Thursday, February 26, 2009

Confessions from a Journal

This was written in a journal back on November 18, 2008:

I'm hungry and starving for a deep, meaningful, memorable experience with God. So hungry that I have traveled to New York on a cold day in November to attend a prayer meeting at the Brooklyn Tabernacle. I'm disgusted and irritated at superficial Christianity. "Status quo" limits our willingness and ability to embrace the glory of God. I hunger for a fresh outpouring of God's Spirit.

I quickly jotted these words down while praying in Brooklyn last November.

Last night at SVC, there was fresh outpouring of God's Spirit as we gathered for a time of worship and prayer. It would take pages to write down all of the ways God connected with us. This morning, my heart is full of gratitude for God's goodness and faithfulness.

Monday, February 23, 2009

38134 & 38126

These numbers mean nothing to most of you.
However, for prayer warriors at SVC, these numbers stand for two zip codes that we have been praying over since the beginning of the year. To put it another way, these two zip codes represent our mission field and we are asking for God to bring his kingdom into every household represented in these areas.

Statistically, Memphis isn't a city to brag about.
The murder rate is 2.52 times the national average.
Forcible rape is 1.84 times the national average.
Robbery is 3 times the national average.
And I could go on.
Thanks to Detroit, we are no longer the number 1 city in the US when it comes to violent crime.
Racial tension and disparity between the rich and poor is intensified in this city.

But God is still up to something.

We serve a God who chose to enter into the mess of the world in order to redeem it. He didn't walk with the elite...he walked with the poor, marginalized, oppressed, sick, and downtrodden. With a few words and a gentle touch he was able to reverse people's fortunes. He was able to break generational cycles of addiction, bitterness, anger, poverty, and sin.
Jesus is raising up people in Memphis who are ready and willing to get serious about reconciliation and redemption. The power of the empty tomb is still transforming this world. This power is resurrecting one life at a time.

Our prayers over 38134 & 38126 are becoming dangerous because these prayers are teaching us that we can't just "do church" in the safety of a building, but instead we have to join Jesus in the crevices of life. To pray for God's Kingdom to come on this earth means that we have to respond to the voice that speaks back to us saying, "I am at work in this world and I am serious about using you to redeem it."

When you begin to care about a community to the point that your neighbors are entering into weekly prayers...prioritizing the budget changes, the questions about mission/vocation changes, and the conversations among leaders change. No longer is religion about budgets and buildings, but it is about truly becoming God's people on this earth...and God can do something with that.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hope House and Tiger

I will begin to watch Tiger again next week, which means I will begin to watch golf again. Golf just isn't the same without him. Welcome back, Tiger.
He is clearly one of the greatest athletes alive today. If you don't believe me, watch this clip. It is one of the funniest moments of 2008.

I spent some time yesterday morning at Hope House. I sat in a room with a dozen of young children who are victims of the AIDS epidemic. I looked into the eyes of innocent children who have no clue that there is a devastating disease inside of them that is threatening their lives and future. Most of these children come from depressed neighborhoods. They are surrounded by poverty and crime.
Josh Patrick (a faithful Christ-follower and a good friend) and I walked into the room while the worship minster at Grace Crossing was leading the children in a few songs. We sat down with the kids and before I was on the ground they were all over me.
They wanted in my lap.
They wanted to touch my hands.
They wanted me to wrap my arms around them.
Ultimately, they just wanted touch.
A few minutes went by and one boy (probably 2 1/2 years old) just kept staring into my eyes. I whispered into his ear, "What is your name?"
He said, "Timmy."
I said, "Good to meet you, Timmy. Do you know what my name is?"
He just stared at me.
I said, "You can call me Mr. Josh."
Again, he just stared at me. Then he shook his head and said, "No. You are daddy."
The rest of the time there, he called me daddy.
Jesus shows up at the Hope House on a regular basis.
Yesterday, I heard the words from Jesus in Luke 18:16 in a whole new way:
"Let the little children come to me!"

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Song, "Dangerous Prayer"

Erin Lonard lives in Calgary, Canada. Inspired by the phrase "Dangerous Prayer," she wrote this song. It is awesome!
Erin, if you are around, would you mind commenting with a few words about the song?

Dangerous Prayer
I want to pray a dangerous prayer.
But fear keeps me from going there.
What if I'm lead to places unknown?
Or You lead me far from the comforts of home?
What if you take me from things I hold near?
Or take from me people I hold so dear?

I'm afraid where You'll lead me
I'm afraid You won't need me
In the places that I think are best.
Though I know where You take me
You will not forsake me
Though I may be put to the test.

I want to pray a dangerous prayer
But fear keeps me from going there.
What if You lead me to enemy hands?
Or give me a message no one understands?
What if I'm with those who want nothing to do
With hearing about a Love that is true?

I'm afraid where You'll lead me
I'm afraid You won't need me
In the places that I think are best.
But I know where you take me
You will not forsake me.
Though I may be put to the test.

I want to pray a dangerous prayer.
But fear keeps me from going there.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dangerous Prayer, "Authentic Discipleship"

Each Monday, the people of SVC are joining in a prayer for authentic discipleship.

A few years ago, Jerry Cook wrote a book entitled "The Monday Morning Church." He made the bold statement that for his church, Monday is the most important day of the week...not Sunday. Their conviction is that if the church can take seriously life with Jesus on Monday, then true disciples are being formed.

Dallas Willard coined the phrase "vampire Christians." He indicts Christians today by stating that many people just want Jesus for his blood. Willard is right on!

Jesus is not in the business of molding people into better men/women or even into better citizens.
Jesus has always been in the business of forming people into faithful, authentic disciples.

