Having found the use of my own website as difficult at times, I have opted to go back to this blog to make updates.
Having found the use of my own website as difficult at times, I have opted to go back to this blog to make updates.
Communication is difficult if you have so many different streams going in a bunch of different places. That is why I am consolidating everything through my website www.gracetokids.org. I have started a new blog on my site called: The Journey in Georgia. So, if you are interested in keeping up with our family and the ministry at Christ Community Church that is where I will be updating.
Wow! It has been a whole year since I left Chattanooga. Since VBS ended last Friday, I finally feel as if I'm getting my head above water for the first time in a long time. I haven't blogged in awhile, and that isn't because there nothing going on, it is because there is a LOT going on. In fact, there is too much to list here. That's why I invite you to come here what has happened this past year.
It is hard to believe that I've been down here for 10 months. Things are going well at the church. Attendance has been up and the church appears to be growing. Our youth group returned a few weeks ago from a retreat to Camp Vesperpoint which was attended by 27 people. That was definitely a blessing.
The retreat's focus was upon friendship, specifically friendship in Christ and the results have been good. It appears that a number of our students are beginning to form freindships with each other. I am very thankful for that, because those are the kind of relationships they will need as they grow in Christ and live in this world.
As of this past Sunday, I've preached about 5 Sunday mornings in the last 10 months. Something of a record for me, I believe. I am thankful for those opportunities that help stretch and grow me as a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ. I was especially blessed this last time to lead in the partaking of the Lord's Supper.
We continue to pray for those who are struggling in these hard economic times. It has touched my family as my father-in-law and sister-in-law are both out of work. My parents have seen their retirement dwindle, as most Americans have, in the stock market. Within our church (and I'm sure within your church and family) there are a good number of people looking for employment.
When the Lord works in your life, through your circumstances, He often does so for multiple reasons. Recently, I've had a double confirmation of being here in the Atlanta areaq. First, as many of you know, my son Seth was born with kidney problems. We thought these problems had been corrected by surgeries when we first lived in Atlanta a number of years ago. However, recently we have found that the "good" kidney is no longer functioning within a normal level and that his "bad" kidney is actually the one now that is picking up the function and that it is enlarged. Tomorrow we go for a test to determine whether there is a blockage. Your prayers are appreciated. However, it is confirmation to me that before we knew anything was wrong with Seth, the Lord moved us back down here to the place where he can get the best care. We very much trust our pediatric urologist and nephrologist and are hoping for the best. Whatever the case, we know that this is one of the reasons the Lord sought to bring us here to Kennesaw.
Another confirmation came this afternoon as my father phoned me with some disturbing news. He called to let me know that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. It is believed to be in the earliest stages, so the prognosis we believe is good. Yet, Mom and Dad have a place to go while down here in Atlanta. That to me is another confirmation that God intended for us to be right where we are. I can't imagine what life would be like traveling back and forth from Chattanooga for all of these visits.
So even with the grim picture that I've just painted, I know that God is there. His hand is visible even in the midst of disappointing things. I feel a certain peace that He has placed us here in Georgia for a reason. Not only for the purpose of ministry, but for the sake of my own family.
We look at Scripture and we see how God provides for His people through harsh realities. I think of Joseph who was sold into slavery by his own brothers. I think of how God used him to prepare the known world for the famine and to preserve His people during the seven years of want.
You always know when God's hand has moved, because it accomplishes multiple things at one time at just the right time. Now, I have but to learn how to trust Him in the midst of harsh realities. It starts as it would for any frighten child....reaching for His hand.
Well, it has taken a long time, but we are finally home owners in Georgia! God has been so good to us in this entire transition, I just want to sing His praise. In a market where we could've lost a good bit of money selling our house, we made money. The Lord also provided us a home to live in (in the meantime) through the graciousness of Bruce and Linda Boggs. In a topsy turvy home market filled with foreclosures, we bought a home from people who still owned their house and hopefully were an answer to prayer for them as much as they were for us. God is good.
Pray now as we transition into this home and work around our busy schedules to make the move. Pray that our home would be a place, not just for retreat and relaxation, but a place of hospitality: where young people can gather and learn about God's Word, where families can come and feel welcome. Pray also that Bruce and Linda Boggs would be able to sell their home, as it has been on the market for quite a long time. Pray that the Lord will honor their kindness to us by having a person bid for the home soon.
