devo 2, week 2 of the GIVE UP series

There is much confusion, especially among those of affluence in the church of western culture, with regard to Luke 18:24–30. Check this out:

24 Seeing his reaction, Jesus said, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who have it all to enter God’s kingdom? 25 I’d say it’s easier to thread a camel through a needle’s eye than get a rich person into God’s kingdom.” 26 “Then who has any chance at all?” the others asked. 27 “No chance at all,” Jesus said, “if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.” 28 Peter tried to regain some initiative: “We left everything we owned and followed you, didn’t we?” 29 “Yes,” said Jesus, “and you won’t regret it. No one who has sacrificed home, spouse, brothers and sisters, parents, children—whatever—30 will lose out. It will all come back multiplied many times over in your lifetime. And then the bonus of eternal life!”

The number one question I have been asked, even before we taught on this Luke 18 interchange between the rich community leader and Jesus, is – DOES THIS MEAN I HAVE TO BE POOR? It is interesting to me. I have asked the same question. I admit that, just for full disclosure. And then I wonder. Doesn’t it mean something that my mind and heart are going there after reading such a teaching from Jesus?

Here’s what I mean. If when I read that teaching from Luke 18, I then wonder about riches, isn’t that a hint to me that maybe I value my stuff and my comfort a bit more than I am willing to give it all up to follow Jesus? I am not suggesting we have to be poor. Let me come back to that in a moment.

Remember why the rich community leader came to Jesus in the 1st place? Jesus told a story before his interaction with this rich guy. It was about the self-righteous, arrogant religious leader’s prayer in contrast with the much-despised, but on-his-face-in-prayer tax collector. Jesus turned over their status quo by declaring that the tax man left the Temple “justified” after begging God for mercy and grace, as opposed to the religious leader who came in thinking he was justified already.

Then a strong statement from Jesus that again challenged the status quo. Kids were viewed as somewhat of a distraction to all the grown-up stuff that needed mature attention. Jesus declared, though:

16 Jesus called them back. “Let these children alone. Don’t get between them and me. These children are the kingdom’s pride and joy. 17 Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.”

Then the question from the rich official.

Maybe he had been listening when Jesus declared the tax man justified. Maybe he had been cringing when the babies were being coddled by the Rabbi, or when the toddlers were piling on top of Jesus, wrestling him to the ground. And his heart was pricked. Prompted. Convicted that maybe all of his “goodness” was not humble or simple enough.

So he asked his question, calling Jesus good, wanting to be counted among the good, too. See devo 1 from this week to read more on this thought. But here’s the deal – the rich community leader was counting himself as “good enough” because of what he had done. He was defining his worth by what he owned. The problem was, though, what he owned began to own him. He got too comfortable in his comforts and too secure in his riches. And Jesus knew it. Saw right through his insecure effort to feel justified and worth getting into the Kingdom of God, and called him on it.

Thus, verses 24–30.

Back to that earlier question. So, do I have to be poor? Similar, at least in interest and motive to the rich community leader’s question, isn’t it? Indicative of what may consume and concern us the most? I am afraid we have, afraid that I have, forgotten something.

So I ask, “Does this mean I have to be poor?” Aren’t I forgetting something? I AM POOR. I HAVE BEEN POOR. Poor in spirit. Desperate for God. In great, impoverished need of His grace and mercy. Intended to be in rich relationship with Him, not just have riches.

This is the real issue of this passage, at least based on the context. If we think we are justified by, made worth by, seen as righteous because of, declared good enough because of anything on our own, then we are forgetting our poverty. Ignoring our desperation.

The Scriptures describe our “best efforts” and self-righteousness as filthy rags compared to God. We are poor already. Eating of the trash piles of our man-made efforts at godliness and our self-centered achievements, when we MUST remember that God came near because of our impoverished state to offer a “rich relationship with God” (Luke 12:21, NLT).

