Why Advent?

By Pastor Nate Garn

why

Here at Redeemer Church we celebrate Advent every year. This is a celebration leading up to Christmas where we celebrate the “coming” of our Lord and Savior. The book of Isaiah is loaded with promises of who the Messiah will be.

The Messiah will be “God with Us.” 

Think about the truth in this passage found in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Specifically, look at the name Immanuel. Immanuel means “God with us”. With the coming of the incarnate Son of God we have the amazing promise of “God with us”.

I can’t think of a better promise of hope and love than God is with us. In Jesus we have God with us. Not against us. Not next to us but rather with us. Whatever we may be facing in our lives let your mind be ruled by the truth that God is “with us” in Jesus.

The Messiah will be “Ruler Over All”

Isaiah 9:6- “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders.” 

I’m convinced that God is showing the world that the government can not bring ultimate joy. As long as human governments are led by humans there will be no shortage of corruption, lording and evil leadership. With Jesus as ruler we no longer have that fear. The great promise that we have is that he is most loving and gracious to all humankind. Colossians says that all things were made for him. Imagine this…a government without corruption ruled by love and grace!

The Messiah will be Unifying 

My favorite verse in the Bible is Isaiah 11:10, “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.” Jesus is the root of Jesse. This passage says that Jesus will stand as a banner for the peoples. Not only that but the nations will rally to him. Heaven will be a wonderful collage of nations and races singing eternal worship to Jesus. This is why racism is so wicked to God. Unity among the nations is ultimately God’s goal. He wants to unite more people to be worshiping him.

Lastly, this verse says that his resting place will be “glorious”. If we are being honest we are all in desperate need of rest and peace. We think this rest and peace comes through money, relationships, entertainment etc. However, the only promise of rest that we have is found in Jesus.

So, with that find your hope in this Christmas season in Christ. May he be the object of your worship and joy. Nothing else will satisfy and nothing else will glorify God.

Waiting on the Messiah

By Makaila Mobley

The Deep Desire of the Devout

The thing about the devout, the truly devout, is that their desire runs the deepest.

Once there was a man, a man who God himself chose to document for all of time and history as righteous and devout. His name was Simeon. Simeon was a man of focus and trust. He saw the trouble swelling in Israel, the blood running in the streets, the oppression of his people. And while his grief was severe, his heart was not overcome, his soul remained free, breathing the air of hope in a world of darkness. His hope remained true, even as the world seemed to threaten to collide and cave in on itself, because he had received a promise from God.

He would see the Messiah.

He whispered the name to himself often, “Messiah”. To the cynical and self-protecting, the word “Messiah” sounded like a taunt… a child’s dream that would never come true. To others they believed because it was right to do so, but their belief was a matter of theology only and it brought little solace to their aching hearts. But to Simeon, the promise of the Messiah had planted itself deep in his heart and all he did stemmed from this one hope. He was focused and true, his devotion was pure and passionate. He trusted. He would one day see the Messiah, the one long anticipated and prayed for, the one who would liberate Israel from her troubles.

As he waited, his heart ached for the fruition of this promise, but it was a full ache, for he was doubtless and sure.

Find this portion of Simeon’s story in Luke 2:22-25

The Ache and Goodness of Waiting

There is a common theme throughout scripture where we see goodness and rewards granted to those who “wait upon the Lord”. But this idea has a tendency to get a little cloudy in translation. Our English word for “wait” carries with it the idea of sitting idle while we wait for something or someone to catch up with where we are at. It feels like emptiness, like time wasted. In contrast, the Hebrew word, qavah1 translated wait in English and repeated over and over in scripture in the phrase “wait upon the Lord” carries a much fuller meaning. There is a sense of savoring, of renewing, of gathering, and building connoted in the Hebrew word for wait. 

Maybe it will help to think of it this way: there is the waiting of a farmer preparing for harvest time,  then there’s waiting at the bus stop. There’s the waiting of a pregnant woman, then there waiting to be seated at a restaurant.

