12×12 Challenge: Day 5 (December 30th)

Day 5 begins with Romans 12 in the Easy-to-Read Version (ERV): Click HERE to read!

Word(s) for Day 5: Each Part Belongs

There’s a good chance that you’re already familiar with Paul’s Body-language. Just as you have a physical body with many parts, each with its unique functional mandate (by God’s design), so the Body of Christ is an assembly of parts put together by God. Each part – each one of us – is placed in the Body with a role to play. A job to do. A contribution to make. It isn’t a stretch for us, really, to accept the idea that each part belongsin the Body. That isn’t, however, exactly what Romans 12:5 is saying.

“We are the parts of that body, and each part belongs to all the others.” Yes, we belong in the Body of Christ (and this is very, VERY good news!), but as one holy Body-part, you and I also belong TO all the other parts. We are not our own. As one member of a local church and the Church Universal, we belong to all of the other members – not just to Christ. This little word to is much harder to embrace – in this context – than the word in, yet it will make all the difference in the world. And in the Kingdom of God.

Prayer:

Body-Builder and Creator God, I need to be reminded that I belong. I belong to You! I belong in the Body of Christ on this earth for precisely such a time as this! Don’t let me forget – send Your Spirit to remind me – that I’m not alone in my belonging. Each part belongs, according to Your intricate design, including a vast variety of people (including people I admit I wouldn’t have chosen to be in the Body with). Help me to take my function seriously, but not too seriously. Not at the expense of the value of another. As a member of Your Body, help me to be responsible for and to all of the rest of those who also belong. Whenever it is up to me, help me to choose to live and work and worship You in harmony with all of Your people. Amen.

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Overwhelmed by NEED: Help Well

What’s a conscientious Christian to do in the midst of OVERWHELMING NEED? When the people whose lives intersect with ours have needs that threaten to consume the time/energy/generosity of everyone around them, how can we remain true to the call of Christ (and help them) without burning out or wanting to run away?

I suspect that no one is immune to the needs of others. We all live, work and interact with needy, hurting people who are looking for help, comfort and healing in a painfully broken world. Whether the need we bump into is rooted in economic factors, health and aging issues or situational agony, we as Christians sense a call to action that can leave us feeling confused, guilty and overwhelmed.

I have watched as groups work to respond to such overwhelming needs as families whose income has been affected due to job loss, aging adults whose independence is threatened by disease and mental decline, individuals whose personal trauma gets in the way of healthy interaction with others, and people who are ashamed of and feel stuck in their past history or uncomfortable present reality. Sometimes the needs presented by just one person in a group or family are so intense that the rest of us, caring and loving as we try to be, find our desire and ability to help that person dwindling to the point of inaction.

When it hurts us to help them, there has to be another way.

No matter if today finds you IN NEED or NEEDING TO HELP others, Paul speaks to your situation in 2 Corinthians chapter 8. Paul encourages us to remember that we are “shoulder to shoulder with [each other] all the way, [our] surplus matching their deficit, their surplus matching [our] deficit.” In the end, says Paul, we come out even.

For today, we may be on the surplus side of life, so that our plenty can supply for our brothers and sisters in need. But the reality is that tomorrow may bring a shift of the scales, leaving us in need of what our brothers and sisters now have to give. We’re all in this together – some days we are able to GIVE, while other days are marked only by our desperate forms of NEED. Either way, God’s plan provides for balance, which means that we have to LEARN both how to HELP WELL (today’s topic) and NEED WELL (next week).

HELPING WELL

Do What You CAN! Paul encouraged the church at Corinth to commit to caring for the needy among them, but he added this critical point (a point the church today often misses):

“Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can’t.” (2 Cor. 8:11 The Message)

YOUR effectiveness in the lives of others can only be maximized by doing what you CAN in a given situation. The problem most of us end up facing is that we dive head-first into helping others, making commitments to them that we are not equipped to fulfill. Whether those commitments are of our TIME, MONEY, EXPERTISE or ENERGY, if we commit out of a passion to help no matter what, we are likely to drown in our own good intentions.

