Virtual Chapel

View all Virtual Chapel posts here:
https://virtualchapel.com/category/virtual-chapel/

The Virtual Chapel was created while I was serving as Chaplain for the YMCA of Middle Tennessee. Inspired in a moment of panic, when I couldn’t be physically present for a Thanksgiving week “chapel” time, the concept and idea was born. I am grateful beyond words for the staff and volunteers of the YMCA of Middle Tennessee who helped deepen my understanding of what it means to be the love and grace of Jesus in the world…day in and day out. I believe God inspired me to write the Virtual Chapel, and it was the YMCA family that kept me encouraged to keep it going. This is the short version of how it started… 

It was the week of Thanksgiving, 2016.  I got up that morning thinking: “I’m the Chaplain and it’s the week of Thanksgiving – people need to hear something of God today. What am I going to do???” I jumped in the shower and started praying.

Like most ideas – this came in the strangest of ways. By the time I finished my shower, I had a message in my head and a title: Virtual Chapel. Something unleashed in me with that writing and something stirred in the staff of the YMCA of Middle Tennessee. From that week forward, the Virtual Chapel emerged as a spot of spiritual encouragement and sharing. It became one of my greatest joys to write. Inspired by the Y team and how God shows up in our ordinary days, the writing and inspiration just continued.

My three years serving as Chaplain with the YMCA of Middle Tennessee sharpened me as a pastor and spiritual leader. Today I am pastoring in the local church with an incredible congregation, Franklin First United Methodist, that inspires me every day. I volunteer with the YMCA as part of my commitment to serve and stay deeply connected with our whole community.

Read the most recent Chapel posts here:
https://virtualchapel.com/category/virtual-chapel/

 

Stumbling Into Grace

“Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.”
Daniel 11:35

I used to think I had to get it all together before I gave it all up…to God. I thought I had to hold myself back in the shame of mistakes and failures, or as a sign of knowing I didn’t and couldn’t deserve more. How do we ever feel good about coming to God with our darkness?  The perpetual punishment may have seemed like a way to show God how sorry I was for my errors. And perhaps even prevent me from repeating mistakes, although that approach never leads to grace.

There was a season of hiding where I convinced myself I could hide from God until I got “good enough” or just got everything under control.  And there was a surrendering season when I realized God already knew me and I was only playing games with myself. It takes a lot of energy to try and steer the forgiveness of God!  Something was missing and it seemed like this might be the dam. I let go and decided to just be real with the one who created me.

My thought process slowly started changing as I began to experience mercy in undeserved moments. I started finding words of hope in the darkest of places. I found Jesus waiting…in prayer, with tears…waiting and hoping I would look up and see the offering: the gift of mercy and grace. Because more is coming…

“I realize that falling isn’t graceful but I thank the Lord that falling is full of grace”
– Andrew Peterson

There is every indication in Scripture that our struggles are a pathway to new life – the life God created us to have. It is not a life without challenge; it is life lived from the Spirit with amazing freedom, power and love! When Jesus shows up in our mess, something new begins to happen. And it is always leading us to redemption, restoration and wholeness. Christ restores us.

“He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” – John 15:2

Peter was one of the disciples with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry. He was the disciple Jesus chose to first lead the church. A fisherman by trade, Peter was a hot-tempered, highly driven man with a passion for the mission. When Jesus encountered a challenge Peter was quick to draw his sword in defense. He often had to be told to stand down. Peter believed Jesus was the Messiah and he had confessed Jesus as Lord. He would do anything for him.

Still…in a moment of crisis and fear, Peter denied knowing Jesus in any way. He walked away in a moment of great need and denied the very person he desired so much to honor. He abandoned his own belief and gave fear his voice. It was a pretty big stumble, a failure of immense consequence. A moment he could never forget.  His sorrow was so great!  Maybe you know the feeling.  Here is the story as Luke tells it:  https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+22%3A47-62&version=NIV

But that is not the whole story. Jesus knew Peter would have to be restored if he was going to fulfill the life he was created to live. Peter’s big stumbling, became the impetus for his discovery of his life’s mission. Even though he had both faith and knowledge of Jesus before he denied him, it is actually in his being restored after that denial when Peter truly experiences the mercy of God. Jesus held nothing against him.

Peter receives the grace of another chance and to receive what he never deserved but what he needed in order to really live: grace and restoration. Jesus offers him both without hesitation. And then the deeper adventure for Peter’s life begins.

Peter is restored and given a charge for the focus of his life. Read the story here:   https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+21%3A1-17&version=NIV

Some of our stumbling will cause us great grief. There may be consequences we have to live through or losses we have to accept. But that is not where it stops. God walks through those dark valleys with us and Christ leads us to higher ground. We are restored in moments, across seasons and throughout our lives. This is the real journey walking with God.

When you find yourself stumbling, look up! Grace is about to catch you and as you are able to receive it, life will be forever changed. Anticipate the more that is coming…

Prayer
Holy God, please help us to remember that our falls are never where you leave us. The arms of Christ are always reaching out to catch us in your grace. We need you, Lord. When we stumble today, please catch us. And when we fall hard, thank you for finding a way to restore us to the true life we are created to live. Help us to keep stumbling and falling straight into you. Let it be. Amen.

Andrew Peterson: The Chasing Song

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