Coming Back Stronger

When all things Covid flipped our world upside down, I found myself asking one question over and over again, “What would it look like to come back from this time stronger than we went into it?” I know that in some ways that’s an outrageously optimistic or privileged question to ask in the face of a global pandemic, perhaps insultingly so. But that’s not how I mean it.

I mean it in a way that helps me find vision for myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I mean it in a way that helps me find vision for my marriage and our family. I mean it in a way that helps me think about more for our church than simply surviving. I mean it in a way that’s consistent with some familiar New Testament texts.

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Colossians 4:5-6

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Ephesians 5:15-16

But over the last few weeks, my question has evolved just a bit. Instead of simply asking the vision question of what would it look like, I’ve started asking the implementation question of what is it going to take. It’s one thing to have a picture of what you want, it’s a totally different thing to have a plan for how to get there. While I can’t offer us a one-size-fits-all plan, I can share a few simple ideas that have shaped my plan.

Formation Over Consumption

While there is nothing inherently wrong with it, binge watching multiple online church gatherings every Sunday is not the best way to accelerate your spiritual growth during this time. Binge watching church is one more example of our post-Enlightenment belief that all transformation comes via information or inspiration. Yes, renewing our minds is a big part of spiritual formation (see Romans 12). But so are the spiritual disciplines, and a vibrant relationship with the Spirit, and a more contemplative life, and reading good books.

We come back stronger by deeply engaging with God.

Relationships Over Isolation

I get it. Zoom calls are getting old. They’re not the real thing and they take more energy than a face to face conversation. But you know what’s worse? Isolation. The first thing in all of history that God ever said was not good was humankind being alone. Just about the worst thing you could do right now is retreat from community. I’ve seen that story play out hundreds of times in my ministry and it never ends well.

We come back stronger by staying connected.

Rhythms Over Frenzy

Everything in God’s creation functions with a sense of rhythm. Day and night, six days and then a sabbath, seasons, years, lifetimes. We thrive when we’re living with a sense of rhythm. But right now it’s easy to slide into frenzy, chaos, and disarray. Fight it. Set your alarm, make a schedule, stick to it, go to bed on time, and then get up and do it all again tomorrow.

We come back stronger by adapting our rhythms and then living into them.

Presence Over Anticipation

It’s so easy to obsess about the future right now. When are we going to reopen? What’s it going to look like? Will there be a second wave of Covid in the fall/winter? Please, God, tell me the kids are going to go to school this fall! Obviously, we all need to be thinking about those questions to a certain extent. But not to the point where we lose our ability to be present to today and live this moment well. Jesus said it this way, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34)

We come back stronger by living one day at a time.

Trust Over Control

So much of my obsessing about the future is driven by a need to find something I can control. Maybe if I scour the internet long enough, I can find the information I need to make definitive plans for how we’re going to come back as a church. Sure would be nice. But it’s just not there, at least not yet. But what we do have as followers of Jesus is actually better – the presence of a God who promises to lead us by the hand into the future He is writing for us (see Psalm 139). Our job is to focus on Him and pray for the faith to believe He’s leading us every step of the way.

We come back stronger by resting in God’s sovereignty.

Generosity Over Hoarding

In the face of uncertainty, our natural tendency is to hold a little tighter to the things we do have, whether that’s cleaning supplies, flour, toilet paper, or money in the bank. But Jesus shows us a better way, a way that only makes sense if we’ve learned to trust Him. We are called to live with a generosity that reminds ourselves that God really is big enough to take care of us if we do our part to help take care of others. If you need help, ask for it. But, if you’re able to help, don’t let this moment pass you by. Chose generosity.

We come back stronger by knowing we did what we could to help others.

So, what does it look like to come back stronger for you? My prayer is that God would not only give you vision for this season but also show you what it’s going to take to fulfill it.

Photo by Hamish Duncan on Unsplash

Why Is Restoration City Fasting Next Week?

fasting

I love it when we set aside time to fast as a church and I really believe God is going to use our fast next week in some incredibly powerful ways in our lives, in the life of our church and in our city.

At the same time, I know so many of us are new to the idea of fasting. It’s not a spiritual discipline we practice regularly, it can seem contrary to the freedom of the gospel and just plain strange. Those feelings probably get amplified when we’re not the ones initiating the fast but it’s coming at the request of the church’s pastors.

For those reasons, I want to make sure we all understand why we’re fasting next week.  A good answer to that question will come on two levels.  One, why fasting in general and, two, why next week in particular?

The Biblical Basis For Fasting

Admittedly, I’m going to be very brief in answering this one since all of our Community Groups covered this at some length during their meeting this week. But in the Community Group Study, we presented four reasons for fasting through a list originally compiled by Pastor John Piper:

  • We fast because we’re hungry for God’s Word and God’s Spirit in our lives.
  • We fast because we long for God’s glory to resound in the church and God’s praise to resound among the nations.
  • We fast because we yearn for God’s Son to return and God’s kingdom to come.
  • Ultimately, we fast because we want God more than we want anything this world has to offer.

My hope for next week is that we will all rally around the second reason and one other that makes sense to us personally. The heart of what we’re asking God to do next week is best expressed in a desire for His “glory to resound in the church.”  But, I would also encourage you to think through some of the other reasons. Which one connects most with your life? Are you learning to hunger for God’s Word, yearning for His Kingdom or ensuring that Christ has first place in your heart? Pick one of those and lean into it as you fast.

Fasting Next Week

In some ways, I already hinted at the answer to this one – it really is about asking God to make His glory visible through Restoration City on Easter Sunday. The single most tangible way for His glory to be seen is not through a large crowd but through salvation, through people passing from death to life and being eternally changed by the grace of Jesus. That’s what we’re asking for and fasting is a way of sharpening our desire for God to make Himself seen in powerful ways.

By God’s grace, we’ve enjoyed an amazing 17 months as a church. But God is no where near done with us. There’s so much He wants to do through us as we focus on loving, blessing and reaching our city with the gospel. I’m praying this Easter launches us into a whole new season of community impact. So, it seemed like we should take the step of fasting together as a church as part of our pursuit of that vision.

Hopefully, you’ll join me in fasting one day next week.  We’ll be posting a prayer guide to this blog on Sunday and distributing it through your Community Group leaders as well.