Month: March 2016

Longsuffering

Growing up, I had the challenge of memorizing from the King James Version (KJV). The Old English full of “thees” and “thous” would stump my recitation. Imagine a grade school student struggling through Shakespeare like verbiage.

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One word made a little more sense to me as a kid in the KJV rather than the modern language; longsuffering. It described the prolonged amount of waiting adults asked of me. It looked like putting up with the annoyances of friends and siblings.

The KJV uses it on the list of the Fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 and Ephesians 4:2 uses it to describe our relationship with each other. Longsuffering relates to patience, tolerance, and forbearance for one another. Ultimately, it describes how God has given us grace.

We can become apt to want to change people. We critique without tact. Our impatience with others happens more than we would like to believe. Rather than responding in love, we react with frustration and anger. We can get fixated on other’s faults.

Longsuffering brings us to the Gospel. Christ has given us grace through his life, death, and resurrection. He calls us to extend the love He has given us to others. He loves us as we are and not a future version of ourselves.

In community, you and I experience the best and worst of each other. Every once in a while, we need to step back to ask Christ to give us the grace to see others as He sees them. Then we can begin to move towards longsuffering by…
Recognize how Christ’s presence in their lives.
Consider their gifts and strengths.
Support and celebrate when they take steps of growth.
Listen more without too quickly offering feedback.

As an adult, longsuffering has become less about my burden of patience and more about the realization of Christ’s grace given to me and extending it to others.

Who has Christ called you to act with longsuffering? How can you offer them grace that He has extended to you?

Photo credit by Samantha Sophia.

A Prayer for Holy Saturday

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Holy Saturday rests in the in between.
Good Friday reflects on Your sacrifice.
Easter celebrates Your resurrection.
We find ourselves on this day looking backwards and looking forward.
Yet, there’s a grace about this day.

Many of us will spend this day planning and preparing.
The small plastic eggs will get filled and hidden around the house.
We set the tables and check the items off the grocery list.
Final emails, texts, and phone calls communicate the details of Easter Sunday.

Today reminds us of the silence.
The tomb remained guarded, and the stone covered the entrance.
You taught your disciples about trust and dependence.
They had to wrestle with the reality of your Words.
It’s in the solitude of the in between that we experience Your grace.

We fill most our lives with noise and activities.
Stopping and reflecting has become inconvenient.
You invite us to wait in the quietness.
Grace means learning to be still and knowing You are God.

We continue to say, “Sunday’s coming…”
But we also recognize Your presence in the in between.
May today help us grasp a deeper understanding of our dependence on You.
Holy Saturday teaches us to trust You when we cannot tell how You are at work.
Help us not rush this day, but experience Your grace.

Photo credit by Annie Spratt.

The Wait of Good Friday

We have done everything we can do. Those words rarely bring comfort. A gap exists between our action and a response. It happens after making the phone call or sending the text holding our breath for confirmation. It happens when we keep looking for the messenger of a decision or diagnosis. After you have done everything you can do, you then hear the words, now all we can do is wait.

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I have thought of Good Friday regarding our waiting like the disciples for Easter. In this thinking, we can imagine ourselves having an eye witness account to Jesus’ suffering with a host of emotions; the guilt of failing Him, the seemingly disappointment of an ended kingdom movement, the grief of losing a friend. Will the resurrection ever come?

Perhaps, the most powerful example of waiting within Good Friday comes from Jesus. The scene that best describes His example comes from the Garden of Gethsemane. His prayer to the Father displays the authentic reality of pain, but also the acceptance of God’s plan. David Garland reflects on this scene in his commentary on Mark:

He (Jesus) had already handed himself over to death when he acted and taught as he did in the temple. He had brought his proclamation of God’s reign to the seat of human power. Now he must change from the one who acts to the one who waits and is acted upon. This change is one of the hardest things to accept in life – to become passive after a life of active involvement, to be at the mercy of others. Mark’s readers need not shy away from crying to God to be spared form their own cross that they must bear, but they can learn from Jesus to accept God’s plan through prayer.

Good Friday reminds us of God’s timetable and at times learning to accept the places and situations He has us. In the waiting, we come to a deeper awareness of Christ’s presence.

Jesus’ grace not only saves us but sustains us in suffering and pain.

The pain and suffering of Good Friday becomes the hope of the Resurrection, but Jesus offers us grace on Friday and Saturday. He too has lived through the waiting.

Jesus, our mediator in prayer, identifies and sympathizes with us in these moments. It’s within the gap between action and passivity that we learn dependence on Christ and come to the realization that we do not captain our own ship. In some situations, God calls us like Jesus to accept the plan He has for us trusting Him to lead us through.

Today, let’s learn to wait on Good Friday rather than rushing to the Easter Resurrection. In our waiting, we can learn to recognize Christ’s presence and experience a deeper awareness of His grace.

Photo credit by Pablo GarciaSaldaña.

Jesus’ Prayer in Pain

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There’s no easy answer to the question of pain. Logically, we try to rationalize coming out better on the other side. Our feelings can make us only focus on the present and how much the current season hurts. Each of us walks with a degree of pain looking for hope.

