Why we exist…

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My son Neal is without a doubt the most amazing little man that has ever stepped foot on this planet… ok, I might be a little bias, but from the first day I met him to this very day, I have been so amazed by the amazing kid God has crafted him to be. He is full of life, passionate, spontaneous and incredibly compassionate. He is thoughtful (most of the time), caring and full of wild ideas. There are days where I’m pretty sure he could convince himself and possibly a few others that he has what it takes to jump to the moon. I have never met another person in my life with more freedom to simply be himself. Sure, he has insecurity, of course, like any other 9 year old, he is beginning to understand what it means to live in a world where value is placed on every human based on their ability to perform to a cultural expectation that was created from a position of insecurity in the first place. Big picture…

Neal knows how to live…

Along with the unbelievable freedom he tends to live his life with comes one very significant disfunction. Neal has a hard time focusing… call it whatever you want, ADD, ADHD, Hyperactivity, or just being an emotional Brower boy, cut out of a similar mold his father was made in, Neal struggles to keep his eye on the ball.

He knows what he wants, in the moment he wants it, but what he wants seems to change like the wind, and it never remains long enough for him to figure out how to get it. He jumps from one idea to the next, day by day, even moment by moment, as fast as his free thinking brain and wild imagination will take him.

Neal lacks focus.

As much as I love all the smaller attributes of his personality that make Neal who he is, I fear at times that a lack of focus will ultimately keep him from being really effective at anything. If he could focus all his wild energy and passion on one thing, I can only imagine where his zeal and passion might take him.

Neal is a great illustration of the “church,” in America.

With the purest of motives and the best of intentions churches hit the ground running with ideas of changing lives and changing the world. We build buildings, hire staff, organize services and create the perfect programs. We do it all in the name of Jesus, believing, at least at one point or another that we are doing it from a place of conviction and intentionality. Then come the people.

People make everything more complicated don’t they? All of us, from the pastors, to the committed members, to the guy who shows up once a month just so he can check the preverbal church box on the score card of life, and slip out before anyone notices him.

We are all difficult! We are all selfish! We are all given to emotions that would put our own agenda over the agenda of Jesus in the establishment and multiplication of His church.

So here we are, with big rooms full of selfish people, attempting to continue in the legacy of Jesus… the result? Yeah. its going to be a mess… no matter how you slice it, its gonna be as ugly as the NFL with referees who have more experience selling hot dogs at the concession stand than throwing yellow flags on the football field.

The result of selfish people gathering together more intent on their own personal agenda than what the gathering ultimately exists for is simple…

Hurt, chaos, broken relationships, arguments, disagreements, apathy, discontentment, jealousy, pride, greed, immorality, deception, manipulation, mistrust, etc. etc. etc.

Pick one of those, or fill in a blank with your own. If you have been a church goer for any significant amount of time you have more than likely experienced one or more of the above. The funny thing is, we, in our limited understanding of people in the world, brought on by narcism, have some how convinced ourselves that if we just continue to do, “church as usual,” people will simply sign up.

We are wrong.

So what is the answer?

I think it is simpler than we make it… I think it boils down to one thing.

The church in America has ADHD.

We have lost the ability to focus, coupled with an addiction to hyperactivity, resulting in an organization that lacks all understanding of why it exists, and what it desires to see accomplished. We prioritize busyness over impact. Our lack of focus allows the mission of the church to be interpreted individually and randomly by any and all who choose to engage with the discussion. Instead of being a missional movement, unified by our calling, around the person of Jesus and gospel message, we have become a, “whatever you want it to be so that you feel good, happy and well taken care of,” type organization. We build programs around that mantra, to suit any and all who speak up. There is a different program for every niche need, or area interest. We run around like chickens without a head, staying really busy, greasing all the squeaky wheels, and ultimately loose sight of why we are doing it all to begin with.

Sound familiar? Tired of it?

Me too, but finding our way out of the darkness of consumerism and disunity, and into the light where God can empower us with the Holy Spirit, creating a movement that can change the world requires us to make a decision. It requires us to set our agenda, understanding and even church history aside for something bigger. Its time we stop thinking about us, and start thinking about others. Its time we stop pursuing comfort and choose impact instead.

The true church, the focused church, the gospel-centered movement Jesus died to establish is found only when we choose to set self aside, take up our cross and choose to walk in the footsteps of our creator.

It requires focus.

Focus is a core value at FInding Life Church. It is the core value I am preaching on this Sunday in our current series titled, “The power of a values driven life.” Here is the statement we make about this value…

Focus: “What matters most is people finding Jesus, we will be intentional about it.”

This is what the church exists for. This is what the church was called to in the wake of Jesus’ death. This what its all about, and everything else comes second.

