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This is a guest post from my friend Pete Wilson (Twitter, Facebook, Blog). Pete’s just released his latest book, Let Hope In. You can pick up a copy HERE.

If you’ve not read anything of Pete’s, please do yourself a favor and pick this book up. His writing is fresh and pointed. It’s easy to understand and apply…but the principles are difficult to live because Pete pulls no punches.

And a book about hope? Good grief, pick this book up now.

Let Hope In

____________________________

There are two very different types of hope in this world. One is hoping for something, and the other is hoping in someone.

Eventually everything we hope for will disappoint us. Every circumstance, every situation that we’re hoping for is going to wear out, fall apart, melt down, and go away. When that happens, the question then is about your deeper hope, your foundational hope, your fallback hope when all your other hopes have disappointed.

All of Scripture points to one man, one God, not because he gives us everything we’re hoping for but because he is the One we put our hope in.

For the past year I’ve been working on a new book I just released entitled “Let Hope In“. I knew from the beginning that this book would fall short of helping people find life-changing transformation if all we do is identify the problems, challenges, and painful moments of your past. Identifying these memories from your past alone doesn’t help you. If all you do is remember the source of your pain, then something has gone horribly wrong. Why drudge up the past if you can’t find healing from the pain?

And for there to be real healing, for your past to really become your past, what needs to happen here is that you discover or discern the lie that your memory contains. This is fundamental to your healing.

It is important to understand that your past is not really the problem. The real problem is the lie you believed when an event happened in your past.

The truth is that memories don’t hurt us. It is what we believe about those memories that hurts us.

Trusting in the loving care of God regardless of what has happened in my past has been an ongoing process in my journey. And it’s only when we trust his loving care that we’re able to really begin to allow the hope of Christ to shine through us. Yes, hurt people do hurt people. But what’s equally true is that free people free people. And becoming free starts with being able to fully trust the loving care of God despite what we’ve possibly been through in our past.

 

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Your theology doesn’t matter

Ben Reed —  September 11, 2013 — 15 Comments

I have a Nike+ running watch that tracks distance, pace, calories, and GPS. I wear it while I run, and it gives me instant feedback. When I’m done running, I plug it into my computer, and it tracks my progress over time.

It’s really a great piece of equipment.

Nike-GPS-Watch

image via Nike.com

But mine started messing up.

And I began to get pretty frustrated. I’ve had the watch for a year-and-a-half or more, so I just knew that when I called customer service I was going to be told, “Sorry…you’re outside of the warranty period. There’s nothing we can do. We wish we could help.”

When I called, I was blown away by what I heard on the other end. (here’s the gist)

Hey Mr. Reed, I understand your problem. I’m so sorry that’s happening. I know how frustrating that must be. I’m a runner myself, and I use a watch just like yours. I want mine to work every time. Let’s try a few things. If they don’t work, we’ll work on getting you a replacement.

They were already promising something that most companies would only use in cases of extremely irate customers. They actually established a relationship in the first 30 seconds, and already offered customer service superior to 99% of other companies I’ve ever talked to over the phone.

You know what that translates into for me?

I’m a Nike customer for life.

I’m going to buy Nike shoes. Use Nike watches. Wear Nike socks. Eat Nike spaghetti.

Because I believe that they care about, and will take care of, me. I believe they’re passionate about their product…and that they’re going to stand behind and replace it if something happens. My customer experience with them has made me a customer for life. Even though other companies may make a better running shoe, come out with a cooler watch, or release a whole new line of socks designed for people just like me.

I just became a loyal Nike customer. Even though I may disagree with Nike’s core principles. May not support the same initiatives that they support. And if I were to sit down and have a conversation about morality with them, I’m sure I’d find myself on a different page than they are.

I’m loyal to them because of my customer service experience.

The Church’s message

The same thing is true in our churches.

If you want to make loyal “customers,” (people who don’t just show up once, but come back regularly) that doesn’t start in the pulpit. That doesn’t start with your theology.*

People could care less about where you stand on the authorship of the book of Hebrews or how long it took to create the Earth. They don’t even care what you believe about the Bible.

