Again I beg the forgiveness of those of you who look forward to these “deep thoughts” from a very shallow mind. It seems as though my to-do list in life continually gets longer, while the number of things that I am checking off of that list seems to become fewer and fewer. But enough about my schedule as I know that your schedule is at least as hectic as mine. One of the things that I most enjoy is reading. But I don’t simply like to read for reading’s sake. I like to have a purpose in reading. Right now our church staff is reading through Transformational Church together. As I was reading through the first chapter of the this book, I wrote literally two pages of notes. I want to take a moment to concentrate on an idea from this text.
The idea is simple and is found on page 20, “When God rebuilds His house, people will know undeniably that it is a work of God.” You do not have to look far to see the doomsdayers effectively proclaiming an end to the Church. While it is only foolish to deny the waning influence of the Church in the United States, it would be just as foolish to assume that the Church functions just like a business or other organization. If Scripture is true – and if you know me then you know that is given – then the Church is not an organization it is an organism. The Church is a living, breathing, conglomeration of individual believers who are held together by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Why in the world am I chasing a theological rabbit trail? The answer is simple. God has not abandoned the Church. Though one could ask if the reverse of that statement is true. Has the Church become so enthralled with her past successes that she has forgotten that the 1950’s ended over 50 years ago? Has the Church become so enamored by new techniques, technologies, and ideologies that she has forgotten that her roots lie in the work of God and not the work of management and marketing gurus? Has the Church focused so much on entertaining and attracting that she has forgotten that her commission was going and transforming? If we want to be honest with ourselves, we know that the answer to each of these questions is a definitive “YES!” But rather than simply beating the church like Bam-Bam Rubble (see the Flintstone Cartoons) at a Whack-a-Mole game, is it not more profitable to set all of our agendas, ideologies, practicalities, and junk aside and turn back to Scripture and the God that it reveals? To be certain, we have walked a long way from the ideal Church that the Book of Acts records. Yet, despite our wanderings, God has not changed. He will forgive. He will revive. He will refocus. He will renew His Church – if His Church will allow Him to do so. Will the transformation be incredible? Absolutely. Will there be those who grip and complain about refocusing back on Scripture? Absolutely. Will the result be worth the cost? Absolutely!!! You see, we got ourselves into this mess. Now only God can get us out of it. So when He forgives, revives, refocuses, and rebuilds His Church – there will be only one explanation God has done something unexplainable.
I sit at my computer typing this blog only a few minutes after finalizing the details of a friend’s funeral. He was a fairly young man with no significant health problems. Yet, this past Friday he passed away suddenly. There were no warnings. There was no expectation. There were no final days to say and do the things that we so often put off until tomorrow. He had reached the end of his days, and he passed away. Of course, the silver lining to this story is simple. Anyone who spent any time around this man knew of his deep love for Jesus Christ. His smile and laugh were infectious. His life displayed a joy and peace that transcends all understanding.
Less than 48 hours before his death, this man sat in my office talking with me about our outreach ministries. He was willing to do anything possible or necessary to help tell our community about the love of Jesus Christ. We had a meeting tentatively planned for this next week to begin fleshing out a plan to improve our outreach efforts. Obviously, that meeting will not take place. I say that obvious statement because through my friend’s death I have become concerned about all the things that I have put off until tomorrow. I have no guarantee that I have the tomorrow into which I have shoved so many things left undone. Scripture teaches us that God has numbered our days from beginning to end. There is really nothing you or I can do to increase or decrease that number. But the manner in which we live our lives dictate how we live that number of days. We have the choice to live our lives in such a way that we are blessings to those around us. We have the choice to invest time with our family and friends. We have the choice to say the things to those we love that so often go unsaid. Today, we have the choice. But as I, and our entire church family, have been so vividly reminded there will come a day when our time for choices is done. Don’t live your life with the assumption of tomorrow. Life is far to precious and fragile to be taken for granted. Each day is a gift, and neither you nor I know which day will be our last. Call who you need to call. Hug who you need to hug. Forgive those who need forgiveness. Tell everyone about the love of Jesus Christ because their tomorrow is as uncertain as ours.
