Lifeblood is about Tapping Into Jesus as the True Source of Renewal

Tapping Into Jesus as the True Source of Renewal

Out June 26

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I have a confession to make.

I really hate flying. It's not that I have any fears about crashing into the side of a mountain in a ball of flames. I don't even mind the stress of flight delays or screaming babies. As hard as this is to admit, the reason air travel is so annoying to me is because I tend to be a controller. I hate waiting. But I don't have a choice. If my flight leaves at seven, it's not like I can walk up to the attendant and insist the pilot leave early so I can get to my destination faster.

I imagine such a conversation would go something like this:

Me: "My laptop died, and I'm a little bored. Can we leave an hour early?"

Attendant at the desk: blank stare into empty space.

Me: "No, really. Most of us are here already. Shouldn't we get a head start?"

Attendant: considers picking up the phone and calling security.

Me: "Okay, I'll just go find a smoothie instead."

On one business trip I was particularly agitated as I sat on the plane waiting to take off for Boston. Maybe I was unhappy with the interior decor of the jet or the novel a preteen next to me was reading. Maybe I was just hungry. When the pilot announced a slight departure delay, I felt personally offended. Was the airline not aware that I was on board? Had they even checked the manifest?

When our plane finally pulled back from the gate, I decided (uncharacteristically) to pay attention to the announcements. Maybe I thought they'd be soothing. A few of the instructions seemed a bit simplistic: My seat can act as a flotation device? So can my sofa at home. We have to keep our seatbelts fastened? Tell that to the executive next to me who thinks it's very optional.

Then the attendant said something profound.

She mentioned how, in the event of a water landing, we should always fit the oxygen mask over our own mouths before assisting anyone else. This woman had nothing on Soren Kierkegaard. She could have taught a class on advanced philosophy at any university on the planet.

Her comment got me thinking.

How often do we try to live like that as Christians—as if we are not primarily responsible for our own spiritual condition? We tend to assume our growth is a result of external circumstances, even to the point that we criticize the worship time or the sermon in church when we feel a little cheated: "How dare the pastor deliver a half-hearted message when that thirty-minute period is when I'm open to what God has to say and not checking Facebook? Does anyone around here realize I had to get up earlier than usual this morning?"

Yet Jesus gave us this simple command in Luke 10:27 for a reason: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. Love your neighbor as yourself." Who knew, right? Our personal growth starts with loving God. That's a recipe for spiritual success.

It's backed up nicely by this passage in Hebrews 12:11–13:

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed (NASB).

A close reading of this passage reveals that it's talking about our own spiritual condition. We have to get healthy first before we can help anyone else. (In case you're wondering, that's also the passage you can use to justify a spiritual retreat to Colorado with your wife and let your kids wonder why they're not invited.) It's okay for us to focus on ourselves. It's called finding strength so we can walk. It's called making our paths straight. We need to make the path straight for our feet. We need to fit the oxygen mask over our own mouths.

Has anyone ever questioned why you're taking an extended break? People seem to forget that even Jesus retreated to the woods to find solitude. If they'd had Caribou Coffee back then, he would have ordered the coffee cake and the big mug (the one you can refill for free).

Think about how the "oxygen mask on you first" works in marriage or friendship or in raising kids. As Louie Giglio has explained in his messages, our primary concern when considering a future spouse is to prepare ourselves to be the person someone else wants to marry, not think we are so amazing that we get our pick. Jesus said we are supposed to love God first. We're supposed to figure out how to become better conduits of his grace, first and foremost.

The truth is, God cares about our own spiritual growth, and the person we marry or that new friend should help us grow the most, not be the person who meets all our needs.

For some reason, young adults don't always understand this. When they were younger, my kids (mostly my three girls but also my son) used to talk about how they thought there was one special person out there for them. They viewed a spouse as someone God had specifically selected out of a billion available options. Instead, it's better to be that person. The greatest fulfillment I've found in marriage is in having my wife sit me down and tell me the truth about myself and set me straight, even though it isn't easy or fun. My best friends in life have been those who were not afraid to chew me out. In a church context I've found the most connection with people who show love in ways that are not always perfectly smooth.

Here's a good example of how this works. My wife always knows when I'm cranky. Usually the solution is to give me food. That seems to work. When I work too hard and get distracted, she knows I have a serious lack of protein flowing through my body. I must have a certain look that says "needs pizza" that she can spot from a mile away. Yet if I really want to be the husband she wants me to be, it might be a good idea for me to eat more regularly. I need to fit the oxygen mask over my own face before I try to help her.

You might question this logic. Having a "me first" mentality is selfish, right? Don't we grow more by serving others? As the Bible says in Matthew 10:39, don't we have to lose our lives first? Isn't it all about sacrifice? Yet it's easy to forget the last part of that verse: "Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it." The secret is in finding our lives. That's the first step in learning to depend on lifeblood.

The idea of sacrificing our own physical needs might make sense at first, but we tend to shift that thinking too quickly and assume that the strong Christians are the ones who forgo their personal growth and get busy doing the Lord's work. They serve, but then they falter.

Giving up physical needs and then immediately trying to serve doesn't work. Our growth stalls because we forget that the basic building blocks of spiritual maturity happen in the quiet moments of our daily relationship with God. If we forget about Jesus, we forget the basic truth of Christianity: that we are to love him first with all our hearts, souls, strength, and minds, and then we are to love others. It's in that order for a specific reason: to equip us properly.

The solution is to tap into the lifeblood. That's where we'll truly find the strength we need. As we will see over the course of this book, this lifeblood is critically important.

It's why Paul said this in Colossians 1:29: "For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me" (ESV). Even Paul—who wrote much of the New Testament—was keenly aware that spiritual maturity was all about how much we allow the power of Christ to change us and then rely on that power to help us in ministry and in life.


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