Keep the Main Thing The Main Thing: Response for Uncertain Times

Several years ago my husband and I attended a smaller church that sat on top of a large hill in the middle of a small city. The Church was two story and rectangular(kind of looked like an ark in my mind) and situated right in the middle of a questionable neighborhood. It was the kind of neighborhood that I would get uncomfortable the nights we would be there if I didn’t know the door was locked. One Sunday we drove up the hill and noticed the SWAT team for the city surrounding the house next door to our church. We opted to drive around for awhile until the arrest was made. There were many Sundays that I would sit during service near a window and watch the neighborhood people walking up and down the hill on the way to the stores on the main strip. I would often think about how comfortable I was sitting in my padded chair, dressed nicely, surrounded by my family and friends. Then look out the window to see someone who looked desperate and alone walking down the hill. The image of Noah and his family sitting in the ark would play through my head. “Is this what they might have felt listening to the world fall apart while they were safe in the ark?” Lately, I’ve felt that feeling again. As I’ve watched the evening news drone on and on about riots, unrest, virus totals, statues being demolished, etc. Then I look around me in my nice country house, acreage, and miles from the closest conflicts. “Am I sitting on the ark again?” Even Noah in his time was a preacher of righteousness up until he got on the ark and it started to rain, why would I just sit here… The discussion with friends I’ve met up with lately has centered around “What on earth is going on in our country?” There’s anger and sadness over the changes that we’ve seen, and the biggest question of all is “What are we going to do?” I’ve thought of that a lot too. “What is my response?”

I’ve been contemplating Philippians quite a bit the past couple of months, and this week is no exception. The verse I’ve been chewing on is Philippians 3:20 “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” NIV Actually the Passion Translation version has been resounding in my heart, “But we are a colony of heaven on earth as we cling tightly to our life-giver, the Lord Jesus Christ.” The word “colony” stood out. I figured it was quite a jump from “citizenship” to “colony” so I checked it out in the Greek. (It’s that deep thinker side of me coming out.) And sure enough the word “politeuma” was used which could be a state or a commonwealth, “colony” would work. Why all the fuss? Simple, it is easy to get caught up in thinking there’s nothing we can do. Our citizenship is in heaven. The earth will go to pot, and we will get out of here. We will sit on our ark and watch the world drown. But when I look at my life as a colonist of heaven. My viewpoint of today’s events changes. Colonists of Rome during Paul’s time “were expected to promote the interests of Rome and maintain the dignity of the city.” As a colonist of heaven I am to “Promote Heaven’s interest on earth and lead a life worthy of heavenly citizenship.” (notes from Life Application Study Bible on Philippians 3:20). My home, my brothers and sisters in Jesus are all Colonist of Heaven. We are here to plant heavenly citizenships all around us (make disciples) and influence the world we live in. Not hide our allegiance and wait for the great escape. We must not get our eyes off of the main thing. What is the main thing you may ask? Jesus gave us the main thing, the mission, after His death and resurrection right before He ascended into Heaven. The Main Thing is this: “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”” Matthew 28:18-20 NIV.

The American Christian, really the American anything, waits for a program. We want our kids to play in organized sports as opposed to organic sports that occurs in our neighborhoods. We want our relationships to start in organized groups and clubs as opposed to organic relationships that occur when we talk across the fence to our neighbors, smile at the cashier at Walmart, leave a significant tip for our waitress, etc. We don’t have to have a program to do what we are commanded to do! Look at who is around you and get started. “Make disciples!” Look at the tools you have around you, your home, your food, your social media, etc. and do what looks obvious to do. As colonist of heaven and ambassadors for Christ, all we have to do is represent. Represent by listening, praying, giving, and teaching others about how they too can become part of the Everlasting Kingdom that will not fail.

The other thing the American Christian is prone to get hung up on is numbers. “Great I’ll make disciples, how do I make the most?” Start with the one. The one who is in front of you. The one you run into on the regular. The one who listens when you share and when you point the best you know how to the King of your Kingdom, Jesus- who started the Colony of heaven in your heart. Simplify it even more, the one can be the ones who live in your own home, your kids/ grandkids (they are great disciples).

