Thursday, December 26, 2013

Cheap Grace and the Nuclear Option

I Corinthians 5:1-2
"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud!"

For years I worked at a pool and tennis club and coached a swim team with around 100 kids between the ages of 5 and 18.  There were two camps that the parents fell into; Those who disciplined their kids, and those who didn't.  You can guess which kids I enjoyed the most.  The worst was when I was undercut by the non-disciplining parents.  Their kid would do something egregious, I would give some sort of consequence(sitting out of the pool, extra laps, etc) and then that parent would berate me for it in front of their kid.  Didn't matter what the kid had done, they were an angel, and how dare I say they couldn't pick on someone weaker than them.....

 One of my favorite Christian writers of the 20th century wrote,

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost Of Discipleship

Doesn't that smack a little close to home today?  We are so quick to give cheap grace that never calls us to something more. 

The church in Corinth apparently has something rotten inside of it.  There is a man who claims fellowship with them who is living in unrepentant sin.  What is interesting is that the Corinthians know this is a problem because the language Paul uses, "It is reported", indicates he had to get this information from a different source than them. 

So why are they proud?  Cheap grace.  They have bastardized the idea of "come as you are" and turned it into "stay as you are".  The Gospel calls us to pick up our cross.  The message of Jesus was "REPENT and believe". 

The power of the Cross is that there is no sin too big to keep us from grace.  And there is no sin to big that grace cannot heal and change.  When we refuse to address sin in the light of grace, freely given, it is a red flag. 

But here is the thing.  It is not a red flag of being a non-Christian.

None of Pauls language infers that he is calling this person a false Christian.  He is calling him out for sin.  Later in this section he says that the Corinthians need to remove him from fellowship so that he can face the reality of the destructive nature of sin and come to repentance

And then it gets even better.  In his follow up letter, 2 Corinthians, he readdresses this situation.  The man has faced great sorrow and has repented.  Paul tells the church to not let him suffer any longer, to restore him, to bring him home.

Cheap grace is destroying our people.  One sin at a time.  One family at a time.  One Church at a time.  Grace is free, it is not cheap.

Our greatest passion and drive should be to be more like Christ, AND, to encourage our brothers and sisters in the same manner.  When we refuse to speak truth and hold to account our community we begin to rot from the inside. 

Ask yourself this question;  What would the Christians in my life do if they were aware of unrepentant sin in my life?  What would my church do with unrepentant sin?

And then ask yourself;  Does that align with God's word?

Let me make something clear.  I am not calling for the hammer in all of our lives.  We each struggle with sin.  But are we struggling, or are we proud of it?  Pride over sin is the road to destruction.  Are you surrounding yourself with people who will speak Christ's grace into your life, a grace that is never cheap.

Christ died to set you free.  Not to so you can be free to do whatever you want. 


Saturday, December 21, 2013

God is Not Deaf

Matthew 6:9-13
This, then, is how you should pray:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one."

We have a problem in our family.  Whining.  There is this incessant tone that our children take about nearly everything that basically comes out as a whiny incomprehensible white noise.  It sometimes feels like they can't even ask for a glass of water without rubbing their nails down a chalkboard. 

A new favorite phrase we have begun to employ is, "I don't hear whiny voices".

How many parents have had to say that?  Every single one of them at some point in their little "angels" lives.......

Can you imagine what would happen if we didn't actively correct and teach our children to communicate appropriately?  I have nightmares of Kai one day sitting in his bosses office saying, "Buuuuuut puhleeeeeaaaaaasseeeeeeee can I leeeave early on friiiidayyyy?"  How successful would our kids careers and adult lives be if they took this obnoxious and childish behavior with them into their teen years and beyond?

As parents we have been entrusted with raising our children to function in healthy and honorable ways.  A child's natural inclination is not towards responsibility.  We have to instill in them those patterns and attitudes.  We all know some adults that clearly were not raised responsibly.  People who are always complaining about their job/work/boss/life.  Who can never keep a job long term and are always bouncing from relationship to relationship. 

There is a really important area where we have a tendency to whine.  Prayers.

"Buuuuutt Gaaawwwwdddd, I realllllly want thissssssss"

And to borrow from my sons favorite phrase  "If you don't do thissss for me, I won't be your friend anymore!!!"

We approach God like spoiled little brats that expect the Holy Sovereign King of all Creation to just drop everything to go get us what we want right now.  And then, when we don't get what we want, how do we feel?  God isn't listening, He doesn't love me, I don't want to be His friend anymore!!!

Jesus lays out very clearly the way to approach with honor and respect God through prayer.  Let me break it down for us in a way that is applicable;

"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name"
The very beginning of our prayer is a humble and honoring recognition of who God is.  Holy and high above us.  This is essential.  The foundational principle of prayer is rooted in the idea that God is God and we are not.  When you approach your boss at work, do you talk down to them?  Of course not, you know exactly how that would end up.  Why would we approach God any differently?

Are you willing to actively recognize his absolute Holiness in the midst of your needs?

"Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be done"
Whose will?  Not ours.  Before we even make a personal request, we need to trust that what is right and true is God's will, NOT our desires.  God's will is not going to be thwarted.  He will continue to work all things to His glory and our good.  This is essential in finding hope within our needs.  If we begin to submit our hearts to God's will, we can be shaped by an attitude that does not feel fear or anxiety when what we immediately observe seems difficult. 

We love the passage in Philippians 4 that says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me".  You know why we generally like it?  Because we misread it!  It isn't telling us we are going to win at something.  It is telling us that Paul has learned that when rooted in God's goodness that he is able to be joyful and hopeful and that he can ENDURE all the difficulties that life throws at him.  Paul learned to not lean on what he currently has, but the goodness of God and His unshakeable will!  When we pray, we must place everything in the context of God's sovereignty in all areas!

Have you checked your heart in your prayers recently?  Whose will are you really praying about and hoping in? 

