The day Jesus showed up dressed as a cop

Heather Glover is our Director of Community Life at Mosaic. Today, I share her story as a Heather-glovertestament to the power of Jesus to make all things new:

Healing. Whether we seek it for ourselves or for someone we love, the truths of healing are the same.

And this is what I know about healing: Sometimes it comes quickly, even in an instant, like the woman who touched the hem of Christ’s garment. We encounter Jesus and our affliction leaves our bodies as if it was never there.

Other times, healing is a process that seems to be as painful as the very thing from which we suffer. In the process of healing we will struggle and wrestle against the disease, the emotional brokenness, the spiritual blindness, and the confusion and anger that our suffering brings.

Sometimes we will wrestle so long that we begin to wonder if healing will ever come.
I am here to tell you, it will come! Never, ever give up believing God for the healing you seek.

Healing is not a matter of if, but when.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. — Psalm 27:14

I know the truth about healing because I have experienced it for myself. I’ve received the healing that comes quickly, and I have been in the process of healing for years.

I am a recovering addict. I spent nearly two decades addicted to drugs. I did not walk away from that kind of lifestyle unbroken or unscathed. It marked me. It marked me with guilt and shame and left me with a long list of consequences to work through.

In fact, my heart was so damaged, my life so destroyed, that there is no way I could be here today serving my church as a ministry leader had Jesus not done some amazing things in my life.

I am a living testimony to the healing power of Jesus.

When the Lord came for me, I was in the middle of the darkest year of my life. My life as an addict left me broken and feeling lost and abandoned. I found myself homeless and living in hotels. I felt as if the whole world had left me for dead and I had all but lost hope of ever making it out alive.

As a last resort, I prayed.

I asked Jesus to intervene and He did. He sent the police to my door and they carried me out on my mat and placed me at the feet of Jesus.

Meaning, they took me to jail and that’s where I met the Lord.

In that moment, it didn’t matter to me what it looked like. I remembered my prayer and I knew in my heart that it was God’s intervention.

It was while I was in prison that the Lord began his healing work in me. During that time, I spent a great portion of my day in prayer and in the Word, getting to know my Lord and building a relationship with him. I experienced a great deal of forgiveness and I learned how to forgive.

I am convinced that all great works of healing begin with forgiveness.

The result of the forgiveness I received brought on a landslide of emotional healing. By the time I was released, I was well on my way to becoming a healthy, committed follower of

Jesus. And five years into journey, I am still being made new.

That isn’t the end of the story, though. Even though the Lord healed me from a great deal of emotional and spiritual damage, I was still left with the physical — the disease, my addiction — and it wasn’t long after I was released from prison that I relapsed. I can’t even explain how it happened. It seems a mystery to me now.

But it happened.

Through that relapse, I realized that my need for healing remained. I was still suffering. I asked the Lord for direction and he urged me to confess it to my people, so I asked Carolyn for a meeting with her and with Roy, who was my small group leader at the time. I came in and confessed it to them, then went to my group and confessed it there as well. And in the spirit and pattern described in James chapter five, my people received my confession, gathered around me, anointed my head with oil, laid hands on me, and prayed for my healing.

“Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they should pray over him after anointing him with olive oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of the faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will restore him to health; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” — James 5:13-16

I was undoubtedly healed that day. I felt it happen. I felt a heat move through my body.
I woke up the next the morning bracing myself for the urge to use drugs, prepared to fight it but it never came. I had no desire for it. No craving was in me anymore. God just took it! That was two years ago, and today I am twenty-six months free of drugs and alcohol.

Believe me when I say that no matter which way the healing comes, it always, ALWAYS comes! And when it does, it is always complete. And it brings relief, leaving us with a joy as deep as our pain once was. We need only to receive it and walk in it.

Thanks for letting me share. — Heather Glover, Director of Community Life, Mosaic Church

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What a tarantula can teach you about resurrection

If you’ve never seen a tarantula shed its skin, you need to see it (a link is below; be aware that it isn’t very pretty, so don’t watch it if you are squeamish. Also, I’m not responsible for the music background. It is what it is …).

I first watched this clip after reading some guy’s story about the first time his pet tarantula shed its skin. He thought it was dead, actually. He woke up to find his spider on its back with its legs sticking straight up in the air. “Dead as a doorknob” was a pretty good guess, but it didn’t make sense. After all, he fed his spider frequently. He gave the little guy water. What else does a spider need?

A bit later, the spider’s owner came back to the aquarium to find that the head and main body of the tarantula had popped open like the hatch on a submarine.

