As I begin the second week of 2017, page 8 was a Sunday that began early as fresh snow had fallen overnight and it needed cleared from the walks before church services. This was the light, fluffy lake effect snow so I turned the backpack leaf blower into a backpack snow blower to start the day. 🙂 The snow continued to fall through mid-morning so I ended up clearing all the walks at work twice before the start of the Sunday School hour and then again as people began arriving for the church worship service. While the primary purpose probably has a lot to do with safety and keeping the sidewalks from becoming slippery, the practical result of keeping the snow cleared as much as possible is that less of it is tracked in meaning less effort needed to clean floors.
During the worship gathering, David continued a sermon series from the book of Luke as he preached from the message of John the Baptist — “Repent!” Not only did the sermon continue the series that began with the Christmas sermons, it also was a good expansion of the “praying with repentance” point from the sermon I shared last week. As foretold by the prophets, the purpose of John’s preaching was to prepare the way for the coming of the Christ. A primary theme of John’s preaching is one we must heed, not only when we prepared for Christ to come into our life when we first surrendered to Him, but also each day we live as we prepare for His second coming.
Preparing the way for Christ in our life requires honesty. The Bible says that godly sorrow leads to repentance. In my mind at least, that would mean that sorrow, even godly sorrow, is not the same thing as actual repentance. Repentance requires that we are honest with God, and our self, about our sin. It is easy to be general in seeking forgiveness “for the wrong that we’ve done”. It is much more difficult to be honest in agreeing with God about the specific things that are sin in our life.
As we prepare the way for Christ in our life, we also must have humility. True humility requires that we voluntarily lower ourselves to a position of complete surrender to God. Many times we hear that requirement and we immediately think of humiliation rather than humility. God has no desire to humiliate us or to see us humiliated. Rather He desires that we follow the example of Jesus, “who humbled Himself and became obedient . . . “. It is this type of voluntary humility that leads us to the repentance that God desires for us to have.
The defining point of true repentance as we prepare the way for Christ in our life, is to actually change! The old saying that “talk is cheap” is true when it comes to the subject of repentance. Talking about changing isn’t the same as changing. Talking about what went wrong isn’t the same as changing. Talking about your good intentions isn’t the same as changing. Talking about good deeds of the past isn’t the same as changing. Changing is the same as changing! As you spend time with God honestly evaluating your entire life in complete humility, I believe there will always be changes that He desires from you as you turn to Him in repentance. For most of us, actually more like all of us, the question isn’t “do I have anything I need to repent of?” but rather “what changes do I need to make today as a part of genuine repentance?”
Following the worship gathering, I had lunch with my family and some time to relax before we decided to head to the beach for the evening to try to catch some sunset photos. Today’s photo was taken from the ice-covered pier at St. Joseph, Michigan. It was a beautiful finish to the day with a great reminder of the creativity of God and His willingness to share His beauty with us.
As I reflect on the day, here are some thoughts/lessons that stand out to me:
- Snow can be beautiful but unfortunately we tend to evaluate the beauty of things (and people) based not on their inherent beauty but on how they make us feel or how much work they require from us.
- Most of us tend to miss more beauty than what we see simply because we’ve not adjusted our eyes and mind to notice it.
- We often like the idea of repentance when it applies to everyone else . . . not so much when we need to.
- It is much easier to ask people to pray for a desired outcome than it is to admit we’ve brought problems upon ourselves that require us to change before we can experience a different outcome.
- A history of good work is not the same as doing good work.
- God can make great beauty out of some sunshine, water, and bitter cold temperatures — imagine what He can make out of you.