Thursday, August 2, 2012

Leadership Diligence

"We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness."
 (Romans 12:6-8)

Everybody has a purpose.  Each of us has been blessed by God with "gifts" - things we were created to do/use/share.  Some of us figure out what our "gifting" is early in life... while others take a bit longer.

In Romans 12, Paul echoes this.  He lists a few "giftings": prophecy, ministry, teaching, generosity, exhortation, compassion & leadership.  Most of these he connects obvious traits:
  • prophecy --> faith
  • teacher --> teaching
  • giver --> generosity
But when he get to the role of the LEADER, he doesn't mention the gift of "Leadership," like we'd expect.  No, he mentions "diligence."

When I was in college, I got fired from a summer fun director position precisely because I wasn't diligent.  I missed some important details that I hadn't even thought about.  Things fell through the cracks.  I don't think I was lazy.  I just wasn't adequately prepared.  I didn't know what I needed to know.  Diligence is the key.  As a UMC pastor now, I realize I have to work extra hard at diligence.  It doesn't come naturally to me (at least in terms of administration).  But it's a necessity for a leader.  Being comfortable "in front of a group," isn't enough.  Having charisma isn't enough.  Great ideas & vision isn't enough.  Diligence is the key.

Pray for me!  lol

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

JOY: A Continual Feast

"All the days of the poor are hard, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast."
(Proverbs 15:15)

I will not presume to know what it's like to be poor.  There are people who come to my church office in need of financial assistance.  Many of them would probably qualify for "poor status."  I've also had the privilege of traveling to the Philippines with Compassion International and have met some very poor people.  I have no doubt that they live hard & difficult lives, in many ways.

But Proverbs 15:15 reminds met hat there's a greater "wealth" available to all - especially the poor... and that's a "cheerful heart."  The author says that a cheerful heart is a continual feast.  I can honestly say that some of the most cheerful & joyful people I've met were the extremely poor in the Philippines.  Those connected to Compassion projects, who had the support of a home church, and knew the blessings that God bestows daily, were radiant in their spirit!  Truly!

I know a lot of people who could use a "continual feast " of joy & cheer - no matter how much money they have.  There's a well-spring available to us... if only our heart will be in the right place. 

Pet Care - it's biblical!

[From July 31, 2012]

"The righteous know the needs of their animals, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel."
(Proverbs 12:10)

Many of us in this world have pets.  Some pets are "workers" (farm animals, hunting dogs, watch/guard/alert pets, etc.).  Many are companions (from fish to birds & beyond!). 

I've mostly been a dog person.  I had "Cholla" (wire-haired terrier) as a kid.  "Puki" (lab & old english sheepdog mix) in high school.  "Koko" (whippet & lab mix) in seminary.  "Kula" (Spitz terrier) when Emily was born.  "Snickerdoodle," aka "Dood" (Pomeranian mom & mutt dad mix) & "Mini" (Mini-Pincher) recently.  But I've also been around some fish & geckos (yes, as pets... I loved feeding the geckos live crickets!).

Much of the time I default to being the "food guy" for the dogs.  I don't mind it at all.  Because of my flexibility with work schedule, I'm often able to make the trips to the vet, too.

Today, while reading Proverbs, I was reminded that God wants us to be good caretakers of our furry & feathered friends.  "The righteous know the needs of their animals."  There's no place for abuse, neglect, or cruelty.  I'd never really thought about it before, but the "Golden Rule" (do unto others as you'd want them to do unto you) also applies to the Animal Kingdom. 

How cool is that?

When the going gets tough...

[From July 17, 2012]

"Then many will fall away, they will betray one another and hate one another."
(Matthew 24:10)

When the going gets tough, the tough... fall apart.  Or so it seems according to Jesus in Matthew 24.  he's speaking to his disciples about some troubling & difficult times ahead.  The beloved & revered temple in Jerusalem will be destroyed.  The believers will be attacked, persecuted and even killed. False prophets will try to lead others astray.  It's going to get ugly.

In the midst of all of this turmoil, Jesus also tells them that "many will fall away, they will betray one another and hate one another."  I got the sense as I was reading this today that Jesus was talking about those within the church... those current believers... those who had claimed Jesus as Lord.  When things get really bad, many will fall apart & turn on their fellow Christians.  Betrayal, hate, and desertion.  Ouch.

One way to read this is to think that you've got to watch your back at all times.  Beware of everyone, even those who are supposed to be allies.  But that's a bit pessimistic for me.  Instead, I see this as a call to be a champion of LOVE, GRACE and MERCY!  Especially when times get rough, overflow with love!  When others do things that anger & hurt you, respond with grace, not hate.  Model the love of Jesus in even the worst of times!

