Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mosquitos & Storks

The other day during my devotional time, I was spending time listening for the voice of God. But I was having a hard time focusing because of several mosquitos that were trying to extract my blood. I don't know what it is about me, but mosquitos seem to like me more than other people. At first, I was having trouble listening. I probably looked like a lunatic as I waved my arms around trying to swat them away.

I don't know what you assume about preachers, but I often get requests from people like, "Could you pass on a prayer to God for me about ____?" It's almost as if some people think I have a direct line to God that they don't have. But to be honest, I don't hear the voice of God very often. It's a rare occurrence.

But the other day I was sitting there swatting mosquitos and praying, "God, would you please get rid of these mosquitos so I can focus on you."And in the midst of that prayer, I sensed God saying, "Get rid of the mosquitos? The mosquitos are the point. The mosquitoes are the only way I could get through to you about what I want for you. If you want to hear my voice, pay attention to the mosquitos. Get rid of the mosquitos."

I don't know about you, but mosquitos like me. Not just real mosquitos, but figurate mosquitos. Mosquitos are people who feed on your time and energy in order to derive life for themselves. And all too often, I am a willing host for mosquitos and other parasites. Perhaps it's part of my people pleasing tendency.

Ministers tend to attract their fair share of mosquitos. Am I right? And over time, it's easy to allow your whole ministry to be overwhelmed by giving life to mosquitos. In fact, in time you can begin to believe that mosquitos are the focus of your ministry. And sometimes we even pride ourselves on the number of mosquitos we can host without burning out.

But good leaders can't last long hosting mosquitos. And the good news is not everyone is a mosquito. In fact, part of becoming a healthy person is moving from feeding off of others to giving to others out of the overflow of our lives.

We need fewer mosquitos in our lives and more storks.

Storks have an innate instinct to care for their young. And one of the most loyal mother birds is the stork, which is part of why we've used storks in the mythical stories we tell our young kids about "where babies come from."

But did you know that Hebrew word for stork is chasidah, which means "pious, faithful, or kindly bird" because of the stork's loyal devotion to its young? But even more amazingly, did you know that the root word for stork chacad, is the same root word for one of the prevalent words used to describe God, chesed, which is often translated "loving-kindness" or "mercy."

As Moses receives the 10 Commandments in Exodus 34, the Lord proclaims his name to Moses saying, "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in love (hesed) and faithfulness."

Our God is a God of steadfast love who wants to jealously protect and nurture you.

Church leaders: Who do you surround yourself with: Mosquitos or Storks?

Ministry brings its share of both and Jesus was able to minister to the mosquitos as long as he was jealously defensive of his relationship to his Father in heaven.

Find a group of storks and set aside time in your calendar to be built up by them.

Mosquitos are part of ministry. But no leader should pride themselves in their ability to host parasites. Good leaders are able to help mosquitos become storks. A large part of leadership involves nurtuing and equipping mosquitos to mature past the parasite stage of Christianity.

I'm grateful for the storks in my life. God has blessed me with so many.

Father, I pray you would give us enough Mosquitos in our lives to keep us humble and enough Storks to fill our lives with encouragement and blessing.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Uncut: The Bible We Thought We Knew

Many of us have fond memories of attending Vacation Bible School as kids. The snacks were good and it was acceptable to be loud and silly in the church building.

And if your VBS was anything like mine, you learned about the great heroes of the Bible. Noah, Jonah, and Elijah were some of the most vivid stories I remember. I put these men on such high pedestals.

Until...I read the Bible...the whole Bible. And I realized most of those Biblical heroes were scoundrels that God somehow used for his glory.

Jonah is a terrible preacher who hates lost people. Isaac is sandwiched between two dysfunctional generations of family members. Abraham is a compulsive liar who knows when to pass his wife off as his sister. Paul is a religious terrorist. And David knocked out 7 of the 10 Commandments in one weekend.

Children's Bibles can be a hazard to your faith. It's one thing for an 8-year old to read one, but there comes a time when you have to set the Children's Bible aside for the real story.

Children's Bibles serve a great purpose. They play the same purpose that radio-edited music serves in your car with your children. The Adventure Bible filters out the objectionable content in the Bible. And if you don't believe there's explicit content in the Bible, then try reading Song of Solomon as a bedtime story for your kids. That's one way to ensure you have the "birds and the bees" talk sooner than you had hoped to have it.

Children's Bibles are appropriate for...well...children. But they're not appropriate for adults.

So, over the next few months at Littleton, we're going to hear the "uncut," unedited stories of the great "heroes" found in Scripture. Because while many of us think we know what's in the Bible that we defend at all costs, a closer look might reveal that we don't know it as well as we need to.

There's lots of reasons why people don't come to church. But I think one of those reasons is that we've inoculated our children to the true power of the gospel with our VBS and Children's Bible stories. We told our kids that God uses perfect people (superheroes) to accomplish his vision for the world, people like Noah, Jonah, and Elijah. And if God used them, then we assume he can't use us...unless we put up a brave facade of perfection.

The good news of Scripture isn't that God can use perfect people for his glory. The good news of Scripture is that God somehow uses broken, corrupt, messed up people for his glory.

And when we know that truth about the Bible, then we're empowered to trade in our facades of perfection and confess that we're broken too. And if we'd take off our socially constructed personas of perfection, then perhaps new people would start to realize that Christians aren't perfect. Instead, Christians are people in process and everyone is invited to join in.

Below is a link to a teaser for "Uncut." Check it out!