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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)

 

Sheep of His Hand

Chad Karger

The Good News in Jesus is that God has exerted His power and secured our rescue from sin and His wrath (Rom. 1:16–18). In Christ we are saved from our rebellious and futile efforts to find life outside of the One who gave us life. We are given rest for our souls: 

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). 

Jesus’s call loosens our grip on self-preservation so that we can take hold of him. It opens the door so that we can go outside and into His bountiful pasture: “For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand” (Ps. 95:7). Where sin has made the world small and convinced us that self-reliance is the only way through life, Jesus invites us outside and gives us faith in God.

The gospel of Jesus leads us outside of our self-centered world and into the wide world of God’s glory and pleasure. Jesus calls out to his disciples to enter into the care and providence of God. 

“Do not be anxious about your life.” He goes on to say, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” Then, later, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all of his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matt. 6:25–26, 28–30). 

The grass, birds, and flowers, as well as you and I, are dependent upon the Word of God. By the Word we are created and sustained. By the Word we are saved from sin and death. The Word of God is our only hope. For that reason, the Word took on the flesh of a first century Jewish carpenter. Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Messiah, the Rescuer! He is our Liberating King, The Righteous One. He leads us outside of our worry and anxiety and into life as God designed. 

from Go Outisde: The Adventure of Knowing God and Being Known By God, by Chad Karger (Lucid Books, Fall 2017)

the book

Chad Karger

It’s finally happening. 

Photo by Patrick Wimberly

Photo by Patrick Wimberly

This fall I’m finishing up a book with BetterDays and Lucid Books! It has been a labor of love and taken longer than I had anticipated. I’m excited to get it out there and I’m praying that it will be an encouragement to everyone who takes the time to read it. Ahead of its release, I’m going to be posting passages from the book here at my blog.

Go Outside: The Adventure of Knowing and Being Known by God (Lucid Publishers). 

In many ways, this book is made up of the content, vision, and words that have gone into the work at BetterDays. This ministry began in 2002 and has been dedicated to providing care and encouragement to all who needed it ever since. It is especially focused on helping pastors and ministry leaders in their unique roles. While I am no longer working for BetterDays full time, caring and supporting people in their journey is still my life’s work, which I now do through Porter’s Call. Whether its pastors or artists, the struggles we face tempt us to retreat to safer and more predictable spaces. God is calling and inviting us outside!

First, “go outside” is a simple phrase that is intended to be taken literally. Get up and walk out your front door, wherever it may lead, and look closely; take in the realty and beauty around you. For some of you, you may have to look harder and longer. For others of you, God’s creation is on dramatic display all around you. Wherever you are, it’s worth the effort!

Beauty calls to us; it’s an invitation. In that way, “go outside” is a directive in our spiritual journeys. Exit the cramped, man-made, self-referential spaces and engage God in the wide-open spaces of His grace and love -- this may be on a walk in the woods, making time for real friendship, or serving the needs of others. Thankfully, God comes near to us in our hiding and isolation. Jesus meets us where we are and makes a way for us join him outside of our worry, isolation, addictions, and whatever else trips us up and locks us up. 

Go outside, then, is a simple phrase that may mean something different for everyone. The question that I hope comes into focus as you read the book and these posts: Where are you stuck inside that, by God’s grace, you could walk outside of and be freed from? In particular, I hope to direct your attention to three key areas that are essential features of our God-given humanity: worship, relationships, and stewardship. The book explores how these have been vandalized by sin and how they are redeemed by grace in Christ Jesus.

Having spent many hours talking with people, several years ago I came to realize that most of our conversations involved one or all of these 3 areas. We would talk about struggles and joy in each. We talked about getting lost in each and being set free to truly thrive in each. Eventually, I came across this passage from from N.T. Wright’s book about Jesus and how these areas are pertain our vocation as humans and God's love in our life:

“The key is that humans are made in the image of God. That is the equivalent, on a wider canvas, of Israel’s unique position and vocation. And bearing God’s image is not a fact, it is a vocation. It means being called to reflect into the world the creative and redemptive love of God. It means being made for relationship, for stewardship, for worship—or to put it more vividly, for sex, gardening and God. Human begins know in their bones that they are made for each other, made to look after and shape this world, made to worship one in who image they are made.” (The Challenge of Jesus, p. 183)

Then, he adds, “But like Israel with her vocation, we humans get it wrong.”

Yep, we sure do.

We get it really wrong. We get lost in getting it wrong! Then, God comes looking for us and calling out to us in Christ, “Where are you?”. And, with that, we see a doorway, a narrow path open before us through which we can enter into the wide open space of faith, hope, and love.

the chair

Chad Karger

At the intersection of Highway 96 and the railroad crossing just east of downtown Franklin, Tennessee, a little bluish-gray house sits atop a hill. Inside that house, in the room closest to the railroad tracks, there is this well-worn leather chair. As many musicians and artists can tell you, this is Al’s office at Porter’s Call.

Built in the late 1800s, this old house was once occupied by the men who were in charge of the railroad crossing, doing repairs and keeping the tracks clear so that the passing trains could continue on their journey. Al wasn't here in the 1800s, but, he has, in a different sort of way, picked up where the railroad foremen left off. In this office, from this leather chair, Al has worked to help others find their way home. Instead of railroad foremen, the house is now home to porters. 

In the old monasteries, the porter took care of the the travelers who needed a place to rest, needed company, or needed sustenance for the journey. Founded by Al and Nita Andrews sixteen years ago, Porter’s Call combines the presence of the old railroad foremen and the hospitality of a porter to carry out this work. They have, along with their staff, created a place where musicians and artists could find a friend, a place to rest, and time to be rejuvenated — clearing the tracks and filling souls.

I am humbled to join this effort. I’m even more humbled to move into Al’s office. I asked Al to leave the chair. He graciously agreed to do so. When I finally mustered the courage to sit down in the chair, I tried to imagine all that he had seen and heard from this vantage point. I recalled words he shared with me, the the times he listened to me struggle with debris on the tracks of my life. I said a prayer of thanksgiving and asked God to fill me with a similar empathy and wisdom, of love and hope. I want to be faithful to this chair and to the call of God in my life; I want to be present at this intersection, and serve the needs of travelers who stop by Porter’s Call.

I met Al at a crucial intersection in my own journey. He was one of my professors in graduate school. In addition to my studies in counseling, I was learning how to be a man, a husband, and a new dad. When I think about where I’ve ended up, working alongside of he and the staff at Porter’s Call, sitting in his chair, I’m in awe of God’s gracious and persistent leading. One thing has been made abundantly clear as we have moved to Franklin and started this work, God is into the details. And, God uses people like Al to help clear the path and offer a timely word.

To know Al is to know a rare mixture of humor, kindness, strength, wisdom, and empathy. You might just as weep in his presence as you are to laugh hysterically. Either way, it is good for the soul. In this way, Al has the rare ability to put other men at ease and invite them into a level of honesty and transparency that promotes beauty and strength in their life. Like the railroad foremen who once lived in this old house, Al is more than willing to climb down on the tracks and sort through debris in your story. He’s not afraid of the work that caring for souls requires of the porter. He welcomes the traveler as they are and sets about to clearing the way and feeding the heart with God’s grace and truth. He helps you find your way home. 

By that same grace, I’m equipped for this work. As I take my place in this well-worn chair, I want to share with others what has been shared with me.