And it was pulsing. (This doesn’t bother you, does it?)

That’s when he decided to go online and to find out exactly what was happening. He knew tarantulas shed their skin but he’d never actually seen it before. He thought that spider was dead; now he appeared to be alive again.

What he discovered was that this is the norm for a tarantula on his way to shedding. First, he turns himself on his back, making himself appear dead. The blood leaves the outer layer of skin and pulses through his body, pushing the skin away from him. He crawls out of his old skin just as a person would undress at the end of the day.

Here’s the coolest part. When a tarantula sheds, he sheds every part of his old self … including his fangs.

Do you hear the sermon in that?

Here’s the part I love best. It doesn’t just happen once in a lifetime or even once in a great while. It happens a couple of times a year.

And what happens in nature informs what ought to happen in my spiritual life. Not once in a lifetime, or even once in a great while, but often enough that it becomes a habit for me, I need to take stock of my spiritual life and get rid of anything that doesn’t belong in Him.

This is sanctification: it is continually shedding the old skin and taking hold of the new.

This is what it means to live a resurrection life.

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Is God Crazy? (or is it me?)

The Gods Must Be Crazy is the story of a remote African tribal village that finds a Coke bottle in the jungle. It seems to have fallen from the sky, though in fact it was dropped from an airplane. These tribal people have never seen anything like this before. They aren’t sure what its purpose is. They find uses for it — to pound things and crush melons and even make music.

This foreign thing makes life interesting. Separated from its purpose, it also creates jealousies and envy and even anger — something this village hadn’t experienced before. There isn’t enough of the bottle to go around. Everyone has their own reason for needing it and the bottle becomes a reason for them to compete rather than being in partnership. At the end of a day people grabbing the bottle from each other and using it get their needs met at the expense of others in the group, they all sit around a fire, and the narrator says, “A strange feeling of shame had come over the family and they were very quiet.”

This story is such a great example of how human design works. When a thing is separated from its purpose — when our bodies are separated from our spirits — we lose sight of the point of them and can even begin to misuse them for things other than their intended purpose. In doing so, we discover our own selfishness, much like Adam and Eve.

Before the fall, before we lost sight of our created design, God created partnership. The first creation story in Genesis describes the work of man and woman together.

“God blessed them,” Genesis 1:28-29 states, “And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.’” This was the work of the first people, to steward the rest of creation in partnership with one another.  If the first creation story emphasizes partnership, the second creation story in Genesis emphasizes the unity of man and woman.

Genesis 2 paints a beautiful image of mutual servanthood: the woman comes out of the man to give him companionship and the man comes out of his home to give her companionship. There’s this very deep sense of interrelatedness. There is a clear sense from the creation story of God’s intentions for men and women: to populate the earth and to give us to each other for companionship.

Men and women are cut from the same cloth, as it were. It is the combination of the two — male and female — that reflects the image of God.

Then comes the Fall. Genesis, chapter three, turns a partnership of equals into an antagonistic relationship. Adam and Eve, both condemned by their own failings, will experience suffering in this life. Adam will fight against the ground as he works it for his existence. Eve will no longer have a partnership with Adam; he will rule over her.

And God isn’t the crazy one in this story; this is our doing. Genesis 3 shows us just how the enemy of God distorts the created design. Why didn’t anyone tell us? Why didn’t they tell us that on this side of the fall line, we’d deal with shame and it would drive us to destroy ourselves. Why didn’t they tell us that the enemy would make it his number one priority to separate us from our created design, to separate us from our truth, to separate us from God, from each other? Why didn’t anyone spell it out for us, that there is an enemy whose main goal in life is to convince us that self-protection and self-interest and just plain selfishness is our only hope.

No one told most of us that so much of our pain comes from this break with our created design.

If that were the whole story, it would be a deep discouragement, but it isn’t. Sin might have been what broke us, but Jesus is putting us back together. Jesus, a sacrifice for sin, hung on a cross to become the first of a new kind of humanity. Jesus is restoring us to our created design.

Jesus came to restore what the enemy broke. So we thank God for the cross. When Jesus overcame the effects of fallenness, he became the first of a whole new kind of human, which means we can become a whole new kind of person.

This is what makes Easter worth the celebration. It is the holy day for new beginnings. It tells us that no matter what we’ve done, no matter how far from God we’ve wandered, not matter how much water has gone under that bridge, we can begin again. This is the promise of the cross. It is that there is no mistake so far out there that it can’t be made right. There is no wound so deep that it can’t be healed.

God can make all things new. As long as there is an empty tomb, it is never too late.

