Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hard to believe that October is ending today. Where has the year gone.......

Was surfing through the radio channels this morning and landed temporarily on a program about "happiness". Now normally I would turn it over right away, but I was lured in for a few moments by a guy talking about Jacob and his wrestling with the angel (see Genesis 32):

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."

He commented on the last sentence of this section. He said that as he traveled through life, he has learned a perspective of not letting go of a painful circumstance until he learned what the blessing was; he would not let himself mentally move on from a trying situation in his life unless he learned what blessing God wanted him to learn through it. A very mature view of life.

My mind was immediately drawn to James 1 - consider it a joy when you face trials because the testing of your faith is intended to bring completeness, maturity, wholeness (my abbreviated version of James 1 mind you; read it for yourself to see the whole context).

It seems though, the rest of culture is set up for pleasure and pain avoidance. Advertisers proclaim "you deserve a break"; vacations are billed as "escapes", pharmacists dispense drugs to help us avoid pain (not all bad mind you, but when we seek a pill for everything....), etc., setting itself in direct conflict with this perspective.

What if, instead of trying to escape pain and uncomfortable situations, we embraced them as learning experiences? What if we had the perspective of "I will not leave this situation until I have figured out the blessing that God has for me"? I think that we would be a bit more desirous of walking through pain instead of around it, less likely to run away from pain and a bit more like Jesus.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I know that I am in a dry period in my life when I have nothing to say; when nothing is moving or over flowing from my heart.

This is one of those periods.......

I define dry periods as when I am not personally experiencing fullness of life, which results in the overflow of life to others. It is not that I have nothing to say (because i like to talk!), it is that I have nothing meaningful to say; nothing that comes deep from my heart as an overflow of what I am learning from God. I feel robotic - going through the motions of life; more of a survival mode than a living mode. The dry periods cause me to be emotionally "monotone" - no real ups, no real downs, just -----------.

It is during these time I really don't want to talk to people - not because I don't like them, but because i believe that I have nothing that will actually minister to them.

Before I depress you too much, I know what I need to do. David, the greatest King of Israel, went through these times (read some of his song lyrics in the Psalms). Jeremiah has the title of "the weeping prophet" and recorded a portion of this life in a book called "Lamentations" (not a "upper" book).

It is times like these when I have to plug back into the true power source; when I have to spend some time being and not doing (which is hard for a type A person); where I have to be still and listen for the voice of God through his Word, through the outflow of others people's hearts (songs and readings) and simply to allow the Spirit to minister to my spirit.

People say that ministry is hard - taxing on the spirit because your job is to constantly give yourself away to others. In reality, this is true for every believer.

When you find yourself dry, reconnect with God on a heart level (not just a mind level), weep over the things that Jesus weeps over, rejoice over the things that Jesus rejoices over and be still and listen.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

We have been working through Ephesians as a church over the past few weeks. In his letter to the church, Paul spends about 15% of the letter (OK I am an engineer, cut me some slack on the statistics....) talking about how the Jew and Gentile are now one church. He makes a special point with the Gentile believers about being part of the family vs. aliens, foreigners, separate and excluded.

The amazing part of this section to me is what Paul tells the church about their mission:

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms..... (3:10)

Instead of Israel being the agent of God, the church, this marvelous amalgamation of those who knew and practiced the law, who were instrumental in God's plan to make Him known to the world (the Jews) and those who were "far off", whose religious practices included temple prostitution, riotous living, adultery, etc. (see II Cor. 6:9), is the agent. The church is now the agent to bring the testimony of God to the world and to those in the heavenlies. To reveal to the universe the grace of God, the love of God and the redeeming nature of God. The church!

An awe inspiring task if you ask me!

Sometimes I look at the church (which includes me by the way) and wonder why God chose it as the agent to adorn Him. Fighting, lack of focus, sectarian, judgmental, petty; are all words that come to mind when you ask people about the church. Not a really good agent sometimes....

The reality is that God has chosen the church. Period. There is not a Plan B. The church. Period. God has NO OTHER PLAN. So instead of getting down about the state of the church, I chose to look forward and say we must improve, we must be the kind of place that is attractive to people who don't know Jesus. Not attractive because of gimmicks or entertainment, but attractive because Jesus is lifted up (remember John 12:32) by obedience to His commands and a passion for people like He had!

As part of the church, I am part of the design of God to represent him to the universe. WOW! I probably ought to move beyond the amazement phase and really start having this impact my life. I need to think, talk, act, go places, etc. that represent whose I am and what I am charged with. Not to look and dress like an idiot, but to be the kind of person that every can see that I am different in my walk, talk, direction of life, finances, etc.

Friday, October 15, 2010

We were studying Nehemiah in our leadership gathering on Friday. One of the first settings is Hanani, Nehemiah's brother, coming back from a trip to Jerusalem. Nehemiah inquired about the condition of the people there that had returned from exile in other kingdoms. The report from Hanani: they are in trouble and they are disgraced.

