Friday, February 27, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 39

Day 39 Balancing Your Life

Balance is about remembering who you are and what you’re supposed to be doing right now. It is about understanding God’s purpose and what drives God—in order to understand your purpose and what drives you. It is knowing that in the midst of temptation, God always provides a way out—if you will look for it!

And so balance is about being in covenant with God and faithfully keeping covenant with God. God always does his part—we must do our part. If we don’t, we will lose our balance and fall.

Learning to ride tandem with the Holy Spirit has shown us the importance of balance. Life on a carrier in the open sea requires balance, too. Without balance, even the most seasoned member of the crew can stumble and fall. That’s why there are handles and railings in reach everywhere—so there is always a way to steady yourself when the water gets rough or when you’re getting tired.

Let’s end our imaginative life on the carrier HESED with one more peek at the life of her crew. How do they keep their balance? Let’s sit in on a training class for some of the newer members of the crew—after they’ve been on board long enough to hit a bump or two. Feel free to take notes as the instructor covers these three balance-related topics.

    Crew Insignia

    The crew insignia is more than a pin to be worn to show that you are an official member of the crew. It represents your personal, intimate relationship with the Captain. He is always there with you 24/7/365—whether you are in training classes, serving at a station, in Sick Bay, in the Mess Hall or relaxing in your quarters.

    It is his presence with you that gives you the power and ability to do what you need to do. That’s why forgetting his presence is the root of all problems—because it robs you of your power and ability to accomplish the mission. Forgetting his presence leads to problems with your actions and attitudes. So be sure your communication link is open—check it right now!

    Don’t just polish the pin so it looks good on the outside—experience the presence of the Captain on the inside!

    Processing Challenges

    Occasionally, there will be individuals who do not follow standard processing protocol—for any number of reasons. The crew works to accommodate each individual on a case-by-case basis in order to help everyone get processed and become fully functioning members of the crew. There is no acceptable processing failure rate.

  • Some individuals rescued from the water prefer to stay in the S&R craft instead of boarding the carrier. While this is discouraged, no one is to be forced to board the carrier. Every effort is made to encourage further processing.

    • This can become a problem for the crew of the S&R craft, as they are not prepared to meet the long-term needs of these individuals.

    • The crew are encouraged to receive special training in order to learn how to encourage prompt boarding of the carrier.

  • Some individuals, even after boarding the carrier, do not complete their processing through to initiation. They may still attend all training classes and observe all service stations—participating in most. They may not, however, be assigned formal leadership duties.

  • Some individuals complete their processing very quickly, having attended only basic training and having observed only a few service stations in their short time on board. While they are fully initiated members of the crew, their lack of training and experience usually prevents them from being assigned formal leadership duties. This is in the best interest of the individual as well as the mission. Their status will be monitored regularly and will be upgraded when they are ready.

  • Young or weak/ill civilians (either born on board or rescued) are encouraged to participate according to their strength and ability.

  • Some individuals complete their processing but do not participate in on-going training or continue to rotate through the service schedule. This can be a serious drain on carrier resources and must be guarded against continually. They cannot, however, be forced to help—all participation is voluntary.

    • They may attend training and observe the various service stations—without actually serving with any regularity.

    • While they are fully initiated members of the crew, their lack of training and experience usually prevents them from being assigned leadership duties. This is in the best interest of the individual as well as the mission. See above.

    • Frequently they attempt to function as leaders by giving direction to the crew. These attempts are not usually well received—by the crew or the leadership. Crew leaders are expected to show the crew what to do—working along with them—not just give directions. The Captain must coordinate all attempts to correct this situation, so seek his involvement early on.

    Service Challenges

    Even among fully functioning members of the crew, there are challenges as they serve on board the HESED. These challenges result from the on-going process of building dynamic, authentic community. They are to be expected and require frequent attention. Remember:

    • Authentic community is built on the foundation of the Code of Conduct for the crew—found in the very name of the carrier: HESED.

      • Hesed is about taking the proper action (serve, submit and lead) with the proper attitude (love, grace and mercy.)

      • The Code of Conduct is simple enough for everyone to learn and understand—but requires disciplined effort and the power of God (an open communication link) to practice and do well.

    So, if there is a service problem, these are the questions to ask:

  1. Do I have a problem with my actions?

    1. Am I faithfully serving to meet the needs of the crew and its mission?

    2. Am I completely submitted to the needs of the crew and its mission?

    3. Am I taking the initiative and leading by example?

  2. Do I have a problem with my attitudes?

    1. Am I able to have real affection for each member of the crew as I serve, submit and lead?

    2. Am I able to express favor and goodness to each member of the crew as I serve, submit and lead?

    3. Am I able to act with kindness to each member of the crew as I serve, submit and lead?

    Honestly answering these questions will identify the vast majority of problems with balance at sea.

    Working through these questions takes a desire for growth and change because it requires that all parties practice openness, honesty, generosity, humility, accountability and responsibility. The Captain has an “open door” policy and is always available to work through the process with every member of the crew. Go ahead...try it!

Today’s Look at 1 John

Read 1 John chapter 4. Hear John echo the instructor from today’s carrier class…the only way to keep your balance in life is to live a life of love!

Keep Breathing!

Let God feed your soul with the amazing, awesome scenery that is flying past you. Tell God of your love again—and again. But be prepared to stop along the way to share that love with those who need it.

Because the ride is part of the privilege—and the stops are part of the purpose.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Moral Decisions: Individualist or Collectivist?

