I had a very bad day—one of those days where I started to wonder if God had disappeared altogether.

It was such a bad day that I was dreading Youth Group tonight, even though it’s usually the highlight of my week. I was a little annoyed that I hadn’t felt God’s presence all day, and I really didn’t want to be around God’s people. I almost called in sick.

But we had a good time. We worked on our “Training Video” (coming soon!) for the South Dakota Mission Trip, and we designed T-shirts, and we hung out and laughed and had fun together. It put me in a little better mood, and I was glad I hadn’t skipped out on the evening.

Then one of the girls showed me a Bible passage, Psalm 18, that she was using on her T-shirt design, and it spoke to me. She had been looking for something else, she said, when she just happened to open the book to the Psalms. She was using The Message translation, which gave fresh voice to an old verse: “They hit me when I was down, but God stuck by me. He stood me up on a wide-open field; I stood there saved, surprised to be loved.” (v. 18-19).

That spoke directly to my bad dayIt reminded me not to get so bogged down in, well, bad days that I forget that God loves us. It didn’t erase the day, but it did help me put it into context.

A fun night at youth group would have been enough. But for God to use a T-shirt design contest, and an accidentally-found Bible verse, and a student brave enough to share it—that was grace when I least expected it.

I stood there tonight, while God’s people swirled around me, and was surprised, again, by how deeply God loves.

Even on a bad day.

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Each member of the Confirmation class has to write a “statement of faith”—including the youth leader, apparently. So I sat down to think about what I believe, and it struck me that there are several songs that sum it up a lot better than I ever could.

You can listen to each song by clicking on its title. (I think. I have faith in God, but not so much in my own technological abilities. Go figure.)

No Other Love (Rush of Fools)

God loves us. Really.

This isn’t ordinary love, either—it’s not limited and incomplete the way that human love is. It’s not dependent on what we do or even on what we believe. It’s just there, surrounding us no matter what.

 

Drivin’ Nails (Forbes Family)

The Bible stories about Jesus aren’t just fairy tales.

 

Moving All The While (Sidewalk Prophets)

God’s Holy Spirit helps us live.

It’s as close as our breath—and as important to our spiritual life as breathing is to our physical life. This Spirit is moving all the time, everywhere—and yet it’s within each one of us, too.

 

You Don’t Know What Love Is (White Stripes)

Sometimes we don’t get it.

This song seems harsh at first—but listen closely: It’s not judgment so much as pointing out that living apart from God doesn’t work very well and ultimately doesn’t make us happy. It’s not what we’re made for.

 

At Calvary (The Link Family)

Jesus helps us restore friendship with God.

Sometimes it doesn’t make sense how the Cross works, exactly. But this song reminds us that it works: “mercy there was great and grace was free.”

 

The Horse Nobody Could Ride (Joey + Rory)

God doesn’t force us to follow him. It’s called “free will”: God waits patiently for us until we’re ready to accept Love—and the best ride of our lives.

 

All Are Welcome (Agapé)

Church isn’t just a social club: we’re meant to support each other on our journeys.

 

As Is (Peder Eide)

No need for perfection, here—God can use us just as we are to reach out in Love.

 

Gentle Arms Of Eden (Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer)

Sometimes we get caught up in debates about how life began or whether we should talk about Divine Truth as “he” or “she”—or which religion is “right” when others are “wrong.” That stuff is interesting, but we need to be careful not to miss the point:

God just wants us to come home to Love.

John 7-8

Sometimes, Truth is scary.

“Why do you not understand what I am saying? Because you cannot bear to hear my word.” (8:43)

Jesus, here, is telling people to let go of outdated notions of religion. “Look,” he says, especially in these two chapters, “forget all that other stuff; you’re missing the whole point—God loves you.”

It’s so simple, and yet it’s so completely radical that it gets Jesus killed.

John 6

I think this is one of the most difficult chapters in the entire Bible (and I’m not just saying that because I once wrote what I thought was a brilliant paper on it, and when my professor read it he said, “Um, I can give you more time to work on this, if you want…”). Sigh.

Anyway, in re-reading it today, I’ve noticed how frequently the followers don’t get what Jesus is saying. He feeds five thousand people with just a few scraps of food, and the people are like, “Cool! You should be our king!”; he walks on water, and the disciples are like, “Dude, seriously, get into the boat”; he talks about the bread of life, and a lot of the followers turn away, saying, “This is a hard teaching, who can accept it?” (v. 60).

Here’s what I’m hanging onto this morning, even though I know I frequently miss what Jesus is saying (and I STILL don’t totally get this chapter): After some of the followers leave, Jesus turns to the twelve disciples and says, “Are you guys leaving me, too?” But they answer, “Where else would we go? You’re the only one who speaks Truth.”

Sometimes it’s hard to believe in Jesus—but where else would we go?

Lent Log

John 4:1-42

The “Woman at the Well” is one my all-time favorite stories—and I think my favorite part is when Jesus tells the woman to go get her husband, and she’s like, “Um, I don’t have a husband.” (She was living with a guy, at least the 6th in a long line of relationships—and in the ancient world, this was incredibly shameful.) 
But Jesus doesn’t freak out: he’s like, “Yeah, I know you’ve had 5 husbands.” (I picture Jesus just sort of shrugging.) He doesn’t want to talk about the past; instead, he wants to talk about her future.

Jesus doesn’t judge us for where we’ve been. He just wants to walk with us wherever it is that we’re going.

Lent Log

John 3:22-36

John’s gospel occasionally goes off on tangents, like this one that doesn’t really seem to fit with the other stories. But don’t get distracted. Look at v. 34: “He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without measure.”

We can trust Jesus, John says, because we see that the Spirit of God works through him.

Lent Log

John 3:1-21

Nicodemus wanted to talk to Jesus, but he was afraid of what his friends, the other Pharisees, would think. So he came secretly, at night, to ask Jesus several questions—which Jesus took time to answer carefully.

Sometimes it’s not cool to be Christian, and sometimes we worry about what our friends will think about our faith. Jesus understands that.

I think Jesus is willing to meet us wherever we are.