Church is not about… being fed, having a powerful experience, great music, Bible education, developing a social club, or even social justice. Its not about having opportunity for my gifts to be used, or being given a platform for my personal passions.  It is about one thing…

People connecting with the grace of God, being freed from the clutches of sin and death, and walking an empowered, purposeful, kingdom engaged life for the sake of others experiencing the same thing along the way.

If you get up this Sunday morning with anything else as your focus, you will miss the point of why we gather in the first place.

All those above pursuits are not wrong in and of themselves, they are simply not the most important thing. They are all the natural outcome of a life focused on what matters most.

I will ask you this.

Will an all out pursuit of Bible education always lead to a heart for others to know Jesus? Nope… (Scribes and pharisees)

Will a pursuit of worship through music, ultimately impassion a person to engage with gospel impact? Nope

Will a pursuit of social justice always lead to eternal life change? Nope, probably a better chance here, but still still not automatic.

Here is the reality. A heart focused on others, experiencing Jesus will naturally lead to a hunger for the word, a passion for the broken and displaced, an intentional engagement in community, etc. It will breed a lifestyle of worship, a passion for others and a natural desire to serve. We have to choose to prioritize the one thing that will ultimately spiritually form us in all those other areas. Focus is not about saying only one thing matters, it is about saying, only one thing will accomplish the big picture in my life and in others. Only one thing will populate heaven, only one thing will transform the world with the love of Jesus.

Focus.

What matters most is people finding Jesus. Check everything else at the door, and watch how God begins to form it in you in ways you have never imagined, enhancing your church experience like never before.

Luke 15 reveals the heart of Jesus for those who are lost. They are his number one priority… They are what He cares most about… they are what He gave everything for. They are more important than you (If you are a church going, salvation professing Christian). Are we, the church today, giving our lives for the same? Are we prioritizing something different than what Jesus did? Absolutely. When we align our hearts with what Jesus valued most, the windows of heaven are opened, and the power of God can take root in us like never before. That is the picture of the true church.

Focus.

Its graciousness or nothing…

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Ok, so I know my last post came with a cliff hanger…

“Stay tuned for part two…”

Well life happened… actually more accurately, “Jake,” happened. If you don’t know me I am an incredibly passionate guy, often given to moments of emotion. I am currently having one of those nights. Emotional I mean. It is Tuesday and it has already been a long week. Emotionally. Maybe it’s just my life right now, maybe it’s God attempting to shape something unique in me, I don’t know, but I am feeling like an emotional roller coster right now. So even as I am writing, forgive me for being scattered, for being potentially incoherent at times. Hopefully this post will be more Holy Spirt than Jake… we’ll see.

I am in the midst of a sermon series called, “the power of a values driven life.” We, at Finding Life Church are taking our annual trip through our core values. Its a yearly opportunity to re-focus on why we exist as a church, and what God is calling us to live out… collectively, every day, from a position of the heart.

This week we come to graciousness. I think I make this statement all 7 weeks every time I preach through these values…

“This is my favorite one!”

Stupid, I know, but remember when I said I was emotional? Yeah, this is just another manifestation of that, and the fact that I am head over heals in love with these 7 core values. Want to bring meaning to your life? Want to have close powerful relationships? Want to live a peaceful, joy-filled, powerful life? Want to live a life reflecting the heart of Jesus?  Pursue a heart posture that is in pursuit of these 7 values, and you will. I promise. Ok, there I go rabbit trailing again.

Graciousness.

Grace is the central, driving and defining concept to the Christian life.

“Christian,” what the heck does that really mean? Seriously? Church attendance? Bible memorizing? false comfort stemming from a common system of beliefs that we gather to affirm for each other with our religious ritual and boring, lifeless and repetitive gathering? Teva Sandals and North Face back packs? Seriously, what are we really doing here?

One word…. Graciousness

It means living like Jesus, and the pursuit of this value, graciousness toward others, that stems from an understanding of my deep brokenness and desperation is what it really means to be a Christian.

To live like Christ is to embody what He came to live and die for.

Tonight, as I sit here, praying, singing, reflecting and writing, I am consumed by one thought. To call myself a Christian, and not be on an all out pursuit of a lifestyle that seeks to love, unconditionally all people, from my best friend to the most unlovely of human beings, is to embody the term, Hypocrite, thereby making me the antonym of the word Christian.

The irony of that is, the word Christian more often than not embodies something completely different. To the world that the grace of Jesus came to ransom, the word Christian most often goes down harsh, painful and anything but smooth. I know, this conversation is getting old… I am just another one of these post-modern lunatics that is far to passionate, and equally uneducated.

Well, call me what you wish… I am right.

Being a Christian means embracing a very simple, yet equally counter culture concept… grace. And not the over-used word put in every single worship song ever written because it rhymes with the word “embrace,” which is also another word us Christians like to put in songs… real grace.

