theashruiz

Stepping Out and Stepping In

There are plans and dreams I’ve had for quite awhile. Plans and dreams that upon opportunity to pursue, I seem to shy away and find an excuse that makes me unqualified and not yet ready. It’s only March and I’ve already lived in three different states so far this year. From my life in Texas, to a month in Georgia, and now settling in North Carolina. Having been in a consistent three month long state of transition, it’s brought me to a place of opportunity to pursue the things I’ve dreamed of for years. A place where opportunity is so blatantly in front of me, I’d be stupid to miss it.

Of these are three main dreams, all of which- in a way- are connected.

1. Become a writer

Writing is something that I never really came out about until about a year ago, I actually have an entire blog post that explains the reasons why (you can read that here). I’ve always let insecurities hold me back from ever making my writing public, whether it be a deep, heart-felt post, a biblical teaching, a simple book or review, or just something to keep me disciplined in writing consistently. I spent a month in Atlanta and about three weeks here in Charlotte not working a typical hourly job. Having the time off from a day-to-day job opened my mind to wander and brainstorm of all the writing possibilities. I’ve spent many hours, days actually, in coffee shops just getting my thoughts into words. The fact that I’ll be going back to school this fall encouraged me to wait until I was back in college to make my writing public. But we all start somewhere. I decided to make my stuff public now and not make excuses for content, hence book reviews. Doing this has motivated me to write regardless of if I feel like I’m good enough right now. I’ll get better as I go. But I’m starting here.

2. Make my own schedule and be my own boss

Last Spring I started using products from a company called Perfectly Posh. I was first intrigued by their products because of the similarities to Lush; I was completely drawn in by the fact that the products are cheaper than Lush (everything is under $25), they don’t do animal testing, and they ALWAYS offer a buy 5 get one free. I got completely hooked on literally every product I used. Posh is direct sales, which is something that I said I’d never do, but it seemed like a great opportunity for me to bring in more income and get to cut back from my hourly job, enabling me to invest more time into ministry and writing. So I went for it. In the beginning I was very hesitant about reaching out to market that I was now selling Posh. I felt like I was bothering people and brought me to a vulnerable state. Time passed by and I held back from even making people aware that I’m a distributor, I shared the products with friends who began to love them, even my mom was asking for recommendations on new products because she had loved the ones she had tried from my own stash. I realized that taking a step out and promoting the products that I love is a key step into giving myself the opportunity to support myself while pursuing the other dreams that I have.

3. Open a coffee shop

I’ve been consumed by the idea of opening a hot-spot, fair trade, creativity-sparking coffee shop ever since I worked as a barista in a hipster-y coffee shop when I was 18. Almost six years later, the dream has grown and the vision has been more detailed than ever. No, I don’t know how to run a business. No, I don’t yet have the money to open said business. But yes, I am taking steps towards this dream. Firstly, I must mention that this is a dream that my fiance has also envisioned for years before we met; so I not only get motivational support, but I also get someone to dream with and pursue goals with. We think of locations, floor plans, color schemes, and furniture. Last week I accepted a job at a coffee shop that pays significantly less than the salary that I’m accustomed to, but this job will give me the opportunity to relearn how to make coffee drinks and get the creative juices flowing for new drink ideas. In addition to simply relearning the art of coffee, I also wish and will work towards advancing in the company so that I can learn management hands on.

We take steps and make preparations, though we’ve not yet entered into the fullness of the dream. Each step brings us a little closer, but there are times when it seems they’re taking us further way. It’s a process. We take steps, sometimes leaps, but mostly steps. What steps are you taking today to step into your dream?

Spring Reading List 2016

As a general rule, I do my best to read and complete one book each week. One of my resolutions for the year of 2016 was to discipline myself to write more often. What better opportunity to develop a habit than writing a review for each book? Below is my Spring Reading List for 2016, to be accompanied by a review as time progresses.

