Christmas and Depression

The Christmas season is known for triggering anxiety and depression among many–especially young professionals.

Although there are a myriad of reasons for this, I’m going to highlight what I have seen and experienced to be the #1 cause.

Unrealistic Expectations.

The Christmas season is “supposed” to be filled with “joy” and “peace.” However, for many young professionals, their lives are anything but joyful and peaceful during November and December. They are blitzing through work trying to finish up every lingering project and frantically trying to tie a bow on and close out their lives for the year.

They go from their normal cruising speed of 200/mph to light-speed emotionally and then expect themselves to all of a sudden, and within a matter of a few days–slam on the breaks, stop, relax, unplug, smile (really smile), be joyful, peaceful, and present to those they love and themselves!?!

Please.

I’m reminded of the scene in Forest Gump when Forest scores the touchdown but continues to run right out of the stadium. We run so fast and hard to get past the goal line of Christmas break only to realize that our emotions continue to sprint right on past us!

It’s like trying to stop a locomotive on a sheet of ice.

Anxiety and depression then falls upon us when we realize that we weren’t who we thought we would be for Christmas. We were supposed to be peaceful, thankful, and kind but mentally and emotionally we were absent, agitated, and pissed.

We emotionally envisioned ourselves, others, and the Christmas season to be one way, but when we found ourselves in the moment, nothing or no one was as we expected–especially ourselves.

So, as you sprint towards Christmas break, have realistic expectations of yourself and others. Give yourself and them the grace to not be perfect and to not be “all there.” Don’t beat yourself up for not being as “joyful” as you “should.”

If you do, it will be in that moment of grace that you will glimpse into the meaning and hope of Christmas…

Emmanuel–Christ with you–just as you are.

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King or Pastor?

Human beings have three great needs in terms of spiritual leadership–we need a prophet, a priest, and we need a king.

We need someone to help us clearly see who God is and hear what God is saying (Prophet).
We need someone to stand as a mediatory agent between us and God (Priest).
We need someone to be a physical reminder of wealth, power, and prominence that God represents (King).

Not only do we need these three things, we deeply desire them–especially to have a king.

In the Hebrew Bible, we see Israel desperately needing a prophet and a priest, but violently protesting for a king.

“We want a king to rule us and lead us…,” the people exclaimed in 1 Samuel 8.

The people wanted a physical king–someone they could establish as an earthly symbol (or idol) that they could see, touch, and “celebrate” (which is where we get the word “celebrity” today).

When Jesus came on the scene, the people praised him as a prophet and a priest, but was grossly disappointed in that he did not develop into the conquering celebrity king they wanted.

Instead, Jesus’s kingship was shrouded in the form of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. Isaiah will say that the King to come would have “no form or majesty that people would look at Him, and no beauty that people would desire Him.”

The people wanted a majestic desirable king not a lowly suffering servant to lead them.

To be honest, I don’t think humans have changed that much.

Our enormous need for both a pastor (someone to serve us) and a king (someone we can serve) is so intertwined in the human heart that I can see how we could start making pastors kings or celebrities out of pastors–whichever way you want to put it.

Either way, pastors usually aren’t the ones searching for celebrity–we are.

And God will typically give us what we ask for.

“And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Obey their voice and make them a king.’” – 1 Sam. 8:22a

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The Point of Being a Christian?

Several years ago, I stumbled across a survey that asked thousands of church-going young adults age 18-29 what the number one priority was for them as a Christian.

The answer?

“To do good and not sin.”

I cannot find the exact survey today, but the answer didn’t surprise me as much as it greatly concerned me.

For many, the point of being a Christian is to try to always make the right decision and not sin privately or publicly. When we fail to live up to our Christian standards, we ponder things like, “As a Christian, I should have handled that differently,” or “I should not have done that as a Christian.”

While I do believe that Christians should be conscious of their actions, I’m concerned that most think their perfection somehow proves their piousness. Although this may be true to a certain extent, what proves someone really loves Jesus isn’t their perfection, but their willingness to admit their faults.

This does not mean that Christians shouldn’t try to act in a Christ-like manner. We should.

