The Joy of Glory

Discovering endless joy in the boundless glory of God…

Month: February, 2014

A Shelter from the Storm

I sat at my desk typing frantically. I wanted so badly to finish up the days work and head home…after all…

…it was snowing!

Snow in Alabama! This is not a very regular event, and I wanted to have a fun-filled snow-day with my kiddos like any dad should. I knew that sledding, snow-ball fights, and snow-man construction awaited me at home…and so my fingers put my average “words-per-minute” to shame as they flew across the keyboard.

I would get up every now and then to peer out the window at the growing mass of white. This was going to be a snow to remember.

IMG_8218Then I saw it.

A car had pulled into the our church parking lot and was simply sitting there as traffic backed up on the road with all the motorists trying to get home. I didn’t think much of it, until the next time I peered out the window and the car was still there…then again…and again.

After an hour, I figured I needed to go down and see what was happening. Never-mind actually looking at the weather forecast…ain’t nobody got time for that!

I wanted so badly to pretend the car wasn’t there, hop in my vehicle, and go home to my family. Something told me that if I talked with whoever was in that car I would be opening a can of worms and stuck where I was for a lot longer. Still, I walked up to the car and knocked on the window.

I was met with a smile from a kind lady who told me the road conditions were simply beyond her driving ability and she was waiting for her husband to come pick her up. I offered for her to come and wait in our lobby, secretly hoping she would refuse, and she thanked me…and followed me into our comfortably heated space.

I now found myself stuck, frustrated, and not feeling the least bit hospitable. I went back to my office thinking that if I had to be there I might as well get some work done. I would come down on occasion to see if her ride had arrived only to discover quite the opposite.

IMG_8229More people seeking shelter from the storm were filing into the lobby.

The reality of the situation began to dawn on me as I had conversations with those who found themselves stranded.

Birmingham was shutting down!

The “light-dusting” forecast was a slight miscalculation (I love our meteorologists all the same) and iced streets bring an unprepared southern city to a screeching halt…literally.

I-65, 280, and many other streets looked like a scene out of summer-zombie block buster. Cars littered the landscape, simply abandoned as people sought the basic necessities of life…food and shelter.

For a little while, I continued to throw my personal pity party, lamenting the fun my family was enjoying at home without me. This snow might be a problem for everyone else, but not for me! Home was within walking distance and the only thing standing in my way was all these people in need! I know this may sound heartless, but even I’m a selfish human being with a sinful heart that is all too often content to be self-centered. These people shouldn’t be my problem…none of this was my fault…why should I pay the price to provide shelter for them.

And then in the mid-thought my mind froze and my heart melted because of one thought.

dali-christ-of-st-john-of-the-crossThe Gospel.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8

The storm brought about by my sin should have been no one’s problem but my own. I should have been left alone to freeze amidst my failures, but Jesus emptied himself. He didn’t just shelter me from the storm within the fortress of his righteousness, he took my place out in the cold. The love of God was lavished on me in Christ and I was saved from a storm of my own making.

Suddenly, I found my heart filled up with a vision of the glory of Jesus and pouring itself out in love toward those sheltering within the walls of SVCC.  For the joy set before him, Christ endured the cross…and that joy was that we may find our everlasting joy in the glory of God!

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, TO THE GLORY of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:9-11

Now, I wanted to shelter these people for the joy set before me, namely, having the opportunity to point them toward the ultimate shelter of love found in Christ!

IMG_8207Over the next 48 hours we had the pleasure and joy of housing around 25 people at SVCC. I didn’t get to talk with all of them at length, but I was able to share food, laughs, stories with most of them…and many of our conversations centered on the Gospel.

May God open our eyes everyday to the reality that people around us are seeking shelter from the storm of their own sin, shame, guilt, etc.  May we not be so consumed with our own lives that we shut out those seeking refuge. May we invite them into our lives and to safety under the mighty wings of our Lord.

