Last week, I was saying my prayers at bed time, and as I approached talking to God about a very specific conversation I needed to have, I experienced something I had only previously read in Scripture.
The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.
2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called Samuel.
Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.
6 Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”
7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.
8 A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”1 Samuel 3:1-10 (NIV)
I said my prayer and then tried to fall asleep. But several times, God was calling me out of bed to respond to his answer to my prayer. It was so clear to me that God was calling me to a bigger conversation. And the way God has gifted me to speak is through my writing. Below is an open letter for your encouragement and consideration.
To my colleagues in ministry,
We have a unique calling to serve God and those around us with the love of Jesus Christ. It is not an easy calling, but it’s an important one that often puts us in the spotlight.
We live in a “fishbowl” or sometimes feel like animals in a zoo, with those around us watching our every move, waiting for us to do something funny, mess up, or make a move that impresses them.
We have access to unique ways of communicating through social media and blogs, like this one, to help us share our lives. My social media profiles are places where I choose to post personal experiences with words and imagery, because they shape my life and are worth sharing in a public forum.
The idea that a friend or a stranger is just a few key strokes away is really amazing. It’s been an absolute blessing for me to pray with a friend via text, post verses that spoke to me as I journeyed through a year long Bible reading plan, and connect with struggling people, as we discovered a shared difficulty in the midst of personal tragedy.
But as a professional, in the church, posting about work, blurs the boundaries for me. My faith is my life so how I am supposed to separate the two? Every move I make, every decision I consider, every emotion I feel is because I was created for a purpose. I don’t just share Jesus because it’s my job, I share Him because my relationship with Him is held above every other one in my life and I am called to teach others about His endless love.
I’ve learned many hard lessons about the importance of transparency. I take a risk when I get too personal with a social media or blog post and reveal a struggle I am having at work. But that way my choice to be authentic and connect with my church community through my personal profile. Who I am on this blog or any other social media platform is who I am in real life. Every time I go to post something, I think very carefully about if it’s a conversation or subject that I would want to talk with someone about in person. Often times, a face to face interaction has occurred because of a post.
In the last few years I have done a great deal to educate myself on what’s happening with my neighbors in my local community, nearby cities and the world around me. It takes real work to understand our world, especially with the brokenness of sin and the existence of evil. I am guilty and it would be easier if I just put my blinders back on. If I returned to the bubble of an easy going childhood, safe from the dangers that could entangle me.
Because I can’t unsee or not hear what I’ve seen and heard, I’ve also felt the calling to pursue the spiritual gift of prophecy, of which someone once shared they believed was part of my purpose. The ancient prophets didn’t just foreshadow future events, they spoke the truth. God revealed to them something more than others could see, and their job was to share it, no matter what the consequence.
Some would say we live in a post-truth era, but I call foul on that claim. We live in a time where there’s enough information thrown at each of us to make our heads spin every minute we are moving. A fact isn’t true unless someone agrees with it. A talking point is repeated over and over again until we’ve heard it so many times that we believe it. We rely on our favorite news source to do the research we are responsible for pursuing for ourselves. We remove our faith from our decision making because our sinful nature tells us that the issues we face everyday and the neighbors around us are separate from our relationship with God.
God has provided a clear path to truth through his Son, Jesus. Truth comes in loving our neighbors and our enemies. God reveals truth in how we pursue His love for those around us.
Sometimes we talk about the earthly life of Jesus as if he’s impossibly far away from relating to us. We don’t really understand every facet of his human existence.
Was Jesus happy? Yes.
Was Jesus sad? Yes.
Did Jesus get angry? Yes.
Did Jesus feel lonely? Yes.
These are simple questions with pretty clear answers, but we know from the Gospel narratives, that Jesus understood and experienced the complexity and range of human emotions in his short time on earth.
While as human beings, we feel all these emotions, ours are covered in sin. Our experiences are wrought with pride, selfishness and greed.
As a minister of the Gospel and a prophet, I am called to be different, set apart and speak up for the truth. Sometimes it’s necessary to speak in a public forum and it isn’t easy.
We are quick to share opinions of others as our own. Mantras from our friends become truth that we won’t back down from. We argue with strangers because we feel this divisiveness and need a way to dispel our anger, regardless of whether it’s healthy or not.
To my dear friends and partners in sharing the Gospel, I plead with you to listen to this:
What you say matters. It matters for the kingdom, for your neighbor, for your family and for you.
What you share/post in a public forum is seen. It’s seen by people who know you very well and those you may not know you at all. It impacts relationships, whether enduring or brand new. And for those of us who call the church both a place of community and a professional context, this is the group I am most troubled to think I (or we) may negatively impact.
We are called to glorify God and serve our neighbor, and in the church, that is our parishioner, among many others. If we are lucky, we have a small contingency of church members who happen to be our most trusted friends. While everyone is a partner for the Gospel, they are also our boss, our volunteer, our funder or our critic.
Is what you are saying day to day a witness to the Gospel love of Jesus? Is what you are posting in a public forum causing division and confusion or is it speaking truth and pointing to the love of Jesus?
Are you still going to be sad? Yep, there is truth in sadness. Can you still get angry? Yes, it’s impossible not to, with all the terrible evil in this world. Jesus got angry, but he used the emotion to make a point about the Truth.
Thank goodness for the work of the Holy Spirit, revealing what we need and helping us to discern. None of us are perfect, myself included, but we are called to a higher purpose, which carries the weight of knowing that what we say and do has an impact on the spiritual health of others.
God’s truth has been so clear to me this past week, as this passage, which I thoroughly studied in college, has come up in a number of conversations.
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”2 Timothy 4:3-5
The danger in reading this passage is to assume this isn’t speaking about us. Are your ears itching? Do you crave to hear and share things that make you feel good or make you angry? What is your purpose? Who are you surrounding yourself with and what kind of information is inundating your psyche?
Unfortunately there are a number of Christian leaders that do a poor job of using their platform for good. We have real pharisees in our midst, law followers who forget that the radical love of Jesus is something to be preached and lived out.
“But you…” God is speaking directly to believers through the words of Paul. How are you going to pursue that “But…”? How are you going to show the radical love of Jesus to those who follow you?
One of the Scripture I heard in worship this past weekend was the Fruit of the Spirit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness and self-control.”Galatians 5:22 (NIV)
How can we pursue those fruits in our daily lives, but also in our online presence? As if our lives were not already magnified by leading in the church, and then we have chosen to open this part of our lives to the world too.
There’s so much to discuss in this realm, but this is where I pause for now. I find encouragement in how God was with Samuel after he called him.
1The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.1 Samuel 3:19
The only thing I know is that my future includes eternal life with Jesus when this earthly calling is over. But until then, I am called to speak truth while loving my neighbor.