2017: Page 197

Page 197 was a day filled with work, worship, and wonder — so full, in fact, that I’m doing the writing of the page the next morning. 🙂  While worship was definitely a part of it, the day began with a focus on work as I went in early to clean and prep the building for the Sunday gatherings of the church.  As I cleaned bathrooms and took out trash, I thought about how even little things can become a huge distraction in my own life.  When I think about the cleaning and prep process in the building being more about removing distractions rather than simply cleaning, it is easier for me to worship God for allowing me the privilege of serving.  I know that if I go out and eat in a restaurant that is dirty and it appears no one cares how it looks inside; it doesn’t seem to matter how good the food might be, all I can think about is the mess and how unsanitary everything looks.  While I believe I am diligent about the cleaning and building prep; looking at it as helping others in their worship of God as we gather together, helps me to be more mindful of Who I am working for.

After the building was ready, I went home to get myself cleaned and ready for the morning worship gathering.  When I got home, the sun was lighting up the sunflowers, so I stopped and shot a few photos.  Today’s photo is one of them as in the process of this flower blossoming it appears to be playing peek-a-boo with me.  You remember that game, right?  We hide our eyes and pretend that if we can’t see, then we can’t be seen.  While most commonly played with infants, how often do we continue that mindset into our everyday life and into our relationship with God?  If I don’t see someone in authority, they can’t see me so I can run that red light.  If I can’t see God, then He can’t see me so I can do whatever I want.  Most of us would never say anything that sounds so blatantly . . . well, blatantly sinful.  But does our life show we do it even if we would never say it?

Once I was cleaned up and ready, it was back to the church building to continue worship with a time focused on worship.  The service started out painfully loud, which was another reminder of how things that seem small can easily distract us from an attitude and expression of worship.  When it was time for the sermon, David brought a message from Acts 10 that continued the series he is preaching from the book of Acts.  The focus of the message was about our need to be, and declare ourselves, dependent on God.  The context of the message was the interaction that took place between God, Cornelius, and Peter as God used it to clearly remind Peter, and us, that the good news of Jesus is for everyone.  The message of declaring our dependence focused on the following points:

  • We are dependent on God’s grace.  The Bible describes Cornelius as a God-fearing man who did good to his fellow-man, cared for the poor, and prayed to God.  Yet goodness wasn’t, and never will be, enough to establish a right and proper relationship with the living God.  While God noticed the prayers and righteous acts of Cornelius, He wanted more.  He wanted to give Cornelius a place in the kingdom as a child of God through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Our goodness doesn’t go unnoticed by God, but it will never be enough to make us right with God.  His grace longs to give us something more.  Something even greater than a life of goodness.  He wants to give us a life declared righteous through the blood of His Son.  This will only take place when we fully surrender to Him and declare our dependence on His grace.
  • We are dependent on God’s people.  While an angel appeared to Cornelius in a vision, the angel was simply what angels are — a messenger.  There was no angelic proclamation of the gospel message.  No three point sermon by the angel with a decision hymn and baptism following.  No declaration of God’s forgiveness of sin or His acceptance of Cornelius into His kingdom.  No, simply a message with instructions that would leave him dependent on people to explain what must be done.  People, I might add, that he had to know wouldn’t be all that excited about paying him a visit.  While we read of God’s work in preparing Peter to respond positively to a request to visit Cornelius, it was no secret to Cornelius that Jewish law did not allow for a righteous Jew to associate with him or even visit him.  Yet his pursuit of God led him into such a dependence on people that he sent for Peter to come anyhow, trusting that obedience to God would turn out in his favor.  God’s plan to bring lost people into relationship with Him depends on God’s people truly being His people and taking that message to others everywhere we go.  Our inclusion in the family of God was dependent not only on our obedience to the gospel message, it was dependent on someone sharing that gospel message with us.
  • We are dependent on God’s will.  While the conversion of Cornelius is a great story, the often unseen part is that the entire thing was dependent on God’s will that it take place.  I know, declaring a dependence on God’s will can be a scary thing.  And sometimes that declaration is even used as a cop-out to excuse our not doing what we ought — I mean, who really knows the will of God anyway?  Yet this story takes place and Cornelius is brought into the family of God as Peter is finally obedient to God’s will that the gospel message be taken into all the world and proclaimed to every people-group.    While scripture teaches that no person can fully know the mind of God, there are things that He makes abundantly clear in regard to what His will for us is.  And I believe the thing about His will that we are most dependent on is the wonderful news that it is His will that none should perish but that all should come to repentance.

After the worship gathering, I had lunch with my family and then spent some time resting before we headed out for an afternoon/evening roadtrip to Lake Michigan.  The forecast was calling for high waves on the lake so it sounded like some good photo opportunities.  We made several stops along the lake shore, where even with constant warnings being given on various news channels and all of the beaches flying red flags warning that conditions were not safe; many people, including small children, were out playing and swimming in the water.  It made me think about all the warnings we have in scripture about things that we should avoid because they are unsafe, and even sinful, but we often think we know best and do them anyway.  How much better would our lives be if we were to simply heed God’s warnings and enjoy what He does provide rather than be filled with desire for what is harmful.  

The last stop of our outing before heading home was to photograph the sunset over the lake.  While God’s creativity was something beautiful to behold, the capturing of it in photographs never seems to equal the grandeur of actually being there and seeing it.  Yet I photograph it, and will eventually share some of those photos, so that other can also enjoy a glimpse of the wonder that surrounds us.  I suspect that its somewhat like John’s attempt to describe in the book of Revelation his view of heaven.  His “photographs” of words could never fully describe what was being revealed, but words were all he had so he used them to give us a glimpse into a wonder that is beyond words.

As I reflect on the day, here are some thoughts/lessons that stand out to me:

  • Work, worship, and wonder can be unique parts of our daily life, but they each work best when we discover and value the connection between them.
  • Distractions come in many forms and often rob us from experiencing the goodness that we could have enjoyed.
  • When we try to look at things through the eyes of others, it is often easier to see how the things we do either add to or remove from the distractions they experience.
  • Pretending that we don’t see doesn’t keep us from being seen.
  • Without God’s grace, there is no access to salvation.
  • Without God’s people, there is no one to offer the message of hope.
  • Without God’s will, there is no hope to be found.
  • Too often we don’t take the warnings of God’s Word seriously and then complain when we don’t like the consequences of disobedience.
  • Sharing the wonder of God isn’t the same as experiencing it, but those who experience it ought to be eager to share it.

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