“Anyone contemplating the life of Jesus needs to be newly and more deeply aware every day that something scandalous has occurred: that God, in His absolute being, has resolved to manifest Himself in a human life. He must be scandalized by this, he must feel his mind reeling, the very ground giving way beneath his feet; he must at least experience that ‘ecstasy’ of non-comprehension which transported Jesus’ contemporaries (Mark 2:12; Mark 5:42; Mark 6:51).”
- Prayer by Hans Urs von Balthasar, p.159.
It’s Christmas time yet again in our world. While the rest of the world is giving gifts and taking days off from work, there is a greater invitation for us as believers in Jesus. More than gifts, vacations, and Christmas parties, we have the invitation to experience the “ecstasy of non-comprehension” as we look at the little baby lying helplessly in that foul-smelling feeding trough, knowing that we are beholding God Himself - the creator of the world and the sovereign ruler over all things.
I was talking with a friend this morning about a passage I’m sure many of us know well:
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:4-7 NKJV)
How do we “abide” or “remain” in Jesus? It’s something so much easier than we’ve perhaps believed it to be.
“Abiding” in Christ is not some ethereal, high plane of being that we ascend to after years of grueling spiritual abandonment and sacrifice. The enemy has tried to convince us otherwise, but it is not something reserved for a select few monks or nuns, nor is it something that can only be had by the “really spiritual people” through some special means of prayer.
This weekend's onething conference was held in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina. It was my first visit to the Tar Heel state. The Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area is home to 5 or 6 major college campuses, including common household names like Duke University and UNC. One of the major reasons onething wanted to come to this area was to strengthen the prayer movement on the local campuses. I'm sure there were young adults in attendance from all of the area campuses. The estimate I've heard was that somewhere around 1500 young adults were in attendance for the evening sessions!
We opened the conference on Friday night with Justin Rizzo leading worship and Corey Russell speaking. Justin led the room into God's presence through some familiar and some new songs, and most of them engaged with the Lord right from the start. Corey called the attendees into having a focus and fascination with the Eternal One, not with the temporal pleasures that defile the heart. He was used mightily by God and people were set free of their addictions, habitual sins, and demons of self-hatred and comparison.
Saturday morning's session was led by Justin and Corey again. Both the worship and the teaching were a natural follow-up to the Friday night session, and we all felt that the Lord wanted to "fill the vacuum" that was left in the hearts of the attendees the previous night. Corey's message was mainly focused on John 17:26 and the God of desire. After calling them to a higher vision the previous night, Corey spoke on the One who could bring them into the satisfaction and longing they were made for - Jesus Christ.
After returning from Egypt with just a short week and a half at home , I'll be on the road again this weekend - this time, we are heading to Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina for the last regional onething conference of 2009 before the year-end Kansas City conference at the end of December.
If you haven't seen the photos and updates yet from onething Egypt, be sure to check them out here. The Lord moved powerfully and so many hearts and lives were changed!
This weekend, Justin Rizzo and Matt Gilman will be leading worship and Corey Russell and Dwayne Roberts will be speaking. There are about 1200 people registered for the conference this weekend. If you're going to be in Raleigh/Durham at the conference, make sure you come and say hello! The conference is being held at the King's Park International Church in Durham, with sessions on Friday at 7pm and Saturday at 9am, 2pm, and 7pm.
Be watching my blog and photos page for updates from the conference. I'd really appreciate your prayers, both for the team and for the young people attending the conference. We're expecting God to do mighty things in their hearts!
Musicians are always looking for sources of inspiration for creativity in their music. In the world, creativity with music is seen as the way to obtain more money, honor, and fame. And unfortunately in the church today, creativity means much of the same. However, I believe the Lord wants to release a new level of creativity to those who call upon His name – not so that they can draw attention to themselves, but so that the music that they play will draw others into being consumed with the glory and beauty of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I believe that there is a measure of creativity that can only be touched by those that are intimate friends with their Creator.
Adam, the first man, reflected God’s creative nature in such a deep way in that He allowed him to name all of the animals. From that time forward, a bear was called “bear” and a lion was a “lion” because Adam named it in an exercise of creativity.
“Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.”
(Genesis 2:19 NKJV)
God could have named the animals and birds and every living creature Himself, but He chose to give that privilege to Adam. Adam was constantly being pushed to be creative as he dwelt in a garden with the Creator. The Lord gave Adam an opportunity to express that creativity with so much dignity in allowing him to name all of the animals.
