Quiet Waters

When we are walking through difficult seasons we often conjure up images from Psalm 23 and cry out to God: “…lead me beside quiet waters!”  Serenity is the goal when life is filled with busy-ness, chaos, striving, and conflict. These things have inertia and it is difficult to run at 100 miles an hour and downshift to 15.  I have found that, when God leads me to quiet waters and gives me rest, my mind is still pacing, I am unnecessarily battle-ready, and don’t know what to do. Think of those in the military who come off deployment and have to re-acclimate to civilian life. It takes time to adjust and to re-engage in “normal” life.

Over the last few years God has taken me through a challenging season and now He has stilled me. I am able to focus on 4 things instead of 40. I am not sure how often you get seasons like this but want to rest well while I am here. I do not want fill my life back up with empty things-to-do nor do I want to become idle and lazy in the midst of the calm. So, I asked God, “what do You want me to do?” My mind was drawn to a book I read years ago by Bruce Wilkinson called The Dream Giver. Wilkinson wasn’t writing a fine piece of biblical exegesis but a beautiful parable that maps out the journey of faith for those who follow Jesus.

In chapter 5 the protagonist gets out of the barren “WasteLands” (which are never a waste by the way), the “Dream Giver” brings him into the “Sanctuary.” Wilkinson writes:

“Come to the water, he heard the Dream Giver say.
Ahead of him in the clearing he saw a small waterfall that fed a pool of still waters. He walked to the edge, then slipped into the purest water he had ever seen. He floated and splashed, sending diamonds of light spraying through the air
Time passed. But it didn’t seem to pass at all.
When (he) emerged from the pool, the last traces of the WasteLand had been washed away.” [1]

We often take remnants of the Wasteland (the dirt of frustration/bitterness, the thistles of bad habits, the sunburn of anger, the pride, striving, doubt, cynicism, arrogance, etc, etc, etc…) and we bring it out with us when we leave.  God invites us all into His quiet streams to listen, to rest, to heal, and to be washed clean of everything that doesn’t come from Him. Shedding these things can only happen when God brings your awareness to the wounds, to the walls you’ve put up, and to the sins you’ve committed so that you can heal, tear walls down, and confess. I have been asking God to speak to me and surface the things He sees that I don’t. This has been difficult but restorative work to do.

Embracing a season of “quiet streams” means sitting in the pools of God’s word and allowing it to wash over us.   2 Timothy 3 says the scripture is useful for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” It’s hard to believe that moving forward means stopping and listening but God’s word is so powerful and pure.

There is an art to accepting the Quiet Streams that is both difficult and therapeutic but worth every part it has to offer because, when you do emerge, you are cleansed from the remnants of desert with a renewed spirit, a fortified strength, and the wisdom of the WasteLands to continue into the next leg of the journey.

[1] Bruce Wilkinson. The Dream Giver: Following Your God Given Destiny (Multnoma, Colorado Springs, CO ). Page 43.
Advertisements

Walk With You

What an incredible expression of unity from The Village Church!  I love their ability to step into the difficult conversations, appropriately challenge instead of running from them or be unnecessarily inflammatory.  This kind of humility and repentance will be the future of the church…everything else will burn like chaff.

Lyrics:

Our sovereign King gave a dream to Martin Luther King Jr.
A concept so beautiful hard to belive it could be true
But that dream was just a glimpse, like a flicker in the night
From the northern star pointing to where the freedom is
This dream it spoke of revelations of a nation
That no longer operated under a hierarchy of different races
Justice, unity, equality were realized
Like you could see it with your real eyes
Wake up! We’re so far from that in real life
And right now you and I are in this real fight
There is work to be done, starting with the household of faith
Created, saved to lead the way, to hesitate would be a grave mistake
(I’m sayin’)

