Dangerous Personality

There are so many celebrities in our culture. I have never been good at keeping them all straight. As a person who legitimately struggles with names, I have kind of lived under the assumption that they don’t keep track of my life, so I don’t have any need to keep track of theirs. So, don’t come talk to me about celebrity gossip, expecting me to know who is into who, who got married/divorced/had a baby. I simply will not know. If you’re into that stuff, then I will do my best to engage with you but I wanted to warn you ahead of time.
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I also operate under the policy (and living in California, I think this is probably best) that if I see them in public, I ‘m just going to leave them alone. If they’re eating dinner with their friends/family/crew/whatever, I was not invited to that meal. I will happily give them their space.

There have been so many stories of people who take things to the opposite extreme. They stalk celebrities, hang on their every word, know everything about their lives and some even begin doing dangerous/illegal stuff to try to get their attention. They develop an unhealthy obsession with that person. They go beyond fandom and into idolatry, aggressively defending that person, and caring far too much for someone that doesn’t even know they exist.

I also grew up in the ear of the televangelist. These people almost did everything possible to make my generation cynical in regards to fame & ministry. The Robertsons & Swaggarts of the world built up such a cult of personality around themselves that their inevitable human failings made their falling from public grace all the more devastating. We cannot invest ourselves, devoting the whole of our lives, to a single human person like this. People are broken. Celebrities and preachers will let us down. No one is perfect.

Paul recognizes this danger in the church of Corinth. This church had encounters with several powerful leaders within the early church and people were beginning to take sides:

10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”
1 Corinthians 1

When we follow Jesus, we cannot spend our time espousing the benefits of any human individual. We simply need to focus our efforts on Him. It’s not about Paul, Peter or Apollos. It’s not about Joel, Steven, Judah, Kyle or Francis. It’s all about Jesus, 24/7/365. All of the rest of us are simply His servants, brothers born of His blood, recipients of grace, standard bearers for His kingdom. We don’t need to waste our short time on this earth and in this life to build up a little kingdom of our own. We all belong to Jesus. His Lordship does not get sub-divided, His sovereignty cannot be shared.

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”
Luke 17

Jesus is our concern. He is our solitary celebrity. If we want to devote ourselves to knowing all the details about someone’s life, then may it be His.

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Relentless Faithfulness

We worry too much, don’t we? Every day has a million components, thousands of moving pieces and so many things that could go wrong, fall short or come up empty. And so we worry. We lack a feeling of control, a perception of peace, and so we worry. We worry about finances, about things at home and different things at work. We worry about our kids, our family members and about things in the national news. We worry about people and situations that we have absolutely no say over, or influence around, and so we become accustomed to worry. It becomes a pattern for life. It becomes acceptable, and we weave it into our worldview and understanding.

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But that’s not God desire for us.

That’s not what He has in store for His children. And so if we follow Christ, if we claim to be in Him and simultaneously experience these weighty worries that distract us from His plans for us, then we have to ask if the promises of God in Jesus are really that effective. Does He care? Why do I feel this way? Why don’t I feel happy more often? Why do I feel so insecure? Where is God?

And these are natural questions that we struggle with as we learn to transition from walking outside of Christ into the new life we have been gifted in Him. There’s an incongruity between what we say we believe and what we actually do in practice. And so we add guilt for worrying to our worry. Again, we make this our life.

But Paul reminds us of something different, something that God intends for us as he begins his first letter to the church in Corinth. He was getting ready to hit them with some tough love, because they had been doing things in their own way, rather than in God’s, but because of the love & grace & mercy of God, he wanted to remind them of what they needed to hear. They needed to be reminded of God’s love, His plan and His provision. Rather than worrying about trying to balance their new walk with Christ with their old life, He begins to set the stage for them and reminds them that God’s gift for them is sufficient. It is better than what they might manufacture.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:4-9

Paul reminds them that God’s covering over them in Christ is sufficient for everything. He reminds Tham that this was something confirmed in them, they’ve already borne witness to Him, and that God has a good, guilt-free life laid out for them in preparation of out final realization of His love when Jesus returns. There is so much goodness that there is no need to be wrapped up in what used to be, in old identities, old cultures and in old pathways. God has so much more for us, something so much better.

So why worry? Why waste your time in those old ways, those dead ways? We don’t hang out in cemeteries looking for lively conversation. Why would we expect to get anything worth anything from our old, dead selves?

His faithfulness is relentless. Trust Him with your today, and then trust Him with your tomorrow & watch Him reveal Christ at work in you through His Holy Spirit.

Saturday Something – Episode 10 – Know-It-All

It’s always good to be situationally aware as we speak into the hurts and pains of this life. We have been tasked with bringing comfort and the wisdom that God provides, but remember, you and I don’t personally have the corner on being every answer for every person. That honor belongs to Jesus…we just point them to Him.

Day Five – Life Contemplated According to the Second Table of the Law

Day Five – Life Contemplated According to the Second Table of The Law
from Johann Gerhard’s “Meditation on Divine Mercy”

Get your copy here.

