Oh, my goodness, I have so much to tell you. But I have to start at the beginning. Let’s start with an email that I sent to Danny Cox on May 12, 2014. At the bottom of this email, I will include a link to the message that Danny gave at Kensington on Wednesday, May 14. Ironically, I wasn’t at that service, because I was at Heritage Church that night hearing about plans to purchase land for Clinton Twp at M-59 and Gratiot. But first, we’ll start with the email:
Thank you so much for asking Wednesday night for us to send you our urgent questions and deepest needs. The Lord has brought John and I on a quite a journey over the last 24 years and the most recent leg of this journey started February 7th and lasted until Easter weekend. I’d like to share that with you.
The sermon is about 45 minutes long. I watched it a couple times. And I thought about it all year. John 12:25 (NIV) “Anyone who loves their life (psyche) will lose it, while anyone who hates (surrenders) their life (psyche) in this world will keep it for eternal life (aeon zoe).”
I had never understood that verse before I watched this sermon. But all of a sudden, it all made sense. I remember sharing part of the sermon with a couple of our team members in Costa Rica when Joshua and I went last summer. It impacted me so deeply, but I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I was in a Celebrate Recovery step study for most of last year for codependency issues I’d struggled with since childhood. I found great freedom there, but my focus was inward for most of the year. This sermon speaks about Jesus’s plan for us to draw from what He’s doing inside of us and to reach out to a hurting world.
So, this February, I thought, “I need to share this with my husband”. John and I watched it on Friday night, February 7th and I was not prepared for his response. He also had never heard a message like that before, but he took it in a completely different way than I did. To me, it felt like John was throwing away Jesus, but as I look back, that’s not what he was doing at all. He was actually more angry at the church as an institution than anything else. Angry that they hadn’t taught us this information yet. That they were trying to get everyone to just say the right words, accept Jesus as their savior, and then go back to life as usual. He wasn’t throwing away Jesus – he was longing for teaching that would put Jesus above religion, where He belongs.
And then Sunday came. The “Kingdom Come” trailer was played for the first time. I laughed and cried all at the same time. I couldn’t believe the timing. It was a “kairos moment” like Chris Zarbaugh spoke about the first week of the Kingdom Come series. Only God could do that. Aeon Zoe (eternal life), Heaven on Earth, Kingdom Come. Ok, what do we do with that? Do we lead a Kingdom Come group? We have a tackle store in Harrison Twp. We could have a group there. John and I talked about it, but he was just too overwhelmed with his day job and running the tackle store and working too many hours. How could he add a Bible study? So, we let that go.
About a week later, John was chatting with Jim Hartwick and Jim was looking for a place to hold east side Field and Stream Team (FAST) meetings once per month. John offered him our store and they’ve been meeting there ever since. I know that the conversation we had about the Kingdom Come group was what needed to happen so that John would be open to having FAST meetings at the store. It was beautiful.
But John and I continued to wrestle with our responsibility before God. Danny, I kept thinking about the message you had done a while back on John 6:29 (NIV) “Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” I loved that message, but I kept thinking, there must be more than just believing. What is my responsibility? Don’t I really need to be a “human doing” instead of just a “human being”?
Then Easter came. Joshua was the paper boy for Clinton Twp’s Easter service, so I was at all 7 services that weekend. During the last service on Saturday, Steve Andrews was speaking and quoting a verse that was used at a Lacey Holsworth’s funeral. I don’t even remember what the verse was, but what I do remember very clearly was that God spoke to me while Steve was quoting the verse. It was a moment of Aeon Zoe. It was beautiful. I came home and told John about it.
That night, before I went to bed, I read a page or two in a book about contemplative prayer, which “just happened” 🙂 to say that moments in God’s presence couldn’t be predicted and also were not a reward for good behavior. That was it! That was the final piece of the puzzle. I couldn’t MAKE a moment of Aeon Zoe happen. It was a gift from God. All I could was to be available for Him. I shared this with John Sunday morning and he completely agreed. I felt like we had come full circle and so did he. Ah, it was over. Thank you, Jesus!