"Give us today our daily bread"
There is an insidious movement within western Christianity.  The thinking that having a bunch of stuff/health/money/etc is the proof of God's love for us.  What does Jesus tell us to pray.  For our daily bread.  The full testimony of scripture teaches us that for every moment and every situation we must be able to approach empty handed and trust that THIS, even THIS, God will provide for us.  The picture of daily bread is not one of long term confidence in the bank.  But continual seeking of God for every single thing. 

Is your heart attitude towards your circumstances "one day at a time", or, is it about living right now in this very moment and trusting that God will walk you through to the other side?  Guess which one Jesus tells us to pray about.......

"And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors"
This is an interesting little cause and effect.  Does scripture overall indicate that your inability to always act in a forgiving manner at all times mean you WILL NOT be forgiven?  No, of course not. But what is going on here in the language?  Our willingness to humbly forgive those who AREN'T ALWAYS deserving of it has a direct effect on our ability to experience God's forgiveness.  A bitter heart towards others is a heart that won't be able to experience the Grace that has been given to it!

Are you ready to humbly let go of bitterness and love in the same sacrificial way that God has loved you?

"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one"
Every day we must be praying and seeking protection from the temptations of life.  Do you accept the reality of spiritual warfare?  Because if you don't, you are setting yourself up for a fall.  There is an enemy who will take every possible chance to tear you down, hurt you, put you in a hole.  A prayerful approach is a proactive way of putting our lives into God's hands and not dwelling in the sinful mindsets that lead to our pain. 

What sins in your life are killing you?  It's time to name them and pray for, and believe in, protection from them!

Right this moment, I challenge you to start praying.  And praying in the way Jesus TOLD you and I to pray.  Stop communicating like a whiny child.  God is not deaf, speak to Him in the way that honors who He is!

Is it just me, or is Calliou the whiniest kid ever.
I have never before wished such harm on a cartoon character.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Feeling Validated

Matthew 6:1
"Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men to be seen by them"

Shocking revelation:  I am not a perfect husband.

Did you catch your breath?

My wife is great, and has put much effort and work into this fixer upper she calls a husband.  While there is plenty of work left, I have to happily admit the naïve and selfish kid I was 8 years ago is not someone I really recognize anymore. Still, there are some things that I need to really keep working on.

A point of contention in our marriage has been the way in which I "help" out around the house.  For a long time I had to announce to her everything I had "accomplished".  She would be gone for a few hours and I would do some mundane task(often one she has done nearly every day of our marriage).  Upon her return I would utilize my marching band friends to play a fanfare and march around the living room while I proudly announced to her that her Knight in Shining armor had vacuumed/folded laundry/scrubbed some dishes. 

She was rarely impressed.

Not just not impressed, she was annoyed. 

And then I would feel frustrated and hurt.  Didn't she know how lucky she was?  I was amazing.  And I had just proven that fact by doing some obvious task to impress upon her how great I really was.  So I would just be more obvious next time.....Maybe then she would celebrate how great I was with me next time.

We look for validation from all the wrong places.  And in all the wrong ways.  How often the things we do are not a natural outflow of who we are, but a self-centered desire to hear praise. 

"Did you hear how I walked an old lady across the street yesterday????"

"Well, when I donate to charity I make sure I give until it hurts, DID YOU KNOW THAT I GIVE TO CHARITY!!!!????"

When we look for validation from others we will always be disappointed.  People are rarely as impressed with us as we wish they were.  And even if they are, and you can get a good warm fuzzy feeling from it, that validation is fleeting.  It is fleeting because when we seek validation from others we are screaming inside ourselves that we are desperate for someone to tell us we are ok.  Because we don't really believe we are.....

Jesus speaks right to that heart issue.  He points out that we need to put a check on our heart.  How can we really be selfless if it is rooted in a need to be praised.  Are we not content with just doing what is right because it is RIGHT?!?!

We struggle with that because we have lost a sense of who we really are.  So we artificially try to fill in that space through praise.  Praise from others, and praise from self. 

Have you noticed how many people post before and after pictures of their weight loss online?  Are we less pleased with being healthy if we don't get 100 likes on our pictures?  And if others aren't praising us we feel like we can't feel good about ourselves either.  We look for validation from the very people who are desperately seeking validation themselves.

Did you know you are valuable and of great worth simply because you are you?  You are made in the image of a loving God, and called by name by a gracious savior.  You can find validation, not in what you have done, or will do, but in who YOU ARE.  Who you are is not a hurdle to leap or a hoop to jump.  It is your very innermost being.  Dirt and all. 

Here is what is amazing about resting in the validation that comes from the only place validation matters.  You begin to become more of who you wished you would be.

A while ago I came to the realization that I had turned tasks in marriage into goals to accomplish so that my wife would tell me how great I was.  And she noticed.  Maybe not in those exact words. but she knew I wasn't just helping because it was right, but I was helping to get a reaction.  So I stopped caring what she thought, and started caring about what is right because God made me. 

When I was doing things to impress her, it was exhausting.  Every task that I tried to accomplish felt like a mountain to climb and celebrate.  Since my heart conviction on the subject, I don't even think about it.  I am not trying to tell you that I am impressive.  But trying to convey to you that I was trying to have a works based relationship and it was EXHAUSTING.  Giving that mindset up and just caring about what God cared about took away the exhaustion of tasks and those same "things" just became an outflow of how He was making me and shaping me. 

Do not seek validation from Man or Yourself.  Rest in the fact that the only validation that there really is comes from He who Made you.  And He thinks you are great. 


The Most Annoying Man in the World.....

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Are You Really a Child of God?

"But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven"

A Facebook friend of mine recently had a conversation with a True Christian(tm).  It looked like this.....(NSFW language warning)

Yay for my team!

To prove his unassailable moral authority he helpfully utilized graphic curse words to better illustrate his point at how morally corrupt those who disagreed with him were.

