What Do You Champion?

We’re all champions of something. I don’t mean in an athletic sense. A champion is a person who fights for a cause, product, or way of doing something. We’re all champions of something, the question is “what”?

In Matthew 5:9 Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” So according to Jesus:

The children of God are champions of peace.

A peacemaker is someone who strives to live peaceably and pursue peace at every opportunity. Notice, there’s an active and a passive component to peacemaking. Let’s start with the passive component…

Peacemakers Are Peaceable.

To use a biblical term, a peacemaker is NOT “quarrelsome.” In 1 Timothy 3:3 Paul says elders aren’t to be “quarrelsome.” So to be peaceable means to be un-hostile, or inclined and predisposed to peace. Peacemakers aren’t looking for a fight all the time.

We all know someone who is always looking for a fight. Social media is filled with people like this - quarrelsome, cheerless, combative people. You could post a picture of kittens and sunshine and they’re like, “Really? Kittens and sunshine? I like puppies and rain.” Maybe you live with a person like this. Maybe you are a person like this. This kind of combative attitude is the opposite of being a peacemaker. Peacemakers strive to live peaceably. 

Let me qualify this by saying that living peaceably doesn’t mean you live a life of appeasement. Appeasement seeks to sweep things under the rug so as to avoid conflict. Being peaceable doesn’t mean you avoid conflict, it simply means you don’t go looking for it. 

Peacemakers are peaceable. 

Peacemakers Pursue Peace.

Notice Jesus doesn’t say, “Blessed are the peacekeepers.” He says, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Peacemakers try to live at peace, but they also try to make peace in relationships that are broken and fight for peace in the world. 

I had a conversation after preaching a few weeks ago with someone struggling through a relationship with lots of conflict. They loved this other person, but there had been no communication for a while and they weren’t sure how to initiate it after such a long time. We came up with a little plan, covered the plan in prayer, and they set out to put it into action.

That’s peacemaking. 

Where is your peacemaking opportunity today? Maybe you have an opportunity to ask God for the grace to live more peaceably. Less combative, more kind. Less aggressive, more loving. Maybe  you have an opportunity to pursue peace. Maybe you need to apologize to someone, or initiate reconciliation. Maybe you have an opportunity to mediate peace between two friends. 

The children of God are champions of peace. Let’s remember the peace we’ve been given by God and pursue the peacemaking Jesus has called us to.

Talk Less. Listen More.

One of the BEST things about the social media is how it gives everyone a voice. One of the WORST things about social media is how it gives everyone a voice. Social media has made it so easy for you and I to rip off a tweet, status update, or blog post about every passing opinion that goes through our minds. As a result, we do lots of talking and little listening in our culture.  

James 1:19 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” This verse is an indictment against the way we’re to prone to live and behave, especially in our culture of 24-hour news cycles and social media. We form fast, strong opinions that we spout despite having painfully limited information. 

I don’t know about you, but my feeds are filled with everyone sharing their “two cents” about complex political issues, celebrity shortcomings, and situations surrounding visible Christian leaders. Understand, I don’t have a problem with opinions and public debate. What I think we should all have a problem with are opinions formed without first-hand information. 

If we’re not careful, we end up fueling a fire we’re called to extinguish. This is what happens when we’re slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to get angry. The more we talk, the less we listen. The less we listen, the more we’re liable to harm. We harm by hurling insults and we harm by repeating information that harms. Christians are called to be peacemakers. So, as a general rule, if it doesn’t build up, it shouldn’t be on our lips. 

So, what if we spoke less and listened more today? What if we dug deeper and sought to understand, before we labored to be understood? Would it really break the internet to have one less post about about Mark Driscoll, Steven Furtick, or whatever other leader is in our collective crosshairs this week? 

This doesn’t mean we don’t learn from what’s happening around us or engage the larger conversation happening within Christianity. The Bible simply demands that our speech build up rather than tear down. We need to ask ourselves...

  • Am I trying to build up, or tear down?
  • Is this true?
  • Do I know for a fact?
  • Am I the person to say this?
  • What am I trying to accomplish?
  • Does this glorify God?

