that.one.thing

This is a guest post by Jonathan Pearson, a young man that I respect. Every time I read his posts at {Un}Common, I find encouragement and challenge.  Get to know him.

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We all have that one thing…

That one thing we wish we could change.
That one thing we wish we didn’t have.
That one thing we wish we didn’t do.
That one characteristic we wish we didn’t display.
That one hangup that we wish we could overcome.

We all have that one thing.

Regardless of how much we try to get rid of,
bury,
change,
or modify,
our one thing seems to always be around.

Some people claim not to have one thing because of their pride,
Some people claim to have hundreds of things because of the same reason.

No matter what you’re “thing” is,
You are loved.
You are valued.

Jesus loves you.

live.as.one

I was 14 years old and far from Christ when I entered foster care. I was forced to go to church by my foster parents and I resented it. I was cynical about Christians and despised the idea of having to endure their nauseating judgmental-ism and their putrid hypocrisy. I went as was demanded of me, enduring their youth group’s plastic joy. I sat silent week after week, rebuffing all attempts to break through my dog-collared and pierced stone facade. Week after week I endured this farce.

I began to look for these charlatans at school. Once found, I began to watch them, as if stalking prey. Waiting for that tale-tale moment of truth – when I could witness and peer into the cracks in their carefully crafted masks. It was a wearying endeavor. Weeks passed, then month, with no sign of weakness. I watched them “speak” love at church. I hunted their treacherous twin – that real “them” that time would reveal. More weeks, more months – and still no break.

Could it be that they actually did love one another? Could it be that they actually did care when they prayed with heaps of hands laid on troubled foreheads? Could it be that this band of con-artists were in fact the genuine article, the real deal? I determined to infiltrate further – more of them I would study. Feigning friendship, I engaged them – to discover the truth of “them.”

21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:21)

Try as I might I could not uncover anything other than what was outwardly displayed. Not perfect people, but people who actually strove toward perfect love. I found no hypocrisy here. I found no hidden agenda. I found something quite desirable instead: willingly accountable and mutually loving community. I longed to end my surveillance, and become like them, to become one of them. As I did, I found something else that I wasn’t looking for: the arms of Jesus, because that is where they were – and that is where I went.

complex.simplicity

With my love for gadgets and technology in general, you might not realize that I actually do appreciate “simple” things. My design aesthetic, for instance is simple, clean, and minimalistic. The buildings that I design for my “paying gig” are usually simple and elegant, with clean lines and simple materials. I never accessorize my vehicles, and prefer silver as it is the least distracting color for a vehicle and usually presents the form the best. I would rather have a bowl of plain vanilla ice-cream. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I want all the toppings – but I value simplicity more than complexity. There is an elegance in simplicity –  a purity – that I appreciate.

3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve in his craftiness, your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity and the purity that is toward Christ. ( 2 Corinthians 11:3 ASV )

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what we’ve made of the gospel. I think we would all agree that the gospel is really simple – a loving God was not willing to leave us in our fallen-ness, so He sent His Son to suffer our shame, making it possible for us to be reconciled to God. Pretty simple.

Yet, we act as if it needs help to be understood. We may think this is not the case, but we act like it. With our high-tech “experiences” laden with electric guitars and loud drums, we hope to help the Gospel along. With our fancy lights and trendy graphics, we hope to help the Gospel along. With our cavernous buildings and our gilded halls, we hope to help the Gospel along. With our charming demeanor and well-crafted words, we (admit it) hope to help the Gospel along. (Edit:) This does not mean that a pious sense of “purity” with “traditional” forms gets us off the hook, because they can be just as complex – just older versions of the bells and bobbles.

I’m not forsaking our methods or decrying our efforts. But, more and more I hear people say, “I just couldn’t worship with that church’s (fill in the blank).” Have we conditioned people this way? Are we putting our hope, to get the job done, in our methods – or the incredibly simple, but profoundly transformational Gospel message. It is what compels the heart – not our bells and bobbles.

share.the.load

When I was pursuing my pastoral ministry degree in Colorado Springs, I interviewed for a job as an Architectural Designer. The boss mentioned how he was so busy and hardly had time to get things done and needed someone to come in and take some of the load off of him. I told him that I would make it my job to make his job easier.