The process

[From July 11, 2012]

"If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and tax collector."
(Matthew 18:17)

"If another member of the church sins against you..."  Jesus knew.  He knew that we hurt and get hurt by each other.  Even in the church.  So Jesus set up a means by which these pains could be addressed & reconciled.  It was a simple process, really... outlined in Matthew 18:15-17:
  1. When someone within the church sins against you... go to them in private & talk it out.  If that doesn't resolve it...
  2. Come back with 1-2 others (from the church), and see if they can't help settle things between you two.  If that doesn't work...
  3. Share the struggle with the larger church and have them intervene in the relationship.  If that still doesn't resolve things...
  4. "Let such a one be to you as a Gentile & tax collector."
Gentiles & Tax Collectors were outside the chruch.  They were also despised by many... but not Jesus.  He went out of his way to spend time with them & invite them into a relationship with Him.

Maybe Jesus is telling us if a brother or sister in the faith won't listen to a multitude of reason, work extra hard to reconcile their faith & call them (back) into the life-changing presence of the Almighty God... whom we ALL need!

(That's a little bit different of a message than "kick out the bums!")


[From July 9, 2012]

"Then Absalom sent for Joab to send him to the King; but Joab would not come to him.  He sent a second time, but Jaob wouldn't come... So Absalom's servants set (Joab's) field on fire."
(2 Samuel 14:29, 30b)

Sometimes, if you're like me, you don't feel like returning phone calls or emails.  Not all, of course, but a select few that you know will be either uncomfortable or frustrating.  So I put them off.  Well, a story in 2 Samuel 14 reminded me of how dangerous that practice can be...

King David's house was falling apart.  Ever since his affair with the married woman Bathsheba, things had gone downhill within his family.  One son, Amnon, raped his half-sister, Tamar.  Tamar's brother, Absalom, then killed Amnon 2 years later in retribution.  Though distraught, David didn't punish Absalom, who fled the country for three years. 

Joab, David's military commander, brokered Absalom's return to Jerusalem, but for two more years David wouldn't see his son.  So Absalom asked Joab to get him in to see the king.  Twice!  Joab didn't respond to Absalom's request.  He simply ignored it.

Bad move.  They lived next to each other.  To get Joab's attention, Absalom set his fields on fire!  Harsh, yes.  But it worked!  Joab came to see him and set up a meeting with his father, the King.  Do I condone field burning?  No.  But it reminded me to be timely in responding to calls, notes and requests. 

How about you?

Jesus loves "Pawn Stars"

[From July 6, 2012]

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid, then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."
(Matthew 13:44)

I love watching the show "PAWN STARS" on the History Channel.  It's filmed at Gold & Silver Pawn in Las Vegas, chronicling various customers, negotiations, and purchases at this particular pawn shop.  I love the history that's revealed about the pieces that come in for sale.  Occasionally Rick (the owner) finds something he really wants from a customer.  It's intriguing to see how they negotiate an agreeable price for sale.  Sometimes, however, despite really wanting an item, the price isn't reasonable, so Rick declines buying it.  Other times, it's the seller who refuses Rick's "best price" and walks away without selling.

Jesus told a parable that wouldn't play well on Pawn Stars.  Someone finds something they really want.  But instead of negotiating, s/he simply "sells all" that they have and buys it.  It may not make the best economic sense (could they have got it a bit cheaper, we wonder?), but they got what they wanted.

Of course, Jesus is referring to the Kingdom of God.  He wanted to teach us how we should view it in terms of the priority it has in our life.  It should be THE ONE THING that we must have.  Everything else pales in comparison.  There's no need to "negotiate" for God's Kingdom.  We don't need to worry about holding anything else back for later.  That's all we need.  Period.

Own Pawn Stars, Rick's dad ("The Old Man") loves silver.  He buys it every chance he can.  He knows silver holds its value.  Maybe that's closer to Jesus' parable.  An entire pawn shop of silver might make for a boring TV show... but it sure would make The Old Man happy!  Maybe that's something we could learn from.


[From July 5, 2012]

"Then they brought to him a demoniac who was blind & mute; and he cured him, so that the one who had been mute could speak and see."
(Matthew 12:22)

Sight.  Smell.  Taste.  Touch.  Sound.

If you had to give up one of your five senses, which would it be?  Or maybe the question should be which one wouldn't you want to give up?  They say that when one of our senses are gone, the others work even more efficiently.

Now imagine that you've lost TWO senses: your sight & speech.  You can't see the world around you.  Nor can you communicate with your voice.  Wow.  Imagine having lost both at the same time - so you'd have no way of even learning sign language to communicate!  Maybe you could learn to type in order to express yourself, but that would still be harsh!

Then one day, out of the blue, a man comes along and heals you.  Just like that.  No expensive fees.  No detailed maneuvering.  You're just healed.  You can SEE the world around you... and you can TALK about it!  Would it be overwhelming?  Of course!  Would it be amazing?  Absolutely!  That's what happened to a man in Matthew 12:22.

Everything changes with Jesus.