Wednesday, February 27, 2013
This might come as a surprise to you, but there's a lot about house church that annoys me.
For one thing, most of the people in our house church are so unlike me. They disagree with me about eschatology, theology, and politics. They don't like the same music that I like. They don't all agree with me on things like the proper way to baptize, or the end times, or about spiritual gifts, or healing, or speaking in tongues.
Not only do these people not agree with me about all of these things, they don't agree with each other about these things either. We all come from different denominational backgrounds and streams. None of us is on exactly the same page when it comes to these issues.
As a result, there are some Sunday mornings when I must confess I am pretty far outside my comfort zone. A little comment here, a little reference to a book or teacher there, a little wrong assumption about my view of a particular scripture, and I get very uncomfortable.
Of course, I realize that I could pretty easily solve this problem by either demanding that everyone line up with my particular viewpoint, or I could leave and try to find another church family that brought me closer to my personal comfort zone.
However, those solutions are even more objectionable to me than spending hours at a time in fellowship with a group of people who are different and rub me the wrong way occasionally.
In essence, I believe that Jesus is annoying me on purpose, and if Jesus intends to annoy me it must be because I need to have my rough edges rubbed off. What better resource for humbling me, and teaching me to listen to others, and showing me how to love people who are different from me than a church family full of people who are not like me?
Honestly, my definition of hell would be to sit for hours at a time in a room full of Christians who never challenged me, never questioned me, never taught me anything I didn't already know, and never pulled me out of my comfort zone.
I love my church family. They are gloriously annoying and I know that I am just as annoying to them.
If you don't believe me, just ask them.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
On November 8, 1987, Gordon took his daughter, Marie, out to watch a parade. She wasn't a little girl anymore, but she was quite happy to have the day off from her nursing job and to spend some time with her Dad.
Then, a little after 10 a.m., the bomb exploded, blasting them to the ground. Gordon never let go of his daughter's hand, even when the building fell in on them and buried them in darkness.
Unable to move, they lay beneath the crushing weight of the rubble and spoke to one another, choking back dust and tears.
"She gripped my hand tightly," he remembered. "Gripped me as hard as she could. Then she said, 'Daddy, I love you very much.'"
When her grip relaxed a few seconds later, he knew she was gone. Five minutes later they pulled him and his daughter Marie out from under the debris. Marie never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Speaking to the BBC reporters just a few hours later, Gordon said, "I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge. Dirty sort of talk is not going to bring her back to life. She's in heaven and we shall meet again."
Then he added, "I will pray for these men tonight and every night."
According to historian Jonathan Bardon, "No words in more than twenty-five years of violence in Northern Ireland had such a powerful, emotional impact."
The Remembrance Day bombing, as it came to be known, killed 11 people and injured 64 when a single 40 pound bomb was detonated by the Provisional IRA during a Remembrance Sunday ceremony held to honor those who had served in the British Special Forces.
The BBC would later describe the bombing as a turning point in the ongoing struggle between the IRA and the British. Not because the bombing itself accomplished anything strategically for either side, but simply because the response of forgiveness by one 60 year old man “shook the IRA to its core".Not only did Gordon Wilson publicly forgive those who had planted the bomb that killed his dear daughter, Marie, he said he would pray for them and that is exactly what he did for the rest of his life. He also begged that no-one took revenge for Marie's death and pleaded with others not to do so.
How could this man forgive those who took away his daughter so quickly? Because Gordon Wilson loved Jesus with all his heart. He had spent many years serving his community faithfully, simply, and quietly, as a follower of Christ.
After the bombing, Wilson went on to devote his life to the peace effort and even met face to face with the members of the very same terrorist organization that planted the bomb that day.
He believed in forgiveness and he trusted in the Prince of Peace. This made all the difference in the world.
Friday, February 15, 2013
Earlier this week, a fourteen year old boy at my oldest son’s school collapsed. He was having a seizure. They called the ambulance. He arrived at the hospital unconscious. A few hours later the doctors discovered that he had a massive stroke. They took him off life support a few days later.
These sorts of things, while heartbreaking, are not uncommon. Worse, you and I are not exempt from them.Last week a friend of mine had to say goodbye to his father in the hospital. Even though his dad had lived a long, full life, the pain of his loss was no less than what those parents felt as they let go of their fourteen year old son.
“In this life you will have trouble,” Jesus assured us. “But take heart, I have overcome the world.”Still, life is full of pain. Every single one of us will have to let go of someone we love one day. It will hurt. We will not feel that it’s right, or fair, and in the midst of our suffering God will be standing there beside us, weeping alongside of us.
