SUMMER LOVE_anything louder than love in your life?

Is love the loudest noise in your life?

We have all done it. Worn headphones and sung too loud or spoken too loud wile wearing them without knowing it. It’s interesting that it is annoying to people, because in the car, when the radio is loud and everyone is singing as loud as they can, we all dig it. Maybe it’s because we are all sharing in the music in the car and not just enjoying it alone, like on the headphones.

The church of Corinth was acting like a bunch of music-hoggers and talking as though wearing headphones, too. Loud and all about me. The loudest noise was their singing about themselves. Wanting to be considered prestigious because of who baptized them. Wanting to be considered elite because of their worship performance. Wanting to be considered important because of their gifting and resulting position within the church structure. Paul was challenging them to not be so bold about their achievements and so flippant about God’s grace. And in the end of chapter 12 of 1st Corinthians, Paul called them to take a look at a “more excellent way.”

And so, this past Sunday morning we continued the series “Summer Love” by focusing in on the beginning of chapter 13, which launches with three very pointed verses:

1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

And what was the point? Here’s is what I would suggest:

Am I shouting “look at me” in my life louder than “I love you” as I live out my spiritual pursuit?

If my spiritual purpose becomes a self-absorbed pursuit to fulfill all my religious desires and a self-righteous goal to be admired as the most important thing the church has ever known, then I am not in any way, shape, or form, walking in the ways of Jesus or in any way carrying out the intention that He had for His church. I have missed the point, traded in the intended mission for personal gain and the intended outcomes for personal achievement.


Why am I even a part of a church family? Why am I following Jesus? To make noise for God and feel important doing it? Or to make much of God’ s love by loving others and living to see life in them rather than to have a spiritually fulfilled life.

Jesus is calling His church to continue that mission of love to our neighbor and to the nations, here and around the world. He commanded His church to love as He loves, so that the world will know Love and the Lover’s ways through His followers. This is the mission of the church – to love for the glory and fame of the Lover. And nothing else. He took care of our spiritual fulfillment at the cross. And He will keep filling us up with His love as we grow in loving Him and loving each other.

May we surrender any desire to be noticed as important. May the noise of our lives be love.

Check back in Thursday to join the conversation about how we tend to miss the intended mission of God for His followers because of self-absorbed religious pursuits. In the meantime, go love your neighbor and the nations.

Thankful to be living sent together with you.


1st online international book review

Well, you may or may not know what a “ping-back” is. I didn’t until my friend Mark Weible let me in on it a few years back. Basically, if wordpress gets a notice if someone links back to your blog from their website. Then, they send that notice on to you – a “ping-back.” Make sense?

It was a “ping-back” that made me aware of the 1st online international book review of LIVE SENT. You can check it out by CLICKING HERE and scrolling down one post. Pretty cool. Google translated the site from Romanian to English. Still broken up a bit, but you can get the just of it.


summer love_a more excellent way

The last statement of 1st Corinthians 12, prior to the infamous chapter 13 – the “love chapter” – is this:

“And I show you a still more excellent way.”

Paul had been challenging the church of Corinth to quit being so self-absorbed as individuals. They were using the church for self-promotion and jockeying for position of importance. They were even creating a scale of importance for worship expression and making spiritual gifts about personal fulfillment rather than about church mission fulfillment. They were not choosing the more excellent way that Paul would write about in the chapter that followed.

It is love that makes the church most excellent. Not the church as a “what” – a place or an event or a product – but church as a “who” – the people who follow Jesus and live on mission together. Think about these statements:

  • it is love that connects the many, diverse members of the body of Christ, and it is love that keeps them together on mission.
  • it is love that authenticates and ignites the body of Christ for relationship and mission and purpose and function together, both locally and globally.
  • it is love that blossoms in the lives of the members of the body of Christ when they each choose the fruit of the Spirit rather than the indulgence of self.

Paul wrote a similar message to the church of Galatia. I am praying that our church family will grow more and more in living out this message, not regarding “church” in any way as a means of self-promotion. Rather, living as though crucified with Christ surrendered to blossom the fruit of the Spirit into every detail of our lives. Pretty powerful passage here in Galatians 5:13–26:

13 It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. 14 For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. 15 If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then? 16 My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. 17 For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. 18 Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence? 19 It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; 20 trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; 21 the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom. 22 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, 23 not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. 24 Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified. 25 Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. 26 That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

May we be the church together in a more excellent way. Living by the Spirit. Surrendering self-promotion and self-indulgence, especially with regard to using the church for these matters. Loving each other. Loving our neighbor and the nations together.

