I should have seen this coming.
Back in the fall of 2012, while studying and praying for our church, God revealed that I needed to preach through the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians. Of course, at first look, it became obvious that God would be speaking to us in some very pointed and strongly worded passages. As I studied through the book and began logging mental notes of what God was saying, He led me to the theme for the series:
"Keep Calm & Stay Focused"
It was a play on the old British war poster that has become somewhat of an internet meme over the past few years, not to mention all the knock-offs printed on T-shirts and coffee mugs and other such items.
So, we began.
Keep calm? About what?
Stay focused. Focused on what?
Over the past seven months, as we have systematically studied through this book, it has become clear that these seemingly innocent words would become more.
There have been numerous things occuring among individuals and families within our church over the past few months that would naturally lead to any personal response other than "calmness." Deaths, marriage issues, rebellious children, job situations, foreclosures, etc. have all been experienced among people of our fellowship. Add to that the stress of an ever changing world with all the unknowns regarding personal safety, prosperity, taxes, bills, insurance, etc. and "keeping calm" becomes even more difficult.
Then, and behind all the worry, is the realization of the intense spiritual attacks and warfare many of us (my family included) have experienced these past few months. These have seemingly come from nowhere, but we understand it's part of a spiritual attack.
Perhaps this is the most difficult part. Keeping calm may result in just slowing down, taking some deep breaths, using learned techniques to slow down one's breathing and heart rates.
Staying focused - now that's another thing entirely.
This is what I meant when I said "I should have seen this coming."
The focus God has laser-guided us toward is that of the Gospel and our role in living it out and sharing it with others.
After reading about David Landrith and watching his message to his church from last Sunday, God has affirmed that we (all of us) are only here for a short time. Even those saintly seniors who have many decades in their history, when compared to eternity, the stay on this terrestrial ball is short.
It's more than "preacher speak" used to get people to make spiritual decisions.
It is reality.
Therefore, we must remain focused. Otherwise, we drift into stories that are small, insignificant and . . . in the big picture, don't really matter.
What a travesty!
As our staff met this morning (Tuesday morning) we discussed the importance of being on task. There are so many things that can, and often do, distract us from that which we are called to do.
How many churches find themselves in neutral because they lose focus? How many never regain that focus? Consequently, we end up with many churches starting and gathering with great intentions, but slowly drifting toward maintenance, or club mode, living out their existence as "brand expanders" while the world God has called them (i.e. us) to reach continues to slide further toward an eternity of separation and death apart from God.
No, we are not guaranteed tomorrow.
Therefore, we must make the best of today.
Make the best use of the time you have left. We can know how much sand is in the bottom of the hourglass, but we just don't know how much is left in the top. No one is promised tomorrow. Don't waste today.
Some have been open with me about their struggle to be "Kingdom-minded" in all things. Yet, it's refreshing to hear that they know it's what God is calling them to be.
Here is what I sense happening at First Baptist Orange Park:
- God is refining us for a greater work.
- God is calling us to be strategic in our practice of making disciples.
- God is moving us out of maintenance mode.
- God is calling people out of comfortable "Christianity."
- God is leading.
- God is pruning.
- God is gifting.
- And more.
With that, the Enemy is working as well. This is a spiritual war.
- The Enemy is attacking.
- The Enemy is distracting.
- The Enemy is accusing.
- The Enemy is setting traps.
- The Enemy is leading people to focus on things that do not matter.
- The Enemy is lying.
We would be wise to know our enemy and understand his tactics, so that we would not so easily fall into his traps.
Since we know the Enemy (Satan) is at work in this way, we must be praying and worshipping and serving God more intently now than ever. There are lives at stake. There is eternity at stake.
It was exciting Sunday to see twelve people join our fellowship as members. The baptisms of Suzanne and Barbara were wonderful.
To top it off, to have three come to share publicly that God has called them into full-time service and another three seeking God in such a way to clarify the call is incredible.
Do you see this?
Do you see God expanding His Kingdom through His church?
Some cannot. They're too preoccupied in their small stories. That's unfortunate.
May we all step into the Story that matters and leave the small, petty, insignificant ones behind. We just don't have time for that. There's much to do.
Keep calm and stay focused.