I had the opportunity to meet Keith Robinson, the founder of Emerge Ministries (http://emergexperience.com/). We sat around a fire at a mutual friend’s house and I got the chance to hear more of Keith’s story and his passion for doing what he does.
Keith’s story is very compelling, there’s no doubt. He tells of the moment when he wanted to end it all and how God sent a woman to his door to save him. Gun to the temple, the doorbell rang; Keith opened the door and was greeted by an older lady who wanted to tell him that God loved him. Even though he was on house arrest at the time—and just 17 years old—she still entered his home, prayed for him, and invited him to church. Perhaps for the first time, Keith was introduced to unconditional love. There is so much more to the story (like how Keith eventually married that woman’s daughter!), but I’ll let him tell you.
Emerge Experience is about changing lives and infusing the next generation with hope. EE goes into public high schools across the country and does a top notch assembly. Schools are required to have at least one motivational assembly per year. EE knows all of the policies, legal issues, and procedures, on how to bring them to your school. They give a non-religious motivational program at school and then invite the students to another venue later in the week to hear their faith story. Keith says something non-threatening like, “If you guys want to hear a little more about my faith story, I’d love to share it with you on Friday night…” Typically, strategies like this do not yield much return, but EE regularly sees well over 50 percent of the students return to hear the faith story. That’s how compelling Keith and EE are when they are in the schools.
Also, EE partners with the band Abandon, which is a hugely popular “cross-over” band, able to do both secular and Christian venues. The students love getting to hear a concert from Abandon.
I was very impressed by Keith’s humility. He wants nothing more than to reach students with hope and serve God with all of his heart. You can feel that about him. He doesn’t have an agenda, other than that of love, and isn’t in it to make money (I saw his car!). Bearing only scars from the past and overwhelming-saving-grace, Keith uses his one life in the best way he knows how.
I rarely blog like a commercial (okay, I have never done this before!), but I urge you to find a way to get Keith and EE to your local high school. EE knows their stuff and can help you make it happen. You won’t regret doing so.
Here’s a video of Keith that is targeted to school administrations:
I’ve got an Ex. A big Ex, actually. You probably do, too. Big Ex haunts us everyday, barely giving us room to breathe. Our Big Ex puts relentless pressure on us; and unless we “put out,” then we’re nobody. We must play the role, perform, and do what’s Expected.
Yes, I said the nasty word, I identified our Big Ex—EXPECTATIONS! You’ve got them and I’ve got them. No matter where we turn, people are expecting things from us. Teachers expect homework and good test grades; bosses expect higher sales and innovation; coaches expect better conditioning and skill; etc.
We’ve got so many expectations on us, that some of us are ready to crack. Here are some signs that you’re suffering from your Big Ex: throwing, yelling, overeating, or hopelessness. We fear letting down our Big Ex, because we don’t want to lose out on what normally follows: the Big A.
Usually, affirmation follows expectation. When you fulfill the seemingly impossible demands of the Big Ex, then you’ll get a pat on the back: “Aren’t you a good girl!” or “Aren’t you a fine boy!” We get the Big A in the form of more money, more responsibility, more authority, more territory, etc.
I was reading Revelation 1 yesterday, and I noted that God flipped our formula around. God put the Big A before the Big Ex. God gave affirmation first and then expectation.
God opened up his home to the disciple named John and had John sit down on his couch. Well, at least that’s how I imagine it. As John was lying there, he expected God to start reading the list of all the things that God wanted him to do. If John were able to perform God’s expectations, then God might give him a pat on the…seat.
But God welcomes John in and has him sit back and relax. God begins by giving John the Big A. God says things like, “John, I love you. You’re pretty special to me, so much so that I was willing to die in your place. John, I freed you from your sin by my blood. Oh, and there’s more. I also made you into a kingdom. That’s right, you’re officially Kingdom John. And get this, I also made you into a priest, so that you could come visit with me anytime you want.”
You can imagine John’s total shock at hearing God give him the Big A, before he spoke about the Big Ex. Can you imagine what that must have been like? If I were to go into God’s presence, I would expect the Divine Bug Zapper to greet me, not the Divine Care Bear.
But God wants to give us the Big A, way before he gives us the Big Ex.
God continues by letting John know what he wants him to do, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches…” (1:11)—that was John’s Big Ex, to be God’s writer. It was going to be a tough job, especially since John would be persecuted for his faith in Jesus. But, by knowing God’s overwhelming affirmation first, John could persevere through anything.
Before you crack under the pressure of your own Big Ex, please rest in God’s affirmation. He loves you and nothing can stand in the way of his love for you, not even your sin. He dealt with your sin once and for all so that he would not lose you.
© Samuel Kee, 2011
 Taken from Revelation 1:5-6.
During the Perfect Storm, the conditions are just right for faith. For a Big Step. For a Miracle. To sink. To walk.
The conditions were just right for faith. The wind was sweeping in from between the surrounding mountains. The atmosphere shifted from calm to calamity in a matter of moments. It was dark. They were in a boat. The waves were huge and vicious. They were far from the shore, from safety, and from help. And, oh yeah, Jesus was missing.
It was just right for faith—real faith.
Most of us like the idea of faith; we like to say that we are spiritual people and we hold some kind of abstract faith. But abstract faith is not good enough for God. He wants to make our faith real, going from fantasy to fact, hypothetical to actual. The only way to do it is to plunge us deep within real situations.
