This week, in prep for our “Family Conversation” Sat night, let’s consider five contrasts between parenting from grace versus parenting for moralism.

This week, I wanted to share five posts, one each day from today through Saturday, containing thoughts that swirl in my head and heart regarding “grace based parenting.” It is in preparation for our Westpoint Church “Family Conversation” this coming Saturday night @ the Roper YMCA in Winter Garden, FL at 6pm.

It has been inspired by such resources as:

:: Grace Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel
:: Give Them Grace by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson
:: Gospel-Centered Parenting by Rick Thomas
:: Gospel-Centered Family by Tim Chester

For those planning on being there, please consider reading these five posts I will post this week prior to coming Saturday, as they will certainly enrich our learning conversation together. For those who can’t make it, I hope they encourage and sharpen you in your parenting.

Hopeful for more “on earth as it is in heaven” in our homes and kids’ lives.

-jason

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contrast 1 _ parenting with the Gospel versus parenting for moralism

Let me begin by stating the obvious – my wife and I may have six kids but that doesn’t mean we are good parents. In fact, we are very aware of our mistakes, and we try to be confessional about them with the Lord and with each other.

Furthermore, may I suggest that God did not intend for the goal of your parenting to be GOOD. By that I mean the Scriptures never seem to call us to focus on our own goodness and improvement, measuring our performance while expecting perfect results. This is a sure fire formula for severe disappointment, both in ourselves and our kids.

Notice what Moses commanded the Hebrews in Deuteronomy 6:

Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. When the Lord your God brings you into the land He swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He would give you-a [land with] large and beautiful cities that you did not build, houses full of every good thing that you did not fill [them with], wells dug that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant-and when you eat and are satisfied, be careful not to forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.
(Deuteronomy 6:4-12 HCSB)

Among the many things one could say about this Scripture, notice that Moses challenged them to remember who God is and what He had said and what He was doing and that He wanted to be as close to them as in their heart, involved in the everyday rhythms of their lives. Also, notice that Moses challenged them to be cautious when they got into the land not to reflect on their own goodness and accomplishments forgetting the goodness and nearness of God. God’s goodness was to be highlighted so that their kids would know Him above all else.

It’s almost like Moses expected them to forget God gave them what they had. It’s almost like Moses anticipated their pride and their tendency toward making themselves the idol as well as making for themselves an idol. After all, he had quite a history with them that demonstrated this pattern.

We are prone to wander, too. Prone as people to forget the God who so loved the world instead living like we, the world, need to perform perfectly to earn His love. Prone as parents to try to be good enough so that our kids will turn out good instead of remembering that even our best efforts still won’t guarantee our kids make the best choices. Prone as families to create cultures within our homes filled with expectations that kids maintain a certain image, modifying their behavior with self-improvement tactics instead of living lives eager to confess when mistakes are made, highlighting a Savior who invited us to deny self and follow Him daily.

May we never forget all that God does in and through us in spite of our stubbornness and in the midst of our mistakes.

Moses never challenged the people to be GOOD parents. Maybe because God wants us to trust that His goodness is enough rather than trying to be good enough?

Does God want us to parent our kids on a foundation of grace or from a foundation of self-improvement?

Let’s consider the purpose of marriage. Is it to grow in oneness with the Father together as a couple while growing toward intimate oneness that leads to being fruitful and multiplying in many ways, including dying to self in order to give life into one another as well as into the next generation? The Garden story seems to declare this.

Let’s consider the purpose of parenting. Is it to love God with all of our heart and soul and strength, learning and living His ways together as a family and emphasizing His teachings in our everyday rhythms such that our children get to know and never forget this God who has come near and invites them along with Him? Deuteronomy 6 seems to declare this.

Let’s consider the pragmatism of parenting. What will cultivate for our kids living a Jesus-centered life? Will it be raising kids in an environment that demands moral perfection creating kids so clean and tidy they never think of even needing the Gospel? Or will it be raising kids in an environment of gracious relationship where wrongs are confronted with opportunities for confession and rights are encouraged with grateful affirmation? It must be an environment where selfishness is challenged at all costs. And all kinds of selfishness – both the self-indulgent kind as well as the self-righteous kind.

My prayer is that our children will grow into adults who recognize knowing Jesus as a desperate need rather than an opportunity for improvement and advancement?

The goal of our parenting may need to be adjusted from our kids having good behavior to our kids believing in and understanding their desperate need for God’s goodness. What are we doing to help them realize how good He is rather than realizing a personal goodness?

Paul declared that perfect rule keeping simply isn’t enough. In fact, he declared it as contrary to the cross of Christ.

19 What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. 20 Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule- keeping, peer- pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule- keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.
(Galatians 2:19-21, MSG)

Wow. So, how does that change my parenting philosophy and approach? Hopefully we can continue to learn along that pathway of thinking together on Saturday night.

Meanwhile, why do we parent our kids as though they shouldn’t make mistakes? Lets look at that tomorrow…

jasoncdukes:

Here is a great post from Randy Woodbury on his blog about what it was like to be a visitor to Sunday worship gatherings for the first time in his life. Many of us who serve as leaders or might be called to a new church family to pastor don’t get to experience this much. Some of us may have been part of a church family for a long time and never really thought about the visitor perspective much. May this post help us all to be more sensitive and more hospitable to first time guests in our Sunday worship gatherings. :-)

Thanks Randy for sharing…

Originally posted on Randy Woodbury:

For the duration of my life on this Earth thus far (37 years), I have been involved with only two churches.  For the first 18 years of my existence, I was involved with the church of my parents in Waterloo, IA.  The church where I was born, raised, put my faith in Christ’s loving sacrifice as payment for my sins, was baptized by immersion…and then I headed off to college.  While in college, I joined a fellowship of believers in Ames, IA that had been part of my siblings’ lives, and enjoyed 19 years of ministry there, dedicated my life to Christ, found a wife, started a family, became a leader, saved a marriage and learned a thousand different things (likely a blog post for another time).  However, in each church situation, I had never truly been a visitor – I had pre-existing relationships that drew me to those churches. …

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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.

