Saturday Something – Ep 2: Forgiveness

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Forgiveness is nice when it’s for us.
Forgiveness is hard when we have to give it.

 

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Build Where No-one Has

Have you ever started something brand new? There’s a lot of work that begins that process. There are resources to gather, people to inform, learning to do…the list goes on and on. That’s the road that God started laying on my heart in the Summer of 2016. You see, my wife and I had been working with a church for about 7 years at that point and it was in deep and desperate need of revitalization. If you’ve never looked into what is required for church revitalization, it’s a long, difficult process At the best, people are inspired, a vision is grasped and a new community emerges from the old. Beauty springs from ashes. At the worst, the doors close, the body disperses, and hearts are broken.

IMG_0573 We wound up somewhere in between, but much closer toward the latter than the former. Visions were cast and disparaged in the same day, frustrations were building, betrayals were taking place, woven in lies through the congregation by a single staff member. The enemy was having a heyday with us. Leadership balked at every step, kowtowed to fear and essential conversations were refused. That’s about as deep as I want to get into it, but suffice it to say, it was unhealthy & bad. This post isn’t about them, or meant to point fingers. It was simply the reality at the time. The church still exists, I pray she advances almost daily.

In the midst of that hurt and hopelessness, God began to persistently whisper something to my heart and He would not stop. “Go build. Lay a foundation where no one has.” Over and over again. “Go build. Lay a foundation where no one has.” He put this singular message on repeat in my head. I knew the context, and I was coming to the end of my fight where I was. I knew the context. I really did. I knew it, those words were Paul’s and they were missionary words. But my mind and heart were still clinging to our current location. I don’t give up. I can be stubborn to a fault. I’m not noisy, but I’m tenacious, and I only had one finger left clinging to that ledge.

I was ready to fall into something different. And God rescued us from ourselves.

My wife and I had engaged in a conversation where she was trying to hype me back up and letting me know that she was ready to fight and keep pressing, but that next day, the other shoe dropped. Decisions were pressed and forced. They were not handled well, and I was caught off guard. In my heart, I quit that day. In my head, I knew the timing was terrible for my departure, so I dug that final finger into the cliff face for a 6 month press. My wife and I began to pray a new prayer. “Lord, we are ready, we know you are calling us out. We are ready for an adventure.”

That’s a scary prayer, but it was also a prayer of freedom.

To say it was rough was a massive understatement. But God kept whispering into my heart. “Go build,” “Lay a new foundation,” and “Lay one where no one has.” He was putting direction into our future, guiding us toward something different, something new, something that would utilize our passions, the vision He had placed on our hearts, and open us up to true, intentional multi-ethnic ministry.

So, for 6 months I began internally saying goodbye to people I had spent the better part of a decade with, served alongside of and still held a deep love for. I knew I was leaving, being called out, and I needed these last months to know that I wasn’t running away. Even in that time I knew that God had something for me to learn. And He taught me in that painful, desert place. They were tough lessons. They were internally focused, and there was a lot of discussion about my doubts and fears. The hurts would be handled later…

For now, there was something coming, something new. Looking back, there was a lot more I should have done in regards to soul care, in seeking counsel. I did seek people out, people I respected, people who knew our situation, and the godly counsel I received from every side was. “Yes. Leave. Leave quickly. Don’t make yourself a martyr. You are meant for more than this.” and so the call out was confirmed over and over again. It was just a matter of where. I knew the when. And then God started laying bread crumbs out in front of us…but that’s another post.

If you are a minister struggling where you are, this is not a confirmation for you to leave where you are. God may have a very different course and plan for you than He has for me and my family. Odds are, He probably does. But if you are suffering harm, if you are being hurt, then you need to begin having those tough conversations with people who have the luxury of outside eyes. Seek God-honoring counsel. And understand your family comes first. If harm is coming to them, then you fight for your family. I did my best to protect mine, but I know that’s not always possible.

Notes on leaving from : Ron Edmonson,  Carey Nieuwhof, Mark Dance, Sherry Surratt
Notes on longevity from: Curtis Thomas, Charles Arn, Joe Buchanan,  Ron Cook

I have the advantage of time right now. This struggle was 18 months ago as of the date of this writing. A lot of healing has taken place. Relationships have been restored. God has spoken beauty into our ashes, and He’s still moving, changing, healing. I’m no where near done. But I am where that foundation will be laid, and there’s a lot of good that has come from our movement in Him.

