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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)

 

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!

 

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.