I grew up the oldest of 7 kids. Because of this, sitting around a large table eating meals together has always beens something I cherish. When friends and families do this, deep bonds are formed and time is spent cooking food, preparing, eating, and cleaning together. Great memories are made and great stories are told. This past week, I was blessed to attend a song-writing retreat with all the worship residents. My favorite part of the song-writing retreat was the stories told around the table. Each of us shared our testimony of how God brought us to this place. Every story was different but yet all shared a similarity: God is faithful, God is loving, God is true, God is good, God is unchanging. Even though we are unsteady and fickle as humans, and reject God's love and purposes, God in His great mercy continues to pursue us. His love is relentless.
The retreat was an incredible time of writing songs and developing relationships. Even after the residency, these are people I will continue to lean on and share life with as I enter ministry.
On Saturday, Austin Stone, held it's first ever Worship Collective with master classes for each specific discipline. I was able to go to "The Heart of Worship Leader" taught by Aaron Ivey, Marcus Dawes, and Brett Land. It was incredible to hear from guys who are in full-time ministry and how God has continually pursued them with His love despite their short-comings. It reminded me that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23-25). None of us, despite what success we achieve or acclamations we earned, are good except through the blood of Christ.
"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved."
Hearing their stories and hearing them talk about importance of truly surrendering their hearts to God, I was humbled. I recalled my own short-comings, my own sin, and realize that true humility is not earned, it is given to us by God through His son Jesus Christ. This truth is a daily revelation. It is not something I can learn once and secure in my mind. Without daily surrender to the love of Christ I continue to rely on my own strength. The truth is, God has shown me immense grace by sending his only son to die in my place and this should humble and convict my heart in a profound way. This conviction is an every-day, on-going process. Something that Ivey said has stuck with me this past weekend:
"Those who hope in Christ can longer put up with reality as it is, but begin to suffer under it, to contradict it. Peace with God means conflict with the world".
I am blessed beyond words to be able to serve the Church in Austin, TX through this residency. God is continually challenging me, growing me through His word, and through His community of believers. The love of God is relentless!
In other news: Jahnabell took her first steps last week!!! She is such a joy - I can't even describe what it means when I walk in the door and she immediately lights up, smiles and says "daddy" in her little voice. I am blessed. . . God is good.