Now for an update on the work here:
Things are going well lately. With the drop in gas prices, we have seen more people coming out to church again. We had a good number on Sunday. Sunday Morning we had quite a few kids at the 9 AM hour and a good number of youth in our home on Sunday Evening.
We have started a study in the Psalms and Proverbs on Sunday Night for the youth and it appears to be going well. Pray for our continual growth in the number of teens in our youth group.
I received great reviews for my Reformation Chapel at East Cobb. To God be the Glory, because I know how scatter brained I was that morning. I spoke on the Five Bad Bricks on the Church and how the Church was Re-Formed using the Five Good Bricks (Kid Versions of the Five Solas).
I enjoyed making the connection at the FCA at Hillgove High School and am looking for more opportunities to speak at locals schools. Pray that the Lord would open those doors.
On Saturday (tomorrow as I write this update) we are having a family outing to a Dairy Farm in Canton, GA. There are all sorts of wonderful Fall activities for families there. We have around 50 people signed up and are really looking forward to connecting with more families. Pray that there will be new families that will connect through this outing.
So much has been happening it is hard to even know where to begin! Let's begin with housing...
As you know, we've been looking for a home. Our home in Chattanooga sold a couple of months ago (Praise God) before the housing market took a huge dive. As we've looked for a home we have been very discouraged. Most of the houses on the market now have been foreclosures, because many people do not want to put their houses on the market if they can help it. So it is what they call "slim pickins" out there in our price range.
We have had three houses inspected thus far by the same home inspector. We've seen him so much that he knows us by name and even knows the names of our children! Just this morning I met him to inspect, what we hope, is the the last house we have to inspect for a while. Praise to the Lord that it is not a foreclosed home, but instead a motivated seller. The house puts us within 30 minutes (in traffic) drive to the kids school and across Highway 41 from the property the church has purchased for its future building. On top of being in a great location, the house has plenty of space for meeting. It is just what we needed for a youth group that is beginning to show signs of growth. Because until we get a building, our house is the "youth house".
Pray for growth in the group and specifically in the church. Attendance and giving have been down since the gas shortage a few weeks ago. From what I hear, giving is down everywhere as people are still reeling from the nation's financial woes. Such a blow can be harder on smaller churches such as ours, but we wait and pray, knowing that God will provide.
This week I'm speaking at a Reformation Chapel at East Cobb Christian School. East Cobb is a PCA church that began a school (k-8th) a number of years back. It is based on a Charlotte Mason model. If you are wondering what that is, simply Google her name. The title of the message is "What They Forgot" and I will be breaking the 5 Solas down into kid-sized portions.
On Friday, I will speaking at the FCA of Hillgrove High School. The title of that talk is, "The Lists We Keep". It will focus on the trap of trying please God religiously instead of pursuing Him relationally. Pray that I will make good connections there and that those who want to know more will approach me afterward.
Things appear to be going well in the Northwest Georgia Presbytery. Mike Glass (my pastor) has passed the responsibility of overseeing RUF ministries in our Presbytery to me and I am to meet with and encourage our RUF minster at Kennesaw State University, Chris Bowen. Chris is the same person who let me stay at his apartment here while I was in transition. Pray for him as he continues to raise much needed support.
What I find interesting is that I continue to work (in some respect) with covenant children from birth to college. There is nothing more thrilling that watching these kids grow up and form hearts that desire to serve God. Of course, there is nothing as sad as watching a covenant child walk away from the faith. So, I very much realize my great responsibility. Pray that the Lord will speak to the hearts of these children in ways neither I nor my teacher could ever do.
Finally, I have recently self-published a children's book for Christmas. Some of you may have read the first edition I put out a number of years ago in my former church. This version is full color and has been revised and updated. The story centers around a family whose father adds a piece of the nativity set one at a time and tells how each piece reminds us of the coming King. It is called The King in the Corner and is available now at www.lulu.com/zackcarden.
"Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains."
This afternoon I drove Tennyson's car north in search of a tank full of gas. Gasoline is getting hard to come by down here in Atlanta and elsewhere across the South for various reasons. However, I had no idea how far reaching the gas shortage was becoming until I tried to find it off of I-75. There wasn't any in Cartersville, Carbondale or Adairsville. By the time I reached Calhoun my gas light was on and I was getting very close to empty. I waited in line a the only station in Calhoun that had gas, but just as I drove up to the pump the station announced that there was no more gas. So I got back on the interstate and drove to Resaca. All the while praying, "Lord, I'm on fumes and I know I can't make it to Dalton. Please let there be gas in Resaca!" I exited and there were short lines beginning to form so I got in and, praise God, I was able to fill up Tennyson's van with gas.
