Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mission Possible: Part V "Big Bellies!"

Let's get candid here. I'm going to tell you the truth.
Do you know you have a big belly?
More than just a 'bit of a pot', but a really large girth, and your ready to burst!

As a follower and a disciple of Jesus Christ, your belly is made to be big. God designed us to be holding tanks and reservoirs of Him. Full to overflowing. Ready to burst and to be spilled out.

John 7:38; "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."

I have been talking about living a missional life in these last few blogs. Living in such a way that the people around you, who don't know Jesus, can come to know Him because they know you! They can have a taste of the living water, and begin to see what they are missing!

Too many Christians I know have few, if any, friends that are not believers. They surround themselves with people who believe and look exactly like them. They are content to keep the living water flowing back and forth within their select group. I'm not saying this is wrong, but I am saying that we are missing the whole purpose of Christ, if all we do is keep the water to ourselves.

This is not what Jesus did. It is not how the Apostle Paul made an impact in every region he journeyed in.

Jesus was known for "being a friend of sinners"; prostitutes, tax collectors, corrupt businessmen, Samaritans, and people discarded from the religious circles of the day like the lame, the lepers, the demonized.
Jesus could of kept his time on earth limited to hanging out the the disciples. Enjoying his teaching time with them every day for three years; teaching, talking, praying, training. But he didn't do that! Instead, He sought people out and entered into their lives.

It's just too easy, safe, and frankly selfish, for us to water ourselves and each other and let those who don't know the Living Water, remain thirsty. That is NOT why we are filled to overflowing! The very idea of "overflow" illustrates water that cannot be contained. It fills us up yes, and then it spills out, and it spreads to those around us.

Look, we've spent enough time on ourselves haven't we? Aren't you full enough yet?

For years, and in many contexts of both traditional and simple church circles, I have heard the phrase; "We aren't ready yet!"
We have been reading book after book, blog after blog, going to conferences year after year, getting prayer, ministry, words of "whatever" for years! Isn't it time for us to stop spending "our riches" on ourselves and spend it upon those who ARE really empty?

Jesus said, to the disciples gathered around him who were amazed that He had been speaking with a Samaritan woman; "Lift up your eyes and LOOK on the fields, that they are white (ready) for harvest." John 4:35. He was demonstrating how to look beyond their little group, and to see "what the Father was doing" in reaching the unreached. Jesus stayed in the village of Samaritans for two days and the bible says that "many more believed". This was a new concept to the disciples, who were content with a message for and the fellowship with, those they were familiar with.

It's time to step out folks. Into the great adventure of missional living.

God has the plan. He knows where He is leading us in touching the lives of people not familiar to us.
God takes what He has placed within us, and empowers it. He takes what is in the natural and makes it super natural. He waits on us to make the first move in faith, and then He adds the impact. The power, the affect.

For example; my husband can really hit a baseball. In fact, at one time he was on the Minnesota Twins farm team being coached to the big leagues. Hitting a baseball over a fence was fairly natural to him, but it was all in his own strength and ability. However, if there was a "rear wind" as he got to the plate, he hit a home run every single time!
That is how it is for us. We step up to the plate, bat in hand, and swing at the pitch, knowing that the Spirit of God is our back wind, empowering our natural ability to supernatural home runs! The good news is that we ALL make the team. No one is benched, unless you bench yourself!

Okay, let's talk practicality. Make the discussion more than just my ramblings. How can you live missionally in the practicality of your daily life with those who don't know Jesus yet?

What ya got?