Check out www.CultivatingDaily.com. Hoping to encourage readers toward cultivating the Gospel in our daily rhythms.

Do you approach life like it’s construction or like it’s cultivation?

What do I mean? Well, by “construction” I mean like you have a blueprint, you will plan out the work, it is going to go as you hoped for, and you will end up with the pre-designed, expected result. By “cultivation” I mean you have seeds, you plow the ground, you plant the seeds, you water them, and you hope for the best but press on knowing you have little control over what is reaped. Life is a lot more like the latter metaphor isn’t it?

If that’s the case, then what is it that we are cultivating? At the risk of sounding like a simpleton, I would suggest what we must cultivate is the Gospel – that good news that God took the initiative before we said we were sorry to come near to us and make clear His before-creation, all-forgiving, enduringly-patient, selfishness-wrecking, relationship-restoring, daily-mission-compelling, eternally-together love for us. He is so good and so gracious, and His message sent through His Son reminds us of our brokenness but doesn’t leave us there. He is so intentional and compassionate, and His performance trumps ours unconditionally, calling to do more than just live FOR Him but rather to live WITH Him. His love wrecks us in our self-absorption, restores us into daily love relationship, and now compels us to give away what has been given unto us.

This is what we must cultivate. Into our homes, our neighborhood, the marketplace, and our world. And we must cultivate the Gospel with the same presence and power as the One who came near to us and now resides in us, being patient when there is little result, being steadfast when there seems like there’s no growth. Why? Because we do not control the reaping. We only partake in the sowing.

Thus, the name of this blog and the focus of the posts herein. On Mondays, be looking for posts on cultivating the Gospel into our families. On Tuesdays, be looking for posts on cultivating the Gospel into our neighbors and communities. On Wednesdays, be looking for posts on cultivating the Gospel into the people of the marketplace around the cities where we live. On Thursdays, be looking for posts on cultivating the Gospel into the nations. And on Fridays, be looking for posts on cultivating for unity around the mission of the Gospel with other followers of Jesus in the community where you live.

The Sent One now sends us to plant and water and love, and when we do, we will truly live as He intended.

May we be cultivating daily.
-jason

PS _ be looking for the posts to begin next week, Dec 5th.

How important is unity among followers to the work of God happening in ur city? I would suggest that it is crucial & critical. Here’s why…

How important is unity among followers of Jesus when it comes to the work of God happening in the city where you live? I would suggest it is both crucial and critical. 

I say “crucial” because I think Jesus intended for unity among His followers to be a foundation on which love and reconciliation can be both on display as well as available for anyone and everyone to experience. I say “critical” because it seems that Jesus understood it to be a deal-breaker when it came to the Gospel being on full display for all to see who live in the community around you. And this is not just for one individual local church expression. This is for every local church expression in a city.

I am grateful that New Hope Publishers was willing to publish a new book I wrote entitled “beyond MY church.” It unpacks Jesus’ prayer from John 17 in which He prayed for the maturity of our oneness so that the world would believe in the One who was sent. It also offers practical stories of that oneness on display and suggestions as to how you can cultivate for that unity in the city where you live.

I would suggest that our prayers for “awakening” and “revival” will only be taken seriously when we take the prayer Jesus already prayed seriously. 

Lord, make us one with the Father and one with each other. Help us to think and live with that kind of selflessness and Kingdom-mindedness, so that the world will know and believe in the One who was sent. May our love for one another be more than just talk, even if it wrecks the system in which we are all comfortable here in America. And may we live sent lives unified to love our cities in hopes of seeing “on earth as it is in heaven” there.

This is certainly no “95 Theses” like Luther’s was on this day so many years ago. But I will say that it is the most ignored and yet most important issue facing the American church today. If we don’t give serious attention here, then we are not serious about the work of God happening in the cities where we live.

Lord have mercy on us for not taking Your prayer seriously. May that not be so from today forward.

Hopeful.
-jason

four very specific “NEXT STEPS” together for the @WestpointChurch family…

Yesterday in gathering, Tommy Novak led our teaching time through Acts 20:17-38. It was an encouraging and challenging time, encouraging in the sense that we all have a valuable part in serving together as His church and challenging in the sense that we all have a valuable part in serving together as His church.

The Sunday before, we were in verses 8 to 10 of Acts 19, and I shared with our church family the desire of our pastoral team and vision team as a whole to see us commit to some very practical next steps together as a church family. We shared the WESTPOINT acronym that we had come up with that is intended to be nothing more than a reminder of who we are as a church family together. May we:

be Worshippers
get Equipped
live Sent
grow Together
POINT neighbors and nations to Jesus

Two verses stood out to me these last two Sundays. One from Acts 19 and one from Acts 20.

10 And this went on for two years, so that all the inhabitants of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the message about the Lord.
(Acts 19:10, HCSB)

24 But that matters little. What matters most to me is to finish what God started: the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God.
(Acts 20:24, the Message)

It seems to me that if we desire to see the first we must be committed to the second.

Remember, Paul did not say in verse 24 of Acts 20 that there was one specific way that he let everyone he met “know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God.” And why? Because there are many different ways, but all of them are compelled by the Gospel of a God who came near because He so loved the world. The “how” may be via long-term, loving relationship or via immediate-prompted, loving conversation, and in either case notice the central modifier to be love.

