Tag Archives: responsibility

Adult – A definition

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Have you ever heard of Evernote? It’s a free app that is FAR superior to the “notepad” app that came with your phone. This one enables you to make your own notebooks and organize your notes in a more sensible/personal fashion. One of my largest and ever-growing notebooks is titled “Things to Think On”; whenever I hear an interesting quote in a sermon, read a thought-provoking statement in a book, etc, I put it in the notebook so I can go back and meditate on it. Often, these little notes end up being titled based on their subject material, like “Courage – A definition”. This post is a lot like one of those notes, only a bit too long to put in my phone….

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Tonight, I was struck with something: being adult means you’re not just responsible for yourself.

Don’t get me wrong, you most certainly must be responsible for yourself to fit the “adult” bill properly, and I think I do a pretty good job in this realm. (Granted, I currently don’t own a vacuum, up until two months ago I didn’t know how to change a flat tire, and I completely spaced on my social security number at the bank last week, but I blame that last one on a major obstetric exam I’d just finished.) To be honest, a lot of my inner dialogue lately has been centered on how mature I’m finding myself; I think I’m approaching many things in my life in a way that’s different, and dare I say, “more adult”, than many young, single women in my age bracket. (Sometimes when you write down the things you really think about yourself, you see how truly prideful, not to mention absurd, they are….)

Well today provided the perfect earthquake to show how fragile my newly constructed house-of-self-perception-cards actually was; the breaking down of an already broken mindset allowing for truth to build a new foundation. The youth group is getting ready to do a service project, and I’ve taken it upon myself to collect permission slips from the students as they come in (1 point for Jessi’s leadership skills. Responsible adults identify the steps required and take action.) Everything was going perfectly. I’d collect the sheets, or send the students off to collect their parent’s signatures before their rides left.

But then student after student came in without the required slip, and with no way of obtaining written permission from their guardian. When they asked me what to do, my first thought was, “Me?! I don’t know, and I’m certainly not the person to ask in this situation. That’s a problem to give to one of the more-in-charge youth leaders, not me.” But then I realized, you know what? Being a youth worker means I need to be someone who can be crazy with the students, counsel them about their life and the Lord and make the tough decisions. The idea scared me a bit; here I was being consulted on the options for another person’s actions. That’s a lot of responsibility. I took a deep breath, (called the head youth worker), and started making decisions. Not very comfortable for me, but not too bad.

Or so I thought. I soon discovered that I needed verbal permission from the parents directly in replacement of a signed slip. This, of course, makes perfect sense; my solution, upon reflection, was to get the kids to do their own dirty work (decent enough, right?), which also protected me from an awkward situation: calling parents I do not know, to ask their permission include their child in a project they might not even know about. A major step outside Jessi’s “avoid-even-merely-possible-conflict-at-all-costs” framework.

But, yet again, here I realized that this is part of the gig: adulthood, especially leadership in ministry, requires me taking responsibility not only for myself, but also, or even especially, for others around me. If I’m worried about getting my hands dirty in order to protect my own hide, this isn’t for me. Something’s wrong with my thinking here.

Being an adult has so much more to it than the way the world portrays adulthood. I not only pay my own bills, but I look out for others’ welfare too (Phil 2:4 anyone?). Christ-like maturity doesn’t mean being grown-up to the point where I don’t have to answer to anyone (aka, the teenager’s dream); it means dying to myself, my comfort, my natural way of going about things, my preferences, my own ideas, for the sake of someone else.

The practical aspects of this idea still have some fearful outlines to me. I have so much growing up to do…

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Chex Mix: Leadership

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After 5 1/2 months, I’ve finally experienced a major bout of writer’s block. And to break this awkward, month-long silence, I’ve decided to try out something new. I’m calling it “Chex Mix”. I’ve got a bunch of different thoughts swirling in my head, some are hard and crunchy, some are long and salty, and some are probably more air than actual substance. But I’m hoping that through these blog posts I’ll be able to grasp both the specific individual ingredients mixing inside me, and the ideas of the blend as a whole, resulting in a delicious handful of the sanctification process.

