Ezekiel 3:17-19- Are you a Modern Day Watchman?

I am convinced that we have lost the urgency of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. I recall a life-transforming moment at the Texas State Fair that proves my own lack of urgency concerning the gospel. A slick-talking salesman took me through their rehearsed speech as they tried to sell me a “balance band.” Through some mix of magic, science, and marketing it was supposed to make me more sure-footed. I was skeptical at best but then they demonstrated the product on me and wouldn’t ya know it actually worked!  They had made a believer out of me! I purchased several units for my multiple balance needs! I then proceeded to tell all of my friends and family. If they gave me enough of their time I even found myself giving a demonstration of the product so they could become a believer just as I did.
The balance band was my good news and my mission was to evangelize the world! As silly as this example seems, it is revealing- when we are passionate about good news we tell everyone who will listen. Yet we often find that Christians, who are sitting on the greatest news of all time, are hesitant to share that Jesus Christ is the way the truth and life, (John 14:6) whoever calls upon his name will be saved. (Romans 10:13)
Where is the disconnect? How can one have such good news and not share?  Maybe we don’t truly believe in the Day of the Lord when all mankind will have to give account for our deeds? Maybe we think an eternity separated from God couldn’t really be “that” bad.  (Revelations 6:15-17). Maybe we’re not actually burdened with the idea of lost souls.
It was clear that the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel understood the urgency of his message to the people of God. And just in case Ezekiel didn’t, God made sure by fully demonstrating to Ezekiel the gravity of his mission.
“Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you must give them a warning from me. “
A Watchman’s job was to sit up on the tower all through the night and guard the gate. They had a keen eye to spy out any encroaching danger. Their job was to warn the people when danger came. If they fell asleep at their job then the blood of the people was on their hands.
God charges Ezekiel with this great responsibility, “When I say to the wicked, “You will certainly die,” and you do not warn him – you do not speak out to warn the wicked to turn from his wicked lifestyle so that he may live – that wicked person will die for his iniquity, but I will hold you accountable for his death.  But as for you, if you warn the wicked and he does not turn from his wicked deed and from his wicked lifestyle, he will die for his iniquity but you will have saved your own life.” Ezekiel 3:17-19
In other words, God is reminding Ezekiel of his duty to cry out in the face of danger. He was to warn the Israelites in light of the urgency of God’s wrath. If Ezekiel refused to warn his brothern of pending danger the blood would be on his hands, (The Lord would hold Ezekiel accountable for his failure to cry out) however if he executed his duties properly and warned the man and the man still chose wickedness Ezekiel would be innocent.
While the concept of a physical watchman crying out on the city gates has come and gone, the idea that God continues to use us as his mouthpiece to declare God’s kingdom is alive and well.
2 Corinthians 5:20 is the most convincing scripture that reinforces our New Testament expression of the watchman-“Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making his plea through us. We plead with you on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God!” While the language is different the purpose is still the same, God intends to use us as He did Ezekiel to call out to our own brothern with all the urgency that the day of the Lord compels…”Be reconciled to God!”
In medieval times it was customary that a watchman would ring bells to alert the people of a threat.  According to recent estimates, there are over 2 billion professing Christians in the world today. If each one of us took seriously our call to be watchmen the ringing of our bells would cumulatively shake the foundations of the earth… and yet we are silent.   We watch as societies search for meaning only to devalue into immoral pursuits. We watch as our families crumble and we watch as individuals turn away from the Living God.
Let this serve as a reminder friends,
Ring the bells
For God’s sake
Ring the bells
For the sake of our people
Ring the bells
That our hands me be free from blood just as Ezekiel’s was.
Ring the bells

