Good News | Culture | Leadership | Fun
In this weekend’s edition of The Wall Street Journal, Charles Murray penned some “Rules for a Happy Life.” His first rule articulates the potentially different dynamics between marrying young and marrying at an older age.
The age of marriage for college graduates has been increasing for decades, and this cultural shift has been a good thing. Many 22-year-olds are saved from bad marriages because they go into relationships at that age assuming that marriage is still out of the question.
But should you assume that marriage is still out of the question when you’re 25? Twenty-seven? I’m not suggesting that you decide ahead of time that you will get married in your 20s. You’ve got to wait until the right person comes along. I’m just pointing out that you shouldn’t exclude the possibility. If you wait until your 30s, your marriage is likely to be a merger. If you get married in your 20s, it is likely to be a startup.
Merger marriages are what you tend to see on the weddings pages of the Sunday New York Times: highly educated couples in their 30s, both people well on their way to success. Lots of things can be said in favor of merger marriages. The bride and groom may be more mature, less likely to outgrow each other or to feel impelled, 10 years into the marriage, to make up for their lost youth.
But let me put in a word for startup marriages, in which the success of the partners isn’t yet assured. The groom with his new architecture degree is still designing stairwells, and the bride is starting her third year of medical school. Their income doesn’t leave them impoverished, but they have to watch every penny.
A fire requires three ingredients, often called the “fire triangle”: oxygen, heat, and fuel. The fire triangle provides a helpful way to think about your church. Many years ago Leonard Ravenhill wrote:
“You never have to advertise a fire. Everyone comes running when there’s a fire. Likewise, if your church is on fire, you will not have to advertise it. The community will already know it.”
For the church, the fire triangle works like this:
OXYGEN = The living God. The living God loves to breathe on his people and blow fresh life into us.
HEAT = The love of God. The heat source of the church is the undeserved, unconditional love of God.
FUEL = Us. People increasingly alive and awake to the living, loving God are the fuel of this fire.
So, as fuel, what is our job? Well, think about the last campfire you were part of. What did the wood have to do to make the fire happen? All the wood had to do was be available. The wood didn’t do anything except be available to receive the heat and oxygen.
We are fuel. We are wood. Our job as followers of Jesus is to simply be available, asking our God to breathe fresh wind and bring fresh heat into our lives and churches. God does great things in his church when we recognize our complete dependance upon him.
I articulate this further at the end of my sermon from yesterday on Acts 14, The Living God.
The second most important thing in the world is what you think about God. Do you have true thoughts and conclusions (theology) about who the livingGod is? Whatever you think about God will dramatically impact your life.
But there is one thing more important than this. The most important thing in the world is what God thinks about you.
What does God think about you? If you’ve run from God, if you’re building your life around a false god, if you’re resisting God’s pursuit of you, if you’ve refused the love of Jesus, then God regards you as a sinner deserving his eternal wrath. BUT, if you’ve simply taken responsibility for your sin and mess (if you’ve been honest), if you’ve open your heart to the grace (undeserved love) of God and how badly you need it, if you’ve experienced the most important event anyone could ever experience (an experience Jesus called “being born again”), then God delightfully, eternally, and unconditionally regards you as his beloved, forgiven, and perfectly righteous child.
“For God so loved the world [and you!], that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” -John 3:16
Below is Jack Welch’s three-paragraph description of being a CEO. Though several of the items below certainly don’t apply (the pay, the golf, etc.), I think this is also a good description of the life of a church planter:
Being a CEO is the nuts! A whole jumble of thoughts come to mind: Over the top. Wild. Fun. Outrageous. Crazy. Passion. Perpetual motion. The give-and-take. Meetings into the night. Incredible friendships. Fine wine. Celebrations. Great golf courses. Big decisions in the real game. Crises and pressure. Lots of swings. A few home runs. The thrill of winning. The pain of losing.
It’s as good as it gets! You get paid a lot, but the real payoff is in the fun.
