How to Kill Your Relationshiop

There are five ways to kill your relationship with Jesus, and they’re really simple…

1.     Comparison
2.     Comparison
3.     Comparison
4.     Comparison
5.     Comparison

I mean, I’m sure that there are other ways, but this seems to be one of the fastest ways that you can harm and damage your relationship with Jesus. We so often and so easily take our eyes off Jesus and who He is calling us to be and look around at what other people are becoming and try to do that.

And, this is one of the surest ways to kill, not only your spiritual growth, but also your relationship with Jesus. Your relationship is hampered, harmed and can even be cut off when you seek to become someone other than the person Jesus is shaping you into. The really dangerous part of this is that you can feel full of guilt and shame for not being someone else, when you were never designed to be someone else – God designed you to be you. And, here is a true, but radical thought – God actually likes you and the person He is shaping you into becoming. You don’t need to be someone else, but to embrace the person and the callings that God has for you.

But, we struggle with accepting who we are. And, while so many of us “know” this, it is truly hard to live this. We see other people’s giftings, inclinations or passions and wish we could be like them. I’ve seen this all over the church, and even in pastors; pastors who wish that they could speak like “so and so” or lead like “so and so” or pray like “so and so.” But, you aren’t called to be anyone else; you are called to be you.

And this applies to not only pastors, but also apostles too.

In the book of John, Peter is having a last conversation with Jesus, and what we find Him doing right as Jesus is directing him is this – comparing. He sees the beloved disciple following and says this, “What about him, Lord?”

Jesus response, I think, is needed for all of us. He says this essentially, “What does it matter the future I have for him? What is that to you? You, follow me.”

And, I think that’s good advice for all of us. What does it matter what someone else’s gifting or calling is. You be you and follow Jesus. Because the truth is, the world needs all of us – each unique, each simply focusing on following Jesus and not focusing on anyone else.

Last Sunday for a While and Why I’m Eternally Grateful For You

On Sunday it was my last official Sunday as Plattsville’s lead pastor. A position I have held for over 4 years, and one I have loved every single minute of it. Plattsville is a really unique and special church. They have something special within them about how they practice grace, how they show love, and how they support.

So on Sunday for my final sermon here, I re-preached the passage I preached for my first sermon here: Philippians 1.

Here in Philippians Paul is writing to a church he deeply deeply loves but has been called away from. And he writes this:

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. I always pray for you, and I make my request with a heart full of joy because you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.”

I unpacked this passage a little bit and why Paul was so thankful to the Philippian church.

Paul was so grateful to the Philippian church because of how they supported him. Paul was in prison and in that day and age meals weren’t covered or provided. You needed to rely on others for your daily sustenance and support. And the Philippian church were part of daily providing for Paul.

Paul was also deeply welcomed into the Philippian church family. All you need to do is to read his letter and how often he mentions them as dearest friends, brother and sisters, or partners in God’s grace to get that these are just people to him – they are his people. They are his family. He loves his church because they welcomed him.

And lastly, Paul loves the Philippian church because they have been his partners in sharing God’s grace. Paul makes that explicit in the first few verses, and keeps on mentioning it throughout his letter. He loves the church because of what they did together.

And on Sunday I shared with you all that I love this church for the same reason. That you supported me, that you welcomed me, and together we partnered with God in the business of God’s grace. I shared story after story after story of how you did that. And that bcause of how you supported, welcomed, and partnered I am eternally grateful.

That was my main point really: that I’m grateful to each and everyone of you, because this is a special church. I challenged each of you to commit to this place, because this is a special place.

And to close I ended the same way I started almost 5 years ago with these words:

Paul writes, ““Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. I always pray for you, and I make my request with a heart full of joy because you  have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.” I actually believe that this passage is prophetic for us. Meaning that I believe it will be true for us. That, like Paul, in years to come, when we’ve been living out this grace business for a while, I’ll be able to say to you like Paul did to the Philippians. Plattsville church every time I think of you, I’m filled with thanksgiving. With joy, with excitement. It’s never a struggle to pray for you, and my prayers to God are always filled with joy at the amazing privilege and honor it is to be your pastor. This is because you and I have joined in this grace business of God together. We’ve jumped in with two feet, supporting one another, loving one another, and deciding that from day one we would be about spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ

And that’s exactly what happened.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: I am so grateful for you.

Teaching Points:

  • I’ll always consider myself part of this place and your pastor.
  • Paul loves Phillipi because of how they supported him, welcomed him, and partnered together with God.
  • When someone is hurting, you don’t get to take the focus.
  • Being changed by Jesus and changing lives with Jesus.
  • You have a special place in my heart.
  • This is a church that supports one another, journeys together, and is about God’s grace.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? How have you been welcomed here, supported here, or partnered together in sharing God’s grace? What are you thankful for in this place? Are you willing to commit and see what the future God has for you?

