Sunday, July 28, 2013

Passion 2013: Session 1 - Can These Bones Live?

So I'm finally getting around to posting about Passion 2013. I know, I know...6 months is a bit long to wait for posts but being an intern is a very life-consuming job! It's been fun reading through my Passion notes again and being freshly challenged by scripture. (These posts are going to be a little long...I have a lot of notes from other parts of the conference/family groups)

Being at Passion this year exceeded my expectations in every way. Last year when I was watching from home, it felt like my heart was exploding from all that God was doing 247 miles away. Being there this year...I don't even know if I can put into words what it was like to be there. Just being there with 60,000 other college kids who are completely sold out for God was enough to bring tears into my eyes as I stood outside in the rain waiting to enter the Dome. I will never forget the sight of the Georgia Dome filling to the brim with believers...I'll never forget the sound of 60,000 voices lifting up the name of Jesus in worship...I'll never forget my family group...I'll never forget the silent walk or the candlelight service or the sound of 60,000 people shouting for freedom...those days will forever be imprinted on my mind as a day when I saw and felt God move in ways that I never have before. 


I wrote in my notebook (yep taking notes before it actually started...typical) "It's an army here." It's such a true statement...in the middle of this crowd of 60,000 people, I've never felt smaller...but at the same time it was so encouraging to be able to see and know that I'm not the only one...that there are a ton of people just like me...my generation is here and we still love God and we want to make his name known in this world.


To start the conference off, Louie came and gave us a few facts...there were more people in attendance at Passion than there were at the Chick-fil-A Bowl(!!!) and there were 54 countries and 2022 universities represented in the Dome(!!!). We were also told that because of our generous donations of towels and socks last year, the homeless shelters in Atlanta donated 10,000 towels and 60,000 pairs of socks to Hurricane Sandy Relief because they knew we were coming back this year with more. Things have barely gotten under way this year and we'd already made a difference. 


Then, we were asked to get into triangles...groups of 3 people...and pray together. We spent time praising God, praying for God to be present among us, and for freedom and justice. We prayed that walls would be torn down, that people would hear the roar and know that Jesus is coming. What a roar too...worship was absolutely mind-blowing. Yes, it was loud...but when you have 60,000 people all singing at the top of their lungs...it's gonna be loud...and I wouldn't have expected any less. Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Kristian Stanfill, Christy Nockels, Kari Jobe + more led worship each night...what is so amazing about these people is that they weren't concerned with performing or "doing it right"...they were concerned with worshiping God. I can't tell you how cool it was to see them back away from the microphone or dance around or just stand there and listen during worship. I am so grateful for men and women out there who are more concerned with God than anything else. 


Louie Giglio brought the first message of Passion. He opened by saying that we believe in the God who does immeasurably more...not just a little bit more but immeasurably more. More than we could ever ask or imagine...even when we can't see immeasurably more in our lives...he's still done immeasurably more and he will continue to do immeasurably more. God wants to do immeasurably more in and through your life than you could ever ask or imagine. All he wants you to do is go. 


He isn't just the God of immeasurably more during a conference but he is the God of immeasurably more in the context of your life. When we are foolish, God intervenes. This is very much what happened in Ezekiel. God intervened in the lives of his people who had been scattered into captivity by their own foolishness. We aren't thrust into captivity (spiritual, physical, mental or any other type of darkness and captivity) by someone else's decisions or actions...we fall into captivity by our own doing.  We are more foolish than we want to admit. It's easy to resign yourself into captivity...sometimes it just seems bigger than you can handle...depression, sin, circumstances...I understand...believe me. There are times when you walk into church and you just feel so out of place because you are bound up inside. When you are in captivity, when the darkness is consuming, it's because you've forgotten who God is. You've allowed your foolishness to get in the way of the truth about God. But there is hope in this...whatever has its grip on you is no match for the God of immeasurably more. He always intervenes...he always sends a voice into the captivity you are in. 

Ezekiel 36:24-27 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
God sends a voice, he comes and he breathes on people who are made of stone. He gives us his living, beating, breathing heart in place of our dirty, rotten, dead, stone hearts. He wants to bring us back and cleanse us from our idols! He doesn't want us to be stuck in captivity anymore. 
Ezekiel 37:1-2 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry.
God brings Ezekiel to this valley where the ground is littered with bones. For us, the valley is the low place, the darkness and the downside of life. This valley was a literal valley...a literal valley filled with real bones. Not new bones...dry bones...brittle bones. "Dry" is when we are parched, desperate, desolate, weary, hungry. It means that death has come...and the after effects of death have come...when everything returns to dust. 
Ezekiel 37:3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.”
How's that for a question? Can these bones live? Seems kind of obvious...but God makes us think...he asks us questions to test our understanding of his sovereignty and power. Ezekiel's answer is right on point...only you know God...only you. God doesn't want us to figure it out ourselves...he wants to teach us something. He's not looking for our answer...he's looking for us to realize that we can't come up with an answer and that he's the only one who has the answer! We cannot solve any problem, rescue ourselves from captivity, come clean from addiction, be cleansed of sins, or raise ourselves from the dead on our own power...only God. You have to trust and believe that he knows the answer!
Mark 9:14-18 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 
This little boy is in captivity. His father has come begging and pleading for the disciples to cast the demon out of his child but they are not able.
Mark 9:19-20 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 
I love Jesus' response to this situation. I always imagined him rolling his eyes and sighing...like "Are you serious right now? I can't believe you still don't get it!" I know that's not the case because that would be impatience and Jesus was perfect...so I'm quite certain it didn't happen that way. But the thing to truly notice here is that the demon attacked the boy as soon as he saw Jesus. The demon knows he's going to lose as soon as he sees Jesus but he tries one last attack.

