Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Lessons from Memphis
I have been extremely grateful that the Elders, staff and church family have given me this extended time away, to be refreshed and renewed by the Lord. It truly has been a huge blessing to my heart and spirit. For the last few days I have been in Memphis with one of my good friends Nathan. Nathan and his wife moved to downtown Memphis a couple of years ago to plant a church. As a church planter I kind of had an idea of what that entails and the sacrifices that go into such a work, but after being here I have a new profound respect for their obedience to the Lord. Nathan, and his family along with the other pastors are ministering in a very impoverished and crime infested area, and in obedience to the Lord and in the step with the Holy Spirit they have moved right in to the center of this dark region in hopes to bring the light, hope and love of the Gospel. On the surface and in the natural, you can't help but to say and think, what in the world are you doing? Are you crazy? Do you want to get shot? But, the reality is when we read the words of Jesus, when we study the Bible, we see that this example is pretty normal. I was at Grace Church this weekend and Pastor Jordan delivered a powerful and God honoring word. One of the questions he posed was this, "Are our lives and faith a seamless transition from the lives and faiths described and depicted in Hebrews chapter 11?" Many of us know Hebrews chapter 11. It has been deemed by many as the "hall of fame" of faith. But it was never meant to be treated as a memorial that we read and look at and just move on, our lives should reflect that heart and desire to sacrifice and follow God at any cost for His glory. The problem is, we as Christians have made the glory of God, the Words of God more about our comfort than God's fame. We have bought into sermons and books that tell us God wants us to be happy. Whenever my happiness becomes the center of God's glory it will always be a slippery slope to a man-centered theology. And once I arrive at that place, the truths of the Scripture will never make sense, because the truths of the Bible are NOT about me, they are about God. The Gospel is definitely about a person, it's just not you or me, it's about Jesus!
Now, before I go any further, I am not saying that what is happening here in downtown Memphis is what every Christian is called to do necessarily, but what I am saying is that sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel, for the sake of the glory of God and for the sake of the good of others, is the normal and plausible response to those of us who have truly tasted and seen the goodness of God. Being here these last few days has been a beautiful and convicting display of what it means to truly own the lostness of our community. Being here these last few days have reignited my heart to the importance of trumpeting the Gospel, because the Gospel is in fact every man, woman and child's greatest need. Being here these past few days has once again confirmed that what we are striving to do in and through Summit is right on point and we actually need to be willing and ready to take deeper and more profound strides as God leads us to. I am praying for myself, my family, my friends, our staff and our church that we begin to posture ourselves in asking God to prepare us more to sacrifice in such a way that our lives don't make sense in the natural, but in the spiritual realm it is but a reflection of the call of God in His Word. I am praying that their grows an ever burning and committed desire to God's glory above any other possible competing force. I pray that we grow in our understanding that if we don't become consumed as Christians with God's glory, than what is at stake is our joy, not God's glory itself. Jonathan Edwards to me stated it best "when God gets His glory, His people get there joy!" David Platt in his book "Radical Together" puts it this way, "Gospel-filled obedience, produces Gospel-filled joy!"
The beauty is that God has made His power available to us through His Holy Spirit to accomplish His purposes. So may we abide, rest in that power and find our joy solely in Him. When we do that, then and only then could moving into a less desirable neighborhood, or down sizing, or living below our means to free more assets up for God's work, or serving in some capacity that actually takes us out of our comfort zone, will actually "make sense and feel normal." Just a rambling but I do hope you'll join me in praying to this end.
"Brothers my hearts desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved." Romans 10:1