Doing Less to do more

Our men’s group is studying Exodus 18 tonight. The story is a classic case in problem-solving. It opens with the back-story; how God had developed Moses’ the Leader. Then it moves to the crisis; the kind of crisis that most see, but nobody calls out. The final act is the resolution; it comes through a visit from the past that alters the future.

Act One:

Moses and the Israelites are out of reach of Egypt, free, and at the rendezvous point God pointed them toward earlier. The Hebrew count is at 600,000 men plus the women and children. It’s a crowd.

While they camp in the desert near the Mountain of God, Moses gets a visit from someone out of his past – Jethro, his father-in-law, the man whose sheep he watched for close to forty years. He comes for one purpose – the bring Moses’ family back now that they were free – but is surprised and used for another.

They throw a party and Moses tells the whole story, perhaps for the first time to one “outside the camp.” Moses the Leader had been God’s instrument to deliver the people. The Egyptian oppression was over; the people were alive and free.

Act Two:

Jethro gets an inside look into Moses the Leader and how his day-to-day work progressed, now that he (and 600,000 of his closest friends) were free. He sits down before all those with problems or disputes and hears them one-by-one, to infinity and beyond. All day and into the evening.

Three issues he faced that I see:

First, Moses created the mess he was in. He assumed the leadership God had given him was for him alone. That left him with long lines of complaints and issues, and little time to settle it all.

Second, Moses solved problems for others because that’s the way he’d always done it (remember the murdered Egyptian?) He kept doing it the same way because it had worked for him so far. At least, from where he sat.

Third, Moses led by himself. And leaders who lead alone lead blind. They don’t see what others see. Sure, he listened to the problems and bickering for hours on end; but he must have missed what the people had to endure, standing around, reliving everyone’s problems. And waiting.

Act Three:

Jethro reveals what Moses hadn’t seen before. The conversation seems a bit heated, or at least very honest. He presents the resolution – put leaders in place over 1000’s, 100’s, 50’s and 10’s and let them listen, negotiate, judge, and lead – and like a good problem-solver, leaves it in the hands of the leader; in this case, Moses. The timing was right and, after the sting of Jethro’s rebuke lessened, he began the process of raising up judges, and letting leaders lead. He no longer had to listen to every dispute – he just got the big ones; and the people had leaders they could turn to.

I have heard or read a bunch of teaching on this chapter. It’s a discipleship strategy. It’s a business model. It’s an organizational plan. But, mainly it was a rescue operation. Moses was in a fix. He was heading toward burn-out; so were the people.

Here are some applications:

1) Leading alone can be dangerous, no matter your organization. Jethro’s warning was four-fold:

  • It’s not good (as in, the plan won’t work in the long run.)
  • It will wear you and everyone else out (each hour will make you more and more tired.)
  • It is to heavy for you (the burden of everyone’s problems is too much for one set of shoulders.)
  • You can’t do it alone (you need some new levels of problem-solving to ease the burden.)

So, if you are leading alone, begin with one or two who are godly and honest, and train them up (how to live, how to behave, and how to wisely make decisions.)

2) Don’t fear the new voice. Someone with wisdom, humility and seeing things differently than “from where you sit” can take things to a new place. A new set of eyes can see the big picture and help pull the threads of a resolution together. In fact, though the visit was brief, Jethro changed the future for God’s people.

3) Raise the bar high, but not beyond reach. Let leaders lead. But don’t put a “50’s” leader over “1000.” Give them room to exercise their gifts, develop their leadership voice, and even make mistakes. But, give them a safety net. Be nearby, but don’t hover. They don’t need a daddy or mommy; they need a mentor.

The best part of the story, though, often gets lost. Jethro, already a priest from Midian, took the God of the Hebrews as Lord. He heard the good news of the deliverance, and declared with his voice and sacrifice, that the Lord is God above all gods. That should be the outcome of our own leadership.

