Your faith isn’t going to go anywhere..

.. if you don’t pray.

Prayer is the lifeblood of a relationship with Jesus Christ. So if you want to go deeper in your relationship with Christ (side effects might include: joy, peace, love, skipping around in public, hope in all situations, self-knowledge, generosity, courage, and salvation and eternal life), then you can’t forget this essential step.

I especially wanted to share this with you because I think that I’ve been a little lazy with my prayer lately, and with that I’ve felt like I’ve fallen a little from Jesus. That time of meditation, contemplation, and silence is perfect for calming down a busy day and keeping things in perspective, and it keeps us in touch. Just like not talking to a good friend in a while, it makes us uneasy and insecure about our friendship- and with Jesus it’s the same way.

Put in the time. You’ll thank yourself later.

On Jesus’ Love For Us

I was feeling a little out of touch with the Big Man, so I threw up a prayer.. “God, please remind me of your great love for me and us all.” Well, just a few moments later my thoughts started drifting..

I thought about a situation where someone had a bad heart and was going to die without a heart transplant. I had to ask myself.. if someone I loved needed a heart, would I give them mine? I would surely give my child my heart, my life, right? I would surely give my life for my family or close friends, right?

What a tough situation. I was dwelling on it and really thinking, would I give my life for a loved one?

I think so. I hope so. I pray that if I ever am in that situation, I would have the strength, courage, and love to do that.

(Tangent paragraph alert!) It would be crazy, I would literally be giving away my life for another. For most atheists or agnostics that would probably be seen as a “waste.” They’d probably say that sure, do what you want, but you don’t have an obligation to be hero or anything. The thing about Jesus and Christianity is that, like a good parent or friend, Jesus challenges us to be the best that we can possibly be, no matter what the sacrifice might be. The ultimate good isn’t pleasure or personal gain but true love.

But what about a situation where I was in the position to offer my heart for someone that I had never known, or even to someone who was mean to me? Would I do it then? Would you do it then?

All of a sudden it clicked. I realized the connection: Jesus is like our “heart donor.” Jesus Christ, God, gave His life for us while we were sinners. While we had wronged Him. While we had turned from Him. Despite all of this, His love for us prevailed.

“But God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” -Rom 5:8

I don’t know if I would be strong enough to give my life for someone who hurt me in the same way that we all hurt Jesus. But He did it anyways. Talk about love. Talk about courage. Talk about strength. Now that’s a hero.

Imagine that you were the recipient of someone you don’t know’s heart. They gave their life for you. Wouldn’t you live life with purpose?! Wouldn’t you want to honor your hero and savior in everything that you do?! Wouldn’t you want to find out more about him or her?!

This all was going through my head, the Spirit sure was working. And wow, to think that I wouldn’t have the life that I have without that perfect sacrifice. To think that I owe everything that I am to Christ. That’s motivation. Jesus is our “heart donor,” the one who gave His life so that we could live.

“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” -John 10:11

Beauty Will Change the World

15 years.

That’s how long it’s been since a Christian artist has topped the Billboard top 200. Tobymac is there right now.

It only gets better. The groundbreaking leader in Christian Hip Hop, Lecrae, saw his album Gravity top the itunes charts this week. Will the two artists swap the #1 spot on Billboard next week? It could be another first, in probably more than 15 years. (Edit 9/14/12: Gravity ended up #3 on Billboard overall, #1 for rap)

The significance? The message of the Gospel is being proclaimed anew to the masses through these two talented artists. Lecrae and Tobymac don’t hold back, they rep Jesus in their music.

So that’s got me pumped. But why are they having success? Despite their great message, most people don’t buy music strictly for the message. If so, America’s waiting on Cardinal Dolan and Rick Warren‘s new albums..

People buy music for the MUSIC. That’s how Lecrae and Tobymac got their names out there, by producing amazing music. They are using their talents to the best of their ability, and they aren’t leaving their faith back at home, either. Their music is the full package.

For some reason, Christians seem to have shied away from the public eye. There’s wayyy too many Christians for this to be acceptable. God calls us all to be light in the world. Let’s renew the culture! This generation right now is an “anointed generation” because our culture has lost the faith and we are the remnant left to show the rest of the world that the Gospel is true and Jesus is still King. We are called to do more than just survive: we are called to thrive.

“I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter” – Matthew 25:26

A taste of what I’m talking about, from Lecrae’s new ablum: “Walk with Me (ft. Novel)”

We have to take St. Paul’s advice to heart, as he gave to the Corinthians:

“Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew to win over Jews; to those under the law I became like one under the law- though I myself am not under the law- to win over those under the law. To those outside the law I became like one outside the law- though I am not outside God’s law but within the law of Christ- to win over those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some. All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in in.” – 1 Corinthians 10:19-23

See his point? He’s saying that we should reach out to others to share the gospel with them on their own terms. They’re the home team, we’re the away team. And do it in an attractive matter. Be good at what they like (as long as it’s not sinful), be interested in them, connect with them.

That’s what I love about Lecrae’s ministry and message so much. He’s taking the message straight to the mainstream Hip Hop culture. You can’t do that with lame beats and cheesy rhymes. You have to authentically be Hip Hop to reach them. You have to make beautiful music.

Apply this to yourself. Most of us aren’t going to be topping the Billboards anytime soon, but we can spread the message by using whatever talents we have to make the Gospel a beautiful truth and lifestyle. Beauty is attractive. Love is attractive. Authenticity is attractive. Share it with the world, because merely staying around in “Christian circles” isn’t going to make the impact that God wants us to make.

“The Church is Behind the Times”

What a compliment.

People love to say that the Church is “behind the times,” “clueless,” and “traditional to a fault.” People complain that the Church never changes anything. Sometimes they even get pretty mad, as if the Church is holding them back from happiness. Heck, sometimes it’s even someone like Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini who voices these opinions. Now, his quotes might have been taken out of context, but I have a few thoughts..

Dear non-Christians, we are only “behind the times” because we believe in Jesus Christ and what He taught and we will continue to follow his teachings.

Dear Christians, beware the temptation to adhere to the norms of the world. Check out the words of our Lord:

“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word that I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” – Jesus in John 15:18-20

Is the goal of the Church to do whatever popular culture thinks is appropriate? Is the goal of the Church to give humanity the most freedom and pleasure in this world?

Nope.

The goal of the Church is call humanity to lives of holiness, to be all that God created us to be. The Church’s job is to protect the teachings of Jesus, to warn the world when they are straying from the ways of the Lord. The Church has the end of all things in mind, so sometimes Her decisions might not make sense right here, right now, but in the eyes of eternity, the Church -guided by the Holy Spirit- will continue to be a light in the world for all to see.

Cardinal Napier of Durban, South Africa: “The Church is behind the times because the world is so far ahead in terms of shutting out God & his law. Only surprise is number of “years behind the times”. Like Jesus, Catholic Church has always been behind the times. 2000 years more like it!”