The 40 Year Strategic Plan

The story of Moses has always captivated me. I love the miraculous stories throughout his life – the parting of the sea, the epic ways God revealed himself to Pharoah, etc… And while those events are incredible, what captives me the most is the 40 years he spent as a shepherd in Midian. I know what you’re thinking, BORING! There is nothing interesting about being a shepherd in a desert! But hang with me for a second.

We don’t have a lot of information about Moses being in Midian for 40 years, we just know that 40 years is a long time! After living a life of privilege as a prince of Egypt and having huge dreams – one murderous event changed the course of his life. After killing an Egyptian, Moses flees to Midian and becomes a shepherd for 40 years. And what captivates me about this is that God already knew Moses was going to be one the greatest leaders ever written about, yet places him in a desert for 40 years. Gee, thanks God. But what seems like “just 40 years in a desert” is really God’s 40 year strategic plan of preparation for Moses. 40 YEARS!!!!!!

Allow me put this into perspective for you – 40 years ago Jimmy Carter was president. The internet wasn’t even invented. The Atari was released. Elvis died. The first Star Wars was released in theaters. And I wasn’t even alive yet! That’s a long time ago if you think about it like that. So for 40 years Moses is living on his father-in-laws land without internet, shepherding their flock. But while he felt like he was doing nothing with his life and possibly haunted by his past, this was all a part of God’s 40 year strategy plan for him.

In those 40 years, God was preparing Moses to learn what life was like in the wilderness. He would learn things that we take for granted today – how to sleep in the wilderness, how to find water in a wilderness, learn the wildlife and plant life. Because, unfortunately or fortunately (however you want to see it), Moses would spend another 40 years wondering in a desert. But this time he’d have an estimated 2 million people following him. What some would see as a waste of time, this 40 year plan was God preparing Moses to learn the way of the wilderness. This 40 year plan was how God would shape Moses to become one of the greatest leaders ever written about.

I would like to think that while Moses was leading the Israelites around in the wilderness, he would often look back on that 40 year time of preparation and not complain about it, but rather be thankful that God was preparing him for the greatest movement of his time.

We don’t get to determine how long our time of preparation is, but understand that what you do in that time has a lot to do with how you handle the future God has for you. Your 40 year plan of preparation may only be 4 years at a college, or 10 years of learning on a job, or perhaps 40 years as a shepherd without internet, but regardless of the time it takes, the 40 year plan is necessary. Because whatever you’re doing right now is preparing you for your tomorrow.

Rest

I’ve been taking a break from writing on my page lately and although it isn’t ideal for someone who is trying to become a better writer, sometimes rest is necessary to make one stronger. In fact, taking a break from any type of work isn’t a bad idea – especially if you’re like me and you’re constantly going at a constant high speed. (Which was something that was instilled in me as a kid.) We’re all taught that if you want anything in life, you have to work hard at it. And that is 100% true! But so is resting. If you want anything in life, you have to learn the art of resting.

Rest isn’t just my idea, it’s also God’s idea for us. He rested after he created the universe. He commanded his people in the Old Testament to rest from their labor. But I think the reason why so many of us don’t want to rest is because we crave distractions and being busy. But being constantly busy and distracted causes us to miss the calm and peace that comes with rest.

Resting for me is when I am fully engaged in my present reality. I’m not dwelling on yesterday or tomorrow nor am I running at 110 mph – I’m engaged in my present moment. And realize that the gift of rest and our present reality is being robbed from us every time we worry about something that happened yesterday, or worry about what may happen tomorrow, or we give into the distractions of meaningless things. If you want to experience meaningful rest, then you have to learn how to be engaged in your present reality. (See James 4:13-14).

If we can’t rest in our present reality, then my fear is that we’ll miss what God is trying to do in our “right now” – because restlessness can cause us to miss God’s activity. Maybe you’re stuck in your leading capacity, or you’ve reached a glass ceiling in your creativity, or maybe you’re just stuck in a never-ending busy cycle of life – Perhaps what God wants to do for you right now is awaken you to the reality of meaningful rest.

Rest. Sit in awe of His grace. Slow down. Be aware of your present reality, because that’s where God’s movement is often found.

Betting the Odds

Odds are a funny thing – especially when it comes to college football season and election seasons. I love watching how the political and sports pundits try to convince their viewers of how the odds are stacked against an opposing person/team and immediately write them off. Take for example when Clemson faced Alabama in the latest NC game. Nearly every sports pundit predicted Clemson to lose. In fact, Vegas had the Tide as a 7 point favorite. At the beginning of that game, the odds were stacked against Clemson. However, Clemson defied the odds and took home the trophy.

