“Make it stop”. Have you said those words lately? Though we may disagree on the causes, I think we would agree that life keeps on spinning – sometimes seemingly out of control. Make it stop!
Recently, I’ve been reading through the Gospels over and over again in my personal devotion time. In Matthew 16, Peter knows a little about a “make it stop” world.
As the great author Charles Dickens (p. 1) wrote, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times”. At one moment, Jesus is telling Peter that his confession that “Jesus is the Messiah” will carry the church forward. And the next moment, Peter is listening to Jesus explain how he is going to die. Can you imagine? Make it stop.
And then, on top of everything, Peter is told by Jesus to “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Matthew 16:23). Ouch. Make it stop.
The good news is that Jesus does make the world stop. The world stops as He dies on the cross and says, “it is finished”. The world stops as he places his life into the hands of God, our Father. The world stops as angels stand in awe on Easter morning when the dead Jesus is made alive.
Jesus doesn’t make anything stop in power, fear, force, or volume. Jesus doesn’t make anything stop in the destruction of people’s reputations, bending words, or burning bridges. Jesus makes it all stop when - as the song, O Praise the Name - Anastasis puts it: “I cast my mind to Calvary; where Jesus bled and died for me; I see His wounds, His hands, His feet; my Savior on that cursed tree” (Ussher, Sampson & Hastings, v. 1).
What to do in a “Make It Stop” Moment and World
Remember that You’re in God’s Hands.
Call it what it is. Admit reality. You’re in a “make it stop” moment. Embrace it. Admit that you’re also in God’s hands. Nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord (Romans 8:31-39).
Remember that we cannot make it stop. Only Jesus can do that.
Peter heard Jesus talk about how he has to die and rise again. Peter is not OK with what Jesus is saying or the idea of what Jesus has to do. Peter sees Jesus’ death and resurrection as failure. In other words, Jesus’ death and resurrection cannot make his swirling life and world in that moment, stop. Yet, Jesus’ death and resurrection does make everything stop. Sacrifice, grace, and love is the cure for evil. It’s the solution to hate. It’s the antidote for the sickness of sin and brokenness. It’s boldness to the insecure. It’s wealth to the poor. We cannot make all the wrongs around us stop - only Jesus can do that. And, He does.
Remember it’s not about me... it's about God.
Jesus doesn’t seek more. Jesus doesn’t seek a greater understanding. Jesus doesn’t acquire anything. Instead, Jesus says that it isn’t about him… it’s about His Father (I’ll be talking more about tis in this weekend’s message!). Or, in the words of the song, Be Thou My Vision: “Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise; Be Thou mine inheritance, now and always; Be Thou and Thou only the first in my heart, O high King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art” (Forgaill, v. 4).
Did you notice what all three of these involve? Remembering. Jesus has already made the world stop once. He does it again and again when you’re reminded of who God has made you to be and what you are called to do in this moment as you love God, love people, and live like Jesus.
Love you more than you know. - pt
I have a lot on my mind these days.
OK… while those are very real things that I ask myself everyday, I have more serious things on my mind, too. Things like:
Real things. Real life. It might be easy for your mind to become overloaded, too.
Have you ever wondered what is on Jesus’ mind? Philippians 2:5-8 (NCV) gives us a good picture of what Jesus is thinking. It begins: “In your lives you must think and act like Christ Jesus…”.
We discover that Jesus is not thinking about his own contributions or glory. He’s not thinking about how best to prove his point. He’s not even thinking about his own life, comfort, or pleasure.
What is Jesus thinking about? Jesus is thinking about the glory of God the Father. He’s thinking about serving others. He’s thinking about being obedient to God the Father - even to death.
As we move into the fall, I wonder how each of us can think more like Jesus. More about God’s glory - not our own. More about serving others - not ourselves. Less about our life, comfort, and pleasure - more about what God is asking us to do with Him, each day.
After all, following Jesus is about a relationship. Maybe the only thing on his mind is being with me… which means the biggest thing that needs to be on my mind is being with him every moment of every day.
