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What do I do with these blank pages?

makale-yaz-para-kazanIn 2010 I wrote to be funny, more specifically I wrote comedic fiction for a class to counterbalance writing my thesis on Islamic extremism in Southern Russia and what exactly that looked like.

But what I was most proud of is a story called the Cheesebringer, which was a dumb coming of age story about college graduate who landed a dream job delivering cheese. It was sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, poetry. A whole chapter takes place in a port-o-potty at a festival. It had a cliff-hanger ending. The sequel was going to be a rom-com called The Bridewinner but I was too heartbroken (heart shooken) to write “funny” by the time I finished.

What I normally do with blank pages is entertain myself, sometimes others, and if you have ever read this blog I try to write reflectively about how God rebuilds us and loves us into something beautiful. I usually fill my blank pages with things that inspire me from Scripture.

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I also try fairly hard and hopefully, nobly, to live my life the way I hope I’m filling those same pages.

But I’m nearing a part of my story that God has warned me about. I’m 30 years old and I’m moving; I’m starting a career/season that in many ways I can’t prepare for the day-to-day. And I’m also in a tender-hearted place.

I’m about to say bye to so many people I love, so many people I love being able to see with regularity. I’m about to say hello to people I will grow to love and see with regularity. I’m about to try to love people I will meet for a moment and might watch them leave the next.

And it has dawned on me, heavily, painfully, that so many of these pages I don’t get to hold the pen for, most of these pages more so now than ever I am watching being written. Because to carry the metaphor to its authentic conclusion, I am the page.

I am having to trust, to relinquish my nervousness, to give my heart to Jesus and say, I don’t know it well enough, but you do, and you led me this direction, at this time, even though everything here and now is so so good.

Why do things get so good just before I’m about to go?

I ask this like it always happens this way. But it doesn’t. In fact, I never would have imagined that every month in 2018 would get better, but somehow it has for me. Not only has it gotten better, I’m often asking why I am going all the while knowing I’m called to go.

I’m aware that I’m not running away because I would never want to run away from this season of life. Yet, with these pages, though it has been building for 7 months, feels like, on one side of the open book is my life here in New Jerse, and without much of a transition, I will wind up on the next page in South Carolina.

Is that how every transition actually is? One day we just wake up and after all the preparation, we’re just in a new place and it was everything before and after that actually changed us.

Some of you I wish I could take with me. I wish you would pop into these pages as effortlessly and as enjoyably as I feel you do now. I wish our names or the pronouns that pertain to us would continually occupy the same sentences again and again day in and day out.

And maybe they will again soon.

For now, I’m blank. But God knows what to do with these pages.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52 

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

1 John 3:2

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

 

A Time Before Certainty

Matthew 13:1-32

I worked on an organic farm for 4 seasons. It’s interesting how many factors go into having a fruitful crop: the seed, the soil, the sun, the water, the bugs. Some of these can be controlled. We can add water, we can spray pesticides (technically not in organic farming).

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Much of farming maintains a level of uncertainty in regard to how abundant a crop will be. One thing you can count on though is you will get what you plant. Another certainty is: it does not matter how abundant a crop is, if no one harvests it, no one gets anything.

“You reap what you sow,” is familiar sentiment in Scipture and as much I hate to admit it, in life it is often true. But it is just as true that we may also reap what someone else  sows.

I am both grieved and adulated at the concept of sowing and reaping. I am grieved because I know what I deserve in some areas of my life. I am adulated because of the goodness God allows me to reap despite my efforts. I am also perplexed as to why God would give us so much good.

Why does our Creator, who owes us nothing want good for us despite the bad we choose for ourselves? And how can I become more poor (desperate) in my posture to willingly receive good things?

Psalm 51:17 states:

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

This verse gives me an indication of what God looks for. He doesn’t want a puffed out chest or a lofty, knowledgeable mind that thinks it knows best. His utmost priority is not even my greatest talent. God’s desire on his way to death and resurrection and God’s desire today is my heart in its most vulnerable condition:

A heart when it is broken, a heart when it is sorry, a heart when it feels like it can’t love right, a heart that seems uncertain how to love, a heart that gets giddy at the sight of friends and significant others. God is so keenly and intimately close to this hidden organ. This unseen imagination is the place God chooses to meet us.

