I often hold back from posting about issues of justice on social media— not because I think they are unimportant, but the opposite. I think that sometimes, platforms like Instagram and Facebook become a place for a performative activism, and especially a performative whiteness; one that lets us feel better and like we’ve “done our part” for reposting a trendy graphic that best fits our feeds’ aesthetic, instead of actively working to recognize our complicity in unjust and racist systems, and to dismantle them. I don’t want any part in that. Or, maybe, you don't say anything because you don’t know how or what. On the other hand, there are times when silence isn’t an option, for any of us, so I would ask that you pay attention— what is happening right now in our nation is not new, it is not surprising, and it is not how the world should be.
White friends, if you find yourself shocked, disturbed and heartbroken, a good place to start is by seeking to learn around issues that many folks in our communities don’t have the option to ignore. Some books that have been especially helpful to me as starting points are at the bottom. We’re going to have a conversation here that I hope you are willing to consider—this is not a conversation about the police, about who’s “right,” conspiracy theories, or what happened to that nice Weisz girl while she was away at college. This isn’t me telling you your life hasn’t been hard or carried suffering—I know that it has. I also know that if you are white like me, your suffering may have been enormous, but it hasn’t been because of the color of your skin, and that we have benefited directly and indirectly from a broken system. I know these conversations are hard, and I want you to hear that I’m not here to shame you—I’m here because I want to be honest about my own sin and ignorance, and have a conversation about repentance and awareness with you, my friends and family, and then to point you to people who have helped me learn and grow.
It is important to acknowledge here that I don’t live the experience of being a person of color in America. There are many wiser voices than I who can and should speak firsthand to this experience- some to learn from are listed below. It also feels important to say that I am still learning, still growing in my theology of how to discuss issues of race and that I recognize that I will get stuff wrong, and that scholars will devote their entire lives to these questions and only skim the surface. However, I see my own sin, ignorance, and complicity in these issues, and humbly ask you to join me in learning to do differently.
Friends— justice and reconciliation are key tasks of the church, and part of what it looks like to bring about the Kingdom of God. Amos writes “I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living. (Amos 5:24) In this chapter, God is saying that he’s fed up with the perversion of justice, and with systems that trample on the poor and the truthtellers, that oppress people who have done nothing wrong. God will no longer accept the normal worship of the people-- the offering God desires is justice, and righteous living.
bell hooks writes “I have come to see that silence is an act of complicity” and I think this is a word to the white evangelical church—to myself, and to all of us. Our time to protest that we did not and do not engage in racist and discriminatory practices within the walls of the big “C” church is over, because it is untrue. Our time (especially as members of predominantly white churches who may have been privileged enough to not daily encounter questions of race) to ignore these topics is over. If we are committed to the whole gospel, which teaches earth-shaking equality, then we must actively seek both a church and a nation that names and confronts sin where we see it, and names a lack of inclusion and even white supremacy as issues the church must repent of. This isn’t about being “politically correct” or voting a certain way—this is a different conversation: one about admitting our group and individual sin when we recognize it, and actively doing different things.
Scripture teaches that there is no “Jew or Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28) but we have to recognize that as much as this is true, it is also true that this verse has been used as a weapon to ignore issues of race and gender within the church. These are not words to hide behind; they are words that should invite us to seek this image of the Kingdom of God as a reality. One of my favorite passages is in Revelation- where we find out that “every tribe and every nation” will be at the wedding feast of the Lamb. The Greek is fairly clear that this means we’ll all still have our languages and cultural identity— heaven isn’t all of us becoming the same, but all of us bringing our own selves to a wedding feast.
