Found In You.

wesblackburn —  January 27, 2014 — Leave a comment

Today’s song for #MusicMonday is from Vertical Church and it’s called “Found In You.”

(Can’t see the video? Click here to be redirected to the YouTube video.)

If you pressed me to identify the most transformational truth that God has used to shape my life as a Christ follower, I’d point you to the simple fact that God can always be trusted to have the best interests of his children at heart. That doesn’t mean that we always get what we want, but exactly what we need. (I hated that my mom made me go to the dentist every six months as a kid, but I know that’s exactly what I needed to have teeth now as a 25-year-old.)

In Galatians 5:1, Paul writes that “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” In other words, God’s agenda in sending Christ to offer his life for us wasn’t to get something from us, but because he desired something for us: freedom. In another verse, Paul would write that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). In other words, when I go where God is, I’m connecting myself to the source of ultimate freedom. When I spend time with him, I’m getting connected to the source of life, freedom, and every other good thing.

Truly, all we could ever want (and definitely need) is found within Jesus. But for some reason, that always feels counterintuitive to me. It’s probably because the culture in which we live inundates us with messages that all we want or need is found in a relationship, in buying this new thing, in owning a particular kind of house, or having a certain type of job (or something else). But the more and more we discipline and train ourselves to desire Christ, the more and more I think we are going to find satisfaction, life, and freedom in him. I hope you are led to discover that in a really cool way today.

The story of Noah – a man that was probably seen as coo-coo for cocoa puffs and who would have been medicated on numerous levels if he lived in our day – was just a man following God. To be the one soul (plus immediate family of course) chosen to live out the flood is an amazing realization. Our God created a fresh start. I certainly didn’t live through that time, but I find it hard not to see myself there. I relate to the fresh start. I think it’s awesome how God created a fresh start in me when I chose to follow Him.

 

I carried around regret for a long time but thanks to God, He didn’t leave me there. He loved me too much and knew all the potential I had to serve Him once I was able to let all that go. He has work for me and if I’m hung up inside my own head, I couldn’t be His hands and feet here on earth. Are you hung up on something? He wants to take that away. No pain, no worry, no regrets. He wants you to let it go and follow Him. He has mighty work for you.

 

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
How He loves us all

(David Crowder Band)

Power to Change.

wesblackburn —  January 22, 2014 — Leave a comment

So I’d like to start off today’s Wes Wednesday post with a little video that I saw recently and found a little funny:

(Can’t see the video? Click here.)

How many of us have been there? Seriously, if they would have replaced donuts with Pringles, that would have been me a few Sunday nights ago.

But honestly, isn’t that how we all feel sometimes, especially when we are trying to undertake something that’s hard and new? A couple Sundays ago, we unrolled our desire to hear from God every day as a church, and specifically to do so through reading God’s Word. That’s awesome! Many of you signed up the next day for YouVersion, got the e100 Challenge, and started reading. Last Monday, I saw a bunch of Facebook posts (you probably did too) from all my friends here at Suncrest who were taking that next step and beginning the journey together. That’s awesome!

my-alarm-clock-doesnt-go-off-quite-as-early-now-that-im-not-doing-the-early-show-gig-but-i-still-get-up-around-530-am-theres-something-i-cant-miss-about-joe-weisenthals-early-morning-tweets.jpgThen Tuesday happened. Maybe you’re more spiritual than me, but here’s how it worked out. Day 1 of e100 started off great. But then that night, I was out until about 1am and didn’t get to bed until 1:30 or 2. That sounds bad enough, but it gets worse when you find out my wakeup time the next day (actually, the same day, I guess) was at 5:45am for all of our Tuesday meetings at Suncrest the next day. Finding time to spend with God is a challenge, but especially when you’re only going on 3.5 hours of sleep. (I’m sure many parents of young ones are out there nodding their agreement.)

kinda got my e100 stuff done. Thankfully, our reading that day was only 25 verses or so. I got that done, but to say that I was really in deep thought and meditation on it would be a stretch to say the least. In fact, I kind of blitzed through it. I definitely blitzed through our two questions. I’ve discovered for myself that I can’t just think about my answers to reflection questions; if they are going to impact me, I need to actually write down my responses in the journaling app on my iPad. That day, I only got far enough to write down the two reflection questions… not my responses. Oops. Large E100 banner(1)

We’ve all been there, right? There’s nothing that takes the wind out of your sails when you’re trying to start something important and great and new than missing it or messing it up. And in those moments, we start to hear the voice of the devil figure in the video; we hear the voice of cynicism, the voice of doubt, the voice that tells us we can’t do it and we’re a failure. When you’re trying to do something that feels spiritual, it’s even worse because you feel like it’s a judgment on how bad of a Christ follower you are.

But that’s not the attitude of Jesus. Take a look at one example from Jesus’ words in the book of Luke:

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32, NLT).

Let me give a little context here. Jesus and his disciples are in the Garden of Gethsemane, and they are quickly approaching Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion (it’s literally hours, if not minutes away at this point). Jesus knows exactly what’s going to happen; Simon (Peter) is going to be asked three times if he knows Jesus, and he will deny him three times. In other words, Peter’s going to have a real #epicfail on his hands in a few hours.

friendlp.nfo-o-a0eBut look at Jesus’ words to Peter here, even knowing all of that. He essentially says, “Peter, I know you’re going to mess up. You’re going to miss it, and you’re probably going to feel pretty bad about it. But here’s the deal: When you screw up, just pick yourself up, turn back toward me, and go at it again, strengthening and leading these guys around you.” Jesus’ attitude toward Peter when he screws up isn’t one of rejection, it’s one of forgiveness. Jesus doesn’t discount Peter because he messed up, he just offers him a second chance. (I like to imagine Jesus giving Peter a fist bump at that point.)

It’s easy to get down on ourselves when we fall off track. That applies in every area of our lives, and definitely every area of our spiritual lives. It’s pretty easy for us to beat ourselves up when we were determined to be loving to our spouse, but got in a big argument again. It’s easy to get disappointed when we were determined to take advantage of an opportunity to tell someone about Jesus, yet only managed to squeak out a “Hey, how you doing?” when we see them. With regard to e100 stuff, it’s really easy to just fall off the wagon when we miss a day (or a week) and feel like we’re so far behind that we can never get caught up. But in all these situations, I think Jesus’ attitude toward us is just like his attitude toward Peter: Yes, he acknowledges our failure, but he doesn’t stop there. He encourages us to get up, turn back to him, and get going again. Jesus doesn’t want failure to define us; he wants us to push through our failures (which are many, right?) and to simply keep following him in the midst of them.

Hope that’s an encouragement to you! If you’ve fallen off track with e100 or anything else, here’s to all of us together picking ourselves up, getting back on track, and pushing through in our desire to hear from God every day in 2014.

Out Loud

wesblackburn —  January 20, 2014 — Leave a comment

Today’s Music Monday comes from the crew at Crossroads Cincinnati and a song that they wrote exclusively for their fall all-church journey last year called “Out Loud.” Watch and listen below:

(Can’t see the video? Click here to be re-directed to the YouTube page.)

This is just a really cool reminder for us to live in a way that makes God’s kingdom known to all around us. It’s neat to me to dream about what God could do with a group of people (just like us) who are committed to bringing God’s kingdom to our earth. Today, let’s bring it! Let’s make God’s kingdom loud.