Sometimes it is so clear when God orchestrates something on our lives, or someone. Very few places have I experienced this more powerfully then at camp. I view it like this. Each one of us, as a child of God plays a different melody with the lives we lead. Our differing strengths and gifts and the way we relate to one another provide the instruments needed in order to create this melody. And out there, all over the universe there are billions of other melodies walking around, and God as the divine orchestrator will bring our melody in line with another to create a beautiful harmony, so that our life creates a dynamic, sweetly blissful opus that not only is a blessing to others, but it brings glory to God.
There was one summer where this happened to me unmistakably. I showed up to high school camp one summer already knowing every single camper on my team, except for one girl, we’ll call her Jamie. Jamie was a sweet girl, shy, with beautifully circular eyes. We met one another, and for some reason, I had the hardest time for the whole first day remembering her name, so I made it a point to always say hello to her whenever I saw her.
I cam to find during the audition process that she was a talented dancer as well, and when we were casting late one night it came down to deciding between her and one other girl for the final spot in the ‘specialty dance’ group, a group that would spend almost all of their rehearsal time with me.
The specialty dance is always one of my favorite parts about camp. I get to work with eight to twelve of the most talent dancers in camp, it’s a great artistic and ministry opportunity that you don’t get with the larger groups of twenty or bigger.
While we were casting, we originally made the decision to go with the other girl, who I knew from years previous, so I thought she would be a safer choice. But then, right before I got up to go to bed, the director told me that she needed the girl we had just cast for a different role in the show. So we made the adjustment, and at the last second, Jamie was added to my group, making sure that we would spend almost all our rehearsal time with one another for the rest of the week.
As the week went on, Jamie and I continued to run into one another. On Tuesday night, the counselors threw a dance. But not any normal dance, normal dances are not allowed at camp. This dance was a surprise wedding reception for a lucky chosen bride and groom. We sent to campers to change, and us counselors scrambled to set up lights, streamers, music, and a dance floor, as well as choosing the wedding party, planning the schedule for the reception, and of course, creating an entire wedding slide show, complete with Photoshopped Facebook photos of the “bride and groom” and their happy relationship together up to this point.
As you may have already guessed, Jamie was chosen as our bride, and because she was on my team, I was to play part of “father of the bride”. I gave a speech telling about Jamie’s birth story, and we shared a daddy daughter dance, during which I told her how proud I was of the woman she had become. It was hilarious, and one of the most fun dances I have ever been to. But little did I know, the words I spoke to Jamie during I dance, while playing the part at the time, I would truly mean them later in the week.
Rehearsal continued, and as I got to know the girls in my group, I discovered that all of them had been training in dance class for quite some time, all of them, except for Jamie. As we were learning choreography, I noticed that Jamie was having some trouble. She had all the ability she needed to do the moves, but she would allow herself to be psyched out if she were to miss even one step. After one rehearsal I took her aside and I said, “Are you intimidated?” Clearly mercy is not one of my gifts, but she looked at me as if she knew exactly what I was talking about.
“No,” she said, I’m just completely insecure about pretty much everything.” Her tone was matter of fact, and completely without emotion, as if this was a state she had been living in for a while.
“Well you shouldn’t be,” I told her, “You can do all of these moves just as well, if not better then everyone else on that stage. You’re good, and it’s beautiful when you do it. Don’t beat yourself up if you get one step wrong.”
I could tell this meant a lot to her, and that she may have been in the verge of tears, so we both did our best to finish our exchange for she was not one who liked to cry in front of people, and I was not one to comfort, another gift that is admittedly not my strongest.
The stage was then set for Thursday night, the last night of camp, most commonly referred to by counselors as faith night, and more commonly referred to by campers as crying night. I was to be giving the salvation message and I was going to tie it in with feet washing and planting ourselves in the living water of Jesus.
Now first of all, God moved in incredible ways that night, I saw and heard the Holy Spirit physically and tangibly in others. I heard people encouraging one another and praying for one another in ways that I knew were beyond our earthly capabilities. While viewing all of this, at one point I looked over and I saw a young girl who seemed to be weeping with exceeding passion. The only reason this sight struck me so hard was because I had looked over at this girl only five minutes before, and she had been totally fine, the only difference now, was the Jamie sat behind her, laying her hands on the girls back, and was praying for her.
