Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"Sun" of Encouragement?

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. -Proverbs 3:27

Have you ever wondered what it is God has called you to do? Especially within the context of the church? Not everyone is called to be a pastor or an elder or a teacher. So what, exactly, is the Christian to do?

John Milton, in reflecting on his blindness, wrote, "They also serve who only stand and wait."

I've been thinking about Barnabas.

Barnabas means "son of encouragement." Since the word "courage" come from the Latin "cor," meaning heart, I guess you could say that to en-courage someone is to give them heart.

Would you say there's a big need for that in the Church? How would I go about that, do you suppose?

Getting back to Barnabas. As nearly as I can recall, not a single word of his is recorded in scripture. But looking at the many times he is mentioned in the book of Acts, it seems as though there would never have been a Paul, had there not been a Barnabas.

He came alongside Paul in his early Christian life, spoke on his behalf, and then went to Tarsus to seek him out, in effect setting him on his path as missionary to the Gentiles. In short, he loved Paul.

It's a sign that we are Christ's, when we love the brethren (and the sistern!) . To be a ray of hope in the midst of gloom and depression. To shine a little light into the midst of confusion. To reflect the light of the love of Jesus.

The proverb quoted implies an expenditure of some sort on our part. That I should extend myself and reach out in some way. Would an investment in love yield far more valuable returns than an investment in money? 

As you and I seek to serve the God who has given us everything, can it be that His service could consist of something so simple as a listening ear or shared insight?

"...stand and wait." Was Milton speaking of mere inactivity? Or does "to wait" imply an availability and a willingness to serve?

I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these my brothers, you did for me. -Matthew 25:40b

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

This is the Day...

the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Another 24 hours. Thank you, God. Right? 

Here's a question: did God simply create this specific period of hours, minutes and seconds, then hand it over to us to fill up in whatever way we wish?

Maybe we should begin the discussion with this question: does God have absolute control over everything he has made?

Let me tell you what happened to me yesterday morning: right out of the box, before I had barely had my first sip of coffee, I faced a trial, a temptation, an overwhelmingly sinful urge.

My wife came into the room with a bad (how I perceived it) attitude. Those of you who know me also know how I react in these situations. So you will understand that it was by the grace of God alone that I gave the soft answer, that turneth away wrath.

Where did that come from, so early in the morning? This woman God gave me (Adam's phrase, I believe) demanding (it seemed) that I be hateful to her.

Can it be that God has provided not just the day, not just the joys and blessings, but the sorrows and the temptations? Our loving Heavenly Father?

We're on dangerous ground here. James 1:13-14 specifically states that God does not tempt us, but that our temptations spring from our own reactions (to unfolding circumstances).

Here's a clue, I think, from Jonah, chapter four: the phrase "God provided" occurs three times; two of God's providings are distinctly unpleasant to Jonah. We find the origin of the modern phrase, "mad enough to die."

I don't think I've been called to preach the sermon that will lead 120,000 people to repentance and salvation.

The psalmist is calling me, however, to rejoice in the day and all it brings. Whatever God may "provide."

Which reminds me of Augustine's prayer: "Lord, command what you will, and give what you command."

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Like I Say

Re-reading Camille Kendall's "Messed Up" post from a couple of weeks ago. You know, the one about young believers being disillusioned as they look around them and see fellow-Christians living a lackadaisical, seemingly uncommitted life.


Automatically, I wonder: "Is it me?" We all have our days, right? But to be the cause of discouragement in one of Christ's young ones. I do not want to be in that place.

This feeling was intensified as I have struggled with how to witness to my older grandchildren. I see these young people just beginning their lives and, God love 'em, they seem prone to tread the same paths I trod and make the same stupid mistakes I made. Result: misery all around.

I know they would respond with a respectful "Yessir" to any well-meaning advice I might give, but how could I blame them if they responded mentally with a "Yeah, right" ?

I'm blessed with four daughters who have forgiven my shortcomings as a father. But how would they feel to see this old fool trying to meddle in their kids' lives?

I think I know how David must have felt. He had sinned so badly, he must have hardly felt qualified to offer discipline and guidance to his rowdy bunch of sons. So he stood back and did nothing.

Don't want to be there either.

So here's what I think. Young people, hear me. Young Christian brothers and sisters; grandchildren striking out on your own. Do as I say, not as I have done. I have made many mistakes, but I have learned from them. I have been where you are. Let my hard-earned experience be of benefit to you.

There are people around you who HAVE gotten it right. Latch on to these folks. If they offer to be your friend, let them. If they offer to be your mentor, let them.

If God blesses you by placing someone like this in your life, embrace that blessing. You might not think so, but you will be a blessing to that person(s). It's one of the many ways He works all things to our good and His glory.

Oh, and don't forget to thank Him.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Deadliest Sin

There's this hymn they sang in church when I was a little boy:
I Am Satisfied With Jesus.

At Grace Pres, we just celebrated our three year anniversary. I was doing a blog for the church website, reflecting on where we had been and where we might be headed.

I remembered the excitement of those days. We were doing a new thing. The faith of Luther, Calvin and the other reformers had not been taught in Obion County for nearly 25 years.

Time to stop and reflect. Is that passion still there? Or are we maybe too comfortable as we've settled into our new 100 year-old home?

We all know about the seven deadly sins. I'm thinking there's another one, much more deadly because it's soooo sneaky. Nothing wrong with being satisfied, right? Well, there's self-satisfied.

They call that complacency. You know, just comfortable and content with the way things are. Too satisfied to make our visitors feel truly welcome? Too satisfied to reach to out those in our midst just to ask, "How are you doing?" And then to listen? Too satisfied with our little group to speak lovingly and winsomely (pay attention here, rb) to those who don't "get it?"

Complacency. Hmmm, well you can see how that would be an easy trap to wander into.

Oh yeah, that hymn? The last line of the chorus goes: "And the question comes to me, as I think of Calvary; is my Master satisfied with me?"

I gotta remember that.