You see the difference. A farmer watches the seasons and growth of his crops carefully and tends to the needs of the field, cultivating and laboring over his crops even as he waits for them to be ready to harvest. An expectant mother, is ever aware of what stage of the pregnancy she is in, what is needed for her baby and when, she watches what she eats, how often she exercises, how regularity the baby is hearing his parents voices, anything and everything to let her baby grow to his healthiest and fullest potential and all this while she waits for him to arrive. By contrast, waiting at the bus stop for your ride to show up or waiting to be seated at a restaurant is an empty waiting, there is nothing to do in the meantime to prepare, nothing to savor, nothing to build or gather.

3sdp4zc_z9w-arteida-mjeshtri

Just like Simeon who waited for the arrival of the Messiah, we too are waiting on the Messiah to come back and consummate the Kingdom.  And we are waiting on Jesus in a thousand ways today as well. We wait on Him to usher us into the next season of life, to bring us into a new job, to bring us into relationship with our future spouse, to bring us into parenthood, into a new house, into a more meaningful role in ministry, into a position of greater influence, into a deeper friendships… in all these things we wait on the Lord and we would be wise to make sure we are not waiting on Him as we would wait to be seated for dinner, but as expectant parents wait for their new child. There is work to be done in the meantime, we have much to prepare, foundations to build, talents to invest, character to grow, and insight to gather.

bb0esyazzxy-annie-spratt

But waiting, even the good, non-idle kind of waiting invites an ache to take up residence in our hearts, for waiting for the fulfillment of desires that have yet to become realities brings us into the ache of longing.  And just like there are different kinds of waiting, there are different kinds of aching.

There is a hallow ache, and there is a full ache.

A hallow ache is the worst. It is darkness and icy wind and emptiness. A hallow ache is lonely. It is hopeless. A hallow ache comes for the one who knows they need a Messiah to liberate them but they do not trust the He will come through and so their ache is empty and full of excruciating pain.

In contrast, a full ache is waking up to the warmth of a new sunrise and the smell of cinnamon rolls and bacon that you have yet to taste. A full ache is the longing before the wedding known so fiercely to the engaged. A full ache is the excitement, and trust that what is hoped for will come and the knowing that this time of waiting will end.  A full ache is full of hope.

For those who stay open to desire, they ache with a fullness that can almost be tasted. Waiting on the Lord, is a time to be savored, for there is a profound goodness in the waiting as it expands and deepens our hearts in preparation of the fulfillment of all our desires, the coming of the Messiah.

Stepping Deeper into Advent

Advent is all about the arrival of the Messiah and during these four weeks leading up Christmas, we remember and step more consciously into this place of waiting.

Jenn Giles Kemper in her liturgical planner, Sacred Ordinary Days says it well, “During this season, we assume a posture of waiting. We choose to enter the story as it happened for those who came before us: with anticipation, with groaning, with longing, with hope.

“It is no new practice for us to wait in the dark. We, too, live in a world of shadows. We, too, trust in a future victorious day. We too, cling with a stubborn hope to what God has promised: the return of our coming King. Advent is a time for us to practice the ‘already but not yet’ kind of waiting.”


  1. Strong’s Concordance 6960
  2. Jenn Giles Kemper Liturgical PlannerSacred Ordinary Days

December Discipleship Tools from Redeemer Kids

Dear Parents,

For the month of December, Sunday mornings in Redeemer Kids will be devoted to celebrating the birth of Jesus. For this reason, we will be taking a short break from our usual rotations with the exception of December 11th. Below you will find the new memory verses, a list of Christmas songs your children will be performing, and a schedule of events for the duration of this month.

Pre-K & Kindergarten Memory Verse:

“But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.'” Luke 1:30-31

1st-4th Grade Memory Verse:

“But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.'” Luke 1:30-32

Songs to Learn for the Christmas Program 

Hark, The Herald Angels Sing

O Come All Ye Faithful

Joy To The World

c9-qwplipbc-joanna-kosinska

Redeemer Kids this December & Ways to Bring Sunday into Everyday

Week of 12/4

Practice for Christmas Program. If you do not already have a CD with the three songs we are practicing, please ask for one at Check-In the following Sunday. We still have a few left!

Week of 12/11

Weekly Reading from Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God: Genesis 50 Daily devotionals following Sunday’s lesson, “God Protects Baby Moses,” start on page 176.

Week of 12/18

Kids perform in main worship service at 9:00 and at 11:00. Please arrive 30 minutes early as this helps us coordinate the transition onto the stage.

