Summary: Craving God and being obedient
Tasting, Craving, and Cleaning House
1 Pet. 2:1-3 Aug. 9, 2009
Those of you who have been around Laurier for a number of years know that I like to attend a conference called “The Leadership Summit” each year, generally the first Thursday and Friday of August, and you might be used to me coming back from that conference with some excitement and rejuvenation and renewed energy and enthusiasm. I often come away a little disturbed, which is good, and also a little bit fired up.
This year was really strong – I’m looking forward to sharing some of the sessions in our Adult Sunday School after the DVDs arrive early in the winter. Before heading back into 1 Peter this morning, I want to share a few of the things that I left the conference with and am mulling over, and I think you’ll see that they tie nicely back into what we’ve been studying and what we’ll look at today.
We heard a lot about how much things are changing at the moment, largely influenced by the “economic downturn”, and how this creates a new set of opportunities for leaders bold enough to embrace times of uncertainty, take advantage of the need to really establish what is really important, and then really be the church God designed by embracing the needs among us. It is helpful for me, because sometimes in the day to day of life and ministry I can get caught up in the little stuff and then see things wrongly – like instead of seeing a sermon as an opportunity to share my heart, share God’s words of life, and share dreams of God for us and our community that can challenge us to live the way God wants us to live, I can start to see it as 25minutes of telling people stuff they probably already know and will probably forget by Tuesday or Wednesday. Or I can start to see worship as 25minutes of singing karaoke together and hoping nobody is going to complain about too much repetition or too much old-fashioned organ music or too much drums, instead of seeing that really it is a group of people together learning to love God and one another, and expressing that love through the awesome privilege of walking together into the very throne room of heaven and standing before the Almighty God of the Universe, hand in hand, giving and receiving love through the act of worship, the highest good for which we were initially created.
There were some moments of strong affirmation – there are some things we do really well together. A session on hiring and firing affirmed our journey over the past 11 months. A session on changing how we measure success affirmed that obedience is a better measure than a growth chart of everything going high and to the right. A big focus on poverty and HIV/AIDS in Africa deeply affirmed our commitment to partnership with the poor in Bolivia, South America. We have felt God’s call to that partnership, and have obeyed, and we will continue.
One powerful session was led by Tim Keller, who talked through the parable of the two prodigals, pointing out especially how the elder brother was just as distant from the Father as the younger brother who took his inheritance and wasted it in a distant country. He was just as far from the Father’s heart of mercy and forgiveness as the rebellious son, the difference was that the elder brother’s distance from the Father’s heart was rooted in outward obedience without the same heart. He related the story to us, the “religious”, the “Christians”, who have maybe been doing lots right, been obedient, and so now feel like we’ve got some leverage on the Father because we’ve been so good. Keller called us to repent for the motivations for our right actions, as much as for our wrong actions. And reminded us that obedience that doesn’t come directly and solely out of our love for God, as our joyful response to Him, leaves us outside the feast, far from the heart of the Father, and full of spiritual immaturity and spiritual deadness and powerless ministry. I have to listen carefully and personally to that message – what really is in my heart? Do my actions really come as a joyful response to the love of the Father, or am I making it about me, looking for affirmation and recognition, and believing that because I’m so good (a pastor, even!!), God has to take special care of me… after all, I’ve done so much for Him… see the twistedness there?
I’m trying to squish 2 packed days into a few short minutes, but I’m excited by two other things as well. One was an African who called us to change the conversation from “Aid” for the poor to “Trade” with the poor, so that in dignity those people can learn to help and care for themselves. I’m committed to exploring that more with our missions team, and within our STEP partnership as well. The second I’m also very interested in exploring in the context of our STEP partnership, it is a project that facilitates direct personal microloans to entrepreneurs who need a small amount of capital invested in them so that they can care for themselves. Both of these are really tangible, practical expressions of the Kingdom of God among us. And they excite me.