Sunday, February 20, 2005

Small Victories

Last week was a long week, or seemed that way. I was in Washington all week (actually Falls Church, VA), going to meetings all day, then scurrying back to the hotel each evening to test some changes to a system I manage, testing until 10:30pm or even midnight or later.

There was one evening, Thursday I think, when we finished testing just before 10:30, and as usual I was too wound up to go to bed. I considered turning on the TV, but figured that was a bad idea in a hotel room by myself. I also considered playing a game on my computer, and booted it back up with thoughts of 'just playing for a few minutes' (I rarely play PC games these days, because if I start I can't seem to stop).

So while it was booting up, I opened my Bible. The truth is, I thought I'd have lots of time in my room to spend in the scriptures, but between the testing and the need for sleep, that hadn't happened. I opened up to John 11, and found myself stuck on verses 9 and 10.

Background: Jesus had learned that Lazarus was sick, and after waiting a couple of days He announced that he was headed to see Lazarus. His disciples pointed out, however, that the last time He'd been in Lazarus' neighborhood, the locals had tried to stone Jesus. They asked, 'Are you really going to go back there?'
9Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day
will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light. 10 It is when he walks by
night that he stumbles, for he has no light.”

Now, I looked at that verse for some time, asked God about it, and finally looked in the study notes in my Bible, where I read that this verse probably means that there is enough time to do what is necessary, but no time to waste.

No time to waste.

I found myself looking back at my laptop, now booted up and ready for me to play. I really wanted to play. I haven't played any PC games in quite some time.

Twelve hours of daylight. No time to waste.

No time to waste.

If this seems silly, so be it. But if there's a chance He was talking to me, even if He's not telling me what I want to hear, even if He's telling me things that seem ridiculously minor compared to the 'big' questions I've been asking Him... if He's talking, I will listen.

I turned off my laptop, and prayed myself to sleep. And I slept very well, thank you.


Saturday, February 05, 2005

Short and sweet?

After posting last night I climbed into bed, thinking I would be at peace (tired from the move if nothing else), and I found myself wondering something about the thoughts I had posted:

God has certainly assigned me to lead my family toward Him; however, if that task has the clearest future impact and potential -- if it is really easier to see where that assignment leads than it is to see where my career is going or where my ministry service is going or my hobbies or income potential or my future in general -- then why is it that I find it so easy to get wrapped up in all those other things I have to/want to do, and I tend to let my family 'wait'?


For a Future Generation

Psalm 102:18-22 (NIV)

18 Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the LORD :
19 "The LORD looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners
and release those condemned to death."
21 So the name of the LORD will be declared in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem
22 when the peoples and the kingdoms
assemble to worship the LORD.

When I was in the hospital a few years ago with complications from appendicitis that nearly did me in, there was a time after the worst was over that I was no longer heavily drugged but I remained in the hospital for a couple of weeks. Between surfing the limited hospital TV channels looking for something other than Jerry Springer (having already watched all the Springer I could handle), I found myself wondering about what had just happened to me.

I had nearly died, but I was spared. I wasn't really sure why, and in many ways I still don't know. I was not a faithful follower of God at the time -- instead, I'd been showing up at church on Sundays so my folks would see me, and to see a friend or two, and other than that I was living a totally pagan lifestyle. I was really living for myself -- and doing quite well at it, in terms of academic and professional success, income, etc.

And yet, over a couple of weeks time, beyond my control, my life had nearly ended, and two basic questions buzzed around my ears. 1) If I had died, would I have gone to hell? and 2) What had I done with my life that made a whit of difference to anyone?

By the grace of God, He began to pull me into worship at church in ways I'd never experienced. Verses like 'Do not take me away, O my God, in the midst of my days' (Ps 102:24) began to bring tears to my eyes. And also by His grace, I came to a point where I have a confident answer to the first question that plagued me then.

That leaves the second question, which still keeps me up sometimes. Am I actively making a difference in and for His kingdom?

And that brings me back to the scripture I started with above. I pray that God is using my gifts for His glory, even if sometimes it's actually in spite of me. I am comfortable that He has me where He wants me in the body -- I don't feel unused or misplaced or anything like that.

But I think there is one particular task He has assigned to me where I can kind of see the long term goals and impacts to an extent: leading my wife and child(ren) to know and trust and love the One who saves us. Sometimes I'm not sure what the future holds in terms of what God has planned for me, but the potential future impact of leading my family toward Him is clear.

So here's to 'a future generation'. May we be and do as He wills. Bless His name!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Spirit of Freedom

Last night was the first meeting of the Minister Search Committee, and I have to tell you that I am totally stoked about it. I think the meeting went extremely well, I am excited about the committee members that I get to serve with, and I very much enjoyed the discussion that took place around the table.

I'll describe some of the method to the overall search process, and then there was a particular issue that I'm curious about, wondering if anyone might read this post and have some thoughts.

The first part of the meeting, Ron explained what the process would look like, and in my words, it goes something like this:

First, the committee will work up a summary of what makes Southlake unique and special. This information will help us determine what qualities the minister will need to have to be successful at SBC, and it will help us communicate our attributes to prospective ministers so as to help them know why they would want to come to SBC rather than some other church.

This information will also help us in another way: it will help us to articulate areas where SBC's identity is currently undefined, so that the Shepherds and the committee can work to clarify and define those issues as appropriate, and thereby improve our sense of who we are and where we're headed. More on this in a moment.

Second, once the committee develops the information and the Shepherds have helped us shape it as God is directing our body, the process of actively seeking/vetting/interviewing candidates will begin. We haven't talked much about that yet; we've got to build the pool before we jump off the diving board. of the items that was discussed last night has been on my mind today, and I'd be interested in any input that anyone would care to give in this regard. In identifying items that make Southlake unique and special, someone mentioned one that I agree with, although it generated a lot of discussion later in the evening. The item was a 'Spirit of Freedom'.

I think that everyone in the committee agreed that SBC often gets feedback that we are a very friendly, accepting church, accepting even of people who have differing views about some (or many?) doctrinal issues. There was also valuable input from several on the committee that even while we allow 'freedom' among the beliefs of individuals in the body, the church as a whole should have some idea of what doctrinal perspectives it officially accepts and teaches. In particular, there was a comment that without defining some of these identity questions, our church has a tendency to lose some of its direction and vision as far as where we're going as a body.

So my brain is rattling away today, thinking deep thoughts. Which issues are mandatory for a believer? Which can be left to the believer's judgement within the body? What steps should SBC take to ensure that the teaching (from the pulpit or in a classroom) is consistent with the doctrines that SBC holds to (even if we don't mandate that all members must agree)?

Of course these questions aren't really new -- one person pointed out that this is how denominations came about in the first place, not because people didn't want to be unified, but because there was a strong difference in opinion as to where the line should be drawn about certain doctrinal issues. And it is curious to me that some of these same questions are raised in the McLaren books I posted about a few months ago. All in all, I find this to be absolutely fascinating. (I'm revved just typing about it.)

Clearly, we'll need the Shepherds to help us answer this question for SBC -- they have responsibility to ensure that SBC maintains doctrinal purity, and I'm glad we have them to help and lead us in this! But I think that the committee is sort of taking a role to identify some of the questions that need to be answered or clarified, and perhaps giving input to the Shepherds as to the perception of the body on some of these issues.

Any thoughts? Brian