Jesus wants the misfits in his church

In the Christmastime TV show, "Rudolph The Red nosed Reindeer," there is a scene where we see toys that are imperfect and discarded to a place called The Island of Misfit Toys.

John Wimber had a vision of a conveyor belt with potatoes on it. People were setting aside the ones that were flawed in some way and God spoke to him that those were the ones He would send to John's church.

Steve Sjogren had an experience where he saw a very dirty and worn penny on the pavement that he picked up. God said something to the effect that if Steve would accept and welcome the rough people that He would send, He would bless him.

I'm thinking about this today because I just read the message from a church planter who gave a talk basically saying that if you have any problems, don't join our church. A bunch of people cheered him on, basically saying, "You are so right... I hate it when those people with problems come to our church." Another older gentleman read the younger church planter's post and responded that the guy (in summary) does not want the kind of church described in the New Testament.

I love a good discussion (142 comments and counting). I can agree with much of what the young church planter guy says, but many of his points seem short-sighted and shallow. Now, I am hoping he will read and respond to the older gentleman and others. WE so often talk past each other and have dialogues of the deaf (Paul Tounier).

If you start a church (or a Rotary etc.), people will come that are difficult for you to be around or with their agendas. This is just people stuff. How to respond to them is where church happens and it doesn't come from the one guy or even a select group or tier, but from everyone. "You give them something to eat", said Jesus (Luke 9:13).

The Two Disciples and The Two Palm Sunday Donkeys

When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus gave two disciples a task.  He said to them, “Go into the village over there. As soon as you enter, you will find a donkey tied up and a colt with it. Untie them and bring them to me.  If anybody says anything to you, say that the Lord needs it.” He sent them off right away.  Now this happened to fulfill what the prophet said,  Say to Daughter Zion, “Look, your king is coming to you, humble and riding on a donkey, and on a colt the donkey’s offspring.”  The disciples went and did just as Jesus had ordered them.  They brought the donkey and the colt and laid their clothes on them. Then he sat on them.
-Matthew 21:1-7


On what we call Palm Sunday, Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem. But, he had two disciples get two donkeys- a mother donkey and her colt. Jesus rode the young male who had never been ridden before. In his carefulness and perhaps kindness towards these two donkeys, he had the male's mother come along for the journey to perhaps comfort the young colt. So, in a truer picture of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, you would see Jesus on the colt, surrounded by crowds. But next to that colt with Jesus on him is that colt's mother.

Jesus sent his disciples to perform a simple task as a two-some and Jesus requested that the two donkeys be brought to him, mother and colt.  God is always looking after relationship.  We stand before God alone, but we stand and we walk together.  God knows we need companionship and most animals are not solitary and even the solitary ones seek companionship and mates.

"It is not good for man to be alone" (Gen. 2:18).  This is the first negative in the Bible.  God designed us for relationship with him and with one another.  God is looking for friends for people who are alone.  God really cares about loneliness and companionship in and for people.  

God also has compassion for animals.  Some people believe that Jesus had his two disciples get the two donkeys, colt and mother, because that was the fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9; which mentions the two.  But I think that God actually had Zechariah describe it that way because God cared, in advance, for the donkey that Jesus would ride and his mother.  The colt had never been ridden before and probably had never been separated from his mother.  

Some of us have magical thinking about God and about Jesus and think that everything Jesus did was easy because he is God after all.  But the significance of Jesus life is that he lived it as a man, not as God; a man, filled with and anointed by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus moved in and flowed with the Spirit of God.

Jesus did miracles, but he was also human and practical.  Meals had to be prepared each day, he needed his sleep, he had to get away to pray, and he had to send two disciples to fetch two donkeys that had been foreordained by God for his use.  God provided the provision, in advance, to fulfill his plan for Jesus and for us.

God cares about companionship with humans and animals.  He knows our needs and provides for them.  God also has provision in our future for his vision or plan or prophecy of our future.  Where God leads, God provides.





Contextualization

Many years ago, I used to be like a space man or a sea diver when I ventured into gatherings of people who were not my home church. If I was with a buddy of mine from my church, in my mind we were both in a diving bell or a module that was a bubble around our spiritual lives and practices. An exception to this is when we were on a missions trip or at an evangelistic outreach. But when we did a missions trip or an outreach it was still like we had the space suits or diving gear on while we came into contact with "the other". No one stood up and taught us this behavior, but it was modeled. That was then for me.

Now, I don't view the Christian life that way. Church, missionary, and evangelist are something we are; not something we go to or do. Jesus was who he was and did what he did seven days a week. He didn't have a "holy bubble" around him. Jesus is the model for the church, for church life, for mission, for evangelism. The religious leaders were doing it the bubble way.

