Simply Come...

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and pow’r.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
Oh, there are ten thousand charms.

Come, ye thirsty, come, and welcome,
God’s free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings you nigh.

Come, ye weary, heavy-laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.

View Him prostrate in the garden;
On the ground your Maker lies;
On the bloody tree behold Him;
Sinner, will this not suffice?

Lo! th’ incarnate God ascended,
Pleads the merit of His blood:
Venture on Him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude.

Let not conscience make you linger,
Not of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.

Joseph Hart, 1759


Just as I am, without one plea
But that thy blood was shed for me
And that thou bidd’st me come to thee
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am; Thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now to be thine, yea, thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

~Charlotte Elliot, 1800's

First Things

CS Lewis said, "Put first things first and second things are thrown in. Put second things first and you lose both first and second things."

Jesus said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God - (pursue the right standing with God that comes through Jesus Christ, His favor, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost ) and all these things will be added to you."

The church, in general, has been preoccupied with second things. Whole conferences, books, and programs are geared to groom, adjust, and "fix" the second things. Consequently, we are without affect, without power, in both first and second things. Since we may not be presently encountering the God of all grace, in His majestic fullness, we get preoccupied or satisfied with lesser agendas. Or, worse, we become bored and slightly annoyed with life.

A. W. Tozer said, "The only healthy emotions are those aroused by great ideas."

We are stewards of the greatest Plan, the greatest Mystery, the greatest Idea in the history of this earth. The gospel is the First Thing. It not only changes your destiny, it can deeply affect your day. The holy passion that the gospel can give us, cannot exist apart from the New Covenant.

Second things have to be managed...watched...worried over. First things can only be received and celebrated. Second things become successful through God-given human ability, first things are successful no matter what. First things are the gift of God. Amazingly, first things have a way of making sure second things prosper by the same grace.

Jesus, the First and Last. The Beginning and the End. When He, Himself, and all He is and can give, becomes our "first thing", suddenly everything, from A to Z takes its proper place. Finances. Relationships. Health. No secondary thing becomes the first thing - so we are not devastated when the inevitable problems arise. The Word of God suddenly becomes the Primary Thing, as we read that No, nothing...can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.

Nagging fears, niggling irritations, all our stuff" begins to be pushed farther and farther down the list of priorities. It isn't that a First Things Person minimizes sin - rather, they maximize grace. A First Things Person is completely sold on the idea of overcoming evil with good. We turn our eyes upon Jesus, and the things of this world, the good, the bad, and the indifferent, become all alike so strangely dim.

He didn't save me to make me better, more educated, respectably socialized, or well spoken. He saved me because He set His great love upon me, and is intent on forming His Son in me, by first making me the righteousness of God in Christ. He didn't save me to make everything in my life serve my purposes. He didn't save me to make me someones wife, or someones mother.

He saved me because He wants a people for His glory. He wants my life to be a reflection of His beauty, and He is determined to enable me to be a carrier of His care, concern, and power to anyone and everyone who is needy.

You wouldn't believe all the "second things" He throws in, free of charge.

Of Weddings and True Community

Today, say the authors of Cinderella Dreams: The Allure of the Lavish Wedding, "the lavish wedding allows participants to experience unabashed magic in their lives, and to spend freely to achieve that magic, without a guilt hangover the next morning." The question here is: do you really want to spend over $50,000 for your special day, when you can't really afford it, making you pay off debt for years to come...

~snippet from the website

My Hannah and her Justin became engaged on November 8, 2008. We are thrilled, and we gave them our unqualified blessing.

Instantly, every latent joy and insecurity that has ever floated around in my head, lo' these last 21 years, came clamouring to the front of the line, shouting and waving, demanding my full attention. The word "deserve" was what was being loudly bandied about, by competing insecurities: this daughter of mine "deserves" the best.

So she does. Without question. And doesn't grace give us "better than we deserve"?

