Honestly Now

It has been a long, long, long time since I last posted.  Looking at my entries, over a year.  There are some obvious reasons behind that, and some not so obvious reasons.  Also, let me throw in a disclaimer up front:  this post won’t have much in the way of structure or premeditated thought.  Basically, I’m going to rant about things that I’ve learned over that gap of time between posts.  Also, it’s going to be honest.  Not that any of our previous posts weren’t, it’s just sometimes us people have a nasty habit of trying to seem smarter or wiser or this or that or the otherwise.  It’s pride, and it’s stupid.  What do we have, including our reasoning capacity and wisdom, that God didn’t give us?   Anyways…
        To start, we’ll cover the basic “reasons” why it’s been a while between posts.  One reason is the fact that we don’t have internet at our house.  We could type it up at home and then save for later posting, but I guess we didn’t do that.  Courtney’s phone has internet access, but it’s usually pretty spotty signal and I find it utterly frustrating to type on a touchscreen.  Another reason is our son being born this past June.  June 24th – about 5 weeks early.  Even despite coming early, he was a healthy 6lbs 13oz, 21 inches long.  He has taken up a bit of our time, but honestly not a whole lot.  Yet another reason is just simply a lack of motivation.  I don’t know where this comes from, but it’s frustrating.  I just seem to be lacking self-discipline to force myself to do whatever needs to be done at home.  Our garage has several projects that should have been finished long ago…oh well, I’m learning to lean on God in this area. 
        Now, here’s the real reason I haven’t been posting- and this will start my rant.  I have thought a lot about what we consider ministry and serving God and all that – and how we get so off track with it.  What I mean is that most of us (I’m guessing most of us?  Seems like this at least) have a distorted view of ministry.  I know that I had a distorted view while posting on here.  I don’t know if my view of ministry is totally correct now, but I know God has corrected me on some attitudes I did have.  I’ll just explain how I used to view this blog, and why I stopped posting, and maybe you’ll learn from my mistakes?  When we started BLL, I guess I felt like I needed to create something big to be important.  I wanted BLL to be the next FamilyLife, or Focus on the Family, etc.  I wanted to impress people, to post witty statements, to have people comment on our posts saying how we totally helped change their life, and on and on.  I look back on it and see that it was all prideful, but somehow it’s so easy to deceive ourselves.  I thought that I was in pure motives.  I remember trying to make sure I didn’t get prideful and caught up in it all.  If any of you reading this have a blog or know much about blogs, you’re familiar with the view count.  For those who don’t, it just tells you how many people visited your blog, what they read, where they found your blog from, and other statistics.  I would get so focused on those numbers.  I thought my motive was because I wanted to make sure as many people as possible read it so they could learn and grow, but looking back it was all pride.  I wanted to see people visit BLL so BLL could grow bigger and bigger.  At one point I hid those stats so I wouldn’t focus on them, but I’d give in and check anyways.  I would put a whole load of tags on my posts so that it would show up in as many searches as possible.  I don’t remember what else I would do that tied in with this, but all the outward actions don’t matter.  They are irrelevant, the attitude is everything.  A person can accomplish great things and help out in many ways and do many things that appear pure, but if it’s done with the wrong motive it will all collapse.  It won’t get anywhere in the long run.  On the other hand, God can take a simple act done with humble and pure intentions and change the world with it.  Like I said earlier, the act doesn’t matter.  The attitude does.  What can we do that God can’t?  Has God ever thanked you for handling a situation that He couldn’t deal with?  I know God’s never said to me “Justin, thanks for putting that post up there – I thought I’d never be able to talk to (person’s name) about that subject, but you got through to them!”.  This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t use people and their actions for His good – we are supposed to act as His agents.  But we aren’t doing God a favor being on God’s team, you know.  I think that was my attitude.  I’m going to make this post even more random – I’m typing it as thoughts come to me, and I’m listening to music as I’m typing, and this song just convicted me.  I feel led to just type out a prayer right now in this post.  I was just going to say it between God and I, but I felt like that would have been the easy way out?  I feel like I need to type it out.  I don’t have a clue why, but here goes:  Father God, I’m sorry I twist things around.  I don’t know where you want me in life, and I don’t know what your vision for me is, but that’s ok.  I’m sorry for taking it into my own hands – that’s prideful, and that comes between You and I.  I know I say all the time that I want to give myself and my resources for your purposes, but I want my heart to reflect that.
