One of the added highlights of going to any concert that has a conductor such as a Christmas program pageant for the local school or a local choir is the additional things a person in the audience gets to see. On occasions, you can see a child waving at his or her parents and grandparents, a kid talking through the whole song to a fellow member of the choir or even the occasional dance number performed by a particular student, usually of the younger variety.
We all have been in their situation. We've been practicing these songs for months on end, have been standing in perfect rows for days, to make sure we get that right. We've been reminded constantly to "really hold this note here" or "annunciate this word here." It's not that any of these instructions or practices are bad in and of themselves. In fact, they are very helpful in making a concert run smoothly, if at all possible. It's just that after so much time practicing and rehearsing for this one concert, there are times that we would rather not participate, times that we would rather not look at the conductor and take the directions from him or her.
Life seems a little more chaotic at times. You've got protests going on in various cities, pandemic worries coming from various groups and so on. You can just look at the news and be reminded of everything that is occurring in today's world, not just in our own country. It is easy at times for us to get sidetracked by these events of life, and for some even more so because the events directly impact us. We take one step in, and we soon are immersed by every viewpoint that is found within a particular topic we seem to be "swimming" in the energy that a particular cause or topic creates. Sometimes, we ultimately don't know how to put this topic back in its rightful place and return our focus to God.
When we are faced with a situation, we can always look towards the conductor. In our life, the conductor is God. Despite our own viewpoints and situation, he has orchestrated our lives for his purposes and his glory. It may not look like that at the moment or even five or 10 years from now. However, God knows what he is doing, and he knows what the ultimate purpose is for each one of us and for every action that occurs on his earth.
This doesn't put an end to the things that are happening in our world. However, it does give us a viewpoint to focus on, a central person to return to. We can rest in the knowledge and understanding that God is in control and that he is working in all things. Knowing this, we can move forward in life, willing and ready to be used by him for his purposes. Are we ready to be used by him? I pray that we all are willing and ready servants of his, willing to be part of his great plan for us all.
The Wheeled Worshiper
As we have been walking through the book of Acts, we have seen the historical growth of the church in the first century. From the days of Pentecost, Jerusalem was stirred with the gospel of Christ Jesus to go into all nations and make him known among all peoples, baptizing them and teaching them everything the Lord Jesus commanded till the end of the age.
Though slow at first, the church of the first century began to do that. The church grew outside of Jerusalem to the outcast region of Samaria. From there, the gospel went through the proclamation of one man to Ethiopia, to the Philistines, to Caesarea. Paul brought the gospel to Asia minor, to Athens, Rome, and to all who traveled the seas between the ports. The gospel spread individual evangelism sharing the faith from person to person.
This has continued for millennia and beyond reaching all the way to us. Who was the first person in your family to truly follow the Lord Jesus? Was it one generation ago? Two? Ten? What were the circumstances? What were the questions? What was the hardship? Most of us don't know these facts. But we all know the result. Our loved one in a generation past had their questions answered, their fears subsided, their worries of this life and one to come met by the work and name of Jesus Christ, so that they would know him and you would know him; that in knowing him, you too would teach your children's children. Most are doing well, and the kingdom of God is growing in families here. But that success is not where we should stop. We need to press on to speak to others about the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus that more hearts would believe.
Thus, we are encouraged in Acts to join the church universal in being sons and daughters of God who are willing to witness to others the grace and mercy that has touched us, and to do so freely not allowing any barriers to remain in our way so that witnessing and evangelizing would not only be something we do, but in how we live.
In this regard, as we start a new month, I would challenge you to sit down in prayer with God the Spirit and ask for the opportunity to speak about the gospel with 10 people who do not know it. If you don't like numbers, pray for the opportunity to share the gospel with just one person this month.
In that prayer with the Lord, pray for His peace to wash over your heart. Pray for His answers to come to answer the questions of the faith. Pray for His work to come out in your work. Pray for the kingdom of God to come and for the kingdom of God to grow. Pray that your own commitment to Christ would grow with each word of truth you speak.
The title of this column may discourage some people who have worked for countless hours on many campaigns to get their man, woman, or group elected. I'm not discounting or erasing all the work that has been done on campaigns, but I believe as Christians we know who makes the final decision on who will be elected to any office in our cities, states, and nation. That choice is ultimately made by God, and we as Christians would readily say that, but how often do we believe it and remember it?
I want to be clear; this is not a call that we should abstain from voting for any elected office whether that be mayor, governor, or president. We are called as God's servants to be active in our governments and ultimately God uses us to fulfill his purposes. It may not seem like much when we cast a few votes, but in reality, God is using us to shape his world. As Christians when we vote we can recognize that we are being used as tools in the hands of the Master.
Debating about politics especially on many news organizations and shows seem so frivolous and part of a bigger agenda. It should be no wonder then that it doesn't seem to amount to much in the grand scheme of things when we recognize that God is in control. We still have a right and an opportunity to voice our opinions, but we don't have to be the last word on topics. Instead, we can ultimately lend our voices to God's cause and understand that he will be the ultimate authority and have the final say on what happens in this world.
God can and will use anyone whether they be Republican, Democrat, Independent, Tea Party, or any other political affiliation. We can see this play out in Scripture many times but especially in the case of Pharaoh during the story of Moses. Who would've thought that God would take someone who did not believe in him and use him to promote his glory even through denial and disregards for him? In the same way, God can take and use people we disagree with politically to further his kingdom here on earth.
No matter the outcome this November, we can hold to the belief that God is in control. Do we want certain candidates to win? Yes, but in the end no matter if the map is red or blue, God is in control, not any political party. When we remember this, we can go to the ballot box with confidence because we know that we are being used to further the kingdom of God. Ultimately above all the rhetoric and thoughts of talking pundits, political opponents, and eventually the next or continuing president, we know who has the final say, and we know that in his providence he has made his decision. This should bring us great comfort, and we should be thankful that we have a God who is in control of all things even the issue of politics.
The Wheeled Worshipper
For the first time since preschool, most parents in the last week heard and saw their student's excitement to return to school for the first time in five months. Parents, of course, were equally excited to get everyone back to some sort of normalcy where life has a schedule again; where life has a routine for every age, where Monday kicks off the work week, and Friday night invites us under the lights for football. Sunday calls us to rest and reflect with the Lord about what was learned in the week, which will be applied in the week, and to come in prayer, song, and community.
It is that last word that stirs our hearts more this fall then any time before. For it is communal life that most people have missed in these last months. Thankfully, we have been able to resume much of our community in worship, but living the fullness of communal life has still felt hindered until this month. But now excitement is returning!
Having excitement for community and for communal worship is what we are called by God to participate in and enjoy just as Jesus did when he walked the earth. Throughout the gospels Jesus is working, walking, and worshipping in community. We could go to countless passages of Jesus being with community, feeding the 5,000 or the 4,000, teaching on the Sermon of the Mount or in the Temple. These are all powerful works of Christ done in excitement and in community. But there is one passage in particular that meets the needs of this writing, and it is found in Luke 4:16 which reads, “He (Jesus) went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day we went into the Synagogue, as was his custom.”
If you keep reading this text, you see that in the planning of time Jesus was handed the scroll of Isaiah, and opening it to the reading of the day he read, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor...Then he rolled up the scroll and said these words that have been fulfilled in your hearing today."
Can you imagine the excitement Jesus has to share these words of truth and grace? These words are to be our excitement as we come back to our customs of life. Be excited for Friday night, and Sunday worship, and Monday work again! Be excited to live again this September! Amen.