Cultivating Daily unto the Nations: a “love the nations” New Year’s Resolution…

What if you and your family prayed for wisdom to select one nation in 2012 to learn more about, to serve in some specific way, and to possibly even go in order to personally love and serve and support those serving there on an ongoing basis? Will you do it?

What an awesome New Year’s Resolution that would be – to be cultivating the love of “God with us” unto one particular nation of people.

Do it with a group of people with whom you walk on journey daily. Do it with family and neighbors. But consider it as a priority as you make plans for your focus in 2012.

Happy New Year!!!

-jason

Cultivating Daily in the Marketplace: a New Year’s Resolution for a renewed culture at work…

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DISCLAIMER: if you already think and live this way in the marketplace, then please either disregard this post or simply consider this post an affirmation of what you are already doing. Thanks! :)

Here’s the bottom line – no matter how generous or others-focused a company or organization wants to be, if it is a business that has to make money to keep the doors open, then it has to make money to keep the mission going, too. And so you go to work and work hard and at leadership meetings the evaluation and strategies tend to revolve around continuing to make money and how to attract more clients and make a little more money this year over last. More or less, it’s something like that.

So, my suggestion here for this potential New Years Marketplace Resolution in no way is attempting to debunk the need to keep making money in order for the business and, if it has one, its generous mission to keep going. But hear me out anyway. And hear me out here even if you are not in a position to make decisions and changes. Maybe this can be something you pray that those leaders would consider.

Even if you are already doing something generous like giving portions of profits away or requiring employees to volunteer a certain amount of hours monthly, consider adding this question to those evaluation and strategy meetings:

Would anyone like to confess a mistake they have made recently, how they handled it, how it was resolved, and who encouraged them and walked with them through it?

What if our evaluation and strategy meetings were safe enough for confessionals?

Here’s the deal – in order for the good news of Jesus to be cultivated daily in the marketplace where you are, “following Jesus” must be modeled, not just spoken about. And following Jesus IS NOT just acting nice, always making right choices, not getting mad, and being a doormat for co-workers who take advantage of you cause they know you will always say yes to their disproportionate requests.

Following Jesus in the marketplace does include confrontation at times, making mistakes, getting mad, and saying no. However, it includes these elements of reality in each of our lives with two distinguishing characteristics – (1) unconditional love and (2) unafraid confession.

David was called a man after God’s heart not because he always did what God said. Read the Scripture. He didn’t. But he always was willing to admit when he was wrong, quit following after his own desires, confess his selfishness, fall on the mercy of God, and renew a pursuit of what God intended. He was contrite. And he was that way because he knew he was loved by the God who is love. He knew he wouldn’t be “fired” when he earnestly sought after His Father.

Is that the culture in your office? Confessional? Loving? Contrite? United around what the boss has set as a goal and determined to get there through thick and thin together?

Cultivate for that culture in the marketplace where you are as a new years resolution in 2012. I bet over the course of the year you will watch the normal bottom line increase along with the top line, and I bet you will watch a people begin to do more than just work together. They might even love each other.

That’d be cool.
-jason

Cultivating Daily into Neighbors: Challenging us all to a “sent” New Year’s Resolution inspired by @JeffVanderstelt…

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SOMA Communities in Tacoma, WA encourages folks toward a singular, selfless prayer every year. What a person or a family senses as an answer to that prayer then shapes their entire year, even their daily. It is a simple prayer with significant personal implications and potentially transformational implications upon those affected when the answer to the prayer is lived out.

The prayer is something like this:

Lord, to whom are you sending me (our family) this year, how do I need to reorient my (our) life to live sent to them , and will You please give me (us) the courage and wisdom to go and love them like you love them?

What if that was the defining prayer for you and your family this year? How might it change your family schedule? How might it affect your church family schedule? How might it redefine life as “the church” focusing your energy on living sent among our culture rather than spending almost all of your energy with people already in church culture?

It’s a great pray for loving your neighbor, cultivating daily the love and life of Jesus as you walk with them.

How about it? Are you willing to take on that prayer for your new Year’s resolution this year?

