“Blessed are the Poor in Spirit”

Here is a short devotional I gave tonight at Evening Prayer at our house tonight.  May it be an encouragement to some.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”

 I wonder if you’ve experienced your faith like I have.  A faith that began with grace, but then turned into something else entirely.  A faith that began with the recognition of utter failure to measure up.  A faith that found joy in the freedom of letting go.  But then, at some point, that faith changed.

It turned into a faith in yourself and what you could do for God.  And then your joy was replaced with guilt and shame or maybe even apathy because you were so tired from the pattern of trying harder, followed by failure, followed by guilt and shame, followed by a renewed desire to ‘try harder’, repeat ad nauseum.

I wonder if you’ve ever been at a point in your walk with God when you say; “I shouldn’t struggle with that anymore”…

I give you permission to be honest about who you are.   I give you permission to embrace all of yourself, even the nasty bits.  You can be honest about your pride, your anger, your greed, your lust, your envy, your vanity, your gluttony.  All your imperfections.

I give you permission to stop hiding.  I give you permission to bring that thing you do in the secret place, that drives you into deeper darkness, out into the light.  You know, that thing you do, or believe, or love, that secret thing that if anyone ever found out they would be surprised….I give you permission to bring that into the light.

I give you permission, the right to embrace all of who you are right now in this present moment.  I give you permission to let go of trying to be what you think people perceive you to be and just embrace who you are.  John Calvin says that “Nearly all the wisdom which we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”  I give you permission to know yourself and embrace all of who you are.  And when you can do this…you truly will be a fortunate one.

Because fortunate is a better way to speak of someone who is blessed.  Fortunate is the person that embraces Jesus’ portrait of a disciple.  Fortunate are the ones who have the courage to live into the portrait that Jesus paints.  And the first stroke of this portrait of a disciple is the stroke of spiritual poverty.

“Blessed are the Poor in Spirit; for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”

Let me say it a different way;

 ”Fortunate are the ones who can acknowledge their spiritual bankruptcy, because they will experience the loving reign of God now.”

Jesus says that we are the fortunate ones when we can own our spiritual bankruptcy.  We are fortunate ones when we can acknowledge that we’ve gone to withdraw some of our spiritual riches and found that the account is empty.  I’m lucky, Jesus gave me the gift of my addiction.  God used my addiction to show me my pride.  God uses my continued longing to escape to show me how powerless I am and how little control I have in this life.  As a recovering alcoholic, I’ve had the joy of understanding what it means to be spiritually bankrupt, to be powerless.

The first step of recovery in a 12 step program is this; ‘admitting that I am powerless over alcohol – and that my life has become unmanageable’.  Jesus is inviting us to embrace and to return to this step of powerlessness, this place of spiritual poverty.

Jesus is inviting us to admit again and to admit often that we are powerless and that our life is unmanageable.  When we do this, we live into our membership in the community of fortunate ones.  The community of people that have found freedom in letting go, being honest, ending resistance, taking off the mask.

Unfortunate are the ones that must keep up appearances.  Enslaved are the ones that have to try really hard to keep people from seeing their imperfections that ALL of us have.  Exhausted are the ones who live behind the veneer of ‘fine’.

Here in this church, we are not interested in cultivating a people of good intentions, because Jesus doesn’t want our good intentions.  We’re interested in walking with brothers and sisters who fall before an ever merciful God.  Who confess with all their heart this line from ‘Come Thou Font of Every Blessing”; Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love”.  

Our first step in the kingdom, and one that stays with us as we walk is a step of surrender.  Daily we say; “we’re broke, we have nothing to bring”.  This  transparency, this vulnerability that I give you permission to have is actually a courageous way of walking with God. It is the doorway into an experience of the Kingdom now.

Stop hiding.  You don’t need to anymore.  That is what our first parents did in the garden, they hid in shame.  But there is a new Adam.  And he says to us;

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  – Mt 11:28-30

A new adam has come, he has come and though he was rich, he has made himself poor for our sake.  He did so in order that you and I could embrace our poverty and walk courageously into the Kingdom where He reigns.

Jesus Christ, Son of David, have mercy on us…we are sinners.

Five Things (plus 2) I Know To Be True…About Church Planting

Based on my last six months of preparing for this coming Sunday (our first meeting) here are five things (plus 2) I know to be true about church planting:
  • Mistakes, and lots of them, are to be expected
  • You can never ‘over’ communicate and you nearly always ‘mis’ or ‘under’ communicate
  • Expect ideas to develop, grow and change.  What I said today about ‘a’ may sound different in three months… I think that’s a good thing
  • What you think the church will be and what the church actually becomes are usually different
  • People will disagree
  • You will be surprised by how God brings people
  • There’s always a temptation to ‘market’

Core Team Training To Begin on July 1st

Eventbrite - Riverwest Anglican Church Core Team Meetings
Church planting as a possible ministry was introduced to me between my 1st and 2nd year of seminary in 2004.  It seemed like a quaint idea but not something I would be doing.  It’s been eight years since I heard my first sermon/talk on the nature of church planting.  God is patient and His timing is perfect.

Over the past six months, I’ve either met with many for coffee, dinner, a walk, or an information meeting.  You’ve had the chance to hear the vision that God is beginning to grow in me and now also Ryan and Bliss Boettcher.  Many of you have expressed interest in this work.  Some of you have mild interest, some of you have deep interest.

On July 1st, we will hold our first core team meeting.  You are invited to join this foundational team.  As I’ve stated in some form or another the core team is the foundational group that will help shape the strategy of how this church will reach Riverwest.  The goal of our core group will be:

“to devote ourselves to an examination of the vision and values that this neighborhood based church will have, to discuss the different ‘people’ groups (tribes) in Riverwest and what types of questions they are asking, and to learn what it means to be both a missional church and an Anglican Church.”

As you can see, there is a lot of ground to cover.  It will likely take more than three months to make it through it all, but once we have done this foundational work we will be more informed, hopefully more excited, and definately more equipped for the work of ministry in the neighborhood of Riverwest.

This core group is not an open group.  We will need to have some consistency in who is coming so that old material will not have to be revisited and because new material will likely build on what has preceded it.

It is essential that you commit to making each of the core team meetings.  As much as it is humanly possible, we will need 100% participation by everyone for all the meetings.  That being said, we realize that summer plans have been made and things do come up.  We’ve limited the core team meetings in the summer to the first and third Sundays of July and August so that you know exactly what days you will need to be present.  We hope this will eliminate a number of absences.

Here are the dates and times for the core team meetings:

  • July 1st, 3-7pm at the COA (909 E. Garfield St, Milwaukee WI  53212)
  • July 15th, 1-5pm at the COA  (909 E. Garfield St, Milwaukee WI  53212)
  • August 5th, 3-7pm at the COA  (909 E. Garfield St, Milwaukee WI  53212)
  • August 19th, 3-7pm at the COA  (909 E. Garfield St, Milwaukee WI  53212)

Eventbrite - Riverwest Anglican Church Core Team Meetings

A Little Teaser…

Hey everyone.  Bliss Lemmon has been graciously rockin’ out some video on our thoughts about the church plant.  Check it out!

Riverwest Church Plant Teaser from Bliss Lemmon on Vimeo.

Jesus Was Not a Commuter

Michael Frost speaks of the Faith of Leap…being willing to go against our cultures idolatrous love affair with ‘safety and security’.  This video from a recent conference is convicting:

Do you have eyes to see the city this way?  Do you have ears to hear this prophet?  God help me see, let me listen, and let me leap.