Church Signs

Can I just say I’m not a fan of church signs?

I could list a dozen reasons but here I will simply list one:  It is impossible to constrain good theology to the few words that will fit on most church signs.

The temptation to be funny, cute or trite generally overcomes any desire to be biblically accurate.

Case in point-just down the road from me is this sign:

THERE ARE NO PROBLEMS, ONLY OPPORTUNITIES FOR GOD TO WORK.

I could write for days on why I hate (yes, HATE!) this sign.  But I’ll restrain myself.

Here are the top three reasons I want to close my eyes when I pass it:

  1.  It’s simply does not line up with Scripture.  Paul gives a list of “problems” in 2 Corinthians 11:25-27.  Did God help him?  Yes!  But was Paul discouraged?  Yes!  He turned to God but was also thankful for the practical help of those who cared about him and gave him aid.
  2. People who are struggling are not encouraged by platitudes.  Platitudes close the door to further discussion.  They are a giant “period” in a conversation.  If the purpose of your sign is to invite others in, this one will do just the opposite.
  3. Preaching this foolishness (in person or by sign) lets congregants off the hook.  If there are no problems then there is no reason to extend a helping hand.  If God will handle it-why should I get my hands dirty or waste my time?

This week alone I have dealt with at least ten “problems” that required practical solutions in addition to prayers that God would help work them out.

Did He make some things fall in place that otherwise might not?  Probably.  And for that I am very thankful.

But did He shower solutions from the sky like raindrops?  No.  I had to face the problems, look for solutions and ask for help from others.

When Christ instituted the church it was not for us to sit inside four walls and dole out pithy platitudes to passersby.  It was for us to be His hands and feet in the world.

Truth is that God DOES work.  But most often He works through US.

All around us are people hungry for the Good News of Jesus Christ.

If we are going to put out a sign, could it just say, “We welcome the broken, the wounded, the hurting, the ones with no hope”?

Isn’t THAT what Jesus came to do?

weary

 

 

 

Repost: Resurrection: Reality and Reassurance

“The worst conceivable thing has happened, and it has been mended…All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” ~Julian of Norwich

I’m not sure when I first read this quote, but it came to my mind that awful morning.   And I played it over and over in my head, reassuring my broken heart that indeed, the worst had already happened, and been mended.

Read the rest here:  Resurrection: Reality and Reassurance

Feet of Clay

God is not offended by my human frailty.  He isn’t looking down from Heaven, shaking His head at my halting steps forward on this long, hard road.

we are dustHe understands my fear, my sadness, my longing for wholeness.

But sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that.

I’m surrounded by messages that scream,

“You can do better!”

“Be all that you can be!”  

“Try harder, practice more, do this, do that and you can attain your dreams!”

Even in Christian circles we tend to rank one another based on hours spent in Bible study, Sunday School lessons taught, singing in the choir, serving on committees, showing up at services.

That was the way of the Pharisees-impossible burdens piled high that crushed precious hearts so that they couldn’t imagine a Father in Heaven Who loved them.

That made Jesus angry.

They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.

Matthew 23:4 NLT

He didn’t come to mock my limitations or make light of my struggles.

He came to Shepherd my heart past those very things to see His heart for who He created me to be.

He reaches out and reaches in.  He sings love and courage and hope when I’m desperate to hear it.  

For the Lord your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will give you victory. He will rejoice over you with great gladness; he will love you and not accuse you.” Is that a joyous choir I hear? No, it is the Lord himself exulting over you in happy song. “I have gathered your wounded and taken away your reproach.

Zephaniah 3:17 TLB

Reality is this:  I AM broken.  I AM frail.  I AM burdened by this life on earth.  It is absolutely too heavy for me to carry.  I will be crushed to dust beneath its weight.

But He offers to take that burden for which I was never made and replace it with the one perfectly fitted for my shoulders.

His yoke is easy.

His yoke is light.

And He is the One Who pulls alongside me to bear it.

you who are weary come to me

 

 

Facing My Inner Pharisee

 

In centuries past it was common for Christ followers to fast.

They fasted for many reasons:  to consecrate themselves for a task; to seek answers to prayer; observance of seasons on the church calendar; or for strength to overcome besetting sin.

Today, fasting has fallen out of favor in most western churches-deemed unnecessary or an attempt to gain favor with God by “works”.

That’s unfortunate.  

Because fasting has never been about making points with God, it’s been about removing self-reliance from our spiritual vocabulary.

It’s not about demonstrating personal fortitude or displaying self-righteousness, it’s about recognizing my weakness and desperate dependence on Christ.  

Perhaps the greatest hindrance to our work is our own imagined strength; and in fasting we learn what poor, weak creatures we are – dependent on a meal of meat for the little strength which we are so apt to lean upon.

~Hudson Taylor

Like the Pharisees, though, I am apt to make much of my “sacrifice” and little of Christ’s sufficiency.  I want to bargain with God and rise in the ranks of His favor because I’m so “good”.

It doesn’t work like that.  

I was almost to the end of a 40 day fast when Dominic was killed.

I am physically unable to fast 40 days consecutively so, for several years, I had done an every-other-day fast so that it equaled 40 days.