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God meets us behind the doors of our skin, so when we step out into the world, the light of God’s Kingdom might shine forth through us.

I have a hope as I read Matthew 13 because I am reminded that as much as I am responsible for what I sow, I am also responsible for what I harvest. When the harvest comes, what will I choose to reap? Will I gather weeds or damaged fruit or will I gather what is best and what is abundant?

I can be forgetful of the seasons. I can be afraid of abundance and things working out well. (I know that’s weird). Which is why I am the type of person that is keenly aware that I need Jesus more (even if it is really only just as much) when things are going well than when things are bad.

But even when things are going well, things are seldom certain. That is the limbo of my life currently and for the next month, perhaps the next year… so much uncertainty. And for some that can be daunting, but I’ll be honest, this is where I thrive, or rather this where God thrives me and sustains me.

The best seasons of life have been the uncertain ones because my reliance and trust has been heavy on God, while a sense of urgency to obey is tangibly at hand. I am thankful.

I am thankful that I have a Father that sustains me and knows exactly what is happening even when I am not certain.

The Gospel of Love: Fill the World with Stories

John 21: 15-25 – Word Feed

If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

The Gospel of John ends with the author telling us that Jesus did too many good things to contain in writing. Jesus, likewise, continues to do miraculous and amazing things through the Church by the Holy Spirit.

Despite this, we still die! (Awfully abrupt, yeah?)

The last words of Jesus in this Gospel are:

“If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

It’s an odd way to end a story, no? Jesus talks to Peter after reconciling his soul; then Jesus alludes to the fact that Peter will be put to death in a fashion similar to himself. Peter then asks, presumably about what will happen to John, and Jesus uses this as a moment to illustrate the importance of following regardless of who else is along for the ride.

It kind of feels like John just wants to put himself in the final scene. But if that were the case, he wouldn’t obscure his name with the title, the disciple whom Jesus loved.

I believe John is trying to convince his reader, that whether we live or die and whether those around us live or die, the temporary nature of this life should not determine how we live it. We cannot control how long we live but we can control the how we live.

And how we live is laid out for us in the verses just prior to these final words in a very familiar interaction.

I will insert it here because I love it:

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

I will discuss it here because I am terrified by it.

The Fear of the Lord strikes me real here because in a series of questions and answers that address the topic of love and affection, Jesus ends the discussion by saying essentially:

“There will come a season of your life where you will lose complete control over what you want. You will follow me into death so that others might find life, and you will do it out of love.”

Jesus asks Peter about his love and then tells Peter he will die. The he says, “Follow me!”

But…

Peter couldn’t keep his mouth shut. But I think there is more to Peter than impulsiveness. I think Peter asks about John because it exposes a certain thread in Peter’s life in which he is constantly wrestling with.

I think Peter felt his devotion was dependent on who he surrounded himself with. I think Peter thought his story was not sustainable without those who followed Jesus with him.

I think that is why Peter is so adamant about declaring, “Even if all fall away, I will not,” yet he later denies. I think that is why Peter wants to be the only one to walk on water, yet falls. I think it is why Jesus tells him, he will be a rock and will be sifted by Satan. I think this is why Peter swings a sword at the servant to the high priest. I think Peter is at war with his devotion and is insecure about his desire to choose following Jesus when others aren’t immediately available to hold him accountable.

Which is why this is how it ends. A man, John, who we believe wrote this Gospel just prior or while exiled to an island as a lonely prisoner, writing about a friend, Peter, who church history tells us was crucified upside down talks to Jesus, the savior of the world, the only perfect one, have a conversation about how they will tell their story.

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And the how is demonstrated in the caring for the who.

“Feed my lambs.

Take care of my sheep.

Feed my sheep.”

In that grouping of lambs and sheep, we should also find ourselves. Self-care is equally as important as caring for others, until the time comes when we are no longer able to care for ourselves. Then our care for others comes from allowing others or God to care for us. And even from that place we are telling our love story.

