Tag: Antioch Lawrence

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

Changing the World

Each year, Antioch Discipleship School students take week-long trips to church plants around the country to encourage the churches and reach out in their cities.

This year, the 70+ students from the school were divided into five groups and sent around the country.

Lawrence, Kansas

This group of students got to jump in with the Lawrence church the week of their second church service. They spent their afternoons reaching out on the KU campus and around the city in the evenings. One evening, they went to get some ice cream, and a few of them started talking to a group of freshman girls. That morning, someone on the team felt like God gave them a picture of a crescent moon. One of the girls was wearing a shirt that said “Crescent Moon” in large letters. They shared this with the girl, and she was encouraged and eager to meet up again. After meeting with one of the Waco team members several times, she came to church, stayed late to help and got connected to a leader from Lawrence.

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Antioch A2 is a second-generation church plant, sent out just two months ago by Antioch Dallas to reach out to students at the university campuses and the greater Detroit area. In partnering with the Ann Arbor team, the students’ simple goal was to “make friends for the church.” While there, they had the first two college Lifegroup meetings and gathered contact information for many people who were interested in the church as they boldly reached out and shared the Gospel.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Thirteen students road-tripped down to Baton Rouge to partner with Antioch BR. The church there started their discipleship school this year with eight students, so the Waco students got to spend a lot of time with them – building relationships and reaching out on LSU campus together. They were amazed at the warmth and openness of the students on campus who were eager to be prayed for and encouraged!

Norman, Oklahoma

The students who went to Norman were so encouraged by the culture of freedom and passion of the church there! The church provides rides to Walmart each week for the many international students at OU that are without transportation. Three of the students from Waco were telling people about this service when they met a girl from South Africa who invited them into her home. After talking to her for a while, she opened up and shared with them her birthday had been the day before, but no one had remembered. The students then bought her a cake, celebrated her and encouraged her with the love of God.

Tempe, Arizona

This team of students loved getting to partner with this church plant from Boston. While there, they reached out to students at ASU, which has almost 75,000 students. One afternoon, two of the girls walked around campus with signs reading “need some encouragement?” and “want a compliment?” hoping to start some conversations. They stopped to talk to one guy who said he could use some encouragement. They prayed and asked God to speak to him, and he felt like God told him how to save his marriage. After sharing more with him, he decided to give his life to Jesus! That night, he brought his wife to the college service, and she gave her life to Jesus as well.

Want to have a week like this? Get more information on Antioch Discipleship School.