It is not great faith to demand something of God.

Let me repeat that.

It is not great faith to demand God to do anything. But that’s what’s happening today. And the #WakeUpOlive movement is only a symptom of a much bigger, and much more terrifying problem in the modern Church.

A Worldwide Movement

A few days ago, my Instagram feed started to fill with post after post from prominent Christian leaders. All of them cried out in great faith, and all of them were asking one thing: for God to resurrect a little girl from the dead. Immediately, my mind went to an image of a little girl in a hospital bed, clinging to life. Perhaps she had been in an accident? Some sort of freak illness? I wasn’t sure–the details were vague. But my curious mind had me search the hashtag and Sherlock Holmes the mystery. It soon became clear that there was no hospital bed. There was no freak illness to speak of. There was only a little girl named Olive who had stopped breathing out of thin air and had been pronounced dead.

Tragic. Absolutely terrible. My heart ached, grieved for the parents–the mother a prominent worship leader out of Bethel Church in Redding, California. I cannot imagine what she is going through. I cannot fathom such a grievous loss. I don’t want to, frankly. But I’m an empath, and so when I hear of things like this, there is a part of me that cannot help but to feel things like this. And I felt the sting of the loss of this child in a profound way.

I think that’s why I kept coming back to the hashtag. I couldn’t quite grasp what was happening. Wake Up, Olive? Were the people of her church praying to God for a resurrection?

My first response was surprise. Great leaders of my faith wrote eloquent prayers, sang heartfelt songs, begging God on Instagram to reawaken this child–this toddler–from death itself. People from all over the world poured out their support–paintings, songs, prayers, beautiful words, all crying out to God for a mighty miracle. An earth-shattering kind of miracle.

Wow.

That’s faith, right?

It could be. Maybe it is. Maybe I’m just missing it.

The Great Cosmic Vending Machine

Or maybe this entire movement is a symptom of a much, much bigger heresy in today’s Western Church. Is it great faith to demand something of God? Is it great faith to urge the entire world to pray for something so unlikely? On the surface, it is. On the surface, a worldwide prayer movement looks and feels a lot like revival. It parades in the same garments of the coveted awakening that we as Christians profess to long for. But just a small peek behind the curtains reveals a much uglier truth.

I do not believe such prayers are the result of great faith. I believe such prayers–publicly demanding God to resurrect a (as of the penning of this article) five-days-deceased child–are the direct result of the heresy rampant in our churches today. The Prosperity Gospel. The very idea that God, the Great Cosmic Vending Machine, is waiting to hand out blessings to those who have the right faith, the right words, the right prayers, the right lifestyle. That wealth and wellness and wholeness and yes, even miracles are all signs of the favor that God is just itching to bestow upon his creation.

I’ve bought into the concept that I can speak out a miracle if I just have enough faith.

As a Westerner, I totally understand this mentality. I’ve been a part of many churches and denominations over the course of my life, and as a self-proclaimed Spiritual Mutt, I can attest that I’ve bought into this way of thinking before. I’ve believed that I could live my best life now if I just speak it over myself. I’ve bought into the concept that I can speak out a miracle if I just have enough faith. I believed that my mindset played a huge role in how God would bless me. In a sense, that’s true. My heart and mind are both predictors of my mouth. And my thought patterns absolutely affect my day-to-day existence. Yours affect yours too, whether you like it or not. But the danger in this theology is that it can very swiftly morph into something else. The idea that my best life is attainable with the right mixture of words, faith, and attitude leads to a way of thinking that results in expecting God to perform when, where, and how I pray. It leads to a way of thinking that is formulaic. If this, then that, if you will. If I speak with faith, miracles will happen (not could happen, mind you. Will happen. There is a profound difference in that one word.) If I believe boldly, I can call down heaven and proclaim a resurrection over a tragically deceased little girl. And maybe I can. But I never have. I doubt anyone praying over the #WakeUpOlive movement have, either.

My best life came when I stopped seeking my own will for it.

But I do, in fact, live my best life. Already. Every day. I love it. But my best life is not the life I had envisioned for myself. My best life came about when I surrendered my ideas of how my life should look and submitted to a Holy God. My best life manifested when I admitted that I didn’t have it figured out, that my ideas for what’s best for me weren’t best at all. My best life came when I stopped seeking my own will for it. My best life is a life that knows God is sovereign and I’m not. My best life is a life that prays in faith and surrenders in humility. My best life is a life that says, God knows, I don’t, and that’s not only okay, that’s how it’s supposed to be.

Do you see it? Do you see the difference?

