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Raising expectations.

Raising expectations.

If you come to church this Sunday, there’s one thing guaranteed…It. Won’t. Change. Your. Life.  Sorry, but no matter how creative, inspiring, or even prayerful…the chances of you going from caterpillar to butterfly won’t happen.  I think many might acknowledge this as their experience, which is also why its so easy to miss until missing becomes normal. So why go to church at all? What’s more, why be committed to a local church?  These are actually really important questions to consider if faith is to grow, be a priority, or passed on.  

Have you ever had a ‘cheat meal’ - something really yum but way too many calories?? Yes!  And did you all of the sudden become overweight? Nope.  Have you ever skipped a workout? Of course!  Did you turn flabby in a day? No.  Similarly, faith is always nurtured over time. It requires both attention and intention.  Good habits are hard to form and easier to lose. If you’re out of the habit of being part of a faith community, don’t just come this Sunday. Instead, try committing to coming for 6 months – at least three times a month – and see if it doesn’t make a difference with friendships, in marriage, with questions, your family, toward temptation, with sadness, and making sense of the chaos of this world. 

Faith needs effort like trees need roots. There’s something about life that feels too big to manage alone and without a plan. There are lots of challenges and responsibility but also tons of beauty and joy. We shouldn’t experience any of these alone. Here’s to digging in to faith, community, and mission that transforms! Our world could use some transformation!

In Austin as it is in Heaven

Count your blessings.

Count your blessings.

I still laugh at an old family story of a distant uncle living in Norway who already had 6 kids, including one-year old twins. With great excitement, he announced to his mom that they were pregnant again. His mom – in what might be the least grandmother moment in the history of grandma’s – looked at her son in disbelief saying, “Oh Son! Get ahold of yourself!!”

“But mom…I like children…”

To which she said, “Pffft! You have enough already."

Apparently, there are different ideas which blessings to count and which ones to not. A dear friend recently offered this quote,

“Spiritual people sometimes get the idea that we should be independent, totally whole, and completely fulfilled. That is a myth that burdens many good people. In reality, our lack of fulfillment is a precious gift. It is a source of our passion, creativity, and our search for God. All the best of life comes out of human yearning, not satisfaction.”

When God promised Abraham a generationally huge family, he and Sarah waited 25 years to see it fulfilled! How can waiting be a blessing!? How is life a precious gift without a family!? How does faith in a loving God become fulfilling!?

“All the best of life comes out of human yearning, not satisfaction”

We live in a world with so much potential. Yet, the greatest potential rests – not with human strength, wisdom, or effort– but with God’s covenant love. Covenant is about restoring the world as God intended. God’s love extends even to the undeserving because it also includes me.

God creates goodness then partners with us to help bring out more of that potential for goodness through things like compassion & generosity, renewal & hospitality…and most certainly community!

God’s blueprint for salvation was to set apart a family…who’d grow into a nation…who’d become a people that would bring God’s blessing to the entire world. Simply put, God wants to use your family. The one you came from. The one you’re creating. And especially the one that ISN’T necessarily related (ie our church family).

The Covenant with Abraham’s family was that they would be blessed in order to be a blessing to all people. As Mission Hills counts our blessings, we need to count on each other. Faith needs a community. And community needs your prayers, your help, your gifts, and your voice…so that we might count on God’s blessing to flow through us.

The Chase.

The Chase.

Like most dogs, our mutt Posey looses her mind when she sees a squirrel — “SQUIRREL!!” In three years, she’s never come close. Yet, she also seems entirely unfazed by her failure. Apparently for Posey, it’s all about the chase, not the scoreboard.  She’s constantly chasing an idea without actually attaining it. I’m amazed at her instinct and almost envious of her short-term memory for always coming up short.

It occurs to me that we all spend A LOT of time chasing ideas without experiencing a prize.

  • We chase friendship but are often too busy to let people close or too uncomfortable to receive. 
  • We chase personal growth but always seem to find someone farther ahead.
  • We chase recognition, promotion, and wealth but long for significance. 
  • We even might chase God but often miss the everyday, ordinary ways he provides, speaks, calls, and leads.

Community is something we all chase and need! We all want to be known, missed, mentored, and encouraged. This summer, I want Mission Hills to GROW IN COMMUNITY. It’s sharing faith & sharing birthdays. It’s eating & worshipping together. It’s praying, serving, baking, making room for kids, & growing friendship regardless of our life stage.

And here’s the thing – WE get to enjoy what WE create! Summer’s great for getaways and getting out. But, can we also put a premium on BEING a COMMUNITY OF FAITH?  Please…Don’t let your weekends or Sunday’s get so full that you miss our weekly gatherings. Truly, it’s not the same without you! Each week, we get to (& need to!) discover, nurture, grow, & celebrate Community IN CHRIST. It’s worth chasing after because it’s within reach!