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The Apostle and the Congressman

The Apostle:

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is found in Philippians chapter 4:4-9. When the Apostle Paul wrote this to the church that gathered in the city of Philippi, he was in prison for preaching the Good News about Jesus.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

What a great way to approach life –1) Focus on good things of life – noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. 2) Practice the right things we learn from Scripture and pass it along to others. 3) Don’t worry; but pray and trust God. And Paul includes, as he writes from his cell, do this with thanksgiving.

He certainly was learning how to do this in prison. But, he knew that it’s only when our faith is tested that we really get to put this into practice.

The verses before this passage tell us what the Philippians were facing. Two of the ladies in the church were having problems with each other. And not just two ladies; but two who had worked diligently right alongside Paul and other leaders in their church.

Euodia, whose name means “good journey” and Syntyche, whose name means “pleasant friend” – were absolutely not being pleasant and good. They were not getting along – and it was causing problems.

Paul encouraged them: to remember who you are, remember who you represent, and to work things out with the help of God. And directly after this – to change what you think about, change who your examples are, and change how you pray.

From the first settlers, when the Pilgrims survived their first winter in the new land, America was where people came who were oppressed for their faith. And for a century, Congregationalists, Baptists, Puritans, Presbyterians, and others settled in different colonies.

The Congressman:

A hundred years later, after the end of the Revolutionary War and during the establishing of the United States, the new President of this new nation named George Washington faced his own set of problems. America’s new Bill of Rights was barely three days old. It was the same Bill of Rights that guaranteed “free exercise of religion.”

And Washington knew he had thirteen states, with different dialects, different economics, different expectations, and different styles of worship. They didn’t get along and they weren’t sure this new government would work.

Washington’s good friend, Elias Boudinot, stood before Congress with a proposal he thought would unite the States in a stronger way. Boudinot, barely remembered today, was famous in his day for his strong faith, his belief that all people were created equal, his passion for everyone to hear the Good News, and even later for his outspoken defense for the rights of blacks and for Native Americans.

He proposed the first National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving under the new government of the United States of America – “ a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God.”

The House of Representative, the Senate, and the President agree to call the whole nation to prayer on the final Thursday of the following month of November. It was to be a day of repentance and a plea that the new nation would be “a blessing to all the people” – that the leaders of this new nation would “faithfully execute…the wise, just and constitutional laws” of the new land. And, it would be a day to “promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue.”

In other words, this Day of Thanksgiving was to encourage this new nation to remember who you are, remember who you represent, and works things out with the powerful help of God.

And just like Paul reminded the church in Philippi, and the two ladies in the church, this Day of Thanksgiving was a day to focus on the good things of life, practice the right things we have learned from God’s Word, and pray with faith and with Thanksgiving.

Remembering —

 

 

Now that I’m 60 – what am I committed to:

There is something about entering a “new decade of years” that calls me to reconcile my experience with my values. As a reminder to myself more than anyone else, I am committed more than ever…

…to worshiping and serving Christ Jesus increasingly with my gifts, skills, time, and resources.

…to loving and honoring my wife till death separates us.

…to encouraging and influencing my son and daughters (and grandkids, when they show up for God’s purposes) toward loving and serving God with their lives.

…to loving what God says He is in love with: the lost, the broken, the lonely, the refugee, the hurting, the confused, the poor, the homeless, the enslaved, the imprisoned.

… to loving and lifting up the church local and global through my prayer, encouragement, time, presence and resources.

…to doing life with a small group of men and women for mutual encouragement, personal growth, and lifestyle ministry.

…to meeting with 2-3 men for discipleship on a regular basis to stay pure, live on target with my promises, and encourage each other toward a fruitful Christian life.

…to living a richer and riskier life in my finishing years by saying yes to each opportunity to give myself away, pour into others, explore new relationships, and influence my world toward Christ.

Tough Crowd

Preachers and worship leaders can read a room, so I’m informed. We stand before the crowd and can tell if they are tracking with us, indifferent, or just don’t like us (not that the third option ever happens in church!) Jesus was invited to a Pharisee’s house (read Luke 14) and the place was filled with an audience not-so-favorable toward him or the message of the Kingdom. My guess would be to not expect much from a dinner party crowd like this (maybe like going to a Hillary rally wearing a Feel the Bern tee.)

