Tag Archives: ministry

I’ve grown accustomed to His face

5 Sep

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,
he world and those who dwell therein,
for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
Psalm 24:1-2

Lift up your heads, O gates!
And lift them up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory!
Psalm 24:9-10

We eat, work, sleep, and even dream ministry.  We’ve studied, argued, philosophized (is that even a verb?), and read Scripture for days, weeks, and years.  Prayer is part of every meeting, event, and conversation.

How do we keep the greatest Treasure and truest Truth fresh?

Professor Henry Higgins

At the end of My Fair Lady, Eliza Doolittle leaves Henry Higgins because she feels taken for granted.  Professor Higgins hasn’t quite figured out that he is in love with Eliza, and since this is a musical, he sings about his confusion:

I’ve grown accustomed to her face
She almost makes the day begin
I’ve grown accustomed to the tune
She whistles night and noon
Her smiles, her frowns
Her ups, her downs
Are second nature to me now
Like breathing out and breathing in…

God is not Eliza.  He doesn’t leave when I take Him for granted.

But I can become so accustomed to His presence in the ever-present obligations of ministry, that I lose track of the Reason for all my efforts.  I leave Him.  Leave Him out of my thoughts, lose Him in the familiarity and routine.  The greatest One in all of creation becomes prosaic, taken for granted– still the Foundation, but pushed to the background.

Leading others to worship my Lord becomes perfunctory ritual.

Not on purpose!

Senseless

In fact, God designed our physical bodies this way – to become less sensitive to an ever-present stimulus (sensory adaptation).

“It’s the brain’s way of protecting itself from overload,” says Michael A. O’Mahony, a professor at the University of California, Davis. “When you sample a kind of food repeatedly – something salty, for example – the brain is getting the same message repeatedly. The mouth is saying, ‘Salt, salt, salt.’ And the brain is saying, ‘I know, I know. Now leave me alone until you have something different to tell me.'” In a sense, the brain turns down the volume on the salt message the mouth is sending it. —The New York Times

It almost seems that God set us up.

But before we get too judgmental, let’s hear O’Mahony’s solution to sensory adaption in smelling a flower:

“To avoid adaptation, move the flower away from your nose, so that you stop smelling it for a minute or so. Sniff at it again, and it should smell as powerful as it did the first time around.”

Sensory adaptation can be thwarted – by conscious effort.  I think God intentionally designed this protection mechanism into our physical and spiritual beings.  Our physical bodies are prevented from insanity by sensory overload, and our spirits are not allowed to become complacent.  A dynamic relationship with God takes effort– no coasting allowed.

————

Ready for Sunday

So how can I keep my relationship with God fresh and vibrant?  Especially in ministry?

I found help in Awakening Grace.  In the chapter on worship, authors Matt LeRoy and Jeremy Summers suggest reading a passage of Scripture seven times, pausing for reflection between each reading.

Following their advice, I read Psalm 24 several times (I lost count how many!)  As I read, two stressful challenges in my life continued to come to mind – and by the last reading I saw them compared to the King of Glory – the Lord strong and mighty!

Maybe the answer to escaping spiritual sensory adaptation is the opposite of the physical solution (to withdraw from the stimulus).  Maybe the answer to spiritual complacency is to immerse myself in Jesus more.

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Reality Check

28 Jan

We prayed for one of our own.  For anointing, power, and fortitude.  Because he was ordained a few days before.

My call to ministry came with an onslaught of emotion – “Really?  God you want me?”  “There is NO way I can do this!”  “I know you are with me – You and me… we’re gonna change the world!”  “How can this be????”

From excitement to sheer terror in tenths of a second!  But gradually, an under-current of adventure and a thrill of rising to the challenge took over, and I was off.  Off to take on this thing called Ministry, called and empowered by the Ruler of the Universe.

Days later, Reality grabbed my feet and pulled me back to earth with arms clothed in petty misunderstanding.  And it wasn’t long before character assassination and my own sin tripped me up and threw me down the stairs into discouragement and frustration.

This week, as we prayed for our friend, my mind ping-ponged between my call to those of Mary and Paul (Saul).  Before Reality had a chance to strike at them, God called him out.

An angel told Mary that she would be the mother of Messiah.  She was afraid (Luke 1:29-30), confused (v34), willing (v38), excited (v39), humbled, enraptured with her God (vs46-56), introspective (Lk 2:19), and filled with wonder (v33).   As she and Joseph dedicated their firstborn son at the temple in Jerusalem, God added Simeon’s prophecy to all that was in her heart: “This Child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.  And a sword will pierce your own soul, too.” (vs34-35)  Up front Mary knows this call she has received is both glorious and grim.

Paul, too, looked into his future and quickly saw the dual aspect of God’s call (Acts 9:1-19).  Struck blind and led to the home of the disciple Ananias, to whom God had spoken and arranged to restore his sight, Paul knew right away he would have the privilege of being used mightily by God and of suffering for Jesus’ name (v16).  In fact, his preaching, just days after God called him, at the same time astonished the Christians and caused the Jews to conspire to kill him (vs20-23).

Then my imagination pictured Jesus– the ultimate example.  The most important and history-changing Call in the universe could not be fulfilled without the most horrific Suffering of all time.

And so we prayed for our compatriot, knowing that God will never leave him (or us) (Mt 28:20; Heb 13:5); that his and our adversity proves we are co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17); and that, although we will have trouble, Jesus has overcome the world and all its sufferings (Jn 16:33).

God does not call us for warm fuzzy feelings of significance; the more intense the call, the more intense the hardship and suffering.  So why run into it?  Why push into hurt, abuse, slander, back-stabbing, threats, and even the possibility of physical violence?  Why trade away a life focused on my comfort and 40-hour work weeks?

Simply, to hear two words: “Well done.”

Tomorrow is Sunday (again).  We may walk into a glorious day full of praise for God and what He is doing among the people we serve.  There may be hurt and pain in every conversation and around every turn in the halls.  Or a confusing combination of the two.  Neither changes God’s call.

God, help me to serve, sure of your call and in the power of Your Spirit.  And please use me to inspire those I lead to do the same.  For Your glory.

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