It was at this moment that I began to see the orchestrations of our loving God. I saw her mouth moving at a frenzied speed, that, along with the other girl’s emotional reaction only could be explained in my mind by one thing, Jamie had received the gift of intercessory prayer, a gift that I myself have been given from time to time.
I soon turned away and began to pray and talk with other campers who needed a place to let go of their burdens, and about twenty minutes later I turned and Jamie was standing right in front of me. It took only a moment of our eyes locking before the water in her eyes boiled over into a full sob.
“I don’t feel worthy to have anyone wash my feet,” she said, “I try so hard, and I want to love God more, but there is no way that I could live up to the Christian standard.”
My heart broke as I heard this, yet I felt God place a very simple, beautiful answer on my heart for her. “None of us are worthy enough to have our feet washed,” I said, “But Jesus desires to do it anyway, not only because He loves us, but so He can plant us in that love.”
“And as for this ‘Christian standard’, the only standard that any Christian is held to is that we love God and accept His free gift of grace.” The standard is not to be perfect, the standard is to accept your natural imperfection and accept the gift of perfection through the grace of Jesus Christ. These were obviously the Spirit’s words in me and not my own. I have never been very eloquent in my speech.
I relayed this to her, and I could still sense her hesitancy. So I continued, “Here is what we’re gonna do,” I said, “I have not washed any feet tonight. And I would be humbled and honored, if your feet were the only ones I washed.”
From there the two of us walked over to the baths together and I washed her feet with tears streaming down both of our faces. I’m not sure if it was as clear to her as it was to me, but I was realizing in that moment that God had set us up specifically to meet one another. He had been orchestrating our lives in just the right way so that when our two melodies collided, we would create a beautiful worship hymn to his great glory. He’s doing it all the time, we just have to open our eyes to see it, cause when we do, He will open our ears to enjoy the music.
I am blind to you, O Lord
This world makes me blind to you
And I don’t know if I can survive
I don’t know if I can swim in this lake
I don’t know if I can survive in this water
I don’t know if I can make it through this storm
I know you’re present everywhere God,
but I can’t see you move here
I can’t feel your touch here
It separates me from you
And I cannot be in this world without you
Cause if I am, it will swallow me
And I will die
I will die
I will die
I will die if I do not die
I will die if I do not die day after day
This world will swallow me
And I will swallow it
As I swallow it, as I take of it’s fruit, it swallows me
And I am torn, I am torn
And my sight is lost
I loose sight of the victory that’s already been won
And the person that I’m going to become
I don’t know
How do you shine a light when the darkness is so thick
And there’s no air
How does a light survive when there’s no air
There’s no breath
It’s so deceptive
How do I do it
How do I be a light when there’s no air
Can a light survive in a dark room with no oxygen
Cause that’s what I am in this world
What glory is there for you here God
What glory is there for me to give you
It is not plain to me
I cannot see your face through the fire
Through the rain I am blind to your presence
How weak am I?
