Wednesday, February 18, 2009
I am like that most of the time. Admittedly, as I have gotten older the restlessness is more about waking up too early. In the past--and even now--it is the drivenness of my nature that ahs caused me unrest, as well as my proclivity to worry about things.
David's comments in verse 3 of the 62nd Psalm are third person, but, I believe, reflect David's own questioning restless heart.
"How long will you assault a man? Would all of you throw him down--this leaning wall, this tottering fence..."
Often we feel like we are teetering on the brink of inevitable collapse. The temptation is to increase the activity to fix whatever is bugging us, hoping that will bring rest. Someone observed that many of us are like a chicken running around with its head cut off--lots of activity but in the throes of death.
So where dow e find rest from all of it...the pressure, the worries and anxieties, the "assault" of the enemy that David alludes to his cry to God?
The 62nd Psalm, interestingly, bookends David's cry for help in verse 3 with similar promsies of help and "rest in God".
"My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shalen" (verses 1,2)
"Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge", verses 5-8.
Here are a few things for us to lay our heads on...
1. God alone is the true source of rest.
2. Such rest is to be sought in Him...and found.
3. Our security in Him helps us to "never be shaken".
4. He is our hope.
5. God is the one who will defend my honor.
Why would I then, not trust in Him and, at the very least, pour out my heart to Him? True rest is all about my relaitonship to God, and utilizing the resources He uniquely provides.
But learning to find "rest in God".
Thursday, February 12, 2009
I am doing some work with Hospice of Amador County as a spiritual counselor-chaplain. Today was my first opportunity to sit at a table with Hospice employees and volunteers and to be educated about how expansive their services are.
I have always been impressed with the hospice workers I have encountered over the years I have been in ministry. Their care and commitment in making someone comfortable as they approach the end of their life is noteworthy as well as the personal interest they take in the network of family members and close friends. For many of them, I sense, it is a special "calling", although they might characterize it differently.
It is a "high calling", from my perspective, because the message communicated through quality hospice care from my point of view as an observer is that one's quality of life should be preserved and protected as long as it is humanly possible. The dignity of life is emphasized and the value of each person--in spite of age and mental facility--is ennobled.
I look forward to providing the kind of spiritual care that our faith in God provides as we face death and eternity. That is the ultimate care we can provide for our loved ones. I'll keep you posted on what I learn along the way.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
At a recent staff meeting we discussed the relationship between information and inspiration. The observation was made that a lot of information is disbursed at Grace but transporting it from the head and the heart to the hands and the feet requires inspiration.
As I have reflected on that discussion, several questions came to my mind—not original, or even creative—but indigenous to this topic.
1. Is there a disconnect between information and action and is inspiration an appropriate catalyst?
2. Are there observable ways to determine whether information and inspiration are being linked together? If so, what are they?
3. Whose responsibility is it to inspire? We probably agree the teacher has the responsibility if imparting the truth and information of God’s Word. If we presume the teacher participates in inspiring us, what is the difference between facilitation and manipulation?
It may seem that these questions are philosophical at best, but in the world of reality and ministry the focal point comes down to this—if the teaching of the Word of God is taking place, why is it that believers seem so reluctant to respond in affirming action?
Let’s look at the questions for a minute. In the first case, the disconnect between receiving information and having it translate into observable action when it is required would seem to have an emotional component.
Philippians 2:13 reminds us “…it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose”. So at the very core is God who is impacting our desires and our ultimate choices to act in a way that reflects His purpose for us. So, perhaps the question is, how does God move and motivate us? The presumption may be that it is sensory, or that God touches our eyes, our ears, our hearts, but that surely He moves us.
The second question revolves around the principle of cause and effect. If God is at work inspiring us through all the means available to Him, can we observe the effects of that? Should our faith in Him be demonstrable? James 2:17 says that “…faith by itself if it is not accompanied by action is dead.” James goes on to expand this by saying, “…I will show you my faith by what I do...”, 2:18. If we are responding in faith to the Word of God which is impacting us and motivating us to follow after God, it will be observable in how we live out our lives.
The final question asks the question that was predominant in our staff discussion. Do we have a role and part at the inspirational level, or, is that work God’s alone? For example, if we are being given the information about giving and stewardship, should not the truth of God’s Word alone compel us to give? Or, is there another component of that disbursement process that includes our motivational skills?
