I Have This Hope – Cover

This song.

This hope. How quickly we forget it and take it for granted. He is with us, and we have hope, He is the one who takes our sins away and gives us grace. That should blow our minds every single day.

I had it on repeat all day today so I decided to practice some rough harmonies and slap ’em together.

GET TENTH AVENUE NORTH’S NEW ALBUM ‘FOLLOWERS’ – pre-orders now available.

 

Advertisements

Matrimony of the Cross

Wow, what an interesting week. All building up to this weekend of celebration, first of Christ’s death and then His resurrection.

This morning as the sky lightened, dawn set crystal trees on fire, seemingly bent and frozen in mourning. How is it that something as destructive and displeasurable as an ice storm could be so beautiful?

How is it that the worst death of all time became so influential that it brought people of all eras, all cultures, together? How is it that they — that we — can say it was so beautiful, it changed our lives forever?

How beautiful are the feet of the messenger who brings good news.

Christ took away the sin of the world — the sin of people like you and me, people of all eras, all nations, all cultures — absorbing the wrath of God in our place on the cross. He who knew no sin, became sin, that we might become righteous. He died so that we might have eternal life with Him. He loves and pursues us, an unfaithful people who rejected Him. Christ demonstrates his love in this, that while we were still sinners, he died.

Hear that? We had nothing acceptable to God. Nothing. He didn’t do what he did on the cross because we “did our best” — we didn’t even try. He didn’t meet us half way or 75% of the way or 25% of the way, he met us ALL the way.

That is why it is beautiful.

This Good Friday we celebrate the marriage proposal of the Lamb to His bride, the Church. The cross, is the ring.

I was reminded of that this morning when rehearsing with the band for the worship service. I was having fun singing, I was worshipping, I was trying so hard to let the words and his memory and his promise sink in. To meditate on them.

But I didn’t “feel” it.

Had my heart gone cold, had it hardened? What was going on? Was there some sin I’ve been holding on to that doesn’t make me right with God??

Except, that’s the whole point of Easter weekend, isn’t it?

While I was up on stage, worrying about all these things while outwardly worshipping with solemnity, a thought put those worries to rest… “don’t pursue feelings, pursue Me, for I first pursued you.”

He took our sin to make us right with God. And not by any effort of mine.

One of the songs was “Jesus Paid It All,” and we skipped the bridge “O praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead” because the Disciples had no idea that Sunday was coming.

But Sunday is coming. Jesus is coming.

Happy Easter!

1100

When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour content on all my pride // I hear the Saviour say, thy strength indeed is small, child of weakness watch and pray, find in Me thine all in all. Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe, sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow // The Lamb of God in my place, Your blood poured out, my sin erased it was my death You died, I am raised to life, Hallelujah the Lamb of God. There is no greater love… ||

Dream come true

If the title has you excited, I’d hold your applause and congratulations until the end of this post… it’s probably not what you think.

In my last post, I admitted that my pride had kind of snuck up on me and all of a sudden I was planning my future life and career like I know what’s going to happen, like I know what’s best for me, like I’m in control. I knew I needed to come back to that place of open-handedness with that future.

Open-handedness…? That is, what if my dream job isn’t the thing I’m “supposed” to be doing? Would I be okay with that? If I were honest, no, no I wouldn’t be okay with that. Why does God’s best for us have to be so unimaginable that it’s hard for our rebellious human nature to trust Him?

Well, last night I dreamt that I was in LA, making phone calls, pitching to execs, desperate to make my scripts happen. The unfortunate downside to the dream career that I’m pursuing. Maybe it’s a personality thing, but I’m just not a good verbal communicator. On the page, sure, maybe… but I have to be mentally prepared for a spontaneous presentation. Anyway, I like to think that my passion for the craft is big enough to make that kind of stuff bearable, but today kind of challenged that.

There have been countless theories on dreams and their meanings and interpretations. One of them is that dreams prepare you for real life situations, something like a built-in simulation mechanism. I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s besides the point.

I wake up feeling stressed and shoot my roommate a text about the dream, to which she replies, “it’s prophetic!” I smile, knowing that should make me feel better but it doesn’t.

I walk into my first class of the day, the highlight of my day — Screenwriting. Except, the agenda is — you guessed it — pitching our final projects.

