A Pastor’s Lament

I don’t know how to say how I feel.

Have you been there? It seems like I am there every day. Each day I find myself in a fog of emotions, not knowing whether I’m happy, sad, despondent, numb. Waves of joy, sadness, pride, anger seem to crash simultaneousness on all sides of my mind.

BANG!

At these times, I can’t help long to feel something–something other than the whirlpool of emotions. To feel something other than the physical pain from my injuries or the emotional pain from the internal wounds. To feel something other than the constant pressure of having to accomplish more and be successful. The force of merely surviving.

Have you been there?

More and more frequently, I find myself in this brokenness.

God can seem silent.

 I pray and nothing.

Have I lost God’s favour?

Have I done something wrong?

I long for the angel that visited Elijah to come and minister to me. But Elijah didn’t have four kids to keep him awake, nor did he have to worry about a paycheque to feed them.

It leaves me to wonder, what’s next?

For that, I do not know. What is next for me, for my family, for my church?

I don’t know.

I know to whom I belong.

I know what God has called me to.

Yet the waves keep crashing without and end in sight. Each wave pushing me deeper and deeper into a dark sea–clenching for something, finding nothing.

On Christ, the solid rock I stand. Does the fact that I feel like I’m sinking mean I find my feet somewhere else? Or is there more to the story. 

1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? 

How long will you hide your face from me? 

King David wrote,

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts 
and day after day have sorrow in my heart? 
How long will my enemy triumph over me? 

Psalms 13:1–2

Even Jesus cried out while on the cross,

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)

Matthew 27:46

Jesus knew–David knew–I know that though all feels lost, it isn’t. Tomorrow the sun will rise. There will be a new day.

 But I trust in your unfailing love; 
my heart rejoices in your salvation. 
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise, 
for he has been good to me. 

Psalms 13:5–6

So what do you do in moments like this?

Praise anyway. When we do, we remind ourselves and the enemy of whose we are. 

I heard and my heart pounded, 
my lips quivered at the sound; 
decay crept into my bones, 
and my legs trembled. 
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity 
to come on the nation invading us. 
17 Though the fig tree does not bud 
and there are no grapes on the vines, 
though the olive crop fails 
and the fields produce no food, 
though there are no sheep in the pen 
and no cattle in the stalls, 
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, 
I will be joyful in God my Savior. 
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; 
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, 
he enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk 3:16–19
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Did the Supermarket wreck the Church?

Post world war two the world began to change, according to a recent Freakonomics episode, when it came to how you purchase food.

Post-war marked the supermarket age. Northern hemisphere countries, inspired by the “innovations” in the U.S.A., began to have one-stop shops. Mass-produced products started to be in demand.

For this mass-produced revolution to happen, it meant that our food needed to change. For food to be efficiently produced, harvester machines had to collect tomatoes. That meant the tomato had to be genetically modified. They needed to be harder–more resilient. Chicken also began to be modified. Bigger breasted and lighter feathers. This meant more meat that looks better in a package.

These advancements were necessary to have lots of food for a little cost. More bang per buck. The problem is, food isn’t as nutritious as it once was, some have argued it’s even dangerous. However, it is a necessary evil if we want maximum food for a minimum price.

If you are a Gen X’er or Xennial like myself, it was our grandparents who built the modern world, hence their generational name “builder.” While they did an excellent job giving us infrastructure in a post-war world, the development of mass-produced houses, cars, and as we have spoken of, food has dramatically affected our lives.

I believe something happened similar to this with the church within the same period. This is not to say that our grandparents intentionally stripped the church of nutrition, not in the slightest. What I believe is that well-meaning Christians began to do work that had a tremendous impact, but the cumulative side effects (just as in the agricultural world) have been detrimental.

To become more productive (mass-producing Christians) and make the product cheaper (buy-in costs less), we have modified what it means to follow Jesus. Discipleship became a program. It is not that the big box megachurch is bad. It is that as anything thing becomes larger the small things that make it what it is, become increasingly more difficult to accomplish. After all, the kind of discipleship that Jesus and other followers modelled for us is not mass-producing, nor is it cheap. One might even call it inefficient.

With the industrialization of everything, the builders changed the world, not excluding the church. The neighbourhood church, like the mom and pop stores, faded away as society moved toward more efficient forms of church–the big box one-stop-shop church. After all, we can preach to more people, more revenue is pooled together, and it is cheaper.

