Wednesday, April 24, 2013

God Says, "Share"

In college, my roommate was in-state and I was out-of-state. She went home on weekends. I received care packages. Each time a package arrived she would chime, "God says, 'Share!'" I didn't want to. But I did--most of the time.

She was right of course. God says, "Share!" even in ministry.

How often do we take pride in being the only person to do a specific job in our local church or community? Long ago a friend shared her recipe for Scotcheroos then said, "But don't make them for church pot-lucks. That's my job."

We want to do the job well, to the best of our ability, but so easily exchange pride for humility. We begin to see ourselves as the only person who can do that job--or the only one to do it the way we want it done--and we lose sight of the purpose. God is not about the job. He's about Christlikeness: behind the coffeepot or offering plate, piano or pulpit. We count it an honor to be asked; validation to continue; imperative that we stay. But that's not biblical, nor is it right. Perhaps we've missed something in the teaching of the talents, the idea that those who are faithful with little will be entrusted with much. Jesus said it. And preached it (Matthew 25). But do we get it the way He meant it? Between our pride and independent society, we have a tendency to see the individual rather than the community.

The servant who had five talents, traded them. That involved someone besides himself.

The servant who had two talents did likewise.

The servant who had one talent dug a hole in the ground (by himself) and buried it (by himself).

When the master returned, he gave an excuse which he'd thought of--by himself.

Chances are the two who increased the new, generous, and amazing gift asked around. They sought help, counsel and ideas. "A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel..." Proverbs 1:5. They interacted with others to multiply the master's wealth through investments that suited their ability to manage it. They learned from others' mistakes. They looked and thought and asked and observed. And they were rewarded for their faithfulness (Matthew 25:21,23).

Increasingly, I am learning to "Share!" when it comes to ministry. A parent has the built-in privilege of training and sharing ministry with their children at home, in the local church and community. Although it is not without struggle, children imitate their parents for better or for worse.  Shame on us if we don't capture the opportunity at hand whether it's serving together in the church nursery, preparing meals, visiting friends in nursing homes or illness, or glorifying God through music together.

What takes more time, effort and faith is to do the same with others. As we seek to serve Him (not ourselves), we will experience an outpouring of love and desire to include others in the tasks God has given us. Praying and watching, we can come alongside new riders and encourage them to climb on the seat of service. We cannot simply push them into the world, however, without  first running alongside, hand firmly on the back of the seat. Spoiler: It is more difficult to encourage someone else than to do a task than to do it ourselves. As they tip and turn we labor to breathe and keep our balance, bent awkwardly, running but bearing the weight of their spiritual struggles as part of our own. And always, always, we are dogged by pride. It's a high-risk proposition.

For my part, I've let go of the seat too early. I've failed to be patient or understanding. More often, I've continued serving in my own way, in my own niche, neglecting the calling to share and expand God's good gifts in others.

The process, the modeling of a life lived in trust and obedience, is grace. We share opportunities, blessings and struggles of life-ministry. Then, as God allows, we let loose and watch them go! Another believer is enabled to use his or her life more freely. The Master's talents have been multiplied.

Service is not the goal. Christ is. But our love for Him is evident in our love for others. May we not be so blind-sighted in our service or ministry that we lose sight of a God who says, "Share! I did."

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Life as a Cardboard Box

I felt pressed to write an entry yesterday, so I did.  But I could have simply waited. With the heavy rains the last few days, the basement flooded. Our 17-year-old came up from her basement bedroom announcing, "It's an Amazon down there!"

And it was. This one-hundred-and-some-year-old house has five rooms in the basement--and four of them were floating. Surprise of surprises, cardboard does not weather water well.

The bottoms of boxes were soaked.  The contents, depending on their substance, were ruined.  Music, scrapbook material, Christmas wrappings dripped. In the complacency of life, boxes had been left on the floor--fabric patterns, song visuals. All that work and expense. Poof! Ruined. Gone.

And oh, how I was reminded that this body is not intended for eternity. Much like the cardboard boxes in the basement they fall apart, soak up disease, and decompose.

The hope, the promise, is that we will have new bodies, imperishable ones that will endure for eternity.

The warning is that I must guard against complacency and investing in those things that will not last; filling this frail box with unnecessary things that look pretty and make me happy at the moment, but have no eternal value.

