Do Not Fear!

Interesting time we are living in.  For us and many we know just in our city, the economy challenges have forced reevaluation of all we do and how we do it.  Though difficult and even painful it does help bring eternity in better focus for sure.  We are here for a short while, this isn’t our home, and there’s always a bigger picture than our own present circumstances and reality.   God’s plan and timeline are vastly above and beyond our finite understanding and focus.

For our friends dealing with cancer, unsure of what’s next-we can only imagine what perspective they have.  For marriages void of any hope and struggling for breath-though I’ve been there and know the pain-my words won’t alleviate the need for a real miracle of heart, and that’s what it takes.  For kids we know across the world that pray to have food today-most have no idea what hunger and poverty feel like.

We listened to our old Pastor recently who brought front and forward a powerful reminder that the time we’re in is unlike ever before in history.  Words foretold in the Bible are happening more and more rapidly, coming true though it’s taken many years.  The truth is still that God will return for His People, those whose names are written in the Lambs book of life.  And there are things He said would happen before then to clue us in and keep us on the ready-looking for His return.

My struggles blind me more than I care to admit from the bigger picture.  Life isn’t about happiness and peace all the time.  Though I’ve lived the life of faith for years it’s still a fight to trust that my needs are really in His hands.  Though I’ve lived the marriage miracle we still have to fend off issues and communicate through the mire.   In my spirit-my innermost being, I know and believe wholeheartedly in the power of God; to provide, heal, save, set free.   But like Paul, I still do the very things I know better than to do.  It’s a human struggle and condition and it’s called sin!

I remembered the words and tune to REM’s hit “Losing My Religion” just the other day.  “Here I am in the spotlight, losing my religion.”  That’s all I remember so I don’t truly know what they were trying to say, but when I heard it the first time around years ago I was offended by just that one line and assumed it meant disavowing their belief in God.  In my young religious mind I reasoned they were back sliders and passed some critical judgement I’m sure their way.  One thing I’ve learned the hard way is (you don’t know till you know) and it applies to life period.

Here’s what I think now.  In reality we all need to lose some of our religion, especially if it’s contrary to the religion Jesus lived out instead of preached.  What he did say using words even still is not what we always want to hear or do.  So when I think of the time we’re living in and get past my own crap on a daily basis here’s what I believe and see clearly.  My trials and struggles are tests, I have the option to succeed or fail.  The outcome isn’t what it’s about as much as the process and journey and how I navigate them with The Lord.  My faith can’t be conditional and contingent upon my preferred or expected outcome, beyond the assurance that I can expect God to do as only He can and wills to do in every circumstance!  It’s my faith and trust He desires.

One part of the big picture is, we shouldn’t be so offended at how others carry out their religion and lives.  You could even argue what business is that of ours anyway? A Christians responsibility is not to judge but love!  One at a time we make the difference and all along the way we’ll have trials and tribulations.  That’s what we signed on for and Jesus Himself promised, but also to be with us till the end of the age-which is coming sooner that we think.

My prayer is to be driven by a courage not fear, faith not sight, and love not criticism!  This generation needs hope more than religion, no religion saves souls-only Jesus.  May it be His hope and love they see in all who call ourselves Christians.  And may our perspective go beyond present reality and circumstance to include His view of humanity and need to see His light is our lives every single day.

(Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”)

