Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Holding Firm

Do we stay in Miami? Should we try to get as far away as possible? Will we have anything left when the storm hits? I’ve had scores of conversations like this in the last four days. Storms bring uncertainty, fear, and feelings of powerlessness. As human beings, we don’t like feeling vulnerable, or like we are losing control. We become anxious, unsettled. It is natural. Even our golden-doodle senses something is wrong. She’s been agitated for days.

In the ancient world, storms were signs of chaos, the fact that human beings ultimately are helpless. The wind and the waves were greatly feared. There was nothing that could be done in the face of the storm. We know this. That’s the explanation for the scores of times you’ve checked the weather forecast and looked at the storm track this week. Where is it going? How strong is it now?

This being true about storms, I am amazed at how often Jesus led his disciples into situations where they would encounter them. Why purposely put them in harm’s way? Why cause them to doubt your love? But, this is exactly what Jesus did. At one point, after He sent them across the Sea of Galilee during a gale that put their lives at risk, they said to him:

Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing? Mark 4:38ESV

Perhaps, you have said something like this to Jesus: “Lord, do you care about us at all?” That is how we feel. What are we to do with these feelings?

Danforth anchor

Yesterday, Sandy and I found a restaurant that remained open. It was filled to capacity. We managed to get the last two seats in the house because a couple was willing to share their table.  The man was sunburned and tired. He’d been forced to remove their large boat from the slip they normally kept it in. Where could they take it? No spaces were available. He explained how he motored his boat into safe water. Then he set his anchor: one large Danforth (that’s a breed of anchor) weighing 90lbs with a run of 300 feet of heavy chain. The other end of the chain was fastened deep in the hull of the boat. Then he put out a second anchor almost as large as that one, to provide more security and added stability. He said, “Let the wind blow. I’m anchored. The boat might be pulled apart, but the anchor will be there, holding ground.” That really is our story.

Our lives will be as secure as the place where we are anchored.

That night as the storm threatened their boat and as they became afraid, Jesus was taking a nap. We are told:

…he [Jesus] was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. Mark 4:38ESV

Jesus slept while the storm raged because He is the Lord of the storm. He is our creator God. The wind and the waves are his. Think of an immense hurricane coming and Jesus using the time to catch up on sleep! When the disciples woke him up with their fears, we are told that he:

…rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Mark 4:39ESV

He spoke to the storm as a parent tells a child to calm down. The wind ceased blowing and there was great calm. What a moment this must have been for the disciples to see, to discover the identity of Jesus. He is Lord. What can they say at a moment like this?

And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him.” Mark 4:41ESV

That is who Jesus is. The Master of all of this. It’s not chaos, or uncontrolable. Now, Jesus doesn’t promise that nothing bad will ever happen to them. He doesn’t tell them that this will be the last of the storms they will see. But now, they know him. They know they have a secure place to anchor their lives. A place to look when they feel afraid, uncertain, and out of control. They can look to Jesus. This is why Jesus came and what He came to do: to save us from perishing.

I want to go see that man’s boat after the storm. But even more, I rejoice to see people whose lives are anchored to Christ when the storms come, to see the security and peace that Jesus provides. That is something to behold. Perhaps, that is the gift in the feelings of vulnerability that we have experienced this week. It is an opportunity to admit that life ultimately is beyond us, and to turn to Jesus.

So, I’ve set my anchor. I may fall apart, but the anchor will still be there holding ground.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Hurricane Harvey – How to Help

Lester Holt doing an interview from the neighborhood of former Granada members.

I was so pleased to hear that people part of our Granada family (former members and friends) who live in the area affected by Hurricane Harvey are safe. Some were evacuated by boat from flooded neighborhoods.  Others found their way to high ground before the waters rose. Yes, search and rescue efforts continue. In some areas, the rain has not stopped. In others, the flood waters have not reached their peak.

A number of sister churches have had their buildings flooded. Many of the members of these congregations have homes under water. The situation remains dire.  But, the good news is that many people are rallying to help. Even before Harvey made landfall we had a disaster relief team on site.  Provisions and resources were being moved into position to resource the team and aid in the recovery.

In Miami, we live with the legacy of destruction from hurricanes. We know the danger. We also understand the long-term process of rebuilding a house and rebuilding lives. That’s why we want to get involved. We want to help in practical ways. How can you help?

Right now. 1.  Pray.  Pray for the safety of the people in harm’s way. Pray for the team on site. Pray for the affected churches and people in those communities.  Pray for the needed resources to help them begin to respond.  2. Give.  Use the link below to give directly to the work we and our sister churches are doing in those communities.  We know the people leading the effort and have confidence in them. They are there for no other reason than to love and serve the people that have been affected and to honor Christ in all their efforts. Any resources given will be used well.  3. Reach out. If you know someone in the disaster area, check on them.  Find out how you can help them in practical ways.

