On a mission fom God

Does God have a mission?  Is there a goal, an end in mind that God has for the earth – for the human race?

Why in the world did God create the world in the first place?  What was His point?  I think that this is a tremendously important question.  Well, I think that this is the most important question.  Pretty much everyone wants to know why.  Is there some reason for my existence?  Is there some reason for time, space, stars, planets, puppies, roses, carnations, snails, plagues, storms, loud noises, pain and suffering, laughter, joy, love, beauty and ugliness, black holes, quarks, galaxies, poison ivy?   But mostly, why am I here?

I think that God does have a plan.  I believe that He has communicated that plan to human beings in the Bible.  You may disagree with this.  But there is a reason.  You might even say that reason demands a reason.  The reality is that you only have two choices.  There is either purpose or there is not.  And, that purpose must be bigger than you or me or it is not.  I think the plan and the purpose is way bigger than all of us, because I believe that it is God’s plan.  I believe that God made the heavens and the earth and you and me and everything.  He is the cause of all causes.  He is the uncaused cause.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t understand why God made things some ways and not others.  I don’t understand how an all powerful and perfect and holy and good and loving God allows crappy things to happen.  I just don’t have all of the answers.  But I do believe that God has a purpose – a plan.  There is a plot to the history of the human race.  I believe that God is perfect and powerful; and I believe that God is good.

The Bible is about the mission of God.  Christopher Wright in The Mission of God says that the Bible is “the story of God’s mission through God’s people in their engagement with God’s world for the sake of the whole of God’s creation (51).”  Wright says, “our mission (if it is biblically informed and validated) means our committed participation as God’s people, at God’s invitation and command, in God’s own mission within the history of God’s world for the redemption of God’s creation…  Our mission flows from and participates in the mission of God (23).”

God’s mission is the redemption of the world.  And He calls His people to participate in this mission of redemption.  That my friends is something that I want to be a part of.  I want to actively participate in the Mission of God.  I want to work with God (who amazingly asks us to participate with Him) in this goal of redemption.

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Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

In the middle of the 17th century a bunch of people from England and Scotland developed the Westminster Shorter Catechism.  For those of you who may not be aware, a catechism is a series of questions and answers developed to teach – for the Westminster guys it was to teach the basics of the Christian faith.  Anyway, their first question was; “What is the chief end of man?”  This is a great way to begin.  Why do we exist?  We are we here?  Well, here is their answer:

“The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”

That is a great mission statement.  A mission statement may be defined as a written declaration of purpose.  So, here is our purpose – to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.  It defines everything that we do.  Are we students?  We are students to the glory of God.  Are we accountants or salespeople?  We are accountants or salespeople to the glory of God.  Are we mothers and fathers?  We are mothers and fathers to the glory of God.  Are we pastors, teachers or golf pros?  We are pastors, teachers or golf pros to the glory of God.

It defines and gives purpose to everything that we do.  The Apostle Paul wrote this in the 1st century to a church in the city of Corinth: “So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 

That is my mission statement.  It just fits everything I can think of in my life.  It helps me to keep track of the time I spend and what I spend it on.  It helps me keep track of my relationships with others – as a father, husband, pastoral assistant, missionary, teacher, friend, uncle, brother, neighbor, co-worker…  It is a mission statement that is so much bigger than me.  It is a mission statement that moves me out of myself and towards the One who made me – who made me with a purpose.

Later this week I want to think of two other things.  First, does God have a mission?  If he does, what is it and how am I a part of it?  And Second, what does it mean to enjoy God forever?

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No Golden Days

“Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” (Ecclesiastes 7: 10)

Let me state something here –

There were no golden days.

There you are.

Some of us look back to earlier parts of our lives and wish that we could go back to them. Those days seemed so much better than these. Recently I had my 40th high school reunion. Sometimes I think that I want to go back to those days of high school. The music was great. I did not have all of the responsibilities that I have now. Life was pretty easy. You know what? High school was just not that great.

Oh, the golden age of the church…

When was that?

The 1st Century church, The Reformation, The Puritans, The Great Awakening… Many people talk about how they want to be like the church in the New Testament. Are they kidding?

The church of Jesus Christ has always had its sin and struggles. There has been no golden age.

