Cultivating Daily into Neighbors: Here are some recommended books to encourage us as we are actually loving our neighbors…

Not to long ago, I messaged out to some folks who are actually making disciples, in my opinion, and asked them to tell me three books they recommend that actually encourage followers of Jesus to make disciples in the daily rhythms of their lives. The list is below. I have not read all of these YET. But as you and I do, may we come back and leave our thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of each. Grateful to all the leaders who responded and recommended.

Hope this compilation of recommended books is helpful!

May we see “on earth as it is in heaven” on our block as we live believing that God loves us, compelled to love others that they may know His near, life-giving love, as well.
-jason

Cultivating Daily into Family: be intentional with how you cultivate for healthy sibling relationships. How do you do that?

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It was a special moment captured luckily just because I had the phone out taking a different picture a few minutes before. A 10 year old brother loving his 1 year old brother. Caleb and Noah – the little brother for whom Caleb prayed, unbeknownst to us :)

But to say we are grateful would be an understatement. We can’t imagine life at the Dukes house without Noah’s smile and charm.

And Caleb can’t have imagined another female (he has 3 sisters). :)

With five kids, we actually work hard at cultivating for healthy relationship between the siblings. It is not easy. Two practices we have seen that have been impactful so far:

:: don’t allow for tattle tales unless the siblings have tried to work it out without any progress or unless one of them is in serious danger. We have to coach them at times in working it out, but this is a good thing. After all, we must raise our kids to love others enough to confront and resolve conflict. It is one essential of loving relationships. It is one component of a forgiving culture. And to not cultivate for this implies that you are okay with relationships that stifle rather than sharpen.

:: encourage siblings to pray together, especially when resolving conflict. It is a beautiful thing to listen in on their respective perspectives as they do. Coach them to keep it simple and relational inviting Jesus to grow them and help them as they learn to love each other. Coach them also not to pray for the other to be different, but instead for their own sensitivity and growth.

What about you guys? Those of you who are parents, what have you done to cultivate for healthy and growing sibling relationships? Please share in the comments that we may all grow in wisdom together.

Grateful.
-jason

Cultivating Daily for Unity: here’s an awesome story of one local church putting the needs of another local church above their own.

It was their first Sunday for a public worship gathering. This new church start had been preparing for this day for some time, already having walked together and grown together and served together during what most call a “core group” phase. But this Sunday they would start a weekly Sunday gathering for the people of the community they had been already loving.

One of their goals was to be a new local church that helped to start other new local churches. But for most leaders, that day will come. It’s not something you do in your first year, right? It’s not something you do at your first Sunday gathering, right? Not when you have so many needs yourself, right? Well, not unless you value generosity toward and unity around mission with other local church families.

Only if you believe that “put the interests of others above your own” stuff applies to the 2nd person plural “you,” too.

And it does. It’s the only way for we as His church to actually be the church that He intended and prayed for in John 17:18-23.

“As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. I sanctify Myself for them, so they also may be sanctified by the truth. I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message. May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me. I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one. I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17:18-23 HCSB)

On that first Sunday, an offering was collected, as does happen in many Sunday gatherings around the world. But on that first Sunday, this new church start did not keep a penny of it.

Visiting with them was another leader whose family and a few friends would be cultivating for another new local church expression not too far away. And without having told him it was going to happen before, the offering collected on that first Sunday was given in totality to the visiting leader of another local church family in order to help their ministry begin.

And that’s love – caring more about what someone else is becoming than what you are becoming. That’s love – being willing to give everything you have denying yourself to help someone else.

And that kind of love among local churches is what cultivates for unity in a community, is what becomes an answer to Jesus’ prayer, is what ushers in the work of God in a city.

The near love of Jesus on display, that the world might believe in the One who was sent.

May we go and do the same.
-jason

Cultivating Daily unto the Nations: a few thoughts on loving the nation that happens to also be our neighbor…

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It seems so far away from Orlando. And yet it’s only about a 2 and 1/2 hour plane ride. In today’s world, that makes them our neighbor. In terms of countries, in terms of states and provinces, they are. Canada to the US. The northeastern states to Quebec. And the largest city there is Montreal.

If I told you that demographic data states that less than 1% of the population there claims to be Jesus-followers, would you believe me, or would you think I was mentioning an eastern country that is far, far away from these “Christian” nations of the west?

