Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Letting God Do His Thing

While in the process of restarting our church this fall as The Voyage Church, I'm constantly hounded by not only the naysayers who say we shouldn't have stopped what we were doing in the first place, but also my own doubts about whether it CAN be done successfully or not. In a recent gathering of people to share the vision of The Voyage Church, I shared with them a passage that I'd come across in my devotional reading. The passage is a familiar one, one that I'd read through hundreds of times before, but one that never really got my attention. That is, until I read it in the NLT. When I read it in that version, it came alive to me for the first time (this serves as a good reminder to read from a variety of translations of the bible.)

The passage I'm talking about is Matthew 5:3 - the beginning of the famous beatitudes passage that Jesus proclaims to his disciples. In the NIV, it reads something like "blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." Again, nothing wrong with that translation, but it never really grabbed my attention. In the NLT, however, it reads in the following way:

"God blesses those who realize their need for Him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them."

What struck me was the realization that God blesses those who realize their need for Him. God shows favor to those who are at the "end of the rope," as The Message puts it. God blesses those who suddenly recognize that they can't do it on their own. It's a sudden revelation that we are nothing and God is everything. It's an awakening that enlightens us to the fact that we are the creation and He is the Creator.

You see, God wants to bring us balance in our lives. He wants to make our burdens light. He wants to give us life abundantly. Yet, so often we seek the abundant and balanced life through our own means and through our own interventions. What Jesus is saying here is that we need a Divine intervention each and everyday in order to live the life that God all wants for us to live.

By seeing this, by noticing that God blesses us when we turn back towards him, we have hope. We have direction. Better yet, the burden is gone. When we finally recognize that we are hopeless and helpless without HIM, a peace that is beyond understanding begins to overwhelm us and transform us into something new and better.

So, as I reflect again on this passage, I'm reminded that I can't make the restart of our church successful on my own. I can only be faithful and do so much, but inevitably, it's a God thing. Today, I'm more confident than ever that God will show favor upon what we are doing if we will only keep our focus upward and let God do his thing.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Losing Something

I did something the other day that I won't forget anytime soon. As I was trying to free some much needed space up on the hard-drive of our family computer, I trashed something that I wasn't supposed to. While I thought I had all of our pictures backed up on a secondary hard-drive, I soon found out that all the pictures from 2007 were missing. That means, (from the lips of my now irate wife) that all of our daughter Hope's pictures are gone! Vanished!

When I shared this latest revelation with my wife, I gave it to her in the "Good news/bad news" sort of way. I gave her the "bad news" first - all the pictures from 2007 have been lost. But wait, I told her, "The Good news is that there not entirely lost - their out there somewhere in the great trashcan known as cyberspace." In other words, I was trying to convince her that I could find them and that I would do so ASAP.

Then I put my foot in my mouth even further and asked her why she needed Hope's pictures that bad in the first place. I mean, she was standing right there holding Hope in her hands. We saw her everyday! This didn't help matters a whole lot as my wife gave me a rather cold and chilling stare.

I share this humbling experience with you to point out how one simple push of the button can create a huge mess. One simple look, one simple decision to do this or that, can lead to all sorts of messes in life that will never be forgotten and will require a great deal of time and attention to clean it up. As I mentioned to a friend who had asked me the one thing that I would like to have on my tombstone when I die, I told him that it would be "A Man Above Reproach." If I could leave any legacy for my family, my children, my grandchildren, etc... it would be that - to live a life of such integrity that I left nothing that would shame my family or myself. This, in my view, would be a successful life.

The end of the story is a good one but a costly one. We found the pictures but we had to spend $100 for some software to do so. It was costly, and it took a lot of time. Likewise, the decisions we make each and everyday can prove costly and can take nearly our entire lives to completely (if that's possible) retrieve what was lost. So, if you've lost something (i.e. the trust of your loved ones)repent for what you've done. Then, in Jesus' own words, "Go and sin no more."

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Screaming for Ice Cream

Up until this past year, it's been several years since I've seen the ice cream truck roll through a neighborhood. As a child, I can remember seeing the ice cream truck come by 3 or 4 times during the summer months but that was about it. Well, in our neighborhood, you might see the ice cream truck come by 3 or 4 times in a day. No kidding! I've counted 4 different ice cream vendors that drive their beat-up little vans playing the kind of music that will literally make you go stir crazy if you aren't able to tune it out. And it doesn't matter how much ice cream we have in our freezer, our kids always want ice cream from the ice cream man. After all, we don't have the Dora Fudge Pop or the Spongebob something or another in our freezer. In fact, the ice cream business in our neighborhood seems so lucrative that I joke with my wife Cara that we should turn our mini-van into an ice cream van. All it would take is some crazy music and a cooler full of ice cream in the back. Oh, and I guess we'd need to get those stickers to put all over our van to show the public exactly what we're selling. It could be done.

Anyway, back to what I was getting at. Just the other day, I saw something I hadn't seen all summer long. I saw the ice cream truck drive slowly by without one key component of their business - the music. Yes, that's right. The ice cream truck drove by but it didn't have the maddening and yet necessary music to go along with it. After all, the music (if you can call it that) is what attracts all of the kids and brings them streaming out their front doors like lemmings off a cliff. If it wasn't for the music, most people would never know the ice cream man was around.

As I sat pondering this, I knew that there was something profoundly theological about what I had just seen, but I wasn't sure what it was initially. However, as I've thought about it, my recent reading of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount comes to mind. Jesus tells us to be the salt of the earth and then he tells us to be the light for all the world to see. If we have something that we know that everyone should have, why would we keep this light hidden. Like the ice cream truck without the music, I think way too many churches today exist in an equally unattractive way. We don't let our lights shine. We don't make ourselves attractive enough so that all the world will take notice. We judge others when we have no basis of doing so. If the church wants to reach the least, last, and lost of this world, it has to offer the world something the world cannot find anywhere else. And we have that something in the gracious provision of our heavenly Saviour Jesus Christ. So start screaming!