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You are going to die. (What are you going to do about it?)

One of my top-ten favorite movies is What About Bob? In one scene, Bob and Sigmund (or Siggy) are in Siggy’s room having a sleep-over.  Bob, who is something of a child himself, is a middle-aged neurotic guy who is afraid of everything. Siggy is a pretty disturbed pre-teen who wears all black and is obsessed with death.

In the dark, trying to fall asleep, Siggy calls across the room to Bob. “Did you ever think about it?  You’re going to die.  You. Are. Going. To. Die.  We’re all going to die.” And then Siggy says (because Bob is much older than him), “And you are going to die much sooner than me, of course.”

Because Bob is deathly afraid of everything, you expect this to have a crumbling effect on him but actually, it does the opposite.  He decides, in a moment of clarity, that if death is the worst end of it, then maybe everything else isn’t so bad.

Siggy’s right, of course; we are all going to die.  All. Of. Us.  But that very fact challenges us to consider the question: “What are you going to do about it?”

This is very much the flavor of Jesus’ words to his followers as John, chapter 14, opens. He has been talking about death a lot lately. Like Siggy, he seems preoccupied with suffering, so following has become a much more serious business. Now the disciples are wondering, “If death is our Master’s destiny, what’s next for us?”

At first, his answers bring no peace, only challenge. Then Jesus shows them what the Kingdom looks like. He shows them the Father’s house and gives them a vision for something bigger than themselves. He wants to invite them into the conversation. Yes, you’re going to die, he seems to say. But what are you going to do about it?

And what Jesus said to his followers in the first century is still true today: Yes, you are going to die.

So … what are you going to do about it?

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When Women Plant Churches

I am grateful to Seedbed for their partnership in producing the things I’m passionate about. This time, they are letting me talk about the barriers women church planters face. This is the subject of my doctoral dissertation, so I’ve been putting a little reading time into it lately (gotta love deadlines!).

My project asserts that the original design for men and women is partnership, not hierarchy. Given that assumption, the focus is not on the question of whether or not women ought to preach or lead men, but rather to explore that intersection of human design with human fallenness — that point at which fallenness distorts and stunts female leadership, especially in the arena of church planting. The goal is to discover the pathways that negotiate that intersection so that those called to lead as church planters can reclaim the joy and meaning of their created design.

Here’s a beginning on that work:

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Naked and unashamed

If you’re from the South and over 40, you may remember Lewis Grizzard, the newspaper columnist to wrote for years for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Gizzard once said that God talks like we do, meaning southern. “Southerners can take a word and change it just a little bit and make it mean altogether somethin’ different,” Grizzard once wrote. “Take the word ‘naked.’ (for instance). Instead of saying, ‘naked,’ we say, ‘nekkid.’ … There’s a difference. ‘Naked’ means you ain’t got no clothes on. ‘Nekkid’ means you ain’t got no clothes on and you up to somethin’ . . .”

When the story says in Genesis 2 that the first humans were “naked and unashamed,”  the point was not that they were “up to something” but that there was no need for hiding. Before the Fall, there was complete vulnerability and trust. It was about deep interdependence with another person. It was about surrender and submission, in the highest and best sense of those terms. And it was also about fruitfulness. It was everything you’d want in a relationship.

“Naked and unashamed” was the Garden standard. This relationship is sacramentally (and necessarily) expressed inside of marriage because it depends on covenant to blossom fully. In every other relationship, we are called into self-discipline but because we are wired for full intimacy, most of us will end up on the trajectory toward marriage, covenant and a commitment to one relationship that allows us to be “naked and unashamed.”

This is the biblical definition of intimacy. The creation story teaches us that marriage is the place on earth where we might experience at least the shadow of an intimacy that is fully expressed in our relationship with the Father.

Man and woman together make an important statement about the love that exists inside the Trinity and between Christ and the Church. Marriage is a sacramental expression of Trinitarian love. Male and female together offer us an insider’s look into the character of God.

To be naked and unashamed is the opposite of autonomous solitude (the state of complete independence, not trusting in God or any human).  Instead, it is to be vulnerable and trusting at the deepest levels both with God and people. It is how Jesus functioned, allowing himself to be open and vulnerable over and over again in the midst of people who would constantly disappoint him.

“Naked and unashamed” is also the essence of repentance, which challenges us to lay ourselves bare before God with the confidence that he is faithful and just and will not condemn us but offer a kind of forgiveness that heals.

Repentance is to be truly “naked and unashamed.” Surely this is exactly why Jesus came into his ministry on that word: “Repent and believe.” He was calling humanity back to the Garden standard — that state of complete openness with God that allows us to trust him deeply even as he transforms us fully.

