“Christian practice in matters of spiritual formation goes badly astray when it attempts to construct or organize ways of spirituality apart from the ordinariness of life. And there is nothing more ordinary than a meal. Abstract principles — the mainstay of so much of what is provided for us in contemporary church culture — do not originate in the biblical revelation…Breakfast and supper. Fish and bread. Their home in Emmaus and the beach in Galilee. These provide the conditions and materials for formation-by-resurrection.” – Eugene Peterson, Living the Resurrection (72)
“Just as the caterpillar becomes a butterfly, as carbon is converted into diamond, as the grain of wheat upon dying in the ground produces other grains of wheat, as all of nature revives in the spring and dresses up in celebrative clothing, as the believing community is formed out of Adam’s fallen race, as the resurrection body is raised from the body that is dead and buried in the earth, so too, by the re-creating power of Christ, the new heaven and new earth will one day emerge from the fire-purged elements of this world, radiant in enduring glory and forever set free from the ‘bondage to decay’. More glorious than this beautiful earth, more glorious than the earthly Jerusalem, more glorious even than paradise will be the glory of the new Jerusalem, whose architect and builder is God himself.” – Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol 4, 720.
Sometimes you just come across a great thought, or quote, and you realize why you’ve been reading that book for as long as you have. We’re all that way. We’re not affected by books as much as we are statements, or as John Piper might say, sentences.
Today, as I was reading a few verses for my personal devotional life and worship, I came across this note in the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible while reading Ephesians 6:1-4. It had that effect of both encouraging and challenging me to live out the implications of the Gospel in my mundane, everyday life. Here it is:
“There is no area of life too big or too mundane that the person and work of Christ cannot sanctify and empower it. The Christian gospel is not an ethereal formula unrelated to daily living. The gospel informs and transforms all of life.” – ESV Gospel Transformation Bible, on Ephesians 6:1-9
Friends, today, how will you let the gospel inform your experiences?
When you hit your highs of landing that deal, signing that contract, moving the ball down the court that one next step, seeing your kids treat each other with love and compassion?
Or when you hit your lows, and that client cancels their subscription, the contract goes back for review, you take two steps back in your business, your dryer decides to quit and you find yourself playing sibling referee in the never ending cage-fighting grudge match that is your kids’ interaction with each other?
Will you look to yourself and say, “I did this,” – for good and for bad, and take all the praise or the blame, whatever the case may be?
Will you look at your surrounding and say, “How can this be, why is this happening to me?” – for good or for bad, and resign yourself to living in a life without purpose, meaning or significance, just a mere collision of unintentional accidents?
Or will you look at who Jesus is and what He’s done – the perfect Son of God, who gave up perfection in the happy land of the Trinity to come seek, find and redeem you and me both by living the life we should have lived (but didn’t), and die the death we should have died (but now, we don’t have to!)?
Will you choose to look to Him who is orchestrating all events, circumstances and our very lives to the glorious crescendo of “all things new”? (cf. Revelation 21:5)
Which will it be?
Because only one is truly capable of transforming not just your perspective, but the way you live your life, deal with criticism, setbacks and negative circumstances, as well as praise, honor and forward momentum.
When your perspective is informed by the Gospel, you are able to take the pressure off of your performance (but not your responsibility to live your life in God-honoring, Christ-exalting, Spirit-enabled ways), and instead, focus on the One who comes to redeem and renew all things to Himself.
A gospel-centered way of looking at life is more informed by what Jesus has done and is doing than what I could have or should have done!
Seems like a reasonable thing to say doesn’t it? After all, who doesn’t want to be happy?
But what if life is not about being happy?
What if the purpose of your job is not about your happiness?
What if the purpose of your marriage is not about your happiness?
What if the nature of your friendships is not about your happiness?
What if the world keeps on spinning even when you’re not the center of it all?
Here’s what happens. If you live for your happiness alone, everything will spin out of control.
No one will be good enough for you.
No job will be ever quite right enough for you.
No friend will ever be safe or true enough for you.
Want to know why?
You are the common denominator in all situations and scenarios when your happiness is the driving force and motivation for everything you do.
The reason why you are the problem is because neither you or I am capable of giving life, meaning, value and purpose – or in a word, happiness – all by ourselves.
We are dependent upon others in every sense of the word. And when we force everything else exist for our needs, pleasure and happiness, we let them down.
