I’ve enjoyed a remarkable week in the Word! Every day, I’ve learned something new and been encouraged by Christ’s Spirit in profound ways.
It’s a week during which I’ve been reminded of the powerful truth in Hebrews 4, which describes the Word of God as living and active. Indeed, perhaps the most “alive and active” power in the world. One we have the privilege and joy of connecting to daily.
Our church is in a season of prayer, fasting, and discernment regarding an opportunity we believe the Lord is placing before us. I have been inviting the congregation to “fasting” and a host of other biblical and spiritual disciplines so that we might clear out the clutter of our lives and be attentive to the voice of God within and among us.
It’s been personally enriching time with the Lord.
My week in the Word has been structured around times of study and times of prayerful meditation. I’ve also been fasting, which is a spiritual discipline that helps me get in touch with my desires, direct them toward Christ, and enjoy communion with Him.
Spiritual disciplines or sacred rhythms are, I believe, essential practices or tools (means of grace) for disciples.
For Christians around the world, Advent is a season of expectant waiting. It’s a season where we reorder our lives around the coming of the Messiah. Why?
We believe that the Messiah’s coming is a good thing. A great thing!
The earliest accounts convey His coming as a historic event, bringing with it the potential to change the world. An event that is designed to usher in an age of God’s good for the world.
The in-breaking of this news was as frightening as it was astounding. After the angel breaks into humankind’s real-time existence (God’s specialty even today), leaving the shepherds (no doubt accustomed to surprises taking place deep in the darkness of night) cowering in fear, he immediately issues the command, “Fear not!”
In Luke 2:10, we read, “And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
Let’s break this message down:
Fear not (relax, It’s going to be okay, no worries, be happy, mon).
Behold (take note, pay attention, to look and listen with intent).
I Bring youGood News (I, coming from heaven, have something just for you; a proclamation of good things happening).
Great Joy (surprising reason for gladness, intense delight).
For all the people (everyone, all of you, no one left out).
It is, undoubtedly, a message of hope.
The greatest hope!
What the angels proclaimed as “good news of great joy” is shorthand for the Gospel. This Gospel swells as the life of Christ expands. His life, and the Gospel He brings with Him, takes over the land.
The New Testament makes it feel like you cannot go anywhere without hearing ordinary people discussing the extraordinary young Rabbi, Yeshua, and the Goodnews (or is it?) he preaches and the crowds he is attracting.
So, what makes this news good news?
Simple, really, but something we’ve long abandoned.
This news was (and is) Goodnews because it was not proclamation from us about what we believe as much as it is a declaration from God about where we belong. It’s the stirring and hope-filled declaration that we (all the people), at long last, have a place to call home!
In our time, we’ve abandoned our need to belong in favor of the more easily manipulated desire to state what we believe.
The Goodnews, if it is anything, is about where (and to whom) we belong.
And, let’s face it: We all want to belong somewhere, with someone.
That’s why Christians around the world set aside this time of year to watch and wait. We wait for the Messiah who came and comes with good news for ALL people.
At Pillar, we call this the “Goodnews Gospel of the With-God-Life.” It’s the only Gospel Jesus preached, and it’s the one He still makes possible, even probable, today!
Advent is an opportunity to celebrate and, perhaps, recalibrate our lives, to the tune we all long to hear.
It’s a tune heard at creation, proclaimed throughout the prophets, and claimed, captured, and exclaimed by Christ.
The distinct form it takes this particular time of year is:
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
Hear the news today as if it’s the best news you’ve ever heard! Hear the Father this season, saying, “I bring you good news of great joy. It’s news designed specifically with you in mind! I want to tell you where you belong and invite you to come home! Come home to me, my child. It’s time to come home.”
Are you tired of striving, trying, and getting caught up in Amerianity’s false version of the gospel? You know, the “do more, try harder, be better,” gospel?
Let’s be honest; that’s no gospel at all.
Journey with me this Advent season as I reflect on the Gospel that once proclaimed God’s declaration about where we belong much more than a proclamation about what we believe.
We will listen to the angels, hear from the prophets, and explore the original story God has always been writing!
It’s official. I am no blogger. How have I come to realize this fact?
Bloggers blog, consistently!
