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Chris Russo's Blog

Discovering Jesus as King

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You know, in our western culture, the idea of a king is somewhat foreign. When we hear words like “obedience” and “submission,” it’s part of our American spirit to cringe a little bit. We know what it’s like to see power abused and we don’t like the idea of being ruled. Government should exist to serve the people, but they better not tell us how to live our lives.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being an American and am very thankful for our country. I’m also grateful for the men and women who so sacrificially serve to defend it. That being said, I think this national spirit can get in the way of our relationship with God.

You see, the Bible not only refers to God as a Father, but also as a King. In fact, he is described as the King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:16) When we begin to see Jesus as not just Savior, but also King, it changes things. Kings don’t merely give suggestions, they tell you what to do. When you enter into the presence of a king, you are quickly aware of the fact that it’s not about you. There is a reverent fear that enters your heart as you realize this is someone you don’t want to mess with.

In Ezekiel chapter 1, Ezekiel gets a vision of God and I want you to read his description of what he saw…

Ezekiel 1:25-28

25 Then there came a voice from above the vault over their heads as they stood with lowered wings. 26 Above the vault over their heads was what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. 27 I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. 28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him.

This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

The Bible is clear about the fact that there is a throne in the universe and that someone sits on it. This being created the stars, the planets, the earth along with you and me. This is the God of the Bible and he is the undisputed, undefeated King of heaven and earth. This King is not to be trifled with. I’m thankful that believers are able to call this King, “Father.” I’m thankful he is loving and gracious and kind, but I don’t want to forget the fact that he is also my King.

Not only am I his loved son, but I’m also his servant. At the end of the day, it’s his will and desires that need to take preeminence in my life.

My job is to submit to him. (James 4:7)

Many people don’t love the word, “submit.” It has some nasty connotations because of the abuse of power we have seen and experienced. That being said, God calls us to submit to him. I would venture to say we don’t like the idea of that primarily because we don’t trust him completely.

As we learn to trust him, submission goes from being a “got to” to a “get to.” The King of the universe created you and has a plan for your life. He’s not asking you to figure it out or have all the resources to pull it off. He does however, call for your submission. I would encourage you to think about that word….submission.

How does the thought of submitting to God sound to you? How does it make you feel? Why? These are questions that are worth asking. As a country without a king, it’s easy for us to dismiss the truth that Jesus is not only Savior, but also King. We cannot dismiss the latter in favor of the former.

 

Messed up in all the right ways

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There is no question about it, having a baby changes you. Samuel is our third child, so going into this I felt like a pro but once again, my world has been messed up in all the right ways. For those of you I may not know well, I’m a creature of habit and perhaps more so than most. I get the same thing at the restaurants I go to because I don’t like to mess with a good thing. I have my morning quiet time in the same way every day. I basically work out the same every day. I fall into a rhythm and then pretty much go into autopilot. While others may accuse me of being boring or unoriginal, I just think I know what I like (-;

Then came little Samuel. He’s only 2 days old and already I feel like God is using him to change me for the better. A baby is anything but predictable. Sure, they pee, they poop, they cry, sleep and then repeat, but there is a lot more to it than that. Instantaneously you love someone so much and yet, there is so much you can’t do for them. Sammy has had some issues in his first couple days and as his dad, all I want to do is just fix it for him. I hate this slow progress thing. The name of the game in the hospital is to affect the variables you can affect and then basically let God do his thing. For a control freak like myself, this process is ridiculously painful. I’m one of the least patient people on the planet. I want everything and I want it 5 minutes ago! I’m trying to work on it, but my wife would probably tell you I haven’t made much progress in this arena. I’m all about finding the shortest possible distance between two points and hightailing it down that path.

