REMADE MISSION

ImageThomas Edison when thinking back on all the times he tried and failed to master the concept of the incandescent light bulb famously quipped, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb!”

The Israelites instead of trying to master a light bulb were left fumbling to master Jerusalem with the foreign enemies, wall-less perimeter and wayward people. Throughout Nehemiah God reveals to us his ability to turn our failed attempts into a REMADE MISSION.

Naturally, it takes a remade person to initiate a remade mission! If we personally haven’t met the Risen Lord, through the power of the Holy Spirit, our effort, energy, and insights will eventually dry up like a drop of water in the most oppressive desserts heat. Yet meeting the Risen Lord, Jesus says in John 14:13-, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” When our lives start to align with God’s providence, we become part of a bigger plan and picture for humanity! For Nehemiah it was necessary for him to seek the will of God in order to ask for things that aligned with His will. 

Nehemiah 2:3-4  I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven…From prayer proceeded provision to fulfill God’s plan-(v. 5) and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”

While we sat in the computer lab alone, my friend began to share his story of being remade for a remade mission! He grew up a PK (Preacher’s Kid) going to every church event possible: Monday for prayer, Wednesday for midweek service, Sunday- not once, but twice. Yet by the time he reached high school and then in college he felt like being a Christian was all about “following the rules, walking the line, avoiding the rated R movies, etc.” When he got out of the structure of his dad’s house he found college to be a time of exploration, less studying and more partying, drugs and drinking. Within a year he was on the verge of flunking out but in order to avoid the black mark on his transcript instead he took a “leave of absence.” During the time away, he got a part-time job in a factory and lived in his parent’s basement. During the break, his dad invited him to a Christian camp just to get out of the house, help if he wanted to, and maybe get some more sun (being in the basement without windows apparently made him nearly translucent). At camp, he said, “God started working on my heart again.” Instead of being all about rules, it was all about relationship with Jesus Christ. Hundreds of junior high and high school kids in between swimming and kick ball made commitments or recommitments to Jesus Christ- to follow him, serve him, and be in relationship with him. No one knew it at the time, but there was also one college student who recommitted his life to God that day! As we sat in the seminary computer lab, my friend had ditched the factory for the full-time youth ministry–finding that as he was remade, his heart softened, his focused clarified on Christ that it made the mission of “seeking and saving the lost” all the clearer.

Where is God leading you? Charles Finney in his book Principles of Prayer makes it clear that if you are struggling to see the will of the Holy Spirit in your life first seek to recommit to Jesus Christ—“confess and forsake sin” and then as you have been remade or “born again” you can seek with renewed clarity the will of God and the remade mission in your life.

Martin Luther King Jr. once rightly said, “I may not yet be the man I should be or the man, with Christ’s help I will some day be, but thank God I’m not the man I used to be!” Amen to that!

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The Opportunity to Respond!

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Ephesians 2:10- “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance, so that we might walk in him!”

 Think about this verse in light of the stuff that you have been entrusted: your possessions, talents, and abilities. Not only has God given you these things to highlight his astounding craftsmanship, the pinnacle of all creation, the ultimate culmination of humanity, but more fully he has done this so that you have an opportunity to respond to Him and become more like Him.  

 Will your stuff be a barrier to God or reflect your priority of God? We tend to make idols out of everything: worshipping our phones, favorite sport’s teams, or trendy fashions. At times we even idolize ideals—working for the American Dream, striving at some picture of perfection that is only a façade of a darker reality. Out of his love for us, Christ models a picture of humility that all puts people over possessions as he left the halls of heaven for the horrors of humanity. Taking on the imperfection of human frailty, dealing with the same pressure, uncertainty, fear, and apprehension that paralyzes us and instead of giving in, became the sinless Lamb that was slain! He allowed nothing to stand in between his earthly life and the mission of the Father.

 All the things that make you uniquely “you” are an opportunity to become more like God, through his Son Jesus Christ. God laid out good works that might reflect the new-found redemption and relationship that is offered through the cross, a bridge from self to selflessness, from death to life. One day over lunch I asked a friend of mine who is a pastor what he thought it meant to be a “servant-leader.” He gave me a few thoughts and the conversation ended, but a few weeks later, early in the morning I got a text telling me to get to church ASAP. As I rushed to church expecting an emergency I opened the door to find an older man in the church on his hands and knees taking off a coat of wax and laying a new layer. I tip-toed around him and ran to the pastors office. “What’s wrong?” I grunted out. He said, “Did you see that older man in the main room? That is the answer to your question from a few weeks ago!” It turned out that the man was not a janitor or paid staff, but instead was the church treasurer, wealthiest contributor, pharmacist by trade, and there he was not content to give out of the abundant overflow of his bank account but instead giving out of the overflow of his heart. A servant using his talents to bring God glory and in the process he became more like the Son! We walk in the footsteps of Christ who went before us, and leave footprints in the sand for those who come behind us!

Show Me the Provision

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The 1996 movie Jerry McGuire made the line famous: “Show me the money!” From millionaires to McDonald’s employees people can feel short-changed at different points in time: “Life isn’t going how I planned!” or “I feel stuck in my job!” or “My marriage or family seems to be falling apart!” or “This isn’t what I signed up for!”