We have to ask these questions. I suck at it but today I want to listen more than I talk and seek to understand more than I seek to be understood. Join me?

A Reminder Of Who We Preach

It's easy as a preacher to get "up in your head" while preaching. Here's an important reminder of who we preach from my good friend, Pastor James MacDonald...

"In order for God’s voice to move through a human mouthpiece, that person must have a true sense of Who the sermon is about, which begins with a clear understanding of whom it is not about. We have all seen the preacher who is so self-conscious that the voice of God is lost. Do you like me? Do you think I am interesting? Am I keeping your attention? Did you find that humorous? Am I pushing you too hard? Are you glad you’re here? Will you come back next week? Have I spoken too long? Am I doing a good job? When such issues of insecurity plague the mind of the preacher ad nauseam, God’s voice in the sermon is silenced. Nothing stifles the Vertical thunder like a horizontal preacher full of insecurities because he sees his role larger than it actually is. A favorite story I have known so long that I lost the source involves C. H. Spurgeon working with a group of young preachers and one in particular who was handsome, articulate, and very self-inflated. When his turn to preach came, he bounced to his feet and bounded up the steps with great energy, wanting the giant Spurgeon to sense his enthusiasm as he entered the pulpit. Early in his sermon, however, the gifted novice fumbled his notes, floundered at regaining his composure, and failed to even finish what he had begun. Quietly he stooped to recover his fallen paper and bowed his head as he slipped from the stage and snuck to his seat, brushing back a tear. Turning to him, Spurgeon said, 'If you had gone up the way you came down, you could have come down the way you went up.' Bam, I love that story! It reminds me of Paul’s instruction to all preachers: 'For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.'" 

From "Vertical Church: What Every Heart Longs For. What Every Church Can Be."

 

The Promise of Seeing Jesus

The power of a promise is an amazing thing. Think about it…

The promise of dessert has the power to get my kids to eat dinner. The promise of graduation has the power to help many students endure difficult seasons of education. The promise of promotion has the power to cause people to pursue excellence in their workplaces. The promise of a new mobile device has the power to cause us to hate a perfectly good mobile device we already own. The promise of weight loss has the power to woo us into horrible things like juice fasts and wheat-less diets.

Few things have more power than a good promise. The Bible is filled with promises. The Bible promises that one day Christ will return and restore all things to the perfect condition in which they were created. On that day Revelation 22:4 promises us that we will “see His face.” That may seem insignificant, even anti-climatic to you, but let me tell you why I think that may be the most significant promise in Scripture.

When you look into the face of Jesus, every ounce of pain will pass away.

When you look into the face of Jesus, all the doubt and disappointment will disappear.

When you look into the face of Jesus, the clouds of confusion that consume so much of this life will finally clear.

No wonder Jesus said true happiness was tied to seeing God (Matthew 5:8). As it turns out, the thing we’re all looking for is what we’ll only experience when we look into the face of Jesus. 

The promise of seeing Jesus should have great power in our lives. This promise should encourage us, inspire us, motivate us, humble us, and give us a deep hope of better things to come. Christ is coming, Christian, and on that day you will see His face. In that moment, all seasons, experiences, and problems that seemed so significant will be eclipsed against the backdrop of seeing Jesus’ face . . . I promise. 

Stop Serving Jesus Like It's Jury Duty

It is one of my greatest dreads: going to the mail box and finding that horrible little card informing me that I have been selected for jury duty. They might as well write, “You’ve been chosen to have all joy sucked from your life on this date.” No one wakes up on a Tuesday thinking, “I really wish I could be selected to sit in a uncomfortable box and make $17 a day to listen to people argue.”  Nobody serves jury duty because they want to; we serve jury duty because we have to. 

The problem is, many of us serve Jesus the same way. 

Often you and I serve God more out of duty than delight and as a result, dishonor God and miss out on the joy of obeying Him. In Matthew 5:6, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

That word “righteousness” is used a couple different ways in the New Testament. For instance, when the Apostle Paul uses it, he does so most often as a synonym for “justification”, the instantaneous act of God declaring us forgiven of sin and righteous by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. However, Jesus doesn’t use this word that way even one time in the gospel of Matthew. When Jesus uses the word “righteous”, He’s talking about obeying God’s will God’s way. Now, notice that righteousness has two parts.

