You probably don’t know who Manoah was (though I’m sure you’ve heard of his son). Manoah is not a name we hear today. I’ve never seen an illustrated Bible story of his life or come across a statue to commemorate his contribution to God’s people. He’s never in anyone’s VBS list of heroes. But there was a moment when Manoah received an incredible promise from God. His wife was unable to have children, but the promise was that life was about to break through her barrenness. Manoah was about to become a father!
In this moment, Manoah asked God what I think may be the most important question any of can ask on behalf of our children:
…when your words come true, what is to be the child’s manner of life, and what is his mission?
How should I teach him to be?
What is he here to do?
I hadn’t noticed Manoah’s prayer before today, but I can’t think of anything I’d rather do as a parent than help my kids discover how God intends them to be and how that relates to His mission in their lives. Each of my kids has their own set of interests and gifts and curiosities that need to be explored and tested and discovered. As I think of my ministry students, too, I know that one of the greatest joys I’ve had is helping them discover how and who God has created in them. But it’s not enough for me to recognize hidden talents and draw out latent abilities they didn’t even know were there. I hope to help them see the unique character God is forming in them and the mission for which He has prepared them.
Yeah… it’s real. 20 years ago today, this was us. All dressed up… Taking pictures… Getting married.
Honestly, I don’t remember a lot of the details of that day. I remember a certain ring bearer stopping to scratch his butt halfway down the isle. I remember putting LuAnn’s ring on the wrong hand (oops). I remember hugging my English teacher in our reception line (she’s awesome). I remember wondering why so many people were asking me if I was nervous. I was marrying my best friend and looking forward to starting a new life of adventure together. I wasn’t worried, I was excited to jump into life with the greatest partner I could imagine!
After 20 years, we don’t look so much like a couple kids playing dress up anymore. But we’re still having every bit as much fun! Aside from His own son, I can’t think of a better gift that God has given me than the friendship and partnership that He’s given me in LuAnn.
I can’t wait to see what’s next in our adventure together.
If we’re going to faithfully and successfully be the church Jesus calls us to be, we need access to people outside the church. We need to have connections with people who don’t notice God that enable us to help them see Him. At a recent visit to Flatirons Community Church, I heard it called building bridges between people and God and “creating an environment where lost people can bump into Jesus.” That’s a great picture of what ambassadors do, right? They engage in events where the locals in the foreign places they’re living can get a glimpse of the beauty of their homeland and culture, spreading goodwill and building relationships.
But if we forget that we’re not at home here, and we start to behave as if we have some claim or rights to our turf, we run the risk of cutting off access to the very people we’re sent to. We’ll push the “locals” away, rather than intriguing them with and engaging them in the greatness of the God that sent us here. Here are a seven suggestions to make sure you have access to people who don’t notice God (and you’re doing everything you can to reveal Him to them)…
Notice the broken-ness and hurt of the people around you. Take the time to offer comfort and wholeness. Are there needs in your community that you could help meet? Just for the record, there are. Whether it’s food and shelter or recovery from emotional traumas or the devastation of tragic losses, there is pain in your community that you can help relieve.
Tell the world what you’re for more loudly and more often than what you’re against. It’s so easy to get this backward and spend so much effort protesting government policies or cultural practices or whatever other hobby horse we want to ride, that we rarely get around to talking about the real Jesus that people need so desperately.
Don’t be a jerk. Seriously, if you’re claiming the name of Christ, there’s no room for the kind of behavior that pushes people away or gives them more reason to dislike Christians. Take on the attitude of Jesus and treat people well.
Get involved in community events. Learn to referee youth soccer games or coach little league. Join a civic group that cleans up parks or runs a local farmer’s market. Find some people who are already engaged in making your community a better place, and help them see the One that could make it an incredible place!
Live with so much hope that people wonder what’s up. The apostle Peter taught people to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Who’s been asking about your hope lately?
If your employment is on a church staff, get out of the office and work in your community. If we want access to the lives of people who are far from God, are we more likely to find that behind our stained glass windows or at the local coffee shop or stadium?
Do the best work you’re capable of doing, whether you get recognized for it or not. Someone will notice and wonder why.
Hang out on your front porch. Do you really know your neighbors? If not, are you going to change that by spending another night in your bunker basement watching Fox News?
Bottom line here: We have to get close to people who are far from Christ if we’re to have any hope of showing them who He is and helping them find hope in Him. We can’t make disciples from a distance.