Farewell #pacificnorthwelch

Two & a half plus years ago, when I started my journey to the Pacific Northwest, I decided I needed to hone up on my Seattle culture. So naturally I turned to the wit & wisdom of television’s favorite psychologist – Dr. Frasier Crane.

He’d greet his listeners with: “Hello Seattle, I’m listening.”

That was my motto for the journey.

I’m listening. I’m open. I’m willing. I want to learn.

Now, transition beckons.

#pacificnorthwelch, it’s been real.

In July of 2016 I took a crazy, wild, unexpected, holy risk, accepted a job, & followed the Holy Spirt’s prompting to Seattle. Thus starting my #pacificnorthwelch journey. It began the season of life in the Pacific Northwest.

As this season comes to an end; as transition beckons once again; I find myself reflecting on the wild ride this one simple act of risk opened me up to. If I don’t say yes in July of 2016, I shudder to think about what my life would be like.

Where would I be? Who would I be? What would I have become?

I left home. I left sun, I left beaches – glorious beaches to go to the land of Twilight, the land where sun goes to disappear and take a vacation. I left So Cal when my NFC Champion LA Rams had just moved home & were utter garbage, to go to the land of the cult of Seahawk. The land where a certain pastor had left a bad taste in the water of Seattle’s church culture. I left the home of the mega church to go to a land where churches go to die. It was a risk, but it was a holy risk.

I knew I must go.

So, I went.

That first year in Seattle was truly the best year of my life. It’s the year that made me, me. I’ll always be grateful for everything I learned from Bethany Community Church & the wise men & women who serve God faithfully there. This season taught me to preach, taught me to pastor. It taught me the importance of community.

I met a man who would wind up in my wedding party. A man whose friendship & brotherhood has made me better. A man who I’d choose to have on my team – every day. If it wasn’t for him, I wonder how my #pacificnorthwelch story would have been written? Would I have not liked it? Would I have wanted to go back to So Cal?

We’ll never know…

Most importantly, if I don’t say yes to the Holy Spirit, I don’t wind up on a #pacificnorthwelch journey that turns into #pacificnorthwelches. If I don’t leap, I don’t meet my beautiful, smart, funny, sexy, wise, adventurous, jesus-loving, caring wife. I don’t meet my best friend.

I cannot imagine what life would be without her.

She makes me better. She makes me wiser. She makes me more loving. She makes me a better pastor. She teaches me how to love & care for people. She love me just as I am – even when my 8w7 can be a lot to love. She does.

Even if nothing else would have come of my risk – it was worth it because of Ellie. It was worthy because of Josh. It was good for what I learned. It was needed because of the college men I saw God move in.

Seattle was exactly what I needed.

I knew Seattle wasn’t forever. Just knew. But loved the PNW, & God called asking us to start over, in Central Washington, in Wenatchee.

It was a risk. A bigger risk than Seattle. But, we knew we had to say yes.

This season, was less than ideal.

But, it was worth it.

We met some incredible people; people who will forever be a part of our story, our life. People who have shown us incredible love & support these past several months. It’s led to me meeting another one of my best friends, who if we got married today – would find himself in my wedding party – my doppleganger.

We saw God move in leaders. We saw God move in students. We saw God move in us. We saw God teach us about trust in the midst of unknown.

We saw God teach us about trust, hope, & faith in the midst of the massive unknown.

We got married here. We had our first home here. We had fights here. We made up here. We cried. We laughed. We lived. We became a team here.

No.

We became inseparable here.

Two were made one.

The fire refined us. The fire joined us together.

Now, as we reflect on the ending of a chapter – we can celebrate that we didn’t let the now define the next. Or, we didn’t let the then, beat the now.

#pacificnorthwelches is in it’s home stretch. Soon, we’ll be on an epic cross country road trip. Soon, we’ll wipe the dust off our feet. Soon, we’ll leave Wenatchee in our rear view windows. Soon, we’ll breathe deep & fully begin to let the Spirit do it’s healing work. Soon, we’ll be driving down the west coast – laughing like we’re in our honeymoon again.

