Tomorrow is the kick-off of the football season for my team, the University of Tennessee Volunteers. As I ponder on the upcoming season, I wonder what it would be like if every Sunday was like a Tennessee football game. Here is what I came up with.
- Tailgating — Everyone showing up hours before the service to eat together and play games.
- Vol Walk — Lining the entrance to the property to greet everyone who comes to church that day
- Countdown — Counting down the days and hours until the church meets again
- Monetary Contribution — People plan and budget for how they will contribute financially to the church
- Rocky Top Woo — Folks getting excited at songs praising the Lord like they do with Rocky Top
How else could church be like college football?
More than likely everyone that reads this blog knows what Proverbs 29: 18 says:
Where there is no vision, the people perish
Yes, that’s the King James Version. I just went all 1611 on you. That’s not my usual preferred Bible translation, but I like best for this verse. Others will describe a life without vision as being unrestrained.
I like how I heard Chuck Swindoll describe it in a sermon years ago. He said that it paints the picture of people who wear turbans and unwind them off their head. We might say that say it in today’s language that without vision, people let their hair down. From there he gave the illustration of what happened while Moses was on Mount Sinai getting the 10 Commandments. The Israelites demanded that Aaron give them a god. So, he made the golden calf and the people went crazy. I tend to believe that they began to engage in various pagan practices. The man who gave them their vision from God was gone. They literally began to perish.
The question we have to ask ourselves is if we have a vision? What is it? Where does it come from? Who does it come from?
What if we don’t have one? Will we live an unrestrained life that leads to perishing?
Where do we get a vision if we don’t have one? Can we just get it on demand?
The Israelites had a common vision. It was a vision of God leading them in the form of pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night to the Promised Land. They rejected that vision and had to wander in the desert for forty years. Without the vision, they perished. A new generation of Israelites rose up to take their place and follow the vision the Lord gave them.
Within that grand vision God gave, each person had a personal vision. Some were priests. Others were artists. Some were leaders. Each person was gifted and given a vision for how to live within the grander vision. They were given a vision so that they would not perish.
Has the Lord given you a vision?
Down the hill from the house I grew up in stood an old cabin. It belonged to my grandfather, full of junk. It may have been one hundred years old by the time I was born. Weeds and vines had overtaken it, making it a ripe haven for copperheads. I was told to not go around it, but that wasn’t why.
There was old cistern to the left of it when we faced it. It sat between the cabin and the small plot my parents dug up one year and planted potatoes. Based on my behavior when I was young, my parents feared that I would prowl around it and fall into the cistern. Their fears were probably legitimate since they had found their two-year old sitting on the roof one day, having climbed a ladder leaning against the house.
When I was old, we cleaned up around that cabin and pulled the cover off of the cistern. No water was in it. It was in a state of disrepair, cracked and leaky. Even at that age, I would not have wanted to fall in. Whenever, I read about the broken cisterns in Jeremiah, memories of this one flood into my mind
Some days, I just don’t have it. No matter what I try to do, I just can’t make “IT” happen. Whatever motivational tricks I have learned over the years fail me. There just isn’t any umph in anything I do. It doesn’t matter if it’s trying to write a blog post, read my Bible, work out, or just plain work. Here’s something I’ve figured out.
It’s usually because I’m trying to do it on my own.
Whenever I try to rely on my own power, I find myself thirsty. Thirsty for what will refresh me. And I try to do everything I can do to get a drink.
Sometimes I will return to a broken cistern. When I gaze in, they are mostly empty. There may be some remains of water in them, but it is tepid and contaminated. Drinking it puts me at risk.
I might go to a well that has run dry. It could be a season of drought and all that comes up, at best, is some damp mud. Definitely nothing worth drinking.
What do I do then?
I need to return to the Living Water. The source of Life. Life Himself. Strip off the stuff that is hindering me. Get rid of even good stuff that is interfering with my relationship with Him. Cling to the Vine, the source of Abundant Life..
Jesus. Christ. Lord.
That won’t make everything suddenly rosey. But it will make life doable. I’ll be able to move on. Daily.
Ever found yourself trying to drink from broken cisterns or empty wells?
I want you to think back to when you came to know Christ. Do you remember that rush of excitement? Life wouldn’t be the same anymore. Everything was on the upswing. You saw the world through rose-colored glasses. Positivity replaced negativity. The glass wasn’t half-full, it was completely full.
