Singer-songwriter Eric Peters is our guest worship leader this month on The Bridge Podcast. His first selection was a hymn for people who struggle with feeling helpless and hopeless: Come Ye Disconsolate. We hope its reminder “Earth has no sorrow the Heaven cannot heal” is an encouragement to you.
(Warning: if you hit play on this song, you might sing this chorus for the rest of the day without really meaning to)
What can you do about injustice, really? You can’t go everywhere in the world and address or impact all of the wrong and evil, right? Sure, that’s right, but it’s not the end of the story because Jesus said every cup of cold water you give someone in need means a whole lot to Him. The answer to what you can do about injustice is that you can start somewhere. Right there in your town are people who need an advocate, people who need some help, a listening ear or a friend. Find someone hurting or lonely and help them. That’s what this song is all about. Spin it and get encouraged.
What do you do when you know you’ve screwed up? What’s your next move when you’ve just done something really stupid? When you’re running from God as fast as you can and nothing is going the way you hoped it would, how do you get out of the woods? Well, if you’re anything like me, you try to fix it yourself before anyone finds out what you’ve done. And if you’re as good at cleaning up your messes as I am, you probably find yourself in more trouble than when you began. My instinct is to double down on a bad choice and make mistake after mistake until I dig myself so deep down into trouble that I can’t get out on my own and have to call for help.
Way back in the Old Testament, David did the same thing. God had promised he would be king, but it hadn’t happened yet. Instead of sitting on a throne, he was running for his life from Saul, the old king. Saul was jealous of David, wanted him dead and spent seven years hunting him down in order to get rid of him. David knew that he could trust God. He knew that God’s promise of kingship would come true one day, but his fear overcame his faith and instead of waiting on God to take care of him, he fled the city to make it on his own.
He wound up lying to a priest, stealing sacred food, raiding a museum for weapons and then running for his life to the very worst place he could have gone: right into the hands of the Philistines who also wanted David dead. David made some bad choices, and like most of us, he tried to clean up those messes by making more and more bad choices until they almost cost him his life. He wound up pretending to be completely insane in front of the Philistines so they wouldn’t kill him. He was rolling on the ground, yelling in gibberish, slobbering all over his beard and banging his head against the walls until the king of the Philistines chucked him out just to get rid of the noise and the awkwardness. Not David’s finest moment.
Later on, however, David sat down with a pen and his harp and wrote this really complex song where the first letter of every line was in sequence with the Hebrew alphabet. It was a song all about how God will always take care of you and the main thing we need to do is remember that very thing. The song says that all you have to do is try life God’s way and you’ll find out it just works better. I love that thought. Our instincts when we screw up usually lead us to mess up again and again, but what we need to do is to stop and think. What if I went back to God right now? What if I did this His way? That’s what real, Biblical repentance is actually all about - thinking more. Does it work out when I go my own way or does it get worse? What happens when I actually trust God and do things His way? When you find yourself in the middle of a mess, don’t try to clean it up - stop and think. What if you followed God right now?
“If someone you don’t know that well is coming to your house, you might make sure things are extra clean to make a good impression. But if your best friend is coming over, you don’t do that. You know your friend doesn’t care about the mess, they just want to hang out with you. Jesus is not a stranger. You don’t need to clean up an area of your life before you ask Him to come be a part of it.”—Matt King from The Bridge (via thebridgechicago)
What if today was your last day? What if you knew you had only one more chance to hang out with the people who are most dear to you? What would you do? What would you say? What things would be burning inside your heart to tell them? What are the things you would never want them to forget as long as they lived? What if you were in the middle of fighting a huge war and every person you knew was fighting alongside you? What would your mindset be like? If you were in the middle of fighting a war, what kinds of things wouldn’t matter anymore? What would be the things that would burst forth as the most important things in the world?
Would you hug folks more freely? Would you laugh a little longer at a mediocre joke? Would you spend a little bit more energy leaning into a conversation and would you still be refreshing Twitter every forty seconds or so? I bet all of us would take the time to look people in the eye, battle through the discomfort and awkwardness and honestly tell people exactly what they mean to us.
The Apostle Paul had some nights like that. Near the end of his life, he went on a farewell tour of sorts - going around to churches he had started all over the place, checking in, hugging necks, laughing at old inside jokes and tearfully saying goodbye to dear friends because he was on his way to Rome and then soon after that, to Heaven. When he was in Troas, he met with the church there and preached from dinner straight through to midnight. There was a teenager in the room who fell asleep during the marathon sermon. The only problem was that he was sitting in an open window on the third floor of the house. He fell down to the ground, dead.
Paul rushed downstairs, fell on the dead kid, busted out a quick prayer and bam! The sleepy teenager turned tragedy breathed again. Paul led this kid back upstairs, gave him some food and then proceeded to keep the sermon going until daybreak! Why would someone preach that long? Because, this is it! This is for real! We are in a spiritual battle and we’re playing for keeps! Nothing is more important than us walking with Jesus, understanding His love for us, learning to encourage each other and reaching out to the world out there who so desperately needs Him. Your walk with the Lord is critical. It means more than anything else. Don’t get drowsy. Don’t get distracted. Stay alert. Stay awake. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Keep your heart pointed toward love. Be on the lookout for the lonely and the needy and lay your life down like nothing else matters because it won’t be long until we are done and home.
Are you facing impossible odds today? Are you staring down some challenges you already know you won’t be able to overcome? Does this day seem hopeless before it even really gets going? I know I have days like that all the time. Sometimes, you wake up overwhelmed before you even find coffee or the right clothes. Maybe it’s a relationship that’s busted and strained and then again, maybe it’s an old demon you’ve been defeated by again and again. When things seem impossible, what are you supposed to do? What makes today any different than all the other days where you wind up discouraged and down? Okay, lean in for this next bit because you don’t want to just casually read over it and miss it. Here goes - believe it or not, you have a secret weapon. You have an answer to the impossible and overwhelming circumstances of your life. You have an antidote for the cycle of defeat. Today is a brand new day because of your secret weapon and all you have to do is remember it. At the very end of his life, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to a young pastor named Timothy and said, “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.” You might wonder how a pastor would ever forget Jesus is risen from the dead, but the fact is, we all forget this simple truth all the time. Jesus walked out of His grave. He conquered sin, death and hell and from now on, He is remaking everything. We are starting over everyday. We are clean, fresh, new, powerful and alive in Him, the Living One. All you have to do to be strong in Him today is simply this: remember.
