying.  He not only believes it, he is going out into hostile territory and shouting it at the top of his lungs for hours on end.  When have I gone out on a street corner and shouted about the love of God at the top of my lungs?

Many people, myself included, have said that Brother Jed’s approach was not how Jesus would have spoken to students.  However, I am not completely certain of the absolute validity of such a statement.  Over the summer I listened to a sermon from Elevation Church’s “What Should I Do With My Life” series.  Pastor Furtick had brought in his mentor, an evangelist, to speak. In the sermon the man talked about how controversial Jesus’s instructions to “take up your cross daily” truly were. For the sake of brevity, I would advise you to get the Podcast off of iTunes.  The short version is that, to the Jews in that time and culture, a statement like that was like Jesus making a reference to 9/11 to Americans.  It was shocking.  It was disagreeable.  It brought up hurtful memories.  Numerous times, Jesus made statements and claims with which people disagreed.

The Bible tells of numerous times where people abandoned Him.  Look at John 6:53-71 for example.  After feeding 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread and some fish and walking on water, we see Jesus make a statement that freaks people out so much that they leave him.  “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.”  Later the Bible says “On hearing it, many disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching.  Who can accept it?’…From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” (The dude just performed some crazy miracles!!  This must have been pretty serious!)  Later Jesus says that if we truly follow him, we will be despised, hated, and persecuted.

By that example, are the statements that Brother Jed is making so outlandish and un-Christlike?  Is Brother Jed’s approach definitely not how Jesus would be doing it if He were here?  I am not so sure…..

Do I say that to say that Brother Jed is the shining example of what the Christian life should look like? That he has all of his ducks in a row?  No.  For one, I do not believe that you will “burn in hell” for “pre-marital kissing.”  There still appear to be a lot of differences in the views of Brother Jed and myself.

However, why has the Gospel not altered and shaped my life enough that I have the confidence and ability to do what Brother Jed is doing?  Why don’t I have the passion and courage to do anything for the Kingdom of God like Brother Jed does?  What does that say about the value I place on the Gospel and the light in which I see my savior? Do I really believe what the Bible teaches?  If I do, why do I not love my fellow Hoosiers enough to spend my time and energy allowing the Lord to use me to speak to them?  Maybe a better way of putting it is this: Why do I hate other people so much that I keep the Gospel, the promise of fulfillment, joy, and everlasting life with God, from them?

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