On Sunday, the United States Congress passed a bill that allows federal funds to be used for abortions. President Obama will sign that bill into law today. Many look at this new reform as a severe blow to the long-time efforts of lobbyists, activists, and the pro-life movement in America. Some in the church of Jesus are also very discouraged, as many have been contending in prayer for righteous leaders, the ending of abortion, and the reversal of the “death decree” to babies in the womb for years.
While this is certainly disappointing news to me, it is not surprising nor does it come unexpectedly to me. In fact, it should never surprise us that the unredeemed behave wickedly and unrighteously. It’s so easy to look at the world’s unrighteousness, assume that it is the church’s mandate to “fix it” through prayer, intercession, and dominion, and then end up disillusioned, discouraged, and unhopeful when these things we contend so earnestly for do not come to pass as we pray.
But the Bible is so clear - Jesus the Messiah alone is the only one qualified, capable, and worthy to drive darkness off the face of the planet. No matter how many signs and wonders we see, how many laws change or don't change, how many cities experience revival or transformation, or how many new converts to Christianity we see in the coming years, I want to make it clear - things will never be okay here until He returns.
In times of discouragement (and even in times when things seem to be going “well”), it’s critical for us to set our minds on the “hope to which we have been called” (Ephesians 1:18), and to once again “rest our hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to [us] at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13), lest we become “weary and discouraged in [our] souls” (Hebrews 12:3). Our hope lies in the age to come, not in this age in any way.
As Christians we all know about what Jesus called the "first commandment", found in Matthew 22:37-38:
“Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment.”
(Matthew 22:37-38 NKJV)
These 27 words of Jesus are perhaps the most weighty and most demanding yet the most inviting and invigorating words ever spoken. In them He gives us the only plausible outlook and only foreseeable future if we desire to live in the highest expression He has for our lives. He calls us to give Him everything.
But many believers tend to look at these words as only a commandment and neglect the invitation into the commandment. This call to love God with all of our being is more than Jesus saying “you’d better do this, or else…” With every one of God’s commandments always comes the invitation and enabling power to walk it out.
I haven't given much of a "life update" recently, so I wanted to do that briefly before I dive back into the real substance of why I write this blog - Jesus. He is the sole reason why I write blogs and tweet things on twitter. John Piper tweeted this line back in October, and it continues to resound with me:
"One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time."
John's brief statement hopefully will give you the reason why I don't often give many of the "I'm at a ball game" or "Eating food with my friends" tweets. I don't want these things to consume my life, and I want you and I to feast on the real Bread from Heaven. I want what I say to provoke you to love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to simply be a reflection of the desire of my own heart. I want to become less so that He may become greater, and ultimately that He may have the preeminence in all things in your life.
I believe the reason internet social networking is so popular today is because it is falsely filling the void in the heart of man to feel loved, appreciated, and valued. Only a genuine friendship with Jesus can satisfy. We often brag about having more friends on Facebook than we talk about the life of Jesus. Our friend Paul the apostle said:
But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. " (Galatians 6:14 NKJV)
Even with that said, I do believe that it's helpful to give updates on my life so that you can feel more connected to me when we interact personally. Jesus is a real Man that is deeply involved with our lives if we want Him to be, and the stories of His working in our lives is what has the ability to shape the lives of others. That is our testimony. So it's from this perspective that I give you my latest life update...
So often we show up to our Sunday church service, sing the songs, enjoy the teaching and the fellowship, and then go about the rest of our day when church is over. We perhaps spend some time reading the Bible during the week, and attend the Wednesday night prayer meeting. On the busy highway of life, we'll take a brief exit to refuel, only to get right back on afterwards and keep driving towards a dream we can often times never fully articulate.
In the midst of this highway of life rises one distinguishing feature that should cause us to take the next exit, find directions to a small stable in an obscure town in Galilee, and camp there for the rest of our lives. What God did is outlandish and staggering.
The eternal God from everlasting became a human being.
The course of heaven and earth were forever altered when the second Person of the trinity took on flesh. If we truly make the confession as a "Christian", this is what we believe. But our belief should not stop at simply a bland doctrinal confession. It should radically affect the way we spend our money, our energy, and our Tuesday afternoon, Friday morning, and Sunday evening.
I want to let you in on some of the questions I have been asking myself these past few weeks. If I honestly believe that God became flesh, why do I still see Him as a floating blob of light in some ethereal realm that sort of looks like a human? Why is His life not real to me? Why do the stories of His life in the four gospels often times seem like fairy tales? Why does heaven seem like a pipe dream instead of a real, concrete, physical place where that Man sits right now?
Jesus is a real man. One day, I will stand across from Him, look Him in the eyes, shake His ruddy hand, and smell His sweet breath. He is my Creator and my God.
I’m continuing a series on my blog interviewing some musicians from IHOP-KC. If you have not yet read part 1 and 2 of Cassie’s interview, be sure to read them here and here. I asked Cassie about her thoughts on a somewhat controversial subject for some – secular music. I’ve written some of my own thoughts about this here and here. I hope you enjoy this final part of her interview!
Josh: Hi Cassie, well here comes the big question that I am sure everyone has been waiting for… What do you think about prophetic musicians and secular music? For a musician desiring the spirit of prophecy, is secular music ok to listen to?