An important part of this process is to look at ourselves first, and this is part of what the Holy Spirit can do for us. We just celebrated Pentecost-- a time when all sorts of people were united in this unique movement of the Spirit. We can ask the Spirit for new eyes to see ourselves and our brothers and sisters and lament our corporate and personal sin and complicity in systems of injustice when it is revealed to us. Scripture describes lament-- which is a fancy Bible word for being sorry and sad and saying it-- as an important part of repentance; as people who are confronted with our sin, and our nation’s broken parts, we should name it and mourn it like the prophets before us have done. Notably, sometimes we sin by simply participating in things that benefit us and harm others, and the Old Testament is filled with examples of Israel’s need to repent from doing that.
Education can play an important role in helping us to own our failure, as well as shaping our lament; but in learning we can also find freedom in how we move forward. As Christians we see the reality of the world, and resist the temptation to play pretend, while also living in abundant hope that though this world is broken, it is not how things will always be. Pastor Eugene Cho offered some helpful language for the church around our most recent news, writing,
“sometimes, in a broken world, people use broken means to convey the pain of their oppression. As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once shared, "A riot is the language of the unheard."
Now, in the same sermon entitled "The Other America" which also gives the quote above, Dr. King additionally shares, "Let me say as I've always said, and I will always continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating..." In other words, he's articulating the tension that some of us feel but don't necessarily live and embody: Pain at the sight of chaos and violence but deeper pain behind what caused these actions.
This is why we have to stay engaged and keep listening...and be moved to action and solidarity.
Why? Because calling for peace without a demand for justice is another way of saying,
"Shhh. Don't rock the boat. Don't be divisive. It works for me. Isn't peace great?!"
Herein lies the difference between peacemaking and peacekeeping.”
Church, do you want to be peacekeepers or peacemakers? As we tell the story of the family of God to each other, we have a responsibility to both own our failings, but also learn from the people who have followed Jesus before us and beside us. We have a responsibility to make our churches a place where we embrace discomfort so that others might feel more comfortable; where we allow one another’s stories to touch and shape our own. As people called to a great hope, we believe that we live in the kingdom of the “now and the not yet” and we trust that even in the midst of great brokenness the Spirit is alive and well. I hope for the church to become a model for the kind of radical reconciliation that is only possible through the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I hope that we recognize that right relationship with one another and active work towards a world where all people are included and valued and safe is a fundamental reality of following Jesus.
I’d like to close with Theologian Miroslav Volf’s charge towards justice and reconciliation found in his work Exclusion and Embrace. Early in the book, he speaks of how hard it is to seek reconciliation, writing “the human ability to agree on justice will never catch up with the human propensity to do injustice.” This is true, I think, of our national reality. However, Volf then goes on to suggest a way towards justice that I think best describes my hope, writing:
“For those who stand in the…traditions of the scripture, no neutrality is in fact admissible. These people hear the groans of the suffering, take a stance, and act. Then, they reflect… take a stance again, and act. From their perspective, the grounds on which they take their stances and their judgements as to what is just are not merely expressions of their preferences….After all, they are called to seek and struggle for God’s justice, not their own. For them that justice is not only one among many possible and equally acceptable perspectives…it is the justice—even if they are fully aware that they grasp it only imperfectly and practice it inadequately, and even if they seek correction and enrichment from others with whom they disagree but cannot presume to be totally wrong.”
May we seek this justice and for our world over and over again, recognizing that we will get it wrong, but also that it is God’s justice and not our own that we’re seeking. May we choose discomfort and humility, knowing that it leads to learning and growth. Most of all, may Jesus be honored in what we do, and may the church become a better and more beautiful Bride as we are transformed to be more and more like Jesus.
Books to Start With:
A note: a few of those books may make you feel uncomfortable, defensive, or frustrated. You might want to say “this isn’t talking about me. I’m not like that.” I would encourage you to feel those feelings, and to ask yourself where they’re coming from. You don’t have to agree with everything you read, but don’t discount it just because it makes you uncomfortable. You don’t know what you don’t know—but once you take initiative to learn, you can do better—and you can be patient with yourself for what you did not know or do well, even as you seek to grow.