That I can speak to you so boldly, and speak of you so boldly
And in the blink of an eye I am lost from your sight
I have hidden myself from you
This armor that I wear is the armor of a fig leaf
Covering my shame
I am a paper warrior
I am a plastic warrior
So easily torn down
So easily torn down
So strong sometimes
Yet so quickly removed
I am a paper warrior
A glass warrior
To live in this world, it’s not easy
To be so utterly alone
So utterly alone
Is this the call
Is this the call
Cause I don’t know if I can carry it
Cause I don’t know if I can answer it
If this is the call Lord, I don’t know if I can answer
Through my own power I cannot
Through your strength I can
I am so weak
I am so weak
My strength is an illusion for it is only the strength of Christ in me
Never once have I been strong outside of his perfect power living in me
Never once have I been strong outside of your power because I look at myself and know that I am so weak
I am so broken
I am filthy
How can I see such great things
And turn and do such evil
I am nothing
I am nothing without you
God this is the testament to your glory
That this paper warrior
This weak sinner
This evil, evil person
Can do any good for your kingdom
I truly know you use the least of these for I am the least and I have been chosen
That is a miracle
That is amazing
That is what the power of your Holy Spirit is
That you come into a broken down Chevy and you turn it into a Mustang
You come in to a leper and you make is the most beautiful creation on earth
You take the form of a baby in Bethlehem, and you make him a king
And none of it happens outside of your power
None of it happens outside of your power
There has never been good in this world, there has never been love in this world, except by your power
I begin with this title hoping to peak your curiosity. Truth be told, there is not much talk about sperm on a Christian blog, or any blog for that matter. It stems from a sermon I once heard from author Tony Campolo, while talking to teenagers he used an illustration that went something like this…
Did you ever want to see what a sperm looks like all grown up? Then look at yourself in the mirror. Yes, the truth is hard, but at one point in our lives we were all once a sperm. Not only that, but we were one in five million sperm. And there was a race down a long dark tunnel. And there was an egg at the finish line. And you won! It was you against five million and you came through with the victory! You made the Olympics look like nothing!
And as funny as it is, it is also science, and it is also God’s plan. We hear all of these amazing stories about people when they were born, how because of one rare disease or another they had a two percent chance to live and they came through. We look at these people and say, well, they really must be here for a reason. But what about the fact that all of us, each and every one of us, had a one in five million chance of being born and we came through? What about that? What about the fact that each and every one of us is a divine miracle?
Some people may try and say that things were just random, and maybe that is true, but it is not
what I believe. You know what I believe? You are not a mistake, you are not here by accident. Think about it, if your mother had a headache that night, you might not even be here today. (Think about that one, you’ll get it later)
Don’t try and tell me that your life is a mistake because the chances were so low, the deck was completely stacked against you and still, somehow, you can through. And not only somehow, but for some reason, and I believe it was for a reason, a very specific reason. And the Lord confirms this truth in Jeremiah chapter one when he tells the prophet, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and set you apart and appointed you”.
For Jeremiah, that appointment was to be a prophet among the nations. But for you, and for me, and for all of us, there is no telling what that appointment is. But what we do know is that for you, and for me, and for all of us, there is an appoint. There is a divine appoint that God has placed upon your life, no matter who you are, and your responsibility, and the reason you are here is to discover that divine appointment, and to devote your life to following and fulfilling it.
When you can commit yourself to doing that, I believe you will see God begin to work powerfully in your life. Because the other great thing about your divine calling is that God does not just pick us out from the sperm pool, choose the calling, and then leave us on our own. The Lord desires for you to find your calling so that He can partner with you in creating a better world. He desires for His Holy Spirit to dwell within us and to work through us in order to do His redemptive work in this world. He is active, He is moving, and He is in love with his children, desiring what’s best for them.
I wrote something a few summers ago for camp. That summer, I felt that the Lord was calling me to storm the hearts of these students and take back their identities for the Lord. In process of praying about how to go about that, the Lord breathed two spoken word pieces into my heart, one for the boys, and one for the girls. They have since become infamous, at least among the hundred or so people who own them, as a source of encouragement for those who are struggling with their purpose or their self worth, and I would like to share them with you now.
I share these words with you, knowing that they are meant to be spoken, but I pray that as you read them and pray over them that the Holy Spirit would speak them into your heart and that you would know without a shadow of a doubt that this is exactly who the Lord has made you to be, no matter who you think you are. Even when you were a tiny sperm, the Lord looked in a school of five million and He point you out and said, “I want this one. I choose you.”
(click on the link below to see the poems)GUYSGIRLS
I have seen God’s fingerprints very powerfully in my life lately through an opening of my eyes and hyper awareness to answered prayer. He has shown Himself not only to be real, but to be loving and active. I think a lot of us believe that God is loving, that is a common Christian conviction. But I think a significantly less number of us believe that God is active, that He is working and orchestrating in every moment. After all, Psalm 107 reminds us well that “His loves endures forever”. The verb endures is in a present form, meaning that it still is moving and enduring and active. Upon noticing this new sensitivity to God’s presence and movement in the world, I began to ask myself how and why I have become so much more aware then I ever have before, that question is what I will attempt to answer here.
