I was in Walmart a few days ago waiting in line. Which is what you do at Walmart. You wait. In line. A lot. It’s a rare thing to find a completely open lane. So there I was waiting. Again. The lady in front of me had quite a few items. Her cart wasn’t completely full but it was close. There were only two other lanes open and they were full as well so I stayed put. And the cashier took her sweet time scanning each item. Holding it up, examining it like she had never seen it before.
The last item was finally dropped in the bag and the woman reached for her purse to pay but then she froze. I could see the wheels turning. As she rummaged through her purse she let out a heavy sigh. She dug some more. A bigger sigh. She told the cashier that, sure enough, she had left her credit card in the car. She let out a third sigh then turned to me and said, “I’m so sorry, I know this is taking forever, but I will be right back.”
I recently had the opportunity to participate in a retreat for the wives of ministers and missionaries. I never before had an experience like this and I have to say it really changed the way I experience God in my life. I was initially hesitant about being separated from my husband and my son, especially so because my husband would be left to care for my son who had recently become ill. Even on the day of my departure to the Dominican Republic, I was ready to cancel the trip. But I knew that I had to go and I am blessed because I did.
The purpose of the retreat was to find rest in God’s presence. “Come with me and rest” was the theme of this retreat from Mark 6:31 (NIV). The retreat began with an activity called “My story”. It was an activity calling us to self-reflection. Our lives are a story that is still being written. Often our lives are so busy that we do not stop to think how our lives are impacting the lives of others. After this time of reflection, we began to focus on identifying the things that separate us from God. Those obstacles, both big and small, get in the way of a more intimate relationship with our Father. All these exercises and other conversations were very inspiring. They created a great time of silence and solitude.
I’m sure many of you have been captivated by the recount of 3 year-10 month old Colton Burpo’s visit to heaven as told in Scott Burpo’s book “Heaven is For Real.” Scott is a Methodist minister from Imperial, Nebraska. For those who have not seen the movie or read the book, Colton nearly died from a ruptured appendix. After 15 nightmarish days in the hospital Colton’s battle was won.
This is where the story of how Colton’s encounter with Jesus began. During his surgery he had the out of body experience where he was up above the doctors viewing what was going on. During a road trip to visit a new born cousin, Colton’s mom questioned him about this. His answer was, “Yes Mommy, I remember, this is when the angels sang to me.” This statement prompted a stop at an Arby’s parking lot where he was questioned further. What did the angels sing to you? Jesus Loves Me and Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho. “His answers were quick and matter of fact, without a hint of hesitation.” What did the angels look like?” Colton said one looked like Grandpa Dennis, but it wasn’t him because Grandpa Dennis has glasses. Growing serious he told his dad that Jesus had the angels sing to me because I was so scared. They made me feel better. “You mean Jesus was there?” Yeah, Jesus was there. “Where was Jesus?” “I was setting in his lap.” The parents stopped questioning and quietly agreed that they really needed to talk about this.
In this age of scientism, technology and materialism, it is hard to think in spiritual terms at all. Reality as we know it is what we see, hear, touch, taste or smell. Just give us hard facts. Anything beyond smacks of Voodoo.
We live in an age of rationalism – scientific and religious. We put our trust in formulas. This is certainly true in secular thought. But it’s also true in the religious world. We want to put everything in a box. We have no time for the mysterious, the inexplicable, for realities beyond our power to grasp.
When you stop to take a look back at the early church, you know the one mentioned in Acts 2:42 and following, you might notice that believers did things a little differently than believers do now here in the States. The text says believers devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching, to fellowship and sharing meals daily, and to prayer. They spent a lot of time together. Nowadays the average believer here in the U.S. reads the Bible and gathers together with other believers for 1-2 hours a week to sing, pray, share communion and hear a lesson. Believers, like the rest of the culture, find themselves pressed for time and looking for value, the best for the least cost. More and more believers are turning to the Internet and streaming services to listen to their favorite preacher or to study a biblical course for free. They are opting to skip the Sunday sermon and Bible class for many reasons but are finding their information and education online. How believers seek education and ultimately transformation has changed a lot. But why? Here are a few reasons and what they should communicate to church leaders.