The rub I have with the #WakeUpOlive movement is not the faith. It’s not the hope. It’s not the unity of the Church. Those are beautiful things. Good things. The rub I have is the very heart of the prayers and the very audacity to demand anything of a Holy God. The very idea that God will bend his sovereign will to those he created in the first place. The rub I have is that no one is talking about caring for the grieving family. No one is having frank conversations about how to navigate unthinkable tragedy well. That’s the role of the Church — to be the hands and feet of God. To love. To hold. To care. To walk alongside. NOT to demand of God that which is not ours to demand. Can God resurrect her? Yes. Absolutely. I 100% know that the Creator of the Universe is capable of the humanly impossible. The question is will he resurrect her. After 5 days, I can answer with a confident “no.” Is that because he’s bad? Evil? Unfair? No. It’s because he’s sovereign. He gives and he takes away. At will. For reasons we can’t always understand. For reasons we may never understand. That doesn’t make him a maniac, that makes him SOVEREIGN. There is a difference.

So if I, as his creation, demand of him, if I say, “God, you MUST do this because you’ve done it before,” I’ve essentially said, “You don’t know what you’re doing. I do.” The #WakeUpOlive movement is not a great testament of faith, it is a dangerous picture that too many Christians paint of God. When we worship a God who will give us what we ask for as long as we come to him with the right heart, the right words, and the right formula, we worship a maniac.

But when we worship a God who is sovereign, whose ways are higher than ours, and to whom we’ve fully submitted ourselves, then and only then do we begin to grasp our place in his world. Then and only then can we begin to make sense of tragedy. He has a reason for all things, including early death. Including untimely death. Including the loss of a child. Teaching anything else, is heresy.

***

The old man smiled. “Weep, my son. Weep for what you wanted. Weep for the life you thought you would have. And once your soul is purged, look into my face and let me show you what I had for you all along.”

~Excerpt from The Chalam Færytales, Book V (yet to be published). Copyright 2019 Morgan G Farris. All rights reserved. If you share this anywhere, please tag me. It’s just the right thing to do.

Friends, you’re invited to join us for the Gateway Worship Live Recording of the new album! It’s Friday, May 15, 2015 and we’ll be singing some songs you’ll know and some new ones, too! Featuring the likes of Thomas Miller, Mark Harris, Kari Jobe-Carnes, Cody Carnes, Anna Byrd, and more!

I’ll be there, singin’ my little heart out with the rest of the team and I hope you will, too!

Excerpt from GatewayPeople.com:

Walls Are Comin’ Down

For the past three years, Gateway Worship pastors and teams have been praying, watching, and waiting on the Lord for what the next live recording project would be. This live recording will be a moment in time when we come together and seek to hear the heart of God with no restraint.

Come and be a part of this incredible night as we capture the worship experience that is Gateway Church. Be prepared for all of the fullness praise and worship can bring!

This brand-new live worship album from Gateway Worship will release in October and will be filled with great songs including “Let the Heavens Open,” “Walls,” “Grace That Won’t Let Go,” “You Stand,” and many more. We want everyone that desires a night of praise and worship with no limits to come ready to see that walls are coming down!

Children’s ministry is not available.

For more information, visit: GatewayPeople.com

Friends, I am leading worship for a girls retreat this summer and I would love to have you join us! If you’re a girl, middle school to high school, this is the retreat for you!

There will be horseback riding, hayrides, bonfires, and of course worship and amazing talks. It’s a chance to find out that you truly are Wonderfully Made!

When: June 20-22, 2014
Where: Three Mountain Retreat Center – Clifton, TX
Who: Girls, ages middle school to high school
What: A retreat to help us see that we truly are Wonderfully Made!

If you want more info, click on the link below. Get registered and I’ll see you there!
Destination: Wonderfully Made – Info

~Morgan

Is it just me or does your inner self ever ask questions like this?

“But I thought as a Christian, I wouldn’t have any problems…?”

“Why am I still struggling? Shouldn’t faith eliminate the struggle?”

“I thought Jesus would get rid of my problems. Is there something wrong with me?”

Maybe you don’t literally ask yourself those questions. But maybe it silently nags at you from time to time. Maybe you, like me, find yourself beating yourself up when things aren’t as easy as you felt they should have been. Maybe you are your own worst enemy. I know I am.

My pastor mentioned recently that most people think the Promised Land is a symbol of Heaven. But he clarified: it’s not a symbol of Heaven, it’s a symbol of the Blessed Life. There are still enemies in the Promised Land. There are no enemies in Heaven.

What does that have to do with the price of eggs?

Well, for me, it made something click.

The Blessed Life is not a life devoid of problems, devoid of attacks, devoid of enemies, devoid of THE enemy. The Blessed Life is the life that knows, believes, serves, trusts, and walks side by side the One who has already defeated the enemy.

