The Scorecard

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There are two scorecards we can use to tally our success.

There are two scorecards we can use to tally our success.

How do you gauge how you are doing? Everyone has a scorecard. It is probably not a physical scorecard, where personal or professional progress is tracked. Most of us keep a tally of certain things that end up measuring whether we feel we are succeeding or not. We get a feeling of satisfaction or discontent from those metrics.

There are outer scorecards. Calculations are made using pedigree, place, profit, or professing principles (just professing them is sometimes enough, without keeping them.) I am not discounting what can be known about someone by some of these visible metrics. However, the exterior life can be deceiving. Not only can it be used to trick others, it is easy to trick ourselves.

The best corrective to the potential deception of an outer scorecard is an inner scorecard. An inner scorecard is the satisfaction we feel with who we are. To be clear, the inner scorecard is not about reputation. It has nothing to do with who others think we are. There is ultimately no satisfaction in the false rewards of reputation.

I see Paul outlining an outer and inner scorecard in Philippians 3:4-9. He defines an outer scorecard as “confidence in the flesh” (v.4). These were things like ethnicity (Israelite, Benjamite, Hebrew), title (Pharisee), action (persecutor), morality (by the book). At some point though, he says he crumpled up that scorecard (v.7). The new, inner scorecard he started using was simply “to be found in him” (v.9). Paul was motivated to be true to the one opinion that counts.

The inner scorecard always trumps the outer scorecard. No matter the background, how impressive the title, what we have built, or even the standards we have managed to maintain; if we don’t feel on the inside that we are lining up with the way things really are on the outside, we will never be satisfied and never receive approval from the One opinion that ultimately matters.

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Weight

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Transfer of Power

I had the Presidential Inauguration playing in the background. There is always a lot of talk about the transfer of power during the period between Election Day and Inauguration Day. Although the transfer of administrations in America is a wonderful testament to our form of government, my thoughts were not occupied with the transfer of power that was taking place.

Transfer of Responsibility

I was struck with the transfer of responsibility that occurred. As President Obama and the First Lady sat through the ceremony and then boarded the helicopter to resume life as public citizens once more, I wondered if they felt relieved by the transfer of responsibility from themselves to President Trump and his wife.

Feeling the Weight

I put myself in President Trump’s position. The Office of the Presidency of the United States has an enormous weight of responsibility. I feel for the level of scrutiny the President must endure. I feel for the great weight of obligation and duty a President is tasked. Decisions must be made that literally have life or death consequences.

Capability and Responsibility

A weight of responsibility is calculated by the aptitude of the person in the given position. I remember in the 5th grade playing at a friend’s house and seeing his high school age sister doing homework at their kitchen table. I looked at her textbook and wondered how I would ever be able to do the work she was required to do. Thankfully I was not being asked as a 5th-grader to the work of a high-schooler. Also thankfully, my aptitude grew as I faced the responsibilities of high school.

Bearing the Weight

As I look at the “textbook” a President is assigned, I feel the same way as I did looking at my friend’s sister doing her homework. My aptitude does not match the weight of responsibility of the Presidency. I am not interested in delving into whether President Trump has the capability to bear the weight of responsibility that is required. He has far greater experience and knowledge than I do. I am grateful for anyone willing to step under that weight.

An Unknown Weight

The weight of responsibility is always an unknown quantity until the situation calls for it. The circumstances and events to be faced are yet future, so it is yet to be calculated the exact weight of responsibility. Wouldn’t it be great to know that ability would always match the responsibility of every circumstance? For yourself, wouldn’t it be nice to know your capacity could match whatever you had to face? 

A Known Capability

What if there was someone with boundless aptitude? What if there was someone who possessed all strength, energy, knowledge, and foresight? That person could face any situation with total confidence. That person could be fully trusted with any responsibility. There would be no question as to whether that person could bear the weight of responsibility. 

Infinite Capability

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” (Isaiah 40:28)

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Meeting Without Mission

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If the church had no mission, would it still meet?

If the church had no mission, would it still meet?

On July 22, 2012, David Goeser went missing. He was a 22-year-old UCLA student. His car was found in Pacific Palsades, near Los Angeles. Within 48 hours search efforts included the entire western coast.

David’s dad, Mark Goeser, said in the midst of the search, “One of the things that I’ve observed since my son has been lost is how these groups that search for the lost (like Search and Rescue teams) have nothing in common except for the commitment to the mission: to find the lost. Without that mission they’d never be drawn together. Yet with this mission to find the lost they have a deep sense of community. They all share a common experience of tremendous loss — or the joy of finding someone! And yet it seems that in many churches today, if you took away their mission to find the lost, they would keep on meeting together for the sake of community.”

The effort to find Mark’s son had brought together hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people. That is the power of a mission. Unfortunately the team’s efforts did not end the way they had hoped. Two months later, on September 22, David’s body was found.

When you read the rebuke of the leaders of Israel in Ezekiel 34, the rebuke was not because they failed to foster community. Ezekiel 34:6 says, “My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth, and there was no one to search or seek for them.” The leaders were called to task for failing to seek the lost, in the way a shepherd would his sheep.

Jesus said his mission was search and rescue. He said in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Jesus had a mission and formed a community around that mission.

With a mission to seek the lost, a deep sense of community will be found. With a mission to seek community, a commitment to seek the lost is rarely found.

