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.
 

I am an adult, and I can eat whatever I want whenever I want, and I need someone to take this power from me.

Newsflash: I’m an adult, and I can eat whatever I want whenever I want, and I wish someone would take this power from me.

Every year during the 100-days-of-holidays1 I eat too much sugar and salt. Salty things are my favorite, as they are for one of my brothers. Probably because salty snacks make me feel worse at a slower rate than sugary things. (Make that high-fructose-corn-syrupy things.) If there is a bowl of pretzels, or nuts, or jerky, out on the counter, it will be consumed faster than it took you to read that last paragraph.

So I run.2

Well, that’s not the only reason why I run 5-6 days a week. I really enjoy running, so there’s that. And other good and somewhat terrible reasons too.

But during the holidays—from Thanksgiving, to Christmas, to parties such as watching football on New Years and the like—I snack too much. Even loved ones get me salty and/or sugary gifts and say things like “I know you like these,” and “you don’t seem to gain weight.”

Wait a second. Yes, I like these, a lot. A lot too much. (And I gain plenty of weight during the holidays, but who’s counting besides me?) The snacks aren’t the problem. The problem is I eat them too fast. Why can’t I restrain myself?3

In any case, I turned to my wife yesterday and said what she was about to say: “How about you hide these from me? Can you hide these from me?” We agreed that I would have an appropriate ration, after I have forgotten about them.

Snack bag

The point is: sometimes we need to give people authority in our lives to help us grow into maturity. Sometimes we don’t have the willpower or motivation or even aptitude to make healthy decisions. This can be in areas of food, relationship, social media, exercise, or even growing spiritually. I’d say especially all of those.

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  1. Actually, I count 107 days from 10/31 spanning through 2/14. Those are the sugary holidays.
  2. I exercise about an hour a day. Running stats: In 2014 I bested my year goal of 1,420 miles by more than 200 miles, and was out running for more than 250 hours total, plus another 102 hours on the bike.
  3. John Owen writes, “Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world.”
 

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

 

Does God control everything?

We’re prone to think that if God is in control, He must do it in opposition to our choices. What if in His wisdom and providence He takes all of our choices — for good and for bad, for healing and for harm — into account as He unfolds the Story of the world?

» Feel free to listen to my small take on that big question: Does God Control Everything?

More importantly, the Scriptures speak:

“We know that all the events of our lives are orchestrated by God’s sovereign will for our ultimate good, the salvation which belongs to all who love God, to all who have been called in His plan. That plan began in eternity past, carries on into eternity future and guarantees our full salvation.

For all whom God chose long ago, the same ones He also predestined to become perfect images of His son, so that the Son would be first in rank within a huge family. And all whom God predestined, the same ones He also called to faith. And all whom He called to faith, the same ones He also justified. And all whom He justified, the same ones He has also begun to glorify. No one is lost along the way.

What lesson then should we take from all of this? One thing. If God is on our side, who can deprive us of our full salvation? If God did not even spare His own Son but gave Him up at the cross for us all, how could He possible withhold anything else? Won’t He give us everything we need for salvation?

Who could mount an effective attack against the very people whom God has already chosen to be on His side? God is Himself the One who clears us of all our guilt by the merit of Christ. So who could argue against that defense? We have no one less than Christ Jesus, who died, who was also raised and who is now positioned at God’s right hand where He pleads for us.

So what would have to happen to cut us off from the saving love of Christ? Affliction? Anguish? Persecution? Starvation? Exposure? Danger? Execution?

The Scriptures acknowledge that these terrible things do happen to God’s people:

‘For your sake we are put to death all day long, we are treated like sheep ready for slaughter.’

But in all our sufferings we achieve total victory through Christ who loved us, for He will not let our faith die. It keeps springing back, overcoming whatever adversities we encounter.

In fact, I am convinced that nothing can rob us of our salvation—neither the terrors of death nor the enticements of life, neither angels nor demons, neither present-day troubles nor future crises, nor cosmic powers, nor anything in heaven above nor anything in hell below, indeed, nothing in the entire created order will be able to separate us from the saving love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!”

Romans 8:28-39 in the wording of a new translation by Ray Ortlund, Jr., found in A Passion for God: Prayers and Meditations on the Book of Romans. Compare with Romans 8:28-39 (ESV).

super8_600

 

The Spirit of Holiness.

Holiness is more than not doing bad things. Holiness is ours when we give up our lives to embrace and embody the life of Jesus. The Holy Spirit comes to live inside us (Romans 8:1-11), bringing us a new freedom, creating a new vision for our lives, and beginning a new work in our hearts.

Listen to the second message in a new adventure in the eighth chapter of the book of Romans. Super8: Supernatural Living for Natural People. #Super8super8_600

Preached at RENEW Church on 8/11/13.

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The Spirit of Holiness (Romans 8:1-11) [ 42:06 ] | Download

Scripture: Romans 8:1-11

8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Family memory verse:

“Come to Me,
lay down life’s heaviness,
and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke, learn from Me,
I’ll teach you the life that’s best.”

—summarizing Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30

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