Links For The Church (4/19)

Ministry, Personal Limits, and Saying “No”

Ed Welch provides diagnostic questions to provide healthy boundaries for your ministry.

God Has Not Forgotten You

In this article, Vaneetha Rendall Risner shares three truths to remember about God and His faithfulness to you.

The Gift of True Words

“We don’t say what we know and feel and appreciate often enough. We assume things are understood, and we underestimate the impact of our words.”

The Perseverance of the Father’s Heart

We may, at times, forget our love of God and try to turn away from Him, but His love never leaves us, and it will not.

There Will Most Assuredly Come A Morning

A year ago, we gathered in a cemetery chapel next to a coffin that seemed too small to be real. That beast Cancer had taken another. This time, little Finn.

Through tears and a shaky voice, I offered the words God gave me as best I could. Moments later, I watched parents bury their earthly dreams for their boy. The dirt piled on. They said their goodbyes. But how does a parent bid goodbye to their three-year-old son? How do they go on, parenting their other two boys when the one missing pulls their heart underground with them?

I don’t know. But God knows. And in moments like that, that’s the greatest hope we have.

Last week, on the anniversary of Finn’s death, we gathered to remember. We grieved together as those in Christ grieve—truly but with all the hope Jesus gives. There is a day coming when death shall be no more. We believe that. We look forward to it. Today, though, isn’t that day. So we cry with aching hearts. But we won’t bury our hope. How could we? Our hope rose from the grave.

For two and a half years, the fight for a cure was in full force. Then, suddenly, one day it was over. For a year and a half, all Finn’s parents had each night as they tucked their boy into bed was that morning would come bearing new mercies. Perhaps one day, they hoped, the mercy of a cure would come knocking on their door.

But that cure never came. Instead, the tumors grew larger and faster, making their home in a place they didn’t belong. The medical landscape dried up. Time ran out. One final morning, it was all over.

I remember the moment I saw the text message come in. As I looked at the words there in black and white, I grieved. I knew this was coming. We all did. But it hurt. It felt surprising. Death always leaves you longing for just one more something—one more visit, one more hello, one more goodbye, one more hug, one more look, one more smile, one more anything. Among the many things death steals is the normal things of life that you don’t even notice until you can’t have it again. Those are the things that really hurt. The toys sitting on the living room couch. The label that prints his name for Sunday School at church. The things of life that just happen until they suddenly don’t. Those are the things that hurt so much more than we expect.

Days after his death, we showed up to a church in town to mourn together and to celebrate a life too short but oh so meaningful. We wore our avocado pins because they were Finn’s favorite food. We told stories and gave hugs and we worshiped God because that’s what you do when you have no other answers. You lift your praise to the one who knows what it’s like to lose a son. And you put your hope in that Son’s resurrection.

During the service, there was a slide show of Finn’s life. Ellie Holcomb’s Red Sea Road served as the soundtrack for the first part.

We’ve buried dreams,

Laid them deep into the earth behind us

Said our goodbyes

At the grave but everything reminds us

God knows we ache,

When He asks us to go on

How do we go on?

How does a family go on? I didn’t know. So I looked to the one who was trying to—to Finn’s dad. And he gave me hope. On this anniversary of Finn’s burial, I know no better words than Dan’s, which I have included below.

Every night before bed, we had the same routine. We’d get a glass of water, and say our prayers. Sometimes we would pray but there were times when he would pop up and say, “I want to pray.” So he would pray. He’d say the usual prayers and when he was done praying, he’d look at us, and hold his arms out and say, “Hug and kiss.”

So we’d tuck him in, snuggling with his lion blanket. We’d pull his blanket over him, and he would give us just the sweetest and gentlest hug and kiss you can imagine. And every night without fail, he would finish by saying in the cutest little voice, “See you in the morning.”

