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Putting Things Together

But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the profit of all. 1 Corinthians 12:7

When I was young my parents would put things together, usually around birthdays and Christmas. The box came with instructions and Dad always had the right tool. All the bits and pieces were in one nicely boxed location.

When I had children, I found myself doing the same thing the night before Christmas or birthdays for my children. It’s all part of being a parent and it’s a good part. It’s not like every item went together without much fuss. You sometimes you wondered if the guy who wrote the instructions ever tried to make them work. It was the smile and joy on your child’s face which made it all worth the effort.

I was in my office the other day working on some IT issues which help the flow of the Gospel reach into the corners of the earth when a question popped up in our small group of computer geeks. One of the guys wanted to know how he could gather specific information from our global network to help him resolve the project he was trying to complete on time. There were two of us within earshot of his question.

Screen Shot 2018-03-30 at 8.33.18 AMThen the most amazing thing came about. It wasn’t planned by us, but I suspect the Lord had his hands, plans and preparation in place. Two of us looked at each other and said we could use PowerShell to find the information needed. None of us knew how this would work out. None of us had the answer, just a start.

One fellow asked, “What command do I use?” He was really good at scripting things in PowerShell. Unfortunately, he never used this subset of commands. Me, I spent a lot of time with those commands. I tossed out a command and that was a start. Next, I queried the internet for some examples of resolving our command conundrum and found more details. This was a step forward.

Passing that script command information along to the master scripting fellow he went to work refining the command using other commands he knew well to retrieve the necessary information. I would watch he test the command line and interject a command I remembered into the development until it was working properly. Then we presented the final results to our fellow mission who needed the information.

It was a success. The information would allow our colleague to complete his project on time. It also provided us with a command system to pass along to other IT Geeks in our global ministry to garner the necessary information for their respective offices. All the pieces were put together to move forward in our ministry.

It seemed like a small thing. The command line wasn’t that long. It took less than an hour to provide a globally useful command line. We were all turning back to our day’s work and moving on. Then I started thinking. Dangerous at best. None of us had all the answers to the challenge.

It’s the same way in the body of Christ. None of us have all the solutions. It takes a team effort. It takes working together. It takes understanding what gift the Spirit has provided to each of us. Not one of these meets all the needs of the church. It’s the culmination of each person’s spiritual gift and God given talents which makes things work this side of the heavenly gates.

There are different gifts for the “profit of all” wrote Paul. We need to realize this and stop trying to fix everything ourselves. We need to rely on God to provide the necessary gifts through His people. We need to understand why God places certain people in certain places at certain times.

God placed the right fellows with different pieces in the right place for us to resolve the need. He does the same within the body of Christ. We just need to look around and see who is there. God has provided our gifts to complement and help us bring His salvation, grace and love to those around us.

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I’d Like to Exchange That

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2 NIV)

Exchange: to give and receive reciprocally, to replace one item with something better.  When I was growing up I remember my mother exchanging ill-fitting garments for the proper fit at the local department store. This adventure, led by my fearless mother, usually occurred after Christmas or a birthday. I always wanted to trade in those extra skivvies, and scarfs, for some toy or game. But, I was taught to exchange it for the same item with a better fit.

The last couple of weeks I’ve been working on exchanging an Exchange for an Exchange. That’s not a typo. Exchange, with a capital “E,” is a mail and information exchange system which we use in our ministry. Without getting into a debate over which software is best, I’d like to say I like Exchange. It does what we need done quite well. For the user, it’s rather straightforward and effective. From the administrator’s point of view, it’s great when it works, and a nightmare when it doesn’t.

Most of the time things go well. But, after several years it was time for an upgrade to the latest and greatest version. The new features and stability would improve our operation. The trick is to migrate from 2003 to 2010, a seven-year change of software, with little or no impact on the users.  We’re not an enormous ministry with thousands of mailboxes but we have a good number of folks to keep happy.

The project also needed to be coordinated between continents so both servers were at the same level. With the assistance of my counterpart in the US we went to work. Step by step we exchanged one version for another and cautiously moved services from one computer to another. I exchanged my Exchange in Europe while my US colleague exchanged his Exchange in the USA. It takes time to set things up, test them out, and then move the data.