If you’re still reading. Seek Him in your pain. Seek Him in your hurt. He is faithful. He does see you. He knows what you’re struggling with in His Name and for His bride. He may steel your reserve, telling you to stay and outlive & outlast those whose hearts are no longer Gospel-centered and who simply want their own way. He may call you to the furthest reaches of the earth. I certainly don’t know. But know that He knows. You are loved. Your hurts are known, and He wants to carry them for you. You are loved, you precious child of the King. You are loved, and if you are loved by Him, then you are certainly worthwhile and worth more than you understand.

Be at peace in Him.

One Step at a Time

Ever had someone try to offer you deeply profound advice at a time when you just needed something specific and easy to hear? “Ah, my friend, you know that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” Really? Thanks. Super helpful.

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Instead of what we need, something real, something practical, our friends try to over spiritualize, over think and over do it when it comes to advice. Sometimes simple is best. When your friend is suffering, struggling with the deep and distracting travails of life it probably best not to use that time to make yourself look better or sound smarter, ya know?

But that’s what we tend to do isn’t it? We don’t know what to say to them and so we wind up talking about ourselves. It’s easier. We compare life notes, we share our own struggles, and how we dealt with them. We have the benefit of the 30,000 ft overhead view of our whole situation while they’re slogging through the worst of it. We can oversimplify, overcomplicate, talk about anything and everything else that comes to mind when maybe, just maybe, we simply need to be present with them.

I am super guilty of this myself. I’m a guy. I compartmentalize. I try to be objective, and maybe my friend just needs me to listen. Maybe if I say anything at all, it just needs to focus on the next step, or even what it will take to lift their foot to begin to think about taking that step. In the name of trying to give good advice, we often give terrible advice, because we aren’t present in the situation with our friend. Maybe what they need is someone to just take that one step with them. I know I’ve been there, too, and recently.

Thank God for good friends who can come alongside of us in our struggles, encourage us, be present for us, and not necessarily try to fix everything in that moment as if life was a sitcom with 30 minute resolutions.

Jesus walks with Peter, James and John everyday. Peter is Captain Obvious, pops off at the mouth and says some pretty brash stuff on a regular basis. But rather than take on all of Peter’s problems and foibles, Jesus loves him that day and offers direction for that moment. Sometimes we see Jesus speaking a long term solution or pathway to Peter, but more often than not, He’s present with him in that moment of brokenness. And on the beach, over those smoked fish and watching the sun come up, Jesus speaks both into Peter’s present hurt andante his future as a leader of other broken people.

Last year, I was in a pretty rough place. I was feeling raw and vulnerable. I was feeling pretty worthless, and was dealing with some deep-seated hurts. But we had some awesome Christian friends who sat with us in church, had us over to their house and never once asked anything to bring up those hurts. That wasn’t what we needed in that moment. What we needed were a few people to take the next steps of ‘normal life’ with us, and that went a long way with our healing. May God provide us all with those good relationships when we need them, and us for them when they need us. It a beautiful opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus as we walk in the rhythms of His grace together.

 

Seeking Peace Along a Hard Road

Blessed Father, we desire to break bread with You, to walk with You & enjoy Your company. Make our hearts burn within us as we meet with You, unfolding Your Word in our hearts. Help us to see, hear & gain wisdom. Prepare us for the difficulties & joys of the day, so we may rely on You & give You glory no matter what may come. We seek You out for these blessings of faith & for the sake of Your glory being shown through us.
We pray this in Jesus’ Name, amen.

Luke 24: 13-35
13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

I long for these moments & experiences. As Christians, we long for the Lord’s presence, we desire to walk with Him, listen to Him & experience what these two experienced along the road to Emmaus. There is no greater joy than to be able to give our whole selves over to the will & mystery of the Lord, to be bundled up in His arms & to close out every sound but the sweetness of His voice. Swift & powerful, His tongue comforts & convicts, He cuts to the root of our sin & draws us up into the highest heaven. It is almost indescribable. But we long for these moments. We want every weekend worship gathering to be a place where we meet with Him like this, every moment spent in the Word like this, every encounter with a stranger, friend or family member like this when we share our faith with them.

But we must also be reminded of these two on the road. They were consumed, troubled & sad. They had expectations, desires for redemption & they wanted to see God’s hand move in a mighty & powerful way. And it took Jesus’ presence to bring them comfort. His Words, His presence, His laughter, teaching & prayer to open their eyes to what God had done & was continuing to do.

If we would feel His presence, then we must draw near & listen. We must hear what He says, and leave behind what fills our mind, giving it all over to Him in these moments where we need to draw near. While Jesus spoke, they were silent. They listened. They didn’t interrupt every third word, they weren’t engrossed in another activity. Their focus was undivided & therefore laser focused on everything He had to say. It was time spent just with Jesus. Unrushed, untouched, unadulterated. Just them & just Him.