Faced with so many overwhelming problems, most people either give up before they’ve started, or they attempt to change the world all at once and wind up burning out. But that’s not what the Lord wants for us. No, His will is that we rest in Him. Letting Him make the changes, both in us and through us, as we walk with Him one day at a time.
This month’s BridgeBox is all about how ordinary people can make a real difference against injustice. Learn a lot of great stuff on that topic, and support ministry in inner-city Chicago for only $8/month. Sign up at missionusa.com/bridgebox.
Hey friends, the following post was written by my friend and pastor, Tom Job as part of his weekly encouragement email that goes out to our church with the week’s announcements. I thought it was awesome. I think it will encourage you as well. Take it away, Tom:
Mornin’, everyone!! It’s 6:13 in the am… Wow! Sun’s coming up, the birds are chirping…Down here in Oliver Springs, I’m looking out over fields and cows with coffee in my hands…Ahhhh! My favorite morning smell! Not cows! Coffee! I always like coffee better at my house on my porch than at Starbuck’s or wherever. Mostly because if I haven’t had my coffee yet, I can’t face all those questions they ask you at Starbuck’s. Like when you order your double caffe mocha frappucino or your iced espresso misto Americano (it’s too early for all those choices), they ask, “What name should we put on this order?” Not only do some people have trouble remembering their name before they’re sufficiently caffeinated, but some folks, especially from other countries, have complicated names that can create traffic jams in the line.
One girl in New York City named Shefali Kulkarni, was saying that when they ask her what name they should put on her order, and she answers, “Shefali”, they go, “What?! How do you say it?” So she says it. Slowly. “Ssshheefaallii.” “How do you spell it?” “S-h-e-f-a-l-i”. “Could you do that again?” “Could you people hurry up?”, the folks in line begin to mumble (we’re in New York remember)… So she came up with a simpler name just for Starbucks. “What name on the order, Ma’am?” “Sheila.” No questions. No waiting. No complaining down the line. Shefali calls “Sheila” her “coffee name”. She said that she noticed that a lot of people from other countries have coffee names. When they ask, “What name for the order?”, instead of “Gulliermo”…or “Bohuslava”…or “Evdokia”…she heard names like “Sue” or “Tom” or “Jill”.
I just wondered what it was like the first time Shefali was in Starbucks with their friends…or her mom…and she got up when they called “Sheila?” “Sheila?!” “It’s my ‘coffee name’. Don’t ask.”
Did you know Jesus has a special name just for you? Listen to this…“I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it…” (Rev 2.17) He has a special name that He calls only you. It’s not because your real name is hard to say or spell. He called someone “Hephzabah” in the Old Testament. That’s harder to spell than “Shefali”. It’s just a name that says something special that He sees in you. Something special that you mean to Him. One of the weirdly hardest but sweetest things you could ever do for yourself is to learn to see yourself in the special way He sees you. - Learning His name for you.
And when we’re all together in Heaven and He calls that name… and you answer Him… and your friends say, “What?! Why’d He call you that?!” …just tell ‘em, “It’s the name He used to call me to wake up my heart in the morning… It’s kinda my coffee name”
If you were to ask me what is the one thing that would help you ensure your walk with Jesus would not only grow, but keep on growing for years to come, I would tell you without a doubt that the answer is friends. In my experience, the single biggest mistake Christians make in their life is trying to do it alone. We tend to think our faith should be strong enough to make it without help. We think needing support and encouragement is somehow a sign that we aren’t where we ought to be. We are afraid to be vulnerable and honest with other people because we want to appear to have it all together, but none of these attitudes has anything to do with the Gospel we believe in - the Gospel which says we are broken, helpless and needy.
Simply put, you don’t have what it takes to do your life by yourself. Even if you could manage it for a while, you won’t make it for very long. You may have some incredible spiritual victories, but eventually you will get tired, discouraged and overwhelmed. You need friends. And when I say that, I don’t mean you need some good buddies who are easy to get along with and have things in common with you. I don’t mean you need that person you grew up with who knows your whole life story and has just always been around. I mean you need to find someone who has a deep and serious walk with Jesus and you need to actively pursue a friendship with them where you encourage each other, strengthen each other, speak truth into each other’s lives and pray for one another.
Way back in the Old Testament, after David killed the giant, Saul’s son Jonathan sought out a friendship with him. He became David’s friend on purpose. They weren’t the same age, they didn’t come from the same kind of family and they didn’t grow up together, but Jonathan saw something in David he wanted. He saw a young man who believed in God like crazy. You see, Jonathan used to be like that. He once took on twenty Philistines by himself armed only with one measly sword and his outrageous faith in God. Somehow, over time, Jonathan had lost that fiery spiritual edge, so that by the time Goliath showed up, he cowered in his tent like everyone else in Israel’s army. Everyone; that is, except David. When David cut off Goliath’s head, Jonathan thought, “I used to be like him. I want to be like that again.” He loved David and they became best friends on purpose, encouraging and building each other up in God.
If you’re going to walk with Jesus for the long haul, this is utterly essential. you need friends. You need people to pick you up when you’re down. You need people to pray for you when you’re in battle. You need people who see the truth of your heart when you can’t see it yourself and you need fellow soldiers walking alongside you who want to walk with Jesus more than anything else. Your walk with the Lord is yours alone, but you don’t make it strong by going it alone. You grow the most when you grow in community. Find someone you want to be like and become their best friend on purpose. You need them and they need you.
