What’s in a Name?

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What’s in a name?
That which we call a rose, by any other name,
would smell as sweet.

A Sky Full of Stars. Maybe you thought of the Coldplay song, maybe you thought of Les Mis, maybe you thought of Van Gogh. That’s what came to my mind, anyway, but maybe I’m just a little too artsy-fartsy.

Whichever way, none of these was the real reason.

In Philippians 2:14-16, Paul writes:

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and pure, children of God, above reproach in the midst of a crooked and depraved generation, among whom you shine like stars in the universeholding fast to the word of life, so that on the day of Christ I will have reason to rejoice, because I did not run nor toil in vain.

The world that we live in is hard. The world that we live in is dark, cold, confused, lost, fake, empty, temporary, and unfulfilled. The world that we live in is broken. Its people are broken. Including you and me. Our world, our nation, our generation, is twisted, and depraved, and lost. And broken.

Two thousand years ago, in the midst of all this brokenness, there came a Savior. A Healer, a Light, a Leader, a spiritual Revolutionary. A God with skin on. A holy perfect being in a broken, twisted world that is falling apart, no matter what kind of cover we put on it, no matter how many lights and billboards we fill our cities with. He came into that, with a radiant, radical love that knew no boundaries.

And we killed him.

Yet, even that–even sin, even death, even that overwhelming darkness–couldn’t stop this man. He went to hell and back for his broken heart for this broken world and rose again so we could see–darkness isn’t everything. There is a victory, there is a triumph, there is something so much greater. And that is what we live for.

That’s what everyone is looking for, you know. We’re all searching for something. Maybe we’re just looking in all the wrong places.

This man’s name is Jesus, and one day, he’s coming back.

And for now? For now I’m following in his footsteps, covered in the dust from my Rabbi’s sandals.

A star, viewed in our sky, from the ground, is a tiny thing. Some you would hardly notice. But when they’re all out together–they light up the night in a blazing galaxy, a visual symphony, burning with that inner spark we see magnified a hundred times in the light of our sun.

That’s me. And that’s you, too. That’s our generation. I’m done with striving after worthless things. They’re only pacifiers–they may make a baby stop crying for food, but it doesn’t satisfy the hunger. I want to live, to truly live. And there’s only one place I know where I can find truth and life.

Together, we can light up the night.

–Bre

When Jesus Wept: Part One of Four

11.35

 

John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible. But behind those two little words, there lies a powerful theology. Here is part one of the story.

 

Lazarus laid in the bed, his sisters hovering over him. Martha, the elder, the ever-busy one, was bustling around him, trying to make him comfortable–fetching him water, another blanket. Though she knew by now–they all did–that it was pointless, she stubbornly refused to give up.

Mary was sitting by his side. No tears now. She put her hand on his beneath the sheets, but he couldn’t feel it. All he could feel was the pain, and he was ready now. Ready for it to stop. Ready to give in. Ready to surrender, to leave this broken body.

But he couldn’t yet. Jesus wasn’t here yet.

Jesus might be able to heal him. He’d done miracles before. Those who’d been blind all their lives could suddenly see. Those who’d never learned to walk were dancing in the streets. But even if he couldn’t, he had to say goodbye.

Because Jesus, to him, was more than a teacher, more than a prophet. More than a preacher, a revolutionary, even a Messiah. Jesus was a friend, and he loved him dearly.

Jesus would come. He had to come. He had to.

That was why Lazarus was holding on.

But he could feel himself slipping away. Jesus should have been here by now. The message had been sent two days ago. What if…

Lazarus’ thoughts dissolved in another round of wracking coughs. Martha ran to fetch him more water, and he didn’t have the breath to tell her not to waste the time. The light was already drawing nearer, spots dancing before his vision as his sister’s face faded.

Jesus hadn’t come.

And Lazarus was gone.

 

Out of the nothing, he heard a voice. A familiar voice, it seemed, but he couldn’t place it.

“Lazarus, come out.”

“Is that you, Jesus?” He’d come! But how…why was everything dark? What was that bright light? Why was he in a cave? And good heavens, WHAT was he WEARING??

“Lazarus.”

He stood, carefully, loosening the tight wrappings enough to walk, and moved toward the light. Blinking, he stepped into the sun.

As his eyes adjusted, he saw his sister’s teary faces, suddenly full of joy. Running toward him, they nearly knocked him over with a huge hug. “You’re back,” Martha choked. Mary was too overcome to speak.

He looked around, and saw them all, his friends, his parents, his cousins and their wives. Standing there in shock as the dead man walked out of his own tomb.

And then his eyes found Jesus.

The prophet was standing there, with red eyes and a blotchy face. His eyes glistened, and Lazarus went to him.

“You came,” he breathed.

