What’s Gonna Work?

One of Teen’s favorite preschool TV shows was the Nick Jr show, Wonder Pets. A turtle, a guinea pig, and a duckling, all preschool classroom pets, spent their after hours working together to save animals in trouble. They sang: “What’s gonna work? Teamwork! What’s gonna work? Teamwork!”wonder_pets

That became a silly motivational mantra in our house, especially around activity clean-up time. We would sing, and work together, and get the job done. Though I don’t sing it to my kids anymore (they’re grateful) the jingle runs through my head a little too often.

It’s true, though, right? Teamwork works. Or at least it should. When we work together well, the job gets done better and faster than if we muscle through alone.

My kids play rugby, and one of the things I like about the game is that there is a place on the team for every body. Literally, bodies of all shapes and sizes, so long as they have the desire to play. In middle school, Teen was tall and hefty, a Jolly Green Giant on the pitch; at the other extreme, one of his buddies was Mighty Mouse, small and fast. Teen played the line while Buddy would snatch the ball and run like crazy. The difference in their body types worked to their advantage: they both had a position to play, and play well, benefiting the whole team.rugby

I’ve never played on a sports team, but I’ve been on plenty of teams: volunteer teams, mission teams, school and work project teams. The most successful teams recognize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses, positioning each person to the best use of their gifts while someone else shores up their weaknesses. And then those successful teams get out of each other’s way to let each person–and the team as a whole–do their part and shine.

Church ought to be the ultimate team. We’ve all been created and gifted by God. He assembles us in local congregations so that together we can do the work He has planned for us.

Many times it works beautifully–musicians make music, preachers preach, ushers ush, deacons deak, teachers teach, servants serve, etc. All too often, though, instead of dancing together we step on each other’s toes. We think too highly of ourselves and forcefully inform others how to play their positions. Rather than singing along, we insist the musicians are singing the wrong song, or too loudly, or too poorly. Rather than listening well and applying truth, everyone has an opinion on the sermon. Every week.

And then there are those who think they don’t have a gift, or they’re too busy to use it, or they just don’t know what to do so they do nothing. And still others who make themselves (and everyone else) miserable as they force themselves into position A when their gift is truly B or C. The cliche is also true: 20% of the people do 80% of the work while 80% of the people do…what?

The Church may be a broken organization filled with broken people but it is still God’s Church created by God to do God’s work. It’s the best thing we’ve got and it needs us. We need each other. What’s gonna work? Teamwork!

Come & See – Romans 12:1-8

Connect
What’s your favorite team and what do you like about them?

Study
Read Romans 12:1-8.
What does it look like to offer your body as a living sacrifice (v1)?
How can your mind be renewed (v2)?
Explain the connection between body and mind in vv. 1-2. Why are both essential to a life of faith?
Why do you think Paul admonishes believers not to think too highly of ourselves (v3)?
Compare Romans 12:1-8 to 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. One emphasizes, “We are one, but different,” while the other emphasizes, “We are different, but one.” Why are both messages important?

Live
Do you know your spiritual gifts? If so, how are you using them?
In what ways is Church like a team? What position do you play?
What good (or bad) examples of teamwork have you participated in or witnessed in the Church?
In our individualistic society, it may be unpopular to say that we “belong” to each other (v5), especially within an organization as complex as church. How would you explain that to someone?
What does this passage communicate about what it means to be Jesus’ disciple?
What is Jesus saying to you through this study, and how will you respond?

Pray
Pray that God will show you how to use your gifts for His Kingdom.
If you don’t know your spiritual gifts, take this test to help you find your position on the team.

Why? Glorify!

I awoke today with a few thoughts roiling around in my brain:
I don’t feel well.
I feel like a 13-year-old girl for all the drama in my life right now.
When you want to ask WHY?, it’s time to worship.

Huh? Those may seem unrelated, but they make perfect sense to me. The drama is wonking with my head, my heart, my immune system…and maybe I’ve got a cold coming on as a result. And Thought #3 comes to me now and again, when life seems hell-bent on doing its worst.

It was the main point from maybe the best sermon I have ever heard, given by Bill Oudemolen (pastor of Foothills Bible Church) at one of Mount Hermon’s Summer Family Camps. He was preaching on the biblical book of Job, the Bible’s longest (and potentially most confusing) answer to the problem of suffering.prayer-888757_1920

Job is a good, God-honoring guy. The enemy approaches God and says, “Well, of course he worships you. Look how you’ve blessed him! Give him to me for a while and see if he still acknowledges you.” To which God says, “Okay.”

So the enemy took Job’s oxen and donkeys. He took Job’s sheep. He took Job’s camels. He took all of Job’s children in one terrible blast. Still Job says, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;  may the name of the Lord be praised.”

The enemy attacked Job’s health, at which point Job’s wife has had it. She tells him to “Curse God and die!” Humble Job replies, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

Job has three well-meaning friends who accuse him of having done something wrong. Surely God wouldn’t allow this if Job was as upright as he seems. Job must be hiding some dark and dirty sins in his closet. They give long, tiresome sermons that sound right at times, but aren’t. Job is righteous; God does allow suffering, for no reason humans can divine; Job still praises God.