Sweet.

I think, especially in American culture, we get this idea that we’re not supposed to face hardships. We live in a mindset that we’re not supposed to get sick, we’re not supposed to fail, we’re not supposed to face difficulties, and that if we face any of those things, we need find a way to eliminate them as soon as possible.

But when you read the Word you find out very quickly that it’s hardships, trials, difficulties, attacks, and more that bring us to an understanding of our need for redemption. So maybe instead of looking at our life as a series of bumps in the road that should never have been there, perhaps we could start looking at our experiences as opportunities to get to know the character, heart, and love of God the Father a little better. Perhaps we, like James, could take to heart this notion:

Dear brothers and sisters,  when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. ~James 1:2-4

Think about David and Saul. Saul was DEAD SET against letting David fulfill his destiny. He was absolutely terrified that someone like David should become king and he was bound and determined to keep that from happening. It drove him mad. He chased David around like a lion hunts a gazelle. David had to go into hiding to keep Saul from killing him. David was on the run.

At any point, David could have stopped Saul in his tracks, killed him on the spot, and justified his actions as self defense. He probably would have gotten away with it, too. But he didn’t. He remained humble. He decided to trust God and not take matters into his own hands. And in the end, Saul killed himself as a coward. His obsession against David drove him to madness. And David rose to his destiny without ever having to fix the Saul problem.

Maybe we could take a lesson from David. Maybe instead of trying to eliminate problems from our lives constantly we could instead recognize the merit in learning a little patience, a little endurance, a little long-suffering. Maybe we could use difficulties as a chance to get to know what God is trying to do instead of trying to keep our lives problem-free.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t take medicine when we’re sick or ask forgiveness from our family or friends that we’ve wronged. Certainly problems come with a level of responsibility on our part. But maybe it’s time we entertain the notion that the responsibility is not to fix the problem, but to do our part to live in right-standing with God, seek His face and counsel in all things, and trust Him to take care of the rest.

I think we all know that even when we do try to “fix” things, we rarely succeed. Maybe it’s a sign to stop trying. Maybe it’s time to stop trying to dodge bullets and instead put on the full armor of God. Maybe it’s time we stop asking God to keep things from happening to us and instead ask God to show us what we are supposed to learn from our difficulties.

And maybe, just maybe, we can learn to live by faith, not by attempted difficulty prevention.

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. ~Ephesians 6:10-18

Oh man, I LOVE that passage.

jesuskeepsdisappointingme

I have a question today. It’s simple, really. But I’ve been pondering it a lot lately.

Do you love Jesus?

Do I love Jesus?

To clarify, in the context of this post, this is not a question for non-believers. Certainly if you don’t believe in your need for Jesus, if you’re not a believer, I am praying that your eyes will be opened. Certainly if you don’t have Jesus, you need Him. But that’s for another post.

Today’s question is for believers – do we love Jesus?

I’m not asking this question as some sort of ploy to get us all to question our salvation. The Word is clear that salvation is eternal.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,  neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

~Romans 8:38-39

No, I’m asking this question because I have realized that there is a distinction between loving Jesus and loving what He does for us. Certainly we believers love what He does for us. We love His joy, His blessings, His peace, His love. We could (and do) go on and on about what He did for us. And there is nothing wrong with this. We should. We should count our blessings daily. We should remain eternally grateful for the gifts of the Father.

But is that all we love about Him? Are we so focused on what we’re getting out of the relationship that we’re neglecting what we should be giving? Love is a two-way street, after all. Do I love Jesus for Jesus? Or do I love Jesus for His gifts? Do I love Him for loving me? Or do I love Him for what I could potentially benefit from knowing Him?

Maybe it’s a distinction you’ve never pondered. But it’s beginning to dawn on me that it’s a pretty significant distinction.

Let’s take this into the context of marriage. If all I ever expect from my spouse is his service to me, his devotion to me, if all I ever ask is that he fix my problems, be my rock, forgive me every time I fail, be my shoulder to cry on, how long is my marriage going to last? Love is reciprocal, after all. It can’t be one way or eventually it will be no way. A marriage that has one side always receiving without ever giving is a marriage that is doomed to die.

So what does that say about our walk with Christ? Are we always praying for Him to fix things? Heal things? Give us things? Make things better? Bless things?

Certainly we should pray for those things. Certainly our faith is in part knowing that He is the fixer, the healer, the giver, the blesser. But if that’s all it is, I fear it’s doomed to die. I fear that if we remain a one-sided, self-centered lover of what Jesus does, we’ll never ever see those blessings for which we beg come to fruition.

