This Rat needed to Stop Racing

by Rob Gibson

Following is the first post in what will be a weekly blog to unpack my sabbatical journey. It will be real, and sometimes messy, but it is treasure that I want to share.  I am calling it:

Gleanings from a Sabbatical Journey: Chasing God and finding me 

The idea for a sabbatical surfaced years ago, and I dismissed it. I never thought I would take one, as I didn’t plan to write a theological tome or feel “so weak” as to need that kind of rest and recalibration. After all, I worked for over twenty years in the corporate world and in the “real world” you just do it, hit the goal, beat last quarters numbers, conquer or be conquered. I thought this was part of manning up and earning the bragging rights and stuff to show you’ve arrived. Or maybe it was my misplaced sense of macho significance and a misunderstanding of true personal worth. It may too have been driven by my need to be needed and perform well.

Well, with those adversaries fighting in my head, I risked vulnerably asking for a sabbatical. It was not without a tinge of guilt, a sense of wimpyness and some concern that I’m not enough. Yet I was hungry for more from God, to grow and wrestle internal darkness and at least have a break before I crumbled, crashed or crushed others. I was running on fumes, and I don’t think they smelled sweet. A I was performing (more about in a future post) out of professional strength, not serving from a passionate, centered place in my soul. Looking back, I see now I was burnt out and closer to being toast than I realized.

The good news is I am not toast. The good news is God gave me more than I had imagined possible. The good news is I’ve learned sabbatical rest is not for wimps, but for humans. Humans with limits, who are broken, who get weary and worn. I am human and broken. You’re not surprised are you? Who was expecting super-pastor to fix or reform the world? Nobody, but me. That’s just a jacked-up internal story that drives me to race like a rat in an endless maze for cheese that never satisfies. This rat needed to stop racing and drink from the fountain of life (Ps.36:7-9).

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!

The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

They feast on the abundance of your house,

and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

For with you is the fountain of life;

in your light do we see light.   (Ps 36:7-9)

The good news is I stopped chasing cheese and caught more of God’s light. I experienced a deeper love and care from him than ever before, but it took going deeper into my own soul. The good news is loving Elders, a great congregation, friends, family and a tremendously supportive wife gave me space and a tremendous healing gift.

I hope sharing some of my story and the treasure of the gift of this sabbatical will bless you.

Next week: Risking Vulnerability

 

5 Facts about Lottie Moon

Every December for the past 127 years, we collect millions of dollars for missions through the Lottie Moon Christmas offering. Here are five facts about the missionary Lottie Moon.

1. Charlotte Digges “Lottie” Moon was born in 1940 to a family of affluent tobacco farmers. She was well-educated and became one of the first women to earn a Master of Arts degrees at an institution in the southern U.S. On July 7, 1873, the Foreign Mission Board officially appointed Lottie as a missionary to China, where she would serve and work for forty years.

2. When she first came to China, Moon had a rather snobby view of the Chinese, considering the people and their ways to be inferior to Americans. But in 1885 Moon moved to the countryside and became the first American woman to attempt to live exactly as the Chinese did, adopting their dress and language and showing a greater appreciation for their culture. Her efforts helped to ingratiate her with her Chinese neighbors. Moon told the Mission Board,  “I am more and more impressed by the belief that to win these people to God, we must first win them to ourselves. We need to go out and live among them, manifesting the gentle and loving spirit of our Lord…We need to make friends before we can make converts.”

3. In 1888, a handful of women dedicated to the cause of missions founded Woman’s Missionary Union. Moon suggested they take up a Christmas offering be collected to send missionaries to China and to help her and support her work. That initial Christmas offering collected $3,315 (roughly $75,000 in 2015 dollars) and was named for Lottie Moon in 1918. Since it’s inception almost $4 billion has been collected for the fund, including $154 million in 2013.

4. Affected by the famine caused by the conflict and plagues in China, Moon often shared her meager food and finances with the people around her. This affected her health and in 1912 she weighed only 50 pounds. Her friends and colleagues attempted to send her back to the U.S. but she died en route at the age of 72.