We’ll miss the coffee. We’ll miss the people. I’ll miss rooting against Pete & the cult of Seahawk on their turf. We’ll miss the hikes & we’ll miss the camping (Ellie more so…). We’ll miss getting excited when the sun comes out. We’ll miss the glorious six weeks of summer. We’ll miss being in awe every single time it’s clear enough to say the mountain is out. We’ll miss the Oregon Coast, Canon Beach, and Blue Star Donuts. We’ll miss being so close to America’s hat – the land of mounties – Canada. We’ll miss our walks around Ballard. We’ll miss our Leavenworth days. We’ll miss our times of getting that chip sampler from South at Pybus. We’ll miss the pizza with bacon & apples – seriously. We’ll miss the drives of exploring the scenery of where God led us. We’ll miss our people, our friends.

For awhile we wondered if we’d be sad to leave. Thankfully, we are. We are sad to leave. We’re so excited to be going where God has called us, but in this season, as we transition, we feel the heaviness.

Who knows when we’ll be back?

Will it be with our kids so they can meet Aunt Karissa & Uncle Luke, my doppleganger, & see where their Mom & Dad had their first date, first kiss, got engaged, got married, & fell in love? Will it be on vacation? How much will things have changed before we get to enjoy an amazing Blue Star Donut again or take a sip of the most amazing coffee you could dream of?

Heaviness.
Excitement.

#pacificnorthwelch, it’s been real, but it’s time to go.

It’s time to go.

To the Palmetto State. To South Carolina. To the South. To the Low Country. To Charleston. To Mount Pleasant. To the East Coast. To history. To beaches. Glorious beaches. To an Anglican church.

It’s time to take what we’ve learned on this #pacificnorthwelches journey & apply them to #inserthashtaghere. It’s time, to once again live into holy risk & see what Jesus does.

Saint Andrews & Mount Pleasant, I can’t wait to see you.

It’s only fitting, in this season, to end where it began – some time in Seattle & some time with the insightful, Dr. Frasier Crane:

Stuck

Stuck.

Sometimes in life you just feel stuck. Am I right?

You feel that you’re not moving forward or backwards or even side to side. You feel like you’re not moving anywhere.

You’re just stuck.

You’re adrift at seat. You’re lost in the middle of the forest. You’re stranded in the sahara without any water or food.

Stuck.

You can scream all you want. but no one can hear you;  maybe they can but now one is actually listening to you. No one actually cares.  No one values you. No one wants you.

You’re forgotten. You’re alone. You’re isolated. You’re cutoff. You’re separated from what you know.

You’re stuck and you don’t know what to do with it. You have no idea what the next, best, right step is.

How could you? You’re stuck.

Stuck. Like in cement or quicksand. Or a squirrel who got chased up into a tree by the neighborhood dog. Stuck.

I don’t want to be stuck. No one does.

I’m tired of it. Who wouldn’t be? I’m over it. It’s time to move on and start something new, something exciting.

It’s time to see God’s hand, work, and movement in this season. It’s time to get unstuck.

Advent :: Peace > Fear

As a man and Pastor I spend a lot of time inside my own head – thinking, dreaming, hoping, planning, strategizing, and generally imagining every possible situation that could ever happen for any given situation I find myself in.

It’s a blessing; it’s a curse.
It’s who I am.

When I’m at my worst, my mind can make it hard for me to find peace. It can make it tough for me to rest. Especially in seasons like this one, where I’m surrounded by the unknown, where I’m surrounded by reasons to fear. It creates a Jonathon who overthinks and doesn’t let himself simply sit and trust – trust that God’s got it.

Jesus’ has this.

Whatever it is, Jesus has it.

Peace.

That’s what week two of Advent is all about – peace. 

Peace is about so much more than not fighting, arguing, or stopping violence.

Peace is “freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.”

Peace is about trust. Peace is about letting go of your fear. Peace is about how you orient your soul.

Are you trusting or are you afraid? Are you confident Jesus has this or are your doubting, wondering, questioning, if anyone cares about you? Are you willing to give up control and ride the wave or are you grappling, wrestling with God over every little detail, afraid to give up control?

