Posted on October 28th, 2016

​20 And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. 21 He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’  Joshua 4:20-22 NIV

   On a recent climbing trip in North Africa my partner and I had a very long day. We had just climbed a 1000ft plus mountain trad route and descended to the base as the sun dipped below the horizon. We hurriedly made our way through the underbrush in the dark by headlamp following the steep climber's trail the 2 or so miles downhill back to our vehicle.  In many places the faint and seldom used path was crisscrossed by goat trails used by herders. At one point we completely lost the trail and spent about half an hour bushwhacking our way through dense snarls and thickets before we were able to find  the trail once again. Once we discerned the correct path we set a Cairn for future travelers, and made our way back to our vehicle. It only took a few more minutes to get out once we were on the right trail.

  For thousands of years people have been setting up cairns, (simply piles of stone), to mark the way. Often on a wilderness journey the welcome sight of one of these simple way-points will ease the mind of a weary sojourner. A cairn is almost always a positive sign and means you are most likely headed the right direction.

  In the book of Joshua, the great Hebrew leader instructs his people to make a Cairn of sorts. They were to pile 12 stones from the Jordan river as a visual reminder that God had split the waters by His mighty power to bring the 12 tribes into the promised land. For many years this monument must have been a moving sight to generations that followed. It was here that God fulfilled His promises and Israel truly became a nation.

  ​In the chapter on study in Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster refers to the great Christian works in much the same way. He says, “Many others have traveled the same path and have left markers. Remember that the key to the Discipline of study is not reading many books but experiencing what we do read.” When I read biographies of saints who have gone before me, or great works like Brother Lawrence's The Practice of the Presence of God, or even more contemporary classics like C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, I am moved by how the authors experienced the love and faithfulness of God in their day and time. Scripture itself is the greatest repository of wisdom and experience by those who have walked the path before us. The unwritten words of faithful elder saints who God has put in my life have also served as an incredible guide and beacon of hope on my journey. 

  As you travel the rugged pathway of life, keep your eye out for cairns erected by those who have gone before you.  Let them remind you of God’s goodness and faithfulness. In time you may indeed place some of your own. 
 




Posted on October 14th, 2016

​1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. PS 23:1-3 KJV

   Listening to a recent podcast by John Eldredge, I was struck by the difference between relief and restoration.  Eldredge says that relief characterizes the things that we run to for comfort when our soul is distressed, fatigued and worn. Food, sleep, recreation, sex, substances; all these things seem to offer some consolation to our weary souls, but in the end they bring no real lasting peace in and of themselves. Only union with our Creator can bring true restoration to our souls.

  In the 23rd Psalm, David expresses his pressing need for the restoration of his soul. The Psalmist recognizes that often the Good Shepherd must make his stubborn sheep to lie down in green pastures. He leads them to the still waters often against their own bleatings of resistance.  

  Soul care is such a neglected discipline in our society today. We tend to burn the candle at both ends and then run to the things of this world for relief, as our souls slowly waste away to wisps and vapors. Often we are preoccupied with many good things while neglecting the best thing. Our souls desperately need the restoration that only the Good Shepherd can provide.
  Nature also can be something we simply run to for relief, and has no true restorative power in and of itself. It is noteworthy however that throughout scripture God uses wilderness as a major tool of soul restoration.  There is something about nature that puts the human soul in a place for a restorative encounter with the living God.

  How is your soul doing? Are you running to things for comfort, or are you allowing Jesus to restore your soul? May you find some time in creation to allow the words of your Creator to breathe new life into your inner being.
 

 

 

Posted on September 16th, 2016

​5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Prov 3:5-6 NIV
 

Recently I was climbing a route on the Greenbelt that I have done before, but it had been awhile. It just seemed harder than it should have. I pumped out near the top and lowered down before I finished. My climbing partner gave me one look, and I already knew what he was going to say; “You’re over-gripping.”  Yep.

   In climbing it’s important to keep the right amount of tension at all times. If you grip too hard you overwork your forearms and fingers, and the dreaded pump tends to hit sooner than it should.  Hold on too lightly and you’ll slip right off. When on a difficult route you’re unfamiliar with, it’s easy to forget this and just try to hang on for dear life.

    The same is true with life. I for one struggle with control.  I tend to want to be in control of everything, and if I feel like things are getting out of control I usually want to just grasp more and more tightly. God has to remind me time and time again that He is the one in control and I just need to loosen my grip and trust Him. 

