Twist on a Good Question

If you are in church leadership, it’s possible in some conference or workshop you’ve been asked this question: “If your church closed its doors, what would the community lose?” Another way to word it, “Would anyone notice if your doors closed?”

Someone at my church recently shared they’d heard this for the first time. They responded like we probably all did the first time we were asked: Thoughtful, Challenged, Evaluating.


Last week I shared that question with someone else, but for a different reason. A comment had been made about my role at the church, to which I made a twisted connection with this question.

What if this question dropped from the corporate level to a personal level and every church member and staff member asked, “If I walked away from this church, what would be lost?” Another way to word it, “Would anyone notice if I stopped bringing what I’m currently bringing to the table?”

Now that’s completely different. But what would happen if every child of God thought more about what they bring versus what they receive? What would happen in the community if believers said, “I’m here. I’m for you. I’m bringing what I got to the table. I’m not going anywhere. How can I help?”

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Instead Of

I’m finding the best part of Bevere’s book is the 30-day devotional guide at the back. He directs you to read a portion of a chapter, then leads you through a short, relatable devotional, very practical and forward moving in dealing with offense.

Day 11 entitled Hiding from Reality has this quote:

Offense blocks spiritual growth, but suffering and obedience take us to a deeper relationship with the Lord and with others.

This quote aligns well with the one I posted about on August 4: “If you stay free from offense, you will stay in the will of God.” Staying clear of offense isn’t only freeing; it also allows growth to continue. The truth is we grow from suffering (Joseph, Esther, Daniel, Peter, Elijah). What the enemy baits us to do is run from the suffering, or at least be distracted from the growth by focusing on the hurt or the ones guilty of causing it.

It’s quite possible that God has allowed the enemy to shower us with suffering. Think Job. Satan thought he could break him. Satan was wrong. The end result was Job’s deeper trust in God.

So how does our obedience play out in these moments? It could be that we…

  • …stay instead of run
  • …face instead of ignore
  • …wait instead of hurry
  • …listen instead of ramble
  • …submit instead of control
  • …rest instead of worry

If you’ve been feeling stunted or blocked in your spiritual growth, maybe it’s time to check your obedience, time to give up the bait.

The Ideal Image

About 24 hours ago I saw something beautiful. At the moment I didn’t recognize it for its beauty, but God did.

The outward portrayal on this human’s face may have been interrupted as sadness, maybe pain, or possibly frustration. Even though my mind told me that’s what it was, it didn’t sound, taste, or appear like any of those things. None of those words described what was on the inside. The outside doesn’t always portray the inside.

God sees the inside. What looks outwardly wrecked to me may look inwardly beautiful to him. Brokenness can be beautiful.  In fact, it just may be the ideal image he longs for. It took me a full day to come to the right word describing what the outward appearance was revealing about the inward condition: broken. And it was beautiful. Unexpected. Attractive.

When David wrote Psalm 51, he was in pain, tremendous sorrow, and recently aware it was his own doing. No human knew what to do for him. So he turned his heart again to God. He wrote that God was pleased with his brokenness and humility. God saw something beautiful.

Our brokenness doesn’t have to be tragic, destructive, or separating. Anything but. Our brokenness can be refreshing, reenergizing, and even breathtakingly beautiful. It’s possible when others see you sad or in pain, you can echo David to pray, “Lord, open my lips (even in my brokenness), and my mouth will declare your praise (even when I’m broken).”

“Stayer” or “Walker”

This is one of those books that you could read many times and grow each time. This being my first read, I’m already seeing growth.

Here’s a quote that stuck out to me today:

If you stay free from offense, you will stay in the will of God.

Offense is easy to create and to receive. Bevere declares it’s a trap, the bait of Satan. When we take the bait, we are in for some rough going. Been there, done that.

This quote makes something clear-where we stay has much to do with our freedom and peace, our relationship with God and others. Where we stay is entirely up to us. If we choose to stay close to God, we will choose to stay free from offense. If we choose to stay offended, we choose to not stay, to distance ourself, to walk away from God and what he’s working in and for us.

