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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Andy Stanley » Andy Stanley - Shadowcaster

Andy Stanley - Shadowcaster

Andy Stanley - Shadowcaster
TOPICS: The Fundamental List

So, like most fathers, I have had multiple father fails through the years. And I thought I would share one with you because you would like to hear that. So here's one of my biggest ones. When my kids were little, of course they wanted to go to Disney, and I didn't want to go ever to Disney. And that's not because of Disney. That's just a personality thing. And so I had a stall tactic. My stall tactic was this. "Hey, I really wanna go. It'd be so great, but let's wait till we don't have to take a stroller. You know, I think we should all be able to do Disney on our own horsepower and walk". This was kinda like a stall. If you're a young father, you just store, put that one away somewhere. "Yeah, so I just want us to enjoy it. I don't think we're gonna enjoy it with a stroller". I wasn't gonna enjoy it at all, but I, anyway, I ultimately did.

So anyways, so we just put this off and put it off, and then finally it's like, okay, our kids' friends have been to Disney like nine times. Our kids have never been, it's time. And so we planned a trip to Disney. And Allie was old enough where she could walk most of it and so no stroller. So we planned this trip and we show pictures and, of course, our kids are excited about going. We're going Disney World the first time. We talked, didn't have to talk them into it, but Sandra's parents decided to go with us. That was another thing. We need lots of hands, okay? So we all are going. We've looked at pictures. We've talked about it. We've planned it, you know, all this excitement, all this enthusiasm.

And so we get there, and this is years ago, and we're parked a hundred miles away. And then we're walking up to the entrance to the Magic Kingdom. And it's Andrew and I, we're in the front, and then Allie, our daughter, and Garrett, our other son, and Sandra and her parents are lagging behind, because we didn't bring a stroller. Anyway... And so Andrew and I are, and we're about to walk into the entrance to the Magic Kingdom, and suddenly Andrew just stops. And he's standing there and I realized what had happened. And I knelt down beside him, and I literally said, "It's a lot bigger than you thought it was, isn't it"? He said, "Yes, sir, Daddy". I know. Because the pictures weren't, they weren't inaccurate, but pictures just aren't adequate, right, you know, for a child to imagine what they're about to walk into. And the pictures weren't wrong, but they were just pictures.

Our descriptions of Disney weren't dishonest. They were just descriptions. And the actual thing was much larger and much grander than they could possibly imagine. And this is the case with so many things where we look at a picture, right, and then see the reality, or we read a description, or somebody gives a description, and we say this all the times, you know, it doesn't do it justice. That just doesn't do it justice. Those things don't do it justice. And the same is true when it comes to God. This is why I absolutely love the lyrics to this particular song that we sing over and over. It's one of our favorite songs that some of our musicians wrote. Whatever picture I have, when it comes to God, it isn't big enough. Whatever picture I have, it isn't good enough. Whatever picture I have could not possibly sum you up. It couldn't sum you up. The pictures and the words and the descriptions just aren't enough.

Today we're in Part 2 of a series we began last week. Not of all of our series build, the parts don't always build on top of each other, but this one certainly does, because the title of this series is "The Fundamental List". And we are actually putting together or building a list, and the subtitle is "Recovering the essentials of our faith". So if you miss Part 1, you really need to catch up. And if you're gonna follow this series, don't miss a single part, because they build on each other. And the point of this series is we're asking to question, what must a person believe in order to be a faithful follower of Jesus? Not what must a person do, we talk about that all the time, and we will always talk about that, because doing is what makes the difference, not simply believing.

But it's important, especially with things going on in our culture, to ask the question, okay, but in order to be a faithful follower of Jesus, what do I have to believe? What's essential and what's peripheral > what's essential and what's non-essential? What's essential versus just traditional or what I've always been told, but when I get right down to it, it's not really essential to hold on to those particular beliefs. And this is not only important, it's confusing. And one of the things that makes it so confusing is that Christianity is like a giant house made up of only living rooms. And all the giant living rooms have double doors to the outside world.

And each one of these living rooms are full of people who are inviting people in to their particular expression of or their particular tradition of Christianity. And each one of these, and this is just a few of many, many, many. We could fill the whole proscenium with different living rooms of traditions of Christianity. And the thing about each one of these is they all come, and you know this, they all come with their own terms and conditions, own terms and conditions, their own traditions, their own interpretations, their own translations. They don't even all use the same Bible. In fact, pretty much the only thing they have in common is that they're all absolutely confident that they're right and everybody else is not right, that they're misinformed or uninformed or they just haven't caught up, or they're not onto the thing that God is doing in this generation.