5. Moon’s life has been memorialized in a motion picture (“The Lottie Moon Story”), books, a cookbook, children’s biographies, playlets, Christmas cards, and recordings. In China, a monument to her was erected in the yard of Dengzhou Baptist Church in 1915, bearing her name, a brief explanation that she was an American missionary, and the words “How she loved us.” Moon is also honored with a feast day (December 22) on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA).

(from ERLC.com “The Weekly”)

SCOTUS … a new way, a new truth…

This pastor’s opinion:

God is love and God promises us great joy – His way.
SCOTUS and POTUS are not the way – Jesus is the way and the truth.

The question is will our ultimate joy come through getting what we want or believe we deserve/need or will joy come through what God says is best for us? Each one of us must decide if we are willing to believe and trust in what he says is best. The alternative is to redefine best and redefine love and redefine every other thing based on what we imagine will satisfy our desires. The problem is many of our desires are too small and too temporal and defined by my immediate wants not an eternal perspective. I’m just to limited in my understanding.

Who would think it best to sacrifice a Son to save a people? Who would in the moment think crucifixion was best? Yet Jesus, though desiring not to be crucified and endure the wrath and pain of that cup, endured the cross for the joy set before him… trusting the will of the Father and that what His Father prescribed was ultimately best. Thank you Jesus for listening to the Father, not the desire of your flesh.

Jesus said, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” (John 15:9-11)

No child ever finds ultimate joy and happiness through disobeying the instructions of a loving Father. But every man may find forgiveness, love and great hope through turning back to the love of Christ and resting there.

May the SCOTUS decision result in many turning from disobedience and finding real hope and real joy in the real love of Jesus Christ.

I welcome your opinion in reply.

All THIS

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ…”(2 Cor 5:18)

All what? Everything, all everything, especially God’s love that changes everything. God’s love that changes our hearts, restores us in relationship (reconciles us) to God, and gives us a living hope and the joy of knowing we are secure forever.

All this is life, love, relationships, community, Christ purchased security. All this is experiencing God’s faithfulness to us and living faithfully in love toward him and each other. All this is a mystery beyond our full comprehension and knowledge that is too great for us. But nonetheless truth that sets us free to live joyfully and love more fully.

All this is love that changes everything. His love changes hearts, secures us for eternity, fills us with joy amidst his inseparable love, even in the trials of life. All this releases us to forgive and love each other – and enjoy it. To share his joy – all this love and the security of being reconciled to God in Christ is the ministry Paul speaks of and the mission given to every person in Christ.

All this love that comes from God is the deepest source of joy and the greatest fuel for loving others. Let’s share the joy ALL THIS with each other today.

It’s easy to love and serve a sexy church. But to love and serve a struggling one, that’s another level of Christ-likeness.

A great perspective from Whitney Capps. Christ bride is still beautiful and shines, because we are his.

“I would love to see our generation become the one that cheers most loudly for the Church.”

read on …
An Open Letter to All the People Writing (And Sharing) Open Letters About What’s Wrong with The Church

By:Whitney Capps

I’ve read them. I feel like I’ve read them all-the letters from well-meaning, well-written peers of mine. Posts penned by young (well, relatively young) people unhappy with and enlightened by the woes of the Church. And they all know the various reasons why people are leaving the Church, the problems they see and the ways to fix said problems.

The ladies ministry is too old-fashioned, and yet the worship is too flashy and fake. The pastor doesn’t use enough technology, and yet he’s trying too hard to be relevant and contemporary. The Church is too inwardly focused, yet not focused enough on your needs. It all makes my head and heart hurt.

If I can glean anything from these open letters, it’s this–maybe people (my people, Millennials) are leaving the Church because we are spoiled, selfish, uneasily satisfied, hypercritical, consumeristic and socially enlightened but biblically light-weight.

Now if it’s not already clear, I love the Church. I’m crazy, obsessed and slightly obnoxiously in love with the Church and her leaders. I’m not objective. I’m not impartial. Stop reading if you need to, at least I’ve owned it.

So when you choose to air your grievances against her in the name of edification, I don’t probably give you the benefit of the doubt you deserve. I’ll admit that much. But let me explain why it wounds so.