Repentance is the opposite of shame. It is freedom — freedom from shame, guilt, fear, condemnation. James teaches us to “confess your sins to one another and pray for each other so you may be healed” (James 5:16). Confession helps us hear our own voices admitting our own weaknesses. There is no condemnation! “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16).

“Naked and unashamed” is the posture of freedom. The old is gone. Our thorns are no longer a shame, but a crown — part of our story of God’s power to transform.

Is it possible that the yearning you are expressing for a relationship that answers the loneliness you feel is very much a yearning for your created design — a design that calls you to be “naked and unashamed” (vulnerable at every level), first with God and then with that one with whom he calls you into covenant?

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The one thing God said was not good (it may not be what you think)

Over the last 75 years, researchers at Harvard have tracked the lives of 724 men.* These men were children when the study began. For 75 years, they’ve been tracking these lives to record the state of their home life, work, health, outlook.

Some men in the study became rich and famous. One became President of the United States. Others fared poorly. Boiling all this time, life and data down to its most basic lesson, this is what Robert Waldinger (current director of the study) labels the clearest message to emerge from this effort: “The message has nothing to do with fame or wealth or working harder. The real lesson from these lives is this: ‘Good relationships keep us happier and healthier … Over and over, over these 75 years, our study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned in to relationships, with family, with friends, with community.”

It took 75 years and 724 men to prove Genesis 2:18: “It is not good for the man to be alone.”  

Seven times in the creation story, God makes things and calls them good. The seas are good. The sun and moon are good. The plants and fish and animals are good. People are good. But then after seven scenes of goodness, God finds a flaw — one thing that isn’t quite right.

It is not good that the man should be alone.

This isn’t God adjusting a piece of furniture to get the right effect. This is God instilling in the pinnacle of his creation his most essential quality. He is a God who loves, even within himself.

God has infused his creation with his own personality. Creation will not be defined by independence. It will not be one toddler saying to the universe, “I can do it myself.” Creation will be defined by the same love that defines the Trinity. The first creation story in Genesis emphasizes the partnership between a man and a woman. The second creation story emphasizes the man’s need for relationship.

God’s brand of love only happens in community. It is the pre-fall answer to the sin of autonomous solitude — the state of believing I am all I need. Solitude is not good when solitude leads us to believe that one person alone — without community — can somehow image the God who created us.This is not good.

We are not islands unto ourselves.

This is why we join churches and go to movie theaters and happily pay $4 at Starbucks for coffee that costs less than ten cents to make at home. It is because we are designed for relationship. We are made for community, because we are made in the image of God.

And this is why the enemy of our souls would like to attract us into solitude with things like porn and video games. The enemy of our souls is working against our design.

Likewise, the enemy would prefer that we view marriage as a tool primarily for fulfilling our own needs. This popular view saps the glory out of it. It fails to point to something beyond itself.

Here is the real shame of what our culture has done to marriage. It isn’t that we’ve made it disposable or that we’ve made too much of the wedding and not enough of the relationship.  The real shame for the Church is that we’ve failed to teach the rich and relationship-rooting theology beneath it. We have focused more on who is in charge than on submission to something bigger than us.

Marriage isn’t designed to make us “happy.” It isn’t a cure for loneliness and it isn’t about having kids. These are great things in a marriage, but these are side effects of a marriage done well. A covenantal marriage paints a picture of the love between Christ and his Church and of the covenant between God and his people. Marriage tells the Easter story: Jesus lays down his life for us. And marriage points to the glorious conclusion of the creation story, when all things will find their fulfillment not in getting our own needs met but in the love, cover and hope of a good and faithful God.

 

* “What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness” is a TED talk. Watch here.

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Dear Paul: Did you choose the single life, or did it choose you?

Reflecting a great deal lately on human design, I find myself thinking about the nature of marriage, the single life and friendship. That has me thinking a lot about Paul, a single man whose words have probably done more than anyone else’s to shape our thoughts on gender and how we relate to each other. Because I’m a fan of his, I wrote him a letter …

Dear Paul,

I have always wondered if you had any idea when you were living out your first-century faith in Christ that you’d have such a profound influence on the world. Did you have a clue when you were sitting in prison dictating letters that your words would become our theology? Could you have known as a single man just what kind of influence you’d have over all our relationships, not to mention our understanding of gender (and yes, I wonder — if you’d known the ripple effect — if you would ever have penned those lines about women)?

