Time to Walk on Water

Often times, when I am having a difficult day, when I don’t feel like doing everyday life, when words are hard, and emotions are high (some call it being in their “feels”), I like do this little mind exercise where in my mind, I go to my favorite place in the entire world.

Morro Bay, California. Let me tell you a little about this place…

Morro Bay is a coastal, waterfront city in SLO (San Luis Obispo) County in central California. It’s a unique little city of about 10,000 people or so who get the pleasure of living in one of California’s hidden gems. Beyond the beautiful ocean view, amazing seafood restaurants, and the unique lifestyles of those who inhabit Morro Bay, there is something that makes this place my favorite place in all the world…

morro rock.jpg

Morro Rock.

The city’s most striking feature. A 576 foot high VOLCANIC PLUG. Yes, you read that correctly, a large, massive, almost two football fields high rock that plugs a volcano. And not just an inactive volcano, but a very alive and active volcano. Morro Rock is one in a series of similar plugs that stretch in a line inland called the Nine Sisters. To behold such a sight is such a breath taking experience and one that I got to relive over and over again on every visit.

There was something about watching the waves crash against that rock. The way in which no matter how many times the waves would hit it, that rock wouldn’t move for anything. Beyond the rock was the Pacific Ocean and all of its beauty, glory, and ambient features. There, I could find my same usual spot with a blanket in the sand only a few feet from where that day’s tide would reach. In those moments, listening to the ocean play it’s beautiful melody and watching it’s waves crash on Morro Rock, I would get lost in all my God was displaying before me. This here, was my escape.

This was my space

This was my safe haven

This was my refuge

In 2013, the Australian church, Hillsong and one of their bands, Hillsong United released an album entitled; “Zion” and on that album was the song “Oceans.” The song quickly became a church (big “C”) favorite with churches all over the world playing it as a part of their worship sets during weekend worship services. The church I was serving at in California was one of them and I vividly remember singing that song at least once every two weeks during worship services. I became so enamored with this song, I made it core piece of my weekly visit to Morro Bay. Sitting on blanket, with my feet deep in the sand, and in my ear, with Taya Smith proclaiming the beauty of following Jesus on the ocean, my mind and heart would settle to a restful state, allowing God to speak into me the wonders of his love, grace, and truth.

Your grace abounds in deepest waters

Your sovereign hand will be my guide

Where feet my fail and fear surrounds me

You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

Over the last few days, I’ve been finding myself visiting Morro Bay in my mind and sitting on the blanket only a few feet away from the day’s tide with my feet dug into the sand and the ocean’s waves crashing against the rock, the sun’s horizon rising in all of it’s beauty with oceans playing in my headphones.

The reason for this relates to the story of the song. Oceans is based off one of the more well known stories of the Bible in Peter who was a follower (also known as a disciple) of Jesus. In the story, the disciples had been sent off into the sea on a boat while Jesus went to pray alone. In the evening, with the waves and wind creating havoc, Jesus meets them on the sea…by walking on water. Read the story for yourself:

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” [Matthew 14:22-33 NLT]

I can not fathom what that moment was like for the disciples. Here you are, on a boat, in the middle of the raging sea, and out of the craziness of the moment comes a person, literally walking on water. I would have too thought it was a ghost if I am being absolutely honest. Actually, with the circumstances as they were (waves and wind trying to kill us), I would have thought I had died and this was the dark underworld or something, and this ghost was the grim reaper coming for my soul (I watch too much teen titan…it’s such a good cartoon).

However, as we see, it’s Jesus, walking on the surface of the sea (ocean). I mean he is quite literally walking on water, not sinking, not swimming, not anything else but frankly walking on water. How would you have reacted upon seeing such a sight? How would you respond in that moment? Often times, when I read this story, I am fascinated with Peter’s response. Of all the disciples present in the boat, Peter is the one who steps up to challenge the scene and what he is beholding in this moment. Look at his response:

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

We see the boldness and zeal of Peter right away as he challenges the scene, “If it is you Lord, tell me to come to you on the water.” Peter doesn’t pull any punches with his request to Jesus and wants to know immediately if this really was the Jesus he had been following. I wonder if in the back of his mind, he’s thinking that Jesus is just going to confirm his identity and get in the boat and then like most people do, pull out an ID and verify that it was indeed Jesus (isn’t that what most people would do?). However, Jesus accepted his challenge and tells him to “come” out on the water and come to him.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters 

Wherever you would call me

Jesus calls Peter out onto the waters where he is at. This image to me is so powerful because of what I assume Jesus is calling Peter to. You see, I believe that is what I would call a “forward” calling.

