This is the time of year where we run our annual meeting. With transitioning that is happening, I ‘m thankful the meeting was scheduled for a little later this year.
Our Associate Pastor is headed out of town by February 28th. His goal and the vision God has given him relates to reaching Montreal for Christ. The picture is huge, the first step is getting there. One way or the other, he will be headed to Montreal in the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, a transitional plan which would have propelled me into retirement, has been set aside. What the next step is, I (and we) are not sure. I’ve spent time in personal retreat and am starting to contact others for advice.
Looking over our annual report one characteristic stands out. The reports are basically the same, but each one seems to be abbreviated from the previous years version. I had somewhere around 8 pages – this year 2.
We were in the midst of the year talking about waiting. I think I begin to see the sense that was there. You can’t make huge long reports when you are waiting to see what is coming. You might catch a glimpse of the train that is on the track, but you can’t yet describe it. There is a light on the front! The rest is still to be revealed.
God knows, and we will discover!
I have found the internet to be unsettling!
I have settled on many things in my life. I do believe that there is objective truth. Just not as many of them as I used to think there was.
I have been certain about many things that have been proven wrong over the years. I figured that fat was good for you – so I eat lots of margarine. Better rethink that one! I was certain my genetics would help me grow old easily and for a long time. I’m not so certain about that after double knee replacement and cataract surgery – all before I reach 60 years of age.
Recently I heard the phrase that vision influences through clarity, not certainty. When you are leading people, vision casting is one of the main things that you are called to do. For years the idea has been that we need to tell people exactly what needs to be done – to be certain about how life will unfold and where people fold into that life.
I’m not so certain about that!
Lately my optometrist has seen “floaters” in my eyes. He says the brain adjusts to these annoying things, blocking them out. But they are still there. I think sometimes we block out what we don’t want to see. And we are certain that the “floater” is no longer there.
Perhaps our calling as leaders is to open up the eyes of those who follow us by helping them to see. Helping them to see a little bit more each day. Helping them to see without blinders. Helping them to see with clarity.
For when clarity is combined with courage and our calendar, our lives end up being lived simply – simply for what counts!
The closeness of an object magnifies it’s significance. Or completely blurs the big picture.
I’ve been in the midst of circumstances lately in which I needed to take a bigger gaze than just upon the circumstance itself. I’ve called this gazing on God. When I put things in the lens of God, things come into some perspective.
I can’t say I’ve always achieved that sense. I’ve started to use a phrase – “Even if” that helps me view my circumstances.
In that phrase is tucked the sovereignty of God. When I begin with the idea that God is in control, all of a sudden other things become less menacing.
With the resignation of our Associate Pastor, I was placed in just such a circumstance. Our plans were turned completely around, and I was left without a plan. That is unusual for me, and perhaps a bit frightening???
In a feeble way I have tried to fix my eyes on Jesus. Over the past few weeks, various meetings have proved to be opposite to what I had expected (which was along the lines of worst case scenario). As well, I have tried not to become defensive but rather to receive wisdom and instruction as needed. Again, not always done well but I’m finding a measure of peace.
May God grant us all peace today!
In our bedroom is a small wooden container – built as an art piece in the 1980’s.
We are calling this our ark of the covenant. Inside are now pictures of our wedding, the marriage certificate and other items that relate to our covenant of marriage.
One day in the not too distant future our children and grandchildren will be around. We’ll ask them if they want to see the ark of the covenant. We’ll have to explain that this is not the ten commandments – and Moses is not about to appear.
But God is there. In the details – that work out as reality in our daily lives.
Come over some day!
See the ark of the covenant!
Within my sphere are various groups of people I love.
One of those groups is housed in an active living seniors complex called “Caleb Village”. Not only do they find their house there, they have great meals and tea times and social events. Some of which I get in on every once in a while.
One of my privileges is to do a devotional time there in a rotation with other pastors. Recently I ventured over and talked about Gazing on God (a theme I seem to keep returning to!).
Now, if you were to close your eyes and gaze, what would you see?
Here are some of their answers:
- Arms open
- Disappointed with the way our world is going
- Smiling – happy we are there
- Jesus sits on God’s right hand
- Inviting the heavy laden
- Welcome, my child
Not a bad list! What else would you list?
I ran across some interesting statistics.
In the online world, people look up and share Bible verses. The presumption is that these verses are close to the heart, and worth passing along.
I primarily use two online portals for finding Bible verses. One is www.Biblegateway.com and the other is www.youversion.com. Both have different translations and quick lookups.
In 2013, there were more than 456 million visits to the Bible Gateway site, with visitors spending more than 76 million hours on the site. When I watch people with their smartphones looking up verses during a church service, they are mostly using youversion.com. Our youth began using this site a few years ago for their Sunday School class!