Broken mirrors give us all a false perception
Broken systems teaches us all false lessons
And the evil one so crafty in all of his deception
To keep us divided is to keep all of his lies protected
So you can’t see that your treated as superior
While I’m left fighting off the lie that I’m inferior
We’re the precious children born into this world where lies are taught as truth
Father, we need our minds to be renewed by You
Cause it’s a daily fight to remind myself that I am worthy
When microaggressions lie behind every other corner lurking
We been hurting for a long time, weary souls
Why’s it seem like my brothers in Christ can’t understand it though?
(I don’t know)

Oh Lord. I didn’t know what I didn’t know
Looking through my own eyes
But now I know what I didn’t know
Help me see. Help me see through your eyes

I will walk with you no matter what it takes
Keep in step with truth by the gospel of grace

Our God is a God of justice on the cross that was displayed
If we live for just us, we don’t do justice to His name
It’s like a shoulder shrug at our debt that Christ already paid
Like saying Lord we’ll keep the comfort and you can keep the change
But imagine every tribe and tongue singing God how great thou art
Then I look at my sister and say God how great is thou art
And she can look at me and proclaim the same
Because we’ve learned to stop comparing and start celebrating
That we’re all His workmanship created for amazing things
Distinctly different on purpose, equally made in the Imago Dei
We won’t be perfect ’til He returns to make it right
But how we steward what He’s given us, thats up to you and I
(let’s walk)

Transitions

22528188_10155587845637870_2213015388124319760_n

Hello, we are entering into a new season as a family and we wanted to send out an update to our friends and family.

As many of you know, our family spent six years in New Orleans after Katrina devastated the gulf south. During our time there, we helped a church plant, worked with mission organizations, and partnered with a house church network. We developed a love for the city, a passion for diversity in the church, and a desire to advance God’s Kingdom in missional formats.  However fruitful, it proved to be difficult to balance bi-vocational ministry initiatives and sustain our growing family. In 2012, we moved back to the Phoenix area to accept the Young Adults Pastor position at Faith Bible Church and, since then, Erik has become the Pastor over all adult ministries. It was helpful in stabilizing our family which is now six people strong! During our time here, Erik went back to school at Fuller Seminary. It’s been a long but rewarding journey and he will be completing his Masters of Divinity this Spring.

As we end our time with Faith Bible Church, we have been praying about our next season of ministry over the last year and asking God to lead us to a place where our passions and gifts are best utilized. God has used the last few years to affirm Erik’s gifts of preaching and leading in a local church context. Though we are not sure where we are heading, we trust that Jesus is preparing us for this new endeavor.

At this point, we are anticipating remaining in Arizona and prayerfully considering the options that God opens up. We ask for your prayers as we move forward into the next chapter of life and ministry!

– Thien family

The Weight of Glory

lewis.jpg
C.S. Lewis

On June 8, 1941, Lewis took to the pulpit at Oxford’s University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. He delivered a prolific and powerful sermon called The Weight of Glory.  The sermon was masterfully crafted from both sides of Lewis’ mind: the imaginative and the reasoned. The room was electric as Lewis delivered his sermon to a packed house in a time when the pressure off WWII was bearing down upon the staff and students on campus.

The Weight of Glory wasn’t simply a lecture of biblical content, rather, it was a poet’s creative account of biblical truth as it interacts with the longings and desires of humanity. He designed it like an architect to inspire the hearts of the listeners to feel heaven calling out to them and to bring it into their daily life. Every detail of the sermon was intentional and every word was precisely chosen. Lewis wanted his congregation to come to the realization that all earthly objects, albeit good, are false in their attempt to ultimately satisfy the human longing or desire. Instead, they are merely symbols serving as a medium or vehicle to point us toward something greater – something that ultimately satisfies the cravings of the soul. Lewis didn’t want them to understand their longing; he wanted them to feel it.

You can get a copy of the sermon in PDF here.

You can listen to a dramatic performance of the sermon here.