Scot McKnight asked an interesting question about moral decision making being individualist or collectivist -- read the brief post here.

This was my comment:

Interesting, Scot...what's the name of the book?

I think this is the problem folks have when they don't understand covenant (and I mean the NT covenant in Jesus). Covenant is all about collective, or community as we say. (Collective makes me think about the Borg Queen, resistance is futile and all that....)

The strength of the individual position must always derive from the strength of the community. Hence, we are one body made up of many parts. Listen to the Shema ... the LORD (the eternal three) is ONE. There is no focus on the individual that does not intertwine with the ONE.

It cannot be either/or; it must be both/and. Individuals must become part of the community in order for the individual benefits of the community to be received. Privilege always has a purpose -- and it is other-oriented, not self-oriented.

The important distinction in the New Covenant is that this is to be a community where each are connected to and looking out for the best interest of the others to whom they are connected (hesed). That's where our American Rugged Individualism has often not served the Church particularly well, imo.

Take a read through the New Testament...ponder the 50+ "one another" texts. The life of the Jesus-follower is definitely to be "other" oriented.

Very timely concerning our series. The HESED surely is a collective ... and I'm not talking Borg. ;^)


40 Days of cHesed—Day 38

Day 38 Becoming a World-Class Christian

The amazing thing about being in God’s family is that you become instantly connected to God's Kingdom in heaven and on earth—that’s more than being part of a global economy. It’s a universal economy!

We’re going to spend today at the center of that economy—our other front—the aircraft taking off and landing 24/7/365. It is the ministry of prayer—and its pilots are our prayer warriors.

The Captain’s post may be officially located on the Bridge, but he is present with each member of the crew at their post and connects them to himself and to each other by the power of prayer.

This amazing feat is accomplished by utilizing the most important system on the carrier—communications. Not limited by transmission lines and electronics, the indestructible crew insignia functions as an open communication link to the Captain—and through the Captain to any other member of the crew. No satellites, no radios, no phones, no beepers, no internet—no nothing. The Captain’s power source is unlimited and the enemy cannot interrupt his signal. (Although each crewmember is responsible to make sure their unit is always on!)

The aircraft represent the power and practice of unified prayer. Every crewmember working on any part of the aircraft, or any process necessary for their missions, performs each task under the direct supervision of the Captain. Once built, serviced and deployed, the HESED’s aircraft cannot be shot down or destroyed. The enemy cannot jam their instruments or communications. Their targeting systems are not dependent on any third-party satellite. If the pilots receive and confirm their orders and their target’s coordinates with the Captain, they do not miss their mark. [This is, of course, an over-simplification of prayer...don't let that get you off track with the point.]

What kinds of missions does the Captain ask the pilots (our prayer warriors) to undertake?

  1. They go on search and destroy missions against the enemy to protect the carrier, the crew, the flight squadron and the fleet of ships from every form of attack.

  2. They go on reconnaissance missions for the search and rescue fleet, locating those in need of rescue, communicating exact coordinates, and providing cover during the rescue process.

  3. They go on training missions, keeping our pilots in top form and providing opportunities for observation and practice for new crewmembers.

  4. They even fly in amazing formations sometimes to lift the morale of the crew and inspire the civilians to want to fly!

Those planes can’t go up unless we all do our individual jobs building them with our prayers. So work as if everything depends on you and pray as if everything depends on God! Then the stability of our universal economy will be unshakable!

Today’s Look at 1 John

Read 1 John 2:18 through 3:10. Thank God for clear communications with no interference!

Keep Breathing!

Ride on…feel the wind in your face—hey, look up! That white streak came from a HESED jet!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Your Personal Story

[Originally found in Day 37, I've broken this exercise out into a post of its own.]

Your Personal Story

A helpful exercise for this stage of growth is to write out your story of reconciliation with God – how you came to accept his offer of covenant relationship through Jesus Christ – and the impact it has had on your life. (This is what many call a testimony.) Sharing our personal story is the most powerful hesed tool for developing community life as well as for evangelism.

Sharing stories is a way for people to get to know each other better. It is a way of sharing deeply personal information that encourages growth. Keeping covenant with one another means that we promote each other’s best interest. In today’s language this means that we are accountable to one another for doing what is right. When we share deep spiritual things – like our stories – we are then able to ask to be kept accountable. This can be especially helpful in those areas of our lives where we are most vulnerable.

While writing your story is very personal and very individual, it might be helpful to have a brief outline – just to get your thoughts together. If you need some help getting started, perhaps this will help you:

  1. Write down two dates: the date (as close as you can remember) you accepted God’s offer of adoption (If you have a vivid memory of the exact moment of decision, write down as many details as you can.); and the date you were baptized. (Assuming you belong to a tradition that baptizes; try to remember as many details as possible.)

  2. Make a list of those persons and events that were significant to your journey.

  3. Write down significant changes (in your actions and attitudes) that have happened in your life as a result of deciding to follow Jesus. These could be in your personal life or at home, school, work, church or the community at large.

  4. Write down signs of growth and maturity that you have seen – or others have mentioned seeing – since deciding to follow Jesus.

After you’ve had an opportunity to brainstorm through these four suggestions, ask God to help you put it all together in a story that you can tell. Write your story down on one page, if you can. Try to tell it in less than five minutes. Be prepared for it to take much longer…sometimes the Spirit calls us to share more, depending on the circumstances.

