You > Me

2 Corinthians 8:5
and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

This is nothing new, but COVID has thrown fuel on our addiction to personal preferences. Before I go on, what I will describe as Netflix Church cuts both ways, including congregants as well as pastors….if I am coming across as a finger-pointer, please forgive me. We are all in this Pit of Preference together.

When I was a little kid our media entertainment was pretty much limited to what was on the three major networks plus PBS, and only at the exact time it was showing (VCRs came out a bit later, but not used that terribly often). We had to actually be home Thursday nights at 9pm to watch Cheers. The first remote control I ever saw was at my great-grandmother’s house. It was connected to the tv by a wire and it had 2 or 3 buttons: I think (not sure) that it had an on/off button, plus a volume up/down button and a channel up/down button. And my mind was blown at the technology.

Now we have thousands of channels and the instant ability to start, stop, pause, record and change the show, all while sitting on the couch eating Cheetos. And we still say “there’s nothing to watch.”

With infinite choices for food, exercise, entertainment etc, it is completely natural that we begin to live every other part of our lives with a Netflix-Mentality. When we come to church it will be an aggressive and overt battle to NOT see it as “entertainment” – we want to hear what we want, for how long we want, and leave feeling the way we want while not being “required” to do anything that we don’t want. This is the human condition which has been injected with beastly steroids over the past decade.

– How have you mentally “rated” the worship service based on your preferences?
– How has corporate worship been treated as convenient and/or inconvenient?
– Try to differentiate the difference between a worship essential vs. a preference.
– Why do you suppose we all have gotten comfortable with this mindset?
– What do you think the solution could be?


Alright church leaders, this is for us. It’s so easy to arrogantly sit on our high horses as we look down our noses at those that feel to us like consumers and critics. But how much are WE consumers and critics?

Pastor as Consumer: As broken people we pastors are powerfully drawn to “consume” the approval of others. It is most certainly a mixed bag (like it is with all of us) but it is so easy to come in on Sunday not just with an excitement and calling to open the Word of God to the Body, but also with an expectation that the Body will satisfy my craving for approval, respect and a feeling of accomplishment. As Timothy Keller has mentioned before when talking about the insecurity that comes from pride, we pastors are drawn to compliments like a shark is to chum (while criticism sends us to the depths).

Pastor as Critic: It is likewise so tempting (and easy) to paint people with a broad and judgemental brush as we make assumptions about why people do what they do. We can find ourselves internally criticizing people for not behaving the way we WANT them to behave (and, to be honest, sometimes the way Scripture has told us to behave).

With all of these in mind, from the viewpoint of the congregant and the pastor, how often do we internally give one another a low YELP review? How often do all of us complain because things aren’t personally pleasing?

The Gospel equips us to be fully secure in the value and identity that Christ has procured for us on the cross so that I don’t have to expect others to satisfy me. I am loved and adopted, which means I am equipped to hear compliments AND criticisms with a humble heart; and give (appropriate) compliments and criticisms that are truly for the growth of that person (and not simply to reduce my annoyance levels).

In order to grow in that direction (I intentionally didn’t say “get there” because we won’t in this lifetime) we need to 1) be secure in our value as God’s Children, and 2) be in actual, strong, loving relationships with one another, which will enable us to speak and listen because we will be (reasonably) sure that we are FOR one another, not trying to merely fix one another. And this needs to begin with church leaders.

So join me in this. Let’s prayerfully look at how a Netflix-Church mentality may have infiltrated our hearts. How do I treat others (worship, God, friends etc) from a “preference” point of view rather than from (like the Macedonians in 2Cor8) a “giving my very life” point of view?

Wow. I need even more of the Holy Spirit’s power than I imagined.

Wow. I HAVE more of the Holy Spirit’s power than I ever dreamed.


I told you last week I’d spend a few weeks on prayer. Sorry. I was wrong. I’ll pick up the prayer discussion next week, but this week I wanted to add a bit more to last week’s sermon on repentance.

In the sermon we walked through 2 Corinthians 7, with emphasis on 7:10 “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” When we see the pain of this world and, more especially, the pain (i.e. “sin”) that emanates from my own heart, we turn to two different kinds of “grief” : “worldly grief” or “godly grief.”

