Why We Need Each Other

I wrote the following words a long time ago, but I think they still resonate with me even now. Community is the strength of the Church. Together, we are a temple for the holy God to dwell in. Individually, we are weak and prone to temptation, but together we can hold each other accountable and be strong where the other is weak and visa versa. Here’s what I wrote back in the day:

“I think one of the reasons that community is so important is that it enlarges our view of God. I like to think that each of us carry puzzle pieces of what God is like. Each has a few pieces that reveal a limited aspect of God. When you get to know me, you add more pieces to your puzzle and your view of God gets bigger and clearer. When I get to know you, the same happens for me.

The more people whose lives we invest in, the more pieces and the bigger our view of God becomes and the more the pieces fall into place and connect into more coherent forms.

I truly believe that we grow as believers and our knowledge of God increases only in the context of community, where we share with each other and serve one another in love. There’s no way I can figuire out God on my own, apart from other believers.

There it is. That’s my thought for the day. Hope it helps.”

Also, you can view community as a kind of mosaic. Separately, each piece doesn’t look like much or add much value, but put together, they become something beautiful and tell a story that they could not tell as individual pieces. There is a collective power when the body of Christ comes together in the name of God to worship God that is much more powerful than when we each individually worship God apart from each other.

That’s why the Bible compels us not to neglect gathering together, even if it’s only two or three, because it’s then that Jesus is truly in the midst of them.

Three Day Weekend? Yes, Please

Am I ready for a three day weekend? Heck yeah.

I’m excited for the extra day for different reasons than when I was younger,

Back when, I’d be all pumped for an extra day to get out there and do all the things and see all the things. Now, it means an extra day to sleep in and one less day with waking up to a heart attack thanks to the alarm going off at 5 am.

I wish I were better at living according to Sabbath rhythms. God established a Sabbath, not so we’d have a day with a different set of have-to’s to keep up with but so that we’d actually rest. But instead we turned it into another checklist that we can mark off to show that we’re spiritually superior.

But that dog in the picture has the right idea. Doing nothing may seem unproductive and lazy, but sometimes it’s good to be still and make room to hear from God. Or just take a nap.

I guess it’s the same as restarting your computer or your phone periodically. It resets everything to make it work better. Or at least that’s my go-to when things stop working or start freezing up.

So this weekend is my reboot weekend. Time to turn it off and turn it back on again, I guess.

At the End of the Day

“Lord, thank God come the end of the day,
there’s no condemnation for those in Christ,
for those in over their heads, in a mess, in a bad way.
Thank God there’s no condemnation for those who blew it, who bombed it, who lost it — because they’ve found You,
who gently takes the disillusioned & disappointed & disoriented
and say, “I don’t condemn your brokenness, I carry your burdens.
I don’t condemn you. I came to take it all, shoulder it all, cover it all.
I don’t care about your past, about what you did or didn’t get perfect — I care about your pain. I care about you — I don’t condemn you. I *care about you.*”
Your care gently takes our cares — and we feel the weight of everything lift, us lifted up to a Love come down to carry us into the rest of God. #HonestPrayers (Ann Voskamp).

Ok. Who else is thankful that tomorrow is Friday? Who else is glad for a long weekend?

It doesn’t have to mean that you had a no good, very bad terrible week. It could just mean that you did a lot and you’re tired. You gave all you had to give for five days and now you’re running on fumes.

I’m thankful that at the moment of my weakness God is strong. I’m grateful that I can even boast in that weakness, for at that very moment Christ’s strength is made perfect. The moment I give out is the same moment that Jesus gives me the power to endure and to overcome.

My fantasy these days is simply turning off the alarm clock function on my phone on Friday night and looking to sleep in on Saturday. And while I love my sleep, the kind of rest that really rejuvenates and restores me isn’t the kind I get with my eyes closed in sleep but the kind I get when I close my eyes in prayer, when I am still before God in the quiet moments of my day, when I know that I am His and He is mine and I am deeply loved.

