Noomanautics - Convicting Part 2 | Pastor Mike Fortune | September 12, 2009


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by Pastor Mike Fortune
September 12, 2009

Introduction video: CNBC: Texas Roadhouse’s Roadtrip 

Are you convicted that...

  1. Burnout is bad? [Matthew 25:1-13]
  2. Inreach affects outreach? [Isaiah 40:28-31]
  3. Love can be left not lost? [Revelation 2:4; Titus 3:3-7]

I think most of us know that burnout is bad. But I’m not sure most of us do anything to prevent it. At least the CEO of Texas Roadhouse [as our video clip revealed] is doing something about it. Even if the financial experts around the country criticize him for doing so. But he's right, burnout is bad. And needs to be prevented. Which is one of the points I’ve been convicted of recently. I couldn’t figure out how to add that to last week’s message, so I’m adding it this week and continuing the same Noomanautics theme of the Holy Spirit convicting us of stuff.

If you hate that term, don’t blame me. I didn’t coin it.  Author Leonard Sweet actually came up with it. It’s a word he says describes the study and navigation of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life. So that’s what we’re calling this series. And while we’ll return to John 16 and 17 next week for more of the Holy Spirit’s role and impact in our lives, this week there’s few additional points and passages that the Holy Spirit has been convicting Pastor Rachel and me about recently that we wanted to share with you. I’m going to introduce them today and then at the end Pastor Rachel is going to come up and explain a few details and options about how we as a church could respond.  These options are important to both of us. And we hope they’ll become important to you as well. We’ll begin in Matthew 25 with a famous parable with numerous lessons that we hear the Holy Spirit highlighting just one.

“1At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6"At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' 7"Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.' 9" 'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.' 10"But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 11"Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!' 12"But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.' 13"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

Burnout is bad 
Undoubtedly, this parable and passage of Scripture can teach us numerous lessons. Stay faithful. Keep watch. Jesus is coming again to name a few. But when we take a step back from this parable and ask what else it teaches us, one of the obvious things it reminds us of is point number one today: Burnout is bad. Look at verses 2 and 3. “2Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.” And because they didn’t, according to verse 8, their lamps burned out.

In Bible symbology, lamps or light is often a representation of Scripture. Psalm 119:105 says, “105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” But oil represents the Holy Spirit. Zechariah 4:1-4 help us see this. There it says, “Then the angel who talked with me returned and wakened me, as a man is wakened from his sleep. 2 He asked me, "What do you see?" I answered, "I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it, with seven channels to the lights. Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left." I asked the angel who talked with me, "What are these, my lord?" He answered, "Do you not know what these are?" "No, my lord," I replied. So he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty.”

So that’s one of the reasons why the disciples learned to compare light and specifically the oil that fuels it with the Holy Spirit. But verse 8 says the foolish maidens were running out of it! “8The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.”  Obviously, burn out is bad. But it can occur. Even in the lives of the most faithful Adventists. Remember, all ten of these maidens were waiting and looking and longing for the coming of the bridegroom. Please note: They all professed faith in the sure return of the bridegroom. The foolish ones weren’t faithless ones. They just didn’t have enough Nooma with them! And because they didn’t, they were like ships lost at sea.

In short, they weren’t prepared to endure until the end. Matthew 24:13 says, “But he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” The implication is, some won’t! Right? Why? Because they burned out! They lacked the very real power and might and staying power of the Holy Spirit that Zechariah was talking about.

Years ago, when my kids were teething, I used to get headaches. To combat them, I drank a lot more water and started taking affairs with myself. That’s what Jackie called them when she discovered how in the afternoons when I was exhausted or sleep deprived, I went AWOL for a few hours and couldn’t be found. I’d go to my office at church in the middle of the day and take a nap. By myself. And sleep. By myself! Other times, I’d go golfing or see a movie. Just to get away. And not think about work or home or life. And all I can tell you is this helped me! And still does.

