We Must Be a Broken People

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Our Church has been finishing up a five-part series. The last of which was on the

 

“perseverance of the saints”. This biblical idea basically means that though our salvation is secure, we as Christians will persevere in our faith until the end. We won’t throw our love for Christ aside, we won’t give Him up. Ultimately though, we recognize that God is the one at work within us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Contemplating this concept is difficult for me. God clearly calls us to turn from our sins and always be repenting and turning back to Christ. This being the fruit and proof of salvation. And then there’s the other side: it’s ultimately God who’s doing the perseverance in and through us. It’s crazy to think about!

However mind-boggling God’s sovereignty is, He is teaching us much through our Wednesday night home-groups through our church. We talk in a group of 12-18 and

 

discuss the sermon from Sunday. We read through selected scriptures and open the floor for discussion. We eventually got on the topic of “how to recognize those who are persevering and those who are not”. Because, what sets good-works-salvation-bob apart from by-grace-through-faith-alone-Nolan? We externally do the same things, don’t we?

God led me back to a verse in Luke 18:10-14.

 

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

This account is always a humbling reminder of what a broken heart before God looks like. It’s not flashy, it’s not proud or arrogant. It’s not perfect, It’s just broken.

We look at the pharisee and think he looks pretty good, by cultural standards. And the tax collector is pretty much the scum of the earth. At face value we could make a judgement call and say the Pharisee is “persevering”, but is he?

Jesus is getting deep here. The pharisee is pompous and arrogant before God, flaunting his spiritual “goodness” (aka filthy rags). He thanks God he’s not like other people. He thanks God He’s not like “those” people. He’s literally placing his good works on a false scale. This made up scale places the Pharisee as creator, the “other people” as the measured standard, and rigs it to go in his favor. He tries to “trick” God into thinking he’s good.

The contrast is this lowly tax collector. By societal standards, a thief, a swindler. The scum of the earth. But his prayer sounds much different. “be merciful to me, a sinner!” He recognized his sinfulness before God. He realized that he deserved nothing other than condemnation. And he physically expressed it by beating his chest is anguish over his separation from God. Naturally from the outside you’d think “this guys screwed up!” and he certainly was. But there’s a difference between these two screw-ups.

One was broken. One was not.

We have this idea in the Church that if we show our brokenness we will be shunned. And this should never be the case. This ‘scum of the earth’ Jesus was referring to was not scum to Him. But rather this man was the one who was saved in the end. Not the one who “looked good”.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” – Psalm 51:17

An arrogant, thinks-they’re-put-together-person is not persevering in Christ. They are persevering by themselves.

A broken, contrite heart recognizes their own flaws. They turn to Christ for forgiveness and reveal themselves to be the truly persevering. And what does the latter example have that the former doesn’t? The Holy Spirit himself.

As a Church we must be a broken people. We must. Without brokenness and vulnerability what do we have? White-washed tombs and people not getting the spiritual nourishment they desperately need. We must be broken before we can be healed.

My Hope Has Been Built on Less

The old hymn echoes in my head:

My Hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness…

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My life has been a whirlwind of work, ministry, starting a business, and keeping my priorities straight. The latter has had its moments.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I started a small lawn and landscape service. It’s actually going quite well, though slowing for the fall and winter. My job at Chick-fil-a has gone successfully and I’m currently (starting next week) working two days at CFA and two days at a local Auto Shop as a Service Technician.

All of these happening within a month of leaving our previous church and beginning anew elsewhere. With this whirlwind of stress and emotion, my heart has grown colder to God’s goodness. I haven’t felt the fervor of yesteryear I want so much. And I’m checking my heart to truly understand why.

Let me explain.

 

When we’re drawn to sin, or even just “stuff” (career, busin

ess ownership, financial security, etc.) our flesh whispers to us that pursuing those things will ultimately make us happy. That a secure job, a cool car, or path in life will ultimately secure satisfaction. And if we buy into this lie, we will do anything to achieve it. Including neglecting our devotion to the God who bought us.

But as God has been teaching me, all things not built on the foundation of God and His word will eventually make the believer as dissatisfied as ever.

