When in Bryan (Month Seven)

I have to make a plan. If I can make a plan, I won’t be afraid.

I’ve been reading a lot lately. My goal for reading this year is to read 25 books of all varieties. I’m currently sitting at 4 completed; but I should be done with two more before May (hopefully). The quote above comes from one of the books that I’m currently reading.  This quote is essentially the summation of what I’ve learned about myself since my last blog post. Hopefully this post isn’t too candid; but what is a blog if it’s not honest, right?


I’m a total control freak.

As a matter of fact, I learned that it got so bad in January that I chose circumstantial control over people that loved me and wanted to fight for me. Who does that?

 

The past month or so for me has been a lot of failing and a lot of learning; just like your twenties are supposed to be, I’ve heard! So here is an incomprehensive list of the things I’ve learned in the past 50 (or so) days:

  1. I am smart; but I do not know everything. (see, @mom, I can finally admit it!)
  2. The way I do things is fantastic…for me…a lot of the time; but it’s actually way healthier for people to have their own ways of doing certain things than for people to do things like I do them.
  3. People have different life goals than me that influence their actions. (i.e. – My goal is generally to get in-and-out of the grocery store as quick as humanly possible and so I know where the things are that I need and I don’t get anything else. But someone else might have the goal to get everything they need or will need soon and they don’t want to miss anything, so they are not in any big hurry. AND BOTH WAYS ARE PERFECTLY FANTASTIC; they’re just different. And different isn’t just good; different is healthy.)
  4. Thankfulness is essential. And people should know that you’re thankful for them.
  5. I am not in control. I never have been in control. The Lord does his thing in spite of me most of the time, and for that I am wildly thankful. He sees the big picture that I don’t. He sees the full puzzle; and I’m over in the corner not even able to get past one edge piece (side note: I suck at puzzles in a literal sense AND a metaphorical sense).

 

I’ve gotten to watch grace in action over the past few weeks. There are people that I screwed over because I fought harder for control than I did for them. Yet when I apologized to them for the specific things I did to hurt them, they looked me in the face (or in a letter) and said, “I believe you…I believe in you…and I believe in grace & forgiveness — the kind that gives 2nd & 3rd & 1000s of chances until we can finally stand & proclaim the joy of getting it right.”

 

Grace.

 

I’ve gotten to read the Bible with some new friends of mine, and we talk about grace every time we sit down to read. I get to tell them week-in and week-out that we can’t make sense of grace because our logical minds can’t wrap our heads around the fact that someone could possibly forgive us and gladly move on WITH YOU in pure joy and excitement. Grace doesn’t make sense. If grace made sense, it wouldn’t be amazing. If grace made sense, then it wouldn’t really mean that much that Jesus hanged on a cross taking all of our sins on himself and gave us his righteousness so that we could be sons and daughters of the King of kings and Creator of all things.

So, in the midst of all of the trials, errors, and failures of the past couple months, I’ve seen and learned more about who the Lord is and how badly I need the him. So it makes sense now why Paul talked about boasting in his weaknesses; because it is in Paul’s weakness that he gets to experience the raw majesty, power, and authority of the Lord.

It’s in my weakness that I get to experience the raw majesty, power, and authority of the Lord. 


 

In regards to the quote at the very beginning, I’m kinda like the character that said it. We’re both starting to slowly figure out that we don’t plan to be successful; we plan to try and sidestep fear. But to sidestep fear is to be a coward.

Courage isn’t a lack of fear.

Courage is action in the face of fear.

Courage is engaging fear as it comes; not avoiding potential future fear.

I’m learning how to be courageous and not be bound by my fear. I’m still pretty bad at it. But I wouldn’t rather be learning courage around anyone else than those I’m with in life right now.

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When In Bryan (Month Two)

I can’t even believe it is already November. I feel like October would’ve been nearly non-existent had the LORD not totally began to demolish a bunch of the walls I’ve been building up in my heart and soul for the past five years. This past month has been a lot more emotionally taxing than physically taxing (as September was).

