You will spend the rest of your day looking at earlobes. Sorry.
I am not too much in the mood to post about my recent raccoon incident, believe it or not. Lisa tells the story well, though.
Encouragement to seek and follow Christ ... to live a life of significance for God, not a life of success in the eyes of fellow men.
1 Corinthians 2
My son John,
Went to bed with his trousers on;
One shoe off and the other shoe on,
Diddle Diddle Dumpling,
My son John.
As a parent, you see all of these "cute" and "funny" things your kid does ... all of those truly special times, too. And you think you will not have any problem remembering them. But, fact is, you do. Those stories quickly get covered up by other life stuff and suddenly you realize you can't at all remember those things.
I was reminded last night, though, of how Evan used to walk around the house with just one shoe on when he was maybe 3 or 4 years old. I never understood that because he is a kid who generally likes order in his life. I wondered at the time if he would grow up to be the absent-minded professor.
I think I am pleased to say that, today, he is always either fully shoeless or fully shoed. I say "I think" because in many ways it is hard to see those silly things of your child's personality disappear as they become more transformed by the world and less the "original" perhaps that God designed them to be.
The above little nursery rhyme was often repeated around our house during Evan's "one shoe period." It was especially appropriate because somehow the names "Evan" and "John" are related, both meaning "blessing from God".
And that he is.
In the message "Cut The Lifeboats" we were encouraged to cut away those areas of our life which still cling to the world's answers for fulfillment and security - those areas which keep our hearts from being fully devoted to God. But at the same time, we acknowledged this can be a difficult process. One reason for this difficulty is our extremely limited view of our life and the world around us.
Our flawed perception is not unlike a tiny ant. These small creatures seem to never stop working as they scurry about frantically moving little grains of sand from here to there in the hope of building a secure home. If we could ask an ant to describe his world, he might tell us about his hole in the ground, about the few thousand members of his family, and maybe something about the few surrounding meters where he gathers food. Obviously, the ant has a very limited view of the real world.
But as our Heavenly Father watches us build our homes of security - watches us frantically moving from here to there, trying to climb to the top of the hill - He also sees a creation with a VERY limited view of the real world; "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts"
As seen from God's perspective, we have almost no understanding of how the little corner of our life fits into His plan or how our current problems are leading us closer to Him. From God's perspective our view is as limited as the ant. But, though we may not fully see or understand, He is calling us to trust.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."
Many of us are facing difficult circumstances. We want to walk along God's path and live a life pleasing to Him, but we're not sure which direction to turn. Our indecision is often because we only trust in what we clearly understand - and we've begun to realize our understanding is not very clear. But God's promise is that as we love and trust Him with all our heart, the path directly in front of us will become straight - as we trust, the decisions will become clear and we will KNOW our next step!
We must truly believe that our Heavenly Father sees and hears ALL, and that He's infinitely complete in understanding. Where we are fortunate to see a few short steps down the path, He sees the entire journey - the journey leading us "to be conformed to the likeness of His Son" (Romans 8:29), and the destination of spending all eternity praising His name. We must keep stepping out in faith, but we must do so by leaning on Him, continually seeking His direction, and trusting the Father's view.
Anyway, so I can keep track of it, here is the prayer I prayed. I really struggled with whether to write out the prayer and, in essence, just "read" it or to pray spontaneously. I ended up writing it out and reading it. My preference would be to nevr do it that way again if I can help it.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We thank you for this day of harvest – a day of sending forth the next class of Christian Academy students to be leaders for you.
All sorts of emotions fill the room this evening, ranging from nervousness to excitement and everywhere in between.
For the graduates, we pray for discernment and wisdom. We know that you have a very special plan for each of them. Christian Academy has been but one small part of that plan but we pray that they have learned things here which will allow them to fulfill the rest of your plan. We pray that each of them in coming months and years will not only discover your plan for their lives but that they will have the courage and faith to pursue it relentlessly, Lord, because it is a plan from you, not a plan of this world. We know that, in their lives, mistakes will be made, just as we all make mistakes. We thank you for your grace which covers us and we pray for your direction to always guide us back on your path.
We thank you, Lord, for each of the parents here and for the love that they hold for your children who have been entrusted to them. On behalf of these parents, we pray that you will watch over their children in the coming months and years. We pray that your loving hand of protection will hold them and guide them. When these graduates face difficult decisions, may they seek more of you and through that may they discover your wisdom and your will.
And we pray, God, for your continued watch over this school. We thank you for your blessings in the past and we look forward to the future as you continue to reveal the impact that you want Christian Academy to have on the world. We pray that you will show us how to continually turn out Christian leaders who will go out and stand up for you in a world that seems to be increasingly off-course.
Father God, bless this day. May it be a day marked with memories and excited anticipation but may it also be a day marked as a harvest … a harvest of graduates entering the world to have a transforming impact on your Kingdom.
In Jesus’ holy name we pray, Amen.
At the end of his third missionary journey, Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, transferred about 40 miles up the road to Caesarea, and sat in prison for over two years before being sent by boat to stand trial in Rome. During the journey to Rome, a storm blew the ship off course and threatened to kill everyone on board.
"In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, 'Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.' So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it fall away."
Where is our true security? Most of us have lifeboats which we keep close to our side. Even after we've accepted the forgiveness and saving grace of Jesus, we tend to keep the lifeboats - just in case. We say we're trusting our future to God, but we still make sure every step of our life is planned for the next 30 years and fight any attempt to deviate from "the plan" - just in case.
We say we understand the concept of eternity and the idea that our life is "a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes"
(James 4:14), but we still strive for titles and positions so our friends and family can remember us as "successful" - just in case. We say we want to live for Jesus and praise our Heavenly Father for all eternity, but we still don't want to miss the immediate pleasures of the world - just in case.
If we keep one foot in the ship and one foot in the lifeboat, we will never live as God desires. It makes absolutely no sense to say we believe and trust God with our eternity and yet fail to trust Him with the uncertainties of tomorrow or the storms of today. Cutting the lifeboats means we place ALL our trust in God, believe His Word as truth, and live accordingly: "Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (James 1:22).
We MUST stay with the ship! A saving relationship with Jesus implies we have recognized the eternal storm of sin which threatened to sink us to the pit of hell, but it also implies we are clinging to His forgiveness as the ONLY way to be saved; "for there is no other name under Heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
Let's ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any area of our life which is not consistent with a life of unrestrained belief and trust. Then, let's ask for the strength and courage to, once and for all, give Him ALL of our heart and cut the lifeboats.
“You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” Leviticus 19:2
The bottom line of God’s requirements for men is this single word: qadosh – holy. Jesus thought it was so important that he quoted this verse (Matthew 5:48) when He summarized His discussion of the law. If your translation says, “be perfect,” it reflects the Greek word, not the Hebrew word. So, if the Father and the Son both agree that holiness is the absolute fundamental, what does this mean in action?
Qadosh describes something (a person, place or thing) that is inherently sacred or that has been designated sacred by a ceremonial act. It is exactly the opposite of profane; something that is used commonly, without special attribute of quality. For example, profanity is using language that should have a holy, sacred quality in a common, base way. Profanity strips language of its divinity. Likewise, whenever we act in ways that strip divinity from its rightful place in our lives, we become profane.
