A NEW HEART

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. - Ezekiel 36:26

IMG_2191.JPG

 

It's easy to get stuck!

Words like, mundane, rote, and monotonous carry an experience and reality all too familiar for the vast majority of us. Like a car whose tires continue to spin without traction, we step on the accelerator and go nowhere fast. Or we finally get moving only to return to the same places, doing the some things as we've done before. Addiction, lazy, selfish.

No forward movement.

Stuck.

And here we sit at the beginning a new year, most of us with a new resolve and a new goals to get us moving, yet the stat I heard the other day said that less than 8% of the population find themselves satisfied in their New Year resolutions as the year progresses. So a lot of people don't see the point in even trying. New year; Same results. Cynicism creeps in deeper.

Stuck.

This is essentially where Israel finds herself in the writings of the prophet Ezekiel. Discouraged, and weary, they know the promises that have been passed down through the generations. They know the truth, yet their hope is waining that their restoration is possible. This is what makes the promise of a new heart so beautiful, it was based on God's faithfulness, not their worthiness. It is the work of the faithful Father to prepare them and qualify them for newness. This is exactly what exile had done in their hearts. The faithful work of God exposes idolatry and unveils more clearly his covenant promises with his beloved people. Regardless of their current situation and momentary circumstance, God promises to move in and begin a work from the inside out.

The promise was a new heart, with new desires, to receive new blessings.

 "I will remove your idolatrous, inflexible, cold heart of stone, and give you a new tender, receptive, and spiritual heart of flesh."

A new disposition.

A new posture.

Partakers of a divine promise and divine nature in order to be a blessing to the world. To show the world who their God is and how their God loves.

So in all of our circumstances and in all of our situations, in all of the tragedy and all the victory, God is working out His purposes perfectly and through His Spirit renewing hearts and minds for His glory.

This is the promise of the gospel.

THE DIVINE NATURE

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,

4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. - 2 Peter 1:3-4

IMG_2250.JPG

 

Partakers of the divine nature — All the other precious and very great promises lead to this one promise, one that I very rarely dwell on. There will be a time when I will not only be free from the corrupt nature of this world but I will partake in God’s divine nature. I will be with GOD without limitations. No boundaries or barriers. I will experience the divine beyond the brokenness. True peace, true freedom, true love, true humanity. All free from the opaque veil of self that stains my humanity.

It is difficult to imagine isn't it?

How do we get there? How do we rest in the promise of one day experiencing the wholeness we so desperately long for? By remembering all the precious and very great promises the He has already fulfilled for us. God said He would send a rescuer and He did! Not only did He send a rescuer, He himself came in the flesh. He became Human so that we might become Holy. Jesus then said He had to go away to prepare a place... place where we would one day become partakers of His divine nature and then He promised to send us a Helper. Once again He kept His promise and it was better than we could ever imagine. He sent The Holy Spirit - God himself to dwell in us and among us. To keep us hoping in the right things, to comfort us in the midst of our brokenness to empower us to be holy set apart and to embolden us to become witnesses to the world. We become the lights shinning in the darkness. All so that one day we might become partakers of His divine nature.

Be encouraged beloved He is a promise maker and a promise keeper!

 

#PromisesOfGod

#InTheStory

 

 

 

THE GOOD WORK

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Phillippians 1v6

IMG_2216.JPG

Welcome to 2017 and good riddance 2016. The end of the year pollsters revealed the average American couldn't wait for 2016 to be left in the rearview mirror and step on the accelerator toward the new year and new horizons. There is something beautiful and freeing about a "reset" button. A sense of freedom and freshness for our bodies, our souls, and our spirits... and wherever you land on the sliding scales of New Years resolutions and/or goals, we know the mere thought of starting over can spark renewal and awakening.

What is it about a new year that tends to get our attention? Is it just a culturally manufactured emotion with historically fleeting results? A genius invention of the fitness world to gain more gym memberships? The brain child of the self-help industry?

What if it was deeper and more primal?

In the wake of one of the worst years on the globe in recent history, and cynicism at its peak, what keeps us moving forward with new resolve, fresh dreams, and revived spirits?

Is it possible, that humanity --- us, you, me --- being made in the image and likeness of our Creator, possesses deep within us truth that there is more? That at the very center of our architecture and blueprint lies an invitation to know and experience more. Is it possible that the Holy Spirit of God urges and invites us to let go and simultaneously hold on knowing that resurrection is real and possible?

And so... Every year, the calendar flips anew, the sun begins to hang a little longer and higher in the sky, and creation starts the movement toward the burst of new life --- so we actively wait for resurrection again.

God promised new life in the finished and complete work of Jesus. God promised that He would finish and complete the good work that He had begun.

And so... Maybe we rise every year as the proverbial page flips and a new chapter begins because our only real hope is that He would continue the good work that He has begun in us. All the trials and pain, all the blessings and joys, all the confusion and unknowns are producing a genuine dependance that is beyond us. This is the good work of a good Father. This is the good work of the gospel.

 

Here's to 2017.

Here's to newness, hope, and resurrection that can only come through the perfect work of Jesus.

 

Sail on friends.

Take heart.

He who began a good work WILL bring it to completion.

 

#InTheStory

#PromisesOfGod

HISTORY

ED9BE643-7CAE-4BB7-AAA6-A0A37E01B2CB.JPG

This time in history is carved by the way of kings and kingdoms. For thousands of years prior to this moment, kingdoms conquered kingdoms that conquered kingdoms that conquered kingdoms. You get the idea. Think of Darwinian survival of the fittest on the scale of vast and powerful empires. The more land an empire governed and the further its territories were expanded, the more influence an empire controlled. The mindset of kingdoms shaped the world, and God's people were no different. It had been many, many years since the nation of Israel had ruled. It had been nearly uncountable, the amount of generations that had passed since the days of the great King David. They had known more slavery and had experienced more exile than any sense of true freedom in their history. Yet God's people eagerly waited for the days when God would send messiah to come and overthrow the power of the day, to set up His throne and reign sovereign over all, again. This is what all the prophecy had pointed toward. This is what God's people had longed for. But like we've seen so far in the story, things aren't always what they appear to be. This story continues to take unexpected turns and twists that involve obscure characters in the most unlikely of ways.

