The world of social media certainly has its down sides, but there are also redeeming qualities as well. For me, I find inspiration and wisdom in unexpected places, or from people with whom I haven’t connected for a long time.

In just such an encounter, I was reading online earlier this year and came across the writings of an old friend of mine from college. I was drawn into a blog article she wrote and thought about using it as inspiration for a future Feast post. But then I realized…I certainly couldn’t say it any better than she did.

To wet your whistle just a little, this quote jumped out at me: What we pay attention to matters because paying attention is a form of worship.” Indeed it is.

So please, enjoy the words and thoughtfulness of the article my friend Laura wrote here.

Until the next Feast,

Brian

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Last month, we established that the foundation of love is sacrifice. (If you need a refresher, just scroll down!) Being a parent is, by its very nature, a sacrificial act, and therefore, a loving act. Without sacrifice, there is no love. On the flip side, the foundation of all hate and apathy is selfishness…and selfishness is the source of all kinds of problems, and all kinds of sin.

However, in this second part of our examination of sacrifice and love, I want to consider a subtle but important consideration about sacrifice and selfishness that families, and especially parents, can easily fall into. Let’s start by examining the following passage from Matthew 5:43-48 in light of our own families:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Enemies + Sacrifice

Loving one’s enemies was…a crazy, outlandish idea in the time of Jesus. Maybe ESPECIALLY from a Jewish man, right? I mean, how many times had their lands been invaded, their people enslaved, their woman and children captured. There were a lot of hostile enemies, and they had done terrible, unspeakable things. Our enemies today…are NOTHING compared to what Jesus was actually referring to. But this is actually a heart issue at its core. Your enemy is anyone whom you have something against.

All that said, I want to focus on this idea in verse 46: “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?” Based on our previously stated notion, I want to rephrase that for the sake of our discussion: “If you sacrifice for those who sacrifice for you, what reward will you get?”

Hmm. Here’s my point: I hope you honor your spouse and love your kids. It is your duty, honor, and stewardship to do all of those things. However, I think there is a danger and a trap lurking within the ways we love and serve our families. I call it the shift from “me-selfishness” to “we-selfishness.”

Me-Selfishness to We-Selfishness

See, if someone only works for himself to buy himself things and gain his own reputation, we all see him as selfish and it’s fairly obvious. However culturally speaking, if that same person works to “provide” for his family, buys his family lots of nice things, and improves his family’s reputation, he’s considered a hero. But should it be so? In one way, yes. To provide for your family is a good and God-honoring thing. On the other hand, what is the motivation of that man deep down?

We-Selfishness feels, well, less selfish than Me-Selfishness. But if I make sure my kids are in every activity they want to be in just so I look good…isn’t that just a thinly veiled form of selfishness? Or if I want my wife to be well-dressed so people see me as successful because of what she wears…you get the idea. The point is this: we all need to check our naturally-selfish hearts for our real motivation behind these actions. They are not always as pure-hearted as they may appear to others.

Generosity Inhibitor

Secondly, we need to consider how our We-Selfishness is inhibiting our ability to be generous to those who really need it. “Sacrificing” so my kid can update their cell phone to the latest model, but not actually sacrificing for those who need it (or for my enemies) isn’t real sacrifice at all, is it? As the passage says, even the pagans do that. And it certainly isn’t teaching my children to point their generosity toward others instead of toward our family. And, it’s not helping point our friends and neighbors toward the gospel, which, at its core is self-sacrificial for enemies, right?

What I’m Not Saying About Sacrifice

Parenting always involves self-sacrifice (if you’re doing it right). But, it can also create this sneaky trap of We-Selfishness that Satan would love nothing more than to drag you into.

I don’t mean to create a false dichotomy here. It’s not serve your family OR others. I just think sometimes we deny how inversely connected those two things can be when it comes to generosity. Meaning, we often choose generosity toward our family – who we love and enjoy – over the truly biblical response of serving the poor, oppressed, hungry, orphans, widows, and enemies. What we must do is let one inform the other, not let one substitute for the other.

Now What?

I think a great exercise would be to sit down as a family and ask this question: What is something we love that we could sacrifice that would help us be more generous to someone we know?

Because remember, without sacrifice, there can be no love. All love requires sacrifice. And Jesus tells us to love, and therefore to sacrifice, not just for those we love, but also for those who are against us or those who we do not know. That, according to Jesus, is how love and sacrifice come together.

Until the next Feast,

-Brian

P.S. – Our next big church even is VBS! To sign up your kids going into grades K-6, click here. To sign up to volunteer, click here. It’s one of the best weeks of the year!

