All Posts in Devotions
Self-promotion stinks, and most people can smell it.
I’ve noticed a recent trend on Twitter where creatives doing great work talk about all the reasons that announcing your own great work is a bad idea. Re-posting a compliment you receive online is lame/disgusting/distasteful. I get it. No one likes the guy at the party telling everyone how awesome he is. And 99 parties out of 100, that guy isn’t awesome at all. Or he was born on 3rd base and acts like he hit a triple.
In fact, I recently saw a post from a creative professional I respect immensely, @JeremyCowart that nailed this sentiment on the head:
I should say I wish there were a 100 Jeremy Cowarts. He does phenomenal work and seems to love Jesus. Those that I have worked with, that work with him, adore him. That’s a good sign he’s a stand-up dude.
My contention is that this oversimplifies an important piece of most artist’s lives.
The same pin used to pop the “humblebrag” balloon, is also frequently used against those trying to do what God commands for our joy. Brag on Jesus. Brag on what he’s doing. Brag on what’s he’s done. And when you have 140 characters, it’s not always easy to tell whether someone is trying to throw themselves a party, or share their gratitude and excitement about what is happening around them. Cowart’s point seems to be, “don’t be that guy” but reading others I wonder about who gets arrested by the Humble Police because they tried to celebrate something worth celebrating.
Does it matter who is at the bar? At Cowart’s watering hole there are currently 47,000 patrons, and I’m willing to bet he hasn’t shaken hands with many of them. That’s part of being crazy talented like he is; his Twitter follower list is a lot longer than his Christmas card list. What if you’re online audience is mostly people that know you well and know your heart? I suppose that’s not common, but I do wonder if announcing a big break in a bar’s backroom with friends and family is different than the picture he paints. We all don’t have 47,000 people at our party.
Maybe who’s in the room doesn’t change anything. But if someone follows you on Twitter, aren’t they agreeing that your particular networking/promotion efforts are of interest to them? Obviously, posting your work, and posting other’s comments on your work are not the same. That said, if Obama posts a message about Cowart’s work with the Dalai Lama being awesome, I’m interested and don’t blame him for sharing it.
It seems God is not a fan of folks who make the world about them. That said, most circles I run in are not proficient celebrators. Cynics don’t celebrate. They criticize. I want to be less critical and better at celebrating.
As someone who is assigned the task of communicating on Twitter what God is doing in our community weekly , I wish I had a better handle on this topic. Would love input on this one.
Four years ago I made a video to request some of our church attenders to switch services. It is seen below.
The first copycat I ever was sent was the video below. The notes indicate that they admit they stole the idea.
Then they started popping up all over, mostly for men’s retreats. I don’t particularly care, as I didn’t contract Gerard Butler to make the first one, but I can’t help but feel that part of what is wrong with creativity in the church can be summarized below. (this is a SMALL sampling)
At our church, this kind of thing happens a lot. We recently received a request from a church on the east coast to purchase some of our artwork (both physical and digital) from the last teaching series. We’re sending them the full graphics package for free. Having the integrity to ask instead of just stealing is admirable. I wish Christians weren’t known for this sort of thing. I wish Christian bookstores weren’t chock full of rip-off goods that tell people we should just copy culture and add a cheesy tagline. I know we can do better. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
Last night, I stepped out of my comfort zone as a leader, and shared with the congregation during the gathering what I thought God was saying in that moment. This is something I do frequently with general concepts, but last night’s impression was very specific. So specific that I walked off stage to type it out, and then brought the page back on stage to recite. It’s an evidence of his grace that God included me in what He was trying to do in that moment. While nothing profound, it’s still a victory in combining faith with listening to the Spirit. Read below for what I heard/read aloud.
There are a thousand things we live for. Our problem is not lack of passion, but desperate passion for other things.
Most of us are desperately waiting for something to save us from loneliness, exhaustion, and weakness.
Some of us are desperate for a job.
Some of us are desperate fora promotion
Some of us are desperate for this semester to be over already.
Some of us are desperate for a person to reciprocate the feelings we have for them.
Some of us are desperate to get out of our current relationship.
Some of us are desperate for a spouse.
Some of us desperately want to finally get pregnant.
Some of us are desperate for our kid to straighten up.
Some of us are desperate for a little more money.
Some of us are desperate for a little more free time.
Some of us are desperate for a sickness to be healed.
Some of us are desperate for a little more attention.
None of things are bad.
But none of these things are God.
If we place any of these things at the center of our life then we can not be satisfied in the one thing we have been hard wired to be satisfied in:
The King, the Healer, the Provider, the Lover, the Warrior: Jesus Christ.