Looking forward to diving into the 1st three verses of chapter 13 Sunday the 27th. Love y’all.


summer love is here.

This past Sunday morning, @WestpointChurch began two new journeys. One was an amazing union together with another local church family that merged in with us. We are so thankful for the former Northland West Oaks crew and the chance to now be one church together. In the spirit of that union, we began another journey – a new teaching series about the one essential that makes any union work. Love. Specifically, summer love in this case. And so we began a study of 1st Corinthians 13 together.

The series kicked off by actually taking a step back from chapter 13 into chapter 12. We studied the last few verses of 1st Corinthians 12:

27 Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are notworkers of miracles, are they? 30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? 31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.

Individual parts almost completely useless on their own, but exponentially functional and purposeful together as one body. Especially with Christ as the head. Wow!

The bottom line that we arrived at was this:

The church functions as the body of Christ at its healthiest when the health of the body matters more than the pleasures of the parts. The church also functions as the body of Christ as its healthiest when each part lives as though extremely valuable to the function of the body as a whole. Lord, as we become one church, please mesh together our passions and strengths and preferences and strategies and relationships into one body united on one mission, so that others might know You. May we grow in the gifts and functions required for the purpose of living sent together daily. May the world, both locally and globally know us by our love.

And all this for the sake of the glory of our Heavenly Father who so desires to see His children love one another and make His love known among the nations. I am so excited to see how the individual parts come together in this beautiful union and function as one body with one Head and one mission for local and global community. I am so excited to see how we will express worship together. I am so excited to see how we will multiply new expressions of the local church as we connect and serve together. It will be an exciting future together.

And again, the key will be love. Will we love each other enough to be honest about the strengths we have to offer one another, to be honest about the challenges that we face, to be honest about the frustrations that will come, and to be honest about the mission that we must be urgently committed to.

I believe we will. And I am thankful to be the church with such an awesome church family.

I love you guys. Thankful that summer love is here.


Scotland, so far.

All I have to say is that Bill McCall has been pulling all of our legs. The weather in June over here in Scotland is 60s and sunny with blue skies and green hills and history to take in galore.

Seriously, our trip to Scotland so far has been such a special family time away. Lindsey (Jen’s sister) being here with us, along with all the special time with the McCalls has made it even sweeter. By early next week, you will be able to view a picture of this brother in a kilt. I have to wear it for a Ceilidh (a Scottish party) this coming Saturday night. Ain’t no shame in this game though. I am actually excited about it. And I am even more excited about the amazing experiences my family and I are having with Bill and Sheena and Cameron and Fiona McCall and their church family here in Scotland.

The McCalls are also a part of the @WestpointChurch family in back home. They live in the Winter Garden area about 16 weeks per year. That’s how we met them, when they visited with us in one of Sunday worship gatherings after seeing the sign that hung in front of the elementary school. I am so thankful they did. Our friendship with them has been very special, and this trip only makes it more so.

We hit the Orlando airport the evening of June 1st, Jen’s sister Lindsey along with us. The flight over was not easy, but we made it. We flew British Airways into London Gatwick, connecting on to Edinburgh (pronounced Ed-in-bur-oh). Bill and his friend Douglas were there to pick us all up. The ride from the airport in Edinburgh to their home in the country near Stirling was a phenomenal introduction to the beauty of this historic country.

Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Stirling form a triangle belt that is the epicenter of the culture in more than just geographic ways. Most of the population lives here, and most of the business is conducted from and to here. It is a significant corridor, much like the I-4 corridor of Central Florida.

Freshly blossomed wildflowers, rolling green hills, green energy windmills, historic sites, and quaint villages welcomed us to the McCall’s home country. Our first full day here on the British island was made up mostly of travel. Once we arrived at the McCall’s home, we spent the rest of our day making ourselves acquainted with their historically-rich home and surrounding properties. It is a castle, by all accounts, and it is surrounded by sheep and cows on lush farmland with colorful hills in the distance. Two cottages, one formerly a horse stable and the other workers’ quarters (from back in the day) sit behind their home.

Newly renovated, we have resided there during our time here. It has been wonderful. Sheena stocked the pantry and fridge. Cameron and Fiona gave up certain toys. Bill provided free wifi and verbal support. Thankful.

That first night, we enjoyed lasagna and Scottish coleslaw and great hospitality.