Do you want to see all the inhabitants of West Orange County hear the message of the Lord? Are you willing to let everyone you meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God? The former won’t happen without the latter. And none of it will happen, at least as I would suggest to you, without two very, very important factors.

One, a love relationship with Jesus lived out in surrender and obedience as we listen and respond to the living presence of the Holy Spirit in the everyday rhythms of our lives. And two, loving relationship with one another as a church family. We cannot live sent apart from the One sent to us. And we cannot live on “mission TO” without living on “mission TOGETHER.”

So, how does your pastoral team and vision team propose that we do that? It’s actually very simple, but it actually may cause a bit of re-prioritizing and reorienting for all of us. Much like Acts 2:42 declares, we must take seriously our communication with God (prayer), our immersion into and obedience to the Scriptures (the Apostles’ teachings), our love for one another through thick and thin (fellowship), and our life together unified around the Gospel message and Gospel mission (the breaking of bread together). Here’s specifically how we propose to live this out together:

:: take the initiative to connect with 3 to 5 families within the Westpoint family to be family with, committing to passionately pray for one another and to deeply love each other through thick and thin.[you may already be walking closely with several families. that's great! if you are but you are not walking with a "sent" purpose, would you be willing to be more purposeful and intentional in your friendships?]

:: study the Scriptures together as a group of families for more than just greater Biblical knowledge, but rather in order to simply ask the question, “If this is true, how must we individually and together surrender to the Holy Spirit that adjustments might be made in our lives based upon the teachings of this Scripture?”

:: encourage each other and hold each other accountable to engage the lost in the pathways of our lives, praying for the lost together, being patient in the long-term of the friendship and journey, and proactively loving them first and caring for them in specific ways, welcoming them into relationship with us like they are family, too.

:: then, let’s come together as a “BIG Family” frequently to celebrate what God is doing and to learn from each other as we gather on Sundays, as we connect during “together” events, and as several SENT Groups connect for meals and celebrations and to serve together.

This is not “in addition” to all the other church stuff we are doing. This is it. This is being the church together and living sent daily. This is loving each other walking in deep fellowship together through thick and thin. Is this what Jesus intended? Will we see “on earth as it is in heaven” if we reorient our understanding of church and our lives on mission to this simple of a commitment? Will every inhabitant of West Orange County hear the message of the Lord as a result?

Let’s try it and see.

Meantime, be praying and PLEASE COME NEXT SUNDAY MORNING IF YOU WANT TO Q & A ABOUT THIS. We will take the teaching time to dialogue further about this, to pray together, and to leave together to live sent.

Jen and I love you all so much and are so grateful for this very sobering but exciting journey together as His church.
-jason

RANTING & RAVING: are we ready for what may come when we pray “Lord, please show us Your glory”? (part 4)

[ please go back and read the previous three posts for parts one, two, and three ]

The third death I would suggest that may need to precede the resurrection power coming on display in our lives and our eyes seeing the glory of our Lord is this – THE DEATH OF “GOOD ENOUGH.”

There are three common mis-conceptions in American church culture that I would suggest are tombs, if you will, holding the stinch of “I am good enough” and “I am better than you” thinking.

The first is the lie of “self-esteem.” It is a lie that American culture has taught us through our educational norms. It is a fundamental element of the “American Dream.” But it is antithetical to the Gospel. I have nothing of myself worth esteeming. If I focus my eyes on the measuring stick of “who I am,” then I will never become more than who I am and can make myself to be. If I, however, focus my eyes on the measuring stick of “Whose I am,” then I can be made to be all that I was intended to be by the One who makes me who I am in Him. I am His. My worth comes from no other source. My identity must only be tied to Him. Not my performance, but His performance. Not my accomplishment, but His.

Self-esteem is a tomb from which God-esteem must be raised, or else the stinch of “good enough” will remain.

The second misconception is that thinking that declares that people are not ready to go and make disciples and are not ready to see His glory until they cross a “readiness line.” It is this make-believe place we have conjured up that fits man-made religiosity but does not fit at all in Christ-Centered relationship. Jesus called the disciples and sent them and then coached them as He did life with them. Jesus healed the demoniac and then sent him back home to his family to tell them the story of the new life He’d been given. Jesus made the woman at the well secure in His love rather than insecure in her co-dependence on her alleged lovers and then sent her back into town to tell the story of the One who told her who she really was. Being a “disciple” is not defined by what I have learned, but rather by being a learner. Living FOR God is not His intent. Living WITH Him is. Being good for Him is not good enough. Going with Him, however, I get to live on mission as I learn and live His ways. He makes me ready more and more, day after day.

The “readiness line” mentality is a tomb from which relationally learning must be raised, or else the stinch of “good enough” will remain.

The third misconception that needs to be surrendered is that misconception that one person is a “strong Christian” while another is not. Being a “strong Christian” is antithetical to the Gospel. It pretends that grace does the saving but I myself do the growing. It proclaims that someone is better at this Jesus stuff than someone else. And Paul debunks this thinking when He declares in so many of His letters that the cross has placed us on level ground with no “better than you” distinction.

The thinking that someone is better at following Jesus or more spiritual than someone else is a tomb from which “saved AND sanctified by grace alone” must be raised, or else the stinch of “good enough” will remain.

“Good enough” is not good enough. Justifying by comparison is declared as not what God desires by Jesus Himself (Luke 18). Jesus not only did not wait for us to say we were sorry for our sins to come and die for our sins, He also did not wait for us to better ourselves. And He did not ask us to follow Him so that we could impress Him along the way. The Gospel makes it very clear. God came near in Christ loving us while we were still sinners, and the good news is that He wants to display His glory and resurrection in our lives as we walk near with the One who came near to us, as we love the One who loved us first.