“There’s something the enemy doesn’t want you to know. It’s a subtle, little verse tucked away in the last bit of the book of Romans and it’s an absolute atom bomb of encouragement. Ready? Here goes - “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” Whoa. That’s not a typo. It says “your feet.” Life may be a struggle right now, but it won’t be for very much longer and then you get to stomp on the face of the one who has caused all this trouble. Hang in there, because this ends really well.”—Lee Younger
“All sin everywhere is settling for less than God would give you. It is selling you a lie. You do it thinking it is going to make you feel better about this thing. Then you do it, and it doesn’t solve anything. God is asking you to think about what you did, think about what it gave you, and ask ‘did this actually work?’ That is where change starts.”—
Capturing the raw energy of worship at our Chicago Bridge service, this recording features Lee Younger at his finest. This song expresses the deep truth that no one else has ever, or could ever, love us the way that Jesus has and does. There is no one like him.
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You should insist upon getting the relationship you want to have with God. You should be bold about it. If you’re not getting the kind of close, personal connection you want to have with the Lord, it’s time to get in His face about it. Have you told Him you want more? For a second, think about your prayer life. What is it like? Is it ceremonial? Is it flowery? Is it bogged down by formality? Is it boring? Over an above all things, avoid and fight against the trap of a boring prayer life. I’ll say it again, whatever else in this world you do, don’t bore yourself with prayer.
Think about this for a second: the Holy God of Heaven wants to know you - wants to be in a deep and rich relationship with you - wants to be your friend. Whoa. Now, think about the way you talk to your closest friends. Is it boring or ceremonial? My guess is, it’s informal, direct and honest, without pretense. I bet you laugh with each other as well as laugh at each other and I bet those times are your favorite - whether the conversations are deep or not-so-deep, they’re your favorite.
Make prayer like that. Make it direct. Strip away all convention and pretense. Be honest. Tell Jesus exactly what you want. Exaggerate if that’s your personality. Be bold. Be loud. Be hilarious. He loves you, remember? I think most of us want to be close to the Lord, but most of us aren’t willing to demand that kind of relational environment from the Lord. The thing is, when you look at Jesus’ parables and teachings on prayer, He absolutely encourages this kind of boldness. In Luke 11, He says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be open to you.” In Luke 13, He says, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door.” In Luke 18, He says the woman got what she wanted, not because of justice but because of persistence. The Scriptures are clear. Jesus wants us to pray with stubborn tenacity and an expectation to be answered.
I think most of us feel uncomfortable demanding what we want from God. We think this is somehow the opposite of humility. We think it would be better to just quietly wait and be thankful for whatever we get from the Lord, but this is not the same thing as humility. In fact, it’s a catastrophe to silently wish for more because the kind of boldness Jesus encourages is not arrogant, but actually based on true humility. When I’m honest and even desperately bold with the Lord about what I want Him to do in my life, it’s because I know I can’t do it myself. This is the very heart and soul of humility. When you pound on His door, you’re saying, “Jesus! Help me! You’re all I have!” When you rattle His gates, He hears you. What are you waiting on?
What is that thing in your life you’ve given up trying to change? Think about that for a second. It’s not that you don’t want it to be different, it’s just that you don’t know what to do anymore. Everything you know to try, you’ve tried. Everything you’ve been told to do, you’ve done, but nothing ever changes. At some point, you get so frustrated that you give up, right? You get to the place where you figure this is the way it’s going to be from now on; but, what if it could be different? One time Jesus found a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years. He asked this man, “Do you want to get well?” It’s a weird question, right? Of course he wants to get well - that’s not the problem. His problem is that he’s stuck. The paralyzed man essentially said, “What do you want me to do? I have no one to help me.” Jesus then did a weird thing. He looked at this helpless man who had become hopeless and told him, “Get up.” In other words, Jesus told him to do the one thing he couldn’t do - the one thing he had long since stopped trying to do. If you were the paralyzed man, what would you be thinking in that moment? You’ve tried to change this, but no change. You want it to be different, but what can you do? There’s no one to help you - except that now there is. This is what Jesus does. He comes into helpless situations that have become hopeless and changes everything. If you’re stuck, call on Him. If you need change, invite Him in. If you’ve given up, He hasn’t. If you’ve never had anyone to help, you do now.
Are you tired of waking up to face every new day with that same old sense of blah that everyone else seems to have? Are you tired of dragging your bones out of the bed, know the whole day is just going to be kind of, whatever? What if it could be different? What if life could be electric? What if your eyes opened in the morning with a stab of urgency and excitement? What if you started every new day with a purpose, a mission and the expectation of the kind of victory that only comes at the end of a thrilling challenge?
I think the thing’s that’s missing is the fact that most people have no idea that they are in a battle. The Scripture says that every single one of us is engaged in a spiritual fight for our lives. We are under attack from enemies we can’t see who want us discouraged, confused and constantly giving into temptation. This is a conflict we can’t avoid but lots of people ignore it, which leads to their own undoing. What if you didn’t ignore it?
What if you woke up tomorrow ready for a fight? What if you went through the rest of this day ready to pick a fight? What if you were anticipating a conflict and lived this present moment like a soldier would? What if you believed in the reality of the spiritual realm so much that you were ready to face down lies about yourself, the world and the people around you? What if you took that attitude and actually started to win some victories?
A long, long time ago, a teenage boy with a sling and some rocks took down a deadly, warrior-giant that had an entire army shaking in their boots. The cool thing about little David fighting Goliath was that he didn’t go into the fray reluctantly. He flat-out ran into the battle. He wanted the fight. He wanted the victor’s prize. He knew God was able to give him victories in the kinds of battles where he should have been way in over his head. David ran toward the giant, sank a stone into his skull and then cut off his head with his own oversized sword. Whoa.
Don’t you want some of that? You’re in a battle today. You’re fighting for your faith, your joy, your encouragement and your identity as one of Jesus’ kids. Don’t let your enemies lie to you, confuse you or take those things away from you. Get ready to fight. Love the struggle. Get some victories and start to love the taste. Run into the battle.
