Monday, April 28, 2008

Acts: We’re On A Mission From God

Our lives are years spent "on a mission." Do you remember The Blues Brothers?

Joliet Jake says, “Well me and the Lord. We got an understanding. We're on a mission from God.”

The blues, Jake & Elwood and the quest to save the orphanage, especially when 'the Establishment' isn't going to help.

You’re on a mission from God. I’m on a mission from God. We’re all on a mission from God,

Becoming followers of Christ who make costly decisions for the sake of the Kingdom.

This early band of followers in Acts did just that- a real commitment to community is hard work.

Isaiah 55:8-13
"I don't think the way you think. The way you work isn't the way I work." God's Decree.

"For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think. Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don't go back until they've watered the earth, doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, so will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They'll do the work I sent them to do, they'll complete the assignment I gave them.

"So you'll go out in joy, you'll be led into a whole and complete life. The mountains and hills will lead the parade, bursting with song. All the trees of the forest will join the procession, exuberant with applause. No more thistles, but giant sequoias, no more thornbushes, but stately pines— monuments to me, to God, living and lasting evidence of God."

We're on a mission from GOD.

God is the guide. Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd & I shall not be in want.
If we don’t know, Don’t.
God’s guidance is clear, often only in hindsight.
God’s guidance is Next Step for some; for others God’s guidance is more long term.
Trust GOD more than TRUST god.
Major decisions require several of these factors to line up.

How does God break into our normally self-focused life?

“What do I hear Jesus saying to me?”

Take time to write down a few thoughts and then carry those words with you though the day. Live them and discover them. Jesus always deals with our own circumstances. You too with be able to say as was said of the disciples on the Emmaus road, “Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him.”

Watch for ‘double confirmation’: A crucial moment where we need a sure word from God,

God gives us direction sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly,

God then confirms this direction through someone else. The further outside the influence of the first person, the more spectacular is the double confirmation.

God then brings the two together in some unmistakable sovereign way. Terry & Paul Young example.

What is usually the only book read week in and week out throughout the year? TV Guide!

Let's give the Bible a better going over than the TV Guide!

Acts 2: a new way of thinking; a new way of seeing; and a new way of speaking. Remember Isaiah 55. Repent. Repent from doing it your way. You’re on a mission from GOD!

Acts 3: ‘silver or gold I do not have’…apparently Peter hadn’t quite got a handle yet on the health & wealth implications of the gospel…Money had stopped being the most important thing for the early Christ followers.

Peter’s bold proclamation.

Acts 4:13
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

Unschooled ordinary folks like Jake & Elwood, or you & I.

Acts 4:19-20
"Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

Daniel 3:17-19
"Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn't, it wouldn't make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn't serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up."

Acts 4:32-37

No significant spiritual growth can occur in your life unless you put your money and what you think about your money into God’s hands. Tim Keller

"The days of the blessed person are filled with divine "coincidences" and heavenly meaning." Double confirmations galore!

"God doesn't need us to give - we need to be blessed."

Acts 5:12-16

Imagine the Three Tenors are coming to Rexall. A group of street musicians gather and soon has all the attention- no one is going inside. Serious trouble is brewing.

Acts 5:20
During the night an angel of God opened the jailhouse door and led them out. He said, "Go to the Temple and take your stand. Tell the people everything there is to say about this Life."

Acts 5:38-39
"So I am telling you: Hands off these men! Let them alone. If this program or this work is merely human, it will fall apart, but if it is of God, there is nothing you can do about it—and you better not be found fighting against God!"

They didn’t quite take Gamaliel’s words at par, "They called the apostles back in. After giving them a thorough whipping, they warned them not to speak in Jesus' name and sent them off. The apostles went out of the High Council overjoyed because they had been given the honor of being dishonored on account of the Name. Every day they were in the Temple and homes, teaching and preaching Christ Jesus, not letting up for a minute.”

They’re on a mission for God.

Ever had an experience like this, where everything went wrong:

I had volunteered to lead the youth at a church in Palm Springs, California. I thought a canoe trip would be a great idea, so I went to the river and reserved camps, rented canoes, and made the arrangements to take one hundred students down the Colorado River near the town of Needles. Read what happened. Then, maybe you’ll see why I said, “Lord, please let me out of working with students.”

Day 1
We get started late, so the camp is closed when we get there and we have to make camp on the river with no water or electricity. Rather than go to sleep, the students start a water fight. They find some kids from Needles to use as targets, which starts a whole night of problems. The students from Needles go recruit friends and come back, and I have to stand between the two groups to keep them from fighting one another. No sleep this night for students, nor leaders.

Day 2
Next morning the canoes are delivered to the camp I had reserved, except we are not there, so our canoes are now one mile upriver. We’ve already sent the busses downriver to the take-out spot, so now we have 100 students and no canoes. I take some leaders, hitchhike up to the canoes, and float them down to the students. While we are gone, breakfast is cooked in three large skillets, but they crack while heating and breakfast ends up in the dirt. No skillets to cook with for the rest of the trip make mealtimes interesting.