His words were palpable and had a sensory effect on those in the room. Alister McGrath writes, “his 1941 sermon “The Weight of Glory,” which speaks of this desire as “the scent of a flower we have not found” or “the echo of a tune we have not heard.” [1] Considering the words and images invoked by Lewis’ descriptions of desire and glory, it’s easy to see that he wanted the audience to get caught up in his “spell.” He wants to cultivate their hunger for heavenly things so they would get swept up in wanting to satisfy their craving while listening to his words. Just as their mouth was watering for the reality of heaven’s otherworldly appeal, Lewis throws a twist into the plot! When the romance of his visionary prowess is at its height, Lewis snaps the congregation back into reality by turning them toward “Monday.” His transition is abrupt, “Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning.” [2]

It is as if he was attempting to use his words to create an object lesson out of the sermon. He was seducing the congregation by invoking their imaginations to see a glimpse of heaven and to taste a morsel of the heavenly feast, only to sweep their feet out from underneath them with the reality that nothing on earth can satisfy. The aroma of such imaginative wandering was meant to stay with the listeners as they went back into the earthly realm. How should the weight of glory affect our lives here on earth?

Lewis leads us into a perspective shift. As a people who are far too easily satisfied by earthly offerings, may we heed the words of Lewis and raise our standards to heavenly heights. May we place our hope in that which is everlasting, immortal, and eternal.

[1] McGrath. C. S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet (Tyndale House Publishers, 2013). Page 290.

[2] McGrath [224].

 

 

Learning From Others

 

shutterstock_84668287-2.jpgIn the past few years I have had the privilege of going back to school to finish my Masters of Divinity at Fuller Seminary.  One of the most powerful aspects of the school is its commitment to diversity in the areas of
ethnicity, gender, and nationality.  This has created such an incredible learning environment and given me the opportunity to learn from professors, other students, and textbooks that have a wide array of perspectives. It’s easy to become culturally introverted and caught up in the orbit of societal circles that are already in agreement with our own viewpoints. It’s incredibly rare to find ourselves naturally drawn to this depth of diversity; I am glad that Fuller has pushed me to think, interact, and learn by venturing into territory I wouldn’t have gone otherwise.

As an American Christian, I think we have an incredibly introverted subculture. America has become so accustomed to being a global leader that, at some point, we stopped listening to others around the globe. The same is true for American Christianity.  We positioned ourselves (at least in our own minds) as the authority and stopped listening to other expressions of Jesus followers around the world. This leaves us open to blindspots in our attempt to live out the Christian life and the likelihood that we could become unbalanced in our doctrinal emphasis.

Our Christian subculture is still coming to terms with, and may be in denial of, the reality that Christendom in America is declining [1]. All the while, the Global South is witnessing explosive increase in the number of committed Christ followers [2]. We are past due for some global interaction and ecclesiological engagement.  In order to do this, though, we must surrender our pride and sit at the feet of our brothers and sisters who are gaining missional ground throughout the rest of the world.  We must become learners and listeners of the Global South but, I suspect, we will need a little push to break us out of our comfortable orbit. May we start with a simple prayer: “Lord, give us a push.”

Notes:

  • [1] John S. Dickerson. The Great Evangelical Recession.
  • [2] Philip Jenkins. The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity.

Happy Reformation Day

2000fall_martin-luther-the-fearful-philosopher_1920x1080.jpg

It is the last few moments of the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. I am considering the lasting impression of the Great Reformation and the 95 Theses presented by Martin Luther 500 years ago, it makes me wonder what kinds of reform might be necessary today. All good things need course correction from time to time and we shouldn’t act as if we are the exception to the principle.

Luther wrote, “I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, Self.” He was well aware of his own capacity to sin and feared the outcome of indulging his sins. May we be aware of our own capacity and never afraid to pray the prayer of David in Psalm 139…

“Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting!

Lord, where have we gone astray? Where are we blind? What corrections do we need to make? Search us, try us, expose us and lead us in the way everlasting.

Today’s Moravian Prayer

moravian-seal.jpg“Fill our hearts today with the knowledge that we have a purpose to fulfill, as we come to your throne asking for the confidence and the courage to complete the tasks set before us. As we close another month in this year, help us to walk in your deep love with our brothers and sisters. Bless us we pray. Amen.” May 31,  2016