Ear Worms #1

These are the songs that I cannot get enough of these days.

I was really late to the John Wick film series. I heard this and cannot stop listening to it. Help.
“Modern Vampires of the City” is a masterpiece. I love so many songs on that album, and I love this band so much. I overlooked Hanna Hunt for so long, and just as I discovered its brilliance I found this cover by I’m With Her and I haven’t been able to walk away from it. What I love most is that they extend the bridge, which the original, sadly, doesn’t do. Enjoy this beauty!
I don’t know where I first heard it. I can’t tell you anything about this band. This song, however, is really good.
I’m not really a Harry Styles fan, but this is a fabulous pop song. Kudos.
It’s Phoenix!!!!!
I don’t need to say anything about this one, just listen.

It’s Beirut!!!!!
It’s been years with this one…it is that good! My favorite Kendrick song. The lyrics are perfect.
Quentin Tarantino turned me on to this one. Guess the movie?
PERFECTION.

10 seems like a good place to stop. I’ll have another round eventually (if I ever stop listening to these songs).

😉

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Extraordinarily Ordinary

 

Have you ever read the book of Acts? It’s astonishing on its own, but when coupled with one of the gospels (Luke in particular) it is clear to see why The Bible Project argues that Acts would most accurately be titled “The Acts of Jesus and the Spirit”. Empowered by the resurrection of their Savior and the presence and power of the Spirit, the once weak, confused, and childish apostles are now mighty, courageous, and powerful. They are preaching with conviction, they are performing incredible works and wonders, and they are Spirit-filled and Spirit-led. The last two descriptors being the ones that keep coming back and enthralling me in this season as the goal that I find myself striving for obsessively; that my life might be Spirit-filled and Spirit-led.

Anyway, something incredible happens almost halfway through the book. Peter has just been used by God to bring Tabitha back from the dead. Elsewhere, Saul has seen a vision that has blinded him for 3 days and that eventually leads to him being baptized to be a “chosen instrument” of God. Now, a centurion named Cornelius, who feared God, has a vision to go and summon Peter. Peter, too, has a vision that he doesn’t fully understand, but God is revealing that His Gospel is for Jews and Gentiles and the whole world. So Peter eventually arrives at Cornelius’ place and Cornelius falls at his feet to worship him. Pause. What would you do?

Let’s build up to this moment all the way back from Luke. You are a fisherman. You are called to follow Jesus. You don’t know what you’re doing and half of the time you don’t understand what you are being taught and can hardly make sense of the things you are seeing. You make blunder upon blunder. You walk on water, briefly. You make a powerful declaration. You deny–three times. You see your Savior and best friend murdered. For three days you are lost. You cannot believe it, but you see him again. He is with you again. You rejoice and you understand a little more. Again, He leaves, but you receive the Spirit. You are empowered. You realize He is still with you and you are still following. So, you follow. You preach. You witness. You go where He leads you. You become His instrument and He does astounding things through you. However, there is still the world, and there is still the flesh, and there is still the enemy. You follow to this centurion’s home and the enemy appears. “You are powerful.”, he says, “You are doing these things. Look how great you are. You were born to be great. You are a leader. You are the savior these people need. You are worthy to be honored, praised, and glorified. You should be famous. You can do so much good with your fame. You should have all of the attention. You don’t need God. You are able on your own. Don’t you believe in yourself? Don’t you have confidence and self-esteem?” And so on and so on. The enemy is never far and he takes this opportunity to challenge Peter, just like he challenged Jesus, at the place where he knows we are most vulnerable and are the biggest threat to him, at our identity. He wants Peter to forget, with this act of idolatry, to accept it and to forget who he is and whose he is. Peter squashes it immediately, “Stand up; I too am a man.” It’s about Jesus for Peter. It’s all and always about Jesus. I am not necessary. I am merely an instrument. I am simply poured out, a sacrifice and offering for His glory, for His honor, for His praise. It’s all for Him. Peter gives His life, for Him.

“While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God.”

Peter knew it was not, “The Acts of the Apostles” but the “Acts of Jesus and the Spirit.”

Oswald Chambers, “My Utmost for His Highest”//Oct. 12:

“Enoch walked with God…” Genesis 5:24

The true test of a person’s spiritual life and character is not what he does in the extraordinary moments of life, but what he does during the ordinary times when there is nothing tremendous or exciting happening. A person’s worth is revealed in his attitude toward the ordinary things of life when he is not under the spotlight. It is painful to work to get in step with God and to keep pace with Him–it means getting your second wind spiritually. In learning to walk with God, there is always the difficulty of getting into His stride, but once we have done so, the only characteristic that exhibits itself is the very life of God Himself. The individual person is merged into a personal oneness with God, and God’s stride and His power alone are exhibited.

