Serving Millennials on the Journey Toward Significant Life
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The Ultimate Goal of Life

What would you say the ultimate goal of life is? What would our society say the ultimate goal of life is?

I think the obvious answer is happiness. A recent Barna survey revealed that 67% of church-going Christians believe “enjoying yourself is the highest goal of life.” Thankfully that percentage is lower than the 84% of Americans who agree with the statement, but it is concerning, considering the call of Christ on all of our lives is call to die to ourselves and a call to carry His cross. It seems Christians do more to reflect society than to subvert it by faithfully following Jesus.

But there’s a problem with this foundational approach to life: it isn’t working. We’ve made the enjoyment of life our goal and we’re not getting any happier. Recent information shows the per capita Gross Domestic Product (the amount of total money produced) for the United States increasing every year, yet Gallup polls show the level of happiness for Americans remains unchanged in recent decades and dropping in the most recent years. We have more money than ever, and we aren’t any happier.

On top of this, life expectancy in the United States has dropped for each of the last 3 years, the first time this has happened since the 1960s. Sociologists use life expectancy as an overall barometer for a society’s overall health. The general headline writes itself: with happiness as our highest goal, we are becoming unhappy.

Why is this? I would submit that we aren’t created for happiness to be our foundational goal in life. It should be an outcome, but it cannot be the goal.

In his exceptional book The Hacking of the American Mind, Robert Lustig says that we’ve misunderstood happiness to be about moment to moment pleasures, but happiness in our brains is actually contentment. Contentment isn’t something we can consume or take part it, it’s produced through a posture of living.

In Luke 12, Jesus shares the example of a rich man who seeks after a life where he can, “Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry” (Luke 12:19). What does Jesus say about this man? “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12:20). Jesus says it is foolish to run after a life of pleasure and enjoyment as the foundational goal of life.

Thankfully Jesus explains a better way: “But seek his kingdom, and these things (the things we need) will be given to you as well.”

A life of contentment in God and what he provides is the foundation for life that we were created for. You can trace this theme in the Bible all the way to Adam and Eve in the Garden. What was it they wanted? Adam and Eve sought out the pleasure of being like God, instead of being content with all He had given.

It’s so easy to seek after a life of comfort, ease, and pleasure. Yet it’s quite clear this is a life of ultimate emptiness. Seek Christ, follow His Way, find true, deep, and meaningful enjoyment.

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John Mark McMillan (Called Out Podcast Episode 017)

 

John Mark McMillan podcast

I’m thrilled to have John Mark McMillan on the podcast to talk about becoming an artist, worship as a genre, and worship music as a business. John Mark is one of my favorite musical artists and has been putting out music for over a decade. If you come over to my house you can hear my daughter belt out his song “King of My Heart” because it’s her favorite.

Worship as a genre of Christian music has exploded in the last 15 years. As I was cutting my teeth in worship leading as a high schooler it was always difficult to find new songs, but now today it’s totally overwhelming because of how much new music described as worship is being released.

On top of this how the music industry operates for end users like you and me has changed dramatically. John Mark is uniquely positioned to offer insights to both realities.

Listen to the full episode below:

You can also find this episode anywhere you listen to podcasts, including:

Apple Podcasts || Spotify || Google Podcasts || Overcast

Links from the episode:

—John Mark McMillan’s latest release is a Christmas album titled Smile in the Mystery.

—JMM 2018 releases of The Lightning Sessions and The Mercury Sessions were two of my favorite 2018 releases.

—Check out John Mark’s main Spotify and iTunes/Apple Music pages to see all his albums.

—Oh and if you’re into music the worship team at my church recently released their first album The Way of the Cross.

 

 

 

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When We Thought She Was Gone

It was a beautiful, late fall Tuesday morning. Sunny, crisp, colorful. My wife was getting her first pre-natal massage, so I texted her “call me when you get a chance.” I needed to talk to her about our health insurance.

A few minutes later I got the call no husband ever wants to receive from his pregnant wife: “There’s something wrong. I’m bleeding. A lot.” She could barely get the words out without breaking down. “I don’t know what’s wrong,” she said through tears. I didn’t know what to say.

Was this it? Our little girl slowly going away? I was in complete shock.

Your mind goes so many places in these moments. I thought of dear friends who had recently walked this road of a miscarriage. I thought of dear friends who have struggled with infertility on top of multiple miscarriages. The strength of these friends through such difficulty gave me strength, knowing if they could trust God in the worst of it, so could I.

I spent another 3 hours at work after the phone call before my wife was able to be seen at her medical clinic. They were 3 of the most unproductive hours of my life. In shock your mind either shuts down or runs wild, somehow mine was doing both.

