Finding Rest in God in a Workaholic Culture (Keller Project - Part 1)

Finding Rest in God in a Workaholic Culture (Keller Project - Part 1)

Finding 'The Rest-Giver' in Hebrews 4:1-13 (And Finding Rest in God in a Workaholic Culture): One thing pops out when you read the book of Hebrews in the Bible: God really wants us to value rest--both physical and spiritual rest (which we'll define in a moment)--and to truly treasure and preserve our rest with zeal and intensity.

Prayer Conversations: The Search for Living Water

Today's prayer:

Lord, I thirst for true living water. I'm weary of always trying to find living water in the dead water of this finite world. We drink and drink and drink from all our earthly hopes--our relationships, health, careers, hopes, longing for security and stability--and even when we get one of those things, they fill us for awhile but soon we're thirsty again. This life offers so many wells, so many promises of fulfillment, but even the best that this life can offer leaves the spirit dry and thirsty for more. Your love is better than life itself. I long for your living water that truly satisfies and ends the desperate search, the endless thirst, and I ask for more of your living water to overflow in my spirit, mind, heart, and in every corner of my life until it spills over and encourages other people too. In Jesus' name, amen.

What the Lord might say in reply (John 4):

Everyone who drinks this world's water will be thirsty again, but there is a spring of water that never weakens or stops, but is ever-flowing and moving swiftly through the channels I carve into your heart during the hard times. And this living water can rush through the barriers and rocks that clog up your spirit and overpower them until it is a smooth running river from beginning to end, winding through every canyon and valley, bringing refreshment to places in your spirit that you never thought would find healing or hope again.

Prayer Conversations: Brand New Clothes as Bright as the Sun

Today's prayer:

I lift my heart to you, Lord, and ask you to clothe me in your light and strength and in the clothes you've made for me--the covering of the Holy Spirit and the warmth of your promises, your grace and mercy, and the protection of your Word. This world and the people in it try to dress me up in their labels and opinions and ideas and words, and even my own heart dresses itself too much with the shadows and phantoms of fear and grief. I ask you to take that all away and clothe me with Christ and cover me with your perfection that you give away freely.

What the Lord might say in reply (Isaiah 54:17; Romans 13:14):

I invite you into my throne room, my presence, my holy tailor's studio where I will clothe you with a new start in me and give you all my perfection and righteousness for you to wear as a gift. You can never earn your way into my presence and make yourself clean enough, and so I wash you in grace and mercy through the work of my Son on the cross, and I clothe you with new life, like the joy of the sun and the gleam of the moon and the shimmer of constellations, as you rest in my presence and receive all the gifts I have for you in faith.

Prayer Conversations: Tossed in a Tempest

Today's prayer:

Abba Father, I seek you and take shelter in you today. The frailties and failures and disappointments of life can overwhelm the soul, and the day can knock us over like a micro-burst of torrential wind and rain that no one saw coming--a sudden onset from a storm that can rip trees out of the ground. I look to you when the sky swells dark, when the air is heavy and the sound of my prayers, even under the open sky, are muted and muffled and thrown back at me by life and by the world and by my own weaknesses. And when the sharp words of others hit me like hail I run for cover under the shadow of your wings, in the secret place of your wide pavilion, where all is safe and dry and you set my feet on spacious ground, far away and free from the strife of hearts and people. 

What the Lord might say in reply (Isaiah 54, Zephaniah 3:17):

My afflicted one, tossed back and forth on a tempest, never finding rest. See, I quiet you now with my voice, with singing that surrounds you on every side, with a rush of wind that does not destroy but chases the smoke and smog out of your lungs and lets your spirit breathe deep again, full of new hope and life. See, I build your foundations with precious jewels, and no hand can undo or stop my work. Breathe deep in this secret place and rest.

