(we are) the Church

IMG_0154

We are broken. We are imperfect. We are tainted. We are sinful. We are the Church.

I get it.

And I don’t expect to walk into Hallowed Halls and find Heaven. But I do expect to see just a glimpse of “on earth as it is in heaven”; just a tiny bit of what’s up there, come down here.

Instead I find the things that we were supposed to have done away with when we were forgiven, redeemed, reconciled, and made new.

We hold on to unforgiveness, we live in unrepentance and unreconciliation; and when it gets too hard, or too uncomfortable and it looks like we will have to sacrifice our pride, we walk away. We find someone who sells what we are looking to buy, someone to tell us that we’re not really that bad, because, after all, we are the Church.

We bend to the whims of the World and do business with it. We make sure our views and values are politically “right” when instead we should bow before the King and do business with Him, and make sure our hearts are contrite. We stand on the changing tides of opinion rather than on the never changing Word that stands forever.

The Church is blasted across the headlines. And she looks no different than the World, so it gives the World a reason to shake its head and say “We are better off if God is dead.” We defend our brokenness and justify our sin, we pick and choose which parts of the gospel to defend and which ones to ignore.

This should not be the Church.

We should be more. We should not look the same as the World. We should be living our lives set apart. We should be holy, for He is holy.

But I get it.

_MG_0481

I don’t expect the glory of heaven just yet; but has He not set eternity in our hearts, so that we should long for more than what we are?

Perfection will never be found this side of eternity. The stink of sin will forever cling to us like smoke from a fire. But it does not mean we have to continue to walk into the fire of sin. But oh how we love to feel its heat. The seduction of the World, the promises made in vain. It tempts even us, the Church.

But what if we put aside our opinions and preferences, and we loved with compassion AND conviction? And we spoke Truth AND Love AND Grace, and what if we were vulnerable and ready to forgive even when our pride says to hold our ground? What if we lived as if we were really being transformed into the image of Christ, because after all, aren’t we the image of God?

_MG_0351-2

Instead, we raise our hands to praise Him on Sunday but leave Him home on Monday. We don’t want to offend, we don’t want to make waves, because we don’t want to live unsafe lives. We crave the love of this World more than we crave the presence of the Father. We want to feel happy with Jesus instead of convicted by the Spirit.

But what if we turn back to the first century Church in Acts, the one that was visited by the Wind of Heaven? And we live with all things in common, and we love those with whom we disagree? What would it mean if we were reconciled to our brothers and sisters the way that He has reconciled Himself to us? And what if we are about the Kingdom instead of ourselves? Oh what if we lay down our right to be right and take up the Cross of Humbleness?

Then we would be the Church indeed.

_MG_0381

there’s always a but…

IMG_0055

“In this world you WILL have trouble…”

“Consider it pure joy WHEN you face many trials…”

“Our present sufferings…”

These are just a few verses that came to my mind in the middle of my heart ache. Oh, how much it has ached the past couple of months, and oh how much it will ache in the future.

God, in His word, never, ever once tells us “Come to me, follow me, accept me and I will give you a happy, comfortable life free of pain, suffering, and heartache.” That is NOWHERE to be found.

But verses about suffering, trials, and trouble, those abound.

Our world is broken. Our world suffers, our world is sinful. God created man perfect and placed him in a perfect world. But man messed that up on day one. And we have been messing it up ever since.

It’s not that God doesn’t care, or that He can’t or won’t do anything about it. He cares very much and He has done something about it. He has sent His Son, Jesus, to redeem this imperfection so that one day we will be made perfect and no longer have to live with the brokenness, with suffering, with heart ache.

But that day is not here yet.

Now we have to suffer. Jesus suffered. He was not immune to the taint of sin and brokenness in this world. He was God, He created the world and spoke life into existence, yet He knew the pain of loss, He knew the pain of betrayal, He knew the pain of rejection, He knew the pain of separation.

And He knew we would too.

