Friday, March 26, 2010

As the sun finally sets on the sabbatical ...

And that's a wrap folks ... the sun is setting on the sabbatical and it is time to point my car north.

I'm so grateful for this month with my family, with my Lord, with my books, with Summit, in this corner of the world.

I return well-rested. I return with fresh vision. I return with more to do than you can even begin to imagine!

But I return knowing that even with my limited resources; God is able to do exceedingly more than all I can imagine!

Can't wait for the celebration of Good Friday and Easter at New Work Fellowship.

warning signs ...

Throughout this sabbatical, this sign captures so many of the themes that I read in scripture. Over and over again, God warns us about "swimming" in currents we cannot survive.

It is simply remarkable to me how often we, (and yes, I'm including me in this), how often WE ignore the warning signs and rush right in ...
  • captured by the same temptation and sin
  • thinking that we are exempt
  • believing that we can overcome in our own strength
A few years ago we visited this same beach ... and we did swim here. But the past is no guarantee of the future ... a few years ago this beach was different, these currents were not here, no warnings were posted.

Times change. And if we do not change and believe the warnings; well then, we should not be surprised by the trouble in which we find ourselves.

The Last Book of the Journey: Tallyho!????

This book was given to me by the team at Summit. It was the final book I read this week.

It was a surprise on so many levels. The sub-title really spoke to the theme of the text: The foundation for building World-Visionary, World-Impacting, Reproducing Disciples.

Random Thoughts and Quotes:
Everything begins with Vision. You will be what you see, but what you do not see, you cannot be.
What you lastingly look at will determine your life.
It is easier to serve God without a vision ... common sense is your guide.
Colossians 1:9 (Phillips) ... "I pray that you will see things from God's point of view."
Global mission requires global vision.
"When I consider my ministry, I think of the whole wide world. Anything less than that would not be worthy of Christ nor His will for my life". - Henrietta Mears
As Christians, the plan has always been for Total World Impact. Anything less than this is man-made, and is not big enough to satisfy God.

A formula for vision:
No vision = total failure;
Limited vision = little success;
A vision - a plan - action = only a dream;
A vision + a plan - action = a haunting dream;
A vision + a plan + action = a spiritually productive ministry.

The wealthiest plot of ground is not where you think it is ... it is in the cemetery ... for buried in the soil beneath your feet are the dreams that never came to pass, the songs that were never sung, books that were not written, paintings that never filled a canvas, ideas that were never shared, plans that never were followed ...

Small successes destroy great possibilities.

If I held a seed in my hand ... what would you see?
- a seed?
- a tree?
- a forrest?

What would the world have lost if you had not been born?

The most important thing in your life is to have and pursue a vision that agrees with God.

Do we not see God at work, because our plans do not need Him? Could it be that when we pray to see God's power the answer from the heavens could be simply, "With plans no bigger than that, you don't need Me".

The steps from risk-taker, to care-taker, to under-taker are very short steps.

"It is the most sublime spectacle in world history to see the Risen Christ, without money or army or state, charging his band of 500 men and women with world conquest and bringing them to believe it was possible and to undertake it with serious passion and power."
- A.T. Robertson

When the church won its greatest victories in the early days of the Roman Empire, it did so not by teachers or preachers or apostles, but by amateur, informal missionaries.

The great commission calls for a personal ministry from every believer.

Jesus used "penetration" symbols: light, salt, keys, bread, water.
  • Light is worthless unless it penetrates the darkness.
  • Salt is of no good if it remains in the shaker.
  • Keys are only functional once they penetrate the lock.
  • Bread has little value outside the eater.
  • Water cannot quench thirst without first being swallowed.
We are to penetrate the world. In fact, you can't even spell G-O-D without the word: G-O.

Our goal must be to inform and impact the entire world.

How far does your mission reach?

Isaiah 54:2, "Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thin habitations: spare not, lengthen they cords, and strengthen by stakes."

Jesus never said, "I am the light of Galilee." He said he was the light of the world. Vision for anything less is less than what He saw.

Is world-impact to be the hobby of a few fanatical enthusiasts, or is it to be the heartbeat of every -- EVERY -- Christian?

Satan's strategy includes fooling Christians into believing that attending church and listening to a sermon IS the Christian life.

"The greatest sin of today's church is that it has tamed Jesus Christ." -- Eugenia Price
  • We have tamed the risk, all the threat, all the danger, all the martyrdom out of Christianity...
"The trouble with Christians is that nobody wants to kill them anymore." -- Bruce Morgan

Discipling is done by someone, not by something.

We are to be reproducing reproducers.