My first dream for both my daughters was that they walk with the Lord. God, and God alone, has given me my heart's desire. I had nothing to do with it. My very next dream was that they each marry a true man of God. I am watching that take place before my very eyes, and it is good.

But here is where things begin to get sticky. As a family who has always managed on one income, always blessed, but never "comfortable" financially speaking, I didn't realize how deeply I feared being unable to provide the sort of wedding every girl (and her mother) dreams of, and what every Godly, parent-honoring daughter "deserves".

Enter the body of Christ.

I was looking at every way we could possibly afford to do this all by ourselves, so that our whole church could simply attend the wedding and reception, and enjoy it. We could have done exactly that. We could have utilized our credit card, with its roomy, more than adequate amount of available credit, and we could have paid a few strangers to do all the work for us. We could have done it ourselves in cash, by reducing it all to the simplest terms possible, still asking very little of anyone else in Harvest. We wanted them to be able to "just enjoy" the event. That was our heart… but our hearts can be deceiving. They can be preening (overly conscious of what others think), or cultural (overly conscious of “how it is always done”), or simply non-artistic and uncreative. I don’t pretend to even KNOW my own heart completely. I am still surprising myself with what I find there.

I could not figure out why there was no peace in the "do it ourselves" plan. I could not get my brain to function in the direction of cultural norms. I found myself longing to have the sort of false affluence that could pay for a few flashy bells and whistles; all the while knowing that I am rich, in a few ways money can buy, and rich in all ways that money cannot buy.

My definitions of affluence, peace, and happiness are being re-worked completely. Transition tends to do that to a woman. Tim and I both function from a place of deep conviction. We know in Whom we have believed, and it touches every aspect of our lives. This wedding, along with all the transition in our family, and some of the conflict with our sons, their character training, and their college education - it all has forced me to look at what I really think about personal peace, affluence, and happiness.

So we acknowledged our wedding ineptitude, and our dilemma. Instantly, the body of Christ lovingly rallied - not out of any sense of obligation, but with a sense of celebration! Folks, we have ourselves an official Scottish Penny Wedding in the works!

There is peace in this plan. And the more I consider it, the more I realize: weddings (all celebrations, really) are meant for the church. They ARE the church. All of human history will culminate in a celestial wedding.

A wedding was never meant to be some cultural thing, a parade of false affluence, followed by divorce in a few years. They are not meant to be an event with jobs hired out to various bidders, and where paid "professionals" set the agenda. And here I am….a Bible teacher….I’ve taught this stuff. I've taught that every Godly celebration consists of two ingredients: 1) Remembering, and 2) Honoring

I was forgetting my own learning. Don’t we all???

Remembering. Honoring. That’s it. Search your Scriptures and see if this is not true. The manner in which a family remembers and honors is up to them….but the Atchleys cannot separate themselves from the Body of Christ at Harvest. We are them, and they are us, in a way.

Deep down, I guess neither Hannah nor I could actually conceive of a celebration that wasn’t a community thing. We couldn't make the attempt to impress our church family - we long too much to be loved by them.

We thought we were operating “in community” because we were planning on having a dear, life long friend bake the cake and cupcakes, and and another life long friend take the pictures, and one of our precious men do the videography. We thought that was community enough. But apparently, community means COM (with) UNITY (togetherness, unity)…showing the watching world how the family of God celebrates, as each one brings a part, and all who want to be a part, can be an integral, needed part.

No one will be patronized during this event. The need is sincere, and so is the gratitude. Hannah and I are to TRUST the body of Christ with all of it.

This feels vulnerable and humbling. Isn’t that wonderful? Lately, I can never get out of that place. I'm beginning to believe I don't want out.

God is teaching me, down into my depths. As usual, I promise to be very transparent about it, and communicate my way through the whole experience.

Mt. Sinai or Zion?

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD...

