Sunday, August 14, 2011

prayer retreat

About a month ago, Logan and I were so blessed to go on a prayer retreat with our church. Initially, we went to intentionally pray about the possibility to join with a church plant in New Zealand. We were not expecting a "wow" moment (perhaps, that is poor faith on our part). We didn't want to pressure God in a corner to tell us yes or no by the end of the retreat. No, we simply wanted to do our part to make space for God to speak and for us to listen.

Faithful, God was present for all five of us on the retreat. I mean, solitude is so good. During the retreat, Logan and I kept asking ourselves, "Why don't we do this more often?" It was so refreshing to clear our heads, process these past couple months, be reminded of God's love, and allow him to refill us. In so many ways, I was amazed by the combination of individuals who went -- who seemed to relate and know how to pray for the immediate needs on our hearts that weekend.

During that time, there were so many things God and I talked about from graduating, getting married, moving to New Jersey, future jobs, and mostly the kind of life I am pursuing. I've been slowly reading through N.T. Wright's Surprised by Hope. On the retreat, I jotted down these quotes in my journal:

"This, as we have seen, is what the resurrection and ascension of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit are all about. They are designed not to take us way from this earth but rather to make us agents of the transformation of this earth, anticipating the day when, as we are promised, 'the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.'"

"What's more, such people are not just to be a sign and foretaste of that ultimate salvation; they are to be part of the means by which God makes this happen in both the present and the future."

"Atonement, redemption, and salvation are what happens on the way because engaging in this works demands that people themselves be rescued from the powers that enslave the world in order that they can in turn be rescuers."

N.T. Wright's book stirs up so much of what God started teaching me from the end of high school through college. His words cause such tension when I think of old friends from home or my girls in California or anyone I know who has walked away from faith. How can people who grew up in the church turn away from God? Why isn't Christ's resurrection compelling enough?

I'm afraid it's because of this. We think Christ died and went somewhere greater -- that this world is sinful and hopeless. We settle for a choice between heaven's gates and hell's flames because that's what we think faith and church is all about -- not going to hell. If the only reason we believe in the resurrection is to avoid suffering, we're not sure it changes anything for this broken world.

But Christ came here, which changed everything. He came and brought his Kingdom to this world. The decisions we make in this life matter -- and the way in which we spend our time, our resources, and our abilities. God transforms us here and now, to live as a rescued child of God, and in a way that also draws others to God's love. The Kingdom isn't hiding or somewhere else in the universe. It started with Christ, then his disciples, the early church, and is still being carried by his believers.

God reminded me on this retreat, his plan for those saved and unsaved, not just for me but everyone. That's where I want to be, in places where God continues to transform me, and allows me to be part of his means in helping others be transformed.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

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