I drove home at 60MPH on the interstate so as to conserve as much as possible. It worked. I arrived home from Resaca with the gas gauge still reading "Full". As I write this blog post it is Saturday Night and we are not sure about what tomorrow brings at church.
The last couple of Sundays attendance has been low, we believe, due in great part to gas rationing. We had to cancel evening youth group last week due to parents who needed gas for their commute and it looks as if we will have to do so this weekend. I just received an e-mail from a parent who told me that they most likely would not be at church due to the fact they were on empty.
This is certainly doing damage to the great kickoff we had and the mounting enthusiasm which which September had begun. The last time we had youth group there were about 27 people at our house. So it is cutting into the youth group momentum as well.
Yet all I could think about today was the verse above from Habakkuk. It is easy to say that when we are in want that we trust God will bring us through, but when we are in want where will our faith be?
As banks fail and gas is in short supply as things go crazy around us, it is good for me to remember Habakkuk's statement of faith. "The Sovereign LORD is my strength! ...and [will] bring me safely over the mountains." We are trusting God to do exactly that. Hasn't He done so much already? We are living in a borrowed house and we sold our house in Chattanooga! What a blessing God has given us. We look back at God's past blessings and look forward to His future blessings realizing that He takes care of His people.
Surely he will bring us over the mountains.
This past Sunday, Septemeber 7th, we began the new ministry year at Christ Community Church. For the first time, we began a comprehensive Sunday School Program (called the Connecting & Equipping Time). On Saturday Night, the 6th, we had what is called the Vision Banquet where we look forward with anticipation to the new ministries that are beginning. It is a time where Pastor Glass can share where the Lord seems to be leading both he and the elders. It was greatly attended and I even had to call upon people from my former churches to help out in the nursery. Caitlin Fosgate (formerly at CPC) and Joyce Abraham (at Hope PCA) answered that call and helped out. A special thanks to them!
Sunday Morning the "baby" (as Tennyson calls it) was born. There is always that concern that things won't go well or that they will somehow fall apart. You never know just how people will respond to rolling out of bed to bring their children to a 9AM program. Yet by all accounts things seemed to be a success!
For the first time children in 2nd to 5th grade stayed in the service. At first parents didn't know how well this would work, but the children seemed to rise to the occassion. There are actually reports that they listened to the sermon and remembered some of stories Pastor Glass told. I believe this worked so well, because Pastor Glass has the ability to preach messages that are "accessible" to most people, even young children.
One of the important things that happened from those children remaining in service was having a very full worship room. When the children k-5th used to leave the service in the middle, it left an empty feeling to the room. Having a full worship center provided a certain "energy" to the service.
Another positive result of the new program is that word had gotten out and quite a few new families visited. I heard that we tied a record for attendance on Sunday Morning and we are already beginning to think of how to make more space available for seating.
We had many good comments about the new 9AM program for the children. It is a highly interactive time of singing, games and learning that the kids seemed to genuinely enjoy. I received good reports from the new Middle School and High School classes as well.
At 11AM the 3's and 4's joined the K and 1st for a time of children's worship called "Praise City". In that time we have started learning common hymns and praise songs and even have introduced the children to an order of worship.
It isn't perfect. Things need a lot of tweaking and fine tuning, but for a first Sunday, things seemed to go well. Continue to pray for the new program and the children involved in it that there would be changes in the heart that comes by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
I feel a little like a nomad. I've lived in borrowed apartments, borrowed homes, and even a Motel 6. Also, I've seen more of I-75 between here and Atlanta than I care too. So I've felt a little "homeless". It gives me a new appreciation for what Abraham must've felt like moving around so much. Or even the Lord who said, "Birds have nests and foxes have dens, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head".
I'm happy to announce that on July 25th, my family will be joining me in Atlanta. We will be living in a borrowed home for a little while. The Lord has provided this amazing place to live through a member of our new church and her parents. Her parents own the home which has been on the market now for almost three years. So we are going to become caretakers of sorts paying utilities and keeping the inside and outside cleaned up until the home sells. This has been an incredible blessing.
