The Undistracted Gaze (Hebrews 12:1-2)

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In his latest book, Awe: Why it Matters for Everything We Think, Say, and Do, Paul Tripp writes that every single human being:

gets up early in the morning, and without ever being aware of it, is searching constantly for awe. They have dissatisfaction in their souls, an emptiness they long to fill, and they are attracted to awesome things. That’s why they go to museums, stadium concerts, expensive restaurants, and sporting games. The little boy dreaming of Air-Jordans is just as much an awe seeker as the successful business magnate. The teenage girl going to prom is as much on a quest for awe as the woman planning the house of her dreams…Human beings are hard-wired for awe.”

The beginning of a new year gives us the opportunity to ask the all-important question: “What has captivated the gaze of my life?” The answer to this question is life-defining.

What we fix our eyes on, we move toward.

What captivates our gaze, reveals our deepest desires.

What we look to most longingly, exposes what we believe validates the worth of our life. 

We are hard-wired for awe…but we have a tendency to go searching for it in all the wrong places. For example, if what captivates our gaze is people’s acceptance, then we will be crushed by their rejection. If our life is defined by a husband/wife, child, or loved one; then we will crush them (and the relationship) with unrealistic expectation that they can never live up to. If we draw meaning in our life from pleasure, possessions, or our latest travel experiences, we will always be left wanting more. We will never have enough.

You see, every bit of joy we experience from created things, are merely tasters to whet our appetites for the feast that is to come; sign-posts pointing beyond themselves to a better destination; shadows revealing the presence of the Creator in whose image we’ve been made.

“Lord, you have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.” (Augustine)

The only way to run the race of faith with endurance to the end, the only way to get free of the weights that slow our pace and the sins that trip up our feet, is to be captivated by the infinitely more glorious reality of God’s love toward us in Christ!

Only in the gospel are we given a definition of life that is able to withstand the weight of life.

So as we start a new year, “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. ” Hebrews (12:1-2).

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Top 10 Reads of 2016

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I love to read. And while there were a bunch of great books that passed through my hands this year, here’s my top 10 with a short excerpt from each one!

1. The Imperfect Pastor: Discovering Joy in our Limitations through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus (Zack Eswine)
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“I’ve been asking myself these painful questions. If I am bored with ordinary people in ordinary places, then am I not bored with what God delights in?

If I think that local limits of body and place are too small a thing for a person as gifted as I am, then don’t I want to escape what God himself gladly and daily inhabits?
If I stare at a face, a flower, a child, or a congregation and say, “But God, not this. I want to do something great for you!” Am I not profoundly misunderstanding what God says a great thing is?”

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“In the Christian community thankfulness is just what is anywhere else in the Christian life. Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things…How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankful receive from him the little things? A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men.”

3. Lessons From the East: Finding the Future of Western Christianity in the Global Church (Bob Roberts Jr)

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“We believe our chief contribution to society is putting on attractive worship services. It’s not. We can be successful in attracting people to these gatherings yet not make much of a dent in their hearts or improve their effectiveness as Christians. The primary benefit we offer our communities is creative, selfless, tenacious service…We are now entering an era I call the “Great Exchange” in which those of us in the West become the students and global pastors are our teachers.”

4. The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognise and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues (Patrick Lencioni)

9781119209591“Humble, Hungry, Smart: The ideal team players possess adequate measures of humility, hunger, and people smarts. They have little ego when it comes to needing attention or credit for their contributions, and they are comfortable sharing their accolades or even occasionally missing out on them. Ideal team players work with a sense of energy, passion, and personal responsibility, taking on whatever they possibly can for the good of the team. Finally, they say and do the right things to help teammates feel appreciated, understood, and included, even when difficult situations arise that require tough love.”

5. Disappearing Church: From Cultural Relevance to Gospel Resilience (Mark Sayers)

51agn74fiml-_sy344_bo1204203200_“The danger for Christian second cultures communicating the gospel to pre-Christian cultures is that they may inadvertently colonize them. The danger when Christian second cultures communicate the gospel to post-Christian third cultures is that they themselves may be colonized—for the third culture is just as evangelistic as the second culture. With its great mission to prohibit anyone from prohibiting, it seeks to propagate its dogma that there should be no dogma.

…To be shaped by grace in a culture of self, the most countercultural act one can commit in the third culture is to break its only taboo: to commit self-disobedience. To acknowledge that authority does not lie with us, that we ultimately have no autonomy. To admit that we are broken, that we are rebellious against God and His rule. To admit that Christ is ruler. To abandon our rule and to collapse into His arms of grace. To dig deep roots into His love.”