Books about people’s experiences
White Awake—Daniel Hill
White Fragility— Robin DiAngelo
I’m Still Here—Black Dignity in a World Made For Whiteness— Austin Channing Brown
Between The World and Me— Ta-Nehisi Coates
What are people talking about when they mention systemic injustice? Mass incarceration is a good place to start.
Just Mercy— Brian Stevenson (also, check out the movie based off this book, newly out and at Red Box in town!)
Rethinking Incarceration— Dominique Gilliard
The New Jim Crow— Michelle Alexander
The documentary 13th, available on Netflix
Education, children, and schools:
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting at the Back of the Cafeteria? — Beverly Daniel Tatum
Prelude to Prison—Marsha Weissman
Christianity and Reconciliation
Roadmap to Reconciliation— Brenda Salter McNeil
The Color of Compromise-- Jemar Tisby
Divided by Faith -- Christian Smith and Michael O. Emerson
A Credible Witness—Brenda Salter McNeil
Dream With Me—John Perkins
Exclusion and Embrace— Mirslov Volf
The Cross and the Lynching Tree- James Cone
https://www.saltermcneil.com/reconciliation-justice (videos and downloads for individuals, small groups, people in leadership in any job, and churches)
Restore to me the joy of my salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.
I love to hear people’s stories; about the before and after and about how Jesus has changed their hearts and lives. Sometimes, the changes are dramatic or instantaneous. Sometimes, the change is more gradual and quiet. It is the knowledge that life is being seen in a new and different way, and you realize it is God at work. Your stories remind me of the joy and peace I experienced when I first understood the Jesus of the Bible. The One who loves me, died for my sins, was resurrected and is continually growing and transforming me.
I was 14, when a Christian friend invited me to a Christian concert, The Imperials. One song stood out in particular, “Oh Buddha”
Well, I don't hate anybody so please don't take me wrong
But there really is a message to this simple song
You see there's only one way, Jesus, if eternal life is your goal;
And a life of meditation won't save your soul
No, it won't be old Buddha that's sitting on the throne
And it won't be old Mohammed that's calling us Home
And it won't be Hare Krishna that plays that trumpet tune
And we're going to see The Son, not Reverend Moon!
The next morning, when I went to church with my friend, I asked the Jesus to be the Lord of my life. It all made sense. He made sense. For the first time in my life I felt a sustained peace and joy.
That is only the starting point of my journey and I’ll be honest.. Some 40 years later I sometimes forget the intense joy and hope of that decision. Doubts, struggles and questions make their way into my heart. But, the Lord always meets me there. He gently answers my questions without rebuke, and sometimes he just says “I love you. Trust me”.
And that is why I love hearing your Jesus stories. He works in as many ways as there are people. He is all knowing, and because He has called us to relationship, He relates to us out of His love and knowledge.
I pray often Psalms 51:12, “Restore to me the joy of my salvation.” Joy is there, but sometimes I long for the intensity and sweetness of when I first accepted Christ. Thank you for sharing your stories, because when you do, I’m reminded of my own, and how God has written His stories on my heart and in my life.
Who has God placed on your heart to tell your story to?
Director of Children’s Ministries
There is no greater discovery then seeing God as the author of your destiny
You might know that I have been recovering from ankle surgery since the first week of January. I was encouraged, filled with hope, and grateful to God. My progress toward walking unsupported in my shoes again was right on schedule…until I walked. The first day was freedom indeed, yet the second day I was unable to walk or stand because of the pain. I simply felt ambushed and struck down.
My hope filled, grateful, and encouraged bubble was burst. I quickly became depressed, wondering why, and beginning to think this problem ankle was going to be a forever trial. Susan would have said I became “rather prickly.”
Reading through I Peter 1 in response to our pastor Ben’s sermon last Sunday, the Holy Spirit got my heart attention back upon Christ and not my rear-end. The Holy Spirit reminded me of what I’ve learned, and have taught many times, that when I give my thoughts and responses over to presenting problems, it’s like inviting them to make themselves at home, and I quickly lose any Kingdom perspective. The lies and ways of thinking that the enemy has thrown against me, once again tend to rise and dominate my thoughts and heart.