I am also learning that I am not a writer. How have I come to realize this fact?
Writers write, consistently!
I don’t consistently blog or write.
Don’t get me wrong: I love blogging, and I love writing.
Avocation or Vocation?
But I am discovering that blogging is more of an avocation (hobby or activity beyond my regular responsibilities, work, and service) than a vocation (my daily responsibilities, work, and service).
In terms of vocation – the thing I spend most of my time doing – I am a pastor of Pillar Community Church in Vero Beach, Fl.
I love, truly love, pastoring.
I awake excited most mornings about the opportunities I will have to provide pastoral leadership. I often anticipate the pastoral care I will provide to those who are in my congregation as well as the broader community where I live.
It is hard work, at times. I face many challenges that I am not capable of meeting. People look to me or come to me for wisdom I don’t naturally have. At times, I am asked to provide answers that I am not sure will work or even how they will be interpreted and lived out in the real world.
There are other moments when I am hit by resistance from our people. Opposition to the ministry we are providing and mission from which we operate. Resistance comes fast and hard and often catches me off guard.
Yet I love shepherding and am thankful for and humbled by the congregation God calls me to serve.
An Exciting and Energizing Season of Ministry
The reason I haven’t blogged in a while is that the demands of the ministry have been significant these past few months.
They have also been highly energizing and exciting.
Significant because of the direction and vision God is providing. Energizing and exciting because of the joy and challenge He is stirring within us.
This ministry, it seems, is taking a turn.
A good turn.
A beautiful turn.
A missional turn that we’ve been seeking to take for some time.
For the first time in years, I sense that our congregation feels like we are going somewhere together. With this feeling (we call it “weness”) comes a particular type of excitement and energy. It is the kind of energy that carries you along with it.
When a Journey Becomes a Destination
The somewhere we are going is essential. The destination is what we call the With-God-Life. What’s truly remarkable is that we are implementing opportunities and practices for every age level represented in our church. Yes, we are all going toward this With-God-Life together.
The emphasis for the ministry theme this year is “Setting Sail Together: Exploring, Experiencing, and Enjoying the With-God-Life Jesus Proclaims and makes Possible.”
While I love to write, and I love to blog, I most enjoy being a pastor.
I particularly love being a pastor at Pillar Community Church.
Combating the Unholy Trinity of Modern Evangelicalism
A church whose mission stands in stark contrast to the “be-better, try-harder, do-more” version of Christianity American churches love to embrace.
A church whose mission seeks to awaken us to the presence of Christ within and among us and then provide tools that enable us to respond to the invitation and calling Christ speaks in our midst!
A church that is becoming more attentive to the Father, filled by the Son, and empowered by the Spirit that is on an evangelistic mission of sharing this Goodnews Gospel of the With-God-Life to all who will hear!
Put simply: it’s the Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed and make possible!
I am no blogger.
I am no writer.
I am a pastor — one who also loves to write and to blog.
But I am not inclined to write and blog about just anything these days.
Pillar: A Church Where the Gospel is Still the Good News!
Instead, I am going to write and blog about the message and mission of Pillar and how it’s captivated my heart and compelling me to spread the word far and wide.
If you want a first-hand experience, then join us on Sunday at 10:00 a.m. We are currently gathering in the cafeteria of Vero Beach Elementary School on the corner of 12th street and 20th avenue.
If you want to know more about this Good News, but are reluctant to show up on a Sunday, then shoot me an email or respond in the comment section.
Hurricane Dorian is wreaking havoc already, and it’s still days from making landfall. I have lived in Florida nearly all of my adult life.
As such, I am accustomed to dealing with hurricanes.
By saying that I am accustomed to dealing with hurricanes, I don’t mean to imply that I know how to handle them. Instead, I mean that expecting them, preparing for them, and doing my best to endure them is now a matter of habit.
Indeed, activities I used to give considerable forethought, are now second nature. For example, without much thought, I have already taken the following steps to get ready:
My hunch is that this loss of meaning and purpose is related to our immersion into an x-axis only reality.
The x-axis is, of course, the horizontal (time-bound/natural) plane.