It wasn’t easy. He had worked so long doing most things by himself that he had a hard time letting go. The problem was not with easy tasks – he delegated those easily. But he found it hard to trust people to do the more important things. I was not the first person he hired with the hope of rescue. It made for a very tense atmosphere in the office. Eventually, together, we were able to wrest things from him, and proved we were capable. The difference it made emotionally was incredible, and morale shot through the roof!

10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. (Exodus 17:10-13)

Here we see two people becoming co-laborers with Moses – sharing his load. It is a wonderful picture of the role of fellow Christ-followers, to come alongside one another. It is also a testimony for how we ought to support those in leadership. How might you be able to support your pastor’s ministry? Your youth pastor? Your children’s pastor? Your worship Pastor? Your small group leader? How can you be Aaron and Hur in your church?

This is also a message for leaders. Right after this we are told of Jethro coming to Moses to tell him he needed to share leadership. I’ve often wondered if Jethro was inspired to offer this advice because of this battle. Can we leaders submit ourselves to the ready and able help of our brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we really have to do it all? Are we really the only ones who can do it right? Is perfection really that important?

what.audacity

I was sitting around a table with friends this weekend. During our discussion, we began telling stories about our children – the funny things they say. I neglected to share this story with them because it did not come to mind, but it is one of my favorite “quotable” moments.

My daughter was about four years old at the time. I know I am biased, but she really was an amazingly beautiful child – of course, now twenty-two, she never stopped being beautiful. The problem came when the people of our church began to tell her, as a wee lass, just how beautiful she was. “You’re so beautiful,” they would tell her – and she would feign bashfulness, bat her eyes, and grin ear-to-ear. Little did they know how stubborn she could be.

One morning, my bride, Angel, was having a hard time with our little stubborn princess. Exactly what the issue was eludes my memory, but after a long struggle, Angel finally said, “Enough is enough little girl. If you don’t behave, I will have to spank you.”

In one of my daughters most incredibly bright moments, she grinned, tilted her head and said, “But I’m too beautiful to be spanked!” What audacity for such a small person!

21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”
But the people said nothing.

22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the LORD’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”
Then all the people said, “What you say is good.” (1 Kings 18:21-24)

What audacity! Would you even dream of putting God to the test like Elijah did? God sent Elijah to Ahab with news of rain, to end the famine. But when he got there, Elijah decided to put on a demonstration of God’s power and expected God to do it.

I find myself a lot more like Moses, the reluctant deliverer. God showed himself to Moses in a burning bush that was not consumed by the fire. He called upon Moses, in voice, to deliver the people. With God RIGHT there, Moses was reluctant. I am that way a lot of the time – God could be undeniably speaking to me, but I am reluctant to act.

Lord, deepen my faith! I long to have Elijah’s faith!

Do I have enough courage and faith to walk outside and ask God to demonstrate His power like that? I am thinking not.

What about you?

love.your.enemy

Remember. But, forgive.

43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

( Matthew 5:43-48 )

breath.of.life

This is my 100th post!

Lately, I’ve been caught up in some reflection and honest scrutiny of who I am as one called to vocational ministry, what my role is as a “leader,” and what the things I do look like if I could do them the “ideal” way. Of course, this is nothing really new. Since before we planted Thrive Church, I’ve always embraced this type of introspection and welcomed necessary change as part of keeping the vision of an intentionality-driven faith community.

Everything we do, and the way we do it, is thought out, prayed over, and intentionally “designed” according to what we believe is God’s way to do something. Because of this focus on intentionality, one of the hardest things for me is to look at something we do and have to admit that it isn’t working. It may be extraordinarily beautiful, yet be completely ineffective.

I came across this scripture this morning:

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
( Ezekiel 37:7-8 )

While there is some discussion in Hebraic circles as to whether this was part of a “mental vision” -or- that Ezekiel witnessed an actual miracle, it is an impressive image nonetheless.

It occurred to me that the sight of this vast army must have been impressive. To watch God rebuild thousands of human bodies (while a little gross at times) must have been absolutely incredible. It must have been insanely satisfying to see the power of God so magnificently displayed – even if they were all lying around in heaps.

9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’ ” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
( Ezekiel 37:9-10 )

Do not be mistaken, God re-built these bodies. From nothing, these bones grew new tissue. They were complete human bodies. Yet, until he breathed into them, they were lifeless. Fully formed, and beautiful creations, but lifeless.

Sometimes the things we fashion, in full belief and confidence of God’s direction and His help, are lifeless. When we find ourselves looking at heaps of beautiful but lifeless forms, we need to desire, seek, and call upon the breath of God. Without His breath, these are just empty vessels. With His breath, they are a vast army.

