Tuesday, July 22

My "Life Abundant"

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose You and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my Name. This is My command: Love each other. John 15:15-17

I woke up in a all-too familiar state of mind; the peace of God far from my heart. If not far, then the drone of the world drowning it out to where it wasn't evident. I've been truly burdened with all of the things going on in my life; the kids, the church, the call, the 'image' that people have of me with the divorce situation and the financial situation that is so grim that the Grim Reaper has taken a holiday.
'Feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders', as the saying goes.

A few days ago, coming back from the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor, my friend thanked me for driving her out there and waiting for her MRI procedure to be done. It was late at night, which I guess is typical for the UofM hospital, when we were heading back from Ann Arbor.

I love going to the campus, though I was no where near the Big House this time around. Any Wolverine fan will swear by the mythical draw of the Big House, where the battle between the Wolverines and their opponents take on epic portions on Saturdays during football season.

But I digress.

I feel embarrassed when people do that, thank me for something that is really nothing (at least to me). I would give the shirt off my back if it would help someone else, I truly don't need the shirt that badly for me to deny it to someone's need.

A wise person once said, "I believe the first test of a truly great man is his humility. I do not mean by humility, doubt of his own power, or hesitation in speaking his opinion. But really great men have a ... feeling that the greatness is not in them but through them; that they could not do or be anything else than God made them."

I expressed it to her this way, "God requires it of me, to serve those I love and care for regardless of their status or position in my life. If someone I didn't know all that well called me and said they were broke down in Detroit and needed help, I would come. To serve is what I've been called to do."

The other night, a new friend of mine spoke of her fears of dating, because of radical changes in her physical appearance and the 'side-effects' of the surgeries. I spent some time online with her, she lives in an East-side state, talking about it with her. She expressed being hurt before and how she'd like to avoid that if at all possible. The gentleman who had asked her 'out' is a proclaiming Christian. She feared rejection, and worried that she'd never find that 'godly man' that God has provided for her. She asked me if I believed in "Mr. Right" or "Mrs. Right".

Four hours later, her outlook very much changed and a peace about the pending future as far as a date with this gentleman, I logged off from the internet and crawled to bed.

She said that I was born to minister and she could see that God had indeed called me to ministry. She was appreciative and thankful for the few words I said, the few points I made that contrasted the secular view with God's view on the subjects she sought understanding of.

Not to diminish the recognition of the act of providing my rather 'exceptional' driving skills (just kidding) and companionship to someone who asked for it or even my rather 'brilliant' counseling ability (again, they aren't so wonderful), I find myself wondering why people say nice things to me about anything I've done, for it was something, to me, that I could give. Nothing really newsworthy, just small (to me) things that ease their journey in this world.

I cannot be who I am without God, I cannot be who I want to be without Christ, and I cannot live without doing what the Spirit prompts me to do.

In my pursuit of God, I find myself trying to be more and more like His Son, who set the example for us all.

In the study that I am attending at my church, the verse where Jesus spoke of coming to bring life--- not just life, but abundant life (or life in abundance, depending on the translation) is referenced to support the theory that God's will is to heal us, or in other 'prosperity' gospels of the Osteens, Meyers, and Copelands of the movement to give us wealth.

I have oft thought of that; what is abundant life?

If it is what the Copelands and the Wrights of this world say it is, then there is something wrong either with the God I serve or myself. I have neither wealth nor health in abundance.

I have my obvious financial problems and struggles; neither do I have a totally healthy constitution.

Christ Himself had no place in which to rest His head and told the rich man to give away all of His wealth to follow Christ. Christ suffered stress, evidenced by Luke's account of sweating blood in the Garden prior to His arrest, and knew of temptation's touch, though He Himself never sinned.

Paul spoke of the trials and tribulations that he faced in his service to God and how he considered anything gained loss for the cause of the Gospel. He walked away from fame and position to serve humbly his Lord and Savior.

Somehow I don't think that Paul would consider his life anything but abundant. But it doesn't fit the 'prosperity' formula. Paul worked his trade as a tent maker to support himself and the ministry to which he provided the churches planted during his journeys.

William Wilberforce, the subject of the movie Amazing Grace. Somehow, in the heaviness of his sickness, I don't think he ever considered his life unfulfilled, unpurposed, or anything less than abundant.

I look at my life; ripe with financial woes, professional roadblocks, and man-made denials and find it lacking so much in terms of what the 'prosperity' gospel would have me name and claim. One would point to my life and say that I am failing to grasp the blessings upon which the Lord has an overwhelming desire to confer upon me.

When I look to that definition of an abundant life; I am failing miserably to meet such high and lofty goals.

What if, this abundant life that Christ came to give us is nothing more than living life in the struggles; peace, contentment, and joy within the rage of the storm tossed seas and ice-cold waves that crash over the bow of our vessel as we head dead on into the wind. What if our cry isn't of despair but "Damn the torpedoes! Full Steam Ahead!"? What if this abundant life we are conferred upon by the blessings of Christ and our Heavenly Father....what if it is living the purpose to which God set aside for us, individually, before we were even born?

What if this abundant life is feeling the presence of God each and every day of our life; His touch, His voice, His love, and His grace? Would the enticements of this world matter all that much in light of those blessings? Would even the ravaging of cancer bear strength against such things? To me, the hope that's given that I will never EVER be alone regardless of how many times I fail to win the fight against the sinful flesh or fail to hear my Savior's voice within my ears is more precious than the gold within the walls of Fort Knox or the accolades of my peers.

My abundant life lies within the abilities and opportunities that God blesses me with day in and day out; to be a servant to those who cross my path and be an example to those I hold near and dear to my heart. It is the peace that defies the storm, the mercy that confounds reason, and the blood of my Savior shed for the payment of my sins upon a cross of wood so many years ago.

It is the opportunity to honor that memory with the communion, to remember the sacrifice given for a sinner undeserving, so that I might have abundant life…..fully. It is why I bring the wafer to my mouth; to remember the body broken for me, and the little cup of grape juice to my lips to swallow; to remember the blood shed so I could be heir to a life abundant.

And when my life on this earth is finished, either before the coming of my King or after, I will know if I have lived my life abundantly in the eyes of my Lord and Savior if I hear those sweet and precious words come from His lips as I stand before the throne, my works and deed upon the foundation of Christ set fire to by righteous flame……

"Well done, good and faithful servant……….You have loved and loved well, my friend!"

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