Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Listened to a talk by Chris Wright from Langham partnership from the Cape Town 2010 Conference (see http://conversation.lausanne.org/en/conversations/detail/11556 if you are interested). His basic premise was that one of the greatest inhibitors to the world wide spread of the gospel is the lack of obedience and the idolatry of the church - Jesus body. He reviewed how this happened to Israel in the Old Testament and how we are sliding into idolatry of various forms (my comments: position, building projects, ways of doing church, etc.).

I have been reading and studying in Ephesians 4. The precursor to this section is chapter 2:

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

We, as a collective group called the church, are a dwelling place of God. We are a living, growing vibrant dwelling where God lives through His Spirit! THAT is amazing!

He then comes to chapter 4. I found it interesting that in this chapter he jumps between a couple of main themes - personal issues and living within the community of the church. I think what he is trying to teach me is that the statements relative to personal issues; the charge to change personally and live a life worthy of the calling your have received (4:1), is only useful when placed in the context of the church community. Paul instructs us to personally change so that we can have a positive, building, life giving impact on the community of believers.

Note a couple of examples:

28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

The directive is to stop stealing. Why? He does not say so that you will be a better testimony (although that is true). He does not say stop stealing so that you will not get in trouble with your boss or be arrested (although this might also be true). He says not to steal so that you can contribute to the community; so that you can share with God's people who are in need (see Romans 12).

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

The directive is to not "waste words" (unwholesome talk) but only speak life giving words. Why? To build up, to benefit those that hear you. To strengthen the community around you.

If you read through this chapter, you will see how Paul jumps from personal directives that will help a person be more holy, to the reason for this: building up the community called the church. We are to be holy, so that we can help others. Period. We are not to be holy so that we can gain some advantage; so that we can curry some favor with God: we are to be holy so that we can help others be holy so that the "temple of God"; the dwelling place of the Spirit of God; his church; will be beautiful.

Just think of how attractive that would be to a world who is looking for hope, for love, for grace, for spiritual direction. Just think if we really set our minds to being holy and then intentionally looked to build others up, how drawing that would be!

Again, I find that God is calling me to change my mindset from me, to others. Again I see that the purpose for my holiness is not me, but others. Again I see that the path of blessing is giving and not getting.

You would think that I would have that one down by now.........

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Worked yesterday to install some insulation to keep the cold out and the warmth in - winter is pending and yesterday was a nice day (at least weather wise) to do some of that kind of work. I had to work with some wood to stabilize a floor area, some metal (picking it up) and fiberglass insulation.

In the process of working on this, I some how got a small sliver in my pointer finger. I did not realize that I had it until a few hours later. I could tell that something was there - confirmed by the feeling my pointer finger with my thumb. The sliver just barely stuck out; but I could feel it. I could see the small black spec in my finger, but I could not pull it out with my other fingers or with my teeth (I know - yuk - but I was sitting in the stands at a football game and did not have access to tweezers).

After a while I forgot about it, until it rudely reminded me this morning that it was there. It was kind of red and inflamed and was sore to the touch. My body knew that this was a foreign object and it was working to protect itself.

I asked my wife to pull it out with her tweezers. OUCH, it really hurt when she tried. We picked at it with a needle, I squeezed it hard and she was finally able to pull it out as i was wincing in pain. While she was helping me, she made a statement - it is funny how something so small can produce so much pain. A very interesting statement..........

I immediately thought of an event in the Garden of Eden - a small bite of a piece of fruit which produced cataclysmic results: death to the human race.

I really believe that this is true in our existence. Seemingly small sins can produce a large amount of pain. A harsh word. A wrong touch. A pattern of small indiscretions. A lack of action. These are small things that can result in huge tremors in relationships. The small slivers of life - things that are out of place - can cause much pain if they are not immediately removed.

The question that I have to continually ask myself about my heart, my actions, my speech, my attitudes, my direction: is there anything out of place; any slivers that I need to remove..

Monday, November 15, 2010

Here we are on the first day of firearms dear hunting season. Wow. Where has the year gone! Soon there will be snow and shoveling of the driveway; the warmth of a fireplace on a cold and windy day - good things to look forward too!

Spent some time with another church last week - talking and working through some issues with them; hopefully helping them see a better way to use the resources God has given them.

I know that this should not surprise me, but it surprised me the resistance to really even think through what a different way of ministry would look like. I know, I know. People don't like change. People like to stay where they are at (or else they would have moved a long time ago). There is comfort in staying the same.

Two things happened in my spirit. First, I was reminded of the Israelites after they left Egypt. They wanted to go back. The journey through the desert and rocky crags of Midian and the Sinai was hard (OK, classic understatement - it was extremely difficult for a people who were not nomadic by upbringing to suddenly become nomadic). Although the desert and rocky crags were a place of blessing; a place where God showed up time after time in a miraculous way; they wanted to go back to slavery in Egypt, just so they could have some food. Never mind that slavery was hard; never mind that Pharaoh had slaughtered their children; never mind that the task masters over them were instructed to treat them harshly. It was a known place and it had some side benefits. They did not want to change; they did not want to walk the journey to a better place that God had for them.

Secondly, how hard it is for me to change. I get into a rhythm of life that I like. I settle into a way of existence that is probably not the best thing for me, but it is comfortable and known and not bad. The last line is the killer - not bad. Not the best, not good for me; just not bad. I find that if I settle too long in places like this, they become rooted in my fabric and I buck against change.

Here's the problem. I kind of like myself. There are always some things that I want to change, but really not bad enough to do anything about it. I think that is why it is so hard to change. Unless the value of change exceeds the amount of pain I will experience if I stay the same, I tend to stay the same.

This is where humans differ from animals. We can choose to change - even if the apparent pain is not greater than the perceived value of change; even if we change for a future return. We have the ability to understand "investment" - paying for change now for a future better state. We can look at a circumstances and decide to and make a plan to change.

And the beauty of it all is that God gives us of His Spirit to help us!!!!