The Joy of Glory

Discovering endless joy in the boundless glory of God…

The Mundane is Miraculous

*Tonight at our annual SVCC family meeting, I briefly reflected on many things that happened among our faith family during 2014. Below are the thoughts I shared in the form of a letter.

Dear Faith Family of SVCC,

This is the third time I have had the opportunity to reflect on what all has transpired among us over the course of a year. I find myself wondering if such reflection will ever feel routine, as each year is so distinct. 2014 brought it’s own host of new ways in which we experienced God’s grace. Truly his mercies are new morning by morning, month by month, and I feel like I can now say, year by year.

I do not mean to make it sound like 2014 was just a fantastical adventure of epic proportions. In many ways it was quite normal, and in others, quite exceptional. 10404118_10101746995414538_9088730644187524869_nMy family experienced some of the most difficult days we’ve ever known last spring. Then, by winter we had seen God’s faithfulness unfold more beautifully than ever before. And yet, scattered throughout these crazy highs and lows were mostly normal, mundane days filled with changing diapers, homeschooling, cooking meals, working, talking, offending, forgiving… you know… just walking through life.

Last year held both the miraculous and the mundane for my family… and I feel like it was the same for us as a faith family. Through 2014 we saw God miraculously give sight to the physically blind and the spiritually blind. We got to see some new brothers and sisters become a part of the body of Christ and we worshipped as nine went through the baptismal waters. God continued to bless us with new families, singles and just a couple of college students. We had to buy new chairs and Student Life donated some on top of that! One of our kid’s classes outgrew their room and had to move. A new community group and men’s fellowship began this year and we even survived having five interns. Truly, God has worked in miraculous ways among us.

IMG_8207Yet, it is also crucial for us to see how the Lord has worked through the “mundane.” Last January, when Snowpocalypse struck, I watched many of you open your homes to each other, even to complete strangers. You needed no recognition, but simply served those in need. This servant like heart has not just been evident during random Birmingham blizzards, but I’ve seen it week to week through your faithful service to one another. So many of you are faithful in the ministries to which the Lord has called you… women’s and men’s ministry, prayer, farmer’s market, community exchange, finance, hospitality, decorators, worship, facilities, and on and on the list goes.

And, your not just faithful within these walls, but wherever the Lord has called you. I often am asked what Shades does to minister in our city. Through these kinds of questions, I feel like people are looking for miraculous testimonies of “big things” done by an organization. I tell them that I don’t have those kinds of stories to share. What I have is much more mundane. If you want to know what Shades does, then I have to tell you stories about people… because Shades is people.

I tell stories about families going through adoption classes in hopes of bringing home children who have no home… stories of people who have designed city-wide events to connect with others in their profession who don’t know Christ. I talk about college students who have consistently, graciously shared the Gospel with their exchange-student roommates. I speak of people who share weekly meals with the Birmingham houseless community… of people fighting sex trafficking, others ministering to nomads, and some who are foster parents. I talk about how I’ve seen people pour into one another’s lives over coffee or give counsel around their kitchen counter… or how I’ve seen brothers and sisters in the faith hold each other through tears and joys…through deaths, weddings, and births.

IMG_1014This is just the tip of the iceberg of what “Shades” does, because Shades is made up of a couple hundred missionaries who come together week after week to pray, love, support, disciple one another, and then go into various sectors of our city and minister in all sorts of ways.

All this happens through the mundane. Through normal people, empowered by the Holy Spirit, daily living out their faith. It’s not flashy. It’s simple-faithfulness. And, in truth, it’s not mundane… it is actually miraculous. If I have learned anything in my time at Shades… it is that the mundane is precisely where our God loves to work his miraculous power so that it is obviously his work. He gets the glory and we get the joy!

After three years of living life as part of this community, I find myself still desiring to enter into the mundane alongside of you, equipped with the miraculous Gospel. You are my family, and week after week I’m so thankful that it is with you I get to go into the world in peace, having courage, holding on to what is good, honoring all men, strengthening the faint-hearted, supporting the weak, helping the suffering, and sharing the Gospel. I get to watch you all love and serve the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit. We get to see the grace of our lord Jesus Christ make every “mundane” moment miraculous. And to that my heart says, along with all God’s people, amen and amen!

I love you all,

Jonathan

Chains Shall He Break

*I wrote the following poem as a Christmas gift to the body of believers I serve as pastor. We spent this season going through the book of Philemon…seeing how it is that Christ came to break the spiritual chains of sin and the physical chains of slavery and oppression.  I pray that it fills your heart with the hope, love, joy, and peace of Christ as you celebrate his first Advent and anticipate his second Advent.

