Big Group Jesus

Mark Hall wrote a great book that I got at the 2017 Creation Festival called “Your Own Jesus”, and I am finally picking up speed and finishing it. Okay, so I am halfway through, not near the end, but that is further than I was in 2017. Everything he wrote is hitting me at just the right moment taking the time to dive into it now though.

This year at Creation, I saw such an exciting preacher, and I was so moved, I thought, how do I hang onto this fire when I leave? I do not want to leave it at this festival. I need to be living this, because other people need to be feeling this, and if I am the only one they run into who knows this great feeling, well then I better be on fire still, overflowing and ready to tell them why I feel so good. So when my husband said he wanted to study Revelation then invited me to listen to the audio book I got for him about it on a long car drive, I said okay. Then, I signed up for an online Bible study that wrapped up in the last full week in September. I just ordered myself a book by the same writer who wrote the Bible study I was a part of to continue this growth, to keep this fire lit, because as Mark Hall says in his book, we have to do things to keep that feeling awake outside of a concert.

In a concert, we can ride on the emotions of the music and those around us, and then he said sometimes by the time we get to the parking lot, the feeling is fading. We experience what he calls “Big Group Jesus”, but we never experience our own Jesus. I sort of had this understanding when walking out of Creation, but it is so encouraging to read it from his perspective with his clever labels attached to these feelings.

If you feel like you’ve just been taking part in “Big Group Jesus”, then I invite you to check out Romans 12 that reminds us that we are a living sacrifice and by offering ourselves, we worship God. 

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

When we are surrounded by dim lighting, beautiful music, hands raised, it feels good, and it is good to worship like that with others; to find our own Jesus, we have to be willing to give ourselves up outside of the sanctuary, concert hall, or music festival. This can make us uncomfortable to think of giving up our own time, after all, so often in this hectic world, every second is precious. 

But what if before you had breakfast, you read a devotional? It by no means is this kind of fasting we read about in Daniel where for three weeks he ate no “choice” food and it isn’t like Jesus fasting for forty days and forty nights, but it is a start in saying, “My day starts out with  you, God, what do you want to fill me up with?” Or maybe an easy way to start to hand over your time is using commute time for prayer and worship. 

If you are looking for ways to be a blazing fire, then I suggest reading “Your Own Jesus”. Or maybe your fire is completely out, and you are just looking for a spark again, I still suggest that book. But, I also invite you to pray and ask God to show you where you can give time to him so that you can discover this worship outside of Sundays or a concert. He wants our hearts, but at the end of the day, it is up to us to give them because we have free will. Music helps me dance into a better place, spirit, or mood so often, so I will leave you with this tune about shining like heaven on earth!

 

Fear is a Liar

I was blessed to have the time to have a husband who was willing to stay home with our dogs and enjoy the whole week of Creation Northeast. If you have never heard of creation before, it is a christian music festival that begins Wednesday night and goes worshipping, praising, and teaching through to Saturday night. It was their 40th year anniversary, which brought many speakers to note the importance of that number in the Bible, and how they viewed it as a turning point for even bigger and better years to come. It was neat to be there for that special occasion, but 40th year or not, it was refreshing to be there for all of the speakers and singers I got to hear. I have wanted to go for the entirety of the festival for a long time, and finally got to.

So many wonderful things were unexpectedly revealed to me or convictions were just lovingly reinforced. From tables selling shirts that read “Worthy” to speakers getting to the nitty gritty of what I claim to believe, to singers pouring out their heart, it is hard to walk away from such an event saying, “I got nothing.” Instead, I feel fueled up and ready to take on what ever life throws at me after spending time fellowshipping with like-minded people. As if to reinforce that, a few times speakers or singers briefly mentioned the importance of fellowship, highlighting the ultimate example of fellowship as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and it was so good to hear and be reminded that I am not alone in this walk, even though I spent time there alone after my friend left, and even though the mounting antagonism against people who believe strongly in something through the media.

One stand there had beautiful wooden signs with scripture on them, engraved in, dotted with color. They were beautiful. Sitting in front of the signs were a few boxes of little Jenga sized blocks that, on each side, had a little truth from God’s word. I snapped a picture of them with the adolescent treatment center my childhood church goes to in mind, what a great trinket we could give the girls if they would be allowed to have them. I sent the picture off to the woman who goes every week and she thought unfortunately with everything that has been going on their lately, they may not allow them to be given to the girls. Despite that news, I offered perhaps a lesson plan could be done around them instead, to which she responded, “Great!” and a thumbs up emoji.