In the full sermon that Jesus is preaching in chapter 5 in Matthew we can partially boil down one of the main points to be how our actions do not change that the attitudes and thoughts of our hearts are equally culpable.  Again and again Jesus expands the written law to include our innermost being and behavior.  Here he again flips upside down the "love your neighbor" idea to point out that to love like God has called us to love means extending love towards even those who disagree with us to the point of being our "enemies"

I can only imagine what this "True Christian"(TM) would say to the Romans if he and Jesus swapped places on the cross.  Who wants to bet it would not be "Father, forgive them"? 

The Gospel tells us that even when we were ENEMIES to God, Christ loved us enough to give his life for us.  It doesn't say, because you felt bad enough about your animosity towards God and realllllllly wanted to change, Jesus was like "All right, I guess I can do something for you now......"

While I was His enemy.  He died for me.  He died saying, "I love you, even while you nail me here."

In a polarized culture full of a never ending assault on personal and corporate peacefulness, we are always on the defensive and the assault. 

Their camp.

Our camp.

Their wrong views(evil views)

Our right views(moral views)

There is no qualifier in Jesus's statement here.  He doesn't say, "Be loving so that they stop being so bad".  You are simply called to love with a God centered(Agape) love that does not expect agreement or changed behavior in return. 

Here is the kicker.  The proof of  your salvation is affirmed in how you do treat those who persecute you.  Did you catch that?  When we do not show love to our enemies, we are showing that our claims to being children of God may very well be a lie we tell the world AND ourselves!

This week the patriarch of the Duck Dynasty clan just got suspended for expressing his biblical views on sin and homosexuality.  The response of the Christian interwebs is sadly unsurprising.  One popular blogger, Matt Walsh(full disclosure, I really enjoy and align with about 99% of what he says), just penned a response entitled "Dear A&E,  Congratulations, You Just Committed Suicide"  Guess what my knee jerk reaction was?  YESSSSS!!!!!!

Then I read Matthew........

I don't blame Matt's response really at all.  Because 12 hours ago if someone had asked me to pen my response to the whole thing, it probably would have read just like his.(obviously with less talent and pizazz....)  We fall into this trap all the time.  We experience "persecution"(real and otherwise) and we bring out the big guns.  We are right, so we will prove we are right by destroying those who are wrong.

What is wrong with us?


Why should we be convicted by the challenge Jesus gives us?  Because we are so often just as bad as those we attack for being bad.

The way of the Cross does not call us to be "winners" in the great cultural debates of our time.  It calls us to be gracious and LOVING as we get our teeth kicked in.

There is no limit to the degree in which we have been loved.  There is to be no limit to the degree in which we show love.  Even when we speak truth to those who hurt us.  Do we speak because of love, or because we want to win. 

Here is the challenge for me and for you today.  And we will start it on a small scale.  Who is a person who you feel has kicked you over and over and over again?  Who has taken from you without remorse?  Who could care less if they have hurt you?  Go to the Cross and love them deeply.  Pray for them.  Care for them with a heart that breaks for them.  And, if you speak to them about your disagreements....lets keep the profanity bottled up.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Why You Can't Do What You Think You Can Do

Matthew 5:21-22
"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do Not Murder', and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement.  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement."

My kids are great.  But they are terrible at doing things.  I mean, just down right awful.  If you ever want to experience an all consuming frustration, try to get a 4 year old to clean up their toys/books/room etc.  It is not they are deliberately trying to tick me off(I hope not at least), but they just do not have the requisite skill set to accomplish tasks that are really quite simple.  In general they just do not possess the understanding and perspective of the meaning of "clean up ALLLLLLLL the toys".

And that's ok.  They still need me.  It takes longer to have them "help", but its worth it.  In all seriousness they both try really hard to do what is asked of them.  And I generally have to always finish the job. 

We love rules.  Especially God's rules.

Wait wait wait, you say.  I thought we hated rules.  Well, obviously we like to consider ourselves above rules and restrictions, but we LOVE things we can control to acquire desired outcomes.  God's laws can be a great source of pride for people.

"I am such a good person"

"At least I don't do what he/she does"

"God sure is lucky to have someone like me on the team, I do everything super awesome"

So here comes Jesus in Matthew 5; "Great, you like following rules.  Guess what, more than rules, the very innermost secret thoughts of your heart are going to be judged as well....."

You might not actually kill someone, but have you ever been angry at someone?  And if you say no, you are a liar.  And guess what?  You might as well be a murderer.

We like to paint Jesus into this little box of good feelings and friendly advice.  He breaks right through that and says, "You are under judgment for every single thing you could possibly imagine."  So where is the loving and good buddy Jesus we all like to picture? 

There is a reality that Jesus is lovingly pointing out to you and I.  We CAN NOT DO IT!  Even on your best day, you are worse than you need to be.  When you are your most loving, you are also unforgiving in your heart of anger/hatred.  The law does not exist to give us the 12 step program to be better people who can pull ourselves up by the bootstraps right up through heavens gates.

The law is there to vividly paint the picture of the immutable Character of God Himself and to unavoidably lead to the conclusion of our inability to measure up.

 We are all in desperate need of help.  Jesus wasn't trying to be a downer.  He was forcing us to acknowledge how lost and messed up we really are.  He came to do for us what we could never do for ourselves.  Ever. 

Our lives are often marked by the tragedies and pains of falling so far short of what we want.  Welcome to life.  In little and small ways, this cycle continues perpetually for us.  We need to stop putting on our shoulders that which we cannot carry.  Ever.

Whatever it is, whoever it is, whenever it is, Jesus comes calling to say, "You can't do it, but I can".  Are we ready to stop trying and start giving it to Him. 

This is the next two decades of my life

Monday, December 16, 2013

Saltless Salt

Matthew 5:13
 "You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?"

