Another Weekend. Fresh Grace.

The dust is now settling on our leaders weekend here in Rzyschiv. It’s interesting how each gathering evolves. I’m learning to prepare a lot of material but hold things loosely how the weekend unfolds. This is not an easy learning process for me. I like to have things locked and loaded, so that I can relax and work through a schedule like clockwork and have a sense of accomplishment at the end. The goal however is not the passing on of information, but to experience and interact with our Creator, and one another in deeply meaningful ways.

As believers, we gather not to simply absorb information but intentionally commune with God and one another.

The art of knowing yourself is a dangerous duty! Living into the place where true spirit-led transformation takes place… versus the easier, and false place of pseudo spirituality.

We dove into the Triune nature of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. How often do we consider the loving, diverse union of our Creator within himself? This perfect union is what Jesus prayed we would experience in John 17, the purpose of the Son being sent, “that they may be one, eve as We are.”

“To be a person is to be made in the image of God: that is the heart of the matter. If god is a communion of persons inseparably related, then.. .it is our relatedness to others that our being human consists.” -Gunton

We often think that independence, particularly in the west, is always a sign of strength. To not ‘need’ anyone, to be on your own, isolated, strong. Yet, do we consider the Trinity as the ultimate revelation of perfect power? Is God weak because within Himself there is a mutual interdependence, a humble reliance on relational love? Creator God is perfect freedom, yet that freedom is woven into the fabric of harmonious relationship. To be free is to be in whole, sincere, vulnerability with others. To be isolated from meaningful relationship with God and others is to be something other than God’s image. In essence, our rebellion from God is expressed as we imprison ourselves in independence. We flourish in His free flowing relationship in Himself and are given a blueprint for lateral human relationships. God is not codependent, nor is He independent by nature in Himself, but rather interdependent – and that is not weakness, but what perfect wholeness and harmony looks like.

The problem lies in our broken world. Relating to one another is a tricky task! We spent time discussing the concept of differentiation, how to know where ‘you’ begin and end. How to be a non-anxious presence, particularly as leaders, around unhealthy people who unwittingly bring their stress and problems to you. The difference between burden bearing, and enmeshing ourselves in situations that are unhealthy, and yet recognizing the tendency as well to isolate ourselves – why we do these things, and what we can learn from the Father-Son relationship.

We also looked at culture, worldview, and the nature of expressing our faith in a way that engages the world around us – our experience with God’s missional sending heart should move us into transforming our world around us. Our theology, essentially forms our missiology, and from there, the Spirit guides us in our ecclessiology (form or models of church). Unfortunately, most of the church flips that around, and starts with this assumption that if you form yourself somehow correctly in a structure, somehow we then can effectively capture the heart of God and participate in the gospel to the world. Thankfully, God is not limited by structures.

We enjoyed having Matt Coss from Visible College in Memphis here this week with his family. We had some wonderful times of open prayer, worship, and simply resting in the presence of our loving God. It was really nice, like previous weekends, to have some international folks with us, and contribute their giftings to our weekends. God truly does gift for the equipping of the saints, and supplies in really neat ways!

For some of the leaders, they are in seasons of making life decisions, marriage, career changes, even which country they will live in next. It was a blessing to sit, pray with, and just listen to their hearts and affirm the love and work of God in their lives. He is with us in the valleys, comforting us vicariously through the church, and surprising us with glimpses of His heart.

I loved seeing our kids really engaged this weekend – some other families also brought their kids, and from Karpaty weekend the families have begun connecting on deeper levels. Watching them all play, run around and just be kids – knowing memories are being built, and friendships forged even cross-culturally.

I don’t know what the future holds for our leadership weekends. I felt strongly to journey through this year with this core – and God has added random (seemingly) guests, and some new folks along the way. Is this a community that should be further developed, or is God calling us to something new for 2020? We have one more weekend planned this fall, perhaps two if the finances allow. I know they have been really meaningful for those who come, and for us too.

