About a month ago, Chris wrote an article where he encouraged us to join the men’s or women’s groups this summer. This, he said, can help us grow as disciples. I will tell a story about myself and how growth group helped me in my spiritual growth. The church I attended in Nigeria had house cells (home groups). All the church members were supposed to plug into the one closest to where they lived. And, for instance, if I did not show up at a meeting on a Sunday evening, the person closest to my house was required to check on me before he or she went home. Cell phones? Nope. We did not have cell phones then. And the church member that stopped to check on me will report to the cell leader of his or her findings. It was a challenge for me to attend the meetings. I hated it when someone knocked on my door at night. I did not know most of the people in my group. Those that I knew, I did not like. But things changed when I started attending the program faithfully. By the grace of God, that kept me in check and to change some of my ways. It helped to bring me to my senses. I am forever grateful for the cell group and the members whose love for the body of Christ helped me to return home. Fellowshipping with one another will help us grow spiritually. The summer is not yet over, plug in.
So, every night before my son (Barnabas) goes down for the night, we replay the day in our heads and talk about all our joys and disappointments. And at the end, we not only pray to thank God and for those who are in need, but we always lift-up special prayer requests like when my foot is in pain due to a gout attack. And although I often forget our prayers and wonder what Barnabas thinks of our faith (especially with his father being so busy with sermon preparations, going to church early and separately, as well as leaving the home some nights for various meetings) it put a smile on my face when my foot got better and my son pointed out it was all because God answered our prayers! And you know for my devotional, it pointed to Deuteronomy 6 and I was reminded how the bible tells us “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” Thus friends, whether you are a parent or a member who promised to help raise the children of Gracepoint together, let’s continue to teach the little ones that Christianity is not a business, nor a religion, nor is it about going to this meeting or that but instead it’s really about a loving relationship with Jesus who cares and desires to bless every part of our life!
God could have chosen to speak to us any way he wanted. He is God and we are not. He could have left us a series of statements about himself: I am good, I love you, trust me. Yet, when we read the Bible we do not see a collection of propositions about God. Instead, we find tons of stories and poetry. This reality, that God has chosen to reveal himself through metaphor has been one of the central tenets being taught by Dr. Iain Duguid while we are in Japan. Why does God reveal himself through beautiful imagery, when a statement of facts was also an option available to Him? Well, one powerful reason is the power of metaphor to captivate our imagination and bring abstract ideas home. This past Sunday, Jenn and I witnessed first hand the power of poetry (when it is God’s Word to us) as our professor preached two different sermons from the Psalms. As we heard Psalm 23 preached, the image of a shepherd caring for his sheep, an image that would have been a powerful one for an agrarian culture in the Middle East over 2000 years ago, we saw it remains just as powerful and relevant today. As we sat and heard God’s Word preached, we witnessed firsthand the power of poetry to communicate God’s love and care for His people. Across centuries, across cultures, across gender and ages, God’s Word remains powerfully clear and pierces our hearts, because of HOW God chose to speak to us. Praise God for loving us, praise God for His wonderful poetry, praise God for sending His Holy Spirit to make these truths real to our hearts and minds.
What if the way you have understood a part of the Bible was incorrect? What if it was a passage you were so familiar with, you thought it was impossible to possibly learn anything new about it? That was the situation I was confronted with during the past couple of weeks as I prepared to preach on the Beatitudes. As someone that grew up going to church, there are few passages of scripture that are more familiar and yet as I read and studied I realized that while I was familiar I was actually mistaken in my understanding. The radical and powerful nature of the Beatitudes has completely eluded me for most of my life. In the 9 statements that open up the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is actually talking about people who are flourishing now because they are living in a state of being that lines up with God’s means of grace. They are not about receiving some future blessing, but instead about a person’s current state. But, because the Kingdom of God is not yet fully on earth, flourishing today sometimes looks like the exact opposite. It is only when we realize we are living in line with God’s design that we can see our current conditions, even when difficult, as evidence of flourishing. What was even more amazing was seeing how the OT shed even more light on Jesus’s teaching on mourning. At the end of the day I was convicted not only of the immense power of scripture, but of the possibility of a lifetime spent learning even more about what God’s word means for us today! It truly is a living and breathing word that cuts
us to the heart!