Hope is the Difference.
 
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Have you ever sensed that you were being set up for something grand? Something way bigger than you could possibly pull off on your own?

I found myself standing in the Bronx after an all-night prayer vigil when my attention was suddenly drawn, directed even, to a man seated in a wheelchair. I asked, and then learned, how a year prior Mike had been in the backseat of a taxi when a large delivery truck smashed into the cab, crushing his legs from the knees down. The doctors were able to save his legs, but Mike was left immobile, with only two sensations: numbness and extreme pain. 

My friend and I began praying when Mike said, “You know, it’s funny. It’s almost like someone shot electricity down my knee caps into my legs.”

We prayed a little longer, and I again asked Mike what he was feeling. “It’s like all the numbness that was there is just gone. And there’s only a little pain I feel in my left ankle.” We prayed again and moved Mike to a more level area asking if we could lock arms on either side to try holding him up. Kindly, he agreed. 

Keep in mind, we had just met Mike. He didn’t know us from a stranger.
 
I took my arm out from under his and within a few minutes motioned for my friend to do the same. There Mike was––standing in the Bronx––completely unassisted with 100% of his weight on his previously crushed legs. 

I quietly wept, foolishly pretending I wasn’t as shocked as he was.
 
Mike then surprised us by saying he was going to walk. “My legs feel so good and so strong, I’m just going to go for it.”

He then took about eight steps, completely unassisted, turned around, and walked back to his chair. He did this on three different occasions. His only “issue” was realizing the soreness in his legs from all the walking. 

He smiled explosively and said, “I could walk a thousand miles but my muscles need to catch up with my heart.” 

For most of my Christian life I have experienced this tension, similar to Mike’s heart and legs.

Though my faith muscles weren’t smashed by a delivery truck, they seemed to have painfully atrophied all the same. 

Hope is the difference.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. - Proverbs 13:12 

&

For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. - Job 14:7

Jesus overcame 3 obstacles when He healed Mike’s legs: 

1. Immobility. 
2. Numbness.
3. Extreme pain. 

Jesus delivers 3 other-worldly breakthroughs when He works through you: 

1. Mobility. 
2. Sensitivity.
3. Joy.

Jesus, here is the immobility, numbness and pain I feel. Help me to imagine walking a thousand miles closer to loving You and neighbors. Thank You for hope.

What routinely blocks your hope?

 
Am I the Only One Struggling with Social Media Fatigue?
 
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Two years ago I found myself social media fatigued and highly convicted.

Eastern Australia’s tropical inland city of Toowoomba is as random a setting as my sense of humor. In the Spring of 2015, I was speaking on whether social media was healthy. Emboldened by the transparent dialogue of my fellow panelists (BadChristian’s Matt, Toby, Joey, and a therapist), I came clean on my social media habits at the time.

Back then I flicked through Instagram prior to sleep, if/when I awoke to urinate, and again first thing on waking. The addiction-therapist turned on me declaring my status as social media addicted.

 In my red-handed public admission of guilt, I asked the addiction specialist for advice. He confidently shared how he was once just like me until he made a conscious decision to stop sleeping with his iPhone.

I returned home announcing (much to the comical delight of my highly skeptical family) that I’d made up my mind. I would stop sleeping with my iPhone and break up with Instagram. Then the blog, shortly followed by Facebook.

Once I began moving away from the need for constant social posting (and equally constant social gorging), I began uncovering three unsettling realizations:

 1. Likes were how I defined deepening friendships.

 2. For someone who has struggled with porn for 31 years, Instagram had routinely served as my Marijuana gateway into Heroin trappings. I enjoyed the social fluff too much to cut off my right hand and throw it away.

 3. I wasn't enjoying wonderful moments simply because they were wonderful, I was mostly enjoying them for the quality of their "shared" value.

Instead of spending considerable time posting in public, I did write quietly and consistently. The result of focused, writing in secret? 65,000+ words. Enough for a book and several digital resources.

