Tag Archives: wisdom

Reflection of Holiness

Click here to listen to the sermon inspired by the following notes. (You will notice that I was led completely away from notes. The Spirit had better things to say than I did.)

Last week, Price talked about the importance of stepping out of the safe and comfortable boat and taking on the scary task of walking on the water. One of the boats we use to protect us from the scary waters is the craft of traditions. Traditions can insulate us from having to think about the state of our relationship with God, and give us a false sense of security. The problem comes when we allow our traditions and interpretations to insulate us from God.

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands before they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say that whoever tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is given to God,’ then that person need not honor the father. 6 So, for the sake of your tradition, you make void the word of God. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said: 8 ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’” 10 Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” Matthew 15:1-11

 

  • Why do your disciples…?
  • Jesus doesn’t take the bait. When asked why, look behind the question.
  • Jesus points to a higher authority than the interpretational tradition.
  • When we are faced with questions about actions, it helps to consider God’s revealed priorities.
  • The requested wall of tradition.

18 When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid[d] and trembled and stood at a distance, 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.” 21 Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. Exodus 20: 18-21

  • Reverential awe vs. being afraid.
  • On tradition vs. on task
  • The Jesus turnaround.
  • When we use words to belittle others and rules to pass judgment on who is in and out we are usurping God’s place.
  • The Hebrew people had more than the Torah, there was a whole body of interpretation that existed to translate the rules down to the absolute minutiae of life from what it was ok to eat to the maximum number of steps it was permissible to take on the Sabbath. They got so caught up in the letter of the law that they lost track of the spirit. Jesus came and reinterpreted the law away from a set of rules to restore the original purpose of creating the context for healthy relationship to flourish.
  • Rather than asking does this action fit the established rules we have much harder questions to ask like “Does this draw me or others closer to God?” “Is the way I am speaking about others reflective of God’s loving kindness?” “Do the traditions I enforce create barriers or pathways to God?”
  • Jesus gives us a warning here that our words about others show the truth of our hearts. When you speak of someone that frustrates you or has made you angry what truth is reflected? I know that I have had to repent many times in my life of the words that escaped my mouth the tore down rather than built up.
  • In our open worship let us listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit together, asking him to restore our hearts, forgive us the words that cause harm, and show us the paths of reconciliation and purity.

 

 

Ministry In Distraction

Click here to listen to sermon that arose from the following notes.

Did you ever have one of those days when it seems like the interruptions are preventing you from accomplishing what you want to? It can be incredibly frustrating, especially when what you are trying to get done is important. That frustration can cause us to snap at the people that interrupt us, and sometimes in that frustration we miss opportunities that God sends our way. Jesus had days like that as well, and in today’s text he shows us that showing grace to the people interrupting us can have a huge impact, and even if it appears that it prevents us from accomplishing our goals, maybe God has a bigger outcome in mind than we were aiming for.

40 Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. 45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” 47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” 49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.” 50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” 51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” 53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened. Luke 8:40-56

  • The crowd and the urgent.
  • The named man and the unnamed woman.
  • Jesus didn’t avoid the distraction or the distractor. Love of neighbor.
  • Jesus sought God’s will in the distraction.
  • Consequences of allowing distraction.
  • Faith that God is greater than the consequences.
  • Jesus held on to that faith in the face of other’s anger and derision.
  • The ultimate consequence of following God: New Life!
  • The goal is redemption, not accomplishment. When we keep that goal in mind distractions can become opportunities for redemption rather than aggravations.

Cultivating Gratitude

Hi Faithful Readers and Listeners,

I will be a little out of the loop for the next month since I am getting carpal tunnel surgery on both hands this coming Friday. There may be some posts, but don’t count on any kind of consistency or regularity until mid January. Thanks for your prayers and your concern. Now to our post:

Click here to download and listen.

Notes:

As we enter the Holiday season, I would like us to take the time to reflect on the many gifts and blessings that God has given us over the last year. We are pressured in the Holiday Season to do more, to rush more, to buy more, and so often I lose sight of just how blessed I am right now. Today I would to call us to practice the important spiritual discipline of gratitude. Often we spend time in gratitude over things and the ways God has provided, today I want to take you into a slightly different mental space, and talk about the ways we are blessed through our brothers and sisters. Paul writes to the community in Thessalonica:

12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:12-18

  • Acknowledging those who work behind the scenes: Tammi Doty, Margaret Mankins, Carolyn Morse, Sheila Borgman, Gene Smith, Phil McLain, Leland Lee, and more.
  • Introduce the gratitude sheets and ask everyone to write at least one person’s name and reason for gratitude.
  • Live in “peace.” Shalom – right relationship
  • Warn- encourage – help, all requires patience.
  • Do not repay but do what is good for each other and everyone else. Tell the giving to an enemy story.
  • Rejoice, pray, give thanks – these are all connected and are all disciplines and make patience, etc. possible.

