Friday, December 30, 2016

Some Simple Acts at the Close of the Year

This one verse of scripture captured me this week.

One generation shall commend your works to another and shall declare your mighty acts.
 -- Psalm 145: 4

As 2016 winds down, what mighty acts of God I've witnessed can I commend to another generation?  This blog is suppose to collect the mighty acts of God in testimony and written record to pass along and inspire many to worship and praise.  This verse from Psalm 145 spoke again to me of one of my duties in life - declare the Lord's mighty acts.

This last quarter of the year, I've been reminded graciously of who I am.  I'm not a lost soul trying to secure a purpose.  I'm not an ill-equipped, uneducated vagabond.  I am a gifted, empowered minister of the good news of God with a defined destiny.  Though there are days of discouragement and frustration, the days ahead will be greater than the days passed.  

The mighty acts I'll reference here shed light on my identity and how God brought that to the fore for me these last days of 2016.

One night at work recently, I spoke with George, a co-worker.  He wished me and my family a blessed Christmas.  Earlier this year, he was gripped by some illness. I prayed for him and declared health over him standing before him in the break room months ago.  He's since returned to work with the vitality and cockiness he had prior to the illness.
That recent night he wished me a blessed holiday, I was overcome with compassion for him.  I told him to expect this coming year to be full of blessings he'll never expect because God loved him beyond anyway he could comprehend.  I didn't rehearse this utterance.  I didn't prepare myself to say something nice or sweet to a curmudgeon I worked with begrudgingly.  No, I was captured by the grace and mercy of God in the moment, and my prophetic gifting arose to declare a sample of heaven into the heart and spirit of a child of God. It was a wonderful word.

I walked out of the store and to my car for my meal break with a strong sense of fulfillment.  This is what I'm meant to do.  This is who I am.  

Wilma, who's been on medical leave for the last few months, returned this week.  She'll be here for a few more weeks until her transfer back to Florida is completed.

She moved to Alabama to care for her ailing father.  That first day back I asked her how he was doing.  She said he'd passed away in November.  I told her I was sorry.  Later that day, she approached me while I was alone in a room doing some inventory work.  She began sharing about the last few days he was alive.  

She couldn't provide direct care for him because she was recovering from knee surgery.  Her brother called her asking advice because Dad wasn't doing well.  Her response to the details he conveyed of their father's condition led her to advise calling the home care nurse to come and insert an I.V. drip.  

A week later when she could get to her father's house, she discovered the I.V. was never administered.  His organs were shutting down and death was presumed to be at hand.  

She looked at me and said, "He was strong, but not that strong."  She then began to cry and walked toward me with arms outstretched.  We embraced.  She wept and trembled for several moments.  Amidst the tears, she said she'd missed me.  I patted her on the back and said I'd missed her, too.  She then composed herself and said something about not wanting to be found this emotional.  

The next day when she arrived at work and we greeted each other, she thanked me and was glad she'd shared that because she hadn't said that to anyone else since he died.  She felt better.  I responded, "Good!"

This experience with Wilma informed me afresh who I am, what I'm meant to do, and what I carry.  What I possess impacts the environment I inhabit and the people in it.  I'm not looking to manipulate anyone or anything.  

In talking with George, I was overcome with compassion for him.   With Wilma, I initially showed empathy which opened the door for her sharing and releasing her own emotional burden.  George probably needed encouragement to believe good was at hand.  Wilma needed to lay down a load of grief.  None of this was orchestrated.  These were all the mighty acts of God who loves everyone.

These surprising acts of love and power were given to people needing what only God could do in ways only God could.  In God acting through me, I'm greatly encouraged as this year wains and the next one now approaches with increasing expectation of good at hand for everyone.  Alleluia.

Friday, December 2, 2016

When God Comes (Four Years Ago)

It was four years ago today (thank you, Facebook) I preached a sermon that was the public catalyst in my leaving a denomination.  The spiritual impetus to surrender my ordination was being unequally yoked with a denomination that had no value or respect for what I believed, taught and espoused about God.  My calling grew in a direction that was not compatible with the ecclesiology, the practices and comfort levels of the church, its pastoral and lay leadership.

