The Call to Follow: Revisited

You can’t live for Jesus, until you stop living for you.follow me

I think that’s the hardest aspect of the call to follow Christ. It’s the hardest lesson you learn as you “grow up”, too. In marriage, someday, I can’t be married to simply serve the needs of myself – it’s not about that – it’s about giving of myself. That’s the opposite of modern-day culture. “Take for yourself” – “store up for yourself” – are the messages you see.

You will rarely be given the advice to “die to yourself,” or to “focus more on others”, instead. Because we’ve made it all about us. And guys, I want it to be all about me. It’s so hard to say, “Okay Jesus, you can really have it all.”

And I think once we discontinue making being a Christian within The Church such a trivial, lackluster, mundane, sit-in-a-pew-and-pretend-I have-it-all-together thing, we can finally begin to grapple with the reality of our hearts, and to admit our desperate need for Jesus. Our need for Jesus to open our eyes, heal our hearts, and empower us to overcome all of that aforementioned fleshly desire and the darkness that presently rules the world.

Let’s be honest, people. Really honest. Stop pretending. Some days, you and I want to be on the throne, but let’s remember – remember the emptiness of that ‘power’ – of rebellion – and a misconstrued idea of ‘freedom’. We were not free then. We were imprisoned. Our desires and controlled and manipulated us. They took up all of our free time and twisted God-given gifts and talents into new ways of deceiving others into the same darkness.

So the next time you want to be king, remember why it is you first gave your life to The King. Then, let’s do the world a favor, the church a favor, and ourselves a favor, and live like it. Let’s live for Jesus. Let’s die to ourselves.

Instead of worrying about who’s following you on Twitter, or liking your posts on Facebook (and trust me – I’m guilty as charged and preaching so much to myself right now), let’s focus more on who we’re following. If you’re following Jesus, then it’s not about you anymore. It’s not about me. It’s all about Him. And that’s a very, very good thing.

Pearlescent Shepherds

Two white guys from Olathe, KS, a suburb within the greater Kansas City area, began making hip-hop music together a few years ago. Chris Halvorson (Hip Hop Theologian) and Jake Weakland (J-Weazy) were introduced and brought together by mutual friend, Bryce Reynolds, who deserves credit for piecing the dynamic duo that we now know as the Pearlescent Shepherds together! While their humor and desire to clown-around as often as possible may have you fooled, these two men are some of the most intelligent individuals you’ll end up meeting.

Chris, a recent graduate from Mid-American Nazarene University, studied biblical THEOLOGY, a word that scares away most amateur Christians, including myself. Jake has nearly completed an undergraduate bachelor’s degree in Relational Communication. Although, if you personally knew Jake, you’d be fully aware that he has no need for studying relationships, as he’s probably the most relational person you’ll meet. Give Jake five minutes with you, and every barrier that you may have had up will instantly be melted away by his authenticity. Then, present Chris with any questions/struggles that you are wrestling with, and he’ll be more than willing to get down in the mud and wrestle with the questions right alongside you, seeking the LORD in prayer, and digging into the Scriptures to find the most Biblical answer available.

Now, if the character of these men does not warrant that you listen to them, then let the music do the talking. Nearly four years ago, they “released” what was titled their “Daybreak:Mixtape.” Embracing their genuinely fun-loving and goofy personalities, the music was upbeat and filled with laughter, but surprisingly challenging to the listener. Then, in April, 2009, their first official album, “Click. Click. Saved.” dropped. Mix tape fans were blown away at the ridiculous legitimacy of the album, as it sought to exhort their fellow believers to realize that sin left them “Unfulfilled” and that it was time for them to embrace the “Glorious” and “Amazing” grace offered them as “Citizens” and “Children of Light.” While the last sentence was surely an attempt to incorporate as many of my favorite songs from that album as possible, it’s also extremely true.

Pause for a moment to realize that both of these men are young adults, seeking to make their way into the scary world, keep up with academic studies, work part/full-time, maintain healthy relationships (speaking of which, Chris just got engaged!), AND THEN on the side, they spend endless hours making music to glorify God! That takes a great amount of dedication, diligence, and discipline. Truly a testament to the work that the LORD has done in each of their hearts, especially over the course of the last couple years, which becomes beyond evident in their latest and greatest album, “Uprooted”.

Their main thesis for the album was that we must uproot from our lives and plant ourselves firmly in the Word of God. You can’t get a whole lot more biblical than that, can you? With humbled hearts, eyes set on Christ, and minds open to the powerful work of the Holy Spirit, they sought to encourage, empower, and entrust listeners with the message that we are to live above reproach, engage others with the Gospel, and do all we do for the glory of God, remaining firmly “Grounded” in the Bible.

It is due to the above reasons and so many more than I’ll bother to write about, that I highly endorse and promote the Pearlescent Shepherds! You will not be disappointed if you start listening to their music and staying up-to-date with both of their personal ministries. Speaking of which, Chris is currently leading a house-church named, “Lacham”, it’s Hebrew, ask him what it means and how it’s pronounced, I forget! Regardless of the house-church’s name, or meaning, the community that he’s developed with some others in Kansas City is quickly growing, seeking to make disciples, and reaching out to impact the greater KC area in amazing ways. Two hours away, in Manhattan, Jake is co-pastor of the house-church I’m gratefully a part of, named Rev79. Both men are learning to shoulder the heavy burden of leadership, driving them into deeper relationships with God, as they rely heavily on prayer to work out the difficulties of shepherding the spiritual lives of many restless college-students and young-adults. Join me in praying for these men as they continue to carry out the Great Commission, and to build up disciples that can then make other disciples, carrying on the legacy of Christ throughout every generation, until they breathe their last breath.

