Monday, October 22, 2012

On being lost, being found and being used

Last night our Pastor preached a message we've heard from him many times – and I am so thankful that he did. It is a message that doesn't get old – it gets at the heart of the gospel and the heart of our issues.

Basically, it goes back to the sermon I wrote this summer, based out of many many talks I'd had with Pastor Greg. This time he came at the message based out of the idea that while we have many symptoms of our sin or symptoms of what is hard, we have a deeper root issue that drives our external problems. So if I am struggling with something, usually the “something” isn't the issue, there’s a deeper root. Pastor Greg was saying that this deeper root stems from our lost-ness; we are like lost sheep in need a Shepherd. A lost sheep has many presenting problems, a need for food, shelter, safety, etc. But while those presenting issues need solving, if we dealt with the root issue (the Sheep's separation from his Shepherd that would provide all of those things) we would see the problems solved, without even having to focus on the presenting issues!

He was reading from Luke 15:1-6; 19:10; Mark 14:1,22-24; 15:1,3-4,15; 16:1-2,5-6; Luke 23:22-36,38-46 which is a section merged together as part of the God Story Sermon series. This basically tells the story of Jesus eating with sinners, then his trial, his death and resurrection. Quite a lot to cover, I’d say. But Greg was pointing out how each set of people dealt with life and our inherent lost-ness differently. The religious people had figured out how to “be good” and how to follow the rules in order to deal with their reality. The soldiers had figured out how to be strong and use their power to get everything they could out of the system, and be self sufficient that way. And lastly, the first criminal on the cross next to Jesus had given up on trying to feel bad for his actions; he had justified and rationalized them to such a degree that he would even mock an innocent man as they were both about to die.

Pastor Greg asked which we tend to be as we deal with our being lost; do we follow all the rules and look really “good”? Do we use our strengths and intelligence to answer everything, relying on our own self-sufficiency? Or do we give up on being good, with a thousand excuses about why our sin is ok?

He talked about how we don’t need to be perfected to love people. Instead of being super self-focused and always working on our issues, what if we just tried to love people anyways? That way we would extra realize our need for God in a moment.

I loved this! I don’t need to have figured out all my stuff, I just get to love people, and be in relationship with God and that’s my new reality. That is good news. And I’ve heard this before but eventually I start to think I’m awesome and can do it on my own, which I realistically can’t do. And I am so thankful for the reminder that being a flawed individual isn’t just ok, but it’s reality. And in the place of my weaknesses God is strong. Phew. That’s awesome.

Church felt great last night – it felt like family. It was faith filled. It felt like a place that God was. It was so great. The China Team was back, and it was so wonderful to have Uncle Greg and Auntie Debbie back, as well as Arlene, Irene and so many more! I sat up front with the Mitchell’s since I was hosting and it just felt great.

Plus I've learned over the past while that I have a gift of exhortation. Exhortation can be defined as "a communication intended to urge or persuade the recipients to take some action." From the Biblical perspective, being able to effectively exhort is one of the gifts of Christian service  as made possible by the Holy Spirit.
 “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching;8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:6-8 NKJV)
This was an exciting thing to learn because throughout my life as a pastor or speaker would speak I would feel things inside I felt like myself and other people had to know or be reminded of – and I didn't know if I was just bossy or presumptuous or if there was something more to it. But since I've been leading groups I've often had the opportunity to speak out some of the things in my heart and so often it has lined up with what God is doing or saying. Since I've been hosting at church this has been something I've gotten to practice doing even more – and it’s such fun through worship to engage with God and see not only what he is saying to me, and what worship looks like personally in that moment, but also to ask Him what He would say to his people, and as I close the service, I have the opportunity to share with the congregation some of these things. And as I speak and pray over them, there is such joy and excitement in my heart. I can barely explain it. But God is moving and using me and I love it. Last night was another time to engage in this – and I left the service on such a high!

I am thankful to God today that I don’t have to have it all figured out; I don’t need to “get it” I just need to have Him.

I am thankful to God today that he would use me, flaws and all.

I am thankful to God today that he would give me strengths and let me walk in them to love others and serve Him.

I am thankful to God today for a church community that is loving and supportive and gives me opportunities to practically walk out the things God is doing in my heart.

I am thankful to God today for a husband that encourages what God is doing in my life, and who never tries to stifle it – who trusts that I hear from God as well.

I am thankful to God today.

He is good.
And is it good. 

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