Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Marathons of Divine Purpose

Since last November I've been blogging on the paradigm of 24/7 missional life as simple, daily expressions and opportunities available to us to be a vehicle of God's purposes to reveal Himself to those on the earth. A common everyday life of missional practice, beyond our previous theology and behavior of looking to events and specialists to "do the work" for us. Instead, each one of us taking the opportunities to live out the realities of Christ in our lives to those around us in multiple venues and spheres that make up our own individual lives.

One of the most awesome aspects of living this life is that it is fine tuned by God to fit perfectly who we are, where we are, and what we are. We don't have to find the version of what we like and try to clone it. Instead, it is already within us. However, it does take our ability to listen, cooperate, initiate and obey what has already been laid out for each of us. As Paul says; " Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
Philippians 3:11-13

Our temperaments and natures play a large part of how we pursue life, and the pace of it. Most of us are somewhere between two extremes; the phlegmatic, laid back, slow moving turtle types and the fast, ground chewing, quick leaping, jack rabbit types. However, unlike the children's book regarding the turtle and the hare, we are not in a race against each other. We run in our own race. The race that is "set before us" which Paul refers to. An individual, unique and God directed race path. One long marathon of divine purpose for which we are given the freedom to choose the pace and whether we stop frequently or not along the way.

In riding a motorcycle, you can stay upright moving pretty slowly if you have acquired good balance, but if your stopped too long you tip over. If your in a boat with no wind or motor propelling you, it's said that "your dead in the water" and that's not what motorcycles or boats were created for! They are vehicles to be upright and moving somewhere. Both are directed by the rider or a captain for a journey. "With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith." 2 Thessalonians 1:11.

He is our captain. Rider extraordinaire. Hopefully we are learning to balance our lives, keep upright in our hearts and conscience and be continually filled with the Presence and "wind" Himself. Submitting joyfully and obediently, "For in him we live and move and have our being." Acts 17: 27-29.

This is incredible when you think of it. That the Creator of the universe, whom I can't even begin to fathom and understand, actually chooses to use the cracked, damaged, completely fallible humans He calls both "dust" and "His People" for anything of value and purpose. He has wonderful races for each of us that are "above all we could ever ask and imagine" if we choose to run those races by pressing forward into them. You can't just talk about a race to actually participate. You must move your feet!

In his epistle, James is writing to the twelve tribes who were scattered abroad (vs 1). Tribes of Jews familiar with the teachings of Moses and the Prophets. Many, were probably teachers themselves. But the assumption James makes is that they are little soft on not what they know, but in doing what know. He says in 1:22 "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves".
It's easy to talk of faith and not put much of it into action. It's easy to spiritualize complacency and call it "waiting on God". Certainly, I'm not advocating a life of frenzied activity and works. There are times to "be still and know that I AM God". However, love is a verb. And action. Faith is a risk. It requires a movement (no matter how timid) forward. Our words must have substance, or they cease to have any worth. Talk is cheap, the saying goes.

I think God is quite able to direct us down the right paths on our marathons of divine purpose.

James 2: 18; "but someone may well say, "you have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works and I will show you my faith by my works"...Even so faith , if it has no works is dead, being by itself."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Follow The Yellow Brick Road

I love how God uses the vernacular of our day, and the culture we relate to, in communicating Divine messages at times in our lives. Of course, The Word of God trumps anything else and is sufficient for "everything we need pertaining to life and Godliness", as the Bible says. But God does on occasion, speak to us using the things around us in our common everyday life. A fig tree, a stable, the foal of a donkey, the formation of clay pots, fish, children, the dirges of the day....are just a few examples of this.
What an amazing God we have who desires to communicate with us intimately, clearly and continually in as many ways as He can! He wants us to know Him, to have a relationship with Him that can easily recognize and respond to His voice. I will never get over my amazement and gratefulness with that kind of love from a God to those He created from the dust.

On one of my own intimate occasions of fellowship with this great God, I heard the words from the chorus of the old movie; The Wizard of Oz.

It happened during a extended weekend of waiting on God, intercession and fasting with some friends many years ago. I was surprised to hear the words to the song playing in my head during an especially intense time of prayer. The words of the chorus of the song are as follows:

Follow the Yellow Brick Road. Follow the Yellow Brick Road.
Follow, follow, follow, follow,
Follow the Yellow Brick Road.
Follow the Yellow Brick, Follow the Yellow Brick,
Follow the Yellow Brick Road.

As the words played on in my head, a picture unfolded of a long golden road and I was placed upon it. I walked along its path, a bit hesitant at first, and within a short time it led me to many different people, one encounter at a time. With some of these encounters, I knew I was in a different environment and culture than my own. But many encounters were in places I had some recognition of or felt vaguely familiar to me.

The golden road led me to someone specific. A divine connection designed by God for His purposes.
There was no randomness in these encounters. Each person seemed to be waiting for me and received me with some kind of recognition, although we had never seen each other before. Some were old, some young, male, female, some very, very destitute, some not, some broken, some crippled, some needing healing, deliverance, hope, compassion, encouragement, direction and love. Many were fellow Christians, and some were not.
To the world; most were seemingly insignificant people, lost and forgotten to everyone around them, but not to The Lord. I instantly knew what they waited for as I stood there with them, and I saw it given through me to them.
Once this occurred, I was whisked back onto the yellow brick road, following it to my next destination. This went on for some time. When it was over, I was exhausted, stunned, amazed and full. Faith, excitement and longing deep within me cried; "yes Lord, send me", show me Your Paths, let me run this golden road!

