Ministers come in different flavours

I’m going back to a couple of previous posts in this one, and then I want to add something new.

First, Considering Others. I did say I was going to let readers know how things went from there, so here’s the update:
I think that there has been a small but permanent change in the way I relate to other people. Every so often I have something like a flashback to those weeks when I was consciously practicing to consider others as better than myself, and the reminder returns to the forefront of my mind. But even when that does not happen, there are little flickers of a warning light, which make me realise that I am about to interrupt or speak over someone (I am very bad at that still, but getting better now!), or that I am thinking that they don’t know what they are talking about (well, perhaps I am wrong and they know more about themselves than I know about them) – that is the kind of thing that crosses my mind, which never used to happen. So, there is some growing going on, in spite of me.

Secondly, after writing Different I have been more aware of the need to see others in the light of their values, their personal history, and their culture. I also have my values, personal history that has shaped me, and my culture, which have all been known to get in the way of others’ appreciation of me! (Maybe read that one again, it’s an unusual angle from which to consider the idea. Especially for me.) And to build upon this notion, which is central to the “Different” post, I had an epiphany this morning. (That’s a minister’s fancy word for saying a little light bulb lit up above my head. But it does have the advantage of being a lot shorter.) And that was that “ministers come in different flavours”.

What I mean by that is that I am not black, or female, or liberal. And “Alice” is not male, or reserved, or old. And “Paul” is not confident, dynamic, or South African. But Paul is gentle, and patient, and a wonderful pastoral minister. And Alice is loud, aggressive, and challenging. And I am learning to be caring, considerate, and faithful. God knows us all; God has called us all. Because God wants ministers of many different kinds to serve the many different needs of His Church.

I was inclined to think that I had an understanding of what makes a good minister. I was wrong. My understanding was that what I valued in a minister was what made a good minister. In the ministers of His Church, God wants a far broader range of qualities (and flaws!) than just those that I think are important. Many of us have our favourite minister or pastor or preacher in mind when we think we know what we need in our church leaders. But ministers come in different flavours, and if we are to be one whole body, then we need them all. A church needs ministers of different qualities at different stages of her life. We are all equally valuable to Christ’s Church.

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The Picture vs. The Thing

Really clear, really helpful – and really important. Reblogging. Thanks!

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The Paradox of Our Time

Morning Story and Dilbert

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less. We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgement; more experts, yet more problems; more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry too quickly, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life, not life to years. We’ve been…

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Playing the grace card

All too often these days people – especially in South Africa – will “play the race card”.
A judge, perhaps, is caught driving while drunk. Ah, no, he claims, he was never drunk. It was the white traffic officer who was out to get him just because he is a black man. 

I saw a newspaper story this morning: the taxman is after Julius Malema for R16 million in back taxes. Malema (the former leader of the ANC Youth League) has recently formed his own political party, the Economic Freedom Fighters party (EFF), after being kicked out of the ANC. So Malema is now claiming that his tax debt is a frame-up by “the Afrikaners and the Indians.” Since these are the  two ethnic groups which many black South Africans are most likely to regard with suspicion, pardon me if I view this latest claim sceptically.
I should note that the race card works both ways. Some white “sportsmen” have also tried it on.

Playing the “grace card” works in much the same way.

A minister or a church leader or member gets caught doing something they should not be doing:
Perhaps a minister is using his position to pressure young girls in the church to sleep with him. Perhaps an unmarried local preacher is having a baby. Perhaps a society steward has a drinking problem, or a gambling problem. Perhaps there is an abusive relationship in a marriage. Perhaps a circuit superintendent is openly lining his own pockets with church funds.
It is sad to say it, but every one of these examples is real, and recent.

Then, when the church finds out about it and angrily asks the guilty party to answer for their actions, the first response is usually to deny everything and challenge the church leadership to prove the charges. In the event that the church actually can show that there is a case to answer, then the offender presents a penitent front and plays the grace card:

“We’re all sinners. We all need God’s grace. Why pick on me? Let the one who is without sin throw the first stone…”

And, usually, he or she gets off with a warning. Perhaps a pastoral commission is held. But usually, pastoral commissions are instructed to find ways of healing the situation, rather than to apply the discipline of the church.