Grief can hit us in waves of what once was.
Disappointment arrives daily in minuscule and enormous ways.
Rejection appears in the least expected moments and from those closest to us.
We feel the criticism, betrayals, and the daily exhaustion of life.

Pain leads us to ask, Where is God in all of this?  Seth Haines in Coming Clean reflects on Jesus’s prayer in the midst of pain.

I consider Jesus in Gethsemane. Lord if it be your will, let this cup pass. It is the most human prayer of Jesus, I think. It is the bend-low before God, the stinging sweat prayer where Jesus says, “If you could spare me a favor, I’d rather not endure this.” I consider his prayer of self-preservation; if his request had been granted, what of this groaning creation? Would we still have been united with God, rescued from the slavery and corruption of the world? Or would we have groaned and groaned and groaned into and throughout eternity?

In his humanity, though, Jesus learned to bend his will to God’s so that he could be the ultimate agent of reconciliation. He surrendered to the mystery of God’s will, that he would be crucified, murdered, and that his murder would somehow bring a better way.

We celebrate Palm Sunday this weekend. Jesus’ prayer in the garden seems separated far more than a few days. He would endure the betrayals and scrutiny from people. Then He suffered the physical pain and exhaustion in the crucifixion.

The days leading up to Easter bring us back to the humanness of Jesus. He has walked where we have. We can imagine ourselves in the garden praying. It’s not about the tidy answers or logical conclusion; rather a Savior becomes present with us.

One of the most powerful expressions of God’s grace comes from His identification and presence in the most excruciating moments of pain. He finds us in the midst of prayer. He brings people who offer their presence.

How does Jesus’ prayer in pain offer hope to you? What did Jesus experience in His humanness that brings clarity to your pain?

Photo credit by Hannah Morgan.

Reframing the Disagreement: Moving from Beyond Rightness or Wrongness to Loving Each Other

Nothing builds a relationship like a disagreement. You may think this has a twinge of sarcasm, but consider it for a second. At one point or another, the people we love the most will rubs us the wrong way. Conversely, the people who love us the most will get rubbed the wrong way. Living without conflict or disagreement does not match reality.

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Yesterday, I had the opportunity to share from Romans 14:1-23 at Browncroft Community Church. The Roman church had encountered a disagreement surrounding eating meat, drinking wine, and observing certain holidays. Interestingly enough, Paul focuses on the relationship of the people in the church rather than the right or wrongness of the issue.

One of the major critiques of the church and Christianity is disagreeing. Often, followers of Jesus disagree on issues with no clear direction from scripture. I had the opportunity to survey people on Romans 14. Listen to what they said frustrated them when followers of Jesus disagree or debate:

“Christians don’t really debate, they sling opinions and then duck.”

“Using scripture to support one viewpoint, as in misquoting, taking out of context, picking out one verse over many others to make a point.”

“Winning at all costs. It’s like they have to win the debate in order to prove their position is correct in the eyes of God.”

“Most people debate from an attitude of my position is 100% correct and there is no room for any other stance.”

I think these responses cause us to take inventory with God. Our major problem with disagreements comes from making rightness and winning the goal, rather than love in the relationship.

Paul in Romans 14 teaches us how to disagree well. He shows us how the Gospel meets us in our everyday relationships. From this passage we can adopt three practices to reframe our disagreements:

1. Stop Judging and Expecting People to Conform to Your Position  (Romans 14:3-4, 13)

Judging seems like everyone else’s problem. In issues of disagreements, we make judgments by expecting others to conform to our beliefs on disputable issues. It becomes a line drawn to the right on our side. Paul in this passage calls us to step back and recognize God as the real judge. Judging clouds us from seeing the issue and relationship with others clearly.

There’s a significant difference in critiquing and evaluating issues as opposed to judging a person. One seeks to understand the disagreement and the sides. The other makes a verdict on a person which only God can do.

2. Accept One Another by Getting Comfortable with Disagreement (Romans 14:1, 19)

John Stott points out that the reference to “acceptance” in vs. 1 carries the implication of Christ accepting us. The Gospel reminds us that Christ has welcomed us as we are rather than a future version of ourselves. Paul has asked the Romans and us to do the same for others especially those whom we disagree.

Acceptance is not passive. It becomes active by understanding a person’s story and getting their background. It learns to appreciate their differing viewpoint. From the view of this passage, acceptance gives a person room to disagree on a disputable matter.

3. Cut Others Slack because We Need Grace

At the heart of the disagreement in Romans 14 was a narrative that dismissed people’s conscience. You and I will have certain sensitivity towards issues and other disagreements we will not. When we remove our judgmental view and accept others, then we can begin to offer each other grace. It becomes an opportunity for us to love each other and make a disagreement a non-issue.

Take the opportunity today to read Romans 14. How might God challenge you to reframe the disagreements in your life?

The way we handle disagreements reveal our understanding of Christ’s grace in our lives.

Watch the message from Sunday below:

March 13 | Message from Browncroft Community Church on Vimeo.

Access the Group Guide by clicking here.

Photo credit by Sylwia Bartyzel.

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