Friday, November 16, 2007

Redefining who I am

Grand Sweep Daily Reading: I Corinthians 4, 5, 6, 7

I Corinthians 4:1-5 (NIV)

1 So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. 2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore, judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

Good morning!

Do you ever wonder or worry what other people might think or say about you? Sometimes, I find myself wondering how I am perceived by others. What do people think when they take a long, hard look at my life? Am I known by the community where I live? Do family and friends view me as someone who is sincerely genuine and honest? Do I share a message worth listening to? Am I consistent in my walk and talk? Do my neighbors even know who I am? Does Jesus Christ, the Lord I’ve given my life to, reveal Himself through the words I speak, in the work I do, and in every aspect of my life? Every human heart longs to be accepted and loved. Every voice yearns to be heard. We just want to know that somebody out there truly cares. We often form inaccurate perceptions and opinions of the people in our lives. It is healthy to care about what other people think, to a point. But isn’t it more important to ask the Lord what He sees and thinks as He looks inside my heart?

The United Methodist Church, of which I am a member, has been trying to redefine itself, especially during the last forty years of its mission and ministry in the world. I’m forty-eight years young, so this journey has been ongoing and developing through most of my earthly life. I’ve watched our denomination lose three million members over the last forty year stretch. Every heart is a precious creation of the living God. Millions of people made a conscious decision to join and then leave our denomination. When they left, some placed their memberships with other Christian congregations. Others chose to leave their faith in Christ behind and walk away. Many wonderful people fell off our church’s radar screen and then off our membership rolls through difficult charge conference action. Was it because they no longer took an active interest in our churches, or did we just not care enough to seek them out and listen to what they had to say? The condition of every human soul is of utmost importance to the Lord our God. Because Christ loves us, we are commanded to love and care for each other. So I’m wondering this morning, where did all these people go and why did they leave? In the midst of our denomination’s forty-year journey toward self-definition, we’ve managed to somehow lose sight of the only One who truly defines whose we are.

I’ve been looking forward to reading the report of our United Methodist Connectional Table. The report entitled, An Invitation to an Upright Charitable and Discreet Conversation: State of the Church 2007, is now available online. You can find the report by copying and pasting this link into your web browser:

If you are a United Methodist, or if you are asking questions about the United Methodist Church, it is worth your time to read the data provided in this report. I believe every heart should be asking the harder questions about who it is we are serving. The Apostle Paul told the church at Corinth that “Men should regard us as servants of Christ and those entrusted with the secret things of God.” What does Paul mean by secret things? The plan of salvation was not revealed until Christ came in human flesh, carrying human sin to the cross as the ultimate, perfect sacrifice. He defeated death in resurrection and now offers eternal life to all who believe! It is through the blood of Christ alone, that we attain salvation. For those who have placed their faith in Jesus, we are called to serve Him by daily by dying to things of self and seeking new ways to serve and love each other in and through the power and presence of His Holy Spirit. The secret of salvation was out, but many Christians in the early church were confused. They were missing out on the main thing, and spent their lives bickering over whose footsteps they should follow. Should they emulate the thoughts and life example of Paul or Peter, Timothy or Barnabas? The same questions of theology continue to divert our attention from the main thing. The debates continue on, even in our denomination today.

The Apostle Paul said that he really didn’t care if other people chose to stand in judgment over his life’s work. Even Paul’s own self-evaluation was unimportant in the bigger plan. The only opinion that truly mattered to Him is the opinion of His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

So today, I’m asking a harder question. What does Jesus Christ think of me? Am I living a life that He would be pleased with? Am I seeking to serve Him first and foremost in all that I do? What does Jesus Christ think of the people of the United Methodist Church? Are we answering His Great Commission to make disciples in the world? Who are we choosing to follow? Like Paul, I can truly say that my conscience has been cleared through grace, but it does not make me innocent. We are all responsible for the millions who have lost along the way. I can do better at this. My church can do better. I know that the Lord judges the motivations of my heart. He alone stands in judgment of my church. I think it’s time to change my focus. There are lots of issues that separate and divide us, but there is only One who can truly unite our hearts in love. When we redefine who it is we are serving, the direction of our very lives will change. The direction of my denomination will change. It is my daily prayer. Come Lord Jesus and be our guest! Breathe on us, breath of God!

Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding

Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO

Pray for: a change of direction. Forty years is long enough to wander around in a spiritual wilderness. It’s time to cross over into the Promised Land. If we will focus our open hearts, open minds and open doors on the Lord Jesus Christ, everything will change. Can you feel it? There’s a shift occurring right now.


© Copyright 2007, Deb Spaulding

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