Are you good with budgets and managing money? Help someone you know who needs to learn and manage their money better.
Are you good at construction, plumbing, electrical, etc.? Do you know how many men and some women, who would love a mentor/teacher to help them with a household project that they are intimated by because they don't know how to do it? You be the one willing to come alongside to teach them.
Cars? Can you fix and teach some basics? Motorcycle rider? Can you invite some neighbor you've seen on a motorcycle to a ride and lunch one day and get to know them?
Are you a good dad or mom? There are so many young men, women, and couples don't have true fathering/mothering and someone helping them be fathers/mother themselves.
Can you cook? How about teaching a young couple some great recipes and doing them together building a relationship? Have a neighborhood cooking party to share recipes.
Like kids? Know any young couples who can't afford a night out and a babysitter? Offer to be the babysitter sometime.
Are you an encourager? An optimistic person with coaching gifts? Find out the dreams and hopes of a neighbor or co-worker and make yourself their greatest encourager and supporter.
Like to BBQ, do campfires, and roast marshmallows? Make it a regular event and fun for all! Make your house the fun house on the block!
Are you good at parties? How about giving a birthday party for a neighbor or their kids. Go all out on the decorations and make them feel special and celebrated! Or a wedding, baby or housewarming shower?
Do you like eating out? How about taking some folks out that can't afford it or even buy them a couple gift certificates as encouragement for their marriage, birthday, life, new job, etc.?
Do you like shopping? How about taking a elderly person or someone without transportation around shopping? You'd be surprised how many older folks live around you and don't have much money for food. Their cupboards are often quite empty.
Do you listen well and like to hear stories? Older folks have great stories, are often isolated in their homes and are quite open to a new relationship.
Do you have a car to drive people without transportation to doctor appointments, job interviews, errands etc.?
Been down to a state job search site recently? It's a place loaded with people to help write resumes, practice job interviews, drive to interviews, and encourage.
Do you like cross cultural venues? Lot's of refugees live in every area of the country. Plenty of folks who are living isolated and lonely lives. Legals and not, does it really matter? Help them learn English, understand papers that come in the mail. Be an advocate for them in a new culture and help them navigate it. Help them set up their households.
Like to vacation? Ever think of taking someone who can't afford it or isn't in your Christian club?
Love Christmas? How about going out and buying the "whole celebration" of a tree, ornaments, food, decorations and gifts for a family you know is struggling this year financially, and you could bring Jesus to them this Christmas?

Look around you. Use what skills, gifts and knowledge you have. Listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Serve. Build relationships. Love authentically. Be there and be accessible.

The people around us are not a project, but are instead are an offer of a relationship. In our culture, we're not so good at relationships. We want the quick, the uncommitted, the 'no strings' and 'no cost' kind of outreach into people's lives. But we can change.

We can touch people in every context of our lives if we choose to do so. We can be to those around us the fragrance of Christ and a light in dark place. In closing, I'll tell you a story from my own life that illustrates this.

I had built a friendship with an Iranian family that came as refugees. They spoke no English, and knew only a few distant relatives living here. I helped them learn English, set up a home, get enrolled in schools and find jobs. We spent time together, eating, shopping, doing a lot of pantomime (which works as a great language bridge) and building a friendship. I had a number of opportunities to pray for them, and share about my faith and the differences with their own (Baha'i). One day, I was invited to a party in the Iranian community and my friends took me around and made introductions. They were speaking Farsi, and I eventually asked them after about the fifth introduction; "How are you introducing me? It sounds different than a regular introduction of my name?" (by this time I was learning basic Farsi). My friend replied that she was introducing me as; "the one who shines like the moon in a dark place".

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mission Possible: Part IV " A Servant First"

Many years ago, I had a dream one night that changed my life in a dramatic way.

In the dream I was on the banks of a river that was flowing fast and deep. I stepped into the river and walked upstream wanting to find its source. After a time, I reached a fork in the river. On the left side of this fork, it was clear that this was the side with the main source of the water. The right side, in contrast, had barely enough water flowing in it to cover my feet. Of course I wanted the deep water, and to follow it to the source!

As I walked upstream in the river on the deep side, I saw in the distance what appeared to be a huge city on a mountain from which the river flowed. The city was all white and illuminated, and yet full of color. It was magnificant and breathtaking and I innately knew the Lord dwelled there, and THAT was where I wanted to be!