1. Righteousness means obeying God’s will.

This is pretty straightforward, right? To obey God’s will means we do what He says to do and we don’t do what He says not to do. But, that’s not the totality of the righteousness prescribed by Jesus.

2. Righteousness means obeying God’s will God’s way.

This means we obey God out of love and delight rather than out of begrudging duty. One of the things we’re trying to teach our kids at our house is to obey right away, all the way, with a right attitude. That’s what Jesus longs for from you and me: immediate, complete, and willing obedience. 

God doesn’t just want your obedience, He wants your heart. Righteousness is obeying God’s will God’s way. Until we obey God’s will because we want to, because we love God and want to trust and serve Him, our lives may appear righteous, but God sees otherwise. We need to repent of doing even the right thing the wrong way.  We need to stop serving Jesus like we do jury duty and start serving Him out of the love and delight that He delivers by grace.

The Need For Renewed Preaching

Friday is the day many preachers are sitting down to do the difficult work of writing yet another sermon. I'm familiar with the thoughts that pervade our prep: "Is this going to come together? Does it even make any difference? Will God use my imperfect preaching to accomplish His perfect will?"

Despite the questions and doubts, we sit at our keyboards today and pound out our best attempts at a clear, concise and compelling sermon. If you're a preacher like me, allow this inspiring reminder from Lloyd-Jones of the importance of our task to fuel your efforts today:

“Is it not clear, as you take a bird’s-eye view of Church history., that the decadent periods and eras in the history of the Church have always been those periods when preaching had declined? What is it that always heralds the dawn of a Reformation or of a Revival? It is renewed preaching. Not only a new interest in preaching but a new kind of preaching. A revival of true preaching has always heralded these great movements in the history of the Church. And, of course, when the Reformation and the Revival come they have always led to great and notable periods of the greatest preaching the Church has ever known.” 

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones from Preaching & Preachers

 

What are you preaching this weekend? I'd love to pray for you...

 

Want John Piper To Teach You To Study The Bible?

Like many, I've always loved the preaching of Pastor John Piper. He inspires me as a preacher, theologian, and writer. More than anything else, Pastor John has helped me love to study the Bible. This is why I was so excited to hear him say that he wanted to give the remainder of his life and ministry to helping people learn to the study the Bible for themselves. The result of this vision is Look At The Book

Look At The Book is a collection of 8-12 minute video labs in which the camera is on the text, not the teacher, and Pastor John walks us through his own meditation on the text. I've watched a few of these and found them to be instructive, informative, and inspiring. I'd highly encourage you to check out this important project. You will benefit richly.

To get you started here is a short meditation on Luke 12:32. 

6 Reasons To Worship Weekly

Few things frustrate pastors more than the inconsistence attendance of weekly worship by the people who call their church “home.” I grew up in a home where we rarely missed church. Now I’m a pastor, so it’s even more uncommon that I miss church. So, I may not have the most objective view point on this, but I never cease to be amazed at the reasons people are willing to miss church. Sporting events, sleep, and social gatherings are just a few of the sad reasons people skip church without a second thought. 

What concerns me most is not the numbers missing from our attendance, but the blessings missing in the lives of those who make a habit of missing weekly worship in a local church. Here are six blessings we receive when we gather for worship on a weekly basis…

1. Worship

Yes, I know you can worship in your car, in your living room and anywhere else you choose to ascribe worth to Jesus. BUT . . . something unique happens when we worship Jesus TOGETHER. When we join with our church family and the angels of heaven and lift high the name of Jesus, God’s glory is evident in a special way. Some of the most powerful moves of God in my life have happened in a weekly worship service. I won’t begin to try and explain it, but God’s presence is uniquely displayed when we gather each week. 

2. Community

The Christian life is becoming increasingly lonely in our culture. It’s not popular to profess Biblical faith in Jesus anymore. That’s why it’s such good news that God hasn’t just saved us from our sin, but also TO a community. The New Testament has no category for a lone ranger Christian who is disconnected from a local church. Community should happen throughout the week, but at the very least, we need weekly connection with other followers of Christ. 

