Where Is Your God?

This Sunday, we’re starting a new series of messages at Restoration City dealing with the topic of anxiety. Matthew 6:25-34 is up next in our study of the Sermon on the Mount but it didn’t feel right to spend only one week discussing Jesus’ teaching on worry and anxiety. One, doing so would run the risk of oversimplifying the issue. I think we all need more than, “Jesus tells us not to worry so you should really stop worrying.” Two, doing so would run the risk of ignoring what a massive issue anxiety is for so many of us. I know this is one of the biggest challenges people in our church struggle with on a daily basis. I also know what a massive issue this is for so many in our city who are not yet following Jesus.

So, we’re going to slow down and devote the next four weeks to understanding how Jesus leads us out of anxiety. Here’s what I can tell you about the series:

  • We’re going to talk about anxiety as a physical, psychological, and spiritual issue. Too often the church ignores the physical and psychological. That’s not helpful. At the same time, our anxiety has deep spiritual roots and lasting change requires bringing God into the conversation. We’re going to take a holistic approach.
  • We’re going to talk about anxiety in a way that doesn’t provoke guilt or shame. There isn’t going to be a hint of, “If you were a better Christian, you wouldn’t be so anxious.” We can talk about deepening our faith in Jesus and the gospel without heaping on a bunch of shame, which only makes the problem worse.
  • The goal is to move together as a community on a path that actually reduces our anxiety. We don’t just want to learn more; we want to trust God for real growth and change.
  • These are a great four weeks to invite family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. We have a chance to help a lot of people. Let’s not miss it.

So, I hope you’ll join us in person or online for all four weeks of this series.

But I want to ask you to do much more than just show up. I want to ask you to pray with me that God will do a powerful work through our church in the next four weeks. I’m praying we see people come to faith in Jesus, embrace vulnerability in community, take risks on the journey towards healing, and experience real freedom from anxiety. I know God is able to do it but let’s not trust in our power – let’s lean in to Him and His grace and see what He can do in His power!

Stepping Back from Social Media

At some point this past fall, I hit a breaking point with social media. I was finally able to admit to myself just how much I hated what Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter were doing to my mind and my soul. To be specific, here’s what really bothered me:

  • Even when I was with my family, friends, or church, I wasn’t as present as I should have been because I was always thinking about getting a picture of every potentially “instagramable moment”.
  • Once I found that moment and posted, insecurity, the desire for approval, and the need for a quick dopamine hit would kick in and I would find myself checking (sometimes a little obsessively) to see how many likes, comments, or views my post got.
  • Even when I wasn’t on social media, I found myself thinking about the lives of people I barely know or have never met. Ever been there? Analyzing and envying the fixtures in a celebrity Christian’s kitchen while the dishes pile up in your own sink?
  • More often than not, checking social media would make me feel some combination of envy, outrage, shame, hurt, or annoyance.

In short, social media was making me miserable…and it was distracting me from God, which is why I love the photo at the top of this post. Instead of enjoying a few quiet minutes with Jesus, I was mindlessly scrolling my way through life.

So, I just stopped posting, checking, or engaging for the most part. It wasn’t planned. I didn’t think it required one final post just so you all weren’t up at night wondering why I wasn’t posting. It wasn’t a spiritual fast. It was just stepping away from something I had come to hate.

And I loved it.

Honestly, I can’t say I missed it much at all. Nor can I say that I’m back. Nor can I say I’m permanently deleting my accounts. But I did learn some things over the last few months and I’m looking forward to processing those in my next post.

But here’s the question for today, are you using social media in a way that’s making you a better version of yourself, more full of life and love? Or are you just making yourself miserable?

Crash Diet Spirituality

Crash Diet Spirituality

We all know crash diets don’t work.  But we can be so tempted by the possibility of quick results that we just can’t help ourselves every now and again.  Or maybe it’s desperation that drives us into a frenzied season of carb-free, extended sessions on the treadmill.  Initially, it seems like everything’s working as planned – pounds come off, energy levels increase and clothes fit better.

Then some friends invite you to join them at the hot new pizza place in town.  You spend the whole drive there meditating on, “I’m only getting a salad.”  But six slices of pizza later you decide to skip the gym for the evening.  Then the following day is busy and you grab a venti sugar laden something.  By the end of the week, you’ve gained a pound.  It’s depressing.

Especially when we do the same thing spiritually.

After a season of sin, despair or distance from God, we resolve to get our act together spiritually.  We start making vows, promises and commitments: wake up at 4am, pray for three hours, listen to a podcast a day, never miss church, lead one person a day to the Lord and go on the next mission trip offered.  We permanently renounce lust, pride, anger, bitterness, fear and greed.  We even vow to start making our bed and keeping up with the laundry – all part of the new and improved version of ourselves.

And then we fall.  And start the cycle again.

Don’t get me wrong – repentance is a good thing.(Ps. 51)  It’s a neglected thing in the church.  In some ways, we’ve gotten so good at pivoting to the grace of the gospel that we fail to take stock of the horror of our sin.  There’s everything right with seeing how far we’ve fallen and turning back to the Father who loves us.

But the journey to spiritual health is a long and winding road.  It’s going to take sustained energy, resilience in the face of setbacks and patience with ourselves.  Becoming more like Jesus is a marathon, not a sprit.  The path to spiritual health is one of small daily decisions repeated for weeks, months and years.

Please don’t misunderstand me – this isn’t an invitation to complacency.  Fight sin.  Embrace Jesus.  Read the Bible.  Pray.  Serve.  But fight for the long term transformation over the short term mirage.

Long term transformation comes through the constant renewing of our minds in Scripture (Romans 12:2) and increasing reliance on the Spirit of God.  You’ll know you’re on the path to a healthy, sustainable relationship with Jesus when the road ahead is both beautiful and intimidating. When we see all that Jesus is inviting us into, we want to follow Him.  At the same time, we realize we’re totally inadequate for all He’s leading us into.  We need His grace, His power, His Spirit to carry us.

Real health and lasting change comes in that moment of awe inspired surrender.  Don’t look for shortcuts around that moment.  Embrace it and allow Jesus to meet you there.