Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.
Second Timothy 4:11
Generally I believe that a person's past is the best indicator of their future. The general problem with generalities is that there are generally exceptions. And this one is no exception. The reason is that history reveals that nearly every person who achieved anything of note had a past which bore little resemblance to their actual futures. This is good news for people like me and perhaps it's good news for you too. If you've given up on who you one day dreamed you would become, here's some good news: God is in the business of giving people seconds - a second chance, a second wind, a second half.
For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.
It seems that God loves to sovereignly change the direction of people. Saul of Tarsus is a stunning example of how a person's past bears no resemblance to their actual future (Gal. 1:13). Moses is another example. King David is another example. Each of the faithful disciples is an example. Throughout history we see this over and over. John Calvin, Count Nicolas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, John Wesley, William Wilberforce, Thomas Chalmers, F.W. Boreham, Billy Graham, Ravi Zacharias, all had moments where they got a second go at life. In modern times we see the same thing even among business leaders - Ingvar Kamprad (the founder of IKEA), and Nicolas Hayek (founder of SWATCH) - both men started off their lives in a certain direction which bore little resemblance to how they ended up living their lives. God gives seconds to people. Do you need God to give you second?
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Second Corinthians 5:17
God's seconds don't just begin at our conversion to Christ. To be sure, our conversion to Christ is a dramatic turning point in our lives. Some people claim to have had a conversion experience yet there doesn't always seem to be any evidence of a second in their life. Jesus described this required evidence as 'fruit' (Matt. 7:16). Here's a principle about the seconds which God gives: they are always significantly more fruitful than your pre-second past. Being converted to Christ is not necessarily about 'making a decision' or 'praying the sinner's prayer', it's about what God does in your life and the fruit that results from it. But conversion is not the only second a person can experience from God...
You may be stuck in life. You may by in a rut. You may have given up. You may have given up on finding happiness, on your marriage, your weight, your addiction to food, your ability to get organised, your pursuit of a job or a better career, or your spiritual progress. I understand what this feels like. I am a pastor who longs to see more people find hope and purpose through knowing Jesus the Christ and connecting in a wholesome way with the community of Christ-followers (the church). Only a pastor knows the pain of disappointment that comes from longing for this to happen and not seeing it. I'm sure I'm not the only pastor who is often overwhelmed with discouragement because our church isn't growing. The temptation that I face as a pastor under these circumstances is to quit striving, cease dreaming, theologise my lack of effectiveness, and surround myself with others who reinforce these God-dishonouring postures. After all, I have served as a pastor at Legana for twenty years and if God was going to grow our church to what I felt He put in my heart in September 1995, surely it would have happened by now? My thinking (and inner discouragement) is galvanised when I go to a Pastors' Conference and hear the amazing stories of how God has blessed some pastors with church growth where a handful of people has grown to thousands of people in just a few years. But then I wonder if God might have a second ahead for us?
I'm encouraged to think He might when I consider most of those He redeemed in the Bible. I frequently think of a man named Harland (pictured left). He had a dream. He loved to cook. His dream was crushed when he was 40 years old when a highway by-passed his small Indiana café. But he kept dreaming. The Governor of Kentucky loved his cooking so much, he made him a 'Colonel of Kentucky'. Then in 1955 at the age of 65 he began to see his long-held dream come to fruition as his business was franchised across America. In 1960 he sold his business for two million dollars, and the new owners chose to maintain Harland Sander's face in their marketing of Kentucky Fried Chicken. He died in 1980 at the ripe old age of 90 having seen his dream extend around the world and for his face to be one of the most recognised faces on the planet even to this day.
¶ Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Tasmania is yet to see the kind of church that best portrays what the New Testament describes. Tasmania is yet to see the kind of church that deeply affects and shapes our State's culture. Tasmania is yet to see the kind of church that gives hope to tens of thousands of people. Tasmania is yet to see the kind of church that it respects and deems to be beneficial, relevant, and authentic. Tasmania is yet to see the kind of church that endures hardship, persecution, and opposition and yet remains faithful to Christ, caring for the poor and oppressed, and generous toward the undeserving. Tasmania is yet to see the kind of church that gives them a glimpse of heaven - where people from every tribe, nation, skin colour, ethnicity, and language, worship the King of Kings in loving unity. Decades ago I committed my life and ministry to doing all I could to see this vision fulfilled. It's why I pastor. It's why I write. It's why I do WayFM. It's why I YouTube. It's why I Tweet. It's why I preach. It's why I get out of bed in the morning! I long for God's second for me, for us.
¶ After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands
A major challenge to fulfilling this vision and experiencing our second is openness. Have we closed our hearts, our minds, our souls, to what God could do here in Tasmania? Do we make excuses for God and His inability to build a church and see hundreds more churches planted across our island, because it's never been done before, we're not like the mainland, we haven't got the population, we don't have the resources, or, we're just not that important to God in the scheme of things? Perhaps you do a similar thing with your life? "I've never been able to do that." "I'm not smart enough to learn how to." "I haven't got the money to do that." "I don't have the support I need." "I could, but my wife is too ...." "The economy isn't doing well."
THE SECOND THING ABOUT SECONDS
Moses was a washed-up desert goat-herder in his 40s when he remembered his dream to unite his Hebrew kin and deliver them out of Egypt. David was a teenage boy, the youngest of 7 brothers, given the lowliest job of his day - staying out nights on end looking after the family's few sheep, when he dreamed of uniting Israel's fragmented tribes and securing its borders. Saul of Tarsus had a dream of being a great Rabbi and leading Israel back to full devotion to the one true God when he was a young boy. In one sense it looked like each of these sample men had their dreams dashed by life's disappointments. It looked like their efforts in the first half of their lives was wasted effort and counted for nothing. But this was not true. God was honing Moses' leadership both in the palace of Pharaoh and the backside of the desert. God was skilling the warrior in David when he bullied by his older brothers and harangued by wolves and bears as he guarded his few sheep. God was investing into Saul wisdom, knowledge and literature so that he could become the Apostle Paul. The trials, setbacks, and disappointments in your life are not wasted years! God is preparing us for our second half! The farmer who sows his seed in Autumn might despair that Winter has destroyed his potential crops, but then Spring and harvest-time come! Life has its Winters but God also brings about our Springs! This is the second thing about seconds - the more you faithfully sow in the first half, the more fruit you'll harvest in your second! It's my hope that our church is putting as much seed in the ground as possible so that we can reap for Christ as much as possible in the seconds that God gives us!