Nautical Telescope vs. Kaleidoscope
Looking into 2022, my natural inclination is to pick up a spiritual version of a nautical telescope and peer into the dreams I have for this new year. One of the lessons of the past two years is that life is incredibly fragile. Thus, endeavoring to peer too confidently into the new year may prove to be an exercise in futility.
Romantic notions of knowing the future often assail us as we would like to have a greater grasp of our present circumstances and how they might progress in a way that appeals to us. While this is desirable for many, it is not always God’s design. I’m reminded of Saul’s visit with a fortune teller/medium/witch in Endor in 1 Samuel 28.
The Message paraphrase reads:
Saul prayed to God, but God didn’t answer—neither by dream nor by sign nor by prophet.
So Saul ordered his officials, “Find me someone who can call up spirits so I may go and seek counsel from those spirits.”
His servants said, “There’s a witch at Endor.”
While Saul’s spiritual “Hail Mary” seems ill-advised, still we have people among us who provide such services because the reality is that people still seek them! I can think of two in Winston Salem, and there are likely more.
As you gaze into 2022, does your view of things through that nautical telescope seem cloudy and unsure? Do you feel like Saul when the Philistines were breathing down his neck, and you need answers yesterday? We all feel that urgency for answers in life, but God’s design is not always one of immediacy. Some questions may endure for years with little true resolution. That is when God reminds us to walk by faith.
Before you throw up your hands and accuse me of preaching, just relax and walk with me a bit further. What if God’s telescope was really a kaleidoscope? You might not see many wonderful visions off in the distance, but the reality of what is before you may still be very promising despite the Philistine standing right behind you! It doesn’t feel good, easy, or even exciting when life threatens to take you out, but God is able to remind us so many times, “I’ve got this!” That is essentially what faith is all about. God is greater than your Philistines. He can wipe them out with a kid who throws stones!
So, if you are finding yourself like Saul and your GPS is set to visit a witch or trust in the latest fad that promises peace, remember that God is bigger than all of that. May you see so many things in your kaleidoscope that communicate the thriving faith that God has called us to. May the colors of his creation, salvation and sanctification continue to fill you with hope that He is able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than we think or imagine, when we trust Him.
We are doing the very same at PMBA this year as we continue to walk by faith and not by sight. Many churches have faced significant challenges through this battle with Covid-19 (including the Delta and Omicron strains). We have been blessed to walk steadfastly with everyone as a network of autonomous churches seeking to grow and thrive as God has called us to do. That beautiful kaleidoscope remains as churches who are blessed with resources and vision are supporting others in need and advancing the gospel together for God’s greater glory.
I’m personally excited about the Missions and Church Planting portion of that kaleidoscope as well. There are so many good things that are emanating from the hearts of our churches as we collaborate and champion the cause of Christ above all others. Community impact and planting remain exciting areas of growth as PMBA churches seek to serve faithfully in so many regards. In addition to the planters who are engaging with the Triad Church Multiplication Initiative, we are praying that God will raise up a whole new breed of unconventional microchurch planters who will not seek to amass funding as the foundation of their church, but simply strive for changed lives who form churches similar to those seen in the book of Acts.
There are also many other ways that God is moving across PMBA to grow and extend the reach of the gospel through the lifeblood of networking churches. The unity that continues to form and set the example for others is yielding fruit that we may have never anticipated fully. Churches advocating for one another and praying for one another are working together and seeing fruit in wonderfully unexpected ways. It is this fruit that we have seen this year that gives us a foretaste of all that God may choose to do among us in the days to come. We remain prayerful that such blessing extends to your church as well.
As a network, we continue to “connect the dots” by seeking to have our fingers on the pulse of the many ways that the Holy Spirit is moving among us. If we can assist with such connections, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. It is our joy and pleasure to support and celebrate the many ways that God is already at work among us!
A Word from Walker
December is here, and with it comes the hustle and bustle of the holidays. This year feels a little different in that we seem to be slowly but surely emerging from the Pandemic. The people I talk with seem to be cautiously optimistic that this Christmas they will be able to return to some degree of normalcy when it comes to celebrating the Season by gathering with family and friends. Still, the specter of COVID lingers around like a barking dog attached to a chain of indeterminate length. We feel somewhat safer, but we wonder if we should keep our distance to some degree to ensure our safety and the safety of our loved ones.
December also brings a time of reflection when we consider all that has transpired over the last eleven months. Unless you are working in retail or the medical field, your place of work is probably in some kind of “wind-down mode.” Year-end reports, budget preparations for the coming year, children’s Christmas productions and obligatory parties typically fill the month of December. Many people take the remainder of their vacation time, trying to squeeze in some needed rest while juggling family obligations with seemingly limited success. On top of all of this, the advent of winter slows us down a bit. It reminds us that we not only need to add layers to keep warm but that we also should accept the fact that for a while, the days are shorter and as a result, our energy tanks feel less full.
Lately, I have been integrating these holiday rhythms and realities within the framework of thinking about life in terms of seasons or stages. Perhaps turning sixty this year has pressed this truth upon me more directly. For me, this feels like I am moving from Fall to Winter. What does this look like? Well, over the last few years I know that I have become begrudgingly aware that I have had to accept some physical limitations as part of my journey. My Dad prophesied this to me years ago when he was turning sixty-five and remarked, “Walk, growing old is not for sissies!” It didn’t make sense to me then but it does now. I have often tried to deny this truth but have been frequently humbled when I sought to do something that came with great ease a few years back but now requires more dedicated thought and effort. I think I have heard my wife Gina say more times than I care to remember over the past year, “I told you so” when I have tried to engage in some physical challenge with unrealistic expectations and metaphorically fell on my face.
Embracing this paradigm of seeing life through a seasonal typology also means that I should learn to be more thoughtful and even strategic with regards to where, what and with whom I spend my time. Because I have limited energy and less time in front of me than behind me, I can’t afford to be wasteful in any way. This means I can’t afford to be reckless with my time, talents and treasures. I need to have an enhanced and even accelerated view of personal stewardship. Practically speaking, it requires me to say no to many things so that I can say yes to the most important things. This is not just a hard thing to accept, but it can be a blessing when I quit trying to swim upstream and learn how to paddle the rushing waters of time and changing circumstances in my aging kayak.
Solomon understood this unavoidable reality of the changing seasons of life when he said, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” The wise king was onto something here. Life is not static. While it involves great labor, strain and even routine, God uses the winding stream of existence to show us that we need to rely on his wisdom because change is a constant for everyone. The rolling over of one season to another should remind us that we cannot permanently anchor ourselves in one place or in one job or even one particular way of addressing problems because God uses time to usher us forward from the shifting streams we navigate into his great sea of eternal purposes.
As you navigate this Christmas Season, may God give you the wisdom to know how to shift your attention and energies into the things that matter most. This is vital not only for those of us who are older, but for all of us who seek to be faithful and adaptable servants of Christ.