Abba, Father!

Today the Lord reminded me to call him “Father”.

I was driving to meet a friend for a play date, trying to find the answers to my heart being so tired, worn out and generally tending toward negative. I could see it clearly and wanted to “fix” it. I knew that I should have grace and love “flowing out of me” from a heart satisfied and loved by my Savior. But how the heck does one “do” that. It certainly wasn’t happening for me in this moment. After a long day of ‘ministry’ activities, where I was hit by sin, gossip, harshness and hardheartedness I was encountering in others… knowing that if God has called me to do ministry for the rest of my days, that I would need to be able to handle all of this and keep my hope and joy in Christ ….  But today I was not feeling it.

I was asking God to help me. I knew that if I didn’t get a handle on all this, I could soon become like those in Tripp’s book Dangerous Calling that give up! I wanted a heart that sees good and not just mistakes. See potential, rather than problems.

I had hoped I would see Jesus’ face in the Church more often. I knew that I had seen him in His Body… but I was having a hard time looking past the all the rest of the crap. My heart was frustrated and loosing perspective.

In a blog I have begun to enjoy describes the difference between loving the universal and local Church:

On the other hand you have the local church.  It’s filled with people.  Actual people who say dumbass things.  Who manipulate out of their aspirations and desires.  Who all to often hurt others and fail to embody love.  It’s much more difficult to love this church. But you can’t love the universal church and not love a local church.  Loving church means loving people, not an idea.  And loving people means loving them when it hurts you to do so.  Sharing in Christ’s sufferings is a brutal reality when you work to love actual human beings.”

See more at here.

I knew the problem and I wanted to fix it.

In the middle of my babbling at God about all of this, what came out of my mouth was “Father”…

 All of a sudden, emotions rushed over me.

Father.

I desperately needing my father. What Romans 8:15 calls,  “Abba! Father”. I am a child. I am in need of unconditional, care of a loving father. I need to be listened to. I need to be taken care of. I need my wounds tended to.

 I cannot heal myself.  Jesus blood is my healing. His forgiveness gives me access to God’s unconditional love. . . his saving grace which makes me free.

And I have collected my fair share of wounds.  From other Christians, family and friends. Only at the cross can they be reconciled, completely and utterly wiped clean. I am being made new each day by the tender hands of my Father. Sometimes I need to get hurt in order for my Father to teach me something. Other times, I fall down and my daddy just wants to hold me as I cry. I have not known an earthly Father like this, but I do know my heavenly Father is one who loves me. Who cares for my every needs, and wipes away my tears.

 I am convinced, this is the only way I can survive the pain that comes from loving a broken Church, my hurting neighbor is by staying as close I can to the loving, compassionate and gracious Father who did everything so that He could be with ME?!

Crazy, awesome grace.

Surrender & Brokenness – Jeremiah

I have been confronted by the theme lately of complete surrender and complete brokenness. It’s like God is whispering to me, reminding me of what I had unknowingly lost track of in the dust of suffering. The last six months have been like surgery. God has been taking a knife to heart and digging out the pieces he doesn’t want there anymore, in hopes I would cling to Him, completely. I am left without many options to cling to besides Him…. although my broken, desperate and wandering heart tries to find them.

I think to solidify this in my heart and to bring some type of comfort to my broken soul, God directed me to read Jeremiah. Jeremiah is known as the Weeping Prophet. Sometimes I laugh – Sometimes my rebellion wants to yell “Really, God?” Cant I read John or Psalms? But He always knows how to take care of me. He always cares and He is always good.

In the first chapter, what God calls Jeremiah to do shook me. Most people quote the verses about how God knew Jeremiah “before he was formed in the womb” but if you read on this is what He says:  

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak. “Do not be afraid of them, For I am with you to deliver you,” declares the Lord. Then the Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. “See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, To pluck up and to break down, To destroy and to overthrow, To build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:7-10 NASB)

What strikes me about this is God called him to be a prophet. This was no choice of Jeremiah’s. It was also not his age, experience or rank that qualified him but God who commanded him to go and to do.

What did God call him to? To pluck up and break down. To destroy and overthrow, to build and plant through the words God places in his mouth. He would be a mouth piece to a rebellious, unrepentant Israel. What a weighty call. What a heavy burden. For a man who loved Israel, he would now go through horrible rejection, reproach, persecution from his beloved nation, even to  the point of despairing of his own life, to obey and be the mouth piece of God (Jer. 15:15b)

Is this what you picture calling to be? When Christians talked about their “calls”, I have never heard anyone even come close to discussing anything remotely close to what Jeremiah experienced. I don’t know if it is the result of the American church or our own sin that entices us to believe the direction and will God has for our lives will always be coupled with ease, comfort and we will be rescued from harm. This is not the calling of any of our forefathers of the faith. Certainly not what God commanded Jeremiah to do.

The promise here is no different than in other parts of scripture – God will be with you… to deliver you. Deliverance does not mean escape from rejection, physical strife, loneliness or possible eventual death. So what does deliverance mean here?

When God called Jeremiah here, there really isn’t much of a choice. To turn away would awaken God’s wrath, that Jeremiah was fully aware of. Jeremiah did not, like many of us, doubt God’s power to move. This made his obedience less of a choice, and more of a necessity. And where else could he go, where God was not? What could he do but follow God. For those who have been captured with the affections and fear of their Maker, there really isn’t anywhere else to go. Even if the path is taking you where you never wanted to go. And asking to do what you never wanted to do.

At one point in Jeremiah the actual translation of how he felt about his call was “seduction” and “rape” in Jeremiah 20:7a. God has seduced him, then overpowered him to do his will. What hard imagery is this? What harsh imagery to reconcile with a good God … But is it?