When…

  • life’s fallen apart
  • they don’t have any idea what their next step will be
  • they’re a wreck financially
  • their marriage isn’t fun anymore
  • they’ve been burned by the Church in the past
  • they’re coming because their spouse made them
  • they’re just looking for a little help
  • they don’t really want to be there anyway
  • they are skeptical of “church people”

…they could care less about your theology.** What you believe doesn’t matter to them. All that matters is their “customer service” experience:

  • how they were treated in the parking lot
  • how safe they feel dropping their children off
  • how warm and welcome they feel walking in the front door
  • how engaging the music was
  • whether the signage is clear enough to tell them where to go, so they don’t feel dumb walking around clueless
  • whether someone besides the “guy on stage” greets them
  • how they were publicly addressed as visitors

That’s scary, isn’t it? It means that a church with terrible theology, that doesn’t look to Jesus as the answer to hope, grace, mercy, and truth, could swoop in and convince people that their message is life-changing. Because they love people and help them feel cared for.

Your theology isn’t the reason that a visitor is going to stay. Or leave. At least not initially.

You want to fulfill the Great Commission, but you won’t get people to hang around long enough to soak it in unless you give an eye to people’s “customer service” experience.

Does your church have an eye for customer service? What do they do to show people they love them week in and week out?

 

*this is really a theological issue at heart, though. What you believe about our God who loves us despite our sin, who gives us His best (Jesus) to cover our worst drives this others-first behavior. But the specifics about what you believe theologically don’t matter as much to new folks.

**theology matters immensely. What you believe is of primary importance in the local church. And it drives what we do each and every week. But it doesn’t matter to people when they’re on the outside of faith, or when life has fallen apart. “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt

 

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A whole new level of gross

Ben Reed —  August 8, 2013 — 3 Comments
sweet-potato-fries

image credit: www.gimmesomeoven.com/

When we sat down for dinner, I assumed it was going to be a dinner just alike any other. Turns out it would be a dinner like no other.

Rex isn’t a particularly picky eater. He tends to eat whatever we put in front of him. Partly because of his taste buds. And partly because he knows that if he doesn’t eat the dinner my wife and I made, we’re not making him anything else.

This particular night, we were having sweet potato fries as a side. We’d sliced fresh sweet potatoes, drizzled them with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, and roasted them in the oven. The sweet aroma weaved its way through the house.

When we sat down to eat, Rex ate his meat, but didn’t want to eat the fries. I told him that he needed to eat at least a few of them. So he pushed them around on his plate, wrongly thinking I’d believe he’d eaten them. “I don’t like orange fries,” he said.

The battle began.

“Rex, you just have to eat 4.”

The battle continued.

Then I saw it happening, but I didn’t believe it. I thought he was faking it, because he’d done it before, trying one more time to get out of eating the sweet potato fries. He started retching a little, talking between heaves: “I really don’t like orange fries.”

“Buddy, you’re going to eat 4 before you leave this table.”

Retch.

Retch.

Then it happened. At the exact moment I’d decided to get on his level and remind him that he’s not getting anything else for dinner…no dessert…no…and I never finished that last sentence before I saw his supper again. He cried. And I wanted to.

I gently wiped his face and hands, and helped him change out of his clothes. I took his plate to the sink, and told him we’d probably had enough dinner tonight. Me, included.

Then I wiped my face off. My mouth out. My hands off. And I put on a fresh change of clothes, too.

Jesus’ Turn

That moment reminded how much Jesus loves me. He loves me enough to take on the mess of my sin. To bear it for me. Because even my best is like a “filthy rag.” (Isaiah 64:6)

He loves me enough to take on the shame of my sin. To look foolish so I don’t eternally have to. (Tweet that)

Every time I’m short with my son I’m reminded again of my stench.

Every time my pride rears it’s ugly head I’m given another glimpse into the dense layers of grace God offers us in Jesus. (Tweet that)

Every time I just care about myself, ignoring the needs of others, I see my stink one more time. Because Jesus doesn’t ignore me. (Tweet that)

Even when I commit the same stupid sin. Again.

