Painted Rocks

From Lead Pastor Matt Adair:

If you do a Google image search on ‘painted rocks’, you’ll find a universe devoted to painting pictures of animals on rocks. Some of the artwork is remarkable in its quality and at times you feel like you’re looking at something that is really alive. But in the end all you have is a painted rock, a dead reality masquerading as real life.

Coming out of Jesus’ message to love our neighbor (Luke 10:25-37) this past Sunday, I have two concerns for us: punting and painting. For some of us, the temptation we face is to punt Jesus’ command over a fence and hope it gets lost in the weeds of our hectic life. The truth is that as life slows down during the summer and we find time to take vacation, we (unintentionally?) find ourselves taking a break from Jesus and the life he calls us to live as part of his family.

And while I’m deeply troubled by our collective propensity to set Jesus off to the side while we rest on the beach or hike the mountains or take the kids to Disney, I’m just as concerned that we’ll spend our summer painting rocks, mastering the art of religion because it feels like real life. Some of us are very good at acting like we love our neighbor (particularly compared to other people!) even as our hearts become more petrified with anger towards pathetically needy people and the God who should be able to handle this without bothering us and messing up our lives.

If you walked away from Sunday’s message believing that God wants you to just get on with the business of loving the people he puts in front of you, don’t be surprised if you end up agitated at God for making you do something you wouldn’t do if he hadn’t threatened you with hell and damnation. If the primary goal of loving people is to get God off of your back or to somehow convince him to love you, prepare to be disappointed or devastated.

Religion - loving your neighbor because you have to convince God that he should love you - will never turn you into a loving person. Because all you’re doing is painting a pretty picture over your stone cold heart. And if you’re wondering whether you’re painting rocks, riddle me this: are you loving your neighbor because you want something from God - blessings, rewards, escape from judgment - or do you love your neighbor because that’s the place and posture where God’s love for you is revealed for you in ordinary, everyday life?

When I love people in the name of religion, the rocks I paint end up looking like pride or fear - pride at how good I am at loving people or fear that I’m not loving as well as I’m supposed to be loving. And it’s not long before pride metastasizes into impatience with those who don’t love as well as I love. Or despair drowns itself in an attempt to self-medicate and hide the naked reality of my lack of love for other people.

Thankfully, there’s another way to live besides painting rocks. The Christian message we call the gospel reminds that there is nothing we can do to make God love us more and nothing we have done will cause God to love us less. It’s his love that makes us alive and enables us to grow in genuine love for God and neighbor. We don’t have to create a religious facade to hide what’s dead inside; we’re free to love authentically because God’s love for us in Christ is breathing new life into dead parts of our soul.

We love because he first loved us - I John 4:19

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Why Jesus?

In the last two youth group meetings of the school year, leaders Collin Ross & Rachael Mirabella answered the question for their students, “Why Jesus For Me?” Jesus says it is costly to be His disciple in Luke (9:57-62), so why follow? Why did the men back then decide it was worth it (10:1) and why do we think He is worth it?

It was a really fun question to think through and answer.

Collin’s answer - “Jesus treasures the people the world throws away.” The weak, the lame, the sick, the poor, the dumb, the untalented, the unattractive, the hungry, the meek, the poor in spirit, those who mourn … He wants them all.

Rachael’s answer - “Jesus makes this crazy world make sense.” He answers the question of suffering. He answers the question why it seems like bad people get away with bad things. He promises to return. He promises to deal with sin, and He graciously offers His Son as payment. His holiness and glory answers why Jesus asks so much of us.

So, why Jesus for you? Some people call their answer a testimony. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us we should always have an answer for the hope we have. What’s your answer? Why do you follow Jesus? Why is He worth it to you?

If you come up with an answer that you feel like sharing, e-mail madair@missionathens.com as we would love to encourage our fellow church family members with your story.

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Adoption and the Gospel

Today Camille Slaten, wife of Pastor of Gathered Worship Aaron Slaten, shares with us about their heart behind their plans of adopting a child in the coming year.

This past Saturday our family had a Garage Sale.  It wasn’t just any garage sale.  As I told a lady who was trying to haggle with me, “we aren’t trying to make money to go on a vacation.”  This garage sale had a purpose.  It was the first of many fund raisers we are going to do to fund our adoption.

Aaron and I have been on two mission trips to Romania and were confronted with the hard reality of the lives of orphans and their care.  Without overstating its impact, it was a life changing trip for us.  God used it to put in both of us a heart for the orphan.  The needy.  The outcast.  God broke our hearts for the things that break His.  His work in both of us had begun and we both knew that orphan care would be a part of our lives but we didn’t know how.

Fast forward several years after having two kids and wondering if the “number” for our family was two.  This past summer we began wrestling with what God had for our family.  I started attending Community Bible Study in August and we studied in depth the books of Amos and Isaiah.  Over and over (and over and over!) God has the same indictment of His chosen people-you are not taking care of the needy, and the desolate and the poor.  You are a self-indulgent people who aren’t loving those who are hurting and lonely.  I kept saying to Aaron as we studied His Word, “God is serious about His people  loving the unloveables.”  And so we got serious about it as well.  We prayed and talked a lot this past Fall and knew the God was calling our family to pursue an adoption.  The minute the decision was made, I felt an incredible peace knowing that adoption is at the very heart of God.

We believe there is no greater picture of the Gospel than adoption.  Once we adopt our baby, they become a Slaten, with all the rights and inheritance of Levi and Bella.  It’s exactly what Jesus does with us.  We become sons and daughters, heirs and co-heirs with Christ because of the blood He shed for us.  It excites us beyond measure to be a part of God’s adoption plan.  We feel that we are understanding even more our own status as orphans before God adopted us into His family through Jesus.  It deepens our appreciation and love for His grace and mercy.  We are humbled.

Adoption is expensive. And that is why we had so many families in our Community Group and church donate generously to our Garage Sale last weekend.  We have started our fund raising with a bang-and with a the help of our community.  It is clear to us that we can’t do this alone.  God has called us to do this within community.  We are so thankful for the community we are in and humbled to call for help in this time of relying and depending on God to make His dream for our family come to fruition.

We are excited about this for our family-even Levi and Bella can’t wait to see who God has for us.  We are passionate about adoption and orphan care and would love to talk to anyone who has any questions for us.

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