Grace flies in the face of everything we want, love and feel comforted by. Justice? Grace takes a big fat dump on yours and my understanding of justice. Its true.

Grace requires violation: It needs it, it cannot exist without it. There is no such thing as showing graciousness to someone who is nice, kind, or compliant. In order to live the most important value reflected in the life of Christ, we must first be violated. You are not living like Jesus until you have been utterly violated and then chose to love anyway. As people, especially Christians, we run away from violation don’t we? This is not about being a door mat, but about expecting to be violated, choosing it, and then choosing love. It comes from a position of strength, not weakness. It is what Jesus Lived out with every breathe he took on this planet.

Grace is not a response to a request, in fact, if someone asks for it, it is not really grace. Grace in its purest form is given regardless of the actions of another person. Once the violator recognizes the violation, grace is out. You can forgive, be merciful, loving, etc, but true grace… is no longer available to give. This is what makes it so hard. Graciousness is a posture of the heart that responds immediately with love when violation occurs.

Grace does not take actions into account. Graciousness looks past the actions, and loves simply because a gracious heart believes with the very fabric of their being that it is the only option. As I have received grace, I give it away. I cannot claim Grace from Him, and not respond that way when others actions deserve something else.

Grace is not fair. Oooh, fairness. man, that word is a tough one huh? In my family we call that the “F” word. The “F” word is the enemy of grace. If it doesn’t hurt, it is not grace. If it is easy to give, you haven’t given grace. Grace doesn’t seek fairness, it simply chooses to love. True grace doesn’t weigh the situation to see if it is, “fair.”

We have a fairness complex in America don’t we? As long as you are looking for, “Your slice,” what you are owed, or what you deserve, you will never, ever understand what it means to live the grace that you and I as “Christians,” place our hope in.

Grace is thoroughly life altering. True grace is.. the kind Jesus gave to you, and to me as He hung on the cross. The kind that traded Kingly position for slavery, majesty for mire. The kind of love Christ showed to each one of us is the kind He is calling us to turn around and give away.

If you and I, do not immediately choose to start posturing our hearts and lives in pursuit of living out the grace we claim, we cannot continue to call ourselves Christians. We can’t, period. We also cannot continue to place our hope in the concept of salvation that’s footing and foundation is firmly based in the scandalous grace we are claiming yet withholding with those around us. When we do, we become a hindrance to the gospel. We become a fog that clouds the image of Christ, the purity of His love and the power of His bloodshed for those far from Him.

Wanna call yourself a Christian? Start living graciously… or stop calling yourself that. Period.

It’s grace, or its nothing.

Your call.

At Finding Life Church we are choosing to forgo fairness and justice. Instead we embrace violation understanding that only in the face of violation are we given the opportunity to truly love like Jesus. To embody the true meaning of the word Christian. We are not perfect, but we are on that pursuit.

Lord form it in us! as only you can…

The Power of Values Driven Living

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When I was a kid my parents used to drive me crazy with their emphasis on values. Every time I got in a fight with my brother or sister it was the same line… “What family value did you violate when you did that?…” It was maddening. I often wondered why it mattered, I thought it would be easier if they would just punish me for my bad behavior and we could move on. I remember thinking very specifically,

“Why does everything have to be such a big ordeal?”

Over a decade later, I am coming to a complete understanding of why values driven living can be such a powerful, and life defining thing. Core values may seem small, over simplified at times even superfluous, but ultimately, I have learned they end up being the very thing that brings clarity, direction and focus to the life of an over extended, emotional, scattered and broken individual… like myself

I am not typically one for cliche’s, but the age old adage, “You have to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything,” is right on the money. Its not just a statement for an over zealous college student looking to sow his/her wild oats. Its for me! Its for you! Its for anyone who has ever felt like life is simply happening to them.

Core values are the like the bumpers in the gutters of a bowling lane. They keep the ball moving in the right direction no matter how bad we throw it. We have to recognize that as broken, emotional, over tired, stretched to the limit individuals, we cannot count on ourselves to make choices that will keep us out of the “gutter,” meaning places we would never choose to be, or ways we would never choose to live in moments of clarity. Core values can act as a bumper for our lives keeping our ball moving toward the pins. Sometimes incredibly slowly, but eventually it will hit the pins. Eventually we will become what we set out to be. Without core values to define our pursuits, we end up letting the urgent take precedent over the important. For example, no one sits in a hospital room just minutes after the birth of their child whispering things in their ear like…

“I promise to be there for you most of the time”

“I will only yell at you in anger when you really piss me off.”

“I plan to attend at least 1/3 of your baseball games.”

“Just so you know, work will always be more important than helping with your homework.”