But to those around us, sometimes the Gospel is most clearly portrayed not when we “do good and not sin,” but when we do bad and have to go back and admit our sins to those who are around us.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. – James 5:16

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Right vs. Wise

Before you read this, read THIS.

According to the first chapter of Proverbs, the book was written for young men to know “wisdom” and to understand “words of insight/wisdom” so that they may be “wise in their dealings,” and use “discretion/wisdom” in all they do.

Solomon, who was the wealthiest king in all of Israel, was the author. He also was the wisest man who ever lived.

Wealth and wisdom are best when exercised together. However, this isn’t always the case.

As king, Solomon had the “right” to do whatever he pleased with his power and wealth. No one could tell him what was “right” or what was “wrong” to do with his money or his power. No person, no subject, no resident had the right to pull into question the kings decisions regarding these things. No one–that is–except wisdom.

Wisdom will tell you that there is a major difference between what is “right” and what is “wise.”

Do I believe that Steven Furtick has every right to build whatever size house he wants with money he has earned as an author? Yes.

Do I believe that Steven Furtick was right to build the house he did with the money he has earned as a speaker? Yes.

Do I believe that Steven Furtick, as the pastor of Elevation Church, was wise for building a 16,000 sq/ft (8,400 sq/ft heated) home? No. No I don’t.

Sometimes, the best decision to make with the money you earn as an author or a speaker isn’t the best purchase to make as a pastor–and that takes wisdom.

Because wisdom comes from the Lord, and all believers are IN Christ as a part of His ONE body, the body will usually tell the body when an unwise decision was made.

If I eat Mexican after midnight, my body will wake me up at 3:00am to alert me of my unwise decision. Do I have every right to eat Mexican after midnight? Absolutely. Is it wise for my body? Well, my body usually tells me (and normally it isn’t pretty!).

The sheer disruption and indigestion among the body of Christ in Charlotte over the purchase of this 1.7 million dollar home should alert us that this might have not been the wisest thing for Steven Furtick to do.

Did he have the right to do it?

Yes.

Was it the wisest thing to do?

The body will tell.

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How You Should Respond To Steven Furtick’s House

In the wake of the news that area mega-church pastor, Steven Furtick, is building a 16,000 sq/ft (8,400 sq/ft heated) home/mansion, many Christians have been at odds as how they should respond.

As someone who has a degree of pastoral influence among a wide swath of local churches, pastors, and area believers, I feel compelled to help provide some guidance. Some may argue that it’s none of my business and that I should mind my own affairs.

I would love to. Really, I would.

However, over the last week Christians have been debating, arguing, and dividing over issues surrounding this pastors home. That’s when it becomes my business, to be honest. As someone who strives to cultivate unity in Christ’s mission in Charlotte and beyond, I’ll take my chances on being “that guy” to help us navigate this divisive issue.

So, how should you respond to the house that Steven built?

1) Gracefully. Like Daniel, it’s always best to approach any divisive issue with “wisdom and tact.” That means knowing what you believe about the issues at hand, why you believe it, and being able to gracefully and tactfully voice your opinions or beliefs to others. When you aren’t speaking or typing, listen respectfully to others–even when you violently disagree. Then gracefully, with a heart of love for the person (not your beliefs), continue to challenge, affirm, or (Heaven forbid) change your own understanding of the issues at hand.

2) Resolutely. Jesus commands believers that “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” Many have seen this as a call for Christians to be gluttons for punishment. Not true. This is a call for Christians to be resolute in staying present when offended. Instead of slapping back, running away, or breaking fellowship with those who offend you, “turning the other cheek” means to stay put before the one who offended you NOT so that you can win the argument, but so that you don’t lose the relationship. Turning the other cheek means, “I love and value you so much, that I’m not going anywhere until we resolve this conflict–even if you slap me again.” Getting slapped hurts, but walking away hurts more.