The creator God, sovereign king over everything, whose authority knows no bounds, whose divine presence presides over all of creation, has been orchestrating, ordering, and allowing the timeline of history to display and unravel His story. After all, all of history is His-story. The writings of the prophet Daniel have exposed past history and events yet to take place. Six hundred years before the birth of Jesus, while Israel was in exile, God had given a young Hebrew boy named Daniel the ability to interpret dreams. Nebuchadnezzar, king of the ruling Babylonian empire, had an obscure and confusing dream and called Daniel in to interpret the dream:

 

"You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness,

stood before you, and its appearance was frightening.

The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze,

its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.

As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay,

and broke them in pieces.

Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces,

and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors;

and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found.

But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

Daniel 2v31-35

 

The interpretation revealed a coming prophecy. We now know that the first four kingdoms represented in the dream were the Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman empires. History tells us, completely in line with the scriptures, that the Babylonian empire fell to the Medes and the Persians, who were overthrown by Greece, who became the successor of the Medo-Persian Empire. The Roman Empire conquered the Greek empire. This is where the story lies as we open the New Testament. The Roman Empire is at its peak. The emperor of the Roman Empire, Augustus, reigned for forty-one years, from 27 BC to AD 14. Under Augustus, the Roman Empire expanded its territories further and accumulated more power than ever before. It was called "the empire of the whole earth." Essentially, there were few places in the entire civilized world that weren’t in some way, shape, or form dependent upon the Roman Empire.

 

God has history exactly where He wants it to be.

 

His story is unfurling precisely as He authored for the most unlikely backdrop for the most unlikely of heroes.

MYSTERY

Maintaining the Mystery...

IMG_9688.JPG

The gospel is a declaration that the impossible is possible. That GOD is able to do what we could not and cannot. It’s a historical account of God showing up in the most incredible ways and using unlikely everyday people to do extraordinary things. The climax of the scriptures is Jesus resurrecting himself from death! Let that sink in for a moment… Burning bushes, parted seas, and giant fish have nothing on coming back from the dead after 3 days. When GOD first saved me my faith was so big. GOD had done so much to rescue me from the grip of my own darkness and bring me into His marvelous light. I truly believed that if GOD could save a sinner such as me then he could do anything! But over time that child-like faith waned. The magic was gone. unfortunately It seemed that the longer I spent time in church the smaller GOD became to me. Don’t get me wrong it was nobody’s fault but my own.  You see —  My life no longer required the impossible. I went to church, read my bible, attended small groups but all of it was well within my ability to control. I began living a good moral life that required nothing from GOD. This is where the mystery and magnificence of GOD goes to die.

 GOD however is too kind to leave us there in that place. After a while the status quo (as “christian” as it was) became too much for my wanderlust to handle. Is this all there is? What happened to all-consuming fire that first captured my affections? Where was that GOD? Little did I know that holy discontentment was GOD himself wooing me back into the wonder and awe of His redemptive purposes. He awoken my soul by the dissatisfaction for the status quo.

I thank GOD for that — but where did I go wrong? Well for starters I based my faith on my own limitations and my own comfort.

You see when our faith is based on GOD’s promises we are forced into an impossible task… It’s like when GOD promised Abraham and Sarah that they would father many generations but they were both too old to have children. GOD’s promises force us to embrace the mystery of GOD’s power.

Our faith is predicated on GOD not being limited to the same boundaries and rules that we are limited to. Our limited understanding of what is possible is what often times hinders our faith in GOD.

 

You want to maintain the mystery? Do you want to exercise faith? Then discover what GOD is doing and do that!

 

by: David Comstock

@redtreedave

 

#InTheStory

PRESENCE

ADVENT INVITES US TO ENGAGE.

IMG_2145.JPG

 

On one hand we have RESIGNATION (see WONDER). We know it all too well, the true ideology of our day --- "well, it is what it is". This breeds CYNICISM --- "look around you, this is as good as it gets". The rampant epidemic of cynicism has created wanderlust and wonder-loss.

Unable to be present and unable to imagine more.

If cynicism roots we will grow hardened in our hearts, hardened in our spirit, and we will lose AWE.

 

WE WILL LOSE WONDER.

 

On the other hand we have FAITH --- an essential curiosity which keeps us moving forward in HOPE and invites us to be PRESENT here and now in the everyday mess of the MUNDANE.

Being present gives us the opportunity to notice. To be acutely aware of the goings-on around us and in us; to observe the stories being told and the rhythms being lived. Perhaps being present is the greatest gift we can offer our world.

IT'S IN THIS EVERYDAY, MUNDANE, CONSTANT AND CONSISTENT WAYS OF LIFE THAT GOD BREAKS INTO THE SILENCE.

God has a history of breaking the silence in unorthodox ways.

 

#InTheStory

WONDER

We are control freaks.

We exist in an on-going, and ever-increasing tension revolving around control. We naturally clench our fists and tighten the grip on control, while equally sensing the adherent loss of control.

There is more than just loss in our battle with control. There is invitation.

THIS IS A SIGNIFICANT TRUTH, especially for us as we begin this advent season, because the reality of the loss of control can really freak us out!

On one hand we have RESIGNATION. We know it all too well, the true ideology of our day --- "well, it is what it is". This breeds CYNICISM --- "look around you, this is as good as it gets". The rampant epidemic of cynicism has created wanderlust and wonder-loss.

Unable to be present and unable to imagine more.

If cynicism roots we will grow hardened in our hearts, hardened in our spirit, and we will lose AWE.

 

WE WILL LOSE WONDER.

 

Wonder can’t be packaged, and it can’t be worked up. It requires some sense of being there and some sense of engagement.

Eugene Peterson

 

We will fight this war every year at Christmas --- "prepackaged wonder" which gives us a false sense of engagement. And then just as quickly as it came, poof! It's gone. Back to reality. Back to the grind. Back to disengagement.

 

ADVENT INVITES US TO ENGAGE.

CURIOSITY

EVERY YEAR AT CHRISTMASTIME, WE FIGHT THE WAR OF PREPACKAGED WONDER. 

IMG_9601.JPG

CURIOSITY

Skepticism — the thief of wonder…

 

As a child I remember looking up at the night sky and being filled with endless wonder. How many stars are out there? How big are they? Is there anything beyond? I would watch Star Trek on TV and my imagination would run wild. It was a curiosity that was deeply rooted in my soul. I would get to the end of a movie or TV series and have a bigilloin questions about what was left unsaid. I’d go through a myriad of what-if-scenarios in my mind. All that to say — I was genuinely curious. Fast forward to today and as an adult my curiosity has waned. Imagination has run thin and even when it rears it’s head I am inundated with facts, statistics, and information. Just ask Siri, she will tell you exactly how many stars are out there. In an age of information it seems that curiosity has been replaced with skepticism. The conversation has moved from “what could be?” and drifted towards “is that really true?” The curiosity that seems to accompany every child at some point gets sucked away by adulthood. The mystery is gone and wonder ceases.