Fear.
Peace.
Fear and peace.
Peace and fear.

It’s the same coin – different sides.
It’s different perspectives on the same situation.
It’s radically divergent approaches for the same event.

We all have situations where we are presented with opportunities to fear or choose peace. We are all presented with opportunities where we get to choose our responses. We don’t get to choose the scenarios, but we choose our response.

Peace or fear?

That’s where our Advent theme will meet our Christmas narrative. That’s where we will see peace dominate fear in the story of Christmas as we encounter – angels, shepherds, Mary, Zechariah, and Joseph.

Everyone of these characters encounters an angel professing how the world is about to change, who God is coming to earth in the form of a baby, and will radically alter human history. In each one of these encounters the refrain of “Do not fear” or “Do not be afraid” is uttered.

God is coming to earth. – do not fear. The wait is over – do not fear. You’re not imagining this sight – do not fear. You’re hearing us right – do not fear. Do not fear – your world is about to change.

Do not fear.

Specifically, I’m hyper intrigued by the man, the husband, the forgotten member of the Christmas story – Joseph.

The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.

While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—‘God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.” This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term:

Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son;
They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”).

Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary. But he did not consummate the marriage until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-25 (The Message)

Other translations translate the highlighted passage as “Do not be afraid”. 

Joseph, you’re going to be ridiculed. You have every right to do what you’re thinking about. Joseph, don’t be afraid. Your family, friends, and community is not going to understand what it is you’re doing, but it’ll absolutely be the right choice. Trust me.

Don’t be afraid.
Be at peace.
Have peace.

Fear is easy – it’s reactive; peace is hard – it’s choice, it’s intentional.

Choose peace.

Now, there are a million different ways I could land the plane or stick the landing after a perfect vault, but I can think of no better way to stick the landing than by going to one of my all-time favorite philosophers and theologians – Charles M. Schulz, or Linus.

Yup, Linus.

Linus, the BFF of Charlie Brown. The one who carries around a blue security blanket. The one who utters the famous meaning of Christmas speech in the classic Christmas classic. The one who subtly teaches us to choose peace over fear. The one who is willing to let go of security and embrace peace.

Watch the video and watch Linus – don’t just listen. See if you notice Linus do anything specific while he’s talking to Charlie Brown.

Did you catch that blanket drop?

Why is that significant?

That blanket is his security blanket. It’s how he deals with his anxiety; it’s how he walks through life with the courage to not live in fear.

When does he drop the blanket?

“Fear not.”

Fear not, then he drops the mic.
He drops the blanket.

Linus, full of fear and anxiety drops the blanket. 

Instead of fear, he choose peace; instead of letting fear master him, he chooses the peace of Jesus.

Advent is a time for us to lean into peace and let go of fear.

As 2019 beckons, 2018 closes with the Advent season.

What are you afraid of? What challenges are you facing? 

Are you worried about your mortgage? Has your teenager hit the point where you don’t even know what they are thinking any more or where you’re wondering what happened to your sweet little boy or girl? Is the tumor leaving you wondering if 2018’s Christmas may be your last? Did you just find a suspicious text on the phone of your significant other? Is your pregnancy “complicated”?

Do not be afraid.

Choose peace.

The choice is yours.

I sit in the midst of unknown. I have no idea what is coming after Christmas – bills will be calling. A new place to live beckons. A new job must be found. A new city will be moved to.

Jonathon, do not fear. Choose peace.

Let’s all choose peace this Advent; let’s all practice peace.

The choice is yours.

Advent :: Hope Rises Out of the Darkness

Hope.

We are all hoping for something.
We are all longing for something better.

It’s part of what makes us human; it’s part of what unites us through every culture, people, and demographic. Hope is what stays consistent through history.

We hope.

We hope for a relationship. We hope to see our parents get back together. We hold out hope the cancer won’t take the mother of our children from us. We hope the new job will be all it’s cracked up to be. We hope Social Security will still be there in 15 years for us to retire. We hope Rover will come back home. We hope the Dodgers still won’t win a World Series.

We hope – again and again.

It’s who we are.