As I excitedly made my way up to that city, I hit an invisible barrier that stopped me short. Two men suddenly appeared and stood on each side of me, blocking my way. I was irritated with them, and told them I wanted to be let through so I could go on up to the mountain, to that city to be with the Lord. Why would they stop me from that?

They shook their heads no, and pointed to the other river, the shallow one that I had quickly passed by as I chose the deeper side, and they said; "No, you must learn to be a servant first".

I looked over to that sad trickle of water and saw that it lead to and through a run down and neglected town. The water slowly moved through the center of it, and in some places even appeared to dry up altogether. The people looked horrible! They were poor, shabby, beaten down and seemed to wander aimlessly throughout the broken town.

I died inside.

Go THERE? I gazed back up to the beautiful mountain and couldn't believe it! I could be on the mountain, in the presence of the Lord! I could be in the deepest of all water, filled and satisfied, but instead I had to go where there was barely any water? And to make it worse, with people who looked like they didn't care one way or another about it!

Then I saw the word "RUTH" written over the town. I was sunk, and I knew it.

The meaning of the name Ruth means friend and companion.

I understood what was wanted of me. I was to go and be a friend and companion to those destitute people, living with them in their sad little town.

I would serve them.
I would serve the One who wanted me there.

Jesus comes to us, to serve us in our own little destitute worlds, so we can know Him and the Father.

In Matthew 20:28, Jesus says of Himself; "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

He sends us to serve in His likeness.

In Philippians 2:5 - 8 it says; "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus; Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on the cross!"

It's easy to serve ourselves and seek the deeper water of fellowship with the Lord. That comes pretty natural to our self centered nature. It's even fairly easy to serve the Body of Christ and those who appreciate and understand the core of what motivates us.

It is not easy to serve those who don't know Him and walk blindly in the dark. To be light, salt and the fragrance of Christ is much more challenging and draining with those who live for the world. The warfare involved adds even more difficulties to overcome.

But it is our calling.

Jesus said in Matthew 4:12-13; "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means; I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners".

We are all called to be missionaries to the world around us. To befriend those in it, as Jesus did, and come alongside them as companions. To live the message of Christ before them and with a credibility that comes as we serve and love them, entering into their lives through relationship.

"How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written; "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" Romans 10: 14-15

Consider yourself sent........

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mission Possible: Part III "Yes We Can!"

When Barak Obama used the phrase "Yes, we can!" in his campaign for President, it touched something within people, and I'm not talking about politics here. We all want to feel we have purpose and a unique contribution to make in life. We are created to be ignited, set apart and set lose for the purposes that God holds in His Heart for us.

It's not for the few, the chosen or the special. It's not for the paid, ordained, and trained.
It is for each and every one of us!
The choice of knowing Him, and these purposes to their fulfillment however, is our choice. And we make these choices on a daily basis.

In the previous blog posting I mentioned how Jesus lived a missional life, and how He is our example.
First, and over all, He lived in continual intimacy and fellowship with the Father. As the result of this fellowship, it is clear that His mission was to bring that same intimacy and restored relationship with God to mankind through salvation. Each day God, the Father, gave Jesus opportunities to reveal this personally to people in a variety of ways and contexts. Jesus received His daily "memos" of what was on the agenda for that day from the Father. The fruit of this is evident. It is incredible how much Jesus accomplished in the short three years of living this missional lifestyle of "only doing that which The Father showed him to do".

What kind of impact could we each see in our own lives if we believed and acted in such a way!

Jesus said in John 14:12; "I tell you the truth, that anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father".

Do you believe Jesus meant these words, or was he being overly enthusiastic about the potential of those who believed in him and acted on it?

Could we see the lives around us transformed like that of Zaccheus, the demoniac, Matthew, Mary, Paul, the Centurion, the Samaritan woman and so many others?

Yes, we can!

