Contemplatives In Action

Those of you who live in the DC area may be able to figure out where I took this picture. If you go to National Harbor in Maryland, you’ll find a long walking/jogging/biking trail that curves around the waterfront before ultimately extending up and over the Wilson Bridge on the Beltway. When you get to the top of that path, you see this unique juxtaposition of a beautiful river, a bustling commercial center, a gorgeous park, and a massive freeway. It’s honestly one of my favorite places in DC. So, one day last fall when Laura and I were there, I snapped this picture because I was totally captivated by the contrast between the trees in their full fall colors and the rush of the beltway.

As I’ve sat with this picture for a couple of months, I’ve realized how much it embodies the way I want to live my life. During my four years as an undergrad at Georgetown, I picked up a few phrases from the Jesuits (the order of Catholic priests who founded Georgetown) that have become deeply significant in my life. The one that resonates the most with me is the Jesuit ideal of being a contemplative in action.

Being a ‘contemplative in action’ means that your active life feeds your contemplative life and your contemplative life feeds your active life.

Andy Otto

In other words, I need the hustle and bustle of the beltway and the quiet of a park with beautiful trees and a majestic river. It takes both to follow God well and following God well will result in both being present in our lives.

The Contemplative Life

Modern day contemplatives are essentially seeking to bring the ancient riches of Christian mysticism and monasticism into the frenzy of our nonstop, over scheduled, and technology driven 21st century American lives. These modern mystics talk about practices like Sabbath, fixed hour prayer, meditation, rest, simplicity, silence, and solitude. They delight in slowing down to be with God, to be present in the moment, and to hear the still small voice of the Spirit.

It’s a beautiful way to live life.

But ten years ago, I would have told you that a contemplative life is at best an anachronistic thrown back and at worst a bunch of feel-good, new age nonsense for the emotionally needy. Marriage, parenting, planting a church, reading more broadly, and following Jesus more closely has shown me just how wrong I was.

I now realize that the contemplative life is essential to our spiritual formation. Don’t ever let anybody tell you that Christianity is simply an external moral code to be followed in an attempt to please God. It’s not. It’s an invitation to be transformed from the inside out by the grace of a God who did everything necessary for our salvation on the wood of a cross. It’s an invitation to come fully alive, to cultivate intimacy with the Creator of the world, and to enjoy life as a child of God. But here’s the thing: that inner transformation doesn’t happen on the fly. It requires us to open the deepest parts of our soul to God’s healing and restorative work.

To put it as simply as I can: If you want to grow and change, you’ve got to slow down.

The Active Life

As we grow and change, we not only realize the depth of God’s love and concern for the world but also start to embody that love. You can’t have a deep relationship with Jesus and be indifferent to the pain and suffering of the world around you. Christ doesn’t call us to withdraw permanently from the world. Rather, He invites us to join Him in His work of reconciling sinners to God (that’s all of us, by the way) and renewing creation. He invites us to take up a cross, roll up our sleeves, and get to work.

In many ways, this is what comes most naturally to those of us who have spent significant time in the action oriented world of evangelicalism. There’s always an event to attend, a place to serve, a mission trip to take, a need to meet. And none of that is bad. The world desperately needs the hope that we carry in our souls. We are constantly surrounded by brokenness, hostility, incivility, and fear. As followers of Jesus, we are called to go into that world as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God.

The deeper you go with God, the more engaged you will be with what He is doing in the world.

Being A Contemplative In Action

Now you know why that picture means so much to me. We can’t pick either the contemplative life or the active life. Following Jesus requires a hearty yes to both. Action without contemplation leads to burnout, moral failure, legalism, and bitterness. Contemplation without action leads to complacency, self-absorption, and lingering questions of how much you’ve actually encountered the real Jesus. But when we join them together, when we become contemplatives in action, it unleashes something powerful in us and in our world.

That’s my prayer for you today. Don’t allow yourself to settle for a monochromatic relationship with God. Find a quiet parks and dive into the hustle of the city.