I don’t suppose that any understanding men, of whatsoever sect or opinion, will say that God is really pleased with bodily worship as such, that is, that merely such and such gestures and motions of body are what delights him as a part of virtue; but only as they are helps to the exercise of real virtue and the worship of the mind. Now there is an indissoluble, unavoidable association, in the minds of the most rational and spiritual, between things spiritual and things bodily. Thus when we are joyful and express our joy, ’tis natural to do it with a lively voice; and when we express sorrow, to do it with what we call a mournful voice. This is natural to us, and the association becomes much stronger by use in other matters.
So we are necessitated to join some gestures to some habitudes of mind in common affairs, as uncovering the head, and some other gestures besides fitting with reverence. Thereby there grows a strong association, so that if one be restrained the other will unavoidably be restrained too. So that some bodily worship is necessary to give liberty to our own devotion; yea though in secret, so more when with others.
‘Tis necessary that there should be something bodily and visible in the worship of a congregation; otherwise, there can be no communion at all.
…So many as are thus necessary, we are allowed in gospel worship, and more [than that] are contrary to its nature; for the gospel supposes the church to be no longer an infant, but as come to the stature of a man. Wherefore the weak and beggarly elements are rejected, and the childish bodily ceremonies cashiered, as being fit only for children, and unworthy of those who are come to riper years; and the worship that is now required of [us] is only that which is manly, rational and spiritual.
Love this. Really, really love this.
Critical people are scared of themselves. Their shame drives them to address the brokenness around them to avoid the brokenness within them.
I regularly run into folks that believe themselves spiritually mature, but within a very short conversation, you are given reason to question that self-assessment. They complain about this, they bicker about that, and all under the umbrella of learned wisdom.
I will say this: We are not given experience and time as a Christian to become a calculated critic, but instead a seasoned servant.
The mission is not solely to assess what is wrong with the world or Christ’s bride, the church. Any coward can do that. It seems to me that Jesus calls us to be a part of the solution.
Let’s champion more change and critique less.
A few thoughts on what God has been showing me recently.
Knowing Christ means walking His path.
Some days, the length of this path is daunting. On other days, the narrowness is ever present, with the scorching heat of either side grazing your face. Yet Christ is both here and off in the distance, walking along side and up ahead. He is our treasure now and the goal around the bend.
Sin’s plan is always to alienate and jeopardize the things that you actually desire in your life.
His burden is light, but not always comfortable. He is our sole hope in each breath, and the only reason worth enduring the discomfort of His kingdom colliding with what wars inside us.
The optimist who finds their hope in frayed safety nets is just as endangered as the pessimist who insists that there is no rescue available.
Believing that God is powerful enough to do something about your condition is insufficient. Without also seeing His goodness for what it is, you will see Him as a jail warden, passively patrolling your life at best, and a vicious dictator who abandons you in times of despair at worst.
He’s not a warden. He’s a perfect king. A perfect Dad. A perfect judge. A perfect friend.
I want the hope of Christ to grip me more tightly. Hopeful and discouraged people are both contagious.
I walked out to my ’96 Tacoma in the driveway last week, and had two thoughts:
1. “My car is dirty. Like, ‘just got back from Burning Man’ dirty.”
2. “That tree only has one leaf left. Tomorrow, that tree will be different than today.”
(see above picture I snapped)
Last night, Pastor Harvey spoke on the basics of idolatry, and how we as Christians have a means of escaping the clutches of idols in our lives. He defined an idol as anything the we trust, love, or obey. We’re called to actively throw down our idols and run the race that God has marked out for us.
Over the past few years, I’ve had the painful experience of watching people I know quit their race…some have given up on God and others have given up on His people. Some have done both. A common thread I see is frustration with the pace of renewal. Many aren’t getting the results they thought they would, or in some cases, what they were promised.
Salvation is typically addressed in three different ways in Scripture:
1. A starting point or decision to acknowledge Jesus as King
2. The ongoing process of becoming more like your King, what we call sanctification.
3. Our King Jesus’ return and the end of all that is not as “it ought to be”.
It has been said that sanctification is a crawl. That instead of the 100M dash, it’s more like a marathon you run over the course of all of your days. There are seasons of rest and seasons of hardship. You are either gaining ground or losing it.
With things like bankruptcy, cancer, and divorce, it’s easy to lose perspective on our trajectory. It’s easy to not feel the presence of our King. It’s easy to slip into discouragement or even frustration about our sin and the remaining brokenness in us.
Our identity is changed the moment we receive Christ. The power and penalty of sin has been dealt with. The presence of sin is here, but time is running out. The leaves are indeed falling, and soon…only one will remain. Then, it too will fall and all things will be made new. Even the presence of sin will be gone forever.
I can’t help but long for the day the last leaf falls. We will then see how altogether different we really are.
Sometime around age 14 I decided that my bedroom needed a major overhaul. I basically woke up one morning and realized that my disaster of a room wasn’t as cool as I thought. It didn’t communicate independence and freedom as I previously believed. In fact I was suddenly pretty sure that it communicated that I myself was a disheveled disaster.
