Going Home

winding road

“Going home is a lifelong journey. There are always parts of ourselves that wander off in dissipation or get stuck in resentment. Before we know it we are lost in lustful fantasies or angry ruminations. Our night dreams and daydreams often remind us of our lostness.

Spiritual disciplines such as praying, fasting and caring are ways to help us return home. As we walk home we often realise how long the way is. But let us not be discouraged. Jesus walks with us and speaks to us on the road. When we listen carefully we discover that we are already home while on the way” (Henri Nouwen).

That’s what really matters in the end.

I’m headed toward my real home and Jesus is the one who’ll help me get there.

This journey is where Jesus walks with us and speaks to us. In fact, Jesus Himself said that knowing Him is the journey. He said that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

He didn’t say that He knew the way.

He didn’t even say that He was an expert in the knowledge about the way.

He said He is THE way.

There is no other way because no other god ever took on human flesh and became one of us. No other god willingly laid down his life for us in order that we might escape the punishment we deserved.

Sometimes, the way seems long and hard. Many of us sometimes feel like we will never get to the place we want to be or become the persons we feel we should have been all along.

Rest easy, my friends.

Jesus promised that even though the road was narrow and few find it, He would be there.

Jesus promised that His yoke would be easy and His burden light.

Jesus promised that He would finish that great work He started in you.

He promised to never leave or forsake you.

When Jesus is with you, you truly are already home while you’re on the road home.




“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love” (1 John 4:17-18, The Message).

Everyone has fears. Everyone.

Maybe yours is a fear that you will end up alone in the end.

Maybe you’re afraid that people will see the real behind the well-rehearsed act and the painted-on smiles and not want to have anything further to do with you.

Maybe you’re anxious over the future, wondering where the money is going to come from to pay the bills.

Maybe you’re scared that you’ll never find out what your purpose in life is.

Ann Voskamp put it best: “All fear is but the notion that God’s love will end.”

As a black pastor put it so well, fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.

Fear only shows you half the picture. Fear envisions a scenario where God either isn’t present or is unwilling to help. Fear leads you to think that the way things are now is how it will always be.

But God’s love is stronger than fear. As the song says, “Every fear has no place at the sound of Your great Name.”

When you focus on fear, you live defeated. When you focus on the love of God and choose gratitude and thanksgiving and joy, you’re showing fear the door.

Choose joy. Choose gratitude. Choose life.

I’m not saying I have fear and anxiety mastered. Some days, it can feel overwhelming. But I know that the future Jesus has promised me is more real than the present fear that I’m feeling.

Perfect love casts out all fear. Just remember that.



For Those Who Grieve

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.

There are moments, most unexpectedly, when something inside me tries to assure me that I don’t really mind so much, not so very much, after all. Love is not the whole of a man’s life. I was happy before I ever met H. I’ve plenty of what are called ‘resources.’ People get over these things. Come, I shan’t do so badly. One is ashamed to listen to this voice but it seems for a little to be making out a good case. Then comes a sudden jab of red-hot memory and all this ‘commonsense’ vanishes like an ant in the mouth of a furnace” (C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed).

C. S. Lewis wrote this after his wife passed away from cancer. It is the most brutally honest book on grief that I’ve ever read (not that I go around reading books on grief all the time).

“Then I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write: The dead who die in the Lord from now on are blessed.’

‘Yes,” says the Spirit, ‘let them rest from their labors, for their works follow them!'” (Rev. 14:13, HCSB).

“I heard a voice out of Heaven, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who die in the Master from now on; how blessed to die that way!’

‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘and blessed rest from their hard, hard work. None of what they’ve done is wasted; God blesses them for it all in the end’ (Rev. 14:13, The Message).



Holding It All Together

I had another epiphany of sorts as I was driving home from my life group tonight. It was one of those perfect Spring nights before the sticky humidity descends and decides to stay until October. I had Willie Nelson singing me home and I was meditating on what we had just talked about in our Bible study earlier. Then this thought hit me:

When you’re barely able to hold it together, remember Who is holding you together. Maybe it’s not so much about holding yourself together as it is holding on to God who can hold you together so much better than you ever could.

I thought back to what Mike Glenn said about the glory of God. Glory comes from a Hebrew word that carries the idea of gravity or weight. He said that in essence, God is the only One worthy of worship because He is the only One capable of keeping all the bits and pieces of your life from flying apart.

Idolatry is expecting anything or anyone to hold your world in orbit other than God. Sooner or later (hopefully sooner), you will find out the hard way that nothing and no one else can.