Wind and Waves

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me. Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Matthew 14:28-31

I’ve felt a lot like Peter over the last two months. The only difference is that I didn’t chose to get out of the boat. I wasn’t looking for this kind of faith building moment with Jesus. We were all ejected out of the boat of comfort, control, and stability by a virus and now we’re all navigating a storm formed by the winds of a public health and economic crisis. Every step we take feels so tentative, uncertain, and unstable. I think we’re all learning that walking on water really is pretty hard.

As I try to figure out life in this season, it’s deeply comforting for me to know that this storm isn’t catching Jesus by surprise. If anything, He allowed us to sail into it because He intends to meet us in it. That was certainly true for Peter and his crew 2,000 years ago. This passage in Matthew 14 comes right after Jesus just fed 20,000 people, a pretty massive display of power. As soon as the crowd had been fed, Jesus sent His disciples out ahead of Him onto the Sea of Galilee. He knew they were tired and He wanted some time alone with His Father so he sent them ahead. Maybe you see it differently but I don’t think the Guy who just fed 20,000 people was unaware of the weather forecast. I think He knew a storm was coming and while He didn’t take any pleasure in the terror His followers would feel, He did have something for them that they could only experience in the storm.

Are you willing to believe that the God of Heaven has something for you in the midst of this storm? Something you could only receive in a storm?

As we face the challenges of this season, we need to aim for more than simply riding out the wind and waves. Our goal needs to be finding Jesus in the storm. We need to look for how and where and when He’s coming to us. We need to listen for His voice. You’ll recognize it as the one whispering, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27) In the face of all the wind and waves, Jesus will be the One drawing near in love, offering us the grace to do the impossible.

But then, all of the sudden, Peter is out of the boat. Walking on water is impossible on a calm day but Peter is trying to do it on top of a sea that was constantly moving, changing, evolving. Anyone else’s life feel like that right now? Some days the storm blows fierce and raw. Others days it feels more gentle. But it never feels normal. The sea never stops moving.

There’s really only one option when you’re trying to walk on the top of a heaving sea. Keep your eyes on Jesus. That’s a big part of what we learn from Peter, isn’t it? When he takes His eyes off of Jesus, he starts to sink. Same for us. The funny part is that we can sink in one of two different directions.

Sinking into panic is the easy and obvious one. Our church hasn’t met in person since Sunday, March 8th and I have no idea when we’ll be able to gather again. We’re financially dependant on the generosity of others and really like getting a lot of people into the same room at the same time. What if people give up on our church? What if they find one that’s more broadcast savvy than we are? What if, what if, what if…..

Pride and false confidence give us a second, less obvious but equally deadly way to sink. God has been really good to our church. People are staying engaged in Community Groups and continuing to give. We’re helping people in our community stay in their homes through our partnerships with Casa Chirilagua and Gunston Middle School. People are being patient with us while we figure out virtual church and Chris Kim is doing a fantastic job leading us in worship each Sunday.

It’s really weird how I can be in panic one moment and indulging a prideful sense of “we’ve got this” the next. But both lead me to sink. Both threaten to tug my soul under the waves. Both tempt me to give up. And both are answered by keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus. He’s the One who truly knows how to dance on the waves. He’s the One who isn’t worried, isn’t stressed, and isn’t ever going to leave us.

Even when we get it wrong, Jesus is right there to grab us by the hand. The second Peter starts to go under the waves and reaches out to Jesus, Jesus grabs his hand. He doesn’t let him sink a bit more just to prove a point. That’s not how Jesus operates. He’s right there, ready to take us by the hand and remind us that it’s safe to put all of our faith in Him.

Don’t let pride or panic tug you under the waves. Keep your eyes on Jesus. He’s the One who will give us everything we need to walk on water.

