Nothing to Hope In.

Today, I shared something with my church that may or may not have shaken them up regarding my work in the youth ministry. I think I caught a lot of the people in the room off guard, and, on my end, I regret not voicing these feelings sooner. It hasn’t been the easiest time ever finding community at the church I grew up in—a surprisingly common experience, from what I’ve heard—but it’s also led to the deep experience of learning how to focus on what God is doing in times when my own needs aren’t being met. While some may question why I would keep going to a church that I felt didn’t meet my needs, I think it’s worth noting that the Christian life isn’t always about our own needs. A lot of times, it’s about being humbled and invited into deeper growth and reliance on God; it’s a bit like putting yourself in handcuffs and throwing the key away. (That’s an inside joke; looking at you, Modus.) But it can be difficult to keep one’s arms raised during the struggle; even Moses had to take a seat and get some help.

The point is, in sharing my perspective on the ailment of the church in the area I am most acquainted with, I learned that I am nothing to hope in. There were many moments on Saturday evenings when elders would reach out, bright-eyed, and ask how I was doing and encourage me to continue doing the good work of youth ministry, and today, I felt like I had really disappointed them. My mom (for whom I am deeply thankful) has been faithful in reminding me that the only person I serve is God and to not worry so much about pleasing others or thinking about how they see me, but I am learning that it is a very difficult, uniquely human aspect of church ministry. I want to make the elders who taught me in Sunday school proud. Whenever I stand up to speak in front of the church, there’s still a remnant of the really timid, on-the-verge-of-tears, young boy from years ago. This is not to say that I am immature (though in many ways, I still am); this is, in my estimation, an honest account of how the transition period in a young servant’s life looks. It’s not easy saying hard truths as a kid.

However, in saying today that with respect to the youth the church is sick, I hope I have not been misunderstood as making a judgment rather than a diagnosis. I said what I said partially because there is a dull fire shut up in my bones, and I have grown weary with holding it in, but also because sickness is still a sign of life. Too often, we take statements like “the church is stumbling in this way” or “the church is sick in this way” or “the church is weak in this way” as assaults rather than verifications that the church has breath. I believe that as long as there is life in the church, in a person, in a community, there is hope for God’s redeeming work. Sickness becomes praise, weakness becomes triumph, and sorrow becomes peace in light of the redemptive aspect of God’s actions. I often sadly share about picketers telling event-goers that they’re going to hell not because of how offensive their methods are (and they are offensive) but because they have put people (who may be innately and unknowingly craving the riches of the Gospel) in hell before they have even had a chance to be drawn by true grace. I wonder if we are too quickly defeated in our relational encounters and our experiences of life’s natural rigors, forgetting that though people may intend to harm us, God intends things for good to accomplish the saving of many lives (Gen. 50:20).

To close, I just want to say that I still love the church I grew up in. The church has been a model of faithfulness. Many members in the church have served longer and seen more than I have. I want to cooperate in what God has planned. I want the youth to know Jesus as their Savior, as their Friend, as their King. The church may be sick, but Jesus is the Great Physician. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

“fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isa. 41:10 ESV)


Super Bowl Christianity.

pats eaglesPhoto courtesy of Philadelphia Eagles – Kiel Leggere

Here’s a link with 43 verses in the Bible about eagles: They show why the Philadelphia Eagles were definitely going to win.

Today was Super Bowl LII, and it was the first time I had some younger brothers from my church over to my place to watch the game – it was the first time one of them had ever watched the Super Bowl. My cousin and I took them to Sprouts to shop for ingredients, and it was a good time to get some relationship building going not only because it’s valuable to invest in the younger generation, but also because they’re just genuinely awesome younger brothers whom we both taught in Sunday school. We made guacamole and had a taco bar going with some brown butter kale (don’t knock it ’til you try it), sautéed onions, pico de gallo, skirt steak (seasoned with salt, pepper, and fajita seasoning, cooked on a cast-iron skillet and finished with a squirt of lime), tortilla chips, corn, and a homemade corn salsa.