You and I are in the best time of all. It is the time where our Father has placed us. This is the time and place where we have been gifted and called to serve. It is a time that is ripe with incredible opportunities for the Good News. We are not 1st century believers. We are not 16th, 17th, or 19th century believers. We are not even 20th century believers. We are 21st century believers – given the incredible opportunity to serve right now – right where we live – right when we live.

Learn from the past. But, live gratefully in the present with an eye on the hope of the future.

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To the next generation…

“O God,  from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.  So even to old age and gray hairs,  O God,  do not forsake me,  until I proclaim your might to another generation,   your power to all those to come.”

Psalm 71: 17,18

 

What do my kids know about God – my God?

What have I taught them?

This is a huge question for me as I have gotten older, my kids have grown up and begun to establish lives of their own.

I wish I had spent more time telling them and showing them in my own life how absolutely amazing God is.  However, this is not something that we ever really stop doing.  It does not stop when they reach age 18 or 21 or 50.  Even to old age I will continue to tell another generation everything that I can about the God that I serve.

Too often I worry about what they think about me.  Do they think that I am a wonderful father?  I hope that none of them writes some sort of tell-all book about their childhood telling everyone what a terrible father I was – how so often I just didn’t get it – how I didn’t listen to them or I was unfair – how I yelled too much – how I didn’t do this or that with them enough.  I don’t think that it is wrong for me to want my children to love me, and they do.  They are great kids.  But maybe they are great in spite of me instead of because of me.

Here is some advice for fathers and mothers.  Be more concerned with whether or not your children love God than whether or not they love you.  Be more concerned with their spiritual welfare than with their social welfare.  Don’t be so concerned with what others say about your childrearing – remember that you will need to answer to God.  Help them understand that their love for Jesus is much, much more important than their grades or sports’ skills – that going to worship is more important than a soccer match or a horse show or a swimming meet – that obeying Jesus is more important than being popular.

But, even more important, make sure that your own life reflects that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and that you are his servant.  Before you are a father or mother, you are a servant of Jesus.  Before you are a stock broker, mortgage banker, lawyer, teacher or pastor, you are a servant of Jesus.  Let them see that for you the honor and glory of God is the most important thing of all.

Help them to see that it is not about you or them, it is about God.

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Exhaustion

This is how I felt after my first two sessions with my trainer.  I don’t know many trainers personally, but I do think that there has to be some element of sadism in their makeup – not enough to disqualify them from their work – just enough to let them enjoy it.  Who in the world said that whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger?

There is also another nasty secret to working out.  The real pain only comes the following day after you got a good night’s sleep.  It is sort of the opposite of delayed gratification.  I really do think that when the trainers wake up the following morning, they have their own moment of gratification knowing that it took me 5 minutes to walk the 10 steps to my bathroom.

Hopefully after a few more sessions I will not be quite so bitter.

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Live or Die

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.  Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.  I am hard pressed between the two.  My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.  But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”

Philippians 1:21-24

 

Would you die for Jesus Christ?

That is a tough question.  It is tough because most of us will never have to make that decision.  Most likely neither you nor I will have someone place a gun to our head and say: “Deny Jesus Christ or die.”  I think that many of us would not deny Jesus in that situation.  I don’t think that I would; but, of course, I don’t know that for sure – not unless it actually happens.

However, I think that there is a tougher question.  You see, most of us, although we may be willing to die for Jesus, will not stake our reputations on Jesus.  We will not often overcome our fear of rejection by telling someone about Jesus.  We rarely risk being perceived as uncool, intolerant, stupid, or foolish by telling others that they are lost without Jesus.  I can tell you that I am too often frustrated by the inconvenience of helping others – of loving others.  I will often shift a conversation into shallower waters if I think that I am becoming too vulnerable to someone in need of help.

Maybe we are willing to die for Jesus.

But are we willing to live for Jesus?

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I am just getting started

“Now Moses was 80 years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh.”

Exodus 7:7

 Moses was on his third career at this point in his life.  First, he was raised in the court of Pharaoh, ruler of Egypt, for forty years.  Then he was a shepherd in the wilderness for another forty years.  Now he was sent by God to deliver the people of Israel from their slavery in Egypt and to take them into the land that had been promised to them by God.

No retirement for Moses or Aaron.  Both of them worked hard up to the point that they died in the wilderness doing the work that the Lord had given them to do.