Most of the time we are white noise.  Just another generic voice in the cacophony of the worlds utterances.  Our hearts cry out for something more.  We are incapable of not desiring to be someone who makes an impact.  The very design of our innermost beings is deeply rooted in a rich desire and ability to enrich and change the world around us.

When I was a kid I loved to shoot hoops out on the driveway.  My favorite play of all time was when Toni Kuckoc(sp??) nailed a turn around jumper from the top of the key for the Bulls in the 95ish playoffs at the buzzer.  There is no counting how many times I reenacted that exact shot.  Always yelling, "At the buzzer!!!"

Never once did I practice sitting on the bench.  Or, standing under the hoop for a possible rebound.  Though I was never going to be a star myself, I dreamt of being the one who made a difference on the biggest stage.  I mean, seriously, who goes outside to play basketball and decides to practice sitting on the bench?

We live in a broken world, surrounded by broken and hurting people.  When we allow ourselves a moment to reflect on that reality, our hearts will break.  And it should, we are made in the image of a loving Father who weeps at the pain and destruction that we find ourselves in.

Why then, do so many of us make so little difference?  Those broken, lost, hurting, and desperate people in our lives interact with us and continue in the same path that has led them to exactly where they are right now.  We know that they are a mess, but when it is our turn to speak, we trade shallow banalities and trite slogans. 

You and I are made to be much more than observers of hurt.  We are to be the voice that cuts across the grain of heartache and calls towards healing. 

Jesus says, "If salt loses its saltiness, how does it get it back"?  Luckily, we aren't left wondering.  All of scripture is put together purposely.  It isn't randomly thrown together.  What follows immediately in chapter 5?  God's law and its continual influential and shaping truth upon life.

There is nothing within us naturally that can make itself heard over the painful shouts of the world around us.  When left to our own devices we are swept along with the current of everything around us.  We are drowning people pretending that we can reach out and help those who are also drowning. 

The hope of being a difference maker, the voice who calls towards hope and change, is found in being shaped and led by God's truth. 

God's law is not just an arbitrary list of rules, it is the revelation of the very Character of whose image you bear.  When we become disconnected to these truths, we become overwhelmed by a corrupted image without the power to give "flavor" to those who have become dull.

Do you truly love and care for the hurting in your life?  Because if you just compromise and go along to get along, you are not showing love.  You are watching them drown.  We are made to be living reflections of God's glory, and only when we begin to live in that truth do we find the strength within ourselves to truly help those whose pain is screaming at you.

We do not truly love others if we do not love God first.  When love becomes disconnected from the source of Love it becomes nothing more than self promoting comfort seeking.  Because truly helping will make us uncomfortable.  Standing by and watching your friend drown is easy, there is no risk, and we can pretend to be a good friend.  It costs us nothing. 

If you want to love in a way that saves, love the truth of the only one who can save.

This cats got the right idea......kinda

Friday, December 13, 2013

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

Matthew 5:3-4
"Blessed ared the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted"

Just last night we took our kids to see the new movie, "Frozen".  It was Kai's second movie and Piper's first.  We had no idea how they would do in the theater and apologized in advance to the cute young couple sitting a few rows behind us. 

Shock of shocks.  They did amazing.  Especially Piper.  She was absolutely mesmerized.  She did not take her eyes of the screen for the entire movie. 

Here are my pretty girls enjoying the movie!(the third head is a baby doll...)
Everything else fell away for her during this experience.  Captivation of the beauty that she was seeing gave her tunnel vision.  Even when her brother was acting obnoxiously(as he is wont to do) it never distracted her.  There were only eyes for the Princesses Anna and Elsa!
The beauty of grace is mesmerizing.  When we allow ourselves to look at it and experience it. 
Jesus starts his teaching in Matthew not by saying "Keep being good folks, I am here to help".  He says, Blessed are those whose lives are a mess, who are hurting, who are falling apart. 
He doesn't say, you will be blessed because you are so faithful, because you have jumped through all the right hoops, because you said and thought the right things.  Instead, right in the midst of your tragic experience He says you will be Blessed. 
There are no qualifiers for Grace.  There are no prerequisites for being loved. 
This is mesmerizing.  So much of our lives is shaped by seeking to "earn" what we get.  Whether it is in jobs or relationships, we place value based on what we receive or what we give.  This man made economy of valuation is a perversion of our very created selves.  It turns us into objects to be plugged and played where it is convenient.  Our worth constantly fluctuating based upon who is turning the gears of our life.  Today I matter.  Tomorrow I do not.  When we do not meet someones expectations or self-centered desires, we are discarded.
Jesus cuts through all that and says, I love you, even when you hate me.  Is it because He is trying to prove a point?
No, it is because He knows you in a way you do not know yourself.  And your very inner workings are not; Employee "X", Mother "W", Wife "A", Child "C".  You are His, wonderfully and lovingly crafted. 
Underneath all the crap we pile on ourselves, He sees what is underneath even when we cannot. 
When Jesus speaks to the crowds He is challenging everything they think they know about themselves and their lives.  He says, you will be so loved and filled by Grace that in the midst of your suffering your heart will sing, "Blessed am I!"  The world told them they had to earn it, be good enough, soldier on.  Jesus says, "Just as you are, you will be blessed"
Being mesmerized by Grace(unmerited favor!)  causes everything else to fall away.  We are no longer defined by what is happening around us.  Instead, we become filled by what we are being shown and what is being experienced.
Don't miss this.  It wouldn't be a blessing, and it wouldn't be Grace if you earned it.  If you were good enough, and had all your crap together, it would be an obligation we expect.  We shouldn't expect it.  We don't deserve it.  We aren't good enough.  That is why it is such a mesmerizing blessing.
Don't explain it, you can't.
Feel it, you can. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

How Effective Is Your Ministry?

Matthew 4:23
"Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness among the people"

You know what is great?  Secret Santa gift exchanges.  My wife and I do it every year.  Well, I guess we act surprised when we give each other gifts at least......