20161005_171232916_iosIt’s when we move the data that things get touchy. During the transition process a user has no access to their data. After the transition, most users are automatically directed to the new server while a few need a helping hand to change their settings. Most of the transition was done in the middle of the night, when I should’ve been sleeping, but some moves required daytime activation.

I had a touch of trepidation as we proceeded. The last thing I wanted was 100 plus people ringing my phone or Skyping me that something was wrong. With careful planning, step by step procedures, and tests along the way, things went quite well. There were a few quirks with the Public Folder migration. Occasionally a recalcitrant account or program setting reared its ugly head. But overall things went well. In the aftermath, it took time to iron out the last wrinkles which were sure to crop up as the system assumed regular service.

It appeared the newly exchanged Exchange was a better fit for our ministry and proved a good exchange. Now we can exchange email with the world seamlessly as well as several other nice features. I’ve exchanged my work on one Exchange server for a new set of tools on a new Exchange server.  Overall, it’s an excellent exchange.

I’m reminded of Paul’s words about exchanging one life for another, one law for another. We’ve been given a spirit of life which frees us from the spirit of sin and death. Just as the exchanged skivvies from Christmas fit better, the newly exchanged Exchange server fits our ministry better.

Now that I’ve exchanged Exchange for Exchange I need to learn the new tools and make use of them to be more effective in my ministry. In the same way, I need to concentrate on living in the spirit of life to be more faithful in my walk with God. I need to exchange my old habits for new.

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Fire Alarms

God, you know my foolishness. My sins aren’t hidden from you. (Psalms 69:5 WEB)

I grew up a normal American boy. I liked baseball, hot dogs and fire engines. All those bright, shiny red vehicles made my eyes glaze over in wonder. “Emergency” was one of my favorite programs and the sound of a siren starts my mouth watering in excitement.

Feuerwehr is the German/Austrian word for Fire Station. On the opposite side of our parking lot is the Gießhübl Feuerwehr. The station sports a tall tower with the siren right at the top. This elevation was perfect for calling the volunteers to resolve the latest emergency. It was also the same height as our dining room window. Every Saturday at noon we were reminded of its presence. It was loud, ear shattering and we couldn’t miss it even with the windows closed.

Whenever they sounded the alarm we enjoyed watching events unfold. As a volunteer Fire Department the men came running from up and down the hill to bring out the trucks and ambulance. On several occasions we had our thoughts jarred as the loud horn began its call to arms.

FrontBalcony2One week I was in Bratislava for some mission work. When I returned home the family filled me on the evenings events. Late that evening the fire alarm sounded. It startled the family from their activities. Being curious, Beth and Joel went out on the balcony and watched the men arrive and the trucks drive out of the Feuerwehr.

Instead of heading down the street the trucks came around the back of the Feuerwehr and into our parking lot. They bounded off the vehicles and headed up the stairs in our building axes in hand, helmets wagging on their heads.

A few seconds later there was a resounding knock on the apartment door. When Beth and Joel opened the door of the apartment they were greeted by firemen with glow in the dark hats and appropriate jackets looking for a fire.

Apparently someone had seen the flame from the citronella candles on the balcony and thought there was a fire in our apartment. Beth showed them the candle after they gestured that they were looking for a burning residence. Speaking no English, the firemen looked at the candle, shrugged their shoulders and turned to leave. Other firemen saw the cause of the commotion and laughed at the situation.

We can now confirm the Feuerwehr in Gießhübl works quite well and responds quickly to calls for action. They also appear to be nice fellows and were understanding of the mix-up.

Sometimes we jump to conclusions. Even as Christians, we see a small flame make a wild assumption and call out the theological fire department to squelch the flames. The results can be devastating as spiritual doors are battered down by well-meaning believers.

God knows. He doesn’t jump to conclusions. When He sends out the fire department there are flames to be quenched. When His convicting spirit points to a sin in our life in need of attention we can’t point to a misunderstanding.

We love to watch firemen rushing to some disaster. Sometimes the disaster is in our own life. Next time we hear the fire alarm maybe it would be a good time to pray for those experiencing some disaster and evaluate our own heart to be sure there are no wildfires in our own soul.

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