John 20:31 - But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.
“It’s all gone a bit pear-shaped” is a phrase I grew up hearing my Dad say occasionally. It’s a remark that would suggest something had gone unexpectedly wrong. It became his go-to saying, a polite way of saying “That was a complete train wreck”.
When I look back at the last twelve months of our lives that's the phrase that comes to my mind. 2020 was a bit “pear-shaped”, to say the least. It went unexpectedly wrong. The temptation, I think, is to write it off completely. While there is definitely a need to move on, I don’t want to do so without learning the valuable lessons the turmoil of this past year has taught us.
We saw just how fragile society is. We saw how much fear, anxiety and insecurity has a death grip on so many. And we suddenly saw past the “I’ve got it all together”-type masks we’ve all worn for so long. For many people they realized just how shallow their lives really were (which is a recipe for depression and hopelessness). Like the rest of society, many of us in the Church have come out of the last year feeling quite shaken—carrying doubts, fears, discouragement, disappointment, confusion, grief, etc…
We will be running the autopsy of 2020 for a while yet, but one thing is very clear—the world needs Hope.
That brings us to Easter. It is the biggest event in the Christian calendar, an opportunity we get every year to re-set and re-center ourselves on the cross, the resurrection and the victory of Jesus. Easter 2021 felt extremely significant.
Though over three weeks have passed since then, I think it’s important that we continue to reflect on it. Maybe you honestly felt like Easter passed by without time for you to really acknowledge it. Or maybe you reflected on the meaning of Easter for one day and then forgot about it the next, carrying on with life as usual. Either way, if we don’t continue to let it change us we have missed a beautiful opportunity because, in Christ, we find what the last twelve months have proved our world is missing—a LIVING HOPE.
John 20:31 hit me in a fresh way recently. In particular, I was moved by the end of the verse which says “that by believing you may have life in His name”. To me that speaks both of the present and the future. Jesus also said it in John 10: ”I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” In Jesus we find a life of abundant joy and hope. It’s definitely not a life absent of trials and difficulties (as we all know), but it is a life that is rooted in firmer ground than the shifting sands of our present circumstances.
Why is this?
Is it because we know that by the saving work of Jesus we are set for eternity in His presence? Yes, absolutely! But is it purely about the future? Isn’t abundant life in Jesus speaking of the present too—of living resurrection life in the here and now? I believe it is.
You want to know God’s will for your life? Well, here it is….
Karl Barth says, "We practice our death by giving up our will to live on our own terms. Only in that relinquishment or renunciation are we able to practice resurrection.”
Jesus also says in Matthew 10, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
Thus, everyday obedience means dying to your own will, surrendering it to the greater will of Jesus, and allowing His will to infiltrate your heart and mind so that over time it becomes your own.
And everyday obedience is the key to living resurrection life here and now.
It’s a life of dying to self, surrendering to the Holy Spirit, and practicing the Way of Jesus. It’s a life with a widened view of our family, friends, vocation, gifts, talents, ministries, and other people (in other words, life itself) because we see all these things from the perspective of Jesus.
Truly, the hope of Easter is that as broken people we find, through Jesus, the invitation to live abundant, resurrection life today. It’s a life that is found in everyday communion with and surrender to Jesus. It’s a life with roots, depth, and substance. In Him, we find a purpose greater than ourselves and a calling to work in partnership with both God and His people to introduce broken people to the God of Hope. Yes, the hope of Easter is that Jesus was crucified, raised to life, and as N.T Wright said: "is coming back to heal, transform and to reign with a kingdom flooded with justice, peace and love.”
2020 was very much a ‘pear-shaped’ year, but I do believe the Lord allowed it in order that people might come to the end of themselves and go on a quest for substance, purpose and Hope.
We’ve been given an opportunity as the Church to make public the message of Hope. We’ve been given an opportunity to step into the abundant life Jesus offers while keeping our eyes forward to the future, hopeful in the knowledge that Jesus is renewing and will renew all things.
What are we moving towards? The reign of Jesus. A kingdom flooded with justice, peace, love and joy.
What a thing to Hope in.
What a King to surrender to.
What a Savior to find abundant life in.
Written by Sam Miles, SOW Faculty Member and Director of the Next Nine Program.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6
We exist in this beautiful tension of surrender and free will. This means that we know we belong to the Lord but are also searching to use our free will. We’ve heard this verse a million times: “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9). We take to heart the part that says the Lord establishes our steps. Yet we COMPLETELY neglect the part that says the heart of man plans his way.