What I mean by cheaper is that you can have all the amenities, maybe even more, with less buy-in. You can have the best speaking, music, and Sunday experience while giving less money and time. It becomes a lot easier to pull off “church” because more people giving less is more than fewer people giving more (time, money, and resources).

While this model has been successful at gathering crowds and more so introducing the character of Jesus, more often than not, it has offered light feathered, large breasted chickens, so to speak. It’s not intentional, but merely the design.

Is the solution to go back to the neighbourhood church? Maybe, but there’s a problem.

The problem lies in this, just as in our store analogy where the local shop begins to lose business and thus begins to copy the big box stores to sell the same product, they never can at the same price. The local store offers compromised food at a higher cost. The local church begins to make following Jesus into a Sunday experience while still demanding the in-depth relational collateral and workload of local church ministry. The price simply starts to surpass the return.

Neither of these speaks of the vocation in which Jesus has called us and the Holy Spirit has empowered us. The church, both large and small, has got into the business of running efficient service rather than the painstaking work of disciple-making.

In recent years there has been a push back in the food industry. People have been demanding free-range meat and non-GMO products. What is interesting is that people can taste the difference. If you’re really paying attention, you can even see the difference. To get this kind of food, it does cost more. Yet, those who have chased the products of how food should be, say they have discovered that it is worth the extra cost.

People are beginning to seek the same thing when it comes to a relationship with God and the church. As some Christians have sought and found the free-range non-GMO church, they have noticed that though it makes a greater demand on their life, it is genuinely better. There is a greater buy-in, the processes of making other disciples take a lot longer, yet the end product is much better (for lack of better language).

There is a contingent of churches and church leaders who are striving to usher a new healthier church back into the mainstream. They are trying to manifest what it looks like when Jesus said: “Go tell of the good news of God…baptize,… and teach them to obey…”

The fix isn’t the big box nor the local church. The repair is to reencounter the King of Kings, Jesus. It is His Spirit, the Holy Spirit the will reinvigorate all our churches. We need to hear his demand on our hearts again. As far as de-industrializing our churches, I honestly don’t know the solution. How do you produce quantity and quality?

Maybe you know. I hope you do.

We need to seek the Holy Spirit’s wisdom. Our big and small GMO churches have left people wanting more and allowed our culture to become morally bankrupt. We need a free-range church. We need to seek what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

Jesus to me

This is a song I wrote while reflecting on who Jesus is to me.

Verse 1

                   A          D                   A

He is the strength when we are weak, 

                 F#m7       A/C#   D            Esus

He is the wholeness         that we seek, 

                     A      D    A            E

He is everything         that we need

      F#m7        D          Bm7         A

My rock, my fortress, Jesus-to me

Chorus

A              D     A               D                    A

Jesus to me         Is the freedom that I need

A                D    A              Bm7                   E

Jesus to me        fix this broken heart in me.

A              D     A               D                    A

Jesus to me         the only saviour that I need

                 D    A              Bm7                   E

Jesus to me        freedom that’s truly set me free.

      F#m7        D          Bm7         A

My rock, my fortress, Jesus-to me

Verse 1

                   A          D                   A

He is the calm when there’s a storm in me, 

                 F#m7  A/C#              D            Esus

He is redemption         when I need to be free, 

                              A      D                    A             E

He is the great peace         when my world is crumbling

      F#m7        D          Bm7         A

My healer, my freer, Jesus-to me

Chorus

A              D     A               D                    A

Jesus to me         Is the freedom that I need

A                D    A              Bm7                   E

Jesus to me        fix this broken heart in me.

               D     A               D                    A

Jesus to me         the only saviour that I need

A                D    A              Bm7                   E

Jesus to me        freedom that’s truly set me free.

      F#m7        D          Bm7         A

My healer, my freer, Jesus-to me

Your churches prognosis doesn’t have to be a diagnosis.

Just because you have been pronounced dead, it doesn’t mean that is the end.

Sure, death seems final. After all, the lungs and heart are no longer pumping, and the brain is no longer firing. Yet, I’ve heard of people coming back to life.

My father is in the military and has had the opportunity to meet some exciting fellows over the years. One time he invited his friend who was in the Australian special forces over for dinner. He began to tell us stories of grand adventures as if they were pulled straight out of a Robert Ludlum book. Amid these stories I presume to be true due to their wild nature––without revealing too many details (after all, if he told he would have to kill me…)–he stated that three times he awoke with a priest over him pronouncing his last rights.

