Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Good Samaritan

We often read the story of the Good Samaritan as if the man who was robbed and beaten was the despised Samaritan and the man who helped was just an ordinary person like us. We read the story and come to the conclusion we are to help those in need, even those who we don’t like. When Jesus says, "Go and do likewise", traditionally we have taken it to mean we are to help those in need, even despised Samaritans. However if that was really Jesus’ intention he would have told the story with the Samaritan being the one who was robbed and beaten and an ordinary Jewish person helping him. What if, Jesus meant go and receive mercy, instead of go and show mercy?

Furthermore if we read Luke 10:37 we realized that Jesus has made the answer to the question: "Who is my neigbour?" to be: "My neighbour is the one who has mercy." And since it is my neighbour we are talking about, he/she is showing mercy to me. Jesus effectively tells the expert in the law that he can’t justify himself (v.29) and needs mercy. This man, like all of us, need to love the One who will show us mercy.

With thanks to Mark Buchanan who points this out in his book, The Holy Wild Sisters: Multnomah, 2003. pgs. 113-116

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Devotional Thought : 2 Corinthians 9:8

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

All grace...in all things...at all times…having all that you need. God gives us grace so that we will "abound in every good work." He blesses us so we will be a blessing. If we only want to be blessed to relieve our pain or for our own pleasure, it’s not enough. God’s plan is for us to channels of God’s blessing not reservoirs. However to be channels we must first receive from God.

Watchman Nee writes: "God is so wealthy that his chief delight is to give. His treasure-stores are so full that it is pain[ful] to him when we refuse him an opportunity of lavishing those treasures upon us. …It is a grief to the heart of God when we try to provide things for him. He is so very, very rich. It gives him true joy when we just let him give and give and give again to us. He wants to be the Giver eternally, and he wants to be the Doer eternally. If only we saw how rich and how great he is!"*

God wants to give us his grace, but as I wrote last week, we are often reluctant receivers. In John 7:37 we read, "Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.'" To receive the first thing to do is acknowledge our thirst, our need, our reliance on God. Secondly believe that God will supply us with "living water" that is grace, as we need it and not to be stockpiled. Thirdly "drink" that is be willing to receive.

*A Table in the Wilderness by Watchman Nee (February 19th). Victory Press, 1969

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Busy week

I’m glad to be home. In the last six days I have spent 13 hours driving. This is rather unusual for me as a lot of weeks I don’t drive at all. I’m fortunate enough to be able to walk to work.

I had a very enjoyable time at ladies retreat. The theme was, “Journey with God” and we spent time thinking about our spiritual journeys. As I reflected on mine, I was encouraged by God’s provision and faithfulness to me over many years. It spurred me on to believe God for the future.

Today was also Election Day. In Australia we have compulsory voting. Some Americans, I know, find it odd that we make people vote. However we really don’t…we only make people turn up at a polling booth and have their name crossed off. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say we have, compulsory showing up days!

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ladies Retreat

I’m off again to the Ladies Retreat that I went to last year. I wrote about it here. Last year the retreat was an amazing blessing so I’m looking forward to going again and catching up with those I met last year. So I’ll be missing from here for a few days.

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Devotional Thought : 2 Corinthians 8:13-14

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality. 2 Corinthians 8:13-14

Politicians and governments often want to legislate for equality but it doesn't work. It only works when people voluntarily give of their "plenty" and receive for their "need". There are two parts, first it is necessary to have those who are willing to give of their plenty. But secondly it is necessary to have those who are willing to receive for their need. We often assume there is no equality because people are unwilling to give but maybe this is only partly true. Sometimes people are unwilling to receive.

Are we good receivers? Compliments, gifts, expressions of appreciation can leave us feeling uncomfortable rather than blessed. Receiving puts us in the place of vulnerability. Somehow receiving makes us feel we are not complete in ourselves. To need someone's service suggests that we are somehow lacking and inadequate. It might even make us feel incompetent or dependant.

Jesus was a good receiver. He accepted the gift of anointing; He accepted a leper's thankfulness; and He accepted His Father's affirmation, "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased".

We may need to learn to receive. Receive the gift of service others offer us, receive encouragement, affirmation, and most importantly receive our Father's love. Not just acknowledging His love with our mind but truly open ourselves up to receiving it into our hearts.

