Thursday, January 17, 2013

Reduce - Reuse - Recycle

1 Timothy 6:6-8  
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 

The sentiment of the "least we can do" has been to look at the commands and call of Jesus and reduce them to the least common denominator. Jesus to go into the world and make disciples, TLWCD is trying to figure out what the first step looks like.

This post has a different feel to it. 

I don't think the Bible calls us to be raging environmentalists. Having put a considerable amount of study time into the subject the last couple of weeks I do believe that God has given us this earth and all of creation, not to lord our dominion over them but as a gift we are responsible to take care of. It is for us, but it is still His.

Last night the woman who is the director of our county's recycling program came and spoke to our church. 

What's the least we can do?

In Oneida and Herkimer counties the recycling process has been made so easy. Reducing waste and reusing what we can...
It is a free process
and actually saves you money if you do it.  

Again, I don't think that God burns with anger if someone uses a styrofoam coffee cup. I don't think Jesus is clenching His fists over a battery that makes it into your garbage. 
But if Jesus lived in Utica, NY in 2013... I think He'd recycle. 

I know He would live a simple life with little to be wasted.

and now am I inspired to write a poem that I will call "Carbon Footprints in the Sand"

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Wait Upon the Lord

I have been a minister at the church of Christ in Utica, NY for 8 1/2 years now. I have learned many lessons. Perhaps the lesson (that I am still learning) that is both the most frustrating and yet the most reassuring is that God is in control of everything.

It is frustrating because sometimes you work very hard on things and with people but feel as if you have nothing to show for your labor. You invest, you commit, you pray, you plead, you cry out, you study, you spend time and often it is with these people that you get hurt. They tease you with their interest in the gospel and either it was a hoax from the beginning and a way for them to get some money or attention or they are like some of the soils in Jesus' parable about the sower and the seed: they have no root and get scorched or get choked by the worry and deceitfulness of life.

Then God works. People you don't know are pushed into your life and they are hungering and thirsting for righteousness. You don't need to poke them or prod them (because the Holy Spirit already has). They are eager to learn and anxious to get involved. It is so refreshing. (John 4:36-38)

Preaching a sermon every week (or most weeks) has the same emotional toll and contribution. You study and study to try to be as true to God's Word as you can be. This means that the flow of the lesson will usually change several times throughout the week or month or however long you are working on it. So then, you finally have the lesson but it is not a sermon - if you were present your current materials to the church it would take on the form of a 3 or 4 hour lecture. As a Bible nerd, you are pleased, but you know your work is not done. Now you must run this material through a filter to try to determine what the most important things to share are. What do people need to hear? Sunday is almost here and if you are like me, sermon prep doesn't really end until the sermon is over - constantly mulling over in my head what to say and how to present it. You get up there on Sunday morning preach your heart out and afterwards you hear, "It was a good sermon BUT,..." and "sorry I fell asleep" and, "you went a little long didn't you?" There are always positive comments too and you cherish those and they keep you going sometimes, but the negative and ignorant comments always seem louder.

Inevitably there comes a week that everything else happens. You end up doing a lot of running around, visits and moves and breakfasts and meetings and it is Friday and you remember you are supposed to preach on Sunday. You give it your best the day you have to work it out, you preach and return to your seat fully expecting that the church will be asking for your resignation soon. But something else happens. Someone approaches you who rarely does and tells you how touched they were by the day's message. Another person is excited, they shake your hand and tell you that might have been the best sermon you've ever preached. God's Word is good. (Isaiah 55:9-11)

If I put my trust in my own ways I will be a fool (Proverbs 28:26) but if I put my hope in the Lord, He will continuously renew my strength (Isa 40:29-31).

It is the least we can do: wait on the Lord.

 "Wait on the Lord" is not an excuse for a Christian to be lazy. Christian waiting requires action (see Matthew 24:45-51). Waiting is planting and watering as we anticipate Him making things grow.

Ephesians 2:8-10
 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

As a people we are called to follow Jesus, to be faithful to the end, to hold firmly to the Word. We are not called to produce certain results but to do what He asks and go where He sends. We hope in Him and wait for Him, trusting that it is part of a bigger and better plan. Abram had this trust when he left his homeland for God. Ezekiel had this trust when God told him to prophecy even though he was speaking to  a rebellious nation who would "listen or fail to listen." God sent him so that, "they will know that a prophet has been among them."

So, if anyone is reading this, I encourage you to abandon any performance-based Christianity that is within you. Cling to the faith that God is calling you to and cling to it until the end.
And if no one is reading this, I have the confidence that everything God has called me to do, every path to walk down, sermon to preach, person to approach or blog to write has some use in His kingdom. For me it cannot be about making some grand achievement but that everyday my grand achievement must be about being faithful to God. I will not try to do His Work for Him, but I will do the work He has planned for me and watch in anticipation as He moves where I often least expect.