“Don’t let what’s wrong with you keep you from worshiping what’s right with God.”
Monthly Archives: September 2008
How do you typically “church-shop?” Are you mostly interested in finding a church that accommodates your needs and gives you a comfortable experience? Or are you looking for a church that equips you to serve and deploys your gifts? Igniter Media has a new video that compares two metaphors of the church–a cruise ship vs. a battleship. Pretty powerful and convicting.
After 13 days of demolition, drywall, painting, tiling, grouting, caulking, and reinstalling cabinets and toilet, my bathroom remodel project is now complete. When people ask me why I did it myself, I tell them it is good therapy. The walls don’t talk back! The nails don’t whine about how hard I hit them. The cabinet doesn’t complain that I painted the walls a different color.
I was giving my facetious answer to one of our church elders who is a school teacher and he agreed. He said that one reason he enjoyed landscaping around his home was because he could see the end result when the project was completed.
One of the unique challenges of ministry is that we work with people who are always in process. You preach and teach and give counsel and advice to people, but you sometimes wonder if it is sinking in or making any difference at all. Because growth is primarily internal and incremental, you may not see visible life-changing results until years later.
For me, the benefit of a home improvement project is that I can see the results. I can point to a tangible, visible, completed project. Granted, seeing a counselor may be cheaper, but I find that home improvement is good therapy for the days when I wonder if my sermons are making any difference in the lives of people.
I started to remodel the bathroom in the hallway thinking it would be a two-day project. I knew we had some water damage in the floor, presumably because the seal between the toilet and the floor had failed. Having done that repair project twice before, I figured it would take one day to tear out the old floor and one day to put a new one in.
As I started the project, I discovered to my surprise and dismay that the problem was not with the toilet. The problem was the shower. Apparently, water had gotten underneath the tile and into the drywall, and had gone down the side of the tub and into the floor. Not only did I need to replace the floor, I needed to tear out the three walls around the shower.
At this point, I had three options. I could put the house up for sale and run from the problem. (In the words of Gruffy the bear, “Run like the wind and never look back.”) My second option was to reglue the tiles, patch up the floor, put a fresh coat of paint on the walls, and deny the problem ever existed. The third option was to tear out the damaged drywall and subfloor, gut the room, and replace the walls and floor with new material.
While it was more expensive and time consuming, I chose door number 3. Instead of a two-day project, it is now a 10-day and counting one.
How often do we approach personal growth and character transformation with these same responses?
Sometimes we deny there is a problem. I have a “friend” who will no longer meet with me because, as he puts it, I keep bringing up areas where he needs to change. Rather than do the hard work of growth, he has stopped listening. At other times, we might get a haircut or buy a new outfit in order to distract people from seeing our flaws. There are very few who are willing to do whatever it takes to grow and change.
I am probably more aware of these issues because I am starting a new sermon series this week on the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. In Matthew 5:20, Jesus said that a true disciple must be more righteous than the Pharisees. The Pharisses had mastered the “look” and “style” of a religious person. But Jesus said it wasn’t enough. True discipleship is not a matter of outward actions or keeping the rules and regulations. True discipleship requires inner transformation, not exterior decorating. It requires reconstruction, not simply renovation.
True discipleship begins with declaring spiritual bankruptcy (Matthew 5:3). Just as my bathroom remodel could not start until I admitted I had a problem which required major surgery, so my personal and spiritual growth cannot begin until I declare that not only can I not earn my way into heaven, I need God’s help to live the Christian life day to day.
Last week Carol and I were in Boston helping our youngest daughter, Caitlin, get settled into the dorms at Gordon College. During one of the sessions for parents, Dr. Judson & Mrs. Jan Carlberg shared some words of encouragement. Jan Carlberg used the phrase, “Struggle is a holy word.”
As parents, our desire is to smooth out the path for our children. We want to shield them from pain. When a child calls home to say they are not getting along with their college roommate, we want to storm the administration to demand a change. When that same child says they are unhappy after the first week of school and wonder if they made the right decision to go away to college, we want to jump in the car or on a plane and bring them home forthwith.
Yet, when we do that, we often stunt our children’s growth because we don’t allow them to struggle.
Jan reminded us that God uses trials as a catalyst to help us grow. As James 1:2-4 says in The Message, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work, so that you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”
Struggle is part of God’s strategy to help us and our children grow to maturity. Struggle is a holy word.