Running on empty

A while back, a trusted friend and I were talking about something ministry related and he mentioned one thing that’s stuck with me since that day: how guys like him and me, because of our particular interests, are really good at running on empty. We can rely on the backlog of information in our heads from years of reading, and not notice that something’s wrong—that our metaphorical tanks are getting low until we stop in the middle of traffic. You are probably not much different. You have heard enough sermons, read enough Bible notes and done enough studies that you could probably get by for a while before you really began to miss them. However, this whole mindset of being full and empty misses the point of how our faith works. You see, we are big on Easter, and rightfully so—God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, putting an exclamation mark on the life and death of his Son. Some branches of the faith are big on Pentecost, celebrating the coronation of Jesus in heaven, and the overflow of the Spirit dripping down to the earth, but between the two there’s this gap of fifty days. When you follow the records you find the Gospels (the records of Jesus’ life) end with Jesus saying, “Go!” However, Acts (the records of what happened next) opens with Jesus saying, “Wait!” What was so important that Jesus told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem? Jesus said, in effect, “Don’t go anywhere, and don’t do anything until you receive all that I have for you.” You see, you and I can’t get by on fumes. None of us can. We can’t rely on last week’s sermon, yesterday’s study or tomorrow’s verse for the day. We can only rely on God who is present in this very moment to strengthen us and keep us going. Hopefully the sermons and studies help you understand exactly what God offers and what He can do, but they are not meant to be the fuel that we run on. In fact we aren’t meant to be like fuel tanks that can be filled up, we are more like the hoses that are only working when they have something flowing through them. That is what the Holy Spirit came to do, and so it is for Him that we wait. Isaiah 40:31 describes this kind of life like this: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” The waiting described here isn’t sitting around, pacing the floor expecting God to show up; instead it is waking up to EASTER CONTINUED… 2 the idea that He is with us and we can lean into Him with expectation that He will come through. This is the new life Jesus asks His disciples to wait for before they begin. This is what we begin to discover as we learn moment by moment to trust in expectation that God will provide. This is Easter continued. What I mean by this is that when we learn to walk moment by moment with God, each day becomes a mini-resurrection. Each day we get to start again and leave behind a dying way of life and embrace a new one. Each day we get to enjoy and then introduce the grace of an invisible God into the lives of people we meet. Each day we get to see ourselves change as we become more like the One who gave up His life for the ones He loved. As we stay awake moment by moment to the Spirit in us we find ourselves not running on fumes but having life itself flowing through us. Paul describes this in a prayer like this: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). If this is the case, then perhaps right now in this moment you need to pause to drink it in. Perhaps you need to tune yourself to be aware of God’s presence. You could say out loud some of the things Jesus said about you to remind yourself of them… “You are with me, I am loved, I am a new creation, You will be with me always, You will strengthen me, You will fill me with your life.” Once you have done the waiting you can go. No longer running on empty but full of what God gives you… Share it, spread it, introduce others to what you have found, keep Easter going.


Made for…

I will never forget being a new Christian walking around the church I began in. I had just started playing guitar in the music group and was helping in the youth group and in any other way I could. We were standing in the hallway of the church building on a Sunday evening as the preacher for that evening spoke with the elders about my involvement in the church. Then this older gentleman leans over and looks at me with his big scary eyes and says, “Well, perhaps you were MADE for ministry!”

“What?” I thought. “‘Made for ministry?’ What does that even mean?” Don’t get me wrong, I loved the youth group. In fact, the team I worked with played a

MASSIVE

role in my life. But what I was doing wasn’t ‘ministry’, it just felt like I was doing what I loved. And what I loved pretty much consisted of listening to rock music, skateboarding, hanging out with friends, and helping people.

Am I Made for ministry?

Now I’m 27, married, and am now IN MINISTRY. But not much has changed. I still love rock (although I’ve graciously expanded my musical tastes), and I do long to have a skateboard/ hover board to hop on every now and again (more for transportation purposes than going off ramps). The problem I faced then, and have struggled with ever since, is the thought of being pigeon-holed into what I’m ‘called to do’. You know – the idea of only being able to pursue that ‘one thing’ you were DESIGNED FOR (dun dun duuuunnnn). The problem is, who has just one thing? Or better yet, who even knows what that ‘one-thing’ is?

I hear amazing, anointed speakers at conferences and church meetings talk about how they know their purpose is to ………………………. (fill in the blank) – ‘Preach the gospel to the ends of the earth’; ‘Plant a billion churches’; ‘Sing the songs of heaven’…

And there I sit every time thinking I’m a terrible Christian because all I can think about is how much I love listening to music, or going for walks with my wife, or sitting round a campfire, or gathering friends in our home. None of which sounds very ‘Christian’ or ‘holy’. So what do you do with that?

“What if our destiny isn’t something we do, but something we are?

I remember hearing someone preaching a few years ago, and he posed the question, “What if our destiny isn’t something we do, but something we are? What if our destiny is simply being sons and daughters of our heavenly Father?”

In that moment I had conflicting thoughts of, “There’s no way it’s that easy. Surely my destiny has something to do with the gospel or worship or church planting or something more spiritual than being a ‘son’.” But something in my heart leapt with a: “YES! THIS IS IT! YOU WERE MADE TO BE A SON!” What if this is true?

What if our destiny is actually to be a son or daughter? I imagine if we, as the church, lived as sons and daughters and pursued the passions of our hearts, the fruit would far exceed that of a group of servants living as if we were orphans and doing what we think God wants us to do. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been this person. I used to think the purpose of my life was to try to please an angry God who gave up His perfect Son in exchange for me, a sin and shame filled punk rock kid. And from that belief, every Christian thing I did was an act of trying to earn His love and acceptance. I was living like an orphan, looking for love and acceptance anywhere I could. I thought my ‘destiny’ and ‘purpose’ were to give up the very dreams in my heart in order to serve Him in ways that I thought would please Him… not realising He was the one who had planted those dreams in my heart.