If I told you that there were cities, not just communities, in Quebec that did not have a visible church presence, would you think I was speaking of another continent than our own?

This is where the water hits the wheel for me. This past summer, I began to ask myself what my belief in Jesus really means to me. Because if I really believe that the lost can be found in Him, that purpose is defined by Him, and that hope arrives in our lives because of His presence and His love, then would I not be burdened to take His love to both the neighbor next door and even the nation next door?

Or is this “Christian” stuff just for me and my wife and kids and our betterment and our blessing?

Please pray with me. I am not suggesting that we all need to learn a polished presentation and be armed with a truthful tract and go declare a meaningful message to a people we don’t even know. I guess what I am praying is that the Lord will awaken me, awaken us, to how His love given compels the one to whom it is given to live with personal presence embodying God’s glorious truth displayed via consistent compassion in the midst of ongoing relationships among a people we are really wanting to know. A people whom we care more about what they are becoming than about our own betterment.

This is what God did. The presentations of previous messengers had not been enough. Truth declared alone had not restored. But God in skin delivering truth in the embodiment of love, that was enough.

The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 HCSB)

And Jesus said to His followers:

As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (John 20:21 HCSB)

We do not save. But we are sent. And sent together simply to “make disciples.” To go be the family of God in the midst of the lost and lonely like Emmanuel has done with us. And we go as a learner of His ways empowered by His Spirit to be a lover in His way that those who have not found their way may find Him and simply believe that they are loved by a near God.

How might we embody both truth AND grace to both our actual neighbors (those in our daily pathways) as well as to our neighboring country?

Please pray, if you sense His leading to do so, for wisdom and response that we all might feel compelled to give the love that has been given to us.

-jason

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Cultivating Daily in the Marketplace: do you work for money or for mission? Consider this…

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We make our mortgage payment every other week. Groceries for five kids and one on the way costs money. Gas. Tolls. Insurance. Oh yeah, and generosity. Lots of avenues for money to go out. Which means that there must be an avenue where money comes in.

And so we work.

“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” [ Proverbs 14:23 ]

Other verses in Proverbs also make it clear that work is important, laziness is bad, and God gave us abilities and energies to use in the course of how He provides for us.

But that last statement is the key. He provides for us.

“Give us this day our daily bread…” [ Matthew 6:11 ]

So obviously, in answering the question WORK FOR MONEY OR FOR MISSION, it would be contradictory to say God will provide (affirming the Matthew 6 verse) but then to be lazy and not work hard in what your hands find to do (ignoring the Proverb). But is that the purpose for work? Just to make money?

I believe that most of us philosophically agree, if you follow Jesus, that you don’t just go to work to make money. But do we get caught in the snare of making more money rather than making more disciples?

So, let’s say we should make it a priority to work for mission’s sake. What would the mission then be?

What if the mission is to live believing that God loves us, which secures us to love others like He has loved us, in hopes that they will also believe that God loves them?

Could it be that simple?

Consider these Scriptures:

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.” [ John 3:16-18 HCSB ]

“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” [ John 13:34, 35 HCSB ]

Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” [ John 20:21 NLT ]

May we work for mission, trust for money, and live sent to be a letter of His love into the lives of the people with whom we work. And not so that we can make a spiritual presentation to them. Rather, so that we can live a spiritual presence with them, that in our nearness, both in word and deed, they may believe that they are loved by the God who came near and considered them worth dying for.

Lord, please teach us how to live sent daily with You.
-jason

Cultivating Daily into Neighbors: Simple Suggestions for Engaging Your Neighbors from @JoshReeves & @VergeNetwork

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Wanted to share this great article from the Verge Network by Josh Reeves about 25 simple ways to engage your neighbor. And there’s a bonus. There is a link to a previous article from Josh with 25 more ways that was actually a prequel to the article I have copied and pasted below :)

Hope it encourages you to love your neighbor! So grateful for the Verge Network and all the great resources they share.

-jason

————————————————————
[ from the Verge Network ]
Recently, Josh Reeves wrote an article with “25 Simple Ways to Engage Your Neighbors.” Because there was so much interest in the article, we decided to give a follow-up with 25 more ideas to engage with your neighbors.