Stay connected to the Holy Spirit
Why? Because point number one: Burnout is bad. All of us need to getaway and as the Southwest commercial says, feel free to move about the country! But when we do, we’re not really doing so by ourselves. Because we can leave this building, but never His presence. Because the Holy Spirit counsels and comforts us as we go. Remember we talked about this last week? Jesus said in John 16:7, “If I go I will send the counselor to you.” So we must stay connected with the Holy Spirit. And that can be done because the Spirit never leaves us. The problem is: We sometimes do!  Just like those foolish maidens. Pastor Rachel is convicted of this. And I am now too.

Inreach effects outreach
Most of you know she’s been here for a year now. And we’re so glad she is. She’s doing a great job organizing teams of volunteers to staff Kid Connect, leading YO, and training emerging leaders among our youth. But did you know that she has a desire to see spiritual growth occur in adults as well? Spiritual formation and equipping adults to help our children endure to the end is one of her passions and gifts as well. And because she’s still relatively new to Toledo, she sensed and saw what I’ve come to believe is true among some of us long before I did. And that is point number two: Inreach effects outreach.

For nearly three years now, we at Toledo First have been involved year round in ordinary outreach. This is simply the term we use to describe cultivating a lifestyle of evangelism that springs naturally from the fruits of the Holy Spirit and hearts that are convicted that God loves everyone like crazy — especially the least, the last, and the lost. So when you hired me, I told you this is what I wanted the new normal to be. And we’re well on our way. We do our ordinary outreach rain or shine. Big thank you and WTG to all of you guests and volunteers who attended our Kidz Crazy Car Show last weekend. Though it rained all day, a steady stream of guests enjoyed Cookie the Clown, watching the movies on the big screen, munching in the food court and splashing in the puddles.

And while we’ve actually done less ordinary outreach this year than we did in the past, such as skipping the block party at Aurora House and Mission Trip to Toledo this year while scheduling two less evangelistic picnics in the park, Pastor Rachel’s perception of us, or at least her perception of some of us, is that we’re getting tired. Which shouldn’t surprise us. Because Isaiah 40:28-31 says this: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

And can I confess, just this summer I was feeling a little faint? I just turned 36, but Isaiah says even “young” men can grow tired and weary. The financial picture keeps me on my knees. The 120 families our daycare and church school serve, some of whom don’t know Jesus, keep me on my knees. Chairing church business meetings in addition to the school board and weighing in on daycare decisions takes time. So it wasn’t long ago that I blew off work and found myself one Friday afternoon watching a movie at Franklin Park Mall followed by a few hours of watching the clouds float by in Wildwood Metro Park! I wanted to take a nap out there, but was afraid someone would come by and think I planned on staying there longer than I did!

I know burnout is bad. So I’m doing things to better pastor myself. So I can stay connected to the Holy Spirit and what God is calling us to do. I’m praying daily for our finances. And for the families in our daycare and church school. The mission field right under own roof. And I’m praying that God can help me or send someone else to me to better run the numerous administrative things this church requires. Because to be honest, I’m just not used to running a place like this. I think I’m doing okay at it, but if my job as pastor really is to be in the community and equipping others to run the church, I  think I can do much better at both! And maybe the way to do that has more to do with all of us getting closer to God than Stephen Covey. Why? Because inreach effects outreach. Because even youths grow tired and weary. That’s why I’m convicted the habits of highly effective Christians must include as much inreach as outreach.

But too often, we just continue in our routines of life until our health begins to deteriorate. Or our relationships fall apart. Some of us grew up in families where parents were nearly always too busy, too tired, and too important to be available. Sadly, this pattern is common in the homes of Christian leaders like pastors, missionaries, professors, speakers, and authors. To children of these professionals, the telephone can be a lethal weapon.

I’ve learned that this week. Because last week my cell phone died. Just prior to one of the busiest ordinary outreach days of our year, during our car show, the pastor was AWOL by phone and couldn’t be reached. And I was really stressing about that for a little while. Because I knew my voice mails and texts were piling up. And that people were trying to reach me. But somewhere in the middle of all that, I was convicted the Holy Spirit was saying to me, “Why are you so worried about the car show? Why are you so convinced if people can’t reach you that they can’t reach Me? Why don’t you believe I can pull this thing off without you?” The telephone can be a lethal weapon.

