Walking Beside Each other in the Muck

Repeat Offenders by Kevin Miller| LeadershipJournal.net.

Just read this article this morning.  My feelings about this run the gamut–  hope to fear, resounding YES! to please no!, convinced practicality to idealized naivete.

I firmly believe that we cannot walk out of the things that hold us without walking in the light of community.  This morning at our Man Breakfast, Scott Kelsey encouraged us to find 2-3 guys who know us, pray for us, and walk alongside us in these things.

I like the way Kevin Miller talks about this process.  You can tell he has lived it out with lots of people.  I have a lot of respect for what Church of the Rez is doing out in Wheaton.

When a person has just confessed his [wrong-doing], what I’m after is not punishment.  And definitely not shame.  It’s change…

If you are really mired in something, you want out.  You want to be known.  You want grace upon grace.  So how does Restoration do this?  Miller gives 9 options:  What do you like?  What has been effective in the past?  What seems most helpful?  Does this article give you hope or make you want to run away?


Tragedy and heartache has once again been averted in the Hanke house.  This morning one of the younger Hankes was staring at overdue library fines being extracted from his allowance.  The book had been ‘lost’ for a few days.  The effort applied to finding it might be called scant at best.  As garnished allowances loomed in the near future, an all out search was put forth.  Within minutes, (possibly 45 seconds), the book was located under a bed.

ah, the joy that ensued

High-pitched voices crying I found it!  Running steps and jumps of glee.  A knocked over glass.  The loud zip of backpack zippers.  The slam of the front door and a sprint to school.

Another reminder of how excited we get when something lost is found.  I’m loving this Prodigal God series. Do you have a lost ‘n found story to share?

Wednesday in Holy Week

This morning about 15 of us gathered in the dark stillness at Restoration.  On Wednesday during Holy Week, the church remembers Jesus’ words to his disciples in the Upper Room.  We read from John 13 and listened as Jesus dips his bread and hands it to Judas with the instruction to do what he is going to do, quickly.  (Jesus is always in charge.  He is even Lord over His own betrayal…)

A couple of weeks ago we talked about Jesus’ words in John 12, that the one who serves Jesus gets to be where Jesus is.  ‘Where I am, there my servant will be also…’  Jesus was talking of his coming glory.

But today, Jesus says in John 13:

33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’

‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’  All of us are called to follow Jesus and to take up our cross, but Jesus is the unique One who can bear the sin of the world.  We truly cannot enter into the utter abandonment from His Father, the crushing weight of guilt and shame, and the scathing injustice of One who knew no sin to bear the iniquity of us all.  Truly, where Jesus is going, we cannot come.

Yet, Jesus chooses to go…  For His glory and the glory of His Father.  For love.  For reconciliation of creature to Creator.  For the purpose of making right that which was broken.

Where He is going, we cannot come.

Yet, He goes.

Saving Yourself…

We are a church that embraces at its core a radical idea that we cannot save ourself.  We believe that our fundamental longings cannot be met by either fervent religion OR fervent self-actualization.  We hold to the humble notion that humanity as a whole needs to be rescued.  Yes, there is much that is good about our culture, about our altruism, about our philanthropy, and about our alleged ‘random acts of kindness’, but at the end of the day, when left to ourselves, they all fall way short of reconciling us to the One who made us.  At the end of the day we know we don’t have what it takes to overcome our guilt or our dissapointment or our craving or our fear.

Tim Keller writes well about those who face this reality of deficit and turn to either fervent religion or fervent self-actualization.  He says neither gets us the result we seek:

“The story of Jesus tells us that our root problem is not just failing in our obediance to God [not being good enough…] but in RELYING  on our obedience [being really, really good] to save us.  Therefore, the gospel is a ‘third way’–  neither religion NOR irreligion.

