Let’s get uncomfortable!

“Western culture has things a little backwards right now. We think that if we had every comfort available to us, we’d be happy. We equate comfort with happiness. And now we’re so comfortable we’re miserable. There’s no struggle in our lives. No sense of adventure. We get in a car, we get in an elevator, it all comes easy. What I’ve found is that I’m never more alive than when I’m pushing and I’m in pain, and I’m struggling for high achievement, and in that struggle I think there’s a magic.”1

That’s a keen insight from long-distance runner Dean Karnazes. His words apply to all “adventure,” really all of life, as running and training can be a good metaphor for the real “endurance” events we call daily life. The ordinary, common, everyday activities are where we need the will to persevere and willingness to get uncomfortable.

In short: We can either be comfortable and stagnate or stretch ourselves—become uncomfortable—and grow.

We tend to think that comfort leads to happiness. It doesn’t. “Happiness” comes from growth, a deeper joy than temporal circumstances. In comes in part from making commitments and keeping them. We find a measure of joy in making progress, and especially joining others in their development. When we persevere, we grow.

Let's run up those hillsFor me that means hitting the pavement in search of some hills almost every morning. In reality, running is the easy part. It’s the other “endurance” events of life where we must embrace the uncomfortable: relationship tensions, hard decisions, confrontation, adversity, setbacks, each new challenge an opportunity. This is essential if we are to reject apathy.

I wonder if one reason 80%+ of people fail on their New Year’s resolutions is they remain committed to their own comfort. The love of comfort keeps them from a better adventure. People embrace apathy, which is a slow death. And a love of self-comfort keeps them for pursuing health and wholeness for the sake of others. If we are to benefit—and better yet: if others are to develop under our care and leadership—we must get uncomfortable. Seek out a measure of adversity, and train for the real adversity than will inevitably come your way.

“Nothing is more important than to learn how to maintain a life of purpose in the midst of painful adversity.”2

  1. Dean Karnazes in an interview with Outdoor Magazine, published online December 2006.
  2. Timothy Keller, Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering.
 

Courage: hearing and responding eagerly to the particular way God is calling us at this time and in this place.

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Continuing from yesterday

The same could be said for churches and religious organizations. We do not genuinely fulfill what God is calling us to be and do as a community unless we develop the capacity to hear together the voice of Jesus in our midst—His voice of assurance and comfort, but also His voice of call and guidance. It is easy for churches or religious organizations to look elsewhere for models or trends to follow. Some church leaders are easily attracted to attending a conference or reading the most recent how-to book to learn how to help their church or religious organization develop in the same way as some remarkable church on the other side of the continent or the ocean. Others, in contrast, are nostalgic about a tradition, about the way things have always been done in this particular community, and speak of it as “own way.”

Yes, we need to learn from others. And surely we are right to stress the value of the heritage we have within our church communities and organizations. But both our search for new models and our love for our own way of doing things can undermine our capacity to hear the new word that Jesus has for us as a community. We urgently need to develop a corporate capacity to respond to the voice of Jesus and have the courage both to hear the voice and to respond eagerly to the particular way God is calling us at this time and in this place. 1

» This seems to me a vital need among our leaders, for me personally, and in particular for the Renew Church family in the coming year.

 

  1. Gordon T. Smith, The Voice of Jesus: Discernment, Prayer and the Witness of the Spirit (IVP Books, 2003), 17-18. Emphasis added.
 

It’s too easy to live by duty, the expectation of others, the inertia of culture…

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For us as individuals, the danger is that we might never develop an inner life. It is easy to life by duty, the expectation of others, the routines of our work and the inertia of culture and religious traditions. Surely what we long for, though, is an authentic interior life in which we know to the core of our beings that the Spirit of God is present to us and speaking life to us — a life that is personally and dynamically our own. With a well-developed interior life, we live our lives in response to the Spirit. We choose to live that which we are called to live — our life, not someone else’s life. 1

  1. Gordon T. Smith, The Voice of Jesus: Discernment, Prayer and the Witness of the Spirit (IVP Books, 2003), 17. Emphasis added.
 