I would like to believe that a lot of Christians believe in God’s love and they want so desperately to begin to see his love and strength and power working actively in their lives, and yet, we are most often left in the stands, watching and hearing about God moving in the world as if it were a spectator sport. But to be a part of God moving in the world, to be a part of His activity, the bringing forth of His Kingdom, we cannot be spectators, we must be players in the most serious of ways. We must step out in faith and begin to follow the dream or the calling that God has placed on our heart. When we begin to do that, we are drawing ourselves closer to His heart, and closer into an awareness of His presence.
Now, this is something we have heard before, that “God has a plan for your life”. And it is true, we find it to be true in the book of Jeremiah that “before you were in the womb, God knew you, and set you apart”. We believe that God has amazing things to do through us, and we even offer ourselves up for Him to do them, but we are missing a step I think, and it’s a tricky one, but an important one.
In order to truly see God’s fingerprints in your life, and begin to see day by day what his plan is for your life, you need to put God to the test, and renew your mind. If we want to see God do amazing things, we need to begin to ask Him to do them, and we need to ask for them specifically. When we ask God for something, when we come before Him everyday with our pleas, He will hear us and He will answer them. But we must dare to ask specifically, or we may miss the answer.
For example, if I were the pastor of a church, I could ask God to bless my ministry. That is a great prayer, and over the years I may be able to say that God as generally answered that prayer. I could pray that prayer, or I could pray that God would bring 500 news members to my church over the next six months. This is putting God to the test, it is not say, well Lord, if you really are powerful, prove it. It is saying, God, I believe that you have the power to make this happen, and I want to see you move, cause when you do I will use this testimony to bring you glory. Begin to ask the Lord to place specific prayers on your heart, because it is much easier to see His fingerprints when we pray specifically.
The next step after the prayer, is to begin to renew our minds, so that He may reveal to us the answers He has for us. Romans 12 tells us that we must commit ourselves to the renewing of our minds so that we may discern His good and perfect will. As you renew your mind, you will not only find your eyes more open to God’s answers to prayer, but you will find more confidence and prompting for the specifics of your prayers.
God is moving, but it is hard to see his from a static position, we need to begin to move with Him by praying specifically and renewing our minds, and then perhaps we will see 2 Chronicles 16:9 come true as the Lord shows himself strong and active our behalf.
“And he shall be like a tree planted by rivers of water, which bringeth forth fruit in it’s season, and does not wither.” -Psalm 1:3
In the Gospel of John, chapter 13, Jesus gets on his hands and knees and washes His disciples feet. This is one of the ultimate acts of humility in the history of the human race, Jesus, God in the flesh, washing the feet of sinful fisherman and tax collectors. It’s craziness and this chapter is the poster child for sermons on humility and service. But one summer as I was studying the verse above and this story in the same day, I made a connection that had slipped passed me before.
When Jesus washes Peter’s feet, Peter has a hard time accepting this gift of service. In response Jesus says to him, “Unless I wash you, you have no part of me.” Jesus is washing his disciples feet not only as a cultural act of humility, but so that they, and we will become a part of Him.
What does this mean, to be ‘part of Jesus’? That is when Psalm 1 popped into my head. To be part of Jesus is to be planted, like a tree, in the living water of His truth. So what Jesus is doing when He washes His disciples feet is He’s covering their feet, their roots, their very foundation, He is physically setting them in water. Because He knows that when they are planted in Him, the true source of life, they will never wither.
So then when we, as disciples of Christ, plant ourselves in His truth, He becomes our life source, the source that is feeding our roots and setting a strong foundation. So that in times of spiritual drought, or when tornados come, our roots have not only grown deep in the truth of Christ, but we are constantly being fed regardless of life’s circumstances.
This is why regardless of my surroundings or circumstances, I will strive to stand in the water.