But before all of the feasting and beasting (looking at you, Nick Foles) happened, some thoughts occurred to me as I was driving them from church back to my place. Christians who happen to get deeply emotionally invested in the outcome of a game (like the Super Bowl) are often criticized for doing things like “praying for their team to win” or even saying things like, “_______ is the Lord’s team.” We also love when athletes profess their faith publicly, but sometimes turn blind eyes to the actions that they take that are less than Christ-like. I actually think the criticism is fair, and I agree that Christians should really stop doing absurd things like the aforementioned because it reflects a pretty serious misunderstanding of the Gospel in how we approach others. Nevertheless, I’d like to use the Eagles as a fulcrum for the point I want to make about how Christians ought to engage with sports in faith.

Here are some testimonies from the Philadelphia Eagles’ players. (PLEASE watch it, it’s actually really cool and encouraging, and I think we could all stand to learn from what the players have to say on how to reach their neighbors.)

Now, I can see the temptation on the Christian’s behalf to say, “Well, it’s clear why the Eagles won—they’re a praying team!” I want to resist this intuition. It suggests that there is a competing component within the faith of one team or group of people relative to another team or group of people; believing something like seems to suggest that “more faith leads to rewards now,” when we as Christians should be focused on storing up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). What we as Christians should be praying about in sporting events like the Super Bowl is not that the team we support would win games, but win hearts. At the end of the day, praying for another team to lose could very well amount to praying the sorrow of a fellow brother in Christ on the other team. This ought not be so. Instead, as Christians, we ought to examine where our treasure is; is it really in the momentary glory of triumph? (I know some might say that I’m downplaying the significance of this first Lombardi for Philly, but I’m searching for a deeper purpose than even that.) Even more, how does God look upon the players on that field? I may be stepping beyond the truth of Scripture here, but it doesn’t seem blasphemous to say that He cares for every player on the field. He knows their needs, their shortcomings, and their struggles—and He deeply loves and cares about each of them. The players all have families that they’re supporting, and it’s often too easy to use the television screen as an occasion to forget that these players are made in the image of God.

When Christians point to the faith of the Philadelphia Eagles, I hope they don’t use their on-field success as a measure for their faith. And for the Philadelphia Eagles themselves, as they continue to have their prayer meetings and Bible studies, I hope that their honest prayer is that in all things, God would get the glory, victory or otherwise. Whether they are successful or not on the field is of little eternal significance. What’s of lasting importance is that they continue to be faithful stewards of the platform that God has given them and set their minds on things that are above (Colossians 3:2).

Having said all this…#FlyEaglesFly. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (Romans 15:13 ESV).

ertz divePhoto courtesy of Philadelphia Eagles – Drew Hallowell

The Spirit of the Gospel.

Today, at my church, we had an open sharing service during which people gave testimonies somewhat connected to the theme of “the spirit of the gospel.” This is something like what I might’ve said if I had the time and the space to do so.

It’s been a while since I’ve shared anything, and I think it’s because I often feel like disappointment or disagreement follow soon after opening my mouth. Nevertheless, with regards to the spirit of the gospel, I’d like to think that the Lord has been teaching me about how the gospel overcomes. 2017 was had its fair share of disappointments. I started a college/post-college ministry at this church in which young people might have been able to discuss topics that interested and challenged them that weren’t traditionally available for discussion during youth groups or Sunday services. This was met with mixed reactions of outward encouragement and thinly veiled suspicion from some people here. Not too long after the group had been established, a large majority of the college/post-college aged individuals found work elsewhere or went back to school. After having expectations of finally finding community here that would be vibrant and challenging, I found myself feeling very isolated at church, especially during youth group on Saturday nights – I sobbed behind the steering wheel as I drove home one night because in a “youth group” consisting of five other middle/high schoolers and eight people over the age of 30, I came to terms with the reality of my loneliness. There’s nothing quite like feeling like you’ve built your house on shifting sands.

Fall 2017 was a semester in which I felt like I had fallen short in most of my personal relationships. Having been told that this semester would closely mirror the workload of a PhD program, I decided for once in my life to put school first. I had no idea that I would be worrying nearly every day about whether or not I was keeping up enough with the people I cared about in my life. Some days were so filled with work that I would not have time to reflect on the health of my relationships; the days following were usually filled with guilt and anguish about who I should reach out to first. I was not able to be as present as I would have liked with friends I kept in touch with online, and I would often catch myself in the middle of conversations just going through the motions. The price of doing well academically was a hollowing out of my relationships with others. As I wrestled with all of this, the weight of hearing people from church tell me that they didn’t want me to go to bible school or seminary bore down even more on my heart. There’s a constant clash between vision and voices, and 2017 was an embattled year for sure.

