my swagger wagon.

My sister-in-law posted this video on her blog. My brother called me to laugh with me while we watched it. You will probably want to share it, too, if you haven’t seen it yet. Make sure to turn it up loud.

For all you out there who think having a mini-van isn’t cool, think again…

You can see the full line of expanded commercials from Toyota about the Sienna featuring these two actors/comedians at YouTube.com/Sienna. My wife and I don’t drive a Sienna, so we will get no kickbacks. They are just funny if you have the time to watch them together. If you are parents, you will especially appreciate them.

SO, lean your seat way back while you rollin in your van. Kick the beat way loud, windows down, got a plan. Busy day shuttlin kids. Lots of hats, wear your “lids.” Don’t be afraid. Drive it proud. Don’t make you any less a man.

Peace. I’m out.

devo 3, week 5 of the GIVE UP series

One Scripture passage today. God’s message through the prophet Isaiah. Almost 800 years before Jesus came the 1st time. Then, one question.

Love you guys so much. Please pray for me as my family and I grapple through these hard teachings. We are praying for you.

[Isaiah 58:1–11]

1 Shout! A full-throated shout! Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout! Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives, face my family Jacob with their sins! 2 They’re busy, busy, busy at worship, and love studying all about me. To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—law-abiding, God-honoring. They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ and love having me on their side.

3 But they also complain, ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way? Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

Well, here’s why: “The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit. You drive your employees much too hard. 4 You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight. You fast, but you swing a mean fist. The kind of fasting you do won’t get your prayers off the ground. 5 Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after: a day to show off humility? To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black? Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, God, would like?

6 “This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. 7 What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. 8 Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage.

9 Then when you pray, God will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’  “If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, 10 if you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. 11 I will always show you where to go.

What best describes you – busy with a worship show and studying about God, or busy living in love relationship with Him and giving that love away into your family, your neighborhood, the marketplace, local and global community, and even on the web?

May we actually live the ways of Jesus. Not just learn them.

Let’s GIVE UP TOGETHER.

an update about Westpoint and Northland West Oaks coming together

Togetherness. Most critics of the church of North America would say there is just not enough of it. Jesus said the world would know that we actually are learning and living His ways by our love for one another. May we be known as a church family that values love and lives love daily.

That’s why we cultivated unity among the churches of west Orange county, which now has become theChurchofWestOrange.com – many local expressions of the church being the church together to west Orange county and beyond.

Many of you know by now that one of the church families that serve alongside Westpoint in the Church of West Orange has expressed interest in unifying with us even more. Northland West Oaks, currently gathering on Sundays on the campus of St. Pauls Pres, will officially join in with us June 20th.

Togetherness. Thankful.

Here’s some IMPORTANT POINTS to be praying about and to make priority if you are a part of the Westpoint family.

1_JUNE 6TH

We will practice a little reverse hospitality June 6th. The Westpoint family will head over to St. Paul’s Pres to gather for worship with the Northland West Oaks family for an 11:00am worship gathering. We all together thought it would be a good thing to experience how they have been worshipping together.

As we are becoming one church family, consider this meeting the in-laws, just like when they came over to eat with our family April 25th. PLEASE MAKE THIS A PRIORITY. We really want them to know we are in this for the sake of knowing Christ and making Him known together.

2_JUNE 20TH

Get here early. 10:00am is the normal start time for worship gathering. If you can, try to be at Whispering Oak Elementary School for 9:45 at least, simply to be there to welcome the folks from Northland West Oaks and connect together before we dive into worship celebration together.

As we are becoming one church family, consider this the wedding feast. And you wouldn’t be late for your own wedding. I wasn’t even late for my wedding, and you know how my clock runs about 10 minutes behind. :-)

3_TOGETHERNESS FOR THE SAKE OF SENTNESS and MULTIPLICATION

You might still be wondering, “Why are we doing this joining together?” I feel as though we have adequately answered that, but I wanted to make sure you got the succinct answer one more time.

