“If It’s Good Enough for Jesus…”

“so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

Isaiah 55:11

There is a story out there that always makes me laugh.  I will tell it here to make a point, and please know that I don’t mean to offend anyone.

A new Sunday School Teacher walked into a classroom of older adults.  Filled with enthusiasm and a love for God’s Word, the 30-something man begins to read from His Bible.  Just a couple of sentences into his reading, a classroom participant stops him and says,

“Son, what is it that you are reading?”

“Well, sir,” he replied, “I am reading from the Book of Isaiah.”

“That doesn’t sound like my Bible.” the man returned.

“I am reading from the New International Version.  It might be different from yours.”

“Well, I don’t know about where you come from, but around here we only read the Lord’s Bible – The King James.”

“I understand that sir.  But I prefer the NIV.  It is much easier to read and understand.”

“Well, we may not be able to always understand the King James, but if it was good enough for Jesus – then it’s good enough for me!”

I always laugh at that story because the offended man obviously has no clue about God’s intent for His word.  I sincerely hope none of you have been offended by my use of this story.  But it does point out the silliness of our ways in the church sometimes.

Moving on.

I was reading the Bible with my daughter tonight.  She loves to right down her favorite scriptures of the day in a little notebook.  I marveled at her Bible.  It is purple with flowers on it.  It has sidebars next to the scriptures adding some relevancy to the topic at hand by comparing them to situations that she, as a 9-year old, would be familiar with.  It has discussion questions about her life, and how she thinks God’s word fits into her daily activities.  It is absolutely and wonderfully accessible to her.  And she looks forward to reading it each night and writing down those scriptures so that she can keep them close at hand.  Did I mention it is an NIV??

As we sat there reading, I recounted this story in my mind.  And it makes me wonder.  “What would the old man think of this glittery, flower-covered NIV that talks about things like soccer practice and manicures?”

I am thankful that God doesn’t allow His word or His work to be limited by our smallness.  I am glad that He doesn’t allow our prejudice or fears to dictate the spreading of the gospel message.  How many times would someone be left in need because I want my church, my Bible, my music, my JESUS, to remain solely within my comfort zone?

I am ashamed to say that, in many cases, my comfort is the only thing that matters when it comes to kingdom matters.  And I hate change.  Much like the old man, I fear that I show my ignorance by being obstinate about things that would make the way so much smoother for those that don’t know Christ.

My friends, the  facts are this.  God loves:

  • all kinds of worship
  • all kinds of music
  • all kinds of delivery methods
  • and all kinds of people – regardless of what they look like, how they worship, or where they gather.

I am thankful that God is moving on in this world and continuing to do new things to reach those that don’t know Him yet.  I pray that He will continue to work in my heart, that I may, as Paul, “become all things to all people.”  So that I don’t allow any personal choices to become a barrier to my witness.  Because how wonderful it is to see the light of our Savior in someone’s eyes for the first time – whether it be a leather-clad biker on a Harley; a young rapper from the inner city, or a little girl who sees herself as God’s princess.

The fact is:  He is reaching for us all.

Peace friends.

 

“Survival Mode…”

“the Lord your God will be with you.  He will never fail you nor forsake you.”  – Deuteronomy 31:6

Have you ever been in a place in which you feel your life is just falling apart?  Maybe you feel loss of the control that you normally have?  I think that most of us, at one time, have felt that way.  Our circumstances vary:  the loss of a job, the end of a relationship, the death or illness of a loved one…  There are many things that can happen to us that can send us into a tailspin and disrupt our carefully scheduled and planned ahead lives.

What are we to do when life comes crashing down around us?  Some of us lie down and succumb to the pressures of the world, drowning our sorrows in some form escapism.  Some of us run, trying to pretend that everything is just as it should be.  However, I think many people just revert to what I perceive as “Survival Mode.”

Survival Mode assumes that we will only be concerned about those things that must get done today.  Survival Mode says “This is my highest priority, and other things need to fall by the wayside.”

My family has been living in survival mode for almost a year, due to a family illness.  And in that time, our mentality has been to assess our true needs each day, and operate accordingly.  Because we had no idea what our needs would be each day, we cut everything out of our lives that were not absolutely necessary.  No volunteerism, no extra projects, no extra social or curricular activities.  Our main goals for each day look something like this:

  1.  Food – we all have to eat.  Maybe it is just hotdogs or grilled cheese sandwiches, but we will survive.
  2. Shelter – Pay the bills.  Sometimes we were late, but at least we were never disconnected.
  3. Clothing – Everyone at least needs clean underwear each day.  Can’t say the same for jeans and shirts.
  4. Homework – Kids have homework.  90% of it has gotten done. We just couldn’t always make it happen. They haven’t failed in school because of it. – Success!
  5. Recreation – Our children were allowed 1 activity outside school last year.  We had to try and maintain some normalcy for them.  This was a long-term issue for our family and we all needed a break sometimes.
  6. Whatever Pop needed.  My father-in-law is suffering from cancer along with many other physical difficulties.  Our time with him is short, so whatever he needed each day, that truly was our first priority.  The other 5 areas fell in behind this one.

In times like these, it becomes pretty clear as what is essential and what we can do without.  Being able to say “Sorry, I can’t help,” or “No, we won’t be there,” becomes pretty easy.  And I believe we can all agree that activities such as cleaning out closets and planning dinner parties can wait.  But do we also mistake some of the most important parts of our lives as non-essentials just because they aren’t urgently calling our name?

Believers, can you notice something that is missing from our essentials list?  In times such as these, what is the ONE thing we should all hold onto?  Our connection to God, yet sadly, that is the first thing normally to go.

Now, to be honest, we pray – a lot.  You know the ones, “God help us.”  “Lord, show us what to do.”  “Father, fill me with your grace.”  But I have found over the year that my prayers have devolved from intimate conversation with my Father in heaven to weary pleas for help.  And for this season in our lives, I think God is ok with that.  Sometimes that is all we can say.

However, my time in the Word had become non-existent.  I just didn’t have the energy or desire to pick up my Bible and to seek the wisdom God had to offer.  When I had a spare minute, sitting in peace was about the only thing I wanted to do.  And, let’s face it, reading my Bible just wasn’t a priority – except for work-related needs.

So you can imagine my hesitation this summer when I realized that I needed one more teacher for our DISCIPLE program to begin in the fall.  DISCIPLE is a year-long study of the Bible.  It is a rich encounter with the Word from Genesis to Revelation, and God had blessed our church with enough people to fill 5 classes! Any director’s dream come true.  But when I realized that I was one leader short, my soul just sank.

I honestly just didn’t want to think about committing the time or the energy to the project.  It was exhausting to think about.  However, it is in my job description.  So, after much unanswered prayers for a solution, I picked up my Bible and began preparing.

AND AN INCREDIBLE THING HAPPENED!

My gracious Father began leaping off the pages.  The grace and mercy of His presence began to flow around me as I read those familiar stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  My soul began to be renewed as I moved through Joshua.  I was reminded of God’s faithfulness in Deuteronomy.  I found myself looking forward each day to the time in which I could soak up the Spirit of God through those pages and remember that He was with me.  I found peace.

Why is it friends, that we cut out those things that renew and sustain us in times of distress?  It saddens me to think of all God wanted to give me in the past year, that I left on the table because I didn’t take time to receive it.

It is my prayer for you, if you are in a season of struggle, that you will take the time to be uplifted and sustained by our Father who loves you and wills the best for you.

Peace brothers and sisters.

Amen