3. Prayer

One of the greatest honors I experience as a pastor is when people ask me to pray for them. Each week we pray for wisdom, healing, strength, assurance, freedom, salvation . . .  I could go on and on. It doesn’t have to be a pastor, but you need people praying over you. Not just FOR you, but OVER you. People who will lay their hands on you and lift their voice over you and pray for God’s good will in your life. That can and should happen every time we gather.

4. Feeding

Deuteronomy 8:3 says, “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” You need to be fed with the Word of God. Yes, you need to be in God’s Word everyday, but you also need to hear the Word preached! I’m thankful for technology and love the way podcasting allows us to reach more people with the message of Jesus, but when podcasts replace the weekly preaching of a local church, we have a problem! You need to sit under the faithful preaching of God’s Word or your soul will slowly starve.

5. Correction

You and I think some crazy things. Because we think incorrectly, we believe incorrectly, feel incorrectly, and behave incorrectly. In addition to feeding us, God’s Word also corrects us. Failing to live God’s way is dishonoring to God and dangerous for you and me. One of the most loving things God can do is correct us with His Word. A loose connection to a local church is living right on the edge of isolation. Isolation will eventually result in deterioration of your faith. 

6. Instruction 

None of us knows everything. We need other people to instruct us in the areas where we are deficient. Friends, small group leaders, and pastors all serve as vehicles through which God instructs us with His Word. We need to be reminded of the gospel, instructed in its implications, and taught to live in a way that reflects God’s gracious will for our lives. 

When we make a habit of skipping weekend worship, we rob ourselves and others of the blessing God intends corporate worship to be. I’m NOT saying that it is a sin to miss church for any reason. I am saying that it MAY be sin if we’re missing church for every reason. I am saying we may have mis-prioritized our lives. I am saying that attending worship one or two times a month is typically insufficient for spiritual health. Weekly worship should not be a burden, but a blessing God has shown us as His people. 

Let’s work to make weekly worship a priority. Let’s gather for worship, community, prayer, feeding, correction and instruction this weekend and every weekend the Lord allows.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

Platform Is Not The Problem

A lot of Christian leaders are talking about personal “platform” right now.  A few are teaching us how to build them, while most seem to think they should be torn down. The conflicting messages are enough to leave you shaking your head, not sure what to think. So for what it is worth, here’s my two cents…

A platform is a neutral. 

A platform is a tool. 

A platform is simply the sphere of influence through which you spread your message. 

What matters in building a platform is motive. If you build a platform to boost your own ego and fame, then your platform is a soul-crushing problem. If you build a platform from which to preach the gospel, then your platform is a powerful means of making Jesus known. 

The problem is not platform, but depravity. 

I will be the first to admit that what starts as a desire to spread Jesus’ name can quickly become a self-serving pursuit of one’s own fame. (Obviously I want to become famous for rhyming…).

We have to continually uncover what is in our hearts. Why do we tweet what we tweet, blog what we blog, and pin what we pin? Whose name are we trying proclaim? When our platforms feed our pride, will we repent and seek the sanctifying grace of God’s Spirit? 

You have a platform whether you like it, or not. The real question is, “Why?”

 

Donuts & Our Deep Desire For Comfort

We live in a country and a culture built on a commitment to comfort. We live in pursuit of what we want, when we want it, exactly how we want it. When there’s conflict with what we want, when we want it, or how we want it, you’d think the world was turned upside down. 

Chicago was recently hit by a big storm (huge surprise, I know.) The wind took down power lines, which meant that hundreds of thousands of people had no electricity. Our neighborhood was without power for just under 24 hours, which was just enough time for the food in my fridge to go bad. Since we woke up to no breakfast, I did the only thing a good husband and dad can do in survival mode: I went to get donuts. 