It’s what the Israelites did over two millennia ago.

They were hoping for a Savior. They were hoping to be delivered and rescued from captivity, from exile, and from oppression. They waited for the next season, not knowing when it would come.

They hoped in the midst of darkness.

They hoped in the middle of an era of silence. Silence which lasted 400 years. 400 years without hearing from a prophet, without hearing from YWH.

400 years of hope.
400 years spent hoping and waiting amongst a sea of silence.

Now, Emmanuel has come. Jesus has been born. He has ushered in the now and not yet; He has brought His Kingdom to life here on earth – but it’s not fully here yet.

So we wait and we hope. We wait and we hope for Jesus’ return. We wait and we hope for Jesus to fully bring His Kingdom here to earth. We wait and we hope for Jesus to get rid of everything we hate about life here on earth.

No more cancer.
No more death.
No more divorce.
No more lust.
No more slavery.
No more sin.
No more.

I saw Heaven and earth new created. Gone the first Heaven, gone the first earth, gone the sea. I saw Holy Jerusalem, new-created, descending resplendent out of Heaven, as ready for God as a bride for her husband.

I heard a voice thunder from the Thrown: ‘Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good – tears gone, crying gone, pain gone – all the first order of things gone.’ The Enthroned continued, ‘Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down – each word dependable and accurate.’

Then he said, “It’s happened. I’m A to Z. I’m the Beginning, I’m the Conclusion. From Water-of-Life Well I give freely to the thirsty.

Revelation 21:1-6

This is what we wait for. This is our hope. We are waiting for God to move into our neighborhood, permanently. We are waiting for God to make His home with us – forever.

During this week of Advent we meditate, we keep our thoughts and minds focused on hope. Everything in our life or the world that is wrong, that is off, will absolutely be made right – one day. This is our hope; this is what we wait for.

We can understand the hope, the wait of the Isrealites 2,000 years ago because their hope is still our hope.

We’re still sitting in the waiting room.

We’re still in the midst of relying on hope for the future.

Jesus’ Kingdom is here, yet it’s not fully here – yet. But, it will be soon.

In Advent we sit in this hope as a reminder to us; a reminder it is our job to live out the Kingdom values until it is here – fully realized – forever and ever.

Advent :: Coming Soon

We are finally past the Thanksgiving holiday; we are past Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday. We are fully in the holiday season.

But, we are not yet fully in the Christmas season.

The Christmas season officially starts tomorrow – if you follow the church calendar.

Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent.

Advent: the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.

Tomorrow churches around the world will participate in this beautiful season on the church calendar that helps us anticipate the coming of Christmas day. It can help us get our hearts in the right places during this busy, hectic, stressful, holiday season. It builds the anticipation towards the excitement of the most momentous act in human history – God becoming human.

God living among us.

God as one of us.

I know the holiday season can be rough, it can be hard. It can be a season where the thought of celebrating is not coming easy to you. You’re not excited to head home for the holidays or you’re not able to be home for the holidays. You lost a loved one who will no longer be with you. Maybe you’ve lost a job or a significant other or you can’t afford presents for your children. This Christmas you may even be sick, dealing with a cancer that is threatening to take your life.

The Christmas season is not always easy.

This is why I love Advent.

Advent is not just about the here, the now, the next 25 days of our life.

It’s about the future. It’s about reminding us we live in the in between, we live in the now and not yet. Jesus came, God became man, ushered in the Kingdom of God, but as we know through the list of Christmas stressors, the perfect world, the fully realized Kingdom of God is not yet fully here.

We wait for it’s arrival in the same way the first disciples awaited the arrival of Jesus.

We, as a followers of Jesus, live an Advent lifestyle.

We are constantly waiting for Jesus’ return to fully usher in His Kingdom.

These next four weeks of Advent turn our heart towards the reality we sit in every day, growing our longing to see Jesus Kingdom fully realized. This is why we celebrate Advent.

But, this isn’t what I remember as a kid.

I remember it being nicely curated stories about the first coming of Jesus and not seeing any connection to the present day realities I saw.