The next day (Thursday), Abby woke up sick. A short virus bug plagued her the rest of the day and kept us at bay on the premises. Probably a good thing. We were able to lay low, rest, and recover from the hard travels. The backyard playground, exploration in the surrounding woods, and walks along the pastures made the day its own adventure. That night, Caleb got a special treat when he was able to attend “Boys Brigade” with Cameron.

Friday, Abby came back to life, and we ventured out to see a few sites. First stop was Lake Menteith – the only lake in all of Scotland. Before you read back over the last sentence and skeptically pronounce me a liar, it technically is the only lake in Scotland, because the rest are called “Lochs.” On this lake is an island which houses the Inchmahome Priory – a famous respite for many retreating protestant leaders. The pictures below do not do it justice. It was a truly peaceful place, even though now in ruins. When Bill and Sheena and the kids returned back to Scotland after two weeks in Florida back in April, they returned home to snow and a thickly frozen Lake Menteith. So, they proceeded to walk across the lake to the island priory, normally a 7 minute boat ride (about a mile and a half).

We ate lunch at the restaurant in the hotel beside the lake. Then, we drove up into the tourist town of Callander, and returned home to nap in the late afternoon.

We had to get some rest before we headed out to party that night!!! Lindsey celebrated her birthday (June 4th) with us all in an Italian cafe in Stirling, Scotland called Corrieri’s Cafe. Bill and Sheena were well known there. The food was spectacular. The cake was really good, too. All the kids helped her blow out the candles. They swallowed first.

The next morning, we loaded up and headed to the town of Dollar. Cameron was playing the drum in his schools bagpipe band, which marched in a parade through the town center. He did so well. It was a sunny day. The breeze kept us cool, and the music kept us moving.

That afternoon, we headed back to the house for the kids to nap. That evening, we ate in a very family-friendly, uniquely decorated restaurant called the Birds and the Bees. No. Sex education was not on the menu. But haggis was. And Lindsey and I tried it. It did taste good. Just not mentally. Click here to read about haggis on wikipedia. You really should try it if you ever come here. Just forget what you read.

After supper, we headed to Bridge of Allan to a local ice cream shop. I had a chocolate covered nougat wafer with chocolate ice cream, another taste of local flavor, and it was much more appetizing than haggis. We all enjoyed our ice cream while enjoying the actual bridge in the Bridge of Allan which was built in the mid 1500s.

Before bed, we watched the sunset from the front of the McCall home. It was stunning. The view of the hills to the north and west has been different everyday. One evening clear with grassy greens and sky blues, the next cloudy with misty oranges and purples that rest on top of the hills. Peaceful and refreshing. Somewhat like Alaska, the sun does not set here during this time of the year until around 10pm. It rises around 4am. That’s taken some getting used to, but has allowed us to take in some amazing views.

Sunday morning, we worshipped on our way to worship gathering and then worshipped there, as well. The drive from their house to the church building where St. David’s gathers was curvy and picturesque. An amazing prep for worship, full of view after view of tall hills and deep valleys and winding roads and wandering sheep and beautiful blossoms. We arrived to friendly faces, some familiar who have actually traveled to the states and worshipped with us back home. Bryce, the pastor here, taught with anointing and passion. The kids enjoyed their various classes. And the fellowship after gathering was sweet.

On the way home, we stopped at a rural, countryside cafe, obviously popular by the number of cars parked. The Courtyard Cafe lived up to the hype, too. Bill had highly recommended it. We pulled away after delicious soups and sandwiches and lattes, past the chicken coupe next to the farmhouse, and Jen said, “That’s the best meal by far so far.”

That evening, I returned with Bill to an outdoor worship gathering. The rain did not keep people from three different church families from gathering together as one church in a city. It was a special time. On the way home, Bill showed me where he grew up, went to high school, met Sheena and remet Sheena, where his mom and dad were from, and more. Fish and Chips were yummy before we got home for bed.

Rain limited our outdoor time Monday. The drive to Loch Katrine was again breathtaking. We even got to cross “Dukes Pass” on the way to the loch. The rain cleared briefly, so we took a short walk along the loch before a quick lunch in the Katrine Cafe. Naps back at the house, again, were followed by an excursion out to eat at the Kirk House restaurant. We then drove back home and got the kids to bed.

Tuesday morning, rain again limited our activity. So, we changed plans from a visit to the Wallace monument and headed to Loch Lomond. This popular hiking spot is home to a large loch nestled among tall peaks, including Ben Lomond (a peak visible from Bill and Sheena’s front yard). Even with the rainy mist, the views and experiences were spectacular. We even got a close-up interview with a “Highland Cow” – a long-haired bovine unique to these parts. Jen was especially fond of him, as well as his oreo counterpart down the road. That’s right. Cows black on each end with a huge white stripe in the middle.