Given the nightmare I held back any and all participation. But as Irony would have it, the entire class called on a classmate and I to pitch. He’s a fairly performative guy and as talented as the best of them, so I figured I’d go first… don’t want to get stuck on the follow-up act.

Needless to say, the pitch was an abysmal failure — I didn’t get to the end of the story, I blanked on what made me love this story and what excites me about it. I even blanked on what actually happens, who the characters are… I knew I wanted to get to the big twist reveals, but didn’t know how to set them up dramatically… I only found solace in the fact that now no one else in class will be nervous about pitching their ideas.

And that is the story of how my nightmare came true.

Thankfully there were no real stakes, and my prof and classmates were so generous and gracious.

In all seriousness, this little incident was an eye-opening reminder of how small I am, how powerless and insignificant I am, that I’m not special, and that I have no reason to boast about any skills, knowledge or talents that I have– that I’ve been given.

As I write to cope with the mortification, I’ve got Ascend the Hill’s Be Thou My Vision blasting on Spotify…

O God be my everything, be my delight, be Jesus, my glory, my soul satisfied.

What a balm to this heart floundering in years of insecurity drudged up to the surface. I’ve still got the adrenaline rush, that fight or flight response, and my body screaming FLIGHT! I want to run away, crawl into bed and hide for the rest of the day, and that’s no exaggeration. What a strange impulse. Have I been fooling myself this whole time? Is this industry actually not for me? Do I turn back while I still can? I thought I’d found my “thing,” do I have to go back to that state of aimlessness?

Some might say, “don’t quit! Nothing was meant to be easy.” Others might say, “do what makes you happy.” While these are true and helpful to some degree, it is still a limited degree.

My identity isn’t in my career. My ambitions may not be what comes to pass. In fact, my ambitions may not be what I actually want. It shouldn’t be where I go for satisfaction.

My vision shouldn’t be on how high I can pull myself up (and anything higher than 0 is a delusion), but on how I can make much of the name of Jesus in all aspects of my life… in this case, giving him praise for this humbling morning.

It is incredibly easier to say “I am nothing apart from Christ” today than it was yesterday. The life He calls us to, a life of holiness, is hard. It hurts. And yet… it’s so sweet to return to Lord and be reminded that the pressure’s not on us to “be all that you can be,” it’s not on us to look all put together, it’s not on us to be the champions of this world, it’s not on us to be our own saviours, it’s not on us to fix ourselves, or anyone else. He already did the work, and we are free to train, and learn and fail.

In a way this whole pitching snafu reminded me of the hidden inspiration for one of the big reveals of the story in the first place: “No longer I, but Christ in me.”

1100

Gods Don’t Bleed

This is absolutely not the first time this comparison, illustration, analysis, has been drawn.

But it’s certainly a testament to how counter-cultural the ways of God are.

In pagan myths and legends worldwide, the power and deity of the gods was demonstrated in their immortality. The proof that they weren’t hoaxes, was by the strength of their blood — no one could spill it.

During the first century when the Greek and Roman pantheons were of great cultural significance… the one who was (and is) a true God did the exact thing that — if he were a pagan god — was not to be done. And he did it willingly!

An unscathed god was meant to be a display of power, the crucified One was true proof of His.

For what god is a god if he is afraid of death? Or nervous around it, or would not prefer it?

Christ showed us what He can do. Death did not phase him, He knew he’d be victorious before the battle in the grave had even begun. So confident was he, that he let it happen at every opportunity to save himself.

There was only one thing that made Jesus nervous: His Father’s wrath. This didn’t just psych him out, this was stress to hematidrosis – sweating blood.

If the guy who could crush Death like an insect was stressed out by this, why are we taking it so lightly?

Why do I avoid warning people about this for the sake of my relationship with them? Why am I more afraid of them than I am of Him?

Every excuse that I can come up with is matched by His Truth.

I’m afraid of them thinking I’m a weirdo religious nut — Ephesians 2:10 says you are God’s workmanship.

I’m afraid of them never speaking to me again, and I’ll drive away all my friends, and be all alone — Hebrews 13:5 says I will never leave you nor forsake you, Matthew 28:20 says behold I am with you even til the end of the age.

I’m afraid of being wrong about all this — Romans 11:33 speaks of God’s unsearchable and inscrutable ways.

I’m afraid I’m not ready or equipped to be your messenger — 1 Peter 4:10 says as each has received a gift, use it to serve one another.