Forward: onward so as to make progress; toward a successful conclusion

Jesus is calling Peter forward to something he’s never known. Something that is beyond the capacity of his mental and emotional makeup and understanding. Something that would undoubtedly change his life for the betterment of his spiritual and physical being. With the simple command of “come,” Jesus is giving Peter the opportunity to move…

Move forward with his life

Move forward in his faith

Move forward in his purpose

So Peter gets out of the boat and sure enough, begins walking on the surface of waters. Like, can we just take a moment to circle this big moment in the story. Peter, a mere human-man is walking on water. This isn’t a trick, there is no one under the water holding him up, there isn’t a trick glass platform that he’s walking on. This is purely the surface of the water that Peter finds himself on. The story could end here and we would all be amazed that this actually happened. If the story ended here, we could take from this that if we have faith like Peter, than we too, could find ourselves walking on water (either in the literal sense or the metaphorical sense). But as you know or as you will find out, the story doesn’t end there. And I don’t know about you, but thank God it doesn’t.

No sooner than we read Peter’s journey on the water, the writer of the story says that “when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.” Jesus then reaches for him and as he does, he says to Peter, “ Faint-heart, what got into you? (The message)” Like, I can imagine for a second the look on Jesus’ face when Peter starts to sink. Some have said that Jesus was angry with Peter for not believing he could do as Jesus was doing, others have said that Jesus was disappointed in the fact that Peter didn’t believe enough in Jesus.

I think it was more than that.

I think Jesus was heartbroken because this isn’t the way it was supposed to be. We were never intended to be low on faith. We were never intended to have doubt in our creator. Jesus was there at the apex of creation when God the Father created his most prized creation in humanity. God created humanity last as a way of putting the icing on the cake of creation. Humanity was the summation of God’s divine glory and power in creation. We were created to live in this harmony with our creator in which doubts, fears, insecurity, and feelings of inadequacy didn’t exist. And here was Jesus, looking down at his most prized creation, sinking into the ocean…

jesus-reaching-down.jpg

Full of doubt

Full of fears

Full of insecurities

Full of feeling inadequate

This wasn’t supposed to be like that

But, what about Peter in this moment? He’s the one sinking into the ocean, desperately clinging to Jesus for life, probably assuming he’s about to die. What about him? What is he thinking? It’s interesting to me that when I’ve heard this story taught, people tend to jump from point A to point Z. They say things like, “Peter walked on water, but began to sink. So Peter should of had more faith.” “Don’t be like Peter and have little faith in God.” “If only Peter had more faith in God, what great things he could have done. Make sure you have more faith than Peter had.”

A to Z and nothing in between

I wonder if anyone ever stopped to asked the question of…why?

Why did Peter take his eyes off of Jesus?

Why didn’t Peter trust Jesus more?

Why did Peter start looking at the wind and waves at his feet?

Why didn’t Peter believe more that he could in fact do what Jesus was doing?

I believe the most difficult question to answer sometimes is the “why” behind why we do what we do or more accurately, why we do what we don’t want to do. There are so many mysteries to the human complexity that is beyond our capacity for knowledge and understanding. I know at the very floor of the problem is sin. It’s the truth, but also the easy answer to all of it. But once you move beyond sin, which we could say is the underlining cause, what are the symptoms of why we do what we don’t want to do? Why did Peter doubt and looked away? What was it that changed his belief that he could do what Jesus was doing? What changed his heart?

You call me out upon the waters

The great unknown where feet may fail

And there I find You in the mystery

In oceans deep my faith will stand

I wonder if Peter, as he looked around in the unknown, started to do what humans do best in clinging to what he already knew…his past. Yes, I think it has to do with faith, undoubtedly, Peter didn’t trust in the unknown. Peter didn’t trust in what Jesus was offering him. Peter didn’t trust in the forward calling to move beyond what was known into the unknown. In order for Peter’s continual journey to stay on top of the water, Peter would have to trust something he has yet to see, something he knows nothing about, and only Jesus knows. Peter would have to embrace this future unknown without any hint as to the outcome. And maybe, just maybe…he couldn’t. It’s easy to hold on to something we know then it is to grab on something we have no idea of where it will lead or take us. The unknown is difficult and so we stay and hold on to what we know. We cling to the past, because we know it so well, even if it was the most painful past we’ve been a part of. We cling with our hands tightly grasping around it, unwilling to let go, all the while hoping in some instances, that the past will repeat itself. If we can get back what we walked away from, what left us, what we lost, then and only then will we be ready to face the future.