Step back a bit and reflect on this. Life, all life, is sacred. God brought life into being and life reflects Him. God designated Life sacred, blessed it and put His stamp on it. If you go back to the Genesis account, you will discover that every step of the creative process is saturated with God’s holiness. God is holy and all that He does reflects that holiness. Therefore, in obedience to Him and in recognition of the true character of Life, we are asked to deliberately reflect the same holy attribute. That means that every act, every thought, every word of our lives is judged by the fundamental structure of the universe – holiness!
Hold the mirror of holiness up to your life. Is the reflection clear and bright? Is every part of your life a testimony to the holiness inherent in God’s creation? Do you live and move and exist in the fabric of the sacred quality of Life? Or are there some things that you allow to be profaned? Are there some things where your actions, thoughts and attitudes are just like the fallen world, filled with reducing the sacred to the common?
If you are going to be a Christian, you must remove the profane from your life. You have been designated holy by the Son’s ceremonial act on the cross. Now you need to live up to the high calling.
God wants holiness. We want forgiveness. There's a big difference. We need forgiveness in order to pursue holiness, but we often want forgiveness in order to pursue our own agendas. It’s time to return to the fundamentals. Profane nothing God has given. Be holy because He is holy.
The number one thing that struck me was the building of the tabernacle. I have read that it took about five months to build it though, when I read of all of the painstaking details, and think of doing it all without modern tools and Microsoft, it seems overwhelming that it could have been done that quickly.
But here you have the Israelites ... escaped from Egypt, led into the desert and to Mt Sinai by Moses. Fed by manna. Frustrated because at times slavery looks better than wilderness. Waiting for the promised land ... a bit discouraged as to whether they'd ever really see it.
And yet it is, with the building of the tabernacle, an amazingly productive time for the Israelites. Yes, ultimately, I guess it was a period of waiting for the promised land but yet they discovered the work at hand and kept busy at it.
I have posted before about how I had felt for awhile that I had lost my groove ... I was drifting into the background of my own life ... letting others make my decisions and determine the future. Exodus has taught me that that is not the way to do things.
Yes, I may feel like I am in an "in-between" period ... waiting for something. But yet, like the Israelites, I need to make that a productive time. Yes, they had clear directives from God in building the tabernacle but yet, to them, building this mobile sanctuary was not where they thought Moses was leading them. This wasn't the promised land! They were stuck at the bottom of a mountain in the desert and they weren't even allowed to climb it and take a look around! Yikes! What could be more depressing?
They had escaped Egypt with fine materials, jewelry and other precious things ... yet here, in the desert, for some God-only-knows reason, they were asked to give those things up and build this huge Tabernacle-A-Go-Go!
When I look at my life, I see how the dry spells, if I leave them dry, stay dry. It is in my moments of high energy and enthusiasm that I regain my creativity, that I hear God the loudest, and that I can start to accomplish things of significance.
The Israelites could have moped around in the desert. They could have not seen the point of anything. They could have demanded their own personal moments on Mt. Sinai. Forget about Moses, let me also go up and see God's backside! But, they didn't. Yes, they were waiting ... waiting for the promised land ... but they were also productive ... right where they were at. Had they not built the tabernacle during this period, God never could have led them out of the desert. Getting out of the desert was dependent upon high energy working while they were in the desert! Realizing that has truly been a "WOW" moment for me!
I really don't buy into "health and wealth" theology but one quote from it that resonates clearly is something that was coined by Zig Ziglar but I have heard it often repeated by Robert Schuller and others: "It's your attitude and not your aptitude that determines your altitude."
Exodus has helped me get my groove back. The last couple of weeks, I have taken a stronger, more pro-active role in my own life ... and things have started to happen ... and I feel hugely blessed. I may ultimately feel like I am still at an "in-between" stage in my life but I have a refreshed mind and renewed spirit. My turning the "waiting" into "working" has brought me to new places where I can once again see God ... and see His work around me and, hopefully, through me.
If the tabernacle and everything involved with it was truly constructed in five months, it was only because all of the Israelites threw themselves whole-heartedly into it. They didn't sit around. They got to work! Exodus has been a blessing in showing me that "waiting" is not necessarily about "waiting".
We are called to follow, best we can, in the steps of Jesus Christ, the one who gave His life so we may have have eternal life. We're called to love each other as Christians and to also love pre-Christians. We're called to preach the message of salvation but to do so through openness and autheticity ... through true relationships with one another. We're called to live on His power ... to become less so that He might become more.
I Corinthians 1
2) I have taken a few days off from my Bible-Chapter-A-Day posting. Am trying to decide what book of the Bible to explore next. Am thinking maybe I Corinthians. We'll see.
3) A couple of days ago, Lisa and I had the opportunity to speak at a banquet that was held at Evan's school for participants and parents in their EAGLES program. I can never remember what "EAGLES" stands for exactly but it is their enrichment program for gifted learners. "Banquet" is a funny word, isn't it? In first grade, I won a contest sponsored by a local realtor in which first graders and high school seniors were asked to write an essay on "What my home means to me" or something like that. As the first grade winner, I had to go to a banquet at the Swedish House restaurant and read my essay. I was most confused by what "banquet" meant ... that was after I was confused by what "essay" meant. Anyway, when we spoke the other night, Lisa did a great job -- much better than I did. One of the things I spoke of, though, was how God gives us all different gifts and talents and expects us to use them for His glory. I mentioned that I wonder whether, if we don't use our gifts, God takes them away. For example, I jokingly pointed out that I once had a full head of nice hair but apparently I did not use it well. But, really, I guess the Parable of our Talents does somewhat indicate Jesus' teaching that we are to use and build upon what we have or else we might lose it.
She arranged a field trip for us. Field trips happened maybe 3 - 4 times a year back then and they were always a real highlight of the year. I don't know that they happen so often in school anymore.
She arranged a field trip for us to her husband's business, CSS Publishing in Lima, Ohio. I do not remember a whole lot about what we saw there. But I do remember her husband talking to us and encouraging us to write and journal. And I remember what he gave each of us -- a small glue-bound booklet of blank ivory-colored cardstock for us to write and journal in.
After a good period of waiting and deliberation, I used my booklet for several years to write about the Cincinnati Reds. This was during the height of the Big Red Machine era and I followed all of the players very closely. I knew all of their stats and studied them after each game. Bench, Morgan, Rose, Concepcion, Foster, Nolan, Gullett, Geronimo, Billingham, Perez. I knew them all very well and I also kept a Cincinnati Reds scrapbook of newspaper clippings.
I still have that booklet and the scrapbook someplace though I suspect the glue in the booklet has cracked and the pages have separated.
But I think back occasionally to CSS Publishing and Mr. Wesley Runk .... and the lifelong impact he had on this snot-nosed fourth grader by giving me that little booklet and starting me on lifetime of enjoying playing with words.
I recently sent him an email just to let him know that he made an impact that day over 30 years ago. Remembering that makes me more sensitive to the impact, good or bad, that I can choose to have on others each day of my life.
Lord, why do you keep pounding away at me?
Like a sculptor, are you chipping away at a rock
blow after painful blow,
hoping to reveal something beautiful and worthy inside?
If so, therein lies the problem I believe
As I do not know that there is any beauty inside.
But if I do not believe that there is beauty inside
then strike after strike,
am I not denying your very existence?
How am I to react to this refining and shaping?
Am I to just accept it and carry on with my life,
letting things work out over time?
Am I to ignore it best I can,
becoming numb to each strike of the hammer?
Am I to wince each time the chisel chips,
holding it as memory of change and shaping?
I think I know what the answer is supposed to be
but sometimes I grow tired of this process.
