AIRPORT SANCTUARY

I love airports. If you ask me, they’re the most entertaining places on the planet. Here’s why: they have more food options than the food court at a mall, they have stores filled with trinkets you’ll never use but somehow feel you need, and they have people from all over the world passing through their corridors—and that’s the best part. I’m fascinated by the different ways people move through life, because no one is the same. Have you ever thought about that for very long? There are no two people that are exactly the same. It’s amazing how much diversity there is in this world. And for me, that speaks to one thing: the creativity of our Creator. God doesn’t know how to be boring, does He?

I recently found myself sitting around a baggage claim carousel with roughly 100 or so people in Orlando. In that crowd was a family from England, one from India, a couple from South Carolina, and one man from eastern Europe. The differences between them culturally was stark enough, but then I noticed their personalities; the way they engaged with each other; their patience or lack there of; all the way down to the kind of cell phone they were using. The differences were exponential. It was stunning.

My wife’s career takes her all over the country working with companies on how to connect with people in the office every day. I love the way her company defines diversity: any difference that makes a difference. Because the truth is, you can have a room full of 100 people from the same town, same socio-economic level, same gender, and same race and STILL have differences between them. Again, that’s creativity. God’s amazing in that way. Seven billion people are walking around right now and no two are alike. Just try to sit down and draw 25 distinct flowers from memory, good luck trying to make them unique from one another.

Isaiah 64:8 says “But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.” Psalm 104:24 states, “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” I know some people really connect with God by getting out in nature and beholding His creation. I get that, it does my spirit good too. But for me, thinking about the massive number of people and the countless unique qualities they each carry with them, reminds me that God is huge. Because he not only wove them each together but He knows, loves, and cares for each of them every minute of every day—even if they don’t acknowledge Him. Just listen to what Jesus said, “And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows” (Luke 12:7). Like I said, God is huge. Need a reminder? Go to a busy place, sit down, turn your phone off and watch His handiwork. It might turn your next long wait in the airport security line into a time of worship!


JP

After serving as the Student Ministries Pastor for 10 years, Josh Petersen is now the Lead Pastor of Immanuel Church. He’s married to Heidi and together they live with Jake, Logan, Cole and Sawyer at the circus they call home.

WHO VS. WHAT

I just started reading a phenomenal book called “Good To Great” by Jim Collins. It’s one of the most popular tomes in the business sector, ever. It’s guaranteed to be on the “must read” list for anyone working in the marketplace. Two chapters in, I see why. Don’t worry, this isn’t a book review or a commentary on what the church can learn from the business world. Instead, I want to share with you how one concept from the book is deeply spiritual and true to the way God works. Ready? Here we go.

Collins talks a lot about a bus in his book. The bus is the team that’s going to take a company to it’s desired destination. He emphasizes that the people on the bus are the first thing to worry about when creating an effective organization. In fact, the individuals on board should be considered before it’s even determined where the bus is going! The right people need to be in the right seats and the wrong people need to be off the bus altogether. The best leaders focus on who before they concern themselves with what or where.

Have you ever considered the fact that God has invited you onto His bus? Yes, you are part of the “team” that God’s put together for accomplishing His mission in the world. Crazy thought, I know, but God created leadership and gets it right every single time. Jesus initiated this thing called the Church that is full of individuals uniquely gifted and positioned to participate in His reconciling the world to the Father. He invited fishermen, tax collectors, garbage collectors, lawyers, school teachers, stay-at-home moms, CEOs, cashiers, landscapers, scientists and literally countless others to be on the team.

I love the way Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 5: All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. (18-20)

You might not feel like you have much to offer. Too many people think they need to be an eloquent public speaker, theological scholar, or an exceptional leader in order to be used by God for God’s goals. No, you just need to sit in your seat. God has you here because He knew you had a particular role to play. Part of Jim Collins’ findings was that the right people had to be in the right seat. You are called to be all that God’s made you to be right where you’re at. Remember, the church isn’t a place, it’s a people. So participating does NOT mean you need to work at a church—you need to be the church wherever you are. That means in your cubicle, your classroom, or your living room. That’s your seat. If you aren’t sitting there, no one else will.

