“From Dust” Lent Season, Post #1

“From Dust” Lent Season, Post #1

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”

Psalm 103: 11-14

For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. I couldn’t do much else but to let tears run down my face as the congregation read aloud Psalm 103 last night, during the Ash Wednesday service that we attended. Then, verse 14 hit me like sledge hammer cracking walls of concrete around my heart, and suddenly I could do no other but to sit there reflecting on the fact that I am finite, I am but dirt of the ground, I have a beginning and, outside of God, an end, yet God is eternal, and He endures through the ages.

It wasn’t a moment of guilt, even though the Spirit led me to conviction many times last night. Sometimes, when we are at our lowest and when our guilt consumes us, we can feel like crap, like dirt that deserves to be stepped on. However, this wasn’t the feeling that awoke within me from verse 14. To be reminded that the Lord knows my frame, dust, and yet He chooses to love me, is an incredibly powerful truth, and one that I would love to be reminded of every day. The entirety of Psalm 103 is an invocation of God and how, from the heavens where sin has no foothold, he reigns down mercy and grace upon His people. Does He have to? No. He chooses to. Through Christ, our mortally sick and broken selves are lifted from death into life, from curse unto holiness, and we are shown true freedom: the freedom to live a live everlasting in worship and true uninterrupted communion with the Triune God.

For he knows our frame, He knows our frame. He knows our frame. He remembers we are dust. We are dust, and yet He delivers compassion, justice, mercy, grace, love, I couldn’t think of a better way to begin this season of Lent than to be reminded that regardless of my finite condition, my brokenness and my constant failures and shortcomings, the Father chooses to think of me, the Son calls me brother, and the Holy Spirit comforts my heart.


Seeking God’s Heart for This City

Seeking God’s Heart for This City

We’ve recently moved across the country and a source of constant stress and worry has been finding the right church. When we began this blog, we didn’t know we would be moving to another location so soon. Yet, here we are: new state, new city, new neighborhood, new home, no church.

Now, this is silly because we are part of the universal church. Kat and I, as Christians, belong to the world community of saints and believers that have placed their trust in Jesus Christ and God’s grace. Knowing this, we are also never alone for we have communion with the Holy Spirit and the Word of God; however, I am a “church man,” and not having a new home church has been a source of concern in the back of my mind.

The Holy Spirit spoke to me a few mornings ago, while reading Psalm 40, specifically verses 9 through 11, which read:

“Go up on a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.”

This passage is a prophecy from Isaiah to the Hebrews, threatened with conquest at the hands of the Assyrians. The Hebrews faced doom, war, destruction, and the conquest of their homeland. Yet, Isaiah proclaims “behold your God!”

Kat and I aren’t facing the same situation the Hebrews and the Kingdom of Judah faced at the hands of the Assyrians. Not remotely close. However, we have had to leave our home and come to a new land, a new context, and we’ve had to leave behind our church, community, and friends.

As someone who was raised in the church, I don’t enjoy this phase of being church-less. Once again, I highlight that we are never without a church in the sense of the community of believers and that the Holy Spirit is with us; however, sainthood was meant to be lived in community. Kat and I have each other, but we have always thoroughly enjoyed being in the presence of brothers and sisters, being part of small groups and life groups, feeling at home in a church, and leading whenever we are called to lead. We share a strong conviction, depicted in the Gospel and New Testament, that fellowship is at the core of the Christian life, and that even though God is there for Christians without fellowship, we are called to seek and enjoy fellowship centered on the Gospel and the Holy Spirit.

However, we haven’t found that community yet. We have attended two awesome churches, and we even volunteered at a local food distribution center with one of them. We attended a small, non-denominational church-plant that meets at a local school. We also attended an Anglican congregation that is in the process of planting an inner-city church. At both of these congregations, we were welcomed with incredible love. The preaching at the small church plant was excellent and the liturgy at the Anglican church was truly fantastic. This weekend, we plan to attend a church that congregates at the local university—we are excited to experience their form of worship and learn of their work in this city. We hunger for community and fellowship.

The passage in Isaiah spoke to me because it reminded me that God is sovereign, regardless of our condition. Yes, we don’t yet have a local church, but God is looking out for us. Yes, we don’t have a solid community that we can plug into, and yet the Holy Spirit is constantly here ready to have fellowship with us. In the midst of my quiet time reading Isaiah, the LORD said to me: “You are set on finding the right church, but remember that I am at work throughout this whole city. I am not bound to one church or one building, for my passion is for this whole city. You are set on finding the right church, but I tell you to focus on being salt and light and understanding how much this city needs the Good News. Seek first my passion, my desire, and will for this city, and you will find fellowship when the time is right.”

I don’t claim to have the gift of prophecy, but I am certain that the words that were spoken to me were the Holy Spirit intervening. I was convicted of fixating too much on finding the right church, prior to setting my heart on learning the work of God that needs to take place throughout this whole city, across all churches, congregations, urban villages, neighborhoods, and communities. This conviction is mighty yet comforting, because I immediately felt all the anxiety and worry exit my soul. I understood, once more, that God cares more about Kat and me understanding His heart passion for this city and its people, more than the limited and often short-sighted goal of finding the right church.