Many years ago, a friend of mine made some poor decisions and lived with the consequences. But, this fall will be the first time he will be able to vote. Earlier this week, he applied for his first passport. His life is more than just turning lemons into lemonade – it is a living story of grace and transformation.
I never really considered my friend a religious person. So, you can imagine how surprised I was when he asked me, “would ‘you Christians’ accept someone like me?”
The Rest of the Story
After a pregnant pause to process what I had just heard, I said, "I can't speak on behalf of all Christians, but this Christian - me, accepts you for you."
Silence. I could tell that he was getting emotional from the sniffles over the phone.
What he said next amazed me. "I know you accept me because you're my friend. I guess I just don't know if God accepts me."
If he could see my smile from ear to ear, I'd look like a kid by a sno-cone machine on a 100 degree day. "A friend told me that I did not choose him; He chose me. Do you know who that friend was?"
"Our friend, Jesus. Jesus, God's Son, was rejected and died in every way so that you and I can be accepted by God. He's done it for me. He's done it for you. I accept you because Jesus has accepted me."
I'll spare you the details, but that evening, he said - perhaps for the first time ever (I didn't ask), "I believe this."
When was the last time you had a spiritually-oriented conversation with someone? Whether you have them regularly or have never had one before, will you join me in learning how to have more and better spiritual conversations with others?
Three Ways to Begin a Spiritual Conversation
As we move into September, be encouraged that Jesus has spiritual conversations with you...
Love you more than you know. -pt
You are our king - even when this present moment feels like chaos.
You are good - even when life doesn't feel that good right now.
You are peace - even when anxiety spikes because of uncertainty.
You are able to heal brokenness - even when there is injustice in our relationships.
You are able to unify opposition - even in our political divisions.
You are able to rebuild destroyed cities - even in the wind and waves of hurricanes.
You own all things - even when we fear the loss economic stability.
You promise protection - even in this uncontrollable global pandemic.
You are near - even in these moments of physical distancing in every area of life.
Jesus - remind us that you are king.
May we feel your goodness and peace.
May we experience your healing and unity.
May we advocate for the least, the lonely, and those whose lives and cities have been destroyed.
May we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that all we have is yours.
You are for us.
You are with us.
You love us.
Thank you, Jesus for listening to me.
Thank you for your grace.
Thank you for your mercy.
Thank you for your forgiveness.
Thank you for your love.
May I now be quiet and listen to you speak your grace and truth through silent moments, your spoken and written word, and the voices of the people you have placed in my life.
The writer of Psalm 69 feels like he is drowning in injustice. What he is experiencing is not right. From being falsely accused to being discriminated against; and from being bullied to being shamed because of who he is - all of the "-isms" are seemingly experienced by this one person.
We might be able to in-part, relate. From economic uncertainty to educational instability and from community health to social injustice – these are all realities that are happening to us. Like the psalm writer, life is out of our control.
We discover that we and the psalm writer are after the same thing: grace and justice (judgment).
Grace and justice (judgment) are two sides of the same coin. But, I’ve never thought about it in the way my friend Keith and I unpacked it in this past week’s Monday Morning Preacher Podcast.
Check it out.
"When we try to apply grace legalistically, what happens is that you end getting rid of justice". - B. Keith Haney
Wow. Grace was never meant to be legalized - it is meant to be liberally given, not by a policy or proclamation, but by a person.
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
Making laws that govern grace never works to bring peace, freedom, a celebration of the diversity of God's creation, the equity of the gospel, or the inclusion of a mosaic of people with incredible gifts and abilities. If anything, making laws to ensure grace abounds only makes us more keenly aware of the grace that is lacking in our lives and in our world.
"God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant" (Romans 5:20).
If we want to pursue a more equal, inclusive, diverse, and just community, society, and world, then let's stop trying to legalize grace in a system that was never made to give it. We are the givers of grace. Person-to-person. Face-to-face. Life-on-life.
"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).
Who do you know needs "good news" today? Go and be it... and give it! Because the law isn't working anymore.
As we continue our Psalms message series this week, we will sit with Psalm 130. It begins: "Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord" (Psalm 130:1).
