Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Funny Money

The urban dictionary describes funny money as “false money, especially counterfeit money.”  Apparently it’s not that uncommon these days.  You expect to have a $100 bill inspected for a purchase, but even giving a $20 at the store usually results in the cashier swiping it with a special marker to check its authenticity.

A few years ago a docudrama “End of the Spear” was presented to honor the fiftieth anniversary of the massacre of recent Wheaton grads Jim Elliot and his passionate young missionary friends.  The grads had made heroic efforts to evangelize the unreached and fearsome Waodoni Indians of Ecuador.   The Waodonis suddenly turned on the five missionaries who, offering no defense, gave their lives for the cause of Christ.

One of the young missionaries had an eight year old son, who has spent his life trying to reach the same men who killed his father.  This past decade he brought Mincayani, the man who killed his father, back to visit his home in Michigan.  It was a culture shock for the Indian. The experience of undeserved love has resulted in the salvation of many of the tribe members that his father died to win to Christ.

Returning to his home in Ecuador, he described the Americans as overtly friendly.  “They have huge barns of every kind of food you can imagine, and you just take whatever you want.”  The American tried to explain that wasn’t exactly true, you had to give them one of these (he showed them a credit card).  The Indian said “sure, but they just smile and give it right back to you again.”  Funny Money – not really real.

It is just as difficult for believers to grasp the price Jesus paid for us.  Really Paul?  Joseph (the Old Testament patriarch) was a type of Christ.  Rejected by his elder brothers he suffered falsely.  He knew what they meant for evil, God meant for good, sending him ahead to save the world – giving them bread for life. 

At one point in the story his brothers tried to tell Joseph’s house steward they had no idea who put the money back in the mouth of their grain sacks.  Ge.43:23 the steward said, "Everything's in order. Don't worry. Your God and the God of your father must have given you a bonus. I was paid in full."

Joseph didn’t use his status as second in command of all of Egypt.  He paid the price for the grain and put his brother’s money back in their sack.  Father didn’t just imagine away the law’s demand for our sin nature.  Jesus paid the price in full.  Jesus’ death wasn’t like going to sleep, knowing He’d wake up in three days.  That wasn’t funny money.

The inflexible demands of the law had to be paid.  Jesus really took the stripes, tasted the rejection, satisfied the debt, died the innocent-lamb death and rose triumphant so that we could have life abundantly and free.  It wasn’t free – funny money.  It cost Jesus everything, which He freely gives to us.

There is no minimizing the cost paid, and the value God places on your life, willingly exchanging His son for you.  As the steward told Joseph’s brothers “Your God must have given you a bonus. I was paid in full.”  That is undeserved, unmerited favor.  That is extravagant love lavished upon us by amazing Grace.  That’s Jesus.  Yes He really is – Just that in to you!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Musings of a seasoned church planter

That sounds like an oxymoron or a crazy man.  Planting a church is an exciting journey.  Definitely not for the faint of heart, the “nine to fiver” or those who come completely unglued by extended periods of no income.  People find it a most exciting prospect to dream about creating something that’s bigger than you.  A planter gets an adrenalin rush from the comment “I am 100% behind you man.”  I haven’t met a church planter who hasn’t turned around one day and wondered “how far behind me are you?”

Father’s business has some similarities to conventional business.  It takes a uniquely different skill set to see and start something that doesn’t exist yet, as opposed to the skill set to continue something that already has momentum.  There is the main vision and purpose for which you’re taking the risks.  But there is a host of ancillary ingredients that are usually much less enjoyable. 

Unlike conventional business, the product in ministry is unquestionably excellent and pre-chosen by God.  The dissimilar component in ministry, is reaching a continuously changing people group who may decide they don’t want what you have to offer, even though they need it, and it’s the best option available to them.

A church planter must be a focused visionary.  Jesus set His face towards the cross, and would not be dissuaded by the crowds or those closest to Him.  A planter has a sense of urgency others just don’t get.  “Give it time, it will happen.”  To a church planter, that sounds the same as a mother who just gave birth to a baby deciding to spend a few months at the gym getting back in shape before she’s ready to consistently care for that baby.  You can’t neglect a baby for a day.

A clue from the master; Jesus said in John 1712 “And not one of them got away, Except for the rebel bent on destruction (the exception that proved the rule of Scripture).”  The obvious reference is to Judas the betrayer of Jesus.  The reference that speaks loudest to me is captured in the word “except”.

There are scores of mechanical insights available to church planters.  To my church planter friends I would like to share something less tangible I found vital to remaining focused.  Know who God has called along side you to carry the vision.  Recognize that people may traverse in and out of your life.  Love them, but devote yourself to care for those evidently called to your side.  You will consume valuable prayer time and emotional energy that will be much more fruitfully spent advancing the kingdom with the people genuinely called to help you.  Pour yourself into those who faithfully help you fulfill the assignment you have been given, like Aaron and Hur to Moses.

Happy Father's Day Paul! We Love You! -The Team at THE WELL