It was pretty heavy stuff that we learned. Our hearts were broken and we came back with fire in the belly to learn more and to help. Some plans have been laid and, to large degree, it is up to God's timing at this point but, on the other hand, we have undoubtedly let up some in our push to make things happen. That is partly because the fire in our bellies has died down a bit ... or been overtaken by other fires including just the reality of doing life today.
But it's also, I think, because we have come to better understand the complexity of the situation and all of the factors that drive it. We have come to understand that you cannot just band-aid the situation by addressing the wounds. You must also work on addressing the knife that keeps cutting deeper and deeper and deeper.
Tough stuff it is indeed. But there are people all over the world who are caught up in abusive situations over which they have no power. Some of those are human trafficking situations and some are other equally devastating but different situations.
Please join me today in praying for God's justice for those whom he loves so much. Pray, too, that we will develop the burning fire to make a difference to these situations and that God will show each of us the role he'd like us to play.
And it's a nice saying, isn't it -- Fully Rely On God? Look to God for your every move. It's a nice thought and, really, I have seen people who at least from all appearances seem to do a decent job of living out that idea. But I wonder how many of us really reach that point in our lives. I know that I still struggle for control ... struggle to make my own decisions, make my own way.
There is, I think, less courage involved in trying to do things on our own rather than with complete reliance on God. The outcome probably won't be as good, and certainly won't accomplish God's wishes, but there is less courage involved.
I received the following email from Os Hillman today -- pretty relevant stuff to this subject:
There is a requirement to be blessed at a deeper spiritual level by God. Christ requires it of each of His servants. He required it of Paul when He struck him down on the Damascus Road. He required it of Joseph when he was left in the pit and then sold into slavery. He required it of Jacob when he left his homeland penniless and needy. He required it of most every major leader that He used significantly - brokenness.
Brokenness cannot be achieved on your own. It is something God does Himself. We cannot determine that we are going to be broken, but we can refuse to become broken. When God begins this deeper work in our lives, we can kick and scream and refuse the process. We can manipulate and strive to stay on top, but this only delays His work.
Pride and mammon are ruling strongholds of the workplace. Brokenness is considered a weak position in the workplace. However, God says until we are broken we cannot be an aroma pleasing to the Lord. God wants you to be an aroma in the workplace. In order for this to happen, you and I must be a broken vessel in His hand. Pray that God would allow you to become a pleasing aroma to Him no matter the cost.
It seems like lately I am going through a period of complete overwhelm. I have over-extended myself and don't know where to start to try to pull myself out. I keep searching for different angles and different solutions but they all just seem to lead to more frustration, more feelings of being overwhelmed, and even less being accomplished.
"But God can't get these things done; I have to do them," I say to myself. But yet I can't ... I continue to wallow in self pity and despair and things just keep mounting.
I keep thinking it would be nice to have a sabbatical. If only I could get rested up for a few months -- then I could come back refreshed, plow through things, and things would be better from then on out.
But what is a "sabbatical"? Originally it referred to a time of Sabbath -- a time set aside for rest and communion with God.
I must confess, that sounds nice ... but it also doesn't sound like a way to get the work done.
Somewhere in there, I know, is the mystery of God. He is the one who will refresh and restore me ... if I only turn to Him and allow Him to do so. Once I hit the point of where I do turn it all over to Him -- including all of these projects and things before me, He will provide the strength and encouragement and wisdom and inspiration to see that they are completed.
The question is, when will I hit that point of truly determining that I am not the one to be in control -- God is?
It is a re-commitment I am making now to amp up my Bible study. Other than devotional references and following up on sermons I hear, I have not been reading the Bible much for several months. I need to fix that. God has given it to us as His special communication for our lives. Kind of a big loss to not be spending time with it, eh?
I have been spending some time recently with II Corinthians 5. Paul's letters always fascinate me. No one can read them and not see that Paul had divine inspiration and insight.
Check this out -- verse 5:
"God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit."
This was written in the context of God promising us a new body after our death here on earth. But yet He gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit -- to guide us and encourage us now -- before we've died.
Then skip down a bit to verses 16 - 18 (I'm using NLT, by the way -- verse 17 of course will be familiar):
"16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him."
His gift of the Holy Spirit affects how we see others ... and out of seeing others differently, we will want to bring them to a relationship with Christ just as we ourselves have known.