Happy New Year!
-jason

Cultivating Daily into Family: making a new (or maybe a renewed) parenting plan for your family this New Year.

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Jen and I try to be very intentional with our parenting. What we find in our attempts to be intentional with each of our five wonderful little ones is that if we don’t try to be intentional with how we are cultivating into their very fertile hearts, we aren’t intentional at all.

You and I as parents have very little control over what will be reaped in the lives of our children, but we have complete say-so over what we cultivate. And we do not want to be laissez-faire about our parenting, or we will intentionally parent unintentionally.

The point is this – you can hope for scheduled, teaching moments and calendared quality time, but it actually happening as scheduled and calendared is rare. Thus, be intentional to sow every chance you get since you have no chance at controlling what will be the reaping of your children’s future.

Simply try to be intentional to emphasize specific things, try to be intentional to discipline for heart-change, and try to be intentional to take advantage of those conversational, learning moments.

(1) Jen and I are learning that if we emphasize a few things over a long period of time, it is much more effective than trying to teach many things in a short period of time. Select a few things that you first and foremost believe are highlights of the teachings of Jesus and that secondly matter to you, then create engaging, non-boring ways to emphasize those over and over again over a long period of time. Like over the course of 2012!

(2) Jen and I are learning that disciplining to correct behavior makes little difference over the long haul, although it may modify behavior for the now. We are learning that disciplining for heart change is much more life-changing and future shaping. Two keys – kindness leads to repentance and challenging them to pray like they need help is crucial.

On the kindness front, are you primarily kind and calm or primarily irritated and frustrated? To be the former is much harder than the latter, especially when you think that acting mad is the only way to get attention and results. However, while Jesus did display anger provoked by selfishness and greed, He primarily displayed a patient grace that gripped the hearts of people causing them to respect Him and what He had to say. If it got His teachings a center stage in the best-selling book of all time, it may be worth a try for us parents.

On the prayer front, encourage your kids to ask Jesus to help them to obey or to be kind or to share or to tell the truth or whatever else. After all, do we need Jesus or not? Can we change ourselves with a more attentive performance, or do we need to give full attention to His performance? Do we want our kids going to college with exemplary behavior or believing in the Example? Do we want them to learn living FOR God or living WITH God? I would suggest that only He can change us as parents and our kids as kids. If our kids could simply better themselves, then Jesus died needlessly.

(3) Finally, Jen and I are learning that we must spend a quantity of time with the kids if we have any hope of having a quality of time. It is in that intentional quantity of time that we look for and take advantage of those conversational, learning moments. They don’t come otherwise. They can’t be forced. They are most meaningful when they slip up on you in the flow of conversation and life together.

So, in 2012, what will you emphasize, why will you discipline, and how much time will you spend with your kids as you cultivate daily into their beautiful lives?

Share your thoughts and insights here so we can be learning together!

-Jason

Cultivating Daily – Merry Christmas!!! Here’s the Christmas story as told thru social media…

Just wanted to share this Christmas gift with you. It’s how social media, web and mobile tell the story of the Nativity. It’s the Christmas story told through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, Wikipedia, Google Maps, GMail, Foursquare, Amazon and more.

Enjoy…

 

Cultivating Daily for Unity: what if you gave reconciliation to someone estranged this Christmas?

If unity matters among followers of Jesus, and it does (John 17:18-23), then consider giving the gift of reconciliation this Christmas to someone from whom you are estranged.

Maybe it is a family member. A friend. A co-worker. Another church leader in town. Another church family in town.

Before you even go to worship at the Christmas Eve gathering tomorrow night, if there is someone with whom you have not tried to make peace and with whom you have not at least attempted to reconcile with the love and forgiveness and grace of Jesus, go to them before you Christmas Eve is over.

It may well be the best gift you give them, and yourself, this Christmas. 

23 “This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, 24 abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.
(Matthew 5:23-24, The Message)

Cultivating Daily unto the Nations: do you know how Christmas is celebrated in other nations and cultures?

