I've read somewhere that writers should always begin with an outline of some kind. An outline provides a plan and helps the reader - and the writer - follow the pathway of the story. I'm sure that advice is sound, and as I have been sitting here for the last 30 minutes feeling the urge to write, I have yet to come up with an outline. Ugh. What in the world? I need an OUTLINE. Still, no outline comes.
For the life of me I can't produce an outline today, but I can pour out what the Lord is doing in my life. Today the Lord spoke more than most days after an especially uplifting and spiritually challenging conversation with two very special ladies from my history that God continues to use in the present His-story of my life. We only talked for forty five minutes. Some of that was spent with the normal awe and awareness that we are getting older and that are children are the ages we once were. Then, there was the customary "how is everybody doing." Add in a slice of freshly baked, still hot pound cake, and man, oh man, the afternoon had taken a turn for the better.
The actual subject of the afternoon should be reserved for continued conversation in trustworthy circles. What has prompted me to write as I sit on this plane waiting to soar above the earth at 30,000 feet is the same question that remains pressing on my heart. How are we as God's people going to bring glory to God in 2017 America? What does He want from us? What does following Christ really look like today? Almost a year has gone by since evangelicals elected the man who was to change the face of America, and we are worse now than ever. We are nine months into a new year, and we are dealing with the same old things.
So many people have answers, and honestly most of them are lacking. A few well spoken and spiritually minded folk seem to have a grasp on what God expects, but those messages continually get lost in the myriad of answers coming our way from experts who are full of answers to the wrong questions. How do we grow our church? How do we make our families healthy? How do we .......? Whatever the question something in me reacts to the third word.
How do we?? Maybe it is a cop out, but something in me continues to grind with the thought that my whole life has been a struggle of escaping the "we." The truth is that we don't. God does. What if we asked, "How will God use us to glorify Him in our community?" "How will God heal our family?" "How will God use the present circumstances to reveal His majesty and splendor?" How will God? I know that He can, and that He has a plan. An outline if you will. He does not struggle with order or with mapping out the journey for us. The struggle lies within me as I try to hold onto the we while pretending to care about God.
Slow down, Bessie. Let's be fair. It's not pretending to care about God. I really care, and I know many who do. "Pretending" is too harsh. Really we are holding on to two worlds. Trusting God and trusting man. Romans 8 says it like this: "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit." Paul is talking about those who are focused on "how do WE fix this problem?" We like to lump the flesh into sex, drugs, and other evils of our day, but that picture poorly reflects the intent of Romans 8. Paul seems to force the issue that religious efforts will never accomplish any good in our lives. No matter how noble they may seem, even our best attempts at doing right fall short. Only the Spirit of God can accomplish His work - both in and through us.
What if I spend so much time wondering "how" that I fail to see I'm using the wrong alphabetical structure? (Since I can't come up with an outline, I might as well talk about alphabetical structure - if that even is a real thing ....) What I a mean is what if I am spending so much time thinking about H-O-W that I am forgetting to meditate on W-H-O. (Did you catch the shift in alphabetical structure? Did you? I digress).
Do folks outside of Christ really care about my how? Didn't Jesus teach us that folks outside of Christ really need to know WHO? Experts will tell us that how affects understanding of who. I disagree. Consider that maybe Who affects the understanding of How. What the Lord seems to be telling me is that my discontentment with the way we do things in the church is more about Him leading me even deeper into intimacy with Him and is less about the things I can easily point to as markers of dissatisfaction.
Romans 8 goes on to remind us that "the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself might be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the glory of the freedom of the children of God." I cannot help but consider that the creation is not wondering HOW. Instead the creation is focused on WHO. So much so that Paul said "we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now, and not only the creation but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, wait eagerly for the adoption of sons, the redemption of our bodies. For TO THIS HOPE WE ARE SAVED." What does the world - the dying, drowning, flood soaked world need to hear and to see in us? The world needs to know that we have hope that goes beyond levees, buildings, sermons, songs, and slogans. The world needs me to stop it. Stop trying to figure out the answer, and offer them the ANSWER. HE IS ALREADY FIGURED OUT. He demonstrated that He loves us on the cross. Long ago, the song clearly stated, "Jesus is the answer for the world today. Above Him there's no other. Jesus is the way."
If I will lift Him up, the world will be drawn to Him. He said it was so. It has to be true. Lift him up in my work, in my family, in my travels, in my preaching, in my teaching, in my play, and in every part of my life. Lift Him up and let His Spirit do His work. He is responsible for the HOW. I just have to point people to WHO. Lord, Jesus, help be be one who points others to You, the one who makes all things new. Amen.