We are incapable of giving life to the same degree that we demand it.
What we need…
What the world needs now, more than ever, is someone that does not demand life, but gives it.
Who doesn’t force others to serve him, but who lives to serve others.
Who doesn’t ruin the lives of those around him because they aren’t meeting his needs, but who constantly pours himself out to fill the needs of others.
Where have I heard this before?
“And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:42-45 (ESV)
Just saw two great books incorporating the Gospel and Marriage.
At the heart of both of them is the understanding that “I” am not the central orbiting reality of neither my life, nor my marriage. Once that concept sinks in, I can then reorient everything in my life and marriage around God – who He is and what He’s done (the gospel) – and discover more resources for forgiveness, patience, empathy and ultimately joy, than I could ever muster up on my own.
Both of these books have been an encouragement and challenge to me, and as is my usual habit, I like to share all good things with others. If you don’t have them, check them out.
Choose wisely for what you want most in life may not always be what you want most in the moment.
This past week, my wife and I spent our time in Orlando, FL at the Global Church Advancement conference (go #GCA2014). I plan to publish my thoughts on the conference as a whole later, but for now, I wanted to share what I thought was one of the highlights.
I went down a day early for the opening workshop on Discipleship led by Randy Pope of Perimeter Church in Atlanta, GA. I’ve met Randy years ago through my involvement with Campus Outreach. I had a sense of what to expect with this workshop having that background and some familiarity with Randy’s ministry at Perimeter.
But I wasn’t quite prepared for this statement he made. At some point in the Q&A time, he said, “If I had to go back in my ministry, and only pick between Preaching to the masses, or Discipling the few in life-on-life missional discipleship, I would pick life on life every time.”
I know this. Or rather, I should say, I knew this.
If you look at the impact over a longer time one could have by investing into a few who then do the same with others, the outcomes are astounding. Plus, it seems to be Jesus’ preferred way of doing ministry.
He wasn’t as concerned with speaking venues, podcasting sermons, marketing and promoting teaching series’. Sure he spoke to the masses, and taught as One with authority. Sure he even went to the mountaintops where his voice could project and carry.
He did these things, but they don’t seem to be the focus.
Instead, He lived life with a few, who would later turn the world upside down.
This isn’t sexy. This doesn’t make headlines. This doesn’t get your name or brand out there.
But it is highly impactful to the world for spreading the gospel and seeing the change of heart/lives that come with it.
I needed that. My soul needed that. As I prepare to go into a season of planting a church, I know my tendency is going to be to focus on the good things, at the expense of the best thing – giving my life away to a few, in a life on life, relationally intentional, purposeful discipleship way.
For those who are interested in delving more deeply into this (and who couldn’t be at the #GCA2014 conference), let me encourage you to pick up two resources along these lines.
Discovered this post this morning about the faith of Peyton Manning. Loved his perspective on maintaining his priorities, keeping his faith in Christ in first position, and wanting his actions – not his rhetoric or rituals – to speak for themselves.
I also appreciate the way that he can (appropriately in my opinion) focus on playing good football, working on his craft, and pursuing excellence as an extension of his faith, not merely as a platform for persuasion or a means to a supposedly “greater” end. This is the heart of living out the mission of God as His creature and child, in every sphere of life.
In honor of Martin Luther King Day, I am doing what everyone else is doing – posting a thoughtful and provocative quote from the man who has inspired many not only in his day and generation, but for many yet to come. I wish to offer a brief comment to the quote as well.
“The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
What made Martin Luther King, Jr. so profound is that he was truly counter-cultural. In his day when the typical response was either acceptance (of my view, my way, my culture, my policies, etc) or elimination (by segregation, intimidation, marginalization or even assassination), he advocated and championed a more profound position – creative extremism. He saw that the most profound and world-changing act of persuasion was neither legislative or brute force.
It was love.
The kind of radical love that actively sought the best interests of another, and took them on as their own, regardless of the reception.
Martin Luther King, Jr. lived out this love, because he was a man who recognized that he had been loved in that extremely creative and radical way by another.
This love has come to us all in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and it is only as we receive that love by the most creative extremist ever can we then turn and share that love with others.
Other-wordly, radical, creative-extremist type love is really the only way anything different can ever happen in this world.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Forby grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:1-10, ESV)
Some people are like Fireworks: a great display if you’re far away, but up close they just wreak havoc & cause trauma.