December 26, 2021
As the Year Rolls
December 26th. The aftermath of another Christmas gone by. It seems almost beyond belief that an event that elicits such great anticipation; which marshals more people to more places than anything in our culture, could be over so quickly. And now comes the day after. If December 25th is indeed the most wonderful day of the year, it is equally true that for many of us December 26th holds the distinction of being the most contemplative day of the year. After all, what do we do now? The celebrating of the old is over. Yes, there is a new year to ring in a few short days from now, but for me today is when the new emerges more real than at any other time. Dickens called it "the time of the rolling year."
Christmas is, among other things, an ending. A time to reflect with intense and heartfelt sentiment upon those people and things that we hold most dear. A season of great joy over that which is and has been. For us at The Porch, 2021 has been our greatest year of expansion. And so we celebrate, all the while knowing full well that what we celebrate stands poised to take its place in our rearview mirror. For then the year rolls. Reflections on the past, and even joys of the present moment, turn their gaze toward the future. And the question begs: where do we go from here? For as wondrous as here has been, here we dare not remain.
As the eyes of our minds turn to glimpse the coming year, a word leaps across the vision of our consciousness. “Forward.” This time more than any other time screams it to our comfort-seeking souls. “Live forward and embrace the new.” It is a thought that stirs our spirits. Our adrenaline surges. Our hopes revive. Yet trepidation often follows closely in the revival’s footsteps. For with the new comes uncertainty. Alongside the passion of living forward comes risk. And some of us hate risk. We would live as we have always lived. Or at least at that place where our souls have found the level of comfort they so perpetually crave.
Comfort. Security. Safety. The opiates of our aspiration. They are powerful. They are intoxicating. And they are fantasies. What is comfort? Continuing to live only the life to which we are accustomed? The life which never challenges us to grow or change? The life to which many of us have become enslaved. And what of security? Is it found in following the only path over which we have believed the illusion of complete control? And safety? Are we safe because we profess to choose a life without risk?
I have learned precious little of what I should have over my 57 years, but I have learned this: security is a lie, safety is an illusion, and comfort is an impostor. We cannot be secure when a trillion or more contingencies exist in the universe, any of which could thwart our best laid plans. As for safety, I am ever reminded of the words of General Thomas J. Jackson, who declared as he rode along the front lines of battle, “I am as safe on the battlefield as in my bed.”
The statement rings hauntingly true for all of us. We may sit in our homes and deem ourselves safe from a plane crash. Yet we are no safer from tragedy than the person on the plane is from a heart attack. And it is of comfort that I have learned the most. It is that deceiver that more than any other has kept me from the greatest joys and triumphs of life.
Comfort and his companions seek the same on this December 26th. To keep us from the new that once again calls our name. Comfort, security, and safety. So great is their attraction that the Israelites would have exchanged the Promised Land for Egypt in search of them. Would we dare exchange the great newness of the coming year for the same kind of slavery? May it never be so. Not on this December 26th.
On the occasion of this rolling year, let us as a people purpose to live forward. To risk! To embrace the new with the great passion that reflects our Great Creator. To trust the security of Him who holds all things in His hands. To believe that safety lies only in the truth that nothing shall separate us from His love. To realize that comfort is a ruthless taskmaster.
Are you ready to embrace the new? In the words of John Piper, “Have you been freed by the power of the Holy Spirit from the mirage of Egyptian safety and comfort?” I have. And I know what Egypt is like. I have lived there. I purpose to never live there again.
From this December, I must live forward.
May 31, 2021
The Art of Epistle Writing
A friend from California stopped by The Porch last month for a visit, and before leaving she felt led of the Lord to offer us a word of encouragement.
“Keep doing what you’re doing,” she said. “Don’t feel the need to overcomplicate things. Just keep raising up sons.”
Her words resonated so deeply with my heart that I have found myself repeating them often as I pray into the vision God has given us. There are many things we feel He has called The Porch to do. Building Reed’s House, partnering with local missions and churches, supporting overseas missionaries, and starting a mission of our own are among them. But our founding purpose, our core commitment, our most foundational calling is exactly what it took our friend one brief visit to recognize: The Porch is about raising up sons.
