in which maranatha and queso go together

Maranatha. 

That word is like a breath of fresh air to my soul.

I first learned of it listening to a sermon on fasting a few years ago, and it has stuck with me ever since. It means “Come Lord Jesus, come.” It’s a urgent prayer, a desperate calling out, a if-you-don’t-show-up-then-I-have-nothing cry of the heart.

It was the cry of the early church; one of the few Aramaic words that didn’t need to be translated into Greek because the church said it so often that everyone knew what it meant.

Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus. The last words spoken by the church in the entire Bible. Followed immediately by the only other word that didn’t need translation from the original text: Amen.

The early church was hungry. Hungry for their Savior to return again. Hungry because they had tasted his perfect goodness, his love and grace, his power and truth and they could not possibly settle for anything less. Nothing of this world would satisfy. It had to be Jesus.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of fasting with a few of my college-aged friends. We talked about what fasting meant- that it was an urgent prayer, a physical expression of a deeper spiritual need for Jesus to come and reign in every aspect of our lives. We talked about how we so easily go to physical things of this world for false satisfaction- food, alcohol, social media, busyness, TV, boys, ourselves- and how at the end of the day, those things always fall short of Jesus.

And at the end of the fast, we broke it together in the only way that seemed appropriate living in Austin, Texas: with chips and queso and community. In the middle of Kerbey Lane, we shared stories of how Jesus showed up that day, of what he taught us. We confessed our weakness and our tendency to go to everything but Jesus, and maranatha became real to us. We laughed and enjoyed the sweet taste of cinnamon roll pancakes, and learned of the abundance we have in Jesus.

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We were reminded of his grace and love, of his power and truth, and our hearts grew with the cry of maranatha.

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the history of redemption

Last week, my church lost a brother. On Thursday, Ronnie Smith, a former pastor at Austin Stone Community Church, was shot and killed while jogging in Benghazi, Libya.

I never knew Ronnie personally, but as a member of the church he helped to lead, and as his sister in Christ, my heart is heavy.

Confident that he is WITH God right now, I am joyful. When I think about his wife, Anita and son, Hosea, how they are waking up this morning without a husband or father, my heart deeply aches.

If you follow Jesus and don’t expect it to cost you anything, you are a desperately mistaken. For Ronnie, it cost him his very breath. Yet in losing his life, he gained everything in Jesus. The reward- relationship with Jesus Himself- far outweighs the cost.

When he moved his family to Libya, Ronnie knew the risk. To him, the decision to move to a place where churches barely exist was a no-brainer. To him, the gospel was worth it.

This Sunday, our church honored Ronnie, and The One for whom he died, by showing a video of the sermon he was best known for titled, The History of Redemption. The sermon is unique, as every word that comes out of Ronnie’s mouth is straight from the Bible. Every single word, memorized. All God-breathed, nothing thought up by man.

It was incredible… weighty… convicting… soul-filling… hopeful… to listen to this man preach on the story of the Bible, the story of God and of his plan for redeeming all people back to himself… knowing that he had given his life for this very gospel only days prior. 

This gospel that has nothing to do with how good we are, and has everything to do with the perfection and glory of Jesus. This gospel that, if we let it, will consume every detail and corner of our lives, every fiber of our being, and take it for itself… giving us true life in return. This gospel that takes our evil hearts, hearts with no desire and ability to know God, and declares them righteous and forgiven and justified and redeemed under the name of Jesus Christ.

I want to believe the gospel like Ronnie did. I want to believe that it’s not just something worth dying for… it’s something worth living every minute of every day for.

If you have 30 minutes today, watch The History of Redemption. You can find it here, or below.

And if you would like to support Anita and Hosea during this time, here are a few ways you can help:

– Make a donation directly to the Smith family here.

– Purchase a copy of the book, ‘The History of Redemption.’ All proceeds go to the Smith family.

Pay what you want, and get a downloadable version of the movie JOB. All proceeds go to the Smith family.

the same

The same God you encountered in the mountains this week is the same God who is going home with you.

That’s what we told high school students after returning from their 6-day backpacking trip. 

I said that exact sentence. And I believed it.

For them.

But when it comes to my own heart, my own life, my own circumstances, I compartmentalize God. I have a Colorado box, for how I expect to interact with him there. A Texas box, for how I expect we would interact at home. And a “I’m in a different country box”, which is pretty self-explanatory.

I’m really good at speaking truth to people and believing with all my heart that it’s true for them. That it 100% applies to their life no. matter. what. But what good does that do if I’m not believing it for myself? If I’m not living what I’m saying?

The first time I stepped foot on Wilderness Ranch property, it earned a special place in my heart. I experienced a side of my God that I had never seen before, a side that’s sometimes hard to access in the normal grind of daily life. It was beautiful and I was hooked.

I came home and circumstances were different. Work was hard, relationships were hard, life events happened that broke my heart. I longed to go back to the place where I had seen my God so clearly. And in my longing, I think I’ve missed that same God right next to me.

This year, Colorado was different. 

There were different people and new places.

But one thing was the same: my God.

Not the same as in cookie-cutter responses or plans. My God is unbelievably personal. But same as in His character, His power, His ability, His love.

Leaving Colorado this time, my heart was as full… possibly more full… than it’s ever been leaving the mountains. And I believe with all my heart that it’s because for a little while, I chose to let go of my boxes. I chose to let God be who He is regardless of our circumstances. I chose to believe that the same God I encounter at Wilderness, is really.. really the same exact God with the same exact power and the same exact character no. matter. what.

I create boxes because it gives me comfort in the unknown. It’s my attempt to control. To know what’s coming. And all I’ve gotten in return is discouragement and frustration. As much as I try to control, I don’t know what I don’t know. And you can bet that I don’t know what next week is going to look like, much less next year.

God does not fit in my timeline. He does not fit in my mind. He does not fit in my box.

So I’m opening the lid to my box, and as I do my heart begins to soften and open along with it.

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Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?  – Psalm 139:7