Passion (4)

. . . continued from Passion (3)

It was bittersweet to begin the second (last) full day. After having taken in so much information already, I was neither expecting, nor prepared to be mentally bombarded as much as I was on Monday, January 3.

At 9am, Allie, Alyssa, and I arrived at GWCC for community groups. We continued in Philippians 2:1-5 and discussed our attitudes. As our group leader stated, our actions are not necessarily the same as, or reflective of, our attitudes (ie., loving actions do not necessarily mean that you love that person). In terms of humility:
“[A humble person] will not be thinking about humility; he will not be thinking about himself at all.”
~ C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
To not think about ourselves requires that we think about something else. When we understand how God gave up Jesus to come to earth and die for us, it changes our attitude and mind . . . we are free to focus on that, rather than on ourselves.
“. . . that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life . . .”
~ Philippians 2:15-16
When we focus on Christ, we will “shine like stars”, because the world is not used to seeing people like that.
“Live in such a way that those who know you but do not know God will come to know God because they know you.”
Further, what we do, we do through Christ. We are inadequate without Him:
“. . . for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
~ Philippians 2:13
After community groups, we headed to Philips Arena for the main session. As far as speakers go, I don’t know if it’s possible to have a favorite at a conference like Passion. But, I’ll admit, Andy Stanley was exceptional. His main idea was:
“We have no idea what God may want to do through us in the world.”
The quality and direction of our lives are determined by our reactions to our appetites. What are appetites? They are temporary things we use to try to satisfy ourselves . . . progress, respect, fame, love, acceptance, recognition, material possessions, etc. Appetites are God-created and sin-distorted. They’re not bad; they’re broken. They are never fully satisfied, and they are always short term. Our appetites can rule us, or we can rule them.

Stanley mentioned two factors that affect our decisions to give in to our appetites. First, “impact bias” occurs when a simple appetite magnifies out of proportion, exaggerating our supposed satisfaction (ie., “it’s going to be better than I imagine”). Second, “focalism” creates a one-track mind that allows us to focus on one thing, while blurring everything else.

Stanley spoke about Jacob and Esau in Genesis 25:29ff. He explained that Esau’s birthright would have given him increased wealth, power, and blessing, but instead he traded all of the future rewards because of his appetite.
“And Esau said to Jacob, ‘Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.’ [...] And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way . . .” ~ Genesis 25:30, 34
Stanley did a role-play as if he could go back in time to talk to Esau, before he ate the stew. Esau didn’t realize the significance of trading his birthright; he didn’t know what God wanted to do through him; he didn’t know that he was to be the father of twelve tribes, or that descendants would know the God of “Abraham, Isaac, and Esau”. But Esau didn’t realize what he was risking, and he traded the ultimate for the temporary.

Foolish, right? Maybe. But maybe not so unusual, either:
“People sell their birthright for a bowl of stew all the time.”
We all have bowls of stew that we trade for, instead of allowing God to use us in this world. Like Esau, we have no idea what God has planned for our futures, either. And if we choose to trade in our futures, we, like Esau, will lose both.

We need to reframe (in light of the big picture, is it worth it to trade the future for the temporary appetite?) and refrain (delayed gratification!).

After the main session, I had a lot going through my mind. All of a sudden, I felt like I could relate to Esau. I was struggling with not knowing where I was going or what I was doing, or how God wanted to use me in life . . . and I realized more than ever how easy it would be at this point to throw everything out the window for a temporary quick fix. But God reminded me, through Stanley’s words, that my life’s future was HIS. And even if I wish He would, He’s not obligated to tell me what His plans are.

We all had lunch in the great outdoors . . . a beautiful 50ยบ afternoon (it was heavenly). Allie, Alyssa, and I ate our lunches and soaked up the sunlight. Graham and Jayson ate with us, too; it was always quite nice when, throughout the weekend, among thousands of other people, we ran into other people from Calvary. :) We were sitting next to a sculpture of a gymnast (we were in a “park” outside the GWCC), and we overheard someone describing his location as “next to some guy doing something on a ring” (ie., the gymnast). We finished eating and got in line for breakouts (which we were not going to miss!). Thankfully we were able to get seats, coincidentally with quite a few people from our group.

I feel like God was speaking to me throughout the whole conference about completely trusting Him with my future (all of it), and David Platt’s message seemed to hit so much deeper . . . in more areas than one. He spoke on the cost of discipleship:
“Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, ‘Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.’
And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’
Then He said to another, ‘Follow Me.’
But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’
Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.’
And another also said, ‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.’
But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’”
~ Luke 9:57-62
Jesus has told all of us to hate our families, to give up everything, to take up our crosses (or, as Platt described it in twenty-first century verbiage, our “electric chairs”), and follow Christ.

Throughout His life, Jesus was resolutely headed toward the cross . . . it wasn’t an “accident”. Nor was Jesus “sweating blood” because He was scared of what He knew the Roman soldiers would do to Him (He wasn’t a coward); He was (is) a Savior who was about to endure divine wrath . . . that all of us rightly deserve.

Yet, we twist Jesus (and, thus, what He commands) into an American who doesn’t mind materialism and nominal devotion. We put Him in a box. But Christ is not who we have made Him out to be. He is only satisfied with radical surrender and complete obedience.
“We are called to more than a Christian spin on the American Dream.”
Jesus is worthy of all of our trust. He is not a means to an end; He is the end. He is all we want and all we need, but do we live like it? Is Christ enough for us?