Here’s a recap of the original article, along with more ways to engage your neighbors:

*******************************

I have found that it is often helpful to have practical ideas to start engaging the people around me. Most of the things on this list are normal, everyday things that many people are already doing. The hope is that we would do these things with Gospel intentionality. This means we do them:

– In the normal rhythms of life pursuing to meet and engage new people

– Prayerfully watching and listening to the Holy Spirit to discern where God is working.

– Looking to boldly, humbly, and contextually proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.

Below is a second list of 25 simple ways to engage your neighbors. Not all of these are for everyone, but hopefully there will be several ideas on the list that God uses to help you engage your neighbors:

1. Cook an extra casserole and give it to a neighbor

2. Buy an extra dozen donuts and give them to a neighbor

3. Start a compost pile and allow neighbors to dump their compost

4. Host a coffee and dessert night

5. Organize and host a ladies craft night

6. Organize an effort for neighbors to help take care of elderly in neighborhood

7. Become a regular at your neighborhood pool/park

8. If you have a skill, let neighbors know that you can use it to help them for free

9. Host a movie night and discussion afterwards

10. Start a walking/running group in the neighborhood

11. Start hosting a play date weekly for other stay at home parents

12. Organize a carpool for your neighborhood to help save gas

13. Collect good will store items and offer to take them to goodwill

14. Have a front yard ice cream party in the summer

15. Start a sewing group

16. Go Christmas caroling in your neighborhood (invite neighbors in on it)

17. Throw a July 4th block party

18. Start a neighborhood Facebook/Twitter/Google + group

19. Ask longtime residents to help you learn about the neighborhood

20. Offer to babysit neighbors kids so they can have a date night

21. Find out your neighbors birthdays and take them a card and baked goods on it

22. Setup a meet your neighbors night with drinks in your driveway/front yard

23. Ask your HOA or apartment complex if they need help with anything

24. Host a regular Saturday morning breakfast potluck

25. Host a sports game watching party

Do you have some other ideas or ways that you or your Missional Community have engaged your neighborhood? Let us know below in the Comments section!

Missional Tip:
Pick one of these ideas and act on it this week. Let us know in the Comments Section how it went!
**********************************

Josh Reeves is the Lead Planting Pastor with Redeemer Church in Round Rock, Texas. You can follow Josh on Twitter: @joshreeves

Cultivating Daily into Family: Parents, how do you respond when your kids make mistakes? Check out #MichaelJordan’s perspective followed by some personal thots, too…

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Even though I am a Duke fan and have always been a Duke fan, I grew up cheering for Michael Jordan. The first Final Four game I saw on TV was the 1982 championship that took place in my home town New Orleans between Georgetown and North Carolina. As a young freshman, Jordan hit the go ahead shot in the final minute and was a key player in the TarHeel championship run that season.

Jordan went on to mega-stardom as a Chicago Bull in the NBA, winning 6 NBA Titles and catapulting the league into international influence, also paving the way for athletes to enjoy big-money endorsements and product lines beyond their own sports. Jordan definitely is considered a significant success as a basketball player and a business man.

If this is the case, then why is one of his most famous and powerful commercials about failure? See for yourself:

What a great perspective on mistakes and failure. My wife and I as parents grapple with this question all the time as we cultivate into our kids. Do you have such an understanding in dealing with the mistakes of your children as you cultivate daily into their lives?

Consider these thoughts that we ourselves are trying to learn and practice grow in more and more daily:

:: Let the prevailing culture of your family for which you cultivate consistently be one of love first rather than condemnation first (John 3:16-17).

:: Encourage humility and confession rather than just feelings of humiliation and a consequence given. (1st John 1:9)

:: When confronting and conversing about a mistake, don’t let a child’s first response be, “But he…” or “She did this…” Remind them that this conversation is about what they can learn rather than how they can blame. (Genesis 3)

:: When there is a relational issue among siblings and humility and contriteness have been quickly displayed, let the consequence be confession to one another and prayer for help the next time. (Matthew 18:15-20)

:: Encourage the joy that comes from having to be dependent upon a Savior and Restorer rather than the guilt that remains when we keep thinking we have to fix ourselves (Psalm 32).

