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Quit Your Job and Get a Mission

November 22, 2009 1 comment

Quit your job and get a mission. When people go on a mission trip, they pay their own way, take vacation time, work harder than they normally work, sleep in conditions they would otherwise call unbearable, eat food the wouldn’t normally eat, and at the end of the week say it was the most life giving experience they’ve ever had. Why? They are experience the fulfillment of living God’s mission. (The following thoughts are gathered from a message I preached at Milestone Church. Click here to hear  to listen to the message)

We can live with fulfilling passion and vision, every day, in whatever we do,

when we live for God’s mission.

God has placed you on this planet on purpose and for a purpose far greater than simply punching a time clock or earning a paycheck. There’s a great mission you were created to be a part of. His plan for your life is greater than you can imagine but it doesn’t come about by accident and it doesn’t happen by default.

Think about this…When’s the last time you walked away at the end of the day and said this?… “Thank you Lord for the wisdom and the confidence, thank you for the ideas and creativity, thank you for using me to encourage that person, there’s no way I could do this without you. I’m not that good on my own.” If that’s not the norm, than you are yet to discover the joy of God’s mission in your work.

Proverbs says “The purposes in a man’s heart are like deep waters, it takes a man of understanding to draw them out.” This mission doesn’t come casually. We’ve got to go digging into our mindsets to see if we are really living God’s mission or just going through the motions. Let’s look at one passage from the Apostle Paul that gives us four steps for living God’s mission at work.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24

1. Start where you are, not where you want to be.

“Whatever you do work at it with all your heart…”

Our mission starts where we are, not where we want to be. Don’t make the mistake of mirage thinking. “If I could just do that”, or “when I get there then I’ll be fulfilled.” Fulfillment never comes that way, because it doesn’t come in what we do but in whom we are doing it for.

We often look at other people and want to be where they are, but forget the process it took for them to get there. Here’s an illustration of that. When I read to my kids out of their bible the story goes a lot different than when I read from my Bible. My kids Bible jumps from illustrated highlight-to-highlight skipping the process. It’s in the process, the proving ground that God prepares us. Jesus reminds us “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much. (Lk 16:10).

George Washington Carver mastered this principle. “When I was young, I said to God, God, tell me the mystery of the universe. But God answered, that knowledge is for me alone. So I said, God, tell me the mystery of the peanut. Then God said, well, George, that’s more nearly your size.” He went on to discover 300 uses for the peanut, and discovered the practice of crop rotation that saved southern agriculture.

2. Work for God not for man

“…as working for the Lord, not for men,…”

If you are going to discover God’s mission in your work, you may need to start with getting a new boss. Who you work for changes everything! Just remember who has the higher standard. One thing that frustrates me beyond end is the perception that Christians are underperformers in the workplace. If anything, working for the Lord should bring on a heightened sense of work ethic, discipline, and diligence.

I live for the day that “Christian” is one of the highest qualifying marks on a professional resume. That it would be a symbol to employers of excellence, character, integrity, and honesty. When someone hires a Christian, not only are they getting a super performer but also a person that has a relationship and can hear from the creator of the universe. That’s some consultant!

A great example of this is Pharaoh’s perception of Joseph, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” (Gen 41:38) When someone has the work ethic, the character, and they are led by the Holy Spirit, they will be in high demand.

3. Develop an unwavering confidence in God

“… since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward…”

When you recognize it is the Lord who rewards, you will stop trying to posture yourself for position, or get yourself to the front to be noticed. You’ll be free to build others and not yourself. You will realize that nobody is holding you back.  In an instant God can put a thought in someone’s heart to promote you, do business with you, hire you etc. God is not held back by any man, He’s simply allowing His process to shape our lives.

God is with you as much at your work as he is in this church building. You need to experience God’s presence in both places. The sacred and secular lines of society have become too defined. You should not be able to separate you job from your spiritual life. If you can than what your doing is obviously boring. Set some goals that you have to do more than work hard for. Goals you have to pray for believe for. Unless God…. There is no way this is going to happen.

4. Discover God’s great commission in what you do.

“… It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

No matter what you do – at some level, God’s mission for all of our lives is the same.  As we serve Christ, true fulfillment will come when we do what he said….”make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. “ (Mat 28:19-20)

I would like to believe that when God gave you the gifting, gave you that job, gave you that client.. He did so in His Sovereign plan that others may see Him in you. That person in the cubicle beside you… maybe your God’s plan to lead them to Him? Your annual bonus….maybe that’s God’s plan to start a church in India to reach generations of people for Christ?