Photo by Nick Sarro on Unsplash

One Thing

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

I have come back to this passage over and over again as we press deeper into this period of social distancing. I keep coming back because I keep seeing so much of Martha in myself. Her issue isn’t that she’s working. That’s not what this passage is about at all. Martha’s problem is that she’s distracted, anxious, and troubled. That’s what Jesus points out. That’s what Jesus wants to lead her out of and it’s what He wants to lead us out of as well. I keep coming back because I need the daily reminder that the one thing we truly need is the one thing that can never be taken from us. I keep coming back to hear the voice of God, the voice that melts anxiety, fear, and distraction.

And I’m not the only one who needs to keep coming back to this truth. We all do. I read an article yesterday that told us that 43% of American adults say their emotional health has gotten worse over the past week. For what it’s worth, I also think that means 57% of survey respondent are either (a) way more spiritually mature than I am or (b) lying. You decide! But I don’t know anyone who isn’t feeling a little distracted these days. It’s where our hearts and minds naturally go during times of uncertainty and upheaval. And, now, we have 24/7 internet access to relentlessly fuel it all.

All of which means we need to cultivate rhythms that enable us to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His voice, even in the midst of a pandemic. He’s speaking through the miracle of His Word and the presence of His Spirit. He’s inviting us to believe that He’s real, to believe that He’s still good, and to believe that He’s still for us and not against us. He’s inviting us to make King David’s prayer our prayer during this time:

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul.

Psalm 86:11-13

Those rhythms are going to look a little different for each of us but here are a few that I’ve found helpful:

  • Getting up at the same time I always do to spend time with God in the quiet of the morning.
  • Only allowing myself to check the news and social media twice a day. For what it’s worth, this is the hardest one for me!
  • Pausing 2-3 times during the day to be still, to pray, and to read a short passage of Scripture.
  • Participating in our RCC Prayer Nights every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 8PM.
  • Continuing to practice a weekly Sabbath.
  • Intentionally engaging with the sermon and other Sunday morning content we make available rather than having it play in the background while I multi-task.
  • Continuing to meet with my Community Group, just online.
  • Going to bed at the same time I always do so I can get up and do it all again tomorrow.

Lord Jesus, teach us to listen. Teach us to hear your voice. Teach us to enjoy Your presence. Help us step away from the chaos and to just be still.

Coronavirus Traps To Avoid

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

It was right around this time last week that news of Coronavirus started to dominate the national conversation. And then, last Thursday, life started to shift for all of us. Maybe it started to shift slowly at first but here we sit, nearly a week later, starting to realize just how much it really has shifted. We’re all feeling the impact of this virus, figuring out new rhythms, and wondering just how long this is all going to last.

For the first week, we talked a lot about not giving in to fear.

“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.

– 2 Timothy 1:7 (NASB)

We still need that reminder today. But as I pay attention to my own heart and what’s happening in the lives of people I love, I realize fear isn’t the only thing we need to fight in this moment. Here are four Coronavirus traps I’m working to avoid.

Trap #1: Obsession

My screen time report for this past week is going to be ugly!

I’ve spent way more time on news websites, blogs, and social media than I have in a really long time. Part of that is the desire to stay informed and part of that is the desire to connect with family, friends, and our church. And a lot of it is a way of wasting time and trying to cope with all of the uncertainty.

I’ll be honest. The roles that God has given me in life don’t require an hourly update on the latest Coronavirus statistics. Some of you have roles that do; thank you for serving us all. But most of us don’t. Staying informed is good. Obsessing isn’t.

Trap #2: Indifference

This Coronavirus thing is real and the more we sacrifice now, the faster things should get back to normal. “Stop being silly, wash your hands, and get on with life” just isn’t a good look right now. And, frankly, it’s an unacceptable look for followers of Jesus. We should be taking the lead in sacrificing for the most vulnerable, going out of our way to promote the common good, and following our leaders on the federal, state, and local levels.

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NASB), emphasis added.

In this moment, love looks like social distancing.

Trap #3: Pride

For many of us, Coronavirus is impacting more than our schedules and travel plans. It’s impacting our physical, mental, and emotional health. And it’s impacting our jobs and our finances.

