Archive for August, 2010

‘Sentness’ : Knowing that God has placed you where you are

All this talk about mission.  God’s mission.  Our mission in San Diego.  God’s big picture.  But sometimes we can get so caught up the in lingo and not know where the rubber meets the road.  Or maybe we have a hard time believing that God actually has given us a mission in the first place.

I know I have struggled with this before, but more and more God is showing me the reality of his mission in my life, in this city.  Often we relegate mission to the confines of an overseas mission trip, or to missionaries who go to another land to share the Gospel of Jesus.  But God has called all of us to mission, and he’s called us all to be missionaries — whether in our land or in lands unknown.  We (followers of Jesus) are all missionaries.  We are all sent.

I was reading some of Jesus’ parting words with his disciples in the book of John a few days ago.  This passage really hit me:

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one16They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17Sanctify[b] them by the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.

As Jesus is praying over the twelve, these are some of the words he prays.  He wants them to live with joy.  He knows that the world will hate them because they are so radically different.  But in the face of the world’s opposition to the gospel, he doesn’t pray for them to be delivered from the world, but rather delivered from the evil one as they are SENT INTO the world.

Often Christian groups, tend to turn inward.  Many call it the “these-four-walls” mentality.  Some have resigned to huddle together and wait for Jesus to come back.  But Jesus’ desire for us is that we would take the joy of serving him INTO the world to which we’ve been sent.  Just as Jesus was sent from God, he sends us into the world.  His prayer for Christians is not that they would be taken out of the suffering, brokenness, and pain that are in the world — but that we would live with joy in the midst of a hurting world — missionaries sent with the message of reconciliation to all those around us.  Our co-workers, neighbors, families and friends.

And I believe that being sent into our world means more than attending a weekly Sunday meeting.  It means more than being a good person.  Those are all great goals, but I believe God has so much more to say about how we live our lives than can be contained on Sundays or can be taught with good moral lessons.  God’s Word is light and life, and Jesus has the power and desire to speak into every arena of our lives.  As a church, let’s not confine God to a few hours on a Sunday morning or a mid-week meeting.  Let us constantly ask the questions, “How can I follow Jesus in this situation?,” or “How can I be an ambassador of God’s grace with the people in my life?”

The challenge for my heart is to truly believe that God has sent me to where I am for his purpose and for my good.  If I’m sent, and if I’m called to be a missionary, a messenger of truth, then I have questions to ask.  Did God put me where I am on accident?  Or has he sent me to the people in my everyday life.  Has he sent me to my co-workers, roommates, and daily faces on the street?

More and more I believe he has… and more and more I’m trying to live like he has.  I have been sent into my world, my sphere of influence, to give God glory; to demonstrate and declare the kingdom of God.

May God lead us in our quest to live our lives completely for him.

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Jonah 3: Answering the Call

At Anchor Gaslamp, we’re continuing the series on Jonah and the Mission of God.  Yesterday was the third installment of the series and we’ll be finishing up next week.  Here are some interesting points in Jonah 3.

God gives Jonah a second chance.  Look at it, chapter 3:1 is almost exactly like chapter 1:1.  But by this time in the story, Jonah has experienced what it’s like to run from God’s call.  Jonah has seen that God still pursued him for God’s own purposes and for Jonah’s good.  Jonah saw God send a storm to keep Jonah from running.   And when he thought it was all over, as he was drowning in the ocean, Jonah experienced what it’s like to be literally swallowed by God’s grace (in the form of a large fish.)  In Jonah’s prayer, found in chapter 2, he acknowledges that God saved him from certain death, that God brought his life up from the pit.

Another thing Jonah acknowledges in his prayer is that, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”  We see that being inside the storm, thrown into the sea, and swallowed by the fish, God has brought Jonah to a place where he can’t run from God anymore.  There in the belly of the fish, he is confronted with the truth… the truth about the idols in his heart.  The idols that keep him from fully trusting in God’s sovereignty.  Clinging to these idols is the very thing keeping him from experiencing God’s grace in the mission to share the truth with others.

