Tag Archives: followers

How a “Good Thing” Can Be a Stumbling Block

Would you call your closest friend Satan?  No doubt that friends can have disagreements sometimes.  It happens.  But calling someone you consider to be your confidant, advocate and support system, the name of a  being whose only mission is to destroy seems harsh.  Especially, if the context involves your friend seemingly making known a desire that they wish for your well being.  Why on Earth would you be so angry over that interaction?

In fact, an eyewitness would most likely accuse you of overreacting.  (Do you need more sleep? Is something bothering you?)

So goes the pondering on this passage found in Matthew 16: 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Wow! Really?

Jesus invited Peter to be his friend and mentoree.  HE invited Peter into relationship. They ate together, prayed together, shared together.  They literally did life together.

I couldn’t imagine imitating Jesus in that way. And yet…we are called to do exactly that….because that’s what a disciple does….and that’s what the Holy Spirit makes possible.

I’ve learned that I need to do just what he did. And more often.  Because Jesus tuned his ears to hear the voice of his Father among the many voices calling out to him. His first priority was following the will of God.  Not his disciples. Not the crowds. Not his family.

The irony is that many of those voices represented good things:

healing

listening

friendship

Yet, none represented the BEST thing.  The BEST thing was the plan that God was laying out for him.  But Peter was not ready for what that plan entailed.  Who can blame him?  Of course he doesn’t want to hear that a death sentence awaits.  The implications of Jesus’ death are many-the most personal one being that it would leave Peter without this person who has transformed his life on Earth.

But it isn’t about Peter.

And it isn’t about all the ways Jesus could fulfill people’s needs.  It’s about being in tune with the will of his Father.

Jesus’ exhortation most certainly sent a chill to Peter  But it was truth.  Peter’s plea to Jesus represented a path that was contrary to the one that Jesus knew  he was to walk. One would be afire with the Glory of God and the other would lead away.

Satan will try hard to distract us from listening to God’s voice. Some of those distractions come in the form of “good things”: other people’s expectations, the myriad of ministry opportunities luring us, the desire to do good, even relationships.

Sometimes you get a gut feeling that the path you’re on is not where God wants you treading.   It’s that inner voice that you ignore because the way you are investing your time and resources appears to be productive.

But that “peace that passes all understanding” isn’t there.

In the last year, I’ve come to realize what happens when I don’t really listen to the inner voice of the Holy Spirit. It’s so easy to dig in and be consumed by “callings” to areas that use my skills and gifts. Being drawn to people is always a temptation of mine. But when I jump in without listening; without praying,  I feel tired and frustrated.  And, in a sense, those “good” things become my “Peter.”  They are stumbling blocks.

What is God’s purpose for you right now?  What is the “BEST” way that Jesus can be seen at work in your life? What must you give up to embrace it?

 

 

 

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When the Church IS the Church

What does the Church look like? 

I’m not talking about architecture.  What does it look like?  In my last blog I pondered what it takes for people who don’t follow Christ to begin to take notice of the Church.  I believe that the Old Testament gives us a “pre-christian” understanding of community.  There is a realization that one’s actions benefit or hurt another.
Everyone’s intention is to live in a way that the whole community is built up.

The New Testament paints a broader picture because not only do we see ourselves as part of a community but it’s one that is made up of imperfect/diverse people with the common goal of following Christ and living in the constant grace that is woven through the fabric of their life together.  Acts 2:42:  All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper, and to prayer. 

In 2016, communities of Christians living together do exist.  I know first hand of one and, just like any group of believers, they have their places of strength and areas of struggle.  The book of Acts is not requiring that all Christians must live together everyday. The point is that they share life together: a life guided by Jesus who infuses us with a desire to live in a way that may run counter cultural. 

Verse 47 adds, ” 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.  More and more people were added.  hmmm. 

Was it due to a  high end audio system?

 A hip pastoral staff? 

Good coffee?  

Perhaps, it was watching a group of very different people(different ages, varied abilities, clashing personalities) come together to intentionally become Jesus’ Body on Earth.  Not an easy task at all.  Even the disciples had arguments. 

Not easy, but possible

Not easy, but transformational.  In fact, despite the early persecutions and deaths, Christianity spread rapidly in the early years. 

Here are just three contemporary examples of what happens when the Church IS the Church.

