“…how is it possible for a creature to desire and enjoy the creation without committing idolatry? This may seem like an irrelevant question to some. But for people who long to sing like the psalmists, it is very relevant. They sing like this:
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalm 73: 25– 26)
One thing have I asked of the LORD
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD, all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.
(Psalm 27: 4)
…If your heart longs to be this focused on God, then how to desire and enjoy “things” without becoming an idolater is a crucial question.
How can prayer glorify God if it is a prayer for things? It seems to glorify things.”
it’s not infrequent that my husband asks me that question in Joey’s voice. I can even hear the voice in text messages.
But this time the question came from someone else. And it was definitely NOT asked in Joey’s voice.
It was all weepy. and concerned.
Because I’ve been doing . . . (click the blue links below if you want to catch up)
some might say, “not so good.”
some might say, “that girl is a MESS. steer clear. WIDE berth, if you value your time.”
unless you actually enjoy deep diggin theological exploration and sometimes circular and exasperating discussion.
At this point, I feel like I ought to offer up an ambiguous twitter version of this post and a pinterest link so you can escape to higher ground:
but I’m long overdue for pruning. has to be done.
I have to be careful of feedback from the people who want to make me feel better. The feedback that comes from discomfort when I confess something ugly I’ve discovered about myself. The knee-jerk feedback that immediately argues with me and tries to convince me that it’s all good and that I’m being too hard on myself.
This kind of feedback is not helpful. Feeling better is not the answer. It’s a counter-productive cover up. A temporary diversion. What I need is to find the ugly, face the ugly and GET. RID. OF. IT. It’s a stumbling block in my life and a wedge between me and Christ. and it is NOT good.
I’m not interested in rose colored glasses. I hate pink, remember?
Even more than the ugly? I need to get rid of good.
Good is the enemy of great. If I’m not careful, good leads to comfortable complacency. and it can morph into Stepford-like facades that are impossible to break through.
I have absolutely NO patience for facades. And for all the things I don’t know about what God wants for me, one thing I DO know is that “comfortable” is not His ultimate vision for my life.
Good has to go. To make room for better.
or so they say. whoever “they” are.
Lately, the leaders of “they” are “Captain Cliche” and “Captain Platitude.”
and even though I’m finally at a place where I’m able to believe “them” when they tell me that the “better” is what’s on the other side of this pruning and “refining by fire” it doesn’t make the pruning or the fire any less necessary.
How am I doing?
I’m not crying anymore.
that was exhausting. physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausting.
I’m not grieving the end of this season of my life anymore. (Actually, I haven’t been grieving since June 3rd.)
I don’t think I could have skipped over the grieving and still arrived at this place, but now grieving has become impossible. It doesn’t fit. (and then there’s the fact that I’m SICK and TIRED of it and refuse to do it anymore.)
THANK. GOD. I can finally see His hand in all of this. He’s the one holding the pruning shears and the torch.
I’m finding meaning, connection and application in nearly EVERY circumstance and conversation. In every book I read, there’s a seemingly obscure or tangential statement or passage that hits me full force and somehow freakishly connects to some other obscure and tangential thing – something someone said or did or something else I read. Every Bible verse I’m directed to – by everything from pinterest to a facebook post or a tweet or a blog or a private message or…you name it.
They’re all pointing to the same idea: I’m between the now and the not yet and I’m being prepared for the not yet.
the Holy Spirit in stereo.
Has all this compound influence led me to discover the not yet?
So I’m making choices a day at a time.
Today, I’m choosing to lean into this ending. I’m choosing to focus on what’s important. But to see clearly requires a stripping away. A purging of all the extra stuff I’ve piled on top of everything in my life and my relationship with Christ.
and even though I don’t like it, this in-between place is good. very good. and I don’t want to miss it.
I could focus on “this is last time I’ll lead this worship song.”
I could say, “Lord, please help me forget me. Please help me to stay out of Your way. PLEASE let this be about the person who needs to hear the lyrics of that bridge: “REDEMER. MY HEALER, LORD ALMIGHTY. MY SAVIOR. DEFENDER. YOU ARE MY KING.”
I could focus on the fact that I can’t bring myself to even open my book draft, much less write anything, because all
I can see are recycled ideas from other people and the only working title that seems appropriate is “What They Said.”
I could just write blog posts. and actually publish them – whether anybody reads them or not. If God has any message He wants me to type up, He’ll tell me. probably at 3am.
I could focus on the fact that any public speaking opportunities would be contrived.
I can have one-on-one conversations, look people in the eye and listen more than I talk. I can wait for God to arrange the next time I speak with a microphone in my hand. If ever.