There is a trend in our church today to put mercy first…. and last, and always.
I must ask what that looks like to those who have left the church or been driven from it in despair; worse still, what it looks like to those who have never been believers at all?

I observe the easy grace being both preached and practiced in our church with considerable dismay, and I wish that we could find the courage to practice discipline as well as mercy.

I believe grace is free. But it should never be cheap.

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Considering Others

Philippians 2:1-3
So if there is any encouragement in Christ,
any incentive of love,
any participation in the Spirit,
any affection and sympathy,
[then] complete my joy by being of the same mind,
having the same love,
being in full accord and
of one mind.
Do nothing from selfishness or conceit,
but in humility
count others better than yourselves.


 God has been challenging me lately. 

I have always responded to the final command of this text by asking myself, “But what if they really aren’t better than me? What then? Do I still have to count them as being better than me? Wouldn’t that be hypocritical?” – and then rapidly moving on to think of something else!

But in our church service on Tuesday (I’m at seminary; we have a lot of church! 🙂 ) the thought came back to me: consider others as being better than yourself.

When I came back to the Biblical text, I saw Jesus the Son of Man doing just that. He was and is Lord of all – yet He placed Himself at the service of everyone and anyone, “nobodies” included. (There are, truly, no “nobodies” – but there are people who have suffered under such oppression that they have begun to believe this about themselves.)

So it is not so strange that He actually expects His disciples to do the same.

And, you know what? I have known (a very few) Christians who actually do this, who have grown into having this attitude as natural to them. Such people appear to have an innate respect for others, an openness and concern and approachability which I wish that I had.

So I have accepted this challenge:

On meeting each and every person through my day,
as the very first action within myself at that meeting,
to consciously place each person I meet in such respect as recognises:
that God made this person just as he wanted them to be;
that He made that person in His image;
that He gave them the gifts He planned for them to have;
that Jesus died on the Cross just for them, as for me, because
God loves and values that person at least as much as He loves and values me:

Jesus is not only my Redeemer. He is our  Redeemer.

For each and every person I encounter, of whatever position in life,
the first action within myself must be:
to place that person above myself, in this position of respect.

You know what?

We live too fast!

So I have had to slow down a bit. I have also had to repent several times a day, when I forget to do this, which is more often than not.

But I am not giving up so easily; I will persevere.

Not because I am so capable, but because I believe in the grace of the Lord Jesus, the Christ, which is sufficient for my weakness.

Just let me share with you, I have already seen it making a difference.
I have seen it making a difference in the way I treat people, the way I speak to people, the way I respond to people.
And I have seen it making a difference in the way people respond to me.
That is – when I do remember to “count others better than myself”!

So – I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meanwhile, I would appreciate your support in prayer.

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You want to visit Thin Worn Image. You really do, trust me. This is a tiny sample of a pile of treasures!

Thin Worn Image


Jesus of the Scars

by Edward Shillito (1872 – 1948)

If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;

Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;

We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow,

We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.

The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;

In all the universe we have no place.

Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?

Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars, we claim Thy grace.

If, when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,

Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;

We know to-day what wounds are, have no fear,

Show us Thy Scars, we know the countersign.

The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;

They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;

But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,

And not a god has wounds, but Thou…

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Old-Fashioned Marriage

On the lighter side of serious…

Shootin' the Breeze

I have not been availing myself of the full capabilities of cell phone devices, according to what I see in the news.

Anthony Weiner is running for mayor of New York City.  Previously, he served in Congress, but resigned in 2011 due to a scandal involving exchanging sexually suggestive texts and racy photos with several women.  Recently, another young woman informed the media that he  had similar communications with her last summer and into the fall of 2012, including telephone sex, whatever that is.  Apparently, Mr. Weiner, whose name is no joke, has one of those fancy phones.  My own phone is not that attractive to me.   Mr. Weiner has a different  contract than the one I have with Verizon.  He might have T Mobile.  Or Sprint could be good for his active lifestyle.

Candidate Weiner is married.

His wife, Huma, who works for Hillary Clinton, a woman who…

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