How U2 and C. S. Lewis Both Capture a Deep Longing for God – Part 1: Stabs of Joy and ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’

The following is part 1 of an article series that examines excerpts from a new book about U2 and C. S. Lewis (how their music and writings intersect and capture spiritual hunger in powerful ways) called Shadowlands and Songs of Light: An Epic Journey Into Joy and Healing. The series is being published to celebrate the upcoming release of U2’s new album “Songs of Experience.” (#U2SongsOfExperience)

Possibly the most wonderful, intensely blissful emotional sensation that can happen to us in this world–maybe even more wonderful than falling in love–is something that C. S. Lewis called “stabs of joy” in his autobiography “Surprised by Joy.”

This “stab of joy” is a longing so intense and sweet and melancholy all at once that it’s overwhelming and ecstatic, and it can strike at any moment, as I wrote:

[This stab of joy] is close to the intense sensations of homesickness—the pangs that come when we see a place from our childhood or hear an old song that’s tied to our past. Yet it’s not quite nostalgia. It goes beyond that. When this strange Longing stabs us, we feel homesick for a home we’ve never had. 

For each person this moment is different–maybe you felt it once while watching a sunset or stargazing or when you saw your newborn child for the first time or when you read a certain book or smelled a certain fragrance of flower on a rainy day in the garden. The pinprick that causes the longing is different for everyone and it changes as we get older, but it is common to the human experience. (And this bittersweet yearning for something we don’t know and can’t describe can often be the catalyst or precursor to what philosophers call existential angst.)

One of my earliest memories of a stab of joy happened while backpacking as a kid. My family had just reached the summit of a mountain at the same moment when a fighter jet flew over it, so close that the pilot saw me and gave me a thumbs up. The next moment I turned and reached a vista overlooking the California Sierra mountain ranges and the Nevada deserts.

That’s when the stab struck, as I....Click here to read the full article.

When God Confirms We're On the Right Course: My Interview with Singer Jordan Feliz

(This article originally appeared on RockinGodsHouse.com)

Jordan Feliz and I have something in common: we're both from the Central Valley in California -- he from Fresno, me from Shafter. Even many people in the Central Valley haven't heard of my small town where I grew up, but Jordan, to my shock, new Shafter.

So it was easy for me to imagine the beginning of his journey from California to Nashville: speeding down the road with the wide panorama of the mythic, John Steinbeck-ian Central Valley looming behind -- an adventurous drive across the country that he and his wife made completely by faith. They only had enough money to get to Phoenix, AZ, and yet they both felt without a doubt that God was calling them to move to Nashville so that Jordan could put his musical talents to work in the Christian music industry.

And when I heard the rest of the story -- how God actually got them to Nashville -- my jaw dropped. (And you'll have to read the interview below to find out why.) The story will be deeply encouraging for anyone in the midst of a scary faith journey.

It's a great example of how God uses events in our lives to confirm we're on the right course.

And the way that God has provided for Jordan and his family, even during the leanest of times, reminds me of Abraham's journey of faith and the journeys that many of us take when God calls us to leave behind the familiar and jump headfirst into the unknown. An awareness of this miraculous provision and of the true riches of Christ permeate Jordan's music. And thanks to the success of his smash-hit single "The River," which reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot AC/CHR Chart, millions of people are getting exposed to those riches of faith that Jordan has found in Christ.

Jordan and I spoke recently over the phone about his new album Beloved that is turning a lot of heads in the music industry, his new single "The River" and the meaning behind it, and, most importantly, his inspiring faith journey:

In your bio I noticed you're from Central California. I'm from a town called Shafter, near Bakersfield. So I just had to ask.

Yeah, I know Shafter!

You do? Wow that's crazy. So what is Nashville like compared to our neck of the woods in Central California.

Man. It's better. (laughs) 

I bet! [And I said that because we Central Valley dwellers are known for being self-effacing about some of the less than desirable qualities of the Central Valley -- like its soul-crushing heat in the summer.]

