“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.
Have you ever been to one of those Christian camps or retreats or conferences where you had an amazing experience and walked away feeling super close to Jesus in such a way that it seemed like you would never be the same again? Did you walk away from that experience with the idea in your head that everything about your life would change forever and that you would never go back to the way things used to be? If so, then you probably know by now that there is a pretty crushing reality check when it comes to those types of resolutions and expectations. Those feelings fade. That spiritual high goes away and before you know it, your old life is back. Your old attitudes, sins, frustrations and boredom come back and settle in as though nothing has changed.
Most Christians look around and measure other believers, putting them into categories. They see some folks as spiritual babies and some as spiritual giants. This isn’t necessarily wrong, but there’s a part of it that almost everyone gets wrong - that is, we think the spiritual giants are just coasting through life with an all-access pass to Jesus and His many blessings, while the rest of us are so weak that we’re straining just to hang on. As a result, when something happens that makes us feel really excited about our walk or really close to the Lord, we slip it into neutral and just ride those emotions until they run dry and we’re right back where we started.
The truth is, no one is so holy or mature that they are naturally closer to Jesus than the rest of us. The truth is that all of us are completely weak and helpless on our own and we’re all hanging on by our fingernails, every day. Jesus said that He is like a vine and we are like the branches growing out of that vine. If we stay connected to the vine, we will get all the nutrients from the roots and we will be healthy and grow. If we don’t stay connected, we will wither and dry up. Jesus said we have no life in us whatsoever. All of the energy needed to live this life comes directly from Him. We can’t do this without Him - not even for a day. That’s why the amazing feeling of those retreats and conferences wears off and leaves us feeling empty. We’re not supposed to be able to coast through today on yesterday’s fuel.
All life comes from Jesus. All health comes from Jesus. He is the only Source. We are just sticks without Him, weak and lifeless. We are utterly dependent and that’s actually a very good thing, because He wants us to come to Him and stay with Him. The God of the Universe who spoke galaxies into being wants you to stay with Him and connect with Him. That’s incredible! He wants to give you everything you need to make it through your little life, today. Tomorrow, He wants you to come back to Him again so that you can get everything you need once more. He’s everything you need and He’s ready to give it all.
“Don’t try to force something that isn’t working just because it works for other people. Maybe the Bible and the journal in the coffee shop isn’t your thing. That’s okay. Your relationship with God is unique, so the way you spend time with Him will be unique.”—
Do you ever wonder where Jesus is when you’re in the middle of a hard time? Does He know? Does He care? Can He do anything about it? If so, why is this happening? Is He just sitting there, watching it all go down? If Jesus is who He says He is, then why did this difficult situation have to be so intense? Why couldn’t it have been just a little easier? Why does it always seem as though this kind of thing happens to you when other folks cruise right on through without a scratch? Is Jesus paying attention? These are really good questions when you’re going through a hard time and you can’t see the end or the purpose behind it. As people who know Jesus, we believe some things that are frankly pretty hard to believe at times. We believe that Jesus isn’t just sitting there, watching us suffer through life. We believe that He is actually in control of everything that happens. He isn’t a spectator, He’s the conductor of the train, the captain of the ship, navigating our course at every turn. In Acts 23, the Apostle Paul found himself in the middle of a riot which ended with dozens of angry men forming a plot and a solemn vow to take his life. He had already been through so much and now this? Where was Jesus? What was going on? But Jesus appeared to Paul and told Him this was all part of the plan and He had it under control. What if Jesus isn’t just helplessly watching? What if everything you go through is is part of His brilliant and perfect plan to make you into the finished you?