Then reality set in.
Life was still hard. All of your relationships weren’t miraculously perfect. You hit some roadblocks. Maybe you faced some tougher times than you did before. Life was an uphill climb. You found out the truth.
Life gets messy.
We would love to believe what some tell us, wouldn’t we? That we won’t face hard times when we come to know Christ.
I was reminded of that in some situations with my wife, Jan, recently.
Every day is one filled with pain that would make most people quit. She has always had a high tolerance of pain. For her to even really tell me that she hurts tells me that most people would stay in bed.
Life gets messy.
She has encountered some other painful situations recently in her life. Things that affect her emotionally. Things that bring her down.
Life gets messy.
The other morning Jan asked me what happened to Job once he went through everything. The good new is that his riches were restored to him, even more so than before. He had more children to replace those he lost. On the other side of the coin, he never found out why all of that stuff happened to him. God simply asked Job where he was when He was creating the world.
We aren’t guaranteed things will bet better, that the messiness of life will get better. At least not here on earth.
Jesus tells us His version of the story, though. He said that His Father’s house has many rooms. He has gone to prepare a place for us. He’s coming back for us so that we can live there with Him.
Life gets messy. But Jesus cleans up the messes and brings us home.
Have you ever found life to be messy?
As I write this, I sit here on a Sunday morning. My church is probably about to finish up for the morning. I am wiped out by a summer cold that my children passed one to another and now to me. Based on their experience, I have about another five days left before I will be free from the effects of this minor viral issue. I probably won’t feel my best and there will be more sniffing, sneezing and blowing. While all of this is going on, there is one thing my mind seems to be fixated on, a set of lyrics that seem to be appropriate for the day:
Slow down, you move too fast….Got to make the morning last — 59th Street Bridge Song by Simon and Garfunkel
Jeff Goins has spent a good deal of time writing about slowing down of late. I’m reminded of that as I sit here outside of my normal routine. Typically I would have gotten up to read and write a bit. Then I would have gone to the campground where I preach on Summer Sunday mornings. Then on to church. From there, lunch and a bit of laziness before small group. Finally, I could rest the remainder of evening without any thought of going anywhere else.
Sometimes we need a break from all of this. We may not even know it. We might need to just rest in the arms of the Savior, our Lord, without anyone else or anything else going on.
The Lord may have been telling us to slow down for a while. We may have ignored the signals, the warning signs. Perhaps we kept pushing through, thinking that we could do it all, knowing that we really can’t. Where do we find ourselves?
Not feeling groovy. Sometimes the most spiritual, Godly think you can do is to rest or take a nap. Listen to your body, but better yet, listen to the Lord.
Have you ever ignored the warning signs that you need to rest?
Paul has shifted from defending himself to being more on the offensive in chapter 5. He is fighting hard in Galatians 5:7-12 to convince the Galatians that the Judaizers are false teachers and that the gospel he preached is the true one.
Paul begins verse 7 by telling the Galatians that You were running well. I have run some races where I was going along fine. Suddenly, I would crash and found myself struggling. Others, I was able to run fine until the end. Paul is painting a picture of a long distance race where the Galatians are now crashing, in danger of not finishing the race at all.
Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This is really a rhetorical question. In a sense Paul is saying Why are you fooling around with the Judaizers? They are keeping you from obeying the truth. What is the truth Paul is talking about? Most likely it is the truth of the gospel he preached to them and the truth of that gospel being lived in their lives. The Judaizers are hindering them from the truth.
Paul tells the Galatians that This persuasion is not from him who calls you. God is the author of salvation. It begins with Him. Paul is drawing a line in the sand, stating that what the Judaizers are doing is not from the Lord.
A little leaven leavens the whole lump. The Judaizers have not come in saying that everything Paul has taught them is wrong. They likely agreed with many points that Paul made. They make just enough small changes to make their case sound good.
Every person that is broken down must be built back up. Paul has been very forceful, but there comes a time that he has to be encouraging as well. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. Paul truly believes that he can win the Galatians back and that the Judaizers will be ultimately punished for their transgressions.