It is easy for me to get caught up in the drama on Social Media and the nightly news. But our current situation has not changed the mission that as a Heavenly Colonist I have embraced. I am not called to get caught up in the name calling, blame games. I am to proclaim the answer, Jesus is King over all and His Kingdom is the only one that will stand in the end.

Reset 2- New Beginnings

This Sunday morning, just like every Sunday morning, my husband and I got up and ventured off to our local Church congregation for the weekly service. It’s something I appreciate all the more since the Covid 19 outbreak. I sorely missed being “in the house” for a time of worship with the worship band and time in the word. The message today has been percolating in my heart. Probably since it reinforced my ponderings on “The Reset” I’ve been pursuing as of late. The ending of the service was a time of reflection on the times God has stepped in. You know when life appeared to be going one directions with a certain expectation of a bad outcome, and then God changed things. It may have been a time of financial uncertainty, emotional unrest, relationship turmoil, etc. Most certainly it has been a time of great darkness, sadness, pain, etc. The kind of time when there really was no way out. That’s the time the “reset button” of “New Beginnings” is pushed. God has a promise that has brought much comfort to me through the years. His promise is that He “makes all things new”. Revelation 21:5. That is a promise that I have had to dig my fingernails into and hold on with all my might at times. Because as one who has struggled with the monsters of the past lurking in the closet of my mind, that promise assures me the closet they have occupied has it’s light turned on, monsters evicted, and the New Beginning begun.

A few years ago I went in for my first session with a Christian Counselor to aid in my fight against anxiety and depression. The first thing she was quick to point out was how the battle in the mind has it’s rubber hit the road in the thoughts we think. It’s hard, but totally possible to change our focus from all the fear, pain, sadness, etc. to the things that are “True…Noble… Right… Pure… Lovely…Admirable…Excellent… or Praiseworthy.” and for us to “Think on these things.” Philippians 4:8 Then with a reassuring smile, she handed me a sheet of confessions of who I am in Christ, and assigned me with the task of speaking these truths out loud every morning. It has been a daily reminder of the “Reset Button of New Beginnings” I pushed so many years ago as a teenager at a Christian youth camp. When I asked God to take what little I had to offer, my life, and do whatever He wanted with it. The New Beginnings began. Looking back I can see that the hard times were the times that pushed me closer to Him, and the reminder of all that I wasn’t, brought the truth of all that He is and wants to be for me.

The “Reset Button of New Beginnings” starts with the first push “Salvation”. It’s the time when we see just how much what we are doing isn’t working, and just how much What He can do in us we need. It starts with an honest talk with God, an offer to give Him all of you, and watching Him do what only He can do, “Reset” your life.

Psalm 40 has been one of my favorite Psalms in the Bible. Verses 1-5 stand out the most to me. “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him. Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.” The New Beginning I have found has been when God saw where I was, heard my cries, and pulled me out. But He didn’t stop there. He set me in a good secure place and gave me a new song to sing about Him and His Goodness! I Am Not There Anymore!! That is the Philippians 4:8 stuff I am to think about. The Truth is I am His! The Noble thing Is I am the Kings Daughter! The Right thing is I have been made right with Him- righteous! The Pure thing is Me after He cleansed me from my wrong doings and sin and made Pure. The Lovely thing is Me, His master piece! The Admirable thing is the Miracle of New Beginnings He gives! The Excellent thing is His work in me! And the Praiseworthy thing is that He has done all this because He loves me, period.

That is the “Reset Button” He has given to me. That is the “Reset Button” He has given to you! Hit activate! He longs to bless you with “New Beginnings”!

Defining Moments- Pentecost Sunday

I awoke this morning earlier than I wanted to, it’s Sunday I should be able to sleep in a little. First thing to cross my mind was checking the status of the violent protests that have erupted in cities across America, specifically a city near me. One of my close friends has a son who is a Highway Patrolman assigned to a particular hot spot in that city. I have been in prayer for him.