You know what would diminish my enjoyment of being a Secret Santa?  Keeping it a secret long after the gifts have been given.

Giving gifts is in and of itself a good thing.  I love to bless people.  But I know that I love to know who I am thankful to when I receive a gift.  The increasing of my joy is in recognizing the love and thoughtfulness of the person who blessed me.  It shifts thankfulness from a private affair to one of directed, and shared, joy.  Being able to tangibly experience being loved makes those feelings more real.

If I ran across a note that simply said, "I love you" in a pocket of my jacket, it might be nice.  And I would wonder where it came from.  If it said, "I love you----Love Tori", it suddenly means a lot more to me because it was deliberately given by my wife for a specific purpose.  Purposeful love and gifts are powerful when you have a full picture of the heart behind it.

Christians today really screw up giving to others. 

Either we proclaim the truth of the Kingdom and then exit stage left, or, we do something nice without understood purpose.

Neither option is supposed to exist in a vacuum.  Jesus had a powerful, and effective, ministry that saw the merging of both concepts.  He gave lavishly in the midst of speaking with clarity about what He was giving meant and represented. 

We are told later in the passage that as word spread about His two-pronged relationship with people(truth speaking and blessing) everyone began to come to Him of their own accord.  Not that He didn't still travel and seek those who had not yet begun to seek Him.  But He began to operate a ministry where He could just "open the doors" and the lost, hurting, and, desperate came running. 

How would you like to have a ministry(personal or vocational) that people came to you desperate to hear the truth of God's Kingdom that you had been entrusted to share

The truth of what you are sharing(the Gospel) becomes a purposeful gift when it is paired with serving those you share with.  And the effectiveness of serving exponentially increases when the purpose of serving is shared.  You cannot powerfully share with out serving.  And you cannot powerfully serve without sharing. 

Peoples lives aren't going to be radically altered because you anonymously raked their leaves one day.  They aren't going to be shaken to their core by the Gospel if you just do a "drive by" presentation.

We are surrounded by a hurting and lost people.  And that is not just a spiritual matter.  Last month in a little village of less than 300 people we provided food assistance(meals for a week) to over 150 families out of work and struggling to get by.  I promise you that you can walk less than 10 minutes and come to the door of a stranger whose life is falling apart.  What are you going to do about it?

Leave a tract?

Anonymously mow their lawn?

Don't do either.  Get into their lives,.  Care for them in a way that breaks your heart in your love for them.  Serve them sacrificially and speak to them boldly. 

Do you want to be effective in ministry?  Do as Jesus did! 

You better not hand this out if you have never cried with your neighbor. 
Actually, please never hand this out

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Are you Christ "Centered", or, A Chrst Follower?

Matthew 4:19-20
' "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men."  At once they left their nets and followed him'

Our hearts are fairly corrupt.  Even though I am a pastor and a born again Christian(TM) when I am completely honest with myself, I am not really that good of a person.  I lose my patience way too easily.  I am lazy.  I am self-centered.  Especially that.  I am especially self-centered. 

So many times I have to reevaluate why I do what do and come to the realization that it was often deeply rooted in self.  Self-centered desires, pursuits, behaviors, mindset, prayers, etc. 

In modern Christianity we like to throw about the phrase, "Christ Centered Life".  There is nothing necessarily "wrong" with that concept.  To desire to have your innermost self shaped and influenced by the presence of the Living God dwelling within us is a pretty sweet thing to want, and, experience.

The problem is we are missing something that scripture teaches very clearly.  We are to be followers.  Not centerers(my own word obviously)

Jesus doesn't call to these fellas and say, "Hey, you guys.  Why don't you keep on fishing, but do it while really thinking about me a lot?  Also, go get a WWJD bracelet so you can remember to be "Me" centered while you do what it is you are going to do."

When we turn our relationship with Jesus into this self-centered belief system it inevitably will be influence by....well...ourselves.   So we begin to "add" Jesus to what it is we are doing.  Our prayers even reflect that attitude. 

  • "God, please meet with us here today"

  • "God, help me in this situation"

  • "God, can you go do something for "that" person?"

  • "Jesus, come live in my heart"

Do you know what type of prayers I rarely hear?  From me or anyone else?  Prayers about following.  Following is hard.  It requires actually dropping what it is YOU are doing and going to where He is.  These first disciples had to be willing for the sake of Christ to give up everything they thought they knew about life and run off into the unknown. 

Following Christ means to stop trying to see ahead of today, and trusting in His perfect love to lead you where it is you need to be.  Shallow Christ Centeredness is about staying right where we are, in the place we feel comfortable and in control, and expecting Jesus to just adapt to our comfort level.

The picture that Jesus paints in the Gospels about the Kingdom of Heaven is all about people dropping everything that they have to pursue what they see in God's promise.  They sell their fields, they clean every nook and cranny looking for coins, they drop their self-centeredness for Christ pursuit. 

What if our prayers looked more like this?

  • "God, please lead me to where you are"

  • "God, I am in a difficult place right now, show me your plan"

  • "God, my friend/spouse/relative is hurting right now, what can I do to be Your hands and feet for them today?"

  • "Jesus, teach me to run hard after you, and to never stop"

We aren't called to be Christ centered.  We are called to be Christ followers.  The early church wasn't called "Christian".  They were called "The Way".  Because it illustrated that they were going somewhere, they were pursuing a radical new way of living.  No longer living out of ego and self with a smattering of religiousity, but, living pursuing the living God, His Son, and His eternal kingdom.

Stop being "centered".  Start following.

Like me, you might look like this when you get started.  But don't stop running!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Who is Your Boss?

Matthew 3:13-17
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

We all like to think we are in charge.  My wife's first known phrase was "you're not the boss of me".  My 4 year old son always makes comments about how he can't wait until he grows up and gets to be MY boss.  He doesn't get that I will ALWAYS BE HIS DADDY!!!!  And since he claims he wants to live in my house even after he gets married, he better still be following my rules.

