Teach Those in the Church to Serve Outside the Church

I have almost always been involved in some sort of church service or activity. As a small child I attended Sunday school. When I was in college I helped with a small youth group, and after graduation I taught high school and Jr. High. During the week I brought all of my bible college education to the bible studies I attended and attempted as much as possible to help share what I had learned. When I stopped teaching high school and Jr. High I began teaching a young adults bible study.

In total it was three to four years of being involved (with some gaps) directly in church ministry where I got to see the Lord work and people grow in their understanding of God. Then I got promoted to a full time position at UPS. The work hours have since prevented me from being very involved in any sort of small church ministry. Made worse I stayed in hotels at least two hours away for work during the week making attending the same bible study as my home church impossible.

I feel the pull and the desire to see the work of the Lord in the people of God. I love seeing the growth and sharing the truth of God with others. But at times that has turned into an idolization. Serving in church was a standard by which I judged my life. Since I was not directly involved I judged my life inadequate. Lacking. “God what would you have me do?” I would constantly ask. If my actions weren’t directly connected to his body where organizational growth and change was visible, I had problems seeing the value in my actions.

The idolization of being involved in church as the ideal work of the Lord is unhealthy and wrong. Do we need to be involved in “church” yes. We need to have deep close caring relationships with brothers and sisters in the Lord. It is a biblical expectation. The church is supposed to support and lift each other up, bear one another’s burdens and love each other deeply. However, judging my contribution to the Lord’s work based upon my involvement in church is false and unhelpful.

“Lord what shall I do?”

“Feed my sheep” is always the reply. Been that way for years. I always thought that meant his sheep in the structure of the modern church. Ironically now that I am still and listen, the pull I have on my heart is to teach those in the church how to serve God outside of the church.

The Lord is seeking to redeem all aspects of our lives. Our work, our play, our words and even our social media. I want to be one that shows the church (that is all my brothers and sisters that profess faith in Christ) how we are to redeem our lives before God. Now I often become overly technical and analyze every little deed and word, and I will write to that end. However, it is also true that to an extent we must commit our ways to the Lord and let him work in our lives. Enjoying his creation is just as important as carefully choosing how we live.

Tuesday will be blogs on redeeming every part of our lives.

Living in the Noise

Previously I wrote about the danger of busyness. I hope it was impressed upon you that busyness can become an idol. However, there are times when we really are just justifiably busy. Similarly, there are times when we just get lost in the never ending options of how to spend our time. We can fill our time with more work or play or badminton, bad kittens, remote controlled cars, television, cat videos, and almost anything you can imagine.

The never ending options is more than just options of doing, it is also options of relating. our One can spend time with family, friends, significant others or acquaintances through in person encounters, telephone, texting, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, or any other medium.

The question I see is, how do we serve God in the middle of all of the noise? One answer is to simply remove a lot of the noise. I support anyone who wishes to do this act. I find it helpful and refreshing to remove oneself from our current isolation in ‘social’ media or remove activities to ease the stress on our life. It is a healthy practice to replace the cyber with the real communication.

However, there are also those that have no desire to depart from such activities. And as I am a firm believer that we should serve God wherever we are at, that means there must be a solution for how we are to serve God in the middle of the noise. In my current situation I am afraid that I am justifiably busy with a more than full time job and a master’s program.

I can go all week from waking, work, gym, homework to bed without a single ‘ministry’ receiving my time or energy. So I ask, God, what shall I do? Currently I travel for work so do not have a home church to serve in. Most all of my friend are just as busy themselves and so finding time to regularly communicate is a difficult process.

I have not landed on a satisfactory answer at all. However, I have come to realize a few little pieces by watching the world around me and asking God for wisdom. In recent personal situations I ask repeatedly, “God, please help me respond and work through this with grace” granted I have failed more than I have seen grace work. But, I can still focus on responding how Christ would with patience, kindness, self control and humility among others.

In my professional life, there is a disease of gossip and negativity at work. I can live counter to this with encouragement in Christ. So though most of the hours of my day I cannot directly account for or tie to a specific heavenly focus and affect, I can humbly walk knowing that God has a way for me to present my life as a sacrifice to Him.

 

Busyness

In modern America there is a fascination with being busy. Individuals will take on work, hobbies, sports, church, and try to have relationships all at the same time. Even those who are not over achievers and try to at least appear and sound busy. It is bragging rights to say that you worked fifty hours a week are in school and still have time to iron your clothes.

But what are we as Christians supposed to do in this culture? Where do we put Christ? Is he part of our bragging rights of reading our Scripture every morning as part of a routine? Attending church services and bible studies. Helping with a kids service and still attending other services in an effort to be busy for Jesus seems to be common for the Spiritually dedicated.

Jesus took time to leave the crowds and pray. He listened to the Father and spent alone time with Him often. Not on a schedule or routine but on a basis of relationship.