And so they set themselves apart. And the other thing that makes this confusing is that in every generation, including ours, but all the way back really to the second century, in every generation, new and novel ideas get intertwined or woven into Christian traditions, new things, novel things, and sometimes toxic things, harmful things get woven into certain expressions of Christianity. And over time, this is the real tragedy, sometimes those new and novel things that get woven in, they rise to the point where they're considered essential. They become part of a tradition's theology. They become doctrine and dogma. If you don't believe this, you're not a true Christian. If you don't believe this, you're not a real believer. If you don't believe this and embrace this idea, this notion, you are not actually a follower of Jesus. You're out.

And when that happens, and some of you, you would say, this is your experience in church. When that happens, non-essentials become obstacles. Non-essentials eventually become obstacles, obstacles to a person's faith, obstacles to somebody who's leaning in and trying to figure out, what is this all about? I wanna follow Jesus, but now I've bumped into something that I'm not sure that's part of the equation. I think maybe you just made that up. And when that happens, thoughtful, mature people, step back to reconsider, step back to rethink, step back to decide, can I be a part of that? And sometimes, and maybe this is your story as well, sometimes their faith survives, because they just go find another living room. They just walk out of that one and say, "You know what? That's not it. You got part of it right, but if that's how you treat people, and if I have to treat people that way in order to be a Christian, I don't wanna be your kind of Christian".

And people find a different living room. But a lot of people just step out of the living room and say, "You know what? I'm done with Christianity. I'm done with faith. I'm done with church". It was either so harmful, so hurtful, or it was so harmful or hurtful to someone they love. They're like, "I just can't do that anymore". And part of it is, because you're thoughtful and you're mature, you begin to compare the teaching of a church and the practice of a church and the values of a church, you begin to compare that to what you see in Jesus in the gospels. And you realize, "Ah, something's just off. I mean, I'm no Bible scholar, I'm no preacher, I'm no theologian, but I just can't imagine that's what this is supposed to be like".

The tone and the posture, the tone and the posture and the approach to life and the approach to relationships, it's just off. And it felt, even though it was a church, it kind of felt un-Christlike. And these people knew the Bible verses, you just wondered if they actually knew Jesus. And the problem wasn't the Bible. The problem is people use the Bible and use verses in the Bible to elevate an agenda and to elevate something that they just want to do and the way they feel and the way they think the world should work. And it happens all the time. In fact, I'll tell you a secret, and I really don't want this to leave the room. I've never shared this publicly, okay?

If you give me a Bible, and I have so many Bibles, but if I have a Bible and you tell me what you want to justify with the Bible, you give me a minute, I'll find you a verse. You give me a minute, I'll find you a story. You give me a minute, I'll find you a passage. And consequently, and you know this because you're smart people, you know history, through history, people have leveraged things, verses, stories in the Bible to support all kinds of horrible things that are extraordinarily un-Christlike. And when that happens over time, people step away. And they either step away from faith entirely, or they step away from a version of faith and go and find themselves a different one. And maybe that's your experience. Again, they knew all the verses, you're just not sure they knew Jesus.

So here's the question. What is fundamental? Or what's essential? And what's merely cultural? What's merely familiar? What's comfortable? What's fashionable? But what's essential? What's peripheral? And this is, I think, in our current moment, in our cultural moment, I think maybe this is more important than it's ever been in our lifetime, not more important than it's ever been, but more important than it's ever been in most of our lifetime. Because when cultural and peripheral, when cultural and peripheral are considered essential, in other words, when new and novel ideas and harmful ideas get woven into the fabric of certain threads and certain expressions of Christianity, when cultural and peripheral are considered essential, Christianity or the Christian faith eventually becomes untenable and unlivable for someone.

It's no longer good news of great joy for all people. It becomes good news of great joy for a segment of people. And that's a problem, because when Jesus showed up on planet Earth when he was born, the message was called the gospel, the good news. And if it's not good news, maybe someone has woven into the fabric or woven into their tradition threads of things that are not good news, that are toxic, that are divisive, that are harmful. So in Part 1, as we make this list, we began with Peter's declaration of who Jesus is. Jesus said, "Who do you guys say that I am"? And Peter said, "I think I know who you are. You, Jesus, are the King. You are God's final King. You are God's Anointed One, just like prophets and priests would anoint a man to become a king, we think God has anointed you to be his final King. And because of that, we think you are, in some unique way, God's Son and his final King".