For believers to truly be effective in the lives of others, we must begin by knowing ourselves! It is our responsibility as members of the body of Christ to recognize our own spiritual gifts, talents and abilities. We MUST know what it is that we CAN GIVE before we stick out our neck to offer help that others so desperately need. There are many useful tools to help us find our ‘fit’ in the Kingdom work of God, including Spiritual Gifts Inventories (click below for more on this topic):

https://pinkshoesministries.wordpress.com/category/spiritual-gifts/

Pastor Rick Warren talks about the importance of knowing your SHAPE in order to actively participate with God in this world:

  • S piritual Gifts
  • H eart
  • A bilities
  • P ersonality
  • E xperiences

Check out Pastor Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, to find out more about your SHAPE for service to others! (If your small group is interested, Zondervan publishes a curriculum called “Doing Life Together” that digs into this and other topics from Warren’s book.)

OVERFLOW Another first-step for us in helping others is to seriously consider what our OVERFLOW is. In other words, what do you have an EXCESS of? Is it TIME, MONEY, SPACE in your home, ROOM in your heart? You can’t give what you don’t have! Knowing your overflow directly affects the ways you reach out to others by creating boundaries for you to work within (keeping you healthy and increasing the chances that you’ll have something left to give the NEXT person who reaches out to you for help).

TRIGGERS Some of us aren’t likely to reach out and help because we feel that what we have to give is too little. When presented with an enormous need, we shrink back because there is no way our resources could seemingly make a dent in that person’s situation. Or, so we think. God knew this would be an issue for us, so He addressed it early on, in the book of Deuteronomy:

“When you happen on someone who’s in trouble or needs help among your people with whom you live in this land that GOD, your God, is giving you, don’t look the other way pretending you don’t see him. Don’t keep a tight grip on your purse. No. Look at him, open your purse, lend whatever and as much as he needs… Give freely and spontaneously. Don’t have a stingy heart. The way you handle matters like this triggers GOD, your God’s, blessing in everything you do, all your work and ventures. There are always going to be poor and needy people among you. So I command you: Always be generous, open purse and hands, give to your neighbors in trouble, your poor and hurting neighbors.” (Deut. 15:7-8, 10-11 The Message)

What God is saying to us is that our actions toward helping those in need, however small, trigger something in HIM! A BLESSING! On everything you do! God chooses to multiply our every heart-felt effort to help, no matter how small it may seem on the surface. What a tragedy for all of us when believers withhold assistance because we’re afraid it won’t be enough. Let’s face it – it probably isn’t going to be enough! But God can bridge the gap between what we have and what they need, providing the difference in ways we can’t even imagine. Yet if we allow our stingy hearts their way, God’s blessing isn’t triggered. At least not by us.

Faithfully (& Firmly) DRAW BOUNDARIES It’s no secret that our health and well-being, both physically and spiritually, relies on boundaries. No one person, no matter how motivated or gifted, can be all things to all people! God knew this, and He explains it to us by providing the human body as an illustration to help us understand that we are each just a PART of what He can do in this world, or in the life of a struggling brother or sister. (Check out Paul’s description of the Body of Christ in I Corinthians chapter 12.) It’s almost impossible for us to draw healthy boundaries, however, until we understand our SHAPE for service – how we ‘fit’ into His Body on earth.

PAY ATTENTION Once we’re armed with the knowledge of our gifts and abilities, God will lead us into acting (or NOT acting) in specific ways on behalf of others. In order to follow His lead, believers must cultivate an ear for the guiding voice of the Holy Spirit. To effectively serve in the Kingdom of God, you and I must pay attention to the Spirit’s prompts – those which compel us to MOVE, and those which compel us to WAIT. Faithfully leaning into Scripture helps us to hear His voice, which in turn helps to shape the scope and sequence of our ministry toward others.