Exodus 20:20

Passion and Greatness

Passion And Greatness 
Article by:  Tom Lane
Passion and greatness are inspiring and people are drawn to both.   As a ship is steered by a rudder, we are certainly steered by passion.    “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  (Matt. 6:21) Greatness isn’t an absolute and is relative to the standard of measure we use.   There are some artists that have achieved greatness and undoubtedly a very focused passion is what in part led them there.  What I call great you could easily regard as NOT so great.   So who’s standard do we rely on and esteem most?  If I tallied up a few artists I think are great now versus when I was younger the list would look very different.  Most I would still love and may even use the word great in conjunction with their names.  But over time what stands out are the few who’ve truly laid down their own greatness in order to be used for God’s glory.  Because the glory road is a harder road to Go and requires sacrifices that go completely against the grain of creative people.   However, Glory shines bright through the one fueled by a passion that is bridled and fully surrendered to God.
In the early days of Rock, music was by no means technically, sonically, or musically perfect.  Guitars were out of tune, tempo drifted like the wind, vocals weren’t auto tuned to perfection, no beat detective, no cutting and pasting, etc.  Yet the passion and raw expression was unquestionable and has proven for some to be timeless.   In an age where technology rules and is more accessible than ever before, one thing is still true- you need the passion!  Without it you don’t really have much.  You have to create and capture the essence of something great for it to really become great.
There was a time when record labels took years to develop their artists and their music.  It wasn’t as easy as just sticking any and every one that could play or sing in front of people.  Long before artists were seen they were heard.   All the greats started somewhere and spent time honing and defining their passion into what we now know them to be, It wasn’t overnight and cost them something.  With worship music now being a genre and career choice, there’s much more opportunity and possibility of foregoing proper development.  For the world, development is more about the music/image/market worthiness.  For Christians, it is more about the heart, so to follow the worlds example is not our way.  The criteria to be an artist, whatever title we wrap around it-even Worship Artist, should be about the quality or fruit of a ministry/life first.
In my mind there are two roads creative people can run down.  You can “go your own way” as Fleetwood Mac put it, or to put it as Elvis sang it, “I did it my way!”  or you can do it God’s way.  Many misguided christians have mistakenly attributed their success and fame to God, adding His name to their ministries and businesses as if that alone legitimizes whatever they do.  What’s wrong with that is; what God has asked and requires of us, is in many ways backwards and in direct opposition to our own passion.  Doesn’t mean He hasn’t given us the passion in our hearts; but the fullness is not attained by going our own way, doing our own thing, and being whatever/whoever we want or dream.  It’s best summed up this way, “Seek Ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added  unto you.”  (Matt. 6:33) It’s the righteousness part we misunderstand or glide over if we’re not careful.  We are not called to fame or riches, though we may have them and God does allow them.  We are called to a priesthood and a lifestyle of holiness.
Not many bands set out to be priests.  Many have a history of some kind in the church but don’t seem able to maintain an obvious and dedicated passion, to bring glory to God. At some point usually it becomes about their glory whether intended or not.  Wanna be clear that I am not picking on one side or the other, we are all human.  Christians love, idolize, promote, exploit, and crucify their heroes just the same!  Read the history books.   What I am suggesting is that many whom God gifted and called have missed the road entirely though musically they are greatly revered.
The beauty of art and music is, no one rule covers or applies to all creativity.  It is a free gift from the Creator Who simply asks that we freely give it back to Him from our hearts.   There is a lot of freedom involved!   At some point, because we have free will we have to choose whose glory we are going to invest in and pursue.  For a band or artist to set their aim on being known or discovered can be a distraction and become an all engulfing pursuit.  The more you chase and pursue, the more you become responsible for and feel you have to maintain.  That pressure alone has driven many way off course from where they started.  I’m not talking about the pursuit of a passion in the sense that you do all you can to create and improve.  Striving for excellence is good; believing you have to be on a platform to really impact is not!   By all means make your music as great as you can make it, focus and be diligent to steward the talent you have.  But don’t let the talent lure you away from the calling of God on your life.  It is not the end but a means to express devotion and love to and for God.  God is passionate about people and their souls.  The goal is always the same for Him, to seek and save the lost, commune with his people, and receive our lives as acts of worship.  
So if you are trying to find your vibe, your sound, your image, your look here’s what I pray.  Be creative, be yourself, be diligent; but above all know, understand, and commit to being who you’re called to be first.  And be able to articulate what that is!   Don’t wait for others to tell you what you need to say and do in order to succeed and fill the role of Christian Artist, get it for yourself.  God is not silent and is still speaking.  When you’re on the stage it needs to be about more than just your music.  Doesn’t mean it all has to be “worship” music or “Christian” music either, just don’t be nebulous or naive about the calling!
Passion is a gift, greatness is a noble and worthy pursuit, but glory makes the difference!   Aspire to live a passionate revolution centered around God’s kingdom and glory.  Live sacrificially, serve the world, walk humbly with Him and trust him to thrust and propel you into spheres of influence and platforms as He sees fit.