 

“A human life is worth as much as the respect it holds for mystery.”

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

Jesus was acutely aware of this phenomenon. He actually told His followers in Mathew 18v2 “Truly, I say to you, unless you “turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” The problem with knowing all the answers is that there is no room to hear and it becomes a veil to seeing something new - no room for mystery and no room for a curiosity that drives you to seek. Jesus wasn’t telling His followers to “act” like children but rather to shed the skepticism that prevented them from a type of curiosity that caused them to marvel at GOD. This is what I love about the Christmas story… It forces you to imagine a world where people care about people, were there is generosity, and family. A world that GOD has broken into in order that it might be freed from despair and once again filled with hope. You go to bed on Christmas morning in great anticipation wondering what the next day will hold. But you wake up to the magic of presents and the story of presence. Everything is just better Christmas morning; the hustle and bustle of your children’s feet, the coffee pot brewing, even wiping the sleep out of your eye is a beautiful expression of new sight. It is a foretaste of that glorious day when we will all be awoken to the endless treasure of Christ’s perfect kingdom.

Although the mystery of God’s plan of redemption has been revealed in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection — it definitely has not explained everything. We worship an infinite GOD. His love and grace, justice and holiness are a bottomless ocean of infinite discovery. We can never get bored with GOD because there will always be some new mystery of His character to be explored.  When curiosity is replaced by skepticism wonder ceases and nothing is possible.

Knowing GOD can’t be pre-packaged… You can’t just Google GOD.

MIRROR

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

1 Corinthians 13:12

89B91AA4-7E4D-4AC1-91C5-EBDEBA6998AC.JPG

Q:

What happens when things don't go according to our plans?

Is God still good?

 

Q:

What happens when the story doesn't turn out the way we thought?

Can God still be trusted?

 

It seems God has always been revealing who He is; ultimately and perfectly on His terms. If we believe this to be true, then we must believe in His sovereign reign and rule. And if we do, then this truth strips us from the ability to control the outcome of the story. However hard and vigorous we try, we cannot control the pushing and the pulling; the spinning and the moving. WE ARE LIMITED.

The sun rose this morning; we had nothing to do with its rising.

For some, snow gracefully drifted down from the heavens this morning; we had nothing to do with its falling. The earth is currently spinning at 1,040 mph, which subsequently means we are spinning at 1,040 mph, and here we sit, sipping coffee and probably watching a cheesy hallmark Christmas movie. We have nothing to do with the earth's spinning, orbit, and rotation.

 

WE ARE JUST SIMPLY LIMITED.

 

We need that tension to rest on us.

 

ADVENT invites us to sit in the tension. We are not in control. We are limited.

 

And as much as we try, and as hard as we work, we are not the AUTHORS of this story.

We are just mere characters in a wild love story.

 

I know that sounds elementary and juvenile --- and I don't think there is one person reading this post that is not acutely aware of his or her LIMITEDNESS --- yet I also know that truth doesn't seem to stop our futile attempts at control.

 

Let me repeat this:

 

I KNOW it is elementary.

I KNOW it is juvenile thinking.

I KNOW everyone reading is acutely aware of our LIMITEDNESS.

I KNOW everyone reading knows we don't actually live in a Disney-made fairytale.

but I ALSO KNOW we naturally continue to live with our fists clenched tight and our feet planted firm, stubbornly holding on to the control of the AUTHORSHIP of our own lives.

 

ADVENT reminds us there is more going on here.

The STORY is bigger than we thought.

 

ADVENT INVITES US TO SIT IN THIS TENSION; WE ARE NOT IN CONTROL BUT WE ARE CONSTANTLY INVITED INTO THE STORY.

 

ADVENT creates CURIOSITY.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

SEASONS

BF73B1B4-D89E-44BF-B8D6-C22191D6E12A.JPG

The earliest followers of Jesus were a people deeply rooted in tradition and history. Their entire identity was constructed around the central belief that the one true God, Yahweh, was their God and they were His people. This truth, that God declared the nation of Israel to be His people and He would be their God, was a promise God made to His people. This promise is called a covenant. It's beyond a contract, more than an exchange of "I cross my heart and hope to die," more than a mere agreement. A covenant is a commitment; it's an unconditional, unbreakable, never-ending, always-and-forever kind of commitment. Though God’s people would run from Him and go through droughts of forgetting Him, their God would never stop loving them and they would never stop needing Him. Though they would wander, He would remind them of His promise and bring them back home. Though there were times their enemies were triumphant, He would rescue them. He promised He would be the shepherd they needed most and that He would provide perfectly for them. He would be their father and He was their home.


Romans 8v38-39

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Ephesians 3v17-19

So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.


Remember.


What is central can easily fade with the passing of time from generation to generation, from family to family. In an attempt to protect the very central identity as God’s people, God would instruct His people to wear certain things, do certain things at certain points throughout the day, and even stop what they were doing at certain points throughout the year, all to remember. By pressing pause and stopping long enough every day, every week, every month, and throughout the year, God’s people would gather to celebrate with feasts and festivals to remember who God is, what He has done for them, and what He promised He would do. There is an art to remembering. A certain rhythm and cadence is necessary to keep our attention.


In our fast-paced, always-on, and connected modern lifestyle, we are prone to wander, prone to forget. We all run the risk of being caught in the ever-present net of distraction.


How can we remember?


Is it possible to not forget?


One of the ways the early church attempted to remember, very similar to the feasts and the festivals celebrated in the Old Testament, was to carve out seasons on the calendar. These seasons each had a different emphasis and invitation to engage. The invitation was to keep in step with the seasons, to remember there is more still. It provides a sense of cadence and rhythm to the year. We need a sense of rhythm in our time -- it's what makes one moment different from another -- it gives shape and color and form to all of life. It's a gift that separates and arranges the year into patterns and rhythms. It gives variety. Tuning into this rhythm keeps the seasons from overlapping and mixing together where they are no longer clearly identifiable. Our corporate consumer culture continues to blur these lines. A wide array of pumpkin treats begin to hit shelves in July and August amidst ninety-degree days while Christmas displays are set up beside grim reaper and superhero costumes. It becomes nearly impossible to fully engage and be present in the moment as we’re forced to always look ahead to what's next.


