Aurora. A-Town. East Side. Ghetto. Ethnic. But for me, A-Town has been home for the past 11 years.
It’s been good to me. To my family. The delicious food from hole-in-the-wall joints – the best Mexican, Italian, Fried Chicken or Korean food can be found within a 5 block radius. The beautiful spectrum of colorful people from every race. The endless strip malls. The excellent Thrift stores. Mark and I became “locals” and people knew our names at our favorite places. We were always proud to call A-town our home…but we were called to move on.
We moved to Highlands Ranch 2 months ago – an affluent white community. Parks instead of strip malls. Target instead of Thrift Stores. Whole Foods instead of local food joints. And an endless supply of white folks.
And the most noticeable difference was the Comcast store. Aurora Comcast store is like the bottom of someone’s old crusty basement. Dirty, sad and cramped with families with screaming children that are ready to get the heck outta there. They call your number to a small booth similar to the DMV. You feel like you are in trouble for getting a DVR because the grumpy CSR hates being there as much as you do. I thought this was the norm for Comcast brick and mortar stores.
My first order of business when we moved to Highlands Ranch was to cancel our cable. I finally found the closest store to my new home and made the dreaded trip. To my utter shock and unbelief, the Highlands Ranch Comcast store was big, bright, beautiful, with comfy seating, huge TVs playing delightful programming, iPad stations for kids to play and happy CSRs offering me refreshments as I wait. What did I stumble upon…Comcast heaven?
I was just getting used to my cleaner, newer, and whiter community when sadness struck me like a stone. Families who pay the same amount of money for cable should be able to enjoy “Comcast heaven”…regardless of their area of town. I know it’s just a stilly cable location but does it say something bigger about our society. Are we OK with “colorful” communities getting crappier services even though they pay the same amount for those services? Are we conditioning our Ethnic communities to expect less so we can give them less. And then I was angry. Money is still green. Not white. Not black. Not brown. Or is it?
As we continue adapting to our new community, I pray that Jesus will give me a voice and heart for people who are treated as if they are of less value than others.
Every Sunday is the same. Wake up. Rush out of the house. Hope our daughters are fully dressed and smell good enough that the nursery workers don’t question our parenting. Open the church. Hand off our children to the first unassuming volunteer that shows up. Rehearse. Pray for 20 seconds. Bathroom. Hellos. Back on stage before the countdown video is over. Welcome the congregation. Worship Jesus. Wonder why no one in the congregation looks “into” it. Beat ourselves up over the missed cue and wrong notes. That must be the reason we had so many “mouth breathers”…maybe it’s just the 9 am crowd. Try again for the 10:30 crowd. Same response from the congregation except the lively couple in the back willing to clap on the fast songs and raise a hand on the slow song. It must be the volume. Or the transitions. Or the lighting. Or the song selection…yes, that’s it, the song selection. Need more moody music. No, more joyful music. Go home. Wait…did we get the kids? Oh, whew, there they are. Now go home. Dissect the morning. Replay all of the conversations and cherish the precious encouragement from a few of the congregants. Crash on the bed and snuggle with our babies. Do it all again the next week.
Last night, I
realized firmly-yet-lovingly heard from the Holy Spirit, I have not diligently, fervently, consistently asked the Holy Spirit to move our congregation in deeper worship to ultimately know Jesus and see him more clearly. While I believe it is very important to create an atmosphere that facilitates worshipping Jesus through song selection and environmental elements, we must never believe the lie that we can stir hearts in our own power.
We must have a genuine love for our congregation and humbly usher them to the throne room of Jesus and then allow the Holy Spirit to do the work that only he can do…bring freedom, healing, restoration, surrender, revelation, intimacy and joy through worship. We must pray to see lives transformed, salvations and power through the surrendering act of worship.
We have seen magnificent worship in a rec room with an out-of-tune guitar and off-key singer…and we have seen lifeless worship in a beautiful sanctuary with world-class musicians.
As we build the house of worship…let us never neglect the one who fills the house with his Spirit. Will you pray with me for Sunday?
So many people I love are experiencing spiritual, physical and emotional attacks from Satan. Sometimes, we shy away from calling an attack what it is because we don’t want to seem like “crazy Christians” blaming everything on the Devil. However, attacks are very real and it’s important to recognize when it’s time to pray against, fight and squelch the fiery darts from the enemy.
On the other hand, there is another another kind of fire that we experience that also brings a different form of suffering…the refining fire of Jesus. It is also important to recognize this type of fire and suffering in order to submit to the loving, divine hand of God.
There is a bright side though. Both types of suffering can be redeemed by Jesus to increase your faith, bring ultimate joy and give you peace that surpasses understanding. Let’s not forget what scripture says:
Genesis 50:20: You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Romans 8:28: God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and to those who are called according to His purpose.
Let’s take a look at the differences between Fiery Darts and the Refining Fire:
Fiery Darts (kill, steal, destroy):
- Sickness in our mind or body
- Fighting in our marriage
- Stolen or broken possessions
- Lack of faith, doubt
- Opposition, false witness against you
Refining Fire (repentance, surrender):
- Capture or prosecution for your faith in Christ
- Exposure of sin
- A call to repentance
- A call to lay down possessions
- A call to lay down idols
- A call to lay down toxic relationships
- A call to uproot, move, or serve in a new capacity
- Consequences of sin
- Waiting for an answer
- Living with very little financial resources
How shall we pray if we are unsure what is causing our suffering? Pray like Paul:
- Pray for increased wisdom and ability to make wise choices under pressure.
- Pray for a genuine love for others.
- Pray for strength to endure so you won’t give up.
- Pray for the willingness to trust God for the impossible.
- Pray for the ability to live a life that is pleasing to Christ.
- Pray that you might grow in thankfulness to God.
- Pray for joy and cheerfulness in the midst of trials.
- Pray for power from the Holy Spirit to overcome temptation and preach the Gospel.
Are you suffering today? Allow Jesus to redeem your suffering to lead you into increased faith, ultimate joy and peace that surpasses understanding.
The past few months have been especially difficult for me. I have been struggling with guilt, brokenness, regret, hopelessness, confusion and anxiety.
Over the weekend, the love of Jesus broke through all of that. I heard so clearly – I’m not just forgiven. I’m FREE.
Free from sin, brokenness, bondage, guilt, shame, hopelessness.
The slavery mentality is rampant among Christians. Paul repeatedly addressed Christians that were still living like they were slaves – even after Jesus set them free. I see defeated Christians all of the time. Complaining, broken, crushed, wounded, hurt, defeated, hopeless Christians. Christians that are slaves to their circumstances. Christians with no life or joy in them. They have accepted forgiveness but not freedom.
Yes, we will have trials. Yes, we will suffer. But again, those things are meant to give us more faith, ultimate joy, and peace that surpasses understanding.
Does this mean we are to put on a happy face? Hide our suffering? No! Jesus calls all who are wounded and broken hearted to himself. Come into the family of Christ with your baggage. Share it with your brothers and sisters. Repent and be cleansed. And then…lay it down at the feet of Jesus. And then…lay it down again. And then…lay it down again. Until your chains are broken.
We are designed for hope. For power. For joy. For love. For victory. For freedom.
It’s time to COME ALIVE in the freedom of Christ. Today.
Citipointe Live – We’ve Come Alive