Friday, November 13, 2009

Soggy Holy Ground

I've had a little over a year in this job now. Kinda getting used to God waking me up in the middle of the night. Usually I have a pretty good idea what I'm supposed to be about when He interrupts what I think is supposed to be sleep time. Not always, though.

It happened again about 5:00 a.m. Wednesday morning. It was pretty clear I was supposed to be up and at 'em working to finalize the sermon for Sunday. Once that was finished, I knew I was supposed to crank in hard on the leader training presentation for Saturday. So, I'm feeling pretty good about being obedient and all. I'm sitting in what used to be our dining room--now a makeshift study--writing away. Pretty sure I'm doing what God wants me doing.


About 6:45 a.m., I hear a sound. It's like the sound of many waters--there's scriptural reference for you in there. But it sounded like these were many waters INSIDE. It had been raining outside for two straight days, so water sounds were common. But this sounded different. Now, my wife will tell you that there are two things I do not think should be running loose in a house. One of them is insects. The other is, well, you know---H2O.

I listen for a few seconds, and the sound does not go away. I start a search. Could it be that God has gotten Jackie up at 6:45 and she's showering? Jackie's a slow-waker-upper, so it's unlikely in the stupor she's in when she first gets up that she would have gone from sleep to shower this quickly. But I check. Nothing there.

I check the garage, where we had a water leak last year. Nothing there. I check out the back windows and walk around first floor. Nothing.

I go to the basement. . .and step into a couple of inches of water. The analyst in me figures "This may be where the sound is coming from." I turn the corner and there it is. The main water line is busted. Good news is that I've figured out where the water pressure we don't seem to have in our kitchen sink is concentrated. Yeah, water's shooting out like a fire hydrant--not the ones in DC that don't work, but a functioning one.

Things get wacky for a while as I'm trying to remember where the main water valve is and shut it off, try to find brooms and rags and towels, and, well, you can imagine.

Hours later, with the clean up basically in hand, Jackie and I sat, exhausted, and reflected. What if God hadn't awakened me? What if that water line had busted at 2:00 a.m. and run all night? What if it had happened when we were away for a vacation or something? Yeah, we were inconvenienced a little, but it could have been so much worse. And before our time was over, we were rejoicing about the water in the basement and how wonderful God's timing was in it all and how the best thing that could have happened was for that water line to bust open. It was weird. It was wonderful.

I went back to the basement. Still some puddles here and there, but I saw it differently this time. This was where God did something. This was where He intervened. This is where He revealed a weakness, caused a disturbance, forced a response, but He did it with grace, minimizing the damage in His love, like a surgeon. Then it hit me. This is how He deals with me all the time.

And during that time with Him there, I saw what was true all along--that the wet concrete floor wasn't just a basement. It was holy ground.

Maybe God's messing around in your life today, too. Do you see it as an inconvenience, or a chance to touch and be touched by the maker of everything?

God's good. Happy slogging.

Dwaine Darrah
McLean Campus Pastor

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Life Interrupted

Weird night at lifegroup. Prayers going up for travel mercies for one of our number attending funeral in Atlanta and for another traveling to California to be with mom with stage 4 colon cancer and for one of our guys in pain who is awaiting knee replacement surgery and for a new couple in need of jobs.

And then. . .well, then something happened I didn't expect. One person shouted out a praise for having gotten cancer. She's just coming off chemo. But she talked of how cancer for her was a blessing, that it forced her to focus, get her priorities in line with God's, and that she's seeing God at work in new, more vivid ways. Ok, after that, it was hard to ask for prayer for my hangnail.

But this dealing with seeing God at work in the interruptions of life popped up in our scripture for the night--Acts 16. Paul and Barnabas determine to visit all the churches they started on their first journey. They can't even get packed before they split up over who would come with them. Rats. Interrupted.

We're sure Barnabas is doing great work, too, but the Holy Spirit zeroes in here on Paul. As he's about the work, we're told that he is forbidden by the Holy Spirit from going to Asia (verse 6). Rats. Interrupted.

Then Paul intends to go to Bithynia, but, again, the Holy Spirit did not permit it. Rats. Interrupted.

We don't know why or how the Holy Spirit communicated this. Did Paul fall ill? Could they not get correct change for the subway? Easy at this point for Paul to go "God, what's the deal? You are standing in the way of my well-conceived travel plans." Sounds like he didn't do that, since he then gets a vision to go to Macedonia and obeys.

Paul eventually ends up in Philippi, where there is this hilarious story. Paul and his troupe on the Sabbath decide to go down to the river for a little peace and quiet, "supposing there would be a place of prayer" there. They supposed wrong. Instead, there were a bunch of women yacking it up. Rats. Interrupted.

