We are working through a new Bible Study on Wednesday nights. It’s called A Blueprint for Discipleship
, and while the focus is Methodist, I’d have to encourage anyone looking for a deeper walk with Christ to give it a read at the very least. Better, find a friend or two, and talk it through as you read, then go and do. I first read this book a week or two after our new pastor arrived. We were still in the midst of the Revelation study we had been doing on Wednesdays, but as I read it through, it made me cry. It had questions at the end of the chapters, and is set up to be a study, so I figured I’d offer it up as a possible future study and folks liked the idea.
It is strange how God works. Corey has been coming to classes with me on Wednesdays now that he’s not watching little ones, and since we only have one book, I’ve gotten in the habit of reading the chapter out loud while he cooks dinner or sits on the couch with me before class. Tonight, he was laughing at the opening of the chapter, and a few pages in he stopped me long enough to say “You’ve been reading ahead.” True, in the sense that I read the whole thing, cover to cover in about a day, perhaps two, a few months ago. False in the sense that I am a procrastinator of the highest order and typically don’t do my homework until the day of class, especially when I’m teaching. It keeps the thoughts about the subject at hand fresh in my mind for conversation.
But, I knew what he meant. I’ve been in preaching mode lately, and he has been the recipient of many a monologue in recent months on the importance of living our faith. The emphasis that salvation is not the end of the journey of a Christian life. I suppose it is likely that reading the book a few months ago sharpened some of those thoughts, but reflecting back, that particular theme has been present in my conversations for well over a year, and present in my personal walk for far longer than that. But, I have been stumbling lately. Not falling away, not turning from God, but stumbling and bumbling through the things He has tasked me with doing. I am in conflict because my understanding of His purpose for me in this moment is in conflict. That conflict has been building for a while now, and came to the forefront on Sunday when the two parts of my ministry for God collided over another note I had written here.
The conflict forced me to really look at the work He has called me to, to try to discern what He wants in this time where locally so many things feel like they are shifting and churning and globally so many things are crying out to be spoken to. I have been trying, and failing, ever since to figure out how to reconcile the increasingly overwhelming urge to speak what I see through the eyes He has given me to His people who are increasingly desperate for Him to move. And the more present and intimate responsibility He has given me to a smaller part of His people right here that I see and work with and am friends with every day. Tonight two things struck me.
First, this is not the first time I have faced this conflict. When I first began writing here on Facebook, I struggled deeply over whether or not to share the things I was writing with the people of my church out here in cyberland. I didn’t want to step on toes. The things God called me to write were deeply personal, which for some reason didn’t bother me to share with the world at large, but made me nervous to intentionally share with people I would look in the eye every Sunday morning at worship. I was never really sure what God would have me say, and that was probably the closest I had ever come at that time to ever actually inviting anyone to really know who I was, how I thought, how I struggled. Had to, couldn’t help but share that if I wanted to share what God was doing in my life. I eventually, with tacit permission from my pastor, decided that the command to share the joy of God had come to me at my church and that while they were not the specific audience for that work, they were children of God and therefor part of that larger audience I was supposed to speak to. The work was a blessing, and led to friendships and doors I am not sure would have been there otherwise.
Which brings me to today, and the other thing that struck me as Corey and I read tonight. In the questions at the end of the chapter, there was one that I knew I would not be allowed to answer in class tonight. Yet, as I sat here, felt led to answer anyway. I had actually spent all week answering that question, even before I knew it would be part of class tonight. The chapter tells us that Jesus does not simply save us from hell, He saves us for something, then proceeds to ask us What did He save you for? The answers around the table were interesting. And I changed it up a bit, and also asked people to share what they saw in the people around them about what Christ had saved them for. It helps us sometimes to see what others see in us. And I would guess it was easier to steer the conversation and not have to find a way to avoid answering for myself. I am not sure why it is okay to share what I have learned this week here, when it was not okay there. Or if perhaps it was fear that held me rather than God and writing has always been easier.
He saved me to speak His words to His people in a time where they are struggling to hear Him and see Him. He saved me to listen for His voice, and then share what I hear, the good and the bad. He saved me to warn of our folly and to point the way to His path. And I suppose, therein lies the trouble. When first I began this journey, I was nothing more than a simple congregant, wet behind the ears, sitting in the back row. In very un-Methodist fashion, my seat moved from the back to the front over the years. And I have become something else, but I’m not sure anyone else quite realizes it. God called me to step boldly, wholeheartedly, into whatever positions He opened up to me in that place, and I did.
They asked me to be a Lay Leader, a voice for the congregation in the leadership and with the pastor. They asked me to be a Lay Delegate, a voice for the congregation in the conference and to carry the work of the conference back to them. They made me a Lay Speaker, a voice for God from the pulpit should it ever be needed or allowed. They handed me a microphone every Sunday morning, first only to sing backup, but then to speak as a counterpoint to the pastor about what was going on in the life of the church. For three years I have studied, taken training, and later worked side by side for two with the pastor to learn and get certified in all the things required to be all these things. And for two years I have been relatively silent in that other part of my calling, the part that speaks to a larger audience than just this space. These last few weeks God has been speaking, and I have been sharing. That will only grow.
English: Isaiah; illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I’m not sure these beautiful, amazing, wonderful children of God He has given me to be my church family and to serve knew they had invited a prophet into a place to speak to them and for them. If they did, I am not sure they knew exactly how disruptive a prophet can be. I don’t think they quite understand what it means when I say I do not entirely remember the words that I speak when God prompts me sometimes. I think perhaps they may think me a little flighty when I ask at the last minute to speak in the service, which doesn’t happen often but does happen. And while it often amazes some of them when I speak with little or nothing written down, or as often with something written down and completely different words coming from my mouth, I don’t think they understand that it’s because I often know I must speak, but I don’t know what I will say until it comes out.
Knowing what I do about myself, and what I have discovered about this strange set of Gifts God has given me over these last years, I scare myself just a little when I pray the Holy Spirit will come in and knock our socks off. This persistently growing tug to shake things up, and let Him rip concerns me, because He gives me the vision to see the potential of that, but I have wisdom enough to understand the possible downside. And if it causes me concern, and I know how much I love them, how much God loves them, and the absolutely astounding beauty of what I see will happen if we will only commit, I wonder if they knew what I am if they would still want for me to be what they have asked me to be. Still, one of the people who heard me share this particular gift at a retreat early on in all this was not wrong when she said we needed the Gift of prophecy in our church. Without it, we will never find our way to that vision of what God wants for us to be.
For now, I suppose, I’ll keep praying, keep writing, and keep my ears open for His direction. And whenever and wherever He tells me to open my mouth and share His words, I will. It is what He saved me for.
Pray always and glorify the Lord.