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“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rustdestroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21, ESV)

 

all night long

Chad Karger

Do you ever feel like that you are working against God? Do you feel like your plans and God’s plans for you are at odds? 

You are not alone! 

The Bible is full of candid moments in which men and women struggle with God along these same lines. Like you and I, they have an idea or a vision for how they want their life to unfold. As clear as this may be to them, they believe that God is either working against them or is indifferent to their plans. 

Of all the characters in the Bible that this is true for, Jacob stands out. His struggle results in an epic wrestling match with God that lasts all night long. Once the sun rises, he emerges from that struggled on the river's edge with a limp and a new name. Moreover, this wrestling match that came on the eve of his reunion with Esau, his brother whom he had double-crossed all those years before. 

This paragraph is from my forthcoming book, Go Outside: The Adventure of Knowing and Being Known by God (Lucid Books).

Jacob’s encounter with God on the eve of his most dreaded hour resulted in a limp. Instead of it being a curse, the limp, for all of its pain, was a blessing. And, so it is with God’s grace for all who by faith take hold of it. God grace is a force that will not leave us alone. It reorients and restores. God’s grace renames us as those who are loved by God. By God’s grace we are all brought into the family who trace their heritage back to Jacob. Once named for his cheating ways, by grace, he becomes known as one for whom God had struggled in order to save. Incredibly, at the end of his life, Jacob, now Israel, upon meeting the Pharaoh of Egypt, says that his life has been relatively short and difficult. Then, with those words, he reaches out to bless the Pharaoh in the name of the Lord (Gen. 47:9–10).

Instead of Jacob’s struggle leading to death, it leads to hope and salvation, albeit with a limp! This side of eternity we may limp, but we know that the struggle with God builds faith and hope and will result in all things made new! For now, that limp — that sign that while things are good they aren't perfect — is a blessing and the ache it produces in you and I will one day be satisfied when Christ returns.

We, like Jacob, can take the final stanza of Psalm 23 to heart...

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life, 
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
(English Standard Version)

God is not ashamed of you

Chad Karger

Faith is convinced that God troubles himself about the smallest thing. (Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling)

I felt it this week. The trouble of this world washed ashore into our lives threatening our safety and security… again. It’s like the tide that threatens our fragile sand castles. I could feel myself feeling normal about the whole thing, which is alarming. The look of fear in the eyes of the victims of Las Vegas shooting begged me not to settle, not to be okay with this madness.

I also heard others reassure them that their pain and fear was real and legitimate. Stories were told that have been forged in suffering, not broken apart. Hope emerged, even if the journey to recover from violence require time… and friends. We must walk the road but we need not walk it alone. Others want to help.

God is not ashamed of our frailties nor of our desire for something more permanent. 

The following excerpt is from my forthcoming book, Go Outside. In these 2 paragraphs, I’m focused on how God is not ashamed of those who are faithful and who want more. There’s no need to hide desire, or numb it. We can place it before God and rest in His promise to fulfill it in and through Jesus even if we wrestle with Him to take hold of it.


The people in God’s story who were faithful wanted more. These are the people who are mentioned in Hebrews 11. Starting with Abraham, the writer tells how Abraham set out from his home country and all his kinsmen and followed God to a promised land where he pitched his tents. His faithfulness, the writer points out, was an indication that Father Abraham “was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10). But, like Abraham and all the others in this roll call of faithfulness, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (Heb. 11:13–16, emphasis added). 

If God is not ashamed of my wandering and longing, then that means I can experience His love and presence in my searching. When my expectations are not met in this world, God is not telling me to lower my expectations. He is stoking the fires of desire in my gut. If I, like the people in Hebrews 11, continue hoping for more, I will experience God’s pleasure and will not be disappointed. I can be both honest about how far short this world falls in my hopes and dreams. And, I can look forward with great expectations! (From Go Outside: The Adventure of Knowing and Being Known by God (Lucid Books))

Houston

Chad Karger

 

 

Last week I traveled to Houston. Since moving to Franklin, Tennessee about a month and a half ago, our friends and family in Houston have been faced with the ravages of Harvey. They’re all hard at work. My visit there confirmed what we grew to love about Houston in the 27 years of living there: It may not always be pretty, but good people live there and when push comes to shove you’ll find good community in that sprawling metropolis

Being there made me think about the opening lines from my forthcoming book, Go Outside (Lucid Books, Fall 2017).

“Have you ever been to Houston? Houston is a sprawling, concrete, unzoned, billboarded, beautiful mess! When I moved here as a college student, I never thought I’d stay for nearly 27 years. For all of its concrete and congestion, it became home to me and my family. My wife, Meeka, and I raised our three kids, forged the most important friendships of our lives, faced struggles, and experienced great joys there. In other words, our roots sank deep, and transformed an isolating and alienating city into a rich community. It was a place of knowing and being known. This kind of community slowed us down and cultivated and nourished our lives with God’s grace.”

You don’t have to live in the Rocky Mountains or the Swiss Alps to experience the beauty, strength, and goodness of God. If you and I will step out of our small and safe places and into the wilds of God’s creation and community we’ll find grace that we desperately need. We’ll make contact with God through His creation, through His people, and we’ll grow, if not through trials and tribulation. 

Remember Houston in your prayers. Don’t clean out your closet and send that stuff. They need workers, money, and your prayers. One way to connect is through this link: floodreliefhouston.org

You can also find out more through herecomebetterdays.org

Go outside!