Rule #1:  My son, If you find a woman who is willing to marry you and then go live in your aging parents basement.....she is not someone I want for a daughter-in-law....Aim higher please.

Jesus is not just any man.  He is the Great I AM.  Fully man, yet fully God.  One of those beautiful and profound mysteries of God's heart for us.

What does Jesus do in this passage?  He submits to the Father.  He did not consider equality with God something to be "grasped".  When he approaches John, John responds by begging Jesus to instead baptize Him.  John knew that He needed Jesus, Jesus did not need John. 

But Jesus wasn't coming so that "John" could baptize him.  He was coming to submit to God the Father.  His ministry, his purpose, God's plan, did not really start moving until the moment when Jesus came humbly to the Father and submitted to Him. 

Immediately after this moment is detailed in the Gospel of Matthew we get the Temptation of Jesus by satan.  Which is itself immediately followed by Jesus's earthly ministry beginning. 

Life is full of these moments.  Temptation, opportunities for ministry, hard work, commitment. Our example, our North Star, in all things is Jesus Christ Himself.  What does he teach us?  You are not prepared until you come humbly to the Father.  

Our lives are filled with challenges and difficulties.  We like to think we are in charge.  We like to consider ourselves the Boss of all things "us".  That we are the ones making decisions, we are the ones moving things forward. 

But we aren't.

Something is going to be the compelling and controlling force in our lives.  And it will never be us.  We either become manipulated and lead by the nose by sin, or, we will come to the Father and have the strength to take ownership of who we are and finally experience freedom.

You can't have it both ways.

Wait a minute, how can giving up "control" to God give me freedom?  This seems antithetical to my concept of freedom.

You were knitted in your mothers womb by a loving Father who called you by name. Revelation 2:17 tells us that God has a name for us that only He, and we, will know.  And it is our true name.  It is the name we were made by God to be.  Here's the thing.  You cannot be free without God, because only He knows how you were made.  And He will not "squash" who you are.  Instead, he will "free" who you are.

Are you exhausted by defining life in your own limited and painful ways?  Trying to discover who you are, to only hate what you have made of yourself?  You are made uniquely and beautifully.  No matter what has happened or will happen.  What God makes, He says is GOOD.  We can try to hide that goodness under sin and pain, but God continues to call you by name to be who you really are.

When we fight God in our life, we are fighting against ourselves.  Stop pretending you're the boss.  You aren't.  You can never be. 

Did anyone ever really think he was in charge?  This is us.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Who Do you Really Hurt?

Matthew 3:11-12
11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

List of top 5 people I can't wait to meet in heaven(after the obvious Sunday school answer of Jesus and God)
1.  Paul
2.  David
3.  Moses
4.  Russel Crowe....uh...I mean Noah
5.  John the Baptist

Nearly all of them I want to play on my Heavenly Jerusalem intermural softball team...well...probably not Paul...for some reason he does not strike me as particularly athletic.  He can be our "manager".  He is good at organizing things.....

But John the Baptist is such an awesome figure to me.  Empowered with a prophetic ministry and the older cousin of Jesus, and the forerunner to the Christ.  He lived off the grid.  He ate bugs and apparently had an amazing beard. 

His ministry was of one "crying in the wilderness" calling people to repentance as the King drew near.  He said that he baptized with water.  But the one to come, Christ, would baptize permanently(my take on Holy spirit and fire). 

We are really good at half hearted confessions today.  My 4 year old son has perfected the art of the sorry/not sorry.  He will hit his 2 year old sister, say he doesn't want a sister anymore, and, on the threat of greater punishment he will say "sorry" and begrudgingly give her a hug.  It's a process.... And we are in a process too. 

In our wake we leave pain, disappointment and heartache.  Often, we are not even aware of it.  I have had more than one time in my life been told years later that something I had done or said had terribly hurt someone and that it had bothered them for a long time....AND I HAD NO IDEA!!!  They had been walking around with a wound of my creation and I just assumed they must remember me quite fondly. 

The problem for us is that we can go through the motions of showing remorse and repentance to other people quite easily when pressed.  We often even mean it.  At the moment we say "I am so sorry" we believe we really are as sorry as the words just indicated. 

But we aren't.

When we hurt and sin against people, they are just the collateral damage to what we are really doing.  Sinning against God.  Each of us is an image bearer of the Creator King of the Universe.  The child of a loving Father who calls us by name.  The damage we often willfully cause is a strike against the very Heart of the one who loves you more than anything.

It was good for people to come to John the Baptist and confess and repent.  But that was just the beginning.  Human confession was a preparation for spiritual repentance. 

We need to go to our Christian brothers and sisters and confront that which is going on in our hearts, to practice transparency and encouragement.  To walk through the imperfection of this life with those who will often hold our hands and walk with us.  And that should exist as a catalyst for the real place of repentance, change, and, healing.

Human confession is ripping out the top of the weed.  In an immediate sense it makes a big difference.  But the root still exists.  Biding its time, and when you turn your back, there it is again, crowding out what should be growing, sucking nutrients from that which is struggling for life. 

Only through the Holy Spirit and Fire is the root dealt with.  When we admit and repent of our sins, are you coming to the Cross?  Come to the Cross, or start a cycle of never ending vent/repent sessions with your friends that never seem to make a permanent difference.  Go to the source, or continue to cycle.

Our Christian community is necessary and valuable, but they aren't the ones who have come with the Holy Spirit and fire.  Do you need to change?  Time to burn it down.

Don't wait this long and become a prisoner!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Where is God When Babies Die?

