Saturday, October 26, 2019

Quick Fix

As I sit this morning, with broken water pipes, company, children, harvest--life--I can't help but ask God to fix things. There are dishes, hands, and clothes to be washed. People to feed and care for. God says, "No" or "Wait" (which means "no" for now).

And I am reminded that life here will always be broken and limping. God comes to my aid. I am thankful. And something else goes wrong. And I pray. And He answers.

But what I need, more than a repaired water main, more than settled laundry, dishes, and children, is a settled heart; a heart that is content with or without pleasing circumstances; with or without fixes and affirmative answers to prayer. This morning what I need, all I need, is Jesus.

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 
(Philippians 3:8-13)

As I read this passage today, it turned inside out. Why did Jesus lay hold of me? What is the prize of the upward call of God on my life?

The upward call is that I, by faith, would be conformed to His death, living not in my own strength but in the power of His resurrection through the fellowship of His sufferings. Jesus laid hold of me that I would glorify and live for Him instead of myself. God's will is to use the life of Christ in my body, at this time of history, in this geographical place, with these people so that, as believers live out the life and purpose of Christ, He manifests Himself across the world.

It's not about fixing things, enjoying life, or making it easier. It's about living daily His death, suffering, and resurrection in trust and faith. I can rejoice when things go well and I see the hand of God in each and every blessing. I can also rest in difficulty, praying continually, trusting that God is working something even greater in the difficulties.Paul continues to write:

Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:17-21)

Thursday, October 24, 2019

As You Go

Jesus said to make disciples "as you go..." The other day I distributed flyers for our local after-school Bible club (Good News Club) as I ran errands... at the grocery store, local Mexican restaurant, Dollar store, post office, bank. It wasn't a burden. It wasn't tiresome. It was a joy and I knocked things off my to-do list as I went.

The gospel is like that. Jesus wears my body, personality, abilities, interests, relationships, resources, limitations. Where I go, He goes. He speaks. He helps. He loves. He cares. He listens.

Seek opportunities, you'll be amazed where He will lead you to be His hands, feet, eyes, ears, and mouth.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Monday, October 7, 2019

When Ministry is Dangerous

"Ministry" can be an ambiguous, dangerous word when it describes who I am more than how, or what, I do. As an identity, it compartmentalizes and encapsulates parts of our lives, presuming to represent the whole.

"What is your ministry?"
"How is your ministry?"
"How do you do ministry?"
"What does your ministry look like?"

You hear these questions at the coffee shop, in the church lobby, over the phone, in emails, and at conferences. The questions--and answers--define what you struggle with, how successful you are, how you spend your time and energy: who you are.

It is easy to throw ourselves into the lifestyle and role of "ministry" in an effort to answer questions well, represent ourselves (and God) well, and live a life blessed by God. If we're not successful, we seek to fix what's wrong, worried that we look bad and we've made God look bad--right? (Not right--but right?) If we're not careful, we find ourselves serving "the ministry." How do we know? It drives our thoughts, decisions, sleep (or lack thereof), diet, family time, priorities,  hobbies, relationships, and schedule. Ministry is a dangerous god. Mimicking God's creation and chosen order, it quietly slithers in, sharing intimate space in our thoughts, directing our life.

What if, instead of "ministry," we thought about, spoke and asked about the Lord Jesus? How much more valuable to include others: those who have a job title and those who don't; those who are paid in a ministry position and those who aren't; those who are extrinsically successful and those who aren't.

"How is your walk with the Lord?"
"How has the Lord been using you in His service? Blessing you? Challenging you from His Word?"
"What is the most rewarding part of your relationship with the Lord right now?"
"How has God been convicting you? How is He working in your life?"
"How can I pray with/for you right now?"

It may or may not have anything to do with others and their perception, but it will refocus us on God instead of ourselves. Talking about "ministry" keeps the spotlight off my heart.

What if we were brave enough, courageous enough, to say, "This isn't 'ministry,' this is 'life.' And as He allows, I will fill every last corner of it--every relationship, activity, hour, and accolade--to the edges with a desire to please, honor, and multiply His grace."

"...sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence...." (1 Peter 3:15)