After I wrote yesterday’s post, I remembered something. Actually, I was just about ready to fall asleep and I had a thought pop into my brain. As a side note, that is a strange place for that to happen for me, usually it is when I am taking a shower that I think the clearest. But anyway, I got to thinking about how in many different places in my life I have been told to “leave it better than you found it.” This is easy to understand when you are given something to borrow, or you are in someone’s home. But what about if we thought the same about the people we encountered everyday?
I was at a hotel with my family some months ago and I noticed an older couple strolling around the lobby. The older man was in a wheelchair and his wife was pushing him around. Immediately I had compassion for them because they looked tired to me. She loved him and would do anything for him. He had some sort of health problem that limited him to the wheelchair. I noticed they wanted to go into the pool area to see what was going on in there, but holding the door was challenging. I went over a held the door so they could come in and then when they left again. They both smiled at me and thanked me for my help. I didn’t do much, but I hope I left them better than I found them.
Words have the power to hurt and heal. Of course working with people can be a challenge. If I chose to be negative or grumble about others, I will just add negativity to an already negative situation. People don’t always do things like I do them. Sometimes I make mistakes, sometimes other people make mistakes. We are all human. One thing that helps make things better is gratitude. I can say thank you. In fact, I have found that one way to counteract negativity in the workplace or in the home is to say thank you, even to that person that can rub you wrong. Actually, this is probably something we all can do better at. It doesn’t hurt and it is free.
What can you do today to leave them better than you found them? Someone needs you to lift them up today.
There is a lot on my mind and there is a lot off my mind. Does that even make sense? In the past few months I have experienced excitement, fulfillment, and absolute frustration, sometimes at the same moment. Ministry is tough. There is a battle going on for the souls of man and when we jump in to be a minister of the Gospel, well you know the devil is not going to just stand by and watch. I find myself wrestling with the Church — what is it and why don’t we look like it? I find myself looking at my own sinful heart and the hearts of those around me who claim to be followers of Jesus and I wonder — really? Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to set myself up as some spiritual giant, I just wonder if when Jesus said “they will know you are my disciples by your love” what exactly He had in mind. It is true I see people loving each other — at times. It is true that some of the most amazing examples of this I have seen in the lives of some of our missionaries who have gone to difficult places because they love the people there. Is that what it looks like? What if the church really loved like Jesus?
In the past three months I have seen some really difficult things in our community. I have seen people die suddenly, people attempt suicide, people drink themselves to sleep at night, and others just trying to figure out what it takes to make it through one more day. Where is the church in all of this? Is the Church standing on the corner shouting at the world saying “you must change and be like us” or do we really have the love of Christ in our hearts overflowing to our communities. I believe that the Church is in each community for a reason and must actually engage in the mission there. I also am constantly challenging those around me to look at this community and consider how we as the Church might make this community a better place. It seems to me that when we start loving people where they are, then maybe they will want to hear what we have to say. The walls need to come down and we need to go to the world.
Recently I was at Council for the Christian and Missionary Alliance. During that time we sang a song many different times. So often I found myself unable to sing it because I was so moved by what it was declaring and in such agreement with the prayer for the work of Christ’s Church worldwide. The line was this:
“There is no power in hell or any who can stand. Before the power and the presence of the Great I AM.”
That image comes from an interaction God had with Moses. Moses wanted to know who would authenticate his message and God said “tell them I Am sent you.” That is so simple and so powerful. We don’t need any fancy methods, techniques, mission statements with clever words — we need the power of the living God. The gates of hell will not prevail.
The same is true when in our own personal lives we can’t seem to breathe. Who is it that has given me breath? Who is it that I submit my life to? The Great I Am. And I know I long to see the Church be the Church again as a living testimony of the power of the Great I Am. That means you and that means me.
Here is the song — Maybe it will minister to you like it has to me
I was listening to talk radio yesterday on my way back from a meeting. The content of the conversation was revolving around the recent snow we received and the debate over when to cancel school. On the one hand you have people who say that it makes more sense to cancel it than to have a day of school with only half the students — this one man said that he felt like it was a wasted day. That got me thinking about Sunday morning here. We had our worship service in the midst of a snow storm. There were about 20 people here; was that wasted?
In the framework of life there are many things that feel wasted. I feel like I might say something to my kids all the time and they still miss what I say. I know in youth ministry I would have phone calls that would make me want to throw my phone against the wall. It is frustrating to see someone go so far in their faith only to turn so far backwards in an instant. It is in those moments that I wonder how effective my ministry really is.
When there are deep issues to deal with in any arena of life, it can make us weary. Even Paul in the book of Galatians got a little frustrated with the people. They had heard the Gospel and had receive it. So, why were they living in the old way again?
“I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.” Galatians 4:10
I think we all have days like that. Whether it is with my ministry or with my own family, I sometimes look at all that goes on and wonder “what am I doing here?” “Why do I even bother with this?” But when the dust settles I always end up landing right back where I began; with a deep sense of purpose in this life. I know that things won’t always go my way — in fact, if they do go my way I start to wonder if I am missing something. What I do know is that there is no such thing as “wasted efforts” if my efforts are done under the empowerment of God.
So what does that mean for you today? You will never have this day again. So let’s not waste it. If today is not a good day from your perspective, perhaps it is time to look for ways to praise God. I know I have a hard time being grumpy when I stand before the God who knows my heart. I know for me I will continue to press on in the challenges I face knowing that God is not wasting anything — including what I perceive as my time.
I know this is pastor appreciation month, but I really don’t want to make too big a deal of that. It is not that I don’t want to be appreciated, but rather that I feel like I don’t need any extra attention. Many people show appreciation all year long to me and those notes of encouragement are very helpful in keeping my head on straight sometimes. It is real special when something is received from a child – a child who decided to write a few things down about their pastor and leave it on his desk. I get excited about things like that because a little appreciation helps me see that important connections are being made with the children in the church. That, to me, is one of the greatest compliments and affirmations of my ministry I could receive. Thank you!