Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Editors Needed for Meadering Devo

Revelation 4:1-11 1 After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 3 And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. 4 Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. 6 Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. 8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "HOLY, HOLY, HOLY IS THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS, AND IS, AND IS TO COME." 9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: 11 "You are worthy, our LORD and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being."

Revelation is never my first choice for study, I just can not wrap around it very well and it's on the receiving end of so much speculation and prediction (I left the Left Behind Series on store shelves).  

So, when I offered to contribute to RPC devotions and just take whatever anybody else did not want, I was not fully prepared to be assigned a long passage from Revelation.  That's what I get for fake generosity.   Next time I need to pull a greedy grab of my devo scripture of choice, that is real Christian living.

Here is my rough draft for the one or two of you reading, again, fumbling in the dark, leaving tons of room for the Holy Spirit to move the reader beyond the feeble start:
In the book of Revelation, John shares with us a closer look into heaven. Heaven is a place that is whole, not burdened or corrupted with the brokenness of this world. Heaven is a place of perfect worship.

It is a wild description of God’s throne with powerful imagery which captures who is in heaven and more importantly, how they relate to each other. The throne is the God-head, It is a place that erupts with lightning and thunder, it is the source of all power. Then, John writes of an interesting mix of the others, all of whom respond or react to the power of the throne with all glory, honor and thanks.

It’s relationship: The creator and the created perfectly engaged.


It’s worship: The creator and the created perfectly engaged.


It’s the answer: When we engage a noisy world full of questions, distractions and temptation, we do well to remember that worship is the first best response. That our whole lives are purposed to be a response to God’s power.

I was getting lost in my own little mind, which is an amusing place to be, going in circles about offer/respond...initiation/answer...and wrapping it into worship (the theme for the devotional book).  This meandering is a normal process of writing for me--I may well die with blogs and not books because of it. 

Need to get it to practical application, any thoughts?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What is Best?

"And this is my prayer, that your love may abound more an more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ."  Philippians 1: 9-10

I am reading, "Permission to Speak Freely," by Anne Jackson and the gist of the book is tension in church culture.  In the beginning she asks, "what is the one thing you feel you can't say in the church?" 

Some of the feedback she received:
"I currently feel no connection to God when I pray or read the Bible.  Sometimes I wonder if this whole Christianity thing is a lie.   Most of the time I never feel forgiven for my sins, partly because it's hard to forgive myself, the other part is that church people seem to never let you let it go and move forward.  Why do we have lavish worship centers but there are starving children in our own backyards and around the world." 

I asked myself, what is the thing I would be afraid to say in church?  Certainly some confessions (which is the main thrust of the book) but even still I wondered what if Jackson's inquiry was turned in a different direction.

What are some things that I should say in church, but don't.  Not criticism, that is cheap and easy--and too often rolls off my tongue.  No, the words that Paul is saying...how might I offer wisdom, insight that reflects growing to what is best?

What is left unsaid that should be offered up, to move in the direction of best, the word means to know that which makes a difference?  What can I speak to a make a difference --create a good tension in the church?

Some of my answers: 
The reason people should be in a Bible study together is to know God more completely and then respond to that with confidence not bound as much by life circumstance.   People should give, time and money--money and time because it is the only way to not live selfishly.   People need encouragement, attention and good humor.  Ministry work is not always a smashing success, but is always worth the effort.  Prayer is not a substitute for actually working.  (that is sarcastic, let's try again).   Serving is action, prayer is connecting to God--God always answers prayer the same way:  with himself (borrowed but can't remember from whom).  Prayer is essential but it is not the same as serving other people.   Back to good humor, we need laughter--it is one of the greatest gifts from God, its free and easy and blesses so much.  There is tragedy that needs healing comfort, but we get that, sometimes we forget to pursue laughter. 

Random, but too often unsaid.  I wonder what kind of good tension would come from more of that--what should be said that is wise, and insightful, and moves the church toward what is best? 

What would you say?

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Mind and Heart Shaped Like a Sieve

I will have to revisit my odd couplets from plot lines and sins of small group ministry, as I have loaned the book to a friend at church.  Maybe that's a blessing, because what started as a helpful way for me to apply two lessons quickly became contrived.   I still love the plot lines and need the help on groups ministry, but not everything good harmonizes:  like morning coffee and morning tooth brushing.  Both great and helpful but don't sync up.  Hmmm.  It's Monday.

Spending some time with Paul--this morning. 
"I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:3-6

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows."  2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Paul is confident, he has been persuaded, that God has valued us enough not just to forgive or save us, but accomplish good work in us, through us.   Later in 2 Corinthians he suggests that good work is that we might comfort those in trouble.  That in pain, we can have comfort in God and that comfort is not to ease our suffering but is to give us something that another can use. 

I pray for wisdom to know what is right, I pray for inspiration to act on what is right and I pray for peace in turmoil.  Is the real answer to those prayers not that I am a destination for God to pour those things in me but I am a distribution center a heart and mind shaped like a sieve, when that peace, wisdom, courage is sent out or poured into the lives of others.  

Faith has individual elements in that God created us with uniqueness, and saves us as individuals--but the continuous good work of God is not to grow me as an individual but is a deposit for others to draw from.

