Sunday, March 13, 2016

...Put My Service to the Test...

So confession time. I am not a fan of those “Spiritual Inventories” that you can take to figure out where to serve in the church. Basically, they just reflect what you already know about yourself and don’t stretch you into any place surprising. I think the best way to find out how you should serve is to try different things.

Helping Organize and Serve
When I first told my pastor I was sensing a call by God into career ministry, I was in junior high. For some reason they don’t give you a church to pastor when you’re that age. Instead, that pastor said that the first step was to start testing that call by getting involved in church, so I said yes to a lot of different jobs.

I had some jobs that I really didn’t like. Like when I had the job to gather attendance from all the classrooms during Sunday school and record them in a giant book. Oh, how I hated that job. I hate numbers. I hate missing out on being with people. I didn’t really think that those numbers mattered much. I dreaded church when I had that job. Praise God they let me quit after 12 times.

There were some jobs that weren’t my favorite, but I had such a high value for the job, it was okay. Like helping out in the nursery. I am not a baby person, but it was all right because I knew how important it was. 

Lots of times we do jobs that aren’t our top pick because we value the people who we serve.

I had some jobs that I loved. Leading singing and doing special music were good. Counseling at camp was even better. Leading Bible and book studies, and organizing small groups were right in my wheel house.

Preaching and Leading Worship
What I have learned about service it that experience is the best way to figure out where my “abilities, talents, spiritual gifts, and passions” lie. Sure, it is a little messier. I have had to step down from some jobs, which makes me feel guilty (even though it shouldn’t!). But it’s allowed me the freedom to discover stuff about myself I didn’t know was there. Like even though I don’t feel the need to hold every baby, I like them and can love on them just as well as the next person.

I’ve also learned that whatever you do (even if it’s a job you don’t like) when it comes to service, try to be FAT: Faithful (do what you say you will), Available (say yes, but don’t commit to more than you can really do), and Teachable (be humble enough to learn from others).  

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Ruth: The Woman Who Had

It's Woman's History Month! In recognition of that, here are some reflections of one of the great women in the Bible, Ruth. To read her full story, read the book named after her in the Old Testament.

Ruth is a hero.

It is hard to recognize her as one often times. After all, she was a foreigner. Many commentators still say that it was because of her husband’s unfaithfulness in marrying a Hebrew woman that caused his demise. We don’t know how long they were married, but she didn’t provide him with offspring, a wife’s solemn duty. 

Later, back in Israel, many experts in reading the original text recognize that she slept with Boaz as a way to convince him to marry her. On top of all that, she was a beggar, reaping what was not hers.
And yet, so many times in her story, she made choices that glorified God. There are so many places within her story that if she had not, the ancestral line of Jesus would have been broken. 

      1.      If she had not gone with her mother-in-law to a foreign land. If she had done what Naomi had first encouraged her to do…to move back home with her own parents to be remarried. Later in her story, Boaz speaks of her youth and ability to find a young suiter. Remarriage surely was not out of the question. But instead, we find her traveling to a foreign land that culturally disdained such intercultural marriages.
      2.      If she had not gone out to the fields. Upon reaching Israel, Naomi quickly finds women to comfort her, and we find her sitting and grieving her many losses. Ruth knows no one, and yet she does not sit and grieve with the only person she knows. Rather, she gets up and gets busy. She goes out and gets working at the most readily available job there is. It is not an easy job. Nor is it safe for a young woman. Boaz quickly recognizes this, and asks his workers to protect Ruth from the many people who would do her harm as she picks the grain that has fallen by chance as the workers harvest the field.
      3.      If she had not pursued Boaz. Boaz recognizes that Ruth makes a sacrifice in asking to be his wife. He thanks her for not choosing the young men she could so easily catch.  She does not choose Boaz based on his youth, or his charm. In fact, up to this point we do not hear one conversation between the two of them. Naomi chose Boaz because it will mean an heir to her family, but we never hear Ruth expressing this as a high value. And yet, she loves her mother-in-law enough to sacrifice what she may desire in a husband, for this old man.

She had

To this day we remember Ruth, who God used to keep his promise to Abraham. 
The grandmother of the greatest king Israel would ever have until the Messiah. 
The only foreign woman who would have a book in the Bible carry her name. 
One of only four woman who would be mentioned in Jesus’ royal lineage in Matthew. 
She was not royalty like Esther.
 Just a foreign, poor, powerless woman.
 A humble start to a great legend.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Here I am, Lord

Guess who I was there for...
One of our KICK kids invited me to her school program. I came, not because I knew it was going to be a great performance. I came just because I knew she wanted me there. Her face lit up when she saw me. Then her mom caught sight of me and said, “She was so excited you were coming.” She did great, but even if she didn’t it wouldn’t have mattered. I didn’t come to experience a mind-blowing performance. I came because that little girl matter to me, and I wanted her to know she was worth my time.

My guess is you have experienced part of this story. You have been the kid who someone showed up for or you have been the adult who put in extra effort to be there for someone else. Some of us have experienced this in reverse: someone didn’t show up for us. We know that disappointment.

We often forget how important showing up is. It seems so small.

I have “shown up” to worship every Sunday since… well… forever. I show up for the same reasons as I did as that little girl…I come because God matters to me. I go because he is worth my time. I have sat through some really bad music, even worse sermons, and have “gotten nothing out of it” many times. But it doesn’t matter to me, because I love God so much…he is worth showing up for every time.

That’s my starting point, but there is more to showing up to worship than that.

See, when I was in high school, my dad got a job working on Sunday mornings. He had gone regularly to worship with our family up to that point. When he stopped, he got really grumpy…really mean. He became miserable to live with. Did he stop believing in Jesus? No, absolutely not. But something had changed.

My dad and I in 2015
Finally I asked him if he would go with me before work to an early service at a church closer to his work. I don’t know how to explain what happened next other than to say, by the time he got home from work he was my dad again. Neither he nor I can tell you anything about that service, but it changed him. And I’m not talking about the intentional stuff we try to do as disciples. I mean all that stuff we take for granted…the tone in his voice, the way he hugged my mother, his patience with us, it all changed.

My hunch of what happened is that we weren’t the only ones who showed up. To this day, I believe God showed up, and the Holy Spirit changed my dad from the inside out. I can’t prove it, but I sincerely believe something happens when we come together as the body of Christ to intentionally meet God.

As a pastor, I do everything I can to make sure our worship has good music, an engaging and practical sermon, and has meaningful content. But as a disciple, I am willing to show up even if the service flops. Because God can do something in that service even when all of us people fail. Because showing up for God matters all on its own.