Jesus turned the Sunday dinner soiree into a masterful time of teaching – about not living for crowd approval (he was experienced with this,) about humility and the urge to seek honor from others (don’t take the box seat unless it’s offered), and about lifting up those who can’t improve one’s status or power (toss to pre-approved invitation list and bring in the hurting, blind and invisible.)

And, he healed a man with a visible case of renal failure (his arms and legs were swollen with fluid.) Jesus noted the man’s illness and asked the crowd if he should heal him, even though it was the Sabbath. (I’m sure the host was asking, “who let this guy in? Next time, screen for dropsy!)

Of course, the crowd of Pharisees refused to answer – and of course, Jesus healed him.

But the next exchange is what grabs me. Jesus addresses the room and  asked, “Who here doesn’t do some kind of work on Sunday? Fix a tire? Empty the trash? Rescue a cow? Really?”  Silence from the room. (Cue the crickets.) And they couldn’t answer.

Not “refused” or “chose not” to answer. They couldn’t. Their world view simply would not give space for a reasonable answer. They were so entitled to their Sabbath day, that they couldn’t answer. The rules that governed their Sabbath ruled out their ability to speak aloud what was true and made sense. That God desired healing on their holy-day couldn’t penetrate their dogma … or their faith.

What we’ve experienced, good and bad, and what we’ve clung to that seems culturally acceptable might be exactly what stops us from believing … and being healed.

Comedians can read an audience, too. I read that some entertainers choose to beg off shows at colleges – they say it’s too dangerous. What they say is always under scrutiny. And being recorded.

What a shame that dogma might stop the laughter. And everyone needs a good laugh.

 

Lavish Grace

I revisited the parable of the seeds today, and I expected a rerun. Hey, I can be lame when I read the same passage. The farmer scatters seeds; then it falls first on rocky, then shallow, thorny, and finally fertile soil. The seed and ensuing sprout, in turn, is stolen, burns in the sun, dies from strangulation, and grows to produce fruit.

Preachers have outlined this passage mnemonically starting with nearly every letter of the alphabet (I had a friend who embarked on alliterating the Bible in “P”s – I think he’s somewhere committed now.)

I choose “W.”

But, when I read this, it’s the soil that has issues and not the seed. God’s Word is consistently powerful. We have problems with our soil.

The first soil is “without defense.” The enemy steals it like pigeons at a Central Park seed-fest.

The second soil is “without depth.” The heat of temptation and the pressure of tests can be brutal, like the Amazon sun.

The third soil is “without devotion.” Sin strangles and cuts off the life like a thick and thorny greenbrier.

The fourth soil that Jesus points to is “with dedication.” It’s a good word the means devotion and declaration. A tree full of fruit says, “come and get me.” (To quote one of my movie heroes.)

But two things stand out in the parable.

The first is that God is lavish with his Word… and with his invitation to life. Today’s farmers would say foolish. He throws the seed to the wind, and everyone gets a chance to embrace it, and grow to full spiritual potential. Jesus is extravagant with grace and gives it away even to those who reject it.

The second is what follows in Luke. Another metaphor called the parable of the lamp. “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made know to all.” (8:17) Real fruit can’t be faked. Let that seed sink down deep.

Enjoy the sunlight.

Rick

 

Some look for a Wild Time; I’m looking for a Wild Place

When our kids were growing up, they were fascinated by a series of books (maybe more so, their dad) called “Where’s Waldo?” (Christian book fans, you may remember the “Seeking Sammy” series – I’m guessing it was the Biblical Sammy the Prophet.)

In case you don’t recall spending hours searching through the red and white minutiae for the scarf and ski cap bedecked Waldo, These colorful books opened to panoramic scenes of tiny people in public places, and stuck in the crowd was “Waldo.” The winner found him.

At times, I feel the same way about Jesus. Where’s Jesus? In all the minutiae of life, where is He? Sometimes life’s details hide or push out the right stuff.

Luke 5 is a busy time in Jesus’ life. But it has an interesting aside. Jesus is in the midst of gathering a group of friends and he’s performing miracles (while already avoiding arrest, it seems). And Luke says, “Jesus would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” I imagine that, in their travels, the guys got up, rolled their backpacks, and someone would say, “Where’s Jesus now?”

