Who are you Called to Be and Do?

Photo credit here.

S (Scripture): John 16:5 [Jesus said to the disciples]: “But now I go away to the one who sent me. None of you ask me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Yet because I have said these things to you, you are filled with sorrow. 7 I assure you that it is better for you that I go away. If I don’t go away, the Companion won’t come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will show the world it was wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment. 9 He will show the world it was wrong about sin because they don’t believe in me. 10 He will show the world it was wrong about righteousness because I’m going to the Father and you won’t see me anymore. 11 He will show the world it was wrong about judgment because this world’s ruler stands condemned.

O (Observation): Jesus goes, but with a promise. Jesus moves from doing the preaching / teaching / healing to handing over these duties. And in handing over these duties, Jesus is also equipping the disciples. They will have the Spirit. (Not to mention, Jesus was mentoring these disciples all along.)

So, as Jesus goes, he also promises that this is for the best. Hard to trust, but trust we do.

And we will see the truth revealed: about sin, righteousness, and judgment.

A (Application): How often do we fret over getting things just right? How arrogant can we become to the point of pointing out the sins of others???

Or, perhaps we put in long hours as a volunteer at church, and fail to see others stepping up to help?

In both cases, we get complacent in the pathway towards discerning what one is called to be and do. We fail to see that the Spirit is busy equipping us. We like to short circuit the process of raising up leaders. We expect people to act like us (“the righteous”) and fail to see our own faults.

Leaders are born, they’re made. New leaders need existing leaders to raise them up. Self-righteous need to see the world through the eyes of others.

P (Prayer): Lord, give us discerning hearts and minds. Amen.

Advertisements

Bound Together for Ministry

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Numbers 11:10 Moses heard the people crying throughout their clans, each at his tent’s entrance. The Lord was outraged, and Moses was upset. 11 Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you treated your servant so badly? And why haven’t I found favor in your eyes, for you have placed the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give birth to them, that you would say to me, ‘Carry them at the breast, as a nurse carries an unweaned child,’ to the fertile land that you promised their ancestors? 13 Where am I to get meat for all these people? They are crying before me and saying, ‘Give us meat, so we can eat.’ 14 I can’t bear this people on my own. They’re too heavy for me. 15 If you’re going to treat me like this, please kill me. If I’ve found favor in your eyes, then don’t let me endure this wretched situation.”

16 The Lord said to Moses, “Gather before me seventy men from Israel’s elders, whom you know as elders and officers of the people. Take them to the meeting tent, and let them stand there with you. 17 Then I’ll descend and speak with you there. I’ll take some of the spirit that is on you and place it on them. Then they will carry the burden of the people with you so that you won’t bear it alone…”

O (Observation): Moses is fed up with God and the people, because he feels all the weight of the people’s complaints squarely on his own shoulders…and he only has God to blame! Moses complains to God: “Where am I gonna get meat for them to eat?! These are YOUR people, God, not mine! Just kill me now, if this is what leadership looks like!”

God encourages Moses and tells him to gather everyone in the worship space. There, God will share the burden on Moses with 70 of the leaders in the community. They will do ministry TOGETHER! And God will provide the meat.

A (Application): As a seminary student, I was challenged with finding a story or person from Scripture that shaped my call into ministry as an ordained minister (aka “pastor”). I chose Numbers 11.

I chose this passage because it reminds me that I as I venture into all sorts of ministries, God will make sure that I am surrounded by those who are called to share the burden along with me.

In each venture into ministry (whether as a pastor or in the community) I have felt alone and abandoned…only to have the Spirit remind me that I am part of the BODY of Christ in which others are being called to come together to work with me.

And as I grow in faith, God has brought others outside of the body of Christ to share burdens with me. Burdens of the poor and the marginalized in our society.

Christ is still my savior and inspiration…and this has moved me to seek God out for strength and sustenance as I venture into the varied callings God has set out for me.

I am blessed.

P (Prayer): Lord, bind us together in love. Amen.

Servant-Minded

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Matthew 20:25 Jesus called the disciples over and said, “You know that those who rule the Gentiles show off their authority over them and their high-ranking officials order them around. 26 But that’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant. 27 Whoever wants to be first among you will be your slave— 28 just as the Human One didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people.”

O (Observation): Jesus turns the idea of “status” on its ear. The worldly issues about status don’t work in God’s Kingdom. Instead, to become great, you lay down your own ambitions and seek to serve someone else.

How is that helping your own cause? Jesus seems to be thinking upside-down and backwards. … Well, maybe that’s exactly what the Gospel is about: shifting around our priorities and letting go of status altogether.