Simple – Jesus prayed for His followers (John 17:18–23) to be of one heart and one mind around the one mission He created His church family for – to live sent just like He was sent (John 20:21) to share unconditional love and abundant life with everyone we encounter. And our leadership team, through much prayer and counsel, senses the Lord leading us to unite with one heart and mind for the sake of that one mission with Northland West Oaks.

Togetherness for the sake of sentness.

It is not about having more people gathered. It is about having more people living sent. More people united in that one mission to be the church to west Orange county and beyond. More people. More time. More resources. More creativity. More love. And more is not always better. But relationally it is, for a cord of many strands is not easily broken.

HERE’S ANOTHER REASON IT MATTERS – Multiplication.

When Westpoint began as a local expression of the church in February 2004, a significant element of that original vision that still holds today was to multiply what we were doing into at least one community church per village as Horizons West was built out. Between now and 2020, five more villages like the Bridgewater village (Summerport and Independence) and the Lakeside village (Providence and the 535 communities toward Reams Rd) will be built.

Our vision has been to help start a new local expression of the church in each of those villages. As Westpoint sees more people unite in one heart and mind, we will begin to ask some of them to cluster together and be sent out to the next village. Still being the church together, but just as a new community church family focused on cultivating “on earth as it is in heaven” among the people of that village.

The uniting of Westpoint and Northland West Oaks will, in our Vision Team’s opinion, be a great next step toward seeing that kind of togetherness and sentness in the daily, as well as that kind of multiplication into the rest of Horizons West and beyond.

SO, please pray. Please be intentional about connecting with both Westpoint families and Northland West Oaks families. Please continue to surrender daily to the mission Jesus has given us – that the world might know the One who was sent (John 6:29).

Two final things. Let’s eliminate “us” and “them” talk starting now. Let’s all be intentional about this, so as to emphasize being the church together. AND, please be assured that the focus of togetherness and sentness that has defined Westpoint for 6 and 1/2 years will continue. That is a hill I will always be willing to die on, because Jesus values His church loving and living on mission too much.

May our burden to love like Jesus and to live on mission for Him daily (that others might know Him and His love) grow more and more. May we have a sense of urgency like never before for the 4.5 billion lost of the world, for the 26K kids who are dying daily all around us due to hunger, sickness, and brutality, and for the orphans and widows who need not be alone (Matthew 25:31–46 and James 1:27). David Platt says it this way, with regard to the urgency of the mission of the church:

Church – we are plan A. And there is no plan B.

I love you guys. So much. Jen and I and the pastoral team and vision team families can’t even express the fullness of our gratitude for all of you. Exciting times ahead.

-jason

devo 2, week 5 of the GIVE UP series

how will we GIVE UP TOGETHER?

In devo one this week, we read John 17:18–23 about the mission that Jesus prayed for His church to be united around. His prayer was about a togetherness united around the mission of sentness into the daily (which He commanded for us in John 20:21).

21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”

Well, how will Westpoint be giving up together to live out this mission? Here are four specific ways. All of these can be lived out in the daily as we follow Jesus and love our neighbor. AND, all of these need to be lived out together as we encourage and sharpen one another to be living sent daily. Here are the four:

1_PRAY TOGETHER.

Very simply. Pray for two people not following Jesus. One neighbor. One co-worker (classmate if you are a full-time student). Pray for wisdom on how they need to be loved and listened to right here and now. Then listen for the answer. God wants us to love our neighbor. And He will answer prayers for wisdom always.

37 Jesus replied, “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37–40)

5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. (James 1:5)

2_CONNECT TOGETHER.

Look for ways to connect over real life with those you are praying for. Not with the agenda of “getting them to church.” NO! If they ever begin to walk with the Westpoint family, that will rock the house. But this is not a church growth concept. This is life or death.

If someone is not following Jesus, He described them as “lost.”