Finally Job breaks (just a little) and shouts his pain at God. He asks, “WHY?” The Lord answers, but not as Job expected (does God ever answer as we expect?).

God asks His own questions: Who is questioning me? Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Who keeps the sea in its boundaries? Have you commanded dawn to appear? Can you direct the stars? Can you make the clouds rain? Is it your wisdom that makes a hawk soar? Do you still want to argue with the Almighty?

Job repents for having questioned God; God rebukes and restores the “friends” who spoke wrongly about Him; and God blesses Job with far more than the enemy stripped away. All’s well that ends well…

[The book of Job makes me grateful for the Psalms–God does not smite the Psalmist for questioning God’s wisdom when life gets hard. For all the times I’ve yelled at God, at least I’ve yelled at God…]

Back to Oudemolen’s sermon:
Job asks, Why?
God says, I’m in control. I made the world, and I’m holding it all together. You have no idea how truly BIG I am. It’s time to worship.

We want answers, results, satisfaction. We didn’t ask for this lot, God, we asked for that one. This one hurts. This one’s messy. We want an exchange. Aren’t you in the customer service business? Can’t you make this right?

He can. Maybe He will. Then again, maybe He won’t. Maybe there’s something in this one we need to learn. Maybe He’s trying to teach us something. Maybe He’s trying to shape us. This work out hurts…

At the very least—which is pretty huge at best—we need to learn to worship. God is good. All the time. All the time God is good. Even when life hurts.

When we want to ask WHY?, it’s time to worship.

Come & See
Week 2 – Psalm 34:1-10 & Romans 12:1-2

Connect
What is your favorite food?

Study
Read Psalm 34:1-10 & Romans 12:1-2.
Notice all the verbs the psalmist uses to express glorifying God (extol, praise, rejoice…). What nuances do you hear in those words? How would you explain their cumulative impact?
In Psalm 34:4-10, what actions does the psalmist attribute to God, and why are those significant in this context?
In Romans 12:1-2, what does Paul require of body and mind? Why are both necessary in glorifying God?

Live
What are some of your favorite ways to glorify God?
How does one “taste” the Lord to see that He is good?
How would you explain Psalm 34 to someone who says that plenty of Jesus’ followers experience troubles in life and lack “good things”?
What do these passages communicate about what it means to be Jesus’ disciple?
Who would you like to invite to worship at your church, and what might it take to get them there?
What is Jesus saying to you through this study, and how will you respond?

Pray
Spend time glorifying God for the things He has done! Then pray that He will give you opportunities to bring others to come and see Jesus.

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Advent 3 – Making Peace

9197523314_d3eb934e5d_nOur friendship burned hot and fizzled furiously like a sparkler on Fourth of July. I can’t explain it, but the first time we laid eyes on each other we decided to become fast friends. Within a week I had invited her in to all of my intimate circles. We had coffee so often Guy asked if we had a standing date. Thinking I was helping her settle in to life in a new town, I spent more time with her than anyone outside my family.

Months later, a switch flipped. I had an uneasy suspicion something was wrong. She didn’t respond to my texts, but showed up at a gathering I had invited her to and tried to pretend away the conflict. Not one for pretense, I left in tears of confusion and spent the next week moping like a brokenhearted teenager.

Soon after she met with another friend who confirmed my hunch: like a character from The Twilight Zone, she was pleasant one minute and smiling yet nonsensical the next.

She called, eventually. She apologized but couldn’t explain; she tried, and when her words made it worse, she stopped trying. Still, she wanted to be friends. Grateful for her apology, I forgave her – I can genuinely wish her well – and explained that she had broken my trust and I couldn’t trust she wouldn’t do so again. I set a boundary, and I’m pretty sure it’s a healthy one.

She texted me after we hung up the phone:

Peace be with you.
I responded, And also with you.

She broke peace. Then she faked peace. With her apology she made peace, but she couldn’t restore friendship. And it’s okay.advent wreath

Advent Week 3 – Making Peace

Read and light three candles (two purple, one pink)The first candle represents the expectation of the One who will bring Peace. The second candle represents God’s peace in us. The third candle represents the call to make peace with one another.

Say aloud together: Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Read Scripture: Romans 12:18

Read: Conflict comes to every relationship. Even with those we love most, maybe especially with them, our interactions can lead to disappointment, irritation, frustration. What do we do? We can be peace-fakers, denying our problems. We can be peace-breakers who angrily manipulate others. Or we can follow God’s lead and rely on His grace to become peacemakers. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Pray: Dear God, may we love one another well so that the world will know we belong to you. In the name of Jesus we pray for peace, Amen.

 

Monday Psalm 133:1 Share about a time when you experienced unity among God’s people.
Tuesday Matthew 5:9 What does it mean to you to be God’s child?
Wednesday John 13:34-35 Why is love a distinguishing characteristic for Christ’s followers?
Thursday Romans 12:16 How does pride get in the way of peaceful relationships?
Friday Ephesians 4:2-3 How is patience related to peace?
Saturday Philippians 2:2-4 To what “interests of others” can you pay more attention?

 

Another blog I’m enjoying this Advent: lessnerismore. Grab a mug/cup of something warm and tasty and set aside a few minutes to check out her daily Advent blog.