So what is our responsibility then? I believe it starts with loving Jesus for WHO He is not WHAT He does. After all, a life committed to Him will only remain committed if lived in the understanding of His great love, His great character. Commitment to “getting” will turn up fruitless in the end.

No, not because God is a childish god who folds his arms across his chest and pouts at our selfishness, but because God is a god who wants our genuine affection. That’s why He’s gentle to never bully His way into our hearts. That’s why He’s careful to never force anything upon us, especially devotion. That’s why He gave us free will – so that we would freely and genuinely choose to love and serve Him. If it’s not real, He’s not interested.

So if we’re not loving Him, but instead loving His benefits, do we really love Him at all?

In my own life, I’ve been learning this in a big way. I’m learning that devotion to Christ requires sacrifice. No, not for my salvation. That’s free. But if I’m following Christ expecting blessing, healing, fixing, comfort, peace, prosperity, and on and on, and I’m not doing my part to bring those things about, I’m basically a beggar with my hands out, standing at the throne of the Ancient of Days saying, “Give me. Give me. Give me.”

No, we approach the throne of grace with thanksgiving, praise and adoration. If we try to skip over the adoration part and head straight to the blessings, we will remain sorely disappointed.

I fear that’s one of the biggest problems with believers today. We want the benefits of God without falling in love with Him first. It would be like our one-sided marriage: the wife wanted love and affection from her husband without ever giving it to him in return. Where’s the joy in that? Where’s the favor? It won’t come. It will remain lost.

So I ask myself today, do I love Jesus or do I love what He does for me? Do I love Him for who He is or for what I am praying He will do for me? What about you?

If in your life of faith, you keep (perhaps secretly) feeling like Jesus is disappointing you, perhaps it’s time to take an inventory of your heart. Are you taking the time to read His Word, learn who He is and fall desperately in love with Him? Or are you standing before Him, asking for a daily handout?

The distinction is the difference between the Blessed Life and the disappointed life.

boldhumility-01

Bold humility. Humble boldness. No matter how you word it, those two words don’t go together. They are counter-intuitive. One should cancel out the other.

To the world, that is.

But I’ve learned something pretty profound about God as I’ve walked with Him – He’s all about surprising us with opposite, counter-intuitive, seemingly impossible thinking.

When we say, “Stay. It’s not going to work,” He says, “Go. I’ve got this.”

When we think it’s crazy, He says it’s His plan.

When the world says, “Your life has to look a certain way,” God says, “Let me show you what real life (joy, peace, grace) looks like.”

I’ve learned this in little lessons all along the way, but never so big or so profound as I have lately. God is trying to get my attention. Scratch that. God IS getting my attention. He has been showing me that following Him, TRULY following Him, means laying aside droves of preconceived notions, false identities, and failed theories. It means having both boldness and humility at the same time. No, not boldness to trust myself – boldness to trust Him. And humility to know that He is worth trusting.

That’s what I’m learning right now. If faith is really going to be faith, it is going to require action – crazy action. It’s going to require defying pre-defined parameters the world has set for us. It’s going to mean getting kicked around by nay-sayers now and then. It’s going to mean questioning yourself. A LOT.

But I’m learning too that faith, following God blindly, at all costs, also means freedom! It also means joy! It also means reckless abandon! It means being liberated from fear. Fear of ourselves, fear of others, fear of failure, fear of fitting in. It means trusting, no KNOWING that God is who He says He is and everything else is just minutiae. It’s fun! I’m learning to love watching the reactions of those around me when I tell them about my life as of late. Some look at me with a blank stare. Others are quick to say, “Oh that’s great, yeah,” in a feeble attempt to hide their discomfort. Others stop and ponder, poising themselves to offer advice. Some of the advice is worth taking. Other advice goes right into the round file…

Whatever the case, I know this one thing for certain: I’m not trusting me anymore, I’m trusting God. I’m going to approach the throne of grace with a smile on my face and say, “God, whatever you want. Lead me. I’m yours.”

Not because I want to prove anything to anyone. Not because I want to fit into a Christian crowd of elites. Not because I think I’m better for doing so. No – because I know that on my own, I’ve tried and failed over and over again. On my own I’ve made up solution after solution for problem after problem – and they have each failed miserably. On my own, I’ve done nothing but make things worse. But with Him, all things are possible. With Him, I can see light again. With Him, I can rest, trust, breathe, for goodness sake!

So I’ll be bold. Bold to trust this God I claim to serve. And humble to kneel at His feet and say that He and He alone is the author and perfecter of my faith.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the lord ’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.
Hebrews 12:1-13