Wisdom in Giving and Receiving

(Click here to listen to full version. Outline is below.)

Today we are looking at one of the most misinterpreted passages in Jesus’ teachings, and one of the most simple to understand. The Sermon on the Mount is a rich mine of guidance for us, and sometimes we have to dig a bit deeper to understand exactly what Jesus was referring to. In today’s text we will need to do a little bit of unpacking of the cultural context to understand what it means to be wise with all of the gifts we have to offer, even as we pattern ourselves after the giver of all good and perfect gifts. In other words we need the Holy Spirit to guide us in our understanding.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:6-12

  • Pigs, feral dogs, Roman soldiers and Jewish collaborators. Be careful with the gifts you have to give so that they are most effectively employed.
  • Prosperity gospel, context of seeking first kingdom. Kingdom is priority for Christian living, not personal prosperity. Gifts are given in excess so that we may become givers ourselves. Not just money.
  • Law is summed up in treating others with same consideration and generosity we would like to receive.

 

Dear Stan

Dear Stan,

I hope that on some level you know how much of an impact you have had on the people you have faithfully served in ministry. When I first started attending Olympic View Friends Church you took me under under your wing and mentored me. I was a brash, abrasive, East-coast transplant in the midst of culture shock, questioning my worth because of being unemployed. You invested your time in me and I grew as a man and as a follower of Christ because of it. One of the things I appreciate most about that time was that you didn’t give me advice, just asked questions and pointed me towards Jesus. Then, as I shared difficult things you showed compassion with my struggles and gently guided me towards grace and mercy with a humorous and compassionate spirit. Through your influence, my immature faith was deepened and I began to confront myself and stop hiding from my brokenness behind pious language and a judgmental spirit. Through your patience I learned to value silence and carving out time to listen for the still small voice and allow the Spirit to minister to me even when I didn’t hear anything. You encouraged me in a discipline I still struggle to live up to: listening for the voice of the Spirit in every conversation I have.

Through your example I learned what the spiritual parenthood of being a Friends pastor looks like, and I felt the way open for me pursue God’s call to minister as a pastor after the manner of Friends. I was afraid and distrusting of authority, and you were the right person God brought into my life to restore my faith that the church really could be the priesthood of ALL believers. You got me started on the recording process, and I am a recorded Friends Pastor because of you.

When I heard that you died, my heart fell. Your voice has been a strong one that spoke words that point to the character of Jesus and the loss of that voice is a blow to the Northwest Yearly Meeting. I hope that I can honor the time, effort, and love you have invested in me in my ministry.

I think I will go eat some toast now.

Your Sorrowful F/friend,

Gil George

 

The Foolish Message

(Click here to listen.)

When I was in seminary I enjoyed the deep discussions we got to have, the ways we examined the scriptures and the ways we were trained to ask questions. One concept that fascinated me is the idea of the power of stories, not just the story of God’s interaction with history in the bible, but the stories of the early church, the stories of the reformers and others who have gone before us, and the power that comes from the way we frame our own stories and align the arc of our lives with the logos word of God in Jesus. We talked about the power of our narratives and the effects of connecting ourselves to the story that God is unfolding in the world. A narrative is simply another way of saying the way a story unfolds, and the meta-narrative is the story behind the story that frames all the stories we hear. Today’s scripture is about one of the most significant Christian meta-narratives and has some very important insights for us as a way to look at the bible and how we might be called to embody the good news of redemption and true freedom in Jesus. It has been a while since we took a break from this series for advent, so let me provide a little context again for today’s text. Peter was a disciple of Jesus who tended to speak first and think second. You never had to wonder about what Peter’s opinion was because he shared it frequently. Peter was a fisherman by trade and frankly wasn’t the greatest fisherman ever. When Jesus called him to follow he did, no questions asked, he dropped everything and followed. Peter was also pretty observant. He was the first disciple to really believe that Jesus was the messiah, even though he had a ton of misconceptions about what that actually meant. Peter became one of the pillars of the early Christian community, eventually leading the church in Rome where according to the stories of the church he was crucified upside-down. It is thought that the letter of first Peter was written towards the end of his life in an attempt to pass down some of the more important lessons of faith from Peter’s experience. I will read verses 4-9 of 1 Peter chapter 2 and we will focus on verses 6-9.