The art of remembering is the art of engagement.

Engagement demands presence.


Engage.


Repetition always runs the risk of becoming trivial. Whenever we find ourselves doing the same things in the same ways over time, if we're not careful, we can forget why we're even doing what we're doing in the first place. In our daily lives, in our families, in our church gatherings, rote, religious repetition without understanding and the desire to remember will always only be lifeless, religious duty. Tradition, history, liturgy, and personal discipline are all designed for the same intent: to remember. The church calendar creates an opportunity to remember.


Many of us know about the holidays, one day a year set apart, but the church calendar is about seasons; we enter into a stretch of time with a specific cry, by a particular intention, for a certain reason. This brings us back to the church calendar. The early church understood the significance of emphasizing specific themes in specific seasons, all with the hope and desire to remember. The Church calendar invites us to keep in step with the seasons’ different textures, moods, and theological emphases.


For the Church, each new season carries with it an invitation to see with new eyes and a fresh perspective the same truth, the same covenant: “I will be your God and you will be my people.” We remember again how God accomplished His promise perfectly through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of His son Jesus. The church remembers and celebrates the fulfillment of longing, expectation, and anticipation of the birth of Jesus every year during the season of advent. We reflect and we remember every year that there is still more and God is still keeping His promise perfectly. Tradition, history, and the church calendar allow us to reflect, remember, and celebrate but also to look forward in expectation, longing, and anticipation.


Advent.


What is Advent?

The word "advent" means coming or arrival.


Advent is a season of celebration. We remember the first coming of Jesus the Christ. It's the celebration of the birth of Christ and now the anticipation of the return of Christ the King for His church. Advent carries a sense of expectation and preparation. It has a threefold focus: past and future as we celebrate in the present now. Advent also symbolizes the pilgrimage of the church, as we affirm that Christ has come, that He is present WITH us in the world today, and that He will come again in power. The beautiful tension of advent is the already, but not yet.


We acutely know things are not as they should be in our world. Something is missing. We know there is more. The depravity of the human condition is all around us, all the time. The apostle Paul writes that all of creation "waits in eager expectation" and that "the whole creation has been groaning" (Romans 8v19, 22). Advent is about longing and desire. Advent is far more than simply marking a two-thousand-plus year old event in history. It's about celebrating the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God. So we yearn for deliverance.


Advent invites us to ache together.


Anthony DeMello says, "Spirituality is about waking up." Advent happens every year to remind us that Jesus was sent to awaken us from our slumber.


But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible,

for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,

    and arise from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.”

Ephesians 5v13-14


With the changing of seasons, we're invited to keep in step with the rhythm. As fall approaches, summer’s rhythm begins to change. The daylight has been waning and soon with the fallback of our clocks, the evening will fall upon us sooner, almost as our invitation to begin to slow down with the changing. All of creation in these parts is going dormant. The bright and dark greens have turned to fire reds, burnt oranges, and pale yellowish hues, holding on until they give way to the inevitable lifeless browns and the downward pull of death. All of creation seems to be


resting...


pausing...


waiting...


Preparing to reveal the extravagant tapestry of spring, the expectant and fully anticipated burst of resurrection.


The church calendar was designed in such a way to follow the story. The story in which all stories find their meaning. Spring only makes sense in the context of winter, and resurrection only makes sense in the context of death. If you find yourself in a place with seasons, you know that all of creation is going dormant right now.


Creation waits.

Creation hibernates.

Creation brims with expectant longing

for the coming rescue.

GOD IS HERE.

The Creator comes to creation to reconcile creation back to the Creator.

D8A172E2-3BCF-44A5-AB54-5F9BB00E2042.JPG

What is central can easily fade with the passing of time from generation to generation, from family to family. In an attempt to protect the very central identity as God’s people, God would instruct His people to wear certain things, do certain things at certain points throughout the day, and even stop what they were doing at certain points throughout the year, all to remember. By pressing pause and stopping long enough every day, every week, every month, and throughout the year, God’s people would gather to celebrate with feasts and festivals to remember who God is, what He has done for them, and what He promised He would do. There is an art to remembering. A certain rhythm and cadence is necessary to keep our attention.

 

In our fast-paced, always-on, and connected modern lifestyle, we are prone to wander, prone to forget. We all run the risk of being caught in the ever-present net of distraction.

 

How can we remember?

 

Is it possible to not forget?

 

One of the ways the early church attempted to remember, very similar to the feasts and the festivals celebrated in the Old Testament, was to carve out seasons on the calendar. These seasons each had a different emphasis and invitation to engage. The invitation was to keep in step with the seasons, to remember there is more still. It provides a sense of cadence and rhythm to the year. We need a sense of rhythm in our time -- it's what makes one moment different from another -- it gives shape and color and form to all of life. It's a gift that separates and arranges the year into patterns and rhythms. It gives variety. Tuning into this rhythm keeps the seasons from overlapping and mixing together where they are no longer clearly identifiable. Our corporate consumer culture continues to blur these lines. A wide array of pumpkin treats begin to hit shelves in July and August amidst ninety-degree days while Christmas displays are set up beside grim reaper and superhero costumes. It becomes nearly impossible to fully engage and be present in the moment as we’re forced to always look ahead to what's next.

 

The art of remembering is the art of engagement.

Engagement demands presence.

 

Engage.

 

Repetition always runs the risk of becoming trivial. Whenever we find ourselves doing the same things in the same ways over time, if we're not careful, we can forget why we're even doing what we're doing in the first place. In our daily lives, in our families, in our church gatherings, rote, religious repetition without understanding and the desire to remember will always only be lifeless, religious duty. Tradition, history, liturgy, and personal discipline are all designed for the same intent: to remember. The church calendar creates an opportunity to remember.

 

Many of us know about the holidays, one day a year set apart, but the church calendar is about seasons; we enter into a stretch of time with a specific cry, by a particular intention, for a certain reason. This brings us back to the church calendar. The early church understood the significance of emphasizing specific themes in specific seasons, all with the hope and desire to remember. The Church calendar invites us to keep in step with the seasons’ different textures, moods, and theological emphases.

