Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fuel and Food

Do not merely listen to the word and deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.  James 1:22 (NIV) or this same verse from the Message :  Don't fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear!
I often ask myself, why should someone read the Bible?  In searching for answers, I can encourage others to study.  I said in class once reading the Bible is to us what a good national parks guide is to camper:  instructor, guide, protector, encourager--with all the wisdom and familiarity as to the directions and paths available to the camper.
Yet, reading is not really the point.  The Bible is not just 66 books of inspired information--the purpose of reading the Bible is to do what it says.  Not just follow the rules, but to live out all circumstances, all relationships under the direction of the Holy Spirit. 
It begs the question:  why do I not do what it says more completely?  Or perhaps the better question:  how might I cooperate with that instruction and not just be a hearer, even agreer,  but instead,  a doer?
  • I need to assume it will not be easy, or comfortable.  Scripture points to loving God and loving others as really the only essentials, and I love myself too often first, or second--but rarely live out my third place position.
  • Work at it every day.  Doing what it says points to daily application, daily inspiration.
  • Listen to it with a desire to learn something new, feel something new, see something new.                                                                                  
  • Act on it--the Bible is not passive, like much reading.  It requires a physical, emotional and not just intellectual response. 

It's like fuel for an engine or food for the body:   the bread of life.  That's a great metaphor, I wonder who said that?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Review of Change Your Church For Good by Brad Powell

Brad Powell openly shares the story of NorthRidge Church in the Detroit area, weaving it with his personal pastoral story of leading that congregation through significant change in Change Your Church For Good.

Powell's aim is to motivate Christian leaders to intentionally embrace change that would lead to the church becoming more relevant, a source of authentic hope in the community.

As to its potential influence, I think Change Your Church falls short of that ambition. The writing is sincere and passionate, but lacks insight or ideas that reach beyond the personal experience and observation of Powell. There is a scratch the surface quality to analysis and implementation of transformation.

Too often it reads like a personal journal and yet, it does testify to the blessing of boldness and some of the costs of active leadership.

Overall the work is burdened with tremendous redundancy and the first section is vague, generally and subjectively (no outside resources or research cited at all) describing a problem--making the same points again and again.

The heart of the book points to some valued insight, for example Powell's communication strategy of "Great heritage, great future." This effectively shows the power of connection people to concepts which inspire change.

I kept returning to the question: "who and how would this work really help"? I can't answer that confidently. I suppose if a leader sees a need for change and wants the encouragement of one who has traveled through major transition, then it could motivate that pastor to step out in practical faith.

Powell's passion for creating a culture that reaches out instead of serving in runs through every chapter. His faithful enthusiasm is a joy to share, in spite of organization and writing weakness.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010


"Words matter because they represent persons.  Because words represent persons, how we respond to words matters.  This means when our neighbors speak, we listen.  Love listens."  Scot McKnight, The Blue Parakeet.

Last night I sat, taken up with one statement of faith after another (14 in all).  Really, just taken up with the experience of listening to these men and women stepping into a servant's role with enthusiasm and humor and humility. 

What caught me was the beauty of the personal stories and the soundness of their theology.  To a person, they pointed to God as the initiator.  To a person they spoke of people who were used by God to inspire, love and nurture them. 

There was a really bad, awkward moment, when I thought, "man, my statement of faith last year was no where near this moving or well thought out.  Mine was lame."  Then,  it thankfully occurred to me that this moment was for my benefit but was not in fact about me.

As I considered people's pain and joy, love and rejection and looking at it all through the lens of faith and salvation I thought of the immense value of life and the greater value of grace. 

I loved listening to it all with love.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Snake bites

"When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when by his own evil desire he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin and sin when it full-grown gives birth to death."  James 1:13-15

Just read an illustration:  often, when a rattlesnake is cornered in his frenzy he will bite himself, delivering poisonous wounds to his own body.  Edgy, but effective point--when cornered there is a high risk of a self inflicted poisonous bite.

What backs me into that dangerous corner? What makes me defensive, pre-occupied, resentful?      

In looking at what corners me, the first thought was a need for approval of others and desire to to be right--certainly a deep desire to not be wrong--in those areas that I care about (more than happy to be wrong about how a car engine really works, as I really don't care).

My ego (prefer the more gentle descriptive--my confidence) but it really is my ego, is too delighted by being right.  Being right is not righteous, is it?

So how might I move out from this corner?  How might I keep from even moving in?  How might I not fuel the dangerous need to be right, thought of rightly, respond right?

Well, back to the verse, James starts with God does not drag me but my desires drag me--so I need to shift the source of what pulls on me. 

First I thought, I need to seek the approval of God----maybe.

Years ago I suggested to a small group we spend 24 hours picturing Christ literally with us (parents of teens love to suggest this to their kids heading out on a date or to a party).  Seriously, what would the dinner conversation sound like if the 3 dimensional flesh and blood Christ was sitting at the table--I wonder what I would serve?  I wonder what grace would sound like, how it might change our attitudes of clearing the dishes?  What topics we would discuss--how might we discuss other people and circumstances, if Jesus was throwing his two cents into the give and take? 

Would I try to impress by caring and kindness that I don't really feel (yes).  Would I be nervous (yes).  Would the tone of my voice be squeeky (yes). 

Are those reactions absurd (yes). 

Why?  Because His presence is already there.  Why would I pretend to be different (better) around him just because I can see if he parts his hair on the right or left side?

Living aware of that presence is the key to me not wandering, roaming into that dangerous corner.  The reality of recognizing and standing/living in the presence of Christ is constructive, and roaming into the dangerous corner of where I think I stand in relation to those around me,  is inviting some self inflicted poisonous wounds.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tipping Tells A Story

Restaurant tip charts/calculators amuse me.  It's as if we don't trust ourselves to be fair, or we don't want to think about what is a great tip, a generous tip. 