:: Teach each child how to deal with the temptations that come in an assertive but reliant way – take each temptation thought captive then try not to deal with it alone. Rather, drag it to Jesus, surrender to Him, and ask Him for His ways to prevail rather than my own. (2nd Corinthians 10:3-5)

May we all grow in cultivating in our families for a culture that views mistakes as opportunities for maturing rather than signs of immaturity. And may we all grow in wisdom as we cultivate for culture of grace and love in our families.

For all those Jordan fans out there, maybe this is just one more way to “Be Like Mike.” :) Enjoy that classic commercial below…

Cultivating Daily into Family: Dr. King dreamed of a country where the new command of Jesus was obeyed. May it be so…

Today, as you remember the speeches and efforts of one of America’s most culture-changing leaders ever, may we reflect upon the culture that we are cultivating for in our own families. For, if and only if we in our respective families will “love one another as I [Jesus] have loved you,”  then and only then will we be a reconciled people. And this is how all of humanity will “know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Love on display. His kingdom here. On earth as it is in heaven.

Dr. King is quoted as having said:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

A friend of mine tweeted earlier today:

We live in a world of counterfeit conversations, guarded hearts, and secluded souls. It’s time for love.”

So true. For only when we live as though loved, secure in Whose we are and assured that we are worth dying for to Him, will we give love as it has been given to us. 

I pray that Dr. King’s dream will come true for my children as he hoped it would come for his – that there would come a day when they are not known or judged by the color of their skin but rather respected for the content of their character.

Thanks, Dr. King, for your courage and love. 

Here’s Dr. King’s famous speech from the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 in its entirety in video form, followed below by the transcript of the speech in its entirety. May we be inspired.

“I HAVE A DREAM”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee,
sweet land of liberty,
of thee I sing. 

Land where my fathers died,
land of the Pilgrim’s pride, 

From every mountainside,
let freedom ring! 

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that.

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last! 
Thank God Almighty,
we are free at last!

[from http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm]

Cultivating Daily into Neighbors: @WalMart and @CocaCola know that loving your neighbor matters. May we do the same :-)

Some folks who encourage and equip the church in western Europe to actually be the church by going and being the family of God in the midst of the culture there use a great video from WalMart and Coca-Cola as an intro for conversation about how important being “family” really is.

I often wonder what might happen if we as the church here in America would focus more of our energy beyond the Sunday morning toward actually going and being the family of God with the people of our communities. I would suggest that there is certainly more and more of this happening, for which I am very grateful. But those who call themselves His church should consider this question:

If God thought enough of putting on skin and coming to dwell among us (His neighbors), so should we as His church.

Such is the mindset of cultivating daily into neighbors. And by neighbors, again, we don’t just mean on your street only. We simply mean anyone in the daily pathways of your life, especially if you consistently interact with them. May we grow in the mindset that Jesus might actually have intended for His church to be more defined by how we are united around the purpose of being family out in the midst of our culture rather than defined by how we are united around a good worship experience.

By the way – if I consider myself a follower of Jesus who takes seriously the teachings of Jesus, including the one about making disciples as I am going, but I don’t have any deep friendships outside of my Sunday church gathering circle, then maybe I need to ask myself if I really take seriously that “making disciples” stuff. Because, if I am not bringing the love of the near Jesus and the security of the family of God into the daily lives of those in my pathways, many of whom are stifled by loneliness and insecurity, then I don’t value family and “loving my neighbor” and “making disciples” quite as much as I think I do.

Here’s hoping that we will be compelled to go love first as we have been loved. And here’s hoping that we might be inspired by the joy that comes from being family together, as WalMart and Coca-Cola have picked up on. Maybe we should even drop off a WalMart gift card to a neighbor. Or share a coke and some conversation. Just a suggestion :)

Oh yeah – here’s that video from WalMart and Coca-Cola about the joy that comes from being family together:

Cultivating Daily into Family: is my family a culture of love & grace or a culture of law & goodness (or the lack thereof)? #Parenting

My wife and I have been asking what we believe to be a very, very significant question as parents over the last year or so – are we parenting around the principle of Scripture that “kindness leads to repentance” or around the preference of default parenting to “make our kids be good.” Maybe a better way to ask the question would be:

is our family a culture of love and grace or a culture of law and goodness?

There are two fundamental flaws in “parenting to make our kids good.”

FIRST, it carries with it the presupposition that we can control what our kids become. The truth is that we cannot. No parent can. In all of life, in fact, we have zero control over what we reap. However, we have incredible control over what we sow. And we must not try to reap good kids as much as need to cultivate God’s goodness into them and into the culture of our family.