Concluding Thoughts

In 35 blog entries, I’ve written through the Gospel of John. I’ve used 25,000 words. That’s almost 10,000 words more than the Gospel itself. My longest entry was 1,370 words from John 5 which was about mental illness. My website stats also have that entry as the most viewed of any of my posts surrounding the Gospel itself. One thing I’ve come to conclude is based on either the algorithms through Facebook or lack of interest, writing through the Gospels don’t get nearly as much attention as when I write about just about anything else. I’m not sure if it is the Scripture/Theological denseness or if it is just too hard to read something that feels repetitive. After all, there are hundreds of better articles written about Scripture. But I set out to write through this book and Ezekiel and by accident Jude over the course of 2 years.

I’m going to take a break from writing through books of the Bible for at least the rest of 2018. Meaning most of my writing will be reflective more than Scripture based. I may try to write more comedy again since that was more my wheelhouse at the end of college.

One major benefit from writing through the Gospel of John though, is I have fallen more in love with Jesus. I actually do feel like I understand Him better. I feel like I understand his movements and his desire for us more. I’ve also come to conclude He is more gentle than I knew. I’ve gotten the sense that more than anything, His desire is for me to keep following rather than wallowing. I’ve learned that freedom is found in telling an honest story. This is also the reason why I like the Gospel of John so much, I feel like I’m there.

So if you’ve read this far, thanks for being there/here to. I’m excited about your story that you fill the world with on your journey. Jesus is excited to be a part of it!

 

 

The Catching Gospel: Assured to Shore

John 21:1-14 – The Dive-in Depths

It never ceases to surprise me how quick I am to stumble, how at such arbitrary times our struggle with sin seems to affect us and leaves us without excuse. I am prone to wavering in my affection and in those moments I feel as if I forget myself. I forget who I belong to, who I live for.

Yesterday, on my way to work, a car in front of me slammed into the back of another while trying to switch lanes. I surveyed the damage and eased my way past both cars to keep pressing down Route 1. Less than 30 seconds later on the road a guy flags me down and asks me for a ride. I’m pretty secure, so I gave him a ride 3 stoplights down to the complex in which he lived.

It’s actually amazing how much can happen in five minutes.

In five minutes we can ride high, then fall to temptation. How easy it is to lose focus, to take your eye off the road, to miss your shot when aiming for the mark.

But I also write this to remind us that through a story in the Gospel of John, in the urgency of a moment, our eyes can be so opened to what was right in front of us that nothing else in the whole world matters as we lay side everything to chase it down.

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In John 21, this is Peter in a boat while fishing; he wraps his outer garment around himself and dives in, swimming desperately to shore to meet Jesus, his Lord, his loving friend, and the one he denied. He does this after Jesus calls out to the disciples to let them know again where to let their nets down in order to catch some fish.

Why do our hearts or actions ever deny him? Why do I even after Jesus proves He is always good to me? He does things and shares things with me that I don’t deserve at the most surprising of times, yet my response is forgetfulness or disobedience. I let doubt dictate a decision in a moment and am reminded quickly of how empty it is.

But Peter’s story and action teaches me two things. The first isn’t as important but fascinates me:

People will always follow people with passion and charisma even if they make terrible mistakes. Peter says he’s going to fish and 6 other disciples go with him.

and Secondly:

when you make terrible mistakes or sin, sometimes you are so self aware of the pain you cause yourself and the grief you bring to the Spirit that when you encounter God in a moment afterward, whether you feel forgiven or not, you run after or in Peter’s case swim toward God with abandon.

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Peter understands or at least hopes a sentiment I’ve recently heard in song on the album Garden by Untied Pursuit on the track “Beautiful” by Andrea Marie. The lyric goes:

“Though I am weak it doesn’t change the way you think about me
And when I fall, I fall on you
For your grace surrounds me”

In the second half of this chapter, Peter will experience a slight painful sting but will realize the full truth of the way the Godhead feels about him and us. He’ll realize that the whole point of this program of life, of creation, of the crucifixion is the loving reconciliation of God and creation, the renewal of unrestricted relationship with the Father.

