Why, in the middle of an intense struggle with the devil this morning, over why I should or shouldn't go to a 6:30 AM Bible Study, did this popular slogan creep into my already crowded mind I am not sure. Maybe it is because the powers that be know that brief advertising slogans have a powerful and lasting effect on us. Remember these:
Where's the beef?
You deserve a break today!
Fly the friendly skies with ........!
You're in good hands with ......!
It's finger licking good!
Or it could have been because I am acutely aware, as you probably are, that the devil is the author of much confusion and the one who loves to keep us in the darkness. The more we seek to do good, the more he chases after us. I became more aware of this when I read the book The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Chances are that if we are not being tempted by him, we are already in heaven or complacent in our faith.
So if you, like me become conflicted from time to time, the answer to clarity is that God will always Leave The Lights On For You. There are no hours of darkness in his hotel, always light and answers for the right thing to do. We may not always choose it, but it is without a doubt always a place to rest our complicated thoughts. But there is a key, and I believe it is in these verses:
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast" 1 Peter 5:6-10
Here is our problem, we think because we are having these thoughts we are doing something wrong, and it may actually be because we are trying to do something right. And, we quit too easily and give in, mostly because we try to do it ourselves (pride) and forget that God may not give us a quick fix, but instead may let our faith pull us through. He puts it in our hands to fly in friendly or unfriendly skies, to seek the darkness, or go where the lights are always on.
Actually we do deserve a break today! When we are in this situation, when we make the right choice, God actually finds a way to let us know how much he appreciates obedience.
How do I know? Read those last 17 words in Peter again. I'm feeling it!
It seems rare in today's fast paced world to actually sit down and eat a meal together with family or friends. But usually, when we do, there is a lovely place setting for us that makes us feel welcome and totally ready to enjoy the moment.
Yet there are times when we could feel uncomfortable with the company of the moment. Ex-spouses staring at us, business adversaries, that really dysfunctional aunt or uncle sitting next to us, feeling quite nervous on a first date or getting all dressed up when we don't feel so dressed up inside. We can hypothetically sit at the table and yet, feel out of place.
Just imagine the Pharisees siting with the Samaritan woman, or any of the so called sinners and tax collectors. Not much of an enjoyable meal would loom. Or, maybe one of us sitting with those of Muslim faith who are not radical yet there is an uneasiness in the air because of all the events of the current days.
Or how about the far flung notion that any of us, recovering addicts, convicts, or divorcees to name a few, might sit at the table in heaven with Jesus, Moses, Paul and Mary? How unworthy I feel thinking that I could sit in such esteemed company, but yet the Lord himself says he has given you and I a clear invitation:
In Luke 22: ...and just as my father has given me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at my table....
Talk about the ultimate place setting! You see we would never qualify to be there on the content of our flawed character, and yet the Lord would be honored to have us with him, those who were broken and lost. Just as honored as he would be to have those who we admired for their faith like Stephen, Matthew and John The Baptist to name just a few.
There might even be a Methodist, Catholic, Jew and Muslim who came to believe as well. And how could we ever feel comfortable at that table if we didn't welcome all because the Lord doesn't play favorites?
Feeling unworthy, unforgiven or just won't forgive? Pick up your fork and carry it daily to another table and invite someone you don't necessarily like to dine with you. In this way, you or I will be ready when God asks us to take a seat next to him at the table.
I can't wait to find out what a perfect meal tastes like!
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for..
Having thought about this for some time it occurs to me that others may be thinking the same thing. Some, on the other hand have found it and will totally understand the quest. That is, the quest to find what we are looking for. Let the final words of that song by the group U2 sink in for a moment:
"You broke the bonds and you loosed the chains, carried the cross of my shame, Oh my shame you know I believe it.
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for, but I still haven't found what I'm looking for"
I believe that mankind searches to find its creator and when it does and it connects for all the right reasons, then there is fulfillment of heart and spirit. That hole we tried so hard to fill with everything else is now filled with an understanding of the price paid for our freedom, and in us comes love, mercy and grace toward our fellow man.
