Thursday, January 22, 2015

Notes from Seminary (5): When You are Excused from God's Will

Life can get busy, and certainly painful. I've been considering the phrase, "knowledge and practice, combined with responsible behavior" as a workable formula for facing disaster.  This caught my attention from of a flurry of recent discussions I have had with various individuals that seem to revolve around a theme of difficult circumstance giving people the right to respond in a defeated manner. 
I reject the notion that attacks or circumstances destroy followers of Jesus, or that people, happenings, and hurts can ruin our ministry. I do not believe that is biblical. In the scripture, we see the greatest examples of faith in the lives of the persecuted, attacked, imprisoned, wounded, harassed, and even killed. Somehow in our modern day life of comfort, convenience, and safety, we believe that painful times justify our negative reaction or our retreat. No. 
We are given knowledge and we are expected to practice it during the tough times to produce responsible behavior. This illustrates our relationship with God, and highlights His strength in our weakness. I do not write these words as a naive or untested person. I have scars that remind me of those times I lost focus, and the God who lifted me up to do more than I was able to accomplish. 
If we desire to please God, then we will desire to acquire the skills that will make us effective. We cannot claim ignorance, and we do not have the luxury of forgetting knowledge and skills simply because the going gets tough. Rather, it is in those tough moments that we are accountable and responsible to utilize those skills that have been rendered to us by the grace of God.
Societies efforts at Justice fall short when they lack a foundation. If we open our eyes even just a squint, we see that society is lacking a sense of Justice even now. Whether you live in the U.S. or a third world nation, you will hear cries for Justice! 
And yet, when those who cry out are not standing on a foundation of a covenant God who created us to glorify Him, a God who seeks to restore creation and reconcile humanity, a good who redeems us and ignites a fire in us to redeem others... then this cry of justice becomes a distorted scream of entitlement and self-soothing demands.
In a lecture given by Dr. Massey, I was given the questions: Who are we called to be, and what are we called to do? We must answer these questions daily as we make intentional effort to live lives of integrity in a challenging, broken, and hurtful world. 
We are a covenant people. Our reaction is not optional. We don't get to receive a mortal wound and fade into the shadows, abandoning our calling. We must face the crow of the rooster, and when we fail, we must then face the questions of Jesus when He looks us in the eye and asks, "Do you love me?" 
Yes. Yes Lord, you know I love you. "Then feed my sheep."
Further Reading:
Gentle Shepherding by Joseph E. Bush Jr., Ministerial Ethics: Moral Formation for Church Leaders by Joe E. Trull and James E. Carter, Calling and Character: Virtues of the Ordained Life by William H. Willimon, The Gospel According to John, Chapter 17.

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