  1. Integrity, by Sean Feucht
  2. Compelled By Love, by Heidi Baker
  3. An Appeal To Heaven, by Dutch Sheets
  4. H3 Leadership, by Brad Lomenick
  5. You and Me Forever, by Francis and Lisa Chan
  6. The Fire That Never Sleeps, by Micheal Brown
  7. Prototype, by Jonathan Martin
  8. The Hidden Power of Prayer and Fasting, by Mahesh Chavda

H3 Leadership: Be Humble, Stay Hungry, Always Hustle // Book Review

In H3 Leadership, Brad Lomenick, front-runner and main man behind the magic of Catalyst, breaks down the essential habits of effective leadership. There are three main categories:

1. Be Humble: who are you?
2. Stay Hungry: where are you going?
3. Always Hustle: how will you get there?

From the three categories, he expounds and elaborates on the twenty habits necessary for leadership in almost any capacity and vocation, specifically for ministry and business. In the preface, Lomenick explains, “leadership is more than hard work; it is habitual work. It is worked out every day in the tasks we complete, the ways we approach our work, and the rhythms we nurture in our lives.” He illustrates a definition of each habit, what it looks like, a short story of it in action in his life, and how to cultivate that habit in your own life.

The organization’s mission should always be more important than any individual’s personal ambition.

The style of writing used in this book is one of which I highly admire and am appreciative of. The book is structured in a way that cuts out the fat and the fluff while still maintaining a narrative feel. Most of the chapters include a brief scenario, introduction to the featured habit, short story, further definition of the habit, bulleted or key topics, and how to cultivate the habit. At the end of each chapter is short and sweet inputs from other highly successful leaders. This is not a book that requires you to dig deep for the gold, Lomenick lays it all out in a simple teaching style.

Lomenick presents his material with vulnerability and openness, as well as authority and insight. He expresses the “me too” aspect of his struggles and mistakes in leadership that creates a bridge between himself and leaders at any stage. The information he brings to the table is applicable to a young leader with little-to-no experience all the way up to the leader who has mastered his business. You are not presented with a list of unattainable standards, he breaks down the habits into concepts that are simply doable and practical.

 Find a way to do more of the things that make you want to stay up late and get up early to work on.

The only negative piece I’ve found in H3 Leadership is the tweetable quotes highlighted throughout the book. Enhanced and highlighted points are something to be expected in any nonfiction book, but the Twitter emblem in front of each one seemed to be over-marketed; however, it is not something difficult to look past.

Many, if not all, of the habits expounded upon can, and perhaps should be, applied to any Christian’s daily life. I wish that I had been given this book when I first got into leadership almost 7 years ago. The lessons I learned, I learned the hard way. In H3 Leadership, you have a man who has already learned the lessons and giving you the map in, through, and around the tough areas of leadership. Take the map.

The quality of work we do is not just about bragging rights. It’s about stewardship.

Atlanta City Limits

This weekend I moved to Atlanta. Texas to Georgia, it was quite a move. I left my family and a pretty decent job. I left my comfort and security. I left my friends. My fiance is still long distance [although, significantly closer than before]. I left home.

Over the last few days I’m gathering together the idea that home is a state of being rather than a home state. Texas is my home state and my roots and country music tell me that I should feel home in cowboy boots, a lifted truck, and open fields. And I do, to an extent. But I feel more at home and centered in a dimly lit coffee shop with my headphones filled with raw, indy-sounding worship and spoken word artists of a hip-hop derivative. Clothed in a flannel, leggings, Toms, messy bun, and RayBans. I repeat that I dressed this way before the “hipster movement” began, but the statement alone is ironic and paradoxical. Yes, these glasses are prescription; yes, I do wear leggings as pants; yes, this is a men’s flannel; and yes, I have spent this entire day in a coffee shop.