Week of 12/25

There is no childcare provided on Christmas morning as we celebrate together family-style in the main worship gathering at 10:00am.

*Please note that although the following Sunday falls on New Year’s Day, we will resume our usual rotation and continue in The Gospel Story Bible.

If you have additional questions or would like to participate in Redeemer Kids Ministry, please contact the church office for Becky Larson or Lauren Heffner.

Jesus & the Lighthouse

jesus-and-the-lighthouse-blog

There is a rather wide distinction between the way the Jews would define and describe God versus the way we as “Westerners” would define Him. For example, if we (as Westerners) were to teach a class on God’s character we would define God like Wayne Grudem does as “God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God.” To be honest, as amazing and true as this is it can be hard to understand such a technical definition.

The Jews on the other hand would have a tendency in antiquity to define God in pictures and story. Instead of our technical definition referred to before the Jews would define God in a different way. For example, Proverbs 18:10 says, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” The definition of God from this verse is that God is a strong tower. He is a safe place to run. Another example of that is that of Hebrews 12:20 which says God is a “consuming fire”. These are two rather different pictures of God.

What a vivid picture of the coming Messiah we have in Isaiah 11:10. It says, “In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples- of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.”  This passage says that Jesus (the root of Jesse) will stand as a signal for the peoples. Jesus is the radiant light blinking for all the world to see. I picture this definition as a boat searching for land in the midst of a violent storm. In the distance when all hope is lost somebody cries out that they see a “blinking light”. As this boat approaches the hope grows as they know in the distance a lighthouse is growing larger and larger. Salvation has come.

Isaiah 11:10 says that the nations will inquire as to what this light is. As the nations grow closer to this light (Jesus) they are told they will find rest in his glorious resting place. What is this verse telling us about God?

Jesus is drawing people to himself. 

The beauty of the gospel is that left to ourselves  we can do nothing to earn favor in God’s eyes. In fact, we wouldn’t even desire God  without his drawing.

Jesus is drawing the NATIONS to himself. 

God is passionate about spreading his  glory among the nations, countries and races of the world. This is why racism is such a  gross and ungodly sin.

Jesus is the sole place to find rest.

As the world crumbles before our eyes we know  that the only hope for rest and peace is Jesus himself. No politician, job, family or  anything in this world will give you the hope that Jesus can offer. His resting place is  glorious.

Run to his light today. Run to his resting place today. You will find heavenly, glorious rest in Jesus.

Article by Pastor Nate Garn.

Truth and Beauty Part 1: Beauty Defined

Truth and Beauty 1

As I’ve tried to dissect and reassemble this whole concept of truth and beauty, I expected to discover pendulum swings happening between the culture and the church (which I did) I intended to find opposing views within the church on how we should proceed forward (which I did) and I thought I might discover some delightful way in which truth and beauty are meant to work together, in harmony (which I did); but what I did not expect was to uncover the pendulum was swinging in my own mind, or how much my soul was divided on how I ought to proceed forward, or the depth and delight in the invitation Jesus was extending to me as I attempted to answer questions about truth and beauty, the value of each within the kingdom of God and just how they are intended to work together. And I finally realized that this concept of truth and beauty is also profoundly personal—to all of us. For we are all created in the image of God, we are created beings, formed and sculpted by a master artist who structures with truth and stuns with beauty.

Each of us, in our souls know what its like to be convicted by truth and compelled by beauty. And in response to the creative and restorative work of Christ in our lives, we must live by the truth of God’s word and manifest this truth in actual knowable beauty, in the action of our mission, in the message and aesthetic of our creative work, and in the character of our personhood.

Defining Beauty

Our focus in today’s article will be primarily on defining beauty. And why is it necessary to define beauty as we ask what is the value of beauty in the Kingdom of God. I believe a definition is needed because relativism snuck in the back door while we were protecting truth and stole beauty from us, turning it into nothing more than personal preference devoid of any consistent standard, essence, or meaning. The word beauty can be used in many ways, even scripture uses it in various contexts to mean different things, sometimes its referred to as something fleeting and vain, other times scripture informs us and calls us into things of imperishable beauty. Beauty is an aesthetic, of course, but can it be more than that? And should we seek to create things of beauty, not just in message, but in aesthetic as well?

