“Stop clinging to the cross”

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Ok, So before you start calling me a heretic or begin questioning my beliefs let me explain…

I had a conversation today with a old friend regarding my last year and reconnecting with life. My friend is not a believer and I love him dearly. Essentially, he like many, question the proof of God but like the idea of a god or gods. He questions the totality of Grace through Christ but rather understands and accepts the concept of Karma. He struggles with the infallible truths of the Bible but looks at it as well written stories full of life principles. My friend is well read, has lived around the world and experience most of the top worlds religions first hand through their followers. So there’s his back story.

Essentially the conversation landed where he has such a hard time with Christians due to their lack of lifestyle evidences that our God is real. Statments such as “If Christians truly believed what they preached there would be no more wars, poverty, genocides or starvation and the world would be a better place.”

As I sat there and started walking through my experiences, my convictions and my own theologies with Him I said this. “Listen, we aren’t perfect, no one is. No one was. Except Christ who came to earth, being fully man and fully God, perfect and blameless and paid the ultimate sacrifice on the cross for our sins and then rose from the dead to conquer death once and for all. This redeems and sanctifies us to God.”

I thought to myself, “Way to go man! Preach that Gospel 101! This guy’s going to know Jesus!”

Then he came back so quick and said, “Oh you Christians and your cross… Stop clinging to the cross and start doing something. I’ll believe your Jesus when I see his followers act like him.”

I didn’t know what to say. It was like I was just slapped in the face.

Truth is, I felt convicted. I felt shut down. I thought that my answer would have had a completely different outcome. I thought this guy was going to join me 3 pew in on the left this sunday morning. Or at very best, agree to disagree.

Nope. I was wrong. Dead wrong.

I left that conversation with more to chew on. I began to pray and checking out my own life. As I thought about what he said, I felt this new desire well up within me to pursue and dig into the idea that for so long us Christians have been getting away with so much because frankly we know that the cross will always be there to come back to. We stop worrying about how our words, actions and life choices effect not only those around us but the worlds in which we live.

I read this afternoon a few passages as I was working through this. I started reading John 15, which is one of my all time favorite chapters in the bible. John lays it out.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunesso that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

He goes on in verse 14…

14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

It hit me once again, like a shot right between the eyes. Grace wasn’t given to us so that we can barely make it in this life. We as believers are not called to grovel and beg and plea Christ for forgiveness so that one day, hopefully, we can barely crawl into heaven. We no longer have to beat ourselves up at the foot of the cross every time we sin. Why? Because God no longer see us as sinners, but Saints!

My friend David put it this way the other week, “After being soaked in the blood, referring to myself as anything less than perfect is diminishing Jesus, Himself. I dare not. The doubt ends. Fear & insecurity is dead.” I need to daily remind myself of the various verses in the New Testament that calls us as redeemed followers of Christ that our old sinful nature is put to death and that our new nature is pure in the sight of God. This is who I am. This is the identity I am to live out of. This is the identity of Christ.

I know this last year changed so much. My life, my love, my worship and my theology has drastically been affected. What I do know is that God wants disciples, not servants – He wants friends, not slaves – passion, not apathy. There is a reason why in Romans 8 he calls believers co-heirs with Christ and children of God and says that we are to refer to him as Abba Father, which translates “Daddy God”. I know my “Daddy” does not ever want His kid to “barely make ends meet”.  I know my Father’s heart is not towards guilt, fear or shame but towards love, hope and joy. And knowing the Fathers heart only deepens when we press into these truths.

Only when this is our foundation can we begin to walk truly like Christ. To only do what the Father is doing and only say what the Father is saying.

This is the answer for my friend. This I believe is the answer that will change everything.

Much Love.

M

Burning Season.

ImageThese past few days all I’ve had on my mind is fire. Not that I’m a pyromaniac or an up and coming arson. But fire as in passion, hunger and desire.

Since being back into Canada now for about 2 weeks one of the biggest themes that I’ve recognized is a lack of passion and drive. Now comparing Canada to the US is like comparing apples to oranges, sure they are both round fruit, but only one goes in my beer and the other gets me free health care.

Since being home, I’ve had dozens of conversations and realizing more and more how hungry people are for something that has life, power and a purpose. So many christian friends, leaders and the churches I know have come to this place where they are in overdrive and the cruise control has just been left on for a little too long. Its not that its wrong. Not at all! But just because its right doesn’t make it best. Where is the down shifts in our faith, where is the power of what we believe? Simply put, we’ve been called to drive Tanks and not a Prius. (no this is not a reference to Mark Driscoll’s ridiculousness)

It saddens me that church strategies and systems have replaced the commission of the the church. When did the shift happen that the church is no longer a beacon of hope and love for the lost and more of a social club striving to sustain and keep the doors open? Don’t get me wrong, we have to have the strategic conversations but 95% of the issues/trends we see in the modern westernized church wouldn’t be issues if church leadership would stare at the mandate of the Church living in Kingdom principles. Preaching the gospel. The sending out of disciples. Healing the sick. Loving the unlovable.Living and operating by faith and not formulas.

We need to set loose our leaders to have the freedom to follow the call of God to explore, to fail and to break free of the unspoken boundaries that are placed on them by us, their followers. We need them to focus on the building up of the saints to be more than thermometers when they walk into our sanctuaries but rather be thermostats. To be able to walk into the darkness and tell the darkness to leave before even turning on a light.

