Relentless Faithfulness

We worry too much, don’t we? Every day has a million components, thousands of moving pieces and so many things that could go wrong, fall short or come up empty. And so we worry. We lack a feeling of control, a perception of peace, and so we worry. We worry about finances, about things at home and different things at work. We worry about our kids, our family members and about things in the national news. We worry about people and situations that we have absolutely no say over, or influence around, and so we become accustomed to worry. It becomes a pattern for life. It becomes acceptable, and we weave it into our worldview and understanding.

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But that’s not God desire for us.

That’s not what He has in store for His children. And so if we follow Christ, if we claim to be in Him and simultaneously experience these weighty worries that distract us from His plans for us, then we have to ask if the promises of God in Jesus are really that effective. Does He care? Why do I feel this way? Why don’t I feel happy more often? Why do I feel so insecure? Where is God?

And these are natural questions that we struggle with as we learn to transition from walking outside of Christ into the new life we have been gifted in Him. There’s an incongruity between what we say we believe and what we actually do in practice. And so we add guilt for worrying to our worry. Again, we make this our life.

But Paul reminds us of something different, something that God intends for us as he begins his first letter to the church in Corinth. He was getting ready to hit them with some tough love, because they had been doing things in their own way, rather than in God’s, but because of the love & grace & mercy of God, he wanted to remind them of what they needed to hear. They needed to be reminded of God’s love, His plan and His provision. Rather than worrying about trying to balance their new walk with Christ with their old life, He begins to set the stage for them and reminds them that God’s gift for them is sufficient. It is better than what they might manufacture.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:4-9

Paul reminds them that God’s covering over them in Christ is sufficient for everything. He reminds Tham that this was something confirmed in them, they’ve already borne witness to Him, and that God has a good, guilt-free life laid out for them in preparation of out final realization of His love when Jesus returns. There is so much goodness that there is no need to be wrapped up in what used to be, in old identities, old cultures and in old pathways. God has so much more for us, something so much better.

So why worry? Why waste your time in those old ways, those dead ways? We don’t hang out in cemeteries looking for lively conversation. Why would we expect to get anything worth anything from our old, dead selves?

His faithfulness is relentless. Trust Him with your today, and then trust Him with your tomorrow & watch Him reveal Christ at work in you through His Holy Spirit.

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Day Five – Life Contemplated According to the Second Table of the Law

Day Five – Life Contemplated According to the Second Table of The Law
from Johann Gerhard’s “Meditation on Divine Mercy”

Get your copy here.

We all struggle with what is stirred up inside of us, and with the sins that grab at our hearts from the inside. Thank God for a clear path to His Mercy Seat through Jesus Christ! Read by Benjamin Hedgspeth – All Scripture readings come from the ESV

Making the Decision

ElizaBeth and I were driving around in the Highlands area of Louisville. We had been looking at apartment locations, trying to figure out just how temporarily someone might house us while we were attempting to make the jump from Louisville to wherever God was leading us. We had been offered a very kind rate by a family friend for a space in the Lyndon neighborhood for 3-6 months. There was a standing offer from my parents, but we were trying to avoid that option if possible because we knew that two households being on top of each other, even for a brief amount of time, would be difficult.

I wanted my parents to still like us when we left town 😉.

IMG_1479.JPGThere were no strained relationships or anything like that, we just knew it would be tight and open ended timelines can be difficult to deal with when you’re already wedged in someone else’s personal space. This was already a big life shift on the horizon, and we didn’t want to make that any more difficult on them or ourselves than absolutely necessary.

So, like I said, we were walking through the Highlands neighborhood, and we rounded the corner by the tattoo shop where she had her nose pierced and where I received my first (and as of this writing only) tattoo, my family crest. My tattoo is located on my left shoulder, my ‘shield arm,’ and is a sword-wielding lion, encircled by a Celtic-style belt and has the words “Deus Juvat” (roughly, God Assists) written in the top of the loop.