Did you choose the single life, or did it choose you? Was it part of the small-print of first-century Christian life? Or did it just seem to happen as an effect of your driven personality? Either way, thank you for living that life out loud so we could soak in what you learned. I’m struck by your yearning to “get back to the Garden” and by your passion for the coming Kingdom. I love that you had such a drive to push through your own needs for the sake of a bigger vision.

By your letters, it seems you genuinely believed the Messiah would be back in your lifetime. You lived as if that were so; even your romancing was shaped by how convinced you were of this. I completely agree with your comments to the Corinthians, that until we fully appreciate our completeness in God and have a solid foundation “in Christ,” romance can be a distraction and even a detriment to our relationship with Christ. You were wise to counsel new believers to stay married, even if faith was a sticking point in their relationships. That counsel still works today. I’ve known too many folks who have made their biggest mistakes by trying to get others to change, or worse yet to “complete” them.

Your decision to remain single for the cause of Christ was bold. I appreciate your giving the world permission to explore what we’re really cut out for. While loneliness, the desire for intimacy and family life will prevent most of us from taking the path of the single life, your example is honorable. You’ve added something important to the community of Christ.

Thanks for providing the example for those who are called to vocations and Kingdom work that require a single-minded focus. Thanks for showing us what a call to and not just a call from might look like. I’m thinking about how a person in our day and time might follow the narrow path you chose. If I listen to your life, some clarifying questions begin to bubble up.

If I were considering the single life, what litmus test would help me discern God’s best?

1. Am I called to express Christ’s love for the Church not through marriage but through a singular focus on God?
2. Am I called to a Kingdom work that requires my single-minded focus? In other words, for some positive Kingdom-building reason has God called me to the single life?
3. Do I have not just strength but a holy resolve to resist the pull toward my natural design and drive?
4. Am I willing to embrace loneliness as part of this vocation?
5. Have I sufficiently grieved the loss of parenthood, children, family, physical intimacy with someone else so that I enter the single-focused life from a place of strength and not victimhood?
6. And maybe the most important and first question to ask is this one: Have I sufficiently dealt with things that might distort my sense of call, like self-hatred, shame, fear, issues of control, a desire for independence (or what Tim Tennent calls autonomous solitude), feelings of inadequacy, perfectionism …. ? Because until a person has explored how all those things enter into or impede an ability to be “naked and unashamed” I am not sure a person can honestly answer the question of whether or not they are called to a life of singleness or marriage.

Paul, thank you for living your life so honestly and openly. Thank you for teaching transparently about marriage, singleness, divorce, gender, and vocation. Thank you for showing us how to live in community and for acknowledging so graciously that community is messy. But worth it.

I love your courage. I love your boldness. I love that you didn’t put up with any foolishness, but challenged generations of Christ-followers to grow up. I’d like to think that if I lived in your day or you lived in mine, we’d be genuinely good and faithful friends.

In Christ,

Carolyn

 

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Hungering for the Garden

From Surrender to Love by David Benner:

“Deep down … something within us seems to remember the Garden within which we once existed. Part of us longs to return; we know that this is where we belong. But another part of us seems bent on living out our illusions of freedom and autonomy. We tell ourselves that we can create other gardens in which to find soul rest and encounter love. But what we create are weed-infested gardens of compulsion and idolatry. Instead of rest we get addiction and self-preoccupation. And our restlessness grows, our hearts yearning for something both familiar and unattainable.

“Faint residues of a memory of Perfect Love seem to flit at the edges of human consciousness. Such memories are so weak that they are easily ignored. They remain, however, the core of our deepest desires — all human longings pointing to the Source….

“Realizing we had forgotten our story, God sent Jesus as the personification of love. The Son came to reveal the character of the Father. The Son came to bring us back to the Father — back to love. Jesus came to remind us what true love really is. Christians and non-Christians alike widely affirm the nobility of Jesus’ character. He was so obviously a good man. His love was obvious, his teachings were noble. But his life, death and resurrection all point us beyond this. They point us toward the character of God. This was what Jesus himself taught. With truly remarkable boldness he asserted that his life revealed God. The love he demonstrated was the love what was his source. It was the love he knew from eternity as the Son of the prodigious Father.

“Who else, then, to better remind us of our own story? Who else to better bring the faint residual memories of the garden of love in from the periphery of consciousness to the core of our being? The story of Jesus is the story of love personified. We miss the point when we simply try to do what he tells us to do. And we miss the point when we merely try to follow the pattern of his life. His life points us back to his own Source. His life is intelligible only when it is understood as the personification of divine love.”

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