Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Keep on Focus and Purpose

Most of us have probably heard of the lighthouse keeper, who was given his monthly delivery of oil to keep the light shining brightly. The lighthouse safely guided hundreds of ships around the jagged shoreline. The lighthouse keeper diligently worked to keep the glass clean, and repairing any damage. He never wanted to let the ships in need down.

The days of the month passed by, and one evening as a storm was reported to come their way, a man came to visit the keeper. The man requested a gallon of fuel to help him run the stove on his boat, it would be the only way he would be able to eat on his journey. The keeper was reluctant, but gave the request to the man. Several days later a woman came to the kind keeper in tears, and begged some fuel to heat her home. You see at home she had a very sick child and without heat in the home the child would likely die. Two more requests of life threatening need pulled at the light keepers heart, and he was driven to help with more fuel.

Late in the month a raging storm arose. The skies were dark and the waves crashed against the rocks below the light. In the darkest part of the storm the keeper ran out of fuel for the light. Soon a ship carrying two hundred people came near the shore. The Captain could not see the rocks near the shore. The light house keeper sat helpless and in tears as he watched the ship crash on the shore and most of the people perished in the rough waves.

The light keeper had one main job. Keep the light lit. However, many things pulled at the keeper. In the end he did not have the fuel to do the job, because he had forgotten the main purpose and focus of his work.

Many people in our world today do the same thing. We stretch ourselves between many things that may seem important and good at the time, yet we are spread thin and ineffective to carry out the purpose God may have given us to do. I see this in ministers and in church goers where ever I have been. Life is hard to balance, and someone will always want our time. Many of the things we could be doing may even be good things to do.

Recently I have preached on Gideon, who God told to reduce the number of men from over twenty thousand to three hundred. The first order God gave was to send anyone home who was afraid or worried about their families at home. God understands that we need focus, and knew men divided in their task would fall prey to failing in the mission. I also have started a series in Corinthians, in which Paul says, "For I resolved to no nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."

Family, friends, work, hobbies, sports, and more will pull at our lives. We may even have requests of other ministries across town, or across the world. We do need to help with missions needs, yet we must keep a strong balance. While helping with other good things may be a blessing for the moment, if it causes us to drop our focus, our help, our responsibility in the ministry God has called us to we still fail in meeting our purpose. It is the idea that we sacrifice the great by doing the good.

In my 16 years of working around churches I have watched ministers put their needed work aside for ministries that are good, and miss meeting the needs within their own mission field. I have watched church attenders go across town to be involved in studies, and yet question ministers at the church they call home as to why studies can't grow here. I have seen people focus so much on good works that they never find Jesus Christ as Lord, but fall prey to a "works" religion. I have watched people wanting to support family who have put church aside to be with their children in every way, and in the end they can not figure out why those kids are not growing in the church or in Christ.

We all are light house keepers of the Hope and Word of Jesus Christ. We all need to keep our focus on the mission for our lives. I am not advocating that we stop missions support, or stop seeking to do good. What I am saying is that we can do these special things from time to time, but that we must never forget the main purpose that God give each of us. You see what ever your gift is in your church, it is needed. I guarantee you are missed when you are not there. More important, an opportunity for reaching a lost soul may be missed, because you are stretched to thin or maybe missing in action.

- Keep on the Journey with Jesus today.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sometimes we must be the gate keeper

I know a lot has been said in leadership circles about knowing who the gate keepers in the church are. The idea is that we must learn to work through those in the church who can support and make an idea come to fulfillment in the church. However, as ministers we must step up to the fact that we are gatekeepers of the theology and Biblical teaching of the church that we pastor.

I recall a few years ago, sitting in a Bible study and challenging everyone to say if they had grown up in the Wesleyan Church. I already knew the answer. There were thirteen people in the room, and my wife was the only one who had grown up in a Wesleyan church. I grew up in a Baptist church, but have found a solid foundation in the Wesleyan church. The church I am privileged to pastor was formed as a Congregational church in 1859, and became Wesleyan in 1975. Many of the elderly still struggle to understand their identity as Wesleyan's.

I was impressed at our District conference yesterday to hear Dr. Jerry Pence state that defining who we are is a priority of the church. It is not that I believe no other denomination is heaven bound, but to be tossed around in a world filled with human thought will not help us stand firm. We must take a firm stand on the foundation of beliefs that we choose to uphold. For myself this is the leading of men like John and Charles Wesley.

We as leaders have a responsibility to keep our people from falling prey to the plethora of thoughts that they get from our world through the variety of media that exists. Our minds are on information overload, and for many they are getting lost and missing true hope of knowing Jesus Christ.

- Keep on Your Journey with Jesus