Christ does not love me because I am lovable, lovely, or loving. He loves me because he his loving. But he did not chose me simply because he loved me. He chose me because he felt that his choice of me would help "win the game".

The way in which salvation comes into the world is captured in the phrase, "The word became flesh." So it looks like this ...
WORD -> flesh.

But then Jesus (the Word), spoke the Word into flesh ... and those who received the Word, became responsible for speaking the Word. So that looks like this ...

WORD -> flesh -> Word -> flesh -> Word -> flesh

Pretty easy to see with this progression how God planned for the WORD to reach every flesh across this world. But the question remains ... will the intended progression end with you? That is what happens when your flesh does not give voice to the Word.

Who do you feel personal responsibility for? It's called "ownership".

Jesus said, "Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies ..." So you are a seed. Are you only a seed or are you a forrest?

"With me" principle ... discipleship is caught better than taught.

If a gifted evangelist won 1000 people to Christ every day, it would take 15,000 years to reach the world.
If there was a Pentecost experience every day, where 3000 people are saved, it would still take 5000 years to reach the world.
If one discipler could so disciple one person for one year, who would then in turn each disciple one more in the next year ... and so on ... and so on ... the entire world could be reached for Christ in just 35 years.
If one Christian fails to disciple others, he cuts the potential for fulfilling the Great Commission in his lifetime, exactly in half.

Every church should be plotting constantly how it can get the gospel to as many places in the world as quickly as possible. But it is never "reach the world" to the neglect of the door-step of the church. It is not "either/or"; it is "both/and".

reminders of our mortality ...

I've noticed something here ... everyone who passes through this world leaves something behind.

Have you given much thought lately to what you are leaving?

We really are just passing through.

time for a game ...

Not sure how it happened.

Years ago we discovered that both my daughters are big Red Sox fans!

Discovered late in the week that Red Sox Spring Training is right here in Fort Myers ...

So ... a game was in order ... they played the Florida Marlins and the Red Sox won: 6 to 4.

A good game!

Sheep, Soil, Bees, and Vines

This was a "different" read. Instead of it being about vision or strategy; it was more about the unique ways that God communicates his love for us through the images of scripture.

It was the most refreshing read of the sabbatical. The book followed three common themes in scripture: sheep/shepherd, the soil, honey, and the vine.

Random Thoughts:
"Boundaries are essential for a sheep's survival."
  • That's true for us too.
Shepherds are always counting.
An uncontrollable ram can cause immense damage to a flock. They need to know the shepherd is to be respected.
When sheep are alone and weak, they are too quick to give up.
Once a sheep responds to the beckoning of the shepherd, they are his forever.
When David sinned, he wasn't the only who was punished. The entire flock suffered.
The firstborn to the shepherd is of greatest significance. To be asked to sacrifice the first would have been the same as saying that God was first in your life.
When God asked for a sheep w/o blemish; he was asking for the very best. They had worked for years to develop a spotless lamb.
Sacrifice places me in a posture of depending upon God and trusting Him.
Without a shepherd, sheep are just "mutton on a stick".
Sheep are not dumb. They are defenseless. There is a difference.
Shepherding teaches you to lead from the front rather than the back.

By the time I finished reading this section; I realized what a privilege it is to be a shepherd. I also found myself missing my sheep!

A farmer cannot afford to look back when plowing. All his energy and focus is forward.
When God's word says "do not reap in the corners of the field" He is reminding us that we do not need all that we think we do.
Gleaning teaches us that it's not about having more, it's about having enough.

When I finished the section on the harvest of the soil, I was reminded that we are to labor but also trust. God is the one who brings the growth. God is the one who brings the harvest.

How many roles are there in a bee-hive? Queen, drone, workers. The workers provide the most labor: nurse bees, fanning bees, queen attendants, feed the drones, seal the honey, build the comb, pack he pollen, carry water, mortuary bees, guard bees.

If a community of bees can do so much with so little, how much more can you and I accomplish with the great resources our Father has given us?

I wonder, have you ever really given much thought to your role in the "hive"? Who is depending upon you? Who is looking to you?

Jesus turns water into wine ... never noticed that it was on the "third day" that the hosts ran out of wine and Jesus came to their rescue.
Life without the gift of rest is merely existing without being able to enjoy the bouquet of all we have been given.
Anyone who plants a vineyard is looking ahead to the future.
All too often I find myself clinging to that which is comfortable and familiar, rather than embracing the challenges that emerge with change and growth.
Whoever is pruning the vine really is the master.
Jesus waits with even greater expectancy and passionate longing than I ever will. When he raised his cup, he was already thinking about the next time he would be with his followers.