It is difficult to get into stride with God, because as soon as we start walking with Him we find that His pace has surpassed us before we have even taken three steps. He has different ways of doing things, and we have to be trained and disciplined in His ways. It was said of Jesus–”He will not fail nor be discouraged…” (Isaiah 42:4) because he never worked from His own individual standpoint, but always worked from the standpoint of His Father. And we must learn to do the same. Spiritual truth is learned through the atmosphere that surrounds us, not through intellectual reasoning. It is God’s Spirit that changes the atmosphere of our way of looking at things, and then things begin to be possible which before were impossible. Getting into God’s stride means nothing less than oneness with Him. It takes a long time to get there, but keep at it. Don’t give up because the pain is intense right now–get on with it, and before long you will find that you have a new vision and a new purpose.

 

 

Friends + God

Listen to the song that inspired this post.

“Happiness Only Real When Shared”

This is a real and tragic quote. This was the truth that Chris McCandless discovered some time before his lonely death. You can read or watch his story, it is called “Into the Wild”.

For most of us, we don’t need to go into isolation, off the grid and living off of the land, to realize that the people in our lives are very important. The world knows this, so it has sayings like, “It’s not what you do, it’s who you know”; and while this is most commonly used to express the exploitation of individuals for personal advancement, it nonetheless taps into a powerful and good truth meant for good and distorts it for bad use.

Our lives are enriched by fruitful relationships with others. Bad times are pacified and caressed into something more gentle and manageable through the company of a friend. Good times are elevated and magnified when they encapsulate the invisible glue of love and bond among individuals who are sharing of themselves and receiving the same from others. An arduous journey becomes possible with shoulders alongside of our own.

It is no different for the most challenging journey of all, the life of faith. It is a journey riddled with mystery, complexity, and even contradiction. Choosing to follow Jesus is an individual decision for each to make, yet walking with Jesus is never meant to be done alone. We must love God above everything, but we must love our neighbor as our self. We must be in the world, but not of it. Our God is one, three in One.

The life of faith should be defined by the pursuit of God; running after God. This does not mean that we run in such a way as to leave everything else behind. It means that we lay everything down, in front of us, so that being emptied, as we run, those things close to our hearts will be brought with us and dragged into the wake of His grace and mercy. As we run to God, we need to be running toward people, with people, for people, and not avoiding, evading, and circumventing them.

Our soul longs for companionship, and so we thirst, first and foremost, for God. As our soul meets its counterpoint in Him, we find in His very nature and being, the very root of our longing for companionship. After all, not only has He created us for union with Him, but He is also the one who said that it is not good for man to be alone, and created a helper for him. So, we understand, that our profound longing to be with people is not a deficiency or a malfunction, but rather, a part of the DNA that ties us to our Creator.

I’m writing this for 2 (types of) people. The first, is a Christian who needs community. Find a community. Understand that this is not a suggestion, it is a prescription. Find some people who love you, accept you, and are willing to walk through life with you. If you are short on friends, go out and be a friend to someone and you will have a friend. Understand that you may not have much of a choice as to who these individuals end up being. Maybe they do not wear the clothes that you like, or they do not listen to the same music, or maybe they speak a little differently–doesn’t matter. Do they love you? Do they accept you? Will they walk with you? In fact, the more different than you they are, the better, it will only help you learn and grow more. People are not easy. That doesn’t mean that they need to change, it means that we need to grow in love, in patience, in kindness and mercy, and in grace.

The second person, is the Christian with friends who are not Christian. Well done. You are not in this position by mistake or accident. Perhaps you feel unqualified, over your head, and unequipped–you’re not. You will definitely have to decide how much influence your friends have over you and if that is a good thing or a bad thing? Do you have to follow whatever your friends say or do, or will they understand when your path leads you in the opposite direction that they are walking in? If your friends are not a negative influence on you then you are in a great position. Your mission is not to evangelize to them. Your mission is not to immediately begin a bible study and invite them to it every chance you get. Your job is not to point out everything that they are doing that God does not like. When I was a teenager, I absolutely thought that some manifestation of these atrocities was exactly what my life needed to look like in order for the Lord to reach my friends. I was wrong.

