Tuesday, August 20, 2013

His ways are higher than mine.

I have a flaw. (Okay, to be honest, I have MANY flaws.) But one in particular is that I really like for everyone to be on the same page ... as me. To understand me and where I am coming from, and yes, to even agree with me on any and every stance. Unrealistic, prideful, naive, I know!! (Thank goodness God is not done with me yet!)

I don't like how disaccord affects relationships and how it makes people feel. I don't like the controversy of gun control and the anger it stirs up. I don't like the disagreements between political parties, and the nasty blows that arise out of it. I don't like hearing the disputes over abortion, and the shame that is often chained to it. And I don't like the contention between the gay community and church goers, and the division it creates. And yet, I have an opinion on these issues, a stance, if you will that would most likely cause dissension to some. I think we all do. Because we all are so different. We all come from distinct walks of life and have a diverse bundle of experiences under our belts. Despite 'the ugly' that our human nature can bring out from our differences, in reality our differences are one of the most beautify handiworks of God's creation. We are uniquely created, each having a variety of passions and ideas and philosophies.

Last night at small group we didn't tackle a pre-read chapter of the Bible or particular topic that was sent out the week before. We were all given a blank card and the freedom to write down ANY question. Some were light hearted, "If Jimmy cracked corn and nobody cared, then why was there a song written about it?" Some questions disclosed unknown information about the people we gather with each week, like middle names. (I'll let you guess who wears the name of "Pearly!") And one question even allowed us to hear about each other's 'transformational' story about meeting Christ.

As to be expected, we hit some challenging questions. You know those questions that we can agree on that God's Word is Truth, yet still struggle to find a common ground on what the Bible means and how it pertains to our lives here, now in 2013.

Paul's teaching on women in church?
The Letter of the Law vs. the Spirit of the Law?
If God's Word is infallible--true from cover to cover?
Can we know that we are walking in God's will? If so, how?
The Rapture and how is that going to work?

and who knows what else was in that pile of questions . . .

Once saved always saved?

We tend to stay away from those "controversial" issues. Right? I mean, we all have been told to steer clear of politics and religion at some point in our life. But even inside the four walls of our church building, we shy away from, maybe what some would call the gray areas of the Bible.

As I sat back an enjoyed a different pace from our routine small group last night, I couldn't help but think, that these gray areas that at times we avoid like the plague aren't really issues at all, but they are real live breathing children of God, trying to find their place in His story. Our group alone is made up of so many of these "gray issues," and I am thankful that we were able to scratch the surface last night--thankful that the conversation was started, even if it was challenging at times. I wish I could say we all left standing on common ground, or left holding the secret of where to find all the answers to these difficult questions. But we didn't.

I know for me, I walked out of those doors more confused than I did when I entered, more challenged to dive into God's word and read for myself what others sounded so confident on. I left understanding thirteen people I care about a little better. I left pondering the mystery of how Christ followers can read and interpret God breathed scriptures so differently and it not change that fact that His Word is true. I left knowing its OK to say "I don't know or I don't understand" and it not diminish the amount of faith one has. I left reminded that it's not about being on the right side of an issue, but rather getting to know the story behind the one who gets labeled an issue, and loving them as Christ would. But most importantly I walked out with the reminder that it's about Christ! It's about His work in our lives, individually and collectively. It's not about getting everyone on my page, but getting myself on God's page and finding His peace in the controversy that our feeble minds and the lack of understanding His ways will create. It's about learning from one another's differences and letting those differences challenge us and push us deeper along in our journey to seek after Him.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Look Up!

Problems. Difficulties. Obstacles. Challenges. Complications. Hurdles.

We all have them.

Problems do not differentiate between the young or the old. Difficulties hit the homes of the rich and the poor. Obstacles arise for the wise and the fools. Challenges face both the faithful and the faithless. Complications change the lives of the healthy and of those who are ill. Hurdles show up out of nowhere for the singles just as they do for the married.

In the past eight months alone I have seen cancer come out of the blue, marriages dissolve behind the doors of a "happy home." I have seen friends hurt by lies, and addictions retake their claim. I have seen cars spin out of control and flat tires ruin preset plans. I have seen financial troubles lead friends down the road of hopeless debt, and abusive words rip away any ounce of self worth. I have seen work situations gone awry and how the needs of a baby can spoil time tables. I have seen friendships dissolve and the bitter stains of unforgiveness.  I have received emails from friends requesting prayer for unknown problems, and have had several prayer requests of my own for the 'snags of life' I’ve experienced.

None, not one of us are immune from the complications of life . . . but there is hope!

Remember the apostle John? The brother of James, cousin of Jesus, the son of Thunder? The John who witnessed the agony of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane and the one who took Mary, the mother of Jesus into his care after her son’s death on the cross? The one who walks step in step with Peter passionate about building the church and gets thrown into prison? It is traditionally taught that John was dipped into boiling oil only to survive and be exiled to the Island of Patmos. It is there, on this sterile, barren island that was used by the Roman government to banish and punish criminals, that John got to see into the doors of heaven. (Revelation 4) 

If you pick up in Revelation 7 around verse 11 we see that an elder turns to John and explains that all of those who have come from the great suffering, those who have washed their robes white and those who have scrubbed them clean in the blood of the Lamb encircles the throne of God giving worship of praise and thanksgiving.

Living in a world of petty annoyances, life changing problems and experiencing unimaginable heartaches provides reason for us to forget to look up. But here we see, that when John does, what hope, promise, and salvation He finds. His problems aren’t gone, he stills find himself on the desolate island, but His burden is made lighter in the promise coming of Jesus Christ. Later John calls those who are redeemed and who walk in this life of trouble, “blessed.”

I read 1 Peter 1:3-9 this week and couldn’t help but be reminded of those I know who are facing struggles, for the struggles I too find myself in, and the hope of John’s story found in Revelation. As we walk this life full of unexpected twists and turns, saturated with troubles of large and small magnitude,  and full of seasons of doubts, where there seems to be more questions than answers, it’s so easy to look around and get distracted by the annoyances, the crises, the tribulations and the set backs. May we remember, as those He has called redeemed-His beloved, that it is through suffering our faith is proven genuine.
Keep walking my friends, keep looking up, and know that you are not on this journey alone.

1 Peter 1:4-9
"...we've been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven--and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you'll have it all--life healed and whole.

I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it's your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory. You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don't see him, yet you trust him--with laughter and singing. because you kept on believing, you'll get what you're looking forward to: total salvation.”