My heart is broken for the sin sickness that began this mess. The cruelty and utter horror of watching a video of a policeman kill George Floyd during an arrest. There is no excuse for such a cold hearted atrocity. But on the same token, protest meant to cry for justice have spun out of control and erupted across our nation. Looting, violence, innocent businesses destroyed, people being killed, etc. my heart aches as I watch this unfold.

All of this occurring as the Church celebrates a traditional holiday- Pentecost Sunday.

I have always held an optimistic view of Church history. I believe the Church is not a wimpy, irrelevant organization of do gooders. The Church is the messenger, the courier of the Cure for the madness we see escalating by the hour. In the midst of this great darkness our world is spiraling in, we are the light! Church history is the world’s History and in this case the Church is what will define this moment of American History. We cannot take our role lightly, nor can we believe we are powerless and defeated by foes too great for us. Now is our time to shine!

Yesterday morning my 19 year old daughter had a friend over. They were at our table in my kitchen when I walked in to get my morning coffee going. After some light conversation, the events of the news began to be discussed. My daughter asked me my thoughts on all the craziness in the world she is just now starting to step out into adulthood within. It was then I quoted the words of Jesus from John 4:35, “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” I then told them, “What we are watching is sad and horrible, but this is also a sign of a good thing. The anger, violence, hatred, etc. are a reflection of the heart of our nation. These people need an answer that political powers cannot provide. They need what we have, Jesus, and they are ‘ripe for harvest’. The question is how do we as the Church get the Cure to them?”

On this Sunday 2000 plus years ago a group of men and women waited in an upper room in Jerusalem. They were familiar with unrest, police brutality, cruelty, racism, pain, etc. They lived it. Roman’s occupied Jewish territory. The Romans were unfair/ unjust. This particular group in the upper room had watched as these oppressors’ subjected their leader, an innocent man who did nothing but good, to death on the cruelest of torments, the Roman Cross. They also experienced the joy of knowing that the current events around them could not stop Jesus. He was not confined by torture and death. He conquered them! He told them that the things they had seen Him do were going to be surpassed by the things they would do once the Holy Spirit came upon them. So it was in this environment, they waited.

God’s hope does not disappoint! HE came that Sunday! HE filled everyone in the room with His promised power to be a witness, and it was there that the world began to change. Men and women, boys and girls, were no longer confined by their mortality. God’s very Spirit had filled them to overflowing to take the Cure- Jesus to the world. And that is exactly what they did. A once cowardly denier of Jesus became a man of boldness and preached a sermon that preceded 3,000 conversions, and what was a tiny group of twelve disciples has exploded to millions and millions through the centuries.

Have we seen dark times in history before? Yes! The church has endured much. But it is time. This is our defining moment. We are to take the power of Pentecost to the world! We are to do “the greater things” John 14:12-14.

John Wimber once said, “When do we get to do the stuff? You know, the stuff here in the Bible, the stuff Jesus did, like healing the sick, raising the dead, healing the blind- stuff like that?”

Now is the time to do the stuff! Our job is to boldly proclaim Jesus, pray for those He puts in our path, and Shine our lights. As we do these things, “the stuff” will come! Because once again the Church is celebrating a Pentecost Sunday during a time of great darkness, heartache, and oppression. And just like that day so many years ago as we seek God’s Pentecostal Power and step out in it, our world, our nation will receive the much needed cure, Jesus!

Lydia, Paula Dean, and Covid 19

Covid 19 has put a major damper on my expressions of hospitality.  It’s a bummer.  Usually this time of year marks the beginning of bar b ques, friends hanging out, fires in our fire pit, music on the patio or front deck.  I think that last year around this time we had a huge fish fry.  Not so much this year, with the gatherings of 10 or less order.  It’s a weird switch.  I’ll be the first to admit that the one with the greatest gift of hospitality between my husband and me would be him.  He’s a party all the time kind of guy.  Before quarantine hit, and some other life changes that we went through last year (God moving us to a different church, and us stepping down from leading a Bible Study/ accountability group we had been doing weekly for 4 years), our weeks were spent trying to figure out what would be the menu for the next cook out and how many people can we invite.  If I would put the brakes on, for any particular reason, he would want to know what was wrong with me.  The weekends were meant for family and friends.  Anything less was inconceivable in his mind.

