Home Again

Twenty-four hours ago Angi and I finished our second and last day at the Pepperdine Lectureship, sitting in the courtyard of the little 1960s motel on the beach that she loves and has wanted to share with me, and we listened to the waves crash a few yards from our feet and reflected on the blessings of the previous forty-eight hours:

Safe arrival. Beautiful weather. Our kids’ safety at home while thunderstorms and tornados passed to the north and the south of them. Two wonderful surrogate houseparents for them, freeing us to travel alone together for the first time in a decade.

Listening to Randy Harris before about 5,000 assembled Christians in the fieldhouse, admitting that he could not preach his assigned topic from the Sermon on the Mount about loving one’s enemies; he was still learning it from his students at ACU.

Hearing Rick Atchley, the embattled minister of North Richland Hills Church, describing his need to change his message to an audience of 400 in Africa because, odds were, more than a quarter of them would be dead from AIDS within a few years, and all of them were hungry to the point of starvation. The passion in his voice when he quietly said, “I’m done with arguing about the things that rich Americans can or can’t do for one hour a week on Sunday. If you folks want to go home and do that, that’s fine; you go ahead. But I’m through with it.”

Sitting on the stage a few feet behind Mike Cope, our minister during our three-year sojourn in Abilene, as he declared the soteriology of Paul to Galatia: that Jesus was enough; that Jesus plus anything else – circumcision, law, acts of righteousness, anything – was powerless to save.

Accepting the solo singing of “Redeemer” by Sheryl Thomas for the first time in person as a priceless blessing with our shameless, grateful tears – while we were still on the platform behind the ZOE Group and Mike; right in front of everyone else in that auditorium of 700-800 souls. Longing to share that blessing with our church family in a gathered worship setting even as a recording – yet knowing that some, like the spiritual hatchlings of Jerusalem that Jesus would have gathered under His wings – some simply would not.

So we do not.

After a silence there by the sea, I confessed to Angi: “It’s taken me a long time to realize that I grew up in a church that really was liberal; it wasn’t just called that by the other churches who wrote us up in their bulletins. It was truly liberal; liberal in love. I grew up hearing sermons about Jesus and about grace and how our own righteous acts are powerless to save us but are powerful to lead others to salvation; and when I hear messages and share in songs that are all about Jesus and all about His grace … I’m home.” And I found myself in quiet tears again.

And the waves went on crashing on the sand.

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14 thoughts on “Home Again

  1. Awww…Tell me more, please!I’m glad you guys had such a wonderful couple of days!And where are the pictures? You do have pictures, don’t you, Keith???

  2. I could be jealous–but I will be happy for you all! We really need to try to get there some time.How did your class go?

  3. I was there, it was awesome wasn’t it? Do you think the statements Rick Atchly made were his “Bethel” moments

  4. Lacey, sorry – no pictures. We mostly relaxed.JB – You really should spend some of your frequent flier miles and go there. (That’s what we did!)Dell, so many things happened at Bethel in scripture, I’m not sure to which you might be referring. If Abraham, yes, I hope it’s Rick’s starting-over point. If Jacob, yes, I hope it’s the place where he has wrestled with God and accepted the love of his brother. If the descendants of Joseph at arms against Canaan, yes; I hope the Lord gives him victory over outsiders who hope to usurp the autonomy of his church home. If the numerous times Israel went to God at Bethel as if He were just an oracle but did not ask His help, then no; I hope this wasn’t a Bethel moment.Which “Bethel” moment did you mean?

  5. Keith I was referring to Abraham. In one of Jeff Walling’s lessons the thought was presented that there comes a moment of clarity when we arrive an important point with God, a place where we go back to our greatest points of fellowship with God. I wonder if while in Africa Jeff did not arrive at just such a moment? Oh, that all would decide that we weren’t going to argue the non-essentials any longer!

  6. That’s okay, Keith. I’ll forgive you if you write some more on here soon and tell us alot more about Pepperdine!

  7. Keith,Sitting in the midst of Christians who are worshipping Christ alone and hearing speakers proclaim that Jesus is enough—that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ- overwhelmed me with gratitude too. And sitting in the same rooms with you and Angi and hearing the power of the Gospel and the praise and worship of Sheryl’s “Redeemer” I too felt that I was “home” in this place. And, like you, I had tears of gratitude and feelings of being overtaken by the awe of God. However (again like you, I think) my tears were also mingled with tears of sorrow that this could not be shared with most of the people I love back at home. This profound yet simple message, the Good News of God, is one that so many of us have hungered for and longed for—even to the point that a few of us have had to make painful decisions. . .we have felt that we must choose between our home congregation that we love and the Gospel. And, though I have been blessed and renewed to hear this great Gospel proclaimed in so many places . . . it was indeed so very thrilling and even healing for me to be able to hear it again in the Church of Christ.~KS

  8. Keith, I was about to post on my blog my reflections…….but I think it would be better if I just directed those 2 or 3 folks to this blog! You captured my feelings almost word for word. I was drained emotionally when I got back. Sheryl had sang “Redeemer” four years ago, and I sat there with Ross Cochran and both of us with tears streaming down our faces. Well, this year Ross wasn’t there, but the results were the same. INCREDIBLE! Suffice to say, I was blessed beyond words……and part of the blessing was knowing you were there soaking it up also.Love you brother,DU

  9. Keith,I am glad you had a great time. It sounds like it was great! I wish I could have gone but need to continue to take care of things around here for a while. God bless you this week as you serve Him.In Him,Kinney Mabry

  10. Keith, Your post on Pepperdine is just wonderful, & EXACTLY how I feel. I long so much for PV to experience that place—physically & spiritually. Thank you.

  11. ‘Embattled’ as in < HREF="http://www.piney.com/Rick-Atchley-Music.html" REL="nofollow">this<> kind of tripe. And < HREF="http://www.concernedmembers.com/forumarchives/richland/theses.htm" REL="nofollow">this<>. And < HREF="http://floralheightschurchofchrist.org/bulletins/Are%20You%20Ready%20to%20Join%20the%20Christian%20Church.pdf" REL="nofollow">this<>.Tiny sampling of the same old tripe.“Tripe” is such a useful word for describing it, don’t you think?

  12. So you’re saying that there are people who don’t think Rick is now the walking definition of “cool” as I do? Wow.Tripe. Stomach lining of a cow. Not that bad in soup, actually.

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