But the move– I moved to help with a church plant. I moved because I’m 100% behind this vision [for more information you can check out thesummit.cc]. I moved because God gave me the green light to come here. When I said yes to a position with the church, I was confident. Assured, I declare that I would have no fear in moving. God will provide the needs, He’ll make a way. That was almost a year ago. This weekend, things looked a little different.

I moved without a job secured. Money and provision has always been one of the things I struggle with most in my faith. I’m self-sufficient, and have no chill if I don’t have a reliable income flowing into my bank account. The last month was filled with multiple anxiety attacks, and my fiance putting his foot down and telling me I need to go into the secret place and not leave until I hear God speak and peace flows. I did that. Later he asked me what God said. I told him, “All He said was, ‘have I not been faithful? Am I not faithful? Will I not continue to be faithful?'”. In the name of honesty and transparency, that’s not what I wanted. I wanted to hear, “I have a well-paying job for you in Atlanta that’ll be perfect for your schedule,” and that’s not what I got.

On the trip here, I got little glimpses of what my time here would look like. It looks like stepping back into ministry. It looks like me learning what it’s like to walk in humility. It looks like me spending more time in the secret place with Him. It looks like stepping into the fullness of a missional lifestyle. It looks like me learning from others, in the context of community. It looks like me writing [a lot]. It looks like me learning how to trust His faithfulness, trust that He is faithful in all things.

On the trip here, I told Jordan [my fiance], “I really feel like I’m going to have a job there that is completely unexpected. Like something that I never even thought to look into. Something where I’m going to have a lot of free time. I’m going to write a lot in my free time. God has been pulling me to write for quite awhile, and I feel like it’s really happening now.

On the trip here, I thought that I’d fully dive into finding a job, making it a top priority. But I keep feeling a pull to take a step back for a little while. And there’s peace. Not in laziness, anyone who knows me, knows that when it comes to working, I’m anything but lazy. There’s peace in stepping back. I hear Him saying, “hold on, not yet”. There’s peace in the obedience to our Father. There’s peace in knowing that He is good. There’s peace in knowing that He doesn’t lead me anywhere that He’s not going. Maybe it’s halfway about obedience, and the other half is just because He is worthy.

In the meantime, I feel like I’m in a limbo state. Life feels fuzzy. I’m somewhere between Texas and Georgia, somewhere between familiar and new, somewhere between there and here, somewhere between comfortable and uncomfortable. I took the step away from comfortable, but haven’t planted my foot in uncomfortable. I haven’t unpacked yet, because unpacking means it’s real. But I have to learn how to be here. ‘Here’ is anywhere really. I have a bad habit of my life being in one place and my head being somewhere else. I want to be here.

Today I took a drive. I drove around the Atlanta suburbs, exploring my new city. There’s a lot of hills. I ended up in a bad part of town when I decided to turn around. I decided to head home when it hit me that I should find a coffee shop. I wanted to write. I like writing. Writing keeps me centered. I have this complex where I don’t drink coffee in any capacity, but it’s necessary for me to know where all the good coffee shops are. I found a coffee shop. The tea was good. It’s dimly lit, cute, spacious, the barista is peppy, the atmosphere is calm. I like it. I feel at home in coffee shops. I found a coffee shop. And I’m ready to be here. I’m ready to make this home.

Reflections and Resolutions

The last week of December and the first week of January are a couple of my favorite times of the year. The last week of December is filled with reflection, recollection, and recalling the year as we wrap it all up. We remember the good times, bad times, the hard times, and even the times when we thought life was kinda boring, but later realized that we were in a resting season. Many of us humorously reflect on the New Years resolutions we made that lasted until about January 7th. The goal of losing twenty pounds that eventually turned into “for the love of God, I just want to maintain the weight I’m at, instead of gaining any more”. The decision to do the Bible in One Year plan, but made it to Genesis 14 and started skipping around again.