Finn is profoundly missed. Where once there was a loving and joyful presence in our lives, there is now a gaping, jagged raw hole. The loss of Finn is so real, so physical, so emotional, and it is so life-dominating that it is hard to think of anything beyond our present moment of sorrow. And as we cry out to God in our sorrow and our anger, it’s hard to see any hope in any of this. And yet in the midst of this bitter grief, the Bible does still give us hope. Psalm 30 says that weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning. It teaches us that because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the things that are will not always be. There is a hope for those in Christ Jesus, and a glorious future to look forward to. The apostle Paul spoke of this and he said it makes our current suffering seem light and momentary in comparison.

What is will not always be. We may be deep in the night now, but there will most assuredly come a morning. And with that morning will come great joy.

For now we mourn. But we cling to the hope that we will see Finn again. We will see him without tubes, without bags, and without the ravages of cancer. We will laugh and we will run. And we will probably eat avocados.

Finn, we will see you in the morning.

This is the hope of Advent lived in between the death we experience and the life promised. As Fleming Rutledge says, “The disappointment, brokenness, suffering, and pain that characterize life in this present world is held in dynamic tension with the promise of future glory that is yet to come. In that Advent tension, the church lives its life.”

Only the church has this hope. The promise of future glory is yet to come. A light will shine in the darkness. So we go on, as Ellie Holcomb sings, because in Christ, by the power of his gospel, we can sing this good song of gospel hope to our souls.

Where He leads us to go, there’s a red sea road

When we can’t see the way, He will part he waves

And we’ll never walk alone down a red sea road

Why? Because God is always there. Even in the midst of the deepest sorrow. He was there when Finn took his final breath. He was there a year ago when we laid him in the ground. He was there last week when we gathered to remember. And he will be there every moment of every hour of every day because he is a faithful God.

On a day like today, as I remember the pain of last year, and as Finn’s parents weep and remember, there is a God above who is faithful, who is bringing a morning so bright that all this pain will certainly be in comparison light and momentary. And all those little things we miss today he will restore. In our mourning, in Christ, we can know that there will most assuredly come a morning. The years that the locusts have taken will be ours again, and no one will snatch them from our resurrected hands.

Editor’s Note: This originally published at Things of the Sort.

Pain Our Teacher

Pain is a prominent and protruding feature of a global pandemic. So many folks have experienced pain in new ways. The pain of death, the pain of loneliness, the pain of individuals, families, and nations have all been extremely visible. Is there a purpose to the pain? How can God be working all things for the good of those who love him even in the pain? I think a lot of us are wrestling with these questions. I know I am. 

Growing up in a family with several physicians pain was not a distant thought. I remember seeing many wince as my father assessed their physical condition. In these moments pain was proven to be valuable. Pain revealed a need for healing. Without pain, we would not know we are in need of help. Without pain, we would not know there was a need for a physician in the first place. Internal bleeding, broken bones, and decaying joints would doom us to death far faster without pain’s revelations. 

In my wrestlings regarding the pain of this world, I have begun to learn to turn to the Great Physician to see how He is using this pain to shape, heal, and refine me to his image. In this poem, you will see portions of my doubts, prayers, and findings as I have sought the Lord. I pray this poem will help you process the pain too. Pain has a purpose. 

Seared emotions.
Cauterize the feeling to stop the bleeding.
They said that killing the pain will lead to healing,
But that simply is not true.

Pain is a sign of life.
You can’t ask for surgery and avoid the knife.
A numb limb is doomed to be broken
Even still unaware of this token.
To lose the feeling of pain is to lose feeling altogether.
The same nerve that stings captures the softness of feather.

There are itching ears here demanding a scratch,
And poisonous myths just waiting to hatch.
The birth of a song, it is sweet. It is seduction.
A descant from demon by device of destruction.
Distraction is this salve— impermanent and lethal
Coaxing the mind, undying and deceitful.

Yes, the buzz in the pocket is like that of the bottle,
Except one is regulated, and one runs full throttle.
For you need not be convinced to give your life all to evil.
You only need be pulled away to throw your life in upheaval.
Removal from reality is enough to convince
That peace cannot come from the presence of the Prince.

