last night i went to the Art*Music*Justice concert event with a friend of mine. this wasn't a typical concert, and it's not often that you get to see 5 amazing artists in one night: sara groves, brandon heath, derek webb, charlie peacock and sandra mccracken... let alone 5 artists making music with an agenda other than selling records. and it's not often that you leave a concert with so much going on in your mind that it's almost impossible to go to sleep once you crawl into bed... even after the 45 minute drive home.
each of these artists has a desire to see justice brought to the poor, widows and those in bondage and they continually accept the challenge to actually DO something about it. while they are each involved in different charitable work, the two organizations sponsoring the tour are: IJM and food for the hungry. i invite you to check out their websites and pray about getting involved in how they are changing the world. here is a short video that gives a snapshot into sara groves' trip to rwanda with food for the hungry (this is a video that she showed during the concert).
i invite you to walk through what God has been teaching me the past few months... as He continues to lead me on an amazing faith journey. here goes:
there are over 2,000 references in the Bible to helping the widows, orphans and those less fortunate than yourself... and yet most Christians choose to ignore the demand to put their faith into action so that the world around us can SEE the love of Christ in us. does the world truly know us (followers of Christ) by our love? i live in the 'baptist bubble' and see other religious groups (some considered cults) that are growing vastly every day because they are willing to actually take their faith outside of the walls of their personal lives. the world sees their love in very real ways (i.e. taking care of single moms, providing food for the hungry, making sure that every door in the country is knocked on at least once a year, etc).
the main theme of last night was using art and music to endorse justice... so let's start there.
in 1 kings 3 solomon has just become king after the death of his father, david. in verse 5, God appears to solomon in a dream and says, "ask for whatever you want me to give you." and solomon replies (verse 9), "give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. for who is able to govern this great people of yours?" the fact that solomon asks for wisdom in order to provide justice for God's people pleased the Lord. He then tells solomon (verses 13-14), "there will be none equal to you, and if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as david your father did, I will give you a long life." God is pleased with solomon's desire to properly rule God's people and tells him that he will be blessed beyond anyone (before, during and after solomon's life) as long as he follows God's commands and statutes. you see, it's not just solomon's desire for wisdom that pleased God, but why he wanted wisdom... for justice... justice before the Lord for the people.
once we understand that justice pleases God, where do we go from there and what do we do with that reality?
obviously, it is not in our nature to serve others. it is not in our nature to put other people's needs before our own. we are selfish, sinful people. if we struggle with serving those that we love on a consistent basis... how can we ever expect ourselves to serve those we never see, meet or come in contact with during the regular routine of our days... if not for the love of Christ permeating who we are... it's a pursuit of "more of Him and less of me." hard stuff. just as solomon knew he needed God to step in so that he could be a 'just' king... we must be truly transformed by the God we say we follow.
Matthew 7:21-23 says, "not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. away from me, you evildoers!' this passage of Scripture is one of the most frightening ones for me. you see, someone outside of the church would not refer to God as 'Lord.' this passage is referring to people who have knowledge of God, minister in His name, and yet had no relationship with Him. they never had a true transformation experience... ministry was a selfish endeavor for recognition. you see, churches preach the Gospel by asking people if they want to accept Jesus to get 'fire insurance'... but is heaven for people who are afraid of hell... or for people who love Jesus?
knowledge of God is not enough. knowledge does not lead to loving others, only Christ within me can teach me how to truly love someone. Scripture states that knowing of God is not the same thing as knowing God repeatedly. instead of branching into those texts, let's go back to the story of solomon. a few paragraphs earlier, we looked at 1 kings 3 and solomon asking for wisdom so he could be a 'just' king. right before solomon's dream chapter 3 tells us that solomon was worshiping in the 'high places' (verse 3) instead of worshiping at the temple. this is significant because false gods (idols) were worshiped at the high places while God dwelled in the temple. after solmon's dream, he goes and worships at the temple in jerusalem before the ark of the covenant. chapters 4-10 tell us about the dedication of the temple (solmon built a new temple after the temple had been destroyed by the philistines in 1050 BC) and how God has blessed solomon. in chapter 11, the Bible says that solomon loved many foreign women, these women were from places where God had told the israelites they were not to intermarry (verse 2). he had 700 wives and 300 concubines and these women led him astray and as he grew old his wives turned his heart towards other gods and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord (verses 3-4). in verse 7, solomon builds an alter to a false god at the high place... he returns to where he started. if solomon, the wisest man ever, was not able to continue to follow the Lord... what must we do different?
we must remember that while the Gospel is all about love... God's love for us and us displaying that to others... we often forget why WE need it. it is easy to point out the sin in other people's lives, yet when it comes to recognizing our own sin we continually choose blindness instead of dealing and working through the hard stuff. that is why we must always remember the Gospel and what it means in our lives. 1 Corinthians 1:26 says, "brothers, think of what you were when you were called." i love this verse. i know the mess in my life, and i am so thankful that in the midst of it God chooses to love me. our response to His love is found in Hebrews 12:1, "let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
as we run with perseverance we must, just like solomon, remember that it is only through God we can do what we are being called to do. let's look back at 1 Corinthians again, in chapter 2:1-5 paul writes, "when I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as i proclaimed to you the testimony about God. for i resolved to know nothing while i was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. i came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. my message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power." i have nothing to offer but Jesus Christ. thankfully, that's more than anyone could ever ask for. my fear and weakness displays God's power and grace to others.
let's look at Luke 14:25-35, which can almost seem a contradiction to what the Gospel calls us to do. verses 26 & 27 state, "if anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. and anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." there are two great temptations found in these verses: 1.) putting your family in God's place in your life and 2.) pursuing happiness over the pursuit of God's joy. when God says "let's go," how do you answer? would you say, "i can't leave my family... it will be too hard... etc?" or have you already considered the cost of following Jesus and run towards where God's calling you in order to partner in what God is already doing?
will you accept the cost of your calling found in the Gospel of Jesus? will you pursue justice for others and a relationship with God over stagnant faith and knowledge?
i love the story of the samaritan woman's encounter with Jesus in John 4. she was a woman of ill-repute. a 'scarlet letter wearer' despised by her community because of her lifestyle choices. yet, when she met Jesus he offered her love, grace and acceptance... all of which had been missing from her life. she truly MET Jesus and was transformed. everything about her was changed, including her countenance. she ran into her town to shout about the grace she found in Jesus, a true living water. a woman who probably would have walked through town with her head down avoiding stares and glares, left her reputation at the well... at Jesus' feet. John 4:39 says, many believed because of her testimony and then many more believed after she took them to meet Jesus.
do many believe because of your testimony? do you lead others to Christ? have you had a true encounter with Jesus? do you have a relationship with Jesus or is that something you are still working on?
this entry is my attempt to wade through what God has been teaching me and my experience last night. one of my supervisors at work often says this quote by dawson trotman, “thoughts disentangle themselves when they flow from the lips or the fingertips.” this is my attempt to disentangle what God is teaching me. thanks for hanging in and reading this long entry. let me know what you think.