The first ultrasound was inconclusive. The baby was moving, had a strong heartbeat. Major relief. But sometimes the bleeding is a sign of the baby being unable to receive what it needs from that point forward—a slow death, basically.

Thankfully the bleeding subsided. 2 days later my wife received a more in-depth ultrasound. A day after that she received the phone call with the results. We were optimistic and terrified at the same time. Turns out the baby was fine, my wife was fine, the bleeding wasn’t a huge concern of theirs.

What a whirlwind. From normal to panic to grief to optimism to normal, all within 72 hours. Of course, during delivery it’s normal to go through those emotions in a span of 7.2 minutes instead of 72 hours, so maybe this was just a warm-up.

Life has a way of creating moments for us to realize how small we are. After the phone call of desperation and panic from my wife I’ve never felt so helpless, so small. There was absolutely nothing I could do to help the baby. It was completely out of my hands.

I’ve been challenging myself to find peace and contentment outside of my circumstances and outcomes. It’s so difficult, because my typical attitude in a given moment is a response to what is happening.

When my wife calls in a panic, worrying she’s losing our baby, I respond with panic, worry, and desperation. And yes, I know that’s a normal response, but what about when your kid says he hates you? Or when a friend lets you down? Or when the bills are higher than your income?

If God is truly good then he must always be good, or he can’t be truly good. Even when we thought she was gone, He was still good.

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Best of 2018

Somehow Christmas is a week away, which means 2019 isn’t far away. Here’s a look at some of my favorite things from 2018.

Music—Albums

Leon-Main-pic

1. Leon Bridges “Good Thing” 

Try as I might to pick another album I loved more, I keep coming back to this one. So good.

2. Lord Huron “Vide Noir”

I largely avoided Lord Huron’s past releases because it had too much of a hipster vibe, but their latest release is just great music, no matter what vibe they put off.

3. Beach House “7”

Sometimes you just love the vibe a whole album gives, and this album is that for me.

4. The Paper Kites “On the Corner Where You Live”

Previously The Paper Kites were just an easy listening band, producing tender acoustic guitar tracks, but their latest ventures into new territory, and it’s great.

5. The Gray Havens “She Waits”

I’ve always enjoyed the more simplistic arrangements by The Gray Havens on earlier releases. This is definitely more a studio production, but it’s still wonderful.

Honorable Mention: Darlingside, Liz Vice, Brandi Carlisle, Sho Baraka, Le Voyageur, Johnnyswim with Drew Holcomb, Death Cab for Cutie, Father John Misty, Madison Cunningham, Gregory Alan Isakov, Maggie Rogers, New Harvest Worship ;)

Oh, and if you missed my review of Sandra McCracken’s 2018 lament album for Lent that I loved, you can read that HERE.

Here’s my playlist featuring all of my favorite songs of 2018, over 200 tracks strong.

Books

1. Why Liberalism Failed by Patrick Deneen

You can read my favorite quotes from the book right here. Timely, provocative, needed.

2. All That’s Good by Hannah Anderson

Also a timely book, this book on discernment is so helping in framing discernment as pursuing good things instead of only avoiding bad ones.

Listen to my podcast episode with Hannah Anderson here.

3. Subversive Sabbath by A.J. Swoboda

Also a podcast guest, check out that episode here. A.J. does an excellent job of highlighting the spiritual significance of sabbath rest but also how it pushes against the cultural tide of constant connectivity.

My other favorite 2018 reads that were before this year: Grit, A Failure of Nerve (read my favorite quotes here), Building a Storybrand, As Kingfishers Catch Fire, The Shallows.

Podcasts

1. This Cultural Moment

Essentially anything that Mark Sayers puts out I am going to listen to or read. He’s the best cultural commentator for Christians today. John Mark Comer does a great job of distilling Mark’s depth into understandable points for listeners.

2. Serial

I wasn’t crazy about Serial’s second season, but their fall 2018 series on the criminal justice system in Cleveland, Ohio was phenomenal.

3. Parent Cue Live

This always sharpens by parenting abilities (which are obviously lacking).

4. Word Matters

It’s difficult to find podcasts with substantial Biblical depth and palatable episodes, but Trevin and Brandon bridge that gap with Word Matters.

5. Am I Called?

So much wisdom on this.

If you haven’t listened to Called Out yet, your loss!

Movies

I’ve got children, no time for movies.