 

For the Church, each new season carries with it an invitation to see with new eyes and a fresh perspective the same truth, the same covenant: “I will be your God and you will be my people.” We remember again how God accomplished His promise perfectly through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of His son Jesus. The church remembers and celebrates the fulfillment of longing, expectation, and anticipation of the birth of Jesus every year during the season of advent. We reflect and we remember every year that there is still more and God is still keeping His promise perfectly. Tradition, history, and the church calendar allow us to reflect, remember, and celebrate but also to look forward in expectation, longing, and anticipation.

 

Advent.

 

What is Advent?

The word "advent" means coming or arrival.

 

Advent is a season of celebration. We remember the first coming of Jesus the Christ. It's the celebration of the birth of Christ and now the anticipation of the return of Christ the King for His church. Advent carries a sense of expectation and preparation. It has a threefold focus: past and future as we celebrate in the present now. Advent also symbolizes the pilgrimage of the church, as we affirm that Christ has come, that He is present WITH us in the world today, and that He will come again in power. The beautiful tension of advent is the already, but not yet.

 

We acutely know things are not as they should be in our world. Something is missing. We know there is more. The depravity of the human condition is all around us, all the time. The apostle Paul writes that all of creation "waits in eager expectation" and that "the whole creation has been groaning" (Romans 8v19, 22). Advent is about longing and desire. Advent is far more than simply marking a two-thousand-plus year old event in history. It's about celebrating the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God. So we yearn for deliverance.

 

Advent invites us to ache together.

 

Anthony DeMello says, "Spirituality is about waking up." Advent happens every year to remind us that Jesus was sent to awaken us from our slumber.

 

But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible,

for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,

    and arise from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.”

Ephesians 5v13-14

 

With the changing of seasons, we're invited to keep in step with the rhythm. As fall approaches, summer’s rhythm begins to change. The daylight has been waning and soon with the fallback of our clocks, the evening will fall upon us sooner, almost as our invitation to begin to slow down with the changing. All of creation in these parts is going dormant. The bright and dark greens have turned to fire reds, burnt oranges, and pale yellowish hues, holding on until they give way to the inevitable lifeless browns and the downward pull of death. All of creation seems to be

 

resting...

 

pausing...

 

waiting...

 

Preparing to reveal the extravagant tapestry of spring, the expectant and fully anticipated burst of resurrection.

 

The church calendar was designed in such a way to follow the story. The story in which all stories find their meaning. Spring only makes sense in the context of winter, and resurrection only makes sense in the context of death. If you find yourself in a place with seasons, you know that all of creation is going dormant right now.

 

Creation waits.

Creation hibernates.

Creation brims with expectant longing

for the coming rescue.

 

#InTheStory

GOD IS LOVE.

Jesus says, "I know. I understand. I still love you."

IMG_9437.JPG

Timothy Keller writes, "To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

 ///

Restless and chaotic, full of anxiety, we've lost our way. This new narrative sets its roots deeper.

 

In the age of innovation and modern technologies, it's becoming easier and easier to feel like someone on the outside, looking at other people who seem to be on the inside. Albeit, unable to define what "outside" and "inside" actual is or even who the "outsiders" and "insiders" actually are, we just innately know we are not them and we are not there. Social media platforms essentially function like windows, which allow us to take a little look-see, through which we peer into other people's lives and imagine what life could be like if we only had their lives. Life on the "inside" looks magical and wonderful, brimming with bliss. Their hardships and difficulties even look exotic and adventurous. It gives off the appearance of subtle solidarity, and almost makes us feel like we're not alone in the mess, but then we close the app, and awaken once again to the longing of belonging to something more.

 

We've all seen the momentary glimpses and felt the palpitations that come with knowing that you are part of something, and equally, the searing pain and loss that comes with rejection.

 

I wonder what is beneath the surface of belonging?

 

Perhaps the journey to belonging is paved with the desire to be known.

 

If this is true, no wonder rejection, abandonment, and loss weighs so heavily upon the human soul.

 

To be known is to be vulnerable and vulnerability comes with a great price. It's beyond mere honesty and transparency. That's not to say that honesty is not costly. But vulnerability goes deeper. Vulnerability seeks to continue to peel back the layers to explore and expose. Vulnerability lets the light in. Vulnerability is invitation.

 

Honesty says, "this is what I think."

 

Vulnerability says, "this is who I am."

 

Q: what price would you pay to be known?

 

This is what makes the incarnation of Jesus so mind-blowingly fascinating. Knowing what lay ahead, God the Father, sends His beloved Son into the depravity of the human experience, to live in the human condition to proclaim to the world, "this is who I am!"

 

And then we rejected Him and abandoned Him... Again!

 

Why would He do this? Why would he put everything on the line again? Did God, the Father somehow forget that tragic day in Eden? Did He forget the pain and rejection when he watched the man and woman filled with seduction and lust for more turn their back on Him?

 

Oh, beloved... He didn't forget!

 

How could He?

 

Jesus is God's way of saying, "I REMEMBER."

 

I remember like it was yesterday.

 

I remember the pain. I remember the loss. I remember the rejection.

 

The incarnation of Jesus was single greatest event of solidarity in the world. Jesus proclaims, "I am with you. I understand. I know."

 

The cross was the single greatest invitation.

 

I've come to bring you home.

 

It's time to come home.

 

It's an invitation to be known.

 

The invitation to be with God is an invitation to know God. The invitation to know God is the invitation to find rest in Him and belonging with Him. You are mine. Now be with me. The withness that saturated Eden is available now through the great rescue of Jesus.

 

Jesus invites, "Come to me... I will give you rest."

 

Jesus says, "I know. I understand. I still love you."

 

#InTheStory

 

 

GOD IS HOPE.

Hope begins with risk; Hope confidently confesses there is more.

IMG_9414.JPG

 

The journey to trust starts long before the moment we find ourselves standing at her gate; long before she invites us to walk through and experience what is on the other side. It's the whole expedition that leads us to trust that determines whether or not she can ever be trusted.

Let's call the journey to trust, hope.

Hope begins with risk.

Hope confidently confesses there is more. Hope innately knows there is more beyond what our minds can imagine and more beyond what our hands can produce. Hope creates awareness.

With hope, what may seem like inconsequential details to most; smells, tones, colors, ambient noises in the background, random passersby, become the setting, cast, and soundtrack for the moment of discovery.

The monotony takes on new life.

The mundane receives a new heartbeat.

Hope invites us to a way that gets inside the truth.

Hope invites us back into our imagination.

We've traded our imaginations in for the American Dream.

We've traded swords in for suits and stopped slaying dragons and started collecting pay checks.

