Sunday, September 30, 2012
Devotions is what most folks call it. However, some refer to it as "quiet time." I always had trouble with "quiet time" as it sounds more like time for the baby to sleep, or maybe even me. Like you I should be an expert on having devotions by now for like many of you I have been observing this spiritual discipline most of my life. Back in my childhood days, I would take my Bible and The Upper Room and have my devotional time. While it is supposed to be a daily observance, I cannot honestly declare that it has always been such for me. Unfortunately, there have been seasons of my life when this spiritual discipline was not a real priority.
Still it was a practice to which I always returned. Nowadays I still use the Bible, but I have changed the other supplemental material. Oswald Chamber's My Utmost for His Highest has been my mainstay now for over 40 years. I should have it memorized by now, but actually find myself still being challenged by the writings of this man who lived and died almost a hundred years ago. What I have discovered about myself and devotional time is that it is most likely to happen in the morning. And by morning, I mean early before things start stirring and the noise begins to build.
We all seem to have a measure of difficulty from time to time doing with this spiritual discipline what we would like to do. Nothing can take the place of being alone with the Father. Nothing can take the place of moments in which we are honest about our heart and open to the Spirit's work in our heart. Whether it happens early or late, what we have learned is that life is lived best when we stay vitally connected to God on a daily basis. If our goal is to move on toward spiritual maturity then nothing interferes with our commitment to intentionally be with God each day. If something is allowed to interfere, it may be because we have a different goal.
Saturday, September 29, 2012
Another Sunday is almost here. As long as I can remember Sunday has been regarded as a different day, a day that somehow belongs to God in a way that transcends the way every day belongs to Him. Perhaps, some of my earliest recollections had more to do with the things not done on Sunday than the way a Sunday should correctly be observed. Early on I was told by my fisherman Father that you did not fish on Sunday. "The fish should have a day of rest." Others told me Sunday movies were taboo and that anything which smacked of fun could wait until another day. Some people could crank up lawnmowers and fix up the yard, but no such thing would have even been given consideration where I lived. In my life shaping years, shopping was not regarded as appropriate activity because it encouraged someone to work on Sunday.
As a boy growing up in South Georgia it often seemed there was not much that could be done on Sunday except go to church, once in the morning and then again at night. The rest of the time doing nothing was the thing to do. Rest was the name of the game. However, Sunday was a time for visiting extended family in the afternoon which was not such a bad thing and making visits to the cemetery to visit the graves of those who had gone on before us.
Out of all this I came to have a high regard for Sunday. I realize today that I am still influenced by some of the things which were more cultural than scriptural, but I also have come to a place of knowing that having a day set aside for worship is a good thing. I need a day that is set aside as a day that is different than all the rest. I need a day to experience what I have come to understand as Sabbath rest. I need a day for gathering with others who go to a place of worship to share in lifting up a common expression of faith in Christ. It is a day which not only transcends the others, but shapes them as well.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Everyone knows steeples belong on roof tops. They cause us to cast our eyes upward and then even beyond upward as we are reminded of the transcendant message being proclaimed. Like the holy mountain on which Moses received the Ten Commandments, steeples are not made for touching. They are too high to ever touch. They point us away from the earth and to something beyond ourselves. The steeples we see sit above the church and symbolically point us to God.
So, what happens when your steeple is on the ground? Some years ago a church in Savannah had its steeple taken down by tornadic winds and it sat on the ground pointing upward for several years. Only recently has it made it back to its place on top of the roof. And just the other day as I went by a church I pastored before retirement I saw its steeple on the ground. It was no surprise as I had been reading in the church's newsletter about the need to move it for roof repairs. But more than reading about it, I knew about the need for roof repairs because while I was there buckets sat at strategic places in the balcony on rainy days.
But, still there is this question. What happens when your steeple is on the ground? What happens when all the things which have always pointed us to God no longer seem to have such a prominent place? What happens when the holy becomes commonplace? What happens when there is nothing which directs us beyond ourself? What happpens when it seems that this earth and all its pursuits is really the center of our universe? What happens when your steeple is on the ground?
This past Wednesday night on our annual Apple run to North Georgia, Lynn and I spent the night in Blue Ridge, Georgia. It reminded me of the first night I spent in Blue Ridge. It was 46 years ago. There probably was not even a motel in the town at the time. But, I did not need one as I slept in a home. I long ago forgot the name of my host, but I do remember they were members of the Blue Ridge Methodist Church. At the time I was a freshman at nearby Young Harris College and in their church as a member of a Lay Witness Mission. Back then lay folks from across a large area would come into a local church for a weekend of special services to share their faith in Christ. It was a new way of doing revival type ministry.
The Blue Ridge Church was the first place I shared my new faith in Christ. It was a place where I discovered what it was to be used by God in ministry. It was a place that gave to me a confirmation of a call to ministry which had been heard some months earlier, but prior to that weekend, no one knew about but me and God. As I remembered my first visit to Blue Ridge, I remembered a church which had long ago forgotten that I was there for a couple of days and, never knew that while there, I heard a divine Word which sent me forth to embrace the call God had placed upon my life.
My story is not an uncommon story. A lot of holy business is taken care of Sunday after Sunday in churches like the Methodist Church in Blue Ridge. Most of the time no one knows but the one who is sitting there and suddenly finds that God is speaking some Word which cannot be ignored. Such is why it is important that spiritual leaders take seriously every single gathering. Such is why undergirding every service of worship with prayer is an imperative. We simply have no way of knowing what God is about in the lives of those present. We can only be sure that He is about holy work which will change hearts.
Sunday, September 2, 2012
Most of the time things do not stick in the old gray matter as long as something has which I saw back during the summer months. Returning from our summer beach trip to the Gulf, we went through Moultrie, Ga. On the outskirts of the town I saw this sign stuck in someone's front yard which read, "Pray for Haley." As we drove through the area, I saw many of the same signs calling people to pray for Haley. I wondered about Haley. Obviously, it was someone in need. Was Haley a child, or a young person, or someone struggling to get through middle age? Had there been an accident? Or, was there a life threatening illness? I wondered, but still I had no way of knowing what was going on with Haley.
The only thing I could do was to do what the sign requested. I prayed for Haley. I called her name before the Father silently as I drove through Moultrie. I am not sure exactly what moved me to do this as there have been other signs in other places. Since then, I have thought of her often and called her name in my prayers. I had no idea then, nor I do know now, what is going on in this life, but for some reason, I found myself compelled to pray.
The truth is we do not have to know all the circumstances of someone's life in order to pray for them. We may think knowing will help us to pray more specifically for someone and such may be the case. But, actually, whether we know or not is irrelevant. The Father in heaven knows what is happening. He knows why someone is in need of the prayers of others. And, He will respond to our prayers of faith which are offered in behalf of some unknown person even if we have not a single clue about their predicament. I have prayed often for this unknown Haley during these recent months. I invite you to join me in doing what the sign said, "Pray for Haley."