Still Not Forgotten

“From far across the earth I brought you here and said, “You are my chosen servant. I haven’t forgotten you.” Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Don’t tremble with fear. I am your God. I will make you strong, as I protect you with my arm and give you victories” (Isaiah 41:9-10).

I posted this verse on Facebook exactly five years ago. I don’t remember what led me to post it or what was in my mind. It was probably the verse of the day for Bible Gateway and I liked it, so I copied and pasted it as my status. Now you know my dirty little secret. I copy and paste a lot.

But it’s still true. I am not forgotten. You are not forgotten. No matter how good people’s intentions are toward you, they get busy. They get distracted. They forget. But God will never forget you.

I think that more than qualifies as a reason to celebrate. If nothing else went right for you today, if your week has been a disaster of epic proportions, you are not forgotten by the One who matters most.

If you needed to know that you matter, that’s the best proof you’ll ever find.

If you needed a reason to keep going for one more day, that’s it.

For me, that’s enough.

 

 

Up, In and Out

We had a guest speaker at Kairos tonight named Chris. Apparently, my ADD kicked in at some point because his last name escapes me. I remember that he is a pastor in a church at Tuscaloosa and a self-proclaimed introvert, but I can’t for the life of me recall any part of his last name.

He said that the Christian life basically needs three parts– up, in, and out.

Up is worship, in is community, and out is evangelism. Any two without the other third is an incomplete faith. You need all three.

Without worship, you cut yourself off from the power source. Without community, you become easy prey for temptation (like the gazelle that gets separated from the pack when chased by lions). Without evangelism, what you learn and accomplish dies with you.

You need all three. We all do. Yet every one of us is weak in one of these areas. Chris admitted that his area of weakness was evangelism. I can relate. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to go up to a  complete stranger and share your faith.

Still, all is not lost. You can always pray for those in your circle of influence who don’t know Jesus. That’s a place to start. That’s where I am.

By the way, his name is Chris Brooks. I cheated and looked up @kairosnashville and saw where he was tagged in one of their posts. Thanks again, social media, for helping me appear smarter than I really am. That and google are my friends.

My takeaway is that you will never outgrow your need of spending time with God (worship), spending time with other believers (community), and sharing your faith with non-believers (evangelism). The best news of all is that God has already given you everything you need to succeed in all three areas. He’s given you Himself.

So basically, as long as you realize you will never outgrow your complete and total dependence on Jesus, you will be fine.

 

One Year Ago (Almost)

It was a year ago that we officially launched The Church at Avenue South. Well, technically, it was a year ago tomorrow (if you want to be all nit-picky and exact). On September 7, 2015, a group of 115 stepped out in faith based on a vision they had of reaching those in the Berry Hill/Melrose area.

In some ways, it seems like only yesterday, yet at the same time, it seems much longer. So much has happened since then in the life of this growing congregation. We’ve seen both kids and adults give their lives to Christ. It’s been an amazing ride so far.

We’ve run into a good problem. We’re running out of space (again). It looks like at some point we may have to add a third service.

I don’t know why, but I’m still amazed at what God can do with mustard-sized faith. Even with the tiniest amount of consent, God can move those mountains of stone and turn those hearts of stone into hearts of flesh that beat in synchronicity with His own heartbeat.

Who knows what the next five years will bring? Or the next ten?

I’m grateful that I’ve been a part of it from the (almost) very beginning. I saw the building when it was a gutted shell. I look around now and I see a fully-functioning church building that serves the community and becomes a place where God takes on human hands and feet to serve those in need.

I keep thinking about what Jesus said in John 14. After all His ministry and miracles, He said that whoever believed in Him would not only do these works that He did but even greater ones. That seriously boggles my mind.

I’m not sure I completely understand what He meant by that, but I do know that we only limit ourselves by limiting God. God is more able to do incredible things than we are to believe that He can do these things.

I for one can’t wait to see what the next 12 months will bring to The Church at Avenue South.

 

Something I Read Lately

philippians

 

I’ve prayed this prayer many times on many different occasions. Never once has God answered my prayer by changing my circumstances, i.e. making my life easier, taking away my difficulties, instantly transporting me to the other side of my trials. What He has done is reminded me ever so subtly that He will be with me as He always has during my dark road.

Peace isn’t always  a feeling of contentment. Sometimes, the butterflies remain but so does the promise that God won’t forsake me. For me, a feeling of peace doesn’t always mean peace, nor does a lack of it indicate its absence. Try and work that one out and see if it makes sense.

