New video journal! “Where Life Will Never Die”
When I think about God,
I have trouble remembering that He has feelings.
Is that a strange thing to say?
I mean, I know that He “loves” me,
and that He “hates” evil,
and I am aware, intellectually,
that He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger,
and abounding in love,
but more often than not,
I forget that He has feelings.
I guess I really shouldn’t forget that,
considering He is the one who thought up
poetry and waterfalls and stand-up comedy,
but I do. Or hopefully I can say, I did.
I was sitting in a fairly large field the other day;
listening, waiting, reading…
and I stumbled upon a verse in Ezekiel.
Now, Ezekiel probably isn’t standard issue reading for
most, and with good reason.
There’s a bunch of crazy stuff going on in there.
God’s on fire.
Angels are flying about on monster trucks with living wheels.
Ezekiel has to lay on his side for a year.
Ezekiel has to cook his food on “the poopie.”
God sends armies to kill and capture “his people…”
Like I said before, it’s a crazy time, and definitely
not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure.
But as I was reading in this field, somewhere in middle America,
reading through the chaos and mayhem in the first six chapters of the book of Ezekiel,
I came upon the following words,
“then those of you who escape will remember me among the nations
where they are carried captive, how I have been broken
over their whoring heart that has departed from me
and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols.”
Now, before you start getting fired up that God uses the word “whoring”
just think about this simple statement.
“I have been broken over their whoring heart.”
It may not seem like a big deal to you I guess,
sitting at your computer, reading some “blog”
by some “band guy,”
and hearing that God is “broken,”
but, it was a huge deal to me.
To think that the God of the universe.
The God who created mountains and micro-biology,
who made duck-billed platypuses and invented romance,
the God who spoke light from darkness,
and can speak every one of earth’s unending languages,
spoke these words about me.
“I have been broken over their whoring heart.”
I don’t even know how to process that.
To think that this huge God who has billions of other
things to worry about, billions of other people to care about,
actually thinks about me. And not only that,
but that He is hurt when I want to spend time with someone else?
You know that’s what this is saying don’t you?
It’s saying that He is heart-broken when we run to other lovers.
God is jealous.
And not only that,
but that He feels, “broken,”
And hopefully that changes things.
It changes how I view Him.
It changes how I view Him viewing me.
It changes how I view my sin.
Donald Miller once said,
“it’s a profoundly different thing to break a rule,
than it is to cheat on a lover.”
Can that really be true?
Can it really be that God is not just Lord and King
and Ruler over everything,
but that He’s a jealous lover who hurts when I run away?
I hope this sticks.
I hope this registers.
May we feel the weight of that.
Subarus, Sex, & Porn Stars
Becoming a father has made me a softy.
I mean, I was a crier even before I had kids, but now?
I was choking up watching a Subaru commercial last night.
A Subaru commercial?! Seriously?
I know, I know.
My man point stock is crashing with every key stroke,
but before you condemn my whimpering,
have you seen this one?
Dude is sitting at the bus stop in the morning with his little girl
when the bus suddenly screeches to a stop and the doors swing open.
His daughter proceeds to give him the most achingly forlorn look I’ve ever seen in the history of the world, as she drearily ascends the steps of terror to cruel and certain elementary isolation.
So what does he do?
He jumps in his car and races beside, constantly peering through the school bus windows to make sure she’s getting along.
And in slow motion you see her with new found friends, laughing at the brilliance of rainbows and all things bright and beautiful.
Punch me in the face.
I’m hysterical at this point.
Well, it’s taken me all night, all morning and a particularly large cup of coffee to work it through, but I think it’s starting to become clear.
That commercial gets to me because no father ever said, “I hope my daughter becomes a porn star when she grows up.”
Even as I’m typing this, my two year old girl just ran up and snuggled her face against my chest. She touched my face, looked in my eyes just along enough to melt me into man-mush, and then scampered off. I don’t where she just went but I’m pretty sure she was scampering.