I took time to hear Joe Ewen's message, "Come", preached in Harvest Church on January 21st of this year. I mentioned it in yesterday's blog, at the very end. (I won't ask you to do something I am unwilling to do myself.) I had not heard it again, other than the night he first preached it, when I wrote yesterday's piece. But it was heavy on my spirit to listen to it again. So I finished blogging, hit "publish", and then re-played the Scotsman's sermon.

It is a lavish message of grace. I was deeply encouraged, because by the mouths of two or three, every word is established. The compass of Harvest Church, in this season, is established.

Interestingly, it occurred to me how often I have heard the Scripture (at the top of the blog) preached as though thundering from heaven. It occurred to me, with a bit of disappointment, that some might listen to Joe's great sermon, and that one portion of Scripture will be what they hone in on. Sad.

Let's put this portion in context with its own chapter, and the chapters preceding. Context is everything. I've heard it said that a text, taken out of CONtext will con you, every time. You will be ripped off and deceived. Too bad many of us have grown up, spiritually, with bits and pieces taught to us out of context. It makes for a shakey foundation.

Here is the immediate context, before and after:

Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.

Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee.

Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

This is a message from Mt. Zion! How is it, that some only hear Sinai's thunder? This passage begins and ends in grace. What fool wouldn't want to turn from where he is, presently, and go where the wine and the milk are free? I'd change my mind in a New York Minute, to receive the sure mercies of David, abundant pardon, and to be led forth with peace, with trees clapping their hands for me. That sort of kindness has already led me to many a repentence.

Well, I am out of time. I wanted to further place the "let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts" into the flow of the whole chapters preceding Isaiah 55, where it is found. I suppose that will be another blog for another day.

Suffice it to say, its huge. Huge, huge grace. Unfathomable covenant mercy. Context is everything. I am intent on putting all of Scripture, every verse, in the context of the character of God and the reality of the New Covenant - because Christ was THE PLAN, from before the foundation of the world. Everything God said and did, from Adam to us, has been with His glory and our redemption in mind. It is certainly not a stretch to put all Scripture in that context.

A Rugged Grace

All the sermons taught and preached regarding the gospel of God, the grace of God, are stirring incredible conversations in my church. This thrills my husband, and it thrills me. The majority are receiving revelation and, in their words, are "breaking free, bit by bit...chains are falling off of me." Some are reveling in truths they've seen before, but can't get too much of. Some are wrestling, straining at parts, not really the whole. It's all good. Wrestling, even, is fine - it is part of the process! Certainly, we've seen it before, and we've seen amazing growth come from it. In fact, wrestling can be healthy, when a man wrestles for blessing, refusing to let God go until it comes.

Almost all are joining the conversation, and this is such a precious thing! Tim and I intend to guard the safety of the believers to open their hearts to one another, without fear of being sidetracked into conflict. Few things are more important. Honest dialogue (versus contentious argument) is the heart of every true believer - it is the very essence of the teaching style of Jesus, and the very spirit of the Epistles. Mature believers can winsomely discuss truths that are primary.

Human hearts, what they think and what they believe, matter so much to the Father. He is always out to adjust what we are thinking and believing, because not one of us has arrived at full revelation.

Harvest has always been a safe place to receive or wrestle, celebrate or strain, join in or sit it out, hide or seek. We have nothing to impart to each other, other than that which Christ has wrought in us anyway! The messages we have been hearing are revealing to us just how much has truly been done IN us, as opposed to merely just how much has been heard BY us, over all the years we've been in church.

This is where the grace of God gets rugged. Grace and "personal peace and affluence" are not the same things. Grace does not seek our happiness as a "first thing", it seeks our restoration. Joy and happiness are secondary things...always by-products of a fully favored soul, restored and redeemed by the costly blood of Christ. Amazingly, we are discovering that the message of the gospel does not always initially bring "happiness" even to the saved. The gospel can stir us and poke us at our foundation, revealing weakening beliefs we've had, that we'd rather gloss over. We so much prefer to be thought of as having it all together, sometimes. I know I sure do.