“Don’t just settle for somebody because you feel like the clock is running out. There is no time limit on what God can give you. And being in a bad relationship is way worse than being in no relationship.”—
The encouraging and true words of Jesus in a new worship song
If you’re having a hard time and need to be built up and comforted, spin this track and hear the reassurance in the heart of Jesus. And if you want to get tracks like this every month, sign up for BridgeBox where you can support ministry and get cool stuff for your walk for only $8 per month. (Check it out HERE)
“We have been told that what we are supposed to present to God is the very best version of us that has everything together. When the truth is that God wants us to just come to Him. Are you sick? Are you broken? Are you pissed? Are you barely hanging on? Then that is the you that He wants.”—
There’s a very good reason you should be excited to spend some time with Jesus today. There is an outrageously excellent reason for you to run to Him with all your troubles, cling to Him in all your distresses, party with Him over all your joys and victories and just generally long to be around Jesus today. Whatever else is happening in your life, there is something you need to know that makes everything else pale in comparison. When you find this thing out - this reason to run to Jesus - when you really wrap your head and heart around the implications of this thing, it’s going to change everything for you. When you really sink your teeth into what this thing means and fill your heart with it, you may find yourself wanting to drop everything, turn off your computer, go for a walk or a long drive or a run by yourself - just something, anything to get you away from everyone else and alone with Jesus.
So, what is it? What is this thing that changes the whole game, flips the whole script and might just give you a taste for time with the Lord like you’ve never had it before? Well, we’re going to get there in just a minute, but first, you need to think about something. I’m going to give you a few hypothetical scenarios and I don’t want you to simply read over them, but rather take a minute to really imagine these situations. Put yourself in the stories and think about the way you would feel if you were really there. Okay, ready? Here we go.
Imagine you have been working the same job in a huge, powerful company for several years, but have never met the CEO and then one day you show up at work and you find out he wants to meet with you in his office. Think about that - how would you feel? What would you want to be able to do to prepare for that meeting? Why? Okay, shift gears. Now, imagine you are back in elementary school and you hear your name called out over the intercom because the principal of the school wants to see you in her office. What are you feeling? Why? Okay, change gears again. Think back to a time when you were really in trouble with a parent and you just knew your life was over and pretty soon they’d be home to talk about it. How did you feel? Go ahead. Sit in those emotions for a minute.
Now, I want you to imagine that your best friend texts you and wants to meet up for some ice cream and then a movie. How do you feel about that? It feels awesome, right? It feels relaxed, right? You have the sense that it will be fun, laid back and you’ll make a memory, don’t you? Okay, well here’s my good news for you. Here’s the thing that changes everything: Jesus Christ, the Creator of Heaven and Earth who spun galaxies into space and gave His eternal, precious blood on the cross wants to be your friend. Take a minute and let that soak. Jesus, the Almighty, the Ancient of Days, the Commander of Heaven’s armies who is Himself God over all wants to be your BFF. Whoa. We should be groveling at His feet. We should call Him Master and Lord because He deserves it, and yet, His love is always condescending. He is always reaching down. He calls you His friend and guess what? He means it. He wants you to be able to relax and be yourself. He wants you to have a fun and fulfilling relationship of love with Him. He wants to be friends - seriously. Just think about that - friends. Real friends. What could that be like?
The encouraging and true words of Jesus in a new worship song
If you’re having a hard time and need to be built up and comforted, spin this track and hear the reassurance in the heart of Jesus. And if you want to get tracks like this every month, sign up for BridgeBox where you can support ministry and get cool stuff for your walk for only $8 per month. (Check it out HERE)
When you have a really deep, meaningful experience with Lord, why can’t you stay there, emotionally? When you’re really feeling on fire spiritually and Jesus is so real to you, why can’t you keep that feeling going? Why do you always go back to normal life? Why do those intoxicating emotions always cool off into the same old struggles, temptations and monotony of you being every day you? Sometimes, when you’re close to the Lord, you can get a joy and a peace that are so tangible and present that you never want to lose them. Your gladness feels as solid as the ground beneath your feet and Jesus seems so real that He might as well be standing right next to you. How can you keep that up? You want life to be like that the rest of the way. You want to soar over your problems and face every moment as if you’re seconds away from landing a knock-out punch.
In the end, it doesn’t work out the way you want it to. No matter what you do, real life will come crashing down eventually. One bit of comfort you can carry with you is the fact that you’re not the only one. This happens to everyone and it’s been happening to people for ages. Thousands of years ago, God chose a teenager no else even noticed to be His next king over all of His people. The kid’s name was David. You would think that a spiritual high like that would last forever, but it didn’t. After the amazing coronation announcement, life just went right back to normal, old, every day life. When we next hear of David, we find out the old king wants to hire him to be a servant in his house to play music to soothe his bad dreams. When the old king sent for David, they found him out in the fields with the sheep, which is exactly where they found him on the biggest and best day of his life. In other words, nothing had changed. His dad still saw him as the runt in the fields, and Saul was hiring him to be basically an iPod with a face.
The cool thing about David was the fact that he used all that shepherding time and music playing time to think about God, talk to God and write songs about God. One of the songs he wrote during this time was Psalm 8 which says, “When I consider your heavens, the works of your hands, what is man that you consider him, humans beings, that you are for them?” In other words, “my dad may think I’m worthless and Saul may just see me as a servant, but I hang out with God and even though He made the whole universe, He thinks about me. He likes me.”
When you have deep and fulfilling experiences with the Lord, enjoy them and savor them, but know that those feelings won’t last. Real life will come back. You will have classes, bills, family drama, sickness, temptation and on and on. You will feel far from the Lord. You will feel spiritually dry. You will wonder who you are. During those times, don’t stop chasing down moments with the Lord. Keep spending time with Jesus even when you aren’t feeling it. Keep reminding yourself of who He says you are, no matter what anyone else in your life is telling you. Keep the truth fresh in your heart. Do it on purpose. That’s how you keep your heart walking steady, even in the midst of normal life.
