From the Pastor's Pen

January 2020

 

From the Pastor’s Pen . . . .

 

As I compose these words, a new year—and a new decade—is just around the corner. Meanwhile, the morning news reports on violent attacks on Christians and Jews in Texas and New York; Russia, China, and Iran (all members of a very unlikely and unholy axis of nations prophesied in Scripture) are conducting joint naval exercises in the Gulf of Oman; and the American Embassy in Iraq is under siege. The political, party-line division in the United States is the deepest that it has been in my lifetime. Government spending is out of control, and the national debt exceeds the nations Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Sounds like 2020 is going to be a great year, and the ‘twenties’ will be ‘roaring’—albeit in a different way—again.

 

Forgive the sarcasm, but sometimes it’s the best way to drive home a point. There is not much in the news to make us optimistic, and there is much that could trouble us.  As we look ahead and prepare to enter the next chapter in our collective history, we have more questions than answers, and the uncertainty quotient seems larger than usual. We like to set our goals, make our plans, and pursue our agendas, but doing so seems to be more difficult and tentative than in most years.

 

But maybe that’s a good thing. Because just as surely as God never meant for His people to have their “best life now,” neither did He intend that we would find our confidence about the future in the morning newscast. Our confidence is in God Himself and in God alone, and His Word is the only itinerary for the future upon which we can or should rely. In truth, any temper of mind or heart that tends to focus our confidence on ourselves or our own ability to “make things happen” is the enemy of our fellowship and usefulness to God. Planning, scheduling, goal-setting, and the codifying of agendas—on the surface all good and responsible things—may in fact be passive expressions of unbelief, rebellion, and lust for control in masquerade.

 

Of course, goals, plans, and agendas are not necessarily bad things. For secular organizations and institutions, they are essential. For churches, properly understood as organisms rather than organizations, they may be wonderfully helpful tools for motivating and focusing energy and effort when arrived at prayerfully and in concert with will of God. That said, I stand convinced that there is “a more excellent way.”

 

One will search the Scriptures in vain to find God instructing His people to make their plans, set their goals, and pursue their pet ambitions. On the other hand, we find numerous passages in which God cautions against presuming upon the future. Rather, we are instructed that all our ‘plans’ be maintained as conditional, depending upon the will of God (James 4:13–15). We are instructed to let His word be “a lamp to [our] feet” (Psalm 119:105). We are instructed to take up our cross daily and follow Christ (Luke 9:23). As one who instinctively plans (and usually enjoys it), it is not always easy for me to remember that “a man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). As one who tends to live in the future rather than in the present, it goes against my grain to focus on today (I say this to my shame). However, as I read the Scripture, I find that the “more excellent way” is to simply follow Jesus, in concert with His word, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, day-by-day, step-by-step along the way. That is the way God led the children of Israel in the wilderness, and that is the way He leads us today. One day at a time. Why? Because in this way we learn to trust Him. In this way we learn to follow Him. In this way, we learn His will and His ways.

 

If the Lord wills, we will spend some time studying how God’s word instructs us to find the way, day-by-day on Sunday mornings in January (and beyond?). One thing is sure. We will need 20/20 Vision to stay on the path He has for us in the 2020s—not to read our plans, but to discern His footprints and the landmarks along the way. I hope that you will join us on Sundays as we study to find in Christ our 20/20 Vision.

 

Pastor Mark