To understand beauty in the best possible sense of the word, perhaps we ought to look at what the interplay between truth and beauty can be. Truth and beauty have become something of opposing counterparts that, for those of us who are consciously trying to reunite the arts and apologetics, can at times feel like we are trying to force opposing sides of two magnets together. We know intuitively that art and beauty, and communicating with a well-crafted aesthetic ought to be apart of the way we communicate the Gospel, but in order for our theology of beauty to become truly integrated into our understanding of the Gospel, we have to fill in some gaps created by the post-modern world we live in.

Making Music with Our Lives

music sheet

First, its important to consider that truth and beauty were never meant to be separated into such dueling entities. They are in fact meant to be harmonious, interdependent notes in the same melody… or perhaps, more accurately, truth is the framework, the notes composed on the page, telling the musicians what and when to play, and the melody that is born from this structure is the beauty.

Perhaps the relationship can be defined succinctly this way: Beauty is truth realized.

And if we don’t value beauty in the church, then we are stuck on rule and principle without actually experiencing and expressing the truth in any real way. As a friend of mine has said, “everything that is reflective of God’s truth is beautiful” not just in theory for words contemplated and discussed can be richly good and well-meaning but if those words are never birthed into reality, if we never get to experience the beauty of truth lived out, then we are nothing more than a clanging cymbal or a noisy gong.

Truth is beautiful and Beauty is truthful because both in their pure, un-subverted, undefiled form are glimpses into God’s mind and can be known by his love for he is the creator and source of both.

The word beauty covers a spectrum of action from art to service, but in every case, true beauty must pulse with love—God’s love. Love for God and love from God. It is in knowing God’s love that we become conduits of it as we walk in truth beautifully.

Imperishable Beauty

In Scripture we see a continual effort to orient the reader’s focus toward the deeper, imperishable things of life. There are warnings against visual vanity and empty, self-glorifying eloquence, but these warnings are not total rejection of aesthetics and eloquence, rather they warn us of the pitfall of settling for a lesser beauty, a perishable beauty when there is an imperishable beauty that is ours to experience and express as we move and live within God’s love. Consider 1 Peter 3, as Peter beseeches women to let their “adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”1 This invitation into deeper, eternal beauty is an echo of Peter’s previous statement about truth, “love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. For all flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.”2 And just as God’s word, the imperishable seed, is our Absolute Truth, I suggest to you that the Imperishable Beauty of Scripture provides us with a similarly objective definition of beauty. Which, we must carefully note is not a rejection of aesthetic, but a warning to not stop short, for beauty must also be more than aesthetic, otherwise it is fleeting and vain. If our aim is the depth of imperishable beauty (which God, himself is the source of) then naturally, the outward appearance of a thing will begin to reflect this inner reality. As Jesus says, “First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”3

grass 2

Beauty is Everything in its Original or Restored State

If beauty is meant to be more than personal preference, what is this objective definition of beauty? As John Piper says:

“Unless beauty is rooted in God’s mind rather than your mind, every time you say, “That is beautiful,” all you really mean is, “I like that.” Unless there is a God, your praise of beauty can be no more than expressions of your own personal preferences. But I think there is in every one of you a dissatisfaction with the notion that your judgments about beauty have no more validity than your preference for coffee over tea. And I think your dissatisfaction with pure subjectivism and relativism is a remnant of God’s image in your soul and evidence of his reality. It is an echo, however faint, of a voice that once called you into being.”4

We long for beauty, true objective beauty, because we long for God. And we long to engage in, experience and create beauty because of that echo of the voice that called us into being. It is a longing for God and for our own restoration back into our original created state.

I have found this correlation in scripture between the idea of good and that of beauty. That which God says is good is always beautiful in some form. I have for a long time been fascinated with the greek work “kalos” translated into our english word “good” in Galatians 6:9 “do not grow weary of doing good…” the word “kalos” used here caries with it the idea of “beautiful, handsome, excellent, eminent, choice, surpassing, precious, useful, suitable, commendable, and admirable.”5 This not only expands my understanding of good from performance to essence, but it deepens my understanding of the value of beauty in the Kingdom of God.