Music—Songs

1. “She Waits” by The Gray Havens

2. “Beyond” by Leon Bridges

3. “Give Me Your Fire Give Me Your Rain” by The Paper Kites

4. “Last Boat to Freedom” by Madison Cunningham

5. “Nothing Stands Between Us” by John Mark McMillan

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The 13 Best Quotes from Why Liberalism Failed

why liberalism failed coverI recently finished reading Why Liberalism Failed by Patrick Deneen. The book came highly recommended by several for understanding our current times. I found it provocative, timely, and necessary for people all on sides of the political and economic spectrum.

Despite what you might assume from the title, this is not a pro-conservatism or pro-Republican party book. It looks at liberalism as an ideology, which both political spectrums embrace to a point.

Deneen’s assessment, though critical, is quite accurate in regards to many aspects of life in liberal societies. His points regarding the environment and economy were especially strong, as the bill from living outside our means continues to get passed to each successive generation. Eventually, it all falls apart.

His short, but helpful encouragements of how we overcome this failure are focused on the importance of locality, place, and community bonds. I believe the local church is set up to uniquely meet this need.

And if you’re wondering, posting this on the same day as the mid-term elections of 2018 is 100% purposeful.

Here’s my list of the best 13 quotes from the book (in no particular order):

“How many of us can sit for an hour reading a book or simple thinking or meditating without an addict’s longing for just a hit of the cell phone, that craving that won’t allow us to think or concentrate or reflect until we’ve had our hit? The same technology that is supposed to connect us more extensively and intimately is making us more lonely, more apart” (15).

“The Greeks especially regarded self-government as a continuity from the individual to the polity, with the realization of either only possible if the virtues of temperance, wisdom, moderation, and justice were to be mutually sustained and fostered” (22).

“Among the greatest challenges facing humanity is the ability to survive progress” (29).

“Individualism and statism advance together, always mutually supportive, and always at the expense of lived and vital relations that stand in contrast to both the starkness of the autonomous individual and the abstraction of our membership in the state” (46).

“For liberal theory, while the individual ‘creates’ the state through the social contract, in a practical sense, the liberal state ‘creates’ the individual by providing the conditions for the expansion of liberty, increasingly defined as the capacity of humans to expand their mastery over circumstance” (49).

“Preserved in discrete human inheritances—arts, literature, music, architecture, history, law, religion—culture expands the human experience of time, making both the past and the future present to creatures who otherwise experience only the present moment” (77).

“Properly conceived, community is the appropriate setting for flourishing human life—flourishing that requires culture, discipline, constraint, and forms” (79).

“Liberation from the confinements and limitations of local market cultures brings not perfect liberty but the expansion of Leviathan. The destruction of culture achieves not liberation but powerlessness and bondage” (87).

“We need to understand that ever-expanding individual liberty is actually the creation of a sprawling and intricate set of technologies that, while liberating the individual from the limitations of both nature and obligation, leave us feeling increasingly powerless, voiceless, alone—and unfree” (108).

“We have endless choices of the kind of car to drive but few options over whether we will spend large parts of our lives in soul-deadening boredom within them” (186).

“Elections provide the appearance of self-governance but mainly function to satiate any residual civic impulse before we return to our lives as employees and consumers” (195).

“Perhaps there is another way, starting with efforts of people of goodwill to form distinctive countercultural communities in ways distinct from the deracinated and depersonalized form of life that liberalism seems above all to foster” (197).

“What we need today are practices fostered in local settings, focused on the creation of new and viable cultures, economics grounded in virtuosity within households, and the creation of a civic polis life. Not better theory, but better practices” (197).

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Called Out Episode 016: Hannah Anderson

How do you determine what’s good? In our day of fake news and biased media and endless marketing ploys, deciding what to buy into is getting more difficult all the time. On this episode of Called Out, hear from Hannah Anderson as she walks us through how we can know whether something is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable (Philippians 4:8).

We often think of discernment in the negative (knowing what to avoid), but Paul in Philippians 4 encourages us to focus on good things. Learning how to develop our lives around good things is vital to our growth as Christ-followers, and those around us.

Listen to the full episode below:

You can also find this episode anywhere you listen to podcasts, including:

Apple Podcasts || Spotify || Google Podcasts || Overcast

Links from the episode:

—Hannah Anderson’s newest book All That’s Good just released a few weeks ago.

—Also, check out Hannah’s previous books Made For More and Humble Roots.

—If you’re interested in reading Hannah’s Twitter threads, follow her here.

—The debut album from New Harvest Worship is available everywhere, including Spotify and iTunes/Apple Music.

New episodes for Called Out will be back in the new year. In the meantime, please rate/review us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. Thanks for supporting this show.

Called Out is a podcast focused on areas of misunderstanding and brokenness in both society and the church. With a variety of guests, each episode tries to paint a picture of how Christians can navigate these areas differently to help you be a source of healing and light despite the darkness you see around you.

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