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Sharing Keys

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The prevailing power of the church is based upon sharing access with others.

The prevailing power of the church is based upon sharing access with others.

Have you ever had a neighbor you’ve shared a key with?

We used to have neighbors who would come over to our house when we were gone for the holidays and get our cat and take the cat to their house, because they said they didn’t want her to be alone on the holidays.

We have neighbors on either side of us now, who have our key and we have theirs. We’ve taken care of each other’s dogs when out of town.

When keys are exchanged there is a relationship. There is trust. There is authority and access.

In Matthew 16:19 Jesus tells his followers, “I will give you keys. These keys have the power and authority of heaven” [my translation].

Keys allow you to access the purpose of the object they are applied. The purpose of a house is for living in it. A key can open the door to enter or close it shut. If it is a car, a key can start it or shut it off. If it is a post office box, a key can unlock or lock it. Keys are all about accessing the intended purpose.

Jesus’ keys are for the purpose of entering the realm of the King. Jesus’ kingdom keys allow access to the space where God rules and reigns. This is where things are as they should be and whatever is brought into God’s realm is made right.

I love Eugene Peterson’s take on Jesus’ words in Matthew, “You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.”

Most of us here can tell a story of how someone used their key to give us access to the kingdom. The prevailing power of the church is based upon sharing access with others. What will you open, close, start, stop, unlock, or lock with the keys you’ve been given?

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Christmas Engages Our Senses

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Joining our humanity

Christmas reminds us that God’s intention is not to separate us from our humanity – our real lives, in real bodies – but to join us in our humanity. Christianity doesn’t remove us from the human experience, into a separate spiritual experience. Christmas is the simple reminder that God joined us in the flesh. We can no longer doubt he lives we live in the flesh matter to him.

The first heresy

The body is often depicted as the battle ground of our experience, not holy ground. The first heresy the church faced – gnosticism, in which matter is evil and therefore doesn’t matter (see what I did there) – has never gone away. Our Bibles start with God’s good word over every ounce of matter made. God joining himself to that same matter. The story ends with his people seeing his face, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:12 (not light or some sort of spirit-gas). But it is still thought that our bodies are not important in the way we relate to God and each other.

A sensate story

Christianity deals with physical realities. This isn’t God in the abstract. The incarnation is God coming into this world of touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell. It is a very sensate story. The Bible is a sensate book. I don’t think you can read a page of it without the mention of a character’s senses being involved or the writer depending on one of the senses for what is being conveyed.

Right where we are

The Christmas story involves the full spectrum of our senses – the pleasures and the pains. That is why it can be “good tidings of great joy to all people.” God has come to us right where we are – in the flesh. Barbara Brown Taylor says, “The body makes theologians of us all: Why me? Why like this? Why here? Why this long?” We may not have good answers for all of those, but we can rest assured that it’s important and has meaning, because God is with us in it.

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The Staying Nature of God

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Roots

Second-class citizen

Perhaps like me, you have never felt a call to international ministry. Living in a family like ours, that emphasizes the ends of the earth like we do, can be tough. I have never lived internationally (does the summer I spent in the San Fransisco Bay area count?), so it is easy to feel like a second-class denominational-citizen.

With us always (& everywhere)

The going-to-the-nations part of the Great Commission is obvious, and typically the part emphasized. But at the end of the Great Commission, Jesus promises his presence wherever we may find ourselves. “I am with you always” (Matthew 18:20) It isn’t necessary to fly off to some far-flung corner of the world to find Jesus at work. 

Staying nature of God

Jesus is present, and at work, right where you are. The place you already live is the most obvious, and maybe overlooked, place to start ministry. Scholars and teachers have convinced Christians of the sending nature of God (the missio Dei). Perhaps more emphasis is needed on the staying nature of God (the incarnation). 

Staying in one place

There are amazing examples of fruitful ministries which have resulted from people staying in one place. Several I know personally are the late Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel movement. He didn’t start there until he was 40, but labored for over 50 years at the same church. Wayne Gordon moved to the Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago over 40 years ago. He is still there. My pastor, David Riemenschneider, came to Bloomingdale in 1978. I believe he has the longest tenure of anyone in our network of churches.

Simply sticking it out

Perhaps you are praying that God would bear more fruit where you are. His answer to that prayer could be through simply sticking it out. What if all God needs to produce a harvest is get you to stay put?

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What Questions Do That Answers Don’t

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“If there is a God who knows everything,” Collette Gary asked, “why does he ask questions?” Since God knows everything, they certainly are not for his own knowledge. What is it God knows questions do, that answers often don’t? 

In the Bible God asks a lot of questions. There are over 3,000 questions in the Bible and the majority of them are asked by God.

  • The first four things God said to Adam and Eve, after they disobeyed, were all questions. (Genesis 3:9-13)
  • The longest list of questions in the Bible was God’s response to the suffering of Job. (Job 38-39)
  • Jonah is the only book in the Bible that ends with a question. (Jonah 4:11) Any guesses who asked it?

So what is it that God knows questions do, that stating facts, or just explaining steps a person must take, doesn’t?

Questions make us think. They engage the mind. God wants to create engagement with what matters most. Questions invite us to get involved.

The better we get at engaging ourselves and others with profound questions and awakening the imagination to get involved, the more similar we are to approaching situations like God.

Question:
What is a situation where you can insert a question instead of an answer?

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