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Posts Tagged ‘serving others’

lifestyleSo here’s a few questions for you and my answers. Feel free to add your two cents in the comments.

  • What is the kind of lifestyle your local church is encouraging you to live?
    • This is an easy answer in my church, that is Restore Church, because they advertise their lifestyle “code” throughout the building and on the website. It is the church’s desire that each and every person would discover what it means to live a faith-filled life, to take risks for God (outside the box as it were), reach people with the message of God’s grace, to live in a judgment-free zone, to give generously of our time and resources, to bless others when they least expect it, to be spiritual contributors instead of consumers, and to be united under one vision, just to name a few.
  • Secondly, how does the church demonstrate this lifestyle?
    • Because there is a strong vision for this church, most of the activities and ministries of the church are vetted in relationship to the code. Like a personal goal, the question is asked, does this activity move us closer to reaching people far away from God and bringing them closer to a new life in Christ.
    • So what are these activities? There is a lot of emphasis on outreach in the community from the largest egg hunt in the MidAtlantic (100,000 filled eggs) to movies in the park in various communities throughout the area. The church partners with a sister non-profit called Good Cause Foundation to give generously to those in need such as Drop & Swap for families (free clothing and child equipment) as well as Single Moms’ Spa Day in addition to other fundraisers to have funds available for needy families.
    • Within the church, there is an effort to draw people together in the quest for reaching outliers because serving together is more powerful than serving alone: Small groups, women’s & men’s ministries, children’s ministry during services, Awana, and a variety of volunteer teams that bring folks together (AV, greeters, parking lots, food, teachers, etc.)
  • But the third question is more critical: How do I demonstrate this lifestyle?
    • And there’s the rub. Do I? In some ways yes, I do. I am committed to the church and the church mission. I serve faithfully each week in one or more services as a host and prayer intercessor. But it is only on occasion that people come up and ask for prayer. I feel underused in this capacity. Do they not come because of the flow of the service and people are ready to leave, or do they not trust me, in particular, with their prayer needs? Have I shown myself worthy to intercede? Perhaps not.
    • I am in the Hillsong Ministry School because I believe my designated role as lay pastor demands a commitment to this process as well. I get that.
    • Historically, I have been in small groups, some more successful than others. So far, I have not had much consistency with a group here. I have been invited to attend a group (first time), and am hoping to attend, but there is the reality of my work schedule in which I must often work 1-2 nights per week. How many nights out are too many? I struggle with this all the time.
    • Sometimes, I just push back. I want to stop and just be still. But even that is somewhat unrealistic. My home is not merely my own but shared with a single daughter and her infant son. If I am not busy outside the house, then I am expected to be helping inside the house.
    • Summary: I don’t serve as much as I could. When I do serve, it is with a heart full of faith, which over the last year, I know, my heart has truly been tested and I know that I know that my faith is indeed built on rock. In that way, I am all in. And that is probably the core of it for me.

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chameleonBack and forth I go over this scripture from Paul about being “all things to all people.” More than likely, he is referring to his ability to accommodate various beliefs and behaviors by being non-judgmental and that’s a good thing, but then I can envisage a mis-use of this passage to assert we should blend in and not rock the boat. It’s all a bit of a fine line.

I act weak to the weak, so I can recruit the weak. I have become all things to all people, so I could save some by all possible means. All the things I do are for the sake of the gospel, so I can be a partner with it. [I Corinthians 9:22-23, CEB]

Honestly, I’m not sure Paul could have blended in anywhere anyway. He was so opinionated and seemed to step on toes wherever he went. I’m just sayin.’

Jesus is really the role model for this scripture. He never changed his spots and yet, he engaged each person and group fully. He allowed people to be who they were in that moment and the by-product was that they recognized his authenticity. I could imagine him walking into a bar and hanging out and although he would be drinking water, he would be available without condemnation.

When serving outside our comfort zone, it’s important to be secure in our faith without reserve, but also realize that every journey is different. But we must learn to “look” to the spark of human within, the spark that is waiting for the flame of the Holy Spirit, for all of humanity is waiting in one form or another [Romans 8:19] for the personal revelation of God. In this way, we are all the same. Our outward selves and circumstances are often a poor reflection of the core within.

The real chameleon is the spirit within who can melt into a unity with the essence of Other.

I see you. See me. I see you. See me.

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serveBoth Jesus and Moses served God, but Moses out of the covenant of the law from without while Jesus served out of the nature of God within. Pick your way. Personally, my desire is to serve because it is a natural expression of my identity, it is a reflection of God through Christ.

