Just To Get To Me

I’ve listened to this song before I don’t know how many times. But today it hits different. It literally makes my spirit ache, in a good way. Maybe it’s my focus lately on God’s Grace.

This series I’ve been preaching about God’s Grace has opened my eyes to a fresh perspective on how good He really is. I’ve been refreshed in my understanding of who I was apart from Jesus, and that it was because of God’s Grace that Jesus took my place on the cross.

Talk about love! God wanted me restored you Him so much He made a way only Jesus could fulfill. There is nothing that can beat that. Nothing that can replace it.

Grace, getting what I don’t deserve because of love.

It cultivates in me gratitude. Thankfulness that I was worth it. I was worth dying for.

I encourage you to carve out some time and worship through this song. Listen to the lyrics, sing them to King Jesus in gratitude for what He did for you. Leave it all at His cross…

Three Words

“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?””
‭‭Mark‬ ‭4:35-41‬ ‭ESV‬‬

When I’ve read this passage in the past, I’ve always been struck by Jesus’ response to the situation and the Disciples. His calm and power were put on full display. But as I read this today, it was the response of the Disciples after Jesus that struck me.

Scripture says “they were filled with great fear”.

I find it interesting that while they feared for their lives in light of the storm on the sea, Jesus’ display of calm and power resulted in a much deeper fear.

Here they saw evidenced with their own eyes someone exerting real power and authority over nature. Forces that had taken so many lives before them, now ceased at the utterance of three words.

The Disciples’ reality shifted. No longer was their concern and reverence for the forces of nature surrounding them, but for the Son of God.

I think it begs the question of us, what do we fear most? What captivates our reverence most? Is it the circumstances we face, or our Savior?

When the storms in my life seem out of control, there is One person who can bring restoration. On the boat He used three words, “Peace! Be still!”

My prayer is in those moments I would have a greater fear and reverence for my Creator, and not be consumed by fear of the circumstance.

Serve like Jesus

What it means to follow Jesus can become a lengthy answer. Trying to hit all the different ways and attributes that could signify someone follows Jesus can be a task in and of itself.

There is one thing though, that is blatantly clear. Something that Jesus modeled with His own life consistently.

Jesus served.

Service of others was central to Who Jesus was. Serving others was central to His mission of redemption. Service was such an integral part of Who He is and What He is about, it led Him to the cross.

When was the last time serving someone cost you?

Is serving others a part of who you are? Do you meet the opportunity to serve others with frustration or grace?

No matter what Jesus was facing in the moment, He met opportunities to serve others with grace. When He could have turned them away, He drew them near. He taught them, fed them, challenged them.

Let’s serve like Jesus.

We can become really good at saying the “right things”. It sounds good, maybe looks great on paper; it makes us and those who hear or read it feel better about the issue at hand.

But what about when we fail to act in a way that supports what we say? I’ve always been fascinated and saddened at the same time, with large institutions who engage causes they hold high while failing to live out their commitment to them.

This recent debacle with the Women’s NCAA Basketball training room is a great case in point. The NCAA pushes the equality agenda, but by many people’s standards failed miserably at practicing it in this situation.

I think it illustrates though, a deeper truth that Paul was getting to in his letter to the Church in Corinth.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

With the absence of love, what I say and what I do doesn’t really matter. More, they will never line up. I can talk a good game, but my ability to play will be weak. And my true intentions, thoughts, and feelings will shine through.

While Paul was clearly illustrating for us the importance and power of love, I think there is more we can gain from his teaching. When we fail to act in a way that is congruent with what we say, what we say is worthless. James communicates this in a less subtle way.

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

James 2:17

To be clear, James isn’t teaching works-righteousness (your good works save you), but is making the point that our faith and claim as a follower of Jesus ought to be supported by our actions. People should be able to identify us as a follower of Jesus by how we live our life.

Paul and James in their own way issue us a challenge through these passages of Scripture, and it’s one I am reminded of hearing the story referenced above.

Does my life, the decisions and behaviors, even the thoughts I have, reflect the commitment to Jesus I claim?

Or am I just a loud gong? Do I just do a good job at saying the right things, and have a faith that’s dead?

Jesus wants more, He expects more. And the beautiful thing is, with Him we can be more.

The Right Approach

This trimester I am leading one of our Life Groups through a series that digs deeper into the Lord’s Prayer as a model for us to approach communication with God. It has honestly been a fascinating and encouraging process for me as I study in preparation. The questions I find myself asking and evaluating, thinking through my own approach to prayer.