I grew up celebrating Advent, participating in this season of preparing for the arrival of Christmas. It was a season where I would sit around the dinner table with my family and we’d read a selected passage of scripture that highlighted the birth of Jesus. Before each reading we’d light one of five candles, lighting a new one each week.

Week 1 :: The Prophets
Week 2 :: The Bethlehem
Week 3 :: The Shepherds
Week 4 :: The Angels
Christmas Day :: Jesus

I’m grateful that I was introduced to Advent as a child, but as my view of Advent has grown as I’ve hit adulthood – I’m grateful for the new understanding of Advent I’ve encountered.

Have you ever celebrated Advent? What do you remember? Have you ever lit the candles or just opened the little chocolate candy calendar from the local drug store?

Join me over the next 25 days, to celebrate the 4 weeks of Advent. As the four truths we will talk about and sit in, will pull us into God’s story here and now, and God’s story that is yet to come to fruition, the story we sit and wait to be true.

Week 1 :: Hope
Week 2 :: Peace
Week 3 :: Joy
Week 4 :: Love

Let these truths we walk in together as the global church seep into your soul and allow you to anticipate Christmas day fresh, like a child again.

There’s Always Money in the Banana Stand (A.K.A. Practicing the Art of Thankfulness)

Seasons come and seasons go.

There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:

A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Seasons come and seasons go.

That’s life; that’s what can make life exciting or can make life hard. If you didn’t believe the author of Ecclesiastes, maybe you’ll believe one of our most brilliant and modern poets of the 21st century – Green Day:

After all, “It’s something unpredictable, but in the end, it’s right. I hope you had the time of your life…”

Life is something unpredictable; yet, in the end, despite the twists and turns – it’s right. It’s right. It takes you right where you need to be.

See, just like the writer of Ecclesiastes shows us – seasons come and go. The weather is constantly changing, its shifting, and taking us exactly where we need to be.

Sometimes you’re sowing, other times you’re harvesting. Sometimes you’re enjoying the bliss of summer sunshine on a beach in Hawaii, other times you’re scraping the ice off your frozen windshield in Wenatchee. Sometimes you’re watching the first blooms of spring, but sometimes, you’re watching the first change of the leaves in the fall.

Seasons come.
Seasons go.
Life goes on.

You never know when your season of life is going to change, but I promise you it will.

Some seasons of life you enjoy more than others – don’t we all wish we could just stay in the summer season of life forever – where you are reaping the gifts of all God is doing in your life? Wouldn’t that be fantastic?

Wouldn’t it be great to never, ever have a winter season? No more blizzards of despair in life; no more need to chisel your car out of the ice and snow; no needs to put chains on your tires or even switch out your tires for the new season. Wouldn’t it be great?

I think we are all okay with some spring and fall. The teases of what is to come or what once was are so refreshing before\after the hibernation of winter.

Sure, spring keeps us on our toes as it’ll be nice one day, then cold or snowy the next – but when we start to see and feel summer, when we start to see the payoff of winter, it gets us amped up for what is coming.  Then we have fall. It’s the season we celebrate what summer produced in us. It’s where we start to see our season transition to winter and God up to something new – we don’t know what is coming, but we know summer is gone and something new must come.

Something new must come, but it won’t be easy.

We can’t just skip from fall to summer or even fall to spring (even if that’s what Southern California taught me).

We have to go through winter. Winter must come. It always comes.

But, winter doesn’t stay. It always fades. It always turns into spring.

Which is where this long and rambley introductions takes us.

Seasons come and go. They come and go.

What season of life are you finding yourself in right now, as we enter into the holiday season, as we prepare to stuff our faces full of food, deck the halls, watch football, and spend time with those we love – what season of life do you find yourself in this holiday season? The height of summer? The pit of winter? The ascension of spring? The drop off of fall? Where are you?

Me, I’m a ways past fall. I’m in a winter.

It’s cold, it’s dark, and daily I’m taking the metaphorical snow shovel, to the metaphorical snow, to the metaphorical car of my soul and mind – digging it out of the driveway.

But even in the midst of winter, I refuse to let this season define. I will not let the now define the next season, because I know that underneath all this snow and ice, something is brewing, something is birthing, something is healing, even if I can’t see it.