We as a church staff have started reading a book together and spending a good chunk of our staff meeting processing through it together. The book is called “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero. This book has been a consistent kick in the teeth for the past few weeks. Here’s a few things the Lord has been revealing to me about myself (some of which I may write about as the month goes on, but this isn’t the time to go in to detail about all of this).

 

  • I am not good at submitting to leadership.
  • I am not even close to as humble as I thought.
  • I am afraid of being known because really anyone who has truly known me in the past has pretty much dropped me at some point (with a few exceptions).
    • This has led to me choosing to live in the dark on a lot of stuff and let me tell you, I wish everyone would live in the light. It is far healthier and far more bearable and joyful of a life. It far more closely reflects the life Jesus describes in John 10:10.
  • I have an inherent lack of trust for people within the Church.
    • I also generally have unrealistic expectations of people in the church, I think.
  • Love doesn’t hinge on clarity and clarity doesn’t bring forgiveness.
    • Love breeds forgiveness regardless of clarity.

 

And in the midst of all of this demolition of my synthetic inner walls, I’ve realized this as well: I am far less important than I thought I was, but I am far more loved and cared for than I could ever imagine.

I’ve had so many conversations in the past two weeks of repentance and forgiveness. Not because I am fully healed from things that have happened or the lies people have fed me or the abandonment that I’ve faced from people who have used me. No. Those things still hurt. But what’s different now is that I’m not pouring the salt of bitterness and resentment into those wounds while the Lord is trying to bind up my broken heart and heal my wounds. Now I get to sit and be taken care of by the Lord and by my friends and I don’t feel resentment anymore. I can sit and be bandaged and not rip the bandage off to pour in more dirt and salt. My wounds aren’t infected anymore and that is the first step of being emotionally and spiritually healthy.

Please don’t get me wrong, it has been really terrible and exhausting for the Lord to come in like a bull in a china shop and demolish all of my walls. But it has also been so good because I’ve gotten to taste, see, and feel the goodness of God the Father because while he’s come in swinging, he sits there with me while HE builds everything back up and speaks life and speaks identity over me.

“You’re my son.” He says. “Of course I’d fight off all of these lies that have surrounded you.”

October was crazy and tiring, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

The Most Common Idol

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity to the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be to the praise of his glory.” – Paul to the Ephesians (ch.1, v.11-12)

It’s not about us. It never has been.

I feel as though growing up in the American church system cripples a lot of people. I would argue that it cripples most, but that’s an opinion. Why would growing up in church cripple instead of heal, you might ask? There are various examples of wounds that people have from their respective churches growing up. I will not go through and list off every single example that I know of, but I also do not want to make light of the wounds you may have. For the sake of the purpose of this blog, I will just focus on the one I have seen the most.

The word is egocentrism, which is kind of similar to selfishness, but to a much deeper and more problematic level.

There are a couple of defining attributes of someone (or something) that is egocentric (according to dictionary.com):

1) regarding the self as the center of all things

2) having little or no regard to the interests, beliefs, or attitudes other than one’s own.

THE PROBLEM: egocentrism

THE SUB-PROBLEMS: the glorification of humans and the growing subjectivity of the Gospel.

First: the glorification of humans

There was a movie that came out sometime last year that caused an enormous backlash from the “Christian” community in America. The issue, for the “Christian” community, is that the movie was unbiblical and absurd and that the characters could not have been portrayed more wrongly because they were too messed up in the movie. But let’s think about this: had you not grown up putting glory in whom glory was not deserved, would this movie still be a problem?

I grew up in Sunday school basically learning the Noah was one of those Bible characters (alongside people like Moses and David and Solomon and Paul and Peter and more) that was a superhuman. I was never told about their brokenness. I was never told about their need for grace. I was never told that Noah was a drunk with no self-control (Genesis 9:18-23) or that Moses was a rash chronic doubter (Exodus 2:11-12; Exodus 3:11-15; Exodus 4:1-14; Exodus 5:22-6:1,10-12; Exodus 6:30-7:7; Exodus 32:19-20; Numbers 11:18-25; Numbers 20:6-12) or that David was a chronic liar and cheater and stealer (2 Samuel 11). I only knew of the things they did that were awesome and grew up learning to give them credit for those things. I mean, they might as well have been Jesus the way Sunday School taught me about them.

