Joan has wanted me to blog about my experience writing out the vision for our church. I guess I should give a bit more background than you’ve been told so far. If you’ve been paying attention, then some of this will be review.
Fanning the Flame is for church re-vitalization. We have a team of about ten people and we call ourselves the Servant Team. We are the people who get all the training and our “jobs” (as I understand it now) is to take what we learn and spread it to the congregation as a whole (Joan, if this is wrong, please correct me!).
As a team we were “assigned” to pray and meditate daily for two weeks. During this time we were to concentrate our prayers and our thoughts on our church; how do we see our church in the future, to ask the Lord for “vision” of what he would have us do. I personally found this difficult because, as a working person, I hardly have time for any Bible study or devotions. I had to carve out the time to do this. And then you wonder while thinking of the church: is this me or an idea that the Lord put in my head? We were to put the ideas on 3×5 cards. After two weeks we collected the cards and I handed in a few. The cards were then sorted roughly into groups such as Discipleship, Missions, Outreach, etc. and handed to me.
My job at this point was to go through and pull all the cards together into a narrative. Some of us only handed in a few cards but others had quite a bit. I had a stack about 3 inches high. I developed an outline first, making a heading with the group name and then going through all the cards in that group and making a bullet point for each idea. This outline was four pages long (yes, typed pages!!). Many of us had the same ideas in the same group, so that made it easier.
The biggest twist on this writing assignment was that I was to write this from the future looking back. So I dated my document in 2028 and proceded to write a history of the past 10 years. Now I have to tell you here that I was praying this whole time. I’d have my christian music playing in the background and I would try to stay in a state of worshipfulness. But I just completed the easy part. Creating the outline was just a matter of jotting down ideas. Now the harder part started. I had to go over this outline and just write.
I wrote in spurts over several days and I’m not sure how I got it all in there but when I was done almost all ideas (a few small ones didn’t make it) were in a new four page document. While I was writing I just would pray “Lord, give me the words” and I would just keep typing (it’s keyboarding now isn’t it? Oh well…). I really can’t take credit for the narrative. I just sat down, prayed and wrote. A part of me says that I should have been scared about doing this, but I never was. I just trusted that the Lord would give me the words. And He did.
Okay, I admit it. I hate to wait. When I have a task, I need to get it done; when I have an appointment, I’m there ten minutes early; when I order a book from the library, I check my account obsessively to see if it’s come in(and then, of course, I run right over to get it). And those are just the little things in life. The Bible tells us over and over that we need to wait for God. His timing is perfect, and usually when we are willing to wait, God blesses us in unexpected ways.
Here’s a small example. My husband and I were at the AFLC annual conference in Minnesota last week, along with about 500 other folks. My prayer partner (who belongs to another AFLC congregation) was not going, but she told me to look for her good friend, Patty. So I did. I peered surreptitiously at just about every name tag I saw. I asked people I did see if they had met anyone from Patty’s church. I considered going to the microphone and announcing “would Patty from Ruthfred please meet Joan at the back of the room” (I was actually too shy to do more than think about this option). By the last day of the conference, I had given up. I was just going to have to go back and tell my friend I had failed. On our way to lunch, my husband and I stopped to chat with someone and were late getting to the cafeteria–the room was filled. We wandered around and finally found what appeared to be the last two seats together at any table, and we took them. Guess who I ended up sitting next to? No other than Patty! This is what some of my Christian friends like to call a “Godcidence.” Patty and I were able to send my friend,GayLynn a selfie of the two of us lunching together!
My point? Try not to stress. God really is in control, and He’s working everything out for our good. If I can learn to trust Him in even the small stuff, like meeting up with a friend’s friend ….then I can surely trust Him with the big stuff.
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6
In a previous post, I blogged about how as friends, we are told to love “at all times” (Proverbs 17:17). I happened to notice recently that that there are some other things the Bible instructs us to do all the time.
“I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and be glad.” Psalm 34:1-2
Hmm…I guess if I am constantly blessing God, I’ll remember that all of my gifts come from Him (I won’t be arrogant) and others will be comforted by the way I handle my problems and troubles. Sounds pretty good.
“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8
It’s nice to know there is Someone who will always listen, Someone I can count on, if I just remember to trust and turn to Him whenever I need solace. This should keep me from worrying so much. Another good idea.
“Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times.” Psalm 106:3
The word “blessed” means extraordinarily happy. Doing what’s right, not only benefits those around me, I’ll be happier myself. I won’t get tangled up in deceit or be consumed with regret and guilt.
All of these verses from Psalms are summed up in the following New Testament passage:
Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
In other words, spend your time with God. Pray to Him, praise Him, lean on Him, listen to Him. He loves you and is waiting to be your friend, AT ALL TIMES.
“And the Lord commanded the man, saying: ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’….So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Genesis 2:16-3:6
Disobedience is almost as old as humankind. God created Adam and Eve and gave them only one restriction — do not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. One commandment and almost immediately they disobey it!
Why? The serpent sows doubt in Eve’s mind. Maybe God didn’t really mean what He said; maybe she misunderstood Him; maybe God has some ulterior motive that is for His benefit, not hers. Plus, the fruit really looked good, and she was hungry.
Nothing has really changed. I know at times I apply the same faulty reasoning that Eve did. It’s hard to discern God’s will; times have changed, and some of God’s rules seem outdated and unnecessary; that sin is really attractive, and I don’t see how it would hurt me; and the big one — can I really trust God?
I think it all boils down to trust. The Bible tells us:
“…for those who love God all things work together for good, …”Romans 8:29
If we trust in this promise, we’ll try to obey God’s rules. They are given to us for our benefit. The things that seem unclear, that seem unreasonable, that deprive us of what looks good or feels pleasurable will only hurt us in the long run. Of course, like our first parents, we’ll still disobey. We’ll fall short. We’ll miss the mark. God provided for that, too.
“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness (Christ’s) leads to justification and life for all men.” Romans 5:18
Disobedience started in the garden; it’s results ended in Christ. Trust God who works all things for our good.