In Jim Collin's book, Good to Great, he shares the story about how Admiral Stockdale served in Vietnam and was captured before being put into a POW camp. There, he learned an attitude that allowed him to survive. Some POW’s would try to encourage themselves with unrealistic optimism (they were going to be rescued by Christmas). However, in their optimism, they neglected to be brutally honest about their current reality. Meanwhile, other POW’s would face the brutal facts about their situation. They sat in despair and became hopeless. Eventually they became depressed and suicidal.
Admiral Stockdale was able to hold both the brutal facts and unwavering hope together. They seem contradictory; however, this tension brought reality and perseverance.
The brutal facts are all around us. With so many contentious issues filling the headlines (and our minds) today, it may feel like we are in a deep hole.
Perhaps, Billy Joel was right... "we didn't start the fire." But, the reality is that we are in "the depths." A deep, deep hole. Perhaps we've always been in a deep, deep hole since nothing is new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). That's for another blog.
Like Admiral Stockdale, we need to embrace the brutal facts and unwavering hope together. They seem contradictory; however, this tension brings reality and perseverance.
Some put their unwavering hope only in reason and proofs; systems and theories. Others only spiritualize hope or even take it to the point of unrealistic optimism. Unwavering hope is found in that someone outside of ourselves who actually comes and tangibly rescues us.
"Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24-25).
That's the kind of hope we need today. And we have it.
The truth is, we have a better hope and a different Savior than the world has to offer. It isn't only better systems or deeper reasoning. It isn't only a deeper sense of the spiritual or being a voice of advocacy. Our better hope and different Savior is the truth, love, and grace of Jesus who has come to inclusively save every human being (and even all creation!) from the hole we all find ourselves in.
Since we have this hope in Jesus, I wonder what it would it look like for us to give this hope away to people "in the depths" with us. It's another way to seek the Lord as to how best to love God, love people, and live like Jesus.
Let's give it a try.
"Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God" (1 Peter 2:16).
"Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's case" (Isaiah 1:17).
"Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good" (1 Corinthians 12:7).
"You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God" (2 Corinthians 9:11).
"No one should seek their own good, but the good of others" (1 Corinthians 10:24).
"And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise" (Philippians 4:8).
I can't wait to spend more time with you in Psalm 130 this week.
Love you more than you know. - pt
Pastor Tim here.
Our third child is almost potty trained! (The heavens rejoice... and so do his parents!)
Perhaps you remember what this blessed milestone was like for your kids or grandkids. Or, maybe you've either unintentionally or intentionally forgotten those days (or have never had the opportunity to experience this highly experiential rite of passage). You can click here to learn what potty training is like from a toddler's point of view from one of my favorite blogs: The Honest Toddler.
Potty training is whole lot like pivoting in response to our current state of social and cultural affairs.
Today, Nora, Kristi, Gerod, Pastor Matt, and I are participating in Day 2 of the virtual Global Leadership Summit. I resonated with yesterday's lead off speaker, Craig Groeschel. He said that there are two certainties in this uncertain time:
Indeed. None of us know what will happen next. And, God has placed the right people together for a time such as this.
I'd add a third certainty: God is still with us.
Romans 8:38-39 says it so well: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So, however and wherever you find yourself pivoting this week, remember that just like Beth and I see an end in-sight for potty training, there is way forward as we navigate our current social and cultural realities. And whichever way forward we find ourselves stepping out into this week, may each of us find our boldness, confidence, and rest in the power and presence of Jesus whose loving arms are carrying us every step of the way.
Love you more than you know.
I recently heard Pardis Sabeti share about the 2014 Ebola virus and how it fueled mistrust, distraction, and division in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Check it out.
In light of what Sabeti shares, I see a lot of spiritual similarities between the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak our our current global pandemic. Our collective COVID-19 experience has:
Let's be honest - all of this was already there before COVID. But, as a result of distancing and isolation combined with the pre-existing growing mistrust of seemingly everything and everybody, for some, it has been easier to become cynical, check-out and hide, and remain silent.
