Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Come Home" or "You're Not Welcome Here"?

I've been thinking a lot about grace lately. I went to a conference at the end of last week and one of the speakers described grace as unmerited favor. Something we don't deserve and yet it is freely given to us through Christ. I think we talk about grace pretty regularly in church services, leader conferences, random conversations, etc. but I wonder how often we actually show grace.

On Monday I was asked to lead a Disciple Now this weekend for a leader who is not going to be able to lead. While I had to pull myself out of Disciple Now retirement, I said I would do it. Starting Friday night, I will be teaching a group of 11th and 12th grade girls about purity. Yeah...prayers are greatly appreciated! I think this is a very important topic that needs to be discussed, probably more so in the home than in the church, but I guess the church gets to do it since most parents don't. Anyway, not the point. As I was reading through lesson one, with grace in the back of my mind, I started wondering... What if one of my girls confesses this weekend that she has been sexually active outside of marriage? What if she does exactly what James 5:16 says, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed."? How will the others in my group respond? What if she goes even further and decides this is a sin she needs to confess in front of the church on Sunday morning? To be completely transparent to a group of people who talk about grace. How will she be received? With loving and open arms? By fellow believers ready to do whatever it takes to help her overcome this sin in her life and begin a life of purity? I know I can't even answer that because I don't know. I think there is sadness in not knowing the answer to that question, though. Sadness comes from knowing how the response should be, but at the same time knowing how the response probably will be. Grace, grace. God's grace. Grace that will pardon and cleanse within. Are we a church that just talks about grace or shows grace?

I was asked yesterday by the pastor of my church to tell him the most important thing that stuck out in my mind from the conference we attended. Just one? There are so many things that I learned and am still processing almost a week later. As I was looking through my notes, I stopped at a sentence spoken by Tim Ross that I put an arrow beside, drew a star next to, and underlined (I figured that was probably something pretty important). The sentence said, "Come see a Man who told me everything about myself and loves me anyway." This was taken from John 4, Jesus and the Samaritan Woman, posted below...

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." The woman said to him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock." Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water."

Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true." The woman said to him, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things." Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am he."

Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, "What do you seek?" or "Why are you talking with her?" So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, "Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?"

Based on her story, I have no doubt this woman had been judged, ridiculed, and was an outcast to many. However, on this day she met a man who said, "You know what, I know everything about you. I know that the man you are with is not your husband and that you have had 5 before this one. I know every detail of your life, but I love you. I value you. I want to shower you with my grace and cleanse you of your sins." (Kristine's version)

The title of this blog is "Come Home" or "You're Not Welcome Here"? What message are we, as a church, sending to the outside world? I believe that Jesus sent the message all through Scripture that you can always come home. That nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39). That no matter where we've been, no matter what we've done He will always welcome us back. I fear that too often, however, we are sending the message that because of this act, these words, those sins you are not welcome here. That you have exceeded your limit and grace is no longer available for you.

It is my hope and prayer that we stop being a church made up of people who just talk about grace. Let's be a people who extend grace to each and every person we meet and help them understand that they can always come home!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lead Beyond Our Walls - 2010 RightNow Conference

I'm leaving this evening to attend the RightNow Conference in Irving. I was first introduced to this conference last year by a friend who desperately wanted to attend. I don't typically get excited about something when I don't know what to expect. I've been to numerous conferences where a line of speakers get on stage and share their interpretation of the weekend's theme or what God has been doing in their lives and how that relates to why we are all sitting in a huge auditorium on a particular weekend. However, I knew this one was going to be different because of the speakers I would be hearing. Donald Miller. Matt Chandler. Francis Chan. I mean, who can't get excited about that? I was pumped! Anyway, in anticipation for this year's conference I have been watching some videos on YouTube from last year. We'll start with the promotional video for this year...

Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually preparing myself to be challenged, pushed, and made uncomfortable in the best possible way.

Lord, open my eyes to see and my ears to hear all that You have for me over the next two days...

Catalyst West 2010: Donald Miller

This is a video of Donald Miller at the Catalyst Conference this year. I've never been to Catalyst but they get all of the "all-stars" in one place for one conference. Man, what a party that must be! I'll go one day, but until then we have YouTube. Haha. I couldn't find a video from RightNow last year to post on here of him, but this one is outstanding. He asks the question, "What if?" and I think it's one we can all consider...