So how do we find ourselves living out those exact realities and so many more? Because we have no values to help us prioritize our lives in those moments where the world is baring down on us, responsibilities are crashing on our heads like the shore breakers of, “The Wedge,” at Newport Beach, and pressures of the urgent are threatening to put us in the bowling lane gutter of life.

Core values is the answer.

We can either choose what we value, or let the world choose that for us. We can either be intentional about who we are going to be in moments of clarity and sanity, or we can let the circumstances of life ultimately define who it is we are and how we end up living.

Values bring clarity in our decision making, purpose in our busyness and relief from the guilt of not being able to please everyone. Values allow us to become the person we want to be rather than the person our world inevitably wants to turn us into.

If your desire is to be a person that lives life with purpose and meaning, begin here. Begin by deciding who it is you want to be, and let go of the pride that says, “I don’t need the bumpers, I am really good bowler.”

Put out the bumpers, and even if you don’t knock down all the pins every time, your life will always be on target, on purpose and on point.

On this blog I am starting a journey that could go on for a while on this concept of Values. I am convinced the practical implications of this concept are much more important than we realize.

Stay tuned for part two..

Christianity’s greatest hypocrisy

Since the church was first established with broken, weak and feeble people, it was destined for a history and legacy marked by hurt, violation, abuse and most of all hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy.

Identifying oneself with Jesus, but choosing to live blind to who He actually is.

Before I get too far into this, one of the things we have to recognize is that when broken people attempt to imitate the son of God in word and actions, there is bound to be a whole lot of hypocrisy. We are not perfect, and we never will be. The church will always hurt people. Christians will always fail to live up to the standard of God’s holiness. Pastors will fall, leaders will break and churches will split. When God chose to use people to accomplish His work on earth, it was a choice for that process to be incredibly messy.

The bottom line is, our behavior, as, “Christians,” will always leave something to be desired in the eyes of this skeptical world looking on. As one of those, “Broken Christians,” let me be the first to say I am sorry. I am sorry that my life so rarely matches my words. I am sorry for what that does to the name and reputation of Jesus. I am sorry for being such a bad representation of the most amazing man that ever lived on this planet. Frankly, I am not sure why God chose me to begin with.

I am sorry for the hypocrisy.

At the same time, there is a whole lot of hope to be found in just saying it out loud. I am a hypocrite. My dad taught me that…

“The church is the perfect place for hypocrites to gather.”

Its true… if we are aware of our shortcomings we can allow God to shape us, mold us and form in us the value of graciousness. Our failures then, become a source of hope to the world instead of pain. It’s about seeing it, identifying it, and being humble enough to admit that we don’t have it all together.

But there is another kind of hypocrisy. It is the kind that takes root in a person, blinding them to the realities of their own mess, and magnifying the mess of others. It’s the kind that causes a person to use the beautiful gift of the gospel for personal gain, for an individual agenda. It’s the kind that seeks to divide, the kind that tears down instead of building up. It’s the kind that sees personal agenda and belief system as more important than loving people. This kind of hypocrisy tears down, creates disunity, and leaves the world going,

“Huh?”

Blind hypocrisy is the single most devastating issue for the church today.

Christians get so fired up and passionate about doctrinal issues, worship style and carpet color that they are willing to cause division to have their voice heard. In doing so we find ourselves in pursuit of our own agenda in the name of Jesus while blindly ignoring His greatest commands on our lives.

Love people.

I am amazed at just how easily we allow ourselves to become blinded by selfishness.

As Jesus followers, we are called to prioritize one thing above all else in this world. Loving, valuing, and freely giving of ourselves to people.

  • In friendship… Love
  • With our enemies… love
  • In the face of violation… love
  • When its easy, when its hard, when its painful… love
  • When someone disagrees with my view of God… love

As Christians we have learned to, “Go to the mattresses” to defend our doctrinal perspectives, yet don’t care about who we hurt in the process. In our passion and zeal for our “faith,” we find ourselves ignoring the greatest commandment of all. To love people.  We become the worst kind of hypocrite.

How did we get here?

Friends, God will protect His own church, God will take care of the truth… we are called to love. Period.

Love is the most powerful force in this universe.

If you call yourself a Christian, my challenge for you, as you enter your church building on Sunday is to pursue unity, understanding and love. To give yourself fully to your church leaders, your churches mission and your values. Look for ways to create unity, not be divisive. Search for ways to build up, not tear down. Give the benefit of the doubt, trust first.

Jesus reminded us that there is really only one way that the world will know we are His disciples… by the way we love each other.

Let love and unity be the lens you see the rest of life and faith from behind, and then and only then will we be ready to take our broken, messed up hypocritical lives into the world and put Jesus and His grace on display in a powerful way.