What I Didn't Say Yesterday On Our Seventh Anniversary
I began to say something yesterday and then we just ran out of time.
I wanted to say that for me personally, these past seven years have been a period of intense personal growth and learning. I began to say that a huge part of being a church planter has to do with letting go of ego and letting go of ambition, and finally, letting go of the “need” to succeed. I didn't elaborate much because, I could see the hungry faces glancing over to the food tables.
Anyway...thank God for blogs, because it gives us distracted preachers a sort of 24/7 pulpit – we are set free from the need to go sixty minutes on Sunday.
My good friend Kristina Collins posted this as her Facebook status this morning:
“Live your life for a purpose that is bigger than yourself. What are you living for? Live for the glory. And glory is not fame, glory is not making yourself a name, glory is sacrificing for others, It’s putting others before yourself, It’s fighting for a cause worth dying for, a purpose worth living for, true glory is virtue and it’s not something you can buy, glory is something you earn, heroes are not born, they are made for glory...”
I could not “amen” this more.
In Ephesians 2:14, the Apostle Paul writes:
“He Himself, is our peace.”
The Hebrew idea of peace is not flat. It's panoramic. Way more than a mere feeling of safety or the absence of conflict. To understand shalom, we need to look at the verb form of the root word “shalam.” The Hebrew root of “shalom” is “shalam” which means to make whole or complete.
This reveals a wonderful and peace giving truth. In Jesus, we lack nothing. And that's not just theology. It is a truth that heals and comforts. In Jesus our soul is made complete and the longings and needs of our souls are met in Him and satisfied – because something has been restored. What was lost due to sin is restored in Him.
Shalam was used commonly in the context of making restitution. When a person has caused another to become deficient in some way, as in an accident or incident that created a loss of livestock, it is the responsibility of the person who created the deficiency to restore what has been taken, lost or stolen.
In Christ, God has said, “I am restoring what was lost, damaged, or stolen in humanity.”
In a very practical, but profound sense, in Christ, the “neediness” of my soul is filled in such a way that I no longer need the sources of validation I sought before – success, prestige, recognition, power. These things are no more than attractive ghosts - phantoms which promise fulfillment, but deliver only disappointment and deception.
Poor Facebook, it gets beat up a lot lately – and it's only 7 years old! Just like the Doral Vineyard. But from time to time we can glean some helpful gems in its otherwise self-absorbed pages.
Pastor Jose posted one yesterday. He wrote:
“A church’s vision is highly important. It must have a vision tailor made by God. Yet, it must operate to honor the people whom God has brought. The vision was given for the people and not the people for the vision. If we sacrifice relationships and intimacy in order to fulfill “a vision” something is haywire. Everything is artificial, superficial & program driven.
This is the stench of churchiness that the unchurched smell & it repels them.
We should be people oriented first, within the vision.”
Pastors and leaders who are operating from the peace of which God gives in Christ, cease from their striving and their churches can become places of of peace. These are safe places where sheep can enter and find pasture and they are protected from the "wolves." Such leaders feed and care for the lambs not because they need the validation, Jesus is their validation. The vision is no longer ego driven – it is Jesus driven...and that “smells” pretty wonderful!
This doesn't mean that our churches ruled by the peace of Christ are “grumpy free.” On the contrary. Jesus didn't come for those who are “well” - He came for the sick, and the grumpy. He also came for the impatient, the critical, and the rude. Where the Kingdom Rule and Reign of Christ is exalted, the Peace of Christ will reign, and the broken souls will find rest and healing. This is at the heart of what Jesus meant when He said:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Mat 11:28)
Churches should be places of rest. Peaceful people are restful people because they are resting in Christ.
Eugene Peterson talks about “slow cooker recipes for the soul.” He once said that he preferred that his books be sold in the cookbook section. A few years ago, in an interview he said that “soul work is slow work” - like cooking in a crock pot. I agree. Seven years ago, we planted a church in Doral. Progress has been slow. Sometimes painfully so. There have been moments when we've wondered if we would ever “get there” whatever “there” was. At times we wished that God would just put us in His “microwave” on High Power and zap us into the perfect image of His Son. We want everything fast and we want it now – don't we? Have you ever cooked a steak in the microwave? Yeah.
Thank you Lord for the Seven Years! Thank you for your faithfulness – that you have never left us or forsaken us! And, um, thank you for the slowness too. And, finally thank you that you have given us Jesus – our peace – our shalom.
On a separate note:
“Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!”
AND NOW, A WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT FOR RESTLESS LAMBS
Yesterday, we celebrated our Seventh year as a functioning church body. It was a wonderful day full of joy, hope, faith, and love. Of course, as with any human event, there are always unexpected twists and turns. I have discovered that the church can become a sort of big, soft, pillowy punching bag for those who have just spent the last 6 days in a swirling maelstrom of domestic or workplace emotion. At times the unforgiving and occasionally brutal arena of life which is modern day America can take people to the brink. Folks are stressed these days and our moods can follow patters not unlike the Dow Jones averages of the past two weeks.
In light of this, let's be wise, ready and aware. I am asking all of you to be extra kind, extra patient, extra hospitable, and extra empathetic to your brothers, sisters, and visitors “strangers” at our weekly gatherings.
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