Contextualization is taking the good news into and being the good news in a different culture than our own and putting it into a language that can be understood by the hearer and seer that in no way waters it down. This is probably harder than the "build it and they will come", or "invite them to church (meetings)" approach. But to me, it's more authentic and holistic. I believe that it is better for people to find Christ where they live. They already have some nurture (pastoral care, eldering, brotherly & sisterly love) where they live from those who shared Christ with them. Because of this, they have support already and stand a good chance of growing.

The Lord's Supper

I have attended a number of larger church fellowships over the years where we took communion (crackers and juice) to remember Jesus Christ, once every 4 to 6 weeks. My limited understanding as to why it was not done every gathering as the high church does was perhaps that it was a reaction to high church or the argument that goes, "if we do it every week or every time we gather, it will lose it's significance."

I don't think that commemorating Jesus blood and body's sacrifice can ever get old or tired. It seems to me that this is exactly what our hearts need to be feeding on. Something I am thinking about.

For further reading:

The Lord's Supper- Snack of Feast, by Bob Hayton OR
The Last Snack, by Steve Atkerson and Eric Svendsen OR
Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail, by Robert E. Webber

Take care of sick people

When I was sick, you took care of me.
-Matthew 25:36

I read past this verse many times, but didn't get that the same Jesus who said, "heal the sick", also said that his followers would also take care of the sick. Healing the sick is ministry, but so is caring for the sick. In other words, taking care of sick people is not second class and people who don't get healed through prayers are not second class and caring for them is as much a calling from God as healing is.

It works if you work it

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
-Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV)

Spiritual growth only happens as we cooperate with God. He does the saving and he does the maturing, but I have to get up. We know that we are not saved or made whole through our works, but we can not be saved without responding to God. We also can not grow in God without getting up.

To get up means to do something. Doing something takes faith. Getting up does not bring the growth in God, but we have to get up to go towards something that God might use.

God works in us and does the healing and maturing, but we work it out. We don't figure it out. God has to have us as his partner to get the work done. We have to do something but we are not saving ourselves.

leadership in the kingdom


Leadership in the Kingdom from simplechurch.com on Vimeo.

My pastor?

I've been a Christian my whole life and I don't think I have ever said , "my pastor". I'm not sure I ever said, "our pastor" either. I'm not sure what people mean by this.

Jesus said, "But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers." And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven."(Matthew 23:8-9 NIV)

I would say that in our time and culture, you could apply this verse to pastor as well.

He said, "Trust God"

I've had a special friend in my life for 23 years. I can not forget that after many times of lengthy sharing about anxiety over uncertain things, he would end the evening by saying, "trust God". That word of wisdom is so simple, yet so profound. To trust God is to let go. To trust God is to stop worrying. To trust God is to not have to figure it out. To trust God is to have faith in God. To trust God is to rely on God. To trust God is to depend on God. Everything that I trusted God about has turned out wonderful.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know.
-Proverbs 3:5 (Good News Translation)

You ain't seen nothing yet!

What no one ever saw or heard,
what no one ever thought could happen,
is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.
-1 Corinthians 2:9 (Good News Translation)

I think that we have no idea what God will do for us. I think that God is so generous that he goes beyond what we hope for. If we let him, he'll do the impossible. He brings things out of nowhere. He always does things better than I thought possible, because that was my thought. Nothing is impossible for God. We can't make something happen or make God do anything. Yet, anything is easy for him. We just have to love him and enter his world where all things are possible.

We as humans naturally give gifts to our children. How much more will God give to us?

God's plans for you

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

God has plans for you. What does that mean? In the old King James version, it says, "I know the thoughts I think towards you." God has plans for us in his mind. This should give us pause. God, all powerful God has a plan for me and you. That's exciting, isn't it? If he has a plan then we can rest.

What is the purpose of this verse or what did God originally mean when Jeremiah wrote it and what would it mean for you and me today? I think that it is a word of encouragement for a time of trouble or discouragement. We need to be encouraged that God has a plan when things are going against us or time is dragging on with seemingly no good news.

The life I am living now was in God's thoughts, 10, 20, 30 years ago. My life in the future is in God's mind. I could not and can not imagine it, but it was and is in God 's thoughts. He's got plans for me. 10 and 20 years ago, I was very concerned about this time we're in now. I was nervous and anxious and even afraid about it, but also excited because I believed God had it under control and had plans.

I've learned that the emphasis is not on the plans, but on God. The word here says not just that God knows the future, but that he has plans and ideas for our future. That is what is so encouraging. God has unique and good plans for each one of us.