Posts filed under: Church/Ministry

I have a love for trivia games and shows. Trivial Pursuit, Disney Trivia, Who Want to be A Millionaire and Jeopardy! just to name a few. For the longest time I prided myself on the amount of useless knowledge I had gained. In early 2001, a new game show caught my attention, Weakest Link. The players would work to bank money based on answering questions correctly. At the end of each round the player that performed poorly was voted out by their teammates. Each weak link would be ousted by the host saying, “You are the weakest link, goodbye.” The final round was the last two teammates going head to head with one eliminated as the final weakest link. You can guess that the remaining teammate won, receiving the banked money as their prize. This game intrigued me. I wanted nothing more than to be the best, to take my “rightful” place as know it all, and receive the biggest prize at the end of the day – in MANY areas of my life.

Years have past and I’d like to think that I’m a different person because of my relationship with Christ. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” The all have sinned part I have totally believed for years and years. It is the part in bold print that has so recently stung my heart. I have fallen short. I’ve missed the big prize. I do not measure up. On my own, apart from Christ, I am a weak, sinful mess. I am the weakest link.

Once again the Scriptures have brought perspective for me. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul addresses the believers in relation to himself, dealing with unity within the body. It is no longer about one person – their actions, attitudes, attributes. It is wholly about the body of Christ.

Ephesians 2:18-22 (CSB)
For through him we both have access in one spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building, being put together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you are also being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.

I’m always intrigued by new construction. The mess that it begins as and the beautiful structure that is masterfully completed. I cannot understand why any draftsman would draw plans with gapping holes or any construction foreman would leave the materials piled without proper placement. It would never purposefully happen. And so it is in the body of Christ. The plans that God instituted, Christ carried out. Yet we, as the body, have many times refused to be built together. Each focused on the I – I want, I need, I think. Instead, Paul gives us a totally different perspective. There is one whole building and each of us belongs there. As we are being built together, we must come along side one another. No wall can stand without support. No beam can be placed without being secured. We, I, cannot stand alone. There is no ministry, no function of the church, that is solely dependent on me. And we cannot look around and boot out those we deem “the weakest link” – unnecessary, not needed. We cannot bear the load ourselves. We need one another. Where I am weak, someone else can impart their strength. Where I need wisdom, someone else has the ability to speak. Where I need leadership, someone else has been given the ability to guide. The know-it-all, do-it-all mentality is not supported in Scripture apart from the person of Christ, and still He willfully submitted to Almighty God. He has chosen to build together His Church so that His Spirit can dwell there. Don’t miss the blessing of His Spirit by taking it all on yourself, allow Him to work through others as they support, affirm and even help prune, areas and callings in your life.

2 Corinthians 9:13-15 (CSB)
Because of the proof provided by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedient confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone. And as they pray on your behalf, they will have deep affection for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

May God be glorified by our obedient confession of the gospel through whatever ministry to which He has called His church. May we have deep affection for one another because of the grace of God in our lives, knowing we don’t have to compete or stand alone, He has called and equipped us to work together for the sake of His Gospel and His Kingdom.

On the next to the last worn, wooden pew I sat last night and watched a generation of young women boldly share their struggles and their faith. Years removed from my own camp experiences, I was whisked quickly back to a faded memory of my own summers leading young girls. Only this time it was different. In my experience, camp had always been those mountain top experiences with emotional worship sets and extravagant, powerful messages. However, Last night felt like the very heart of God. Real. Awkward. Truthful. These mighty young women of God stepped up and admitted the sin that plagued them. They were beautiful, vulnerable, passionate. They showed great courage and humility in sharing how they too turn to Godly women for help. Their stories were remarkably ordinary. Yet each one owned her story, no matter how painful, embarrassing or difficult.

Nearly two decades ago, I knew the weight of my own hidden sin, the very things that were burdening my heart and my walk. However, I didn’t know the importance of community. I didn’t see the church as for the broken. then, Sunday was for the prettily put together people, for the picture perfect people. I couldn’t see past the outward appearance. but then again scripture says man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart. That’s where I struggled. The Lord was looking at my heart. He saw the pride, the lust, the control, the deceit. He knew the things that I tried so hard to hide from those closest to me. Yet He called me to be holy as He is holy. Still I ended up on an island – A personal island of guilt and shame, where sin continued to reign because I continued to live under the tyranny of fear. Praise God, He provides freedom for the captives!