This is an honest expression of where I was two weeks ago.
Reading I Peter 1:1-7 repeatedly pulled me back to true North, while the Holy Spirit mercifully revealed my anger and frustration.. Here are a few of my observations…
1.Our joy, hope, and peace may be found in the midst of unexpected difficult circumstances. We must keep our hearts focused on Jesus and His promises. He is the way-able Savior who holds us fast (Ps. 139:17-12)
2. When we find ourselves scattered, unable to see clearly and powerless to change our circumstances, He is working. (see verses 1-2, 6-7)
3. Difficulty, suffering, and unexpected situations are the context in which the Holy Spirit powerfully works in us to bring forth something of greater worth than the gold we have been so diligently saving and protecting…genuine faith!
3. If my local inheritance is somehow scattered like dust (read that COVID) I have the assurance that a heavenly inheritance is just around the corner, and this inheritance will never perish, spoil, or fade.
4. In all of this, the seasons of grief and suffering have a voice… purposed to reveal the genuineness of our faith, and to proclaim the praise, honor, and Glory of Jesus.
I encourage you to daily remind yourself of the goodness and mercy of God for He has truly birthed us into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus!
“There is no greater discovery then seeing God as the author of your destiny”
Rusty Van Deusen
As the body without the Spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
Are you a planner? I am a planner. Ever since I was young, I wanted to plan, help others plan and be in charge of the plans! I guess there are other titles to that type of personality, but I would like to think of myself not as a control freak, but as one who would like to know what the end game is.
I thought I knew what the plan was for my life. I have always wanted the Lord to lead me in my decisions and never wanted to run down the road ahead of Him, but I always had that peace in life that I was in the center of His will. All the planning in the world changed course in January when my husband, Marc, suffered a heart attack while taking his daily walk in Washington Park. At that point, things changed in a way I could never have anticipated. I had always thought we would grow old together and enjoy each other’s company until we went to Heaven…never to be separated! God had other plans.
Marc and I moved from Bellevue to Anacortes in June to enjoy this beautiful area within the comfort of retirement. We both had had demanding jobs for years and we had taken care of my 98 year old father in law for the last 10 years, so after his passing we thought it was our opportunity to move and to spend time with each other and experience the relaxation of what this area has to offer. On a very cold, windy afternoon everything changed and after being found by a stranger in the park, Marc was transported to Seattle where he fought for his life for 11 days at the University of Washington Medical Center. The plan continued to evolve dramatically when I was faced with removing life support from my husband of 52 years. Briefly, his life was in my hands. Marc was helpless, he had no say as to whether he was going to transition into eternity, but he trusted me to follow his wishes in the last moments of his life. I remember asking the doctors, what is the right thing to do? I asked my kids, what would you do? But the answer remained the same…Marc had trusted me with his life to make the decisions that were in accordance with his wishes. I knew I was going to have to dig deep into my faith to get me through what I was going to see and feel.
Faith is a somewhat overused and underappreciated word in the life of a believer. One aspect of faith is its sustaining power. When you feel like you have reached the depth of despair, we are encouraged to dig a little deeper. No matter the depths of that despair, it is not too deep for our Father to meet us there and to make sure we do not sink any deeper than what we can bear. We discover the safety net that He provides and experience His renewal and presence with more desire to move forward. To carry on…so to speak.
And, as we move forward, we experience yet another aspect of faith in the motivation we receive to live, to feel joy and to share with others the tenderness of our God. We find the urging from our Father in James 2:26…
“As the body without the Spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”
The deeds or works are endless. Awareness of the distribution of the gift the Father has provided through faith is our job, as well as to uncover the opportunities set before us.