** This is the best book I have come across yet for new Christians or anyone wanting a short, simple, challenging read on the normal Christian life.** 41bdjt3jk2l-_sx281_bo1204203200_
“As one of God’s children, you received a new wardrobe, and condemnation was not included because it no longer fits. Conviction is entirely different…Conviction is God’s reminder that he has something better for you.
     What is the way our from under condemnation? How you can be sure that you are under conviction instead, which leads to growth in your life with God? Meditate on the cross of Jesus. Go to that most condemned place and person in history and see your sin being judged. Your sin was not swept under the rug. It was not treated lightly. It was not ignored. Your sin was nailed to the cross of Jesus (Colossians 2:14). It is at the cross that we see how much God hates sin. It is there that we see the depth of his love that drove him to die in order to be with us forever.”
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“On those occasions when I tend to gravitate to one side to the exclusion of the other, I remind myself that the man who wrote Romans 9 also said, “I thank God I speak in tongues more than you all” (1 Cor 14:18).
51opxidsonl-_sx328_bo1204203200_“As he mounted a field pulpit, thousands of people left the players’ booths to hear Whitefield’s performance. The angry entertainers followed them, not to listen, but to accost the itinerant. Soon a hail of “stones, dirt, rotten eggs, and pieces of dead cats” pelted the preacher. A clown climbed upon a man’s shoulders and tried to slash Whitefield with a whip. Every time he swung at Whitefield, however, the clown tumbled down instead of hitting his target. Another clown climbed a tree close to Whitefield’s pulpit and “shamefully exposed his nakedness before all the people,” eliciting a chorus of hoots and laughter. Every attempt to silence Whitefield failed, and he went on preaching, praying, and singing for three hours.”
41hnxvcd8hl-_sy344_bo1204203200_“I asked whether, when and how the oppressed could truly threaten a totalitarian oppressor. They offered this scenario in response: The security police regularly harass a believer who owns the property where a house-church meets. The police say, “You have got to stop these meetings! If you do not stop these meetings, we will confiscate your house, and we will throw you out into the street.” Then the property owner will probably respond, “Do you want my house? Do you want my farm? Well, if you do, then you need to talk to Jesus because I gave this property to Him.” The security police will not know what to make of that answer. So they will say, “We don’t have any way to get to Jesus, but we can certainly get to you! When we take your property, you and your family will have nowhere to live!” And the house-church believers will declare, “Then we will be free to trust God for shelter as well as for our daily bread.” “If you keep this up, we will beat you!” the persecutors will tell them. “Then we will be free to trust Jesus for healing,” the believers will respond. “And then we will put you in prison!” the police will threaten. By now, the believers’ response is almost predictable: “Then we will be free to preach the good news of Jesus to the captives, to set them free. We will be free to plant churches in prison.” “If you try to do that, we will kill you!” the frustrated authorities will vow. And, with utter consistency, the house-church believers will reply, “Then we will be free to go to heaven and be with Jesus forever.”
10. A Puritan Golden Treasury (I.D.E Thomas)
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“Measure not God’s love and favour by your feelings. The sun shines as clearly in the darkest day as it does in the brightest. The difference is not in the sun, but in some clouds which hinder the manifestation of the light thereof.” (Richard Sibbes)

Dear Liberti, We Launch This Weekend!

What words are there to describe the experience of seeing a brand new church come into existence?

Well…it’s exhilarating. Like riding the unexpected twists and turns of a roller-coaster. Without a safety harness. On top of a volcano. There’s nothing else like it…you think you might die…and you’re pretty sure you’d do it again.

It’s also humbling.  Staggeringly so. Like preparing to go toe-to-toe with Mount Everest; like a group of explorers looking out into the horizon of uncharted waters; like a dazed first-time parent who has found themselves staring into the eyes of a living, breathing image bearer of God that He has entrusted to their care.

And yet this is where we are!

The church we see is a joy-filled community of #FreedPeople who live to know Jesus and make Jesus known, wherever we are.

In just a few days time, we will celebrate our official Opening Sunday for Liberti Church. Laying the foundation over the past few months with our core group members has been a season of pure, bona-fide grace. And there is no doubt in my mind that the best parts of our journey are still in front of us!

So Liberti family: I’m inviting each and every one of you to join us in praying, inviting, giving, proclaiming, sacrificing and celebrating as we build momentum toward our big day this upcoming Sunday! Feel free to share the video or image below in your social media feeds…let’s get the word out!

I deeply love each of you and I am thrilled about our future!                To paraphrase N.D Wilson,

“May we ride the roaring wave of providence with eager expectation, search for the stories of grace all around us, and look for Christ in every pair of eyes. Let’s write a past that we won’t regret. May we live hard and die grateful. And enjoy it.”

For Jesus’ Fame,

Your Grateful Pastor

 

Opening Sunday SQR

For Jesus' Fame.