What God can do in 10 years

We recently wrapped up a huge celebration of 10 years of God’s grace in Karis Church, and I realized that I spent so much time celebrating other people’s stories that I never shared my own.

It all began on a Monday morning, April 17, 2006, the day after Easter, as I read a news article about a new church in town that had its first public Gathering on Easter Sunday. At the time, my husband and I were pursuing membership at a church we loved, but the article intrigued me so much that I even poked around on this new church’s website. I remember being struck by the church’s values: truth, beauty, worship, community, mission, gospel, and mercy. I especially loved that beauty was included.

Fast forward two years to a Saturday night, January 2008. Tom and I found ourselves running Google searches – he on his laptop, me on the desktop computer – to decide on a church to attend the next day. We had, through much prayer and not lightly, separated from the church that had originally welcomed us to Columbia and were now ready to find a church to call home. God had been at work in our hearts, helping us question and sift through what we believed the Bible taught. We had grown, but we had been hurt, and we had walls up between the world and between each other.

At some point in our internet searching, Tom asked me to check out a website he found at the top of page two in his Google search. The church name was unfamiliar, but as soon as the page loaded I remember getting excited – I know this church! I read about their first Sunday!

It feels weird to say we never looked back, but it’s true. Instead of that Sunday being the start of yet another long search for a church family, we never went anywhere else. Kevin, the lead pastor, encourages other men to preach at times, both to give him a break and to raise up new leaders. January being one of those times, it took three Sundays before we could hear Kevin preach. I also remember, very uncomfortably, leaving church on each of those three Sundays under conviction about sins I had allowed to control me and recognizing how distant my relationship with God had become.

Karis in Tiger Hotel

Karis Church Sunday Gathering in Tiger Hotel. c. 2010

It’s a little fuzzy to think back on those early days and what it was about Karis that made it home, but here are a few things I remember:

  • being warmly welcomed by Brian and Christina Weaver
  • the senior pastor wanting to have lunch with us
  • Rob’s contagious enthusiasm for the mission of Karis
  • that we were two of the oldest people in the room on Sundays!
  • that a group of mostly 20-somethings were so excited about the gospel and about sharing it with the culture around them
Decade of Grace Block Party

Westside Block Party

Fast forward again, to a Friday afternoon, April 2016. I can barely recognize that hard-hearted, secretly wayward girl who walked into the Tiger Hotel in January 2008, though there are still some of the same insecurities and fears, still the bent toward the same sins. God has done so much through the community of Karis to soften my heart. He has used people in the church to call me out on stuff and ask the tough questions to help me see where I need to change and grow. Through the preaching and teaching, I have been stretched in my faith, widened my view of God and his holiness along with deepening my perception of my own sin. My relationship with Tom has been strengthened, as people in the church have lovingly shown me where I have been selfish and unloving toward my husband. By being given some leadership opportunities, I have been humbled again and again.

There is nothing perfect about this church over any other church. We try, by God’s grace, to live lives that give him glory. It’s not easy. Community is messy, as they say. As my friend, Anne, said about Karis: “Not many churches have people…who will love you where you’re at, but also encourage you to not stay there and to deepen your relationship with the Lord.” I’m excited to think about spending the next 10 years in this lovingly invasive community.

Decade of Grace

Celebrating a Decade of Grace at the anniversary party

 

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Day 23: God’s grace is greater than my sin

I’d like to take you back in time a couple of years to share something I wrote on the weekend of Easter 2011.

candles

Friday night, minutes before the start of the Good Friday Gathering, Tom and I had a minor disagreement. Not even that, just a miscommunication really. He had to serve & the Gathering was about to begin, so we had to just drop it. Thanks to modern technology, we texted things out over the next 10 minutes and everything was fine by the time the service began.