“Lord, who do you want me to show your love to today” changes the whole way you drive to work in the morning.  Suddenly, serving God at work is bigger than a screen saver, or a coffee mug that says, “God loves you but I’m his favorite” When your co-workers, your clients, your boss, begin to say “what’s with this gal…her work, her ideas, joy, compassion? What does he or she have that I don’t? How does this guy always get the deal, lead the teams, and solve the problems no one else can?

Maybe it’s….Jesus, the son of God living inside of you…the truth of God’s word radiating through your life and thinking…every day the Holy Spirit filling you with wisdom and creativity as you partner in his great mission! Now that’s exciting.

This Bible is full of men and women just like us that lived amazing lives for God while at the same time raising their kids and paying their bills. The mission of their life was so evident; you hardly notice their vocation at all. There wasn’t church life and work life; it was all life lived for God’s mission. In the same way, your mission is not what you do; it’s why you do it, and whom you’re doing it for. I hope that when you go back to work, you go like you are going on a mission trip, because you are.

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Where Did The Bible Come From?

November 19, 2009 Leave a comment

“The B-I-B-L-E. Yes that’s the book for me. I stand up on…” Whether you know that old song or not,  at some point in life you’ll probably ask the question… “Where did the Bible come from?” I’ve been asked this a couple times recently so I thought it may be worth a quick answer to explain how 66 books written by 40 contributors, over 1600 years, containing one fluid message inspired by one author came to be one Holy Bible. Did little angels float down the original leather bound thin-line edtition? Then how? What would you tell someone if they asked?

You may be thinking, “I’ve never even thought about this.” It’s fascinating how so many people (including myself) have committed our lives to a book we know the author (God) but not where it comes from. Don’t feel overly discouraged for two reasons. First, God draws people to Himself regardless of our Bible trivia knowledge (John 6:44). You are saved by grace through faith because you trust that it’s God’s word that says you are (Ephesians 2:8). And this takes us back to the root of our questions, who first said that these words are God’s words? The answer to that is the second reason you shouldn’t feel bad for not knowing all of this yet. It’s been tested and researched for hundreds of years by skeptics and scholars much smarter than us. So even though you didn’t do the research you still got it right! Here we go.

First off, you need to know that there’s an Old and New Testament. There is a 400 year gap between the two. Now here’s some cohesive thoughts I’ve inserted from a great mind, Dr. Jim Denison, a brilliant man I met a few years back. He’ll start with the Old Testament and then quickly bring it all together.

How the Old Testament came to be

Christians typically call this section the Old Testament, but those who wrote the New Testament didn’t. When Paul, writing from death row in Rome, asked Timothy for his scrolls and parchments (2 Tim 4:13), he was asking for his copies of the only Bible he knew. Most scholars appropriately call these 39 books the Hebrew Scriptures.

The Hebrew Bible was first divided into Law, Prophets, and Writings, the arrangement current in Jesus’ day (see Lk 24:44). The Jews numbered the Scriptures as 24 books, combining Ezra/Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, and the 12 Minor Prophets as “The Twelve.” These books were written and compiled over centuries of use. According to Jewish tradition, a council of rabbis and scholars met at Jamnia on the Mediterranean Sea, in AD 90 and again in AD 118. They finalized the list of books as we have them today, recognizing what their people had accepted as God’s word for centuries.

How the New Testament joined the Old

Eventually the Christian movement began recording its faith and doctrines as well. The eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life and ministry were dying or growing old. Fraudulent claims were beginning to appear. Believers needed a canon (“rule”) by which to measure truth and defend the faith. The New Testament was the result. Over time, four criteria were developed for accepting a book as inspired.

First, the book must have been written by an apostle or based on his eyewitness testimony. Matthew the tax-collector was a disciple of Jesus before he wrote his gospel, as was John. Mark was an early missionary associate of Paul (Ac 13:4-5) and was a spiritual son to Peter (1 Pt 5:13); early Christians believed that he wrote his gospel based on the sermons and experiences Peter related to him.

