The Hit of a Finished Task List

A month ago I started using a new planner. It promised increased productivity and goal setting. I suppose it has been helpful. The first day I used its system of planning and executing I felt super efficient and accomplished. The high has worn off by now but I still love a finished task list.

The feeling of finishing what the day required. The burden of responsibilities lifted as they are handled ahead of schedule. The freedom on the other side of the lists action items.

Funny thing is that I set the list. I generate the tasks so how hard I work, or the amount of “productivity” is determined at my whim. Some days are easier to feel accomplished!

But when the list comes to an end there is a hit of success. Sure there is some chemical reason, maybe dopamine or something. The sense of relief of coming to the end. It feels good.

I wonder if this is why we are so list oriented when it comes to things best lived without a list. Like relationships and faith. In both we think we need to accomplish a set of items to earn love or approval. And I suppose that makes sense to an extent. But who wants to live a “love” relationship where everything is tit for tat? Transactional relationships miss the good stuff, the unconditional stuff.

Same thing in relationship to Jesus. i am convinced he will love me more if I finish this list of discipleship tasks, or if my church is bigger (my struggle), or if I share the gospel with at least three people a day… you know your list. And it gives us a hit of self righteous accomplishment but it misses the good stuff.

I want to dwell in the unconditional more because that is what I see when I encounter Christ in Scripture. Redemption received not because we finish a list, but because he loves. It’s true for you too.

So set your task list for the day, and maybe make one item to “enjoy the grace of Jesus today” knowing that he accomplished the list required for eternity, for life with God.

We need friends from other tribes

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with an old friend, someone I highly value and am thankful for his friendship. But it has been a long time since we discussed things of theology and the church.

Now we are both Christians, trusting in Jesus for salvation, but my writing, teaching, and church experience lands me within what some would call the Reformed tradition.

To this I found my friend sharing a view of “reformed” theology that was foreign to me. Almost as if it would be a perspective shaped by someone antagonistic rather than inquisitive. But the banter was light-hearted and no one was harmed!

I did conclude the conversation however by encouraging my friend that he needed more “reformed” friends. Given the more you know they less likely you are to have a mistaken view.

This goes for all of us. Certainly outside but especially inside the church. For whatever reason God has allowed us to have a varying set of doctrines and views all within the realm of orthodox. And it is important to know we are all kingdom citizens with faith in Jesus. We don’t need to always agree or give up our biblically-formed beliefs but we probably need more friends outside of our tribe so we at least understand each other better.

There is much to learn from many movements but we will never learn it if we are cloistered with our brand exclusively. So the Reformed guy hangs with some Arminians, Charismatics dine with the Lutherans, Presbyterians drink a beer with Baptists (wait that would never work!). You get the point.

Branch out. Get some friends from another tribe, people you love that think differently. Because Jesus can handle it. And you will be better for it.

Loving God for Himself Alone

This week I preached on the bigness of God from Isaiah 40:12-26. That because he is so big we can trust him with our lives. Now all of us that claim faith in Christ can on the surface agree to this and let it warm us on a Sunday morning, but how does it help us on a Monday afternoon?

Normal pressures of life punctuate the worship gathering and we swim back into the soup of the clamor of smaller things demanding to reign in our lives. We believe God is big enough to care for us, but how will the bills get paid? We believe God holds all of creation in his hand, but what if our adult children never speak to us again? We believe nations are emptiness before God, but what about the burden of our tax liability?

The list could go on, and sure it would be specific to you, external demands, responsibilities, emotions and the overall sense of exile without end weigh us down. Can we really turn to Jesus with all of this?

It is far too easy to turn faith into a transactional relationship. I believe in God so he gives me a job, or I pray hard and long enough and I will finally be delivered…etc. But is believing in and following Jesus worthwhile if none of the externals are dealt with? Do we love God for himself alone?

The thinking brings to mind one of the most popular of Bible stories. The fiery furnace. Disobedient to the cultural demands of worship at the golden image which would make their own faith in God private, the three Jewish young men are brought before the king.

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:16–18 (ESV)

They profess how big God is – big enough to deliver them out of the fire – but what’s more, they profess that even if he doesn’t they won’t bow to the fake gods. Even in the breakthrough doesn’t come, even if I remain in the valley, if I live and die in exile, I will still only worship God.

It is bold faith.

Yes, God delivers them. They are freed from the furnace and in many of our own “furnaces” God works to free us. But friends he is worth worshiping because of who he is. We don’t need the addition of circumstance or the change thereof.

Come what may, we will worship. Let’s say that. Let’s live that. Let’s rejoice when we come out the other side. Let’s look up and behold our God and gain an eager vision for eternity with him – the promise he is big enough to deliver. Let’s love God for himself alone.

To Be Comforters

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” Isaiah 40:1 (ESV)

To a people in exile, suffering under the weight and repercussions of their sin, far from home and seemingly without hope; prophets are called on by God to comfort them. To serve them, raise their eyes to see him and find hope.

This is a wonderful launch into a new section of Isaiah, an unfurling of chapters written and spoken to a nation in exile. But it is also a call for those that preach, that lead, that pastor God’s people today.

I think of the people in the pews, that might feel their own exile. The loss of expected gain. The struggle of anxiety or depression. The tensions of human relationships. The recovery from abuse or oppression. The drama of everyday life. It all piles on and when we gather to open God’s word, the true word that lasts, it it good news, the gospel we are meant to proclaim and reflect to one another.

I have spent enough days in ministry needing what only Jesus provides and sitting with people that are starving spiritually for the comfort only he can give. It is not a permissive gesture or false freedom to live for self, but it is grace that sustains, serves, and heals those that he loves. His people.

What can you give today? To your friends, to your neighbor, to those hurting and in need, to those celebrating and unaware? Jesus. Comfort that the striving can cease, that righteousness is won by him for us. That he is enough.

Hear of this comfort, this Savior, Jesus who longs for you, and gave himself up for you. That you can have peace, now and in eternity. Rest in him.