How open and available am I to my family, my friends, acquaintances and strangers to offer up what God has poured in?  Are my hands and heart open, not just to receive but have others take?  Am I tempted to hold onto, tuck away what God gives, rather than share it--gladly--remember others with thanks.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Venturing Out with Sound Leadership

Plot Line 2/7:  The Voyage and Return
Sin of Small Group Ministry 2/7: Lack of Point Leadership

I am combining two recent helpful works, the first from a writer's blog and the second from a ministry book--both feature 7 concepts, which I am shoving together in my mind and on the blog.

The second story line from the article is voyage and return.  Setting off from a base of operations to another place and then turning around to come back.  This is a perfect picture of ministry effort without leadership--the second sin of ministry.  

A sound leader moves forward in a determined direction, with a destination (purpose) in mind.  Going out and coming home is a vacation not an adventure.  It's a temporary departure from the established practices, but the biggest emphasis is temporary.  The return is what characterizes the voyage absent a leader.

Outcomes matter, where are we going and why?  What does this look like in 6 months, in a year?  What's a win?  

Sometimes people of faith just put an idea on the table, even a really good idea and think if it is God's will it will happen.  Yet, God does not intend for us to be spectators, I think God's will is for us to adopt best practices, hard work, skills and gifts and all of the qualities of effective leadership and planning.

In her essay, An Expedition to the Pole, Annie Dillard  describes the provisions of a nineteenth century group of explorers headed out to find the North Pole, and then return home.  Each ship had an auxiliary steam engine and a 12 day supply of coal for the projected 2-3 year voyage.  Instead of additional coal each ship had a 1,200 volume library, a hand organ, china place settings for officers with cut glass wine goblets and sterling silver flatware.  No one had special clothing for the Artic only the uniforms of Her Majesty's Navy.   Years later Inuit Eskimos came across the frozen remains of the expedition, men dressed in their finery and pulling lifeboat laden with place settings of sterling silver and some chocolate.   Their naivete is almost beyond comprehension but perhaps it will teach and warn us to lead a ministry or life expedition with wisdom and work and purpose with the end in mind.

 
It's true in family life too--what is the goal of parenting, of partnering in a healthy marriage.  Where are these relationships going, what should they look like in a year, in 10 years?  Example:  as mother, what do I want my daughters to look like in decade?  If I want them to be women of faith, am I moving them in that direction purposely?  Am I teaching them prayer if I want them to pray?   Am I modeling study, showing them the blessing that comes from time in scriptures?   Do they see regular generosity, and do I point them in that direction in their lives?

In ministry, can I point to the purpose and the person to move the work?  So often in ministry work the clear direction is lost in the good intention.   The vast majority of ministry work is a good idea, with the intent of helping someone somewhere.   That goodness is not enough.  The discipline of determining effectiveness is just as necessary.

Task one of a point leader, asking and answering important pointed questions before setting off on a new voyage so it is not just a vacation.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Seven: In Front of Me

Seven, One of God's good numbers.  Seven is a Biblical complete number--it represents the whole.

I am going to marry two completely conclusions from different teachers, each of which were outlined in seven thoughts/ideas.  I think odd couples are interesting.

First, from a writer's blog, the seven universal literary plot lines, which I thought of as seven types of story, seven life directions. 

Also, the principles from The Seven Deadly Sins of Small Group Ministry a leadership and ministry tool published by Willow Creek Church. 
 
1/Plot Line:  Quest  
1/7 Sin Of Ministry:  Unclear Objectives.

The quest on the table is to communicate and execute ministry that grows, to encourage and equip people to experience and share a confident faith.

What happens when the sin of unclear objectives partners with the quest?
  • no agreement on purpose (opinions, not objectives, overwhelm the focus)
  • progress (change) is blocked
  • relationships break down (ego, emotion)
  • expect too much attention from staff (people want applause, affirmation--more ego)
  • people don't know role in church strategy (see work too narrowly). 
Takeaway:  don't get lost.  In working toward (questing) a ministry goal, sharp focus is essential.  What am I doing, and why?  What do I need to get it done?  What do I think/hope it looks like?   Who and what help do I need?  How can I help another?   Quest needs clarity for a whole.

Next odd couple:  2/7 Voyage & Return and Lack of Leadership

Thursday, August 5, 2010

God, what do you mean?

I quoted someone in my prayer journal a year ago that study of scriptures is an intimate association with an historic event.   In the same entry I wrote Yahweh is known as a God who wants to involve himself, its not just the story of God but how God wants to interact with his people.

Now I am considering the life of Joseph for a class, and through the lens of God involvement, God interaction--there is a tension.  Joseph was abused.  The punch line, the end of the story, Joseph says that God meant the harm for good.  No doubt, but the journey was full of tremendous pain.

That leads to Victor Frankl, the holocaust survivor who determined that the purpose of life was not pleasure (Freud) but meaning.  That to live is to live a life of meaning, even if that meaning is in the midst of pain, of enduring and trying to survive the horror of genocide.    Frankl did not think the only worthy life was one of pain, but that life was worth holding onto even when the pain is beyond measure.

I think that meaning is found in how God interacts, the where and the how and the when-- and the joy in recognizing and remembering it.  Joseph did not find God's interaction only in the pain, or only after the pain.  In seeing God's interaction though, Joseph understood the pain was not just pain and not to be endured alone.  That God took man's abuse and directed toward something of purpose and power, and that God was interacting with Joseph, with us all the time.


 

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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?