Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Goodbyes


Our pastoral team last year had 6 people. Two of them went back to Australia. One of them graduated from seminary and moved back to his hometown. And now, our dear Max Diaz is leaving us to do his internship at another church for a year. 
This week we had our last Sunday service with Max and his wife Caro. And in good chilean style, we had a picnic after church to say our "good-byes". 


If you are keeping track, this means our pastoral team is down to two of us. Cristobal and myself. The good news is that we will get a seminary student who will spend the year with us.

Monday, February 18, 2013

How big is He to you?

I've made my way up to the roof of my apartment building. I love it up here. Up here, I look over the tops of the buildings, hear the traffic down below, and I know I am truly a city girl. Up here, I can sometimes see the Andes Mountains. Up here, I admire the clouds that make such interesting patterns, and the sunsets that take my breath away. Up here I worship the Creator of all these things.
After all, isn't it biblical. I'm pretty sure that the old-school guys like Daniel used to go up on their roofs to worship God. Not sure culturally why they chose their roofs, but I think the practice is quite appropriate for a 21st century city girl. Some people are evoked to worship God when they go out into nature. I feel it when I am in the city.


Today I've come up here to the rooftop to work. Now that I have three jobs, I have plenty of work to get done. But before I attacked the long to-do list for the day, I wanted to spend some time in Ephesians. You know, a devotional time.

But before you go thinking I am this really holy and awesome christian, I have a confession to make: I am extremely lazy when it comes to meditating on the Word of God. Oh, don't get me wrong, I teach bible studies all week long (yikes!). So I spend hours going through the bible with others, teaching them, encouraging them. And along the way I too get encouraged. But if I am honest, I am horrible at just sitting down myself and enjoying some time meditating in the Word of God. I know that I should, and not just because God says so (although He does), but because I have experienced time and time again the heart transforming power of the Word of God. It has power to move my frustrated heart into trust. To soothe my broken heart to hope. To give life where I thought all was lost. I have experienced that. So why am I so slow to turn to the bible? Why do I struggle to sit down and soak in the sweet words of God to His people?

It comes from lack of faith. I think if I could relate to anyone in the bible, it would be Peter. Passionate, action-driven, natural leader. Outspoken, mistake ridden, and really when we get down to it, of weak faith. That is me.

Today, before I read in Ephesians, I prayed that God would deal with my weak heart and my easily distracted mind. And as I read through the first chapter, really through the first six verses, I was overwhelmed by the words. They are identity words. Words of God to us about who He is and who He has made us in Him.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed upon us in the Beloved. (Eph 1:3-6)

That part, where God tells us that He adopted us, chose us in love, adopted us as sons (which I personally happily replace with the word "daughter"), that part leaves me in tears. When I think about how big God is, how majestic, all powerful, all knowing, all righteous God is. And then I think about Him choosing me. Knowing how weak I am, knowing my sin and shame. Knowing that He chose me despite all that because He had a plan to save me from that. That knowledge is too much, too good. My only response is tears. 

And as I sit here wiping away the tears as they roll down my cheek, feeling so loved and cherished, I can't help but notice that nothing else seems to matter in this moment. My daily stresses. My ordeal with trying to buy an apartment (long story for another blogpost). My struggles with being single. They all seem smaller in this moment. I have been adopted by a good and loving God. Called to be His. Loved and cherished by Him. As His daughter. How can anything else compare?

So my question for you (and myself) today: how big is God to you? How much of a difference does His Word make in your life? Do you really believe what He has said about Himself and who He has made you to be in Him? 




Oh Lord, deal with my weak heart and my easily distracted mind. Lord, help me believe. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

When love looks like discipline

Mary grew up in the church. She was even a leader. Helped lead worship on Sundays and was active in the life of the community. But something was off. Her boyfriend had moved in with her. They knew that the bible was clear that sex was supposed to be enjoyed only in the context of marriage. She assumed they would get married someday. And for now, it was just easier if they lived together. She enjoyed waking up with him each morning, discovering each other's idiosyncrasies, and things were great. Except they weren't. 
The church, where Mary was a integrally involved, did nothing. They knew that two of their leaders were willfully disobeying God. And the church turned a blind eye. Easier that way. 
Eventually Mary and her boyfriend broke up. And it was no pretty break up. She left her church. She knew she was still a christian, still believed in God, but somehow in her mind, her sexuality was separate from all of that. She eventually got back into a church, a new church. She grew up going to church so she easily slipped into the cultural fabric of the church. But something was still off. It wasn't long before she got involved with another guy in the church. 
Her first church, in omission, had taught her that the authority of the bible, the authority of God, did not extend to her sex life. She didn't have to submit herself to the Word of God. She had tinges of feelings of guilt about her actions but made sure to ask counsel from all the people who would tell her what she wanted to hear. Go for it. God wants you to be happy, so go for it. How dare the church get involved in your personal life. There were a few women in her life who would have given her another perspective. One of repentance, fighting sin, trusting Jesus. But she didn't want to deal with all that. Much easier to just take the consequences later. 
As her actions became more and more blatantly rebellious against the Word of God, her pastors wondered what to do. 


