Ruminations from the back pew

I attend a local Methodist church. It has three services every Sunday: 7:30, 9:30 and 18:00. I usually go to either of the last two because if I went to the first one I might run into morning people (shudder).

On my way into church I got caught behind a family gaggle*. I don’t know what it is about me that sends small children tugging nervously at their grandmother’s skirt, but that’s what happened. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried smiling at them.

Patrick Bateman smile

Lately we’ve been trying to lure in welcome new congregants. I love it when new people come to our church because it upsets the established seating order and then it’s anyone’s game. I had a whole pew to myself near the heater, until someone slid in late smelling strongly of shoe polish. Unfortunately this pew is right in front of the mother’s room (which ironically contained only a father), which has not been properly soundproofed. So when a toddler tipped something over, my first thought was that the pew was going**. If you love me, I told God, you won’t let the pew break. I call this The Fat Sinner’s Prayer.

The leader of our evangelism team reported back on their efforts. Apparently the two biggest obstacles at this point are 1) that white people mistake them for Jehovah’s Witnesses and 2) that black people mistake them for white people.

Jehovah Witness level: expert.

Jehovah Witness level: expert.

There have been some changes to the worship team: Luciano Pavarotti has joined. He has a lovely voice, but it booms like the depths of Moria under siege. It took the congregation two songs to recover some of their wits and marshal a watery response to the giant’s thunder. I haven’t had that much fun singing in years because there was absolutely no chance of my reedy wiffle being overheard.

He probably isn't a stranger to The Fat Sinner's Prayer, either.

He probably isn’t a stranger to The Fat Sinner’s Prayer, either.

The sermon was about being saved by God’s grace (an old one, but a good one). How our redemption through Christ is unconditional and eternal. How we are accepted, and ought to accept in turn. How we need a relationship with God, church, fellowship, friends, to sustain the knowledge of our salvation and buffer us against worldliness. And you know what? In that back pew I felt sufficed with grace. A while ago I posted a reblog about how we tend to look for perfect churches (now there’s a misnomer). But really I think it’s just about finding an imperfect place that drowns out your own imperfections with love.

Yes? Yes. :)

– – – – – – – – – –

*Two grandparents, their children and their children’s children. If you ever wonder why the Israelites spent forty years trekking across a relatively small patch of desert, just look to family gaggles. It’s a time-consuming affair, making sure small children or confused geriatrics don’t wander off into traffic, and that’s not even counting the time fathers spend fussing over secure parking or mothers root through purses, bundles of children attached to their legs like so many ducklings. All of this occurring on the stretch of sidewalk between you and holy ground, of course. For a second, just one second, you sympathise deeply with Jehovah.

And it’s at a church so you can hardly lose your temper. The trick is to spot family gaggles ahead of time and slow down your pace so that your incandescent, unmarried-no-children rage remains a steady two steps behind any stragglers.

**They’re these old, creaky wooden things, stand alone and arranged along the flanks of the room.

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Reblog: Question: Getting Back The Fire For God « J.S. Park

Remember, you are:

– A work in progress, looking towards the work finished, Jesus.

– Under construction, in a process, two steps forward, one step back.

– On a journey of faith, because faith is not a light-switch.

– A messy, gritty, raw, real, complicated creation called a human being, and no one should ever shame you for being human.  Jesus was one of us, too.

– Not defined by your mood, situation, or circumstance.

– Not defined by the “amount” of your faith, but rather by the perfect author of your faith who receives even your weakest stumbles towards Him.  It’s not about your grip, but rather the strength of the branch that holds you.

– So loved that God preempted your failures with the gift of His Son Jesus, who died to pay your price of Hell and who also died exactly for those times you would feel far from Him.

– Always allowed to approach the throne room of God with all your anxieties and fears and requests, no matter how petty, because God can handle your venting and clenching of teeth and He will not bite your head off.  It’s also His very grace and acceptance that begin to restore the broken pieces back together.

– A Christian, a profoundly broken person who has met Jesus the Messiah, who radically transforms you by being who he is: the Savior, Redeemer, King, Brother, Friend.

If you’re struggling to feel God, read the whole post: Question: Getting Back The Fire For God « J.S. Park.

One moment

Take a moment and pray for the unsaved people in your life, even if you don’t think it will make a difference.

Lord, (name/s) are ruled by your absence from their hearts. Gather them close to you this Christmas season and “Open their eyes to what you do, to see your zealous love for your people” (Isaiah 26:11-15 Msg). Because I know what it’s like to live without you, I ask you, Lord, to call (name/s) by name and to give them the grace to surrender to your love, life, light and salvation. I pray that (name/s) will come to know true freedom in you. Amen.

‘Christ! No more, no less.’

Let’s file away all the paperwork of religion for just a moment and revel in how gloriously simple faith really is:

~ The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. Colossians 1:25-25 Msg ~

It’s that simple.

A Little Less Advent Candles, A Little More “Touch Me”

From the Good News View:

The problem, is that often we can feel half-saved. I think we often feel this way because we imagine there to be a sliding scale of Christianity. There are strong Christians, or weak Christians. Fully-saved, half-saved or not saved at all. Let me tell you something, the Christian church seems like the ocean, “there’s always a bigger fish”, a fish that probably has a bible with more folded down pages and highlighted notes than yours. A bigger fish who is having more spiritual experiences, more quiet-times, and more friends converting due to their evangelism. But the truth is, it only seems as though they are bigger. We have all been rescued in full and by no effort of our own, to boast would be ridiculously arrogant, and to pity yourself, and write yourself off as half-saved would be equally daft.

You are saved, you are safe. You are not a half-Christian (or half-pregnant!), there is no such thing. If you feel small, weak and not good enough, in the words of Adrian Plass, “‎”Why don’t you concentrate on being forgiven, and let God concentrate on being perfect?”

You know those ‘exactly what I needed to read’ moments?

This was it.

Merry Christmas!

“The heart of God yearns over His earthly children with a love stronger than death. In giving up His Son, He has poured out to us all heaven in one gift.”

Steps to Christ, EG White

The real good news

It’s hard to believe sometimes, especially when we mess up, but nothing can get between us and God’s love — not even us!

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

— Romans 8:38-39 (ESV)

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

— Isaiah 54:10 (ESV)