Author: Mick Murray

A Discipleship School Testimony

Justin and I have been working hard to get the word out about the Day, Night and International Discipleship Schools at Antioch.  As we have spoken with people, we have come to realize there are some common misconceptions about the schools. The first being that the schools are only for people who feel called into pastoral or mission work. The second is that it is something to do if you don’t have any other options at the moment – a sort of placeholder while you’re figuring out life.  We are happy to announce that neither of these perceptions are true! The schools are for anyone with any calling at any age and stage of life. Our goal is to equip you to be a lifelong, fruitful disciple of Jesus within the context where God has you. Instead of trying to explain this further myself, I figured it would be best to hear from former students. JR and Ginger Dollins attended the Night Discipleship School last fall.

CHECK OUT THEIR STORY:

I’m a 45-year-old woman, and when a 12-year career in the turbulent wine industry came to a halt last spring, I decided to venture out on my own in a direct marketing skin care and makeup company. In the midst of his 22-year career, my 48-year old husband felt like God wanted him to get involved in a family business. This was a difficult step of faith for him since he received a raise and an offer of promotion the very week he resigned. Both career changes happened while we were attending Antioch’s Vision and Values Course. Coincidence? No.

IT WAS GOD MOVING THINGS OUT OF THE WAY.

During this season, both my husband and I felt like God might be suggesting we apply to the Discipleship Night School. Between kids and new businesses, we couldn’t imagine how we would find space to do the school. We wrestled with the questions of, “God, are you really calling us to attend the Night Discipleship School? How can we swing this? It isn’t possible, is it? There’s just not any time? School is not what you do midlife, and definitely not a school that doesn’t add letters to your last name, right God?  We have two teenagers with multiple after-school activities, see how busy we are God?  Isn’t the Discipleship School for those called to the mission field? Are you calling us to the mission field? We have two new companies that we are trying to get off the ground – is that mission enough? Aren’t the schools only for recent college grads and empty-nesters” 

There was absolutely no time for us to fit the Discipleship School into our schedule.

Still, we enrolled in the Night Discipleship School this past fall.

Looking back we ask ourselves, “Why did we ever put this off?”

WE WERE SLOW TO OBEY, AND WE’VE LEARNED THAT DELAYED OBEDIENCE IS REALLY DISOBEDIENCE.

But God is gracious and had us right where we needed to be.  The depth of how much the Father loves us means more to us than ever.  Our time in the school transformed our friendships, our family and our marriage in a way that is beyond words. Learning that we are made God’s righteousness because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, plus the real, practical, everyday ways to be able to share what we learned is remarkable and is making a difference. It is affecting almost every conversation and our businesses, although difficult, are exceeding expectations in so many meaningful ways.

The speakers throughout the semester were incredible, and their teachings still challenge us. One speaker shared this, “Where is your joy on a day to day basis? The Bible says in the presence of the Lord there is fullness of joy.  So, who have you been meeting with every morning in your quiet times?” Another speaker said, “Jesus died on the cross and that is enough for ANY situation that might arise in your life.”

God’s dreams for our happiness and mission in life are MUCH bigger and better than we could even imagine. The sovereignty, holiness and love of God was continuously presented in a powerful way amidst a class community that changed the relationship we have with Him; it was just so good. Words are too finite.

Our classmates were amazing. If we could just shout one thing to everyone reading this, it would be this –

THE PEOPLE THAT TAKE THE CLASS WITH YOU WILL PERMANENTLY CHANGE YOU FOREVER AND FOR THE BETTER.

This is truth. We had young people and seniors taking the class with us, all with a unique relationship with Jesus. This constantly taught us how we need diversity so we can have a healthy body. The vulnerability and friendships we made changed us forever. We found we couldn’t wait until the next class, and we never wanted the class to end. We were shocked that our spiritual hunger grew throughout the semester and beyond, where in the past we would normally be disenchanted after a short time.