Instead of rolling their eyes, they sit down and start talking to the women. One, Lydia, overhears, gets saved, and then her whole household gets saved. And the gospel is off and running in Europe!! Who'd have thunk it?

So, here's one for ya. Are you actually about the business of God's work and purposes? Do you have a plan to be a minister of the gospel and are you pursuing it? As you pursue it, are you open to the Holy Spirit altering those plans without becoming bitter and thereby missing God's purposes? Yeah, some exciting things can happen. You get a promotion, you get engaged, you get some blessing. But God often directs through inconveniences. The loss of a job, a broken down car, a serious illness, a betrayal, or some other huge disappointment. Do you stop in those times to listen, to see what God might be up to?

He's probably leading you to your Lydia.

But we'll miss that if we're bummed that He interrupted our plans. But isn't that where we spend too much of our time? I mean, seriously, when's the last time you shared your faith outside the church walls? Is it really that there's just a lack of lost people out there, or are you just not listening?

Ok, I'm done. You can go back to what you were doing now. Sorry for the interruption.

Dwaine Darrah
McLean Campus Pastor

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Inching Along

Lifegroup Tuesday. Acts 13. Came across an intriguing fella named Elymas. The description of him was clear, but it appeared to make no sense.

He was a false prophet.

He was a sorcerer.

He was a Jew.

Like the aptitute test that asks "Which of these things is not like the others?" these three descriptors do not go together naturally. Why? Well, the Old Testament clearly states that if you were a Jew, you were not to be a false prophet. The result? Big rocks dropped on ya. How about if you thought sorcery would be a good career choice? Result? Big rocks dropped on ya.

And that got us to thinking about how this could happen. Does a good little Jewish boy just wake up one day and think to himself "Yeah, today it's gonna be sorcery and false prophesying. That's the ticket." And then we asked, "Does the high school teacher arrested for having child porn on his computer just wake up one day and go there and, like, get nabbed right out of the chute?" Probably not. In fact, 15 years ago, if you had told that high school teacher, fresh out of college, that he'd lose his job, his family, his reputation, and his friends doing child porn, he'd have told you you were nuts.

No, the path was probably long and twisting. Long because it took a whole lot of steps to get there. Twisting because each step had to occur with the final destination concealed. Had he seen it coming, he might have changed course. Makes sense. Proverbs tells us that it's the little foxes that ruin the vineyard, not one big fox. Lots of little things add up. Add up for good or for ill. Romans tells us that ending up in a good place is the result of little steps, too--little steps of faith that build on each other.

So, what to do? We sought to evaluate our lives right now. Where are we, in little things, in seemingly inconsequential things, in "what's the big deal?" things, taking little steps leading to righteousness? And where are we, in little things, in seemingly inconsequential things, in "what's the big deal?" things, taking little steps that are taking us to utter destruction currently hidden by the twists in the road?

For some, it was the need to bow a head and pray publicly for that meal in the restaurant. For others, it was talking to that family member who asks the question that forces us to profess what we really believe about Jesus. For me, it was not just saying I'd pray for ya, but actually stopping and doing it. Or, seeing the need of a brother in pain and stopping from my so-called busy schedule to hang out with him at the doc's. A lot of the time, I'm impatient for the big rush, the major accomplishment. But today. . .today some mighty good stuff flowed from what would appear to be just dinky little things.

Liked it enough, I'm thinking about trying a little step of faith again tomorrow. Who knows where this might lead?

Could be bailing someone out of the adult detention center who's taken too few of them, I suppose.

Dwaine Darrah
McLean Campus Pastor

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Boldness Revisited

I was out in Indiana a couple of weeks ago. Didn't want to be there. Oh, I like Indiana just fine. All the family is there. But I was in town to do the funeral for Bill, my brother-in-law. Tough stuff. But I find it's easy when I'm doing my "minister" thing to spot the moments for boldness, for speaking out. Like, we couldn't stay with family members because other family was packed in there, so we stayed with John and Jeannie, long-time friends of Bill's. I'm sitting at midnight at the computer working on the funeral message when John walks in and tries to look over my shoulder at what I'm writing. After just standing there for a while, he just says, "Well, I know I'm going to hell." You don't have to be brilliant to know "Hey, here's a opportunity for boldness."

At lifegroup yesterday, we were kicking around Psalm 139 and Ephesians 1 and talking about boldness. Here's another reason to be in lifegroup--my understanding got broadened as we kicked this around. It struck us that boldness might not look the same for everyone. Depending upon how God has fearfully and wonderfully made us, it might look like a funeral message, but it also might look like cooking a meal for a neighbor. It might look like letting someone in front of you in traffic, especially if you've got a fish on your rear fender. It might look like asking if you could pray for someone at work whose family member has taken ill. It might look like offering to babysit a neighbor's kids so they can go out and talk. It might look like paying for another couple's meal that you don't know sitting across the room at a restaurant, or maybe a huge tip to bless the wait staff. Maybe it looks like raking a neighbor's leaves or cutting their grass. Maybe it's saddling up to the outcast at work that no one else likes and being a friend.

