Heavenly ‘Warrior’

In a recent post, I noted my rare sightings of Jesus in movies.  Well, I’ve got to share this rarity and give thanks to brothers like Mr. Jivanjee who see and share such sightings with me on the regular.

***SPOILER ALTER – Note: the following gives the ending of the movie away…be forewarned***

“Warrior” is one of my favorite movies.  The entire story is saturated with the building blocks of the Kingdom of heaven: relationship.  Through action and drama, the characters put on display hurt and longing for the restoration of relationship.  It’s a shadow of the relational restoration we all long for through Jesus Christ.

The strain between brothers, father and son, husband and wife, coworkers, and friends are all brought to the table.  Hate, bitterness, loss, grief, death, divorce, alcoholism and many of the struggles life throws our way are quickly front and center in this movie.

Is this not a picture of the present reality?  Of the world the Lord has placed us in?  Of the things He has overcome and we are called to overcome by faith in Jesus Christ?

The movie focuses on two estranged brothers who enter an exclusive MMA tournament hoping to win a $5 million dollar purse.  The older brother, Brendan, is a HS physics teacher and ex-UFC fighter.  He gets put on suspension for entering an unofficial MMA fight to earn extra money for his wife and two children.  His motivation for fighting is love.  He’s doing what he knows to provide for his family.

The younger brother, Tommy, is an ex marine who went awoll after his unit was killed in a bombing in Iraq.  As you learn more about him, you find he’s full of anger.  He hates his alcoholic father who used to beat his mother.  He hates his brother for not fleeing with him and his mother when they were kids.  He hates his mother for dying.  He hates that his unit was killed in Iraq.  He’s fighting in the competition to give the money to a fallen comrade’s family, but his anger fuels him, not love.

In the climax of the movie, the brothers face off as the final two fighters in the tournament.  They’ve fought hard.  Tommy has destroyed every fighter in the ring quickly and without mercy.  Brendan has taken many blows but withstood them all and pinned every opponent till tap out.  They’ve both overcome everyone else in the ring leading up to the final fight, and its clear Brendan and Tommy aren’t going to let up let up on each other.  Watch this clip…

This is a powerful sighting of our Lord.  Earlier in this movie, Brendan could have told Tommy all day long that he loved him.  He could have told Tommy everything was OK, but Tommy wouldn’t have heard it.  He would have thrown it right back in Brendan’s face.  Brokenness.  That’s where Jesus captivates our hearts and lives.  When we’re sufficiently broken, we receive His love.  We need it like the air we breathe, but we don’t realize it until we’re so over whatever else is driving us, that we can embrace our Captor.

And from that broken and defeated place, we’re held captive.  In our brokenness, which He inflicted, in our defeat, which he commanded, we’re held captive by the true motive…His love for us in all things.

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Love Never Fails

I’m a sucker for good a cappella music. I grew up listening to the group from Paris, TN. They were rock stars to me. Many of their songs still bless me to this day. Maybe it’s just childhood nostalgia, but this a capella version of Jason Mraz’s “I won’t give up” is one of my favorites. Check it out:

When I look into your eyes
It’s like watching the night sky
Or a beautiful sunrise
There’s so much they hold
And just like them old stars
I see that you’ve come so far
To be right where you are
How old is your soul?

I won’t give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up
And when you’re needing your space
To do some navigating
I’ll be here patiently waiting
To see what you find

‘Cause even the stars they burn
Some even fall to the earth
We’ve got a lot to learn
God knows we’re worth it
No, I won’t give up

I don’t wanna be someone who walks away so easily
I’m here to stay and make the difference that I can make
Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use
The tools and gifts we got yeah, we got a lot at stake

And in the end, you’re still my friend at least we did intend
For us to work we didn’t break, we didn’t burn
We had to learn how to bend without the world caving in
I had to learn what I’ve got, and what I’m not
And who I am

I won’t give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up
Still looking up.
I won’t give up on us (no I’m not giving up)
God knows I’m tough enough (I am tough, I am loved)
We’ve got a lot to learn (we’re alive, we are loved)
God knows we’re worth it (and we’re worth it)

I won’t give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love

What I see and hear: the struggles, the hurts, the frustrations, the pains, the stresses, the longings, and the search. They all make intimate relationship tough. It’s in these places that love becomes more and more valuable. In the midst of them, all we want is someone right beside us saying, “I won’t give up on you. You’re worth the struggle”.

I hear the voice of Jesus telling all of mankind “I won’t give up”. Brothers and sisters in Christ, speak this truth. To one another. To the world. Hold in there and hang on with each other. Don’t go it alone and believe that no matter how rough things get, Jesus is at work. No matter what our differences. Learn. Be. Know who you are in Christ.

