Worship Guide: 6-6-16 Life of David: How a Boy Became a King – Inside Job

NOTE: These are being published to St. Paul’s Website as well. I’ll post them on here a few days after they are on St. Paul’s site.

Prayer:

If in a group, take prayer concerns.

“Jesus, we come to you with full hearts. You have loved us and have cared for us. Too often in the busyness of our lives, we forget about you. Today we gather to remember your great love. We lift up those mentioned [feel free to pray the names] and pray your presence touches them. We thank you for this day and pray we would live to glorify you. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Scripture:

1 Samuel 16:1-13

Background:

The people of Israel, wanting to be like the surrounding nations, asked Samuel for a king. Even though God was disappointed because the people were rejecting him, and after warning them about the disadvantages of a king, he gave them a king anyway, Saul. Saul turned out not be the king they were looking for. He started out humble, but later decided he did not need to rely on God. After becoming impatient waiting for the prophet Samuel, Saul decided to perform a sacrifice himself, even though he was not permitted to, so God rejected him as king. The days of Saul’s kingship were over.

In this passage, God calls Samuel stop mourning Saul’s rejection and anoint a new king, one of Jesse’s Sons.

Reflection:

We tend to “judge a book by its cover” even though we are told we can’t. Appearances mean quite a bit to us and we not only judge others by their appearance, we work hard to make sure our appearances are acceptable.

As Samuel looks for the next king, he learns that God does not look at appearances. The first of Jesse’s sons to pass before him is Eliab. Eliab must look kingly, because Samuel remarks, “Surely, the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord! (verse 6)” Yet, he was not the next king.
God said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. (verse 7)” God knows that we judge books by their cover and people by their outward appearance, but that’s not what God does. God looks at our hearts. He knows what’s within.

Centuries later, Jesus confronted the Pharisees telling them that they spend their time cleaning the outside of the cup, leaving the inside filthy. Jesus went even further calling them whitewashed tombs, looking good on the outside, but inside containing death.
We can easily fall into the pattern of focusing on our appearance and forgetting that God continues to look at our heart. Like the Pharisees, we might look good on the outside, but inside we have envy, jealousy, bitterness, lust, pride, etc.

Jesus offers us hope. Jesus said he would be with us always, and his Spirit abides in our lives (see John 15) cleansing us from the inside out. We do not have to ‘keep up appearances’ because Jesus’ love cleanses us and transforms us from the inside out. When we open our lives to Jesus and are receptive to his will and way, we find our appearance reflects Jesus’ love empowering us from the inside.

The Good News is your heart can be transformed from the inside, and your new heart can empower your outward appearance. No matter who you are, or what you’ve done, God offers his gift of grace right now. Ask him to come and cleanse you from the inside…out.

Questions:

Have you ever found yourself trying to “keep up appearances?” What would it mean, for you, if your words and actions accurately reflected who you most deeply were? Could you use a transformed heart?

Thought:

Not only does God look at our heart, he has made a way, through Jesus, for our heart to be healed, cleansed, transformed, and renewed, so we might reflect his amazing grace and love revealed and reflected through Jesus.

Giving While Away: Online Giving allows you to give faithfully, even when you can’t be at St. Paul

Shared Leadership and the Church

Wheels of Progress

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In over twenty years of pastoring, I have not known the church to be on the “cutting edge” of culture. There may be an argument about some mega-churches focusing on innovation, but for the majority of churches, the wheels of progress move quite slowly. The statements of “We’ve never done it that way before…” and a fear of upsetting people, tend to keep churches from moving too quickly or too far out of their comfort zones.

The propensity to move slowly causes some to look to the business world to get ideas, processes, and inspirations. For years I hated this. “The church isn’t a business,” I would argue, quite smugly I might add. I never considered that both businesses and churches are organizations made up of people. Viewing the church as an organization causes me to wonder; would methods businesses use to effectively mobilize people for a common purpose work in churches? As I continue to see the church, especially my beloved United Methodist Church, slowly decline under cultural tendencies, and how some businesses not only address cultural trends in a way that is effective but thrive, I am convinced that it is time to explore whether any of their methodologies can help churches move forward in God’s mission.

Deja Vu Once Again

Have you ever felt like this?

“Consider the challenges of the 21st century enterprise: things change too fast for one individual to know how to best respond; there are many explanations for any event, and multiple perspectives are needed to understand what that event means and decide what to do; a pipeline of future leaders is essential…”

I know I have! I resonate with that quote. Actually, I resonate with the whole article (more on the article below). I even wrote something similar in Experiences in Transformational Leadership. In my article, I bemoaned how quickly everything changes, making adaptation difficult. Maybe you have similar feelings. You are working longer, harder, and have to know more than ever before. Technological advances help us find information in an instant, but with Facebook, Twitter, Email, text messages, and other technological tools that we have to learn and use, life becomes overwhelming.

Sharing is Nice

The article goes on to say:

“No wonder organizations today are drawn to the benefit of leadership that is shared, rather than concentrated in a single, charismatic individual. Regardless of the exact organizational structure or what it’s called, the times seem to call for leaders who can be first among equals.”

