Friday, August 28, 2009

being tired

So I've gone back and read some of my recent posts and have noticed a continual theme. It seems I like to point fingers and ranting and raving about the church. I love the generalization of such rants because it keeps me from being personally engaged and reflecting on my own life. I know the problem with such actions and generally like to point such things out in others. It's easier to address the failures, faults and digressions of others without seeing myself in any of it.

But here's the thing. I ask God to search my heart and reveal the darkness of it and He will. In fact, I haven't slept the past few nights because of such requests. He has begun to drudge up the things that haunt me that I don't like to address. At the forefront comes my disobedience in different areas that He has speaking to for some time now. And then I realize that all the recent rants reflect the same thing just on the larger scale. I hope God continues to break me of such self absorved thoughts thinking that I'm better than the rest of the church and on the track when everyone else is off.

So that's where I've been the past few days. I'm sitting and trying to figure out where I got off track. Where I've been disobedient or simply ignoring the moving of the Spirit. All pointing fingers does is that it leaves one tired without addressing any real needs or problems. And maybe if I see the issues within my own life and start following God where He is leading me, I'll stop yelling at the failures of others.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Nations, The Slums, Gary, and a beckoning to feast

Last night was a night that will haunt me and I pray God will use when I think of myself too highly. The location was an old Lutheran church in rundown, broken neighborhood in Vancouver, WA. The venue was setting up for dinner and packing grocery bags full of nonperishable foods that might last a few days to feed a family on average of 4 (but most would use it to feed more). The night began simple enough as I drove up on the church with lines of people on all sides; cars were everywhere and their owners scurrying to find anything that might be consumed. I wasn't sure what to expect, but as I entered a room I saw the first of several images that would stay with me for the night.

There were all sorts of people. More nationalities were represented than I thought possible. It was a United Nations of Poverty if you will. They were broken and tired looking for someone to help or speak their language. I began talking to a man from Belarus, moving next to a lady from Mexico, getting passed to a Chinese, and continuing for sometime trying to help. The next time I would see all of them again would be as they passed through a line for food again trying to scrounge anything they could and taking more than they could ever eat. They were told to take one milk, but as they passed they begged for two, drinking two or three cups of clean drinking water in line.

The night seemed to have very little redeeming qualities, dignity, or much hope. Then I met the organizer of it all. Gary appeared to be in his late thirties to early forties. He told me his story which began with an alcohol addiction and progressed to drugs. Both took there toll and left him homeless, but didn't relent. After years of the streets, Jesus rescued him through the use of shelter and someone willing to feed him and take interest in his life. To hear Gary talk about the love of Christ is an amazing experience. And for the past seven years, every Friday night Gary has been feeding the hungry and trying to offer hope to the hopeless through Christ. He talks as if there is no other choice; the only purpose Christ rescued him was for this. So each week the volunteers and himself will go to the nations, the slums, and broken hearted beckoning them to come in to feast. And each week he proclaims the gospel and serves the people. Gary loves much because he's been forgiven much.

I can't help but wonder at what might happen if the rest of the church could get on board here. I'm not advocating a purely social gospel. But the fact is the gospel is social and reaches out to those parts of society that seem ugly and smell bad. Jesus walked with the poor, ignorant, sinners, prostitutes, and the socially unacceptable. So let's imitate our Savior and Lord.

I'll end this post with a quote from Bono. Some will criticize and acknowledge that it lacks in ways and I agree. But I think there is more truth than we may give credit.

"Love is on the move. Mercy is on the move. God is on the move..... God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house.... God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dennis the merchant marine

So I've met this guy in Vancouver sitting outside of Starbucks. His name if you can't tell by the title is Dennis and he's a merchant marine(still trying to figure this out). Our conversations started casually talking about tea as he was drinking an Earl Grey and me nursing what was left of my Americano. We swapped stories from overseas, I listened as he unpacked the different places he had been, what he liked and disliked, and his frustrations with various governments. He swore and cursed along the way so I joined in occassionally which only encouraged him even more.

During the conversation, he asked what I was doing in Washington so willing to be displaced from family and friends by 3,000 miles. I explained seminary and how I wasn't going to be a priest, but not really sure what I wanted to do. The first conversation took us quickly through the gospel and ended with his 2 questions of, "How does a good God allow suffering," and "How do we erase the memories of so many wrongs?" We talked briefly about Paul and his former life before Christ, but I could tell this were some deep things in his soul that still stung.

The second conversation which happened yesterday took a similar turn. He once again began by thrashing the government and discussed the struggles of so many people throughout the world, I listened and tried to make a few points. But then he started discussing different religions and how I was different and what made me think what I believed was better than others. I offered a differences between what I believe about God and his offer of love throguh Christ and other major religions. We discussed how the God of the Bible is the only One who offers to right the wrong without us trying to fulfill a laundry list of moral duties. He then went into how can he constantly keep track of all the sin that he may commit from day to day and what if he forgets one and dies, is that it for him? We were able to discuss the one time forgiveness of God that is good for all eternity. And that it's not a matter of trying to keep track of everything or having to constantly ask forgiveness, but that we worship for the forgiveness and sacrifice that's been offered for us. And we have hope in the security that God offers through His grace and mercy. The conversation ended soon after and it seemed that the Spirit was working within him.