I am not trying to water this down. If your stuff owns you, then that is a problem. If you are defining your worth by what you have in your bank account or the accolades on your resume, then that is a problem. If you are comfortable in your comforts and careless about a world that still has 4.5 billion people lost along with 26,000 kids dying daily due to hunger, sickness, and brutality, then that is a problem. Most of all, if you are holding onto anything more dearly than the love of Christ and walking in love with Him (which spills over into deep love and compassion and concern for others), then that is a problem.

The problem is that we want the stuff and the reward, but not the commitment and the sacrifice. The rich community leader wanted to share in eternal life, but did he really want to follow the maker of eternity and the giver of life? Do you want to share in the reward of eternal life or share life with the maker of eternity? Like David Crowder sings, “Everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”

The point isn’t to be poor. The point is to realize how poor we really are. Which causes us to take a real honest look at our own lives. Which causes us to confess our deep, deep, deep need for a loving God who came near to save us from our self-inflicted poverty. Which causes us to praise the giver of life and walk in whole-hearted love relationship with Him. Which causes us to see others not as beggars and interruptions, but as people just like me – poor, broken, in need. Which compels us to give of the love that we have been given.

The point also is that the stuff we own, if it owns us, and the way we define our worth, if it is anything other than the declaration of Christ (that we are worth dying for), then we will be distracted to forget our impoverished state and live self-absorbed lives forgetting to give love as it has been given to us.

I got this email from a friend last week. Read it over and over again if you need to. It wrecked me.

If I got rid of all my stuff or sold it and gave it away, would I say that my quality of life decreased? If I didn’t have cable, a Wii, Netflix, a new car, a pool, additional leisures, a larger house, fine dining out, etc., would my quality of life be any lower? If I lived in such a way so as to be able to befriend and walk alongside the poor and the broken, would my quality of life go down? If the answer is yes, and it was for me, then I am not defining “quality of life” like Jesus does. My quality of life is not coming from the right source – my Savior and King.  We seem to value it when a missionary moves to Africa, Peru, Dominican, etc. Why don’t we value God’s Kingdom and His mission here in America, even West Orange, enough to give up everything to follow?

Another friend said this week:

I am wrestling with this. I am wondering, should I be getting into a $40K car when I can get from A to B just fine in a $15K car and give away the difference?

There is much to consider. This may require radical change in my life. Change that only comes from the inside out as I walk in love with Christ.

Jesus said, “As I have been sent, now I am sending you” (John 20:21). His “good news” that arrived amidst our poverty, called by many “the Gospel,” must be shared as we live sent lives. We are “missionaries” into the everyday to give love into the lives of everyone we encounter or become aware of. And anything that distracts us from this mission must be given up. And any idea that this Kingdom of God stuff is just to appease my insecurities or religious desires must be laid down.

The Gospel comes alive in my daily and in my relationships and in my neighborhood and in my world when I give up my interests – my stuff, my preferences, my styles, my greed, my consumerism, my self – and embrace the selfless love and all-out sacrifice of the cross for the sake of others’ interests.

And if anything is distracting us from that mission, we MUST give it up. Sell it. Surrender it. Live like our life is not our own.

ACTION STEPS:

  • PRAY_Lord, please help me to remember that You do not define my value and worth by what I own or what I can do on my own. I cannot stand secure there. I am begging you, admitting my poverty, please Jesus redefine my understanding of value and worth. Help me to live secure and confident in the value that You are (and Jesus is enough) and in the value that You have declared over me (that I am worth dying for to You). I want to give up my interests for the sake of Your kingdom and for the sake of the interests of others. Help me to live on mission everyday, as You intended.
  • ASSESS_take a look at your life. Assess and evaluate honestly whether there are possessions or comforts that you hold more dearly than Jesus or that you might struggle to give up if asked. Think through the ways you are giving your money, your mental energy, your time. Are they all surrendered to be used in this vital “mission” Jesus calls us to daily? Do you need to give up some wants for the sake of sharing with all who have need (like the church in Acts 2)?
  • LIVE_with Jesus, not just on your own, loving like He loves everyone you meet. Live like His riches are accessible, not just limited to what you own, so that you can be generous with your life in whatever way He asks you to be. And live like your relationships with Him is the richest thing you got.

