Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Time To Wiggle

Monday I heard something that made me realize part of what I have lost. We have a beautiful pond outside of our house, and our youngest son was outside fishing. Our daughter, Caroline, and I went outside to be with him, and when we reached the edge of the pond, Caroline asked for a chance. David handed her the pole (which could have also been influenced by the chocolate milkshake she traded with him), and she cast the line. As the sun spread across the pond and the water moved ever so slightly, I heard Caroline say to David, "If you move the line a little it makes the bait look more real. Uncle Chip taught me that." The Spirit of God moved inside my heart like He has done several times over the last few weeks and prompted me to remember where we have been and to ponder where the Lord has us today.

First, you need to know Uncle Chip. If only you could meet him, you would be so blessed. If you don't know him, but know Jesus, you can meet him one day. Several years ago, he made a move that none of us expected. The Lord, in His sovereign authority, took Chip to heaven, leaving a longing and a legacy. Of all of the weddings he ever photographed and all of the bridal portraits he has ever taken, I know that if he visited us today he would tell us of the brilliance of the Bridegroom who is awaiting His bride's entrance into eternity. Oh to worship around the throne of God. 

From Caroline's comments, you can see that Chip made a difference in the lives of our children in many ways. Some big and some small. He also made a difference in mine and Karen's life too. Of all of the things that come to my remembrance when I think of Chip, the one impression that seems to be the most significant for today is that Chip enjoyed life in the moment. It's not that he didn't ever plan or that he ignored lessons from the past. It's just that he let today filter the portrait of everything else. The blessings of today were the result of struggles from the past and the landscape for the portraits of tomorrow. The hardships of today were yesterday's reminders that we should seize every opportunity we have before us and tomorrow's cry that blessings sometimes come in the rain. 

As I heard Caroline reveal one of Chip's many fishing tricks to David, I realized that the Lord was revealing one of his fishing tricks to me. If I am to be part of Kingdom expansion, then I have to be cast into the middle of the pond and moved around a bit. Life happens when we wiggle a bit, and it would seem that instead of wiggling I've been allowing some weight to let me just plop. I hope you are not letting your imagination run wild with you. I'm not talking about me getting up and wiggling some of this middle-aged weight around - too many people are doing that already. Have you been to a county fair lately?? I'm talking about being shaken, broken, and poured out for His glory. Simmered, percolated, hot brewed, if you will.

By the grace of God, Chip's words rang out loud and clear yesterday, and today is a bit of a declaration day for me. Mamaw used to say, "I declare, that James Stenbeck is alive again ...." Another blog another day. I think the "I declare" was a way to express shock and determination all at once. Well, I am shocked at where I've let myself end up, and I am determined - by the grace of God - to be less the way I am and more like Chip - ultimately because Chip reminds me more of Jesus.

So here goes .....

1. I declare that the enemy has no more hold over my insecurities. In every church I have ever served, the enemy has used one or two people to tap into my insecurities and steal my joy. No more, big guy. These insecurities have led me to stop many things that God has designed for me. This blog for instance. One of the last times I wrote was over a year ago. I made a joking reference that is common in Baptist circles. An instrument of Satan from central Florida sent an "anonymous" comment accusing me of all kinds of things, and in particular of being a secret agent of darkness. Now any reasonable human being would not give any weight to an "anonymous" comment accusing him of acting in secret. HELLO POT; MEET THE KETTLE. Obviously I'm not a reasonable human being because that comment triggered an insecurity and doubt in me that this same person had been actively part of stoking during my time in ministry in central Florida. I suppose that my knowing who the comment came from (because the person used the same "anonymous" words that had previously been spoken) didn't help the situation. But you know what the Lord said as I rethought it all? "To serve Me, you've got to be cast into the midst of the pond and wiggle a little bit." Wiggle, not drop dead!!! And on top of that, no one is ANONYMOUS to God. ANONYMOUS always get's theirs in the end - literally and figuratively because God always balances His books.

2. I declare that the enemy has no more hold over my daily living. This one is tied closely to my insecurities. Most days, I am traveling to places that are far from home. While I am away, I miss my family dearly. I miss the closeness, the conversation, the opportunity to be together. I feel left out and alone much of the time. The cloud that hovers over me doesn't affect my work, but it does affect my downtime. The time that I am traveling could be used for loads of prayer and fasting and Bible study. Instead, I find it difficult to engage for very long. The enemy is defeating me - or at least he has been. The days I am home have been toys in his hand, as well. Don't let anyone tell you that God doesn't have a sense of humor. God moved us two years ago from a frying pan where ministry was flourishing and the Kingdom was expanding into the fire where ministry was dying and darkness was expanding. Small towns can have enough evil to fill the largest cities, and much of that evil resides in the leadership of local churches. Well, as the story goes, a small power cartel took issue with the biblical truth that all followers of Christ have a voice in the church. They made statements that revealed a deep false theology, taking the position that the Bible was not really relevant if it contradicted the kingdom they were building. Leaders would come to make decisions but would literally run from the opportunity to study the Bible. The Lord graciously removed our family from what has become one hot mess. Here is where His humor comes in. He removed us from the evil in that body and the discipline He is enacting on the local body, but He left us in the town to live. Our kids are in school. My wife works in the school. My family is very well liked and respected within the school system. This little group in the church though? They are probably praying harder than we are that our house sells soon. So when I am away, the enemy has been having a hold over my daily living. Then, when I am home, the enemy has a hold over our daily living because every street I drive down, every game I attend, every gas pump I pull up to reminds me of a few people who claim to be followers of Christ and the enemy uses them to steal my joy. It's not their fault he uses them. They are just pawns in his hand. It's actually my fault that he uses them because I'm the one that is keeping the doggone screen door propped open. Well, no more. Thanks Chip. I'll use today's blessing to remind me that yesterday's pain doesn't last forever and tomorrow is better because of the faith God has built in me. The truth is that we have many blessings in our town. I just listed 33 names of blessings in our community in West Tennessee. I could go to dear friends from Wauchula, Florida, to Ocala, Florida, Commerce, Georgia, to Franklinton, Louisiana, to Panama City, Florida, to Georgia, to South Carolina, to Canada, to Asia and beyond. Actually, the enemy is far outnumbered because the army of God is strong in our lives. But even if they were not, we have JESUS, and HE IS ALL WE NEED. I don't know if the enemy can read, so I'm just going to say it outloud. Say it with me so he can hear real good. THE ENEMY IS FAR OUTNUMBERED BECAUSE THE ARMY OF GOD IS STRONG IN OUR LIVES. BUT EVEN IF THEY WERE NOT, WE HAVE JESUS, AND HE IS ALL WE NEED.

So today is a reclamation day. Today, by the grace, mercy, and power of the Spirit of God who lives in me, I am reclaiming the territory that I have lost for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let the earth hear His voice. I've been thrown into the pond. Let's wiggle.

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