And I think,
“God, I will do anything to protect her. Even if I have to get my school bus driver’s license and drive the thing myself. Even if I have to clothe her in burlap and cover her in an impenetrable coating of quinoa, I will do anything to keep her safe.”
But a chill runs through me.
No matter how many Subarus I buy, or how many baths in Organic milk she takes, I cannot control what happens to her.
And perhaps even scarier? I can’t control what other people will do to her.
Sure, I will educate her.
I will read her stories and applaud her.
I will tell her I’m proud of her.
I will hold her and esteem her.
I will pour myself out to fill her with all the love that I can.
I will arm with her the gospel.
I will cover her in an armor of prayer and joy,
and in every way I can,
I will strive to cultivate the kingdom in her,
and show her how to bring it with her wherever she goes.
But at some point, I will have to let her go into the world.
A world that has seem to forgotten that every girl has a father,
and every woman is some father’s little girl.
Let me talk to the fellas for a second.
I know you’re scared.
I know you don’t feel as loved or as valuable as you long to.
I know you try to push those feelings down by achieving and belittling.
You cover them up with swaggering and bragging.
I know because I have and still do.
Please remember, that if you use some “chick” to make yourself feel valuable, you are using somebody’s baby girl.
Ok. Sure that’s melodramatic.
But it’s true.
And you know it.
Deep down you know what drives you to the computer.
You know what drives you to take advantage.
You know what fuels you to forget that the picture is a person.
As Steinbeck surmised in East of Eden,
”The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved,
and rejection is the hell hefears.”
Rejection is the hell we fear.
Our clamoring for retweets is like cracks in the concrete.
Let’s stop with the excuses.
No more of this “boys will be boys” nonsense.
“If boys will be boys then girls will be garbage.”
Let’s own up and let down.
Let down our defenses, pull down the masks.
Own up to the love you’re really after.
We must stop viewing each other as commodity for use and misuse,
for selling and trading, for rule and conquest.
We must present ourselves to one another as gift,
if we are going to stop using one another like currency,
we need to lose our need for such a system.
If we could just;
be filled to overflow,
to bless instead of take,
to gift instead of steal,
then we might just find the love we were always after.
And in the process, we might dry up the fuel that gives demand for girls like mine to become porn stars.
I don’t want my daughters to become porn stars,
and neither will you.
Learn from Steubenville.
Learn from the endless demand and consumption of pornography.
Learn from the millions of trafficked women and children around the world.
Sex will never save you, so save yourself.
And save someone’s daughter in the process.
I fear for my daughters like a man driving a Subaru,
but I also believe in the power of Christ to fill the void that drives our lusts.
And this morning I pray specifically to that end.
I trust you.
And I trust you with these daughters you’ve given me to raise.
But tender Christ you see what has become of us.
You see how we use one another.
Men and women both, we turn each other into objects.
Taking, always taking.
So I come to you Lord asking that you would fill us.
I ask that you would fill the emptiness and the lack of love we feel.
May we know that we are yours, and look upon each other with those eyes.
Sons and daughters, daughters and sons.
Give us life to give.
Give us new eyes to see.
In Your Life-giving name,
WHERE LIFE WILL NEVER DIE
“He was looking forward to the city that has foundations,
whose designer and builder is God.”
This is one of those lessons I feel like I’ll be learning til the day I die.
No matter how many times I tell myself,
I just can’t seem to get it through my thick skull.
I am not home here.
I know. Big shocker, right?
But it is my inability to accept this one simple fact,
that leads me into a whole host of sins.
It leads me into heartache. It lures me into death.
I was born for God. I was born to behold Him,
to love Him, and to be known by Him.
But this land of shadows where I live,
this world that’s cracked and rusted over,
it has clouded my eyes and fooled my heart,
distorting what I know is true.
You see, we all have the unshakable, unnerving, unrelenting,
burning in our belly that just won’t be satisfied,
and the deep engrained knowledge in our soul
that we are made for more than a finite world can give us.