I’m afraid nothing I do is usable by God, that nothing will change for anybody — 1 John 3:20 says God is greater than the heart.

I’m afraid I’m not smart enough to go up against their arguments — 1 Corinthians 1:25 says the foolishness of God is wiser than men.

And then all I can muster is… I’m afraid.

And in His embrace, He says in Isaiah 41:10 and Joshua 1:9… 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. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous, do not be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

How can I learn to not care about the “religious nut” label? How can I learn to not be defined by my network and connections? How can I learn to hold the shield of faith steadfastly against the arrows of doubt? How can I learn the ins and outs of Your Truth? How can I learn to see myself as only the witness and messenger, not the Saviour? How can I learn the wisdom, knowledge and understanding of God? How can I learn to drum up this courage at will?

1100

I stand before you God / The Greatness of Your renown / I have heard of the majesty and wonder of You / King of Heaven in humility, I bow / As Your love in wave after wave / crashes over me, crashes over me / For You are for us, You are not against us / Champion of Heaven, You made a way for all to enter in / I have heard You calling my name / I have heard the song of love that You sing / So I will let you draw me out beyond the shore / Into Your grace, Your grace.

You make me brave. You call me out beyond the shore into the waves. You make me brave. No fear can hinder now the love that made a way. You make me brave. No fear can hinder now the promises You made.

There but for the Grace of God Go I

After a whole bunch of posts for my media class digital portfolio, it feels good to do a normal check-in on my “real” blog.

This past week and this coming week are the two busiest weeks of the semester, maybe even of all the time I’ve been in Guelph. The work to be done, the meetings to go to, the people to speak with, the time to be spent… going into this period, I was anxious and worried. I was worried about being worried.

My to-do list is too long. I’m not going to have time to do everything, or at least everything well. When am I going to do this task? How am I going to do that task? How am I going to time manage all this??

But God is faithful. Here I am, half way through and more than hopeful.

In fact, last Sunday’s sermon was about God’s faithfulness. He comes through on his promises. He comes through on His word toward those who aren’t his people like Ishmael, and He will certainly come through for those who are His. And how amazing is it to be called His if we are in Christ.

What’s cool is that from the get go of this busy time of year, God worked to encourage me and take away my fear and my anxiety. He is faithful to provide. And He’s been looking out for this for a while — forever to be precise, really — because He had to orchestrate the sermon schedule, among other things.

My point here is not that the world revolves around us and that God is here to make our problems go away. Just the opposite. I don’t think I could have been as productive as I was and I don’t think I would have made it through this storm as unscathed as I did without the grace He’s shown, without the strength He’s given, without the community He’s blessed me with. This is about Him, and praise and honour and glory be to the one who restores us to Himself.

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

These are such go-to verses, almost cliche to the point where it seems they’ve lost their lustre. They’ve been said so many times online, on mugs, on T-shirts, on posters… But this week has reaffirmed their truth for me in way I haven’t experienced before. God gives us what we need to get through stuff, and at just the right time.

I received peace and rest through a sermon before I could even get very anxious. Before that, I learned those verses before I knew what it was to be this busy. Way before that, God breathed and the authors of those words penned them to encourage the thousands of generations to come.

I even got VCB’s new album that Sunday and I’ve been listening to If I Have You throughout the week. Such a timely encouragement and a blessing:

I don’t need the riches of this world / I can’t even take them where I’m going. / I don’t need a thousand empty words / I just need the ones that You have spoken.

If I have You and nothing else, I have everything.

I don’t need to see tomorrow’s plans / I just need to trust that You are working. / I don’t even need to understand / I just need to keep You as the first thing.

You are more, You are more than enough.

I forget which sermon I heard it in, but God knows every cause and effect event down to an atomic level and smaller. He knows how many moles of oxygen are in your lungs, and he knows which molecules bump into what when we exhale. He knows what the chain reaction of consequences will be for every action taken. He planned the cross before He made man. He knows what He’s doing, He’s in control, He is sovereign over our circumstances. Now, these two weeks seem as small and insignificant as they are, and not because I’m woman enough to handle it.

He is my strength, He is my everything. With one week down, one to go, there but for the grace of God go I.

1100

He is Jealous for Me

Last re-post! We’ve finally caught up! Some of you might remember this one.