A baby really has a way of propelling you to trust God. There is someone you care deeply about who is totally helpless and you cannot control them. It makes you stop and think about the frailty of life and how much of an illusion control is. When you really think about it, aren’t we all in the same position as a little baby? Sure, we can do all kinds of things for ourselves. We have our thinking, our reasoning, our resources, family and friends. Obviously there are a lot of differences between us and Samuel, but let’s take a deeper look. There is so much of life beyond the realm of our control. Every time we get into a vehicle, we can’t control what other drivers do. One swerve or bad decision from a passing motorist has the potential to totally alter the trajectory of our lives. I’m no scientist, but this idea is also prevalent when considering our biological makeup. There are many biological processes at work in our bodies that we can easily take for granted. Were any number of those processes to stop or go haywire, our idea of control would quickly fly right out the window. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point.

Having a baby messes you up in all the right ways. If you allow it to, it fundamentally alters your heart posture in relation to God. You realize that you need to trust God with your baby because as much as you want to, you simply cannot do everything for him. This dynamic also has the ability to make you reflect upon your own helplessness before God and cry out to him as a child would. Perhaps this gets us one step closer to the dependence that God designed for us to live in when it comes to our relationship with him.

So Samuel, in 2 days you’ve already taught me more than I’ve taught you. Thank you, buddy. I hope that as your life progresses, I can be a dad who parents and leads on his knees recognizing that we were all created to live in total dependence and reliance on God.

Having a baby on Thursday!

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A listening ear

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Making eternal investments

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The mark of an insecure leader

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Reflections on parenting

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So in less than 3 weeks, the Russo family will welcome Samuel Aaron Russo into the world and God willing, that will complete the Russo family. That will put us with 3 kids, 2 cats and a dog that won’t listen…believe me, our house is full! (-:

Our oldest, Isaac, will be 6 in April and Jonathan, our youngest, will be 4 this month. It may be cliche to say, but time definitely flies. I by no means consider myself to be any kind of authority on parenting, but I have definitely learned a ton in the past few years and I thought it might be helpful to share a few of those lessons.

  1. Being a parent is supposed to humble you

It’s relatively easy to look at other parents and be an armchair critique. We can philosophically debate parenting styles and methods of discipline, but the game completely changes when you become a parent. You instantaneously realize that a magical handbook doesn’t automatically appear from the sky to endow you with the parenting wisdom of the ages. In the best case scenario, it’s you, your spouse, a loving community and a growing faith in God.

Parenting humbles you because of the love you have for your little ones. You want to give them the absolute best that life has to offer and you’re simultaneously aware of the millions of areas where you fall short. This tension is intended, I believe, to draw us to our knees in prayer. As we allow ourselves to be parented by our Heavenly Father, he daily equips us with the necessary tools to parent the children he entrusted us with. There is no room for pretense or facade in parenting. Parenting is more caught than taught, so it benefits no one to pretend we have it together. The best parents I know have a radical dependence on God.

2. Unconditional love and strong discipline are mutually inclusive

On the one hand, when I see my little guys I want to give them everything. You want a car? Sure. You want all the money in my wallet? No prob, bud. I read a quote once that said that “parenting is choosing to have your heart walk around outside of you.” I couldn’t agree more. When I see Izy and JoJo, it’s like looking at my heart running around outside my body. They’re extensions of Abbi and I.

At the same time however, those boys can get into trouble! A mentor of mine once told me that he wanted his kids to know two things, “That he loved them and that it was unthinkable for them to disobey him.” hahaha A little scary, right? I thought it was awesome! I’m in the same camp as that. I want my kids to know that I love them and I want them to know that when mommy and daddy say something, we mean business. This isn’t because of some power trip, obviously. I want this because there are going to be plenty of junctures where their best interest is going to be to lean on the wisdom that Abbi and I have accumulated by  God’s grace and by trial and error. I need them to see us as their authorities. We’ll obviously taper back on some of the authority stuff as they get older, but while they’re as young as they are, mommy and daddy are the king and queen of their world.