Here is another idea: keep your eyes and your heart on Jesus, run after Him with everything, but be you. Be who God made you to be. Love your friends. Be a true friend. God will take care of the rest, just be ready. Pray for your friends and never stop asking God to draw them in. Live your life in such a way that God is glorified. Then, He will provide the opportunity for you to pray with a friend one night, or to listen as your friend shares about his/her broken heart, or to stick with a friend when everyone else walks away, or to laugh at that crazy thing that happened that only the two of you saw, or to invite your friend to bible study or youth group.

For many of us, the people in our lives who don’t know Jesus are a source of longing for us. Knowing the goodness of Jesus and knowing all that He has done for us, how He has rescued and transformed us, fills us with the desire to see all of our loved ones come to know this love. We pray, we hope, and we wait. We cry sometimes as we plead.

And yet, there is no amount of desire in my heart for people that could be greater than the Father’s own longing for His people. My God wants to be reunited with my loved ones even more than my own desire for them. Better yet, because He has brought me into the arms of grace, in their midst, He has allowed me to be a vessel, a light, which should serve them as a giant billboard constantly flickering and screaming of the Father’s love, forgiveness, and acceptance of all His children.

You don’t need to save your friends. You just need to live a real faith around your friends.

“If you alone find God, thousands around you will be saved.” – Mark Yaconelli

 

The Shortcut

“KD broke the league… (He) took the easy way out… Me, I’m too competitive to try and ride on somebody’s coattails to get a W.”

-Myles Garrett

Here’s the thing about Kevin Durant taking the “easy” way out with the Warriors. You could easily make the argument that LeBron started it by going to the Heat, though that turned out to be hardly easy, or that even the Celtics did it before him, when Ray Allen and Garnett took their talents to Boston. LeBron joined two all-stars in Miami, yes, but he also went to learn to win, to be part of a culture, implemented by Pat Riley, who did things the right way. Apparently, his plan all along may have been to take what he learned back to Cleveland and fulfill his dream of winning a championship for his hometown. I’ve come to terms with that, and in most ways I respect it. You have none of that with Durant. All you have with Durant is insecurity and emotional frailty. KD had been to the finals with a great OKC team and lost to an even greater Miami team. There is hardly any person who would doubt that had he stayed there [or gone elsewhere], he would have eventually got himself a ring, because he is and has been that great of a player (something everyone except KD knew, until now, that he has his 2 finals MVP trophies, one of those which he did not deserve, in my opinion). The problem is that he made it, intentionally or not, all about the ring, but so much worse than that, about the validation that the ring affords. He made it so that anything in his career would have been worthless, and his career might have no personal fulfillment for him if he had not won a ring, which is not the right message to kids growing up learning about competition at a high level from somebody like KD. It is also simply not true. Many greats have not won and they are still great. The process became completely insignificant to him if it didn’t lead to a pot of gold at the end. The journey became useless.

Worst of all, KD’s story should make us realize that we created this monster. We have made greatness without hardware questionable, and a scarlet letter of sorts. We see it now with James Harden. He is great, but will never be great enough for us if he doesn’t win. We say the same thing about perhaps the greatest soccer player ever, Lionel Messi, if he does not win a World Cup. We can also blame Michael Jordan and his brand. Michael Jordan was a part of some great teams, but he was the spectacle, the main attraction and he overshadowed everything to the point where we started to believe that it was all him and no one else. It takes a lot to win. Consider one of the greatest factors to winning in the NBA or any sport—health, e.g. Chris Paul. What one person can control that? Lost in all this is Steph Curry, who is demonstrating excessive levels of cockiness for my taste, but who did things the right way. Even the rest of the Warriors team did things the right way, winning through the process. More so, unlike Durant, Curry is not 7 feet tall and physically gifted, but developed exceptional skills through hard work, dedication, and perseverance to make him an elite top 5 basketball player in the world, who deserved this year’s finals MVP. I’m not saying that KD doesn’t work hard, he has to in order to be at the level that he is at, but he took a shortcut. Good or bad, it just is.

Winning may be everything, but the reality is that winning must be different for each of us. We cannot all compete for the same prize. Surely we must each run our own race for our own prize—that’s life. You do not have to be “special” to win and your prize will look different than mine. We will enjoy that in the end, or better yet, by appreciating the process and recognizing the beauty of the journey we discover that every day there is a prize for us. Furthermore, the greatest leader of all time taught us that to win we must lose. Our perspective should be aligned with His. I hear Kevin Durant used to carry a Bible in his backpack everywhere that he went—I don’t know if he still does that.

