Disturb Us

Somebody once asked me as their pastor not to make them uncomfortable in church. They didn’t want any surprises in the worship services or the church’s ministries. They were comfortable with routine and things remaining predictable.

On the one hand, I completely empathized. I don’t like surprises either. I’m not likely to embrace change when it sneaks up on me unexpectedly. When something comes of out left field, I’m more likely to put my guard up and resist it.

On the other hand, I could hardly keep from laughing. I’m very mistaken if I think I can always predict how God is going to work and what he might call me to do next. If I demand things always go the way I prefer, the way that keeps me comfortable, I’ll miss out on opportunities in which God desires to stretch and challenge me so that I can learn and grow.

I suspect there are many things with which God would like to see me be uncomfortable. His Spirit wants me to be uncomfortable with complacency in my walk with Jesus perhaps caused by getting stuck in ruts of routine. His Spirit wants me to be uncomfortable with the selfish things I do that strain my relationships with others. His Spirit wants me to be uncomfortable with the consumerism in our culture that would have me believe that buying more stuff will make me happy. His Spirit wants me to be uncomfortable with the racism in this country’s institutions as well as in my heart.

Comfort Zone quote found with Google

Recently I discovered this prayer attributed by some to Sir Francis Drake, the English sea captain of the 16th century. Through these words the Holy Spirit prompts me to become uncomfortable while he simultaneously reminds me of God’s presence – which is truly comforting.

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, when we arrive safely because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity; and in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes, and to push us into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love.

I shared this in this week’s Rock Valley Bee.

Advertisements

The adult Jesus

This time of year as we focus on the baby Jesus in the manger, Dale Vander Veen powerfully reminded me in one of his recent e-devotions of what Jesus did as an adult – why He came in the first place and what He is doing today and will still be doing in the new year. Dale did not write this himself but the original author is unknown.

Graphic found with Google

Jesus is the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
He is the Keeper of creation and the Creator of all.
He is the Architect of the universe and the Manager of all times.
He always was,
he always is,
and he always will be
unmoved,
unchanged,
undefeated,
and never undone.

He was bruised and brought healing.
He was pierced and eased pain.
He was persecuted and brought freedom.
He was dead and brought life.
He is risen and brings power.
He reigns and brings peace.

The world can’t understand him,
armies can’t defeat him,
schools can’t explain him,
leaders can’t ignore him.
Herod couldn’t kill him,
the Pharisees couldn’t confuse him,
and the people couldn’t hold him.
Nero couldn’t crush him,
Hitler couldn’t silence him,
the latest pop psychology can’t replace him.

He is light, love, longevity, and Lord.
He is goodness, kindness, gentleness, and God.
He is holy, righteous, just, and pure.
His ways are right, his word is eternal,
his will is unchanging, and his mind is on me.
He is my Redeemer, my Savior, my guide, and my peace.
He is my joy, my comfort, my Lord, and my ruler.

I serve him because his bond is love,
his burden is light,
and his blessing is peace.
I follow him because
he is the wisdom of the wise,
the power of the powerful,
the ancient of days,
the ruler of rulers,
the leader of leaders,
the overseer of overcomers.
He is sovereign Lord of all that was
and is
and is to come.

He will never leave me, never forsake me,
never mislead me, never forget me, never overlook me.
When I fall, he lifts me up.
When I fail, he forgives.
When I am weak, he is strong.
When I am lost, he is the way.
When I am afraid, he is my courage.
When I stumble, he steadies me.
When I am hurt, he heals me.
When I am broken, he mends me.
When I am hungry, he feeds me.
When I face trials, he is with me.
When I am beside myself, he is beside me.
When I face loneliness, he accompanies me.
When I face loss, he provides for me.
When I face death, he carries me home!

He is God, he is faithful.
I am his, and he is mine!
He is in control,
he is for me, not against me,
and all is well with my soul.

The Infant King

I don’t think I’ve ever associated Psalm 2 with Christmas before. It’s the one where God, enthroned in heaven, scoffs at sinful humanity’s futile attempts to dethrone Him.

This time of year we celebrate the arrival of King Jesus, a King greater than the Herod of His day or any other power or authority back then or since. Countless monarchs and empires have come and gone; things I have enthroned in my heart instead of Jesus have crumbled (or will crumble) into the dust. However, as God’s Son, one with Father, Jesus’ Kingship is secure. He is the ultimate fulfillment of the promise God makes in Psalm 2 to install His King on earth.

King graphic found at rescuehousechurch.org

A poem I read this week in a book of Advent meditations reminds me of all this. Attributed to Daithi Mac Iomaire, it’s simply titled “The Infant King.” It leads me to worship the newborn King – the true King of kings and Lord of lords – this Christmas season.

And in the corridors of power
and in the palaces of hate,
the despot and his lords conspire
this holy threat to liquidate;
yet all the kings that e’re there were
and all the princes of this earth
with all their wealth beyond compare
could not eclipse this infant’s birth.
A million monarchs since have reigned,
but vanquished now their empires vain;
two thousand years, and still we bring
our tributes to the Infant King.

Practicing knowing God

In Jeremiah 22:16, Jeremiah describes King Josiah as a good king, and then he moves on to say “because he looks after those who care for the poor” (that’s my paraphrase). And then Jeremiah says, “Is that not what it means to know me?” In other words, knowing God is not simply knowing things about God. Knowing God is a social practice—it’s a way of being in the world. It’s something we do with our bodies and our minds in the power of the Spirit. Now I’m not saying that you work your way into heaven! My point is simply that God is love, and Christ’s incarnation is the embodiment of love. Love needs to be embodied.

