What Does “Mission” Mean?

I’m a definitions guy.  Not sure why, but I am. Whenever I encounter a word I don’t know, or when I start to research a topic, one of the first things I do is look up dictionary definitions.  Late last year, I was given responsibility for “missions” here at Fellowship of the Parks.

From a church perspective, I had a notion of what the word “missions” meant, but, for some reason, I never looked up the dictionary definition until today.  Among the laundry list of definitions (20 separate definitions!), this one caught my eye:

an operational task, usually assigned by a higher headquarters

What a great way to put it – concise and to the point. A mission is a task – not just any task, but an operational task, assigned to us by a “higher headquarters”. So many times I have pleaded with God:

What is you want me to do? Why don’t you direct me? Give me some direction!

At these times, I fail to realize that God has already given me a mission, indeed, He has given all of us a mission.  Jesus has laid out our assigned operational tasks in His first sermon.  When he returned to his hometown, he was asked to speak in the synagogue.  He specifically chose to preach from the book of Isaiah (Luke 4:17-20):

17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

I find it interesting that he chose this part of Isaiah to speak on – that he didn’t choose the part about how we are “all sheep that have gone astray” or the “by His wounds we are healed” part. Instead He chose the part of Isaiah that talks about a set of operational tasks:

… preach good news to the poor … proclaim freedom for the prisoners … recovery of sight for the blind … release the oppressed … proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor

And after listing the tasks, He proclaims:

“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

In other words – Jesus is saying: “I am here to complete these operational tasks – I am here on a mission!”

As a follower of Jesus Christ, my job is to continue His mission – I need to look for the “poor”, the “imprisoned”, the “blind” and the “oppressed” and do whatever I can to provide relief. Whenever I feel lost, and ask God for direction – I need to remember that He has already given me my direction: find your nearest “poor”, “imprisoned”, “blind” or “oppressed” person and see what you can do to release them from their condition – whether that person is in the cubicle next to you or halfway around the world – we advance Christ’s mission when we use our time, talents and treasure to make a difference in their lives.

You may have noticed I put “poor’, “imprisoned”, “blind” and “oppressed” in quotes – this is because these are not literal –  a person who is “imprisoned” may not necessarily be in jail or a “blind” person may not necessarily be someone who doesn’t have sight – poverty or disease can imprison, blind, oppress or impoverish a person in many ways. I believe Jesus’ message here is to alleviate suffering and to level the playing field whenever and wherever we can. After all, this is what He did, isn’t it?

This past weekend, the LIFEGroup that meets in my house on Wednesday nights performed some of these “operational tasks”. There is a group of refugees from Burma called the Karen that live in South Fort Worth.  They don’t speak very much English, which makes life a struggle here in the middle of North Texas. Can you imagine trying to find work, or get a drivers license or do any of your everyday tasks without knowing English very well? Our LIFEGroup has adopted this group of people and this past Saturday, we threw a party for the children in this group.  I am so proud of our LIFEGroup – I saw Jesus’ first Sermon from Luke 4 lived out.

As the day wound down, the Karen children, got together and sang to us – sure, I couldn’t understand the words, but the voices were beautiful and the melody haunting. It was hard not to shed a tear. Later, I was told that they were singing a song entitled Jesus Night and Day.

I pray that each of us carry out Jesus’s mission Night and Day …

Click here to see pictures of the mission

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Another week, Another LIFEgroup Get Together

Sorry – this is a little late this week.  Easter Weekend was both relaxing and hectic at the same time.

Last Wednesday, as usual, we had another LIFEgroup meeting.  We covered the third installment of the Faith, Hope & Luck study by Andy Stanley.  So far, this has been an excellent study – as always, Andy Stanley provides a ton of insight and wonderful ways of illustrating complex topics.

As a review, in the first 2 weeks of the study, we covered the topics of Circumstantial Faith vs. Real, Solid Faith and then, in week 2, a definition of what Faith is and how it is related to Hope.  The bridge between Faith and Hope are God’s promises. We can have hope because we can look forward to what God has promised.

