How to Eat an Elephant? We’ve Come this Far

elephants

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: holiness!

It’s a journey. It’s a mystery. It’s a God thing that seems to have nothing to do with us.

For the last few weeks, we have been discussing holiness in our current sermon series. In week one, we recognized that we broke God’s trust when we sinned against him. We failed. All of us. And the first step in repairing our relationship with him is to admit that we failed.

During our second week of exploring this journey toward holiness, we talked about the past and the future. We recognize that we have spent too much time, an unhealthy amount of time, lamenting the past. The best way to eat this elephant called holiness is to break from the past. We cast our anchor into the future and secure it to Jesus who draws us forward. We are no longer sinners saved by grace. We are children of God being transformed by grace.

Sierra Exif JPEG

In week three, we were confronted with holiness beaconing us to be different.

Holiness is terrifying, overwhelming, and incomprehensible which is why we do our best to ignore it. God’s grace has given us freedom. And, while everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial. Yet, when we talk about holiness, we are not talking about preference or gray matters. God is calling us to be different; godly, holy.

St. Paul tells St. Timothy that in the last days…

“People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power.”

light 5

Paul is not talking about the world or non-Christians. He’s talking about the Church.

We [the Church in the U.S.] spend all of our time talking about those things that are “permissible, but not necessarily beneficial”. And we should be spending our time cleaning our house. Until we are walking in holiness, we have no authority with the world to comment on things permissible, but not beneficial.

Last week we left the discussion with unresolved tension. And it’s exactly where we need to be. We need to allow ourselves to feel the tension so that it can do its work in us.

On Sunday, we will work to resolve the tension. We will talk about bicycles, butterflies, and how to eat an elephant! We will work to answer the questions: what does it look like and how do we get there?

Sunday at 11AM 

Advertisements

The Thing that Didn’t Happen

bicycle-1433327-1280x960

For several months I had been sensing God speaking to me about pastoring a church. My current position as an associate pastor was fulfilling, but in my heart, I felt God wanted me to do more. There was a recurring desire to lead a group of people to reach out and be change agents in our community. But I didn’t know where to begin.

In the pastorate, searching for a “job” is very different from searching for a job in the traditional work sector. And there are rules, but no one really talks about what they are and how to go about it. So mostly new pastors stumble around a bit until someone takes pity on them and offers to help. I was in this stumbling phase.

Then someone took pity on me and offered to put my name before a church board who was looking for a new lead pastor. I was enthusiastically cautious. Our denomination has been ordaining women since its early inception; long before women even had the right to vote. But I had been around the church long enough to know that barriers still exist. So I was surprised how quickly they said yes to an interview with me.

open-doors-1548515-1280x960

Doors were opening and God seemed to be directing my steps. My husband and I made arrangements for our children while we were out of town for the interview. We left early and arrived at the hotel while it was still daylight. Then we drove around town taking in the community and analysing how we might reach these people with the love of Christ. It was overwhelming!

At one point I looked at my husband and declared that this is “real ministry”. It was colorful and diverse with two distinct people groups. One group was more urban, living in townhouses that may have included some Section 8 housing. The other group was more rural; mostly white, blue-collar families. My brain was overloaded with the possibilities. And I was desperately trying to envision a way to bring these two groups together for the cause of Christ.

little-gang-1433289-640x478

The next day was a rich and complex experience. It will be burned in my memory for ages to come. We spent time with one of the board members who took us flying in his personal fighter plane. I’m not sure how many of my clergy friends can say they were interviewed while flying through the clouds…literally. At one point he let go of the controls and told me to fly the plane. We didn’t crash and I counted that as a good sign for the interview.

We had our official interview that evening. It went well and all of the answers flowed freely from my soul. I remember sensing God’s Presence so clearly. One of the board members even tried to prematurely offer me the position. It was a victory for my spirit to sit and share my vision to reach lost and hurting people. The more I spoke, the more a sense of purpose welled up inside. A dream was born. A vision. Something I would never be able to shake.

photo-1460788150444-d9dc07fa9dba.jpg

We left that interview and I was certain I knew what God had planned for our future. To my surprise, they voted against me. The reason they gave was they felt they were not ready for a female pastor at this time. In retrospect, even though it was a split vote, I saw it on their faces. My husband will tell you that it wasn’t because I was a woman, but it was because of the vision I presented to unite their community. But neither answer helped to ease my soul.

I was certain I knew what God had planned for our future. Did I hear Him incorrectly? And what was I going to do with this vision He birthed in my soul? I couldn’t go back. I had tasted something; purpose, passion, a desire to change my world. Now, what do I do with this persistent, nagging vision?

But when God closes one door, He really does open another. I look back now and believe God allowed me to experience that rejection to make me a better pastor. He knew they would turn me away and He knew it would fuel within me a desire to stand up and make a change. And He was right!

There are many factors that contributed to me eventually planting a church. Yet, I know without a doubt that God used this one experience to fan a flame within me.

You have a small flame burning in your soul too. I pray God will use whatever methods to fan that flame. May you discover a passion and a purpose that will drive you to be the person God desires for you to be! Wake up and rise from your recliner. The world needs you to make a change!

pexels-photo-89524