If we want to feel the comforting presence of Jesus, then we need to give Him our attention. We need to listen & remove distractions. If we are broken & hurting inside, if life’s events are too much to handle & understand, then we need to trust Him with those moments & draw near to Him & Him alone.

Praise God for His Holy Spirit who can & does walk with us, even within us, through these moments of our day-to-day life. What a precious gift to know He is with us, moving, present & speaking to us. We simply need to seek Him out for peace & be still, trusting in His footsteps along the way.

Father, we bless Your holy Name! We praise the movement of Your Word in our hearts!
Teach us to listen & be still. remind us of Your presence & may we feel that sweet stillness in our spirits as we draw near to You along life’s road. Again, we pray in Jesus’ Name, amen.

Sifted & Strengthened

Father, thank You for understanding our weaknesses & loving us enough to expose them to us. Thank You for revealing the depths of our need for You & uncovering our insecurities. Your love for us is infinite & Your mercies are new every morning. Jesus, You have been our Advocate in a way that no one else ever could be. Our flesh is weak, but Holy Spirit, You bring strength to our bones & stamina to our hearts. Please embolden us for today & sustain us until tomorrow within Your peace. We lack nothing with You & remain impoverished without You. We praise You for Your great grace, O God. Carry us through our season of need & be glorified in the process. We are Yours.
This we acknowledge in Jesus’ Name, amen.

Luke 22:31-38
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”

I think we all know what it feels like to be sifted. Shaken & tossed, who we are at the core is exposed & we feel like we have been left bare to the world. Any covering we may have had is removed & we are left open & we feel vulnerable. I’m sure Peter felt exposed when Jesus spoke about this, his own fears & weaknesses laid bare before his friends. It probably hurt, I guarantee it did. I imagine that Peter’s face went ashen when Jesus spoke to him about this & even when he tried to defend his love for Christ, Jesus revealed how quickly his denial would come.

We all have aspirations for ourselves within our faith.We have an image of our own devotion & strength for Jesus, & this ‘best case scenario’ of our faith-life is rarely reality when the pressure is one & it’s time to speak up or take steps of real faith. We tell ourselves stories, we are creative in justifying what we do & how we live. But when it comes down to it, we will deny, just like Peter did, that we have the capacity for such a quick falling away. But the proof is in the pudding, & belief is tested by pressure. We revert quickly to who we actually are when those moments come & Jesus wanted Peter to be prepared & to hear a word of grace before it came for him.

No one want to be left feeling inadequate, especially for the One who conquered death & sin & saved us from facing the wrath of God. But it wasn’t our strength that sent Jesus through His Passion & it wasn’t our righteousness that allowed Him to serve as our perfect sacrifice. We brought nothing to the table in this regard, we were continue to be inadequate when it comes to strength & saving ourselves. But Jesus is sufficient. Jesus is more than enough for us all. So when Peter was told about his coming failure & when you & I see our own moments of stumbling coming along, we can be reminded that it ids Jesus who brought grace & it is God’s Holy Spirit that fills us with the grace we need & provides us with strength for every obstacle.

Satan will always be our accuser, until the day he is defeated with a word & God’s judgment comes for all of us. He desires to ruin us & break God’s heart in the process. Jesus said it best, that he comes to steal, kill & destroy. But Jesus came so that we might have life & have it abundantly. When the enemy tries to attack or to remind us of past failures, we need to remember that Jesus has already opened the doorway to forgiveness with His own blood & that the devil holds no authority over us & his accusations fall flat. When we receive Jesus as Savior & Lord, our names are covered by His Name. Our identities are found in Him, not in our past, not in our mistakes & not in our weaknesses.

All glory & honor & praise go to Him for His great grace & love. He calls us to walk daily in those rhythms, not the old discord that used to define us, but in new rhythms of His grace & His love. We may still stumble, but He has already stooped to serve & help us stand again. May we be bold for Him & trust in the depths of His strength & His awesome forgiveness. He alone is worthy & makes us worthy in Himself. Thank God for that today.

Purified, Redeemed & Given Peace

Father, bring us Your peace. Through Jesus Christ You have offered to us grace beyond measure. You have inaugurated our entry into Your presence with His blood, purified us and saved us from the wrath due us in Your judgment. Thank You for putting away our sin by this sacrifice. Thank You for promising us life beyond life and death. Thank You for the blessing of the greater picture of existence with You through Him. Thank You for the presence of Your Holy Spirit in this in-between time. Amen.