Have my circumstances changed? no. not by a long shot.
Has my perception of events and circumstances and my motivations changed? no. they’ve become even clearer. some things are uglier. In some areas, I’ve gained some much needed objectivity. and empathy.
Have my decisions about ending this season of my life changed? no. I can’t live in the past and I won’t continue to try and create my own future.
Has my perspective changed? yes.
Do I have a plan? only one. to focus on and pursue this:
“Not my will Lord, but Yours.”
that’s how I’m doin.
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
― Dr. Seuss
“Can we believe that God ever really modiﬁes His action in response to the suggestions of men? For inﬁnite wisdom does not need telling what is best, and inﬁnite goodness needs no urging to do it. But neither does God need any of those things that are done by ﬁnite agents, whether living or inanimate. He could, if He chose, repair our bodies miraculously without food; or give us food without the aid of farmers, bakers, and butchers; or knowledge without the aid of learned men; or convert the heathen without missionaries. Instead, He allows soils and weather and animals and the muscles, minds, and wills of men to co-operate in the execution of His will. “God,” said Pascal, “instituted prayer in order to lend to His creatures the dignity of causality.” But not only prayer; whenever we act at all He lends us that dignity. It is not really stranger, nor less strange, that my prayers should affect the course of events than that my other actions should do so. They have not advised or changed God’s mind—that is, His over-all purpose. But that purpose will be realized in different ways according to the actions, including the prayers, of His creatures.”
The Efﬁcacy of Prayer
There is a tendency to hold on to what we have because it’s what we have. It’s only in hindsight that we realize we were stuck in a rut, closed off to the new or different because, well, it’s new and different. When we have the courage and objectivity to step back and look, really look at our circumstances, when we take a few moments to live an examined life, we risk seeing things we aren’t all that comfortable with.
Either inch by inch or in a flash, sometimes we discover our comfort zones aren’t all that comfortable.
My treadmill has needed a new belt for a while but I’ve been putting it off (click to zoom in and see the peeling). Now the motor needs a new belt, forcing me to actually DO something about it. Two belts ordered.
But….3 to 5 days shipping? Insert whining HERE.
This is the 17th post of a series on Christ-centered church. I began writing to work through my personal experience and heart-wrenching burden for my own church but I’m beginning to see these posts as open letters to the American Christian church.
(If you need to catch up or review, CLICK HERE to view a page listing all the posts in the series.)
I’ve been praying. and reading past journal entries. and praying. and writing. and praying. and talking my husband’s ear off. and praying.
Today’s post does not come easily. or lightly. (and it’s not short. You might want to go to the bathroom first.)
This is a two-part post. First, a confirmation. Then, some hard truth.
The first thing I needed to do was confirm that these hard things I’ve been saying have absolutely NO basis in my own selfish motivations. I discovered that, after reading the first 11 posts in this series, someone referred to me as sanctimonious.
I admit. I didn’t know exactly what it meant. So I Googled it.
merriam-webster.com – “hypocritically pious or devout”
dictionary.com – “making a hypocritical show of religious devotion, piety, righteousness, etc.”
encyclopedia.com – “making a show of being morally superior to other people”
My favorite college professor, Dr. Grasty, taught me a lesson that has stuck with me for decades:
When we are criticized, our tendency is to be defensive. Our knee-jerk reaction is to deny. His sage advice? Don’t be a deluded wimp. Have the courage to look for any truth in the criticism. Strip away any acrimonious language, any selfish motivation or defensiveness of the criticizer and diligently search for even a nugget of truth in the accusation.
Sanctimonious. Are these posts sanctimonious? am I sanctimonious? (If you’re more confident in my motivations than I was, you can skip the next few paragraphs by clicking HERE)
I began writing this series at the beginning of fall last year. And then I spent months arguing with God about whether to publish them. I pulled out my previous prayer journal for some hindsight.
Journal Entry Excerpt, Thursday, August 9, 2012:
“Am I really naive to think that if we focus on Christ, YOU will orchestrate the circumstances and not only give us the “optimal” worship service, but You will overwhelm us with an awareness of Your presence?
…I pray for arrogant hearts – including my own – to be freed from pride. To be humbled and full of compassion. I pray for the courage to be authentic. I pray for the obedience to follow your promptings.
…Please show me – tell me – what you want me to say. Please TAKE from me my selfish desires. Please burden my heart for YOUR message, not my agenda.
…If I have this wrong Lord, please change my heart.”
Journal Entry Excerpt, Sunday, August 12, 2012:
“Lord, please don’t let me read things into this that just aren’t there. Please Lord, reveal to me the truth.