But yet we're still humans ... God has made us new through the Holy Spirit which is indwelling to guide us to new thought processes, new reactions, new attitudes, and new actions ... but we're still human. the Holy Spirit supports our innate conscience and moral compass but yet, even as Christians, we will still mess up ... we can still make the choice to overrule what the Spirit tells us and do the opposite.
What then, is to keep us on the path? Gratitude ... gratitude for the relationship that God has offered us through the sacrifice of His son. When the Christian fully appreciates the gift of Jesus, we then will want to live out a life that is in the Spirit and is committed to leading others to their reconciliation as well.
Still, not easy though.
For me, Bible study is one major key.
There has been lots of hoopla this week about cuts being proposed in Ohio by our state government for the purpose of attempting to improve the budget situation. The proposed cuts are painful and not attractive to anyone. Even though I am not a fan of our state's governor, I am not so narrow minded as to think he really likes these cuts. He doesn't want to cut spending in the proposed areas. He is simply backed into a corner and doesn't know a better way.
But yet we have an example of a better way just a couple of counties over in Mercer County. Mercer County in Ohio has worked hard for several years to support and attract businesses to their communities. I have known people in my own community who have chosen to set up their businesses in Mercer County just because of how attractive they've made it there, despite having to drive 45 minutes or so each way to get to their business.
And how has that worked out? In this time of a rotten economy, they are doing pretty well in Mercer County. They have a great business base and as a result their unemployment is one of the lowest in the states.
Proof that reaching out to business works.
Please write our state officials, including the governor. Discourage them from cuts that will negatively impact the future of our state, our communities, our families, and our individuals. Encourage them instead to reach out to business leaders and find ways to grow Ohio through increased commerce, not to shrink Ohio through damaging cutbacks.
Along with I would say 90% of all Ohio business owners, I stand ready to go to Columbus and to help find positive solutions, not negative and temporary relief. I have written numerous times to many people and no response. Please join me in encouraging our state to reach out to business ... to bring additional employment to Ohio even during these tough times ... and to make our state great once again.
Our state has a long history of innovation and technological advancement. We can re-capture that. But doing so requires a cooperative connection between state government and business ... something which is sadly lacking right now. Our state and citizens, mark my words, will continue to suffer until that changes.
No matter what you thought of Michael Jackson while he was alive, no matter how tired you might be getting of seeing his death on the news, may his passing serve as a reminder to all of us. We never know when our time here on earth will be up ... when the gig will be over, mugsy.
I am not sure what that thought means to each of us ... but we all have things that we put off thinking there will be another time, another place. It could be relationships with relatives, your relationship with God ... or it could be the impact you leave on the world ... regardless, it's never too soon to act.
One thing that's been weighing heavily on me as I get older is the question of "What impact will I leave on this world?" What legacy do I want to leave behind ... or do I just want to pass on in a manner which it really would not have made a heckuva lot of difference if I'd never existed.
You ever think about that?
If we can't leave the world a better place ... if we can't say that during our life we made people smile or laugh or contemplate a happier future for themselves, what difference does our life really make? Is it egotistical to want to leave a positive mark ... or is it innate to us as human beings created by God ... or is it purely altruistic? Really, maybe it doesn't make a difference ... if in some way we can leave the earth somewhat better than when we entered it, isn't that a good thing?
Christians will also see that as building the Kingdom ... preparing for the future ... helping others discover eternity with their maker. But even to those who believe this world is all there is, isn't it a good thing to leave it better than when we entered it?
The point is ... it's never too soon to start ... and some day regardless of what we think it WILL be too late. What if we all focused not on ourselves but on the world and on our fellow man. What does our own comfort or convenience or self-centeredness really matter in light of changing the future for hundreds or thousands or even millions?
What will we do today to get started?
That wasn’t my only experience with alarms last night though. About fifteen minutes after I got home, our phone rang. There is pretty much only one reason our phone ever rings at that hour. An alarm was going off at work. I listened as the security company explained to me the series of alarms that had occurred. It’s always hard to diagnose such things long distance but, in my gut, I always know better than to ignore alarms. “Send the police in,” I said. “I’ll meet them there in a few minutes.”
Now, it was stormy here last night and it is not unusual to have the alarm go off when it is stormy. But what they described to me did not sound typical of a false alarm.
The police met me at the plant and told me they’d checked all the doors and everything seemed fine. I told them they could leave and I went on inside to try to re-set the alarm system. Turns out it wouldn’t re-set. Something had gone wrong with it. In the meanwhile, the alarm company also called home again to tell me about things. (I really need to give them my cell phone number.)