This brings us to the topic of Week 3: What does God’s promise?

Does he promise us that we will have an easy life? Or that we will always be comfortable? Not really – at least not while we are here on earth. In fact, in John 16:33, Jesus tells us: “… In this world you will have trouble. …”.  Andy Stanley gave the example of Jesus’ disciples – how most of them ended up imprisoned or exiled and/or martyred. Not very encouraging …

Perhaps, though, we set our sites on the wrong thing – Hebrews 4:14-15 gives us a simple promise – take a look at this video of a portion of week 3 to learn about a promise that truly gives us hope:

 

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Faith, Hope & Luck – Part 2

This past Wednesday, we had continued our weekly study titled Hope, Faith and Luck.  The second installment of this study by Andy Stanley provided us with a great definition and illustration of Faith – and how it relates to Hope.

The bottom line is that God is huge – bigger than we can imagine. And faith is knowing that God is who he says he is and he will do what he promises. The bridge between faith and hope are the promises.  We have hope, because God has given us promises – it is our faith that gives us hope in what he has promised.  We may not live on this earth long enough to see all these promises – but we never lose hope, because we know that God will always deliver.

Our faith cannot be based on what God does – or what we think God should do – but instead that God is God, and He will accomplish what He says He will.

Andy Stanley took us through a journey of Hebrews chapter 11, where he defines the meaning of faith.

The lesson (most of it) can be watched here:

In the full lesson (the link above is about 2/3rds of the full lesson we watched), Andy Stanley also took us through an exchange between a leper and Jesus in Matthew 8:1-3:

1 When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. 2 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.

The key here is the word willing – “Lord, if you are willing …” the leper didn’t put his faith in the fact that Jesus will heal him, but in the fact that Jesus can heal him, whether he does or not (whether Jesus is willing or not) will not change the fact that Jesus is God and has the power to completely heal him.

 

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Wisdom

My daily reading from the Bible took me to 1 Corinthians chapter 2.  In verse 6 and 7, Paul writes:

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.  No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.

For some reason, as I read this, it made me ponder the nature of wisdom.  What exactly is Wisdom – how is it different from knowledge?  And what exactly is Paul talking about in these 2 verses? A “secret” wisdom? Huh? Makes me think of National Treasure or a Dan Brown novel – how do we find this “secret” wisdom?

Wisdom is one of those elusive things.  All of us have certain people in our lives who we recognize as wise, who can speak with wisdom.  I don’t mean that they are spouting out profound proverbs every time they open up their mouth – but when we need it, the advice they give us goes beyond simple facts, or a “how-to” recipe, but, instead, what they say feeds into our very souls. I can’t really quantify it, it is something somewhat mysterious, intangible.

Going back to the passage from the Bible quoted above (the Bible, by the way, is a book of wisdom – that is a topic for an entirely new post!), I like what the Apostle Paul is saying here – there are certain nuggets of wisdom that transcend time, that go beyond the currently accepted “wisdom”, the current fad thinking. We often fall prey to the currently hot topic – usually espoused by the currently anointed “prophet”. Whether it be a management guru, a self-help expert, a political figure, scientist or whatever, there are always certain “newly” discovered insights that we all should implement.

Paul, however, writes that these things come and go, and in fact will ultimately will  ”come to nothing”. Instead, God, since the before time began, has dispensed a wisdom we can depend on, a wisdom that will not change as fads or culture changes, but instead will remain constant and true: that Love ultimately wins – a wise fact that He revealed to us by sending His son, Jesus Christ to die on a cross for each and every one of us.

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Blue River Tenkara

It is spring time here in Texas, and after some bizzare weather (even for Texas), things seemed to have finally stabilized … that is until the spring thunderstorm/hail/tornado season starts up.