For some time I have been convicted with how I approach God in prayer. Growing up I’ve heard numerous ways to reference God. The Big Guy in the Sky, my Homie, Daddy, Father, The Man Upstairs. Some I can get behind, most I can’t. To this point I have been convicted again in the reverence I give God. Do I really see Him as He truly is, as Scripture teaches us?

Do I see Him as loving and gracious but also holy and righteous? What I have found is that often times I can become complacent in my view of God. I can fall victim to just seeing Him as another “person”, and my communication with Him becomes more of a task than a joyful privilege.

Being reminded of Who He is has been a breath of much needed fresh air.

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him.

For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

Psalm 33:8-9

He is mighty and powerful, outside of the realm of space and time as the Creator.

Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God?

Psalm 77:13

There is a separateness, He is holy and we are not. He is perfect in all He is and does, and there is no one greater than He.

Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’.

Revelation 4:8

He is forever worthy of all praise and honor. From beginning to end, God will receive the praise due to Him from all things.

How I approach God is monumental, because it reflects the posture of my heart and mind towards Who He is and what He is capable and worthy of. I needed a reminder of this, and I pose the same questions to you as I did myself.

Do you see God in a biblical light, or is it distorted? Do you allow your experiences and emotions to shape your perception of Who God is, or do you allow the truth of Scripture to guide the development of your understanding?

You have always…

The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.

Psalm 9:9-10

It’s easy in life, to get caught up just pushing forward. It’s easy in life, to also get stuck in present circumstances. Especially when what we are in the midst of, or frantically trying to get through, doesn’t meet our standard of “ideal”.

Even as a follower of Jesus I have these moments. I’ve made a mistake, said something stupid, done something hurtful. I still have times where my emotions get the best of me, or I let the situation I’m in dictate my thinking and behavior.

I have moments when I fail to live a life that honors God. I haven’t “arrived”.

I’ve been spending my devotional time working through the Psalms again, and I love the authenticity from David in the ones he authored. You get to experience his rollercoaster of a life in a very raw way. A broken man who made a lot of mistakes, yet God called him a man after His own heart.

As you read his praises, frustrations, even laments, David was able to see God’s hand at work. Whether in the past, present, or future, David understood and more importantly believed that God was with Him, even when he made a mistake and felt alone.

How often do you find yourself feeling you have disappointed God? Thinking you have wandered so far from His grace you can’t ever come back? Do you ever feel so consumed by your emotions and the circumstances around you? My guess is like me, at times you do. Our feelings can blind us from the truth and reality of God’s love and presence in the lives of His children.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Psalm 103:11-12

David knew well the struggle between our feelings and reality. He came to understand through the struggles he faced that God’s grace extends far beyond our mistakes. And when we pause and look, we can find His presence around us. He is always there, always full of love and grace for His children. Song has always been a powerful communicator of truth to my spirit, and a song by Iron Bell Music helped illustrate this truth even more. Notice specifically these lyrics, and I encourage you to worship through the song below.

You have always, always, always loved me
Even at my weakest…
I look back and see You moving towards me
I look back and see You fighting for me

Be Satisfied

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,”

Psalm 63:5

What a vision. Wandering in the wilderness, David continued to keep his heart and mind set on the promises of God.

Despite his current situation, David trusted God to provide. He knew that the end result was God’s full provision, and it would be satisfying like a full meal.

And from this realization came praise. Joy-filled praise. Praise he didn’t just keep inside, quietly to himself. He sang it loud.

Where is our heart and mind fixated? God and His promises, or our current circumstances?
Do we openly and joyfully sing His praises, or wallow in the negative emotions of the moment?

Each moment we face, we have a choice.
Which will it be?

Reliance

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

Psalm 62:1-2

Today there are people who find themselves all over the spectrum of emotion and thought. Honestly, I think that’s true for many days before. We either find ourselves excited for the future, afraid, angry, concerned. Maybe just numb.

As a follower of Jesus, it’s in moments like this I find my spirit convicted. Reminded to be cautious where I truly put my faith. And what I mean by “truly”, is what do my emotions and thoughts indicate my faith is in.

Is it really the power and sovereignty of the God I claim to love?

Is it really in the eternal reality I know waits for me when my days here come to an end?

Is it really in Jesus, the One who stands before God on my behalf, restoring my fellowship with my Creator?

Or is it in a person, an organization, a government. Is it in something broken and sinful? Am I putting more faith about my future in something or someone ordained to pass by God?