It is my hope and prayer that you would listen to their music, support their ministry, and encourage these brothers as you are able. May the peace of the LORD rest upon those who obediently love and serve their King. And may their music humble us all, calling us to repentance, and a deeper, more life-altering relationship with God, filled with hope and promise for the future that is to come. Let’s press into His promises together, friends!

Download their music here: http://pearlescentshepherds.bandcamp.com 

Pain

Life is easy. No one sheds a tear or has self-image issues. There isn’t any hurt or bitterness, right? Actually, that couldn’t be more WRONG! One is blessed with certain gifts when they have a relationship with Christ as their Lord and Savior. Some are gifted with evangelism; a heart that is driven by sharing the Gospel with the lost and bringing new brothers and sisters into the Kingdom of God. Others are gifted with understanding and relating to others. I believe one of my gifts is being able to understand others and lately a side effect of that has been empathy. In plain English that means I am well aware of what others are feeling, whether it is joy, sadness, fear, etc. The sad truth though is that as I’ve looked into the eyes of my friends, coworkers, and strangers, and as I’ve heard their stories the emotional quality that is most common is pain and sorrow.

 

This simple truth is plaguing my heart right now. If pain is so common and if sorrow and feelings of emptiness trouble so many of us then why do many of us pretend that everything is alright? American culture has taught us that we must have everything together. To appear broken and contrite is to lose your dignity and any chance of finding success, right? Well, that is certainly what the world has taught us.

 

Friends, I want to plea with you to change your heart on this. We do NOT have it all together, nor do we have to pretend that this world is all sunshine and rainbows. The reality is that the grass is not always greener on the other side and unfortunately there is never a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. (Sorry if I just broke the hearts of some of you who believe in fairy-tales) Real people who have real relationships and are going through real life WILL experience pain. So, with this in mind, let’s have a conversation on being hurt and broken…

 

A primary example of this that almost everyone can relate to would be the pain one feels when their parents tell them that they are disappointed in them. Within the mere seconds that those words leave the lips of one’s Mom or Dad, the heart of the child is immediately ripped to pieces. I don’t care how tough you are or how callused your heart is toward hurtful words; few words will hurt you more than these.

 

On a deeper level though; pain is more often brought to us by the terrible things that others have done to or against us. There was that one kid in elementary school that would just not let you have a good day. When I was in the third grade, I was diagnosed with Scoliosis (a curvature of the spine) and in order to correct it an orthopedic doctor prescribed a back-brace. From that day on, I was known by many of my peers as “Brace Boy”. And at the age of 21, I still have that seared into my memory. There are some days when my 8 year old sister comes home from school in tears. When I ask her what’s wrong, she explains through sobs that one of her peers told her that her dress was ugly and made her look fat…My sister is EIGHT! As the older brother and having the protective nature that I do; one can imagine how I wanted to react in that situation. With fists clenched, I reassured Brianna that she was incredibly gorgeous and created in God’s image and that she couldn’t ever be more beautiful than she already is.

 

I’ve been reading Mark Driscoll’s book, “Death by Love”, which is essentially a series of letters that Pastor Mark has written to various members of his congregation. There are FEW books that have ever elicited an emotional response from me as much as this one has. Turning the pages through the various situations some of them have been in has literally made me cry. Hearing how some of these women have been forced into sexual relationships with men they didn’t want to. Learning of the prideful arrogance of some men; reading about how a woman was unfaithful to her husband during their engagement and then didn’t tell him until after they were married. All of these stories are filled to the brim with pain. But that’s real life…

 

As I’ve studied these stories and as I’ve looked at my own life; the root of at least 80% of the pain I’ve been through is caused by sin. Sin that I’ve either committed personally or sin that others have done against me.

 

Brothers…Sisters….Friends, please turn from sin! There are so many of you that claim to be believers, yet your private life is filled to the brim with sin. Some of you spend so much time making yourself appear righteous and holy on the outside by doing all of the right things, reading all of the right books, but on the inside your heart is filled with sin! Maybe that sin is adultery of the heart. Maybe it is pride. Perhaps you hate your brother and therefore are guilty of murder but regardless your heart is sinful!

 

 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:25-28)

 

As this passage in Matthew makes crystal clear; the way that one appears on the outside is not important. It is the heart God concerns Himself with and by the heart you will be righteously judged one day. One of the most humbling realizations I’ve made is that the honest truth is that we either love sin or love God. You simply cannot love both, nor can you serve two masters.

 

This is certainly heavy stuff. It should be of no surprise if this sort of conversation makes you weak to your stomach or elicits an emotional response. In fact, my prayer as I write this is that many of you are driven to tears of repentance. I pray that the Holy Spirit convicts and reminds you of the injustice you’ve done against others and the heartbreak you’ve caused them. And I pray that the message of the Gospel and the healing that it brings is able to rebuild your hearts; that God will change hearts of stone to hearts of flesh as Ezekiel 11:19 states.

 

Family, I love you very much and am deeply aware of the real pain and suffering you are going through. I assure you that the only thing you have to hold onto is Jesus Christ. His unconditional love, overwhelming grace, and underserved mercy is the only thing that will bring your heart and spirit true healing. Only God has the power to change hearts. So pray that he changes yours my friends. I desire nothing more than to see your hearts radically transformed by the message of Jesus Christ and to one day walk with you and rejoice in the streets of Heaven. My heart simply cannot bear the thought of a single one of you being devoured by the fire of Hell. However, I love you too much to not remind you that if you do not turn from your sin and if you choose to live in disobedience to the LORD, then you WILL be subject to the righteous wrath of God.

 

Sincerely,

Justin Meyer