I made it through yesterday's recital, hooray! My son did fabulously well, as did all the other kids. I messed up on a couple words, but think I covered myself well. I am so glad that all I had to do was sing, and not play cello. I am sure I would have blown it -- just due to nerves!
On another note (no pun intended)~
Yesterday, at church, our Pastor gave another wonderful sermon. We are continuing to discuss the idea of "community" within the church, and considering what God has to say about our relationships with others. Since God desires us to serve Him and serve others, it is good to figure out how to do both. Many churches focus on one or the other (I been to both types of churches, those that only teach discipleship and those that seem to only focus on outreach.) The key, according to our Pastor (and I think the Word supports this view), is balance. We need to learn how to live in relationship with our Lord, as well as how to live out that relationship with others in the church. That last part, the others in the church, is really the most difficult. You can be the most sincere believer and still have issues (personality) with other members of your church or parish. I mean, who hasn't had to put up with Joe So-and-So who complains about everything, from the music, to Holy Communion, to Offering, to the Pastors message! Yep, usually you find these folks right down on the front row pew!!
For our part, it is really easy to see how we struggle in relationships with other people. Frankly, if we are honest with ourselves, then we can all admit that we (unanimously) are screwed up. We all have fractured lives, torn hearts, and evil lurking deep down inside of us. We all still have the remnants of the "old man" living in us. We can sometimes live in victory over him, but often we resurrect him at times of trial, stress, or difficulty. It is the "old man" who likes to show off, be in first place, have his say, and generally get his way. This is the "old man" who was crucified with Christ--yet--he is the one who often rears himself back up from the grave whenever our feelings or pride or feather get a bit ruffled.
So how do we live in community, especially with a group of people who, well, aren't so nice to be around ALL THE TIME? Ah, that is the difficult part, is it not? But thanks to God, we are given such a measure of Grace that we can actually live in relationship with people, who simply put, are difficult and challenging. We are Gracious towards them (kind, compassionate, and merciful) and we are encouraged in the Word to be Forgiving of them (holding no grudges and letting the past hurt or wrong suffered go). Yes, we are encouraged to be Gracious and Forgiving to our brothers and sisters in Christ, always remembering just how much Christ shed His Grace and gave us His Forgiveness for our own sinfulness. If we truly see ourselves in the light of the Cross of Christ, it is not too difficult then to be kind towards others who are just as ugly and sinful.
The blessing we receive is this: Just as God forgave us, so also when we forgive others, we will receive a wonderful blessing of Peace into our lives. We can live contented, and we can be so much more the "new man" and see less and less of that "old man" each day.
I was curious about the word "contented" because often we use it as a substitute for the word "happy". We say, "I am contented," and by that we are saying "I am accepting of where I am." This is not really what the Greek's meant when they spoke of contentment. A quick look through Vine's NT Dictionary tells us that the root word, ARKEO, means:
primarily signifies "to be sufficient, to be possessed of sufficient strength, to be strong, to be enough for a thing;" hence, "to defend, ward off;" in the Middle Voice, "to be satisfied, contented with
I can see how the two are related, because according to Merriam-Webster, to be contented means:
1 : the quality or state of being contented (satisfied)
What I thought was really interesting though, was that to the Greek writers of the NT, the idea of being content was not so much about being satisfied, which is what we think of, but rather with being strong and sufficient to handle whatever may be needed. If you recall the words of Paul, he wrote (2 Cor. 12:9):
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
As Christian's, our sufficiency no longer rests in our own hands or abilities, but rather, in the finished work of Jesus Christ. He is our SUFFICIENCY. His strength is made perfect through our weaknesses. To be satisfied and content as a Christian is not really about being happy or even accepting of our "lot" or situation, but really it is understanding that everything we need, every thing we want is summed up in our Lord and Savior. He is our hope, our rock of refuge, and our supply.
If we understand this Biblical truth, we are far more able to handle any sticky situation or difficult person. Christ's sufficiency, His Grace, will enable us to deal with that person, make that decision, do that deed. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (quoting Paul).
As I think about this message, I am reminded of how often we fail at relationships. We simply do not do what is needed to maintain proper relationships. We allow our pride, our need for "happiness", and our wants to overshadow the bigger picture of what God wants us to do through those relationships. He may want us to witness to a struggling believer, He may want us to encourage a sister in Christ. He may want us to walk a long, hard, and at times, very slow road with someone who desperately needs a companion. He may want us to comfort someone who is ill, perhaps even dying, and needs a loving hand to hold, to help them through the dark times. He may want us to openly rejoice with those who succeed, who overcome some trial or triumph. He may just want us to be a good friend, a good sister, a good mother, and a good wife. Generally, He wants us to use our hands, our feet, and our hearts to be mini-representations of Himself. We are to be like Him, to be like Jesus, and to be in relationship the way Jesus was to His disciples, His followers, and to those He met in all walks of life.
It is trite, but true: What would Jesus do? Yes, you've heard it, seen it plastered on cars, and even maybe had a bracelet or necklace at one time with WWJD on it. It may be overdone, so cache; but, the message is loud and clear. As His followers, we are called to walk in such a way that we bring testimony to His Name. We must walk worthy of our calling as brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to live out what we say, to be honest and direct, and in all manner of things, be Gracious, Compassionate, Loving, Merciful, Patient, and Forgiving. We are to be like Jesus and do the very things He did. As Paul said over and over again: Imitate me.
Let our lives be lives that are worthy of His Name and Branding. We are not to be the Christian's the world disdains (for they will always hate us), but instead, we are to endeavor to be the Christians that Christ died to save. We are to live our lives as God desires, to do what He asks of us, and to walk along with Him as He leads us through the various paths until we enter into His Glory. Amen.