There once was a God
And that God made many things
He made Light to shine
Plants to grow
Water to nourish
And the stars to look pretty
He made the sun to give warmth
The fish to swim
The animals to graze
The birds to fly
And He made man to watch over it all
God made Noah to build
Abraham to birth a nation
and Jacob to raise sons
God made Joseph to dream dreams
And Daniel to interpret them
He made Moses to lead slaves
And Aaron to pray for them
God made Joshua to battle
And David to slay giants
He made Solomon to be wise
And Peter to be a rock
He made Esther to stand up
And Mordecai to be a mentor
God made Hosea to forgive
Isaiah and Jeremiah to prophesy
Paul to be converted
Jonathan to be a friend
Lazarus to raise up
Martha to serve Mary to follow
He made the blond man to see
The lame Man to walk
The poor made to be rich
And the rich man to be poor
The youngest son to come home
The greedy tax collector to be a disciple
God made Jesus to die (and then not die) Switcharoo!
God made all
And then God made you, and you, and you, and you , and me to do even greater things then those.
At camp this week one of my campers, I’ll call him Nick, is one of the most unique kids I have ever met. To give you an idea, on Monday morning I approached to this small for his age, blonde, eight year old with glasses and I asked, “What’s your name?” Without even responding, Nick made a muscle and started pointing at it. After I few seconds I realized that he wanted me to feel how strong he was. I knew right away that we would be friends.
Throughout the rest of the week, Nick told me all about his workout regimen, as well as what he wanted to me when he grew up. I asked him, “Nick, what would you like to be one day?” He said, “A scientist.” A likely answer for a kid his age, so I asked, “what kind of scientist?” And he answered absolutely matter of factly, “I’m gonna cure cancer.”
The answer caught me off guard a little bit as I chuckled to myself. “You’re gonna find the cure, huh?” I said. And Nick just nodded at me, as if it was no big deal. He was talking about it as if he had already accomplished the greatest breakthrough in modern medicine. He was so sure of it. To him, it was not some big, seemingly impossible dream, to him, it was just going to happen.
I think that is how God would answer us if He were to tell us the amazing things He was going to accomplish in our lives. For us, wanting to build an orphanage in a third world country, or trying to start a church may seem like a big, seemingly impossible dream. But to God it’s just going to happen, because he ordained it to happen. He says it to us matter of factly because He is certain that with our obedience, He will accomplish His beautiful will for our lives, no matter how impossible the dream may seem.
In the gospel of John, Chapter 21, some of Jesus’ disciples are out fishing and as usual, they are catching nothing. Jesus then appears on the shore (unrecognized by them, this is after the cross and the resurrection) and calls out to them, “Throw your nets over the right side of the ship, you shall find”. As they are following his instructions, John says to Peter, “It is the Lord”. Then the word tells us that Peter threw on his robe and jumped headlong into the water and swam to shore to meet Jesus.
I absolutely love this image. I imagine there was zero hesitation on Peter’s part. He hears it from John, he peers over the side of the boat, and before his eyes even has time to light up his heart screams, “It’s my Savior, my Lord,” and he goes flying into the water.
I imagine this was no a very graceful dive and swim to shore, and I imagine Jesus chuckling the whole time as he watches Peter flailing towards him in the water. “Still can’t walk on it, huh?” Jesus thinks. But what an embrace the two of them must have shared, and what a feast. The scripture’s tell us that when the disciples came to shore, Jesus had bread and fish waiting for them to eat. It must have been the most joy filled part any of them had ever been too.
That is how I want to enter heaven, out on a boat in the middle of the sea, then I recognize Jesus on the shore, so I jump head first into the water and flail towards Him using something like a butterfly stroke. Then we share a long awaited, warm embrace and a huge meal to begin eternal life.
I want to dare to ask God for the impossible in my life. Not because I have all of these amazing stories about how God came through in just the final seconds with some miracle that I’d been praying for. Not because I’ve experienced it in my own life, and not even because I know people and have a bunch of stories about instances where God has done unbelievable things. But I want to dare to ask God for the unbelievable because I believe that He is the God of the bible, and He still desires to accomplish unimaginable things through His creation.
He still desires to set an entire nation free from slavery.
He still desires to show Himself in a burning bush.
