Today I did something really bad, actually I did something bad a couple of weeks ago and I was confronted on it today. I hurt someone’s feelings because of my own short comings and issues of trust. Essentially, I asked someone to do something and didn’t trust them enough to follow through and stuck myself into their business.
As this person sat across from me and said, “you don’t trust me,” my honest answer was that he was correct. As much as I wanted it to be untrue, it was true, but the fault was not in the other person, no, the fault was in me. This person has never done anything, that I have seen, that could be construed as untrustworthy (and even if he had, there is a graceful presence about him that has been shown over and over in how trustworthy he is). As I processed his statement I started to look at my own life and see why it was that I couldn’t let go of control.
As I grew up, I felt abandoned at times by my father. I grew up with a fear of being left alone and not trusting anyone. Today this translates into me having a hard time letting go of all of my hang-ups and letting other people do what needs to be done.
Now, why do I write this blog to tell you all this? Because I, as one of your pastors, am not perfect and need grace; it comes down to issues of the Gospel and community lived in the Gospel.
First off, the other person valued relationship enough that they sought me out to talk about it. They didn’t run or let it fester inside of them, they came and talked about the issue and we were both better off in the long (and short) run. In Matthew 8:15 Jesus tells us, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” This is exactly what happened.
The second thing (really this is the first thing) is that the Gospel changes people; it changes me, daily. God is my Father. When I cease to rest in the fact of who God is (His character and His actions), I begin to respond in ways that are inconsistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am reading this book by Tim Keller and he writes, “I continually observe that ministry amplifies peoples spiritual character. It makes them far better or far worse Christians than they would have been otherwise, but it will not leave anyone where he was!" I wish my character was better at times, but with all of us following Jesus together, living the Gospel in each others lives, we will be better.
As Hebrew 12:2 says, we must look to Jesus “the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Our hope lies in Jesus and Him alone. We are not undone by the shame of our own failure, but use it to grow to be more like Jesus.
Let us all become people who live and speak the Gospel into one another’s lives and have it spoken into our own. This will most often happen during difficult conversations that we will naturally want to avoid.
In my attempt to treat my wife to an evening of culture, I recently took her to see a local production of Spamalot. For those of you not acquainted with the finer works of the Broadway stage, Spamalot is a theatrical adaptation of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. If you are a fan of the movie, you won't be disappointed. The play is exactly what you'd expect. It has all of your favorite characters and scenes, but they are now set to music. A song from Life of Brian even makes the bill.
I am sure, for those of you who have not seen the musical, it is a safe bet you have at least seen the film. The rest of you, seriously, get Netflix and join the human race. Regardless of which camp you fall into, you should understand one important point about the plot: King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table are on a quest from God to find the Holy Grail. The Grail, just so we are all on equal footing, is the cup that Jesus drank from at the last supper (Matt. 26:27).
In the play as in the film, when King Arthur is given this quest, God appears in the clouds in all of His kingly regalia, complete with flowing white beard. As any of us would do in this same situation, the knights commence groveling and averting their eyes (Matt 17:1-13). That's when God gives King Arthur his purpose: to find the Grail. Arthur is to use his quest to set an example in dark times.
The irony was not lost on me that -- much like God does for King Arthur in the play -- Jesus set each one of us on a quest as He ascended into the heavens. That quest is to make disciples of the nations and baptize them in His name (Mark 16:15-19). And we, like the Knights of the Round Table, often find ourselves on many "holy" misadventures that distract us from the quest to which we were charged.
Take King Arthur for example. Here is a man who was the leader of the band, the man who received the primary instruction from God, yet he often found himself far from the path on which he started. Shortly after consulting a blind oracle, King Arthur found himself lost in a dark forest embroiled in an epic struggle with the Knights Who Say Ni. After matching wits with the fearsome Knights of Ni, Arthur uses all of his skill to produce a shrubbery, which appeases the Knights. Now, I don't mean to suggest that Arthur was not devoted to the task of finding the Grail, but his efforts, noble as they may have been, didn't get him any closer to his goal.
Like Arthur and the Knights of Ni, Christ followers devoted to the Great Commission of Jesus often find themselves engaged in Godly side quests that don't get them closer to their charge of winning souls. What do I mean? Christians do a lot of good for a lot of people. We give money to the poor, we work in food pantries, we lead Bible studies, and we are generally good citizens; all good things. However, as noble as those quests are, what they aren't is the quest that Christ charged us with: to make disciples of the nations, teaching them to obey all He commanded and baptizing them in His name.
So, what can we do about it? First, keep fighting the side quests! Give to the poor; lead a Bible study; slay the Black Knight; defeat the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog with the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. But when you do, remember that all of those good works need to serve the Gospel. Take the time to tell people that Christ died in their place when you are out on your side quests. You will have to be brave, like Arthur and his Knights (except Sir Robin). The Gospel is offensive and its enemies are many. However, you need not fear your enemies, because God promises to go with you on your quest (Matt 28:20, Ps 23). Arm yourself with the Word of God, because like Excalibur, it cuts right to the marrow of those whom God has called.
