Advent | When God Breaks In

Advent | When God Breaks In

Advent is a time when we long for God to break into our stale and stagnant lives. It’s a time of longing, of hoping, of reorienting our lives toward the God who made us, loves us and redeems us. In Advent, we renew our expectation — our hope — that God will break through, that he will free us from our bondage to sin, renew our worship of our Lord Jesus Christ, and unite our worship with our daily lives.

What are the Psalms?

What are the Psalms?

I believe the Psalms more than anything else are an invitation. An invitation to open our hearts to God. An invitation to say anything — as it were. An invitation to curse, to praise, to invoke condemnation on others, to confess our sin, to be exposed and not rejected.

The Place of the Psalms

The Place of the Psalms

And in the Psalms, much like the Box Canyon video above, I've found this alternate world. One that causes me to slow down, to notice things I normally wouldn't notice in life. I find it both very narrowing and very expansive.

Not Our Scraps

Not Our Scraps

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
— Romans 12:3-8

Many of us get hung up on this — offering our best, rather than our scraps, making ourselves available to God first before we commit to other things. We all have excuses about how we don’t make it a priority:

“My kids have soccer practice.”

“We are training for a marathon.”

“School is just really piling up this week.”

But at its core I don’t think it’s just a misplaced priority. I think it’s a core belief about who we are. Deep in our hearts, in the dark recesses of our being, when we really probe around and take a look, it’s not that we don’t make God a priority in our life, it’s that we don’t believe that we actually have something to give. We don’t believe that we are worthy to be used by God. We see our mess ups, our brokenness, our short temper, our lustfulness, our lying, rather than seeing God’s love and grace that covers all our sins and uses us for his Kingdom far beyond how we thought we could be used.

God is always telling a story of redemption — about how he is making this world — his world — whole again. And he is involving us in the process. God has not thrown away his original created intention with us, that we should reflect the image of God as we rule over this world, and till the Garden. No, he involves us in his plan to redeem and restore the world to himself. God has created us. God has redeemed us. God has gifted us.

Look at the Romans passage again. Working off of one of his favorite metaphors for the church, Paul begins to flesh out what it means to be a member of this body and to be used by God. In v. 6, Paul tells us that God has gifted us because God intends to use us in the body of Christ, and these gifts are based on the grace that he has given us.

Think about that for a minute. Paul is saying that in the redemptive grace that God has poured out upon us, how he has covered our sins with the blood of Christ and brought us into his family, with that grace God has gifted us so that we might have a role, a purpose, a use in the body of Christ. Those sins that we are so ashamed of, God will use to tell his story of redemption, both in your life and in the life of those around you. Both inside the church and outside the church.

What this means is that we don’t have to hold ourselves back. We don’t have to get our lives in order before we will be useful to God. We don’t have to wait until the end of our week, the end of our pocketbooks, the end of our ropes to give our lives over to the purposes of God. When we base our lives on the worship of God (Rom. 12:1), then we will begin to give over our best, our middle and our scraps — in other words our whole being.

The Long View

The Long View

I forgot my headphones. I hate when I forget my headphones. I left them in the jacket that I stuffed into my suitcase that I ended up checking at the last minute. So, no music. No movies. I hope these people don't talk to me. At least I got a window seat.

After thumbing through the in-flight magazine and reading one of the books I brought with me, I began to stare out the window. Most of the flight was pretty clear, and I could look up where we were as we flew back from Denver. Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, then Arkansas. I was familiar with these places, the roads to take to get from one place to another. I have traversed them many times. But it always surprises me to see them from above. To see them from our 39,000 foot cruising altitude. You begin to see how the roads cross the land. The plots the farmers have plotted out. You can see how the towns connect to the cities and how life begins to spread out at the outer reaches of town. How some cities sit right up against the Mighty Mississippi and how others still sit back a few miles from it (I wonder why that is). You can see the green fertile regions where the rivers and streams cut through and how they connect together to the larger river. You can see how things come together, why they cut this way or that, and the greatness of the landscape becomes all the more wonderful.

In my own life, I often wonder what the long view is; the view from above. I wonder what God is up to in my life. What is He doing through this or that turn in my life? Why did I have to live here or there? Why did this experience have to be so painful? What was the lesson? How did I find so much joy during that dry season? It often takes years removed before I can look back and see what God was doing in that time. How He was with me when I went through some of the most painful times in my life. How he brought immense redemption in the specific route that he took me through. And yet, I still sometimes wonder how it all fits together.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.
— Genesis 1:1-3

From the first verses of the Bible we see God beginning his work of redemption. The anticipation that comes from the Holy Spirit hovering over the waters. God's first act of bringing light into the dark world. Something is about to happen. We see him work this act of creation through to Jesus. In Jesus' life, death and resurrection, we see a new pattern being set forth in the world, a new reign being established. And then once again, His Spirit hovered, but this time it was over the apostles at Pentecost.

And He hovers over you and me, working in us the redemption that Jesus brought, working out our salvation and giving us the grace and wisdom to live out His reign in our world. I long to see the vast and beautiful redemptive landscape that God has mapped out in my life, and I hope you long to see it in your life also.