After four years of pastoring a storefront church, I’m still dumbstruck at the fact that very few of the members of our church really grasp our mission. (Kind of like Jesus’s disciples didn’t get the Suffering Messiah bit).
What’s even stranger t
o me is that they don’t really understand me. They’ve claimed that they did and pledged their loyalty and support, but their words and actions (or lack thereof) tell me otherwise. (Kind of like Jesus’s disciples didn’t initially buy His servant leadership).
I was reminded of this as recently as last night. The one who was supposed to be teaching “Bible study” spent the majority of the time trying to cast doubt on my character, doctrine and leadership ability. It wasn’t even done subtly; he “made an example” out of me before the entire listening audience. (Kind of like Jesus and the Pharisees).
What did I say in response? Nada. Zero. Not a mumbling word. (Kind of like Jesus was silent before Pilate at the judgment seat).
What would have been the point? Obviously (to him anyway), I’m a fake. Anything I might have said was not going to change his opinion of me. (kind of like Jesus’s critics then and now).
Not that this is anything new to me. Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve been
seen as “suspect” (meaning not what I appear to be). As a result, I learned not to open myself up easily to those who might mean me harm. (Kind of like Jesus didn’t commit Himself to people completely).
But this guy is not some public enemy; he’s a leader in my congregation. (Kind of like Peter denying he knew Jesus or Judas betraying Jesus to the Roman soldiers with a kiss of friendship).
I hurt – not only for myself, but for him. I know in attempting to disparage me, he hurt his own credibility. Only he doesn’t have a clue. I know this because he came to me afterwards and asked me to consider letting him “teach” more often. Talk about turning the other cheek!!
Maybe one day, when he and I both stand before our Maker, we’ll see each other for who we truly were while we were down here. In the meantime, I’m praying for both of us. For him, I’m praying that he’ll learn and do better; for myself I’m praying that I will remember that I am better because of having to endure this.
Kind of like Jesus. That’s what I’m after.
As the end of 2009 is fastly approaching, there seems to be less time to do the things I’ve been saying I was going to do all year (i.e.: lose weight, start exercising, eating healthier foods on a regular basis . . . you get the picture). If I cho
se to see what I haven’t done, I might become discouraged (maybe even depressed).
So, I’m choosing NOT to focus on possible perceptions of my “failures”. Instead of seeing the glass as half empty, I’m seeing it as half full. That’s right; I’m going to seize the day.
After all, what other choice do I have? I can’t undo the past and I can’t control the future. Those things are wisely not in my hands.
What I can do is make the most of the present. Today. This hour. This minute. This second. That’s why I’m writing this blog. I’m choosing to
express something that (hopefully) inspires others as it inspires me.
So, with whatever time I
have left, I choose to invest it in things that bring me joy and happiness here and now . . . not somewhere down the road in the near or distant future. I advise you to do the same. The clock is ticking.
Seize the day.
Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if every person on the planet became focused on the single, most important pursuit in life – which is a relationship with the Divine?
This relationship is the very thing for which mankind was created and for which Jesus commanded us to search in Matthew 6:33. He said, “But seek first the kingdom (fellowship of and submission to) of God and His righteousness (completion and wholeness by faith), and all these other things (possessions, self-worth, positive relationship with others) shall (must) be added (included in due time) unto you.”
Our problem as human beings is that most of us never become/remain THAT focused on finding and maintaining our primary relationship with our Creator. Instead, the majority of us spend almost an entire lifetime searching endlessly (and futily) for satisfaction apart from Him. Even the most devout human beings tend to become distracted from time to time, allowing temporal, tangible trinkets to successfully tempt and divert us away from eternal, intangible truths which are valuable and beneficial both now and forever.
Such distractions are what life is made all about (so it seems). Yet things are seldom what they seem. The reality is that until we become and stay focused on the “straight and narrow” way that leads to this higher consciousness, we will travel a “broad way” that leads – figuratively and literally – to our own destruction (which, in my opinion, is any way that results inunfulfilled potential and regret).
Jesus both taught and demonstrated what a lifelong, focused, intimate and purposeful relationship with God can be. He also said such a relationship only comes by a complete, full surrender of one’s self and own agenda. At first, such demands may seem unreasonable and too costly, but (again) things are seldom what they appear to be. The reality is that it IS worth giving up EVERYTHING to pursue and obtain this most wonderful, fulfilling relationship.
The apostle Paul wrote, “Forgetting those things which are behind me, and seeking those things which are before me, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God which is in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:15-16).
It’s ALL for Him, or it’s all for NOTHING. With God, it’s NEVER for NOTHING.
Before the hands of time appeared, God Almighty made this decree:
“I will create a special, unique woman who will raise up a wonderful family.