Faith also manifests a boldness to tackle our lives every day with the assurance of His presence so we can take on the mundane tasks and yet it prepares us for the decisions that are most influential. It gives us patience with our kids, understanding of our families, peace with bosses, and a gentleness with annoying neighbors. Faith assures us the Lord is looking out for everything from the moment our feet hit the floor in the morning until we lay our heads on our pillows at night.
The final gift of faith that is most precious to me is that I can experience extraordinary peace… a calmness, assurance, and rest. There are days when I try so hard to tread water by myself but when I give up and rest in the arms of the Father, He holds me tight and keeps my head above water. I can breathe deeply and feel the buoyancy of being in His plan for the day.
So, the plan has changed for me and the lessons continue. Faith I experienced as a child when the Savior accepted me into His family lives on. The lessons seem more difficult, but the assurance remains the same. He promised it would. Joy has returned to my life. God and I talk often, and He knows how I feel. I have figured out what the plan is, and I know the end game. It is His. He keeps telling me, “I’ve got this.”
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
For as long as I can remember one of my favorite things has been sunsets, specifically African sunsets. The red dirt in the African air gives a punch of color and vibrance to the painted skies. Early evening is when the heat of the day subsides and makes way for a cool breeze. Businesses close, people head home and there is an almost tangible sense of slowing down and taking note of the day, all that it held and all that it had not been. It’s a daily moment to pause, admire, reflect and be grateful.
Last year I got the chance to go home and for the first time in eight years I was back in Zimbabwe with my childhood family unit: my parents and two sisters. We soaked up each and every sunset together, but there was one sunset in particular that is indelibly marked in my memory. We were coming up to the last night of our road trip around Zim, it had been many hundreds of miles, or kilometres as we tend to use, and the hot, dusty day was drawing to a close. The trusty Land Rover bumbled down a dirt track in the middle of the African bush with five very happy passengers. Windows rolled down, evening birds calling, crickets chirping and all of us breathing deeply in the cool night air. As the sun was setting, we were surrounded by a spectacular display of God’s creativity and grandeur. Playing softly on the sound system was “Look Up Child” by Lauren Daigle. It was an incredibly fitting song for the moment and my heart took a snapshot for safekeeping.
I have thought so much about that moment and the words of that song throughout the last few months of global upheaval and uncertainty. It has me thinking a lot of Psalm 121 too - where does our help come from? The Lord, the Maker of all of it! He is not shaken, He is not overwhelmed. He is well able and He invites us to look up, watch Him at work and rest in our Father’s arms.
So, all that to say, I encourage you, put on the song “Look Up Child” and turn the volume up, open your Bible to Psalm 121 and be reminded, He is in control.
I love cheeseburgers and endorphins.
I am a big fan of the “South of the Border” Burger at the Brown Lantern, the “M Forcer” Burger at Vagabond Station and (of course) the “Everyday” burger at Bastion. If I am traveling, my favorite is Five Guys Burgers and Fries with lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mustard, relish and grilled onions (of course I get the Cajun fries)… unless I am in California … then it’s In-n-Out Burger Combo #1… that’s a Double-Double with grilled onions (and fries and lemonade).
I’m not sure if I was born loving cheeseburgers, but I would be willing to wager I was a cheeseburger lover by age 7.
It took me quite a bit longer than that to realize my love for endorphins. These chemicals, which reside in our body, were first discovered in the 1970’s. They are a hormone that is naturally produced by the body which eases pain and gives you a sense of calm and happiness. Morphine is the medicine used to trigger the same brain receptors.
The 1970’s also gave us this new fad called “jogging”. Jogging was brought to America from New Zealand by legendary track coach Bill Bowerman. If his name sounds familiar it is because Coach Bowerman was one of the co-founders of Nike. Jogging was a quirky sport that took a while to catch on. It was reported that in the early 1970’s Senator Strom Thurmond was stopped by a police officer. His suspicious activity? Jogging.
