Everything A Loss

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…

Philippians 3:4-9

I relate to Paul in this passage in so many ways. In seminary, I learned a lot. I met some of my best friends and met some of the greatest teachers. Some of those teachers have been life long models for me of Christ-likeness.

But there are so many things we were filled with in seminary, and it wasn’t the Holy Spirit. They taught us how to critique and doubt Scripture but not how to trust in it. They taught us how to deconstruct our faith but not how to rebuild it. They taught us to demythologize the miraculous stories of the Gospels, but they never taught us how to heal the sick, raise the dead, or cast out demons.

In other words, they taught us how to be a good Pharisee, a lot like Paul’s old life, but they didn’t teach us how to do ministry like Jesus and the disciples. They filled our mind with theology but didn’t fill our lives with the Holy Spirit. They imparted to us skepticism but never imparted the gifts of the Spirit. We became masters at reinterpreting passages of Scripture but not masters at submitting our lives to the word of God.

If anyone thinks they have reason to put confidence in their theological education, I have more. Indoctrinated by the third year; of the people who were moderate progressives; of the tribe of Emergents; a skeptic among skeptics. In regards to knowledge, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the Fundamentalists; as for righteousness based on cynicism, faultless.

Then I had a series of encounters with the Lord that changed everything. He showed me how my life, which I thought was full of healthy skepticism and cautious intellectualism, was really just full of unbelief. He showed me how toxic doubt had been in my life and how it had robbed me of a full life in Christ and had distanced me from the power of the Holy Spirit. He took me through a process of dismantling my resistance to Him. It took an overhaul of my heart and a renewal of the mind (Romans 12:2). And this process continues as He calls me into a bigger and bigger “Yes” with my life.

So now, whatever were gains to me in seminary I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…

Now I pursue something totally different. My desires have been changed by these intimate and profound encounters with the Lord. “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…”(Philippians 3:10).

Father, purge out of me anything that is not of You. Get rid of all doubt and hesitation. Get rid of slow obedience and replace it with quick obedience. Get rid of fear and replace it with faith and trust.

The gatekeeper

We sat in the Charlotte airport in those fun rocking chairs they have there. As if we were on a back country porch on a back country road. We were waiting. Our 3 hour layover gave us time to sit, talk, drink Starbucks and wrap our heads around the trip ahead. It’s a long flight to California.

Cam and I were trading stories of God’s goodness. He opened up about the fear and doubt he had experienced the night before about whether God would really show up powerfully on this adventure. He admitted that life gets harder as the disappointments mount, and he wasn’t sure he could handle another one.

That’s when I heard it.

Wafting through the air was piano music from an airport piano player. Just beneath us, a young man in his twenties played skillfully on a grand piano for all of the airport travelers to enjoy. He was positioned right outside a food court area. I assumed he was there for the big jar of cash sitting conspicuously atop the piano. I was wrong.

In the exact moment Cam was reflecting on his doubts, familiar notes filled the atrium. I knew the song the pianist was playing. It was the unmistakable sound of a worship song that I love. The song’s title? “Confident” by Steffany Gretzinger.

As the piano lofted the music our way, the lyrics emerged from my memory as if someone was singing them in the distance.

You’re always moving in the unseen
The breath You exhale sustaining me
Before I call, You know my need
You’re always going before me

Then came the first few lines of the chorus.

I’m confident Your faithfulness will see me through
My soul can rest, my righteousness is found in You

The pianist couldn’t have known was was happening in that moment. He was likely only slightly aware of the angelic whisper in his ear prompting him to choose that song as his next selection. He probably assumed his audience was simply the harried passengers carting their carry-ons from one gate to the next.

Yet, what was happening was profound. He was a prophet, his keys the prophetic instrument. His fingers were declaring the truth Cam so needed to hear, that Cam could be confident in the Lord. In that moment, the pianist was the radio station launching radio waves into the air, and I was the transistor radio offering the translation. But the song was for Cam.

And more than that, the pianist was not only welcoming the passengers to Charlotte but also welcoming the Presence of God. He wasn’t welcoming God’s tangible Presence into the familiar space of a church sanctuary. Instead, he was changing the atmosphere in a place that is a gateway into the city, he the gatekeeper.

Angels gathered. And so did we.