The simple reality is that a lot of us are going to need some help to make it through this. Not because we’ve been unwise or done anything wrong but because this is all so unprecedented.

So, if you need help, ask. Don’t let pride or shame stand in your way. You don’t need to do that to yourself or to your family.

At Restoration City, we’ll be sending out information on how to request assistance from our benevolence fund in our weekly email. But for now, just know you are not in this alone.

Asking for help when you need it isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of humility.

Trap #4: Despair

Laura and I went for a walk with the kids this morning and we were talking about the need to both take this threat seriously and to remain confident that we’re going to get through this. Right now, we don’t know how long that’s going to take. But we are going to come out on the other side.

It feels like our country is coming together. Leaders are working together to solve problems. And we have a lot going for us. Many of us have the ability to have groceries and almost anything else we want delivered right to our doors. That was unheard of ten years ago. Or think about the regularly scheduled doctors appointment that I have tomorrow. We’re going to do it virtually. In fact, we’re finding out there’s a lot we can do online, including our Prayer Nights.

So, don’t give in to despair. Remember the words of the last song we sang together as a church before this all started:

Don’t let your heart be troubled

Hold your head up high

Don’t fear no evil

Fix your eyes on this one truth

God is madly in love with you

Take courage

Hold on

Be strong

Remember where our help comes from

– “Good Grace”, Hillsong United

We’re going to get through this. Who knows, we might even come out stronger on the other end.

Once A Month Isn’t Enough

Last night I realized that Restoration City has only gathered 1 out of the last 4 Sundays. Between the changes to our schedule because of Christmas and then the snow, it’s been a pretty rough stretch for us. The irony of that is that I’ve been praying specifically that we would all renew our commitment to gathering on a Sunday morning in the New Year! Specifically, my prayers for us have been shaped by Psalm 92.

The righteous flourish like the palm tree
    and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the Lord;
    they flourish in the courts of our God.

Psalm 92:12-13

When I read Psalm 92 over the Christmas break, it triggered something powerful in me. The psalmist paints such a beautiful picture of what we all want for our lives – to flourish and grow. Some of us are more familiar with the beauty of a palm tree swaying in an ocean breeze and some of us know just how massive a cedar tree is when it’s full grown. Either way, we want that kind of flourishing and growth in our lives.

And one of the ways that happens is by prioritizing time with the people of God in the house of God. As the psalmist says, we flourish when we are planted in the house of God. We were designed to live with a sense of rhythm and our souls need to gather corporately once a week to worship, to take communion, to soak in the Word of God, to be renewed in our faith, and to be strengthened for the challenges in the week to come.

I know there are plenty of good reasons why we can’t always gather with the church – illness and travel are the big two. But, apart from those, where does gathering with the people of God fall on your list of priorities? I can tell you based on the last month that gathering with the church 1/4 of the time is no where near enough for our souls. I’ve missed it and can’t wait to be back together this Sunday, Lord willing.

I’m not trying to guilt any one here. But I am willing to fight for our common flourishing. Don’t sporadically attend three different churches. Don’t go to church when you have nothing else to do. Don’t think a podcast is a good substitute. Don’t believe the lie that “you just need a week of.”

The Sundays when you’re most tempted to skip church are probably the ones you most need to be there and the ones that will nourish your soul the most. So, fight through it. Be planted in the house of the Lord!

Merry Christmas

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
    in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
    whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Luke 1:76-79

Those words, first spoken by Zechariah as he rejoiced in the birth of his son John, have become the heart of my prayer for our church this Christmas. I pray that we all experience the sunrise of Christmas in our souls today.

Today we celebrate the tender mercy of our God. His answer to sin and death, pain and suffering, fear and despair arrived in the form of an Infant King. A little One who would save us from our sin and show us how life was meant to be lived. A Baby who came as light, and life, and love.

Christmas is the dawn of a new, a wild, and an unbreakable hope.

Merry Christmas.