It was shortly after the introduction of jogging/running to the American vernacular that another term entered our lexicon. “Runners High” became a common term used for the feeling of calm and happiness that followed a moderate run.
You aren’t going to believe this next part … Scientists soon discovered that moderate running caused the body to produce endorphins which then helped reduce pain, which was followed by a wave of calm and happiness! The term “Runner's High” soon evolved into the “Endorphin Rush”.
You know what’s even awesomer!?
You don't have to run to get it!
It turns out that upon further study ANY moderate exercise of 20-30 minutes would result in the production of endorphins in the body!
What’s your jam? Hiking, cycling, running, walking, jogging, basketball, swimming or ultimate frisbee? It doesn’t matter … get moving … start producing endorphins.
Now this is an important point to note … Each activity will start producing endorphins at different times. Running, for instance, starts producing endorphins after 8 minutes and 33 seconds.
These are two important points that we need to remember.
So what does this have to do with anything?
About six years ago I had an “unfortunate incident” that led to a moment of unconsciousness and an arm broken in four different places. Getting the arm patched up was fairly straight forward. Dealing with the loss of consciousness was a bit more troubling, my employment was in jeopardy.
My circumstances were out of my control.
I'm not sure how your brain works, but mine just wouldn't stop spinning.
I quickly came to the conclusion, I needed to start moving.
Endorphins and I had been introduced in the past, but this is when we became close friends. I started with walks, which evolved into hikes, which evolved into jogs, which evolved into runs. All of this to achieve a sense of calm over my uncertain future.
I was using the physical part of my humanness to affect the mental part of my humanness.
Something else happened during this time. The “spiritual or biblical” books and studies that I was engaged in started to talk about Jesus in a new and profound way. I have always identified with Jesus as God and Savior, but I was now being introduced to Jesus as “Rabbi” or “Teacher” or “Guide”. He is all of those things.
This started me thinking about how Jesus lived. His was a slower life, He typically walked from place to place… at 3 mph! He enjoyed eating long, slow meals with His friends so much so He was called a “drunkard and glutton” in Luke 7. He enjoyed serving the multitudes but He also enjoyed being alone with Himself and the Father. Matthew 14 is a great example, it starts in verse 13 as we see Jesus withdrawing from the crowds as He laments the loss of John the Baptist. He then engages the crowd with compassion in verse 14, healing the sick and feeding the five thousand. Finally, in verse 23 He dismisses the crowd and goes up the mountainside alone to pray.
He walks (3 mph)
He eats and drinks with His community
He serves the needs of those around Him
He retreats for rest … mental, physical and spiritual
As I began to draw close to Him as my Rabbi, I was introduced to these things called “Spiritual Disciplines.”
Dallas Willard (and many others) have identified the following practices: Prayer, Silence and Solitude, Community, Simple and Sacrificial Living, Meditation on God’s Word, Worship, Service to Others.
It is important to fight back the feeling of being overwhelmed right now. The point of the list is not to check all of the items off and get a “Good Christian” sticker, in fact don’t look at it as a list at all. Think of it as hiking, cycling, running, walking, jogging, basketball, swimming or ultimate frisbee. What’s your jam? Which one(s) work for you?
The point is to find a practice or practices to help you reflect the life of your Rabbi and in doing so draw closer to the rhythms of His life.
Slowing down, lingering in community, serving others, retreating for rest … mental, spiritual and physical.
When I do this I find the pain and concerns of my life minimized, followed by a wave of calm and even joy.
I am using the spiritual part of my humanness to affect the mental part of my humanness.
I call them “Spiritual Endorphins”.
Don’t forget our two facts about endorphins
What’s your jam? Prayer, Silence and Solitude, Community, Simple and Sacrificial Living, Meditation on God’s Word, Worship, Service to Others? It doesn’t matter … get moving … start producing spiritual endorphins.
Each day when I wake up I crave endorphins, spiritual and physical.