But…

In the moments before that 10 minute window, I wallowed. My husband doesn’t care. Doesn’t he know I am already having a hard time with other issues and then he throws this at me? Around me I heard friends visiting with one another cheerily. No one cares. I am alone. It only took seconds before I saw the absurdity of my thoughts. How small and selfish and vain my heart is. In that instant, I was broken. Here I came to remember the suffering, agony, and shame that Jesus Christ experienced dying on the cross for the sins of the world, and here I proved yet again, why he died for me. I can’t even come to church and not sin! The truth rang loudly:  nothing I do is ever good enough, nothing I bring is ever worthy enough, nothing I say is powerful enough to forgive my sins, to cleanse me of the blood-guilt.

Here grace steps in. God, in his grace, offers me what I do not deserve and could never earn. God generously gives his son, the only one perfect sacrifice, to pay the debt I owe for my vile actions. Jesus willingly allowed himself to be crucified, for me. He rose again from the dead, for me.

This blows me away.

Bianca Olthoff posted (in 2011) about grace, at her blog, In the Name of Love. I would like you to watch this video she posted, and I encourage you to check out her blog (I’ve lost the link to her original post).

 

What hit me like a ton of bricks was his sentence, “I cannot pay my debt,” and the realization that my debt is as great as this man’s. No less atrocious in the eyes of a holy, pure, and righteous God. And I, too, am forgiven.