Evidently, Paul was accused of preaching circumcision in an attempt by the Judaizers to show that they and Paul were on the same page. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? Yet, for all intents and purposes, Paul was being persecuted within the Galatians church. Paul asks, “If I am preaching circumcision like they are, what’s their beef with me?” It is true that Paul had Timothy circumcised. Timothy was half Jew and Paul did it for ethnic reasons, not reasons regarding faith. If he was preaching circumcision, then the offense of the cross has been removed. If circumcision will buy you anything, then there is no need for the cross. Basically Paul is saying that anyone who preaches grace plus law is preaching something that cannot be. You must have one or the other. Not both.
Paul takes strong words against the Judaizers to close these verses. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! Paul wishes for the Judaizers to go ahead and take it one step further in the desire for circumcision. There were pagan cults who would mutilate themselves for the god or goddess they served. Paul, since he knows that circumcision, nor uncircumcision, are anything, suggests that the Judaizers just go ahead and take it to the next step.
1. Just like a runner, we can be hindered in our race to the finish.
2. It doesn’t take much sin to infect the entire person or group.
3. Trusting in the Lord is our best defense against false teachers.
4. Following truth will often lead you to being persecuted.
5. The cross is offensive to many, if not most.
6. Better to be mutilated going into the kingdom of heaven than to be whole and not.
Dale walked into the bathroom to brush his teeth. It had been a long day and he was read to hit the hay. Melissa was already in bed, patiently waiting as he went through his normal routine. He was always a tad later than her, had been throughout their marriage. He finally finished and made his way to his side of the bed.
Dale could sense that Melissa was still awake. Normally, she was already asleep. If she was still awake, it meant that she wanted to talk about something. He had felt her wanting to talk to him all night, but she couldn’t because of the kids. Finally they would be alone, just before sleep. He thought he knew what she wanted to say. In fact, he was wanting to have the same talk with her. It was time.
“You’re awake. I can tell by the way you’re breathing.” Dale laid down and pulled the covers up. It was supposed to be a chilly night, but they were starting to warm up as spring was marching slowly toward them. He looked forward to the warm weather. The boys would be trying out for Little League soon and they would be making their way to practices and games. It would take a lot of their time, but there was not much he would rather do.
Melissa rolled over and smiled. She was still as beautiful as the day she and Dale married. What amazed Dale was how much more godly she was than him. She far exceeded him in her time in prayer. He couldn’t count how many times her wisdom had kept them, him, out of trouble.
“You’re falling in love with this church.” Melissa said this just as matter of fact as if she said she was going to the grocery store. There was no excitement, good or bad, in her voice.
Dale turned to his right. Melissa had said in just a few words what he had been unable to admit to himself. He was growing more attached to these people each week. He realized that he was wasn’t really built for being an interim pastor. He needed to find the congregation that the Lord had for him. He hoped that the search team would find someone soon, before it got even worse.
“You’re right. I didn’t think I would feel this way, knowing that I was just temporary. That’s just not the way it’s turning out, though.”
“Well, what if you became the permanent pastor here? Would that be so bad?”
Dale looked at her and then back up to the ceiling. He had wondered the same thing. Would it be bad to end up here? Sure, there were issues. There was a lot of healing that needed to take place. Most of all, though, they needed God’s man who would love them, who had a vision from the Lord. More and more, he felt like he had that vision.
“I won’t approach them with it. I don’t think that would be kosher. If they approached me, then I thin it would be ok to talk to them.”
“I would love it. I didn’t think I would like it, but I like this church, I like these people. I could see us being here for a while.”
Dale thought about that for a minute. He would never consider a church if Melissa wasn’t completely on board. Any warning signs from her was enough to give him plenty of doubt about a situation. He remembered a couple that he had passed on early in their marriage. When he heard what had happened to the guys that ended up there, he praised the Lord for the wife he had been given.
Melissa turned back away and looked at the ceiling as well. Dale could almost hear the wheels turning in her head. He knew that what was coming would probably be the best course of action. He waited patiently for her to tell him what was going on in that head of hers.
“Well, there’s only one thing for us to do then.” Melissa turned back toward him as she said it.
“What’s that?” Dale looked into the blue eyes that had caught his eye so many years ago.
“We’re just going to have to pray about it.” Melissa just smiled.
Dale smiled back. “Let’s do it.” They held hands and began going to the Lord with what was on their hearts.