I can relate to Peter’s situation in my own personal life. There was a time when I was hanging on to a dream. A dream birthed out of past that wasn’t healthy and good for me. Nonetheless, I held on to it, hoping to someday, see it come back to me and find me right where I was. I never left the moment. I held on to it as if my life depended on it. Hoping against hope that someday, somehow, it would return. Hoping that it would somehow find it’s way back to my future. I can’t begin to tell you how that effected the person I was, and the person I was becoming. It shaped the way I dealt with people, how I handled situations, how I closed myself off to anyone and everyone, and how I viewed my relationship with Jesus. I would run from good opportunities to move on because I didn’t want to let go of the past. I prevented better, more healthy relationships from forming because I wasn’t ready to let someone in like that again. I even kept Jesus at a distance because I was ashamed I had let our relationship slip as well as scared of what He was calling me to. So when Jesus called me out onto the water, I would take a step and then look back and sink as well.

I am not so different than Peter

You are not so different than Peter

We are all Peter in some form or fashion at one point or another

Giving up the past is hard. It has come to define who you are, how you are perceived, what you run too, who you hold onto, how you live, how you deal, how you decide, and how you find joy, happiness, contentment, and much more. Maybe you were like me, holding on to something in hopes of a possible return. Maybe you’ve let your past define who you are, good or bad, it’s who you are and you can’t see beyond that.

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

In the presence of my Savior

Sometimes, instead of them getting back in the boat and going on about their business,  I wish Jesus would have pulled Peter back up on top of the water and allowed him to continue his walk. Can you imagine what that would have done for his faith in that moment? However, this wouldn’t be the end of Peter’s story as we know or as you continue to read. Peter would go on to have more doubting, holding on to past, fearful moments. In the same manner, Peter would also go on to be a lead part of founding the greatest movement humanity has ever seen. There are currently an estimated 2.2 billion Christians worldwide. That’s roughly 31% of the estimated 6.9 billon people on planet earth. This number doesn’t include the people who have passed away that were followers of Jesus. This number also doesn’t include the many who became followers of Jesus at the creation of the movement OR those who’s faith was accredited to them before the cross.

As for me…

I decided I can’t live in the past anymore. I can’t hold on to what once was. As painful as it may be to finally let go, I, like Peter, have been given a chance to walk on the water of my faith and face the unknown with a sense of purpose and clarity. No longer, can I and will I hold on to something that holds me back and keeps me from moving forward. When Jesus calls me out onto the water, His desire is for me is to keep my eyes fixed on Him, trusting that even in the unknown, that…

He is with me

He is for me

He is moving me

It isn’t going to be easy. I can hear Jesus now (reaching out for my hand) “Come as you are. No questions asked. But just know, out here on the ocean, in the great unknown, I LOVE you too much to LEAVE you how I FOUND you. I’ll MOVE you forward, and it will be PAINFUL. But TRUST in me and I’ll BE by your side always.”

The same is true for you. Jesus is holding His hand out to you as He stands on the water. Patiently waiting for you to trust Him in his forward calling of your faith. I beg of you to take His hand, step out of the boat and into the great unknown that is your ocean. Allow Jesus to take you where your trust doesn’t restrict His forward movement in your life. Try not to look back at the past and hold onto it with death grips, embrace the mystery of what the future holds and if you must look back, look back at the hard, good, and great moments and what it taught you and prepared you for as you move forward.

May you remember the good of the past

May you remember to not stay in the past

May you yearn for the future

May you be willing to embrace the mystery that the future holds

And may you with everything you got be willing to step out of the boat and unto the water

Last Word | Forgiveness

Last Word - Forgiveness.001

Recently, I was having a discussion with my seven-year old daughter. The conversation centered around her need to have the last word in any argument, disagreement, conversation, etc. The point I was attempting to make to her was that it wasn’t always necessary for her to get the last word in the conversation. “Sometimes,” I told her, “saying nothing at the end is just as powerful as saying something.” I am not sure how much of that she took to heart since we are currently in a disagreement about who should clean up her room and I’ve tried to end the conversation several times and she keeps trying to make a “final” point.