The change of pace has been pretty nice for me, if I’m completely honest.  I’ve enjoyed the focus on my kids, my husband, and my new grandson.  But every now and then I miss my friends.  I miss seeing them, sitting around, and shooting the breeze. I miss the long conversations after church while everyone waited for someone to tell them where we were going to eat. (Usually Mexican/ usually decided by my husband, Not sure why. lol) The joke with our kids had always been, “mom and dad are always the last ones out of the church.  They shut the place down.” Then staying at the restaurant until 3 or 4 talking, laughing, and sharing our lives.  The waiters at the restaurant knew us by name and called us “Los Hermanos de la Iglesia” (the brothers from the church)  when they would seat us.  Alejandro always served us, we called him “Alex” because the gringos amongst us couldn’t swing the pronunciation.  I really miss those days.  Come to think of it, Monday didn’t feel so bad when we started the week because we knew Friday through Sunday would make up for it. So social isolating has been hard, but probably harder than that was the changes we went through from July til present when our solid group of friends went through a major shake up, we went to different churches, and we just don’t see each other like we used to.

It’s funny what got me thinking about all this, Acts 16 and the account of the salvation of Lydia.  Lydia was a dealer of fine linens, purple, to be exact. She went outside of the city gates to a place near a river to join in with a group of women to worship the one true God.  She was European, not Jewish, but she was hungry for God and being with people who sought Him.  When Paul and Silas arrived, they struck up conversation with the women there. Lydia listened and God opened her heart to Paul’s message and she was saved and baptized.  Then she did something that I understand, because it is pretty common in southern hospitality, she persuaded Paul and his travel companions to come to her home. Probably touting the food she would fix, the comfortable beds they could rest on, and all the proper enticements a proper hostess can throw out to attract a guest- cookies, pie, ice cream, etc.  Later after a series of events, Paul and Silas are noted as returning there “where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them.”  So apparently Lydia had a little of the “Paula Dean” touch.  She knew how to make them feel comfortable and how to enjoy their company using her home as a tool of her ministry.  Lydia’s house had become “the hub” for “Los Hermanos de la Iglesia”.  A pretty cool deal.   It made it to the Bible. 🙂 Paul then encouraged them, and then after what I’m sure resembled our 3 hour long southern good byes, Paul and his companions left. Complete with someone hollering out the window, “Watch for deer!”

There’s something about a good conversation and a cup of coffee. Topped off with prayer and encouragement.  Sprinkle some laughter and smiles.  Just what the doctor ordered.  Maybe our Covid 19 time out is just what we need to see the value in that once more.  We’ve been content to check off the boxes: work, kids stuff, church services, grocery run, etc.  And somewhere along the line we lost the Andy Griffith world we used to have of long summer evenings, singing on the front porch with friends, playing some cards, and sharing some time and our lives.  It could be that getting back to that is one of the things God is wanting to get us all about, or at least me.

In the mean time, I’m going to brush up on my dessert making skills, work on making my house more guest worthy, and try to make the best of our new “Jetson’s” type socialization – Screen meetings on Zoom.  I will pray for a time once again where the “hugger” inside of me can greet my friends with a hug and a smile as we sit down to talk about life and testify of God’s goodness to us each and every one.

May it come quickly!

 

 

The One

Finals week of my freshman year of college did a number on me. I was a walking ball of nerves. One class in particular gave me great angst, College Algebra. College Algebra was one of the main reasons I switched my major from computer programming to Spanish. The thought of taking another college level math course sent me into instant panic. It was in studying for the Algebra final I found myself broke down into tears. I was certain of the impending doom and my demise to being a total failure. One of the older girls in the campus house I lived in walked by in my time of despair. She encouraged me with words that have stuck with me through the years. It’s a southern way of saying the age old proverb of “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” She said in her distinct southern drawl, “You know my daddy always told me to remember how the best way to build a brick wall is, one brick at a time.”