Oh, he must have found a wild place.

Jesus was regularly taking time from the wild press of people and their needs, and drawn to seek a place to be alone with His Father. Is there a connection between a wild place, the alone-ness, and God’s presence? Maybe our willingness to go to a wild place can helps us see God’s hand and presence more readily? And it might be the questions become more real in a wild place?

Three things about a wild place: 1)It’s not a quiet place (the noise is different, but still there. 2) It’s not a normal place (we have to choose to go there; the “beaten path” and a wild place are exact opposites.) 3) It’s not a safe place. (Wild places have critters. And the dangers can refocus one’s mind.)

When I find a wild place – a place off the beaten path – to spend time with the Father, I expect that my life will be refocused, on Him and His purposes for me and for His world. And that can be dangerous.

Two-degrees and roundabouts

One of my favorite quirks about living in Italy was the roundabout (la rotonda). Just between my house and the nearest real city, there were seventeen. The reasoning of the Italiani, why use stop signs when you can create a circle everybody can use at once? I loved the dance that happened in urban roundabouts when there were four lanes circling a statue dedicated to The Fallen … and five entry points. Ahh, the adventure and the danger!

When we left northern Italy to return to America, we felt the weight of a complete life turn-around – it was like a roundabout we chose to enter and knew it would spill out back toward America and, specifically, my hometown of Myrtle Beach. And it did.

After a conversation with a good friend, I realized that, with the return, much of my library is still in Italy, in the hands of fellow missional’s. One of the books was a John Trent title – The Two-degree Difference. This was one of many “only read the first two chapters” books; the premise is simple. Make two-degree adjustments in your actions, posture, life direction, habits, etc., and before long, you’re heading the right way.

While I agree that we need to make right choices and move toward health – spiritually, emotionally, relationally, and otherwise – it may take a greater act. Adjusting actions by small degrees is the way we are told to replace bad habits, but how boring is that!

I like what Jesus said, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” Not two-degrees. More like 180-degrees.

There is incredible power in the simple act of turning around. An about-face unleashes God’s power to change. The get the presence of God’s Kingdom face-to-face with the act of turning.

What about the two-degree principle? It may be that in our act of repenting God reveals the next thing to change, or it may be that we have gotten “out of habit” with the practices that make life richer, and by all means are worth restoring. But if it’s sin, it deserves more than 2-degrees. It deserves the full 180!

I like what Jesus said to Peter even though he knew there was a major fail in his future: “I have prayed for your Simon, that your faith will not fail, and when you have turned back (read: repent), strengthen your brothers.”

Turn from sin. Yearn for God. Return to the things that matter.

From the Rotonda,

Rick

Simon’s Second Call

When Jesus began his ministry, he asked some guys to travel with him to help him out, watch and learn from him. Simon was one of them. A fisherman and small business owner, he had franchised out to his friends, James and John, a part of the enterprise. Business, like the waves of the Tiberian Sea, had its ups and down. But it was a living, and he would do this the rest of his life. That’s the way careers were.

Then Jesus asked for his boat’s use, to preach from, of all things! Sure, as long as it doesn’t interfere too much in his day. It had been a long night, and the fish were too deep to catch. The teaching was good, not wishy-washy or dry like the others. He seemed to know God. And knew how to tell about it. Jesus knew about spiritual stuff, for certain.

But fishing was Simon’s business. Not that it was a big deal, but Jesus asked him to put the nets out again, during the worst part of the day for fishing, and get them mucked up again. At the time, he didn’t think it was important, but  after that morning, Jesus went from being a good teacher and rabbi to becoming the Redeemer and Lord. The fish were so abundant in that first draw that the boys could barely get them in; in fact, it was a miracle the nets didn’t break before making shore.

Sales would be good all day with this catch, but business was the last thing on Simon’s mind… and James’ and John’s, too. They were standing before one who could only be the Lord God, hearts wide open. And Simon knew what had mucked up his own heart. So did Jesus.