New is beginning.

In this season, it’d be too easy to mope, to be depressed, to sit in anger or frustration with what could have been versus what is. It’d be too easy to let bitterness take root. It’d be too easy to throw in the towel.

Instead, as the holiday season is here, as Thanksgiving beckons, I choose to practice the art of thankfulness. 

My heart may not fully feel it yet, but I choose it. I declare it. I won’t sit idly bye and ignore all the places to be thankful in the midst of the blizzard of winter.

I won’t. I cant.

Seasons come and seasons go, but in everyone of them, we have a choice. Will we be thankful? Will we hold on to the past?

I won’t. I can’t.

I’ll embrace the new; I’ll embrace the change. 

I’ve seen the season changes enough times before to know a winter is always followed by spring.

I’ve had a staph infection of the blood that put me on a death bed, but I didn’t stay there forever.
I’ve seen community dissolve over night, but a new, better community rose up.
I’ve seen a season of depression replaced with a season of joy.
I’ve seen relationships tear down, only to find the most amazing woman I couldn’t have ever hoped or dreamed for.
I’ve seen jobs end, only to find a roles that made my soul sing.

Seasons come and go. This I know, because I’ve experienced it in my own life, numerous times before.

So in this season, I choose to practice the art of thankfulness.

Even though I’m covered in snow, I’m thankful.

I’m thankful for the work God is up to – even if its not fully visible. I’m thankful for the way God protects my wife and I during a season of stress. I’m thankful for how God is using difficulty to bond us in deeper ways than I could ever have imagined in our first year of marriage. I’m incredibly grateful for the obvious people who have risen up to support us, to encourage us, and the numerous people who have be a major blessing and surprise to encourage and refresh our souls in this season.

I’m so incredibly grateful for my wife, who despite transition, and another season of change, is pursuing Jesus and loving Jesus stronger than I’ve ever seen her do. I’m so thankful that instead of running away, she is turning towards. I’m grateful for how she is lovingly handling my emotions, my stress, my doubt, my hurt, my frustration, my confusion, in a season where identity and calling are being wrestled with. I’m so grateful for a wife who makes me laugh, who brings a smile to my face daily, and who makes me a better man. I’m so grateful for how I’ve seen her love others the last ten months and how she is willing to risk her comfort to take the holy risk.

I’m thankful, because I know God is always moving. I’m thankful because Jesus won’t let me stay where I am.

I’m thankful because there’s always money in the Banana Stand… For some reason, when I think of this season, when I think of the trial of this season and I think of Jesus not letting us stay where we are at, this scene from Arrested Development pops up. If all else fails, there’s always money in the Banana Stand. If all else fails, I still have Jesus.

That’s enough to keep me thankful; that’s enough to keep me in the race. That alone is the reason to choose thankfulness.

So, no matter where you find yourself, I hope my vulnerability helps you.

Choose to practice the art of thankfulness.

Seasons come and seasons go. Choose to be thankful. It’s so much better than the alternative.

After all, there’s always money in the banana stand.

Graduating from the Basic

Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.

1 Thessalonians 4:9

I’ve been sitting with this verse, on this verse, for the better part of two weeks now and it is still wrecking me.

It’s these verses that far too often we read and we fly over them. I look at the as unimportant, as inconsequential to the point Paul or the writer is trying to make, so I keep flying by them as I read. Yet, it’s these verses that sometimes have the most profound impact on me.

When we stop to sit in the text, to let it read you, rather than us reading the text, these verses have power and come alive in ways we could never anticipate or expect. I don’t want to read the text, I want the text to read me. I love seeing the Scriptures come alive – again and again.

What I love about this text, is its profound simpleness. I love that this text illustrates this church, this community, these followers of The Way, had ‘graduated’ from the basics of following Jesus.

Can you believe that? Paul says, “we do not need to write to you”.

They had mastered the way of loving each other so well that Paul says I don’t need to talk about this anymore, we can move on. You’re nailing it. Keep it up.

Keep it up.

Way to go.