The SECOND fundamental flaw in parenting to make our kids good is the presumption that we can and possibly even are supposed to make ourselves good. This is the lie of human religion. Pure and undefiled religion, on the other hand, at least according to James 1, is not about my personal goodness but about others seeing how near and personal God’s goodness is. And He showed us that by coming near to us in Jesus. And He now sends those whom He is making to become “fishers of men” (Mark 1) to go near unto the lost and lonely to be the family of God with them showing them God’s good and gracious love. What if God did not intend for us to be good trying to live FOR Him, but rather He intended us to give His goodness away as we live and love WITH Him as well as with others?

Jen and I began asking ourselves:

  • do our kids feel like we are disappointed in them at all times? (if they do, isn’t it likely that later when they are disappointed with life as well as with themselves that they will not turn to us or the God whom we have promoted to them?)
  • what we expect of our kids, is it what God desires in them?
  • how we react to our kids, is it selfish anger or selfless kindness, growing with them and loving them patiently as we are loved?
  • why would our kids ever think that God-stuff and religion are for the purpose of nothing more than personal betterment if we provide for them an environment where maturity is MATURING rather than perfection?
  • when will they ever respond to mistakes with contriteness if we don’t cultivate for a contrite heart in our own home?

Maybe God desires not for our kids to be good as much as He desires for them to believe that He is good. Maybe God thinks kindness will draw our kids unto Him rather than angry reactions. Maybe God wants our kids to never grow up but to rather simply be growing. And maybe God wants our kids to quit thinking that need to perform for Him, and instead nailed their lack of perfection to a cross providing for them an environment where they could come confidently to Him and say they were sorry. Maybe He did all this before our kids and before we ever said we were sorry. Grace.

Am I parenting like that? Am I cultivating daily into my family that kind of love and grace and goodness? Am I loving my kids the way Jesus has loved me (John 13:34-35)?

Check out the video below of Brennan Manning communicating how he was wrecked by the unconditional love of God and how we all were intended to simply believe that we are loved.

And here’s a prayer for us all to be praying as cultivate daily into our families. Because we must pray. Not because we ought to, either. But rather because we need God. We need His help. We need Him WITH us as we parent. Better said, we need to be WITH Him.

  • Lord, help us make our home a relational environment where our kids grow up knowing grace & refuge as well as love & mission.
  • Lord, help us to treat our kids in such a way that they know we delight in them rather than are interrupted by them.
  • Lord, help us to model confession and repentance for and with our kids. (CONTRITE)
  • Lord, help us to cultivate for gratefulness rather than resentment.
  • Lord, help us to model life WITH You rather than life FOR You, emphasizing Your goodness over our own.

CLICK HERE to view the Brennan Manning video. It’s worth your four minutes.

-jason

Cultivating Daily for Unity: do you ever pray in worship gathering for the ministries & ldrs of other local churches?

Jesus prayed for the unity of His church together in John 17:18-23. Ever since, for the most part, we have ignored His prayer for us together and instead prayed for personal awakening and revival. It might be that awakening and revival would come if we prayed earnestly and cultivated intentionally for unity among the followers of Jesus in our communities.

Here’s one very simple way to do that:

PRAY FOR THE MINISTRIES AND LEADERS OF OTHER LOCAL CHURCH EXPRESSIONS IN YOUR COMMUNITY DURING SUNDAY WORSHIP GATHERINGS.

Do it every week. Highlight the leaders and a few things those ministries are up to. Even encourage the families who make up the church family of which you are a part to engage in those activities, to serve those ministries and leaders. And make sure every time you do this in worship gathering that you mention why you are doing it. And why might that be?

…for the sake of cultivating for unity among the followers of Jesus in the city where we live so that the work of God might come about (or even awakening or revival) in the city where we live.

Maybe even go one step further. Call or email or have coffee with the leaders of the local church expression for whom you prayed and ask them how you can serve them. Putting the interests of other local churches above your own might actually make the local church family of which you are a part stronger. It might actually make you all stronger. It might actually be what Jesus intended.

