Saturday, January 31, 2009

Papers, Voices, Decisions, Whatever You're Doing God, It's Good

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Papers, Voices, Decisions, Whatever You’re Doing, God, It’s Good

This has been a bad week for clutter on my desk. There are two papers that are waiting for my signature. God has taught me over time that decisions in my life are never to be taken lightly. The last time I gave paperwork this much thought was when I was in college. It’s funny that I’ve had papers to sign for cars, houses, marriage and those papers didn’t sit long in front of me. Those decisions were made before I ever looked at the fine print, but this decision, I’ve stared at a lot this week.

My wife and kids see the decision as easy. They’ve gone to Staples, found their little red button and pressed on. For me, it’s been like Hamlet. The decision should be easy, but it drags on in my mind. I think the reasons the decision is different are simple. The first is that like every decision in my life from this point going forward, it affects more than me. Every choice I make takes on how much it affects Mindy, Megan, James and Maggie just as much as it affects Frank. From deciding on buying baby food or McDonald’s to another car seat or baseball tickets, somebody could be shorted out. Usually I vote against myself, how about that for loyalty?

The second and equally significant reason is the past. Every one of us has that little audio-video recorder in our head and somehow it is able to store all that tape better than my sock drawer. Something in that head of mine also knows when to pull the tape and play it to make any decision longer. I’ll give you an embarrassing example. I want my kids to learn all the important stuff early so that they don’t miss out on all the fun stuff later on. What tape plays every time I worry about my kids not being on pace? The tape of me being in the third grade and sitting in the Linden School auditorium and have Brenda Hopkins come up to me and ask why I wasn’t jumping on the trampoline. It wasn’t medical. I didn’t want to take off my shoes because I hadn’t learned how to tie them and I was embarrassed to tell anyone. I told Brenda and she taught me how to do it. After that, I played on the trampoline and had a great time. Needless to say, Megan is three and is already learning how to tie knots. She did a great job on my scarf the other day. It took me ten minutes longer to go out and start my car because of it.

But isn’t that what fear does to us? It cripples us from doing even the simplest of things. It’s almost paralyzing and it stops us cold. God doesn’t want us to have a spirit of fear. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 1:7 that, “For God hath not given us a spirit of fear , but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” God wants us to think clearly.

When Jesus gives the Great Commission, he lets us know that because of the Holy Spirit that he will be with us until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20), but as Paul was giving final instruction in Hebrews, he came to a series of verses that seemed to jump out to me that connect to my final point. I’ll start with the second half of verse 5. “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you, so we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’ Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”

The other part of looking back to the audio-video recorder of mine is recalling some former leaders in my life and the memories of how I was treated by them or how their ministry ended up has made me do the most thinking. God allowed me to sit for a couple days and research what I would call a “Where are they now?” of some of the ministries I’ve been a part of and relive a few uneasy moments of other ministries.

In all, I’ve been involved in different ministries for the better part of a decade at times throughout the last 15 years or so of my life. I looked back at the television ministry that I spent most of four years with and realized that there is not a trace of anyone involved in the hierarchy of that ministry still active in ministry but yours truly and one other individual. We were not high on the chain of command. It saddens me to think that the marks of that ministry are all but gone. I see pastors that I had high thoughts of along the way are either no longer in ministry or in almost different fields altogether. I sat back thinking that I don’t have a lot of references to look back for recommendations that I am trying my best to accomplish the tasks given to me by God.

Then I heard other voices. Voices not meaning to make me question myself, but I did for a couple days. One voice spoke that our church is looking for more leadership from the younger generation, the 20’s and 30’s. Bad news for me. I turn 40 in May. Then in introducing another ministry leader this past week, it was told of the degree attained that qualified the person for the ministry. Amazingly, from 2004 to 2006, I pursued that same degree at Greenville College and now sit nine hours from that degree. More bad news. The degree program is now defunct at Greenville. I would have to start over somewhat if I went somewhere else to continue that pursuit. I had begun to think just maybe, my chance to be a real blessing to the church might have passed me by. My desire to step up and be a leader in the church and for the Christian community at large may not be a possibility any longer.

As I said to one of my three pastors a couple weeks ago, I know God is working in my life about being submissive in 2009. I told you earlier that all my decisions go through the test of how it affects the family. But for this decision, I have to ask myself, can I submit to the powers of my church and still feel OK to do the ministry. It’s not about my pastors. I love them. You have to know them to understand how they work. Tyler is the man of enthusiasm. His energy picks me up when I just on autopilot. He reminds me of people that get all turned on just after salvation. They are so eager to get in the game. The difference is that he’s always like that. Van is the polished one. He delivers messages dead-on and looks like he’s never done anything other than what God tells him. God has let me see that he’s human lately and that gives me even more respect for him. I don’t know Bill as well as Tyler and Van, but he’s the guy that keeps the ship together. He is like I wish I could be when I open my mouth. He’s quiet until he needs to speak and when he does, it’s on the point and that’s it. There are no long boring stories with him.

But after being burned a few times and with the knowledge that I might get passed by because of my age, I was concerned. I began looking for verses on submitting to authority. I liked Ephesians 5:21 as it tells us to “submit to one another out of reverence to Christ.” But that is to all Christians walking in the light, not to authority.

Then I turned to Hebrews 13:17 and found the best instruction on submitting to leaders. “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” I think as followers, we never think of pastors as having to give an account for us. When they stand before God, their weight is a lot heavier because they were chosen to lead. I love the second part of the verse. I never want my leadership to look God in the eyes and go “You know that Frank guy, he was such a pain in you know what. He never listened to us and he made all kinds of trouble.” I’d rather hear, “That Frank was great to serve with. He seldom complained and always tried to respect us and follow the tasks we gave him.” I’m sure all of you want to be that way too.

By the way, I got a real talking to when it came to worrying how qualified I am to serve. One of my friends called me this week and asked me what I was worried about. He told me what I already knew. He just added scripture to show me how smart he really is and how much learning I still have to do. Oh yeah, you think you’re done studying when you get saved. Wrong. You learn until you die or you’re already dead in the water. Read your Bible. (Sorry, that was an aside.) My friend told me, “Look, God only wants two things. He wants you to be faithful and to be willing.” David tells us this in Psalms 37:28, “For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off.” He’s not going to leave me or anyone else that is faithful.

My friend also left me with a song that has been my prayer for as long as I can remember it. Tom taught it to me in our first Bible study and I’ve never forgotten the song. Neither had my friend. The song is based on Psalms 51:10-12 and it goes like this.

Create in me a clean heart, O God
And renew a right spirit within me (repeat)
Cast me not away from thy presence O Lord,
Take not thy Holy Spirit from me,
Restore unto me the joy of my salvation
And renew a right spirit within me.

So after sitting in the pew for almost a year, I signed that document today. It states that me and my family want to join and be members of a church that I believe has been looking out for us for all of that year. It’s called a membership covenant. Yep, we renewed our vows and married a church. Lord, I pray that it is a match made in Heaven.

I love you guys!

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