Many Christians feel like oddballs in their local churches, confused why serving God holds such little joy or passion. Not fulfilling. Just frustrating. I get it. Let me explain.
I hold as my single claim to fame the day I danced for the judges at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. But I’ll be honest: I never intended to dance. I auditioned as a guitar player, yet when the judges called me back the next day, they asked me to dance as well! Bad idea.
End of audition. I immediately lost the job. Why? They misplaced me.
You know where else I see dancing guitarists? The church.
In our lives busy with people, it’s tough to appreciate the value of solitude. But one look at Saint George’s Monastery in the Wilderness of Judea gives us reason to pause and ponder the necessity of solitude with God.
As I scanned the monastery’s blue domes and white arches that dot the colorless canvas of the wilderness, I marveled at the time and ingenuity it would have taken to build and rebuild these structures.
I found myself wondering, Why would ANYONE want to live way out there? A friend of mine wondered if the monks in the monastery thought the same thing about us.
Sometimes in our hurry, it does us good to contemplate the value of solitude.
The connection between between the first steps we take in making a decision and its final outcome often seems unrelated. Walking the path of wisdom or the way of foolishness has domino effects far greater than we can imagine.
For us, a disciplined intake of Scripture certainly promises wisdom. But wisdom offers a course of action, not just a course of instruction.
The book of Proverbs reveals the outcome of the pathways we are walking. And it tells us how to stay on the path of wisdom.
One of our greatest challenges is finding balance in the Christian life. Think of a person on a tightrope. There’s never a point where they just stroll across effortlessly. Balance requires continual effort.
Have you ever noticed that somehow Jesus balanced it all? The demands of His work and ministry left Him exhausted at times, of course—yet somehow He found time to get it all done.
Jesus perfectly balanced the demands of life—with the same 24 hours we have.
I got my first suicide-threat phone call during my first year when I served as a pastor. I drove to the neighborhood and found the address in a row of massive homes with fine-trimmed lawns.
I rang the doorbell and a woman with a severe look cracked the door and eyed me without saying a word.
I began the brief conversation. “Hello, uh, I received a call about . . .”
“He’s around back,” she interrupted. The door slammed. I made my way to the back of the mansion and saw one of the several garage doors open. Inside, I found a man sitting on an upside-down bucket.
His bloodshot eyes looked up at me.
Sometimes our blessings get piled so high, it’s difficult to see around them. Blessings are ours in abundance—and tempt us to forget God. Of course, this is nothing new.
As the redeemed Hebrew nation anticipated entering Canaan, the Lord issued them an important warning:
When the Lord your God brings you into . . . great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you shall eat and be satisfied. Then watch yourself, lest you forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. —Deuteronomy 6:10-12
Notice God’s emphasis by the repeated phrase: “which you did not.” The blessings His people would receive would come from God’s hand—not from their own wits or wisdom.
Moses warned his people of the greatest danger from God’s blessings: to forget God.
We have that same vulnerability, don’t we?
We’ve all experienced it, haven’t we? We buy a car and suddenly, we see our car’s model everywhere on the road. We notice what we have on our mind. This is true in all of life.
On a recent trip to Israel, one man on our bus mentioned he saw beehives everywhere. Really? Beehives? I had never noticed. He was a beekeeper. We see what we’re thinking about.
- As a woodworker, I notice furniture everywhere I go—whether it’s made well or not.
- My daughter always notices a person’s shoes first.
- A girl-crazy guy walks in a room and in five seconds has the most beautiful girl pegged.
What you focus on will be what you see. It’s how God made us—regardless of how we use that ability. What do you see in these key areas of your life?
- Your job
- Your spouse
- Your children
- Your parents
- Your church
- Your life in general
Be honest. When you think about each of these areas, are your initial thoughts positive or negative?
What do you see?
I sat in the front row of my 8th grade math class and squinted at the chalkboard. A total blur. I had to face it. I needed glasses.
I’ll never forget the moment I put on my glasses for the first time. WOW! A different perspective entirely! I had no idea the details of life I had missed. They were there all the time, but I literally could not see them.
Glasses and contacts made a huge difference. Trees had leaves. Shapes had sharp edges. Colors were more vibrant. And, oh yeah, I could see in math class.
That worked great for about 35 years. But now I have another problem. As my eyeballs have aged, they have given me 2 choices:
- I can see far away (with my contacts).
- Or I can see up close (without contacts).
It was one perspective or the other—until my optometrist gave me a really weird solution.
You and I have the same challenge spiritually.
After my grandfather died years ago, I planted an oak tree in his memory in our front yard. The skinny stem stood only 8 feet tall (like Granddad did). I planted it on a windy day.
(By Almonroth. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
A few hours later, my neighbor hollered: “Hey, Wayne, your tree was really leaning over in the wind!” I grabbed the trunk and slightly bent the tree over. The whole base moved, because it had no root system yet. So I staked it down.
Two years later when I bent the tree, the base didn’t move. But you know what? The tree looked the same. No visible change. Its goal for its first two years was its roots, not its limbs and leaves.
That little sprig offers a contrast (and a lesson) to you and me.
The strength of a man’s virtue must not be measured by his efforts, but by his ordinary life.