Even when I’m less than the husband I should be. Again.

Every time I wallow in my guilt and shame, Jesus comes along and gently wipes my face off. Takes my plate to the sink. And gets me a new change of clothes. He sends me to the living room and says, “It’s ok. That’s enough for tonight. You’re all clean now.”

Once again He affirms His love for me. His love never fails. (Psalm 136:1)

Even when he wears your supper. (Tweet that)

 

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The audacity

Ben Reed —  June 12, 2013 — 11 Comments
SONY DSC

image credit: Creation Swap user Jeremiah Bauer

Who has the audacity to tell me…

…how to parent?

…that I’m wrong?

…to not be lazy?

…to quit being stingy with my money?

…to forgive someone who permanently damaged me?

…to call me out when my sarcasm stings?

…I need to rest?

…not to go there?

…not to watch that?

…to be friends with him?

…to quit hanging out with her?

…to go to that college?

…I need to quit avoiding him?

…that I have no right to an ego?

…to love those people?

…to tithe?

…that my best life is still yet to come?

…that I don’t have to try to impress him?

…that I’ve got nothing to give him that makes him any better?

…that he loves me, even in my worst moments?

The guy who rose from the dead. That’s who.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. – the apostle Paul (Romans 6:8-11)

 

 

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Buried in the grave

Ben Reed —  March 30, 2013 — Leave a comment

Buried in the Grave, by All Sons & Daughters, is far-and-away my favorite Easter song right now.

Enjoy!

(lyrics below the video)


 

There was a day we held our breath
And felt the sting of bitter death
When all our hopes were buried in the grave
Our eyes awake our hearts were torn
Between our faith and what we knew
Before our king was buried in the grave

And grace was in the tension
Of everything we’ve lost
Standing empty handed
Shattered by the cross

All we had
All we had
Was a promise like a thread
Holding us keeping us
Oh from fraying at the edge
All we knew
All we knew
Was you said you’d come again
You’d rise up from the dead

There was a day we looked for proof
That you had risen from the tomb
And all our doubts began to roll away
We touched the scars upon your hands
You kept your word
Oh son of man
You buried death by taking on the grave

You came here to save us
Cuz everything was lost
No longer empty handed
Clinging to the cross

All we had
All we had
Was a promise like a thread
Holding us
Keeping us
From fraying at the edge
All we knew
All we knew
Was you said you’d come again
You’d rise up from the dead

It is is won
It is done

All we have
All we have
Is the promise like a thread
Holding us keeping us
Oh from fraying at the edge
All we know
All we know
Is you said you’d come again
You rose up from the dead

 

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Don’t waste your fail

Ben Reed —  March 7, 2013 — 2 Comments
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image credit: vmvt.it

When I was in college, working on my undergraduate degree, I had a class in swine production.

I know, I know…sounds just like what you’d expect a guy who would end up as a pastor would study, right?

My path to full-time vocational ministry was not the one of least resistance.

A few times that semester, we got to visit a pig farm, and see the whole production. We’d help with the newborn pigs, watch a feeding time, see how research was conducted (on the research farm on campus), and meet with various workers. It was fascinating.

And made your clothes smell horrible.

There was no faking that you’d been to the pig farm. You had to change clothes and shower before your next class…every time.

One thing that stuck with me from that class was the way that nothing was wasted on the farm. Not even the pigs’ poop.

The poop was piled in a barn, and over the course of a year, the poop would compost, leaving a rich fertilizer that the farmers would use to fertilize the fields that other animals would graze. It was an incredible additive and boost to those fields, giving yields that greatly surpassed the non-fertilized fields. In other words, the poop made the crops grow faster.

Pig poop, though foul-smelling to us humans, contains nutrients that help crops grow really well. After it was harvested and composted (by which time it didn’t stink anymore), it was simply spread across the field in the spring, just before a rain, its nutrients used by the budding crops.