One brick at a time, one step at a time, one person at a time, etc. I’m not sure what makes me and probably 90% of Americans think “when you go you’ve gotta go big.” I’ve lived most of my life with a “99 brick at a time” mentality to building a wall. It needs to be done and it needs to be done now. No steps, no process, just “bam!!” Instant achievement. That thought process isn’t very conducive to success when we think “everything is all up to me right now”. It just produces a bunch of anxiety, stress, and eventually I just shut down, “Can’t fix it, so why try.” I forget how important “the one” can be in the big picture of things.

Jesus has always been about the one, the individual. He had great crowds around Him at times, but when it came down to the life changing miracles He did. It was Him touching the one. I think His desire for individuals to be touched was what spurred His statement, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew‬ ‭9:37-38 NIV‬‬. In order to touch the individual lives of so many, a lot of hands would be needed.

The American church has been very fixated on numbers. The more we have in attendance the better. I’ve heard the arguments that Jesus is into numbers as well because he doesn’t want “one to perish”. So go big or go home. But sometimes my focus on how do I reach so many runs over the obvious “one” that is sitting right in front of me “face to face”. Maybe the better approach would be for me to look for that “one”. Pray for that “one”. Offer help to that “one”. So that as “the one” is reached they in turn will see their “one” and reach them too.

So let’s break this down to where I am today. A global pandemic speaks of masses of people being affected either physically, spiritually, or mentally. It’s the elephant that needs to be ate. It’s the wall that needs to be built. It’s the “one” who needs to be found. One person at a time.

Sad to say. I’ve lived here in my house for 12 years. I can honestly say that I don’t know the first names of the women whose houses and land are on each side of me. I’m pretty sure I would have a hard time identifying them as my neighbor at the grocery store if I ran into them. My excuse for not knowing, our busy lives… I’ve been working and volunteering in so many capacities for the past 12 years, all of them noble tasks, that I’ve not had time for my neighbors, and at times, “the one”.

The other day I was on my daily walk up and down my driveway when I noticed my neighbor in his yard. I contemplated what it would be like to walk on by and maybe not be noticed. (Not sure why). But instead I decided to make a point to wave and greet him. There’s been a lot of talk about how the life of Social Isolation has actually brought communities together. Neighbors talking to neighbors (from a distance of course), checking on each other’s needs. People making calls to loved ones and friends, to catch up and make sure they didn’t forget anyone and leave them alone.

Even the churches encouraging their members to be what we’ve always been called to be, family. Call and visit, make sure they have their needs met, give, etc. Since the opportunity to minister to crowds has been reduced greatly, we’ve been refocused on “the one”. I believe when this storm all blows over and we can finally come out of our bunkers we will find something new. All this focus on the one will cause us to grow and people will finally see what they have been needing to see all along. Instead of just one giant light house pointing the way to peace and safety in the storm, the homes of Jesus lovers on every street corner will be shining its light pointing the way. Because when we look all around us there is plenty to do. It’s been sitting under our noses all the time. It’s not only some gigantic move out there that changes the world. It’s also us touching “the one” next to us with the love of God and the truth of Jesus and His power to change a life. Then the next one, and the next, etc. “The one” is waiting, Lord open our eyes to see just how close and easy to touch they can be.

Seasons of Change

It’s a very distinct memory of mine. Around 15 years ago, standing on the right-hand side of the church we were going to talking to someone. At the time I had a 1 year old, 4-year-old, 6-year-old, and a 9-year-old. Then someone approached me and said, “I’ve been praying for you and I just feel like the Lord wants me to tell you, you are just in a season.” I’m sure they said more, but that is all I got out of that conversation. As I went home, I remember thinking to myself, “This is going to be the longest season I’ve ever been through. I just started and I have another 17 years before it’s over.” I didn’t think there would ever be the end of meal planning, dirty diapers, nursing, house cleaning, disciplining, etc. Everyday felt like another day in the movie “Groundhog’s Day”. Same thing over and over and over. What’s weird is how gradually it all changed. One significant milestone reached by one kid, then another, and another,… you get the point (some people just don’t know when to stop having kids, ha ha) It’s like this long spiral ladder of progress that feels like you’re going nowhere and then all of a sudden you look down and see how far you’ve really gone. Although internally I wanted to smack the sweet sister who told me “It’s just a season”, the truth is, it was. What seemed like forever was really a flash, and here I sit on the other side, pondering just how much things change, how quickly it does, and how I don’t even notice until I wake up on a whole new life time plane to figure out and maneuver within.

