The Experience Experiment

Last Wednesday at The Uprising, I taught a message entitle The Experience Experiment from the book of Ecclesiastes. It was based on Solomon’s assessment of everything he had experimented with: partying, drinking, women, money, and more. It went hand in  hand with Brian “Head” Welch’s story of having it all and realizing it didn’t fulfill.

It registered with plenty of people, and we got to witness 40 people make decisions for Christ that night!

The sound of 40 voices praying to repent of their sins and invite Christ into their hearts is an indescribably amazing sound.

If you missed the message, you can watch it below. Make sure to pass it on to a friend as well – you never know the impact it could have!

The beginning of a movement

Last night was FAR more than just an event or a concert. It wasn’t just about a band or some rockstars. Tonight changed my life before the event even started.

There’s no way to put into words the emotions, prayers, fasting, planning, and so much more that have been going on for months now, but I’ll do my best to sum it up. Here are a few numbers to help you get a mental picture of the night…

600+ in attendance

150+ volunteers

5 Clarksville churches

And the best number of the night: 40 decisions for Christ!

Partnering with a band like Love And Death (with Brian “Head” Welch, previously of Korn) was a huge privilege in itself. From the little time I got to spend talking and praying with Brian, hearing his heart for the Lord and ministry, it was evident that he was radically changed by Jesus! Their music was loud and their message was clear: the Gospel transforms lives.

As I was praying about what to share, I kept going back to Solomon in Ecclesiastes. He had it all and decided that he didn’t want any of it. Brian “Head” Welch is the poster child of Ecclesiastes. He shared last night about playing in a stadium to 50,000 people with Korn, Metallica, and Kid Rock, then flying in a private jet, belonging to one of the guys from Metallica. The night ended in cocaine and meth, and although Brian did it too, he was so empty. He said, “I don’t care if I play for 5 people. I was empty before, but I’m full now.” THAT is the power of the Gospel!

The direction the Lord gave me for last night was to help people despair in the world and hope in Christ. I’m thankful for Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes that helped many people be led by the Lord to do just that!

I can’t describe the emotion and excitement that I had to contain as I gave the call to people to raise their hands to accept Jesus. One of my favorite parts was closing my eyes to pray, and as I opened them back up, I saw 3 guys standing in front of me before I had even given the call to walk forward! They couldn’t wait to surrender!

In addition to the 40 decisions for Christ, the team that made that night happen is unparalleled. Any time I had a question, they were already a few steps ahead of me. I finally learned to just shut up and trust. Not only did Nate Witiuk from Awaken do a phenomenal job overseeing and coordinating the volunteers, but watching people from 5 churches and multiple denominations work together for the same cause was a beautiful sight. It’s amazing what God will do when His people unite.

Be looking for pictures, videos, and more coming very soon to wearetheuprising.com.

Also, this was just the beginning of a movement. Even greater things are ahead!

Here’s a picturesque glimpse of the night (thanks to the amazing Angela Ashcraft)…

 

Bible in 90 Days 22: SONG OF SOLOMON

Today is Day 50 in our journey through the Bible in 90 days.

This stature of yours is like a palm tree,
And your breasts like its clusters.

I said, “I will go up to the palm tree,
I will take hold of its branches….”

- Song of Solomon 7:7-8

“Whoa. Was that really in the Bible?! Is that talking about what I think it’s talking about?”

Yeah, it was. Sex, love, romance, physical desire, dating, and more sex – it’s all over the 8 chapters of Song of Solomon. Why is that? Because GOD CREATED SEX. It was His idea. He’s glorified by it (in its proper context).

In short, GOD LOVES SEX.

Unfortunately, although God created sex and is glorified by it, the world has taken it and perverted it.

Song of Solomon gives a glimpse of what a pure, Godly relationship looks like between a man and a woman. It’s passionate, it’s fun, and it’s God-glorifying.

Many people try to turn Song of Solomon into an allegory about Christ’s love for the Church. Although Jesus does passionately love us, that’s not what is being portrayed in this love story. It’s about a real man and a real woman – falling in love, getting married, and making it last (what a nice change of pace from our culture, huh?).

Song of Solomon was written by Solomon, probably when he was young and in love. Later, he became so intoxicated by this feeling of love that he tried to get it from many women (about 1,000 of them – to be exact – 1 Kings 11:3).

Song of Solomon can be broken up into 3 main sections: courting and preparing for marriage (chapters 1-3), honeymoon and marriage (chapters 4-5), and making it last (chapters 6-8).

One theme that runs throughout the book is purity and patience. The phrase “don’t awaken love until it pleases” appears throughout the book reminding us that love has an appropriate time to be awakened, but it’s not something to play around with. Chapter 2 mentions the foxes that will ruin the vineyard. Foxes are things like lust, impatience, and selfishness. Capture them before they destroy! In chapter 4, the beloved speaks of her sister being “a garden enclosed.”

Our culture NEEDS Song of Solomon!