…Lord, please, please, please don’t allow Satan to be an influence over my interpretation of this situation. Please fill my head and my heart with YOUR perspective. Please God, don’t allow me to be unintentionally disobedient because I’m misinterpreting these circumstances and not understanding Your will.
Skip ahead. This entry is eerily prophetic.
Journal Entry Excerpt, Wednesday, November 21, 2012:
“Please Lord, as I write, lead me to find the words which will open minds and hearts – without shutting down the path of communication. Please Lord, help me find the line between honest and accusatory – between challenging and insulting.
How do I call attention to the pursuit of Christ without people getting caught up in defensiveness to the point they shut off the message?”
Skip ahead. The day before I published the first post.
Journal Entry Excerpt, Sunday, February 3, 2013:
“Lord, please give me courage. Bless me with wisdom and words of grace and unflinching honesty. Please Lord, place your hand at the small of my back and guide me. Please place your hand of restraint on my shoulder when I am overcome by pride or anger so I won’t say things that are unedifying. Please, please empty my mind of distractions and open my heart to your presence. Help me to focus not only my eyes on you, but my hope also. You alone can redeem this seemingly hopeless circumstance. Please bless me with encouragement, Lord. Please, please, please – don’t let me fail to understand and do my part in Your perfect story.”
In my last post, 25 days ago, I asked if you would PLEASE PRAY WITH ME. I asked you to pray that the Holy Spirit would bring revival to my church. And I said that because we are doers and fixers, the question that usually follows that is:
“But what else can I do?”
I hold steady to my answer: NOTHING else. We can’t bring revival. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.
So please. Please PRAY. Pray for revival. Pray for God’s will to be done.
I am not. We are not.
no. I know I am less, not more.
And here comes the hard part. the part I prayed about for 25 days before I published this post.
As a unified body of believers, my church doesn’t want revival. My church doesn’t want change. My church doesn’t want to rely wholly on God. My church doesn’t want to pray unreasonable prayers. My church doesn’t want to pray for unreasonable lengths of time. My church doesn’t want to pray with unreasonable persistence. They don’t see a need.
they are fine.
They want to continue doing things they way they do them.
On their own.
Here’s a question my husband posed to me:
“Consider all the man-hours involved in doing all the things we do at our church. From admin to ministry, from service to worship, from study to fellowship. Consider how many man-hours – Church staff, lay leaders, members, volunteers – are involved in activities and ministries both on and off the church campus.
How many of those hours are Christ-centered?
The answer should be ALL OF THEM.“
MrYehbut: “EVERY man-hour can’t be Christ-centered.”
yes. They can.
If the WHY and the HOW of WHAT we do is centered on Christ.
Brother Lawrence was a 17th century monk. His job at the monastery? He was a cook. And his job was Christ-centered. Because he strove to do everything “as unto the Lord.”
“…he went to his work appointed in the kitchen (for he was cook to the society); there having first considered severally the things his office required, and when and how each thing was to be done, he spent all the intervals of his time, as well before as after his work, in prayer. That when he began his business, he said to GOD, with a filial trust in Him, “O my GOD, since Thou art with me, and I must now, in obedience to Thy commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I beseech Thee to grant me the grace to continue in Thy Presence; and to this end do Thou prosper me with Thy assistance, receive all my works, and possess all my affections.” (emphasis added)
EVERYthing we do at our church can be – should be – Christ-centered.
But that’s not the case.
So. many. reasons.
But at the core, this seems to be the looming, pervading, deep-rooted reason:
We don’t trust God.
MrYehbut: “If we change, people will complain.“
yes. some will.
MrYehbut: “If we change, people will leave.“
yes. some will.
MrYehbut: “If people leave, giving will go down and the church might not survive.“
yes. that’s entirely possible.
“We can’t let that happen!”
And I find myself thinking of Abram and Sarai.
God told Abram to leave his home and go to “the land I will show you.” He promised Abram He would bless him and make him a great nation. So Abram packed up and went. Turns out, there was famine in “the land I will show you.”
But God had promised. “I will make you a great nation. I will bless you.” Famine? There’s nothing great about famine. It is NOT a blessing. At least from not from Abram’s point of view. So Abram went to Egypt, and despite God’s promises, he asked his wife, Sarai to do him a favor:
“Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”
Because the Almighty GOD isn’t able to protect Abram. He needed his wife to protect him. By lying.
Why did Abram ask her to do that?
He didn’t trust God.
And motivated by that lack of trust, he took matters into his own hands and made what seemed to be a reasonable and effective decision. Abram was afraid to surrender his will; his idea of how things should be. He didn’t want to risk any suffering. Because surely, God wouldn’t want him to suffer.