We closed by looking at the nature of the mystery of Jesus, God’s incarnation as the ‘riches’ we dive into, but never reach the bottom. This is what Colossians says when Paul tells us to ‘let the Word dwell in us richly’. He uses ‘logos’ here, the revelation of God on earth in Jesus – that this would fuel our hearts, live in us, enrapture us and motivate us. We often think just digesting scripture somehow magically transforms us – yet, the Word of God is a Person, and like the star was for the wise men, scripture points us to Jesus. In Him is life, our lives hidden in the coming of the Son of man! This is why Paul can say that he desires to know nothing but Jesus and the power of His resurrection – because there is fountain of reality, the coming, death and resurrection of the eternal Son, glorifying the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the culmination of God’s revealing of Himself, and as such, it is Jesus that is the glory of God! What an incredible God we serve, sheer power in divested humility. Fuel us Lord with this rich reality.

We now have a week of cleaning, catching up, preparing for Canada trip. I am behind now on Fuller but wanted to document our weekend and learning. I love the depth of unity and grace evolving in our fellowship of believers, locally and among the Mir crew. The more we look to becoming a discerning, learning, transparent community in Jesus, the more healthy we become, and the more our missional activity is fueled by His Spirit and not our striving. Sustain us Jesus.

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Unity is..

“The unity of the church is not primarily the unity of her members, but the unity of Christ who acts upon them all, in all places, at all times. Consequently the unity of the church lies in his uniting activity.”

Juregn Moltman, The Church in the Power of the Spirit.

“The unity of the congregation is a unity in freedom. It must not be confused with unanimity, let alone uniformity in perception, feeling or morals. No one must be regimented, or forced into conformity with conditions prevailing in the church. Everyone must be accepted with their gifts, tasks, weakness and handicaps. This unity is evangelical unity, not a legal one.

Juregn Moltman, The Church in the Power of the Spirit.

The universal church must develop local structures but to the degree that they distinguish or divide rather than unite, to that degree they deny Christ. Each and every Christian, all churches, and even all of humanity will find its unity “in Christ.”

Dr. Scott Sunquist, Ministry in the Image of God.

Similar to objective freedom received as a gift from God, flowing from the nature of God, unity is a gift we receive. Those who are in Christ are graced with divine participation in this thing called unity. We are no longer separate, divided, but made whole with Creator under the loving reign of Christ. Our goal then, as it pertains to expressions of unity here on earth, is to live into this reality among fellow sojourners. This should be an easy exercise for those who call Jesus Lord. However, history has shown us just the opposite. When unity is anything other than a gift found through believing Jesus, and lowered to the formation of human thoughts or actions, its division, not unity that abounds.

We need only to study the Reformation period to witness the travesty of pursued unity through the means of religion. What was intended to bring unity, brought the fullest expression of division the world has experienced within Christendom.

Structures divided, Jesus unites. Doctrine by nature distinguishes, but can never bring life. Jesus is Way, Truth and Life. The prayer of Jesus in John 17 was towards experienced participation within the existing union between the Father & Son. There is something much deeper, much more glorious than agreeing with one another or other forms of tribalism. We can only truly share with others what we are experiencing in the present. Called out, from the world, but for the purpose of being placed back into and for. We are united as we are enjoying the Triune nature of God and participating in His sending, reconciling heart.

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If love is..

We’ve all heard 1 Corinthians 13 at weddings, or read bits of it on a Valentine card. What is love? Well, the Apostle Paul helps us understand many of its expressions. What is it, but also what it is not:

“Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, doe not act unbecomingly; does not seek its own, is not provoked, doe not take into account a wrong suffered, doe not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoiced in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

The nature of love, so selfless, beautiful, thinking not of the reaction but motivated by the truth and the flourishing of others.

This morning I had the idea of swapping some words around as it relates to our old, and new nature. What if we simply exchanged the opposites for a look from another angle?

Could it be said that the false (old nature) self:

  • is impatient towards the brokenness of others.
  • is unkind.
  • is secretly jealous at the well being of others.
  • needs to brag & comes across as arrogant.
  • acts or speaks inappropriately, is embarrassing to identify with.
  • seeks its own.
  • is provoked by unsubstantiated things.
  • keeps record of wrongs done to it.
  • finds unrighteousness something interesting.
  • is not interested in the truth.
  • is quite reactionary.
  • is unbelieving when it comes to finding hope in situations.
  • looks for easier, less costly paths.
  • true, selfless love does not exist.