At the end of the day, at the end of the week, I know I will be alright because God is for me, and if God is for me, who or what can ever be against me.

Living in the Answered Prayers of Our Past

I read these words earlier today, and my reaction was a mix of amen and ouch. It’s amazing how forgetful I am when it comes to God’s mercies in the past. I have a very selective memory when it comes to how I see my life and how God sees it.

I keep praying for change, forgetting that I am living in the answered prayers that I prayed just as earnestly for but failed to recognize when God actually answered them. I point the finger at God, wondering why He doesn’t act while I have amnesia about all the previous blessings He’s given me.

I’m thankful that God is better at being faithful than I am at remembering His faithfulness. God never tires of teaching His children the same lessons over and over as we keep coming back time and time again.

I keep saying that the antidote to entitlement and comparison is gratitude. The cure for amnesia is to make a habit of a daily thanksgiving that opens my eyes to see God and His blessings in my everyday.

One day, we’ll see it all. We’ll see every single blessing, including the ones we ignored or forgot or discounted. We’ll know how God led us all the way through this life that we thought we had done on our own. And eternity won’t be long enough to thank Him for it.

A Kairos 90s Night of Worship (and Everything Else)

Tonight was right up my alley. We had a 90s-themed night of worship and I absolutely knew every single song. I had a revelation while I was singing these classics that a lot of the people singing with me weren’t even born in the 90s. That was both humbling and honoring (that God let me stick around this long).

Pastor Mike spoke from Mark 14 about the institution of the Lord’s Supper the night before Jesus was betrayed and crucified. He mentioned something that I had either never heard or forgotten. Apparently, when a Jewish man was proposing to the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with, instead of offering a diamond ring, he offered a cup of wine. It was his way of initiating a covenant with her. If she accepted, she would take the wine.

It’s interesting that Jesus took that imagery when He offered the cup to the disciples. He was initiating a new covenant with them, one made with His own blood soon to be shed.

He didn’t make a contract where both parties would agree to hold up their end of the agreement. He knew we could never fulfill our part, so He made a covenant with us, like God with Abram, where He would do His part as well as our part. He would be the fulfillment of this new covenant by His shedding of blood, death, and resurrection.

In a world where all of us are constantly seeking validation and acceptance, it’s amazing to think that Jesus thought we were to die for. Literally. He thought the cross was worth it if you and I could be reconciled to God. That blows my mind.

Those 90s songs hit me differently tonight. I appreciate how much deeper and more solid they are than a lot of the newer worship songs. They remind us of a God who hated sin so much and loved us so much that He took our place on the cross so that we could take our place with Him in heaven. He died so that we might live.

I hope we have another night like this. It’s good to revisit the old classics from time to time.

Another Short Prayer

I ran across another beautiful short prayer that you can use when you don’t have words of your own. Or even if you do, sometimes you just don’t know how to calm your mind and collecting your thoughts is like herding cats.

I remember we called short petitions and praises “popcorn prayers.” I don’t exactly remember why, but I think it’s because they’re short and basically pop out of your mouth. Basically, they’re one-sentence offerings to God when you don’t have the time or energy for more.

Here’s one that might come in handy sometime:

“More purity give me;
More strength to over-come;
More freedom from earth-stains;
More longings for home;
More fit for the kingdom;
More used would I be;
More blessed and holy;
More, Saviour, like Thee” (Phillip P. Bliss).

The Judge Takes the Judgment

I love that. These days, any idea of God and judgment isn’t well received. Most people seem to view God as a benign deity who winks at our sin and never gets angry about anything. But the Bible presents a God of both love and wrath who hates sin. The beautiful part is that while God is the Judge, He took the brunt of the punishment — His own judgment on sin — on Himself in the person of Jesus on the cross. In other words, He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God, as Scripture says.