Instead we buy the lie that leads to death;
Sold a toxin of diversion as addictive as meth
Simply because it kills the pain.
But pain is a sign of life.
And the alternate reality is a barbed and bloody knife
With a shrouded slash of fraudulent facts.
Because the lie hurts less you can ignore your tracts.

But how long will that last you? How long can you avoid what’s true?
That anesthesia will wear off, or you will be dead and through.
Ruined by your fight to avoid everything that bruises
You may be the one who misses out or loses,
Unknowingly doomed to an eternal fire,
A pain irremovable no matter your desire.

So, what is the value of pain here and now?
Is it not just a portrait of eternity’s brow?
No, the Prince says there is hope in the secondary coming.
This the tune of the church which the saints have been humming.

As they look to that day the pain increases the yearning,
While all creation is groaning and aching and burning 
For the skies to be split and their eyes to be learning
The face of their Savior in the clouds there returning. 

The pain also purifies in the heat of its fire
Removing all the dross of erroneous desire.
It floats to the surface unveiling the heart.
Thus refining the faith that doubt may depart. 

Purification is preparation for an eternal weight of glory.
The pain it will cleanse and renew your whole story.
The weight of the agony does not compare to the impending. 
It’s a momentary affliction juxtaposed to His ascending.

The risen Lord means confidence in the inheritance that is looming
For the saints of His bride to hold a bouquet that is blooming
With recreation and beauty by a glassy sea of his grace
At the marriage banquet they will finally get their long awaited embrace. 

Without a trace of their sin.
Without a face carrying tears again. 
Without a race wearying the years of men. 
This is the place of marrying their greatest friend.

So yes, the growing pain is worth the gain through this season.
The stretching soreness is a tool for a reason. 
Pain points us to better things and it draws us to a Savior. 
Pain teaches us dependency thus shaping our behavior.

The potter has his clay, which he beats down to build up.
Only then can the vase be a living water filled cup.
Pain has a purpose, so in the aches do not wander, 
For with Christ in every tribulation we will more than conquer.

God Doesn’t Need You

He is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.” Acts 17

Paul on Mars Hill in Athens proclaimed the entire self-sufficiency of God.

We are his body, it is true, which is the fullness or completion of the Head. He uses us. But he needs nothing from us. Let that sink in. We do not add to him in any way, but rather, he gives us our “life, our breath and everything else.”

He does not need my service to him. I do serve him, but he does not need it because he is the source of everything I have. He started out before my birth with everything that I could give him.

My money is not needed.

My time is not needed.

My intellect is not needed.

My skills are not needed.

My efforts are not needed.

My devotion is not needed.

My wisdom is not needed.

My personality is not needed.

My sincerity is not needed.

My LIFE is not needed.

Though he has the right over all of that and everything else, they are not needed. He gave them to me in the first place. I can add nothing to him that he does not already possess.

I do not make him stronger, bigger, wiser, or more loving, kind or just.

You may think that you have a lot to offer God. Perhaps you have years of experience or a tender heart or an intriguing story, or a sharp mind or a quick tongue, or an easy way about you that people like. God needs people like you, right? Not so. He may use you, but he does not need you. He gave you whatever you think is so special in the first place. He can produce a lot of “me” whenever he wishes.

In fact, you could have a heart attack today, and God would not be diminished one tiny bit. Others may miss you and feel the loss, but God is able to raise up more like you if he wishes. And, he can make even better ones than you if he wants to. After all, he gives breath. He can take it away. He will not even miss you because he has given you life with him forever if you are a Christian. He suffers no loss by your death.

No, we serve him not because he needs us to, but because he has given us everything we have. This is the reason that God demands that we give allegiance to him. Repenting and believing in Christ is not an option, but a requirement from the one who gave you the breath to say, “I believe.” It’s due him. He made you. He’s not begging; he’s demanding. Paul went on to say, “he commands all people everywhere to repent.”

