Posts Tagged ‘Restore Church’

Lent, Day 3

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11 [NIV]

PresenceThe author of Brave Faith speaks from a place of introvertedness and “showing up.” As an off -the-chart extrovert, I am taking a different tack. For me, this devotion speaks more to Presence. Being There.

I have been working on prayer within the silence, connecting to my internal/eternal relationship with God . . . within. Bravery then can also be stopping the “external noise” long enough to hear, feel, and be in the moment.

So much of my time is spent thinking about what I did earlier today, yesterday, and a week ago OR pondering what I will wear tomorrow, what time I should get up, or what my plan is for the day. I have been losing the now; losing an opportunity to experience Presence. After all, God=I AM. Present tense, not I was or I will.

There is a type of courage that is required in the moment, letting go of what I did or did not do; letting go of what I plan to do or say. It’s the old phrase come to life: I am a Human BEing, not a Human Doing.

Our church is currently going through a terrible time as our beloved pastor has stepped down due to discovered infidelity and possibly more. It’s heart churning for everyone. But even worse are the attacks and the “I told you so’s” and who knows what else on social media. Personally, I know very few facts, but many are quick to surmise what was and when and who. Taking the Presence to this situation, I choose instead, to place him and his family and our church, into the moment. I cannot change what was and I don’t really know what tomorrow will bring, but there is this time now and invite my God into them, into us. I choose to feel unconditionally. And God will sort it out.

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restore-logo-and-tagThe first homework assignment for this session on theology is match our church’s belief statement with a variety of areas (big ideas in theology). Here’s a brief review of what I found.

The Summary Statement: 
Our Core Beliefs are intended to be a basis of fellowship. There will always be peripheral doctrines that committed Christians disagree upon, but the core beliefs of Christianity are non-negotiable. Below is a list of our core beliefs: The Bible is the Inspired Word of God There is one true God Jesus Christ is the Son of God The Fall of Man The Salvation of Man The Ordinances of the Church The Church and Its Mission The Holy Spirit The Final Judgment.

Areas this statement addresses:

The Bible: The inspired Word of God, infallible and the authoritative rule of faith and conduct for mankind.

The Nature & Character of God: One true God, called by many different names because of the different dimensions of His personality. God is super-dimensional and eternally self-existent (Jn. 8:54-59). God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. He is the creator of the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1&2). While God is one, He has revealed Himself in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

The Reality of Sin: The Fall of Humankind brought sin into the world; Humankind was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). However, by a voluntary act of the will, humans disobeyed God (Genesis 3:6). Disobedience had repercussions: humankind was excommunicated from the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:23), a curse was pronounced (Genesis 3:14-19), the process of physical death began (Genesis 2:17), and humankind died spiritually (Romans 5:12-19). Sin separated humankind from God (Ephesians 2:11-18) and left humans in a fallen or sinful condition (Romans 3:23).

The Nature of Jesus: The Son of God, Jesus Christ, is the second person of the Trinity, eternal. The Scripture declares his virgin birth (Matthew 1:18-23); His sinless life (Hebrews 7:26 & I Peter 2:22 & I John 3:4,5); His miracles (Acts 2:22 & 10:37-38); His substitutionary death on the cross (II Corinthians 5:21 & I Peter 2:24 & I Corinthians 15:4); His bodily resurrection from the dead (Matthew 28:1-6 & I Corinthians 15:4); His exaltation to the right hand of God (Acts 1:9,11 & Philippians 2:9-11).

Salvation: The only means of salvation is Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12 & John 14:6). He died on the cross to pay the penalty of our sins (I Peter 2:24). He offers each of us a pardon for our sins (Hebrews 9:26) and wants us to become children of God (John 1:12). More here.

Person & Work of the Holy Spirit: The second “person” of the Trinity. Our “salvation” includes our becoming the Temple of the Holy Spirit (I Cor 6:19); The nine fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) are the by-product of a Spirit-filled life and evidence of spiritual maturity. The nine gifts of the Spirit are different manifestations of the Spirit to build up the body (I Cor. 12:1-11). We are instructed to diligently seek the gifts (I Cor. 12:31, 14:1), but they must be exercised in an orderly way (I Cor. 14:26-33) in the context of love (I Cor. 13:1-13).

