Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Don't Panic

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
(Psalms 46:10-11)

For the past week, our lives have been disrupted by serious events beyond our control. Like a car suddenly sliding on ice, we suddenly left our comfortable routine and careened through the week - helpless spectators, waiting anxiously to see how things would be resolved.

The only thing we could do was trust in God to bring us safely through according to His purposes to accomplish His plan for us.

But this is the blessed proving ground of faith... not that it proves anything to God, but that we see it ourselves. God delights to help the helpless.
(Isaiah 40:29-31) He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength.
30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall,
31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.
Faith is trusting in God to do what He has promised. In Christ He promised us eternal abundant life. He said He would never leave us or forsake us. He says all things work together for good, to those who love God.

We forget. We trust in our own ability to steer around the obstacles of life. We believe that we can manage the traffic on our own. But in reality it is always beyond us. Even if we can see the road with perfect vision, we are completely blind about what the next second holds for us.
(Proverbs 3:5-6) Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
One minute we are in distress. The next we are safely at our destination. God is working His plan.
(Psalms 107:28-31) Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, And He brings them out of their distresses.
29 He calms the storm, So that its waves are still.
30 Then they are glad because they are quiet; So He guides them to their desired haven.
31 Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Unless You Repent

(Luke 13:1-5) There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?
3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.
4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?
5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
Death is a universal reality. We are all in jeopardy. The sudden death of others is a wake-up call for us. We need to "repent" - to get right with God through Jesus Christ.

I am praying for the many people who were injured, bereaved, or otherwise affected by the earthquake in Haiti. I am praying for the relief workers who are going to help.

I am praying for everyone, everywhere who has not yet to come to grips with the reality of his or her own mortality. Maybe these events will make them see the truth.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Out Of The Office

I recently talked to another pastor about the importance of good work habits that can be respected by working men and women in the congregation. He pointed out that some pastors do not keep regular office hours. He suggested that many are not very disciplined in their use of time.

I believe he may be correct in his general assessment of the situation, but I don't think the solution is to have the pastor in his office eight hours a day every weekday.

Who could argue with the proposition that pastors (and all people) should be disciplined and hard working? But sometimes I think pastors stay in their studies too much. They are more concerned about their IMAGE as hard workers, than with actually doing the hard work God has assigned to them.

The primary work of a pastor is the study of the word of God and prayer. My study can be a great place for this. I have a lot of resources for Bible study here, and most days I have a fair amount of peace and quiet for prayer. So hours in my study can be very profitable.

Staying in my study can also be easier than the work to which God has called me. In the office I can immerse myself in the study and reading that I genuinely enjoy, but I might be neglecting the aspects of ministry that pull me out of my comfort zone. My goal in study is not simply knowledge. A pastor is supposed to apply the word of God to people's lives through evangelism, preaching, teaching and counseling. While some of these things can be done to some extent from my study... most of them need to be addressed out in the community.

Preparing sermons and Bible lessons takes a significant amount of my time. I could give it ALL of my time. But there is a gap between the time that it really requires and all the time I could devote to it. Using more time than the work really requires is not diligence. It is wasteful self indulgence - and maybe avoidance of the more uncertain work of interpersonal interaction.

I am convinced I need to seek out opportunities to meet with people and eat with people out in the community for both evangelism and discipleship. I need to do what Jesus did... spend time with the disciples, speak to small groups and big groups, attend events that are important in people's lives and be available to talk to people who have questions.

Might I be criticized for not keeping 9-5 office hours? I'm sure I might. But even if I kept those hours, someone with a critical spirit would find other things to criticize. My main concern is to please my Lord. I had better be diligent to do what pleases Him, rather than fretting about what other people think of me.

Onward and forward! I have some calls to make.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

All The Time In The World

The New Year is upon us!

Why do I think of it as an unspoiled opportunity - when it is actually (so far) non-existent?

We like the idea the new year is an opportunity to do better than we did the year before. We believe we can accomplish new goals and change our habits in the year that stretches ahead of us. We feel like we have a fresh start. We feel like we have all the time in the world. It is all ahead of us. We are very optimistic.

The problem is that we don't have the year. We don't even have today. We only have now - this very moment. Now is all the time we have. This instant is our only opportunity to act.

Want to break a bad habit? You must break it right now. Want to accomplish something important? Start it right now. Want to change the world? Do it now. And now, and now, and now.

You have to do everything at once. Right now I must do the things that are necessary for each of my roles and my goals in this moment. To the extent that I do that, I have been successful. I can't do all of everything at once, but I can do the parts that are appropriate to the moment in which I am living.

I am typing my blog. I am NOT eating cookies. I am planning my sermons for tomorrow. I am running the wash. I am preparing to pay bills. I am drinking my second quart of water. My mind is working on the things I studied this morning or read last night. I am thinking about my appointments for next week.

There are goals I have that will take a full year to accomplish. They require multiple steps that must be done in sequence. All that I need to do now (indeed, all I CAN do now) is the part that is required for this moment. Maybe that part is planning, or thinking, or writing it on a list or a calendar. The moment will come when more is required. Until then, I have other responsibilities and priorities and goals that are getting more of my focused attention.

We cannot handle a year at a time (or a month, or a week or a day.) Our success is in the moment!

In this moment we have all the time in the world. Right now, this instant, we can act.
(Ephesians 5:15-16) See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.