Mess of Pottage Blog

Luke's "Pro" Blog

Quotes

Some quotes from leaders attending Orange Conference last week, via Brian Dodd:

The antidote to cynicism is curiosity. The curious are never cynical. The cynical are never curious. The cynical have it all figured out.—Carey Nieuwhof

There are no balanced old people. You’re really angry or you’re really happy.—Carey Nieuwhof

Jesus prepared for 30 years and taught for three. We prepared for three and try to preach for 30.—Carey Nieuwhof

If you write “Family” on your calendar you can tell people you have a commitment on that day.—Carey Nieuwhof

What breaks my heart is in the United States hundreds of thousands wake up on a Sunday and church never crosses their mind.—Andy Stanley

Business did not make systems up. God is a God of order.—Jenni Catron

We need to introduce systems at our staff’s point of need.—Jenni Catron

Encourage. Encourage. I can see the things which need to be fixed but not the things which are working well. We should be encouraging five times to every one criticism.—Jenni Catron

People out of their faith and obedience to God have given their resources and because of this you have a paycheck.—Jenni Catron

I’ve even found myself evaluating weddings.—Jeff Henderson

What is this generation of students worth? It’s worth everything.—Andy Stanley

Blame is a change-avoidance strategy.—Andy Stanley

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Heroes and mentors

Only last night, I was bemoaning how the PC(USA) does such a lousy job of developing new pastors. (I.e., me.) You get an education, you get evaluated on your gifts for ministry, and then you get turned loose on some poor, unsuspecting church. In too many ways, you’re on your own as a pastor.

Our system intentionally prevents people from becoming pastors in the context where their gifts for ministry first surfaced. You may be a stellar youth director, but if you go to seminary, you will not return to that same church as a pastor.

We also don’t mentor our newbies. We’re too busy in our churches, we’re too geographically dispersed–this isn’t Scotland, and whatever the meetings of our governing bodies are good for, it sure isn’t mentoring. Unless you had previous experience on a church staff (as an Associate Pastor or a non-ordained position), you don’t have more than a smattering of experience to draw on as you go about your work.

That was last night. This morning, I read this on Seth Godin’s blog:

Mentors provide bespoke guidance. They take a personal interest in you. It’s customized, rare and expensive.

Heroes live their lives in public, broadcasting their model to anyone who cares to look.

Like a custom made suit, a mentor is a fine thing to have if you can find or afford it. But for the rest of us, heroes will have to do.

Good advice. If nobody will mentor you, find some heroes. Stop with the pity party already, and take some responsibility for your ministry. (“You are Elasti-girl! ” —Edna Mode)

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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?

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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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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From Dream to Waking

I read this today:

I am certain that in passing from the scientific points of view to the theological, I have passed from dream to waking. Christian theology can fit in science, art, morality, and the sub-Christian religions. The scientific point of view cannot fit in any of these things, not even science itself. I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

It’s from an essay, “Is Theology Poetry?” by C.S. Lewis.

Wow.

As it happens, I’m also reading Paul Davies’ Cosmic Jackpot: Why Our Universe Is Just Right for Life, which I thought was about the Cosmological Anthropic Principle. But it turns out it’s more meta than that. (Or maybe the Anthropic Principle is that meta.) Anyway, one of the interesting conclusions I’ve drawn by the halfway point is that science really can’t fit itself in. Science can explain all kinds of things in the world, but it doesn’t seem able to explain itself.

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Second-Chance God

He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:29-31

I began to put on a little weight a couple of years ago. This, without any obvious changes in my diet or exercise. My doctor told me, “Well, that’s middle age for you.” (She put it a little more politely than that, but that’s the message that came through.) So I’ve been watching my diet and trying to get more exercise. I’ve also begun to notice health and fitness articles in the news more than I used to.

A recent survey suggests that even the oldest people benefit from exercise. The 3-year survival rate for active 85-year olds is three times as high as the rate for sedentary ones. (“Active,” in this study, is four hours’ exercise a week, and the “exercise” didn’t have to be lifting weights or running marathons: it could be as simple as taking a couple of 15-minute walks a day.)

That’s encouraging to me. But another finding was even more interesting: It’s never too late to start. Even 85-year olds who became more active after a lifetime of sedentary living still had double the survival rate of their inactive counterparts!

There are so many things in our culture that tell us the opposite message. It’s too late to change. The die is cast. We’ve made our beds and now we have to lie in them. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Our faith teaches us that’s a lie. It’s never too late to change, because our God is a God of second chances. “Remember me when you come into your kingdom,” the thief said, and Jesus replied, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43)

But it’s not just about eternal life. Or, rather, eternal life isn’t just about life after death. Eternal life is a new kind of life that we experience in Christ now, and will continue to enjoy after death. The Apostle Paul put it this way: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

Where are you experiencing that newness in your own life?

Maybe you could take up a new pastime.

Maybe you can let bygones be bygones, and forgive an old enemy.

Maybe you can invest in a new relationship.

Or perhaps you’re like one of those people in the study who has been living a sedentary life, and you could become more active.

I’d love to hear ways you’re experiencing newness in your life. And until next time, be a blessing!

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Use words if necessary…

Have you ever heard that quote by St. Francis of Assisi? I couldn’t guess how many times I’ve heard it. I’ve used it myself. It’s a great quote. Except it’s not a quote. Who knew?

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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.

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The future of retirement

A thought-provoking discussion of retirement that I came across had some amazing statistics:

Studies show that retirement is no good for you. Even if you hate the job you go to every day, sudden abrupt inactivity is a bad idea. A working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research entitled “The Effects of Retirement on Physical and Mental Health Outcomes” studied people in complete retirement over six years. It found that retirement led to a 5 to 6 percent increase in illness, a 6 to 9 percent decline in mental health, and a 5 to 16 percent increase in mobility difficulties.

It made me think of this video from Mosaic:

(If you’re curious, I was directed to the WaPo item quoted above from a different type of discussion in the Atlantic; the point there was the strain put on society when retirement ages are falling even as lifespans are increasing and birthrates falling.)

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Interviews with N.T.Wright

The Presbytery next door had a pastor’s retreat with N.T. Wright as a guest speaker. Great chunks (all?) of his talks are now on YouTube at LRPtv (Los Ranchos Presbytery TV). If you’ve never heard of Wright, you owe it to yourself to listen to some of these.

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