Where do you need God’s breath today?

debt.to.love

This is a guest post by Jason Stasyszen, a very supportive fellow blogger, and someone I consider a friend. He is a church planter in Alaska who has a very approachable personality. I love fellow church planters, so he occupies much of my prayer time. He authors the site “Connecting To Impact” – be sure to add his site your RSS reader

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I’m in debt. Some of it is due to circumstances beyond my control, some my own choices, and some just a lack of wisdom. I don’t like it, but it’s still true.

And the reality is this debt influences some of what I can and cannot do. I may not be able to give as much or as often as I like. I may not be able to afford to go on that mission trip because it will mean I have to take leave without pay.

I could just quit paying the creditors, but how does that look to a world needing Jesus? No, I try to make a plan, do my best to stick to it, and get out of debt while figuring out how to avoid the pitfalls again.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:8).

I can see how monetary debt controls some of what I can and cannot do, but here’s where I’m wrestling: will you and I allow that debt of love to direct and constrain us?

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13).

What if I saw loving and serving those around me truly as my debt? What if this controlled what I could and could not do? Maybe I wouldn’t think I can say whatever I want when I want. Maybe I wouldn’t pass by the person in need, pretending I didn’t see them.

I am quick to say I owe God everything, but where I want to live with integrity with the bill collectors, I find myself behind in payments with God many times. Don’t misunderstand, we can never repay God for His kindness and goodness, taking the shame, sin, and death we deserve. It is a debt that continues forever, but this is my point.

My loving and caring for brothers and sisters in an expression of love to God, and if I don’t I’m a liar. This is not about guilt and condemnation, but living what I say I believe. There is a real debt, a continuing debt, to love one another, and I need to plan my life accordingly.

This debt brings freedom to us and those around us. I can’t say I fully understand, but I know it’s true.

There’s a debt nonetheless. We can’t fire off a “payment” here and there—a volunteer hour, a phone call, a tithe check, a mission trip— and be finished with it. A lifestyle of love must be developed and maintained because we are not our own and there is grace and freedom here and now.

Have you ever thought of debt this way? Do you feel moved by the debt to love?

herb.2.0

Everyday I am tempted to live as Herb 1.0, believing that something I do can bring God closer to me, to be worthy of His love.

Everyday, I strive to live as Herb 2.0, knowing that God comes to me, in spite of me, because He loves me.

20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

26Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. 30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

(1 Corinthians 1:20-31)

You.1.0?

-or-

You.2.0 ?

present.future

Image Credit: psdgraphics.com

So many years have come and gone since the promise. So much heartache. So much disappointment.

The once proud light to the nations mired in dust and ruin. The once captivating is now captive.

A glimmer of hope appears – a promised child is coming. The one who would redeem all of creation is on his way.

A frightened but resolute mother dons the mantle of hope.

Another child is coming, the herald of the promised one.

He would call people to remembrance of the promise and repentance of their hopelessness.

A father’s doubt turns to hope and the future becomes the present on his lips.

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.” (Luke 1:68)

These words are those of Zechariah as his son, John, known as The Baptist, was born. It is part of a song that burst from a mouth closed because of doubt, now opened because of faith and expectancy. The future becomes present to him. Redemption, still afar, is “now” in his mind.

God has been fiddling with my heart over my sense of expectancy. Michael Perkins’ excellent guest post about Ethan’s eager expectancy over his impending birthday was quite timely for me. I’ve been drawn to Steven Furticks’ upcoming book “Sun Stand Still” without even knowing anything about it. The Holy Spirit has really been pushing it on me, but I never really took a look at it until last week. I saw a video introduction for it, and it has opened up so many emotions and considerations within my soul and mind that I’ve determined to buy it.

I feel as if God is working inside deep places in my soul, re-awakening things that I had let become dormant. Like the Hebrews, whose hope for Messiah had been subdued by centuries of turmoil and oppression, visions of a magnificent work of God have been trampled down into the recesses of my own heart, dimmed and faded.

But now, they desire to burst forth, as a crowning babe, pushing towards the light of day. As if coming to term, they stretch towards life.

The future is now. God’s work, His Kingdom, His peace, His salvation are all not yet fully bloomed, but are like bristling rosebuds, beautiful in their youth because of what they promise.

The future is present in my soul.

Your Kingdom come, and your will be done.

Let me live in the present future.