Sometimes I wince before the hammer even strikes,
just thinking of my need for additional painful growth.
But ultimately, I thank you, Lord.
I thank you for loving me enough,
for so wanting me to be a part of your plan,
that your chiseling of refinement
continually seeks the beauty inside
that I myself just don't see.
Oh, and one other thing ... today was apparently Senior Parade Day at the high school. I was welcomed into town at the first stoplight by an impromptu parade of high school seniors riding all sorts of vehicles. Lawn mowers were common as were mini-bikes, mopeds, bicycles, and golf carts.
Only in Bluffton. Ya gotta love it. (Or at least I do.)
M-O-M-M-Y needs C-O-F-F-E-E
D-A-D-D-Y needs C-O-F-F-E-E
I love my kid... I love my kid
Gosh, I need love my kid
But I need what I need, and I need a lot of what I need
M-O-M-M-Y needs C-O-F-F-E-E
D-A-D-D-Y needs C-O-F-F-E-E
I want a latte, a cappuccino
And tonight I think I’ll have a little vino
M-O-M-M-Y needs C-O-F-F-E-E
D-A-D-D-Y needs C-O-F-F-E-E
It must have seemed odd to Moses to now be annointing his older brother -- who had been in Moses' shadow -- as high priest. Aaron's sons ruled over Moses' sons. Yet Moses was a faithful man, following hard after God.
There is a lesson in there for all Christians, I think, about the importance of humbling ourselves to God's will. Pride is a human emotion that can spoil God's plans if we do not make it subservient to Him.
A couple of Sundays ago, I saw two boys, probably 11 or 12, at the "coffee getting station" in the balcony of our church. (Some people call it the "coffee bar" but I'm too Methodist to call anything inside the church a "bar" ... sorry.) One of them was pouring himself a cup of fancy flavored coffee as the other one looked on in horror. "But, dude, it's still coffee, even if it is flavored!"
When I was that age, I must admit that I would have had a similar reaction to coffee. I'd tried it a time or two and found it to be the most foul tasting stuff in the world.
Somewhere along the line, though, I have seen the light. And the light is dark, rich, deliciously fragrant, with a little foam on top, and truly wonderful.
While I was in high school, I still was not a coffee drinker. My town was not exactly someplace where you could get coffee other than at McDonalds or a couple of coffee shop dives where only very old people seemed to hang out. McDonalds' coffee has made great headway in recent years but had a lot to be desired back then. And I wasn't too into places where old people hung out ... though I am curiously drawn to those spots today. (hmmm ... I wonder why?)
However, as I thought ahead to college, I could imagine myself sitting around some cozy coffee house drinking that wonderful brew with friends, all whilst ruminating on the subject of world peace.
When I got to to college, though, there wasn't a coffee house in sight. There was only one "bar" in town and it truly was the type of "bar" that I was a little too Methodist to frequent. There was a sort of snack shop in the student center but the student center was called "The Barn" because it was constructed of old timbers that came out of an old barn that once housed the college's gymnasium. It just wasn't the right atmosphere for ruminations and wonderings. Heck, I don't even know if they sold coffee in The Barn.
But my first experience with coffee did occur in college. I believe it was the summer after my junior year that a good friend and I ventured on a trip to New York City for the first time. We drove out and actually stayed in Jersey, taking the bus into the city each day in order to save money. Anyway, I remember eating at a very small restaurant in the basement of a house off of Washington Square one day for lunch and, afterward, I ordered a cup of espresso. It was some of the strangest, strongest stuff I'd ever tasted but I was still intrigued and determined to figure out what this coffee craze I kept hearing about was all about.
In subsequent trips to New York, it wasn't long before we discovered the coffee house in the bottom of the Renaissance Hotel on Times Square. And not too long after that, Starbuck started popping up ... everywhere. And I got hooked on lattes. Always looking for my next fix, I could spot a new coffee house before it even had its sign up.
Not too long after that, the local chocolate shop (Winan's) in the town where I work opened a coffee bar. A co-worker and I quickly became regulars there, essentially opening the place up each morning. For several years, we got to know the owner (who had also gotten hooked on coffee in New York) and the folks working there very well. My drug of choice was a hazelnut latte though sometimes I ventured out a bit.
Over the past few years, though, I have cut out the fufu stuff of drinks with steamed milk and fancy names. I strive to get my caffeine quickly and straight. I like the places that have several blends of coffee where I can mix them into my own concoction. I avoid the flavored ones but look for the dark, rich roasts. High octane.
It's been a lot of years and taken a lot of twists and turns ... this love affair of mine. But's it's too far to turn back now. This stuff is addicting, you know!
I am not sure exactly how the subject came up but I mentioned that his mom and I are a team -- "together forever". As soon as I said that, a big smile crossed Evan's face. Now, this is a young boy who is normally completely grossed out by any thought of a relationship between a male and a female. But my words of assurance touched him.
I think that that simple assurance that his mom and I are "together forever" was the greatest gift I could give to him this evening. In a world where he increasingly hears about divorce and moms and dads not getting along with each other, what I said this evening, rather off the cuff, apparently meant a lot to him. I know it would have meant a lot to me at his age, but I never heard those words.
As I left his room, he still had a smile on his face as he buried his head into his pillow. "Sleep well, young prince," I said.
It was a very touching moment if I do say so myself. A sort of Hallmark / Kodak moment. Except for one thing.
He didn't understand what I said. So his response was "What's a young britch, dad?"
"Just go to sleep, Evan. I love you."
Part of what we did that day was visit a new upscale shopping area near Dayton, Ohio. It is a very nice "open air" mall, sort of like a little village all its own. We meandered through the streets and in and out of the different stores.
There are not a lot of stores there but most of them are pretty upscale. I spent some time looking at some shirts I liked at Eddie Bauer ... until I realized they were $65! No wonder I liked them. The idea of paying more than $25 for a shirt, though, doesn't sit well with me.
But as I went from store to store, two words kept coming to my mind: "sickening consumerism". I couldn't help it. Everyplace I turned, I saw things that were very nice but yet they were things I really didn't need -- at prices that were outrageous.
To make matters worse, I kept thinking about the people in far-off lands with funny-sounding names who are probably working very hard in not very good conditions for very little pay, just so that these things will be available to what really cannot be called anything other than an increasingly hedonistic society.
It seems that we're born searching for something. It starts out as a search for food and a search for comfort. We show our longing by crying and then we're either fed or our dipaer is changed. We are satisfied for awhile.
Later, kids search for approval from their parents. "Mommy, daddy, look at me!" is the call as they try something new. (As parents, we may tire of hearing that but not giving our kids that attention can lead to an escalating parade of things before us, all to get our attention. That escalation can go from the innocence of tricks involving jumping off the back of the couch to the the seriousness of self-damaging behavior if parents do not provide the proper attention.)
I digressed there a bit but, in any event, we're born into this searching. In our early years, we turn to our parents to meet our needs for approval, love, and the sense that we're okay. As our horizons start to expand, we look to friends for those things. There again, I believe that it can often be the quality of our relationship with our parents that determines how soon and to what extent we start to turn to others in search of these things.
And, at some point, we begin this search for material things. It can start at a young age with that search for a candy bar or the latest video game. Eventually it turns to a search for trendy clothing -- style that will help us in getting the love and approval that we're seeking, too.
I went through a period in high school and college when I tried to dress very trendy. Being on a meager budget, I was always looking for bargains but, really, I believed at that time that I would always stay very "current" in terms of my clothing.