Now that I think about it…maybe I’m the one who needs to understand the power of silence at the end of a conversation.

It’s just so hard however to end a discussion without giving it a final statement, a grand finale, the last thought to exist in the conversation. Last words have so much power in them from any stand point. Whether it’s the last word in an argument, or the last words of a dying person, the last word carries exponential weight and meaning. Let me give you a few…

Famous philosopher, Karl Marx said:

“Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.”

Rome’s first Emperor, Augustus Caesar said:

“I found Rome of clay; I leave it to you of marble.”

Creator of the theory of evolution, Charles Darwin said:

“I am not the least afraid to die.”

Inventor and painter, Leonardo da Vinci last said:

“I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.”

World renown music artist, Bob Marley said:

“Money can’t buy life.”

And last but certainly not least…from Mr. Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy said:

“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP.” (LLAP is short for “Live long and prosper.” Those of you who are Star Trek fans will know this saying well.)

Last words have a way of making a moment, situation, conversation final. That’s why we put so much power in the last will and testament of a person who has died. These are their final wishes to close out their time on earth.

When I think about powerful final words, the thought begins and ends with the final words of Jesus. Seven short statements he gave during his final moments on the cross. I want to explore those final moments with you for a bit and see what we can garner from his last words.

“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing…”

Luke 23:34 (NLT)

Are you kidding me!?

You read that correctly. I promise you, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. Are you kidding me!? That’s exactly how I feel about this verse every time I read it. It blows my mind that after all Jesus had done for these people, all the miracles, all the kind words, here he is, dying on a wooden cross. He’s taking his last breaths at the hands of these people and all he wants to do in this moment is request forgiveness for the people who put him there.

There’s no way I would be able to do what he did in that moment. What I would have actually said to those people with my last dying breaths can’t be written down. Yet, Jesus didn’t have anger or animosity in his heart. He had forgiveness and he wanted the Father to do the same. Jesus offered his life in place of our lives, so it makes sense that he would request forgiveness for those who put him on the cross in his last moments.

For some people, forgiveness comes somewhat easy to them. They can be offended and not think twice about extending grace to the offender. For others, forgiveness takes time, energy is expended swinging back and forth on whether to extend grace and pardon the offender. Forgiveness is a powerful action in which we could all get better at. No wonder Jesus in his dying moments asked for forgiveness from the Father for his offenders. He knew the power it had over the human heart.

Jesus understood that forgiveness had the power to change a person. It could remove every bit of unhealthy emotion from a person’s relation to another. Think with me for a second about that person in your life that really offended you in some form or fashion. Maybe it was a family member, a former friend, current or former spouse that you have yet to extend forgiveness to. Maybe you’ve been harboring these emotions for days, months, or even years. Let me ask you a question, what has it done to your other relationships? How has that one unforgivable moment shaped how you relate to others?

Forgiveness gives you the ability to release that hurt once and for all. It’s power over your heart allows for you to move on and live the kind of life God designed for you without allowing past hurts to rule over you. Not only does it work for people who’ve hurt you, it also work for self forgiveness. Jesus died so that you wouldn’t live a life chained to your mistakes and past regrets. You don’t have to continue to beat yourself up over your mistakes.

Jesus knew and understood all of this.

So instead of exacting justice or begging for the father to let him off the hook. He took it all and in his dying moments, as he breathed his last breaths, asked the father to forgive you and me.

Dusting off the blog

Old book and dusty heart

It’s been awhile…

My last post was 10.6.2015 which equates to one year and nine months since I posted something new on my blog. I am not entirely sure why it’s been so long since I was able to string some words together for your reading pleasure. You could blame life, family, work, lack of ambition, drive, etc. There was a time when all I could think about was my next post. What was I going to blog about? How could I create a intriguing blog post that people would read? But, as fate would have it, blogging went by the wayside. Life would eventually be consumed with schedules, parks, games (as a hobby, I officiate high school athletics), and all other sorts of excuses I could come up with.

In this new season of life, I find myself with so many thoughts about life in Jesus. I am constantly pondering questions about faith, spiritual growth, love, relationships, and so forth.

I need an outlet for these thoughts and questions.

I need a place I can express all the jumble up mess that is my head.