Somethings I took away from last night:

  • We all have unspoken brokenness, that doesn’t always have to remain unspoken. This is the point of community – to bear one another’s burdens.
  • Don’t Boast in sin. Confess it, lay it down, turn to christ, Lean into His church.
  • We need one another. Even as an older woman now, I need these Godly young warrior women in my life as well as the older ones too. Because I have need for Christ, I also have need for His Church.

In the wee hours of the morning, as I pointed my headlights toward home, it occurred to me, this wasn’t camp, it was the beginning of a new generation of biblical community in the church. It was Titus 2 playing out in the most ordinary of ways. It was the beginning of freedom for many. And it was refreshment for my parched, weary soul.

I’ve always been a fan of sports. Not in the way that made me want to play as much as I enjoyed watching them. My younger brother played baseball from when he was young through high school. I enjoyed watching him play because of his love for the game. He would watch his favorite players and try his best to do as they did. And he was good at the game. Now, as a mom I have the privilege of being their biggest cheerleader when they take a field in competition.

Recently our oldest son started playing Upward basketball. Now, basketball has never been my favorite sport, but I am enjoying watching him grow in his skills, love of the game and sportsmanship. But just like anything, it’s a process. Last week, he had a pretty good game, save for the fact he kept guarding whomever had the ball instead of sticking with his assigned man. So after the game as we were walking to the vehicle I just reminded him that the coach gave him a man to guard, if he chose not to no one else is going to do his job and he wasn’t meant to do another man’s job. Which got me to really thinking…how often do we do this in the church?

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Romans 12:6-8

It is so easy to get caught up in what we want to do well, what we can’t do well, what someone else does well that we don’t see what God has graciously gifted us to do well. So many times in my life I have fallen into the trap of comparison. “But God if only I could do what this person does, then I could serve you better.” or “But God if I only had this gift, opportunity, platform, then I could serve you better.” And then there have been times of “why this gift, opportunity or platform?” I made it about me.

If only I…

Don’t we all want to ball? Don’t we all want to make the basket, hit the home run, make the big play? His word says, He has given us different gifts, for different purposes. Not to compare to the rest of the body of Christ, but to build them up. A team works best when every person does their part, guards their man, runs their route, plays their position. And sometimes that means we need to do a little self evaluation.

What are my motives for wanting to do this? Is this something The Lord has gifted me to do? Will this benefit the Body of Christ?

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.

Philippians 2:3

This is the way of life for the church. And the church is not a building where the people meet. It’s not a set meeting time. It is the people of God. The way we are to live Every. Single. Day. Day after day, month after month, year after year. We live in a constant state of self sacrifice – laying our pride, selfish desires, comparisons on the altar before Christ. Daily choosing His will, His way. Which means using our giftedness for His purpose and for the building of His church and His kingdom. Oh church, that we would desire what is good. Not what we think is good for us, not what we want to be good for us, not what is good for someone else. But that we would learn to live our lives and use the gifts He’s graciously given to each of us as a means of daily glorifying Him.

Teach me how to live, O Lord. Lead me along the right path…

Psalm 27:11

_______________________

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8

Church, when we each use our gifts, and stop desiring what was never meant for us, we will learn He is good. And we will edify the body of Christ in the process.

You know your own words will sometimes come back to bite you, right? That’s totally how I feel today after a disastrous evening yesterday.  Let’s just say coming to the end of one’s self…pride, abilities, relationships, etc….is no easy feat. It feels like stepping into the ring expecting a win and receiving a knockout in under a minute.

Last night our pastor (my wonderful husband) handed out paper to our small group and asked each of us to write these words across the top:

I am broken because…

And then to finish the sentence.  In an instant my face was flush, my pulse racing.  WHAT?!!? I couldn’t gather my thoughts. It seemed as if everything in that instant was swirling around me and I’d drown in my own words. Why would you ask me to do this?  TO NAME MY BROKENNESS.  I thought I was pretty clear in the last post (which, to his credit, he had not read) I don’t like my faults pointed out. 

I let perfectionism and control isolate me from people, often including, but not limited to, the church.