Thank goodness that somewhere along the line I have lost that desire. Otherwise, we'd really be broke at this point.
But, still, we search for "things". It may start as toys or video games or jewelry or clothing but soon we're searching for other things -- things that we hope will make our lives more comfortable, more enjoyable. We seek out home furnishings, nicer homes and cars, vacations, electronics, more clothes of course, various "big boy" toys, beads and baubles -- anything that we believe will bring us happiness.
And then reality sets in ... we don't have enough space in which to keep all of our things. So, one of the fastest growing things in our country is the self-storage unit industry. These metal buildings with bunches of roll-up doors spring up in every community ... I think we have at least a half dozen here in our little town, in fact.
So, we seek out and get all of this "stuff" to make us happier and then we spend money to find places to store all of our "stuff".
I have heard of abandoned storage units being auctioned off sight-unseen. Apparently, this happens a lot ... like squirrels burying walnuts, we even forget where all of our "stuff" is located. And then other people come in and pay good money for our "stuff" without even knowing what it is. Apparently, they figure that we all want to store up the good "stuff," so why wouldn't they want our "stuff" just as much as their own "stuff"?
It's all pretty silly, isn't it? We abuse people in other countries to make "stuff" that we don't really need and oftentimes forget that we even have.
Why do we have this longing ... this constant seeking? Everyone will pretty much agree that all of this "stuff" doesn't bring happiness, it doesn't bring redemption or freedom, and none of it is eternal. Yet, we search for it. We seek after it. We long for it.
I believe that ultimately all of the things we seek after as adults are still rooted in the things we seek in our childhood days -- love and a sense of belonging ... a sense that we're okay. We hope to gain that sense of belonging by having the same "things" as other people. That can work to some degree I suppose but it is ephemeral ... fleeting. Here today but gone as soon as those friends move or go on to the next set of friends with "stuff" that looks like ... or perhaps is a bit nicer than ... their own "stuff".
And "stuff" can be more than just physical things ... it can be deep emotional "stuff" that leads to co-dependent relationships.
But, ultimately, no matter where we try to find it, aren't we all seeking the same thing ... the thing we were created to seek ... because He seeks hard after us?
God's various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:
healing the sick
distinguishing between spirits
interpretation of tongues.
All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when.
You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you're still one body. It's exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.
I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn't just a single part blown up into something huge. It's all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, "I'm not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don't belong to this body," would that make it so? If Ear said, "I'm not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don't deserve a place on the head," would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.
But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn't be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, "Get lost; I don't need you"? Or, Head telling Foot, "You're fired; your job has been phased out"? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the "lower" the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it's a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn't you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?
The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don't, the parts we see and the parts we don't. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.
You are Christ's body—that's who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your "part" mean anything. You're familiar with some of the parts that God has formed in his church, which is his "body":
those who pray in tongues.
But it's obvious by now, isn't it, that Christ's church is a complete Body and not a gigantic, unidimensional Part? It's not all Apostle, not all Prophet, not all Miracle Worker, not all Healer, not all Prayer in Tongues, not all Interpreter of Tongues. And yet some of you keep competing for so-called "important" parts.
But now I want to lay out a far better way for you. (I Corinthians 12, The Message)
When you think of God’s people as making up the body, what do you think of?
• Everyone playing a role.
• Each with their own giftedness.
• Inter-connectedness between parts.
One of the definitions Merriam Webster gives to “body” is “a group of individuals organized for some purpose.”
A connoisseur of wines might refer to “body” as being firmness, fullness, or texture – the way things “stick” together.
The general concept that God gifts us all individually is not all that difficult to grasp. We see that everyday. A more complex matter for us to grasp is probably how the Holy Spirit brings all of these parts of the body together.
When looking at building a church leadership team, we must seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Bathe any and all decisions in prayer seeking God’s guidance and wisdom. We’re all gifted differently, yes. However, we are all also at different places on our faith journeys. The Holy Spirit will help in determining where we’re all at and will bring us together in a way that has the proper “fullness” – the proper way to “stick” together – to do Kingdom work.
Why do you think God chose to include such a very detailed description in the Bible?
My parents never asked much of me in terms of chores around the house. I generally would sort of follow them around and try my best to help with yard and house work but I rarely had assigned "chores".
Mom and dad built a new house for us when I was between 4th and 5th grades. I spent a lot of time at the new house "helping" ... at least I hope that I was helping. It seemed to me like I was though now I sometimes look back and wonder just how much help I really was.
As I reached about the age of 12, I started mowing the lawn with at least some regularity although mom and dad still did their share of it, too. From about the age of 11 on we lived in a house that had a large wooded yard. I really enjoyed helping to clear it out and keep it looking nice. Over a period of a couple of years, we took a very overgrown couple of acres down to a nicely treed and mown area.
Probably around the age of 12 and for a few years after that, I did the odd babysitting job. I never enjoyed it but it made a little bit of money for me. I remember once telling two squabbling siblings I was watching that they could go ahead and hit each other. I was never asked to come back again. I also remember babysitting a recently potty-trained boy who kept peeing in his underwear. We went through probably 15 pairs of underwear that evening. They never asked me back again either.
My summer between 8th and 9th grade, I babysat three days a week as I recall for two boys. I think I maybe earned $10 per week. I was basically these peoples' slave for the summer. In addition to watching their kids (who were pretty well-behaved), I had to clean the house and do laundry, prepare lunch for the entire family, and have dinner started at the end of the day. However, my reward was that I had money at the end of the summer to buy a bright red Schwinn Traveler III ten-speed. It was something like $125 which really was a lot to spend on a bike back then. This job really taught me that work is exactly that -- "work".
One summer in early high school I had the idea of trying to wax cars for people in order to earn money. (This was before The Karate Kid movie came out, by the way.) I put an ad in the local newspaper but didn't get a single response. So much for my car waxing career.
The summer between my sophomore and junior years would have been the first summer after dad started the business. That was the first of several summers when I would work out in the plant. Usually my job there consisted of running parts on one particular stamoing press. I greatly enjoyed it and, dare I say, no one has ever come close to the production speeds I would run on that press. It was a blast to see how fast I could run it and to always look for ways to tweak and speed up the process. I was earning about $5 per hour which was a lot of money and I was determined to be worth it.
During high school, I would also work some after school in the factory. I remember once cutting out of school a little early to go to work. The assistant principal followed me part way, trying to figure out who I was but I lost him when I got on the highway. I was a real rebel. Also, on senior skip day, I went to work rather than to the nearby lake with everyone else. I was also one of just a handful who served detention because I admitted that I skipped school and my parents didn't cover for me.
During summers in late college, I started working for dad's business more in the office rather than in the plant, doing primarily sales and marketing types of things.
In college, my campus job was working in the Writing Lab. I was there supposedly to help other students with their writing skills. I also occasionally would have to oversee evening study sessions for the football team. Rarely did anyone ask for help so often my work time gave me extra study time. Sometimes I would help the English profs with administrative things. I remember some other students being upset that I had a rather easy campus job. I figured somebody had to do it though. And it was for the whopping amount of something like $3 per hour as I recall.