The Loch Lomond outing was made even more special with another great restaurant for lunch. The Oak Tree Inn. Mushroom soup and dynamite gourmet pizza made the Oak Tree our 2nd favorite climb for lunch. If the weather allows, I may return to the Loch Lomond area with the older 2, because there was an amazing nature trail the ranger highlighted for me that Caleb and KG would really dig. We will see.

That afternoon, before supper, after the rain had cleared a bit, Caleb and KG found a zip line tucked back in the woods behind the McCalls’ home. They laughed with glee down it each time, while I waited at the end of the line to catch them before a sure fatal collision with the tree that held the end of the line. The kids loved it. That night, Caleb and Cameron and Ella and I hung out, while all the girls enjoyed Fiona’s ballet show.

Wednesday (yesterday), we took the train into Edinburgh (Ed-in-bur-oh). It was a grand adventure, one all the kids were thrilled about. We met Bill at the Waverly station in downtown Edinburgh. He walked us up to the “Royal Mile” – a stretch of road from the Edinburgh Castle down past John Knox’s house all the way to Holyrood Palace, which houses the Scottish Parliament.

First, we toured the Edinburgh Castle, noting specifically the royal crown, sword, jewels, and scepter. The sheer history of the place was astounding, full of rich heritage that has impacted culture far beyond the borders of Scotland. Abby particularly liked the dresses. And she really wanted to see the Queen. She was disappointed that she was not there.

We then walked down the road to John Knox’s old place, which has been turned into a book store and cafe. The food was quite lovely, as they would say here, and the homemade cake was even lovelier. We met up with one of Bill’s friends, Sandy, who has also gathered with our Westpoint Church family back home on a visit with his family to Florida. It was great to hang out with Sandy. He highlighted three particular sights for us.

Sandy was an “advocate,” walking back and forth discussing civil disputes and leading out in court proceedings. That past allowed us the present privilege to see the courts and the famous hallway where they pace for private conversation and deal-making. Even Bill had not been there before. It was very, very uncommon and special to be there.

Sandy also showed us St. Giles Cathedral on the way to our third stop. It is a “national cathedral” of sorts. Very high church. Formal with its masses attended mostly by the elite of Edinburgh.

Sandy is now a pastor, finishing up his Masters and about to begin his PhD at the New College, the Divinity School of the University of Edinburgh. Made most famous probably because of John Knox, the school was impressive due to its historic facility as well as its rich history of students. I was very, very appreciative of Sandy showing us the school. Knox is a hero, and I value Sandy’s friendship, so the time was sweet.

We walked back down to the Waverly Station and rode the ScotRail back to Stirling. Some yummy lentel soup before a delicious chicken and leeks and puff pastry, homemade by Sheena, and then the kids went off to bed.

This morning, we toured the William Wallace monument. Rather than trying to tell you all the story of Wallace here, I have attached many photos below of the history of Wallace and the independence of Scotland. He is legendary here. You have most likely seen the movie “Braveheart,” which is about William Wallace as played by Mel Gibson. The monument towers over the town of Stirling from the former site of Abbey Craig. It is a powerful site, well befitting the hero she stands for, with breath-taking views of the surrounding Scottish cities and countryside. We conquered its 246 steps to the top and enjoyed the three story chambers along the way up.

Lunch and ice cream in the Bridge of Allan followed. And now I am finishing a much anticipated blog.

Please pray for me tonight (Thursday) and Sunday morning. Tonight, there will be a conversational Q and A in the town of Kirkintilloch for those in the area who have read LIVE SENT. Sunday morning, I will be teaching at the gathering for St. David’s (the McCall’s Scotland church family). I am really looking forward to the chance to speak at both of these, as well as the many conversations that have already happened since we have been here.

We can’t thank Bill and Sheena enough for inviting us. It has been an unforgettable getaway for our family.

Most importantly, Ella really likes the sheep and the cows. Riding down the road or walking by the fields, we simply mention the words “sheep” and “cows” to her, and she immediately responds with “bahh” and “moo.”

Ai, tis a priceless thing, this is.

Later tonight, I will post a lot more amazing pics. Look for the rest of the story and the picture of me in a kilt early next week.

Much love from Scotland.


why love your neighbor?

