These words were spoken from the stage at church this morning. I specifically chose the word stage, rather than podium or pulpit, because our pastor, Mike Penninga, is quite the entertainer. He is on fire for Jesus. And I mean ON FIRE. And it’s catching.
Each and every week, I spend quite a bit of time thinking about the power of the words he shares and his passion for Jesus. I have cried on more than one occassion listening to his sermon.
In life, we are all salespeople of one kind or another. We sell our ideas at work, we sell our opinion to our spouse, we even sell our expectations to our children. And Mike Penninga, well, he is selling the story of Jesus like nobody’s business. And I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way. Not at all.
In order to be good at sales, we must wholeheartedly believe in our product, in our mission, in what we are sharing with the world. Mike Penninga is a complete and utter Jesus lover. He is in the business of selling the story of Jesus to every person he encounters. And guess what? I am buying it, people.
Now, don’t get all weirded out. Stop.
Just hear me out.
I’m speaking specifically to those of you who don’t believe in God. Hold up! I am talking to those of you that are adamantly opposed to organized religion. Those of you who are too “smart” for Jesus’ story. You know who you are. Your intellect gets in the way of you surrendering to the possibility of God. I get it. That was me. That is me.
Just take a breath and open your mind. Open your heart while you are at it, too. I want to share my experience this morning at church and it’s worth a moment of your time.
I started going to church about 4 months ago. I’ve been going for 14 weeks now. I had a goal of attending 12 weeks in a row without a break. And I did it. I missed church last week because I was out of town and on a stage in front of 100 women, speaking the word of God in my own way. I hope that doesn’t sound too ego-centric or weird. But I do consider my speaking engagements to be inspired by something bigger than myself.
This morning, in the second of the “After Easter” series at KGF, Mike Penninga was talking about “Doubting Thomas”. His opinion was that this disciple should be called “Honest Thomas” instead. Honest because he was willing to speak into what everyone else was thinking, but not willing to say out loud. Thomas spoke up and spoke out. He was very clear with his words. And at one point, he declared he wasn’t going to believe in the resurrection unless he saw Jesus with his own eyes and touched his sacred wounds. That was Thomas.
The cool thing about this sermon was that Thomas was really caught up in his “unless story”. That was SUPER powerful for me because I have my own “unless story”. And that is I don’t understand how Jesus dying on the cross has any impact in my life or anyone else’s life. How does his death affect anything or anyone? I understand the story intellectually, but it doesn’t make sense to me.
Now, that may sound like blasphemy, but it’s my dilemma. It’s my unless. I can’t believe in this whole Jesus Christian show UNLESS I understand it and it makes sense to me. That’s my thing. Ha ha ha.
(That’s also my intellect showing up. And my desire for control. I don’t want to release the seeming control I have in my life by surrendering my existence fully and completely to a power greater than myself. I have done this on some level, but not fully and completely. Maybe it’s time to take this concept to an even deeper level in my life, but that’s a whole other story for a whole other time.)
Back to Jesus. Back to unless.
This whole Thomas story makes me think of the many different ways this idea of unless plays out in our lives. I can’t be happy unless I have a partner. I can’t forgive unless I get an apology. I can’t enjoy life unless… until… without… with… There seems to always be some kind of obstacle to our happiness, to our peace, to our faith, to everything we so deeply desire.
Back to the title of this post:
“Don’t grow inward. Live beyond yourself”
These two simple sentences are an amazing response to the dilemma of unless. Unless is really a very simple and common way for us to “grow inward”. Unless prevents us from reaching out, from exploring relationships, from feeling good, from pursuing our dreams, from connecting with God, from all sorts of ways in which we could “live beyond yourself”. Unless keeps us stuck and alone. It keeps us exactly where we have always been. And that’s not working for most of us. Not at all.
And really and truly, this whole idea of growing inward vs living beyond ourselves is something I teach all the time as part of the way I healed my depression. YOU CANNOT HEAL ON YOUR OWN, PEOPLE. You cannot experience relief, release and renewal all by yourself. You cannot experience happiness either. True happiness is a result of being connected to ourselves, to others and to a power greater than ourselves. In fact, that connection, the one with the power greater than ourselves is THE KEY.
It really and truly is. I kid you not.
And hey! I am telling it like it is, cause y’all know that’s my superpower.
So, I ask you this…
How can you more fully experience the glory of your own life and this thing we call living by living beyond yourself?
Connection is the key, people.
With a power greater than you.
It is time.
And let me know how it goes.