The Discipleship Schools are for anyone, no matter the age or the life stage. God changed our lives forever through the Night Discipleship School. If God is prompting you, don’t hesitate! Say yes to the Discipleship School and the next step in your life-long relationship with Jesus.

Our application is live, and you can access it by clicking here. Applications are due June 15th.  If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Justin or myself.

For more information about the Night Discipleship School, email Mick.

For more information about the Day Discipleship School, email Justin.

Engaging the National Conversation

Trump. Ferguson. Orlando nightclub shooting. #BuildTheWall. Sutherland Springs. Dallas police assassinations. Russian collusion. Legalization of gay marriage. Black Lives Matter. #metoo. Las Vegas shooting. North Korea. DACA. NFL National Anthem protests.  Charlottesville. Ad infinitum.

Thanks to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and a thousand other platforms, our world is interconnected in a historically unprecedented way, for better or for worse.  On the positive side, it means everyone has a public voice. On the negative side, it means everyone has a relatively anonymous public voice. Everyone has an opinion. Our social media platforms are fantastic arenas for airing those opinions. But is it always helpful?  I want to put forth some ideas to help believers engage in national conversations, especially when it comes to potentially divisive issues.

LET’S START WITH SCRIPTURE:

  • Proverbs 18:2 “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,but only in expressing his opinion.”
  • Proverbs 10:19-20,”When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth.”
  • Proverbs 15:1-2, “A soft answer turns away wrath,but a harsh word stirs up anger.The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,but the mouths of fools pour out folly.”
  • James 1:19-20, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
  • Proverbs 18:15, “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge,and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.”
  • Proverbs 15:14, “The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge,but the mouths of fools feed on folly.”
  • Proverbs 21:23, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”
  • Proverbs 16:23, “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty,and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”
  • Proverbs 25:11, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”
  • Proverbs 12:18, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
  • Ephesians 4:29-31, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

There are several key themes expressed in these passages that are relevant to our conversation: being slow to speak, quick to listen, eager to pursue knowledge and understanding and not speaking, tweeting, blogging or acting in anger.

WE ALL KNOW FROM OUR RELATIONSHIPS THAT WE CAN “WIN” AN ARGUMENT BASED ON WHAT WE’RE SAYING BUT LOSE THE DEBATE BASED ON HOW WE SAID IT.

As I look across the landscape of our nation, I see generally a Church that has taken on a great deal of worldliness in how we communicate.  While intentions are generally good – to combat destructive thinking, promote the truth, and so on – our approach is often misguided which tarnishes the truth that we so passionately seek to uphold.

But the truth is a Person and not an abstract ideology.

Taking these observations, the Biblical themes, and the following graphic together, here is a brief guide on how to engage a public conversation.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is consistently concerned with the heart of the matter, turning people’s questions of justice and retribution back on the state of their own soul.  Our national conversations are no different.

These are staging grounds that God uses to refine us as individuals.

  1. Reflect before God (Me) // Before you air your opinions on a matter, use it as a mirror. Pause for reflection. Ask questions like, “Why am I so upset about this? God, what do You want to do in me regarding this issue? Where do I need to confess judgment, bitterness and wrong thinking or make reparations first before commenting?” Seek alignment with God’s heart, which is typically concerned first with loving people and only secondly with setting the record straight (e.g. Luke 12:13-21, John 5:1-14, John 8:1-11).
  2. Ask questions (Those Close to Me) // There are real people in your orbit who are no doubt affected in any number of ways by whatever issue is in question.  Ask them questions. “How does this make you feel?  How does this affect you personally?  Tell me about your background and how you got to that viewpoint.” I guarantee you will learn something that will increase your empathy, give you greater understanding and increase your wisdom on the issue.
  3. Contribute to the Conversation (The Public) // Deal with your own heart before God and seek to understand those close to you.  Prayerfully synthesize that information.  Then and only then post your comments for the betterment of mankind.

WISDOM IS THE RIGHT APPLICATION OF KNOWLEDGE.

UNDERSTANDING IS THE MARRIAGE OF INFORMATION WITH EMPATHY.

Both wisdom and understanding are severely lacking in our world today, and since both have their source in God, their lack among believers results in a diminished manifestation of God’s nature in our culture.  In other words, when Christians offer their thoughts without wisdom and understanding – even when they possess correct information – God is not seen.  In fact, not only is God not seen, but often the name of Christ is maligned.  The majority of your message will be communicated in how you present it.  A very small percentage will come through in your content.  In that light, spend most of your time in conversation with real people and in personal prayer and reflection before God before condensing your thoughts into 280 characters, or into a Facebook post.  Sure, it will take longer to respond and you might be a day or two behind what is trending, but that delay is probably necessary. Once again,

Proverbs 18:2, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”

May you be transformed and love those closest to you in your pursuit of justice and the propagation of truth in our generation.

By Mick Murray – Night Discipleship School Director

How to Discern the Will of God

Having worked with 20-year-olds for more than 15 years, and having been a 20-year-old myself in the not-too-distant past, I have noticed a recurring anxiety at times concerning the idea of calling and “discerning God’s will for my life.”  Should I take this job?  Should I move to this city?  Should I become a teacher, physician, engineer, church planter, stay-at-home-mom, realtor and so on? Should I date this girl? Should I break up with this guy? Should I buy this house or rent that one? And the list goes on. These seemingly big decisions can cause analysis paralysis, angst, frustration and even depression. Managing the tension between the desire to obey God, other people’s expectations, our own desires and opportunities available to us, can get to be overwhelming. Does God address this tension in the Scriptures? Thankfully, yes! In fact, we’re instructed to discern God’s will in multiple places throughout the Bible.

HERE ARE A COUPLE OF EXAMPLES:

  • “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” – Ephesians 5:15-17
  • “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

Let’s focus on the second verse for a moment. When Paul commands us to be transformed so we can discern the will of God, two questions should naturally occur to the reader:

  1. What, specifically, does Paul mean by, “the will of God?”
  2. And, how do we renew our minds in order to be transformed?

I’m going to take a crack at answering, or at least addressing, both of those questions and my hope is that you’re both encouraged and equipped as a result!

 WHAT, SPECIFICALLY, DOES PAUL MEAN BY, “THE WILL OF GOD?”

Scholars refer to two different forms of the will of God in Scripture. One is God’s moral will, and the other is His will of decree.  His will of decree is that which God orders and it happens absolutely as God determines.  “And God said, ‘Let there be light!’  And there was light” (Genesis 1:3). Boom. That simple.  God decrees, and no one or nothing can thwart His purpose. But there is a second manifestation of God’s will – His moral will. “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). Clearly God’s desired intent is not always fully executed when it comes to His moral will. In that light, Romans 12:2 is clearly speaking of discerning God’s moral will. But we can be more specific than that. We find in Scripture that there are several categories of His moral will. What follows is a representative list:

  • Directional Leadership // Most of the big life decisions I mentioned at the beginning of this post would fall into this category. “God, this relationship is going really well, is it ok to get married?” or, “God, do I take the offer in Phoenix or in Baltimore once I graduate?” And so on. God does provide leadership, but perhaps not always in the form we most desire. I’ll come back to this.
  • Extrinsic Principles // These are the really clear commands in Scripture: don’t murder, or commit adultery, etc. There is no ambiguity here. We know if we are in God’s will or not thanks to extrinsic principles.
  • Intrinsic Guidance // This category touches on the “gray areas: of life. “How many bananas should I buy this week?” or “Should I go to the bank first and then the post office? Or the other way around?” Wait, God cares about that? Yes, keep reading.

