“Standing In Line” Moments

When John was looking to start GodWhy he was hoping that a particular local college would rent them a space. He decided he was going to drive around this hopeful location, praying. As he drove around the campus, dreaming of how things might unfold in this church planting adventure he realized that he was thirsty.

Many of you may not know this but for a season Pastor John had an intense relationship with Mt. Dew.

He drove to an area gas station to grab a drink. Standing in line a few people back from the cashier he noticed a young woman in front of him. She was maybe in her early twenties, possibly late teens, with a toddler on her hip, the young woman had plenty of piercings, and a sleeve of tattoos. As the line moved forward her little one got antsy and started to ask for a candy bar. Ignoring the request, the young woman stepped forward and asked the attendant for a pack of cigarettes from behind the counter. Then, pointing to the candy, the child asked, “Mommy, can I have one of those?” The reply? “No. We don’t have enough money.”

Please tell me you just had a reaction. Let me share with you my first reaction to that story. I wear everything on my face, so my first “face” was, “What!?! How does she have money for cigarettes but not for this precious baby to get some candy!?!” Then my mind kept going, “Typical. Figures.”

What was your reaction?

I love sitting in a room when John shares this story…cause everyone has a similar expression, a scoff, a murmur, or an eye roll.

John continues…

On John’s journey he had become aware of the ugly truth, that he was much more like a pharisee than he ever wanted to admit.

Right as he was in the middle of mentally berating this young woman, God broke in. He had never stopped to ask himself what this young woman might have been through in life. Where had she come from? Were healthy adults investing in her, sharing advice with her, loving and encouraging her? What had she experienced in life? A flood of questions about this young woman, and a realization of both a lack of knowledge and a far too hasty mental judgement on this girl was quickly replaced with a spirit of conviction and humility.

See, that same morning John had read the story that Jesus shared about a pharisee and a tax collector. In that story the pharisee is praying a prayer of gratitude that he was “not like other people.” After a list of his accomplishments, he looks across the room and adds, “…certainly not like that tax collector.” The tax collector wouldn’t even look up to heaven, but beat his chest and prayed, “God have mercy on me, a sinner.” Jesus states, “that he (the tax collector) went home justified, and not the pharisee.”

John had said to himself, that same morning, “At least I’m not that bad. I’m not as bad as the pharisee.”

But now…in this gas station…

Could he really handle meeting people where they actually are, rather than his desired dressed-up version of their life? John shared how that is the moment when he told God that he was not the right guy to plant a church like GodWhy. He recognized the painful reality that he had judged this young girl just as harshly as the pharisee had judged the tax collector.

My reaction always shifts here. And usually, as John shares this story with groups, the whole room shifts… because we DON’T stop to ask. We rarely stop to think. And the times we do, we usually have such a hard time seeing ourselves clearly that our biases and judgements color our thoughts.

In Matthew 23 Jesus warns his disciples with this, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisee’s sit in Moses’ seat…be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do…they tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”

How do we see others? How do we respond when people make choices that we don’t agree with? Do we look at certain people with “heavy and burdensome” expectations?

I’m not trying to suggest that we can’t have an opinion, or acknowledge that we would manage our lives differently, but I am suggesting that we would seek first to love.

See, when an expert in the law asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” I feel like he was trying to narrow the scope. Like, “you don’t really want me to love everyone, right? There are some people you don’t expect me to love love, right?” Then Jesus delivers this story. A story about people loving, and loving lavishly, while others, for various reasons, walk by. (Luke 10)

Where do we try to qualify grace, or quantify love? Where do we judge without really knowing? Is it that person on the side of the street with a sign asking for help? That co-worker that just grates on our nerves? That family member that just can’t seem to get their life together?

I actually asked John about that moment in the gas station just the other day. He said that he has often thought of that young woman and that he hopes one day, in the presence of God, to be able to meet and actually know her, and to share how she unknowingly changed his life.

I can’t imagine how many times I have had a “gas station line” moment that I allowed to pass me by, not checking my thoughts. Oh, that God would break through in those moments, open my eyes to see His children, as they really are, and for all that they could be.

Unity Does Not Mean Uniformity

So a republican, democrat and moderate walk into a church…

At this point in our country’s climate I’m not sure that sets up a good joke.

Are we tolerant? I think we all like to think we are open minded, not being bothered by other people’s viewpoints or opinions, and in general I think that’s true. We recognize we won’t like the same movies, rave over the same restaurants, or shop at the same stores. But how about being tolerant when it comes to differing views of deeply held convictions or traditions? We will fight for prayer in our schools, but would a Christian be supportive if the valedictorian of a class wanted to pray a Hindu prayer? How tolerant are we when the “theys” in our lives invade our space? Especially our churches?

