Behind the Lens | Hands On

This weekend, I, along with the rest of America, took some time to listen to Kanye West’s latest album release “Jesus Is King”.

I have never been a Kanye fan before. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of jam sessions to some of his greatest hits like Stronger, Heartless, and Gold Digger, which could be considered to be some of the pillars of 2000’s music. But I have never listened to one of his albums all the way through. When he announced his conversion to Christianity would be followed by a worship album I was extremely intrigued.

I had many thoughts while listening to Jesus is King. Musically it is incredible. It’s Kirk Franklin meets Lecrae and everything one could hope for from a Gospel album. What surprised me was how each song revealed the truth of the Gospel. As each song played, I was encouraged and convicted and even reminded of my calling as a believer. 

However, there was one song that genuinely upset me; track nine on the album, a song titled “Hands On”.  Here are the words that disturbed me:

//Said I’m finna do a gospel album
What have you been hearin’ from the Christians?
They’ll be the first one to judge me
Make it feel like nobody love me

Told people God was my mission
What have you been hearin’ from the Christians?
They’ll be the first one to judge me
Make it feel like nobody love me//

These lyrics unfortunately proved to be true. This past weekend I’ve seen countless tweets, Facebook and YouTube comments, magazine and newspaper articles, and blogs that have something to say about Kanye West and his newfound faith. Most of these words are either criticizing or doubting West’s intentions and many of those come from within the Church.

Kanye’s faith is not the first that the church has questioned.

Look at this response to Saul’s conversion:

“Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”  But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.””

Acts 9:14-16

Saul, who was later renamed Paul, is widely recognized as one of the world’s greatest missionaries to ever live. The man who once murdered Christians was used by the Lord to share the hope of salvation, and is still being used by the Lord today through his Spirit-inspired writings in Scripture.

How about this response to Matthew’s conversion:

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.””

Matthew 9:9-13

Matthew was a despised tax-collector, and he became one of the twelve men that was closest to Jesus here on earth. After Jesus returned to Heaven, The Lord used Matthew as a vessel to bring the Word of God to those who had not heard. And just like Paul, Matthew continues to be used by God through his Spirit-inspired words in the Bible.

Brothers and sisters, it is never our responsibility to judge the soul of another, regardless of an individual’s past. The Lord “has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103:12) If God is willing to send His son to die to atone for and forgive the past, present, and future sins, of ALL people, we should be more than willing to do the same. In fact, we should be excited when God’s child repents and returns home.

I hear Mr. West’s story and I am encouraged. Kanye’s story is just one of many. Everyday God is saving countless sinners, just like Kanye, just like you, and just like me.

So I don’t know about you, but I will be turning up Kanye’s new album and celebrating the fact that Shepherd has been reunited with his lost sheep.

//I know I won’t forget all He’s done
He’s the strength in this race that I run
Every time I look up, I see God’s faithfulness
And it shows just how much He is miraculous
I can’t keep it to myself, I can’t sit here and be still
Everybody, I will tell ’til the whole world is healed// (Song: God is)

I encourage you to listen to Hands On, and reflect on how we as a church view Gospel transformation. Join me in praying for our new brother Mr. West, and our many other brothers and sisters as the Lord begins to work in their lives and work mightily through them.

 

Behind the Lens|Home

Home is a confusing word for me.

I vividly remember the first time I traveled to Johannesburg, turning to my teammate and saying “This feels like home.” In addition, throughout the past year alone, I have called the cities of Houston, Lynchburg, and Longmont my home.

Since leaving Lynchburg for Christmas break, and being back with my family in Longmont, I have caught myself saying “back at home…” talking about Lynchburg. But when in Lynchburg, I would tell my friends how anxious I was to get home to Longmont.

In the past few days, I have been struggling with the word and concept of home. What is such a constant place for other people seems to be such a fluid concept for me. Throughout this week, however, the Lord reminded me that my home is not in Lynchburg or Longmont. It is not Houston or in South Africa either. My home, my real home, is in Heaven with God. That is why the word “home” holds little meaning to me on this earth.

This Christmas season, I am thankful for Jesus coming, because His coming has given me the hope of heaven; the hope of home.

Philippians 3:20-21 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

John 14:2-4 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Hebrews 13:14 “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.”

Behind the Lens|Awakening

For the past month, Liberty University students have been gathering every Wednesday night to pray for Spiritual Awakening on our campus. We have defined awakening as this:

“Resurrection of Spiritual Death and/or Waking from Spiritual Slumber.”