And Jesus didn't say, "Let's tone it down". Jesus said, "Correct. In fact, Peter, not only is it correct, you didn't come up with this on your own, my Father in heaven revealed this to you". So we decided last week, it is absolutely essential. In fact, this is the essential of all essentials, one of the essentials in terms of what we have to believe to be a faithful follower of Jesus. It's essential to believe that Jesus is who Jesus claimed to be, God's final King. So item number one on our list is this, Jesus is God's Son and our King. But Jesus, unlike other kings, did not come to draw attention to himself. Jesus came to do something else.

And that's what leads us to our second essential. So during Jesus's final conversation with his apostles, right before he would be arrested and crucified, they're celebrating Passover together. We've talked about this multiple times. And he downloads, it's like he's kind of catching everybody up. "And if I forgot anything, let me tell you now, because we're about to have a major disruption". So he's talking about all kinds of stuff. And it's important to remember that, in this conversation, He's been with him for three years. Now they've camped together, they've walked together, they've traveled. There are so many days that we don't know what happened that aren't recorded in any of the gospels, but He has been with them really almost day and night constantly for three years. And yet, in spite of all that, they are still confused.

It's evident to Jesus, they're still confused about the purpose of Jesus's activity among them. They're confused about, "Why did you drag us all over the place? Why did we sit through the same sermon over and over and over? Why all the miracles? I mean, we thought we knew. We thought, in fact, we think we're at the end. We're in Jerusalem, and we think maybe tomorrow or the next day you're gonna throw off your rabbinic robe and proclaim yourself as Messiah, and we're gonna establish a brand new kingdom on earth and expel the Romans. And you know it's gonna be gonna be like the days of David and Solomon again". So they had expectations. So consequently, like all of us, they got Jesus in the God box. And in this conversation, Jesus continues to say things that don't fit with the God box. And it's so troubling to them.

So consequently, they have missed, Jesus realizes, the purpose of Him living among them. And unfortunately, many Christians, most Christians, a lot of Christians have missed the purpose of Jesus living among them as well, that we are in some ways just as confused as the apostles. And here's why. The primary confusion arises from the way that the Bible is traditionally talked about and taught. It arises from the confusion based on the way the Bible is traditionally talked about, how people talk about the Bible, present us with the Bible and the way they teach the Bible. The problem is not the Bible. The problem is the way the Bible is presented, talked about, and oftentimes taught. And here's the problem. Because of the way we received our Bibles as children, if many of you are like me, you got a Bible when you were a child. It was all mapped and wrapped, and this is God's word.

And the way it was presented to us, the way it was taught, we have a tendency to equalize, this is so important, to equalize the importance of everything in it. It's all from God, therefore it's all important, it's all equally important. And, consequently, the events recorded in the gospels, the four accounts of the life of Jesus, Matthew, Martin, Luke, and John, we're gonna talk about why we have four in a minute, the accounts of Jesus life recorded in the gospels get reduced to Bible stories, which equates Jesus's story with everything else and all the other stories in the Bible. But, and if you don't hear anything else, you gotta hear this, Matthew, mark, Luke, and John are not Bible stories about Jesus. Has it ever occurred to you, or have you ever thought about the fact we have one account of the Flood.

We have one account of David and Goliath, great story. We have one account of Noah. We have one account of the parting of the Red Sea. We have one account of so many incidents when it comes to the Old Testament in the history leading up to Jesus. When it comes to Jesus, we have four accounts of the same person all written within the first century. Why so much about Jesus? Because what we find in the gospels, these are not Bible stories. They are not equal to everything else in the Bible. Something dramatic had happened, something new had happened, something that eclipsed really the significance of everything that had happened before. But this is hard to keep in mind because of how the Bible is presented to us.