Love y’all. Wrestling with this right alongside you.

devo 1, week 2 of the GIVE UP series

Why are you following Jesus? What’s in it for you? Are you driven by the interests of your own “kingdom” or by the realization of your desperation for the love and ways of God’s Kingdom seen here on earth as it is in heaven, especially in and through your life?

In Luke 18, a wealthy community leader approached Jesus to ask him a question. He wanted to know what he had to do to “deserve” eternal life (or as translated in another way – the exact requirements in order for him to for sure share in eternal life with God). The question alone indicated one of two things:

  1. a sincere desperation for God and heart-felt desire to be near to Him
  2. a selfish desire to be counted as “godly” and a guy desperate enough to ask for acclaim in front of God and everybody

The “prefix” to the question indicated something, too. The rich official schmoozed Jesus a bit. He called Jesus “Good Teacher” in his introduction to the question. Then, he asked, “What must I do to deserve eternal life?” The thought of “deserving” eternal life, coupled with the kiss-up prefix to the question seemed to indicate a selfish interest. And Jesus picked up on it. He responded, like in so many other occasions, with a question:

19 Jesus said, “Why are you calling me good? No one is good—only God.

Wow. From the question that Jesus responds with, we get an even greater insight into the motivation and interests of this rich official. He was interested in his goodness, not in the goodness of the teacher before him nor the goodness of the God with whom he wanted to share eternal life.

I really caught that statement a few years ago, and I have struggled with it sense. It keeps causing me to ask a very strange-sounding question – IS GOD INTERESTED IN ME BEING GOOD, OR IN HIS GOODNESS BECOMING MORE AND MORE ALIVE IN AND THROUGH ME? Two very distinct things. The former has to do with my efforts, my accomplishments, my accolades, and my measurements. The latter has to do with His efforts, His accomplishments, His accolades, and His measurements.

What did Satan tempt Jesus with most? Have you ever noticed? Read back through the Gospels and you will see it. How often Jesus hinted at His coming death as the time when God would be glorified, God’s goodness known. And how often Jesus would rebuke, usually in response to Satan himself or to someone he was manipulating, anyone or anything that tried to push him to be “lifted up” before it was time. By “lifted up,” they wanted and expected Jesus to come to fame and power. Satan tempted Him in that way, too, almost like He knew that if Jesus got to the cross, the effects of his evil efforts would be overcome and life would be ultimately restored. So, Jesus was most tempted with personal goodness. Personal acclaim. Personal fame. Maybe that constant struggle is what led Him to pray so passionately in the garden:

42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

God is not interested in my personal goodness, especially as it relates to my personal performance and achievements and fame. He is interested in His goodness known by me, alive in me, and seen through me. Read Matthew 5:13–16 and John 6:29 and John 20:21. He wants us to live not for the measurement of our performance or merit we earn because of our performance. He wants us to live for His sake, not our own.

Could it be that this is especially hard to figure out in the midst of the culture of the pursuit of the American Dream? We are so consumed with our own ability and goals and efforts and achievements, are we missing God’s intention for us? David Platt said:

”The dangerous assumption we unknowingly accept in the American Dream is that our greatest asset is our own ability.”

Our own interests and pursuits, focused on giving our best to God and doing good for Him. Focused on doing “right,” with the expectation that if we do “right” (treat our wife kindly, provide well for our kids, deal in business with high ethics, and send a check to help the hungry), then God will bless our efforts. And isn’t that the American Dream? Let’s give God our best, and He will give us the best in return? Sounds like that ought to be okay. Sounds right. Right?

The problem with that assumption is that the underlying motive, the core interest, is focused on self, not on God. Along with that, we become limited in our thoughts and actions by our own ability and pursuits. We become enslaved to the quality of our performance and very often even by the goals we achieve and the stuff we acquire. We then disable ourselves from responding to God’s dreams for us and requests of us, all because we got caught up in the common default of the American church – the pursuit of the American Dream.