Nehemiah's response teaches me something......he wept (in fact it records that it impacted him for several days). His heart was broken over the condition of his homeland. Mind you, a homeland that he most likely had never been to, that his parents and probably his grandparents had probably never been to either. And he still wept - remarkable.

I think this is the first step in change - my heart has to break; I have to weep over the situation; I mean really weep; really be broken. Only then I will really understand, deep down in my soul, that something needs to change. Only then will I be energized to make the change that needs to be made.

I guess the question is what does my heart need to break for? I am reminded of Jesus words as he looked over the city of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives - O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing (Matt 23:37). How this must have broke his heart - he longed for them to hear him; they were not willing. I think this is where God wants my heart to break. Jesus gave us a command - go into all the world and teach others about him.....

My heart has to break for the world around me; then my behavior will change.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Attended a funeral today for a man who was the father of a friend of mine. I knew Bernard from the late 70's.

This man had been a soldier, a husband, a father, a grand father and a pastor. What struck me the most is that this man had been ministering to people for 60 years; faithfully serving smaller congregations, families, couples and individuals. He had been there through the good times and the bad times, through times when there was joy - the birth of a new child, a marriage, graduation - and through times when there was sorrow - relational stresses, death of a child, a marriage that dissolves, health issues. He spoke at my high school graduation and was near the Fisk family a few days later when their daughter, who just graduated, drowned at a graduation party.

He saw many things and carried many burdens with people through his 60 years of ministry. Up until the end of his life, he was ministering to people at the assisted living place he was staying. He talked to me a few times about visiting an old neighbor of mine who was living in the same place he was. His desire to care and pastor and to teach the words of life from the scriptures never left him.

Thanks Bernard, for a life example of faithfulness. Thanks for being true to God and holding forth his words as the word of life. Thanks for a job well done. Rest in peace and enjoy walking with your Savior and your God.

Friday, October 08, 2010

We studied John 13 in our leadership gathering today - the record of Jesus washing the disciples feet. We looked at a few other events in the journey of Jesus with his disciples.

We looked at a few passages in the relationship between Jesus and his 12 closest disciples (apostles): Matthew 16:13-19, 18:1-4, Mark 9:33-37 and 10:35-45. (If you get a chance, take a look at these passages.) They paint a picture of a group of guys, destined to be the leaders of the new movement called the church, who are fighting and arguing about who is the greatest. It seems that their biggest concern was "who is going to be top dog in the pecking order". In our world, there were arguing about who was going to be the vice-president, the secretary of state, head of the senate, etc. You get the picture that they were focused pretty much only on themselves. Jesus teaching and examples did not seem to make a difference in their thought processes.

They enter the last meal that they are going to have with Jesus before he is crucified and they are still thinking about themselves. They aren't thinking about washing the feet of their fellow travelers.They aren't thinking about common courtesy. (It is the job of the host to provide a servant to do this, lowest of low jobs. There was no official host, so it was left up to someone in the room. They weren't going to do it!)

Put yourself in this situation..... If you were arguing and posturing to be the greatest, there is NO WAY that you would be thinking about washing some one's stinking feet. Well surprise, surprise, surprise - not one of them takes a step toward providing even a common courtesy toward their "friends". They were thinking about themselves.....

So Jesus stands up, takes of his outer garment, puts a towel around his waist and starts washing their feet. He wasn't thinking about himself - he was thinking about them. In 40 days or so, he was leaving the kingdom in their hands - he needed to do something so they would understand that their focus as a leader was to be on others. He tells them this - you have seen me do it, now go do it for others. Not wash their feet, but serve them, focus on them, don't use them for your benefit, lead them for their benefit and their growth.

Am I going to follow the way of the towel or the way of me? Am I going to focus on others or on me? Am I going to serve or seek to be served? Good questions to focus on.....

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Was at a marriage conference this weekend - "Love and Respect". It was a great conference, if you ever get a chance to go, it is well worth it. It has been a very busy time over the past weeks, so my wife and I decided that we needed to dedicate this weekend for this conference, even though it meant missing some kid things.

Whenever we go to marriage conferences, we always end up having pretty intense discussions.(Isn't that one of the reasons we are supposed to go?) These discussions usually end up talking about something that I thought was "under control", but really isn't. I guess that I always think that I am farther along than I think I am. it kind of stinks to know that I still have lots of room to improve in my relationship with my wife - how I treat her, how I understand her, how I relate to her.

This really is a reflection on my whole spiritual life. I think that I am farther along than I am; I think that I am more holy than I am; I don't really realize how much I need to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus. It is always good to be humbled. It doesn't feel good, but it is necessary. It keeps me understanding that I need God and I need Him to deliver me from sin every day.