Apparently I wasn’t the only husband or dad with this idea because the place was packed. After waiting in line to place my order, I was handed my box of donuts and only then informed that their credit card machine was down and they could only take cash. Since all I had was my debit card, I was in quite the predicament. On the outside I appeared to handle it fine, but inside I was irate because God-forbid I have to wait another fifteen seconds before stuffing my face with fried dough. My attitude in a situation like this reveals my commitment to comfort. 

My guess is, I’m not alone. The reason you hate sitting in traffic is because you’re committed to comfort. The reason you get irritated when your internet runs slow is because you’re committed to comfort. The reason you complain about the weather, your boss, your teachers, your parents, and your job is because you’re committed to comfort. 

The problem with our commitment to comfort is this: The Christian life is incompatible with a commitment to comfort. The entire convention of the Christian life is counter-comfortable. In Mark 8:34 Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” There is not one part of that invitation that suggests comfort. Though we’ve invented entire theologies to the contrary, the fact remains: Disciples of Jesus live lives of denial, not indulgence.

Today you and I have an opportunity to turn from our love of comfort and embrace the call of Christ. It starts with little shifts in our attitude and responses. Let’s trust that Christ is better and that Christ is enough for us and drink deeply of the peace and satisfaction He brings regardless of how uncomfortable life may be. 

 

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn?

I spent most of my high school math classes staring at my teachers in a state of perpetual confusion. I’m awful at math. Even when I worked hard, pursued tutoring, and dated the valedictorian of my class, I still didn’t get math. It was like a foreign language to me, so there I sat, eyes crossed and clearly confused. This had to be the way Jesus’ listeners looked at Him much of the time. 

I’m currently teaching through the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, which I believe to be some of Jesus' more controversial and counter-intuitive teachings. In Matthew 5:4, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Right off the bat, that had to be confusing, right? Another way of translating the word “blessed” is “happy.” So you have to think everyone was shaking their heads, wondering if they’d heard Jesus correctly. “Did he really just say, ‘Happy are those who mourn?’” 

Though it may be confusing, this sentence is significant in our relationship with Christ. To “mourn” means exactly what you’d think: to feel grief or sorrow. The real question is what exactly is Jesus calling us to mourn? Let’s start with what He’s NOT saying.

Jesus does not mean, “Happy are the sad people.” That makes no sense. Jesus isn’t saying that those who have lost loved ones, lost jobs, those who are abused and hurting are actually blessed and happy because one day they’ll be comforted. Like the poverty praised in Matthew 5:3, the nature of this “mourning” is spiritual. 

Here’s what Jesus means by the word “mourn”: to mourn is to feel a sincere grief due to sin. This grief has two components:

1. To mourn means to grieve my sin. 

2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret…” Godly grief isn’t the disappointment of getting caught or suffering consequences. That’s the way my kids respond when they’re disciplined. They always cry, but rarely because of what they’ve done and usually because of the consequences it’s caused. Godly grief, the mourning Jesus describes here, is a sincere sadness due to grieving the heart of God.

2. To mourn means to grieve social sin.

I am challenged by the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 119:136. He writes, “My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.” The sin of this world should spark godly sorrow in our hearts. Sadly, when we see the sin of those around us, we’re prone to feel disgust, judgement, or irritation. While I’m not saying that’s aways inappropriate, it’s often motivated by selfish motives rather than sanctified ones. 

The mourning that leads to true happiness is a sincere grief due to our own sin and the sin that stains this world. When you think about your sin and the sin you see around you, what do you feel? God wants us to feel grief. Godly grief leads us to repentance and the promise of Christ’s coming comfort (Revelation 21:1-4). Take some time today to consider your sin and ask God’s Spirit to break your heart the way your sin breaks His.

 

Stream entire sermon on this topic here...

How To Grow In Your Grief For Sin

In Matthew 5:4 Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." The mourning Jesus mentions here is a sincere grief due to sin. Sadly, most of us simply don't grieve our sin and the sin this world suffers from. We downplay it, we justify it, we ignore it, and we accept it - but few of us actually grieve over it. So how exactly does one grow in spiritual grief? Here are three suggestions...

