Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mission Possible: Part I

I love watching movies like the Jason Bourne trilogies and Mission Impossible. These guys are extra-ordinary in every way.
Smart, strong, multi talented (is there anything they don't know how to do?). They have almost super human abilities to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks. They have incredible drive and purpose persevering through difficult and injurious events, improvising great feats with whatever is available to them at the time. They make an impact everywhere they go.
They accomplish their mission, every time.

I'd like to be a Jason Bourne; strong, capable, invincible, multi-talented and really smart. He is just good and successful at everything he attempts!
In reality, I'm probably more like Gideon (Judges 6). He was wasn't like Jason Bourne at all! In fact, on the surface he was about as far from Bourne as you could get. He was kind of wimpy and weak, pretty average, fearful, not all that smart and hardly a leader in the community. Not someone you'd think would make any kind of impact and complete any mission of value.

But hey! My (and yours too) lucky day! We don't live in the world of Jason Bourne.
Instead, we live in the Kingdom of oxymoron's; the Kingdom of God. Where our weakness's are not a liability. Instead, they are an asset! A Kingdom where we do have missions to accomplish and lives to impact.

Scripture says; " There are not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble. " (1 Co 1:26.). The Apostle Paul says of himself; " I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling", ( 1 Co 2:3.) He goes on to say that his weakness resulted in a "demonstration of the Spirit and of the power of God" vs. 4. As good as Bourne is, he can't even come close to someone walking in the power of God! Talk about invincible!

Gideon with trumpets and pitchers, defeated an enemy.
A stone in the hand of a young David brought down a giant.
A widow in Zarephath said; "I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl, and a little oil in the jar", (1 Ki 17:12) Yet, it multiplied for many "days" to feed the three in her household. Scripture is loaded with examples like these.

God does not cease in doing impossible missions through weak people. Rather, we falter in our belief that He will do it through us! We are looking at ourselves, instead of an awesome God!

In John 6, Jesus asked Phillip how to feed the multitude of people gathered on the mountain who had gathered to listen to Jesus. Phillip comments that with what they have in their purse, it was not sufficient to buy food for the multitude.
Andrew however, saw the potential of "the small" in the hand of Jesus. He didn't know how the insignificant contribution of 2 fish and 5 barely loaves would help, but he offered it anyway, trusting Jesus would do SOMETHING with it. And Jesus did! Something powerful!

Today, most of us only have a couple fish and maybe, a few loaves. Our trumpets are rusty and dust filled. Maybe our jars and purses are empty. We're feeling pretty wimpy and weak.
We're seeing what we DO NOT HAVE, instead of what we DO HAVE!
Are we thinking like Phillip or Andrew?

We are called to be obedient with what He gives us.
To use it!
That is so simple really.

Whatever you have in gifts, abilities, relationships, venues, and material goods, are opportunities to see the Kingdom of oxymoron's manifest. Watch Him take it, use and multiply it into fruitfulness and acts of His power that you never knew was possible. He will!

Can you imagine your life powerful and impacting?
God wants it to be.
In fact, He waits on you to see Him prove it.

Your weakness's are your assets but only if you see it as so. They are not limitations to Him. Our God is waiting and willing to show you! We have the most powerful Source that ever existed in and through us, wanting to reveal Himself to and through us so that the world may Know Him!

We don't have to be the Jason Bournes of our times to accomplish the mission. We just need to step into the missions available to us every day. Trusting God and the Kingdom of oxymoron's to manifest itself as we step into our 'mission possibles'.

In the words from the old Mission Impossible series of the 1960's and 1970's: "Your mission, should you decide to accept it....."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Live Changes and Become the Model

Most of us would probably view ourselves as teachable and trainable; that we have not become set in our ways, practices, and ideas of interpreting and expressing our faith. That we remain open to the mid course correction opportunities that come our way.

In reality however, making a change is difficult. Remaining teachable throughout life is a challenge. It takes a lot of humility and courage. As we mature, we're supposed to know more right? Or at least have people thinking that about us.

Not everyone wants to take the leap into a mid course change that often feels like free fall from the cliff of status quo.

