As Americans we value individuality almost too much. We think that we are self-made, self-sufficient and that we can do it all ourselves. We want to stand on our own two feet and pull ourselves up by our boot straps.
We even apply all that to our faith experience. We often say it's between me and God and my faith is a private matter. The most vibrant faith finds its strongest expression in relationships of community. Jesus himself invested in a small group of followers and encouraged them to love and support one another.
When we are accountable to other believers we grow in our faith and life. When we pray with and for others our spiritual awareness is strengthened. When we listen to others our sense of wholeness deepens. When we work with others our ability to thrive is increased. The community of faith is for mutual blessing.
Psalms 119:105 reads, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."
After 40 years of ministry I have some bibles that are worn and tattered from a lot of use. Every time I began a new pastorate I purchased a bible to use in that place. I would read to the sick and the dying from it.
I used it to study for sermon and preach from it. Each time I used it for a sermon I would write the date in the margin by the scripture for that sermon. That helped me keep track so I was not always preaching the same thing.
My study bibles are full of notes and high-lights, some to the point that it is hard to read through because of so many notations. Still they are old friends and I can not bring my self to discard any of them. My bibles are a witness to me not only of the written word but also of many lessons learned through the years. I am still reading and making notes every day.
Raising a teenage daughter changed my perspective on how God relates to us. She was at the age where dad didn't know anything, she knew everything and was angry that I didn't let her have her way. If I said one thing she did the other and it made for a very difficult time for both of us. Many times I told her that if she would only listen to me her life would be a lot easier!
Reading through the Book of Judges in the Bible I read the words, "They did what was evil in the sight of God." over and over again. I can imagine that God thinks, "If they would only listen to me their lives would be a lot easier." If we did listen to God and live by the teachings of Jesus we could save ourselves a lot of pain and heartache.
I still learn that lesson for my self every day. Today is a day to love God, love others and get the word out.
My morning prayer list is a long one. One item on my list of things to pray about is, "Please help me see the opportunities to share my faith in a way that others will accept."
I don't have any trouble speaking to others about my faith but I know that I can be overbearing at times. Early in my ministry I watched as some of my friends used heavy handed tactics on people and did more harm than good. Some tried to scare the "hell" out of people and it usually does not work. Often when it seems to work is is a short term effect.
As I studied the teachings of Jesus, I noticed that He had a different approach. Instead of using fright he used love. It is far more effective and long term to love someone into heaven than scare them out of hell. My witness is to lovingly share what I believe and why I believe it.
My witness to others is always undergirded by my morning prayer for those who do not know Jesus.
How do we deal with the really big questions and issues in our lives?
I know some people who think, "If I just ignore them they will go away." Sometimes they do but most often they just get worse.
Confronting a issue head on is scary because we don't know how it will wind up. Yet confronting is the only way to solve or deal with it. Be real about it but do not be afraid. God has promised to always be with us to see us through life and all its ups and downs to the end.
IT is the "END" part that scares most of us. Death is the last great issue that confronts us all. There is no escaping or hiding from death. I am 66 years old and unless I live past 122 most of my life on this earth has past. Now I have good genes as some of my ancestors have live past 100 but no one has reached 122. Doing the math on that one is easy.
Shall I cower in the corner trying to deny the great inevitable? I think not! I trust God and I know that there is a place for me after I have used up this old body that already has more pains than I like to deal with. Consequently, I will great each new day with thanksgiving for what God has given me and if this is my last day on earth it will be filled with love. This will be a good day because I feel the presence of God with me and I will not fear the future.
Let the new day begin! If I do reach 123 years old this day is the start of my middle ages and I will enjoy each one God gives me to the fullest.
I served as pastor of a Missouri congregation that was 150 years old when I began my ministry there. When they began there were no musical instruments in the church. In 1889 they built a new building and one of the members paid for A German pipe organ to be shipped from Germany to Missouri. The pipes filled a room of their own.
For the 150th anniversary of the church a company was engaged to come in to service and tune the organ. I followed the repairman into the pipe room which blew me a way that there were so many pipes in there. He went deep into the organ and inspected and cleaned every pipe fixing the ones that were wheezing because of stops that were leaking. It made beautiful music after that.
We may be well traveled and well used as well. Like that old organ I sometimes have internal issues both physical and spiritual. My doctor deals with the physical organs and keeps me moving. I need to let the Holy Spirit probe deep within me to remove accumulated resentments and dislikes that spoil the music of my life.
Like that old organ my spirit needs a tune up every now and then so that I can continue to make lovely music with my life.