Simply put, here’s a new mantra based on this quote: I’d rather be a “stayer” with God than a “walker” from God. In allowing God to search my heart, it’s clear I have an offense that requires a better choice. Time to give up the bait.

You taken the bait? Ready to give it up?

What’s Really Sacred?

We don’t understand what it means for something to be “sacred.” We live in a human-centered world among people who see themselves as the highest authority. We are quick to say things like “That isn’t fair!” because we believe we deserve certain rights as humans. Yet we give little thought to the rights God deserves as God. Even in the Church we can act as though God’s actions should revolve around us. The stories in Scripture are meant to show us that there exists something of greater value than our existence and rights. There are things that belong to God. Sacred things. His ark of the covenant, His command to Moses, His offerings in the temple, His Holy Spirit, His Holy Communion, His sacred Church. In all the above situations, people rushed into something sacred and paid the price. We shouldn’t be surprised; we should be humbled. We have all done things more irreverent than those mentioned above. Let’s thank God for His mercy and tread more carefully into sacred matters.

This excerpt is from Day 1 of a @youversion devotional plan by Francis Chan entitled Letters to the Church. I agree we have lost the understanding of something being sacred according to what God calls sacred. In addition, we often make things sacred without affirming with God whether they should be.

I’m guilty of saying or agreeing “That’s not Fair” about something God didn’t label sacred. I’ve set up my own sacred pillar similar to what is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. And I’ve paid the price for rushing in to the sacred as well as exalting the unsacred.

So how does this play out for us? A pretty clear example is in our relationships. We can rush a very sacred relationship (parent/child, current/future spouse) and destroy it by dismissing God’s role in it to force our wants in it. We can also make a relationship sacred that has no place being elevated to that position, particularly if we make it more sacred than our relationship with our Creator and Savior.

Chan has made me think. Where might I have mislabeled something as sacred? What God-ordained sacred things have I selfishly lowered their value?

The Weapon of Silence

Now Joshua had commanded the people saying, “You shall not shout or make any noise with your voice, nor shall a word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I say to you, ‘Shout!’ Then you shall shout.” -Joshua 6:10

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time the children of Israel had been told to be silent. Joshua’s predecessor had instructed them similarly when they were at the Red Sea (see Exodus 14:14).

In neither case is there a clear, precise reason noted for the silence. For instance, “You need to be quiet so the enemy doesn’t suspect what you’re doing,” or, “This is going to be a surprise attack.” Nope. It appears it’s much like a parent telling a child to just, “Step back, watch, and learn. Trust me. If you’ll stay out of the way, I will take care of this for you.” Not a bad thing, but suppose there is more to being silent than just staying out of the way. What if God is actually giving you a personal weapon that could serve you in all situations, and you just have to learn how to use it.

In the case of the Red Sea scene, they had to totally rely on God. They were not given anything to do. All they were to do was watch. In their silence, they had a weapon for building their faith. In their complete inactivity, they had the chance to allow silence to remove their fear and doubt and worry to replace it with wonder and awe and amazement. Silence became a weapon to build their faith.

Traipsing around Jericho’s walls, their weapon of silence offered a different use. This time God had already told them what he was up to. This time, they had to decide if they believed him. Silence was their personal weapon to choose to believe God, in what he’d promised, and in what he was doing.

What’s your Red Sea, your Jericho wall? It’s possible God is telling you the same thing. “I got this. You don’t need to say another word. Here’s your weapon. Build your faith in me.”

It’s Coming…Just Not Yet

I’ve decided I want to chat with Caleb in heaven. Of course, by the time we get there this thought won’t matter, but currently I’m curious.

I’ve never thought about this before today, so here’s the deal. Caleb and his pals were sent to spy out the land of Canaan in Numbers 13. The end result, only Caleb and one other guy said they believed God would allow them to take the land; he was outvoiced by the other ten guys and spent the next 40 years waiting to enter the land. Caleb believed God, but his belief didn’t allow him to receive what he could have had in that moment. He had to wait because of other men’s fears and unbelief. He did nothing wrong, but he had to wait.