I’ve often wondered why the Bible describes God as a jealous God all over the place; Exodus, Deuteronomy, Joshua… and yet commands us, “you shall not covet.”

At first glance, seems a little hypocritical, contradictory, right?

Jealousy. Envy. Covetousness. Our culture has amalgamated these three words and made them synonymous, when the reality is that though there are subtle differences, that’s all it takes to completely change the meaning of the text.

Exodus 20:17 says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

Of course, one of the 10 commandments. I’ve heard this sometimes translated as “you shall not envy.”

ENVY: A feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.

Or,

ENVY: Desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable attribute belonging to something or someone else.

Pretty straightforward, usually what most people think envy means.

Now COVET on its own, means to yearn, to crave for a possession – a person, a quality, an object, anything. That possession may not be already owned.

But of course in this case, “you shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbour,” is very much in the realm of envy. The reason though, that I think they used covet rather than envy, is because it is driven by a desire, a craving, rather than resentment. I’m sure someone, a scholar who has read this text in its original language could answer this much better than I.

Well okay, I’ve told you more or else what you already know.

JEALOUSY: Fiercely protective or vigilant of one’s rights or possessions.

I’d first heard of the difference between envy and jealousy last week in my first acting class. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but when I was reminded that our God is a jealous God… it was very much a do-you-know-what-this-means?!? kind of moment.

Fiercely protective.

See, envy is about possessing that which isn’t yet yours… but jealousy is almost the opposite. Jealousy is about preventing the loss of what you already possess.

Some people will say that God’s most important quality is His love.

Some of you are reading that and thinking, ‘you say that like it isn’t.’

It is important, yes, but overwhelmingly, I think it’s God’s holiness. The fact that He is perfect, whole, complete, set apart. His love for us is an overflow of the love between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again, God doesn’t need us. He doesn’t need our love to be complete, He is complete, He is a community, it’s not like He’s lonely without us.

And yet… He is fiercely protective. Fiercely.

If you look at the contexts of the old testament passages that describe God as a jealous God, it is in relation to idolatry…

If you’re like me, whenever you catch yourself putting anything above God, or putting God under other things, you pray and repent, and learn and grow from that “season.” And growing is good. But then you fall for it again. And again. And again. And you feel guilt, and shame. What’s wrong with me? Why do I keep stumbling, why does this keep happening? Did I not do it right? Did I not truly repent?

And behind those questions is a growing doubt, a seedling of a lie that says that even in Christ you are worthless, beyond saving, and a complete failure.

But God is sovereign. He is true. He is holy. It’s not about us in the slightest.

Once you are God’s, nothing in all creation can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

He is fiercely protective. Of us. Our idols, whatever they may be, are under His control, nothing in our walk or our journey or our relationship with God happens without crossing His desk first, so to speak.

Obviously, don’t actively go and sin, but when you do stumble, and we all will, see if you can figure out what God is trying to get at. What I mean is, our stumbling in sin is not a punishment, or ‘haha look how worthless you are.’ It is a tool meant for us to learn. Maybe the first time it’s to learn humility. Then the next time to learn surrender. Then the next time to learn gratitude. Then trust. Not only that, every time we learn a new lesson from the same “exercise,” we often apply what we already learned.

As a result, every time, whether we know it or not, we come out of a “stumbling” learning something, and every time, our Father is using that lesson to protect us in the future. Making us holy. Teaching us, guiding us, to becoming more and more like Christ. Transforming us, rather than condemning us, grace rather than judgement.

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
1100

Come Stay and Come Fail

What is school for? Wisdom or information?

As much as it ought to be wisdom, we get the ironically less useful information. It’s right or it’s wrong. You know it or you don’t. You remember it or you don’t. It’s acceptable or it’s not.

But at the end of the day, or the course, what did you learn other than memorized facts?

Now, facts are good. and essential in some careers. However, there are others where facts are important, but not essential. In either case, wisdom and life’s lessons, are far more useful and applicable.

With information, success is getting the right answer, with wisdom, success is learning from failure.

Learning from failure means we are free to fail. Free to struggle. Encouraged to try, and keep trying, to keep learning the same lessons in different ways over and over again. What an education that would be if every course could be like that. We’d be free of pressure, we’d be free to innovate, we’d be free to express, we’d be free to discover.

It’s a paradox that I wish more teachers, mentors, etc. understood and applied. Tell students to succeed and they will find themselves failing. Tell students to fail, and they will find themselves succeeding.