Give love to those around you and all the while, be looking up. As we give love, we give it from Christ. When we give to the world, to those around us, to the body, we look up to Him for the Love that’s lasting.

He’s giving us the tools by His life to bend without breaking. To stand under pressure without caving. To be different and still be connected. To navigate unknown territories and return home. He is your Friend through it all. As one new Man in Christ Jesus, we are that friend to one another thanks to the Spirit in us. He causes us to consist and to be held together. We are the Friend that sticks closer than a brother.

Don’t let the winds and waves deter you. Hold up under the pressure and when you’ve finally heard His voice, and I pray you hear it in this song, walk on water with Him. With us all! Have you been captivated by a Love that never fails…that never gives up on us?

What do you hear from the Lord in these lyrics?

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Kingdom Building Blocks

Every major city has a downtown area with its skyscrapers, convention centers, and concrete jungles.  Nashville, while it’s no New York City, has its fair share.

A group of us here decided to find the Lord in the city and share our findings with one another.  If the Lord is building His kingdom in the earth as the bible claims, what does that look like and how do the cities of man reflect this reality?  This was my takeaway.

nashville downtown 2

Bricks, concrete, steel, mortar, bolts, and the like are used to create the buildings we see downtown.   These are the building blocks of man’s kingdom.  Mankind is able to create awesome structures (which reflect the Lord’s life in a different light) and, for the most part, money is what makes these structures relevant and useful.

In man’s kingdoms, mammon offers the power to control, make more money, make more buildings etc.  The world’s cities are shadows at their best and counterfeits at their worst of the Lord’s City.

The brick, concrete, steel, mortar, bolts and the like that make up the buildings in His city are people; and more specifically, relationships between them.  We are the building blocks.  Being hewn, shaped, and built together into a great City in the earth.

As impressive as the cities of men can appear, their beauty pales in comparison to the unseen reality.

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.

The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.

Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. – John the Revelator

We’ve been taken captive for the purpose of participating in the building of these kingdom blocks together.  Jesus’ life, by the Holy Spirit in us, is what flows through these relationships to make them relevant and useful for the heavenly kingdom.  His kingdom is relational in every way.

Having relationship without the flow of the Holy Spirit, or not knowing each other after the Spirit, is much like the buildings downtown; it’s someone else’s kingdom.  Maybe mine.  Maybe yours.  Maybe the enemy’s or a religious group’s or some other organization’s.

Intentionally forming relationships around Him is what it looks like to build real Buildings in His new City.

How do you see the Lord in your city’s downtown?

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Between Brothers

I realize that indecisiveness grates on you. It grates on me too for the most part, although I’ve been trying to let that part of me go (maybe too much). Is your frustration simply with the indecisiveness? I’m thinking that what really concerns you is something deeper. You’ve talked a bit about it (e.g., not being as excited about meetings or maybe even body life as you once were) but haven’t been able to put your finger on it.

Thanks for your grace and perspective. The Lord is using it to dig deeper down through the initial frustrations and reactions to the heart of the matters we face. His heart, I hope.

You’re right; it’s the lack of overall commitment to one another I sense in these constant changes that concerns me. Unless we’re playing, partying, or barbecuing there seems to be a lack of desire to relate deeply and stick to plans made. Obviously, circumstances change due to every day life. But too often we seem to move and change and shift based on our ‘feeling’ or ‘desire’ in the moment…and then we call this ‘freedom in Christ’ as if that’s what it means to be in Him.

Let me throw out a couple ideas here as food for spiritual thought.

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We all have different ideas which is ok, but I also realize that doesn’t have to mean pleasing everyone…otherwise no one has to die to anything…and nothing ever gets accomplished. At the same time the idea of consensus still rings with some significance to me.

So, one larger question becomes how to grow in The Lord in this area of decisiveness vs. all having an equal voice/consensus. Seems to me that this a crossroad this local body has been at for some time. We’ve been unable or unwilling to really find the mind of The Lord on this issue as of yet.

I personally enjoyed thinking about The Lord in each of us through the king, prophet and priest roles and see value in continuing to learn one another in such a way as I believe you were envisioning. I think it will help build trust for the future. Either way, this issue is still very much a part of our body dynamic.

I’m not sure I see scriptural or practical relevance for constant consensus. I don’t see Jesus or the apostles or any OT type and shadow of the Lord stopping to make sure everyone is on board with every decision. He appoints and He moves. The body listens, discerns, and moves with Him since He is the head. In that, there is much room for submissiveness, patience, dying to self on a moment by moment basis, forgiveness, grace and love for every member of the body to experience. I do agree, everyone should be heard and considered.