We cannot love the world until we stop loving the world.

“You cannot love the world until you stop loving the world.”
Kari Patterson, teaching OSU Real Life college students last weekend at Lake Shasta

An idol is anything you add to Jesus as a requirement for being happy. 

There are four common idols: Comfort, Approval, Control, and Success.

Life coming into focus as students enter the waters to be baptized in response to Jesus reconciling them to God

Life coming into focus as students enter the waters to be baptized in response to Jesus reconciling them to God

In teaching about Love, Kari and I explained each of these four as representing the false gods of our age — which then represent numerous others, for our hearts are idol factories. Our flesh is tempted by the world system most clearly in these four common ways.

Each pretend god promises good things but in the end lets us down. It’s easy to see why: we not meant to find comfort, approval, control or success apart from the loving protection and provision of our Creator. He is our Father, and He is good. We need not run to other seemingly “good” things to find satisfaction.

Real life comes into focus as we give up control to receive approval from God the Father, because of the successes of His Son Jesus, who gave up all His comforts for us and for our salvation.

What Do You Love?

Many students asked about this helpful tool, delving into the root desires, fears, and problem emotions, of each idol. Here’s a page from The Gospel Primer on the four common idols (click to enlarge image):

Four idols

As you can see, this discussion on heart idols moves far beyond sin-is-bad-behavior, for even very “good” things can become destructive in our hearts when they take the place of God. Worldliness is anything that steals your full enjoyment of Father’s Love. That’s why we must say we cannot love the world (people, creation) until we stop loving the world (system). Pride, greed and foolishness have not more place in our lives. Let us not tip-toe around worldly thinking and living; let us dive deep into God’s Love.

Love: What the World Needs Now

We taught the weekend’s main sessions tag-team, side-by-side, focusing on asking and answering three key questions:

  1. Who loved you? (on the Father’s Love, our identity in Christ, and receiving His love)
  2. What do you love? (on idolatry and removing obstacles to reciprocating Father’s love)
  3. Who will you love? (on whole-life intercession by relaying God’s love to others)

The first two deal with our relationship with God, yet if we stop there we will only get to thinking about life through this lens: “How will this affect me?” That’s not deep enough. Jesus told the story of the (Good) Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) to lead us far beyond asking how situations affect ourselves. He desires us to capture His heart and ask: “How will this affect her? How will this affect him? How will this affect them?”

Throughout the weekend we heard leaders comment how nothing was exactly what they expected, and a refrain “this is deep.” The unpredictable weather provided a metaphor and helped us get to the end of ourselves: we cannot control outcomes. Salvation visited those shores, and many crossed the line into the Kingdom. Because Jesus loves us He does more than give us a motivation talk about our missed potential. His words are better than vague, pithy, positive sayings. He heals us by first wounding us. Only through embracing and embodying God’s Love in Jesus can we love as loved ones. That’s the kind of love the world needs now.

Students & leaders at #rlshasta 2014

college students & leaders at #rlshasta 2014

 

It’s only Friday, but Sunday is a comin’!

The calm on Saturday sits in stark contrast to the disrupting events of Thursday night spilling into Friday … and to what awaited on that Sunday 1 which changed every day.

Jesus lay in exile in the empty, all of God’s promises at risk of defeat.

It’s Friday
Jesus is praying
Peter’s a sleeping
Judas is betraying
But Sunday’s comin’ [2. Easter meditation by S.M. Lockridge (1913-2000), pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in San Diego from 1953 to 1993.]