We also have a contract on our home. Now, before you stop praying, let me tell you that it is far from a done deal. It is an odd contract, but our realtor assures us that "odd" is common in this recession market. So keep praying that everything will work out according to the Lord's will.
Should our house sell, we will likely try to negotiate rent at the house in which we will be staying and look to find a permanent home sometime in December (unless that house sells before then).
We are also beginning our recruitment phase for the new ministry year beginning this Sunday. We are adding a Sunday School hour (which is new for the church) and there are many details to get hammered out. So please be in prayer for that.
I will also be preaching on Sunday July 27th following our move so pray that I will be "all together" and well prepared for that.
Thank you again for your love and support. I will follow up soon with another blog.
The Backyard Vacation Bible School for Christ Community Church finished on Sunday with a Picnic after church. Mike (the Pastor) shared these statistics with us: there were a total of 95 kids and 50% of those did not go to Christ Community Church. I thought that was fabulous. I was very impressed with the evangelical nature of the program and wondered whether we should even ever think of having it in a church facility whenever we build one. There is a clear benefit to having it in a community where kids of all backgrounds can come and join in the fun and the host homes can keep up with their neighbors throughout the year.
As I was working at one home-site I noticed a little girl who lived across the street come out to get her mail. She was intrigued with the activities we were doing at the host home so much so that she dropped one of her envelopes without even noticing. I waved to get her attention and pointed the envelope out to her. Later, she came cruising by on a scooter and waved to us as she passed, obviously trying to get a closer look at just what we were doing. Perhaps next year she will join us.
It seems to me that these days the easiest way to the heart of the parents is through the hearts of the children. In an age where parents are hyper-concerned about their children and their safety, etc. it speaks volumes when people pay attention to children.
I met a lady last week who hung back just to talk to me. She was a visitor with two children and wanted to know what exactly was available for children. She told me that, as they looked for a home church, what was most important for them was that their children be engaged with the truth of Who God is. Now I'm sure they were interested in sermon style, worship style, warmth of the church and all, but what she emphasized is that children's ministry was the "make it or break it" item they were looking for.
One of the reasons that I have chosen to do what I do, is that I firmly believe if we wait to minister to our children, then we will lose them. I am also a big believer in ministering to youth, don't get me wrong, but I believe that nine times out of ten, if you haven't won their hearts before they enter High School, then it is much harder to minister to them.
Parents are the primary disciplers of their children. This is true and I believe that 100%, but it is important that the church assist them. I believe that the church experience our little ones have is crucial to their desire to remain connected or disconnect later. I think the biggest mistake we make in children's ministry is to go to one of two extremes. Either we make it so fun that we lose the point and teach the child nothing OR we focus so heavily on the cognitive process that we make it extremely dull. There is a comfortable middle which is to make learning fun. If we can achieve this then we can make it easier on parents who have to fight the battle of the Sunday Morning "Idon'twannago".
This is what I'm laboring toward: solid teaching with sensational fun. I continue to labor toward the goal. Pray for me as I do.
I apologize for my lack of blogging in the past couple of weeks. I've been working at a feverish pace and trying to keep my head above water. I wanted to update all of you on how things have been going so far.
This week is VBS. How in the world do we have VBS without a building? We have it in back yards! We have about four houses in about an 7+ mile radius from the church that are host houses. There are a lot of neighborhood kids who come and the whole event is really focused mainly upon the unchurched. As I was talking to the pastor we were both wondering aloud if we really even wanted to utilize the facility for VBS even when one is built. The reason is that it is so wonderful to have it at homes and in a way were unchurched kids don't feel as awkward.
Sign ups indicated that about 100 kids are involved, but we will see what the numbers are toward the end. They tend to snowball as momentum builds during the week. On Monday I visited all four sites briefly. On Tuesday I spent the whole time at a host home and will do the same for the other three host homes during the rest of the week.
On Tuesday I was able to spend a little more time with kids from the youth group. Some of them were working the VBS and others I offered to meet at Sonic on Tuesday for a time just to hang out and get to know them. I was able to meet a few of them today. They are really great kids.
For the past few weeks I've been eating dinners with different families. It has been great to network and get to know these famililes and their kids. I've had dinners with youth families and families with young children. So my typical day stars around 8:30AM and ends around 8:30PM and sometimes I will come back to my apartment and work on some things for the next day.