Why do I make these distinctions?  Because we tend to focus a lot of emotional energy on directional leadership – what we tend to refer to as “God’s calling on my life,” but I would argue that the Scriptures only deal with directional leadership perhaps one percent of the time. There is certainly evidence that God is concerned with what we do with our lives (e.g.“Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” – Acts 13:2), but I believe we stress this point a bit too much at times. Next, what about the extrinsic principles we see in Scripture? These help tremendously! But these principles still probably only account for an additional one to three percent of the decisions we make on a day-to-day basis.  I want to put forward to you that the overwhelming majority of what Paul meant when he exhorts us to, “discern God’s will” is in the area of intrinsic guidance. “But wait!,” you counter, “God is concerned about how many bananas I buy at HEB?” Yes, I believe He is.

THINK ABOUT IT: YOUR LIFE IS PREDOMINANTLY A COLLECTION OF MANY THOUSANDS OF SMALL DECISIONS MADE EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY AND THOSE SMALL DECISIONS HAVE A MASSIVE CUMULATIVE EFFECT ON WHO WE ARE AND WHAT WE DO IN THIS LIFE.

And this idea moves us to address the second question:

HOW DO WE RENEW OUR MINDS IN ORDER TO BE TRANSFORMED?

We eat a lot of venison in our home. If you have ever eaten venison, you know that it can be a bit gamey. My wife, in an effort to make the meat more palatable, will put a mixture of Worcestershire (had to look up how to spell that word!) sauce, spices and other tangible expressions of the love of God into a plastic bag and seal up the steaks for a day or two.  Why? Because the steaks need to marinate in those flavors until you can’t distinguish the meat from the flavor. Get my point? If you were to simply sprinkle some salt on the steak after it comes off the grill, you could just as easily wash or scrape off that salt and the meat would be unaffected. But after marinating, the meat has been transformed!

DISCERNING GOD’S WILL IS LIKE THAT.

When we carve out time to prayerfully study the Bible, pray and meditate on the nature of God, it is like we are taking our brains out of our skulls and sealing them up in the Worcestershire sauce of Heaven until God’s nature and His ways have soaked into us, utterly transforming us through the miraculous renewal that takes place in our minds! Over time, we come to possess an inner compass, animated by the Holy Spirit, that directs even the subtlest decisions. Buying bananas, while seemingly an inane task when it comes to the things of God, is important because it touches our finances, health and other areas. And the Bible speaks directly to those. But because we don’t sit cross-legged in HEB with our journals in hand trying to discern whether to buy eight or 12 bananas this grocery run, we need to be reprogrammed to where we can make these thousands of small decisions in alignment with God’s moral will on the fly.

I would like to suggest that this is predominantly what Paul meant that we are to be transformed by the renewal of our minds to discern God’s will.  It’s in the 97 percent of our life that we often don’t see as spiritual, but that God is very much concerned with, i.e. your subtle decisions in conversations, at work, in recreation and so on.  Now, the bonus is that as we hide God’s Word in our hearts – as we marinate our minds in the Scriptures – we become equipped to discern God’s moral will when it comes to extrinsic principals (i.e. don’t look at a woman with lust in your heart), as well as His directional leadership. At times, God will speak a clear word to tell us where to go and what to do (e.g. Acts 16:9-10 and the Macedonian vision).  I find that to be the exception, however, rather than the rule.  Instead, I see that God has first and foremost, “called” us to Himself (Matthew 4:21, Matthew 9:9, Mark 7:14, Mark 8:1, Luke 6:13, Romans 1:6, Romans 8:30, 1 Corinthians 1:9).  And then from that place of intimacy, He leads us in every area of life as the Holy Spirit breathes on His word in our heart (e.g. Acts 16:6-8 where Paul had a general call and operated broadly within that context).

HOW DO WE DISCERN THE WILL OF GOD?