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As you are celebrating Emmanuel this December, consider taking some time as a family tonight or tomorrow night and Googling “how Christmas is celebrated in __________.”

Fill in the blank with the nation of your choosing. Let your kids choose or choose one with the old rotate-a-globe-and-stop-it-with-a-finger method or maybe you even have friends/family in another part of the world.

Whatever way you select another nation, research how they celebrate Christmas differently than we do in America and incorporate some of those traditions into your own family celebration.

It’ll be fun! And it will continue to cultivate into your family a heart for the nations as well as a global mindset. Which is never a bad thing.

Merry Christmas!!!
-jason

Cultivating Daily into the Marketplace: what if you didn’t avoid the office Christmas party & did more than just wished your co-workers “Merry Christmas?”

Most offices have Christmas traditions. As a follower of Jesus, please don’t be one of those “Christians” who doesn’t participate just because you think they celebrate it wrong or do too many indulgent things or only want to say “Happy Holidays” or some other lame, judgmental excuse. Unless they only serve fruitcake. Then and only then is it okay to avoid the office Christmas festivities. But if there’s fruitcake AND at least one more thing, even if it’s just Egg Nog, participate.

Why?

Because you have to be present to demonstrate Emmanuel.

Now, you don’t have to be annoyingly present. Like, don’t go around with a cheap, “Leave Christ in Christmas” T-Shirt pulled sloppily over your dress shirt. Don’t only make small talk – “You got all your shopping done? You in town or out of town for Christmas? Do your kids still believe in Santa?” And don’t just make an appearance, doing a quick in and out while giving a candy cane and wishing a non-enthusiastic “Merry Christmas.”

I don’t think Jesus went to Christmas parties like that.

Wait…Jesus didn’t go to Christmas parties.

But, I don’t think He wants us to go to them like that. It kind of defeats the whole purpose of why He became Emmanuel. It kind of goes against the whole message of “God with us.”

What if we did more than just wished our co-workers “Merry Christmas?”

What if we prayed a very simple prayer:

Lord, I am grateful for the people I get to work with everyday (ok – if you can’t pray that sincerely then hit pause and repent and ask the Lord to help you be grateful for and loving toward those with whom you work). This Christmas and New Year season, please give me wisdom with a very specific way or gift that allows me to love and serve them for Christmas, AND please give me wisdom with a very specific way to encourage them as they exit 2011 into the New Year.

PLEASE, if you are willing, come back after the New Year and leave a story or two here. I ask that because I want to make a very specific guarantee – JESUS WILL ALWAYS GRANT YOU WISDOM WHEN YOU ASK FOR IT and HE WILL ALWAYS GIVE YOU INSIGHT ON HOW TO LOVE PEOPLE.

Try it! I bet you will experience His presence in a new or renewed way, AND I bet those with whom you work will experience Emmanuel’s presence, as well.

Even if you wear a really hideous Christmas sweater. A Christmas cardigan would be even better :)

-jason

Cultivating Daily into Neighbors: here’s a very simple way to love your neighbors like “Emmanuel” this Christmas week…

Most teachers I know who know Biblical Greek really well assert that the intended word-picture from John regarding the Word becoming flesh and taking up residence among us (John 1:14) is of God actually pitching His tent among us. Emmanuel, meaning “God with us,” packing up His stuff, putting on skin, and moving into the neighborhood.

Once again, and it is worth repeating, it is hard to miss how much God wanted to communicate His love with PRESENCE rather than just a messenger’s presentation.

Am I loving my neighbor in that same way?

I mean, I already live in the neighborhood. My family and I try, but to be confessional, we can certainly prioritize more as well as be more focused on actively loving our neighbor with our presence in the weekly rhythms of life on the street where we live. We are praying for wisdom and growth in that area, and we encourage you to do the same.