Do I want to run? Not necessarily.
Do I want to take time to pray, worship, meditate on God’s Word? Not necessarily.
But, what I do want, what I do crave is the wave of calm and joy that comes with taking the time to engage my body and my soul.
So, the next time you see a cheeseburger …
Think of endorphins
Think of running, walking, mountain biking, etc.
Think of spiritual endorphins
Think of prayer, worship and meditation.
And then order the french fries.
My Father is glorified and honored by this, when you bear much fruit, and prove yourselves to be My disciples
John 15:16 (AMP)
16 You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed and placed and purposefully planted you, so that you would go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit will remain and be lasting, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name [as My representative] He may give to you.
Isn’t that true? Without the sound and undeserved grace of God, we would have never sought Him? How sweet a truth! These past few weeks I have been camping on peace, safety, grace and all other such things that reflect some of who Christ is.
Then I think to myself, what about people I love who build a foundation on things other than Christ? Where are they to post their tent to weather the storm? The Christian Church knows that during the pandemic, God is still in control, but do others?
Christ chose us, before we had a say, and with all divine might, planted us.
What does a plant do? Grows roots and grafts itself to the soil in which it was planted, and does not ask for rain, but trusts that it’s master will supply all that is needed, hence, Jesus says ..”so that… you would bear fruit and keep on bearing….and that your fruit will remain and be lasting…”
How does a plant bear fruit? A branch. Christ says “I am the vine, and you are the branches.” That gives to us the lesson of entire consecration. The branch has one reason for which it exists, one purpose for which it is given up; to bear the fruit the vine wishes to bring forth.
If we are planted in Christ, abiding in Him, responding to His charge, the result will be bearing fruit.
8 My Father is glorified and honored by this, when you bear much fruit, and prove yourselves to be My [true] disciples.
An apple tree is known to produce apples, a grapevine is known to produce grapes, a Christian ought to be known to produce spiritual gifts, that point to the Father. As the weeks have gone by and I look to the future, I pray and petition that Christ would so plant in the Church, the desire to seek Him earnestly. To bear much fruit that when people see the Church, when they recognize the fruits, it would all point to Christ, a foundation, and they see Him as a source of Living Water, Living Food.
CTK, the world is hungry, looking for life in every corner they can find it, only to be dissatisfied when the foundation crumbles. Let’s go feed them.
All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. John 1:3 (NIV)
I’m very familiar with being home, as I stay at home with my three little ones. Honestly, I often feel stuck at home, as it is quite a process to go anywhere with kids, and even more of a feat to go out alone. So, truthfully, to be required to be at home, as a “shelter in place”, has been very difficult for me. My “job” as a stay at home mama is normally pretty exhausting, but even more so, as social distancing has made my kids even more hungry, and more creative with their ability to cast toys in every part of our house. But, I’m greatly aware of how this virus has been affecting everyone else’s work too. Some of those I love are without work, some are afraid they soon will be, while others are trying to navigate how to work from home. And then there are those who are working extra to serve our community. Some of our work is considered essential, while some is considered non-essential.
Yet, when we look to Jesus, He is always at work. He is always creating. The daffodils in bloom, new buds on the trees, and fresh green grass are all signs that He is at work. And Jesus has always been the source of all creation, as it says in scripture: All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. John 1:3 (NIV)
He is the source of all growth, and I see that daily in my sons, who outgrow their clothes, shoes, and coats on a regular basis. I see it in my 2 year old daughter, whose vocabulary grows every day, and is able to make more demands of what she needs and wants. “No mommy, I won geen fork” (I want green fork).