After all, it is a peace that is beyond my utmost understanding. I don’t need a god who I can figure out and manage and understand. I need a God who is bigger than me, stronger than me, wiser than me. I need a God who is completely Other than me (not a bigger, stronger, wiser version of me).

My advice to you? Keep praying for that peace that passes all understanding and keep claiming it, whether you feel it or not. Keep trusting that the God of peace is walking with you through your dark road.

Sometimes the absence of peace means there is something in your life that needs to change. You’ll generally have an idea of what that something is and how to go about making the changes. You can’t have peace if you’re consistently making choices that go against God’s Word and refuse to submit to His will for your life.

Even then, peace comes with repentance. Peace comes to those whose hearts are broken, like King David’s, over their sin. Peace comes to those who admit once again their total and complete dependence on God.

That’s all for tonight. Come back for something completely different. Or maybe more of the same. You never can tell with me.

 

 

 

Keep On Keeping On

“Write to Laodicea, to the Angel of the church. God’s Yes, the Faithful and Accurate Witness, the First of God’s creation, says: “Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you. Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honor at the side of my Father. That’s my gift to the conquerors!” (Revelation 3:14,20 MSG).

That’s who wins– the conquerors. Those who keep showing up day after day and never give in or give up. Those who stand by their convictions, no matter how popular they are, and don’t compromise for the sake of appeasing others and fitting in.

It may not feel like winning at the time. It may feel like all that you can do to make it out of bed, put on clothes, and put one foot in front of the other until it’s time to go to bed again.

You may feel defeated. You may feel hopeless. But you still keep getting up and going forth. Sometimes, that’s what winning looks like.

To be on Jesus’ side is to be on the winning side. To have Jesus in your corner is to already be more than a conqueror.

Jesus has read the past page in the last chapter of your book. In fact, He has written it. He knows how your story ends. He’s even promised that it would be the best ending you could ever imagine. And the best part? He’s not only read it; He’s in it as the main character. The hero.

Remember that the next time you feel dragged down and beat up by life. Just think about that when you’re closer than ever to throwing in that proverbial towel. You have already won.

 

 

Intercession

“True intercession involves bringing the person, or the circumstance that seems to be crashing in on you, before God, until you are changed by His attitude toward that person or circumstance. People describe intercession by saying, ‘It is putting yourself in someone else’s place.’ That is not true! Intercession is putting yourself in God’s place; it is having His mind and His perspective” (Oswald Chambers).

I heard someone say recently that intercession is being with God for someone else. I have to give credit where credit is due, so most of what follows is based on what I heard from Mary Lou Redding in a prayer talk she gave recently.

It’s not necessarily me praying what I think that person needs. It’s not even sometimes me praying for that person for what they need.

Sometimes the best kind of intercession is the kind where I am silent before God as I visualize bringing that person into the light of God’s presence and letting God decide how best to meet that person’s need.

I do believe we are to pray specifically for others and their needs and we should always pray for people for what they ask us to pray for. I also think that sometimes the best kinds of prayers for others don’t involve words at all.

It’s not like God will do less than what we ask. Oftentimes, He will do more. If you look at the four friends who brought in their paralyzed friend for physical healing, what they got was not only the physical healing but salvation for their friend as well.

I’ve mentioned before that sometimes the way I pray for family and friends is to visualize a chapel with Jesus standing at the front. I see myself bringing that person to Jesus and I see Jesus enveloping that person in a big bear hug. I envision healing washing over that person I am praying for as Jesus wraps His arms around them.

That said, I think all of us who claim the name of Jesus need to do better at praying for others. Not so much in saying, “I”ll pray for you,” and never following through but actually praying for people and letting them know we are praying for them. I know I need to do better.

Maybe today’s a good day to start.

 

Another Night of Worship

  
I always love when Kairos has their Night of Worship.

There’s more emphasis on music, which is something that Kairos does well on just about any given Tuesdays but especially on nights like these.

The theme was My Brave Is. Basically, it’s facing whatever you’re most afraid of and realizing that God in Jesus has already overcome it. It’s knowing that Perfect Love casts out all fear, including that one that’s been gnawing at you for years.

The weather cooperated magnificently. What started out as a stupid hot and humid day turned into a lovely breezy summer night after some rain swept through the area. It made for a fantastic After Hours gathering where plenty of hot dogs and shaved ice got consumed (and corn hole was played by all).

I need nights like this. I need worship. I need to get my mind off of me for a little while and onto Something Much Bigger and Better.

Worship is like the reset button on my WiFi router. It’s like rebooting my laptop every so often. It basically reorients my life around the True Priorities after I’ve allowed it to get seriously off track.