A New Worship Song To Put Words To Your Gratitude For Jesus
No one has ever loved you like Jesus does. No one has ever been there for you the way He always is. When everyone would have turned and walked right out of your life, He stayed with you, believing in you and never giving up on you. This is why we sing to Him. It’s why we love Him. Spin this and say thanks.
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Do you ever feel uncertain in your relationship with Jesus because you don’t really know where you stand with Him? Do you ever find yourself wishing He’d come right out and say what the deal is? Don’t you want a clear directive on what needs to change? How are things? Are you and Jesus okay? I know I’ve felt this way a million times before and I’m starting to realize that we may all be overthinking this whole thing. What if everything is fine? What if Jesus loves you completely, accepts you absolutely and has made up His mind that the case is closed? You see, I think we try to smuggle things into our relationship with Jesus that just don’t fit anymore. In Matthew 9, the disciples of John the Baptist asked Jesus why His followers didn’t fast like they and all the other religious teachers did all the time. In other words, they were saying, “Jesus, why aren’t your people making themselves miserable like we are?” They thought religious discipline was the thing that pleased God. They thought devotion to man-made rules was holy. They were wrong. God isn’t impressed by our achievements. He isn’t pleased by all the rules we keep. He just loves us. He wants our relationship to be about love, gladness and freedom. He wants this to feel like a party. He said, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them?” In other words, this is a wedding reception, and diets aren’t allowed. He said new wine doesn’t fit in old wineskins. In other words, Jesus’ love is a whole new thing and in order to understand it, you have to think in new ways.
“Everything in your life is shouting at you. The world around you is turned up to 11. Jesus is different though. In Matthew 12, there is a prophecy from Isaiah about Jesus that He wouldn’t raise His voice in the street. The most underrated skill in the world is the ability to get quiet, because that is what allows you to hear Him.”—
Southern Harmonic has recorded a track that combines some of the most comforting words in all of Scripture with an addictive folk groove that doesn’t quit. The good news of free grace just sounds better with close, smooth harmonies, so listen in, be encouraged, then reblog and tell your friends.
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Why are we in such a hurry to be ‘fixed’ and to have all our issues sorted out? I think a lot of folks treat their own heart like it’s a messy apartment - in other words, it’s not great right now, but give me a couple of good hours in there and I’ll have it spic and span. We like to project the idea that whatever is going on in our lives, we can get it under control. We want to think that we are basically okay and whatever small thing needs work is something we can handle on our own, but why is that? Why are we so uncomfortable with the idea that we don’t have what it takes to fix ourselves? Why are we so afraid to need help? When Jesus first called His disciples to follow Him, one was a tax collector named Matthew. This was a man who had lived a shady life full of shady friends and the first thing he did after leaving his old life to follow Jesus was to throw a huge party in Jesus’ honor with a guest list of all the biggest sinners in town. Jesus, of course went to the party because He loved sinners and wanted to reach them, but the religious teachers had a fit over this. They questioned the rest of the disciples saying, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered the question Himself, saying, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” If you are basically okay, you don’t really need Jesus; but if you have problems you can’t solve, He came for you. Are you okay with needing help?
What is it going to take for you to become the person you could be? What do you have to do in order to live your life the way it was always meant to be lived? Some folks would say it just takes time. Their thought is that you just need to keep on living and one day you’ll get the hang of it. Some folks would say you need to get out there and make mistakes, then learn from them. They say that’s how wisdom works. The thing is, you and I are a bigger mess than that. We don’t just need maturity or experience. We need more. The truth is, we will never get there on our own because we are broken, way down deep inside. It’s as though life is a puzzle and we simply can’t work it out on our own because we don’t have all the pieces. We need a teacher. We need a coach. We need a mentor, but we need even more.
Let’s pretend for a minute that your greatest desire and goal in life is to be a world-famous pop star. (I’m not that far off, right?) And while we’re pretending, let’s say that one day, Beyonce shows up at your house. Seriously, Queen B rolls up in your neighborhood amid news cameras and reporters, rings your doorbell and announces that she is taking you on to be her apprentice in pop stardom. She is going to take you under her wing, teach you how to dance, sing, dress and everything else you need to know in order to rule the world of the international stage. How would you feel? How would you react? What would be the top 50 awesome things about that relationship and life? Wouldn’t you start by absolutely freaking out? I mean, out of all of the people in the whole world, she picked you to be the next her. She’s going to teach you all of her secrets and show you how to get to where you want to be - in the style of B. Whoa.
Way back in Luke chapter 5, Jesus walked up to the tax collecting booth of a man named Levi and said, “Follow me.” In an instant, without hesitation, Levi left everything for this opportunity. In that moment, Jesus and Levi became Rabbi and Disciple. That didn’t just mean Jesus was Levi’s teacher, either. Jesus was hand-picking this dude to walk through life with Him, watch Him, learn from Him and become like Him. This was a huge honor. It was like Obi Wan Kenobi taking on Luke Skywalker as his padawan to learn the ways of the Jedi. The thing was, Jesus didn’t choose Levi because ‘the force was strong with this one’ or anything like that. If anything, Levi was a disaster. His life was no where near what it needed to be, but Jesus wanted him anyway.
That’s what Jesus wants with us. We are all broken down. We are mere shadows of the people we ought to be, but Jesus has picked us. He wanted you. He wants you to walk through your life with Him - watching Him, learning from Him and changing into a person like He is. There is an amazing life out there for you, but you can’t get there on your own. The Author of life Himself has chosen you - picked you to be his very own. Do you want the life He has for you? Are you ready to give your life to Him? Are you ready to submit to Him, follow Him and become more like Him day to day? There is nothing in the world that compares to the richness, joy and adventure of being Jesus’ disciple and He’s calling you to follow.
