Is God good?

I became a Christian in 1986. For several years, my focus was on Jesus. I read the New Testament because it was clearly about Jesus. I prayed to Jesus. Jesus was my Lord and my Savior, my Brother and my Friend. I was all about Jesus.

Nevermind that Jesus continually talked about the Father. Nevermind that Jesus prayed to the Father. Nevermind that Jesus said He only did what the Father told Him to do. Nevermind the Father. Jesus was all I needed. It only took about 20 years for me to start paying attention to the fact that Jesus was always pointing to the Father, and to decide that perhaps I should take notice and follow Jesus’ example.

During a season of upheaval in my life, I sought the help of a Christian counselor. I know it’s a tired metaphor, but I felt like a rudderless boat in a storm-tossed ocean, and Jesus was nowhere in sight. The source of my angst defied illumination until one day the counselor asked, “Do you believe that God is good?” He quickly followed that up with an admonishment not to give him the Sunday school answer! (How well he knew me by this point.) I remember clearly just sitting there in stunned silence as the tears welled up from a place deep, deep inside me. When my sobbing subsided, it was like the sun breaking through clouds after a summer storm. At long last, the turbulent sea of my soul was calm.

I really wasn’t aware that I was ignoring the Father. I didn’t struggle with the mystery of the Trinity. And I didn’t have “daddy issues” resulting from a poor relationship with my biological father. He wasn’t perfect and we had our issues from time to time, but I always knew he loved me.

So why did I distance myself from God? Perhaps because God didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I suffered a deep loss at a tender age, and I blamed God. For years I had nothing to do with God or Jesus, or any form of religion. Even when I accepted Christ as Savior, I simply put Father God on a shelf. I had Jesus, and that was enough.

I’m sure there are others who have great fellowship with Jesus while keeping God at arm’s length, unsure if he really is as good as Jesus says he is. If he is such a good God, why does he allow pain? Why does he not stop all the suffering?

I don’t pretend to have the answers to those questions. I do know that my problem was a direct result of my expectations. When I understood that he is GOD–omnipotent and almighty and beyond my manipulation…while, at the same time, loving and gentle and merciful–it was at that moment that everything changed.

I know now–beyond a shadow of doubt–that God is good. He is the definition of good! That certainty came about because someone asked me what I believed, and wouldn’t allow me to put on my church leader mask to evade giving an honest answer. It stands out as one of the best days of my life.

Since then, my experience of Father God has been totally different. Mornings are spent in quiet communion with the one who loves me, reminiscent of walks in the Garden when we were God’s beloved companions. I sense his love in the core of my being, and his wisdom and provision are what I most long for. I pray always now to the Father. Jesus–my precious Savior–is continually with me, too, the bridge to my Father’s open arms.good father

So, on the off chance that you have been ignoring Father God in favor of Jesus, let me ask you…

Do you believe that God is good?

And, please, don’t feel obliged to give the Sunday school answer.

 

P.S.–Two of my favorite songs that remind me of God’s goodness: Good, Good Father by Chris Tomlin and King of My Heart by John Mark McMillan and Sarah McMillan

Living it

Today we say good-bye to an amazing woman of God. Sally went home to her Savior on Tuesday. Her funeral is today. As the news of her passing spread, posts began showing up on her Facebook page as early as Tuesday evening. Her wall is an amazing read…

Thank you for living life to the fullest and being a light to so many of us. And I know you are having a huge party and worshiping our Savior; I feel that truth deep within me.

We’ve lost a wonderful friend, a great influence, and an outstanding woman. However, we’ve gained one of the best guardian angels I can think of. She always looked to help others first and now she can protect us constantly from above.

I am so proud of you. You inspired me to return to church and have a personal relationship with Jesus! I can never thank you enough for that! … I am not nearly as far on my spiritual journey as you are, but I am working towards being as contagious with my faith as you were!

working today was a struggle…. seeing everybody’s heavy heart over our loss was saddening. it just goes to show how Sally impacted our lives in one way or another big or small. just being at work brought back so many fantastic memories of her. I remember her training me in drive-thru way back when and she made me love my job. I love you Sally ♥

Your nephew will grow up missing his Aunt Sally, but I can already tell he has a lot of you in him. He has that light in his eyes that I loved about you so much. You have touched my children so deeply Sally that no one can take that away from them. We love you and can’t wait to see you again someday.