Yes, sin has consequences. Yes, sin leads to death and hell. But thanks be to God who in Jesus took the worst of the punishment for sin upon Himself and made a way that we might instead partake of eternal life and heaven. The only prerequisite is to receive that free gift of salvation through Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Thanks be to God!

Back to the 90s

On Tuesday, Kairos is doing something a bit different than the usual Tuesday night worship gathering.

We’re doing a 90s Night of Worship, complete with all 90s worship songs and plenty of 90s references and fashions. I plan on wearing a very 90s shirt, but I haven’t gotten much beyond that. What I need are some 90s style loud shorts that I think used to be called jams.

I have been working diligently on my 90s playlist. So far, it’s got all the essentials from Christian radio back in the day, including DC Talk, Jars of Clay, Plumb, Crystal Lewis, Audio Adrenaline and many, many more. It sounds like something straight out of one of those cheesy Time Life commercials.

I was not a fan of much of the 90s music back in the 90s. I was still upset that grunge killed the careers of lots of my favorite 80s hair bands. I didn’t quite get the baggy jeans and flannel look. But the decade has grown on me. Don’t judge me, but I think that for the most part, 90s music is better than 80s music.

But not to digress too far. Anyone in the Nashville area is invited to come to the Kairos 90s Night of Worship on Tuesday, May 23 at 7 pm. It’s gonna be whack. It’s gonna be all that and a bag of chips. It’s gonna be all those cringy 90s catchphrases that nobody uses anymore . . . except sometimes me.

Be there . . . or don’t be there.

Well Done, Timothy Keller

“Timothy J. Keller, husband, father, grandfather, mentor, friend, pastor, and scholar died this morning at home. Dad waited until he was alone with Mom. She kissed him on the forehead, and he breathed his last breath. We take comfort in some of his last words, ‘There is no downside for me leaving, not in the slightest.’ See you soon, Dad” (Michael Keller on behalf of the entire Keller family).

I read that one compliment that touched Timothy Keller and moved him to tears was that he made Jesus beautiful. In the end, it wasn’t about how many people listened to his preaching or how many books he sold or how many people quoted him, but in that because of him, people met Jesus and saw Him as beautiful. I hope that will be my legacy some day.

John the Baptist said that it was his goal in life that he should decrease so that Jesus might increase. I think that was the life of Tim Keller in a nutshell. That was his ministry. That was his passion.

I imagine that the first words he heard in heaven were from Jesus telling him, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

But far more than hearing the words, the best part for Tim was seeing Jesus, having his faith made sight and his joy made complete. He has not really died, to borrow words from Billy Graham. He is more alive than ever. He has simply changed his address to an eternal destination.

Wounds of Mercy

“Sometimes the most gracious, merciful thing God could ever do is wound you. To wound you (and in that wound bind you to Himself), is far more gracious than to bless you with everything you want and have you not know Him” (Matt Chandler).

I read a book once called A Severe Mercy, about a man who lost his wife to cancer and all that God taught him through the process. I don’t for one second believe that God gave her cancer solely to teach him a lesson. I think that it’s the result of a fallen world and God’s sovereignty. I don’t begin to understand why God allows these things, but I trust that God is good and that God is great.

C. S. Lewis once said that pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world. We typically don’t listen to God very well when all is well with our world. When we are flush with success, we forget God and think we did it all by our own might (and I think the Bible has something to say about that).

But trials and hardship are where we learn the most about God. They’re where we learn not just about God but also where our experience of God goes from theoretical and theological to intimate and personal. As much as we want those proverbial mountaintop moments of joy, the valley of dull drudgery and patient suffering is where we grow into who God made us to be.

Just as Jesus chose the nails and the cross, so He told us that if we want to follow Him, we have to take up the cross daily. We go where Jesus went, through death into life, through sorrow into joy. But the best part is that Jesus goes with us through all of it.

May we embrace these wounds given in mercy as they draw us closer to the One who was wounded that we might be healed.