We not only rob others when we will not receive from them but we also rob ourselves of the blessing God wants us to have.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Team Leadership

This week I have been reading some articles about working in a Christian culture and I was particularly impressed with an article about team building by Eddie Gibbs. This is a summary of what he said:

Younger leaders are looking for leadership that is low profile, low budget and low maintenance. Low profile because younger leaders often don’t want to carry the burden of leadership responsibility alone and therefore prefer to operate in a team setting. They don't want or need the prestige of leadership. Low budget because funds in churches are always tight. Low maintenance because younger leaders don’t want to be micromanaged or to have to micromanage others. They are secure in themselves so can trust others to make decisions.

The team concept of leadership is seen in Jesus’ ministry and if the church is going to be effective in the future we need to embrace this style of ministry.

The sentence I found most challenging in the article was this: "No one discovers their true worth outside of community".

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Devotional Thought : 2 Corinthians 7:5

For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. 2 Corinthians 7:5

It surprises and encourages me to think of Paul as having "fears within." Then he continues, "But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus…" I am thankful for all the “but God” times in my life. Those times when God has intervened in my life and turned things around, even though sometimes it is only my perspective that is turned around!

Quite often in the Bible we come across this little expression "but God". In 1 Samuel 23:14 we read, "Day after day Saul searched for him but God did not give David into his hands." Saul chased David for many years and the reason he was never able to track him down was because "God did not give David into his hands." God interrupted the normal sequence of events.

In a sense sending Jesus was God's biggest interruption. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). We all deserved hell but God interrupted the just consequences of our actions by sending Jesus to take the punishment in our place. It was God's initiative to send Jesus and interrupted history forever.

Our own testimony should include "but God… ". Once my life was heading in a certain direction "but God" interrupted. As we grow as Christians we find more of God's interruptions. Once we acted in a worldly way, "but God" gives us His spirit. Once we thought in a worldly way "but God" gives us the mind of Christ.

How grateful we should be that God takes the initiative and interrupts our lives.

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Friday, August 06, 2010

Leading as an Introvert

I have been reading a series of articles called, Leading as an Introvert, and finding them very helpful. One article in particular was especially enlightening, it was called: What Introverted Leadership Looks Like : know how to lead others according to your strengths by Adam S. McHugh. I've quoted a couple of paragraphs here. The first one is about communication.

An indispensable instrument in the toolbox of an introverted leader is "over-communication." The "over" in this strategy will only be perceived by introverts; to extroverts this is just "communication." Aware of our proclivity for enigmatic silence, introverted leaders act in love and understanding toward extroverts when we practice communication that is unnatural to us: we give more feedback and affirmation than we think is necessary; we repeat ourselves, even several times when making an important point; we contort our faces and gesticulate; and we sometimes give expression to incomplete thoughts to let extroverts know that we’re engaged in the conversation.

I laughed when I read this because it is so true. I hate repeating myself, but I have also found, like this paragraph says, that it is necessary to do what he says – repeat myself, contort my face and gesticulate – especially when dealing with a group of extroverts.

This second paragraph I thought was interesting not so much for what it had to say about introverts but for what it had to say about the shift in leadership paradigms.

Postmodernity has precipitated shifts in our leadership paradigms. In modernity, a hierarchical model of leadership was normative, and people separated themselves from others through expertise and position. Postmodern culture facilitates more egalitarian and collaborative forms of leadership and ministry. A successful postmodern leader will motivate others through relational skills and persuasion, not position and decree. Leadership in postmodern culture is not appointed by the Powers-That-Be; true leadership is given by a community to those people who have earned their trust and respect.

As he says there has been a major shift in the way leadership is understood and those of us who are my age and older need to realize that the hierarchical model of leadership just won’t work any more. So as introverts (and extroverts) we have may have to learn to adjust our leadership style.

The article is available as part of the downloadable book, Leading as an Introvert at Building Church Leaders. There is a cost involved.

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Devotional Thought : 2 Corinthians 6:16

As God has said, "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." 2 Corinthians 6:16

God's continuing purpose from Genesis to Revelation is to "live with them and walk among them". We see it in Genesis 3:8 when God was walking in the garden. We see it in Revelation 21:3, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." And we see it in between – Ezekiel 37:27; Leviticus 26:12; Jeremiah 32:38. Even the first thing Jesus said when he called his disciples was that they might be with him (Mark 3:14).

God’s promise is not only that He will be with us but that He will never stop doing us good: "They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them..." (Jeremiah 32:38-40).

Of course, we don’t always see it this way. We tend to see anything as 'not good' if it interrupts our plans—regardless of whether our plans are for the rest of the day or the rest of our lives. But our perspective is small and limited to this time zone, and to this earth. It was said about Enoch that he "walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away" (Genesis 5:24). God has a greater plan which is to walk with us and live amongst us, both now and forever.

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