It is amazing but not surprising to see how many people Sally impacted, she was always shining Jesus’s light and pouring out His love on everyone she knew. … I truly would not be the person I am today without Sally,she taught me how to grow in my relationship with God and always be fully satisfied on Him.

Believe me, I could go on and on–the posts and comments certainly do. If I had the time, I’d sit and count them all, but I know that they would number in the thousands.

There are two things I want you to know about Sally:

1. Sally lived her vocation. She heard the clarion call of Jesus and she answered. There were no extenuating circumstances around Sally’s life–it was as ordinary as yours or mine. But she understood ministry as using her very life to point people to Jesus with a smile, a hug, words of encouragement, her testimony about Jesus…everything about her. Ministry wasn’t something she put on and took off. Ministry was Sally’s life–wherever she was and whatever she was doing–as evidenced by the fact that well over a thousand people came to celebrate her life at her visitation last night.

2. Sally influenced all those people and more in just 25 years. That’s right. Sally was only 25 years old.

I am more than twice Sally’s age and I don’t think I’ve impacted nearly that many people. I have a lot of catching up to do. I want my life to be a testimony to the ministry of Christ, just like Sally’s was and is…even in death. And the only way to do that is to live out my vocation every moment of my life.

Full Disclosure

For the past three years, I have been working with our small congregation to develop an equipping culture. My prior experience with a large congregation involved to maintaining and growing equipping systems and processes that were already in place.  Transitioning to a smaller church setting has provided me the opportunity to practically explore the “why” behind some of those structures and processes I have taken for granted.

I recently signed up to help with an off-site ministry event. I had a busy week and didn’t give the event much thought until the night before, when I realized I had a lot more questions than I had answers! I found myself feeling somewhat frustrated because I didn’t have information that would help me feel confident as I stepped into my assignment. As a result of this experience, I learned why a defined process is a useful tool when planning ministry events.

Here’s one way you can develop such a tool. Gather a team of inquisitive, detail-oriented people and start asking questions:

  • What time do volunteers need to arrive?
  • What time will they be finished?
  • If it’s an off-site event, where should they park?
  • Is the event indoors or outdoors? If outdoors, does rain cancel the event?
  • What is appropriate attire? (e.g., work clothes, comfortable shoes, etc.)
  • Do they  need to bring special equipment or supplies?
  • Who do they report to?
  • Upon arrival, where will they find this person?
  • Who will they be working with? (Remember, no one should serve alone!)
  • What specific task(s) will the volunteer be required to do?
  • Will they be trained prior to the event or at the event?
  • How will we promote this event?
  • How will we invite people to participate?
  • Where and how can people sign up to serve?

Ask until your well of questions runs dry! No question is insignificant. Believe me, if you come up with it, someone else will also.

Feel like a tedious exercise? Perhaps. You may not mind walking into a strange place without knowing exactly who will orient you or specifically what you will do. But there are plenty of people who want to know exactly what to expect and won’t sign up to serve until they have enough information to feel comfortable and confident.

By the way… if you oversee the volunteer ministry of your church, I encourage you to sign up occasionally as a volunteer. It’s a good way to evaluate what’s going on in various ministry areas from the perspective of a volunteer. You can then help ministry leaders become high-capacity leaders of high-capacity teams, not to mention helping volunteers have positive and fulfilling ministry experiences. Just remember to seek first to understand and then to be understood. Ask questions that will help you understand specifics of the particular ministry so that you can be helpful while avoiding any hint of micro-managing.

Lastly…debrief ministry events as soon afterwards as possible. Even if you don’t anticipate repeating that particular event, you will discover tips to increase your effectiveness when planning the next event. And don’t forget to celebrate your success!