Why do you attend church? Do your words indicate that you play the role of a church consumer?
"I like the music."
"The preaching is good."
"They have good programs."
"I can get in and get out and still have a free day on the weekend."
There is a most alarming trend in western culture that approaches church body life from a self-centered perspective. The Bible makes it very clear that members of the body of Christ are to serve one another. This has become a foreign concept in churches today.
Time and time again I speak to people who attend churches in which they are not involved, they do not serve, and they practically know no one. People can be surrounded by many and yet feel very alone. Some would admit that this is exactly what they are looking for, even in church....to be unknown...to remain anonymous. This desire to be anonymous comes from the evil one, whose lies lead people to defeat and doubt. Satan cannot steal a person's position in Christ, but he can certainly discourage the believer.
Ministry Fair Sign-Ups: These people know the importance of serving!
The Bible makes it very clear that we all have gifts given to us by God for the benefit of the body. First Peter 4:10 states,
God has given each of you a gift. Use it to help each other. This will show God’s loving-favor.
Could it be that many miss the point of what we are to be doing as a church? To take care of your physical body requires attention, work, and time. This mirrors key elements of body life in the church. It is impossible to show God's loving favor to others without giving time, attention, and service to your church family. We find meaning and purpose in our lives when we are useful to our Lord. Those who serve experience what it's like to be part of something bigger than themselves.
God created the church for us to live out our new life in Christ. This new life of a servant demands that we become selfless.
Align with the scriptures. Find a church body where you can use your gifts and abilities for His glory..and then begin to serve.
Recently my son, Matt, was married and my daughter, Madison, moved into her dorm as a freshman at Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana. These milestones happened in our family on the same weekend!
Many people have asked me, "How are you feeling?" "Are you sad?" "Are you nervous?" "Are you depressed?" But, my viewpoint is that new seasons provide new opportunities.
Matt Making Pancakes for the Wedding Party
The word that truly describes how I feel is "excited!" I am excited for Matt and Hannah. They are so in love. The thought of them experiencing their dreams together makes me smile. Madison, entering an environment that she has anticipated for her lifetime, makes me want to be a fly on her wall. Oh, how I would love to be there to watch her interact with these new experiences!
New seasons provide new opportunities.
This new season also includes new opportunities for me. Many more hours and experiences with Michaela and Meredith have begun. I even executed an NCAA x-box tutorial recently for Meredith. Our home is much different already, which provides opportunity for our "smaller" family to draw closer and work together.
Just since Matt's wedding, Michaela has taken on her first job at a golf pro shop, and Meredith has taken the AP class mantle from her older sister, Madison. She (and her homework) have taken ownership of the kitchen table for three hours a day! We now have one less car, and the chore chart even has my name on it! Lisa has a new first grade class and our church has a new staff member.
In all of this, I am learning to embrace the season I'm in! With the changes, I have discovered that many new opportunities surround me! My advice to you is to do the same: Embrace your season! Opportunity is waiting!
Have you ever had a dream come true? Today was one of those days! Our family went to East St. Louis, Illinois to help my son, Matt at the Christian Activity Center where he serves as the chaplain.
We spent the day mowing, weeding, trimming and cleaning up CAC park. It is an amazing space in the middle of a very dark place. Matt ministers in the projects of the most violent city in the United States. He works with children from 5-18 years old, providing for them a place of hope and safety.
It was so cool serving alongside him. Matt is so passionate about what he does. Matt desires to impact the neighborhood by being a neighbor. Watching my other children interact and work together was very fulfilling. My children have been a part of the gospel ministry their entire lives. As Matt introduced our family to his little friends, my girls came to life.
We got so much done and had a blast doing it. I am excited to bring two more groups from Columbus Road in the next month. I would encourage you to go to http://www.cacesl.org/ to find out more about this unique ministry.
Isn't simplify a refreshing word? I am constantly interacting with people who desire to live the "simple life." However, simplifying isn't simple. It requires incredible courage to undertake the process. In fact, it requires a great deal of work and mental effort to simplify the complicated lives we live. It doesn't help that many do not get much support from others (possibly even the people we live with), who are also living complicated lives.
The process of simplifying my life has meant painful change, but the rewards have been great. Our family eats all meals together, I spend fifteen hours of dedicated time each week with my wife, I get great sleep, and I am more productive than ever before. These are just a few of the rewards of simplifying. I had developed some very bad, dangerous, and damaging habits over the years. I believed that getting more done was the ultimate prize. Being raised in a hard-working, German, mid-western style home, I put a high priority on work and productivity. In the process of all that "work," my life became more complex as I employed all of the ways to get the most.
I have used a five step process to make dramatic changes and simplify my life. This process has given me a greater ability to be present with those whom I love and cherish. These steps may help you begin to live a simpler, more present life!
1. ANALYZE | It's important to take a long look at your life. Look at it through the lens of scripture. Read passages like Ephesian 5:15-17. Paul tells us that there is a way to live that glorifies God and there is a way to live that is foolish. It is very easy to miss the best things, opportunities, and people in our lives.
Analyzing can take a great deal of time. Usually, a person has to stop everything to get the clear and long view. If you don't stop, it's like driving forty miles an hour while using binoculars to look at animals on the roadside.
2. REALIZE | Once you have analyzed your life, it is important that you realize what your life is not. I have never met that person who would dare say that his or her priorities are perfect.
My advice is this: Tell the people close to you how "whacked" you really are. Let them know that you have misplaced priorities. Establish new priorities with them. Have others speak into your life. It may go something like this. "I realize I have an addiction to my phone. I have chosen to be with it more than being present with you. I have decided to change how this tool is used for the benefit of my relationship with you."
3. CLARIFY | Just because you set off on the path to a newly simplified life does not mean that you will be able to consistently stay on that new path. Circumstances, challenges, and relationships all have their twists and turns. I have found that clarifying the direction keeps me accountable to the people with whom I have committed to simplify. Clarifying is a great communication tool. It can be used to reinforce values, communicate commitment, and to define intent.
4. APPLY | Once you have analyzed, realized, and clarified the path to a simplified life, you will have to apply. This is flat out hard work. You have heard the saying, "Thirty days is a habit made." I am not sure that is true for grown adults. What I have found to be true for me is that every day that I will chose the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. I have and will continue to change my life because I want to be exactly where I am supposed to be -- in the center of God's plan for my life. Change is difficult, but knowing the incredible benefit of living the best life is incredibly rewarding.
5. MOBILIZE | As I mentioned, you will get very little help simplifying your life. Others can't understand, don't want to understand, and some work against your goals. Mobilizing is the step in which you rally those around you for a certain purpose or cause. I had to help mobilize our family to work through what it meant for us to simplify. As we assembled and began the process, it became very evident who was keeping our family from living a simplified life -- IT WAS ME!