I have been traveling back and forth to Chattanooga. Christ Community has been gracious enough to let me go home on Wednesday in the evening and return Saturday in the evening. This week is a little different because I'm in town for VBS all week. So it is a bit of a longer stretch until I see Tennyson and the kids again. That is, honestly, the hardest part; not seeing my family as much.
We've quite a few showings on the house, but no offers as of yet. We are optimistic that the Lord will bring a buyer along soon and in His timing. Continue to pray that the Lord will choose to do so soon.
Besides the prayer for our home to sell, pray also for the children this week who will be impacted by VBS. We will have a picnic after church on Sunday at the park across the street from where the church meets. We are hoping to connect with a few new families there.
Thank you again for your prayers. I can almost "feel" them. I will do my best to keep the blog updated on a more regular basis.
Type rest of the post here
One of my former students told me that, in her first year at a certain Christian college, she realized the stark differences between the theologies of Christian denominations. The professor who spoke in her Bible class told her that, over the course of the semester, the class would study God's attempts to save Man. At this point she raised her hand and asked (more testified), "When does God ever attempt something that He cannot do?" Good question.
This morning I was reading the first chapter of Romans and came across a verse that I have probably read over at least a thousand times. In verse 2 (and part of 3), Paul states that the gospel was one "which he promised beforehand through his Prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son," Basically what Paul is saying here is that the gospel is plan A not plan B.
There are some who believe that the Old Testament records the history of God's failed attempts to save His people. After Adam, He tries with Noah. After Noah, He tries with Abraham. After Abraham He tries with Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, etc. Then He spells out His expectations through Moses. Once again the people fail. So God sends the Judges and they fail. He sends the Kings and they fail. He sends the Prophets and they fail. So finally the people go into exile. Once they come out of the exile they still get it all wrong. So finally God decides to send His Son. This is not the correct view of the history of salvation. Paul has said that the point of Scripture is to point to the gospel. That is why, immediately after the fall of Adam, God promises the coming of the Messiah in in Genesis 3:15.
So why is all of this important? Because one view says that God fails and the other doesn't. If God fails and failed over and over with His people, then He is bound to fail with you. When you can't overcome your nagging sins, your furious doubts even after He has tried over and over to reform you, this theology says that He might eventually fail you.
Of course we know that is not true. God never fails. Though many of us would claim we believe the theology that God does not fail, I think that in practice we tend to believe the theology that says that God does fail. We just don't admit it.
We did not get a contract on our house on the 26th. Did God fail? No. He just decided that His will is different from mine. Whenever we submit our requests to God, they must always be contingent upon His Will. He is a good God and He intends to do us good. Scripture testifies that no father, when his child asks for an egg, will give the child a snake instead. Instead, God is a father who likes to give good gifts to His children. Yet, we can only hope that timing will match ours.
I have no doubt that the Lord will allow our house to sell. Will it be in the time that I think it should be sold? Probably not, but I can still ask, as long as I don't view God's disregard of my timing preferences as "failure" on His part.
Keep praying that we will have a contract soon and pray with hope that God will provide one, not only to we who are getting ready to start a new adventure in a different town, but for others you know who are about to do the same.
The title of this post "It's Friday but Sunday's Coming" is attributed to Tony Campolo and is a description of the feeling of hopelessness the disciples had before the Resurrection. It is a reminder that though things seem bleak at moments in our lives that God will come through in the end.