This is no knock on America. I am one of the most America-loving, patriotic people I know. My heart hurts for our purpose and for our troops and for freedom – all great things. But followers of Jesus must examine the teachings of the One we follow and surrender to walk in His ways, even if it means we might have to give up other status-quo, personal pursuits.

Strange as it sounds, maybe the most difficult surrender for us is the surrender of our striving to be good and being noticed by others as good. It is difficult to see that as a distraction from God’s mission, isn’t it? But if the motive of our striving is self-centered and even goes anywhere close to trying to figure out how to “deserve” eternal life, then we are misguided and are missing the point of the Cross being enough to restore us from our selfishness and sin. Our interests must be GIVEN UP so that we can take on God’s interests – His love shown, His goodness known, and His mission owned.

Paul Miller said:

The great struggle of my life isn’t trying to discern God’s will. It is trying to discern and disown my own will.

We are so often focused on wanting to figure out “God’s will” (what He wants ME to do for Him) that we are missing out on actually sharing life with Him (living with HIM, abiding in Him). Could it be that wanting to share in the life of the Kingdom of God also means that we must be willing to live out the ways and teachings of the King of the Kingdom of God?

If we are following Jesus for the benefit of our own “kingdom” rather than for the cause of His Kingdom, then we are not following Jesus. We are using Him. We are not following the King. We are acting like a selfish, rich King, not at all understanding our debt to Him, which He forgave, nor the limitations of our own abilities and accomplishments, which He so graciously made up for by doing and being enough for us at the cross.

ACTION STEPS:

  • PRAY_Lord, expose to me my motives and interests, and help me to be willing to look You in the eye and agree with what you show me there.
  • BEWARE_Surrendering your interests to want to show God’s goodness still provides the evil one the chance to tempt you with becoming prideful about surrendering your interests to want to show God’s goodness. Sounds like it’s hopeless? No way!!! Rebuke satan. Give love. And don’t keep score.
  • LIVE_Ask Jesus to daily, then, begin to change you from the inside out, to adopt His interests, His pursuits, and His ways. Live with Him as you do, not just “for Him.” Your best intention is incomparable to His best intention for us – that we might know the One that He has sent and live sent following Him wherever and however He leads.

Jen and I are so thankful to be walking on this journey and learning together with you. Praying we will learn and live Jesus’ ways and be His church together both locally and globally like never before. Love y’all.

-jason

devo 3, week 1 of the GIVE UP series

When is the last time you sat down and made a list of goals?

Whether you have them written down, posted on your mirror, included on a recurring to-do list, or they’re just swimming in your head, you definitely have them. Our everyday behavior is shaped most by what we hold dearest. What we hold dearest, or value the most, determines our goals, whether stated or unstated. So you got ‘em.

Now, how about listing them out?

  1. What are your personal goals? Health? Career? Spiritual? A bucket list even?
  2. What about your goals for your relationships? Marriage? Dating? Kids? Friendships?
  3. What are your goals for your kids, if you have them? What do you hope most for them?

Let me say up front, I am not condemning any of the following. I am simply giving them as an example for consideration, as well as a chance for us to not live in default and according to the status quo. But, if I may, let me ask a few pointed questions (pointed at me, too):

  1. Were all of your personal goals, well, just personal? How many of them would you classify as “beyond self?” As Kingdom of God kind of stuff?
  2. Were all of your goals for your relationships about what you get out of the relationship or what you put in? I mean, if you are not married, for instance, do you have an expectation list of all the requirements of your spouse, or have you made a list of what you must bring to the marriage and how you must give love away in order for that precious relationship to make it?
  3. Were all of your goals for your kids about how they need to be poured into and served and prepared, or did that preparation include pushing them to live daily a life of love and generosity? What if being last might actually mean being first?

I have often asked myself whether I really believe Psalm 37:4.