It’s not about setting a low standard so that more students “succeed.” It’s about extracting wisdom from whatever situation. If you “failed” and got the wrong answer, what lesson did you learn? If you “succeeded” and got the right answer, what lesson did you learn? In that way, the grade or metric or evaluation almost comes before the lesson.

After class today, my music shuffled to Scars by Colton Dixon and the chorus was quite fitting:

Today’s another day, to learn from our mistakes, knowing that we’re not forsaken. They give life to where we’ve been, when we fall and start again, scars remind us who we are.

After discussing wisdom vs information in class, and then hearing the song, and then remembering what the song is really talking about — that is, the the gospel — a connection was made.

In my experience, the best teachers don’t care about what you got on a test or an exam, they only care that you learned the lesson they were trying to teach you. Imagine you were guaranteed a 100% at the beginning of a course – you didn’t earn it, it was given. Striving for perfection isn’t the point. Learning and a willingness to learn is the point. If you got it right away, fantastic. If it took you a few tries at first before you got it, great.

In this class, the first three important things we were given was a good grade guaranteed, an invitation to stay and a mission to learn something more valuable than facts: how to think and how to change the world.

Those who left, turned down the opportunity to wisdom and steps toward self-actualization. Those who stayed, don’t necessarily make the best looking collages or videos, but what is that compared to knowing and embracing our identity a little better?

Not only that, but the small handful of us in the course get closer to each other with every pressure-free attempt we make. We naturally want to encourage each other because we all know none of us are good at this since a lot of it is brand new to us. We don’t celebrate the product of our projects, but the thinking behind it.

Now from the outside looking in, you would think a guaranteed good grade should be incentive to not bother going to class, and yet we all keep coming back week after week, night after night, not because we have to but because we want to. We’re hungry for this “wisdom” that is so different from the unsatisfying and draining amounts of “information” we’re forced to digest everywhere else.

So where do the parallels align?

God demands perfection, but we can’t overcome our imperfection. What Christ’s death on the cross in our place is, is the free 100%, given not earned — His perfection for our imperfection. He invites us in and says if you take it and stay, you’ll get so much more than the 100%.

Those who choose to leave get nothing, those who choose to stay and learn, practice how to think about people differently, how to see through Heaven’s eyes, how to change the world because of the change within us. Of course, practice means failing and learning from our mistakes, and it’s this learning and growth toward godliness that is the real treasure.

So when we fail and sin, we’re caught in a grace that says don’t worry about your grade or your standing, that’s been covered. Just get back up and try again. Also, if you see a brother or sister in Christ, someone else in your community, fail, it becomes natural to encourage them with the same words.

And finally, why not get up and walk away? Because walking away means going back to the emptiness of what the rest of the world has to offer. Once you taste wisdom and truth like this, there’s a hunger that keeps bringing you back.

So the invitation to the cross (and THST 2450) is here: come stay and come fail. It’s worth it.

Oceans

Re-post. Still learning to apply this one.


Long post today.

I read this article today on the shape of the industry I’m thinking of entering, and all the social dynamics, etc. Of course they’re things that I already knew, and that people have been telling me, and what I’ve been studying in class… But hearing it yet again made it that much more real, especially from a scholarly article (not to dismiss all the other people who told me the same thing.)

To diverge a little, you know when every once in a while, this one song resonates so strongly with you that you listen to it over and over and over again? It may not necessarily be your favourite song, it just speaks to you and puts into words what you’ve been feeling, or what you need to feel. Right now, for me, that song is Oceans by Hillsong.

You call me out upon the water
The great unknown,
Where feet may fail.

Those are the first few lines of the song and they grabbed me instantly. The rest of the lyrics are just as resonant for me, but I won’t type it all out here. However, the bridge is what I really want to talk about:

Spirit lead me where by trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever you would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my saviour.

The more I listen to it, the more I think about it, and the more I sing it. And as always, be careful what you sing, and be careful what you sing as a prayer… Because it’s when you don’t fully realize what you’re asking God that he shows you what those words mean. In other words, He answers that prayer. Which is good… it also means that you’re in for some exciting turbulence, good and “bad.”

So let’s see. Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders? Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander? Well I definitely feel like I’m in the deep end.