There it is. I said it. I was so angry that Anthony, the very man who loves me, protects me, trusts me, would ask me to name what is keeping me from Jesus. I couldn’t see past my husband to my Heavenly Father who was speaking through him.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

Burnout is real folks!  It doesn’t just happen in relationships or careers.  It happens anywhere we are spinning our wheels doing things our way. It happens when we are “looking for love in all the wrong places” (thanks Johnny Lee!). Whether that is in money, perfection, career, family, successful ministry, relationships, love, etc.  I’m burnt out on trying to be something I don’t have to be – perfect, having it all together.

Do you see where I’m going?  Jesus invites us to follow Him and learn the unforced rhythms of His grace.  There is no business model.  No twelve step plan. No formula to make this happen.  It is so simple…follow. Do what He did. Love who He loves. Obey what He commanded. Live by His example.

When it is all said and done and I stand face to face with Jesus, my pitiful perfection is only gonna look like garbage next to Him. He isn’t gonna weigh my good deeds against the bad. Not gonna look at any attendance record. He doesn’t keep score.

Only His blood covering me – the whole of me, the things I can see and the things hidden deep in the secret places of my heart- that’s what matters. He covers it all. Christ carries my burden. No, naming my brokenness, the broken mess of me, isn’t fun. I don’t like it, not even a little. I sure have no desire to put it out there for all of you.  Truth is, you can do, or not do, with it whatever you please. As for me, I must follow Him.

Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.

Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

– Anonymous

Oh yeah, that doesn’t mean I can go at this alone. Because of my need for Christ, I need the church too. But that’s another post for another time.

Obedience is a word I just can’t escape lately. It comes up at the most inopportune times and stretches me in uncomfortable ways. In scripture, obedience, to me, is best personified through Abraham. Even before his name was changed from Abram, he willingly followed this God along unknown paths to places that he’d never been and trusted Him for things that seemed beyond impossible. Abraham’s life was changed, stretched even, in ways that he could have never foreseen at the start. Over the last week I have began to study six of the names of God using the S.O.A.P. method and an outline from LoveGodGreatly.com, with a few dear women in my area. I’d like to share a little along my journey.

“So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed him…Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.” Genesis 12:4 NLT From the time Abraham was seventy-five years old, he began to follow the direction of the Lord. Moving to an unknown place, fleeing to Egypt, separating from Lot, rescuing Lot, pleading on behalf of the righteous in Sodom and Gomorrah, waiting for the promise, holding and then sending away his firstborn son. Then God changed his name and the promised son arrived, nearly twenty five years from his first act of obedience to God. What was to come next was a stretch I can’t even imagine.

After years of obedience, Abraham had received the one thing he had desired of God, an heir – a son. Isaac brought laughter and happiness to his parents. Yet here Abraham was receiving instructions from God for he and his boy to go and worship. To hear something like, “Abraham, get up in the morning and take Isaac, your sacrifice, to the place I’ll point out and offer him to me there.” There are no words. I can’t imagine that I’d be able to keep that to myself. The shock, grief, despair even. However, I can find none of that in the text. Abraham had full confidence that in his obedience the Lord would honor him. The Lord, who so faithfully promised Abraham an heir all those years ago, would not break his promise. Abraham had faith and because of it was declared righteous. Once again, he held on to that faith and listened for the voice of the Lord.

In his obedience Abraham found God to be the One who will see it and provide. It being the very thing of which we have need. And he was so right. That day on the mountain God did something for Abraham, for Isaac. He provided a substitutionary sacrifice. Abraham was willing to give his desires back to the God alone who could fulfill them.

In our modern-day, instant-access, microwave society, we know little about waiting. Little about drawn out obedience. We look for God to evolve with our changing pace, changing cultures. He doesn’t change. For over twenty five years Abraham waited on the Lord. He was impatient at times, making poor choices thinking he could help God out. Living in turmoil and grief because of his actions. Still he had faith the Lord would provide. And God is faithful.

As I studied this week, there were a few things that stood out:

  • The supply for our needs, our desires even, does not come from a place; it comes through the person of Jesus Christ.
  • God is always before us, prepared to open our eyes and reveal Himself as we humbly walk in faith.
  • God wasn’t looking for a sacrifice, He provided that Himself. He was looking for a willing, obedient heart…which He found in Abraham.

My challenge is to walk drawn out obedience in faith, humbly with my God.