Living New Creation

I used to be like this.  But Jesus rose from the dead.  Now, I’m like this.

The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection by Eugene Bernand

I used to be like this.

But Jesus rose from the dead.

Now, I’m like this.

I am captivated by how these sentences changed the world.  I can’t stop thinking about them.  St. Paul said, “I was the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.” [1 Corinthians 15: 9-10]

I am grateful for the post-Easter space to reflect on Jesus’ resurrection and mine.  I am grateful to have to drill in to ‘what will really happen’?  What does this really mean for me?

One thing for sure…  I have a story to tell.

I used to be like this.

But Jesus rose from the dead.

Now, I’m like this.

Over and over, through millenia and across miles, people realized that the power that raised Jesus from the dead was power that could change their life.  Over and over people experienced new creation–  and they knew it was resurrection.

Being forgiven is a taste of resurrection.  We know what guilt and shame tastes like–  like chewing on pennies.  But forgiveness is your soul experiencing new creation.  It is literally new life replacing the death of guilt.

I used to be like this.

But Jesus rose from the dead.

Now, I’m like this.

What’s on either side of the story for you?  Who were you?  Who have you become?  I loved talking about this with our confirmation class back in March.  And now, I am thrilled that 13 people will stand before our congregation on Sunday to bear witness that:

I used to be like this.

But Jesus rose from the dead.

Now, I’m like this.

What new creation is God doing in you?

The pastor at the parking desk

Today I was humbled by the beauty of humble faithfulness.

I was up at NIH visiting Patrick Kelly (he is so cheered by your prayers and visits!). As I got ready to leave the hospital, I walked up to the big desk just inside the entrance from the parking garage, to see if I could get my parking validated. The same gentleman was working there who had been there on my previous visits.

“Can I get my parking validated?” I asked him. “I just need to write the patient’s name on the back of the ticket, right?”

“Are you the patient’s family?” he asked.

“No, I’m his pastor.”  (I’ll admit that I was hoping the “pastor” card would get me free parking where “friend” might not have.)

His eyes lit up and he smiled. “You’re a pastor? That’s wonderful!” He then proceeded to tell me, in accented English that I sometimes found hard to understand, how he reads his Bible every day. And then he asked, “Please, can you tell me what verse it is that says ‘you are no longer in bondage but are free’? I’ve been thinking about that verse but I don’t know where it is.”

I’ll admit this is one of my least favorite parts of the “I’m a pastor” conversation. I always fail the Bible quiz. “It’s Paul, right?” I fumble. “Here, let me see…” I reached for my purse as he reached for his desk. He produced a Bible; I produced my iPhone. (I’m sorry to say that Google often knows the Bible better than I do.) We talked and laughed as we compared verses, he looking in his Bible (an Amharic version; he’s Ethiopian) and I looking on my phone. We got a nice overview of freedom-related verses in the New Testament, but when I ultimately failed to come up with what he was looking for, he very graciously told me not to worry about it.

As I sheepishly put my phone away, he said, “You know, I have worked here for 20 years. A lot of people come here to this desk. And they are dealing with a lot of very hard things. And so I pray every day, I say, ‘God, please give me just the right word to say to them. Just the right word.'”

My eyes filled with tears. Here is a man who sits at a desk day in and day out, doing what most would consider the menial task of stamping parking tickets. But for him it is a ministry. He knows that God has put him in this place to love and pray and care for all of the many hurting people who walk through the doors of the NIH hospital. Such a faithful act of service. I left feeling so grateful that so many people who pass through those doors are being silently ministered to so faithfully every single day.

I’m looking forward to visiting Patrick again, and I hope that when I do, this gentleman is working at the desk again. I’m going to be searching my Bible between now and then. I want to be able to find him his verse.

-Erin

4 truths about sex

Yesterday I posted a blog about lies we consume about sex.  Today I will mention 4 truths.

Before I do, let me give a shout out to a blog that is thinking deeply about these issues.  It is called fast.pray  One of the moderators is Connally Gilliam who is a tremendous resource for women who would like to talk more about these things.  Also, Restoration’s own Erin Bair has great thoughts about these things.  If you are a woman and looking to process sexuality, singleness, marriage, faithfulness to Jesus in this world, Erin and Connally are both great resources.  Drop them a line.

If you are a dude, I am happy to speak truth to ya.  I can also point you in the direction of great men at Restoration who would walk alongside you.  No one needs to be alone in this.