Jesus and Bath Time. Engage Blog for Bible.org

Christen writes for the Engage Blog on Bible.org on the 4th Monday of every month. Check the original post here.
“Babe, have you been saturating our efforts in prayer?” my husband inquired. Of course, I wanted to say yes-1 Thessalonians 5:17tells us to pray without ceasing but If we are all honest with ourselves we could be doing much better with our prayer lives. “Saturate,” I thought, “that’s a strange way to describe prayer.” But as I continued to mull over my husband’s question I realized that prayer and the concept of saturation were interrelated. As a busy mom of three, I am no stranger to saturation. A good soaker tub, sprinkles of Himalayan Pink Salt, and bubble bath have become my best friends. My husband is aware that bath time is a place of rescue for me. I am unreachable during my “me time.” I close the door, blast my Brazilian Samba music, and float away.  While my husband doesn’t know the exact sequence of my bath time routine, he does know that it is a priority, it’s immersive, it is thorough.
“We have to saturate the mission in prayer just as you saturate yourself during bath time.”
My husband and I are full-time missionaries in the inner city.  With much joy, we schedule meetings, send out emails and call churches until our fingers are numb.  However, like anything we do, it is easy to get bogged down by minutia and become weary in well doing (Galatians 6:9). When I become weary in the physical it is a sign to invoke the sacred ritual of a relaxing bath.  In the same way, spiritual weariness should indicate that it is time to soak in prayer. Prayer must become our number one method of attack against the evils that plague our world. Think about the miracle that is prayer! This power allows you and I as created beings to communicate with the eternally existent God of the universe! What a privilege it is to be able to boldly approach the throne of grace through prayer (Hebrews 4:16)! Prayer is such a mighty tool in our arsenal yet for a  vast number of us it is underutilized.
I believe that a lack of prayer comes from a false hope in our own sufficiency. Jesus warns us in John 15:5 that apart for him our efforts are worth nothing!  If we truly understood this verse we would take the time to soak in Jesus as frequently as possible. For me bath time is a priority, it is immersive and thorough. It gives me an extra boost to take on the task at hand. In the same way, prayer needs to be the priority. Dr. Bill Bright once said, “we must talk to God about men before we talk to men about God.”  When we prioritize prayer, we prioritize our dependence on Jesus.
Prayer must be immersive. The term immersion is related to deep absorption, the idea is that the object that is being immersed is all encompassed by the product of immersion, so much so that it takes on the characteristics of that substance.  A friend of mine had a little brother that would frequently murmur under his breath throughout the day.  After a couple of days of this, she began to worry and asked him what was up. Days prior, her brother learned in Sunday School to pray without ceasing. He took this to mean that you had to pray every moment of the day! The young boy had hilariously taken this verse as literally as possible, but he was on to something-when prayer is immersive it becomes your moment by moment default.  Immersing oneself in prayer can be likened to the initial sinking of the body into a hot warm bath: it covers you, it surrounds you, it overwhelms you.
Lastly, prayer is thorough.  Anyone who is a lover of baths knows that you don’t just dip in and dip out. A bath is an experience that you savor and is taken with great care.  As children many of us recited this familiar  bedtime prayer-“now I lay me down to sleep, I pray to the Lord my soul to keep…” While a  routine prayer like this can teach the importance of talking to God every day, it may soon prove insufficient to express your thoughts because it is not thorough. There is no better time to spill it all, than when we speak with our Father in Heaven. So let your prayers be thorough, not withholding anything, and prepare to be amazed by the richness of your time spent with God.
In our home, there is a special shelf where I keep my bath products. It’s neatly organized and properly curated. At any given time you may find, salts, and sugar scrubs, bath bombs, and oils. While I have prepared for my moments of rejuvenation in our soaker tub I have not tended to the much needed moments of rejuvenation spent soaking in the presence of our God.  I am convicted and thankful for the reminder to saturate everything that I do in prayer. And I hope to one day soon be able to report that I delight in soaking in Jesus as much as I delight soaking in Epsom salt. The good news is, I can even pray that God would help me to saturate myself in prayer because that is the kind of God we serve-nothing is beyond his help even our apathy to seek him out.

Is There Anything Too Hard For God?

The following post was first written for the Engage Blog at Bible.org
You can read more of Christen’s writings every 4th Monday of the month at blogs.bible.org/engage

On Saturday I experienced quite possibly the most diverse moment of worship within the body of Christ that I have ever imagined. I can only describe this collective experience as a glimpse into what heavenly worship will look like. In an era where socio-political, racial, ethnic and national unrest seems to rule the day, there has never been a time when the church so desperately needs to move closer. The church must be an earthly representation of this heavenly reality; where every tribe and every nation stand in concert with each other before our God. (Revelation 7:9-10)

together2_0

Within the walls of encultured bias, where you cringe to hear the measure of hate coming from Christians and non-Christians alike, it is easy for us to lament as Habakkuk did, “How long oh Lord?” (Habakkuk 1:2) How long, Lord, until the church represents the unity that you so earnestly prayed for in your final hours. In your priestly prayer Lord, you lifted up your eyes to the father and prayed,

“I am not praying only on their behalf, but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their testimony, that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they will be in us so that the world will believe that you sent me.  The glory you gave to me I have given to them, that they may be one just as we are one –  I in them and you in me – that they may be completely one, so that the world will know that you sent me, and you have loved them just as you have loved me.” John 17:10-23

But will this ever happen? Doesn’t unity among the brethren seem too big of a dream, too hard of a concept, and far beyond our reach?