So I created a coloring sheet with the four truths that were coupled with scripture from the blocks and created a lesson plan to tie them together.

Fear is a Liar.jpg

I began with the Matthew 21 story of Jesus and the fig tree and how when Jesus and his disciples approached the fig tree, all leafy and green, yet it had no fruit that Jesus said, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And right then, the tree withered up and was dead. I asked if any one of them ever had a house plant, because I have, and no matter how hard I try, I tend to always kill them! But it is a slow, sad process of yellow leafs appearing, then a few leafs falling off, and it takes a while, but eventually the plant dies, but not the fig tree, this whole tree died right away. As some continued to color, one read the verses from Matthew:

Matthew 21:21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Faith will bring victory, and we could see that very plainly when Jesus commanded the fig tree to no longer bear fruit. This became possible because Jesus’ father is God, the creator of all things, the king of all things. Then I had someone else read the next verse, and someone eagerly read the Psalms:

Pslam 103:19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
    and his kingdom rules over all.

He isn’t like a king, a mayor, a president who is human. A man running for office might make a promise before he gets into that seat of power, and he might not always follow through, because he is human, he is flawed. But God is perfect, and God is king over everything, so his promises will come true. Promises like we find in Deuteronomy where he says he will never leave you nor forsake you, or like ones in Isaiah where those who hope in him will rise up on wings like eagles because God’s promises are still true.

With that truth from the little wooden block and their coloring sheet being said, I then read a version of the Corinthians verse I found in the New Living Translation, because some versions weren’t easy to understand.

2 Corinthians 1:20 For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!”

With these amazing promises you would think it would be easy to follow what the Bible says, but the ways of the world are painted as so much easier or more fun. Take for example, staying up late Saturday night at a party, doing things you shouldn’t verses waking up early Sunday to go to church. Or maybe it seems easier to make fun of the new or different girl, or it is at least easier to say nothing.

Someone who knows this all to well is someone named Zach Williams. I asked the girls to raise their hands if they knew who Zach Williams was. Those who weren’t zeroed in on their coloring sheet looked at me like they wanted to say they knew, but as they thought of names, they really didn’t. I revealed to them, one of their favorite songs to sing, Chainbreaker, is by Zach Williams; the eyes I could see lit up.

I gave a brief rundown of Zach’s personal testimony that I had gotten to hear last summer at one of his concerts. Zach’s story begins with despite growing up in a christian household, one where he knew the truths on the girl’s coloring sheets, Zach still fell in with the wrong crowd. Once in college, he began his music career, which landed him a spot as a singer in a rock band. From the outside, he looked successful, touring in Europe with his band, but everything you would think that comes with being in a rock band like drugs and alcohol followed.  He was unhappy and his marriage was falling apart when one day he heard a song by Big Daddy Weave, a christian group, on the radio and right then and there as he puts it, “God showed me a glimpse of what my life could be like, if I would turn from my sin and follow him.” So he did, he quit that band and made things better with his wife, and since things were going so well, he thought the music chapter in his life was over, but he was wrong! As soon as he started to follow God’s calling and write christian lyrics, God opened door after door for him!

One of his songs is titled “Fear is a Liar” and I told the girls we were going to listen to it as soon as someone read the John verse.

John 8:44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

The devil wants us to think his way is easier, more fun, or what other people are doing, but he knows no truth. Jesus, the son of the King of Kings, the king who created everything is the one who said that truth. I emphasized, every time Zach Williams says fear, he is referring to the devil, because the devil creates fear, while God provides a perfect love that casts out all fear.

I didn’t even see Zach Williams this year at Creation, but the little blocks I found there were just the perfect thing to bring back and share with those girls who need to know love. You never know what you will find at Creation, but there is always something encouraging, something enlightening, and something dare I say beautiful.

By the way, if you want to print the coloring sheet, please do! If you fold it in half, then in half again, you can create a rectangle log that you can tape together and let it set up so you can be reminded of a promise from God’s word. You can turn it to one that speaks to you, or maybe turn it day by day, what ever works for you!