3) Fairly. In our postmodern society, if you simply disagree with someone or something (especially a high-profile leader or issue) you are said to be “judgmental.” This is where postmodern dialogue absolutely breaks down. If someone disagrees with you, Steven Furtick, or Elevation Church, this does not mean that they are judging either one–or vice-versa. I disagree with my wife often, but she does not label me as judgmental (which would only serve as a power-play for her not to be disagreed with!). This is why so many Christians (and pastors for that matter) keep silent on issues because if they publicly disagree with someone or something (particularly another pastor or local church), they might be labeled judgmental, jealous, or just plain insecure. This is simply unfair and beyond unhealthy for any form of healthy dialogue. Fair dialogue means allowing someone the freedom to disagree with you without labeling them as one of “them.”

I, like Furtick, am saddened by all this. I’m sorry for how this issue has already caused division among so many of my friends, the good people of Elevation Church, and Charlotte as a whole. It grieves me deeply. Taking my own advice above, I’ll be posting more around this issue in the following week as my heart has much to say–not to slander, but to guide.

I pray you’ll read my words and listen to others this week with grace, resoluteness, and fairness.

If we do, who knows, we all might become stronger and more unified than we were before.

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Why I Live In A 900 Sq/Ft Apartment

I know there has been a ton of hoopla over the mega-church pastor in Charlotte who is currently building a 16,000 sqft home.

Typically, I swim-move these debates/conversations as I don’t want to address topics that I don’t have first hand knowledge. This does not mean that I’m unwilling to interact with these issues. There are just so many hot-topic issues within the church today that I find it impossible to address some and not others. Further, I try to stay as focused as I can on the topics that seem to matter.

As a pastor, though, I believe the issue surrounding a pastor’s habitat matters.

The word “pastor” in the original literally means, “shepherd” or “to shepherd” and is typically used in the New Testament to refer to Jesus Himself. The imagery here is one of a shepherd living among his flock, personally caring for their needs, and defending them from harm. Jesus refers to Himself as the “Good Shepherd” and implores Peter to “Shepherd My Sheep.” Peter then goes on to use this exact imagery when he writes to those who are called to lead the church in saying, “shephard the flock of God that is among you.” Paul will remind his friends in Thessaloniki that he loved them so much that he not only shared the Gospel with them, but shared his very own life with them as well. Jesus, as God Himself, became flesh and blood and “moved into the neighborhood”–not out of it.

These are the images of a New Testament “pastor.”

With.
Among.
Into.

My wife and I own what we could consider a “nice” home in a subdivision of Charlotte. Some may say that it’s a bit too nice for a pastor or that it’s in too nice of a neighborhood. Others may say that it’s “not that big” whereas others may argue differently. Honestly, I find the whole home comparison game silly as we all live in mansions compared to the worlds wealth and living conditions.

However, after living in our new home for less than a year, my wife and I felt called to go live among those we serve.

So, after 10 years of shepherding young professionals through “lights, lyrics, and lessons” we decided to see what our “lives” might do–so we moved into the neighborhood, not out of it.

We rented our home and moved into a 900 sqft apartment (with our three small children) in the heart of where young professionals live. We are one of the few married couples in the entire complex as it’s nothing but 20-30something single adults–and I love it.

The thing I love most about living in this environment is that I’m helplessly myself.

People see me as I truly am–not how I want them to see me. They see how I relate to my wife. How I treat my kids. How I conduct myself. What I wear when I take out the trash. What I look like early in the morning (or after too late of a night!).

They see me in flesh and blood not in pixels and high definition.

They see how I live every bit of my life, not just how I appear for 60 minutes on a Sunday morning. They can either affirm or deny whether or not my life aligns with Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3–not assume based on my sermons or blog entries.

Simply put, our habitat reveals our habits to those we lead–and that is why habitat matters for any pastor.

Are we going to live in an apartment forever? Probably not.
Is my current living situation the standard for all pastors? Hell no.

But have we learned that our lives are more powerful than any lesson or sermon we’ve ever preached?

You better believe it.

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When God Looks At Me, What Does He See?

When you look at God looking at you, what do you see?

Disappointment?
Anger?
Frustration?
Confusion?

When Adam and Eve sinned against God, they made clothes for themselves out of fig leaves to cover their nakedness and their shame.

However, in Genesis 3:21 we read:

“And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”
– Gen. 3:21

This clothing exchange is one of the parts in the Bible that I wish we were given more detail.