I’ve been married for fourteen years. I adore my husband, but our marriage isn’t perfect because neither of us is perfect. I know my faults and his. And you may be my best friend, but if you come to me and say,

“Listen, I know you love Chad, and because I love you and Chad, I feel I need or deserve to tell you the truth about him. I don’t know if you see what I see. I don’t know if you are aware of all his flaws. So I’d like to tell you my opinion of those. And really, because I think it’s so important, I’d like to write an open letter to post on social media about him. But it’s because I love him, and I love you. I want him to be the best version of himself.”

I will probably smile and pray for grace while imagining throat chopping you, in the name of Jesus of course.

Forgive me for the irreverence, but I wonder if Jesus feels a bit of the same with every post, comment and “share” these open letters get. The Church is the Bride of Christ. He died for her. He loves Her, and gave Himself up for HER.

Don’t pretend to love me, but disrespect my spouse. Don’t pretend to love Jesus, but damage the Church. You can’t love Jesus but hate on the Church.

I know, you don’t think what you are doing is damaging the Church, but that’s where you’re wrong. It’s not that your points aren’t right or valid. You’re wrong because you believe that griping about all her flaws will make her better. By airing all your grievances, you wound those who love Her and you.

You wound those sweet, saintly ladies who put on those events praying over those doily-laden tables for young women to fill those chairs. These women who aren’t silenced or frozen by a fear of being irrelevant show up and serve with you in mind. They do it because once upon a time someone did it for them. They do it because they desperately want to connect so they serve the way they know how. They model a level of fidelity and gospel-centeredness I’m not sure most of us Millennials can understand. It’s easy to love and serve a sexy church. But to love and serve a struggling one, that’s another level of Christ-likeness.

If you want to build community or grow in intimacy, just show up. Squeeze their hands. See their hearts. Pray for them. Ask about their stories. Hear the countless ways their hearts have been broken by the world and healed by God as they have walked with Jesus longer than we’ve been alive.

Maybe you believe that your thoughts will help the Church narrowly escape irrelevance. (By the way, Church irrelevance is a gross generalization.)

But you know as well as I do that nothing turns off our generation more than feeling as though we’re being manipulated. We want relevance, but hate it when you try too hard. Don’t try and make it all about me when it should be all about Jesus, we say. Our needs aren’t met, yet we disdain that our Churches are too inwardly focused. We can’t have it both ways.

Maybe you hope that your words will help the Church come back from the brink of extinction. (By the way, Church extinction is a theological impossibility.)

    But here’s the thing, the Church’s existence doesn’t depend on Her success, relevance, statistics or Millennials. She has been preserved all these years by the grace and good pleasure of Jesus Christ. He sustains her. The Church’s challenges are not new. Believe it or not, generations have felt all your frustrations before. She has been irrelevant. She has been abusive. She has been wrong. She has been myopic. She has been manipulative, and yet He sustains Her.

Are we broken? To be sure. Can we improve? Without question. But the One who sustains also refines.

I won’t tell you that what you feel isn’t valid or important. It is, but you don’t need 4000 shares on social media to know that. As Millennials we think our opinions deserve breath and life. We will share them in the name of transparency, but transparency is not a license to wound. There are many more productive things our generation could do and be known for.

I would love to see our generation become the one that cheers most loudly for the Church. The generation that sees her flaws but believes the best about Her. The generation that praises Her heart and Husband! The generation that says my faithfulness to the Church mirrors my faithfulness to Jesus Christ. The generation that loves not just the sexy church but also the struggling church. The generation that champions the Church. The generation that stops complaining and starts changing-our hearts, our churches and our culture.

Your struggle is real. Your solution is wrong. As you struggle, pray. Ask the Lord to start a revival in your church. Talk with your leadership. Reach out to those in your local body. And stay. Stay close. Stay connected. Stay hopeful.

Our best days are ahead because the days are getting darker. And the Bride of Christ is radiant. Even on her worst days, She still shines.

Whitney Capps is a national speaker and writer for Proverbs 31 Ministries, in-the-trenches Mom to four little boys and wife to her CEO. Fabulously flawed and happily transparent, Whitney offers hope to the too-tired Mom. http://www.faithit.com/open-letter-people-writing-sharing-open-letters-whats-wrong-church/

Sunday’s comin… think about this…

If anyone is in Christ … he/she is new! A new creation.

What if you were new?

What if we looked at each other as new?

What if, God’s love changed us, for good?

Let’s think about that.

