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.
What if you’re not all that cool or important in the eyes of those around you? What if you just sort-of exist on the fringe? In every big group of friends, there are two or three people who make it on to everyone’s short list as the ones everybody really wants to hang with. What if you’re not one of those people? In every group of friends, there’s that one person who always has the memorable thing to say. What if you never really speak up? In every group, there’s the kind of person you always text, call or go pick up whenever anything cool is about to happen because nothing good can really go down without this person there. What if no one really calls you? What if you’re the kind of person people like, but forget to mention or invite? What if you’re the kind of person who just sort of blends in and doesn’t say much? There was a guy just like that in the set of Jesus’ twelve disciples. He wasn’t very vocal. No friends brought him into the group, but he was there, all the same, witnessing the miracles and hearing the words that changed the world. What happened? How did such a quiet, regular dude wind up in the movement that changed everything? Well, Jesus found him. Jesus wanted him. Jesus searched him out, pursued him and then called Phillip to follow Him. If you think you don’t really fit or that no one is really paying attention to your life, Jesus is. Jesus is watching your steps, listening to your quiet heart and longing to walk with you. Jesus wants to find you and make your life into something incredible with Him.
Why We Worship - He Has Sworn To Love Us Like A Groom
We worship Jesus together because He has loved us like no other and made promises to us that will never spoil or fade.
This weekend, a dear friend of mine got married. I had the honor of being an officiant of the ceremony, which is one of my favorite jobs in all the world. When I preside over a wedding, my favorite thing to do is watch the groom as the bride approaches. When she’s walking down the aisle, everyone stands and all eyes are on her, except mine. I watch her groom watching her. To me, it’s the best moment. Some grooms grin ear-ear-to-ear, some of them cry and some of them look as though they just found out they won the lottery and in a way, I suppose they have. I like to watch the face of the groom and think about Jesus. It’s hard to believe, but somehow true - this is the way He feels about me.
Jesus calls Himself the Bridegroom. We are His bride. The Scripture actually says that the whole point of marriage is to illustrate this truth - to show us how Jesus feels about us and to show us the kind of relationship He wants with us. When a groom looks into the face of his bride and swears to love her no matter what for the rest of his life, our hearts should swell with gladness because the vows of a groom are the promises Jesus has made to us. He has sworn to love us that way and He will never die, so His promise is eternal. We stand, clap and sing with our whole hearts because the most beautiful and tender heart in the universe has pledged His undying love to us in unbreakable vows. We are loved and that is reason to sing.
Why is it that some people who believe in Jesus make a life with Him look so unappealing? Sometimes Christians are the stuffiest, most bland and lifeless people you will ever meet, but it shouldn’t be that way. Sometimes Christians are the coldest, most judgmental and angriest people, but it should never be that way. Sometimes Christians are the grumpiest, most cynical and joyless people, but it should never be that way. The other day I got some french fries from a fast food drive through that were terrible. The thing is, they should have been awesome. They were piping hot and they were fries, so there’s not really a whole lot to mess up, but as I drove away from the restaurant, I realized what was wrong - they forgot the salt. Salt is amazing. Its culinary super power is not simply to add flavor, but to bring out and enhance the natural flavors in a certain food. If something is good, salt lets you know by putting that goodness out on stage. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said we are supposed to be like salt. Our lives should bring out all the natural flavor of what a life with Jesus is like. And when you read through the Gospels, life with Him was amazing. He was fun and He was kind. He was compassionate and He was patient. He was understanding and He was discerning. He was brilliant and He was hilarious. The love of Jesus is like nothing else in all the universe and life with Him is like the tastiest meal you’ve ever been served. Our job is to show people how good it can be to know and love Him.
A new worship song for folks who want to share Jesus.
You ever wonder how to share your faith without coming off as a jerk? There’s a foolproof way, and it’s super simple. Just tell the story of how God loved you when you didn’t love yourself. That’s what this song is about and it’s what sharing your faith is all about.
