Mueller’s message enlightens God’s handiwork — us
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University President Brian Mueller considers the second chapter of the Book of Ephesians “one of the most beautiful parts of the entire Scripture.”
He says he had to memorize Ephesians 2:8 about a thousand times in elementary school. “The battle cry of the evangelical world,” he calls it.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God …
But then he wonders why Ephesians 2:10 doesn’t get the same reverential treatment. It certainly wasn’t something he was required to memorize:
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Verse 10 served as a key point for his Chapel talk Monday morning at GCU Arena, a talk designed to frame the semester for students. Mueller wanted to give them a sense of purpose – check that, he wanted to share with them what Christ would say and viewed his urgings as Jesus speaking through him.
“Why do we come here every day? Why does there need to be a Christian university? Why should there be a Christian university? What should we be focused on? It’s not what I think we should be focused on; it’s what Jesus thinks we should be focused on,” Mueller said.
“What He knows is that you, because of your baptism, because of your transformation, are not your own handiwork, you’re God’s handiwork, and He has planned in advance for the good work that you are going to do. I think about that and I look around at this Chapel, and I’m looking at 6,000 young people, and I get incredibly excited about the future of God’s kingdom.”
Mueller got excited about the present semester at GCU even before he began speaking. Watching students run to get the best seats on the GCU Arena floor, moments after the doors opened a half-hour before the start of the biggest weekly event on campus, was more than enough to thrill him.
“They came sprinting into this place! They set 100-yard dash records!” he exclaimed. “Thank you for doing that!”
They were in such a hurry, he said, because they couldn’t wait to hear the music of the Worship team, but he had a message that needed to be heard just as much. Mueller began by noting Jesus’ proclamation to us in Matthew 5:14-16, which illuminates the example He set during His ministry:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Then Mueller cited a Bible passage that is rarely taught and often misunderstood – the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree. It’s found in Mark 11:12-17:
The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to find out if it had any fruit. When He reached it, He found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And His disciples heard Him say it.
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as He taught them, He said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”
“This seems like somebody you wouldn’t want to follow,” Mueller said. “The fig tree – it was an innocent fig tree, Jesus was hungry, it didn’t have fruit, He got angry, He destroyed the fig tree. What’s that all about? It’s obviously an object lesson. Jesus is trying to teach His disciples something very important.”
His teaching: The temple was supposed to be a place that brought light to the world and not be a “den of robbers.”
Mueller emphasized that you have to read the entire story to understand what Jesus was doing and why His message excited the commoners but made the religious leaders feel so threatened, they sought to kill Him. It still should excite us today – and Mueller wants to make sure it excites GCU students.
“We are a Christian community, right?” he said. “We are a community of Christ followers, and what would Jesus expect of a community of Christ followers in this place at this time?
“You’re preparing for a life of good work in which you’re going to light the world up, but as we are going through this process, we need to light the world up, right? We need to light the world up the way Jesus would want us to light the world up.
“And so, yes, He was preaching and He was teaching, but He was also healing. He was bringing hope. He was bringing encouragement. He was helping people who were living in darkness, both physically and spiritually.”
Mueller closed by reminding students of the most high-profile way the University is trying to light the world up: the GCU CityServe warehouse, which already has provided more than $1 million in furniture and other goods to those in need.
“We get the stuff out to the families in the name of Jesus,” he said. “
One of the most inspiring projects was completed in December, when more than 100 Honors College students showed up on a Saturday morning to build 70 bunk beds. He pictures a 4-year-old sleeping in a bed rather than on the floor, thanks to that effort.
“Think about that,” he said. “That 4-year-old might sleep in that bunk bed for 12 years. And every night when they go to sleep, we hope what they say is, ‘Who are these people and why do they care? And who is this Jesus?’ And, ‘I need to hear more about this Jesus.’”
So why does GCU want to do this for the community? For two reasons, Mueller told the students.
“We’re being used by God to help you become God’s handiwork.”
“While you’re here, and you’re part of this, we need to be a light to the world as a community. We’re going to need lots of volunteers to get all this work done, but it’s going to be an absolutely amazing ministry. It’s going to grow. We’re going to impact people for Jesus in amazing ways, and we’re going to be very, very, very thankful to our God that He allows us to do that.”
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].
- To hear the music of the Worship team and Brian Mueller’s talk in its entirety, click here.
- Next Monday: No Chapel (Dr. Martin Luther King Day)
GCU Magazine: GCU CityServe wraps arms around those in need