On Bible Gateway, here are the top three searches for Bible verses: John 3:16, Jeremiah 29:11 and Philippians 4:13. One on salvation and two on living lives of hope and victory. On YouVersion, people shared verses, with Psalm 118:24 at No. 1 (This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.). John 3:16 didn’t even make it into the top ten shared verses.
I wonder how our life circumstances affect the verses we read? Joshua 1:9 (strong and courageous) made it into both lists. Are we finding that the world around us squeezes us so much that we need assurance we won’t be flattened? Are we more interested in ourselves than in verses that gaze on who God is? I wonder how often we would look up Genesis 17:1 type of verses?
I am El Shaddai – God Almighty. Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life!
I was sitting with some pastors when one of them said:
There is a difference between calling and sending
Now, I’ve always matched those two words together. As a pastor I have sensed that God has called me, which means I am sent to do something. And when I am sent, I had better have had someone tell where to go!
The conversation continued:
We are called to be. We are sent to do.
When the disciples were called, Jesus just asked them to be with Him. All they had to do was spend time with Jesus. We need to develop the disciplines needed to fulfil that calling. Things like meditation, scripture reading, quiet, waiting, patience, fellowship. Anything that let’s us be with Jesus.
When the disciples were sent, they were given direction. As the Father has sent me, so send I you. Out of the clarity of direction that God gave to Jesus, we need to find clarity in what we do. Clarity makes uniqueness undeniable, direction unquestionable, work more meaningful, focus more sustainable, leadership credible, the future approachable and enthusiasm transferable.
Calling and sending – two different but intertwined words!
We were off to a Worker’s Retreat the last few days. Yesterday I arrived back in the office and swept through a number of things that had arrived on my desk. Today is a day to complete a sermon and hopefully have some restful time.
Retreats are a great thing. In some ways, though, they are like holidays. Returning means jumping abruptly back into the routine. I also found the retreat was a refreshing time of visiting and activity – paradoxically this requires an output of energy!
In keeping with my theme of the last while, I’ve been gazing on God. As I see new aspects of what this means, yesterday and today have been an opportunity to wait on whispers from God. Whispers of contentment, security and love. Whispers of the future and pictures of the past. All combined to provide the type of rest that is based in the assurance that God is in control.
I won’t say this is easy.
To begin with God – to fix my eyes on Jesus – as I walk through a day, takes intention and perseverance. Easier said than done! May God grant us all the opportunity today to be sheltered in his care – resting in the assurance that He cares for us!
So, I ran across a sentence that has me thinking. All about how much God loves us.
He even reins in the intensity of his love so he does not overwhelm us. (PK devotional for Feb. 2)
I’m not sure that God’s love ever diminishes. Romans 8 tells us that nothing can separate us from his love (for those who are Christians). At other points in the Old Testament, God declares “war” on those who are not following him, but at the same time is open to work with them if they repent.
I imagine that we can establish the matter that God loves us with a depth we do not understand. I suppose the idea of that revelation is certainly unknown to us in it’s depth. We are people who have been accustomed to disappointment from those we love. We disappoint those we love. A purity of love and an ability to love beyond disappointment is hard to fathom.
Would I be overwhelmed by that love? I wonder.
To take in a whole landscape is difficult. To pinpoint one aspect is usually where we begin. That aspect may be highlighted by afternoon light. That does not mean the larger canvas is not in view. The problem is that we cannot concentrate on the large picture – we tend to be able to process only a little bit at a time.
In the end, perhaps God does highlight a portion of his love to us at one time. When Jesus walked this earth, He was all God. But the disciples only got to know him gradually. When we gaze on God, there is no part of God that is missing – perhaps just parts that we see more clearly at the time???
I was talking with a friend yesterday. He pointed out that, based on the “Mickey Mouse” stressor scales that can be found almost anywhere, my life is in the red zone.
Within a two year period of time I have had my first wife pass away, courted and married a second wife, moderated one of the most contentious assemblies of our denomination, work on a transition plan for ministry which has been completely overturned, been asked to consider running for Mayor, watched the generation ahead of me (those I had looked up to for years) rapidly decline and some die, and . . .
These are good size challenges. William Bennett says in his Book of Virtures: “Give yourself and even greater challenge than the one you are trying to master and you will develop the powers necessary to overcome the original difficulty.” I think my life has certainly had that aspect to it. Often not intentionally!
But, I’m convinced that there is a greater approach that has kept my sanity and let’s me move ahead. As I gaze on God, there is a very real sense in which He is bigger than everything that comes my way. In life, there are times at which the next challenge is beyond my abilities. Nothing is beyond God’s abilities – he created the whole thing!
Perhaps I could modify Bennett by saying: “Gaze upon God, and the even greater challenge you are trying to master will be put into perspective.”
Can’t say every day I’m able to live in that reality, but I’m finding that it is better than the alternative.