Beyond The Walls

Things were a bit different in 1958.

Gas cost 25 cents! The average cost of a new house was $12,750! A gallon of milk only cost $1, and the average monthly rent was only $92! Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. Dastun cars went on sale in the U.S. Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Jerry Lee Lewis were the most popular artists. Candid Camera and The Ed Sullivan Show were on black and white televisions.

It was in this world that a small group of people meeting in a small school in a small suburb of Chicago decided to form a church.

This coming week my church is anticipating celebrating its 60th anniversary of faithful service to our wonderful Savior.

It is such an honor to be a small part of the legacy of this church that has, for so long, been so committed to missions, youth, care for others, service to the community, and love for God.

This January, in anticipation of our 60th anniversary, we, as a church, committed to a theme for the year, “Beyond The Walls.”

beyond walls poster.jpg

The theme itself is a bit layered. First, we want to be sure that we are going beyond the physical walls of our building in order to share the good news of Jesus’ love with anyone and everyone that we meet. For 60 years we have been in the same geographical location (the church bought land across the street from the school it initially met in and built on that land.) And so, since we have been present in this community for so long we want to be sure that we are, and continue to be, committed to getting beyond the physical space that we call our church building. We want to be known as a church that gives to and loves its community.

Secondly, we understand that we, as a group of believers, need to continually pray that God would give us the boldness to get beyond our own emotional and spiritual walls that we ourselves have set up. Often times past experiences, frustrations, and fears cause us to put up barriers in our own lives in order to hide behind. When we put these barriers in place we actually end up becoming less effective in our love and service. So, we are praying that God gives us the courage to break down these walls in our own lives in order to better love and better share the good news.

As I think about all the people who have come and gone from this church I cannot help but think of just how good God is and how wonderful His family, the Church (worldwide) is as well. Over the years I, and others, have seen God use this church in order to transform lives, marriages, families, and communities. This church has sent out many missionaries, especially for its size, to go and serve all across the world. We may not be a huge church, but by God’s grace, He has allowed us to have a global impact. That is certainly something to celebrate.

The neat thing about this church, and any church for that matter, is the intergenerational connectedness that takes place. Older generations set examples and provide wisdom that younger generations can need to learn from. At the same time, younger generations provide encouragement, enthusiasm, as well as new and fresh perspective. Both, older and younger generations, would do well to learn from one another. The church is a unique place for this to take place, and it is exciting to watch happen!

The Apostle Paul repeatedly talks about the church as a metaphorical body. (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, Colossians 1) We all need each other in order to function properly. The hand needs the arm, and the arm needs the legs, and the legs need the pinky toe. I need you and you need me. And we all need Jesus.

So, this week, praise God and thank Him for your church and how He has created it to be uniquely special in His kingdom. Praise God for His faithfulness to your local body of believers.

May we all, regardless of where we are, pray that God might give us the boldness to go “Beyond The Walls” in our lives in order to better love Him and love others! I pray that God would use my church, and yours as well, in order to impact this world for His good!

The Way Life Should Be

My wife and I are on a mission. Our goal is to, eventually, make a visit to all 50 states. We have been incredibly blessed to stop by, and subsequently get a magnet from, a decent portion of the 50 states in our great Union already. (Quick poll: if we have been to a state but forgot to get a magnet can we just buy a magnet on Amazon, or do we have to go back in order for it to “count.”)

Anyway, one of my favorites, if not the favorite, state so far would be Maine. (Fun fact: Maine is the only state whose name is only one syllable. Go ahead say all the states in your head, it’s true!)

I fell in love with Maine in a matter of minutes, literally. Now, I know that the short time I spent there does not necessarily offer a complete and fully accurate picture of what life in Maine might be like. But, with that being said, what I did see and experience was absolutely breath-taking.

I was debating of whether or not to share a bunch of pictures here and I decided to just go with the one. (Taken by my awesome wife, by the way.) The reason I am not showing more is that, even though the pictures we took turned out really well, they still do so little justice to just how beautiful it truly was.

God is such an awesome and incredibly creative creator. This world that He has made is so beautiful. (Read more about that HERE.)

Maine was awesome. The coast was my favorite. I could sit there on a rock and stare off into the ocean for hours. The blueberries were heavenly. The lobster was in mac n’ cheese. The donuts were exceptional. The trees were tall and skinny, just the way they should be. (Oh, also trees make up 90% of the land in Maine…so that’s neat!) The people were down-to-earth and friendly. And did I mention the coast?!