I'm slowly and awkwardly crawling out of a 28 month social media hibernation, still refreshing Facebook and then catching myself in the goofy act of hoping my words are well received. That's not bad, sinful or wrong, but it's all three when my identity becomes more influenced by how you respond to me than how graciously Jesus sees me.

Here are a few things I'm doing differently this time around:

1. Writing to serve. Writing to encourage.

2. Staying broken up with Instagram. My addictive personality and past mean no Instagram for me.

3. Sharing stories when I'm meant to, and by grace, withholding when I'm meant to.

4. Presenting my experiences and thoughts from a deeper level of heart, even if or when they make me out to seem less spiritual.

5. Charging my iPhone night after night in the dining room.

To Matt, Toby, Joey (and the therapist): my life and marriage are better because you challenged me toward freedom by way of bolder transparency. Thank you.

Am I the only one struggling with social media fatigue?

For more on BadChristian and odd transparency, check out the Come&Live! vs. BadChristian podcast episode or what I had to say about it here.

 

 

 

 
When Prayer Feels Like Shooting Bullets at a Hurricane.
 
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Yesterday I peacefully enjoyed an intensely bright Sunday afternoon. Hurricane Irma had just made landfall in Florida after not-so-peacefully smashing through Cuba and other Caribbean islands, killing at least 25 people and leaving utter devastation in her wake.

Earlier in the day, Beth had pointed out a Facebook post that one of our friends had written; “46,000 Floridians joined a Facebook group to shoot their guns at Hurricane Irma. That is all.”

By the time I visited the Facebook event, Shoot At Hurricane Irma, 54,000 people were at least intrigued. The about section of the page said, “LET'S SHOW IRMA THAT WE SHOOT FIRST.”

What I envisioned after Beth mentioned the post was 46,000 fearless Floridians, all with guns to the sky, shooting a barrage of bullets into the encroaching storm. Someone mentioned how a sheriff was asking 46,000 people not to shoot at Irma and someone else suggested the bullets may boomerang back around, becoming deadly projectiles (this later idea was debunked here).

Apparently realizing the event was being taken more seriously than intended, the ringleader of the Facebook page posted, “On another note, I've learned that about 50% of the world can’t understand sarcasm to save their lives. Carry on.”

Sometimes my prayers feel a lot like uselessly shooting bullets at a hurricane.

One of the problems in how we followers of Jesus respond to something like Hurricane Irma is that we’re often two things: busy and doubtful.

The apostle James tells us that double-minded, doubtful Christians aren’t effective ones.

“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:6-8, ESV).

We're busy for the same reason everyone else is; life.

But what causes us to doubt?

  1. Could it be that I/we aren’t sure who sent the storm? Insurance policies actually classify hurricanes as “Acts of God.” Are they?

  2. Since God may have sent the hurricanes, how could He possibly honor prayers Christians pray against something He’s directing in the first place?

  3. Wondering wether we should even attempt to “shoot” or “rebuke” anything, let alone the forces of nature?

The most notorious example of why followers of Jesus might consider storm-rebuking is because Jesus is the original storm-shooter:

“One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”’ (Luke 8:22-25, ESV).

The second story that comes to mind is that of Elijah altering nature (twice) through prayer:

“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” (James 5:17&18, ESV).

God established Joseph with a position of power in Pharaoh's Egyptian palace to prevent people and land from destruction.

“Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”’ (Genesis 41:33-36, ESV).

Considering we don't all live in Texas, Florida, Mexico or the Caribbean, It’s possible your storm has nothing to do with high winds and torrential rain.

I’ve prayed many prayers of rebuke over the last seven or so years, mostly over sickness, disease and demonic powers. And I’ve sometimes watched big names like cancer, tumors, and blindness disappear at nothing but the blood of Jesus. And I am SO insanely thankful, joyful, grateful when prayers are answered (by me or anyone else). One prayer answered is hopeful reminder to keep praying.

