Someday, I’ll Do Something Great

We all hope for something. We truly, deeply want to see something happen. Maybe it’s a steady paycheck that actually pays the bills. Maybe it’s that new car. Maybe it’s a promotion. Maybe it’s that our children are successful. Maybe it’s that tomorrow comes without drama, sickness or hurt. We all long for something, We all want to see something happen. We make promises to ourselves that it’s going to happen.

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Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Step one is remembering that God already has a plan laid out for us. He has a pattern He wants to build on and work from. It’s non-negotiable. We are called to walk in the image of Christ, having put Him on as our new identity. If anything great is going to come out of us, it’s going to be because of Him.

So, if you have plans, hand them over to Jesus. Let Him give them a work over, refocus them, and then press forward with Him. If you want to do great things for God, then expect great things from God. Move in faith, and roll with Him.

It’s a walk of faith & it’s about His glory.

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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.

The Intention of Agony

Father, these moments of remembrance, the pauses in prayer, the pleas from Jesus for support from His friends, even today we can feel the tension & difficulty of the moment rising, time closing in & the plan of redemption bearing down in the fullness of its weight & urgency. This was not a desperation of confusion, but a desperation for Your glory & for the saving of many, many souls. The garden was pregnant with intention & Your preparation that night, Father. Jesus was not ignorant of what was coming, even if it was heavy beyond reckoning from a human perspective. Betrayal happened in darkness, but darkness cannot overcome You. May our hearts be reminded of Your great love, patience & design as we walk through Holy Week with You. May we keep watch with Christ in anticipation of Your good grace. We pray in His Name, amen.

Luke 22:39-53
39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

47 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

This makes me uncomfortable.
This passage begins the portion of the Passion that is easier to read through quickly than to stop, slow down & be intentional about meditating & praying through. The agony of Christ in the garden that night was & still is, an agony that I have contributed to, personally. The suffering that began its work, pressing sweat & blood through His skin came from what I have done, will probably do today & haven’t yet done tomorrow. My brokenness, my sin, my intentional, willful disobedience & my momentary transgressions that I am tempted to pass off as if they are nothing all combine here. They press upon the heart of the Lord of Heaven, the Lamb of Glory, perfect & pure, & my struggles become His struggles. This is hard to think about. This is hard to come to terms with every time I read it. The reality of my shame & the unbearable weight of the separation it has caused between my heart & the heart of God comes crashing down in this moment, & Jesus steps in to take that weight, that blow, so that I, so that we, are not utterly destroyed.

This should make me uncomfortable. This should bring me face to face with my brokenness & my absolutely desperate need for Jesus & the grace of God. I would be lost, crushed & dead before I made it to my own cross if I had to begin to wrestle with the wrath of God for my sin. The suffering I would endure would be beyond comprehension, beyond weighing out & I would be utterly spent from the first moment, destroyed. But Jesus begins this struggle, wrestling with the brokenness of man & the glory of God, here in the garden. This isn’t the moment of redemption, but the doors are closing on the first leg of the human journey to sanctification by grace & the weight of the Law, & opening to the relief of grace by faith & the new rhythms it would bring. Relief is on the way, but this struggle cannot pass if it is to come. This cup must be drained to the dregs & Jesus alone can carry it, lift it to His lips & drink the fullness of it all.

And so we find ourselves, here in the darkness of the garden that most of us will never visit in person, but where our hearts remain present with Christ, keeping watch with Him, as His disciples sleep for grief. We count the hours, we see the suffering beginning & we account for every drop of blood that presses its way through His precious forehead. We want to take our portion from Him, but that is not ours to decide & we know we cannot bear it. And so we watch, & we wait with Him & We pray that we may not fall into temptation. We do not rush through this moment, but we keep watch with Him. We thank Him & we are brought to that place of repentance again, knowing our part in this scene. He bore it because we cannot.

Precious Jesus…our Wonderful Redeemer, we watch & pray & praise Your blessed Name.

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.

Jesus ‘ Pre-Passion Prayer pt2

Father, this life we live as sojourners can be difficult & troubling at times. We know we are called to something higher, but there is so much low hanging fruit, forbidden fruit. Give us strength to walk the path of sanctification, the path of Christ, consecrate us as Your possession. Amen.

John 17:12-19
12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

When Jesus prayed for us knowing that we would be called apart from the world, apart from what people would be ready to accept. This is a narrow path, a difficult road. This is the path to Golgotha. He knew that we would be given a hard time, made fun of and abused, like He was getting ready to be. He was praying out loud about this support from the Father, and this fellowship with Him, so that we would have a foundation to weather the storms of life. Unity with God while we walk this path will sustain us, guide us and give us wisdom.

Jesus was getting ready to pay the price to see this through, that we would be able to draw near to God, finding our hiding place with Him. He also saw to it that we would become God’s possession, He consecrated Himself so that we might be made holy through the truth and His blood. Give God thanks for seeing to our every need in Jesus Christ. christ-2-lg-600x533

Jesus guards us, keeps us and gives us the joy of the Father through our relationships with Him. He is our blessing, our redeemer and He was willing to lay everything down so that we might find life & joy apart from the things and motivations of this dark and broken world. It would come through suffering, but He was willing. We must still endure suffering for His sake, but we count it as an honor that we might be refined by Him, grown in Him and matured by the heart & path of our Savior. We walk this path in the rhythms of His grace.