From time to time, re-read your story. You will find that it will encourage you, too…and that it calls for regular updating!

40 Days of cHesed—Day 37

Day 37 Sharing Your Life Message

The purpose of God is summed up in two passages in scripture known as The Great Commandment (which we have also come to know as The Jesus Creed) and The Great Commission. Let’s take a closer look as these two passages.

The Great Commandment (See Matthew 22:37-40) tells us that we are to love God totally and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The Great Commission (See Matthew 28:19-20) tells us that we are to share God’s offer of adoption with everyone—helping them become “like Christ”.

The key to these passages is in the word neighbor.

For those who understand Hebrew ideas like target and covenant, the key to knowing whom your neighbor is may be easier. Otherwise, it seems a bit vague. So, before we get to our slice of carrier life, let’s talk about neighbors.

The Hebrew word for neighbor refers to an associate—one who is more or less close. In Greek the meaning is one who is nearby. So our image of neighbor is one who is near, with whom we have some association. Now for the Christian, there are essentially two kinds of near ones:

  1. Those near to us who have already been adopted by God; who are part of the family of God in Christ. (On the carrier, we call them crewmembers.)

  2. Those near to us who are potential family members—to whom we are to extend God’s offer of adoption in Christ. (On the carrier, we call them civilians.)

You will notice that this image is both very inclusive and somewhat exclusive.

  1. For the first kind of near ones above, it is inclusive in that everyone who is “in Christ”—from every spot on the globe—is our brother or sister. What a family! But it is somewhat exclusive in that we have a primary responsibility to love those who are in our local Covenant Community.

  2. For the second kind of near ones above, it is inclusive in that everyone who is not “in Christ”—from every spot on the globe—is our potential brother or sister. We love them by sending missionaries to get near enough to them to extend God’s offer. But it is somewhat exclusive in that we have a primary responsibility to love those who are in our local community—wherever you happen to be.

It is inclusive in that God wants everyone to accept his offer. It is exclusive in the fact that none of us are associated with everyone. And so, we must focus on those who are near to us—those with whom we have some kind of association.

This is the foundation of incarnational/missional evangelism. Your Christianity can’t be contagious unless you get close enough to someone for him or her to catch it from you!

Did you notice that when we carry out The Great Commandment, we are also fulfilling The Great Commission! Wow—you would think that God knows what he’s doing…

Now, let’s board the carrier and take a peek at how Search and Rescue (S&R) is done.

[Remember to stay with the image here ... your faith tradition may look different. This is Abi's view.]

Every day, the carrier deploys its fleet of small boats. Some are rowboats—for short distances. Some are high-speed racers for urgent missions. There are even houseboats for longer tours. The variety is amazing—every possible type of craft is represented. Our crew is very creative!

Part of the S&R crew rotates during each return to the carrier—to prevent fatigue and provide training and mentoring opportunities between more experienced crew and less experienced crew. Each boat’s crew complement varies, depending on the size of the craft. There must always be room, of course, for at least one or two more—those who may be found and rescued!

Today, we’re going to spend the day at the front with one of the S&R boats. So let’s take a look at what the instructional manual says is supposed to happen.

Search and Rescue Procedures

  • Search and Rescue operations (missions/evangelism) basically launch and sweep ahead of the carrier. They look for people in the water—extending the Captain’s invitation to board the carrier and join the crew.

    • Sometimes a larger ship will be deployed on a longer-term operation to a location too far for daily interaction with the carrier. We call them missionary ships and they replicate carrier life on a smaller scale.

  • Those who accept the invitation are hauled out of the water into the boat. That’s when the processing begins:

  1. Get them out of their old, wet clothes.

  2. Dry them off.

  3. Give them a standard issue crew "uniform" in their size (clothed in Christ, remember).

  4. Give them a hot cup of whatever suits them—coffee, tea, cocoa, soup....

  5. Secure them in the center of the craft—well away from the sides—and give them the Captain’s welcome, answering their questions, while they observe the continuing mission—including any rescues.

  6. When it is time to return to the carrier, all of the new recruits are taken on board and given a tour—meeting the crew and observing them in their stations performing their duties, as well as in their leisure time.

    1. The authentic community on the carrier among her crew is the first line of influence for those considering enlisting. (See Code of Conduct in Day 36 and today’s Reflection.)

      1. Evidence of crew morale include actions we do together: marching in formation, drills, songs learned in boot camp to help keep our spirits up and remind us of important principles, reciting memory verses, etc.

    2. The recruits are given instructions concerning the mission and what it means to be part of the crew. Extensive Question & Answer period provided.

    3. They are then asked to make their choice: do they want to join the crew (be born again), or do they want to return to the water. (Sometimes this takes place on the S&R craft before they get to the carrier.)

      1. Those who want to return to the water trade their uniform for civilian clothes and are respectfully allowed to leave the carrier. (It is a sad, quiet time for the crew. They may have a chance to join later—they may not.)

      2. Those who want to join the crew are welcomed with great celebration and prepared for their initiation with further instructions.

        1. Crew initiation process (covenant-making) includes:

          1. The presentation of individual enlistment papers, which are signed by the King—in his own blood.

          2. The public acceptance of the papers through the initiation ritual (confession of faith and baptism).

          3. The receiving of the crew insignia from the Captain: a white dove (the symbol of the Holy Sprit’s presence) attached to the left pocket. Only the Captain can give out this insignia—it is not for sale.