///

The disciples of Jesus were exhausted. It had been an emotionally grueling few days. Jesus's cousin John, known as the the baptizer, had just been executed by King Herod for a party gift to one of his guests. John had paid the ultimate price for allegiance to Jesus. He was a faithful servant of God and a man of honor. Jesus was heart broken and sought solitude from the crowds. He withdrew in a boat to a desolate place, but when the crowds heard they followed.

 

Jesus arrived on shore and there was a crowd there waiting for him. Jesus had just lost his cousin, he was in mourning, but the need of the people was great and He has compassion on them. Compassion can be a tricky business. Compassion means to see need and do something about it. Regardless of scenario, regardless of situation, regardless of Jesus's emotional state, He moves with compassion for the people. He spent the day healing the sick, ultimately continuing the work of the kingdom. Something His cousin John had spent his life engaged in.

 

As the evening was enclosing in on them, the disciples approached Jesus and suggested a plan for the rest of the night. Their plan was to send the crowd back to their towns and villages, knowing they were in a desolate place, so they could eat and rest.

 

Jesus responds, "you feed them."

 

If there was ever a moment in the recorded stories of the gospels where I wish there were more details and commentary, this would definitely be one of those moments.

 

The scriptures record there being five thousand men in attendance. That's the number five with three zero's! And that was only the men. Who knows how many women and children there may have been there with them. Potentially tens of thousands on people in attendance, and Jesus tells the disciples, "you feed them."

 

Have you ever cooked for a dinner party of thousands?

 

What would you do?

 

The disciples immediately attempt to figure out the overwhelming dinner party accommodations. I'd imagine with the reality of inadequacy acutely present, the disciples return to Jesus with only five loaves of bread and two fish from a school aged boy amongst the crowd.

 

Reminiscent of the day Jesus sent Peter and his mates back out to fish after an exhausting failure of a work day with nothing to show for, they went out and returned with their boats full and sinking at the size of their haul. This time, the disciples returned with some bread and some fish. Clearly not enough food to feed thousands.

 

Jesus, "this is all we could find. This is all we have."

 

May we never forget the immensity of our inadequacy, and His overwhelming adequacy.

 

"Bring them here to me," Jesus responds.

 

Jesus takes our lack and shows His more. He looked to His Father and prayed a prayer, "then He broke the loaves of bread and gave them to the disciples", and the disciples began to hand out the bread to the crowd. Every time they gave a piece of bread they turned to find there was more where it had come from.

 

Jesus used their best effort and seemingly failed attempt to feed the crowd and multiplied their effort and equally their trust as He multiplied the fish and the bread until everyone ate and was satisfied.

 

The demonstration of power and authority raised immense amounts of curiosity. Hope bubbled up from the curiosity in something more. And their faith grew.

 

May our faith grow in the one who is able.

GOD IS GIVER.

Every good and perfect gift is from above. coming down from the Father...

IMG_9401.JPG

God has ALWAYS provided for His children. Bestowed with honor, we are partakers and humble recipients of heavenly and divine promises from the faithful Father. Designed to rest in full satisfaction by the undeserved grace lavished upon us.

 

"And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:19

 

God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, but you may be aware of three of them."  - John Piper

 

The faithful Father has ALWAYS provided perfectly for His children. 

 

the perfection of Eden,

skin of an animal to cover their nakedness,  

an ark, 

a way out of Egypt, 

a path through the Red Sea, 

a wandering through the wilderness, 

water from a rock,

bread from heaven, 

a new land,  

a shepherd boy, 

a teenage virgin,

sight to the blind,  

freedom to the oppressed, 

family to the orphan, 

rest for the weary, 

a sacrificial lamb for atonement, 

a cross for sin,

grace for the needy...

 

SO MUCH TO BE THANKFUL FOR TODAY. 

 

MAY WE REST WELL TODAY WITH FULL HEARTS. 

 

#InTheStory

 

GOD IS INVITATION.

 The Glorious One extends the most glorious invitation, to the least deserving.

11F86B30-21C9-4EA0-B984-E0E57574B4E2.JPG

Jesus asked His disciples, "who do people say that the Son of man is?" This question seems as relevant and timely today as it did then; who do you say Jesus is?

 

The timing Jesus asks this question is interesting. Like all good things naturally do, news about Him began to spread at an increasing rate. With each miracle and every inexplicable moment, Jesus's notoriety was ever growing. The people were trying to make sense of what they were seeing and what they were hearing, but they didn't have a fully formed compartment in which to place this man in. So the crowds were using their history to attempt to bring some semblance of understanding. They thought maybe He is the beloved John the Baptist? Perhaps one of the great prophets of the past have come back. Maybe Elijah, or maybe Jeremiah?

 

Jesus responded, "But who do say that I am?"

 

Moving with precision from "they" to now "you", Jesus purposely and intentionally began to dig down to expose the root and the foundation of their belief. Jesus was the master teacher. He constantly moved from the edges to the center, seeking to stir the deep waters of the heart. The depths of humanity innately know the language of the deep. And so, deep calls to deep to confront the lie that we can find the more we long for on the surface. This is a tender moment in which the conversation moves beyond the surface to the deep. A moment Jesus wanted to capture in order to further align perspective. Space Jesus created to let the disciples sit in and allow truth to settle deeper. Invited exploration that will lead to discovery.

 

As usual, Peter speaks, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." He confesses that Jesus is the Christ, the anointed One, the Messiah. One of the greatest joys for a teacher, a coach, or a parent are the moments when the proverbial lights bulbs would illuminate. The moments of awakening, where all of a sudden, at least for that moment, things made sense. All the lessons, all the words. The journey full of ups and downs, ebbing and flowing on the waves of belief, culminate in this moment of confession, "You are the Christ." In this truth revealed to the disciples by God, through the active work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus began to lay the foundation for a new way forward.

 

 

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,

and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Matthew 16:18-19

 

 

"Yes, Peter. I am the Christ, the anointed One. The living Word. The visible image of the invisible God. The firstborn of all creation. I am the first and the last. I am the beginning and the end. The sovereign king and glorious One. The everlasting, faithful, and steadfast One. I am the bread of life. I am the light of the world. I am the doorway, the pathway, the gateway, and the highway. I am the good shepherd. I am the the true vine. I am the way, the truth, and the life. Yes, Peter. I am Jesus, the Christ, you are Peter, and on this truth I will strengthen you and use you to build my church, and the enemy will not prevail against it."