I also worked for the local weekly newspaper. That was an interesting job as the company always seemed to have plenty of drama and office politics going on. I held several jobs with them. I would proofread and write news stories. During my senior year, I wrote their weekly feature article for something like $15 per article. I would get to go out and interview local community members. I really liked that. I also got to go to news conferences with two famous citizens who hailed from the area -- Phyllis Diller and Hugh Downs. That was neat. The editor of the newspaper really seemed to try to give me fun things to do. He was a mentor of mine and I learned a lot from him regarding newspaper writing and layout, as well as just being nice to people.
I also did some work for the newspaper's related printing company. I helped them do design work for some of their clients. This was back when things were very much done by hand. It was a lot of fun and a neat opportunity for me.
When it came college graduation time, I thought some about law school and I also interviewed for some sales and PR jobs. In the end, I felt that the job where I could start at the most advanced level would be at dad's company. A couple of years later, being a pretty frugal young guy who worked hard to save money, I was able to buy into a small equity stake in the business. Pretty much the same equity I hold today.
My time at Classic is sort of a story all its own ... for another day.
In bringing materials for construction of the tabernacle, the people responded so strongly that they eventually had to be told to quit bringing things. Wow.
What leads to this sort of behavior? Are the team members scared of retribution? Are they just "brown-nosing"? Or do they think that the leader must have it all together, so they could not possibly be wrong? I suppose that ultimately it could be due to any of these things and probably other things as well. It is ultimately up to the leader to be watchful of this situation and haul it out on the carpet when they feel it is happening.
Sometimes the leader may just have to say, "This is a journey, folks! None of us knows it all. It only works when we work together as a team. Your input and ideas and creativity are critical to the team. That's why you're here."
It seems like, increasingly on teams that I participate in at work, I find myself in the situation of feeling like everyone just wants to be a "yes person" around me. I need to look more inward to myself and my behavior to help me figure out why things are that way. I know that it hurts our effectiveness and success as a team. We have some very smart and innovative team members yet, when give the opportunity to express their thoughts, they clam up. And they never want to tell me that I could be wrong.
Even this blog -- sometimes I wonder why more people don't challenge me on my thoughts. Perhaps I am too milquetoast to be challenged but I do love it when I get the occasional post that encourages me to seek new depths and ways of understanding! I'd love to get more of those.
And I must admit -- I have been there before on teams where I have served. I have been among those who sit back and watch rather than participate. The reason is partially because I tend to be a "processor" ... I need to think things through a bit before responding. Sometimes it is because I am afraid of my suggestions being shot down by the leader. (This is one of the ways in which I feel that I may be stifling input on the teams where I lead, by the way.) I am beginning to see how incredibly frustrating it is to a team leader when people do not talk. You begin to wonder why you're even doing things by team leadership. You may as well do it all by yourself if no one is going to participate.
I do lead one small group right now where one of my team members always provides input and is always willing to challenge me or offer a different perspective. I appreciate this individual so much. Out of all of the meetings I attend on a regular basis, there is none I enjoy more than the ones where this individual is present. Yes, he is hugely skilled and experienced at doing things by team leadership so he understands the dynamics and the proper behavior. But I just appreciate him so much because I know that he will always give me his true thoughts and perspective.
So, I need to look inward and figure out how to be better at drawing out the opinions of others. I need to really analyze whether it is something in my behavior and response that normally stifles them. And I need to be more participative on all teams on which I serve.
Doing things by team can be huge in both spiritual and secular settings. But you must have the right dynamics -- you must have things firing on all cylinders -- for that level of success to occur.
Their hearts were roused, their spirits and hearts moved freely ... these are words The Message uses to describe the generosity of the Israelites in their response to God's command.
Wwhen I hear God's call for me to be generous, compassionate, and kind, my heart is usually roused ... it is in the "free movement" thing where my human side often pulls me back though. Away from worship and love and gratitude and back to self-centeredness ... back to selfishness ... back even to greed.
I pray that, in this hurting world ... this world where so many are really thirsting for signs of a God who loves them, not gods who want from them, those of us who are followers will have our hearts roused and that, beyond even that, we will move freely to show and prove Jesus' love for everyone, especially for those who are hurting and those who may have even turned to the gods of this world in order to numb themselves to the very real and very human pains of this world.
We can change our world ... we can show and teach it love and grace and compassion. Though this starts with the rousing, we have to go beyond that and into the stage of spirits and hearts that move freely.
When it came down to her and Blake at the end, you could see it in Blake's eyes. He knew that he would be going home. And he was okay with that. He knew that he was in the presence of a truly great singer and he knew that he'd done his best.
However, when it turned out that Melinda was going home instead, you could see the shock even in the eyes of Blake's number one fan, his dad. I am sure he was tremendously happy and excited for his son but I don't think anyone expected Melinda to not be in the final two.
Melinda is an incredible singer. You can give her any song and she will absolutely 100% knock it out of the ballpark as far as technical singing ability. A person could listen to her all day and not be disappointed. If she so chooses (and I wonder whether she really will), Melinda will have a very solid career and probably, as third place contestant, even has some opportunity to launch her career faster and better than the other two.
So, why did I feel that she'd be going home?
The other two have "star appeal" that, regardless of their talents, I knew the American public was going to gravitate to. Jordin, also a very solid singer who can do a lot with just about any song, has a bubbly personality that gives her huge charisma. People like that. We also know she's only seventeen though she sings and acts much older. Younger folks aspire to that.
Blake may not have quite the singing ability of the other two, nor actually the charisma of Jordin, but he has a uniqueness you cannot deny. Could I listen to an entire CD of him? I'm not sure. If he mixed it up enough, perhaps. But he has shown again and again a great ability to take a song, mix it up a bit, and create something hip and fresh. I like that.
If you've been following the show, you may recall a few segments ago when Simon encouraged Melinda to stop acting so humble and surprised when she stayed on the show at the end of each week. Prior to that, she had had this very cute doe-eyed look of utter surprise and humility when she got enough votes to stay in the running. So, she followed Simon's instructions. She still stayed very humble and nice but gone from each show was that coy look of surprise. Honestly, I think that following Simon's advice was her death knell on the show. When she quit giving us that look at the end of each show, she became just another contestant hoping to ride things to the end. Before that, though, she had a uniqueness and a youthful, naive quality where it looked like she was completely unaware of her own talent. America wanted to assure her that she indeed was talented. It is part of our DNA to, when we see someone who doesn't seem to feel quite okay, want to make them feel okay -- give them reassurance.
You could tell it all season -- Simon really likes her and thinks she is hugely talented. He tried to coach her and say little things that would keep her until the end. I think he, too, suspected that perhaps she didn't have the charisma or the feshness to make it to the end but yet he knew she was the best singer.
In this case, though, I believe that Simon's advice ruined things for Melinda. He took away the one special attribute she had beyond that ability to consistently deliver incredible performances. He took away her coyness, her naivety -- things that I believe America would have rallied around and kept her to the very end for.
Sorry, Simon, I know you were trying to help but I think you blew it for the contestant you loved so much.
God directly reveals His own true nature:
And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation. (Exodus 34:6-7, KJV)
Common Grounds has quickly become one of my favorite places. Of course, having grown up nearby to Bluffton and then later return there for college, Bluffton has a special place in my heart anyway. It is a community of friendly folks who seem to be at peace with themselves. Now appearances can be deceptive ... I know that ... and I tend to fall in love with whatever town I am in ... but there is something special about Bluffton. Where else can you be walking through campus and have squirrels fall out of trees right before you and then sit up, shake their heads, and look at you like you did something to cause this calamity?