In-Between

In_Between1

Hey bud,

I just felt compelled to share something. Well, to explore something, but also to share that with someone who could understand, or who is in the best position to try to understand and who just knows me. Funny how people in your day to day life, in one form or another, seem to come and go in the expanse of a lifetime, but you never shake the profundity of your connection to some, and often these remain the ones that a certain section of your heart/soul is still tied to.
I’ve been thinking about Atlanta. Specifically, that one episode, season 2, episode 4, “Helen”. Something about that episode just shook me and I could not put my finger on it. I mean so shook that while I have the last 2 episodes recorded, for whatever reason, I haven’t watched them yet. I did watch episode 5 “Barbershop” but it seems that as I think back on the episodes that have impacted me, something about episode 4 still lingers. This season has just been all too real! Haha. I mean, maybe I haven’t experienced every one of those circumstances, but I certainly know some of those people, some of those moments, some of those thoughts and ideas. So after realizing that something about episode 4 kept resurging, I was able to make the connection.
My life, through no choice of my own, has been defined by dualism or dichotomy. It follows me everywhere I go and if I stray too far to one end or the other, it pulls me right back into the tension of in-between; never one or the other. In that one episode, Van illustrated perfectly, almost to a T, what my life has always been. Even the life of faith is by nature an embodiment of this personal truth, in that we are “in the world but not of the world”. I started to confront the contradiction that is my life at such a young age, having to learn to live in another country, with a different people, to learn to adapt and SURVIVE in a different culture. I am good at survival, and i think part of being good at survival is not acknowledging your weaknesses for fear or awareness that these could get you killed. Instead, you focus all your energy on your strengths, or on becoming strong. For me, this meant blending in, fitting in, making sure that I was not seen as different but rather, belonging. In the whirlwind of this balancing act, in the process of becoming the survivor, you can end up killing your Self. At the very least, your Self can become a remnant of the past you, before these means of survival became your reality. But even if it was hidden away in a deep closet of my soul, I always knew who I was, and that I was different.
As an immigrant, without a doubt, your home is this tiny unknown embassy of your home country. It was the one thing where I was reminded of who I was. Language kept me tied to my roots. Thank God my parents didn’t know how to speak English while I was a child as this kept me tied to my native tongue. But visitors, customs, food, tradition, and mostly, music, poured homegrown soil into my heart that never let me forget who I was. Then, of course, with my parents’ divorce, that home deteriorated.
As I got older, through God’s providence, I was able to make several pilgrimages to Colombia to discover myself, my family, my home, my blood, and my land. Needless to say, the tension is still present every day. I live in a place surrounded by white people with little to no minorities whatsoever. And it’s so easy for me to blend in that I often don’t notice the obvious differences until something abrupt happens and pulls me back into reality or I escape through a phone conversation with family, a video on facebook, or I play my latin music playlist on spotify.
But inasmuch as I am Colombian, I am also fully American (some would argue I am more American than Colombian and I guess I truly don’t know how to answer that except that as illogical as this may be, I don’t feel like two halves but rather two wholes, which is even more confusing for me). Look at it this way, sometimes I feel more comfortable in a room full of Americans. There is definitely familiarity there. I know the culture, I grew up in the culture. This is my culture. But in a room full of Colombians, while sometimes I may feel out of place, while I may not be able to follow everything that is said and I know that everyone knows that I am an outsider, my heart rests in belonging, in being home. Then there are the times I don’t feel comfortable anywhere. Most of the time, I realize few people feel what I feel, know what I know, live what I live. I think about this when it comes to marriage. In many ways, I want an American girl. Then I listen to music or eat some food or remember something about my culture and I think it would just be so nice to have that in common, to love and appreciate that equally with my partner. You know? I get that an American person can learn to love that stuff, but it’s not the same as when your heart IS that stuff and that love is not adopted but is just there, and it’s something you both know, and feel, and share.
I don’t know, man. I know that many people have it worse and i’m not complaining. I just think that a lot of people who know me, see me, or know about me, maybe don’t know this full reality of my life, or think that I just pull it off really well, but the truth is that this is tough and it’s exhausting to live a balancing act and to often question if you are being true to your Self or if you are betraying some part of yourself. I’m grateful for my life. I’m grateful for my cultures who have made me who I am and have given me a perspective and outlook on life that I cherish and feel very blessed by. But, it’s tough. Like Van, things don’t always work out the way you want them to. These two parts of your Self don’t always fit together and you don’t know which side ought to win. And it’s hard to feel so alone. And all you want to do is to be around someone that gets it, that understands, that without a word, they just remind you that you, as you are, are not alone.
I think that’s what was tough for me about that episode. I knew Van’s loneliness, I didn’t recognize it, but my soul did, and it hurt.