Ravenswood Covenant Church on Chicago’s northside began a ministry to High school mothers.  They began a partnership with a local high school where the church provides resources (daycare to their children, education on various topics and mentoring) to support them.  At a vulnerable time in their lives, these young women receive  the help of Jesus’ hands and feet without judgement or condition.  I’m sure setting this program up involved  many logistics, some concerns (“what about insurance liabilities?” “we’re helping a teen who got pregnant?” ),…..But they did it because Jesus is living in them.

Christ the Servant Church in Olathe, Kansas partnered with a local prison ministry.   The congregation desires to offer “unsuspecting acceptance.” to criminal offenders and their families. Each month, the Sunday worship service is led by a group of former prisoners who travel to different churches to use share their gifts with the greater church community.  Afterwards, the congregation and worship team share in a meal together. A man who attends the church originally came because he supervised some of the offenders.  Following his visit he told the pastor he would be “willing to attend a church that would welcome ‘men like this'” .(www.covchurch.org/news/2013/6/03). He later became a follower of Christ as did his family. 

The Bridge Teen Center in Orland Park (http://thebridgeteencenter.org), Illinois offers a safe  space for teens to explore their identity as well as build relationships with others. My kids love it! Programs are divided into different “buckets” which expand both heart and mind: Community Connections, Mind/Body, Expressive arts, Educational Support. Best of all: the programs are all FREE!  And if that wasn’t enough, bus transportation is provided to pick students up at their school and bring them to the Bridge. Walking into this place, you feel validated in every sense: the decorations and furniture themselves shout “You are worth it!” No 70’s couch and mismatched rugs here. Chic, comforting,  functional for the teens who find refuge here. Want to know what it’s like to be a teacher? meet one and ask questions. Interested in honing culinary skills? cook with a local chef in the commercial grade kitchen. Need to chill after a bad day? Nap in the padded quiet zone nooks Having problems with family? vent to a trained adult leader.  Although it is not promoted as a Christian venue, the center was founded by a former youth pastor-Priscilla Steinmetz.  Biblical principles form the foundation and drive its mission. She and 200 volunteers work to engage the community in every possible angle to ensure that lives can be transformed here. Change lives, impact an entire community.

Acts 2:47:
47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
So…..what would happen if these examples were commonplace in the Church?  What are the implications for our nation; in particular?  What kind of transformation would take place? How would that impact the debates about government based programs to the vulnerable? How would the Church be redefined? 

When have you witnessed “The Church Being the Church?”



“If the Church Would be the Church”

My neighbor and I have some lively discussions. It’s refreshing; actually, since our demographics differ greatly. He is an 80 year old widower, father, grandfather, vet; and agnostic   I am 50, wife, mom, and Christian.  We talk about everything: parenting, economics, the state of the country, gardening and when the Spirit opens a window of opportunity-religion. Although his wife was connected to a church family, he had (and continues to have) no desire to learn more about the character of God nor be part of  the body through whom the Holy Spirit here on Earth.

The funny thing is, we share similar philosophies regarding many issues such as parenting, lifestyle and a belief in right and wrong.  The difference of course is that I see my worldview reflecting the “kingdom” on Earth in which I live.  One that is supposed to radiate light to others; one that should bring a salty flavor to those who encounter it; one that turns the human ways of looking at things on its head.  It is indeed a Kingdom that began as God chose to be in covenant with imperfect human beings and through whom would show the other nations that “I am your God”.

As our recent discussion turned to the issues of abortion and valuing life, I heard him passionately state his sadness and anger at the act.  Personally, I  believe abortion to be more than a legal issue. I think there are a plethora of social layers that must be addressed in order to decrease abortions, I stated to my neighbor, “Well, it would help if the Church would be the Church.” 

He stared at me for a minute before replying, “You know…that’s a good one!  That is really true. ‘If the Church would be the Church’, he mumbled to himself. “I’m going to remember that.”

When I said that, I wasn’t referring to protesters outside clinics  or social media comments. I was referring to being the hands of feet of Christ who bear the image of God through actions that seek to restore and bring wholeness-providing, shelter, materials, friendship, help along the journey of giving life. Hopefully, it would result in reducing the possibility that abortion would even be considered as an option.

Because of Ray’s reaction to my statement, I am left pondering the question, “Why is he not seeing the Church?” 

Who else is not drawn to it because its visibility has diminished; it’s saltiness has become stale; its light-dim?

Certainly, we, in our humanity,  can’t fix everything.  Earth is a taste of Heaven.  But at the same time it’s just that-a taste.  Shouldn’t there be something about living in God’s Kingdom that would make people walk away from life as they know it in order to be part of such a place?
Casting Crowns’ song, “We are the body” so eloquently asks the questions we as the church should be asking. (the song is based on James 2)

But if we are the body
Why aren’t His arms reaching?
Why aren’t His hands healing?
Why aren’t His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren’t His feet going?
Why is His love not showing
them…..There is a way?
As Jesus is the way.