If the way you look really didn’t matter at all anymore, where would you get your worth? I know that’s a weird question. In fact, you might want ease on back and read that through one more time, but a bit more slowly. If nobody cared how anyone looks, how would you measure your value? That sounds impossible, right? How could a world like that ever be? We live in the age of the selfie, where everyone constantly posts their face everywhere hoping for tons of likes and comments telling them they are beautiful and hot. We rely on our looks to find out who we are and how we compare to everyone else, but what if we didn’t? What If you woke up one morning and every single person was blind?
What if the thing that matters most to almost everyone you know suddenly wasn’t a factor anymore? What if we literally couldn’t see each other? How would we measure ourselves? Would people still count calories and work out with the kind of obsessive zeal they do right now? Would people still spend thousands of dollars on clothes, shoes, cosmetics and haircuts? Would people still size everyone up without ever talking to them?
God made you the way you are. He gave you the body type you have. He decided your hair color and texture. He made your face and your feet and He did all of that on purpose. He likes you the way you are. You look the way you do because God invented you to look this way and that is the single most important thing you can say about the way any person looks. Our problem is that we try to pull so much more out of our look than that. We look in the mirror and try to find out who we are. We take selfies to get a score on our worth. We dress the way we do to find out how we compare. Girls do this and so do guys.
Three thousand years ago, God was picking a king for His people and he rejected all the guys everyone else would have chosen. People wanted the tallest, the strongest and the best looking man to be their king because we actually do think good-looking people are better people than the rest of us. We think they are better leaders. But God rejected those guys and hand-picked someone that everyone else overlooked. God chose David, who was not physically impressive. God picked the forgotten, the ignored, the neglected one to be the king. God said, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Who are you, really? Who are you to God? Did you know your value is limitless? Do you remind yourself of this critical truth? You are a beloved child of the Almighty King of the Universe and Jesus gave His life and His blood for you. God has a beautiful plan for your life and He doesn’t measure you the way other folks do. What would it take for to see yourself with God’s eyes?
“We are always settling for some cheap substitute of all the goodness God wants to give us. We chase down an easy high, He wants to give us joy and peace. We’ll do anything for a quick hook up, He wants to fill us with lifelong satisfaction. We beg to be a worker in His house, He calls us His beloved child.”—Lee Younger
The reason most of us are hung up and stuck in our spiritual lives is that we see God in the wrong way. We see Him grumpier and more disappointed than He is. We see Him angrier and more frustrated than He is. We think we’re in trouble and that causes us to hold back from Him. We think we need to pretend to have it all together because somehow we think He wants something other than the truth about where we are. If you want to see where you are on this, think about this question as honestly as possible:
What if life was your job and God was your boss?
Now, answer these questions in your mind without thinking and just let it be a gut reaction. What kind of boss would God be? How would you relate to Him as your boss? How do you think He treats His workers? How’s the pay? The funny thing about our picture of God is that we naturally think He’s disappointed in us and we’re also a little disappointed in Him. On one level, we know we don’t meet His standard, and yet, on another level, we see God as most people see their normal bosses. That is, we think we are underpaid and undervalued.
Jesus told a story once about a boss who hired people to work His vineyard in the morning and promised to pay them a day’s wage. All day long, this boss would go out in the market hiring new workers and bringing them into the vineyard to work. He even hired some guys to work one hour before quitting time. When they got in line to get paid, the guys hired last got a full day’s wage, so the guys hired first thought they would get more, but they didn’t. They got the same amount, which is what they agreed to work for.
Jesus said the boss told them, “Why are you upset about me being generous? I can do what I want with my own money.” Now, that’s interesting because if he was paying wages, it wouldn’t be his money anymore, but the boss called it ‘his’ money the whole time. He said he was being generous, but bosses aren’t generous when paying wages, they are fair.
We see God as a boss - a grumpy, dissatisfied boss who’s also a little unfair, but Jesus is saying that’s not the case. He’s not the boss. He’s the one who owns everything and out of the generosity of His heart, He gives us gifts even though we haven’t earned anything. He’s not grumpy, He’s kind. He’s not disappointed, He’s full of second chances, always having hope in us. If life was my job, I would have been fired a long time ago, but God has given me a place. He’s not paying wages, He’s lavishing grace on me. He has given me something to do and He is sharing His riches with me out of the goodness of His heart. He’s filled with charity and love, even though I earned death. If I saw God that way, I’d never leave His side.
What are you supposed to do when it feels like everything is crashing in and Jesus is nowhere to be seen? How are you supposed to react when it feels like your life is falling apart and He simply doesn’t care enough to help - or even show up? Well, this may sound weird, but you’re supposed to squint, but squint with your emotions. Let me try and make sense out of this. You know how you squint your eyes to focus your vision and see something more clearly that’s far off or unclear because there’s too much light or too much else going on? Squinting is like focussing your vision - blocking out the stuff you don’t need because you know there’s something out there you actually do want to see. Faith is like that. Having faith is like squinting your emotions - focussing your feelings and getting rid of all the stuff you don’t need so that you can feel what you are looking for. One time Jesus and His friends were in a boat on a lake when a huge storm raged out of nowhere. Jesus was tired and was asleep in the front of the boat. His friends thought they were going to die and that Jesus didn’t care, so they woke Him up. He asked them where their faith was. They weren’t going to die and Jesus totally cared about them, but those fearful emotions were brighter and closer than anything else. It takes faith to squint through the immediate emotions of the moment and see what the Lord is really up to. Whatever you’re going through right now, Jesus is there, doing something amazing. He’s deeper than the feelings. Can you squint and see Him?
What kind of person does God want to use? Do you have to be straight-edge enough? Do you have to be one of those people who’s just naturally a nice person? What kind of heart is God looking for? Does He only want the folks who are always looking out for others and standing up for the right types of values? Does God essentially just want the types of people who are already really awesome on their own? Is that what He’s looking for?
I hope not, because if that’s the kind of heart He’s after, God will have to skip right over me.
Thing is, He would have to skip over basically everyone else I know as well. Even the folks I thought were on that list turned out to be a much bigger mess the more I got to know the real them. None of us are all that good on our own. Our natural heart isn’t selfless or nice and honest folks know that to be true.