A commitment to follow Jesus is more than a prayer one prays or a one-time-decision to enter into the waters of baptism. To become a Christ-follow means that we are enrolling ourselves as daily students in the school of Jesus.

The danger of praying for authentic discipleship is that the path of discipleship is a path that leads downward. We are continually called to give up things, surrender, love strangers, forgive enemies, and follow in the ways of Jesus. A prayer for authentic discipleship gets us involved in risky business. This makes it dangerous!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Dangerous Prayer, "Living Worship"

As I wrote a few days ago, we are on a prayer journey at SVC of praying "7 Dangerous Prayer"--one prayer each day of the week. This is an effort to get below the surface in our prayer life as a church. We want God to pull us into the deep places of His heart.

On Sunday's, the theme that is driving our prayer focus is "Living Worship." The prayer purpose is for God to transfer our Sunday morning allegiance into an everyday allegiance. Romans 12:1 is one verse that draws us into prayer on this day.

The danger is when God makes us aware of His presence in every moment. When this happens sin is exposed and opportunities are embraced. The idea of "praying without ceasing" becomes a greater reality.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Leadership Retreat and J-Graves

I will pick back up on blogging about Dangerous Prayers on Sunday.

Last weekend, I went away with 22 of my partners in ministry to retreat for a weekend.
15 shepherds
7 ministers

There is something about retreating that is formative. Packed into a 24-hour period were times of worship, powerful moments in prayer, inspiring sessions, and transparent dialogue.

On Friday night, I facilitated a time of prayer and it was an honor for me to witness the leaders of SVC as they wrestled in prayer for the flock. Heaven and earth kissed!

Over the last couple of years my boy JG has become a great friend and partner in the kingdom. I contacted him last fall about leading our retreat knowing that he would bring a fresh perspective of how the good news of Jesus is breaking into the 21st century. He hit us hard on Friday night with some eye-opening words about a shift that has taken place in the "western world" regarding Christianity. I told him to come out firing on Friday evening. I wanted him to bring the 99 mph heater...high and tight. He delivered.
On Saturday, he led us through 3 sessions stretching us to reimagine how the power of the resurrection is bursting forth in a new world. He used midrash, images, testimony, and an insurmountable amount of passion to inspire us to dream with God.
J-Graves is a great communicator of the Jesus-story. He is one of those crazy guys who actually believes that Jesus is able to bring liberation, freedom, and life to all of humanity.
Josh, God used you to usher our leaders into a deeper realm of resurrection-possibilities.

I am honored to be serving with my fellow shepherds and ministers at SVC. God is unleashing his power and presence upon us.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dangerous Prayer, Part I

Over the next few days I want to share bits and pieces of a prayer journey we have been on at SVC called "Dangerous Prayers."
I like the phrase dangerous prayers because it sounds risky. Often times we pray superficial prayers that center around health, protection, safety, and security. But what happens when God pulls us deeper to pray the way the church prayed in Acts 4? The church had every reason to pray for protection. They were the minorities. They were mocked. They were threatened and at times persecuted. The leader of the Christian-movement (Jesus), had recently been hung on a tree and the word on the street was that this movement was about "carrying a cross."
The church gathered to pray...but the prayers weren't for protection...or safety...or "God, this world is so evil and immoral..."
Instead, the prayer was, "God, this city killed Jesus and now they are threatening to harm us. Consider their threats and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness..."
Their prayer was that the word of God needed to enter into the very places were threats were being strategically planned.
The result was that the walls of the house they were praying in was shaken and they spoke the word with boldness.

It is time for the people to pray dangerously again. We need God to teach us how to pray risky prayers that might just get us involved in the trenches of life.
Jesus never teaches his people to pray for shelter, safety, and security...instead...he teaches them to pray prayers for the kingdom of God to come to earth...prayers that God's power and presence will come crashing into this world.

So, at SVC, we have joined a journey in which we are praying a dangerous prayer for each of the week.
More to come later...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Confession, Part II

Duke University has released a study which states that 25% of people have no one to share personal struggles with.

In all honesty, we have created this culture. It is a culture that says:
"You worry about your life and I'll worry about mine."
"You worry about your relationship with God and I'll worry about mine."
This was not the kind of life that Jesus died to create. He didn't die to resurrect a church made of isolated individuals. His purpose has always been to create an authentic community of people who are seriousness about life with him.

My good friend Josh Graves spoke at our leadership retreat this past weekend. At one point he split us up into groups of 3-4 and we had around 15 minutes to share the mess in our lives. In other words, we were invited to enter into a short time of confession. Imagine this--a group of shepherds, ministers, and leaders divided into groups of 3 with the sole purpose to confess.

Towards the end, Graves informed us that we had about 1 more minute, and then something very small but powerful happened, one shepherd turned around, raised his hand, and said, "We need at least 3 more minutes." This stuck with me because usually during times like this we (especially men) are looking at our watches as we anticipate lunch or the next lecture-session so that we don't have to get real about junk in our lives. But this day, there were people who needed more time to share.
That was a sure sign of the stirring of God among us.

We must be proactive as we attempt to form the needed relationships that will sustain us on this journey of faith.

Monday, February 9, 2009


I don't have much time to write today, but I'm curious:
How do you practice confession in your own life?
What atmospheres/environments have been created in your own local church (faith community) in which confession can take place?

Friday, February 6, 2009

New Blog

Here we go.
I have finally decided to create a new blog. I simply want this to function as a site where I can use words to describe my experiences and worldviews.
I want nothing more than to honor God with this blog!