Anyway, I had a great few hours at Common Grounds. Lots of folks came and went as I sat there at my table taking advantage of their free wireless. There were a few faces I remembered from years back. A bit more aged but friendly nonetheless.
I had a wonderful lunch with half of a chicken salad wrap as well as a bowl of Sweet Potato Ham Chowder ... the name sounded a little odd but, trust me, it was chowder that was good enough to be pronounced as "chowda".
Anyway, it was a great treat ... a relaxing and refeshing time. I do feel rejuvenated today but, if I could find an excuse to get back up there today ...
My previous post got pretty messy. Sorry about that. Not sure I am making sense. If you don't think I am, feel free to send this picture to me.
This picture always cracks me up.
I had a co-worker who once took this picture and put his own face in place of the bunny. He did this a few days before he was leaving to take a different job. (It was on good terms. I was as excited about his new job opportunity as he was.) And then he put text with the picture that went something like "I'm leaving soon and really don't care so here's me with a pancake on my head."
Oh yeah ... we have fun times all right at Classic Metal Roofing Systems.
"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked.
"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!"
"Yes, Lord," he answered.
The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight."
"Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name."
But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. (Acts 9:1-19, NIV)
The story goes that the scales in Saul's eyes were put there by God in this dramatic event. God knew it was going to take something pretty strong to reach the man He wanted as His servant. Of course, metaphorically, Saul of Taursus had scales in his eyes, his soul, and on his heart long before this event.
The resulting change in Saul was far, far greater than just a change in attitude or a realization of his potential. Paul never denied that life as a Christian isn't a journey but fact is it was a true transformation in Christ that Paul experienced when those scales fell. God may not strike us blind to prove the scales on our hearts but how often are we indeed blind to our potential in Christ?
I have been examining my life of the last couple of years and, as I look back, it seems like I have lost my confidence. I have been prone to turning things over to others, to taking a "wait and see" approach, to not being the kind of leader that I probably should be. Maybe it's just been an intensional dry season for me -- a time of learning and growth. But part of me eggs me on to know more. What has happened and how did it happen? Have I been shirking back and not always living up to be the man I am called to be? Do I need to start a fund for "Help Todd Get His Groove Back"?
As I have been tossing this around in my mind, I originally kept thinking about it in terms of it being a loss of confidence in my "self." During this period, I have so often felt not only uncertain of my abilities (which isn't an all bad thing as it teaches us to rely on God), but I have felt intimidated by others and by the world. But then, in thinking this through, I realized that the real problem has been a loss of keeping my confidence where it should be -- in God -- not in my "self." I would daresay that I have felt not only uncertain of my own abilities but uncertain of God's abilities, too. And that is how I lost my groove. (Sorry, I just added that line for dramatic effect.)
When I switch my confidence to myself, I become ineffective because I am weak. It is only in God where I am strong. That is where my confidence must lie.
"Through" or "To"?
During tough times and difficult times, I believe that I have been taking an approach of allowing God to lead me "through" things .. at least I hope I have ... but not "to" things. I have increasingly turned to Him only to help through the tough times and then I have taken back over with my "self" as soon as that hurdle was cleared. I need to seek His power and His direction not only "through" things but "to" things. That is how His work is accomplished.
How do you do that? How do you develop that confidence that He is there for all aspects and all times of your life? That He is there not just during the tough times but all times. That He is there for me not only in my personal life but in my business life. That He is there at all times and in all things.
How do you get there? Staying more in The Word is important. Praying more. Those are both good, but dying to myself is the important thing. Losing my "self" and gaining more of Him. It's an odd concept to deal with though, at least for me. Part of me fears that in the process of turning more to God, and gaining my confidence from Him, I could actually become more apathetic and more complacent to the things around me in this world. And, of course, it is my fear that I have already been too much that way. Somewhere there is that incredible point where our power -- our "groove" --is there in this world but it comes solely and entirely from God. That is what I seek hard after.
Fortunately, this is a journey ... growth occurs incrementally but it starts with having my confidence always in God -- not in my "self".
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. (I Corinthians 9:24, NIV) In other words, find your "groove" ... hold your confidence in God ... and run the race for Him.
There is lots of good stuff here. God calls Moses to move on and He offers His protection. But God also calls them a "hard-headed lot." God knows that they will want more -- that His guarantee of protection will not be enough. So Moses goes to talk to God and it seems like they have a fairly casual, friendly conversation. Sort of like a couple of friends catching up at the local coffee house. (We can all take a lesson in our walks with God from that idea, I am sure.) Moses asks God for more assurance. Deep down, they both know that the Israelites have been through a lot and are going to require more than just a "Follow me and I will be there" kind of assurance. Moses reminds God that, even though God has entrusted these people to Moses, God is their ruler. God has called these people "special" and He has a responsibility to them. Moses didn't mince words when talking with God. I like that. We can't work through the dark or trouble-filled areas of our lives by pussy-footing around. We have to be honest. And Moses appears to have been so. "If you're not going to do more to lead us, let's just call the whole thing off right now," Moses says. Although this may have been like a meeting between two friends, I wonder if Moses wasn't at least a little nervous talking like this. I wonder if, in part, Moses' own uncertainties weren't showing in what he was saying. I suspect that he was afraid of mutiny if God didn't give him a little more assurance through all of this. God reminds Moses that God is indeed in control -- that He will treat people as they deserve to be treated. And then God offers Moses a chance to see His backside. That had to have been awesome but yet, still, it had to have been a little odd for Moses to be thinking, "Oh great, I can go tell this anxious mob that I saw God's backside and that is supposed to make them feel better?"
Notice how Aaron tries to justify his actions -- "I was forced into it. I had no choice."
Moses, on the other hand, in verses 31-32, takes responsibility for the Israelites' sins "If you cannot forgive them, hold me accountable for their sins."
What does God hold us to in our lives? Justification of our wrongs or complete and total repentance?
We know the answer, of course. But how often, when we sin, do we try to justify it ... to God, to others, and to ourselves? Are we not showing a lack of trust in God's grace and love for us when we do that?
But then we are to rest on the Sabbath. Every once in awhile I see articles where science is discovering more and more the positive effect that periodic and regular rest has on our physical and emotional health. Taking a day to rest and worship is a challenge for all of us but it is also one of His commandments.
Growing up, my family was pretty strict on keeping Sunday as a day for church and rest. Often Sunday afternoons would involve a ride out in the countryside enjoying the beauty of what God has given us. Those are some of my best childhood memories.
It's been easy for me to get away from that though, using Sundays to work around the house and prepare for the coming week. Not good. I believe that our gifts and talents are of less value to God when we do not properly rest and rejuvenate.
Have a great one, Lisa!
Just as the blood-soaked altar in this chapter paved the way for ongoing holiness for the Israelites, Jesus' blood, with the new covenant He established, paves the way for us. And Jesus promises to live in us and be our God if we will invite Him in.
I think it's interesting to note from Exodus 25:2 that all of the materials for building and making these things -- all of the gold and other precious metals, all of the jewels, all of the expensive materials -- were to have been collected from the Israelites. So into the making of all of these things went a sacrificial offering from everyone. They were giving up their best, their finest -- for their Lord.
That had to have been hard for them to imagine. Years in slavery and now drug out and wandering the desert, not really sure where they were heading. Following this old man and his brother who kept trotting up mountains to get "the word". Now "the word" includes all of these detail descriptions of how they need to give up their best things.