I watched and listened as a humble seven members of this church were singing hymns at 10:05 in the morning. In the testimonies of members of the church, I found it more and more apparent why people were less and less willing to engage with Christians. The tension between not caring about numbers in the congregation and being a fruitful congregation was tangible this year. I saw that many times, the way we spoke about our experiences and attitudes towards non-Christians demonstrated a departure from our own origins in Christ – His love and His love alone. We were quick to cry out against their practices, their thoughts, and their attitudes without stepping forth into the challenge of self-giving and discipleship of the nations. Listening to other perspectives was given second place as we pointed to our knowing the truth as a kind of justification for being an unhearing and unseeing people. Many times, I found myself wondering if we were the enemies of the gospel given the way we portrayed how Christ came to us in our sin. Forgetting that grace, mercy, and love overcame hearts bound by sin, we put on the hardened armor of salvation that was forged by the death of Christ for the sake of intimidating civilians without presenting them an opportunity to experience God’s absolute beauty.

In the midst of these trials (among many others), the Lord revealed that the gospel overcame in each circumstance. In my failure to lead and establish a post-college ministry, He led me to have a burden for the youth group that met on Saturday nights. He placed a conviction in me to see that “youth group” ought not to be in quotation marks – it ought to be for the equipping of the younger brothers and sisters in the church. Though some of the older ones in attendance sat stone-faced during youth groups, a desire for the gospel to be appropriated in the lives of our teens placed a glow on how I was orienting youth groups. As the middle/high-schoolers engaged with the book of James on their own terms, I saw them begin to think more and more about the influence of the gospel in their lives. In my failure to maintain my personal relationships as rigorously as I would have liked, I found that there was comfort in knowing that my academics were oriented towards the advancement of the gospel in future classrooms. Without this hope in being an ambassador of His kingdom in academia, I would have long counted my academic pursuits worthless compared to the relationships I valued. (I continue to hold onto hope that the truly valuable friendships have withstood this trying period.) Finally, with our failure to show love and mercy to those who might be traditionally considered “problematic” to the church, I learned that the gospel is capable of withstanding all assault. If we think that the gospel we preach is weighty, has value, withstands objection, and is, above all, true, why do we hesitate to bring it to those who need it? And when we bring it, why do we think we either convict or compromise? Alienation is not bound up with faithfulness when it comes to preaching the gospel, and I believe that our gospel is one worth sharing because all of the desires of the human heart are met by the gospel – it is precisely what the world is looking for but cannot accept. And so, I have been encouraged by the Lord to engage with a variety of different conversations – particularly ones I myself do not care much for – to see that the gospel overcomes in all circumstances. In fact, not only does the gospel overcome, but it also fulfills whatever is lacking to the utmost because it is founded in the perfect love of God. The spirit of the gospel, then, is one of overcoming; we ought not discourage one another from engaging deeply with the culture around us because there is simply no other way to test the foundations on which we’ve built as Christians. Our Lord is faithful to keep us as we share the gospel, so may 2018 be a year in which we give of ourselves, loving as Christ loved so that when the times come to a close, we will not have missed an opportunity to deeply engage with the souls around us, pointing them to the One who fulfills their every need.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” | Titus 3:4-7 ESV

Generally Relevant Experience.

Today was GRE day, and it was a day full of being mindful of God’s hand in my life. From the get go, I woke up with a slightly stuffed nose and a cough, but soon after I finished brushing my teeth, breathing deeply cleared my nasal passages – thank You, Lord.  I checked my phone and had received a few text messages from my friends with prayers and well wishes – thank You, Lord.  I went downstairs to make myself breakfast, but found that my mom had already made breakfast for me – thank You, Lord.  I checked how long the commute would take after using Google a few days ago to predict the commute time, and I found that the prediction was way off mark; it would only take me twenty-two minutes as opposed to the predicted forty-five to fifty minutes – thank You, Lord.  After arriving at the testing center, I was able to find the testing center without too much hassle, and I ventured into the room at 8:15 a.m.  After locking up all my belongings and entering the exam room, I found myself confronted with the computer screen I’d be looking at for the next few hours.  Taking a moment to pray, I was overcome by the thought of all the people who had been praying for me with regards to the exam – thank You, Lord.  I began the test, and found the first essay topic fairly accessible, finishing with ten seconds left – thank You, Lord.  In each of the one-minute periods following the sections, I took time to quickly pray and ask that I be more focused on His glory than on my results, thanking Him for surrounding me with family who would be praying for me and standing with me as I took the test.  The next essay was also fairly straightforward, and I finished with an extra two minutes – thank You, Lord.