Doesn’t that just blow your mind?!

~~~

I’m reposting this today as part of the #write31days series, Crushing your Kingdoms. Click to read all posts in the series.

crushing your kingdoms

His Peerless Worth

This song has been on repeat for the last day. Different bits of the lyrics hit me each time.

…Joyful choose the better part…

…Let his peerless worth constrain thee…

…What can strip the seeming beauty from the idols of the earth?…the sight of peerless worth…

It’s so easy to focus on things of this world, even good things, and take our eyes off that which is peerless worth. God is beyond compare. There is none comparable; no one to be considered his peer.

And suddenly the things that have occupied my time and attention seem flat and shallow compared to his peerless worth. Soak in that as you listen to this song.

 

Hast thou heard Him, seen Him, known Him?
Is not thine a captured heart?
Chief among ten thousand own Him;
Joyful choose the better part.

Captivated by His beauty,
Worthy tribute haste to bring;
Let His peerless worth constrain thee,
Crown Him now unrivaled King.

What can stripped the seeming beauty
From the idols of the earth?
Not a sense of right or duty,
But the sight of peerless worth.

’Tis that look that melted Peter,
’Tis that face that Stephen saw,
’Tis that heart that wept with Mary,
Can alone from idols draw.

peerlessworth

Day 30: Rest in Your Mess

Photo credit: Jennifer @ http://www.jenbh.blogspot.com/

I’m a mess.

I stay up too late at night so I’m groggy and cranky when the alarm goes off – IF I hear the alarm go off. I run late – EVERY.WHERE. I lost a lot of weight, got new clothes, then gained the weight back and now nothing fits right. I put off emptying the dishwasher until the sink is full of dishes. “Luckily?,” I have a cat who can’t get it through her thick skull that she’s not allowed on the kitchen counters, so I have to keep the counters clean or she’d be licking anything left on the counter. I nag and complain and am rude to my husband when I think he should be home helping me clean. I get sidetracked by Facebook or Pinterest or blog reading instead of doing something constructive. I procrastinate. I’m jealous. I get angry. I covet my neighbor’s…well, everything.

Let’s just stop there for now. I could go on, but we all get the point – I’m a mess.

You’re a mess, too. I don’t mean to sound rude, but you know it’s true. Even if you don’t let anyone see it, you know it.

We are all messes. That should actually be comforting. Because God meets us in our mess – we don’t have to clean up our act before He wants us or before He will accept us. Romans 5:6-8 says:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Weak = messes. Sinners = messes.

We don’t have to hide our messes from one another in community, though, pretending we are already perfect. God is perfecting us as we grow closer to Him, but we’ll never be absolutely perfect this side of eternity. Pretending to be so is really only adding to the mess.

Be willing to show your mess to your friends. Be real about your mess in community. It only creates more opportunity for grace to abound (Romans 5-6) or, as Mary DeMuth put it, it’s where grace will find a home.

Rest in your mess because God shows His love for you in your mess. Then grow in grace, releasing more and more of your mess into His hands, allowing Him to work in you. My prayer for you from Philippians 1:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace…And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Can you believe it’s Day 30 of the series on Rest?

31Days_Rest_thumb

Day 25: Truth to Rest Upon

Yesterday, I let you peek inside a dark corner of my heart. And thank you to everyone who commented, both on the blog and off.

Secret Garden

What was purposefully missing was the wrap up. The promises. The blessings. The hope. And I was so encouraged that so many of the comments brought those to light.

God is always with us. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.

Everyone feels alone at some time. Our sin which separates us from God, also separates us from each other.

Comparing ourselves to others comes from hearts prone to sin. Hearts that are deceitful and don’t tell us the truth.

There is grace for when we fail others. There is grace when we fail ourselves. There is grace when we fail God.

Light inside the garden

These are truths to rest upon.

What other truths of God do you need to rest on right now?

Today is day 25 of 31 Days of Rest. If you missed any days, click here to go back to the beginning.

Day 17: The Peace That Seems Impossible

impossible_peaceWhile talking to a friend today, I made a comment about how we needed peace when it seemed impossible. Immediately what came to mind was the phrase, “the peace that passes understanding,” because that’s essentially what I was asking for. We needed peace; though we couldn’t even begin to understand how that could happen.

Here’s the phrase in context (emphases mine):

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.  — Philippians 4:4-9

This peace doesn’t make sense because it is a peace that doesn’t come naturally to us. It is a peace not of this earth. It’s the peace of God.

Recently, there was a shooting not even a mile from my house. And the news anchors were telling the residents to stay inside their homes while the police sorted things out. Immediately, I went into panic mode. All these fears and worries jumped to the surface. In an instant, any shred of peace that I had was gone.

If I am trusting myself or my own strength and endeavors, my peace will fail me. If my trust is in an Almighty God, His peace will endure. His peace will last even when everything around me seems hopeless. The peace that doesn’t make sense – which surpasses all understanding.

In searching for verses that talk about peace, I was struck by how often Paul uses peace in the salutation of his letters in the New Testament. Repeatedly, he says, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, Colossians 1:2, 1 Thessalonians 1:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, 1 Timothy 1:2, 2 Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:4, Philemon 1:3). It’s clearly important enough for Paul to mention it in every letter to every church.

We talk about grace a lot in the church, and that’s good. But how often do we talk about peace? Perhaps it’s time to pray prayers for peace over the harried mom, the hard-working husband, the stressed-out student, the stretched-thin business woman, the worn retiree.

I pray that you find rest in this impossible peace, the peace of God. I’m borrowing these prayers from Paul for you:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.  — Romans 15:13

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.  — 2 Thessalonians 3:16

31Days_Rest

 

Grace: A Gift for Easter and Every Day

Grace blows me away.

I can’t fathom the fullness of it. I can’t manufacture grace for my own failings, but there’s sufficient grace for whatever depths to which I’ve fallen.

Jon Acuff posted this on Twitter today, “The only thing I’ve found bigger than the depth of my own sin is the cross Christ died on for it.”

And as Tracee Persiko said so well in her Good Friday blog post, “I am feeling the weight of grace today. I am feeling the weight that grace extended to me by God was unmerited, undeserved, and unearn-able.” (more…)

Grace and the Hope Diamond

This post starts with two diamond stories. The first is when Tom proposed to me and gave me a beautiful solitaire. After we picked out my wedding band, I had to turn my ring over to the jewelers to solder the two pieces together. To be romantically silly, Tom bought me a plastic ring to wear from one of those gumball machines. I think it cost a quarter. I wore it with pride, despite its cheap construction, because it still indicated my choice to marry Tom. We ended up having some fun using it during our wedding rehearsal, along with a gigantic “diamond ring” keychain I previously acquired.


Don't you dare laugh at my big hair - it was the 90's!
Wedding Rehearsal fun

The second story has to do with the Hope Diamond. (more…)

  • Hi, I'm Janice. I'm part bookworm and part creative. I love both science and music (and the science of music). I'm stumbling around trying to grow closer to God. Click the photo to read more about me.

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