Purify my heart – come Lord Jesus, come.  Sweep out the dark corners of my heart,  move forward your sanctification of my life.  I have accepted You in my life, but I want You to take over anything I’ve tried to wrestle back into my possession.  I’m sorry Father God, please forgive me.  Amen (“let it be so”).  That’s another thing I get frustrated with – “church talk”.  If you feel led to shout “Hallelujah” or “Amen” or “God bless you”, then by all means do it.  Again, it all hinges on attitude.  What I can’t stand is saying that stuff in a trite nature.  Those words don’t have power- it’s the action of speaking what is contained within the heart that has power.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but I remember hearing that Hallelujah is just an expression of praise, and Amen just means let it be so.  So why do we feel like we absolutely have to say “Amen” at the end of our prayers in order for God to hear us?  I don’t know if any of you think the same way, but sometimes in my less-competent (stupid) moments, I feel like that.  Like the words are a good-luck charm.  They’re not.  Same with the Bible – (I might step on some toes here, but test what’s written- is it right? Is it true?  Or is it not?) – people think that there’s power in the physical book.  You see movies where a character holds up a Bible thinking it will ward off evil.  It in itself won’t.  All the Bible is is just ink on a dried slurry of wood pulp wrapped in skin from a dead cow (or vinyl!).  BUT! The God represented in the Bible, the one who influenced people to write the words within, He contains the power.  The power isn’t even in the words themselves – a person can repeat verses like a parrot and not live them out.  The Bible only has power when a person reads (or hears) the words, understands the message conveyed by the words, and allows God to work in their heart.  Just carrying around a Bible in church doesn’t do anything.  In fact, a person can (I know from experience) even read the Bible and have it go in one ear and out the other.
There are lots of times where I would finish reading (like it’s something to be checked off the list) and 5 minutes later couldn’t remember any of what I just read.  That’s just a waste of time.  If you open up the Bible and expect to hear from God, and actually focus on what you’re reading, and do so out of a desire to know God, it WON’T be in vain. 
        Back to our twisted view of ministry.  I just wanted this blog to get big, and that’s prideful.  What if 10,000 people subscribed to this blog – does it mean any of them will grow spiritually apart from the Holy Spirit working in their life?  What if only 1 person subscribed?  Is this blog worthless then?  That’s a rather stupid way of looking at the whole thing, and that’s where my head was.  We judge ministries today by how many people they serve, or how big their budget is, or useless things like that.  It looks nice and pretty, but will there be an eternal impact?  We have taken the world’s way of thinking and draped it over the church (the body of believers united in Christ).  Let’s take this even further – for my rant, let’s imagine placing the world’s standards for success over our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Here’s what it would sound/look like: “Jesus Christ was executive pastor of The Church for approximately 3 years, starting at 30 years old.  His staff consisted of 12 volunteers, one of which ended up leaving the ministry on bitter terms.  Jesus Christ was considered a very charismatic leader; however, He had a tendency to offend those He was instructing.  He did not cooperate well with the established traditions and policies of the time, which lead to His demise.  It is believed that His ministry could have had more impact if He did not spend His short period of ministry in the sparsely populated, culturally insignificant region of Israel.  Most historians agree that it would have been wise for Jesus to relocate to Rome, where His influence could have spread more.  Also, Jesus suffered from a tarnished reputation due to associating with rather dubious characters, including but unfortunately not limited to two crooked IRS Agents, uneducated fishermen, several adulterous women, and convicted sinners.  Overall, Jesus Christ is considered insignificant and it is agreed that He failed at His mission.”   I hope that made you flinch a bit.  I know it felt totally wrong and horrible to type out – but that’s what it looks like from the world’s perspective.  Now why in the world do we bring that way of thinking into the church?  