      3. Those who aren’t sure whether or not they want to stay and join yet are allowed to continue to observe and learn.

          • Young or weak/ill civilians (either born on board or rescued) participate according to their strength and ability.

          • Note: Those born on-board the carrier to members of the crew are considered civilians and must go through the same training, service and initiation process as those rescued from the water. There is no other way to become part of the crew and receive their crew insignia.

So, what do the crewmembers say to the civilians in the S&R boats and on the HESED? How do they explain what carrier life is about? They start by thinking on purpose.

The best way to influence your neighbors for Christ is to know your own story—and be able to share it in a natural way. The next post (a few hours after this one) provides an opportunity for you to write out your story. It will be a blessing to you just to go through the process. It will be a blessing to your neighbor when the Holy Spirit prompts you to share it!

Today’s Look at 1 John

Read 1 John 2:12-17. Be encouraged by the power of God in your life—be challenged to keep out of the water and on target with God!

Keep Breathing!

While you’re riding along behind the Holy Spirit today, ask him to show you your neighbors—all of them. What an amazing sight! Get ready to love them as yourself. You can do it—with God’s help!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 36

WEEK 6 – Evangelism: You Were Made For a Mission

[Not only will this "week" start on a Tuesday, but it is really only five days long! Day 40 will post on next Monday, March 2nd.]

Day 36 Made for a Mission

Life on the HESED can seem like an end in itself! So much for so many to do—just to keep it running. While we know our final destination transcends this life, we cannot forget that there are two critical mission efforts which all those thousands of tasks support each and every day: the dozens of planes in the aircraft squadron and the hundreds of boats in the search and rescue fleet.

We call them the front line because, well, that’s what they are. And every member of the crew takes regular tours of duty at the front—so that they remember the purpose for what they do on the carrier!

As we prepare to take you to the front these next few days, the Captain (the Holy Spirit) wants us to share the mission statement and goals of the HESED:

  • Every function on board supports the mission—directly or indirectly.

    • While some functions and crewmembers are more visible, there are no functions or crewmembers more important than any other—all are necessary for successful completion of the mission.

      • Every person on board (crew or civilian) has some task to accomplish each day.

      • Civilians receive their crew insignia after being properly initiated.

      • Every member of the crew takes regular tours of duty at the front.

  • Each duty station provides an essential training exercise for the crew—foundational to the process of building dynamic, authentic community. Cross training is highly encouraged.

    • Authentic community is built through living each day by the crew’s Code of Conduct—summarized by the name of the carrier: HESED.

      • Remember, hesed is about taking the proper action (serve, submit and lead) with the proper attitude (love, grace and mercy.)

      • That code of conduct is simple enough for everyone to learn and understand—but requires disciplined effort and the power of God to practice and do well.

Today’s Look at 1 John

These last five days, we’ll re-read each week’s passage—one each day. Read 1 John 1:1 through 2:11. Consider the importance of understanding this passage to accomplishing the goals of the Mission Statement and for living by the Code of Conduct.

Getting In Shape

We are almost finished! Five weeks down, five days to go. So, how’s your conditioning? We’ve been praying that you’ve been getting stronger each week:

  • That the level of intimacy in your relationship with God has deepened.

  • That your spiritual muscles are strong yet limber.

  • That you are getting more comfortable with riding in the back than driving.

  • That you’ve connected with others and experienced the power of authentic community.

  • That God has begun to show you the simplicity and power of his covenant purpose.

Now is the time to put what you’ve learned into action. Share the joy of riding with the Holy Spirit driving. Let others know there is a seat waiting for them, too – add a trailer on to your bike and give them a taste! Teach them the things you’ve learned about getting in shape to ride with God. Because we’re not alone on the road. God’s got a caravan riding to Glory – and he doesn’t want anyone to get left behind!

We’re at the top of the long hill we’ve been climbing. Now it’s time for a glance at the panoramic view of our journey—what a sight!

Are you ready for the rush? Here we go—hang on!

Monday, February 23, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 35

Day 35 God’s Power in Your Weakness [...the seeds of the Purple Martyrdom were planted long ago!]

The good news is that it really is all about God—his purpose, his love, his power, and his hesed. The bad news is that it really is all about God….

How could that be bad news? Well, let’s think this one through together.

  • If it is all about God’s purpose, then we must continually restrain our desires and submit our purposes to God’s.

  • If it is all about God’s love, then we must put away our fears and live fearlessly for him.

  • If it is all about God’s power, then we must admit that we can’t do what he wants us to do simply by using our own abilities.

  • If it is all about God’s hesed, then we must accept the incredible aid he offers us—or be found faithless in our practice of hesed.

This means that we must not only admit our weaknesses—grudgingly and privately, if necessary—we must embrace them! If we do not know our weaknesses, we cannot look for God’s help to overcome them. We must share them humbly and honestly. We must be excited because they provide opportunities to witness the awesome power of God. (See 2 Corinthians 4 and 12:7-10.)

Embracing God’s power in our weakness is not a human strength (no pun intended). It can only be done if we allow ourselves to be filled with the Holy Spirit and driven by hesed.

  • We must be driven to serve God and serve each other—by humbly using our grace gifts for ministry on purpose.

  • We must be driven to submit to God’s plan and to the needs of our brothers and sisters—by exercising loving restraint on purpose.

  • We must be driven to be sensitive to opportunities where God is asking us to take the initiative and make the first move—by leading with mercy on purpose.