The year is usually filled with a lot of failed goals; but as we reflect on the year, we find that it’s so, so rich in God’s faithfulness. We look back and see the situations where God was working in the intricate details of our circumstances. We reflect of the power of the Holy Spirit when we laid hands on people and they were instantly healed. The confirmations He brought through other people when we were unsure if what we heard in the secret place was really His voice, to remind us that He speaks in so many ways. The vision that He just now gave to the promises He spoke to us years ago, when He says, “Have I not been faithful time and time again?”

The act of remembering is a vital spiritual activity.

-Jim Hennesy

The first week of the year is rather lovely. I find so much delight in the simplicity of others making their goals for the new year. There’s encouragement and determination in the air, as well as way too many hashtags on social media of #newyearnewme. Excitement and nervousness has filled my life in the last month with anticipation of all that’s happening in 2016. I’m moving in three weeks, getting married in October, helping plant a church in a city that I’ve been to once, finally going back to college to finish my degree, and learning how to tackle all the new roles in my life. There’s peace in my spirit towards all of the vision that God has been downloading into Jordan [my fiance] and I– behind the scenes projects and dreams that haven’t yet been revealed to the general public. Promises that we knew that God would fulfill, and particularly believed it would be much later in our lives, lining up to happen a lot sooner than we thought.

As for my goals and resolutions this year, they are concrete in their being, but remain flexible in the manner of how they are to be brought about.

  1. To be more disciplined and intentional. In everything really. From sleep schedules to my walk with God; from consistently writing to not fueling my body with junk food.
  2. Me time. Voluntarily spend more time alone, less time being in the presence of everyone.
  3. Read one book per week, write reviews and post them. I was originally doing this last year, and it was going really well until I met Jordan. Our communication [we’re currently in a long distance relationship] through off a lot of my free time. Worth it.
  4. Spend more time doing and learning what I’m passionate about. Writing more, learning more about missions and youth ministry, spend more time with teenagers, regularly practice my Spanish.
  5. Relearn Guitar. I played a lot when I was younger, then I stopped for about 8 years and forgot all but about four chords.

I’ve put together my small list and wanted to be pretty broad about the spectrum that it covered. My list for 2016 is additional for my everyday list. My everyday list looks a little more like figuring out how people feel loved and doing that, moving closer to God and being synchronized with the Holy Spirit, purging material things I don’t need in my life, finding new ways to save and make money, and learning art and science of adulting.

Today I’m hitting publish with hope and anticipation of a new year, a new journey, and a step into a new season of life.

 

Communicating Raw

I used to love to write. I began writing when I was about 14 as an emotional outlet, and I held on tightly. My writing birthed through a style that disregarded all formalities and rules. When I wrote poetry, my strongest words hit the page when I stopped trying to formulate what sounded best, and started pouring out my tears onto the paper and let the tear-stains form words. Neglect for working within grammatical outlines of proper literature allowed my thoughts and emotions to be communicated in their rawest form.

“Communicated in their rawest form”— my passions and personality wrapped up into a simple statement. I value communication for being the arteries of connection between two people; communication, a display of one’s self to be projected for another. Communication allows others too see; to see thoughts, emotions, values, passions. Communication of any form is the fashion in which we go about creating, sustaining, and being in community and relation with others.

And raw. This organic form, unprocessed and messy. Authenticity is one of the values I hold truest to in both welcoming and being. The humblest state of truth; the very definition of vulnerability. When all fear and shame is wiped away and a person says. “this is me”. It’s messy, often broken, real, and beautiful.

My love for expressing myself on paper gradually became lost in the educational system. Throughout high school and my time in college, the grading system steadily cut me down for a lack of correct grammar and academic eloquence. I wasn’t chasing after writing a paper that was deemed “scholarly”, I was chasing the principle of communicating what was asked. I didn’t know how to go about communicating something within these set guidelines of pass or fail; a system of “tell me what I want to hear, and tell me the way I want to hear it”. Straight A’s filled my grades in every speech and communication class I ever took. But English, oh, English. After three embarrassingly failed classes of basic college English brought me to a place of discouragement where I wanted nothing to do with writing at all. Though I’ve always done well in every other class, these English classes left me feeling, honestly, stupid.

