Life is often defined in a moment!
It’s was January 21, first night season two American Idol Auditions. It was 2003 the year that Clay Akin should have won. Tami and I decided to go for a walk. We had gotten no further then a couple hundred yards when it began to rain. Tami wanted to turn back. I protested. She ignored, started jogging back. I followed falling about twenty yards behind her. Just as she turned the corner a van came barreling down the street taking a wide swiping turn right into her path. I screamed out. There was a collision. No, it was more of a thump or loud thud. My world stopped. Three thoughts ran through my head each one freezing like a frame in an old movie. First there was, “Oh my God I just lost my wife”. Followed by, “What am I going to see”. And then, “I must tell my children.”
My world turned surreal as I laid over my wife screaming for help.
Fast forward. Six weeks passed. Surgery to rebuild her shattered bones. A bout in the hospital. Rehab. Our routine has greatly changed. We have all kinds of medical devices you find in your aging grandparents home. My normally active wife sits on the couch and waits. If she is hungry she waits. If she has to go to the potty she waits. If she needs something to ease her pain she waits.
And each day as she waits I drive by that spot where she was hit because it is upon me that she waits. And each day as I drive by that spot, the one where she was hit. I become more and more angry.
And each day as I make my way into the house, there she is right where I left her that morning. That’s way I’m angry. And each day find myself growing angrier and angrier as she appears to be growing more and more at peace. Finally my anger gets the best of me and I explode. To which she responds, “David, why are you angry? Can’t you see what God is doing?” The answer is “no” because I’m angry. At that point she begins pointing out dozens of God things that by now are part of her normal day.
How can two people live in seemingly the same world, be in the midst of the same experience, and have such different perspectives. I was living in the “kingdom of me” while Tami was living in the “kingdom of he”. I was not unlike the religious leaders of Jesus’ day when he said, “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand” (Matthew 13:13, NIV).
Thus God breaks 400 years of silence with the words, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17, NIV). Think about it, “repent”. What about “hello” “good morning” “howdy” “My name is Jesus. I’m the Son of God. What’s your name?” No, he begins with the word “repent”.
You know what’s more amazing then Jesus beginning with the word “repent” is that I never paused to think maybe the “repent” had something to do with me.
Lately I’m been asking some questions, “What if Jesus is talking to me?” “What if I’m wrong?” “What if there’s something about the gospel that I’m missing that would make all the difference to me or someone else?” With that I’ve been reading and re-reading the Gospels, over and over again. Most of that time I find myself captive to the words, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
I guess I’m still repenting.
I’m not sure when God will let me move on. He is holding me captive, while he is setting me free. I’m repenting of my religion. That’s right I’m losing my religion, while I rediscover the simplicity and centrality of Jesus and his ways.
I’m repenting of my systematic ways where I have put Jesus into my well-constructed boxes of my ideological preferences. I’m slowly gaining the courage to let Jesus out of the box. I’m repenting of my tendency to consume. Now that’s a hard one because I am glutton and an addict. My tendency is to hold onto and consume everything around me. I’m repenting of my need to build an empire. There is only one kingdom and it belongs to him. I’m repenting of my need to be bigger and better, first and most.
Jesus invites us to “repent”. We have been infected with a deadly virus. It’s called sin. We have drifted and lost our way. We are in need of resurrection and new birth.
The gospel is an antidote to this disease. The gospel swings wide the door to his kingdom and it allows it to occupy every crevice and craven and nook and cranny of our lives.
You see the gospel is the good news that God hasn’t given up on in this world. He has not given up on our churches. He has not given up on you and me. This is good news. Our sins of indifference, self-interest, indulgence, and self-absorption have been laid bare on the cross. A new day called resurrection has occurred. Sins grip has weakened, death has lost its sting, and the gates of hell have failed to prevail. This resurrection has lead to a new man, which has given away to a new people. Heaven is rushing to earth and Eden is being reformed. The rich are bowing to the poor. The sick are being healed. Those that are in bondage are being set free. The body of Christ is being formed from the four corners of the earth. The lamb is lying down with the lion. There’s a new righteousness that inhabits the land. Jesus is making all things new.
Thus Jesus begins, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” You may ask what is it we are to repent from? What if we repent of our tendency to plant gospel light churches? I recently had a conversation with one of our church-planting residents. He had gone to one of the fastest growing church plants in the city. He was so excited. He told me of your parking, your signage, your worship band, about your amazing check-in system. He told me how you crafted your message and how you presented a word of relevance to your newly forming congregation. He left your place intoxicated with a vision for planting a church. I paused and asked him about the Gospel. Tell me about Jesus. He grew silent. Tears ran down his eyes. He finally spoke up. He said, “There was no Jesus”.
There’s a picture for such a time as this found in Revelations. Jesus knocking on a door. He is locked out. He wants in. Where is he? He is standing outside the church of Laodicea. Could he be standing outside our churches and church plants? Could he be standing outside of our lives?
Open the door. Take the antidote. Plant the gospel.
(Based on a talk I gave @ www.churchplanters.com Velocity Conference. To watch live presentation go to www.churchplanters.tv and hear from other leaders like Shawn lovejoy, Alan Hirsch, Steven Furtick, Dave Gibbons, Matt Carter, Darin Patrick, and Rick Warren.