It is Friday as I write this post and I've just finished up some Bible stories that will be used in CPC's music camp, packed books and weeded the front and back lawns. I am certainly feeling the hopelessness of "Friday". The fact that I'm going to have to head down to Atlanta without my family June 1st pales in comparison to all of the hopelessness I see in the world around me: cyclones, earthquakes, war, the unstable economy and the price of gas. All of these have a common denominator whether they be personal (seemingly insignificant questions) or the global questions. The common denominator is "Where is God's faithfulness". When the uncertainties that we face in our personal lives or as a human race come, we often begin to doubt that God is faithful. It must be an inkling of what the disciples felt as they watched Jesus die on the Cross thinking it was the end. They had put all their hopes in Jesus. They had left their nets, lucrative businesses, meaningless lives for something...Someone greater. On Friday that Someone died. Perhaps they thought they had believed in vain. Then came Sunday and the Resurrection. All too often we rush ahead from Friday to Sunday. But what happened on Saturday? Despair. Questions. Shattered faith. Uncertainty. For we who wait expectantly for Jesus' Second Coming, every day is the Saturday between that awful Friday and that glorious Sunday. We know that Christ has risen and is at work. We know this by faith, but what we see day to day is a reminder that it isn't finished yet. So history marches on, the earth gets hotter and our anxieties about the future increase every day. The temptation while living in the "Saturday World" of despair and gloom is to believe that it isn't true or that somehow God has forgotten about us. So if my house doesn't sell by the 26th or if it doesn't sell for the whole Summer should I believe that God has forgotten about me? No. If gas goes up to $10 a gallon or the earth gets another few degrees hotter, does that mean that God has abandoned us? No. It means it is Saturday and we are in that long stretch before God's timing is fulfilled. And God's timing WILL be fulfilled. On a personal note I look forward to Sunday. We have an open house from 2-5, our neighbors to our right are holding a yard sale (more traffic) and our neighbors to the left decided to go ahead and have their once-a-year grass cutting. So everything is set for a good showing on Sunday. But if by Monday the 26th we do not have an offer, will God have failed? No. Not at all. He just has a better plan that I don't quite understand. The wonderful thing is that I can talk to the Lord about all of this. Whatever is on my mind. If it is gas prices, earthquakes, fear, whatever it is, I can talk to Him. How often do I talk to Him about these things? Not often enough, honestly. How about you?
We have had three showing of our house this weekend: Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Your prayers continue to be heard! Pray now that we will get an offer on our house before the 26th. It would be nice to know that I would not have to live apart from Tennyson and the kids for too long.
My installation as the new Assistant Pastor to Children and Youth at Christ Community Church is this Sunday May 25th. I begin officially the following Sunday. Please continue to pray for us during the transition. Also, if you have received a prayer pledge card, please remember to mail that prayer support card in before the 26th.
Many have wondered how you can pray for us. The biggest way you can pray right now is to pray for our house to sell so that we can purchase a house in Atlanta. It is an incredibly difficult time to sell a house as many of you know. The market in Chattanooga is decent, but it is still very slow. Please pray for us that we will be able to sell our house quickly. I'm setting a date of May 26th. That is what I'm focusing on in my prayers. I know that the Lord is fully and completely able to provide a contract on our house by that time. The reason I say the 26th is that Tennyson and I have a history of doing big things on the 26th. Most of the time we haven't even planned it that way.
Our first date was on January 26th. I believe I proposed on December 23rd, because my father-in-law's birthday was on the 26th and it would've been too easy to guess that I would propose on the 24th or 24th. We were married on July 26th (which interestingly enough was my grandfather's birthday). We moved to St. Louis for seminary on June 26th. I believe we closed on our first house on the 26th. There are quite a few that I know I'm forgetting.
For this reason I'm setting a date of BEFORE May 26th as a time to have a contract on our house. That is 13 days from today (May 13th) and it is on a Monday. So pray with me that the Lord would bless us with a contract on our house before May 26th.
I am fully aware that the Lord may intend to have our house sell after that date. That is His perogative. However, we can always ask if such timing is in agreement with His Sovereign will. I know one thing to be true, however, the Lord delights to answer the prayers of His children in a way that brings glory only to Himself. To God alone be the glory.
I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. - 2 Peter 1:13-16
This weekend I went camping. Those of you who know me well are already laughing. For two nights my home was a tent and only now can I really begin to appreciate what the Apostle Peter is saying in the verses above. Tents are not meant to be permanent dwellings, but transitional living arrangements. In this passage Peter is drawing a parallel between his body and a tent.
This doesn't mean that the body is worthless. He is only saying that the body he has now is not equipped for eternity. It is transitional. At the resurrection his body (and ours) will be renewed into the likeness of Christ's resurrection body. What Peter is saying here that his time is short and life is fleeting. He knows that he will soon die, as the Lord tells him in John 21:18-19. (part of the passage I taught this weekend to the students from Christ Community Church)
It is interesting to see the change in Peter from that passage in John to the passage here in 2 Peter. He has gone from clinging to the nets of his trade and his comfort as a fisherman to full acceptance of his foretold death and a viewing of this life as temporary. The astounding truth that Peter now clings to is that he was made for eternity. (see Ecclesiastes 3:11)
The question that this should raise for every one of us is: Do we view this life as all there is or are we living, instead, for what is to come? Because if Peter is right, (and we know he is) this life is best described as a tent. As Paul puts it, "...this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison..." (1 Corinthians 4:17) C.S. Lewis put it this way: "Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither."
