Breakfast With Greg

Got to catch up with an old friend at Panera on Saturday. We’d kind of lost touch since I’d moved from Georgia to Indiana.

Greg’s been through some tough stuff: dad dying of cancer, brother having a mental meltdown leading Greg to move out/be homeless for a few months, feeling repeatedly let down/used by church people most of his life.

He owns a home now, and is looking at being a co-owner in a successful business, which is great.

I always appreciate Greg’s honesty, and there are a couple reminders from his story that I want to take to heart: (he’s given me permission to share)

1. Don’t use people.
This is so easy for anyone to do, and pastors are no exception. Greg’s experience with church has been that the leaders seem to be more interested in what he can do for their ministry than in who he is as a person. I know that I faced that temptation as a church leader myself.

Jesus was always using himself on account of others rather than using others on account of himself. Sure, he enlisted his disciples to help with the work of ministry, but it was clear that this was more for their own benefit and development than for his own (Just look at how many forehead slap moments he had with them in the book of Mark. Talk about patience!).

When we use people, it can be a kind of spiritual and emotional rape; a one night stand at best. It’s actually the opposite of love, and not the Jesus way.

2. Genuinely love people.
It’s so easy to go through the motions with others, isn’t it? We ask how they’re doing, respond politely, make nice small talk, but really, sometimes we could care less.

When Greg was living on couches/out if his car, many church “friends” asked how we was doing. When he told them he was homeless, they responded, “I’ll pray for you” and wished him well.

In contrast, it was Greg’s non-church friends who immediately offered food/a place to stay until he got back on his feet.

The book of James says,

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. James 2:14-17 NLT

That’s pretty clear, isn’t it? Romans 12:9 says, “Love must be sincere.”

It’s a wonder that Greg hasn’t completely rejected God based on his experience with Christians. His story is a reminder to genuinely love others and walk the talk, like Jesus.

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What Success Really Means

How do you define success? How do the people around you define success?

Is success about being a good person? Having more money? Being loved by friends and family? Doing community service? Being active in church? Having more free time? Achieving careers goals? All of the above?

If we’re not careful, our view of success can become defined by our culture rather than the kingdom.

As Christians, it’s easy to adopt a “secular success” without even realizing it. We assume that success = more, bigger, better of what the people around us value. But from a kingdom perspective, it’s often just the opposite.

Kingdom success is defined by service, sacrifice, faith, obedience, fruitfulness, etc. all within the context of loving relationship with God and others. Sometimes it means loss, pain, persecution, rejection, obscurity, monotony. Sometimes it results in less popularity, not more. It’s about “Who has God called us to be and what has God called us to do?” not “What is our culture doing/who do we want to be/what do we want to do?”

When we accept the world’s paradigms instead of being shaped by Scripture’s, we can end up believing that our successes are failures, and our failures are successes.

When we take the long view (both backwards into the lives of the saints, and forwards into eternity) we see what really matters and what success really means. It’s the short view that trips us up and gets us high-fiving each other for the wrong things (or the right things done without love).

I’m not trying to be Grumpy Christian Guy here, I promise. I have a long way to go in my own journey of faith, and I’m not perfect. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the things on that top list. They just don’t happen to equal kingdom success on their own. They’re incomplete and empty apart from love (1 Corinthians 13).

The reality is that there is a TON of joy and a lot of rewards that go with true kingdom living. It’s the best way to live and the best way to die. We just miss out on all the good stuff when we buy into the world’s lies. And that’s a shame.

So I’m constantly reminding myself of what success really means these days, because I’m prone to forget. How about you?

P.S. Check out this awesome message from Doug Fields for more… http://www.saddleback.com/mc/m/bb18e/

Real Rest

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So, it turns out that if Michael Jackson hadn’t died from an overdose, the lack of real sleep probably would have killed him. Makes you want to get quality REM that much more, doesn’t it?

In the same way that our bodies cannot thrive or even survive without deep sleep, our souls cannot thrive or survive without deep rest.

We need restorative rest, not just surface rest. We need the kind of rest that propels us into the normal routines of life, full of life. We’ve gotten so used to “trickle charging” in our culture: a little sleep here, a little downtime there, but rarely fully recharged, rarely fully rested. We rush into rest like it’s another thing to check off our list, or collapse into rest on the weekend like we’ve been running a marathon and forgot to hydrate along the way.

We shortchange ourselves by overworking, underresting (why is this not a real word?), striving for the wrong things, and believing lies about what gives us real meaning and significance.

Deep, restorative rest happens at a soul level. It’s not something that’s manufactured through the senses, although the senses can facilitate it. It happens in simple but incredibly profound ways – a good meal with friends, a quiet walk in the woods, laughing till it hurts, playing with our kids, reading a good book, watching a movie or listening to a song that touches you on a deep level, going on an adventure, getting your house in order because you want to not because you have to, etc. It’s not ultimately about what’s happening externally but about what’s happening internally.

Surface rest is like fast food; you get the experience of a real meal without the nutrition. It leaves you feeling “blah”.

Of course, we have a model for rest in the Scriptures: it’s called Sabbath. But beyond that we have the source of rest – the Person of rest – Jesus Christ. He is the one whose “yoke is easy and burden is light” (Matthew 11). He is the one who “lets us rest in green meadows, leads us beside peaceful streams, and renews our strength” (Psalm 23).

When we try to lead ourselves into rest we ultimately fail, because true rest is found through following God’s lead. He knows what we need and loves to provide it.

I have often pursued surface rest instead of restorative rest – going to things such as food and entertainment for life instead of going to God with my weariness and then experiencing true renewal as he directs me onward.

Going to God for rest requires trust and humility. It means letting go of the notion that we are God – capable of being our own renewable source of energy. It means being open to being blessed in ways we know we don’t deserve but we desperately need.

Married couples that never get away together can slowly lose the spark and become mere business partners in the management of the family enterprise. Vegging in front of the TV at night is not the same as truly connecting.

We need times that are set aside for real rest. Not because our calendars or culture demand it, but because our souls desperately need it. We are not robots created to produce as much as possible. We are eternal beings meant to experience Beauty, Truth, and Goodness. In essence: God. And as we go to Him, we find real rest for our souls.