Consider also what God says is good in his creation. That declaration, “it is good” after each element and creature is spoken into existence.6 This was a declaration of beauty, not only in appearance, but in essence, in meaning, in wholeness. It was good because it was not broken. And it is through the work of Christ that we can be good again, not good in a try harder, perform better sense, but good in that the essence of the thing is beautiful. We see in Ephesians 4:22-24 a profound statement of restoration, echoing God’s original declaration of his creation of man, it is a reminder to continue living out of the restoration that Christ has brought us as the Spirit empowers us to live beautifully in the truth, “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (ESV). Here we have not only the picture of what beauty looks like as original and restored creation, but we also see this reminder that we are created by God. There is an emphasis of God as builder and artist. Ephesians 2:10 beseeches us as created beings to multiply this goodness and beauty and create, patterning ourselves after our creator, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (ESV).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beauty is Love

So now we have seen that there is such a thing as imperishable beauty and this is the beauty that is found in original and restored creation, but what exactly does such a beauty look like as it is manifested into reality? Scripture gives us some clues as to that as well. Jesus tells us to worship the Father “in Spirit and in truth.”7 Paul tells us that “where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”8 and if we behold God with unveiled face we will be transformed into his image.9 Surely, if true beauty has God as its source, looking at the characteristics of his spirit gives us some indication as to what his beauty looks like. Consider the fruit of the Spirit as a picture of God’s beauty, the truth of his Spirit expressed, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”10 This shows us something of imperishable beauty. And its source is God, not something we force through good intentions and a lot of effort, we manifest these attributes of beauty in our service, ministry, relationships, and artwork by worshiping God, in Spirit and in Truth. It is his love that precedes and prevails all things and it is only through his love that we have any hope of living in the restorative beauty and wonder of his truth. Consider also Paul’s explanation of what true love looks like in 1 Corinthians 13:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal… Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

This, undoubtedly is beauty. Not a rejection of aesthetic, but something so much deeper than sound or appearance or power. At the heart of beauty whether your aim is service or storytelling, a song, a painting, or a relationship, to create a thing of beauty, to manifest the truth in our lives, we must dive deep into the love of God, to be loved and to love. This is how we become conduits of God’s truth and beauty to the world around us.

couple on rocks


1. 1 Peter 3:4

2. 1 Peter 1:22b-25

3. Matthew 23:26

4. John Piper “Jesus is Precious Because we Yearn for Beauty”

5. Greek Strong’s Number 2570

6. Genesis 1

7. John 4:23

8. 2 Corinthians 3:17

9. 2 Corinthians 3:18

10. Galatians 5:22

Extravagant Grace

Blog 3 BookofJoel HD

These past three weeks we have been delving into the book of Joel. Today we take one last look at the ancient words of this prophet and linger a little longer this week on the power of our God. On Sunday Pastor Keith highlighted the point that “there is no grace without justice” (listen to Pastor Keith’s sermon here). And we were reminded that we need to see the wrath of God to fully understand the grace and forgiveness of God. Verse 16 of Joel 3 says,

“The Lord will roar from Zion

and thunder from Jerusalem;

the earth and heaven will tremble.

But the LORD will be a refuge for his people,

a stronghold for the people of Israel.”

Here once more we are reminded of the terrifying power that God wields and in that terrifying power we find a sure and solid strength in which to take refuge.

As Christians we are justified by Christ’s blood and saved from God’s wrath1, our faith in him is counted to us as righteousness2, we have been made right with God and have been adopted into God’s people3; therefore, we can stand with bold trust that God will be our refuge and our stronghold. Let this bring you peace wherever you are. Take a deep breath and let the stress of the world fall off of you like scales, and trust in your God who is full of power and abounding in steadfast love, your God who is slow to anger and eager to embrace the estranged and rebellious son. “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength.” 4

This study in the book of Joel was entitled Judgement and Deliverance. And as I focus in on the final words of Joel, I am amazed at the extravagance of God’s deliverance. The people do not just get delivered by the skin of their teeth, they get delivered into extravagance and purpose. God does not merely save, he blesses. He does not stop at redemption, but pursues us further into restoration. Oh what generosity! What lavish love!

