So How’d It Go?

I wanted to loop back on my last post about my daughter and godson heading off to Chrysalis, and share that God was most definitely on the move that weekend!

I lost track of all the God-sightings during the time. It was great to have them share the time, and my godson even commented in his testimony at the end how meaningful it was to spend it with his sister in Christ. It was moving, frankly, to have prayed over their crosses after I dropped them off, and then to see them wear them home at the end. It was wonderful to share Candlelight with them, and to have been able to bring my wife up to be a part of both Candlelight and Closing, her first exposure to the Emmaus community and hopefully a positive experience for her that might plant, a little deeper, the seed of wanting to have that same experience. It was tremendous to hear each of the kids testify about what the weekend meant–both the kids I know, and some of the ones I didn’t. One, who said he really hadn’t wanted to be there, found his heart transformed by the Spirit over the weekend, which was just so powerful to hear. It was so, so thrilling to join with everyone in Closing and singing “Great I Am,” the kids’ theme song of the weekend, in one gigantic circle of love. And then on coming home, to hear them telling so excitedly of their experiences, sharing with their moms, and talking of wanting to go up on team sometime. And it didn’t end there: my godson’s Facebook posts have been sharing bits of his weekend ever since!

The more I see God move, the more I feel my own inadequacy at trying to wish for anything specific for them ahead of time. He knew exactly what each of them needed, and he came through in his own way for each of them, just the way he always intended. I thank God for the chance to have been at the periphery of it, and I look forward to what he will do in their lives next.

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Who’s In Charge? (Hint: Ain’t You.)

As I mentioned last time, my daughter and godson have the chance to walk on Chrysalis weekend C-94. In fact, we all drove up last night, and so they’re 24 hours in on their adventure with God. I’m so excited for them!

I’ve found myself thinking about them a lot today. I’ve been wondering how various events have gone; I’ve been thinking a lot about how powerful my own Emmaus weekend was last spring, and I’ve been really, really wanting the kids to have that kind of amazing experience of God’s love that I had.

And then it hit me: that’s what I wanted to have happen. It’s not my weekend; it’s not even the kids’ weekend. It’s God’s. The way he came into my heart that weekend–well, that might not happen for either of them. Because the way he touched my heart–to reassure me of his unending love–might not be the same way either my daughter or my godson need to be touched.

I was busted. I had dropped off the kids, but I hadn’t let go: I was still trying in my heart to stage-manage their experiences, to tell God what I wanted to have happen for them today and this weekend. How the Spirit and Jesus show up in their worlds isn’t for me to prescribe, and if I tried to make it into my own weekend, it would fail. It’s one more lesson in the (seemingly never-ending) course of learning to let go, and to place the whole thing, not just the parts I want to give up, in God’s hands.

Come, Holy Spirit; come, Lord Jesus. Come into the C-94 weekend and fill the hearts of your children. You alone know what it is each heart needs, and you alone are capable of binding their wounds and restoring them to what you would have them be. I quit trying to manage the weekend on your behalf; I let go and I let you come into their lives as fully and as much as you know you need to. You know what will most powerfully affect each life up there on the mountain, and I know in your own time you will make yourself known as each one needs you. Forgive me my arrogance, and let me pray for them all in your mercy. Amen.

New Year, New Opportunities!

I love the cartoon that shows someone making a list of New Year’s resolutions: “1. Gain weight. 2. Keep smoking. 3. Make lists. 4. Set reasonable goals.” I think that person went 4-for-4!

Already in 2017 I’ll have a couple of new opportunities to help bring about the Kingdom, and I’m looking forward to them. This weekend I’ll start teaching a new class at our church, intended for young adults who are either new to the church or who are reengaging with church after awhile. Called “Navigators,” it’ll be a chance for folks to explore Christianity–not a Christianity 101 class, but more of a 102 or maybe a 151 class, basic enough to make sure no one’s overwhelmed but engaged enough with where people are in their walk to make sure we’re covering what’s relevant. Sunday mornings at 9:45…come on by!

The other happens the following weekend: I’m fortunate to be able to have my daughter and my godson both walk at Chrysalis weekend C-94. As you may recall, in the spring I took part in an Emmaus weekend; Chrysalis is the teen version. I’ve been getting more and more excited for them as it draws near: I remember the incredible power of the weekend in revealing God’s love and in the work his Spirit still can do through me, and I’m praying they’ll be able to enjoy it similarly. Stay tuned!

But in the end, this is what a new year needs to look like: new opportunities to engage with Jesus, to be open to where he may be leading in building his kingdom. I’ve never taught a class before; I’m nervous about it, but also looking forward to it. In the same way, I’m excited for the kids to walk and to have powerful experiences of Christ, and to strengthen themselves as part of the Kingdom.

How are you opening yourself to hearing where Jesus needs you this year? How are you making yourself available to the Spirit to build the kingdom here and now?

Discipleship?

Had an interesting e-mail conversation among folks from church this week around the question: What is discipleship?