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January 8th. My last Sunday in Alaska was a bittersweet day. Eager to return to school after my three-week-long Christmas break, but also hesitant to leave my beloved church, family and, as I say here, my lovely home-state. So I sat through the Sunday morning service with my church, thinking these chocolate-y thoughts….

We had just started a sermon series on what the Church is called to be in the Bible, and that day’s sermon was about each member using its spiritual gift(s) for the benefit of the whole Body, based on Romans 12. As the preacher spoke (using His gifts to benefit the Body), God was using Scripture to plant seeds inside me that would only start blooming months later.

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well…. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously…” Rom 12:6,8

Like many of the things God has taught me this year, the roots of the lesson passed by without a thought. Fast forward two months. Something my Youth Pastor said years ago, regarding spiritual gifts, began resurfacing in my mind. After completing a spiritual gift assessment as part of our youth leaders’ retreat, I asked him about some of my results.

“Jeremy, this says that I might have the spiritual gift of faith. How can that be? I’ve had some seasons of my life where I’ve wrestled with doubt on a major scale. Sometimes I still do…. How could someone who struggles with doubt be gifted with faith? Isn’t that a contradiction?”

I don’t think I’ll ever forget his response: “No, Jessi. That makes perfect sense. You see, people gifted in certain areas tend to think about those things more deeply than everyone else. For instance, I have not been gifted with faith; I take the Bible at its word, and just move on. Jesus resurrected from the dead, ok cool. But someone gifted with faith will take that truth and really chew on it, analyzing all its possibilities. “Is this really true? And if so, what does that mean in life?” That doubt could be the very proof that you’re gifted; the Truth of the Word is so important to you that you can’t help but really chew on it.”

Now, I recognize that this statement can be taken too far, but I think the principle is spot on: Often times you can a gift is seen in someone’s life by the presence of it’s “opposite”.

These past few weeks, I’ve been doing some serious thinking as I lay in bed. Evidently something about being parallel with the floor before you fall asleep and when you first wake up is conducive to deep thought. Thinking thoughts about all my leadership responsibilities…. “Jessi, do you realize how much this will take? The amount of prayer that needs to go into this, before and after? I want to do this right, and that means hours and hours of study…. I need to be developing a plan for what I want to happen through this… My heart isn’t in the right place; I need to be examining my motives, preparing my heart before I do anything…” All kinds of thoughts like this souping around inside me. And about half the time, I’ve found myself thinking: “You know what, maybe I’m just not cut out for this. I must not be gifted in leadership like I thought I was. After all, why would all these responsibilities be so constantly present in my mind if I was a leader? Should it just be natural?”

And now we can pick Romans 12:8 back up again: “If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously…” My Youth Pastor’s statement about spiritual gifts has come back to me…. What if all this thought/worry/stewing is actually confirmation that I’m gifted in leadership? God is allowing me to see these leading roles in the fullness of their flavors (whether or not I’m handling that perpective properly).

Maybe this is why Paul tells the Roman leaders that they need to “take the responsibility seriously”. A leader can respond to responsibility in one of two ways. You can let the intimidation of the task(s) make the decision for you, running from your giftings because, “It’s too hard”, or “I’m just not cut out for this”. Or, you can choose to take the responsibility seriously. All the prep-time involved, all the energy it requires, all the time, emotions, freedom and comfort you need to sacrifice… And you lay it down before God, asking Him to help you take the tasks He’s given you seriously. And then, you just buckle down and do your best. Be disciplined, work hard (and Sabbath hard). Take the responsibility seriously. Sure, you’ll be exhausted…. But what’s more satisfying than a job well done?

A lesson from the ashes

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This was a homework assignment based on Joshua 7:16-26.

When you first look at this passage in Joshua, it certainly stops you in your tracks. Really? God killed a household over a few stolen items? I know that stealing is wrong, but to kill an entire
family…?
You have to look back a few verses to start to see the behind-the-scenes-perspective here. In Joshua 6:17-19, Joshua tells Israel that all the plunder of Jericho is banned, they are not allowed to keep any of it, and any gold, silver, iron or bronze articles are to be collected for the Lord. So we see that Achan didn’t steal in the literal sense (the whole city of Jericho was technically theirs after the walls fell), but he disobeyed a direct command of God. Not a good idea.