Let us see exactly what Joel has to say about the blessings of God that followed his judgement and deliverance:

“In that day the mountains will drip new wine,

and the hills will flow with milk;

all the ravines of Judah will run with water.

A fountain will flow out of the Lord’s house

and will water the valley of acacias.5

Just as Pastor Keith concluded with a look at God’s restoration of earth in the new creation6 let us dwell on the imagery Joel uses to signify restoration for Israel: mountains dripping with wine, ravines flowing with water, fountains to water the valley. So much beauty breathed back into a land that was destroyed. Remember that part in chapter 2 that said the land before them was like Eden and the land behind them a desert wasteland7… how beautiful to know that that was not the end of the story, but that such Eden-like beauty would be restored to the land. God is true to his promise, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…”8 and he can be trusted. Sin and brokenness is not the end of our story, He does and he will restore.


Romans 5:9

Romans 4:22-25

3 Galatians 3:29

Isaiah 30:15

5 Joel 3:18

6 Revelation 22:1-5

7 Joel 2:3

8 Joel 2:25


Article by Makaila Mobley

Beat of the Warrior Heart

Discover why God is even more trustworthy because of his wrath. A look a Joel 2.

Blog 2 BookofJoel HDA Lingering Look at the Second Chapter of Joel

This week we continue our study of the book of Joel as we linger a little longer on the second chapter (listen to Pastor Nate’s sermon from Joel 2 here).

Can I just start by recognizing the sheer beauty of this chapter? The imagery, the powerful metaphors, the precise rhythm, evoking terror upon terror, and then just when we think we can’t bear the weight of another word, we see past the dust and blood and blade to the steady beat of The Good Warrior Heart that beats with unwavering love for His beloved.

Let us begin here, with the rhythm of this great and fearsome Warrior Heart. Let us step back from whatever is our particularly familiar approach to scripture. Let us slow down until we’ve found the sound of that beating heart. It maybe faint at first, but let us lean into it and follow it until we are close enough to feel its reverberations resonating in our own chests.

God’s Fierceness 

I’ve never heard of anyone who loves to dwell and meditate on the wrath of God. It is terrifying. In the second chapter of Joel we see that “fear grips all the people; every face grows pale with terror” (2:6) as “God’s army” marches in perfect unison, shaking the earth as they advance, never breaking rank. They swarm the city and scale its walls, entering into houses like thieves through windows (2:7-10). We read these lines and shutter, but the most unnerving line of all is “The Lord is at the head…he leads them with a shout. This is his mighty army, and they follow his orders.”

Whether you prefer to engage scripture from an academic and formal mindset or the cozier, just-give-me-Jesus-and-a-warm-blanket option, passages like this can shake us out of our familiar places where we have learned to relate to God from the security of our own solid ground. And this is a very good thing. For it is God, himself that is our security, not our carefully calculated ideas and defendable doctrine about God, but God himself. Texts like Joel 2 don’t allow us to keep God in a tame and manageable box and, it is unnerving. But would we really be able to find security in a God who did not posses this kind of strength. God is full of mercy and abounding in love, as the chapter later spills in rushing and adamant emotion, and we will get there. But let us dwell a little longer with the fierceness we find in God as he commands with militant force and precision.

What We Find in the Garden and the Wasteland

In verse 3 we find just how thorough this invasion of God’s army is upon the land, “Ahead of them the land lies as beautiful as the Garden of Eden. Behind them is nothing but desolation…” At first glance, there is nothing comforting about this image, but look again. Let it take us back into Eden. What do we find there? The creation, let your heart swell as the layers of beauty multiply and deepen with every stroke of God’s words. The temptation, feel the fear, the panic that rises in your heart that maybe all you thought was true, was really just a mirage. The fall, remember what it felt like to live under the anguish of hopelessness and the shroud of shame.  The cursing, try to see through the dizzy haze and confusion in the wake of what you’ve done long enough to understand that the God you once walked with in the cool of the day is cursing you now. The damage done rips at us, the confusion overwhelms, the regret threatens to swallow us whole.

But step back with me once more and listen for the sound of that beating heart. Where is our God? Has he turned his back on us? Maybe he’ll maintain a mild interest, a general concern for our well-being? Or is he indifferent? Or worse, is he angry? Surely he even has cause to be unforgiving and embittered by our treason?

