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.
 

What do you do when you don’t know what to do? (Do what’s best next!)

“Every Christian must be fully Christian by bringing God into his whole life, not merely into some spiritual realm.”
—Dietrich Bonhoeffer

What do you do? What’s your vocation, the good contribution to the greater good you get to carve out and work on each day?

Do you ever feel conflicted, as if your job is less important than all that spiritual stuff you could be doing for God? You have lots to get done, but the “spiritual” people are telling you to just relax, quit trying so hard, and ‘let go and let God.’1 Do you feel that faux guilt? What is a responsible person to do?

If you’re productive, resourceful and hard-working, you press on through. You’re responsible for people, projects and tasks. Are you supposed to sit and read your Bible and pray all day when your job is to lead, decide, invent, confront and create?

It seems we pastors are suddenly realizing that people have jobs and life and stress, and it isn’t just the ‘religious professionals’ who are doing God’s work. (Yep, I can admittedly be pretty slow to see others’ contributions in God’s mission.) This is a good development. Yet to be honest, I think we pastors tend to have a skewed view of work — and aren’t known for possessing the best work ethic in general — so we’re not really the best in equipping people to work with all their might.

Where can people turn to learn how to get things done, from a godly perspective?

I’ve read numerous books on productivity, including David Allen’s Getting Things Done. My copy is highlighted all over, and I keep it near my desk for reference. GTD was really helpful for a guy who tries to do too much, too fast, all at once. (Yep, I’m a recovering multitasker.) Yet, I couldn’t adopt the ‘system’ wholesale, partly because of the spiritual nature of my work. Something annoyed me about all these business leadership books. They’re all about self-empowerment and emphasize self-actualization. Potential is a terrible thing to waste. But is it the worst thing to waste?

Enter a site like whatsbestnext.com. For years Matt Perman has been faithfully writing on productivity from a God-centered emphasis. God’s glory is the most terrible thing to waste, and we have a responsibility to honor and reflect Him in all we do (and why we do it). Motivation matters. Matt’s a consummate learner, and thoughtful reflector on all he learns and does. Leaders are readers; leaders are also doers. Been reading his blog for years, yet wondered when he’s go deeper in equipping Christian leaders, publishing an accessible book. Alas, here it is.
What's Best Next
Matt Perman says why he wrote the new book, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done, which released this week:

“My aim in this book is to reshape the way you think about productivity and then present a practical approach to help you become more effective in your life with less stress and frustration, whatever you are doing.
I want to help you live the life that God has called you to live, and to live it with maximum effectiveness and meaning. If you are an executive, I want to help you be a better executive. If you are a homemaker, to be a better homemaker. If you are a pastor, to be a better pastor. If you are a creative professional, to be a better creative professional. If you are a missionary, to be a better missionary. And if you don’t know what life God has called you to live, I want to help you find it.”

In fact, I am convinced that this book will be helpful for anyone wanting to get things done. Obviously, for Christians, yet also for anyone. If you buy one for a non-Christian (or not-yet-Christian) business leader, and they don’t find it imminently helpful, I will buy it back from them. Seriously.

Perman knows that bad productivity approaches are annoying. And stresses that managing ourselves well is foundational to all we do. Plus, if you’re more efficient, you’ll be more effective, and thus be able to do more good for others. (See, it’s not about you!) In 350+ pages, coupled with a thorough table of contents and some fabulous appendices for quick reference, What’s Best Next will help you create a productivity approach that works, and helps you do more good for others.

Another quick excerpt:

Continue reading

  1. I find the phrase “Let go and let God” to be lazy and unhelpful. It doesn’t reflect the message of Jesus, which would be more like: “Trust Me, rest in Me. And get to work doing what I want you to do.”
 

Listening & talking about stories that matter.

It takes humility to tell someone your story, without trying to downplay the brokenness or exaggerate your successes.

sharing-stories

It also takes courage and generosity to listen to another’s story without chiming in with your own thoughts.

The RENEW men are seeking to understand our Gospel Stories (Creation » Fall & rebellion » Redemption » Restoration), finding our place in God’s big Story, where Jesus is the Hero.

