Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Weird for Jesus

"I cared for you in the wilderness,
in the dry desert where no water was.
When they were fed, they became satisfied;
when they were satisfied, they became proud;
as a result, they forgot me!
Hosea 13:5-6

This past weekend was the Missions Conference for our church. A reunion of sorts when families, sent out from our church, return from the field to share what God is doing and and through their lives. We were able to have extended time with one of these families who serve in Mexico City. They have 4 kids ranging from 8 to 16. Out time with them was both rich and penetrating.

In particular, Teri and I were struck by 2 things. First, it was obvious that their kids were minimally effected by materialism. Having been to their home in the ghettos of Mexico, I can see how the influence of prosperity is simply not experienced by this family. Since they are not surrounded by materialism, as we are in the US, their lives seem to be mostly void of this trapping. It is hard to yearn for something you don't perceive that you need. Contrast that with the mantra of the American culture where "you deserve it", "you can have it", "it is your right" and "it just makes life easier". As a result, we become so focused on what we think we need that we are rarely content with what we have.

The second thing we noticed was how natural the kids helped out. It was just what they did. They helped with the meal, cleaned up and served one another in a most natural way. My 3 yo son immediately fell in love with the 16 yo visitor and he took him in as if he were his own brother. Teri and I had no worries about our kids because they were well cared for by the friends in our house. Although we had not seen them in years, they were immediately a part of our family in every way. It seems that this is another reflection of how they live life. They are foreigners in their land. They need each other and depend on each other. They extend friendship to those they meet as a natural part of their ministry and this has become a part of who they are.

After the weekend, we walked away a little stunned. We were reminded how easy it is to be satisfied. And in our satisfaction to become proud. And in our pride to forget how much we depend on God for all life and godliness. We really do have enough in our culture to convince us this is not true. There really is enough mind numbing amenities to lead us away from a simple life, with a simple faith and a profound devotion. The time with our friends reveled this reality in our lives.

Our prayer has since been that we would be intentional with our kids. That we would be purposeful in living a God-centered life. That we would protect our kids from the deception of all the satisfying pleasures of our world that can convince them (and us) that we don't need God. We have talked about how we must consistently introduce our kids to Christ and his affection, care and call to obedience.

Basically, Teri and I have decided we want to be "weird for Jesus". We want to live life so focused on God and His work in our life that we live to fulfill His purpose for our life in a most natural and committed way. In order for this to happen, I am convinced that we must live deliberately against the grain of our society. We must lead our family with passion - in a path that does not follow the path of this world. We must work diligently to swim against the current of our society or we will be just another "Christian family" that looks no different than every other family in and of the world.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Prophet or Leader

Goodness it has been a long time since I last sat down to blog. I can think of one thing in particular that seems to have made this more difficult than! What I expected to be a slow 2 hour semester class has turned out to be as time intensive (if not more) than anything I have done thus far. After further review of the syllabus, it appears as if the class has just as much required as any normal seminary class, however, this particular class will end about 3 weeks earlier.
All that being said, the semester has been good. It has moved rather quickly considering the fact that since my last entry, I have preached twice, the Red Sox came from a 3-1 deficit to make it to the World Series and the unlikely Rockies made quick work of the D-Backs to make it to the big dance for the first time in their history. Time flys during the Baseball playoffs!
One of the challenges of this semester in school has been that of multitasking. Not necessarily a gift of mine or any of the male gender as best as I can tell. However, I have had to learn to read 3 books at a time for class and be able to shift gears between each topic in order to grasp the unique intent of each individual author. Not easy for me to say the least!
One of the books I read was entitled, Spiritual Leadership, by Oswald Sanders. This is a classic Christian book and one that I really did enjoy reading.
One particular chapter near the end of the book made an interesting point specific to pastors. It was a timely comment in light of my recent sermon prep and transition toward full time ministry. The author suggests that those who preach will inevitably face the decision of being a popular leader or an unpopular prophet. There will come a point in time, the author suggests, when the pastor must choose to either be a prophet of God or a leader of men.
I struggled with this because I see the 2 so often overlap. I have always strived to be a good leader both in ministry as well as in the home and the workplace. Yet, I understand the point that there are times when the two are diametrically opposed to one another. To communicate something that would simply please men will inevitably compromise the truth of God's word. Oswald makes this point: "If a man decides to be a prophet only insofar as he can do without losing his leadership, he becomes a diplomat and ceases to be a prophet at all. If he decides to maintain leadership at all costs, he may easily fall to the level of a politician who pulls the wires in order to gain or hold a position."
I pray today that as God continues to lead, may my heart be so steadfast upon pleasing Him more than pleasing man that I would not compromise when asked to be a leader of men at the expense of being a prophet of God. I am finding that this is often a lonely road, but I pray that I will choose not to stray from the path God has asked me to walk.

PS Its good to be back on the blog again. I hope to return again soon.