Friday, December 3, 2010

So True...

Jesus has to thwart us too - thwart our self-redemptive plans, our controlling and our hiding, thwart the ways we are seeking to fill the ache within us. Otherwise, we would never fully turn to him for our rescue. Oh, we might turn to him for our "salvation," for a ticket to heaven when we die. We might turn to him even in the form of Christian service, regular church attendance, a moral life. But inside, our heart remains broken and captive and far from the One who can help us.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Matt Chandler's Latest Blog

Helpful to hear him confess issues with pride as that can be a struggle for me.

This Saturday, Dec. 4 marks the one-year anniversary of the 7-8 hour craniotomy that removed a malignant cancerous tumor from my brain and started a year of radiation, chemo and recovery. To say that we’ve been doing some reflecting as a family would be an understatement. So on the one-year anniversary here are a few random thoughts I’ve had:

He really is enough.

For years I have taught that simple sentence to people, and I believed with everything in me that it was true. Seeing it personally has been another story, like the difference between seeing a picture of the Grand Canyon and actually seeing it. I found out on Nov. 26 that I had a mass on my frontal lobe, on Tuesday Dec. 1 that I was going to need surgery soon and that the scans “didn’t look good,” and on Dec. 4 had a good portion of my right frontal lobe removed. I’ll be honest, that season was terrifying, and we wept. I wept with Lauren, my friends, family members, partners in ministry and by myself. Leading up to the surgery if I saw one of my children, particularly my oldest daughter Audrey, it was a fight to hold myself together. Under all of that fear and all those tears there was this quiet confidence, this firm foundation, this unshakable promise, and we never lost it. The world would sink in the days and months to come but we continually found our footing in the truth that He is in control of all things and loves me deeply (Romans 8:28-39).

The only thing that matters is I am His.

If you ask people about me, depending on who they are, they will tell you I am a husband, father, preacher, leader, son, brother, friend, etc. When we were prepping for surgery, they went over this long list of things that were “possibilities.” I could lose the ability to speak, walk and lose short-term or long-term memories. The list was much longer, but I think you get the point. I am primarily known as a pastor and preacher, but here’s the truth that slammed into me when I was wrestling with God over this surgery. One day I am not going to preach or pastor; one day I am not going to be Lauren’s husband or my kid’s father. All the things that define me here will be gone, and I will simply be His. I’m still meditating on that. That’s all I really am…His. Now, while He gives me breath there are sermons to preach and people to shepherd, children to impart the glory of God to and an extremely beautiful wife to love. All these things are shadows of a greater reality. (Ephesians 5:22-33, Colossians 2:17)
If it’s not by grace alone, I’m in a lot of trouble.

Jonathan Edwards was right to resolve, “to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.” The thought of dying, though repulsive to most of us, brings an uncanny clarity to life. I was told in mid-December that what I had was fatal and that the average lifespan was 2-3 years after diagnosis. So I have at max, 2 years left (I want to quote Twain here on statistics but don’t want to answer the e-mails and complaints in the comment section I would get). When you hear that kind of news, you do some real soul searching and here is something disturbing I found out about me. I don’t trust all my motivations in ministry. Now don’t get me wrong. I deeply, deeply love the God of the Bible. I love to proclaim Him and think about Him and talk about Him to anyone who’ll listen, but I learned in college that when I do that, good things happen and by good things I mean good things for me. People want to hear me teach; they pay me money. I’m actually “famous” in some circles. What a dangerous culture we live in. In some places being used powerfully by God can get you killed and here it makes you “famous.” Hear me confess this. I like it. I like that people download me, watch videos of me, want my take on things and I believe that there is a part of me (that’s hopefully dying) that likes it not just because it makes much of Jesus but makes much of me. That is an embarrassing truth about me, and I have fasted and prayed that God would put it to death. So to quote Lecrae “If Heaven ain’t a gift then I ain’t getting in.”

I suck at praying.