Well – I came home Thursday night and after watching the weather report on the 10:00 news, I made a spur of the moment decision to take a road trip on Friday to test out my new Tenkara rod. Those of you that know me, know that I love to fish, and over that last few years, have fallen into an addiction to fly fishing.

Tenkara is a Japanese-style fly fishing.  It uses a long rod (11-13 feet long), with a correspondingly long tapered leader (usually a furled leader) and no reel.  Your first impression of a Tenkara rod, is that it is nothing more than a fancy cane pole – but it is much more than that.  I first heard of Tenkara a couple of  years ago, and immediately ordered a rod.

Tenkara rods have specific actions and are designed to cast a fly and provide the means to present the fly in as natural a manner as possible.  It is designed for small stream fishing. If you have ever fly fished small streams using “normal” fly fishing gear, you may know that in this case, the reel is simply used to store line, it is not used to fight the fish. Tenkara takes this to another level, and gets rid of the reel!

The long rod gives you the advantage of being able to provide drag free drifts by allowing you to keep most of the leader off the water for relatively long periods during the drift. It ends up being a (in my opinion) very simple and elegant method of fly fishing. Instead of all kinds of paraphernalia, all I need are some flies, tippet (5x or smaller), net, forceps and nippers. If I am feeling extravagant, I might carry some floatant and indicators as well.

So, even with making my decision to go at past 10:00 at night – I didn’t have to grab much stuff – in 15 minutes, I had all the stuff together and piled up, ready to go,  before I went to sleep.

The trip to the Blue River was great – it is the tail end of the trout season there – but I was still able to catch (and release) 10 rainbow trout (and a couple of panfish) in about 5 hours on the river. Nothing large, average size in the 10-12 inch range. The Iwana II rod from Tenkara USA performed great.  It is a worthy replacement for the Yamane that I stupidly left on the roof of my car as I drove off after fishing the Red River in New Mexico this past September.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that it was gone until that evening, after driving back over the mountain pass and stopping to fish the Cimarron river – by then it had been several hours (an many miles) later.

Looking forward to many more Tenkara (and other fishing) adventures …

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Circumstantial Faith

Last night in our weekly LIFEGroup – we started a new study: Faith, Hope & Luck by Andy Stanley. I love Andy Stanley studies – they tend to clarify a lot of things I’ve always had questions about but didn’t how or even what to ask.

The video we watched last night introduced some of the things that could shake our faith – where faith is defined as:

Confidence that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He has promised to do

The main problem is that we build our faith upon the wrong foundation – we build our view of God on the circumstances around us.  The problem with this is that our circumstances are not constant – there is a “randomness” to our circumstances (that is, randomness from our viewpoint, not God’s).

Thus – when we build the foundation of our faith upon our circumstances, and then our circumstances change – our faith shifts.

We need to build our foundation on something much more solid – something that will not shift or change – check out this video to see what we studied last night:

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Testing 1-2-3

Well – here it is, the first real post.  I have had this domain lying here, pretty much dormant, for the past 7 or 8 years.  I would use it to test a few things, dabble in PHP and that’s about it.

I think it is about time to actually use it for something. At one time I had big plans for this domain. Maybe startup some type of e-commerce site, become some type of dominant product review site, do something that would make Kawahigashi.com known the world over, a “brand name”, of sorts.

As I grow older, I find that a lot of the grand dreams of my youth are not to be. Don’t get me wrong, there are still big dreams alive and well, kicking around inside of me, its just that God has refined and focused them for me — pruning off the ones that aren’t relevant to His plan for me.

Sometimes that process is painful, other times a relief. The scaled-down Kawahigashi.com will be my electronic journal of my journey towards the dreams that are still alive and kicking, as well as a memorial to the dreams that have been pruned, or left on the wayside.

So here it is – the first post that says something other than “Hello World” … although, really, the purpose of this post is nothing more than to be a glorified “Hello World”. If you aren’t familiar with the meaning behind “Hello World”, Google it – you will then know how much of a geek I really am.

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