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I went to the zoo a few years ago with my family and have tons of happy memories. But there is one sad memory that I’ve never been able to shake off. The gorilla exhibit. I don’t know if I can adequately express what I saw in the eyes of that animal. If I had to describe it, I would say it was sorrow… a resignation to a life that wasn’t how it should’ve been. He was meant to be wild. He was meant to be free. But he is not allowed to be that and so he sits and looks at those who stop to look at him. He even seemed to pose for the pictures. What else can he do when his life consists only of what is inside of walls and gates and bars. But the look in his eyes seemed to say that he knew his life should have been something other than that. It was the sorrow of the tamed. I’m sure he was well taken care of. He doesn’t have to search for food or shelter. But he wasn’t meant to live a tamed life inside the walls of a zoo. And the nature within him would’ve told him that it wasn’t meant to be that way. I walked away feeling very sad in my heart. Not for the gorilla, but for the church.

Because to a great degree this gorilla story is a parable of much of the church. So many people sitting inside the walls… so comfortable in a climate controlled environment, the padded pews, well fed from the pulpit. Just enough God to get them to heaven but not enough to bring heaven here. I read the book of Acts, the church in the very beginning, and those were some wild people. Preaching everywhere. Defying death to make Jesus known. Risking everything. Think back in your own life when you got saved. Most of us offended our whole families by telling them they were going to hell. We lacked wisdom, but there was a fire in us for Jesus. But then some time passed and we learned how to be proper Christians… and became tamed.

Who told us that our lives were supposed to be ordinary, normal and safe? I don’t believe it was God. You may have had people tell you that you need to be balanced and to be careful that you aren’t so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good. I reject that entirely. The Bible tells us to seek those things which are above, to set our minds on things above. The balanced life that we need is to seek Jesus and be about His business morning, noon and night.

I can’t think of a single place in the Bible where we are commanded to protect and guard our lives. But I can think of many that tell us to lay our lives down, pour ourselves out, give ourselves away for the sake of Jesus and his gospel. If you love your life in this world, you’re gonna lose it. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to drop dead on the spot but that you’ll be reduced to a mere existence. Tamed.

Too often we content ourselves with reading the stories of people in other ages that have done great things for God. Always watching other people serve the Lord. Feeling a sense of envy but not the willingness to do what they did and risk what they risked.  We live without the supernatural touch of heaven on our lives and learn to lean on our own abilities and talents. God wants to be glorified through our lives, but it will only happen as we live supernatural, Holy Spirit empowered lives. The only reason we don’t have that is that we just don’t want it badly enough to press in for it.

So we will live and die… and make very little impact on this world for Jesus. Because it’s not just going to happen because you became a Christian. The impact of your life corresponds to the fire that burns within you.

I remember several years ago hearing a preacher make this statement, “if you want to go to the place where you will find the most potential, go to the graveyard. Most people died with theirs untouched and unused”.  And I remember the cry that rose from my heart… Oh God… please don’t let that be me.

The greatest sorrow of the tamed will be when they stand before Jesus. You are a steward of the gift of your life. You will spend the remaining years of your life deciding what to do with all that time.  Choose wisely.

We spend far too much time and energy getting comfortable in a temporary dwelling place.  Invest your life in eternal things.   

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This morning I got up early so I could spend some time seeking the Lord. I opened my Bible to read for a little while and ended in Acts 15 where Paul and Barnabas had an argument that ended their ministry together because Barnabas wanted to bring John Mark, who had earlier had a little fall from grace, with them in the ministry. But Paul didn’t want him involved. It says that Barnabas and Mark went on their way and Paul and Silas went on their way commended by the church. That little bit of scripture seemed important this morning so I just stop to meditate on it for a while. And as I was just thinking on it I saw how there’s great importance in who you partner with in life and ministry. It can change the course of everything. It seemed at first that Barnabas made the wrong choice and it brought the disapproval of the church. But as I looked into it more and thought on it in the Lord’s presence, the message of this verse became so beautiful to me….especially now. Earlier in the book of Acts Barnabas is called “Son of Encouragement”. He was the one who believed in Paul when everybody else was afraid of him. This same Barnabas was the one who wanted to see Mark restored when others were angry that he hadn’t been faithful. Barnabas’s ministry may not be praised through the generations like Paul’s is, but it didn’t end with his disagreement with Paul. He continued to be a faithful minister of the gospel, maybe just behind the scenes now. The testimony of Mark is that he remained a faithful and useful man. What would have happened to him if Barnabas had rejected him in order to keep Paul’s approval? Thankfully we will never know. What we do know is that it cost Barnabas his partnership with the illustrious apostle Paul to be faithful to his role as a son of encouragement. Yet now, thousands of years later on a cold January morning, he is still encouraging the brethren.

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