With a Quick Look Back and a Long Look Forward
As I look back...
...I'm tempted to find some sort of balance in the scales. On one side, I see the reality of my selfishness, lustful desires, and craving for self-gratification and glory. On the other side I see God; specifically, the moments that seem to prove over and over again that He is more knowing, generous, surprising, kind, patient, and merciful than I deserve. But are the scales even real? I don't think so. Not anymore at least. I've been reminded of that as I've started to read Judges in the bible. Quickly into the first few chapters, I found this incredible moment between God and his chosen people.
16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved [the Israelites] out of the hand of those who plundered them. 17 Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord, and they did not do so. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. 19 But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. —Judges 2:16-19 ESV
God sent his people judges to guide them. These judges helped to keep His people on track, defending them from their enemies, helping them to know right from wrong, and helping them see and understand their need for God. When they had the judge, life was stable because they had help. When the judge died, they would immediately spiraled stubbornly back into their old chaos.
They needed the judge but the judge was gone. There was no one to save them from their enemies. God was with each of the judges and with the judges dead, there was no longer a God-lead authority in the Israelites' life, so they fell back into their own desires once more.
Without God's presence in a judge this happened every single time. Friend, this is similar to my story and your story. 2016 has proven that to me over and over again. When I am isolated or decide to stand outside of God's will, I immediately chose my own desires every time. I hate it. But how great is our God that Judges is not the end of the story? The bible goes on, introducing us to the judge who's guidance and leadership isn't stopped by death, Jesus.
And now as I look forward...
...I'm encouraged headed into 2017 as I think about this passage and remember the truth of what it is I believe, that I have a Savior who came for me. Jesus came to take my sins to the cross and finish the fight against wickedness, selfishness, and idolatry that I always lose on my own. He came to wash my clean forever, no matter what. I'm reminded that my faith in Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection, has a lifetime unlimited warranty, there are no returns. I've been purchased by the blood of Christ and no matter how many times I break, I can't possibly be returned for a refund. Jesus WANTS me, and He is the better, everlasting judge. Amen!
2017 is yet again, a year where I find that I have no idea where I'll be by the end of it. New city? New job? New community? My boss has already told me that he and the Austin Stone would like me to stay in my design residency for another year. This is really encouraging, to know that I've at least been seen as a desirable benefit to the team among other things. In general, I'd love to stay and continue learning, growing in my faith, knowledge, and skills. I love the city of Austin and the people I've started to get to know. But is that where God wants me? I'm not so convinced yet. Entering into this residency I told all of you, my supporters, that this was a one-year deal. I said that because I wanted this to be a launching pad off to something more. Only trouble is that I'm not sure what that "more" is. I tell you this to let you know that I'm beginning to merely think through my next move. Pray for me, please! If I stay at the Austin Stone, I want to have clear goals and convictions as to why I'd be there another year.
I hope as you sit and think about the last year and the upcoming year, you remember the name of Jesus and remind yourself of what will matter most this year. There are no scales to balance when determining the success or failure of a year, only how closely you followed your Savior.
P.s. I made your Christmas card!
I'm so thankful to have each of you supporting me and wanted to say thanks in a special way, so hopefully you've all seen my Christmas thank-you card by now. It was so awesome to get to write and send those to each of you and hear how much you enjoyed them. I started to realize though that most of you didn't know that I actually created the card and insert myself! It was so much fun to get to design the card and work with a local print shop called WkndPress to get them letterpressed. The inserts were a combination of the Stone logo stamp which I created myself, and Hobby Lobby purchased letters to create the stamped phrase "Thank you so much."
It was a lot more work than I thought to create, print, write, and address more than 90 Christmas Thank-You cards, but man was it worth it. It was fun and you guys are awesome, so thank you again for letting me send those out to you.