What if the people of Christian churches everywhere surrendered their idea of how things should be? What if we trusted God, even if it meant we might suffer? What if we STOPPED? And evaluated EVERY. SINGLE. THING. we do. And honestly asked, for each and every ministry, each and every decision:
“What’s the goal?”
“Is this Christ-centered?”
“Does this lead to the development of intimate relationship with CHRIST?”
“Does it actively provide a witness to salvation through Jesus Christ?”
“God, what do YOU want?”
What if we STOPPED asking each other “What can we do?” and started asking God “LORD, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO THROUGH US?”
Do NOT tell me that is semantics. Not when I’m inundated by reasonable lukewarm mediocrity. It is only language if the prayer is perfunctory. But when we are face down on the floor, palms up, sincerely humble and desperately expectant in prayer it will NOT be semantics.
This subtle change in language, combined with a transformed heart, an open mind and a sacrifice of will, would have infinitely HUGE implications in application and fruitfulness.”
Instead, we regularly dismiss the need to consistently pray and ask God to reveal His will, to guide us as we decide what to do and equip us as we do it – from worship services to programing to service to ministry.
One heartbreaking reason? Because too many people don’t believe we will be able to discern God’s answers. Because they haven’t experienced the kind of intimacy with Christ that is necessary to hear and discern His voice.
There are some people mocking me right now. “How sanctimonious. God talks to her. Isn’t that special.”
I believe God DOES speak to His people.
I believe it IS possible to experience the kind of relationship with Christ that allows US to hear and discern his voice.
Am I saying I know what God wants?
NO. I’m saying, PLEASE, CAN WE ASK HIM? TOGETHER? and WAIT on Him to answer? and TRUST Him?
I trust God to do WHATever He wants at my church. Even if it ends in the kind of death that results in empty rooms, no electricity and plywood on the windows.
MrYehbut: “That’s easy for you to say. You have nothing to lose.”
There ain’t nothing about this that’s easy. I’m acutely aware of what I might lose. of what I’ve already lost. and it’s been wrecking me for nearly a year. wreck. ing. me. It invades my days, interrupts my nights and fills my prayer journal.
MrYehbut: “You want our church to die?”
But if God allowed it, I would still trust Him. I would mourn the death, but I trust Him to work it for His good. Even if I don’t understand. Even if He doesn’t provide a way for me to see the good.
DO NOT tell me I don’t understand. I get the seriousness of the situation. I don’t like it. I HATE it. I understand that if we were to truly give God EVERYthing in this Church He might allow it to die.
He might prune it to a stub.
Will people leave if we intentionally enter into and strive to maintain an intimate relationship with Christ?
Will people leave if we dedicate ourselves to seeking his guidance and responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit?
Will people leave if we submit everything we do to the will of the Father?
YES. SOME PEOPLE WILL LEAVE. People who GIVE and support the church financially and through their service WILL LEAVE.
And we need to let them go.
I’m going to say another hard thing.
Some people who GIVE and support the church ARE ALREADY LEAVING. I know some of their names and faces and heartaches. Some people who GIVE and support the church are dying. The elderly and the sick. It is only a matter of time until the people we are trying to keep – and keep happy – are gone. or dead.
The death we fear, the death of our church, will come. We will have only prolonged the inevitable. Because eventually, we’ll all be gone too.
Our absence will make us no less responsible for the death of our church.
This is why God is making me say these hard things. In wrecked love for the people of my church. In a spirit of edification. Against my own selfish will. Because it would be so much easier…
so. much. easier.
to just leave.
“…when Jesus had a large crowd, he would most often preach a message that was likely to cause them to leave…
…’From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him’
(John 6: 66).
Many of the fans turn to go home. I was struck by the fact that Jesus doesn’t chase after them. He doesn’t soften his message to make it more appealing…As I sat in the sanctuary surrounded by thousands of empty seats, here’s what became clear to me: it wasn’t the size of the crowd Jesus cared about; it was their level of commitment.”
Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus
by Kyle Idleman
This is the 17th post of a series on Christ-centered church. If you want to catch up or review, CLICK HERE to view a page listing all the posts in the series.
This is the 16th post of a series. In my previous post, entitled “church: THERE. IS. MORE.” I drilled down to the core of the issue. Today, I’m clarifying something I think may have gotten buried.
(If you need to catch up or review, CLICK HERE to view a page listing all the posts in the series.)
and prayin. and prayin…
I said something in my previous post, but I’m not sure it came through. I need to try again. If you got it the first time, bear with me.
There are people in my church who understand what I’m saying when I talk about being Christ-centered.
There are people in my church who are experiencing abundant life in Christ through an intimate relationship with Him.
