Frets, Fretting, and Faithfulness
One of my favorite videos on YouTube is of Tommy Emmanuel—a personal favorite guitarist—playing his rendition of “Classical Gas.” The original version is difficult as is, but he completely overhauls it into a showcase for his virtuosic talent. The best part of the video, however, is not found amidst the musical acrobatics. The best part comes at the end. He finishes the song with gusto, glances off-camera, and lets out a playful sigh of relief with some laughter as if to say, “How in the world did I just get through that?” There is a sense that—even with his massive talent—it was a miracle he made it through.
As I cross the midpoint of my internship, I have started to resonate with that moment more and more (with the main difference being that I am much worse at guitar). I left Westminster going at a breakneck pace, and Harvest is making sure I break the land speed record. That may sound like veiled criticism, but it isn’t. I have truly enjoyed every moment of this internship. It has been stretching, encouraging, difficult, hectic, confirming, and rewarding—and more than once I have asked myself, “How in the world did I just get through that?”
We talk about the difficulty of ministry all the time in seminary, but those talks take on a new reality once you’re actually doing ministry. Studying things like evangelism, counseling, and preaching can only prepare you so much. The reality of ministry is much more difficult and daunting. Even so, I have made it through each experience this summer, have enjoyed each moment, and have grown in exciting ways. Unlike Tommy, though, it has nothing to do with practice or talent. It has everything to do with God’s grace.
I am preaching on Ephesians 2:1-10 this Sunday evening at Living Hope. The passage is permeated with God’s grace. We all know that we are saved by grace through faith and that this is all the work of God (Eph 2:5, 8), but I wonder if—soon after we become Christians—we become tempted to forget that our entire life is still the work of God alone. To put it another way, do we acknowledge God’s working to “get us in the door” (Eph 2:8-9) but neglect that God’s work alone is what gets us through the entire building, too (Eph 2:10)?
God does not call us to rely on him for forgiveness only then to make us rely on ourselves in our Christian walk. We are daily called to rely on God’s grace alone. We never “graduate” from the gospel. Instead, we need to be reminded of it daily, for only it can engender what it requires. Only through the gospel, only by God’s grace, can we be strengthened to pursue lives of thankful obedience. And as we do so, we will come face-to-face with many things that seem beyond ourselves, and they seem that way because they usually are.
We aren’t saved unto competency. We are saved into a relationship with a gracious, loving God who has pursued us and will not leave us. In the midst of difficult circumstances, we are not left to our own devices. God strengthens us to remain faithful to him even when we do not know what is coming next. We know that he will remain faithful (2 Tim 2:13).
That has been my experience throughout this internship. I have routinely felt out of my depth and have wondered, “How can I do this?” And every time I have been met with God’s grace—a grace reminding me that I am not self-sufficient; a grace that points me to a merciful savior; a grace that guarantees both God’s finished and ongoing work in my life. He is the one who sustains and carries us through every hardship and trial. And because of this, when we get through to the other side, we can laugh with a sigh of relief, knowing by whose power we made it.
In Christ's Service,
What Brennen is reading . . .
by Randy Newman
Adrian and I have been reading this book as we continue to think about which postures of evangelism are most needed in West Michigan. Newman encourages Christians to ask unbelievers meaningful questions as opposed to “offering” them a lecture whenever there’s a gap in the conversation. It has been a helpful and thought-provoking book.
The Supper of the Lamb
by Robert Farrar Capon
This is a cookbook* by an Episcopal priest that I have really enjoyed dipping into over the past few months. Capon is winsome, insightful, and quirky in the most delightful way.
* = This is a book that routinely delves into deep reflections on life, philosophy, theology, but it also has recipes. It is a singularly unique book.
The World Beyond Your Head
by Matthew B. Crawford
Crawford questions the modern preoccupation with freedom when understood as “limitless possibility.” We have unprecedented access to everything, everywhere, all at once, and he argues that this actually keeps us from having agency in this life. He asks if limiting ourselves—understanding that we can only really do a few things well, if that—can actually give us the “freedom” to live lives that have actual satisfaction instead of potential (and usually empty) promise.