Jesus declared that loving our neighbor is right next to loving God on the importance scale of the commandments God gives. Why? Why should I love my neighbor, besides the fact that Jesus said so and besides the fact that we as humanity were created for relationships and malfunction without them?

Could it be that loving my neighbor is less about a rule I keep and more about a love that must be given? What if I should love my neighbor, because the evil one is on the prowl to steal hope from the people of our world, and loving my neighbor is God’s chosen mechanism for His church to communicate His grace and love and hope to the world.

THE BOTTOM LINE – what happens when we don’t love our neighbor, when we disengage from our culture, when we live as though church is a product for my benefit rather than a people who live on mission together, we are declaring that God loves me but He doesn’t love you.

The evil one is out to devour us. I have to protect myself. But doesn’t that imply that he wants to devour the people of our culture, too? What about them?

Critics of culture teach that “those people” are dirty or that our culture is corrupt. And they are right. But so am I!!! How arrogant and self-absorbed to live to only protect myself but not my neighbor.

The balance does exist, though, that we don’t want to flippantly play with the “lion that is out to devour us.” But that is where we must listen to the Spirit while living in this world but not of it. To withdraw completely does not rely upon relationship with Jesus and discernment in the Spirit. To withdraw completely and “protect myself” is reliance upon a religious system and results in a self-righteous pietism.

So, we must engage. And, since there are evil forces out to harm us and steal life from us, we must carry shield (faith) and sword (God’s Word) as we engage. We are at war afterall, but we cannot stay at home so that we won’t get hurt. That would be comparable to not flying again after 9-11.

The deception lies in the thought that we are safe at home. This is not my home, though, the Scripture teaches. I am never safe, while trapped in this skin and tempted by the lust of this flesh. I am always in need of carrying my shield and weilding my sword.

Another deception lies in the thought that we should fight to preserve “Christian culture.” There is no such thing. That is an irrational thought, because lost people fill our world and they will continue to act lost unless those who have found the Way show them the Way and those who have found the Treasure share it. Read Romans 10:

9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” 12 Jew and Gentiles are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

The fact is that Jesus did not come so that I would be able to have a safe, beautiful, edifying, peaceful, existence. The fact is that Jesus both came to restore a broken world that He loves AND to call those who trust that He so loves the world to love like He loves so that others might taste what He intended for us – a relationship with the loving, living God. Which is risky. He risked it all to love like that. Will we?

Not if we exist to consume the Christian religion for personal benefit with clean, orderly, safe lives. We MUST be followers of Jesus who live dangerous lives storming the gates of hell rather than consumers of religion who passively survive while those lost behind the gates suffer lonely and unaware that they are love.

Thank God Jesus didn’t sit satisfied in His royal state safe in the throneroom of heaven, but put on skin, risked it all, and gave it all so that we could be fully aware that we are loved and not just left to die.

May we not leave our neighbor there left to die. May we not leave our neighbor there hopeless and alone. May we, in both action and conversation, show our neighbors that they are loved with an everlasting, transformative, abundant, purposeful love.

How beautiful are your feet?

love who is “in your way”

Together, we have studied some hard teachings of Jesus over the past month and a half. I hope it has been both an encouragement to follow Jesus daily with even more surrender and abandon, and I hope it has been a challenge to really get honest about the choices we are making daily and whether they actually are helping us or hindering us from living out the mission that Jesus intended for His church.

I love our church family. We have so many families who are living sent daily in so many different ways. We have so many individuals who are giving themselves away, listening to the promptings of Jesus to love and then actually loving like He did. Jen and I are so thankful for our church family, like none we have ever walked with before.

I want to confess something, though. I am too busy. Too busy justifying how busy I am. Too busy focusing on pursuits that I am not sure really matter to Jesus. Too busy ignoring needs I come across both directly and indirectly. And too busy to actually know and love my neighbor and lead my family to do the same.

Are you?

I wonder if Jesus wants us to simply believe that He loves us like He said and showed and then live daily to show that love intentionally in all that we do and everywhere we go and to everyone we meet, so that they might simply believe that He loves them like He said and like He showed through how we show it.

The people “in our way.” Along our path. Whether directly, like we bump into them, or indirectly, like we become aware of them. As we are going, love your neighbor, learn and live the ways of Jesus in front of them and with them, calling them to be baptized into a loving family, teaching them to learn and live the ways of Jesus as they are going, too. Matthew 28:18–20 certainly commands this. And so does the following story that Jesus shared with a man trying to justify how busy he was pursuing personal preferences rather than living on the mission God intended.

