Sunday, August 8, 2010

Christ Chapel

Sunday morning started off the best way possible: 9:15 service at Christ Chapel.

Ted Kitchens is an amazing pastor. He gets the point of scriptures across with wisdom and humor. Not flashy shows and "hip" clothing. Contemporary worship has the potential to draw people in, or else make a mockery of everything church stands for. It's a fine line, but Christ Chapel has always been solidly on the correct side.  Here's a video of everything CCBC is not:

Kind of funny, but kind of not. This is all too common in today's churches and it's part of the reason I STILL haven't found a church up here. But being back there made me realize I need a Godly community in my life again, even if it can't meet the standards CCBC set for me.

Anyway, Ted's opening prayer started with Matthew 11:28 saying, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." I've certainly been weary and burdened lately, even though half my burdens are self-imposed (I'm working on that).

When I drove into Ft. Worth Saturday and saw that oh-so-familiar stretch of I-30 between University Drive and Hulen Street, tears of JOY spilled down my face. I suddenly felt 30 pounds lighter, like a weight had been lifted off my chest, like I'd been holding my breath for 10 months and could finally exhale. But during Ted's prayer, I realized that God said, "come to ME," not "come to Texas." (As much as all native Texans would love that interpretation).

After the prayer, a Zig Ziglar quote came up on the screen: "Every problem carries a seed of an equivalent or greater benefit."  Problem: I haven't adjusted to KC yet.  Benefit: Yet to be determined. But I won't find it if I don't start looking for it!

The sermon (click here to see the whole thing) was called "The Temple, the Tower, the Tree, and the Truth" and covered Luke 13:1-9. The "tree" part is what spoke to me the most:
Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?' " 'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.' "
Justice (which we all deserve) would be cutting the tree down after 3 fruitless years. Mercy (which God surprisingly offers us even though we don't deserve it) is allowing one more year. But not just another year of borrowed time (avoiding disaster)... one more year to reach its ultimate goal: a fruitful life.  

Even thought the tree currently shows no sign of bearing fruit, the owner is willing to take responsibility and put forth the extra effort to fertilize the tree.  2 Peter 3:9 says, "The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance." 

Even though I deserve punishment, and have been ignorant of God this year, He is giving me time. Time in which I can put forth the extra effort to enrich my own life, which has been given to me for a short while. If it was all about justice, I'd be cut down instantly. But fortunately, God is all about mercy, and that's exactly what I need.

However, I can't continue to live on borrowed time. I need to work toward the goal of fruitfulness. Luke 3:8-9 instructs us to "Bear fruits worthy of repentance....Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (3:8-9).

Luke 6:43 says, "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit." My rotten attitude lately stems from rotten roots. It sounds humorous, but right now I'm a "bad tree." How can I expect to bear good fruit?  It's like the saying, "change creates change." (And then I think of the Maya Angelou quote, "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.") To really change my attitude, I must change my heart.

If I ONLY focus on God's justice and mercy in this passage, I'm missing the bigger point. That point is that in gratitude I have the responsibility to repent. And by repenting, I can witness the startling mercy of God.  Our God is a God who will judge, make no mistake about it, but one who can be persuaded to grant a little more time to his children. Time in which we can repent.

Ted points out that repentance is not: remorse, resolution, a sorrowful feeling, penance, an effort to atone, reform, or turning a new leaf. 

Repentance is...

1. A change of attitude. When the prodigal son came to his senses, he said, "I will set out and go back to my father..." Luke 15:17-18. We must change out mind about God, ourselves, and our needs.

2. A change of affection. We must admit that we have sinned and are no longer worthy to be called God's children (Luke 15:18-19). We must start loving the things God loves.

3. A change of actions. This is always my personal stumbling block. Isn't it easier to just do what you've always done? But taking the same road to nowhere won't magically end up where I want it to just because I want it enough. I have to get off the couch and take steps in the right direction. I can't presume on God's kindness, letting that be an excuse for failing to change my own heart and embrace God's mercy.
"Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" Romans 2:4
Just because I want to blab on and on, and jam up your computer screen with too much data, here's a video of one of my favorite songs. It's called "When God Ran." After hearing it, you'll want to run to God, too. I can't believe I didn't hear this song until a college retreat!

Thank you, Ted, for this kick in the pants! It's exactly what I needed to hear after 10 months of fruitless whining.

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