10 For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost. (Luke 19:10)

If they are lost, then they are still stuck in the darkness trying to find their way on their own.

24 My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found! (–the declaration of the compassionate father in the story commonly called “the Prodigal Son” found in Luke 15)

If they are wandering in the darkness, then they have not placed their faith in the Life-Giver, but rather are still relying on their own efforts to find the way. And this is hopeless. A weary venture. That’s why God put skin on and became Emmanuel.

4 Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, 5 he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! 6 Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah. 7 Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. 8 Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! 9 We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! 10 No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. (Ephesians 2:4–10)

And if they are not connected with the Life-Giver, then they are condemned to death in their unbelief.

16 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. 17 God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. 18 Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.” (–Jesus in John 3:16–18)

Isn’t that a BIG DEAL? So connect with them that they may have full life, only found in Christ.

And connect over real life. Don’t just “invite them to church.” That is not a compelling invitation – to add something else to their schedules on Sunday mornings. They may end up doing that, but it won’t make sense if they don’t value the ways of Jesus. A compelling invitation is not “go to church,” which is not possible anyway according to the Scriptures since people are the church. A compelling invitation is TO BE THE CHURCH. That is a call to the life they were intended to live. An invitation to beyond-self living. An invitation to know love and give love in abundance.

Grill out. Watch sport. Go to community events. Play together. Be a neighbor.

3_SERVE TOGETHER.

I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t want to serve. Now, their motivation may be one of guilt or penance, but people want to serve. Having been made in the image of God, to love is actually wired within us. The problem is that we have malfunctioned in our self-absorption.

To call someone who is “lost” to serve is to actually put them in the best environment possible to allow them to realize the way God wired them as well as to allow them to taste the love of the One who made them (and died for them to know life).

Now, this implies that you and I have to be serving. This is why on the Westpoint site there is a page that lists local and global ways to volunteer. Also, this is why we have been challenging the SENT groups to serve together.

So, serve and invite the two you are praying for to serve with you both locally and globally.

4_LEARN & LIVE THE WAYS OF JESUS TOGETHER.

This is a definition for “discipling” or being a disciple of Jesus. To be His disciple is to be His learner. To be His student, His apprentice. One who learns and lives what’s being learned.

When we pray for a lost person, connect with them in genuine friendship, and serve alongside them, then we will have the best opportunity to learn and live the ways of Jesus with them. The Holy Spirit will lead you as you converse and listen to and encourage your friend. And they will sense your genuine love, your sincere desire to see them know the life you have found in Christ, and the evidence of His ways in your life and words.

So, we need to learn and live His ways together as followers of Jesus when we gather for worship on Sunday, when we gather in SENT groups, and when we gather just to hang. But we must realize that to truly “make disciples” as Jesus calls us to do in Matthew 28:18–20, we must walk as friends with the lost.

>> This is the real purpose of the local church, why we gather, why we have SENT groups, why we challenge you to love the people you encounter daily in your various spheres of influence, and why we must give ourselves away together. It is not to add a something to your schedules. Not to get you more intellectual in a class with other “Christians.” Not to isolate you from a corrupt culture. NOT AT ALL!!! The purpose of SENT groups is to provide you an opportunity to receive the encouragement needed to engage a lost world and live sent as a letter of God’s love and hope. As WE pray for and connect with and serve alongside the lost, they will learn and live the ways of Jesus through our togetherness (our love for one another – John 13:34–35).

Let’s unite in the mission we were intended for as His church.

ACTION STEPS:

PRAY_Lord, please forgive me for approaching “church” as a product for my personal benefit and assured comfort. Please help me to be Your church, alive in the daily. Please change me from the inside out to become most passionate about walking with You and living out the mission You gave Your followers to be living out together (the church).

LIVE_Begin by praying for one neighbor and one co-worker (or classmate if you are a student), that you would have wisdom on how they need to be loved right here and right now. Then, as God gives you that wisdom, and He will, go love them.

devo 1 (a long wrap-up), week 5 of the GIVE UP series

GIVE UP TOGETHER.