Things like this are so often what happens when God comes.

I called the congregation that day to decide to follow what I'd set as the vision.  If they didn't, we who remained would part company with them but part in love.  By Wednesday of that week, I'd told my district superintendent I was happy to go on leave from any pastoral duties.  By February, I surrendered my ordination and with it dissolved my relationship with the denomination.

Things like this happen when God comes.

The gospel text that morning was from Mary's Song, the Magnificat, from Luke 1.  I said these verses recognized the unfolding plan of God which includes blessings and difficulties. I gave testimony of blessings and a sober warning that difficulties were in the offing.  This was true for Mary many years ago being the mother of the Messiah, and its the truth for anyone or any body of believers that choose to follow what the Lord offers them as his instruments in Kingdom-building.

Things like this happen when God comes.

What's happened recently in your life because God has come?  Perhaps the Lord has revealed the divine nature in loving what appeared unlovable, or corrected what was believed to be uncorrectable.  These are the blessings like a virgin bearing a child outside of marriage, and he becomes the Savior of the world.  Alleluia!

What's happened in your life because God has encountered you, and you said yes to his invitation to believe the unbelievable or attempt with the leading of Holy Spirit the impossible?

There are blessings, and there are difficulties.  Pride, earthly authority, wealth may simply disappear along with friends and relationships you never thought would be shaken.  When God comes, he reveals wonderful, unequaled things.

Soon after digesting these morsels from heaven, you find yourself saying yes to following Jesus like you know you never have before.  In so following, everything else becomes secondary, or such loyalties simply fall out of the playoff picture.  You pledge love and devotion to Jesus above all else including relationships and positions.  This is what happens when God comes.

In traditional, denominational Christianity, its the liturgical season of Advent.  Advent means coming.

I believe God is coming to you and for you.  God is coming to you to reveal his unmistakable will of love and power revealed in the glory of his son, your savior.  Alleluia.  His will revealed afresh will bring things into a clearer focus for you, even if you don't consider yourself a believer.  I just trust God's love will encounter you in such a manner that you will be overwhelmed with his grace, forgiveness and acceptance.  All you'll have to do is be still and know.

And, God is coming for you.  The God of heaven and earth wants you.  You may be a person of great intellect or resource or position.  You may be a person of limited means or experiences.  Regardless of what is or isn't at your disposal, God sees you as his lovely, strong, precious child, and he wants you as his home.  He wants to dwell in you fully, not merely in your intellect or emotions when you hear an ol' hymn that makes you weep.  He wants all of you so he can shape you by encountering you time and time again.

Encountering the love of God repeatedly begins to shape you into his likeness.  You realize the power of love and that nothing is impossible. You then perceive the Lord's will is not harsh but based in relationship and joy.  Suddenly, you realize you're already living in eternity.  This is what happens when God comes time and time again.

What follows is a hunger to know him more.  The Bible becomes a book about a family in relationship with God who ultimately gives all he has to wipe the slate clean for everyone.  You and I are the everyone.  We then long to be with him and to hear from him day and night.  In the midst of that, we end up calling people in whom we have relationship to decide whether they want to be with us, the crazies, all the time or not.  If they don't, that'll be ok because we'll love them anyway, but we know we ain't changin'  We're following Jesus to the glorious end.

That's where I was four years ago, and, in effect, that's what I said.  I invited them.  The cost was too great for them, and I sounded like an egotist.  From my seat, I simply said and did what I was supposed to do.  I was in love and knew of a great life that was in the reach of everybody in the room.  I knew God had come, and I invited them to embrace all he offered.

There was a price to pay. I was among the few who chose to pay it. 

What about you?

He's coming to you to reveal his love and glory afresh.  He's coming for you because he can't stand living without you.  He'll simply want you to express your willingness to receive his steadfast, immovable love for you through Jesus who made this relationship possible.  Its not a matter of religion.  Its a matter of relationship.

May this season of expectation and plans catch you right in the heart, and may you simply relax and allow the joy of a Father, who's madly in love for you, come to where you are.  Just be still and know God is coming.

Merry Christmas!