Meantime, try this very simple way to love your neighbors like “Emmanuel” this Christmas week:

Bake some cookies (preferably those that you sit Hershey’s Kiss onto while they are cooling). Make a small 3 x 5 card with all of your contact info on it (cell number, home number, email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Divide the cookies out for however many neighbors you will deliver them to, and then attach one of the 3 x 5 cards to them. Go as a family, knock on their door on Christmas Eve morning or Christmas afternoon (or whenever you are gonna be there and think they will be there, too), and give them the cookies and contact info. Simply tell them, “We are grateful to be your neighbors. We wanted to bring you these cookies just to offer you a Christmas gift, and we wanted to make sure you had our contact info in case you want to contact us any time of the year. Merry Christmas.” Wait…don’t just turn and walk away, unless they slam the door in your face. Just listen and love and see where the conversation goes. 

Try it. You may be surprised. Loving like Emmanuel often creates ongoing relationships. Above all else, you might actually get to meet and know your neighbors. It will be a great way to cultivate the love of Jesus right there on your block.

Much love. Merry Christmas!
-jason

Cultivating Daily into Family: three suggestions for discovering & discussing Emmanuel as a family.

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Most families have Christmas traditions. Cookies for Santa. One gift to open on Christmas Eve. Reading the Christmas story together. Advent candles. And there are so many more I hear about. If you have one you are especially fond of and are willing to share it, please do so in the comments section of this post! After all, that’s what this post is really about. As you are cultivating the Gospel daily into your family, I wanted to share with you three suggestions for discovering and discussing and celebrating the Child who was born to communicate the essential message of the Kingdom of God – GOD WITH US.

First, my family and I started a new tradition this year reading through the Jesse Tree readings from Ann Voskamp. They are beautifully written, imagination-engaging, Scripturally-based daily readings from December 1st through Christmas day accompanied by a small paper ornament that we can hang on a small tree that we have designated as “the Jesse Tree” (as she describes it). You can check out this great resource for discovering and discussing Emmanuel by CLICKING HERE. Obviously, it might be a bit too close to Christmas to incorporate this resource this year, but you could definitely look ahead to using it next year (unless you just want to do a marathon reading of them this week!!!).

Second, starting this week you can get a Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones and read the stories leading up to and culminating with Christmas Day. This resource is one we enjoy all year round because of the way Sally Lloyd-Jones stories the epic tales of Scripture around one central theme – that each story whispers His name. Every story leading up to the Advent whispers Emmanuel, as does every story after. And the Jesus Storybook Bible chronicles this greatest-of-all love stories of a God who chose to love we who betrayed Him before He even made us. Our kids absolutely dig the Jesus Storybook Bible, and I am positive yours will, too!

Third, this week and maybe even on Christmas Eve, simply take some time to sit down with your kids and ask, “How are you learning that God is with us, and what difference does that actually make in our daily lives?” Be patient and be quiet. Let them answer. Learn from them. Affirm them. You may be surprised by what they say. Consider together how God putting on skin, becoming a baby, and coming to be present among us changes everything about our daily lives. Talk about how “GOD WITH US” demonstrates that He loves us and actually is so very good, and how His love should compel us and transform us in how we love one another, even our enemies. Maybe conclude by asking, “Do you think that is what God intends for His church – to go daily among neighbors and nations to declare with our near presence His near love (to go and be Emmanuel)? How can we together as a family do that in the coming year?”

Hoping these suggestions will help you this week as you celebrate Emmanuel and continue to cultivate His grace and love and nearness into your family.

Merry Christmas!
-jason

Cultivating Daily for Unity: is unity among local churches in the city where u live a priority? For @JonTyson & @CityCollective it is.

The call for unity among local churches in a city is not some warm-fuzzy initiative that certain radical leaders are undertaking. It is, rather, an endeavor that is very dear to the heart of Jesus, one for which He even labored over in prayer the night before He died on the cross to reconcile all of us self-absorbed people.

Well, that reconciliation playing out among those who follow Him is the secret ingredient to the rise of the work of God in the cities where we live. Jesus taught what the work of God was in John 6:29, and then He prayed fervently and specifically for it to happen in John 17:18-23. And how will it happen? Through the maturity of the oneness of His followers.

In Manhattan, Jon Tyson and Billy Patterson and others who lead with Trinity Grace Church are cultivating daily for unity in the city where they live. Check out the powerful video below that introduces what they are up to. Then, read more about it at CityCollective.org.