Some of us might do that more naturally. Our personality and natural charisma might spill over into our presentation of information—surely into our proclamation of the truth. But the critical issue is whether we then become facilitators or manipulators. Someone recently observed that we brought them to a certain place at Grace but they were waiting for us to take them further. Is that my role, or, is that the role of the Holy Spirit? Do I present the truth of God’s Word and let it perform according to Hebrews 4:12, “For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Or, does the Word of God flourish when it is accompanied by passion?
My concern is that we wait to be emotionally stirred and prodded before we act, and that we, as staff members, feel compelled to motivate through guilt or shame or emotional manipulation to achieve the results we desire. We cannot go there. We can, however, facilitate others arriving at the place God intends by sharing passionately about the impact of His truth upon our lives and demonstrating it, then, in how we live.
Paul said it this way to the church at Thessalonica. “You are witnesses and so is God of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed…when you received the Word of God which you heard from us you accepted it, not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the Word of God which is at work in you who believe.” I Thessalonians 2:10-13.
Preach it with passion! Proclaim it without caution! Live it (by God’s grace) without compromise! The results are up to God, who works in us. The ultimate response is ours. Informed and Inspired by the truth, will we choose to act…to obey?
Thursday, February 05, 2009
The Y2K crowd proved to be wrong. They were harbingers of doom and posited their conclusions based on a combination of calendar tweaking, biblical "prophecy", conspiracy thinking and political uncertainty. All of these may have had some relative merit for consideration on their own but combining them together wreaked havoc in the mindset of some. So they stored food and water, bought extra flashilights and matches, and waited for the end.
Some close friends of mine were seriously concerned about what the new millennium would usher in, and it turns out, in my opinion, they were not that far off. Almost ten years later we seem closer to that place of Armageddon-like drama than ever before.
Interestingly, this kind of thinking seems totally out of sync with the dawning of a new age as heralded in Obama's ascent to power and an almost messianic Inaugurational tone. This is not to suggest that I think Obama is the proverbial antichrist, as some of my friends have suggested; nor does it mean that I think the new administration is ready to push us over the precarious edge of political change into national oblivion. I do believe, however, we are at the cynosure of perilous times and the whispers of global "warning" and financial holocaust should not be ignored.
In our own county the empty new and used car lots, the unoccupied commercial space, the frigthening stories of the unemployed and under-employed, the acceleration of local crime, the burgeoning number of homeless and bankrupt--all of these things are testimony to the fact, the times, "they are a changin'".
I pastor a local church and every Sunday there are new stories about lost jobs, new requests for prayer for more work, questions about ways to save a home, gripping stories of large amounts of money lost in the stock market, families wondering about escalating medical costs and a general inescapable sense of the financial cloud hanging over us.
The newspaper is a compilation of horror stories strecthing from the bloody fight for land in the Middle East, to the perilous countryside of Afghanistan, to the lurking re-emergence of Russia on the world scene, to the fragile "peace" of Iraq, and the list goes on. We cannot escape the images of the disgraced governor of Illinois protesting his innocence, Tom Daschle's recent exposure as a tax evader, Barry Bond's voice on tape contradicting what he has always protested, and State authorities defying our own governor's directives to cut spending. The voices and faces of failure are all around us.
What are we to do? Do we find solace in the potlical assurances that we will be okay because in America we have always found a way out...of the Great Depression, World War II and double-digit inflation?
Or, do we seek comfort from the knowledge that (1) We are a nation of plenty (2) We are a people of initiative and resource (3) We have always worked best together in crisis, whether in the hideous aftermath of 9-11 tyragedy or the humanitarian challenge of Hurricane Katrina's devastation.
On Sunday I will be speaking about the "body of Christ", a New Testament metaphor for the bond that exists between fellow believers and the care and concern we assume for one another. I have been challenging our congregation to the idea of "overflow" ministry--the concept of utilizing the difference between what we need and what we have--a surplus for most of us--to meet the needs of others.
On a larger scale in our community we should be actively looking for creative ways to help one another. In the Y2K days I heard stories of people identifying places they agreed to live in together to wait out the doom they anticipated.
It is almost ten years later--and the future is a lot more bleak in the eyes of this observer--and we need to be drawn together for the purpose of taking advantage of the opportunities before us--to rely on the strength of our faith in a sovereign God, and the good will of His people to work together.