Yeah, it's better. It's really green which is something I never used to see. It's also just a totally different dynamic with the people. It's almost like you have to get used to it. The people of Nashville are just so welcoming and very communal. Everybody wants to be your friend and hang out. It's just awesome, really great.

That makes me want to visit Nashville. Though I do get kinda homesick when I'm away from Central California. You kinda get used to John Steinback-like vast plain of agriculture.

Oh, totally dude. There are definitely things I miss. But the "miss" doesn't outweight the things we have out here. But I completely agree. I find myself every time I think about a restaurant over there or my coffee place I get a little homesick.

I love the imagery of the song "The River," and I was curious what inspired you to use that imagery?

This song stems from John 7:38 and the verse says, "Whoever believes in Me will have rivers of living water flow from within them." So the imagery got kinda drawn out of that verse. The song is an invitation. That's what it's written to be -- an invitation to everyone, maybe someone who feels like they've lived their entire life by the books or someone who is maybe on the opposite side of that who feels like they have so much baggage that they're just too ashamed to bring that to the Cross. More than anything it's the opportunity to go down in amazing grace and rise up being made new.

That's awesome. It just has that communal feel. "Let's all go down to the river." It has a warmth to it besides that powerful theology. Very cool.

It's funny because some people have taken it as a baptismal kind of vibe. Essentially it's kinda like that, but really the song is -- those rivers of living water -- that is the Holy Spirit. That's what the verse is talking about. So let's go down. It's almost funny, so yes, it's about the river but it's about the river inside of you. It's about the Spirit flowing inside of you and going down into that and being made new from that.

Reading your bio I was really inspired by your journey of faith. It kinda reminded me about how God called Abraham out -- a calling to go into the scary unknown -- because of how God called you out on this crazy trip to Nashville. I was just curious; what gave you the sense that God was moving you to Nashville? Or how did God help you make that decision?

I took a job as a worship leader for a year after the band I was in broke up, and in that year I had a really, really close friend of mine (who actually is now my manager), but he reached out to me. He used to be in a band that played with my band. He was talking to me about how he would love for me to come to Nashville. Around that time I was really feeling like God kept giving me revelations and ideas for songs. So I was just like, wow, that's weird that Adam calls me, and then God is giving me these song ideas. That's weird. So I felt like I wanted to explore it.

So I flew out to Nashville. I just felt like God's hand was over the entire trip like, "this is something you need to pursue." I came back home, talked to my wife about it. We prayed about it for about a year. We both felt like we had made a couple trips to Nashville. We both felt that every time we left it felt like home. It felt like we were going back somewhere that wasn't our home. We just really felt like God was just "go."

It's really interesting because sometimes you want to know, and it's really hard, there's so much wondering in your journey as a human being. You're like, "Am I just saying this to myself? Am I the one speaking this into my life or is this God?" Our journey w
as just a testament to God's abundance in our lives. It was really amazing to see Him and His hand over us in our journey.

That's incredible. I think it is awesome how God will confirm things with external signs that you know you couldn't have invented on your own. And that brings me to my next question about your amazing story of how you actually made it across the country, somehow getting shows along the way. Could you fill us in on how that happened?

In that year of planning and praying I started putting together some kind of tour so that we would basically not have to feel the financial weight of the move and the costs and the gas to get to Nashville because my wife -- I mean, I'm a musician and a worship leader; it's not like we're really rolling in it. [laughs] It was kinda one of these things where I put all these things together. I've always been that way, just a planner and I want to take control of things and just kinda do it.

Two weeks before we decided to move everything fell apart. Everything fell apart. All the shows got canceled. I was just like, "oh my gosh how are we going to make it?" My wife and I were both kinda looking at each other like, "Is this God saying don't go?" Is this Him saying you've been misinterpreting this the whole time? There was much confusion. We just really, we prayed together every night for the next two weeks. We really felt like God was still telling us to go. So we hopped in my van and trailer that had everything we owned, and I just starting calling. I mean the day we left, the first day, I didn't have a show, so I called and ended up getting a show in San Bernadino, California. That show paid to get us to Phoenix, which is where my wife's family is from. So we stayed there as a home base for a couple days while we tried to get a couple more things kinda figured out.