So, now we come to my urgent questions and deepest needs. You have no idea how many times I’ve wanted to write to you over the last couple months. Every message you’ve given has stirred all of this in me as you’ve spoken about the Life that God wants for us, especially your message on Submission a month or so ago. I’ve been on your Facebook wall about ready to send you a message or on email about ready to send a note. But I didn’t. I don’t know why. But now that this is all over, now is when you put your email address up on the big screen on Wednesday night and ask us all to email you. Crazy! No, it’s not crazy, it’s just patience. I needed God to speak to me and I needed to be patient. And He did.
I guess my urgent question and deepest need has more to do with what I’ve read over these months. I’ve read through most of the 4 gospels, really focusing on what Jesus said and in what context. What stands out to me more than anything else is how Jesus reacts to religious piety. He got in the face of the Pharisees, specifically healing people on the Sabbath (even people who weren’t asking to be healed!) in front of the Pharisees to make a point. He used the ceremonial washing jars to make water into wine, not the empty wine jars. He took the time to make a whip to drive the money changers out of the temple. He told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. He spoke harshly to the Pharisees, calling them to love God out of thankfulness, not duty.
My deepest need is to know that I’m not one of these Pharisees, doing what I do because I should, not because I am thankful for the breath that God has given me and the Life that Jesus wants to live through me. For the 20 years I’ve been at Kensington, I’ve been looking for whatever it is that I’m “supposed to do” to serve God, and I believe that He is speaking to me about my husband and my kids. I believe that all that He requires of me is to allow Him to live through me to give His love to my husband my kids. He wants me to take everything He has taught me and for me to teach that to my kids. He has so much that He wants to do through my kids. He wants them to grow up without the codependent chains that I had, free to impact the world for Him without agenda.
Oh, “without agenda”. That’s a whole other question. What would the world be like if we had no agenda? If we could help one another not because we’re Christians or Jews or Muslims or Democrats or Republicans or Presbyterians or Baptists, male or female, slave or free, but just because we’re humans? Gosh, I think that’s the beauty of Spring Serve at Kensington and of Lori Naseef’s non-profit. ProvideInc gets groups of volunteers together with organizations who need volunteers, just long enough to accomplish their goals and move on to the next project. I saw this in Costa Rica last summer. We were getting ready to fly home and everyone was sad about leaving. Even though there were 57 of us, we had bonded like a much smaller family. We loved each other. But I kept telling everyone, “It is good for us to go home while we still love each other. If we stayed together too long, we would form into cliques and groups and we would cease to love one another. We would gossip and back-bite and it would get ugly. But right now, we love each other, and we’re going home. And we need to take the love we have for each other and for the people we served in Costa Rica and spread that all around our homes and neighborhoods and workplaces back home.”
So, my urgent question is, how do we impact the world without breaking down into selfish ambition and vain conceit? Jesus said that the world would know us by our love for one another. Overall, we haven’t done a very good job of that. We’ve done a much better job showing the world that we can act just like they act. The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life has taken us down and it’s possible to see more Christ-like behavior coming from religions that don’t acknowledge Christ as the Son of God. How do we turn it around? How do we live with one another without eventually hating one another? That’s my urgent question. How do we live as Jesus lived, pointing to the Father, and not to ourselves and to our pious acts of religious observance? We eat that apple every day that our focus is on the things that are pleasing to the eye, good for food and good for gaining wisdom. I eat that apple every day. I’m eating that apple right now as I write this. Let’s see if I can show Danny Cox how smart I am. 🙂 It’s all pride. Lord, show us Your ways and save us from ourselves.
Ok, that’s enough. And if you’ve gotten this far, thank you for reading. God bless you!
If you’ve gotten this far, THANK YOU! Here’s the service that I referred to at the top of this post. The whole service is wonderful (especially the interview with Weston Bradshaw), but if you want to see the part where Danny talks about our email conversation, that starts about 50 minutes into it: