Many of my favorites today. I hope some of them are yours too :
- sunshine !
- temperatures warm enough to have the house open and a breeze blowing through the rooms
- a tall sycamore tree in the front yard – so much sun shining on it that the green leaves look almost golden
- kids home from South Carolina (Annie and Betsy)
- homemade rolls for lunch
- someone else doing laundry and ironing !
- a birthday (Emma’s – # 26 ; can’t believe it)
- a baby (Hudson Thomas Harms) – he weighs a little over 3 pounds, 12 ounces now
- sermon preparation time (Daniel and the lions den)
- Cardinals winning.
As you know, I’m a worrier by nature. When things are going too well (even for a few hours), my thoughts automatically go to : “What bad thing is about to happen ? What bad thing am I overlooking ? What do I need to get prepared for ?” Someone once said you’re either in a storm, coming out of a storm, or getting ready to go into a storm ! While theoretically that may be true, it’s a fairly pessimistic way to look at life. I am learning, rather, to have greater confidence in God’s promise given in Romans 8:28 – “And we know that God works all things together for good, to those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.”
How do you know when the sun is shining at a church, like the October sunshine we’re enjoying today ? How do you know when things are going well ? My experience over the years has been that there are a few things that give evidence to good conditions at a church :
- You catch people saying in little ways that they’re excited about being a part of something going on at the church – a Bible study, a small group, a youth function, an outreach, personal discipleship.
- People want to invite other people they know to be a part of what’s going on in the church.
- There are small, patient steps being taken toward some new ministry initiatives or outreaches.
- There is a willingness to work with others as part of a team of ministers – not soloists or those who insist on their own way, but mutual submission and willing cooperation.
- There is an increase in prayer.
- You hear language that reflects growing spiritual discernment.
I was really encouraged by the depth of discussion and discernment in our adult class last Sunday morning, “Why Sin Stinks and Why Church Discipline Usually Fails.” I encourage – in fact, challenge – others of you to join us this Sunday morning at 9:00 for the second part of the class. The discussion was so rich last Sunday we barely scratched the surface, so it’s not too late to join in. We are talking about how the Bible expects us to approach each other when there is sin or broken relationships in the church. It’s a topic often referred to as “church discipline.” Many of us think that such accountability and/or “discipline” involves the church elders acting as “church police,” but – as we’re going to see this Sunday – the process starts well before any involvement on the part of the church elders. And the goal of the process is not “justice” or “discipline” or “church purity,” but reconciliation. It’s an exciting topic, and an important one !
During the worship service, we will read and reflect upon Daniel 6 which is, of course, the story of Daniel and the lions den. I continue to be amazed at Daniel’s life – he did not get many of his favorites on a day-to-day basis. He spent his entire adult life as a captive in a foreign country. In addition, he had to persevere against false friends, religious persecution, political trickery, the overthrow and assassination of a king, and now … lions ! How did he keep bouncing back ? We’ll find out more this Sunday at 10:15. “Heaven rules” is our theme (Daniel 4:26), and we want to be among those who come to really know and believe that heaven does rule.
There will be a short congregational meeting immediately following the worship service. Everyone is welcome to stay for the meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to elect a Nominating Committee whose task will be to prepare nominations for church officers for 2014. If you are currently a voting member of the church, you will be asked to vote for members of the Nominating Committee.
If you are interested in church membership, please don’t forget to bring that up to one of the elders, myself, or Pastor Jeff. We will set up a time for you to have a short meeting with the Elder Board as a final step in the membership process.
Finally, mark your calendars for our “201” class, “Discovering Spiritual Maturity” which begins Sunday, November 3, at 9:00 a.m. This is the second in our all-church series of classes for this school year. We are using these classes to unify us in our understanding of teamwork and purpose at Emmanuel. There will be activities for children ages 3-11 during the class time.
Each week seems to take on a kind of life and theme of its own. This week I’m remembering events of a year ago when, in the brilliant October sunshine and blue sky, we were making trips back and forth to Columbia, caring for Diana in the ICU at Boone Hospital. It was today – the 10th – that she surprised us by coming off of the ventilator she had been on for three days. We had all gone out to eat for lunch – kids, grandmothers, a cousin, Diana’s sister, a nephew – at a restaurant near the hospital. Diana texted me during the meal and said she wanted me to come up to the hospital room by myself before the others when we came back from lunch. When I walked in her room, I didn’t notice at first that she was without the ventilator tube – only that she had a big smile on her face. Everything seemed so normal. I’m glad the memories are still so vivid. That memory of something “normal” is helpful. I was in Columbia one day this week to meet a friend and former missionary colleague of mine. Thoughts of Diana were so real – it was as if I could have driven over to the hospital and gone up to see her.
I’ve jokingly made references to the movie “Groundhog Day” where Bill Murray re-lives the same day over and over and over. It’s funny, but when your “other half” is already in “eternity,” life here on Earth does seem a little like Groundhog Day. I’ve wondered if God Himself ever grows tired of it. I guess not – because He patiently allows the days, weeks, and years to roll on – “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Truly, heaven must rule, because He doesn’t seem to do things the way I think I would if I were in charge ! (I’m glad I’m not in charge.)
The friend I met in Columbia this week is one who knows me well … and we share a similar sense of humor. We laughed hard about funny memories of France and of trying to do a good job, along with our wives, of raising children. We discussed challenges we see in the American church. He also asks good questions. One question he asked me was, “How are you doing it – raising a family by yourself and shepherding a church ?” I don’t remember exactly how I answered him, but I remember thinking, “I don’t really know – it’s just happening.” And so, I guess, I have to say again : Heaven rules. God is doing something that I know I can’t do or figure out on my own.
Thanks for praying for the Ignite group (middle-school boys small-group) I started leading last week. What an amazing group of young men ! Again, one of the signs of sunshine in a church – when young men take an interest in spiritual things, and when you see the “light bulbs” go on during a Bible discussion. We had a lot of fun too, … and I found out how out of shape I am !
I hope to see you Sunday !