It's been my practice to visit some homebound members of our church on those holidays our family stays in Enid. Last Thursday, my 22 year old daughter Charis (pictured here with our family on Thanksgiving Day) joined me in visiting several church members as we sought to bring them some personal encouragement. Without fail, every person whom we desired to uplift wound up encouraging us. From the family that lost a husband/father/son the week prior, to the 93 year old widow spending her first Thanksgiving alone since the death of her 98 year old husband, to the people in the nursing homes and hospitals who were ill and spending Thanksgiving alone, each of our visits brought tears of joy to my daughter's eyes. These folks were a blessing to us. They reminded me of the axiom my dad taught me years ago: "As people get older, they either get better or bitter." Each of them had definitely gotten better!
I've taken some time over the weekend to try to evaluate some areas in my own life where there has been change for the better these past few years. I never want to get "stuck." I know the growth enumerated in the areas below is not yet complete, and there are many other areas in my life that need work, but in my own mind (and my wife's mind), these areas of my life have changed for the better.
(1). There is within me a deeper appreciation and respect for the work and ministry of people that are evangelical but not necessarily Baptist.
(2). When I am considering a particular course of action, I no longer ask myself "How will this 'look' to others?" Now, I simply ask, "Will what I do honor Christ and, in the long run, will it help others?"
(3). Though I love doctrine as much, if not more, than I ever have loved it, I have absolutely zero interest in convincing people that I am "right" in my beliefs. I am always ready to give an answer for what I believe, but I'd rather people know that I love them and I have zero need to let them know I disagree with them.
(4). I have little patience left for Christians who exert "power," "authority," and "control" over other Christians. It seems to me that exerting power, authority and control over others is the exact opposite of the kind of character Christ calls each of us to exhibit. If it is asked, "But should not these Christians who dominate and control feel your love as well?" I answer: "They do. The most loving thing I can do for those who lord over others under the guise of "spiritual authority" is to continue to point out the kings are actually wearing no clothes."
(5). There has come a genuine freedom in ministry at Emmanuel. Eighteen years of being with, and among, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ allows for the development of the kind of trust that is necessary to gently encourage and lead them to stake no claim in institutional advancement or fame (the church), but to only do those things in ministry that will encourage individuals in their personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Well, those are some areas where I think I've changed in the last few years. There may be more, but those quickly come to my and my wife's mind this past weekend.
In His Grace,