Matthew 2:13-18
13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”[c]
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
    weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
    and refusing to be comforted,
    because they are no more.”[
The narrative of Christ's birth is obviously a popular part of scripture this time of  year.  Kids dress up and put on nativities.  Most of our houses are decorated with some sweetly sentimental item representing something from these stories.  And right smack dab in the middle of all this sweetness and joy is this horrific story.  Which, shockingly, is rarely reenacted by sunday school Christmas performances.....
Here is the worst part; Why did Herod get so mad he went out and slaughtered a bunch of innocent babies?  Because God had warned the Magi to avoid Herod.  Wait?! What?!  Herod's depraved behavior is a direct result of the action of God. 
What about you?  What horrific hurts and pains lie underneath the surface of your heart right now?  If most of our hearts were bared open for all to see, they would not be pretty to see.  And as we stand there screaming at the Heavens we all want to know....Where were  you God? 
We tend to have a very myopic view of life.  Our experiences and perspectives are limited to a very fine focus.  Especially in the midst of suffering.  Have you ever woken up from a particularly bad dream and it took a good 5-10 minutes of being awake to realize that what you dreamt had not happened?  As a parent those are the worst dreams.  One night I had a dream where something happened to my kids.  I woke up in a panic sweat.  Ran to their rooms.  Even after seeing them sleeping peacefully it was quite a while before my heart stopped racing.  And that whole day my body felt the strain of stress, even though my anxiety was not based on reality.
Expand that.  Not to downplay the severity of what you may have experienced(or are experiencing), but that finite situation can become an all consuming pain that colors the way we view our entire life.  And we turn and shout to the heavens, Where were you God?
This temporal existence is a never ending cycle of the good with the bad.  Sin brings devastating consequences that reverberate in all areas of creation.  And this passage beautifully illustrates that painful dichotomy.
As evil was being perpetuated upon children, the most beautiful and important thing that has ever occurred was happening.  Even with the backdrop of great pain, God had entered into our pained existence in the Person of His only Son, Jesus. 
Why did He enter in?  Because evil men slaughter babies.  Because parents abandon their children.  Because disease and disorders destroy families and shatter lives.  Because you are broken and hurting.
While we become bogged down with that which is immediately in front of us, the Angels cry out that the King is here, that He is on the move.  While you are crying alone again, Christ is marching up Golgotha.  While you lay in a grave that precious loved one gone to soon, Christ is being placed in the tomb.  When you cry out, God where are you, Christ is rising from Death, never to return.
When we keep our eyes down we miss what is happening right in front of us.  Christ is on the move.  He is not just on the move to stop Herod and save the infants of Bethlehem.  He is on the move to bring to its end all death, evil, and, pain. 
Do you realize that God is moving right now in the midst of your pain.  You probably don't see it if you are keeping your eyes down and being consumed by pain.  Look up! 
2000 years ago God set into motion His work to answer all evil and to end all death.  What He began through the birth of Jesus will continue until every tear will be wiped from your eye.  You are not alone, and you are not without hope.
Where is God when babies die?  Where is He when you are hurting and you feel beyond repair?  He is on the move, and will not stop until all who call on Him are rescued.
Here is the challenge for us;  Can we begin to live by faith, not by our eyes?  If the faith of a mustard seed can move a mountain, begin to trust that you are not alone, your King is coming for you and will not allow you to perish.  Not because of anything good in you, but because everything good in HIM!
“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”
C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Who Do You Trust?

Matthew 2:7-8
7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.

Herod is a liar.  We know later on in this chapter that he never had intentions of honoring and worshipping Jesus.  He wanted to kill him.  But I am sure he sounded convincing.  What he said probably made the Magi feel good and confident and they most likely had no reason to not want to come immediately back to Herod and give up the location of the baby.

What are peoples intentions with you?  Do they flatter you, while preparing their "hand" to strike.  Are they your "friend" so that they can take advantage of you?

There is not a person alive who hasn't had someone in their life just like Herod.  And most likely, most of us reading this have been Herod to people in our lives at some point.  We treat people like objects and resources to be plundered.  We are strip mined by those who claim to be our friends.  They take what is meant to be beautiful and cherished, and tear it down beyond recognition for self-centered reasons.  Needs and desires of self outweigh love, compassion and sacrifice for the good of those who are made in the image of the living God.

People will often feel bad about the consequences of pain that they give, but that doesn't stop them.  Always looking for the next opportunity to take from those too weak and vulnerable to protest and protect. 

In verse 12 the Magi avoid Herod to protect Jesus and his family.  Why?  Because God had revealed the truth of Herod's true intentions.  And, they acted accordingly.  They realized the danger of Herod, listened to God, and protected themselves and others from Herod's flattering lies.

This is the guide post for us.  God's truth.  We are incapable of really knowing the true heart of someone.  Even if you were a mind reader, the human heart is a mystery beyond our ability to comprehend.  When we become deeply rooted in God's word, His love, His truth, we are developing a protective heart barrier that will send us warning signals loud and clear.

Along with that, God speaks with power and clarity through the people of His Church.  Our we submitting our lives and hearts to the communion of God's people?  We are so susceptible to flattery, abuse, lies and more.  Who are the truth seekers in your life that will stand for truth in your life?  Who will graciously and patiently help you see what you are allowing to happen, AND, what YOU are doing yourself?

We have to make a choice to no longer be a victim.  It is not our fault that people hurt us.  But it is time for us to choose to live by faith, not by sight.  Our eyes will convince us of the validity of the lie, our faith will reveal to us the truth.  

So, who do you trust?  There is only one who is the, "same, yesterday, today, and, tomorrow" 

Who is really watching your back?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Thrones and Tombs

Matthew 2:3
"When King Herod heard this he was disturbed"

Substitute teachers were always the best.  And if they were particularly naïve(read our favorites) they didn't make you do much work and fill the period with a rousing game of Heads up 7 up.  We all knew it was temporary.  How odd would it be if they didn't make us do the work the teacher assigned and spent the whole time bad mouthing the absent teacher?  And, upon the regular teachers return they tried to lead a student coup to put them in permanent charge of the class?  That would be a substitute teacher that would be permanently out of a teaching job. 

King Herod wasn't even a real king.  He was allowed to rule whatever it was he did rule by the beneficence of Rome.  They could easily dispose him if they decided they didn't like the job he was doing. 