1. Godly grief grows from the seed of God's Word.

In Romans 7:7 Paul says, "Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known my sin." Simply put, you can't grieve sin you're not aware of. As we plant God's Word in our hearts, it uncovers the presence of our sin. This is one of the countless reasons it's so crucial we plant Scripture in our hearts each day.

2. Godly grief grows in the soil of God's holiness. 

Comparison has a way of creating clarity. Only when we compare ourselves to the spotless canvas of God's holy splendor do we get a sense of our sin. If our Godly grief is going to grow, our understanding of God's holiness must as well. This growth demands study. In addition to God's Word, I would highly recommend A.W. Tozer's The Knowledge of the Holy

3. Godly grief grows by the sustenance of God's Spirit. 

John 16:8 says, "And when he [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world concerning sin..."  You can't grow in Godly grief apart from the nourishing and convicting work of the Holy Spirit. Think about a plant. I know less about plants than Lady Gaga knows about modesty, but here's what I do know: If you take a perfect planter, fill it with healthy soil, plant a seed in it, and place it in a dark closet it, it will not grow. It needs the sustenance of sun and water. Just like a plant can't grow without sun and water, people aren't convicted of sin apart from the power of the Spirit. We are dependent on the Spirit for this work and prayer is always the proper response to dependence.

Let's seize the daily opportunity to get in God's Word, meditate on His holiness, and beg the Spirit to break our hearts for what breaks His. 

5 Years Of Faithfulness

Last Sunday at Redemption we celebrated our five year anniversary as a church. During the service we showed this video (shot and edited by Pastor Scott Holthaus) mapping a few of the highlights from the past five years. I'm so thankful for all God's done and for every person who has been a part of this journey so far. I hope you like the video.


Preparation & The Power Of God

It happens now and then. We have a worship service where everything goes wrong, I preach a sermon that falls flat, or we have an event that is tried and found wanting. Whenever this happens, well-intentioned people say things like, “It’s okay. People still worshipped, God still spoke, God’s bigger than all this.” The truth is, there is so much encouraging wisdom in this sentiment. I don’t put any faith in sermons and songs to save and sanctify. Only the Spirit working through the foolishness of these things changes anyone. Amen?! We can’t ever forget that. Down with all confidence in man-made, man-manipulated, man-centered attempts at swaying the hearts and minds of people. It won’t work. 

The problem is, when we have one of those “off days” it’s not the results I’m worried about, but what we could have done to be better prepared. I think God is just as honored in my preparation as He is in proclamation. When I preach a ho-hum sermon, I believe God can and will still speak because His Word never returns void (Is.55:10-11). What bothers me is when I begin to presume on the power of God and use it to justify my own laziness.  

The power of God is never an excuse for a lack of preparation. 

1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Do all to the glory of God.” Call me a literalist, but when Paul said “all”, I think he meant “all.” I know the context is about Christian liberty, but the command to labor for the glory of God in all we do applies beyond the immediate context. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…” Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” 

The power of God is never an excuse for a lack of preparation. We should find so much security and peace in the fact that God is bigger than our best efforts and failed attempts. At the same time we should honor God by putting our blood, sweat, and tears into everything our hands find to do. Not because our hope and faith are in these things, but because we do all we do for the glory of a God, who is worthy of our hard work. 

7 Things I'm Excited About At Church

Last week we moved the Redemption worship services out of the local high school we’ve been meeting in for the past two and half years and into a local performing arts center called The Metropolis. The transition has been close to seamless and has me thinking about a handful of things I’m excited about in this new chapter of our church…

1. The Metropolis staff was amazing.

I can’t imagine most people would be to thrilled about getting up early on a Sunday morning and going to work, but the staff at the Metropolis was on time, wide-eyed, and happy to help. Two of their technicians, Chelsea and Mike, patiently helped us get set up, sound checked, and then ran a strong service for us. The house manager, Kelly, was ever-available for anything we needed and couldn’t have been more helpful. We’re excited about working with this crew and prayerfully hoping we’ll be a blessing to them.

2. Our Missional teams worked hard.

It’s not the easiest thing to move a church’s services from one space to another. There are always surprises and you can’t always know what to expect. Despite what could have been a frustrating first morning, our teams were flexible, friendly, and fun to serve with. Everyone was willing to do whatever needed to be done and I didn’t hear one complaint. We’re blessed with a group of people who love to serve.