When we are hesed-driven, we will dare to be a David facing Goliath with what looks like a few stones and a sling—knowing that the power of God will fell the giant. We will dare to walk around the fortress of our enemy shouting and blowing horns—knowing that the power of God will knock the walls flat. We will jump out of the boat when Jesus calls us to walk to him on the water—knowing he will keep us from sinking.

Are you pumped for being weak yet? Good, because God doesn’t call the equipped; he equips the called.

Today’s Look at 1 John

Read 1 John 4:7-21 one more time. Soak up the awesome power of God’s love.

Keep Breathing!

Five weeks…you are so strong and yet so limber. Way to go—God is waiting for a huge high five!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Thanks for the link love, Scot!

It is always an especially fun surprise for me when I am "meandered" by Scot McKnight at his Jesus Creed blog. I was #7 in his opening paragraph of links to consider ... and his additional bit of encouragement for others to "take a good look at" my current series was appreciated.

His example encourages me to go the extra step to shine the light on others, helping them to succeed ... it brightens up everyone's day!

May you be blessed and be a blessing today.

Friday, February 20, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 34

Day 34 Thinking Like a Servant

What’s the difference between acting like a servant and thinking like a servant? Well, there could be a lot of difference—or there could be no difference at all. What do you think?

Acting like a servant can become rote—just another habit—if we don’t also start thinking like a servant. Thinking like a servant is a matter of discipline. With the proper discipline, service that has become rote becomes service that is excellent! But how do we discipline ourselves—and each other—to think in such a way that we actually become excellent servants?

Say, the word “thinking” keeps popping up. Thinking. Really acting like an excellent servant requires excellent thinking. Does that seem too obvious? That may be part of the problem. [Alan Hirsch says that we must act our way into a new way of thinking. Read his important blog post, please. I totally agree...and hesed is that way!]

M. Scott Peck, M.D., in The Road Less Traveled & Beyond, entitled the first chapter Thinking. Our reluctance to stop and think about what we believe—on any given topic, much less our purpose in life—is not just a problem. According to Dr. Peck, it is the problem.

During the past 33 days, we have been attempting to provide you with the core knowledge you need in order to think like a servant. We’ve asked you to spend a lot of time reading and thinking your way through 1 John. We’ve asked you to think every day about your intimate friendship with God. And we have been challenging you to think in different images than what may be familiar to you.

This kind of thinking is part of what it means to love God with all of your mind. Love him enough to slow down and listen carefully to his Word. Love him enough to process your thoughts with him. Love him enough to listen to the Holy Spirit. Love him enough to listen to your brothers and sisters—for as long as it takes to understand each other.

Well, that sounds like a lot of work! Exactly!

Discipline of any kind requires a lot of work. Excellent thinking requires more work than any other discipline. This is true because thinking is complex. It is a process—rarely a simple process—that leads us to some intended result. In our case, it will lead us to understanding what on earth we’re here for!

If we take shortcuts in the process, we do get somewhere. We just may not get where we wanted to go. This is what we mean when we speak of the importance of proper focus during target practice. Better the outer edge of the right target than the bull’s eye of the wrong target! Matthew 25:31-46 and Luke 13:22-30 are striking examples Jesus gave us of this problem.

Thinking on purpose takes work—the consequences of not thinking on purpose are unacceptable.

Today’s Look at 1 John

Read 1 John 4:7-21. While you’re reading, think about the depths of God’s love!

Keep Breathing!

Breathe in God’s love—exhale your fears! Take every joy or concern (for ourselves or for others) to God first, so that he can share the moment, begin to heal the suffering, or encourage steadfastness.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 33

Day 33 How Real Servants Act

The only way to know how real servants act is to actually see them in action. When most of the activity takes place out of our personal view, we can sometimes forget everything that is going on.

If we are going to accept our assignment, unwrap our gifts and use them to accomplish God’s purpose, we’ve got to get a view of the bigger picture.

Have you stopped to think about all those tasks on the carrier HESED? Before we wonder about the assignment we want, let’s spend some time observing those crew members serving right now.

Carrier Activity



Huge responsibilities require great skill, discipline and constant communication. Very high stress assignment. Teamwork.

Flight deck

Everyone performs a critical part, from pilots to signalmen. Procedures must be followed to the letter to ensure success. Very high stress assignment. Teamwork.

Search and Rescue

The job is different with each day, with each vessel and crew and with each group of individuals rescued. Can be high stress or can be very pleasant—depending on conditions. Teamwork.

Maintenance Deck/Hangars

Everyone performs a critical part, to ensure the planes are in good repair and flight ready. Procedures must be followed to the letter to ensure success. High stress assignment. Teamwork.

Engineering/ Propulsion

Highly technical tasks requiring precision planning and excellent communication skills—mistakes here can be fatal. Teamwork.


Lots of details coordinated to ensure availability of supplies. Some hazardous materials, but mostly common supplies. Teamwork.

Mess Hall

Relaxed atmosphere between those serving and those eating. Some of the best times of the day spent here. Teamwork.


Feeding up to 5,000 people three meals a day takes lots of work—and creativity, but these folks seem to enjoy it. Teamwork.

Sick Bay

Duties can be light or heavy, depending on number/condition of newly rescued persons and crew injuries. Staff kind and gentle. Teamwork.

Training Centers/ meeting rooms

Instructors on wide variety of topics teaching frequently—can be intensive. Good interaction with students enjoyable for all. Teamwork.

Recreation Centers

Teamwork. Relaxed atmosphere with only friendly competition.