A (Application): How many times have you tried to network, only to feel subservient? Like you were there to serve everyone else, and felt like you were just a pawn in someone else’s game? Why is that? Is it about a negative self-image? Is it because you think serving others is your calling? Is it because you see others as better than you?

We play lots of mind games with ourselves. When we are in a room in which someone feels they must have the upper hand, our sense of pride swells up and we don’t want that other person to walk away feeling superior. But something about humility and serving our neighbor kicks in. Do we let them just walk away thinking they have the upper hand? Do we remain poised in a “ready to be your servant” kind of mind frame? Doesn’t that mean the “other person” wins?

How frustrating is this thing called faith? The first will be last / servant of all?

That just doesn’t feel right, does it? And it doesn’t make sense, right? What is the end game? Ah… now that question changes everything.

What do we assume about the goal of the Christian life? What is the assumption about being a servant? Is it bad, by default? Is the Christian life about winning and losing?

(There you go….more questions than answers today…)

P (Prayer): Lord, keep us servant-minded in our approach to life today.

One Great Big Happy


S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 3:18 Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written,

“He catches the wise in their craftiness,”

20 and again,

“The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”

21 So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

O (Observation):  Paul recognizes that worldly wisdom has no part in knowing the Lord.   Those who claim to know God through wisdom are sorely misguided.  

Instead of human leaders, Paul urges the followers in Corinth to work together, because collectively – through faith – they belong to each other.  And if they belong to each other, they belong to Christ, and thus, to God.   

Paul urges a great coming together for mutual upbuiding in the faith.  All on the same level plain.  

A (Application):  Denominations.  Pastors. Church Leaders.  We can all make a pretty big mess of things.   We all have our ways, our nuances, our theologies.  After a few years of tradition, one gets stuck in that transition, that ideology.   And being a part of a denomination that goes back roughly 500 years…it’s so easy to slip into our “ways.”   

My hope is that we can do more to follow Paul’s advice:  don’t boast about human leaders…belong to one another…for we all belong to God.  

I love our traditions of worship and upholding the sanctity of the Sacraments of Holy Communion and Holy Baptism.  I won’t let those things go.  But I will amend my approach to how these are handled.  I will listen for how the Spirit is calling me/us to come together around these means of grace.   We can ask questions about who can access these means of grace.  We can ask who can preside over these means of grace.  We can welcome the challenges that face us as a denomination, and make ourselves vulnerable to all of these questions, as they arise from other Christ-followers and God-fearers. 

We Christians are part of one great big family of believers.  Let us act like it.  Let us be humble enough to become vulnerable and open our hearts and minds to conversation.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, help me in my lack of humility.  Amen.  

Who’s in Charge Here, Anyway?


S (Scripture): 1 Chronicles 17:1 When David had settled into his palace, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Look, I am living in a palace made from cedar, while the ark of the Lord’s covenant is under a tent.” 2 Nathan said to David, “You should do whatever you have in mind, for God is with you.”

3 That night God told Nathan the prophet, 4 “Go, tell my servant David: ‘This is what the Lord says: “You must not build me a house in which to live….
10b “I declare to you that the Lord will build a dynastic house for you! 11 When the time comes for you to die, I will raise up your descendant, one of your own sons, to succeed you, and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He will build me a house, and I will make his dynasty permanent. 13 I will become his father and he will become my son. I will never withhold my loyal love from him, as I withheld it from the one who ruled before you. 14 I will put him in permanent charge of my house and my kingdom; his dynasty will be permanent.” ‘”15 Nathan told David all these words that were revealed to him.

O (Observation):  This is not the first time we have heard of God establishing David’s house.  We hear of this promise in 2 Samuel as well.

God has been satisfied to live in a tent, wondering with God’s people, up until now. Now that David wishes to establish a home for God, God quickly replies with the fact that God will now establish a dynastic house of David; through his offspring. 

From my commentary: Here the word “house” is used in a metaphorical sense, referring to a royal dynasty. The Lord’s use of the word here plays off the literal sense that David had in mind as he contemplated building a temple (“house”) for the Lord. In the translation the adjective “dynastic” is supplied to indicate that the term is used metaphorically.

As much as David would like to further establish God’s Kingdom…God’s got this under control.  And not only that, but God will now choose to work through a fallible human…and we will see God’s grace provide a way forward.  

A (Application): How do we do this discipleship thing?   How can I move forward?  What can I achieve?  

A lot of times I sense that my job is to keep moving forward.   That I need to take the right steps at the right time.  That I need to “build a house for the Lord.”  

And yet, repeatedly, I am reminded that my efforts are no match compared to what the Lord has in store.

So, the effort is good, but it’s not the answer. Instead, I am to repent, answer the Lord’s call, then move forward, having best discerned that call.  I work with close friends and family to help me determine those calls (small and large).