At fifty-nine I feel that my life is just starting a new stage.  Maybe I have another twenty or thirty years of real ministry and work for the Lord ahead of me.  And I am excited about this opportunity.  I do not want to spend the balance of my life collecting retirement benefits – playing golf – wandering on a beach – clipping coupons – playing bridge – or anything else that I think that I deserve after a long career of hard work.  I do not want to retire.  There is just too much work to be done.  There are so many opportunities for real service to Jesus Christ and to the world around us.

I have a good friend who is a few years over sixty.  He is retired from a career in the Navy and another few years in the business world.  Two years ago he and his wife went to Japan to serve as long-term missionaries.  I have another friend who was raised by missionary parents in India.  After many years as a missionary in India and as a pastor in the United States and a teacher at a seminary, he has taken on a new task to help bring theological education to church-planting pastors in India.  He is in his seventies (at least).

There are so many opportunities out there.  The needs are great.  Jesus Christ does not set age limits on his servants.  We don’t retire from his service.  There is a great need for wisdom and experience in the world today.  Maybe you were not called to go as a young man or a young woman.  Maybe you were called to stay and work and raise a family.  That is wonderful.  But not that you have done that, what are you called to do?

Most of us in America assume that once we have finished our careers we deserve to rest until the end of our lives.  We are to enjoy our retirement.  I am not sure where this idea came from.  Don’t get me wrong – I believe that we can enjoy ourselves in our later years.  As a matter of fact, I am looking forward with great excitement to the next twenty or thirty or more years.  I believe that my Lord, my Savior, my King, my Commander-in-Chief has wonderful opportunities for me in the years ahead.  It could be that our most significant work is ahead of us – not behind us.

I will have an eternity to rest.

 

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Polycarp – on finishing well

Polycarp was a pastor of a church in what is now Turkey.  In AD155 he was arrested and sentenced to death by burning.  However, his captors said that he could escape his sentence and be set free if he would only curse Christ and confess that Caesar was Lord.  If he would just do this, he could save himself a horrible death.  Polycarp’s replied, “Eighty-six years I have served Christ and He has done me no wrong.  How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”  Many in his day gave in to the pressure to escape the horrible fate that awaited Christians during this time of persecution.  But, as Polycarp’s Lord was faithful to him. so he would be to Him – for eighty-six years.

He did not say, “Well, I am old and weak and need to take it easy.”  He did not say. “He will forgive me anyway.”  He did not say, “I guess I should retire soon.”  He served Jesus Christ til the very end.  He was an important and influential leader in the church until his death.  He served his Lord faithfully, even in his old age (and 86 was really old back then).  Polycarp’s later years may have been his most influential.  His most important service to the church occurred after what we may consider retirement age.  And, of course, how he died and his courage in the midst of it has been a strong encouragement for almost two thousand years.  Polycarp finished well.

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Getting back on the wagon…

I fell off the wagon yesterday.

I had not played a game on my computer/nook/iphone all week; but yesterday…

This is one of my personal addictive behaviors – my own particular time waster.  I can spend hours at a time playing web sudoku or mahjong.  Crazily, I don’t even enjoy playing  after one or two times; but I just keep playing.  Compulsive right?  Who knows, I am not a professional in these things.  Anyway, I will start again this week.  I could use the time to read a good book, learn Spanish, go for a walk, talk to my wife, pray, call a friend…

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15,16).”

The older I get the more I realize how short our time here is; so, I can’t stand the idea of wasting so much of it.  It does seem crazy how much time can be wasted. “So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12).” 

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Self Control, Pizza and the Gym

I have lost 34 pounds since Christmas (still 24 to go).  My weight had gotten to an all time high; and I knew that I must do something.  Also, a few weeks ago the doctor told me that my cholesterol was a problem and that my sugar levels were at the high end of normal.  I have done pretty well on watching what and when I eat; and I have been walking a lot over the last few weeks.  The other night I had a great pizza.  Becky wisely only ate half of hers and took the rest home in a box.  I unwisely ate all of mine (I did the same thing when I ate with my brother last week).  It was really, really good.  My restraint is somewhat sporadic.  So, on the way home we walked into the local Gold’s Gym and I signed up.  Now I just need to make sure that I go.  We’ll see just how disciplined I can be.

Part of finishing well will need to be taking care of my body.  I mean, I could get hit by a truck, fall down the stairs, have a heart attack or get cancer (or some obscure, terminal disease) and die at any moment; but I don’t want to die because I am stupid or lack self-control.  That would be a waste.

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