4 Come to Him—the living stone—who was rejected by people but accepted by God as chosen and precious. 5Like living stones, let yourselves be assembled into a spiritual house, a holy order of priests who offer up spiritual sacrifices that will be acceptable to God through Jesus the Anointed. 6For it says in the words of the prophet Isaiah, See here—I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone, chosen and precious; Whoever depends upon Him will never be disgraced.* 7To you who believe and depend on Him, He is precious; but to you who don’t, remember the words of the psalmist: The stone that the builders rejected has been laid as the cornerstone—the very stone that holds together the entire foundation,* 8and of Isaiah: A stone that blocks their way, a rock that trips them.* They stumble because they don’t follow the word of God, as they were destined to do. 9But you are a chosen people, set aside to be a royal order of priests, a holy nation, God’s own; so that you may proclaim the wondrous acts of the One who called you out of inky darkness into shimmering light. 1 Peter 2:4-9 The Voice

We speak often of God’s ways not being our ways, but we often don’t grasp how truly different his ways are. In fact it might even be more accurate to say that God’s ways are the exact opposite of the way the value systems of this world tell us to operate. In fact God’s priorities and values are foolishness to the ways the culture of this world measure value. This is why God’s message of redemption is so hard for people to accept. We don’t want to look up at the expanse of the starry sky to see how utterly insignificant we are. Quite often we don’t want to look inside and start digging through the muck that has collected in our souls to see how our vision is distorted by values not rooted in God. Today I want us to see what we can learn from the “foolishness” of God, which happens to be exponentially wiser than the highest wisdom produced by any human ever to walk this earth.

The first element of the meta-narrative is that the choice of foundation belongs to God. Jesus was born into the slave class, not the ruling class. Those whom the culture of Jesus’ time deemed more valuable were those with power and authority. That God would choose to come as the lowest class as one of the most vulnerable must inform our understanding of how God’s kingdom operates. We have to acknowledge that it does indeed seem foolish that the folks on the bottom have a special place in God’s heart. In fact throughout the scripture God most often chooses to use those who might best be described as bumbling incompetents, losers, victims, powerless, weak, and broken to advance his kingdom and hold up the standards of his kingdom. Doesn’t God know how crazy that is? But God promises that those who depend on Him will not be disgraced. In the introduction to his book Genuine Christianity, Ron Sider relates how absurd God’s plan looks to others in a fictional conversation between Jesus and the Angel Gabriel after Jesus’ ascension into heaven.

“Well, how did it go?” Gabriel asks Jesus. “Did you complete your mission and save the world?” “Well, yes and no,” Jesus replies. I modeled a godly life for about thirty years. I preached to a few thousand Jews in one corner of the Roman Empire. I died for the sins of the world and promised that those who believe in me will live forever. And I burst from the tomb on the third day to show my circle of 120 frightened followers that my life and story are God’s way to save the whole world. Then I gave the Holy Spirit to those 120 and left them to finish the task.” “You mean,” Gabriel asks in amazement, “your whole plan to save the world depends on that ragtag bunch of fishermen, ex-prostitutes and tax collectors?” “That’s right,” Jesus replies. “But what if they fail?” Gabriel persists with growing alarm. ”What’s your backup plan?” ”There is no backup plan,” Jesus says quietly. (Sider 1996)

Looking back on the last 2000 or so years, it is pretty obvious that God’s plan is working out better than anyone could have anticipated, because it brought the good news to people that didn’t have anyone to depend on. These people had no illusions about their value to the society around them, and hearing that God not only valued them but chose them as his agents to bring redemption in the world motivated a movement that outlasted the powerful empire that oppressed it from the beginning. Our narrative is not dependent on us, but instead draws us in to become part of the story of God’s interaction with humanity. To people who are not part of the faith, we are the story, the bible, we are God’s narrative of redemption.