As we have walked through the GIVE UP series, several questions have come up repeatedly.

  • How do these teachings fit into the culture of the American Dream?
  • Does Jesus want us to be poor?
  • Isn’t it okay if this beats us up a little, makes us feel uncomfortable?

Can you follow Jesus and live His ways while pursuing the American Dream? Well, it depends obviously on how you define the American Dream. If you define the American Dream along the lines of the pursuits that Jesus suggests, then yes. But most people don’t. In fact, here’s what James Truslow Adams wrote when he coined the phrase “American Dream” in his 1931 book Epic of America:

The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, also too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.

He also wrote:

The American Dream, that has lured tens of millions of all nations to our shores in the past century has not been a dream of material plenty, though that has doubtlessly counted heavily. It has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as a man and woman, unhampered by the barriers which had slowly been erected in the older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class.

Hopeful and optimistic for sure, Adams’ ideal had mostly to do with togetherness and equal opportunity. Which, by the way, I am all in favor of. Jesus definitely values unity and love and togetherness. He also definitely values every person understanding that they are loved by a gracious God who, through the cross, set everyone on the same ground – available by His grace alone to respond by faith and in love to His invitation to follow.

Two elements of Adams’ ideal though that tear at the very fabric of togetherness and opportunity, though. First, the ideal of getting “better and richer” have, possibly unintentionally, led Americans to live with a mindset of bigger is better and pursuit of more is a proper motivation as well as a crowning achievement. These fly in the face of Jesus’ teachings about the last being first (Matthew 20:16) and the pursuit of personal gain ending with complete loss (Luke 9:23–25).

We need to have our eyes opened to the idolatry of wealth that is the basis of Western society. (Alan Hirsch)

Second, the ideal that each of us should be allowed “to grow to fullest development as a man and woman” is an ideal that Jesus’ teachings potentially could support. However, Adams’ assertions have most often been interpreted by catch phrases like “look out for number one” and “anything you can dream of you can achieve” and more recently “I gotta get mine.” To grow to fullest development, when centered in my own efforts, is a selfish pursuit driven by personal effort. To grow to fullest development, when centered in an effort to listen to and surrender to and obey the Giver of life, the One who wants to give abundant life, is the intention of the One who wants us to know life to the fullest.

4  “When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5  A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”

6  This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them.

7  So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8  All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9  I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:4–10)

39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. (Matthew 10:39)

At the risk of sounding as dogmatic as I probably did this past Sunday morning, I would suggest that it is next to impossible to pursue the American Dream and follow Jesus, if you are going to give full credence to His teachings.

So what does this mean? Does Jesus want me to be poor?

He had rich followers, didn’t he? The answer is yes. He did have followers who had much. Friends of God, like Abraham and Joseph and David and Daniel, were very wealthy at least at some point in their lives. Nicodemus in the New Testament. Zacchaeus. Joseph of Arimathea. Luke. And more.

They had much. What was the difference between them and the rich young official (Luke 18)? I would suggest that the difference is that they were not living for the same purpose. They had denied themselves and taken up the purposes of God for their lives (Luke 9:23). They were not driven to get more or secure by the stuff they had. They were living to give all and secure that Jesus was enough, even if they lost everything they had. And most of them risked it all.

Again, this is not a cop out approach suggesting that we settle back into the American Dream. We have already established that settling into the American Dream is not following Jesus.

The real surrender for many of us is probably this – GIVE UP THE VERY WAY YOU VIEW LIFE, WORK, PROVISION, PURSUITS, AND SUCCESS. Get honest – do you value riches more than rich relationship? Evaluate how you spend your time and money and you will know the answer. David Platt said:

Our culture says bigger is better & flashy is more effective; Jesus calls us to humbly & quietly focus our lives on people.

