03 July 2008

God Values the Journey. What King David can teach us about the nature of God



This is a re-post of one of the blogs that was most rewarding for me to write. I still find myself working and wrestling through “the journey”.

Many landmark, amazing, incredible things have changed since I wrote this last summer. Jesus has been rocking my world! Most importantly, I am blessed, overjoyed and amazed by the marriage to my best friend and soul mate (who has the coolest name too) Jill Still. I’ve written countless other times about what the true, deep, soulful love has done to my life, hope, faith…and even understanding of and relationship to, God’s love.

I am blessed to know and live into a gigantic part of my calling as a Dad and step-Dad! I am so in love with the opportunity to love and lead our five little angels! It is absolutely the greatest thing imaginable.

I am no longer the dead-broke entrepreneur with no income or hope for financial upside. By the grace of God, I am in a pretty cool role at Raytheon. I now remain as founding-director at Wishy.com, and keep a bit of a stake in the company that I pray so strongly takes-off under the execution and leadership of Deano. Now I manage contracts for cool military technology at Raytheon. Again, by God’s total blessing, I’m well compensated, and while we are definitely dead-broke and barely keeping “altitude”, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We’re trying to be obedient to God’s directions financially, and pray that the long, long journey back to financial solvency can be sanctifying and rewarding as we go through it together.

I am in a totally and completely blessed emotional place as we hit the midpoint of 2008. As Jill well knows, I am not an easy person to go through life with. While I am probably the most emotionally available husband, and live and love with my heart on my sleeve, I am (obviously) very emotional. I ache, I mourn, I lament. I cheer. I love. I love. I anger. I hurt. I despair…and through it all, I am learning to be as faithful as possible to my role as leader in the home, by the striking the difficult balance between humble servitude, gentle teacher, strong correction guy, coach, encourager, and always the loving, affectionate praying husband and Daddy. Whoa, is it hard! I can only do this by the strength and grace of God. But that all is a blog for another day!

I want share what I wrote last year about David and the perspective through which we can see our own lives.



This year, and reaching back by extension to much of last year, has been the most difficult, challenging, fulfilling, testing, inspiring, heart-breaking and invigorating of my entire life. It has been one of the years where those further detached from me feel I’ve been through hell and am not “happy”, being beat up by circumstances and trial. That’s somewhat true (anyone that laughs as much as I do, does *not* have a happiness deficiency). However, it has also been one of those years that those closest to my life—my small group, Deano, Alex, Grant, Pastor Keenan, my Mom & Dad and few others as God brought us in & out of each other’s lives and dialogue—have also seen incredible emotional highs, not in reaction to circumstances, but in celebration of God’s strength, redeeming power, faithfulness and powerful grace. This has also been true.

So, where to begin? Let me turn to the lifeblood of the little understanding I’m granted within this hyper-curious intellect of mine: Scripture.

Matthew 6: 33-34

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Mark 1: 11-13

11 And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." 12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, 13 and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

These two scriptures I believe to be offer an incredible framework for understanding my recent walk with Christ, as well as providing a model for a bit of analysis, for the sake of continual growth. I will explain further in parts two and three.

But, for PART ONE, first we are going to consider 1 Samuel 16 through 2 Samuel 5

36 chapters in the Bible, covering twenty-some years. David was the youngest son of Jesse when called from the fields and anointed to be King of Israel by Samuel. (I don’t know how young, but given that he was yet pretty small when he kicked Goliath’s arse, I think we can presume he was no older than 10, 12 at the most.)

So, why are these chapters important?

Well, first of all, David is said to be a man after God’s own heart. God clearly does bestow favor upon those that seek Him in the manner that we were created (in His image). David got it. We men should try to get David. We NEED to try to be like David

To me the chapters hold incredible importance because they detail the journey of into King for David. It cannot be over-emphasized; THE JOURNEY into Kingship. “David was 30 years old, he reigned for 40 years and he did so in the following locations. Yada, yada, yada.”

Wow. And there in 2 Samuel 5: 4 you have the boldest declaration by our Lord of how deeply He values the process in life. The Journey! 36 chapters detailing a life of battles, trial, torment, victory, struggle, fleeing, lamentations and praises of David before ever becoming King. Then 2 Samuel closes with another 19 Chapters detailing the glory, fall, sorrow and praise of David as King, but the heavy-hitting truth to me was that so much weight was cast upon the journey into Kingship of a boy that had been anointed decades earlier!