At the same time, I haven’t seen every sickness or disease I’ve prayed for instantly cured, to the point where sometimes my prayers feel like little bullets being shot into an undefeatable hurricane covering the state of Florida.

But, what if we who follow Jesus began corporately shooting prayers at hurricanes with ferocity and passion? Would anything change? 

There is video footage on YouTube of Christians in Miami gathering on the beach, worshipping God, in the face of Irma. Is it random chance that Miami was sparred the brunt of the storm or that the category 5 storm has only been growing weaker the further North it goes? Don't get me wrong, Irma has left millions powerless and is still a massive, destructive storm. 

Failure might spell us looking like complete fools waving our hands over our heads, commanding hurricanes to dissipate only to watch the storm engulf other cities and states anyway. The world around us would undoubtedly write us off as ineffective fanatics. I’m fairly sure they’ve already had that thought.

On the other hand, a picture of success could be painted that brings Jesus glory and fame to a world who doubts His existence.

Can you imagine if mayors, sheriffs, and firefighters all over Florida were calling on the church to pray because they had heard what happens when Christians pray? When Jesus rebuked the storm, His disciples were afraid at the result. They marveled, wondering just who in the world Jesus was. Would the world around us begin doing the same?

What if Christians like me were focused more on shooting spiritual bullets at hurricanes than picking earthly battles with others?

I realize I’m asking a lot of questions, and that’s partly because I’m processing out loud with you. More than just arriving at an answer that will please every theological stance, I’m simply and sincerely asking.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Does a special Bible passage, verse or story come to your mind? What about the flood? Or the plagues God sent to harass Egypt?

P.S. In some ways all these thoughts feel two weeks too late. I haven’t even begun to address what Christians should do after a hurricane has come and gone. Pray? Give? Serve?


 

 
Why I Quit Music for Missions and What I was Most Afraid of.
 
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Nine years ago I had what you might call an epiphany, what I would consider a spiritual awakening. Back then I was positioned in a thriving music career where I was responsible for finding, signing and developing bands, what is known in the industry as A&R (Artists & Repertoire) work. Even though I loved music, I never studied music or business, have no rhythm, am unable to carry a tune, and can’t play a single instrument. I felt an earnest appreciation to be apart of a team that was pioneering careers for wildly talented artists.

My spiritual epiphany, to combine what we both could call it, was the awareness that being a privileged music guy wasn’t the path meant for my life.

The problem was, I couldn’t stop dreaming of something different.

Still, I was afraid that leaving would result in career suicide. I had a young family depending entirely on my income. I didn’t have total clarity as to what I would do once I exited the music industry, and had no back-up plan for when everything fell apart.

I was even more fearful, though, that if I didn’t follow my heart, I would forever regret the unknown of what could, or would, have been.

As I clambered for direction, any kind of confirmation that I hadn't just gone spiritually insane, the Holy Spirit peacefully and unexpectedly gave me four simple, bold instructions:

1. Make your life all about Jesus
2. Stop worrying about money
3. Equip artists and others
4. Give yourself away


My true calling came at the peak of music industry success—an unexpected, undeserved twelve year career generously affixing my name to an album or two. With my wife’s nervous blessing, I abruptly left the conventional music world, one part impassioned and three parts foolish.

I cashed out my 401(k), gold plaques, the record collection, and began living an adventure that has led me, reluctantly, to every continent on the planet with Come&Live!, a nonprofit community several friends and I started in response to those four instructions I had sensed the Spirit prompting me with.

Not following Jesus, my heart, or what Jesus was saying to my heart, would have been the safest option available to me. No one was asking me, much less telling me, to leave the music business. Years later, I’m fairly sure that I would have in due course failed because my heart had lost all the passion it once had for the business of music.

It’s hard to stay alive very long without passion.

Maybe I could have tried harder to re-engage, or to have given the whole thing another shot. As fathers, providing for our families is a huge responsibility that we can’t ever ignore. Truth be told, I prayerfully contemplated my music industry dismissal for nearly three years before eventually putting in my notice.  

