Monday, December 31, 2007

Give Me Your Hand

Wow! Almost three weeks since my last post. Time flies when you're...busy with holidays! :)

Peace. Do we have to agree to worship together? Well, on some central points, I believe that we do. Let's be honest, we must worship the same God, base our salvation upon the same Savior, see our redemption as by God's grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. But why is it so hard to disagree AND love each other on other issues?

We've had some people leave the church recently, wrestling with my view of what the Bible teaches on the doctrine of election. Of course, the first response of my heart was to revel in how "right" that I was and that these brothers and sisters just didn't get it. You know, I thought that I was becoming less arrogant, but the Holy Spirit has a unique way of revealing to me again how desperately presumptuous that I still am. Jesus asked me again, "Why did I have to die for you, Richard? Are you so right that I died unnecessarily? Is it your righteousness in the doctrine of election that saves you?" Well, what could I answer to that?! Humbled again.

I am so prone to stand at a distance with those whom I disagree with. My propensity is to write them off and let God wrestle with them...without me. I still have a lot to learn about humility and love. I still long to wrestle messily in humility and truth-seeking, and I need you to help me do so.

I guess that's what bothers me most about a break in fellowship over differing opinions. Not that we disagree, but that we don't wrestle together, stretching our doctrines out over the Word of God together IN LOVE. Wesley puts it well, speaking on Christian love when we penned,

"Is your heart right with God? If it is, give me your hand. I do not mean, 'Be of my opinion;' you need not. Neither do I mean, 'I will be of your opinion;' I cannot. Let all opinions alone; only give me your hand."

Why can't we disagree together, wrestle to understand God's Word in truth together as we seek the Lord, and do it in love. Humbly realizing that we are only OK with God at all because of Jesus Christ, not because of our wisdom or righteousness or "having it all together doctrinally." I am not trying to minimize the importance of doctrine, it is eternally significant, but cannot we wrestle to love each other within our struggle. That seems to be the import of Christ's instruction and the work of His Spirit within us. It seems to me that Christ is more interested in HOW we wrestle together than necessarily over what we wrestle with. Octavius Winslow wrote such:

"Oh! It is a tragic thing to stand aloof from a holy man of God because he is not in all things of our own opinion! Such a violation of the first law of Christianity does despite to the Spirit of grace, the Spirit of love, the Spirit of God, and either proves our own utter destitution of the Spirit, or must result in the withdrawal of His sensible presence, and a consequent spiritual leanness, darkness, and desertion of the soul."

And oh how right he is! For when I hold aloof from my brothers and sisters who differ from me, it is I who suffers the dry destituion of the soul wandering from Christ! And an unwillingness to wrestle together means that we are trusting our own righteousness that has made us right with God, not the righteousness of Christ! We have forgotten the gospel once again and are living like we don't functionally and presently need Jesus! Damn this sin within me, and it has been damned. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory in Jesus Christ our Lord!

Let's wrestle together over truth, God's Word. Let's tussle with what the Word of God actually teaches. And let us do it with love for each other and the humble truth of the gospel that we are all in desperate need of Jesus today, to heal our broken minds and bring us home...together.

I want to invite all of you who know me, please don't fear that I will throw you out if you disagree with me. Please do not fear that I will try to throw you down or belittle you when we see things differently. Now, I do believe what I preach, and any preacher is a fool, a hypocrite, and a people-pleaser who does not (and I fear God, not man), so please don't expect me to just agree with you because you see something one way either. Expect to wrestle together, to struggle to see the Truth of God's Word together, but we can do it hand in hand, each seeking to benefit each other in love. Please, if you're tempted like me to run from a wrestling match, think of the call of Christ to love one another and to speak truth to one another. Let's wrestle together, like Jacob. We may come away with some bruises and limp, but we will have seen God together and the gain of this kind of growth greatly outweighs the pain of letting the ego go.

And above all, pray for me, that I would know Jesus more day by day and by seeing Him I would see less of myself and live for His glory. Because when it comes down to it, none of us changes by sheer force of the will or the power of the intellect. We change by the power of the Holy Spirit who works all things according to the counsel of His will.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

No Worthy Title

Sometimes I cannot even believe how quickly I wander from the Truth. My capacity for hypocrisy is really quite extensive. Case in point:

This past week I preached on how God's sheer grace leads us to have hope that God can change anybody, that we do not need to coerce anybody, and that we have respect for everybody who disagrees with us. Objectivelly and Scripturally it makes perfect sense: if God saves us by sheer grace and NOT due to our wisdom and if He chose us so that we chose Him, then we have no leg to stand on in comparison to anyone else.

And yet, here I am again, running away from those who disagree with me. I find myself frustrated with people because I think that they should be perfect (of course, I don't expect that from myself). And instead of staying and wrestling with them (see previous post on the messy church) I run from these encounters. It's in these moments of messiness, when other don't see the disagreement as a problem and I see it as very important, that I completely lose patience and lose hope that God is working. I write people off and presume that I am wise. It's amazing how quickly I lose sight of Jesus and His glorious grace toward me, THE sinner!

Even in prayer with others, I find myself judging their prayer, as if their words and understanding of deep spiritual truth were indicative of whether or not God is working in them! I believe that corporate prayer is vital to a deepening dependence upon God and our part in His glorious redemptive plan in the world, and yet I stay away from prayer groups where the predominant prayers are different than mine. Now, I'm not saying that it doesn't matter who we pray to, it must be to Jesus (and that's the Jesus as the Bible reveals Him). However, though these are my brothers and sisters, I can't get past our theological differences. And rather than stay and wrestle for the Truth, from Scripture, I simply complain and stay away!

Oh, Jesus! Come quickly!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Some Family Time

Katie, the kids, and I went up to the Northern Lights Christmas Tree Farm in Pleasant Hill yesterday to pick out our Christmas tree for this year. I guess that makes sense that we went to get a tree, huh? It was a wonderful time together with much-needed outdoor mud play, even if it was a little brisk. Here are the kids riding on the hay. The girls are their normal selves, happy to be picking out a tree and very excited for cookies and hot chocolate afterwards. Ricky seems a little pensive with the jostling of the haycart and the noise of the diesel tractor droning on through the puddles. Of course, I think he also saw a cow, which was very exciting. He can say "moo." So can the cow. It was a big day.

It seems like we get these days too far apart, and I hate to sound cliche, but the days do tend to pick up speed as we grow older. Katie and I are almost 30 years old, and where we are today is not where I expected to be at 30 years old. We are pleasantly surprised at what the Lord is doing in our lives and have to take a few moments to breathe every once in awhile, because amidst all the turmoil of raising three children, pastoring a church, and generally staying sane, God has been incredibly gracious to us. All I have to do to remember that is look on these three little faces and see the fingerprints of God on the canvas of my life. These ones are a few of the greatest gifts that God has graced us with and we are honored and overjoyed to call them our own.