So many people (including us believers) are in tent (pun intended) on this world only, but there is the other extreme, "Being so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good". Peter resists leaning toward either extreme. Though he knows he is about to die soon, he doesn't sit on a hill a wait to die. Instead, he is motivated by knowing this life is insignificant compared to the world to come. The "dangling carrot" of eternity, is intended to move us to the work of Christ. But we must remember that the carrot is still "dangling". We have not yet reached our destination. Peter says, "While I live in the tent of this body it is important to remind you of all these things". What he is saying is that he has a mission to fulfill and until the Lord tells him his time is up, he will do what he has been called to do.
To all of my former students I want to say that my heart resonates with Peter's words as he says, "And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things". It is my prayer that you will remember the truths you have heard not only from me, but from everyone in your life who is a believer in Christ. As Peter testifies, these are not "cleverly invented stories". After all, what kind of invented story could make a backward fisherman into an outstanding theologian? The temptation to silence eternity's call in exchange for a moment of sensual indulgence will follow you all of your life. As I have said before, Satan isn't very creative. It is the same temptation he gave to Adam and Eve.
If there is one thing, like Peter, that I want to remind you of it would be this: We must be willing to deny ourselves what we want in the short-term, so that we can gain what is greater in the long-term. In your life decisions this element will always pop up: finances, popularity, dating, school, marriage, etc. It will come up: that thing we could have now but would have to forfeit everything else vs. that thing we could have later without forfeiting everything else. What is that "thing" for you? Ask yourself: I'm I clinging to the tents of this world or am I living for the dwelling of eternity.
Then Jehovah appeared to Abram and said, “I am going to give this land to your descendants.” And Abram built an altar there to commemorate Jehovah’s visit….There was at that time a terrible famine in the land: and so Abram went down to Egypt to live.
This morning as I sat down for a few minutes of quiet before Halle woke up, I found myself turning once again to the story of Abraham. I was looking for some encouragement for my faith to persevere and asking the Lord to give me the faith that I need for this moment.
As I read this passage, it struck me that God had just told Abram that this was the land He was going to give him, then the next thing you know, Abram is leaving in search for food. The commentary in my Bible suggests that there was a famine in this land to which God had just called Abram because God desired to test Abram’s faith. It goes on to say that Abram used the intelligence God gave him to move to Egypt for food and wait for a new opportunity. Though this is one way to look at the situation, I can’t help but wonder if Abram demonstrated a lack of faith by going to Egypt. (He did fall into a pattern of sin as soon as he entered the borders of Egypt.) Sure according to his circumstances it looked as if he would have to go to Egypt if he wanted to eat and feed his flocks. However, God does desire for his name to be glorified. Could it be that God intended to provide for Abram and his family even in the midst of a famine?
Our family is in the throes of trying to sell our house. We have had it for sale for two weeks. My idea was for it to sell last weekend so maybe I could go with Zack to Atlanta this past weekend to look at houses. (He went down for a youth campout with our new church.) Wouldn’t that be a great way for God’s name to be glorified—our house selling right away! Well, it did not sell and I stayed home with the children this weekend. Now I can be thankful that God did not sell it in time for me to go with Zack because Halle was very sick with a virus over the weekend. She ran a fever of 103° most of the weekend and we spent Saturday afternoon in the doctor’s office. She has never felt that bad and I am truly thankful that I was here and not in Atlanta. When I look at the calendar it seems impossible for us to sell our house and find a new one before Zack starts at our new church. We have had several friends ask us what we are going to do. Are we going to rent and apartment? Is Zack going to commute? Should we look into a bridge loan? None of these options seem like a good financial decision at this point. I feel like going to look for a new residence in Atlanta at this point would be a lot like Abram going to Egypt. I beg God to give me the faith I need to walk on this journey. I know that the purpose is for His name to be glorified and that He will do things by His power and in His timing despite the days left on the calendar. He is in the business of doing the impossible! His name will be glorified according to His will and not mine. For now I pray for the grace to wait and trust…
I was over at my grandparents old house recently, unloading "junk" we are going to get rid of in a yard sale. To me, this place is hallowed ground, filled with the all the magic of grandma's house. The house has fallen into disrepair and the land is now fallow, but remnants of its former glory remain. Before returning to my labors, I took a moment to walk through the backyard. Amidst the junk people have piled on the lot illegally and the overgrown brush, there is still a section of flowers my grandmother planted. That's when I saw .