 Where are our Davids, Stephens, our Peters and our Pauls who violently held their ground crying out “God, I will not leave this place until you show up!” People want to follow something worth following. People want to give generously to something worth giving to. People want to surrender to authority who is more concerned with hosting the presence of God over hosting sterile church bake sales.

Its time to rekindle the fire. Its time to allow our hunger to birth more hunger. Passion to build more passion. To allow God to be God and to walk into the unknown knowing that the sovereignty of God is so much greater than we can ever know or imagine.

Lets get people going!

M

Establishing a Legacy. King David.

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I’ve been spending a lot of time recently in the Old Testament, reading up on history of God’s relationship with His people. Reading through some of the old laws that the Hebrew people followed almost militantly, but with great honor and diligence towards their God.

I started reading excerpts of the Prophets who spent much of their lives in solitude to hear the voice of the Lord for a Nation under so much turmoil and transition. I read the promises of God to His people and continue to read out the history on how not once was one of these promises forgotten.

And then I read about the Hero’s of old. The stories that birthed so many epic dreams as a child of Noah building an ark and watching as the animals simply came to him, Daniel and the Lions den, Moses freeing the Hebrews, Hosea called to Love especially when it hurts to do so. Stories of Samson, Jacob, Joseph and Samuel.

But none of these stories in my opinion carry as much weight for me as the story of David.

The boy, who in a simple act of feeding his brothers in war, becomes a hero for standing up to a giant. A musician who through the sound of his voice and the skills of his hands calms the demons of his King. A worshipper, who’s deep seated passion for the Lord brings favor and anointing to which results in the envy of many and God naming him “A man after My own heart”. A outlaw, who running away from the King, chooses to honor his enemy and allow God to follow through with His promises. A brother, who knew how to love the unlovable, who turns out to be his brothers in arms and the mightiest of men. A King, who rules justly and establishes the Nation of God under the sole purpose of worshiping the Lord. And a Father, who trains up his son to understand the fullness of what it means to be a great king and still a better worshiper.

I opened my bible again to 1 Chronicles 29 and love how the book concludes on Davids life essentially with a prayer as he sets up his son to be king and to build the temple.

10 David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,

“Praise be to you, Lord,
the God of our father Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.
12 Wealth and honor come from you;
you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.
13 Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name.

A few verses later he so beautifully hands the crown over to his son Solomon, blessing his reign over Israel and the Lord favored Solomon higher than any other King.

For myself, I read this and I just see the power in living life and loving well, it was the legacy that David left his son Solomon. David all in all, was really nothing special to the naked eye, but from the very beginning as a boy tending his sheep, he was focused on keeping the main thing the main thing. He knew the importance of worship and he knew the importance of honor. And these were the cornerstones of his life even to the very end. And the greatest gift a Father can give is the gift of Identity. David knew who his Heavenly Father was and had such an intimate relationship with Him that Solomon from a young boy knew that he was his Fathers son. And from this Identity he walked into his own legacy of being the greatest King Israel has ever know.

As I sit and think about all of this, I can only thank the Lord that my earthly father carries some of the same passions for legacy, honor and love like David. My earthly father is still one of my greatest hero’s. And as Fathers Day approaches, I can only scratch the surface to thank him for the legacy he is leaving and the mark that he is forever putting on our family. I am eternally grateful for that man. And am so honored to be named after him.

Marshall Wayne Heppner.

I am my Fathers Son. Just as the story of David establishes this Identity with our Heavenly Father, I get the privileged of walking this legacy out with my earthly father as well.

Much Love.

M

Humility

Humility

“Humility is the God given self assurance that eliminates the need to prove the worth of who you are and the rightness of what you do… Its not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less…”

From Glory to Glory

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Photo Cred: Kenyon Reed

 

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 

2 Corinthians 3:18

So its Saturday.

The day after graduation.

I got home in the wee hours of the morning last night. I woke up closer to noon than I ever wanted… And it hit me.

Today’s the first day of a new season.

The weightiness of this is so per-found for me because I sit here and I write, I read, and I reflect on the year and most importantly always walking forward into the vast unknown of what tomorrow may bring.

But.

I walk with confidence of knowing who I am and who God is.

I walk with peace, that peace that surpasses my understanding.

I walk with power, the power to bring healing and restoration, love and laughter to those in my life.

And I walk with God. Knowing that He’s got me.

Now, as I walk into this new season and allow the pains of heartache and goodbyes, and the excitement and joys of transition work through in the next few days, I know that I am only walking into the next best year(s) of my life.

God,

You are always so good. So faithful. And Your love runs deep. I am forever grateful for the family and friends, mothers and fathers, pastors and leaders You have put into my life this past year. The people that I will forever have and hold my heart. I thank you for how you redeem so much of what used to be broken and skewed. I thank you for how beautifully You shown me not only who You are but who I am. I am Your Son, Your King, Your favorite, I walk with Your authority and power and I release Your glory everywhere I walk. And when I walk into the darkest of rooms, the light within me tells the darkness to leave before I ever flick on the light. I am Yours forever and love You with all that I am.

-M