I don’t pretend to have it all figured out or even have it all together for a matter of fact. Let me be clear…I AM BROKEN and in no way an expert on anything Jesus. I don’t claim to be the end all be all when it comes to following Jesus. There are far better people in this world to look up to when it comes to “spiritual role model” material. However, on this journey we call faith, I’ve experienced and been witnessed to Jesus having done and currently doing extraordinary things in the life of people I’ve encountered in my faith journey.

This blog has always been about taking thoughts on faith, experiences in life, and the teachings of Jesus and meshing them together in a fresh way for people to simply understand and experience Jesus in a way that means something to them. Most of what I write about won’t be some new thought or idea, but something I discovered that’s been there all along and just need dusted off and reclaimed.

My hope is that if you happen to stumble onto one of my post, you’ll be inspired to discover the old, but tried and true messages of Jesus for your personal journey.

And hopefully, it won’t be a long time between this post and the next one…

No promises however!

Grace & Peace.

The Gospel and Us: God is for us

God for us

Several years ago, I sat in a restaurant for lunch with a friend who also happened to be my boss. We had become good friends after working with each other for about 3 months. That day was like any old day, where we would meet up for lunch, discuss football or basketball, talk about what was going on at work, etc… I had come to really appreciate our friendship in the sense that I didn’t have many friends who I could relate to in the way that I could relate to him in that time period of my life. We had similar backgrounds in family history, upbringing, and how we often dealt with life problems. He was older by five years, so I somewhat looked up to him as a role model in my life at the time.

I remember this one particular day and conversation like it just happened yesterday. It was a few days after Christmas and its one of those conversations that you just don’t forget. My friend walked into the restaurant, sat down and we proceeded with the usual small talk around our weekends, the latest sports news and scores, plans for work that day. The waitress came around to take our drink and food orders and then she left. The place the was somewhat at capacity that day, which was unusually surprising considering not many people like to eat there. The waitress came back with our drink orders and told us that our food would be out in the next 15 mins (she knew us well as regulars).

“My wife is leaving me…”

Five words that changed my friend for the rest of his life.

Five words that told me my friend’s world was falling apart.

Five words that painted a picture of how much pain and brokenness exist in the world today.

As I looked him in the eye to try and grasped what he just told me, I could see the pain, I could see the devastation, I could see the confusion, I could see the sense of being lost. His world had just came crashing down on him and he had no idea why, when, how, what, or where. All he knew was that his wife was leaving him, meaning he would have to split his time with his kids, meaning a potential custody battle could take place, meaning he would have to hire a divorce lawyer, meaning he would have to get a second job to be able to make enough to provide for his kids, meaning life as he knew it was over.

He eventually placed his face in his hand as to signal he needed time to re-process that thought all over again. The waitress returned with our food and asked if we needed anything. I told her we needed the check and some to-go boxes. I felt this wasn’t the best place to have this conversation with my friend. He needed some privacy to flesh out all that was bottled up inside of him. We returned to his office where he proceeded to breakdown and rehash the entire conversation with his wife. He woke up Christmas morning to open presents with his family only to find them completely packed and ready to leave.

I bring up this moment to tell you about a question he asked me in the retelling of the events surround his wife leaving him. In the midst of his tears, anger, confusion, disappointment, he asked me a question that at the time seemed so big and left me speechless.

“Why is God working against me?”

Isn’t that a question we’ve all asked a time or two? If we’re being completely honest in this moment, we can all admit to having those thoughts. Could God be possibly working against me. It just seems like no matter what I do, nothing works in my favor. We’ve all been there and done that. Its human nature for us to doubt the man upstairs in his dealings with us. If everything is going against us, then there is no way for God to be working for us or with us right? That’s just the way the world works. We’re either the lucky ones or we are just out of luck.

Wrong…

One of the most beautiful things about the Gospel is that its a story about God, his people, and his plan of restoration. The key word in this point is the word “Restoration.” God is actively restoring us to him. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t give me a picture of God working against us, more like God working for us. How can we read the bible and not see over and over again God actively…

Pursuing us…

Redeeming us…

Forgiving us…

Restoring us…

The Gospel is a beautiful story of how this creator created this world and its inhabitants and desired to be in connection with them. However, deception and doubt entered the picture and the creator lost his connection from his creation. Since that moment, the creator has been actively restoring his creation back to him. The Gospel isn’t a story of God working against us, it’s a story of God working for us in ways we couldn’t begin to imagine or think of. And the crazy thing is that it doesn’t stop there… there is more to the story of God’s inner workings.