The poop from your past

You’ve got poop in your life. Things you’ve done that you’re not proud of. Things that have been done to you that you wish hadn’t happened. Dreams that you lost, relationships that crumbled. Jobs lost. Marriages destroyed. Addictions that you’re ashamed of. You’ve messed up in a way that you’d hope and pray nobody would ever mess up. You’ve done things…or not done thing…that you never want to repeat.

We typically do one of two things with that pain and suffering:

  1. Ignore it and act like it never happened.
  2. Wallow in it.

Neither is healthy.

Option 1 leaves us judgmental of others who have real pain, ignorant of our own Pharisaical stench. We’re left with a shallow understanding of our sin and pain…and thus a shallow understanding of God’s goodness and grace. Acting like “poop” never happened wastes our pain.

Option 2 leaves us in a crying, heaping, depressed, self-depracating mess. All of the time. We get stuck in what “could’ve been,” what “should’ve been,” and “who I wish I was,” constantly making ourselves pay for our past mistakes over and over again. OR making others pay for our past mistakes by disengaging from those who love us, and who would love to help. Wallowing in our “poop” wastes our pain.

I’ve got a 3rd option, and I take my cue from the pig poop.

Allow your failures to help someone else.

The way God brought you through the junk can help someone else who, right now, can’t see the light. They’re stuck. They’re in the middle of an addiction or the throes of suffering.

Live a life full of grace because you’ve been graced so much by the King. Live a life of love because you were loved first. Live a life of forgiveness because of the heaping amounts of forgiveness you’ve been given that you can never repay. Live a life of generosity because you’ve been given so much.

Your valleys can become great pastures that others can graze from as they see you living life to the full. (John 10:10)

No need to ignore the past. It’s purpose isn’t to hold you back. No need to wallow in it, either.

Let someone else graze from it.

If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. – 2 Corinthians 1:6-7

 

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A leader’s focus

Ben Reed —  February 13, 2013 — 1 Comment

Drops of dirty road water hurled themselves at the hem of my gym shorts as I rounded the corner. It was a chilly February afternoon, and I was almost halfway through with my jog. It happened to be my long run for the week, the final installment that week for my 13.1 mile training plan.

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image credit: Shape.com

As I rounded the corner, I started down a longer, straight stretch, a slight downhill section that cut its way between a row of houses, cold rainwater zipping across the road as I splashed my way down.

I looked up, and in the distance I saw the next corner I had to round. It was over a half-mile ahead. For the next minute, that’s all I focused on, and as I did, I felt myself slowing down, physically and mentally, frustrated I wasn’t further down the road. Anxious about how far I still needed to pound. My legs were ready to quit, and my mind was nodding its head in agreement. Until I looked down.

I dropped my eyes for a moment and focused on the wet pavement in front of me, putting one foot in front of the other. Looking at the pavement, then at the next puddle, then at the next mailbox, I pressed onwards until, before I knew it, the corner I’d dreaded was already behind me. The music in my ears echoed on as I focused on the next step.

The focus of a leader

There are times when leaders need to look way ahead, dream big dreams, and help paint a massive, far-off-in-the-distance picture of the bigger-than-what-we-can-even-imagine future that’s coming.

But there are also times when we need to put our heads down, and help others see that next step. Forget “the big picture.” Forget “the dream.” Forget “where we’re headed.” Just help people take that next step. Help them to not lose focus on what’s in front of them, and celebrate small wins. To look too far into the future can be paralyzing, frustrating, and anxiety-inducing.

Even a small step of faith in the right direction is worth celebrating. We’re all in process. Don’t paralyze people by the scope of the road you point them down.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Jesus, Matthew 6:34

 

 

 

 

 

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Just the other day, my son (Rex, 4) was playing with his uncle (Carson, 7). They’ve been playing together a lot recently. And like most boys their age, they play well together. Most of the time.

But there are moments where you think that the house is going to fall apart. That the carpet is going to roll up, the dry wall crack, and the bricks scream in agony because of the noise. Partly because they’re just boys and they play hard. And partly because…well…”He won’t give me back my Batman!”