When that comes there is a natural need to seek out relationship and that purpose we feel God has planted inside of us to find. Taking U2's song a step further, we can find that fulfillment and yet feel But I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For! Reason is simple, we need each other and God in his infinite wisdom saw that when he created man. If God meant for our only purpose to be to understand Him and worship Him then there would have only been an Adam.
At times, especially after my son Paul's death, this feeling has haunted me. At his life celebration I said that he had found what he was looking for in his lovely wife, sons and friends, that feeling of belonging, fellowship and love. Since that time there is something missing in me and I must admit I have questioned exactly what I am looking for. Not something to fill that missing piece, but something that is like what he felt.
U2's point, you can have a complete understanding of Jesus, and a relationship with him, and still feel disconnected from relationship of a human kind and also a sense of loss of what your purpose is. And the quest to find it, if we are missing it, is an honest and sincere journey
to connect the dots of life. It is the will of God hidden behind some mysterious door we haven't opened.
If you are like me, and sing those words every so often, then you too can be comforted by these words of scripture.......ASK!
Ask and it will be given to you
Seek and you will find it
Knock and the door will be opened to you
Then we will together find what we have been looking for!
Last Sunday I attended a new church with my roommate and his girlfriend. It has four campuses and a church planted in Honduras. I had seen the crowded parking lots on many occasions as it sits almost directly across from our Toyota and Hyundai dealerships and thought since it was just a few miles from home, why not find out what all the excitement is about?
Before I go any further let me write a disclaimer. I am not here to sit in judgement of any man, woman or church, just to provide the facts and let us all decide for ourselves what we think. But because of my background, and all the things folks have shared with me about other churches, there is something specific I look for in a church I would like to attend.
Where Are All The Notorious Sinners And Tax Collectors?
This church had a fabulous presentation. People in the parking lot directing you to an open spot then greeting you personally. Folks opening the doors and welcoming you in to a thoroughly modern atrium and a worship center with the latest in modern technology. Probably sat about 3000-4000 people and this was the second service. The singing was entertaining, professional grade with inflections of music that added drama to each. Then a very talented woman sang an Adele song that was later referred to in the message.
As the associate pastor spoke I thought back to the review I read on Google when looking for directions, "Great church body, unfortunately the pastors are detached from the people." One spoke about a record attendance on Easter and how almost 200 people had given their lives to the Lord. He added that next Sunday would be a Baptism Sunday party and how believers needed to do this to fulfill their commitment to Christ.
The main speaker, a young minister who was eloquent, entertaining and totally on point with scripture, delivered a well thought out and inspiring message. So I decided to approach him afterward, thank him for the message, and ask about any recovery ministries they might have. I had asked this question at several churches I had visited before and only one had answered positively.
His response, "We refer those people to the churches that handle that sort of thing -who do Celebrate Recovery."
I remember reading in the Book of Revelation that no church was perfect, and I certainly understand and thank God that at Campus, North Atlanta and First City in Pensacola, I have been spoiled by some incredible people who totally get what it means when that question is asked. But I left there a little stunned that despite their growth and obvious desire to bring people to Christ, they seemed to be missing an open door to a significant piece of society.
Realizing that we who were addicted created our own chaos and sins, but understanding how AA and NA have made such a difference in society, it hurts my spirit to think that most churches frankly consider "addicts" as outcasts for someone else to deal with. When in fact so many "normal" people have confided in me about their addictions, who are well placed within our churches, that it would seem just absolutely natural to at least have a room where our kind of folks could assemble and share.
My conclusion- no church people should ever criticize AA, NA or any other kind of A until we answer the question, Where Are All The Tax Collectors And Sinners? Usually you will find them in those groups because they felt unwelcome in a church.
This brings up the question, would Jesus go to Church or to a meeting? Selah!
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.