Wednesday, October 16, 2013

In Heavenly places, no less!

[From August 9, 2013]

"...So that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places."
(Ephesians 3:10)

There's a wonderful question asked among Christian circles: "If your church disappeared tomorrow, would anyone notice?"  Of course, this is referring to those outside of your faith community, and usually calls us to look at the impact our churches are having on the community around us.

But today, as I was reading Ephesians 3, I got a different perspective on this question.  Paul reminds us the local church is called to reflect "the wisdom of God in its rich variety."  Ok.  I can handle that.  But who whom are we supposed to reflect this?  Our communities?  Our nation?  Our leaders?  Paul lists a different entity: "rulers & authorities int he heavenly places."  Not just any rulers & authorities... spiritual ones!  This is a cosmic call... a supernatural challenge... an invitation to confront evil (in all its manifestations) through the work of the church.

Wow.  That's big.  Daunting, even.  But with Christ Jesus, all things are possible.  May we reflect the wisdom of God in all we do!

Let's hear it for the moms!

[From August 6, 2013]

"Greet Rufus, chosen in the LORD; and greet his mother - a mother to me also."
(Romans 16:13)

Moms rock!  I've been blessed with two mothers: my birth mother (Sylvia), who died when I was 6... and my second mother (Pat), who's been in my life just about ever since.  So much of who I am is because of their influence.

But other women have been like mothers to me, too, over the years.  Usually they were moms of friends of mine, whom I hung out with quite a bit... or moms of friends at church who were involved in my life.  Women who loved me, cared about what happened to me, and wanted to help me become the person God intended me to be.

I was reminded of these wonderful women today when I read Romans 16.  Paul comments on Rufus and his mom, who has been "a mother to me also."  These women in my life, too numerous to mention here, loved me in Arizona, Hawaii, Oahu, and even New Jersey.  I am so blessed because of them... and pray God's best in their lives today!

Priorities (out of whack!)

[From July 23, 2013]

"Solomon was building his own house 13 years, and he finished his entire house."
(1 Kings 7:1)

David had a dream.  His dream was to finally build God a house of his own.  No more "tent of meeting."  No more traveling tabernacle.  No more make-shift abode for the Creator of the Universe.  He felt bad that his house was much nicer than God's house.  But God didn't want David to build him a house.  So David passed all his plans on to his son, Solomon.

Solomon carried out his father's desires and built God a house (aka "The Temple in Jerusalem").  It took him 7 years.  In the Bible, seven is the number of perfection.  How appropriate.  1 Kings 6:38 says that it took 7 years to do just that.

But the very next verse is quite shocking to me.  1 Kings 7:1 says that Solomon then got to work on his house (I'm not sure why he couldn't live in the palace his father David lived in?!?)..  What shocked me was the fact it took Solomon 13 years to build his own house.  That's almost twice as long as the temple (was it twice as big?).  Sure, he had a thousand wives & concubines, so he'd need a lot of bedrooms (and bathrooms!)... but still, those priorities seem a bit out of whack to me. 

Never should we spend twice as much time on OUR endeavors as we do on God's endeavors.  Maybe that's one of the reasons the kingdom split after Solomon's reign!?!

Set Apart

[From July 22, 2013]

"Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised before hand through his prophets in the holy scriptures."
(Romans 1:1-2)

"Tell us about your 'call.'"  That's the question every Board of Ordained Ministry asks every potential United Methodist Church minister.  "How did God call you into ministry?"  We must be able to articulate that call story as pastors.  It's not about "doing a good job" or "having the right skill set" to be a pastor.  Those are important, sure, but not the essential component of the equation.  What's crucial is whether (and how) God has called one into ministry.

One of the biggest issues I struggled with when I was discerning my call from God was whether it meant I had to radically change or could "still be me?"  I didn't want to have to conform to some preconceived notion of what a minister had to be like.  I loved who God had created me to be, and dreaded having to give up part of my personality just to be a pastor. 

Of course, I've made my peace with that - and have (hopefully) navigated that transition well - becoming the pastor God has made me to be without compromising my personality.  But Paul reminded me today (Romans 1:1) that I am still "set apart for the gospel."  I can be myself, sure.  But I also must always recognize I've been given a specific calling & everything I do should be about the Gospel.  (I'm just stoked I can do it with my personality intact!)

The King's Friend

[From July 17, 2013]

"Jonathan, David's uncle, was a counselor, being a man of understanding & a scribe; Jehiel son of Hachmoni attended the King's sons.  Ahitophel was the King's counselor, and Hushai the Archite was the King's friend... Joab was commander of the King's army."
(1 Chronicles 27:32-34)

I love these few verses.  Much of 1 Chronicles is made up of lists of people: priests, Levites, gatekeepers, commanders, etc.  But here at the end of chapter 27, we get the name of 7 people. Four are counselors (Jonathan, Ahitophel, Jehoiada & Abiathar).  One is a general (Joab).  One handles all oft he King's sons (Jehiel).  And then there's HUSHAI THE ARCHITE.  His official title?  "The King's Friend."

That's awesome!  He probably had other duties that David assigned him, but the main reason he was on the royal payroll was because he was the King's friend.

I'm not famous, but I've heard celebrities & athletes talk about how fame brings out the worst in others.  So-called "friends" pop up all over - usually wanting something from the celebrity/athlete.  I'm guessing prominent leaders & politicians have a similar experience.  How crucial, then, to have at least one true friend to stick by you.  One who will speak the truth in love.  One who remembers you from before you were famous.  One who loves you for who you are, not for what your position/role is in society (or for what you give them!).  We all need to have a "friend of the king" in our lives!