Nehemiah was gripped by God and gritty to do something great for God. As a result, he changed a nation. God is still looking for people who will be gripped and gritty for God. May this message challenge you and inspire you to give your life to The Great Cause. [presented at Heartland Church, Indianapolis, IN]
I had the privilege of speaking at Heartland Church in Indianapolis yesterday morning…four times. Darryn Scheske is the lead pastor of this thriving multiplying church. Heartland began 10 years
ago with a handful of people meeting in Darryn and Loree’s living room. They couldn’t even get Christians to buy in initially, so they built relationships with unbelievers and led them to Jesus. The core DNA of Heartland is one of “making disciples.” This was obvious in my experiences today. What a thrill to see God at work still after 10 years, five church plants, and growing from nothing to thousands. And they have a vision that is far greater still—one that includes “multiplying transformational churches.”
As I talked with Darryn between worship services today, I was intrigued with his strategic approach to growing a strong multiplying church. They don’t do traditional small groups anymore. “I don’t like what they produce,” Darryn said. Instead, they have a culture of leadership. They identify people who are willing to grow and go all out. They invest time, energy, and resources into these people…by the hundreds. The idea is that when they produce a great leader, he or she will gather people around them. This is where lives intersect, usually in settings and activities of service.
I’ve been talking with my International Ministries Team for some time about creating a culture of leadership among our missionaries on the field. Today only confirmed that direction. Christ-like leaders produce what Jesus produced:
- People of great influence
- People of vision and passion
- People who serve like nobody else
- People who are relentless to do something great for God
If we could get a hundred more of those kinds of ministers in key places in the world, we could see some serious God-honoring impact.
We Christians often create our own problems. Big ones, too. And we can do it in the “spirit” of being faithful.
Jesus was mocked, cursed, and finally killed by those who should have known better. Yes, I know it was all a part of God’s plan. Still, the people who pursued Jesus and finally had him crucified were the ones who should have known the truth of the scriptures.
- For one, Jesus made it clear in His encounters with the religious leaders of the day that they were more about tradition than truth. It’s so easy for us to move this way too. We have inherited belief systems and Christian cultural patterns that, in time, have very little to do with the Bible. However, we can hold onto these things with more conviction than biblical truth.
- Secondly, the religious leaders were more tied into their religious system than they were into following God. These legalists had spirituality figured out! They really didn’t want anybody to mess with their system. They would take the messiah only if He fit into what they wanted. Does that sound familiar? We do that so easily. We often want just enough of God to make us feel good, but not so much to radically change our lives.
- Third, these people had so much pride that they were unteachable. They couldn’t imagine learning anything from someone with fewer degrees than themselves. They were unwilling to face the fact that their facts might be wrong. They were ready to kill the son of God to maintain the appearance of spiritual perfection. We, too, pay such a cost with our pride and unteachable spirit. We miss out on the new, fresh, authentic, life-transforming ways that God wants to work His grace in and through us. When we’re unteachable, we’re untouchable toward God-things.
Check out this passage of Scripture:
Some of the people who lived in Jerusalem started to ask each other, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26 But here he is, speaking in public, and they say nothing to him. Could our leaders possibly believe that he is the Messiah? 27 But how could he be? For we know where this man comes from. When the Messiah comes, he will simply appear; no one will know where he comes from.” John 7:25-27
Do you see how deceived and confused these followers are? And can you see how their learned assumptions (“he will simply appear”) keep them from finding God? When we become in any way like the hardened proud religious leaders of Jesus’ day, we produce the kind of followers that also would rather slay God than serve Him.
The above verse reveals the amazing grace of God.
The Israelite people were unwilling to trust God with their lives by crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Their faithlessness prohibited them from receiving God’s best plan for their lives. Along with that, of course, the people failed to live up to their great task — to reveal God’s glory to the lost people all around them. In other words, they decided to live their lives according to their own plans rather than God’s design. The result was devastating: God was angry enough to wipe them out. Their relationship with God had changed. Sin does that to us.
Here’s the amazing grace part–God says, “I will pardon them as you (Moses) have requested.” What patience and love God has for His people! As scripture states, “His mercies are new every morning!”
Also notice, however, that something has drastically changed through this encounter. Do you see the word “But?” The Hebrew word here is “uwlam.” It means “in contrast” or “on the contrary.” It means there is a variation or flip-side to the situation. And with that, everything changes forever with the this generation of Israelites. They will never enter the land of Canaan. The sin of unbelief has sentenced these people to wander in a meaningless wilderness for the next forty years. Because of their sin, God’s future plans for them have forever changed. They will never live up to God’s highest plan for their lives.
Also realize this: Their lives can still be meaningful…
- They can honor and worship God in their wilderness
- They can obey God commands in the desert
- They can raise up their children to never fail in the way they had failed (and it seems they did a pretty good job of this!)
- They can love one another in their painful wilderness
BUT–they will never have an opportunity to live in God’s best plan for their lives. Their sin, though they are forgiven, has forever changed the trajectory of their lives.
It’s sobering. It’s convicting. It’s truth.
I never want God’s UWLAM in my life…
I had the amazing privilege of travelling to Estonia, Sweden, Finland, and Poland to meet with national church leaders and some dedicated missionaries. I have been inspired, challenged,
humbled, and stimulated. I’m processing so much right now — what the needs are, what are key actions that would reap the greatest results, when should we move and how, etc. I am thrilled to see that God is already at work in many of these regions. Even though a small remnant of true believers remain, there is hope for a productive Kingdom-building future. God often takes the “3oo Gideon soldiers” to accomplish mind-blowing and God-honoring achievements. I’m praying that He will do that here.
After returning home two days ago, I needed to leave for a five day trip today. Shane literally routed me out of bed this morning at 5:15 to go have a Bible study with him at Dunkin Donut before I left on my next adventure. Ok–so it’s confession time. I really didn’t want to do it. After all, I was tired from doing God’s work, I needed my rest while dealing with major jet-lag, and what would one Bible study do anyway?
Thank you, Shane! What a highlight! We had an wonderful time talking about fresh insights we’ve had in the Word recently…and how that applies to our lives right now. It was THE BEST! And I get to do this with my own son. It’s no exaggeration to say that God met me in the donut shop this morning. His face looked my son’s face…His voice like Shane’s too.
I was reminded of how easy it is to be so busy doing good things, but overlook doing the necessary things–like nuturing my relationship with God. Shane had lots of new things God had been speaking to him about. I was–well–not so full. And I realized that I had not spent real good quality time in the Word in quite some time. I have been humbled. Again.
So here’s the deal: A person can travel all over the world doing God’s work, but fail to let God do His work in him. I never want to run on fumes. Know what I mean? I never want to minister out of emptiness, but instead, to always have a cup that overflows. I know this is God’s plan for me. For you too!
Thanks, Shane, for a great lesson today.