If you are in the same place we are, church-less or seeking a church, be comforted by the fact that you aren’t alone. I would love to run a nationwide survey of Christians. I think we would be amazed by the thousands (if not millions) of Christians that don’t have a current local church. Additionally, I’d encourage you to look beyond the objective of finding the “right church,” and instead focus on understanding God’s passion for your city, town, community, and region. Today, I have to walk to the bank and then to the local FedEx store and my hope is to walk in prayer, seeking to learn God’s heart for this polis.

The end of Isaiah chapter 40 states that they who wait for the LORD “shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (v.31). I know that the prophecy here is context-specific—we aren’t the Hebrews facing conquest. However, take faith that God is ready to engage with us in fellowship whenever we are ready to sit down and listen. He will renew our strength and we shall not faint. Seek first His kingdom here, and all else will be added.

Talking About Sin and Other Light-Hearted Stuff

Talking About Sin and Other Light-Hearted Stuff

Let’s talk about sin and other light-hearted stuff. Well, maybe we won’t talk about sin quite yet, but have you ever been in that Bible Study or small group meeting when the opportunity to bring up your sin came up, but instead everyone internally chose not to make the situation weird? Yeah, I’ve been there many times. This is one of the reasons why it is important, essential, for churches to have, in addition to small groups, men-only and women-only groups where the issues of sin can be discussed at a deeper and more understanding level.

Don’t get me wrong. Sin will destroy your life. Sin rips you away from God at birth and we are only restored by the blood of our Savior who was brutally murdered on a tree. Let that sink in for a couple seconds. There is nothing light or sympathetic about sin. I am not saying this as a judge, but as someone who has suffered through brutal sin, sinfulness used against me and from my own doing. However, in the Gospel there is grace and mercy. When we approach our brother’s sin (or sister’ sin) we are call to rebuke the sin and sinful act, but to love the person. God hates the sin and loves the person. We are called to do likewise. A college campus minister, Jeff Wilkins, used to always start RUF meetings by saying, “absolutely no one is ever beyond the reach of God’s grace, nor beyond the need of God’s grace.” I have carried that phrase upon my heart for many years.

And yet, we shy away from sin in small group gatherings. We feel shame, or at least I do. Maybe I am the only one who is fearful of being judged by my peers. I’ve experienced grace. I’ve been forgiven by the Father and yet I become a slave to shame, guilt, and fear. Why? Do I need not fully grasp grace? Is my God too small?

I re-watched the film Boondock Saints a couple days ago. It’s a mature film with a lot of cursing, a lot of killing, and some nudity. You have been warned. However, there is a scene in which a couple of the characters interact through a confession booth at a Catholic church. I don’t even know if that’s what they are called…confessions booths. Catholic friends, hook me up on this one. Nevertheless, the only reason why they scene stuck with me is because it got me thinking about the utility of public confession. What is decided, as a church body, to call out our sin publicly? What if I stood up on Sunday morning and shouted out “Lust!” “Envy!” “Anger!” “I don’t believe God will actually answer my prayers at the moment! I am doubting sovereignty right about now! Just though EVERYONE should now!” Would that make the church healthier? Would it drive some people away from public worship? Or, would it make us more legitimate? Would it strengthen us in understanding that we are really, really, really broken and that there is a VERY REAL REASON why Jesus had to die on the cross. I am not sure. I lean towards the latter, and yet, I am uncertain.

We hate talking about sin because it makes us feel not just unclean and broken, but because we are fearful of walking backwards. I am super guilty of this. As a Calvinist (because that label is obviously in Scripture…it isn’t), I fear that I am not persevering sometimes. I sometimes fear that my life isn’t showing the Gospel of Jesus enough…that I am walking backwards and not forward. As a Calvinist, I at least believe that I am chosen or not, because I would hate to believe that I could lose my salvation. That would majorly suck. We hate sin, we detest sin, we rebuke sin, and yet we fear sin. Fearing sin, is sin (insert sad “LOL” here).

I want God to conquer my fear and my shame. I want God to transform into someone who isn’t afraid of sin. I want to fully embrace the truth that Jesus died for my sin, rescued me from having to pay for it myself, and has given everlasting life and a restored, beautiful, and truly pleasurable relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. I teared up a bit writing that last sentence. It hit me deeply, somewhere inside.

On the topic of community, I want brothers who bring up sin (insert another “LOL” here). I want brothers who call me out on shit. I want brothers who not only call me up about watching the game, hanging out, or going out for food, but who also ask me: “how’s your heart, man?” “What are you struggling with? No bullshit.” I want that. I don’t have that right now.

This post wasn’t specifically about sin, but on talking about it. I don’t know if it is actually worth reading, but it’s something that I needed to write. In my search and understanding for better Christian and Covenant community, talking about sin and our struggle with it is something I definitely want God lead the way on.

Thanks for reading.