...or "What does a Christian look like?"....or "What is the goal of the church?"....or...???? (or fill in the blank after you read this and listen to the link..)
Lately I have been being hit by migraines (about 4 in the past month since I returned from the states where I usually only have 3 or 4 a year!) and other undetermined weaknesses. (Too bad I don't live in the Victorian Era when I could have just said "I have a case of the vapors", and no one would have been so indelicate as to ask exactly what my symptoms were. Not that I would be able to be too specific, just incredible headaches, hurts to look at the light, and exhuasted. So there ya go). :)
So maybe my latest round of "the vapors" is why these words by Alistair Begg really touched me.
"Have you considered the possibility that your personal weaknesses and the weaknesses of your congregation may be the very key to your usefullness in the hand of God?
I'm not talking about sin now, but I'm talking our falterings. I'm talking our personalities, our sense of weakness and poverty of spirit and so on. We're tempted all of the time to make out that we're different from what we really are because if we can present a good front then maybe people will be impresssed with that and drawn to the message but the fact of the matter is we want them to be drawn to Christ.
And nothing exalts and magnifies Christ more than the awareness that came to the Apostle Paul - (despite all that he had known of the dramatic revelations of God) - "My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore more gladly will I glory in my weakness that Christ's power will rest upon me for when I am weak then I am strong".
(You can hear the whole sermon in context by clicking here)
Or maybe this issue seems particularly timely to me right now because I have been talking to some friends about (to roughly summarize it) "what should the church look like"? Within our church there are differences of opinion, but thankfully, not a whole lot. I am glad that there is great unity in our church for the most part. But everyone thinking the same way is not necessarily unity, sometimes it is apathy, or laziness...or ?
So its good and natural that every once in awhile people come along that think things should be different. And more often than not, others agree with them. In my opinion, the differences come down to how important those changes are considered (in light of work, family, and other pressures bearing down on people) or how those changes should come about.
I remember talking to one young guy who wanted to be a pastor. I asked what his goal for the church he wanted to pastor was. His answer was a "healthy church", with which I agreed. "But what does that look like, exactly"? His answer, I think, speaks to exactly what Begg is talking about. "Smooth functioning".
Honestly, when I heard that answer I laughed. Not to be cruel, or because it was particularly funny, in the basic sense of the word, but I think the literary discription of my laughter would have been "ruefully". Wouldn't we all like any relationship, organization, etc. to be smooth functioning! :)
But what has God described the church as? And for that matter, the Christian? The church as a Bride (hence relationship) and Christians (among other things) as needing "to become as little children in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven". To this young guy with aspirations towards the pastorate, I pointed out that a young child (think toddler) that would sit in the corner, not cry or make noise, not pull anything of the table, or fill his diaper or spit up at in-opportune times would - by most accounts - be a "smooth functioning" baby. But probably not a very healthy one!
A bride who never cried when emotional, never leaned on her groom when doubting, never felt fear and called out for protection would, I suppose, be to some a "smooth functioning" bride. But not very real.
Now, like Begg, I'm not justifying sin, or even justifying running from "growing up" and staying immature. I have had my own battles with fear, anger, self-centeredness that lead to depression at times, etc. that have in the past (and still today, I'm sure!) more than tried the patience of my family and friends. Thankfully, these past three years God has been in the process of teaching me a little more "smooth functioning" regarding fear and anger after having pulled out the root some time ago. But ya know what? That's just the start! Ha! :)
Some Jehovah's Witnesses came over the other night and, because I didn't invite them in the last time they came by, I decided this time to offer them a cup of tea and an hour to talk. One reocurring theme was that of perfection in the flesh through good works. Sad! I told them that I was sure that up till the day I leave this planet - through death or Christ's return - I was sure I was going to still be coming before God asking Him to continue to make me more like Him...to help me to overcome one weakness or another. If not, what good was the blood of Christ to cleanse me if I could just do it myself? And my ongoing need for the refining, that cleansing, of the outward doesn't depress me, it brings me peace.
Because I know I am a work in progress! I know that in my weaknesses He is strong! Recently a friend asked me to come out to her village (sorry, but compared to Kyiv it is a village! ha!) to teach at her women's study. She said the girls still talked about what I had spoke on when I was there last. I had to laugh! When I was there last I forgot my notes, my translator had a little bit of an attitude, I was feeling very beaten down spiritually, and I shared a message that was far from being "fresh"...it was something God had put on my heart years before and I had already shared it many times.
But ya know what? God spoke. His Word does not return void. He is faithful. And only if you know me really well would you know that I really do try to be organized. I really DID write notes. I THOUGHT I put them in my Bible, but didn't...and so on and so on. I am kind of like Anne of Green Gables who, (also like me) is explaining how, although she talks too much she really IS trying not to when, explaining that, she says "If you only knew all the things I WANTED to say, but DON'T"! Well, me too! :) I can only imagine the mess I would be if Christ HADN'T saved me! ha! :)
So... anyway, most of you that read this already know this stuff. But it never hurts to hear it again, right? And maybe someone that is thinking about these things it will encourage them. I am not the expert blogger...oh well. If you want to read some really good blogs, check out Michelle Knisley's...Greg and Edna Silva's....Marianna Peipon's ...these people know how to blog..timely newsworthy info...photos....and just regular posts (not bi-yearly like me, ha)! Really, check out all the blogs on my blogroll...gotta update it soon, though, haven't gotten everyone's on there.
Anyway...these are my thoughts. God bless.
Hey! I just re-edited this and found some outright heresy in my first draft that I published here...anyone catch it? haha! It was a mistake, really! ha! Drop me a comment if you did. It would be funny to see who are the careful readers!