It takes a change in perspective to move away from feeling short-changed, trying to live out the American Dream of life, liberty, and property (pursuit of happiness) and begin living out the Divine Reality, moving from self-focus to selflessness, from “Show me the money” to first remembering that everything we have is owned by God! 

If you stop and think about it, all of those questions center on “me,” my desires, expectations, and plans. Martin Luther once said, “I’ve held many things in my hands, and have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands that I still possess.” Simply put when we cling it crumbles, and when we give away it remains.  Psalm 24:1-2 captures the scope of God’s ownership in our world and lives, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” Fine God! You win, you can have Mount Everest, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and the Mississippi River, but then we stop short of giving him control of our entire lives! We draw the territory line around our hearts–Trespassers will be prosecuted! Yet when we cling to controlling our own lives it crumbles! When we cling to fulfilling our own needs we crumble in our hollow emptiness.

When you look at the world we get the message that is counter to Scripture–cling to everything you can, meet your own needs, find self-actualization, or develop your own truth that works for you. The more we cling, the more things crumble! There have been times in my life where I’ve set out to meet my own needs, make myself happy, to find satisfaction in things besides God!  It is like going over to someone’s house thinking there would be dinner, but around 8:30pm you realize it’s not on the agenda! During the movie you wolf down the bowl of popcorn, lick the bowl for good measure and then your fingers getting every morsel (Your mother would be horrified!). Yet, the hunger remains, so when you leave where do you head? McDonald’s drive-through! It may blow your diet out of the water, give you heartburn, keep you up all night, but you are hungry! Yet you’ll be hungry again!  Instead Jesus gives us the key to being filled up and satisfied: Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

When our devotion, attention, and focus is on the creator and sustainer of all things—suddenly we find that out of God’s hand is the provision we have always been looking for! Not “Show me the Money!” but thank God for “Showing us His Provision!”

 

Show Me The Vision

He was a lean, mean, fighting machine. He was on top of the world, having been around it, and known all over it. As heavyweight champion of the world- his greatest fight was only rivaled by the pot of gold he amassed over his career, nearly $400 million. The only thing more impressive than the amount coming in was the spigot flowing out. He spent through the money faster than a grown man could chew through a human ear. Who could this be?  Mike Tyson, of course! He may be the only person in the world that got an ear and lost a fortune, but the list of people who have gone from on top of the world to under it, from envied by millions to mocked, from hot to not is lengthy and lamentable. Although you may have never had the opportunity to lose millions, (don’t worry me either) in our spiritual lives, the same problem can creep up…We can be blessed with good intentions, motivation, eagerness, and even the resources to be successful, but what tends to be lacking is vision.

It brings to mind the expert in the law who cornered Jesus in Luke 10:35-37 asking, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” In other words- give me the vision of how I can make sure I end up where I want to go?  When Jesus turns the question around on him we see he had the resources at his disposal, the commands were part of the law he had become an expert in and devoted his life to mastering, ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Simple enough! Make it happen! The vision has been casted!

There is only one small problem that arises as he added: “And who is my neighbor?”

The question is an attempt to postpone the practice of what he already knows to be true. So often we are sitting on the sidelines waiting until we have more understanding, finished another degree, or go to another seminar on ________ (fill in the blank), when we need to stop making the simple complex.

Jesus doesn’t tell us the two greatest commands are to be good looking and have a 180IQ, he doesn’t give us a creed to memorize, instead he gives us actions to live out! By taking on the 3 challenges we can put into motion Christ’s vision for our future.

1. Choosing Ministry over Management— (Luke 10:30-31) It is about showing the love of Christ. If you are anything like me, it is easy to take paper-work over people or sermons over souls. It was the same for the priest in the parable. He had “important” things to manage and missed the opportunity to have an impactful ministry on the man who had been robbed and was left to die in the ditch.

2. Being a Missionary over Being Ignorant-(Luke 10:32) We hear it all the time: “Ignorance is Bliss!” That can sound good for a while, but the truth is that what we don’t know can hurt us! Fixing a gas leak in your house may cost a lot, but not knowing might kill you!  Imagine if Christ would have gone for “ignorance” over being a “missionary.” Christ’s willingness to be a missionary was painful, agonizing, sacrificial, but it was also changed the course of history! The bottom line is that not-knowing is the fastest way to not-doing. The Levite in Jesus’ parable, a supposed pillar of righteousness along with the priest, decided it would be easier not to know, even when the implications were life and death.

3. Developing a Mentality that Engages rather than Retreats! (Luke 10:33-35) Finally, as Jesus’ parable comes to an end it is the one in the eyes of the Jews, that had to be avoided, ignored, and retreated from–the dreaded Samaritans–that shows love through engaging rather than retreating. There are a lot of people that you may want to lock the door when you see them pull up at your office (lights off, army crawling under the window) but ministry by its very nature is messy! The miracle of ministry is not perfect people living perfect lives, but imperfect people having their lives transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. A spirit that engages rather than avoids. The people society rejects outright, the 17 year old high school dropout who is hooked on drugs, the prisoner sitting in jail who is contemplating suicide, the single mother who works as an exotic dancer to pay the bills are all opportunities, but only for the Good Samaritan. Imagine if the church engaged rather than retreated—whether it was by offering to babysit, visiting in prison, walking alongside as the treatment was carried out. The Christian life is about RELATIONSHIP with PURPOSE! The opportunities are all around you!

ARE YOU THE GOOD SAMARITAN?