3. Our pastors had us well-prepared.

When I thanked the Metropolis staff for all their help, they each commented on how well prepared we were. I can’t take credit for this. Pastor Tyler, Pastor Scott, and Pastor Ashley insured that everything was well organized and ready to go. I know they each invested a great number of hours behind the scenes and I couldn’t ask for better friends to partner with.

4. We are growing in diversity.

When we first started Redemption almost everyone looked the same, sounded the same, and was in a similar season of life. A lot has changed these past five years. Sunday I preached to people of various ethnicities, ages, tax-brackets, and seasons of life. Jesus is drawing a diverse group of people to Himself through the ministry of our church. 

5. We had a packed house.

Redemption has worshipped in six locations over five years. With every move I wonder if people will show up. Sunday they showed up. The room was full for service and the lobby was packed afterwards. This matters because we want to tell as many people as possible about who Jesus is and all He’s done for them. 

6. We are surrounded by people. 

Downtown Arlington Heights is filled with homes, shops and restaurants which means it's filled with people. A number of volunteers on our teams had great conversations with people just walking by. The Starbucks baristas down the street were invited to come to service, some of our guys had a conversation about our church with two men they described as “still drunk from the night before,” and a homeless lady came to church because a man on our Utility team invited her while putting up signs. We’re praying God opens doors for us to make Him known in the neighborhood.

7. God is faithful.

This Sunday we celebrate our five year anniversary and our theme is “Five Years Of Faithfulness.” We chose this theme because from day one God has been faithful. He’s met every need, sustained us through difficult transitions, and shown us more grace than we’ll ever know.

There is so much to be thankful for and I think I’m most thankful that God lets me be a part of this. He has been and will be faithful, so I can’t wait to see what he does next!

Humble Worship Of A Holy God

A few years ago I took Ava and Ryder to a halloween festival at the local community center. Kids dressed up and played games, while parents took pictures and tried to manage the madness of a few hundred kids hopped up on more candy than any little human should consume. In truth, the costumes, candy, and games were all prelude to the real event - Jim Nesci and his cold blooded creatures. Nesci is apparently an expert on all things creepy and covered in scales. 

The show was what you’d expect. There were lizards, turtles, and least favorite, snakes. The kids and I were sitting at a safe distance, so I was feeling fine about this show, despite my disdain for reptiles - that is until Nesci’s grand finale. To end the show, Nesci pulled a canvas cover off a 9-foot-long North American alligator named, wait for it…Bubba. Bubba wasn’t chained to anything and nothing was tied around his mouth. The climax of all this crazy was Jim’s invitation to all the little kids to come sit on Bubba’s back. I was convinced this must be some kind of parenting test - like if you’re the type of parent that thinks it’s a good idea for your kid to sit on an alligators back, DCFS was waiting in the corner to take your kid. 

As I sat back watching parents plop their kids on the back of this deadly reptile, I just kept thinking, “What about Siegfried and Roy? What about the Crocodile Hunter? What about all the Sea World performers that have been hurt - or killed - by the orcas they train? What about that chimp that mauled its owner's best friend to the point of being unrecognizable?” By God’s grace, Bubba was a champ and didn’t chow down on an unsuspecting toddler. Regardless, I couldn’t stop thinking about how dangerous it is to reduce your respect for something that should be revered. 

Never is this more dangerous than in our view of God. 

None of us has a perfect perspective of just how great God is. He’s smaller in all of our minds than He is in reality. Sadly, this is fueled in our Christian culture because we’ve majored on the immanence of God to the exclusion of His infinite nature. We rightfully talk a lot about God’s love, mercy, and grace, but wrongly neglect the reality and severity of God’s holiness. The problem is, because we have so reduced the holiness of God, we simply don’t revere Him the way we should. You may not think that’s a problem, but reverence is the rationale behind worship. So here’s the big idea:

Until we see God as He is, we won’t worship Him as we ought. 