Why do we grow dissatisfied with only reaching a small congregation?  Why do we spend a significant amount of funds on advertising for a church service?  Do we think God needs to outsource his advertising to us?  Has the Holy Spirit went on vacation, and that’s why we need to draw people in ourselves?  If God wants to draw someone into our church, He is quite capable of doing so.  Ok, I went overboard a bit – advertising is not necessarily bad, same with wanting to reach more people.  It’s back to attitude.  If God tells you to advertise, you’d better advertise.  But honestly now – myself included – how many times have you ministry leaders really sought God’s opinion on that new advertising campaign?  Would that money be better spent elsewhere?  If our church is really effective, wouldn’t the changed hearts of our members be enough advertising in the world in which they work and live?  But we’ve got it all backwards.  I’m really confused on modern church services as well.  We come in once or twice a week, stand up while we sing songs (while we really think about lunch – am I right?), pray, put money in a plate that gets passed around, sit back down and listen to the guy up front, then leave after we talk to a few people.
All of that is good in the right attitude, but do we have the right attitude?  And why are we observers in most of the process, not actively participating?  It’s good to listen to the wisdom of others – there’s nothing wrong in listening to sermons.  Corporate worship is a great thing.  Offering is one way we can honor God.  But we blend it all in 1 – 2 hours, like it’s the magic formula to be Holy.  I know a lot of people are not just confined to that – they live it out all week long at their work and school and home and are a true light in a dark place.  But so many people think that as long as they show up Sunday, they’ll be fine.  Not so.  Taking all that information and wisdom in is good, but if you’re not doing anything with it, you’ll wither.  We all need to actively participate – we have to share what we know, what talents we have, etc.  And not just in the local church, either.  One thing that bugs me is when churches and ministries try to do everything.  Maybe they really are supposed to have this or that ministry in their church.  I don’t know.  I don’t think that’s the case for a lot of them though.  Let’s create an example – let’s say that every church in this area has a building ministry – as in they go out and fix peoples’ homes that can’t afford it or do it themselves.  Why does every church have this ministry, if there’s already a non-church (but still Christ-centered) ministry doing this exact thing?  Wouldn’t it be more effective and efficient for those churches to just pool their resources into that one ministry?  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe I’m missing some points – but maybe I’m right.  I’m going to take this point home now – I’ll talk about BLL.  If there are thousands of other ministries out there posting online, why are we around?  What makes us different, or better, or even necessary?  I don’t know.  Is there any reason?  I don’t know.  God does though.  So why should I try to cover over these questions – why should I try to stay “competitive” to other ministries?  Why do I have to try to create a little niche for BLL to fit into?  If God wants this blog around, He’ll keep it around.  It won’t be any of my doing.  It won’t even be any of Courtney’s posts doing it.  God will build up what He wants to build up.  I’m done trying to make this blog grow into something big.  It will be what God wants it to be.  And therein lies the reason for not posting in a long time.  I started realizing that I was making it ‘my’ ministry.  It’s not mine – my own body isn’t even mine.  I don’t own one single thing.  I just got sick of posting ‘my’ wisdom so that ‘my’ subscribers would grow ‘my’ blog into something ‘big’.  And so I stopped posting.  I couldn’t post one more thing with that attitude.  I didn’t know that was why until recently – it took a year of pretty much forgetting about this blog to see it.  But now, I have a desire to post.  I feel like it’s an actual desire planted by God, not pride.  Only time will tell – I guess if I still have wrong motives, I might try it again a year or two later.  I guess just keep praying for me, that I have the correct motives in everything I do.  It’s all God’s show – anyone in ministry should keep that in mind.  To God be all the glory.

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