Challenge for the Week: This place rocks, and you should commit to being here.

Toilet Paper Races

IMG_6814So I had this moment today when I realized I often want my kids to be perfect, rather than…well kids. And this happened when they had been quiet for quite a while, and I went to check on them and they were just giggling and giggling.

What I found was them racing toilet paper down the stairs in a giant mess.

And my first instinct was to get frustrated, to tell them to pick it all up. My first instinct was to be a fun-killer. My first gut reaction was I wanted them to be perfect (not playing with toilet paper) rather than kids (people who play with toilet paper).

But I realized honestly – they aren’t wrecking anything really, they aren’t being disrespectful, they are just being two boys playing with toilet paper. And it hit me sometimes in our quest to have our kids grow up well, we expect them to grow up too fast. In our desire to raise them well, we raise the bar too high. Sometimes we forget that seeing a stack of toilet paper to a kid is hours of fun.

So I write all this for one reason: enjoy those moments with your kids, grandkids, or neighbours. Don’t force them to grow up too quickly, acting like adults. Let them be kids and join in a bit.

So I gave them an extra roll of toilet paper, some tape so they could build a ramp, and then helped them clean it up in the end.

Broken Phones and Broken Hearts

puzzle-heart-1-1141004-1599x1398So Asher broke my phone. Like he dropped it / threw it and cracked the screen…with a case on. I’d have a picture to show you but again – Asher broke my phone.

Now if you’re house is anything like mine when these things happen it is never when you feel filled with patience, lots of time to deal with it, and in a good space. Instead, Eden was crying, and we were trying to get out the door to pick up Hudson from school, so he wouldn’t be wondering where we were. It was then that I asked Asher for the phone that he didn’t want to give me and the throw / drop happened.

I was very frustrated (meaning mad and angry) and I kinda huffed and said now you can’t use dad’s phone or any phone again. And he didn’t say anything but got into the stroller, and crawled into the bottom and fell asleep.

As I was pushing him and his sister towards school God hit me with a thought, “what matters more, a broken screen or a broken heart”. And this is why occasionally I don’t want to hear from God, because when God speaks he can be challenging and convicting. I knew in my heart I was angrier and upset with a broken phone, than making sure I didn’t harm or break Asher’s heart when discussing it with him. I know inwardly I wanted him to really feel how frustrating this was for me. But that’s the problem, I was thinking about me.

So we came back home and I woke him up and got the other kids snacks so we could talk. And as soon as he woke up he gave me a huge hug with little tears and said, “Daddy I so sorry about your phone”. So I hugged him back and said, “It’s okay, it was an accident” because he hadn’t meant to wreck the phone. I talked to him, hugged him, and made sure he felt okay.

And this response only happened because God reminded me that what matters more in life is not things, but people. But so often that gets reversed. So often that gets missed. And we can be so quick to lose perspective, especially with our kids.

Because perspective matters. My hope and prayer is that when Asher grows older he doesn’t remember how mad Dad got when I broke his phone; he’ll remember how well I dealt with it with patience, love, and understanding. Of course that didn’t happen in the moment, but that’s the beautiful thing about life. We get second chances, and can make it right.

So I write all of this to remind us all of one thing: don’t let the little things get in the way of the big things. And in the scheme of life, a phone is a little thing, a relationship is a big thing. So if in anyway you’ve maybe like me missed the point, focused on a thing rather than a person, or overreacted – why not make it right today. Call a friend, tell your spouse your sorry, give your kids a hug and say you love them. Because what I needed that day was a reminder from God, that broken hearts matter more than broken phones and things and maybe you might need the same reminder today.

Don’t be Scared to Follow

Picture1Fear is a subtle and sneaky thing. It steals good things, and turns them into bad things. It takes joy and excitement because of “what could go wrong.” And it happens so easily, and it happened to us a little while ago when we were trying to sell our house, and unsure why it hasn’t been moving.

And then through a series of unforeseen events, our house became sold. Which was great! This is something I had been stressing and worrying over, and it happened. But then rather than being excited, we got worried that we now have only have a little while to find another house.

All of a sudden this good thing, became almost a bad thing. All of a sudden something to celebrate became something to worry about. This is what fear does, but it also does something subtler and even more dangerous. It steals our gratitude towards God. Because all of a sudden rather than thanking God for what he did, we began to ask him about this worry or problem. Rather than appreciating the gift of our house selling, in his timing, we rushed forward to yet another issue for him to fix.

