Thousands of years ago they were asking the same questions we ask today. We come to Scripture asking the same questions and together we search for answers.
When I was a stay at home dad I often dreamed of the day I would get to do what I loved to do.
I wanted to be a pastor.
I went to school to be a pastor.
I was trained to be a pastor.
Yet here I was, changing diapers, cleaning dishes, picking kids up, making sure the house was taken care of, and that meals were served.
It sucked because I wanted to be doing something else.
It took a lot of lamentations but I finally realized something. My main job is to be faithful to what is right in front of me. When I was a stay at home dad I was doing exactly what I was called to do and when I finally embraced that, I was free to be the best dad I could be. When I fought it, I was slacking on and dreaming of something I was not called to be doing at that moment. This caused me to be unfaithful to my position.
Appreciate and embrace the role you are in today. When the time comes, God will be able to slide you in to the next assignment He has for you.
eI have no reason to worry because I have truth ever before me. All I need to do is get on my knees and pray. All I need to do is to open scripture and read it aloud.
Why do I cause myself so much trouble by pondering my own way?
How could I know what is coming?
How can I know what step is the right one to take?
All I need to do is meditate on God's law day and night and the path in which I need to take will be right there in front of me.
Jesus said this to his disciples,
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what will you wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? ...
So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today!"
I used to be in a top-ranked World of Warcraft (WoW) guild back in the golden days of what we video gamers like to call “Vanilla.” Those were simpler days, we played a ton, and created some epic memories. The leaders of that top world guild eventually went their own ways and it ended up disbanding. A friend and I started a couple of guilds and we achieved best alliance guild on both of the servers in which we started. I used to spend hours upon hours chatting with just about every player on the servers.
Whenever someone wanted to join our raid team they actually had to fill out an application on our guild website. It was such a thorough application process that would put some job applications to shame. After you submitted your application you had to have a voice interview. Then, if you were accepted into the guild, and we had thousands of applicants, you had a two week trial period where both parties had to see if it was a good fit.
There are some guilds that invite everyone. For those types it’s a numbers game. There could be 300 people online in that guild but they don’t raid, they don’t hang out with each other, they are just in it and that’s it. In our guild, if you were online, we required you to hang out in voice chat, you could be on mute but we wanted anyone who was playing to feel like they weren’t alone. 'Cause that’s what WoW was in the first place. Yes, it is a video game but the game is just the medium. The game provided the place that gave all of us this sense of a community, we were proud to be in the guild we were in and we, for the most part, all got along. Everyone knew we needed each other if we were going to be a successful end-game raiding team.
I look at the church now and see so many similarities between that old guild and where the institutional church now finds itself. It is almost like we’re one of those guilds that let anyone in. Those guilds had so many people “offline” kind of like our directories that are filled with names of those who once attended. Having built two top gaming guilds I know what it takes to create a vibrant team with a concise vision. Everyone has to be on board. If you were on the team, you were on the team. Ours wasn’t a guild we just let everyone into. We allowed everyone to apply but we had only had 25 spots to fill.
Unlike that guild, the church has unlimited spots to fill but are we just letting everyone in without explaining what the expectations of joining are? Check out this parable found in Matthew 22:
‘Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’
And I’m with you, we have been beaten up too much with that old school fire and brimstone preaching but there is some sense to it. When you played with someone on our team, the guild tag they had attached to their name told you something about them. You knew you were playing with certain type of player. With so many attaching ‘Christian’ to their name, you don’t necessarily know what kind of player you are getting. Is that Christian highly involved in a community of people are working towards a certain goal(s)? Is that Christian representing the people in their community? Does that Christian participate in church activities, programs, and services?
If the Northeast was the realm that WoW took place in, then I’m afraid I’d simply just see a bunch of churches spamming to find people to join their guilds. If WoW guild leading taught me anything, it's that you shouldn’t expect much from those kinds of teams. I’d rather be a part of a team that requires me to participate. I’d like to be a part of a team that challenges who I am, pushing me to be better. You’d find just about the best way to build a team in the Book of Acts, in the Letters of Paul.
I found it in a video game. I think I’m gonna apply it to real life or what we gamers call, “irl.”
If I don’t pray constantly I will get sucked into the ways of this world in the blink of an eye. So each day I try to plan a strategy that will remind myself that I have been called to live by the spirit.
By Prayer and the reading of Scripture do I feed my inner being so that it is my spirit who, in communion with God, can run this earthly flesh that it inhabits. If you are looking to fulfill that holy calling I share this with you to help. I am the first one to dive into the pool of sin, lust, and desire. I have a huge appetite for this world but so it is with my spirit and the world to come. And so I, like Paul, will try and beat my flesh so that the spirit may prevail.
Here the word of Jeremiah...
Jeremiah 4:23-27 (KJV)
I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly. I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the Lord, and by his fierce anger.
For thus hath the Lord said, The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end.
One need only look our planetary neighbors to see what would happen if God took his gaze from our planet. To be placed where we are, to be protected by atmospheres, to be held in place by magnetic forces, to be spinning and circling the way we do...how delicate everything truly is and how much we take it for granted.
God has placed life on this planet and has charged that life to us. May we become better stewards to ourselves, to our neighbors, to our environment, and even those we call enemies.
God found us in chaos and ordered all things. May we not undo what the Lord has set in place. Here is how would can bring immediate change:
If you want the rewards of the spirit you are going to have to give up the desires of the flesh...I know, it sounds tough because it is. It doesn't make sense but here is how I learned when it does.
I've been kneeling down while praying lately. I have been through that whole, "you can come before God anyway you want" phase. Kneeling is uncomfortable, it hurts, especially on hard floors. For me though, thats becoming the point. Prayer is acknowledging that this vehicle in which you inhabit, the flesh, is temporary. My flesh wants what it wants and rarely, if ever, it wants nothing to do with spiritual things. My flesh would rather listen to five hours of Christian history on Audible to justify that I can play video games for hours, be rude to others, drink too much wine, and overeat to my hearts content. Yet when it comes to prayer, even for just thirty seconds, my flesh will fight me for hours. The flesh knows what happens when you start to move into that place of dependence on and submission under God.
The flesh loses ground.
And that's what is in the best interest for all of us. Jesus came to earth to remind us that we must not store treasures up on earth, He came to remind us that the flesh will not have a place, not even a say, in the kingdom to come. I think Islam has a great practice in praying five times a day to drill this truth in and I think Jesus was right for us to not get hung up on what we are to say in prayer but it is rather how we, in the words of Paul, "punish our body and enslave it" so it does not disqualify us from the our reward.
What is the reward? Why would anyone choose to live in such a way?
When you live by the spirit you no longer need to overeat, you no longer need to over drink, you no longer need to lust, you no longer need to be frustrated...you no longer desire any other reward for you have received the greatest reward of all.
You have submitted to the great I am, the great Tree of Life to which all of us will be grafted into or pruned from. All are welcome to be grafted, all we need to do is just be still and let the Spirit bind us into itself.