I was revisiting the Doctor Who series 5 two part finale as a little treat for myself after finishing the day’s studying, and the Doctor said something interesting. (Well, I know… When does he not?)

Doctor: I need you to trust me.
Amy: But you don’t always tell the truth.
Doctor: If I always told you the truth, I wouldn’t have to ask you to trust me.

Makes sense. Most characters believe everything the Doctor says because he’s clever and will gladly tell you “I told you so” in some way if you don’t. But as has been repeated on several occasions, Rule number 1: The Doctor lies.

So if the Doctor told the truth all the time, and he said everything is going to be all right, no one would have to ask, “is that a lie?” And he wouldn’t have to answer, “quite possibly.” They’d trust him. All that being said, most of the time, the characters trust him anyway. Wouldn’t make for a satisfying story if they didn’t.

If I always told you the truth, I wouldn’t have to ask you to trust me.

If that statement makes sense… Then why does this happen:

1. I believe that God always tells the truth.
2. He asks us to trust him.
3. It should be a quick yes because of #1 (in theory).
4. But we don’t.

Or at least I don’t, not in this situation. I wish I did, and I tell myself I do, but I know I don’t because deep down I’m still worrying.

What if this isn’t the right way?
What if you’re not calling me to this industry?
What if all these sacrifices are made and it turns out that they were for nothing and based on hollow dreams?
What if I don’t have the patience and persistence I think I have and I lose my resolve and quit?
What if I do end up regretting this path and the warnings people are giving me will haunt me til I see you?
What if I don’t make enough to survive in a world where the cost of living is going up every year?

Hmm. The cost of living. I wonder how Jesus would define that. But that’s for another post.

Even as I type those questions, they seem so silly and materialistic, and I know that asking them is asking the wrong questions. And yet there they are.

Well, first thing. How do I know that this is where I think I’m being called. Honestly, I’m not sure that I do. I do know, that nothing makes me feel more alive… Like I’m a machine that’s figured out what it can do. A few other times, I felt the same way and I thought I was being led in one direction, but then it passed. This could be a phase… But whether it is or not, all the other other times taught me something, and deepened my understanding of something in some way, and opened the door to the next “phase.”

I could just be justifying all this to make myself feel better, but through all the “phases,” they still had the same goal, but a different form. (Hehe, not unlike the last of the Timelords himself… Different shapes, different personalities, same person.) Each phase was born out of the last. So is this a phase? Maybe, but in other ways, not really.

Second thing. I’ve said it before, but… Does it matter? Does what I do or end up doing and how I do it matter? Well… Yes and no.

No not really, because God has a goal in mind, and can use anything to achieve it. If we were all tools in a shed, He could MacGyver paperclips into a bicycle. The question is, why?

If a screwdriver says I want to hammer nails… It’s possible to do it if you’re creative enough, but it wouldn’t be as good as the hammer’s job and… Why on earth would you let the screwdriver hammer nails? So it does matter what you do in terms of what you were made to do, but it’s God thats doing the work through you.

Also, it’s a humbling and relieving reminder that whatever God is building… He could do it with his bare hands. He doesn’t need us. But how are the tools in the shed going to know what they can do and what they were made to do if they aren’t used?

To sum up all that… This is today’s verse if the day:

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

Isaiah 40:28

I don’t know what you’re doing God, I don’t know how this is all going to get figured out, but I know that you’ll pull through and that you mean it when you say that you will provide and you will deliver because you love me.

Well… I know with my head, but do I believe with my heart?

The first verse of Oceans alludes a little to this passage, when Jesus walks on the water and calls Peter to do the same:

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.

Matthew 14:22-33 ESV

“Immediately.” Interesting word choice. The instant the crowds started to form, Jesus sent the disciples ahead of him. He sent them out, separating them from the crowds. And while they did that, He did his own work. We’re the disciples aware of what he was doing? Maybe, maybe not. But when God sends us out, He sets us apart and protects us from the swarms of people. I think it’s because we’re delicate and easily influenced. As sensitive to noise as a soufflé. (I’m on a roll with these DW references…)

Anyway, when we are sent ahead, we’re also kind of distanced from Him. But we know He’s never far, and we know He’s busy doing something that will help is out later. We may not know what, but we know He is.

And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.

I wonder if the disciples were praying. Jesus prayed after dismissing the crowds… Did people exhaust him spiritually, or did he just enjoy the presence of the Father that much? Both? When and why do we pray then?