Anyway, it got me to thinking about alarms. I don’t like to ignore alarms when they go off at work but how often do I ignore alarms going off in my spiritual life? Alarms happen for a reason … to alert us and hopefully guide us to a corrected course of action. What are the spiritual alarms that hit home with you? Here are a few of mine …
1) Not reading and studying the Bible enough. I will go through periods where I do well on this but then, a skipped day here or there, and suddenly I am skipping every day. I need to recognize that as an alarm. When I am not reading and studying, I fill that time with other things, that usually being work. And working too much leads to burnout and frustration … things that without my personal Bible study I have no way to combat, making the situation even worse.
2) Complaining about other people. At the root of things, if I am complaining about another person, it is usually to make myself look better or feel better. Somehow by putting them down, I boost myself up. That is wrong on so many levels but at the core I believe it is an indication that I have forgotten whose I am. Because I have forgotten that my worth comes from God and not from my fellow man, I am trying to jumpstart my self worth through pridefulness. Not good. Doing so is an alarm that things are not right.
3) Being sad. Now, I am not at all a fan of Christians who put on an artificial happy Joy-in-the-Lord attitude. Fact is, in life, we go through tough times and tough times can bring sadness. Fact is, there can also be clinical reasons for sadness. I am not talking about that. I am talking about times when I just refuse to see God in the world around me and in my life. Times when I focus on the past instead of looking forward and realizing that God does have a plan and He does make things work for good. Again, that sort of sadness for no reason is an alarm for me about my spiritual life.
Like the alarm on Adrian’s plane and the alarms that go off at work in the middle of the night … these are not alarms to be ignored … though I often try to. What are your spiritual alarms?
Funny thing, though -- from the moment we started that journey last year, I think that Lisa and I both knew what it was. Of course, we didn't know the exact details of what lay ahead. But we knew. It was cancer.
And God was faithful ... He brought us peace and calm in the midst painful news. He brought us love and care through friends. He brought us hope through His promise to always be with us.
Today, Lisa is cancer-free. He brought us healing. We go forward being held by Him -- never knowing exactly what the future holds except for one thing ... He loves us and He will be with us always.
The future is much less scary because of His promise and His faithfulness. May you know it too.
Chris has been called on to a new ministry as a District Superintendent in the Methodist Church. As much as I think about how hard it is for us all to say good bye to him as our senior pastor, our future is relatively certain. Another great pastor will be filling his shoes. It occurs to me that, for him, Chris's future is less certain ... he is moving into an entirely different role ... different responsibilities ... a future very unlike his past. That has got to be exciting, yes, but also quite scary.
Dan Gildner, our Teaching Pastor and, like Chris, another great and godly man as well as a good friend, has recently blogged about some of the top lessons that Chris taught us during his 10 years with us. Dan has captured some great things and blogs about them very well. Click on his name to read them.
As I look back on our church's years with Chris, I sense and see something pretty phenomenal -- the start and progress of a true spiritual movement. We knew pretty early on with Chris that he did not stand for the status quo ... he was about transformation. And, when he came to us, we were frankly a sleepy church, perhaps you'd even have called us chronically depressed, on the decline. Chris had his work cut out for us.
But he taught us, with examples and stories and scripture, how much God loves us ... how much He wants to redeem us ... how much He wants to be with us. And out of that we then began to learn what our response needed to be ... our response needed to be out of changed hearts and minds ... out of gratitude ... out of His love flowing through us, creating an incredible circle back to God, back to our selves, and out to the world.
And, as we learned to love God, love ourselves, and love each other, we realized that there was only one thing we could do ... go and carry that love out to the world as Jesus commanded us.
I have been involved largely on the administrative side of things at church but how I admire those who have been gifted and skilled to be on frontline ministry. But something that Chris taught me was that even the most introverted of us can still live our lives differently by truly seeking and following God's direction and spreading His love no matter where we are.
When you take a whole congregation so inspired, you have a spiritual movement ... and Chris (along with his wonderful family) was the vessel that made that possible. While Chris moves on and we will miss him terribly, though, a true movement is not easily stopped. The momentum is there ... transformation of individuals, a church, a community and even the wider world is occurring ... and occurring not only through those in our church but through others who have been impacted and inspired along the way.
We love and will miss Chris and his family but we are all under the same banner ... building the Kingdom ... carrying God's love. Under that banner there may be difficulties but there is camaraderie. We will always be working together ... part of a movement ... an ongoing spiritual movement.
Thank you God.