One side affect of all of this busyness is that we schedule God to just one part of our day. We have a morning prayer time or bible reading. We have church on Sunday and bible study on Tuesday. This is far from the faith of relationship that we claim to profess. It is kind of hard to swallow that we are willing to die for Christ and plan him into specific parts of our lives.

I posit this response. That regardless if we are busy or not that in addition to any sort of scheduled time, for I will not deny the importance of planning time with those who are important to us, that we should also practice a daily listening and attentiveness to the working of the Holy Spirit. We should definitely set aside time with no schedule. A prayer time with no end date such as the evening before you can sleep in or before a day with no plans. But also, that we should slow down or stringent busy faith and just start allowing Jesus to work in every part of our lives. From the calendar to the rush out the door for work.

When we do this then we may begin to fill our time with more important things. For me, the leading that Christ has given me is to write. So I write this past my planned bed time (my new planning on goals I will speak of later) not to be busy but to carefully do what I feel the Spirit calling me to do.

Life Worth Living: Purple vs Green part i

Life Worth Living: Purple vs Green part i
A life worth living is a life worth enjoying. The inverse is also true. A life worth enjoying is a life worth living. But I also assert that life enjoyed is part of life worth living.
I share honestly now, that I often have struggles with a Christian existentialism. Or at least, that is what I call it. Existentialism normally is the idea that everything you do is absurd and meaningless, but it is very important that you do it anyway. As a Christian, my struggle is to enjoy the vastness of Christ’ Creation, when it doesn’t seem to have any eternal significance. Souls are not being won to Jesus, so why bother? What benefit is it if I like purple instead of green? Why should I ice cream when I could satiate myself with broccoli? Why should I enjoy games when I could tell someone about Jesus.
Unfortunately this hasn’t had what would seem to be the logical outcome, I am the person who tells everyone he meets about Jesus. I am much to coy for that. I attempt to bring it up, but this attitude is marred by sin and so merely keeps me from enjoying life. I confess now that much of my writing is me trying to work out my own life and view of the world.
This is why I love the book of Ecclesiastes. He speaks so perfectly what I feel. Meaningless, meaningless, (like trying to catch smoke) is everything of life because it only lasts a moment. Throughout the book we are told that God has given man life to enjoy. But in chapter 2:26, just shortly after we are told to eat drink and be merry for God has given us this life, he says that this is meaningless, and striving after wind. It all seems hopeless.
But, I have hope. For at the end of the book it says that the sayings of the wise are given by one Shepherd. That one Shepherd is Jesus. He gives us wisdom, but also gives us redemption and life. Everything is meaningless because it will all be lost, the righteous perish and the wicked prosper, claims the writer. This is very true here and now. Wicked are blessed, righteous are punished.
The answer will never come in this life. The answer to these ills only comes when Jesus returns and brings justice and eternal life to the world. In Him there is hope of broken relationships mended, lost family reunited, sickness taken away, and life lived eternally in God’s presence.
But until then, I still find myself asking, “Why enjoy purple over green?”

Obedience as Acting

On an Excellent Life
We as Christians are given two commandments, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and to love your neighbor. This is the standard that we have of a life well lived, how well we love God and love other people. Loving God includes, loving other people, and obeying his commands. For, “Those who love me, obey my commandments.”
The simple part is often understanding God’s commandments. Do not let improper speech come from your mouth, be kind, keep no record of wrong, and others. But applying these is difficult. Seeing the connection between a good blessed life and obeying God’s commands is more difficult, that will be the topic for my next blog post.
The second piece is loving other people. My encouragement for living a life worth living is learning to love creatively, intently, and fiercely.
Loving creatively could be hiding surprises all over some ones house, like army men, chocolates, or flowers, for someone to find. It could be leaving a recording of a love message for them to find. You could: draw their favorite activity (even if it is stick figures), compliment something no one gets complimented on, like their elbows, or make them some food. Most importantly, you should do something that points them towards Christ, because the greatest good for everyone is Christ. You can do nothing greater for a fellow person than to bring them one step closer to the creator.
Love intently. Even if you don’t feel like it. Just do it. Be intentional. Plan. Base the idea upon who the person is. Think of their struggles and their joys, connect the act of love to that. God is pleased with water for a child, and he is also pleased with a gift in love.
Love fiercely. Here I have the pleasure of a story. It would be better titled love stubbornly, but it works here.
I was hanging out with a group of friends one day and we decided to get yogurt. As the eight of us crowded into the yogurt shop, one of our friends, who we saw rarely, mentioned he would like something but had no money. When Ashley offered to pay for it, Jeremy was quick to deny the offer. The banter went back and forward for some time. “Well what if we split something?” she pushed. He finally agreed. Then the bantering continued as she tried to pick out flavors he would like. They were last in line, and when they came and sat down at our table, she took the first sweet bite. “Yum.” Then put her spoon down. “I am done”
“What?” Came Jeremy’s reply.
“Yeah, there I had a bite. We shared. You can have the rest.”
So love fiercely, stubbornly, and sometimes with just a bit of mischievousness.