3. A strong marriage is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children

It would take too long to try to fully explain this, but you can take this one to the bank. I realize there are plenty of single parents in difficult situations and this point is not at all intended to judge them. Some of them are amazing people that are doing the absolute  best they can in tough situations. If you’re there, please know that my heart goes out to you and I admire what you do. For those who are married, this one is for you. Work on your marriage with dogged intensity.

It is a myth to think that mom and dad can just love the kids, put the marriage on the back-burner and everything be ok. It’s not the reality. Your kids will benefit tremendously through you having a strong marriage and they will suffer greatly if you choose to not make that investment. A strong marriage is not one where you never fight. I’m not talking about a plastic relationship. What I am talking about is a marriage where two imperfect people fight to pursue God together alongside hard-fought  for intimacy with each other. Every inch that you gain in that direction is worth every ounce of energy it took to get there.

4. Have grace for yourself

I know I’ve been guilty of this at times, but I can’t stand it when people are judgmental of other parents. You don’t know their story. You don’t know their struggles and if you’re not willing to come alongside and help them, it’s best if we all just mind our own business. No two kids are the same and it is an incredibly tough journey at times. We all make mistakes and as a wise counselor said, “It’s best to just assume that people are doing the best they can with what they have.” We’ve all made mistakes, we’ve all lost our temper and we all need grace. There is no sense in any of us acting like we have this thing figured out. The cause of Christ and that of humanity would be best served if we all resolved to admit when we’re wrong, receive the grace that God offers and help others who are on the journey with us.

I love being a dad! I really do. I can’t even express in words how much I enjoy the privilege. Not because every day is great and my kids always listen to every word I say…I just really enjoy the journey and am thankful for the man I’m becoming through the grace that God offers me as I try to raise my kids in a godly home. I don’t have it figured out and I do covet your prayers. Let’s all humble ourselves, receive the grace God offers us and choose to be allies and not enemies of the parents who are struggling right alongside us. 

How to read the Bible

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With all my heart

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15 years ago today

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15 years ago today, I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. I was 18 years old and I was searching for meaning in life. I had just moved away from Connecticut and had one semester under my belt at the College of Charleston. All through high school I had been searching for answers, but had come up empty. I was convinced there was something or someone out there, but I didn’t know who or what it was. I had gotten to the point of discouragement and had basically prayed,“If there is anybody up there that can hear me, please show up.”

On the night of December 12, 2000, I had a dream that would forever change the trajectory of my life. I was a dark soul, descending into a dark chasm and before me were huge faces ascending into a magnificent expanse of light. I saw my soul as it truly was at the time: dark, deformed and lost. 

I woke up from the dream and knew I didn’t want to go to that dark place. Something needed to change. My roommate at the time was a guy by the name of Ashwin Patel. Ashwin is a Christian, and I had seen something in him that I wanted. There was a certain presence, a sense of peace he had that I simply didn’t possess. I went into his room at about midnight and told him about my revelation.

He asked me if I wanted to pray the “sinner’s prayer” and I was pretty open to whatever at that point. I prayed and asked Jesus to come into my heart to be my Lord and Savior. I prayed that he would make me the man he wanted me to be and that he would take control of my life. Immediately a presence entered into me that has been with me ever since.

I truly believe, from the bottom of my heart, that Jesus saved me that day. That he entered the heart of a desperate soul and rescued me from the darkness I was trapped in. Life has by no means been easy since that point. I have had plenty of trials and difficulties, but Someone has been there seeing me through every single one of them. The decision I made that day has affected absolutely everything about my life. Jesus is my Savior and Lord and my life is about submitting to him. 

He knocked on the door of my heart and I opened it. Revelation 3:20 says,  Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” He is extending that same invitation to you as well. Whether you say yes or no is the most important decision you’ll ever make. He loves you and has a purpose for you…my encouragement is to not wait another minute to respond.

Here is a spoken word poem I performed at Seacoast Church that illustrates Jesus’s invitation to follow him…hope you enjoy!

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