Unity does not mean uniformity.

We know this. Do we live this?

It turns out Paul had some advice regarding this for a church in Rome.

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters…One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living…You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. Romans 14:1-10

I think we see the issues Paul highlights, considering one day holy and to eat meat or not, and think…okay, no big deal. But they would have been a VERY BIG DEAL for a Jewish community. We are talking about Sabbath and purity codes. This is about rules they have lived by their entire life, things they have grown up knowing and practicing. So to suggest that these are “disputable matters” is essentially insulting.

What could someone say to you politically, socially, ethically that would get you all fired up? Who are the people, who’s personal convictions, or lack thereof, drive you crazy and you can’t fathom doing life with people that view the world that way?

Here is part of what we are trying to do…create space for people to explore the claims of Christ, as they deeply discuss and passionately engage with their own convictions, sitting right next to someone that may not think like them. We want PETA advocates next to a taxidermist. We want a card carrying member of the NRA doing life with someone that last month protested for massive gun right restrictions. Why? Because we believe we are sharpened and we grow when we do life with people that don’t think like us.

Pastor John says all the time, “The proverb says, ‘as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.’ And when iron sharpens iron, sparks fly. Otherwise it would be ‘as feather sharpens feather’.”

Who in your life makes your “sparks fly”? What about befriending them? What about intentionally placing yourself in a position to not only hear their views but to respect them as one of God’s children?

If your ideals are truth, you can stand. You have nothing to lose by sharing your life with someone radically different than you. But you could gain something, even if only the sharpening of your previous concepts.

In church planting culture you hear, “We are an Acts church.” Committed to the scene described at the end of Acts chapter 2. Which is a beautiful and an essential part of being a Christian community.

But we also like to think that we are a Romans 14 church; allowing unity without uniformity, allowing passionate but differing convictions to sit side by side. So next time that you begin to post a rant on that person’s social media feed, what if you first tried to connect with them in real life, like actually get to know them, maybe take them to lunch, or coffee? What would our churches look like if we did that first? Seeking to understand before trying to be understood as we allow the Holy Spirit to do the work of conviction.

The Parable of the Weeds

“Church”, the way we do it, can be messy.

I can remember the first time I had an in-depth conversation with Pastor John. Sal and I went to his office to meet with him as we were in the midst of changing churches and some huge transitions in our lives. As he shared about the intentionality behind the methods of GodWhy he talked about this parable….

Matthew 13:24-43 – The Parable of the Weeds

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

John explains it this way, “See, for so long I wanted my church to look a certain way, to experience God with a certain dynamic, and I found myself standing in front of the same people every Sunday, telling them more about what they already knew and just hoping to wrap-up in time to beat the Baptists to Shoney’s” (Many of you will have to google “Shoney’s”…enjoy.)

“As God led me to start GodWhy I had a deeper discovery from this parable. Imagine driving down country roads looking at rows and rows of crops neatly planted, so perfectly arranged. (There is a sound he makes when he tells this story…motioning with his hand, simulating rows of crops, tic, tic, tic, tic, tic…row to row to row.) This is farmer Brown’s place. He works very hard to keep everything looking perfect. Keep driving. Another pristine field. Tic. Tic. Tic. Tic. This is farmer Ed’s place. He only plants the best crops and makes sure nothing ever creeps in. Then you come to the next field. It is a mess. Rows are indistinguishable, many weeds are taller than the crops. You wonder, does anyone even own this land!? But you learn, that’s farmer Jesus’ place. He has this strange farming technique. His whole goal? Let the weeds and the wheat grow together so we don’t lose even one.’”

I spent the first half of my career trying to get my ministry in neat little rows, (I probably did the same thing in my personal life.) but I began to realize that that limited the actual ministry part of ministry. I can’t “order” things to health, but love never fails. Learning to love the wheat and the weeds is a challenge for us all. Trying to get people to line up with my agenda, in my time, with my methods doesn’t really work at home, at work, or in a church family. But letting God plant, tend and grow in my life seems to yield a great return.