(This is perfectly captured by New Life Church associate pastor Rob Brendle in “In the Meantime”, available on Amazon Rob's Book Here)

Whoa. I don’t know about you guys, but I was never pulled from the field and anointed with oils by Ronald Reagan, nor George Bush 41 for that matter; yet I have felt—I do feel—a calling, a purpose, a grandiose mission in life, which was due to unfold.

All of us men do.

It is authored there by the Holy Spirit and it stirs inside of us when we dare dream those things that a life of “the normalization of assimilation” has stripped away from our unique dreams, desires and callings that are scripted to be perfectly refined by our Lord, using our blessings and talents for His glory.

That’s a long, run-on sentence way of acknowledging that we are not the sole authors of our dreams. And that our dreams and the intrinsic adventure and required belief-in-self are REPRESSED by the social constructs (the world) in which we conform to, when we’re not “seeking first, the Kingdom of God”.

Yet, even after reading Rob’s book, I would still let impatience (inherently distrust of God’s will in my life) take over as I just.could.not.sit.still.and.wait.

How God? How am I best to wait on your timing? I just feel so convicted and strangely, strengthened by this example of David’s life.

I mean seriously, just how short-sighted and weak is it of me to feel so restless and lost in my own life’s desert, when compared to what David went through?

“God, here I am! With all the food I can eat, so that I’ve actually gained weight. I’m living by the beach in Santa Monica…statistically-speaking I am among the wealthiest, healthiest and safest 1% of people to ever walk this earth…whoa-is-me, God….boo-hoo…I am Jared, and I am broke and a not-so-starving entrepreneur…and here I am, here I am, God, where are you??”

Yeah, ridiculous.

Now, there’s no doubt that the amount of spiritual torment and emotional trial I have been through in this past year has been real. And it has been real hard. But I, like so many of us, need a freaking reality check sometimes, and for me, I found that in David.

Hurting. Lost. Failing with the company? In despair. Sinful. Tired. Exhausted. Broke (as if I had forgotten the level of impoverishment in India I saw in Feb). In debt (as if worrying about it all was doing any good anyways), and under attack.”

Yeah, in reflection, I’m reminded of how relative life and relationships just really are. Whereas, my relative pain, struggle and turmoil was big-time to me, I will always count myself among the most blessed people on the planet.

But what I felt I was going through was my own Psalm 55. And it was new. Raw. Rough. I’ve been through a combat deployment and have been through divorce. And you know what, I would have traded being under fire throughout my tour in Iraq, traveling the roads in our “soft” SUV’s for parts of this year, in a heartbeat. This year was that tough.

To me, war is the natural romantic, intrinsically male “battle to fight” that we all search for (well, at least those of us who have not been overly feminized by “sensitive Christian man” movement.) You must first be a MAN after God’s own heart, as He designed you, before attaining true sensitivity and righteousness. Love Jesus, take the lead, lay down your life for your wife and kids, be emotionally courageous, not constipated.) Sorry for the language and the divergence. Let’s get back to David….

If David was a bit more Jared, we would have had Psalms that sounded more like:

“Really Lord? Freaking REALLY?? Do ye not the oil on the forehead, remembereth?”

“Lord I didn’t tell you I wanted to be King of Israel, you pulled me out of the fields and said, ‘Yep. He’s the one. Bam! Oil. Head.’ Rememberth ye, O Lord?”

“Lord, my God, savior of my soul, if your anointing leadeth one to live and hide in caves, chased to be killed like a wild dog, I would hate to fall out of your favor! Jeesh….”

“O Lord, just HOW busy are you up there that you seem to have lost track of YOUR OWN plan for my life?”

“Remembereth, ye O Lord?? Field. Oil. Head. Fighting big guys, slaying dirty Philistines….and now this?? I just pretended to be FREAKING PSYCHO to save my life! And oh yeah, still wandering around in ENEMY LAND!”

But thankfully, David was not so Jared-like, and its David’s warrior-of-a-life, that Jared now completely looks to live into.

So, I look to the actual construct of the books of Samuel to a clue into God’s desire for my own life; 36 chapters devoted to a 20-year process of becoming King, one verse about actually arriving at King, and then another 19 chapters about the process of being King.

