Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Daddy Issues

I've known some friends who when they pray, they call God "Daddy or dad".

I think they're weird.

God as King I get.

God as Creator I can get behind.

God as Savior, spot on.

God the Master makes sense.

Even God as a universal Father, I can endorse.

But my dad? That's weird.

There's probably a couple reasons...

First, maybe a bit of a disconnect with my dad. My dad was a good dad. But just like every other dad, he had imperfections. He was flawed. And there were some things that disappointed me.

So to make the leap from my dad to God as my dad has some ground to cover.

Maybe you can relate. All the hope that your dad would provide security and safety and comfort and love and complete attentiveness and protection and nurture and joy and satisfaction and etc. etc. etc. And the reality is that your dad didn't meet all those expectations all the time.

And in some cases, not only did he fail to provide perfect safety, but he actively did the opposite, causing harm and pain. And to leap to understanding God as dad is further than you could ever jump.

Second, I feel like the personal, intimate reference to God as my dad is sacrilegious and takes away from the Divine sovereignty of God.

The king of kings, lord of lords, God of nations, God of angelic armies, God my shield, Author and Perfector, Alpha and Omega...and daddy?

I've been walking through the gospel of Luke and my heart is changing.

Jesus' first words in Luke (which we presume are an important message from the author)?
"Didn't you know I had to be in MY FATHER'S house?"

A 12 year old boy making a declarative statement to Mary and Joseph about his unique positioning as the son of God. THE father would have been acceptable. OUR father, indicating a universal parent could have been received. But Jesus says "MY FATHER". He is making it clear from the outset that this IS intimate and this IS personal.

In fact, 18 times in Luke alone, Jesus refers to God as Father, far and away more than any other name or reference.

And when Jesus begins his public ministry? What happens? He is baptized and hasn't done anything and the heavens open, and the voice of God says, "This is my son, whom I love, with whom I am well pleased."

Sonship. Prior to any act of obedience. Prior to any ministry accomplished. God the Father says "Look at my son. Isn't he great?"

And something is stirring in me.

What if rejecting God as my dad is rejecting the essence of the Gospel?

What if God is whispering that my desire for my dad to be safety and security and protection and joy and comfort and love and satisfaction is not a bad desire...it's just misplaced. Of course my dad couldn't live up to that standard. Nor will I live up to that for Chaia. I will crumble under the weight of such lofty expectations. But what if God wants me to know that I can indeed find security and safety and protection and joy and comfort and love and satisfaction IN HIM?

Chaia can be a frustrating kid...defiant...pesky...just like any three year old. But she is my kid. And the fondness I have for her in my heart is deeper than her disobedience. My love and affection for her go further than my frustration.

She's my kid. And I am proud of her. I am pleased with her. I delight in her. I genuinely enjoy her. (Sometimes despite her!)

And lately it's as if God is saying...


Maybe, God as my dad isn't so weird after all.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Anno Domini

A.D. the time demarcation of the last 2 millennia is Latin for Anno Domini, "The Year of the Lord" or "The Year of Our Lord".

C3 is kicking off the year in Luke, reading through the entire book. It seems appropriate that as we read through the life of the one who ushered in Anno Domini and as we cross a critical juncture in the life of City Campus Church in 2015, that we both declare and pray that this be the year of our Lord. For us as a church. For me individually. For our city of Columbus, we pray may this be Anno Domini.

Many are seeking to live out meaningful rhythms in UP (relationship with God), IN (relationship with Jesus people) and OUT (relationship with the world/those disconnected from God).

Many are wanting meaningful interaction with the Scriptures to connect with God. Here is some help as you begin that pursuit.

Pick something that will bring you good news. If you're trying to press in to following Jesus more, then read the Gospels (pick Luke...we're going to be there all year as a church!) If you're struggling with melancholy/downcast soul/depression, read the psalms. You'll find moments of kindred spirit there, but they always bring it back to Truth. The Bible is less a Book and more a library of Books, filled with different literary genres all depicting the same big story: God and God's people.

With each passage I read, I try to dig into some questions to get into the text more with my heart and mind. I ask WHAT?...What exactly am I reading, do I understand what is going on? Then I ask SO WHAT? And try to glean from the text what the word is for me that day. The early rabbis viewed the Scriptures like a diamond...you could look at the same passage from a slightly different vantage point or perspective and new beauty would emerge. The Bible is living and active. So it has relevance for us. Then lastly I ask NOW WHAT. Ok so I understand the passage. I see how it applies to me. If I don't actually implement it (do something about it), then I end up with a fit mind and a fat body. I know something...But I don't do something about it Every time you interact with God's Word, leave time for thoughtful contemplation that explores two questions: What is Jesus saying to me? What am I going to do about it? These two questions are central to living out life as a disciple. This means you can't just scarf down a quick meal of God's Word, but you may actually have to chew...and savor...and digest.

