Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations...

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)

This passage of scripture is among the most amazing, miraculous, and beautiful of all scriptures, yet it is so humbling at the same time. This passage of scripture not only gives us hope but also gives us purpose. To think that the old sinful self that was me is no longer, that it’s gone, passed away, and that who I am today is a completely new creature, pure, holy, and beautiful in the sight of the Lord is to think of God’s great mercy and grace. And, to think that while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me, is to think of a love that surpasses comprehension. So undeserving are we of Christ’s beauty and grace, His great love, His sinlessness, His righteousness, yet He has freely given all these to us limitlessly.

But, maybe even more humbling than all of this, if that were possible, is the fact that those of us who have been reconciled to God through our faith in Jesus as Christ and Savior is the fact that we have now been given the responsibility to act on God’s behalf in the world. We are “ambassadors for Christ.” And, He has “entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation.”

Wow! God has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation, God reconciling the world to Himself, and doing it through us! Us! Unbelievable! Not only am I awestruck by the trust God has given to me and to others like me who make it our aim to live for Christ, but I am also humbled at such a daunting task. Do you really trust ME, God, to deliver your message of hope and grace and love to the peoples of the world? I want to be found trustworthy. I want to be found faithful. I want to be found being about my Father’s business, my Father’s business.

A few week’s ago, a guest preacher spoke at our church’s Sunday morning service, and he greeted us in this way, “Good morning to all my Father’s children.” That statement in and of itself is so profound. When we begin to see God as our Father, someone to love, someone to share our hopes and dreams with, someone we know cares for us, someone we can trust, someone who knows us and loves us like no other, then we begin to really care about Him, too. We begin to care about the things He cares about. We begin to care about the people He cares about.

Most of my good friends have children. I may not know their children like they know them, but I know my friends, and I care about what they care about. If one of Susan or Julie or Linda’s children needed anything, anything at all, and I was able to give it to them, I would. It would bring me pleasure to do so, because I love my friends, and I know that my friends love their children more than almost anything at all. Their children are their treasure. Their children are their joy, and if one of them is in need, then their mother is in need.

This is so for God.

God called Abraham friend, and we are friends of God when we love, trust, and obey Him. We bring joy to the Lord when we are what He calls us to be… Ambassadors for Christ.

Lisa Ann Muir-Taylor is a woman I’m getting to know better and better all the time. She inspires me, because she is the Ambassador for Christ God has called her to be.

I know Lisa Ann because our children go to school together. Her daughter, Sophie, was in Brooks’ class the year he lost his little brother, Bronner. Lisa Ann came to the memorial service, and she heard the passionate cry of a man who knew he had lost his son because of the sin of the world. She heard the Holy Spirit take over as Rick began to speak words filled with urgency for the message of the Gospel of Christ. Rick gave statistics that day that revealed a church satisfied with itself, a church not on fire for sharing their faith but more like the Laodicean church written to in Revelation that God says He will spit out of His mouth for their lack of zeal.

Something in what the Holy Spirit cried that day through Rick’s words went straight to Lisa Anne’s heart, and she began to pray for God to use her. This former nurse asked, “How can I share my faith with a lost world?” And, she heard God’s answer to her. It was hard for her to believe, though. Was she hearing Him right?

“Are you serious, God?”

“Yes,” He confirmed. It was so clear.

Lisa Ann knew God was calling her to start a CLOTHING LINE! Crazy, yes, but true.

Lisa Ann is a mother. She has four children. Sophie is her youngest, so she knew what was out there for teens and young people. Some of these stores that target youth are offensive to even walk into for a person of God. The advertisements are selling one thing, sex, and the more provocative the better. That is just not okay for a 15-year-old girl.

Where is the Godly alternative?

There wasn’t one.

But there is now.

Nations Outfitters was the answer to Lisa Ann’s prayer, “What can I do, God?”

“This whole thing has been so God directed,” Lisa Ann said. “He has even given me the designs. I can see them. I know this is a vision from God, and I know this is what He wants me to do. I would have never thought of myself as a clothing designer, but I guess that’s what I am. It’s just amazing where God can lead you if you really listen.”

Lisa Ann says, “It’s what you do in your clothes that makes you beautiful.” Nations emphasizes inner beauty, a beauty that gets outside yourself and thinks about others. She wants to help teens and young people realize their worth and their true potential as children of God. “It’s a lot easier to get out there and help somebody than you might think,” Lisa Ann said.

She organized a Habitat for Humanity Day this summer where students from around Birmingham came and helped build a house for a family in the Wylam Oaks Community in Fairfield, and she hopes to continue to do more and more community projects. Go to her website at www.nationsoutfitters.com and you’ll see photos of high school and college students on mission trips, doing volunteer work, and giving of themselves. “That’s the kind of person we want to highlight,” said Lisa Ann.

To top off all of that, the clothes are awesome! They’re kind of funky and fun. There’s lots of color and movement. It’s the kind of clothing young people like to wear. It’s just a new a way of thinking about your clothes.

It’s not an in-your-face Christian clothing line. Everything is done subtly. The name, Nations Outfitters, comes from Matthew 28:19 which says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The logo, a descending dove, represents the Holy Spirit who helps us to do the right things of God, who comforts us in trial, and who strengthens us for battle. But, the best thing, to me, is that there’s a bible verse inside each garment. I’m wearing a Nations shirt today that has this verse pressed inside, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

Lisa Ann came to know the Lord as an adult. She was at a Rolling Stones concert when someone handed her a little slip of paper with this verse written on it, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:5; and Hebrews 13:5)

She wanted to know who it was who would never leave her nor forsake her and so began her journey in pursuit of the Lord.

"Seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened unto you." (Matthew 7:7)

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

The word of God cuts through to our hearts, so, yes, one verse can make a difference in someone’s life. Lisa Ann hopes her clothes will be used to help expand God’s Kingdom directly through the truths shared in each article of clothing but also indirectly by highlighting good works and by enriching the lives of those students who have already begun their journey with Christ.

I remember when Lisa Ann first told me about this vision she had. It was about a year after Bronner had gone to heaven. We went to lunch, and this woman of action had already laid the groundwork for her new company. She had sketches of clothes for me to see. She had already hired someone to help her. She was getting ready to go to a fabric show. She had the name and the branding ready. She was well on her way. She told me she had waited to tell me until she knew for sure this thing was really going to happen.

But, she was very excited and wanted me to be excited too because she saw Nations as a part of Bronner’s legacy. She gave me a determined look and said almost sternly, “I want you to know this wouldn’t have happened without Bronner.”

I was at her house this week trying on the “Sherri Shirt” from the new fall line and gave her a picture of sweet Bronner. She wanted one for her office. She never really knew Bronner, but she knows that my sweet baby, God’s baby, is a bold pattern in the tapestry God is weaving through her life. And, I’m so glad. So many people told me after Bronner went to heaven that God had changed them through Bronner’s story, but with Lisa Ann there’s something a little more there. God has not only impacted her personally through precious Bronner and his story, but He has used him in Lisa Anne's life to begin a whole new ministry. There’s just something wonderful in that, and it makes a momma’s heart so glad to know that her child can be used of the Lord is so many unexpected ways.

So, I am Lisa Anne's biggest fan here on earth, but I know there are some bigger fans watching from above. And, I know Nations Outfitters is going to make a difference in this world for young people, because God is behind it. And, when we give God control of our lives, there's no limit to what He can do.

4 comments:

  1. Jacqueline PattersonSeptember 23, 2010 at 10:40 AM

    My son died, too. January 8, 2004. He was sixteen. He was on his way to basketball practice at Clay County High School. It was raining and he hydro-planed. He, like Bronner, had white-blonde hair. He was such a beautiful, beautiful child...inside and out. Unlike Rick, it took my husband a long time to forgive God. That's backwards, I know, but that's what had to happen. The good news is, and there is always good news for children of our God, that we are now stronger than ever and live our faith daily.

    Our lives are forever divided into "before Jason died" and "after Jason died". If we talk about an event in our family's life, it is always "before or after". Do you experience that also?

    What verse gives you most comfort? Do you have a mom's support group? We have recently started one in Ashland, AL and we are looking for direction. Any advice you can give us would be so helpful. My email is patterson.jacqueline@gmail.com Contact me anytime.

    Thank you for all that you do for the Kingdom. We truly do have sons who are warriors for God. Thank you for helping me to see that this morning.

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  2. Lisa Ann is one of my dearest friends.... Sherri and Rick are people that my husband and I truly admire... look up to.... would like to pattern our lives and our marriage after!!!! I'm so grateful for all that God is doing in their lives and for the impact that is has on the rest of us!!!! My son Miller and Lisa Ann's son Tom are "best friends"!! I wouldn't trade that for the world!!!! I can only imagine that they would both have great advice for you, Jacqueline... and I would be happen to ask them personally about it if you need it! Sherri... This blog post is wonderful and extremely inspiring as well as convicting. I appreciate your honesty and I'm grateful to be able to learn what God has done in and thru you and your family!!!!!
    Carolyn

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  3. Jacqueline, I know exactly what you are talking about with the "before and after." Tragedy, more than almost anything, is life changing. Before Bronner went to heaven, I was a mommy. Afterwards, I was just mom. Everything changes. The lives of our other children have changed, but not necessarily for the bad. My children have a heavenly focus they would have never had if this had not happened. They know this world is not their home, that it is cursed because of sin, but that one day God will redeem everything that is redeemable. Because our eyes are heaven focused, our family cares about the things of God. There's an old song that says something to the effect that "they're too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good." That's about as backward as your husband thinking he had to forgive God. God has nothing to forgive because He owes no one anything. We deserve hell for our unrighteousness, yet God, out of His great mercy, has provided the way of salvation. And, that grace IS sufficient for us. We need to stop thinking of life here on earth as a place to find fulfillment or happiness. This world is NOT our home. The bible makes it clear that we who are in Christ are sojourners here on earth and that those who love the world do not love God. If you are completely comfortable here on earth, something's not right. I think that when I had Bronner in my life, I was maybe a little too comfortable in this world. I had everything I could have ever wanted, a beautiful family, a great husband, a wonderful church family, friends, a comfortable home, etc., etc., etc. God slapped me into reality. "Hey, you need to set your hopes on things you can't see!" "Hey, this isn't your real home. I've got plans for you you won't even believe." "Hey, I need you to help me bring some of my lost lambs back home." "Hey, get your working boots on. Get out there and do something. I'm coming soon."

    As far as a verse that gives me comfort, there's really three chapters of the Bible that give me the most comfort. They are Revelation Chapter 21, Romans Chapter 8, and Ecclesiastes Chapter 7. God did give me a passage of scripture on January 1, 2009 that I believe he has called me to, "Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God." (1 Peter 4:1-2)

    I do not have a support group. God is my biggest supporter, comforter. Rick is my second biggest support and help. My children and my friends also support, love, and pray for me often.

    Hope that helps.

    Sherri Burgess

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