The Church: The Church is the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:12-27) and has a three-fold purpose: To evangelize the world (Acts 1:8 & Mark 16:15-16), to worship God (I Cor. 12:13), and to equip for ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16 & I Cor. 12:28, 14:12).

Our Purpose: To be in fellowship with God and one another. The mission of Restore Church: We exist so that people far from God will be raised to life in Christ.  Our mission will be unleashed by: Meeting people where they are. Connecting people to life changing relationships. Serving people with no strings attached. Fulfilling the mission of God will not only result in new ministries or programs, but a movement of disciple makers, impacting the world.

Sometimes people think, because our church traditions appear loosey-goosey or outside the norm of traditional Sunday services, that this church is not rooted or grounded. But clearly, much thought has gone into the bedrock theology of Restore Church.

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Theology is a word I have mostly avoided until starting quarter three of the Hillsong Ministry School at Restore Church, Havre de Grace. I mean, it’s not a “bad” word,  it just seems, on the front end, as being one of those words coupled with “religion,” which has gotten a pretty bad rap in recent years.

But honestly, theology is just a study of the divine, a study of God, a study of the big questions and how they impact our every day life. In some form or another, we have all grappled with some of the big questions: forgiveness, sin, justice, salvation, etc. And as we engage with others, we will be asked along the way, “why do you believe what you believe?” And if we have spent any time at all studying or searching (as in research) for the answers, we are theologians too. So, for this season, I will be embracing this idea of being capable of theological curiosity and adventure. 🙂

The biggest impact of a big topic that has impacted my life directly is my understanding of the sovereignty of God. This simple truth has sustained me through the loss of my husband and the a host of circumstances that could be perceived as negatives. From Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” to Isaiah 14:24, “The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand, . . . ” God is God.

Another personal study I took upon myself was many years ago as I search for the “secret place” of God, referenced in Psalm 91. I wanted to “hear” from God and I wanted to “dwell” with God and so I went looking. And although I could not live there 24/7, I did have a taste of heaven and entered for that Holy of Holies.

If we don’t pursue understanding through study, we may actually mislead others or worse, allow ourselves to be misled. I remember, as a younger Christian worrying about teaching that could take me off the mark. For instance, I followed a very popular but conservative teacher who was adamant that theater and music when “performed” in a church service was not worship but prideful etc. Another time, I remember visiting a church that called on the congregation to imagine that a microphone stand was Satan and to laugh at it [him]. And during the heyday of charismatic movement, there were many many abuses of implied miracles like gold dust manifesting from the hands of the anointed.

The Bible remains the foundation (having stood the test of time) for any study and from it, we can build our understanding and confirm our faith. I like the idea of the Canon of Scripture being translated as a “measuring rod.” That makes a lot of sense. But in order for the Bible to be a successful measuring rod, there must be understanding and, I think, wisdom. The tendency by many is to cherry pick the Bible for the parts that support an intention and discount the rest. This is flawed theology. But one thing I have learned with certainty from my lead pastor, Jess Bousa, the bible must be read in the light of the culture in which it was written. It will never be true for our culture if it was not true for them. On the other hand, there were cultural biases for them, that cannot be overlayed our own, like dietary laws, punishments, and medical assessments, just to name a few. We must be willing to reason together.

In the end, we must embrace and acknowledge the power, existence, and revelation that comes through the Presence of the Holy Spirit, all of which will/should align with the Bible. Let us take care not to blast and judge others before we have searched diligently for common ground first.

The Bible is a tool for personal study, personal revelation, and, like an onion, has layers within it. What we learn at first blush is different than what we learn after multiple readings, corroborating commentary, and preaching/teaching. It’s a living, breathing process.

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values-icebergIt’s an easy homework question this week, asking about our church’s values. Restore Church values are plastered all over the building in Havre de Grace, the collateral materials, and the website. There’s no doubts there, this part is important to the church’s DNA, the Code. But comparing those values with my own, is revelation of sorts.

1. We are faith-filled, big thinking, bold risk takers. This value is demonstrated in the church through the resolute faith of the leadership, trusting God for transformative power and miraculous answers to prayer; the vision for the future is big and beyond any one person’s ability or for that matter, even a group, to fulfill without divine inspiration and Presence. We walk on.