 

So far, we have discussed repentance, God’s divine intervention, and hunger for the Manifest Presence of God. Tonight, we gathered once again, but something different happened.

The worship collective kicked off the evening by leading us in worship, and it was so powerful. At the end of the worship set, the congregation kept singing:

 

Oh Holy Spirit

Burn like a fire

All consuming, consume me

Here in Your presence

Lord I surrender to Your glory

For Your glory

 

Over and over again, we sang. Making these words both our communal and individual anthem.

When Pastor David came up, he led us in a prayer. For a few moments, he spoke of the evident presence of the Lord and then encouraged us to keep worshiping. He asked the question, “Who is God to you?” and students started shouting characteristics of God.

“Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty!”

“God is faithful!”

“He is constant!”

 “He is redeemer!”                                                                                                                           “Wonderful Counselor!”

 

These are just a few phrases that were shouted out. It was powerful to hear from hundreds of different students what God is doing in their lives.

We continued to sing in celebration of the Lord. And for the next hour or so, God had stirred my heart with a word He gave me back in January. That word?

SURRENDER

I have been toying with what this word is supposed to mean in my life for the past nine months, but the past week or so He has continued to remind me of this word. For example, this week in my Evangelism and Christian Life class, my professor defined surrender as this: “Surrender is saying to God, ‘I give myself completely to you. My relationships, my school, my family, my everything.'” 

The reason I needed an awakening this semester, is because I was unwilling to surrender my everything. There were things that I was hesitant in giving over to Jesus.

But tonight, towards the end of our communal worship, we sang Heart Abandoned by Passion, and the Lord took the words to this and placed them on my heart. I prayed louder and harder than I have ever prayed before. So as the band played, I made these words my prayer and my anthem.

God give me a heart abandoned
Ever after You alone
Gold and silver, You can take it
All I want is You my Lord

Behind the Lens|Yet

“Today, I am supposed to be fearless in my faith, living boldly to give Him the glory. No more fear, Father.”

 

I wrote these words this January when a speaker I was listening to asked how the Lord wanted us to serve Him in our daily lives. I had absolutely no idea what that meant to me, but it was a terrifying thing for me to write down. I knew once I wrote it down, it became real. It became a solid promise.

I thought about this non-stop this past 12 days. It is crazy to look back at my life and see how God has been preparing me for South Africa my whole life. The family he placed me in, the people he has sent to me, the places he nudged me to go to. Everything in my life is a part of His plan. I shared earlier this week that I have been struggling with trusting the Lord has a plan for my life. It is scary to look into the future and not know what to be scared of. It is hard to try to set a plan for what you want to do with your life when you can hardly get your life together now. It is frustrating to try and make decisions that affect the rest of my life when I cannot decide if I would rather eat Chick-Fil-A or Whataburger for lunch. But I look back at this past year as a whole as I reflect over my time in Africa, and all I can think is how good God is. How he has placed me and guided me through this life so I can serve Him effectively and passionately. I did not know it at the time, but God placed those words on my heart during Fusion so I would be ready to live them out in Johannesburg. He asked me to be fearless so that when I walked up to a Sangoma I could be courageous in telling them that God is the only way. He asked me to be bold so that when I spoke with people who believe in witch doctors and ancestors, I would be brave in saying that God is our healer and our salvation. When He asked me to live boldly to give Him the glory that is exactly what He meant for me to do.  His plan is perfect. I can now see how His plan has led me here. Every step has been for Him and His glory this far, and it makes perfect sense that His plan for me will be as perfect and good in the future as it been until now. Even though I cannot see it yet. Yet.

Behind the Lens|Serendipity

Life can feel like a struggle when it is cool to hang out at coffee shops and you do not drink coffee.

 

Life can feel like a struggle when you only get 39 likes on an Instagram post instead of 40.

 

Life can feel like a struggle when you only get a B+ instead of an A.

 

What is it about a cup of coffee, a number, or a letter, that can control our lives in such a defining way? Why do we allow such things to mark us as relevant or irrelevant, popular or invisible, genius or stupid? How come we give them a say?

In this day and age it is very easy to get carried away and forget who we are; to forget who or what defines us.

 

As I reflect on 2015 in anticipation for the new year, I can see all the things I have allowed to define me. I have let music define me. I let friends, grades, films, circumstances, followers, my needs, longings, and expectations, and so many more things become ME. Yet even with all of these things in my life, there is something missing.

