Augustine | what to pray for

Some advice on what to pray for from Saint Augustine:

Stretch wide the net of your insatiable desires, greedy, and find something greater than God, find something more precious than God, find something better than God.  What won't you possess, when you possess him?  But all right, rake in to yourself gold, silver, as much as you can.  Cut out the neighbors; keep a tight grip on your estate by enlarging it, till you reach the ends of the earth.  Having bought up the whole earth, add the seven seas.  Let everything you can see be yours; let everything under the water which you can't see be yours.  When you've got all this, what will you have in fact, if you haven't got God?  

So if by having God a poor man is rich, and by not having God a rich man is a beggar, don't ask him for anything except himself.

(Sermon 105A, from Essential Sermons, New City Press)

my problem with goodness and beauty | pt 1

Autumn came out of nowhere this year in South Bend. Sometimes it creeps in and you barely notice the transition. Not this time. Deep, dark skies swept quickly over northern Indiana, and blazing hot days turned crisp fast. It seems like it was only a couple of days ago when nighttime meant some relief from the heat. Now the nights are biting cold. I’ve always loved this season the most, but I used to find myself more connected to it. When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time at a church camp not too far from our home. I’d go there in the summer as a camper, but our family would be there in the fall a lot, too. My dad would take my brother and me up for work day. We’d help the men split logs so that the wood-burning furnace in the old farmhouse where the director lived would be well stocked through the winter. I can remember drinking in the fall on those days. It was as if I had this huge net in my heart that was able to capture so much of the beauty and the wildness of that season so that not much of it floated past me without having to first go through me, leaving my heart full as it moved on. Honestly, I feel like that net has shrunk as I’ve grown older. I just turned 28, and I’m pretty sure I was better at receiving goodness when I was 18. Even better when I was 8. If I try to step outside of myself for a second, it’s clear that I experience as many good and beautiful things now as I ever have in life. It’s just that they don’t sink in as deep any more. This is a problem.
Read More

wake up!

You know the first service the Church ever held was an Easter service?  Well, not technically, I suppose.  But basically, Peter and the rest of his crew held a big open air Easter service at Pentecost.  Don’t believe me?  Check it out here.

The Holy Spirit comes sweeping into the lives of Jesus’ followers, and they begin proclaiming the wonders of God in languages that everyone in the diverse crowd of onlookers can understand.  Then Peter, the guy who could never get it right just a few pages earlier, stands up and preaches the sermon of his life and offers a wake up call to thousands of people who have been waiting for daybreak all their lives.  He tells them about Jesus – that he went into the tomb, and though he might have seemed like an ordinary man for that moment, he came out of that tomb and showed everyone that He was Lord.  It’s good news that Jesus is Lord, too. 

Money could be your lord, but it’s a pretty cruel savior.  Success or sex or friends or religion… same story.  If we’re going to find release from submission to these vacuous gods, we need a better Lord.  Jesus is the only King that actually deserves our lives. 

So we stand on the history of God’s people this weekend as we summon all our best.  We’re hoping to get people’s attention by making some noise (the marching band helps), by speaking clearly so the diverse crowd of onlookers that shows up at GCC can hear the message, by sounding the wake up call to thousands of people that matter to the King.  I couldn’t be prouder of my team this weekend… this was a challenge to pull off, but it’s been amazing day!  I don’t know what you’re doing this weekend, but I hope you experience the wake up call.  Jesus is Lord!  (and Happy Easter!) 

inspiration from Hillsong

Last night, Hillsong London came to GCC to worship with us.  (Thanks to Mark Beeson for this picture).  I’ve got about a dozen posts to write about this whole experience, about what I had to learn, about its impact on our worship team, about my gratitude for a senior pastor who would get behind something like this, about my heart for our church and our worship… but let me start with this:

I’m SO grateful for people who remind me how big God is.  Sometimes inspiration is underrated.   I need people who don’t care how foolish or crazy it sounds when they proclaim God’s power in the Church.  I need friends with huge dreams and courageous vision. 

The people who get to live on the front lines of God’s work in the world aren’t the perfect ones.  They still have crap to deal with.  If you’re looking for a man or woman who God will use, keep an eye out for someone who has decided God is who He says He is, and that our mistakes are no match for His power. 

Last night’s experience reminded me of that. 

Are you willing to take God at His word?  Are you willing to believe that we’ve been given access to the power that raised Christ from the dead?  Are you willing to believe that God wants to build His kingdom, and that nothing, not even hell itself, can stand in the way?  

 

preparing

I didn’t grow up in churches that observed much of the Church calendar. But last week, the vast majority of Christians in the world gathered for Ash Wednesday services and are now living in the rhythm of Lent. Because of my inexperience with this stuff, I’m pretty naïve about the whole thing. But, I’d love to learn.

 

What little I do understand is beautiful. I believe the most significant thing that has ever happened in human history happened when Jesus was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead. Preparing to remember and celebrate that with a season of fasting seems more than appropriate; it seems necessary. Last Christmas was undoubtedly the most disconnected I’ve ever felt from a holiday Holy Day. I don’t want to let the same thing happen to Good Friday and Easter.

 

Did you attend an Ash Wednesday service last week? Are you fasting in some way for Lent? Did you grow up with this stuff? Are you like me – a recent convert to the whole idea? Please, I’d love to hear from your experience. Jump in on this one. What’s all of this stuff like for you?