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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Seeing Double

In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the earth.

Isn’t that just beautiful?

There’s something restful in the simplicity of that statement. I pray we never miss that. The Bible doesn’t apologize for God or His creation. It doesn’t start with eloquent attempts to convince you of His existence, nor of His ability to create ex nihilo. The very idea that either of those base assumptions is even questionable is foreign to the authors of Scripture. It was foreign to Jesus. And I think, if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s foreign to you and me.

I think in our heart of hearts, each one of us knows that, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. How could he not? (A question which, interestingly enough, people are desperately trying to answer. I’m not convinced.)

It’s key that we understand this, because this is only the first part.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Rediscovering Grace

I have to say every time I feel like I am getting it, you know this whole following Jesus thing...

I get wrecked all over again.

In fact, grace is so amazing that there is more than one thing to say about it. By grace we do wonders (Acts 6:8), by grace we are justified (Rom. 3:24), by grace we exhort (Rom. 12:3), by grace we build (1 Cor. 3:10), by grace we work hard (1 Cor. 15:10), by grace we give generously (2 Cor. 8:7), by grace we use our gifts (Eph. 4:7); by grace we are strengthened (Heb. 13:9), and by grace we are saved (Eph. 2:8). Every good thing we do, every true thing we believe, every bit of resting, every bit of striving, every mercy and every effort is by grace (James 1:17).

God has this way of forcing me to rediscover and wrestle with the concept of Grace over and over and over and over again...

And then again and again.

Have you had this kind of experience?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Swimming in the Water of Life

The more I’ve sought God’s heart, the more I feel that I’ve misunderstood Him. His wild heart, I’ve tried to keep in a box and tame to my liking; His courageous and fierce love, I’ve tried to mute into mere kindness. I’ve tried to contain Him, control Him, and the more I’ve realized how big God is and how small sometimes we make Him, the more I see that I’ve only been drinking His free gift of the water of life. I haven’t been swimming in it.

In the Bible we aren’t really invited to “come and swim” in the gift of life - it would be a pretty weird invitation, one Jesus’ disciples would probably hear and just kind of look at Jesus. Swim? Really, Jesus? Why can’t you say something normal like ‘Come and live’ or ‘Come and drink of the water of life?’ And He does.

In John 4:13-14, He says, “Everyone who drinks of this [tangible] water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

He invites us to come, to come and drink, gulp it down if we need to, but I think that maybe in that invitation, He means something more. Maybe He means that after we’ve learned to drink a mere glass of His love, He’s going to teach us what His water looks like, tastes like, feels like, by pouring it out on us. Pouring it over us, around us, beneath us, behind us - showing us just how big of a God He is, that He can not only fill us, but fill every crevasse around us, every crack of brokenness within us. When we only experience His living water by drinking it glass by glass, it would be easy to begin to believe that God’s gift of life is small, and containable. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Finite Failure; Infinite Hope

Last week, I was given the opportunity to speak at my youth group. It was a great experience, but it was just one of those times where, whether or not it's true, you feel that you've failed. Have you ever had one of those times? I just knew, as I was giving the message and after I finished, that my heart and mind were not in the right place. And I could have done so much better. Regardless of what everyone else thought or could say, in my eyes, I felt I had failed.

That's always how it is when we mess something up, isn't it? People can try to convince us we did fine, that we didn't make that big of a mistake, that it wasn't noticeable, but we are our own worst critics. Though our convictions tend to waver so often in other areas of life, we are convinced, so stubbornly, of our failure. If you've ever failed (which, I'm pretty sure you have since you're human), or if you're half as hard on yourself as I am on myself, you know that those feelings of disappointment and even shame are heavy. I was disappointed.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Simple Sunday

Do not fear the conflict with passions and sin, do not flee from it: where there is no struggle, there is no virtue; where there are no temptations for faithfulness and love, it is uncertain whether there is really any faithfulness and love for the Lord. Our faith, trust and love are proved and revealed in adversities, that is, in difficult and grievous outward and inward circumstances, during sickness, sorrow and privations.
 -St. John of Kronstadt

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Beauty of Life to the Full

In our culture today, it's become quite popular to live out the easy-to-swallow pieces of Jesus' testimony while discarding the rest. It’s too difficult? Toss it out. Too controversial for popular culture? It couldn't possibly be true. Confusing or a bit uncomfortable? Forget it - literally. It's almost a trend, and it's an easy one to follow. 
In order to make ourselves happy, we fragment the gospel and take for ourselves the pieces that best fit us without changing our hearts. We like a message that doesn't step on anyone's toes, but the more we seek out who Jesus is, the more we find that Jesus wasn't like that at all. He was okay with contradicting someone or saying something hard if it meant leading them to true, full life.

The truth is, this trend that is even sweeping some churches is fragmenting the gospel - it's splintering it, severing it, to distribute to everyone in part but to none in full. Some of us have, and accept, just enough of Jesus to make us miserable. It’s a pretty simple truth: when we accept only fragments or parts of Jesus and His words, we will never experience true life fully.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
Yet there’s something about that word “abundantly” - as some other translations put it, “to the full” - that has always sort of struck a chord in my heart, and made it ache with a longing. Maybe it does to you as well - the thought of life to the full, free and bursting with joy, overflowing with hope and vibrant in color and laughter, even with dynamics of pain and struggles and confusion coming into play. Compared to the life many of us feel like we’re living - one of going through the motions, hoping for something true to catch our hearts - life to the full can sound foreign, and enticing. To some of us, it might even sound impossible.

When we decide that because something in the Bible is too difficult that we'll simply disregard it, we reject abundant life, the life Jesus gives. And the confusing, frustrating, messy parts of the Bible that awaken in us questions and discomfort are often where most beautiful truths are uncovered. They take some digging, some time and a lot of prayer, but through accepting all of God's word, we can embrace the fullness of life He offers - and we are so desperately in need of the Giver of Life.