Dear West – 17 May 2018

Once a week I write a pastoral letter to the good people of the West Congregation of the Austin Stone Community Church. I will occasionally add some of those letters here.

Dear West Family

I can be a bit of a grumpasaurus and I know it.
My favorite cartoon character is Eeyore.
Favorite dwarf? Grumpy.
Favorite Gummy bear? Gruffy.
Favorite TV Character? House.
Favorite superhero? None obviously, because superheroes are a silly construct that keep us from owning up to our shared human frailty. You get the gist.

I used to think that this is just who I am, and at times I have taken a bit of pride in my sullenness, but over time I have realized that this is part of me that I need to fight against as a person of faith.

Cynicism isn’t a fruit of the Spirit.
Skepticism isn’t a mark of Christian maturity.
Sarcasm is fun, especially when it is with people who aren’t all that smart, but it isn’t actually a skill that Christians are called to develop.

We are called to be people of faith.
People of resurrection hope.
People who believe that things aren’t over even when they look like they are.
People who hang on when others quit.
People who see light when all around it appears dark.

I gave in to a bit of unrighteous grumpiness this week. If I am honest I have been fighting for faith in a few areas of my life and pastoral ministry over the past little while, and it felt like I was losing. I have been fighting to believe that things that look broken can be fixed. Fighting to believe that bodies that look irreparable can be healed. Fighting to believe that people lost in sin can be changed. Fighting to believe that God could use a muppet like me to serve people who are only as broken as I am. It is a fight that I engage in often, and it is a fight that I (and we) mustn’t back down on.

In Numbers 13 and 14, there is a story of a group of spies who are sent out from the people struggling in the wilderness to check out the land of Canaan, the land that God had promised to give to His people. You know the story. The spies come back with all the reasons the land could never be taken. They even bring reports of giants, and this causes mass faithlessness in the people, who are despondent and instantly want to go back to slavery!! But there is a spy who holds faith when everyone else is giving up. A spy who thinks the promises of God are bigger and more powerful than the giants he had seen. In chapter 14 God commends him and says, “Caleb has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring him into the land…” (Num 14:24)

A different spirit.
Imagine having God say that of us.
That we were people of a different spirit.
People of unyielding faith.
People of unrelenting hope.

I am praying that God would make me a man with a different spirit, and I am praying that God would make us a people of a different spirit. A people of faith. Those are the kinds of people that God loves to bring into the lands of his promises. Those are the kinds of people who get to share the hope of the gospel because it is a hope they cling to.

So what are you facing? Some giants? Lots of sin? Grumbling people? Broken relationships? Decaying bodies? Ask God to give you a different spirit. A spirit like Caleb that is certain of what we cannot yet see and sure of what we hope for.

Let’s be people of faith.

See you Sunday.
Ross

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