For those committed to making 2015 Anno Domini in the way they pray, I encourage you to pick up Richard Foster's book entitled "PRAYER". It is an accessible book on some of the types of prayers that we find in Scripture and the Christian life. It teaches about a type of prayer and then it allows you opportunity to pray that type of prayer.

Don't get discouraged if you miss a day or suck at these things if you've never done them or done them sporadically in the past.

"If it's worth doing, it's worth doing badly" -- GK Chesterton

It's all about positioning.

May you be filled with anticipation and expectancy of what God might do in 2015!

Anno Domini!

Friday, January 2, 2015

New: 14 for 14

2014 is in the rear view. Another year older. Another Cleveland season without championship.

Here's things I'm becoming more and more convinced about as 2015 kicks off. Some Jesus. Some family. Some sports.

1. Church planting is A) the single most effective way to reach people far from God and B) the single most certain way to experience crushing.

2. Experiencing depression and the counseling that has come with it have made me a better man, husband, father and pastor. I find myself weepy and moved by grace for the first time in a long time. It doesn't mean it's not hell to go through. It just means that the road to the Promised Land always goes through wilderness.

3. Chaia will not follow script. The same stubborn, fierce will that God infused in her to battle for her life is at work all over her life. If God chooses, she could lead something pretty amazing down the road. In the meantime, parenting her may take 10 years off our life.

4. Churches who lead with polish and production will repeatedly run into the challenge of "one-upmanship". We did this thing and it was epic. The only way to bring our people back to this experience with God is to bring the epic degree to the next level. In one sense, this can lead churches to take more radical risks which could be great. On the other hand, when a church experiences hardship and pain and things that don't feel very epic, people will leave in droves because they were promised Promised Land and not cautioned about the road to get there.

5. Following Jesus, leading a church, being married for the long haul and parenting a kid with special needs (as well as any kid) all teach one thing. Selfishness will steal your life. If anyone wants to find their life, they better plan to lose it. He must increase...but I must decrease...The former can't be had without the latter being desperately pursued.

6. At the same time, pouring out constantly to others is not equivalent to selflessness. Sometimes selflessness is letting others serve you and bless you. Sometimes to be effective distributors of intoxicating grace, we first have to humble ourselves to be eager recipients of intoxicating grace. From God. From our family. From our church. (This doesn't mean we demand it. It just means when we find it we embrace it.)

7. The single greatest mark of effective church planting/leading a movement is not size or charisma or money. It is the level of depth that exists in your first generation of leaders and how empowered, effective and willing they are to entrust that depth into a second generation of leaders. Anyone with some combination of hype, adequate funds and marketing skills and charisma can draw a crowd. But Jesus frequently drew away from the crowds to invest in the 12...taught to give away the funds rather than use them for selfish gain. Grow a church to 10,000 and fail at making disciples who can make disciples and you have failed unequivocally.

8. My wife is funny. I should laugh with her more. Even when her jokes are bad.

9. Being a Cleveland sports fan is like getting a tooth pulled. Only instead of relief after a season of pain, the dentist keeps pulling the tooth,over and over. At some point, it'd be worth considering whether that dentist is someone you should really be putting any stock in.

10. Encouragement is oxygen to the soul. You want to let someone know they are appreciated? Give them oxygen...not superficial/artificial oxygen...but genuine, thoughtful encouragement. People will go further than they knew they could if they have enough oxygen. A lot like that one time I ran a half marathon. There were only cheering sections at two points. But when we went through those spots it was like they believed we could do it...so we believed we could too...at least until the next mile marker.

11. Adversity is the catalyst to change. Some will balk and cry when adversity strikes, but those who pray, "make me teachable and have your glory" are moved to something deeper, bigger or better. Stop pouting and stalling in adversity and look for God there. He shows up. It's His nature.

12. It's possible that something can be everything you hoped for and nothing like you planned. Roll with it.

13. We've said it before, but it's a good thing Chaia is cute. If she wasn't, we probably wouldn't have made it this far with her.

14. If your community wouldn't be upset or have any clue that your church closed, you're doing it wrong. Invest. Be broken and poured out. Not to make converts. But to follow Jesus, who modeled the way for us.

Here's to 2015. May you find restlessness and disgust until you find satisfaction in Him.