Maybe I am the only one who has let the despair of hopelessness blind me when we serve a God who opens the eyes of those who have hearts of stone.  If you are like me there are certain aspects of the global ecclesia that you have just simply put beyond our reach: Will racial reconciliation ever be a reality? Will church segregation be a thing of the past? Will people ever stop elevating their politics, their nation and their culture over their identity in Christ?  While unity in the body of Christ may be a tall order, the instant we allow despair to dictate our hope we have diminished the power of our Holy God.

Listen to how God himself describes his limitlessness: “I am the Lord, the God of all humankind. There is, indeed, nothing too difficult for me.”

Do we truly believe this? Do we believe that in God’s great love for us and the power of the Holy Spirit imparted to his church, that we can resist Satan and he will flee? If our actions are truly an outpouring of our own thoughts, I would venture to say that we don’t truly believe in the limitlessness of God. If, in fact, we did we would pray differently. Do we believe that the sinful dividing wall that fuels Church division can fall based on the limitless power of our Savior and the continued sanctification of the Church?

On October 20, I stood at the base of a platform, ankle deep in the mud that had been brewing on the grounds of the Texas Motor Speedway all week. In a moment of transcendence the crowd slowed, and I looked around. I saw Black, Whites, Hispanics, Asians, Old and Young with hands held high and heads hung low. I saw Assemblies of God, Episcopal, Presbyterian and Pentecostal arm in arm. I saw liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats moving in concert with one another. I saw a glimpse of what unity in the body of Christ could look like. No one was worried about whether we sang from the Hymnbook or swag-surfed to Christian Hip Hop. No one asked who the other planned to vote for in the next election, no one argued over infant baptism or confirmation. Instead, we all worshiped the exalted Christ as one body. From October 20-21, hundreds of thousands descended upon that muddy track that became a holy place of worship as we praised the Lord at the Together 2018 rally.

It’s easy to be skeptical of the Together Generation revival movement. Honestly, how much can one Christian concert change the face of what’s to come? However, Together 2018 has one central and biblical concept that is, “We, the body of Christ, are better together.”  To those who were able to partake in this holy worship last Saturday or simply those who have caught on to the vision, let us not leave the concept of together to wallow in the mud of the Texas Motor Speedway. Yet if each one of us used our sphere of influence to break out of the individualism of modern-day Christianity we will  be the change we want to see, as God continues to shape his church into her full maturity as the bride of Christ.

Yes, the task at hand seems impossible but let us not forget there is nothing too hard for God! His unlimited power is unmatched and  as his people we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)  We are now divinely enabled us to operate in his power and carry on the ministry reconciliation to all as we gather believers one table at a time.

Interestingly enough the high priestly prayer recorded in John chapter 17 gives us a taste of the power of Christian unity in the hands of our limitless God. For it was the unity that Christ wanted to pass down to every believer. Scripture tells us when people see our unity they are likely to believe in our God. (John 17:23)

My hope is that together every nation and every tribe, every age and every stage can walk in the unity that Jesus so desperately wanted for us so that his sheep will be bought into the fold. (John 10:16)

While it is quite the task—there is nothing too hard for God! Now that we’ve got that straight, let’s step up to our responsibility as the church to point people toward Christ through our unity!

For more information about the Together Generation Movement or the Table Coalition click the link below: http://thetablecoalition.org

New Testament Challenge

We’re doing a read through of the New Testament in 60 days!

From September 10th through November 8th we’re asking people to join us on a read through of the New Testament. We want you to join us using the Bible App from YouVersion available on iOS and Android. To join the group click the image below!

top_7_ways_to_be_creative_every_day_leaderboard_728

This Bible reading plan will guide you through the New Testament in 60 days. Many books will inform you, but the Bible has the power to transform you. Just read the daily selections and you will be amazed at the power, insight and transformation that will happen in your life.

