Sunday, August 28, 2011

Making the Most of our Moments

In a just a few days I will be attending my 40th high school reunion. I know you are surprised that I am old enough to attend a 40th reunion. I must have started to school early. Maybe not! Events like this sometimes cause us reflect on the pace of our lives and how quickly the years seem to pass. My guess is that most of the people in the room at the reunion (including me) will look old. It will be interesting to catch up with some former classmates and learn about where their life journeys have taken them.

The Apostle Paul wrote the Ephesian Christians (chapter 5:15-17) and urged them to “be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.” He encouraged them not to “be foolish” and to understand “the Lord’s will” for their lives. We spend so much of our lives worrying about the past or getting ready for the future. Sometimes we miss the moments—the present opportunities that are right in front of us. The challenge for us is to be careful how we live. We are most the most of our opportunities. We are to seize the day!

It does not really seem like it has been 40 years since I was finishing high school and making plans for college. I had not yet become aware of God’s call to ministry. I had not yet met my wife, Bettie Jo. I had not begun to think about having a family, and now I am a grandfather. Sometimes we forget that life is made up of individual days and hours and moments. Each of these moments comes with an opportunity. Some of the opportunities turn out to be more important than others. My first day at college I met Bettie Jo who would become my wife and my best friend.

Every day the journey of life brings us in contact with people. Sometimes they change our lives. Sometimes we change their lives. Every day God is working out his plan in our lives. He is leading us, shaping us, and giving us new opportunities. The older I become the more I realize how important these moments and opportunities are.

Over the past few years I have become involved in a number of faith-based organizations which are involved in speaking and acting on behalf of the most vulnerable in our communities. They are the poor and many others we often overlook in the normal activities of life. I volunteer my time and energy because I have come to realize I have a limited number of opportunities to make a difference in the lives of people. What a tragedy it would be for us to live our lives and miss the moments and opportunities God provides. In Matthew’s Gospel (chapter 25:40) Jesus in his parable of “the sheep and the goats” said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Look around. What opportunities is God giving you to make a difference in someone’s life? We are at our best when we make the most of every opportunity.

This article was written for an August issue of Word&Way.

Partners in the Global Baptist Family

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of representing Churchnet at the Annual Gathering of the Baptist World Alliance in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. More than 300 Baptists from around the world came together for this meeting of the global Baptist Family on July 4-9. I must admit the trip was a challenge—more than 30 hours traveling each way and a 13 hour time difference. I had just about adjusted to the Malaysian time zone when it was time to come home. But the travel challenges did not diminish the significance of the gathering. These annual gatherings and the Baptist World Congress which meets every five years are unlike any other Baptist gatherings I have ever attended.

The richness of the diversity of the worldwide Baptist family and opportunity to worship, pray, fellowship, work together, and learn from each other is a wonderful experience. I serve on the General Council of the Baptist World Alliance which conducts the business of the Baptist World Alliance during these annual gatherings. I also serve on one of the commissions in the Freedom and Justice Division, and I am a member of the Promotion and Development Committee.

The four Commissions of the Division on Freedom and Justice offer to gifted Baptist Christians opportunity to engage in research and dialogue around assigned areas of concern. Commission members are expected to develop recommendations and resources intended to assist BWA member bodies and churches to live out their calling in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Division comprises the following Commissions: the Commission on Religious Freedom, the Commission on Peace, the Commission on Social and Environmental Justice, and the Commission on Human Rights Advocacy.

I serve on the Commission on Social and Environmental Justice. The Commission on Social and Environmental Justice engages in research and discussion on situations marked by injustice. It suggests ways in which the BWA and its member bodies may bring the values of our faith to bear upon the situations identified. Poverty, creation care and racism are some of the issues of concern to this Commission.

This year our commission heard report on “The Face of the Burmese Refugee Church in Malaysia,” “The Effects of Environmental Injustice in Haiti & Southeast Asia,” and “The Church’s Intervention in Human Trafficking.” The reports were informative and challenging. I also had the privilege of being a part of the first meeting of a BWA Special Commission on Intra-Baptist Relations. This commission will be exploring how the BWA can more effectively engage the worldwide Baptist family in ways that improve our communication, understanding, and collaborative ministry around the world.

One of the highlights of the gathering every year is the opportunity to experience the culture and worship of the global Baptist family. Our Malaysian Baptist friends were wonderful hosts for our gathering, and the worship sessions we shared inspired me to live for Christ and deepened my commitment to being a partner with my brothers and sisters around the world. I am so grateful Churchnet is a part of this wonderful family.

This article was written for a July issue of Word&Way.