God's Vision

Imagine, if you will, many years ago God sitting at a large round mahogany table with his messengers, the angels, casting a vision and discussing the possibilities of a place such as earth.

On a large white board, God first lays out his vision for a place called Eden, filled with many different creatures and vegetation of all kinds. A place of eternal beauty and rest. A place where order replaces chaos. A place God says " is good."

Then God goes a step farther and speaks of a creature called human that would have the ability to think, to reason, and to be in communication and relationship with God. Humans would care for all the creatures of the earth and would be God's children. And God says, "This is very good."

Coming from a 20-year career in the business world I can easily envision such a meeting taking place.

God is laying out his vision of a better place, a place where humanity can live in relationship with God for all time. And today God continues to want to influence all those who will listen and believe that his vision for us is limitless and far better than the world's limited vision.

But like many visions, things don't always go quit as planned. God's vision took a sharp turn when Adam and Eve sinned, causing God's vision to become blurred. Then sin and short-term gratification took the place of God's vision in some folks. God's influence on many became overcome by the sin and temptation of this world.

But God has never given up on his vision. And God holds firm to his vision of a better eternal place even today. God has never given up on what he knows is the right direction to be moving in. And God has not given up on us either, thankfully.

As we conclude our celebration of America's birth this weekend, it is good to be reminded of what God's vision is for this country and for the world.

Over the years God has allowed humanity to take many twists and turns along the journey towards realizing his vision, but the vision of a relationship with God for all eternity still shines bright.

In his letter to the Ephesians Paul is reminding his brothers and sisters of God's vision. Indeed he is reminding us of God's vision. And he begins by reminding us that in Christ we have all the benefits of knowing God and being in that relationship that is so important to God.

Paul is reminding us that as humans we have been chosen by God for salvation, we have been adopted as God's children, we have been forgiven, we have a special insight into what eternal life means, we have the gifts of the spirit, we have the power to do God's will, and the hope of living with Christ and with all the saints who have gone before us forever. Paul is telling us what God's vision is for us.

But to live out God's vision means we need to totally depend on God. We by ourselves cannot be in relationship with God; we need God's grace, which manifests itself in Jesus Christ.

Our salvation is part of God's vision. We were created to live forever; we were "predestined," in other words marked before hand to live in a relationship with God. Not some of humanity is predestined to eternal life, but all of humanity has been predestined to salvation if we receive Christ into our hearts and lives. And because of free will the choice is ours.

In my past career I spent many a day in meetings discussing vision, strategy, and tactics for taking a 50-person one-office company, and transforming it into a worldwide company. And over the years everything we tried didn't work, but we kept our eye focused on the vision of becoming a player in the world market. Over a 10-year period, after a lot of hard work, the vision became a reality, as we grew to a company of over 1500 people with about 12 offices worldwide.

There were days when many of us at one time or another wanted to throw in the towel, declaring this is too difficult, or we didn't have the resources to pull it off, and so on. But we persevered and kept our eye on the vision and just worked to achieve it. We learned from our mistakes and celebrated our victories.

Along the way I encountered many good people, developed relationships that I still maintain, enjoyed a company that cared for its employees, and worked with a lot of people who were of like mind in wanting to achieve the vision.

Well, like the company I used to work for, we the Church, have the ability to see God's vision through to completion, as individuals and / or as a local church in this community.

We have the opportunity to work hard for the kingdom, meeting new people along the way, building new relationships, or perhaps restoring old relationships, for the sake of Jesus Christ.

I find the summer, with its somewhat slower pace a good time to visit the effectiveness of our ministries, to assess how we are doing in supporting God's vision. And in this process it's also a good time to ask ourselves some hard questions as we begin to plan our fall ministries.

So I pose the following questions to us today. The first question is, are we as a congregation an agent of God's vision, or are we simply doing our own thing as a congregation?

There are churches that embrace God's vision and spend their time in ministry supporting the eternal vision. And there are churches that want to provide a place for worship but aren't interested in doing the other things of faith. Which do we want to be?