Are YOU one of those people? Is YOUR faith in Jesus at the center of your life? Are YOU experiencing abundant life in Christ through an intimate relationship with Him?
But what about our churches?
At my church, as a unified body of believers,
We profess belief in God. We pray to God. We give offerings to God. We learn how to live good, moral, Christian lives. We learn about discipline and character. We sing praise to God. We serve others in the name of God. We love each other. We support each other. We encourage each other. We help others. We serve others. We accept others.
WE, as a unified body of believers, are not Christ-centered.
WE, as a unified body of believers, don’t view the heart of the gospel as the foundation for everything we do.
WE, as a unified body of believers, don’t even have a common understanding of what the word “gospel” means.
The definition of the word “gospel” isn’t limited to: “Jesus saves!”
To share the “good news” of Jesus Christ is to declare the excellencies of Him from every Scripture and perspective possible – NOT just the fact that He saves sinners from eternity in Hell.
THERE. IS. MORE.
Jesus is the VINE and everything we do as a church should branch off from that Vine and be fruitful:
I’m praying that OUR intrinsic need for Jesus would be at the heart of our church culture,
- because more often than they should, our affinity for each other, our acceptance of each other and our service supersede a shared acknowledgement that the greatest thing we have in common is our need for Christ.
I’m praying OUR corporate prayers would articulate that we know we are the body of CHRIST and that we are utterly dependent on Him for everything we need;
- because when we aren’t intentional, we tend to pray as body of believers who need and love God. In general.
I’m praying OUR understanding that it is Jesus who makes Christianity distinct from every other religion would be at the forefront of our collective focus;
- I’m praying that a visitor would never leave our worship service without a clear understanding that we believe and worship the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, not just “God.” In general.
I’m praying OUR love of Jesus would fuel our passion to know Him intimately and to understand the depth of His love for us;
- because I believe too often our love for Him motivates us to strive to live a good Christian life. So He’ll love us more?
I’m praying that as people become active in our church, there would be some specific, consistent but comfortable time and place we intentionally ask them how they came to their faith in Christ;
- instead of asking them how they came to our church, so we would have an opportunity to hear their testimony rather than just their church membership history.
I’m praying that OUR desire to share Jesus would be the underlying reason for every single ministry;
- as we provide for the temporal needs of others, I’m praying we also make sure we share how our discovery of the Bread of Life and the source of living water has changed our lives and given us the hope that is within us.
I’m praying that OUR determination to do EVERYthing in the name of the Lord Jesus would be THE reason for each and every one of our programs.
I’m praying that teaching the Bible-encompassing redemptive story of Jesus would be the ulimate goal of all our classes;
- not just some. I’m praying that even classes on personal growth, discipline and character development would be clearly grounded in Biblical wisdom and the concepts taught would be intentionally recognized as an outgrowth of our relationship with Christ.
I’m praying that OUR collective gifts would freely and sacrificially overflow from our gratitude and knowledge that Jesus is enough;
– because when we have unwavering confidence in Christ, we can begin to give without fear – and find JOY in the giving.
I’m praying that WE would have a hunger for the whole counsel of God – from the Old Testament and the New Testament;
- that we would seek and find the common thread that runs through the entire Bible so we can clearly recognize the Sovereignty of a perfect, all powerful, all knowing, ever present God.
I’m praying that the proclamation of the Gospel – declaring the excellencies of Him from every Scripture and perspective possible – would be THE clear and unmitigated reason for every. single. Sunday morning service;
- because we never know who is listening or how God is moving in someone’s heart, mind and life that particular day.
I’m praying that WE, as the body of Christ, would consistently, cohesively and clearly evidence a commitment to Christ-centeredness – in ALL we do;
- and if something we are doing doesn’t evidence a commitment to Him or allow us to be witnesses for Him, we would re-evaluate why we’re doing it – and whether we should be doing it at all.
I’m praying that as the body of Christ, our corporate worship services would evidence a deep commitment to and complete reliance on CHRIST. I’m praying that, in every interpersonal interaction, we would be witnesses to how we’ve been transformed by our relationship with Christ. I’m praying that witness would be crystal clear to any visitor who attends our Sunday morning services.
If you read that list and thought, “I already do all the things she’s praying for.” and “None of that applies to me.”
That’s EXCELLENT. And you’re right.
Absolutely, unequivocally RIGHT. None of it applies to YOU.
I am NOT talking about YOU. As an individual.
I’m talking about my CHURCH. As a body. Made up of many, many, many individuals.
If, in that context, you understand and agree with anything in that list, then PLEASE PRAY WITH ME?