I'm reminded of Isaiah 58:11-12.
The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
Here are three ways you can consider joining God's work of repairing broken walls and restoring streets with dwellings.
Being real with ourselves with our broken ruins of friendships around us and committing to repairing these broken walls in our lives. Looking to the love and grace of Jesus who is more attractive than anything else in this human experience. And, rallying around the age-old foundation of Yahweh - the One who invites you and me into a relationship with the God of the universe.
All of this - it's God's work in our lives so that He can do His live in and work through our lives.
And each of us gets to be part of it.
Remember that The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
Trusting that God is guiding you and you have God's strength, the question is, what part will you choose to play, today?
Love you more than you know. -pt
Earlier this week, I heard a story about a community in Sierra Leone, West Africa overcame the 2014 Ebola Virus Outbreak. It was so good to hear that what we are experiencing today isn’t the first time a virus has caused such a disruption. It certainly won’t be the last, either.
With that said, during these uncertain times, clarity is the next best thing.
Our team is working hard to finalize our fall ministry plans that will include being able to safely gather, connect, and serve in small groups within our health department guidelines. We are also developing new, innovative and engaging digital content - all to help you thrive in your friendships and strengthen your neighborhood and community in powerful, fresh, and creative ways.
However, based on how the fact that COVID-19 cases in Pierce County continue to trend up; receiving input from the Tacoma - Pierce County Health Department and other trusted medical advisors and leadership; processing a variety of scenarios with our ministry team and other local similar sized churches; and embracing our influential role in our greater Central Pierce County community, we have made the decision to suspend in-person onsite worship services and continue exclusively gathering for worship online, at least through Thanksgiving. We will re-evaluate this decision in late October and share our plans moving into the Christmas season and new year sometime in early November.
While we know none of us are excited for this news, we remain focused on Jesus leading us through the COVID-19 global pandemic and committed to re-entering onsite, in-person worship services when it is safe for the greatest number of people in our Pierce County community.
One of things I love about Our Savior is that we have a diversity of opinions when it comes to this decision.
I hear you.
I feel you.
I get it.
It is so hard to live in uncertainty.
We also know that unity is not uniformity. In fact, having a wide range of opinions, perspectives, and persuasions means that we are a stronger church - a healthier church that finds our unity in the grace and love of Jesus that is alive in us and flows through us into the lives of others - not in any one political perspective or social persuasion.
There is a lot of work to do.
The 2014 Ebola virus did its thing. It was horrible. The way the community overcame it was by coming together and making sure the people around them were loved, safe, and cared for. Jesus did the same thing for you and me. He came together with us to ensure our eternal safety.
So, let’s go!
And stay tuned over the next few weeks as we share how best to safely gather, connect, serve, and invite others to join you as we continue making disciples who love God, love people, and live like Jesus - right where we are.
I love you all. -pt
I literally just opened my email and read that my kids' schools are returning to 100% distance learning in September. While there is nothing wrong about distance learning, this is going to be heartbreaking for my 3rd, 1st, and preschool-aged kids. And to be honest, it makes me anxious thinking about how Beth and I are going to figure this next season out. We will. And if you're in that place, too - you will figure it out, too.
Can I be honest with you? It is sometimes very difficult for me to praise God in the middle of this global pandemic. Yet, it's incredible for me to imagine how all creation praises God in their own unique way.
Don’t believe me? Just read Psalm 148.
I don’t want to say too much more because that’s where we’re going to be spending time together as we continue our Psalms series, this Sunday.
If you're struggling to find a way to praise God right now, then this week's message is for you.
Or - maybe you know know someone who needs to hear this message with you, this week. Invite them to join you for worship online and then ask them what they thought about the service. It’s another opportunity for you to be part of make disciples who love God, love people, and live like Jesus!
In the meantime, check out one of my favorite songs based on Psalm 148 (below). See you Sunday!
Love you more than you know. -pt
The OSLC ministry team is a growing collection of women and men who live as a family on mission, leading the OSLC family in connecting an unchanging God with a changing world by loving God, loving people, and living like Jesus.