It’s Friday
Pilate’s struggling
The council is conspiring
The crowd is vilifying
They don’t even know
That Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The disciples are running
Like sheep without a shepherd
Mary’s crying
Peter is denying
But they don’t know
That Sunday’s a comin’

It’s Friday
The Romans beat my Jesus
They robe him in scarlet
They crown him with thorns
But they don’t know
That Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
See Jesus walking to Calvary
His blood dripping
His body stumbling
And his spirit’s burdened
But you see, it’s only Friday
Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The world’s winning
People are sinning
And evil’s grinning

It’s Friday
The soldiers nail my Savior’s hands
To the cross
They nail my Savior’s feet
To the cross
And then they raise him up
Next to criminals

It’s Friday
But let me tell you something
Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The disciples are questioning
What has happened to their King
And the Pharisees are celebrating
That their scheming
Has been achieved
But they don’t know
It’s only Friday
Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
He’s hanging on the cross
Feeling forsaken by his Father
Left alone and dying
Can nobody save him?
Ooooh
It’s Friday
But Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The earth trembles
The sky grows dark
My King yields his spirit

It’s Friday
Hope is lost
Death has won
Sin has conquered
and Satan’s just a laughin’

It’s Friday
Jesus is buried
A soldier stands guard
And a rock is rolled into place

But it’s Friday
It is only Friday
Sunday is a comin’!

Faithful learners will take note of the ancient prophesies of the Resurrection 2, and of His Resurrection, and how His defeating death opened the door for our hope. There is more Mercy in Christ than sin in us. There is more Hope in Him than despair in us. There is more Life in Jesus than death in us.

Death could not hold Him. No matter what you’re facing, Sunday’s coming.

 

Good Friday

You are invited to remember and reflect on the work of the Suffering Servant, Jesus the Son of God.

Good Friday

Four local congregations will come together at 7pm on the eve of GOOD FRIDAY for a solemn celebration through singing, Scripture readings, and four brief meditations on The Cup, The Garden, The Trials, and at The Cross.

Hosted at Hilltop Community Church (592 Molalla Ave, Oregon City), 7:00-8:15pm. A family worship gathering, with no additional childcare provided. All children welcome to participate.

 

Making prayer happen.

I am rediscovering a desire to pray for people, leading them in God’s strength not mine. I’ve hit the wall too many times trying to ’make things happen’ on my own. The quoted section below confronted me a few months back and before sharing I wanted to see if I was growing and changing. Well, a prayer life develops in the way Spring comes: slowly and suddenly.

Prayer is essentially acknowledged helplessness. We ask God for his glory, for his help, for his will, and for his favor because we know we are powerless to “make things happen” ourselves. (Consequently, when we are not praying much, it is typically because we think, even in our difficulty, that we can handle it.) To “clothe yourselves in humility” (1 Pet. 5:5) is to put on the righteousness of Christ (Eph. 6:4), because he humbled himself from heaven to earth, gave up the exploitation of his deity, and prayed his guts out.

If the sinless God-man often withdrew to lonely places to pray, what is our excuse? Prayer is the ultimate humility, because it presents the empty cup to God for his fullness in Christ. “Your will, not mine,” prayer says. “Your glory, not mine,” prayer says. “Your power, not mine,” prayer says.

Certainly there is a way pastors 1 turn prayer into performance, but it’s difficult to do this when we are all alone, so that is where we should do most of our praying. Not all of it, but most of it.

You may think your prayers are nothing to write home about. That’s fine. You are not writing home, but heaven. God is merciful. He accepts your lame prayers. What he wants is nor your eloquence but your heart.

When we cease praying for ourselves, it is because we think we are the captain of our destinies. When we cease praying for our church, it is because we think we can manage it quite well. When we cease praying in our sermon preparation, it is because we think our words are the power of salvation to all who believe. Let it be far away from us that we would sin against the Lord by failing to pray for [His] people (1 Sam. 12:23). 2

  1. And anyone else with a spiritual leadership role, whether in the home as father and mother, husband and wife, or a teacher of kids at church. Essentially, anyone who has others “watching” as they pray in public.
  2. Quoted from Jared Wilson, The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry. Part 1, The Pastor’s Heart, chapter three, “The Humble Pastor,” pp. 68-69. Emphasis mine.