We become so saturated in His Word that we become like a glove that is moved by His hand at work in our subconscious. We marinate our brain in the Scriptures, if you will. If you wait to do that until you’re facing a big decision, you’re missing out on the lion’s share of what it means to be a disciple and to live in loving obedience to Jesus Christ. But for the ones who have taken the time to study His Word for themselves and submitted themselves to God’s revealed will in the Scriptures, you know the peace and contentment that abides even in times of great stress when you don’t know what to do. You find that the “big” decisions have taken their rightful place in your soul next to the greater call to submit all of life to His leadership through His Word.

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31

One helpful resource to get started can be found here.  If you have never read the whole Bible, now is a great time to start!  The whole counsel of God is critical to renewing our minds to be able to discern God’s will.

May God bless you immensely as you study His Word and may you know His peace at every crossroad as a result!

By Mick Murray – Discipleship Night School Director

 

 

 

Get Off the Comparison Treadmill

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me together in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:13-14

My wife enjoys knitting. I’ve been amazed to watch her and learn just how much goes into transforming a single thread into a scarf, a hat, etc. Casting on, cabling, how to slip stiches purlwise or knitwise… there are so many intricacies that go into bringing about the various shapes and patterns. In addition to the complexity, it takes a lot of time to knit something by hand. For many long hours my wife lovingly knit a hat for our third son while he was still in the womb – a beautiful process to behold.

This may be stretching the metaphor a bit, but bear with me. You are probably aware that we all have strands of DNA in our cells that code the makeup of our bodies.  You may not be aware, however, that if you were to unwind every strand of DNA in your body and lay them end to end, your DNA would stretch to the sun and back 450 times!  That’s more than 83 billion miles of DNA in your body alone.  Laid end to end, it would take you nearly five days traveling at the speed of light to reach the end of your own DNA, or more than 19,000 years flying at 500 miles per hour in a 747!  Bottom line, that’s a lot of yarn. So here in Psalm 139, we have David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, using the knitting metaphor to indicate the manner in which God gave us our form.  “You wove me in my mother’s womb.” And God spends a lot of time weaving when you consider there are nearly 6,600 hours of gestation for human babies.  God could zap, speak, snap His fingers or merely think us into existence.

INSTEAD, HE LOVINGLY HAND-CRAFTS EACH ONE OF US.

Now I’m not an artist by vocation, but I understand that a piece of artwork derives its value from its origination and originality. For example, the Mona Lisa, which is considered invaluable by many, was painted by Leonardo da Vinci over a period of four years (origination), and the uniqueness of composition, modeling and illusionism (originality) make the Mona Lisa a priceless work of art.  That original work has been copied and reprinted millions of times, but none of the copies or reprints are even fractionally as valuable as the original.

IN OTHER WORDS, IMITATION HAS LITTLE OR NO VALUE.

In review: a work of art derives its value from its origin and its originality, and imitation diminishes value.  You were created not by Leonardo da Vinci but by the Master Artist who spun the heavens into being (origination), and there has never been someone just like you… nor will there ever be (originality).  You were created by God and you are unique.

THAT MEANS THAT WHO YOU ARE – THE AUTHENTIC YOU – IS IMMEASURABLY VALUABLE.

And so it stands to reason that when we look inside and don’t like what we see (which we are all prone to do) and simultaneously look around wishing we were more like the next person, or worse, imitating them because we’re insecure, we diminish the value that we were designed to bring to bear on the world around us.

As a leader, I’m tempted to look around at the likes of Jimmy, Bill Johnson, Francis Chan and many others and spiral inwardly, acutely aware of everything I’m NOT when comparing myself to them.  And while I need to learn from them in so many ways, I also need to bring what I have to the table.  One of them may be holding (in my mind anyway) a shiny new power drill with multiple functions, but when I look down to see what’s in my hand, I only find a rusty old hammer.  But my rusty old hammer still pounds in nails… something a drill wasn’t designed to do.  If I don’t confidently put my hammer to good use, we don’t build the house that we’re called to build.

And the same is true of you.  You might feel like a dim star in a sky full of bright and shining stars – a one talent person amidst two, five and ten talent people.  But if you hide your talent because you’re insecure or because you don’t feel like you measure up to the next person, we all come up short-changed.  We all miss out on the full potential of our community.