Cassie: Well, let me start by saying that I believe the Lord is the Creator and with that the originator of music. He has designed His throne room (Rev. 4) to have continual music through song, in words or instruments. We’re musical because He’s musical. Music is the one universal language. It is the highest form of entertainment or worship in every culture. I believe there is music that is pointed directly to God, I believe there is music that is pointed directly to Satan, I believe there is music that exalts the world, which is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 Jn. 1:16). I believe there is soulish music the expresses the soul in it’s emotions of pain, joy, anger, sorrow, and confusion. I believe there is music that is factual and describes the practicals of life. i.e. If I write a song about my car it’s neither worship to the Lord nor satanic worship, it’s a song about my car… I believe the Lord can use songs that were once not directed towards Him specifically, however, if then used by a worshipful heart, would receive the worship and is pleased. Obviously this list isn’t exhaustive, but my point in saying all of this is that there is music that is definitely worshipping Jesus, music that is definitely worshipping Satan, music that is definitely worshipping the world/man, and then there is music that isn’t clearly one or the other, it may be describing universal emotions, or can be a silly song about my car I drive, which neither leads me to a place of directly worshipping Jesus or the other.
This past weekend, I traveled to a weekend event in College Station, Texas organized by the Luke18 Project, the college campus division of IHOP. The Luke18 Project’s vision is to raise up prayer furnaces on every college campus across the US. Brandon Hammonds, a fellow intercessory missionary here at IHOP, is a part of the Luke18 ministry and organized the whole trip this past weekend. Justin Rizzo and I flew down with Brandon to Houston on Friday and were hosted by an amazing family in College Station (about an hour and a half outside of Houston).
College Station, Texas is the home of Texas A&M University, one of the largest campuses in the nation. Texas A&M was well-known several years ago as the campus that had a massive bonfire accident where several students lost their lives. The Lord has recently been stirring prayer on the campus, and the Griffith family that hosted us for the weekend has carried a vision for a house of prayer on campus for a while now. We believe that our trip was just another spark for the fire in the Spirit to burn even brighter.
I'm continuing a series on my blog interviewing some musicians from IHOP-KC. If you have not yet read part 1 of Cassie’s interview, be sure to read it here. Cassie is the bass player on Laura Hackett’s team at IHOP-KC and has played with Misty Edwards, in addition to being part of IHOP-KC’s nightwatch for many years. This is part 2 of Cassie’s interview where I asked her questions relating to being a prophetic musician as her full-time occupation.
Josh: Hi Cassie, thanks for doing this once again! So many people were encouraged by part 1 of your interview. I know you have many thoughts on Christians and secular music, but I think we’ll save that for part 3 of our dialogue. But let’s jump right in to part 2! You said earlier that you often like to sing in the Spirit and with your understanding as you play on stage. Do you think there is a formula or method for becoming “anointed” as a prophetic musician on your instrument?
I'm continuing a long-running series all the way back from 2008 on prophetic music where I interview musicians, singers, and worship leaders from IHOP. If you have not read the other interviews, be sure to read the ones from Justin Rizzo, Jordan Vanderplate, Francisco Arteaga part 1, part 2, and Gabriel Hancock part 1, part 2. I love running with these guys (and gals) because they share the same vision as me for the spirit of prophecy on their music. This time, I interviewed Cassie Campbell, a bass player in the house of prayer who has played a lot with Misty Edwards and many other worship teams here. I hope her words and thoughts encourage and provoke you!
Josh: Hey Cassie, I'm so glad we've been able to finally connect and do this interview! Before we jump in to your thoughts on prophetic music, give the readers a little bit of your background. Where did you grow up and how did you get to IHOP-KC?
Allow me to ask a bold question. Are we more in love with the idea of Jesus, the power of Jesus, or the doctrines of Jesus than we are in love with Jesus Himself?
I’ve written on this topic in these past articles here and here but I’ve been been personally convicted again lately by the way I would answer this question, because I have had a wrong understanding about what a “relationship with Jesus” is for so long.
Unfortunately we’ve made a relationship with Jesus to be something completely different than what it should be. Men are sincere but misdirected in their pursuit of intimacy and relationship with God. Intimacy with Jesus has been characterized by a nebulous, intangible warm fuzzy feeling on our hearts during a prayer meeting or worship gathering. If someone has memorized the Bible and can speak eloquently, or they have lots of “intimacy language” we often say that they “know Jesus”. With this false idea of intimacy, Jesus is not a real human to us in the same way that the people close to us like our family, friends, and coworkers are. As this wrong mindset progresses in a downward spiral, the incarnation becomes only a doctrine that we adhere to, and Jesus becomes nothing more than a fairytale-like figure that sits on a cloud in the heights of the heavens.
It’s hard to believe that the KC onething conference is over and another year has passed. Paco and I were walking into Bartle Hall the day before the conference started agreeing together that it had seemed like we were just there only a few months ago.
For those of you who were able to watch the onething conference via the free webcast, I hope you were blessed, encouraged, challenged, and provoked to pursue Jesus and give Him the preeminence in your life in a new way.
There were over 20,000 in attendance at this year’s conference and for many, it was a life-changing 4 days. The Lord in His kindness broke in and set many free from wrong paradigms, self-hatred, a spirit of fear, a religious spirit, depression, suicide, and anxiety, bringing joy and freedom, a greater love for the Word, and a passion for souls. Many experienced physical healing and manifestations of power and of the wine of His presence. The worship from Cory Asbury, Misty Edwards, Matt Gilman, and others was faith-filled and anointed. Our (Justin Rizzo’s team) set on Tuesday morning was great!
All of the conference teachings were knit together in a common theme, centered around the supremacy of Christ, His purposes, His desire, and His heart to heal and deliver. Wes Martin spoke on the centrality of prayer and the identity of the church as a praying people before Jesus returns. Corey Russell spoke on the passion and desire of Jesus towards us from His prayer in John 14-17, and how the knowledge of His love will stabilize our hearts in the midst of a shaking world. Misty Edwards examined the ultimate purpose of our life and powerfully explained that it must be centered around the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.