  The call of Christ is a call to completely and unequivocally trust Him.   The human tendency is to lean on our own understanding, pull ourselves up by our own boot straps, and only rely on God when everything seems to be falling apart. But Jesus wants us to trust Him first, to completely abandon ourselves in the pursuit of Him. We must loosen our grip on this world so that we can cling desperately to Him. Only then do we realize that control was an illusion all along and that He is lovingly holding us up with His mighty arm. 

   May you find the confidence in Jesus to stop over-gripping and truly trust Him fully. May you rest in the knowledge that come what may, if you are in Christ, His grace covers and protects you to very core. You are free to loosen your grip and climb to the heights unafraid and unashamed.

 

 


Posted on August 15th, 2016

​ 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matt 28:19-20 NIV

  One of the things I love most about Ascend is that we are a disciple making ministry. So often in the evangelical church we make the Gospel far too small. We tend to minimize the Great Commission and turn it into an orchestrated act instead of a life to be lived. We  water it down to a call to make converts, not disciples. The call of Christ is the call to be a disciple who makes disciples. This process certainly includes sharing the Gospel message, but does not begin and end there. 

  Over the past twelve years of discipling college students and young adults, I have learned just how messy making disciples can be. Being a disciple maker means getting your hands dirty. It means getting involved in someone’s life and often asking the hard questions. It means loving someone too much to let them stay the way they are. Discipleship takes time, lots of time. It takes life on life investment, much more than just a casual bump and run on Sunday morning or Wednesday night. 

  This summer we got to see some incredible discipleship moments, both with our staff and our participants. There is something about spending a week in the mountains with a group of men that just leads to life transformation. We saw three men follow Christ in the baptismal waters of the mighty Rio Grande, and a student trust Christ and get baptized at my church shortly after camp. I saw a close friend who has been working with Ascend on and off for the past three years respond to the call of  Christ to full time ministry with Ascend!

   Through Ascend we are raising up the next generation of disciple makers in the Church. One of the things we get to help young men and women learn is that they are missionaries and ambassadors for Christ wherever he places them. In the Church we have created a sacred/secular divide that often leads church members to see evangelism/discipleship/mission as the job of the clergy or hired holy man. One of my greatest joys is helping young people realize that they are better equipped to reach their peers than I am! God has placed them in their classes, jobs, and friendship circles to be a witness to Himself and help people grow in a relationship with Him. 

   If you are a follower of Jesus, wherever He has placed you, remember you are His Ambassador, His missionary. May you find deep abiding joy as you live out the call of Christ to make disciples of all nations!


 

Posted on August 8th, 2016

​Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  Matt 6:9b KJV

 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.  Gal 4:6-7 NIV


 This past month I had the privilege of leading two weeklong men’s mountain trips with groups primarily comprised of fathers and sons. It was such a joy watching fathers encourage  and champion their sons, as well as young men honor and lift up their dads. At the end of both weeks we asked the men to affirm one another and the energy flowing between fathers and sons was electric. It was incredibly faith affirming to watch dads bless their sons and sons edify their dads. I was personally touched and challenged by the example of many of the dads in their patience and incredibly loving attitude toward their sons.

   Toward the end of the final week I found myself sitting on top of  a 12,000 foot peak. Pondering the question; “How can I be a good father?”  We live in a society today with so few examples of what it means to be a good father. For many, the idea of God as father is a difficult one because that word has such a negative context. My personal story is one of redemption in my relationship with my earthly father. My relationship with my dad is the best it’s ever been, and I’m am so thankful to the Lord for that, but we’ve had  our share of hard times. Personally, I find the task of being a “good father” to be one of the most complex and fearful roles in my life. I so desperately want to accurately reflect the heart of my heavenly father to my earthly children. 

  As I sat on top of that majestic mountain and looked out at the verdant green landscape spread out before me, I heard the whisper of the one who created it, “I made this, do you like it? I made you. I love you!  You are my son, let me be your father.” 

   What an incredible assurance in a world full of uncertainty and  confusion, that we have a perfect heavenly Father who loves and calls us out by His Spirit to be His sons and daughters. Knowing and pressing in close to our one true father is the key to reflecting His image to a lost and dying world, starting with our children. I am so thankful that He has not abandoned us in that endeavor, but He is lovingly present, guiding us all the way.
 

 





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