4 Truths about sex

  1. Sex is the deliberate choice to serve your spouse.  It is not a right.  It is a gift.  Marriage is a choice to lay down your life for someone who is as bad as you are and then to love them for the rest of your life.  Sex is the gift you give them, not a right that you demand.
  2. Your deepest need is for relationship and intimacy, not sex.  Relationship is the way we image God.  Relationship and intimacy take work with another human being.  The risk of telling a story.  The intentionality of listening and reflecting back what you hear.  The joy of being understood.  The comfort of empathy.  The courage to be known.  These satisfy deep longings within us as well.  We need intimacy, but we often settle for a cheap counterfeit.
  3. Your body can experience pleasure that is not sexual.  We should receive pleasure through our body, and we don’t just have one outlet–  sex.  Nonsexual touch, walking barefoot through the grass, enjoying the taste and smell of food, exercising.  Put down your computer, go outside, and realize that there is more to you and more to this planet…
  4. You need to realize that life is not fundamentally about ‘getting it’—  be that ‘it’ sex, marriage, community, meaningful work, etc.  It’s about Giving one’s self (life, heart, soul, body, etc.) to God for his purposes—be those purposes to include sex in marriage or not—for fruitfulness and his glory.

Truth.

holding the stars

 

As we head into the messages to the churches, you will notice that each letter heading begins with a description of Jesus from Revelation 1.  For the folks at Ephesus, Jesus is described as ‘him who holds the 7 stars in his right hand…’  The lampstand and the star symbols actually point to the same thing.

Jesus explains at the end of chapter 1, that each lampstand stands for a church.  They are separate, Jesus can stand in the midst of them.  The worldwide church is made of discrete communities of people who share belief in a common creed and are submitted to the same Scriptures and who are filled with the same Holy Spirit.

But the stars are also a symbol that is connected to the church.  Jesus says they stand for the angels of the seven churches.  Angels are real.  In this particular passage, we learn that angels can be connected to communities–  our church has angels that are particularized to us.  In contrast to the discrete lampstands, the stars are held together, in Jesus’ right hand.

Now normally this word for ‘take hold’ is followed by the genitive case, which expresses that we take hold of part of something–  If I take hold of my computer, I am only grabbing a side, because it is too big to hold all of it in my hand.  But if ‘take hold’ is followed by the accusative case, a direct object, well this is unusual and indicates the person is holding the whole thing in his hand.  For example I can hold the quarter in my hand.  The whole thing fits.

Guess what case ‘the stars’ are in in Revelation 2:1?  Accusative.  Jesus is holding the entirety of the seven stars in his hand.  And that’s great news.)

On Sunday we talked a lot about ‘abandon’.  When we forgive, we abandon the wrong and hurt that was done to us.  We can also abandon our love by making lots of little decisions that lead us to a place we didn’t want to be–  abandoned love.  The Good News is the Jesus NEVER abandons us.  He walks among the distinct churches AND He holds them all together in His right hand.  We are held.  Not abandoned.  And even if we walk away, He is always ready to receive us back.

Good News, indeed.

 

 

 

The lampstands represent the distinct separateness of churches scattered around the world.  Jesus uses millions of discrete communities to accomplish his purposes.  But The stars also represent the church.  And Jesus is holding all of them together in his hand.  And he is holding the entire aggregate together in his hand.  It is not any one church which belongs exclusively to Christ, no single church is the church of Christ.  But Christ does hold all the churches together.  Physically we may look separate (like individual lampstands) but spiritually we are held together by Christ (like stars in the palm of his hand)

 

 

 

This is also good news for those of you who know you have wandered away from Jesus.  You can walk away, but his love will not let you go.  He holds the church in his hand.  He holds you.  You may abandon your first love, but Jesus does not abandon you.  He is committed to you and your discipleship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tests and questions

We kicked off our fall preaching series last weekend.  I am excited to dig into these first chapters of Revelation with you.  Thanks for your great questions, insights, and general curiosity about how to get in this book and get this book in you.  Feel free to tweet (@dmhanke, #restorationva), comment on blogs, or post on my FB wall here and here.  The discussion is an encouragement to everyone!

