Harmony and Habitat

“Live in harmony with one another.” (Romans 12:16)

Northside Church completed a Habitat for Humanity house last winter. Hundreds of volunteers worked together to make the dream come true. The ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 26th celebrated a new home for Miss Belinda.

I hauled supplies, cut lumber, hammered nails, attached siding, and installed blinds. Three of us made an easy-to-assemble shed look hard. We blamed it on the hieroglyphic directions but installing the floor upside down didn’t help!

The men and women on the worksite ranged from teenagers to septuagenarians. Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Independents served side-by-side. No doubt the groups could have argued every side of any political or societal issue.

AND . . . we built a home together in eight weeks!

People assume church harmony means mutual agreement. Experience teaches us otherwise. Those seeking a church where everyone agrees will be disappointed. Whenever two or more gather in Jesus’ name, the Lord promised to be present because he realized how much conflict would occur!

Our heavenly Father adopts us into God’s household without the option of selecting our siblings. We crowd into the station wagon for a long road trip with the Lord’s admonition, “Now, you kids get along!” The Holy Spirit calls us to live in peace with one another.

The church is not a human institution but a supernatural creation. Losing sight of this fundamental truth causes us to focus on our differences rather than our commonalities. What binds us together surpasses whatever might pull us apart.

AND . . . we built a home together in eight weeks.

Northside Church begins its next Habitat Build this Saturday, January 28! Visit https://www.northsideumc.org/habitat for details.

It’s 7:10 Somewhere

I wear a titanium Seiko wristwatch. The watch cannot display emails, send texts, measure heartrate, track fitness, map routes, or track sleep. The timepiece simply keeps time. It’s an analog oddity in a digital world.

The battery died last fall with the hour and minute hands frozen at 7:10. (I would add AM or PM but see the analog note above.) I continued to wear the watch in hopes of visiting a jeweler, but two weeks passed before I finally got the battery replaced. The experience taught me several lessons.

We are creatures of habit. I knew the watch didn’t work, but I glanced at it reflexively throughout the day. What other subconscious routines and practices rule our lives?

Even a broken clock is right twice a day. I entertained myself by checking the time in the morning and evening at 7:10. The experience reassured me that the watch wasn’t broken, just inaccurate sporadically! I think of friends (certainly not me!) who are occasionally in error but never in doubt.

It’s perfectly acceptable for a technological device to perform one function well. I already spend too much time on my personal computer and cell phone. I don’t need a wrist manacle that displays emails, sends texts, measures heartrate, tracks fitness, maps routes, or tracks sleep. I just need it to keep time accurately.

The new battery should power my Seiko for several years. We look forward to a good time together in our analog world.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses

A group of older men stare daily through my office doorway. The wall across the hall features the portraits of my predecessors. Ten photographs depict the previous pastors appointed to Northside Church. The portraits of the nine men (Bill Floyd served twice) testify to the congregation’s rich pastoral heritage.

 Seven of the nine clergy have died, going from the church militant to the church triumphant. The two surviving pastors retired years ago but continue to serve in various ways. My antecedents’ example inspires me to honor a legacy of leadership in this congregation and community.

The pictures promote a spirit of humility in my soul. I am but the latest in a line of clergy to serve Northside Church. One day my photograph will hang on the wall, too. I will stare across the hallway at my successors.

The Lord calls us to serve faithfully in our appointed place and time. We remember the past and anticipate the future, but we serve God here and now. Our work is for the moment, which will quickly pass; but we trust that our words and deeds carry eternal import.

A group of older men stare daily through my office doorway. One day I hope to earn the right to join them. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-1)

New Year’s Resolutions

New Years REsolutionsOn January 1, many of us made New Year’s resolutions. During the holidays, we overindulged in too much of too much. The birth of a New Year inspired plans of diet, exercise, and thriftiness.

Resolutions born at midnight on December 31st, however, seldom survive the first weeks of January. Habit is a hard master to overthrow. By mid-month, the new and improved model greatly resembles the old and not so improved model!

We can scoff at the idea of spontaneous resolutions leading to lasting change. However, we serve a God of fresh starts and second chances. Today can be different from yesterday; and tomorrow can be different from today.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul declares: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” Our “re-creation” in Christ is both event and process as we grow into the image of our Savior.

Jesus began his ministry preaching the message, “The time has come, the kingdom of God is at hand, repent, and believe in the gospel.” The time has come for repentance rather than resolutions. This year can be new in more than name alone!