We also need to realize that we already are poor. We are impoverished spiritually on our owns. We are in desperate need of God and His love and His grace and His life renewal. And this may be the real issue. We pursue the American Dream like we can make it on our own. We can do anything we set our minds to. So the real issue may be, like it was for the rich young official, that we live as though we can be “good” on our own strivings. That’s what he was after – validation of his own efforts. The call to sell everything was a mirror Jesus held up that highlighted the real root of sin and lack of goodness in the rich young official – his selfishness and greed and misplaced security.

At the same time, living luxuriously, beyond our basic needs, and giving 80 and 90 hours a week into a career to provide more and more doesn’t seem to mesh with the teachings of Jesus either. One email I received put it this way:

Is this penny I am about to spend being spent on “daily bread” or a want that is beyond “daily bread?” If beyond “daily bread,” am I spending on a want of my life what could be given for a need in someone else’s life?

I have heard multiple times during this series people say they have really struggled with guilt over this stuff. Others have said, “We don’t need to beat ourselves up over this.” And while I agree that guilt is not the desired result of focusing in on these teachings in this series, it can often be a response we are tempted to wallow in. But we must not wallow there. We also must not be afraid of discomfort and confusion and struggle over this. Another email I received:

On multiple occasions, I heard “don’t beat yourself up over this” as advice to those that are wrestling with this series. I’m disappointed that response wasn’t challenged. I almost wanted to stand up and ask why it was OK to question how much and what we should give up, but stop short of REALLY digging deep to the point that you might “beat yourself up”. Maybe “beat yourself up” is going a little far (and maybe not), but what if none of us are going deep enough. When I read the scriptures you’ve been including in the devotionals, it doesn’t sound like Christ was telling us to do our best and make sure we were still comfortable and living the same way we were before. Doesn’t this go back to the point that Christ never said that following him would be easy? Shouldn’t it hurt a little?

Jesus’ teachings expose us. But they also welcome us. They welcome us into the life we were intended to live. A life in which we fall in love with the Giver of life and walk daily with the One who gave His life for us. And His ways, if we actually follow and obey in all things, will not let us wallow in guilt or become complacent in our comforts or be satisfied with same old, same old.

We must surrender to let Him change us. We must GIVE UP.

But here’s one thing I want to make abundantly clear and that I think the Scriptures make abundantly clear – WE WERE NOT INTENDED TO AND CANNOT AND DO NOT NEED TO TRY TO GIVE UP ALONE.

We must GIVE UP TOGETHER.

We must struggle through these as a church family as well as give ourselves away together as a church family. That is the essence of the early church – SHARING WITH ALL WHO HAD NEED. They lived in close community, united around a common mission (to make disciples of Jesus), and shared all they had such that no one lacked for what they needed.

We tend to live isolated lives, busy with our own mission and schedules, writing a check when we know of a need but normally not knowing of a need because we don’t walk close enough to know. And sharing with all who have need isn’t just about writing a check, but rather about walking in relationship and ownership of all of life.

Is that the mission Jesus wants for us? To be willing to love one another? To be willing to love our neighbor? To be willing to be a neighbor to anyone, regardless of how much they have or where they live or what they’ve accomplished.

Maybe Jesus wanted us to unite around His love and His mission. Here’s what He prayed in John 17:

18 In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world. 19 I’m consecrating myself for their sakes so they’ll be truth-consecrated in their mission. 20 I’m praying not only for them but also for those who will believe in me because of them and their witness about me. 21 The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, so they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. 22 The same glory you gave me, I gave them, so they’ll be as unified and together as we are–23 I in them and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that you’ve sent me and loved them in the same way you’ve loved me.

May this be a simple reminder of what God intended from the beginning. He did not want us to perform isolated spiritual shows for Him, did not want us to busy ourselves with so much that we live alone on His mission, and did not want us to make our worship of Him self-serving. He wanted us, together, to love Him and love our neighbor. WHY? So that those in need of love would find it lived out, not just talked about, among His people (His church).

