Jesus and Teddy Agree

Last Sunday night we hosted our first Mended Community gathering.  It was a chance for everyone who has been following us online, or involved in a home group, to get together and meet face to face.  This message is what I shared with the group, and is really the core of what has helped us through these first months, as we’ve charted new territory in what God is calling us to.  My prayer is that as you follow along, you will reflect on your current situation and gain some new perspective.  The questions I want to explore are as follows:  What has God given you to prepare for the journey ahead? and Do you have what you need now, or you are still waiting for it?  Perhaps a better way to ask this is - Do you feel you have the resources to accomplish what is in your heart to do?  Dreams can stall out or be chased after depending on your answers to these questions.

God began to speak to me about these questions in a dream I had the other night.  When I woke up, I immediately knew that He was changing my perspective on the matter of resources.  The dream was about two old vans; one was running great and the other was for salvaging parts.  These were the old Toyota vans from the 80’s, and those of you who know me well are probably not surprised.  For some reason I had forgotten I owned the vans, and they were being stored in my parents’ garage.  It was the strangest thing, because the impression I had in the dream was that I was in need of transportation, and I had been trying to figure out how to get a new vehicle but had failed to think about or locate what I already had.  I was so focused on trying to get the polished and new, I forgot about the previously used and functional.  I found it interesting that not only did I have one that was functional, but also another one solely for spare parts!  I think this tells more about the heart of God towards us than we may realize.

My wife and I came across a quote from our great 26th president, Teddy Roosevelt.  They are words that immediately spoke to us during this time of building Mended.  He very wisely said,

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

I can’t tell you how many times we have been in conversation about what we need to accomplish our next goal, then all of a sudden, frustration creeps in as we looked at our “lack” of resources and it seemed we didn’t have what we needed. I say “lack” because it really is a matter of perspective.  Because new and shiny wasn’t an option, we found ourselves reciting Teddy’s quote frequently to help gain our footing back on solid ground.  As I thought and prayed more on this topic, it wasn’t long before God reminded me that He has always wanted us to work from this perspective.  There is no doubt that His heart is for us, and He delights in us enjoying the blessing of something new, but often God knows our character will be strengthened by working with what we already have instead.  There is something about being resourceful that develops a perseverance within us.  After all, God is in the business of taking the seemingly old and used up and making it shine again.  Just ask anyone whose been given a second chance by His grace.

There is an incredible story in the Bible found in Matthew’s gospel where Jesus begins to illustrate this principle (chapter 17:24-27).  In the account, tax collectors came to Jesus’ friend and disciple Peter, and questioned him on whether or not Jesus pays his temple tax.  He replied “yes” trusting that Jesus did indeed pay his tax.  I get the impression that Peter was ready to vouch for Jesus no matter what!  Jesus of course, did what he usually does and digs right to the heart and reason behind tax collection in his response, but as to not offend the collectors, he has a plan to pay them.

Next comes the good part.  He proceeds to tell Peter to go to the lake, throw out his fishing line, take the first fish he catches and look in its mouth.  In it he will find a four-drachma coin which is enough to pay for both Peter and Jesus’ temple tax.  It wasn’t a ton of money, just a few bucks really, but the message behind it is extremely important.  Jesus was showing Peter, who was a fisherman by trade, that you don’t need to somehow invent a new way to make money or get what you need; you don’t have to come up with the newest and flashiest method under your own strength.  Peter could simply do what he’d always done to pay taxes, make a living, or contribute to his community; but with God’s touch on it, the ordinary can become miraculous and done with increase.  Who in the world could make money show up in a fish’s mouth and have it be enough to pay for two people’s debt?!  Only God!

I’m not saying that we are destined to be doing what we’ve always done, in fact, creativity and trying new things is a core value of ours and is at the heart of Mended.  But I am saying, look at what you are currently doing and the resources you currently have, and make them available for God to use and put his miraculous touch on.  You might be surprised how God can use them.  Being a fisherman, Peter had seen and done it all when it came to fishing.  I’m sure he was thinking no way is this possible, but he allowed God to work miraculously through what he certainly thought was routine.

There are more stories in the Bible where this takes place, and they are perfect examples of God utilizing the resources that were on hand.  I would recommend taking time to read some of these additional accounts. (Matthew 14:13-36, John 2:1-11)

Directly after this, Jesus has a conversation with his disciples which builds upon this lesson.  The Bible says that “at that time”, the disciples found it appropriate to ask Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Instead of answering directly, he called a child over to them and had him stand among them.  He went on to say, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:1-4

Jesus is continuing his illustration of working with what you have through the example of a child.  He wouldn’t use the word humble unless he wanted us to take a look at what is already around us.  Part of humility is embracing your surroundings – good or bad.  Have you ever seen how resourceful kids are with the junk that is around them?  They can build anything if they put their minds to it!  Duct tape, some boxes, chicken wire, and a few sticks, and you’ve got yourself a house, a car, and stuff left over to fashion weapons for all the neighborhood kids!  There is also another lesson to be learned by watching them work.  Resources may indeed be things you already have, but sometimes they have to be tweaked and retrofit in order for them to work.  This is the part that can be tough, because the temptation is to be drawn to the quick, new, and easy so that we don’t have to spend time reconditioning what’s already in our hands.

When we hear things like this, often times our thoughts automatically drift to money or material items when we think of resources.  However, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned, especially over this last year, is that resources don’t necessarily equate to things or money.  The most important resources are actually people.  This was confirmed early on as I was praying about the resources it was going to take to start Mended.  Instead of God giving me ideas and a plan to raise a bunch of money, He simply reminded me of all the relationships, friends, and family He had brought into my life over the years in preparation for this time.

In my case, I had to be reminded that God has already planted and started His church; He did that about two thousand years ago.  Mended didn’t need to reinvent the wheel or make a new wheel altogether, but embrace the people around us and draw out of them what God has already placed inside; and we needed to start with ourselves.  That is how you start a movement in your community and change lives – I firmly believe it!  One of my favorite pastors and teachers, Bill Johnson once said, “I don’t want to grow a big church; I want to grow big people.” and I couldn’t agree more.  So again I ask - what has God given you to prepare for the journey ahead?  This time I hope you looked in the tool belt that is already around your waist.