I am sure that they all liked their things. Goodness knows that we like our things. Man hasn't changed that much in that respect. Yet God's call on us to willingly give up all of the things of this world in order to follow Him? That hasn't changed. We don't have Moses directly bringing us direction but we do have the Word clearly showing us that direction.
It all makes me wonder about just how far off the mark we might be, myself included.
"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32, NIV).
As I reached for a second cookie, Daddy spoke to me from across the dining-room table. "Now, Pat, that's why you're having a hard time with your weight."
I looked past Daddy's head and out the basement window to the driveway where my husband and our young daughter were washing the car. With a familiar "nobody" feeling starting to close in around me again, I returned Mama's delicious chocolate-chip cookie to the platter. Then, seeking an escape, I gathered up the dirty plates and silverware and started into the kitchen. I prayed, "Lord, You know how hard I've been trying to lose these few extra pounds. I'm so tired of feeling like a little girl whenever I come home. I'm almost 30 years old!"
Leaning wearily against the sink, I put my hands into the warm, sudsy water, and remembered . . .
Last New Year's Eve, as I was praying about my yearly, personal-growth goals, the Lord put His finger on a weak area in my life-forgiveness. With the Holy Spirit's conviction, I prayed, "Lord, I have always felt overwhelmed in dealing with offenses. Whenever I get hurt, I hold those hurts and nurse the grudges. This year, Lord, my goal is to break out of this childish pattern and to learn how to forgive."
Several days after that prayer of commitment, I brought this matter before the Lord again. As I read Ephesians 4:32, "Be . . . tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you," (NASB) I received some insights into Jesus' forgiveness.
Christ's crucifiers did not ask for forgiveness. Yet, we read in Luke 23:34 that Jesus, without being asked, took the initiative, and while in His pain, He prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (NIV). Christ forgave unilaterally from the cross.
Reflecting on these insights, I felt hope and faith build within me. "Lord," I prayed, "I thank You that I am 'in Christ' because You died for my sins, even before I asked. And because of Your resurrection life within me, I have the authority to do the same toward those who hurt me. When offenses come, I choose to take up my own cross, and with a tender heart, to forgive."
At the sink I made that choice. Deliberately, I prayed, "Father, forgive Daddy because he didn't know what he was doing. He didn't know that he hurt me."
I looked out the kitchen window to the clear, southwestern Kansas sky and breathed in the summer air. As release, renewal and joy replaced the pain, God's loving presence enveloped me as His affirmation resounded in my mind and heart: "Well done, good and faithful daughter!"
As I basked in a strong sense of belongingness, I heard footsteps behind me. Daddy's arms wrapped around my waist and his mustache tickled my cheek. Through my tenderhearted obedience, I had learned invaluable lessons in restoring broken relationships."
Lord, we know that our sin against You is far greater than any offense that others may have caused us, but we still struggle to forgive. Teach us to see offenses from a new perspective this year so that we might avoid holding grudges and nursing our own hurt. May we instead release these concerns to Your care. Please help us to start the year by forgiving others. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
I suspect that many owners and managers of small to mid-sized businesses do that. We feel like maybe it is through a fault in our character or a shortcoming in our abilities that we are relegated to the small business world while many friends and colleagues have gone on to big business.
At the same time, whenever I have been involved in an organization made up of individuals who come from both sides of that "small or big" business fence, I have noticed that the small business guys tend to be the drivers. They tend to be better at building consensus, coming up with creative strategies, and making things happen. (Now, that said, I have known some wonderfully talented big business folks, too -- I am just speaking in generalities here.)
I guess that what dawned on me yesterday is that, while big business guys may go a little "deeper" in particular areas, especially with numbers and charts and research, the small business folks are the ones to be applauded for their breadth of knowledge and for their people skills. Often, the big business folks only have to work with people from their own areas of expertise. That can be fairly easy because they probably all have a similar "bent" to them. However, the small business person has to work with folks from all sorts of backgrounds ... people skills are critical to their success.
The small business owner, in the course of a day, will work with finance, marketing, sales, purchasing, and operations -- all before noon. They have to have strong knowledge of all facets of what it takes to successful run a business. Their people skills require them to communicate properly with, among many others, general workers, managers at all levels, salespeople, customers, vendors, bankers, competitors, and attorneys -- and to do all of those with the skill of an experienced statesperson.
A part of me still wonders -- would I have been able to do the work required by "big business"? But then I look at the roundedness (um, yeah) I have achieved in small business ... and perhaps the ability to be myself a bit more rather than always worrying about "politics" (though you have that issue in small business as well) and I figure that I am okay where I'm at.
(Speaking of which, have you ever seen "Run's House" on MTV? It is a very peculiar reality show about a former member of the rap group Run DMC who, among other things, is now a pastor -- Rev. Run -- with something called Zoe Ministries. The show is about he and his wife raising a family of two daughters and three sons. They are obviously fabulously wealthy. They seem like nice folks trying to teach their kids some good concepts amidst huge wealth. I checked into Zoe Ministries, though, and, unless I am mistaken, I can send them money and in return they will send me a prophecy. Sort of a different take on the Psychic Network, to my way of thinking. I could be way off base though.)
Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.... - Ecclessiastes 5:10
Workplace believers are especially susceptible to a trap in their spiritual lives - one to which others may not be so susceptible. That trap is wealth. Scripture tells us that if we are having our basic needs met for food and clothing, we are considered to have riches. Jesus cautioned us against living a lifestyle that required more than our basic necessities. However, it is clear that Jesus was not against wealth, but against a dependence on wealth. Jesus continually taught that a dependence on anything other than God was evil. Whenever Jesus determined that money was an issue for an individual, He addressed it and found that the individual could not let go. This was true for the rich young ruler. When talking about what he must do to inherit the Kingdom, Jesus told him to do the one thing that would be the most difficult - to give away his wealth and follow Him. Jesus was not saying this was what every person must do, only the rich young ruler, because Jesus knew this was his greatest stumbling block. For others of us, it could be something else Jesus would ask us to give up (see Mt. 19:16-30).
In the parable of the sower in which He describes four types of people, Jesus also gave us another example of the problem money creates for any follower of Jesus.
A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop - a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown (Matthew 13:3b-8).
The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful (Matthew 13:22).
Much like the frog in the boiling pot, if we are not careful we gradually begin to acquire and walk the treadmill of material gain. Those around us begin to expect more and more. Soon we begin expanding our lifestyle. Before we know it, we are worrying about how to take care of what we acquire. Our emphasis becomes what we own versus our relationship with Jesus and His Kingdom. One day I woke up and realized I had a cold heart toward God. Apathy toward the things of God became apparent. I was still going through the motions of service toward God, but with no power. We wake up to realize Christ is no longer Lord of our lives, much less of our money. The greater independence money gives us, the less dependence on God we need. Christ talked much about money in the Kingdom because He knew how much of a problem it was. This is why we have so few who are bearing 100, 60, or 30 times what is sown.
Do you have the same hunger for God that you once had? Has financial blessing had an adverse effect on your passion for Jesus Christ? Ask Him today if your heart has grown cold as a result of financial blessing. Ask Him to keep you hungering for more of His presence in your life.
In the last two messages, we've considered Moses' encounter with God as He spoke through the burning bush. Moses heard the call of God and signaled his availability, "Here I am" (Exodus 3:4). But God had an assignment for Moses that required complete trust, and preparation began by establishing the holiness of the One who was calling; "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground" (Exodus 3:5).