Like any job, though, it has its pluses and minuses–but the good sure overwhelms the bad. The schedule is packed, with many hours blocked out a year in advance, yet every day manages to bring new crises that butcher your calendar. The days are crazy long, yet the hours race by because you’re always fighting for more time. The job never leaves you no matter what you’re doing–what’s on your mind is always so absorbing.
Jack Welch, Jack, p. 377
I grew up hearing my mom tell me the story below. This event significantly shaped my mom’s young faith. Just three weeks before her death my mom wrote this story down in an email so that it could be shared at her funeral (which it was). I hope this story can encourage you, reminding you that God hears you, cares for you, acts for your good, and is able to do anything.
When I was 17 God taught me a huge, life changing lesson about faith through an incident with my contact lens. In high school because of the ministry of Young Life, I heard the gospel and began my relationship with Jesus. I was in Switzerland on a Young Life European tour and realized, to my surprise, that many of the people on this so called “Christian” trip didn’t even believe in Jesus. I had just been discussing with one of the leaders of the trip whether Jesus was real or not (he was mocking my young faith) when we exited a mountain tram on to a gravel road back to our chalet. This road was about 1/2 mile long and was shared by people in hiking boots, cattle, and cars. Suddenly the rain and wind caused my contact lens, which had come out, to fly away…….somewhere on this road. We could not find it anywhere and the trip leader I had been speaking to 10 minutes before said, “Where is your God for you now? Will your faith in him get you your contact lens back?” It was an impossible situation. I couldn’t see out of one eye. Later back in my room I wrote about this experience in my journal, which I still have.
The next day I was walking back to the tram area on this gravel and dirt road while talking with God. I had read in my Bible that if we have faith as tiny as a mustard seed, mountains can be moved. Here I was in the beautiful Swiss Alps and I told God I didn’t know how to have that kind of faith. It wasn’t an audible voice, but I heard him suggest in my mind, “Joany, it’s not that you must have faith in what my WILL to do is, it’s that you have faith that I am ABLE to do anything.” I answered back in my heart that of course I believed God could help me find my contact, that he was able and I’d really love that, but I didn’t know his will. Immediately I felt a very strong sense to bend down and as I looked into a puddled tire track I saw my contact lens! Unbelievable! It was unscratched, perfect, and I was able to see for the rest of the trip. When I told Steve, the trip leader who questioned my faith in Jesus, he was speechless. Months later he called me from his college back east to let me know he had begun his own relationship with Jesus and was greatly influenced by that experience in Switzerland.
So during my cancer journey I’ve always believed in God’s ability to heal me……never questioned it……but his will I don’t know of course. His will is perfect and I trust him and HIS timing of when I’m supposed to go home to Heaven.
I want you to do something. Make a list in your head of the marriages you’ve seen that you actually like. How many married couples can you think of that have a thriving marriage—a good, happy, alive marriage—the kind of marriage that makes other people want to get married?
How many marriages did you think of?
I’ve tried this question on many people. Most people can come up with only one or two examples of strong, lively, and attractive marriages. This book aims to change that. Things don’t have to stay the way they are.
You know the statistics. Marriage is broken in our world. If your marriage isn’t broken, the marriage of someone you know is. At the very least, your marriage isn’t pulsating with the life and power it was meant to have.
But it’s not too late. There’s still hope for marriage—for your marriage, for your neighbor’s marriage, and for marriages that haven’t happened yet. Marriages can be jump-started; the sacred union between a husband and a wife can receive new life and power. I don’t care who you are, who you’ve been, or what your marriage has been through—everything can be made new. It’s harder and easier than you think.
Men, it starts with you. You and I and the men we know want something more. Perhaps you’ve settled for a marriage that looks like most other marriages. Perhaps you now look like most other husbands—ordinary, nice, confused. But what you really want is a marriage that feels like a mission, a marriage that’s moving forward toward something exciting, mysterious, and grand—kind of like the way dating felt.
Men, this book is for you. Pick it up and read it.
-From the preface to Date Your Wife, a great gift for Valentine’s Day.
