10:24 Stir It Up

As a kid I loved the “big” stories from the Bible:

-Jonah

-Noah

-David and Goliath

-Joseph

-Elijah and the prophets of Baal

-etc…

There was something so unique and so inspiring about them.  About the God that was involved in those stories.

-A scrawny teenage kid with pimples and a few rocks in his pockets going to war with a renowned giant.  Having faith that his God would see him through this battle of insurmountable odds.  When nobody gave him a chance.  Even he had to wonder, “is this possible…”

-Another kid at the bottom end of his brother’s food chain.  His own brothers hated him so much they threw him in a well to be left for dead.  At the bottom of the well he cried out for help.  Eventually he was found.  But his rescue turned out to be possibly worse than death.  Merchants found him in the well and “rescued” him to become a slave.  And through all of this pain and rejection God worked a miracle that would eventually bring reconciliation with this outcast brother to his entire family.

-A man whose friends and family most likely thought he was insane.  Spending years building a ship that seemed like an extreme waste of time to everyone.  But he held on to his faith in a God that was much bigger than he could comprehend.

The older I get, the easier it is to think that those are simply stories.  That the God in those stories doesn’t really exist anymore.  He isn’t really that big.

The older I have become, the easier it has been to shrink God into what I think He is. As a child I was filled with wonder about this huge God that could do anything.  The great temptation now isn’t to discontinue believing in God.  It is to believe that God is only slightly more powerful than I am.

I love being involved in the lives of young people and with students in high school and college who follow Jesus.  Not because I long to be young again.  Not because I miss the glory days of playing sports regularly and can live vicariously through them.  I love teaching students and simply being around them because they still believe.  They still believe and live their lives with a kind of recklessness that God is exactly who Elijah said God is.  That He is so much more powerful than my 28 year old, safe, secure, responsible, good steward of life, self is prone to buy in to.  They do crazy things for the sake of this God.  And I am inspired because of it.

Hebrews 10:24

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…”

Let’s really think about what it would take to motivate/push/awaken/excite/agitate/get under the skin of/offend/outrage/provoke/challenge/energize/spur/prompt/trigger/spark/hasten/inspire one another.

For the goal of what?

Fighting/convincing/eating chicken sandwiches/voting?

no.

“Let’s consider how to stir up one another

(long pause…)

to love and good works.”

verse 25 follows:

“not neglecting to meet together…but encouraging one another”

Encourage is defined “to inspire with courage”.

So on Saturday Brittany and I met 7 other married couples who don’t really know us or each other.  Tonight quite a few of us went out to dinner.

Waitress: “What are you all celebrating?”

Us: “We just met”

Over the next year or so these other married couples will join us in trying to become a group of people that know each other well enough so that we can stir up one another.

With the purpose being to love greater.  And to do some good works along the way.

We’ll meet most Tuesday evenings of the year and I’m praying we will not simply compliment one another (“that’s a nice outfit”), but also that we will inspire each other with courage to believe that God is just as big as He was when David was on the battlefield with no armor and a few rocks.

and that that God is continually drawing us into a growing loving relationship with Himself.

 

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Long Distance Friends

Some of the best friends of my life don’t live anywhere near me.  People that I’ve always wished I lived closer to, I’ve never lived close enough to.

There are people in my life that even if I were to only see them once a year…it would be like we grew up together.  Some of these people I have literally NEVER lived in the same state as (or at least very long).  You might begin to think, “how could you really be close with them?”

But you weren’t there.  You don’t know.  You just have to trust me.

In the same respect, I have some friends that are incredibly close to me and lived close to me and then moved away from where I lived.  People I’ve known for years.  People I used to see once a week, once every other day.  And now we don’t see each other that often, in comparison to hanging out on a weekly basis.

But man.

We are close.

At the beginning of July, Brittany was out of town for the weekend and at the last minute some friends of ours stayed at our apartment as a stop between their drive from Maryland to a beach in Florida.

In August of 2007 I got engaged to Brittany in Maryland after we spent the summer living there.  We got to know Chris and Lydia.  They were dating.  On the day we left Maryland Lydia handed us this gift:

It has hung above our stove since we have been married.  Lydia hand painted this and explained to us the meaning behind it.  That when God brought Brittany and me to Maryland it was like He was using us to usher in some new life into their community and to restore some things that previously had become rather dark.

It is one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given in my entire life.  Obviously, it took a lot of thought and a lot of time.  And it is a daily reminder that we aren’t where we are by accident, but that God has strategically placed us together in specific locations for purposes that are far more meaningful that we could ever imagine on our own.

“A city placed on a hill…”

When they stayed in our apartment here in Atlanta, it was the first time I had seen either of them since our wedding day.  Chris and Lydia Morris have been married for a while now, and I love them dearly.

And because of our closeness and because of Jesus, we picked up comfortably right where we left off.  Stayed up till 3am or so catching up on the last 4 years in face to face conversation.  Not a moment awkward.

Full of love between close friends that are simply separated by the distance we geographically live.

This past weekend Brittany and I went back to Orlando for the first time since we have moved away.  It was a quick trip for a wedding that I would have driven to Texas to be a part of.

We saw some dear Orlando friends and picked up right where we left off.  Living distance didn’t matter.  On the way back we stopped in Gainesville, FL to see Aaron and Katrina Harden and had an amazing hour and a half lunch with our best friends.

Lydia’s painting reminds me every day that God actually does have great plans for us here in Atlanta.  Plans that I won’t know about for some time…and might never fully understand.  Plans to spread his love to people around us in ways that we could never fully intend to.

It also reminds me that God connects the hearts of friends in such a way sometimes, that it doesn’t matter how far away we live from each other.  And it doesn’t matter how often we see each other or talk with each other.

Distance Doesn’t Diminish.

Going to the same church doesn’t make you friends.  Living in the same city/state doesn’t make you friends.  Working at the same job doesn’t make you friends.

There are some amazing people that I wish you all knew that Brittany and I have been given the grace to be friends with…

that we will always be close with.

And it is because God has strategically placed us and he has placed you in strategic locations (school/work/church/neighborhood) to be salt (preserve what is good) and light (point people towards a better understanding of Jesus) because He is writing my story.  And He is writing your story.  And he wants to continue to bring light to darkness.  And love to hatred.

And along the way, we are blessed with friends who remain.  No matter how far.

Distance Doesn’t Diminish.

Matthew 5 “You are the light of the world. A city placed on a hill that cannot be hidden… Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.”