While we were driving we saw a sign that stuck with me. It read, “MAINE: The Way Life Should Be.”

I remember smiling and saying out loud, “yea, that’s about right.” I mean, if there is a way that life should be lived it probably is: on the edge of a forest-on the top of a cliff-next to a lighthouse-overlooking the ocean-eating fresh blueberry pancakes. Now, that’s living.

I kept thinking about that sign for the next few days and even weeks. The phrase itself makes my mind run to Genesis 2. Back to the Garden. Back to the way life should be.

That one chapter in the Bible where all was as it should be. Man and woman walking and talking and living and enjoying life together next to God. Together with God.

If you look around you today, you won’t find a picture-perfect garden paradise. Instead, you will see brokenness, pain, hurt, despair, sin, and death. This is not the way life should be.

That is important for us to remember. This new normal for mankind is so “not the way life should be” that God did something about it. He sent Jesus.

Jesus died on the cross so that we could experience life, abundant life. (John 10:10)

Jesus came to show us the way, and the way that life should be. (John 14:6)

And, God promises, for those who put their trust in Jesus, to take away all the things that stand in the way of “life being the way it should be.” (Revelation 21:1-8)

You may be reading this and be thinking, “that’s great! I have already trusted Jesus, but how do I navigate life today?”

That’s a great question. Proverbs 3:5-6 gives a great answer. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

Trusting in Jesus today and tomorrow and the next day and the next…that is how we, not just survive, but thrive in this life.

Trust in Jesus.

That is the way life should really be.

Allergy Season at its Best

I have a confession. I have seasonal allergies.

Ok, if you have been around me at all during the Springtime then you know that wasn’t much of a confession.

The Spring and Fall have caused me to be a mouth breather for about as long as I can remember. (However, on the plus side, as I have gotten older the Fall side of things hasn’t been quite as bad as it was when I was a kid…so yay?)

A little less than a year ago I went to an Allergist to check what exactly I was allergic to and also to find out what I could do about it. The doctor confirmed that I actually wasn’t allergic to much, but that what I was allergic to I was really allergic to. He also confirmed that the few things that I had reacted to manifested themselves most during the Spring and Fall.

I remember saying, “Ok, I kind of knew that already. So, what can I do about it? How can we cure this?” I was looking for some sort of pill, shot, or miracle.

His answer was both annoying, profound, and completely spot on.

“The best, and only real, way to be cured is to stay away from the things that make you sick.”

That statement, while easier said than done, is still some of the best advice I have heard.

The doctor then explained to me what causes allergies. He went on to use a bunch of fancy words that I can remember, but I was still able to get the sense of it.

It wasn’t necessarily the ragweed itself that caused my symptoms, it was how my body responded to the allergen. My immune system sees certain “triggers” as threats and works extra hard to expel them from my body. The results are sniffling and sneezing. To quote Switchfoot, “The sickness is myself.”

I have been thinking a lot about that conversation with the doctor lately. And while I can’t avoid Spring, I do think that his words are still some of the wisest I’ve heard.

“The best, and only real, way to be cured is to stay away from the things that make you sick.” It doesn’t just apply to allergies.

There are many things in life that make us sick. There are many things in our lives that are harmful to us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. While I know that we cannot just simply gate ourselves off and avoid them all, that’s not typically how life works, I do think that we should make efforts to avoid our “triggers.”

1 Thessalonians 5:22 says to abstain, or flee, from every kind of evil.

2 Timothy 2:22-23 instructs us to flee from youthful passions and lusts and to “have nothing to do with” foolish debates that cause quarrels. Instead, Paul says, to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.”

And Philippians 4:8 says, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

The best way to avoid the consequences of sin is to avoid sin.

We become emotionally and spiritually congested when we try to work life out on our own strength and in our own way. The awesome thing is, that God knows that we are sick. He knows what harms us and He has given us the cure. Jesus sacrificed Himself so that we can be healed from all that ails us. We must put our trust in Him.

But even after we trust in Jesus we still have a tendency to run back to our “allergens.” We still tend to grasp at the very things that make us sick. We need to avoid them.

But we can only truly avoid them with God’s help.

He can and will give you the strength to make it through your “allergy season.” But you need to talk with Him. Agree with Him that you are in need of rescuing, admit that you cannot do it on your own, thank Him that Jesus made a way for you, trust Him to guide you, and actually listen to and follow Him.

As the writer of Hebrews puts it- “let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely…and cling to Jesus, the founder, and perfecter of our faith.”

Ok, time to blow my nose for the 10,000 time today.