The temptation to avoid risk would have been safe, but I would have only been a parading facade. Ultimately, I would have missed a life layered with thousands of risks.

Whatever risk God has you taking (or is calling you into) will likely require far more courage than you currently possess. I wish I could promise you that it would all be easy, but that would be false advertising.

I encourage you with what has encouraged me: 

"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." - Philippians 1:6

Jesus, remind me, remind us, right here and now, that You are far from finished. You are faithful. I admit that much of my journey away from the music industry has looked drastically different than I anticipated. Some of my original motivation to quit music was fueled frustration against a business I no longer felt passion for and not a pure desire to see your kingdom advanced anywhere and everywhere.

If Jesus can move through me, He can flow through you.

P.S. Let me know if you can guess the artist in the above photo.

 
Two Reasons Why I Do the Things I Hate (and Two Prayers of Repentance).

Sometimes my heart wavers more than I want it to, or think it should. A few days ago I had a “still-small” conversation with Jesus about how much I struggle to surrender. I wondered how it was possible to be a growing Christian of 25 years, and yet sometimes simultaneously feel like a wavering skeptic of 25 years. 

Essentially, I was bringing to Jesus the problem Paul described in Romans 7:15: 

For I do not understand my own actions. 
For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.


Honestly?

I'd prefer not to hear about dichotomies, like how Paul fought to be one thing and not another, or how I fight for the high road while ignoring the fact that high roads don’t exist without lower ones. 

The Holy Spirit is the perfect guide because He guides us into all truth (John 16:13), not just the “truth” our ears itch for most. Through the Holy Spirit we have connection to Jesus unlike any association on the planet.

Jesus, by His Spirit, spoke to my heart two areas that have only been promoting, and cheering on, the frustrated wavering.

1. Refusing to receive the kingdom like a child. Mark 10:15: “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 

And

2. Christianity was always meant to be an outward expression of an inward joy I’m experiencing––daily. Many of the commandments Jesus gave were outward (love your neighbor, give to the poor, heal the sick, let your light shine before men) regardless of how much I’d prefer ignoring neighbors, poor, sick, men. 

Only one call to action resonates proper when the Holy Spirit is speaking to me: “...Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17). Jesus is so kind to lead us by the hand into repentance and restoration.

When we repent, He restores. 

I prayed something like; 

1. Jesus, I apologize for how easily I’m able to complicate what I was always meant to appreciate and approach like a child. Help me to be way more kid-like again, because I’m no good at child-likeness on my own. 

And

2. Jesus, forgive me for how often I choose to live my Christian faith as an inward expression of outward distractions. Thanks for Your willingness to continue growing me, despite me.

When I fail as a follower of Jesus––minorly or miserably––when my weakness shows up seemingly more than His strength, it’s usually because I’m spending too much time focused on me and not nearly enough running back to Him.

Failure, in the Christian life, is an uncomfortable tension that each of us has to come to terms with. The sooner we repent, sincerely, the quicker we turn back toward how we were always meant to live. Free.

You and I were wired to bring God glory in approaching Him, our Father, as children holding hands open for more of Who He is and more of what He has for us. 

He calls me, and He calls you, into waters often deeper than either of us can comfortably stand. 

I pray we’re both able to become more like children. I pray that by the power of the Spirit, our outward expression (as the hands and feet of Jesus) would be an overflow of inward joy uncontainable. 

Thank you for who you are, for the story you’re living, and for allowing me to serve you along the way. 

Deep down, would you love everyone to like you?

Fundraising has never been the element of non-profit life that I’ve loved most.

Back in the early days I had the misguided notion that provision for my family––and for Come&Live!––would come swiftly and magically by some big-hearted billionaire dying to gift his hard-earned funds to a naïve start-up.

Barely making ends meet and slowly learning to trust Jesus, especially on the bad days, has helped me to respect the art of fundraising more now than ever. 
 