But the real problem isn’t that we can’t be satiated,
it’s that we think we can.
And so we run.
We bend ourselves low in worship to a world
that can never give us we’re truly after.
So now the rub.
If I’m made for the One who made the world,
but I’m destined to live in the world that He has made,
all the while desperately looking for the satisfaction I was created for,
How do I continue on without?
How do I live with the ache?
Well, there’s a whole host of answers to that question
but I will offer you two:
1. We ask Him to Satisfy Us.
Psalm 90:14 says,
“Satisfy me in the morning with your unfailing love.”
I love that. First things first,
before I go running mad into this unfulfilling world,
“God, fill me up!”
But of course, sometimes no matter how we beg
and plead with the Lord we still can’t seem to shake
the temptations that are offered us here.
So number 2 is this:
When we remain unsatisfied,
we set our focus on the satisfaction that is coming.
C.S. Lewis so accurately pointed out that if we find in ourselves a desire that this world cannot satisfy, the most logical explanation is that we were made for another world. And I would say that our only hope is to set our gaze fully on the world that is coming.
Last year, I had several friends confess to me that they were trapped in sexual addiction. They couldn’t break away from the screen, no matter how hard they tried. Someone I’m close to committed adultery. It was incredibly difficult to offer any words of hope or any thoughts that might loose the chains and stop the bleeding, but this one verse in Hebrews 11 came leaping off the page to me;
“He (Moses) considered the reproach of Christ
greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt,
for He was looking forward to the reward.”
Ah, that is the rest my restless heart needed, and, it’s what my friends needed to hear. It’s what I needed to hear.
We fight the temptation of pleasure with the promise of greater pleasure.
So whatever fight you’re in, whatever temptation claws at the back of your mind, Look forward. The reward is coming. He is coming. And he’s bringing a city with Him that is unlike anything we’ve ever seen.
“O tempted heart, come alive. I feel you burning inside. O weary soul, lift your eyes, to a city where life will never die. This rusted world, can’t satisfy, there’s nothing here that will survive, but the night will end and the sun will rise on a city where life will never die.”
“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…”
I grew up thinking Jesus wanted to ruin my good time.
Everything I wanted to do,
it seemed like Jesus was always telling me I couldn’t.
My friends would get drunk and party;
I wasn’t allowed.
All the other kids were sleeping around.
Jesus said I had to flee sexual immorality.
When people wronged me it felt so good to be bitter and lord it over them,
but there He was saying,
“Forgive seventy times seven.”
So when I went to college and started hanging out with kids who actually enjoyed Jesus, it pretty much blew my mind. I mean, my friends growing up “loved” Jesus, but certainly didn’t like hanging out with Him. We knew the right answers and we knew we were supposed to do what God said to do, but these kids at my college were different.
They wanted to obey God.
They liked obeying Him.
No one was making them.
No one told them they couldn’t get freaky at clubs or drink til they threw up. They just preferred being with God. They’d get together and worship Him for the fun of it. The fun of it? I thought “fun” and “Jesus” were contradictory terms.
To be honest, I had a lot to learn. I still do. But my world changed forever my freshman year of college when Christianity changed from something I had to do, to something I wanted to do.
I experienced Psalm 16:11 first hand.
“In your presence is the fullness of joy,
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
The fullness of joy?
Have you ever even considered that God is for your pleasure?
Now, this seems quite counter intuitive doesn’t it? I mean, isn’t Jesus all about self denial and what not? Isn’t Christianity just putting your head in the sand, grinding it out, and keeping your nose clean? Nothing could be further from the truth.
when Jesus says to deny yourself, He never asks you to do that as an end in itself. He says to deny yourself so that you can follow Him! And everything that’s promised us when we get to Him is an appeal to our pleasure. But the tough part is realizing that in order to get the fullest joy, and the greatest pleasure, you have to do things His way.
You have to wait.
Often times you have to go without.
But you go without so that you can get something better.