The second element in this foolish meta-narrative is that following Christ’s values will be a stumbling block to systems that operate according to other values. Following Jesus will mean that everyone from religious systems that are operating as commercial enterprises to governments that deny the dignity and value of human life to businesses that view people in terms of financial ability will find us to be a stumbling block. They won’t have any idea how such a ragtag bunch of people could possibly cause them so much difficulty, but as we listen to and obey God’s message we will very simply and quietly find ourselves in the way of business as usual.  This world thrives on treating people as resources to be exploited for personal or corporate profit and we can show people a better way. We can show people that they are valuable not for what they can give or what they can do, or even for having access to the halls of power, but that true worth can only be found in the love of God. The world is constantly trying to manipulate us by telling us how worthless we are unless we fit their mold. For me the message was “You are worthless because you are fat. Why bother to deny it, you just go ahead and eat another bag of Doritos, wash it down with a pint of Haagen Dasz and call it a day.” But that message wasn’t true, and until I could see the lies behind it and depend on God and my community I couldn’t fight it. Jesus embodied that message of value and freedom from lies and his words and example in the scriptures can guide us, but Jesus didn’t only give us words on a page, he gave us the Holy Spirit that we might have the power we need to obey his words and a community of others to hold us accountable to our call.

Let me tell you, I need the Holy Spirit and my faith community in order to follow Jesus. I need to be reminded by my family that I am a living message from God to the world around me. Left to my own devices I fall right in with the value systems of this world, and I bet I am not the only one. This is truly a weak point in our congregation, and it is holding us back from all that God can do through us. Last Sunday I gave the elders a goal. This goal came from careful prayer and consideration of the gifts and talents and most importantly the call found at the end of today’s passage “you are a chosen people, set aside to be a royal order of priests, a holy nation, God’s own; so that you may proclaim the wondrous acts of the One who called you out of inky darkness into shimmering light.” The goal is to grow so deeply as a body that in five years we will need to plant another church. I have set aside time to put together a plan and will have that ready to share with the elders by our next meeting and will soon be approaching some of you to consider leading a home meeting as a place to foster Christian growth and welcome people who might be a little intimidated by coming to a church building into God’s story of redemption. Most importantly I think we are ready. I have heard many people express a desire to commit themselves more deeply to Jesus and spread his word, but aren’t sure quite where to start. I want to let you all know that this questioning and desire has been heard and that I am working diligently to put a plan together to help us live into the mission God has given us to live out and share his message of redemption. At our business meeting next week I will be bringing a slightly different mission statement than the ones I had brought before it says simply that “We are called to live and serve as priests proclaiming the wondrous acts of the One who called us out of inky darkness into shimmering light.” As we enter into our time of open worship remember that this is not the time for announcements or prayer requests, but is a time to listen for the voice of God and share how God is speaking to us, to get God’s input on the message he is calling us to share. In the blue pamphlet in the pews is a flowchart that can help as we discern our leadings to speak in this time. Let us seek God together.

Sider, Ronald J. Genuine Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996.

The Foolish Stewardship of the Wise Men

The Foolish Stewardship of the Wise Men There is a bit more content in the audio, and I deviate a bit from the written words at the end. – Gil

On Wednesday, another year passed into history. 2013 was a year of transition for us, and we have faced and overcome some fairly significant challenges. We had the normal growing pains of learning a new leader’s style and I got to learn how to begin meshing my leadership style with the culture of Clackamas Park Friends Church. Conflict happened, and rather than brushing it under the rug or being passive aggressive, we as a body faced into it and learned that the sources of our conflicts were miscommunications rather than attempts to hurt each other. There have been a few hiccups, and we still have plenty of growth areas to work on, but I have to say that I appreciate the grace and poise with which this church is navigating this time of transition. You have done well, and we are stronger for it. The only questions we have looking forward are the same questions being faced by many churches, and those center around how we steward what God has entrusted to us. To help us think about our stewardship of the many gifts God has given us, I would like us to look at and consider the wise men who came to visit Jesus a couple of years after he was born.

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” 7Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. Matthew 2:1-12

Let’s start by looking at what the word stewardship means and implies from a biblical perspective. A steward in the time of Jesus was the equivalent of a property manager today. They were slaves entrusted with the daily operations of a wealthy household, managing the resources of that estate according to the priorities and goals of the owner. When we consider that cultural context we find that biblical stewardship is caring for what belongs to the Lord and using the Lord’s resources as Jesus himself would use them. It is not maximizing personal profit or personal goals, but is instead seeking first the kingdom of God and his way of being and doing what is right. That means maintaining an open line of communication with God to discern the use of resources, and acknowledging God’s ownership of everything we have. A few scriptures that tell of God’s ownership are:

1 Chronicles 29.11 Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.

Psalm 24.1: The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it

Psalm 89.11: The heavens are yours, the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it—you have founded them.