This year has been the most purposeful in my life, as I have had each and every “strength” I counted my own, broken down completely and built back up by faith alone. No. Honestly. I used to think that some of the things I heard from Ted Haggard, Mark Brewer, Rob Brendle and others, were just too “Christianese” to resonate…that it was hyperbole of the faith and I couldn’t quite grasp. Now I get it. Honestly my friends, if you want to truly know what it is like to be humbled—just ask. God will lovingly, but brutally and systematically break down every construct of strength that you have pridefully erected in reaction to the world’s pressure on you. And it won’t feel so great….but it will be the best process of your life. The model can be seen in our own physiology too; just think about what lifting weights is to your body—the process of tearing, literally tearing down muscle, to refine it and build it back up, strengthened and with rest, invigorated in serving its unique purpose on your body (such as the delts and tris for breaking my stupid phone, if it doesn’t stop blacking-out on me.)

Cool. I get it. God values the journey!

…now Dear God, please strengthen me in actually LIVING INTO that truth for my own life. Patience in your perfect timing. Celebration and praise in the perfect refinement (no matter how hard core) you must exact in my life…and thank you God for letting me come to you, letting me walk with the mighty sword and hand of your Son Jesus...and for picking me and the sword up when I go through life falling all over myself. May I one day grow into the armor befitting of the righteous King David! Amen!

The Warrior's Journey (Poem)

He stands in triumph looking down across the vast and expansive valleys lit with dawn's first kiss

The iridescent illumination of undisturbed path along the ridge testifies to his trail-setting march

The journey burnt the lungs of his soul. Consuming the mind with its ambush of fire.

The pain of the ascent debilitating, exploited and concentrated. Inviting the probing tacticians lurking in wait, stalking The Way, seeking to consume his eternal light in hopeless abyss.

Doubting sentinels crushed amber ends of their smokes into the dirt on his grave. Organic. Buried alive, in heart only. Hope crucified. The sinister soil feeding parasitically off of the life of a dream dared to be dreamt.

The doubt assimilated with the soul, traveling in stealth, intravenously.

The siren beckons, coercing the battle to rise. Pursue.

The temptation moved slithering across the path seemingly almost in cadence with his march. As the sky darkened, the liar's voice sought to marginalize the journey, pleading for a settlement. An accord shy of the heart's summit.

Lies hammer the armor, storm after storm, causing the soul to stir with vengeful aggression

The woman seductively beckons his heart just to the edge of the path ahead

The sword had to drawn, unsheathed as insolence feeds a holy fire. It is a time to relish the brutal, unflinching cold execution. Put to death are wretched demons of opposition. Cold steel lumbered through contorted flesh.

And he kneels, laboring again over the blood enveloping the liar's ground. The soul of the warrior is in communion with the one who always will be. Sanctification. Kneeling prayer. Exaltation.

The sun races, plummeting westward, as he is ushered with a youthful vigor by the spirit of David, King of Israel, late afternoon rays lighting the path at his feet.

She emerges from his side along the ridge, having caressed his shoulder, and made light his soles. Her succulent kiss awakens.

The sword is emphatically plunged into the earth, as the sun sets behind the imposing range of great mountains--battle peaks and rumbling valleys--of the future that lie ahead.

Jared L. Still 26 May 2007

02 July 2008

Wrong about Mark Driscoll

I wrote this in response to Rhett Smith's blog-post, titled "Does Mark Driscoll Promote a Mysogynistic and Violent Christianity?". By all of the accounts of our mutual friends, Rhett is a great guy, that did an amazing job running an awesome college ministry at Bel Air Pres, in Los Angeles (my former Church) Rhett's also someone whom I hope to call my friend when he and his wife (finally) move to Dallas, TX! But I passionately disagree with him on this question.

The text of my reply: What do you think?

I feel this is completely unfair and a mischaracterization. What is your basis for the claim that Driscoll supports or perpetuates a Mysogynistic and Violent Christianity?

I've listened to almost every sermon of Driscoll's at Mars Hill over the past two years, and can say with all honesty, I have never heard anything that is remotely akin to such a claim. Having listened to his whole teaching ministry for nearly two years, I can tell you a lot about the guy, his heart, ministry and beliefs…and they’re anything but violent and misogynistic.

Now I have heard Mark make sarcastic, ironic, cutting & jabbing statements that attack & deconstruct the feminized, responsibility-fearing young men (among others) that he hopes to reach & convict. It's certainly fair to take issue with his style or effectiveness, if that's Wess or Haden's belief. But to apply a sort of ‘hermeneutic trajectory’ to his satire and biting statements, leading to misogynistic, or violent is unfair and reckless. All you have to do is listen to the man's sermons and theological series to "get" his heart and theological beliefs.