The x-axis represents life on a horizontal playing field. On this flat playing field, all that you see is all that there is. It’s impossible to find meaning and identity when we are satisfied with life within the horizontal plane.
Immersion into an x-axis only reality has occurred over decades or longer. As such it’s been invisible to most of us.
Comparing this immersion into an x-axis only reality to our experience with modern-day skydomes, James K.S. Smith observes,
“Like the roof on Toronto’s SkyDome, the heavens are beginning to close. But we barely notice, because our new focus on this plane had already moved the transcendent to our peripheral vision at best. We’re so taken with the play on this field, we don’t lament the loss of the stars overhead.”
The heavens closed.
We barely noticed.
But it’s starting to feel a tad stuffy around here, and a few of us are beginning to look up again.
That’s a good thing.
Because you cannot answer life’s most perplexing questions without a rich experience of both the x and y axes!
An X-Axis Truth: Always Searching, Never Finding
In mathematics, for example, the x/y axes serve the fundamental role of identification or naming. And you need both planes for that!
If you depend on the x-axis for things like identity discovery, you never leave that plane. You are always confined to a one-dimensional reality. Such a reality would eventually lead to discouragement and despair because you will never be content inside of that one dimension.
You will always suspect, deep within, that there’s more to life and that there is more to you! But, when you set out on your search again – through the valleys of money, fame, reputation, experiences, possessions, etc. – you will simply be covering ground you have already explored.
Initially, it may look different because it’s the latest fad from the hippest teacher. But you will discover it’s the same terrain with the same ending.
Eventually, you give up.
When I say give up I don’t mean that you stop living, but you stop looking for something to live for. You lose your why and settle, too quickly, for the what and how.
You stop dreaming. You stop hoping. You begin to believe that this is all there is.
Yes, But What of the “Lucky Ones?”
A few of us – the “lucky” ones – will manage to have enough success to keep moving from one thing to the next. Finally, with enough status under our belt, we begin to trade on our image and find some meaning within this phony exterior we present to the world.
And, the world applauds.
They “like” every photo and post.
They ooh-and-ah over every glittering moment we provide.
Even fame like this takes its toll. Usually, it’s during the quiet moments of our life when the numbing effect of that sixth drink begins to wear off just before we drift off to a fitful night’s sleep.
At that moment, darkness creeps in. Deep, fearful darkness that we will one day be exposed, ignored, or passed over for the new flavor of the month.
We find that the x-axis is insufficient and has exacted a high cost. We discover a lament that feels like desire. The lament is calling us to once again look up at the stars.
The question then becomes, “do we even know how to look up or what to look for if we do?”
Remember: the y-axis is the vertical plane. It’s the “let’s look up and imagine a world shaped by the sacred, saturated with wonder, and soaked in awe” axis.
Humans will always long for more. We are ever and always in search of meaning, purpose, and identity.
To Empower We First Embrace
If discovering these things requires familiarity and – more importantly – experience with a Y-Axis Frame, then reclaiming the Y-Axis will require empowering others to recognize what we have lost.
Empowerment is more caught than taught. So, to empower others, we will need to work diligently as ones whose lives are fully framed within a Y-Axis reality.
Many of these posts will be directed toward Christians. We have, I believe, a unique opportunity and responsibility to reimagine life within a Y-Axis Frame. As I do, I will need to awaken us to how what we preach and practice (though unwittingly) has helped establish the dominance of an x-axis only world.
I will highlight how our language contributes to creating an x-axis only world. I am also going to point out how our us against them posture and antagonistic orientation to our culture only solidifies an x-axis only world. Both of these are related to how we view and believe the Gospel.
So, we are first going to need to reorient ourselves to an ancient Gospel. The one that’s found in the Scriptures as opposed the one often distorted in the pulpit.
It’s what I’ve come to call (though no doubt not original with me) the Good News Gospel of the With-God-Life.
Explore, Experience, Enjoy the With God-Life
Rediscovering this beautiful Gospel has propelled me into a whole new way of living! This new way of living, really a new way of being, is one that that Pillar Community Church has and continues to explore, experience, and enjoy!
Hopefully, over time and through practice, we will discover the joy of the with-God-life that Jesus makes possible.
As we do, others will begin to see the dome retract and the heavens reappear!