Question two may be “are we moving forward?” or as you’ve mentioned “where are we going?” But what does that really mean? I gotta be honest, other than the organic Sunday School answer of “we’re moving forward or going toward The Lord” I don’t know what that means. I’m curious to know if The Lord has shown you an answer to either of these two questions?

Well, at times it seems we’ve stopped to stare at Jesus instead of moving toward Him. We’ve stopped in the crowd as onlookers instead of pushing through like the woman with the issue of blood to take hold of the hem of His garment. We’ve digressed to only talk about how we ‘see’ Jesus in everyday and often trivial things rather than crying out for more of His healing and outpouring…crying out for the Son of David to stop and touch us like Bartimaeus.

He is the answer. But, if we only stand and oooh and ahhh every time Jesus walks down our city streets and never pick up our mat and follow after Him then we miss out on opportunities to bring His kingdom to earth. The Lord is on the move. Toward the coming age. Toward His kingdom come…in its entirety.

We have the opportunity to join the Lord in His work to ‘restore all things to Himself’. To build, promote, and establish His kingdom on the earth. Often times, Jesus feels like some happy, go lucky, make me feel good God when we fellowship around Him with bros and sisters. I’ve seen Him in low places and high and this is rarely who He is.

I appreciate your zeal, decisive nature, and your willingness to tackle the tough elephants in the room, and I’m happy to chat with you any time via email or in person. As you’ve noticed, I don’t have all the answers…just a few thoughts and reflections that hopefully will press us further into Him, and press us further into one another as a part of Him.

I don’t know that I have specific answers yet either…but I do know your questions are stirring up a desire in my Spirit to dig deeper into our Lord’s life. Into His calling and action and work. Every parable on the kingdom of Heaven includes managers, workers, harvesters, overseers, and the like.

He’s doing something and we’re to be about the His business. I don’t know exactly what that looks like for an entire group of people sold out to Jesus and His purposes, but I sure long to talk more about it. I sure long to see others’ perspectives on it to develop a culture centered around Jesus Christ.

The Lord is moving among us in tangible ways. We are continuing to learn one another. And I’m excited for more of both. I love you, my brother.

You are a rare brother with a serious gift for discernment. I’m blessed to have you in my life and look forward to deeper relationship with you as with Him.

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Our Counselor

Take courage; I have overcome the world. – Jesus Christ

This is our perspective as the ecclesia.  We are no longer captives of the world.  We are no longer captives of the enemy’s schemes.  We are no longer captives of our inherited fallen nature.  We have been taken captive by the Overcomer of these things.

On a recent Sunday, a group of believers gathered in a home in Nashville, TN and discussed who Jesus is as our Counselor.  I’ve visited counselors in life to find perspective on everything from depression to divorce.  Only a few were very helpful.  What made them helpful?  They not only revealed underlying issues and unresolved conflicts, but they also brought to light new perspectives: new ways of looking at things that opened the door for healing.  That’s our Counselor in action.

We’ve been given this new perspective: we have overcome the world by faith in the Overcomer (1 John 5:4).  From this transformed mindset we can engage memories and thoughts and behaviors and abuses and hurts of all kinds and captivate them unto Jesus Christ.  

He counsels us according to His will, therefore the perspective we have the opportunity to gain, is His very own.  Talk about eyes to see and ears to hear.

I felt lead to rewrite a great speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. not long ago.  I shared it with the local ecclesia here.  Its four pages long so I won’t post it all but would be glad to share it via email if you’d like.  Let me know.  Here’s a piece of what was shared:

There are those who ask the called out of Christ, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as believers remain victims of their past or present abuses.  We can never be satisfied as long as members of the Body, heavy with unholy yokes and burdens, have not found refuge in the Strong Tower. 

We cannot be satisfied as long as we are simply moving from enslavement to a slightly lesser enslavement never knowing the power of Christ to overcome.  We can never be satisfied as long as the body’s members are void of fuller function and robbed of deeper relationships. 

We cannot be satisfied as long as a sister or brother only occupies a seat in the House of God not truly believing in their ability to help build it.  No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until the power of Christ’s life rolls down like waters, and the fruits of the Kingdom like a mighty stream. 

I am not unmindful that some of us have come here out of great trials and tribulations.  Some of us have come fresh from more recent battles.  And some of us have come from areas where our quest for freedom left us battered by the winds of life’s storms and the waves of the enemy of our souls.  You have been the veterans of creative suffering. 

Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.  Go back to the moments, go back to the hurts, go back to the memories, go back to the people, go back to the heartache and confront those things that now haunt you, declaring that Jesus Christ rules and reigns over these things.  Know that He is changing things.