Amidst the landscape of imaginary fire-breathing dragons, Rex and Carson had their swords, shields, and helmets, wielding each with very, very little precision. Instead of the dragons taking the brunt of their zeal, it was often the door frame, the couch, or our dog. In the middle of the battle, Rex turned to Carson, looked him directly in the eye, and said

‘Don’t forget. You’re my friend.’

As swords and arrows were whizzing by, it would’ve no doubt been easy to forget which team you were on and who the real enemy was, swinging your sword at the wrong person. Chopping off the wrong head. Creating enemies out of friends. This wasn’t a cry of desperation for a friend…it was a cry of “We set this out beforehand. We were clear before things went sideways with the Ogre in the corner. So don’t forget.”

This saying has a sense of camaraderie, rallying hearts, minds, and purposes. Refocusing energy and relationships, energizing what was once dead in the water. This awakens you to old, dusty covenants that need revisiting. Brightens dead corners of your heart.

We need this reminder today, too. And I bet there’s someone in your life that needs to hear this from you. Someone you’ve been treating more like an enemy than a friend. Someone who’s seen your dark side more than your bright side. Someone who really is your friend, but for all intents and purposes looks more like a fire-breathing dragon to you. Or you to them.

Maybe forgiveness needs to happen. Maybe humility needs to happen. Maybe “it’s you, not me.” But it can all start with a simple shift of heart.

4 people who need to hear this today

Your spouse

they are your friend, right? But when was the last time you reminded yourself of this? When was the last time you told them? When was the last time you treated them like the best friend you long to see at the end of the day? The one you tell your secrets, your hopes, and your dreams? Time to remind yourself, and them, of who they once were to you. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” – Proverbs 18:22

“Don’t forget, honey. You’re my friend.”

Your child

It’s hard, in the heat of the moment, to remember this. I’m not advocating that parents need to be friends first, and parents second. That’s a lousy way to parent. But in the moment when things get loud, and patiences are being tried, it’s easy to forget that your child is a gift from God to you. That, no matter how they’re acting, they’re looking to how you’ll respond. You represent God to them, whether you like it or not. Will you lose your temper? Will you disengage? Will you abandon them? Or will you show up when they need you, loving them even when it’s hard? “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them.” – Ephesians 6:4

“Don’t forget, son. You’re my friend.”

Your friend

You’ve got a friend in your life with whom you’re not as close anymore. Maybe it’s because of something they did to you. Maybe you did something to them. Maybe time and distance have taken their toll, and you’re just not close anymore. Friends are an incredible gift from God, though. “A friend loves at all times…” (Proverbs 17:17)

“Hey buddy, don’t forget. You’re my friend.”

Those you collaborate with

The people with whom you work can, and should, be your friends. If they’re not, you’ll be miserable, and your organization will suffer. Friends work well together, disagree passionately, and still head in the same direction. You’re all working towards a common goal. One may think that their way is quicker, but in the end you want the same thing. Remind yourself that you’re on the same team. “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” – Colossians 3:14

“Hey man, don’t forget. You’re my friend.”

 And aren’t you glad we get this message of hope from our King? He is our “friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

Who do you need to speak this to today?

 

 

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Our creative director, Jason Dyba, wrote this book. He read it during our Christmas services at Long Hollow. It’s phenomenal.

Read along with it. Then pick up a copy (see below the video for easy, free instructions) for your family to read this Christmas. I did.

Laura, Rex, and I will be reading it together this year.

 

Herbie and the Manger from Long Hollow Creative on Vimeo.

To download your copy

You can also to order a physical copy to be delivered to your home!

 

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The difficulty of Christmas

Ben Reed —  December 18, 2012 — 3 Comments
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image credit: Joe Cavaszos

I was standing in line at Wal Mart, checking out with a few snacks that my wife and I were taking to our staff Christmas party. We were both pretty excited to celebrate a great year with the staff at Grace, whom we loved.

My phone buzzed in my pocket. I slipped it out to see who was calling as I slid my credit card to complete the transaction. It was my mom.

“Hey mom, we’re checking out at Wal Mart. Can I call you right back?”

