Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is quite a work of art. His theology expressed through creativity resurrected a made-to-be-too-familiar story into something gruesome, gripping, and gorgeous. For those who realize that it is more than a story, they can’t help but watch it and in some way be disturbed toward surrender and compelled to love. A realization for many. A renewal for some.
The suffering of Christ expressed so much of God’s character and intention. That He is love, willing to give up even His own Son. That He intended for us to know life, even if we choose death (so He chose it that we could choose life again). That He knows how it feels when something is “not fair” (what was fair for Jesus about the cross?). That difficult does not equal bad. That renewal blossoms from life given up.
Paul wrote in Philippians 3 that if we get serious about wanting to know Christ personally and the power of His resurrection, then we also have to be okay with the fact that the prequel of resurrection may include suffering and death. But again, renewal blossoms from life given up.
Amy Grant sings the song “Hard Times” on her new album. The bridge describes “hard times” in life in the following way:
making you measure what you’re made of; helping you galvanize the love.
Great lyric. True, if and only if we surrender MY LIFE to gain HIS LIFE. Otherwise, bitterness will be galvanized in our hearts rather than love. Why? Because the life WE WANT will be affected by those “hard times” that come to everyone. So we will grip more tightly to what remains and gripe about how hard times are. We will become bitter. And renewal won’t blossom. Instead, inwardness and purposelessness and ultimately death will be galvanized.
We are at a galvanizing moment as a church family. Westpoint Church turned 6 February 15th this year. Those first 6 years have had both victories and hard times. Many choices have been made, both by those listening for direction and those deciding level of commitment. The emphasis continues – “be the church. LIVE SENT.” And many of us are tired. Renewal is needed. Some may be wondering, “What has really taken root here? What have we really accomplished?”
That is a very fair question. Very fair. I will admit I ask it, too. While I am so very grateful for what these first 6 years have held, I so long for more. Instead of me giving you an optimist’s resume for the past or an optimist’s outlook for the future, how about a few questions and thoughts:
1 _ has togetherness and sentness taken root?
2 _ may we be a church of sent groups, who follow Jesus together, pray together, connect together, serve together, and learn and live His ways together.
3 _ what matters more to us? the “lost” of our community or the “saved” shopping churches?
4 _ may we have the same heart that Jesus has for the lost – a willingness to leave 99 for the 1.
5 _ has more life blossomed out of the life and sacrifice of Westpoint?
6 _ may we give more – giving as though limited by our own capacity but as though we have access to God’s abundance.
7 _ what are you choosing to commit to if you are still trying to decide – a mission to be the church or a church whose mission is to serve you?
8 _ we will reap what we sow. So, may we sow love – toward each other and toward our community, measuring only how we cultivate and trusting God for His Kingdom outcome.
I am confessing to you this – I NEED RENEWAL. I have become distracted. Not from wanting to live sent or grow in togetherness, but from the energy and focus I need to keep giving up life into relationships so that what we must cultivate is cultivated. Relationships. Surrender. Togetherness. Sentness. Love. We cannot focus on preserving a 501c3 called “Westpoint.” We must be focused on being daily renewed to follow Jesus, love as He loves, and cultivate His love into every person we encounter everywhere we go. God will grow His church as we plant and water.
Then, and only then, will we actually know Christ personally, experience His resurrection power, and yes – even experience His sufferings possibly unto death.
But out of life given up blossoms renewal. And there are people already a part of the Westpoint family who desperately need renewal. Furthermore, there are people throughout West Orange County who desperately need renewal. Even furthermore, there are people around our world who desperately need renewal as they face injustices beyond our imagination, while we continue to shop churches and figure out what’s best for me.
What’s best is for me to surrender finding what’s best for me and instead take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me (Philippians 3) – to know Him and the power of His resurrection, and to share with the others the power of His resurrection through sacrificial love, cultivating His life into the hard times and hopelessness of our world.
Lord, I repent of being distracted. Please help me to do more than say I want to know You and Your ways. Please help me to experience the power of Your resurrection daily, even if it includes suffering. Please help me to lead my own family in Your ways. Please help our Westpoint family to surrender to know You and learn and live Your ways in loving togetherness and in abandoned sentness.