In my next post, I will share some creative ways that the body of Christ’s arms reach others in their dire circumstances and show them Jesus is the way.

I Want to Be Known for Jumping Fearlessly Into Pools

You might be surprised when I tell you that one of the sections of the newspaper that I glance over is the obituary section.  What?! When I have this time to myself (which is precious), why would I spend a minute reading death notices about people I have never met?

Well, for a few reasons.  I actually do come across the unfortunate news that someone I once knew has passed on. Beyond that fact,  certain notices draw me in and remind me of that which we, in our culture, like to avoid: the reality that we are mortal.  Everyone. Our families friends, and ourselves.  At any moment, our lives may be affected in a very real way by the reality of death.  Glancing over the obituaries reminds me to evaluate my priorities.

One of the rewards (probably not the right term) is learning about my companions on this journey called life.  In those few  words that represent a miniscule of someone’s life (and may not be fully representational of their whole character), I learn a lot about people.  These are not descriptions of those who made headlines. Rather, these quick biographies belong to those with whom we interact and encounter in the daily rhythms of life. Sometimes, I am inspired to be a better version of myself; a more accurate image bearer of my Creator as I learn from them.  Such was the case this past week.

As my eyes focused in on the tribute to her life, her career achievements jumped out at me. Margaret was a doctor who pioneered treatments for persons affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder in the 1970’s.  Of course my heart skipped a beat because I am an advocate for families affected by autism and other mental health disorders.  I’m always interested in those individuals who are seeking to make the world better for all of us by making new strides in this field of medicine.

It is particularly inspiring to know of persons who choose to work in a field that is a filled with cultural stigma; one that doesn’t result in immediate answers and demands a passion against the odds.  And in the 70’s?

My gut reaction was, “Wow!”  That woman joins the ranks of many people -both men and women; both prominent and behind the scenes-that put rubber to the road. They follow their passion to wherever it takes them.

The thing about courage is that the more we practice it, the more it shapes all areas of our lives. And that’s where the next few words seemed to jump out at me.

“She jumped fearlessly into pools deep in caves”

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Anyone who has jumped into a pool spontaneously knows there is an element of mystery combined with freedom once that leap is made.  The water’s possible chill may shock at impact. Your stomach flutters as gravity takes it’s course. Yet there’s something to be said for knowing the refreshment that is brought will be worth the experience. I(side note: I am not advocating for jumping into water without any swimming skills and not being aware of it’s depth/or elements)  To jump into pools in caves sounds both scary yet enticing.  Plunging your physical and emotional being into something so beautiful, majestic, and yet unknown takes courage.

 

Courage that manifests itself in every part of your life

If you can take great leaps into these amazing physical creations by our God, surely you learn to not let fear become a blockade.  You see the other places that you are called to leap into-and you do it.  You do it because you know that, in the end, the experience will be worth it. For you and for those in your circles.

That is why, after reading Margaret’s brief summary of her life, I said to myself,

“I want to be known for jumping fearlessly into pools in caves!”

We just must embrace it. We must believe it.

What about you?  What fears are holding you back from seeking fully the passions that God has placed on your heart?

Let’s commit to working on this together. Share your stories. We all need encouragement to take leaps sometimes, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Grieved When My Son’s Friend Moved Away

As my son settled himself into the car seat next to me, his face told me what I had hoped wasn’t a reality.

His friend had moved away. Without notice.

My heart sank.

For him. For Matt. And for me.

You see, my youngest, is in middle school. It’s a season of so many changes: adjusting to six teachers from one, expectations from school that you are now a “big” kid and must take on more responsibilities. Yet, for many, their bodies look no different than they did when they were considered “little kids” two years ago. Furthermore, social circles are in flux. Figuring out who is really by your side becomes a challenge.

My son is described by many to be kind, funny, smart. He is respectful to all but chooses friends carefully. He’s not a group friend kind of guy. He prefers a few close buddies with whom he can trust his innermost thoughts and feel comfortable being his “out of the box” self. So when he shared with me, on that day before Spring Break, that he thought it odd that Matt wasn’t at school and had turned in his science book the day before, we both faced the reality that Matt was moving. And thoughts began trickling into each of our brains and sadness crept into our hearts.