Later. 1. Keep doing the above, and also consider participating in or supporting a team that assists in the long-term effort of rebuilding and restoration.  We’ll do our best to keep you informed about these opportunities going forward. Remember, help will be needed for years!  2. Don’t stop praying.  We trust God who works through world-changing situations to bring about moments of grace.  Let’s continue to call upon him.

Link to site:

https://pcamna.org/disaster-response/storms/resuce

Direct link to give:

https://www.egsnetwork.com/gift2/?giftid=44CE593586F5494

Link to Facebook site of the team coordinators:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/114355750787/?fref=ts%2F

Grateful

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.  IN CHRIST ALONE” WORDS AND MUSIC BY KEITH GETTY & STUART TOWNEND

 

It’s been a tough week for all of us.  As a pastor, outside of election week, I’m not sure I’ve heard more political discussion and seen more political intensity than I have this week. I’m reluctant to speak when so many other voices fill the room. This is a meditation more than a statement or prophetic word. First, I feel grateful, no, deeply grateful.  Over the complete course of my life, Jesus has been lovingly leading my heart to see my need for grace—that I am a great sinner needing a great savior.  You see, my sin detector works really well for other people, but has never really worked well in exposing my heart.  Jesus has persistently and lovingly held up a spiritual mirror to reveal the depths of my soul. I say lovingly because he reveals that he might apply his love (while the sin I detect in others often provides me the vantage point from which to judge harshly and without mercy). This week Jesus gently revealed my heart showing me that I might not hate people of different ethnic backgrounds, but that I might be tempted to hate the haters and to judge them as beyond the reach of God’s grace. I’m grateful for grace, for the persistent love of Jesus.

Second, Jesus exposed the foundations I’ve built on. The events of the week left me feeling discouraged and afraid for the country. It was more than concern over division and racism. It was a feeling that the foundations were being shaken.  I was left wondering, “What have I built my security on?”  I remember the time when King David’s advisors told him he was in danger and he had better run for his life.  He asked the question: “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3) David tells us that at that time he could see God in his temple and on his heavenly throne completely unshaken by what was happening.  This is where our hearts should be, where I want my foundation to rest. Are the events that are unfolding driving me to Jesus, to a deeper trust and dependence on him? I am grateful for a security in Christ more than sufficient for the day.

Finally, do I see the beauty of the gospel and how much our world needs grace? From the beginning of Jesus’ movement of grace, people have been brought together humbled by their sin and equipped with Jesus’ love. There has been nothing like it in the world.  Jewish people and gentiles and people of every nation have found a new identity as children of God and members together of Jesus’ body. He has brought a peace that will never come by shifting the balance of power from one group to another. We do not know the way of peace. This is why Jesus came and what he came to do.

Sharing this grace is a desperate need today. Of course, it always has been, but God has been pushing me to see this more clearly.  This means loving our neighbors and thereby showing them Jesus. It means laying aside the empty and divisive promises of power and taking up the towel to wash feet. It means refusing to join the angry refrain and instead mingling our voices in the beautiful chorus announcing freedom for captives, recovery of sight for the blind, and the day of the Lord’s favor.  We have the privilege of doing this in a unique city where division can be dissolved by the love of Jesus! He has made the way for us to love and extend our hands to those most hurting, most feeling outside, and most in need, to show that the Lord does not show favoritism, and that everyone needs grace. Everyone. I’m grateful that Jesus has invited us to share in his mission.

So that is the journey my heart has been on this week. Humility. Dependence. Trusting the loving way of Jesus as the hope for our world.  Lord, teach us how to love one another, how to love our enemies. To do good to those who hurt us. To trust in You. Amen.

Happy Mother’s Day! and…

This weekend in many if not most churches in America there will be the celebration of Mother’s Day. It sounds like a Hallmark holiday, but it arose from a service of thanks and remembrance in a Methodist church in West Virginia back in the early 1900s.  Anna Jarvis wanted to honor her mother who had cared for wounded on both sides of the American Civil War.  The remembrance was not only about mothers but also about the beauty of sacrificial service. From there quickly the celebration took off and became a national holiday.

Origin of modern Mother’s Day

But, here’s the thing.  This celebration presents a conflict for the church. First, we want to thank God for mothers, those who have been faithful servants of God by raising children, by being God’s ambassadors in the lives of the next generation.  Serving in this way is a high and holy calling, reflecting the love, patience, and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. Mothers bear the realities of life, and they need support and care themselves that often is in short supply.  Our church has been blessed by gracious servant-moms that reflect the nurturing love of the Lord. We want to stand with the mothers of our community of faith.  We thank God for them.