At some point in the first week after Dom ran ahead to heaven I remember crying out to God, “What exactly do You want from me??? I’ve done all that I know to do in an attempt to live up to Your expectations, and yet it is never enough!”

And (not then, certainly!) but at some point in the nearly 3 years since, He answered, “Your righteous acts are as filthy rags. The only sufficient sacrifice is My own Son’s blood.”

THAT was humbling.

Because even though I would have given the same answer to anyone else who thought they could “work” their way into God’s good graces, obviously the truth of it had not seeped into the fabric of my being.

I WAS trying to make points with God.  And I was angry He hadn’t taken that into consideration and spared me the pain of burying my son.

We often mock the Pharisees for thinking that “getting it right” means “being righteous”, but I understand the temptation to substitute acts of righteousness for relying on relationship through Jesus Christ.

The one means I am in control, the other means I have to follow and give up control.

If there is one thing I’ve learned through child loss that I cannot forget for even a millisecond is: I am NOT in control.

I am utterly dependent on Him for life, for breath, for saving AND sustaining grace.  

For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing.

Ephesians 2:8-9 VOICE

Fasting from food is relatively easy.  Fasting from my tendency toward self-righteousness is much harder.  

This year, as I observe Lent,

as I fast,

as I add in holy habits,

I am asking God to help me remember that I am not trying to win His favor,

I am making room to hear His heart.

be-still-760x760.jpg

 

New Eyes for an Old Story

I’ve studied it many times over a lifetime-beginning with fun “coat of many colors” crafts in preschool and ending with an emphasis on remaining faithful in trials.

Joseph’s story is typically told from his point of view.  

But I’ve never considered it from Jacob’s perspective.  Until now.

Because on Jacob’s side of the door, Joseph was gone, gone, gone-beyond reach, out of sight,  nowhere to be found.

All the while Joseph was very much alive, God was working and Joseph would (ultimately) flourish and Jacob would (ultimately) be reunited with his son.

There was no way for Jacob to know this so, of course, he was heartbroken:

Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him.  Genesis 37:34-35

Jacob’s grief was real.  His loss was devastating.  His heart was shattered and there was no substitute for the son he was missing.

I understand that now.

I glossed over these verses in the past-rushing to the “happy ending” promised a few chapters later.

But Jacob didn’t have that option.

He was living these years-one day after another, one foot in front of another, one sunrise, one sunset-never knowing he was making his way toward reunion with a living son.

I share Jacob’s heartbreak.  

My son is out of reach, out of sight, unavailable to my arms and eyes.

But I have something Jacob didn’t have-I know the end of the story.  I have the Bible and it’s promise that this life is not all there is, that while this body dies, the soul lives on eternally.

And for those who choose Jesus, the soul lives for ever and ever with Him.  

Hallelujah!

While I too, mourn deeply for Dominic, there IS comfort.

I cannot ignore the pain of separation, but I will hold steadfast to the promise of reunion. I cry for what has been lost, but cry out for faith to cling to what will ever be.

This earthly journey is dark, but there is assurance that light will triumph.  

john-1-5

 

 

 

 

Repost: Move Over, Make Room for the Broken

I used to position myself at the end of the pew, just in case someone I’m not too comfortable with might come along and try to sit down.

It saved us both that awkward conversation where they ask if they can join me and I say “yes” with my mouth but “no” with my body language.

Read the rest here:  Move Over, Make Room for the Broken

I Want to Get It Right

There are lots and lots of things in life where the distance between “good enough” and “perfect” really doesn’t matter.

I don’t aim for hospital corners while making my bed.

I cook without recipes-adding this or that until the taste suits me.

If I walk 8,567 steps or 10,291 steps I am not going to stress about it.

BUT-there is one thing I absolutely MUST get right.

My understanding of God-Who He is, Who Jesus is-matters for ever and ever.

I want to get it right.

I want to hear from the Holy Spirit and understand God’s Word.  I need to figure out the basics even if I can’t fill in all the details because what I believe about Jesus Christ determines whether or not I will join my son in heaven.

I admit that I still struggle with reconciling God’s sovereignty and God’s goodness.  I haven’t come up with an easy answer for why bad things happen in the world-often to people who don’t seem to “deserve” it.

But I am absolutely convinced that God is in control.

He is the Creator and Sustainer of this world.  He rules and reigns from a place of power and glory and might.  He did not make us and then leave us to our own devices.  He is active, here and now.

I trust in God’s faithful, enduring love.

graphic-his-faithful-love-endures-forever

It certainly doesn’t always look like what I think love should look like.  It includes allowing pain and heartache, dark nights and deep valleys.

Some He saves from the fire and others He gives over to tyrants.

But He also pursues me,

woos me,

strengthens me,

and sustains me.

He does not leave me to my own devices nor abandon me to my sin.  He has provided a way where there was no way.  His own Son’s blood is the Perfect and Enduring Sacrifice that gives me access to the Throne of Grace.

And I am convinced that the work He began in me-the work He began in Dominic-He is faithful to complete it.

I don’t get to see the finished product yet.  

It’s frustrating, frightening and painful to wait for it to be revealed.

But I believe with my whole heart that it will be one day.

beauty-from-ashes-clothespin