So, again, we rounded that corner, and started walking down the block absentmindedly looking at the houses, both of us knowing we weren’t going to get to walk around on these streets much longer. We were talking about our experience a CPAC, what we were wanting and looking for in a community of faith, and knowing that we weren’t in a place to slide back in with a ‘legacy’ church right now. There were so many hindrances in how they functioned and we both knew that we were wired a little differently than those expectations might lead to…at least in a central Kentucky kind of way.

(Spoiler Alert: No church or faith gathering is perfect. No minister is either.)

I would rather try things, fail, learn and keep trying as we sought God’s will and were grown in the process. A few churches we’ve been a part of or encountered seem to think the Holy Spirit runs on Robert’s Rule of Order and requires 3 months of tabling topics and debate before any actions are taken. Even then, they can still be recalled at a whim or because of fear/complaints/preferences in a way that undermines the process that began. This isn’t every church, but we have seen it far too often, and we weren’t in a place personally to go in a be instantly stifled again.

The team at Stadia told us not to compromise and to make sure that we landed somewhere that would allow our gifts, both of our gifts, to be utilized in real-world ways so that we would be fulfilled in our work for God. This meant finding a place that had a looser leash, finding an organization that understood what we had been gifted to do and who trusted us to do those things without nitpicking, micromanaging or going back on what they said they wanted.

We talked about the attitudes of churches in different regions of the country. We talked about styles of worship. We talked about liturgy. We talked about church sizes, cities, states and degrees of need. We talked about our prayer for an adventure, and we talked about what we had already looked at and how none of it, except for a very short list of options, would fit that bill. We talked about family timelines, where the kids would go to school, how we didn’t want to move them mid-year, and how much we were concerned with moving just once while they still had school to finish.

There was a lot to talk about. We had two options, two irons in the fire. One was wide open, the other that started off promisingly had gone totally silent. One was nearer one was very far. We had seen so many options roll by. I had interviewed churches as they interviewed me. I was going to be picky. I was doing my research. I was digging in deep and asking tough questions. I wasn’t going to settle.

But on that street in the Highlands, we made our decision. It seemed like the only sure thing, the space were we could do what had been pressed upon us to do, and where we could really have an adventure and try something new.

On that sidewalk in the Highlands we decided that it was time to sell everything and move to California. It sounds cliché, but it’s what we were going to do. The need here is real. Very real. And I’ve always been drawn to fringe groups and people that others won’t go near. California had been the butt of jokes for a long time, mostly ridiculed and ignored by the ‘good’ side of the country and the stats were alarming. There are areas of California that almost qualify as unreached people groups.

The day we made our call to move out, the other option called. They had been sick, gone on vacation and there were some very reasonable delays. They wanted me to be a campus pastor, and work through a relocation and do some other work to reestablish one of their campuses. As they were doing their research, that campus wound up having some serious issues that they wanted to address head on from existing leadership. If I was willing to wait another six months or so (undetermined) then they would love to have us join them. That would mean a mid-year move for the kids, and it also meant there were some possibilities of walking into things we had intentionally left behind. We would have loved to have joined them in their work. I still like everyone on staff there, but the timing was wrong, and I didn’t want to go in gun-shy. We had a lot of trust issues to heal and rebuild from, and starting something totally new meant we wouldn’t be walking into this type of situation at all.

So, California, here we come.

 

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.

Planting for the Future

In Mark 4, Jesus tells a parable about a seed growing:

“And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

What is the point of the parable? Which element is most important?
That a seed is planted right?

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I would want to say that the seed grows, but it cannot grow unless it is first planted. So, the planting must, by necessity, come first. When we look at the planting, we will notice a few key actions.

Number one, the man took up the seed and went to the field.
Number two, he placed the seed in his hand and chose where to scatter it.
Number three, he went to work, trusting in what he did not understand in order to accomplish what he knew needed to be done.

This is the work of the kingdom. There are elements of what God calls us to do in Christ that are non-negotiable. We who have received the Word & Gospel must take up ownership of it and go to the field. When Jesus commands us to make disciples it isn’t a point of debate. He is our Master, and this is His will. Secondly, we must take a hold of the Gospel, personally, purposefully and then make a plan to spread it around. Third, we take action and do what we planned and were commanded to do.