Worldly Grief can look like godly grief but is characterized by a self-centered point of view as we are more concerned with how getting caught impacts me than the sinful behavior itself. Here are some examples of what Worldy Grief smells like:

  • “I’m such a horrible person” – We turn downward in despair and really make it all about ourselves and how wretched we are.
  • “I didn’t mean to” – We agree that we did something wrong, but don’t take responsibility for it.
  • “I’ll never do it again” – We own the fact that we did it but make it about behavioral management rather than relational breakage. (Yes, true repentance can smell a little like this, but repentance results in changed behavior, it isn’t behavior change in itself.)
  • “I’m sorry if you were offended” – This is a classic these days. It can almost look like repentance, until you realize that the wording implies that the problem isn’t in what I did, but in you being so soft and weak that you were offended, which means this is all your fault.
  • “What’s my punishment” – So often (if we are really honest) the deepest grief we feel when we do something terrible is the realization that we’ll have to “pay a price” for our behavior. We are devastated that the “bell tolls for me.”
  • “Yeah, but you…” – These are the days of gaslighting, and many of us have made it an art. We don’t necessarily disagree that we’ve done something wrong, but IN COMPARISON we aren’t nearly as wrong and bad as you. It’s the jujitsu of repentance.
  • “I’m sorry that happened” – I was reminded of this one after my sermon. It happened after a hockey game where one player severely (and intentionally) injured another player. When asked for a response, he was “truly sad that something like this happened” while taking no responsibility whatsoever that it was HIM that caused the injury.

One thing I didn’t really get to in the sermon is WHY we are so bad at repenting, and was quickly reminded. On Monday an article popped up on my regular news feed titled “Why Is It So Hard to Apologize?”

Though not from a faith-based perspective it gives some good insight into our hearts of unrepentance. The one I want to focus on, and offer some healing from, is this:

“As Schumann reeled off these barriers to apologizing, I thought, Not me, nope, not that one either. Then, there it was: Apologizing, she explained, is hell on one’s self-image as a decent, caring, sensitive, moral person.”

There it is. The biggest barrier to repentance is our arrogance and insecurity. In order to repent we have to admit and own our deep flaw, making ourselves vulnerable in the worst way possible. We spend our whole lives trying to convince others (and ourselves, and God) that we are ok, valuable, worthy. To repent is to come to the end of our self-made righteousness. It is a true and deep death. And it’s exactly where we MUST be in order to have empty hands that can receive the gift of Christ’s Righteousness.

As long as my fingers are clutched around the idol of my self righteousness there is no room for the righteousness of Christ. But this idol is a facade at best and a disease at worst. Not only is it a figment of our imagination, but we are actually clutching a poisonous beast that aims to destroy us.

But Jesus invites us to let go as he clutches us in his own hands. He invites us to a godly grief where we own what our sin really is: spiritual and lethal adultery against our holy Groom. And this grief brings us not to denial but repentance, which opens the gateway for the perfect Righteousness of Jesus to be poured out on us because our lethal poisonous beast was unleashed upon Him on the Cross.

When I get tiny glimpses that even my repentance needs to be repented of, I can turn to Jesus and realize that my worth, value, hope, identity and very being isn’t based upon what I do and don’t do, but upon Him and My Adoption into His Family, which makes repentance not just possible, but a joy that brings freedom.

Prayer: #1 – Divine Communication

Communication is so hard.

What we call communication is actually us talk for a while, then pausing a little as the other person talks as we wait for a break so that we can begin to talk again. And the other person is probably doing the same thing. This isn’t communication, it’s just two entities talking. Communication, by definition, is two sided. It’s relaying information as well as receiving (and hopefully comprehending) information. It’s not just talking. It’s listening.

Even as I write this a quick article popped up in my feed where the author quotes Cash Nickerson, author of The Samurai Listener: “Unfortunately most people don’t remember because they don’t hear it in the first place.”

We are inherently bad at communication with one another so naturally it seeps into our prayer life, which is the origin and foundation of all communication. The very first conversation in history was between one man and God, where each spoke and each listened. But then came the Fall, where our communication became warped with selfishness, ignorance, judgement and agendas.

For the next few weeks I want to wade into the warm waters of Prayer with hope and practicality. Personally I feel like I am still in Prayer Elementary School and am usually embarrassed by my felt inability. But I know I am learning and growing. There are times in my prayer life that I am actually listening to God, and sometimes find out that God is also listening to me (why does that surprise me?).

Let me tell you this story from last week, and then in my next post we’ll pull out our archeological tools and begin to uncover the ancient art of prayer:

I was sitting in a chair on the beach at sunrise last week, reading my bible and praying. I felt really stuck in my prayers, not even knowing how to vocalize what was in my heart…no even KNOWING what was in my heart. So I began to literally and simply pray to the Holy Spirit, confessing that I didn’t know what to pray for and asking Him to pray to the Father on my behalf. Two minutes later a lady I’ve never seen before slowly passed in front of me on a bike, turned to me, and said “I’m praying for you this morning”.

That’s it. I never saw her again. I didn’t run after her and asked why she had said that. I just sat there and thanked the Holy Spirit for this gift, for this reminder that He is listening…AND He is communicating with the Father on my behalf.

So why does this matter? We are free! Free to pray, and free to stumble in our prayers. Free to be eloquent and free to sound like an incoherent child. The Spirit is the translator that connect our mouth to the Father’s ears and the Father’s mouth to our ears. So take the pressure off and just begin.

Romans 8:26
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

For more depth on the Holy Spirit prayer on our behalf, listen to THIS sermon by Ligon Duncan (super amazing pastor/preacher/professor).