That the HOLY SPIRIT WILL BRING REVIVAL to our church.
Because we are doers and fixers, the question that usually follows that is: “But what else can I do?”
NOTHING else. You can’t bring revival. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.
God is Able. Prayer is more powerful than ANYthing we can do on our own.
If you disagree with the things on the list, if you think I am flat out wrong, please…give me a few more minutes of your time. A few months ago, I took a quiz and I want to invite you take it too.
Resist the tendency to answer as an individual. Step back. Try and answer as a member of your church.
Even more difficult and uncomfortable? Step back even further. Try to look objectively through the eyes of a visitor and answer.
Review all ten statements and apply a number equal to that element’s frequency in your church. [emphasis added]
5 = weekly 4 = regularly 3 = periodically 2 = occasionally 1 = infrequently 0 = never
1. Expectant prayer frequently before, after, and during the actual service. God’s grace petitioned for healing work at every level: mind, emotions, and body. Where stories of healings of all kinds are regular and verifiable as God’s response to prayers of faith from His people. (James 5:14-16)
2. Powerful “thus says the Lord” biblical preaching where people have a distinct sense of hearing God speak with authority into their souls in a way that brings Holy Spirit conviction they cannot deny or dismiss.
3. Where people line up at the doors long before the service starts and rush to the front to get the best seats for passionate, expressive worship where the voices are loud, hands are raised, tears are flowing, minds are expanded, and hearts are moved as Christ is adored by every one in every corner of the room, from the very first note. The passion of their praise testifies to the reality of God’s presence and melts the hearts of those attending who do not yet believe. (1 Corinthians 14:24– 25)
4. Where individual salvations proportionate to the size of the church regularly and continuously occur in large numbers because people want their friends to experience what they have. Salvations flowing from all walks of life— from the businessman who discovered his millions as worthless to the derelict or prostitute who looked up from his or her addiction and despair to experience the total transformation of their now and forever. (2 Corinthians 6:2)
5. Where racial, economic, language, and generational diversity is growing because what we have in common in the Lord is far greater than the things that separate. Where the white guy covered in piercings and tattoos sits beside the black businessman and the babe who is inappropriately dressed but everyone welcomes and embraces her because they remember when they were like that. (Galatians 3:28)
6. Where the majority of adults gather in smaller groups to stir up and spur on and support the weight of walking with God. Where relationships flourish and follow the biblical pattern of grace and truth. 57 Not the shallow grace of mutual enablement but the truthful grace that fights for God’s best in each other, one relationship at a time. And Christians love and forgive and forbear and carry one another’s burdens from house to house. (Acts 2:26, Galatians 6:2)
7. Where elders lead, discord is not tolerated, and people are held to account. But where leaders also listen and learn, loving the people and letting the unity of the Spirit be enjoyed by all who persevere in working to keep it. (Ephesians 4:1– 2)
8. Where Christ reigns and is exalted increasingly as Head in the hearts of the people, so that gratefulness overflows into graciousness and generosity so that Christians become disciples and disciples become leaders and leaders are frequently sent out so that churches are planted nearby and around the globe. (1 Timothy 2:2)
9. Where the needs of the poor are met and those in prison are visited and aliens are welcomed as friends and strangers are served as brothers and widows are not neglected. Where these priorities are not a program or a phase but the lasting overflow of God’s abundance in our hearts.
10. Where all of these things are manifest. As in, everyone sees it and knows it and feels it and delights in it. Manifest means visible, obvious, undeniable activity that cannot be attributed to a person or a place or a program and is totally disproportionate to the ones who experience this abundance with overflowing joy as glory comes down when they gather.
Add your boxes for a total that helps you evaluate your current Verticality.
40– 50 = A Vertical Church to the glory of God— keep it up and spread the word.
30– 40 = More Vertical than most— review the survey for areas of improvement.
20– 30 = Feeling the heaviness of your horizontalness? Much to follow in this book will help you.
10– 20 = Your honesty is good, but it’s time to get on your knees and deal with what hinders.
0– 10 = We will deal with your kind of church in chapter 4— God may have a new plan.
(from Vertical Church, by James MacDonald)
How did I score?
Let’s just say I immediately skipped ahead to Chapter 4. And I didn’t have to do any math first.
but over the last month, I would have to bump myself up to the 10 – 20 range. Because right now?
#2 is a FIVE.
I believe God is still moving. I’m desperately, persistently praying He’s not finished here yet.
desperately. persistently. not exaggerating.
“…a huge difference— the difference between knowing the gospel and being consumed by the gospel, being defined by the gospel, being driven by the gospel. It’s one thing to see the gospel as an important facet of one’s ministry. It’s quite another to hold firmly to it as the centerpiece for all a church is and does, to completely orbit around it.