I still recognize many of these patterns in my life. Patterns, self-preserving, fear based insecurities really mess us up! We recognize their ugliness, yet find comfort in putting on old clothes. Thank you Jesus that you have not shown us any of these opposites!

Jesus didn’t just give us a list of requirements but passionately (suffered) loved each of us. The deeper I rest in His love over me, the more conscious I’m becoming of the motivations in my heart. Love is truly one way, it goes to a situation and person(s) regardless of the return, or lack of it. It lands as love, and is finished. Jesus help me to love like you – and rest not in the result of love, but the joyful participation of such a glorious thing as your heart!

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July 1, 2019

Happy Canada Day! It’s on my mind today. Not because I’m a bona fide Canadian, but because Brent & Tucker are there enjoying the wafting aroma of grilled beef on the BBQ and I am hungry.

The summer has started. We find ourselves with our 2.0 family (youngest four). Deb and I have been noticing just how uninterested we are in toddler-preteen conversations. We just can’t fake our interest any more. We have important, deep, adult things to tend to! We don’t have time to help you set up your pretend stuffed animal store in the kitchen, or listen to how funny some YouTube personality is. Yet, here we are. Surrounded by nonsensical conversations and situations that could have been avoided had we thought more critically about pro-creation.

We’ve been studying the nature of relationships, rooted in the Triune nature of God (read my last blog if you haven’t). It’s fascinating to consider that our very relational nature as ‘persons’ reflect something of God’s nature. Our children love to be around us. Not that Deb and I have anything near a perfect relationship, it is clingingly attractive to these monkeys. The other day Deb said to me, “I have my own trinity.” I didn’t understand her at first, which is quite normal being the slower male, but then realized she was alluding to the three children literally hanging off her neck at the same time.

Kids love to be around relational love. We love to be in the presence of God. Same thing?

During a walk yesterday I found my imagination wandering toward the unending interdependence found in nature. From the trees to the earth, the climate systems, animal kingdom, our own bodies makeup. Our human experience often seems isolated, independent, and yet nothing could be further from the truth. We are surrounded by dynamic relationships, from the air we are breathing, to the food we consume, people we interact with. We are necessarily interdependent. The world is just designed this way. We can attempt to create a sense of independence, get busy, build our own lives, but it’s an effort of denial.

If the Creator is interdependent in Himself, and we are made in Creator’s image, then we can embrace our interdependence as good.

As our children are being formed, developing and learning that no, you can’t go downtown and rent your stuffed animals for cash, we witness their unabashed dependence. They aren’t afraid to recognize their need for love & acceptance. Of course they want to be around us and hang from our necks, they were designed for fellowship and harmonious union with others. In our broken world, full of broken dependencies, we think we are protecting ourselves by sheltering from others. We often move to extremes in our dynamic dependencies, from complete isolation, to an enmeshed unhealthy co-dependence,. Particularly in the west, independence is prized, needing others a sign of weakness. Yet, intentionally living into imperfect community with others seems to be exactly what God intends us to do.

God’s design for me is to experience Him in His existing, perfect fellowship. He’s opened Himself up, knowing that I will then forever be changed and able offer this same community to a hurting and broken world.

I sit down to write about our world, projects, family updates.. and I end up wandering in my own devotional world. I don’t know who reads this, but I trust someone is encouraged to dive deeper into the mystery of God, and also remain open for meaningful relationships with others. I’m less interested in projects for their own sake. Jesus mission on earth was not to spin up mission trips and productions, or just ‘do’ evangelism as if it’s a scripted task we all need to learn. He was on mission to expand fellowship, the Father, Son, Spirit reality that existed before the stars were flung into space. The health of our ministry, as a family and community in Ukraine & Belarus, must emit from the health of our communion with God. The world will come and climb on our shoulders, sit at our feet like our own kids when we express the aroma of God’s nature of relational love. The projects, ministries, structures and models are all secondary. In fact, they are often completely unnecessary in my opinion. Love doesn’t need a time and location – it’s an event that can break out at any moment we choose. If we are in communion with God, led by His Spirit, whatever we put our hands to will witness to the resurrection and reality of Jesus.

Time to grill something, with some amazing people.

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