4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Today, what about praying this prayer – “Lord, please teach me what it means to delight in You, and please expose in me the ways in which I only delight in myself.” And then listen (which means to keep praying). Let’s see what He tells us.

Look at the contrast of this verse as compared to Psalm 37:4. It’s Matthew 10:39.

39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

If we “delight” in self, then we eventually will lose everything we do gain, everything we cling so tightly to, all the stuff we value so much more than relationships. Why? It makes sense doesn’t it? You value stuff more than people, and you will know only loneliness even amidst all the people there to leach off of you and live high on your stuff. And, as the title of the play I was in in 10th grade so aptly says, “You Can’t Take It with You.”

Our desires when only focused on self produce lives that sow only into self, which reaps a life that is only about me. Where does that get you in your marriage, in your relationships, with your co-workers, with your neighbors? Alone. It leaves you alone.

What if our personal pursuits are stealing life from us, because they are not cultivating life in others? What if our personal pursuits are enslaving us to the pursuit of our own desires and possessions, because condemnation is always the verdict among humanity when our actions are solely focused on self?

Look back at Matthew 10:39. How merciful and gracious is God that He does not leave us to die in our own pursuits. Instead, He came near to restore us to His intentions – lives of love for Him and love for others. He frees us from ourselves. I noticed a quote the other day from Tullian Tchividjian that read:

God comes after us not to angrily strip away our freedom but to affectionately strip away our slavery so we might become truly free.

And we are truly free when we surrender. You actually gain when you “give up your life for [Jesus].”

Why are you following Jesus? For your own gain? If you are, then you are not following Him. You are using Him. This coming Sunday morning, we will dive into that question and be challenged to GIVE UP OUR INTERESTS, praying for Jesus to change our motivation.

ACTION STEP:

  • PRAY_Lord, please help me. I want to give up my life to You and into others. Teach me what “gain” really is to You. Help me to GIVE UP MY GAIN, for the sake of the gain of others. and ultimately of Your Kingdom.
  • LIVE_now, whatever He says to you, whatever He teaches, obey. Say yes. And trust that you won’t miss out on a thing.

devo 2, week 1 of the GIVE UP series

Have you ever given someone a blank check? What you were basically doing is giving them the freedom to withdraw from your account anything they wanted. And you trusted them. Right?

What about giving God a blank check? What about giving up your life, like a blank check, and surrendering authority of “your account” to Jesus? Sound hokey? Maybe. But think about it. Does He have full access to my life? Do you trust Him? Are you okay with whatever He might withdraw? It doesn’t always mean “blessing,” at least as we tend to define it. It for sure may leave you with seemingly nothing, like so many people who trusted and lost their lives for the sake of His Kingdom. So, it’s risky.

We usually don’t give God a blank check do we? Usually, at least in some way, we block access to our lives. We live as though we always need more and as though we will always be limited in our generosity to what we have in our personal account. But that is not the case. In fact, blocking access to Him actually will leave us with nothing, while surrendering full access gives us access to riches that can’t be lost.

Take some time to read Luke 12:13–21.

QUESTION:

What is the issue for us, that we don’t value God and a “rich relationship” with Him more than the riches we might gain on our own?

Is it because I can see what is in my barns? Is it because I can’t see God? Jesus said in John 20:29:

29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

Maybe the issue is not only what we value about God but also that we don’t trust that He loves us like He says He does. Maybe that’s the real depth of the meaning of John 3:16. Do we believe that He loves us so much that He actually did give up His son? And that He would again and again if it meant that we could walk in rich relationship with Him.

Look at what Jesus said a little bit later in Luke 12:

32 “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

Do I believe that? That my “Daddy,” as Paul called Him, takes great pleasure in giving me His Kingdom and the riches of it. Am I okay that the “stuff” of His Kingdom is not actually stuff, but rather life, love, togetherness, compassion, sentness (to name a few)?

Here’s the deal, though. If I don’t give God the blank check that is my life, then my whole life will be defined only by what is and isn’t in my bank account, rather than by what is in and is growing in the “bank account” of the lives of others. That kind of investment is the only one that will last – investment into the lives of the broken, the needy, my neighbor, my co-worker, my spouse, my friend, my kids, our world.