Over the next couple years, I began to envision a life of writing. I wanted to write books. I had dreams of writing, prophetic words of writing, this strong desire of writing. I wanted to write to reach people, to tell my story, to tell God’s stories, to tell others’ stories, to teach, to inform, to express. After a vulnerable exchange of tears and a shaky voice, vocalizing to a couple friends and my fiance about this insecurity I had [and still have in portion], they spoke life. I exposed to them this hesitancy of pursuing something that I so desperately wanted to do. They spoke life. They spoke so much life.

One of those friends just finished writing a book, she said, “God’s perfect love casts out all fear; removes the fear of failure, the fear of man, and the fear of not measuring up. Write. Just write. Ask God what to write about, hear Him speak, and write.” Another friend, a true encourager by the very definition of the word, she gave no advice, no pointers, no direction of strategy, she said, “God has anointed the words that come out of your mouth, and He’s anointed your words on paper. I can’t wait to read the finished products”. And my fiance, he strategically picked at the root of the insecurity and called out the fear, told it to leave, and spoke truth. He spoke with both an intelligence and spiritual authority. He took me back to the beginnings of seeing the failing grades my project reports, big essays, and final grades. He said, “Grades don’t define a person’s intelligence. Good grades show obedience to a rubric.”

And now, I’m writing; still raw, but a little more structured. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hesitate a little each time I clicked the “publish” button. And though, while not seeking the approval of others, the kind words people tell me about my writing bring a calming peace. There’s a certain stillness that hovers in knowing that I can write for the sake of writing, not to be critiqued for a grade, but to simply communicate, to expose. He’s faithful to complete the work He began– starting with a pen and paper, to published works in hungry and seeking hands, to letting His words sink deep, deep into the hearts of people.

When Depression Meets Jesus.

To look back at my life, I can visibly see when darkness set into my days. At 12, depression took residency in my heart; at 14, it became the landlord. Daily, I paid my dues to the owner with a currency of energy, thoughts, emotions, and eventually a razor blade. Like your stereotypical depressed teenager, I walked the halls of my high school in skinny jeans, black and white checkered slip-on Vans, a t-shirt of whatever band I was currently obsessing over, and my staple: a hoodie to cover up the cuts on my arm, even in the hot, Texas, August days. And of course, way too thick of eyeliner.

Depression was the deepest thing I had ever felt until I was 21 years old, when Jesus delivered me from it and showed Himself greater than any pain or shame that was accompanied with that plague. For me, depression intermingled itself with bipolar disorder, plunging me from high highs to low lows. And the lows.. they were low. Many nights, I spent crying myself to sleep, contemplating different ways I could end my own life to put myself out of misery. I felt like I was hurting myself just by allowing my eyes to open each day. In the daylight hours, I longed for sleep; during the night, the tormenting thoughts wouldn’t let go of my mind enough to chase any rest. I became greatly dependent on Nyquil to be able to shut my eyes.

One of the things a lot of people don’t understand about depression is that you feel it. Yes, you feel it emotionally. But you also feel it physically. It steals your energy and drive to do anything. Sleep, hundreds of hours consist of sleep [for some, a lack thereof]. It captivates your thoughts until you see through a grey scale of pain and lifelessness. It drives away people and drains any effort they have to try to help you. Depression isn’t just a sad emotion. Depression is exhausting for the person and the people around them. It’s an illness that throws your chemicals out of balance and rots away at every part of your life. Like addiction, getting through to the end of the day with depression is a true accomplishment.

My freshman year of high school is when the online movement To Write Love On Her Arms had boomed. One sleepless night on MySpace, I stumbled across the blog and read countless stories of individuals feeling exactly how I did. I read stories of people who related to me. I read stories of people being vulnerable. I read stories of people going through the healing process. I read stories of people choosing life over suicide and self harm. I read stories that gave me hope.

