Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Restoration "Epiphany" !

I just came home from teaching our day women's Bible study. The study is "Beauty and the Beast: A Study of Esther, A Restoration Story."

I had an epiphany of sorts while I was teaching. 42 plus years ago John and I had 2 Corinthians 5:18 engraved inside our wedding bands: "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation (restoration)."

How amazing to realize that A Restoration Church is part of that vision that began so long ago!

Our God is so awesome even in such details of life - gently leading and guiding and bringing us to His place of commitment and service! What incredible, amazing grace!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tipping the King

I don't know much about playing chess beyond the checkered board and the pieces - king, queen, knight, rook, etc. I've never played a game of chess.

Yesterday I heard a sermon about Cain and Abel. The central motif of the sermon was a chess game, and it was a compelling metaphor.

The preacher talked about tipping the (losing) king to the victorious king. Of course, he was talking about King Jesus and how we need to tip the "king of our hearts" over in submission to King Jesus. I found the imagery such a significant picture of where my heart should be. King Jesus always is the Victor!

Isn't it silly that we take our little kings and think we're so great and grand in all our bold arrogance? It is pretty stupid to tout our little king - thinking so well of ourselves, thinking we know so much and can do so much! That's the path to a dead end life - an exercise in futility!

What matters is "tipping my little king" over in surrender to the King of Kings! King Jesus always wins in the end, but the wonder in the story is that He can take "my pitiful little king" and change my heart so that I'm not at all impressed with "my little king" anymore. King Jesus changes everything!

Paul writes in his letter to the church at Phillipi: "... at the name of Jesus every knee should bow ... and ... every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord ... " ! (Philippians 2:10 - 11)

It is all about that "tipping thing" - tipping my "little king" over in surrender to Jesus!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Day of Infamy, Day of Remembrance!

It was a beautiful fall day in November 1963. I was leaving a creative writing class at Wheaton College. As I stepped into the fall air I immediately sensed that the world had rocked. Soon I heard the news that John F. Kennedy had been shot and probably fatally wounded - shot in a motorcade in Dallas, TX. I remember that my friend (who is now my husband) was scribbling down thoughts and reactions because he believed that day would go down on the pages of history as another day of infamy. And it did!

Eight long years ago today the world rocked again when two planes deliberately flew into the World Trade Centers twin towers. I turned on the morning news just seconds after the first plane hit. Then I watched in surreal horror as another plane did the same thing! I remember thinking, "Am I really seeing what this looks like? How could this happen twice in the same hour? What in the world is going on?"

Later that morning our phone rang and my brother-in-law wanted to know if we were okay. I said, "Yes, why?" He told me about the plane that crashed near Pittsburgh - actually more than an hour away. It was another day of infamy!

It is a broken world we live in - a world filled with horror, with hate, with sin of all kinds! Mostly I am "insulated" from the worst of life so I am all the more stunned when I'm slapped upside the head with some new horror!

In the book of Revelation, the Bible promises us that someday - maybe soon - God will rock the world for the last time. He will send His Son from heaven one last time. On that wonderful day all wrongs will be made right, the broken will be made new. God will - in the words of J. R. R. Tolkien - make "everything sad come untrue"! On that day injustice will be corrected and recompensed! There will be no more tears, no more sin, no more sickness, no more sadness, no more failure, no more pain - and never any more need to die! (Rev. 21:3-5) On that day the words of Handel's Messiah (taken from Rev. 11:15) will come to life, "... The kingdom of this world will become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ forever and ever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen!"

Idols of the Heart

I live in Pittsburgh, otherwise known as "Steeler Town." In 2009 Pittsburgh is also known as "City of Champions." Now I have NOTHING against either the Steelers or champions - be they Penguins with a big silver cup or whatever.

However, I do sometimes want to stand in a prominent place in the city center (perhaps that's Heinz Field), and talk about idols of the heart. I am astonished at the people in this city who plan their lives around a football team!

Tullian Tchividjian - pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, FL - writes, "Idolatry is centering our attention and affection on something, or someone, smaller than God. In fact, most idols are good things in our lives that we turn into ultimate things–things that take God’s place as we unconciously depend on them to give our lives meaning."

John Calvin once said, “Our hearts are idol making factories.”

The great preacher Charles Spurgeon prayed, "Lord Jesus, take from us now everything that would hinder the closest communion with God. Any wish or desire that might hamper us in prayer remove, we pray You. Any memory of either sorrow or care that might hinder the fixing of our affection wholly on our God, take it away now. What have we to do with idols anymore? You have seen and observed us. You know where the difficulty lies. Help us against it, and may we now come boldly, not in the holy place alone, but in the holiest of all, where we should not dare to come if our great Lord had not torn the veil, sprinkled the mercy seat with His own blood, and asked us to enter."

Here's the shocking truth for my heart: I have my idols, too! My idols aren't Steelers, but I too make idols in my heart. I too center my attention and affection on something or someone smaller than God. My idols are "good" things, too. The problem is that my sinner's heart turns them into ultimate things - things that take God's place. God alone gives meaning to life! Idols - as the ancient prophet Elijah proclaimed on Mt. Carmel - can't do anything, see anything or be anything! (1 Kings 18:16-39)

So, before I "preach" to others, I need to "preach" the Gospel to myself!

