Monday, January 31, 2011

Learning in the Valleys

I don't really understand why sickness, disease, job loss, or broken relationships happen to us. But it seems that within my circle of friends and influence there is always a handful of people dealing with some hardship like this. Sometimes I am the one struggling through a valley.

In the midst of the struggle our vision is blurred if not altogether blinded. We can see only the immediate need but I think it would be helpful if we could see beyond the valley. Just like driving in fog is easier with low beam headlights than with high beams, we tend to focus on the near, of which we are the center.

I know a person who almost is through a series of treatments for a terrible disease. As I walked through this season of life with this person I heard him tell about lessons he was learning while in this valley. Lessons about material things and how to treat others and what is really important. I hoped the lessons in the valley would mold this person into one more closely modeling the character of Jesus.

Now he's beginning to act like his old self again. If that's the case, he didn't apply what he learned in the valley. Maybe he didn't really learn anything after all. Unless we have reached perfection in Christ-likeness, we should not emerge from the valley our same old self. We should be different. We should be more like Christ.

God may or may not cause the hardships a person experiences. For sure, he allows what he does not directly cause. For sure, he is present in the valley. Whatever the cause or reason for your passing through a valley, be sure to leave the old self behind and come away from your troubles having applied what you learned in the valley. Let the valley be the opportunity to become more like Christ.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


One of the most difficult tasks of church leadership is determining how to use benevolence resources. The real needs are great but they seem to be matched with an equal or greater number of unnecessary requests - some are even scams. In our church, much of the decision lies with the pastor - that would be me. I pray for discernment and wisdom so that our resources are put to the best use. My understanding of "best use" is to help with needs within the church family AND to meet needs of those outside the church FOR THE PURPOSE OF SHARING CHRIST WITH THEM.

Benevolence without that purpose is just welfare. Believers will need benevolent help. Our church will help them as we can so that this person or family can better understand God's love. We hope that the situation they are currently in will be a point along the journey to spiritual maturity. And we hope that our benevolent help for people who do not know Christ as Savior and Lord will result in their realizing the need for salvation - a point along the journey to spiritual new birth.

A lot of organizations can help meet needs but the church cannot see benevolence as an end in itself. Rather, it is a means to a greater end of drawing people to Christ. A church ceases being a New Testament church when it leaves this greater end out of its objectives.

Acts 20:35 quotes Jesus saying, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Christians may sometimes need to receive. Christians always need to give.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Waiting on the Lord

I read today's entry in Oswald Chamber's "My Utmost for His Highest." The point was that we should move through life following God's timetable rather than our own. How often do you rush ahead without really considering what God wants? I do that too much and it's time to wait.

I rushed into something 31 years ago that was not according to God's timing. I rushed into something 28 years ago that was not on God's master plan. I rushed into something 12 years ago that was not on God's agenda. I'm sure there are other occasions that also meet this criteria. The three things I mentioned have marked my life and are obstacles even today. I didn't wait on the Lord.

The three things I mentioned represent three different areas of life. I knew in my head that God is supposed to be the center of everything in my life. I knew in my head that God has a plan for me that is all-inclusive. I just didn't know it in my heart so I rushed. Instead of waiting on the Lord I either ran ahead of him, ran away from him, or ran around him.

Eventually, I ran back to him. And he was there each time waiting on me. How much easier (and better) had I been waiting on him. I hope I've learned my lesson.