The key to this first point is that we give extra-holy attributes to sub-holy beings. To clarify, we make gods out of pastors, worship leaders, and bible characters amongst a vast array of other human beings that just are not Jesus or anything close to him.

Now, let’s ask ourselves a few questions:

1) What is the difference between you and me?

2) What is the difference between you and a preacher (any preacher, take your pick)?

3) What is the difference between you and the apostle Paul?

4) What is the difference between you and Moses? Noah? David?

Now, let’s answer our questions:

1) Probably physical location and age and maybe gender.

2) Maybe the same as #1 and also a different opinion on desired occupations.

3 & 4) Maybe the same as #1 and #2 alongside the most important difference……….TIME PERIOD.

What are the similarities between you and me and all of these people?

The fact that we are all just severely broken messes in need of more help and more grace than for which we could ever imagine to ask.

The fact that without Jesus, we all would be on the same fast track to Hell.  Let’s take a look at Romans chapter 3 starting in verse 9:

What shall we conclude then? Are [Jews] any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Second: we made ourselves the subject of the Gospel.

(My mom is an English teacher and so I’m really hoping I get this grammar lesson correct.)

Subject: the person/place/or thing performing an action

Object: the person/place/or thing on which the action is being performed

We do nothing to get/earn/attain/accept/buy our salvation. That is way more power than we will ever have. If we could save ourselves, then why in the world would Jesus have come to save us? We are so screwed up and twisted and broken that we do not even know how to begin to fix anything. We do not even know where the thought process of fixing something should start. But somewhere along the line we started thinking that we do know. Somewhere along the line, we began to think that if we spoke clean enough or kept our bodies pierceless or tattooless or did not drink any alcohol or partake in tobacco use or do whatever we thought was good that we could fix what we broke.

We do not even know what “fix it” means.

This perfection that we have been trying to attain on our own, this righteousness that we cannot seem to grasp; it’s Jesus. It always has been Jesus. And it always will be Jesus. Back to Romans 3 starting in verse 22:

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Somewhere there was a transition from christocentric to egocentricSomewhere along the line we removed Jesus as the center, as the subject. We began to play the role of God, a role that we could never actually do. We made ourselves God. We thought we could save ourselves by being “good” when in reality what we know as “good” is still broken! We have no clue what good is except the presence of The Lord, which is too good for us to even begin to understand. We consider things to be good whenever we are positively affected by them. Us. It’s all about us. A day is considered bad when something undesirable (in our opinion) happens to us.

It’s not about us. It never was.

Jesus did not leave perfection and paradise for our sake. He did it because that is who he is. His nature, as we understand it, is not that Jesus is faithful (even though he is that). It’s that Jesus is faith. Jesus epitomizes faith. Faith is not something that could ever happen without Jesus; even faith in the smallest things like getting in your car and having faith in other people to drive carefully.

Jesus is everything.
“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” – Paul to the Philippians (ch. 3, v. 7-8)

Without Jesus, we are nothing.
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” – Isaiah (ch. 64, v. 6)

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made: without him nothing was made that has been made.” – The Gospel according to John (ch. 1, v. 1-3)

We don’t know what good is, but we don’t have to.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” – Jesus in The Gospel according to Matthew (ch. 5, v. 17)

Jesus was good for us because we could never be.
“All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” – Paul to the Romans (ch. 3, v. 12)

He did not live to be an example for us, he lived because we could not.
If we believe what we have read in Romans 3, then the only acceptable and eternal sacrifice for God was God himself. And because, according to John 1, Jesus is God, then Jesus was the only option of mending the severed relationship between Creator and his creation. The Lord sent Jesus with the intent of being our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-5:10) and being the mediator between the two parties of the broken relationship. Jesus is the ultimate peace-maker that we, as confused sinners, could never be.

It’s not about us. It never was. And it never will be.

We are the object, the person being acted upon.

Jesus is the subject, the center, the everything, doing the acting.

“In him we were also chosen in order that we might be for the praise of his glory.”