So all I want to leave you with this morning, and to remind myself this morning is a picture of child running, stumbling and falling into the arms of their Father. And after falling into their Father, they get up and run again laughing,  full of love, confident in pursuing the presence and power of a relationship with God.

Father, thank you for forgiveness, for the sacrifice of Jesus, for resurrection life, for the better things you have in store for us your children.

The Appearing Gospel: Look Who Showed Up

John 20: 1-23 – Stay in Awe

When was the last time you stood in awe or wonder of something?

When was the last time something left you dazed and confused?

IMAG1053In the Gospel of John chapter 20, individuals are still living in the shock and shadow of the death of Jesus. Early, on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb of Jesus, finds it empty, and ran to Simon Peter and another disciple, presumably John himself.

Mary relays to them an incorrect story. She thinks someone took Jesus’ body and now does not know where it is. The disciples run to the tomb and notice strips of linen and a cloth that covered Jesus’ head. Surely no one would take a corpse and unwrap it first.

This line of thinking brings John to write that in that moment he believed. The disciples go home but Mary stays by the tomb.

At the tomb Mary weeps, bent over near the tomb until she sees two angels. Mary has a conversation with the angels still supposing Jesus had been taken away by the “they”. Who know’s who the “they” were? Who knows if Mary was rational in this moment?

She neglects the clues.

Then, Jesus shows up, and she doesn’t realize. Perhaps, she is too overcome by emotion in this moment to look at her surroundings. Maybe she finds it hard to see through her tears.

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Mary thinks Jesus is the gardener, and she says something that I don’t quite understand why it makes my eyes water while I write this at work. She says, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

And Jesus says back, “Mary.”

At the sound of her name coming from her Lord and friend, her disposition and perception changes instantly.

Have you ever so misinterpreted a situation that it muddled your outlook on life to the point where truth became very difficult to comprehend?

For Mary, the death, the empty tomb, the angels were for her, all reminders that Jesus was not there. Yet in the mind and heart of God, these were all to serve to remind that Jesus has always been there. To the end, his love was present and powerful.

And it wasn’t until Mary heard her name from Jesus that this came into view. Hindsight flooded her, and Jesus sends her to deliver a very good message: “I have seen the Lord!”

I like to imagine Mary frantically out of breath recounting this story. “I went and saw the tomb empty and talked to people dressed in white and then I saw the Lord. I thought he was the gardener, but it was Jesus. He said my name. I knew as soon as he said my name. He is really alive.”

I imagine in that moment Mary felt alive too, more alive than ever before.

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Later, that same night, Jesus appears to his disciples, who are hiding from the Jewish leaders. He reveals himself and they are overjoyed. He breathes on them while giving them instruction to receive the Holy Spirit and to forgive.

This chapter moves from surprise to surprise, but the surprise doesn’t at this point lead to unction. Jesus tells them to receive the Holy Spirit, but I’m not sure they do in this moment. That’s not to say they don’t, but later he will tell them to wait for the Holy Spirit.

In moments of awe, we are to embrace the surprise and wait for instruction. If something awes us, it should change us even if only slightly. Moments of awe make way for the eventual unction to move.

And when we move, we likewise, appear.

The Finishing Gospel: Death of the Saves Man

John 19:16-42 – Are We Living or Dying?

Yesterday, I taught my second to last class on the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke). We discussed the crucifixion and the resurrection.

What is interesting to me about John’s gospel is the things he notes about Jesus during the crucifixion. Jesus is deeply concerned for his mother. Jesus also pronounces “It is finished.” That phrase in the Greek denotes that a transaction took place.

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The transaction was one that paid the debt of sin, through the exchange of a perfect life for the lives of imperfect humanity. The other Gospels draw out Jesus’ death; whereas, John shows the ways Jesus fulfilled OT Scriptures in his death. John also shifts the tone in his writing. Normally his Gospel is laden with emotion, but for this series of verses, John is presenting facts.