May we cultivate daily for unity.
-jason

PS _ this Saturday night, “unite” with me to cheer for the New Orleans Saints. Here’s their playoff preview video :)

Cultivating Daily in the Marketplace: “30 Simple Ways to Be Missional in Your Workplace” from @JoshReeves & @VergeNetwork…

Wanted to share these great suggestions from Josh Reeves and the Verge Network about living sent in the marketplace. Hope they will encourage you as you cultivate daily the love of the near Jesus in your workplace.

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Many times it’s difficult to find practical ways to be a blessing in your workplace. Rapid pace, mounting deadlines, or co-worker conflict can often derail even the best of intentions to say and show the love of Jesus at work.

Recently, Josh Reeves posted some very practical ideas for blessing others in the workplace:

1. Instead of eating lunch alone, intentionally eat with other co-workers and learn their story.

2. Get to work early so you can spend some time praying for your co-workers and the day ahead.

3. Make it a daily priority to speak or write encouragement when someone does good work.

4. Bring extra snacks when you make your lunch to give away to others.

5. Bring breakfast (donuts, burritos, cereal, etc.) once a month for everyone in your department.

6. Organize a running/walking group in the before or after work.

7. Have your missional community/small group bring lunch to your workplace once a month.

8. Create a regular time to invite coworkers over or out for drinks.

9. Make a list of your co-workers birthdays and find a way to bless everyone on their birthday.

10. Organize and throw office parties as appropriate to your job.

11. Make every effort to avoid gossip in the office. Be a voice of thanksgiving not complaining.

12. Find others that live near you and create a car pool.

13. Offer to throw a shower for a co-worker who is having a baby.

14. Offer to cover for a co-worker who needs off for something.

15. Start a regular lunch out with co-workers (don’t be selective on the invites).

16. Organize a weekly/monthly pot luck to make lunch a bit more exciting.

17. Ask someone who others typically ignore if you can grab them a soda/coffee while you’re out.

18. Be the first person to greet and welcome new people.

19. Make every effort to know the names of co-workers and clients along with their families.

20. Visit coworkers when they are in the hospital.

21. Bring sodas or work appropriate drinks to keep in your break room for coworkers to enjoy. Know what your co-workers like.

22. Go out of your way to talk to your janitors and cleaning people who most people overlook.

23. Find out your co-workers favorite music and make a playlist that includes as much as you can (if suitable for work).

24. Invite your co-workers in to the service projects you are already involved in.

25. Start/join a city league team with your co-workers.

26. Organize a weekly co-working group for local entrepreneurs at a local coffee shop.

27. Start a small business that will bless your community and create space for mission.

28. Work hard to reconcile co-workers who are fighting with one another.

29. Keep small candy, gum, or little snacks around to offer to others during a long day.

30. Lead the charge in organizing others to help co-workers in need.

Be sure and check out the full article here.

Do you have some other ideas or ways that you’ve been missional at work? Let us know below in the Comments section!

Missional Tip: Pick one of these ideas and act on it this week. Let us know in the comments how it went!

THANKS TO THE VERGE NETWORK GUYS FOR SHARING THESE GREAT SUGGESTIONS!!!
-jason

Cultivating Daily into Neighbors: 10 Simple Ways to Be Missional in Your Neighborhood from @TimChesterCoUK & @VergeNetwork.

I thought I would make the first post of 2012 for cultivating daily into neighbors a simple and focused one. Tim Chester, author of Everyday Church: mission by being good neighbors and A Meal with Jesus among many other quality books, offered these in a brief article that was highlighted by the Verge Network.

Hope they encourage you as you are cultivating the love of the near Jesus daily into your neighbors.

____________________

10 Simple Ways To Be Missional
…without adding anything to your schedule
by Tim Chester

1. Eat with other people. _ We all eat 3 meals a day. That’s 21 opportunities for church and mission each week without adding anything new to your schedule. And meals are a powerful expression of welcome and community.

2. Work in public places. _  Hold meetings, prepare talks, read in public spaces like cafes, pubs and parks. It will naturally help you engage with the culture as work or plan. For example, whose questions do you want to address in your Bible studies – those of professional exegetes or those of the culture?

3. Be a regular. _ Adopt a local café, pub, park and shops so you regularly visit and become known as a local. Imagine if everyone in your gospel community did this!

4. Join in with what’s going on. _ Churches often start their own thing like a coffee shop or homeless program. Instead, join existing initiatives – you don’t have the burden of running it and you get opportunities with co-workers.