To the Revolutionaries

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This one goes out to the world-changers,

the earth-shakers,

the custom-breakers, culture-shapers, change-makers.

This one goes out to the crazy ones,

the believing ones,

the brave ones,

the faith-filled ones.

The ones who are terrified to act

but more terrified of what it means if nobody does.

The ones who live with their eyes open and their hands free.

The ones who recognize that they’re only here once–

they only get one shot,

one chance,

one life,

one blip on the radar of time

–once, and they’re the ones

who try and make something of it.

The ones who go beyond influence

to impact.

The ones who leave their mark,

a legacy,

a torch still burning

to be carried by the next generation

of world-changers,

earth-shakers,

custom-breakers, culture-shapers, change-makers.

With one foundation forming their reputation

they go

and they live

the lives that we remember.

Together

we could be

the next generation of world-changers,

earth-shakers,

custom-breakers, culture-shapers, change-makers.

We could be

the ones that carry the torch,

ignite the flames

of change.

We could be

the generation to live,

to really live,

to live alive and thrive, not just survive.

Not looking to make it through

but to make it matter.

Not looking for my own glory, my own fame,

my own dreams, desires, wants, name.

But for something bigger, something

more.

I’m still looking out for number one

it’s just that maybe number one

has a different name than me.

His name

is Jesus.

And this December

there’s a day that we remember

not for lights,

not for food,

not for glitter and gold,

not for commercialism,

consumerism,

or commonplace contamination,

but for someone

who knew that we could never get to God,

never reach that standard of perfection,

made it so we didn’t have to–he offered me redemption.

It’s the awesome gift of grace:

we call it commonplace,

take it for granted,

because we don’t understand it,

but it comes in the shape

of a cross.

So say thanks

and start a movement

spread the blaze

there’s still time for change,

so be brave.

Change the world, shake the earth,

move a mountain if that’s what it takes

to step out in faith.

Take a risk,

take a chance,

because you only get one–chance, that is–

so make it matter, if you want to be a

world-changer,

an earth-shaker,

a custom-breaker, culture-shaper, change-maker.

The kind of revolutionary

that Jesus was. Carry the torch,

and march on,

in faith.

–Bre

A Real Kind of Faith

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According to the Voice of the Martyrs website, Iraq had 1.5 million Christians in 2003. However, that number is now down to roughly 400,000. In the last 11 years, more than two-thirds of Iraq’s Christians fled, emigrated, or were killed. This is largely due to Islamic military groups like the Islamic State, or ISIS.

Iraq is not alone. Nearly 30 other countries worldwide are religiously “restricted,” meaning that government laws restricting religious freedom lead to Christians being harassed, imprisoned, killed, or deprived of their possessions because of their witness; Christians are also unable to receive Bibles or other Christian literature. In many other places (“hostile” nations), despite government attempts to provide protection for the Christian populations, believers are routinely harassed, beaten, and persecuted by family, friends, neighbors or political groups.

In August of this year, more than 50,000 children and adults were slaughtered in Iraq and Syria because of their faith, and families were/are fleeing from the state into the mountains with nothing. It’s like a second Holocaust. And it’s a scary thought–because it’s real. In fact, it could happen to me. My brother. My sisters. My parents. The people I love, full of vibrant life–a knock on the door and they disappear.

It’s a heavy thought, but one worth considering.

How real is my faith to me? How much am I willing to give up? How serious am I about this?

Christ said that those who lose this life will gain it. He said that the world would hate us because they hated him. He said this world is not our home.

It’s time to believe that. It’s time to start living like that.

This year I’ve realized what the word believe means. It’s not a surface thing. It’s not something you just say when it comes to mind every so often. It’s something that worms its way so much deeper than that, to the very core of who you are. It starts to dwell at the heart of your subconscious, at the root of your soul, and everything you do gets filtered through it without you even realizing it.

It’s also a choice. A choice you have to make, a choice where not choosing is still a choice. You can work to develop it, to shape it, to ingrain it, to internalize it.

(5)

And I believe it. I do. With a conviction that goes deeper than words. I am convinced of a truth that surpasses time and imagination. My God is a God who is real, who is alive, who is in control and at work. Nothing can change it, stop it, block it or twist it.

So I give myself to You. Wholly and completely. Take me, make me, shake me, break me, shape me. I am yours, now and forever. Use me, God. Make me bold for You.

I believe.

–Bre

 

P.S. If you’re interested in supporting the persecuted community, you can check out the Voice of the Martyrs website at persecution.com. You can sign up for their free monthly newsletter, send letters to prisoners and to government officials in other countries, send action packs, help get Bibles into restricted nations, donate financially, and above all, pray. Please, please pray, because prayer has the power to change the world.