The right tool

Isaiah 41:14-20

In the American church, we’ve talked about our decline for decades. Both conservatives and liberals have had their chances to blame the other for the decay. I’d say that’s been part of our problem. Which means we’ve been a part of the problem.

Not worship preferences. Not giving. Not vision. Us.

Of course, we don’t ignore what’s happening to our churches. It’s impossible to do so. So, what do we do?

In past times, depending on who it was that was leaving, churches might have been willing to change things. Then there are those of us who ensured we “stick to our guns.” No matter what we did, part of the hope was we’d attract the right kind of members. You know, the right members who have the right kind of jobs. They also come with the right kind of money or resources. We also love their right willingness to do our work.

If our ministry hearts flutter at the right kind of people, we’re missing the mark.

Part of what we can do, then, is shift our focus. No more trying to charm the right kind of people to church. Instead, let’s nurture the right kind of attitude within ourselves.

The images of Isaiah 41 are helpful for that. There are, at least, two. First, God calls the people a worm. That’s not defaming or insulting. It’s a reminder of what power we truly have before God. God says to the worm, “I myself will help you” (Isaiah 41:14). The Holy One will help the lowly one. Thanks be to God!

And how will God help? The Lord says, “I will make you into a threshing sledge, new and sharp, with many teeth” (Isaiah 41:15). God won’t do the work. God will forge the people into the right and new tool for the job.

There’s no magic to the process of faithful ministry or discipleship. Love, trust and obedience go the distance. The more we try to exert control over God’s church, the more we remain part of the problem. We’ll discover the solutions and wisdom necessary to lead God’s church as we let God mold us into the right tools.

Stay blessed…john

Command Talk

Ephesians 4:25-5:2

I’m not sure anyone uses the word commandments apart from talking about faith in God. I’ve never heard a parent say their child wasn’t listening to their commandments. Teachers and other educators don’t use that language either. Instead, we have instruction and wisdom to share. Yes, there are rules that need following, but, still, we don’t call them commandments. That would seem harsh and antiquated. 

Of course, you can easily find commandments in scripture. That’s why it’s easier for us to link God and commandments. The Lord has a lot of rules we should follow, it seems. 

For sure, there is no ignoring what God commands. Even so, maybe there’s another way of considering what these commandments are. To be sure, I don’t want to suggest to you we aren’t called to be obedient to God. Don’t go telling the bishop I’m leading you away from obedience. Quite the opposite. I’m hoping to guide you to greater obedience to Jesus. 

What if we thought of God’s commandments as God’s wisdom and instruction? Might that help us appreciate more what God desires for and from us?

For example, Ephesians talks a lot about who and what the church is. A little tongue in cheek, we are God’s gift to the world. God’s love has transformed us and the Holy Spirit continues to remold our hearts. So, our shared life becomes God’s witness to the world. 

We can’t claim transformation if we don’t change. A watching world will not find great comfort in a church that mirrors every other people group. In Ephesians 4, for example, we see the commandments Paul outlines as more than things you better stop doing. Since you have a new life, you are different. Your willingness to tell the truth is a sign of God’s new creation within you. As is the thief’s willingness to stop stealing. We watch what we say because our words and attitudes offer clues to the work we’re allowing God to do in our heart.

That’s a lot different than doing something just because I’m told to do it. As we follow God’s wisdom and ways, we learn what abundant life really is. And we discover the joy of following the way of God.

Stay blessed…john