Those of you who know me know that I am a tremendous basketball fan. I must confess that I am totally enraptured by this whole NBA free-agent class. I am totally amazed at the length to which people and teams have gone to try to woo these basketball superstars to put on their uniform and play for them. Some of these teams – see the New York Knicks – have sacrificed two entire seasons because someone in the front office has a “man crush” on LeBron James. Understand I am a basketball fan and I get how good this guy is, but is any player really worth tanking two seasons? Oddly enough, while I am totally enraptured with this whole free agent thing, I am also a bit repelled by it. The past week or so has been completely covered with what team made this cartoon to depict LeBron and his friends to help recruit him to play for them. I mean seriously. Has there ever been a more publicized courtship in all of American history? These basketball executives are throwing everything including the kitchen sink and disposal to try to woo this man. The funny thing is that this whole thing is not much different than a group of middle school boys when a cute new girl moves into their class. I must confess that I know nothing about being wooed like that, but honestly I am not remotely jealous or envious. You see, nearly 2000 years ago, God Himself loved me enough to be clothed with flesh to come and die in my place so that I could have a relationship with Him. Truthfully, He came and died for you, and for the entire world, as well. While you and I may not be important enough in the world’s eyes to experience such public wooing. We can always rest assured that God went to greater lengths than we can really imagine to demonstrate His love for you and me. Now that kind of love is something about which to be enraptured.
It seems as though it has been forever since I have written in this “weekly” blog. After looking at the date of my last entry, it really has been a long time. I guess that I have gotten caught up in the so-called “tyranny of the now.” I just returned from being out of the office for a week and my to-do list has already exceeded one page and is well on the way to finishing page two – and that does not include anyone else’s list that they have for me! It seems as though we do and do and do, yet the impact seems to be less and less. I must confess that thought was on my mind as I was driving to Colorado for our family vacation. I have the same questions and concerns that we all face. I wonder if I am doing this well or that well. I wonder if I am really making a difference. I wonder if all the things that I am doing that seem so important to me are really all that important to God.
While I was away, an amazing thing happened. I slowed down and allowed God to truly speak to me. I don’t know about you but I often find myself asking God to speak to me about a specific issue, then running off to do something else if I haven’t heard definitively from Him in a whopping 10 seconds or so. Now before you gasp at the impatience of a pastor, ask yourself if you do the same thing. We vacation in a small cabin with no television and virtually no cell signal. In essence, we are completely isolated from the outside world. And I absolutely love it! I took more naps during that week than I have in the past six months combined. I had a chance to sit in a quiet and beautiful place and listen to a rushing river, birds, and that still, small voice with which God so often speaks to us. During those moments, God reminded me of several things. The most of those things was the importance of simply being. So often, I believe we try to do so many things thinking that God will be impressed by the sheer quantity of our work. Yet, it is not the quantity of our work with which God is most concerned. Honestly, He is more concerned that we are being Christ-like than He is with the quantity of things we do. We must first focus on being who God desires for us to be, then the doing will largely take care of itself. I know your schedule is crazy because mine is too. But let me encourage you with something that God has shown me over the past week. No matter how busy your schedule, the most important thing in your schedule is stopping everything to quietly and intently listen to the still, small voice of God. Can God shut down your world and scream so that you cannot fail to hear Him? Absolutely! But true love and obedience comes when we set aside our stuff just to be with Him. Be wiser than me and make the time to stop and listen intently. God is speaking, but are you listening?
Have you ever gone through a time where you have been so busy that you didn’t even know which way was up? If so, then you can identify with the past month or so in my life. Life has been so insanely busy that I must confess that this shallow mind had no real time to come up with any deep thoughts. I truly apologize for my failings but I think that we are on the other side of that time now. The other day as I was preparing to teach on a Wednesday night, I stumbled upon a quote that has meant the world to me during this time of insanity. The quote is from the great theologian Calvin from the Calvin and Hobbs comic strips. The quote reads, “God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I am so far behind I’ll never die.” Have you ever had those times? I don’t mean times when you are just busy because of work, or your kid’s school schedule, or even the holidays. I mean those times when you are so busy that you cannot even do those things that you know God has created and called you to do. If you have never experienced that then I need you to come and work with my time management skills.