The picture of someone living a holy life has been skewed and distorted by the devil so much that even those in the church today look at a holy lifestyle as one of boredom, drudgery, and continual frustration in the denial of our flesh. Some “holiness preachers” in their zeal for righteousness have also presented to us an angry God that sits in heaven full of bitterness and wishing that His people could finally “get it right”. Because of this perspective, we believe lies and end up running from God when we encounter our frailty instead of running to Him in the midst of it.
But Jesus calls us to a radically different approach to holiness and shows us a completely different picture of the Father that we must fill our minds and hearts with. Jesus’ own experience on the earth showed us that holiness is not a call to a life of drudgery, boredom, and frustration. He showed us over and over again that His Father is so tender with us in our weakness. He presented holiness as a call to the greatest pleasure that the human heart has ever experienced.
It is good to be back in Kansas City! Our flight home was uneventful, but on the way back several of us began to feel feverish and sick to our stomach. We probably ate something contaminated in Egypt that our Western stomachs have not acclimated to like Egyptian stomachs have. I seem to be better today after several days of fever and the toilet being my best friend, however things are still not quite right with my intestines… The doctor told me I will probably be fine but to call him back if things got worse. But so many of you have been praying, and I believe I am getting healthy again because of those prayers! Thank you, and شكرا !
I am going to miss Egypt and so many of the great people I met there. I will surely visit Egypt again one day, and I hope that many of those that I met will be able to visit the States and IHOP-KC at some point in the future.
If you attended the conference and you are reading this, be sure to comment on this page on joshuahawkins.com (for feed readers and Facebook users) and share your testimony!
Today began with a trip to several old Coptic churches in Cairo, including the first church formed by the Apostle Mark in coming to Egypt around 40AD. It’s truly amazing to be so close to some of the places where the founding fathers of our faith and even Jesus Himself were. Egypt has such a rich Christian heritage, and I am confident that the Lord is going to bring all of His promises to pass (see Isaiah 19) related to the nation!
Our next stop was at the "cave church", located in a large amphitheater carved out of a massive rock face. The story of how this church was formed is fascinating - check out this link to read more on it. The most prominent feature upon entering the area was the massive carvings on the rock, including the birth, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and second coming of Jesus (see photos page). These were all breathtaking. The church itself meets in an open-air setting and can seat approximately 20,000 people. It was beautiful.
After leaving the camp fairly early, we drove to the Monastery of St. Macarius, also in Wadi Al-Natrun. It was founded in 360 A.D. by St. Macarius the Egyptian, who was spiritual father to many monks. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this monastery is that relics of John the Baptist and Elisha were said to be found below the northern wall of the monastery’s main church during renovations in the early 1970’s. John the Baptist was the greatest man born of a woman according to Jesus, so if we did indeed see where some of his relics were held, that would be crazy. Some of the pastors here in Egypt believe that this is fact, but others aren’t sure. Either way, it was still thrilling. We were led on a tour by one older monk and got to talk to another 60-year old monk who had been living there since he was 27. Unbelievable!
After leaving the monastery, we headed to what so many foreigners think of first when they hear about Egypt - the famous Gaza Pyramids. I can’t begin to describe how massive these structures are. It’s unbelievable that these pyramids were constructed with such meticulous detail thousands of years ago. They are much bigger in person than in photos. Each stone used to build the pyramids weighed about 2.5 tons! Imagine trying to move several hundred thousand of them. Apparently it took over 10 years for the largest pyramid’s completion. And that was with thousands and thousands of workers. Wow.
Today was the last day of the conference at the venue in Wadi at am 8,000 seat soccer stadium out in the middle of the desert. And when I say desert, I mean desert. For those of you from the southwest US, It’s not quite like the Arizona desert – it’s a lot more sandy and there is much less vegetation. There’s a small lush green area in the middle of the complex, but outside of that it’s pure desert sand. It’s been a hot last several days too, with temperatures reaching near 100. Tomorrow we’ll be heading to Cairo and spending the rest of our time in Egypt there.
This morning, Justin led worship and Wes Martin spoke on the Sermon on the Mount. He spoke with great clarity and called those attending to humility, meekness, purity with their eyes and purity with their speech. He continually invited them back to beholding Jesus in the scriptures and asking the Holy Spirit for empowerment and grace as the only way forward in living a holy life. In the evening, Luke led to finish out the conference and Wes spoke on the life of John the Baptist and John the Apostle, calling the attendees to believe that God truly enjoys them like John the Baptist and John the Apostle confessed. We all felt that there was a massive breakthrough in the Spirit, and I am sure it had to do with all of your prayers.