The Missing Ingredient

My wife made cookies the other day and they did not turn out exactly the way she wanted. The main problem was that the cookies did not look exactly right and these were going to be given away. She looked over her recipe and ran through her actions in her head and could not immediately put her finger on the problem. The final conclusion was that she must have missed some ingredient or at least she didn’t get the right amount.

One little ingredient can make all the difference. If you do not believe me, just leave one single ingredient out of your next recipe and see if your family notices a difference. Each part is important.

This truth applies to Churches. Each part is important. Whenever one person is missing the whole thing suffers. We may not be able to put our finger on it, but everyone knows that something is just not right. A missing greeter, an absent nursery worker, a cleaning person who missed their week, a singer that didn’t show and a hundred other little pieces make a difference. I have come to believe that when a Church is struggling it is often because some of the ingredients are missing.

I hope you never feel like your service at the Church is not important. “Oh, they will never miss me” is simply not a true statement. Every part is important. You are needed to make the Church the best it can possibly be.

Pieces of Me

My thoughts are composed from a thousand random voices. I have the words of teachers, preachers, songs, movies, books, family, the Bible, professors, parents, blogs, magazines and TV all placed in the filing system of my brain. All of these little pieces of information influence who I am, what I say, how I react, and what I believe.

This is true for every human being. You are the product of all the voices you have heard over your lifetime.

Since that is true I have a series of questions for you:

1. What voices speak to you the most often? Are you watching lots of TV or movies? Do you read widely? Do you spend time in the Bible or Church? If I am continually filling my head with a certain type of information then I will quickly transform into a certain type of person. Are there more Christian voices in your life than non-Christian? Do you have people around you that encourage your faith journey or discourage it? You will be shaped by the voices you allow to speak to you.

2. What voices speak to you the loudest? Most people have a couple of sources they trust without many questions. For many people that might be your parents. It might have been a beloved teacher or author. They speak and their words hold more sway than any other voice. Now ask yourself, “What kind of a person is that?”

3. What are you doing with your voice? I continually share the principle of “first in, wins” That means that the first piece of information we receive shapes our thinking more than any other voice. If that is true, then what are we teaching the next generation? If you do not tell young people about sex, money, God or anything important – know that someone is going to tell them. Then that voice will shape their views and not you. Are you using your voice to teach and train others?

I am a strong believer in the power of words. Every week I throw words into the air for around thirty minutes in an effort to mold a world for God. I teach Sunday School and lead discussions at youth group. I talk and talk and talk. All in the hopes that one little piece of information will lodge in someone’s brain and help shape them for good.

We live in a world full of information. Where it comes from is important.

The Details

My son and I attended a Christian Men’s conference together a couple of weeks ago. We arrived in time for a dinner of a pulled pork sandwich served in a paper bag with chips, a cookie and a drink. We then proceeded to go out onto the front lawn to sit and eat our picnic meal. While sitting there I noticed something interesting to me. There was not one dandelion in the grass. Then I looked closer and noticed not one single weed of any kind. The lawn was lush and green while being completely free of weeds.

When we went inside the building I began to notice all of the attention this Church paid to the details. No dust or dirt, no messes, bright lights, modern pictures and a thousand little touches. It was clear that people in this Church paid careful attention to the details.

This experience reminded me of two separate expressions that are closely related. The first is “God is in the detail.” This phrase most likely originated in the 1800’s and is still used today. It captures the idea that we need to pay careful attention to every aspect of life even the smallest details. Big rewards come from numerous small pieces coming together.

The second phrase is said to have been born out of the first one. The second is “the devil is in the details.” This phrase captures the idea the smallest details are often the hardest to focus on. As a result of the neglect of the minutia we often fail in a big way. Small steps can lead to a big failure.

There is an application of this for every Church. Every Church should pick up the trash, clean their building, maintain their lawn, update their decoration and make sure the details are handled. Satan can keep people away from the word of God being preached inside a Church by the neglect of the details. It is hard to prove to people that we care about their souls when we have a dirty nursery. Every Church needs to pay attention to the details of their ministry.