Paul alludes to this in his letter to the Roman followers. He makes this claim that God is working all things for the “GOOD” of those who love God. So everything that happens in the life of those who love God is being worked for the “GOOD.” Let’s think about that for a second because there are some profound implications being made here. For those who love and desire to live a life in Jesus, all things in their life are being worked together for the “GOOD.” Not only are the good things being worked for good, but also the not so good things, the bad things, the ugly things, the “let’s not talk about it” things.

The broken marriage…

The bankrupted financials…

The disobedience child…

The medical mystery…

The loneliness issue…

ALL THINGS are being worked for our good and in the end we will come to see that God has been working for us and not against us. God desires to restore his creation back in connection with him and in order to do that, He is using everything in our lives to move us back in that direction. You see for example, God has this “30,000ft” view and can see all things and orchestrate all things where as we can only see what’s right in front of us and only take care of whats right in front of us. So why would we ever consider God working against us? What would make us think that?

Would it be all the bad things that have happened to us?

Would it be when things didn’t go our way?

Would it be when we felt so distance from our creator?

God is never against those who love him and call him Father. God is always for those whom trust, hope, and have faith in him. Paul continues in his letter that if God is for us, who can be against us? I think that’s the better question for us to ask when things are falling apart. Instead of questioning God’s plan and provision for us, why not asked who in their right mind would want to be against me with God on my side? God’s love for us creation extended beyond just creation, but all the way to the cross, into the grave, sealed in the tomb, only to rise again. That’s the unlimited, unconditional, never-ending, unfailing love of God right there on display.

His love is unending…

His grace is forever-reaching…

His work is always for you…

The Gospel is the story of God, his creation, and his work at restoring what’s rightfully his….

That’s you and me…

Because He is always with you and always working for you.

The Gospel & Us: God is always with us

God with us

A few nights ago, I was reading the bible with my daughter as we (attempt) to do every night before she falls asleep. It’s a practice that I believe isn’t about her learning as much it is about us learning together. I want her to see that spending time in the word is good for the soul, especially before she sleeps. I also want her to see that her dad’s willingness to interrupt whatever he’s doing to spend time with her for the name of Jesus. I hope someday, she will be able to look back on those nights and attribute that to one of the reasons she became a follower of Jesus. On this particular night however, my daughter asked me a question. Normally, as we read, I use different voices to read each story, she laughs, and then I ask her questions about the story and how we can apply it to our lives (with hints of how to answer the question…lol). But on this night, she wanted to know something. She asked me, “Daddy, what is a gospel?”

As a pastor, you would think this answer would come flowing with ease and simplicity. You would think that I would be able to answer this question with no hesitation. You would think that I wouldn’t have to think about the answer or how to form a response. Well you’re assumption would be wrong. I found myself in that moment searching and racking my brain, unable to produce a simple answer for my 5 yr old to understand. It’s not because I didn’t know the answer! I know what a gospel is, I know what THE gospel is! But she’s five…not 25 or 35. I can’t give her the theological break down of the gospel, nor did I want to give her the kid answer of just the “good news.” I wanted to give her an answer that would resonate with her, that would give her comfort but also conviction about how she fits into the gospel story. I wanted to give her the good, the bad, and the ugly news of this life and the life to come. Sugarcoating it is a disservice to her (no offense to parents who do – you raise your kids as you feel led), but condemning the news only creates more confusion and doubt. I said to her, “Keira, the gospel is God’s story of how he is reconnecting his creation to its creator. Its God’s way of telling us the FULL story.

I proceeded to link Adam and Eve to our “bad behavior” and how the rest of the bible was God trying to show us we needed him. Jesus then comes (who is God in the human skin) to help us reconnect with God. After Jesus died and came back to life (you should have seen her face), We now can connect with God in a very special way. I said to her…”Keira, this is the gospel story, God is always with us, God is always for us (those who love God), and God is always ahead of us. We prayed, told her I loved her forever and ever and kissed her good night. That was the end of our discussion. However, it wasn’t the end of my mind racing with all the possibilities from that conversation. Not only was I thinking about the implications it had for Keira and her question (it means Jesus is doing a work and I am so thankful that He allows me to be her father and to teach her about him), but the implications it had for me, for you, for everyone.

