Wednesday, April 30, 2014
2 Corinthians 4:17
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
This verse comes in one of the great passages of the New Testament. 2 Corinthians 4 is wonderful description of the daily Christian life. We are constantly aware of our physical and spiritual weaknesses, but we are also constantly being made new by Christ and the hope we have in his resurrection.
One of the most basic temptations we face is to be too focused on the present. We do this by making too much of our daily struggles and too little of our future joy in Christ. We do this by making too much of our daily successes and too little our future glory in Christ.
2 Cor. 4:17 makes two comparisons. Our afflictions are "light" in comparison to the "weight" of glory. Our afflictions are "momentary" in comparison to the "eternal" glory. But the Bible isn't saying we are to simply think of this a only a future hope. The main verb is present. Our daily struggles are presently producing eternal rewards.
The temptation of the present is we are often focused on the wrong things. Instead of seeing how Christ is forming us to be more patient, kind, and loving we only see our continued impatience, anger, and apathy. We miss the unseen spiritual world and instead focus on crossing off our to do list. In the eyes of the world we may have had a successful day. But did we do those things with grace and love or did we do whatever it takes to get the job done - never minding the people we stepped over along the way? Each day the Spirit is calling us to use everything in our lives, from the most mundane tasks to the most difficult challenges in life, so that Christ is more formed in us.
What we need in daily life is an eternal perspective so that we can see whatever is before us in its true light. When the Bible talks about this world passing away or how it is momentary in comparison to eternity, it is not saying the stuff of this world doesn't matter. It is calling us to see it as it really is and to see the things that are truly valuable. It is calling us to do things differently, to do them in the Spirit of Christ. To find joy in suffering knowing Christ died that we may have life. To find a way to work with his love and sacrifice rather than for our fading honor and glory.
Then we may know what it means when he says "my yoke is easy and by burden is light."
Thursday, April 24, 2014
It is great to celebrate a joyful thing like Easter and the resurrection of Jesus. But it is easy to forget that the resurrection is not something we celebrate once a year but something directing how we live every day. Everyone is familiar with the season of Lent and it as a time of preparation for Holy Week and Easter Sunday. But many people are unaware of what comes after Easter. Eastertide is the season of celebration. It is the season of Jesus' many appearances before his ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit marked by Pentecost (Acts 2). This is a time to take up new things. Embrace new habits to replace some bad ones you may have tried to kick during lent. It is a time of feasting and looking forward to what is new.
Now, therefore, is a good time to give an update on our leadership transition with Pastor Jason moving to Chicago. Some of you may remember that our elder John Lunsford has been on a long vacation in Hawaii through the end of April. We have had conference calls with him but we are waiting for some face to face time with him and all the elders when he returns on April 30th. When John returns the Elder board will review our current leadership needs and some next steps for our ministry.
I myself will also be reviewing our leadership needs and next steps for our ministry in early May. So, I will be away from the pulpit for the first couple of Sundays in May. Bernard Emerson (a church planter in Oakland) and Alvin Lin (Community Pastor at East Valley Church) will provide excellent preaching those two Sundays. I am taking time to evaluate our church ministry, our leadership needs, and my personal gifting and calling. I will consult with some advisors as I pray and plan. I will consult with the Elders and we will evaluate all they discern and what I discern. We will also speak with our regional director David Yetter about our transition.
All of this is essentially to help myself and church confirm what the future of the ministry ought to be and what kind of leadership we ought to have. We are attempting to move forward both quickly and wisely, so that Dwell Christian Church can continue to fulfill its purpose of gospel ministry.
We will give updates as we progress through May with hopefully a more substantial report and plan coming in the early summer.
You can be in prayer for me and the Elder Board that we will be faithful stewards with all that God has entrusted us.
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Psalm 56:8 (NIV)
Record my misery;
list my tears on your scroll—
are they not in your record?
The week leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus has traditionally been a time for Christians to reflect on the significance of Christ's death. It just so happens that yesterday I came upon this verse while going through some Holy Week devotionals in "More Light on the Path".
This is a poetic verse and the NIV nicely captures a word play on "record" in Hebrew in the first and last line. There is another between "misery" and "on your scroll" (lit. wanderings and in your bottle). The word behind "misery" can also be "tossings" or "wanderings", which made me think of nights I don't sleep well and things are weighing heavily on my mind.
Have you ever had those nights? Lying in your bed overcome with emotion about all kinds of things and just wanting to forget it all and get some sleep. Things you should have done or things you wish you had not, or things you wish were not so. Here in the Psalm it speaks of God counting your tears and storing them up for a day when he will answer our prayers.
But that isn't all, my little devotional had one more verse for me to read:
For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
The word behind "wipe away" is very strong and could be rendered "obliterate." Immediately after this in Rev. 8 it describes the censor of the prayers of saints being poured out on the earth. God is listening to our cries for mercy, for justice, for peace and salvation. He is recording them in his book and a day is coming when he will not just comfort us, but obliterate our tears with the blessings of the kingdom to come and his salvation in all its fullness.
