684 Sundays.

That’s roughly how many Sundays there are until the beginning of the year in which I turn 65, and probably retire.

I know, that’s a long ways off.

But it’s not that far off.

And I won’t get to preach every one of those Sundays. I will be on vacation for some of those Sundays; I will have staff members who will want to speak for some of those Sundays; and I will have special speakers for some of those Sundays for things like Missions Conference or other special events. Over the course of those 13+ years, a conservative estimate would be that I would not preach 8 Sundays per year. That’s at least 104 Sundays I won’t be preaching, and that doesn’t account for emergencies or unexpected opportunities to have special speakers. So that cuts me down to 579 Sundays.

579 Sundays. That’s about 100 more sermon series, with a length of 5 – 6 messages. To those of you who have to sit and listen to me preach, it sounds like a lot of sermons.

But to me? That number is the number of grains of sand left in an hourglass, and they’re slipping through steadily.

Every week, that number decreases.

So for the time I have left, I want to be sure that every message counts,

The truth is that I’ve lived a significant part of my life in fear and anxiety. I’ve thought and worried too much about what other people think. I’ve tried too hard to please people, and tried to hard to avoid offending people so they wouldn’t leave the church.

But that kind of living is foolishness.

The truth is that no matter how hard I try, or how careful I am, I will always offend someone, somehow. I will always let people down and I will always disappoint some people.

So I’ve got to live my life according to what I think God wants from me.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a license to offend, to alienate, to be inconsiderate, or to just be a jerk.

But I can’t let my leadership of others be governed by fear or by their expectations.

Leadership can be selfish and controlling – manipulative. But it can also be motivational – unselfishly leading people to a difficult place, on a difficult journey, that will ultimately be for their benefit.

684 Sundays. That’s my number. I’ve got to make the most of it. I’ve got to lead differently, invest myself more in young leaders, take more risks, take bigger risks, push other leaders to go where they may not want to go but desperately need to go.

My challenge, my mission, is to fundamentally change the culture and direction of our church so that we are fulfilling Christ’s call. Because right now, while we’re doing some very good things, the hard and honest truth is that we’re failing. And if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll keep getting what we’re getting.

We have to change. I have to lead change. And I know what it will cost, because I’ve gone there before.

684 Sundays.

That’s my number.

What’s your number?

What are you going to do about it?

Following Jesus Throughout Your Day

As the end of our final walk of “Walking With Jesus” approaches, let me review just for a quick moment what we’ve covered so far this week.

We have been reminded that walking with Jesus is an ongoing, life-long journey for all of us.

We have discovered that an important part of following Jesus is living our lives centered around Him.

Yesterday, we discovered that another important part of following Jesus is doing in community – connected with supportive friends.

Today, we add one final piece to the puzzle.  Following Jesus also means being Committed to God’s mission in this world.

Jesus described God’s mission in this world in very simple terms in Luke 19:10 – “to seek and to save the lost.”

That’s God’s mission – to connect with His sons and daughters in this world who don’t realize that they are sons and daughters, and to love them by word, deed, or example into the Kingdom of God.  That’s what Jesus did throughout His ministry – proclaim that the Kingdom had arrived, that it was accessible to everyone, and to demonstrate its reality by acts of love and acts of power.

Here is today’s Scripture passage, in which Jesus commissions us to do what He did:

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.  After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.  On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”  Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.   “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”  Acts 1:1-11 (NIV)

That’s what we are to be about as we follow Jesus in this world.

It’s far simpler than we make it out to be.

We are to:

  • Live our lives centered around Jesus, so that we are constantly being empowered by the Presence of the Holy Spirit;
  • Do our lives together in community – in the Presence of Jesus and alongside one another (the uses of “you” in this passage are plural – for a group of people, not just the individuals in the group);
  • Live our lives as witnesses to Jesus, wherever our lives may take us – and life takes us many places.  Into our workplaces, into family gatherings, into community events, into different geographical locations.

Today, wherever you will be, God will be at work around you – in your life, and in the lives of people around you.  Your commission is simple – watch for clues as to what God is doing, and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  He may prompt you to demonstrate God’s love and Father-heart by simply doing an act of kindness for someone.  He may prompt you to hug someone who is having a bad day.  He may prompt you to ask someone if you can pray for them because of what they’re going through or some news they receive.  He may prompt you to share a brief story with someone that points to how Jesus has changed your life.  Or, He may simply prompt you today to watch and wait, and be like Jesus in whatever you are doing.

I don’t know.  And as your day begins, you don’t know either.

But He knows!

And cooperating with His mission is as simple as paying attention, listening to Him, and obeying when He directs.

Why not pause for just a moment right now and tell Him you’re excited about whatever He may bring your way today, and ask Him to help you hear His voice clearly as He speaks to you today?

You may be amazed at how your day ends up!