We all have yellow brick roads to follow that led us to those around us that the Lord wants us to find. Those that we have been given the invitation to be a part of the ongoing ministry of Jesus to those on this earth. As He sits on the right hand of the Father, he leads and guides us as his hands, feet, voice and ambassador. He gives us the provision of all that we need to walk in his ministry. Jesus said that "we will do even greater works" than he himself, because he was going back to His Father and leaving the assignment to us to fulfill through His power and grace. Wow! What a privilege, what a gift, what an honor!

Listen, for He is speaking....for you too....follow the yellow brick road.........

"May Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven!"

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Mission Possible VI: "Just Go Now!"

One of my favorite books that I read to my children when they were young, was the Dr. Seuss book; Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! The essence of the book is simply telling Marvin K. Mooney to "go", repeatedly. It never says where to go, or why to go, but just to go. Marvin can go by foot or by cow; he can go by skates, skis, or flying hat. He can even go by a crunk car (an imaginative and creative vehicle!). Just go Marvin!
But Marvin is a stubborn fella, and needs lots of prodding.

In the previous blog posts I've written, hopefully, I've made a case regarding Jesus and The Father acting in mission. The Bible clearly is a book on mission. From beginning to end, God reaches outward. He is always on the move, revealing Himself. I've already shared many passages and examples that God is a seeking and saving Father, and such was the mission of Jesus. And further, that we are His ambassadors, apostles (sent ones), and disciples left on earth to further His mission. All of us are called to be His witness, His fragrance, His light and salt. It's not a calling for some elite few, like the Marines' slogan: "the few, the proud", but for every one of us who call ourselves followers of Christ. Just like Marvin K. Mooney, we are exhorted to "go" and please "go now" by the Spirit of God. It doesn't matter the ways or means by which we go, (that is left up to us to creatively explore). Just go!

So what keeps most of us from going? Fear, laziness, procrastination, selfish absorption, busyness, past failures, bad theology, time management, all can bog us down into doing nothing. We console ourselves in our complacency thinking we're living by grace and not by works. In many circles these days, obedience is on par with legalism, and sacrifice passe'.
Please don't misunderstand me saying we need to start "working" for God, or living a lifestyle of frantic and fleshly works. I don't advocate that at all. Grace is a daily importation given to us to experience anything of God. I live by His dispensed and empowered Grace daily. But the fact remains, we are called to act on what we believe, and show our faith and love by our actions.
I challenge you to spend some time reading in the book of John, chapter 14, and see how much Jesus himself (in addressing the disciples with important "last minute" emphases) mentions the words of love, obedience, work, do, evidence, command.

The truth is, we show our love by obedience. Obedience is an action, not a thought process. An action presupposes we are doing something that communicates our love for God!

In the last blog post, I shared some ways of thinking and acting missionally in the daily contexts and aspects of our normal lives. Using the abilities, skills, talents, knowledge, gifts and proximity to people in our neighborhoods, jobs, and daily activities to enter into the lives of the people around us. To create relationships and bridges that allow us to be an influence and agents of love, grace, forgiveness and hope.

If fear seems to overwhelm your desire to go, start with small things that have little risk and see God take your small step into greater leaps. Fear only has the power you allow it to have over you. Jump in and see your fear turn into fun!

Have you failed with some attempts in the past? Great! We learn best by our mistakes. Take what you've gained from it and try again with a new and improved version. Jesus doesn't hold our mistakes against us as we are growing, as many of our human relationships do. He urges us forward, giving us grace to grow and space to learn. He is excited when we try, regardless if it isn't perfectly excecuted. We grow in humility when we fail, and our character is formed to be even more honoring of Jesus. We should love our failures for what they achieve in Kingdom terms, and not let our pride keep us stuck in immaturity.

Procrastinator? Accountability is your best friend. We are not islands. All of us are created to need one another. Find someone in your life who will encourage and hold you to your word and the true desire of your heart to reach out in mission. Procrastination can easily be overcome by involving others who will go with you, and gives momentum to an action prompted by faith.

So time is your issue? Let's face the truth, we have time. We have the time for the things which we choose to have time for. Yes, we live busy lives, getting more and more complicated each year it seems. But we are in charge of how we "book" our time slots, and I think the issue is more of priorities than time. What do you really value? That is how you will allot your time.

I know people (and I'm one of them) who can spend hours on the computer each week (Facebook anyone?), or watching movies, favorite television shows or reading books, blogs and articles. I can diddle away a whole afternoon and have nothing much to show for it, and its easy to do. However, I do make time for working out, getting dinner together, spending time blogging, being with my family, visiting with friends, building connections and relationships, living simple church, and more because its important to me. I spend time in the things I value and prioritize with my actions. We all do this, consciously or not.

Often times, combining things together helps in using our time in more of a missional and intentional way. For instance, I will ask a neighbor to join me in grocery shopping and doing it together we build relationship while doing a task that takes time. Or, we'll invite someone to join us in our family "play" events like camping, game playing, BBQ's, where not only are we having great family time, but we are also giving our children a chance to see living missionally is natural and easy.

You don't always have to "make a new slot" of time to live missionally, you just need to start thinking incarnationally. Inviting people into your lives and the unique way it unfolds each day, week, month and year.

Reframing life; from slots of time that you have available, into a life that is available. Available and obedient to allow Jesus to live through you in His mission to seek and save, to heal and restore, to free and grant hope and life eternal.

Marvin K. Mooney, will you please GO NOW!