Monday, February 15, 2010

How Quickly We Forget

This morning I was reading 1 Kings 18-19. It was a great reminder of how quickly we are able to forget God's work in our lives, especially when we allow our circumstances to appear bigger than God.

Elijah is the example in these two chapters. God tells Elijah to go to Ahab, who had been killing all of God's prophets at the command of Jezebel. Elijah did just as God had told him to do. He met Obadiah who worked in the palace and told him to bring Ahab to meet him. Obadiah was hesitant because he knew that Ahab had been trying to kill Elijah for some time and was afraid that it would happen (Obadiah had actually hidden 100 prophets in caves so that they would be spared.), but he does what Elijah requests.

Elijah then challenges the prophets of Baal to a test to see whose God was the true God. He set the parameters and invited the Baal prophets to go first. They tried nearly all day to get Baal to respond, but to no avail. When evening came, Elijah called upon God to show that he was the one true living God and he did. Elijah then had all of the prophets of Baal killed. He also told Ahab that there would be rain (there had been a famine in the land) which God provided.

The next day Ahab reported all that had happened to Jezebel who responded by sending a death threat to Elijah. In response, Elijah ran for his life. He ran far out into the desert where he asked God to kill him. God sent angels to care for him and send him on to Mount Horeb where God himself appeared to Elijah. When asked by God what he was doing, he lamented that he had been faithful to God but was now the only prophet of God still living and was being hunted down as well. In response, God gave him tasks that he was to complete.

I got a lot out of this passage this morning. My observations were the following:

>God had just burned up the altar to prove that he was the living God and not 24 hours later Elijah was afraid of a woman who worshiped a god that didn't exist. He had trusted God to keep him safe when going to a man who had killed most of the other prophets of God, but didn't trust him to keep him safe when receiving a specific threat.

>Obadiah had told Elijah that he had saved one hundred prophets and yet Elijah is whining that he is the only one left. Did he not hear what Obadiah had said? He was stuck in self-pity land.

>Elijah whines to God when asked why he had fled and God's response is not to remind him that he's not alone, but to send him off to anoint people to fight on Israel's behalf. He also tells him to anoint Elisha to become prophet after him, which may have helped him to feel that perhaps he wasn't in danger, but hopefully reminded him that God was in control. I mean, God just revealed himself to Elijah on the mountain, if that doesn't bolster faith, there's a problem.

I know that I am guilty of forgetting what God has done for me. I'm sure I have gone from a mountain high to a mountain low in an extremely short period of time. I am sure that God gets frustrated with me when I doubt his goodness or presence. However, I am thankful for the reminder that he will still use me despite myself because he has plans that he is going to see through. Elijah wasn't written off as hopeless. God encouraged him and then sent him off to do more things that God wanted him to do.

Living Beyond Myself...Week 2

Below are my notes from yesterday's message.

What? Me, a Priest?

Many gift cards have the following phrase included on them: "Not good unless redeemed."

Before Jesus, God worked through a select group of people: priests.
The Day of Pentecost: all believers are filled with the Holy Spirit (now every Christ-follower is a priest [has direct access to God]).

1 Peter 2:9
How do we get people to realize that they are priests (able to communicate directly with God)?

1 Peter 4:10
Help them to see their gift.

1 Corinthians 12
Just because you aren't a "major" body part (hand, eye) doesn't mean that you aren't an important and necessary part. Different does not mean insignificant.

Each person is given a gift to show the world who God is (hospitable, compassionate, creative, etc)

v18: God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.
>We are not to wish we had other gifts because God gifted us specifically.
>We are responsible for determining and developing our gift(s).
>When we choose not to use our gift, the whole body suffers.
>No one has every gift; therefore, we need others to have a complete body.

Kirbyjon Caldwell quote: There are two great moments in a person's life: the moment you were born and the moment you realize why you were born.

Chariots of Fire: God made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure.

Complete this for yourself: God made me ________. And when I ________ I feel his pleasure.

I really enjoyed the reminder of the importance of using the gifts we've been given. I think we do sometimes feel like what we have been gifted with is insignificant or not as good or important as gifts others have. It's like Adam said last night watching the NBA All-Star Game, "All athletes want to be musicians and all musicians want to be athletes." Even though they have a great ability, they still desire that of someone else. We, as humans, really struggle with contentment in all areas of our lives. It is encouraging to be reminded that God gave me my gifts specifically. He didn't create me to be an amazing singer. I shouldn't feel inferior to those who are because my gifts are not less important than theirs.

Jeff handed out Gifts Assessments for everyone to fill out in order to discern and then develop the gift(s) they have been given. I took it and found my top three to be Encouraging, Shepherding, and Leadership. I wonder if there will be a more detailed description of the various gifts in the assessment. I have known for quite some time that I have been gifted with Encouragement. I have seen God use me to help others in their faith, especially when they needed a lift. I definitely want to be used more in this area. I should probably pray for an open heart and mind to see opportunities.

If you are interested in taking the assessment, let me know and I'll email it to you.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Living Beyond Myself...Week 1

We have started a new series at church. I wonder if each month will conveniently have its own susinct message (Jan had a 5 week series, this is a 4 week far so good!). Perhaps I'll mention it to Jeff. Without further ado, notes from Sunday's message are below.

The Great Gamble

We all have something inside ourselves that hungers for greatness.

Sepphoris: city in Galilee where people sought wealth, fame, material possessions (makes me think of Dubai).