At the beginning of my sophomore year, my friend invited me to her church. I wasn’t raised in church, but I had been quite a few times. My dad taught me how to pray when I was little, but I didn’t fully understand why I would have a relationship with a God who didn’t ever speak to me. That night at a youth service, He spoke. And I heard. His words were comforting and caused every tormenting thought to be at a standstill. Peace spilled over and I was in awe of the glory of His presence. My knees gave out and I hit the floor. For years I had prayed that this God would make Himself real to me, and He did just that on a Wednesday night in October when I was 15 years old.

I’d love to say that all depression ceased that day and that I walked in a joy from there on out. But that’s not what happened.

My sophomore and junior year were spent chasing God outside of any community. I relied on my own understanding of the Bible and occasionally watched TBN. [side note: I highly do not recommend chasing God this way. Surround yourself with people who are pursuing Him, join a church, allow people to sharpen you.] I was no longer suicidal, but I didn’t know how to let God work on me.

Senior year of high school, I became really close with someone, who is still to this day [almost 7 years later] my best friend. The original friend who invited me to church that night, this was her triplet. We connected quickly with our common ground of a call to ministry while both struggling with deep, deep pain. He told me about healing and wholeness. He told me that complete healing is a real thing. I had never heard of actual healing, only learning to cope. And me, I had learned to cope. But coping was almost just as depressing as depression, to think that this is all there is to this life. However, this friend taught me how to pray, he taught me how to fast, and he taught me how to draw close to God. He taught me how to live in relationship with a living God.

Life sprang up in me as I learned how to give things to God and walk through a process of healing. In 2011, the Lord delivered me from bipolar disorder, and in 2012 He delivered me from depression. But shame, I kept shame locked up and protected. It was a part of who I was. I cut God off every time it was brought up. Shame was mine and I refused to let Him have it.

Until that day.

I was in a missions school in Mexico. It was a week for a class called Freedom & Original Design, which in YWAM, means deliverance week. It was four days after my 21st birthday. The atmosphere was thick, you could physically feel the presence of God. We worshiped and prayed for quite some time. The teaching team prophesied over us individually. Strongholds were broken. Lies were exposed, Truth replaced them. I learned how to really open up and trust that God was going to not only heal me, but comfort me, and not leave me in a broken state. We got to the deepest parts of me, then we hit the shame.

I put my guards up and hardened my heart. The teacher came over to me, looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Shame gave you an identity that you were never created to take hold of”. We exchanged words of how I didn’t have the strength to go to those thoughts and memories to even allow Truth to be spoken over them. I couldn’t go into those memories, there was too much pain. I heard God speak, “I’m a good Father, I have never left you and I will not leave you now. I was there, and I am here”. I allowed God to open up and dig out the deepest pits of shame. I felt it physically. It hurt. I felt as though my organs were being ripped out. I wailed at the reality of the emotional pain made physical. He took the pain, violently and gently all at once. I couldn’t stand. The spiritual atmosphere was without a doubt at one with the natural atmosphere. I felt the shame leave. God was still there. But me, I felt empty.

I sat on the floor. Blank. I felt nothing. I thought nothing. Eventually, my mind came to form thoughts. I had pieced together how much of my own identity I had found in the shame. But now that it was gone, I just felt empty.

The teacher had been making his way around the room, praying and prophesying over the other students. He came over to me once again, and explained, “The Holy Spirit showed me that you just feel completely empty now that the shame has been driven out. You’re going to receive joy and you’re going to be marked by joy.”

Let it be known, that I didn’t believe in joy. I thought that joy was just hype. It wasn’t real.

Oh, but it is.