New wealth

New wealth

In his book, Last Hour of Ancient Sunlight, Thom Hartmann meets with a Native American who lives in a mobile home a desert reservation pitifully lacking in anything but scrub brush, cactus, and dust. It’s what you might imagine – in a beat up old trailer, drives a 1970s Chevy with major body parts missing. He lived in middle of nowhere and got by bartering with neighbors for food, gasoline and clothes. His IRS tax form listed $500 last year. By any American standard, it’s poverty. But this is what he said… “I’m a rich man” while motioning his hand and finger round the reservation. If I get sick, there’s people that care for me. If I need food, my neighbors give me food. It always materializes from someone’s home. I know that I will not die alone. And when I get old, I’ll move in with someone because I’ll be a village elder. And they’ll revere me and want my wisdom and they’ll take care of me.

The author then asks his upwardly mobile friend, “What would you do if you lost your job?” “Probably find another”, he says. “Yeah, but what if there was a recession and you couldn’t?” “Well, I’ll probably lose my house shortly after.” He presses further, “What about if you got sick?” “No insurance! I couldn’t pay for healthcare without insurance!” He concludes: You can be wealthy but not secure. In the end, wealth is relational.

Friends, our budget is modest but we are RICH in faith, community, and mission! Biblical Community is where we discover our potential AND find our contribution. As Americans, I think takes practice to not simply approach as spiritual consumers of religious goods and services. Christian community is like a family that shares in the chores. It’s how we invest in each other, demonstrate care, and serve God.

Lent/“T.G.I.F” For Friday, Mar. 23rd…Practice Community. Discover the image of God in another. Be attentive. Share hope.

  1. Give undivided attention-Have a meal or extended conversation w/o checking your phone or watch once.
  2. Pick up a friend or neighbor’s kid(s) after school so they can enjoy a couple extra hours.
  3. Identify the difference Christ is making in you. Share it with one person. Invite someone to join you for Easter.


The Practice of Community.

A quick Google search reviews millions of references to the notion of Community. It’s a buzzword today with everyone seemingly trying to capitalize on the relational allure. We are relational beings. God created us to know and be known. So it makes sense. But it's also true that at no other time in history have we as a society been more connected because of modern technology. Yet, people have never felt so isolated and disconnected from people being a caring part of their lives.

We don’t usually think of practicing community. What’s there to practice? You either like someone or you don't. You either have regular contact or don’t. But community is more than if we simply like someone, agree with them, have the same socio-economic status, or enjoy the same things. Community is so much more than a familiar face or even a history together, though those are significant. Community also requires proximity, a “standing appointment” of sorts, so that we can be current in each other’s lives. I think God’s intention for Community is the where we work to discover our potential and find our contribution. The two go hand-and-hand. It’s where we can grow and get better through mentoring, accountability, encouragement, and teaching. But it’s also the place where we find a way to make others or the group better through serving, leading, sacrificing, and giving.

My wife, Laurel, is a marathon runner. Impressively, she runs at least one a year. A couple years ago, after training with a friend, they set out to run a race together. As Laurel told shared with me afterward, “she was trying to get rid of me almost the whole time”. Realizing she wasn’t as prepared for the race, her friend didn’t want to hold Laurel back so she kept trying to get her to run ahead. But for Laurel, it wasn’t about pushing herself to set a personal record or qualify for Boston. It was about running together. Laurel described how in supporting her friend all along the way actually energized her. What was fun was receiving a call on Monday from her running buddy. She began to thank Laurel saying, “Without you, I would’ve just walked. But you stuck with me and kept encouraging me. I couldn’t have done that without you!” There is something about being in relationship when we’re able to get better AND make others around us better too.

So what does this mean to be a faith community? The New Testament includes about 25 different references to “one another”. This is significant instruction of what God intended our collective faith to look like. It’s things like “live in harmony with one another”, “carry one another’s burdens…”, “forgive one another”, “Offer hospitality to one another”, and “have fellowship with one another”.  The bottom line, church is more than an event we attend on Sundays. Church often becomes limited to Instruct, build up, sing songs, and teach one another. If all we do is attend on Sunday’s we might be inspired but we’ll miss impact. The impact of a faith community is when we begin to discover our potential and find our contribution.

Faith is something that's supposed to be both shared and practiced. And while faith is deeply personal, it's not something we're supposed to work out in isolation. The practice of community, that is the church, gives us a laboratory to know and be known. To grow and contribute. To receive while giving. To lead and to learn. This is the Power of Good. Works.