Recently we’ve been sharing our own stories, and now we turn to the better task for listening to other’s stories. Call it “Gospel Listening.”

Do people think of you as a good listener? 

Since everyone has the same four parts of their life story — and in all the countless little stories and narratives that flow out in normal conversation — let’s take a look at each part, from the perspective of Gospel Listening. 1

Gospel Story

1) CREATION // Everyone has a fundamental belief about their origin — who or what brought about their existence, made them who they are, or shaped them into the person they are today.

  • Listen for: Who or what do they credit or blame for who they are today? (Or the situation they find themselves in?)

2) FALL // Each person has a central belief about the cause of brokenness in the world and a deep desire for justice. People blame their parents, family, friends, boss, government, etc. for what they’ve become AND want just for putting the blame on someone else for the pain and suffering in the (their) world. Someone is at fault and someone deserves punishment.

  • Listen for: Why are things and people not the way they are supposed to be and who is to blame? 

3) REDEMPTION // Everyone has a solution they believe in, a remedy they look to or a “savior” they trust in to redeem the brokenness in their life and world. Many are looking to a philosophy. Others look to a plan for self-improvement or personal growth. Many believe some kind of reform in education or politics will change things. Everyone believers in a “redeemer” or in a self-improvement plan of some sort.

  • Listen for: Who or what will rescue them and redeem what is broken in their life?

4) RESTORATION // Every person has a picture of the future when everything is as it should be .. or how they hope it will be. Some see a utopia with humans all living at peace with one another. Others believe Mother earth and humanity will be one. Still others see another world where they will go to where they will be at the center. Some people’s future hope is to be married, have children, get a job, be rich, etc. Everyone wants something better — restoration of what they believe their world should be like.

  • Listen for: What will the world or their circumstance look like when all is as it should be (according to them), AND who or what will be the focus of this world? 

Learn to listen to people. The aspects of life they complain about or are super excited about helps us discover what they see as “bad news” in the world, and what is “good news” to them.

As you listen to someone’s story (or consider your own), notice the reasons for not being willing or able to obey Jesus’s commands: fear, insecurities, selfishness, pride, need for approval, and the worship of child, family or work. All of these reflect trust place in something or someone other than God.

As you become aware of the people or things that have become idols or “little gods,” take the time to compare them to Jesus. Ask the Holy Spirit to help in revealing Jesus as the best resolution to what a person is seeking elsewhere, the opposite of what they are experiencing, and the deeper reality of what they are searching for.

That is Gospel Listening.

  1. This section adapted from The Gospel Primer, a resource the Renew Church men utilize for discipleship and learning.
 

God loves you … and has a difficult plan for your life.

Great leaders give up their comforts and control of outcomes for the good of others.

As Shakespeare wrote, some are born great, some achieve greatness, and still others have greatness thrust upon them.

In Joseph (Genesis 37-50) we find a man for whom all three forms of greatness are true. What was his secret to greatness? Growing up the favorite and youngest son of Jacob, Joseph had dreams of greatness, and wasn’t afraid to tell everyone about it. He suffered from TMI — telling his brothers too much information. They despised the favored brother and plotted to kill him.

Through rejection, hardship and injustice, God broke and formed Joseph’s character to become the kind of leader who would use power for the good of others.

Those dreams were fulfilled in a better way because they were God’s own plan for the saving of many lives.

EPIC Joseph

Joseph shows us how to live beyond ourselves, living redemptively. 

Joseph dealt with past wounds to courageously and generously engage the brokenness of the world and its need. It’s because God loved Joseph that He had a difficult plan for this man’s life.

It’s a story of redemption and reconciliation, integrity and forgiveness, where Joseph shows us the gracious character of Jesus. (God had a difficult plan for His life too.)

Jesus is strong enough to forgive, protect and provide for us who deserve none of His kindness. | Scriptures: Genesis 37:1-1145:1-850:15-21

  1. This message on Joseph is week 6 (preached 2/16/14) in EPIC: Following the Hero of God’s Story, a message series with RENEW Church on the whole Bible.