Live for More!

I had the bittersweet experience of attending a memorial service for Todd Worthham on Friday August 19, 2011. Todd was the Pastor and church planter of Wells Branch Community Church in Austin, Texas. I did not personally know Todd but I felt compelled to attend the service due to his relationship with my pastor, and how Todd passed away.  Todd was serving on mission in Joplin, MO much the same as myself & others from Austin did last month, when he suffered a massive heart attack and died.

The memorial service was both a tribute to Todd’s life work for the kingdom of God, and beautiful reminder of the goodness and glory of God in times of pain & suffering. People gathered at Hill Country Bible Church NW to sing praises to the Lord, and told stories that made you laugh & stories that made you cry. We were also encouraged to reflect on our own life in light of Todd’s passing. How should we be living our lives? Todd used the phrase “Live for More”  based Matthew 22:33-40:

When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching. But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law ?” And He said to him, ” ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ 40 ” On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

In viewing Todd’s tribute video, and in hearing the testimonies of those who new him, it was obvious that Todd loved God with all his heart, mind & soul and that he loved others. He was genuine. It begs me to look at myself and ask if I see the same observation. If others were asked? If I passed away today would others say the same about myself? Would they say that Michael Flores lived for more? Although, I have come so far I can only see now how much farther I have to go in this area.

I know that God will finish the work that He has begun in me, but I see that I must be intentional in making the most of my remaining days.

  • To stand of the foundation that is Christ Jesus
  • To proclaim the Gospel
  • To love others in tangible ways
  • To “make the most of every opportunity”
  • To leave an eternal fingerprint behind after I am gone
  • To love God with all my mind, heart, and soul

Todd was blessed! He had a beautiful wife and children that loved him, a close group of friends that loved Todd,  and as someone put it “God had His hand on Todd.”  But it was obvious that Todd loved, and so he was loved in return. I can only pray that I will be so fortunate as he was during his time here. I pray for the family he has left behind, but I know that God will take care of them, and bring them through this for good and His glory.

So I reflect, I pray and ask God to help me “live for more” all the days of the rest of my life. In doing so I can only hope to eternally impact the lives of others for His glory, not mine.

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Joplin Relief Trip: Where is God, and where are you?

Most people will look at the devastation in Joplin, MO and ask, “God where are you?” Some will ask, ” If God were real or loving how could He just let such tragedy happen?” The question I had to ask after a few days in Joplin was “where is God?” I don’t question His existence since Scripture tells us right away in Genesis 1:1 that He exists…“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” I don’t question His goodness or how did this natural disaster happen? To answer that we have to go back…to the beginning.

The Fall

Genesis tells us that God created all things, the earth, the universe, and man to live in perfect relationship with Him, and each other. Man sinned, and the sin marred everything good that God created including the earth. Romans 8: 19-21 tells us. “For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” That creation like a woman in labor long for the day salvation of man is complete. Our world in is sinful state, and the natural disasters we see are a constant reminder the Fall.

God is Present

I have no doubt that God was present while the EF-5 tornado wreaked havoc and destruction through Joplin. He was with the woman fearing for her life, He was with the father that tried to protect his family, He was with those that took there last breath during and after the storm. He never intended for the “very good” world He created to suffer as much as it has. He never intended for humanity to live in sinfulness, pain, and frustration. He gave man everything that we could ever want or need, and we turned away from Him. No matter the natural storms in this world or the spiritual storms that rage in our lives, God has never left, has never stopped chasing, and never stopped loving us. Jesus warned us. “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” God did not abandon us, but chooses to be present, to have relationship with us.

God is in Control

During my time in Joplin I couldn’t help but think about Job a little bit. The book of Job 1:1-3 tells us “and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. Seven sons and three daughters were born to him. His possessions also were 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants ; and that man was the greatest of all the men of the east.”  Job you could say had it all, including a God’s favor. Satan believed that Job only feared the Lord because God had protected, blessed, and increased Job’s provision. Satan was sure that if Job were to lose these things that Job would surely curse God. We learn that Satan is allowed to test Job, and in Job 1:13-19 we read how graphically, tragically and quickly Job loses everything, and all his family. Then we see Job’s reaction in verses 20-22,

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, ” Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.”Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.

Job eventually loses his health, and wrestles with everything with no help from his friends Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite. But ultimately, God demonstrates that He is sovereign , Creator, and in control. We see Job’s attitude in 42:1-6

“Then Job answered the LORD and said, “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge ?’ “Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things  too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” ‘Hear, now, and I will speak ; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear ; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.”

In the end “The LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the LORD increased all that Job had twofold.”

If there was any doubt before this trip whether who is in control in our life, most of us realized this. That Almighty God, the Creator of the universe is sovereign and in control. That He allows tragic circumstances and events to unfold, but we can take heart in His promises for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,”  and that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” We also learn that we should not cling to the possessions in our life but cling to the Jesus and the Cross.

Where are you?

I ask this for 2 reasons. One reason is that maybe you are more on the side of doubt. Maybe, you are questioning God’s love, goodness or even existence? Scripture teaches us that God is knowable, and that we can have peace and assurance. That is were the Gospel comes in. We learn in Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” That God sees our need, and He shows the ultimate act of love by sending His son Jesus to earth. Jesus, a sinless man,  comes  to take our wrath, and He pays the penalty for our sin to that our broken relationship with God the Father can be restored. Scripture teaches us that when we place our faith & trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross we are saved by grace. We now have access to a relationship with God the Father, and an eternal home in Heaven “where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;” Jesus wants our hearts, and through the power of the Holy Spirit transforms us to love others, and grow in holiness.

The Body

We came together from 2 different churches in Austin, TX to work with a host church in Joplin, MO. Almost immediately, I began to see the answer to my question, “Where is God?” 1 Corinthians 12 says “For the body is not one member, but many.”But now there are many members, but one body… And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it;” Most of all, God was present through the Body of Christ that was leaving Austin, and going to a small town in Missouri that had suffered a great tragedy, and was in need. It wasn’t enough to talk about it, but as it says in 1 John 3:18 tells us “let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.”  He was present in our vans, in our conversations, our rooms, and our teams relationships. Most importantly, it just wasn’t people from North Village & Soma Austin, but it was the churches from all over the United States that came and continue to respond. Including, A Church called Mystery that was planted there without know how key they would be the relief of the community. Ultimately, God saw a need that needed to be met, and used His people to help meet it.

What now?

Maybe you need to meet Jesus for the 1st time or maybe you need to be “the hands and feet.” Either way, I would ask you to respond to the Gospel and or to the mission. There is much still to be done in Joplin, and already there is talk about a return trip. I would challenge you to pray and ask God if you are to respond to this need. What might He have you do? Pray, give, or maybe even go to Joplin? Take moment to look and the following website, and see how you may be able to support this mission, Mission Joplin site. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

To God be the glory!