Sunday, July 28, 2013

Passion 2013, Session 1

I feel like I could spend forever thinking about what exactly to say about my experience this year at Passion 21013 and probably a longer time writing it out. So in the interest of saving time and keeping my words unrehearsed, I'm just going to keep typing and pray that God will give me the right words to adequately convey how incredible it was.

Being one person in a sea of 60,000 people was the most humbling and exhilarating experience of my life. There was so much power in the thought of so many people driven both together and out toward the world with the purpose of glorifying and magnifying God and fighting for His purpose of bringing freedom and hope to a dark world. 60,000 of us stood as one, proclaiming the majesty of God and praying for revival and it was beyond words. Worship in the Dome was a force I'd never encountered before. There truly is something about thousands of voices praising God with one voice and it only grew in intensity when the worship leaders stepped away from their microphones and stopped playing their instruments. Worship really was all about God and we were continually coming to Him and thirsting for more of Him and that was incredibly powerful. And I must admit that even now, six months after Passion 2013, I'm still having bouts of worship withdrawal, especially as I sit here listening to the Passion music and thinking of just how great worship was.


My favorite experience from Passion 2013 happened on the last night of the conference hours before we even entered the Dome. There was a group of 20+ students who barely even knew each other in the World Congress Center. We were just worshiping. Someone had a guitar and someone was at a piano, another person was drumming on a ledge and we were all just playing and singing along to different worship songs, some that we'd been singing throughout the conference, others that were from the year before. It was a very simple, but very powerful act of worship that continued to grow as more people joined in. It was so honest and pure, but just as intense as a main worship session. I really wished at the time that Louie could have seen it because it was too powerful and spontaneous. It was just just a beautiful overflow of loving God. Passion was truly a raw, beautiful picture of what our lives are to look like, pouring all of our means, words, and actions, pouring our whole selves, into the worship and the mission of Christ.


Louie Giglio really set the tone of Passion 2013 with this first message. He told us that Passion is about speaking out and bringing freedom because of the spirit of God showing up. It's not about 60,000 college students coming and staying in a nice little Christian bubble; it's about 60,000 Christian college students exploding out into the dark world of the spiritually dead and praying that God would breathe life into all the peoples of the Earth. God wants to do immeasurably more in our lives and in this generation than we can ever imagine.


The story that we focused on throughout the conference was the story of Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones. I had heard this story in Sunday school before, but had never sat down and thought about the intensity or the meaning behind story before coming to Passion. I'm extremely glad that the valley of dry bones was chosen as the focus and I believe it's one of the most poignant examples of the Gospel in the entire Bible.


We actually started off a little before the story of the dry bones. We began in Ezekiel 36:24. This passage takes place while God's people are in captivity in Egypt. They are worshiping Egyptian idols and doing these really evil things to each other. God is pretty fed up with it, yet decides to rescue His people and give them another chance. But Ezekiel 36:24-32 says:

For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine. Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices. I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign Lord. Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, people of Israel.
God saved His people who were spiritually dead, and breathed into them new lives and new hearts and lead them as a perfect shepherd. When we get into captivity (sin patterns, idolatry, or messy circumstances), it is because of our foolishness in forgetting who God is and who we are in Him. In this passage, God intervenes and into the mess, Emmanuel comes. And this is where we picked up in Ezekiel 37:1-3:
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
God showed Ezekiel a low, dark place with dry, desolate bones. There was absolutely no hope for life or joy there. It was a picture of physical death and spiritual death is the same way. Even if we don't outright see it's effects, we all know what it feels like to be hopeless, depressed, and spiritually dead to everything around us because we've all been there at some point in our lives. I'm talking about the disintegration of the soul, the point where the body has no fight left. This is the picture of hopelessness that Ezekiel 37 is essentially painting for us. It's where we were all walking at some point, spiritually, without Christ. Then God asks Ezekiel an interesting and kind of loaded question in verse 3. God asks whether or not the bones could live again, basically asking whether God could do anything, or if there are limitations to His power and ability to move and work through any situation. But God is not really asking us if He CAN do immeasurably more than we think He can, He is waiting for us to believe that He WILL.

In Mark 9:14-26, Jesus heals a boy that was possessed by a demon after all the disciples had tried and failed to heal him. It shows Jesus as someone extremely focused on God's power even in the midst of all the craziness that had to have been going on around Him in order to rescue the boy. He has that same focus with each one of our lives. Verses 23 and 24 of this story are interesting though, because the boy's father is actually questioning whether or not Jesus can heal his son. Jesus responds to him by saying that "Everything is possible for one who believes". The man then immediately tells Jesus that he does believe and asks Him to help his unbelief. Satan has a tendency to make last ditch efforts and throw the worst negativity and situations at us to prevent us from going and doing things to spread the gospel mission or prevent us from being in certain places, like Passion, where he knows that we will be in the midst of God's presence. He uses doubt to accomplish this a lot. This passage shows us that it doesn't matter that we may only have 1% of belief, God is still able and willing to work with the other 99% of us. It would be great for our prayer lives to say "God, I believe, help my unbelief". How much of a difference could that make in the way we live our day to day lives if God helped us to believe 100% that He can and will do immeasurably more than we could ever dream?


Looking back at Ezekiel 37, Ezekiel was basically saying to God, "Only you know if these bones can live, but help my unbelief". Louie then told us that during Passion 2013, we were going to be praying for four major things. We'd be praying for God's word to come to us, that it would bring us to life, that it wold repair us, and that God would restore our knowledge and belief the He is God and He can do all things.


God wants to heal something and bring life to something that no one else can do in us. God brings freedom to the captives of the Earth and He definitely brought it about in the four days of Passion 2013. I believe wholeheartedly that the millions of dried up bones in the valley of darkness in our 21st century world are going to see and walk and live again in our generation. There is going to be life breathed in to the spiritually dead and God will awakening and bring back souls to Him as only He can do. This is the mission given to us as Christ's followers, to proclaim and live out freedom and hope, to bring the message of God, who can and will do immeasurably more, into a lost and broken generation and to watch and take part in what God does through it next. Intervening into the foolishness came a voice and the valley of dry bones is listening now.

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