Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Morning Prayer

Lord, hear our prayer. Thank you for the night and any rest that you allowed us to have. We praise you for the chance to live another day and recognize that it is you alone who gives us life. Our breathing comes because of you as does all of our abilities.

May we feel your warmth this morning as we begin this day. May your smile surround us and penetrate our attitudes. Please give us the energy that we need to use the abilities you gave us to the fullest.

We pray for those you send our way today, some to bless us and some to be blessed by us. Keep us alert and ready to resist the temptations that would lead us away from your path.

May our eyes and ears be fully open. Amen.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

God's Temple

God's temple.

As I was preparing last week for a class I taught yesterday in Crockett, Texas for their Summer Series, I realized how big a deal it really was for Paul to call the Corinthians "God's temple."

While his predominately Greek Christian audience certainly understood what happens at pagan temples, they knew Paul's imagery in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 pointed to the one temple in Jerusalem...perhaps even alluding to the splendor of Solomon's temple back when united Israel received the honor of a place for the name of the one true God.

If there was any permanent place on the face of the planet where God was said to dwell, it was in Jerusalem. The temple of God. While he certainly dwelt among his people in the cool of the day, in the promises made to the patriarchs, in the face of Moses, on the mountain of God, in the tabernacle, between the cherubim, and in the highest heaven, he chose one place to finally rest...Jerusalem.

Even after its destruction in 587BC, Ezekiel imagines the new Jerusalem, the new temple from which streams of living water flow to the whole world, feeding and nourishing it with abundant life...just like the original garden. An amazing image indeed!

But...who would imagine that someday, this amazing temple would be a group of people!? And that God would dwell among them through his Spirit! That they would realize the unity they have with each other in Jesus Christ (and him crucified) as the foundation of this temple!

It is hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea that this temple is not found in each individual person, but only found as a group. "Ya'll are the temple of God and the Spirit of God lives among ya'll."

This means that I must recognize the others. This means that I must engage others. This means that I must rely on others. The key becomes how I work with others.

If we are to truly be the amazingly magnificent temple of the living God among whom he chooses to dwell over all the other places on earth for all time...then I've got to tell others about this and continue God's work! It is just too big a deal not to.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Perfection or Maturity

It seems like this time of the year always brings about an energized propensity for focused campus ministry dreaming sessions for the coming academic year. It is a good thing for our work here in Huntsville! This is the exciting part of ministry.

Reflecting on how previous dreams have actually materialized in years past, I must say that I have lacked the ability to execute what is up in this bald head of mine. The semester brings with it a busyness that seems to choke out my good summer intentions. I get caught up in the details of maintaining a ministry somewhat solo. I haven't communicated well. I haven't empowered others well. I spent way too much time perfecting things that don't need perfection. The spacing between paragraphs on our weekly announcements doesn't HAVE to be uniform throughout! The page layout doesn't need to carry with it the golden ratio of design (1.62) before it goes to print.

As I return to my dreaming session, I have realized that something has to change at a core level especially dealing with things being perfect; my attitude needs a little adjustment. I have these perfectionist tendencies that don't want things done sloppy or incompletely; they can always be done better...and so I do them better. While this might be good at times, I think it prevents me from working on matters that really...matter.


With that said, I wonder about Jesus' admonition to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect in Matthew 5:48. How far should we take that little phrase? It would be easy for me to take that one statement completely out of its context and place it on my announcement preparation. Maybe we should do that.

I am inclined, however, to have a little bit of textual restraint. The beginning of Jesus' sermon on the mount (specifically Matt 5:17ff.) calls to mind the shallowness of following rules verses the maturity of true righteousness. You can follow the rules without changing your attitude. You can refrain from murdering someone (the rule), but your anger has already murdered them (the attitude). The shallow righteousness of the Pharisees is surpassed by the mature righteousness of those who take Jesus' words seriously.

I use 'mature' here instead of 'perfect' intentionally because 'mature' gives the connotation of growth or completeness that 'perfection' doesn't. "Be mature as your heavenly Father is mature" is a plausible translation of this passage. It also does something more for me. I can strive for maturity more readily than I can strive for perfection. Perfection seems to be allusive whereas maturity is possible. Maybe it is a mental block of mine...I don't know.

Back to my perfectionist tendencies. The mature/perfect person (as I understand) would let some tasks go in an effort to get other (more important) tasks finished. In order to guide a larger process, the manager needs to step back from the details of the assembly line. In order for Kats for Christ to pursue being mature disciples of Jesus better, I need to let go of the margins in our announcements. I probably also need to let go of other tasks as well.

This summer will be a time for us to think about the maturity that Jesus desires of his disciples. Do you need to let go of some things in order for God's purposes to be completed?