Monday, May 29, 2017

The Lost Plan, the Sparkle off a Building

Is 32:8 “But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand.” .

What is the meaning of liberal here? It comes from  a root Hebrew word that means ‘willing hearted’. That is being willing to do something. Yesterday was a very interesting day. A day of new beginnings as such. Priorities change in life and sometimes we prioritize wrongly. We get lost in the ebb and flow of life and stress what is not as important. So, how do we get back to the real noble plans ( another meaning of the root word of liberal). We first of all think and meditate on them, we deliberate counsel over them and consider them. This last weekend, I had surgery and we had to stay downtown at a hotel. Years ago, before we came to North Carolina, my wife had a dream (please don’t think this spooky, just listen). She saw a building of mirrored glass in that dream. In the dream, she was standing in some fashion by a courthouse when she could see the building. In the early morning of my surgery, she peered out the window and saw two things. The the sparkle off the building in her dream and the courthouse which was on the other side of the street where we were staying. Moreover, the building was about a block from  where I currently work downtown.

These are things to consider. I came here for the purpose of ministry and got lost in other things.. I blame myself for that. I make no excuses for missing the mark. I lost my way. This weekend, I realized time is short and what should I really be focusing on? I have been both a success and a failure. A success at my chosen profession to some degree but a failure as a messenger for the Lord Jesus. What is more important? What is that which will last? I think we all know the answer to that question. So I sit here in the morning patched up, sore and somewhat fused together to make it into the future what is left of it. I consider plans that have dust on them. Will they live? I do not know. The only thing I have to go on is certainly not my ability only my willingness. I am 59 years old, I have no strength left and my physicality is challenged at this time. There is no vision left for me to use, it is gone. But there is a weekend where I was reminded and perhaps stronger than that: re-called. I have no expectations and certainly no plans. I have set my sail once again. I may crash on the rocks and I may drown in the tempest but the journey is what is important not the outcome. I have already failed and there is nothing to lose.There is only a noble plan and nothing more. I take my last stand. If I fail again, I have tried. If I succeed in whatever in God’s estimation of what that means, I have counted for something. What is it we all really want to hear? ‘Well, done Thou good and faithful servant…’ That is my plan, that is all I have. I hope it is enough. 

So the questions are:
Can God use one who has squandered His greatest gift?
Will God use a washed up, never has been?

I am a ragamuffin in the deepest sense of that word. Worldly gain has been mine but I am spiritually impoverished and yet God asks me to take whatever I have left ,a few fishes and loaves, and pass them out. I have a willing heart and I may fail yet again but the service I have is given with the best I have left. I am bedraggled but willing, I am poor but had a noble start, I am tired and older than most but the sparkle off the building calls and I must go yet again. My path uncertain and ill defined. Groping in the dark for any footing and living dangerously in the hands of God. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

While We Wait

“Suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement, and death will be part of your journey, but the Kingdom of God will conquer all these horrors. No evil can resist grace forever.” –Brennan Manning
What is a good working definition of evil? Well, the best thing to do to really identify it is to look at how it manifests in one’s life. We have all experienced the presence of evil firsthand perhaps unwittingly. Actually if we look at the above, the first sentence is a good list of the presence and active working of evil. How? Well, if you look closer, you could say the same thing about the presence of good. In every case, the human condition faces the same set of ‘fruit’. We could say that good and evil are ever present with each of us because we all experience these aspects. The real insight comes from how we respond to the first sentence’s list of let’s call them negative aspects no one wants to have present in their lives. Our response proves what force is dominant – good or evil.
In my personal life, I have experienced both and I would say you have as well. We all have. We all will as long as there is breath. A key thing to understand is where the path leads for us as we respond to the in the first sentence. I remember when I lost my children to a dysfunctional religious group. Was I to blame? Oh yes. They were not to blame. The first few months were unmitigated hell. I can remember my wife and I driving to the beach on Friday night in very early spring (no green yet but signs of the change). We passed a car and that was not so unusual. But our thought was not to check what was even coming the other direction, we did not care. Vicki would usually always say to me ‘Please be sure’ but this time there was silence. We wanted to take the pain away at any cost to ourselves or any other. Friends, that is evil. We were engulfed in darkness. We stayed engulfed in darkness. We blamed everyone including ourselves. I would pass by a dead church (my old church that I pastored) everyday on the way to work and it was a painful reminder of my failure. My lost hope and close to my lost faith. I remember one of the leaders telling me on that fateful night that the building was ‘tainted’ and God would never move there again. Those were my thoughts and my heart would break. And so it went on and on all the while with my wife and I swimming in a sea of blackness, pitch black. Somehow, the building did not pass into their ownership which I honestly believe was their very intention during the ‘transition’. There was to be no pastor to take over but a scattering of my little flock to other places in their world. No, the plan I believe was to sell the building. This is proven by the fact that the main leader told me that fateful night ‘you know I can take you keys…’ and I let him do so. The building’s sale could increase their coffers quite a bit and that was the motive. As I look back on it, I am sure I was not the first to be fleeced. But there it sat, vacant and forlorn. I would mow the grass and pray, pray and mow my heart breaking. This went on for two years. Then something happened. A wife of a pastor somehow got my number and contacted me about renting the building. On the next Saturday, I walked my dog down to the building and let them in to take a look around. It was turnkey. There was nothing they would need to do. All they had to do was show up. I told them I would pray about it and meet with them over dinner for my decision. At that dinner, as I recall it, they did not talk about the building. They talked about us with a compassion I had not seen in my former life with my former leaders. Mercy was not one of their strong points. I remember in one pastoral meeting one of the main leaders said ‘You have to be ruthless…” when she said that I remember a chill went up my spine. These people were worlds from the world I came from. That was the major factor in my decision to have them use the building. They have been in it ever since. I have even had an occasion to preach in that building a few times. I have seen God move in that building, I have seen the altars full, I have been at the altar myself.
Ladies and gentlemen, that is the force of good. I have faced the horrors but I have also been convinced that no evil can resist grace forever. If our election is confirmed by the choices we make then I am a goner. But our election is based on something stronger. It is based on the mind and intent of God to bring good – even in the face and presence of evil. He turns self destruction into redemption. He brings mercy where there has been ruthlessness. He is the author of a Kingdom that will ever increase and never decrease. That is why His sons and daughters can go through hell in this life and still make their election sure (confirm it).
I have seen evil and I have seen good. I have been the author of “Suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement, and death” but for the Cross, I would have died years ago.
That is why I still wait and I still hope. It is not in my power to deliver one. But in the end I am convinced :
No evil can resist grace forever.”