It’s one of those church words that gets tossed around, and for those exploring or unfamiliar with the church, it doesn’t mean anything. But even for those who are longtime members, you can get an interesting conversation going around that question. Fundamentally, it refers to being like a disciple: being like one of the original followers of Christ, who gave themselves to him and to spreading the word of God. But what does it mean?

On the one hand, discipleship can be a noun–it’s the process, the stages and steps, by which someone comes from the first inklings of curiosity about Jesus, through learning about him and what he did for us, through committing to be a follower, to growing and knowing what following Christ means, through to a mature disciple. It’s a process of spiritual growth and transformation that follows the threefold nature of grace.

Or is it? Or instead, is discipleship an adjective describing the state of being a disciple? Is it better understood as the end state on earth, the goal of the process if you will, in which grace is operating to bring us to that state?

What do you think? Should we think of discipleship as a process, or as a goal?

Hearing From God

As Christians we are called to be in a relationship with God. And any successful relationship I’ve ever been in means both sides get to talk.

It’s true, isn’t it, that for the most part our prayer life is a monologue? And a needy one at that: we pray for this, for that. But how often are we able to actually shut up and listen for the other half of the conversation?

I confess I’m as fallible as the next man in that I still need to develop that listening skill more. My bride will tell you that too. But sometimes, if we allow ourselves, we can hear God’s word for us. Sometimes it’s in music, even.

Case in point: lately I’ve been kinda preoccupied with the health of both my mother and my daughter, and the effect each is having on their place of residence and schooling, respectively. Yesterday was a very tense day, with one path seeming to close for where Mom might be able to move next, and frustrations with my daughter’s progress mounting in me as well.

This morning, however, I kept hearing two songs alternating in my head: Jason Gray’s “Sparrow“:

You can’t add a single day by worrying
You’ll worry your life away
Oh don’t worry your life away
You can’t change a single thing by freaking out
It’s just gonna close you in
Oh don’t let the trouble win

You may feel alone
But you’re not on your own

If He can hold the world He can hold this moment
Not a field or flower escapes His notice
Oh even the sparrow
Knows He holds tomorrow.

And Ryan Stevenson’s “Eye of the Storm“:

In the eye of the storm
You remain in control
And in the middle of the war
You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor
When my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me
In the eye of the storm.

And when I stop to recognize what it is that’s going on in my head, I recognize it as God’s voice, telling me to let him be that anchor, and that I’m not alone in this–that he’s got my back, and will see me through. That’s powerful! It was so reassuring to know that even this sparrow isn’t outside God’s notice, and that he will guard my soul with all that’s coming against me right now. In those little moments, sometimes, we hear his voice. And we are in awe at how much we’re loved, even, or especially, in the eye of the storm.

A Night In The Spirit

Had a terrific, wonderfully recharging night last night at the Patriot Center (I refuse to call it Eagle Bank Arena) with the family (minus College Boy, of course) and good, good friends in a night of worship. Ryan Stevenson, Hawk Nelson and the Newsboys were in town, and we had a great time praising and singing along.

Every now and then, the soul just needs a good bit of praise. Every now and then it just has to scream “Yes!” to the Yes that created it, and for me, I needed that last night. Between everything happening with various family members (more on that later), I needed a recharge, and this night certainly gave it to me. Thanks be to God for the chance to worship, and for everyone for coming out with us to celebrate!

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Hawk Nelson’s Jonathan Steingard came about two rows over
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Newsboys’ Michael Tait
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After the show, Ryan Stevenson posed for pics with Sarah and her friend!

Becoming Perfect

But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

This verse, and John Wesley’s teaching on perfection, is some of what I struggle most with as a Christian. I certainly know I’m not perfect, and from where I sit, I doubt I would ever be able to achieve a state of errorlessness on this side of the veil. Wesley taught that it was possible, to some degree, to achieve perfection in this life:

…that habitual disposition of the soul which, in the sacred writings, is termed holiness; and which directly implies being cleansed from sin, ‘from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit’; and, by consequence, being endued with those virtues which were in Christ Jesus; being so ‘renewed in the image of our mind,’ as to be ‘perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect’ ( A Plain Account of Christian Perfectionism, p. 12). 

“In this is perfection, and glory, and happiness: the royal law of heaven and earth is this, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.’ The one perfect good shall be your one ultimate end” (ibid.). Lastly, perfection is “deliverance from inward as well as from outward sin” (ibid., p. 26) and “a Christian is so far perfect as not to commit sin” (ibid., p. 25).

Wesley is right in that it ought to be possible to achieve a “habitual disposition of the soul” towards Christ, and indeed, I know people like that, and I want to become one someday. I also know, though, that those are people who still sin. They are human, after all.

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Jesus’ assertion that we are “to be perfect, even as” God is perfect, though, allows for the possibility that this completeness won’t happen on this side of death. And I think that’s OK: we will become perfect, one day, and while we can certainly strive for improvement, even perfection, in this life, it’s important (I believe) to cut ourselves enough slack to recognize our continuing frailty and humanity even after our justification through grace.