Great Expectations of the Deadly Kind

The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?  Luke 7:18-19 ESV

You can expect to die. Quite frankly, that is all. In fact, to not have that expectation is ignorant and unrealistic. Can I expect my next breath? Sure, but if it doesn’t come (which is completely possible) I will most certainly be disappointed as my reality fails to meet my expectations. There is nothing that is guaranteed to us except for the fact that we will eventually die. Therefore, while some may argue that the determination on whether expectations are good or bad hinges on variables and perspective, it is my perspective that to expect something that is not guaranteed is haphazard and foolish, leading to disappointment and unhappiness. A Godly life, therefore, is not one that expects anything but instead, one that simply follows and obeys.

Expectation: a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future; a belief that someone will or should achieve something.

Based on this definition, the concept of expectation seems innocent enough. It even sounds positive and optimistic. We certainly don’t want to hope or expect for bad things to happen to us so our desire to see good things happen comes from a place that envisions the best for ourselves. However, there are many inherent problems with this approach. I will just focus on two:

  1. We cannot know the future, so how can we know what to expect?
  2. Despite our good intentions we are flawed, even evil and sinful by nature, and this will always thwart even the best of our intentions.

The Lord gives us a very significant illustration of this in Luke 7:18-23.

John the Baptist and Jesus were linked to each other before they were born, even while they were still in the womb,

“It all begins with a Jewish priest, Zechariah…” Luke 1:5.

Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth, was barren and therefore the couple had no children. The bible tells us that they were “righteous in God’s eyes” and “careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations.” God chose to bless them with a child even though they were both well along in years by now. Not only that, He also gave them this promise, “He will precede the coming of the Lord, preparing the people for his arrival” and told them that the child would be named John.

Shortly after this Elizabeth’s relative, Mary, was also visited by an angel and told that she, too, would bear a son; the very “Son of the Most High”. Sometime after that, Mary went to visit Elizabeth and “At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her…”

Eventually that baby, John, would grow up to become John the Baptist. John was, different. Luke 1:80 says that “John grew up and became strong in Spirit. Then he lived out in the wilderness until he began his public ministry.”The gospel of Mark goes on to describe that, “His clothes were woven from camel hair, and he wore a leather belt; his food was locusts and wild honey.” Mark 1:6. Yet, he followed the calling on his life and obeyed, proclaiming, “Someone is coming soon who is far greater than I am—so much greater that I am not even worthy to be His slave. I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

JohntheBaptistCryinginWilderness

Jesus and John were cousins and being so had probably met before and spent some time around each other but it’s improbable that John had any idea about Jesus’ divine nature until it was revealed to Him. Eventually, the time came for Jesus to be baptized, so He went to see John the Baptist. This is how the moment is described in John 1:29:

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Soon a man is coming who is far greater than I am, for He existed long before I did.’ 31 I didn’t know He was the one, but I have been baptizing with water in order to point him out to Israel.” 32 Then John said. ‘I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon Him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘When you see the Holy Spirit descending and resting upon someone, he is the one you are looking for. He is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that He is the son of God.

Furthermore, we see that John was hesitant to baptize Jesus. In Matthew 3:14, “But John didn’t want to baptize him. ‘I am the one who needs to be baptized by You…” Unfortunately for John, these are pretty incriminating words that reveal a very human weakness that he would later succumb to when he questions the very identity He had previously confirmed.

(Noteworthy: It’s likely that John’s attempt at a refusal to baptize Jesus was because He knew of his righteousness, not because He was aware at this point that Jesus was the Messiah. In John 1:32-34, it seems that after baptizing Jesus, it was confirmed to John that Jesus was the One he had been waiting for.)

Certainly when you read Luke 7:18-19, you have to almost do a figurative double take. It’s not meant to be funny but it is almost shocking. Is this the same person? In fact, it would be shocking, embarrassing, and ridiculous, perhaps, if we didn’t see so much of ourselves in John’s very public moment of vulnerability. It wasn’t that he didn’t know Jesus as a person and it wasn’t that he didn’t know that this was the very Son of God. It was that for whatever reason, in this moment of weakness, his expectations didn’t align with reality. Unfortunately for John, this lapse in judgment caused him to doubt and question the very nature of the Messiah, basically, right to His face.