Let the Lord be your Counselor.  Let your life, unified with brothers and sisters functioning in Christ’s freedom, be a declaration of this new perspective: we’ve been captivated by the Overcomer of the world.  That is the truest of freedoms!

The Body has a responsibility to creatively and actively find ways to point each other toward the King. In doing so, we counsel our brothers and sisters in Jesus’ name.  Are you overcoming the world?

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We’re not perfect

I know brothers and sisters who enjoy watching movies for sightings of Christ. No doubt He’s there, but my movie watching is primarily for entertainment’s sake…I rarely extract Jesus from them (probably cause I shut down and go into veg mode). However, I really like song lyrics. I hear the Lord speak through song.

I can be listening to the radio paying no mind to what’s playing, and bam, He shows me something. I have to believe it’s the same for my movie-going side of the family.

Jesus is making Himself known through all things. He is consuming and captivating all things unto Himself. So, after some inspiration from a post by a good friend, here’s a song the Lord used recently to show me some things about Himself:

Lyrics:
You tell all the boys no
Makes you feel good
I know you’re out of my league
But that won’t scare me away
You’ve carried on so long
You couldn’t stop if you tried it
You’ve built your wall so high
That no one could climb it
But I’m gonna try
~Chorus~
Would you let me see beneath your beautiful
Would you let me see beneath your perfect
Take it off now girl, take it off now girl
I wanna see inside
Would you let me see beneath your beautiful tonight
——
Oh tonight, we ain’t perfect, we ain’t perfect
Would you let me see beneath your beautiful tonight
——
You let all the girls go
Makes you feel good, don’t it
Behind your Broadway show
I heard a boy say please don’t hurt me
You’ve carried on so long
You couldn’t stop if you tried it
You’ve built your wall so high
That no one could climb it
But I’m gonna try
~Chorus~
Would you let me see beneath your beautiful
Would you let me see beneath your perfect
Take it off now boy, take it off now boy
I wanna see inside
Would you let me see beneath your beautiful tonight

I’m gonna climb on top of your ivory tower
I’ll hold your hand and then we’ll jump right out
We’ll be falling, falling
But that’s okay
Cause I’ll be right here
I just wanna know.

I see and hear a brother and sister in Christ talking to each other in this song. It’s a declaration of the Body’s desire to be more than superficial. To be more than the walls and whitewashed tombs of religious relationship. To climb higher and dig deeper into the real you and me. That’s where Jesus is looking to be at work…it’s where His strength is magnified and made known.

We’re too apt to hide our weaknesses behind a façade of beauty and perfection. To hide our frustrations. To hide what’s really happening inside us. But it doesn’t scare Him. It’s not too much for Him. So it’s not too much for those who are His own. We all have walls and ivory towers we hide behind.

I just want to know, brothers and sisters being built into the House of the Living God, would you let us see beneath your beautiful? Are you willing to try to climb the walls and see beneath the perfect?  Jesus will meet us there.

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Taken Captive

So it begins.

Not my blog posting experience per se.  In the beginning as we know it, God creates time.  He creates ages.  Nothing He does is by accident or without knowledge of what’s to come.  Nothing that happens is outside of what He has purposed for all of creation.  So, why begin?  Why have beginnings when you’re the Alpha and Omega?  I know there’s an infinite number of possibilities and answers to this question.  The purpose of this blog is to search out one of those answers.  The answer ultimately; so it’s really more like searching out one aspect of an incomprehensible answer.

However, since it is the glory of God to conceal a thing, and the glory of kings to search out a matter…let’s get to searching.  Let’s seek out this Christ, the Creator, and discover His pursuit of the beloved.

That’s the purpose I’d like to discuss in depth.  That’s the answer I’ve become enamored with.  His ultimate goal; captivate the beloved.  Every friendship, marriage, community, family, clan, tribe and the like is an earthly picture of what He is accomplishing in the ages.  He is drawing all men to Himself in order to show us what glory and intimacy and unity and life are all about.  The ecclesia is His beloved in the earth.  There are so many facets to this reality: sonship, tabernacles, dominion, overcoming, brotherhood, sisterhood, battling, law, relationship, feasts, growth, and on and on He goes.

Jesus Christ is taking all this captive.  Captivating the entire world and all of creation. This Jesus is bigger and greater and more personal than we can ever imagine.  Ask any of the beloved who have truly seen Him.  Knowing and being known; that’s where we’ve been captivated.  So, my hope for this blog is to reveal, imagine, and discuss this Christ.  To relate, as much as this setting will allow, around this bride, body, family, army, and ecclesia being captivated by a purposeful Creator.

So it never ends.

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