And as we pulled our daughter's bed and furniture away from the walls, we saw things that would have remained hidden: food wrappers, pencils, paperwork. She hadn't planned on evacuating her room; there wasn't time to put things in place. It just happened. And so it is with us. Few have time to prepare in the end. It's all in the now.

As we traipsed in and out of the room with goods and towels, Henry, the goldfish, swam about unperturbed, well-suited to his environment. Regardless of what happened around him, he cared nothing for Christmas decorations, carpets, or clothing. Oh, to remember that beyond this life is one altogether different. What joy to live like Henry in a world of cardboard!

"But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming...

But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” 36 Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.
All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds.
There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory.
So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body....

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." 
(1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 35-44, 58)

"For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.  If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Image in the Mirror

Have you listened to your prayers lately? If you're like me, you have set times of prayer by yourself and with others, but you also carry on a conversation with God as you travel each day. God's Word is the mirror (James 1:23-25) and my actions reveal what I believe about what I see. But the image? Perhaps the image in the mirror is best reflected in my prayers. After reading the book of Esther, I have been challenged to evaluate how I truly think about God based on my prayers.

From the beginning of the book I was struck by Esther's willingness to take advice from Mordecai, her uncle, and Hegai, the king's eunuch (Esther 2:15, 20). She did not have all the answers, she did not know or pretend to know what would be best, so she relied on the wisdom of others. My willingness to listen to those in authority reflects my willingness to listen to God. If I am doing life on my own, I am not in fellowship with God or others; pride clouds each step of my day. To ask for and take advice is to live in humility. In prayer, do I ask and wait? Or do I tell and do?

Having read the entire book numerous times, I'm convinced it should be the book of Mordecai. The title, "Esther," is itself a tribute to his humility and wisdom. Although we don't hear his prayers, we see his actions. Mordecai intervened on the king's behalf without expectation of reward (Esther 2:22-23).  He refused to butter-up Haman like his countrymen who had grown accustomed to winning the favor of their oppressors (3:2). He was true to God regardless of reward or reprisal. Does my prayer life reflect a desire to please others and win their approval over the approval of God? Or do I pray for courage, strength and wisdom to please Him and Him alone?

Esther, after seeking Mordecai's counsel, put her life on the line. After three days of prayer and fasting, she invited King Ahasuerus and Haman to a meal that was already prepared (Esther 5:4). There are many ideas about why Queen Esther would do this, but I wonder if she wanted to know Haman for herself. She had seen the document of death (4:8), but being a woman of wisdom, she didn't assume the worst. Each of us knows someone of self-importance, like Haman, who exposes himself needlessly. There's a good chance Haman felt he was safe enough to openly despise Mordecai and the Jews at that first meal. When I am in a safe place, how do I regard others? Does my prayer life assume the best of people or the worst?

Finally, Esther didn't initiate her request. She wasn't demanding or combative or impatient. She trusted that God would meet her need in His timing--and there was plenty to spare, more than 8 months! When given an opportunity, she voiced concern for the safety of herself and her people, not judgment on Haman. She respected the king with her request, stating the problem, not the solution, in her initial outcry. Do my prayers reflect a deep trust and respect for God? Do I wait on Him, as a weaned child sitting contentedly on his mother's lap? Or do I demand and claw and beg? Do I approach Him with the problem or the solution?

This morning I am struck with a serious need to evaluate my prayer life and personal beliefs of God-who He is and what He can do. My prayer, held up to Scripture, exposes my greatest desires and personal view of God. By His grace, He will help me repent and grow in Christlikeness. Have you listened to your prayers lately?

Friday, April 12, 2013


Today is one of those dreary, tiresome days and I don't. want. to. do. anything.
But--there are websites to update, emails to send, clothes to fold, floors to sweep, agents to contact. And I have nothing.  No drive.  No motivation.  No desire.
My prayer?  My only hope?  "God, move me. Wherever You would have me go; whatever You would have me do. If it were up to me, none of it wouldn't happen. Not today."
So here I am, procrastinating--but with an important message for each of us. God can, and will, move us. Sometimes I'm more willing, able and motivated than others--even that is a gift. On days like today, I realize that I can't make it happen.
"Move me, God. Move me."

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
 He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him....  Psalm 37:4-7
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." John 15:5

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What is Your God Worth?