I make myself anxious over not “choosing the right path” or whether or not I should be pursuing a business idea or something else entirely. My brain is wired to think deeply, but sometimes i allow it to cause me anxiousness that i don’t need or want. Waking up everyday wondering if I’m doing what I should.

And this kind of thinking is my problem. I’m at the wrong starting point. Me.

Rather than asking, “what should I do?” I should rather be asking “What will make God look great?”.

This perspective sucks the ego out of anything. Because if I’m pursuing business to the Glory of God, it’s not for the affirmation of customers that my fallen heart so desperately wants. It’s not for the success at work or the pat on the back from the boss. The gospel frees me from this modern form of self-slavery.

For if Christ purchased my standing before God, I have no need to seek my security from money, for I have already inherited eternal life. I don’t have to have affirmation from people because in Christ I’m more loved and accepted than I could ever hope for. And if God has a greater plan than I could ever dream of for me, than why should I wake up each morning and question it? What rebellious people we are!

“On Christ the solid rock I stand

All other ground is sinking sand”

When God Becomes our Satisfaction

My heart hasn’t had much of a desire for God and His word for a while now. Many days I would only pray that God would help me to want Him at all.

It’s a strange type of faith when you wake up in the morning, hoping that your spark of joy in Christ will be ignited. It’s almost like the joy is laying dormant, not necessarily gone altogether.

I don’t know if anyone has experienced this in their walk with Jesus, but it can be very discouraging. Wondering if there’s something wrong with you, wondering if God has abandoned you, wondering if your different sin struggles could have caused this.

As I wrestled with drawing near to God, i knew already that I was the one who moved. I’m the sinner, I’m the law-breaker, God didn’t become less amazing in the past few months, my own fallen self just wasn’t appreciating his Glory.

Something has changed in the last few weeks though. As I wrestled with some personal struggles, God used a combination of a music artist, a preacher, and His Word to grab hold of my heart.

He read from Jeremiah 2:13:

 

“for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
    the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
    broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

We expect Jeremiah to give a laundry list of all the things they didn’t do right, all the things they need to work on, but instead we see something different. God says they have only committed two evils, they forsook God, and made cisterns of water that couldn’t hold any water.

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God’s using this powerful imagery to show them who the ultimate satisfaction is. The cisterns of false gods, food, money, power, sex, recognition, etc. were all cisterns that didn’t hold any water. In essence, even in the Old Testament we see God’s leading us to the heart of the issue: God and God alone can satisfy the deepest longings in our hearts. We can try to make relationships, money, and anything into a pseudo “cistern” but when we pour our satisfaction into it, it goes right through the bottom onto the floor. Left emptier than before.

And this has been my problem. As I’ve started my business, Iv’e felt a deep longing for financial stability, for recognition as a “business owner”, to have more freedom in my life. Though these can be good things, they’d slowly evolved into things I’d become obsessed with.

As my insecurity grew, and my idolatry turned to other things, I found myself medicating my idolatry with more idolatry, a broken cistern smashed into another. Many of us understand this vicious cycle, whether struggles with lust medicated with more lust, or desire for money medicated with visions of future financial success, or even personal insecurity turning to athletic races to gain self-worth.

All these things are worthless. They don’t satisfy. There are many more sins that I struggle with, but they’re all born of these two sins found in Jeremiah 2.

We forsake God. Whenever I want something more than Jesus, it’s an idol. Whenever I place my whole life into something other than Jesus, I become an idolater.

And God designed us this way, we were created for Him, we were created to enjoy Him above all things, and when we realize that nothing else satisfies our souls like pursuing and loving Jesus, we then find balance in the rest of our lives.

I’m slowly learning this on an upward climb to joy. I’m beginning to grasp it in little ways: being freed from worrying about clients because Jesus has purchased my eternal security on the cross, being freed of lust because God is far more beautiful than anything else in this created world, being freed of self-doubt, because God has my steps in His hands and has created me in His perfect purpose to accomplish His ultimate will.

These are only a few examples, and i haven’t lived them out perfectly, but God is working on my heart!

 

Writing a More Effective Blog

I’m finding that as I write more, the more I realize how easy it is to just write about anything and everything and forget the purpose of this blog. Namely to help people pursue Jesus better, to have better theology, and to have better marriages as a result.