ACTION STEP:

  • Take an honest look at how you spend your time, your money, your mental energy. Does it indicate that you value the riches of God’s Kingdom, relationship with Him and with others, more than the stuff of earth?
  • PRAY_Lord, what am I holding to more tightly than my relationship with You and my relationships with others? Help me to let go, and trust You.
  • LIVE_If the answer to that prayer above requires change, beg God to change you and help you act on that change. And, spend less time this week than you have been pursuing your own gain and more time cultivating the riches of God’s kingdom by spending more time in your most meaningful relationships. The obvious are family and close friends. But even look for someone you work with or someone at school to specifically give up your gain for the sake of their gain, and watch “on earth as it is in heaven” happen right before your eyes.

Maybe we’d believe it if we’d see it. You will if you give up your gain.

devo 1, week 1 of the GIVE UP series

GIVE UP GAIN_Lord, change our goals.

We started a new series this last Sunday morning called “GIVE UP.” The challenge is to consider giving up my gain, my interests, my vices, and my everything for the sake of following Jesus, knowing Him, making Him known, and living out His mission in my everyday. Three questions to really pray through and ponder as we walk through this challenging series together:

  1. will I live a self-life or a sent-life?
  2. am I willing to give up everything?
  3. what will I let Him change?

We say Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but are we willing to take seriously what He actually taught? Or are we going to continue to follow an American-Dream Jesus, as some teachers today have described it, with whom we are much more comfortable? Here are 4,500,026,002 reasons to listen to the actual Jesus and actually be willing to give up our gain for the sake of the gain of others:

  • …because even the most loose figures estimate that 4.5 billion people on earth are lost – they simply have not found their way in this life, which is in Christ. Either they do not follow Jesus or have not even had the chance to hear about and know His love.
  • …because over 26K children die every day of starvation, sickness, or brutality
  • …because Jesus clearly told His followers to be willing to give all they have for the poor and broken, as well as to make disciples of all the nations (to learn of and live out His love)
  • …because we won’t lose out on a thing – but those around us may gain abundant life.

In Luke 12:33, Jesus taught that His followers should sell their possessions and give their gain to the poor. Read that verse again on your own. And reread it. And reread it. Stare at it if need be.

33 “Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it.

QUESTION – Did Jesus really mean that? Let’s say He did not. Then what does that mean if it does not mean what it says? Let’s say He did. Then, will I ask Him for wisdom to live it and surrender to Him to make the necessary changes in my life to live it?

I was honest with the Westpoint family Sunday morning, and I am being honest here – THIS SCARES ME TO NO END. It hits close to home (thus the reason for the logo the way it is), because it affects my life, my wife, my kids, everything. But oh how it might affect us to see “on earth as it is in heaven.” Oh how it might affect those around us to see and taste the love and generosity of the living God, and then they would see “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Are you in? Let’s commit to pray this week together, asking for wisdom and voicing our willingness to surrender even though we are not exactly sure what that exactly means.

ACTION STEPS:

  1. Huddle up with your family or your friends and discuss these two questions: “If we began to sell our possessions and give to the poor, what do you think would count as a “want” possession and a “need” possession? Would you be willing to go without those if you knew that because of it a homeless person would have clean clothes to wear or a local family who was jobless would have groceries to eat or a girl across the world would be freed from slavery or a little boy in Latin America would have rice to eat and could attend school?
  2. Continue that discussion over these next 4 weeks, and let’s grow together to GIVE UP our gain, our interests, our vices, and our everything.

Be looking for the 2nd devo of the week soon! Praying for you and all of us together as we listen and learn and live His ways. I love you guys!

-jason

renew us.

Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is quite a work of art. His theology expressed through creativity resurrected a made-to-be-too-familiar story into something gruesome, gripping, and gorgeous. For those who realize that it is more than a story, they can’t help but watch it and in some way be disturbed toward surrender and compelled to love. A realization for many. A renewal for some.