The Gospel isn’t just the “good” news about us never having to face hell or disconnection from our creator is we believe and live in Jesus. It’s not only about the “bad” news of our disobedience against our creator or the depravity of humanity and it’s lost cause. The Gospel isn’t just about the theological theories or sound doctrines we christians fight for or against. The Gospel isn’t just about the outward missional or the inward discipleship focus of the church. The Gospel is ALL OF THE ABOVE, it is all inclusive, and more importantly, it is all about God, God’s story, God’s plan, and of course…US!

The Gospel in essence can be summed up into these three things (in my opinion)…

 God is with us always…

 God is for us always…

 God is ahead of us always…

God Is With Us Always:

Driving interstate 40 from Paso Robles, CA to Indianapolis, IN, viewing the mountainous terrain, seeing the depths of the Grand Canyon, getting married, watching plants grow, seeing rain, being present at the birth of new life, flying 30,000 ft in the air, watching people of different nations come together…

How can you NOT believe that God’s presence is always with us? I always find it funny when I hear people pray and ask God to “show up” or to be “near” with them on that certain day. It’s not that they aren’t taking God serious, its more so that they don’t think big enough. When you wake each morning and breathe life again, how can you not think God was there in that moment? When you avoid a near death experience of spilling your Starbucks coffee on you, how can you not think God was somehow the one who prevented it? When the doctor comes back into the room and the look on his face tells you your world is about to come crashing down, how can you not think that God is holding you tight in that moment? God isn’t some magic genie that shows up only in times of need or when you “call” name. God is the God who is ALWAYS with you.

The Gospel speaks to this truth (when I say “Gospel,” I am referring to the entire 66 books – inspired word of God). We can see though out the entirety of scripture, this forever present God who despite our mis-guided attempts at doing this life alone, continually make known his ongoing, never-ending, never failing presence in the story of humanity.

God was with the first humans even after their disobedience allowed brokenness and disconnection to enter into the human story.

God was with Cain even after he killed his brother.

God was with Noah during probably the worst corruption in human history.

God was with the hebrew slaves before Egypt, during Egypt, and after Egypt.

God was with the chosen nation even in its disobedience.

God was with us in the flesh.

God was with us on the cross.

God was with us in the grave.

God was with us at the resurrection.

God was with us at the ascension.

We don’t have to ask God to be with us because He is already there. He has always been there. He will always be there.

In one of the many moments of Jesus, the writers of the New Testament records a statement that has huge implications as it relates to how God will deal with us after Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection. The writer tells us to keep our focus on the things of God and be happy with what we have because he (he being Jesus) said, “…I will never leave you, nor will I forsake you.” If we have hope, trust, and faith in the one who is called sustainer, perfecter, author, cornerstone, foundation, how can we not know, believe, and trust that the LORD is with us always!

As the song goes…

“ You will be our guide to the end, the LORD is with me, He will NOT forsake me.”

Our understanding of this amazing truth leads us to a better understanding of the Gospel as it relates to us! When we know, believe, and trust in the fact that God is always with us then we can find all that we need in Him.

We can find freedom from our brokenness…

We can find hope in a hopeless world…

We can find healing not just physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually…

We can find strength to continue on…

We can find mercy and forgiveness not only for ourselves but for others who have hurt us…

We can find restoration in our creator…

When you allow this truth to resonate within, you will begin to see life in a whole new way. The things that use to seem normal and mundane become alive again. No longer will that scroll through the park seem boring. You begin to view life in the question of “what isn’t God’s presence in?” The answer I hope you find is…

Nothing…God is always present and with us

ALWAYS…

(Come back for the 2nd installment of “The Gospel & Us: God is always for us”)

Loving a Gracious Truth

grace and truth

 

“You’re either too hard or too soft on her. You need to find a balance of being the disciplinarian and loving father instead of either or.” 

It’s become a mantra that my wife often repeats to me in my relations with our oldest daughter Keira. You see, it’s not that I am this strict disciplinarian all the time, everyday of her life. No, the problem lies in the fact that one day I am a strict disciplinarian and then on another day, Keira can do no wrong. On any given day, my watchful eye sees everything she has done wrong and holds her accountable to her actions while on other days, I hand out free passes like its Christmas. I struggle to find the balance of holding her accountable and allowing her to be a kid and make mistakes. I desire to be a father who teaches Keira how to live this life in the way of Jesus, pointing her to the all encompassing, never-failing, unending love of Jesus. I desire to teach her about what it means to live for Jesus and how we got about that in the truths we find in the scriptures. I also want her to know that in our mistakes, there is forgiveness and an extension of latitude.