There are many more verses throughout the scriptures, but I want us to keep very firmly in our minds that everything we have has been entrusted to us by God for his purposes.

The three Magi or wise men or kings were the cutting edge minds of their time. These men would be like the chief engineers and mathematicians of our day, and they did the riskiest thing they could possibly do. They left everything behind to pursue a star. These men had great wealth, and they needed it to provide for their long journey, they had power and authority, their opinions were sought out by the mighty and powerful of their homelands. Would they have that same power after a journey of years? Would they survive the journey that was leading them into a contentious region of the brutal Roman Empire? These men were risking 100% of what was in their care on a star that wasn’t behaving in a normal fashion. These men had to have some understanding of the Jews, and it is theorized that they had access to the writings of Jews who had not returned from the Babylonian captivity. They had to know something about a coming of a Messiah, so when they saw a star just hovering to the East and worked their calculations and researched what signs and what events might be heralded in the East, they found reference to the prophecies of the Jewish Messiah. These men then gathered the money and entourage they would need for the journey. They were going into dangerous lands and were carrying gifts of value to properly honor the newborn king, so they probably had some retainers and guards with them. They had a tough balance to strike as well, they had to have enough people with them for safety and to be taken seriously by whatever ruler they were visiting, but they didn’t want to show up in Roman territory with something that could be mistaken for an army. This journey would be the riskiest thing any of them had ever undertaken and their own advisors had to be asking questions about whether this was a wise use of their resources.

The wise men had an answer to those questions and that answer has become the Good News that we all have received. “The Son of God has come and the light of God draws us to him.” The wise men threw all of their energy and talents into what they felt called to do and leaving behind what was needed by their families they saw that the eternal cost of not following was higher than the monetary, emotional and political cost of following. They understood that their positions, wealth, and influence were given to them so that they could follow this star in response to God drawing them to his son. Is that really any different for us? Everything we have has been given to us for a purpose and I am going to have to speak for myself here, but I don’t always use what I have been entrusted with for God’s purposes. All too often I find myself using what I have been given for my own benefit, to fill my own desires, rather than to advance the purposes of Jesus, my Lord and savior. I ran from God’s call on my life for more than 15 years before finally giving in. I had used my gifts of building connection with people to benefit my bank account, I used my financial gifts for my own pleasure, my cup ran over and right straight to my gut with nary a slip twixt cup and lip. Did I still praise God and tithe and all that stuff? Yes, but God got the leftovers, not the first fruits. God got a couple hours a week, a little more than 10% of my income, a few prayers here and there, maybe even a peek into the bible once in a while. But I was following rules for the minimum necessary and used them to avoid real relationship. Then God brought me to a Friends Church in Northeast Tacoma that was pastored by Stan Thornburg. God used Stan to stop me and put in a place where I was intentionally listening for God’s voice. Let me tell you, if you are satisfied with your life and happy with its direction, don’t stop and listen for the voice of God. Over a period of time, the voice of God stripped away my illusions and his call on me to serve his people as an assistant to the Good Shepherd rose up again. I left my fairly lucrative career, went to seminary, and surrendered the direction of my life to God’s hands. I finally learned that the best act of stewardship is to trust God with everything I thought was mine and allow him to reorder my priorities and life to fit his purposes, and I have to admit I am the happiest and healthiest I have ever been in my whole life.

In following God’s call I, like the wise men, still make the mistake of operating according to my culture’s assumptions about how things are supposed to operate and made some poor decisions of my own. The wise men made the assumption that the king would come to a ruling family, took their eyes off the star and went straight to King Herod. God had to redirect the Wise Men to Bethlehem, and when they got back on the right track the star reappeared. I am going to speak from my own experience here, but when I lose sight of God’s presence and am struggling with what God might be calling me to do it is usually because I have allowed my focus to shift off of God and his purposes. We each might be able to speak to that experience, but as we look at a new year I would like to encourage you to take the example of the wise men to heart. What priorities are directing your decisions? What ways are your decisions reflecting the priorities of the kingdom? How are you stewarding all that God has placed under your care? How are you stewarding the gift of salvation God has given us to share? Let us pray.