Matthew 5:13a,14,16
>The city community Jesus was going to build.

John 3:30 "He must become greater; I must become less."

Matthew 20:25-28
Washing feet was such a menial task that even Jewish slaves did not do it. Gentile slaves were given this job.

John 13:4-5;15
Greatness in God's eyes is different from greatness in the world's eyes.

M. Scott Peck quote: Until that moment the whole point of things had been for someone to get on top, and once he had gotten on top to stay on top or else attempt to get farther up. But here this man already on top - who was rabbi, teacher, master - suddenly got down on the bottom and began to wash the feet of his followers. In that one act Jesus symbolically overturned the whole social order."

Acts of kindness, service in love - to be the defining qualitie of Jesus' followers (his community/city)

John 13:14-17
>If it is not too lowly for me (Jesus), it's not to lowly for you (follower).

Acts of service don't have to be huge or spectacular. It can be as "small" as letting someone else go first.

Do you really believe that greatness is defined by service?

Challenge: Do one of two things over the next several months: 1)Live for God's purpose and other people's needs, or 2)Live for yourself and your own needs and purposes. Do it long enough to see its effects and determine whether your life feels fuller or emptier.

Are you going to choose to live FOR or BEYOND yourself?

Frederick Buechner: The life you clutch, hoard, guard, and play safe with is in the end a life worth little to anybody, including yourself, and only a life given away for love's sake is a life worth living.

My thoughts: I really liked the reminder that service doesn't have to be a big weekend project or something that requires traveling to a nonprofit organization to do. Service can be emptying the dishwasher or picking up a piece of trash you come across. Sometimes I don't think about such mundane things as being service, but they are. I am choosing to do these things so that someone else doesn't have to or to serve the better good.
I was trying to figure out where I struggle the most with serving and/or acts of kindness. I realized that I hesitate most when it involves money. Not necessarily giving to an organization, but participating in something that will require me to provide resources for something. For example, I found a Bible study that I think would benefit my friend (and myself) but of course I have to purchase the workbooks. It isn't super expensive, but I noticed that I paused before following through. I know that God has placed me in this person's life to provide encouragement during a difficult season. I know that God has provided us with the ability to purchase nonnecessities. Why do I hesitate to do something for Him (help another) with something that is His (our money)? So that's sort of my challenge to myself - not to avoid opportunities to bless others just because money is involved.
I was a little amused when Jeff offered us both sides of the challenge - to serve others OR ourselves. It sounds kind of absurd to live for ourselves (Do what you want to do. Don't offer to help others. Make sure you get what you need. Don't consider others' needs.) but I know that I am guilty of that at times. I just don't think about how silly and selfish and un-Jesus-like it is. I do wonder if anyone will test out this side. I'm just thankful for the reminder that I can serve in little ways every day. Perhaps it will even help make mundane tasks like cleaning less...mundane. Looking for small ways to serve has already shown me that there's always something that can be done. It has also showed me how I have chosen to be selfish in the past (ouch).

What do you get out of the challenge? Do you feel like you are good at serving and doing acts of kindness every day?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Just Say Yes...Part 5

I finally made it through a whole series! Sunday Neal spoke to us about Nehemiah. He showed an awesome video that Adam shared was created and performed by two former NC State grads (The Fabulous Bentley Brothers). Quite entertaining. Check it out here. To hear Neal's message, click here.

Just Say Yes...When You Face Opposition

Nehemiah 1-6

Why do we avoid opposition when it comes to building up the cause of Christ?
Have I ever been a part of something that built up the cause of Christ and created opposition?

Nehemiah was the king's cupbearer in Susa. Jerusalem's walls were destroyed.
Ch 1:3-11 refers to prayer five times

Nehemiah's plan consisted of prayer, preparation, poise and perseverance.
Ch 2:1-8 he prayerfully asks the king for permission to return home and for help with supplies to repair the walls.
v11-16 he inspects the work to be done and v17-18 presents the plan to rebuild to the people who agree

The priests built the first gate as an example to the people. Everybody was involved in rebuilding the walls - everyone has a role to play.

Ch 4 the people were ridiculed and reminded that it would take awhile to complete. Then there were threats of physical violence. v13 they posted guards and continued to work.

"God, make me strong so that I can stand up under the pressure of opposition."

Ch 5 we learn that the Jews had been taking advantage of their countrymen by exacting usury.

We may not be facing opposition because: 1-We're not doing anything to give Satan a reason to be concerned or come against us; 2-we are the opposition; 3-we are not doing anything at all - not complaining, not helping).

Ch 6 rumors were spread to frighten the people. v9-but I prayed.
v15-16 the wall is finished; the surrounding nations are afraid because they knew God had been involved.

Nehemiah worked for 12 years to help restore Jerusalem. Then he returned to Susa as he had promised the king.

His continued efforts made a difference. It wasn't a one day or one time service project.

You have to have a plan if you are going to persevere.

I really liked the reminder that we all are supposed to be doing something to further the cause of Christ. Our response to God didn't end once we accepted Christ - that was just the beginning. The story reminded me that I'm much more likely to be passionate about a cause that is close to home (I can relate to, or is physically near). We all are willing to do what is needed to protect our homes and families and that may be our motivation for our acts of service. Not that it's an excuse not to help people in other countries. We all should be able to relate our need for Christ in our lives to the importance of others all over the world hearing about Jesus' life-giving salvation. We need to remember that we should be constantly serving, not just intermittently.