He laid hands on my head and began to pray for God to fill me with His joy. And He did. I felt it in my veins. I felt the joy go deeper than any pain I had ever felt. I laid back and giggled for what seemed like eternity. I cried because I never knew that God was this personal, to be one with me, to engage and deliver me in fullness.

After that day, the joy was sustained. The shame was gone. Day after day, week after week, month after month. This wasn’t an experience that I got some high from, and returned to my normal life thereafter.

In giving every piece of who I am to Him, He has never not shown Himself faithful. He brings joy, and He drove out the darkness. To this day, two and a half years later, depression has had no place in my life. Because He is greater. His love goes deeper. He loves both violently and gently. He meets me, and dwells here.

He weeps with you, over you, and for you. He calls you His and He longs for your relationship. Turn your eyes to Him, He’s reaching for you. Let Him embrace you and hold you as His child.

Called Deeper

To know that we are not only loved by our Father, but that He delights in us, defeats the orphan spirit from every angle. 

Sometimes we operate from a place of knowing that we are loved, but we know that love as though God is required to love us because He is love. As if He daily takes on the burden of loving us. As if He personifies the American household phrase, “I have to love you because you’re family”; or the way too common phrase among Christians, “I have to love you but that doesn’t mean I have to like you”, which has tainted so many people’s perceptions of our Father. To believe that God loves us “because He has to” is a distortion of the very root of His character, and exposes a faulty foundation on which our sonship is based. 

To attempt to live in relationship with a God who loves you because He has no choice and because He’s obligated to because He is love, is to attempt relationship with a Person whom you have no understanding of the very core of their being.

He is holy and He is intimate.

Someone who operates from a place of intimacy does not love from a place of obligation.

To be loved by a Father who does not delight in you is to not even get a glimpse of the Father’s love for you.

He sent His son as Emmanuel- God with us- to bring salvation and restore us back to Him. He gives us the Holy Spirit to dwell among and within us. God himself walked with Adam in the garden. If every part of the Trinity dwells in relationship with us, intimacy is surely among us.

Intimacy longs to dwell with and delight in another; as does the Father delight in His children. He pulls us close and draws us in to be with Him, to feel His heartbeat, to hear His breaths, to know Him.

He doesn’t offer you salvation so that He can put another tally on the board of people for His kingdom. He doesn’t call you to worship Him because He’s insecure and needs to feel loved, for “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40). He doesn’t move in services so that the congregation can feel all warm and fuzzy inside. He doesn’t draw you to His Word so that you will have enough knowledge to debate theology and doctrine with people you don’t agree with. He doesn’t bring you to a place to learn about holiness for the purpose of calling others unholy and unworthy, like a Pharisee. He doesn’t call you to the secret place for the sole purpose of giving you deep revelation to share with others.

He does all these things because He longs to dwell with you, and because He delights in you.

And that alone should draw us to the secret place– a place to dwell with our Lover, to dwell with our Father, because He delights in us and in our pursuit of Him. He longs to hold you and pull you in close, to sing over you, and cover your face with kisses. He longs to dance with you. He longs for you to gaze into His eyes and know that you were created for oneness with Him.

He calls you child and He calls you loved. He chose you and He chooses you. He does not count you as a burden. He is your leader, protector, provider, defender, and resting place. He goes before you and behind you. His perfect love casts out any and every piece of fear. He’s calling you deeper.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Romans 8:15

Gods at War: Book Review

I work in a Christian bookstore and had heard countless good customer reviews for Idleman’s book, Not A Fan. I had never read anything from him, but I figured since he’s been quite a hit with the customers, I’d checkout one of his books. I skimmed the overview for his more popular book, Not A Fan, but found it to be a little amateur for my personal interests. Also, we had Gods at War on sale for $5.
Good customer reviews and having “Kyle Idleman” as practically a household name in my store, I approached the book with high hopes and expectation, only to be disappointed.

gaw

The book is summarized in one statement: all sin is because of the idolatry in our hearts.