Today my husband and I went to church.  That’s been our mode of operation for the past 27 years. The difference was I didn’t have four little ones to try to wrangle through the worship service, and hope that they would stay in children’s church for an hour so I could get a break.  It was just me and him.  The oldest 3 are off doing their own thing in their own lives, and the youngest would prefer to sit by friends than us, not that I mind or anything.  I’ve hit another season… this one doesn’t seem like it holds as many challenges as the previous. But I’m fairly certain it does.  That’s kind of what seasons do.  In summer, the challenge is to keep cool, in winter, the challenge is to keep warm. In Spring, the challenge is to get everything planted in the garden.  In fall, the challenge is to get everything processed that you planted in the garden.  Life is kind of like that as well. I’ve awakened to a world where my husband and I are sitting in the same room alone quite a bit, the house is quiet, and the only ones I need to feed on the regular are me and him.  It’s quite a bit different than the world I just left where the only place I could get alone was in the master bathroom after I locked myself into my room and hid back in that corner of the house, or all I heard on the hourly if not more is “mom I’m hungry”, “mom what do you have to eat?” “Mom tell him to stop…” (you get the picture)

So, what’s a girl to do with this whole new gig? Especially since the past 8 months I’ve found myself with less and less outside commitments.   It’s pretty uncomfortable to not be “doing” when all you’ve known for quite awhile is “do”. 

I think every once and awhile God likes to get us here: At a place where “doing” isn’t what defines us, but “being” is. I know that I have a tendency to use a title to define myself, and like most, a title with a little umph behind it feels even better. But “who I am” is what means the most not so much what all I do, and maybe for a “season”, God wants me to rest in that.

It’s kind of like this sleepy Sunday afternoon with me and the husband in a quiet, practically empty two-story house. We finally have some time to just enjoy each other, sit next to each other and talk. Spiritually, God’s brought me here as well. I can enjoy God more, not the ministry, the busyness, one activity/ meeting to the next. Instead, spending time being His girl, listening to His heart, and letting Him prepare me for the next season whatever it may be like. Because where He leads is good especially since where He leads, He is.

Just Come

I tend to complicate things, and sometimes the image I present to you may become more important than the content of my heart. I want you to see the good things about me. Especially when I present it on social media. You would know I am having the worst possible day of my life if I posted a status of “having a horrible day, my life really stinks”. I reserve that kind of feeling and show for those closest to me, my inner circle. I want to put on a good show.

I believe that is how a lot of us approach God. We tend to base our relationship with Him on our external display of our piety. “Look at me God, I gave some money.” “Look at me God, I did a good deed. ” “Look at me God, I am sacrificing my time, talents, and abilities in Church programs to prove my devotion to you.”

Our displays of devotion are microcosms of displays that other “devotees” around the world put forward to try to “pay” the price to somehow make themselves right.

Years ago I was struck by images I saw of a group of Filipinos on Good Friday. They tried to show their devotion to God by literal self flagellation and ultimately crucifying each other. I was shocked at how the report said these poor people would crawl on hands and knees for miles to a church to offer their acts of penance to God in hopes of His acceptance of them. “Here I am God. Look how much devotions I have. I have beaten myself, crawled for miles and allowed those around me to drive literal nails in my hands to display my devotion.”

So sad!

This morning I have been reflecting on Matthew 6:5-6 NIV in my time with God.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Jesus spelled out in very plain words the way to approach Him: intimately as a child with their father in a private place, secretly. One on one.

There’s no set of rules, requirements, and expectations to be met. Simply come.