How do we walk honorably in the free will God has given us if we are supposed to be living in complete surrender?
Free Will + Surrender
Living in this tension is a virtue I literally just recently realized existed (and now I'm coming to know is essential).
God cares about your surrender. It is the most crucial part. Everything flows from surrender. Yet something the church doesn’t talk about enough is that He also cares for the desires of your heart. After all, He is the one that placed them there in the first place!
He created you with fragmented pieces of HIS glory that He longs for you to uncover.
He cares about your desires.
He cares about your creativity.
Existing in this tension means, through prayer and supplication (the surrender), we have the freedom to make our desires known to Him (the free will).
The Desires of Your Heart
Those dreams and passions that you have uncovered as deep desires in your heart were intended for goodness. If God placed those things inside of you that means He intends for them to be used, not forsaken. And it is not selfish to be specific and bold in your prayers!
He calls us into the throne room.
He calls us into authority.
He calls us into boldness.
Through our surrender, that boldness is not only encouraged but honored. And it is my belief that through our surrender, the true desires of our hearts are revealed.
These desires will be holy and persistent. That is how you will know they are from God.
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
The Call to Prayer
In Phillipians, God calls us to make our requests known to Him. Thus, uncover these desires, and then be persistent and specific in bringing them to God. Delight in the freedom of cradling these desires and delight in the process of surrendering them at His feet to be fulfilled.
I’m still in the process of learning. I will be for the rest of my life, but I am so thankful for the process.
Imagine what it would be like if everyone walked in their God-given passions.
Imagine what would be accomplished in His name.
Imagine the true joy that would flow.
Haley Hill is a 2020 graduate of the School of Worship program. She currently lives in Mariposa, California with her family. In her free time, she loves to write and read on the beach or by the river.
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3
Let’s talk about mountain lions. I grew up in a town where it was common to see them on trails so, from the time I was young, I was taught what to do if you see one.
You don’t run (it will chase you). You don’t ignore it or turn your back (it will continue to stalk you). You don’t hide or lay down (it will attack you). No, you turn and look it in the eyes. If you have a jacket you put it over your head to make yourself appear larger. You speak firmly to it and maybe even get on someone‘s shoulders.
You face it until it leaves.
Sometimes I feel like Fear is a mountain lion. It’s been stalking me on the trail for quite some time, and I’ve hoped that by ignoring its presence it might go away. But I can feel it there, always a few steps behind me. It’s golden eyes and soft steps make my stomach tight and my heart quicken.
Recently I heard God say, “it’s time”—time to turn and look it in the eye. To face the Fear that has been haunting me. To stare it down, to raise my arms high up towards heaven for strength I don’t possess on my own, until IT flees.
Yet it’s so much harder than I could ever have imagined to face and conquer Fear. I’m not sure when I gave it so much room in my heart, but some days it knocks me out from the moment I open my eyes. I imagine it was little choices to run or cower in its presence. “I’m afraid so I won’t drive today.” “I’m afraid so I’ll order groceries online instead.” “I’m afraid so I’ll walk off stage to feel safe.”
And suddenly I’m living in a tight little world because barely anywhere feels “safe”.
Yes, God whispers to us all “it’s time!” Maybe your mountain lion is Fear. Or maybe yours is Sin or Anger or Unforgiveness you’ve let stalk you for too long. Yet the challenge to you and I is the same: can you turn, can you reach your arms towards heaven, and can you face that thing—look it right in the eyes—until it stops holding power over you—until it flees?
It’s difficult and scary. Some days it feels impossible. But we have the Holy Spirit and the same power that raised Jesus from the dead available to us—living in us. We can do hard, even impossible, things. The only way to deal with a mountain lion is to face it.
Written by Hilary Flook-Jurekovic, SOW Administrator and Dean of Women
“Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
I have often heard this verse quoted and many have memorized it as a type of formula. People suppose it’s about the numbers, “two or three,” but the Greek implies that it’s more about being in agreement, praying in His name.
As you can probably tell from the spelling, this is the origin of our English word, symphony, a word that means to be harmonious, or to agree. The definition gives the idea that we as His instruments are not only to be in tune with each other, but in the key of our Great Composer’s choice. Being out-of-tune produces nothing but discordance, but as we gather around Him, and play (or pray) in harmony, our eyes on Him as He conducts, He will orchestrate a beautiful, God-glorifying work.
Written by Neil Godding, SOW Media Arts Track Director