God's chosen people had lived in Egyptian slavery for more than four hundred years. Now, God chose Moses to be His messenger and instrument of power; "I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring My people the Israelites out of Egypt" (Exodus 3:10). On one hand, God's call is always a great honor...on the other, it can be very frightening.
Moses gave every possible excuse to convince God He'd made a wrong
choice: "Who am I to go to Pharaoh?" (3:11), "What if they do not believe me?" (4:1), "I am slow of speech and tongue" (4:10). God was patient with Moses, but finally He had enough.
"The Lord said to him, 'Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord?
Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.' But Moses said, 'O Lord, please send someone else to do it.' Then the Lord's anger burned against Moses."
Moses would later be described as "more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:2). But as he stood before God and received his initial assignment for battle, his "humility" was nothing more than a self absorbed lack of faith. Moses looked at his own abilities and didn't see how success was possible. He failed to see the Creator of the Universe who promised to walk by His side.
Our Christian walk is ALL about God working through us. Of course our abilities will seem too small, of course the enemy will seem too big! The seemingly impossible steps are all part of His plan. Our Heavenly Father desires an intimate and passionate relationship built on absolute trust. Why would He lead us in a direction that did not require our complete dependence on Him? The assignment may seem impossible, but His call is our greatest assurance of victory; "If God be for us, who can be against us" (Romans 8:31).
When God is truly Lord of our life, it's false humility to believe we cannot follow where He leads. Let's allow His glory to so completely fill our vision that we can boldly follow because we KNOW...it's all about Him.
I remember my freshman year discovering that my roommate had used my razor to shave his legs. Something about the hair getting caught in his socks when he played basketball. It was a little bit disturbing for me that he did this and probably, at least in part, led to him just moving out of our room one day and moving in with a friend of his whose roommate had dropped out of school.
I used that razor for several years until it quit holding a charge when I bought a new electric razor. I have thought about using a "real" razor and shaving cream but, whenever I try, I end up cutting myself. I don't like the sight of blood. Especially my own.
Recently, I was faced with a dilemma. My razor needed new blades. I knew this because, for the past couple of years, shaving has inflicted great pain upon me. I don't like pain. Especially my own.
New blades cost about $30 ... or, I could get a new razor. I looked at the new ones. They ranged in price from about $20 to almost $200. The really expensive ones can be used in the shower, with shaving cream, etc. Apparently for those folks who like using shaving cream but don't like the sight of blood. Especially their own. It seemed silly to me to want to mess around with shaving cream with an electric razor. And, even if it is battery operated, using something electric in the shower just sort of makes me think of really bad movies I have seen (parts of) where angry wives electrocute their husbands in the shower or bathtub by throwing a plugged-in toaster or electric skillet at them. (Why those things would even be in the bathroom has always been beyond me.)
So, I chose a nice $40 razor that you cannot use in the shower or with shaving cream. I do not like buying things for myself but this was only $10 more than the blades I needed so it seemed like a decent decision. Lisa was out of town at the time so I had to decide on my own. I'm so mature -- shaving and making decisions!
So far, I have been happy with it. It is pretty lightweight which worries me a bit in that it may not last as long as my previous two reazors which must have lasted about 12 years each. But you can clean the little whisker shavings out of it by running it under hot water. That is very cool. I like being able to clean it quickly and easily. That way I don't notice the fact that my razor clippings, which used to be jet black, are now quite salt and peppery.
Life goes on. I do seem to have a huge zit coming out on my nose right now. Not sure what that is all about.
Sorry for subjecting you to that.
But God goes before. He paves a way. He showed Himself to an adequate number of the Israelites to provie that this really was true. It really was happening and wasn't just the wild imagination and ranting of an old guy and his brother. Today, we'd be sending Moses someplace for "testing" I am sure.
But then I got to thinking. Is faith not faith regardless of the exact circumstances? Is the faith we're called to live out today really any different than what the Israelites were called to? I am sure it's not. Yes, the Israelites were a people of great faith but it's no different than what is expected of us today.
God's unending and relentless love for us, as well as His faithfulness to us, is revealed to those who seek Him. It's no different today than it was with Moses and His followers. We're still called to be foreigners in a strange land ... to march to the beat of a different drummer ... to be in this world but not of this world ... to stand up for and be willing to die for what we know to be The Truth.
The circumstances may be different but our response should be the same as those following Moses.
Mid-morning, I walked out the back office door in order to get in my car and drive downtown to the post office. As I was getting in my car, someone called to me. Apparently they had been at the front door of the office, unable to get in of course. He approached me and asked me if I knew of a place where he could go in order to "get back on his feet," or something to that effect. He seemed calm and mild-mannered. I asked him where he was from. He told me that he was from a town just a few minutes away. But he explained that he was hitting the road, determined to just wander around and find himself.
I mentioned a place in town that I know of which is a joint ministry of several churches. He had never heard of it and, of course, didn't really have a way to get there. He was on foot and it is a very difficult place to give directions to. I then suggested the Salvation Army. He explained that he had been there the previous day. Apparently they had put him up for the night at one of the local "hotels" near my office. He told me that they told him they couldn't help him beyond that.
At this point, I didn't know what to do. He seemed like a good guy, even though maybe his thought processes were a little off. (We were perhaps a pretty good match in that respect.) I offered to drive him to the church ministry I knew of but I warned him that I wasn't sure if they'd be open.
On the way there, I learned that his name is James and he's 29 years old. He was born about 30 miles away from here and really doesn't have much in the way of family that he associates with. He was carrying a couple of backpacks with him and he had a long tree branch that he was carrying sort of as a walking stick. He explained that he didn't know why he had the stick but he had it. I suggested to him that, if the center where I was taking him wasn't open, I could take him to the police station and they would help him find what he needed. He grimaced at that suggestion so I didn't press it. He really wasn't explaining what he needed. He never asked for money and in fact indicated that he'd gotten some money from the Salvation Army. He did mentioned that maybe, at some point in his journey, he would get a job for awhile.
We got to the center. There were a couple of cars there so I dropped him off. He seemed content with that even though I warned him that I wasn't certain they were open. I showed him where downtown was and indicated to him again that the police would be glad to help him find what he needs.
Before we parted ways, I offered some words of encouragement. He told me that he knows and loves Jesus. James touched my heart.
A few minutes after I left the center, I realized that I still had his walking stick in my car.
Honestly, I don't know what to think of this all. It was almost surreal. My office is in an industrial park. People don't walk around there normally. James really couldn't tell me what he was looking for. He spoke clearly but yet things weren't entirely clicking. At one point he asked me where I was born and I told him. He asked me if they have any fish there. James has never gone fishing but he'd like to someday. James did not seem agitated or aggravated or sad. He just seemed to be wondering and wandering. He doesn't like it when people call him "Jimmy" because that makes him feel like a little kid.
I don't know if I did everything I could have for James. I don't feel bad about what I did do for him but yet I really don't know that I helped him. He seemed happy enough when we parted ways. If all he was really looking for was someone who would talk to him and try to help him, then he got what he was looking for. If he was looking for more than that, then I am afraid that I failed him.
One thing that this experience showed me though -- despite being relatively "plugged into" the social services available in the town where I work, I honestly didn't know what to do for James. I did the best I knew and I pray that he will be okay.
As I later pulled into my garage at home, my first inclination was to throw out his walking stick but, you know what? I think that I will keep it ... as a reminder of the wonderers and the wanderers of this world. May I learn better how to give them what they're looking for.