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Redemption is as easy as making your way from Kwakoegron, Suriname to Paramaribo. Got it? OK, good!

That’s what counsel can sound like when we don’t go into detail. I have no idea where I am, where I’m going, or how to get there. What’s the first thing you did when you read that? You probably looked it up on Google Maps. This is the “big picture.” Is that even a country? What continent is it in? What countries is it beside?

Suppose that you were actually taking this trip, though. What is the second thing you do? You look up directions. Am I walking, driving, or taking public transit? Where do I rent a car? How much money do I have? When do the trains leave? What is my first turn? You go into extreme, ground-level detail.

We develop a toxic culture when we don’t live in the details. We live on words like “repent, love, mission, pray, and idol”, but they really only conjure up fuzzy notions. We quote without laboring, and underneath the façade of smooth words, we often have little to offer. May God rescue me from this! And you as well.

We, ourselves, have to first learn what it really looks like to overcome strong, real idolatrous desires in the heat of the moment by savoring a spotless God willingly slaughtered for criminals who belittled Him. We must learn by practice what it looks like to catch ourselves in godless, envious, angry thought (when nobody’s looking), to run to God quickly, and to savor something real about who He is. We do this right this moment and then again 30 seconds from now.

Detail is the bread and butter of counsel:

  • Why am I anxious and depressed right now? Who is God, and what is He like?
  • Why am I so angry right now? Who is God, and what is He like?
  • Why am I longing for television right now? Who is God, and what is He like?
  • Why am I obsessed with food right now? Who is God, and what is He like?
  • What changes tomorrow because of this passage of scripture?
  • What does it look, feel, smell, and taste like for God to be:
    • Patient, faithful, invasive, just, compassionate, a groom, a father, a shepherd, etc?
  • What can I give up to have more time to think on and enjoy God?
  • Who will I enjoy God with? What time will I do it and where?
  • What is my plan for when I know this sinful desire will probably try to trip me up?

The narratives, prophecies, psalms, gospels, and epistles of scripture provide no shortage of vivid, hands-on detail when talking about God, mankind, and redemption. Following the example of scripture, always be looking to go further with what something really looks likein mundane life. Unless we go there, not only are those we’re counseling probably bewildered, but we might be as well and not even know it. Detail is a keen gut check for our own living, and it’s essential for those we’re helping.

Posted by Matt Norman with


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One day, for reasons unknown to yourself, you decide to visit a fortune teller.  She reveals that you will live the rest of your life here in Knoxville with the same neighbors, the same family, the same coworkers, and the same awkward church living rooms. You will eat the same food and vacation in the same spots. You will work a dead-end job, and you will not advance. Your neighbor, Bob, today will be your neighbor, Bob, tomorrow. You will experience his oddities and peculiarities for 50 years to come.

OK, yes, this fortune teller sucks at her job, but suppose she’s right. My question to you is this: What do you think of this kind of life?

Our culture is repulsed by the idea of bearing with a group of people for life: to labor hard in the gospel amid menial, gritty, life-on-life moments and to die. Our eyes are constantly cast outward to bigger and better things. We dream huge fantasies, and the only thing they all share in common is that they look nothing like life as it currently is. You and I are addicts to “new and fresh,” and the first casualty of this addiction is faithfulness.

Think of leading Redemption Groups like living beside your neighbor, Bob, for 50 years. I realize you might move on eventually. We’re a sending church! But your heart must be set on the “long haul” somewhere! You’re engaging messy people with a cosmic gospel that lives in everyday grit, and these groups are going to take “long haul” faithfulness and endurance to succeed! Just like you, people will not get it at first. People will fumble and struggle. Repetition will be a way of life. But you aren’t “swooping in” to their lives to fix something. No, you’re “moving in” to their neighborhood to live with them. Our job is to bear with others in far-from-glamorous messes and to take incredible joy in doing it.

Only one power is strong enough to break our addiction to “new” and our repulsion to “stale.” We need to behold and drool over a God who bore with a grumbling, broken-record Israel through ages and ages with His own far-from-glamorous, enduring labor with them. We need to behold and drool over a God who still bears even with grumbling, broken-record you and me. We need to really see Him as a joyful and faithful God, not a God who is repulsed by repetitive grit. We need to be moved by this vision of Him. Only then will we put a high price tag on faithfulness with the people we’re called to. Only then can we trulyenjoy faithfulness.

Beholding God’s nature will change us from addicts to “new and fresh” into people who would hear this fortune teller’s story and smile at how much it reminds us of a glamorous God who stooped down to bear with far-from-glamorous mankind for eternity.

Posted by Matt Norman with

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