I like rows. I like order. I like things to make sense and have boxes, and while I don’t think God is against these things, I do believe he recognizes life does not fit neatly into rows and boxes for many people. What good does it do if we all sit and stand at the right time or line up our lives to appear the “right way” if our own lives are not being deeply transformed and then impacting the lives of others? For many of us it takes time to sort through the weeds and wheat of our lives. There is an enemy that sows seeds of fear, insecurity and pride. We aren’t sure what needs to go and what needs to stay. So when you lead a church with this understanding, knowing that the weeds and wheat may need to grow together as God does the work of sifting…it will be messy…

But how messy can we let that get? Read Romans 14, and we’ll post more later…

Explore At Your Own Pace

There is a phrase at GodWhy; “explore at your own pace.” It is the shorter variant of a statement within our vision, “We create opportunities for you to explore the claims of Christ at your own pace, giving you the time and space to judge for yourself if the Bible has answers that will empower your life.”

We all think that we are decently patient. But is the church patient? And how patient should we be? How long should a religious organization wait till a participant gets their act together and falls in line?

When people hear that we have professed atheists, agnostics or deists as active participants in our church family the typical first comment/question is, “Why are they there?” The logic behind that question is…if your church is being the church it should be they would either convert or not want to be there. That makes sense, but the question becomes…how long do we give them to make their journey? Four membership classes? One baptism ceremony? And once they cross a line of faith/profession, how patient are we with their transformation? Does life change have a timeline?

A few years ago we ran a promotion called “Getting Out of the God Business”

We were trying to communicate that our community didn’t want to BE God or dictate God to you, but to give space to discover God.

In First Corinthians Paul writes, “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I (Paul) planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”

We may get to be the “gardener” in someone’s life, helping tend, uproot and providing nourishment; but we are not the water itself, we are not the sun.

The upside to this approach…

When people make a decision (even if it takes years…and it can.) to cross a line of faith, the depth is beautiful. It is not based in guilt, shame, or being strong-armed. They know we can handle hearing about their life as it really is, warts and all. People are shocked that we can hear their questions and struggles and still desire to do life with them.

The downside…(but also an upside)

We have to practice patience. And we get lots of practice.

Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

People are real about their questions, their battles, and their past. We want them to be. And for some, they are a long way from surrendering that to God. We still want them here, and want to be there for them.

As I’ve said all along, we don’t think every church needs to take this approach, but I would challenge those of us that consider ourselves “believers” to ask…how patient are we? Do people feel they can be honest about their doubts or struggles with faith? Are we trying to make people get on board with our timeline, our agenda, our plan…are we trying to “grow” people? Or can we, like Paul and Apollos, fall in love with our roles in the lives of others while getting out of God’s way?

Does that sound messy? It is…more later…

Our Latest Marketing Ploy

“I’ll be honest, when I see churches using catchy marketing things from pop culture I can’t stand it. It’s just entertainment. They play secular music to be trendy, but it’s shallow and just a marketing ploy.”

So that was a quote from me twelve years ago. Now, I work at a church that plays secular music every Sunday, and doesn’t even have worship within its main service times. A secular song is not the “rarity” in our church, it’s the norm. We spend hours looking at Billboard charts, and scanning the web for topics, movie clips, songs, drama ideas, TV series concepts…to find the perfect vehicle for Sunday morning. We still have a praise and worship team that plays between our two main services. And, all this is intentional.

There are over forty recorded parables shared by Jesus. It seems to be his main style of communication. We look at these stories and call them “scripture”, but at the time, Jesus is a guy sharing stories. And what is he pulling from? Life. He is looking at every day life, drawing analogies, making parallels, sharing examples from the things that people are encountering every day. “Ya know…the kingdom of heaven is a lot like what you do every day…it’s a lot like farming.” “Ya know…God has a heart for us…it’s like a business owner…”

How do we tell stories today? The songs we write, the scripts we produce, the movies we project are all telling stories. It could be a story about pain, suffering, or relationships, but these things we see and listen to all the time came from someone’s heart, their soul, and even when that heart is shattered, there is something to speak to from those words and images.

Don’t you think praise and worship is essential to a vibrant relationship with Jesus? Well, yes. And, no. First, from what we can tell across four gospels we only have two mentions of singing, and it’s the same one in two gospels. (Matt 26:30, Mark 14:26) Paul, and the other writers of the epistles within the New Testament do talk about worship, but we don’t see an emphasis from Jesus himself.

Can you imagine any church in the twentieth century not having worship and music as a central part of what they do? We love praise and worship at GodWhy. (shout out to Elevation Worship, and All Sons & Daughters) We provide the space and time for that as a healthy part of what we do. However, we are trying to reach people that are far from God, and when you aren’t even sure you think this guy exists, you are rarely ready to raise your hands in praise.