Honestly, though most of us struggle with how to balance and invest our time. We are like that person who balances plates in the air on sticks and keeps those plates spinning. Everything is okay as long as we can keep those plates spinning, but if anything goes wrong or if anything takes longer than expected, then our world of spinning plates comes crashing down and makes a tremendous mess. I must confess I had been so busy that my kids were in desperate need of “Daddy time.” We are getting caught up now and life is getting back to normal – whatever that is exactly. I tell you all of this to simply remind you of what is really important. You see, while the Calvin and Hobbs quote above is, honestly, hilarious, we all only have a certain number of days on this earth. You cannot increase the number of your days and neither can you decrease them. But you can control how you utilize those days. I don’t know about you but as I evaluated the things that made my life so insanely busy the simple reality is that most of those things won’t really matter in five years. If something won’t matter in five years, is it honestly that important? Is it honestly worth getting all that stressed about? Be smarter than I am and redeem the time. Invest your time in your family and friends. Invest your time in growing the Kingdom of God. If something has to slide let’s sacrifice the things that don’t matter so that we can really impact those things that do matter. God has only provided you with a certain number of days and a certain amount of time to accomplish only so many things. Use them wisely!
Okay, I confess. I am not a morning person. Honestly, at times I struggle to believe that God gets up before 8:00 am. And I also confess that I don’t understand morning people. It seems as though every morning person I know likes to rub in the fact that he or she is a morning person and I am not. Now if you are a morning person, I am grateful for you, but please don’t try to convert me. I am simply not wired that way. So you may be wondering what exactly brought on this rant about not being a morning person. The answer is simple – daylight savings time. While I understand the concept, I really don’t get this idea. I understand that it was originally proposed by Benjamin Franklin and that it is supposed to save us electricity by “making it get dark later.” I even confess that I like the transition in the fall when I gain an extra hour of sleep. However, the whole idea seems a bit wacky to me. No matter how much we mess with the time on our clocks, the reality is that it gets dark at the same time. Lest you misunderstand me. I have no problem with daylight savings time, but why do we switch back and forth? If daylight savings time is such a great deal, then why don’t we simply stay there? Why do we switch back in the fall? This whole thing sounds like math done by the federal government – sounds good on paper but doesn’t really pass the sniff test. I know that this is a pointless rant and I know that none of your lives will be dramatically altered by knowing that I don’t really understand daylight savings time. But I am hoping that some of you can comment and help me understand the logic of the back and forth from daylight savings time to standard time.
This past Friday I had the privilege of serving as a Watch DOG at my daughter’s elementary school. Before I go any further let me explain that D.O.G.S. is nothing more than an acronym for Dads Of Great Students. Yeah, I know that it is cheesy but isn’t just about any acronym? Anyhow, back to the point, I spent this day trying to be of some help to the faculty. Sometimes that help meant carrying supplies to the art teacher. Other times it meant taking a child for a walk to help him calm down before making some bad choices. But my favorite thing of the day was sitting at a lunch table with my daughter in kindergarten and having lunch with her and a few of her friends. I got to laugh with them and talk with them – much to the dismay of the lady in charge of the lunch room. Apparently, I was not being the best example. On the off chance that she is reading this blog – I’m sorry. The most amazing thing about the entire day was the privilege of entering my daughter’s world and being a part of it even if only for a few hours.
I don’t know about you, but all too often I find myself thinking that I know the lives of my children. I take for granted that I can understand the pressures and difficult choices that they face. After all I am an adult and I deal with real problems everyday. On Friday, I found myself thanking God for the opportunity to understand how little I really understand. Parents, I hate to break this to you but you and I are more out of touch than we realize. We don’t know the pressures that exist in our children’s lives. I know you are probably thinking, “Your daughter is in kindergarten! What pressures does she have?” That is what I thought too. But you see, I got to see how my daughter handled being bullied. I got to see how my daughter handled a needy friend. I got to see my daughter focus on something by blocking out all the voices around her. Now please understand I have no illusions that my daughter is perfect, but what I saw gave me great hope. I saw a little girl who is confident. I saw a little girl who cared for everyone – regardless of their popularity. I saw a little girl who was learning to focus on one thing and let the voices around her fade away, which gives me great hope that one day she will be able to focus on Jesus and let all the other junk fade away as well. I saw a little girl who spent the entire day bragging to everyone that her daddy was at her school. Honestly, it was a relatively insignificant commitment to me. I usually have Friday’s off and I have the flexibility in my schedule to make changes occasionally. But that one day taught me so very much and meant more to my daughter than I could have ever imagined. Now I must confess that there were so many days that I could have been up there, but I chose to rest, or work ahead on some project, or whatever. Parents, you know that our kids grow up so incredibly fast. My prayer for you and for me is that God grants us the grace and wisdom to redeem the time we have to make the greatest impact on our children that we possibly can because all too soon the time will be over and the day will be gone.