The rest of the test was filled with prayer before and during each section, and at times of frustration or confusion, I felt encouraged when I thought about the blessing that existed in having a praying family.  Eventually, I finished the test, got my scores, and walked out.  I was really satisfied with my scores, and I found that my heart was full of praise; as I started my car, the song that was playing on the radio was “10,000 Reasons,” and I thought it couldn’t have been more fitting.  However, as I listened to the song and sang along, I began to realize that so much of the day had been in God’s hands from the beginning.  I also realized how much bargaining I had done with God prior to the test, and felt deeply that I was, once again, not given what I deserved.  I didn’t deserve the scores I had gotten because I really hadn’t worked that hard.  I didn’t deserve the mercy that was evident – and that I was mindful of – throughout the day.  And yet, God was pleased to guide me along the path He had for me.  In the depth of my embarrassed acceptance of God’s mercy, I found myself making new promises that I wouldn’t keep, and I realized that God had mercy not because of what I had done, but because His love was and is for who I am.  Thank You, Lord, for loving me despite myself and for being faithful in every season of my life.

I Mean.

It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for heartfelt messages and thoughtful gestures, and I think my friends have picked up on that over the years.  Then again, who isn’t?  I have been blessed with amazing friends over the years, and I’m constantly amazed that I ever have an impact on anyone.  More often than not, I think deeply about how the things I do have little to no impact on the lives of others, and why should they?  Talk is cheap, and indeed, that seems to be all I’m good at.  Nevertheless, I’m occasionally reminded as I am on this day, the day my daughter is to be married (whoops, wrong movie – go watch the Godfather!), that somehow, I’ve meandered far enough into people’s hearts to find myself meaning something.

Perhaps it’s ego-stroking, but perhaps it’s waking up from a dream of false identity.  Most likely, it’s a mix of the two.  Growing up in a culture of perseverance begetting further expectation, verbal expression of appreciation was nigh unheard of.  Passing through the valleys of depression led to a lack of weightiness to this life; the side effect was believing myself to be barely existing, just a breeze that was pleasant enough to take note of but for a moment.  And so, when I’m met with so much appreciation and shows of kindness, it becomes rather confusing to sift through.  On one hand, I ought not enjoy it so much because I’ve really done nothing worthy of the attention that I’m receiving, but on the other hand, it’s nice to find reason not to listen to the silent acceptance of meaning very little.

As it rains outside and as my eyelids begin to wage war against my wide-open consciousness, gratitude sinks heavy in my heart.  I am nobody, but Christ in me is more than enough to find an identity in.  Thank you all for seeing past the shortcomings and pointing me to where Christ has redeemed my wretched life.  As we usher in the new year, I hope some of us can continue to encourage one another on this crazy journey of life to understand just how deeply Christ is involved in shaping and sanctifying who we are.  You all didn’t have to remind me of the memories that we made together, but I’m really glad that you did.  It’s been a humbling day just thinking about all of you and seeing that I have no reason to continue on in insecurity about my friendships, which has been a bit of a struggle for me from time to time. If I have any boast in this world, it’s that God has granted me the most precious of friendships with all of you and with Himself, and that means more than enough to me.  I mean something, but that’s founded on God and God alone.

Election Day 2016.

I was fairly certain that I was going to write a post when (and I say “when” because I had an odd gut feeling that Trump was going to win) Trump won, so here it is.  I’m hoping to keep it as short and as accessible as possible to spare an already grieving public the grief of sifting through something barely intelligible.

Brothers and sisters, I hope we’re all awake now that Trump is our incoming President.  The thought should terrify us – some of us, at least – but it should also be something we invite into our lives.  As I’ve said before, this election has exposed how far away many of us have fallen from full reliance on God.  How can we be gracious when the result is so obviously disappointing to many of us?  There’s a challenge here for all of us.