I hope that is an encouragement to you as it was to me this week. God is counting your tears and one day he will answer them awesomely.
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
A few months ago, I was a feeling a little worn down. I felt as if I wasn't getting anywhere and I was just going through the motions in life. It seems really silly sometimes when we catch ourselves thinking or feeling that way. All things considered we live in one of the better places to live in the United States, which is one of the better places to live in the whole world and perhaps human history. This is precisely why it's popular on Twitter to complain about #firstworldproblems. We make a joke of out of our existential crises over the tiniest of inconveniences in our lives.
But the fact is, the modern world is often dissatisfying. But our existential crises are nothing new! There is a Hebrew word in the book of Ecclesiastes for it: hevel, which translates meaninglessness, vanity, and futile. The word is a synonym for vapor, carrying the sense of a momentary breath which is there for but a moment then gone. Like the preacher of Ecclesiastes, we long for the bigger and better, for things substantive, to just feel something, anything. So we pursue anything that we can to get a rise out of our souls. We are dissatisfied unless there is more money, more people, more fun, more emotion, more to suppress the sense that it may be all for nothing in the end. Just a flashy show for a little while then we die.
The good news is that Jesus says, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly," (Jn. 10:10). He spoke of the kingdom of God being "at hand," (Mt. 4:17), and that he himself brings the kingdom (Lk. 17:21). He spoke of his kingdom as something worth giving up all we have for in order to possess it (Mt. 13:44-46). The kingdom is a place full of joy where Jesus reigns. But he also says "whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will keep it," (Lk. 17:33). This is why the preacher of Ecclesiastes calls our pursuits so pointless; they are all about preserving our "stuff" instead of finding our lives in losing them.
It was reflecting on the kingdom of God that gave me comfort that day. Didn't Jesus say it's like a tiny mustard seed that grows into a large tree? We know in the end what satisfies the soul is reconnecting with the source of life itself: Jesus. He is the one who, by his Spirit, produces in us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These things are of eternal value and do not fade away. Then Jesus' words about losing our life to gain it don't sound so "hard" after all, but freeing. I don't need more stuff, more money, or more success. I need less of them because I need more of Him and more of us for his kingdom. Only in this will we bear a harvest of joy that is deeply satisfying.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Thank you. Laura and I were glowing with gratefulness all day Sunday. And perhaps even a bit on Monday. The love and generosity you all showed us was amazing. Thank you for listening to me preach one more time. Thank you for feeding us. Thank you for sharing great memories with us. Thank you for reminding us of all that God has done over the past few years. And thank you for my awesome watch!
We were blessed beyond deserving. You have sent us off to Chicago, into our next adventure, with locked arms and tons of Jesus-style affection. Thank you my friends.
No matter how long a lead pastor has been in office, no matter how long a church has been around, no matter how long you’ve been a part of church life … when a lead pastor steps away the temptation is always the same. We want to wait and see. Often one of our first impulses after saying goodbye is to hold our community at arms length. Not only so but sometimes we kept our distance until we feel like it’s safe to reengage. We wait and see.
This temptation is actually the result of believing two different lies. The first lie is that community can still happen at arms length. And second, that community was safe to begin with. Community can’t happen at arms length. Community is not safe. But community is the very thing God has given to his people in order to walk through times just like this.
Starting today, don’t wait and see … go and do. The brilliant thing about the Church’s mission is that it hasn’t changed in 2000 years! Jesus has fulfilled the law and the prophets and he has called us to be salt and light in the world. In other words, there’s nothing to wait for. The only thing left is to go and do what God has already shown us. So …
Go and love each other.
Go and share meals together as a Gospel Group.
Go and tell the Little Dwellers about Jesus on Sunday Mornings.
Go and be good news at Apple and Cisco and Google and in your neighborhood and in your home and to your spouse.
Go and listen to your barista as she shares her life story.
Go and learn more about that homeless man you see everyday down the street.
Go and read your Bible and pray and fast … and repeat.
Go and take your wife on a date.
Go and take you husband on a date.
Go and date!
Go and disciple your children.
Go and volunteer the next time an opportunity pops up in the bulletin.
Go and bring someone with you.
Don’t wait and see what happens next.
Instead go and do what God has called you to do.
Perhaps you’ve heard me share this a number of times before, but I don’t care. As always the question isn’t, have you heard this before? The question is, do you believe it? … A day is coming when we’ll get to tell these stories of going and doing. We’ll all be together in a refreshed and revived and remade world in the full view of God's glory and grace. And then we’ll start sharing. Story, after story, after story, after story. And you know what we’ll be saying?
This is what he did …
This is what he did …
This is what he did …
Until that day ...
Helveston's New Address: 514 N. Damen Ave Unit 2S, Chicago, IL 60622
Jason's New Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Helveston's New Phone Numbers: Staying the same for now. We'll let you know when it changes!