It’s like McDonalds versus a fancy steakhouse. The steakhouse may take quite a bit longer, but in the end, it’s far more rewarding than a quick fling with Ronald and his super sizing ways. So then, we flee sexual immorality so that we can know the trust, rest, and joy of a sexual encounter protected by the strong walls of covenant. It takes denial, sure, but as a means to a lifetime of more reward. It can seem like Jesus is against our pleasure because we’ve believed the lie that the things He’s created are what will give us what we want. But whether it’s sex, ambition, rock n roll, isn’t it actually God we’re after?
This one thought changed everything. That every beautiful thing I get enamored by, is just a reflection of the one who made it. Any beauty I’m dazzled by or promise I’m lured by, it’s always Him my soul is hungry for. And when I can see that, all other temptations lose their power. To understand all that I love is merely a mirror pointing me upward, frees me to let those things go.
I don’t have to have them.
I have to have the One who made them.
And the pleasure and reward his presence offers far surpasses any drug or buzz I could get. Crazy huh?
Friend, don’t sell yourself short. Jesus wants to give us life. It is Satan who’s out to steal, kill, and destroy. Sadly, we too often believe it’s the other way around. Don’t fall for the lie. His commands to us are the pathways to pleasure. They are the way to joy. All this world could offer you is but a mere shadow of the glory of the One who is behind it all.
Don’t grasp the shadow.
Follow it to the source.
He is the source.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
-2 Corinthians 3:18
“Come to me all you who are weary and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.”
I used to think I knew what tired was.
I played soccer in high school.
I pulled all nighters in college.
I’ve driven through the night, for weeks on end.
But then… I had kids.
Now, you fellow parents out there know what I’m talking about. When you have children, sleep deprivation is no longer an isolated occurrence, it’s a way of life. Babies need. That’s what they do. They need you to feed them. They need you to watch them. They need you to change them.
Diapers. Oh diapers.
Poop. Poop. More poop.
I had no idea how much could come out of something so small, and I had no idea something so small could demand so much of my energy. Now, don’t get me wrong. My kids are hilarious. They make me laugh. They cause me to cry tears of joy. They give me more life than I even knew was possible. But, raising them is, without a doubt, the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Hands down, absolutely, the Best. The Hardest.
The best hardest thing I’ve ever done and probably ever will do.
So, one morning I’m limping out of bed after another all night marathon of baby blood curdling screams for no apparent reason whatsoever, when my wife grabs me by the arm, and with blood shot eyes says, “I am so worn out.” I tell her that I understand, and I’m pretty sure it won’t last forever, but when I pull up to a friend’s house an hour later, I announce upon arrival, “I need to write a song called “Worn” today, because that is exactly how I feel in the deepest depths of my inner soul.
What do you do when you don’t even have the strength to fight? Where do you turn when you feel like you don’t even have the energy to turn? Well, I have one word to offer and one word alone:
Let that sink into every pore of your skin and every crack in your heart. Breathe it in. Marinate in it. Our God is a redeemer. It’s who He is. It’s what He does. He redeems. Which means, among other things, “to make up for. to restore worth or value.” Jesus makes up for our lack. He restores our value. By dying for us, He gives us a value and worth that we could have never had or achieved on our own. He didn’t die for us because we were worth dying for, He died for us to make us worth dying for. Does that make sense?
His life was worth mine.
Not the other way around.
Now, drudging through the piles of poop, the endless tears, and the sleepless nights, I am filled with hope, because I know one day, I will see redemption win. I will see the struggle end. And so there’s beauty to be had in every moment. God isn’t going to move because of me, He’s going to move in spite of me. He isn’t bringing glory to Himself by saving a bunch of people who get it right and who never wear out. He brings glory to Himself by redeeming the people who never got it right and who always wore out. It’s when we’re in our moments of greatest weakness that He is in His moments of greatest revelation. After all, “His strength is made perfect in weakness.”