 

The glorious One, extends the most glorious invitation, to the least undeserving. Peter's confession inaugurates the greatest invitation, "join me." But its more than just join me, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven." It's access.

 

With invitation, comes access.

 

It's yours!

This is your inheritance.

Take it.

Hold it.

Share it.

Give it.

Steward it.

#InTheStory

GOD IS MORE.

May we never forget our inadequacy; He is sufficient, He is enough, He is more.

IMG_9370.JPG

They reached the deep waters and did exactly as they rabbi had instructed. They cast out their nets and then anxiously waited. All the men were leaning over the side of the boat, eyes fixated on the calm water.

 

Nothing suddenly meets overwhelming surplus.

 

Empty became over flowing fullness.

 

Exhaustion became exhilaration.

 

Sorrow turned to joy.

 

There was such a large number of fish their nets began to rip at the seams. The haul was too much for them to take on their own that they had to signal the other boat for help. They managed to pull the nets up and fill both boats so full that both vessels began to sink.

 

Astonished silence followed by an eruption of joy filled the air, but Simon understood something more had just happened. The overwhelming gratitude at the immense reality of the undeserved windfall was met with fear, and Simon threw himself at the feet of Jesus in an act of submission. Whatever he had just experienced, he knew it wasn't mere coincidence and he knew he didn't deserve it. All he knew to do was throw himself at the mercy of the one from whom the gift had come. He knew he was standing in the presence of greatness.

 

Jesus responded to Simon's fear only as a good Father could. Jesus pursued. Jesus gently reveals to Simon his overwhelming need, and meets him there in his brokenness, then invites him into more. In a sense, Jesus says, "Simon, I see you. I know you. I want you." Jesus lifts Simon up from despair and hopelessness, sets his feet, opens his eyes, and invites him forward.

 

The sinking boats pull up to shore with the catch of a lifetime and suddenly the fish become irrelevant. Jesus steps out of the boat, and Simon along with his partners, James and John, walk away from everything and follow their rabbi, Jesus.

 

Why would they walk away now?

Business has never been better. Profit margins have never been higher. They stand on the threshold of a lucrative future and a comfortable living, and then just walk away. It just doesn't make sense.

 

What makes a man walk away from the best opportunity of his life?

 

A better way.

 

They had just experienced an inexplicable, nature defying, powerful display of authority.

 

Are you staying with the fish or following the one who has dominion over the fish?

 

Wherever we see the demonstration of God's authority, resurrection is in the air. Their hearts, minds, and souls had just been filled with awe.

 

This is the invitation of the gospel.

 

Jesus says, "follow me. I want to take you somewhere. I want to do something, and I want you to join me."

 

Come.

 

#InTheStory

GOD IS HOME.

Innately we never stop searching for love; the longing brings us home. 

 

IMG_1915.JPG

Their communion broken, driven from the presence of God and the home God had created for them, Adam and Eve’s life outside the garden was anything but blissful. They were not okay without God. Humanity would have to live in constant and continual neediness.

There is story in the book of Luke, about a wayward, rebellious son. The story opens with the younger of two sons demanding that his father give him his inheritance now. This is essentially to say, “I wish you were dead now, so I can have what is rightfully mine." Discontented in his situation, everything he had with his father and all that would be his one day wasn't good enough for the son.

 

He wanted more.

 

Unwilling to be patient and await the gift that would be one day be his, he took his newly acquired inheritance and set sail to a distant land to chase the desires deep within his heart. The scriptures tell us that he squandered all that he had in reckless living. Enticed away, in an effort to live in freedom and pursue what he believed would bring him fulfillment, the son lost everything. At that very time, a great famine swept through the land. The wandering son had nothing, and in complete desperation, he took a job far beneath his dignity, religion, and place in society. Working for a foreigner in a distant land, he would be responsible to feed the man's pigs.

While working in the fields in the heat of the day with nothing to fill his belly, hoping for some of the leftover food the pigs hadn't eaten and with nothing to quench his thirst, the son began dreaming of days past. He remembered who he once was and all that he had in his father’s house as one of his sons. Every need was fully met by his father. He began to smile, thinking back on all the memories; as a child, he was unable to hold his father's whole hand. With his small hand swallowed up in the bigness of his father's, he could only grip one finger and hold tight. He remembered his father's ring and the symbol that represented the seal of his family, as they walked the property sharing stories and overlooking all that his father had been blessed with. He remembered hearing his father’s deep tenor voice in his head, explaining that one day all this would belong to him and his brother. "Why?" the son asked. His father went on to explain that, simply because he was his father's son, all that his father had would be his. The son knew who he was because of who the father was. As he grew in age and stature, the son would watch how his father managed and looked over all he had. He watched closely how the father treated his servants with dignity and respect and how they cherished the father because of it. They would do anything for him without even the slightest grumble. The father made them feel as if they were part of the family. The father would teach the two sons how to work hard and join him in his work.

The son wakes to the reality of his fall.

He remembers the height from which he has fallen.

At rock bottom, the son remembers. He remembers that his father has more than enough, that even his servants are filled and there is plenty left. He knows home is his only option. He must return back to his father. His appetite more insatiable than before, his longing more evident, he sets out for home.

 

The longing brought him home.

 

"And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him."

Luke 15:20

 

According to daily routine, the faithful father made his rounds at dusk, making sure the daily work was wrapping up and preparations for tomorrow's labor were in place. It was intentional space created for his heart to reflect, commune, and thank God for all that He had provided. He ended his rounds at the high point on the front side of the property that overlooked the road leading up to the house. It was there every evening that he prayed for his youngest son. Most nights he lingered a bit longer, always hopeful that just maybe this could be the night his son returned. He often replayed the scene from that dreadful day the son voiced those hateful words, turned his back, and walked out. Nonetheless, the faithful father never stopped searching, hoping, waiting, weeping.

It was that hour of the evening, the sun just beginning to set. The father had finished his rounds for the evening and found himself in that familiar place, looking out, peering in the distance. After lingering for a few moments longer, the father breathed in deep and turned back toward the house. But this night, the longing felt heavier. After a few steps, he stopped. Turning back toward the high point overlooking the front of his property, he saw something far in the distance. Unable to clearly make out the silhouette in the dimly lit sky, he stepped closer. "I know that posture. I know that gait,” the father thought. He recognized the strut of the figure. He always told his younger son to stand up straight and stop hunching over. It was a bit of swagger mixed with poor posture.

What is that?

Who is...?

Could it be...?

Is that my...?