I had a friend that considered herself an atheist. She refused to own a bible due to the years of it being used as a “tool for hatred and oppression”. Fast-forward…she loves worship and has her radio dialed to the local Christian station. But she will tell you, “There is no way I would have understood or embraced worship when I first tried church.”

I also could share story after story of someone that never expected to find themselves in a seat in a church, but after hearing an opening song by Imagine Dragons, Kendrick Lamar, Thomas Rhett, or Lady Gaga, they realized this might be a place that could talk about life as it really is…in what they see and hear in their every day.

Side note, once you hear a song about struggles in a relationship followed by a message about God’s desire in our lives…you can’t un-hear that song without that lens. It’s an annoying by-product.

Again, not every church needs to do what we are doing, but we think some could.

Our use of modern media is not a trend, it’s not something we do just on Easter to use for marketing. It’s an intentional process we use week after week, using modern day parables to examine the human condition and share God’s amazing heart for His most precious creation, you.

Is GodWhy Wrong?

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. Mark 3:20

Crowds gathered around Him again…Mark 10:1

A large crowd was following Him and pressing in on Him. Mark 5:24

While the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; Luke 5:1

Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan. Matthew 4:25

When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. Matthew 8:1

Pastor John has often framed a discussion about Jesus’ ministry style with this question…”Why would people crowd around Jesus, listening for hours, but when people find out they are sitting next to a pastor they will chew their own arm off to get away.” That is one of the many questions that started him on a journey to deeply explore and analyze the ministry style of Jesus.

When we say “ministry style of Jesus” I think so many images come to mind. I think many of us assume that is what we are doing. I know I did for many years of full time ministry. But have we really taken a look? Have we studied his use of what he would have considered “scripture”, his regard for women, his rebuke of religious leadership while still validating them in many ways, his management of situations as they emerged/case by case, his use of questions and his teaching style…this is not “the norm” then, and even today, in many places it is fairly radical.

Across the gospels of Matthew, Mark & Luke there is a parable Jesus shares.

“…no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’” (Luke 5:36-39)

How do you feel when “the church” does something new/different? When services change styles? When traditions seem to fade? Do you say “the old is better”?

I love how Jesus is more focused on the new thing he is doing rather than fixated on attacking the “old thing”.

We struggle with change, especially when it comes to religious systems. Sometimes that comes from legitimate concerns for our faith being compromised or diluted from these “changes”. But sometimes, it’s just that new = unfamiliar.

I love what Jesus says in Matthew’s version of the parable…
Matthew 9:16” No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

I have an amazing grandmother. She is a pillar of faith in our family. But we see things very differently. We talk about salvation, baptism, music, prayer, women in ministry…and in many moments I’m not sure we could get much further apart. I tease her that she probably has a coffee mug that has 1 Timothy 2:12 (“I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”) that she hides when her ordained pastor granddaughter shows up. We use different wineskins. (Actually, we view wine itself differently.) But I think we sharpen each other in our conversations, leaning into our disagreements.

For many people, how we do “church” at GodWhy is different, for some it is “wrong”…often because they have not taken the time to ask us our “why” for all the choices we make…but even still…that’s okay. I have often told Pastor John, “I wonder if you’ve planted GodWhy in the wrong location.”…the heart of the Bible belt may give a head-tilt to “new wine skins”, or maybe that’s part of the point. Maybe that is exactly why John felt God led him to start this adventure here in Tennessee, because there are some people that simply struggle to fit into the “community of faith” in a traditional southern context. Please know that there are deep convictions and massive amounts of study that led to the approach we use to reach people that do not know God.

Over the next several weeks let’s sort through some of those principles…

Why Do We Do What We Do?

So what’s your “go-to” emoji? I’ve been using the wide eyed face lately.

I’ve been reading some newer books and articles on how the church needs to change to reach the next generation. Some of the biggest Christian leaders are asking how things need to shift, what do services and programs need to look like, and how can preaching adapt. Even as recently as last week I was watching a major leadership conference and the final speaker shared about church needing to “evolve”. They shared about churches needing to learn to be “accepting”, “culturally relevant”, “creating a dialogue”, “safe spaces to ask questions”, “meeting people where they are”…Insert wide eyed emoji face.

If you go to church with me you probably already know where I am headed. I believe what we are doing at GodWhy is part of what these writers and leaders are looking for – a relevant and uniquely genuine open space for people to explore faith. Where all questions are welcome and we not only “say” we want a dialogue, we seek it while still maintaining our passion for scripture, holding to our convictions and ideals, seeking the Holy Spirit, praying, and worshiping.