In V. 35 John even writes, “The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.” John is using this tone shift to say, “this is reality, and I’m using this reality to lead to an even greater reality that is harder to believe.” (We will look at that next time)

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John wants us to take in the reality of Jesus’ death while we contemplate the implications. And while we contemplate he writes about the two men, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who prepare his body for burial.

Death Thoughts

Without being morbid or long-winded, I want to say a word about death because in about 2 months I will be entering a vocation where I am expecting  to become more familiar and perhaps more comfortable with it. I believe the only way to be comfortable with death is to take away its sting.

I think that is done through restitution, eager expectation of eternity with Jesus, and gratitude. I also think living life not afraid of death or rejection is liberating.

My prayer is to be a person that shows others that death does not have the last word, rather our life in Christ echoes after a last breath.

Laid There

Chapter 19 concludes with Jesus’ body being laid in a tomb. It is written with a sense of rest in order to prepare us for the final two chapters which recount resurrection life. The suffering and death Jesus endured made room for life.

Now we live it until we’ve finished.

The Gospel of Trial: God’s Verdict

John 18:28 –  19:16 – What Do You Stand for?

Lately, I have been practicing withholding judgment against the inaction of individual’s. I’ve begun this practice because I’m recognizing that the inaction of others most often results from ignorance or lack of urgency, not from maliciousness or hatred.

I don’t want to put someone on trial in my heart who does not intend to do me wrong. So the best thing to do is allow my feeling towards someone else’s inaction fall.

Jesus in the Gospel of John chapters 18 and 19 is on trial not for inaction but for generous and truthful action. His concern, compassion and desire for God’s creation leads to his crucifixion.

Witchcraft_at_Salem_VillageThere is also a man named Pontius Pilate. Pilate is not too concerned about Jesus’ claims to be a king, yet Pilate administers some punishment. Pilate is complicit. If we are honest with ourselves, many of us are like Pilate.

We won’t judge the innocent, we might punish the bold, but we will certainly wash our hands of responsibility of standing against injustice if it becomes more inconvenient than we desired.

Yet we are also swayed. When the world shouts loud enough we bend often forgetting what we are called to stand for because of fear. Or we back ourselves into another box of identity that is other than Christian. We might back into: conservative, liberal, progressive, American, Russian, man, woman, vegan, straight, gay, white, black, fat, fit, famous, obscure.

For Jesus, He was accused of being false. The Truth, the Light, the Life, The Resurrection, the Divine is accused and crucified because others did not recognize who He really was. The same type of accusations come against you and me. They try to make us forget what or rather who we are meant to live for or potentially die for.Eccehomo1

What amazes me about this trial in the Gospel of John is what turns Pilate. If you read too quickly, you might miss that for a few moments, Pilate is the one on trial.

Jesus tells him in John 19:11  “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

Jesus lets Pilate know where Pilate’s power comes from…

but so does the crowd.

In 19:12 the crowd yells, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”

Pilate is asked to choose between allegiance to the empire or allegiance to God. But Pilate doesn’t know God or truth. He does however, know Caesar.

Caesar writes his check, Caesar keeps him safe, Caesar keeps him comfortable, Caesar is the one who Pilate perceives as the one with power.

And when I am not careful, I might forget that God is greater than the nation in which I live and greater than my perception of the other things that seem to speak power: money, status, responsibility, personal records while lifting weights.

The temptation to trust in other forms of power is often subtle and often presents itself as reasonable. I believe John, in his Gospel, is trying to show us just before Jesus’ death, that what we trust in other than God eventually reveals itself as evil.

It reveals that no matter how firm your or my stance, if it is not grounded in faith in Christ, it will undo our devotion. We become willing to hand over rather than stand on.

Because humanity consistently proves our willingness to hand over, Jesus takes the stand first. He accepts his fate to garner our allegiance through bloody dangling death by hanging on wood from nails.

He takes our punishment, then holds the power to judge, and in his fiery compassion is both willing and patient to allow us to decide our own verdict.

The Cutting Gospel: Separating the Should and Should Not

John 18:1-27- Imagine the Divine Impulse

Have you ever been disappointed in yourself after acting on impulse? Considering how frequently in the Gospels Peter acts on impulse, I imagine he was disappointed in himself often.

