Loving to Life Pt 4

VISIONING

This is one of my favorite things to do – visioning for the possibilities of the future.

I have said before that I do much better in bigger picture planning and thinking than I do when it comes to the minor details. The details are important. Visioning is not just about long term planning or thinking how an organization/person/church can be in the next generations. Visioning is about taking the plans and putting them into action.

A vision without action is really just a day dream. In this aspect of helping people/organizations/churches live for the future, we are doing a few different things: 1) we are looking where they have been, 2) where they are now, and 3) what is possible with the current resources (and also resources that will become available)?

Visioning has to be covered in prayer from the beginning, during, and execution. I have also learned that listening to the hopes and dreams of the people is another place God is speaking about the future. As we have been listening and learning from the people in our small groups, we have an incredible chance to hear the passions of the people. This is where I think we should continue with the visioning process.

As we have been praying, and seeking God’s direction and focus for our new endeavor, we are also searching for the places God is at work. If we pay attention, we can hear God speaking through the passions of the people.

Visioning is a big picture activity and requires looking at the big picture. Right now, I would ask you to pause and write down what you consider as part of the big picture.

In my experience, we tend to sell short the “big picture” for only what we can see. The challenge here is to look beyond what is seen. Look at the organization, the people involved, the culture in and around, what has been done, what is going on, the resources in the past, the resources in the present, targets and goals for the future.

This is really just a small list, but it does give us some greater things to think about and consider; but it should help us expand our horizons to think about more than just the amount of people and bottom line. Visioning requires us to dream and act toward a goal of how the organization/person could be in the time frame you decide. This helps us with acting upon the vision.

As far as time, we tend to focus more on the next year, five years, or ten years down the road. How would it impact and affect your vision to think about how things could be in the next 50-100 years? Does that seem like too far into the future?

Think about this. Everything we do is either going to last for a short period of time or it will last for a long period of time. When we think more about the next 50-100 years, it helps us focus more on the next generations to help make sure there is something for them. This means we work toward something that may or may not be comfortable to us here and now.

As you spend time in prayer, listening to the people’s passions, and learning about the past to see future potential, praise God for the opportunity to be in the place you are in the time you are.

God has given and will give vision. Pay close attention and continually talk with other people so it is more of a community effort of prayer and work. Watch to see all God will do.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

  • How have you typically planned for the future in the past? Is there anything written here you haven’t considered before?
  • What are you excited about in the new area/position?
  • What do you think about the idea of planning for the next 50-100 years instead of just a year, 5-10 years, down the road? What is challenging about this? How can you work through the challenges?

Loving to Life Pt 2

MEETING PEOPLE WHERE THEY ARE

Last week we began a series to help us love people to life. When we go to a new place, it it easy to assume we know what people need to do. In many cases, we may be right.

The best thing to do is to pray, and listen, to see where God is working and how God is working in the new area we’re in. Go night to a new place and driving forward our plans, without seriously paying attention to the work of God already in progress, can create some issues. This is not saying God will not bring redemption through work we do;  but the work could actually take longer.

So, we’ve prayed and we believe we have listened carefully to God’s voice and have opened our eyes to see the work in progress. We must be careful not to give into the temptation to get to work right away. I know this seems odd to say. The truth is we would do so much better if we took our time.

Taking our time means we begin the process of getting to know the people. Plus, it gives us a chance to “meet people exactly where they are.”

Think about that for a minute. How did Jesus Christ begin working with your life? He met you, the person you were, in the exact situation you were in. I would also bet to say that when you realized Jesus was right there with you, he did not start off by saying, “I’m here to fix your life, so you need to do these steps right away!”

Instead, I believe Jesus first said to you, “I love you. Come and see what your  life can and will be like with me.” That’s basically what he said when he called the disciples in Matthew 4, Mark 1-2, Luke 5, John 1. He invited the disciples to join him, just as they were. That’s when the transformation begins.

Our number one priority in this life, aside from loving and worshipping God through Jesus Christ, is to love the people God created.

Now we have to ask the question, what does meeting people where they are look like?

This is really one of the hardest things we will ever do. This involves simply listening to their stories, what they say about other people, how they say they live their life, anything they want to tell you…without judgement. It involves us learning the area, past customs, past traditions, history of the area, learning what dreams people have. All of this is done at the same time we are praying for God’s wisdom, vision, for the area while we are there.

I have found that, most of the time, you will hear people begin to say things that are very similar to what God has been speaking to you. And, when we take time to get to know the person and witness their life, trust is formed through this relationship. Then, we can begin to see the work of Christ in their life. Afterall, this is how we would want other people to treat us.