IN RESPONSE

Bring your perspective, interests, gifts, and yes, even your failures to the table, and with confidence!  Because remember, your value isn’t tied to the breadth and depth of your talent, but the originality and source of your creation.

By Mick Murray, Night Discipleship School Director

Get Off the Comparison Treadmill

Psalm 139:13-14 says,

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me together in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.

My wife recently took up knitting. I’ve been amazed to watch her and learn just how much goes into transforming a single thread into a scarf, a hat, etc. Casting on, cabling, how to slip stiches purlwise or knitwise… there are so many intricacies that go into bringing about the various shapes and patterns. In addition to the complexity, it takes a lot of time to knit something by hand. For many long hours my wife lovingly knit a hat for our third son while he was still in the womb – a beautiful process to behold.

This may be stretching the metaphor a bit, but bear with me. You are probably aware that we all have strands of DNA in our cells that code the makeup of our bodies.  You may not be aware, however, that if you were to unwind every strand of DNA in your body and lay them end to end, your DNA would stretch to the sun and back 450 times!  That’s more than 83 billion miles of DNA in your body alone.  Laid end to end, it would take you nearly five days traveling at the speed of light to reach the end of your own DNA, or more than 19,000 years flying at 500 miles per hour in a 747!  Bottom line, that’s a lot of yarn. So here in Psalm 139, we have David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, using the knitting metaphor to indicate the manner in which God gave us our form.  “You wove me in my mother’s womb.” And God spends a lot of time weaving when you consider there are nearly 6,600 hours of gestation for human babies.  God could zap, speak, snap His fingers or merely think us into existence.

Instead, He lovingly hand-crafts each one of us.

Now I’m not an artist by vocation, but I understand that a piece of artwork derives its value from its origination and originality. For example, the Mona Lisa, which is considered invaluable by many, was painted by Leonardo da Vinci over a period of four years (origination), and the uniqueness of composition, modeling and illusionism (originality) make the Mona Lisa a priceless work of art.  That original work has been copied and reprinted millions of times, but none of the copies or reprints are even fractionally as valuable as the original.

In other words, imitation has little or no value.

In review: a work of art derives its value from its origin and its originality, and imitation diminishes value.  You were created not by Leonardo da Vinci but by the Master Artist who spun the heavens into being (origination), and there has never been someone just like you… nor will there ever be (originality).  You were created by God and you are unique.

That means that who you are – the authentic you – is immeasurably valuable.

And so it stands to reason that when we look inside and don’t like what we see (which we are all prone to do) and simultaneously look around wishing we were more like the next person, or worse, imitating them because we’re insecure, we diminish the value that we were designed to bring to bear on the world around us.

As a pastor and leader, I’m tempted to look around at the likes of Jimmy, Bill Johnson, Francis Chan and many others and spiral inwardly, acutely aware of everything I’m NOT when comparing myself to them.  And while I need to learn from them in so many ways, I also need to bring what I have to the table.  One of them may be holding (in my mind anyway) a shiny new power drill with multiple functions, but when I look down to see what’s in my hand, I only find a rusty old hammer.  But my rusty old hammer still pounds in nails… something a drill wasn’t designed to do.  If I don’t confidently put my hammer to good use, we don’t build the house that we’re called to build.

And the same is true of you.  You might feel like a dim star in a sky full of bright and shining stars – a one talent person amidst two, five and ten talent people.  But if you hide your talent because you’re insecure or because you don’t feel like you measure up to the next person, we all come up short-changed.  We all miss out on the full potential of our community.

IN RESPONSE

Bring your perspective, interests, gifts, and yes, even your failures to the table, and with confidence!  Because remember, your value isn’t tied to the breadth and depth of your talent, but the originality and source of your creation.

