Tag Archives: church

Hope

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It is good to wait silently for the salvation of the Lord. Lam.3:26.

Tonight we welcome advent as a family.  Advent is defined by purposeful waiting for a sure Salvation, certain but not yet grasped.  Advent is hope promised but still deferred. In Advent tradition, the Christ-child, the Savior, is nearly come, but He is not here yet.

Jack lights the Candle of Hope, his posture strong yet shy as he navigates the flame.  He catches Daddy’s eye in awe as the blaze licks the wick, catches, flares, then settles – Hope newly aflame.  

This week God ignites a fresh flame of hope.  My past four years were a crucible, characterized by crushing failure, aching loss, relentless opposition, piercing judgment, intervening rescue and infinite grace upon grace.  My life became a long season of Advent, of hope-certain-but-not-yet.  My fragile humanity crumbles to fragments, but I am safe, upheld by divine mercy.  I lived in dust, waiting, hoping, for my God to someday lift me out.

It is good for a man to bear the yoke 
   while he is young.

 Let him sit alone in silence, 
   for the Lord has laid it on him. 
Let him bury his face in the dust— 
   there may yet be hope. 

Lam.3:27-29.

Today is a step into Hope.  It is my first day officially back on the women’s ministry leadership team at church, the same church that released me four years ago.  The enemy of our souls snarls and snaps, but Living Grace is my everlasting Hope and I am undone by His neverending cascades of loving favor.  My role on leadership is quiet writing for a season as the Lord builds a new vision in the women of our church.  God is birthing a dream within in our team for a deeper teaching ministry to women, so I will create a Bible study curriculum scheduled at this point to launch in Fall 2012 at Vanguard Church.

My heart brims over as I watch the Candle of Hope flicker on the faces of my favorite Three.  I rest in the glow of Advent, the long arriving redemption.  I remember the long trail of brokenness behind us.  I remember the bloody, battered talons we inserted into the Hope of God-promises through that long season of bitter gall.  I remember the joy of steadily dawning freedom shining over our recovery path.  Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul, worship His Holy Name.  Sing like never before, O my soul, and worship His holy name.  Matt Redman. 10,000 Reasons.

I exult that the Lord keeps His promises, that our Hope is eternally sure.  I revel in the grace of family in the glow of candlelight. I rejoice that God gives me a new voice to proclaim His brilliant glory to His beloved.

What do you hope for from the Lord right now? we ask each other in the Light of hope.

Lucy says, Blue and Pink.

Daddy & Mommy say, we hope that the Lord will alleviate personal and professional pressure & attack at work.

Jack, the little theologian, says this, I hope for faith, hope and love.

YES. And Amen.

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Pilgrimage

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Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.  Ps.84:5.

We chose almost five years ago to stay at our church where I did this.  The aftermath was a beautiful and a terrible shattering.  I lived frightened as I watched a life scatter away when the sinews of my strongholds were laid bare.

I tried to hold them all, but my hands are weak against the gusting of hot winds.     There is a kernal of dying in me – an ambivalence that calls to fragile escapes.  

God engulfed me in mercy during my season of sifting.  He stooped down to rescue me when I shook with fear that I might be broken beyond fixing.  He saved me, healed me, spoke tenderly to me.  He invited me to be brave, to live in the Light.  Foremost of all, He covered me with an everlasting atonement long long ago, on a Golgotha cross, long before a scarlet L exposed two opposing futures:  grace vs. performance.  

Grace or performance?  Nothing divides the two like facing what grace really means.  When Jesus bore the ugliness of my sin, His heavenly father turned away in sickened disgust.  As Jesus hung on the Cross, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Mark 15:33-34.  That should be my darkness. Those should be my words, my shuddering loss as God forsakes me in my sin.  Have you ever lived the ripping agony of really looking at your lost soul? God, literally, could not for the life of Him leave us in that aching void without reaching for us.  He paid the wages of our sin so that we would never feel what He felt in those three hours of darkness.  

In Old Testament times, the temple was the dwelling place of God.  I have chosen and

The temple in Jerusalem

consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. 2 Chron.7:16.  In those days, God’s beloved had to journey to the temple to be in the His Presence.  Pilgrims would walk a treacherous journey to seek shelter under the holy covering of the temple.  They offered costly sacrifices and desperate prayers from needy hearts.  They knelt at the altar in the outer courts, soaking in the intimate Presence of God for those precious moments.  Their sacrifices, of course, did not wholly redeem their sin.  They were merely symbols of a Sacrifice yet-to-come, foreshadows of the Cross. Those pilgrims did not come to the temple to buy salvation, but to throw themselves on God’s mercy.  They were on a pilgrimage of grace.