All around us are signs of His Creation, signs of His work, His continual work as evident in new growth and change. But, I believe our Creator God most delights in internal growth and change, that can only take place in our hearts, even now in this time of isolation.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV)
If we imagine our heart as a home, a home where the Lord can enter, what does your heart look like? Are there any rooms that needed dusting or cleaning (figuratively of course, please don’t stress!)? Are there any rooms that you don’t want Him to see? Maybe a closet that even you don’t want to open and see what’s inside? Will you seat Him in your formal dining room, where you bring out your best dishes, cook your fanciest dish, and even serve dessert? Or, will you let Him in to your kitchen, your real kitchen, not the one you clean before birthday parties and holidays. You know the one, where the dish washer hasn’t been emptied in days, the dirty dishes are piled in the sink, the counters are filled with groceries and mail to be put away and some unidentified sticky substance. Will you let Him sit at your kitchen table, MAKE YOU a cup of tea, and just simply listen to how you are doing? I mean really doing? What will He say? I believe it will be something like: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27 (NIV)
Take heart church! God is still on His throne. We still have the gift of His Spirit and Jesus is
A last second goal took away my dream of a first conference championship as a High School
soccer coach. A surprise birthday party! A meeting with a boss informing me that my services
were no longer needed. The birth of daughter number two (Elissa) on a freeway! A phone call
informing me of an unexpected death.
Have things ever turned out for you “not as you expected?” They happen all the time if you
think about it. Relationships, conversations, tryouts, work, bills...the list goes on. None of us
expected this. None of us expected the current pandemic with the current uncertainties,
restrictions & distance from one another. As we experience the unexpected, or as Pastor Ben has been
teaching, disruptions, there are still some truths we can rest in and be reminded of this Holy
Let’s take a moment to recall that God’s Word itself is filled with the unexpected: The Israelites
in captivity? Jonah swallowed by a fish? Jesus washing the feet of His disciples? A Savior
hanging on a cross? The Resurrection!
As we experience this “Holy Week” like no other, apart from church and extended family, let us
take solace in and contemplate upon the fact that this may not be so different as that
experienced by Jesus’ first disciples so many years ago. Jesus was betrayed. It was confusing.
The disciples had questions. Jesus was crucified. Mourning, sadness. The day after His
crucifixion more confusion, loneliness and despair. But on Easter Sunday...Resurrection!
Victory! Amazement! Hope!
We have the words of Jesus and God’s Word as a whole at our disposal. Jesus in John 16:33
says “...In this world you will have troubles of many kinds, but do not fear for I have overcome
the world.” Paul in Romans 12:12 says “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in
prayer.” Peter in 2 Peter 1 tells us “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to
life and godliness...”
Take heart church! God is still on His throne. We still have the gift of His Spirit and Jesus is
Risen...He is Risen Indeed!
For further study this week read: 2 Peter 1:1-11, Mathew 28:17-20
For this reason it says, ‘Wake up, O Sleeper, arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you
When I lived in San Francisco, a few years ago, I used to pass a classic green public mailbox located on the top of Nob Hill on my walk over to the local Trader Joe’s. There was a little phrase brushed in small bold white letters on the top of the mailbox: “WAKE UP O SLEEPER”...This verse would always pop into my mind when I read those words:
“For this reason it says, ‘Wake up, O Sleeper, arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
On this daily stroll I would often think to myself, am I falling asleep to the ways that Jesus through His Holy Spirit is speaking to me because of the noise of work, pace of life, or something else that I have completely drifted off to sleep regarding. God providing that message, “WAKE UP,” was an amazing daily reminder (Ebineezer) for me in that season of life.
Now fast forward to today, we are in a global pause, time of isolation, and it is allowing us to think through the different areas of our lives and seek the Lord through prayer regarding areas that we may have fallen asleep to.
“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret…”
As we seek Him in this season let’s not be afraid, but confident that God is using this coronavirus to awaken us to areas in our lives individually and as a church body that we need to awaken to. Let’s keep praying for each other and connecting through technology as we learn to play that pause that God has allowed in this year of 2020. Thanks for reading and prayerfully considering areas that specifically are being brought to the surface that need to be awakened to!
Keep on Keeping on,