But he is also kind and loving. He is as gracious as he is just. It is a privilege to serve him. But he still does not need you. If you get to serve him, you are blessed beyond imagination.

I’m of the opinion that truly understanding the self-sufficiency of God will cause us to want to serve him forever.

Editor’s Note: This originally published at Christian Communicators Worldwide

Finding Home, Finding Rest

Before the pandemic, I would anticipate coming home from work, changing into comfy clothes, and resting, knowing that my day was done. Home and rest have always been connected. Until now. 

My rhythm of work and rest has been shattered. Although I’m home all day, I find myself exhausted and restless, wanting to find rest but not knowing how. It turns out that home itself is not the source of rest. Home isn’t even a specific place. 

In his book On the Road with Saint Augustine, James K. A. Smith examines all of life through the lens of travelers pursuing a home. The non-Christian travels looking for home—desiring to belong, to find meaning and rest, but being disappointed by every place that promises this home-ness. 

The Christian, on the other hand, knows where her home is. Christians know that their home is not a place, a job, a relationship, or money, but their home is in God. The Christian places her hope in someday arriving at her ultimate home in his presence while finding a home for today through union with Christ.

But perhaps more important than knowing where home is, the Christian is able to find rest—rest for her soul in the midst of the journey that will enable her to keep on traveling. 

All of Life is The Wilderness

The concepts of home and rest are interwoven in the story of Israel. The people of God travel as redeemed, exiled migrants out of Egypt so that they might worship God in the wilderness and find rest from their labor as slaves. Israel sojourns toward the promised land, a home where God’s presence would dwell in their midst.

But the journey home didn’t go smoothly. In fact, it went so poorly that God barred his own people from entering the promised land—his rest—for 40 years. A generation of God’s people were relegated to be migrant wanderers for their lifetime. The younger generation of Israelites wandered for decades knowing they were going home, but that they weren’t yet there. 

Israel’s story is the story of the church. Instead of God’s presence leading us through pillars of cloud and fire, we have his Spirit inside of us. Instead of the sacrificial system, we have the perfect, finished work of Christ. 

But like Israel, we know where our home is—the New Jerusalem, where God will dwell with his people (Rev. 21:2–3). And we spend our lifetimes journeying toward that home. For the Christian, all of life is the wilderness. 

Changing How We Travel

Knowing where your home is doesn’t mean you stop traveling. Conversion gives you a map and compass, tells you where your home is, and demands that you keep sojourning. Smith says, “Conversion doesn’t pluck you off the road; it just changes how you travel.”

Like Israel, we’re tempted by mirages—different customs, idols, and ways of life that seem to offer a bit of rest for weary sojourners. In our weariness, we’ll be “tempted to camp out in alcoves of creation as if they were home.” 

Like Israel, we have to depend on God for manna from heaven—his daily provision. We are travelers, daily walking by faith toward a home promised to us, abiding in his guiding presence, refreshed each day by his rest and his presence. But always traveling. 

Christians Are Immigrants 

Traveling is hard. It’s tiring. And you’ll be doing it your whole life. Christians are not tourists; we’re immigrants. We’ve left a homeland of life apart from Christ where we once lived solely for ourselves, and we’re now sojourners who are being sanctified on our way home. 

Knowing our identity as spiritual immigrants doesn’t mean that we never find rest in this life. Rather, our good Savior gives us the rest we need to keep walking toward him and our ultimate home in his presence. 

Jesus said, “Come to me (come be at home in my presence) all you who are weary and heavy-laden (all you travelers who are worn-out), and I will give you rest . . . I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matt. 11:28–29, parentheticals mine). Our gracious God desires to give you his rest and invites you to come receive true rest as you travel with him along the rocky pathways and steep climbs of everyday life. 

Augustine famously said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Likewise, our hearts are homeless unless they are at home in Christ. The rest we desire is given to us in our relationship with Christ when we come to him, the one who provides and meets us in our exhaustion as we travel home to him.  