I didn’t know Matt as well as my son did, but what I did know I liked. He shared a child-like innocence in a world where kids are pressured to grow up too fast. Although they didn’t spend much time together outside school, they were part of the rhythm of each other’s day.

It’s what makes getting through those mundane moments tolerable. It’s what gives you reason to go to school or work when you wake up tired and don’t really want to forge through the day.

I grieve not only for my son, but for Matt as well. I know that this move is not the first one. He met my son when he moved here five years ago. His life involves frequent adjustment-new home, new friends, visits between his custodial parent and non-custodial parent.

I grieve because I had hoped to invite he and his mom further into our lives. And it didn’t happen soon enough.

What will happen to him now? Will he befriend kids who will challenge him to be his best self?

The experience echoes similar situations our family has experienced along the way. Several other kids who have graced our lives for a bit and then moved on. I’m not gonna lie-often these are the same kids who can push my (and my kids) buttons. My own kids do that sometimes. But often times, the brokenness in these kids that draws me to them can manifest in ways that can make relationships hard: acting out, lack of social boundaries, different value systems. Yet, somehow in the midst of those tensions, there is a yearning to let God’s deep love seep out of me. They must be reminded of their have value and purpose. Always.

Fortunately, some of those kids have crossed our paths again. Technology, can be a gift in that way. But others, have gone off the radar. I can only hope in the one who knows them far more than I.

“See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;
    your walls are continually before me.” Isaiah 49:16

I know that my prayers for God’s intervention in their lives are not left unheard.

And that is what we do now. Knowing that my long distance desires for Matt’s well-being are heard by our God who is near him. Believing that there are others who will now walk alongside him.

But it doesn’t make me or my son miss him less.

My son has texted a couple times with Matt and of, course, my heart’s desire is that it continues. But, that’s not a given. For now, we relish the moments we had to walk life together with him and hand him over to the One who even knows the number of hairs on his head. But his name will never leave my head….or my heart.

 

How a “Good Thing” Can Be a Stumbling Block

Would you call your closest friend Satan?  No doubt that friends can have disagreements sometimes.  It happens.  But calling someone you consider to be your confidant, advocate and support system, the name of a  being whose only mission is to destroy seems harsh.  Especially, if the context involves your friend seemingly making known a desire that they wish for your well being.  Why on Earth would you be so angry over that interaction?

In fact, an eyewitness would most likely accuse you of overreacting.  (Do you need more sleep? Is something bothering you?)

So goes the pondering on this passage found in Matthew 16: 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Wow! Really?

Jesus invited Peter to be his friend and mentoree.  HE invited Peter into relationship. They ate together, prayed together, shared together.  They literally did life together.

I couldn’t imagine imitating Jesus in that way. And yet…we are called to imitate him.

I’ve learned that I need to do just what he did. And more often.  Because Jesus tuned his ears to hear the voice of his Father among the many voices calling out to him. His first priority was following the will of God.  Not his disciples. Not the crowds. Not his family.

The irony is that many of those voices represented good things: healing, listening, friendship.  Yet, none represented the BEST thing.  The BEST thing was the plan that God was laying out for him.  But Peter was not ready for what that plan entailed.  Who can blame him?  Of course he doesn’t want to hear that a death sentence awaits.  The implications of Jesus’ death are many-the most personal one being that it would leave Peter without this person who has transformed his life on Earth.  But it isn’t about Peter.  And it isn’t about all the ways Jesus could fulfill people’s needs.  It’s about being in tune with the will of his Father.

Jesus’ exhortation most certainly sent a chill to Peter  But it was truth.  Peter’s plea to Jesus represented a path that was contrary to the one that Jesus knew  he was to walk. One would be afire with the Glory of God and the other would lead away.

Satan will try hard to distract us from listening to God’s voice. Some of those distractions come in the form of “good things”: other people’s expectations, the myriad of ministry opportunities luring us, the desire to do good.

But sometimes you get a gut feeling that the path you’re on is not where God wants you treading.   It’s that inner voice that you ignore because the way you are investing your time and resources appears to be productive.

But that “peace that passes all understanding” isn’t there.

In the last year, I’ve come to realize what happens when I don’t really listen to the inner voice of the Holy Spirit. It’s so easy to dig in and be consumed by “callings” to areas that use my skills and gifts. Being drawn to people is always a temptation of mine. But when I jump in without listening; without praying,  I feel tired and frustrated.  And, in a sense, those “good” things become my “Peter.”  They are stumbling blocks.

What is God’s purpose for you right now?  In this season of your life?  What is the “BEST” way that Jesus can be seen at work in your life? What must you give up to embrace it?