X-Men Origins: Joseph, the Dreamer

26 06 2014

Thursday Re-mix:

Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more.  Genesis 37:5

Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same.God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.” Genesis 41:25

Super HeroI know there are some theological problems with comparing our Spiritual gifts to “super powers”…no doubt even more problems than I am aware of.  Still, it makes me happy to think of them that way. So indulge me, please, for just this one post, because I believe the story of Joseph and his particular spiritual gift reads like a classic Marvel Comics super hero tale.  He was like one of the X-Men with his super power of prophetic dreams and their interpretations.

Like most classic super heros, Joseph had a rough start with his gift.  He wasn’t very polished in how he used it.  It caused others to hate him and he just mishandled it more often than not.  His fumbling of it got him sold into slavery by his spiteful brothers.  Of course, years later, he would look back and see that was God’s plan all along.  But in the meantime, his gift would cause him much pain.

As he matured, he came to understand the power and began to use it to help others (every super hero faces a crossroads early on when he/she must decide whether to use his/her power for good or for evil).  As he made that choice more and more often, great and amazing things began to happen around him and he eventually rose to extraordinary power in Egypt, not to mention saving hundreds of thousands of lives in the midst of seven years of drought.

So here is the application (maybe you already got it)…

The purpose of spiritual giftedness is to benefit the community of believers (see Ephesians 4).  Joseph’s story is a beautiful illustration of what happens when we make the conscious decision to turn our giftedness outward and hone it for the purposes of helping others, rather than using it for our own glory or edification.  It is a difference of motive, of attitude, of the heart.  If your giftedness is mostly just drawing attention to you as opposed to pouring into others (and this is not always an easy heart-check for most of us), then you may be missing the point.

So, when you examine your heart on this issue, what do you find?  When you think about your giftedness, is it first and foremost to build yourself up? Or is it first and foremost for the benefit of others?  And maybe even more important…as a leader in the church, are you helping your people learn this lesson as well?

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




Pastor Sisyphus’ Bad Day

20 03 2014

“If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you,
    how will you compete with horses?
And if in a safe land you are so trusting,
    what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?  Jeremiah 12:5

sisyphus

Church leadership, especially the pastorate, can feel a little like the plight of Sisyphus…forever pushing that boulder up the hill with little or no results to show for it.  They won’t pray…they won’t listen…they won’t volunteer or help…they won’t commit.  But, oh, how they will complain! Sometimes you just feel like giving up.

I think every pastor who feels oppressed and burdened and stressed to the point of giving up should take a break and study Jeremiah’s ministry…really try to crawl around in Jeremiah’s skin. I promise, you will feel much better about your own circumstances!

Jeremiah spent 40 years obediently delivering a message nobody wanted to hear. Nobody. At all. He pushed and he pressed. He obediently spoke, again and again. He was ridiculed, beaten, imprisoned, and his own family scoffed at him. And through it all, to the very end, he was so very, very alone. And at the end of 40 years of these tireless efforts, he had not a single conversion to show for it. None. Jeremiah prayed and he begged God to change his assignment. He cried and he pled. He wished he had never even been born. And at one particularly low point of his depression, God’s response to him was something along the lines of “You think this is bad? The hard part hasn’t even started yet!”

But Jeremiah’s plight teaches us something important about how we measure our “success” in answering God’s call (and, just as importantly, how we should NOT measure our success). Maybe there will be amazing results to our ministry…and maybe there will not. Maybe my flock will be shaped and molded by my every word, and maybe they won’t hear a word I say. But Jeremiah’s story illustrates one inescapable truth: at the end of the day, the only real measure of my success is whether I have correctly understood God’s message, and whether I have obediently conveyed it.

That was Jeremiah’s success…his obedience. Without it, all the results are in vain. Think about it. If you do NOT correctly understand God’s will, and you are “successful” in getting the congregation to mobilize and follow your misguided misunderstanding, what have you gained? Or if you do understand what God has given you to say or to do, but you lack the courage to say it or do it, how can you ever celebrate that? No, Jeremiah’s story focuses like a laser on that one question of obedience. Have you correctly understood? Will you be obedient to that understanding? Answer those questions the right way, and leave the results up to the Lord. And rest well tonight. And get up tomorrow and do it all again.

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




Getting Outside Myself

18 03 2014

Tuesday Re-mix:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
    by night, but I find no rest.  Psalm 22:1-2

I will declare your name to my people;
    in the assembly I will praise you.
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
    Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!  Psalm 22:22-23

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I spent Spring Break in Orlando, doing the theme park thing. Universal, Disney…and roller coasters. Sometimes I don’t do so well on roller coasters.  It’s not the huge lifts. It’s not the plunging drops. It’s not the twisting turns. What gets to me is the cumulative effect of all of them…again and again and again. I feel sick just remembering.

David, the writer of poetry and shepherd of sheep and singer of songs and dancer of dances and slayer of giants and armies…David, the writer of so many of the Psalms…exhausts me!  He is just so very dramatic, don’t you think?  His “highs” are so much higher than I can even imagine and his lows are so much lower than I can connect with.  He is an emotional roller coaster!

Me?  Not so much, really.  I am pretty even-keeled.  But I do know the feeling of being “lost” in myself…of feeling so sorry for myself that I lose sight of anyone else around me.  My emotional roller coaster may not have the neck-breaking turns and heart-stopping plunges which David’s had…but I can at least connect with the desire to stop the ride so I can get off!

Here is an important thing about David: as emotionally unpredictable as he appears to be, his ongoing walk with the Lord was rock solid.  There was no unpredictability there.  When he was high, he danced for the  Lord.  When he was low, he cried out to the Lord.  He illustrates this beautifully in Psalm 22.  There, he spends 21 verses downright dark and depressed.  Sitting squarely in the middle of his own circumstances and being completely “within” himself, he is gloomy and hurting and desperate.  He cannot seem to see outside of those circumstances.  They consume him.  He sees no options, no alternative routes.  And he is very much alone in that painful place…”Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.”  He was at that place of just wanting the roller coaster to stop so he could get off.  And then, he shows us how to do that.

With a brilliant and healthy turn, verse 22 and following show an entirely different emotion.  David is (quite suddenly) outwardly focused…on God and on others.  He is prayerful for others.  He is praising God.  He is no longer all wrapped up in his own misery, nor is he any longer consumed by his own circumstances.  He is now outwardly focused.  In pretty short order, he has gotten outside of himself.

It is the kind of spiritual wisdom I want to have.  I want to learn to catch myself completely drowning in stress and darkness and circumstances beyond my control, and to then turn outward and praise God and pour into others.  Isn’t that what we do as ministers?  I’m not talking about pretense here…I do not mean “pretending” the circumstances do not exist.  I just mean fixing my focus on something healthy and healing and bigger than my circumstances.

I want to be more like David…minus the roller coaster.  :)

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com







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