Who knows why? Maybe John’s own heart deceived him. Maybe he started to listen more to the voices around him than to the Lord’s voice. Certainly, the Jewish people had expectations about what this Messiah would be. The scriptures told of a King who would come:

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation…” Zechariah 9:9

“Behold the days are coming” says the Lord, That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth…” Jeremiah 23:5

A King was coming. Not only the imagery that that evokes but also the association with past greats like King David and King Solomon:

For when you die, I will raise up one of your descendants, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for my name. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 2 Samuel 7:12-15

The expectation was grand. It’s perfectly sensible. A desolate, oppressed people without a ruler longs for and hopes for a hero—a mighty, conquering, warrior king—who will exact its vengeance and establish its inherent glory forever. It sounds nice, except it wasn’t the way God had written the story. He came in triumphantly, alright—on a donkey. He was a carpenter. He hung around with poor fishermen, lepers, thieves, and less-than-reputable women. He was from the people, for the people, not over the people. This reality was so far from the expectation that despite all of the established signs John still had to ask. It’s as if he just couldn’t believe it. He just wasn’t sure.

So it is with us. Certainly, we have expectations of Jesus. He is to heal us when we are sick. He is to enrich us if we are poor. He is to protect us and keep us safe. We don’t stop there. We place expectations on ourselves, on our spouses, on our friends, on our jobs, on our society, on our environment.  We don’t appreciate the forest for the trees. We only care about the trees because we expect them to give us fruit.

We expect things without any evidence whatsoever that they should be. When it comes to expectations probability does not result in an absolute. The truth is we live on borrowed time. Being healthy does not prevent getting hit by a drunk driver. Working hard or being bright does not guarantee wealth. Winning the lottery does not mean you will be happy.

Furthermore, we would be well-served to scrutinize and interrogate our expectations. Were we to dig into our subconscious and unearth the motivation for our expectations, would we be satisfied with what we find? Do we expect anything because we are noble, good-hearted, and pure, or because we fear the alternative? If I expect to get married, is that because I want to find a person that I can love more than I love myself or is it because I fear being alone? If I expect to go to medical school and become a doctor, is that because I know my life’s calling is to serve others or is it because my success will prove to the world that I’m not a failure? Ecclesiastes 4:4 says, Then I observed that most people are motivated to success by their envy of their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless, like chasing the wind. Jeremiah 17:9, “The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” Even our most optimistic and noble expectations are likely rooted in our deep, sinful desires. Why? Because, life is not meant to be lived in the capsule of expectations.

We were not created to expect anything. God created us out of love. He wanted a relationship with us. We would never need or need to expect for anything because with God we would simply have it all. God wanted to be with us. He wanted to walk with us.

I will live among you, and I will not despise you. I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people. Jeremiah 26:12

What would we need to expect with God himself providing for us and enriching our lives in unimaginable ways simply because He loves us and we get to love Him? This all changed with sin. We became aware of our selves. We developed needs and in our pursuit to fulfill those needs we gave birth to expectations.

The thing is, God’s original plan for us is still possible and very much alive today. We see it in Jesus’ response to John:

“Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” Luke 7:22-23

Jesus didn’t ridicule John. He didn’t use him as an example, rebuke him, or belittle him. He loved him. His response is very similar to the scripture found in Isaiah 35: 5, “And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will shout and sing! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the dessert.” It’s as if He’s also saying, you’re not wrong for looking in the scriptures for signs, but your expectations have blinded you. Jesus understands. He is a father. He corrects but He instructs.

When we expect, we miss more than we gain.

Here is an excerpt from an interview with Quentin Tarantino about his writing process:

Interviewer: But that’s an interesting way to put it, you said you wanted to know more almost as though as you’re writing you’re discovering as it’s coming out.