All of a sudden our focus shifted from God’s hand working in our lives, to what else we needed him to do in our lives.

But God is gracious, and good even when we miss the point.

So the next morning I went into my office to do my daily devotions. Still feeling a little apprehensive about everything. Knowing in my mind that God has the details worked out, but wanting to really know that in my heart. And the passage for my daily Scripture reading was, Number 13:31-14:25. A passage all about trusting, and not giving in to fear. A passage all about following where God has called you to go. A passage all about how God will provide, do miraculous things, and surprise you with the blessings he has for you when you trust. And in the margin I had wrote previously, “TAKE GODLY RISKS, Don’t be scared to follow”.

And while some people might just say it’s a coincidence that was the reading for today. Or some people might say I’m just reading into this, or it’s just random chance. All I can say to that is that it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like God was reminding me that he is with us, and has a future for us. It feels like God is reminding me that trusting in him is never wasted. It feels like God is drawing the attention back to him, and deepening my trust in him because that’s what it’s about.

So I share all this to just remind you of a few things. Don’t let fear steal the future God has for you. Don’t let worry shape your mind so much, that you lose trust in God. Don’t let the “what if’s” of life cloud the fact that God is with you, and for you. Don’t let our anxiety, and uncertainty stop us from taking Godly risks. Or as I needed to be reminded myself, “Don’t be scared to follow” in whatever it is that God has for you. Because the Israelites found out that fear just leaves you wandering in the desert, but trust is the thing that moves you forward.

Remind us of your presence…

I read this prayer the other day, and thought it was beautiful.

God, we know you see us in our suffering and in our sin. It is we who are forgetful. Be patient with us and receive even our forgetful prayers and pleas. Remind us again and again of your presence, and help us to be that memory for others. Amen.

– Common Prayer

As you pray it, may you find God’s presence again and again and go out and be a tangible witness to his presence for others.

Take the bite out of fear…

scooby-toy-1516278-640x480Here is the truth: fear drives us more than we’d like to admit.

For so many of us, myself included, fear can tempt us to make safe but not the best choices. Fear can tempt us into limiting what we reach for, or to not take the step we feel compelled to take. Fear seems to dampen our lives, to where we live with less expectations and simply seek to make it through. I believe that in general, fear always makes us live less than we are called to live.

But I believe too that the real power of fear is in how it lives unexamined. We let it whisper but don’t really let it speak. We let it tempt but not really acknowledge what it says. And I’ve found that through examining exactly what fear is sharing is one of the most helpful ways in overcoming it.

So what I do when I hear fear whisper, is I address it through asking…”what’s the worst”?

Because fear whispers to us that the worst will happen, but is never explicit about what the “worst” actually is. And that’s the power of fear, the unexamined and unnamed ominous “worst” out there. But once you name it, it loses its power.

So for example Krista and I are making a large change in our lives. And making this decision wasn’t easy because our lives are wonderful – but we felt called to something new and different. But here is what fear would whisper to me when we were praying about taking on a new job, new role, and new place of work:

  • What if you fail?
  • What if you can’t hack it?
  • What if you move, give up everything that is amazing here, and lose it all?

But honestly if you look at that what’s the worst? I fail, face some shame, have to start over, and if we lose everything and have to move in with my mom. I mean the literal worst is that we tried something and failed.

And this is how you beat fear.

You let fear tell you what’s the worst that can happen, but then never give it the last word. You think about the best, you think about what could come out of it, and you take the bite out of fear because normally the worst isn’t all that bad.

Fear wants to make it seem worse than it is, so you settle. But what if you don’t settle? What if you launch out and try that business, try that dream, try that thing you’ve been thinking about? Because settling never leads to your best, and fear is all about settling.

So push past it and see what happens.

An indifferent church isn’t a church

stormy-church-1545280-1280x960

I read this quote a little while ago, and just couldn’t agree more. I have lots of thoughts on it, lots of ideas how this should shape us. But I think my thought’s will convolute the power of this simple quote. So all I would say is this: we should read this thought, and let it drive us into action because its true.

If a local Church falls into indifference as to what is going on in the rest of the world, it is certainly not a Church. John D. Zizioulas

Thoughts?

 

Getting ready for God’s Future

819V0oTxp0LSo here is something basically most of you know: I read a lot…like a lot.

I mean as in whenever we travel Krista and I have fights over the amount of books I’m bringing and the space they take up (at minimum is 1.5 books per day). Did I say I read a lot?  Krista would say this is because I’m a nerd…I say it’s because I like learning. Both are true.

