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Posts Tagged ‘Bride of Christ’

There’s a lot of cynicism about the Church today.  And while I am stimulated by argument, by addressing something I identify as wrong, I don’t think of myself as a cynic.  Rather, this confrontation with status-quo is inherently hopeful.  I invest energy because I think Church could be better.

Before I left my last church, a few people were leaving slowly.  And my friends who were staying, they wondered why.  “There’s no such thing as a perfect church,” they argued.  “So why search for another kind of bad?”  Which reasoning rather baffled me.  What were they praying for?  Why did they do anything in the Church?  Didn’t they believe our community could be better?  And if we can get better, isn’t it possible that something better already exists?

Now, there may be other arguments for hanging around a church that is not as close to perfect as you hope.  But to say that leaving a church is for people with unrealistic expectations is silly.  Whatever your choice, your reason for staying should be the same as your reason for leaving: hope.  If you stay, be hoping to see God grow your church to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.  If you go, may it be because you hope that God has more designed for the Church than the divided and sterile institution you’re leaving.

I didn’t leave the institutional church in despair.  There was hurt and disappointment over the group of people I had been congregating with.  But there was joy over the release God had given me – not release from fellowship or love or truth, but release from schedules and structures and enduring a view of Church that I no longer believe.  I went out looking for people of God doing life together, praying together, participating together in teaching and worship and celebrating Communion.  My search has been for a high view of our Bridegroom as the Head of His Church, of a supernatural (but orderly) view of the Spirit of our God as He orchestrates lives and relationships and meetings.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.  And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.  But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” – Hebrews 11:13-16

I am persuaded that there is something better than what I have experienced.  And I will desire it and pursue it.  The things I write on ChurchMoot really excite me.  What I read in the Bible about Church excites me.  The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.  Christ is purifying and strengthening His gloriously beautiful Church.  He’s preparing a place for us.  There are visions of unity and purpose and power.  A joy in knowing that we believe in, serve, and wait on an Almighty and Good God.

What’s more, I have hope that the people of God are being awakened to the biblical descriptions of Church.  Now when people realize church is broken, they’re seeking answers from God, and acting on them!  No longer will they betray the Body of Christ by their silence, by their tacit approval, by being accomplices.  They don’t want the world to think that what it knows as Church is the Beloved Bride of a Radiant Savior.  He purified for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works!  They want the world to see a light set on a lampstand, not some pitiful ember fading into darkness.

We are not a cult.  We are the Redeemed.  Joyful.  Saying so.  Hopeful.  Believing it is our God who builds His Church.  Waiting for our Messiah to come back – begging Him to come quickly!  We are loving, caring for each other, not afraid to weep or to rejoice.  The God who created the universe, the Spirit who raised Christ from the dead, indwells us.  He speaks through us, comforts us, guides and instructs us.  The same God who rattled the Early Church prayer meetings with mighty rushing wind is among us.  Let that be known.  Let it be proclaimed.  Don’t contain it in schedules and corporate models.  Joy might be practiced, but not rehearsed!  Truth should be so familiar that it can be ad-libbed.  We share in a life that is saturated with God, with no distinction between the times when we are doing ordinary work and when we are worshiping.

God called His people to abundant life, life in Him.  My hope for the Church is that we embrace it.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I have a friend, my age, who is married.  To most 25 year olds, this is not surprising.  But I mean what I say, that I have ONE friend who is married and my age.  So she holds a special place in my row of confidants.  Loving her has never been hard, and envying her is unthinkable.  Her story is beautiful, and I treasure it.

The tale her life weaves is different from mine, and that is good.  She was married 4 and a half years ago, but she remembers before.  More than once she has encouraged me to embrace the days God gives me, as He gives them.  Before she was married, she spent time on tour with a Christian conference, interning with a youth ministry, and on a mission in Thailand.  She doesn’t regret ending those things to become a wife and a mom (a busy mom – 5 kids!), but she values them for what they were to her, and values them more for being special to that season of her life.