All alone within my cell
Four cold walls
Dark and pale

Chains about my hands a feet
Release a dream
Sought in sleep

Amidst the dark joy had been choked
Within my heart
I knew not hope

Then in the night there came a cry
A newborn babe
God come nigh

Divine in flesh the Godhead see
Born is the one
The peasant king

His incarnation wrought with light
Breaking chains
Dispelling night

My prison gone, it’s walls collapsed
By grace through faith
Freed from the past

Christ, he came to break our chains
Call us his own
Give us his name

His birth brought life unto the dead
For death he’s beaten
In our stead

Born to die that we might rise
By faith receive
Eternal life

He gave himself, manger to cross
Suffered for all
A seeming loss

But now he lives forevermore
Risen, ascended
Christ our Lord

He’ll come again in power to reign
A second advent
We proclaim

When we see him, we’ll be complete
Redemption finished
Forever free

Receive him now, yourself forsake
Your life shall he save
Your chains shall he break

When God Is Quiet and the World Is Loud

This post was written by Kaitlyn Bouchillon and first appeared on KaitlynBouchillon.com

My throat is in that tight, choking grip that comes when you’ve just cried or are holding back the tears.

It’s both/and today.

There is so much noise everywhere we turn – in the media, in Facebook feeds and Twitter streams, in classes and books and everywhere more words.

This world is loud, mighty loud, and I haven’t right known what to say.

So I’ve pulled back. I’ve laid my head down an hour earlier each night. I’ve said no to movie dates and study groups and found my way to a blanket and a quiet minute in my room. With everything spinning around, I’ve hit pause and slowed down because I’ve grown so dizzy.

If you were to sum up how you are or even just your week in one word, what would it be? You might say full, happy, overwhelming, or surprising.

I would say I’m tired.

In fact, for the past two months my word would be tired and tired again.

And so I’m here, with throat tight and bags under my eyes from nights full of nightmares. There are rarely tears and it isn’t even sadness. It’s a weight pressing down and down I drown. We can doggy-paddle for a long time, sucking in air while trying to kick and squirm and reach the shore.

It’s been dark, y’all. And it’s been noisy.

The last thing I want to do is add to the noise, but as I sat on this Sabbath Sunday, homework put away and mind focused on the sermon this morning, I felt compelled to write where I’m at before telling you what I’ve seen.

There are questions and walls up and doubts I don’t know how to put words to, but there is a certainty and an assurance of Who He is. His goodness hasn’t gone anywhere.

HisGoodness

He doesn’t abandon His people. He does not walk away. He does not un-choose us. He does not, He does not, He does not.

Sometimes the enemy attacks and we are left wounded and bleeding – but He is Healer.

Sometimes there isn’t an explanation for it – but we know He hasn’t gone anywhere.

And I’ll be honest with you, “it happens to the best of us” is both trite and inaccurate. Because sometimes it just plain happens and it’s just plain hard. It can feel like a season of groping in the dark, hands straight out in front of you, searching aimlessly for the light switch.

But this is what I know and this is what I am sure of:

He is the light of the world.

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12 NLT

What the enemy means for evil can be turned for our good. It will be turned for our good. He is always Faithful.

This morning I gathered with my people, the church it took me almost two years to find, the Body that feels like home. I listened, my heart beating fast, as our pastor tackled the tough question “Can I lose my salvation?”

Listen, let me make this clear: I am not doubting my salvation. I know I am His beyond a shadow of a doubt. But boy am I thankful for a pastor who doesn’t shy away from the hard conversations!

You can listen to the full sermon here [likely to be updated tomorrow with today’s sermon], but as he spoke of the covenant God made to His people I was struck by this promise-keeping, all-knowing, forever-loving God.

In the Old Testament, the most secure covenant was a blood covenant. This would be made by splitting animals in half and laying them in two rows. Then, the two people entering the covenant would grasp hands and walk between the animals together. It sounds gross and absolutely disgusting because it is.

But it was meant to signify that if one person didn’t uphold their side of the covenant, they were saying “may it be done to me as it was to these animals.” When God entered into the covenant with Abram, He put Abram to sleep before making the covenant.

God promised both sides of the bargain. In His promise-keeping, all-knowing, forever-loving way, He knew that we would never be able to keep our promise. We would fail, we would falter, and we would never uphold our side. The penalty would be ours to pay.

And so God promised. Both sides. And then He paid the penalty.

Jesus came, His body broke, and the veil was split in two. He broke so that all things could be made new.

He is a promise-keeping God to a promise-breaking people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. John 1:5 NLT

NothingIsImpossible

He is working in each season, even when the world is noisy and He feels like a whisper. That still, small voice is present and active. We are more than conquerors in Christ, through Christ, with Christ.

You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 NLT

Hold on, friend. Hold on to what you know is true in the light when you can not see it in the dark.And if there comes a time when your grip loosens and you feel yourself falling, rest in knowing this promise-keeping God has got you tight and sure.

And now to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating—to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. Yes.

Jude 1:24-25 The Message

This post was written by Kaitlyn Bouchillon and first appeared on KaitlynBouchillon.com

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