You can also read more about thinking and living beyond MY church at beyondMYchurch.com.

Cultivating Daily unto the Nations: with the entire Globe so accessible nowadays via the web as well as rapid transit, what are your plans to love the nations in 2012?

Do you have plans to love the nations in 2012? Would you be willing to pray a simple prayer as the New Year rolls around? Here it is:

Lord, to whom here locally as well as there globally might you be sending me (and possibly my family) to love and serve and give Your Gospel to in 2012?

Now, in the words of Jeff Vanderstelt, are you willing to then reorient your entire life based upon the answer God gives? It may not mean a long-term move or change of geography, but it certainly at least means a short-term movement. Where will you go? To whom? With whom? And what will the implications be not only on how you go and serve but on how you are changed? What will you learn about the nations that also applies to how you give yourself away in the daily rhythms of your life here?

As you are pondering these things, check out this video from Google remembering 2011. May it spur in us an appreciation for how Global we have all become, how rapidly the world is changing, and how earnestly His church must do more than try to offer an alternative religion to the nations.

May we simply go and love them, cultivating the Good News of a near and loving God through the good graces of a compassionate and serving presence.

Here’s the video:

Cultivating Daily in the Marketplace: @MarkLRussell wrote a great book on “business as mission” including tips on cultivating the Gospel in the marketplace. Check it out…

If you are looking for resources to encourage and equip as you are living sent in the marketplace, make sure to add The Missional Entrepreneur to your list. Mark L. Russell authored a great book about “business as mission,” and it is worth the read for followers of Jesus who agree that loving like Jesus loves in the marketplace is essential to cultivating the Gospel daily. It is also worth the read for church leaders who either are already validating the daily ministry of business men and women or need a little encouragement to do so.

So, you can read more about the book on the @NewHopeBooks website by clicking here. Or, you can follow Mark L. Russell on Twitter by clicking here.

Thanks, Mark, for authoring such an inspiring and helpful resource to help us cultivate the Gospel in the marketplace!!!

Cultivating Daily in the Neighborhood: how the One who “moved into the neighborhood” now compels us to live out Emmanuel.

Emmanuel. Or “Immanuel.” No matter how you spell it, the meaning and the implications can’t be ignored. Jesus was a declaration that God is with us. John 1:14 describes Him as having “taken up residence among us” (HCSB), as having “moved into the neighborhood” (the Message). So amazing how God both called us as well as modeled for us how to cultivate daily into our own neighborhood.

As you are celebrating Emmanuel this year, may I ask you a question regarding your neighbors (all those who live on the daily pathways of your life right there in your community). And I admit up front that this question is a loaded one. It will be followed by some personal thoughts of reflection on the story of the Shepherds and how Emmanuel’s arrival changed forever those individuals and that community and our world.

So, here’s the question:

If the people of your community believed and lived as though “God with us” was actually with us, what might surprisingly be different about the neighborhood, the community, and the city where you live?

As you ponder this question, please consider the following personal reflections (with accompanying Scriptures) from the story of the Shepherds in Luke 2 (NASB).

:: Emmanuel challenges our community’s religious norms, bypassing the ritually religious people to show up among those who weren’t necessarily religiously active.

8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

:: Emmanuel questions who our community values, highlighting the presence of the powerless and exposing the powerful who have no actual presence.

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

:: Emmanuel rebukes how our community typically thinks of God, not that we must perform well to please Him in order to gain His presence but rather that He is pleased to give us His presence in spite of our performance.

13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

:: Emmanuel causes us to look for God differently, searching for Him away from our erected mountains of worship only to find Him out in the midst of the ignored, unimportant, overlooked, dirtiest of places.

15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.

:: Emmanuel transforms wayward loners into loving worshippers, making us to become a community of people who learn the ways of God together even from the most unexpected of teachers.

18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

THE BOTTOM LINE:
How might Emmanuel change the way you and I think and live and interact in our community? May we remember daily what God desires, who He values, how He loves us, where He is, and why He is so worthy of our worship. Because while we were still sinners, both self-indulgent and self-righteous, He came to be with us.