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I love explaining Easter to someone who doesn’t yet understand it; namely, children. Watching kids try to wrap their brain around the Resurrection story is fascinating and fun. If you really think about it, it defies explanation. Is it good or bad that Jesus dies? Was Judas’s role evil, or just a necessary part of God’s plan? How does someone die and then become alive again? Was Jesus in a lot of pain? Questions like these are simple questions with complex answers, and it will take time and repetition to walk through them well. I love it.

However, at the core of the story of the Resurrection, what I want all of our kids – and all of us – to really see, is that the love is Jesus is revealed through self-sacrifice. In fact, it is the story of Easter that reveals this profound and simple truth: all love requires sacrifice; without sacrifice, there is no love.

Love, Hate + ___________

Let me make my case. Picture a chart with two sides with a line down the middle. On the left, is the word “Love.” So what is the opposite of love? What word goes on the right side of the line? The quick answer many people would give is “hate.” If love is a strong feeling of like, then the opposite would be a strong feeling of dislike…hate. And that is valid. But I would argue there is a second and equally valid answer as the opposite of love: apathy. If love is about actively caring for another, then apathy is not caring at all

So, on one side: Love. On the other side: hate and apathy.

Selfishness

But how can hate and apathy both be valid answers? Well, it’s because they both have the same root, the same source, and the same motivation. It’s because both hate and apathy are motivated by the same thing: selfishness. The root of all hate and the root of all apathy is selfishness.

When I used to work with young drug addicts, I would often ask them this question: “Have you ever lied, cheated, stolen, or betrayed somebody you claim to love in order to feed your addiction?” Every one of them I ever asked said yes. Because the selfish motivation of their heart led their actions to be hateful or apathetic toward those around them, even if they “felt” like they loved them. An addict’s real problem behind the problem is not a chemical addiction, but an addiction to selfishness. Or, more accurately, addiction to selfishness is the problem WE ALL have…drugs just amplify the problem.

What is Love?

The root of all hate and the root of all apathy is selfishness. So what is the root of love? The answer is sacrifice. Without sacrifice, there can be no love. If you love someone or something, you will sacrifice for it in the form of money, time, energy, or service. This is why women (often) love getting flowers. It is literally saying, “I love you so much that I wasted (sacrificed) $20 on this useless thing that will die in a few days!” It’s an act of love because it’s an act of sacrifice!

Why I know This is True

The reason I am sure that sacrifice is the greatest indicator of love is that the greatest act of love ever was marked by the greatest sacrifice ever. Jesus, the perfect God-man, who had never sinned or done anything wrong, looked at you and at me and, in full knowledge of every sin we have ever done or will do, and died – sacrificed himself – for us. Not because we deserved it or earned it, but precisely because we don’t deserve it and we can’t earn it. He sacrificed everything – his divinity, his pride, his life – for you. And all of this because of his deep and never-ending love for you.

He expressed His ultimate love through ultimate sacrifice. And this sacrifice and this love are incredibly humbling. Consider the following:

“What more affirmation do we need than the cross of Jesus Christ? How insignificant is a ‘good job buddy’ compared to the fact that God, knowing the absolute truth about you and your motivations, died on the cross for you. Man can approve and accept you without any knowledge of your motives. He may never spot the shady, sinful, selfish motives that lead you to perform your good deeds. But God knows your wicked heart and still he died on the cross for you. That’s gospel truth. That’s worship material.”


From Creature of the Word by Chandler, Patterson, and Geiger.

Failing to Sacrifice Means Failing to Love

So parents, I want you to think about all that you sacrifice for your kids or have sacrificed for them over the years. It’s a long list. Up all night rocking babies, up all night worried about teenagers, working jobs you may not even like to pay for things they want or need, putting their desires above your own about food, clothing, vacation locations. You’ve given up date nights, advancements at work, that second home up north. The list can go on and on.

However, whatever you’ve sacrificed pales in comparison to what Jesus has given for you, and what he has given to your children. There may be moments when you feel that you just can’t give one more thing for the sake of your kids. You feel like you just can’t stay in that job or stay in that marriage or stay in that situation. But I would remind you that if parenting teaches us anything it is that it’s not about you.

Additionally, and more importantly, I would remind you that Jesus sacrificed more of himself for you, and fo your kids, because he loved more than that, and he calls you to do the same. He calls you to a life of sacrifice, because he calls you to love. And without sacrifice, there is no love. And failing to sacrifice means failing to love – no matter what you are “feeling.”

I hope you enjoy this Holy Week, and remember all that has been sacrificed for you.

For service times, click here.