Jesus is worthy of all of our plans and dreams. There is an obligation and purpose to “go and make disciples” that supersedes all other obligations and purposes. We can be living the dream and still be missing the point. Not everyone will be traditional missionaries. Some will use the gifts and talents God has given them to proclaim the Gospel. God can use everyone . . . every skill, every passion, every talent . . . to advance His kingdom!

Jesus is worthy of all our affections. When you know God deeply, you love God truly. He is Someone for whom it is worth losing everything. He is better than everything and anyone else. There is only one God worthy of all our praise and worship.
“‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys the field.’”
~ Matthew 13:44
Afterward, we all met for a quick group meeting about how our last morning would go down. Allie, Alyssa, and I decided to walk back to our hotel to rest for a bit before the evening main session. Needless to say, Platt’s “Radical” breakout left me with a heavy heart. I was thinking a lot about his statement about not living merely a “Christian spin on the American Dream”. This was humbling and thought-provoking, to say the least. In my future, I envision myself married to a Godly man, with adorable kids and a nice, cozy home . . . not exactly a dream of “the cost of discipleship”. I felt hypocritical comparing that lifestyle with those of underground believers, in China, for instance, as Platt mentioned. I don’t think enough about how easy we have it, living in the U.S. I know God is most concerned with our hearts, but I was left wondering how exactly we are supposed to go about life here in America, while in most other places in the world, fellow brothers and sisters are, at best, meeting in secret. I decided to write. (If you hadn’t noticed, I do that sometimes.) My journal is succinctly labeled “Thoughts”:
“Francis Chan mentioned not necessarily needing to be “radical or extreme”, but today David Platt was all about radical. I am torn with American materialism and wealth . . . I’m not saying “how little can I do and still ‘be a Christian’” as much as, I suppose, wondering when does stuff (having it) become too much? Like, are we not supposed to (or shouldn’t we) have anything beyond the bare minimum, so we can give all our money toward different causes? Are we supposed to have just a little money in the bank, downsize our homes, etc.? How do we balance our wealthy culture with Jesus’ command to “sell everything you own and give to the poor”? Is there supposed to be a balance . . . are we not supposed to have any extras, etc., that are so “normal”? Are we supposed to drop everything and start preaching the Gospel overseas? That, I don’t think so. But it’s so hard trying to know how to live in this consumer culture when there is so much spiritual (and physical, economic, etc.) need in so many places. How do we go about having a part in justice worldwide while living our lives of luxury in America?”
Understanding that I write very slowly, there was a lot going through my mind.

I was no longer disappointed that Allie, Alyssa, and I had chosen to wait until that afternoon to browse the Do Something Now causes. I felt that the least I could do in my jumbled mindset was be a part of justice worldwide. The vision of Do Something Now is:
“Together, we are a force for good, making a massive difference in the lives of people around the globe in Jesus’ name.
That’s the heartbeat behind Passion and our DO SOMETHING NOW campaign, a movement that has funneled resources to those in greatest need throughout the world. At the core of it all is a desire to wed worship and justice, believing that what God wants most is not just another song, but a reflection of His love and mercy among the poor, the imprisoned, the voiceless, and the oppressed.
As a result, no Passion gathering will simply be an event you attend. Rather, together we want to shift into action as we partner with amazing causes. While it’s true that none of us can meet the needs alone, it’s also true that united we can do something exceptional for His fame.”
I gave to the International Justice Mission to fund an undercover rescue operation to save a girl in Cebu, Philippines from sex trafficking. (See Passion (5) to read about the incredible ways that God blessed our giving to affect justice in the world!)

At the beginning of the evening main session, Louie invited a Chinese college student (who had been to one of Passion’s World Tour conferences) on stage. She shared some encouraging words, and then she prayed for all of us . . . in Chinese! Then a Brazilian worship leader, Fernadhino, led us in singing “God of This City”.

And God can understand every word . . . English, Chinese . . . what a thought!

Of course, what else could I expect after such a day than to hear from John Piper? :) He asked the question,
“Do we feel more loved by God when He makes much of us or when He enables us to make much of Him?”
Six ways that God makes much of us:

1. By being pleased with us and commending our lives. God is pleased with us . . . delighted in us, as an artist in his work. God will not say to anyone, “You lived a lousy life, but you said the prayer, so welcome to Heaven”. He will tell us “Well done, My faithful servant” and actually mean it.
2. By making us co-heirs with Christ (Who owns everything!).
3. By making us sit at a table when He returns and serving us as if He was a servant and we, masters.
4. By appointing us to carry out the judgment of angels. “Whatever it is is not little!”
5. By ascribing value to us and rejoicing over us as valued treasures.
“The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”
~ Zephaniah 3:17
6. By creating us to sit with Christ on His throne. His rule will be done through us.

God does make much of us. But there is a “ranking”: God is #1; thus, it is more important to make much of Him, rather than Him making much of us. Our purpose must always be to glorify God. We no longer live for ourselves. Christianity is not having all the same desires as before our conversion and only having them met by something (Someone) else (ie., having the same suitcases, but a new bellhop).

God should be the bottom of our joy . . . everything has a foundation, except the very bottom, which is either God or ourselves.

God shows love to us in a way that makes much of Him.
“. . . to the praise of the glory of God’s grace . . .”
~ Ephesians 1:5
“. . . you may be with Me where I am to see My glory . . .”
~ John 17:24
God died for us so that we may make much of Him. To enjoy God is the purpose. God gets all the glory because God’s love for us that makes much of Him is a greater love than if He loved us to make much of us. Why?
“Self can never satisfy a heart made to be satisfied by God.”
God loves us. We are precious to Him . . . so precious that He will not let our preciousness become our god. He is our God!

Being Christ-centered means that we place our God-exalting God at the bottom of our joy.

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