Clearly, death is not the final note!

Just because someone else has pronounced you dead that doesn’t mean you are. You aren’t dead until you decide you are, not until you give in to death (which isn’t necessarily a bad–a natural life cycle has death at the end).

What I am alluding to isn’t the death of the physical body, although this may certainly apply. What I am thinking of is all the talk of the cycle of an organization or a church. Whether it is Les McKeown’s wheel of Predictable success or a someone like Paul Borden’s life cycle of a church, an organization can find themselves pegged on the wheel and deem themselves to have no hope. These are not to tell you to roll over and die. No! These tools are to help you diagnose symptoms. Whether in business or the church, these resources are meant as a prognosis, not a diagnosis. Yet, big and small churches alike confuse the two and accept a lesser fate then they should.

Congregations all across the world have been pronounced dead by communities, politicians, philosophers, and most shockingly, other church leaders. While it may be true that these congregations are operating in a “death Rattle” (to use Les McKeown’s phrase, until the congregation either gives up or in, there is always a chance that there can be life again.

In the vein of Jesus, many parables about plants (mustard seeds, scattering seeds, and vineyards). I would like to tell you about my orchid.

Two years ago on a Mother’s Day (or was it anniversary…or maybe it was Valentines), I bought my wife an orchid. I had heard on an episode of Stuff You Should Know that they were a pretty resilient flower, which is perfect for my wife. Let’s just say my wife is the place plants go to die. My wife tended the plant while it was in bloom, but as soon as the petals fell, she pronounced it dead. Yet, we couldn’t bring ourselves to throw it away. It didn’t have flowers or buds. Just the stem was sticking up from green leaves.

The green leaves should have been a sign to us that life was possible. We just figured that there was no hope that the leaves and the stems were merely signs of past life and not the present.

The plant stayed in this state for over a year.

Over a year of no flowers–no buds.

Our neighbour is one of those weird plant people. What I mean is her plants live… When she saw our plant, she just couldn’t help but perform her plant voodoo on it.

She explained how the orchid wasn’t dead. She did this water and drain thing and told us to only give it a little water once a week.

Now that is my kind of plant.

We watered once a week.

Just over two years after this plant had lost its last flower, it now sprung life. Currently, multiple buds are ready to bloom.

Just because things seem dead, it doesn’t mean they are. Sometimes we just need an expert to give us a little nudge on in the right direction, on how to foster life.

It is recorded that Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me?

Jn 15:1–4

What we first must do is yield to God and allow Him to prune our life. We also need him to prune the branches in our churches. Trimming the dead branches off, God brings the plant back to life. The sacred cows get thrown away, selfishness departs, and desire to see people encounter the risen Christ remains and grows.

We can also learn a little from our neighbours. Like my wife and I did about our orchid. Authors like Thom Rainer, Rich Birch, Daniel Im, or Nelson Searcy have great resources for you to begin to trim branches, see the prognosis, and foster life.

Just because you have been pronounced dead, it doesn’t mean it’s the end. There could be new life right around the corner, you just need the knowledge and tools to make life happen.

We must yield the gardener, God. We must be willing to hear the advice of those who have travelled this road before. We must see the prognosis is not always a diagnosis.

Where have you seen a prognosis be accepted aa a death sentence?

Check out the resources used in this post

I wish there was a command Z for life

Have you ever wished you could just hit command Z (or ctrl Z for those other “people”) for life?

Let’s say you have half a dozen you could use in your lifetime. Maybe you wouldn’t have dated someone. Maybe gone, eaten, drank, or wore something. It could be you want to hit command Z on the leftovers you ate last night.

More than likely there is some pretty serious stuff you wish to hit command Z on. Even in my not so much traumatic life, I have stuff.

I wish I hadn’t said that.

I wish I hadn’t indulged.

I wish I hadn’t made that decision.

Yet, in the words of The Tragically Hip, “No dress rehearsals, This is your life.” We have to live with our choices, others have to live with our choices, and we have to live with others’ choices.

Even when typing this, it is so freeing to be able to hit command Z and be able to go back and type something different. Life, however, doesn’t offer us such luxuries.

We must live with the pain, choices, and consequences, it is that certain, but what do we do with it is not. This is the crux of it.

What do you do with the things you wish you could hit command Z on? This is the question we must ask ourselves.

