Am I Welcome Here?

The Church is the tangible expression of God’s presence in this world. In the US culture there is a real struggle going on over how the church receives and works with the people who are broken and hurt in many ways.   

A focused time of spiritual discernment and honest conversation is needed by the body of Christ  about who is actually welcome at church.  There are too many people approaching the church today who leave bewildered, wondering if, in fact, they are really welcome.   

Here are some factors that are important to bring into a time of spiritual discernment and conversation about who is here: 

Safety is not the substitute for fear:   

The number one value expressed by parents today in relationship to their children and family is the value of safety.     

One of the top fears church leadership experiences is not being perceived as a safe place for others.   

The response to this tension is that too often policies and practices put into place are done in the name of safety, but in reality, they are a response of simply being filled with fear.  The unintended consequence is that people who are broken in many ways come to understand that they are not welcome here.   

The challenge for the church in responding to this value is to not respond in fear with restrictive positions and policies, but to rather create an atmosphere that people from all different contexts in life can participate in.   

Grace, Weakness and Strength

That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

2 Corinthians 12:10 NLT 

You and I live in a world that celebrates strength.  Much of the headlines are about people with power and influence.  Along comes the apostle Paul, who was once part of the religious elite, and he has a powerful message for all of us following Jesus: 

  • Please take it away God:  There is some undisclosed situation in Paul’s life that he interprets as a weakness.  It is something that limits or holds him back.  Paul is very specific.  He begged God three times to take it away, remove it from his life.   
  • God responds: My grace will be enough for you Paul: In fact, you will see my grace lead you through this weakness to a point of strength in your life.   
  • Paul sees the wisdom of it:  As Paul’s life continues on, he comes to see this “thorn in the flesh” as something the Lord has used to help him respond to verbal abuse, hardships and persecutions as a result of his pronounced faith in Jesus Christ.   
  • Paul finds strength in weakness through God’s grace:  This is the amazing reality of how God works.  What others mean for harm, God uses for good.  What is real weakness, God uses to demonstrate His grace and bring strength to our life through the weakness.   

So, are strengths a problem for the follower of Jesus?  It is interesting to note that the strengths of Paul are many, and yet, this “thorn in the flesh” is unknown to us. God is not against our strengths.  In fact, the strengths, gifts and talents we have are given by God to reveal who He is and to do good in this world through the good news of Jesus Christ.   

The issue is, perhaps, one of self dependence.  There is nothing like a good “weakness” to keep us humble with an honest evaluation of ourselves before God.   

I have come to know profound strength provided through God’s grace in the weakest areas of my life.  I have watched God bring healing and wholeness to areas of life that were beyond my ability to solve in my own strength.   

I am grateful for the strengths, gifts and talents the Lord has given to me.  I am humbled and amazed at the beauty and strength of God’s grace that works in the things I would just rather have taken away from me.   

Dear Jesus, 

Thank You for the message Paul recorded regarding weakness, grace and strength.  Thank You for working though the weaknesses in my life, as I have experienced Your grace.  So much strength has emerged from those places of brokenness.  

In Jesus name, Amen

 

 

Alive to God

“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you”. Romans 8:11

It sounds to good to be true. The Spirit of God that raised Jesus from the dead lives within me today giving me life!

One of the amazing things about God is that as you dive into the depths of His character, it is a pleasant surprise to find that He is constantly extending Himself to us. Incredibly, the same Spirit of God given to Jesus is given to us.

As I reflect on this, there is this dual thought process at the same time:

Grateful and humbled that God would meet me in this way.

It is beyond me, hard to get my head and heart around it.

Grateful and humbled, because He has done this for me. I have not earned or achieved this in any way. I am alive to God with the Spirit of God because it is what He decided and wanted to do. He even gave me a choice to receive being alive in Him.

It is beyond me, because I am not aware of any other form or persona of leadership that gives fully and completely to others under his/her care. The closest example I have is the love and care Bev, my wife, extends our children and grandchildren. She holds nothing back.

Dear Jesus, Thank You for the Spirit of God. Thank You Father for giving us the same Spirit you gave to Jesus. Thank you for giving me life through Your Spirit today. In Jesus name, Amen

You and I Are Incredible

I am incredible and so are you….read on.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

Psalms 139:13-14 NLT

The way you and I are made is stunning. The more medical science learns about the way we are made, the more awe inspiring it is. Intricate structures that are both delicate and strong. Capacities for healing and the ability to overcome incredible adversity are like none other.

The soul encompasses the mind, body and human spirit. The soul lasts forever. The mind and body incrementally fade and die. Along this journey we see the strength of youth and the wisdom of age.

To look into the depths of how we are made has the capacity to draw us to God. The workmanship God has poured into our lives is absolutely amazing. The bible teaches that we are made in the likeness or image of God.

As I write this, my back hurts and I am nursing a sore arm. At the same time my body is letting me know all is not well, my mind seeks to understand and know more about the one who made me. There is a desire to work through issues, to see truth, to give hope to others.

You and I have been “knit together” in the most amazing ways. We are complex. We are incredible.

Why? Because this is how God made us.

Dear Jesus,

Thank You for the incredible ways God made each of us. Thank You for the delicate and the strong. Thank you for the simple and complex.

Advocacy for Life 

The idea behind advocacy is to support and be a voice for someone or something that matters.   

The truth is, everyone needs an advocate.  There is a built in desire to have someone stand up for each one of us and help us through the issue or season of life in front of us.  This is part of the reason why when people are being taken advantage of there is an outcry on their behalf by others.   

Our sense of each other’s well being is part of who we are as people.   

Fear undermines good advocacy.  If the fear is associated with impacts on our way of living, that fear might develop prejudices where there is now blindness and resistance towards advocating for people who are different then we are.  This is a very dangerous position be in, as it only erodes advocacy for the good of people.   

Good advocates don’t let fear get in the way.   

The best advocate I know of is Jesus.  Hebrews 7 describes the good work of the priests who continually advocate for the people before God.  The writer of Hebrews says that the best of advocates don’t last forever.  The writer goes on to say  “…he (Jesus) is able, once and forever to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.” (Hebrews 7:25 NLT) 

God would be totally just to say the I, or any one else, has lived in violation of and conflict with the way of life that has been laid out for us.  Jesus, at the Father’s initiative and direction, comes and takes everything that separates me from God, forgives it, and I am able to live a life being loved and restored to God forever in relationship.  Jesus’s advocacy for all people makes this possible.   

Jesus is advocacy for life.