Sunday, November 15, 2009

Back to the Basics

On October 25 this year, I was involved in a freak motorcycle accident. It is still "under investigation." I was riding, and going 55mph, and began drifting off the road. Slowing down did not help, and eventually I was in the grass on the embankment. The next thing I knew, I was picking myself up from the pavement, with a badly injured left hand (broken finger), a cracked rib, and a concussion. I was thrown from the motorcycle about 15 feet before skidding to a stop. I had blacked out, so the only reason I say I was thrown is because I got up that far from the bike. Possibilities for losing control include wind and terrain (dips,etc). Wind caused a motorcyclist on our country roads to have an accident like mine earlier this year. By God's grace I was wearing my helmet and walked away from the wreck. Also, the bike was able to be driven from the scene with only minor damage.
Since this accident, I spent 2 weeks recovering from the concussion. Confusion, lack of judgement, and lack of short term memory were side effects that kept me from working. My church was very generous to allow me to heal, and support me with prayer and concern.
Coming away from this, God brought me back to the basics. I have shared this with our Board of Administers/Overseers.
In recent past, before this accident, I and others have gotten away from the basics. Matthew 28:19-20 tells us "Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Read also Mark 16:15, and Acts 1:8. We, followers of Jesus, are to keep making disciples. It doesn't say try, it says make them. We all know God is ultimately the mover of peoples' hearts, but we received this command.
Revelation 2:1-7 describes many modern churches today, when it describes the church of Ephesus. They were full of "deeds, hard work . . . perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles and are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary." Yes! Awesome church! Can you say that about your church? Can we say that about First Baptist Darlington? Wouldn't it be great to have this label? But read the next verse, verse 4, "yet, I have this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place."
WOW! I'm still figuring out how a polished, well-oiled machine that is busy for God can be so condemned and rebuked. I can't believe that God doesn't approve of them.
Why are they in danger of God removing His presence (symbolized by the lamp stand) from them? Because they have lost their first love. They are in danger of God removing His presence from them because they have already replaced His presence with something else. It is amazing that as individuals and as a whole church we can forget what we are here to do.
Individually, we are to glorify and enjoy God. If we do that, we will want to express our pleasure and closeness with God in the form of sharing God's love with others, and making disciples. It should come naturally.
God has spoken to me about getting back to the basics, through reading His Word and meditating on it. Through reading Jesus' words and His actions, we read how to keep our first love. Jesus was not only devoted to the Father's will and to prayer, but to reaching lost people. Mark 2:13-17, Jesus called a despised tax collector, telling him, "Follow Me." he went to the man's house. The religious leaders condemned him for eating with (thus culturally accepting) saying to the disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" What was Jesus' Response?
Verse 17, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
To regain sight of our first love means to a) understand we are currently focusing on the wrong things. Maybe not always, but at an unhealthy level; b) ask forgiveness for personally and corporately getting off track. If programs, perfection, the way we do things, and "things" are more important than people, then we have gotten off track. If things are more important than spending time with God alone, then we have gotten off track.
This means we will not worry about being busy, because "to obey is better than sacrifice." This means we won't worry about being in "inappropriate" places to reach people, because we're not afraid of being called a friend of "tax collectors and sinners." (It would be my honor to be called anything that Jesus was called). It means our leadership meetings will focus on accomplishing the Great Command and the Great Commission, and less on equipment, building, policy, and making sure we stay in the black. It means we ask "What is God's will?" and not "how much money can we afford to spend?"
I urge those in and outside of our church to take a long, careful look at yourself, and answer the question, "Have you lost your first love?" If so, repent, devote yourself more to time in prayer alone and with others, and devote yourself to a consistent discipline of reading the Bible daily. As a church, devote ourselves to praying together and reaching out to the lost, and to making disciples.

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