In addition to Revelation, we are slowly reading through John 6 each week.  As I said on Sunday, I want to encourage you to re-visit this during your daily quiet times.  Jesus does a radical thing–  feeds 5000 people.  Then Jesus spends a while very self-consciously reflecting on what that feeding means.  His explicit candor about ‘the bread of life’ makes a bunch of His disciples leave.  Their comment?  ‘This is a hard saying, who can listen to it??’  So let’s mull it over, chew on it, and see what God has to say to us.

2 thoughts on John 6:6-9

Philip and the TEST: On Sunday, as soon as Erin read, “He said this to test him…” I groaned.  This theme seems to be coming up a lot at Restoration:  God tests His people.  The tests check their faith, stretch their faith, increase their trust, expose where trust is weak…  But viscerally, I always balk.  God, I don’t want to be tested, I want to be given everything I need.  🙂  Just keeping it real.  But God does test us.  And we would be served by leaning in to the lesson and asking for opportunities to demonstrate our trust.  God tests us to refine us.  God tests us to make us look more like Christ.  Even more…  God tests us to encourage us!!  So that we can see the good character work He is doing in us.

However, for Philip, the ‘test’ spins him into a tizzy.  He blusters, where would we get enough money to give all these people just a bite?  He makes grocery lists, calculates labor costs, projects how long it will take…  I am very familiar with this tizzy.  God, you want me to do what??  How?  When?  With who?  bluster, bluster, bluster.

Andrew and the question: Andrew sees the same situation.  Andrew has a different response:  ‘Jesus, there is a kid here with a lunch–  a few loaves and some sardines’.  It’s food, but not nearly enough.  ‘What are they for so many?’

This is who I want to be:  impossible situation, helpful assessment of meager resources, then the right question to the right person.  Jesus, how are YOU going to do this?

God, help me to see the resources you have provided (even when they seem very small).  And help me to ask YOU the questions that only You can answer.  Help me to trust you.

Hope you are having a great week.

-David

Alarming Grace

I set off the alarm at church a couple weeks ago.  It was awful.  I unlocked the door, ready to punch in the code, which I did.  But, it was the wrong code.  The blinking red light indicated as much.  And, so, I punched the wrong code in again.  And again.  Beads of sweat formed on my brow as I realized that my time in which to get it right before the alarm went off was dwindling.  But I persisted.  The same numbers over and over.  The same wrong numbers over and over.  And then, I ran out of time.  The alarm shrieked at a decibel-level that, I am sure, sent wild dogs howling.  I dashed to the phone and called in my mistake, giving not only my address and phone number, but my full name and a description of what I had done wrong.  The gentleman with whom I spoke was so polite.  Kind.  Gentle.  Forgiving.  He turned off the alarm and those wild dogs and I returned with relief.

As the now-silenced shriek continued to resonate as a dull whoosh-whoosh-whooshing sound in my ears, I was struck by it all.  There I was, trying to enter the code.  My mistake was met first by a blinking red light, indicating that something was wrong.  But, I persisted, knowing full well that it must be the light that was wrong, not I.  Punch.  Blink.  Punch.  Blink.  Punch.  Shriek!  The sound of the alarm not only halted my punching, but sent me running to the phone, and, eventually, to read the words on the keypad that told me what I had been doing wrong; what I should have done.  This was followed by the conversation with the gentleman from the alarm company who graciously walked me through what I should have done and then helped me to correct it.  Our conversation ended with my apology and his forgiveness and his setting things right again.

Isn’t that so like our Heavenly Father?  We are heading down a path of destruction and He gives us a warning.  We continue until we take notice of His “noisier” warning.  We run to His word for guidance.  Talk with Him and repent of our mistake.  He forgives and sets all things right again.  Praise be to the One whose alarming grace is sufficient for us!

-Louise-

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.  (Ephesians 1:7)

Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)

There and Back Again

A post from Global Outreach Team leader Mary Ann Calhoun:

I remember being pretty intimidated by the thought of going on a “mission trip.” I didn’t think I was a spiritual giant and was pretty sure I didn’t have a whole lot to offer.  I loved the thought of adventure but was wondering things like how do I “share the gospel” when I don’t speak the language? How do I survive a week without a blow dryer? Starbucks? Will God show up? These questions were all answered because I went. And God showed up — much to my surprise.

We have three who ‘went’ and returned and would love to tell how they saw God working and to invite us all to hear what God might be calling us as a church to.

  • Andrew ThompsonUganda: the Batwa hospital and development project
  • Cindy DarnellKenya: David’s Hope
  • Jesse BlaineMoldova: Restoration-supported girls’ home and new sustainability projects.