Scripture doesn’t mention anything about Caleb during these 40 years.  All we know is that when they were up, he was more than ready to claim his inheritance (see Joshua 14-15). Evidently, Caleb waited well. He didn’t allow himself to get focused on himself long enough for anyone to notice. 

No “poor me!” No “what did I do to deserve this?” 

No, he made a choice to “wholly follow the Lord God of Israel” even after watching his spying pals focus on themselves to the point of death.

Maybe your life situation is the result of someone else’s bad choice. Maybe it’s “not your fault.” Maybe you’d rather get what’s coming to you sooner than later. 

May you catch some hope from Caleb. God sees you. He is for you. He hasn’t forgotten you. Your thousand days are a second to him. Hold on. It’s coming…just not yet.

This Is So

(Lyrics to a song inspired by Joshua 4:24)

Verse 1

With each sunrise you refill me

To recount the hope that I see

Looking back to claim your promise

All my words proclaim your goodness

 

Chorus

This is so

All may know that You are God

This is so

I may always fear You, Lord

Write it on my heart

Remind me who you are

May I not forget

This is so

 

Verse 2

Waves behind me tell your story

Ever lifting all your glory

Here’s my song to join in raising

Yours alone the name worth praising

 

Bridge

In your presence I’m made holy

By your strength I’m standing only

July 4, 1837

(portions of President John Quincy Adam’s Independence Day speech in 1837 as quoted in Our Presidents and Their Prayers)

Why is it, friends and fellow citizens, that you are here assembled? Why is it, next to the birthday of the savior of the world, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day? – And why is it that, among the swarming myriads of our population, thousands and tens of thousands among us, abstaining, under the dictate of religious principle, from the commemoration of that birth-day of Him, who brought life and immortality to light, yet unite with all their brethren of this community, year after year, in celebrating this, the birth-day of the nation? Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? That it laid the corner stone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity, and gave to the world the first irrevocable pledge of the fulfillment of the prophecies, announced directly from Heaven at the birth of the Savior and predicted by the greatest of the Hebrew prophets six hundred years before?

…the Declaration of Independence announced the One People, assuming their station among the powers of the earth, as a civilized, religious, and Christian People, – acknowledging themselves bound by the obligations, and claiming the rights, to which they were entitled by the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.

…A moral Ruler of the universe, the Governor and Controller of all human power, is the only unlimited sovereign acknowledged by the Declaration of Independence; and it claims for the United States of America, when assuming their equal station among the nations of the earth, only the power to do all that may be done of right.

Hope Restorer

You may have asked or been asked the question, “If you could have one super power, what would it be?” After today, I know a pretty good answer.

Within three hours, God gave me the opportunity to have four conversations-three with people I met for the first time. He apparently wanted to see if I would give them what he gave me (see July 1 post).  To summarize in one word what these conversations circled around, they were all about restoration:

  • Joy Restoration
  • Security Restoration
  • Connection Restoration
  • Faith, Love, and Value Restoration 

In the eyes of someone seeking restoration, you see many things: loss, fear, loneliness, anger, confusion, hurt-to name a few. But when they are given a different vision, a different lens that gives them a peek at an answer or a way out, something else flashes across their eyes. Their restoration has been birthed by a glimpse of hope.

What if we all pursued the super power of restoring hope? If you’re thinking you don’t have any hope to offer, then maybe it’s time for you to be a receiver (see yesterday’s post). Or maybe you’re thinking, I don’t know how to restore hope. Congratulations! You just made yourself available for the Holy Spirit to do his work through you rather than you doing it for him. One thing is for sure-we can’t give something that we don’t have.

So here’s the challenge: store up your own hope. Be ready to give it away to those who show you they need it. Be prepared to answer the super power question: “I already have one. I’m a Hope Restorer.”