Demands

Have you ever been witness to a group of people who are making a decision that you know to be a bad one? You know that their choice will not end well? In fact, it seems that everyone knows that they are making a grave mistake BUT them?

The Bible reads, “Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, ‘Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.’ But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us.’ And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them'” (1 Samuel 8:4-9, ESV).

The Israelites were not requesting a king as much as rejecting a King. They were giving up their unique call as a Chosen People. God was to guide, provide, and protect. But that was not enough. The Israelites wished to be like everyone else. They wanted position over mission. There might even be more to the story here . . . they made a decision that day to give far more authority to an individual than was originally God-ordained. Sure, there were differences of roles and responsibilities – the priests were to carry out the Law, the prophets (which would not really come into their own until after the corruption of the kingship) was to be the check of the Lord, and the judges acted as decision-makers and military commanders. But even so, there was this sense that Israel – AS A WHOLE – was to know God, be known by God, and make God known to others. Not just a king. A people. But they settled for second-best.

I wonder if the same could be said for the church. Let me first admit, I am a pastor. I love being a pastor. And I see great value in the role of a pastor (I do not care for the term ‘office’) . . . an overseer. Some have the gift of shepherding, leadership, teaching, preaching. But they are all to entrust the ministry . . . mobilizing disciples on the mission. But often this is not the case. Whether it comes from a congregation, like Israel, who willingly request for one person to do EVERYTHING . . . as if they are a hired-hand or a representative. As if they can point to one person who is engaged on the mission and say, “See what WE are doing?” Foolishness. Or worse yet, some pastors take it upon themselves. Either they have become frustrated with people OR they mistakenly view themselves as an expert in the field. Regardless, they have directly come into conflict with Paul’s teaching that there are no longer male nor female, Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free.”

Leaders reproduce themselves. They send people out to do that which they might not be able to do themselves. Don’t allow for people to become bystanders. And don’t allow for pastors to become icons. Share the common mission. Be the people of God.

Demands

Memorial

Though there are a great amount of diverse and differing opinions within the church as it concerns peace, war, politics, and a Christ follower’s role in government . . . I believe that it is days like Memorial Day that bring us to share in our common convictions. For example:
* Let’s remember that for so many, Memorial Day is so much more than just another three day weekend. This time is anything but full of barbecues, camping, yard-sports and the like. For many it is a glaring reminder that they have lost a spouse, a child, a parent, or a friend. Joseph Campbell suggests, “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” Jesus said it best when he taught, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, ESV). Christ followers must go out of their way to show care and comfort to individuals just like these. They ought show respect, listen to their fears and frustrations, and offer to join them in a time of prayer and reflection.
* Let’s also honor the memory of fallen soldiers by maximizing our freedoms. It is largely due to their sacrifices that we have the right to public assembly and the freedom of religion. We have brothers and sisters in the faith who would die for such liberty. Literally. They must hide in houses. Sharing their freedom equals arrest or worse. Let’s be on the mission today . . . because we can. Let’s be grateful, though we know we are part of a Kingdom that is not of this world, that we have today been placed in a nation that entrusts us with many good things.
So may we remember by showing compassion and by sharing the gospel. We remember.

Memorial

B

I enjoyed Pete Wilson’s “Plan B: What Do You Do WHen God Doesn’t Show Up the Way You Thought He Would.” My favorite chapter is titled “Paralyzed” and deals a lot with the subject of fear. Timely material for me. The Bible reads, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:5-8, ESV).

Wilson writes, “The trick is relearning what to fear and what not to fear, what’s worth worrying about and what isn’t” (57). He teaches that “to worry” is “to be drawn in different directions” (60). I think we are all quite aware of those individuals who NEED to worry. They almost always are in the midst of some sort of crisis or caught in a time of chaos. They need it. Without it they have nothing to live for. To talk about. And they insist on dragging as many people into their dysfunction as possible. Misery loves company. They need the attention. The affection. The sympathy. The excuses. The reasons are endless.

Some people worry out of a need for control. As if to see it coming is as good as avoiding the pain altogether. It hardly works that way. People want their way. They might even believe that they deserve their way.

He goes on to suggest, “Fear, in and of itself, is really not a problem. But fear without faith is a big problem. Fear without faith will eat you alive” (61). Here is where I am. I really want to do the right thing for the right reasons all in the right timing. I am afraid that I might make a mistake . . . that I will fail . . . that I will be rejected. And the cost will be far too much to pay. But do I trust that God is the God of Plan Bs? That I might not get my way? That it might not go all as planned . . . but that it might still go as he planned?

B

Joplin

It seems lately that a day does not go by without some sort of natural disaster taking place somewhere in the world. Often closer to us than we would like. We pray for the people of Joplin, MO and rush to partner with the relief efforts we know will do all they can to love those they are with. Give. Go. Do something. Watch the videos located at the conclusion of this blog and then respond by donating to Convoy of Hope at https://donate.convoyofhope.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=441.

I take great confidence in the God who is revealed in Scripture. The Bible reads, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and raise my signal to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their bosom, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders. Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you, and lick the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame'” (Isaiah 49:22-23).

Through all of the crisis and chaos, I know this to be true . . . God has his hand in history. He has not and will not walk away from the mess that a broken world creates. He does not need nor does he ask for the permission of our kings and queens. He is actively and lovingly working in the lives of so many. I pray that his hands might be extended by the care and compassion of those like Convoy of Hope. That somehow and someway . . . Christ, you may be exalted.

Joplin Tornado Response from Convoy of Hope on Vimeo.

Joplin

Chick-Fil-A

Too bad it took a fast-food chain to show us what Christ has been telling us for years. I said this in my review of Howard Schultz’s latest bestseller titled “Onward” (http://justinfarley.blogspot.com/2011/05/schultz.html) – why is it that the business world is teaching the world things that the church should have been sharing for years? Don’t we see the mission of God as being more transformative than a bucket of chicken or a bag of brewed coffee beans? I do have a lot of faith in and respect for Chick-Fil-A. They seem to be a company that practices what they preach. But they outdid themselves with this video . . . .

How differently would we act if we understood that everyone – EVERYONE – has a story? How would we treat others? Respond to their needs? Pray for them? Show acts of kindness? Share our stories? Listen? Invite them to dinner, a small group, or even a Sunday morning gathering?

And can we please stop using statistics as an excuse? We are not dealing just with numbers as they relate to depression, homelessness, addiction, divorce, suicide, or abortion. We are dealing with real people. Some of them are where they are because of what they have done. Some of them had little to do with where they are. Most likely, it is a combination of both. Regardless, is there any reason – ANY REASON – to walk on by?

And let’s face it, often much of what we think we know about someone or of their situation, happens to not even be half of the story . . . . or any of the story for that matter. The Bible reads, “As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. And Eli said to her, ‘How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.’ But Hannah answered, ‘No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.’ Then Eli answered, ‘Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.’ And she said, ‘Let your servant find favor in your eyes.’ Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad” (1 Samuel 1:12-18, ESV).

Eli got it all wrong. He saw a woman who had drank too much. Little did he know she was going to be the mother of a great judge. Don’t walk by. Don’t avoid eye contact. And please, whatever you do, don’t make assumptions.

Chick-Fil-A