Friday, January 26, 2007

THE DAY I STOPPED HATING THE CHURCH


I've had so many God-encounters in Alaska that I could write a book about them. (And maybe someday I will!) One of the more significant events was the day I stopped hating the church.
It happened the summer of 2002. Greg had recently resigned from the church he had pastored for three years in Central Oregon. It had been the third in a string of disastrous church experiences, and we were done with the whole pastoral ministry thing. Life was too short to live in that kind of turmoil!
But then a friend of ours, an elder at the community church in Homer, Alaska, called and asked if Greg would be willing to come and just preach for the summer (while the current pastor tended to his commercial fishing business). No strings attached, we were told. The whole family could come and live in the parsonage while Greg preached for the summer. We could stay on if we wanted--or we could head back to Oregon come fall.
We've always loved Homer--it had been a favorite fishing/vacation spot for us when we lived in Anchorage. The kids were all thrilled to go--and so was I, as long as I wasn't expected to be involved in church stuff. I just wanted to hike and fish, lick my wounds and enjoy my family.
But God had other plans.
I'd only been in Homer for a week when I was kidnapped and taken by force to a Beth Moore conference in Anchorage. Well, not technically kidnapped (there were no guns or blindfolds involved), but I went very much against my will at the insistence of several brazen church ladies. I had never heard of Beth Moore and had no interest in getting to know the gals from Community church.
But I went home a changed woman.
I don't know if you've ever been to a Beth Moore conference, but my first impression of her was: Barbie doll. She came prancing out in a lime green pantsuit, big blonde hair and a killer smile. Women were on their feet, cheering and snapping pictures of her and it took all my self-discipline not to flee the place. But as soon as Beth started speaking I knew that the Lord had drug me to this conference for a reason. He had some definite things to say to me.
Beth Moore hears the Lord like few people I know. She told us she'd been searching the scriptures early that morning, asking the Lord what He wanted her to share later that day. She opened to the verse in James that commands, "Do not let the sun go down on your anger." She felt the Lord told her that He would be present that evening to heal people from their hurt and anger, but then He asked her, "Beth, do you know what day this is?"
"Um, it's June 21st, Lord." she replied.
"And what's significant about this day?" He continued.
"It's summer solstice, and the longest day of the year," Beth replied.
And then it dawned on her that in Anchorage, AK, the sun never really goes down on this day. And that the Lord was intent on delivering all who were willing from their bitterness and rage.
As she spoke, I argued with God.
"LOrd, you know I've forgiven those who have hurt me," I reminded Him. "I am not angry at those people anymore."
"I know you have forgiven individuals," He answered, patiently. "But have you forgiven the church? Will you always be so bitter toward My Bride?"
Scales fell from my eyes and I saw my wretched heart. I hated the church! I had filed for divorce and moved on, vowing never to look back. My heart was pierced as I realized the pain I had caused Jesus by rejecting His Bride.
Tears of genuine repentence fell that night, but there was more . . .
"You need to ask forgiveness," the Lord directed.
"Who do I ask?" I argued. "The only church I'm connected to now is Homer Community, and these ladies don't know me. I'll look like an idiot if I ask them to forgive me for hating the church!"
But He prevailed and later that night, when all the ladies got together to eat snacks and talk about the evening, I spoke up.
I briefly described our recent ministry experiences and shared with the women what the Lord has spoken to me that night.
"I need to ask you all to forgive me," I continued. "To forgive me for hating the Bride of Christ, the church."

One of the elders wives rushed over to me and laid her hand on my shoulder.

"Of course we'll forgive you," she said softly. "We are so glad the Lord brought you to us."

And all of the women surrounded me, placed their hands on me and let God's love jand forgiveness ust flow through them.

In that moment, I loved them back--and the church that they represented.

And by the end of the summer, I'd fallen in love with that little church in Homer--and the Lord had healed and prepared my heart for next thing He had for us back here in Portland.

She may not yet be without spot or blemish . . .

but I DO love His bride.

1 comments:

Rod said...

Shawn, I just read my firt Beth Moore book, Get Out of that Pit! Like you say, she has some amazing insigts. I've posted a book review on my blog if you want to read more. Then I decided to go to one of her simulcasts on Feb. 24th. Gee, all of the events in Portland are get this... "women's ministry" events. Gag, I am going to be the only man? That's not fair. God has asked me to go where few men would ever go, maybe this is it? Beaverton 4-Sqr and Greater Gresham Baptist are both hosting it, about $25 for the day. Right now I'm waiting to see who has hearing assisted listening devices to get me by. I really want to go, but am feeling like... odd about it. Have you heard anybody else going so I could "hide" in the group?

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