Father, this life we live as sojourners can be difficult & troubling at times. We know we are called to something higher, but there is so much low hanging fruit, forbidden fruit. Give us strength to walk the path of sanctification, the path of Christ, consecrate us as Your possession. Amen.

 

Free means Free

Sustain us in the struggle Lord, and raise us to Your life. Amen.

Galatians 5:1-15
1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

Let’s read that last bit again:

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

When we hear the word freedom, we probably have several different images pop into our mind. Mel Gibson pops in first as William Wallace, face painted blue, war worn, tied to a table and suffering his last. It is a gasping final breath, a cry for something that mattered most, that was worth dying for, a cause that was meant to bring hope to others.

Then I think of people like Harriet Tubman & Sojourner Truth, people who worked and struggled and did things both stealthy and public to draw attention to the plight of their people, desiring freedom from oppression & slavery. They didn’t care what man’s opinion was on the matter, they did what was right. Dr. King echoed their hearts on the other side of the Emancipation Proclamation, while men and women still struggled for equality because of the color of their skin, and many still echo their cause today, and rightfully so.

I think of Moses standing in the court of Pharaoh, staff in hand, and Charlton Heston’s beard hanging down on his chest demanding that Pharaoh let God’s people go. A power struggle between two men, one who thought himself a god, and another who was on a mission from God. Moses stood representing a people who were oppressed, taken advantage of, beaten down and suffering. Freedom seemed like a pipe dream to them, suffering was their companion.

But God has different plans.

All of these examples of freedom that pop into my head center around people who were willing to stand up to that others might have freedom, and I think that’s only right. People who fight for their own freedom, but neglect the needs of others around them do not understand the true nature of freedom. And this thought is found in this passage from Galatians 5 today. We have been granted a great freedom in Christ, yes. But we cannot, not even for a moment, keep that freedom to ourselves. It is counter-intuitive, truly free people want non-free people to truly be free, and they will point the goals of their life toward that work.

Freedom isn’t an idea. It’s not a rough concept or construct that we work under. Freedom is a state of being, and it shapes everything we have license to do. Paul was pointing this out, too, when he reminded the church in Galatia that their freedom was given so that they might serve others. It isn’t a freedom for self, but a freedom to serve. That’s what freedom is for, freedom is for freeing, and people who are free, and understand their freedom, having engaged with it, will seek freedom for others. They will ‘go’ as Jesus called them to go, bringing freedom to the captives.

Luke 4:16-21
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

If this was Jesus’ mission, then it belongs to us, too.
Freedom if for everyone. Free means free.
Go set someone free today.

Something New Comes From This

Lord Jesus Christ, your blood washes away our sins and reconciles us to You. May we never get used to the wonder of a God who gives His own life for those who are killing Him. Amen.

We are meant for change.
That is the whole plan, that we would be remade in Him. It seems funny how gladly we receive it, and then how strongly we resist Him. It echoes Paul’s question, “What has become of our blessedness?” What changed? How did complacency creep in? What insipid means distracted us, waylaid us and have kept us from being made whole as so deeply desired?

To come to Jesus Christ, who was a man acquainted with sorrow and suffering (Isaiah 53:3), and to receive the offer from Him to be our Master (Colossians 2:6), we must expect suffering and sorrow to be a part of our road (Romans 5:3), too. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except by Him (John 14:6,) and to then take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24,) we must -know- that the Way which we follow is a path of self-denial (not my will but Yours be done [Matthew 26]) and a pathway of suffering (Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.[Luke 23:34])

But in this suffering we are refined (Malachi 3:3), and we find our blessedness. Where then does our blessedness go in those days where we seek worldly comfort over Christ?

Galatians 4:12-20
12 Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. 13 You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, 14 and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. 18 It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, 19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! 20 I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

May we never trade the work that God desires to do in us for the false and hollow comforts of the world or the wide path (Matthew 7:13.) When we take our eyes off of Jesus, and we begin to look around at the world around us in our journey through it as sojourners, there will be enticements, temptations, and seductive lures that try to drag us from our refining, from our true purpose, as we walk along His Way (1 Peter 2:10-12.) We must abstain from them, not partially, but wholly, following the example of Christ whom we claim (1 John 2:6.)

What God intends for us who follow Christ, is that something new would be born (2 Corinthians 5:17,) released and set loose upon this world. We, the cross-carriers (Mark 8:34,) would walk the path of peace (Luke 1:79,) the narrow road (Matthew 7:13-14), in the footsteps and suffering of Jesus (2 Timothy 2:3,) and preach the Gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15.) For God desires that all should come to Him,  that none of the wicked would perish (Ezekiel 33:11.) That is our Word, that is our work.

There is something new being made in You through Christ. Once you are clothed with Him, the old person has passed away, the new has come, we have been baptized into a death like His (Romans 6:3,) and God makes a new creature of us, He instills a new desire in us, and He perpetuates this desire as we walk a fruitful, faith-filled life, obedient to Him above the desires of the flesh (John 3:36, Acts 5:29, Romans 6:12, Hebrews 5:9.) Call it a sermon of suffering, call it life, call it whatever you will, it is our love song to the world, echoing the chorus sung by our Lord & Master.