Matt Chandler - Power of the Resurrection - RightNow Conference

Matt Chandler, lead pastor of The Village Church in Flower Mound, speaks about the Power of the Resurrection. I can't get enough of Matt Chandler - check out his sermons online at, he'll blow your mind! Enjoy...

Francis Chan - The new middle road - RightNow Conference

And now Francis Chan, author of Crazy Love and Forgotten God (you should seriously read both!!)...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Wordless Frustration!

Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to say something, but trying to take what was swirling around in your head and turn it into sentences that made sense coming out of your mouth was utterly impossible? Ahhhh...I just want to scream sometimes. I love writing. Some people used to tell me that I was good at it and I should consider writing a book. Ha ha ha. That's humorous to me now as I have had my blog open on my computer for two days and all I can think to write is how frustrated I have been at my inability to write. What's the deal?

Is it that I have nothing to say? Is it that my life is so uninteresting that I get bored with myself trying to type it out for others to read? Sometimes I feel as if I simply have nothing to offer anyone who might happen to stumble upon this page, take 2 minutes out of their day to read my mindless muttering, and then make a promise to themselves never to click on my link again. Maybe.

Perhaps it's that at one point in my life, back when xanga was the blog everyone thought was cool, I felt I had a story to tell. I believed that by sharing my life experiences someone else might understand, learn, or realize that they aren't the only ones dealing with the ups and downs of this crazy roller coaster we are all riding. Although there are many details missing between the xanga posts and now, I'd like to pick that story back up. Fast forward about 3 years...

I'm back in East Texas working at the fabulous institution that awarded me a Bachelor's Degree back in 2004, East Texas Baptist University. I am a recruiter in the Admissions Office, primarily dealing with transfer students from the Southeast region of Texas. It's a great job as it allows me to meet students from all over the state of Texas and beyond who are going through completely different stages of their lives. Some have never lived away from home, some are looking for a small Christian atmosphere in which to study, some have zero support from parents or family members, and others are wanting a fresh start - to make something of themselves. They all walk through my door, sit in my chairs, open up their lives to me, and I do my very best to listen and understand. There are times when I feel emotionally drained having to tell a student that based on this or that, we cannot admit them. Yet, there are times when I get to deliver the news that based on the ACT test they studied for and lost sleep over, they now meet our admission requirements and will be able to attend classes with us. Ups and downs. Mountains and valleys. Life.

In the midst of getting reacquainted with East Texas and all of the changes that have taken place since I've been gone, there are SO many in what used to be my little one red light town, God opened a door to something truly spectacular and beautiful. Cornerstone Fellowship. A new church plant with people that I love dearly as I love my own family. A place where I get to work with kids the way I've always dreamed. We launched September 5th of this year and sometimes I still can't believe it's actually real. From outstanding worship led by Jordan, Levi and Luke. To Carl bringing the word each week in a very raw and unapologetic manner. To my two beautiful regular attenders, Lexie and Kylee, walking through the door smiling and ready to learn about Jesus. I'm constantly in awe. God has shown up and shown off in so many ways since we started. He has taken the leadership of our church and chiseled away the crap that stood between us and Him so that we can be effective in His church. We don't require you to check your junk at the door. We encourage you to bring it in so that we, as a family of believers, can help you scrape it off and wash it away. We want to love as He loves. We want to serve as He serves. We want to go where He goes. We want to see as He sees. We want to shine as He shines. We want to be imitators of the One who knows it all, owns it all, gives it all, and opens His arms to all who will come.

Uncle Ben said it best, "With great power comes great responsibility." Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am worthless, powerless, useless apart from Christ. I must take whatever jobs and opportunities He gives me and do my very best to make much of Him. That's all that matters. We are called to make His name great as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit within us. He allows us to be a part of His master plan and with that comes a great deal of responsibility. What am I going to do with it? Waste it away? Pretend that it doesn't exist? Or lay aside all of me so that I can be consumed only with Him? Yeah, I think that sounds like the best plan!

Wordless frustration no more. At least for now...