Thursday, September 10, 2009


My daughter-in-law is all about organizing stuff. Recently I was in her home office. She has neatly labeled boxes for each of my grandchildren with the "treasures" she's saved from the seasons of their lives just waiting for her to arrange them in a memory book. Jesus may come back before she gets done and probably will, but what an awesome accomplishment! I'm terribly impressed and more than a little envious that I wasn't smart enough to put my children's treasures away in such an organized fashion!

My observations started a process of thought. When my life is said and done and there's nothing left but tears (I can only hope!) here and glory in heaven - what will be the treasures that are left?

Yesterday I heard an author talking about a book she has written. Her book is about what God might put into a memory box. I'm still processing what I heard. She thinks God's memory box would have (among other things): a fig leaf, a sprig of green leaves brought by the dove to Noah, a piece of Joseph's coat, and on she went. It's a clever idea, but I wonder if it doesn't trivialize what God treasures. Somehow I don't think God treasures the perishable. He treasures the imperishable!

Here's a short list of what I think He treasures about me (and you!)!
  • He treasures my adoption into His forever family!
  • He treasures the blood His Son shed to make the Way for me to be eligible for that adoption!
  • He treasures my love for Him!
  • He treasures the restoration He is working in my heart and character!
  • He treasures the people He brings into my life who need Jesus!
And that list can go on and on, but it encourages me in the stress of juggling all the demands of life to feel treasured by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

I haven't felt very treasured or "treasurable" today! I've been struggling to master a computer program. Things that smack of technology are hard for me! I don't like getting past the learning curve!

It helps ratchet down my stress level tonight to reflect that whether I feel treasured or even whether I am very "treasurable" isn't what matters! What matters is WHO treasures me! NOW I can lay my head on my pillow tonight and sleep in peace - I know I am a treasure to Him and that's really all that matters!

Even on days like today when I'm not very "treasurable," He treasures me enough to love me anyway and always and to pick me up, dust me off and set me on solid ground again! That's something for me to treasure, too! I treasure Him!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Kingdom of God is Like ... The Church!

Jesus told many stories describing the Kingdom of God: as a sower sowing seed, as hidden treasure, as a fishing net, as workers in a vineyard, as a wedding reception, and others. Jesus instructed His disciples to pray: "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Dr. Duane Litfin, President of Wheaton College, wrote in a recent alumni magazine: "The Kingdom of God is multinational, multiethnic, multiracial, multilingual, and multicultural, a mosaic whose diversity pleases God." I believe that is true as far as it goes, but I also believe Dr. Litfin left out a huge group that the institutional church largely ignores as well.

The Kingdom of God is also (as the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12) like a body made up of many parts - some strong, some weak and all needing to function in concert with each other. Just as it is ludicrous and arrogant for an ear to tell an eye, "I don't need you!" or for any part of the body to say such to another part - it is preposterous for the church to say to some who are in God's Kingdom, in essence: "Go away, we don't need you!" The words may be couched more gently but the result is the same. The segment of our society who bear the label "disabled" are largely disenfranchised by the Church of Jesus Christ. They are too difficult, too much trouble, too costly to include.

Jesus went out of His way for the beggar, the blind, the lame and others like them! Jesus was all about restoration! The Kingdom of God is ALSO multi-able!

When Jesus was at a party one day, he told another story. It is the story of a great banquet party. Jesus explained who should be on the guest list: "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives or your rich neighbors; ... when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed." (Luke 14:12 - 14)

That's the call and commission of the Church of Jesus Christ with all its inclusion of many nations, many ethnic backgrounds, many languages, many cultures into this diverse mosaic - for all these to include yet one last group: the "multi-abled"! That's when the body - the Body of Christ, the Church - is truly complete! When ALL are included, then God's Kingdom has truly come and His will is done on earth as it is in heaven!

When the church on earth looks like what Jesus described and modeled as He walked this earth, then God's Kingdom will truly come on earth! THEN the mosaic is truly complete and truly pleases God! That's the kind of church mosaic A Restoration Church is all about! And there's a seat ready and waiting for YOU!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Show and Tell

God can use unlikely hands to administer His care, provision, and love. Interestingly enough, two of those hands might reside at the end of your arms.” --Jennifer Rothschild

Joni Eareckson Tada calls this “Show and Tell.”

Remember those days of “show and tell” at school. My youngest granddaughter Clara was supposed to bring an item for “show and tell” that began with a “J.” She came downstairs with her favorite stuffed animal – a monkey named George. When her dad tried to explain that “George” starts with “G” rather than “J” she responded without a hitch, “No, Daddy, this is G-G-George Jackson!

We are God’s “Show and Tell” for here and now. The watching world sees God’s power to change hearts when our hearts are changed by God’s amazing grace. When you and I “take the punches on the chin from the world to show and tell that the cheek can be turned, the cross can be carried, the burden can be borne, the thorn can be accepted, the temptation can be opposed and the wicked can be loved,
[1] then we “Show and Tell” what God is doing to restore brokenness one heart at a time. Jesus has to “show up” in my words and in my actions for me to “Show and Tell” God’s love to a broken, dying world!