Yet, when we are in the middle of our suffering, we are in no mood to hear about how God works all things for the good of those who love Him, or about how we should count it all joy as we endure trials of many kinds because we know that the testing of our faith produces perseverance, or about how we should endure suffering as the Lord’s discipline because it reveals to us that He loves us and wants to make us like Jesus.All we want is our son back, or our father back, or our life back.
These are the hard lessons of life. This is a painful place. Yes, it is also a place of wonder, and of joy, and of laughter, and goodness, but with all of that comes the darkness and the tears and the pain. We cannot escape it.So, we have to make a choice. We will either go through this life with Jesus, or without Him. We will share our laughter and our joy with Him, and we will lean on Him in the times of sorrow, or we will leave Him out of our lives and live, and suffer, and die alone.
I wish there was another choice. But there is no other choice. The world we live in isn’t the world God intended it to be. He had something so much greater in mind. But that plan was sidetracked – by us, not by Him – and He has been consumed with restoring His creation to its original condition ever since.It hasn’t been easy either, mind you. The process of separating part of Himself into the form of a human, being formed cell by cell in the womb of a young woman, entering the world as the child of a poor family, being laid into a manger, growing up one year at a time, going to school, burying his earthly father, taking on the family responsibilities, transitioning into the life of a travelling Rabbi, being mocked and misunderstood by his own family, opposed by the leaders of the church in His own name, betrayed by his closest friends, beaten, whipped, tortured, nailed to a Roman cross, hanging in the sky for six hours as the hot sun that he created beat down upon his naked frame, and then the last gasp of ragged breath before tasting the cold darkness of death.
Why? For you, my friend. All for you. All for me. All to bring us closer. Because He would rather die than live without you. Because loves you. He’s sincerely over the moon, head-over-heels, crazy about you. He would do anything – in fact He has already done everything – to fix what we have broken and to set in motion the eventual re-creation of the Universe into what He intended it to be all along.So, now when someone tells you that enduring a moment of suffering here is to be considered a joy because it brings you nearer to that supremely selfless being of absolute love, hopefully you can understand how it’s even possible. Or, at least trust Him to show you how it’s possible in a quiet moment of reflection when you’re on your knees, in the dark, eyes filled with tears.
“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words..” (Romans 8:26)
“He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3)
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
The greatest distance in the Bible isn’t measured by how far the East is from the West, but by how far Jesus humbled himself to step down off that throne in Heaven. Being worshiped night and day by the seraphim and the angels, Jesus lets go of his power and makes himself nothing.
By stooping to be formed as an embryo in the womb of an unknown Jewish teenager in Palestine, Jesus demonstrated just how far he was willing to go to make a way for us to be with him.
What most Christians fail to realize is that when Jesus was on this Earth, he was fully human. His identity was God, the Son, but he was a man.
He told us that he only did what he saw the Father doing. He said he couldn’t do the works he did apart from the Father.
He showed us how we can live a similar life in the Kingdom. He was our blueprint for living in the Kingdom.
So, we can’t use the excuse “Well, Jesus was perfect! He was God so that’s why He could turn the other cheek and forgive people and things like that. I’m not Jesus so I can’t do those things.”
It might seem to be true, but that’s not what Jesus tells us. He says that if we believe in Him – if we put our complete trust in Him – then we will do the works that He did, and not only will we do those things – we’ll do even greater things.
I don’t think that’s about doing bigger and better miracles, but it’s about the principle of multiplication. Because if it were about bigger and better miracles then Peter and Paul would have flown through the air because that would have been a bigger miracle than walking on water.
Instead, I think that "greater things" is all about exponential possibilities. As the Body of Christ expands to cover the Earth we will accomplish things that Jesus didn’t during his earthly ministry.
Think of it like this: What do you think Jesus would be doing if he were here today? Where would he spend his time?
Now, let’s realize the truth: Jesus IS here today. We are His Body. We are “little Christs” (which is what the word “Christian” means). We are His ambassadors here and now.
This isn’t about us. Remember? The Gospel is about Jesus. It’s about His Glory, His Kingdom, His rule and reign, etc.
So, following Jesus is about us dying to ourselves daily. Letting go of ourselves and our rights so that His life and His plan can be accomplished in us and through us.
“We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:10)
Because Jesus was willing to let go of everything and become nothing, you and I can enter the Kingdom. Because he would rather die than live without us, we can live together forever.