So anyway, back to our situation with Jesus. So he's in this room. They've had this discussion. He's talked about so many troubling things, things that just do not fit in the box they are trying to keep Jesus in. And well, I wanna pick it up with a statement that when Jesus made this statement, they should have all gotten up and left the room. Here's what he said, because they're troubled, they're very troubled by what he said. And he says, guys, "Don't let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, don't you? Just believe in me". What if I said that? "Hey, things are tough. You know, things are going crazy in America, political chaos and stuff in the world. But wait a minute, don't be troubled. You trust God, don't you"? "Well, yeah". "Well, just trust me". You should all get up and leave the room, okay? There's no place for that.

This is the moment, this is the dynamic in the room. He was saying, "I want you to trust me like you trust God". And He equates himself, once again, with God. But it gets worse or better depending on how you listen to this. So here's what I want us all to do, okay? If you're watching online or from wherever you are, we're all gonna use our imagination. And this is hard for us, especially if you were raised in church. I want for just a minute for you to take all of your presuppositions and all your categories about God and Jesus and the Bible, the whole thing, if you could, and this is hard, I want you to kind of pick it up and set it beside you for just a moment.

Now, when you leave, make sure you take it with you. We don't want to clean all that up, okay? But anyway, for just a moment, if you can just imagine, okay, imagine that you are in this room, that you are sitting on the floor against the wall. It's not lit very well. It's at night, and it's oil lamps, little smokey, smell the food, the sweat of the men. It's hot. And sitting at this table is a man in a robe with a beard. And he says the following things to the men in the room. I want you to put yourself there. You're not reading the Bible. You're not hearing somebody read the Bible. You're hearing a rabbi from Nazareth say the following things, and he's in the city of Jerusalem, he should know better. You ready? Everybody there?

"If you know me, you will know my Father as well. If you know me," There's a man saying this. He's looking at you and he's saying, "If you know me to the degree that you know me, you know God". When the implications of this statement settle in on you, when they get from your head to your heart, this will redefine your view of God. Let me say it a different way. When you hear God and when you hear Jesus, is there a tension? Do these two words, God, and then the name Jesus, do they conjure up, if you're honest, different emotions? Let me ask you this way, don't answer out loud. Which one do you like better? Which one do you think you'd be more comfortable with? Look up here. If that creates tension, you have some de- and reconstructing to do about your view of God, that like everybody in that room that you are sitting with in your imagination, like everybody in that room, there is the tension that Jesus came to resolve.

And as long as many of us have been in church, and as many times as we've heard the Bible stories, there's still a tension. There's God, and then there's Jesus. And Jesus smiles at them in the room, and He smiles at you. And He says, "There should be no tension". He doubles down. Look at this. He says, look, "From now on, if you know me, you'll know my father as well. And from now on, you do know him". He's talking about God. "You do know God. You do know the Father, and you have seen him because you know me and you have seen me". And they respond just like they should. The Bible's so honest. They don't go, "We believe and we're in". They're like, "This is too much. Wait a minute".

And Philip who's sitting there finally says what the rest of them are thinking. And I love this. He's trying not to be impolite. He's trying not to be offensive. I mean, you don't say, "Jesus, nah, nah, what else you got"? I mean, they were just in Bethany, and he raised a man from the dead, okay? Not like just died, like been dead, dead, like had the funeral dead and raises Lazarus. So I mean, they know they're not dealing with a mere mortal, but God in a body sitting here in sandals with a beard, I mean, and so Phillips says, "Lord," you know, he's so respectful. I love this, so honest. "Lord, just show us the Father and that will be enough for us. Just, look, I'm not disputing you, I'm not arguing with you. We're just confused. And we do wanna know what God is like". We do wanna know what God is like, right?

"Well, we wanna know exactly what God is like, just show us the Father and that will be enough for us. Because hey, we have Torah, and that helps. We have the prophets, and that helps. We have the Psalms, and that helps. We have the temple. We have the priest. We have our history, but there's so much mystery. And God seems so far away at times, and the Romans are here, and none of this makes sense. And our God box, it shrinks and then it gets larger. and there's so much confusion. But we do believe you've come from God. Would you just show us the Father? Would you just make it clear for us"?

