Friday, January 31, 2014

Sacrifice, Being Humbled, and Joy


Romans 12:1-3

12 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.

As I sit here on another gray, drizzly Pacific NW winter day, it struck me that I have become a native! Midway through our third winter here, I am finally not fazed by the yucky weather but just go out and about the same as if the sun was shining.  Instead of hiding inside, I actually go for walks and bike rides and outings(as long as its not really pouring…so maybe I'm a pseudo-native?). The gray skies don't bother me like they used to. I trust that the sun is back there whether I see it blazing in front of me AZ-style or not.

I knew I was a desert-rat southern AZ pseudo-native when I would go out in 100 degree weather…to go back and forth to the pool or AC! Tourists are crazy and think they can brave it!

Anyway, how does that relate to the verse above? I've been thinking about sacrifice a lot lately.

The Lord has recently asked a tough one of our family. He has asked us to lay down our ministry; all the works and activities we are "doing for Him" and allow Him to prune some away and change the direction of others. Being pruned away: being part of Veritas Christian Fellowship, the church plant in Tacoma we've been blessed to serve in for the last 8 months. Also pruning away Saturday mornings ministering at the women's prison.

This has been so, so hard. A few years ago the idea of God even wanting to use a couple selfish people like us in ministry was something we just avoided. And now that we are trying to surrender our selfishness and let Him have the controls, we are discovering what that really means. He calls the shots. Not us. That includes and especially means the work we desire to do to build His kingdom.

I thought giving up a steady income, nice house, etc two and a half years ago was a major sacrifice. Then last Dec when He changed Gabe's course in education from Trinity Aviation Academy to THE UNKNOWN for a few months…that was hard. The Lord had Clover Park Technical College in mind all along, but the several months of waiting on Him and praying were full of doubts and regrets as well as faith and hope. I watched Gabe grow closer to the Lord through it all. So we have faith that this will grow us closer to Him too, as we are seeing already.

We were busy and "fruitful" in ministry, and the Lord said "Enough. Time to move on." He called us away from the church plant and all the things we thought He had us involved in there. Teaching Sunday school. Sound ministry. Prayer groups. Bible studies. Vacation Bible school. Church dinners. Eight months of hard work, prayer, growth, laughter, tears, fellowships, disappointments and dreams. All of which came from the Lord's generous hand and all of which He has all the rights to remove and replace(or not) as he sees fit.

Look what Job's reaction was when God took all his "good things" from his life:

Job 1:20-22

20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.

How I wish this could be said of me! We have prayed, cried out to God, loved til it hurt and then loved some more, come before Him flat on our faces in tears from repeated attacks from the Enemy, been exhausted, talked it to death, and finally are coming to a place of peace.

But it still hurts. Ministry isn't just work, it's teamwork. It involves people who you love and grow attached to and spend a lot of time with. When God takes you in different directions, it hurts. And when we are hurt, we are more prone to sin. We misjudge, speak when we shouldn't, stay silent when we should speak, and fail to believe the best in people. We withhold forgiveness and hold onto our pain like a blanket. Until His Holy Spirit convicts us and we humble ourselves and realize we are all made of the same dust. Then we apologize for the hurt and receive repentance and forgiveness. It helps. It begins to heal, but its a process.

In all this, I am so thankful for the grace of God. Thankful for how He knits our hearts together, mends wounds, and tells us how LOVE covers a multitude of sins. Then He fills me with His love and grace when I have none for myself or others.

He is also teaching me that He can't love me any more than He already does just because I was busy with a lot of activity for Him. He worked through me in some of the activity….other parts of it were just my own idea. My husband loves it when I cook him a good dinner or take the time to do a project that helps him. But he is a lot happier when we just spend time together! I think God is a lot like this too. He gives us work to do for His kingdom that we might see His heart and grow in compassion for others and confidence in Him. But our service to Him can never replace our relationship with Him!

So pray for us! Pray that our hearts will mend, that we will allow the Lord to continue to direct our paths towards missions if that is His will, that we will find a new place in our former church body at South Hill Calvary Chapel. Pray for our kids who have been troupers through all of it. And pray for me as I suddenly have an open schedule…that I would also have a open heart for whatever the Lord wants to fill it and me with!

Love,

Bonnie

A few recent photos:

Christmas with Anya went by way too fast!

  Looking for butterflies at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle

Gabe with Anya's friend Yulia at the Tacoma Glass Bridge


Sam off to join the business world as a CFO for UPS for a day!

Princess Ciara

Little Man




Friday, January 24, 2014

Church

I wrote this on January 24, 2013, one year ago today. I didn't publish it because I felt it was possibly too condemning. A year later, it seems even more important to understand what the Church is, and what it isn't, and we beg you for your prayers as we seek clarity from God - where do we fit in His body? -Gabe, 1/24/2014



If/when you go to church, do you feel uncomfortable? Do the sermons and people seem judgmental? If there's a place for your children, is it fun enough for them?

Or, do you attend a church that addresses social issues with a positive, uplifting message? Are your children entertained? Is there tolerance for all walks of life?

Especially in America, there's a "church culture" that desires to have their itching ears tickled by a dynamic speaker. They want their social needs met by a sensitive, caring counselor. They object to worship music that doesn't match their generation's style. In short, they are looking for entertainment and "acceptance". They desire to be comforted in their sin. "Tolerance!" they scream, in the same breath condemning the "intolerant" (anybody else see a logical conundrum here?) as draconian, hidebound, conservative, or even "haters" (oooh!).

Our word "church" comes from a Greek word (kuriakos) that is not the word used to describe the Church in the New Testament. The actual Greek word used in the New Testament is "ecclesia", which means "The called-out (ones)". From its very definition, the Ecclesia-Church are called to be different from the rest of the world.
This is a church building in Africa
So is this...

Here is that difference: the Ecclesia-Church is the Bride of Christ; also referred to as the Body of Christ. It is the goal of this Bride/Body to grow in Christ. Addressing this Ecclesia-Church, Peter said  "as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Pet 2:2-5)

Mark Dever, pastor and author of 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, states "There are things in the Bible that we want to avoid. None of us is so holy and perfect and well-shaped spiritually that we happily welcome every word in God's book." Can you see that the Church is not a place we go on Sunday to feel comfortable, hear a good word, and go home again unchanged?

Os Guinness (author and social critic, and hey! apparently the progeny of Arthur Guinness, the  brewer) said, "the exaggerated half-truth about the church's "needing to meet needs" once again breeds unintended consequences. Just as church-growth's modern passion for "relevance" will become its road to irrelevance, so its modern passion for "felt needs" may turn the church into an echo chamber of fashionable needs that drown out the One voice that addresses real human need below all felt needs."

That real human need is this: a right relationship with our Creator. Friends, there is nothing else of importance. I know we have so many "needs" clamoring for first place. I wish you could believe me when I say that everything else is brought into perspective when you fix your eyes on the Savior.
This is the Church
The Church is not the place we go to get comforted in our sin. It is collectively the Called-Out Ones - the Body and Bride of Jesus, who is God-With-Us. If you have been reluctant to "go to church", or are currently attending one that doesn't teach directly from the Bible (and I don't mean using verses here and there to make a point), can I encourage you to find a body of Christ-followers who are truly interested in growing closer to Christ? Come as you are - Jesus sacrificed himself for you exactly as you are, right now. Come, and gaze on the face of your Deliverer.

- Gabe