Category archives: service

The Magic Word

I saw this sign during a nature call on the Parks Highway near Mt. McKinley.

Toilet Sign

 

That’s a great sign.

The sign assumes you want to help, or are at least willing to help, and only lack instruction about how. It says that doing this badly has a financial impact, but doesn’t make threats about removing the toilets or replacing them with pay toilets.  Then it assumes you’re willing to do something to make the next person’s experience more pleasant, and says how: by closing the toilet lid.

But beyond that, look at the language. It’s not regulatory but invitational. “Please” do this. “Help” with that. Some people would write the sign “Do not dispose of trash in the toilet,” but this is much better.

Unhappy Parenting

Al Mohler has a response up now to an article I’d been meaning to reply to. The article, in New York Magazine, poses this conundrum:

From the perspective of the species, it’s perfectly unmysterious why people have children. From the perspective of the individual, however, it’s more of a mystery than one might think. Most people assume that having children will make them happier. Yet a wide variety of academic research shows that parents are not happier than their childless peers, and in many cases are less so.

And I would pluck this quote from Mohler’s response:

Christians must see children as gifts from God, not as projects. We should see marriage and parenthood as a stewardship and privilege, not as a mere lifestyle choice.

I pretty much agree with Mohler here, so I’ll just point you there. Memory fades and dims, but my experience is that parenting has probably made me less happy as a percentage of my waking hours, but it has provided moments of happiness far greater than what I used to experience before we had kids.

What’s Your Problem?

There’s a fascinating conversation between Moses and God in Exodus 4. You know the story. Moses has just been called to lead the people of God up out of bondage in Egypt. God wants Moses to go tell Pharaoh to let his people go. But Moses doesn’t want to go. He’s got a new life in Midian–a wife and a son. And there’s another complication: Pharaoh has an outstanding warrant for him back in Egypt. So Moses is pretty cool to this project of God’s. But the conversation that follows is what makes the passage so interesting. Here’s a synopsis.

Moses: They won’t believe me.
God: I’ll lend you some credibility.
Moses: But I stutter.
God: Since I made you that way, do you think I could fix it?
Moses: Please, don’t make me!
God: I’ll get you some help: Aaron, say.

We, like Moses, are called by God. First, God calls us to love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. When we fail, God calls us to repent and put our trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord. Finally, God calls and commissions us to proclaim the good news about Jesus and make new disciples. That’s true for everyone who follows Christ. But what about you? What is God calling you to do, specifically? And which of Moses’ objections do you raise?

Moses’ first objection was external. There are external conditions that will prevent him from doing the job God’s assigned him. He’s afraid that the Hebrews won’t believe that God sent him to bring them up out of slavery. To that, God says, “I’ll give you the power to show them signs that will be convincing. If anyone isn’t convinced by the first sign, here’s a second. And, just in case, a third.” So, what about you? What are the external factors that prevent you from doing what God wants of you? What is the least thing God could do to overcome them? What would make it a little more convincing? What would it take to completely sweep those obstacles away?

Moses’ second objection is internal. He is limited in the things he can do. God replies that peoples’ gifts and abilities come from God, so when Moses speaks, it will really be God speaking through him. So, what limits do you have? What limitations do you operate within? How do they keep you from obeying God? How could God work through you to overcome your frailties or disabilities?

Moses’ third objection is just a cry from his heart: “God, I don’t want to!” This is the request God grants–at least, partially. What God tells Moses is that he won’t have to do it alone. In fact, God had anticipated this objection, and by his providence, God arranged for Aaron to be available: “even now, he is coming out to meet you” (Exod. 4:14). Like Moses, we may have our objections answered and yet still be afraid to obey. That is why God called us together as the church: so we could help each other–so we can encourage the faint-hearted and share the load between us. So who could help you do the work God has given you? And who can you help with their work? And–especially–what’s stopping you?

Looking for Musicians

We’re looking for a musical accompanist and a choir director. The accompanist should be able to play the piano, but we would prefer an organist. The choir director must be able to…, well, direct a choir. If you’d like to know more, or to refer someone else to us, call the church at (760) 365-6331.

