Monday, March 24, 2014

Staying Afloat

Looking back over the years I recall special days in the backyard throwing the ball back and forth with my father and brother.   I would also spend lengthy amounts of time in the school field picking up games with friends. However, my best baseball memories were playing through high school on the school team. I looked forward to the breaking of Spring and getting out my ball and glove.  I spent much of my time fielding the ball at first and second bases.  The anticipation of a line drive or wild grounder was always exciting!  Nothing was predictable.  Although I never had a powerful throwing arm to pitch, I often had the desire.  The majority of my responsibilities were responding to hit balls versus controlling what was happening at the mound.

I feel that life can often be that way for me as I work hard to stay on top of managing my schedule.  I can spend too much time fielding the demands of others instead of staying at the pitcher's mound striving to deliver great pitches. At times it is necessary for even pitchers to field a ball; however, they must stay focused on their primary job.  When I don't manage my schedule well nobody prospers and I'm never at my best.  Often times the demands of others become my priority and I can lose sight of what God has called me to be focused on. I can often begin the day with great intentions soon to find out I'm fielding everyone else's balls.  Don't get me wrong, I keep a very detailed calendar but I often open it up too freely to demands that I should be saying "no" to.  I can quote many Bible verses about God's perspective on making wise use of time, His views on quietness, and not allowing ourselves to waste time.  However, living out those verses are an entirely different matter--even for a pastor.  I'm often guilty (with many others) of striving to accomplish too much at the expense of God's best--family, friends, the lost, and myself.  Securing and guarding time is essential.  Some may have more time than I do or even expect me to accomplish what is their job.  Who or what can help us to determine when we are fielding too many balls or taking on more than we should?

Being a boat lover, I can best illustrate this with the story of Samuel Plimsoll.  He was a member of the English Parliament in the 1800s who crusaded for the safety of merchant seamen. To outlaw what Plimsoll called “coffin ships,” overloaded and therefore not seaworthy vessels often heavily insured by their unscrupulous owners, Parliament enacted the Merchant Shipping Act of 1876.  This act required all merchant ships to have a load line, a line on the hull that would be visible above the water if a ship was carrying a safe weight.  An overloaded ship would submerge this line and if it went to sea it ran the high risk of capsizing and killing all those aboard. This load line came to be known as the Plimsoll mark. I believe that I have exceeded this line and still do many times in my life.  I've allowed family and friends to help me keep an eye on this line in my life and hold me accountable.

I pray that I would be immersed in everything that He has called me to and avoid those things that distract me from His higher purposes.  

Colossians  3:23 "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,"

Ephesians 5:15-17 "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Perseverance Without Passion

As I look back over the years of my life, I have enjoyed many special things and moments.  Many of the things that I was excited about and enthused to be a part of ended up being short-lived and not at all what they were made out to be.  For many of us it would appear that there are things that come our way that bring a great deal of short-term satisfaction.  Some might say that we are chasing pretty rainbows and not embracing the reality of life.  I have found that my fervor and passion in life for what I see as important does impact other people.  People are searching and want to be a part of something larger than themselves.  People want to see authentic joy and excitement for things of significance. However, it is hard to teach passion as I believe it flows from deep within. 

 Early in my adult life I recall a friend of mine making a comment that I should be in sales.  His comment was framed around the fact that most of the things that I was involved in at the present time seemed to be my passion; therefore, he thought I could be very successful in the sales world.  Looking back, I was successful in being the number one candle seller in our junior high school (my mother didn't appreciate having to deliver them for me).  I was blessed to be a top seller of subscriptions when I delivered the Detroit News as a boy.  Even when I sold a tile or wood floor when I had my business, it came very natural as I was enthused and committed to delivering what I had promised.  I just knew I had what others needed and that they would not be disappointed with the final product. I truly believed that my passion, confidence, and excitement was key to the success of what I believed in.

I said earlier that it is very difficult to teach passion as it flows from deep within.  This is true, especially spiritually.  I could have moderate success training someone to be passionate about selling material things; however, when we are talking one's faith, life principles and spiritual disciplines the motivator is God, His Word, His Spirit's working, and then our response.  Why are not all Christians thrilled and passionate about sharing the best thing that has ever happened to them?  Do they really believe it themselves?  Has God really caught their hearts?  I have come to believe that people act out according to where their heart truly is.  Christ said that our hearts can be found with the very things that we treasure most (Luke 12:34).  I do believe that we grow into a knowledge of our salvation and that we understand Jesus Christ more and more (2 Peter 3:18).  As well, our appreciation for what God has given us should become greater and more precious to us as we mature in Him. The tough question could be "are we passionate about the right things"?

As a servant of Christ and child of God, it is necessary for me to step back and examine my passion and ask God's Spirit to examine my heart to make sure I am not hungering and thirsting for the very things that pull me further from the heart of God.  As a Christ Follower, my passion must be fueled by Him.  I cannot persevere in my Christian faith without a passion to be obedient and make Him known through my life.  I pray that when others see my passion that they see JESUS CHRIST.