By Mick Murray, Senior Pastor, Antioch Lawrence

The Supernova Gospel

I love astronomy. You may think that’s strange coming from a pastor. I don’t; turns out astronomy is simply a branch of theology. If theology is the study of God, then any branch of learning that examines His creation will ultimately lead back to a greater understanding of – and consequently love for – the Creator. Not following me? This might help. At the end of the lifespan of some massive stars, gravitational collapse can cause runaway nuclear fusion resulting in a phenomenal explosion known as a supernova. The star is quite literally blown to pieces in an inferno that races outward at roughly 10 percent of the speed of light. The brightness and intensity of these explosions often surpass the cumulative light given off by its host galaxy! Put another way, the death of this one star is often more luminous than the combined brightness of the roughly 200 billion stars closest to it. Astounding!

Was there ever a more significant death than the death of Jesus Christ – the effect of which exceeds the combined impact of every other great deed? His one act of selflessness outshines every philosophy, religion, mantra and heroic effort that inspires us. When He breathed His last breath hanging on the cross of Calvary, the blinding light of grace and freedom swallowed up the dim glow of history past, present and future.

“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit…”  1 Peter 3:18

Supernovae also have something to teach us about our own lives. Consider the fact that as a star ages, it expands. As it grows in circumference, however, its outer layer cools and condenses, which causes the rapid gravitational collapse we just spoke of (cooler objects are heavier, or more dense, than warmer objects). This collapse is what triggers the runaway fusion resulting in a glorious death and rebirth cycle.

We can observe a similar cycle in our own lives: growth → collapse → spectacular death → scattering → new life.

Let me illustrate with an example from my own life.

In the summer of 2007 my wife and I packed our belongings and headed to North Carolina from Waco to help start a church. I had aspired for years to become a lead pastor of a new church, and though we would initially serve as the college pastors, this seemed like a significant step on my way to fulfilling a dream. However, soon after we arrived, we found ourselves leading the fledgling church. In my own youthful mind, my promotion had been accelerated and I was elated at achieving my goal of pastoring a church at the young age of 26. This represented the growth phase of our little cycle.

Inexplicably, however, over the next nine months I found myself dealing off and on with depression. I am not prone to massive mood swings, but I couldn’t seem to bring any balance to my emotions. Also during this time our church slowly and painfully dwindled in numbers due to a number of challenging circumstances. This represents the collapse phase of this dream.

Because of these and other external pressures, combined with internal insecurities and immaturity, we found ourselves packing up once more and heading back to Waco on the heels of a failed venture. I was so low emotionally that I threw a temper tantrum in the parking lot of a gas station south of Atlanta when the pump malfunctioned. I slammed the nozzle into the side of our Penske moving van while yelling, threw it to the ground, and marched inside to inform the sweet cashier that her pump was broken and I wasn’t paying for the spilt gas. She was gracious and instructed me to move to another pump, where I think we met an angel – but that’s a story for another time. This low point would most certainly qualify as the spectacular death of a vision.

Directionless and disillusioned, we attempted to put the pieces back together once we landed in Waco. Instead we found ourselves living in a friend’s guest room while I delivered pizzas. Food service of any kind is a commendable occupation, and I can honestly say that this was one of the most rewarding jobs I have had, but to show up on the doorstep of former colleagues three years out of college with their pepperoni pizza and cheesy bread was undeniably a humbling experience. This would qualify as the scattering phase – an utter loss of pride, direction and control.

During this time, however, we asked the Lord what we could expect out of the next season of life. We felt like He said that we would pay off our college loans (still more than $23,000), start a family and discover what we were really made for. In other words, God was about to establish our finances, family and future. Over the next four years, that is exactly what God accomplished. By the end of 2010 we were debt free, had our first two baby boys (we’ve since had one more and have one on the way), and our unique contribution to the body of Christ became more clear and exciting than ever. More than that, we have discovered intimacy with Jesus in ways that we may have missed in North Carolina.

I can testify that the spectacular death of a dream has birthed more in its death that I can imagine it would have in its lifetime.

