Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Shining like stars (Philippians 2:12-18)

What would it take for us to shine like stars (or be beacons of hope) for this world?

In Philippians 2:14-15, the Apostle Paul writes, Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.... The grumbling and arguing described here is grumbling against God and arguing with fellow Christians. The idea of 'shining like stars' is the idea of illuminating the darkness with a guiding light or a beacon. Following through on both of theses actions would result in Christ followers reflecting God's light out into the world to draw non-believers to Him.

The whole point of this passage is to get those of us who have already received salvation to effectively share it with others. Have you ever found a group of grumblers and complainers attractive? Probably not. If we are going to invite others into our Christian fellowship (which is part of our 'work' or ministry as Christians), then we need to first get our houses in order - and in many cases that applies to our church 'homes' as well as our family dwellings.

So back to the beginning question of 'What would it take for us to shine like stars (or be beacons of hope) for this world?' It might take asking yourself some very hard questions. It might take figuring out how to really let Jesus be light and hope in your own life first. We can't reflect what isn't there and if you are not allowing God's Holy Spirit to work in your life, then you can't be an effective minister for Christ in your home, your church, or the world at large.

When we let God have free rein in our lives we will be joyful no matter what our earthly circumstances might be and we will be able to reflect that joy to the world without trying. Where you most powerfully reflect that joy in the world will be the place God calls you to minister. 

In Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, Frederick Buechner wrote, "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet." This could mean almost anything because as Abraham Kyper said in 1880, "... there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'"

Perhaps you are called to be a 'safe' place for moms to 'confess' their struggles in motherhood. Perhaps you are called to walk with those who are experiencing grief or a serious illness. Maybe you are called to coach kids in an extracurricular sport or activity because you can mentor those girls or boys in such a way as to shine God's love and light into their little souls. Maybe you are called to nourish people's bodies with good food, or help people laugh by showing them how to see everyday events in a more light hearted way.

We are all 'gifted' for ministry in this world but in order to be effective, we must allow God to lead us to the place where He needs us. We must first let God put us in 'order' so that we can be people who become beacons for Him in this world.

-Chesney Szaniszlo 


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Thursday’s Child has Far to Go…or Why I Have Chosen to Leave the Ordained Ministry

Recently, I have asked Mission Presbytery to begin the process which will allow me to be ‘released from ordained ministry.’ That’s church speak for giving up my ability to be recognized as a minister of the Word and Sacrament (or Teaching Elder) in the Presbyterian Church, USA.
I was born on a Thursday and that saying about Thursday’s child has always seemed to resonate with my life.  My mother told me that I seemed to somehow consistently choose the more difficult path. Once again, I seem to have left the safety of the known for the “You’re doing what?” option.
In this case, I’m not quite sure of where God is leading me or what my future ministry  will look like. I  suspect it will look quite different from the ministry I have done within the Church over the past 12 years.
When I made the choice to become ordained, I spent a long weekend at a convent whose occupants had taken a vow of silence. I had plenty of quiet time to sit and listen for God’s voice. At that time I very clearly heard God offer me a choice. I felt assured that He would use me whether I chose to accept a call to ordained ministry or not.  At that time, I chose to become a minister. I have no doubts that in the past 12 years God has used me for His purposes and for that I am truly thankful.
Life is often not as clear cut as we would like it to be and it is certainly the case in mine that the journey never seems to conclude but just continues on, sometimes taking a turn that is quite unexpected.
This year I found myself back at the same crossroads I visited 12 years ago when God offered me a choice and promised to use me whichever path I took.
So, today, I have chosen to give up the specific tasks of ordained ministry and am stepping out into the unknown, ready to see what ministry God will call me to next. After all, all of us who follow Christ are his representatives and therefore minister in His name.
This has not been an easy decision to make but it is the right one. Who I am, my faith in God and my love for His church has not changed, I am simply changing the role I play in His kingdom. As I transition from pastor to member, I ask for your prayers and support as well as your patience as I  continue to seek God’s leading in this new role.
For those of you who attend Live Oak and wonder what this will mean for that congregation, I'll tell you ;) It means that as of the end of August I will no longer be on staff and running the programs I've run the last few years. I will still remain on the preaching schedule and preach a couple times this summer and a few times around the holidays while the Minter's are settling in with their new addition. It does not mean that my family will disappear - we will continue to worship at Live Oak and participate in the life of the Church.
In Faith,
Chesney Szaniszlo
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Citizens of THE Kingdom

In Philippians 1:27, Paul tells the Christians in Phillipi that no matter what happens, they are to '...conduct [themselves]  in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.'

What the original Greek is saying is that the Philippians who follow Christ should see themselves as citizens of heaven, not Rome.

This was a pretty big idea then and a pretty big one now. 

What would you do, if I told you to behave as if you were already living in heaven? For some of us, it would be a reprimand. For some of us, it might be a simple reminder of who we are as Christ followers. For all of us, I hope it would cause a shift in how we looked at our choices in this world. 

It's hard to participate in this world's 'eat or be eaten' attitude if you think of yourself  as a citizen of heaven.

I think most of us can agree that when we look at our world, our neighborhoods, even our families, much of the time we don't conduct ourselves as if we were citizens of heaven.

If we did, then we would truly see a bit of heaven here on Earth.

I, for one, would like to be a part of making that happen  more often.

Chesney Szaniszlo

'Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.'
(Philippians 1:27 NIV)


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

To Live is Christ?

While in prison for preaching the gospel, the Apostle Paul, wrote these words, For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21 NIV)

I think this short sentence, written 2,000 years ago by a Christian preacher jailed for his faith, should make us think very hard about what we center our lives around.

If we claim to be Christ followers, most of us know the correct answer is 'Jesus'. Do most of us, however, really believe it or live it out?

I think, much of the time for me, to live is my son or husband, or to live is to check off my 'to do' list. Jesus ends up being an addition after a comma, or maybe even after a period. I'm doing things because of Christ (like writing this blog for instance) but much of the time I'm so busy that ministry and parenting (and many other things that should be cherished and enjoyed) end up being 'tasks' I just want to finish so I can move on to the next thing.

Have you experienced this?

I think that maybe the best way for us to have a life truly centered in Christ is to slow down, jettison those things that keep us busy but don't make our lives meaningful (or even if they are meaningful, keep us from being centered in Christ), and make some space in our souls for God to move.

Chesney Szaniszlo