But Achan’s choice reveals that there was more going on inside him than simple obedience. By taking those forbidden items, Achan revealed the pride in his heart. He believed that he deserved more than his fellow Israelites, so he took for himself. And what did he take? “A beautiful robe from Babylon, 200 silver coins, and a bar of gold weighing more than a pound” (Josh 7:21, NLT). He took a robe to make him look better, to esteem himself among his friends and family, and he took precious metals, which God had already claimed as his. Achan believed that he deserved what was rightfully God’s, and that he could get away with it. And he was sadly mistaken.

Besides pride, mistrust or lack of faith was also evident in Achan’s actions. He didn’t believe that God would provide for him and his family in the Promised Land they were invading, so he took matters into his own hands (quite literally). He needed to steal. And we all know that sin committed for the right reasons is excused, right? Obviously not. God never calls us to something that requires us to sin; that just wouldn’t make any sense. God wanted Israel to occupy the land he had for them, and, so long as they obeyed Him, He was going to provide for them as they did. Achan believed that what he saw right in front of him was better than what God had promised. The Biblical definition of faith is “Seeing things the way God says they are, not how I see them”, and his act was the direct opposite of faith.

Achan didn’t believe that God was who He says He is. By taking those forbidden items, Achan echoes the same thoughts as Adam and Eve in Genesis “God won’t see it. Besides, it’s just a few things (just one bite). What can it hurt? It’s not like God is here. What He doesn’t know won’t hurt Him, right?” Wrong.

And finally, Achan’s sin showed his inward discontentment. He didn’t believe that what God had already provided for him was enough. He refused to rest in the knowledge that what God was going to give him in the Promised Land was best. He wanted, coveted, what he saw. So he took it.

The root of all these wrong heart-positions is a faulty worldview, one based on worldly ideas instead of the Bible. Achan fell for the appealing philosophy that currently reigns in America: Instant gratification is always better than delayed gratification. The robe, silver and gold I can get my hands on now is better than anything God would give me for obeying Him later. So much better, in fact, that I’m willing to risk everything for it. And don’t we do the same things, in our own ways? Entertaining lustful thoughts is much more satisfying than waiting in purity for the one spouse God has for me, and reveling with him/her it he pure gift God has given.

Or what about the idea, “I’m just one person. God doesn’t care.” Every heard, or thought, that? It’s an easy trap to fall into. Just look at the facts, there are 6.97 Billion people in this world. Why would God care about what I do? Nevertheless, He does. He has a specific call for each person in relationship with Him, and He calls us each individually to live holy lives. That’s why the Holy Spirit convicts us of certain things that He doesn’t for others. Why would watching a certain movie, or saying certain things, be sin to one person and not another? Because God cares about what we do, individually. The fact of the matter is, we are so important to God that He died for us. “Do you not know… that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Ok, so we get that Achan had more going against him than just a few items hidden in the tent, but why did “his songs, hid daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent and all that belonged to him” have to be utterly destroyed? The passage says that he and all with him were stoned, and then burned up. Picture absolutely nothing left. Achan was the one who sinned, so he alone should be punished, right? The trouble with this claim is the idea that each person is solely responsible for
themselves, when God says throughout Scripture that a man is responsible not only for himself, but for his entire household. And we’ve seen this in our own lives, haven’t we? A father’s sin affects his own family, and sometimes the entire neighborhood or church. “With great power, comes great responsibility”. God gives the man of the house, the husband/father, the power to lead his family, but He also bestows on him the responsibility of that calling.

Yet there is hope in this sad tale of utter destruction. Look at Joshua 22:20. Battles, victories, moving vans, and many house-warming parties later, Israel still remembered the sin of Achan and
clan. God used one man’s sin to impact an entire nation, and to remind them (however briefly) that He indeed is God and demands worship and obedience.