Some of you are finding out how true this is right now. It’s one thing to know about something intellectually and quite another to know from having lived through it. As much as I hate to say it, all of us will probably at some point find out in experience how true this is. Thankfully, God’s promises and words to us always hold up even under the most trying of times.

If you’re there, my advice is don’t try to be a Lone Ranger. Let other people in and then when your world gets better, look for people who might need your encouragement and support.

That’s all I have for tonight. As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.





That Mr. Irrelevant Again

I watched some of the NFL draft today. It’s interesting to see who gets picked where and when and by whom. Plus, you get the joy of seeing the experts’ predictions blown up. You see people who stay up late at night worrying about these kinds of things prognosticating on how these players will either be a great pick or a bust.

As always, the very last pick, around number 256, of the very last round of the draft is called Mr. Irrelevant. Usually, players who don’t get picked up until that point don’t make the final roster of the NFL team that picked them.

I love the fact that no one is Mr. (or Mrs.) Irrelevant to God. God loves each person as if he or she were the only person in the whole world to love. And yet He loves every single person that way. I can’t fathom that, yet I’m nowhere close to being infinite. I can’t even love the very few (in comparison) people in my life with anything close to complete and unconditional love.

At times, other people may make you feel irrelevant. It may or may not be intentional, but the hurt is the same either way. You may feel that what you do and who you are don’t matter to anyone and that maybe the world would be better off without you in it. The feelings may not be true, but that doesn’t stop them from feeling real.

Try this. Read John 3:16. Where it says “the world,” insert your name. For me, it would go something like this, “For God so loved Greg, that He gave His one and only Son, that if Greg believes in Him, He shall not perish.”

Remember that Jesus thought you were to die for. You matter to Him immensely. That’s something to remember on those nights when you feel alone and unwanted.


A Legacy of Love That Includes YOU

 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

I attend The Church at Avenue South. Somewhere in the neighborhood of two years ago, some members of Brentwood Baptist Church had a dream about reaching out to the residents of the Melrose and Berry Hill area for Jesus and set out to make that dream a reality. They were told that it was impossible to find a place in the area for a church to meet. God proved them wrong.

45 years ago, Brentwood Baptist Church was the dream in the minds of some people from Woodmont Baptist Church. People told them that to plant a church in Brentwood was a pipe dream– there would never be enough people to warrant a church in the area. God again proved them wrong.

In 1941, someone had the vision to start Woodmont Baptist Church itself. 74 years later, who knows how many people have been affected by that one simple act of obedience? Who knows how far the ripples will reach from that one stone’s throw?

You are part of a legacy of love. Even if you don’t know it, you have a crowd cheering you on and rooting for you. Whether that’s your physical family or your spiritual family or even those who have gone on and are watching from heaven, you have people who are on your side. Even Jesus Himself roots for you and intercedes for you.

It’s easy on the dark days to feel alone, that you don’t matter, that nothing you do makes any difference. It’s easy to think that nothing will ever change for the better, that this is as good as it will ever get.

Don’t let that be the final word. Let what Jesus has declared be the final word. What did He declare? That He would finish what He started in you, that He had plans for you not for barm but for hope and a future for you, that eye has not seen nor ear heard what God has prepared for those who love Him (and those He loves).

Let this Monday be the day that you run your race faithfully, knowing you have a legacy both behind and ahead of you, cheering you on and being inspired by you to run their own race.


Easter Saturday


I suppose it was a quiet day for the disciples. Not quiet in the sense of anticipation and hope but more in the sense of resignation and despair. They had seen their Messiah crucified and buried in a tomb.

It was over. All their hopes and dreams for the future went with Jesus into that tomb and the future that presented itself was as bleak as the black sky over Golgotha that afternoon.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a state of grief where there are no more tears to cry, where there’s a quiet calm after the storm. Where it feels like you’ll never feel happiness or laughter ever again. That’s where they were as they stared at the massive stone that a legion of Romans had rolled in front of the tomb where Jesus lay. Even if they wanted to, all twelve of them couldn’t have budged that stone from its place to steal the body of their leader and Lord.

Yes, they had seen Lazarus alive and joking around after being in the grave four days, but this was different. Lazarus had been ill and died in his own bed. Lazarus hadn’t been brutally beaten and whipped within an inch of his life before being forced up the hill to his own crucifixion.

They had seen the finality of the final moments where Jesus commended His Spirit to God in a loud cry. Truly, it was over. There would be no more parables, no more stories, no more miracles, no more crowds.

It’s easy for me, having read the rest of the story, to rush past this day. But for those who were there, there was no rest of the story yet. Just a grey sky and a dark room and a dead Messiah.