Could it be the case that our own quest to be good is what is misdirecting us down a path where we will not see His glory? Could it be that you are not in the game of making disciples because you don’t think you are good enough to do so?

Do you believe that so loved the world that He gave His only Son?

Then keep believing it. And believe in His goodness. And believe you are now in Christ and even on your worst day, as John Lynch has said, you are still YOU IN CHRIST. He is making You who He wants you to be. He has declared you worth dying for. He is inviting you on mission WITH Him.

Go. Get in the game. 

“Everybody plays.”

Watch the 2011 LIVE SENT Conversation (September 9th and 10th) on “UStream” by CLICKING HERE. Participate in the “twitter conversation” by CLICKING HERE.

RANTING & RAVING: are we ready for what may come when we pray “Lord, please show us Your glory”? (part 3)

[ please go back and read the previous two posts for parts one and two ]

Diving right in – the next “death” that I would suggest precedes the Lord showing His glory and His resurrection power is the death of “philosophy only.”

James challenges us to not just be hearers of the Word but doers also. I would suggest that we in the American church, myself included, also ought to not just be talkers of the Word, either. We speak in theoretical and philosophical terms well. Missional. Gospel. Kingdom. Worship. Disciples. But are we actually doing it?

Talk must die and be raised into walk. Let me give a few examples.

We talk a good game about how “everybody plays” and how we must equip people to make disciples. But I fear that little is ACTUALLY done to equip for disciple-making. What are you actually doing to equip followers of Jesus to make disciples? More than just a class in a classroom? Our King did more than that. He got in the thick of the rhythms of the everyday and showed people how the rhythms of the Kingdom of Heaven became “on earth as it is in heaven.” Are you doing that? With people? Who are actually learning and living the ways of Jesus with lost people? If not, talking that game needs to die and be raised to actually do what Jesus intended.

We talk a good game about not wanting to have such a clergy-centered focus. Yet, we don’t actually live this way. The protestant church in America is more clergy-centered than ever, and we wonder why there is not a disciple-making movement in the west. If you are “clergy” (I prefer the word “equipper personally), what kind of energy are you putting into resourcing followers of Jesus to be making disciples among their family, their neighbors, their marketplace, and their world? Or are you just trying to motivate them to plug into your ideas and vision for the church? If you are “laity” (I prefer the word “saint” or “follower” or “one who now carries the keys to the Kingdom and is fully empowered to do all that God desires to be done by His people on this earth), are you just living FOR God or living WITH Him? Are you trying to attain to personal spiritual goodness or living on mission to share the goodness of God with others? May we die to clergy-centered focus and live as the priests and kings and sent ones that His death and resurrection have transformed us to become. This will require something very specific – a growing security in the “clergy” to let go of control of what isn’t their church in the first place AND a growing security in the “laity” to live as though they are a valuable part of the mission of God in the daily.

We talk a good game about wanting to really see those who are lost to find new life in Christ. But are we actually engaging the lost of our communities, coming near to them in love and friendship the way God Himself came near to us as Emmanuel, in hopes that they would see “family” lived out and desire to believe and be called one of the “children of God” along with us? Do you have lost friends who consider you more than just that “church friend?”

We talk a good game about “church” not being about Sunday morning only, and yet how much of our energy and attention and criticism and “choosing of a church” is centered upon the Sunday morning experience?

We talk a good game about our willingness to die for the sake of the glory and the mission of Jesus, but how many of us will go home tonight with little to no thought of the lostness of our cities?

We talk a good game about living sent lives wherever God would lead, unless that meant leaving the south or leaving our comforts or leaving our high-paying jobs.

We need to repent. I need to repent.

Lord, wreck me to quit talking and to be walking with You.

Last installment tomorrow and then some thoughts and insights from the 2011 LIVE SENT Conversation

RANTING & RAVING: are we ready for what may come when we pray “Lord, please show us Your glory”? (part 2)

In yesterday’s post, I suggested that death is a precursor to resurrection, which is an obvious statement. But the implications are important for our daily.

We pray prayers like “Lord, show us Your glory,” but are we ready for what may come as a result?

When we desperately desire to see the glory of God, when we then pray for His glory to be on display and His work to come alive in our lives and in our cities, then we must be aware that there will be death and/or darkness always before there will be the glorious, miraculous, resurrection-power demonstrated.

New life comes where there was no life before. That is the Gospel on display. That is the presence of the glory of God. 

I suggested yesterday that I was not and likely we all are not ready for the “death” that would precede the resurrection on display when God shows His glory here in this death-plagued world. One of those “deaths” that we are not ready for is the death of “me first.” 

In order for His resurrection power to come on display in my life and in my city, I need to confess the deadly selfishness I am infected with, and I need to surrender the me-first mentality with which I live.

This is especially true in the context of the church alive as Jesus intended. If everyone is to be making disciples, if there will actually be an environment in which “everybody plays,” then the me-first mindset must go. I cannot as an equipper, for instance, actually equip and send His church if I am consumed with ME being seen as worthy and ME being given credit and ME being regarded as a good leader and MY dream being put into motion by everyone plugging into MY system for the success of MY vision.

Love is living (after dying to self) for the sake of what others are becoming rather than for the sake of what I am becoming. 

His glory will come among us when His Spirit picks up our surrendered egos and reshapes them to be our secure selves. Secure only because of Whose we are, not who we are. Not ME. Him. And my neighbor. And the nations.

Lord, please show us Your glory in our lives and in our city. Please help us to die to self.

Will you surrender ME?. The death of “ME” provides Jesus a tomb from which to raise His intended “us” as His church, as His people. His glory on display among a people who love as He loved, selflessly and sacrificially, the interests of others above our own.