But what I’m reading right now is a great book called “Your First 90 Days”. I’m reading to prepare for a change in our lives. I’m trying to ensure that I’m prepared for the future that is coming as best I can. So for me this means reading…well at least more than 5 books.

But I bring this all up for a specific reason. While out for dinner the other night I tell Krista all about this book and how great it is and she said, “I like it that you’re preparing for our future”. And that comment just really stuck out to me. Because I would say generally I’m not preparing for the future I’m reacting to it. And maybe you can agree. 

So my thought and reason for bringing this all up is to ask you one simple question, “What would it look like to prepare for the future God has for you?” What would that look like for you? Are there dreams you have? Are there hopes and things you believe that God has in store for you? And then my question is this – how are you preparing for them?

Because I believe that God has goodness in store for all of us. I believe, like Ephesians says, that God can do infinitely more than you could ever hope or imagine. And if that is true how are you readying yourself to receive it?

Maybe it’s digging into the Bible more. Maybe it’s really learning to pray. Maybe it’s learning to trust in small little things, so you can trust in big moves. Maybe it’s learning a new skill. Maybe it’s taking a new class. Maybe you dream of launching a business, so you are asking some people to mentor. My point is that I believe goodness is before us, and we all need to prepare to receive it. For me, of course, that’s reading…but what might it look like for you?

Because I have a little hunch, after Krista’s comment, is that I may have missed some of what God has had for me in the future because I wasn’t readying myself for it. All I know is that I don’t want to make that mistake again. And my guess is you don’t want to either. So what can you do, start, or commit to – to begin to get ready for the future God has for you?

The Cross is Jesus Suffering with Us and Because of Us

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Today I want to take a look at the paradoxical nature of the cross. The cross is simultaneously judgment, and forgiveness all in one. And whether the cross is judgment or forgiveness is often the result of perspective.

Andrew Sung Park writes this,

“When the cross of Jesus is seen from the perspective of the oppressed, it signifies God’s suffering with them; seen from the perspective of oppressors, the cross means God’s suffering because of them”.

And this little difference – makes a huge difference.

The truth is that God suffering on the cross signifies God’s solidarity with all who have been abused, oppressed, or hurt through evil. God knows what it is to be killed by an empire about power, oppression, and might.

Yet the cross is also simultaneously reminding us that God’s death is because of oppressors. That the death of Jesus Christ is the result of oppressive systems, people, and regimes that use violence to make peace. The cross stands in judgment of those systems, and offers forgiveness to those who are oppressors.

The trouble with this, or the offensive part of this is that we like to most identify with the oppressed. We like to most identify with the God who suffers with us, not because of us. 

But the truth is that I am not really all that oppressed (I’m white, western, male, and educated). And the reality is that most of us probably reading this are not the oppressed in many significant ways. Through simply being born in the West many of us have inherited much privilege that others do not have.

I bring this up because I know personally I would much rather look at the cross as a place of God’s solidarity with me, but I know if I’m going to be honest I also need to look at the cross as a place of God’s judgment with me. Of the ways in which I can and do participate in systems that hurt other people. The difficulty is that in today’s day and age we don’t often see the ways in which our actions contribute to hurt around the world. We don’t see how our privileges might be at someone else’s expense.

I say this all not to make anyone feel guilty – because I believe guilt is a terrible motivator. I say this all because what God has been speaking to me and reminding me of is that yes the cross is a giant reminder that I’m forgiven. But the cross is also a giant reminder that there is evil in the world, and it’s often in us.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn famously said,

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

And I think the answer to Solzhenitsyn’s question is – Christians should be willing to destroy a piece of their own heart. Christians should be willing to do the hard work of examining our hearts and seeing how we might change. Christians should be the most motivated to change because when we look at the cross we know two things: 1) we are forgiven and included, so we should not be scared or fearful of doing a courageous moral inventory; 2) we all have sin and evil within us, so we should know we need to do a courageous moral inventory.

So I say this all to remind us of one simple thing: we should be so grateful for God’s forgiveness, so grateful that we do the hard work of examining why we need it. Because if you are anything like me there are actions I need to cut out, there are habits I need to be freed from, there are revelations from God’s Spirit as to the best path I need to hear. But it is easy to ignore doing the hard work of inwardly looking.

I just think that the cross invites us to do that hard work of inwardly reflecting on our lives. The cross says to us we are welcomed and included, but that there are parts of all of us that need to be changed. May we have the courage to really examine our lives, listen to the Spirit, and make changes so that we might not only accept the gift of grace from Jesus Christ – but live like him.