As a young leader, there were a handful of men who have helped shape my leadership theology in life, business and ministry. 10 years ago, we embarked on our very first church plant in San Marcos, TX. The year previously, I walked away from my dream job, a football coach, in Copperas Cove, TX, and went into the ministry full time. During this year of preparation for the next chapter, I read many books to keep my mind and emotions sharpened. The one that has stuck out and made a lasting imprint on me is “The Present” by Dr. Spencer Johnson.
I was familiar with “The One Minute Manager”, his collaboration with Ken Blanchard, and his work “Who Moved My Cheese”; both of which I still recommend as required reading for professional development of young leaders. In “The Present”, I was able to see how humans spend exhausting amounts of time, energy and resources either regretting their past or fearing their future. We even see evidence of this in the “Exodus” story.
The Hebrew children were delivered from a great oppressive empire, robbing them of their spiritual identity and enslaved them to fulfill the insatiable appetite of the Egyptian culture. They witness miracle after miracle that exposed the fallibility of each Egyptian god revealing the glory, power and authority of the ONE TRUE GOD. However, even after experiencing their miraculous deliverance, they would continue to look back to their slavery, reflecting on all that was left behind and even longing to be enslaved once again because it was familiar, constant and even comfortable. They would eventually all die in the Sinai desert and never enter into the “Promised Land”. They were paralyzed by their past.
Fast forward to this millennium and we see everyone with their eyes fixated on their future: the “American Dream”, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. We spend years going to school to get a great job, with great benefits, paying off all that debt, so we can acquire possessions our parents only dreamed about, and then work a lifetime to save a nest egg to maintain that lifestyle well into our retirement years. We work 60-80 hours per week, make less than 15% of our family’s life events, and wonder why we are estranged, stressed, lonely, burned out, empty and unfulfilled.
This is amplified during the holiday season. We hope our family won’t repeat the horrible gifts of the past, but expect to get the next, latest and greatest, neighbor envying, techno gadget, luxury item or exotic vacation experience. Once again the past and the future converge in a cataclysmic consumer tension leaving us empty and void once it’s all over.
When did we stop living in the moment? When did “now” transform from an instance in time experiencing life around us into a microwave demand for convenience and selfishness? When did the present stop being a gift to dwell in? We pour out so much of our self into missed gifts and opportunities of our past, or in the unrealistic expectations of the gift of success to come that we miss the gift of the moment, this present moment.
Hebrews 13:8 states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” In Revelation 1:8 Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” We are about to celebrate the birth of Christ, which is an important moment in history that we have encapsulated in an annual season. Jesus, the Son of God and the Christ, declares “HE IS THE I AM”. He is the past, present and future. He is the perfect gift, birthed out of God’s love for us.
This holiday season, don’t get lost in the failings of the past, the longings of the future, the hustle and bustle of seasonal consumerism, or even our religious “Christianese”. Instead live in the moment of the Living Savior, receive the gift of the King of kings and the Lord of lords, and seize hold of “The Present” that matters most.
The Perfect Gift for Changing Times is “CHRIST In The Present”.
James Miller Jr
“Missionary to a Generation”