Some people look at what we do and how we do it as a fad, just a trend, or some church just trying to be “different”. Some people assume enjoying church = shallow, that if we are using current forms of media weekly we are just out to entertain so we can’t really have any spiritual depth or level of challenge. Some people think we are “anything goes”, assuming we do so to the detriment of the souls we have the privilege of caring for. All reasonable assumptions, and all thoughts I had before attending. But actually, we aren’t trendy at all…just using techniques mapped out a little over 2000 years ago.

Some questions…

Why is overall church attendance declining when Jesus would have hundreds gather to hear him, crowds pushing in just to be around him, sitting for hours?

Why do we listen to music, watch movies and binge on series every week that we love, but then act like they have nothing to say when it comes to the realm of spirituality or divinity?

Why do we preach tolerance rather than intentionally mapping a community designed to promote the practice of tolerance?

Why do we develop catch phrases and slogans that infer faith communities that will “meet people where they are”, but raise our eyebrows when people share their real questions, doubts and struggles?

Why do we give sermons to the same people week after week, telling them what they already know so they can check the church box?

Why do we tell people what to think, what to wear, and how to vote rather than teaching them to think for themselves?

We say we want to do church better. We believe the church should be better. We preach it. We make a logo for it. But do we really examine our own church’s why and how? Are we really in line with the way Jesus ministered as much as we think? How much scripture did Jesus use, and with whom did he speak “scripture” to? What did Jesus use teach? How did Jesus love? Who did Jesus spend most of his time with? What was Jesus’ process for conversion?

Over the next several weeks I would like to share some things we do at GodWhy. For those that attend, maybe you’ve never realized the intentionality of why we do what we do – maybe it will give you fresh new eyes in your own church. If you don’t attend, maybe you’ve had some assumptions, too, and that’s okay, but maybe this could clear some things up.

Regardless, I feel like we need to explain ourselves, because apparently some people out there are asking some great questions about what the church needs to look like in the future, and while I don’t think every church should look like us…but some need to.

Auditorium Floors Are Gross

Conference Lesson #5: YOU are my hiding place.

We were attending the last morning’s session. So much had already impacted me and I had several things on my mind…”how would we accomplish _________?”, “how will so and so react to _________?”, “how can we address ____________?”. Lots of challenge, lots of thoughts, already planning. Friday morning’s session started with some jokes, some announcements and a brief speaker. Then they brought up a guest worship group. Worshiping with over 5,000 people that are there with the intent of learning and growing closer to God and His purpose in their ministry is generally pretty powerful, so I geared up to experience the same thing we had the past several days.

I can’t even tell you the songs they did and I can’t tell you the name of the song that so deeply impacted me, but one of the worship leaders stepped forward and started a verse and the line was, “You are my hiding place.” Simple enough. It left me on my face, like literally, on my face, knelt down, on the floor squeezed between rows of auditorium seats, and FYI…that’s a tight space, and those floors are gross. All the sudden I was weeping. When I heard that line I felt like God spoke to my heart, “Let me be your hiding place. Stop hiding behind all these strategies and fears and thoughts of what others think, and hide in me.”

The psalmist wrote, “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” (Psalm 32:7)

To hide means “to conceal oneself”, and I hide. I hide in defensiveness, I hide with excuses, I hide in assuming what others think and then attempting to run ahead of those thoughts to control the outcome. I hide. And I felt like God just wanted to remind me that His provision and protection can “conceal” me in the right way. That if I allow God to be my protector, my defender, my PR manager…even when I will feel very seen and exposed, I will be ultimately hidden.

We all use things to shield ourselves. There are countless techniques we use to hide. I picture those scenes in cartoons where the little guy stands behind his protector, usually the much bigger guy that has stepped in between the little guy and some bully. I hear the little guy taunting, “Yeah! See!? What now?!? What cha gonna do!?!” Which translates, “Yeah! See! I’m little and scared but now this huge person that will scare you stands in between us and you can’t get to me.” Maybe we don’t like thinking of ourselves as “the little guy” but I think we all want that “big guy” to walk alongside us, so we can walk without being afraid. And if I knew, like really knew that God was there…wouldn’t I walk a little taller and have a few less worries? Wouldn’t I question everything I say and do a little less cause I would know that I was ultimately hidden?

What do you hide behind? It is an attitude, a list of accomplishments, a list of rites? How do you hide? Could there be a better hiding place?