BEWARE of GUILT! Many of us wrestle with feelings of guilt when it comes to deciding who to help and how much help to give. How many times have you not done something that you thought you ‘should’ do, only to feel badly about it later? I’m here to tell you that GOD does not produce GUILT! There is nothing that I have found in God’s Word that says He will guilt you into doing what you cannot do, or that He will punish you with guilt in any circumstance.

Guilt is real don’t get me wrong but it doesn’t come from God. Don’t let your misunderstanding of guilt keep you from following God’s leading in your life. Trust Him to do the right thing by and in you and leave the rest in His hands.

SHARE the JOY! Helping to meet the needs of others is a REAL JOY for the people of God! Maybe you haven’t thought of it quite like this before, but when we try to do more than we’re equipped to follow through with, we rob others of the opportunity to join in God’s work, too. You might have a friend, for instance, who cannot drive and whose medical needs and physical limitations are intense and many. You have a car, and you have Tuesdays free. Do what you CAN for your friend on Tuesdays, and let others know what your friend needs the rest of the week. Together there’s a really good chance that your group can meet most of her needs, but in case there’s still a gap, be willing to suggest alternatives.

KNOW your community and its resources (or know someone else who does)! CONNECT your friend with services and organizations whose focus IS MEETING that very need! Spread the joy around, so that no one is burdened with work that was never theirs to do.

Next week on PINK Tuesday we’ll consider what it looks like to NEED WELL. I’ll see you back here on my absolutely, positively FAVORITE DAY of the week!

Consider Yourself WARNED L4L.23

Attention yellow2

The WORD

“All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you.” John 16:1-4a (New International Version)

Excerpted from Jesus’ parting words to His disciples, these words of warning are unavoidably unsettling. A taste of what’s to come. An attempt to prepare His followers for the realities of their commitment to the Kingdom.

“I’ve told you these things to prepare you for rough times ahead. They are going to throw you out of the meeting places. There will even come a time when anyone who kills you will think he’s doing God a favor. They will do these things because they never really understood the Father. I’ve told you these things so that when the time comes and they start in on you, you’ll be well-warned and ready for them.” (The Message)

Before we can process these distressing words of warning, it’s crucial that we understand exactly who they are…

The APP

The passage that comes before this one in John is subtitled “Hated by the World” in The Message. It’s reasonable to assume that, because our text flows out of this ‘world’ talk, that the they in this warning refers to the godless world outside of our believing circles. Jesus could certainly have been cautioning His followers to watch out for the world that views the Gospel message with attitudes ranging from animosity to skepticism (at best).

We’ve all experienced some of this, haven’t we?

People whose threshold for tolerance has been tampered with by having had a few too many evangelists show up on their doorstep over the years.

People who are so consumed with self that the idea of faith in something bigger than themselves just doesn’t compute.

People who were raised under the oppressive religiosity of works-driven theology, only to slingshot as far away as humanly possible from the church the moment they were emancipated from childhood.

People who have so bought into the wisdom of the systems of man that the mere suggestion of the spiritual elicits scorn and contempt.

Jesus’ reminder in John 15:18 deals specifically with a world filled with hate toward those who will follow in the Messiah’s footsteps:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (NIV)

Just in case you’re thinking that you can handle the haters in the world outside of the faith, there is something even more disconcerting to consider in this Literal 4 Lent text today, and it is found in John 16:2.

“They will put you out of the synagogue.”

“They are going to throw you out of the meeting places.”

The they in this sentence doesn’t seem to be referring to the people outside of the church. Why would that they care whether we attend church or not? No, this they appears to be those people who are inside the church walls with us.

People whose presence in the worshiping community might be deceiving.

People who have never really understood the Father and the way He operates.

People whose spiritual eyes have been blinded, failing to recognize the embodiment of Christ in the imperfect people through whom He lives and moves and works today.

Jesus is warning us that, as we grow into our God-ordained, Spirit-enabled callings, not everyone is going to applaud.

The world that hates the Light is going to spew its loathsome venom in our direction in an attempt to silence the Good News. Be ready.