Tune in tomorrow for another suggested “death” that we may be afraid of and that may be hindering His glory to be on display in our lives and in our cities…

RANTING & RAVING: are we ready for what may come when we pray “Lord, please show us Your glory”?

The “RANTING & RAVING” series continues this week with a short post on a not so short-answer question. It comes in light of the fact that the 2011 LIVE SENT Conversation is this Friday and Saturday with a theme of “Everybody Plays.” The meaning of this theme is that every follower of Jesus is valuable in the mission of God lived out daily, every follower should be equipped to make disciples among neighbors and nations, and then every follower should actually do that for which they have been equipped.

People often pray a prayer in accordance to this kind of all-of-us-together movement of God’s people.

“Lord, please show us Your glory.”

We pray this prayer in hopes that God will do something amazing among us that will then cause “everybody to play” with Him and with one another.

However, that prayer is one that many individuals prayed in the Scriptures, a prayer that God answered yes for a few but no for most. But God told us how to bring the “yes” answer to the prayer. The problem is that it wasn’t through some individualistic desire to see God for who He really is. It is instead through His church being salt and light together (Matthew 5:13-16), through His people growing in the maturity of unity (John 17:18-23), and through His church unifying around giving themselves away together in their daily rhythms (Ephesians 4).

Rather than praying that prayer, maybe we should begin to live WITH that glorious God His mission together in unity as His followers following One Spirit’s lead every day. Maybe if we do this, we will see His glory. Maybe He will show Himself through unconditional love demonstrated via the selfless unity of otherwise self-abrobed people.

Here’s the question I am pondering, though:

<< But are we ready for the implications of what may come as a result of this prayer and commitment, if we really lived out what Jesus intended for His church? >>

I am not sure I am. I am not sure we are.

Why would I say that?

Because God throughout Scripture shows His glory via “a way where there seems to be no way” in the Old Testament and via “resurrection” (aka a way where there seems to be no way) in the New Testament. And because in order for resurrection power to be put on display, there must be DEATH present.

This is what scares us.

The death of what?

Tune in over the next three days to read and then share your thoughts about what I would suggest must die in order for His glorious, resurrection power to be put on display.

Much love.
-jason

RANTING & RAVING: Just a rave this time about @GungorMusic & their unique, engaging, disturbing, glorious music. NEW RELEASE 9-20-11.

I first heard Gungor at a conference in Atlanta. They sang five songs in a row, if I recall correctly. Their album was downloaded onto my phone by the end of the third song. It was one of the most engaging, worshipful, haunting, beautiful musical experiences I have ever had.

When I saw this EPK about their upcoming release “Ghosts Upon the Earth,” I was eager to watch it and share it. So, here you go.

You can learn more about Gungor at GungorMusic.com.

RANTING & RAVING: so, who should I vote for in 2012? Why Pres. Obama? Why one of the Republicans? Anybody else? I am very curious if you are willing to share…

Political blogging and soap-boxing is not normally my thing.

I have to admit, though, that I have been a lot more opinionated as of late. More than ever before, the purpose and influence of government has become important to me. And it sure seems to me more than ever before that the office of the President has influence on the everyday of our lives in this country.

Up front, let me say, this is no bash on Pres. Obama. Although I registered as a Republican when I was 18 and just have not changed the registration, I have voted more like an independent over the years. So, this is a sincere call out to anyone willing to share their opinions on who to vote for in 2012 and why.

Please follow these stipulations, though:

  • base your reasoning on what the candidate you are supporting believes and will do, not on what an opponent has done or not done.
  • give as honest and open an opinion as you can. Don’t play party politics here. Understand that party ties are becoming less and less important as people are becoming less and less confident in the current structure in DC.
  • please share at least one insight into the proven leadership of the candidate, the displayed character of the candidate, the counselors whom he or she listens to and why that strengthens that candidate, and a specific way that the candidate will help to keep us safe, secure, and economically strong.
  • please tell me what this candidate plans to do to balance the federal budget, if he or she has a plan to do so.

I am curious to see if anyone even comments. And if they do, I am eager to read them and interact. And trust me, over the course of all that goes on between now and November 2012, I assure you that I will be asking for more and more opinion on this issue as well as giving some of my own.

This political blogging could be fun :)

RANTING & RAVING: Here’s a brief rant for those against big families and a rave to declare my gratefulness for mine!!!

I don’t get it. We only have FIVE kids. We have not been called by TLC. Not yet, at least. And yet my wife and I both get those comments when we are out and about with our kids.

“Wow! You got your hands full.”

“So, you think five is enough?”

“You aren’t gonna have anymore, are you?”

To the first comment, we have tried to reply with something like, “And our hearts are full, too.” At least when we don’t think it is too much of a smart-aleck response. To the second comment, we confess there are some days we end the day with a sigh and a YES, but there are many days we end the day wondering how fun it would be to have more. To the third comment, the answer is we don’t know. While we certainly have a part in that, and a fun one at that, we are just praying for wisdom and provision as God sees fit.

For all of you who make comments, we actually don’t mind them. That much. We would just encourage you not to knock it until you’ve tried it :)

The rave in this post is simple – I AM SO GRATEFUL FOR MY FAMILY!!! My beautiful bride and my wonderful five kids are such a blessing, encouraging and exhorting and sharpening and making me smile every day.

Check out this video that my brother’s wife put together of some time that we and our five and they and their five were able to vacation together in early August. Sweet stuff.

http://vimeo.com/27320006

 

For now, we will have to wait and see when Jason and Jen Plus Ten will air. Seriously, your prayers more than your criticism would be appreciated. And more than anything, any wisdom you wanna share with us as to how to love these five more deeply and to shepherd their hearts with grace.
-jason

RANTING & RAVING: so grateful for 13 yrs with my bride. Here’s some lists, quotes, & videos to encourage u along in marriage.