I didn’t think I did before this. I thought it was a strength, but I was wrong. When you realize that all you are is His, you realize or at least I did, that I don’t stay connected to Him as I have been commanded to. I would spend some time praying in the morning, but my life wasn’t saturated in it. I lived like I put my time in and now I can handle this. So again, I confess that I went into hundreds of meetings over my first seven years as pastor of The Village without asking for direction and wisdom, without asking for power and clarity. Although I knew I wasn’t wise enough, experienced enough or seasoned enough, I went and tried to be what they needed. I have grown exponentially in this area this year and I’m hoping that when I’m done with my race, I would be known not just as a faithful preacher of God’s Word but a man who communed with his Father without ceasing.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

If God grants me another 100 years, I couldn’t begin to thank all of you who have prayed, encouraged, sent me cards, letters, books, money, prayer blankets (BTW I sat under everyone of those blankets and received your prayers in Jesus’ name), pictures, paintings and poems. Things came in from all over the world, and the entire Chandler family felt the tangible love of God made visible through His saints.

If I kept going this would be too long to be considered a blog so I’ll stop here for now and write some more next week — including one of the biggest, most painful lessons I’ve learned.

Christ’s blessing to you all,
Matt Chandler

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Double Reach of Self Righteousness

From Pastor Tullian...

The Bible makes it clear that self-righteousness is the premier enemy of the Gospel. And there is perhaps no group of people who better embody the sin of self-righteousness in the Bible than the Pharisees. In fact, Jesus reserved his harshest criticisms for them, calling them whitewashed tombs and hypocrites. Surprisingly to some, this demonstrates that unrighteous badness is not the only threat to gospel advancement. Self-righteous goodness is equally toxic.

In Surprised by Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels, I retell the story of Jonah and show how Jonah was just as much in need of God’s grace as the sailors and the Ninevites. But the fascinating thing about Jonah is that, unlike the pagan sailors and wicked Ninevites, Jonah was one of the “good guys.” He was a prophet. He was moral. He was a part of God’s covenant community. He was one who “kept all the rules”, and did everything he was supposed to do. He wasn’t some long-haired, tattooed indie rocker; he was a clean-cut prep. He wasn’t a liberal; he was a conservative. He wasn’t irreligious; he was religious. If you’ve ever read S.E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders, than you’ll immediately see that the Ninevites and the sailors in the story were like the “greasers”, while Jonah was like a “soashe.”

What’s fascinating to me is that, not only in the story of Jonah, but throughout the Bible, it’s always the immoral person that gets the Gospel before the moral person. It’s the prostitute who understands grace; it’s the Pharisee who doesn’t. It’s the unrighteous younger brother who gets it before the self-righteous older brother.

There is, however, another side to self-righteousness that younger-brother types need to be careful of. There’s an equally dangerous form of self-righteousness that plagues the unconventional, the liberal, and the non-religious types. We anti-legalists can become just as guilty of legalism in the opposite direction. What do I mean?

It’s simple: we can become self-righteous against those who are self-righteous.

Many younger evangelicals today are reacting to their parents’ conservative, buttoned-down, rule-keeping flavor of “older brother religion” with a type of liberal, untucked, rule-breaking flavor of “younger brother irreligion” which screams, “That’s right, I know I don’t have it all together and you think you do; I know I’m not good and you think you are. That makes me better than you.” See the irony?

In other words, they’re proud that they’re not self-righteous!

Listen: self-righteousness is no respecter of persons. It reaches to the religious and the irreligious; the “buttoned down” and the “untucked.” The entire Bible reveals how shortsighted all of us are when it comes to our own sin. For example, it was easy for Jonah to see the idolatry of the sailors. It was easy for him to see the perverse ways of the Ninevites. What he couldn’t see was his own idolatry, his own perversion. So the question is, in which direction does your self-righteousness lean?

Thankfully, while our self-righteousness reaches far, God’s grace reaches farther. And the good news is, that it reaches in both directions!