Yesterday I preached a sermon in honor of my mom who died on Friday. I started talking about my mom during the final 10 minutes of the message. I titled the sermon after the final words my mom spoke to me, “See You in Heaven.” If interested, click here and give it a listen.
Below is the obituary I wrote for my mom, which appeared in The Sacramento Bee yesterday:
Joany was born 9/20/1953 in San Francisco and died 2/7/2014 in Elk Grove, CA. Joany loved Jesus, her family, her friends, and the many people she encouraged and helped as both a Marriage & Family Therapist and as co-owner of Liberty Bell Alarm Inc.
Joany lived her life to the fullest, happily pouring herself out to help others. After a 14 year battle with cancer, Joany is now at home with Jesus in heaven. She is survived by her loving husband (Ron), sons (Justin & Mark, and their wives Taylor & Jessika), six grandkids, and her sisters Lonnie & Paula. Joany’s Funeral/Celebration of Life service will be held at First Covenant Church on 2/15/14 at 2pm. 10933 Progress Ct, Rancho Cordova, CA, 95670.
I wrote this on my Facebook page earlier today:
My beautiful mom died this morning. I am going to miss her so much! She’s been the most influential person in my life. What I feel most right now is gratitude. For 35 years I’ve enjoyed the love, encouragement, pursuit, nurture, and care of a very rare mom. My mom made a huge impact with her life. She lived her life to the fullest. I’m excited that she’s now cancer/pain free, at home with Jesus. I loved my mom’s final words to me: “See you in heaven.” Man, those words pump me up! Jesus changes everything, he knocks the sting out of death.
This is a photo of our family taken on my mom’s 60th birthday, just 4 months ago. I’ll post funeral details later… Please pray for me, for my 3 sons as they process this news, my brother, and above all for my dad who has just said goodbye to his bride of 36 years.
It’s been a while since I’ve written an update about Garden City. Things are exciting around here. God is on the move, growing and using our church. Here are a few updates:
-Garden City is now 2 years and 4 months old! It’s thrilling to watch how God has grown us from a handful of people to who we are today. When we started this church with three people and $3,000 I never imagined we’d be at the stage we are at right now. God’s hand has been on us.
-This Sunday we launch a second service. You can now gather with Garden City on Sundays at either 4pm or 5:30pm (note: right now Kids’ Ministry is available only at the 4pm service).
-We’ve made three big hires: An Executive Pastor, Family Pastor, and City Coordinator. Click here to check out our growing staff team.
-We continue to give 10% of every dollar we receive to church planting, both in the Bay Area and internationally. Right now our international partners are Redeemer Dubai and Igreja do Redentor in Rio de Janerio/Restore Brazil.
-We now have 20 Neighborhood Groups spread throughout Silicon Valley.
-Lives are being saved and forever changed here. Disciples are being made. Leaders are being trained and deployed.
-According to new Barna research, our church is located in one of the least Bible minded cities in America. We have exciting work to do here.
-In Garden City people are discovering good news to enjoy, a family to belong to, and a mission to live. We’re also having a lot of fun along the way.
Thank you for how you’ve prayed for Garden City in the past. Please pray for us now as we navigate and steward this exciting season of growth.
I posted this on my Facebook page yesterday, figured I’d also post it here:
My beautiful mom is getting dramatically weaker as her cancer advances. This week she begins hospice care. Please pray for my mom, Joan Buzzard, as she navigates this final chapter of her life on this side of the grave. Please pray for my dad as he serves and says goodbye to his wife of 36 years. Pray for my brother, Mark, and me as we say goodbye to our amazing mom, and as we help our kids say goodbye to their grandma. This is the strange gift of this cancer, you have time to say goodbye.
I am sad, yet so excited for my mom to be with Jesus, her first and greatest love. She has a bright future. I’m excited to join her one day in a land where: “He [God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” My moms life on earth is ending. Her eternal life is just beginning. Anyone can get in on this. All you need is need–to recognize you need for the undeserved love of Jesus. Heaven is about to get more awesome because Joan Buzzard is headed there.
Photo: My mom, my younger brother, and me 20+ years ago.