Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Power Within

Jesus said to his disciples, "Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high." Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God. Luke 24:49-53

The disciples couldn't wait to see what would happen next. What would it mean to be 'clothed with the power from on high'? They would soon find out. That rush of the Holy Spirit that we call today Pentecost was just about to spring on them an experience beyond their imagination. A power that would come upon them, dwell within them, bursting with the need to be let out, be made manifest in the world. Wow! How humbled we should all be knowing that God has chosen us to be places for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit! That is pretty scary stuff. We do a good job as believers of ignoring the very thing that Jesus promised, the capacity to do more than we could hope or imagine because we would have the power of the Holy Spirit within us. We underestimate that power. We dismiss that power. We often ignore the urgings of that power. We often succumb to our doubt and fear about what others might think of us. What a lost opportunity.

I don't know about you but I certainly experience every day how easy it is to forget that the Holy Spirit dwells within me. It takes a conscious effort to not only remember this but live my life in such a way that the Holy Spirit can shine through me so that others may see a glimmer of God. Glorious opportunity! Scary reality! How the Spirit must grieve when I act out of bitterness, resentment, anger, fear and countless other expressions of unbelief. The good news is that I am more aware of those moments than in my youth. Maybe that is an advantage of long life and spiritual disciplines that have shaped my heightened awareness of the presence of God within me. But I work at it every single day. It is becoming more natural, part of my daily rhythm. Of course I will never stop failing and will try to keep improving.

Missionary leaders have a responsibility to reflect Christ's love, no matter the difficulty of the circumstance. We have the power within to be a shining light. It is in this brightness that others come to know Christ. Isn't that what being a missionary is all about?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Walls, Tweets and Instant Messages

This Sunday we were reminded of the words from Psalm 67:

May God be merciful to us and bless us, *
show us the light of his countenance and come to us.

2 Let your ways be known upon earth, *
your saving health among all nations.

3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; *
let all the peoples praise you.

4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, *
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide all the nations upon earth.

5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; *
let all the peoples praise you.

6 The earth has brought forth her increase; *
may God, our own God, give us his blessing.

7 May God give us his blessing, *
and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.

This psalm implores God to make His way known,to be merciful, to bless, to judge and guide the peoples of the earth. In return we will praise, be joyful and stand in awe of him. One of the primary ways that God acts is through us, those who seek to be faithful and reflect the reality of God in our lives to others. This opportunity is at the heart of the vocation of missionary leaders. I believe that God is counting on us to show his love and reality to a world that doesn't know him. In this most incredible age of technology, when hundreds of millions of people are on Facebook and Twitter, not to mention the countless other ways we can communicate and network with others, do we use these new technologies to share our knowledge of God? If so, how are you doing it?

What a tragedy it would be to adopt these new methods of connecting and not utilize them to glorify God in our tweets and walls and instant messages. These new forms of communicating might be the easiest way EVER to share our faith. Run a little test this week. Note in your high tech communications how often others reference God in a way that glorifies him. Start a trend. Be fearless. Let it be known how important God is to you, even in the mundane communications you make every day. You may never know how your sharing might bring someone closer to God. The exponential power of networking might even cause nations to be glad and sing for joy!! Well, maybe your closest circle of friends! You'll never know until you try. You may have more power to transmit the love of Christ than you ever imagined. Tweet away.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Loving is Required

Sunday we reflected on the Gospel of John. Such an intimate look at Jesus, such a compelling, straightforward message directly to us from Christ. Jesus said, "I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you, so you are to love one another. If there is this love among you, then all will know that you are my disciples." Could Jesus have been any clearer? If this new commandment is to be embodied and lived out so that God might be made known to others, how significant is it that the leaders of the Church clearly reflect love to those they are called to lead?

'Love' and its many manifestations in American culture can be quite distorted by images, media and jewelry sales persons. God gave each of us as His children the capacity to really know the difference between a distortion of love and God's real deal. Love is unselfish, it is pure, it is authentic, it is caring for others with nothing asked in return. Often it is difficult to describe but we know it when we experience it.

I think of the child births of my two sons. Those events were stunning and life changing moments for me. I could not have created my overwhelming sense of love for those babies if I tried. It was a gift from God that was beyond description and it was very real. That love laid a foundation of a loving relationship with them that will last my lifetime. That love is a gift that needs to be demonstrated through action, thoughtful reflection, caring and authentic conversation and decisions that will ultimately support my sons in ways that help them grow into the fullness of their lives. Parents have a tremendous opportunity to reflect Christ's love, and in doing so, recognizing the source of that love in the first place.

Just as parents have children, leaders have followers. Those followers seek inspiration, direction, faithfulness, humility yet confidence from their leaders. Consciously or unconsciously, followers also expect to see Christ's love made manifest through them. For, indeed, leadership is people business and Jesus reminded us that love is the first and most important commandment when it comes to people.

When leaders get burned out and wounded the first thing to dissipate is love. When this happens the leader's effectiveness is significantly diminished and it is a clear sign to take time out for retreat, renewal and prayer. Sometimes in that taking time out God will reveal new direction or insight. Often God will begin to refill the spirit with the energy to continue. Whatever the circumstance, it will require the capacity to return and to love those who follow.

When I see leaders in trouble I don't have to dig very far to see that a spirit of love that reflects Christ is not apparent. The caring for one another, face to face, the act of listening with an openness to hear pain and brokenness, is often not being done. Just as Christ loved us so much that he sacrificed himself so that we might know God's redeeming grace, leaders are sometimes called to do the very difficult work of loving those who are hard to love.

As we consider action at times of interpersonal challenge, never forget that leaders are called to love as Christ loved us. Facing those challenges can take our understanding of God's love to a new level. But we have to act first to experience that possibility.

What acts of love have you recently done to demonstrate Christ's love for the people who follow you?