She will be faithful and kind, and compassion will flow from her heart.
Wisdom she will wear like a crown and her faith will be a work of art.”
So God fulfilled His promise and into this world you came
To bless the lives of so many and, with me beside you, lift the Smith name.
For as long as I have known you (and that’s been most of my life)
You’ve been a model mother, homemaker, community volunteer and wife.
By precept and example, you taught our son and daughter the way that they should live.
Whatever sacrifices needed to be made, you have always been willing to give.
Caring for all of us all of the time, I
never heard you once complain.
Over the years, you smiled through tears, and brought sunshine after the rain.
You let me know that you believed in me and encouraged me to always be my best.
Your loving accountability and suggestions have been the keys to my success.
You carried your children to church and read them Bible stories before bedtime each night.
Because you wanted them to trust in God; to always shun the wrong and embrace what’s right.
It’s most fitting that on this occasion, we gather together to honor you for all you’ve done.
You’re truly a wonderful mother and I’m so thankful and proud to be your husband.
No words can ever truly express the love that exists between you and me.
The good Lord truly blessed me with a wife who daily serves others so unselfishly.
No monetary wealth could ever measure your value for it is more precious than diamonds or gold.
For within you, my love, are God’s priceless riches which can never be bought or sold.
Rest assured that one day when your time on Earth is through, and my own time comes to an end
We will all meet in our heavenly home so sweet, and forever together we will be again.
Anyone who loves the performing arts will tell you the greatest artists are the ones who have suffered and out of their pain created masterpieces that reflect their own experiences. Whether it’s a musical, concert, film, television, theater or dance, the masters are those who are able to combine varied scenarios into a coherent, unified theme. These larger, more significant segments are fitly joined together by interludes: those brief scenes where unfamiliar characters appear and seemingly disjointed movements occur.
Our lives individually and collectively are a great work of the Divine Master who uses our experiences to create testimonies to His glory. Now only He knows where this great work started and where it will end. While He has graciously given us the script or score of His Word and the coaching of His Holy Spirit, much of our lives is still unrecognizable to us in the moment. We find it difficult to discern the plot twists and who are the main characters in our lives. And between each apparent triumph there are interludes that seem like an eternity while we are in them.
As we continue 2009, we have our calendar dates, our roles, and our scripts, all of which we can use, but none of which we can rely upon. For in this period between old endings and new beginnings, many unknown variables will emerge. New people will enter our lives who don’t have a clue about why they are here. People we thought we knew well will surprise us with character developments we didn’t see coming. Strangers will come to us with unresolved issues of the past, unexpected emergencies, crisis and trauma in the present and fears and hopelessness about the future.
What will we have to depend upon ourselves as well as to offer others as we find ourselves in the interludes of life? Let us glean something from the Old Testament prophet Elijah. Between the end of 1 Kings 18 and the beginning of 1 Kings 20 (two high points in Elijah’s ministry), we find him in an interlude. His victory over the false prophets of the idol Baal followed by the end of a 3 ½ year drought is met with a death threat from the evil queen Jezebel.
In that moment, the mighty man of God finds himself fleeing from his place and his position. He gets 80 miles away from the nearest territory ruled by the queen and then leaves behind his servant a day’s journey to go into the desert. There, underneath a juniper tree, Elijah prays for his own death. But when no lightning bolt strikes him from above in response to his misdirected prayer, he goes to sleep. The Lord becomes Elijah’s rest.
He is awakened by an angel who had supplied him with nourishment for the journey ahead. Elijah eats God’s provisions. The Lord becomes Elijah’s manna.
Elijah runs on for 40 days and nights until he comes to a cave. There he waits for a word from God. The cave where the prophet was led is his refuge. The Lord has become Elijah’s Fortress, Rock and Shelter.
Powerful supernatural demonstrations of mighty winds, and earthquake and a fire appear, but Elijah discerns that the Lord is in none of these. Yet he is not moved by the occurrences for the Lord has become Elijah’s peace in the midst of the storm, his sure foundation in the earthquake and his asbestos suit in the midst of the fires.
Finally, after all the other flashy demonstrations, Elijah hears a still small voice. He recognizes it as the Lord’s and goes out of the cave to have an audience with Him face to face. The Lord has become Elijah’s Shepherd whose voice he follows. In this communion, Elijah receives wise counsel (he is not the only one left serving God), a fresh anointing (to be given to two kings and Elisha, his future successor), and a new commission (go with the armies of Israel into battle against their enemies).
In our interludes, let us be sensitive to the voice of God and the dealings of God as He reveals more of who He is to us in another dimension of experience. We need such knowledge of Him in order to offer hope and life to the world around us.