– John Swinton,
founder of the Centre for Spirituality, Health, and Disability
at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland,
in a conversation
with Church Health Reader,
quoted in the CRC’s Disability Concerns Oct 2017 e-newsletter

Sit, walk, stand

Years ago I memorized Psalm 1. It begins with three things people avoid if they love God. In his e-devotions the other day Dale Vander Veen offered three corresponding positives to put in place of the things Psalm 1 tells me to avoid. Dale graciously welcomed me to share them with you here.

::– –::– –::

Psalm 1:1 tells me that I must “not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.” The “walk … stand … sit” reminded me of Chinese Christian Watchman Nee’s little book Sit, Walk, Stand.

Basing his thoughts on Ephesians, Nee turns the negatives of Psalm 1 into three positives, explaining that I sit with Christ in heavenly realms, that I am to walk with Christ in love, and that I can stand in Christ against evil. The psalmist and the apostle agree.

Blessing pours into my life and flows out of my life to others when I sit with majesty, not mockery; when I walk in love, not wickedness; and when I stand in holiness, not sinfulness.

Sit, walk, stand graphic found via Google

“The Christian life consists of sitting with Christ, walking by him and standing in him. We begin by resting in the finished work of the Lord Jesus. That rest is the source of our strength for a consistent and unfaltering walk in the world. And at the end of a grueling warfare with the hosts of darkness we are found standing with him at last in triumphant possession of the field.”
– – – from Sit, Walk, Stand by Watchman Nee

Contagious courage

While we were in British Columbia this summer, my 10-year-old son and I hiked the Abby Grind. The trail begins a mile from my parents’ house at the base of Sumas Mountain and climbs 1,200 feet in just over a mile, making for some good exercise. It didn’t take long before we started huffing! Near the three-quarter mark, we were both tempted to just turn around, but then we knew we’d miss out on theAbby Grind lookout spectacular view at the lookout. So we encouraged each other on and both made it to the top.

On the one hand, we both needed to hike the trail ourselves. We propelled ourselves onward with our own legs, muscles, and willpower. But on the other hand, we needed each other’s encouragement to keep going, to cheer each other on. We were also encouraged by other hikers coming down the trail reminding us that the effort was worth it.

With satisfied smiles, we scrambled up around the last corner and saw the Fraser Valley spread out below us and Washington State beyond. If it had been a bit clearer, we might even have seen the ocean. A little later as we descended back down the trail, we encouraged other hikers making their way up.

Life sometimes feels like a serious hike in which we often deal with aches and pain. Sometimes we feel alone with our doubts and fears and secret desire to drop out. One of the reasons I think God places us in a Christian community is so that we can cheer one another on. Author Lewis Smedes once observed that “nobody else can have courage for us. But behind individual acts of courage there is usually a community. Courage is contagious. It spreads when we get close to each other.”

I see a church community as a place to experience the contagiousness of courage. Surrounded by fellow hikers on the path, we hear and see people cheering us on while we in turn do the same for others. Sometimes I’m the one reminding you that the effort of being a loyal spouse, a dependable parent, or a hard worker is worth it; sometimes you’re the one encouraging me.

This goes for faith as well: Sometimes I encourage you in your walk with Jesus and sometimes it’s me who needs your encouragement. Are you part of a community where you encourage others and other encourage you? Consider joining a church gathering this Sunday.

Yes, it’s possible that I could’ve conquered the Abby Grind on my own. But hiking it together with someone was not only more fun but also boosted the courage in both of us.

I suspect there’s someone with whom you’re hiking through life who could use a boost from you today.

I wrote this for the Rock Valley Bee a couple weeks ago
but kept forgetting to post it here!

-\

Wildfires

Our family had a great time reconnecting with our parents, siblings, nephews, nieces, and friends in British Columbia this past month. And, as always, I enjoyed being back in the mountains and made the most of opportunities to hike some trails, including the Abby Grind and the Othello Tunnels / Hope-Nicola Valley Trail.

For the last week or so of our vacation, however, the mountains were obscured by smoke of the wildfires still burning in BC. Instead of clear mountain vistas, we often awoke to hazy skies. The wildfires also closed several highways between Prince George and Abbotsford, forcing us to detour over the Yellowhead Highway from Prince George east to Tête Jaune Cache and then south to Kamloops, Hope, Cache Creek wildfire photo from CBCand Abbotsford. We drove past barricaded highways and towns on evacuation alert.

Ashcroft First Nation fire damage photo from CBC

 

 

 

 

 

 

As it so happened, Michael W. Smith’s CD Sovereign provided the soundtrack for part of the drive. As we were driving through Little Fort, a town where the residents had returned following an evacuation but remained on high alert, the song “Sovereign Over Us” started playing with its reminders of God’s strength in our sorrows. These lines were especially appropriate:

You’ve not forgotten us;
You’re with us through the fire and the flood.

The bridge helps us confess:

Even in the valley You are faithful,
You’re working for our good,
You’re working for our good and for Your glory.

Literally and figuratively, God is present with His people in hazy valleys and fiery circumstances. That doesn’t necessarily make traveling through those valleys or enduring the flames easy. But it does assure me that I’m not traveling through them alone.