Where is our God? He is drawing near, he has come looking for us. We are ashamed and try desperately to cover ourselves and he comes and wraps us in a cloak he has fashioned himself, and somehow right in the wake of what we have done, he hands us a bit of our dignity back. He curses us, yes, but these curses are designed, each word carefully chosen to thwart our further destruction, making it impossible to be satisfied in anything but Him.

An All-Powerful King and Ally

Oh, there is destruction in Eden, the garden has turned into a “desert wasteland” but what I find here, in both Joel 2 and Genesis 3, is that God is the one with all the power. Satan was not granted the power to invade and plunder paradise. His only leverage is to deceive us out from under the pleasure, purpose, and protection of God, for it is God who holds all the power, and it is us who decide whether we want to run through the forest, climb the highest mountains, and drink from the waterfall of God, or crawl through a cracked and empty desert, looking for water that will not be found. The point is, God is the one who has made the world and there is a way things work. If we live within his way, we will know peace and joy and purpose even in the face of opposition; but if we can be tempted into rebellion, then destruction will follow because we have stepped outside of the way things work.

Sometimes, I think we are tempted to see good and evil as equal foes, but that is just not the case. God creates in a way that stuns us speechless, and he also destroys in a way that grips us with fear and turns our faces pale. What do we do with this? How can we take comfort in such a God, how can be find peace in relationship with such power.

But when I stop and actually consider the answer to these questions, I find myself saying, how could I derive all of my security from anyone less powerful. We can trust God because he posses this kind of fierce strength and power, not in spite of it. God is stronger than any other force in all existence, this does not lessen his goodness and love, it increases it. Just as a woman longs to rest under the protection of a man who will use his strength to fight for her, so in God we can find peace as we draw close to His untamed masculinity.

Authentic Love

In Joel 2 we find a powerful picture of what masculinity could look like and it isn’t safe, but it is deeply good. He is powerful and fierce, and slow to anger and filled with faithful love—what a picture of masculine strength at its best. In verse 12 we see the beginning of a call to repentance and it is almost as if the pulse of God quickens with desire for his beloved to return to him. God is no half-hearted lover, he is a jealous God who is not satisfied with the facade of devotion, he wants the real deal, the full heart, no half measures will do. That is the reason he says, don’t tear your clothes, tear your hearts, in other words, don’t bother with the outward expression if the inward remains unchanged. I want your heart, I long to show compassion to you and bring you back under the protection and goodness of my love.

“Don’t tear your clothing in your grief,

    but tear your hearts instead.”

Return to the Lord your God,

    for he is merciful and compassionate,

slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.

    He is eager to relent and not punish.

Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve,

    sending you a blessing instead of this curse.

Perhaps you will be able to offer grain and wine

    to the Lord your God as before.” (2:13-14 NLT)

Continue to read and you will find, it just keeps getting better and better. God is power and God is love and in his divine chest beats a warrior heart. Do not rebel against him, but submit to him with authentic devotion and watch his strength being wielded on your behalf.

Uncovering Treasures

There is so much more in this passage to unpack, the longer I look, the deeper and more interesting it gets, there’s the powerful foreshadowing of the New Covenant, the imagery of restoration, the Kingdom of God, bearing fruit, utter satisfaction, living shamelessly, and with single-minded devotion, and this is just gathered in a day’s study. There is so much more here to be discovered and I encourage you to explore some of its treasures on your own. For now, let me end with a few verses that evoke in me the hope of my own restoration.

“I will restore to you the years

    that the swarming locust has eaten,

the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,

    my great army, which I sent among you.

“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,

    and praise the name of the Lord your God,

    who has dealt wondrously with you.

And my people shall never again be put to shame.

You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,

    and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else.