Luke was a Gentile physician who joined Paul’s second missionary journey at Troas (note Ac 16:10, where Luke changes the narrative from “they” to “we”); he wrote his gospel and the book of Acts based on the eyewitness testimony of others (Lk 1:1-4). Paul’s letters came from an eyewitness to the risen Christ (cf. Ac 9:1-6), as did the letters of James (half-brother of Jesus), Peter, Jude (another half-brother of Jesus), and John. This criteria alone excluded most of the books suggested for the canon.

Second, the book must possess merit and authority in its use. Here it was easy to separate those writings which were inspired from those which were not. For instance, The First Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ tells of a man changed into a mule by a bewitching spell but converted back to manhood when the infant Christ is put on his back for a ride (7:5-27). In the same book, the boy Jesus causes clay birds and animals to come to life (ch. 15), stretches a throne his father had made too small (ch. 16), and takes the lives of boys who oppose him (19:19-24). It wasn’t hard to know that such books did not come from the Holy Spirit.

Third, a book must be accepted by the larger church, not just a particular congregation. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was an early instance of a letter which became “circular” in nature, read by churches across the faith. His other letters soon acquired such status. By the mid-second century, only the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were accepted universally by the church, as quotations from the Christians of the era make clear. Others were not considered to be inspired by God.

Last, a book came to be approved by the decision of the church. The so-called Muratorian Canon was the first list to convey the larger church’s opinion regarding accepted books of the New Testament canon. Compiled around A.D. 200, it represented the usage of the Roman church at the time. The list omits James, 1 and 2 Peter, 3 John, and Hebrews, since its compiler was not sure of their authorship. All were soon included in later canons.

The list we have today was set forth by Athanasius in A.D. 367. His list was approved by church councils meeting at Hippo Regius in 393 and Carthage in 397. These councils did not impose anything new upon the church. Rather, they codified what believers had already come to accept and use as the word of God. By the time the councils approved the 27 books of our New Testament, they had already served as the established companion to the Hebrew Scriptures for generations.

Conclusion

So who decided what books should be in the Bible? Ultimately, their Author. The same Holy Spirit who inspired the biblical revelation (2 Pt 1:20-21) led the Christian movement to those books he inspired. You can know that the Bible you hold today is the book God means you to have. He did in fact hand it to man, through man. Though the color of the cover is your choice. Jim Denison, God Issues.

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The Secret to Christmas Cards

November 13, 2009 2 comments

A few years back I made a startling discovery: the secret to why some people get so many Christmas cards. You know what I’m talking about.  You’ve been to that person’s house where the mantle, the fridge, the counters and columns are all covered with Christmas cards. You think, “Wow, these people are loved, these people have a lot of friends.” And they are and the may, but that’s not entirely why they have so many cards and I’ll tell you why.

My wife’s parents house is this house. I was blown away by it year after year. Hundreds of cards! Everywhere. But my parents house, not so much. Maybe a handful here and there, but not the awe inspiring wallpaper presentation that my wife’s parents have. So why don’t they receive as many cards? The have a lot of friends…

…Hmmm…?…year goes by….hmm?…..another year…..

Then I saw it! It was Thanksgiving weekend at my in-laws, there it was – the stacks of cards that were set to be released across the universe. Hundreds of them, good one’s too. And that’s when it hit me, the more cards you send, the more cards you get!

It’s a spiritual law of sowing and reaping. Proverbs says that “those who give (Christmas cards) to others will themselves be given (Christmas cards) to.” Prov11:25. The content of the parentheses are not actually in the proverbs, I added that. Not only is there a sowing and reaping principle there’s also an Ecclesiastes 3 time/season principle too. You see the sooner you send your cards in the Christmas season the more likely you are to get added to others Christmas card list. And once you’re on, you’re on.

QUANTITY (More cards) + TIME (Sooner you send) = RETURN (more cards you’ll receive)

It really comes down to the basic principal of friendship. As Tim McGraw puts it in Live Like You Were Dying, “I’d be the friend a friend would like to have.”  The key to having friends is being a friend. Giving to others (time, gifts, compassion, shared passions, praying, serving needs) is the fastest way to friendship.

I hope you receive more Christmas cards this year, but more importantly that you simply give more than you ever have.

Many curry favor with a ruler, and everyone is the friend of a man who gives gifts. Prov 19:6

A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. Prov 11:25

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