busy day of rest

4 10 2010

Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest and worship, right? A day to pause, to dwell, to feast, a day for remembering the mighty deeds of God and reveling in the resurrection of Jesus, for gathering with his people and helping each other really hear the gospel as we worship together.

Today was a good Sunday, not in the sense of slow time (how I longed for that this afternoon when I felt the early autumn chill mixed with the warm late afternoon sunlight, but I was walking to my car) but in the sense that I spent lots of time with God’s people. This morning I worshiped with Chattanooga Valley Presbyterian Church (CVPC) and had the privilege to tell about some of the ways God is building his kingdom in Ukraine. Then I drove up to my home church, North Shore Fellowship for lunch and to hear from two families who taught at an English camp in the Czech Republic this past summer. Next I stopped at a friend’s house to meet their newly adopted son from Korea, and closed out the evening with my neighborhood church small groups for dinner and a worship service.

I’m thankful for the church–the people of God. In particular I’m thankful for those in the two small groups here in St. Elmo, my neighborhood. We’re messy and broken, but we’ve been bought by Jesus’ blood. I believe that in the warp and woof of our life together, knowing and being known in fellowship around the resurrected Jesus, God will shape us to be more like Jesus. He gives rest to the weary, and hopefully as we rest in him we’ll grow in living out the full-orbed well-being or shalom that God intends to work in our community through us.

Yes, I had a full Sunday. But I was with God’s gathered people, and we enjoyed being with Jesus and with each other. Even with brothers and sisters I don’t know well this morning, I rejoiced because we share a common God and Savior, who graciously gives us rest by his work for us. We were reminded this evening from Psalm 13 to be honest with God in our prayers (He’s big enough to take it), and after being honest to focus on him and his steadfast love rather than our problems. Is that not rest: drawing near with confidence to the throne of grace, and receiving mercy and finding grace to help in time of need?

Busy day of rest? Yup. Wouldn’t want that schedule every Sunday. But today it was good, and I was glad to enjoy Jesus with his people.

(Plus I got to sing “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” twice, and that hymn rocks!)





priorities

18 06 2010

While driving home from work today, I caught part of a sermon on the radio.  The preacher emphasized that we are all under the sovereign authority of the LORD God.  The preacher directed my attention to Exodus 34, where the LORD tells all the men of Israel to assemble before him three times each year, recognizing that real manhood is not the absence of authority, but the recognition of and submission to the sovereign rule of Jahweh, the God of the covenant.

I read Exodus 34 after dinner, after praying that the Lord would stir my heart with his grace and with the incredibly good news of what he has done for all peoples in Jesus Christ.  The priority in that chapter seems to be God, his merciful character, his glory, and his commandments.  Moses face and skin were shining so brightly from God’s presence that most of the time he wore a veil, except when he was telling the people what God had said.    God’s law points to the priority God should have in my life: absolute, first priority, and far too often God is not my priority.

However, the reflected glory faded and Moses would need to talk to God again for it to shine more brightly.  It isn’t until Jesus that we really glimpse the glory of God.  Moses’ face shone with reflected glory, but in Jesus we have the fullness of God, veiled in human flesh.  The Spirit of Christ opens our eyes to his glory, to his grace, to his purposes in our lives.  2 Cor. 3:16-18 tells us the Spirit shows us Jesus’ glory and transforms us to look more and more like him.  It is this glorious ministry of the Spirit–his work of making us more like Jesus–that gives us hope.  The Spirit of Christ turns me, re-aligns my heart, increases my longing to enjoy and embody Jesus, to give him first priority in all I do.

When I am a bit discouraged after an evening of getting voicemails when I’d hoped to schedule support-raising meeting with people, I should remember the mercy of God and not loose heart.

When I am unfaithful and waste time doing things other than support-raising when I’ve scheduled it (good things in their own right, but not as distractions or procrastinations), I need to turn from my priorities to the priorities the Spirit of Christ gives.  I should seek joy in the grace and glory of God and prioritize my life to point other people to Jesus, the source of solid joy and lasting treasure.

In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.





things people make

31 01 2010

I’m fascinated by things people make.  Especially things made for beauty, whether their function is simply to adorn a wall or to keep one’s beverage warm.  I’m thankful for paintings such as Katie Ward Knutson’s Tokyo Tsunami View, which I recently purchased.  She’s a local artist whose work I enjoy, and I have a few paintings from her Metro series of urban night scenes.  I’m also thankful for one of my mugs, Scottish Mug which I found in a charity shop in Glasgow while studying there at the University of Glasgow. I don’t know who made it, but I enjoy the sturdy results of the potter’s creativity. If you’d like to see Knutson’s “Tokyo Tsunami View” painting, call or email me and I’ll have you over for coffee or tea, and you can use my Scottish Mug.

During my second visit to Ukraine I spent a couple hours at the Ethnography Museum in L’viv, at 15 Prospekt Svobody.  Its full of things people made.  The first floor had a room full of examples of how people have lived in different parts of Ukraine,  such as Hutsul or Podil home interiors with furniture and textiles.  That room also had a number of musical instruments, great examples of functional beauty.  On the second floor there was an exhibit of portable gnomonics (sundials) and clocks, some of which were simple but most were ornate.  The third floor held an exhibition of cut color paper art, reminiscent of the paper snowflakes I used to love cutting out each winter, but these were incredibly imaginative; some of them were hung in three-dimensional installations.

One of the things I’m looking forward to in Kiev is discovering what the arts have been like there, what artists there are making today, and how Ukrainian followers of Jesus think about the meaning of the Incarnation in their work.  During my last visit I considered visiting a display of contemporary Lithuanian textile art, but I couldn’t get that visit scheduled.  Perhaps I can play a small roll encouraging believing artists to make good work.

However, presently I’m still making a few tools for building my support team.  A brochure is in the works, and behind the scenes I’ll soon be organizing my lists of people to contact, to invite them to partner with me, and to learn how I can serve them.  I’ve talked to a couple people about meeting with them to tell them about the needs in Kiev and my role there, and now only need to schedule our conversations.

At the end of the day, though I have many things to make, I’m thankful that God has made a rest for his people in Jesus’ finished work at the cross; that he made a way for us to him through the broken body and blood of the Son of Man; and that he invites us who have trusted Jesus and been raised with him to feast freely on his body and blood.  We are united by his Spirit to the One who made good work:

“when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:12-14)

Now that’s good work, and cause to be thankful.