If you find yourself somewhere between growth and rebirth, consider the supernova and take heart! God is at work behind the scenes and is bringing about something beautiful, even in the midst of the pain and questions.

Lastly, the unimaginable heat generated by a supernova smashes lighter atoms together to form heavier elements like carbon and even iron, and then it flings them into the cosmos where they coalesce into new stars and planets. These elements are the seeds of rebirth. The death of just one star can catalyze and supply the formation of many new ones. In fact, the word supernova is derived from the Latin words for abundant and new, or “abundant newness.” Even the cosmos reflect the paradox that death actually brings about new life. Jesus prophesied of His death and instructed His followers to eat His flesh and drink His blood, and that it would be better for Him to die and depart so that He could send His Spirit to live in His followers. His death, in one sense, scattered the heavy elements of forgiveness, righteousness, and divine wisdom to the ends of the earth so that many more souls could be reborn than He was able to reach while on earth, willfully bound by human limitation.

The death of this one Star made a way for billions of others to be formed and to give light to a desperately dark universe.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  John 12:24

By Mick Murray, Senior Pastor of Antioch Lawrence

They Cast Their Crowns

“And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever.”

“They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.’”  Revelation 4:9-11

I’m the proud father of three beautiful boys.  My oldest, Aidan, is 3 years old.  One fall day a couple years ago I was in the front yard watering the flowers around our magnolia tree while Aidan was wandering around the yard in his diaper and t-shirt, inquisitive about nearly everything.  After a while I felt a little tug on my hose I and I turned around to see Aidan standing behind me, grasping the hose with his little chubby hand and grinning from ear to ear.  He couldn’t talk yet, but his face communicated the pure joy he felt trying to do what daddy was doing.  I loved it!  My son wanted to join me in my work. So we proceeded to move about the yard, attempting to water the remaining flowers, but our efforts yielded little. In fact, it probably took three times as long to accomplish the task at hand because Aidan was “helping” me… but I wouldn’t have had it any other way!  The task became a by-product of fellowship with my son.

That day with Aidan has really helped me understand the nature of my relationship with God. Are you overwhelmed because you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders?  Do you struggle with pride in your accomplishments?  Or have you been debilitated by your failures? Me too. Once we understand we are His children and that He accepts us apart from our works, we are set free to work with great joy because now relationship is the goal and not productivity, which becomes a by-product. I still aim to please Him in my work, but I do so BECAUSE He loves me, not in order that He MAY love me. Relationship with God is the goal, not simply doing things for God.  And the funny thing is the more I focus on relationship, productivity improves in just about every area of life, but without the usual stress.

So what does this have to do with Revelation 4:9-11? It is a picture of what will happen at the end of time when we see God face-to-face.  It goes something like this: God gives us the ability to store up treasures in Heaven.  Then He rewards us with that treasure when we die, even though it was Him working through us all along!  But when we see Him as He really is… face to face… we won’t wonder who actually achieved the accomplishments of our lives.  When we see Him in His glorified form, the only appropriate response will be to throw our crowns at His feet.

In light of this, I believe we should respond in like manner today and not wait until Heaven.  Do you wear a crown?  Have you been successful in ministry, business, school or sports?  Is your child top of his or her class?  Do you really think you accomplished any of this?  Or do you get overwhelmed because you carry a burden that’s too heavy for you?  When we begin to grasp how much He loves us and simply enjoys our fellowship, we get the benefit of working WITH Him on this earth like Aidan did with me, and not just FOR Him. We can cast not only our crowns but our burdens at His feet as well. Give God the glory for the successes in your life.  Look past your failures to the One who is walking with you through the pain.  And let God fill you with hope now that you aren’t carrying the world on your shoulders, but rather walking with the One who is.

He delights in working with you and delights in you slowing Him down. What crown can you properly place at His feet today?

 

By Mick Murray, Senior Pastor of Antioch Lawrence