17 September 2014

Jesus Seeks and Saves the Lost

The Lost Sheep - Soord
Luke 15

It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick...Matthew 9:12

Luke 15 is a beautiful chapter. Once again, Jesus is eating with the wrong people. Once again, Jesus is chastised by the right people. And, once again Jesus speaks the truth in love addressing the right people in close proximity to the wrong people.

But this time, he tells three stories articulating, to all who would listen, the relationship between heaven and earth, the attitudes of heaven and earth and why heaven is the earth's best hope and best ally.

He tells three stories about a lost sheep, a lost coin and lost children.  The first common thread of these stories? All three stories involve something that is lost.

One of my biggest nightmares, thankfully, when I was a kid involved being lost; not being able to find my parents at the mall, walking home and never getting there, etc... It caused anxiety. I was scared.

It's a bad thing to be lost in the military. It was embarrassing. Thankfully, it was only training as we were walking through the woods to our base. We were in a staggered formation and I was supposed to keep my eyes on the man a few meters in front of me to my left. But, being tired, carrying a rifle and dodging low branches and high ones, I soon discovered that I had no idea where my fellow soldier was and consequently, the rest of my unit.  Uh oh.

So, I did what any other self-respecting young soldier would do in that moment. I guessed and I kept going.  I had no idea where I was going, but I kept going anyway.If I had kept going, who knows where I would have ended up. I guarantee it wouldn't have been rejoining my unit and it wouldn't have been back at base camp.

Thankfully, a seasoned drill sergeant, who had seen many green recruits do the same thing, came up behind me, grabbed my shoulder and whispered, "Private, where the hell are you going?" I sheepishly responded, "I don't know."  He rolled his eyes as though he had been through this scenario before and said, "That's good if that's where you want to go because that is exactly where you are headed."  He graciously corrected my action and safely led me back to my unit and our base. 

To my shame, it's been a while since I last posted on this project. When I was posting regularly, there were quite a number of you who regularly read these posts. The vast majority of us have never met. This has been an encouragement as I know that a number of us in our marketplace culture just want to clear as much of the riff raff as we can and just get to know the one whom we Christians are named after, Jesus Christ.  

I think a number of our churches would be better off not trying to serve the consumerist wants of the world but concentrate on the true need of each and all of us, Jesus.

This will hopefully be the last time I go this personal on this blog, but I genuinely do so to illustrate a point. My Dad died over seven years ago. This was a great blow to me personally. Not only did I lose contact with my Dad. I lost contact with my pastor. He was the one dude I truly respected as a pastor. Dad was no nonsense, no agenda, speaking truth in love pastor. In short, I trusted Dad because I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, he had my best interests at heart. I could speak honestly with him and I knew he would speak honestly with me.  That is a very valuable commodity in this world.

At the time of Dad's death, I was a full-time, paid pastor. Now, I work for parachurch ministries in a completely different capacity. While I was close to Dad, I was not close with the rest of my family. The physical distance of living in Perth, Australia for the past 11 years has not helped the relational distance with my American family. Dad was the linchpin between me and my Mom and brother. And when the pin was pulled, well, not a whole lot of reasons to be close. I do love my Mom and brother, but we're not tight-knit.

And so I live in a subtly different Western culture as I am reminded every time I open my mouth and speak in a strange accent. I'm grafted in to my wife's family, but really I'm a side-car. I'm the one they have to deal with because I'm married to their daughter and sister. 

The pastor I have had for the past seven years, the one who should have been helping me with my transition without my old pastor. Oy. It's been a nightmare. I joined the church and jumped headlong into membership because I thought that if I demonstrated a true commitment to the church, I would gain the pastor's trust and I would have the kind of mentor I had with my Dad.

But, the more I served, the more I used my gifts and abilities, the less I was seen as a help but a threat. The whispers, the unwillingness to work together on even the basic items eventually came to a massive head. I promptly backed away from any leadership responsibilities from the church and made an effort to assure him and the church that I was not seeking to become the next pastor of the church. 

Seven months later, there have been no calls or visits from the old pastor. It told me that he got exactly what he wanted. I felt like a manipulated fool.

For the past seven years, I have been wandering around aimlessly after I lost my anchor.  I looked to many places to help me find my way forward. Family? nope.  Pastors? nope. Church? sadly no.

As I type this, I am at a crossroads in my spiritual journey. I'm not sure what to do. I feel trapped in the current church. And, when I do talk to my wife about this, she says correctly that there are no perfect churches and we shouldn't be one of those church shoppers that look for any reason to leave.

A few things are clear. Jesus is the Son of the Living God. I am to love Him with all my heart, soul, strength and mind.  I don't know the big picture. But, I do know the immediate picture. I am the spiritual head of my house. It is my responsibility to raise my children in the Lord and to present my wife as radiant when she meets the Lord face to face.

Maybe that is what I'm being taught. That what is considered the "small" things from a pastoral point of view is actually the big thing. That sometimes, it's not about big vision or mission statements. But it's about doing what you can, when you can, however you can. If I see a need, I am to meet the need. Sometimes, on the way to something "important", we skip over or ignore what really is important. Often, we just find ourselves walking even though we have no idea where we are going.

Another lesson is this. Home base is not found in family, good and bad pastors or even churches, it is found in Christ. He's the one who seeks to find us and bring us home.  He is Home.

Back to the posting tomorrow. It's time to get back to meditate on what is important.

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