When Kids Break My Stuff

Through the years of training people to open their homes as ministry, we have encountered different reactions to “changing” our life patterns for the gospel. For some, change is refreshing and welcome; for most, downright dreadful. The simple truth is this, changing my life to open it up for gospel ministry is often difficult to cope with.

One of the simple markers of this ministry change at living-room level is what happens to our precious home when children from other families arrive; not just the growing, hungry ones but the little “ISIS” ones. Seriously, how were they ever recruited to such violence at so young an age? 😉

Some families do really well with this. They throw their arms, cupboards, and refrigerators open and say, “La casa mia è la casa tua!” Other families, wellllll, not as much. Practically, we share that God is sanctifying your home from the ground up. If you have ever prayed the prayer, “Lord, we open our home to you,” or, “Lord, we want to bless others with our family” or possibly, “I surrender all…” Then, the Father has heard you from Heaven and is answering your prayers!!

kids and stuff comicYes, everything from waste-level and down in your home is being sanctified and put up on the altar for God. Community in Christ is one of the ways that Jesus simplifies our homes and shapes our hearts. When you hear the crash, the zap, the scream, or the shatter and you know instantly something irreplaceable has happened, it’s one of the Lord’s cute ways of saying, “I told you, you didn’t need that anyway. It’s mine. Just look to me in this moment.” It’s cute because the Father has lovingly placed a little human, belonging to other bigger and “not-paying-attention” humans, right into the middle of the situation. The decision in that very moment is radical; it’s either wrath or trust. Is it not?

I share all of this with a little “tongue-in-cheek” playfulness. However, what is working more deeply is the gospel against pride. Yes, this is hard. It is pride of stuff and pride of identity and pride of parenting and pride of independence which says I don’t need community (at least this one) anyway. I like my life cozy and nice and safe! It’s pride that places temporary treasures over eternal people; my treasures over God’s treasures. All those kinds of pride together begin to surface and boil over into one, bad minestrone. I know! I am good at making bad minestrone.

But it does get better with time and experience. In fact, it becomes more joyful. God will simply change our hearts until his treasure becomes our treasure and his joy becomes our joy. And what is his joy? It is when one sheep, coin, or son who was lost repents and is found (Luke 15 where God throws parties). Remember, we broke his stuff – badly – and he still wants us as his children. Our homes are being brought into mission and that mission exchanges stuff for joy which is priceless.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  – Philippians 2:3-11

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Guidance for Spiritual Gifts – Part 3: A Character of Service

spiritual gifts logo-imageBack to our gifts series after an extended delay. To catch back up, in part 2 I was stating that the Spirit-gifts will operate in accord with the Gospel and never in contradiction to it. Paul describes to us that the gifts of God will seek to provide edification to believers and clarity to unbelievers (what they do). Now, I’d like to spend a few paragraphs sharing about how they accomplish the desires of the Spirit.

So, a basic question to answer is simply, what are the gifts for?  Without entering a long discourse, we see the Apostle’s teaching repeatedly saying that the gifts are meant for God’s power to be demonstrated in human weakness. In other words, they are meant to meet needs and testify to the glory of God. It seems simple and beautiful enough, and it is.

However, don’t miss the part of God involving human agency. The Lord wants his people to be an active part of them. This isn’t magic fairy dust he is sprinkling on the Church. This is transformed people living and experiencing the active  power of God building others up. This is Heaven moving outward and pushing back the Hell-gates.

Accomplishing this purpose, therefore, the Spirit-mediated gifts flow into the church body through people who are faithful to God and faithful in service to others. Where can you see the gifts operate? Right where those who love God are serving others because that is the point where they flow into the Body from Heaven. I believe it is one of the most visible evidences of how “God-is-with-us” and where we see the activity of Immanuel himself.

Service is the point! Take a look at this great paragraph from the Porterbrook Learning material that was teaching on character:

…Spiritual gifts are abused when they are used as an excuse for self-fulfillment or for doing our own thing. The discussion of spiritual gifts in the New Testament is not addressed to individuals. It does not include a call to identify or operate within your gifting. The application in the New Testament is to celebrate the diversity that God has given to his people: humbly to serve other people and humbly to value the contributions of others. Paul does not tell individual Christians to identify their gifting and stick to it. He tells Christians to be servants, looking to the interests of others and modeling ourselves on the self-giving of the cross. More important than highly gifted individuals are individuals who are servant-hearted. [Porterbrook Learning FY-P2 Character: Gospel Relationships, p. 44] (emphasis mine)

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Incident, Coincidence, Pattern

Spilled-milk

How do you know when to encourage or confront someone — or both — “encouragingly confront” them? What is a good guideline for how patient we should be with each other in this holiest of minestre called the Church (this new city)? How tolerant should we be when somebody near us makes-a-bigga-messa (or even a little one)?

A number of years ago, I was reading the musings of a Jewish rabbi who was counseling his readers with practical wisdom about how people should respect one another. I wish I had saved the article because one of the first nuggets of wisdom that he gave was for young men to never argue with somebody more than 20 years their senior. This has proven to be good advice in my own life. Apostle Paul said to entreat them as we would a father.

The second golden nugget that has stayed with me and been repeatedly tested is the principle of an incidence vs. a pattern. When someone spills the milk, you have an incident. If later, they spill the milk a second time, that’s a co-incidence. However, if the person wastes a third glass of milk in a relatively brief period of time — that’s a pattern — and you might have to tell them to hold it with both hands. The rabbi’s practical advice was to be patient before responding to determine whether you had an incident on your hands or a developed pattern. When you can determine that there is a destructive or inappropriate habit in a person’s character, then you’re going to need to put it in check.

The wisdom of the axiom is that younger leaders and ministers (and I would include the parenting of children and leading of a home or a position at work) often face the desire to instantly correct something that they perceive is wrong; thus forcing the person to cry over their spilled milk and not helping them by being patient or forming their character. 

This is a general guideline. I understand that there are times where immediate and decisive action must be taken on a discovered incidence (which might already be a hidden pattern) of behavior. I know that there are moments which arrive where we have to warn even against a coincidence (a repeat). At the same time, we need to be careful about how we treat one another in everyday life things. Grudges are often born out of the pettiest of things. We will hear things like, “Do you know what she said about me?”  She said are the operative words there. Is she continually saying? We need to fight-off and dig-out the seeds of resentment and absorb, yea, cover a multitude of incidents with loving patience. Christ is our model and gospel identity our guide.

“Encourage one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ…”  Hebrews 3:13-14a

“For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me’.” Romans 15:3