This is why I am going to be the first and the last to always declare, "I am undone!" It keeps my heart in check, and keeps me on the receiving end of what my prophet friend Joe Ewen said would be "great grace displayed in my life."

Our opinions about 'happiness' need re-thinking from the ground, up. My hope to feel happy is normal, but if I am to follow the footsteps of Christ, in order to know happiness, I am going to encounter the fellowship of His suffering at times.

Here is what I am getting at: Grace does not mean that we absolutely must feel whole and happy, secure and complete, before we get around to loving God and loving others. Why is this?

Because, in grace, I am complete in Him already. By grace, through faith, I am complete in every conceivable way. Jesus Christ is my sufficiency..."my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness."

Therefore, I can get about the happy and difficult business of the kingdom. I can start letting people in, rather than always, ever-gradually shutting them out. I will be able to point to life-long friends, and know we are trophies of unifying grace. I can have honest fellowship, rather than the false sort, that rallies around only those who comfortably share my opinion.

After all, other than what Christ has wrought in me, all I have to show you is my brokenness and ineptitude - and that is all you have to show me. I don't care who you are, or what you have accomplished, you are undone and inept without Christ. Would you like me to show you just where? I am certain you could show me just where.

So we're safe with each other, whether you act like it or not.

The more I own up to my inherent human ineptitude, with my brothers and sisters in community, the more Christ is magnified in us all. There is such a safety to the verity of "Christ in you" and "Christ in me". This means there is...oh, there is....there is Someone valuable and good - of inestimable value - in me and in you. Christ in the believer is not a metaphor, it is every bit as real as the clay feet that walked the earth, and were nailed to a cross. I can celebrate THAT. I can look for what - or rather, Who - is right about you, and not what is wrong. I can relate to you from the foundation of grace.

Rugged realities, these. Some cannot yet see the value of brokenness and radical grace, because their own abilities are keeping things together quite well for them....for now. But those who encounter Rugged Grace are free to let go of personal peace, cheap happiness, and false affluence, to embrace a sweetness and depth of Christian community, based on the reality of our inability, and His sufficiency...a Christian community that has real power.

True transformation - spiritual, moral, relational and otherwise, is inevitable in a setting like that.

Come....all who are thirsty. Just come.

(see, audio resources page, Joe Ewen's message entitled "Come" from January 21st of this year...)

"Take Two of These and Call Me in the Morning..."

God's prescription for God's Peace:

Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!
Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
(Phil. 4: 6,7)

I call this passage my “emotional health” passage, because “mental health” IS emotional health. We see a stunning promise, preceded by some gentle conditions. If you’ll indulge me, I have a few thoughts about these verses – nothing cerebral, mind you. I have been living these words lately, not merely memorizing them or pondering them. I am experiencing these realities in fresh ways.

We’re told that the peace of God, a peace that surpasses our human capacity to obtain , has ultimate and final power to guard our heart and mind through Jesus. That word “guard” means both to protect from hostile invasion – to keep evil outside the walls - and to keep what is inside the walls from “taking flight”.

Enemies kept out; mind and heart kept safely inside.

This tells me two things right away – my thoughts and emotions are under threat of hostile invasion. So are yours. If the danger were not real, I would need no guard. No one is immune to lurking invaders, ever seeking to rob us of our sense of wholeness, and to vandalize our relationships with others, marring whatever beauty that formerly existed.

Secondly, I also need supernatural help to keep my thoughts inside the guarding walls of God. Without Him, I could, quite literally, “lose” my mind. Without the ever watchful vigilance of a Peace outside myself, a peace surpassing my human ability to obtain, my mind could “take flight” on me.

Just a few prerequisites exist – gentle admonitions. Do you really want supernatural peace? How badly do you need it? Are you willing to take a few simple steps towards it?