Just this month, out to eat delicious Italian food and celebrate that significantly frightening birthday of mine when I turned 25, she repeated her exhortation.  This time she made clear that she doesn’t think the only way to make the most of one’s singleness is mission trips.  Her life isn’t the only way.  Her story is hers.  In fact, she said she rather likes having me live close!  “One day you’ll look back, and this time will seem short.  You’ll wonder why you worried.”  I didn’t tell her I worried.  Good friends don’t have to be told, I guess.

But I pondered for a moment.  The waiting hasn’t been short.  I don’t ever want to forget that, because that cheapens this time.  For years I have been enduring hope, striving for hope – and patience and faith.  This has to be for a reason.  God is doing work in me; I haven’t stalled in this in-between season of singleness.  And He is doing work around me, through me.  Living at home, I have an impact on my family.  Being single, as my friend said, I get to spend more time with friends.  And who knows what God is up to with the man who will be my husband some day.

Though her time of singleness was short and cram-packed, mine is long and also full.  I don’t want to call this time fleeting, not only because of all that it contains, but because of what it represents.  There is a sacredness to waiting, something to be attained through practicing it. Without delayed gratification, there is no hope.  If one has everything one wants before you think to desire it, there is no desire.

But hope and desire were not made merely to serve romance.  Experiencing hope and desire and something about time that I still don’t understand – these train me for my walk with God.

We use words like thirst to describe how our souls long for God because God made us to sense need for water.  “God deals with us as with sons” – “for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?”  If God had not given us fathers willing to spank us, how would we know to relate to God this way?  So also, this yearning time, and stillness time point me to the yearning I ought to have for God.  Do I put my trust in His action?  Am I catching my breath every day thinking that He might come?  Is my imagination captivated by His promises?

This turns back again and says more.  I’m not the only one waiting.  God is waiting.  Just as He chose to love, and chose to suffer, and chose to be tempted, and chose to be born and to die, He has chosen to wait.  Eternal God has put Himself in time.  And time is not yet full.  In exercising waiting and containing myself to hope, I am learning about God’s hope and God’s waiting.  He has patience.

There is a praise song that alights on me like a vision of radiance.  “We will dance on the streets that are golden: the glorious Bride and the Great Son of Man…”  Think of the joy with which the Bridegroom will dance among His Bride, with which He will feast with her.  If that will be his joy, this strangeness called time will be part of his payment.  He knows that future and is waiting with eager expectation for the day and hour only His Father knows.  Somehow to think of God’s joy makes me want that more than I want it for myself.

Jesus is no Peter Pan, who lives only for the moment, forgetting past and future.  No, to live with an eye on the future that can only be reached by walking the present, that is grown up.  It is mature and sober.  But the joy it produces is most free and most giddy.  There is nothing unsure in the joy, even the excruciating joy of this waiting.  Peter Pan might enjoy the moment, but that is all he has; he must be ready for a turn of events.  The joy of Christ – and His Bride with Him – will be everlasting.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Unveiled Hope: Eternal Encouragement from the Book of Revelation by Scotty Smith and Michael Card

Written primarily by Pastor Scotty Smith with interludes by Michael Card essaying the inspiration behind each song in his album, Unveiled Hope is a different approach to Revelation.  Although it deals with controversial interpretation points (in controversial ways), the focus is on encouraging Christians through the hope offered by the unveiling of our Savior as Creator, Redeemer, Warrior, King, and God.  The Church, as Christ’s waiting Bride, is strengthened throughout the centuries by God’s work in the past, present, and future.  We are warned to worship God alone, who is revealed as all-worthy of our praise.  Praise and singing are themes of Revelation, along with suffering, sovereignty, and holiness.  All of these are addressed both directly through the instructions commissioned to the seven churches and in the imaginative (but true!) narratives that follow.  While I am disappointed in the everyday-will-be-like-today interpretations of the judgments in Revelation, which seem to leave off the supernatural nature of the things described.  One thing for which I appreciate Unveiled Hope is the way it demonstrated the relevance of what is taught in Revelation, as well as what is believed about it.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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