While visiting Cancun, Mexico in January, we traveled to the ancient ruins of Tulum. After looking at the entrance to the inner city and walking past crumbled domiciles, our guide stopped in front of the temple, looked across the group and singled out our 11-year-old daughter. He motioned her to the front of the group so he could demonstrate the Aztecs annual sacrifice. We refused. As he explained the horrible, pagan ritual, we were struck by their reasoning: their gods deserved the best so that is what they gave--their young, virgin daughters.
We cringe and shudder at the thought.  They probably did, too--those who hadn't grown calloused.
How very different is our God! 
"Thus says the Lord: ‘Again there shall be heard in this place… the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say: “Praise the Lord of hosts, For the Lord is good, For His mercy endures forever” and of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord” (Jeremiah 33:12-11).
I was reminded of our visit to Tulum as I read the book of Nehemiah. The people of Judah left homes they'd lived in for nearly 70 years. They traveled to Jerusalem, worked to build a wall around the city, and settled into new homes and lifestyles. After the completion of the wall, they stood for hours, listening to the Word of God--and responded with confession and obedience. The reality of God and His true nature affected worship and honor. 
Show me your worship and I will show you your God. Follow the money. Follow the affection. Follow the time. Follow the focus of your conversation. Follow your thoughts. "Behold, your god!" 
Our worship reveals our god.
How easily we slip in and out of the pew on Sunday with no thought to how we reflected God's worth. Did we come in our best? Or did we simply crawl out of bed? Did we offer something costly? What was expected? Or nothing at all. Did we stand for the reading of the Holy Word, or distract ourselves with the mundane? How awful to think that we, like the Aztecs, would make abominable sacrifices because we do not know our God; that we would provoke His wrath rather than His pleasure because we lack an awesome fear and reverence for God. To think that we might enter the King's presence dressed in our own filthy righteous rags rather than the royal robe provided through the death and resurrection of His only Son! By faith we have access to the throne room of the Father, with bold confidence and thanksgiving.
Worship and rejoicing and giving result from knowledge. Knowledge of The Holy. What does your worship say about your God? Need God? Read His Word. And, perhaps for the first time in a long time, you will experience the scent of your carpet, the feel of the ground, as you fall on your face--a living sacrifice, the giving of your life, a reasonable act of worship.

"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has become His counselor?”
“Or who has first given to Him
And it shall be repaid to him?”
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" Romans 11:31-12:2.

"For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise" Psalm 51:16-17.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

When I Am Loved...

When life is meaningless and has no purpose, morality is lost. There is little reason to preserve or extend it--yours, mine or others. 
When life is hopeless and dark and callous, motivation comes in the form of pleasure and self. "Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die!"
When life is empty and hard and lonely, it is impossible to put one's feet on the ground and move into the day.
But God.
But God.
But God.
How does one see the love of God when he is dead? He doesn't. How does one accept the extension of God's hand when he is blind? He can't. How does one hear the call of God when he is deaf? He won't.
But. God.
For you He made alive--you who were dead in trespasses and sins  Alive. Are you alive, though once you were dead? Or are you still searching, listening, longing?
Cry out. Look to Jesus. Ask--to see Him, to know Him, to understand. Throw yourself on His mercy. And then...
Then, accept. Take the gift. Follow His voice.
You will have life. You will find peace. You will see as never before. You will walk on a different plane.
For where there is Love--the true, sacrificial, undeniable love of God--we are filled to the fullness of Christ.
Where there is Love, we walk with humility, gentleness and patience, preserving unity.
Where there is Love we are no longer tossed and driven by words, circumstances and deceit.  We are confident that He who called us is faithful, who also will do it.   
Where there is Love, we see the futility, the emptiness of life without Him, of life without a purpose.  And we rejoice in hope. We are filled with purpose.  We are alive.  And life is meant to be lived. In a very real sense, we experience the resurrection each day, with each confession of sin, with each glimpse at what used to matter, with each acknowledgement of our dependence on Almighty God.  We live.
Because of Love.
"For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,  that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—  to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,  to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen" (Ephesians 3:14-21).

((Ephesians 2:5) (Ephesians 3:16-19) (Ephesians 4:1-3) (Ephesians 4:11-15) (1Thessalonians 5:24)