Just to set the stage for proper context, here’s a fairly lengthy transcription of part of the sermon’s opening and the Scripture referenced …
Hebrews 4:3 …
As one who’s never really set out to earn any massive income in life, it’s easy to occassionally look around the modest dwelling I call home and feel a bit of woe for myself. And maybe those fleeting moments of realizing that some pretty girl is out of my reach will do the trick. Or maybe it’s those too-frequent moments when I realize my body is telling me I’m not 25 anymore. Whatever the case, there’s ample opportunity to drag myself down … if I were so inclined.
I’ve always been one of those who believes that the trials and tribulations of life make us what we are today. But sometimes, it’s that “today” that makes us look back and wonder how we got to whatever point of shortcoming we find ourselves at. I mean, what if all those trials and tribulations did was make sure I got to the ripe young age of 38 a little bit too out-of-shape? … a little too single? … a little too whatever? So what was the whole point of going through the heartbreak of all those earlier relationships? … or all that time at the gym? … or whatever else it was I spent a lot of time doing?
Sometimes, the difficulty is in realizing that we’re not quite done yet. In other words, what if we’re still in a season of trial and tribulation. Maybe it’s in something small and minor … or maybe it’s all around you and inescapable. Truth be told … it’d be easy for me to put myself into the camp of the latter.
That’s why this sermon just soaked in like few others. I do realize that the areas that need to change are on God’s schedule, not mine. I take peace in the fact that I’ve got a roof over my head, food in the fridge, good friends, and good business contacts that realize my skills and put them to use. Joel quotes Romans as saying “Joy and peace are found in believing.” Believe that God is changing things in your favor, he goes on to add. I can attest to the fact that I’ve seen that. I won’t go into specifics at this point … but I’ve seen it. Firsthand. Real as rain.
And if only for reference purpose, I like this Scripture that Joel shares as one of his favorites:
Romans 8:28 …
Joel also makes a point about remaining at peace in the midst of a storm as a form of spiritual warfare. It’s something of a counterintuitive thought, really … warfare and peace? … synonymous? If I took a bit more time to dig through a few books, I’d recall where I read this great paragraph or two on how fear itself is an act of faithlessness. Might have been Brennan Manning’s “Ragamuffin Gospel” … might have been one of Eldredge’s books. But the jist of it is that fear represents the absence of faith that God is in control. I see the same principle at work in what Joel is talking about this weekend. I also pulled a bit excerpt out of Donald Miller’s “Through Painted Deserts” in the previous post. Miller spoke of how simplified he thought Christian living really ought to be. And he’s right. It’s our attempts at complicating that life that tend to generate much of the clumsy dance moves … or the questions and doubt about whether or not God is really in control over our lives. That’s why those passages struck me doubly hard as I read them almost immediately after the sermon.
So I’m not in the greatest, sveltest, most agile physical condition I wish I was. Certainly, it’s an area of improvement and I’m not content to just leave the situation be. But I’m also not letting it keep me from enjoying the life God provides for me here and now. There’s nothing I am missing. I have everything I was supposed to have to experience the magnitude of this story, to dance with God.
MUSICAL SIDENOTE: Coupla noteworthies … it was good to see Israel Houghton back at Lakewood. It was even better to see him lead several songs sans-guitar. As a sometimes-guitar player, I’m aware of the comfort level one gets from having your musical muse attached to you as you sing … but Israel’s a better performer with more stage presence without it. Besides, there’s two great guitarists in the orchestra as it is. Minor quibble, really. Seems like there was a song or two that really stood out more due to Israel’s treatment of it. Memory is a bit shaky on song titles now, so I may try and refresh my memory from the webcast of Sunday’s service.
Secondly, the all-male quintet that sang during the offering was absolutely earth-shattering. Zachary and the big guy from the Wednesday Ensemble group were the only recognized singers. Big guy hit some strong notes that left everyone with goosebumps all over. Again, I’ll have to refresh my memory from webcast for the song they performed.
COMPASS SIDENOTE: My first time in a few weeks to take in a Compass Class. Great tie-in to Lisa’s recent sermon on The Baptism of the Holy Spirit. I had the good fortune of catching up on Compass when Cordell was doing the class. Each of the Saturday teachers has their own skill. But this is one where I appreciated Cordell’s sometimes wonkish style in teaching the subject matter at hand.
For the record, though … and just so I don’t leave anyone out, the other teachers strengths tend to be as follows:
Tracy: has a great way with analogies and ties them in with her own life story incredibly well. She’s also got an immense ease in front of crowds, possibly from (or because) she works with the drama team and is just about as personable as anyone can possibly get. The girl never bores … simple as that.
Todd: great for adding an uplifting, motivating, and captivating sense to any presentation. Todd’s got one of those personalities that’s infectuous, and I mean that in a good way. It’s been said of some folks that, when you shake hands with them, your hand stays shook. With Todd, when he brings his smile, enthusiasm, and energy into a room … it, too, stays with you. I suspect if Todd were to ever give a eulogy, everyone would leave in the best mood of their entire lives … even the corpse.
Violet: It’s been a while, actually, since I’ve been in on one of Violet’s classes. She’s got a very disarming charm in her presentation that really invites you in and practically forces you to pay attention. Usually, when I’m in one of Violet’s classes, it’s these that go by the quickest. Part of it’s due to the fact that she tends to talk fast … which is great for keeping up with mentally, even if it isn’t great for taking notes. So it could just be a me-thing here … I tend to feel like Violet is going about the same speed verbally as my hampster wheel is spinning upstairs. Whatever the case, though … the 40 minute class design is somewhat limiting for those of us who get to these classes with a huge thirst. Violet has the potential to sometimes fit in a good deal and that may just be another way of looking at the same thing.
Cordell: Sometimes, Cordell whips out some language history. Sometimes there’s a sense that you’re watching an old rerun of Dr. Gene Scott (back when he was cool). But I like to just lump everything together and call it “wonkish.” It’s not that Cordell limits himself to pure booksmarts. But that’s definitely his strongest element. Again, a great complement for those of us looking for something more than your average Bible Study.
It’s a great team running the show on Saturdays. I wish I had the time to visit the Sunday class to see what they’ve got to add to the mix.