All I heard in reply was the rapidly-inhaling wheeze someone has when their words are battling with their tears. I instantly squatted down beside the register, cupped my hand over my right ear, and strained to hear every word coming through the phone.

“Mom? What’s wrong? Take a deep breath.”

“It’s Grandma…she’s…”

*wheeze*

“Mom. I can’t hear you. What’s wrong with Grandma?”

*wheeze*

“She’s gone, son. She’s gone.”

My world started spinning. I felt like things slowed down and sped up, all in the same moment. Everything seemed incredibly real and tangible…and at the same time, chaotic. In shock, I relayed the information to Laura as we grabbed our receipt and bags, rushing out the door. I remember the sound of the ignition as it combined with the screams from the ambulance and fire trucks. I knew they were for Grandma. I knew they were headed in the same direction we were.

My grandma’s house was less than 2 miles from Wal Mart. When we pulled up, the flashing lights of the Emergency vehicles lit up the house like Christmas lights normally would that time of year. I parked in the driveway and ran up the shiny metal wheelchair ramp that had recently been installed. My dad walked out, holding my son, Rex, in his arms. They were playing with a toy. It was Dad’s way of distraction-coping. He had just lost his mom, and to keep from crumbling under the emotional weight, he played with Rex. I talked to Dad briefly, then went inside, pushing past the medical personell who didn’t know what to say to me.

Grandma was laying on the bed. She’d died in her sleep. She hadn’t been in the best of health, but her general demeanor and look were improving. Then, she was gone. In an instant, she went to be with Jesus. I bent down and kissed her cheek, a tear dripping down mine onto hers. “I love you, Grandma” I whispered.

2 years ago, just a couple of weeks before Christmas, I lost my Grandma. I’ll remember that day for the rest of my life. I’m reminded of her love, her warmth, her laugh, and her put-everything-from-the-freezer-in-the-pot soup. Every Christmas Eve, I remember the breakfasts we’d eat and the gifts we’d open. I remember the shows she loved and the coffee she drank. I remember the smell her house had.

Every year, I wish I had one last Christmas with her. That I could have one last Christmas to hear her laugh at Rex jumping off of her wheelchair. That we had one last Christmas Eve to eat her huge, very-unhealthy-but-very-good breakfast. That one last time I could hear her say, “Eat, honey. Eat ’til you’re full. Then eat some more. Eat slow and eat a lot.” That I could open up the refrigerator one last time and see all of the drinks she’d gotten…she always had your favorite good and cold.

Just one last time.

Joy for the Joyless

For so many people, Christmas is pure joy. Gifts. Family. Food. Relaxing. Celebrating.But for some, Christmas is tough.

It’s a reminder of our pain.

Maybe you lost someone you loved, and every Christmas season you’re reminded.

Maybe you’re lonely, and all of the chatter about family, friends, and celebrations reminds you that you don’t have anyone. No family. No children. No spouse. Nobody to celebrate with Christmas morning.

Maybe you got fired during the holidays one year. Maybe your dream crumbled before your eyes.

If you have a family, and you’re able to see them on Christmas, you’re prone to forget about others’ loneliness.

If you haven’t lost someone you love this time of year, it’s easy to forget that others have.

If you have plenty, it’s easy to forget that others don’t.

This season, remember that Jesus came for the broken. The hopeless. The helpless. The shattered. The confused. The sick. The lonely. The angry. The depressed. The fakers. The weak. The ones in pain.

Jesus came for us.

He didn’t stay up in heaven and simply tell us he loved us. He entered our pain. He shifted our world. He came to be one of us, and offer us hope.

He doesn’t offer hope that this life is going to be easy, pain-free, and full of wealth. But He promises to be with us through it all.

Christmas reminds us of that. At Christmas, we see a God who’s not far off, but is near. A God who can sympathize with us in our weakness. (Hebrews 4:15) A God who doesn’t just let His creation groan in pain from afar, but through whom all things hold together.

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. – Colossians 1:19-20

Jesus came for us.

 

 

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