Additionally, because the church of Jesus is an extended family, all of our women become surrogate mothers.  Often Sandy and I have remarked at how our children have been loved and encouraged by other women and men in our church.  In a Sunday School class or through friendship or simply through modeling, every woman is called to be a mother and every man a spiritual father.  We thank God that as parents we are not alone in the nurturing of our children, but we have a whole congregation alongside us.

Two moms I love the most: Sandy and my mother…

This past year, not long after Mother’s Day, my mom passed away. As a result, I find that Mother’s Day holds a poignancy this year that it has not in the past.  Yes, I miss her. How she brought out the spirit of adventure in my brothers and me. How she helped anchor my life in Christ and fulfilled her mission to love and nurture me. My response this year is to walk in gratitude and to remember.  Many of us will be doing this this year as we miss our moms.

But, second, I also feel a deep concern over Mother’s Day.  For some of us, Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of an abusive mother or a mother that was not in the picture or not supportive. You may not want to remember your mother.  So, we must always be sensitive and desire that this time not wound anyone but instead bring peace and healing.

Here is an even deeper concern I have. Through God’s grace, I am repeatedly reminded that my identity is in Christ, as a child of the living God.  This means that every aspect of my life, as a husband, a father, a pastor, a friend, a son, and so on has to be seen in the light of who I am. I am not first any of those.  I am God’s child bonded to Jesus.

The danger is that I can find my identity anywhere else, in being a husband and father, or for you being a wife or mother.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not any less grateful for my mother, or for my wife who is also a great mother. It means that your value, your identity, your worth is not derived there. There are women that have remained single that have lost children or are infertile. For them, Mother’s Day may magnify their pain.  Here is the good news: Your value and significance are found in Jesus.  Whether you are a mother or not has absolutely no bearing on your intrinsic value as beloved of God, and found in Jesus.

This is such good news. How many of us have staked our own identity, our own sense of value on how well our children were doing at some given moment? (Or, how well we felt we were doing in our calling, whatever it was?) The results can be devastating if we feel we have failed or if we feel we have succeeded because it is always unhealthy for us to build our identity on anything so unstable. Instead, God wants us to build our lives, whether in mothering or fathering or whatever our calling may be, on the foundation of our identity in him. 

(This is why on Mother’s Day, we’ll be celebrating with all the women of our church! I hope you will join us for worship!)

 

Unveiled Faces and the Power of Community

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:12-18

I was addressing Christmas cards for my dad to send out just this week when we came across a stack of pictures of him with my mom. (My mom was promoted to eternal glory on May 30th of this year. After over 60 years of marriage, you can imagine how much he misses her and how lonely he is at times. All of us miss her.) As he looked at the picture of the two of them, I noticed right away that his countenance changed. His face tightened with a bright smile reflecting what he was seeing in her face. Even though her presence was mediated through a photograph, the connection was there. In a sense, she was present. For him, there was recognition and joy.

img_0991I couldn’t help but reflect on how much my mom impacted our lives, how important each person is in shaping us, how we really live in community, all dependent on each other in our belonging and becoming. The people in our lives are more than co-rememberers of the events that take place. They actually form part of the canvas of who we are.

This whole idea of us as individuals really on our own in the world doesn’t quite square with the way life really works, who we actually are. None of us is on our own. We came to be through the union of lives, and we grow in the context of community, of relationships.

Every fiber of our faith leads us toward community. First, there is the community of the Trinity. The Godhead is not a power or force at work in the universe but the divine dance of three persons loving each other and sharing in everything, in person three, but in essence one. Then, there is Jesus who came for us. When he speaks of his body, he speaks of himself in community with those he loves, his brothers and sisters. Finally, there is the Spirit of God who binds us together in community with each other and with the Lord.

And that leads me back to that photograph of my mom and dad. That picture is really a dim expression of what happens when we see each other in person. Then we are not looking at a static thing, but instead, we enjoy the unveiled face of each other where we are changed by what we see and what we share. Yes, for you know, we are changed just by looking into each other’s faces.

This is why we need each other for life. This is how we can change each other for good.

A Promise Kept

I’ve stood with scores of couples through the years as they shared their vows with each other. I was prompted through them by my pastor in 1983 when Sandy and I exchanged vows…

In the name of God,
I, Worth, take you, Sandy
to be my wedded wife,
to have and to hold
from this day forward,
for better for worse, for
richer for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish,
till death do us part,
This is my solemn vow.

When we exchange our vows, it is easy to dream about love that will last a lifetime.  But, what about the true cost of walking together for a lifetime? At the time we exchange vows we do not know what the future holds and all of the ways those sacred promises will come under attack.

keptYears ago, I had the privilege of reading Robertson McQuilkin’s book entitled: A Promise Kept.  Robertson and his wife Muriel spent over a decade as missionaries in Japan. Then Robertson became president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina.  Things were going along swimmingly in their marriage until Muriel began to repeat stories she had already told. Her memory was slipping away. Robertson could not believe the diagnosis when he was told she had Alzheimer’s.  She seemed to most of her abilities, yet her ability to remember was slipping away.