We may have a grand vision, grand ideal, for an area, for the life of a person, or people group; but Jesus may be working on something deeper than what we can see and experience at the surface. This is why it is so important to meet with people where they are, as they are, so we can see how God is using us to work with him in that person’s life.

Here is something I have had to learn to consider in every situation: maybe it’s not just about working to make change in other people’s lives; maybe it is also about God’s redemptive and transformative work within our own life.

How is this sitting with you, right now? What did you know about this concept? What do you not agree with?

Additional questions to consider:

1) What do the people do/act like, that is hard for you to be around?

2) Do you think you have to patience to continue this work for getting to know people for months or even years without getting frustrated or impatient?

3) What do you sense God working on in your life, as you get to know new people and their stories?

Eternal Hours

OFFICE HOURS Ministry in the Marketplace Part 1

Have you been to a seminar to help you become more productive at work? Have you ever read books or articles on how to lead better at work? Many of us work hard to do better at our job. Yet, there is also a great number of people who do not find satisfaction in their work or think having to work is a kind of a curse for us.When we think about work it is almost as if we think our only purpose is to focus on doing a good job just to provide so we can get what we want and for our family. Then at the end of the day, we don’t have enough time or energy to “do good” in our community, in our world.

Work is not just something we endure so we can get ready for the weekend or vacation. Our work actually has a purpose. It is not a curse. It is God-given. This six week blog series is going to look at the eternal aspect of work. This blog will be published each Tuesday morning.Maybe we can gain a clearer focus so we can discover our purpose in work is actually to live out a life that gives glory to God in all we do and to steward the gifts we’ve been given.

This week, I invite you to read Genesis 2:5-15. Here is the passage as written in the Common English Bible:

“before any wild plants appeared on the earth, and before any field crops grew, because the LORD God hadn’t yet sent rain on the earth and there was still no human being to farm the fertile land, though a stream rose from the earth and watered all of the fertile land— the LORD God formed the human from the topsoil of the fertile land and blew life’s breath into his nostrils. The human came to life. The LORD God planted a garden in Eden in the east and put there the human he had formed. In the fertile land, the LORD God grew every beautiful tree with edible fruit, and also he grew the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flows from Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides into four headwaters. The name of the first river is the Pishon. It flows around the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. That land’s gold is pure, and the land also has sweet-smelling resins and gemstones. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It flows around the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris, flowing east of Assyria; and the name of the fourth river is the Euphrates. The LORD God took the human and settled him in the garden of Eden to farm it and to take care of it.”

What is the first thing you notice (besides the strange names that are difficult to pronounce)? I also have a picture of the Garden of Eden as a place of perfect paradise. This is a quiet, peaceful, joyful place because the presence of the Living Lord is tangible and fully experienced. 

This passage opens with the idea that there was no being created to take care of the garden. God formed out of the earth, a human, who was created to take care of, to work the land so it can continue to produce fruit and for people to live in perfect harmony with God Himself.

All of this happened before “the fall” in Genesis 3 meaning that God gave humankind the gift of work so we can partner with Him to take care of the land. Apply this to your setting. Your work is actually a gift from God. You and I have been given gifts and talents to do our work. We do not do this work alone. God is with us. When we think about partnering with God to work and steward the resources and people around us, how does this change your view of work?

Did you notice something else in the passage? Read the passage again.

“a stream rose from the earth and watered all of the fertile land” I find this very interesting. if we think about this, the water is coming up and nourishing the fertile land all around. Water brings life. Where is scripture does it talk about water bringing life? All throughout the New Testament! Jesus Christ is the Living Water in the world (John 4).

When Jesus was resurrected from the dead (John 20), Mary Magdeline thought He was the…gardener! Not only does Jesus Christ (Emmanuel – God in flesh) nourish the world, but He is also working the to restore the earth back to the original state of paradise. We get to participate in the redemption of the world with Him!

Everything we do at our work has eternal consequences. The way we treat those around us has eternal consequences. Our work is not just about getting the job done in order to play. Our work actually has a purpose. So whatever it is you do for a living, know this, you have partnered with Jesus Christ for the redemption of the world. Each person we come in contact in the workplace should know they also have the chance to partner with Jesus Christ in the restoration of the world.

How has your view of work changed now? 

“Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him.” ~ Colossians 3:17 CEB

*Note: The concept for this series we first published on http://www.seedbed.com “Sermon Series – Office Hours: Ministry in the Marketplace”