A long time ago, there was a kid who spent most of his time outside in fields, looking after the animals his family owned. He was one of those curious and thoughtful kids who looked out at the world around him and asked really cool questions. He also wrote songs - maybe it was a way to pass the long hours of watching animals graze and then again, maybe he just had music in his heart, but either way, his songs are still being sung around the world after 3,000 years. His name was David, from Bethlehem - a son of Jesse from the tribe of Judah in Israel.
When David was a young man, he looked out at the night sky giving way to the sunrise and wrote a song about how those stars and the sun were speaking to him. He wasn’t being flaky. He didn’t hear any audible voice, but he said they had a message, just the same. “God is real,” they said. “God is powerful. God wants to be known. God wants to hang out with me - with us.” David said there was no one like God and that His ways are amazing - perfect. His way brings life and light and satisfaction, but there is a problem. David said the problem was him. He was a mess. He had willful sins and hidden sins. He wanted to please God, but the sickness was deep - deeper than he could root out on his own.
The cool thing is, God looked at David and called him, “a man after my own heart.” Wow. It wasn’t a flawless heart. It wasn’t even a naturally good heart. In fact, the more you get to know David, the more you find out he was a complicated, deeply flawed man. David didn’t have the kind of heart that is admirable or awesome on its own, but he had the kind of heart God wanted. It was the kind of heart that says, “I think God wants me, and even though I’m a mess, I want Him as well.” That’s what God is looking for.
We come together to worship Jesus because not only do we have something to offer, but first and foremost, we have something to receive.
Worship is about making an offering. We are giving something to the Lord. We come to give Him our praise and thanks. He deserves it and He has earned it. We come to give Him our devotion and to commit ourselves to following Him. He has proven Himself worthy to follow. We have come to worship in order to give Him our very hearts - our whole selves because He has bought our lives with the precious blood of Jesus. Whatever we come to give, He deserves to have it. Whether we come to give our money, our time or even our very selves, it’s all appropriate; but giving to the Lord isn’t the only thing this time is about. We’re not just here to make an offering. We’re also here to receive a gift from Him.
As we come to the Lord, there is something that comes before any of the gifts we would bring to Him. There is an offer on the table that comes before any offering we would make. That is, He is giving you His love and acceptance. The first and most critical thing we are here to do is to simply receive the love of God that He is giving away. He is making an unbelievable offer - that is, He gives Himself to us for free. We don’t have to deserve or earn or pay for any of it and He promises to love and accept us as a pure gift. It isn’t about what’s fair or appropriate. This is all about charity. Your job this morning is to receive the free grace that Jesus gives. This grace is truly something to sing about.
A New Song That’s As Big And Loud As Your Deepest Questions
What if Jesus understands the stuff you’re most ashamed of? What if He loves you still and wants to help you move through it by giving you something even better? Whatever you’re struggling with, the Scripture says Jesus isn’t condemning you - He understands you and has something amazing for you.
Everything is shouting at you. Everyone is fighting for your attention by turning the volume up. The best shows, the biggest new song, the trends of the hour, etc are all blaring their message to you at the top of their lungs. They all see you as an easy sell. If only they can be the loudest and brightest thing in your face, you’ll be on board. If only they can convince you that every single person you value is all about their thing (whatever it is) then you’re gonna get in line as well.
It’s the reason everyone likes all the same stuff. It’s why certain shoes come in and out of fashion. It’s why everyone uses the same abbreviations like clockwork, but only while they’re cool. It’s why everyone is addicted to that show with the football players. It’s not about the show being good, it’s about us not really thinking for ourselves anymore. It’s why we all download the same catchy song by the millions - they tell us to.
The thing is, in the midst of all this shouting, how are you supposed to figure out who you are? How can you be you in the middle of the din of everyone telling you who and how to be? The answer is not popular. In fact, the answer is a bit weird.
Hush. Slow down. Close your eyes. Take out the headphones. Take a walk.
These are old skills, but they matter. We all need to re-learn something people have always known how to do but have recently lost track of. We need to learn how to be still and just be. There is a person who is whispering to you. He won’t shout above the din. He won’t put on a light show and He won’t market His product as fashionable. An ancient book said He wouldn’t raise His voice in the streets, but He is calling you. He’s inviting you to a life all your own. He’s inviting you to a life that is full of wisdom, power, love and grace. He’s inviting you to think for yourself and figure out what works. He’s inviting you to real life. Do you want it? He’s whispering. He won’t shout. Shhh. Do you hear Him?
At it’s core, God’s love challenges our beliefs about ourselves. A God who somewhat tolerates would, at times, feel more sensible than a Father who adores us in spite of our issues. This powerful acoustic track presents a challenging interaction between Love and doubt - one that all of us need to have for ourselves.
Do you have old memories you can’t shake no matter how much time passes? Do you have stories you don’t tell that somehow manage to linger on the edge of your mind, just messing with you? Are there places you go or pictures you see that feel like old haunts - reminding you that your old life wasn’t all that long ago? Do you ever go into a situation or conversation or even a certain relationship with the sound of all your old devils at your heels? When that happens, it doesn’t seem to matter how far you’ve come or how strong your resolve has grown. When you’re in the middle of the old haunts, surrounded by the hissing and flapping of ancient enemies, it’s easy to feel like you don’t have any choice besides giving in. They seem too strong and absolutely irresistible, right? It seems like the only way to make them go away is by giving them what they want - at least for now. There is a place in Matthew 8 I love. It’s right after Jesus gives the sermon on the Mount and starts teaching, preaching and healing in earnest. Matthew tells us He was in Capernaum when a bunch of folks in that town who were troubled by spirits came to Him. The cool thing is that Matthew says He drove out the spirits with a word. That’s all. There was nothing to it. Our old ghosts are trouble for us, but not for Him. These old memories haunt us, but He can drive them out in an instant. Whatever your shadowy, lingering enemies are, take them straight to Jesus and let Him banish them in a moment. They can’t stay where He lives.