There is also the cliche, but perhaps true, gender divide.  Women will often calculate down a check or tip to the penny (control, control, control) while men often just throw money into a pot and split is up (who cares?).

Either way, a tip is a tangible, response to something internal.  It is evidence of what value you put on the person/service/product.

Which lead me to think about the connection between my faith and my responses to temptation or trials.  What does the evidence show?  What value do I put on temptation/trials?

I just learned that in the book of James, 54 of the 108 verses in the whole epistle use an imperative verb (expressing urgency as a command or unavoidable fact).  It's fair to say, James is bossy.

The first command is to count is all joy when one experiences trials (or temptations) because it produces perseverance.

To count it all joy is to consider as a deliberate conclusion without feelings.  To logically land on trials/temptation as bringing personal  joy.  What is the value of perseverance?  Seriously, would not joy come from not having to deal with or confront trials and temptation?

Scenario:  I get news of someone in need.  It's a big need.  What shapes my response?  I am tempted to pull out life's tip chart and calculate what I am comfortably willing to give in terms of time, money, attention--which may or may not help the person in need. 

Yet, this is not a faithful response it is a common sense, frankly selfish response.  The laugh out loud, adrenaline pumping, joy producing response is to move into the arena of uncomfortable and give in a manner that is not appropriate but is generous, much more than my personal tip chart. 

So I see the need, hear of the need and from a place of deliberate joy go about the business of giving much more, as much more has been given to me?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Clutter's New Home

"If you have clutter, you are richer than you think.  Look at uncluttered as an opportunity to share your abundance, the stuff you don't need, with people who could really use it."  One Minute Organizer

As I consider the clutter on my desk, rich is not what comes to mind.  Yet, I have piles, extra, unused stuff that is not trash, but not relevant or functions in my daily tasks.

Looking at things, would they better belong to others?  Is giving a gift?   What am I holding that serves more purpose in the hands of another.   Time to release myself from babysitting stuff I don't need and find a happy home.  Logging off to reassign my clutter to new homes.

Do you find comfort in clutter?  Do you hate clutter and not know where to start?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Freedom in Leaving and Going

"This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."  John 15:8 and the cornerstone verse of spring Bible study.  Last night wrapped up months of sharing the Breaking Free study written by Beth Moore. 

I found the model of  personal application preceding the study of Scripture frustrating at times, it seems backwards to me, but Beth's premise of cooperating with God so that I move from strongholds to freedom is a powerful one.

Honestly "dealing" with some strongholds of resentment and insecurity left me with a healthier perspective and a new desire to learn, grow and share.

Freedom is to live out the John 15:8 instruction--bear much fruit so that God's fingerprints are obvious.  It's a free, spiritually plentiful life that shows off my faith.  It exposes a daily trust in God throughout the ordinary, the everyday circumstances.

Is my parenting such that it bears much fruit to show God's glory?
Are my friendships reflecting that?
Does my church work, volunteer work, yard work, laundry and dog walking look consistent with that inspiration, truth?
As I live with JR (husband), am I faithful to God in the day in day out?
If you saw my calendar, my bank statement, my computer history would that truth be in evidence?

As I look forward to beginning a new study, I dropped by the book of James this morning.  There is another instruction:  need wisdom (practical insights with spiritual implications)?  Then, ask God, who will give it generously (followed by James pointing his finger--don't doubt this).

So, I think living in the abundance Christ describes is a consistent request for that generous portion of wisdom.

I believe with confidence that wisdom request and "generously" given will bear that fruit--that is the key takeaway from this study season and the first step of the moving in freedom to the next.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Spur and encourage

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching."  Hebrews 10:23-25

I wonder how many committee meetings, how many study groups and how many other types of teams consider first how to spur one another on toward love and good deeds? 

How conversations, e-mails, meetings conclude with the people involved stronger, encouraged to love for having me as part of the conversation?

To encourage is to edify, to make stronger.  Spur is to move into action--the suggested evidence of such engagement is love and good deeds. 

One thing is clear, while criticism may spur, it does not spur to love.   While empty compliments may feel affirming they rarely move another to action.

Words that produce have weight and power, they effect change.  

It also makes clear that to accomplish this, there is a meeting together.  The kind where one is tempted to pull back from. 

Message is to stay active, engaged with a purpose or intent of leaving someone better than you found them. 

Are my words offered with those goals?

Monday, May 3, 2010

And whatever you do...

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Collisions 3:17

I am not prolific at memorizing scripture.   I have a collection of cards with meaningful scriptures and subscribe to a variety of verses and devotionals with memory prompts--yet the discipline of clear recollection is at present elusive.

Yet, this one I own.   JR (husband) encouraged me to hold on to this as I entered a season of insecurity and feeling resentment from a perceived lack of appreciation for service.  Really, looking back, I think I was whining and this stopped the screech. 

It "worked".  It is a regular reminder of the who, why and how I serve.  It encourages humility. It reminds me that my words or deeds in light of my opportunities to give more are too small.  It adds thanksgiving for the gift of service to my mental mix.

I wrap up another season of serving and enter a different one.  Thrilled that I can conclude much work free of any pettiness, I see the gift for what it is, and it is more than enough.

Doing in the name of the Lord Jesus is to work toward furthering his reputation, which really is a privilege.  JR's ears blessed with this posture too!


About Me

My photo
Roswell, GA
Loves to find the answers to three questions of a sound Bible study: what does it say, what does it mean, what difference does it make?