Anyone who preaches anything other than this is lying. God is not so concerned with our happiness, He calls us instead to be Holy. He does not exist to bless us with extravagant wealth. We want Him to and we want to believe we deserve it. That is also a lie.

God has given us everything we need. He has given Himself. Some do have material things, some have less pain and suffering, some live comfortable lives. But that is not a promise, a guarantee or even a right prayer to pray.

My heart aches for broken relationships. My heart aches for the pain of others that I love. My heart aches for the lost who will spend eternity separated from the One who created them. My heart aches for the brokenness of this world. And some days I don’t think I can take it any more…

And so I read the rest of the story:

“…but take heart, I have OVERCOME the world.” (John 16:33)

“…because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:3-5)

“are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)

We WILL have heartache in this world, but, there’s always a BUT.

Sorrow may last for the night BUT Joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

“Sorrow may last for the night BUT Joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

weight of brokeness (repost from Easter 2013)

how did You do it?

how did You put on flesh, only to take on the brokenness of humanity?  how did You find the strength to even stand after that?

how did You climb that mountain one agonizing step at a time with the failures of all humanity placed upon Your shoulders, heavier than any cross of wood across your back?

how did You do it?

how did you bear the weight of the broken vessels that we are, was there any value in humanity at all?  what broken thing could bind you to a tree?

_MG_0014

my heart feels heavy, my heart feels weighted down with the pain of those i love, and i look to see You there, taking and holding all our Broken pieces in your nail pierced hands, every sin, every shame, every heartache.  and how, my God, did you bear it all?

_MG_0004

how did You do it?  to carry all of humanity’s failings on Your shoulders, the frailty of the world, the frailty of me, what broken thing could bind you to a tree?  the blow that fell the hardest was not the lash or scourge, the pain that seared the deepest was not the iron driven in—why did You bear the pain of all that brokenness?

i can’t bear the weight of my heavy heart, yet You hold all of us, broken vessels that we are. when there was no value in humanity at all, You walked up the hill to take the death for all of us.  You became our brokenness. You let it bind you and hold you there to that tree.  You took our place, You made us whole, holding our broken hearts between Your nail pierced hands, my God, how can I can ever say “thank you” enough? 

_MG_0005

Advent…the end for which we wait.

IMG_0177I tried. I really did. I wanted to do the advent countdown this year. but several things got in the way. as i wrote about being too busy to wait, i was busy being busy and not waiting. I wanted to write and encourage you to wait and look for the Christ King to come again.

besides being too busy, I have also been too busy feeling sorry for myself and feeling like I don’t really care if Christmas comes or not. it’s not that anything is wrong, really. and I know that my faith is not based on my feelings and it’s not that my faith is weak or missing, or lacking or anything like that. its just that i am feeling too much obligation and not enough Jesus.

i look forward to this countdown tradition i started two years ago, but this year, it just wasn’t coming easy and i begin to feel it was something I had to do or something that I should do. and i felt guilty for not doing it. but i have to release myself from that imaginary burden i placed on my own shoulders.

and its okay that I don’t feel Christmas, and its okay to admit I feel sad right now and that for me, Christmas isn’t always happy and smiles and magic…cause right now it isn’t. and i need to be able to just be okay with that.

I still will write some more but there will be no countdown, no make up posts.

and more than anything, right now, i long for the Advent of the Christ King and as the Apostle Paul said, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” Philippians 1:23. But, also like Paul, I know that He still has things for me to do in this world…and I pray I will be faithful to that which He has called me.

 

day 6 of Advent–the end for which we wait (from 12/5)

In the beginning…

That’s when the waiting began.Right after God created the heavens and the earth. Just after He said “it is good.”  All the way back in the Garden where the tree of good and evil stood.IMG_0052 IMG_0054

The first man and the first woman had to learn the waiting. They were the first to hear about the advent.