the fiery orange flower sticking its head up defiantly among the brush. It was a wonderful reminder of that former glory of my grandmother's garden. As I was growing up, the backyard of my grandparents' house was teeming with life. There were tiger lilies, daffodils, roses, apricot trees and a victory garden with all sorts of vegetables. I remember shucking corn and snapping peas with my grandmother. It is a wonderful memory. I also remember all that my grandfather did to help preserve the garden. One particular method he used to keep his garden and his trees healthy was killing caterpillars. My sister and I were always appalled as we watch him light a rag at the end of a long pole and set the web-like caterpillar nests on fire. We would ask him why he did such a thing. Didn't he know that caterpillars turned into beautiful butterflies that would flit around to pollinate the flowers? Didn't he know that you shouldn't destroy such beautiful creatures? He told us that, though caterpillars become butterflies, they must first eat a lot of food, his food. If he didn't destroy them before they emerged, then they would eat wholes in the lettuce, roses and flowers and the beautiful garden would be destroyed. There are so many lessons in that moment, but the one I continue to take away is this: sometimes what we think is beautiful is potentially destructive. Thinking childishly, I wanted to save the caterpillars not realizing that it would destroy the garden that I loved. It took a wiser mind than mine to see what was true and, even amid the horrified protests of his grandchildren, choose to do what needed to be done. This can apply in a lot of ways to our lives, but to me I think it applies best to God's will. Sometimes we stand appalled at God's choices. We are appalled at His instructions to the Israelites to utterly destroy their enemies. We are appalled that He would choose such unlearned men to be His disciples. We are appalled at the things He would allow to happen in our lives. I've come to the realization that it is like the killing of those caterpillars. Those things are things I can't really comprehend right now. Those things are things I might not even comprehend in my lifetime, but one day I will. Right now, I just have to understand that it isn't God's cruelty to allow things to happen in our lives and in our world. It is His sovereign understanding of what it takes to grow glory for Himself in us and in His world. After all, only He understands what it takes to protect the garden of faith.
It is often true that the Lord gives us little blessings to nudge our weak faith. Just last week we were upset that our ad in the paper said we had five bedrooms and two baths. When time is of the essence, you don't need an error like that to slow down interest in your house! So this week, we made sure it was correct and we added a photo, hoping to grab a little attention.On Saturday, when we opened the paper to find our house, we received one of those little blessings.
Our home was featured, in full color, on the front of the classifieds section! Both my in-laws and my own parents called us to make sure we saw it. That was most certainly a nudge to our faith that the Lord intends us to move and will help us sell our home at just the right time.Another little blessing came in the form of one of Tennyson's tiny ballerinas. At the end of one of her classes, the little girl offered her her $1.25. When she asked what this was for, the little girl told her it was for our move down to Atlanta. The little girl's mother said that it was from the girl's own money and she had insisted that she give it to Miss Tennyson. So, Tennyson is getting ready to mail that support money down to the church.That little girl is an example of why I think Children's Ministry is so important. Her faith and gift are a classic example of both "child-like faith" and "the widow's mite". G.K. Chesterton commented on the faith-filled thinking of children in his essay The Ethics of Elfland. He said, that children tend to accept things as they are without much deliberation. For example, in a fairytale, when the hero has to obtain the golden key to release the kingdom from a curse, children don't ask, "What does a key have to do with a curse?" They, instead, embrace the quest without much reasoning. That little girl needed to know only two things: 1) Miss Tennyson and her husband were on a quest and 2) they needed financial support. So she gave what she had.It is our job as parents primarily and then secondarily as a church to feed the faith of our children. There is a window of opportunity in the lives of our children that mustn't be taken for granted. We cannot wait until they come to an age where they "get it". In many cases it is then too late. We must help them "get it" before that time. We must nurture that child-like faith, because in doing so, we not only train the next generation, but we receive a blessing to our faith in return.That little ballerina is a wonderful reminder of the faith that Tennyson and I need as we make