Is this true of us? Is this true of your community? Is this your church? Are you doing this?

Do you want this to be true os us? To be realized in your community? Do you think your church should master this? Are you, yourself, striving for this?

I want to not have to be taught this anymore. I want to be able to lead a church, lead a ministry, where we don’t have to talk about this anymore. I want to be part of a community where we ‘graduate’ from the basics.

There is no perfect church or community, but we can love each other so well we don’t have to talk about it anymore. It doesn’t have to be a dream; it can be reality.

Do we want this to be real?

This Has to Stop – Yesterday

I’m tired of hearing news stories involving shootings, guns, and death. I’m tired of hearing about it in night clubs or schools or movie theaters.

I’m tired of it.
My soul hurts.
It longs for something new to be ushered in; it longs for the vision and values of Jesus’ kingdom to come to fruition.

This has to stop – yesterday.

“They will beat their swords into plowshares & their spears into pruning hooks…” Isaiah 2:4

Beat your swords into plowshares. Turn your hand guns into hammers. Take your weapon of war, your weapon of destruction, your means of death and killing, and turn it into a tool that cultivates life.

Take your spear and turn it into a pruning hook. Take your assault rifles and turn them into something which reaps life, which bears fruit – transform it into an apple picker.

Take your mass murder machine and live out the value of the kingdom, of the upside down nature of following Jesus. Live into the reality of the now and not yet.

This has to stop. We can make it stop.

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him (Peter) “for all who draw on the sword will die by the sword.” Matthew 26:55

Yes, as an American Christian, you have the “right” to own a weapon.

But 21st Century followers of Jesus in America, should you? Should you? Really?

Do you believe the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount match up with you owning a firearm and not advocating for gun reform?

I’m not saying owning a gun or not advocating for reform is a sin – because I don’t think it is. However, I don’t think it lines up with the vision and values of Jesus.

Jesus’ kingdom, like Peter found out, is not ushered in by the ways of the world.

Peter was told to holster his weapon.
Stand down.
Stop.
Deescalate the situation.
Turn the other cheek.

Jesus could have used force. He could have called down legions of angels for protection, but He didn’t. His call, His way, is the way of non-violence and we are called to live in His footsteps.

We are called to follow the way of our Rabbi.
I beg you, follow the way of our Rabbi.

We can make it stop. It has to stop.

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world…” 2 Corinthians 10:4

Paul tells us we don’t fight with the weapons of the world. We don’t. Our fight is not with other humans, no we fight for the spiritual well being of every human life in the world. We fight to ensure that everyone encounters Jesus in their lifetime.

Guns may protect life, when everything goes well, but as we look at the news – clearly more guns is not the answer. They take more lives than we as followers of Jesus should ever allow or be okay with.

Yes, getting rid of guns will not solve the problem of evil or violence – Paul says we are fighting a war not of this world. It’s true. But eliminating guns will help us. It will save lives.

Followers of Jesus we have to wake up.

Wake up to make it stop. It can stop. It has to stop – yesterday.

“Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.” Ecclesiastes 9:8

Solomon, ancient king of Israel, values wisdom above all else.

Wisdom is better than weapons of war.
Wisdom is better than weapons.
Wisdom is better than guns.

Jesus is wisdom.

Jesus says turn the other cheek. Jesus says put your sword back in its place.

Follow the example of wisdom.
It’s so much better than guns.

We can end this. We can make it stop. We have too.

“and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…” Ephesians 6:17

For years the armor of God confused my way of non-violence soul and perspective. How does a soldier motif fit into this perspective? How does it work? That is, until, I finally had a realization…

Here’s what I love so much about the armor of God, the weapon is not a literal weapon.

Every other aspect of the armor of God is a literal piece of armor attached to a metaphor – except the sword. It’s simply the word of God.

We are to fight our spiritual battles without a literal weapon. We are to rely on Jesus to do the fighting for us.

We are to put our sword back in its place and rely on Jesus.

We are to beat our sword into a plowshare and let Jesus be Jesus.

This has to stop – yesterday.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for the will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9

The world is counting on us.
Generation Z is watching.
The world is looking to the stand the church is going to take.