The religious person may say, “I am doing the right things that God commands” and the irreligious person may say, “I decide what is right and wrong for myself.”  But both ways reject Jesus as Savior (though they may revere Him as ‘Example’ or ‘Helper’).  Both ways are strategies for self-salvation–  both actually keep control of their own lives.”  [Keller]

In religion we coerce God into saving us by doing what we think He wants–  in this we get the worst of fundamentalist, self-righteous Christians, Muslims, and Jews.  Through irreligion we keep control by just doing what makes us happy–  with the result that we take the impossible, inconsistent posture of believing we can make decisions that only affect us.  Neither religion or irreligion fixes the most profound gaps in our heart.

What is it about Jesus’ story that keeps us from narrow, rigid legalism and moralism on the one hand, and from incoherent hedonism and relativism on the other?  Why are folks so quick to margianalize and dismiss Jesus?  Why are we so attracted to religious or irreligious fixes?  What is the attraction of control?

Week 2: Rack it.

Couldn’t resist.  I’ll try to keep the ‘rack’ references to a minimum.  Sometimes it just works.

So, I forgot to hit record on our flash recorder again.  Week #2.  Lovely.  So, this is our second week without a sermon podcast.  I promise…  I’m preaching ’em.  I just can’t remember to record ’em.  Now many of you might say, how hard is it to ask someone to hit record for you?  I’ll simply refer you to Mark 8:33b.

We’ll take another shot next week.

Quickly becoming one of my favorite moments each Sunday is our 8:30 prayer gathering.  About 20 of us huddle in the kitchen at various levels of nervousness, excitement, and sleepiness.  We make sure everybody knows who is doing what.  Our prayers give thanks for all God is doing, the way He has gone before us, the opportunities He gives us to be a team and to work together.  We pray for the kids, our worship team, the readers, ushers, and preacher.  This time, as soon as we were done, everybody grabbed 10 unfolded worship guides and folded them.  Total time to fold 125 12-page worship guides–  43 seconds. This we will keep.

My message focused on the familiar scene of Isaiah 61–  the description of a people who are broken-hearted, held captive by bad choices, and mourning the consequences of badness.  From teh beginning of time, when face with this scene, humanity has asked:  what do we do to make things right?  When we get into a predicament and get stuck–  our first question is how do we save ourselves?  All of the options boil down to 2 categories–  I’ll blog more about those tomorrow.

The Christian story has at its core the belief that we cannot save ourselves.  The story of Jesus is at its humbling center, a story about humanity being rescued.  There are four options for how we might engage with this story:

1.    Closed rejection–  no way that story can be true.  In fact it is the existence of these stories that make the world such a bad place.  See for example, Christopher Hitchens and his book God is not great
2.    We have questions about the story:  What does it mean?  How does it interact with other stories?  What does this story demand of my life?  How do I wrestle with the implications of this story?
3.    We accept the story, but we isolate it.  We shield our life from it.  God and his restoration project are a drawer in our dresser.  This story is something we do on the weekends, usually sunday mornings.  We are not sure we want to let the story be much more than nice religion.
4.    We are open to the idea that this rescue, restoration story might be the news for which you have been waiting.  You are wondering, how can I be a part of God’s great restoration project?

My fervent hope is that we would be a church made up of people coming at this story from ALL of these postures.  What better place to engage these questions than in a community together.

Yesterday, we took one more step together.  May the questions of the curious and the convinced fill our conversations and enliven our friendships.


The Gospel Changes Everything

Getting excited about our first sermon series at Restoration.  Here’s an overview…  I look forward to wrestling through these issues with you over the next 5 weeks.

Jesus calls each of us into a relationship with Him.  He calls us to leave our former lives, to lay down the things to which we cling for security, and to follow Him as our Leader and Forgiver.  Along the journey, God puts us in contexts that stretch our faithful dependence on Him.  These vocational contexts build our character and provide opportunities to shape our culture.  By way of support, God gives us the gift of community to encourage and refine us.  The community finds its corporate rhythm in regular worship through Word and Sacrament.  Through all of this: character, culture, community, and worship, it is the Gospel that changes everything.

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