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“Growing in The Lord isn’t about knowing the most or having it all figured out. It’s about recognizing how deeply you need Jesus and letting Him call the shots. If you want to max out your spiritual growth, just honestly tell Jesus, “I am nothing without you. What do you want this to be, and will you help me get there?” That’s as grown as it gets.”—Lee Younger
Do you ever try to change your life only to find that it isn’t working? Have you ever gritted your teeth, made all the right promises, felt all the right emotions and buckled down for something completely new only to realize that you haven’t made a dent? You’re not the only one. In fact, no one can really change themselves. No one ever has. Even the people who shout the loudest about the need for change are powerless to make any real changes in their lives. This is why we humans don’t need more books, more plans, more rules or more emotional charges to clean up and get our act together. We don’t need a new method or more power. We need Someone else to do what we can’t. That’s why Jesus came. We needed Someone to stand in our place. It’s the very first thing He did as He kicked off His public ministry. John the Baptist was preaching a message of repentance and change to crowds of people who wanted a new kind of life. He was dunking people in the water so they would change, but they wouldn’t be able to. They couldn’t change like that. Jesus got in that line to get dunked in the water by John. He had never sinned, but He did it anyway. Why? He was standing in our place. He was our substitute. He knew we could never change on our own. He made change possible by taking our place. If there’s something in your life you want to change, don’t just grit your teeth and make empty promises. Ask Jesus to take your place and pay for your wrong. Know you’re forgiven and start this moment clean and new.
For folks who need an honest prayer to sing along to.
Nashville songwriter and producer Zach Hughes gets it. You see, folks who know Jesus write one kind of song; and then again, folks who serve Jesus by trying to love difficult people in ministry write a whole different kind of song. Honest hearts are going to love singing along to this acoustic track. For fans of The Civil Wars.
Do you ever look at your walk with Jesus and wonder where it went? You used to feel so excited about knowing Him. You used to have a desire to read the Scriptures and worship but now, your life is just sort of normal life and you don’t know what happened, right? When you’re feeling this way, do you ever look around at other Christians you respect and wonder how they do it? How do they seem to have so much joy all the time? How do they have the friendships and the marriage they have? If you’ve ever gone through a dry season where you find yourself asking those questions, you need to know a couple things that are very important. The first is, those Christians aren’t some kind of super breed of holy people that you could never hope to be. It’s not like watching someone play a sport who is just more athletically gifted than everyone else. You shouldn’t look at that person’s walk and think, “Well, I could never be like that.” The truth is, you can be. The next thing you need to know is that it’s a long, slow process of growing into that kind of person. Jesus said the road to life is narrow and there aren’t many people on it. In other words, walking with Jesus isn’t like taking a bullet train or the transporter from Star Trek. No one just wakes up one day as this awesome Christian. Walking with Jesus is like a day hike. It’s hard, steep and repetitive. You have to put one foot in front of the other over and over again, but the views are amazing. You will find life with Jesus on a footpath.
I bet you’ve heard people say that you’re God’s work of art and He’s making you into something beautiful, right? That’s a really lovely thought and strictly speaking, it’s true. God is certainly at work in your life to make you into something incredible you could have never been on your own. And, at the end of that process, everyone who sees what He has done in your life will stand there amazed at what He has done. The thing is, although this is all true and good, most of us never take any time to think about what it might mean to be one of God’s pieces of artwork. If God is an artist and I’m the thing He’s making, what all will that process entail? Will it be fun? Will it be terrible? Will I like the artistic direction? Does God want my input?
When was the last time you heard of a world-renowned artist asking a bunch of normal folks from a coffee shop or a department store to give them notes and feedback on their artwork? What’s more, when was the last time you heard of an artist asking the artwork itself for an opinion on the thing that had been made? Artists create what they want and they don’t often ask for a lot of feedback. They are the one with the vision, so they decide what will be made. In fact, by the time you get to see a piece of art, it is very often finished and the the window for creative input has been closed.
The Scripture says God is an artist and you are His work. More specifically, it says He is a potter and you are His clay. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever taken a pottery class or watched someone sculpting before, but the process is not fun if you’re the clay. The potter cuts out a big hunk of clay, plops it down on the wheel, slaps it, kneads it, folds it, squishes and rolls it into a ball to get out all the air bubbles. Then the potter starts spinning the wheel. Now, if you’re the clay, you will be dizzy, disoriented and unable to see anything clearly. You will get pinched, pulled, scored and shaped in whatever direction the artist chooses. When the potter is finished forming you, he puts you in a kiln and turns up the heat to unbearable levels in oder to make you strong.