Links For The Church (4/12)

Suffering and Satan’s Purposes

“In our suffering, God invites us to trust him deeper, draw nearer to his people, and find a deep well of gratitude.”

Loyalty Matters: The Misunderstood Virtue

If you have ever experienced disloyalty, this article by Matthew Hall will be an encouragement for you. He presents a biblical view of loyalty and how to think about it when you are betrayed.

Direct Your Heart

Our hearts are deceitful and do not often tell us the truth. Jon Bloom points the readers to direct their hearts toward obedience and trust in Jesus.

Serving Christ When Everyone Needs You

Ann Swindell writes about the overwhelming feeling that can come when we have responsibilities that loom over our heads. This article shares how important it is to pursue thankfulness in these moments.

Our Clay Pot Ministry Credential

“What is the argument for Christian missions?” It was a sincere question from a professing Christian. My response was, “What is the argument against Christian missions? The entirety of the biblical revelation of God in Christ, from beginning to end, is the argument. The reason for missions is Christ and the Bible is a book about him.

His next question was, “Who are we, people like us, to be involved in trying to convert the entire world? Who are you?” That question was a better one than the first. Who are we to be involved in a global mission of converting the world? Who do we think we are?

Paul explains it this way: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay” (2 Cor 4:7a). 

The work of the gospel is infinitely valuable. Paul describes the good news as “this treasure.” The dynamic of those two words is breathtaking.”Jars of clay” were containers, earthen ones, made of baked clay. They were inexpensive, easily breakable, and subject to deterioration. That sounds like me. The believer is like a jar of clay, but a jar of clay containing “this [gospel] treasure.”

Paul always saw God’s strength made perfect in human weakness: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor 12:9).

The reason God uses “jars of clay” for Kingdom work is explained by Paul in the second half of 2 Corinthians 4:7b: “to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”

Therefore, using frail, flawed, and weak servants is the strategy of God for Kingdom work and world evangelization because it reveals the power of God in Christ, not our power. The triumphant march of the gospel around the globe cannot be explained by man, it can only be explained by God and his awesome, gracious, supernatural power.

Sometimes we look at the church and ourselves and see failures of pettiness, division, complacency, pride, and wonder how it/we could possibly be the chosen instrument of the Kingdom mission of Christ? This kind of reasoning is backward.

It is upon human weakness, and not human strength, that God chooses to advance the Kingdom of Christ. God uses “clay pots” for his gospel mission, not merely in spite of our frailties and weaknesses, but because of them. 

What a thrilling, and more importantly, transformative truth for the church’s evangelistic enterprise. 

Editor’s Note: This originally published at Prince on Preaching.

Dan Darling On False Jesuses

We asked Dan Darling, “What are some of America’s favorite false Jesuses?”

Why Every Single Person Matters

There are few things that make me more proud to be the pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville than Christ Pres’s unique emphasis on children with special needs. Once a year, our team of staff and hundreds of volunteers put on an amazing “vacation Bible school” for kids with special needs and their siblings. There is also a monthly expression of this called “Special Saturdays” which does several things. Weekly, a team of men, women, and students serve as “buddies” to kids with special needs, accompanying them all morning long to support their parents in freeing them to worship and interact with others.

At a recent benefit for Joni and Friends, a global ministry to people with disabilities and special needs founded by a friend and personal hero of mine, Joni Eareckson Tada, I shared at length why the special needs community is such a significant part of my journey as a follower of Christ and as a human being (That audio is available here if you would like). Some of the reasons I also share here…

First, an emphasis on people with special needs pulls a community together to participate in something that Jesus is pleased with. After all, Jesus, always gave special attention to the weak, the underdog, and the disadvantaged.

Second, it affirms that every person has dignity or, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘there are no gradations in the image of God.’

Third, it reminds us that, sometimes to our surprise, people with special needs have more to teach us about the kingdom of God than we have to teach them.

King David understood this. After his best friend Jonathan died in battle, his first order to his staff was to tell him if there was anyone to whom he could show favor for Jonathan’s sake.