And show us your reading on social media! Be sure to tag us @SowCincy along with #60DayNTChallenge

But What If They Smell Like Pee? Engage Blog for Bible.org

The other day my mother and I decided to take the kids to the downtown library. The flagship building is a fixture of our innercity and is surrounded by the typical sights and sounds that city life brings. A homeless man and his friend tried to make eye contact while we locked our car. Next, an addict walked by, her clothes leaving little to the imagination. And we almost instinctively clutched our purses as another group of teens came near.  When we made our way to the library door the pungent fragrance of pee filled our nostrils.  The library is a haven for the homeless and mentally ill who seek refuge from the heat of the day and the cool of the night.  My stomach turned as I took it in and my only thought was to find the closest exit to escape my surroundings.
I am pretty sure at least some of you are now judging me for disdaining my humble surroundings (and it’s ok I am judging me too! :-), but can we just be real for a minute?
Click here to read the full blog post over at Bible.org!

Comfortable Christianity featured on Bible.org

My husband and I are officially unemployed with three children and a car note. This didn’t occur by happenstance, rather our employment status was the result of deliberate prayer and decision. Approximately 6 months ago I found myself driving to an ordinary ministry conference on an ordinary day only to be met with an extraordinary message-Christianity was not meant to be comfortable!

Let’s see the picture of Christianity that Jesus painted for his disciples:

Click here to be connected to Bible.org to continue reading the full article!

 

Does the ole’ gal have another adventure in her?

PR (2)
That girl is me… or at least I think so. She, the one in the picture, full of hope and passion. She was limitless, her reach incomprehensible, and her legacy yet to be determined. 

That girl is me… that is, about ten years ago. I remember sitting there that day on what felt like was the edge of the earth. La Cueva de la Ventana (The Window Cave) is an almost mystical site in Puerto Rico.  You actually have to descend into an uncharted cave, duck beneath stalactites, and avoid the bats that hang like permanent fixtures. The earth then gives way at your feet and the mountain walls part like a curtain giving you the slightest peek of paradise.  It was there that I sat hovering over the clouds, just taking it in.

The girl in this picture, she knew hardships but had no clue about the utter darkness of the soul. While she had barely tasted the lowest of lows she was also untouched by the highest of highs. The way her heart would flutter when she giggled about the cute guy on messenger who would soon become her husband. The utter peace she would find swinging in a hammock in the Bahamas mingling sandy toes with the love of her life wondering how in the world she could ever be so lucky. And she had absolutely no clue how much pain, sorrow, and joy raising three tiny humans would give her. 

As clueless as this girl was, she knew there would be something. She trusted in a big God who made such a beautiful view and as she sat at the window of this cave, ready for whatever big assignment God had for her. 

Since I took a seat on that rock over ten years ago I’ve had some awesome adventures. From moving across country unsure of where I would stay, to trusting God through seven years of seminary, countless miracles including getting my dream job at age 23, to putting my own safety on the line in order to achieve the goal of gaining others for Christ. That girl  had some adventures in her life-always crazy, always fun, always unsafe and always awesome.  

Things are more settled now, it’s not that I’ve lost my sparkle but things are settled-three kids a wonderful husband and a minivan. We had just been pre-approved for a home loan and then God decided to shake up our American Dream. He whispered adventure into my ear one more time.  Before it was easy to do-I could whisk away and live in Juarez, Mexico with no worries other than the relentless prayers of my dear parents. Now I have a lot… It’s not just me, it’s not just my life, it’s not just my safety. And I wonder does this ole’ gal have another adventure in her? 

While it may be harder to take the leap these days, I remember what it felt like to sit on the precipice of the earth with nothing but space and opportunity before me. I remember the call, the sense that God is showing me my next step, I remember that in Him, there is always room for adventure.

2 Jobs Gone

Today, June 8th, 2018 Christen has ended her tenure at her job. And a week out from that on June 15th, I will have ended mine as well.

It’s really dumbfounding to me on how we got here. Going from a possible restructuring of my job duties, or looking for something different, and now we’re packing it all up and heading 12 hours north.

It’s surreal.

Quite Possibly The Coolest Story I Ever Lived Through

The setting is 2015. There are not many times that Christen and I get to go out but when we do we make the most of it. When you have zero children as a married couple, you go out all the time. One child, you might take them with you if you can’t find a sitter, but when it’s MULTIPLE children…well that’s an adventure to find a sitter within itself.

Coming to Ft. Worth was a Christian concert extravaganza that tours all over the country with big-name headlining acts. I gave Christen the duty of finding us a sitter because if it was up to me I would be scouring the pages of Craigs List.

Side-note if you have watched The Kids (TM) for us, we are highly grateful. Continue reading