Never thought too much about the vine and abiding in the vine previously. Sometimes I think we might be tempted to think "I am the vine" ... when clearly we are NOT. Abiding in Him, trusting Him, allowing Him to prune as He sees fit ... trusting that He knows best.

Like I said, refreshing thoughts here. After reading it; it was like ahhhhhhhhhhh ...

Final Scripture Carvings ...

9 But David said to Abishai, "Don't destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD's anointed and be guiltless? 10 As surely as the LORD lives," he said, "the LORD himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. 1 Samuel 26:9-10
  • David was a man of patient character. Even though he had been anointed King, he would not strike Saul. He waited and trusted God to act in His timing.
16Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." John 11:16
  • Wow.
"Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." John 11:32
  • Interesting how most of our concerns look backward: "If only this had happened. If only that had not happened." Jesus was looking forward, not backward.
"But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days." John 11:39
  • never noticed the present tense here previously, "there IS a bad odor". They could already smell the decay of death. But that is not too hard for God to deal with.
  • What impossible circumstance exists in my life? Does it already stink? God can still act.
so Saul took his own sword and fell on it. 1 Samuel 31:4
  • Saul was always looking for an escape ... hiding during his inauguration; hiding when Goliath was breathing threats, giving in to "the people" when he grew impatient and offered the sacrifice instead of waiting for Samuel, ... the pattern continues throughout.
  • We want an easy path far too often. Beware of the quick escape.
12 They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the LORD and the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. 2 Samuel 1:12
  • David weeps for the one who had tried to take his life.

23 "Saul and Jonathan—
in life they were loved and gracious,
and in death they were not parted.
They were swifter than eagles,
they were stronger than lions.
2 Samuel 1:23

  • David sings of Saul and Jonathan ... "Saul was gracious"????? Really? David shows some selective memory here. Perhaps thats a good trait for me to develop. I'll only remember good from you. That would change life, huh?

25The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:25
  • BOLD is the bias for life.
30 A cheerful look brings joy to the heart... Proverbs 15:30
  • This is so true. Just the right look from the ones who mean the most to you can bring immeasurable joy to the heart. Just a look ... wow.
6 When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The LORD's anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God. 2 Samuel 6:6-7
  • This was always a tough passage for me. They poor guy was just trying to "give God a hand". Perhaps the lesson here is that God does not NEED my help. He does not stumble; even when I think He might.
I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. 2 Samuel 6:21-22
  • David worshipped the Lord with reckless self-abandonment. That's tough to do! But when you love like David loved...everything else fades into insignificance.
12I tell you the truth, 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. John 14:12
  • It is by His "going" that we are empowered to do even greater things? That had to be confusing to them. Confusing to me too! It is by faith that we live, and act ... and when we live and act by faith ... God gets in the middle of it.
18 Open my eyes that I may see
wonderful things in your law.
Psalm 119:18
  • Interesting thing happens when you "open God's Word" ... God begins to open your heart to really see ... opening, is followed by opening.

31 He who listens to a life-giving rebuke
will be at home among the wise.

32 He who ignores discipline despises himself,
but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.
Proverbs 15:31-32

  • That means my prayer should be: "God surround me with those who love me enough to do this in my life."
4 So Hanun seized David's men, shaved off half of each man's beard, cut off their garments in the middle at the buttocks, and sent them away.
2 Samuel 10:4
  • Wow, these guys played for keeps! Tough humiliation!
7 Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man!" 2 Samuel 12:7
  • Talk about humiliation! Maybe David had prayed, "God surround me with those who love me enough to rebuke and discipline me."
21 When King David heard all this, he was furious. 2 Samuel 13:21
  • He was furious, but I wonder if he also saw the connection between his family disintegration and his own sin. He was furious, but he does nothing. And the result of his "nothing" is more chaos, destruction, and loss.
  • Furious might be a good thing, from time to time--but it is never enough.

God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him. 2 Samuel 14:14

  • There is a word of grace!
30 But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up. 2 Samuel 15:30
  • It is like "Palm Sunday" in reverse.
let no sin rule over me. Psalm 119:133
  • There is a prayer worth praying.
13 Kings take pleasure in honest lips;
they value a man who speaks the truth.
Proverbs 16:13
  • Have you noticed how often we don't want to hear the truth? Honesty sounds like a good thing until someone opens their mouths to speak hard truth.

This will be it for the scripture carvings ... the sabbatical certainly got me back into reading the scriptures. I'm up to June 1 now and looking forward to the rest of the journey. It's a good thing to allow God's word to wash over us like a wave, and wash through us like a cleansing flood.