And he still asked Simon to travel with him, in spite of his attitude, his temper, his pride, and his tendency to believe nobody does what he does better, and all the other stuff that had darkened his heart.

Jesus called Simon to catch people bound for death without God so they could really live, and he left the business of catching live fish and watching them die on the sand and pebbles.

He asked Simon to follow him a second time. His old business partner, John, heard the exchange. When Jesus was hours away from his Great Work on the cross, he told Simon he could follow him later. This was a call to martyrdom, to leave earth and follow him to eternity.

There are a lot of “comes” in the Bible. I learned about these from one of the most focused men I’ve ever known. “Come and see” turns into “come and follow” and then “come and remain.” From the position of “remaining in Christ,” we bear much fruit as we both “come and go out.” It’s all wrapped up in the call to die…so we can live.

It’s a process of growth. Each time we give up, and we gain even more. David Putman says our Christian lives are a mix of “living,” “loving,” and “leaving.” We leave behind the things that keep us from doing and becoming what God has on his agenda. Someone at Urbana 09 said we should live our lives so that we will be forgotten. That way, only Jesus will be remembered.

This second call of Simon was one of decreasing, of dying to self, and dying for Christ. Yes, it does happen. In the world every day, says one human rights watch group, over 200 Christians die for his or her faith.

Everyday, we can follow Christ. Live with him, love him, leave behind what keeps us from him, and heed his call to point others to Him instead of us.

If you want to do further study on Luke 5 and the Simon’s call to catch men and women for Jesus, click on this study link.  Everything Changes Luke 5 If you are interested in David Putman’s book, it’s called “Breaking the Discipleship Code.” I recommend it.

Learning to live,

Rick

MTS2 Session Eight: To Finish the Call Well

MTS-2 Bar Montenegro

October 2009

Session Eight

Why Am I Here?  To Finish My Calling Well


To Finish Well – How Do I Gain Wisdom for the Mission Phil 3:12

Introduction:
Now that you have had a chance to reflect, maybe get away from the field for a few days and collect your thoughts, pray through stuff, you have maybe even gained some wisdom about missions. Especially since you have been on the field for a year or so. What wisdom would be good to share with a new person who was considering missions in your field?

Teaching Intro:
We have really enjoyed being here with you guys. Our lives really will never be the same because we’ve had this time with you, and we know more about Central Europe than ever. So, thanks for letting us into your worlds these few days.

For our last day of studies with you, we want to share with you a few points of wisdom that we have learned as we have pursued the call and the mission. Since we started our days together with a session on asking God the right questions, here are some of the questions we have asked and continue to ask when it comes to staying after the calling!

1. Is it “God’s Will” or is it “me will?”

A lot of times we talk about “finding God’s will for ME!” It’s like we whisper the “God’s will” part, but shout the ME!  God’s will is really a lot more about HIM and a little bit about me.
Remember: He is I AM; we are iamnot.
The-los – God’s will is “purpose, demand”, got to; but it is also, His “pleasure, desire” – get to.
“It’s His plan to will and to work according to HIS GOOD PLEASURE!”
2. Is God’s will a “dot in the middle of a target” that we aim for?
You’ve probably heard or maybe said, “I want to be right in the middle of God’s will.” That’s a lot of pressure on you – of all the mission organizations, of all the continents, of all the countries, of all the cities and villages, of all the streets, and of all the apartments. How could you possibly figure all this out on your own. One wrong step or miscue and the rest of the plan is kaput! Illus. God’s will is more a field with fences that are the commands, and there are places within the field that are better for you, that’s the wisdom, and there are things you do that God delights in, that’s the disciplines to learn to hear Him, and then there are the activities that bring Him glory by doing, and that’s the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Rick: Or perhaps God’s will is more like a path in the wilds! Sometimes broadens, sometimes narrow. Sometimes well blazed, sometimes less clear. Sometimes up hill, sometimes down. Sometimes more dangerous, sometimes safer. We can be wise, or unwise. We can live safely, or make unsafe choices.  As long as we stay within Biblical commands of holiness, relationships, pursuits; and seek Him first; and live wisely, the left bend can be just as pleasing as the right when it comes to a choice between two equals. And God works all the turns, all the ups and down, all the right and wrong decisions to His glory.

