We meet with the POTs parents for dinner, try to empathize with the ongoing insanity of their fate, then grab a plate of the best desserts and break out for 90 minutes of Bible study/encouragement/prayer. We have 19 committed members, with anywhere from 14-19 in attendance each week.
Personality: We are -
• A writer, a preacher, a technology sales consultant, a seminary student, an office manager, a bio-chemist, a banker, a retired UPS guy, two school-teachers, a veterinary office manager, a CFO, an accountant, two school principals, a Christian camp manager, an airline pilot, a school-psychologist and a hospital administrator.
• 16 have served as elders and all are active leaders in our church.
• We have 25 children between us, ranging in age from 16-32.
• The level of commitment and faithfulness and love for God in my Sunday-evening small-group is - as my son, Andrew would say - "epic!" Not only that, but - without exception - it's a discipleship constantly on the move. Every one of us has a closer walk with Jesus today than we did a year ago. I don't see anything in this group's future other than more of the same.
• If I had to pick a scripture that sums up what's going on with my friends, it would be this: "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3)
Conversation and struggle:
This doesn't mean that we don't struggle. In fact, I'd say we're where we are because we're not afraid to wrestle with God.
Yesterday evening, for example, we read the story of Abraham and Isaac. You remember, it's the one where God suggests a human sacrifice, dad ties up his son and places him on the woodpile, then an angel stops it at the last minute and the sheep gets it instead. Lovely.
Not surprisingly, there was a lot of passionate conversation, a lot of heartache, a lot of questioning. Last week we had talked about Abraham bargaining with God over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. Most of us said he should have argued again.
• "If ever there was a good time to argue with God, this would have been it!" Peter said.
• "This seems so out of character for the God I know," Debbie pointed out.
• "That's not the kind of 'test' that's good for a loving relationship," someone else declared.
In her sermon Sunday morning, Rebekah had talked about a woman she met at the doctor's office earlier in the week. Apparently she quit going to church because she was told it was wrong to ask questions!
"But I really wanted to know more," the woman said. "I want to understand, I want to be allowed to talk things over with God."
It's a good thing to wrestle with God, to struggle with the text, to ask hard questions, to search the scripture together, to be honest when God bugs us, to explore our relationship with God and with one-another in terms of honest dialogue.
God meets us right where we are; always. That's exactly where God met Abraham and began an ongoing redemptive work with a brand-new people - the people God intended to make a covenant with, to be a work in progress.
Abraham lived in and was part of a barbaric culture where human sacrifice - child sacrifice - was an accepted part of life.
• Maybe that's what Abraham thought a deity required to seal his side of any covenant?
• Maybe Abraham "heard" that from God when God asked for his total allegiance?
• Maybe that was the only religious language Abraham knew?
• Maybe God needed to meet Abraham exactly there before God could lead him anywhere else?
AND GOD stopped Abraham's hand. God made it clear that this Covenant was to be a New and Living way. And God made it clear that "The way of the Lord" was not/is not the way of the ambient culture. In other words, God required that Abraham be subversive, and not fall in line with the way everyone else operated in his violent, fear-filled, barbaric world.
Rather than God simply being a projection of the values of the world around Abraham, a deity designed to reinforce the status quo, Abraham's God was a God who offered something new and radical. This "Lord of Lords" set in motion a relationship where the values of this world would be turned upside down, and it was going to be - eventually - God's own self who was to be the sacrifice, through Jesus.
So this is how things go on a Sunday night. We study and cry and pray and argue and struggle and love together. And God calls us still, to be subversive in THIS culture.
Peace - DEREK (The Preacher's Husband)