Sharing Good News (a Lesson from the Bible)

One of my favorite Bible stories is found in 2 Kings 7.

A neighboring empire had attacked Israel and Jerusalem was under siege. The city was surrounded, so nothing could get in or out, and people got very, very hungry. But one night, God caused the besiegers to hear the sound of a great army. They became frightened and fled, abandoning their camp outside the city.

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Robes

“Pastor, when are you going to start wearing your robes again?”

Several of you have asked me that question. As you know, I’ve worn a minister’s robe in worship since arriving at Desert Hills. But I quit this summer. Now fall has come, and soon winter will be here, and I haven’t resumed wearing the robes. Why not?
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Stewardship Information

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.—1 Corinthians 12:4-7

Fall is the traditional time for churches to emphasize stewardship. And while that emphasis may not be limited to a discussion of the church’s finances, it is almost always a part of the discussion.

You may recall our annual congregational meeting back in January, where I laid out a rather sobering assessment of our finances. Since then, we have actually had some encouraging developments. So far this year, we have reduced our average monthly loss almost by half, from more than $2,000 to about $1,200. In fact, we actually made a modest “profit” during August.

I’m looking forward to some occasions where I can share this information with you in more detail, but the short version is this: We aren’t out of the woods yet, but we’re in much better shape than I expected us to be. Partly, this is because the leaders of the church are being very careful about every expenditure. But the main reason for our improving situation is your generosity and commitment to carrying out the mission of this church.

In our stewardship conversation, however, I don’t want to limit our discussion to the church’s finances, however, or even to money. Stewardship is about how we all use God’s gifts to accomplish the work God calls us to do. It’s about money, certainly. But it’s also about what we do with our property, our innate abilities, our likes and dislikes, the skills we’ve acquired—everything. It is about everything we have and everything we are, for it all belongs to God—every penny and every second. We are only its managers, or stewards. (Matthew 25:14-30)

For that reason, I hope that you will do some serious, prayerful consideration about how God might be calling you to use your gifts to support the church’s mission.

Maybe you should join the choir, or volunteer to work in the sound room on Sunday morning. Perhaps you should be doing cleanup after the fellowship time, or greeting people before worship. Possibly you should be serving as a Sunday school teacher, or their helper. You might be called to service in an ordained capacity as a deacon or elder. Or something completely different. I don’t know. Maybe you don’t know either. But God does know.

As we begin our stewardship emphasis this fall, I hope you’ll make a commitment to ask God’s guidance in this area. Don’t wait for the nominating committee to call, because if you do, you’ll probably say the first thing that comes to mind. (“No!”) Instead, put some effort into it. Talk with God about it. Remind God about all the other things you’re trying to get done, and ask God to guide you in setting your priorities.

My prayer for each of us is that God will reveal how he wants us to participate in what he is doing in, and through, Desert Hills church.

the pleasure of service?

In that random way things turn up on the internet, I was directed to an article “Why won’t feminists admit the pleasure of infants?” by Katie Roiphe. Here’s the part that caught my eye:

But then part of the allure of maternity leave is precisely this: You give up everything you are and care about. The books on your shelves are not your books; the clothes hanging in the closet are not your clothes. You are the vague, slow, exhausted animal nursing its young. Anything graceful, original, sharp, intelligent about you is gone. And it is that sacrifice of self, that total denial of the outside world, that uncompromising violence done to your everyday life, that is this period’s appeal. You are transported in a way you will never be transported again; this is the vacation to end all vacations.

I don’t know how common that feeling is for mothers, but it’s interesting she sees denial of self as a “vacation to end all vacations.”

The Christian life is often expressed in terms like this. Jesus says “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:33-37). He says if he has washed our feet, we should wash one another’s feet (John 13:1-20). And the Apostle Paul describes Jesus’ whole ministry as self-emptying (Philippians 2:5-11).

Do we read those passages this way? Do we see loving service as an opportunity to be blessed? Or as weary drudgery? Perhaps we can learn something from the experience of new mothers like Katie Roiphe.