Living Quarters

Interpersonal relationships central—can be stressful. Teamwork.


Lots to do all the time here. Attention to detail important. Teamwork.

As you look over these descriptions, do you notice anything they share in common? Well, they all provide some kind of service that supports the mission. They all have to give and receive help from each other—teamwork. And they all are responsible to initiate proper actions with proper attitudes.

Hey…does that sound familiar?

It should. Serve, submit and lead are the three kinds of actions that represent covenant keeping. And the HMS HESED is on a mission of covenant keeping: the reconciliation of all humanity with God and with each other.

The only way to accomplish the mission is if the crew of the HESED faithfully practices hesed.

Today’s Look at 1 John

Read 1 John 4:7-21. While you’re reading, consider the impact to the HESED if her crew said they were committed to the team but were unwilling to offer each other help when actually needed.

Keep Breathing!

Boy, stretching isn’t always pleasant! Sometimes it hurts to stretch tight and tired muscles. Sometimes we’d rather whine about things than take the right actions.

The coach says “Time for another cleansing breath.” As you exhale, remember to stretch out and take every joy or concern (for ourselves or for others) to God first, so that he can share the moment, begin to heal the suffering, or encourage steadfastness. Thank God for his love—and ask him to stretch you so you will consistently love your brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 32

Day 32 Using What God Gave You

If you looked up yesterday’s three scripture references for grace gifts, you would have found these descriptions (listed here in alphabetical order): apostleship, discernment of spirits, evangelism, exhorting, faith, giving, government (leading), healing, interpretation (of tongues), miracles, pastoring, prophecy, serving (helps), showing mercy, teaching, tongues, word of knowledge and word of wisdom.

Most grace gifts fall generally into one of these categories. Sometimes gifts appear to be given permanently. Other times, the Spirit gives us a gift to help in a unique circumstance for a limited time. It is up to the Spirit which gifts are given, to whom, and for how long. They are tools for doing God’s work. They are privilege for purpose. They are not ways to judge superior spirituality. They are not to be sources of personal pride, idolizing or envy. Remember Day 7: all the gifts come from God; all the glory goes to God!

But the presence or absence of any particular grace gift does not change our obligation to keep covenant. Grace gifts give an ability beyond one’s talent to serve the Covenant Community in those areas. But no matter what our grace gift(s) may be, we all are to have faith, to show mercy, to give generously, to share the Gospel, to exhort one another, to speak God’s truth, to shepherd God’s sheep, to lead and influence…you get the idea? The point here is not either/or; it is both/and!

OK, flip back to Day 29 and take a look at the chart of major tasks needed for our carrier to function. Spend a minute or two thinking about the answers to these three questions:

  1. Which tasks do you think you could feel comfortable doing right now—no training?

  2. Which tasks provide some kind of service for everyone on the carrier?

  3. What purpose is listed as primary in the majority of tasks?

For most of you, the answer to all these questions will have something to do with ministry. That’s because there are so many simple forms of ministry—which anyone can do with little or no training. And everyone benefits directly from at least some of these forms of ministry. That’s why ministry is shown as the primary purpose in so many of the tasks necessary for carrier life!

Everyone may undergo the various tests for aptitude and interest before intensive training and eventual assignment. But there’s no excuse for not finding a way to pitch in and help out right now.

Today’s Look at 1 John

Read 1 John 4:7-21. While you’re reading, look at the number of descriptions John gives for love.

Keep Breathing!

You’ve been working hard—don’t forget to stop and stretch. Take every joy or concern to God first, so that he can share the moment, begin to heal the suffering, or encourage steadfastness. Thank him for his grace gifts. Ask him to show you how to love by using those gifts in ministry.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 31

Day 31 Understanding Your Shape

Yesterday we saw that everyone born again into God’s family receives his Holy Spirit as a gift of community relationship. Today we’re going to look at the gifts the Holy Spirit gives us for ministry. We want to understand the shape into which God is molding us for service!

Back on Day 22 we learned that the Greek word charis (grace) was the expression of loyal favor due between covenant partners. Well, charismata mean grace gifts—so these gifts of the Holy Spirit are another form of God’s hesed toward us. The Spirit gives us these grace gifts (without bias toward gender, age, race, social status, ability or maturity) to help us keep covenant—giving us knowledge and/or abilities needed to do whatever task he assigns to us—molding us and shaping us to that task.

We could spend an entire post on these grace gifts—what we call spiritual gifts. But today we just want you to know that there are three places in the New Testament where Paul specifically identifies grace gifts: Romans 12:3-8, I Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30 and Ephesians 4:11. Addressed to three different audiences, they aren’t meant to be exhaustive lists—or they would be identical. They are representative of the kinds of gifts necessary for keeping covenant. (Let’s not limit what the Spirit can do to just what is contained in these lists!)

So, how do we learn to understand and make use of these gifts? There are many systems developed to help persons identify and utilize their grace gifts. I’ve not been particularly happy with any one (but I’m looking forward to what AbbE/FuturistGuy/Brad Sargent has to say in his new course.) In the meantime, use these basic principles of discovery:

  1. Start by asking the Father where he wants you to use your gifts and abilities in ministry.

  2. Study the lists given by Paul. Make sure you know what the gifts mean. Study each different gift to see how it was exercised in the early church.

  3. Get busy in ministry right where you are. You might want to try a number of different activities in order to see if you have any special draw to any of them.

