Wednesday, October 24, 2012

To a Thousand Generations

I have seen God's faithfulness.

We're in that season now...
That season where, as parents, we have removed the bumpers...
Where we are sending our children out into the big, bad world.
They are not moving towards self-government; they are fully living in it. So, really, they are our 'adults.'

This past weekend, we went to visit our newest adult, who is seven weeks into his freshman year of college...
And I am blown away by how many times in one weekend, I saw God's faithfulness in my family.

I saw God's faithfulness when we dropped off the car for Alex. We worshiped with her in chapel and were exhorted together by a godly preacher. I was reminded that she is in a good place--with good people.

I saw God's faithfulness later that day when we flew to Michigan. The two of us enjoyed a leisurely evening with Brett's parents. We talked about politics. We talked about the state of the Church. We talked about God. Always about God.

I saw God's faithfulness the next morning at breakfast as Brett's dad led us in a devotional, and we four prayed together over our adults. I saw God's faithfulness as his mom and dad discipled us right there at the kitchen table.

I saw God's faithfulness when we met Luke at Hillsdale for Parents' Weekend. He shared his heart and what it's like for him to live out self-government a thousand miles from home. He shared his growth and his challenges.

I saw God's faithfulness the next day when the rain chased us inside for coffee. For three hours we sat and talked. And there, a homework assignment of Alex's  (that just happened to have been assigned right before our trip) that involved a family assessment brought to light things we had done that had been hurtful. There, right there over coffee, I repented to Luke. And right there over coffee, the healing began.

I saw God's faithfulness as we got to meet three of the Fab Four--my name for Luke's circle of godly young men who keep each other accountable, who urge each other on to love and good deeds. A thousand miles from home, God has given Luke strong friendships, good friendships, that will encourage him as he lives out this season called 'college.'

I saw God's faithfulness at lunch when we sat with Luke's roommate's family. We connected. We were, in the other mom's words, 'speaking the same language.' Turns out, she had been praying for a godly roommate for her own son. Turns out, Luke and Nick are answers to the prayers of a couple of moms.

I saw God's faithfulness on Sunday morning in Luke's church. I was basking in it as we stood next to him and worshiped God with Luke's local body of believers. And we heard the Word preached. God has led Luke to a safe place.

I saw God's faithfulness as we shared lunch...
and laughed over Labrador burgers...
and Wiley meat...
and hugged and said goodbye and entrusted Luke, once again, to God's hands.

I saw God's faithfulness back at Brett's parents' home. We lingered over dinner and a  glass of wine and pondered this thing called family. Brett and I thanked them for faithfully discipling us through this season. The next morning, we shared breakfast on the back patio. We talked of elections and nations and peoples. We got out the Constitution. We talked of God's plan for government. We talked about God. Always about God.

In short, we fellowshipped. Really fellowshipped.
With Alex.
With my in-laws.
With Luke.
With Luke's roommate's family.

Life has so many seasons to it. We find God as individuals. We find a mate. We raise children to adulthood. And as adults ourselves, we learn to relate to both the generations ahead of us and behind us as each new season begins. I see God's faithfulness as He leads us through this season of transition--this season where we are learning to be parents of adults and our children are learning to relate to us as adult children.

I see God's faithfulness across generations of saints.
Right here in one family.

I am humbled.
I am blessed.
I am grateful.

Know, therefore, that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments. (Deuteronomy 7:9)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Followers and Converts

When it comes to church background, I'm a mutt.

I was baptized into the Catholic church as an infant.
But when I was three, my parents decided to become Protestant.

Next up?
Here's where it gets interesting.
'Holy' laughter.

Proclaiming. Rebuking. Opening and closing doors. As in:
"I proclaim a spirit of good grades this year," or
"I rebuke that spirit of sneezing in Jesus' name," or
"You know, if you put your knee behind your neck like that, you're gonna open a door to a demon."

