Build Your Squad

One of the "Big 3" values at 180 Chicago is Allies: Align your life with God and allies who want you to win.  This is a critical value that will make us stronger or drag us under. When we get relationships right it's a beautiful thing. Today on-air we're calling it "Build Your Squad".

For years I underestimated just how critical relationships are in taking hold of God's promises. If you surround yourself with people who can strengthen you when you're down and cheer with you when you're winning you have a true comrade in Christ.

This is touchy to discuss but even in the church, there are people who are not spiritually healthy. This doesn't mean that we discard them at all. But it also doesn't mean that we have to share the deepest part of our lives with them. Being selective with those we share our deepest thoughts, our sin, our shame, and even our victories, is a selection process that God calls us to be mindful of. Consider Psalm 1, the first three verses:

Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law, he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

The clear implication is that we're better off walking alone with God and his word than to surround ourselves with the wrong people. There are unwise people both outside and even inside the church who we should not sit with, stand with, or walk with. Want to really grow up in Christ? We need to get the wrong people out and the right people in – build your squad.

The church is the greatest possible institution on earth, but not everyone who calls themselves a Christian is able to help us grow up in Christ – some are even pretenders. We can't have a spirit of judgment, but we must ask the Holy Spirit to help us exercise judgment for those we should share our lives with. 

Getting our life aligned with God and finding allies who will exhort us, cry with us, and even cheer for us when we get a win, is critical to our spiritual prosperity – build your squad. 

But here's a few questions that will help us think through relationships: Who is the church? How many friends do I need? What should I expect from all the people in attendance? Where do I go for help? What is my role? This requires we see our squad, our relationships/Allies in the church through a few different lenses. 

Benefit Allies - Allies that benefit us are those who we may know little of, but when we see them or hear of them we are the better for it. These are those brothers and sisters across town or across the world who are on the mission but not in our congregation or our daily lives. They send messages or we hear a word of their faith and it emboldens us to stand strong on the rock. The Iranian underground church is that kind of benefit to us. To hear of saints who smuggle and share pieces of a bible so everyone will have something and no one is caught, is a direct benefit to our faith. These allies are in the battle – all around the world!

Builder Allies - Some Allies build us up. This is why Paul wrote to a central group of followers in a city who were meeting together and encouraged them to each use the gifts God had given them. Some of the phrases Paul used were, "varieties of gifts", "are one body",  "the parts of the body that seem weaker are indispensable" (I Cor. 12). Here's the bottom line: In the local congregation, it's all hands on deck, or whatever part you are. We can't have anyone on the sidelines because we are stronger when we all do our part together.

Buddy Allies - There is a level of relationship that can only be shared with a few. Jesus modeled this with Peter, James, and John, and he did it for a reason – we're not designed to have more than a few really close friends. These buddies are people who love you no matter what you've done, are doing, or will do in the future. They are in for the long haul. There are unfazed by your blunders and not overwhelmed by your victories. They love you and you love them enough to say, "wait a minute", and they always believe God for big things in your life. Everybody needs a buddy or two, or three. But not much more than that. Unapologetically pray for a few close spiritual buddies, your vitality in Christ is riding on it. 

These lenses can help us see relationships in the church with fresh eyes. We'll be the better for it.

Move To The Center

A good friend reminded me yesterday of something that tormented me as a kid. I couldn't do a flip, spin or somersault without losing my lunch. The doc said it was something to do with my middle ear. There were literally rocks loose that shouldn't have been. My wife could have diagnosed that and I'd of saved the deductible.

But the story shared with me was about a Merry Go 'Round. I remember those well. Nothing sent my head to spinning and stomach churning like a few laps on one of these beasts.

I still remember the day I was trapped. The beast was spinning and the kid keeping it going wasn't going to stop no matter what I said. I don't know what led me, it was possibly God himself. But with eyes closed, I strained against the centrifugal force to pull myself to the very center of this hellish ride. With my head over the center of the beast, I found enough relief to wait out the spinning – I moved to the center.