Me: I am a woman of faith, this I can say with confidence, throughout the challenges life has thrown my way. But am I looking back more than I am looking forward? That could be. I am, by nature, a “big” person. I mean, not tall or large, but when I express myself, it’s expansive. I tend to be too loud sometimes, and I tend to interrupt. I’m like a small volcano sometimes too. But do I think big for the future? I support the church in its future, but I have not found my own pattern within it, despite my service and participation. I’m not a complainer. I don’t kick against the goads. But do I take risks? Not so much. My joke has always been: planned spontaneity. I have taken some risks and they haven’t worked out, so I am, I confess, a little gun-shy.

2. We will do anything short of sin, to reach people who do not know Christ. The  church manifests this value through its commitment to reaching out to all people, with no judgment, and inviting them into the House. No one is asked to “clean up” before “showing up.” Therefore, we go out to the highways and byways, seeking those in need, seeking those who don’t know God, seeking those who have lost hope. Where? Events like egg hunts and movies in the park or military night out or single moms spa days.

Me: I am comfortable in my faith and in talking about my journey and my God. I am OK being myself in just about any environment. I believe in this open door policy. But I have not been as quick to open my own door. I’d like to move on that. Our current outreach events are good, they reach a lot of people, but I have not made time to work them like I did at the first. What happened there? I think it’s a bit like the tithe of money: if you don’t give it, then often the money is eaten up elsewhere. And perhaps it’s the same with time, if we withhold it from service, it is also consumed in the cares of the world.

3. grace-changes-everythingWe will lift up the grace and love of Jesus, rather than using our platform to judge and condemn. I mentioned this before, the church’s open door and open arms to all people. There may be people who walk into the House who are still struggling with deep sins or troubles, but the church is a hospital, not a country club. Grace is more powerful than anything else we can offer.

Me: I am much more open than I used to be. Somehow, in my many years of a Christ-centered life, I got the misconception that it was up to me to protect the Word (as though the Word could not stand on its own), and thereby add to it, more do’s and don’ts and can’ts and should nots etc. Such and such a group was sinning by choice and therefore, outside my world. I just can’t do that anymore. I let God do the judging and pray I can be an instrument of love and grace. Sometimes, it can be a fine line, I know and I don’t always walk it perfectly, but that’s fine too. Love wins.

4. We will love people when they least expect or deserve it. This is one of my favorite code/values of the church because it is our version of “random acts of kindness” and “paying it forward.” It’s being loving to the unloving. It’s touching the untouchables. Some of this looks like meals brought to an entire staff at a school or a basket of cheer to the fire station or police station, or just handing out “rah-rah” sports beads or glow sticks on the 4th. Simple stuff.

Me: I used to be better at this, like giving my entire block holiday cookies or gifting my staff. I like to giving little symbols of caring. I hope to re-connect to this part of myself and remember how to do it without a huge money investment. That I can’t do anymore.

body-of-christ35. We believe the church is the hope of the world. This has been a new thing for me, this love of the church itself (not a “single” church, but Church, as in Body of Christ). But the point is that this body of believers, operating in community and in love, has a chance to change the world — not by political railings but by humble service and prayer and faith.

Me: I have not loved the Church. I confess that. There have been so many believing people who have hurt me and judged me and, well, you all know that sad song. I need to do better here, finding a better connection between the Presence of the Holy Spirit in the People. And love them. Sometimes, I am ashamed of other believers (not so much in my local body), but in the bigger arena, those who play in politics particularly, who feel mandated to be the hope of the world through rhetoric alone.

6. We are united under one vision. This has been an important element of our local church that has caused some people to pack up and move along. That’s made me sad sometimes, and yet, I understand that there are expressions of the Presence in lots of different ways, from dark room theater style worship to glorious cathedrals and classical music. It’s not for everyone. I decided, from the beginning, to take this ride at Restore Church and although there have been things I didn’t particularly love to do, I wanted to see it through. And God has blessed this one vision.

Me: For many years, I prayed and prayed for an upbeat, spirit-filled, contemporary church in Havre de Grace. This church has been my answered prayer and I didn’t want to miss it. I’m in.