What does love look like in this situation? What does it mean for the church to love someone who blatantly refuses to submit their lives to the Word of God?
In seminary classes we talk about membership and church discipline, but I don't know that we actually get what it means in the practice.
Mary isn't just someone I know. It's many men and women I know. Although its hard and scary to think about what it means to exercise church discipline, we have to ask ourselves if our actions are motivated by love or selfish cowardice. Surely there are groups that go too far and lose sight of grace. But if our standard for godliness is not so much perfection, but repentance... that is our goal. I know that I have areas in my life where I don't want to submit to Jesus. I struggle. I fight. But that's the point, right? In the fight, in the struggle. And I need my church community to stand with me in the fight. To encourage and exhort in the fight. When I'm wrong and I'm slipping, I need a solid dose of the gospel. I need to hear about how great and good and faithful Jesus is, and that He is worth it. And when I am really slipping, I need truth. I need a butt-kicking actually. What I don't need is for people to turn the other way and pretend like my sin doesn't exist. My fight for holiness, for a life submitted to the Word of God is because I truly believe that it is for the best. I believe that a life lived unto Jesus is better than a life lived unto myself. So if I am choosing sin, and choosing to move away from God, I need my community, my pastors, my friends to call me back to what I know is true. Jesus is worth it. All of it.



Friday, February 01, 2013

Gozo

Gozo means joy in Spanish.

And it's what I've been feeling. Really and seriously.


2011 was a year of changes.
2012 was a year full of work (and a few mental breakdowns)
but I can see that 2013 is going to be a year of joy.

How can I say this? Some of you might think that I am jinxing myself by saying that.
But I say it, full with confidence,
"This will be a year of JOY"

I can say this because my joy is set in something that has been tried and proven true: Jesus. Don't get me wrong, I am also looking forward to a lot of great things this year. I'll explain more later. But for a moment I just want to enjoy what my 29 years of life have taught me. Jesus is worthy of everything. And living a life for Him is mind-blowingly awesome. There are hard moments, there are certainly tears. But I wouldn't trade it for anything. 
I've been making some bigger life decisions recently, and I've seen that God has taught me to seek Him in all things, trust Him in all things, and worship Him above all things. 
These past few weeks have been quite a roller coaster. But I can honestly say that God has formed my heart over the last few years to trust Him. And to rejoice in Him. I'm seeing fruit of patience and joy and trust in my life that I know can be nothing less than a miracle of a God who is bigger than all my sin. 

All that said, let me tell you what I'm looking forward to in 2013

  • working in full time ministry. It's only been a few weeks and I am LOVING the freedom to serve with everything in me. And I get paid! I get to meet with so many more women for discipleship, visit people in hospitals to pray with them, help put some administrative order into our church community, and I don't have to wrestle with balancing it all with my work responsibilities. What a great season!


  • seeing God move mightily in our church. I know this probably sounds like the first point, but I am sincerely excited to see what God is going to do in ISA this year. It's been almost 2 years since we started with our Sunday services, and God has done so much in and with and through us. 
  • becoming more proficient in Spanish. Now that I'm moving away from teaching English, my jobs are mainly in Spanish. YIKES! I am fluent when it comes to speaking and listening, but writing formal letters? Working in administration, in Spanish, will be one of the biggest challenges this year. And I'm excited for it!

  • (God willing) buying an apartment! Yep. As I mentioned before, I am looking at buying some property here. It's a long story, and I can explain in another post, but this is a huge moment for me. I will (God willing!) own a little piece of this country that I love so much. I'm quite in the middle of it now, but when things settle, I will write a longer explanation of how incredible this adventure of buying has been.


  • going home to see my grandma for her birthday. I have the sweetest grandma and she is one of the most important people in my life. So since she is turning 89, and my dad is throwing her a birthday party, and I love her so much... well, that means a trip home to see her! 
and finally,
  • turning 30 years old. Some moments I can't believe that I have already made it to this milestone. Aren't 30 year olds supposed to have their lives all put together? Aren't they supposed to be mature? Wise? Confident? But when I think of all that I have experienced, all the incredible adventures I've lived, the decisions I'm making with my life. Yeah, I'm going to be 30!