And that changes things.

Even how we celebrate His coming.

So, what would you suggest? In response to what we have learned and continue to learn from Emmanuel, how might the local church expressions in the neighborhoods where you live join together to do more than just celebrate “Christmas” in the same old ways? How might you together go and be Emmanuel into your community?

Please leave your stories and thoughts so we can celebrate and learn His ways together!!!

Merry Christmas!
-Jason

PS: If you have access to it, I encourage you to purchase and download Bebo Norman’s Christmas song “Rebel Jesus” as you reflect upon how Emmanuel moved into the neighborhood and now compels us to love our neighbor.

Cultivating Daily into Family: Surprising my Dad on his 70th

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It’s actually not until this coming Sunday, but tonight we totally surprised my dad with a 70th birthday party involving friends and family. The party was hosted on the north side of Orlando on the campus of First Baptist Sweetwater, a local church expression with which Dad served as interim pastor for about 1 and 1/2 years before my mom died.

Those special folks, including John Holloway and Billy Joe Thompson, conspired with me to pull it off. My brother and his wife and kids, my wife and our kids, and many family and friends were able to be there to surprise him.

And he was totally surprised!!! It left him speechless, but only momentarily. And even then he declared to the crowd of loved ones, “This is my 70th birthday. I can tell you that in 70 years this is my first surprise party.” My brother looked on with tear-filled eyes. Cameras flashed. Memories made. It was a reaping of beauty from a man who has cultivated into so many lives for 70 years now.

If I had to select three main ways that Dad has cultivated into his family, they would be summed up with these:

1. Lead with grace always.
2. Say yes more than you say no.
3. Love deeply and generously with no regrets.

Lord, please help me to cultivate daily in these ways into my family. I know it is very hard to continue to give grace when it is taken for granted, but help me to do it. You know how very well.

Thanks Dad for how you have cultivated into us. Happy Birthday!!!

-Jason

Cultivating Daily for Unity: unlearning commitment to MY cause and relearning commitment to His.

It happened again this afternoon. I don’t know why I was so surprised or burdened. I guess because I actually care about my friend, a fellow pastor in our area. Long story short, we hadn’t seen each other in a while, but he felt the need to go on and on with me about how busy he was and why. Here’s why that was surprising and burdensome.

Just over a year ago, this fellow pastor moved into the area and came to one of our “being the church together in our community” meetings (you can read more about it on the Church of West Orange website). Well, he was guns blazing that he was gonna be the most committed to cultivating unity among local churches and really give much of time toward that end. It excited me, because we highly value it, even think Jesus prayed for it, even believe it is imperative for the work of God to happen here in our city (read more about why we believe this at the beyond MY church website). I was also suspicious, though. Just a hunch, I guess. Hoping I was wrong, and even thinking I was certainly wrong, we did begin to see involvement and focus from him with the group.

Well, the moment he began to disappear from our meetings and from relationship with us as leaders was the moment that the local church expression with whom he is one of the pastors embarked on a full-fledge let’s-raise-a-boat-load-of-money-and-build-a-building-campaign.

This afternoon, when I ran into him, when he began telling me how busy he had been, his being busy was totally consumed with the fund-raising and administration of the effort. He went on and on about it, which was fine, but at the end of the lengthy explanation, he told me that he really was excited about it. I had my doubts, though, wondering if he was more saying that to convince himself.

Why did I wonder that? Because everything he said he wanted to give his time to had nothing to do with this stuff. In fact, it had done nothing but take his time away from cultivating for unity. The burden came when he made this statement:

It just excites me what all we will be able to do once we have all this, because we can then begin to do stuff together at this building.

He began to describe large youth events and the like. Now these are not bad things. But they beg two questions in my mind.

  1. Do we really need a building to be the church, especially to be local church expressions together?
  2. Will uniting around and at a building owned by a local church take us out of the same types of community centers and gathering places out in our community where those who are lonely and lost eat and recreate and rest and read, and isn’t that where we need to be the family of God?