  4. Identify those areas of ministry that match any deep desires in your heart. These will be activities that energize and inspire you rather than drain and bore you. Remember that there is no right or wrong here. All service carries equal honor and merit in God’s eyes.

  5. Choose one area of service (to start) that energizes and inspires you – and dedicate yourself to developing it. Ask other mature brothers and sisters to help you. They may help confirm your choice – or encourage you to keep investigating.

Today’s Look at 1 John

Read 1 John 4:7-21. While you’re reading, look for love as an attitude—but also for love as an action. (Hint: look for the clue words “one another.”)

Keep Breathing!

Cool down from this workout by taking everything to God first, so that he can share the moment, begin to heal the suffering, or encourage steadfastness. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you your gift(s) for ministry.

Monday, February 16, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 30

Day 30 Shaped for Serving God

God made us with a purpose in mind—remember? We are meant to live with him in authentic community and help him reconcile the rest of the world.

The first step is to accept the privilege of adoption. The second step is to realize privilege is given to accomplish the purpose. If we abandon the purpose, expect the privilege to be taken away! If you jump back into the water, you can’t continue to live on the HESED!

Continuing with our carrier analogy of the covenant community, did you notice the sheer number of activities required for our carrier’s mission to be accomplished? We didn’t even get down to identifying the individual jobs—we’ll let you use your imagination!

When you have that many different jobs, it requires an amazingly diverse work force. And that is just what God created in humanity—an amazingly diverse work force. So diverse, in fact, that each one of us is absolutely unique. There will never be a repeat of any of us! No exact match of desires, abilities, personality or experiences. (We call these gifts of common grace—receive from our parent’s genes, as created by God, reflecting God’s image in us as creative and imaginative.)

Each unique person is a gift from God to the carrier community—to help accomplish the mission. If that gift is not opened, nurtured and encouraged, no other individual will be able to bring that same gift to the mission—the community suffers its loss. Another member of the crew may be called upon to fill the void at the functional level, but it won’t be the same. No one else can do what you can do the way you can do it—no one.

But there’s more! We are a unique gift to the world when we are born, yes. But when we are born again into God’s family, we are born into a spiritual family. And there are spiritual gifts waiting for us to open and use for serving God in ministry.

The first spiritual gift is the gift of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. (See Ephesians 4:7 and 1 Corinthians 12:7.) Everyone receives this gift—it is no different from one person to another. That is how God helps us keep unified—we trust that the truth God reveals through the Holy Spirit will bring harmony.

We’ll look at other gifts of the Holy Spirit tomorrow. Right now, remember that God shapes us all—as the potter shapes the clay into useful pots. Some of our shape depends on the kind of clay we are. The rest of our shape depends on how willing we are to let God mold us!

Today’s Look at 1 John

Read 1 John 4:7-21. While you’re reading, notice the most important attitude necessary for harmony and success on board the HESED—you can’t miss it!

Keep Breathing!

Take a nice, slow stretch—nothing fast. Keep taking every joy or concern we have (for ourselves or for others) to God first, so that he can share the moment, begin to heal the suffering, or encourage steadfastness. Thank him for his amazing love and for the gift of his Holy Spirit living in your heart.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The HMS HESED as Missional Order

It was striking to me, as I was preparing my 40 Days of cHesed posts this week, that the image God gave me (back in the summer of 2003) of an aircraft carrier is so very much like a missional order ... like CovenantClusters.

The thing that is most striking to me is that the HESED is a ship where you live and serve ... not a place you go to serve. But that ship is on the move ... is in not anchored in a harbor.

So it is with the Body of Christ. It is not a sacred place, but a sacred people ... making sacred each place where they are.

...this is a powerful reminder to me of many things -- not the least of which is that God sometimes tells me things in my "now" that I won't really make complete sense until years later. Very much like seed planting, this. God planted a seed that was a pretty little plant six years ago ... but it is turning out to be something much more than I thought.

How very much like Sarayu....

Friday, February 13, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 29

WEEK 5 – Ministry: You Were Shaped For Serving God

[Again, remember that our weeks will be off, since we're working on a five day week instead of seven days.]

Day 29 Accepting Your Assignment

In the beginning God created…. At that moment, an amazing journey began. A difficult journey full of adventure and wonder, discovery and invention, blessing and victory, as well as rejection and discouragement. We call that journey life.

[When I was teaching at my CLB, I frequently used the ocean as an image of life’s journey. God’s new covenant and its community are represented by an amazing aircraft carrier—the HMS HESED. While it is not, um, watertight, I hope that some might find it to be a helpful image in fleshing out this theme. My apologies to my pacifist friends….]

The Bible is full of images used to help us understand our relationship with God and each other.

  • There is the image of a bride and bridegroom—in the Old Testament, it was Israel and God; in the New Testament it is the Church and Christ.

  • There is the image of a shepherd and a flock of sheep—with God as shepherd to Israel in the Old Testament and Jesus Christ as shepherd/Messiah in the New Testament.

  • There is the image of a vine and its fruit-producing branches—Jesus called himself the vine and us the branches. Any vine that wants to produce fruit must remain attached to the vine. Any branch that does not produce fruit is pruned away.

  • There is the image of the church as a body—to show us our interconnectedness. (See chapters 12 and 13 of 1 Corinthians.)

You’re getting the picture, aren’t you? Why are there so many images used to try to say the same thing? Well, God has been telling a single story—a story of covenant relationship. But he has been telling it to many people over a long period of time and in many different cultural settings. God wants to be sure that we get the point, and so he uses images that will help us understand.