I love this. And Jesus is thinking, "But, show you the Father? You want me to show you the Father? Guys, what do you think I've been doing for the last three years? Why do you think I stuck around? I mean, you guys are great, but, you know, why do you think I stuck around for the last three years? Why do you think I dragged you around? Why is it I made sure you were there for what you were there for? Guys, I didn't come to provide more Bible stories. I didn't come to provide more Bible stories. The reason I came is so that you could know what the Father is like. Don't you," He says, "don't you know me, Philip, even after," here it is, I love this, "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I've been among you for such a long time? Think of how many miles we've walked together, how many campfires we've built together, how many conversations we've had, how many things you've seen me do, how many questions I've answered and answered and answered and answered, how many boneheaded ideas you guys had. And I'm like, no, we're not gonna call down fire and burn up the Samaritans. That's not what we're here for. I mean, why do you think I have been among you for so long? Anyone," again here He says, "anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'"?

What if he's right? What if Jesus is as close as you will ever get and as close as I will ever get to knowing what God is like? What if you stop short of Jesus, you miss God. You go past Jesus, you miss God. What if, He goes on, He says this. Look guys, "The words," this is so amazing, "The words I say to you I do not speak them on my own authority. All those great stories you love. I didn't come up with that. I'm not even here to come up with stuff. I'm here passing through to you the words of the Father so you can hear. Think of it, guys, when I spoke to you, you were hearing directly from God, your Father. The words I say to you, I don't speak of my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. If you've seen me, you've seen the Father. If you've heard me, you've heard the Father. If you've watched me, you've been watching the Father at work".

He would say later, "I don't do anything on my own initiative. The reason I'm here is so that you can know what God is like. I came to remove some of the mystery. I came to add some personality. I came to do what God wants me to do so that you can know what He's like. I'm the King, but I'm not even here on my own behalf. I'm here on His behalf because He wants to be known. And you've seen the brochures, and you've read the descriptions, and you know about His mighty deeds in the past, but now He has come to dwell among you to reduce the distance. You wanna know what God is like? You wanna know what God likes? You wanna know what God has to say? Would you like to know how God would respond"? Jesus says, "It's simple. Just watch me, listen to me".

Jesus is as good as it gets. Jesus is as close as we get. So the gospels, so important. If you're gonna be a faithful follower of Jesus, this is essential. The gospels are not additional Bible stories. The Gospels are not Bible stories about Jesus. The gospel, it's why we have four. It's amazing. The gospels, you know what they're for? They document, this is amazing, they document Jesus's explanation of what God is like. And as obvious as that should be, it is so difficult for us modern Christians to wrap our minds around that, because, again, of the way pastors refer to and teach from and use the Bible. And I can say that, because I'm one of them, and I understand that. I understand the tension, and I don't think anybody does it on purpose. But when we got our Bible all mapped and wrapped with a concordance, it's like it's all inspired, therefore it's all equally important. No, it's not.

Think about this. If Jesus was telling them the truth, then when you open your New Testament, and if you have a Red Letter Bible, you see those red letters, or if you just have a regular Bible like I use, and they don't have the red letters, but you see, when you read the words of Jesus, you are reading literally the words of God, your Father. I mean, it's one thing for God to inspire a prophet to write something, but Jesus is speaking directly on behalf of God, because he's God's son and God's spokesman to the world. And he didn't just come to teach us cool things. He came to reveal what the Father values and who the Father values, and how the Father responds to sinners and repentant sinners and prodigal sons and prodigal daughters and prodigal everybody.

It's amazing, because, again, when we equate the importance of everything in the Bible, we unintentionally negate or minimize the unique purpose of Jesus, not the unique purpose of His death, the unique purpose of His life. But here's an interesting thing, and this is another reason we take this seriously, I'll tell you who didn't make that mistake. In the first century, there's a Pharisee who was absolutely committed to Torah and absolutely committed to God's covenant with Israel, because he was a Hebrew absolutely committed to it, who then becomes a Jesus follower and abandons the old covenant, embraces the new covenant.

In fact, he's the one that gives us the language, the law of Christ. I'm abandoning all those laws to embrace the law of Christ. And Saul of Tarsus who becomes the Apostle Paul, who was a pharisee, tells us, "Look, I've been on that side, and now I'm on this side. And this side wasn't wrong, it was just inadequate. But the reality of what that pointed to has come, and all of you need to join this side". And so he preaches to first century Jews, "Hey, what God promised to do in the past, He has done. He has shown up in the person of Jesus, Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, and you need to join me in following him". That everything that came before was fine, but it was a sign that pointed to something. "What has happened in our midst, in our generation, is far superior to any of that". He writes, "Those things were but a shadow of the things to come, of the things that were to come".