“And I will put enmity between you (Satan) and the woman, and between your offspring and hers (Jesus); he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15

Adam and Eve were the recipients of the first prophecy about Jesus. Satan tried for thousands of years to destroy Jesus before He was born. He struck at Israel, continually trying to destroy the line that would eventually produce the Savior.

Christians like to say that Jesus defeated Satan on the cross. But Scripture never actually says that. More like, Jesus made it clear what Satan’s end will be.

Satan will ultimately and finally be defeated, his head will be crushed, when the Christ King’s Advent is complete. If Satan had been utterly destroyed on the cross, we would not still be fighting against him.

Think of it this modern analogy: It’s the 4th quarter, 2 minutes to go. Team A is up by 50 points. They are going to win. But the game is not over, so victory is not official yet, but we all know how it’s gonna end.

In spiritual terms, Satan is down by everything…we know how it’s gonna end, but we’ve got to finish with this world first.

Then the first prophecy will be finally complete.

“And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” Revelation 20:10

And then, at the Second Advent, our waiting will be done.

advent day 5–the end for which we wait (from 12/4)

IMG_0091 IMG_0095

We should be waiting, it’s advent after all…and for hundreds of years Israel waited for His advent. They waited for the Messiah, they waited for deliverance, they waited for redemption. They waited.  “How long, oh Lord?” cried the psalmist and the prophets.

But we are not a people who likes to wait. We don’t even get out of our cars to eat, bank, pick up dry cleaning. We multi-task in hopes of gaining a few moments in time, we microwave so we don’t have to spend time cooking. We have forgotten the taste of real food on our tongues. We don’t like to wait.

So it’s no surprise that in this time of advent that we are busy. We rush, rush, rush. To the next event, to the next party, to the next charity event, to church, to school plays of the nativity, to shop to fill up under the tree with things we don’t need. We run, we hurry, we forget that we are supposed to be waiting.

No, not waiting for the baby, but waiting for the King. In this time of Christmas joy and cheer, we find so many less than hopeful. We rush right by the person who is lost and drowning in his or her own sea of despair. We have places to be, things to do, gifts to buy, Christmas love to share. But do we really?

After Jesus left, His disciples waiting anxiously for His return. Paul waited for His return, they wanted Him to come back. They were waiting, they were ready. One advent had passed, they looked for the second.

But not us modern disciples. We do not long for heaven because we are so in love with the world. Our hearts are not waiting for His advent. We are too steeped in the trappings of this world to be waiting for the next one. Our waiting should be proclaiming. We were left to build His kingdom,instead we build our own.  

We do not know when His advent will be, but we do know it will happen. What is the point of building up a lifetime of waste and regret, when we could be building up a kingdom of followers who will enter into eternity beside us?

Waiting is hard. But we know that anything that really matters is going to be hard. Do the hard thing…wait eagerly for His Advent.

“Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently,” –Romans 8:23-25

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.”—1 Corinthians 3:10-12

 

day 4 of advent–the end for which we wait

IMG_0214

sometimes all you have to offer up is brokenness

and when all your best is nothing but messy shards, how do you find Christmas in it all?

Cause sometimes all we are, all we have, is a big, ugly, broken mess.

Smiling faces and happy families on all the Christmas cards,

Perfect snowflakes falling at just the right angle to catch the camera light,

And Christmas cheer and peace on earth and joy to the world

And everyone else is dancing in the sun and you just shrink into the shadows…

You and all your broken mess.

Lay it down in front of Him, it’s your only offering right now, and that’s okay.

He wants it. He asks for it. He said He could handle the rough edges and the ugly parts and the dirty places that no one else wants to touch, that you want no one else to see.

Sometimes Christmas is about broken. Sometimes waiting for Him is all we can do in the brokenness.

Sometimes the world is just too much and we long for something more.

Bring him your broken, hold on, He is coming. His advent is almost here…

He promised He would return and He promised that this world would stay broken and us in it…

But we have this Hope that is not of ourselves, this Hope that He has overcome the world, and that He can overcome our brokenness.

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”