So, how will we GIVE UP TOGETHER? I will suggest four specific ways in the next devo.

Meantime, leave your comments and thoughts.

I love you guys.

devo 3, week 4 of the GIVE UP series

being okay with just daily bread.

In Thursday’s devo, we talked about how we use our time. Today, let’s think a bit about our finances. In giving up everything, money matters, too. In the same way that time-management evidences what we hold dearest, money-management evidences what we value most. Getting to the point, in the spending of our money, and I again admit my family and I are grappling through this with all of you, we either value self or others. We either use money to give more or to get more.

The teachings of Jesus do offer insight.

Jesus challenged the rich, young official in Luke 18 to sell everything he had and give it to the poor. He challenged His followers in Luke 12:33 to sell their stuff and give to those in need. When He taught us how to pray, He simply asked for daily bread. Nothing more.

What do we do with that in an American culture that inundates people of all ages across this great land to strive for more?

I received this email from someone this week:

I am not fond of the following statement: “Its okay to have money (wealth, riches, etc) as long as it doesn’t have you.” Why? Because we need to BE HONEST ABOUT WHETHER MONEY DOES HAVE YOU IF YOU SPEND IT ON ANYTHING BEYOND OUR DAILY BREAD.

So, these are the questions that God has been challenging me with:

_Is this penny spent on me or on loving someone else in need?

_If it is spent on me, is it something that I need (daily bread and no more)?

_As it relates to my current situation, are the things that I have already as a result of selfish decisions, do I need them or can they be used to feed, clothe, help someone else?

You may remember the email I got a few weeks back. Worth repeating here:

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?

Here’s another question shared with me by someone else grappling with this:

How can I justify getting into my $40K car when a $15K car would get me there?

From parents, I hear sentiments that assert the need to focus on providing more and more for their kids. In fact, according to research, young couples who were very beyond-self and open to serving others before marriage and before kids become very self-serving once they have children. Could be they are overwhelmed with the schedule of having a family. Could be they are focused more on serving their kids.

Now, I am not saying that as a parent you should not focus on serving your kids and giving them the best opportunities possible. But it may be that their best opportunities are not always self-serving, not always ending with our kids winning the award or getting the victory.

Think about it. Could it be that one of Satan’s strategies is to get us believing that giving our kids the best opportunities is perfectly okay? In contrast, does God want us to give our kids the best opportunities or does He want us to cultivate into them His ways (love, selflessness, last not first, loss not gain, His plans not their own)? Does God want us to pour our lives into our kids in hopes that they will grow with the heart and value system that they they were intended to have?

I ask, because giving them the best opportunities usually is translated into the life of the parents to mean providing more and providing better. And normally, I have to admit at least for the parent named Jason Dukes, this means giving them things that are way beyond their daily bread. And my default is to get what is beyond my daily bread for my kids, my wife, and for me.

I spend beyond my daily bread, and all the while, and this is not a guilt trip but a reality check, families all over the world are going without. Check out this movie entitled “The Next 5 Minutes.”

I bought another $3 iced coffee today, while a family didn’t even eat.

I get an email every week about my retirement account balance. That’s just what we Americans do – make sure we have a retirement fund. But what do I do with Luke 12:13–21. I am not saying don’t save for retirement, but I am saying don’t just do it without processing those teachings of Jesus? I have a retirement account, which is money for later, while thousands of people live daily without clean water, which affects their health and overall life right now.

I continue to covet an iPad while a young girl trapped in sex slavery is coveted and raped multiple times, often over 40 times a day, along a stretch of small brothels with hundreds of others girls like her (and money could purchase her freedom).

Cable news is on in the background while I am writing this. I can’t even tell you what we pay monthly for High-Def Cable TV, but I, like much of the church of the west, am ignoring families in my own community who are struggling to buy bread and milk.

Seriously?