We all struggle with what is stirred up inside of us, and with the sins that grab at our hearts from the inside. Thank God for a clear path to His Mercy Seat through Jesus Christ! Read by Benjamin Hedgspeth – All Scripture readings come from the ESV

Day Four – Life Contemplated According to the First Table of The Law

Every day we get distracted by things that may keep us from seeing or remembering just how good our God is to us. Don’t let worry keep you from His mercy for today.

Day Four – Life Contemplated According to the First Table of The Law
from Johann Gerhard’s “Meditation on Divine Mercy” Get your copy here.

Read by Benjamin Hedgspeth
All Scripture readings come from the ESV

Making the Decision

ElizaBeth and I were driving around in the Highlands area of Louisville. We had been looking at apartment locations, trying to figure out just how temporarily someone might house us while we were attempting to make the jump from Louisville to wherever God was leading us. We had been offered a very kind rate by a family friend for a space in the Lyndon neighborhood for 3-6 months. There was a standing offer from my parents, but we were trying to avoid that option if possible because we knew that two households being on top of each other, even for a brief amount of time, would be difficult.

I wanted my parents to still like us when we left town 😉.

IMG_1479.JPGThere were no strained relationships or anything like that, we just knew it would be tight and open ended timelines can be difficult to deal with when you’re already wedged in someone else’s personal space. This was already a big life shift on the horizon, and we didn’t want to make that any more difficult on them or ourselves than absolutely necessary.

So, like I said, we were walking through the Highlands neighborhood, and we rounded the corner by the tattoo shop where she had her nose pierced and where I received my first (and as of this writing only) tattoo, my family crest. My tattoo is located on my left shoulder, my ‘shield arm,’ and is a sword-wielding lion, encircled by a Celtic-style belt and has the words “Deus Juvat” (roughly, God Assists) written in the top of the loop.

So, again, we rounded that corner, and started walking down the block absentmindedly looking at the houses, both of us knowing we weren’t going to get to walk around on these streets much longer. We were talking about our experience a CPAC, what we were wanting and looking for in a community of faith, and knowing that we weren’t in a place to slide back in with a ‘legacy’ church right now. There were so many hindrances in how they functioned and we both knew that we were wired a little differently than those expectations might lead to…at least in a central Kentucky kind of way.

(Spoiler Alert: No church or faith gathering is perfect. No minister is either.)

I would rather try things, fail, learn and keep trying as we sought God’s will and were grown in the process. A few churches we’ve been a part of or encountered seem to think the Holy Spirit runs on Robert’s Rule of Order and requires 3 months of tabling topics and debate before any actions are taken. Even then, they can still be recalled at a whim or because of fear/complaints/preferences in a way that undermines the process that began. This isn’t every church, but we have seen it far too often, and we weren’t in a place personally to go in a be instantly stifled again.

The team at Stadia told us not to compromise and to make sure that we landed somewhere that would allow our gifts, both of our gifts, to be utilized in real-world ways so that we would be fulfilled in our work for God. This meant finding a place that had a looser leash, finding an organization that understood what we had been gifted to do and who trusted us to do those things without nitpicking, micromanaging or going back on what they said they wanted.

We talked about the attitudes of churches in different regions of the country. We talked about styles of worship. We talked about liturgy. We talked about church sizes, cities, states and degrees of need. We talked about our prayer for an adventure, and we talked about what we had already looked at and how none of it, except for a very short list of options, would fit that bill. We talked about family timelines, where the kids would go to school, how we didn’t want to move them mid-year, and how much we were concerned with moving just once while they still had school to finish.

There was a lot to talk about. We had two options, two irons in the fire. One was wide open, the other that started off promisingly had gone totally silent. One was nearer one was very far. We had seen so many options roll by. I had interviewed churches as they interviewed me. I was going to be picky. I was doing my research. I was digging in deep and asking tough questions. I wasn’t going to settle.

But on that street in the Highlands, we made our decision. It seemed like the only sure thing, the space were we could do what had been pressed upon us to do, and where we could really have an adventure and try something new.

On that sidewalk in the Highlands we decided that it was time to sell everything and move to California. It sounds cliché, but it’s what we were going to do. The need here is real. Very real. And I’ve always been drawn to fringe groups and people that others won’t go near. California had been the butt of jokes for a long time, mostly ridiculed and ignored by the ‘good’ side of the country and the stats were alarming. There are areas of California that almost qualify as unreached people groups.

The day we made our call to move out, the other option called. They had been sick, gone on vacation and there were some very reasonable delays. They wanted me to be a campus pastor, and work through a relocation and do some other work to reestablish one of their campuses. As they were doing their research, that campus wound up having some serious issues that they wanted to address head on from existing leadership. If I was willing to wait another six months or so (undetermined) then they would love to have us join them. That would mean a mid-year move for the kids, and it also meant there were some possibilities of walking into things we had intentionally left behind. We would have loved to have joined them in their work. I still like everyone on staff there, but the timing was wrong, and I didn’t want to go in gun-shy. We had a lot of trust issues to heal and rebuild from, and starting something totally new meant we wouldn’t be walking into this type of situation at all.

So, California, here we come.

 

Remembering the Sins of Youth

Come along on the journey of mercy each day as Ben reads from Johann Gerhard’s Meditations on Divine Mercy. This is Day Two, Remembering the Sins of Youth.

Make sure to leave your comments & questions below! I’m glad you’re coming along on this trip with me.