What if Jesus likes you more than you think He does? What if He knew you first and liked what He saw? What if the reason you know Jesus at all is that He wanted this relationship so badly, He pursued it before you ever thought about it? What if He has meticulously poured over every single moment of your life, weighing every decision you’ve made, measuring every motivation and seeing right through every stunt you pulled? What if He knows you in and out and understands where you’re coming from? What if His humongous heart was filled with compassion and pity over you and your desperate state without Him? What if the entire plan of salvation was designed because Jesus was determined to do whatever it takes to rescue you? What if He knows you better than your friends know you, better than your family knows you and even better than you know yourself because He planned out your personality, orchestrates the movements of your life and has never missed a single heartbeat this entire time? What if He knows exactly where you’re going because He’s completely and mercifully in control of it all, beautifully making you into the person He’s always had in mind? In the first chapter of John, when Nathanael first met Jesus, our Lord said He knew where Nathanael came from and where he would end up after the end. Every moment and every heart is laid bare to Jesus. He sees and understands everything that makes you the unique you that only you are. He watches your life with compassion and joy. He works in your life with tender and brilliant hands. He knew you first and loves you best.
“You have nothing to fear from death; for Jesus, by dying, has disarmed it of its sting, has perfumed the grave and opened the gates of glory for His believing people. Satan, so far as he is permitted, will assault our peace, but he is a vanquished enemy: our Lord holds him in a chain, and sets him bounds which he cannot pass.”—John Newton, 1775
Have you ever had that one friend who always drags you down into the worst choices and situations? If you know what I’m talking about, then you know it doesn’t matter how good your intentions are or how long you’ve been keeping things straight, because when this friend enters the picture, you’re going to wind up making a mess, wasting some days and racking up some new stories as well as new regrets. This kind of friend always promises an unforgettable, epic adventure, and you can’t resist. The weird thing is, you don’t even really want to resist, right? There is a gravity we can’t repel all around this one friend and it always transforms us into the very worst version of us. This friend is like the full moon to a werewolf, melting our resolve, unraveling our trajectory and even changing our very appetites. You know that friend, right?
Well, in John 8, Jesus says every single one of us has that friend living inside us all the time. He says everyone who sins is a slave to sin. In other words, not only do we do the wrong things, but we can’t stop doing the wrong things. The truth is, we want the wrong things. We are hopelessly magnetized toward the worst and most destructive choices. The problem is that you and I have a sick heart. Your heart is that friend who drags you down. It can’t stop and it won’t stop. Your fallen heart chooses for you. You and I are under the mastery of our own miserably broken selves.
The sad thing is that we think we want to be free to choose everything for ourselves. We think we want to run the show of our own lives, but that kind of freedom is really a slavery that only leads to all that mess, waste and regret. When we are in charge of our own lives, we are actually slaves to that crooked friend who drags us down again and again into the very worst version of us. We don’t choose well and that’s why Jesus came.
Jesus came to set us free from the tyranny of our own fallen hearts. He came to give us a new way to live. When you come face to face with the slavery of sin, you know you need to be rescued. When Jesus sets you free and you get to know His heart, you start to learn that the smartest thing you can do with your new freedom is give it right back to Jesus. If you hand your life over to Him and let Him call the shots, making Him the Master of your life, you will find actual freedom. Jesus came to rescue us from ourselves and give us the joy of being His very own. Giving your rescued life back to Jesus is the most wonderful freedom there is.
Some things are always going to suck. As long as you live here in this world, there will be road blocks, setbacks and dry seasons. If no one told you that, it’s time to hear it. If you haven’t heard it in a while, it’s time to refresh. If you thought walking with Jesus was going to be all sunshine and happy songs, you’re probably extremely disoriented by now. You will experience loss, pain, heartache and disappointment. You will find yourself depressed and afraid. You will sometimes feel as though you are alone and forsaken, even though Jesus promised you’re not. Now, some of these hard times will be due to the fact that you are a fallen person living in this broken, sinful world. In other words, even though you know Jesus, you still wander from Him and do your own thing. But don’t take another step believing that all your suffering is the result of your wrong, because it’s not. There’s something that just about every Christian constantly forgets; and forgetting this thing leads to tons of personal shame and misery. That is, you are in a dog fight for your soul right now. You have a ruthless enemy who hates Jesus and doesn’t give a flip about you. If Jesus didn’t love you so much, this enemy wouldn’t bother with you, but you are so loved he has to fight you all day, every day. Jesus knows you are in a fight for your life. He knows you are sustaining injuries. He understands what you’re up against and He isn’t looking down on you. He knows you’re going to face trouble and opposition; and the best part is, Jesus knows we’re going to win in the end.