One of the main reasons I’ve struggled to fully enjoy fundraising is because the potential for rejection always comes along with the privilege of personally inviting friends (or friends of friends) to prayerfully consider joining our support team. And I despise rejection––even rejection light––about as much as anyone.

Deep down, I’d love everyone to like me. God, graciously and routinely, reminds me that reward rarely comes without risk.
 
I just returned home from a 1,500 mile, intensive nine day fundraising trip to the New England area where I met––in person––with 33 incredible individuals (or couples) from all walks of life throughout Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

The trip came as part of what I felt God giving me peace for in connection to my 2017 Team Johnson goal of reaching 100% funding by July 4th. 
 
Why July 4th? 

Mostly because July 4th represents the impossible - we’ve never come anywhere close to being 100% funded with nearly half the year still ahead of us (historically we’ve hit 100% right around December 31st). And July 4th because it represents the date Jesus placed on my heart back in the spring when I was drinking more juice than ever before. 
 
The day before I left to embark on my Northeast trip––that would end up being about the same distance as driving one way from Los Angeles to Mexico City––I felt hugely defeated. Deflated even.

Everything in me was thinking about how I could back out. I wondered what good enough excuse I could come up with to cancel on countless meetings without harming a bunch of great friendships. Thankfully nothing strong enough came to mind and I was forced to press through. 
 
At the core of my heart were two problems. 
 
The first, as I mentioned above, was the fear of rejection. For the record, there’s rarely a fundraising meeting where I haven’t felt at least some measure of fear - not because I’m afraid of my friends or their friends, but because I desire to communicate Jesus, and the ministry He’s called us to, exceptionally well.

In other words, I over think what I speak and feel nervous about whether I’ll radiate Jesus well or come off as some desperate, broken salesman who can see through everyone but himself. 
 
The second, and possibly even heavier issue, was condemnation. If you’ve never fundraised, all of this might seem petty or silly (and in some ways it is because it helps you see how I wrestle with more insecurity than my ever-confident-self lets on).

I perceive the art of inviting people into the passion Jesus has placed upon me as a great gift and aim to treat it as such. That doesn’t mean I don’t struggle. 
 
Condemnation and conviction sound like they could be related but nothing could be farther from the truth. 

The difference between the two is that condemnation will tear you down simply to tear you down. Conviction might, and only for a season, tear you down because it knows that Jesus has a greater chance of increasing as you and I are steadily decreasing.

Condemnation will try convincing you how miserable, wretched, undeserving, and useless you are. Conviction will tell you that though you might currently feel miserable, wretched, undeserving, and useless––Jesus is present and lifting you out––even if you don’t instantly feel the power of His lifting.
 
Condemnation is an accuser, especially of the brethren. 
 
So, what does condemnation sound like the day before I leave for the longest fundraising trip of my nine-year ministry career? 
 
1. You're not fruitful enough in life or ministry. 
2. You don’t deserve the funding you’re trying to raise. 
3. Who nominated you as weird missionary guy anyway?
4. All missionaries are meant to live poor, barely surviving. Why do you even think for a second that you could thrive? 
 
Then, in one short look at how the apostle Paul opens Romans 8, the voice of condemnation is struck down, silenced, and the power of God re-centers my faith: 
 
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. - Romans 8:1
 
So, whether it’s me gearing up for a fundraising trip or you dealing with whatever stirs the enemy to cut you down most, condemnation was swallowed up and spat out by Christ.

His work on the cross was final no matter how rational accusation comes across. 

The only power condemnation now holds is a whisper––fleeting attempts to convince us Christ really didn't pay for everything. But He did and it is finished.
 
Jesus, forgive me for being afraid of the things hiding in the dark––like insecurity, rejection, fear of failure, condemnation and accusation. Thank You for being the Liberator of our souls. I surrender afresh to you. Holy Spirit, grow us more today into the likeness of Jesus - so the whole world will know the love of the Father toward them. 

 

 

CJ