Tuesday, September 11, 2012

11 Years...and America Forgets

Eleven years ago was the first time I remember hearing about the World Trade Center or saw pictures of the Twin Towers. I remember my mother's face when she explained what had happened. I remembered the days, weeks, and months that followed and how I listen to stories on the radio about what had happened. I remember accounts given by those who had escaped fiery deaths, and those who hadn't. The harrowing tales that I will never want to forget. I remember for the first time in my life, seeing people stop thinking about themselves and reach out to help and encourage others...as a nation.
Now, eleven years later, America is beginning to forget. To forget the heroes who gave their lives that day. To forget those who's lives were changed forever when they lost loves ones. To forget that freedom comes with a price. We are being lulled to sleep by our daily cares so that we forget that if we want to keep our freedom, we as a nation have to rise and fight for it as one. And we forget that each day is a gift. We aren't promised a tomorrow. We have only today, to love, to share, and to care.
Tragedy happens. When it happens to you or those around you, are you ready? Have you given in to Jesus' call, to come and follw Him? If you have, then do you see the urgency of speaking to others about The Way, The Truth, The Life?
In the face of tragedy it is easy to remember to share the gospel, it is easy to remember to have compassion, it is easy to remember that freedom (as a nation or from sin) comes with a cost. But we forget so easily...
Today, take some time to remember what freedom means. Take time to look at those around you and see their needs. Take the time to count the cost. Let the memories of 9/11 spur you to reach out, share the truth, and fight the fight for freedom.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Servant of Christ

Recently I have been reflecting on what I have been spending my time on in the past several months and asking myself questions about whether or not I have been investing my time wisely for Christ. Scripture that came to mind was from Luke 10:38-42.
 "Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, 'Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.' And Jesus answered and said to her, 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.'"
When it comes to serving Christ there is more than one facet. Yes, there are times to serve and physically be busy for the Lord, but there are also times to "sit at His feet" and seek to know Him. Have you ever found it challenging to know what it is that the Lord will have you do and when? I know I have. A thought that has helped me is that if I am in tune with the Lord, and if I am seeking Him daily through His Word and prayer, then I generally know what it is that He would have me do. If, on the other hand, I have been so busy running to and fro under the guise of serving Him that I have not made time to be still and seek Him, then I often begin to get confused about what it is He would have me do. It would be safe to assume that that in each season of life our first duty to serving Christ is to spend time seeking Him in quiet and keeping our hearts in tune with His, and then serving as He leads.
 Another thing that came to mind was the times when I will say no to someone because I do not have time for them or their need because I am "too busy doing the Lord's work." Now, obviously there are times when we should say no. Even Jesus did not bow to every one's beck and call (Mark 1:36-38). But, at the same time, are there times when I say no because I am too busy just being busy? Sometimes it is so easy to get wrapped up in doing, that we do not take time to listen. For example, your friend's house is damaged by fire and you have headed up a team of volunteers from your church to help rebuild your friend's house. You are so focused on doing this "good deed" that you brush your friend aside when he approaches you and tries to share his heart with you about his grief over the loss of some letters from his father that were priceless to him. You have to get that roof up, and you do not have time to listen.
A balance that I sometimes find hard is getting so wrapped up in the act of serving that I forget the hearts and spiritual needs of those I am serving. They become objects of service instead of breathing and feeling individuals who have emotional and spiritual needs.

God places us in circumstances for a reason. If we are on an elevator with complete strangers, or if we are in a roomful of old friends, He has placed us there for a reason. There are no random chances in life. Maybe your ministry is just to smile, say a kind word, or open a door. Maybe it will be sitting down and just listening. Maybe it will be offering advice. Maybe it will be physical labor. The trick is to not overlook the people in effort to meet a project deadline or goal. We are to tend His sheep (John 21:16), to share the gospel (Mark 16:15), to bare each other's burdens (Galatians 6:2).
There is so much more to serving the Lord than physically serving. Let us not lose sight of serving in the sometimes mundane and less glamorous ways. Let us not think that the only real service is preaching the gospel on the street corners, yes, surely this is a big part of our calling as believers, but it is not all there is. Let us not think that being cloistered away in our little closets studying His Word and praying is our mission either. There is a balance that must be maintained. We should take the time to seek Him daily for direction, and from time to time reflect and re-evaluate. We should study the life of Christ and module our service after His.
Serving Christ is not a one size fits all kind of thing. Just because others serve Him in one way, does not mean that is the way that you are to serve Him. You probably knew this, as did I, but sometimes I just need a reminder. Being a servant of Christ has many facets that often change within each season of life, and while neither is better than the other, there should always be a balance between serving and being still.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Will We Listen?

