Don’t miss the boat that’s here

I like to go back through my journal at year-end to see what I learned (and probably have already forgotten), in hopes that some of it might stick. I offer these ideas from 2011 for your enjoyment and, maybe, for your edification.
“God makes people grow up.” I was at Jerry and Frances’ house in early January, and their artificial Christmas tree was standing in the corner of the living room, stripped of its lights and ornaments. I joked about how it looked a lot better when it was clothed and asked what the plan was. Jerry said, “We’re rooting it,” and we laughed. But here’s a question for you: If you put an artificial tree in a tree stand and pour water in there, maybe even add some fertilizer, how long will it take for the tree to grow roots? Right, it never will. The tree looks like the real thing, but it can never be the real thing. It is the same with anyone who is not connected to Jesus Christ by faith. He or she may look like the real thing, like there is real life there and real fruit. But only God can make a believer (or a tree). Salvation is all of God. Sanctification is, too. He makes trees grow. He makes believers grow. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
“The Lord is my Shepherd.” On Feb. 1 last year, Nate and Tara met with me and Cindy to ask what we thought about their family moving to Colombia, South America, for a lifetime call. It excited me to see God working in this family to uproot them from what was comfortable for them, and comfortable for us, and move them where he needed them more. It also prompted me to pray again, as I have hundreds of times, “Lord, don’t let me stay where it is comfortable one second longer than I am supposed to. And don’t let me move away from the place You have planted me one second earlier than I am supposed to.” My mind went to Psalm 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.”
“Give yourself away.” I was listening to a sermon by CJ Mahaney this year and was reminded of the passage in 1 Thessalonians 2:8 where Paul says, “So affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.” My prayer was, and is, “O God, teach me more and more how to give myself away like Paul did.”
Some of you may feel like you have blown it this past year. I know I do in many ways. I was encouraged as I read these words from Andree Seu, one of my favorite columnists in World magazine. She was writing about a familiar passage in the Psalms that begins, “This is the day that the Lord has made.” Seu wrote, “Not the day that is past, but this day. A command follows: ‘Let us rejoice and be glad in it.’ Thus we do not miss the boat that’s here while mourning the boat that’s sailed.”
Like me, you may have missed your share of boats in 2011. Let’s make sure we get on board the one that is in the dock today.

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