My wife and I celebrated 13 years married this past Monday. I meant to write and post this note the next day. Been one of those weeks catching up from being out the week before and busy with the now.

SO, without further adieu, and in celebration of 2 becoming 1, here are three sets of “twos” that I hope will encourage you in your own marriage (that’s if you’re married, of course).

First, two lists to inspire you in your marriage from FamilyLife:

Next, two quotes to consider as you grow in your marriage:

“It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”
~Bonhoeffer

 

“Human relationships easily become possessive. Our hearts so much desire to be loved that we are inclined to cling to the person who offers us love, affection, friendship, care, or support. Once we have seen or felt a hint of love, we want more of it. That explains why lovers so often bicker with each other. Lovers’ quarrels are quarrels between people who want more of each other than they are able or willing to give.

It is very hard for love not to become possessive because our hearts look for perfect love and no human being is capable of that. Only God can offer perfect love. Therefore, the art of loving includes the art of giving one another space. When we invade one another’s space and do not allow the other to be his or her own free person, we cause great suffering in our relationships. But when we give another space to move and share our gifts, true intimacy becomes possible.”
~Henri Nouwen

 Finally, two videos to encourage you in your marriage: 

An Andrew Peterson song called “Dancing in the Minefields.” The key line in this one – “that’s what the promise is for.” Enjoy.

And a Civil Wars song entitled “Poison and Wine” that highlights the diverse unity that comes between a husband and wife all the while confessing that “I don’t love you [like I should], but I always will [love you].” Gripping tune.

 

And there you go. A rant to challenge you to endure, because marriage is definitely hard but so very worth it. And a rave for my beautiful wife who has journeyed with me now these 13 years since she became my bride up many a tall hill and down into many a low valley, and yet she continued to look at me as though I am her man and she would go with me anywhere.

I love you, Jen.

RANTING & RAVING Series: “Maybe we should ask @DaveRamsey to be President or Czar or CFO of the USA (& a few other thoughts).”

My wife and I went to Glacier National Park for our honeymoon exactly 13 years ago this next week. It was amazing. It was incredible. It was romantic. It was breath-taking. It was paid in full with a credit card.

I didn’t know any better. I just knew I wanted to take my bride on an adventurous getaway to one of the most majestic locales on the face of this now-there-are-tons-of-countries-threatening-to-go-bankrupt planet. And so I went all out. All out in debt that is.

Instead of going all out to save for our honeymoon the year prior, during which I made an ample amount of money, I went all out on the charge card. I could have at least saved enough that we could have driven three towns over and stayed in the honeymoon suite at the Super 8. But seriously, I actually could have saved enough to take her to Glacier, but instead I gave her the gift that keeps on taking – a $4000 debt on our wedding day!!!

And she loved me for it.

Ludicrous isn’t it?

Now you might say, “No, no, no. It is not ludicrous. You only get to honeymoon once. And you paid it back right?”

It is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. And the answer is yes. Within a year we had it paid off and have since tried to live credit-card and debt free (except for our mortgage).

Dave Ramsey would be so proud of us (we actually really dig Dave and his awesome co-worker Bill Hampton).

So why doesn’t this work for the US Government?

Simple. Because they don’t have a plan to quit spending what they don’t have while paying off what they borrowed.

We did. That’s why it worked. They don’t. That’s why the S&P today dropped the US’s credit rating from AAA to AA for the first time in history.

Come on guys in Washington. You are smart leaders. I am not going to be ugly and critical of you in this post. I am simply suggesting a very common sense plan, regardless of your political philosophy or party-line:

  1. commit to operate within the means of what you take in from taxes paid
  2. create a tax system that is simple and fair and easy and prosperous without crushing entrepreneurialism in the process
  3. make a plan to then actually operate with those means including a plan to pay off the debt with those funds in a reasonable amount of time, like 10 to 15 years
  4. pass a law that says any President or Congress or Senate that leads us to anything ever again above $10,287.62 of debt will be impeached

Some might say, “You are so naive Jason. That won’t work. The government is not your household budget.”

I get that. I assure you I do. But the government is also not outside the basic budgetary rules that every living human must abide by or face dire consequences if they do not. If I had not learned that it’s not good to spend what you don’t have just because you have credit available to use, then it most likely would have wrecked my marriage and family financially.

And so we are facing dire consequences – wreckage financially.

You might also say, “It’s not that simple Jase. What do you cut? It affects people you know!”

I get that. I have many friends in executive leadership roles who, over the last three years, have had to set difficult spending priorities that have forced some very hard cuts that have affected real and hurting people. They had the guts to do it, as hard as it was, some of them taking cuts and making personal sacrifices. And it’s time for our elected representatives at the local, state, and national level to have the guts to do the same, even if it costs them reelection.

Listen. This isn’t about being insensitive to anyone who needs help, and it’s certainly not about disliking President Obama. I honestly get frustrated with the “Christian Conservatives” who degrade as though some idiot lunatic.

Politicians need a lesson in unity. It’s not unanimity. That’s what makes the USA great. We can be unified even though we often disagree because the cause of living as we thought our Maker intended us to live as a free and united people is worth coming together for.

No, this is not a bash Pres. Obama or Pres. Bush or Pres. Clinton post.

But I would suggest that the move to allow the Federal Government to encourage / elbow in the back banks to lend for mortgages on homes to people who couldn’t afford them was a bad idea (which happened under Pres. Clinton). And I would suggest that cutting taxes without a plan for a balanced budget was a bad idea (which happened under Pres. Bush). And I would suggest that continuing to borrow and borrow and borrow and borrow without changing spending habits or creating pay-back intentions, which is happening under Pres. Obama, is a bad idea.