In 1 Cor 1:5 - 7 Paul addresses the carnal, immature and weak church of Corinth with these words; " in everything you have been enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you. So that you are not lacking in any gift. "

Just how do you interpret the words; in everything, enriched, in all, not lacking in any?
I'd say that's pretty unambiguous.

Now, do you really live and act like you believe it?

The Apostle Paul says in 2 Cor.13:5; "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you - unless, of course, you fail the test?"

If we have Christ in us we have all that we need! We are rich! We are loaded with supernatural everything!
If we are lacking, it is only in our belief to know this is true.
Just what do you believe if you don't believe this? And if you do believe it, are you acting like it? Remember also the scriptures exhort us to not just be hearers but doers of the Word so it takes root in us and becomes a reality in our lives.

In Luke 24: 45 it says Jesus "opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures" and charged them to go out and preach what they were given. In 24:48; "You are my witnesses of these things".

You have gifts, talents, skills, abilities, and more that God wants to use to touch others that don't know Him. And these are meant to be empowered by His Grace, directed by the Spirit. To be His witnesses. His ambassadors. His message.

Go out and be missional in His power, promise and strength!

Yes, we can!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mission Possible: Part II "Yes to Mission!"

There is a controversy brewing and I just don't get it.

It's all about the word missional. "To be or not to be", borrowing from William Shakespeare.
I've been hearing and reading discussions in the Body of Christ, and in particular the Organic, Simple and Missional movement, about the value, worth and sequence of being missional.
Debates and conversations over things like; "does Christology proceed Missiology" or vise versa ? "Worship, not mission, is the ultimate goal for the church." "Missional is really a covering for the works of our flesh." "There is too much emphasis on being missional, and we need first to have more fellowship with Jesus and with each other in community".

I'm personally frustrated with these conversations.

How can you have intimacy with the Lord and NOT live in a "mission". A mission that others would know Him! Intimacy results in an alignment with the desires and heart of God. His heart is missional! He wants His creation to Know Him!

Worship is the ultimate goal over mission?
Mission is worship. Mission is obedience. Obedience is worship.
Jesus honored the Father by obeying Him in all things, the first being His being willing to come to earth and live among us for awhile and then dying for our sins. His prayers were heard because he was submitted to the Father. My mission is to worship Him with my life and with all that I have been given. Far more than the songs I sing or the money I give. Remember the parable of the talents? I want to multiply it all to honor and worship Him.

We honor the Father, as Jesus did, when He walked in their shared mission to provide redemption and relationship to humanity. Jesus did only that which the Father told Him to do, every day. He had the overall mission, and then the day to day missions. If you study the daily life of Jesus, you see that He was the epitome of living missional. He could of sat on top of the mountain every day, basking in the intimate presence of God, but He didn't. How blessed we are that he instead revealed the mission of the Father each day to people in a multiple of ways.

God Himself is mission and the source of all mission.
Mission is not initiated by the flesh of men, but by the Spirit of God.
He gave His only son, SO THAT others may know and experience the incredible relationship of knowing Him. That's His mission and desire (that all would come to the knowledge of Him.) Without mission, no one would know His great love!

I know Him, and this incredible gift He "missioned" to give me 25 years ago. I want others around me to know and experience what I have! It's too awesome and incredible to keep to myself! It is the Spirit of God within me that initiates and motivates this, not my flesh. It's not our flesh that pursues mission, it is the Holy Spirit working out the desires of the Father and Son.
Jesus told the disciples to wait until they received the Holy Spirit and then they would "go out" and tell others and make more disciples who would be filled with this same Spirit. When they did receive Him at Pentecost, it motivated them into the greatest missional movement the world has experienced.

Jesus is my example in all things. Jesus is the ultimate model of living a missional life that was full of intimacy with the Father, fruitfulness and perfect obedience. He said, if you see Me, you see the Father, and as He sent Me, so I send you.....

That's enough for me.........