The institution of church is going to attempt to consume the living Body of Christ, and if you’re one of His holy organs, you’d better be prepared.

Jealousy will rear its ugly head and seek to put you (and the attractive presence of the Spirit in you) out on the street, where you’re less of a threat and distraction to the well-oiled machine that is the church. Consider yourself warned.

There is no rejection like that of your family and friends.

Jesus doesn’t just say this might happen… He says when.

“When the time comes and they start in on you, you’ll be well-warned and ready for them.”

As Holy Week approaches and as our experiment in being Literal 4 Lent comes to an end, consider yourself WARNED, my friend.

Warned so that you can get ready for whatever is coming next.

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Hands of Blessing L4L.20

Food of Love

Image by Collin Key via FlickrThe WORD

The WORD

“The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: ‘Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.’ Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.” Mark 10:13-16 (The Message)

I’m picturing the children in my church family right now. The ones whose parents faithfully bring (or drag) them to church every week. The ones who spill things on the carpets. The ones who make paper airplanes out of their service folders. The ones who fill their plates with the choice snacks during Fellowship time. The ones who kick balls in the courtyard (and manage to get balls stuck on the roof, in the trees and occasionally hit an innocent worshiper in passing).

Get a picture in your head of the children in your life and read this passage again.

The APP

Why do we bring our children to worship if not in hopes that Jesus might somehow touch them?

The answer to that question is probably closely linked with our own answer to the same: why do we attend churches and worship services and Bible studies? Is it sincerely because we hope to get close enough to Jesus for Him to lay His hands of blessing on us? Or does it have more to do with obligation? Tradition? Ritual? Social circles? Appearances? Habit?

The parents in today’s Gospel story knew that a touch from Jesus could heal, restore and forgive. As eager as adults were to get close enough to touch the hem of His clothing, you can imagine how parents might have hoped to see their children blessed by being in His presence as well.

Be honest, though. You can also relate to how the disciples must have felt.

  • This is important ministry that Jesus is doing!
  • To be in His company is a really big deal – a privilege! A gift!
  • These kids are just goofing off and getting in the way of His teaching and healing.
  • They’re keeping those who need Jesus from being able to get close.
  • Where ARE the parents of these kids, anyways?
  • Somebody get these kids a babysitter!

Their reaction isn’t unlike our own, is it? I can’t tell you how many times words like these have been spoken (or unspoken) by adults in the church, concerned that the distractions created by children are wreaking havoc with the ability of the grown-ups to worship and study on Sunday mornings.

  • This is an important meeting that we’re having!
  • To be here in worship is a really big deal – a privilege! A gift!
  • These kids are just goofing off and getting in the way of the Pastor’s teaching. They’re distracting the adults from their focus on Jesus!
  • Where ARE these kids’ parents, anyways?
  • Somebody get these kids a babysitter!

Smacks, doesn’t it? Yet this is often how our worshiping communities react to the influence of children on the adult-centered worship experiences we’ve created. We want to meet with Jesus in the sanctuary, so we send the children down the hall, in blatant disregard of Jesus’ very heated words:

“Don’t ever get between them and me.”

If children are, as Jesus pointed out, at the very center of the life of His Kingdom, how dare we lay hands on them to distance them from our encounters with God when what Jesus wants to do is lay His hands of BLESSING on them!

Hands of care and concern.

Hands of gentleness and protection.

Hands that render a touch filled with love and acceptancesomething that most of us (and most of them) are hungering for in our affection-starved lives.

Accepting the children around us, as messy and loud as they might be, is prerequisite to our participation in the Kingdom Jesus speaks of. Until we learn to see the ‘distractions’ that they cause as divine appointments with the Savior Himself, we will miss out on the richness of Kingdom life as it is lived in relationship to the lost and the least.

Until we remember that in the year 2014, the literal hands of Jesus ARE you and me; we are the ones withholding the blessing that He longs to shower on the children in our homes, in our churches and in our world.

I don’t know about you, but I heard the tone of His voice when He told them, “Don’t push these children away.”

I think He meant it.

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