Of course, husband and wife rallied together to cope with the changed circumstances.  Robertson can keep working though she was struggling.  But, he noticed a change in her. When he would leave for work, she would become more confused and unhappy. When he was present she seemed calm and peaceful.

Then Robertson did the thing that shocked everyone.  In the height of his career and the success of his leadership, he resigned.  When he spoke to the staff and leadership of the college, and to the community, he said:

My dear wife, Muriel, has been in failing health for about eight years, and so far I have been able to carry both her growing needs and my leadership responsibilities here at the school.  But recently, it has become apparent that Muriel is contented most of the time she is with me and none of the time I am away from her…. So it is clear to me that she needs me now full-time.  The decision was made to stay with her forty-two years ago when I promised to care for Muriel in sickness and in health… She has cared for me fully and sacrificed as my wife all these years.  If I cared for her for the next forty years, I would not be out of debt.  Duty, however, can be grim and stoic.  But there is more.  I love Muriel.  She is a delight to me—her childlike dependence and confidence in me, her warm love, an occasional flash of wit that I used to relish so, her happy spirit…I don’t have to care for her.  I get to.  It is a high honor to care for so wonderful a person.

Everyone was stunned.  In our world of individual rights and personal accomplishments, here was a man loving his wife, being faithful to his promise. It was beautiful.

Why was it beautiful? God planned marriage as the place on earth that we humans can get the closest to reflecting the love of God for us.  Maybe, just maybe when there is love that is faithful like this we will be able to get a small glimpse of what Jesus has done for us.  Maybe from this high vantage point, we can see the Lord himself, that his promise is our life, and that he is faithful not because he has to, but because he really does love his people.

Christmas is the story of God’s promise kept.  This is why Jesus came, and why Jesus did what he did for us, laying aside his rights and choosing instead to lay down his life for us.  And yes, all of this rests on something as fragile as a promise.  Of course, a promise is as strong as the love of the one who makes it.  That is why we can feel secure.

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;I have summoned you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1

In this, we rejoice this Christmas.  We have been loved by Love Himself.  And, we live every day in this promise.

Granada’s Vision – Changing the Way We Think

screenshot-2016-12-01-18-38-53This summer we had a team of Granada elders, staff, and leaders revisit our church vision. (Our church vision functions as our road map for our congregation helping us chart the way we are going.  It is the way we think about ministry going into the future, our intentional focus for planning how to serve Christ in our community.)  Here’s part of what we found. People in our city feel increasingly isolated and alone.  Yes, there are plenty of people here, but real meaningful connection is not happening as we would like.  In truth, many people come to Miami for financial opportunity, but in the process, they experience social detachment.

We make these decisions for good reason. This country was built by people who left home for the hope of a better future. We love the old stories like Little House on the Prairie that tell how a small family can make it on their own.  We tune in to watch American Idol or similar shows that showcase self-made superheroes.  We extol the lone ranger standing tall on his or her own, not needing anyone’s help.  This is the American experience we have imbibed and we truly believe.  As one writer put it:

We seek a private house, a private means of transportation, a private garden…self-service stores, and do-it-yourself skills of every kind. An enormous technology seems to have set itself the task of making it unnecessary for one human being to ever ask anything of another in the course of going about his daily business.  Even within the family Americans are unique in their feeling that each member should have a separate room, and even a separate telephone, television, and car… We seek more and more privacy, and feel more and more isolated when we get it. (You may be shocked to find that these words by Philip Slater were published in 1970!)

The problem is that the living this story makes us feel isolated. The truth is that it doesn’t work. It is as if we are actively seeking the things that make us unhappy.  So as we were looking at our city and the gospel and our church, we began to envision a different future.  A future where people find support and can share their lives in authentic community, a community of grace.  As we looked deeper, we found that this is what the gospel is about.  What Jesus has done is about bringing us back to God, and joining us to a living community of faith.  When we look at the first days of the church that sprang from the ministry of Jesus, we find an extraordinary sense of community.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47

 Now, I find it difficult to relate to such a community of mutuality and connection.  But, I believe this is what we were created for.  This is where we thrive and flourish as people, where we can enjoy God and also each other.

screenshot-2016-12-01-18-38-08Now, here’s the hard part.  For this to happen here and with us, we have to change the way we think, from thinking only about me, and to thinking about ourselves in community. This means measuring life in ways we are not accustomed to, and giving ourselves to each other in community.  Changing the way we think is tough for any of us to do. But, this is the journey we are on together.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be talking more about this and the direction Granada is going in 2017.  I look forward to sharing the journey with you.