It's funny how God can place us exactly where we belong, and we feel the presence of Him through what is happening. On the other hand, we can be in the wrong place at the wrong time and sense that we have made a wrong turn from His will. We have all been there.
Much of my life has been about the former rather than the latter because there is a very stubborn side of me. Not sure about you, but I know when the committee of me, myself and I meets there is definite blow back against God's will. Fortunately they meet a lot less lately. And because of the improvement of decision making influenced by the Holy Spirit I can see a lot clearer now to be in the right place at the right time.
Making a transition in life is always difficult, and as we get holder, it gets harder to do. Adjusting to a new location, a new definition of my job and being away from family and friends has been at times, trying. But throughout this process there have been situations where I know the right choice has been made. Being able to share your faith with others can happen anywhere, and being able to encourage folks who need to hear a message of hope is something God will certainly present to us if we are listening to His voice.
In a multitude of ways this has happened to me here in Daphne. Even sometimes in negative situations where loss has been experienced to receive a gain, faith shows up and God validates being in the right place at the right time. There have been countless opportunities to share the reason for my life change and this influence has led to some good natured kidding. Never trying to say I am holy, just pointing out how all the "holey" parts of my life were filled in by a patient God with his forgiving grace.
The other day when referring to confessing our sins to someone, everyone looked at me as if I were a priest of some kind, and would be the one to confess to. While somewhat jokingly said, I felt really good that my influence has been led toward that rather than anything negative. Being referred to as "Father Glenn" is a whole lot different than some of the names of the past I was called.
The point is that God can use us anywhere at anytime, and the worst parts of our lives, the most excruciating parts of our life stories can be used to further good in others if we just understand God will fill in the blanks for us if we are obedient. Really all we have to do is show up in that right place at the right time, and He will show us what to do.
Think about the reluctance of Moses, the fear of Jonah, the u-turn of Paul and the transition of Peter from fool to tool, and we see that if we show up with all of our flaws when God calls, we can still be used as powerful ambassadors of faith. Not scholars, just useful tools for Him.
All it may take is getting out of our box, out of our comfort zone, and being led into the struggle of a different phase of life in order to find out if that faith we thought we had is real and is battle tested.
We will surely know that, and if we are in the right place at the right time!
Started reading Ecclesiastes again this morning, and it is such an interesting book of Solomon's thought's that somehow puts everything into perspective. He himself was a very imperfect man who had a bad ending and didn't really listen to his own advice (does that sound familiar to you?). Maybe that's why I like his writing, he is a gifted man, who has many worldly gifts but still finds the truth, following everything that does not have to do with God is a chasing after the wind.
Not to say we don't spend alot of time doing that because the influence of day to day life in this modern techno age leads us constantly into that wind. It is so easy to get off track, so easily influenced by things that look good but provide no lasting joy or peace. I remember so vividly how I was in my 20's, always looking to climb the next ladder, meet the next challenge, do the next thing that made me feel good, and I see today what impact that had on my life.
Solomon had so much more that most of us but yet he saw the meaningless nature of what he had done. He can sound a little depressing as he writes, but we can see through his eyes that things don't make a man or woman out of us, wealth does not bring true happiness, nor does power make us more in control of our lives. Meaningless, meaningless, a chasing after the wind are his ultra descriptive words of choice, but in the process of figuring this out he gives us great wisdom to follow.
What would you do if you lost all your possesisons, your job, your status, your marriage, and even your confidence? What would you fall back on? That is probably for most of us a most difficult question as we are in feel good mode as we enter the doors of Campus church when all is good, and reluctatnt to come when the bad is occuring. Why? Because like Solomon before he came to his conclusions, we are creatures of the habit of being judged, and judging based on how successful we or someone else is. When we experience loss, we feel like failures, but in truth we are made perfect by Him in our weakness not our strength.
Maybe as Soloman laid with prostitutes before he died he just became overwhelmed by all of this revelation. But he did say two are better than one, a chord of threee strands is not easily broken and there is nothing better for a man to do than walk with God. You see, walking with the Lord is a ride with the wind, like on wings of eagles, soaring majestically on high. But a walk that is chasing after the riches and fame of this world, provides very shallow living and constantly causes us to chase after that same wind, and we get high to numb the pain of failure instead of soaring.
It's releasing not depressing to be freed from this constant chasing, because then we will know the truth, and the truth will set all of us free to soar!
As far as I can tell, Jesus only attended one wedding according to scripture. He did however have quite an impact on the festivities changing water into wine upon the request of his mother. Nothing he initiated, but something he did to prove several points.
One, you should always listen to your mother, even if her request of you may be a bit unusual. Two, when you think you are: A. Out of what you need, B. Too far gone to make change, C. In need of a miracle, or D. Thirsty for the best life has to offer, there is only one person who can truly and literally change your water into wine, even if he is reluctant to do so.