God called you to follow Him because He had something for you to do, and you’re the right person for the job. He knows your history, your mistakes, and all your shortcomings (mine too). And yet, He invites you on board. So have a seat—let’s do this.


JP

After serving as the Student Ministries Pastor for 10 years, Josh Petersen is now the Lead Pastor of Immanuel Church. He’s married to Heidi and together they live with Jake, Logan, Cole and Sawyer at the circus they call home.

RHYTHM WITH REASONS

Sunday was a huge day at Immanuel Church. Well, we tend to think of every Sunday as a huge day, but there was an extra buzz in the air last weekend. We launched a brand-new issue of WAIC Magazine, baptized 10 people, and held our first ever WAIC Feast, complete with food trucks and face-painting on our front lawn. Our campus was full of energy and excitement. It was a great day that hopefully made God look good.

But here’s what’s crazy: I went home feeling depressed. Honestly? Most weeks I leave incredible Sunday services feeling blue and incompetent to be leading a church like Immanuel.

I know, that seems stupid. I’m not entirely sure why that is, but have you ever been there? Have you ever had a great victory at work, or an awesome night with your family, or managed to navigate a really difficult conversation well, only to feel deflated later on? How do we avoid that feeling? The answer isn’t that we need a rousing pep talk. It’s not that we need more pats on the back. It’s not even that we need greater victories going forward. In fact, I’m not sure we can avoid the feeling at all. Because that feeling brings us to an important place – a quiet place.

If you were to open the Scriptures to 1 Kings 18 and 19, you’d hear about this unbelievable contest between God and the prophets of Baal. Seriously, read it – it’ll blow your mind. In it, Elijah sees God utterly mop the floor with Baal’s prophets. It’s a contest that’s no contest. But right after this great victory, Elijah runs for his life and asks God to end his life. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died” (1 Kings 19:4, NLT).

How could Elijah, the great prophet of God, after witnessing what he just had, be at this low of a place? I don’t know that there’s any rhyme or reason to the way our brains and emotions work. I’ve tried to figure out my own and that’s as daunting as detangling the Christmas lights. What’s clear though, is how God responds to Elijah’s feelings. Verses 5-9 tell us that Elijah slept and God sent angels to essentially be his nurses. Later in the chapter God wakes him up and speaks to him—not in a mighty wind storm, not in an earthquake, not even in a great fire—a whisper. God speaks to Elijah with a whisper. And the first thing God says is in the form of a question. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (19:13b). He allows Elijah to respond and only then gives him directions for what’s next.

Here’s how things seem to progress:

1) hard work

2) fatigue

3) rest

4) assessment

5) direction.

I love this passage because Elijah’s a great man of God who displays real humanity. Why do you and I think we’re better than that? Why do we think we don’t need breaks and rest and honest assessment of how we’re doing? No one ever said Christians were supposed to be super-humans. One of the greatest forms of worship is dependency. Dependency on God to lead us to victory and dependency on God to bring us the energy for the next one. We simply cannot sustain a God-sized pace, only He can. So don’t apologize for rest. Don’t be sorry you need a vacation. Just be purposed in it; be conscious in it. Allow God to whisper to you and care for you. Be honest with Him about how you’re feeling and wait for Him to pick you up and move you forward.

Sunday was awesome because God was moving in great ways. And for me, Monday was awesome because God was whispering in great ways to my spirit through rest. Fatigue is real, so don’t pretend it isn’t. Find a few minutes today to allow God to care for you. His ability to nurse Elijah back to health was as equally great as his ability to devour a water-soaked altar and all the rocks around it with fire.


JP

After serving as the Student Ministries Pastor for 10 years, Josh Petersen is now the Lead Pastor of Immanuel Church. He’s married to Heidi and together they live with Jake, Logan, Cole and Sawyer at the circus they call home.

