epic: when God redeems your story

You’ve probably heard of this guy, Maewyn Succat.

No? Trust me. You’ve probably celebrated him, even. Here’s a hint: shamrocks, green clothing, beer. Well, maybe green beer. He has a holiday named after him, often involving green beer.

epic: when God redeems your story

See, I told you. We know him as St. Patrick. But his story — most of us don’t know what happened to make a kid named Maewyn Succat become a saint named Patrick. It’s worth knowing, though.

St. Patrick was a Roman Briton of good family dwelling probably in the Severn valley. His father was a Christian deacon, a Roman citizen, and a member of the municipal council. One day in the early fifth century there descended on the district a band of Irish raiders, burning and slaying.

– Winston Churchill, The Birth of Britain

It was terror. The enemy was up to no good. It’s an awful part of our history.

The young Patrick was carried off and sold into slavery —

It gets worse and worse. But I didn’t give you the rest of the sentence, and the last two words reveal much about the rest of the story:

The young Patrick was carried off and sold into slavery in Ireland.

And we know that God was up to something, too. Regardless of what the enemy was trying to destroy, God was doing what He always does – creating redemption in an all-things-for-good, beauty-for-ashes, Romans 8:28, epic kind of way. In between the kid and the saint, God was hovering over: protecting, watching, guiding. Taking every attack from the enemy and turning it on its head, He was making history through this young man.

For six years…he tended swine, and loneliness led him to seek comfort in religion. He was led by miraculous promptings to attempt escape.

Although many miles separated him from the sea he made his way to a port, found a ship, and persuaded the captain to take him on board.

After many wanderings we find him in one of the small islands off Marseilles, then a centre of the new monastic movement spreading westward from the Eastern Mediterranean…

He conceived an earnest desire to return good for evil and spread the tidings he had learned among his former captors in Ireland.

– Winston Churchill

He didn’t just sail back to Ireland immediately, though. He obeyed, waited, and let God mold him into the saint that would save a nation.

After fourteen years of careful training by the Bishop and self-preparation for what must have seemed a forlorn adventure, Patrick sailed back in 432 to the wild regions which he had quitted. His success was speedy and undying.

– Winston Churchill

Some of you are fighting discouragement over terrible attack, an awful history, or an uncertain future. The man we now know as Saint Patrick endured all of those. The enemy can try to spin a plot twist, but God writes the best stories for those who let Him.

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

– Colossians 1:24-28

There is nothing He can’t do with a person who trusts Him utterly — unflinching in obedience, uncowed by the enemy, unchained to the comfort zone, and unhindered by society’s expectations.

The world does not need super-men, but supernatural men. Men who will persistently turn the self out of their lives and let Divine Power work through them.

God Calling, edited by A.J. Russell

Jesus, I’m praying tonight for all of us in the middle of the story, between a rock and a hard place, not sure how this thing ends. I pray for encouragement that breeds an increase of faith in each of us.

God isn’t done with you yet. He is hovering over you: protecting, watching, guiding, and taking every attack from the enemy and turning it on its head.

Prepare for something epic. It will be the story of your life.

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This is day 29 of Without Ceasing: 31 Days of Relentless Prayer. Find the other posts here. To get new posts right in your inbox, subscribe here.

behold, we live

God, it’s been a bruising day. Our community, our church body, our family have endured some pummeling. The enemy has been angry and threatening and on the warpath, and we’ve felt it today.

behold, we live: victory in the face of onslaught

The grieving, for all different reasons. For loss, for choices, for mistakes – it’s way past bedtime as I type, and I still hear a child crying, needing and yet refusing comfort. We pray for the sorrow that leads to repentance, to life, to salvation.

We pray for comfort for the mourning, those who have lost loved ones in sudden heartbreak. God, for Your comfort, protection, truth, and peace. For deep sleep tonight, and Your words to come as hearts are resting.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

– 2 Corinthians 4:6

God, I pray that the morning would bring hope and joy in the face of what seems impossible.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

– 2 Corinthians 4:7-9

We pray encouragement and truth into hearts that are hurting. We pray renewed vision and hope into those who have been shattered. We pray freedom for the captives.

We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise.

