top3 for October 27, 2017

As a pastor, each week means reading. I spend time reading Scripture, books, newspapers, blog sites and everything in between. I’ve been thinking about how I can review and catalog the ideas, concepts, and stories I come across. I’ve also been thinking that many of my “findings” may be of use and interest to others. To this end, I am launching something called Top 3. This is my list of the top 3 things I’ve read this past week and a bit of commentary around one or more of them. You will find links, when possible, to read for yourself.

#1 – “Gratitude provides a clarifying focus to the Christian for her or his life, a single value that, lived out as the New Testament authors direct, will result in a vibrant, fruitful discipleship.”  David deSilvia from his book  Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture

I am wary of a “silver” bullet approach to our faith journey.  What I mean is “do this one thing” and you’ll be on your way to a richer life of faith.  But deSilvia makes a compelling case for our sense of gratitude being the underlying cause of our spiritual growth.  A grateful person is a humble person.  One who “fears” God which is to say has a healthy respect and right perspective of God’s place in their lives and in all of creation.

I’ve been challenged by this to add an intentional time of gratitude to my devotions each day.  A time I take to think through yesterday and acknowledge thankfulness for the people and circumstances God used to care for me.  It grounds me.  Gratitude keeps me from thinking too much of myself and not enough of others.  I don’t know about you, but I greatly desire what deSilvia calls a “vibrant, fruitful discipleship personally.”  While gratitude is no silver bullet solution, it is one thing that God is using to change my heart for him and my love for others.

#2 – I do not believe it is of any value to push people into doing things unless this desire to live and to grow has begun to emerge.    Jean Vanier from his book From Brokenness to Community

Let me highly recommend this book from which this quote comes.  It is a short collection of lectures that Jean Vanier gave for a class at Harvard taught by Henri Nouwen.  Nouwen credits Vanier with much of his move to leave Harvard and join the l’Arche communities for the disabled.

Back to the quote…our greatest efforts to help others fall flat often because the person simply does not want to change.  As a pastor, this hits me hard because I like to help.  I like to be useful.  But until the Holy Spirit does a work within the person or situation, my best efforts will always come up short or worse I resort to manipulation of guilt or some other short-term motivator to shape what I think is the best.

This takes us back to prayer every time.  Praying for, as Vanier say, a desire to live and grow in a person is our most critical way of serving.  Will I be patient enough to trust God’s timing?  That is my big question…

#3 – IMG_0750.jpg

One of my wife’s passions is collecting nativity sets from the places we travel or from people we know around the world.  We have sets from Israel, Ghana, Peru, and now this one from South Korea.  I had all but given up on finding one on my recent trip.  The final 15 minutes of my last evening in Seoul, right before heading back to the bus, someone mentioned that they saw a pottery shop in the large outdoor market we were at.  I ran down the way to find two of my colleagues already in the shop looking for the exact same thing for their wives too.

To make the story even more remarkable, the shop owner said she was at a church service we attended in the morning and saw us!!!  It made her day to connect with us and help us out through her giftedness.  So…we purchased three sets.  One went to Sri Lanka…another to the Philippines…and the one pictured above sits in a dining room as I write these words.  It definitely makes my top3 this week!