Are we going to be peacemakers or are we going to be perpetrators of violence?
Are we going to side with those who mourn, weep, and long for justice or are we going to side with arms dealers and ones who oppress other human beings?

Friends, as followers of Jesus, we have to make this stop. We are called to bring the kingdom of heaven to Earth. In the kingdom of heaven there is no death, weeping, or weapons.

Our guns won’t make it.

They’ll be turned into plowshares. They have no use in the kingdom of heaven.

Let’s live into this reality in the here and now, in the now and not yet.

We can’t keep repeating this news cycle; we have to break it sooner or later. We must end the loop.

This has to stop – yesterday.

Danger Artemis, Danger!

The book of Acts is the single most frustrating book in the Bible for this 21st century disciple living on the West Coast of America.

Every time I read it, my passion, my vision, my hope for the Church is reborn. Every time I sit in this book, my angst stirs up. I’m left wondering why we don’t see what is happening in the book of Acts today?

Why?

So, today’s portion of this questioning, comes from Acts 19:22-28:

About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: ‘You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.

When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ Soon the whole city was in an uproar.

Read the bolded text again.

Do you catch what this narrative from Acts is telling us?

The Way, followers of Jesus, Paul, was being so disruptive, so persistent in living and loving the way of Jesus, it was absolutely messing up Ephesus. It was creating chaos and bringing upheaval to the powers that be in the first century.

These people of Ephesus were afraid of two things: Artemis losing power and their profession dying out. They were afraid their way of life would cease to exist because of the Gospel. They were afraid of going out of business.

The Gospel and its work is so powerful it puts the god Artemis and the people who make a living off her out of business. They were shutting down idols and false gods. This is absolutely incredible.

This was the power of “The Way”, the power of the local church!

Think about this. The early church was in threat of putting a ‘god’ out of business.

In the 21st century are we as the local church doing that?
What gods or idols are we putting out of business?

Present day, we don’t necessarily have Artemis’s to worry about. But we do have other religions that aren’t following the way of Jesus, but even that’s too obvious of a comparison.

When I think about this, I think about the sneaky idols and ‘gods’ in our culture. Or even why it took so long for the American Church to get behind and abolish slavery.

Are we using the Gospel to help end racisms? Are we trying to abolish global slavery? Are we supporting #MeToo and helping drive abusers out of power? Are we working to transform the sex trade industry? Are we following Jesus’ example to be pro-life and end abortion, help pull people out of poverty, end drug use, create prison reform, save lives by ending wars and the death penalty?

Are we going to the places that desperately need an infusion of Jesus and changing the culture by letting people encounter Jesus?

Are we doing that as a local church?

It’s time to see some Artemis’s go out of business.

Character

Character.

Integrity.

What exactly is it? How do you get it? How do you keep it? How do you lose it? How do you know when you even have it?

Do you even want character? Is it actually worth it?

Character is formed in the hard moments, tiring times, that make you want to run away and quit trying. The moments you think just aren’t worth it anymore – or so you think.

It’d be easier to run. It’d be safer to flee. It’d be so much better to just live life high in the clouds and pretend like it wasn’t happening. It’d be more fun to ignore it and simply sweep it under the rug.

But, that’s not the truth.

Too often we don’t think a whole lot of what life throws are way is actually worth it.

This is what it takes to build character – you have to go through everything life throws at you – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

To build character, you must endure.

Endure.
Persevere.
Don’t stop leaning in or pushing through.
Don’t stop believing.

It means choosing to do the hard option – even if it’s what you really don’t want to do. It means letting go of pride, letting go of needing to be right, letting go of needing to be perfect, letting go of so much that is good and holy. It means you work on being at peace with what is going on around you, in you, and through you.

Be at peace.

Work at peace.
Strive for peace.

It means letting God work. It means trusting God is at work. It means trusting God is making  way forward, a way out. It means let God work in you and form your character more.

It means hope.
Have hope.

Character is about hope – the hope you are enough. The hope God is enough. The hope God is at work. The hope you can trust and allow Jesus to keep working in you and through you.

Character is about trusting in hope.