Come as you are afraid, doubting, and heartbroken. Trade these in, in the secret place for faith, boldness, and peace as you pour out your heart to Him. Nothing complicated or impossible. Simple humbleness before the One who desires to mold us and fashion us there in that secret place to be what He always intended for us to be.

I’m always awed by the size of a mustard seed. It is smaller than the font I have chosen to write this blog. Yet that is the size of what Jesus said our Faith could be and still move mountains. We are the ones who tend to complicate. We do so, so much that it sometimes paralyzes us to inaction. “I can never be enough for God so why try?” All the while He is waiting for us to Just come. Come with what little we have to that secret place with Him. Open our hearts to Him so that we find there the intimacy He literally died to give us.

No need to complicate things. No need to present an image to Him. He already knows. “Just come”.

“Lost the Plot”- How Did We Get Here?

A few days ago another prominent Christian came out as questioning and denying his faith, Marty Sampson of Hillsong in Australia. For some reason the ins and outs of his Instagram confession have been reverberating inside of me. My own questions arise: As the church, how have we missed it that we have not addressed the issues he struggled with: “Preachers fall”, “Miracles don’t happen”, “Bible contradictions”, “a loving God sending people to Hell”, “Judgemental Christians”, and “Just Believe it- never doubt” ?

I think most of these questions are rooted in a much deeper issue than one of an individuals “crisis of faith”. I believe they come from a disillusioned parishioner of a well oiled, performance machine/ business that we commonly call “the church”. It’s an oh too common scene in our modern church world. How can we get more people, build larger facilities, create a more exciting atmosphere, have the best programs, be the “church” that has a name everyone knows? In the meantime the ones within the machine bear up under the weight of trying to be producers and workers instead of what we were meant to be “the bride of Christ”; a “family”, instead of a multi level marketing scheme that we buy in on in hopes of creating some kind of profit in our own life- the benefits of association I guess…

My heart aches for this man that I don’t know. Because all the questions he listed are questions that many struggle with and instead of reaching out with loving answers, we point our fingers and doubt the sincerity of all the years he tried to be what he says now he is not. It is sad to me that the weight of the lies he has struggled to overcome have now outweighed the truth in his life and now he finds himself on the outside of the church and his relationship with God and he is “fine with that”.

The Newsboys released a song in 1996 called “Lost the Plot”. The lyrics are a haunting reminder of where we land as a church:

“Out among free-range sheep

While the big birds sharpen their claws.

For a time we stuck with the Shepherd

But You wouldn’t play Santa Claus

Sigh.

Let’s be blunt.

We’re a little distracted.

What do You want?

Once we could follow,

Now we cannot.

You would not fit our image,

So we lost the plot

Once we could hear You.

Now our senses are shot.

We’ve fogotten our first love.

We have lost the plot.”

Is the gospel really reduced to an hour/ hour and a half production on Sunday that we can come in, go through the motions, and then go home, having checked off the box that we went to church on our “What Christians Do List”?

“We’ve forgotten our first love. We have lost the plot.”

I’ve been looking at accounts of the early church in Acts quite a bit lately. Trying to sort out in my mind and heart what we, as the church, should be looking like. I guess a lot of the picture I had in my mind of what it should be has become what it should not. Like the people in the time of the Tower of Babel we’ve ignored the order to go out and influence the entire world by multiplying in it and spreading out. Instead we’re content to build ourselves a tower and make a name for ourselves. We don’t want to be scattered we want what’s comfortable and convenient. Once again, we’ve “lost the plot”.

I keep wondering if there was some place and time in Marty Sampson’s life where his “religion” was more about “relationship”. Not only between himself and God, but between sincere believers that lived as family and not a business. That maybe within that time there was a seed planted of what it is we were supposed to be by now. Not all the trappings of a performance, music label, organization, etc. But an organism a living, breathing body that exists for so much more than building a name for itself, but as the bride, to know her groom, Jesus, in the most intimate way possible; as a family to laugh with those who laugh and cry with those who cry; as Jesus body to glorify God, not ourselves, in all we do with humility and love.

God grant us the grace to return to our first love.