Check out this passage from Luke 10:

25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” 27 The man answered, “`You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, `Love your neighbor as yourself.'” 28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” 29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. 31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins,s telling him, `Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ 36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. 37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

A few honest questions:

:: am I so busy having to justify my pursuits to Jesus that I am blind to the fact that I am not actually pursuing what matters to Him?

:: am I so busy in my pursuit of personal piety that I ignore the people in my way who might be dirtier than me?

:: am I so busy in my pursuit of daily following through on accepted traditions that I ignore anyone and anything that might interrupt me?

:: am I willing to pause in my daily pursuit in order to meet a need that is either directly in my way or that I am indirectly aware of?

Love who is “in your way.” Could that really be the primary responsibility of the church? I would suggest so. And I think Jesus suggested and commanded it, too.

The implications are significant. I don’t have to spend my time trying to justify myself and live right FOR Jesus. I get to live WITH Him as we love the people along our path. I don’t have to feel overwhelmed like I have to meet every need on earth. I get to experience the abundance of sacrificial love giving myself away in every facet (more than just writing a check) by relating with and pouring into both the people I directly come into contact with as well as the people whose needs I indirectly become aware of. I don’t have to feel hopeless like I don’t have enough to give. I get to follow the One who is enough and who has promised that He will keep supplying my needs as I live and give out of the riches of His Kingdom and His love rather than feeling limited by my own supply.

Just love who is “in your way.” Am I too busy to do that? Then I may be too busy to follow Jesus.

TOGETHER, may we simply love and listen to Jesus. TOGETHER, may we simply love and relate with our neighbors. And TOGETHER, may we not ignore the needs of those directly and indirectly “in our way.”

a clarification about my perspective on the American Dream

Over the course of the GIVE UP series, we have mentioned often the status quo of the American Dream. We have even gone so far as to say that I cannot follow Jesus AND follow after the normal pursuits of the American Dream. Now, this is not a statement about “America.” Simply a statement about what is commonly called “the American Dream.”

For today’s devotional, I wanted to share with you a brief clarification with regard to my perspective on the American Dream, as well as a brief encouragement to you as we continue to learn and live the ways of Jesus together. Here is what I shared this past Sunday morning:

If anything, the GIVE UP series challenged us all that the status quo pursuit of the American Dream is a contradiction to what Jesus intended for His followers. Following Jesus means denying myself, taking up my cross, and loving my neighbor as I walk daily in love relationship with Him. The normal pursuit of the American Dream means advancing myself, taking up more stuff, and being so busy I don’t even know my neighbor’s name and am so distracted I have difficulty hearing Jesus. The challenge is not one of being poor or even surrendering wealth. The challenge Jesus gave to people over and over again was one not centered around having much or having little, but centered around the fact that He is enough.

To surrender the American Dream and take up your cross is not necessarily a surrender of wealth (unless that has become your idol). It is a surrender of pursuit. It is a surrender of traditions. It is a surrender to have sabbath so that we can hear Him. It is a surrender to confessing that Jesus is enough, and then daily listening to Him, loving Him, and giving His love away such that life blossoms in others. Then, He will change “life I’ve always wanted” from being “the American Dream” to being life in relationship with Him and life given away into the people “in my way.”

The people “in my way” – what does that mean? Well, tune in for Thursday’s devo in two days to dive into that thought.

Meanwhile, I wanted to encourage @WestpointChurch (our church family) with Romans 12:

1 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. 2 Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. 3 I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

4 In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. 5 The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, 6 let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; 7 if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; 8 if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.

9 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. 10 Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. 11 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, 12 cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. 13 Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. 14 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. 15 Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.

16 Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. 17 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. 18 If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. 19 Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” 20 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. 21 Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

I am so thankful for the most loving and willing to give it all away church family on the planet!!! Thank you for your willingness to keep listening fully to Jesus. Thank you for being open to His teachings transforming even the most dear traditions and customs of your families and lives. Thank you for how you already are living sent, giving yourselves away. Thank you for all you are teaching me as a follower, a husband, a dad, a friend, a leader, and a servant.

PRAY_Lord, please continue to unite us in togetherness around Your love and in sentness to be Your love letter to our culture.

LIVE_love one of your neighbors and one of your co-workers this week in some very specific way. Expect no praise. Expect nothing in return. But give friendship like it has a limitless supply.

I love you so very much. Excited about what this summer will bring. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for our next series, which will kick off June 27th – SUMMER LOVE.