As I gazed around the room, I noticed that the most noticeable visual offender was the stack of decrepit and dilapidated CB radios on the shelf closest to the door. I had gathered these from garage sales over the years, a hobby I inherited from my grandfather. Most of them were not working, but a man can never have enough CB radios. My conversations with passing truckers on the nearby highway were often salty and a great place for me to learn new words I could throw around at school.
I decided that this CB graveyard would be the starting point for my full frontal attack on the clutter in my room. After clearing the shelf and inhaling a whole farm of dust-bunnies, I stared at the newly resurrected shelf and wondered what should replace my communicative toys.
The first thing that grabbed my attention was a collection of dusty trophies. These were mostly obligatory “great attitude” or “most improved” type trophies. Most kids who were at my caliber of play knew that they really should read, “you used to suck worse” or “thanks for not quitting and making me look like a bad coach”. I dusted them off and placed them neatly side by side on the shelf. Regardless of the means by which I obtained them, they were a bit of a treasure to me.
I was recently reading when Jesus said that casting out demons, while amazing and supernatural, was not the fix that a demonized person required. In fact he went so far to say that if you remove an “unclean spirit” from the space of someone’s body, and don’t follow up with a replacing of that same space with the Spirit, that the person is actually worse off. Not only that, but he mentions that the demon would return and find “the house swept and put in order”. Those words bounced around my head for a bit, as I wondered what that means and if I knew what that looks like.
Immediately I began thinking of all the people that taste the things of the Kingdom, and maybe even experience a season of victory over an area of struggle, but quickly resort to tactics of self-reliance. They start removing the things that cause them to struggle but never address the issue of treasuring Jesus, making him utmost, and loving His kingship. The picture we have in Scripture of repenting has 2 parts: then turning from, and the turning toward. Yet the turning from is what is emphasized and what most people identify as repentance. I’ve assuredly seen this in my own actions and felt this in my own chest.
There are very few guarantees in life, but I feel confident guaranteeing that if you remove temptation, modify behaviors, or resolve to change but never receive and treasure Jesus, it is only a matter of time before things go back to the old way or even get worse.
Jesus isn’t looking for clean shelves. He is interested in being our treasure and filling our shelves with the things that only He can provide. The beautiful experience of walking with Christ, is that when He is your trophy on the shelf, the rest of your house looks different. He takes your life of disarray and breathes peace and change into the messiest of rooms.
24“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”
Shortly after moving into our current home five years ago, I began to recognize certain critters that would frequent our address. Of these creatures, my favorite was Mordecai.
Mordecai is a dove.
Mordecai had hard working parents that tried to provide for him a suitable life. They left several summers ago and left him to fend for himself. He struggled for a while, but presumably urged by the pangs of spring hunger, he finally flew the nest. I saw a few of his early attempts and they were not the icon of grace and triumph one would hope for.
These days, Mordecai has grown up a bit. He’s seen stuff. He’s learned things an upstanding dove needs to know in order to survive in the 89503.
Last year he found a mate and they built a nest in the exact same location as his parents did in years previously, my ornamental cherry tree. That seemed to work well for them. Sturdy branches. Protected from predators.
This year however, was different. Despite the experience of last year they landed on a new location, the young pine tree in my lawn.
I took the picture above 2 days ago. 2 snowy eggs lay nestled along side each other.
Then this one below was taken yesterday after the typical gale-force wind gusts that frequent Reno in the spring:
I remember when I was a new Christian someone was speaking on why we aren’t taken up to Heaven the moment we trust Jesus. The speaker phrased it as if this was a question that had plagued everyone, burning us alive, robbing us of peace, and wreaking havoc on our faith. He was going to solve the mystery so we could all sleep better.
The question had never crossed my mind.
What had crossed my mind, was that even though you trust Jesus once and that salvation has a starting point, learning to trust everyday was for more difficult; making tiny decisions that reflect that trust a much taller task. In fact, I saw in my friends and in my own heart the ability to completely forget what I had learned yesterday and choose self, choose me, choose sin.
Even though God had shown me the futility of my own plans, and the cracks in my own foundation, I was quick to return to those old tattered construction plans. I was and still am very capable and even willing at times to build my life on things that will not last. Some of those things are revealed by the slightest breeze, and others require a potent storm to be pried out of my heart. Sometimes things have to come crashing down for us to even realize what we are doing. It’s in these moments of clarity that we can make incredible headway in our relationship with Jesus.
Learning what a firm foundation is can not alone save you from the storm. You actually have to build your life on it. Brick by brick, choice by choice, moment by moment. The good news is that Christ gives himself as strength and power to do just that.
I hope Mordecai comes back. I think he could make another run at life here and make it.