What if our destiny is actually to be a son/daughter?

When Christians live this way, they look depressed, angry, bitter, and lonely. But when I look at the life of Jesus, the perfect Son and Servant, He seemed to be none of those things. It took me a while to finally realise that God was actually a lot more interested in the things I’m interested in than I thought He was.

King David said it best in Psalm 37:4 – “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Your destiny is to love and be loved by Him, to allow that love to shape you, and to share that love with the world around you

The desires of YOUR heart. Is that right? Surely the psalmist meant to write, “the desires of His heart?” Nope. It is the pleasure of the Father to see the desires of His children’s hearts fulfilled. Sure, some of those desires need refining, realigning and sorting. But some (maybe most) are good things that are made better when they are done with thanksgiving and praise. Paul puts it like this: “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5). So stop worrying about your ‘destiny’ and ‘purpose’ and all of those other big scary words. I’d like to propose that your destiny is to be a son or daughter of your heavenly Father, to love and be loved by Him, to allow that love to shape you, and to share that love with the world around you through the pursuit of your dreams and passions in partnership with your Father in heaven. I think that pursuing the dreams of your heart from this place will produce far greater fruit than being an unhappy servant trying to earn the love of God that is already available to you. So stop trying to figure out what you’re ‘called to do’, and start living from the dreams He planted in your heart long ago.



Masterpiece

MASTERPIECE

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I was reading Ephesians 2:10 the other day, and I was stopped dead in my tracks. Ephesians 2: E 10 says, “We are God’s masterpiece, created in Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
 

I felt inspired. I felt free. I realised that success and security is all about me but I was created for good works. This is my calling, this is a life of abundance and changing lives, this has weight and purpose and power… then I felt ashamed. Ashamed that just that day I had fallen short of this.

Earlier that day someone had come along asking for help. My natural response is to be a bit suspicious about this sort of thing and with a busy Christmas time I entered into the conversation thinking of how to deal with it as quickly as possible. In the end I did help but with many thoughts about how it was a major inconvenience to my schedule and plenty of grumbles that I had better things to be doing with my time. I helped the person but not with any sense of love…hence the shame.

It was a few days later that God flawed me about my attitude. Sitting at home after another busy day there was a knock at the door. I answered it and the same person stood at the door. I admit my heart sank. Thoughts of “Not again” and “I can’t do any more for you” went through my head. Then I noticed that the person was dressed in clean clothes, had a hair cut and and was looking like a different person to how they had looked to a few days earlier. Then without hesitation and to my amazement they then offered to repay me for the help I had given. Queue some more shame and guilt and a massive lesson learnt.

The next day I again read again the verse in Ephesians. “We are God’s masterpiece, created in Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” The verse in Ephesians says we are God’s masterpiece. The New Testament was written originally in Greek. The Greek word here for “masterpiece” is “poema.” It’s the word we get “poem” from. God says, “You’re my poem. You’re my masterpiece.

Now I don’t know about you, but when I get up in the morning and look in the mirror I don’t see a masterpiece. Maybe a Picasso with bits out of place and not being sure what’s going on. However I want to be a masterpiece. I want to be everything that God has created me to be. God has given me a work and given me the equipment to do the job: my gifts, talent, personality, my experiences and my pain. All of it is given for the good works he has planned for me.

Through this simple experience, in which I certainly was not the hero, God showed me the reason why we are here. We were created for more than success, we were created for good works. I would like to be able to say that this experience reminded me of this but sometimes I wonder if I have ever truly grasped it in the first place.

The truth is we all know the real person who’s inside us. We get up every morning and we look in the mirror and often it’s a scared child that looks back. One who tries to dress like an adult and act like an adult, but can’t. So when I red this verse and see that God looks at me and my life, my heart, my views, my aspirations, my take on the world and says, “that’s just what I need for the masterpiece I am going to make” that does something to me.

He sees every part of us; the anger, the pride, the comparisons with others, the worry disguised by business, the problem with lust, the empty wells we drink from whenever we’re hurting, whenever we’re angry, whenever we’re lonely that do not satisfy.
But despite this he says we are wanted and we are needed! The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, “There are different spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different ways of serving, and yet the same Lord is served. There are different types of work to do, but the same God produces every gift in every person”.

You are needed. You’re needed in your church. You are needed in your community. You are needed in this world. God doesn’t take time to make rubbish, he make masterpieces. If God wanted you to be somebody else, you wouldn’t exist. But he wanted you! He made you to be you. He didn’t create you to just sit and soak and sour. He brought you here to make a contribution with your life. And everybody is needed.

There are no little people in the family of God. Every part is necessary. Do you know what the most important light is in my house? It’s not the big chandelier in the dining room. It’s the little dinky light I turn on every night so that when I get up in the middle of the night, I don’t stub my toe. Every role is important. You are important. You have value because God said so and because he paid such a large price for your life when he sent
Jesus, to die on the cross for you.

God created you.
Jesus died for you.
God’s Spirit lives in you.

When we live as his masterpiece made for good works we are fulfilling his plan for us. My experience this week has also taught me that it is only when I am doing things for other people that I feel most satisfied. I feel fulfilled. I feel God smiling over me.

So I am learning to go to God and say, “Father, do whatever it takes to get things out of my life that don’t need to be there. Mould me into the image of your Son so that I can be your masterpiece.”

To live in light of the fact that Dean is God’s original masterpiece made for good works, and so are you.