Giving, Praying, Going—GROWING

Not all of the instruments play at the same time.

But they all have a part to play.

This morning the going section has taken the lead in this beautiful symphony of serving. But this is not the beginning of the piece… or the end.

This particular movement has been months in building with the generosity of the  giving section. Over and over we have made them aware of the need and the opportunity and they have given faithfully, liberally, and cheerfully.

It has built as we have drawn closer and closer to this day with the stirring and strengthening of the praying section. They have interceded continually and gathered around the going section to do so.

And the going section has itself given toward this and prayed over this and prepared hearts and minds and hands to do this.

In this giving and in this praying and in this going there is a common motif. We give and we pray and we go that the kingdom of God and the impact of the gospel and the people and churches involved will grow.

This morning we took this picture before we set out on our journey. In it you see givers that pray and prayers that go and goers that give. It’s not all of the folks that were there this morning just as it wasn’t all of the folks who made this possible. But it is a sampling of the magnificent orchestra through which God plays this glorious symphony for His own great glory.

Big group selfie as we set off toward CityReach 2019!

As these sections converge on a city in need of the hope of the gospel, we give thanks to all of you that have given to make our part in this symphony possible. We rejoice for the many who have been and continue to pray for the journey and the impact and the experience of this powerful cooperative kingdom effort. We lift up our partners who will meet us in Madison with hearts and hands ready to demonstrate the grace of our great God together.

And we look with hope for the dimensions of growth… as the kingdom of God increases, as the servants are stretched and strengthened, as the local partners are encouraged and emboldened, and as we all lean into the opportunity to join in where we see God at work. 

This is not a new idea at all. In fact, this growing by working together is exactly what Paul taught us about in his letter to the Ephesians:

“… we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body,… when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

Ephesians 4.15-16

When we each lean into our part, the body grows. That means that God’s kingdom grows—bigger, stronger, more effective. But, more than that, we grow into an ever more effective representation of Jesus himself.

As our Conductor has orchestrated the many parts together to ring out His own great praise, let us each play the part before us for His glory. Let us embrace our role in this work of obedience and honor… giving, praying, going—GROWING.

This is Not That Day

I’m not much of a runner, but I did run another half marathon last weekend. It was long and sweaty and all the usual stuff. But we did it.

Around mile 8 or a little after we passed a sign that looked just like this:

yard sign

I teared up.

I know, I know, there’s nothing particular special about me having tears in my eyes. But this was a powerful message of encouragement to me in that moment. I know that I won’t always be able to do such a thing. But that day I was fully capable.

As I’ve reflected on that sign and the powerful reminder therein, I was reminded of the very common theological sentiment that God will never give you anything you cannot handle. That’s a very comforting thought, perhaps, but there is one small detail about it that bothers me: it’s absolutely untrue.

Hear me out.

Everything about our human condition is utterly beyond our own ability to overcome. We are all born broken and full of selfishness (which God calls sin). We cannot overcome that.

But there is a much more accurate and much more important truth: what God requires, God provides.

Did you catch that?

What God requires, God provides.

It’s like that great hymn said it, “All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided – great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”

That means that, whatever challenge or issue is in our path today, God has provided what we need to endure and even grow through it.

So let me take this sign in a different context. The day that I cannot run the race set before me will never come simply because God will faithfully provide what each day requires when it is needed… but seldom before.

What difference does it make?

Well… it changes how I see the race. It changes how I see that monstrous hill rising in front of me or the rocky path ahead. It doesn’t make the bumps go away or even really take away the sting of weary muscles, but it does give me a comforting assurance that the struggle and the difficulty is temporary.

But there is something deeper, more powerful that I see. It means that the pain of the struggle—and there is always pain in the struggle—will not be wasted.

One of the most misunderstood assurances in the Bible is found in Romans 8 where we read this important truth:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Rom 8.28)

Paul goes on to explain that God’s purpose for all those who believe is to transform us into the image of His Son, Jesus. I think what he is getting at is that God is using all of the hardness of this life to accomplish His transforming work.

I want to encourage you today by simply reminding you that, no matter what this day requires, God will provide it. In fact, He most like already has done so.

Run your race. You can do it.

You can do it because you can trust Him to give you every ounce of strength required.

You can do it because He is faithful.

You can do it because He promised.

And His promises are true.

Comfortable or Conformable

A letter or two can make a great deal of difference.

I was reading some devotional material and came to what my eyes registered as a common, familiar word. But context caused me to stop and look again.

Comfortable or conformable?

What difference does it make?

In spiritual things (and many others), the different is vast.

One is like a slow-acting poison that almost ensures our lack of growth. It is the most dangerous of luxuries and yet the default to which we cling. This limiting force entices us to thicken into spiritual couch potatoes.

The other reflects a softened lump of clay flung onto the potter’s wheel. It is that readiness to be remade, reshaped, rebuilt. It is a softness of heart, an eagerness of spirit, a submission of will that expects the result to be worth the process. This stretching  warm-up prepares us to become what we were made to be.

One is reflexive and soothing and a necessary part of our lives.

The other is often awkward and sometimes painful and also a necessary part of our spiritual lives.

Centuries ago a prophet by the name of Jeremiah was directed to walk down to the potter’s house and learn. While he watched the potter shape the lump of clay over and over until he was satisfied that it would fulfill its purpose, God helped Jeremiah see that he and you and I are just like that lump of clay. (Jeremiah 18.1-6)

hand-black-and-white-photography-wheel-craft-monochrome-1191829-pxhere.com

God’s intention for every follower of Jesus is to be “renewed after the image of its Creator.”(Colossians 3.10) That means that He intends to shape us more and more and more to be like Jesus.

So… does your life look more like you or like Jesus?

Right. Me too.

So there’s more work to be done in this transformation. And the reality that’s hard to accept is that very little growing happens when we are COMFORTABLE. It’s the same as the way that I can’t get in shape without doing uncomfortable things and things can’t be surgically repaired without being uncomfortable.

Let’s be frank about it. The only time our healthcare priority is making a patient comfortable is when there’s no more hope of healing treatment. It’s called palliative care.

Is it possible that many of us are spiritually resigned to just sit and remain comfortable? Are we ready for spiritual hospice?

There is just so much more to experience of God’s wonder and grace. And, to really get the most out of a lifelong journey with Him, we should strive tobe CONFORMABLE to His plan, yielded to His hands, like a moistened lump of clay upon the potter’s wheel.

A letter or two can make a great deal of difference.