I wonder how Adam and Eve felt when God bid them to take off their fig leaves and expose their nakedness to Him and each other once again? I wonder if God removed their fig leaf for them or if He asked them to do it? I wonder how Adam and Eve felt when their bare bodies were exposed (this time in fear and shame) to each other and to God? I wonder the look in God’s eyes when the fig leaves were finally pealed away? Was it a look of disappointed? Frustration? Hurt? Confusion? Did He shake His Holy head and say, “I told you so, I told you so….”

Most of all, I wonder what Adam saw when he looked at God looking back at him?

I’m not sure, but I think THIS VERSE might give us a glimpse into what Adam might have seen between the fig leaf and the animal skin.

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Satan And Pastors

I cringe at even linking the two together in the title. Seems heretical and unneeded, I know.

However, over the last decade of working with and leading unity based initiatives, I have noticed a common trait between both pastors and Satan–they each are leery of Christian unity.

Now before you think I’m bashing pastors, let me explain as this post is quite the opposite.

Both Satan and pastors are leery (and discourage) unity among believers for one very good reason–they both understand the power of Christian unity.

However, they each have 100% valid reasons to discourage unity among believers.

For Satan, he understands the power of believers coming together. He knows the prayer of Jesus in John 17 for the Church to be ONE and the promise it holds that the world will know the love of God through Christ. He knows that all men will know that we are Christ’s disciples if we love and serve one another. He understands that the type of church that the gates of Hell cannot prevail against is the one holy, apostolic, and Catholic church. Therefore, because he knows the power of Christian unity, Satan has pretty much made it his mission to ensure that it never happens on earth as it already is in Heaven.

For Pastors, they are shepherds, gate-keepers, servants, and protectors of Christ’s Church. They too understand the power of Christian unity. They understand that believers united in love and mission are an unstoppable force that can change the world. However, they also know that if the power of Christian unity finds itself the WRONG hands, it can cause more damage, more division, and more discord among the Church. They also know that there are many wolves in sheep’s clothing who would love to wield the power of Christian unity for their own fame and fortune.

So, if you have a vision for seeing unity based initiatives in your city, give pastors a break and quit laying blame on them as being divisive, competitive, and disinterested in unity.

From my experience, most pastors don’t oppose or question unity-based initiatives because they are flat out against the concept. They question and push back on them because they understand, like Satan, the power these initiatives have. Therefore, as shepherds, they will not (and should not) flippantly support, endorse, or involve their flock in something just because it has the word “unity” or “one” in the title. They are NOT obligated to involve themselves in every unity based initiative that comes across their desk–and there are a ton these days. They SHOULD ask intelligent questions about these initiatives. They SHOULD ask deeply theological and ecclesiological questions. They SHOULD be suspicious of both the initiative and YOU. They SHOULD be a “hard sale.” They SHOULD frustrate you. They SHOULD have time to do their due diligence on you and your vision. They should want to know what you believe and why you believe it. They should check you at the door and not just welcome you (or your groups vision) into and among their flock just because you want to see believers come together.

They are doing their job–and I deeply respect them for that.

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CityONE Network Update

As I’ve said before, I firmly believe that collaboration among local churches is the new reformation in our nation–and the world for that matter.

Local churches from various Christian traditions are coming together to solve problems, heal hurts, and extend the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ as ONE.

Seven years ago, young adult pastors in Charlotte began a friendship with one another that led to a deep trust in one another. It was from this foundation of friendship and trust that CharlotteONE began in May of 2006 to reach young professionals in Charlotte with the Gospel of Christ and connect them back to a local faith community.

In a recent survey, 48% of those who attend CharlotteONE stated that they have connected to a local church through our efforts with 31% stating that they were introduced to the person of Jesus Christ. 78% stated that they have chosen to remain in Charlotte due to the connections they’ve established through CharlotteONE.

Over the years, this collaborative outreach model of churches helping other churches reach 20-30somethings for Christ has proven wildly successful.

In April of 2011, PhoenixONE in Phoenix, AZ began and now empowers over 30 local churches in the Valley and reaches well over 1,000 young professionals every other Tuesday. They too have seen hundreds of young adults reconnect to their faith and a local church in the area. Further, the spirit of collaboration and unity among the churches in the Valley has increased dramatically (as it has in Charlotte) as churches are starting to do more things together in the spirit of Christian love and unity.

