As I look out the window I can see a forest across the way and amidst the luxurious greens of summer I am beginning to see the yellow and orange and red of autumn peek through. This world is constantly changing and some changes - like as summer slips into fall and fall morphs to winter and winter gloriously welcomes spring leading back to summer - are normal and expected and don’t necessarily feel like changes once you adjust to them. I had to adjust to the seasons, because I grew up in southern California and seasons for me were nothing more than dates on the calendar. I thought the white Christmases Bing Crosby sang about were from the old days, back when the world had snow. Blissful ignorant youth. But now I accept the changing seasons as just a part of everyday life.
There are other changes which are more difficult to adjust to, like when the last child leaves the nest. Hopefully, as a parent, you have other things going on in your life so you don’t fall to pieces and spend the rest of your life trying to over-parent adult children. We do have to back off and trust God with them eventually. Much easier said than done, I know. We have to change as our circumstances and relationships change.
Society changes constantly as well and we consciously and unconsciously adapt to that. I have been thinking a lot about how society has changed the face of Christianity and the Church. Over the course of the past two thousand or so years, God has given men and women the ability see the changes which must happen within certain religious practices in order to keep His Church alive in a world which is rapidly changing and seemingly becoming self-reliant and moving away from traditions of the past. I don’t know of any other book besides the Bible which has endured for over 2,000 years. The presentation has changed, but the message has not changed.
Sometimes, though, I feel sad when I look at this world. I get afraid we are cheapening God by trying to make Him appear convenient and easy. I read an advertisement for an Easter service this past spring - it basically invited people to come join the congregation for a breakfast and then the church service which would be “only an hour long”. Get your breakfast and your God in Easter Sunday morning quick and easy. And if you don’t like what you get at one church, you can always switch to another, because most communities offer a smorgasbord of churches to choose from. Changing churches is quick and easy, like McDonalds, or Burger King, or Wendy’s.
I do believe once a person realizes and admits his/her spiritual needs, the process of Salvation is easy. God is so accessible and His arms are open and ready to welcome in the worst sinner I can think of (me). One night I lay on a floor sobbing and crying my eyes out, and suddenly I realized how deeply I needed God and I prayed and asked His forgiveness and for Him to come into my life. That took maybe a half hour and instantly I knew the slate was wiped clean and I was a different person. In retrospect, that process was quick and easy and joyful and fulfilling and life-changing. We don’t have many experiences like that on this earth.
BUT it doesn't end there. Yes, my life changed, and yes, I changed - I felt free and clean. But all of life as a Christian isn't that way. Getting to the point where you begin to experience peace that passes all understanding is grueling and torturous and painful. If you think about the phrase, “peace that passes all understanding”, how could it not be? It has to be something emanating from you that is so supernatural and other-worldly people who are looking at your situation from the outside cannot for the life of them understand how you find peace. Coming to know God won’t let you down despite the fact your world is crumbling means first your world has to crumble.
It scares me that in the quest to give people what they want - quick and easy and entertaining worship and praise and lessons - we as Christian leaders are failing to show them what they need. Because attaining the peace and fulfillment and joy God has to offer takes work. It means making a commitment to pray every single day about decisions, and the future and the present and everything. It means reading the Bible yourself on your own time to find out what God is like and what He wants to say to you. It means taking time out of your week to worship somewhere - not to benefit or please you or me or a pastor or anyone else - but to worship the Almighty God who holds the world in His hands. It means doing something about poverty and loneliness and hurting people NOT just to grow a church or impress other Christians, but because you no longer can comfortably look away from the needs around you.
It means embracing change within me because when I do that hard work I change. And I get more of God, more of life, more of true understanding of what it is really all about. And that brings peace and hope and joy and a life in which blessings overflow, which is really what people need and want, even if they don't always know it.