Dear Pastor Marcus,
We think you’re asking way too much from us. In an average WEEK you think we should attend worship, a class or group, serve at least one hour, AND give of our finances. And then you say at home we should take time each DAY to read the Bible and pray for a few minutes. That doesn’t even include your idea that we should be investing and inviting unchurched people so they might have a relationship with God and a church family. We think you are expecting way too much from us. We’ve got things to do, places to be, mouths to feed, golf to play.
When we prayed that prayer to have Jesus in our hearts, we thought we were done. We got a “get out of hell free” card and we’re grateful for that and the future hope of Heaven, but we can’t imagine that God would expect MORE from us. We know Jesus came to earth and died for us. Yes, we’ve heard all about how we have to take up our cross daily, imitate Christ, surrender our lives to him. But we think that’s unrealistic. We just don’t have time, money, or energy for Jesus or His bride, the Church.
We’ve gone to church for years and even went to Sunday school as kids. So we know all we need to know about God, Jesus, and the church. We’re not bad people. We’ve got a few hang-ups but we don’t really need much more work on our souls. Mark needs help (he’s not bad either but he still hasn’t gotten into the habit of putting the toilet seat down!). But we’ve pretty much grown as much as we can spiritually. What we really need is a new car!
You can keep telling us what the Bible teaches (we really like your humor!) but we thought we might save you some time. We’re not changing. We’ll keep doing the same things the same ways so keep any of those thoughts to yourself. We will come to church (when we don’t have a late Saturday night), go to an occasional all-church event (we love the cooking in this church!), give when we have extra money (and not saving for that car!), but you can stop the call to commitment. Jesus gave up everything for us, but we think He’s quite content with what we have to offer.
Mark and Mary Member
Do you wish to become wise? Then you must walk with people who, by their words and their presence make you wiser. And to the best of your ability you must avoid those people who don’t. That means you must choose wise friends and mentors.
The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are. C.S. Lewis
A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel. Proverbs 1:5
The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm. Proverbs 13:20
Even the most devout believers become discouraged. After all, we live in a high expectation, high demand world.
Remember John the Baptist? Even he faced discouragement.
When we fail to meet the expectations of others (or those we have set for ourselves), we may be tempted to abandon hope. But God has other plans. He knows exactly how to use us. Our task is to remain faithful until He does.
There are costs to leadership. One is criticism. You can’t have a thin skin and hope to move people through thick plans. No leader is exempt from criticism, and their humility will no where be seen more clearly than in the manner in which they accept and react to it. Opposition is inevitable.
From Nehemiah 4:
- Realize it is impossible to lead without facing opposition.
- It’s essential that the first response be prayer.
- If opposition intensifies you may have to take additional action. But don’t let it stop God’s plans!
So here’s my journal entry from June 7, 2001, right before my mom died from cancer when it was apparent she had little time left:
Can’t sleep. Back in Grand Rapids. Crying.
Questions: Why did she have to smoke? What will happen to dad? How do I say goodbye? How will this affect Lori & her kids? What will life be like without mom? Aren’t we without her now? Is that where the pain comes from? What are the pros/cons of a drawn out death vs. an instant, unexpected death like Brenda’s (my sister)? Can I trust God now? Will I trust God now? What about my dad? How bad will she (my mom) get before it’s over? Will I have to do this for Jen? She for me? How will I die?
Regrets: Did I take her for granted? Did I show my love enough? I can’t be here for the whole thing which brings me some relief but also some guilt.
Memories: When she (as an elder) served at the Table with me in worship; when the whole family spent time in Orlando and mom & I snuck out to go to Magic Kingdom one more time, just the 2 of us; 1984 World Series; Bethany trips; playing Poker and Hearts and Rummy; when I was sick and she took care of me.
I read that 15 years later and it makes me cry. But that’s OK. Because I look back over these past 15 years and see God answered so many of my prayers. I did trust God. He did not fail me. I am happy, though melancholy at times when I think about certain things. God is good. It has been a good quiet time. This is why I journal.
What have you learned from grief and dying? I’d love to learn from you.
One of the essential tasks for every Christian is the arduous search for those who have lost their way (for whatever reason). Most don’t even know they’re lost until it’s too late.
If we are truly anguished for the lost then we will be praying passionately and acting with determination. Too often I am lacking this anguish, this passion, this determination in my own life. These are things that go through my mind: “It’s just easier to let them go. Who am I to say that they are lost? Is Hell REAL anyway? A ‘loving God’ wouldn’t let anyone go to Hell, would He? They are not interested in what I have to say anyway.”
Those are all lies from the Evil One. If I am going to take Jesus seriously then I know there are eternal consequences for rejecting him. There are BILLIONS of people on this planet living without a clear understanding of the gospel. Jesus was a relentless, optimistic, persistent “FINDER.” Let’s allow His unyielding passion for the lost to fill our hearts again.
Jesus’ parable of the Sheep and the Goats has always haunted me. Read Matthew 25:31-46 if you don’t know it.
What determines whether someone is a sheep or a goat? Like every other judgment scene of the New Testament it is made on the basis of deeds. Does this deny “salvation by grace?”
When we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, the only thing that will really matter is our relationship to Jesus Christ–have we trusted (placed our faith) in him? The answer to that question is not in our talk, but in our walk. How we live our lives is the surest way to tell what we believe. Our good deeds don’t save us. But they clearly demonstrate our primary commitments.
Jesus highlights six deeds that are typical of his followers. These aren’t all the things they do but they are characteristic of the kinds of things they do. They aptly summarize the basic needs of humanity: food, clothing, shelter, and acceptance. Those six behaviors require large amounts of personal time and money, the two most precious commodities for most of us.
Historically, the influence of Christianity on American capitalism produced a huge and generally prosperous middle class that provided economic and cultural stability for the nation. Influenced by Christian leadership, traditional American capitalism increasingly promoted a lofty goal–that corporate success is not the consumption of wealth but the creation of it. It was not greed that was good, but doing good was good. The foundational ethic of traditional American capitalism–as influenced by Christianity–was not simply to “do what is good for business” but to “make it your business to do good.” Through the ages, Christian-influenced traditional American capitalism kept producing more and more extraordinary business leaders who also excelled as philanthropists by creating jobs, investing in the community, assisting the needy, providing meaningful public service, supporting the church, and in other ways making communities better.
Yes, there were greedy business leaders, but they were marginalized, and certainly they were not celebrated as they are today. Historically in America, God’s people–the church–influenced American capitalism to practice a biblical model of servant leadership.
Today, contemporary capitalism is influencing the church to practice a model of self-absorbed leadership. Yesterday the church produced effective servant leaders for the world of business. Today the world produces self-promoting leaders who are infecting the church.
Bonnie Ware, an Australian nurse who worked in palliative care for years, wrote about what she learned were the things most regretted by those dying in a blog post at the beginning of the year. CLICK HERE TO SEE HER POST.
According to Ware, these are the top five regrets of the dying:
- I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. “Health brings a freedom few realize, until they no longer have it.”
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. “This came from every male patient that I nursed.”
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. “Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others.”
- I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends. “It all comes down to love and relationships in the end.”
- I wish I’d let myself be happier. “Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again. When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind.”
Do any of these surprise you? Which one do you most readily identify with?