Grounds for Gathering

Typically clubs and associations are formed around a common interest. Whether that interest is NASCAR, American Football, knitting, homeschooling, classical education, cigars, foods, computers or bicycles we gather with others because of what is shared there. According to Merriam-Webster, “an association of persons for some common object usually jointly supported and meeting periodically”.

As time goes on, relationships are formed and the initial purpose of the gathering can almost take a secondary position. We like to visit with our friends. The original purpose of our assembly may still be met, however the association is deeper than that. As this happens, even if that original common interest is lost, we continue the relationships formed because of other interests, cultivated or discovered.

Believers in Christ gather weekly throughout the world. Joys are shared, needs are met, trials are lifted up in prayer. We seek to put off sin and put on the righteousness of Jesus and we need help from one another to do that. This accountability is invited and very important.

Perhaps over time, we begin to forget what unites us with other believers. [Common view of economics, politics, education or nutrition can sadly get a top priority.] We begin to base our eligibility for gathering on a checklist of the spiritual disciplines. If we haven’t done the things we’re expected to do, we shy away and avoid contact. Our grounds for gathering becomes our performance.

Paul’s letter to the Galatians is a helpful reminder–

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1-3 ESV)

What is the ground for our gathering? Our common need of salvation through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the ground for this gathering. And if we believe, that’s all we need to belong. So brothers and sisters, let’s admit we don’t have it all straight. Our common need of a seamless garment is what unites us, not our own rags. When we have that straight, we can be honest, joyful and open when we gather.

spring 2011 photos

From Spring 2011
From Spring 2011

Claire is posing during a little break from coloring Easter eggs.

From Spring 2011
From Spring 2011
From Spring 2011

I love my boy and my wife in their aprons!

Anything else

“There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.” -C.S. Lewis (The Problem of Pain, from A Year of C.S. Lewis)

alien righteousness

…not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith (Phil 3:9, ESV)

Sweet frames

What sweet frames do you trust in? I’ve wondered these things before, but it recently came to mind because of something a friend wrote.

What are these frames? William B. Bradbury wrote of them in 1863 in the familiar song “The Solid Rock”–

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

By definition a frame is, “a plan or a construct”. Frames are useful and wonderful things, and frames are a necessary starting point. Perhaps in life a frame for you is your spouse, children, church, spiritual disciplines or small group. These are good and sweet things.

But sometimes we hope in these things instead of in Jesus. We have expectations or desires that can only be fulfilled in Christ that we want to be fulfilled in these sweet frames. We trust in frames to satisfy us. But frames in their greatest state disappoint, they’re not perfect.

We need the frames, they can be blessings from God to us. They can enrich our love of Jesus. We can treasure him more through them. But do not hope in them. Lean on Jesus’ name and his blood and righteousness. “AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” Romans 9:33 (NASB)

Not so fast…

Throughout stretches of the last two days I’ve been feeling tired. While some of this is related to decisions I’ve made (like staying up later than normal the past couple of nights), I think the tiredness can be attributed (at least in part) to the decision I made a few weeks ago to observe a lenten fast from coffee*.

Very early in the fast I realized how much I depended on the caffeine. I don’t drink all that much coffee, perhaps two cups per day, one around 7:00 am and another around 9:00 am, but still the caffeine helps me a lot. It provided a nice boost.

This fast isn’t merely a personal challenge to cut down on coffee, but it was a decision driven by a glaring personal need to hunger for God. One opportunity to hunger for God hit me, it’s not novel or profound–Do I depend on God for strength, or do I pursue strength from a beverage? I must consider Isaiah 40:28-31, which was e-mailed to me Thursday by a friend of mine.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
(ESV)

So here I sit, tired, thankful for God’s patience with me and praying for His strength.

*To be clear, I’m not fasting from caffeine, just coffee.