– 2 Corinthians 6:3-8a

We pray for truth and justice to triumph over the manipulation of the enemy. We pray for healing for the sick, for sound minds in the vulnerable, and for compassion in the powerful.

We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

– 2 Corinthians 6:8b-10

We pray for wisdom in change, for maturity in conflict, for calm in chaos. We thank You for these things, for Your word, for Your truth, for Your victory. Because victory is here.

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This is day 24 of Without Ceasing: 31 Days of Relentless Prayer. Find the other posts here. To get new posts right in your inbox, subscribe here.

for a generation to come

Blue collar workers. Missionaries. Adoptive families. Business owners, nerds, artists, stay-at-home moms, special needs families.

What can a little church full of these people do?

for a generation to come: what happens when God's people pray

 Light is sown for the righteous,
    and joy for the upright in heart.

– Psalm 97:11

How far can they go when God tells them to go all in?

Pretty far. All the way, in fact.

Nations will fear the name of the Lord,
    and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory.

Cambodia. Burma.

For the Lord builds up Zion;
    he appears in his glory

Washington DC.  Costa Rica.

He regards the prayer of the destitute
    and does not despise their prayer.

Russia. India.

Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
    so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord

Sri Lanka. Mexico.

that He looked down from his holy height;
    from heaven the Lord looked at the earth,

Bulgaria. Belgium.

to hear the groans of the prisoners,
    to set free those who were doomed to die,

China. Peru. 

that they may declare in Zion the name of the Lord,
    and in Jerusalem His praise,

 Dominican Republic. Remote villages in Alaska.

when peoples gather together,
    and kingdoms, to worship the Lord.

– Psalm 102:15-22, ESV

Ireland. Uganda. 

Worldwide.

(Did I mention worldwide?)

What can a little church give? Well, to start…this:

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I love this radical family – just a bunch of normal Christians, doing what Jesus did. But they weren’t done yet.

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In a room of champions we watched the numbers jump higher.

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And then it went unglued. Giving unhinged.

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It blew the roof off this little church in Wasilla, Alaska.

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There’s a comma missing, but read: One million, seventeen thousand, thirty six dollars. From a little church in Wasilla, Alaska to the world in Jesus’ name.

Trafficking stopped. Slaves freed. Families fed. Children cared for. Pastors equipped. Nations saved. And this, my friends, is what happens when God’s people pray.

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This is day 22 of Without Ceasing: 31 Days of Relentless Prayer. Find the other posts here. To get new posts right in your inbox, subscribe here.

all things for good

Last night, for the first time in two years, I stood during worship and enjoyed the full benefit of our childcare ministry. All the little kids were in their classes, and as we sang “I will fear no evil for my God is with me” my biggest distraction was trying to live that out in the moment, and not freak out about all of the potential fallout from this experiment.

all things for good: risking failure without fear

With only one exception, Andrey and Reagan have sat with us in church for two years. We attempted Sunday School classes for them when we first brought them home, quickly realized the error of our ways, and have kept them with us ever since. This, from an amazing pro-adoption church that has an incredible special needs ministry already in place. It wasn’t their fault; we just weren’t ready. But we’ve spent the last two years learning and communicating, and the last several weeks training and doing more communicating, and lo and behold: Reagan has joined class again at church. So far, so good – no fallout, no backlash. This is a huge victory.

So we went all crazy radical and let Andrey go to class, too – which leads me to the verse of the day, friends:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 

– Romans 8:28

How did it go? Let’s just say…it wasn’t a victory for him. But last night was a wonderful, safe opportunity for failure. And we learned, the staff learned, and grace abounds for each of us as we navigate the details of care and communication. Andrey learned, and consequences are swiftly applied. No class anytime in the near future, because class is for big kids who don’t use their bodily fluids to manipulate the attention and time of others.

And we’re calling it good. It works together for his good, for our good, for our church’s good, because God doesn’t waste a thing.

Not our past, not our mistakes, not our ignorance and not the sins of others – nothing is wasted. In the stewardship of heaven, it is used for good, and turned in our favor.

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We see it in Joshua. A grave mistake was made in the first battle after Jericho – one man sinned, the entire nation lost the battle of Ai, and it was a devastating follow-up to what had looked so promising after the victory at Jericho.