He couldn't finish his thoughts before he began to run. Overwhelmed with compassion and filled with joy, he rolled his robe up past his knees and ran toward his son. Who knows the last time the old man ran, but he couldn't stop, he was compelled to go to his son. While awkwardly running, so as not to trip over his rolled up robe, the father continually shouted, "My son! My son! My son is home!" in the deep tenor that the son knew so well. The son stopped in his tracks as his father ran toward him. He lunged, nearly tackling the wayward young man in a full embrace. Reminiscent of childhood, the father lifted the son into the air so his feet were no longer touching the ground beneath him. The prodigal felt his embrace and the kiss upon his cheek.

Overwhelmed, the son could not contain his brokenness. He broke at his father's feet. He wept, struggling to speak the words through the pain and tears.

 "Father, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry... I'm no longer worthy to be your son. I’ve sinned against God and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. I'm sorry. I've disgraced our family. I've disappointed you. I'm sorry."

 

"I am your father. You are my son. You are mine."

 

The soft yet strong timbre of the father’s voice was unmistakable.

 

"Son, you are home again."

 

But the father said to his servants,

'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.

And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.

For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.'

And they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:22-24

 

The faithful father rolled out the red carpet for his lost son. The father went to great lengths to remind his son of who he is. The son’s brokenness was met with provocative grace. "Servant? No. You are my son!" They stood at ground zero for what makes love possible. Desperation, repentance, return, and grace. Now humility sets in. The love of the father, was so deep that he let his beloved son go. He knew and trusted that love would be good enough to bring him home. The heart had become fertile for identity to set. The father gave his son a robe, a ring bearing the mark of the family, sandals, a fattened calf. "My son is alive. My son is home."

 

Outside of the garden, no longer beneath the creator’s wings of protection, where perfect provision met neediness, the man and the woman struggle. Eden still in their rear view mirror—with all of its memories, all of its perfection—felt so close, but it might as well have been an eternity away. There was no going back. They turned their backs on their creator, so they had to live with the consequences with every day that passed as the man and woman aged. As they started a family of their own, ebbing and flowing between struggle caused by sin and pleasure brought by grace, they would never stop longing for Eden. There would never be contentment apart from their God.

 

But the story doesn't end here.

 

God never stops pursuing His beloved.

 

#InTheStory

GOD IS SHEPHERD.

I am the good shepherd; I lay down my life for my sheep. 

IMG_9336.JPG

 

One of the most widely used metaphors in all the scriptures is the imagery of sheep and a shepherd. God and the writers of scripture often refer to leadership and overseers as shepherds and the people as sheep and/or flocks. When God appointed men to lead, He often used the imagery of a shepherd leading, loving, serving, and protecting their flock as way to address how they were to lead, love, serve, and protect their people, ultimately on His behalf. It doesn't take much reading to discover the great need and dependance the sheep had on their shepherd. Perhaps the powerful line from the great hymn, "Come Thou Fount" sums up this reality we know all too well, "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love."

We see vividly the unflattering picture painted that reflects sheep. Sheep are relatively dumb, prone to trouble, easily led astray, defenseless, and vulnerable. Simply put, sheep are needy, anxious, and desperate creatures. Thus our great need for a good shepherd.

I Am the the good shepherd; I lay my life down for my sheep.

 

God's grand design was love.

 

The truth is that we were designed with an insatiable and relentless desire for love. John writes that "God is love." We are designed for God. Our desire for God is fierce. God's love for His beloved is ferocious.

Vulnerable, created from more and for more, the adversary set out to deceive the man and the woman. He offers the illusion of more. He seduces them with the appearance of control, power, and authority. It arrests their attention and stirs their affections. He weaves the narrative that their trusted creator, their loving and sovereign King, their good shepherd is holding out on them.

They take the bait.

The hook is set.

 They lost sight of love.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

John 10v10

 

 God never stopped pursuing.

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 10v10-11

 

"For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep

and will seek them out.

As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.

And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country.

I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land,

and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel.

I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down,

declares the Lord GOD.

I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.

Ezekiel 34:11-16

 

 

God pursues. He puts on flesh, enters the depravity of the human experience, and lays His life down for His sheep. Jesus is the good shepherd who Ezekiel prophesied about. God is the good Father who keeps His promises. And His sheep can declare...

 

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23v1-4

 

We were deceived into thinking there was more beyond our creator, into thinking that our primal longings and deep desires could be fulfilled and satisfied outside of intimacy from our Good Shepherd. We forgot that He alone always does what is good, right, and perfect; that He is completely and fully sufficient, in and of Himself; that He is unchanging, completely consistent; that He is holy, righteous and just; that He is powerful and present; that He is matchless in His glory; that He is good, great and provocatively gracious; that He is patient and kind; that He is faithful; that He is magnificent, full of splendor and awe; that He is king; that He is a promise maker and promise keeper; that He is father. As a perfect father, He provides, protects, and is perfectly present with His family. He loves with perfect precision; nothing is ever outside of our good, and everything is always for His glory. He has adopted us as his own and reminds us that, "you are mine." He is our good shepherd.

 

#InTheStory

GOD IS DESIGNER.

This all matters; You were placed here to leave a legacy of the glory of God. 

 

42ECB323-0F33-4B31-98EF-0555396F0472.JPG

There is an innate beauty in the word design to me. It could point to something so creative and whimsical as art or music or it could be describing something as functional as a table that was constructed for basic uses as eating dinner.

Both are so necessary and yet beautiful.

The beauty lies within the story; for art or a song becomes necessary when words fail to convey our emotions and a table tells a story when it's surrounded with people filled with love and experiences.

And as the carpenter designs a table and the writer designs a song, God has so beautifully designed every person with their own purpose and meaning.

He designed a world with us in it that would benefit from each and every one of us. However unlike the art or the table we face a danger they cannot. That danger is to forget. We have the ability to forget that we've been given a purpose, bestowed with meaning, a need that we were so specifically designed to fulfill.

When we forget we were designed we forget our purpose.

When we forget our purpose we forget our identity. Fight to remember every day that you were designed for a purpose with an identity. For It is when we lean into that understanding that we can live better and love better. The more I see people look to themselves for the answers they're so desperately looking for, the more I see them lose themselves. Its when we look to our designer that we will find a purpose that will bring us more joy than we could imagine, more purpose than we can imagine and in the end more freedom than we could've dreamt possible.

 

#InTheStory

 

Guest Author: John Harder

@john_harder