“When I am doing pre-marital counseling with couples, I tell them to imagine there is a race between everyone in the world to be their partner’s best friend. Your number one mission everyday is to win that race, even if you have to scrape and claw. That’s what marriage is about.”—
When it comes to dating and marriage, I think most folks imagine this fairy-tale world where you magically find the exact right person, fall head-over-heels for them just like in the movies and then have the kind of wedding that would wind up on everyone’s pinterest boards.
It’s not like that at all, though. In the real world, making a relationship work is difficult stuff which requires an incredible amount of humility and cooperation. Since I’ve worked with young people my entire ministry career, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about dating and marriage. One thing I’ve heard a ton of times from folks throughout the years is “I want what you and Christy have.” When I hear that kind of thing, I always take the conversation down a road that the person probably wasn’t counting on. First of all, I say, “Actually, you definitely do want a relationship like ours because it is awesome. The thing is, though, what you have to do to get a relationship like this one is not easy and may wind up being one of the most difficult and humbling things you ever try to do in your life.” Somehow, I get the feeling that’s not what they wanted to hear.
In order to illustrate this, let’s take a short tangent to talk about geese for a second. You’ve probably seen geese flying through the air in that V-shaped formation and thought they were really pretty amazing for doing something so cool - and let’s be honest, that is both beautiful and amazing; but, have you ever watched geese pull out of that V-formation and come down for a quick landing? How do you think geese land when they need to? In your mind it’s probably some aerodynamic dive like a bird of prey or a graceful circle that lands softly on the ground, but that’s not what they do. No, the fact is, geese do this really strange thing called whiffling, where they awkwardly flip their bodies over in mid air, keep their neck and head turned upright and fly upside down to reduce speed and altitude at the same time. Seriously, they actually fly upside down. Google it. It’s freaky and it ain’t pretty, but it gets the job done.
Good marriages have a whole lot of whiffling. What I mean is, if you think about the ‘perfect couple’ you know that’s so in love, you probably think they just look into each other’s eyes and love just grows while nature itself sings around them; but if you actually watched that couple live their life together, you’d find them disagreeing, hurting each other’s feelings, honestly facing conflict, asking for forgiveness, humbling themselves, and giving each other a lot of grace and forgiveness when they repeatedly screw up. In other words, a real marriage isn’t magic and it isn’t pretty. There’s a whole lot of awkward and difficult maneuvers going on that require maturity, patience, courage and honesty which are all really hard to swallow, but absolutely necessary. It’s hard work and it’s not for immature people. Folks who nurture good relationships know that no matter what it looks like, sometimes flying upside down is the only way to land.
“Toxic people should not have a voice in how you feel about yourself. There is no magic bullet to getting to that point where you don’t care what they think about you, but it starts with telling yourself ‘what God thinks of me is what matters, everyone else can take a number.’ You deserve to have positive, healthy, encouraging relationships.”—
A fresh new worship song for folks who remember how far Jesus has brought them.
Knoxville duo Southern Harmonic bring the hype of a packed arena show by Imagine Dragons and the intimacy of Lumineers folk in this new worship song that reminds us how far Jesus has brought us and how much we mean to Him. Spin, reblog and spin again.