The simple, organic, and missional Christian walk is filled with opportunities for mid course corrections, and the free fall is real. It can be pretty unnerving and unsettling.
The good news is that God provides not only the parachute but knows exactly where to place our landing. On His target, if we trust Him to do so.

When I teach a motorcycle riding class, I do a "demo" before each lesson. We model for our students what we would like them to learn and then practice it for a while on the riding range. Many people come to our classes with previous riding experience and they have developed some techniques that at best are okay, but hinder them from riding more skillfully and effectively. At worst they are harmful and even dangerous for them. The value of having a demo for these riders is more than just instructional, as it is for the new riding students. For the more experienced riders it means they have to make a conscious, and often dramatic change in how they think, ride and maneuver the motorcycle. For some, they can't make the change and continue on doing as they have always done. For the new students however, no mid course corrections are needed. They have an advantage. They don't have to change, they just learn.

I don't see much of a difference in the paradigm shifting going on within the Body of Christ at this juncture. Doing things "as we have always done them" is being challenged, and the rules for what church is or isn't, are being explored. New "demos" are displayed before us, and we are all in a learning curve of change. Some can make the mid course corrections, and others cannot.

We are in a teachable moment in history. A time where change is in the wind.

The Kingdom is being discussed outside of seminary by folks without theology degrees and they are doing these discussions in their homes, work places, coffee shops, bars and all sorts of unorthodox settings. People are actually reading their own bibles for instruction rather than just listening to an hour of teaching once a week. Those who have not been "full time paid ministers" are finding out they too are called to serve the King in full time, 24/7 obedience and availability, and they are challenging the notion that there is sacred work and then there is secular work. The whole Army is being called into action, rather than the few, and the momentum forward is evident.

Not too unlike when Jesus Himself walked the earth. The ultimate teaching moment! Another time where change was in the wind.

He was after all; "just Joseph's son". Those He called to join Him in this radical change were fishermen, tax collectors, women and nobodies! He had church on mountains, in boats, at wells and in homes. He did such unorthodox things like spit in dirt and smear it in blind eyes, forgive a woman caught in adultery, share the Kingdom with prostitutes and tax collectors, healing on the Sabbath and breaking the sacred rules on a regular basis. It was like He carried a big banner that proclaimed; "I came to bring change and bring it more abundantly"!

Those who watched and learned from the "demos" of Jesus and made the midcourse corrections, prospered in Kingdom terms. Those who didn't, remained stagnant in their institution. White washed tombs, blind leading the blind.

Ivan Illich, was an Austrian philosopher critical of contemporary institutions like education, medicine and economic development. He spoke about something called counterproductivity; which is the concept that describes a phenomenon that when an institution reaches a critical point and forms a monopoly, without knowing it, they begin to impede their own performance.

This is what happened to Israel. They started out with the very Words of God, handwritten on stone tablets with His own Hand. And there was more! A great book written of the love and commitment of a God who desired relationship with those He created.
Remember the Tabernacle? The very Presence of God hanging out with His people! Wow, the first God in a Box! But that was His box of making...not the one we put Him into. There is a big difference. Jesus came to us again in a box of human form.

Pretty quickly in time, the words of love and fatherly instruction became institutionalized rules, formats, and all about performance. Systems, professionalism and elitism replaced intimacy, simplicity, dependency and the value of each life in Kingdom realities. Jesus saw Israel as sheep without a shepherd, harassed and downtrodden.

We have our own form of institutionalized counterproductivity today.

In the book of Matthew, 18:3-4, Jesus says; "Truly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven".

Children are teachable. They accept their dependency. They make the corrections needed when confronted with the instruction.
My motorcycle students that are new to riding, have the openness and humility to take the instruction and learn. Some of my more experienced riders also humble themselves and make the corrections in how they ride and maneuver the motorcycle.

What about us? Are we teachable, trainable and humble enough to make any mid course corrections that the Holy Spirit is leading us into? Can we become and stay as little children and experience all of the Kingdom as we live out this simple, organic and missional life? Can we jump into the unknown, trusting our free fall to the One who knows where to land us?

One of my favorite quotes from Ivan Illich is where he says; "We can only live changes; we cannot think our way to humanity. Every one of us, every group, must become the model of that which we desire to create."

"O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters, Or in things too difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever." Ps 131