Observing the Passing Scene

06.06.11 | Cecil Van Houten | Comments[6]

A few random thoughts...

Made it past that whole Harold Camping ‘end of the world’ thing – I picked a good week to go amillenial.

If you’re into politics (as I am) you’ve noticed that things are getting more interesting, especially in places like Iowa where the caucuses will be held in just eight short months.  The Republican field is up to nine ‘official’ candidates now, including a bathroom remodeler from Houston named Vern Wuensche (win-she).  I can see the bumper stickers now…“Flush Obama, Vote Wuensche!”  My friends in Des Moines tell me it’s already too late to book a hotel there, not that anyone who isn’t in the media would want to book a hotel in Des Moines.  In January.  When the average temperature is 22 degrees.  And there’s snow.  Lots of snow. 

I buy cheap shampoo.  Always have.  I go by the color and the smell.  Just bought a bottle of VO5 ‘volumizing’ shampoo; I don’t know if my hair’s any cleaner but it’s definitely louder.

One of our granddaughters had her spring music concert the other night.  4th grade band.  I was never in band in school but I was studying piano at that age.  I remember spring recitals and the anxiety they produced.  Some of these kids looked a little anxious too but every blow produced a note.  It wasn’t always the right note, but at that age it’s enough to be producing noise even if you’re not quite making music.

I had the privilege of participating in two significant events recently; the wedding of a good friend’s daughter and the 80th birthday celebration of a man who I deeply respect.  It’s important to recognize milestones in life, the defining events that mark accomplishment and inspire hope.  Plus there was cake.

Balance in ministry is important but even more important is recognizing the need for balance.  Too often a ministry is personality-driven or focused so strongly in one area that it fails to fully develop in all the areas that matter.  The result is a kind of organizational atrophy that festers underneath the surface.  While things may appear healthy and balanced to onlookers, the reality is far from the appearance.  That’s why so many ministries need a pastor, not an evangelist.  Both have their place.  But if all the emphasis is placed on evangelism and little on pastoral care you end up with a church full of spiritual infants.  You may be making converts but you’re not making Christians. 

We receive prayer requests every day via phone calls, the internet, email and regular mail.  Mary, our prayer coordinator, collects and distributes them to the staff for prayer.  Some days it’s very hard to read through them because of the seriousness of the situations; multiple layers of problems and life-threatening or life-altering circumstances.  The enormity of need brings tears to your eyes. 

One that came in this week really spoke to me.  “I am concerned about so many of my loved ones.  I get discouraged and wonder if God is really there for me.  Please pray for them and for me - that I would trust His word and not in my feelings.” (Anonymous)

In this instance, the concern is for loved ones.  But it could be health issues, broken relationships, the loss of a job or financial pressure.  We hear about babies born with congenital medical issues, people wrestling with addiction, families struggling with aging parents who are suffering the long goodbye of Alzheimer’s and teenagers tragically killed in car accidents.  Let alone suicide.

While the circumstances may differ, the common thread is often “I get discouraged and wonder if God is really there for me.”  God doesn’t deliver us from difficult times; he walks through them with us.  Discouragement is understandable and sometimes it can even turn into doubt.  But if we simply believe that God is for us; that he loves us with an everlasting love; and that nothing will come into our lives that he isn’t aware of, those feelings of discouragement and doubt will eventually turn into joy.  It may not happen overnight and the circumstances may not change immediately.  Bad things do happen to good people.

The key is what the person closed their request with; “pray for me that I would trust His word and not in my feelings.”  Trust is being vulnerable; taking a step of faith because you believe in the one you’re trusting; it means giving something now with the expectation that it will be repaid.  Sometimes it’s hard to trust God.  But when we do, we find the freedom to let ourselves rest in his care, knowing he will never leave us or forsake us. 

Chekhov (Anton, not Ensign) wrote, “You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.”  I think that’s true.  But even more, we must trust and believe in God or life becomes unlivable.     


Your Comments(please keep them on topic and polite)

on 06.09.11 Bill Kamberg commented

Oh how I enjoy your wit, humor and wisdom! Mind if copy a little snippet of this for FB?

on 06.09.11 Carrie commented

Your blogs always make me laugh but they make me think too. I tried to play trumpet in band but I gave it up in like a month. Never made it to a concert.

It must be hard to see all the prayer needs, overwhelming. I pray for you and Family Life that you will have the grace and wisdom to help people when they turn to you. You guys are awesome.

on 06.09.11 Robear commented

Great stuff, Cecil.

I needed loving direction from a trusted friend today. God used you to provide it.

on 06.10.11 Amy commented

You picked a good week to go amillenial-that is TOO funny! Thanks for making me laugh and making me think. I wish you were on the air more but thank you for your blog.

on 06.14.11 Kenneth commented

I appreciate your humor, very dry. But you made a really good spiritual point too. The whole issue of trust is huge in people's lives these days. I work in ministry and encounter the 'I can't trust God' attitude every day. It's hard to overcome. But God hasn't given us a spirit of fear, but of power love and a sound mind. We live in a scary world but our God is greater. Thanks for consistently showing that in your writing.

P.S. I buy cheap shampoo too - Suave!

on 06.16.11 Steven commented

Thank you for your thoughts on maintaining balance in ministry. One of the reasons for the weakening of the church and Christian organizations is that so many have become all about the personality or the person at the top. Some pretend to be humble but it is a false humility and their ego is what drives them. Eventually the church will fail because people aren't following the Lord, they're following a charismatic leader. I went through that in a large church in Ohio a few years ago and people's lives are still hurting because of the damage that was done by this one man. I think it must break God's heart to see all these things going on in His name, but I always remember Galatians 6:7,8 that God is not mocked. Praise the Lord.