Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bahamamian Blogging #5: the theme

Most of the churches I have attended here in the US have a printed worship program that is handed out at the entrance to the sanctuary. First Baptist Church of Freeport, Grand Bahamas was no different. They offered a 12-page booklet that was chocked full of information and encouragement. (It was also full of writing inspiration, and you can expect to hear more about it!)

The front page had the usual contact information, date, pastor's name, and photo, as well as a hearty welcome. There were two things, however, that seemed a little different in a bold and challenging way. The first might be called the "mission statement" but it was a description of the kind of Church FBC Freeport hopes to be. It would be a good mission statement for our own lives as well. The booklet read "A church where the Gospel is not prostituted, the Faith is not compromised, nor integrity pawned in the store of convenience." Whether anyone likes it or not, whether it is easy or not, convenient or not, they plan to do things God's way. 

The next section on that worship booklet made me smile, because it is so very God-like. In Scripture, when God pronounced a judgement, he always left a window for mercy. The "no compromise" statement is a bold stand to which adherence cannot help but be hard. It was quickly followed by a verse filled with such grace and mercy that I wanted to shout at the wisdom of the pairing. 

"To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified." (Isaiah 61:3 KJV)

Early in his ministry, Jesus quoted from Isaiah 61 and proclaimed it as fulfilled. This verse is a part of that section. It's beautiful, isn't it? It's filled with promises and purpose for those who mourn. Our Lord offers a wonderful exchange plan:

Our ashes for His beauty
Our mourning for His joy
Our spirit of heaviness for His garment of praise

That's a great deal right there, but there's more! The exchange plan has a two fold purpose. When we give Him our ashes, mourning, and spirit of heaviness, He not only gives us His beauty, joy, and praise, He also gives us roots so that we can be called trees of righteousness, anchored in  The Lord. The result of all of this giving to us is that He will be glorified. 

There will be times of grief and mourning, whether because of a death or a calamity, in all our lives. The good news is that the sadness and sorrow are not the endpoint of our mourning. Becoming an oak of righteousness and glorifying God is the endpoint for which we should aim, and, it appears, it's the aim of this sweet island church. 

No compromise and glorifying God. It's an "island lesson" we all need to learn. May we and our loved ones embrace this truth in a way that leaves no doubt where we stand or whose we are.