He still desires to deliver an army of 300 hundred over and army of 10,000.
He still desires to take 5 loaves and use them to feed 5,000.
He still desires to bring down the wall of Jericho without any weapons.
He still desires to give the tiny shepherd boy victory against the largest giant.
He still desires to save us from the fire, the lions den, the storm.
He still desires to walk on water.
He still desires to heal the blind.
He still desires to humble the most rebellious nation in the world using a prophet who didn’t even want to carry the message.
He still desires to speak through a donkey.
He sill desires to speak through an angel.
He still desires to whisper.
He still desires to provide fishermen with a monster catch.
He still desires to overthrow Pharaohs and humble kings.
He still desires to exalt dreamers and glorify servants.
He still desires to change the heart of the Pharisee.
He still desires to give all the wisdom in the world to a young leader.
He still desires that every tongue, literally every tongue, would confess his name.
He still desires to bring order out of chaos.
He still desires to bring light into darkness.
He still desires to give rest to weary.
He still desires to heal the sick.
He still desires to resurrect the dead into new life.
I believe that. And in order to have a faith that shines like the stars, we need to be willing to ask God for the impossible so that when He does the unthinkable, we know that the miracle came from no where else other then a Father who willed it to happen. A faith that shines like the stars belongs to the person who not only dream of a life where the miraculous occurs, but actually prays and believes that God can and desires to do it, and that He will continue for all generations. That’s the kind of faith I want to have.
I find it slightly ironic that I’m categorized and appointed as a leader for small groups and Bible studies among my friends and community in the church. I find it even more ironic that I enjoy doing it. I say this because small groups and Bible studies used to scare the daylights out of me. All throughout high school I avoided youth groups like the plague because I knew that I would be forced into a small group or a house group where I would further be forced to share the ugly details of my personal life. I went under the illusion that I believed my personal walk with Christ, or lack there of in reality, was my own business, not meant to be shared or spouted to anyone else. I was content with leaving my judgment, my lust, and my hypocrisy in the closet, because if I didn’t have to deal with my weaknesses in a group, then I could more easily ignore them in my own life.
Over the years, however, God has granted me a complete change of heart. I’m now part of several small groups throughout the year, including leading a Bible study and an event called Basement Worship, where my friends and I commit our ‘hang out time together’ to worshipping the Lord instead of watching a movie or going out to eat. God has revealed to me not only the beauty, but the need for vulnerable community in my life.
Most of our lives are lived in non-vulnerable communities. In our work environment we usually commit ourselves to being as strong as possible. Don’t show any weakness, or else you may not be able to climb the business ladder. Amongst our friends it’s the same way. We don’t want to admit that we struggle with sin. We hide our jealousy, our pain, or our weakness from those around because God forbid if anyone should appear more ‘Holy’ or ‘successful’ then we are. We seem to be obsessed with creating an unhealthy, passively competitive culture in our businesses, our teams, our friends, and even our families.
Theses non-vulnerable communities require that everyone wear a mask of perfection, omitting any struggles or hardships and pretending that we have it all under control. The non-vulnerable community results in people who are so fearful and so closed off, that connection is no longer possible and every man is his own island of plastic, pretended treasures.
The vulnerable community, on the other hand, encourages openness about imperfection. It celebrates the reality that we are all imperfect and broken, and pursues the reality that both personal and communal restoration is achieved most effectively through vulnerability with God and with others.
I have tried to encourage vulnerable community in the teams I lead. It’s uncomfortable at the start, but it results in a team of people who truly trust and serve one another in humility. It puts everyone on the same level, so that we can begin the climb together with the strength of the whole team backing each other up. Nothing is more powerful then that kind of teamwork.
I want to live in vulnerable communities. I don’t want to hide my issues and imperfections anymore. I want to share them openly with my friends and I want them to share theirs openly with me. I want us to find brotherhood and sisterhood as we recognize and breath easier that every one else is just as human as we are. I was to pray with one another over the serious things and laugh with one another over the silly things and cry with one another over the sad things.
I don’t want to wear the mask of perfection, it usually doesn’t fit me very well anyway.