QT: Well, I think that really is the way that you really need to do it. Now, once I got done with that scene (talking about writing the opening scene for “Django Unchained”), it’s one of the benefits of starting with a classical, on its own scene, like the opening scene of “Inglorious Basterds” or the opening scene of Django, that can, literally, be a scene onto itself. Now, where do I want to go from here, becomes the question. What I’ve learned as time has gone on is for a long time I tried to think out everything in the story, even though I know things would completely change as I go on. However, now I’ve realized that it’s not really, it doesn’t do me much good to think too much past the middle. I mean, I might know where I want to go. I mean, I write genre pieces so you have an idea what the third act is going to be. In “Kill Bill” I guess she’ll probably kill bill at the end…but, you know, a genre movie, you think you know where you’re going and you’re probably right and you have an idea of how you might want the ending to end both for the movie and for the audience. But for the most part, you can kind of work out more or less what’s going to get you to the middle but to think beyond that is kind of silly because by the time you get to the middle when you’ve actually been writing it, well, it’s a different story, it’s a different thing now. Now you are the characters, you know the characters, things that you could never have known before you started writing, they’re in your blood now. There’s a mythology to my movies to some degree or another and that mythology is delivered as I write. And I might have a checklist of things that I might want to do during the course of the time but some of them become irrelevant as you go on and other ones take their place and some things you thought could have been a big deal, well, they are a big deal, and maybe half of the reason you wanted to write it, by the time you get to where that would happen, ah, it’s for something else, it’s not for this. But by the time you get to the middle, that’s where you want to be. You want to be this expert, you want to be in the middle of the story, you want to know who these people are. And now with all this knowledge, now you figure out where you want to go for the second half.

Interviewer: But that’s an interesting approach to writing being like, you have to be a good listener and you have to listen to your own characters once their mostly formed.

QT: …You just write…

-The Nerdist, Podcast, 12/18/2015

I love this interview. For starters, I bet Quentin Tarantino, as smart as he is, never imagined himself being quoted in a biblical sermon. But mostly, I love this beautiful parallel between screen writing, life, and faith. Quentin doesn’t have it all figured out before he progresses and he doesn’t expect things to go a certain way. Like the interviewer says, he listens, and then he just writes. This is the way that God wants us to live.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope…” Jeremiah 29:11

God’s desire is for us to follow and obey. His plan is perfect. He will provide everything we need. Expectations are simply baggage that we choose to carry that we don’t need.

Before John’s messengers left Jesus with the response that He had given them, He gave them one more message. It was a warning, “And tell him, ‘God blesses those who are not offended by me’” Luke 7:23. In other words, Jesus is saying, do not be offended that I do not meet your expectations. Instead, learn to see me as I am, and you will surely be blessed.

I have no doubt that after receiving this response all of John’s doubts were quieted. He most likely realized that it was his own blindness which didn’t allow him to see.

Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light. Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus frees us from the burden of expectations. Those expectations which drown us, manipulate us, and enslave us, He drives them away. Instead, He gives us His promises. By focusing on God’s promises rather than our expectations we can rest assuredly in the truth, in the Creator of the universe, in the Son of Man who became the salvation of a fallen world. He makes me free.

He Came For Me

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Luke 5:1-11

One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”

“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.

When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. 10 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.

Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” 11 And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.

            In this miraculous event, Jesus instructs Simon Peter to go and let his nets out. Peter responds with doubt. It’s very interesting about doubt in this scenario. Just before this Jesus made another request of Simon. Being practically strangers at this point (but assuming that Simon had probably heard of Jesus – Luke 4:37) Jesus asks Simon for his boat and to be pushed out a little away from the shore.

So, before Jesus asks Simon to let out his nets, we’ve learned some critically revealing things about Simon:

1) He has probably heard about Jesus

2) He owns a boat and fishes for a living

3) He does what Jesus asks of him

4) He just heard Jesus preach the word of God

Jesus made two requests of Peter here. The first was obeyed unflinchingly without question, the latter, not so much. Think about this, Peter’s boat is his livelihood. Later on in Peter’s story, we learn that he can be a bit hot-headed and defensive, going as far as to slice off a man’s ear in defense of Jesus. So, why does he so easily give what is probably one of his most valuable possessions to a stranger so effortlessly? Well, I think it’s safe to say that since Simon probably knew about Jesus, I mean, the whole “town” was electric with rumors and legends that were already coming forth about the miracles He was performing and the things He was saying, he probably knew enough about Jesus to know that lending Him his boat would cost him nothing. It was easy for him to oblige here.