The gospel. Though such a glorious thing, it’s also such a simple thing— so simple we almost overlook it. Such a basic thing, we’re tempted to feel as if we’ve somehow graduated beyond it. And yet without this simple thing, this basic thing— without the life-giving gospel driving and defining both us and our churches— there really isn’t much of anything that makes us distinct and alive, nothing that other people, groups, and organizations aren’t already doing…
…In your heart perhaps— if you’re being very honest— you sense a loss of awe for the gospel, a failure to connect its power to your entire ministry…
…So here at this place of recognition and regret, we meet together to start a fresh journey into the heart of the gospel, prepared to be newly amazed by it, resolved to let its principles begin shaping how our churches worship, serve, and operate.
from Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church
by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger
This is the 16th post of a series. If you need to catch up or review, CLICK HERE to view a page listing all the posts in the series.
Cheeky little creep.
If I can’t catch him, there’s only one thing left to do.
So far, the facebook suggestions are:
Randall (from Monster’s Inc.)
FirstHusband says I should name him “Stinky” because that’s what he’ll be after he bakes to death inside a closed van in the Florida sun for a few days.
I would put Bob the cat in the van with me for a while if I didn’t think he would have an “I’M GOING TO THE VET!!!” panic attack and cower under the seat.
Just in case there’s any doubt, lizards are not my favorite.
Lord, please give me courage.
Bless me with wisdom and words of grace and unflinching honesty.
Please Lord, place your hand at the small of my back and guide me. Please place your hand of restraint on my shoulder when I am overcome by pride or anger so I won’t say things that are unedifying. Please please empty my mind of distractions and open my heart to your presence. Help me to focus not only my eyes on you, but my hope also. You alone can redeem this seemingly hopeless circumstance.
Your way is the best way.
I’m just whining because I don’t know what that is. And it’s slow. so. slow.
Please bless me with encouragement, Lord. Please, please, please – don’t let me fail to understand and do my part in Your perfect story.
You stay with me
when I doubt
You hold me up
when my hope runs out.
You give me my portion
You fill me up
manna for one more day
Your faithfulness is enough.
Much too often, the people of Christian churches talk about God in such a generic way that we are left with only an assumption of Christ. We assume people make the necessary connection between God and Jesus, and assumption is a dangerous practice.
Because for those who don’t know Jesus personally, it gives them a false sense of security. It makes them think they are Christian, when really, they are just living “a good Christian life.”
For those who do know Jesus, it leads to a false sense of ability. A self-assuredness that leads us to rely wholly on ourselves. And as reliance and confidence in our success grows, awareness of the truth fades.
We need Jesus. He is the source of our abilities and strength. It is by the grace of God that we do anything at all.
Jesus is the reason for all of it.
Why curl up with a good book when you can do this?
I happened to look out my window a few minutes ago and discovered NINE turkeys in my front yard, including a male who was displaying his feathers.
This is why I LOVE living where I live. Smack in the middle of a middle class suburb, but backing up to a pond and river.
And none of these photos were taken with a telephoto lens. They walked right across our driveway, just a few feet in front of FirstHusband, the camera man. And they were NOT quiet.
Voices in My Head -
Me: “yo. treadmill. I am SO not in the mood to even come near you right now. It’s Friday night, for cryin out loud.”
Treadmill: “no problem. I knew you were a wimp.”
Me: “Shut up.”
Treadmill: “hey, you were the one who said you were walking THREE 30 minute HIIT programs today. I’m sure you’ll be happy with your decision to wimp out and only do two. 30 minutes is an awfully long time. Have a Cheez-It, it’ll make you feel better.”
Me: “I hate you.”
Treadmill: “Where you going?”
Me: “To put on my shoes. Did I mention I hate you?”
An Hour Later: “Treadmill smack talk ticked me off. I did two – 4 total for the day. That equals 6 miles.”
6 miles at an incline yesterday. Ibuprofen today. 4.5 miles by the end of the day. Stronger tomorrow.
hmmmm. I wonder what my husband and son are going to do with their day off…
Took FavoriteSon to Walgreens for a rapid strep test yesterday afternoon.
NursePractitioner: “So, what’s going on?”
FavoriteSon: “I think I have strep. I woke up around 3:00 this morning and my throat was killing me.”
NP: A sore throat doesn’t necessarily mean strep.”
Me: He’s correctly diagnosed himself the last two times he got strep.”
NursePractitioner: “We’ll see.”
A few minutes later…
Me: “We doubled him up on ibuprofen to get him through the night.”