This is not an attempt to create a new social justice legalism. This is not an attempt to guilt you into being poor. This is not an attempt to push an end poverty agenda. This is an attempt, on my part and as I am learning and living the ways of Jesus with many of you, to grapple with the teachings of Jesus and actually follow Him.

I confess to you my own self-absorption. My daily bread, to me, includes food, clothes, and lodging, I admit to you, and I am struggling with this, that most everything else beyond those things gets in the way of loving God and loving people. I am spending far beyond my daily bread everyday.

And I am scared. To begin to actually live out the teachings of Jesus regarding daily bread, generosity, riches, and the poor means I will have to change, the way I lead my family will have to change, and my kids’ lifestyle may have to change.

BETTER SAID, will have TO BE CHANGED.

Jesus asked His first followers to follow Him. This is what Mark 1:17 says He told them:

17  And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”

Jesus “will make you become.” It is not a statement about making you do something you don’t want to do. It is a statement about Jesus making His followers into something more than they currently were. It is a statement about shaping them and you and me according to His purposes and His mission.

What did they do? Here’s Mark 1:18 –

18  Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.

They gave up everything. All they knew and all they had to follow. Many, eventually, their very lives.

Will I? Will you?

PRAY_Lord, please make me to become what You want. I surrender. Please grant me wisdom about managing all I have, specifically my time and money. You can have them. And please make me to trust you for and make me to be okay with living in my daily bread.

LEAVE COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS IF YOU WILL. Let’s keep struggling through this together.

devo 2, week 4 of the GIVE UP series

they will know us by our love.

Well, we ended the last devo with 3 questions.

  1. do you think it is possible to pursue the American Dream (to want the house, the wife and kids, great benefits, leisures, retirement, a reputation for success) and to follow Jesus at the same time?
  2. does Jesus fit in among the other elements of the life you are pursuing, or is He the life you are pursuing?
  3. He is saying, “Follow Me.” Are you hesitating to fully leave it all behind? If so, what is holding you up? If not, what does “leaving it all behind” look like in the culture of the American Dream and in the culture of the consumeristic church of the west?

The responses back thru facebook and email were great. There are definitely some of us grappling through this.

One warning I wanted to give – don’t think dualistically about this. In other words, either you have to be poor or you can’t follow Jesus. I am not saying that He is saying that. He had followers who had much. But what they owned did not own them. And they were free-handed with it, sharing with all who had need. Treated their stuff like it wasn’t theirs.

Today, I wanted to give another example of someone who gave up everything and then ask a few questions. Take a few minutes to read about Paul in Philippians 1:20–2:4.

20 I can hardly wait to continue on my course. I don’t expect to be embarrassed in the least. On the contrary, everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! 21 Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose. 22 As long as I’m alive in this body, there is good work for me to do. If I had to choose right now, I hardly know which I’d choose. 23 Hard choice! The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful. Some days I can think of nothing better 24 . But most days, because of what you are going through, I am sure that it’s better for me to stick it out here. 25 So I plan to be around awhile, companion to you as your growth and joy in this life of trusting God continues. 26 You can start looking forward to a great reunion when I come visit you again. We’ll be praising Christ, enjoying each other. 27 Meanwhile, live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ. Let nothing in your conduct hang on whether I come or not. Your conduct must be the same whether I show up to see things for myself or hear of it from a distance. Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people’s trust in the Message, the good news, 28 not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition. Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against: defeat for them, victory for you—and both because of God. 29 There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting.

30 You’re involved in the same kind of struggle you saw me go through, on which you are now getting an updated report in this letter.

(chapter 2)

1 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— 2 then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. 3 Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. 4 Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Now, just for context, would it change the way you read that if you knew that Paul wrote it from prison with guards watching him 24/7? Not like a vacation trip to Rome, Paul suffered even getting there and continued to suffer while there. He made much progress with the Gospel of Jesus, though. And he wrote this letter to the church of Philippi challenging them to live beyond self and be grateful for the joy that comes from a life given up.