 

El Shaddai – The God Who is Enough.

Enough. 

Out of everything I allowed to dictate my being, I left no room for the one person that is greater than everything. God is enough.

 

HE satisfies every need.

Philippians 4:19 “But my God shall abundantly supply all your need according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

 

HE satisfies every longing.

Psalms 37:4 “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

 

HE satisfies every expectation.

Psalm 62:5 “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.”

 

 

I love the word serendipity. Serendipity is “discovering valuable or agreeable things not sought for”. With God it doesn’t matter how many likes your Instagram post receives, whether or not you like coffee, or  what grade you earned. Once you find your identity in the Creator, you discover the valuable and agreeable things not sought for. Your eyes can be opened to all the things missing in the scramble to be relevant, genius, and popular.

 

“All that I want is in Jesus. He satisfies; Joy He supplies. Life would be worthless without Him. All things (serendipities) in Jesus I find.”                 -Harry D. Loes

 

Behind the Lens|A Christmas Promise

Year after year, after year, we all hang up our stockings. We put up lights and trees, buy and wrap gifts, make tons and tons of sugary foods. In my family, we do everything we can to make sure the true meaning of Christmas isn’t lost. We do advent throughout the season, we set nativity scenes around our house. My parents have done an exceptional job making sure we all remember every year why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. But for me its become routine. For the last couple of years, it’s just been a part of the Christmas season. The Christmas story has become a part of the shopping and singing silly songs.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in church, listening to a sermon about King David. This sermon was all about God’s promise to David in 2 Samuel 7:11-16. This isn’t just any old, ordinary promise. In this particular promise, God is telling David that the promised Messiah would come through the line and house of David.

11b“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’”

When I was listening to all of this, I honestly didn’t think too much of it. It was a great sermon! Don’t get me wrong. But you know how you go to church, listen to the sermon, sing some songs and leave. This time though, God was using this as a part of a lesson.

One of the things I’ve been doing recently is a daily quiet time. I’ve been choosing books of the Bible, reading a chapter a day, and once I was finished with that book, I’d start another one. On the last day of November, I finished going through 1 Chronicles, and before that I read through Hosea. Since I had been doing so much in the Old Testament, I thought it would be cool to read something in the New Testament, so I went with the Gospel of Luke. On my third day of reading Luke, I read the third chapter. It told about John the Baptist, Jesus’ baptism and the genealogy of Jesus. I sort of skimmed through the genealogy of Jesus. I found the “important” people. Jesus, David, Jacob, Abraham. I had just read 29 chapters of genealogies in Chronicles so maybe I just got bored with it. I went through my day and didn’t really think too much about what I had read that morning. But that night, I was sitting through our family advent devotional. We read about how Joseph didn’t want to marry Mary, how an angel came to him in a dream. Then he took Mary to be his wife and they went to Bethlehem to register for the census, because he was from the line and house of David.

After my dad had finished reading, he asked, “What stood out to you the most in that?” After a couple of seconds of silence, my mum asked us what would have happened if Joseph hadn’t listened to the angel, and taken Mary. I knew right away. God’s promise wouldn’t have come true. Mary wasn’t from the line of David, Joseph was. Joseph had to take Mary as his wife and Jesus as his son for God’s promise to come true. WOW. God’s plan is so intricate it came down to every last, single detail. Where Jesus would be born, who his parents would be. How could I not have thought of this before? How could I not have connected these dots? I’ve known the Christmas Story for my entire life. God told the prophets how to look for the Messiah. All throughout the Old Testament, God is giving us an outline. Who, what, where. I think what blows my mind the most, is that not one of these promises about the birth of Jesus is broken. Not one! None of His promises ever are! I can’t even put it into words how amazing He is. It doesn’t end with Him setting up Christ’s birth, but his entire life on earth. What. even.

I think that it still amazes me that there is so much to learn about things I’ve known forever.  There is nothing routine or normal when it comes to the Bible. I thought I knew the story of David. I thought I knew the Christmas story inside and out. Even now knowing more than I did last year, how much there is still left to learn?

How encouraging is it that God’s promises are never broken? If God planned every single detail about everything that was going to happen to David and his future, and his family hundreds of years after David had died. Don’t you think that He knows every detail about you and your life? Man, if that isn’t awesome then I don’t know what is!

2 Peter 1:4

And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.