Maybe it's not always talking, but maybe it's doing life in a way that will make people ask you what the deal is with you, make them ask why you're different, why you're being nice to them. And when they do, you can talk then.

Ephesians tells us that we've been saved, we've been wiped clean, we've been given the Holy Spirit for a reason, for a purpose, to accomplish an end. And that end is, amazingly, not so we can just do our thing and "be happy.' It's all for the purpose that we would be "to the praise of His glory."

Changes things a bit when you walk out the door in the morning if you consider that your purpose today, no matter what the day holds, is to testify to the glory, the beauty, the majesty, the might, the awesomeness of the One who made you. That testimony can be as varied as the stars, as God has put you together uniquely.

Want to go to sleep tonight fulfilled? Live, exist, operate to bring praise to His glory.

Oh, and have a nice day.

Dwaine Darrah, McLean Campus Pastor

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Who You Talking To?

It's Tuesday. It's lifegroup. It's God using His word to give us a little shot across the chops.

Acts 11. Yeah, we were there last week, but at least we're in the second half of the chapter. Now, Peter has just reported to the folk in Jerusalem about this Gentile fella, Cornelius, who has gone and done the unthinkable--accepted Jesus Christ and received the Holy Spirit without becoming a Jew first. How dare he. And even though the Jewish Christians seemed to offer no resistance to Peter's account, it does not seem that they really got what was going on. Why do I think so?

Well, in the very next verse, verse 19 actually, it says that, as the Jewish believers were scattered from Jerusalem because of the persecution there, they ended up in various places--Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch--and purposed to talk to no one except other Jews about Christ. No way they were going to reach out to those dirty Gentiles.

This cycle was amazingly broken by Jewish believers from Cyprus and Cyrene. Those ne'er- do-wells show up in Antioch and started sharing the gospel with the Greeks (a highly classified euphemism for "non-Jews"). Not only that, but a bunch of these "Greeks" accepted Christ, causing such a ruckus that the folk in Jerusalem hear about it and send Barnabas to check it out.

Now, Barnabas is very impressed by what he sees, but he appears very concerned, too, that these new believers might be tempted back to their old ways. Good reason to be worried. Worship of Venus and Apollo in that area included some serious sexual depravity. We found it interesting that, rather than go and report back to Jerusalem what he had seen, Barnabas goes looking for Paul. That verb "look for" doesn't do justice to the sentiment here. It really means that he went searching frantically, like you would if your child got separated from you in the mall. Its the same verb used to describe Mary and Joseph's search for Jesus when he was left behind in Jerusalem. You get the drift. Barnabas was absolutely determined to get Paul, bring him to Antioch, and have him teach these new believers.

There's a lot to glean from this account, but one thing we were challenged with is whether we come to church on Sunday determined to speak only to "jews", i.e., the people we already know, our friends, people we're comfortable with. I read a list of some new people who've been coming to the McLean campus over the last couple of months to see whether everyone in the group knew them. We didn't. So, we challenged ourselves to be about the business on Sunday mornings of reaching outside our circle of friends and to meet anyone whose name and story we don't know.

McLean is a pretty friendly campus, but keeping it that way requires reminding ourselves from time to time what we're all about. How sad would it be if someone walked in who didn't know Christ and is able to walk out not knowing anyone else in the room, either.

So, the goal is to remember this not just next Tuesday, but on Sunday morning at 11:00. Should be fun to see what happens.

By the way, these guys make lifegroup a highlight of the week!! If you're not in one, how much you are missing!!

Dwaine Darrah
McLean Campus Pastor

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Give It a Rest

Give It a Rest

This blew me away at lifegroup last night. Hacking through the 1st half of Acts 11. Peter returns to Jerusalem after the Gentile, Cornelius, has the Holy Spirit fall on him and gets baptized. He is immediately set upon by Jewish Christians for daring to mingle with a Gentile. So, Peter recalls the whole story, and it says at the end of his telling of it, his critics "quieted down."

What we found interesting is that this same Greek word is used in Luke 14. Jesus is out walking around on the Sabbath, following by a bunch of lawyers and religious leaders looking for Him to make a mistake. Jesus sees a man suffering from dropsy in front of him. He turns to the religious types and asks them whether it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath. The scriptures say that they kept silent. "Kept silent" is the same word as "quieted down" in Acts.