We don’t have to know all the details. We don’t have to harness great skill. We simply need to be obedient to the task, trusting that God will do what He intends to do, and that He will seek His own glory in it all. This is right and good.

We cannot balk because we don’t know everything. We are not God. We never know what will grow from what we sow, and that’s okay.  It’s not for us, but for Him, and for those who will grow to Him from that effort. We simply trust and obey.

Check out this article about a man who was preparing for the future, and how his seed went to work long after he was gone. It’s a cool story.

What’s your story? Where are you in the process of scattering the Gospel seed?

The Planting Journey

So, usually a farmer knows where he’s going to plant his seeds and attempt to raise a crop for harvest. That’s normal practice, right? You work that soil ahead of time, add in fertilizer, see where the land rises and falls so you can be aware of spots that may hold water, where wildlife come to graze…you know, farmer stuff. Seems like this would be a part of how you operate.

Typically ministers know where they are going serve on a given Sunday. They know their people, there’s probably a building, people leading, carrying the load with them (hopefully) and others who rally around the cross with them, all at various stages of maturity, growth and service…you know, churchy stuff. Seems like this would be a part of how you operate. IMG_8CF53472CA55-1

That’s unless God decides it’s time for you to do something different. Almost exactly one year ago, I resigned my position as Lead Minister with a legacy church in Kentucky and officially kicked off a new adventure that is still taking shape a year later. Right now, I know what city I’m supposed to serve. I have a general idea what neighborhood or area we’ll be located in (it’s not where we’re currently living) we have a pretty complete idea what our team looks like, but there are still many, many unknowns. It’s definitely a different feeling after 20 years of ‘normal’ Southern, North American ministry.

There’s that old saying, “Life’s a Journey.” And there’s also, “Life is about the journey, because that’s all you have.” Or you could say any number of motivational poster type things that speak to the importance of seeing where you are, appreciating it, and then enjoying the trip to the next spot. And so on and so on, right?

Scripture talks about planting seeds. It’s something we all can understand. The farmer plants the seeds, there’s hope that something will come from it and faith that a harvest will come one day. That’s good stuff. This is how life works. There’s a high degree of uncertainty simply because we can’t see beyond the curtain of today and take a sneak peek of tomorrow. So, we plant those seeds. Some will grow, others will never germinate, some will begin to grow and nothing will come of them. That’s life.

So, for us, we are doing a lot of prep work. We are in the business of speculation, planning for growth before we have the seeds or even know where the field sits. It’s a weird place to be, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad.

Is it hard? Sure it is. I wouldn’t learn anything if it was easy. And so far, I haven’t been handed a lot of ‘easy’ stuff over the course of my ministry career. There are people involved. People who are broken like me. People who have problems, who make mistakes, people who hurt one another, who feel like they know better than everyone else, who plot and gossip and try to get their way. That’s life, right? We all deal with this. And as long as sin is present, we still will. So, I choose not to get hung up on the hard stuff, and instead I focus on what God has for me to do, and I trust that He will lead me into tomorrow when it comes.

And such is church planting. We will get to till soil with prayer. We will get to plant and water. The time is coming. But we are journeying to that day.

So far, we’ve made the big cross-country move. We’ve stepped out in faith physically. Now we are beginning our support raising journey, trusting that God is going to provide for us, so we can accomplish what He has called us to. This is His journey with us. He is the guide, not me. He is in charge, and I gladly submit to His leadership. Soon, He will begin directing us to begin new relationships, open new doors, and allow us to plant seeds in new hearts. This is more of what I am used to and expect. But no journey is constant travel. No journey is a non-stop cascade of motion. Instead, we find seasons of waiting, seasons of trust, seasons of rest.

This is a part of farming, right? This is a part of ministry, right? Yes, yes it is. Everything is a journey. What matters is Who we journey with, and Who we’re trusting along the way. There will be plenty more to share some day, but today, I wait. And I wait with faith for the harvest.

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.