How would it impact our judgments, of ourself and others? How would it impact your patience? Your tolerance, your joy? How would it effect that urge to fix yourself and others?

Did you ever think about fixing a new born baby? No need – she’s new, she just needs love and she’ll grow beautifully.

Think about that. See you Sunday.

When They Won’t Be Home for Christmas: Thoughts about Grieving at Christmas

This post is from a friend and it touches on the sorrows many feel this time of year.

About a week ago, the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” shuffled through on my iPod and I suddenly began to cry. This particular song was often sung by my sister to my dad and she always made him cry when she would sing it. Hearing it last week stirred within me a lot of emotion that I typically don’t allow myself to feel nor much less express.

My father has been gone for twelve years. That’s twelve Christmases he hasn’t been home. That’s 6 Christmases he hasn’t been here to make my wife laugh with his humor and tell her his whimsical stories. That’s many future Christmases my future children, nephews, and nieces won’t get to be spoiled by their grandpa. So this song that use to make him cry no longer does but rather elicits this salty discharge from my eyes. As Jerry would say on Seinfeld, “Is this crying?” Yet my immediate response wasn’t to allow myself to sit in the sadness of not having my father around for another Christmas but rather to shake it off like Taylor Swift and compose myself.

I tend to be somewhat of a stoic but stoicism is not Christianity. Faith in Christ does not mean that we numb our emotions because he is in control. It is because God is in control and our faith is in him we can faithfully experience and express our emotions in God honoring ways including experiencing grief.

So after twelve years, I’m trying to allow myself to grieve. This little write-up is part of that process. I reluctantly and uncomfortably invite you in to this part of my life because I believe God wants me to do so and because I hope it will help me as I learn to grieve. I also hope and pray that it may help others grieving over the Christmas season and that they might receive this as an arm around them to know that they do not grieve alone.

Here are three brief thoughts on grief that I have considered this past week that I hope might bring someone as much encouragement over these next few days as they have been to me this week.

First, grieving is okay. It is okay to grieve. You may be thinking, “duh, Gabriel” but not everyone understands this. I have not always. Some will not allow themselves to grieve and others deprive others of their grieving experience. Grief is not weakness. Grief is not a lack of faith.

Grief is part of our world that is now marred by sin. It is a natural emotion in a healthy individual. Jesus himself grieved the loss of his good friend Lazarus (John 11:35). We should allow ourselves and others to grieve when seasons of grief come.

Second, there is no set timetable for grieving. I still miss my dad after twelve years. It still hurts that he is gone. There have many times when I’ve thought to myself that I should be “over” his loss by a certain time. But this kind of thinking is not fair and I certainly wouldn’t place these conditions or a grieving time frame on another person grieving.

Several friends of mine have lost their dads since my dad died and I would never tell them to start a grieving clock and when the buzzer went off they had to be done experiencing grief. Grief is experienced in different ways during different seasons. It ebbs and flows but I’m convinced that one never fully ends their grieving over a dear lost one. We should not put time conditions on grieving.

Third, Christmas points us to God through whom we are able to grieve with hope. Christmas is the season we celebrate him as Emmanuel–God with us! O the depths of this thought! Immortal God taking on flesh. Scripture constantly shows us that Jesus experienced all that we experienced in this world, yet he was without sin. He experienced suffering, sadness, and grief. And he did so for us.

Christ came to crush the serpent’s head (Gen 3:15). He came to bear our griefs and to carry our sorrows (Isa 53:4). Jesus came and he will come again so that those united to him by faith will be with him and reunited with those whom we love and are also by faith in Christ. And when he comes again he will put death to death once and for all (Rev 20:14). Therefore, we do not grieve like those without hope (1 Thes 4:13).

So while many have to grieve at Christmas it is Christmas that allows us to grieve well, to grieve with hope eagerly anticipating the second advent of our Lord when he will come put an end to death.

“O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer

our spirits by Thine advent here

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

and death’s dark shadows put to flight

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

shall come to thee, O Israel”

By Gabriel H.

Re-connection

If you are able, join us tonight for Prayer @ 7pm in the sanctuary. We’ll connect to God’s word, to each other, and turn our eyes and hearts toward Jesus. It’s a time lock arms, lift each other up and seek the face of God.

“And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit …” Acts 4:31