It was ironic, because the meeting I was in immediately before my encounter with my very busy friend was with another fellow pastor who told me of an article on CNN.com’s “belief blog” entitled “An Open Letter to Kermit the Frog.” It is well worth the read. Take a moment, if you will, and read it, and then come back and leave your thoughts. CLICK HERE to read the letter to Kermit.

It all begged the question in my mind – are we so busy committed to our individual causes that we are actually missing participation in God’s cause?

May we unlearn commitment to “MY” cause and relearn commitment to His. May we cultivate for unity among followers of Jesus and local church expressions in a community that the world might believe in the One who was sent (John 17:18-23).

Cultivating Daily unto the nations: two signs you are committed to love the nations…

The mandate to love both neighbors and nations is clear in the teachings of Jesus. Are you committed to cultivate the Gospel of the near love of Jesus unto the nations?

Be careful. Watching a documentary and becoming emotional about international needs is not a sign of commitment to the nations. Even writing a check so someone else can go is not the most formidable sign that you are committed to love the nations.

I would suggest two very simple evidences that you are actually committed to cultivate the Gospel unto the nations:

1. PRAY.
Yeah. Really. Pray. May we not forget that their is a thief trying to steal life; a lion seeking to devour. And our battle against him is an offensive attack of praying for supernatural help and leaning on the reality of the Scriptures rather than the lies whispered by the evil one. This is so vital for loving the nations and praying for our hearts and the hearts of those across the world to believe in the God who so loved the world rather than in the lies that often prevail about how hopeless and unlovable they are.

2. GET A PASSPORT.
Yep. That’s right. This one is not original to me, although I can’t remember who suggested this (lots of folks I am sure). Don’t ever forget that the presence of the Gospel is more vital that the presentation of the Gospel, and the former is the bridge that authenticates the latter. Actually going yourself, loving right there where they are, and learning alongside them the ways of the Kingdom (drop the notion of superiority that they need you – you may actually be the one who needs to go because you need them).

:: Do you need a passport? Start the process by CLICKING HERE.

:: Are you going to the nations soon? Tell us about it that we might be praying with you and for you and for them.

May we be cultivating daily into the nations in these simple ways, along with others that the Spirit brings to our mind and heart. And may we go and be the family of God among the lonely, all the while humbling ourselves to be changed by what we witness in the beauty of the people and culture there.

“As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you” both to neighbors and nations.

Lord, teach us to love how You have loved us.
-jason

Cultivating Daily into the Marketplace: 3 suggestions for planting the Gospel at work…

You follow Jesus daily. You don’t just “go to church.” You are the church, so not being the church in the marketplace would be a compartmentalized way to live wouldn’t it?

But how? There are so many limitations. So many agendas. So much else that captures your mind and energy.

Well, over the last 7 years we have emphasized “living sent” in the marketplace, and so in the coming Wednesdays I will share stories with you of folks we are grateful to walk with that are definitely cultivating the Gospel in the marketplace in many different ways. But for today, I wanted to offer three very basic yet essential suggestions that hopefully will encourage you to be cultivating the Gospel in the marketplace:

1. Listen.
That’s right. Just be a listener. And as Tommy Nelson suggests in his “Song of Solomon” study regarding marital relationships, “listen with your face!” This is good for marketplace relationships, too. In other words, give the person you are listening to your full attention. Even with that full inbox waiting to be emptied, even with that voice mail docket full, even with that Facebook news feed eagerly anticipating your unnecessary review, listen fully and compassionately to the people with whom you work. Over time, they might actually believe you care.

2. Help co-workers get ahead.
Do you believe the last shall be first, or don’t you? Do you agree with the command to give your coat, too, when they ask for your shirt? Do you really think life works abundantly when you put the interests of others above your own? Then cultivate the Gospel in the marketplace by living those in the rhythms of your daily. Don’t be a doormat or a martyr. Those usually lead to personal prideful entitlement. Sincerely love others, which means you care more about what they are becoming than what you are becoming. Even take initiative and be intentional about supporting and sharpening co-workers, even that competitor. Jesus did. He loved us first, even laid down His life that we might live. He then gave us a new command to love like He loved us. This is a very difficult yet very fruitful way to cultivate the Gospel in the marketplace.