"For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?" ~ Matthew 16:26
Most of us do not think of ourselves as trying to gain the whole world, many of us aren't even interested in becoming wealthy, but how many of us dream of or work towards a comfortable life? Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to live a comfortable life, nothing at all. But when that ideal of a comfortable life trumps our zeal for doing what the Lord calls us to do, you will agree that we have encountered a problem. Not just a mere speed bump, but a mountainous problem.
Imagine this. You are 32-years-old, you have a beautiful wife and four adorable children (yes, you are bias, but that is besides the point). You have a comfortable home, in a middle-class neighborhood. You have two nice vehicles in your drive, and you make a average income at your average middle-class job that you actually enjoy. One Sunday you are sitting in church listening to the story of a missionary couple who has been living in Africa for 10 years and are back in the States to raise awareness to the importance of their work with orphans, most of whose parents died from AIDS. As they share pictures and stories of the devastation, all you can see is the eyes of the children staring back at you and in your heart you hear them crying out for someone to help them. The missionaries share that while they have rescued so many children, they cannot put a dent in the need. Why? Because they simply do not have the man power to expand their their outreach.
Tears run down your face, you look at your wife and see your tears reflected on her face and the look she gives you begs you to help her do something for these children. You look at your own young ones and cannot help but think about how you would feel if they were the ones alone and in such desperate need.
After the service you are one of the first in line to talk to the missionaries. You say, "My heart cries out for these children. I don't make a ton of money, but I will give all that I can to help? I will try to raise awareness, just tell me how. I want to help!" They look you in the eye, "Mr. Johnson, your money could help feed these children and that could save lives, raising awareness would be wonderful, we would appreciate your help with that! But one thing we beg for more then anything else, please pray with us for hearts to be stirred to go and serve. We have a great need for long term missionaries, and frankly, many people express how heart broken they are for these children, but few are willing to serve. Pray, with us that God will work mightily, even in the hearts of those here today, and that He will raise up families willing to serve."
You promise to pray and you mean it with all your heart. You go home burdened for these children, and for weeks and months you pray begging God to stir the hearts of a family to go and serve. One night at the dinner table you look at your wife, "I just cannot forget those children's eyes. The pain in them. I hope the Lord sends someone soon." Your wife turns from feeding the baby and looks deep into your eyes, "Why not us?" You do not grasp what she means for a few seconds and then it hits you. She means, why don't you and your family go to Africa? Your mind begins to whirl. How could you? You have a family to raise, to support, to educate. Besides, it wouldn't be safe there. It would be different. Your mind quickly thinks for twenty reasons why you couldn't. You try to voice some, but even to your own ears your voice sounds strained.
You toss and turn in your bed, you continue to pray that God will raise up a family to go. In fact, you pray harder then ever. And times slips by, months turn to years and the eyes that used to haunt you no longer do so much. You are living comfortably in your middle-class home, working the same middle-class job (though you don't enjoy it as much as you once did). Your children are in middle school and junior high, involved in sports, and thriving.
No, you never go. You still wake up some mornings with the question in your mind, "Why not? What about those children?" But you drown them out with excuses and reasons why you couldn't. After a while you no longer listen to the voice of the Lord nor walk daily with Him because You refuse to hear His voice. You have hardened your heart. You can't leave the comfort of what you know, what is normal, what is safe, even though you know the Lord is calling, you turn a deaf ear.
And then, one day, it's too late. Your life is nearly gone, and your strength is fading and you look back over your life. What do you see?
No, we may not all seek to gain the whole world, but how many of us seek to stay in our comfort zones. To live the comfortable lives we have always known, and are to afraid, to set in our ways, to fearful of what others would think, that we do not forsake all and follow the Master? You say that you love Him, that You will go where He leads, do what He asks, but will you? Will I?