So I’ve finally figured out some general categories that i will be starting to post in:

      1. Life’s Pursuit

Life’s Pursuit will be a retelling of the past week (or month) of my life and what God has been teaching me through it. It will be filled with struggles, great times, ministry updates, work updates, etc. Why call it “Life’s Pursuit”? Well, because the Christian life isn’t just lived two hours on Sunday. It’s pursuing Jesus in the midst of all of life.

    2. Marriage

There’s no catchy name for this category of post. Just like it sounds, marriage! It could be what I’m learning in marriage, or something iv’e learned and want to pass to my two readers. Whether how to handle money together, or how not to say things, it will be a fun time writing!

3. Theology 

Having good Theology is something I’m very passionate about. As the great Dr. James White has coined “Theology matters”. And this is why I love writing about it, it effects every area of our lives. Our marriages, how we view God, how we view nature, how we view ethics, etc. Theology touches every single person on this planet because like Romans 1 says, they suppress the truth in unrighteousness. So theology tells us about literally everything.


Anyhow, this is how I’m going to segment each post each week. Keep a lookout!

The Plan For a New Beginning

I mentioned in my last post that I had a business idea in the making. One week in and it’s very much on it’s way!

I decided to pursue landscaping as a startup business idea. The whole purpose is to give me something physical to do, while also creating some better income and freedom to do more things that i love. I’m hoping this will help to enable us to be more flexible in serving at our church, doing more of what we love together (music, serving, etc) and it will (if it goes as planned) replace and provide a greater income than present.field-175959_1920.jpg

I’ve always loved the idea of entrepreneurship but never had the guts to cast off my fear and pursue a career “on my own”. But now, it’s pretty official. My bosses know, my church knows, my friends know, and I’ve posted publicly on  Facebook. So essentially I’ve given myself no wiggle room for not doing this. It’s gonna happen.

So, you say, what’s the plan?

My first goal is complete. Be open with my intentions and start moving forward. Done.

My second goal is to create a one-page business plan of what I will offer, how much to charge, and what investments need to be made. That is finished.

My third goal is to purchase the equipment and launch my internet presence. Also, I’m doing some free work to provide me with some positive feedback for the online presence. There’s virtually no landscape company in my area that’s capitalizing on this. This is what I’m doing right now. I’m purchasing the mower today and many of the hand tools needed. I will also hopefully have a job on Monday for some leaf blowing and hedge trimming!

The fourth and final goal is to get the physical name out. I’ll purchase shirts, business cards, flyers, lawn signs, car magnets and start hustling like a mad man to get quotes and get working on mondays, saturday mornings, and evenings.

Iv’e calculated i need 15 hours of work per week to replace my current income. I’m hoping and praying that God will provide the work quickly so it’s not a long dragged out ordeal. But I’m trying to trust in His timing.

Anyways, i have to go get that mower and a whole lot of other stuff!

New Ideas, Friends, and Potatos

As the weekend begins I reflect back on this week. It’s been a roller coaster for me. From wrestling with sin, to enjoying God, it’s been very up and down. On top of that I told my boss I’m planning on starting my own landscaping business (more of that in later posts).

So a lot has been resolved in my heart, a lot is being worked on in my heart as well.

This week has consisted of a sweet time of worship on Thursday night with friends from our church. Singing and sharing how God’s working. We discussed missions, God’s work in our own church, and heartbreaking loss for one of the families. But this is what the church is for!

Then Friday was work as usual, until i told my boss about the business idea, to which he was surprisingly supportive. It was nerve-wracking, but it took a weight off my shoulders telling him. I’m really glad that I’m finally going out on my own. I think God’s built my heart for entrepreneurship, so it feels like I’m finally moving in the right direction.fire-227291_1920.jpg

My wife, Rachel left Friday for her women’s retreat, so I’m all alone for a couple of days, though she’ll be back late tonight (Saturday).

Later that yesterday (friday) evening i finally forced myself to go biking, something i really want to start doing on a regular basis. During that ride I received a text from some friends (one of whom’s wife was on the retreat as well) inviting me for dinner. I drove over and we had a great time playing three guitars on the porch, trying to figure out what sounded good. After dinner and ice cream, we spent about 40 minutes attempting to get a fire going in the backyard pit, which we eventually succeeded at.