Worship reminds me that I’m not in control and that it is not up to me. This God who is worthy of all the songs ever sung about Him is more than up to taking care of me and my problems and getting me where I need to be.

After all these years, I still love volunteering as a greeter and welcoming the people as they enter the building. I wonder if sometimes faces like mine might be the first friendly, non-threatening faces some people have seen all day. Who knows what difference even something as simple as a smile might make in someone’s life?

So, it was a good night. Even the little bit of rain at the end couldn’t dampen my spirits.

My brave is that God will not fail to make me who He always meant for me to be (even if I still don’t know what that is) and will finish what He started in me so very long ago.

 

 

I Like Free Stuff

“The payoff for a life of sin is death, but God is offering us a free gift—eternal life through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, the Liberating King” (Romans 6:23).

I like free stuff. I admit it.

Every so often, I stop off at the Brentwood Public Library and check in the front where they keep all the materials that for whatever reason they can’t accept as donations.

I’ve found more than a few antiquated computer manuals from the late great 80’s and some other unintentional sleep aids. I’ve also managed to run across some treasures.

I picked up a seven-volume set of classic books on prayer that I will (hopefully) read before I die.

I found a Dorothy Sayers mystery paperback that I actually hadn’t read before.

I found a couple of opera recordings on CD that I will use to further broaden my musical horizons.

I do so love free stuff.

After all, aren’t the best things in life free?

My salvation was free to me, but not free to God. It cost Him Jesus. It cost Him everything.

I don’t say that to invoke a guilt trip on anyone, but as a reminder to myself that I should never take any part of the process lightly or for granted.

I need to remind myself that I’m saved not because I was oh so very clever or witty or crafty but simply and solely out of the grace of God.

The key, then, for me is to live gratefully. The lesson from all this is to see all my life as a grace that I don’t deserve. To see whatever comes next as a gift, no matter how it fits into my preconceived plans. To live it as a hymn of gratitude back to God.

Oh, and I will keep checking the library for more cool free stuff.

 

This Extraordinary Message

“It’s news I’m most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God’s powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him, starting with Jews and then right on to everyone else! God’s way of putting people right shows up in the acts of faith, confirming what Scripture has said all along: ‘The person in right standing before God by trusting him really lives'” (Romans 1:16, The Message).

Yes. Just yes.

The just shall live by faith. That’s how the old-school version of this verse goes.

But I really like “The person in right standing before God by trusting him really lives.”

Who is really living?

Is it the ones with the most money, the most awards, the most prestige?

Is it the ones you read about in Forbes or Time or GQ?

Or maybe is it the ones you never hear about on the mainstream media outlets?

Maybe it’s the ones who are living simply out of a pure joy that comes from being forgiven.

Maybe it’s the ones who have quit trying to be beautiful and are instead choosing to boast in a brokenness through which the light of Christ shines most brightly.

Maybe it’s the ones who don’t give up, don’t give in, don’t compromise, don’t ever stop trusting that in the end everything will be fine.

Maybe those are the ones really living.

Lord, help me to really live and really love and really experience all that You have for me in this life.

Keep my eyes open to all that You are doing in and around me.

Keep my faith childlike so that I never cease to be amazed at what you can do in someone who says the most hesitant yes to You.

Keep my gaze straight ahead on the cross and what lies beyond instead of temporal pleasures that turn sour in the mouth and that rust in the hand.

Keep me holding onto You and let me know that You’ll always be holding on to me.

Amen.

 

God Can Do Anything 

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Repeat after me: God can do anything.

Repeat it again: God can do anything.

Once more with feeling: God can do anything.

Got that?

Nothing is impossible for God. Nothing. And your circumstances are not the exception to the rule. You are not the odd man out, the freak that God looks at and says, “I can’t do anything with this one.”

No matter what you’re facing, God is stronger. No matter how dark it gets, God can still see you. No matter how long it seems to take, God has not stopped working.

I remind you yet again of what a pastor said: “What seems impossible to us is not even remotely difficult for God.”

If God can create the universe in seven days, then He can create order out of your chaos.

If God brought Jesus back from the dead, then He can resurrect the ashes of your dreams into something far more glorious and beautiful than you ever dreamed possible.

If God loved you enough to save you at your worst, what makes you think He will stop loving you now?

Don’t trust your feelings. They lie. Anything and everything affects them, from eating too much spicy food to way too much caffeine late at night.

Make this your mantra: God works all things together for those whom He loves.

Even when your feelings, your senses, your intuition tells you other wise, this is still true. It will always be true.