And yet…God. They dealt with the sin, and God sent them back to Ai. He turned the failure on its head and used it for good:

And I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. And when they come out against us just as before, we shall flee before them. And they will come out after us, until we have drawn them away from the city. For they will say, ‘They are fleeing from us, just as before.’ So we will flee before them. Then you shall rise up from the ambush and seize the city, for the Lord your God will give it into your hand.

– Joshua 8:5-7

They won the city. And the next one, and the next one, and then one king came to try to help another city against Joshua and the Israelites, but that was a bad idea because they beat him, too. On and on, until they cleared Canaan, north and south. They wiped the giants from the land.

In our lives, even small setbacks and seemingly simple errands – a missed appointment, wasting time stuck in traffic, or just dropping off a movie at the Redbox kiosk – these are details that are divinely appointed, orchestrating time and events like notes in a song that come to play in just the right moment.

His timing is perfect; He doesn’t sway His plans due to our opinion of dissonance.

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I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.

What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance.

Phil. 1:12-13, 18-19

We know that big leaps in progress with Andrey and Reagan are often met with significant regressions in other areas – for some reason they come hand in hand, like a baby crying during a growth spurt. But in order for them to grow and experience victory, we have to risk failure, even though we will all live with the consequences from it. And He will use it for good. Shout, for the Lord has given you the city…

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For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

– Romans 8:29-30

God, tonight I’m praying for these Called Ones, that they would know the mighty vision you have for each of them and that they would step boldly out there into it, unflinching and unafraid of failure because victory is at hand.

We must risk failure without fear, knowing that dissonance is covered with the grace of a brilliant God who can handle both our mistakes and those of others. We were meant to clear the giants from the land. We were made to win the cities.

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This is day 20 of Without Ceasing: 31 Days of Relentless Prayer. Find the other posts here. To get new posts right in your inbox, subscribe here.

steadfast

About twelve thousand words. That may not mean much to you, but it’s how long this series is so far. It’s a lot of typing late at night, interrupted by frequent stolen glances at Pinterest. Strictly for research purposes, of course.

steadfast: the march that captures a city

And I’ve noticed this thing about when I’m typing: I waste a lot of time by peeking at the keyboard, checking on and doubting my progress. When I’m paying too much attention to the process, typos are everywhere.

Shoot, was that really where the P was? And did I hit the semicolon, or the apostrophe? Better go check – aw, man, I misspelled shirt – good thing I caught that before someone sent me a nasty email about it – deletedeletedelete, highlight, backspace, delete, undo. No, redo. Oh, expletive, undo, undo.

What’s interesting is that when I’m not constantly looking at the keyboard, I make very few errors. When I’m pounding away blindly at the keys and finally look up to check it all, I’m amazed, because most of it is accurate. Very few or no typos. It stuns me every time. Wow, I did it right. Whaddaya know. It’s pretty easy as long as I’m not second-guessing too much. 

But I second-guess other things, also. Many of you have told me that you do, too. The mission is hard. Some things look like they’re not working out, and other things look like they’re falling apart entirely. Do you feel this, friends?

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

– Romans 8:26-27

Over the last several weeks I’ve heard this refrain, and felt it myself: God, what have we done? If we were doing it right, surely it would be working…we must be doing something wrong…did I hit the semicolon, or the apostrophe? And should I hit the undo button? Or should I just highlight the whole shebang and hit delete?

I check, and look, and doubt progress, but I forget that completing the work takes a million keystrokes. Much is happening under the surface.

And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets.

– Joshua 6:2-4

The instructions are specific: we know what direction we’re going, and what we’re supposed to do once we get there. So why isn’t it working?

Stop counting steps, He tells me. Just count the laps and don’t overthink it. The truth is, Love, that wall is coming down – it’s just that you’ve only walked around it three or four times. 

Enemy-occupied territory – that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

If we are in obedience and things still seem to be falling apart, we might be right where He wants us: heavily engaged. Those on the front lines come under the heaviest fire, and your position is a strategic assignment.

And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city.”

– Joshua 6:16

Our obedience – steadfast, unwavering, swerving neither to the right nor left – is one of the greatest threats to the enemy. Combined with worship, it captures the whole city.

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This is day 19 of Without Ceasing: 31 Days of Relentless Prayer. Find the other posts here. To get new posts right in your inbox, subscribe here.