Discipleship and Group Life, Grace

Jesus as a friend

Our family is on the tail end of a long vacation visiting national parks and spending quality time with family we don’t see all that often. And as is becoming tradition, making our way back west we stop to see some of our greatest friends.

Forged in the throws of ministry in Washington State and surviving through long distance moves, these are gospel friendships worth more than gold. It is a refreshing time to connect and keep up with each other.

What we do though is pull our 27 foot RV into their driveway and invade for a couple of days. We plug into their electricity. We eat their foot and drink their wine. We make ourselves at home. And when they visit San Diego next year they will do the same sans the RV.

There is no pretense, no performance, no perfection required. It’s just us and the acceptance of those fluent in the gospel.

We all need these types of friends. Not merely because having friends is good and healthy but because they are imaging Christ and we need the reminder of his care, his welcome to us.

Jesus let’s you pull your stuff into the driveway and plug in. He is the source, the provision and he doesn’t review your manifest before granting entry. He embraces you like the oldest and deepest of friend glad to see you. Like the one that holds on just a while longer because it has been so long.

This is your acceptance in Christ. Believing in him, he doesn’t just look away from your junk, he owns it for himself and frees you of every burden, every ounce of shame. And he invites you to stay, held by him for eternity. No threat of loss or status. Secure forever in him.

Live in that truth of his embrace today would you? And then find some friends you can do the same thing for. Remind each other of the gospel and sing of Christ’s grace.

Grace

The Way of Eternal Comfort

“But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this, he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” (ESV) 2 Thessalonians 2:13–17

How can we live today, in the midst of what we see as a rampant opposition to the truth of Jesus and a misguided embrace of self above all things? How can we face the struggles, the challenges and the people we are surrounded by?

We do it by clinging to our eternal comfort and good hope and asking to be comforted yet again in Jesus.

Paul is writing to a church experiencing trouble. Some false teaching had invaded and suggested that these believers had missed out on Christ’s return. The Apostle reminds the church what he taught them at first and encouraged them by making clear the Day of the Lord had not yet come. From that truth then he calls them to stand firm in Christ – that they had been claimed, redeemed, and empowered by God for his glory.

What great truth this is! For a people living in fear and making decisions from fear, the reminder of the gospel comes as a comforting security. It is an eternal comfort and good hope we have. Given identity in Christ, safe come what may as we are headed to eternity with Jesus.

And it is in this comfort we are given a daily dose of more – the prayer that the God who loves us and gave us eternity will comfort us and establish us in the work he has for us.

Where are you today? What fear can you surrender to the God who loves us and comforts us? How can you stand firm in the truth of Christ, his forgiveness, and righteousness? Run to Jesus. Be comforted.

Gospel Obscurity

A Rock In The Sock

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” Hebrews‬ ‭12:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This morning as I made the way down the street for my morning run I was pestered by something in my shoe. It began as a little itch, something I just ran through trying to take my mind off of it. Then it became more annoying so I adjusted my shoe a bit hoping for relief. Then it was unbearable so I put my finger in my sock to find a small rock, a pebble, working like sandpaper on my heel as I ran the race that was set before me.

Immediately the comparison to sin that lingers and stays so close became abundantly clear and painful even. I suppose I could have continued on with the rock in my sock but it would have ruined the run. It would have dominated the experience and detracted from the purpose. I may have hobbled along, but there would have been no joy, no undistracted exertion.

This friends is us when we live with the little rocks of sin. Those things that have become routine. The behaviors, the thinking, the attitudes. They usually just start as an itch but become something that tries to burrow into the skin and wreak havoc.

These are the things we are to lay aside, give up on, remove from the “socks” of our lives. So that we may run. Live the abundant life we are meant for.

But the encouragement doesn’t stop in Hebrews with just running. It is running while “looking to Jesus” we are encouraged toward. The founder and perfecter of our faith that took on a cross to clear every “rock,” remove every weight of sin that clings so closely. And because he did that, for the joy of claiming you, you are now free to remove those pesky rocks from your socks.

Christian, there is no rock of sin that can condemn you in Christ. You are covered, and made to wear his righteousness. Now in him you are also empowered to lay aside sin. Notice it, own it, repent of it, and turn away from it. Discard the rocks.

This is for me and I think the Lord gave me a pebble to illustrate with frustrating clarity the distraction of those tightly clinging sins I have been trying to run through.

May we live to surrender those lesser things to the finished work of Christ. May we run looking to him.

Adventure, Gospel Obscurity

Mapping the Road Ahead

I am in the midst of a very slow process of drafting a vision document for Reservoir Church, something I have been hesitant to do but something that is increasingly needed for our congregation eager to engage in ministry and the purpose of the church.

As a replant of a twenty-year-old church, the elders and I have been slow to cast “a grand vision” for the future of our church frankly because our key vision was health, something we drastically needed.

Approaching now the four-year mark of replanting we are ready for the long view so that we can “drive in the right direction.” We have a new name, 80% of our members became so within the last four years, and our demographic has shifted slightly younger to new families looking for something to invest in long-term.

This process is much like plotting your course in google maps. You have to know where you are going in order to choose a route.

It can seem daunting in the near term and maybe premature. Certainly, anything we formulate is open to amendment along the way. But if we don’t have a shared destination in mind we will be all over the map and less than fruitful.

How does this truth play out in your life? Like me are you prone to coasting and trusting you will end up on the shore with the wave upon wave of grace in Christ?! This might be a good time to seek direction from the Spirit and go after the goal.