3. Is God’s will the “safest place in the universe?”
You may have heard people say to you, just stay in God’s will and He will keep you safe. Nothing can harm you there!
My experience has been really the opposite.
Rick: I had just finished a small group Bible study on the second floor of a small apartment building with a Latino family. I walked into the dirt parking lot and a rough looking guy met me there. Walked right up to me, and began yelling in my face and spitting. I could turn and run – and I thought about it. Or I could stand there and wait for an opening. So I waited – and finally got to say, “We aren’t leaving. We are here.” It was afterwards that someone told me he had a knife drawn and behind his back.
It is sometimes the most dangerous thing you can do to follow God. It’s also the most exciting. Don’t choose to live dangerously just to be foolish, but live the dangerous life of faith that represents Him well and follow His prompting and calling.

4. Is everything you need to know to follow God’s calling in the Bible?
Well… yes… and no. The Bible pours life into our lives, and all we do should align with Scripture. So don’t get our point wrong here. For instance, He says to us, go to all the nations. But you had to choose the nation. He says share the Great News wherever you go; but you have to choose who and what home or apartment or coffee bar to go into. There were places in some of the cities I have lived in over the years that I really just chose not to go into unless I sensed I had to. (When Susan served in Chile, it was the same.) Even Jesus told the “2 by 2’s” to stay where they are welcome – and at least a part of that is so you would have a safe and open place to minister and share in.

5. Are only Christians “in on” God’s will?
God used pagans in the Bible all the time. Most of the time, they didn’t know it was God’s will, and they did it anyway… with gusto! Sometimes they awoke to God’s will and knew what they were doing was bigger than themselves. And pagans ended up turning to the Lord God when they saw His power and will.
Sometimes, when the lost are confronted by His will and wisdom, especially as you relate to them – they will seek Him and turn to Him and away from sin and rebellion.

6. Can wisdom come from only “Christian” sources?
We seek God’s wisdom first and foremost in His Word. And acknowledge, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” But we also get wisdom from godly friends, books, trusted authors and even sometimes, not so godly friends. He can speak through whomever and whatever He chooses. If it lines up with and points you back to a Biblical lifestyle, listen to it.
Rick: I was reading a recent copy of “Seventeen” magazine while I waited for my daughter to get her haircut. One section advised young girls to leave their boyfriends if all they wanted was sex.  Not a Christian magazine, but good wisdom and probably rescued a girl or two from wrong choices.

7. Does God speak to us today?
This is a tricky one that needs to be answered carefully. Illus. In my seminary days, the same person that would tell me God is finished with His supernatural revelation would ardently confirm to me that God called him supernaturally to the ministry. God speaks today through His Word. He speaks to us through wise counsel, etc. And he speaks to us supernaturally, confirming or affirming something we need to know, do, change, pursue, etc. Those “in the last days” things in Acts 2/Joel 2 that Peter affirmed can be a little scary. But whatever the form it takes it always lines up with Scripture; and never violates His written Word. But it sure can be very personal and clearly from God.

8. Can God only speak in limited or certain ways today?
This is the follow up question to the previous one, “Does God speak to you today?”  If you answer yes, then you have to ask and answer for yourself, “How does He speak?”  Acts 2, Peter recounts that in the last days visions, dreams, prophecies, etc. would be a part of our experience. I’m not here to shake up a theological bee’s nest, but God will speak in ways you need Him to if you give Him permission. You’ve probably heard the stories of how Christ has been revealing Himself personally or through an angel to Muslims in the 10/40 areas. And Muslims are saying “yes” to Jesus because He is speaking to them.