I once heard it explained that the earth is like a garment, and where injustice prevails, that is where the garment has worn through. What Christ has done, then, and what our great privilege is to do, is to rework the fabric where it has grown thin.
He reworks the fabric.
My friends, do not grow weary. And if you have grown weary, take rest in the thought, that all he wants from you is praise, not performance. If we come to Jesus with anything more than nothing, we come with too much. All we need is need, because He’s the one who does the work, and He’s reworking all things into good for those who love Him. He’s after a grateful people, not a perfect people. He’s after a responsive people, not a self-helped one. Live loved. That’s our call. That is our job. Even when we’re worn out, worn thin, and feel like we’ve got nothing left to offer Him, all He demands is our nothing. Like the old hymn says, “All the fitness He requires is to feel your need of Him…”
Nothing is all we bring to Him
because nothing is the place that He can fill.
Don’t Stop the Madness
“Though He slay me, I will hope in Him…” -Job 13.15
I’m sitting in a small airport in Montana right now, sleep deprived and delayed. I’ve been gone from my family for what feels like forever and just want to get home. You know that feeling right? When you just want to get home? But as I sit here on the floor and stare red eyed at my computer screen, I have to remember one thing.
God seldom works in the easy and comfortable.
Can He? Sure. Does He? Sometimes. But more often than not, the times that shape me, the times that make me more loving and more gracious, aren’t usually what I look back on as “good times.”
Isn’t that strange?
I mean, sure we all want to be considered “gracious,” but who wants to have to go through being wronged so that they actually have the opportunity to grow in grace? So I’m left in a bit of a conundrum. Sitting here on the floor, killing time watching people beat the snack machine, I have a choice. I could do the easy thing. Do what I’d usually do in this situation. I could moan and whine, complain that there’s no reason our plane is delayed, and disdainfully announce that I will never fly this incompetent airline again; or I can take a step back. Take a deep breath. Do the impossible. By His grace I can take the hard road that leads to life. I can think on the sovereignty and goodness of God. Think on His promise that He is able to work everything together into something beautiful. Yes, even this seemingly meaningless inconvenience might just be the hand of God at work to grow patience, kindness and goodness in me.
But we don’t like to think that way though do we?
It’s hard. It’s complicated to reconcile a God who works through pain. It’s tough to trust in a Lord who allows suffering and inconvenience. It’d be a whole lot easier to mindlessly promise myself that Jesus always wants to make life easy, but I don’t think that’s how He works.
If anything, Jesus uses dark colors when He paints. He’s into streams in the desert and life out of death. Just take one good look at the cross and that ought to convince you that the God the Bibles speaks of is a God who uses horror and injustice to His advantage.
The cross is evidence to our minds, and balm for our souls that our God is a God who brings beauty out of pain. Art out of chaos. Beauty out of ugliness. Or as some of the poets have said, He conquers death by death itself. Our Redeemer beat Death at his own game.
When we trust Christ, and the mysterious work on Calvary, we trust that He’s always up to something good even in the darkest days. In fact, that’s probably when He’s up to the most good, because that’s when the most good grows in me.
So hey, I’m delayed, I’m uncomfortable, but if this is the path the Lord has brought me down, then I say, “Don’t stop it Lord.” Redemption was born on a far darker day than this one, so bring the chaos. Bring the madness. Do whatever you’ve got to do to recreate my heart. After all, it’s me that needs to change, not my circumstances.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” -Romans 8:18
God, Don’t Use Me.
Our band played a festival called Lifelight last night.
It’s a quite large gathering that happens every year in South Dakota.
Completely free, and completely crazy, this was the third time we’ve played there,
and needless to say, it didn’t fail to live up to our expectations.
The people who gathered in the field came ready to sing,
ready to dance, and in one case apparently, one girl was even ready to faint.
(Don’t worry, she was ok)
And it felt, for lack of better words, ELECTRIC.
From the first note, we knew we were going to be privileged to navigate
the energy that these people brought with them,
away from a stage, away from a band, and back up to the fixed gaze on a
Heavenly Father overflowing with love for us all.