And one of the most difficult questions that we ought to ask ourselves, and answer honestly, is if our congregation ceased to exist would anyone in the community notice? To me the answer to this question tells us whether we are participants or spectators in God's vision.

If we are to be a church of God's divine vision then we all have to work together in order to make God's vision a reality.

How do we do it? First we need to clearly articulate a vision for this local church that supports God's vision, a vision the whole congregation can embrace. Our local vision, if you will, needs to reflect where we believe God wants us to be over the next 5 to 10 years. In creating this vision we need to be willing to ask and answer the hard questions, and to seek God's guidance for how to move from the here and now, to tomorrow.

In looking at our ministries we need to ask ourselves, is this something we ought to be doing, or is it something we do because we always have? Are we spinning wheels or are we making a difference? Are we winning disciples for Christ, which is our most important Christian task? As we move forward we need to capitalize on our strengths and improve our weak areas. So we need to keep engaging in those ministries we are called to, and do them well, while not losing focus on the big picture, the eternal picture.

Clearly we can't be all things to all people, so we need to look at our opportunities for ministry and prioritize which ones we will focus on, based on the leadings of the Holy Spirit.

To determine priorities we must know how we as individuals are gifted and how we as a congregation are gifted. Then we need to assess the needs of the community. Based on these two answers we then need to define the ministries we ought to engage in. All of this requires active participation from the entire congregation. If just a few people work on defining and participating in ministry, before too long the ministry team becomes burned out and the congregation becomes stagnant and becomes about going through the religious motions.

Sometimes a ministry is chosen based on a perceived need, or because some other church is doing it and it seems like a neat idea. Or sometime we decide a ministry isn't for us because we are afraid of taking a risk or making mistakes. But taking risks and making mistakes is how we learn.

I'm convinced if we just focus on what God wants us to do in this community, at this time, keeping one eye focused on the here and now, and the other focused on tomorrow, we will not fail. We many encounter some rough water, but we will not fail.

We can't function with tunnel vision and expect we will be participants in God's plan. Do we want to be a church of tunnel vision, or do we want to be a church of God's vision?

There's no doubt in my mind that God's vision will be achieved. We already know this to be a fact. God wins in the end, God's victory has been secured through the cross. The question is do we want to be active participants in God's plan until his final victory, or do we simply want to be bystanders?

This is a question we as a church must answer honestly so that we can function in the years to come in a manner that is consistent with the desires of this local church. In coming months these are the questions the leadership of this congregation must grapple with, with input from all who attend this church. Because regardless of the decisions made, we all need to be together and on the same page.

I realize I have posed some tough questions this morning, most of which are difficult to answer, and perhaps some of the answers may be difficult to face. I don't have the answers to all the questions I have asked, only ideas. As I begin my third year with you I look forward to better defining our vision for the future, and I look forward to defining better how we can grow in faith to grow God's kingdom.

But right now, this very moment, or perhaps in a day or so, what is God saying to your heart? What direction do you feel God leading you in, and this congregation in? Be honest with your feelings, because it's in that honesty where we will find the answers to all these questions.

I believe that God has lifted up this congregation in this community to be a transforming presence. And quit frankly, if this community we're a part of is not a better place because of our presence then we have failed to fulfill the vision to which God has called us. If the world isn't a better place because of us, then we have let down Jesus Christ.

Know that God's desire is for all people to come to know Jesus, and to enjoy eternal life through the atoning blood of Christ. This desire of God's brings eternal and divine meaning to our purpose.

Our purpose is not simply about becoming a larger congregation; it's about how many people leave this place on Sunday to transform the community around them.

If transformation is taking place in our community our congregation will grow. And if the congregation grows, more people will leave this place to transform others, perpetuating God's vision throughout the land.

You and I carry God's vision within us. Now what are we going to do with that vision? Amen

Read other messages by Pastor Wade