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.

In the Hands of Majesty

psalm8.jpgWhen I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

Psalm 8:3-4

Certain passages of Scripture come alive in certain places or with certain views in mind.  It’s hard to get the majesty of Psalm 8 into our souls if we’re reading the Scriptures in a study carrel in the basement of a college library.  And it’s impossible if we’ve never been floored by the grandeur of nature.

Our planet is designed to provoke wonder and awe in our souls.  The simply beauty of a sunrise, the mesmerizing effect of gentle waves, the soaring heights of mountain ranges and the beauty of a cloudless starry night in the country.  It’s designed to shout a message – be amazed!  And then be dazzled that all of it is the work of God’s fingers – He didn’t even break a sweat in putting all of this together.  He’s just that big.  Really, unthinkably big.  We can’t get our minds around the vastness of the universe yet alone the One who created it.

All of which makes me feel unimaginably small and fragile in the world.  So often I think the world revolves around me when in reality, I’m a minute part of what’s playing out in the world around me.  My life is small, delicate and so finite.

But so significant.

Because God is mindful of us.  Because God cares about us.

The One who carved the canyons cares that you’re tired.  The One who forged rivers knows that you’re scared and longs to breathe courage into your soul.  The Alpha and Omega knows about your haunting fear of being alone and promises that He’ll always be there for you.

Don’t be afraid of feeling small and overwhelmed.  Those are the places where we are most likely to meet the One who is massive and all powerful.  He comes not to mock our pain but to heal our wounds.  He comes not to gloat but to love.  He comes not to condemn but to free.

God knows.  God cares.

That’s more than enough grace to make it through today.

Fear, Faith & Church Planting

If you want a crash course in how messed up your heart is, plant a church.

It’s a sure fire way to surface all kinds of fear, anger and despair you had yet to uncover. When I look back on my last six months as a church planting resident with The Summit Network, I realize just how much I’ve had to confront in my own heart. I wish I could tell you those confrontations with self were always easy, quick and painless but that’s just not the way it works for me. I can be a frustratingly slow learner. But Jesus has been faithful and I wouldn’t trade what I’ve learned for anything.

Like most church planters, I’m an optimistic visionary at heart. I love big dreams, inspiring visions and thoughts of what the future can and should look like. I live in the world of what’s possible and I love to paint that picture for people. And I really love it when other people buy into the vision.

But when they don’t, all kinds of chaos threatens to break out in my heart. Whether it’s someone not joining our launch team or someone not contributing financially or someone just seeming a little bored as I’m laying out my dream, I don’t always handle the rejection well. Fear, anger and despair are right there to plant their little questions. Maybe my vision stinks? Maybe we’ll go broke and my son will starve? Maybe the reason this person isn’t more excited is because they’re a totally selfish jerk who doesn’t love Jesus? Maybe I’m not a good leader? Maybe Summit needs to fix their assessment process and weed out guys like me? And on and on and on…

All of that junk comes from a lack of belief in the promises of Jesus to us through the gospel. He really did promise to build His church. (Mt. 16:18) The Father really is glorified when we bear fruit. (Jn. 15:8) He knows every one of our weaknesses and promises sufficient grace. (2 Cor. 12:9) No plan of His can be thwarted. (Job 42:2) And on and on and on…

I get worked up when I think this whole thing rests on my shoulders. I’m tempted to shrink my vision, lower my dreams and downsize my hopes. I’m tempted to cave to the fear, anger and despair that constantly lurks. But when I remember Jesus, I’m okay with the uncertainty and the setbacks. When I remember Him, I’m filled with hope for what God is going to do.

Planting Restoration City has forced me to learn how to fight fear with faith. Maybe God will use a church plant to do the same in your life or maybe He’ll use something else. Either way, I’m convinced it’s a lesson he wants all of us to learn.