In Luke 23, after Jesus' crucifixion, the women saw Jesus' tomb and how His body was laid. And they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And on the Sabbath, it says, they rested according to the commandment. The word "rested" is the same word translated "kept silent" and "quieted down."

Putting these all together, what do you get? Maybe resting in the Lord has a lot more to do with shutting up for a change. Before the God of all the Universe, the Creator of all things, the One who sees the end from the very beginning, the Merciful and Just God who knows us better than we do, perhaps we'd be wise to be as savvy as the Pharisees and just give it a rest. Realize we have nothing to say that really matters. There's no defense we can make. No excuse that works. No argument that sounds wise. No plans or strategies that impress.

Maybe we should just give it a rest. Maybe if we shut up, He'll have a chance to talk to us. Maybe He'll tell us what to pray for. Maybe He'll tell us how to pray for it. Maybe He'll rip our hearts open, as He did mine last night, and show us areas of us He doesn't yet posses but wants to.

So, for 13 minutes last night, we just allowed Him the opportunity to have His way, to have the floor, our hearts a quiet pool to stir with his finger. To be truthful, we didn't find it easy. Maybe the joy of transforming lives will give us perserverance. So, we're writing down what we heard. Our boldness move next week is to share that.

Dangerous stuff. Feel feel to try it.

Dwaine Darrah
McLean Campus Pastor

Thursday, July 9, 2009

On That Day: A DocuDrama

Stephen and I have a lot in common. We grew up in the same town. Went to the same church growing up. Came to believe in the same Jesus. Saw the same miracles.

Died on the same day.

That day began like most others in Jerusalem. Job was going fine, had my health. I also was a new Christian. In fact, my whole family had come to know this Jesus guy and call him Lord. And He was changing us from the inside out in amazing ways. And the teaching. . ..AWESOME. Best sermons on the planet. The church was happening, man. We were seeing incredible things. Like, some days, thousands of my friends and neighbors became followers of Jesus. It was pretty sweet.

Well, mostly sweet. Up to that day. Should have seen it coming. Just wasn't looking. Man, they got Stephen the same way they got Jesus. Had some dudes invent lies about what he was saying, stirred up a mob, and just murdered him. Not cool at all. So, I think it's right that Stephen gets written up in the bible. What he laid on the religious leaders in his defense was for the ages.

Me? I don't make it through the day, either. I'm just a footnote, like everyone else who bought the farm on that day when all hell broke loose against the church.

I had a lot of questions, for sure. You would have, too. I mean, to stop breathing on that day was not in my five-year plan. I double-checked. Not there. There were still more people with whom I wanted to share the gospel, more things to learn, more changes to make, more tithes to give, more impact to have. Dying on that day? Just didn't seem to make a lot of sense. Why did this happen? Why would God allow it? Does He know what He's doing? Is He really in control? If not, can I trust Him?

Things happened so fast after Stephen's death that I didn't have a chance to get good answers to these questions. The mob just turned immediately on anyone who was a Christian. It looked like leaving town would be the only option, but we didn't have time to pack before they dragged us off.

So, here I am. Looking down on the earth I used to walk, trying to figure it out. I've got this incredible eternity to look forward to. Not particularly bitter. Just wanting to make sense of why I was at all. What purpose was there in my life down there, and what good did I accomplish? I was only a Christian for a couple of months. Seems like such a waste.

But sitting here, I'm reminded that Jesus told us we would be His witnesses not only in Jerusalem, but in Judea, in Samaria, and in the remotest parts of the earth. While I thought I'd leave Jerusalem someday and spread the gospel, seems God's idea was that I was to serve as the catalyst for others to make that journey. Wasn't easy to accommodate, but it seems I was supposed to die there in Jerusalem. It wasn't some fluke, an accident. My death forced those whose job was to move out and spread the gospel to get on with it.

Ok, I'm still pretty sure I would have written a different role for myself in this saga, but I'm getting it that God knows exactly what He's doing. I also got it just how much of my relationship with Jesus revolved around my expectations of what He'd do for me, how He'd make me happy, and how He'd give me this or that thing or experience, how He'd make me notable or great or something. You know, I thought my mindset was eternally focused, but in reality I had way too much stock in life down there. Maybe I'd have seen things more clearly if my life revolved less around my happiness and more around seeing how every situation was an opportunity to give Him glory.

So, for those of you still down there, maybe you're wondering about hard times, illnesses, disappointments, whatever. Maybe there's something bigger afoot. Are you looking for it? Maybe it's not going badly. Maybe it's just going godly. And, on that day--you know, when you get here--it'll be fun to compare notes.

Want to read some more about this stuff, cull through Acts 1:1-8; Acts 6:1-8:4.