I don’t know what effect those two days will have on the lives of those who found shelter at SVCC, and the effect is ultimately up to the Lord, but my prayer is that God would bring them to find ultimate shelter from every storm in him through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Dear Faith Family of SVCC

*Today, at our annual family meeting, I breifly reflected on many things that happened among our SVCC faith family during 2013.  Below are the thoughts I shared in the form of a letter.

Dear Faith Family of SVCC,

_DSC0152It is difficult to express everything that I feel in my heart about 2013. I think the greatest analogy that comes to mind is that of childbirth…after all, my third little one, Talitha, entered the world this past year. Through that miracle of life I have found myself reflecting again and again on the joy that comes through pain.

Perhaps that is the best way I can describe 2013…it has been a year of joy amidst pain. In our own home we experienced quite a scare through the birth of Talitha as Holly dealt with some serious after-effects of the birth. Our daughter Charis was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and our parenting challenges seem new every morning. My brother and his bride moved overseas. And there are various other challenges I will not mention…I do not want this to sound like a list of complaints. It is not.

Amidst all the pain, and I know many of you have endured much greater this year, we have seen the faithfulness of God again and again. He never left us as Holly struggled through birth complications, He is ever present in our parenting and Charis is a constant reminder of his grace, and I praise him daily that my brother and sister-in-law have followed his leading to take the gospel wherever he leads. Without fail, there is joy amidst pain for he is amidst the pain!

IMG_2232At SVCC this year we have experienced pain. I have sat with some of you before surgeries or beside hospital beds and prayed. Some of you have seen loved ones make the transition from this life to the next. There are some which have been hurt by those who they trusted. Many of you have allowed me to see and know you amidst your pain and you have shared in mine…and it has been beautiful for I have seen your joy.

Even when some have felt like there was no joy to be found, I have watched others gather around them and pray for them, fight for them, hold on to them. There have been relationships healed, children born, adoptions granted…both physical and spiritual. We have seen many come to Christ, be baptized and grow in him. Amidst all the pain there has been extreme joy because Jesus is always amidst our pain!

IMG_2233Of course there have been some practical, external things that we are thankful for in 2013. We’ve partnered with Common Thread Community to open a studio, there are nearly 50 musicians involved in the worship ministry, and John-Mark joined us as our worship leader. The women’s ministry had their largest retreat, there are college students coming out our ears, we’re setting up chairs fairly regularly, and there are two new community groups. The youth have grown, I have parents sending me Facebook messages like this, “Is youth group happening tonight…I just need to check because it is my daughter’s favorite part of her week.” The children’s ministry is the same, especially with interact, this past fall we saw our kids really engage through prayer (evidenced by the prayer walls).  We’ve also prayed over Ashford Taylor as she heads to Spain, Carley O’Neal to Australia, and Emily Echevarria to India. All of these things are awesome…massive blessings…but they are only happening by the grace of God!

Any success here is not in how large retreats are or how many chairs we set out…we do not boast in numbers (that’s why we don’t really count them), we do not boast in anything but Jesus…and the only reason I list all of those things is to say…Jesus is at work.  Amidst pain, through pain, we see him at work and we rejoice!

Nothing has increased my faith more this year than seeing you praise amidst pain. I’m not trying to make it sound like this year has been all pain…it hasn’t, but many times you can hear from a church leader and it just sounds like life is totally awesome all the time and that’s not reality. We have had pain this year, but you have praised amidst it all and that shows the world the glory of Jesus unlike anything else!

Praise amidst pain magnifies the majesty of Jesus!

Let’s keep magnifying Jesus! No matter what comes our way in 2014! No matter if the year is awesome or awful, let us be full of awe! No matter if it feels like we are being showered with blessings or if it feels like we are being beaten down by a deluge of suffering…Jesus is with us amidst any storm and he can walk on any amount of water!  Let’s trust him and praise him and make him known to the nations.

I love you all. May his grace be with us,

Jonathan

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