You can tell a lot about a thing by its shadow, but you can't tell everything about it by a shadow. You can tell a lot about a thing by the brochure and the picture and the description, but you can't tell everything. And then he says this, "But the reality, the reality, however, the reality of what cast that shadow in the past is found in Messiah Christ, God's final King". The shadow caster has arrived. When John, who spent all those years with Jesus sat down to begin his gospel, he's an old man. You know, he's dictating this. He's trying to figure out, "How do I start this story? I mean, how do I start this thing? And other people have written about it". Luke says, "A lot of people tried to write about it, 'cause it was such a big deal".

And John begins his gospel, some of you memorized some of this, and he's like, "How to start this? 'In the beginning,' not God created the heavens and the earth, we got that part. 'In the beginning was the logos, the Word, and the Word was God. And it came,' oh, I got it, 'It came and it dwelt among us.' He lived among us, literally. He camped out and pitched his tent with us so that we could know what the Father is like". What came before wasn't wrong, it was just incomplete. The author of Hebrews echoes this. You gotta read this whole passage. I'm just gonna give you a just a snippet. Listen, this is what the author of Hebrews, we don't know who wrote the New Testament document we call Hebrews, "The law is only a shadow".

There it is again, nothing wrong with it, it's just not the reality. "The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming, not the realities themselves". And again, we have such a different context than they did. But here's their context. Since the beginning of the world, men and women have been searching for God. The pagan world was extraordinarily religious. They didn't have religions. That was a modern concept. But they were, by our definition, religious. Everybody believed in the gods, and they would add gods and subtract gods. And your gods are bigger than my gods, but everybody had gods. Everybody was constantly looking up, trying to figure out what is it like, what's going on, what's behind all of this? And until the arrival of Jesus, even the Jews, to some extent, they wondered and they wandered, and they tried to figure this out.

And then with the arrival of Jesus, God made it as clear as it could possibly be made clear to mortal people. He accommodates to our capacity, but he sends God in the flesh to dwell among us. And so many people recorded the words and the works of Jesus, that four survived antiquity. He came to show us what God is like. And he came to show us who God loves. Jesus didn't simply have the best explanation for God. Like some of the Old Testament writers had explanations for God. Jesus, this is the bottom line. Jesus is the best explanation of God. What if that's true? What does that do to your view of God? What does that do to my view of God? What excuse does that take away in terms of how I view people or treat people? What does that do to my priorities? What becomes more important? What becomes less important?

So the second thing that we must believe in order to be a faithful follower of Jesus is that Jesus came to illustrate and to demonstrate what God is like, to reveal in the word he uses to reveal and to explain the Father, that we are not left to draw conclusions about God based on our personal experience, our emotions, or even nature. If you want to know what God is like, it's this simple, this is why it's so brilliant. If you want to know what God is like, God is like Jesus. And that's good news, because that means God loves you personally and God has forgiven you, because Jesus was given the authority to forgive sin at will. But if that's true, perhaps you have some unlearning to do. Perhaps you have some homework to do. Perhaps you have some questions to ask.

So I want to end with the question where we basically started one more time. Does your view of God the Father align with your view of Jesus the Son? When you thank God and when you think the name Jesus is there a tension? If so, you have some work to do. If they conjure up different emotions, perhaps you have some work to do. And you will not know, according to Jesus, you will not know what the Father is like until you take the time to discover what Jesus is like. And you get the clearest picture of Jesus in the gospels by following him through the gospels. So wrapping up, fundamental number one, Jesus is God's son and our King. Fundamental number two, Jesus came to illustrate and to demonstrate what God is like. But Jesus came to do something else as well within the context of this. And we're gonna pick it up right there next time in Part 3 of "The Fundamental List: Recovering the Essentials of Our Faith".

Heavenly Father, thank you for allowing us to call you Heavenly Father, because your Son invited us to refer to you as Heavenly Father. So Heavenly Father, help us to see you the way that you are, sand off the rough edges. Father, some of us have been hurt by the church and hurt by theology. It's hard to even pray sometimes. Heal that in us, because that's what Jesus would do. Father, for those of us who think you're far off, I pray that we would realize that you're close because Jesus came close. I pray that we would hear in the words of Jesus, the words of God the Father. So wherever this lands with us, however this lands with us, give us the wisdom to know what to do and the courage to lean in. In Jesus' name, amen.

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