Avoid?
Face?
Own?
Distract?
Fight?
Justify?

So many options.

I believe there is a “best option.” When we own it, that is what changes our life. Yes, there may be consequences, but what’s the other option?

Russel Brand writes,

“By maintaining a personal museum of resentments, we imprison ourselves within it.” Whether that resentment is directed toward others or ourselves, it’s not a way to live.

I believe the best and only real option that brings relief is to own it.

But what then? For me owning it means admitting that I am fallible but that those fallibilities do not define me.

What defines me is Christ.
Not my past.
Not my choices.
Not the consequences.

When I can admit that I am weak and make mistakes, it allows God to come and heal. As the Apostle Paul writes to the church in Corinth,

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

(2 Co 12:9–10)

There is a strength in vulnerability. You’re not hiding–you’re not worried about your secret being found out–you’re not trying to contain the confession that could relieve your soul.

When I can admit my wrongs openly, it makes room for Christ. Christ can’t be king if we have propped ourselves up in the position. Christ can’t lead us through if we have clenched the reigns.

In my weaknesses, He is strong. What a great comfort, for I am more than weak. As much it would be great to be able to hit command Z from time to time, I would hate to deprive myself of the strength Christ has given me. I would hate to sacrifice the lessons that I’ve learned. To surrender the character that has been developed by the mud and mire of life.

Sure, command Z would be helpful, but at what cost? No, thank you.

I’ll take Christ any day.

What’s one thing you wish you could hit command Z on?

Check out the resources used in this post

Your great love

Verse 1

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

I could say, a thousand times

         C         D             G

how much I love you God

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

I could sing, the greatest songs

         C         D             G

of melodies touch the heart

Pre chorus

C                                            Em

none of these can ever come close

       D                     C

To your great love for me

C                                            Em

Even when I fall short

  D                     C

Your love never fails me

Verse 2

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

I could touch, a million souls

         C                  D                  G

and never come close to your power

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

I could say the sweetest words

         C         D             G

that move the stone heart close to clay

Chorus

D                                   C         G

Jesus, your cross has said it all

Bm7                                      Cmaj7

you showed your great love for me

  D                                     C           G  

You lived, you loved, you took my place

Bm7                                  

you showed your great love 

Am7  Bm7   C2                            Am7  Bm7   C2

                           Your great love

Verse 3

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

I could serve, a billion lives

         C                  D                  G

To show how much I love you God

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

I could go the furthest mile

         C                  D                  G

To tell the world of your mighty works

Pre

Chorus

Verse 4

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

You gave your life upon that cross

         C                  D                  G

So I would how much you love

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

You rescued me, from the cruse

         C                  D                  G

even though I was far away

Pre chorus 2

C                                            Em

‘cause nothing will ever come close

       D                     C

To your great love for me

C                                            Em

Even when I fall short

  D                     C

Your love never fails me

What I learned in Africa… and it’s not what you think.

Most people when they go to a foreign country, especially those that have lesser means then their own, are impacted by the poverty, lack of opportunity, and many times, the hopelessness the local people have of ever pulling themselves out of their situation.

For me, it has always been different.

It is not that the aforementioned doesn’t enter my mind, how could it not. It’s just so often we go on these experiences which have a tremendous impact on us, and while we are on the ground, there is an emotional change in us! It’s deep. It’s powerful. It’s potent. However, the effects often diminish over time. It wanes, and it’s completely normal. We return, and our reality instantly begins to shade our experience. We say we will never forget the feeling, but how can we genuinely help it! Our cultures consumerism slams us in the face everywhere we go.

Heck, you can’t even use the bathroom at most restaurants without some tv screen on the urinal wall flashing advertisements in your face.

I have led a few trips and each time, knowing the “life change” amnesia can set in, I’ve tried to take simple life lessons that are easy to apply. When these lessons can be implemented, though they are simple, they can be revolutionary in the long term.

While I was in Malawi last year, I was talking with my missionary friend Jef when he said something that has changed my life, and those around me’s lives, for the better.

“You realize when you come to Africa that they do things on their own schedule. It is hard at first to get used to it because we are always go go go but….”

And this next little comment changed my life.

“You eventually realize that there isn’t a whole lot that actually has to be done right now. Most things can wait.”

WOW. This stuck with me. This lesson did need some help to set in.