But wait. There's more.
By the time I was in college, I was in a charismatic denomination that preached signs and wonders and 'power' evangelism.
And in order to achieve signs and wonders, we (Yes. We. Not He.) would go to classes on the gifts of the Spirit. Get a load of this true story from my past:
I attended a seminar on words of knowledge. And to wrap it up, we had to practice them.
Practice a gift of the Spirit. And I did it. (Oh goodness, I am still so embarrassed to admit it now. I look back on this and shudder and wonder, "What the HECK was I thinking?")
Brett and I met and married in that church.

We left that church for more tambourines and flags. Don't ask. Just don't.

Somewhere around Year Twelve of our marriage, we decided to try home church.
Nifty little idea, that.
No elders.
No oversight.
No discipleship.
No communion.
But we did get to make all the decisions unilaterally.
No protection.
No wisdom.
No good.

Fortunately, that didn't last too long. And we dragged our emaciated little souls back to a corporate body, where we were nourished for a time.
Of course, that was about the time our children were getting old enough for the beast called Youth idea to which we both said, "OVER OUR DEAD BODIES."
At that point, we began to look a bit freakish.
I mean, it's one thing to look like a freak to the world.
We're supposed to, to a certain extent.
But when your family of (then) eight takes up a whole row and all the kids get out their little notebooks to listen to the pastor while all the other kids are dismissed to children's church, bunny stickers, and Pin-the-hair-on-the-Samson...
well, not every member takes kindly to the idea...especially not the children's church director.

Children's church. That's in the same part of the Bible with baby dedications and building committees.
Just sayin'.

We briefly visited a Presbyterian church. But I didn't know any hymns. And these were old hymns. Very old.

Today, after lots of flopping around, I think we've finally landed.
We're Calvinist. We're family-integrated. We're non-cessationist.
We're home.
Still, I'm sure we've had believers who have tried us for a time and said, "Hmm. Weird. I don't think so."

But the lesson I'm learning is that, despite my differences with my other church experiences, and my preferences for my own church, no one has a corner on the Truth. And every Christian, every single one, has something valuable to contribute to the big picture called the universal Church. And I've got great, godly friends in all of these places.

Charismatics: we disagree on gold dust and angel feathers. But they have an exuberant worship that other churches don't yet get. And I think they're correct to affirm spiritual gifts.
Baptists: we disagree on baptism, dancing, alcohol, and lots of rules. But Baptists care about holiness in a way we should all want to imitate.
Presbyterians: they have a more formal, staid approach to Sunday mornings. But their high church liturgy has an emphasis on the majesty and beauty of God that I haven't found anywhere else.

In short, every church has weaknesses...
and every church has strengths.
Every church has wheat...
and every church has tares.

I just finished Jonathan Leeman's Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus...Fantastic book on the importance of church membership. It's kind of the abbreviated version of his much thicker and meatier The Church and the Surprising Offense of God's Love. But they both address the same concern: church membership.

The Church is bursting at the seams with followers. But being a 'follower' is not the same as being a 'convert,'  writes David Wells in Turning to God. Good point. Followers are interested in this person called Jesus and in this book called the Bible. But converts are submitted to the authority of the King and His Word.

Followers think of Jesus having a Twitter account. Intriguing persona. Makes some good points.
Converts think of Jesus as Lord. King. Master. Creator. Redeemer.
Followers subscribe.
Converts submit.

The Church has failed to distinguish between the two. And her membership rolls are filled with people who are interested, curious, and perhaps even Biblically articulate. Yet they lack the one thing that marks them as belonging to God: repentance. In other words, the visible Church today is filled with...non-Christians...people who are not saved, not going to Heaven.

And why is that so important?
Because membership is the stamp of approval that says to the watching world, "This person is a citizen of the Christian nation and a subject of the King."
When a local church confers membership on a follower--instead of on a convert--the world is left with the idea that people who are merely intrigued by Jesus are the same people who serve Him.
And that paints a false picture of what it means to be redeemed...
which belittles and demeans the work of the Cross.

While Charismatic, Baptist, and Presbyterian converts can disagree on youth group, liturgy, and baptism, they can never disagree on the Gospel.
Followers of every stripe think Jesus is cool.

Converts of every stripe know Jesus is King.

There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, "This is mine! This belongs to me!" (Abraham Kuyper)