Now we head down the river. The wind is pushing the canoes upriver at a greater rate than the current is carrying them downriver. This is causing canoes to go everywhere but where they should.

By this time we’ve developed a problem with a trouble-making student (whom my leaders had recommended we exclude from the trip). He will not paddle his canoe. He has found a cute girl who will paddle for him. Her hands are worn to the point of bleeding. Their canoe is almost a mile behind everyone else. When my canoe gets close enough, I tell him to paddle. He refuses. I’ve had no sleep and I’m in no mood to deal with this problem. I pull next to his canoe, and He decides he wants to fight me right there in the river. When he stands up to take a swing at me his canoe tips and he falls forward with his behind in the air. This looks to me like a great target for my paddle and my frustration, so I swing—hard.

Unfortunately, he moves slightly so that my paddle skips off his behind and smacks the young lady square in the face. The force of my blow almost knocks her out of the boat. She has a very sore face, but thankfully no broken bones. (Please do not start your ministry by hitting students in the face with a paddle.)

Because of the wind and the desert heat, some of our leaders are so late that they miss finding the camp that we had reserved for the second night. I rent a boat and go down the river looking for students and leaders and pull them and their canoes back to the camp. We get settled about 1:00AM, only to find out that some of our girls have gone off with some boys in a ski boat and we have no idea where they are. Finally, we get all of our students to bed. We are camping right on the river, and that night the river rises and overflows our camp. Our canoes float down-river. All of our sleeping gear, clothes, and food are soaked. No sleep for another night.

Day 3
We discipline the girls for going with the boys in the ski boat by sending them home in cars. (I later think that may have been a reward, not a discipline.) In the process, we have purchased more food, but accidentally leave it in the cars so we have no food for the whole day on the river. As we reach a wider part of the river we encounter ski boats pulling skiers. They are running the boats on one side of the canoes and the skiers are going on the other side, so it seems they are trying to take the heads of my students off with the towropes. I finally smack a skier in the stomach and then they try to run over me with their boat. (There I go again, using that dumb paddle.)

When we arrive at the canoe take-out spot where the busses are, we realize we have gone downriver about a half-mile too far, so we have to pull the canoes up the river in the 100-degree heat. Students are sunburned, and they’re exhausted from no sleep. Some are sick. Finally everyone is on the busses and we head for home. One of our busses breaks down on a road that has to be a road to Hell. We pull the bus to a small garage, where I spend the whole night fixing it. No sleep another night. The garage does not have a phone. The parents wait at the church for us all night. When we finally arrive, I am told what a great youth leader I am. (Not!)

After the trip, all my leaders resigned. I told God I was done with this ministry stuff. Of course, He was not done.

This experience changed my life and my understanding of ministry. I learned two important core values.
• Programs don’t change lives, God does.
• Students must minister to other students. As we looked back on the trip, we saw that although the leaders were a mess, the students ministered to their friends. Students came to Christ and others were cared for by their friends.

God brought me to the end of myself. I realized that ministry was not about my planning or my program, but about totally depending upon Christ to work in the lives of students. Paul speaks about life-change in Romans 7:14–23 where he uses the words “I”, “me”, and “my” 38 times. Then in verse 24 he realizes his problem: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” And in verse 25 the answer, “Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Paul realized that he couldn’t change himself or others; only through Christ will he see lives change, not through programs or his great ability. He says it all in 2 Corinthians 12:9–10, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I am 67 years old and have been ministering to students for more than 40 years. I find that I need still to become weak and allow God to bring me to the end of myself. I can still walk into a group of high school students and minister because they see I am authentic and that I love them. Let’s not do programs in our own strength, but in our weakness—and God will change the lives of those to whom we minister. (by Mac McFarland)

Don't give up the mission even if times are tough.

"Battles leaves scars, but scars bring wisdom."

“The story of your life is the story of the journey of your heart through a dangerous and beautiful world. It is the story of the long and sustained assault on your heart by the Enemy who knows who you could be and fears you. But it is also the story of the long and mysterious pursuit of your heart by the God who knows you truly and loves you deeply.” John Eldredge

Another day, another riot. Can we rediscover the movement and mission that God has for each of us? It's about 'Unlimiting God'.

Give your ‘yes’ to God, but remember it’s a Dangerous Surrender!

“God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another…I have a part in a great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall love as Christ loved, I shall do his work.” John Henry Newman

Our goal isn’t to attract Christian people to our worship service but to be the faithful church in small pockets throughout Edmonton.

May God bless us with discomfort-
at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships so that we may live from deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of God's creations so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless us with tears
to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with just enough foolishness
to believe that we can make a difference in the world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done: to bring justice and kindness to all our children and all our neighbors who are poor.

The deal is still on-
We're On A Mission From God!


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