On Saturday we were reading the chapter and, as happens sometimes, the girls minds began to wonder and they were not paying attention very well, which to an exent is understandable, though we should be training them to be able to sit and listen during a time of worship. After a time or two of having to stop and get them back on track, I finally responded, "Pay attention!" This was not the first time I have had to respond in that way during our morning devotions, but it was the first time God taught me something in that moment.
When I said, "Pay attention!" God showed me myself in my girls lack of attention. In that, what must it be like for God when He is day in and day out, moment by moment trying to teach us and show us things of eternal importance, but yet our minds are wandering and our focus is off. Do we even hear the Father as He lovingly rebukes us with, "Pay attention!" ?
How many times are our minds wandering in the church service on Sunday mornings and our focus is anywhere else but worshipping God and learning of Him and God says to us, "Pay attention!" How many times as parents are we so distracted and focused on other "more important" things instead of taking the time to invest in the lives of our children spiritually and God says, "Pay attention!" How many times are we so busy going about our day and our responsibilities that we do not see the person God has just brought into our path to give the Gospel to and God says to us, "Pay attention!"
And so this week I hope that I pay attention more and I pray you will as well. And when we all fail to pay attention as we should, what a glorious truth it is to know that we can know that our Father still loves us and forgives us because He has saved us through His own Son's death on a bloody cross. There, on behalf of all who believe,Jesus Christ paid the punishment for our failing to pay attention to God like we should and glorify Him!
My first area of concern is that if pastors have to spend so much time and energy trying to come up with creative ways/gimmicks to make the gospel/Scripture relevant to people's everyday life, then they don't understand the Gospel/Scripture because the Gospel/Scripture is the only thing of any eternal relevance in life. One of the most effective things a pastor and church can do to be relevant to its community is to faithfully preach/teach/live the gospel and all of its implications in every area of life in front of the community that God has placed it.
A second area of concern with this focus on "relevance" is that someone whose eyes are blinded to the truth of the Gospel and whose heart is spiritually dead does not have any conception of what is really relevant and we must not as a church allow lost "seekers" or lost "church members" for that matter dictate the focus of the church based on what they "feel" is relevant.
John Piper recently gave a great word on this whole issue of relevance:
As a preacher, I think a lot about relevance. That is, why should anyone listen to what I have to say? Why should anybody care?
Relevance is an ambiguous word. It could mean more than one thing. It might mean that a sermon is relevant if it feels to the listeners that it will make a significant difference in their lives. Or it might mean that a sermon is relevant if it will make a significant difference in their lives whether they feel it or not. That second kind of relevance is what guides my sermons. In other words, I want to say things that are really significant for your life whether you know they are or not. My way of doing that is to stay as close as I can to what God says is important in his word, not what we think is important apart from God’s word.
That's the kind of relevance that is important to God and it is that kind of relevance that I as a pastor and we as a church must aim for if we want to truly make a difference for the glory of God as we treasure and share Christ together. So, let's be relevant!
In light of that truth, the tragedy of these tornados is God's siren call for sinners to turn from their sin and turn in faith to Jesus Christ because all will perish without Christ. I hope that the message did not come across as unfeeling or emphasizing truth at the expense of compassion because that is not what Jesus taught. Yes, he said very sobering words in this passage in the wake of horrific tragedies, but not to the neglect of compassion. Remember Jesus was from Galilee. Jesus had healed a disabled man at the Pool of Siloam and he had created all of those who had died in such a horrific way. This was not an impersonal and detached tragedy for Jesus in this passage. Jesus knew how to balance compassion with sobering and sometimes startling truth. We as his followers, must learn to do the same as we treasure and share Christ together.