Why would all of this be a comfort to me amidst suffering? When you have been placed in unlikely of situations, where all feels lost and despaired, to know God can interact with people he loves like he does with Jeremiah is a comfort. To know his love can actually look at moments like hate. His love sent his Son to die for all mankind. God’s love for Israel sent Jeremiah to call them to repent, knowing full well Jeremiah would suffer. God’s love for his Church sent the first disciples to preach the gospel to the world, and to eventually be killed. God’s love sends missionaries to desolate places, to harsh lives.

Why do people like Jeremiah, Paul, Jesus, you and I choose to follow God, even if it’s most likely we will go through refining fire, and maybe through moments of such despair you wish you were dead?

This is the only answer that makes sense to me – God, Himself, becomes better than life. The eternal becomes greater than the finite. God breaks into our lives and shakes us so deeply to our core by his love that we can no longer live for self alone. Gospel Wakefulness takes great efforts to describe this phenomenon. When this “phenomenon” happens, you begin to follow God joyfully … blindly. When God brings you to an unknown, unforsakable place, your flesh might squirm with the fears of what it might entail, but you have no where else to go. You have met Love, Himself. You know too well where all other paths in life will take you. You can not turn back. You cannot return. To do so would be walk away from God.

He promises us: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18)

So I welcome whatever following God looks like in my life because I know whatever it is, my life will not be in vain. I have everything in God, Himself. And no matter what I know the goodness, glory and work of God in me is worth the temporary suffering. I cannot say that about any other place in this life. Nothing compares to eternity. Nothing compares to God’s work. Nothing compares to God, Himself, loving, working and living inside of me.

I want to leave you with this song by Sara Groves that paints the tension between wanting to follow God but dealing with the frustration of where it is taking you and having to reconcile that it is still where you want to be.

Painting Pictures of Egypt

Sara Groves

I don’t want to leave here
I don’t want to stay
It feels like pinching to me either way
The places I long for the most
Are the places where I’ve been
They are calling after me like a long lost friend

It’s not about losing faith
It’s not about trust
It’s all about comfortable
When you move so much
The place I was wasn’t perfect
But I had found a way to live
It wasn’t milk or honey
But then neither is this

CHORUS

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacked
The future seems so hard
And I want to go back
But the places that used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I”ve learned
And those roads closed off to me
While my back was turned

The past is so tangible
I know it by heart
Familiar things are never easy to discard
I was dying for some freedom
But now I hesitate to go
Caught between the promise
And the things I know

If it comes too quick
I may not recognize it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?
If it comes too quick
I may not appreciate it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?

The Trouble of being a Nerd

 Being the nerd that I am, I am gloriously excited to hear from some seasoned Pastors and Theologians for the next few weeks at my church. What a blessing!

I was struck by Dr. Osborne interview – here are a few thoughts :

1. “I really never had to fight the demons of insecurity that can cause us to run from problems and pursue bigger ministry goals as a means of self-validation.” 

I was intrigued by his perspective on how some need to “grow their church” to be validated. I for one have always felt uneasy with this being the main focus of any push at the church. Yes, I love evangelism. Yes, I think to grow as a church can reflect that the church is healthy. The focus I believe, should be one stewarding and discipling the congregation you have to follow Christ and foster their own faith deeply so that they desire to share their faith with those who do not know. God decides who comes to your church (who is “harvested”). It’s not about manufacturing how your church is to just bring people in the door. It’s like saying if you get more people to crowd around an ice-cream truck, that means the people must worship, follow and devote their lives to ice-cream. It might just simply mean that they felt like a cone today. And then they will move on. Or when it gets cold, they will stop craving cold things. Being inside a building means little. Following a set of rules means little. Being completely transformed by God’s jealous and overwhelming love for you, that all you can do is repent and worship is everything. That naturally makes disciples. Cause one thing people love doing is sharing with someone else what has deeply and genuinely transformed them!

It was just interesting to me for Osborne to call out some leaders who might be wanting numbers to fill the emptiness inside them with the success of their Church. Honestly not thinking of anyone in particular here, just gutsy.

2. “But I do have concerns that I’ve written about in my book, Accidental Pharisees. If we’re not careful, our zeal can lead to pride, exclusivity, legalism, a critical spirit, and lots of unbiblical gift-projection. I see this as the greatest obstacle facing the young and zealous church today. It’s a much greater danger than the loss of any so-called “culture wars.” The darker our society gets, the more a tiny light makes a difference. But if we lose our agape love for one another in hyper-zeal and division, the light will go out.” 

 Did you hear that last sentence! Dude!!! I am chewing on this. In our Christian culture today, the term “truth in love” has been thrown around a lot to mean a lot of things. In scripture, it seems like certain things take precedence over others. Or in other cases, one thing does not work without the another. Like Faith is validated by your works, Truth is no truth absent of love. It stops being true. The essence of it is lost.  Like gifts without Love is compared to a noisy gong (1 Cor 13). The gifts are still truly there – but loose their meaning and function without love. The function of gifts is to build up and edify the body of Christ. How can you do that when people are seeking self glorification and recognition in their gifts over their primary purpose to sacrificially serve others and sanctify the Body?

If Truth … (and when I say truth I mean the whole gospel which includes the deep love of God shown through Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins)…  comes without obeying the command to encourage and sacrificially love your brother/sister, especially if he is weaker, knowing the greatest love is to die for one another – if THAT Love is not a part of the truth – I feel it is being served incomplete. I have a feeling this subject will become it’s own post :)

Full Interview with Dr. Osborne here: Interview with Larry Osborne