The government leaders need to take the 13-week Financial Peace University course from Dave Ramsey. Then there would be hope for a balanced budget one day.

And it would be hard. On all of us. Probably for a long time.

But it must be done.

Like Dave says, “You have to live today like no one else in order to one day live like no one else.”

Or something like that.

And we could all celebrate at Glacier National Park in 2025 and have a credit-card / $14-Trillion-Debt-is-gone-party!!! There’s a cafe there called Cafe Max with some amazing Tomato Bisque Soup that I would give anything to taste again. I bet Dave Ramsey would like it.

 

“If the US Government was a family, they would be making $58,000 a year, they spend $75,000 a year, & are $327,000 in credit card debt. They are currently proposing BIG spending cuts to reduce their spending to $72,000 a year. These are the actual proportions of the federal budget & debt, reduced to a level that we can understand.” ~Dave Ramsey

RANTING and RAVING: the series continues with a short video of contemporary poet @TaylorMali challenging us all to rant and rave with confidence and conviction.

Here’s a very pointed challenge from teacher, teacher-advocate, poet, and creative, concise, challenging expressionist Taylor Mali.

We should probably,like, believe in what we say we believe in enough to, like, speak of it with confidence and assertion, ya know? And don’t forget that loving one another includes speaking truth to one another, with kindness of course.

RANTING and RAVING – about Casey Anthony (including a few thoughts from a lawyer friend of mine)

Regardless whether you are that person who even still has yet to hear about the Central Florida Mom whose been on trial for the alleged murder of her daughter who mysteriously died a few years ago or whether you are that person who bought a plane ticket to fly down to Orlando who then acquired a ticket to actually sit in the courtroom during what has become the 21st Century’s “OJ” trial scenario, it is no wonder that this trial has become international news. People actually do seem to care or at least turn a head when an irresponsible mother neglects her daughter leaving her in a drug-induced slumber in the back seat of her car while she parties her life away (allegedly).

Well, I was not wrapped up in this case by any means. Going sometimes weeks at a time without even stopping to pay attention to the latest news report in the saga. But when the verdict was read, my attention was given. Partly because I stopped into a local business for their specific services and was asked to wait a few minutes while all the employees huddled around a computer screen to watch the verdict. Partly because I was curious.

One of my friends who is a lawyer had kept close eye on the case. Probably because he was interested. Mostly because he is a learner, learning from others in his field. Based on my conversations with him, I was not surprised that Casey was acquitted of “Murder 1.” I was, however, surprised that she was acquitted of abuse and neglect.

I asked my lawyer friend for his reaction. I asked him 7 questions. Here are his responses:

1. can you describe your feelings and immediate thoughts when you heard the Casey Anthony verdict read?

I was surprised, but not shocked and also disappointed.  I believe there was enough evidence to support at least a conviction of manslaughter.

2. was the verdict what you expected, and if not what did you expect?

It was not what I expected, but I have been practicing law long enough to know that you never know what a jury will do.

3. what could the prosecution have done differently in presenting this case? 

Its hard to second guess the prosecution.  Technically they may have over charged the case, but the evidence was what it was and listening to the alternate juror today, they wanted a cause of death.  That’s never going to come out.

4. what do you think the sentencing will be, and does her already-served jail time count in her sentencing? 

Because the four remaining counts are misdemeanors, I don’t think she will get much more if any time. She probably qualifies for some credit at least for time served.

5. what do you expect the reaction of Central Floridians to be over the coming days?

I think Central Floridians, and folks around the country are disappointed.  They feel like justice has not been served and that Casey got away with murder.

6. as a follower of Jesus yourself, how would  you suggest that the church of Central Florida respond to the verdict, to Casey, and to her family?

 I tell people all the time, our system is not perfect, it can’t be.  We have to look to the Lord for justice, not the system.  The judicial system is good, the best in the world, but that can’t be where we look for justice and fairness.

7. how would you suggest that the church of Central Florida respond around water coolers and on office breaks and in bars and over meals as this verdict is being vented about?

I think everyone needs to move on.  The process did what the process does, and that’s it.  Ultimate judgment is not ours, but the Lord’s.

There you have it.

The sentencing came down today. One year for each of the four counts of providing false evidence along with what will probably be a hefty fine. Casey has already served nearly three years in jail. That will count toward the four she must now serve. So, only about a year and a half before she can make public appearances for book signings and movie deals and Casey Anthony bobble-head dolls.

I digress. Seriously though, this is a very serious case. Anytime a child’s life is lost, and especially when it is taken (allegedly), attention is deserved.

Three questions:

:: does anyone who knows Casey know whether she is learning and living the ways of Jesus with someone now? If not, I pray that she will. Not the “North American Go-to-Church and Modify-Behavior” version of Christianity. No. Walking WITH Jesus. Not just living FOR Him. I pray she will be wrecked and restored by the Good News of a God who graciously and loving came near and now wants to walk near with each of us.

:: why has the international media paid such close attention to the case of a negligent mother whose daughter’s life was lost, and yet they pay little attention to the millions whose lives are taken by abortion? This question was posed by a friend of mine. A well-meaning friend, who, like me is not trying to be all holier-than-thou here. I understand that the plight of moms who face the abortion choice is not as simple as some who stand against abortion make it out to be. However, many cases where babies are aborted occur because of a would-have-been mother neglecting a more-than-a-fetus child conceived during a careless, short-lived, indulgent experience. That is worthy of media attention, too.

:: what would Jesus do? Ok. I admit. I went cheesy on this last question. But read me out here. Jesus wouldn’t just show up as a spiteful protester outside the Casey home or a passionate picketer outside of an abortion clinic. He would offer His presence, like He has to all of us, but not in those ways, in my opinion. He would love and befriend.

