The thing I’m taking away from our Discovering Spiritual Maturity 201 course on Sunday mornings is that being a disciple of Jesus involves whatever it takes to give Him first place in my life !
Some questions come to mind :
- Is He really first place in my life ?
- If yes, what about my life demonstrates that to be true ?
- Is He first place in my time ; first place in my speech ; first place in my money ; first place in my relationships ; first place in decisions concerning my family, job, hobbies, … ?
- Does He deserve to have first place ? (That may be the bottom-line struggle for many of us – deep down we may believe ourselves to be deserving of first place.)
I am more and more amazed at the idea of God’s project for our lives being to make us more like Jesus. When I think about who Jesus was and what He experienced on the earth, I’m not always sure I want to be made more like Him ! He was poor ; He was misunderstood ; He was maligned ; He didn’t stand up for His “rights” ; He was ultimately killed for following the ways of God !
What did He have, then, that I want ? How about the following :
- inner spiritual nourishment
- great friendships
- influence on people for good
- connection with God
- real love
- victory over death
- an offer to the world of forgiveness of all wrongs.
I wonder what it takes to change me into the likeness of Him.
Certainly, what I’ve experienced recently with the illness and loss of Diana has been a part of God’s process of changing and growing me. It has been more humbling than I can adequately express. It has caused me to realize I don’t have control or answers, necessarily, for so many of the situations life brings our way. It has caused me to need to confess that I ever thought I did have all the answers ! God has the answers … He is flying the airplane, and I’m a passenger on the trip He’s taking us on !
The day Diana died – already (or just) nine months ago – was the closest encounter I’ve actually had with eternity. To watch her slip away peacefully, in God’s timing (not hers), into eternity with the Lord she loved so much is something I will never forget. It’s hard – once you’ve been that close to heaven’s gate – to come back and fall into the same sort of routine you used to live in. It makes me long for more “close encounters” with eternity. I’ve had a few of those this past week :
- Watching you gather for worship on Sunday morning, … many of you coming in from stressful, trouble-filled lives during the week, I get a glimpse of the hunger God has put in you for eternal things. When I see you bring family members and friends, I’m reminded that the things of God are the things that, deep down inside, are the desire of our hearts.
- Listening to and watching our Elder Board discuss God’s calling of church elders and realizing the significance and difficulty of leading a local church is an encounter with eternal things and an eternal God. Our elders are called to be shepherds, but they too are works-in-progress, just like you and I. The local church is like a family ; the elders are like big-hearted big brothers (actually, the Bible says to treat them like fathers). They often find themselves caught in the middle of problems, needing to provide answers to difficult or sensitive issues. I’m grateful for the leadership God has given Emmanuel over the years and for a growing understanding of the calling of an elder. Jesus said to His followers : “Do not be called Rabbi ; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers” (Matthew 23:8).
- Experiencing God sending special people into our lives to minister in unexpected ways is a little glimpse of eternity. Yesterday, two of Evan’s and Esther’s camp counselors (from hospice) came to the house to spend the afternoon with the kids (and me, just a little bit !) making crafts and talking about memories. The kids made a special memory box for Diana, and we all made candles with notes to Diana wrapped up inside the wax. These two gentle-hearted young women pointed us to heaven in thoughtful ways. In addition, a pastor from of one of my kids’ churches in South Carolina emailed to encourage me and mention he was praying for me. Beyond that, many of you, through special, sometimes unexpected, acts, have brought us closer to the immense love eternity offers all of us.
What will it take to give Jesus first place ?
In our 201 Course this coming Sunday we will discuss another answer to that question – the habit of having a daily “quiet time.” A daily quiet time is a daily time I set aside to be alone with God to get to know Him through the Bible and prayer.
Such a regular time is important because :
- We were created to have fellowship with God (Gen 1:27 ; 2:7 ; 3:8).
- Jesus died to make a relationship with God possible (1 Cor 1:9).
- Personal time alone with God was Jesus’ source of strength (Mark 1:35 ; Luke 22:39 ; Luke 5:16).
- Every person who has been effective in service for God has developed this habit (Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, Paul, etc).
- You cannot be a healthy Christian without it ! (Take time to read Matthew 4:4 ; Job 23:12 ; Psalm 119:9.)
It’s not too late to join us for the course this Sunday at 9:00. (Activities for children ages 3-11 at that time.) We would love to have you with us ! We are striving toward whatever it takes to give Jesus first place in our lives !
Dates to keep in mind …
We have some special opportunities coming up over the course of the next several weeks. Please pay close attention to the Sunday bulletin, and also mark your calendars !
- This Sunday, November 17 – Discovering Spiritual Maturity 201 at 9:00. Great worship and continuation of Daniel – “Heaven Rules” – at 10:15.
- Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes due this Sunday. Contact Mary Owens for help.
- Saturday, November 23 : a special Thanksgiving outreach to families in Hermann – contact Valerie or Adam Uthlaut for information or to help.
- Sunday, November 24 : our worship will include a “hymn sing.”
- Don’t forget to bring non-perishable food items throughout the month of November. Thank you for all who are contributing to our “Bountiful Harvest” offerings.
- On December 8, we will finish our study in Daniel and begin a focus on Advent & Christmas which will continue through the first part of January. We have special music by adults and children planned through the Christmas season.
- Essence is planning a unique and special Christmas Eve time for us together.
- I hope to lead a special day (or days) of prayer at the beginning of the new year.
- We will repeat the Discovering Christ & Our Church Family 101 course in January if there are those of you who missed it in September and/or are curious about church membership at Emmanuel.
- Ministry team leaders, mark your calendar for Sunday, January 12, our next Staff Meeting. This is an important planning and praying meeting for the winter/spring semester 2014. Please do the following in preparation :
- Mark your calendars. Don’t schedule anything else for yourself for that early afternoon time period. Your presence and participation are important and needed !
- Begin thinking now about your ministry team’s plans for the January-May semester. We want to take time at the meeting for interaction among ministry teams so that our spring church schedule is
- well coordinated,
- draws in the entire congregation,
- brings glory to God !
Finally, the Elder Board is pleased to announce that Lucas & Andrea Schneider, Mike Cantrell, and Matt & Katie Heaney have completed the membership process, and we look forward to receiving them “officially” as members on an upcoming Sunday morning.
Hope to see you this Sunday !