Enters Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s orphaned son who is crippled in both feet.

Rather than saying, ‘On second thought…’ or assuming a retail approach to relationships (a retail approach runs from sacrifice and prioritizes being relationship with people who are more useful than they are costly), David assures Mephibosheth that his future will be bright. David promises to restore the entire fortune of his predecessor King Saul, also Mephibosheth’s grandfather, to the young man. Second, David adopts him as his own son, assuring him that he will always have a seat at the king’s table. You can read the full story in 2 Samuel 9.

In this instance, David demonstrates what a heart that’s been transformed by the gospel is capable of—an extreme other-orientation. His first order to his staff as king sends a message. ‘My kingliness will not be marked by domineering. It will be marked by love and sacrifice.’ David starts his reign by actively looking for an opportunity to lay down his life for someone who needs him to do this. He is actively looking, in other words, to limit his own options, to shut his own freedoms down, in order to strengthen an orphan who is weak.

Eugene Peterson said that hesed love—the word used to describe the love that David has for Jonathan and Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan—sees behind or beneath whatever society designates a person to be (disabled, option limiting, costly, etc.) and instead acts to affirm a God-created identity in the person. In other words, Peterson is saying that to be human is to carry intrinsic value and dignity.

To make the point, Henri Nouwen shared these words in a biography he wrote of a friend of his named Adam, who lived with a disability:

“Adam was sent to bring good news to the world. It was his mission, as it was the mission of Jesus. Adam was—very simply, quietly, and uniquely—there! He was a person, who by his very life announced the marvelous mystery of our God: I am precious, beloved, whole, and born of God. Adam bore silent witness to this mystery, which has nothing to do with whether or not he could speak, walk, or express himself, whether or not he made money, had a job, was fashionable, famous, married or single. It had to do with his being. He was and is a beloved child of God. It is the same news that Jesus came to announce, and it is the news that all those who are poor keep proclaiming in and through their very weakness. Life is a gift. Each one of us is unique, known by name, and loved by the One who fashioned us.”

Similarly, my friend Gabe Lyons wrote a beautiful essay about his son Cade, who has Down Syndrome. In the essay Gabe points out that over 92% of children in utero with Down Syndrome are aborted. Gabe offers a refreshing, counter-culture perspective from the parents of the other 8%. His essay is a celebration of Cade’s dignity, as well as the remarkable contribution Cade makes in the lives of people around him. He demonstrates an uncanny ability to live in the moment, a remarkable empathy for others, a refreshing boldness, and a commitment to complete honesty.

Gabe, along with the many parents who grace our church with the presence of their children who have special needs, are simply practicing good theology. Because the neighbor love part of the Kingdom of God is, at its core, a resistance movement against social Darwinism. Social Darwinism—‘survival of the fittest’ in the human community—tells us that it is those who are powerful, privileged, handsome, rich and wise who command our special attention, while those who are weak, physically or mentally challenged, and poor are ignorable at best, and disposable at worst

But no person is ignorable.

No person is disposable.

No person is a mistake.

Every person, whether an expert or a child with special needs, is a carrier of an everlasting soul.

There are no gradations in the image of God.

In terms of gifting, resources, and opportunity, everyone is different. In terms of dignity and value, everyone is the same. As Francis Schaeffer once said, ‘There are no little people.’

How do we know this? Because of how Jesus chose to take on his humanity. He, the Creator of everything that is, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Alpha and the Omega, the Seed who crushed the serpent’s head, the Beginning and the End, became weak, disabled, and disposed of.

There was nothing about him that caused us to desire him…he was despised and rejected by men. He came to his own, but his own did not receive him.

He chose that.

Jesus became poor so we could become rich in God. He was orphaned so we could become daughters and sons of God. He was brutally executed so we could live abundantly in his Kingdom. He was made invisible so we could be seen. He became weak so we could become strong. He became crippled in both feet…and in both hands also…so we could walk and not grow weary, so we could run and not grow faint.