Relational Perfectionists

pool party

Being a perfectionist is exhausting.

Trust me, I know.  I’m a recovering one.  I’ve spent more of my life trying to get perfect grades, create the perfect resume, be a perfect leader, and preach perfect sermons than I care to admit.  Even now, there’s a part of me that wants to write the perfect blog post about how it’s okay not to be perfect…and, no, I’m not kidding when I write that!

For me, the journey out of perfectionism hasn’t been about lowering my standards and embracing mediocrity.  It’s been about developing realistic expectations and, even more importantly, learning to show myself grace when I don’t meet those expectations.  I’m reminding myself of truths I already know:  I will always have room to grow, my value isn’t found in my achievements, and those closest to me don’t love me because of what I accomplish.  So, I’m still aiming high.  I’m just learning how to cope when I fall a little short every now and again.  Pretty simple stuff.

It just seems to be particularly hard for me to apply in the area of relationships.  No where have I found perfectionism more damaging and harder to overcome than in relationships.  I was reminded of that all over again in preparing for this past Sunday’s sermon at Restoration City.  In that sermon, I shared a well-known quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic book about community, Life Together, The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.” In other words, relational perfectionists kill community.  It’s true in marriage.  In dating.  In friendship.  In families.  Really, in any relational system.

I’ve had to embrace the hard truth that one of the greatest obstacles to improving my relationships is my frustration with the fact that my relationships need improvement.  I know how crazy that sounds but that’s how relational perfectionism works.  I develop and fall in love with an idyllic picture of marriage, friendship, church, or work.  It’s a gorgeous vision of relational perfection – everyone is getting along perfectly, everything is in its place, there’s good food, and everyone is saying and doing all the right things.  It’s incredible.  No filter required – it’s perfect all by itself.  But, the real world never lives up to that vision.  Laura and I have a good marriage but it isn’t perfect.  I have three really great kids who often don’t act so great.  I don’t get to see my friends as often as I would like and people move out of DC way more than I want.  In other words, relationships aren’t perfect.

A lot of our relational fulfillment depends on how we handle those imperfections.  Relational perfectionists are tempted to withdraw into a cave of frustration, despair, anger, and discouragement.  We tend to blame ourselves and wonder why we can’t even get relationships right.  We love to use comparison to beat ourselves up even more – look at everyone else, their relationships look so perfect on Instagram.

Here’s the problem and it should be obvious: it’s hard to build good relationships in the cave of frustration.  Despair, anger, and withdrawal never improves our marriages, friendships, or parenting.  It only makes things worse.

If we’re going to live in community, it’s crucial to develop realistic expectations for relationships and show everyone grace when life doesn’t live up to those expectations.  I still have a long way to go but I’m trying to live in the second half of Bonhoeffer’s quote – just love the people around you.  Stop being disappointed that our marriage isn’t perfect and just love Laura in the midst of the imperfect.  Stop being sad that our family dinners aren’t exactly the thing of HGTV splendor and love my kids in the midst of the chaos.

Don’t let your vision of community suffocate the people around you.  Stop being a relational perfectionist and dive into the mess of community.  It’s isn’t perfect but it’s where life happens and where we meet God.

 

Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash

But First…Our Souls

But First Our Souls

At it’s core, the story of Gideon is a story of restoration.

We have such an individualistic conception of faith that we tend to see this story exclusively through the lens of Gideon’s transformation from farmer to warrior.  In his weakness, Gideon finds a strength from God that enables Him to do the impossible.  That’s completely right, true, and biblical.  But it’s not the only thing God is doing in the story.  It’s also a time of military, economic, and cultural restoration for Israel.  What God does through Gideon changes everything.  Families no longer go to sleep fearing for their safety and workers no longer toil fearing they’ll never see the fruit of their labor.  Through Gideon, God restores His people to a time of peace, economic stability, and freedom from oppression.