For those who proudly supported Trump, I must gently request that you re-examine that pride in the light of Christ.  For those who supported Trump believing he was the lesser of two evils, do not be arrogant, and rejoice not in the rulers of this age. Do not be boastful except in Jesus Christ, who is your Lord.  Now that the election is over, be reconciled to your brothers and sisters.  I have seen many examples of unsavory language from both camps, and so now more than ever, we as the Body of Christ ought to let love reign in our hearts.  I don’t know enough about Trump to assume anything about what will come from his term as President, but I do know that we have not been called to revile one another, boast in the policies of a temporary government, and increase division in His church, so may we be faithful to attend to loving deeply and radically as Jesus did.

For those who proudly supported Hillary, I also humbly suggest that you re-examine the grounds of that pride in light of Christ.  For those who supported Hillary believing she was the lesser of two evils, do not be self-righteous in your decision.  Do not allow yourself to be tempted to keep an account of the sins of another.  Do not continue to rail against your brothers and sisters who voted in opposition to you.  Righteousness is not on account of man’s works; if a man had indeed worked for his righteousness, should it not be his rightful wages?  However, we must believe that it is the gift that comes from an undeserved sacrifice.  We may believe that we voted for Hillary because we voted in the name of love, and yet I say to all of us that God alone is love.  To stand in the shadow of the Cross alone is to realize the eternal manifestation of love.  Let us love our brothers and sisters who voted for Trump because they are not any less deserving of salvation that we are; are we capable of dying to self in view of God’s infinite, unconditional mercy?  We must.

If there is any activism to participate in, it is only on our knees in faithful prayer.  Pray not in judgment that others would see the light of Christ; may we pray instead for our own hearts to joyfully submit to the sovereign will of God, recognizing these times as times in which His glory and love may boldly and richly be displayed in our lives.  I understand that the heart and the mind are inclined towards arguing for morality on both sides of this election, and yet will we continue to stifle the Spirit within us that calls us into deeper fellowship with Himself and one another?  In disappointment, call on Jesus’s name.  In sorrow, call on Jesus’s name.  In triumph, call on Jesus’s name.  Regardless of where we stand, may we find the grace to kneel before the throne of God and ask to be consecrated again unto Himself.  May God have mercy on us all not because the times seem bleak, but because we all lack the strength and the faith to serve His Kingdom in all aspects of our lives.

“Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.”

Fractured Faith.

Something that has invariably been flooding everyone’s news feed as of late is the constant stream of politics – “Ten Reasons to Vote for Hillary Clinton,” “Five Ways Trump Could Actually Make America Great Again,” and “Innumerable Explanations for why the United States Seems Headed for Disaster.”  Admittedly, I have never been the most informed political observant ever, but something about this particular presidential race is troubling.  Not only has this specific election threatened the unity of Americans in how they perceive themselves and those around them, but it is also common to see disunity among brothers and sisters in the Church, and this latter point is what draws my concern. In as measured and equitably as I can manage, I’d like to make a few cases for how our faith has been trumped by our politics and why we mustn’t let this be the case.

A popular approach to politics for quite a while has been the tactic of “mudslinging,” or the tarnishing of an opponent’s reputation. The ammo ranges from policy scoffing to personal insults, and it is, in my eyes, a decidedly un-Christian maneuver.  I recognize the naïveté in trying to apply ideal Christian standards to a staunchly secular arena, but my point is that we as brothers and sisters have partaken in the mudslinging.  Many times, I’ve witnessed brothers and sisters discrediting one another’s intelligence – even faith – for their political position.  So I ask: is this in keeping with what we as Christians believe? Is this what it is to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” as described in Ephesians 4:1-3? There is something deeply disturbing about how Clinton-supporting and Trump-supporting brothers and sisters, once so eager to say “Judge not” and “Speak the truth in love,” now jump at the chance to exercise their bookkeeping of either candidate’s (and possibly the candidate’s supporters’) sins. It’s almost as if we, who are desperately sinful and in great need of grace, believe that our choice of presidential candidate rests on the less sinful person!  As Christians, we seem to have been leaving our theology on the doorstep of political debate instead of seeking first the kingdom of God.