Blessed are those who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. Ps.84:5.

Today the temple is no longer a building, but a spiritual presence.  For we are the temple of the living God. 2 Cor.6:16.  

I am on that same pilgrimage.  I do not journey to a temple made with human hands, but to a sanctuary within my own heart.  I have firmly decided to live out my days under the shelter of grace.  Will you be a fellow pilgrim?  As we come out of our seasons of sifting into vistas of peace, there will still be those who appeal to us to prove ourselves, to demonstrate that we deserve a second chance.  We could respond with increased effort, but it would be chasing after wind.  Simply put, we do not deserve a second chance.  I deserved the depths of hell long before my sin was exposed, and I deserve it still. Striving means nothing in the beating heart of Grace.

All my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it, but most people think of these stories as hard, hopeless and brutal.  Frederick Buechner. 

The beauty of grace is that it transforms.  If we walk a pilgrimage of grace, it will change us.  We will become more holy, more loving, more courageous, more deeply steeped in the intimate Presence of God.  We will develop a face set like flint on our mission and eyes that see only the One who Sees Us.  My steps forward in grace have been the safest and holiest I have ever taken.  It is the adventure of a lifetime.

Will you walk a pilgrimage of grace with me?  

Remnant

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At the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. Romans 11:4.

This week I have heard sermon podcasts and radio broadcasts by leaders of this generation of God’s people.  A growing number of these sermons are themed around how to do church. Its a popular topic today, which is holy and right.  The household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth (2 Tim.3:15), is a subject of mighty value. These sermons, however, have all been the same song, different verse.  All about how the Other Guys are doing it wrong.

The traditional church is too judgmental, too mean-spirited, too narrow-minded, too stuck up & separate from the dominant culture.  This church has too much doctrine, too much emphasis on theology, too much teaching, too little heart.

The emergent church (called “postmodern” in a disgusted voice) is too fluffy, too trivial, too flippant with sacred things, too steeped in & engulfed by dominant culture, too anxious to please those from whom God has called us to be set apart.  This church has too much singing, too much drama, too many pop-culture trends, too little thought.

Not only are there sermons, but actual books.  I have seen (and even read a chapter or two before the bile rises) a few tomes that go on for sixty thousand words proving that one of these churches is totally rad, while the other is on a slippery slope to apostasy.  Each Other Guy is taking the church to a never-before-seen level of disintegration and chaos (as if God’s people have ever been more than a remnant within a vanishing world).

I am moved by the utter sincerity and strong virtue of these leaders.  They are truly afraid of the impact that the Other Guys will have on the church.

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  All have turned aside, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.  Romans 3:10-12.

Everybody hates God.  That is not the Other Guy’s fault. No one seeks for God; God shows Himself.  The church is in the hands of the Living God, not the Other Guy.

Yet I reserved 7,000 for myself in Israel – all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose lips have not kissed him.  1 Kings 19:18.

God is the God of the remnant.  He has always been.  The church is a ragtag gang of world-rebels who have abdicated the authority of darkness to step into marvelous light.  We are each an immortal soul on a road to glory, a sacred vessel of divine grace.  We are all transformed by love, raised to new life, a consecrated vignette in an eternal story that outshouts and outshines us all.

There are no Other Guys amongst God’s redeemed.

Remember that at one time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenant of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For He himself is our peace, who has made the two one and  has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. Eph.2:12-14.

We are among those who have refused to bow our knees to Baal.  Our mission is not to convert each other, but to shine into the darkness.  There is so much darkness. What if we let the Other Guys run their church according to God’s Word and their consciences and spent our gifts and energies expanding and equipping the church beyond preferences, into transcendent orthodoxy?

And, what if you are right about blind spots in your own church?  God has always raised up prophets among a group to tilt it back to center.  If you see an imbalance in your own church (where you are committed and respected), by all means be a solution.  But be a flame of holy redemption, not a smolder of division.  And don’t preach a protected sermon from a high pulpit into a part of God’s country where you have no authority.  Yuck.

We are in a battle for something that matters, the souls of the lost.  Let us remember who we are, God’s remnant, chosen by grace, and let us be strong and kind.

Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hell will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Matthew 16:17-18.

What do y’all think?