How many of us on our wedding day thought that person we were looking at would be THE one to make our dreams come true? When you really think that one through, that is way too much pressure to put on another human being. Maybe help us find our dreams, but never another human being who can come close to accomplishing what Jesus did.
Which is kind of my point, why would we ever expect that other folks could fill that void we have to be in relationship with God? There are many times in our lives when we come to the rescue of someone or become an encourager, but we can never replace the presence of the Lord for someone. When a miracle is needed, we come up very short of a solution that is anything but permanent. The water to wine maker is the only who can alter a situation that looks impossible with the touch of his mighty hand.
So on this day of my youngest daughter's wedding, I'd like to make you an offer you can't refuse (my Italian heritage coming out, if you remember the scene from The Godfather), cut your partner, your family and friends some slack as to what you expect from them, it makes life a whole lot easier to live. Be forgiving not demanding. Expect good, but when it doesn't happen, there is someone who can step in the gap to make wine out of that murky water.
We know that for sure, but we also know he listened to his mother, which is another good point!
Tomorrow I will head back to ATL for a few days highlighted by my youngest daughter's wedding. It is a most wonderful time for me as I also get to teach Sunday at Campus, lead a meeting Monday and see Logan's first baseball game of the year. Many blessings but much work to get to this point.
That verse of scripture "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" certainly comes to mind for me as I think about the events of the next few days. The first thought is how hard it is to behave like a Christian after so many years as an outsider heading down an opposite path. One can really love the Lord, be totally thankful and still have a hard time keeping it between the lines on a daily basis. I tremble some times at points when I should be stronger. But it is that trembling that makes me rely on Him to make me stronger.
Coming home again allows me to be surrounded by people who care for me and have loved me for a good while. It lessens the fear of facing the tasks of daily temptation as I think about how I must be strong for my blood family, church family and friends. There have been many days in these past few months of being away when I have longed for these days that are to come, watching my family grow, prosper, and love each other.
And then there is watching something else that is like a child to me, the ATB ministry grow and prosper without me. It is indeed an honor to serve the Lord but even greater to know that you followed His directions. His directions make it more about Him as time goes on and less about me. To hear the joy from last week's lesson taught by a man in grief for the loss of his wife, who courageously has served the Lord for over four decades gave me goosebumps thinking of the love and emotion in that room Sunday.
We have an incredible group of folks at ATB, I am blessed with a wonderful family at home and at Campus, and I always need to remember that if I don't work out my salvation, nothing usually works out. But if I do, it is amazing how God works out the rest of life. In the Aramaic Bible translated into plain English, the words come out "with awe and with trembling, do the service of your life." That is what I have tried to do even though the work has not been easy.
But you know what they say, "no pain, no gain." Coming home again with much joy and satisfaction in my heart!
Why is it that there is this desire in us to always have more? What makes us wired so that being content seems to be an ever elusive thing? Christians may point to the apple in the garden, others may talk about the desire to succeed (Cain and Abel), still others may just say that it is human instinct.
I don't have THE answer, but I have a pretty good idea, being a recovering alcoholic, why. One of our previous AA members once said, "When we are in our own mind, we are behind enemy lines," and I couldn't agree more. You see the devil prowls around like a roaring lion scheming every minute how to get in my head. The scriptures tell us our battles are not against what we can see in front of us, they are against what we cannot see.
The battle is against our mind, and Satan who is the big bad wolf, is dressing up what is not good for us in sheep's clothing to make it look appealing. I know because I have fallen for virtually every scheme he has devised for me, that is until I met the actual shepherd of those real sheep. Now it is easier to see the disguise and somewhat easier not to fall since the voice of that good shepherd warns me of the dangers ahead.
I say that, but here is the real problem. We are not designed to be content by nature, and even though Paul said he learned to be content in each and every situation he was in, he still had a thorn in his side. The big bad wolf was always knocking at his door because that is the battle that is being waged in our minds that can only be overcome by changing our mindset. This doesn't eliminate the threat, but we can stop it from happening.
Other things and people always look better to us because we are not happy with ourselves. While not Dr. Phil, I have a PHD in previous bad behavior. I was unhappy with me, so others paid for it, I paid for it by attacking my own sense of right and wrong and the devil kept prodding me on by making other things and people look very attractive and good for me. And if we think we are beyond that, think again.
People who don't understand always ask why we say we are "recovering alcoholics." We ,however, understand that we are but one drink, one hit, one snort from co-horting with the big bad wolf. The only thing that separates us from his schemes is the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, which, through His Spirit in us provides a shield against giving in to temptation. We become like sheep if we change our mindset and listen to the voice of the shepherd leading us away from danger.
That wolf in sheep's clothing doesn't give a hoot about you; he cares only that you take his side against God. Why would we ever go against God? Because we sometimes act like big dumb sheep who want to run away from the pack.
There's even another scripture about that, too, but why not write our own that just says,"No, I won't do it." That will make God very happy! And it just might make us feel very good about ourselves in the process. And, we may even feel somewhat content.
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.