Now, it may seem like seeking first the kingdom of God, as Jesus says in Matthew 6:33, is both taken out of context but also ill-fitting in regards to the present context.  After all, one might argue, Jesus isn’t making a political statement when He’s saying that, or else we as Christians would have to want a kingship instead of a democracy. Yet why is that so objectionable? Is not the Kingship we seek (denoted with a capital K even!) a higher and richer governance? Even the Israelites of old had the desire to be ruled by a king, and it is not without considerable weightiness that we call our Lord the King of Kings.  Yet it seems that we, in our desire for self-preservation, our longing to be heard, and our pursuit of what we think is just, have chosen to extol the virtues of a system that reflects, in part, our relationship with Christ.  This is not a knock on our system of democracy or this country; those who know me know that even while in Canada, I missed my well-beloved United States of America.  However, what I am getting at is that taking our political system as fundamental to our beliefs over and above how we ought to walk in our faith, which I hold to be ideally fundamental, is problematic.  In a submissive relationship between a perfect and benevolent King and His obedient servants, it is clear whose will is to be carried out, for there is only one will – that of the Lord.  But if we treat our relationship with God as we treat our politics and come before God with a list of requests that we demand to be met, if we approach Him believing that He ought to honor our perceptions of what is just and what is fair, if we elevate ourselves to seeing eye to eye in terms of governing our own lives here on Earth while claiming to look ahead to the next life with Him, have we not indirectly affected our proper view of Himself as well?  I ask these questions to draw nigh to what I think is part of the proper context of Matthew 6:33; it is a matter of anxiety.  In our anxiety about the present situation and the future terrors, we as Christians have, I believe, lost sight of the kingdom of God.  This is manifested in our heated debates with believers and non-believers alike, how we think about people when they reveal who they’re supporting, and all the other avenues in which we could be choosing instead to seek first the kingdom of God.  I am choosing to be so bold as to say that who we vote for will not affect the kingdom of God at all.  How we treat one another, if we consider the set of believers to be citizens of the aforementioned kingdom, does affect the kingdom of God.

So, in closing, I’d like to encourage us to reflect on the boundaries of our faith in light of politics. Have we been cordoning off how seek the kingdom from how we practice politics? Are we treating one another with grace, despite heavy disagreement?  Are we allowing the human construct of politics to compromise the way we walk before one another and the world? Certainly it seems like our political future is at stake, but so is our testimony as Christians.  There’s a lot to be said about the fact that we as believers can’t stand united on the topic of presidency; we don’t even need to necessarily all believe that one candidate is the right candidate. However, we are failing to even relate to one another in love during the process, and I am strongly persuaded that it is because we don’t seek the kingdom of God through and through – we only seek it when it’s convenient for us. Let’s learn to love deeper and put anxiety aside during these times of political turmoil; let’s seek His kingdom and His righteousness in full confidence that our tomorrow is in His hands.

Revelations 22: Glory.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”

I have been greatly enjoying this portion of the last chapter of the whole Bible lately since my home church has been going through Revelations as of late, and it’s really provided me with an assurance of the things unseen.  Verse 5 alone has really been a means of lifting my spirits when I feel pressed on all sides; I mean come on! There is going to be a time when there will be no more night, and we won’t need light of lamp or the sun? And why? Because the Lord God will be our light. Does no one else see how ridiculous this is? Not only will we be in God’s presence, but we will be able to see and experience His full glory.  That’s actually breathtaking. Recently, I was meditating on the verse when listening to “The Ascension,” by Phil Wickham.  What struck me most was how many times I’ve sung “Let us start the ascension/Let’s begin the climb/Up this holy mountain/Where Your glory shines/Further up, further in/Just to be with You again/Let us start the ascension,” without truly understanding the glory that will shine as detailed in Revelations 22.  This led me to a deeper appreciation of just how the Word of God makes our experience of God a reality; when we fret about not feeling God or reaching a plateau in our faith, how thirsty for the Word are we? Having experienced both extremes, reading the Bible daily and not reading it, I can say that only when I’m engaged with the text is there revelation regarding who God is.  It’s going to be a short post because I just want to challenge my brothers and sisters reading it, as well as anyone seeking to know more of who God is, believer or otherwise – how full are our conversations with God? In singing worship, what is our experience of the reality of those lyrics?  In our relationship with God, how much of His Word teaches us something fresh of who He is?  The Lord is coming soon, brothers and sisters, and let’s not be found despising His Word to us upon His return.  We can manage at least that, if not more, can’t we?