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.

Evening?! Whoa, he prayed for hours. I feel guilt tripped.

Anyway, the boat was a long way from land. Here we go, take me deeper than my feet could ever wander. They are in the deep end. Not only are they in the deep end, the waves were beating the boat, the wind was blowing against them. We’ve got to remember, that these are fishermen. Did they see signs of the storm? Probably. Surely, their instincts and red flags were going nuts. This is terrible weather! They shouldn’t be out here, it’s not safe, and who would blame them for regretting coming out here in the first place.

But then again… Did they have much choice in the matter? Jesus sent them ahead. Plus, at the time, between boat and noisy crowds… Boat won.

And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.

Fourth watch?! How late and how long were they on the rough seas? I guess like them, we don’t know when Jesus will come back from whatever He does without us, we just know that He will. It could be short, could be a while. But when He does, it’ll look awesome. Come on, “he came to them, walking on the sea.” Think about that.

1) Sea
2) Walking

The sea is raging and the storm is howling, and He’s on it, fully exposed. More than that, He’s WALKING. Not running, not trying to protect himself, not sinking for that matter, He’s completely calm when everything is not… when the disciples have no idea what’s going on.

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.

I don’t know if the disciples were terrified because they saw him walking on the sea, or if amidst all the chaos and danger, seeing someone walking on water just freaked them out. Not unreasonably I guess… it’s not like they’ve seen someone do that before.

Ghost! Fear! Again… Did they really believe in ghosts, given what they believed about where souls go, or did they just have death on their minds as they got tossed around in the storm like salad?

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

There’s that word again, immediately. The disciples were far enough away to mistake Jesus for a ghost, and a raging storm isn’t quiet. So Jesus has super hearing. Or telepathy. Or knew what they were going to say and when, in order to reply immediately. But if you believe He’s God then… Of course he does. He knows our thoughts. What I wanna know, is how did the disciples hear Him?

Also, “take heart (have courage), it is I. Do not be afraid.” As much as I don’t blame the disciples for freaking out… Jesus is right (duh).

The disciples just saw Jesus do miracles and speak with authority with the crowds. You’ve heard his voice before, so don’t you recognize it? Not a ghost. Jesus is there, and is WALKING. ON. WATER. If He can do that, is it really that much of a leap to believe that He’ll calm the storm, or at least keep you safe from it?

Oh man. Anyone else drawing parallels from that last paragraph? We’ve seen God in action before. We’ve heard his voice before, so why don’t we listen to Him, or believe it when he says, “Have courage, do not be afraid.” We don’t know exactly what He’s doing, or how He’s doing it, but it’s strange and mysterious and magnificent. If we can see Him do that and hear Him say that… Is it that much of a leap to trust Him with the storms that are shaking up our lives?

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.

Okay. So Peter heard and recognized Jesus. But he’s still unsure ’cause he asked for proof. Or is it?

“Command me to come to you on the water.” Is that Peter’s pride or faith talking, thinking that he can reach Jesus? Or does he just really want to walk on water? I would.

Often times when we’re unsure about a decision, or at least for me, I find myself praying for signs, or for open doors, to know that, yes, this is where I’m supposed to go and what I’m supposed to do. But shouldn’t his word be enough?

And then He humours us anyway, well with Peter in this case. He commands with one word: come. He doesn’t say go, or do, He says come. Come towards him, and He will make a way for you to do it, to get closer to him. It’s not us that’s allows us to walk on water, it’s all Him. Drawing us near. Peter obeyed, and Peter walked on water, just like Jesus. When we obey… What will He allow us to do despite the winds and the rain and the waves trying to knock us down? He cant be knocked down, and He won’t let us either. Not permanently.

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”

Um. Okay. I thought wind was invisible. And they’re on water, it’s not like there were flapping trees and bending trunks. Was it snow? Was it big waves being snatched up into the air by the wind? That’s a strong wind. A fearsome wind. So yeah, that would be scary.

But Jesus is RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU PETER.

Yes. Isn’t he just. He’s always right in front of us, telling us to come, to have courage, to not have a spirit of fear.

Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Immediately. As soon as Peter began to sink, Jesus was on him, reaching out to him, and holding him, keeping him from drowning or being harmed or touched by the storm.

“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Excellent question.