Basically that became the trend: calling, just cold calling people I've never met before like "hey, do you need a worship leader today? or for anything?" It was crazy because all of a sudden we're making like literally just enough money to get us to the next place, and it's just like "oh my gosh God you're providing." I'm seeing all these things, and then we're driving through Texas, and I'll never forget it because I felt like all of a sudden we're running out. We're just not going to make it. There's just no way. I'm calling everyone, like can I get a show in Oklahoma City? I don't know anyone there. We have nothing else. I've called hundreds of people in a matter of like seven days.

I end up calling a friend from Dallas, and I say, "Dude, by any chance do you have any connection in Oklahoma City?" And he says, "Actually, yeah, I do. Let me text you his number and see if you can work something out." So I call him, and the guy goes, "Oh man that church doesn't even exist anymore." I'm like great, great, that's awesome. Thanks. He goes, "But honestly though, I have a buddy of mine who just started a church in his backyard in a barn. I'm thinking, yeah that sounds about right. Yeah, send me his phone number.

So I called this guy, his name is Tony, he's amazing. A super awesome guy. We end up going there. He's like, "I can pay you a hundred bucks if you want to come in." I'm all, "Hey, it's better than nothing." So I go in and this is just total proof that God is way bigger than anything we could ever imagine. So I go in on the day of the Oklahoma City Bombing Marathon, and so their entire church is participating in it, so I played to 26 people in two services. So I don't know how, but I ended up making like $1,500 from a church with 26 people. There was a guy who literally wrote me a check for $300 and just told me, "I don't know why, but when you were up there God told me to give this to you." [Jordan pauses on the phone for a moment] Dude, I have goosebumps right now. Everytime I talk about it, it's just crazy. The only answer to it is just the fact that God's provision is such that He wants much more for us than we even want for ourselves. Because I was striving just to get to Nashville, and I ended up making money moving to Nashville. It's just proof that His ideas for us are much bigger than we even have for ourselves. 

Incredible. I knew there was a story in there, but I didn't know it was that awesome. [laughs] Thank you for sharing that. Just hearing that story is going to keep me encouraged for the rest of the week. Wow. My next question ties into all of that. What advice would you give to a Christian who feels God is calling them to do something big and scary but they're really not sure they can pull it off?

Man. Even though it's terrifying and I've been there, done that legitimately the thing is is that if God is calling you to do it no matter what comes out of it because even when we've been in Nashville there have been things that God has asked me to do that have not ended up in the moment really being a good idea. You're like why am I doing this? And all of a sudden three months later you're like, oh that's why I did that. So I say, go, jump headfirst. You know what I mean? Dive into it. Ever since that move my wife and I have been living our lives like that. Of just saying, "God we trust You. Do what you have to do." I mean we have been provided for in moments that you would have though how are they going to make it there's no way that's going to happen and we have. The moment you abandon all your earthly fears and all these things that weigh you down and that is a lot harder than you think it is, I still struggle with it. But the moment that you run from them is the moment that you see God doing some amazing things in your life that you would have never though you would have happened because it's totally true that He wants so much more for you than you want for yourself.

Wow. [pauses] Yeah, I'm just kinda absorbing that right now. That's really awesome, thank you so much for that, it's really encouraging. Are there any tour plans or anything you want people to know about that's coming up?

I'm going to be home all fall. Being a family man, being a dad. Being a husband. I'm writing for my next record. But in the spring I'm starting, well, I guess it's late winter in January, I'm starting a tour with Big Daddy Weave and Plumb. It's called the "Beautiful Offerings Tour." So keep your eyes pealed and hopefully we will be able to hang out.

