So what’s the antithesis of that worldly way of thinking? How do you combat that lifestyle? Be self-controlled. That’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Endure hardship, and there will be plenty in ministry. Self-control helps to endure. It goes along with patience and faithfulness which are also Holy Spirit fruit. Evangelize at every opportunity. I pray for those opportunities constantly. Sometimes I wonder if I’m missing them. It seems about everyone I run into here is a Christian. That’s a good chunk of the great commission. Carry out the ministry to which I am called. It’s the same root as deacon, having to do with voluntary service. I’ll serve somewhere, somehow, whether paid or not. Sometimes I wonder about endurance. My faith endures. I am staying faithful to ministry in general and don’t see that changing even if it somehow becomes all volunteer. I question myself sometimes after leaving GBC. Should I have just endured the hardship? But things tend to pop up to affirm how I left and why. I’d go back if called, if we could do the tough work together to get things right. I’m not giving up. I’m pursuing new ministry opportunities and wiser about what to choose and what to let pass me by. I pray the Lord makes it clear and grants more opportunities to share the gospel and gives me boldness to do so. That prayer yielded a bit of an opportunity at Thanksgiving and I pray that will go further.
Zephaniah 3:14-17 14 Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! 15 The Lord has taken away His judgments against you, He has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; You will fear disaster no more. 16 In that day it will be said to Jerusalem: “Do not be afraid, O Zion; Do not let your hands fall limp. 17 “The Lord your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. There’s a lot of joy and rejoicing in that passage. There are lots of reasons for it. God removed His judgment from His people in Jesus. He will take away their enemies, internal and external by Jesus’ power. He will take away any reason for fear. But how? That’s the key to joyful and fearless living. You see it at the end of verse 15 and the beginning of seventeen. It’s God’s presence that brings all of that about. I remember going King’s Island (amusement park in Cincinnati…the Brady Bunch went there, too, back in the 70s) with my older sister and my best friend, Robby, when I was probably eight years old or so. My sister, Ryan, was eleven at the time and it was probably my first time at King’s Island without my parents. It was fine back in the eighties, so don’t freak out. I’m sure I felt like I was big time being there without parents and we had a lot of fun. They had some new rides that yea, too. The Amazon Express roller coaster was kinda fun for me as a young kid even thought it’s a little weak. But they also had the Vortex. That one was a little too much for me back then. The thing had like six loops and the first hill was more like a cliff. They should have called it a free fall instead of a hill. No, thank you. Then there was slightly older King Cobra. It had just 1 loop, but it was a standing roller coaster and I was pretty sure a bunch of people had died on it (or flying off of it) recently. Then there was the vicious Beast, the highest, fastest, and longest wooden roller coaster in history at the time. It was a rough ride. Everything else was fine, but those were a little much for me…but not for my big sister or Robby. So they rode those while I sat on a bench waiting for them to finish and embarrassed, feeling like wimp…but not bad enough to actually ride. Fear made me miss out on lot of fun w/ best friend…and it was something my big sister could do and I wouldn’t…and she’s a girl…but hey, she’s 3 yrs older, so I figured it wasn’t so bad, or at least tried to make myself think so. And I apologize for the chauvinist feelings, but I was an eight year old boy. Anyway, I got home and told dad about it because despite all the fun I did have, fear tainted the whole day. So what did Dad do? We had season passes, so he just took me back and rode all of those big rides with me. We rode the Vortex, King Cobra, and the Beast and then headed home. Now that I am the same age he was back then I realize what kind of sacrifice that was for him. Those things are not as much fun as they used to be for me. He didn’t force me to ride. He didn’t make fun of me or shame me. He just offered to go w/ me and his presence made all the difference. I trusted him. He brought me comfort. And he’s not God! A man from church was telling me about his son with the Chattanooga Police Department. He’s known as the guy everyone wants to have their six. When he’s behind you you’re more confident. Fear fades away. You can rest a little bit easier. Of course with HCSO, everyone is that guy! Seriously, though, I’m guessing we all have those people who bring us a little extra comfort, people we trust implicitly to cover us. They help us rest and put our minds at ease just a little bit more. There are things we would do with them that we may never consider without them. Those are great people to be and great people to have around. But they are still not God. There is nothing like the presence of God. That is what the incarnation that we celebrate at Christmas is all about. God became man to be with us. His presence is with us always and always will be in Jesus. So we really have no reason to fear. The apostle Paul says perfect love casts out fear. That’s because there is implicit trust. And with God, that is perfect. So the more we trust Him, the more we can live with joy and without fear. It won’t happen perfectly in this life, but will grow. God is infinitely powerful and loving and wise. He removes all reason for fear simply by His presence. This is why at our church our mantra for the past several weeks has been ‘look at Jesus.’ Casting our gaze on Him puts everything else in perspective. How much fear and anxiety would be gone if we truly knew God was with us, if we believed it deep down? How much more bold would we be knowing God is with us and for us? How many more people would hear about Jesus if we realized He’s always standing with us? Where would we go? How would we speak differently? How much more joy would we experience? How would your life look different if you realized God’s constant presence in your life both now and eternally?
As of the time I’m writing I am not officially one of your chaplains, but I still care about all of you wonderful servants. A few months ago I was given the incredible honor of speaking at the Command Team meeting. Since then I became even more aware of the various ways the Sheriff’s Department serves around the community. You guard our prisons, watch the streets, care for students in schools, serve warrants, protect individuals, families, & businesses, & guard our courts. When you become aware of something it seems to pop up in front of you more often…like when you get a new car & suddenly start seeing ones like it everywhere. I became more aware of your service, especially those that people may not think of as often. That reminds me of how the Church operates. There are some who are more noticeable than others. When people think of churches they often think of pastors or priests, but there are so many more people the Lord uses to accomplish His work. It’s easy for some to go unnoticed (& many like it that way), but we run into trouble when they are unappreciated. The apostle Paul wrote about that issue in his letter to the church in Corinth. Take a minute to read through 1 Corinthians 12:4-30. As humans we tend to want to compare ourselves to others. We want to be the best or most important. That’s not how it should be in the Church. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. All believers are given gifts, roles, & tasks that work together for the common good. Not only are there various gifts, roles, & tasks, but different effects or outcomes. While this passage is written about church life in particular, it applies to the best way in all of life. It applies to law enforcement, too. Some may receive more press or awards. Some may be more visible. Some may be more directly involved in saving a life and getting criminals off the streets. But that does not make them any more important than others. You all play a vital role in protecting this county. You all work together for the common good. None are unimportant. I thank God for each of you.