Love can be left, but not lost
Point number one: Burnout is bad. And can happen to any of us. Point number two: Inreach effects outreach. Our lack of dependence on God can prevent us from being in the community and equipping God’s people to depend on God not man. But the good news is point number three: Love can be left but not lost! Revelation and Titus say it this way. This first Scripture is Revelation 2:4 followed immediately by Titus 3:3-7. Jesus talking to the church of Ephesus, but could just as accurately be talking to Toledo, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” The RSV says “left” your first love. Yes, love can be left but not lost. Our sizzle can fizzle. But praise God, love can also be found! It is not lost! Titus 3:3-7 says it this way: “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

Maybe some of you are thinking, “Well, I don’t hate anybody here. And I certainly don’t hate my children.” But we forget that the Bible’s definition of hate means love less. When we choose to ignore our spiritual formation, we are simply show and telling our kids that inreach isn’t all that important to us. Because if we don’t put anything in, we won’t have anything to give out! Does that make sense yes or no? Some of us are learning that the hard way. But as we’re learning, we don’t have to wonder if our love is lost. Because it’s not. It’s just left behind. It maybe be undernourished, crowded out, overlooked and seriously oxygen-deprived, but not dead. But besides, even if it is dead, God can resurrect the dead so don’t worry about it! A new partner is not the solution. And neither is an affair with yourself. We need an affair with the Holy Spirit.

As crazy as it sounds, especially when financial experts tell us to save, what Pastor Rachel and I are convicted about is we at Toledo First need to spend not less but more time and some money this fall specifically doing inreach so we don’t burn out and so we’ll have something to give away when we continue our ordinary outreach. To advance, we must retreat. Just like Jesus did. Luke 5:15-16 says it this way: “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

Jesus knew that love can be left. And to prevent that from happening, Jesus retreated to pray. So let’s retrace our steps. God can always rekindle or resurrect in us a relationship with Him. I’m going to invite Pastor Rachel to come up now and share the process we used to come to these conclusions and some options we as a church could choose to pursue in response by God’s grace.

The plan
SPIRITUAL MASTERPLAN: There are a number of doors we feel personally called to open in our congregation. If we announce another week of prayer at Toledo First, we think we should ask church members to consider the ways in which God might be calling them to open doors as well. Perhaps members will feel called to begin a prayer group, practice consistent devotional habits, attend a retreat, or meet with a spiritual director. Here is the course we feel led to take:

1. Next Wednesday we will kick off a weekly "Soup for You" night designed to stimulate "inreach" at Toledo First. Adventurers and Pastor Mike's regular study group will meet on the same evening. Youth will also meet that evening to talk about practical soul-shaping habits like prayer, scripture reading, etc. We will begin each evening cross-generationally with a short joint worship and a shared meal of bread and easy canned soup.

2. Beginning September 5, Rachel will host a discipleship group in her home each Saturday night. Participants will share practical ways they can deepen their experience with God, and they will hold each other accountable in this pursuit through prayer and discussion. The group will explore discipleship as a process that takes Christians both inward and upward through the practice of various spiritual disciplines, and outward and upward through engagement with the needs of our world.

3. Every Wednesday beginning in September, we will have the church sanctuary open for prayer. Rachel or another person from her discipleship group will be there from 9am-8pm praying for members in our church and the specific needs they lay before us. A number of prayer stations and activities will be set up around the sanctuary for people to engage with when they drop by throughout the day, and we will ask them what else we can do to facilitate spiritual growth in their lives. Keturah Reed has expressed an interest in helping with this. 

4. We would like to plan a church retreat in December on the theme of spiritual hunger. The title will be "Taste and See." During our fast, Rachel found that she could not stop thinking about the flavors of various food items-something she almost never think about while eating normally. The emptiness of our stomachs reminded us that sometimes God feels absent not only in our lives, but also in the world of need at large. All of the tasty delicacies we thought of during our fast made us think of feasting as a symbol of hope. If God's absence was symbolized in our hunger and longing, his abundance could be expressed through appropriate feasting. We would like to orchestrate a retreat around this theme as a springboard for a year of intentional spiritual formation at Toledo First as we look toward bringing God's presence to the community through a storefront ministry.