3. Cultivate daily, don’t try to reap daily.
This one may be hard to swallow for some because of the way “evangelism” has been emphasized in American church culture. But you are not called to go do evangelism FOR God, but rather to do it WITH Him. Follow Him and listen to Him and love like Him. His Spirit will prompt you for those atypical occasions when you need to ask the compelling, inviting questions that might lead someone to trust that what Jesus did is enough. But as a norm, cultivate for that reaping, cause you don’t control that reaping and you can force it either. People are most convinced about the Gospel when they see it make sense in the rhythms of daily life. So, live it and speak it and engage more personally with it when prompted. But don’t ever forget that kindness leads to repentance. Presence, not presentation.

So, there you go. Hopefully that will encourage you as you live sent in the marketplace.

And don’t forget – don’t be swiping somebody else’s Oreos in the break room. That never goes over well.

Much love.
-jason

my top 5 Christmas alternative gift-giving suggestions

Maybe a strange way to launch the cultivating daily into your neighbor, but these certainly give you the chance this Christmas to be a neighbor to folks both locally and globally while giving gifts to your neighbor this Christmas. Hopefully, you will see how this obviously cultivates into those who are served through these ministries, as well as how it less obviously cultivates into your actual neighbors as you share about these ministries with them through a really cool gift they will enjoy! Hope it helps get you thinking about getting less stuff and giving more hope this Christmas…

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So glad it’s Advent season!!! Looking forward to worshiping and serving and celebrating the news of Emmanuel together with you this December.

Here’s a quick note out in response to some questions Jen and I have had from a good number of you about good local and global alternatives for focusing that Christmas-gift-giving money. So, here are my top five suggestions for 2011:

# 1 _ the Christmas Conspiracy of the Church of West Orange
Bottom line is to get jeans, sneakers, hooded sweatshirts and jackets, socks, underwear, and winter hats for our West Orange County homeless friends and Central Florida foster kids. This effort supports the ministry efforts of Matthew’s Hope and the Florida Association of Foster Parents. You can read about what to get and where to drop it off by CLICKING HERE. Also, if you want to just give cash, you can do so by making a donation directly to Matthew’s Hope.

# 2 _ “Go and Do the Same” 1/2 Marathon Run for Clean Water
Bottom line is that Chad and Cindy Nykamp will be running the Disney 1/2 marathon next month and are enlisting “sponsorship” from all of us for $1300 to go toward providing clean water to those who do not have it through Living Water International. CLICK HERE to give to their effort. You can also click here to learn more about “Go and Do the Same.”

# 3 _ give a gift through Compassion International
Bottom line is that you will be surprised that the money you were gonna spend on that ridiculous fashion ensemble that would just hang in someone’s closet could actually buy a cow or two goats or full vaccination for two kids or clean water for life for two families, and more. Check out how you can give into an organization that I have supported since 1993 by CLICKING HERE.

# 4 _ support international artisans via World Crafts
Bottom line is that a friend of mine directs this really cool organization called World Crafts that partners with international artisans to sell their work and support their families and local economy in viable and sustainable ways. Really cool stuff. Check it out by clicking here.

# 5 _ buy from Project 7 & give to the “least of these”
Bottom line is that Project 7 offers some really good coffee, T’s, mints, and more (stuff you already buy), but they don’t keep the profits. They give it to partnering ministries to feed the hungry, provide clean water, help the sick, encourage the oppressed, and more. I just ordered some stuff from them last week. Check it out by CLICKING HERE.

# 6 _ TOMS
Ok. I said top 5, but I always have to mention TOMS. I am a TOMS junkie, wearing my fifth or sixth pair right now. And i wear one out then get another pair. They now offer sunglasses that in turn provide glasses or much needed eye procedures for those who need it. Check it out by CLICKING HERE.

There you go. Now go and get less stuff and give more hope this Christmas.

Much love! Merry Christmas!!!
-jason