Let me encourage each of you: God has called you by name. You are on a quest. Be brave like Sir Lancelot when he took Swamp castle, so his steed Concord would not have died in vain. In our case, be brave and obey Christ to tell others about the gospel, because Jesus died that we might live.
On Sunday Element hosted David & Holly Jauregui with us so they could share how they are involved with missional communities in San Diego. They shared their heart, some of what they do, and also a video in the short amount of time they had. If you missed the video we would encourage you to watch it here:
Meeting with the Jauregui’s led me to pick up a copy of Thin Places by Jon Huckins. At this point I have only read the back cover and introduction (yes, I’m a very slow reader). The back cover described a “Thin Place” like this:
“While praying for his community on the Island of Ioana, the Celtic monk St. Columba described his experience as a thin place – a location where heaven and earth seemed only thinly separated.
In the same way, God’s kingdom is being realized here on earth with stores of restoration and redemption. Our God moved into the neighborhood, seeking to invite us into his story of reconciliation, and commission us to missionally engage our neighborhoods with the good news of the kingdom.”
“God moved into the neighborhood” was the center of the conversation we had last Sunday afternoon with David & Holly. We looked at “Jesus as a neighbor.” Jesus lived in Capernaum for many years and there are story after story in the Bible that center around this town. It is also interesting to learn how small Capernaum is, Righetti High School is bigger than this town was, and Jesus lived there, as a neighbor.
This leads us to ask a pertinent question, “What kind of neighbor do you think Jesus was?” Do you think He always did large things for large crowds, or did He take time to do small things for just one person or a child? Did he know everybody’s name? What did He talk about? Did He spend more time inside or outside?
If you get a few moments, or next time you are reading through one of the Gospel accounts, start to jot down a list of everything that surrounds Capernaum or Galilee. It is important to think about not only what type of neighbor Jesus was, but also what type of neighbor Jesus is as He lives through you.
At Element we believe it is important to spend some time thinking about Jesus as a neighbor? Does this thought change our calling of what it means to be a neighbor on our streets? Can we live in a way that creates a “thin place?”
Every once in a while through 2015 I am going back to some statistics that came out at the end of 2014 about American’s lives and beliefs. One of the most striking things about most statistics is the difference between what we say and what we do; we call this incongruent. I know a lot of people went all the way through school (like me) and still never learned the meaning of words that were longer than 3 syllables (like me). Incongruent (a dreaded 4 syllable word) means the opposite of something that is congruent. Congruent means, “to agree” and is mostly used in mathematics to mean something that coincides at all points.
Incongruent, in our lives, is when we say one thing and do another. Like a study at the end of 2014 which shows that a majority of Americans believe Marijuana, which is another 4 syllable word (so I will use other words that help to identify this substance better such as pot, reefer, cannabis, and weed)… a majority of Americans (58%) believe pot should be legal anywhere and everywhere. The number 58% seems like the people who believe in a “pot nation” is growing, yet even though 58% say it should be legal, the majority also believe it is immoral to use it. Only 47% of American’s think it is OK to smoke (or ingest) pot.
This is incongruent.
If, and when, we believe something is destructive and wrong we should be willing to stand behind our convictions. This isn’t to say that the people involved in a destructive behavior should be ridiculed or made to feel inferior, but in common discourse we should all have the ability to speak about what we believe (freedom of speech) without fear of repercussions (yes, I know, that word was 4 syllables). This is one of the things America was founded upon, the freedom to be able to question and speak into the realm of ideas and action so as to point to the truth even when people want to squash it.
The things I write today could be taken in many different ways, especially with recent Supreme Court decisions, it’s one of the reasons I am talking about pot and not something else. In a society who claims to love truth, we should be able to allow all opinions to be talked about and allow all arguments for and against an issue to be spoken. Unfortunately that is no longer the case. When someone disagrees with a majority position, they are now told to be silent or they will be ridiculed, sued, or slandered. It becomes dangerous when a view about truth and life that has asked for the right to be heard gets heard and then wants to quiet all other voices. It is incongruent.
As Christians, believers in the Scriptures, the truth and the hope that they provide, we must be people who live congruent lives. We say what we mean, we live our convictions, we love as we were first loved and bless like we were first blessed. We should want to allow ideas to be spoken so we have the opportunity to engage in discourse that speaks to and reveals the truth, hope, and light of the life changing (and life challenging) message of the Good News of Jesus.
Psalm 46:1-3 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
Psalm 27:2-3 When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.
No matter how incongruent the world around us becomes, we stay congruent with the heart of the message of the Gospel, the same Gospel that WE needed to have life again. Though all around us gives way, we must live the way of Jesus by what we say and by what we do. It matters not what people say about us, it maters what Christ calls us to. As John Piper wrote, “we want people to see us with approval when we are displaying that Jesus is infinitely valuable to us, but we dare not make the opinion of others the measure of our faithfulness.”