Sunday was my “first” sermon as a senior pastor and, wow, did God show up! Granted, it helps when He wakes you up at night and tells you what to say (as He did last Tuesday evening). I don’t know what He is up too – but I’m willing to follow and see what happens. 🙂
Breaking Out of Our Cages and Pursuing God’s Adventure
The last few weeks have been tough for me…lots of changes…new responsibilities – attacks on our fellowship by the enemy…. Tons of leadership questions – now that we have opened the question of church elders, what happens? What does the structure of this church look like?
One of the dangers of growing up in the church is seeing too many models – too many leadership concepts – too many ways of doing ‘church.’ We need a fresh touch from the Lord – not a structure imported from somewhere else. We need to hear from God….
And that is scary.
What if miss His voice? What if we only catch part of what He is saying? What if we hear Him and don’t like what He has to say?
- God is always at work around you
- God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal
- God invites you to become involved with Him in His work
- God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways
- God’s invitations for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action
- You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing
- You come to know God by experience as you obey Him, and He accomplishes His work through you
Principle five is a “crisis of belief” – this is where we hear God and have to choose if we what to follow Him. Do we want to do the required adjustments in our lives to join God?
This is where we are as a church. God is doing something new in our church. I have never been a pastor before. This church has never really had any formal structures – no elders or leadership team from within.
In some ways this has been good – for it has allows people to step up and follow God without the baggage of church leadership or politics. Yet, below the surface there has been some rumbling – some growing pains. There is a time for structure – structure is good – as long as it is built around the culture that God as developed here. The moment you start setting up structure for structure sake – you have problems.
We are in the midst of a crisis of belief. At a crossroads. I don’t know what it is going to look like. I do know that no matter what it looks like I want it to be transparent. I don’t want decisions to be made in a black hole. I want there to be input from God and from His people – you all. I want us all to seek God in everything.
I want us to retain the freedom that we currently have in pursuing the gifts and ministries God has placed on our hearts without the burden of politics. Oversight and accountable – yes. Burdens and pressure – no.
I want us to be united as a family. To often churches split over these issues – people get their feelings hurt; people feel rejected and left out…marginalized…I pray night and day that we will be able to walk through this crisis of belief – this stage five – intact. I pray that folks will not get hurt…that feelings will be damaged…yet some of you might…and I apologize for right now in advance for anything that may happen.
My heart is not to hurt anyone – I’m just trying to hear God and follow Him the best I can. Please give me grace. Please pray for me – pray for each other.
It is interesting that during this transition I have been reading a book called “Wild Goose Chase” by Mark Batterson (book review to follow later this week). As a lot of you know, the reason Emily and I moved to Sweet was because of a vision God gave me concerning a wild goose. Among the Celtic believers of old, the Holy Spirit was called a Wild Goose. To us, a “wild goose chase” is a dumb idea – but if the goose is the Holy Spirit – then what man calls dumb, God calls brilliant – for the chooses the “foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor. 1:26-27).
The book talked about reclaiming the adventure of pursing God – about breaking out of the cages of our lives and pursing God – joining God in what He is doing.
- Cage of responsibility – our responsibilities become spiritual excuses that keep us from the adventure God has destined for us.
- Cage of routine
- Cage of assumptions – too old, too young, underqualified, etc…
- Cage of guilt
- Cage of failure
- Cage of fear
These are my cages – as much as I see the hand of God in raising me up to be your pastor – as much as you all encourage me…. I still face doubts, insecurities – the cage of assumptions….the cage of fear – of failure… These are fiery arrows from the pit of hell! Attacks from the evil one – real, painful, crippling attacks…
Peter was at such a place in Acts 10. He was challenged by the Lord to purse the Wild Goose – to break out of his cage of tradition, responsibility, and fear. You see Peter was hanging out in Joppa with some friends – teaching folks about Jesus and having a good old time. One day when he was praying, he sees a vision –
… something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (Acts 10:11-15)
This happened three times….makes me feel better about myself – ‘cause if it took the Apostle Peter three times to get the message…well…
Three times God told Peter to break out of the cage of assumptions – of tradition – of routine. God was going to do something new – He was going to pour out His Spirit upon the Gentiles and He wanted Peter to play a part. Peter was having a crisis of belief… would he move to stage 6? Would he make a major adjustment in his life so that he would play in God’s game?
He did – he went to Caesarea to see Cornelius, a Roman centurion.
He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”
Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”
Then Peter began to speak….While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. (Acts 10:28-34a, 44-46)
God wanted to change the world….all Peter had to do was follow the Wild Goose into an adventure of a life time.
Yet it did not end there…you see, when you follow God into an adventure, not everyone is happy. Not everyone likes what you are doing…some folks will call you a fool. They will call you to task – they will tell you that you are not follow the Bible. That is what happened to Peter all them years ago.
The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” (Acts 11:1-3)
Peter was in trouble…yet what did he do? He told them a story – he gave them his testimony.
Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story (Acts 11:4)
He shared with them what God had done – he told them about the dream, about the angel sent to Cornelius, about the Spirit being poured out on the Gentiles… Peter was fighting…God took him out of his cage – would the church in large break out as well? Would they accept the freedom God was offering?
Will we? Will we break out of our cages? Individually – like Peter? How about corporately – like the apostles and believers in Jerusalem?
Today is a new day – the beginning of something new for us all. God wants to break down the cages of old and set us free. The question before us is will we allow Him to set us free? Will we walk after Him – adjust things in our lives – major adjustments – and follow the Wild Goose – follow the Holy Spirit?
God wants to us free today. Will you allow him to free you?
If so…if your heart is being stirred – stand up. I want to pray over you. I want to release the power of the Spirit in your life.
Jesus – o how our heart breaks to know you Father – to climb into your lab, to be surrounded by your arms Spirit – to follow you wherever you go. Thanks to you, O ever gentle Christ, for raising us freely From the black and darkness of night, into the kindly light of day Pour your life into these, giving us speech, sense, desire, Giving us thought and action. Our fame or repute will be just as You allow You mark the way before us. Your path O my God, and not our own – may you rule our hearts and it be only Yours Break down the cages that hold us. The cages fear, of routine, guilt, failure, assumptions, responsibility Set us free that we may follow you. Break down the cages in each one of these people – may they feel the bars break. May they feel You. Cover them with your mercy – destroy the evil one; destroy our sin Renew us with your love. Christ’s cross would we carry – our own struggle forget Christ’s death would we ponder – our own death in your remember. Christ’s agony would we embrace – our love to God make warmer The Love of Christ would we feel – our own love waken. Great God of wisdom, Great God of mercy – give us your fullness And of your guidance at the tuning of each pass. Great God of shielding, Great God of surrounding – give us your holiness And of your peace May we tread the path to the gates of glory. Rule these hearts of ours that they be only Yours God’s path would we travel – our own path refuse. May we trend the path to the gates of glory. Amen.