Did you notice what Paul said in Philippians 1:21? In the more wooden translations, it reads:

For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Could I say that with honesty? Do I actually view my life as not my own, as so identified with Christ that even if I died physically I would consider it greater life? How could I? Because it would be more Jesus. Not face to face now. Face to face then. And that’s what heaven is about. Not so much the streets of gold or a big house. But Jesus. Jesus. It’s about Jesus.

It’s like, if you are married, what you felt like longing for the wedding day to come. You lived for that wedding day. You couldn’t wait for the date to arrive and the chance to come to seal the deal and be together in every way. That’s the metaphor. We are waiting for a wedding feast when our Groom (Jesus) returns for His bride (the church). And we long for the day. To see Him. To seal the deal. To run into His arms.

To live is Jesus. To die is more Jesus. More of the long-awaited groom.

Unless I already have so much of the stuff of this world that I don’t long for the stuff of heaven.

Paul also challenged the Philippians to put the interests of others above themselves. He then goes into this beautiful hymn about how Jesus did exactly that – gave up everything for us.

He is not asking us to do something He has not done. GIVE UP EVERYTHING. He did.

What would I lose? Here is something to consider – what am I giving up everything for?

  • to actually spend more time relating to my family and less time just providing for them?
  • to actually have the time to be a friend to my neighbor?
  • to embrace Jesus and His ways of giving more rather than getting more?

Time. Giving up everything may be less about being a steward of my money and more about being a steward of my time. Less about being poor financially and more about being rich relationally. With God and with others.

Think about it. It takes time to make more money. It takes time to invest in your career. It takes time to achieve the American Dream. Then, you get to retirement and what do you have? Lots of stuff. And you may also have the close relationships with wife and kids and possibly grandkids and friends. But the more common scenario is that you don’t. You have the stuff, and now you finally have the time to build relationships with those that matter most, those you were working so hard to provide for. Or better said, repair those relationships.

I AM NOT SAYING YOU CAN’T BALANCE HARD WORK AND FOCUS ON FAMILY. You can. But we need to be more honest about the time we spend giving to the career that 1000s of others could do, while we steal from the time spent as a spouse and parent and friend (which only one person can do). I am the only dad for my kids. The only husband for my wife. No one else can do that.

So don’t get frustrated processing this GIVE UP EVERYTHING, thinking it’s ridiculous. It’s okay to pursue the American Dream, isn’t it?

Not if you cheat your relationships.

Just be honest about what’s getting your best. Does your job get your best creativity or your family? Does your wife get your best attention or the client you are trying to lock in? Does your kid get your best mental energy or the leftovers from a hard day? Does your friend / neighbor know you love him / her or that you are a hard worker climbing the career ladder.

Again, there can be balance. THE POINT IS THIS – BE HONEST ABOUT HOW YOU ARE USING YOUR TIME. How you use your time is the biggest evidence of what you live for. What you are giving up everything for.

Come back to what I wrote earlier:

Think about it. It takes time to make more money. It takes time to invest in your career. It takes time to achieve the American Dream.

You know this is true, too. It takes time to make more intimacy with your spouse. It takes time to invest in your relationships. It takes time to achieve “on earth as it is in heaven” on your block.

Remember this – God intends for you and me to follow Him and live engaged on His mission daily. His mission is about love – loving God with all you have and giving love away into your neighbor. That’s how we learn and live the ways of Jesus, as we put the interests of others above our own. As we GIVE UP EVERYTHING in order to cultivate “on earth as it is in heaven.”

THE BOTTOM LINE_are you gonna miss out on anything if you get to the end of your life with rich relationships? But you know good and well that you would die with regret if you spent more time cultivating riches than you did rich relationships.

The final devo of this series will be out Saturday. Hope to see you Sunday as we wrap up the series with a panel discussion as well as some practical thoughts to apply the teachings of GIVE UP.