But I am convinced that our impulsive action in ignorance does not disappoint God as much as it disappoints us. I’m not suggesting God is less disappointed when our impulse to sin is acted upon with a sense of knowing. I believe that disappoints God more than it disappoints us, but I could be convinced otherwise.

There is something about acting in ignorance, with good intentions, that I think Jesus has a large degree of empathy for. And I think the Gospel of John does a perfect job of showing us a Jesus that cares most about reconciliation and administering the grace to keep going.

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Jesus is about to be arrested. He knows this. When the ones coming to arrest him approach him Jesus steps towards them and asks them “Who is it you want?” He asks a question but really he is making an authoritative statement. In asking, he is actually showing them that He is the one they want.

John paints us a picture of a Jesus that is steps into his mission willingly. And those bold steps cause the party seeking to arrest him to fall over.

I believe when we take steps in faith Jesus causes us to knock down our doubters and our doubts.

Jesus steps towards his arrest with confidence. And though he knocks down his doubters and enemies, he does not stop his eager friend with a sword who supposes he is lending support.

After the act Jesus says, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

See Jesus does offer rebuke, and in other gospels, he heals the ear of the man who Peter slices at. But Jesus does not have time for our impulsive decisions and our denials. In fact, while we sit there and deny or rush to act, Jesus takes the burden of truth and opposition to His will upon Himself. In His strength, he waits for our surrender through our posture of receiving.

In a span of 12 verses, Peter denies Jesus 3 times. In the span of one evening Peter goes from getting his feet washed to taking a sword in his hand. He goes from believing it is not within him to deny Jesus to executing what he did not desire.

But what would this story look like if Peter did nothing? What would the end of this book look like if Peter did not chop an ear off and did not deny? Or what if John left it all out?

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Without Peter, I don’t think I would fully understand the grace of Jesus and His appreciation for radical faith. I don’t think I would learn the difference between the divine impulse and the carnal (fleshly) impulse.

Because the divine impulse is one that follows Jesus not one that fights for Jesus. It is recognizing that Jesus fought for and bought me, which now means I obey in love.

It shows me that Jesus is able to sever my mistakes and my sin from my identity. Peter denies, but Jesus prevents denial from defining Peter. Peter denies and is spared while Jesus speaks truth and is slapped.

And God allows this to awaken the heart of Peter, of you, and of me to gaze at Jesus in life, death and resurrection in order to know that obedience to what God has called us to leads to eternal joy and the experience of genuine love.

But what happens first is crucifixion. Specifically Jesus’ crucifixion. Specifically, the imagination of God working itself out in human history to display to all that God’s plan, action, and work not only could not be stopped but worked out for the good of all so our imagination and purpose would be fulfilled in Him.

More on that next time.

The Gospel of Grow: Tangled Up in You

John 15: I Don’t Know if This Ends

The first sermon I preached during my first job in ministry was from John 15.

8 months later,

the last sermon I preached during my first job in ministry was from John 15.

That was 7 years ago. And since then, I’ve learned a lot about why I am in love with Jesus’ words here. One unique characteristic about this chapter is it’s all exposition. 27 verses of Jesus’ gentle voice talking to his disciples without interruption.

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In the first 17 verses, he is talking about vines and branches that bear fruit. God the gardener, Jesus the vine, and you and I the branches. God the Father prunes (or cleans) the branches that bear fruit so they will be more fruitful.

Fruit only comes if it remains part of the vine. If you are apart from the vine, Jesus says you can’t do anything.

Jesus uses the words “abide in me,” as a key part of his gentle leading. This is a statement about staying with, being faithful to, and continuing on. He makes the promise for a second time that whatever one asks will be done for the person who sets their will and mind on Him.

Why does Jesus offer this? For the bearing of fruit, for the proof of discipleship, and for fullness of joy. The greatest demonstration that one is abiding is in obeying this command: love one another as I have loved you. V. 13 states, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

The paradigm Jesus is describing is one that loses itself for the love of others. He’s saying, “lay down you for them, and my promise is that in doing so you will find inexpressible amounts of joy.” It echoes Hebrews 12:2 when it says of Jesus, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

What this tells me is: Abiding in the vine (Jesus) as the branches (us) means that it would be difficult or impossible to spot where the vine ends and the branch begins. The separation is imperceptible because we would be one in the same. It’s the divine union of the marriage of Christ and Church.