***

Check out the official Jordan Feliz website to learn more about his music and to stay up-to-date with the latest news.

Comforting Thoughts in Times of Sorrow

(This post originally appeared on RockinGodsHouse.com)

The late Lauren Bacall -- Hollywood silver screen legend and wife of Humphrey Bogart -- once said, "Your whole life shows in your face, and you should be proud of that."

Anybody paying attention to the world right now will have added a few more lines of sorrow to their face. These are times that try our souls.

This week, besides losing one of the most beloved personalities in American culture (Robin Williams), we lost one of the last icons from the Golden Age of Hollywood (Bacall). As an ardent fan of movies and of these actors in particular, this was a painful week for me. And, if these losses weren't sad enough, journalists are reporting new horrors and tragedies on a daily basis -- both near and abroad.

It's times like these when we need to keep an eternal perspective. The Christian believes that his or her true home is not this earth but Heaven. When we remember our true citizenship, it helps us push through times of great sorrow in this world, which C.S. Lewis called "the valley of tears." Speaking of Lewis, here are a few moments from Lewis's writings that help us see our true Home with vibrant colors and greater clarity:

1. The magnificent "solidness" of Heaven in The Great Divorce.

In the short fiction work of The Great Divorce, when a group of lost souls in "grey town" (Hell, perhaps, or a sort of transitory "holding tank" until Judgment Day), are given leave to visit the foothills of Heaven, they find that Heaven is so solid compared to their ghostly forms that not even the blades of grass will bend under their weight; and, in fact, the grass pierces their feet like swords. They're also unable to lift the leaves, as if the smallest leaf weighs two tons.

Encouragement: Although the book is a work of theological fantasy fiction, Lewis makes a profound observation: Heaven's substance is the true reality, and all other places below it, whether this temporary universe or Hell, are flimsy in comparison -- so much so that a soul cannot even bend a blade of grass in Heaven unless they are one of its citizens. It's a powerful reminder that this world is not our true home, and that we "seek a better country," as Hebrews 11 puts it.

2. The tears of Aslan in The Magician's Nephew.

In this book, which is the first in The Chronicles of Narnia series, the boy Digory asks Aslan the lion to heal his dying mother. He pleads with Aslan in fear, as if he were petitioning a frightening, distant monarch. But when Digory looks up from his tears and sees Aslan's face, he's shocked to find Aslan crying bigger tears than Digory over his mother. Digory realizes that Aslan has a greater love for Digory's mother than he does.

Encouragement: Although the Narnia books are not a strict allegory, Aslan is certainly a Christ figure. This scene with Digory reminds us of a powerful truth that Scripture supports: Christ loves our loved ones more than we do, and He feels our grief more keenly than we do. This realization strengthened my heart when I lost my mother.

3. The glimpse of unspoilt paradise in Perelandra.

In Book Two of Lewis's Space Trilogy, the hero Ransom finds himself in a paradise world untouched by the Fall (the sin of humanity).

Encouragement: If a mortal writer can dream up a world like Perelandra that fills the heart with such awe, imagine what God can do with Heaven. In an indirect but powerful way, Perelandra reminds us that our true home -- Heaven -- will be more wonderful than anything we can imagine. Here's a description from Perelandra when Ransom eats one of the fruits of paradise:

"Moved by a natural impulse he put out his hand to touch it. Immediately his head, face, and shoulders were drenched with what seemed (in that warm world) an ice-cold shower bath, and his nostrils filled with a sharp, shrill, exquisite scent that somehow brought to his mind the verse in Pope, 'die of a rose in aromatic pain.' Such was the refreshment that he seemed to himself to have been, till now, but half awake. When he opened his eyes— which had closed involuntarily at the shock of moisture— all the colors about him seemed richer and the dimness of that world seemed clarified."

Lewis, C. S. (2012-04-03). Perelandra: (Space Trilogy, Book Two) (Kindle Locations 727-731). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.