I saw a shooting star tonight!
I've never seen a shooting star before, and I wouldn't have seen it this time except that I was walking up a rickety wooden pier in the lake and just happened to turn my head to the right, in time to see a brilliant downward flash of light that disappeared only a second after my mind understood what it was. I'm so grateful that I saw it, and all because I was taking the time to do nothing much except give my soul a rest.
I'm taking a few days off from ministry and family time to stay by the water in a little chalet, cosy-ing up with my Bible and my laptop—a great combination. I've been walking, sleeping, reading, writing, sleeping some more, and generally relaxing. I've found myself talking more to the Lord about stuff that's been at the back of my mind than I've done for ages. Praying isn't hard, but praying about things that sit under the surface of your thinking generally happens only when you take some time out. That's what I'm doing right now.
The problem with those of us in ministry is that we run endlessly on our "very important" treadmills, and we rarely take the time to get under the surface of our thought processes to find out what we are really thinking about what we are thinking… sound confused? Well, it's not really—if you just take the time.
Often, under the cluttered schedule of things to do and deal with, there lies another strata of thoughts that can remain un-dealt with even for years if we don't give ourselves the time to take them out and look at them.
I don't think it's too strong to say that the health of the Church depends on the state of the hearts of its people, and the hearts of the people too often follow the hearts of their leaders—as the leader goes, so go the followers. You only have to look at biblical examples of the kings and leaders in the Old Testament to see that God's people rise and fall in faith, integrity, power, and holiness by following their leaders. That's an awesome and fearful responsibility. Those of us whose role is to influence others need to be very aware of the power of what we say and do.
James 3:1 says, "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we will be judged more strictly."
This Scripture shouldn't turn us off being influencers for the establishing and building up of the Kingdom, but it certainly should encourage us to make sure that what we say and do is—to the best of our understanding—according to what God is saying.
I think we're all sick of seeing leading and influential Christians falling over into behavior that both robs the Church of its reputation for Christlikeness and also disempowers those who have trusted their leaders to follow Christ in a way that enables people to follow them. Whether the issues be sexual sin, power plays, or just plain bad attitudes in which anger, self pity, self righteousness and dishonesty are allowed to corrupt otherwise good ministries, we all need to examine ourselves rather than start pointing and accusing those around us. This is one of those occasions when it needs to be "all about me."
So, it's a great time for me to get down to business with God, and to make the decision to do it more often. Time alone with the One who has the capacity to strip us down to the bare bones of our heart's cry is the most powerful remedy for the kind of busyness that prevents us from being totally honest with God. It's too easy to believe your own publicity, to take the measurement of who you are from the opinions of the people around you (both good and bad). Whatever others think of you, it's only God's opinion that counts, and it's hard to discern what He thinks unless you take the time to stop and let him tell you.
Isaiah says it well in 30:15 when he tells Israel what God has said to them:
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘in returning and rest, you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength'.
Isaiah goes on to say, "But you were unwilling."
I don't want to be unwilling to take the rest God so strongly advises. How about you?