The Air We Breathe Matters

The air your breathe matters. Think of it. The level of oxygen, the toxins, the mold spores, the carbon monoxide… all in the air you breathe in an out and the balance of these things makes all the difference. Whether you are healthy and thriving, or suffering and gasping for something more.

This is true metaphorically in the church as well, shoot, in any pattern of thinking and believing. The air we breathe matters, it is even life and death.

In Western Christianity, here is the air that is in abundance: God created the world. Starting with a spark the expanse becomes a garden and life begins. A deity is responsible and he has given us free reign. God then desires for people to be good, nice, fair to each other as taught in the Bible and actually in most world religions. It is all suggestion and the best way to live really, so give it your best college try! While we are being good, the real goal of life is to be happy and feel good about oneself – the world revolves around you and when I say that I mean specifically me!

God is still there but he doesn’t need to be particularly involved in my life until I have a crisis or need to resolve a personal problem. When there are bumps in the road to happiness, God is there to give me a comforting platitude to get through the day.

When the journey is all done, good people go to heaven when they die.

If we consume nothing but this air, our systems get used to it and actually start to crave it. Anything that smells different becomes suspicious and wrong. But it is bad air. Toxic leading to death. There is purer air to breathe.

Here is a taste:

“To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Acts 10:43

To Jesus, all of the Bible points. Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins. Full stop. No more work to earn a way in because you could never match the perfection required. No steps to cross off the list. No obedience to maintain to prove your worth. Justified in Christ alone. How can it be?!

The Lord of All appointed Judge of the living and dead becomes the Savior through his blood. Jesus’ perfect obedient life for you. His substitutionary death for you. And his life-giving resurrection for you.

Rejoice. Breathe deeply this fresh, freedom inducing air. Worship Jesus. And in your awe, tell someone about him.

In the Mess He Has You

It is a crazy time. Shootings. Abuse. Angst against the unknown. Contentment in a sea awash with American commercialism. It is enough to drive you crazy, and by you I mean me!

This morning I was feeling the slush of all the crud and was preparing myself to become a Desert Father and hide away in a cave in the wilderness… but alas Jesus has put us where he desires, in the mess he has us, and gives us purpose.

At the same time that I am wrestling with said placement I hear of believers in Nepal who spent four days walking and two days in a bus in order to attend a conference to hear the gospel. That puts my enneagram “romantic” desire for more in glaring perspective.

But the Lord doesn’t use these examples or subtle reminders to guilt us. After all there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. But he uses such examples of faithfulness and even the guttural angst in the routine to remind us that he has placed us here, as outposts of his grace and love.

Jesus has you where he does, maybe on the way to somewhere else, on purpose. To grow you, care for you, challenge you, and use you to make much of him. Be free today in the midst of the mess to rest in his finished work for you. And share it with someone else.

Is the Gospel Enough?

During a recent leadership team meeting someone asked what to say in response to questions about families that have left our church during this replanting season. “What do we say when someone asks why?” I quickly responded, “Say that the gospel wasn’t enough for them.”

Now my answer was a little tongue in cheek, there are surely myriad reasons for those that had once committed to the church to leave in search for something more ideal. Often it is out of care for family or social networks they can’t find anywhere else. But really, the gospel is all our little church has to offer so there does come a point where we hope it is enough! We don’t have great preaching, or musical production. We don’t have bulging student ministries (we have 2 high school students in the whole church) and while we have great curriculum, our Children’s ministry is small just like the rest of our ministries!

After some good conversation we decided against my answer, thinking it better for those interested to simply reach out to their friends and ask them personally. But I have been thinking about it ever since and it has struck me upside the head as we had record attendance at our worship gathering yesterday.

Record low attendance.

The question has been turned back onto me. Is the gospel enough for me, as a pastor? Am I attempting to find my justification in numeric goals, robust budgets, ministries to engage my children, gifting, a sense of energy… really in anything other than Jesus’ work on the cross and his declaration of “it is finished!”

Truth is I do find comfort in many of those things, and I hate it. It is proof that the gospel is not enough for me… I try to negotiate with God for more than the manna he has given. “Just let me have this or that and I will finally be happy…” The response always comes “Be happy in me.” And that is what I want.

So in his providence, God prunes, trims, seemingly devastates, all so I, and maybe you, will see him as enough. To own the gospel, the finished work of Christ for you, as enough.

Toward that end then, we keep on. Because the gospel really is enough. Frankly, there is nothing more. I am praying that this will be more true in my life and I am praying it will be more true in yours. The fullness of Christ is meant for all of life. Lord help us see it, own it and live from it for your glory.

The Pain of Progress

This week our youngest had major surgery to reconstruct her hips. I have been saying that she is being given hips that won’t lie. That’s the hope anyway!

As she has been coming out of the anesthesia and working toward pain management and her normal personality, I am struck by the pain in her progress. Of course, she would prefer to never experience pain – and as her father, I wish she would never experience it either! But this pain, on purpose and intentional, is headed somewhere. It is bringing her to healing, functionality, better mobility and flourishing. These few days of major discomfort and the weeks of struggle ahead are all ushering something so much better.

I am stuck that our sanctification works much the same way. Our becoming more like Christ, slaying the dragon of self and living for Jesus’ purpose and glory. It is not easy and we could often categorize it as pain or suffering. But just like Adia’s recovery, this pain is part of the progress.

We run after too much that we assume is “pain” free and that never gets us to where we desire to be. On the flip side, we fight against purposeful discomfort because frankly, we are comfortable in our mess, our inability to flourish. Jesus means to end all that and bring you somewhere worthwhile. To the place your identity in him secures, promises, and provides.

Maybe we should lean into trusting his strength and process. After all, he is tremendously good and he loves you. I know it won’t be easy, but it will be good.

I am praying for you as you face the pain in the progress.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (ESV)