There are a lot of solid statements through out the book. I appreciate his call to walk in holiness and his serious, no-toleration approach to sin. Idleman makes many statements in loving truth such as, “‘You will have no other gods before Me.’ There is no cohabitation. There is no open marriage.” The statement is biblical, is sound, and is in the character of God.

However, throughout much of the book, I found myself pondering and meditating on his statements and having the same outcome of, “I agree with you to an extent.” I found that Idleman makes claims infinitely, rather than accepting that this “root” isn’t the answer for every circumstance.

I felt like his claims all led to gods and idolatry rather than acknowledging that a lot of sin begins simply with our sinful nature as humans living in a fallen world. Some things can simply be linked back to the basic fact that we have a flesh.

Though I do not a agree with many of his explanations, or to certain extents, I do appreciate his serious approach to sin, allowing no excuses, but bringing an invitation to the grace given to us through the blood of Jesus. The book did help me identify some things in my life where I had not realized I was holding back from God, so for that I thank Idleman for his extensive and elaborate explanations of sin. I think that this book could be of some benefit to mature Christians who are firmly founded in the Word. I would not recommend it for Christians who do not yet have a solid foundation, as I believe it would bring forth a lot of confusion and misunderstanding.

In total, I’d give Gods at War 2/5 stars.

Jesus Colored Outside the Lines

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m currently reading Bill Johnson’s book, When Heaven Invades Earth.

Today I was reading, reflecting, and writing. When answering this particular question, God messed me up. I broke down at the reality of the humility of Jesus.
Do you ever notice how there are attributes we just understand, we just get it; but then there’s some that take a bit of revelation. God as a Father- I get that. Holy Spirit as empowerment- I get that. Jesus as a Savior- I get that. But Jesus as a King- that’s what God has been revealing to me lately.

FullSizeRender (1)

Israel expected their Messiah to come as the King who would rule over all other kings. And He did. But their misunderstanding of greatness in His Kingdom made it difficult for them to grasp how He could be born without earthly fanfare and become the servant of all.

They expected Him to rule with a rod of iron. In doing so they would finally have revenge on all those who had oppressed then throughout the ages. Little did they realize that His vengeance would not be aimed so much at the enemies of Israel as it would be toward the enemies of man: sin, the devil and his works, and the self-righteous attitudes fostered by religion.

Jesus the Messiah came… Full of surprises. Only the contrite in heart could keep up with His constant coloring outside the lines and stay offended. His purpose was revealed in His primary message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Now there’s something that caught them completely off guard; He brought His world with Him!

-Bill Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth

 

The Question: Why do you think Jesus “colored outside the lines”?

I think Jesus “colored outside the lines” because He was doing something new. The people who knew the law thought they knew exactly how Jesus would be. The way Jesus did things would destroy the pride of people who were religious.

Jesus colored outside the lines with His lifestyle. He didn’t just preach on a Sunday and Wednesday and call it a week. He didn’t live in a place so that sinners couldn’t come near in their in unholiness. He didn’t demand an earthly throne and for people to bow down before Him. He didn’t expect fine dining or luxurious (or even middle class) housing.

He was a king. He is a king. He is the King.

And He lowered Himself to a human flesh.

 

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
(Philippians 2:6-8 NIV)

The King of kings lowered Himself so that He could embrace the broken and lost, and in that, we would be embraced by our Father.

The King of kings lowered Himself and not only embraced, but was baptized by a man who lived in the wilderness, living on locust and wild honey. The King of kings lowered Himself and embraced the homeless, the orphans, the broken. He embraced the diseased before He healed them. He embraced and defended the adulteress before calling her pure. He embraced the untouchables and called them dearly loved. He cried out for forgiveness of behalf of the men who nailed Him to a cross.

The King of kings embraced me in my filth and called me clean, accepted, and a child. He calls me fearless and He calls me loved. He calls me bold and He calls me His own.

 

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. (John 1:11 NIV)