According to the Scripture, being God’s artwork could be a process that involves confusion, pain, pressure and trail by fire. You won’t know what you really are until you’re done and neither will anyone else. People may have opinions about what you are and how you look, but in the end, none of that matters because in the heart of the artist, you are precious. You are an expression of His heart. You are an expression of His own personal joy. You are hand made by the One who made and named the stars. Ephesians 2:10 says you are the poem He’s writing and not only is He proud of you, but He loves you.
Is God mad at you? Are you in trouble? That’s what you really want to know, right? I mean, there are so many questions you probably have about God, this world, the universe He has made and why things go the way they do. If you could get God to answer any question you had, you could probably think of some real whoppers. Maybe you would ask Him whether or not neutrinos have mass or why there is a disease as mean as Alzheimer’s. Maybe you would ask Him about whether or not there really is any life out there on some other planet or maybe you would ask Him why you have had to endure some of the pain you’ve experienced. If you only got one question, though, and this question came out of the very depths of your heart, I bet you would want to know whether or not God is mad at you. Deep down, that’s what is really bothering us. Are we alright? Am I in trouble? Does God accept me? In the very first chapter of the Apostle John’s Gospel, he tells us that no one has ever seen God, but the unique Son, the one from the bosom of the Father, has declared Him. That means that Jesus came to show us things about God that have never been seen. We all know God is mighty and powerful just by looking around us at the world He made, but John says the Son declared God from his bosom, or from His heart. Jesus came to show us how God feels about us. Look at Jesus and then you’ll know how God feels. He loves you. He longs for you. That’s His heart.
We sing praises together for Jesus because He has rewritten history - somehow forgetting everything wrong about us and seeing us through the lens of redemption.
My daughter left this week for a school trip out of state. I was standing there, staring at this Coach Bus filled with little kids, surrounded by other nervous parents on the edge of breaking down when one of the other parents started talking to me. She was the mother of one of Anna’s classmates and I had seen her around at school functions over the years, but we had never really talked. She said, “Do you remember me from high school?” I lied and said I did. The truth is, I don’t remember very many people from high school. I don’t remember a lot of what happened from high school. It’s not that my memory is shoddy or that I was in a haze through those years, it’s just that I don’t want to remember. I don’t really like who I was in high school, and I would be glad if the whole world would just choose to forget that version of history along with me.
Psalm 103 says that God does not treat us as our sins deserve. It says that no matter who we’ve been, His love for us is as unmeasurable as the heavens are above the earth. It says that He has separated our sins from us as far as the east is from the west, which is just a very poetic way to say we will never meet our sins again. They are gone, wiped out, stricken from the record and no longer apply. As believers in Jesus, we don’t have to remember the dark parts of our own history because God Himself has wiped them out and rewritten our story with His own mercy. The love that pursued us has cleansed us and changed history so that we are not who we were. His love is the reason we sing. His cleansing grace is the reason we clap and shout and celebrate.
The other day I was driving around town with a couple of my kids when my eight year old daughter asked, “Dad, what does Jesus’ name mean?” It was a cool question, especially when you consider that in our culture, names don’t always have meaning. Most people don’t name their kids based on who they want them to become or the qualities they most prize. Rather, they name their kids based on the sound of the name or the feeling they get from that name or the the fact that this particular name has been in the family for ages. In ancient times, names were very important and had very specific meanings. The name Jesus is the Aramaic version of the Hebrew name Joshua. It literally means, “The Salvation of Yahweh.” I told my daughter, “Jesus’ name means that He is God’s Rescuer - the One God has sent into the world to save us all from ourselves.” We all know the world is broken and everyone who is honest has seen the cracks of that brokenness inside themselves. We are part of the problem. We need to be saved. We need to be fixed. We need someone to pay for and clean up our mess. Jesus is the rescue plan. Since Jesus is Almighty God in the form of a man, He is the only one who can pay for the infinite debt of sin with His life. But Jesus isn’t just the only one who could rescue us, He’s the only one who would do it because no one has ever loved us like He does. That is why His name is so precious to all who love Him. Jesus - God’s Rescuer - The only one who saves us.