I knew something was wrong the minute I walked around the corner of the church building and looked into the empty parking lot. I was very rarely the first person to arrive on a Sunday morning as an intern. While walking through the empty church, turning lights on as I went, I began to mildly freak out for about 30 minutes considering the possibility that I had missed the rapture. The feeling of being left behind stuck with me for the remainder of the day. I was so entirely relieved when my boss, the senior pastor, walked in. Giving me a puzzled look he asked, “Did you forget to change your clock?” There’s nothing like an experience like that to get you thinking about Jesus’ Second Coming. I didn’t miss out on the Second Coming that day, I don’t want to miss out on the actual day, and I don’t want you to, either, so lets prepare for the Second Coming.
I love using the line, “Help me help you.” (I think it’s from a movie, but I don’t know which one.) As a leader, I want to be effective and I don’t want to waste my time, so anything anyone would like to share with me to help me be more effective with them is totally awesome. Even if you’ve never heard that sentence before, my guess is that many leaders are really wanting to shout it out really loudly. There are things that you can do to help leaders to be more effective with you.
In the most basic and accurate statement I can think of, the summary of the Christian life is this: love God and then love others. Easy-peasy, right? As accurate as that statement may be, it’s terribly poor at communicating what that might look like. It certainly doesn’t communicate the calling to love aggressively.
The service was just about to begin while I was standing in the foyer noticing someone new walking through the door. I extended my hand and he shook it. He had the easy to recognize church-smile on his face, wearing church-casual attire. I wasn’t surprised to hear that he was visiting from another assembly he had grown tired of, and now he was shopping around to check out his other options. I discovered years ago that some people feel that they become better when they start attending a better church. I’ve also discovered that they’re absolutely right! Today’s text shows us what a better church looks like, and how you would benefit if you were in one.
One of the questions I’m asked fairly often is, “How do I know if this is God’s will for me?” I’m usually asked this by someone who’s trying to make a big decision. And, I get it, I ask the question myself sometimes. I can’t give a unique word from God just for you, but I can help you figure out how to recognize God’s will for yourself.
I was in my car, driving home, and yelling at God. I was certainly not at my best, but I was absolutely confused, hurting and angry. One of my friends had just died of brain cancer. Because our church had fasted and prayed, I felt that we had somehow did what was needed to earn a miracle. A miracle never came, and I questioned God just like an arrogant and inexperienced child treats a parent they feel is inept. What do you do when you don’t understand God? Thank God I’ve grown from that experience. I’ve learned how moments of confusion can become empowering God encounters.
“Son, I want you to understand something. I want you to fail a lot while you’re still young. One day, you’ll be grown up and on your own, making bigger mistakes than you are today. I won’t be able to help you then as much as I can help you now. So, while I’m still able to teach you how to learn from your mistakes, I don’t want you to fear failure, I want you to see it as an opportunity.” That was one of the stranger conversations I’ve had with my son. I’m not even sure if all of it really registered with him. But, what I do know is that my kids know that failure is sometimes more useful than success because daddy helps them learn. Similarly, within Christianity, failure can be incredibly more beneficial than success.
It’s a warm summer morning, the sun feels great because the breeze is strong enough to stop me from overheating. While I’m jogging along the sidewalk I casually wave to a neighbour, and with a smile on his face he waves back. Because my athletic conditioning is nothing to brag about I find myself grateful for any shortcut I can find on my running routes. Suddenly my kind neighbour lets out a stern yell, “Hey, stay off my grass.” (You know, I do feel slightly sorry for those corner lot home owners with that walking path at the corner of their lawn.) My neighbours’ kindness and sternness is often dependant on my behaviour. God’s kindness and sternness can be similarly dependant.
I often hear comments spouting the virtue of humility. I wouldn’t consider, even for a microsecond, speaking against humility. I do, however, wonder if we have a deep enough context to understand how the virtue fits within our fellowship with God. It seems to me that without context humility is simply a plastic way for people to make themselves look more pious so they can feel like they’re doing something that empowers them to be rewarded by God. Proper context, I believe, removes false piety and adds a healthy dose of fear and realism that attacks the glamorous light we tend to see ourselves in.