I mention all this because of the impact the conversations have had on myself. I'm more like Dennis in my beliefs than I ever want to admit. I want to earn my grace and question God sometimes as to what I need to do to prove myself to Him. But I never think that it's not a matter of proving myself to God rather than proving myself to me. Not only this but I can't help but think of how many more people are out there like Dennis? They don't know what to believe, don't know what to do, and feel so helpless that they stop caring. And how many of them that I ignore each day? So my prayer is that I would truly die to myself and be willing to be a vessel of the gospel.

walk in peace

Saturday, July 25, 2009

What are we doing?

I've been thinking for awhile on what to write, but haven't been able to formulate words. We've lived in a new place for a little over a month now and things are just feeling like they are settling. People say that the church is struggling in the Northwest or that this is the most unchurched region of the country. I'm beginning to see what people are saying, but have a bit of a disagreement.

It's true that it may take some time to find a strong group of believers, but God is definitely working here. I think we've been wrong to measure the spiritual awareness of an area by the number of churches that exist. In fact, maybe our idea of spiritual health is wrong altogether. Maybe the question to ask is. "What am I doing that stirs my heart toward Christ?" Depending on how we might answer this, may truly determine our desire and pursuit of Christ. This breaks down the simple checklist that has held our attention for too long.

I'm learning that it's easy to read my Bible and spend time in prayer. It's easy to do things that keep me from engaging the world around me. I can keep my head in a book all day and feel spiritual at the end without really doing anything. Not to say these things are intrinsically wrong or should be taken lightly, but I think they are easy. Easy because they don't really cost us anything. There's nothing at stake for doing them. But when we step outside of ourselves and engage a hostile world, we're opening ourselves up for rejection. Something that I struggle with myself and hate the feeling of being rejected.

So, where does this take us? I think if we read and learn from the lessons of the early church in Acts, we'll see what God intended for His church. The church was bold in its message. And when people came against them, they didn't quiet down but prayed for more boldness. They rejoiced as people pushed them away and even out of the cities. They scattered and went to new cities not worried about comforts and support systems. They sought opportunities to be outside the church while still being connected to a community of believers. Their faith produced true actions that left behind worries of big budgets and programs. My prayer is for a renewal of such faith within myself and other believers. May we truly walk by faith.

Go in peace....

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

On the road

So this is a day late, but the last hotel didn't have wifi. I mean really what day are we living in when a place doesn't have wifi. It's been two days of traveling, 6 states, and 16 wineries (not that we stopped). I have the best travel companion in my wife and wouldn't want to share this journey with anyone else.

As a quick word, it's been amazing to see the hand of God in so many ways. We've seen it through creation, protection, and provision. I find it necessary to always reflect on the blessings of God. It's noy only something that is asked of us, but something that provides perspective on where we are and where we're going. Hebrews tells us to offer up a sacrifice of praise continually and this seems to be harder than it should. My question is, "Why?"

That's it for now. Pictures will come later

Grace and Peace

Thursday, March 15, 2007

lay it down

Its been a a difficult week for me. One of those weeks where I've been sitting in reflection and self evaluation. And this is always hard because without fail something is brought to the surface of my life that I really don't to hear or feel. I'm growing to love early mornings and its a good thing because I get up quite early 5 days out of the week. Monday was especially big. I'm driving to work just having this conversation with God and its completely audible on my part (the looks I got from the people in the cars around me was pretty amazing). And I'm begging God to show me where to go and where He's leading my life and family. This idea of obedience kept coming to the surface and I kept saying over and over, "Ijust want to obey You God and do things your way." And then God asked me, If you want to obey Me, then why haven't you been baptized?" My world broke. And this has been an issue with me. I began to think as customary for me. And this began to unfold for me the rest of the day and the next, God just began revealing things that I struggle with that ultimately find their roots in disobedience and pride. And the voice of God just started to say, "Lay it down. Lay it down! Lay down your disobedience and your pride. Lay them down and never pick them up. Please don't ever try to pick them back up again."

In Matthew, Jesus says, "Come to me all who are burdened and heavy ladened. Come to me and find rest. My burden is light and yoke is easy." And what Jesus is saying is lay it down. Lay it all down, all the frustration from your own pride and disobedience. Whatever you do just lay down your life for Me and to Me but not to walk away empty handed. He invites us to take up His work, take up His burden. The beautiful thing is that whenever I'm doing what work God has drawn me into, I have never felt negatively toward it.

So lay it down. Whatever it is, just lay it down.


p.s. i just burnt my tongue on hot coffee.