How many times have you ever felt called to do something or called to go somewhere or on your way to a conference or church...some place where you were going to meet with God...and it seemed like everything was going wrong and the sky was falling on top of your world caving in? Satan will do everything in his finite little powers to try to stop you from meeting with God and from obeying his calling on your life. Satan spins chaos into our lives when we see Jesus. But here is the good news...things can be going absolutely crazy...but Jesus can focus in that moment...it doesn't matter what is going on, Jesus is still laser focused into your world. God wins. 

Mark 9:21-24 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
There is no "if" with God. There has never been and will never be any "if" with God. He can do whatever the immeasurably more happens to be in your circumstance. The father's response is perfect..."I believe; help my unbelief!" That is the perfect prayer. I do believe you can do immeasurably more but help me in the areas that I don't believe it! Pray it...live it...daily! God loves that prayer!!! He wants to hear our honesty in saying I believe with 1% of me but help the 99% of me that doesn't believe you! He can work with that!
Mark 9:25-27 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.
He lifted the boy to his feet. That is the immeasurably more of the story. Look back to Ezekiel
Ezekiel 37:4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.
Ezekiel knows the power of God. (Ezekiel 1:25-28) God is bigger than you could ever dream and he is coming here...saying to you "do you believe that I can do immeasurably more in your life and in your generation?!" Our only response should be "Oh, sovereign Lord, only you know. Help my unbelief."
Ezekiel 37:5-6 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
God did 4 things...he spoke his word to the bones, he breathed into the bones and caused them to live, he put tendons and ligaments back where they had been and covered them with skin. For us that means that we are to speak truth and life and scripture into our lives...into our darkness. It means that God heals what is broken in our lives...we can't count him out because he can do it! And when it's all over, we'll know. We'll know that whatever happened inside of you could not be done by any man...you will know that He is the Lord and he has made you alive again in the midst of all the rubble and darkness. God is alive! Let your prayer become this: "I'm in the valley of dry bones - speak to me, breathe in me, reconnect all that has been broken and make me live again!"

The best news is...God has already done immeasurably more...he sent his son. Jesus is here to free you from bondage! He breaks chains and tears down walls! He gives freedom to the captives and life to the dead! Don't forget that sin didn't make us bad...it makes us dead. DEAD. But Jesus, and only Jesus, makes us alive again! Hear the voice from heaven that is intervening into the foolishness, darkness, captivity and death. Pray with honesty...ask for help with whatever part of you that doesn't believe. He can make your bones live again. He can make your dreams live again. He can make your heart live again. He can heal you of your wounds. He can rescue you from addiction and slavery and sin. He can restore your memories. He can. The same God who conquered the grave dwells in you. Speak Lord, the valley of dry bones is listening now.


What a start to Passion 2013. God had exceeded my expectations the split second I walked into the Dome. That's all it took. Even better than that, he continued to blow my mind minute by minute for the rest of Passion...and even more than that, he's still continuing to do immeasurably more right now in my life. I love that Louie said we didn't go to Passion to huddle up in a circle, we went so that we could explode back into the world sacrificing whatever needs to be sacrificed in order to spread the Gospel. I love that there are 60,000 people out there praying this "I believe you can do immeasurably more through me. Give me eyes to see the immeasurably more you want to do through me." I love that Andy Stanley came to Passion and prayed over us. I love that we, as a generation of young people have the ability and the opportunity to start the End It Movement to raise awareness about modern day slavery. God is working...God is moving...God is speaking. Are you listening?


I also have to share about community groups...ORANGE CG all the way! (We love you Freddy T!) Every morning and every evening, Passion broke down into "small" groups of about 5000 people called community groups. Each of those groups broke down into groups of 8 people...called family groups. Each group would spend time talking about the message, helping each other process what we'd heard, and praying for one another. My family group was the absolute best. I couldn't have asked for better people to spend Passion with.
Zachary, Casey, Me, Maddie, Cassidy, Emily, Jason and Charity. 

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