Larry’s last, Last Word?

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By Larry Short

It’s been several years since we elders started writing the weekly “Last Word” in order to more effectively communicate with the body at Elim what the Lord is doing here … and this morning I’m feeling a little wistful about the fact that this may be my final “Last Word,” at least for a little while! (I really do enjoy writing these! I counted recently and I believe this is the 120th Last Word that has been published … not all of them by me, of course!)

Why so wistful? you might ask. Well, the Lord has been doing something interesting in me ever since I preached (about a month ago) on the topic of “margin.” I shared then how He was challenging me to increase the margin in my life … the space “around the edges” of work, ministry and play, time available for the Lord to do a better work in me and through me. Time for just me and Him to continue to get to know each other better, as well as for me to become better equipped to do whatever He is calling me to do.

I pointed out that sometimes, like Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, we need to learn to say “no” to good things in order to make more room for the best things. As a result of this conversation with the Lord in my life, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to focus my ministry efforts here at Elim. As a result I’ve informed the elders that I would be stepping off the board (before the completion of my term) after this month.

I mentioned focus … I think you all are aware that the Lord has brought Darlene and I a truly fruitful and fulfilling ministry in the form of Pulse, Elim’s young adults ministry. We now have an awesome group of young adults, college and career-aged, who are sold out for Jesus and getting engaged in ministry and outreach with Elim. Between the two of us, we are mentoring five of them (and many of the others are being mentored by yet other leaders at Elim). We have nearly 50 on our roster, but at least 20-30 of these are “core” young adults, actively involved in Pulse. Even larger churches in our area frequently struggle to maintain healthy young adults groups, so we feel incredibly blessed by what God is doing here!

We are also in the midst of one of those many periods of transition, as many (three couples) of our young adults have recently married, and others are getting near the age where they may be transitioning out soon (into other groups and ministries). These faithful have been with us long and we will really miss them!

And of course God is bringing in new young adults, including some high school graduates. So, after praying this through, Darlene and I do feel like this really is a season where we need to focus all of our best efforts on what God is continuing to do in this group, through leading Bible studies and prayer times; book studies; special events; and mentoring. Your prayers as we seek to “up the ante” with Pulse are much needed and appreciated!

Fortunately right now I can depart the Elder Board with a clear conscience, as it is perhaps in a stronger position than it’s been in a long time. Even with me stepping off and Mike being called to pastoral ministry, the Board still is a very strong group of men who are passionate about seeking God’s best for Elim. Pastor Martin has been challenging us all to step up our board involvement to meet the need for strategic preparation for the days ahead, and I’m convinced that this awesome and committed group of guys, under Dan’s leadership, are more than up to the challenge.

Anyway, I just wanted to say I really appreciate all of you (especially those of you who read these Last Words!) … your prayers and support; as well as the privilege and opportunity of serving with the elders these past few years (as well as the six years before my constitutionally required one-year hiatus!). Now, off to a little Grandpa vacation with Annabelle, for some real “margin” time! Be back soon!

 

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What steals your joy? How do you get it back?

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By Larry Short

Did you know that Jesus wants us to experience joy? In His “high priestly prayer” in John 17:13, as He was getting ready for a torturous crucifixion and departure from this earth, Jesus prayed in the hearing of His disciples: “I say these things while I am still in the world, that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.”

Christ’s desire for us is that our lives be overflowing with joy! But we too often allow that joy to be stolen away. In our May 27, 2012 worship service (MP3) we looked at one thing, and a very subtle thing, that frequently steals our joy: distraction.

In the parable of the sower, Mark 4:18-19, Christ warns of the serious danger of distraction: “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”

Did you know that “the worries of this life” are one of the distractions that has the potential to choke out the word of God in us and make us unfruitful? Like Martha in Luke 10, we might feel we are only “merely distracted,” but Jesus looks at our fixation on busyness and our worries and our upsetness, calls it what it is, and warns us that it can derail us. Distraction can rob us of the joy that He desires us to experience as we abide in Him.

Those of us with this addiction to busyness might think that happiness comes from much activity. But the reality is the opposite: True joy comes when we learn how to release the “good things” in order to focus on the “best thing.”

So, what’s the alternative to distraction? It’s a choice, according to Jesus, and it’s the choice that Mary made in Luke 10:38-42. Martha was preparing her home for a special guest, and Mary came over to help her. But when Jesus arrived, Mary left her sister working and went and sat down at Jesus’ feet, listening to him.

After Martha complained, Jesus revealed that what she had seen as mere distraction was in reality a far more serious problem: “Martha, Martha! You are upset and worried about many things. But few things are needed — indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better.”

Mary sat quietly at the feet of Christ and let His Word wash over her. That alone had the potential to transform her life.

When confronted with such a choice, what do we need to do? First, count the cost. As with finding freedom from any addiction, there is a price to healing. In order to focus your attention on the best thing, you may have to give up a good thing or two: a hobby, a favorite TV show, three cups of coffee in the morning, perhaps even a ministry task. None of these are bad things. But sometimes we must give up a good thing in order to find the best thing. Jesus told the rich young ruler to “Go, sell all that you have, give it to the poor, and come follow me.” He knew that was the bitter medicine that young man needed to find freedom from his distractions, and to focus his all on following God.

With Christ, it’s all or nothing, isn’t it? The man in the parable who found the pearl of great price, went and sold everything that he had to obtain the field it was buried in. God’s grace to us is free: but it’s not cheap. It cost Him everything to purchase our freedom. We must be willing to give up everything for Him.

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