With the Super Bowl win of the Eagles last night, it would strange to write a blog and not mention it. Although I am personally not an Eagles fan, it is delightful to see how much my friends are enjoying this long-awaited championship. Despite all the press, Philadelphia fans (particularly for the Eagles) are a passionate group when it comes to their team.
As I consider it, I think the desire to celebrate is wired into us. When good things happen, we naturally feel better. When our dreams and aspirations come true, we love it. There is something inside us that has to come out. There is a reason there were fireworks going off and people yelling outside my house at 10:30 last night! There is a desire to celebrate and to share that celebration with others.
I have lived in this area for over 20 years and have seen the pain and angst as the Eagles lost, sometimes in gut wrenching fashion, year after year. There was a sense of hope unfilled that has now been satisfied. But for a long time, some of my friends just stopped cheering. They stopped investing themselves in the team because they did not want to be disappointed again. Some others were cautiously hopeful, but just didn’t want to let themselves get too excited.
I am left wondering if that is too often my approach with God. I celebrate too rarely. I expect too little. I don’t want to be disappointed again, or not have my hopes met. I’d rather stay reserved then risk all that.
But those that follow Jesus are to be joyful, celebrating people. That’s because unlike much of life, our circumstances do not dictate our joy. We can have it no matter what because of the God who loves us and gave us life. So, Eagles fans, enjoy and celebrate. Let it remind you of your ability to be a celebrating person.
Obviously it's the new year and you would expect a blog about looking forward. Maybe remembering last year and making goals for 2018. Perhaps setting up how to have a successful year. None of those are bad, but my friend pointed out a Scripture passage that really resonated with me in light of the new year.
The passage is in the book of Ezra, which is the account of how the Israelites came back from being captive in Babylon. There home city of Jerusalem had been decimated and the center of their worship had been destroyed when they had been conquered decades earlier. Now they were coming back and rebuilding. One of the things they were rebuilding was the temple. They began the work and in Ezra 3 it is recorded how they finished the foundation. They had built / repaired the foundation to set up the rest of the work. It was amazing. It was exciting. God seemed to be finally relenting from punishing his people and he was moving positively instead. It was the first step to re-establishing worship in Jerusalem. It was so exciting, that we read how they celebrated. "10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the LORD, as prescribed by David king of Israel. 11 With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD: “He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.” And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid."
It was a big deal. It sounds like a great party. But what is striking is the verse that immediately follows. "12 But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy." Those who were older. The ones who remembered what it had been like before. The people who had seen what the temple used to be like - they cried. I wonder why. It could be that they were simply overcome that God had finally seen to start the rebuilding of the temple, but that doesn't really fit. I wonder if they were seeing the difference between what was happening now and what had happened before and it was depressing. Things weren't going to be the same. It wouldn't look the same. They had lost something and it wasn't going to come back. They remembered the good ol' days. The glory days. And in doing so, they were not celebrating what God was doing right in front of them.
It seems there is a lesson in there. It can be so easy to face the new year and measure what God is doing based on what he did before. While it is important to remember, to appreciate and learn from the past, God is always up to something new. He is moving. He is not static. And it might be that the very thing that you are going to go through this year that doesn't seem quite as good as before, is actually God doing something really amazing. So know your past. Appreciate your past. Be thankful for what God has done. But keep your eyes on where he is going now. You don't want to miss it.
Having a blog has been the "in" thing for some time. Every aspiring writer, every leader, every person trying to get ahead has a blog. Those that are working through problems, are interested in a specific topic, or are simply trying to get noticed, have blogs. It has become part of our vernacular. When we speak of "bloggers" who are into "blogging", most people innately know what we mean.
I was curious about it, so I did some research. The first blog (it wasn't called that) was in 1994 and in 1997 the term weblog was used, simply to describe logging web activity. In 1999 is was shortened to "blog" and it was in 2004 that Merriam-Webster declared it their word of the year.
So really, this is a fairly recent phenomenon. It is a great platform for sharing ideas, stating opinions and even having online discussion. Even for pastors. The fact that this website has a section called "Pastor's Blog" indicates that I will have things to regularly write about (although I think the only person who reads this is my mother - hi mom!). So what happens when you really have nothing significant to say? No fancy thoughts or opinions. No revolutionary ideas. No new perspectives? Well . . . you end up writing about the history of blogging!
Honestly, Christmas is a busy time of year. I find myself coming to think about familiar thoughts, familiar struggles, familiar traditions, and families activities. So rather than write about them, let me just encourage you to take the time to listen throughout the busyness of this season. A week ago I was busy, was rather tired and not really all that interested in much, and in the middle of it, God reminded me as I sat and read, that he still pursues me. He is gently and insistently calling me to himself. He doesn't care what time of year it is - he wants me and adores me. Honestly, it was a very personal and powerful moment that reminded me of the amazingness of my heavenly Father. May you discover the same during the weeks ahead.
Weldon Lemke has been leading Hope Chapel since 2009 with a passion to see people come to know God and grow to maturity in Him.