We need to see that larger story because so much of our culture and so much of our lives are in desperate need of restoration.  21st century America needs to rediscover truth, civility, and a sense of value and dignity for all as image bearers of God.  We need to fight back against the injustice of racism, abortion, human trafficking, and so many other forms of violence against humanity.  At times, our personal concerns seem small in comparison but we all know they are no less painful.  We want our marriages to flourish and our families to thrive.  We want to get some sleep, get in shape, and have energy again.  We want to love others unconditionally and stop getting so disappointed when they don’t meet our expectations.  We want to figure out how to make ends meet financially.

When we think about personal and cultural restoration, we need to do so through the lens of Gideon:

That night the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down.”

– Judges 6:25-26

Personal and cultural restoration starts with spiritual restoration and spiritual restoration always leads to personal and cultural restoration.  

It’s no accident that God calls Gideon to fight a spiritual battle before a military one.  Before he deals with the Midianites, Gideon needs to deal with the idols in his own house.  He needs to get back into right relationship with God and rediscover the joy of walking with Yahweh before he’s going to affect great change in the world.  The same is true for us.  We make a tremendous mistake when we attempt to divorce our spirituality from the rest of our lives.  The health of your soul has a direct impact on the health of your finances, your family, your body, and your relationships.  We so often want to avoid the pain and introspection of dealing with our souls and just figure out a practical solution to whatever is bothering us today.  But that shortcut rarely leads anywhere good or lasting.  Real restoration starts in our souls and radiates out to the rest of our lives.

But when real restoration has come to our souls, it will radiate out.  Your relationship with Jesus is designed to change every area of your life, the life of your church, and the life of your community.  Judges 6:25 starts with the phrase, “that night.”  The author is referring to the same night that Gideon met the angel of the Lord.  Gideon’s encounter with God immediately turned into spiritual restoration and a sense of mission.  There’s no gap.  Spiritual restoration, personal restoration, and cultural restoration are inexorably linked, not some multi-step, multi-year process.

The greatest gift we can ever offer others is a soul in vital union with Jesus.  When His life is flowing in and through us, the possibilities for restoration are endless.  So, start there.  When our souls are satisfied in Christ, it changes everything for us and for the people around us.

Stitches, A Cross & Our Redemption

IMG_5967

On Sunday afternoon, Aidan and I broke away for a quick walk in the woods.  He loved everything about it – being alone with Dad, getting to talk without his older brother dominating the conversation, and kicking at fallen logs with his little cowboy boots.  I can promise you he wasn’t the only one who loved it; I couldn’t get enough either – watching him explore, hearing his little voice talk about making donkey ears at church, and recognizing that he’s way more little boy than he is baby.  It’s moments like this when I can find myself overwhelmed with just how much I love my kids.

Which was why Saturday afternoon was so hard.  Aidan and Jack were playing (fighting?!?) upstairs when Aidan’s chin collided with the hardwood floor with enough force to earn him the distinction of being the first in the family to get stitches.  Even though Laura is the one with the medical background, I’m the one who takes the boys to Urgent Care for broken bones and stitches.  I guess it’s a form of male bonding.

IMG_5949

So, I got to be there while Aidan made his entrance at the Urgent Care and announced, “I have a horrible boo-boo.”  Somehow the little charmer had scored several stickers before we even sat down in the waiting room.  While we sat there, we kept rehearsing what would happen – a little numbing and then sewing his chin back together.  He was intrigued with the sewing but not too happy with the numbing prospects.  Pretty logical reaction.

We didn’t wait long before going back to get the whole thing started.  Which meant it was time for me to do my part – keeping a fiercely strong little boy still, by whatever means necessary.  Reassurance and comforting are preferred but a headlock isn’t out of the question!  So, he sat in my lap for two numbing injections into his quivering little chin followed by two stitches.  Without being too graphic, stitching someone up is the medical version of intentionally driving a fish hook through someone’s skin and repeating as often as necessary.    He was a total champ.  No headlock required.  He just sat there, even when I could feel his little body go rigid during the shots.