The first step is to “rejoice in the Lord always”. No one can rejoice in the Lord “always” without always gazing at His character and nature, and His character and nature were summed up and fully expressed in Christ. Jesus’ life, His finished work on the cross, followed by His powerful resurrection reveal realities so profound, I could meditate on these things “always”, every day, for the rest of my life, and not exhaust the possibilities for celebration and transformation.

If you are sitting under preaching that exalts Christ, that paints consistent pictures of the beauty of His grace, and repeatedly brings you THE good news (not just “any” good news) – you are among the blessed minority. Rejoicing in the Lord “always” will come considerably easier to you, when you are always confronted with the gospel.

The next condition to receiving this promise of a guarding peace is a no brainer. If there is no peace in our relationships, there is no peace in our minds. This next step has everything to do with relationships. I can’t resist how Eugene Peterson worded this verse in his paraphrase, “The Message”:

Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.”

This is such common sense! If the saints of God would follow this one admonition, there would be far fewer offenses. There would be much less tension, and no difference of opinion would be insurmountable. Friendships would flourish, and the peace of God would guard them – keeping the vandals firmly outside our walls. We could relax with one another….trust the Jesus in one another. There would be no need to resort to convoluted manipulation, no room for affection to grow cold. Our love of the brethren would be bursting with sincerity.

Many can quote Philippians 4:5 – few endeavor to live in it. And we wonder why we don’t experience peace.

The final steps are simple – but don’t confuse simple with “easy”. We’re told not to be anxious about anything, but rather to use every reason to worry as an excuse to ask God for help. At this point in my life, if I were to take every anxious thought, and turn it into supplication, I would truly fulfill the call to “pray without ceasing”.

But it isn’t just prayer that brings supernatural, guarding peace. Somehow, thanksgiving is transformational. A grateful heart has power to put every anxious thought into perspective. Gratitude alone will change your life, and mine. It will scoop us out of our depression, it will get us up out of our beds, it will inspire us to kiss our spouse and mean it, it will make us aware that to have one friend is a gift beyond all measure – a gift to be held close to the heart.

I’m thinking that God’s prescription for God’s peace is somehow a small reflection of how the Godhead lives. God is saying, “Do what I do. I rejoice in the Son. The Spirit rejoices in the Son. The Son rejoices in the Father. I am on the side of the saint, always. If I am for you, who can be against you? Why not imitate me, and be on someone’s side for a change? It might be more fun to be “for” someone, instead of “against” something. I, the Lord, am angry with the sinner – I will never be angry with a saint. I am at peace with you, so be at peace amongst yourselves. I am near you, so draw one another near in your hearts. I, the Lord, never experience lack or need or emptiness – thus I do not know anxiety in any form. Come to Me with your empty cup, and I will become to you both your portion AND your cup."

Such Shalom! Such freedom!

I need the peace of God. The peace in which the mysterious Trinity eternally dwells is unruffled, unthreatened, relaxed, relating, healthy and whole and happy. That’s God. It stuns me past expression to realize that I can dwell in that same peace.

It. Is. Available.

My "Baby" Turns 16 !

Yesterday, March 11th, Isaac (the baby of the family) turned sixteen. How is it, that my youngest is that old?

He opened his gifts from the family earlier in the week, and a few more gifts yesterday morning...a hamster and tricked-out cage from Sarah (Isaac named the little guy "Rhino"), clothes and "cool" sunglasses from Hannah, more clothes from brother Josiah, and a new cell phone/MP3 player from mom and dad.

Then, we invited the youth group to our home, yesterday evening, and treated them to a bonfire, pizza, and birthday cake.

Today, I recover. ::smile::

He had been waiting for this all morning...

A Card from Hannah...

Opening his gift from mom and dad (who is looking on, with obvious fatherly love...)

The little boy still peeks out of the face of the near-man...

Friends Kevin and Phillip, at the youth group gathering, at our house last night...

SOME of our guests, packed in our dining room (there were more teens behind me!)

"Make a wish!"

Icing is the best part, you know...

The "Baby"...