If this isn’t enough to convince you that every person matters…

…what will?

Editor’s Note: This originally published at

A Revolution Comes to Its Rallying Place

We opened in prayer. How could we start any other way? With heads bowed and eyes closed, we asked for the Lord’s blessing, for fresh eyes to see his Word, and for enlarged hearts to receive his grace.

The local expression of God’s church to which I belong is beautiful. How could she not be? Christ died for her. Though she isn’t big by American standards, she is large in the realms of glory. She is young but not immature. She is small yet mighty.

I have only a small vantage point compared to the all-knowing eyes above, but what I saw last Sunday was breathtaking.

Down the hall, a group of women were opening the pages of Micah. And in our men’s Bible study, we were looking at Psalm 116, learning from Tim Keller how to pray the Scriptures. Taking five minutes to pray the words before us, one man prayed a simple and obvious prayer from the first verse. “I love you, Lord, because you’ve heard me and done so much for me.” The simplicity of it struck me. How could something so basic be so moving? We opened the Bible. We prayed the Bible. And glory came down.

An hour later, gathered in the cafeteria of an elementary school, we sang praises to God. Our pastor stood and preached a difficult but wonderful sermon from Mark 10:1-12: Jesus’ teachings on divorce. We took communion. We gave of our tithes and offerings. We sang a few more songs and we left.

Down the road, a group of women met in my living room to discuss a Christian book. They opened up to one another, asking questions and digging deep.

Hours later, my living room was filled again with our community group, there to catch up with one another, pray for one another, and discuss the day’s sermon.

It wasn’t a banner day, really. But then again, it was. It was the Lord’s day, and I saw his hand upon the breadth of it.

I admit, most Sundays come and go without these thoughts. I don’t always see the beauty of the church. Too often, I see the shortcomings. I wish for more: more people, more intensity, more good feelings, more something. But whether I see it or not, God’s glory descends upon our church week by week, day by day, moment by moment. Not because we have built something great but because, with his blood, Jesus has.

Ephesians 5:25 says, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” The church gathers in the aftermath of the crucifixion. We are a sacrificial gathering, but not one offering our sacrifices to please God; we come under the God-pleasing sacrifice of Christ. We assemble as ones freed from eternal wrath, washed by cleansing blood, redeemed from death by death.

Is that crazy? God gave himself up for this. The church is not man’s idea. We wouldn’t have thought of it. We would over-complicate it. We would muddle it. We would infuse it with more things, thinking our stuffing would enhance the flavor. But what we add only detracts. What God gives is pure and undefiled.

The message never changes. At least it shouldn’t. It’s the old, old story of Jesus and his love. Told again and again, from page to page and sermon to sermon. The gospel’s glory held high, multifaceted and eminently practical. We come with our fears and find courage. We come with our anxieties and find peace. We come with our wounds and find healing. We come with our joys and find gratitude. We come in a thousand different ways all at the same time and yet we come—we come to the Lord and his people.

What do we find when we get there? On the surface, not much. A few songs. A talk that lasts too long for the kids in the pew. A little bread and juice. A benediction and it’s over. But it’s not. It’s never really over. We’re changed, even if only a little, passing to another degree of glory. The chatter that happens on the way out is a glorious reminder that these are God’s people, his family, and today’s reunion was another picture of the eternal home to which we’re going. It will have better lighting, for the Lord will be our sun. There will be more life, for we will be made new. Yet it will feel like home, because we’ve been here before, gathered under the Lord’s grace, joined by his resurrected body.

Our American world doesn’t see what happens each Sabbath morning. Sunday’s interstates and highways are near empty. The Monday through Friday, nine-to-five pedal pushers press the brakes, opting for extra time in bed and another cup of coffee. But something glorious is happening in every village and town and city. The songs of the redeemed are rising like incense, a very pleasing aroma. God is tasted and seen. The King is worshiped. A revolution comes to its rallying place.

Editor’s Note: This originally published at Things of the Sort.