“I am loved!”
“I am loved!”
“I am loved!”
I chanted it from the microphone and had the people echo it back.
We screamed God’s promises together.
We danced, we sang, and we were free.
For a few short moments in time, we lost our gaze on ourselves
and were unbound to fix our eyes on our God.
And walking off the stage 90 minutes later,
exhausted, spent, and dripping with sweat,
I was relieved that it didn’t matter whether or not God used me.
What mattered was that God moved.
Just 12 hours earlier, I sat on an empty stage, in front of an empty field,
coffee cup in hand, watching the morning fog rise from the grass and was
reminded of what God had spoken to me at a similar festival a few years ago.
Our band was huddled together back stage going through our pre-show rituals;
arm stretches, jumping jacks, vocal warm ups, and of course, prayer together,
when I felt, for one of the few times in my life, that God spoke straight to my heart.
I was in the middle of begging God to use us, as I almost always did,
when I heard a whisper over my shoulder.
“Hey Mike, I know you want me to use you, but what about all the other bands here?
What if I want to use them? Would you be ok with that?”
Dumbfounded, I came up short in my prayer.
I grew silent.
I opened my eyes and said to the four bandmate brothers surrounding me,
“Guys…I need to confess something.
Every show we gather together like this and ask God to use us.
Use our set. Use our songs. Use our talking….
Well, what I have to admit to you is that what I’ve really been praying was,
God, use us, and don’t use anyone else.
I’ve been using His using us as a source
of justification for me, and it’s robbed me of so much potential joy.
I think, well, I think what God wants for us to pray is just that He would move.
Whether He uses our set or the other bands’ sets, or the speakers or whoever…
I want to be ready to celebrate His moving.
Because isn’t that what really matters?”
Last night was incredible.
I felt like God was flowing through me and using me and it was such a humbling
privilege to be a hammer in the hand of the Carpenter pounding promises
back into people’s brains, including my own.
But let me just say, as beautiful as that sensation is,
what’s even more beautiful is to be free to rejoice when
God doesn’t use me.
When He uses that other band, or that other church, or that other ministry,
It’s incredibly freeing to know that what I can be just as excited for them.
God doesn’t need us.
Check out Acts 17:25.26 if you don’t believe me.
All that we have, all that we are, ALL IS GIFT.
Let me say that again:
ALL IS GIFT.
And that’s such beautiful news friends.
It’s a major blow to our pride to be sure,
but it’s such a relief for our independent, “Just Do It,” praise mongering attitudes.
Like I’ve heard my pastor say,
“God can do anything without me, but I cannot do anything without Him.”
Or as Paul says in I Corinthians 4.7 “What do you have that you did not receive?”
Or in I Corinthians 3.7?
“So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything but God gave the growth.”
So, if you would be so bold,
let’s stop praying that God would use us, and just pray that God would move.
Pray that He would use anyone and everyone to bring about his purposes.
It may not feed your ego,
but the joy of celebrating God’s work, will feed your soul.
THE STRUGGLE. (Unriddle My Heart)
Yesterday was a big day.
Two years of writing, rewriting, crying, high-fiving,
yelling, demoing, and recording
finally came to a head when our band released
our new record, The Struggle.
I will not say much more than that,
but it is an incredible privilege I’ve been given
to make music that blesses others and teaches me.
The songs I write teach me.
Czech this verse.
“I will incline my heart to a proverb;
I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre”
After 11 or so years of playing and writing songs,
I’ve finally come to understand that I don’t write,
because I know what I’m talking about,
I write precisely because I don’t know what I’m talking about.
I write to understand.
I write to unriddle my heart.
So all of you who’ve listened in on this process, thank you.
Thanks for investing your time and money on these songs,
and joining me on the journey.
Jesus has showed me so much
as I’ve sought to join Him in the creative process,
and I’m eager to see what lies ahead.
May He continue to unriddle my heart.
May He continue to unriddle yours.