On Notice

On Wednesday night we had a Thanksgiving Eve service, and I gave a brief message on, you guessed it, thanksgiving!  Only it wasn’t entirely about thanking, but also about the steps in the process that lead to an expression of thanks.  I said then that there was too much to this process to fit into the time allotted, so I would discuss it further in a blog post (or a few).

And here we go.

The first step of the process—notice—often goes unnoticed itself, which is as sad as it is ironic.  We use the word, of course, but in different contexts.  When someone is “on notice,” for example, it means he or she has been warned; when someone is “beneath notice,” it means he or she has done something insignificant.

However, “notice” really means to pay attention to something or someone for a sustained period of time, and many of us find this almost impossible to do.  To notice in this way would require us to slow down, to focus, to ignore distractions—exactly what our ADD, three-seconds-is-too-long-to-wait world rushes us from.

You cannot notice in a hurry.  And hurry is one of the hallmarks of our lives.

But if we do not notice, we will not start the process of thanks, much less get to the end of it and actually thank someone.  We notice what is done wrong, of course, and condemn it; meanwhile, we overlook what is done right, and fail to commend it.

I don’t think that’s how God intends for us to live.  And on this Black Friday, poised to enter another Christmas season, through which we will gallop at a breakneck pace if we do not pull back on the reins of our personal reindeer, remembering what God intends for us to do with our time matters more than ever.

So now we are on notice.  And although we may fool ourselves into thinking so, what we do with this life He has given us is in no way beneath His notice.

The point of prayer for the church at Sutherland Springs

Like Jude, whose book is the basis for our Sunday morning messages this month, I was going to write one letter today, but I need to write another first (Jude 3).  So I write today about Sunday’s tragedy at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where a gunman opened fire during the morning service, killing many (at least 26) and wounding more.

I agree with Thom Rainer from LifeWay, who said in his blog: “I will identify with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas.”  We are the Body of Christ, and whatever happens to one part of the body affects every other part.  As Paul puts it, “if one part [of the body] suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26).  So it is right and fitting that we suffer with those who lost so many of those they loved, and honor those who have gone on to be with Jesus forever.  If we did not have that hope, we would be overwhelmed by the darkness of this despicable act.  But we do have that hope, so we can stand firm on it (1 Corinthians 15:12ff).

Despite what some in our society think—especially celebrities who think their every revolting thought much be shared instantly with the world through social media—prayer matters, because it matters to God.  At our church we have begun a Congregational Prayer Initiative to actually pray as though it matters.  This week, we add First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas to our prayer emphases.  It is not all we can do, but it is the best thing we can do.  And so we join them in prayer: to suffer, to honor.