Immediately after this, Simon Peter gets a front row seat to the best show in town, Jesus preaching. We don’t know what Jesus preached that day on that shore from that boat. What we do know is that when Jesus preached it caused a reaction in people. Whether that reaction was joy, anger, or confusion reflects the condition of the individual’s heart, and we don’t know what Peter’s reaction was except for one clue, in verse 8, “Master”. Peter addresses Jesus from the perspective of submission, leading me to believe that Simon’s reaction to what he had seen, heard, and experienced that day was a positive one. Still, in spite of finally meeting the man he had heard so much about, and in spite of hearing the truth and power of His words to the point of submission, His response when given an order (an instruction), but furthermore, being told ahead of time what his reward will be for obedience, is to make an excuse that expresses his doubt and disbelief in God’s power. It sounds crazy, right? It is crazy to think that anyone would not do something when being told that the result will benefit them. Maybe it’s not so crazy though.

There were a lot of factors at play here. There is even a parallel to Jesus, later on, telling Peter that he would deny Him, and Peter refuting that statement only to go on and deny Jesus the same way that it had been foretold. Similarly here, one moment ago Simon Peter was obeying Jesus without question, now he’s questioning, doubting, and almost arguing? What changed? Perhaps this time, whether Simon knew it or not, his heart led him to this response because this decision was going to cost him something. Peter was a fisherman. This is what he did. He had been out all night. He caught nothing. The conditions were no good. He was tired. He was dejected; maybe he was worried, anxious, hopeless, frustrated, angry. Maybe he was scared. There are 2 parts to Peter’s response here:

  • we worked hard
  • …(we) didn’t catch a thing

In other words, I tried and I failed. In other words, if I try again I will fail again. This decision was going to cost Peter several things: work, effort, disillusionment, failure, trust.

It’s easy to dismiss Simon for a fool. After all, He knew now who Jesus was, but did He know Jesus? I can’t escape the revelation that my doubts and excuses to God are just as foolish. Don’t I know who He is? Haven’t I seen what He’s done?  Don’t I call Him Master? I have no way of knowing, and any attempts to know are futile, how God works, but I dare to wonder, if only for my childlike curiosity, how many more fish might have been caught if Peter didn’t doubt at all and instead went out unflinchingly with confidence in who Jesus is?

This gives us a beautiful picture of the perspective of God in His relationship to us. We in this human condition assume the role of petulant children who always put up a fight although God is saying, “Do this, and I will do this…and what I do will be greater!” How much greater? Our minds cannot even comprehend.

6 And this time their nets were so full they began to tear!

Simon Peter, however, was not completely hopeless here. He is only human, after all. He did have three necessary responses, which made all the difference.

In verse 5, he said: But if you say so, we’ll try again.

Ultimately, despite my doubts, my lack of faith and my excuses—act—obey.

1 Samuel 15: 22

“What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to His voice? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. Listening to Him is much better than offering the fat of rams. ” 

If you can’t trust—obey.

If you are scared—obey.

If you are lost—obey.

If you can’t see—obey.

He, the beautiful one who created the stars will fill your boat to the point of being on the verge of sinking. He will bless you so much that you will need help to contain the overflow of abundance. He is that faithful. He loves you that much

Peter’s next response is his recognition/acknowledgement of the truth. Peter discovered grace, and it brought him to His knees.

8 I’m too much of a sinner to be around you

The bible says that Peter was awestruck by the size of their catch, but from one sinner to another, I recognize that Peter was awestruck by the Father’s grace—I love you no matter what. Or simply, I love you. Those three words alone from the maker of the universe, from the Alpha and Omega, from the savior of my soul, are enough to bring me to my knees.

Peter’s final response:

11 And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.

Knowing the rest of Peter’s story makes this such a beautiful picture of the mess God inherits when we come to Him. God deals with messes.

In the previous chapter Jesus makes an astonishing proclamation. It’s the beginning of His ministry. Jesus has recently left the wilderness where He was tempted by the Devil and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. He begins to preach throughout the surrounding country. Preaching in a synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth a scroll was handed to Him which contained the messages of Isaiah the prophet:

Luke 4:18-19

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has appointed me to preach the Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.

I can picture Jesus reading this clearly, passively. Then, calmly:

20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant and sat down.

You can hear a pin drop in the room as everyone holds their breath waiting for His next words with mounting anticipation. The bible says that, “everyone in the synagogue stared at Him intently.”

21 Then He said, “This scripture has come true today before your very eyes!”

Wow. How did they react? My heart bursts with joy, shouts, and applause.

He came for the sick and the lame; the poor and the abused; the liars and the thieves; the backstabbers; the cheaters; the murderers. He came for the hurting. He came for the doubters and the unbelievers. He came for Peter. He came for me.

We know what Peter went on to become. What will you become when you choose to follow?