God puts us in places where we can feel the scissoring wind, taste the splashing water, smell the climate shift, see the nothingness around us, and hear the thunder pounding above. God wants our faith to be tangible, where it’s not just a nice idea, but it’s the only way out.
The conditions were just right for faith when the disciples realized that they were trapped, caught, and hopeless in the storm. In Matthew 14:22-33, we read about their Perfect Storm. Times like these make your faith come to life.
You are either in a storm, just coming out of a storm, or about to go back into a storm. The Village Blacksmith is constantly searching for iron to shape, for that is who He is. Iron is no good for the world, but that which is shaped from iron is what the world needs. Hypothetical faith, like raw iron, is not as useful to God as that which is shaped from it.
Jesus summons Peter to step out of the boat, either to die or to walk on water. This is the moment where his faith became real. He had liked the idea of following Jesus and having faith in Him, but now it was unsafe. It was the real deal.
This is what makes your faith real. We learn how to believe by plunging ourselves into situations where faith is possible. You need a storm in order to have real faith, in other words. You need wind and waves and darkness. You need to feel the fright of not having God in the boat with you, as you frantically scan the shore for him.
“How do I increase my faith?” you ask. Take a single step into a situation that is complete nonsense; these are the circumstances that demand faith, because faith is your only option.
Peter asked Jesus to call him out of the boat and into the water; Peter asked for the impossible. Jesus could have said many things to Peter in that moment, but Jesus knows exactly when the Perfect Storm is doing its job. Jesus could see that real faith was being birthed in Peter. So He issued the call and Peter took the plunge—and walked.
Are you in a Perfect Storm? Are the conditions just right for faith? Which direction will you step next?
© Samuel Kee, 2011
(The following post was written by a guest blogger and friend of mine, Mike Picha. Mike is the Chief Financial Officer at Trinity International University, click here to learn more. You will be blessed by his insights in this post!)
I love it when a passage of Scripture hits you between the eyes in a new and exciting way. We all need reminders from time to time that God is present in our lives through the Holy Spirit. My small group is studying Colossians this fall – and perhaps this spring as well at the pace we are going! I see now that this pace may actually be helping me ‘get it’ in ways I had not before.
The first 20 verses of Colossians 1 conclude with the wonderful reminder that we are reconciled to God by the work of Christ on the cross. But for perhaps the first time in my life, I read verse 21 with a different emphasis. “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.” (NIV) This verse has always produced guilt and anxiety for me, because if I were honest, I still feel full of evil behavior. Therefore, according to verse 21, I still must be alienated from God. I had truly missed the point. I was indeed no longer alienated – not because my behavior was acceptable to God, but because of what Christ did to reconcile me on the cross. In other words, it’s not that my evil behavior is gone, making me un-alienated from God; rather, the cross is present, overcoming my evil behavior so that it no longer keeps me from God.
I know there are many who will read that and immediately want to blow the holy whistle for a ‘foul’ being committed. This realization should not cause us to get lazy in our faith or not care about the sin in our lives. More and more we should reflect Christ in the way we act, think, and speak, and evidences of this fruit should appear. But I will never act, think or speak in a way that is good enough to reconcile me to God. I am presented holy in God’s sight only by Christ’s physical death on the cross (v.22). This is a good reminder for me each and every day as I work out my salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). But this is where the passage in Colossians really gets interesting!
I am reconciled, presented as “holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” – cool! But there is an “if” in verse 23. What?!! I thought I had nothing to do with it. All these amazing gifts are indeed mine, “if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” (v.23) ‘Continuing in my faith’ made some sense – just keep believing. ‘Established and firm’ didn’t really strike a chord either, but established and firm in what? Hope. Not the kind of hope that one day things will be a different way. Not a hope that my property taxes would actually go down (that is called folly!). Not even a hope that one day my sin would be so negligible that I would be reconciled to God. But a hope that is held out in the gospel.
My first thoughts were: ‘of course that is what my hope is in’. But is it? There are many times in my life when I have this deep sense of a spiritual ‘okay-ness’. I am trusting God that, despite my failures in the past, present and future, He is in control of my destiny. Sadly though, in actuality I hope in other things more than I care to admit, and this is the core challenge for me in these verses. We all know that it does not matter what the other ‘thing’ is – good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, etc. – if I am hoping in anything other than God and His grace, I am missing it. If I abuse alcohol, take drugs, view pornography, gamble, or perform any other sin we would call ‘icky’ to help me get through this difficult thing called life, we would all quickly agree that I had missed the mark. But when I hope in my wife for an organized house, the stock market for financial security, great friends who will understand me, children to obey me, work to fulfill me, others on the highway to get out of my way, greasy food or sweets to comfort me, and so on and so on, I have also missed the mark. Hope in ANYTHING this world can provide – good or bad – that takes the place of God is missing the mark. We all do this sometimes. But when we are given over to hope in these things instead of hoping in the gospel (God), then we should sound the alarm (or blow the holy whistle) because we are not adequately fulfilling the “if” clause in verse 23.
Healthy tensions are good. This is not intended to be a discourse on the theology of whether a believer can lose his or her salvation. On the other hand, hoping in the gospel is all about salvation in Christ and away from our long list of substitutes. If we are not freed from something, how can we be free to hope in something (or Someone) else? May God grant us all the strength we need today to hope in Him for everything.