I’m not particularly looking forward to tonight. I close on saturday nights, so I’m always tired Sunday morning and it’s just a hard shift to lead anyhow. But i’m looking forward to sunday morning! After church we’re doing a potato bar raising funds for our teens for student life camp this summer. It should be a good time!

Monday will be a day of working on my business idea. Brainstorming with other small business owners, and starting to get a tangible idea of how and when to start.

Until then, I’m a bit lonely without my wife. But God is with me and He’s reminding me today of His Grace and love for me despite me! So I’m trying to rest in that and not be anxious with the idea of new, scary things.

I know this post has been much more random than usual, but it’s what I’m thinking about this morning.

 

Emotionally Fat but Spiritually Famished

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were driving home from Church. We pulled into our driveway, stepped out in our nicer clothes, guitar in-hand, and proceeded to walk up the driveway.

For some context, there’s a church across the street from us, so there are usually cars parked beside the road sunday morning.

Anyways, an older lady was walking back to her vehicle and she noticed us.
Seeing our clothes and guitar she deduced we had come from church. She asked us if we had, and we said that we just came back. Her reply at that point was something that’s stuck in my heart for weeks now, not so much for her motives (which i’m sure were pure), but rather for the deeper significance behind it.

What were her words you ask? Just two – “Good job!”

Why is this significant? Because, as a Christian, going to church isn’t a “good job”. Church was never meant to be something that you do once a week, you get a pat on the back, and then you live your week like the rest of the world (Colossians 3). Stepping foot in a building doesn’t automatically make you a Christian, or even a “good” christian, if there ever was one (Romans 3).

The real question is “what is a Christian”?

-The American churchis emotionally fatbut spiritually famished-.jpgThis american “christianity” has shaped us into a lifestyle of comfort, materialism, and godlessness under the guise of “i-go-to-church-a-few-times-a-month-so-im-a-christian” mentality. This is not Christianity. The buttery-smooth speakers who entice the flesh with little regard for Christ and him crucified. Never mentioning death to self, never mentioning that you could die for being a christian, only plopping you down in a seat and allowing you to consume until you’re emotionally fat and spiritually famished.

And before i’m misunderstood, attending church is VERY important in the Christian life. Or, i should rephrase, meeting at a church house and having fellowship with THE Church is essential to the christian life (Hebrews 10:24-26).

From scripture, there’s an interesting connection that i noticed while teaching the 7th and 8th graders a few weeks back. I asked a trick question, “what’s the difference between a christian, and a disciple?”.

***dead silence***

Me – “Nothing!”

If you are a Christian you will be a disciple. Matthew 28:19 equated sharing the gospel with making disciples. It’s not different. If you want to see people saved you MUST see them discipled. It’s not a “come to the front” moment, it’s a “lay down your life, give everything you have, and submit to a Christ into a life of godliness”. This doesn’t sound comfortable!

We want our cars, our houses, our boats! We want security! But Christ says to lay them at his feet. Don’t cling to them. Having a house or most anything isn’t sinful. But our hearts can so easily entice us into relying on them for our joy rather than Christ.

As one of my favorite songs says “You possess your possessions or they posses you” (Switchfoot – “If the House Burns Down Tonight”).

And I think that’s the danger of so called american Christianity. We love being comfortable, rich, and fat, more then we love Jesus. And this is an eternal error.

Sure, there’s a whole lot more to being a christian then what I’ve mentioned, but I want to make this clear – If you are a Christian, you are a disciple, and you are to die to yourself and make disciples. Don’t neglect fellowship with the saints. Don’t just go, sit down, and leave. Fellowship is building each other up, maybe encouraging, maybe rebuking.

But either way. I think the American mindset of Christianity has it all wrong.

So, as you see the myriad of people coming in tomorrow for Easter Sunday, welcome them with open, loving arms. But don’t sugar coat the gospel message. The Christian life isn’t easy, but it’s so very worth it.


Key Verses:

Matthew 28:19
Colossians 3
Hebrews 10:24-26