Have you ever had someone tell you about God and what it means to know Him and as a result you felt horrible about yourself? Have you ever heard someone explain a life of faith and what they said just sounded impossibly hard to pull off? Have you ever listened to someone preach about Jesus only to come to the conclusion that Jesus is for other people because He wouldn’t want someone like you? All of these kinds of feelings are the evidence that someone is giving you the exact opposite of the real message of Jesus. The true message is something Jesus called the “Good News” and if the message you’re hearing doesn’t sound like good news, keep looking. When Jesus came into this world and started reaching, loving, healing and calling people, not everyone was pleased. There was an entire class of people who thought coming to God was about being the best, knowing the most and having the cleanest record. They were shocked when Jesus went to a huge party filled with sinners. They asked His disciples why He hung out with losers like these people. Jesus stopped dancing long enough to kick these guys out of the party by saying, “Go figure this out, I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” In other words, “I don’t want all that religious perfection. I want to love the people who need love. Do you need love?” The Good News of Jesus is about setting people free and removing obstacles. It’s about unburdening and loving. When you meet the real Jesus, you don’t feel guilty or ashamed, you feel wanted, accepted and loved for who you are. You feel the lightness of heart that only comes with unbounded mercy.
East End Circus is a worship music collective based in Tennessee. Their inaugural BridgeBox track You Took My Place pairs 80s synth-pop with the ancient truth of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice. Dreamy synths and reverbed vocals come together to bring your ears a treat you won’t want to miss.
Have you ever found yourself making it through a really tough time only to learn that a good friend was praying for you the whole time? It makes all the difference in the world, right? Have you ever been right there, still in the middle of a mess, just barely hanging on when someone you love comes in, puts their arm around you and prays for you when you were about to lose your grip? It’s a game-changer. When someone prays for you, suddenly, you know you’re not alone. Suddenly you realize with a fresh fire how real our faith is because someone else believes enough to cry out to God on your behalf. Suddenly you don’t have to be as strong anymore. Instead, you get to ease up and relax in the midst of that friend’s faith. Someone else is helping you stand when your legs were shaking. Someone else is adding their faith to yours when yours was about to give out. If only we had a friend with us all the time, literally praying for us non-stop. What if someone who loves you would give themselves to praying for you even when you can’t pray for yourself? What if that person prayed around the clock? If you had that kind of support in your corner, you could face anything, right? Well, Hebrews 7 says Jesus is doing it. He’s praying for you right now as you read these words. It says, “He always lives to intercede for you.” He’s committed to praying for you. He lives to pray for you. In fact, whenever you find the strength to pray, you’re joining a prayer meeting that’s already been in progress for you.
The other night, my wife and I saw something completely incredible. Thing is, at the time, we didn’t know just how incredible it was. We were out on a date, waiting to be seated at a restaurant and noticed there was a TV in the waiting area playing the World Cup. We hadn’t seen any of the matches at this point, so we decided to watch a few minutes while we waited. As soon as we turned our attention to the screen, a player from Honduras scored a goal. No kidding, this goal happened the very instant we started to watch. Christy and I looked at each other and smiled, thinking, “Wow. That was cool, they scored as soon as we started watching.” The player who scored was more excited than basically anyone has ever been about anything, in the history of the world. His name was Carlo Costly and a few minutes later, we learned from the TV that Honduras hadn’t scored in a FIFA match in over 505 minutes of play. Turned out that as cool as we thought that goal was, it was a way bigger deal than we knew at the time.
Later on, I decided to read some more about that match between Honduras and Ecuador and it turns out that Honduras had not scored a goal in a World Cup match since 1982. (And for those keeping score at home, 1982 was when the movie E.T. came out) That means we witnessed Honduras’ first World Cup goal in 32 years! When my wife and I watched the goal being scored, we were excited. It was cool. But then, the more we found out about it, and the deeper I dug into the story, the cooler and more significant that goal became.
Your walk with Jesus is like that. When you first met the Lord, you were probably glad to be forgiven of your sins and thankful that you had the promise of Heaven, but the longer you live, the importance of knowing Jesus grows. As you keep going through your life, you’ll find out more and more about Jesus and your love for Him will grow deeper and sweeter. You’ll be more dependent on Him and more thankful for Him. The longer you live, the more you’ll find out about your own heart and how desperately you need to be rescued from yourself, which will make you more grateful for the way Jesus has cared about you and saved you. The deeper and farther you go into life, your relationship with Jesus will become more dear and more important to you with every step.