Hebrews 9:15-28
15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

This is a lot to take in, isn’t it? Centuries of human effort, ritual purification, sacrifice and an obvious inability to maintain moral standards left us reeling. We were desperate, the children of God were in need of relief, and the world needed a savior without even knowing they needed Him. Try as we might to deny sin’s presence in our life, we rationalize all our decisions, seek out our own way and call the effort worthwhile. We stubbornly stand in pride and deny correction when it comes.We’ve all stood silently in this place. We know our own hearts, even if we don’t speak what we feel all the time.

Emotionally and spiritually bankrupt, God saw our deep need to be cleansed, redeemed and brought into real peace with Him. We need to remember this, drink it in & rest in Him.

And so comes Jesus.
Pause a minute. Breathe & speak His Name.

Heaven’s sacrifice once for all who would come.
Final.
He loves You deeply.
Pause again. Breathe & speak His Name, Jesus.

We needed Him so badly. Our efforts always temporary, we needed relief. And so He brings us peace by removing the need for the effort, and taking it upon Himself. This is the richness of the love of God, this is the depth of His grace. This loving Father, making sacrifice on behalf of His children, so that we might bring Him glory and that He might sing over us in His peace.

Jesus is the One who stood in the gap. The Father the One who sacrifices. The Holy Spirit the One who indwells us as we are being made holy – Our Triune God gathering us into His love.

Pause a minute. Breathe & abide in the rest He provides. Breathe. Trust in our Great High Priest who offered Himself up as the sacrifice.

Breathe.
Rest.
Speak the Name of Jesus.
Trust in Him & Praise His Name.
Walk in the rhythms of His grace today.

Father, bring us Your peace. Through Jesus Christ You have offered to us grace beyond measure. You have inaugurated our entry into Your presence with His blood, purified us and saved us from the wrath due us in Your judgment. Thank You for putting away our sin by this sacrifice. Thank You for promising us life beyond life and death. Thank You for the blessing of the greater picture of existence with You through Him. Thank You for the presence of Your Holy Spirit in this in-between time. Amen.

We shall not be moved

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The LORD lives!
Blessed is my Rock!
Exalted is the God of my salvation!

28 For it is you who light my lamp;
    the Lord my God lightens my darkness.
29 For by you I can run against a troop,
    and by my God I can leap over a wall.
30 This God—his way is perfect;
    the word of the Lord proves true;
    he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

31 For who is God, but the Lord?
    And who is a rock, except our God?—
32 the God who equipped me with strength
    and made my way blameless.
Psalm 18:28-32

In the words of the Folk Spiritual song,

We shall not, we shall not be moved,
We shall not, we shall not be moved,
Just like a tree that’s standing by the water,
We shall not be moved.

When we stand with God, we will always find ourselves in a secure place. Encouraged by His presence, bolstered by His love, we are agents of grace in a hostile world. What a blessing to have this assurance in our faith. God is our lamp, the light for our path. No matter what shade may cross our path, no matter what obscuring lies may attempt to infiltrate our heart, the Wisdom & Truth from God the Father will always point us in the right direction. Trust in Him, even when the world screams its heresies and when it repeatedly whispers its soft, subtle lies, trust in the light of the Lord. When hard times come, when desperate times press us from all sides, rely on the strength of Christ and the power of His presence to see you through. Even when you cannot see the way, He will light the path for us.

With God, we can withstand anything, and overcome the obstacles in our path. He is the One who provides a pathway and the one who empowers His children. We are always in a good place when we stand with the Lord. be encouraged by His good promises, be lifted up by His grace. The onslaught of the enemy cannot stand against the Lord our God. He is our shield, He is faithful and true. He is our rock and our redeemer. Find your hope in Him. Find your strength in Him today. He is with you who have put on Christ.

His way is indeed perfect, He has shown us this time and again. His grace equips us for our encounters with others in need of grace. His steadfast love enables us to love those who are difficult to love. His boundless forgiveness reminds us of our own need to forgive others, echoing His great justice and mercy. His care & provision for us reminds us that we have been blessed to bless others, to reach out to those who suffer injustice, to provide for those in need.

He is everything we need.
In Him we stand secure.
In the face of all life’s struggles, we will not be moved.

35 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
    and your right hand supported me,
    and your gentleness made me great.
36 You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
    and my feet did not slip.
Psalm 18:35-36

The LORD lives!
Blessed is my Rock!
Exalted is the God of my salvation!
In Him may we find strength for the day’s trials & troubles.
In Him, may we find grace enough to share.
In Jesus’ precious & holy Name,
Amen.