We need a fresh, Biblical vision of the holiness of God. We need to not forget that Jesus isn’t a "snuggie" we slip safely inside, but a humble Lion we live to love and serve. God can’t be boxed in and He can’t be controlled. God is greater, grander, and so much bigger than we can ever comprehend. Rather than hide from these truths because they make our heads hurt, we need to push into an ever-growing view of the holy God we’re called to worship. 

Don't Stop Asking

I have three children under the age of six. This means that every few seconds my kids are asking for something - help with this, more of that, to go there, etc. If, God forbid, I fail to hear them, answer them, or deliver what they demand, they will ask again…and again…and again…and again…until they wear me down to the point of wishing for the sweet relief of a coma rather than hearing them ask me one more time for the same thing. 

As is always the case, God is a far better father than I am. God welcomes, wants, and even commands that we offer persistent prayers. In Luke 18:1-8 Jesus tells the story of a widow who is relentless in her pursuit of justice from an unjust judge. Though he blew her off at first, the finally broke saying, “because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.” This is no random story. Luke says Jesus told this parable “that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”  God wants His kids to keep coming to Him in prayer.  

Maybe there’s something you’ve asked God for, haven’t seen an answer to, and as a result you’re growing weary in the asking. Maybe it’s a sin you desire freedom from, a family member you want to come to faith, a provision you’re desperate for, an area of healing you haven’t seen. This parable is for you. Don’t stop praying in general and don’t stop praying about that issue in particular. God is teaching you something in the waiting, and cultivating something in you as you continually come to Him. Persistent prayer cultivates perseverance, trust, and faith. 

It could be that God’s answer to your request is “No.” Maybe God’s saying, “Not now.” You have to know that God is more concerned with what He’s doing in you, than with what you want Him to do for you. So, maybe God’s just waiting for you to ask one more time. 

Drinking From Tub Toys

Behind every human longing is our deepest desire for the joy that only comes from experiencing the satisfying goodness of God. Inside every one of us is a restlessness, or longing we spend our lives trying to satisfy. Some of us try intimacy, others try success. Some look to sex, while others try food. Regardless of the medium we choose, everyone seeks to satisfy a deep longing that exists in every human heart. The truth is, while these things may pacify us momentarily, the restless longing returns. 

My almost two-year-old, Lincoln, reminded me of this recently. One of Lincoln’s grosser loves is drinking his bath water. I wish I could tell you it was only the faucet water he drinks, but Lincoln is just as happy to drink his tub water - dirt, grime, sunscreen, old food-filled water - it’s disgusting. Lincoln has a particular set of cups that he plays with in the tub. The problem is, these cups have holes in the bottom, so when he attempts to bring them to his mouth the water has often already drained out. I know he doesn’t understand yet, but I keep telling him that these cups are incapable of accomplishing what he wants them to. 

Our pursuit of joy and satisfaction is often just as fruitless as Lincoln’s attempt to drink from a leaking cup. We all have these “cups” of sex, food, status, success, possessions, money, love, and intimacy that we seek to drink from and satisfy the longing within us. Sadly, these cups are incapable of accomplishing what we want them to. God, through the prophet Jeremiah, told us as much. In Jeremiah 2:13 God said, “My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns form themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Many of us have forsaken Jesus as our fountain of joy and satisfaction and are foolishly trying to drink from tub toys that can’t hold the very thing we long for. 

God’s goal is to satisfy the restless longing in you with His own goodness. This is what makes the gospel such good news for us. Jesus offers us the eternally soul-satisfying living water of His Holy Spirit within us (John 4:10-14; 7:37-39). We don’t have to drink from leaky cups that leave us thirsty. We can drink deeply from the satisfying goodness of God offered to us through faith in the finished work of Christ.

 Augustine wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Imagine your strongest longing satisfied, your deepest desire met, your most constant craving pacified. That’s the living water Jesus offers His people. Sex, money, and status are eclipsed by the soul-satisfying Spirit of God dwelling within His people!

Rest in Christ today. No more drinking from leaky tub toys. Repent and turn from whatever you’ve been substituting for Jesus and receive the living water that will finally leave you thirsty no more.