This Friday, March 25 at 7:30 pm at the church.

Wine, cheese and other treats served 🙂

See you there!

Hide and Seek

Hide and Seek

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
(Jeremiah 29:13)

The other day I saw Jesus in the cellophane wrapped around my loaf of bread.  Not His face or anything like that, but I saw Him in the shape of a heart.  I was reminded that He provides for my needs.  I also caught Him outside of my daughter’s school.  That time He looked like a mom hugging her son.  He looked like a boy who didn’t want to go to school and He looked like a mom who didn’t want to let that boy go.  I saw him today in a tiny puddle that filled a heart-shaped hole in the concrete.  He filled that heart-shaped hole until it overflowed.  I heard a story about Him, too, when a friend told me about one brother telling another brother to wear a helmet while skiing.  In that story He saved a life . . . again.

Seeing Jesus is a lot like playing hide and seek.  I spent the first 30 years of my life hiding.  And then, one day, I peeked.  I peeked around the corner hoping to be found.  To be captured.  To be brought in to the group of others who had been found.  Who were together.   And, the day I peeked, was the day I finally heard Him call, “All-ye!  All-ye!  In come free!”  And that’s true, isn’t it?  He doesn’t ask us to come to Him with anything.  He just wants us all to come to Him.  Free.

It’s because I dared to respond – to be found – that I now am the seeker.  I look for Jesus in other people and other places and other things.  Seeing his “love gifts” like heart-shaped cellophane and heart-shaped holes and hugs and helmets is a privilege.  I am praying for the desire to see Him more – to really see where He needs to be seen by others.  To open the door for those who want to come in.

Where do you see Jesus?

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives,
and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
(Matthew 7:7-8)

Don’t Waste a Crisis

One of the most misquoted verses you’ll never find in the Bible is this one:  “God will never give me more than I can handle.”

Huh?  Really?  Where’s that one?  Poverty, genocide, war, failure, mental illness–  people are given more than they can handle all the time!

Read more of John Ortberg’s thoughts here:  Don’t Waste a Crisis

I have been thinking a lot about suffering and the way God wants us to look more like Christ.  This series on the beatitudes has been pretty intense.  Volitional sadness, Bruised Reeds, Dismantling Enmity.  Jesus keeps putting his finger on stuff we know is there.  Jesus keeps saying–  don’t run from this.  Face it.  Let me walk with you into it.  Ask me to forgive it.  Ask me to heal it.  Ask me to bring restoration.

I’ve wanted to believe that God won’t give me more than I can handle.

But I see him doing it all the time.

I’m tempted to be mad about it.  But Jesus keeps grabbing me–  ‘it will go well with the one who…’

God isn’t at work producing the circumstances I want.

God is at work in bad circumstances to produce the me he wants.

‘I am the disciple Jesus loves’

It’s an incredibly bold claim that Elizabeth Fitch made at the women’s retreat last weekend. The disciple whom Jesus loves? That’s the phrase used in John’s gospel, probably to describe John himself. But when Elizabeth made that claim about herself, she wasn’t bragging or being arrogant. She was simply describing the transformation that God has brought about her as she has sought to answer what she calls “the ‘who am I?’ question.”

After years of trying to answer that question as a wife, an attorney, a mother, and any of a host of other identities, Elizabeth says God has brought her to a place where she can say, “I am God’s beloved child, and I am the disciple Jesus loves.” As someone who spends far more of my energy than is good for me managing people’s perceptions of me (or, more rightly, managing my perceptions of people’s perceptions of me), I found Elizabeth’s description of herself to be a compelling invitation to a beautiful kind of life. A beautiful, abundant life.

Some more gems from Elizabeth that I’m still pondering:

  • “I’m a lot less sophisticated than I used to be.” I love this description of being free to live as the person God made us to be, not who we think we should be.
  • “Can you dare to believe that God might just be an abyss of compassion?” What a powerful image. Often it seems too good to be true — and yet, as Elizabeth said, this is what we were made for.
  • Psalm 103:4 says that God crowns you with love and compassion. “Have you crowned yourself with love and compassion today? If not, why would you do less for yourself than God does for you?”

Interest piqued? Want to hear more? Talk to one of the 82 women who were on the retreat! And you ladies who were there: Share in the comments what you heard from God over the weekend!

(Photographs by Mary Ann Calhoun)

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