He loves Casey and every other young mom, including those who labor during sleepless nights to care for a little one as well as those who party late into the night neglecting the care of the little ones given to them as well as those who look for a way out of both scenarios. That’s the Gospel. No one gets left out of this Good News of a God coming near in spite of our selfishness and in the fullness of His love.

May we as His followers love them, too. May we become more attentive to living out the presence of the Gospel than we are about giving our attention to a verdict read about Casey Anthony and a verdict judgmentally passed upon other young mothers who are expected to make “holy” choices without the loving presence of a Holy God through the gracious life of a loving friend.

Thoughts?

RANTING and RAVING about freedom – it’s not about being able to do whatever you want.

Here goes on a new blog series that will probably last for July. Maybe a little into August. We will see. I am not convinced that any of our rantings and ravings are necessary. I am almost certain very few of them are even worth reading. Maybe it’s more therapeutic for me.

Regardless, what better day than July 4th to kick off a “ranting and raving” blog series, since today we celebrate the day when those early American ranters and ravers penned us into existence as a country. And why?

For freedom – to do whatever we want, right? I don’t think so.

Freedom is rooted in intention, not impulsion. 

Whether you believe the teachings of Jesus or not, it doesn’t take much intelligence to observe the eventual demise left behind by selfish ambition. Thus, to act day after day only on selfish impulse, excusing self-absorption with the claim of personal freedom, eating and drinking and being merry no matter the effects, never-minding the lives of others, is not worth it. I say it’s “not worth it,” because we claim personal freedom as a matter of worth, at least to self, but it is not worth it either to self or to this beautiful, ugly, majestic, chaotic sea of humanity.

To live as though freedom ensures my opportunity to act on impulsion is to live a life without any worth bigger than myself. And it is certainly not freedom when my impulsive living in turn enslaves others, whether figuratively or literally.

No. Freedom is not rooted in impulsion. Rather, it is rooted in intention. 

Here’s the rub. Some do not believe God made them. But that percentage of humanity is actually smaller than the attention they receive might allow us to believe. So, let’s go with that presupposition together.

GOD MADE US.

Therefore, wouldn’t it make sense that the maker of us all would know best how we live? Would know our optimum function? Would understand our worth and when our lives are lived full of worth?

If so, then doesn’t it makes sense that we would be truly free when we were unencumbered to live fully as God intended us to live?

Thus, the real meaning of Jesus’ words in John 8 come alive:

36 “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. [John 8:36, NASB]

We are free indeed when we live in the way of the One who made us and stand together in the grace of the One who saved us from ourselves. We find freedom when we listen to and love and thus obey that very One from Whom we wandered trying to live fully free lives based on personal impulsion only to find ourselves enslaved to our own impulsiveness and the evil (unintended) activity that followed.

Freedom.

Maybe that’s what drove those early Americans – not a motivation to do whatever they wanted to do but rather to be all that they were intended to be.

I don’t know. I was not there in those riveting conversations around that signing table that established what many still believe to be the best country in which to live in all the earth.

Regardless of your opinion of America, may you at least ask the One who made you what His intentions for you were, respond accordingly to His reply, and then live forgiven and grateful and free in His ways.

HAPPY 4th of July!!! Grateful for a free country and a freedom-giving Maker

For what it’s worth, here’s are the lyrics to a great song about freedom by Josh Garrels. I would suggest that he is challenging us here to actually resist the temptation to live as though personally a king, doing whatever we want, and rather live recognizing Who is King, and find freedom in the love and overcoming. Enjoy…

I was born into a system constructed for failure 
It’s a sinking ship manned by drunken sailors 
An escape artist behind the bars of a jailor 
An asthmatic attack when we forgot the inhaler 
If the shoe doesn’t fit what good is a tailor 
In the midst of a crisis please cancel the gala 
Without a symphony there’s no need for a prelude 
To foreshadow what’s to come. 

See the secret committees, commence with their meetings 
To make red tape in response to simple questions 
Questions threaten the perception of the beneficial systems 
A pyramid scheme with its cogs and its pistons 
Mechanization of men, making more and more 
Live in a miserable exhistance 
How can so few, claim so many victims
And this begs the question 

My rest is a weapon against the oppression 
Of mans obsession to control things 
Look at the long line of make believe kings 
The lord of the flies wants you to kiss his ring 
Follow new rules with invisible strings 
And become a puppet in the diabolical scheme 
How do good men become part of the regime 
They don’t believe in resistance. 
Hold fast like an anchor in the storm 
We will not be moved 

Lesson number one, overcome 
Every fear of regret and confusion 
It’s all illusion, delusion 
Sent to disconnect the holy fusion 
Of spirit and the flesh 

Every mortal breath, is meant to bring forth fire 
But only when the fear of death, gets consumed 
On the funeral pier 
So let the flames rise higher 
Let every man be considered a liar 
If he doubts the goodness and faithfulness of God 

Itching ears will compulsively nod in approval 
When unbelief is taught in all our temples and schools 
But God can restrain the madness of a fool 
He can bring His truth through the mouth of a mule 
You can move an mountain without any tools 

It just takes the faith of a little seed 
to make a way through what might seem to be 
Impossibility

And the ability will match the occasion 
The outcome will defy explanation 
The liberation will not be televised 
When it arrives like lightning in the skies 

Hold fast like an anchor in the storm 
For your love, we will rise and overcome 
Through the fire 

Hold fast my people and sing 
Through peace and through suffering 
All for the joy that it brings, to be free 
It’s gonna cost us everything 
To follow one Lord and King 
True love endure everything 
To be free 

Hold fast, like an anchor in the storm 
We will not be moved