Jesus was faithful to the one who appointed him just like Moses was faithful in God’s house. But he deserves greater glory than Moses in the same way that the builder of the house deserves more honor than the house itself. Every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant in order to affirm the things that would be spoken later. But Jesus was faithful over God’s house as a Son. [Hebrews 3:2-6, CEB]

Get_out_of_jail_freeI am contending a bit with the young adults in my house right now. We have all been through an ordeal, the death of a husband and the death of a father. But the sorrow, after a time, cannot be used as a “get out of jail free” card forever. The laundry still needs to be washed, the floor swept, the dogs fed, the meals prepared. It is not a hotel. When I suggested to one of them to wash our windows, the protest was immediate. But then, when I asked, who should do them? Nominate someone else to do tsave the earthhe work. Silence. The windows were done, and yet begrudgingly. Other times, I am given a report a what was done or not done. I have to laugh. I really don’t want to keep score. We all live here; we all have a responsibility to maintain our home.

Is this microcosm any different from the macrocosm of our earth, or county, or state, or county, or city, or neighborhood? We live here.

God is not keeping score. But the responsibility for our environment and the people who live in it is irrefutable. If we don’t serve, who will? Who do you nominate to the work you don’t want to do?

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Collage art by Tema Okun

Collage art by Tema Okun

Before Mike died, I struggled with “loving” others who were in grief situations. I kept thinking, I don’t know what to do, how can I help? But then, I saw the simple truth of it. Jesus already told us what to do, not only in the “golden rule” [Matthew 7:12] but in one of the greatest commandments: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” [Matthew 22:37-40, CEB]

So, this is what others did for me while I floundered about in the days and weeks after Mike’s death:

  • Sat in my house and waited for me the first night, so I wouldn’t be alone.
  • Dog-sat my pups in their home while the household was in chaos.
  • Cleaned my house.
  • Stocked my pantry with paper goods.
  • Not just brought meals, but coordinated them.
  • Created to-do lists.
  • Made phone calls. Filtered phone calls.
  • Went grocery shopping for me.
  • Filed my paperwork and cleaned my home office.
  • Kept my kitchen clean and clear.
  • Made meals for extended family.
  • Offered guest rooms for extended family.
  • Drove to the airport. Again and again.
  • Made breakfast.
  • Stocked me up with breakfast foods and coffee.
  • Shoveled snow. Again and again.
  • Took me out to lunch.
  • Created memory posters and organized photographs.
  • Offered to create a scrapbook of sympathy cards.
  • Took truckloads to the dump.
  • Delivered donations.
  • Sold two of my cars and found a replacement.
  • Stocked us up with pet food.
  • Took pictures.
  • Gave me rides, even when I could have driven myself.
  • Listened.
  • Sat with me.
  • Cried with me.
  • Sang to me.
  • Sent follow up cards to check in.
  • Invited me over for dinner. Just me. Even though, it was just me.
  • Brought over little kids who made me laugh.
  • Took the little kids home again.
  • Fixed my toilet. And then the second one. Oh, and the third one.
  • Came over to play games just for fun. Played cards.
  • Did my laundry.

The list goes on actually. There are still many people teaching me what to do the next time. The things people did were simple and often times, quick. But they all meant so much. They still mean so much.

Yup. I get it. I can love you like this too. It’s another way to serve one another. And maybe, just maybe, once I find to strength to love my near neighbor, my heart will reach further away.

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 servingThe devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”  [Luke 4:5-8]

This is a disturbing passage; not because Jesus resists the enemy but the devil’s claim that the earth belongs to him. In essence, until the great coming of the Christ, there was little opposition to the presence of evil. The prophets would warn and encourage the following of God’s laws as a bulwark against the arrows of Satan and his demonic forces. But, this was a losing proposition. The longer evil ruled, the more difficult the light was to find and follow.

And so, God sends the Son to become the ultimate sacrifice for everyone. Grace instead of the law is offered to the people. The presence and indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the new way to fight the good fight against evil.

But still evil is not defeated. The Hitlers (Germany), Mugabes (Zimbabwe), Gadhafis (Libya), Husseins (Iraq), Castros (Cuba), Jong-ils (North Korea), and Stalins (Russia) poured out much bloodshed; the terrorists continue to frighten and murder; people die of hunger [25,000 a day] and disease such as AIDS [1 every 20 seconds] all over the world. Where is hope for victory? Where is the new Ruler of this Earth? How much longer will the earth groan [Romans 8:22]?

I can choose to keep my head in the sand and pretend that my extravagant living makes no difference in the world (one of the techniques expounded in C. S. Lewis’s wonderful book, The Screwtape Letters, or I can stop. I can open the door of my heart to the pain around me and touch it with the truth of the Spirit in me. Do I believe that God within, Christ died and risen, changes every day life or not?

Joshua asked, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . ” [Joshua 24:15] but really, this is the question I am asked every day.

Perhaps I can’t transform the whole world, but I can metamorphose my use of time and impact my circle of friends, colleagues, and family by being a vessel for Spirit. I can pray with intent and not just lists of names. I can show up. I can be present. I can be open. I can choose life.

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”
[Deuteronomy 30:19-20]

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