With every head spinning, stomach-churning relational, emotional, medical or vocational challenge we face the answer is remarkably the same – move to the spiritual center.

One verse in the Psalms captures this perfectly: "In the multitude of my thoughts within me your comforts delight my soul." Psalm 94:19

The thoughts referred to here are those that discourage, divide, and perplex the mind. The solution is to move to the center and draw our strength from our soul. It's in our soul that experiential truth slows the spinning and comfort of God's promises stills the churning.

If you find yourself spiritually disoriented and not feeling too well. Bring to mind God's faithfulness of the past and search the scriptures for God's promises for the future. Move to the center!

ALLIES (Part 1): A Pastors Perspective on Relationships in the Church

One of the values in our new church is Allies: Align your life with God and allies who want you to win.  This is a critical value that will make us stronger or drag us under. When we get relationships right it's a beautiful thing. 

For years I underestimated just how critical relationships are in taking hold of God's promises. If you surround yourself with people who can strengthen you when you're down and cheer with you when you're winning you have a true comrade in Christ.

This is touchy to discuss but even in the church there are people who are not spiritually healthy. This doesn't mean that we discard them at all. But it also doesn't mean that we have to share the deepest part of our lives with them. Being selective with those we share our deepest thoughts, our sin, our shame, and even our victories, is a selection process that God calls us to be mindful of. Consider Psalm 1, the first three verses:

Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

The clear implication is that we're better off walking alone with God and his word than to surround ourselves with the wrong people. There are unwise people both outside and even inside the church who we should not sit with, stand with, or walk with. 

The church is the greatest possible institution on earth, but not everyone who calls themselves a Christian is able to help us grow up in Christ. We can't have a spirit of judgement, but we must ask the Holy Spirit to help us exercise judgement for those we should share our lives with. 

Getting our life aligned with God and finding allies who will exhort us, cry with us, and even cheer for us when we get a win, is critical to our spiritual prosperity. 

 

Radical Change

God did a miracle in my life. He saved me from cocaine, crown royal, carousing, et al. But mainly God saved me from my greatest sin, my self-led life. God has helped me to remember some rough memories in those months leading up to the transforming work he did in me. God isn't rubbing anything in my face, just allowing me to never forget that miracles do happen.

This stroll down memory lane causes me to weep, but they’re tears of joy and satisfaction, like staring grace in the face. Here’s just a couple scenes God showed me: I would scour my apartment, scraping mirrors, breaking open gram vials for just one more line of “blow”. I would swing from being crazy with laughter and life at parties, then retreating in the early morning to my room, curled up in a dark corner feeling overwhelmed with an empty soul but not knowing what to do. Feeling the weight of living up to my potential and the crushing emptiness of what others saw as victory and success was a whiplash of emotions. I was religious but not redeemed, I was lying to myself and churning with internal pain, but God was standing in my shadow extending mercy.

Then God took me to a place of spiritual nakedness. He pulled down the filter of denial. I realized then that God saw me and my sin more clearly than I could see myself and he didn’t despise me. I didn’t choose Him, he overwhelmed me. He showed me a love that was stronger than my shame. I can say with certainty that I did nothing but admit my deep need for hope and my rabid desire to truly live. I surrendered my life to Jesus, there was no option. Then the flood came. God irrigated my soul with streams of living water. Every tear of shame was followed by two tears of forgiveness and joy. Where chaos had ruled my heart, peace now lived.

So today I celebrate the grace of God that’s still changing me. I have learned that being broken and at the end of ourselves is the thing we most resist, that holds the greatest promise! This is life, and I live to tell as many people about it as I possible can. 

The next several days of this blog will be committed to telling the real story of how God changed me. There are tough decisions that need to be made and layers that must be peeled back. True life change is risky, beautiful, ugly, rich and sometimes bloody. I will share how God worked in me to produce true and lasting change and how it may relate to you. Our addictions are very different from each other. Some are out there for everyone to see, yet others hide quite well. How God gives new direction is similar to all. I look forward to sharing my story, I believe it can help you!