For one, part of God’s will for us is sexual purity (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5). The Bible only says “this is God’s will” 3 times, and that is one of them – I’d say we should pay attention! In a world where 85 year Hugh Hefner is dating multiple 20-something-year old blondes and having ongoing sexual encounters with them all, pornography is at our fingertips, and guys like Anthony…I forget his name…can’t keep his pants zipped, we need to pay attention to GOD’s plan for sex. The world’s obviously is not working!

We need more people who will be “a garden enclosed.”

Another reason we need Song of Solomon is to help people understand that God doesn’t hate sex. In fact, as I mentioned above, He loves it. It was His idea – He created it! Unfortunately, man has taken something intended to glorify God and made it into something to glorify man. We’ve perverted it. It’s time to GIVE SEX BACK. We need to hand it back to God and allow it to glorify Him as it was intended (within the context of marriage: one man and one woman).

Song of Solomon is a bit steamy at times, but that’s the way it was meant to be. After all, you read Proverbs 5, right? It says for husbands to be enraptured by their love for their wife. That’s not passive, if I have time, if we get a chance, love – it’s passionate!

Single people: take your time! Don’t rush relationships. Pray through them. When you meet that guy or girl who pushes you closer to Jesus and challenges you in your faith, you’ll know it. Wait for them! In the mean time, live as pure as possible.

Engaged people: it’s worth the wait. I know it’s challenging and it’s easy to justify getting physical because you know you’re going to get married anyway. WAIT! You’ll be glad you did.

Married people: GO FOR IT! Don’t wait for him/her to initiate. Godly, Biblical married love is passionate and fun. Hang out, go on dates, have sex, and glorify God!

Bible in 90 Days 21: ECCLESIASTES

Today is Day 50 in our journey through the Bible in 90 days.

Only 40 days left, can you believe it?!

Ecclesiastes is 1 of 3 books ascribed to the pen of King Solomon (the other 2 are Proverbs and Song of Solomon). This trifecta of Bible books summarizes Solomon’s life well…

Proverbs is full of wisdom and was compiled throughout his life.

Song of Solomon was probably written when he was young and in love.

Ecclesiastes was written toward the end of his life, when he had experienced it all.

2 words or phrases you read throughout Ecclesiastes are “vanity” and “under the sun.” “Vanity” is used 36 times in just 29 verses and “under the sun” is found 29 times in 27 verses.

“Vanity” describes something that is useless (like “grasping for the wind” – Ecc. 2:11) and “under the sun” describes the earthly (non-eternal) way of living. Chapter 2 gives a good summary of the book and Solomon’s experiences, as he lists things he tried to find fulfillment in: buildings, gold, silver, women, drinking, and more. What was his conclusion?

Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done 
And on the labor in which I had toiled; 
And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. 
There was no profit under the sun. – Ecclesiastes 2:11

At times, Solomon seems to go on rants about how useless life is and how meaningless his existence has been. It’s the sad state of someone who has turned to the world for satisfaction and found out that the world had nothing to offer.

His rants of vanity and uselessness are punctuated by deep recollections on the eternal God…

I know that whatever God does, 
It shall be forever. 
Nothing can be added to it, 
And nothing taken from it. 
God does it, that men should fear before Him. – Ecclesiastes 3:14

God is in heaven, and you on earth; 
Therefore let your words be few. – Ecclesiastes 5:2

If anyone had the right to write about the experiences of the senses and their inability to satisfy, it was Solomon. 1 Kings 3:13 says that since Solomon requested wisdom instead of riches, God gave him wisdom as well as riches – more than anyone who ever lived or ever would live!

1 Kings 10:14 says that his annual income was 666 talents of gold. According to the current price of gold per ounce, 666 talents of gold in our day would be $1,102,948,747.20! The guy was raking in $1.1 billion per year! And that wasn’t even all of it – the verse goes on to say that that doesn’t even include his income from merchants, traders, kings, and governors!

A few more things that King Solomon had…

- 40,000 stalls of horses (1 Kings 4:26)

- a staff of 183,300 workers building the Temple, carrying & mining rocks and minerals, etc. (1 Kings 5:13-15)

- a fleet of ships that he built for the purpose of going to get more gold (420 talents, to be exact – the modern equivalent of $695,553,264)

- 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines at his beck and call (1 Kings 11:3)

…and that’s just the beginning.

In other words, he experienced it ALL. If he wanted it, he got it. But where did it leave him? The same place it will leave anyone who tries to find satisfaction apart from God…

EMPTY.

He closes the book with some very important words. Take these words to heart, coming from a man who experienced it all…

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: 
Fear God and keep His commandments, 
For this is man’s all.

For God will bring every work into judgment, 
Including every secret thing, 
Whether good or evil.

- Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

ALL of Scripture is relevant, but in a culture obsessed with getting, having, experiencing, and feeling, Ecclesiastes hits the nail on the head.

When Galileo & Newton wrote their findings on gravity, you didn’t go out and test them yourself – you took them at their word. After all, they’re the pros – they know what they’re talking ahout.

Solomon is a pro. He knows what he’s talking about. Take him at his word – the world is empty. Find satisfaction in Christ alone.

Bible in 90 Days 20: PROVERBS

Today is Day 49 in our journey through the Bible in 90 days.