We know it’s Jesus because we’ve seen him do extraordinary things before. We know its Him because we recognize His “voice.” We even ask for “signs” or “proof,” and a lot of times we get it. We get a little closer to Him, close enough to hear him properly, which is close enough to see his face… and yet we STILL 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.”

Jesus gets into our boat. He knows what it’s like to be in the storm, to feel the waves beating the boat. He also brings back friends changed or grown.

But still, we only worship when the winds cease.

So I will call upon your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in your embrace.
For I am yours
And You are mine.

Spirit lead me. Take me deeper. Strengthen my faith. Deepen my trust in You.

1100

Undeserving

Re-post. Amazing Grace.


In the world’s eyes, I’m a pretty good person. I’m nice, I don’t swear or do drugs or alcohol, I get good grades, hang out with the right crowd, etc. etc.

But in God’s eyes, I am a wretch. I am a criminal, disobedient to the law: God’s law.
Have I lied? Yes.
Have I stolen something, regardless of its value? Yes.
The Bible says that he who lusts is an adulterer at heart. Have I looked lustfully upon someone? Yes.
The Bible also says he who hates his brother is a murderer at heart. Have I hated someone? Yes.
Have I committed blasphemy by using God’s name nonchalantly? Yes.
Have I dishonoured my parents? Yes.
Am I a hypocrite? Yes.
So what does that make me?

A lying, thieving, adulterous, murderous, blasphemous, dishonouring hypocrite at heart.

And that’s only 6 of the 10 commandments that we’ve gone through, let alone the rest in the Bible.

We have fallen to sin, and we deserve God’s wrath. Because of sin, we’re all constantly on the Highway to Hell: eternal separation from God. So many times I feel like saying, “I let you down so times, but I can’t ever tell you this. There’s no forgiving it.”

I can’t speak for everyone else, but I sin daily. Daily. I am undeserving of many things, after the things I’ve done, the things I’ve said, the things I’ve thought. But most of all, I’m undeserving of His Grace.

The other day in band, we played just a simple scale, and played it like it was nothing more. My teacher said do it again, and make some music. So we did.

“What the freak was that??” he said. I thought we did something wrong and another smack down was on the way, but he continued on to say how undeserving he is to be able to say one phrase and BAM we go from brutal to brilliant in a matter of 30 seconds or less. In his admirable humility and modesty he went on to say how unworthy and not good enough of a teacher he is, and that it’s all us, and we should focus like that all the time, etc. but that’s beside the point.

WE ARE UNDESERVING!!! It is not by OUR works that we are saved. People don’t go from brutal to brilliant, sinful to saved, because of what THEY THEMSELVES have done. It is not by prayer, by church attendance, by confessing, by having a good personality, by being/doing good, by not doing bad, NOT BY DOING that we are saved. None of that.

Jesus, who had it all in Heaven, angels praising Him and worshipping saying holy, holy, came down to Earth and listened to His own creation call out, “CRUCIFY HIM! CRUCIFY HIM!” He was not afraid of what MEN would do to him, he was not afraid of the roman nails or the criminal death on a tree that he would die. He was afraid of the cup of God’s wrath (that was meant for us) poured out on Him. The wrath incurred by the sins of AN ENTIRE PEOPLE across time, poured out on a single person. The pain in the physical? Just a paper cut compared to the pain and suffering Jesus endured in the spiritual. All for what?

YOU. AND. ME.

Imagine one man standing by a dam 1000km wide and 1000 km tall, holding back more water than the 7 seas contain, and then suddenly that dam was taken away, and the water exploded out, right where that one man stood. That’s the size of God’s Wrath. But why does God even have a wrath if He’s supposed to be loving? God is just, and sin must be punished. But God is loving, merciful and gracious, because of what Christ did.

Even after we sin daily, even after all the displeasing things we’ve done to God, after all the times we’ve disappointed Him, He chooses to forgive us, because Christ has paid the price.

For all have sinned, and fall short of the Glory of God.

Romans 3:23

For the wages of sin is death.

Romans 6:23

But God demonstrates His love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

While we were still sinners. We can’t save ourselves. We’ve done unforgivable things and yet, WE ARE FORGIVEN if we accept Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Saviour to advocate for us.

I know I keep referring to this song, but it’s always just so fitting:

Because a sinless saviour died
My sinful should is counted free
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

I forgot who said it, but, “preach the Gospel at all times, use words when necessary.”

1100