Consider the previous election season in 2016. Every news outlet said the odds of every American seeing a UFO and winning the lottery at the same time were greater than Donald Trump winning the election. (Slight exaggeration, but you get the point.) One website had Hillary with a 71% chance at winning the election and Donald with only a 28% chance. Yet, like him or not, even though the odds were stacked against him, Trump defied the odds and is now our president. 

Some would call stories like these “underdog stories”, others call it “luck”, but whatever you call it – don’t call it impossible. Don’t count people out or think a situation is impossible just because the odds are against them. 

Throughout the narrative of the Bible there are stories just like these – men and women overcoming the odds. Consider Moses – with the most powerful army in that era of time pressing against the children of Israel, God said, “I like the odds of this” and delivered them from the hand of the enemy. Gideon? This punk-turned-mighty-man-of-valor started with an army of 30,000 to go against an army of 135,000 Mideanites. God didn’t like those odds so He stripped Gideon’s army to just 300 to go on to defeat the Mideanites. What about Mary and Joseph? The brutal regime in power wanted to murder every little boy, which included their baby, Jesus, yet God had the final say. The odds were stacked against Jesus from the time he was born to the time he brought himself back to life. (Or perhaps God stacked the odds against himself?) And this narrative continued throughout the scripture just so that people can see that it is never any man or woman’s effort, but it is God who brings total victory.

My story is no different. I have been backed into many corners wondering if God was ever going to move. And just when I thought it was over, God stepped in and said, “I like the odds of this.” This has not only been my story, but Refuge Point’s story (where I pastor). We have been backed into many corners and we’ve had every reason to quit. We’ve even said we want to reach 1,000 people by 2020. Yet, time after time God has looked at each of these odds and said, “that’s exactly where I want you.” Not so people can see how awesome Matthew is or how awesome Refuge Point is, but to say, “Look at how awesome God is and how faithful He is.” 

You may be in a situation where the odds are stacked against you. It may be a failing marriage, a wayward child, a financial crisis, or a sickness – I want to remind you that God does his best work when the odds are stacked against you. The odds stacked against you are never too big for God to handle.

 

Belong Local

How many times have you seen “shop local” or “dine local” in your town? Although this is mostly something that is seen in smaller towns, it is a marketing campaign for locals to stop shopping at national chains and the internet and go to the local shops, markets and restaurants. Why? Because buying local helps build the local economy. Experts say that if just half the U.S. employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned independent businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue.

But what about the idea of belonging local? I’m not talking about belonging to a gym or a local club. I’m talking about belonging to a local church. (Key emphasis on local and church.) Don’t check out on me yet…but think about it. Many Christians don’t belong to a church and some Christians simply go when it’s convenient. And then some of us “go” to a church that isn’t even local. We’ll drive to a massive church that’s 30-60 minutes away and “go”, just to get lost in the crowd – forsaking the call of belonging to a church.

I think the reason “belonging to a church” is foreign to us is that we treat the church like it’s secondary to our faith. Maybe because we’ve been hurt in the church or maybe it’s because we just don’t care. However you feel about the church, as believers the church is who we are. So we can either say we don’t want to identify ourselves as the church because of poor decisions by other morons, or we can take on the name and redefine it for everyone who doesn’t know what the church is supposed to be.

The truth is that Jesus never intended for us to to go to church. Jesus said that He is building a church (from the Greek word ecclesia – a gathering of people.) He isn’t starting a go fund me page for a building program, rather he is building a people. And it baffles me when “Christians” say they want nothing to do with what Jesus said he is building. It’s like expressing your affections to your friend, but hatred towards their spouse. Jesus’ intention for us is to belong to His bride, The Church. Belong to what is the cure to every issue in this world. Brokenness? Poverty? Loneliness? Addictions? Hurts? The Church has the answer – it’s what we are supposed to belong to. And I’m so convinced that God wants to do something so spectacular in our community today – but we as Christians are holding people back from that movement because we are individuals who simply refuse to belong to a church.

My challenge for us is to stop going to church and start belonging to church. Let’s stop being critical of her and start building her up with our gifts. Stop trying to drain all of her resources and start giving to her.  Stop going when it’s convenient for you and start belonging faithfully. Stop coming by yourself and start bringing people with you to grow her. Stop comparing your church to the latest fad in the next town and start building her up.

Don’t forsake the church or attend apathetically – belong local to the ecclesia – The Bride of Jesus.