And my people shall never again be put to shame.” (2:25-27 ESV)

Article by: Makaila Mobley

 

 

The Ache of Eden in the Shadowlands of Sin

Blog 1 BookofJoel HD

This week at Redeemer Church we began a study in the book of Joel. In the first chapter we find passages like this:

Weep like a bride dressed in black,
mourning the death of her husband.
For there is no grain or wine
to offer at the Temple of the Lord.
So the priests are in mourning.
The ministers of the Lord are weeping.
The fields are ruined,
the land is stripped bare.
The grain is destroyed,
the grapes have shriveled,
and the olive oil is gone.1

And I am reminded of what sin does to our souls and to our world. Here in this passage I hear the haunting echo of a aching heart longing for the life of Eden. We were meant for Eden, but sin sent a jagged crack through paradise and the shattering of the good and the beautiful continues to send us spiraling toward any device to numb the ache inside. We were meant for unity without strife in relationship, we were meant for the bounty of the Lord’s vast garden, we were meant for adventure and purpose without the futile go-nowhere-harvestless-grind. But what was meant to be is now shadowed by sin.

As we continue our study of the book of Joel over the next few weeks at Redeemer Church, we will be invited into an honest look at the depths of the anguish and ache sin has scarred our lives with.

I personally am tempted to skim the surface in this kind of stuff, to hear it, read it, file it and not pause long enough to let the full weight of the pain of it surface until I actually feel it. But skimming the surface like this won’t do us any good. We have to allow ourselves to feel the full impact of the passage, the full impact of our own depravity, the full impact of our heart’s own unfulfilled desire. We have to be willing to honestly say “this is not the way life is supposed to be”. Because only in acknowledging this ache for Eden placed in our hearts even as we live in the shadowlands of sin can we be awakened to our hunger for the One who can and does and will restore us back to the people we were meant to be. Only in the courage to allow ourselves to feel the stinging black texture of disappointment’s aching abyss can we find the compulsion to turn our hearts and our minds fully toward God with fierce and dedicated devotion. He is our only hope.

We need him.

We must come to this realization. And glory to God, because of the work of Christ who reconciles all things,2 we can approach with boldness3 even as the residue of sin’s disappointment clings to our lives. We must allow for the daily honesty that turns our hearts again to God for our daily portion, and we must have strength to maintain hope that all we long for is on its way. The consummation of the Kingdom is coming, but we must wait with patient endurance, letting the space between what we are and what we long to be push back the horizon’s of our hope,4 trusting that God WILL complete the work he began in us.5

And in this hope we live and move and have our being in Him, beginning, ending, and living each day with the words, “To you, O LORD, I call,” abiding on our lips, sometimes released in a cry of desperation, and ever increasingly in the whispered hum of our every breath.

22to-you-o-lord-i-call-22-21

 

Article by Makaila Mobley


  1.  Joel 1:8-10 NLT
  2.  Colossians 1:20
  3.  2 Corinthians 3:12
  4.  “Disturb us Lord” Sir Francis Drake -1577
  5.  Philippians 1:6

A Nation in Crisis

 Pastor Nate Garn and the New Sermon Series

I was recently reading various reactions from friends on Facebook during this political season. As I started to get discouraged about our country I said to myself (out loud) “how gross”! We’ve become a gross, divided, violent, and unstable country. How can we go from a united country 15 short years ago on 9/11 to a country of such instability. We are even to the point of killing our own.

Sadly, we seem to be emulating the habits and practices of Israel. The only major difference is America isn’t the chosen nation of God. How scary to think how he will deal with us when he dealt with Israel so swiftly. In the Old Testament Israel had a constant practice of rebelling against God and pursuing empty gods. This eventually brought on the wrath of God. God used various ways and even enemies to punish his people. This is what we have in the book of Joel.

Sermon Series BookofJoel HD

Introduction to the Book of Joel

For the next three weeks we will be diving into the book of Joel. This seemingly odd choice of ours could not have come at a better time for us in America.

The historical background of this small book is very difficult to pinpoint. We know that Joel’s name means “Yahweh is God”. We also know he was the son of “Pethuel”. Other than that, we don’t know much else. In fact, scholars are divided over when the book even took place. Regardless, the message of the book of Joel is loud and clear.

*God is a wrathful God.

*God desires people to repent.

*God promises to turn his wrath to blessing.

*God promises the “Great day of the Lord”.

*God promises to pour out His Spirit on humanity.

With these common themes in the book of Joel we can find incredible hope. The book begins with wrath and discipline but by the end screams of promise, hope and grace. One portion of Joel in particular gives me great hope.

“Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing- grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.” Joel 2:13-14

Article by Nate Garn

Joel 2 Rend your heart 1