Now, listening to his teaching you will also learn a lot about his background and upbringing that created the personality that loves UFC, bacon and guns. The guy’s background is one of violence, street-fights and family alcoholism and if your listen fairly and with integrity to his teaching, a listener would ‘get that’. Sorry if this offends, but I count him as a ‘man’s man’. And if you ask those that know my heart (or ask my beautiful wife, five daughters and Mom), you would know that any man I would bestow that title on, I would do so not because of some redneck aggression-prone simplistic stereotype, but because week after week he unabashedly preaches repentance, substitutionary atonement, men taking responsibility, serving love for wife and family, being emotionally available and serving towards your wife, respecting girls, women, marriage, celebrating Biblical sexuality and is unafraid to defend and celebrate masculinity.

Sure, there are plenty of missteps and misquotes that have undoubtedly aided his critics. But I have to honestly submit, Rhett, week-after-week, I laugh at the shots he takes and while, I know it will offend some, I never see the big deal. Along with an intellectually honest search through all of his material and teachings, you will also find there are a multitude of sermons & statements out there in which he humbly apologizes, back-tracks, or even talks about John Piper (a man he counts as a dear friend) holding him to account for using "shock-jock humor".

Without a doubt, if the shoot-first, ask questions later, critics would listen consistently to the messages from Mars Hill, you will hear Mark hit the same drum beat of imploring men to grow-up, keep their pants on, respect and honor women, love their wives, serve their wives, love their kids, provide for their family. Be a leader. Often in story of his own relationship with his wife and children as the "cuddle dad" and "faithful, serving husband" become evident and the example of what his faith looks like at home. I would suggest listening to him preach through the weight of “loving his wife as Christ loves the Church” to have a more intellectually honest basis for understanding where Driscoll comes down on Biblical husbandry.

As far as the larger, underlying detraction in Wess, Haden (and perhaps your) post(s), about a concern or discontent with ministries or pastors that seek to really serve men…I totally and completely “get” where Mark Driscoll is coming from, and who he’s talking to. I fully believe that true, Biblical manhood is scarce in our culture. I feel it’s religiously (pun intended) under attack. And it is as epidemic within our culture. It’s actually going to be the purpose and premise of the book I am setting out to write. I really feely that men need a clear picture, definition, defense and roadmap to Biblical masculinity. Men must be held to account for the miserable state of marriage in our culture. For the rampant, debt-laden, financial messes in our country. For the broken homes, incarceration rates and failing Churches. And for the 65% of men in the Church that are addicted to porn. It’s cataclysmic. It’s a tragedy of Biblical proportions (again, pun intended). And you don’t solve it by everyone talking through their feelings, and packaging the Gospel as a way to ‘feel better’ about everything in your life. (Clearly that’s a whole separate discussion).

I’ve never heard Driscoll try to re-package Jesus or the Gospel to ‘create or reinforce his worldview…or serve the other world in which he lives’. I would challenge anyone to go through his sermons and point out where he’s not faithful to scriptures. I have heard him deliver the gospel for years with a style, tone and approach that is, well, just plain type-A masculine. He’s in your face. He preaches election, repentance and the depravity of man. He illustrates the whole nature of God, to include God’s wrath, by preaching exegetically through scripture. God gets pissed off sometimes, and so does Mark. Jesus does in fact come back with a tattoo in the book of Revelation. But that’s beside the point…I feel that it’s pretty easy to understand that Mark delivers lines like that to illustrate a point. It’s a joking line, meant to get a laugh (and it does every time I’ve heard him deliver it). As a Calvanist, he doesn’t even believe that he had a choice to worship Jesus—limp-wristed hippie, or not. It’s just meant to be funny. I really don’t get the offense that’s taken by the things that he says, at times. (Unless I were Mormon, I’d be pretty pissed to hear him say that my religion was deception of demons and that I was ‘riding my bicycle to hell’). I would also caution taking judgment of him, his ministry and theology by the handful of charged statements, out of context…less we and our lives also be judged by the same. I’m just sayin….

We must insist upon real, Biblical leadership from our men. And while his style and delivery is bound to always piss some people off, Mark Driscoll does nothing less than exhibit a commitment to scripture through exegetical teaching. I truly feel that week after week, he faithfully unpacks a literal interpretation of scripture in ways that are delivered in plain English, through examples that are practical and relevant (if they may hurt feelings) with good old, simple humor, sarcasm and irony.