LEDGER OF LAMENT

Everyone goes through a season where they wonder if anybody else is paying attention to them. Christians are certainly not exempt from this feeling, even with God and especially when times are tough. It can feel like God’s not paying attention when we’re experiencing sorrow, like He somehow forgot about us. We might even feel like He enjoys seeing us go through pain, because for many, pain seems like the norm. Why doesn’t he rescue us? He must be so busy holding all of creation together that we just fell through the cracks.

But recently I was listening to Psalm 56 and was reminded in verse 8 of an incredible thing that David says about God. Check this out:

You keep track of all my sorrows.

You have collected all my tears in your bottle.

You have recorded each one in your book. (NLT)

God has kept track of David’s hardship and does not take his sorrow for granted. Can you even begin to fathom that? The creator of everything; God, who made things like black holes and cells and humming birds, deeply cares for people—especially people in the midst of sorrow. Tears are not wasted or dismissed. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

This verse is surrounded by two things: 1) David complaining about his enemies, and 2) how David isn’t afraid because God’s on his side. Where does that sort of confidence come from? I think it’s from experience with the bookends of sorrow. God fills David up through victory and then allows him to experience sorrow, only to fill him back up again. That’s the rhythm of David’s Psalms: up, down, up, down, up.

It’s not unlike the way a rainy day helps us appreciate the sun. Without winter, would we enjoy summer the way we do? It’s a little give and take, like the ledger in your checkbook – I mean your online banking statement (sorry my old-school came shining through there).

Back to the verse. Why would God keep track? Why would He record our sorrow? Well…because He keeps a balanced book. And even if we find ourselves in the “red” most of life, His promise is to even things up on in the end:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever (Revelation 21:3-4, NLT).

So no matter what you’re facing today, know this: He is paying attention.


JP

After serving as the Student Ministries Pastor for 10 years, Josh Petersen is now the Lead Pastor of Immanuel Church. He’s married to Heidi and together they live with Jake, Logan, Cole and Sawyer at the circus they call home.

THE WAY YOU LOOK

Studies show that the average person says 15,000 words each day; we do a TON of talking. And because of that, we give a lot of attention to which words we use. Are they politically correct? Are they mean? Uplifting? Smart? This list could go on forever, but you get the point. Our concern for words could never be more prevalent than when we consider sharing our faith with someone not familiar with Jesus. How many times have you worried you wouldn’t know what to say to a difficult question? How many times have you worried they’d respond negatively to what you say? It can be debilitating, can’t it?

I was wrestling with this very question recently when I came across an interesting incident involving Peter in Acts. “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer — at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple later called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John” (Acts 3:1-4, NIV).

I love that Peter and John didn’t begin with words. Eventually they start talking and go on to heal this man, but the start of it all is a look. Luke, who wrote the book of Acts, says they “looked straight at him.” The New Living Translation says they “looked at him intently.” And yet another translation, the English Standard Version, says Peter “directed his gaze at him.” Eye contact. That was step one in this interaction. Looking at someone on purpose, with intent, making sure that person understands — before you say anything — that they are the center of your attention.

Here’s why I think that’s important: because being treated with such focus and attention is such a rare thing in our day and age. How we look at people as we walk down the street, or check out at the store, or sit next to them at a traffic light really matters. It says more than words ever can.

Can you imagine what it was like to have Peter look at you intently? I wonder what it would have been like to have Jesus look straight at you. What’s it like for other people when you look straight at them? Is it anything like what this man felt? His conversation with Peter ended in healing and an understanding of who Jesus of Nazareth was. Can people see that in your eyes? Can they see your eyes at all? Or are you too busy to look intently?

Peter didn’t have money to give this man — but he did have something of even more valuable. And you know what Peter’s first words were according to the ESV? “Look at us.” Maybe what your eyes say carries a little more weight than what your mouth says. This week, show people Jesus by the way you look.


JP

After serving as the Student Ministries Pastor for 10 years, Josh Petersen is now the Lead Pastor of Immanuel Church. He’s married to Heidi and together they live with Jake, Logan, Cole and Sawyer at the circus they call home.