5. Leave the house in the evenings. _ It’s so easy after a long day on a dark evening to slump in front of the television or surf the internet. Get out! Visit a friend. Take a cake to a neighbor. Attend a local group. Go to the cinema. Hang out in a café. Go for a walk with a friend. It doesn’t matter where as long as you go with gospel intentionality.

6. Serve your neighbors. _ Weed a neighbor’s garden. Help someone move. Put up a shelf. Volunteer with a local group. It could be one evening a week or one day a month. Try to do it with other members of your gospel community so it becomes a common project. Then people will see your love for one another and it will be easier to talk about Jesus.

7. Share your passion. _ What do you enjoy? Find a local group that shares your passion. Be missional and have fun at the same time!

8. Hang out with your work colleagues. _ Spend your lunch break with colleagues. Go for a drink after work. Share the journey to work.

9. Walk. _ Walking enables you to engage with your neighborhood at street level. You notice things you don’t in a car. You are seen and known in the neighborhood.

10. Prayer walk. _ Walk around your neighborhood using what you see as fuel for prayer. Pray for people, homes, businesses, community groups and community needs. Ask God to open your eyes to where He is at work and to fill your heart with love for your neighborhood.

Tim Chester is director of The Porterbrook Institute, a church planter with The Crowded House in Sheffield, UK, and the author of over a dozen books including Total Church and You Can Change.

Cultivating Daily into Family: how about “Reading God’s Story” (by @GHGuthrie) with your family this year?

Last night, Jen and I started “Reading God’s Story” together for 2012. We wanted to ask you to:

  • please pray for us as we embark on this journey to read the entire Bible in Chronological form in 2012 with our four oldest kids.
  • please pray for our church family and five other church families in our community who have committed to do this in 2012.
  • please consider doing the same with your family! :) It is an awesome way to cultivate the Good News of the near Jesus and learn and live His ways together.

Here’s the deal – reading the Bible is not a “check-list” thing to do, unless you are simply “living FOR God.” But, if you are wanting daily to live WITH God, then listening for His leading and responding in love and obedience is crucial on a moment by moment basis. AND, in order to do this, you have to discern among the many “voices” in our everyday what are His promptings and what are not. AND, in order to discern that, you need to be able to recognize His promptings. AND, in order to recognize them, you need to be familiar with who He is and what He does. SO, in order to be familiar with that, be familiar with His Word – the Bible, His story of His love for His people and what He did to restore us as He intended.

It’s kind of like this. If you are immersed in the Scriptures and you are listening for His leading in the daily, then you might sense a prompting and then ask, “Does that sound like Him? I think so. It sure does seem like what I have read about Him in the Bible.

Make sense?

Also, don’t read the Bible for the sake of reading the Bible. Read it and ask one simple question – if this stuff is true and the story of this God is for real, then how will I walk daily with Him, grateful for His grace, growing in His love, gripped by His mission, and groaning to obey all that He prompts me to do.

Imagine what could actually happen if we set out to simply know God and make Him known together this year!!!

I mentioned that for this year we have been encouraging the Westpoint Church family along with other church families what are part of “the Church of West Orange” to get READING GOD’S STORY if they are able to do so. It is a chronological Bible put together by Dr. George Guthrie, a professor and author on faculty with Union University in Jackson, TN. It is broken down into daily Bible readings six days a week for 52 weeks.

  • Click here to order it from Amazon.com. If you want to get it for Kindle, click here.
  • If you want TO LISTEN TO THE DAILY “READING GOD’S STORY” READING IN AUDIO VERSION, click here for the podcast from iTunes or click here for a version from SoundBlast.
  • If you don’t want to purchase the chronological Bible but want to read along in the same way as those who do, click here for a link to a 2-page PDF of the chronological reading plan for the 52 weeks that you can use with any version of the Bible that you might have.
  • If you have an iPhone, there is an awesome app that goes along with the Read the Bible for Life plan. This is not just another “read the Bible in a year” plan. It is an app full of rich resources along with video and audio content that helps you better understand and obey the Scriptures. Click here for the link for the app.
  • And finally, click here for the full website with more info and more online resources that go along with “Reading God’s Story.”

Praying this will be a valuable and fruitful resource for you and your family.

-jason