Before we get into what came next you need to understand something about me, I’m a high energy, get things done on time, anal, church planter… What that means, I’m not totally sure. What I do know is that Sunday mornings stress me out (I write about this in chapter 9 of my new book Hidden Faces). So often, stressed out of my mind, I can be found storming around making sure everything is perfect as if the seam on the drape facing out is the deciding factor on someone accept Christ…

I needed to hear that lesson Jef taught me.

However, it only sunk in a little. I should say that I had been working on this for nine months, but sometimes we need a few impactful experiences to help expedite the process.

Right before I went, and increasingly after I had severe pain when I found myself in stressful situations. I pushed through. Why? Because weakness is the enemy! About two weeks after I returned from Africa, I started getting tingling in my hip, which turned into a numb spot about the size of a quarter. Then it slowly expanded to a hip that was completely numb with this intense pain that I spoke of earlier. This lasted for about a month until I was bedridden with pain, and small lesions appeared on my back.

I had shingles.

Stressed induced shingles.

I had two months laying in pain (only getting up to do the necessary) to reflect on Jef’s words, my patterns, and where I wanted to go.

“There isn’t a whole lot that actually has to be done right now. Most things can wait.”

Tony Stoltzfus, while coaching a pastor, observed,

“Let’s say that the people you lead follow your example instead of what you say – that they imitate the way you live. Say that everyone in your congregation worked your hours, had your stress level, spent the amount of time you do with your wife and kids, and had your exercise and eating habits. If the legacy of your ministry was that your people took on your lifestyle, what would you think of that.”

If I were helping someone in my congregation who happened to have my stress level (due to anal tendencies and a need to get everything done ASAP whether it needed to be or not), I would tell them to relax, breathe, gain perspective, realize you’re not God. I would ask them to look at Jesus. Was he stressed out?

The Gospel of Mark tells us,

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

The New International Version. (2011). (Mk 1:35).

After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray

The New International Version. (2011). (Mt 14:23).

It seems to me that Jesus took time to relax and refresh his Spirit. It appears Jesus took care of His soul. There were times when He dismissed the crowd, took too long to get to appointments, and went off script and had a meal or a party instead of rushing to His next thing.

For Jesus, as it turns out, most things could wait. Jesus demonstrated for us what the correct life/work balance looks like.

Africa changed my life. It helped me gain perspective. It’s been over a year since I was there, and while I have moments of regression I can honestly say, the cadence of my life is dramatically different.

It’s all thanks to what I learned in Africa…and it’s not what you thought.

Check out the resources used in this post

I Sent My Son

As it turned out, we were out of cereal. As it also turned out, I was hungry. I wrangled my two youngest kids to head to Sobey’s as well as a little surprise.

What was the surprise?

Breakfast+hunger+kids= (you guessed it) McDonald’s

The kids scarfed down their hashbrown and proceeded to the play structure. This particular structure was made of multiple circles with large holes in each one that allowed children (not too small or too big) to climb through to the next.

As they ran off, I was excited for a few minutes of just sitting. I was tired from a late night of watching sports (’tis the season), I had a sore throat, and my leg was a little sore (Achilles ruptured 21 weeks ago).

It wasn’t even five minutes before my son came running to me.

“Dad, Dad!” Zeke exclaimed. “Karis is stuck.”

Good Grief! There is no way that this tired, old, sore body was going to be able to contort through those tiny holes. Now, if I had been born a snake, I could have slithered my way up to the very very top of the play structure to my daughter. If I had to, I could have probably found a way. However, she got herself up to the top, and she could get herself down. After all, she knew that if she climbed to the top, she would get stuck. I even reminded her before she went.

Karis didn’t take too kindly to getting down. She was crippled by fear as she clutched onto the plastic bubble located 25 feet above the ground. She started crying, “Daddy! Daddy! I’m scared! I’m stuck!”

That is when I sent my son.

Even though Karis had got herself into the situation, she couldn’t get her self out. She needed help. Luckily, my son was more than willing to go.

I was so proud of him as he spoke to her with love and compassion reassuring her it was going to be okay and that she just needed to trust him.

“I won’t let you fall. You just have to trust me, Karis. I can help you down.”

10 MINUTES! If I were Zeke, I would have lost my poop by that point. He stood there continually reassuring her that it was going to be okay–over and over again saying, “You just need to trust me.”