And here at this point, when God has used extreme and difficult circumstances to redeem Jonah’s rebellion, Jonah vows to declare that “salvation comes from the LORD.”  At this moment is when the fish vomits him up onto dry land, and God gives Jonah a ‘take two’ of sorts.

The situation is still the same.  All the circumstances that made Jonah want to flee in the first place are still there.  But God’s call is also still there.  And given the second chance that he’s given, Jonah makes the decision to obey.  He’s learned by this point who is really in control.

In chapter 3, we finally see Jonah walking in FAITH, whereas in previous chapters we’ve seen him walk in FEAR.  Yes, the task is daunting.  God wants him to walk into an intimidating city of 120,000 people who do not fear the Lord… and he wants him to go in alone and tell all these people how wrong they are… and of their impending judgment.  But now that he’s been where he’s been, he knows that God is trustworthy… and that of all the possible missions on earth, only God’s mission will be successful.  So he walks faithfully into a task WAY too big for him, a challenge that is impossible without God… but he obeys because he knows that he is working with God.

Finally we see that when Jonah decides to obey God instead of rebel, when he runs toward God’s mission instead of running away from it, he gets to join in with the success of God’s mission as well.  The people of Nineveh believe, cry out to God, and repent.

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Our challenge in San Diego is this: to recognize that God has called us to this city on mission, and to run toward that mission with faith in God’s sovereignty.

Mission is God’s burden and our blessing.

Jonah 1 and the Mission of God

I’m really digging the current series we’re teaching at Anchor Gaslamp.  Vince and I have been co-teaching last Sunday and today and we’ve made it through the first two chapters of Jonah.  It’s amazing how God’s Word can have so much value packed into such a small book.

Jonah was one of few Old Testament prophets actually called to a nation other than Israel.  He was called to preach to Nineveh, a cruel city with a history of barbarism.  Through the book of Jonah, we see part of God’s heart for the nations — that all people would come to know him and love him.

Also in the book of Jonah, we see so much of the struggles that happen in our own hearts as believers who God has called to live our lives on his mission.  Last Sunday, Vince and I preached that “We are Jonah,” drawing several parallels from the first chapter of Jonah into our everyday lives.

The word of the Lord came to Jonah.  The word of the Lord comes to us.  God gave Jonah a mission, an objective.  God calls us to a mission, a way of life.  Jonah runs from God’s call to mission.  Often we run from God’s mission for us — maybe not outwardly as Jonah ran from the Lord, but definitely inwardly we often rebel against God’s will.  But God pursued Jonah (with a storm and a fish) for his own purposes and for Jonah’s good.  God pursues us for his own purposes and for our good.

One of the other points we talked about was how Jonah’s actions affected those around him.  There were important consequences for Jonah’s disobedience and obedience to God’s Word.  When he runs from God’s call, the storm rocks not only him, but also everyone who is in the boat with him.  However, as soon as he confesses his sin and is tossed overboard, the sea calms and those around him see a bit of the glory of the true God.  Like Jonah, our rebellion against God affects those around us negatively.  But also like Jonah, our obedience to God’s way of doing things will greatly affect those around us in a positive way — and will lead them to experiencing God.

My prayer for Anchor Gaslamp during this series is that we could begin to see more clearly the mission that God has given us in the city of San Diego.  That we could begin to see the mission field that God has called us to in our relationships, families, and neighborhoods.  Also, that once we see God’s mission, we can identify the idols in our hearts that keep us from obeying God’s call… whether that be materialism, sense of security, fear of rejection, selfish desires, etc.  Anything that is causing us to “flee toward Tarshish” instead of sail directly “toward Nineveh” with the truth of God’s Word.

I’m excited to see what God is doing in our hearts and lives in the next few months.  Maybe I’ll post about the Jonah 2 teaching next.