9. Can I really be doing God’s will if my job doesn’t use my “gifts,” “skill set,” or “talents and experience?”
There will be occasions, and even seasons, during which you will serve outside your passions. It’s best to work at what you love the most and are strongest at – and my feeling is that we should do our best to work toward this. But, it’s not necessarily outside of God’s will to do what you aren’t especially “skilled” or experienced at.
Some seasons in serving God, you may have to do things you don’t really like that much – so what, do it with all your heart as to the Lord. Somebody has to wash dishes; somebody has to hang out the wet clothes; somebody has to clean the toilet. I see servants doing these things who are leaders in the making. It’s the whole “faithful with the little things/granted bigger things” promise that we need to get in on. Jesus is our example and he came “not to be served, but to serve.” That value took him to his knees with a bowl of water and a towel, and I’m not sure we would have listed this in His top five “skill set” items.
And if you don’t feel like you are accomplishing “the calling” God has for you, and perhaps are doing a lot more “outside the passion” than inside, then find ways creatively outside the “job” that you can fulfill it. Ask your supervisor to bless this and help you make time and prioritize it.
(Illus. Ten Boom family – skilled watchmakers and business oriented, but known for letting God’s compassion work through them by rescuing refugee Jews from the Holocaust.)
When you are mostly doing things that are assigned to you, or your options are limited in how you can serve God, ook at it as a gift: 1) sometimes, you are freed from “all those options” you might have had in your other life or culture and, 2) the choices are simpler on how you can serve Him. The options are limited on what it means to “please Him” and it helps you redefine your relationship with Him and the world He created and put you in the middle of.
Rick: The key words for “wait on the Lord” infers more than “patience” – it also means to serve Him like a waiter. And it maybe limited what this looks like  — and He will renew you and strengthen you. So don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t all fit your expectations and “skill set.”
Also, you may say – but I have given up so much, my home, my job, and my stuff. So, you’ve got a good start on surrendering yourself to Him.
Jesus said you die to live, you lay down to get it back, you surrender to get, and you lose to gain.
When you give up what you “want to do,” you discover through His leadership what you “get to do.”
It may be that the most fulfilling thing is to make a difference in a homeless person’s life, or a child’s, or a coach’s, or a group in a recovering addict’s home. Do it with all your heart to God.

10. Is God’s will hidden?
Sometimes it feels like it is, and sometimes we are just too full of “me” to hear “HIM.” But Jesus told his disciples that he shares his secrets, his will, his plans with his children. Ask and keep on asking for His wisdom. And seek and keep on seeking His glory first. And knock and keep on knocking for His answer.
Give him time and He will speak.

Closing:
We want to bring your questions back in now to see how God has met you and answered your prayers and perhaps your cries for wisdom. (Hand out the expectations forms. Let them look through them for a minute. Ask if anyone wants to share something.)

MTS2 Session Seven: To Reach Out

MTS-2 Bar Montenegro

October 2009

Session Seven

Why Am I Here?  To Reach Out

To Reach Out– The Gift of Great News! Isaiah 55:1-13

Teaching: During this session, the table time will drive the process of discovering God’s covenant desire for witnessing, how He partners with us, the power of His word to multiply disciples, the surpassing goodness of the Great News, and the effect salvation has on the world.

We have all heard a few sermons on “Reaching Out” and “Witnessing.” What passages come to mind right now that you’ve heard preached on?

First Passage:
The message of the Great News starts with the Great Initiator. God reached out and gave the invitation to come to the table. God has formed an agreement, a covenant with us. God has completed His part of the covenant. He has completed the requirements to buy us back. He has given us freedom – Fullness of life – Joy uncontainable – Love immeasurable – Mercy unmerited – Peace unsurpassable. And that’s just what He has for us here! He has eternity’s Google calendar planned out for us. What we have is Great News!

Pay attention, come close now,
listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words.
I’m making a lasting covenant commitment with you,
the same that I made with David: sure, solid, enduring love.
I set him up as a witness to the nations,
made him a prince and leader of the nations,
And now I’m doing it to you
: 3-5 Message

1. When you share a secret, or good news with someone, what kind of emotions do you have?
2. What is the covenant that God is making with us? Name three things it includes.
3. What does “a witness to the nations” mean here? And to you?