The suffering of Christ expressed so much of God’s character and intention. That He is love, willing to give up even His own Son. That He intended for us to know life, even if we choose death (so He chose it that we could choose life again). That He knows how it feels when something is “not fair” (what was fair for Jesus about the cross?). That difficult does not equal bad. That renewal blossoms from life given up.

Paul wrote in Philippians 3 that if we get serious about wanting to know Christ personally and the power of His resurrection, then we also have to be okay with the fact that the prequel of resurrection may include suffering and death. But again, renewal blossoms from life given up.

Amy Grant sings the song “Hard Times” on her new album. The bridge describes “hard times” in life in the following way:

making you measure what you’re made of; helping you galvanize the love.

Great lyric. True, if and only if we surrender MY LIFE to gain HIS LIFE. Otherwise, bitterness will be galvanized in our hearts rather than love. Why? Because the life WE WANT will be affected by those “hard times” that come to everyone. So we will grip more tightly to what remains and gripe about how hard times are. We will become bitter. And renewal won’t blossom. Instead, inwardness and purposelessness and ultimately death will be galvanized.

We are at a galvanizing moment as a church family. Westpoint Church turned 6 February 15th this year. Those first 6 years have had both victories and hard times. Many choices have been made, both by those listening for direction and those deciding level of commitment. The emphasis continues – “be the church. LIVE SENT.” And many of us are tired. Renewal is needed. Some may be wondering, “What has really taken root here? What have we really accomplished?”

That is a very fair question. Very fair. I will admit I ask it, too. While I am so very grateful for what these first 6 years have held, I so long for more. Instead of me giving you an optimist’s resume for the past or an optimist’s outlook for the future, how about a few questions and thoughts:

1 _ has togetherness and sentness taken root?

2 _ may we be a church of sent groups, who follow Jesus together, pray together, connect together, serve together, and learn and live His ways together.

3 _ what matters more to us? the “lost” of our community or the “saved” shopping churches?

4 _ may we have the same heart that Jesus has for the lost – a willingness to leave 99 for the 1.

5 _ has more life blossomed out of the life and sacrifice of Westpoint?

6 _ may we give more – giving as though limited by our own capacity but as though we have access to God’s abundance.

7 _ what are you choosing to commit to if you are still trying to decide – a mission to be the church or a church whose mission is to serve you?

8 _ we will reap what we sow. So, may we sow love – toward each other and toward our community, measuring only how we cultivate and trusting God for His Kingdom outcome.

I am confessing to you this – I NEED RENEWAL. I have become distracted. Not from wanting to live sent or grow in togetherness, but from the energy and focus I need to keep giving up life into relationships so that what we must cultivate is cultivated. Relationships. Surrender. Togetherness. Sentness. Love. We cannot focus on preserving a 501c3 called “Westpoint.” We must be focused on being daily renewed to follow Jesus, love as He loves, and cultivate His love into every person we encounter everywhere we go. God will grow His church as we plant and water.

Then, and only then, will we actually know Christ personally, experience His resurrection power, and yes – even experience His sufferings possibly unto death.

But out of life given up blossoms renewal. And there are people already a part of the Westpoint family who desperately need renewal. Furthermore, there are people throughout West Orange County who desperately need renewal. Even furthermore, there are people around our world who desperately need renewal as they face injustices beyond our imagination, while we continue to shop churches and figure out what’s best for me.

What’s best is for me to surrender finding what’s best for me and instead take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me (Philippians 3) – to know Him and the power of His resurrection, and to share with the others the power of His resurrection through sacrificial love, cultivating His life into the hard times and hopelessness of our world.

Lord, I repent of being distracted. Please help me to do more than say I want to know You and Your ways. Please help me to experience the power of Your resurrection daily, even if it includes suffering. Please help me to lead my own family in Your ways. Please help our Westpoint family to surrender to know You and learn and live Your ways in loving togetherness and in abandoned sentness.

Renew us.