A crashing wave upon a stone,

centered beyond its usual home.

Alone, the wind guides waves

back to shore so they can tell a poem.

What legends must they tell?

What fable is so pressing?

Beyond the horizon is a

return that needs addressing.

Swiftly, Lord, You are coming;

with love, You’ve waited all these years.

The stones of Your creation

are crying out, stained with ocean tears.

Oceans deeper than our fathoms,

Forests fuller than our dreams

speak to Your imagination

Lord of Lords, and King of Kings.

Forgive us when we are

silent about Your glory.

Make us each a crying stone

that speaks, in part, Your story.

May Your fullness reigns in us,

bearing through us some new fruit;

May You deeply speak to us,

sharing with us Your whole truth.

Though the mountains may now stand,

they will fall when waves have finished

telling of Your ceaseless mercy and

glory no more diminished.


The Finals.

If I don’t post this now, I will forever hold my peace, and that is a burden too heavy to bear, so I’m posting. Tonight, I watched as the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors to become the NBA Champions, and in a strange turn of events, I found myself cheering on LeBron and his band of merry, desperate-for-a-title men.  Yet in the midst of it all, I never had the presence of mind to stop and think about what was really going on in my attitude towards people I’ve never even met.

We are all cavaliers, and we are all warriors.  To say that this NBA Finals wasn’t a battle both literally and nominally would be an oversight of the tremendous effort put forth by both teams.  As Christians, our war is often with ourselves and the sin that we shelter; James 1:19-20 (ESV) says: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”  Only after I composed myself did I realize and repent for being entirely un-Christian in my treatment of these public figures.  I was stirred too deeply when Kyrie Irving hit the dagger three, and I was too blinded to show compassion to Draymond Green, whom I’ve gone so far as to say I hated.

It reminded me of a message I heard in college (wow, I can refer to college in the past tense) about how sporting events stir us so deeply, and yet, the narratives weaved into these events pale in comparison to the passion of Christ for the lost.  I began to realize that I was living out the negative example provided in that sermon, and so, I’m grateful that God taught me a lesson through these NBA Finals; we are all part of one battle, and we shouldn’t glory in the sufferings of others nor should we boast of our own triumphs.  To continue drawing parallels to basketball, we should view life with a love of the game and all of its intricacies and complexities instead of just choosing a side to support regardless of rhyme or reason.  It’s only human nature to pick a side, but what can we really do at the end of the day besides propagate unnecessary ill will towards others in taking such stubborn positions? The whole Ayesha Curry situation, for example, is rather unfortunate; taking a side on it is subject to radical volatility, as people are moved to condemn critics as sexist because they’re trying to silence a female opinion while people who agree with her are seen as people biased for their own wellbeing.  We’ve steadily forgotten about the Christian decency that comes from the Gospel; the fruits of the spirit wither away in the heat of our momentary passions for “the love of the game” when we lose sight of the love of the Lord.

These Cavaliers and these Warriors are all of equally noble standing and fought an equally difficult fight; perhaps it’s weak to yield to gracious professionalism and pay respects to the performance they’ve put on for all of us around the world, but I think it’s worth taking a moment thinking about LeBron and how he’s a father with three kids (the memes are endless), Draymond and his mother, JR Smith and his family, and Steph Curry and his wife and children as just people put in a place where impossibly high standards are expected to be met on a regular basis.  At the end of the day, they’re just doing their job, and what a job they’ve done – we love them for what they do.  It’s easy to criticize referees, belabor complaints about rigging, and mock the maturity of the players on the court. It’s much harder to sit back and appreciate that it’s a beautiful drama we have the privilege of watching – nothing more and nothing less.  Let’s not let seven games of the highest level of basketball obfuscate our vision of who Christ is and what He expects of us in all circumstances.

It’s been a great NBA Finals; thank you, Cleveland and Golden State, for bearing with us.  Cheers to next year’s NBA season – go Spurs.