This past Monday was 93 degrees with about 176% humidity. Being the "Blonde" that I am, I decided to work in the yard for my folks for about 4 & 1/2 hours. (Brilliant, I know.) I felt like a piece of beef jerky soaked in oil after I was finished.
So later, after I regained consciousness & hydration, I met a friend at the Convention Grill in south Minneapolis. This place is a classic holdout from the 1930s & 40s. It's been there since my dad was a little kid growing up in that neighborhood. They also serve some mean malts...which I desperately needed.
Zack is a guy from Living Waters, and for a Red Head, he's actually a pretty decent guy. (He picked up the tab, so what can I say?) He and I got to know each other's stories a little better, and we talked about how we may or may not see God moving in our lives, and in the ways He might wish Living Waters to move & grow.
Both of us are hungry to see God more active in our lives. Particularly, we both want to know God's desire & direction for our lives. What was interesting to me was that I slowly began to notice that there is a large number of people at Living Waters who are growing impatient to see God's desire for our church. A lot of folks want to see the church grow...not for the sake of a body count, but a desire to really make a difference for the kingdom in our area.
By impatient, I do not mean that word as a negative. I mean it as a positive. People are getting hungry to see what God has up his sleeve. And that thought is pretty exciting. It's fun to see people getting revved up about the ways Jesus can transform lives, places and circumstances.
And all of that got me thinking over the past week about "Stuff."
"Just as each of us has one body with many members,
and these members do not all have the same function,
so in Christ we who are many form one body,
and each member belongs to all the others."
Anyone who has ever tried to construct a puzzle knows how frustrating it can be to find the pieces that fit together properly. Normally, most folks will try to build the frame of the puzzle first, and work in from there. Even though you have a picture of the big scene to work from, it can be a real chore to complete. Then, you get the whole thing almost completed and discover that a piece or two are missing. "GAH!!!"
I often think that Believers are puzzle pieces. Paul describes all Believers as various parts of the body that makes up the church, with Jesus as the head. Some people are arms or legs, others are noses or eyeballs. (I'll leave it to those who know me to tell you what part of the body I most likely am. A sweat gland perhaps.) The point being that all Believers belong to one another, and that we all have a necessary function. If one of us is not doing our task, then the body is not functioning properly. In fact, if a Believer is coping out entirely, then it's as if that part were missing all together...and then you end up in the emergency ward for a transplant.
Well, lets go with my puzzle analogy for a while, because that is what I have been thinking about for over a week now.
The thing about puzzle pieces is how they connect with the various other pieces, because at first glance it is really hard to tell. However, once you find the right connection it makes perfect sense. However, there is also a big difference between a true puzzle and the life of a Believer. A puzzle game has a picture of the end result to work from. Believers do not. At least not in that freeze-frame kind of static way. A Believer works primarily from faith...which can be even more frustrating at times.
I spend a lot of time questioning and kicking myself for not being that man that I think Christ wants me to be. I mope over all the ways that I fall short. I would like to be a great man for God. To do incredible things for the kingdom. But instead, at the moment, I am stuck in a grocery store. I know a lot of Believers who have the same frustrations.
But you know what? That is totally and completely looking at my situation through my eyes, and NOT through the eyes of God. God never asks anyone to be a great or important person. All he asks is for us to be faithful, and to be a good steward of what he has given us.
I'll give an example: Billy Graham
Most people who call themselves "Christians" would say that Billy Graham is the greatest Evangelist who has ever lived since the time of the Apostle Paul. Billy would be considered a "Great man of God." (Although he would be the first to tell you to shut your pie hole if you said that to him.) However, where would he be if he hadn't heard the gospel preached at a revival led by Mordecai Ham in 1934? For that matter, where would Mordecai Ham be if someone had not shared the gospel with him? And the line goes back & back in time until it reaches the feet of Jesus preaching the good news on a mountain top in Galilee. Each piece of the puzzle touched the next piece, there by making the picture more and more complete.
So, Zack & I sit in the Convention Grill wondering about what God wants us to do, all the while we are actually doing it just but meeting together and talking. Zack is encouraging me, and I hope that I am doing the same for him. We are simply pieces of the puzzle connecting at the necessary time and place. We are living out ministry without even realizing it...not because we are gracious & faithful, but because Christ IS.
See, that's the thing. God puts so much opportunity in front of us every day, and so often we don't even see it. I've been told that every Believer is a missionary 24/7, our only choice is wether or not to be a good one. By the way we live our lives, and the way that we allow God to shine through us, we ARE the gospel. We are that living witness, that Living Sacrifice.
I have a friend I have never met. (At least not face to face) Many, many months ago Damon stumbled across this blog through someone else's blog. He liked something that I wrote so much that he plagierized it almost word for word and re-posted it as his own. Thanks to my weird personality, rather than being offended I thought it was one of the funniest things I had ever seen. (Now if only a wealthy author would do the same.)
At any rate, I called him on it, he re-edited it, and since then he and I have become good friends over the internet. (You can read and compare our work by clicking the following links. When doing so, you will notice that mine is indeed truly brilliant.) http://trippingstumblingwhilefollowingjesus.blogspot.com/2009/09/god-only-hates-you-little-bit.html <----MINE
SO ANYWAY, Damon is going through a tough time at the moment and I have been praying a lot for him over the past two weeks. I even sent him a bunch of my favorite podcasts from some Christian Thinkers I really respect. I am hoping that they will give him some clarity as he seeks God's desire for his life. He is my spiritual brother. Jesus loves him. Therefor, I love him too.
Which is odd if you think about it. I mean, I've only talked with him over the internet. I've never even had a cup of coffee with the guy. Why should I care one way or the other? We met randomly and purely by accident, after all. Or did we?
God is full of surprises.
How many other pieces of the puzzle have I touched without even realizing it at the time? How many have you touched without knowing it? How many more pieces will we all touch before the picture is complete? I know that over the past 2 years, as Jesus has been teaching me to see the world & people through his eyes, that I have become more conscious of it. And to be honest, it's rather cool.
I should state for the record that this in no way makes me anything other than who I am...a weak, very often hypocritical, finite human who needs Christ to help me make it through every day. But I am also a guy who is learning more and more about how much God loves me, wants me to partner with him in living out the gospel, and is learning to make the most of a least a few of the opportunities that he is presenting me with.
God never asks anyone to be a great person for him. He only asks us to be faithful, and to be good stewards of what he gives us. I really don't need to fret all that much because I don't have a handy picture of the box top to work from. All I need to know is that God knows what he's doing, and that I can trust him...and that I should seek to let him make me the best puzzle piece I can be.
Where does he want your piece to fit?
P.S. Do me a favor if you read this. Please pray for Damon over the next couple of weeks...even if you are not a Believer. (It's not like God is deaf, ya know.)