Yet early in the morning, just shy of daybreak, everything for these disciples and for the rest of the world was about to change forever.


On a Rainy Good Friday


I drove home in a monsoon. Or it felt like a monsoon to this Middle Tennessean. The picture above is a fairly accurate depiction of what I saw through my own windshield– not much at all– as I motored down the interstate. Twice, a passing car splashed a lot of water on my car and I literally couldn’t see anything for a few seconds that felt a lot longer than a few seconds. I gripped the steering wheel, prayed hard, and kept going.

I think I even passed through a small amount of hail, which I can safely say with almost 98% certainty was a first for me. I’ve never seen so many cars pulled over to the side of the road under overpasses to wait out the deluge. But I trudged onward, slowly and cautiously.

I was nervous, but not panicky. I figured that God was more than able to get me through the rain and it had to let up sooner or later. No rain, literal or figurative, can last forever.

On another Good Friday, there wasn’t a whole lot of sunshine. It was both literally and metaphorically one of the darkest days in the history of humanity. Jesus had breathed His last on the cross and they had taken Him down to be buried in a borrowed tomb.

I can read about it knowing the rest of the story, but for those living it in real time, they had no idea that a resurrection was coming. Those disciples who had fled during Jesus’ arrest had witnessed the crucifixion from afar. Or maybe they hid out and received reports from those who were there, Either way, they had seen their world end.

I’ve been there. I’ve been in places that felt like dead ends and wondered how I would ever get back.

But Easter is about a God who knows the way out of the grave. And though it may be Friday, Sunday’s comin’!


A Hump Day Psalm

“Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship,
    and punctuate it with Hallelujahs:
Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers;
    give glory, you sons of Jacob;
    adore him, you daughters of Israel.
He has never let you down,
    never looked the other way
    when you were being kicked around.
He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
    he has been right there, listening.

Here in this great gathering for worship
    I have discovered this praise-life.
And I’ll do what I promised right here
    in front of the God-worshipers.
Down-and-outers sit at God’s table
    and eat their fill.
Everyone on the hunt for God
    is here, praising him.
“Live it up, from head to toe.
    Don’t ever quit!”

From the four corners of the earth
    people are coming to their senses,
    are running back to God.
Long-lost families
    are falling on their faces before him.
God has taken charge;
    from now on he has the last word.

All the power-mongers are before him
All the poor and powerless, too
Along with those who never got it together

Our children and their children
    will get in on this
As the word is passed along
    from parent to child.
Babies not yet conceived
    will hear the good news—
    that God does what he says” (Psalm 22)

I posted this Psalm (translated by Mr. Eugene Peterson in The Message) on my Facebook about a year ago. It still speaks to me so I thought I’d post it again here. I don’t really need to add any commentary to it; it speaks for itself, or rather God still speaks through it.

On a side note, I wonder if the good folks also known as All Sons and Daughters got the idea for their song All the Poor and Powerless from this particular translation of Psalm 22. Just wondering.

Not Forgotten


It’s funny that it took the death of Robin Williams to put him back in the spotlight. Suddenly, all his movies are flying off the shelves at places like Best Buy and Barnes & Noble and seemingly every other hashtag is some variation of either #ohcaptainmycaptain or #riprobinwilliams. Before he died, I hadn’t really thought about him much. Or at all. At least not in a long, long time.

We as a culture are so good at eulogizing and paying tribute to those we’ve lost, but not so good at remembering them while they’re still with us. And we have such short memories. Soon, we’ll be back to business as usual– until the next tragedy or until the next big celebrity passes away.

But something occurred to me just now.

There is never a moment when I am not on God’s mind. There’s not a time when He doesn’t see me and what I’m going through. There will never be an instant when He doesn’t love me as unconditionally and completely as if I were the only person on the planet.

You hardly ever hear anyone talk about Whitney Houston anymore. Or Philip Seymour Hoffman. Soon, all the talk about Robin Williams will die down and we’ll find something new to talk about.

But not in a million years will my God forget me. Not in a billion years will He ever desert me. His love for me will never ever decrease by even one iota. Not even if I were to forget Him.

I’m sitting in St. Paul’s with the lights off. It’s dark and quiet and still. The only sounds I hear are the hum of the air conditioning unit and the occasional pops and creaks of the old floorboards settling.

I am at peace. I’m reminded of what’s really important and what really matters. It’s not what you have or what you do for a living or who you know. It’s about being known and loved and cherished perfectly by the God who made you.

Remember this one thing if nothing else. You are not forgotten.