It is a purpose that has long been neglected in the Body of Christ. It is difficult to define in process and easily misunderstood in method. Yet it is undeniably Biblical in its centrality to the Great Commission. I call it the art of epistle writing. Allow me to explain.
It takes money to operate a non-profit ministry. If that sounds a bit too unfiltered, let us at least agree it is honest. For that reason we have spent a great deal of time, energy and prayer this year on formulating a fundraising structure for The Porch. Here’s an important tip: you had better have one if you’re leading a non-profit, because the number one reason people don’t give is because they don’t know what their money is being used for.
Having been made aware of this reality, we had committed in 2021 to create material that outlines The Porch’s purposes, processes and needs so that potential supporters would know what they were being asked to support (this was the context of the conversation with our friend from the West). She understood our need all too well. She admired our ideas and the creativity of our fundraising literature. But she stood her ground: “Don’t overcomplicate it. Just keep raising up sons.”
Reflecting on that conversation many times over the past few weeks, my spirit has been reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words:
“Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? You are our epistle – written in our hearts – known and read by all men.” - 2 Corinthians 3:1-2
It was in these times of reflection that I realized what this unique and wonderfully nuanced call to raise up sons actually is: it’s the art of epistle writing. It is also our highest and best expression of who we are and what we do.
Jesus changes lives at The Porch. He has changed them in the past, He is changing them now, and He will change them in the future. Reed’s House will be a valuable tool, just as the current house has been, and the many ministries, missions and worship gatherings of The Porch will continue to be. But the definitive evidence that this work the Lord birthed ten years ago on a screened-in porch in Graveston, Tennessee is genuine, are the sons who have been raised up here. The living epistles of grace, who in their own fearfully unique and wonderfully imperfect ways, declare the glory of the One who saved and called them.
What characterizes these sons? A variety of things, to be sure. Some are poets, some are cowboys. Some enjoy guitars, others prefer dirt bikes. Many are called to ministries like preaching, accounting, worship, law enforcement, overseas missions, and turf grass (yes, that’s an actual science). Their passion for Jesus is best expressed in unbridled joy, unfiltered laughter, unashamed worship – and sometimes uncomfortable transparency. Discipling them is oftentimes less about developing their gifts and more about harnessing their wildness.
The truth is The Porch has no cookie-cutter method; no neatly defined ministry model; no program to complete. But it does have a culture that acknowledges their imperfection, celebrates their uniqueness, and champions their callings. And there is a brotherhood that gives them a safe space to get it right, even if that means getting it wrong sometimes along the way. It’s all part of the art of raising spiritual sons.
And of writing living epistles.
August 23, 2021
From a Son to a Son
Submitted anonymously by a son of the Porch
In a performance driven society success is measured by assets acquired and wealth obtained, often by any means necessary. But true success must take a significant step further to include the legacy you leave behind. The decisions a father makes now influence the inheritance the sons and daughters receive for generations to come. So the question becomes what are you going to succeed in and what will your legacy be? As a son of God and a son of the Porch you are commissioned to leave a lasting legacy. This legacy is built through intimacy, both with the Father and fellow sons of the Porch. Time and time again in the Bible when a leader would pass his inheritance on to his successor it would be a double portion. Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, and David and Solomon are among the many examples of double portion legacies. Our goal and desire for future generations of sons of the Porch should be to bless with a double portion. As young men, most of us may not have the financial means to give in abundance, but there are things of even greater value that we desire to pass to the next generation. From wisdom, love and joy to authority, honor and faithfulness, we must walk in the things of God now and saturate every atmosphere we touch to ensure a lasting legacy of Jesus above all else. Legacy takes years to build, but only moments to collapse. Our daily decisions now affect our legacy long after we are gone. As a son of the Porch I don't want people to simply see or read of what once was. I want people to feel the weight and magnitude of what God did back then, what God is doing now, and what God will do in the future. This is the legacy we are building together.
Psalm 90:1 "Lord, you have been our dwelling place for all generations"