If you ever feel like you have A.D.D., Proverbs probably really resonated with you. At times, it seems to be all over the place: from money to parenting, from temptation to wisdom, from marriage to investing sometimes right within the same paragraph.

Although finding a main theme for each chapter or section isn’t always easy, the theme of the book as a whole is wisdom. It would make sense that it was about wisdom, since its author (except for chapters 30 and 31) is King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. According to 1 Kings 3, God made Solomon the wisest man who ever lived.

Not only was Solomon supernaturally gifted with wisdom, but he was also experientially gifted with wisdom. After all, he was King David’s son, he built the Temple, and as king, he experienced many things that contributed to the wisdom he shared in Proverbs.

Much of Proverbs is specifically targeted toward young people (Proverbs 1:8). Parents, you know how it is – your kids think they have it all figured out. Solomon sets a great example of laying it out straight – hitting the hard topics and not backing down.

That’s one thing I love about Proverbs – it’s not scared to say it how it is. Below are a few of my favorite (honest, in-your-face) Proverbs…

Better to dwell in the wilderness, 
Than with a contentious and angry woman. – Proverbs 21:19

He who blesses his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, 
It will be counted a curse to him. – Proverbs 27:14

As a dog returns to his own vomit, 
So a fool repeats his folly. – Proverbs 26:11

A little sleep, a little slumber, 
A little folding of the hands to rest;

So shall your poverty come like a prowler, 
And your need like an armed man. – Proverbs 24:33-34

I could go on. The bottom line is, Solomon says it how it is…which is how the whole Bible is written (as you’ve probably noticed by now), and it’s how we should be as well. The world needs more honesty. Dads (like Solomon) need to tell their kids how it is, in order to train them up in the way they should go. After all, as Ecclesiastes points out, it’s wise to teach others from your wisdom.

So who are you teaching?

What are you learning?

Both of those should be something that you do for the rest of your life. Always be sharing from your experiences, but don’t talk so much that you can’t listen – you need to learn from others as well. After all, even the wisest man who ever lived made some pretty terrible mistakes and didn’t follow his own advice…so do as he said, not as he did.

Bible in 90 Days 18: JOB

Today is Day 40 in our journey through the Bible in 90 days.

In 40 days, we’ve covered 18 books of the Bible! Wow! In just 5 more days, we’ll hit a milestone: the half-way mark! Keep going…

Today we finish up Job and start the book of Psalms. Job is a book of tragedy, foolish counsel, mourning, but also great strength. It’s also the first book in the “poetry” section of the Old Testament. The Bible is divided into sections, and isn’t always chronological. Case in point: the book of Job. Job lived around the time of Abraham – in fact, they could have been buddies.

ONCE UPON A TIME…

Job begins happy and cheery. All is well, Job’s 10 children are partying, his animals and servants are living the life, and Job is in regular fellowship with his best friend: God. It doesn’t take long for life to take a turn for the worst, however. By the end of the very first chapter, all of Job’s kids are dead, his animals have been killed and/or stolen, almost of of his servants are dead, and he’s completely crushed.

Whenever I get to Job 1:20, I always have to pause – it blows me away. It tells us his response to his severe loss: WORSHIP.

I want to say I’d respond the same way, but so many times (with much less loss), I’ve responded the wrong way.

His loss continues in Chapter 2. Satan decided that taking his family and wealth wasn’t enough – he’d also take his health (with God’s permission, of course!). So, by the end of Job 2, we find this (once) wealthy, healthy, man of integrity sitting on a pile of ashes scraping his gaping wounds with broken pieces of pottery. It doesn’t get much lower than that…but then it does.

Who need enemies when you have friends like these?

Most of the rest of Job is either Job complaining about his circumstances (rightfully so) while trying to maintain his integrity and faith in the Lord, or his wife or 3 friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) giving him terrible advice. It’s brutal. By the end, he’s making sacrifices to atone for their sins because God won’t listen to them!

In Job 8:4, Job’s good old buddy, Bildad, even has the audacity to accuse Job of hidden sin! As if Job were to blame for his suffering! That’s a sad misconception that is sometimes even taught from pulpits today: hidden sin is causing your suffering. If you’d just repent/have enough faith/give enough money, God would heal you/bless you/prosper you. Sometimes, hidden sin or lack of faith is the issue, but don’t be so quick to apply that to every situation. Sometimes, some very Godly men and women suffer very deeply.

There are glimpses of hope throughout Job, though. Job 19:25-26 is a well known one…

For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God,

What a statement!

The hook-up

Although Job is a book full of suffering, mourning, and sorrow, it ends on a high note when God appears. He spends the last couple chapters reminding Job that He is Master/Boss/Creator/Sustainer, then He hooks Job up. According to Job 42:10, God answered Job’s prayers, then restored his possessions…TWOFOLD! God is faithful!

If you’re suffering right now, take heart. God knows and God cares.

Enjoy the book of Psalms for the next few days – it’s a nice change of pace after such a heavy book like Job!

…Don’t get used to it, though, Ecclesiastes is only a few books away!