I don’t want to be like Clara – reinventing “Show and Tell” to my own imagination. I want to be God’s “Show and Tell” to my watching world today! I am one of those “unlikely hands” with the tall call to show God’s care, provision and love and to wait and watch for opportunities to do so!

[1] Taken from More Precious Than Silver. Copyright © 1998 by Joni Eareckson Tada. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530

Friday, September 4, 2009

Sinus Infection, Canoe and FireTeam

Currently I'm battling a sinus infection. Last week it was the aftermath of a canoe trip on the Youghiogheny River which proved to be bone-jarring and muscle cramping. My head hurt and I ached in places I didn't know existed on my body.

So I reverted to my favorite relaxation activity: reading. I chose a "mindless" novel - a book that doesn't require a lot of thought, that is more entertainment than anything else. This book is the story of four brothers who live like a fireteam. They relish any opportunity to take on danger together. They are much stronger together than one by one. That is the idea of a fireteam - a military term for a small unit (usually four or less) who train and fight playing to each man's strengths and compensating for each man's weakness.

My reading started me thinking about the fireteam concept. I certainly don't know much about being a warrior nor do I have military combat experience. BUT I do know more than I wish I did about "combat" - in the home, in the church and in relationships. It's generally nasty stuff! There are always wounds - seen and unseen. Those times and situations are when a real time, real life fireteam is a great resource: one brother or sister locked in a tight unit with two or three others to face the danger together, to strengthen and encourage each other and to form a "safe zone" of protection and hope. It's the one for all and all for one model!

It is the heart wounds of life that cut the deepest. It is those "combat" situations when we most need our own personal "fireteam"! It is the two or three loyal, willing to "go to the mat" friends who stick through danger and never falter who make the best "fireteam."

This word picture could describe A Restoration Church. A Restoration Church is a safe place just and especially because we ARE that fireteam for each other! That is part of what makes A Restoration Church such a safe, special place for heart and life restoration!

Having Jesus as part of the "fireteam" is the Secret Weapon for every struggle! He makes the difference in the outcome of every "battle"! He is the Source of strength and hope anyway and always!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Restoration Heart

It is a long time since I blogged - long summer, lots going on!
Just this week I have been challenged to think about what a restored heart looks like. That would specifically be a heart restored in the only way that works - by the restoration only God can work into a heart and life.
We live in a world no more scarred and marred than it has ever been since just past the dawn of time. In the USA at least there is no longer the thin Christian veneer that existed from our founding to cover the evil that springs from hearts in desperate need of restoration.
William Golding wrote Lord of the Flies. It is the allegorical story of some English schoolboys marooned on a deserted island who try to create a framework for society and governance with catastrophic results. The title of the novel speaks of chaos and the power struggle that exists between God's standards for living and evil. The "lord of the flies" is a reference to Beelzebub or Satan.
That's really the ultimate choice in every relationship, in every culture, in every government or any other structure of life. It's the choice between living under the standard for which we were created - to love God first and most and others next OR reverting to "type" by becoming the worst we can be in those same relationships, culture, government and other structures of life.
God alone can restore the scars of sin. God alone can renew brokenness at the heart level.
Just this week I have personally encountered the same sort of contrast Golding depicts in his novel. My faith is an in-your-face confrontation to those who reject and rebel against God's standard for life. My dilemma is fight or flight. Flight is the easy way. Fight requires standing for truth and right. It's by far the harder path. However to stand and "fight" is ultimately the reason God places His people in any culture. Jesus called it being salt and light. Salt and light both have positive effects. Salt preserves and brings flavor. Light pushes back darkness and reveals truth.
When I was walking our dog Susie in the dark last night, I saw shapes in the shadows. Only light can reveal whether those shapes and shadows are fearful or not.
Being salt in a rotten world and light in darkness requires action. Flight is not an option. Standing firm to be salt and light requires wisdom and effort. It requires seeking strength for the fight from God Himself. He alone has triumphed over sin and evil when His Son hung on a cruel cross outside Jerusalem and then rose triumphant over death and sin. God alone has the power to bring restoration to hearts broken by sin and shame!
Without God's intervention there is no remedy. He is the Creator for all of life. The perfect world He created is broken in every way because of sin. God alone can do something about that brokenness to bring true and total restoration.
The schoolboys lose the thin veneer of civilization that kept them from being the worst they could be. Left to their own devices, their true nature slithers forth in all its ugliness. They cheat, murder, lie, steal and spiral into total savageness. With no adult supervision, they revert to the worst kind of depraved behavior. They lose all restraint. They become on the outside all that their depraved hearts really are on the inside. They don't respect their Creator and they savage each other.
That is what life looks like without Jesus! That is life without God's restoration!
It is not that any of us becomes all that we could or should be in this life. None of us can, but we can start on that path with God's help. When God begins His work of restoration in my heart or yours, His work begins restoration in every way! And then the watching world sees the beauty of God's restoration whether they like it or not!