I’ve been taking a break from writing on my page lately and although it isn’t ideal for someone who is trying to become a better writer, sometimes rest is necessary to make one stronger. In fact, taking a break from any type of work isn’t a bad idea – especially if you’re like me and you’re constantly going at a constant high speed. (Which was something that was instilled in me as a kid.) We’re all taught that if you want anything in life, you have to work hard at it. And that is 100% true! But so is resting. If you want anything in life, you have to learn the art of resting.

Rest isn’t just my idea, it’s also God’s idea for us. He rested after he created the universe. He commanded his people in the Old Testament to rest from their labor. But I think the reason why so many of us don’t want to rest is because we crave distractions and being busy. But being constantly busy and distracted causes us to miss the calm and peace that comes with rest.

Resting for me is when I am fully engaged in my present reality. I’m not dwelling on yesterday or tomorrow nor am I running at 110 mph – I’m engaged in my present moment. And realize that the gift of rest and our present reality is being robbed from us every time we worry about something that happened yesterday, or worry about what may happen tomorrow, or we give into the distractions of meaningless things. If you want to experience meaningful rest, then you have to learn how to be engaged in your present reality. (See James 4:13-14).

If we can’t rest in our present reality, then my fear is that we’ll miss what God is trying to do in our “right now” – because restlessness can cause us to miss God’s activity. Maybe you’re stuck in your leading capacity, or you’ve reached a glass ceiling in your creativity, or maybe you’re just stuck in a never-ending busy cycle of life – Perhaps what God wants to do for you right now is awaken you to the reality of meaningful rest.

Rest. Sit in awe of His grace. Slow down. Be aware of your present reality, because that’s where God’s movement is often found.

Belong Local

How many times have you seen “shop local” or “dine local” in your town? Although this is mostly something that is seen in smaller towns, it is a marketing campaign for locals to stop shopping at national chains and the internet and go to the local shops, markets and restaurants. Why? Because buying local helps build the local economy. Experts say that if just half the U.S. employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned independent businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue.

But what about the idea of belonging local? I’m not talking about belonging to a gym or a local club. I’m talking about belonging to a local church. (Key emphasis on local and church.) Don’t check out on me yet…but think about it. Many Christians don’t belong to a church and some Christians simply go when it’s convenient. And then some of us “go” to a church that isn’t even local. We’ll drive to a massive church that’s 30-60 minutes away and “go”, just to get lost in the crowd – forsaking the call of belonging to a church.

I think the reason “belonging to a church” is foreign to us is that we treat the church like it’s secondary to our faith. Maybe because we’ve been hurt in the church or maybe it’s because we just don’t care. However you feel about the church, as believers the church is who we are. So we can either say we don’t want to identify ourselves as the church because of poor decisions by other morons, or we can take on the name and redefine it for everyone who doesn’t know what the church is supposed to be.

The truth is that Jesus never intended for us to to go to church. Jesus said that He is building a church (from the Greek word ecclesia – a gathering of people.) He isn’t starting a go fund me page for a building program, rather he is building a people. And it baffles me when “Christians” say they want nothing to do with what Jesus said he is building. It’s like expressing your affections to your friend, but hatred towards their spouse. Jesus’ intention for us is to belong to His bride, The Church. Belong to what is the cure to every issue in this world. Brokenness? Poverty? Loneliness? Addictions? Hurts? The Church has the answer – it’s what we are supposed to belong to. And I’m so convinced that God wants to do something so spectacular in our community today – but we as Christians are holding people back from that movement because we are individuals who simply refuse to belong to a church.

My challenge for us is to stop going to church and start belonging to church. Let’s stop being critical of her and start building her up with our gifts. Stop trying to drain all of her resources and start giving to her.  Stop going when it’s convenient for you and start belonging faithfully. Stop coming by yourself and start bringing people with you to grow her. Stop comparing your church to the latest fad in the next town and start building her up.

Don’t forsake the church or attend apathetically – belong local to the ecclesia – The Bride of Jesus.

Words Matter

I’m in the middle of a teaching series at Refuge Point called Just Sayin’. Like me, you’re probably overly familiar with that phrase. If not, it goes something like this: Someone states a critical opinion to stir the pot and then says, “I’m just sayin'”. Or someone wants to give an aggressive PSA and then ends it with “Just Sayin'”. Others often express some form of gossip, negative view, or a cheap shot at someone and then ends the rhetoric with, “I’m Just Sayin'”. What these people don’t understand is that their “Just Sayin'” rhetoric has the power to change the direction of someones life.

Think about how powerful words are. Yet doesn’t it seem like the smallest phrases of words have the greatest impact? When you said, “I do” – did that phrase not change your life? When you said, “yes or no” to that drug or when you said “yes” to that person in the back seat of your car? Think about how those simple yet powerful words changed the trajectory of your life. And to know that we have the power with the words we speak to either bring life or death to a situation should weigh heavy on every person.

The average person will spend 1/5 of his/her life speaking. (Unless you’re like me…it’s more like 3/5.) Of that time, I wonder how many of us are using our words to bring life to situations. I would imagine it would be very little. For most of us, encouragement and spreading God’s love and grace isn’t on our lips. Rather, it’s words of gossip. Gossip is talking about someone without that someone. We simply fill the voids of our conversations with gossip just so we can avoid dealing with the issues and sins of our own hearts. It’s also negativity. Most of us can never say something good about another person because we’re consumed with all the bad he/she has done.

If you’re like me, then you feel defeated when you start thinking about all of this. So what’s our remedy? Jesus said that from the overflow of our heart, the mouth speaks. So, if there’s death in our hearts, then words of death will come out of our mouths. But if there’s life in our hearts, we’ll speak life. The remedy is to ask Jesus to transform our heart. The issue is never the action, it’s always the heart. The way to watch the words coming out of your mouth is to watch what is going into your heart. Store up good things in your heart and watch good things come out of your life.

“The words of a person’s mouth are deep waters, a flowing river, a fountain of wisdom.” Proverbs 18:4 (CSB)

Success vs. Faithfulness

Our culture is inundated with how to achieve success. Not only are we bombarded with how to be successful, we are painted a black and white picture of what success looks like. To our cultures standards, success looks like good health, six pack abs, nice house and car, and an extremely successful business or job. Think about how social media has influenced the picture of success for wherever you are in your life. If you’re a pastor, then check out the biggest names in the church world. If you’re trying to get healthy and in shape, then check out all of the fitness models. If you’re a mom or dad, then check out how Sally and Bob (I don’t know a Sally and Bob) are buying their kids the latest toys and hottest clothes.

And as a pastor, I am guilty of wanting this picture of success. I want my sermons to be successful, I want our numbers to be successful, I want my staff to be successful, I want my family to be successful – and I could go on forever here.

But what if I told you that success isn’t the end game? What if looking like everyone else isn’t what we’re supposed to do? Now, I don’t think that wanting success is a total bad idea, it just cannot be the main idea. Do you know how exhausting it is trying to live to the standards of success in our world? Jesus paints a clear picture for us about the one thing he wants from us in Matthew 25:21, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ I’m going to give you the most freeing thing you will hear today: Jesus never called you to be successful, he called you to be faithful. 

The problem is that since we are too caught up with trying to be successful, faithfulness takes a back seat in our priority list and we miss what God is trying to do in and through us. God wants us to be faithful with both the large and small things of life, simply because he’s looking for a people who will place more value in faithfulness over success.

But maybe, just maybe, for those of us who are comparing our lives to the rock stars of social media, maybe we ought to redefine what success looks like. Because success should mean that we are being faithful in what God has entrusted us with.