The Lord Loves A One Liner

When I attend a conference or go to hear a motivational speaker I take notes.  I use graph paper…for some reason the little boxes get me.  It’s like an organizers dream…lists, columns and straight lines are already provided!

When you attend a conference you always hope to be challenged, changed, and motivated. As a pastor you’re actually hoping that is also what happens as you teach.  But a confession: I’m always hoping to nail that one line…that sentence that is like a mic-drop, an emotional-pry-bar, a wall-busting-statement that radically changes lives.  Occasionally this happens, although, for me, it is often not the line I planned, but one that was randomly inserted in the midst of teaching. I’m okay with that.  Also, it’s hilarious when someone “quotes me” and…it’s not me.  So I kindly say, “Actually, that’s Romans 12.” or “I didn’t come up with that…it was Jesus.”

During creation God made statements and all things came into being.  “And God said…” (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 22, 24, 26, 29…) So when you hear something, and your heart turns, you feel a nudge, or something inside you says, “That was for you.”, or maybe it feels like a gut-punch, just listen closely, maybe even take a note. God may be creating something.

God did not stop speaking 2000-ish years ago.  (This is not a statement about the authority of scripture, that’s a different discussion.) He loves to impact people through powerful statements and profound writings from the very children He created and gifted with language.  Many of the moments that impacted me at this conference were just such “one-liner” moments.  Not sure if the speakers planned these phrases, or they just slipped out; perhaps they wouldn’t even remember sharing these lines, but these sentences impacted me.

When I originally typed this to share I had added my initial thoughts/reactions when I heard each line.  I decided to delete them.  One, because Robbie (the guy over this whole blog project) recommends I stay around 500 words (which is WAY HARDER than it sounds).  And two, the real reason…I don’t want these lines to “hit you” like they did me.  I want them, if they even do at all, “hit you” like you need to receive them. If you had attended with me your graph paper might have looked very different from mine.  That’s part of the point, right?  But if any of these statements resonate with you…let’s get coffee, jenn@godwhy.com!

My One-Liners from the 2018 Orange Conference:

“81% of people SAY they want to write a book, but only 1% of them actually DO it.”
“The Gospel has NOTHING to do with your feelings.”
“He didn’t come to die on a cross so you could COPE.  He came so that you could be FREE.”
“Data kills denial.”
“YOU don’t control the miracle.”
“Do you see people as a PROBLEM or as an OPPORTUNITY?”

Good Enough

Ever wonder why people like you? Ever wonder if people like you? Ever wonder if the only reason some people (or even scarier, all people) only like you (or maybe just tolerate you) for what you can do for them?

Those questions rushed over me. I was sitting listening as a speaker shared about overcoming those things that were consistent struggles in our lives. Sharing his experience through the process he was suggesting he made a side comment about his wife. Now, some perspective, he framed his course addressing the idea that we have “made an agreement with a lie about who we are.” So I’ve got that swirling in my head and then he says, “My wife is the kind of woman that throws amazing parties, but she wonders if that is why people love her.” Out of no where my eyes filled up with tears.

I used to throw parties. We used to have people over all the time. This season of our life has made that very rare and difficult the last several years (#kidsbaseballislife), but that statement still struck me. I may not throw parties any more but I do so many other things so people will love me. I have a love/hate relationship with the fact that we are designed to be in community. I love relationships when they are fun, safe, true, real, rooted, grounded, secure…I hate it when I twist things, use relationships as a substitute, or manipulate things to fill gaps in my life.

Genesis 1:31 says, “God saw ALL that he had made, and it was VERY GOOD.” This is after everything in nature culminates to mankind and right before God rests.

What do you think makes you “very good”? What makes you “good enough” for others? What makes you “good enough” for God? I think the reason that statement at the conference grabbed me was because I struggle living life loved and being at peace with the thought that God already declared me good. I realize theologically this could spark about a million conversations about original sin, soteriology, etc., but for now let’s not chase those rabbits and just wonder…when was the last time we felt good? Like, very good. I think those emotions that overwhelmed me for that moment was my spirit’s way of trying to wring-out some of that “I’ve gotta be good enough”. I understand this man’s wife. My glassy eyes were a reminder that God holds me very close and loves very much…parties or not…already enough. I can’t earn that kind of love. But when I choose not to live life in a way that reflects the fact that I am already good enough…I miss out. I hurt. And sometimes I hurt others.

How do you seek to earn love or approval? As part of God’s creation, what would God speak over you right now?