As I stood there, my frustration over this predicament began to dissipate. I was starting to feel my emotions well up as the Holy Spirit reminded me of how when I was stuck, in the consequences of my own wrong decision, my heavenly Father sent his son, Jesus.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…”

Even more moving, the fact that God didn’t chastise me from afar.

Jesus came in love and compassion, showing us the Father’s heart–hearing our cries–compelling us to trust him.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Zeke eventually convinced Karis to trust him, and they made their way down, but I think of how different it would have gone if instead of love, patience, kindness, compassion; he spoke vitreal, wrath, judgement, fear — knowing my daughter, probably not well. Luckily for her, Zeke was there (Ezekiel means, God will strengthen) to be her strength when she had none. He was willing to give her what she needed, how she needed it at that moment, grace through love (Karis is our take on Charis, which means grace).

Harold Fickett Jr. writes, “My favourite definition is, ‘Grace is God thinking in terms of what a man needs, rather than in terms of what he deserves.'”

It reminds me of that popular song by Hillsong United,
“I called
you answered
and you came to my rescue…”

As Psalm 40 says and U2 echoes,

“He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the mire and clay.”

Maybe you feel stuck. Call out to God. His son, Jesus, is waiting with grace-filled arms to help you. He doesn’t stand there with a pointed finger. He isn’t a master rubbing your nose in your dirt. Jesus comes with no condemnation, but in hope and hope secure. It is a hope that will never ever fails. I love how the King James Version put Romans 5:5, “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

Though we may be stuck God sent his son to bring hope. It’s a hope that doesn’t carry shame but one of freedom. It’s a hope that comes into our hearts and can consume even the darkest corners but we have to be willing to let it. Not shame, but hope. Not condemnation, but compassion. Not wrath, but love.

I am thankful that while in a McDonald’s playground, the Holy Spirit reminded me that the Father sent his son, just as I sent my son.

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Addict in Recovery Church

Recently while working on a message for my church on the “ROI of Church” I came across this quote from Russell Brand’s book Recovery,

“When my disease is on me, the loneliness and hopelessness seem real. One of the first measures I can take to alleviate it is to reach out to another addict.”

Russell Brand

It reminded me of a thought that I’ve had for a long time.

We’re all addicts.

Every.

Single.

Person.

Whether it is something destructive, visible and socially ho-hum or something that is seen as necessary, discrete, and socially praised, we are all addicted to something.

Maybe it’s drugs or alcohol, or perhaps it’s love and affection. Maybe it’s sex or pornography, or perhaps it’s success and praise. It’s time we realize we are all addicts.

I believe that when we begin to recognize that we’re addicts and we decide to start to live in a community of people who realize we are all in recovery, we begin to see fullness and freshness come to our faith and thus, our churches. The church thus acts as a place of recovery, not a place where no one needs to recover.

If each of us would recognize that we are all equally broken, just manifesting it in different ways, I wonder how much more open we would be to “reach out to another addict” as Brand states, and them to us.

In Luke 15, it tells the story of two brothers who on the surface appear to be in complete contrast with each other. The younger, brash and seeking instant gratification, spends all his money on hookers and wild living. He finds himself at the end of life’s rope.

The older is righteous and willing to resist instant gratification. This brother stays at home, denying pleasure, and slaving for his father. Of course, the elder brother thinks he doesn’t have a problem. He is responsible. He works hard.

The younger son decided it would be better to return to his father as an apprentice after losing everything and dangling from the end of life’s rope. After all, he says, “even the hired hands live better than me.” He thinks he has to return home and be a slave for his father.

The older after seeing that his father has welcomed his younger brother home, thrown a huge party, and is calling him a son again pouts and declares that he has denied himself all the wild living and chose to slave for his father. To which the father response was that he never was a slave and all he had to do was ask, and everything would be his.

Though it manifests in different ways, both of these brothers suffered from the same sin. Neither brother knew their father’s heart. While one thought he would become a slave, the other lived as one. The only difference is the younger son’s willingness to repent while the elder lived in self-righteousness.

Whether it is self-indulgence or self-righteousness, the sin remains the same. Just as both brothers lived opposed to the father’s desire, so we do too. We are addicted to doing on our own. Whether it is making ourselves feel good or trying to earn God’s love and affection. When we have a community that is willing to admit they have a “self” problem, no matter which end of the spectrum each person finds themselves, we can be an immense help to each other.

When we are tempted to ignore the father’s heart, we would have someone to call.

Let’s be addicts in recovery church.

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