Over the years, local churches have approached us with how they can start a “CharlotteONE” type outreach in their city to reach young adults.

As a ministry that has been practicing missional ecumenism for a decade now, we have been through it all and have come out on the other side with learnings that are priceless. Further, we are passionate about helping local churches and ministry leaders understand the theological, biblical, and ecclesiological foundation for unity among local churches who tend to approach unity and collaboration from a more emotional and practical standpoint. Emotions and practicality are important, but emotions and practice divorced from a good theology and ecclesiology as it pertains to churches working together typically leads to frustration, further division, and unified efforts that fizzle.

We don’t want that.

So, today we have taken a big step forward in helping to empower local churches to reach 20-30somethings together.

www.CityONEnetwork.org

We just launched a new website that is a part of a larger national effort to offer CityONE Network and our learnings to local churches in cities across America.

My hope is that www.CityONEnetwork.org will be a national hub for up-to-date information on the Millennial generation that local churches can access and utilize. Further, the site clearly lays out the process a city can take to become an affiliate along with Phoenix and Charlotte.

My prayer is that other local churches will utilize this collaborative model and experience the “good and pleasant” spirit when brothers and sisters not just dwell in unity but work together in unity.

Please pass this site along to any friends you have in churches in other cities as we would love to start a conversation about how CityONE Network can better serve their efforts to engage the Millennial generation for Christ and His Church.

www.CityONEnetwork.org

Love,

David

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I’m Writing My First Book

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels–a plentiful harvest of new lives.” – John 12:24 (NLT)

This blog began as an online journal to chronicle both the death of myself and the new life that somehow emerged.

It has served as a place for me to give voice to the anguish of being human as well as to the frustrations of trying to live my life for Jesus. I’ve written about being worse than I thought, but at the same time, loved more than I could ever imagine–and the deep mystery that lies between.

Within that mystery, I have experienced a God whose deepest longing and divine objective is not to simply have a “relationship” with me, but to bring me into complete union (or oneness) with Himself.

This mystery has both captured my imagination and changed every aspect of my Christian life.

Through a series of circumstances that I could never manufacture, God has given me the opportunity to begin a book project on exploring the concept of our union with God and others called:

Daybreaking: Awaking To Your Union With God and Others” (as it’s called at the moment).

Wolgemuth and Associates have been gracious in agreeing to representing me and this project. I’m excited about working with Robert and his team (hey Andrew!) on ensuring that this book gets into your hands.

Daybreaking will shed a fresh light on the biblical, theological, and historical understanding of what it means to live in perfect union with God. Made accessible through crazy stories and creative analogies, my prayer is that you will experience a revelatory view of self, God, and His greatest desire for all believers–to awaken us to our union with God the Father, Son, and Spirit.

The book will trace how the protestant church (in particular) lost the language of “union” within her ranks and replaced it with “personal relationship”–which has served to mostly tame and dampen the mystery of our union with Christ and devalue our communal oneness with the entire church (Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox).

While claiming to have a “relationship” with Jesus is NOT heretical or wrong, the book will attempt to gracefully draw the church back to understanding that our relationship with Christ is rooted in our union with Him and recapture the historical language of union within the church today.

Further, my hope is that by awakening to our union with God, it will provide a firm foundation for many of the unity-based movements and conversations happening within the church today. Without an understanding of our union with God, our attempts for unity with one another will be nothing more than emotional and anecdotal in nature and will prove to be temporary at best.

Please know, Daybreaking will not be an angry, the church is stupid, I’m mad at Christians, type book.

It’s an honest assessment of an average guy who did everything he knew to do to have a healthy and growing relationship with Jesus and ended up frustrated and defeated. And of a God who gently came to him in the midst of his confusion and brokenness, held out His hand, and invited him into perfect union with Himself.

Mine was the same experience as Hudson Taylor when he said:

“…this was not new, and yet was to me, I felt as though the first dawning of a glorious day had risen upon me.”

Pray for me as I continue to pray that you will experience a “Daybreaking” moment when you read the book and awaken to your union with God and others.

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