One of the most important jobs of those who teach God’s truth is making it real to the listeners. We must teach the truth, but in a way that will grip the hearts and minds of the listeners as the Prophets did in the Old Testament and Jesus (and the Apostles) did in the New Testament.

The Christian life is often referred to as a battle—with weapons and armor—so we’re going to update a number of the images used in the New Testament through our analogy of a battle carrier. For our last few days, we’re going to tour this amazing ship, take a look at its mission and crew, and get a taste of carrier life.

An aircraft carrier is like a small city—up to 5,000 on board! What kinds of activities happen on the HESED? Everything! Carrier life is a huge effort dedicated to accomplishing the mission…and everyone has an assignment!

Let’s look at the following chart, which shows the major areas of activity. Notice is that every area of activity includes every purpose in its activities. The purposes in bold italics are primary.

Carrier Activity/Function

Primary Purposes

Bridge—command center: Captain’s post, with radar, navigation and communications

Prayer/Worship/Fellowship/ Discipleship/Ministry/Mission

Flight deck—where up to 100 aircraft are catapulted off and caught by tail hook wires as they take off and land from their continuous missions defending the fleet and collecting intelligence 24/7/365

The Prayer Warriors:

Prayer/Worship/Fellowship/ Discipleship/Ministry/Mission

The Front Line of the Battle

Search and Rescue—our fleet of vessels rescuing people from the sea and recruiting them to join our crew (major part of the mission)

Prayer/Worship/Fellowship/ Discipleship/Ministry/Mission

The Front Line of the Battle

Maintenance Deck and Hangars—where the planes are kept and prepared for their missions

Prayer/Worship/Fellowship/ Discipleship/Ministry/Mission

Engineering/Propulsion—where technical experts keep our technology/tools on the cutting edge

Prayer/Worship/Fellowship/ Discipleship/Ministry/Mission

Materiel—where equipment and supplies are purchased, stored and distributed to meet needs

Prayer/Worship/Fellowship/ Discipleship/Ministry/Mission

Mess Hall—where food service is offered and meals are shared

Prayer/Worship/Fellowship/ Discipleship/Ministry/Mission

Galley—where food is stored and prepared for service in the Mess Hall

Prayer/Worship/Fellowship/ Discipleship/Ministry/Mission

Sick Bay—where sick and wounded crew and civilians are treated and restored to health

Prayer/Worship/Fellowship/ Discipleship/Ministry/Mission

Training Centers/meeting rooms—where crew and civilians receive on-going training for ministry

Prayer/Worship/Fellowship/ Discipleship/Ministry/Mission

Recreation Centers—where crew and civilians work out, relax and refresh themselves

Prayer/Worship/Fellowship/ Discipleship/Ministry/Mission

Living Quarters—where crew and civilians sleep and dress and have personal space: REST

Prayer/Worship/Fellowship/ Discipleship/Ministry/Mission

Laundry—where all the wet and soiled clothes (crew and civilian) are cleaned and repaired

Prayer/Worship/Fellowship/ Discipleship/Ministry/Mission

Today’s Look at 1 John

How is it going—developing the habit of reading the Bible a passage at a time? We hope you will be inspired to use this method for all your Bible study, not just our study of 1 John!

Read 1 John 4:7-21. While you’re reading, think about the amazing, comprehensive mission of the HMS HESED.

Getting In Shape

Week five is here and we’re miles down the road. Stop and take a look back. Can you see how far you’ve come? Have you noticed that, when you are getting into the rider’s seat behind the Holy Spirit every day, you are also spending the day with him and including him in all you do? The level of intimacy in your relationship is growing – your blood is getting more oxygenated – and you can go farther than you have been able to go before. And it’s not as exhausting. You’re building spiritual muscle – habits are beginning to be formed. You are being transformed.

But more than that, have you noticed your life is becoming more of him including you in what he’s doing? You’re starting to let the truth sink in – it’s all about God! Keep it up. You’re doing great!

But we’re not finished yet – and Scripture encourages us to remember that the goal is still ahead of us. Leaving the past in the past, we must continue living (pedaling) in the present moving forward to embrace our future.

When something big happens for you – whether happy or sad – whom do you want right there with you? Your parents or spouse or siblings or friends? Absolutely! Why do you think that is? Because we were not meant to “do life” alone. We were created to be interdependent – to need others. We need to share. But we live in a time and place where we do not always feel free to share. It may not feel safe. Or we may spend too much time “sharing”—especially about other people’s stuff. How do we get the right balance?

Last week we really worked our spiritual muscles. This week, we’re going to stretch them out so we remain limber and not get stiff and risk injury. We are going to do that by taking every joy or concern (for ourselves or for others) to God first, so that he can share the moment, begin to heal the suffering, or encourage steadfastness.

We don’t spend our entire lives on the road. God knows the value of rest. So when you pry yourself off the seat at the end of a long ride, there’s stuff to process:

  • The amazing things you saw and experienced.

  • The saddle soreness that makes you walk a little funny and sit down very gingerly.

  • The questions in your mind: “Did we get as far as we planned?” “What’s for dinner?” “What’s the plan for tomorrow.”

So, before you pick up the phone or walk down the hall to talk with someone else to process your stuff, lean over and let God put his arm around you. Tell him your stuff first. It will mean a lot to God. And then you’ll have a better sense of what stuff to share with the other people in your life – and what stuff to leave with God alone.