Should I call this person?  Visit that person?  Read?  Study?  Write?  Create a new ministry at my church to reach college students?  Run home to spend time with family?   The questions and calls are endless!

Thanks be to God for our ability to lean on one another and to discern together wha God has in store for us.    

How do you discern?  With whom do you take time to check in and discern?

P (Prayer):  Lord, heal us from our need to “have it all together” and lead us boldly into the night, taking our hand as we do so.  Amen. 

“Humility plus Will” makes a Strong Leader

S (Scripture): 1 Samuel 8:4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and approached Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons don’t follow your ways. So now appoint over us a king to lead us, just like all the other nations have.”

6 But this request displeased Samuel, for they said, “Give us a king to lead us.” So Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 The Lord said to Samuel, “Do everything the people request of you. For it is not you that they have rejected, but it is me that they have rejected as their king. 8 Just as they have done from the day that I brought them up from Egypt until this very day, they have rejected me and have served other gods. This is what they are also doing to you. 9 So now do as they say. But seriously warn them and make them aware of the policies of the king who will rule over them.”

19 But the people refused to heed Samuel’s warning. Instead they said, “No! There will be a king over us! 20 We will be like all the other nations. Our king will judge us and lead us and fight our battles.”

O (Observation):  God appointed Samuel as a judge over Israel.  God called Samuel to lead God’s people. And for a time, the people of Israel followed this custom.  But they felt like they wanted more control over the process, so they want to select a king.  

Essentially, the people begin to think that they can choose better than God can choose.   

In those days, the judge was seen as both a political and spiritual leader.   In the days following, once kings were selected, the political power went to the king, whereas the spiritual power was shown through the prophets.  The judge used to serve the role of king and prophet, but the people demanded a king…”like all the other nations.”

A (Application):  Who knows best?  Sometimes that’s hard to answer.  Do we rely on scholars?  Pastors?  The elderly? The young folks with new ideas?  The “experts”?

Perhaps the key to all of this is the misguided notion that the person most confident in the solution (or vision) is the one who should make the decision.   Unfortunately, that was not the wise decision for the people of Israel who wanted a king!

Just because someone is confident doesn’t always make them right.  In fact, a dose of humility can go a long way.  

In his book, “Good to Great,” Jim Collins points out that the most effective leaders are not just of one personality type or of one leadership style.  Instead, Collins’ research team found this:  great companies are led by people with “Humility + a Strong Will.”  How eye-opening!

A leader that remains humble, but with a clear vision, is the one who tends to see positive results.   Samuel never sought out leadership, he was called.  And he remained humble before the Lord.   We will (after Samuel) see king after king succeed or fail based on their willingness to remain humble before the Lord or not.   

And in today’s world, I remain confident that how we lead our congregations should be modeled in this way: humility plus will; remaining humble before God and the people, along with a strong discernment process for the future.  

How do you lead?   What do you take into account when leading?  Where have you seen leaders of the church do well?  Where have you seen church leaders fail?   

P (Prayer):  Lord, keep us humble, yet hungry. Amen.  

Humility, plus Will

 S (Scripture): Proverbs 15:33 The fear of the Lord provides wise instruction,
and before honor comes humility.

O (Observation): The author notes that honor and humility are linked to one another.   First, comes humility; then, honor.  Where does this sense of humility come from?  From learning to fear the Lord.  

On “learning to fear the Lord,” my commentary shares the following:

The idea of the first line, “The fear of the Lord provides wise instruction,” is similar to Prov 1:7 and 9:10. Here it may mean that the fear of the Lord results from the discipline of wisdom, just as easily as it may mean that the fear of the Lord leads to the discipline of wisdom. The second reading harmonizes with the theme in the book that the fear of the Lord is the starting point.

To be wise is to declare that we cannot fully know the ways of The Lord, but then, should it be our duty to know all that The Lord knows?  I don’t think so.  

A (Application): Jim Collins, author of the renowned book Good to Great, he points out that great leaders are not made from certain personality styles or certain styles of leadership.  Rather, the common element exhibited amongst those leaders who have seen their organizations go from good to great are: Humility, plus Will. 

The humble leader accepts positive and constructive feedback and never presumes to be the smartest or most important person in the room (humility), yet also shows a strong desire towards a goal or vision (will).  

I sense that Jesus was this way. He always knew his vision was to bring God’s Kingdom to earth and to equip the 12 for mission and ministry.  Yet the manner in which Jesus pursued the will of God was a way of humility. Again, he did not compromise his beliefs, but pursued them with a humble gait, even to the cross. 

What convictions do you hold dear?  In what manner are you pursuing them?

P (Prayer): Lord, in what direction are you calling me?   In what manner would you have me pursue your will?  I wonder… Amen.