NursePractitioner: “He could have had a GI bleed in the middle of the night.”
Me: “I’ve had multiple surgeries and doubled up on ibuprofen for days after my percoset ran out. We gave him one double dose.”
NP: “He’s right. He has strep.”
FavoriteSon gave each other the “we told her so” look.
NP: I’m giving him a prescription for penicillin.”
Me: “Can you prescribe a Z-Pack instead?”
NP: Most people are immune to Z-Packs now.”
Me: Our family physician usually prescribes a Z-Pack for him when he gets strep. It’s been very effective.”
NP: “Why didn’t you just go to your family doctor?”
Me: “Because it’s Sunday afternoon.”
NP: “Well, I don’t want him to have to come back when it doesn’t work.”
Me: “Oh, we wouldn’t come back HERE.” (to myself)
Me: “Is this twice a day for ten days?
NP: “Three times a day for ten days.”
Me: THREE times a day? Two times a day is challenging enough. I know us, we won’t finish it. We’ll forget. We always finish a Z-pack.”
NP: I’m prescribing the three times a day for 10 days. If you forget a dose, just double up.
Me: “Pretend I spoke words out loud.” (to myself)
NP: “You might want to think about having his tonsils out.”
Me: “shhh. You’ve lost all credibility with me now.” (to myself)
Later, when my family doc called me back…
Me: “So do I fill the 3 times a day, 10 day penicillin or do you want to call in a Z-pack?”
FavoriteDoc: “No. I”ll call one in as soon as we hang up. But keep the penicillin script in case you get a toothache. That’s about all it’s good for.”
I LOVE our family doctor. He even called me back to tell me the pharmacy was closing in an hour.
Don’t even think about it.
After spending Sunday in pain, I had to face the fact that I’ve been slacking on the strength training. I have arthritis in my neck and if I keep my shoulders – specifically my trapezius muscle – strong, I’m usually symptom free. But Sunday, the nerves in my shoulder were “buzzing,” if that makes sense, and I was had some pretty intrusive pain while I was at rest. I was “at rest” because moving was painful.
That won’t do.
Went to bed smelling like BenGay and woke up Monday wanting to curl up with a heating pad on my neck and shoulder. But I knew that was the exact OPPOSITE of what I should do.
I know how to fix this.
I went to yoga. After an hour of stretching, my pain was nearly gone and my mobility BACK TO NORMAL. Then I trimmed hedges and vines with manual clippers for 2 hours. I woke up Tuesday very sore from the workout – and that was the goal.
Step one of muscle strengthening? Tearing the fibers of the muscle so they can build back up. (CLICK HERE to learn about it.)
Tuesday (yesterday), I did the Jillian Michaels NO More Trouble Zones DVD. I’ll admit, because I’m so out of shape, that 40 minute workout took me an hour and 20 minutes because I paused it so many times. I couldn’t keep up with the pace and I had to pause to finish reps. okay. and I paused multiple, multiple times to lay on the floor and breathe while mumbling, I HATE her.
I also walked 3 miles at an 8% incline both days because I’m
Both days, after I finished, I made a protein shake help rebuild the muscle I had torn.
I have to face the fact that I have a chronic condition. The arthritis in my neck will NOT just go away. I’ve figured out how to live symptom free and I’ve been pretty consistent since fall of 2007, but the last 3 to 6 months, I’ve really taken the easy way out of exercise and only focused on cardio.
Strength training is HARD. But, in addition to helping me forget I have arthritis altogether, it also helps me burn more calories at rest. That’s right, the more muscle mass I have the more calories I burn while I do NOTHING.
When I first started strength training back in the fall of 2007, my body fat percentage was 51%. Today, it’s 37%. Not where I’d like it to be, but significantly better!
I’m not looking at the scale right now, because as I build muscle, I’ll likely gain weight. I won’t get any bigger because 5 pounds of muscle takes up LESS physical space than fat. So my clothes will fit better even if my weight doesn’t change! How my clothes fit is a better measure of how I’m doing than my scale.
I’ve been DETERMINED to be a good steward of this body God has blessed me with. I got lazy for a few months, but . . .
And I’m logging my progress again, on my Fitness Log, on a widget on the right side of this page, on my facebook page (which shows up in the right side bar of this page) and my twitter (tweets also on the right side of this page).
JOIN ME? What are YOU doing to be a good steward of this body God has blessed YOU with?
I was leaving the house with my coffee this morning when my FAVORITEHusband asked, “umm honey, have you tasted your coffee?”
SOMEbody switched out the sweetner with SALT.
He had already made me a second (untampered with) cup.
It has occurred to me that she hasn’t been pranked yet today…