 

I want her to know the love we find in Jesus…

I want her to know the grace we find in Jesus…

I want her to know the truth we find in Jesus…

 

My struggles as a father to find the balance of being a disciplinarian and loving father is not unlike our struggles as christians to find the balance of displaying grace as we speak truth into the lives of other people. It’s not like we are intentionally trying to struggle with this issue. However, sometimes we let truth get in the way of offering grace and often let grace get in the way of speaking and teaching the truths of Jesus. I will be the first to raise my hand and admit to this struggle. There are days where I am more gracious than I need to be and others where truth is the only thing that matters. The problem is that we tend to gravitate to one side of the equation…either we believe grace abounds or truth avails. Why can’t it be both? Why can’t grace be displayed as we teach the truth? Why can’t we teach the truth surrounded and immersed in grace? Jesus desires for us…

 

To show love…

To display grace…

To speak truth…

 

Those three things are not separate from each other in any form or fashion, we need all three to work in a cohesive manner for this life in Jesus to work. Just as we see with the Triune Godhead (God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit) who work in one accord and never apart from each other. The same can be said for love, grace, and truth. They are interconnected and immersed in each other. They run parallel of each other and are intertwined through each other.

 

Father + Son + Spirit = Life

Love + Grace + Truth = Life

 

We are called to love others as the Father has loved us and gave us his son for the payment of our brokenness and sins. It is only through the love from God that we are able to love others. Regardless of background, past history, nationality, sexual orientation or preference, we are to love people with a love that consumes them to know Jesus and live for Jesus. 

We are called to display grace in all that we say or do to others. We must remember that the grace we receive is something we really don’t deserve, however, because we serve a gracious God and Savior, he freely gives it to us so that we can be united in him for the rest of eternity. Everyone we encounter in this life should see a gracious person living in the light of a gracious God willing to offer a gracious way to be reconnected to him. 

We are called to live, speak, and teach truth. We are all broken and desolate people in desperate need of a risen savior who has power over sin and death. However, unless we run to Jesus and away from our brokenness, we are destine to spend the rest of forever separated from our creator. This is a universal truth that needs to be known, needs to be taught, needs to be spoken. We must not shy away in fear from this truth. We must stand for the cause of Christ. Jesus said that he did not come to this world to abolish the law, but he came that the law would be lived out perfectly which would allow him to be the perfect payment for our sins.

 

We are called to Love…

We are called to Grace…

We are called to Truth…

 

In the scriptures, the follower John writes in his gospel that Jesus was the “word” and the word was with God and the word “was” God. This is a pretty powerful and profound statement to make in his day and age. Here he was claiming that Jesus was not only sent by God to save us, but more so, Jesus WAS GOD! So this man who had flesh as we do, who had emotions as we do, who had temptations as we do was fully human and yet at the same time, was fully God. 

 

He was human in the flesh…

He was savior in the flesh…

He was God in the flesh…

 

It doesn’t stop there however, John doesn’t stop there with the parallels and the immersion of more than one entity or characteristics. John compounds this god/man with another parallel. Not only was the Son of God, God himself, not only did the Son of God who was God himself became flesh, not only did the Son of God who had become flesh come to live among humans, but also the Son of God who was God himself who became flesh and arrived to dwell among us came in the fullness of his glory… full of GRACE AND TRUTH. 

 

You can’t separate the two…

You can’t have grace without truth…

You can’t have truth without grace…

 

My call as a father is to love Keira with everything I’ve got and to lead her in a life filled with and surrounded and immersed in the name of Jesus. I am to love and offer grace and latitude to her so that she can do the same to others all the while teaching her what it means to live for Jesus and helping her understand the errors of her mistakes. Just as Jesus does for his followers and God does for his creation, I need to do for my daughters. 

In the same way, as followers of Jesus, we need to take to this world the love, grace, and truth of Jesus. We are the light as the follower Matthew tells us. We are a light in the darken world and only we have the truth, grace, and love that can save this world. We need to take ALL of it to the people. Not just love, not just grace, and not just truth, but all of it. 

 

“We show love as we display grace while we’re speaking and teaching truth.” 

 

May you know and feel the love of Jesus…

May you know and display the grace of Jesus…

May you know and live the truth of Jesus…

And may you boldly, proudly, intentionally show love, display grace, and teach the truth.