IMG_5948All of which has made me think about our impending celebration of Good Friday and Easter.  I’m reminded that Jesus went unflinchingly to the cross.  He didn’t endure the pain of the cross so He could be healed.  He endured the pain of the cross so He could be broken and we could be healed.  We’re the mess and He’s the innocent Son of God.  We’re the ones who needed healing but He’s the One who endured the pain.  I was so proud of Aidan’s bravery on Saturday but I’m overwhelmed by Christ’s sacrifice on the wood of that cross two thousand years ago.  “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

The worst part of Aidan sitting on my lap for all of this is that I had a perfect view of everything that was going on.  I had to sit there and watch while my little guy suffered.  It’s a reminder that Jesus wasn’t the only One who suffered that day.  The Father turned His face from His Son and delivered Him over to death. I’m convinced that the only thing more horrific than dying on a cross would be watching your child do it.  God could have called it off.  He could have intervened.  He could have saved His boy.  Instead, He saved us.  If I could have taken the stitches for Aidan on Saturday, I would have.  My guess is that God the Father would have rather been on that cross than see His boy there.

So, let’s remember what this weekend is all about.  Unthinkable love poured out for the world in the death of the Son of God.  The Father didn’t take Jesus’ place on the cross but Jesus took ours.  If you’ve ever wondered what the One who created the skies thinks of you, there’s your answer.  He knows your sin, your brokenness and your failings.  And He loves you enough to rescue you from it all.  His love was displayed in all of its fierce glory on that cross – love for you, love for those who have the courage to admit they need a savior, love for the world He created.

Happy Easter!

 

Leaky Tires & Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

tired

A couple of weeks ago, I was taking one of our kids to school when I noticed one of the tires on the van was a little flat.  So, I took it to the gas station, filled it up and went on with my day.  Well, by noon the same tire was close to flat again and I knew we had a leak.  So, I brought it to another gas station, they sprayed some kind of liquid on the tire, found the leak, patched it and inflated the tire.  Problem solved, back to life.

None of that is a big deal when it comes to a tire but when we approach our relationship with Jesus the same way, it’s a very big deal.  Over the course of the week, we become aware that our lives are leaking a bit – we see flashes of anger, hints of selfishness and bursts of lust.  We know something’s off but we aren’t quite sure what, so we go to church on Sunday and I spray a little liquid on the tire of your life during the sermon and help find the leak.  “Oh, I’m angry because I’m struggling to trust that God is using His sovereign power for my good.”  Then we patch the leak with a little forgiveness, some fresh inspiration and a whole lot of determination.  But over the course of the week, we see a leak so we go back to square one and start the process all over again.

It’s a totally reactive way of living the Christian life.  You’re always fighting to get back to neutral and never growing into a stronger disciple of Jesus.  It’s settling for sin management when Jesus has called you to Kingdom impact.  There’s no growth, just damage control.

And it will stay that way until we learn to address the deeper issues that are causing the tire to leak in the first place.  That’s why I’m so thrilled to be offering Pete Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Course this spring at Restoration City.  It’s an in depth discipleship course designed to help us explore what’s going on under the surface of our lives – where the leaks are coming from and why we struggle with some of the things we do.  The course combines a robust understanding of emotional health, a biblical understanding of spirituality, and the life changing power of the gospel of Jesus Christ in ways that will be tremendously beneficial to your soul and life.

All of this fits perfectly with our deep commitment to the centrality of the gospel in all things.  At the end of the day, the gospel is not only the patch on the tire but also the way to stop the leak at it’s source.  EHS isn’t presenting an alternative to the gospel – it’s helping us see where and how to apply the gospel in our souls and lives.

I believe this course is so foundational to where God is leading us as a church that I’m  teaching all 8 weeks.  We’ll be meeting from 12.30 – 2.30 at our WeWork offices on Sunday afternoons starting on April 22nd and going through June 17th with the exception of Memorial Day weekend.  If you’re willing to take the journey with me, get registered today at rcc.church/ehs.