I also think there is a very personal application to this truth. Each one of us needs to know that it is often the details of our life that damage our faith and witness. A person cannot neglect the big aspects of prayer, bible reading, worship or fellowship, but they also need to pay attention to the details. We cannot allow anger to take root in our words. We must guard against pride. Avoid gossip in person and online. Say please and thank you. Stop using “God” or “Jesus” names in inappropriate ways. Work hard for your pay. Tell your spouse, “I love you.”

There are a thousand seemingly small details in life that need our attention. The reality is that is often a series of small steps that lead people away from God. Equally true is that we often destroy the work of sharing our faith because of seemingly insignificant action. We need to pay attention to the details.

I wonder, “Is God or the devil found in the details of your life?”

Talking to Myself

One of the biggest conversations that a person must have each day is with themselves. What are you telling yourself about yourself? What are you telling yourself about God?

Are your words full of truth and life? Are they full of hope and optimism? Are they darkness and lies? Are they negative and full of despair?

The Psalmist says in Psalm 42:5-6(a) “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and (6) my God.”

It is a reflective passage. The writer is talking to himself. It is an inner question of the soul. Why so downcast? Why so disturbed?

The personal response is quick and clear. “Put your hope in God.”

With all the ugly things spinning around in our heads we need to be continually reminded of the goodness of God. He is bigger than our problems. He is able to bring hope to difficult situations. He can transform my failures into possibilities. He is Savior and God.

Everyday we can tell ourselves to focus on our problems or we can tell ourselves to focus on God. What will this day bring for you?

Precious People

I was standing in the middle of a worship program. People were standing and lifting their voices to God in praise. The emphasis was truly on God, but for some reason I lowered my gaze and began to look around. There in the crowd of people stood several younger people, a few people my own age and numerous “older” adults. In that moment God nudged my conscience to thoughts of those wonderful seniors who had gathered there in worship with me. Some might say that God was speaking to me in those moments when I was singing my praise to Him. I had two clear and separate thoughts about those people worshiping with.

1. Praise God for Lifetime Believers. To my right and in front of me stood teenagers and I wondered if their journey of faith would see them in worship 50 plus years from now. Rare are the ones who give their life to Jesus at a young age and stand with him over an entire lifetime. I do not mean that they haven’t sinned, rather they hung onto God’s grace through all of their mistakes over a lifetime. Thanks to God for those who have given a lifetime to Jesus.

2. Praise God for Those Who Changed Later in Life. If these older people were not believers their entire life then they must have made a commitment to Jesus later in life. That means change. The saying is “that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” How hard must it have been for some of the older people in Church when they came to Jesus? Imagine the courage it took for someone to change their life as an adult. They had to change habits, friends and lifestyle at an age when most people have settled in for the rest of their life. Thanks to God for those who have been willing to change.

In that worship program I paused for a minute or two to thank God for the older adults in my congregation. All of them fall into one of these groups and either way it has been a hard journey. Thanks to God for our senior saints no matter what their story.

To Do List

Everyone is busy. We already have long lists of things we need to do. I believe in the midst of all of our running from here to there we can sometimes miss the most important things in life. So let me add a couple small items to you “to do” list for this week.

1. Tell an older man how much you respect and admire them. This can be dad. It can be a sibling. It can be a Church leader.

2. Tell an older woman how much you love and appreciate them. It can be your mom, sister or just a woman you know.

3. Tell a young person how much potential you see in them. This can be your children, grandchildren or just any young person you know.

4. Thank God for one blessing in particular.

When you take the time to do these things weekly or even daily. I think your perspective will change about the other things on your to do list. You will slowly become more focused on others and more grateful in your own heart.

If you don’t have time for some of these simple things, maybe you are just too busy.

I’m Not Sure What To Do

Being uncertain can often mean two very different things.

First, it can mean we have not planned ahead. We had not thought through our actions and now we are left with an unclear road forward. Something happened that left us doubting our own actions in this situation.

Second, it can mean that we know the way forward but we are not sure we want to go that way. If we go the way we need to go there will be difficulty and struggle. We know what needs done, but we are not really sure we want to pay the price. Someone saying they have no clear path forward usually means that there is no easy clear path forward.

I rarely see people in the first situation. I most frequently see people living in the second scenario. As odd as it may sound, most of us know the right thing to do. The trouble is doing it.