You want to know what’s at the root of most of your problems and pitfalls in your spiritual life? You don’t know how Jesus sees you. This is why you get overwhelmed with guilt when you mess up again. It’s why you avoid the Lord when you’re struggling. You think you’re in trouble or that He’s going to give up on you and move on to someone better. After all, that’s the way other folks have treated you. You think Jesus is massively disappointed in you. It’s why you put yourself under so much pressure to meet some impossible standard. You think Jesus is like a coach or stern father who is impossible to please. You picture Him shaking His head in frustration because there are basic lessons you’re still learning. That’s why you can’t be honest about your doubts and fears. It’s why you have to pretend to be doing better than you really are. But what if you’re wrong? What if Jesus isn’t frustrated with you? What if He’s not mad? What if you’re not in trouble at all? What if He honestly and truly never wants you to feel guilty about anything in your past, ever again?
What if He simply loves you?
Over and over again, the Scriptures point us to a curious truth. That is, Jesus sees us as His bride. It’s in the stories He tells about Heaven, it’s in the Apostle’s teaching on marriage and it’s woven into the deep and powerful scenes of the Song of Songs. The relationship Jesus wants with us is intense. It’s serious. The way He feels about us is passionate and deep. He has made the kinds of promises that only a husband makes. He has bound Himself to us with cords of love and brought us into His family in the most familiar and permanent way. Jesus doesn’t just see you as one of His creatures that He cares about. He doesn’t just see you as a part of His kingdom or even simply as His kid. He sees you as His very own Beloved - as if you were the only person in the whole world and He pledged His undying affection and loyalty to you unto eternity. He has called Himself your Husband.
Do you know what this means? Do you understand the outrageous implications of this relationship? It means nothing less than the fact that Jesus has sworn to be your protector, provider, lover and friend for the rest of His life, no matter what happens and no matter who you become. It means that He is passionately in love with you and committed to maintaining the intimacy and zeal that these promises require. It means His love is yours to the end of the world and beyond.
He loves you. No more guilt. No more hiding. He wants to know you and He wants to share His whole heart with you. He swears by His own indestructible life that He is yours and you are His. This isn’t dependent on your behavior or constancy, but upon His own eternal word. He has sealed His vows with His own precious blood and swears that He will not abandon you or change His mind. You are the Beloved. Rest in it. Believe it. Live in it. Grow in it. Love Him in it.
Drawing inspiration from both Marcus Mumford and Charles Wesley, Nashville producer/artist Zach Hughes delivers a striking rendition of the classic hymn, ‘Jesus, Lover of My Soul’. This track is by turns fun, reflective, relaxed, and driving - and sometimes, all at once. Check this out because it’s awesome, and because you’ll want to tell your friends you were listening to Zach Hughes before they were.
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“When you are preparing your heart to talk to the Lord, the question is: are you prepared for the ferocity of love that is coming your way from Jesus? He is more generous, more tender, more unbelievably patient than you can possibly imagine. Are you prepared to believe the weight of affection He has for you?”—
What is really inside you? Have you ever come face-to-face with what’s down in your heart and mind? Have you uncovered the mess that is you on your own? Have you honestly stared down the barrel of who you really are? What would people think if they saw it? If your thoughts and desires were uncut and out there for everyone to see and know, how would they respond? Would they accept you? Would they understand? What if someone saw it all and still wanted you? There’s a scene that plays out at the beginning of Matthew 8 where a man with leprosy approaches Jesus in the midst of a crowd. Leprosy was a horrible disease in which a deep problem down in the central nervous system revealed itself by wreaking havoc on the entire person, inside and out. Lepers looked like they were falling apart, with infected, open wounds and missing appendages. They smelled bad, they couldn’t really talk or walk properly, but only shuffle and growl. Imagine this moment in your mind. Let the movie play. Jesus was surrounded by large crowds who had just heard him speak and a man covered with leprosy approached Him and knelt down. How do you think the crowds responded? Think about it. Did they gasp? Did they run away? Did parents grab their kids? How would they treat you or me if they saw what was underneath the surface? The thing is, Jesus didn’t draw back. He reached out His hand. I imagine Him warm and full of love. I imagine Him laughing, yet serious and laser focussed on this man. Jesus knows everything that’s inside you and still, He wants to know you.
If you had a good friend who had a problem with a sin- something that was doing damage in their life, that they didn’t want to be doing but couldn’t stop. You wouldn’t just go up to them and yell ‘that is wrong, stop it!’ That doesn’t help. Listening helps. Asking questions helps. Developing a strategy helps.
If all someone has to say about a problem is ‘it is super bad and you shouldn’t do it,’ they don’t really have anything to say.
Why don’t you just wake up feeling close to Jesus? After knowing Him for all this time, why is it that you haven’t been awarded some kind of VIP status or backstage pass where you get to start every new day automatically spiritually filled up? Why is it that you have to face the same old temptations and funky attitudes every single day as if you didn’t get anywhere yesterday? Shouldn’t your relationship with Jesus be like a degree you get from a university - you accomplished this goal and now you are forever this person with these accolades and privileges? Shouldn’t it at least be like a haircut - you did this thing and you look pretty good for at least a few weeks? When it comes to your walk with the Lord, you have to go back to Him every single day. Every time the sun comes up, your heart needs filling again. Every time you face a new problem, you need new encouragement and new strength. There are no spiritual roll-over minutes. In the Old Testament, God gave His wandering people manna in the wilderness. It was miracle bread from Heaven that kept them alive, filled and strong. Moses said God didn’t just give the manna to feed them, though. He also gave it humble them. See, they had to gather it every day. That stuff didn’t keep. It went bad after one day. That’s how we need God. We can’t make it one day without Him. It’s why Jesus said He is the real manna from Heaven. He’s the miracle that fills us and strengthens us, but we need to keep going to Him again and again. We are dependent on His life.