7. We are spiritual contributors, not spiritual consumers. This is an important difference that many people still don’t get. The idea here is that everyone who attends the church should be doing something. Church is not showing up at a Sunday morning service once a week anymore. Church is a living, breathing expression of our faith every day. Of course, if a person is hurting and lost, it will take more time to find a way into service. But people of faith, should be contributing from their storehouse of gifts.

Me: In some ways, I’m good here. But I confess, I’ve wanted to slide sometimes, to just show up, to just be a fly on the wall. But I know that’s not really me either. But I’m still not good at the balance, the family/work/church balance. So I do what I do best (talk) and a little teaching, and hopefully, a little more writing and administrating.

giving8. We will lead the way with irrational generosity. So, if you want to be in a church that is trying things and has a big vision, then you might as well get used to the idea that there will be financial expectations. But, with a heart. If we can’t give from the heart, willingly, then our giving will sour the well. If people want leaders to stop asking for money, then give generously and give a tithe, and the asking will stop because there will be enough.

Me: Not perfect in this area. I am nearly at the full tithe and give by automatic withdrawal. I don’t have to think about it. And that’s a good thing. But above the tithe, is not so easy. I’m feeling the pinch of a new lifestyle as a widow and retirement around the corner. It’s hard not to worry a little about resources. But God has been faithful.

simplicity9. We believe simplicity enables excellence. I’ll have to talk to my pastor about this one. It probably has to do with my mental model for simplicity vs. his model. I think this value/code is similar to the single vision, but I’m not really sure. Or maybe just the simple message: We exist so that people far from God will be raised to life in Christ.

Me: I am interested in simplifying my life. I have certainly had to downsize since leaving my big house. I have let go of a lot of “things.” But I don’t know that I have fully embraced the single vision for myself that is the church’s vision. In fact, I know I haven’t, because I just wrote about that last week. Here is the place, where it all comes screeching to a halt. I support the church’s vision, but I haven’t really made it my own yet. This is a matter for prayer.

10. We continually increase our capacity to expand by structuring our church for the next level. This is a leader thing, this idea of building the church’s infrastructure – not bricks and mortar, but people who can help make things happen.

Me: Not there yet. I’m not fighting the growth, not at all. But I have not found my place in the growth. Not yet.

This blog post was written in response to homework questions, but I challenge you, how do your personal values line up with your church or whatever group you consider to be your spiritual home.

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askSo I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. [Luke 11:9-10] 

I think I used to think of these three terms as sequential. But today, as I read this passage, I wonder if it’s not a reminder that any of these will work, depending on the circumstances. Sometimes, it’s best to simply ask for for what is needed, but in other cases, I may need to go looking for the answer, and still another time may require me to face an obstacle with stubborn persistence.

Perhaps, if I thought about it, I would need to confess that I do a lot more asking than seeking or knocking. Asking is the drop back and punt position. I know I am not alone in that kind of prayer life, filling the space with ask after ask after ask.

But, when the answer is elusive, do I seek and search. Do I prowl the scriptures for an answer or a direction? Do I speak with others more knowledgeable than me? Do I go into my prayer closet with an open mind to hear something new?

And knocking, well, I’m quite sure that’s the last of my choices. I’ll simply cave in and say, this must not be for me. If it doesn’t come easily or right away, I don’t really persist like I could.

Just taking this time to study a bit through the Hillsong Ministry School, is a beginning of seeking; getting back into a small group; meeting with other widows through Modern Widows Club; reading and writing again. It’s a start.

My circumstances have made me somewhat weary, I know. It’s been a tough year and a half, so many changes and challenges. But moving to the next level means I must begin to work my spiritual muscles again, to get back to the “gym” of God.






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Pastor Jess Bousa of Restore Church tells an interesting story about a woman who called up a pastor to give the church broken pianoher piano. When they arrived to pick it up, she explained that she had purchased a new piano and no longer needed the old one. And so she gave it to the church. I am “convicted” as they say by this story. After all, is that the intention of giving to God, our second, third or fourth best? Or, is it supposed to be our first fruits? In other words, not the old piano but the new one. That’s a sacrifice, that’s giving something of true value. We so often treat the church like the used clothing store. I have been guilty of this too.

Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name—there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord. [Deuteronomy 12:11, NIV]

What choice possessions have I given? I am close to the full tithe. Not completely, but close. I’m still negotiating, I know. It’s fear based. I know that God will bless me if I give out of my faith. But when I withhold, my faith becomes dented, like a dip in the road. Or worse, maybe it’s whack against my foundation. For a while, my house will continue to stand, but if I allow enough whack, I shouldn’t be surprised if there’s a collapse. I’m just sayin.’

But outside of money, what else is there to give? Our church collects clothing for swaps and the like. It’s amazing the condition of items that are given: stained and torn, sometimes it would do better in the rag bag. Is there pleasure in this kind of giving? Or during the holidays, we are encouraged to “adopt” a child and purchase gifts for him/her. We finally had to spell it out, “spend $75” on your adopted kid because people were going to the dollar store, buying the cheapest things, the least valuable.

freedom-writersAbout a year after we adopted our Russian daughter who was struggling with English in high school along with white, middle class bullies. At the same time, she had never known people of color, so I took her to see the film, Freedom Writers. In this film, a teacher, played by Hilary Swank, inspires a class of at-risk students to learn tolerance, apply themselves, and pursue education (a hope for a future). But before the teacher got there, these same students, mostly poor, were given the worst supplies, the shabbiest books, and so forth. The administration reinforced the expectations that the students were unworthy. The teacher in this film took a risk and gave them new books and opportunities never afforded them before. She gave her best. And she commanded their best. [For my daughter, this opened her own eyes as well, to prejudice of all kinds and she turned a huge corner.]

Once I admired a pair of earrings a woman was wearing. She told me they were her favorite earrings and she, too, liked wearing them. The next time I saw her, she gave me a small box and inside were the same earrings. Not new, no, but the very ones she loved the most. And now, they are one of my favorite pair as well. A small gift she gave, but from the heart. She gave the earrings to me physically, but in essence, she gave them to God.

letting goI’ve been doing a lot of downsizing as I moved into a smaller house. I literally had to let go of most of my furniture and when I could, I sold it. But really, not all of it would sell. Among these things was my very expensive bedroom set. It was two days before moving day and still no one would buy it and so, I gave it away to a family in the church. And I felt better about that giving than any dollar I earned from anything else. simplicity

Slowly, I’m getting the idea. It may take one more downsize, one more letting go move, to really “let go” of the stuff, to experience true simplicity. For I’m thinking that it is out of simplicity that generosity flows. I will no longer “rate” the value of what I have and give the less or more valuable, but all of it is a feather in the wind.

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Mike Brown.

Mike Brown.

Today, Feb 23rd is my husband’s birthday. My deceased husband, that is. And I’ve rather put that fact on the back burner all day. I did a little Facebook post, but in a hurry, keeping the feelings at bay.

But now, the day is winding down and it’s time to ponder today’s devotion. So, what jumps out at me, “They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.” [2 Corinthians 8:5b, NIV] But not like this, the words come out more like this: “He [Mike] gave himself first of all to the Lord, and then, by the will of God, also to me.”

Like many men, Mike, never fully trusted the women in his life. And yet, of all the women, he trusted me the most. And I can say that with some appreciation for a fight hard won. But whatever he might have withheld from me, he held nothing back from God, from the Christ. To God, he was devoted. I benefited from his faith, for it led the way to our marriage, our adopted children, and our 32 years together.

Mike was peculiar and saw everything through a unique lens. He didn’t really expect anyone to look through the same lens with him, but he did ask that people respect his point of view. It took me a while to get that. The Sarah in me wanted to change him. The Eve in me wanted to turn him. The Bathsheba in me wanted to lure him. But he was a steadfast man, even stubborn, which served his faith.

It wasn’t like he didn’t change over those years. He did. We both did, becoming less conservative and perhaps more progressive in the way we wanted to walk out our love for God. Mike was the first to reach out to people outside the box from men in prison to orphans in Africa. He could talk to just about anyone.

Mike gave hours and hours to the church, particularly our current church in its mission to reach people far away from God and bring them closer to new life in Christ. It’s a mission that resonated with Mike, but behind the scenes.

He was a good man. And today, we would have gone out to dinner and toasted to another year of blessings, and he would have said, one year closer to retirement, that is from his day job. Mike would have worked tirelessly for God until the end. Well, he did that anyway. I know his last word would have been the name of Jesus.

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