When the Magi come and tell him about the new born king, Herod responded by becoming disturbed.  He knew deep inside that his claim to power was shaky at best.  What if there really was some new player on the political scene that the notoriously rebellious Jews would follow?  Perhaps Rome would just give him Herod's palace to keep things on an even keel.

Guess what?  That's you.  There is a throne in your life.  And, you are sitting on it.  In your own little kingdom you are absolute ruler.  Though, in actuality, you really don't have that much power.  But at least in your little corner of the world, its all yours.

Over 2000 years ago the star appeared declaring that the King of Kings had arrived.  And just like Herod, we are disturbed.

Disturbed because Jesus makes a claim of authority upon our hearts.

Disturbed because if He really is who He claims to be, then our power really was no power at all.

Disturbed because so much of what we have been up to is not going to jive with this King.

We have been usurpers to a throne that is not ours.  We have built up our kingdoms, and constructed our walls.  But, like Herod, it is all paper. 

But there is another way to see this.  What if instead of sitting on His throne, we have been anticipating His return?  Joyfully?  When our hearts begun to long for the real King of our lives, it is a celebration of freedom when He returns. 

Have you ever babysat?  It can be fun, especially before you have kids.  But isn't it a relief when the brats parents come home?!?!  While you might have played some fun games, and the kids might have really made you smile, you are glad that the real parents are there to take over and you can finally kick back.

That throne that is sitting in your heart can function in two ways.  And only two ways.  It can be the throne that we gladly hand over to its rightful owner.  Or, it becomes a tomb that imprisons us.

See, this is the thing about being your own King.  In pursuit of freedom, your freedoms to make choices begin to diminish.  When Christ leads us, true freedom opens up expansively before us.  No longer entrapped by choices, sins, mistakes, the exhaustion of being "in charge".  When He sits on His throne, we can become exactly what we are made to be.

I do not know what you are made to be.  But I do know what you are not made to be.  King.  As long as you are king, you cannot be anything else.
This kinda sums it up;  Jesus doesn't coexist, He is the King.  Also, this stuff is funny.  Click it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Things Aren't What They Seem

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[a]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[b] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[c] because he will save his people from their sins.”
           -- Matthew 1:18-21

Joe got his mind blown right here.  Here he is, getting ready to be married, and then he finds out that his bride to be is pregnant with a man that is clearly not him.  Like most people he deals with what he sees on the surface.  Fiance pregnant, I know its not me, therefore, she is unfaithful. 

How many times do we deal with our first impressions.  A situations occurs and we react immediately.  Joseph is given a radical new perspective; This is something God is doing.  And it is what God is doing to save us from sin!

When what we experience as "bad" happens to us, we often cannot see out of the box of that response.  

Romans 8:28 tells us that God will work ALL things to our good.  Let me repeat that.....ALL things.  One more time with feeling.....ALL THINGS!

What Joseph felt was hurtful, broken promises, unfaithfulness, was actually the most important miracle of all time,;that God would become man so that He could die for us.

Look at your life.  What is it that you are hurt by, frustrated with, desperate over?  Are you willing to see that the hand of God is there, even there? 

Our greatest need is not to have an easier life, less problems, more "x".  It is to be made new and finally experience what we are truly made for.  What are hearts cry out for;  To be found in the one who literally crafted you out of dust and breathed life into you.

We are a stubborn and obstinate people.  Usually, we have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to that which is good for us.  Ever try to feed a 3 year old vegetables?  My own heart ache is that so many times it takes difficulties for me to look for God.  And then, in the midst of those difficulties, I feel better than I have ever felt before. 

Weird isn't it?

But here is the key.  When we are oppressed and desperate, you have two diametrically opposed choices;  Find God, or, find grief. 

Joseph could have closed His ears to God's message about what He was really doing.  He could have walked away from Mary, and missed the most amazing opportunity.  Being the father to the son of God!  He would have been left only with his hurt over betrayal, and his loneliness without his spouse.  But instead, he listened for what God was doing, and the trajectory of his life took a much different path.

Where do you need to start looking, and trusting in, God's love for you in the midst of difficult circumstances.  Because even this, even this, He will be gracious and good to you. 

I know this is silly.  But it looks like life sometimes.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

When I am to Tired to go Forward

Hebrews 4:1 
"Therefore since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it."

What is the "therefore" there for?  The preceding passage talks about unbelief and sinful hearts.  And here we are told immediately, as an encouragement AND a challenge, His(God's) rest STILL STANDS!

How exhausted are you by life?  What are the events in your life, by your own creation, and even those done against you, that have you beaten down?

Here is God's promise to me and to you.  His rest is still there. 

We are incapable of soldiering on by ourselves.  We can hang on by a thread and try to simply survive.  But we are never thriving.  Spiritually, emotionally and physically we need rest.  If you are trying to get in shape, one of the best things you can do for yourself is get sleep.  You can exercise every day, but if you never sleep, your body will fall apart.

So often we run ourselves ragged and are incapable of finding rest.  There is only one place where the true rest that you and I desperately need comes from.  The resting place of God. 

And He invites you to join Him there.

The end of this chapter of Hebrews ends with one of the best encouragements in all of scripture;  "For we do not have a high priest who is unable sympathize with our weaknesses".

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is accept and believe and trust in His rest.  And Jesus is standing there saying, "I get it, been there done that, let me show you the way".

Do you need someone to guide you to a place of rest?  There is one who has gone before us and patiently walks with us towards that hope.  You are not alone, you need rest, and He knows and offers it freely. 

If you are a Christian, are you trusting in His rest?  Are you coming to a place where you can finally close your eyes and let your burdens go?

If you are still struggling in the wilderness....His rest still stands.  Stop exhausting your self and just surviving.  Come to the rest that will lead you to thriving.

Matthew 11:28-30
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Do you feel like this?