Second Passage:
This covenant leads to an awesome partnership. He leads us, empowers us, delivers to us the Good News and forms in us a heart of compassion. Our job – obedience.
Rick: I had lived in Texas for nearly three years, and was driving back from a pasturing position in Dallas toward home in Fort Worth (about an hour away.) I spot two Mexican guys on the side of the autostrada hitchhiking. In the US we don’t usually pickup hikers, but I knew I needed to get these guys. But I didn’t speak Spanish and they didn’t speak English. It was a long and slightly uncomfortable drive, and I ran through the list of everyone who might speak Spanish. I found Mike at the dorm (a music major) and drawing the bridge illustration on the dust of my beat up “ministry car” and getting translation help, two new believers entered into heaven’s rolls.
Nations=ethnics (we see boundaries, God sees groups and families who need Him; we see barriers to the Gospel, God sees languages of the heart that the Gospel resonates with)

You’ll summon nations you’ve never heard of,
and nations who’ve never heard of you
will come running to you
Because of me, your God,
because The Holy of Israel has honored you.” 5

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.
8-9 Message

1. When you moved to your field, what was the first good “surprise” you got about your new country? What was your first “hard surprise?”
2. When you first arrived at your field, did you discover a “new country” in the area you never knew about?
3. In this passage, who is responsible for nations moving toward you and the news you carry?
4. Who carries the action in the second half of this passage? Who is the messenger? What is the message?
5. How does rain and snow compare to the “words that come out of my mouth?”
6. What is the promise of this passage?

Third Passage:
God works in ways both different and beyond what we expect. We might want to convince someone to trust Christ. We might want to make it make sense to them, or explain it in a way that is logical. We might want to argue them into the Kingdom.
Evangelism happens in a lot of different ways, but I think sometimes we complicate the process. 1) God is already at work in the life of the person we are sharing with. 2) Compassion is the best packaging. 3) The gift is the message. 4) It has to be opened personally. 5) Most people won’t open it unless they are invited to.
Remember what the first verses said – come if you are thirsty, hungry, want to be filled. If there isn’t a thirst already developed, your message becomes salt to make them thirsty.

“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.
8-9 Message

1. Since you have been on the field, would you say that your ministry job is: a) poetry in motion, b) a mystery, c) a love story, d) history, e) a masterpiece in process
2. How does God’s work surpass the way you work?
3. How do God’s thoughts go beyond your thoughts?
4. Is it important to line up our thoughts and work with His? Is this possible?

Fourth Passage:
God is inviting us to His table, to His fountain. He says in this chapter no less than five times “Come.” No matter what you have been drinking, what God offers is better. Eating. Feasting on relationally. Spending your spare time on.
Susan: I was in a conference a few years ago and hear the story of a girl from Trinidad and Tobago – she had a really good friend who lived apart from God and really lived like the devil – no hope, unsafe life – she pleaded with him “God love you – you don’t have to live like this.” This man married her a couple years later.

“Hey there! All who are thirsty,
come to the water!
Are you penniless?
Come anyway—buy and eat!
Come, buy your drinks, buy wine and milk.
Buy without money—everything’s free!
Why do you spend your money on junk food,
your hard-earned cash on cotton candy?
Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best,
fill yourself with only the finest.
1-2 Message

1. What is your market day like? Have you ever been aggressively talked into buying something in the market?
2. What does the market vendor’s call to “come” in these verses represent?
3. In what ways is the “food and drink” Jesus offers better?

Fifth Passage:
We really have a “one-dimensional” perspective when we share the Great News. All to often, we are thinking “no hell/know heaven.” Important – very important! Eternally important! But what happens to those around them if they are discipled so they can share their faith, too. And what about the generations to come because he or she will raise kids who will hear the gospel. And what about the praises the following verses speak about!  We can only imagine how significant one soul is to God’s heart!
“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.”
12-13 Message

1. What excites you most about seeing someone become a new Christian? a) potential as a witness to family and friends, b) excitement about their new faith, c) heaven’s new citizen, d) new worker in church, e) the cosmic effect of their salvation

Closing:
Pray at your tables. Ask God to open eyes around you to the Great News. Ask Him to cause your life to be salt and light to the nations. Ask Him to give you open doors and boldness to give away this gift you have. Ask God to cause you to be faithful in this covenant to share.

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