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
Our house church is currently interviewing potential new candidates for assistant pastor. Here’s what we’re looking for:
Responsible for loving and serving everyone else in the Body. Applicants should be willing to listen more than they talk. In fact, talking is almost completely unnecessary. Please observe our strict “no preaching” policy. Teaching is nice, but we ask that you do your best to make it conversational and please leave plenty of room for disagreements, questions, and the occasional rebuttal.
Must be willing to love people, regardless of how messed up they appear to be. No preferred parking spaces are available. First come, first served only.
Must also be willing to submit to our Senior Pastor. He is never wrong and should never be questioned or challenged in any way, at any time. He’s the Son of God, after all, so that shouldn’t be too difficult if you love Him like we do, and if also you’ve made a decision to follow Him the rest of your life.
Must support the Senior Pastor in the accomplishment of the church’s mission by NOT engaging in decision-making, advance planning or overall direction of other church members.
Must ensure the operational readiness of the church by constantly refraining from any sort of leadership or oversight of the Church and shall not in any way interfere with the practice of the “one-anothers” as clearly outlined in the New Testament scriptures.
Must constantly avoid creating any sort of key objectives, tactics; or an establishment of long-term growth goals.
Must never speak of any sort of church building program, including capital fund raising campaigns, master planning, design and architecture, contractor selection, or construction of a physical building.
Like everyone else on our “pastoral team,” applicant will agree that they “would rather die” than to receive money for preaching the Gospel or for teaching our brothers and sisters in Christ, whom we love. (1 Cor. 9:14-16)
This means that all our pastors are given an equal share of whatever food is available at every potluck gathering (either breakfast on Sunday mornings or dinner on Thursday evenings). Prayers are offered continually and double honor is extended at all times.
Like Peter wrote so eloquently: “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve.” (1 Peter 5:2)
This position requires no experience as a senior leader in a corporate business environment or as a pastor. Possession of a Bachelor’s Degree in Business, Technology, or other related field is nice, but not required, or particularly desired. Master’s work in Biblical studies will not be held against you. The successful individual must have a proven track record of putting others first and not promoting himself or herself above the needs of others.
Interested parties can submit their resumes by email or in person.
Monday, February 04, 2013
Yesterday in our house church gathering one of our brothers said that during worship the Lord was speaking to him about a season of new doors being opened for me and my family. At first he wanted to talk to me about it privately, but then God urged him to do it in front of everyone, so he did.
This confirmed what Wendy and I have been sensing for a while now.Up to this point we’ve only had a vague sense that old things were passing away and that God might have new plans in store for us in the year ahead. A few weeks ago I had a dream where Jesus was calling me to follow Him deeper into the dark ocean depths where there would be real suffering, real pain, and real death. Then, Wendy said that she had been sensing that God was preparing us for some financial tests of faith and trust.
In addition to this word, this brother also felt very strongly that the scripture in 2 Timothy 1:6-7 applied to me, which says: “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline."Someone also said that they felt like there could be more writing involved in the future and they prayed for God to bless my gift of writing.
After our house church family laid hands on our whole family and prayed for us, another brother in our group looked at me and said that God had “on purpose” not revealed to me the exact nature of this calling or the new doors He was going to open because He knew that if I knew what it was I would be tempted to start moving in that direction, or try to make it happen. [See? God knows my heart.] But he also said that God wanted me to know that “when the door opens, you won’t miss it.”So, it’s hard to know if this is about one single thing, or if it’s about several different things at the same time. Is this about a new opportunity for ministry and service to the poor, or to our community, or to my co-workers? Or is it about a new opportunity to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom in other states? Or in other nations? Is this about another financial test of faith where we have to depend on God for our daily bread? Or it is a combination of all of these things? Or something else I haven’t even considered yet?
See? I am trying to anticipate it and to prepare for it.
Another thing that was spoken over me yesterday was that I would encounter strong opposition to whatever God was calling me to, but that I should not be timid but speak with boldness and know that God was with me through it all.So, there’s a mystery for you. What does God have in store for us in 2013?
Strangely, I am invigorated by all of this. Suddenly my life has purpose and meaning. I am part of something bigger than myself. God is at work in my life. He has plans for me. He has prepared me for something wonderful.
I’m also encouraged because earlier this year God also urged our family to set out a jar so that we could begin to put into it written testimonies of the miraculous things God was going to do in our lives in 2013.
At the end of this year, we can look forward to opening up this jar and be reminded of all the amazing ways that God has moved to provide for us, protect us, care for us, and lead us nearer to Himself.
I can hardly wait.