Here’s the thing, nothing catches God off guard. Nothing surprises Him. Nothing occurred without His knowledge and consent. And it always accomplishes His purposes.

Always.

Even when I don’t agree with it, I don’t understand it, I can’t make sense of it. God does, and that’s what matters.

So I encourage you today, find encouragement in David’s words. When he was being hunted by king Saul, who was determined to kill him, David found peace in the reality of who was really in control. He found rest in the sovereignty of God.

Even when he didn’t understand, he trusted.

A Christmas Reflection

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

The Christmas season is one of my two most favorite times of the year.

As Christmas day has passed, I reflect on the thoughts that may have been on Mary’s heart. Her pregnancy at an end, she now finds herself with Joseph in the stable. And it wasn’t the rich and famous that joined them. They didn’t have kings and queens flocking to see the little miracle that now laid before them. It was the animals, the shepherds, and the angels that gathered with them.

Mary knew the significance of her pregnancy, and ultimately the little baby boy that she now got to hold. It was Gabriel who told her months ago, a message from God Himself. She even celebrated the favor of the Lord with a song.

Now as she sits in a stable, looking upon and holding this new life, I’m sure the memories of months before rushed back into her mind. The words of Gabriel proclaiming who this baby boy was, and what He would do! Fulfillment of Isaiah’s Prophecy so many years before, this boy named Jesus.

But this question, captivated in one of my favorite Christmas songs, I think rings true: Did you know? Did Mary fully grasp the significance of what her baby boy would do? The miracles He would perform, the people He would heal. Did she know the discord He would reveal within the religious community? Did she understand that He would fully fulfill the Prophecies of old, by ultimately dying on a cross identified as a criminal?

As she sat there and rested Him into the manger of hay, I can only imagine she reflected on and found peace in those words from Gabriel…

Do not be afraid,Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.

Luke 1:30-33

This Christmas season, as you find yourself surrounded by family and friends, take time to reflect on the real reason for this holiday. It goes beyond presents under a tree in the living room, or big meals with those closest to us. We celebrate today because of grace. Grace God gave in the way of His Son, born of a virgin.

I encourage you this Christmas season to be intentional in finding time to reflect on the gift of Jesus. Don’t let another Christmas come and go, missing the mark on why we celebrate this time of year.

Not Alone

We just finished a mini-series on prayer at our Church. It’s been an enriching time of study and reflection in my personal life, as I have evaluated my own prayer life in light of Scripture, and the examples laid before us by Jesus, Paul, even Old Testament Prophets. I don’t want to rehash those messages here, but you can listen to them at our YouTube page.

And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Luke 22:41-44

Jesus displays for us an incredible example of prayer that is intricately woven into life. The only One who walked this earth, after stepping down from His throne in Heaven, still prayed. And I find myself stuck in this passage of Scripture from Luke 22, where Jesus is seen praying before His arrest, conviction, and death.

Read that passage again.

There is a rawness, a depth of anguish we see in this moment. The God-Man we saw triumphantly enter Jerusalem not long ago is now bent over on His knees in anguish of what is to come. I love C.S. Lewis’ reflection on this situation in his book, Letters to Malcom: Chiefly on Prayer.

But for this last (and erroneous) hope against hope, and the consequent tumult of the soul, the sweat of blood, perhaps He would not have ben very Man.

Letters to Malcom, pg. 57

Lewis draws on something here I think is most significant, but easily overlooked. Jesus walked this earth in flesh for us. He stepped down from His throne to identify with us. Still God completely as Son, but also completely man, identifying with you and I. We see, even experience, Jesus in a light perhaps not as easily seen elsewhere in Scripture.

Jesus was a man.

It’s easy to get caught up in our emotions and begin to think we are alone. It’s easy to get trapped into thinking no one understands the things we go through, how difficult the situation we face really is. Sometimes, the hurt and the anguish can be so overwhelming we find ourselves struggling to function.

Jesus was a man, too.

When you face your hardships and you feel alone, remember you’re not. When you feel overcome by the world, like no one gets what you’re going through; remember, He did.

Jesus knelt and prayed in anguish for the cup He would bear to be passed from Him, if it was God’s Will. He understands in a very tangible way what suffering and hurt not only looks like; what it feels like.

I’ve had some intense moments in my life, but I have never been to the point of anguish to sweat blood. But my Savior has. He’s experienced hurt, betrayal, distress. And that gives me hope. It gives me strength.

I know I have someone with me who knows my pain, and I’m not left to face it alone.

Do you?