Higher And Higher

Some songs just make you smile, don’t they?

The name Jackie Wilson may not immediately bring a face to mind or a song, but for me those first few bars of his classic, “Higher and Higher,” strike a chord of recognition. It’s just so fun.

(You might want to take a minute and go watch this great video that syncs Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth dancing to this great song – it’ll make your day brighter.)

It’s a pretty common theme in my life that people recognize how much better I am because of the woman that chose to love me for life. I get what Mr. Wilson was putting down. He said that this love keeps on lifting him higher and higher and higher.

I know that feeling. My beloved has a way of encouraging me, helping me, motivating me to reach for more. Just like Jack Nicholson’s neurotic character blurted out in the romantic comedy, “As Good As It Gets,” I find myself thinking it time and time again:

“You make me want to be a better man.”

(You can watch that clip here if you need a refresher.)

She really does. I keep trying to incorporate better disciplines because she deserves it. I want to take better care of her and for her because she is so precious to me. Her love does indeed keep lifting me, boosting me, drawing me on to better, higher, deeper… more.

When I think about it, I have had a number of relationships—family members, friends, and such that have had an elevating impact upon my life. People have cared about me and helped me and encouraged me in such a way that I have grown through those connections. But really that is the nature of genuinely loving someone. Love does that.

One of the great wonders of the grace of God is that He loves us unconditionally just the way we are. But it is equally a wonder that He loves us so much that He is always drawing us higher, continuing to transform by His amazing grace every follower of His to be more and more and more like Jesus. THAT is truly being lifted HIGHER and HIGHER.

We used to sing a hymn pretty often that expresses that same idea, “Love Lifted Me.” It was about the way the love of God was a rescuing force to bring us life. It’s a response to the hope of the good news that Jesus, God’s Son, died to give us life that goes on beyond this world.

This whole marriage thing, of course, was God’s idea. I’m pretty convinced that it was because we learn more about our failures and shortcomings when we share life closely with someone… and at the same time we are challenged to grow. Love keeps lifting us higher and higher. Right on, Mr. Wilson. Right on indeed.

Further Up, Further In

Wanting

Hungering

Craving

Dissatisfied

Discontent

If there is anything that we have all experienced through our pandemic odyssey, I expect it might be the longing for more. Whether it was more time with loved ones, more closeness with family, more freedom to come and go, more clarity, more… hope. We all felt it. Maybe we still do.

But for followers of Jesus, we’ve been taught that we are to be content, as Paul the Apostle so straitly put it, “in whatsoever state I am.” We’ve been taught (and rightly so) to seek and find our satisfaction in Christ. And yet, we want more. We hunger for something we’ve only tasted. We crave something that we’ve only seen from a distance. We are dissatisfied with the incompleteness of our earthly experience. We are far more familiar than we care to admit with a gnawing discontent.

Continue reading Further Up, Further In

Giving, Praying, Going—GROWING

Not all of the instruments play at the same time.

But they all have a part to play.

This morning the going section has taken the lead in this beautiful symphony of serving. But this is not the beginning of the piece… or the end.

This particular movement has been months in building with the generosity of the  giving section. Over and over we have made them aware of the need and the opportunity and they have given faithfully, liberally, and cheerfully.

It has built as we have drawn closer and closer to this day with the stirring and strengthening of the praying section. They have interceded continually and gathered around the going section to do so.

And the going section has itself given toward this and prayed over this and prepared hearts and minds and hands to do this.

In this giving and in this praying and in this going there is a common motif. We give and we pray and we go that the kingdom of God and the impact of the gospel and the people and churches involved will grow.

This morning we took this picture before we set out on our journey. In it you see givers that pray and prayers that go and goers that give. It’s not all of the folks that were there this morning just as it wasn’t all of the folks who made this possible. But it is a sampling of the magnificent orchestra through which God plays this glorious symphony for His own great glory.

Big group selfie as we set off toward CityReach 2019!

As these sections converge on a city in need of the hope of the gospel, we give thanks to all of you that have given to make our part in this symphony possible. We rejoice for the many who have been and continue to pray for the journey and the impact and the experience of this powerful cooperative kingdom effort. We lift up our partners who will meet us in Madison with hearts and hands ready to demonstrate the grace of our great God together.

And we look with hope for the dimensions of growth… as the kingdom of God increases, as the servants are stretched and strengthened, as the local partners are encouraged and emboldened, and as we all lean into the opportunity to join in where we see God at work. 

This is not a new idea at all. In fact, this growing by working together is exactly what Paul taught us about in his letter to the Ephesians:

“… we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body,… when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

Ephesians 4.15-16

When we each lean into our part, the body grows. That means that God’s kingdom grows—bigger, stronger, more effective. But, more than that, we grow into an ever more effective representation of Jesus himself.

As our Conductor has orchestrated the many parts together to ring out His own great praise, let us each play the part before us for His glory. Let us embrace our role in this work of obedience and honor… giving, praying, going—GROWING.