I could say the same thing for the church! Yet, this article wasn’t in Christianity Today, or Relevant Magazine. No, this article came from Harvard Business Review. Amazing.

Learning to Share

In the 21st Century, we must learn to approach leadership differently. If you are interested in the concept of shared or decentralized leadership, check out the article. I like the little twist when they write, “…leaders who can be first among equals.” The concept “first among equals” puts a bit of a spin on decentralized leadership where everyone is equal. Kaiser argues, in “Winning on Purpose”, that effective teams have someone in the lead. Someone, as Kaiser maintains, must be held accountable and it isn’t possible to hold groups accountable. Having a leader, however, does not necessarily mean others are unimportant or don’t have influence. Sharing leadership is one way to maximize the gifts and graces of those in the church. As the article explains, “things change too fast for one individual to know how best to respond…”

The article also states:

“This is more than delegation. It has to do with a team sharing a sense of purpose and responsibility for the overall leadership of the company. Different people may spearhead different aspects of the team’s work, but everyone is in charge, always.”

Shared values, purpose, and alignment of values and purpose, are topics that I plan on exploring on this blog since they are vital to flourish in the 21st Century. A new day has dawned,…well…actually a new day dawned quite a few years ago. The time has come for church leaders to embrace new leadership styles and develop leaders who move the mission forward.

Will shared leadership work in the church? What do you think it would look like? Are business methods even appropriate for churches? Is leadership overvalued in our culture? Leave a comment below.

Review – Mystery of God by Steven D. Boyer and Christopher A. Hall

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I received the electronic version of this book free in exchange for an honest review.

There will be some who will not like this book. They will give it low ratings and pontificate about watering down the gospel or how the authors are wrong on one point or another. They might even say the book is dangerous. There will be some whose minds and eyes are closed and believe they have figured out God and have God in a nice package that can be studied, dissected, and controlled.

The reason why some will not like this book is because Boyd and Hall strike at our pride in believing that we have or even can know God completely. They address God’s incomprehensibility and transcendence choosing to focus on the mystery of God while recognizing and hold tight to God’s revelatory nature. Mystery serves to remind us, that God is God and we are not. Our thoughts are not God’s thoughts and even our best thought about God pales in comparison to his glory. It is a good book and I believe an important book.

There are two main sections. The first section discusses the need for mystery in our theology. The authors do a wonderful job in moving their readers from an introduction to mystery through a historical account of mystery and then finally to a place where mystery can be utilized as one thinks theologically. The second section outlines how mystery can help in understanding several, apparently, paradoxical (some would say contradictory) theological issues such as the Trinity, God’s sovereignty and humanity’s completely freedom to choose, Jesus as both human and divine, the why and how of prayer (if God knows all things, why should I ask or tell him anything?), and finally, how Christians can learn from others.

The book is well thought out and written. Each chapter builds on concepts and arguments given in earlier chapters, so it feels like the authors are taking you on a journey. The destination seemed to be the possibility of Christians learning about God from non-Christian religions. I believe it will be the last chapter that will cause individuals the most disdain, but it also seems it is where the authors want Christian theologians to arrive. Some may not make it that far. Some will not like the conclusions the authors draw about what may be viewed as essential beliefs and theological stances.

I encourage readers to finish the book out and give the authors fair hearing. Near the end of the book they do give some warnings, dangers, and cautions. They are not encouraging one to move outside of orthodox faith, but to recognize that God, in God’s essence is transcendent. They are encouraging humility, not only in our spiritual life, but also in how we think about God and what those outside our “camp” might have to say.

I highly recommend this book. It was enjoyable to read. The authors are versed in philosophy, theology, and the history of the church. Their discussions are well thought out and they take time to address potential questions and concerns. The book also brought me to places of worship as I contemplated how far God is beyond me, but how he is also close to me. It caused me to be thankful because God has revealed himself in Jesus. It also brought me expectant anticipation of growing in knowledge, grace, and humility as I seek him.


Prayer: Oxygen for the Soul

I just recently stumbled upon this article. I’ve noticed the while UMs seem to believe in prayer and try to promote prayer, we really don’t pray. We might have prayer before meetings, or in our services, yet it feels like we are simply trying to do what we are expected to do.

When we relinquish prayer as our foundation, praying becomes a type of courtesy to God. If prayer was left out, we would continue on as usual. God doesn’t need our courtesies, but God covets our prayers. He years for our relationships. He desires to speak into our lives and our churches.

The article is excellent and I encourage all readers to click the link and read it!

 

Unless you pray about it, it ain’t gonna happen.

 

That’s the Rev. Jeff Kersey’s take and, indeed, it’s happening at his church, Mount Horeb UMC in Lexington. Folks at Mt. Horeb have heavily invested in prayer, and the church has grown from 250 to 2,600 members.

via United Methodist Advocate – Connecting Methodists in South Carolina Since 1837 – Prayer: Oxygen for the Soul.