But do I permit God that access? Do I willingly submit every desire, every fiber, every ill-motive or pure motive to my Father and wholeheartedly trust?

Jesus has been pressing me on this question relentlessly when I am listening. All the struggles and sins that God has made me aware of in this season all come back to trust and fighting the impulse that I can do it myself.

I’ve been reflecting on my journey in ministry a lot lately, because in 2018 I have never seen God more intimately active in my life than in the moments in which I have laid myself down over the past year. I have never felt the pendulum swing so much between uncertainty/fear and confidence in what Jesus is calling me to. And I have been overjoyed in the moments God has nudged me along the way.

For me the same answer has come up to the questions that I and others have asked me regarding my next step of faith. It is: “I don’t know, but yes (or no).”

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I don’t know what I am doing in the clearest sense, but I do know what God the Father is doing and that has been the

I’ve had to resist what I think I want or think is best or sufficient in the moment. But abiding is not fighting for what you want, it’s trusting in who you have and who you were made to be.

This gives us courage to endure the second portion of chapter 15, the hatred that comes as a result of living your life vastly different from the majority of the world. The spiritual assault that is waged against the ones who walk in love is great which is why God gave the Holy Spirit as the Helper.

But I’ve chosen not to write about the hatred from others at this time. Because to be tangled up in the hatred of others or self-hatred is destructive and not a great posture to live from. It might be a motivator to keep going but it is not what supplies joy.

Joy is what I want to be tangled up in, and I don’t want it to end!

 

 

The Gospel of Go: Home is Who you Come Back To

John 14: The Many Rooms We Come To

14:3 “ And if I go and prepare a place for you,

I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

You know the way to the place where I am going.”

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Jesus the carpenter’s son, tells his disciples that he is preparing a place for them in His Father’s house. Because of this our hearts should not be troubled and can find courage that a place of rest and home awaits us.

After this, bad wrap Thomas, asks about the way to go and who the Father is. Jesus in a round about way tells Thomas that He is the way and is One with the Father. He also says in v.13-14, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Non-genie Jesus states this in regards to our position not according to our preferences. Jesus is not saying I’m granting you wishes, He’s saying I’m refining your will. Asking is in accordance with the actions of Jesus and the activity of Heaven not according to the economy of the world.

Jesus reiterates the desire of the Holy Spirit to reform our wills by discussing what love looks like by obeying His teaching and leading. This activity creates within us, a union with God. Obedience leads us in renewed desires as we mimic the love of God the Father. Thus, what we end up asking for, happens to be the precise desire of God in a given moment. Our ask is no different from God’s will.

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But what does that really have to do with Going Somewhere and Home?

For one, none of us would know what “home” is, if we had not left it. Secondly, Jesus spends a lot of time in this chapter and the next and the next one after that, giving illustrations regarding the sense of home as being deeply intertwined with the God and the people you love.

He says this in His statement, “I am the Way to the Father.” Notice, Jesus doesn’t describe Heaven or what this home looks like. Instead, he discusses union and love for one another for the next 4 chapters in the Gospel of John.

And what does that have to do with Going Somewhere?

Jesus can leave this world and give us the Holy Spirit because He knows love and service in the Kingdom is not tied to location. He also knows the Kingdom itself at this moment is not tied to a location. This is meant to give comfort and courage for the commission. The disciples will also be able to go when He sends them after His resurrection.

Which is why I’m preparing to go. This weekend I take another step towards moving and following God. I’m going to look for an apartment so that in about 3 months time I can begin a new journey in full-time ministry. And as I take each step my fears are falling to the ground, as I try to stay convinced that like Jesus I might do, “exactly what my Father has commanded me.”

Which brings me to my last words, my faith requires me to fight through fears in order to follow. It requires remembering the call of God and trusting His direction of my steps.

When I go with God, I’m always going home.