Check out SENTkids.com (aka MissionalParenting.com)!!!

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May I invite you to check out SENTkids.com. It is a brand new resource we launched two weeks ago to help equip moms and dads to grow kids with grace and send kids with gospel. The hope is that parents will send their children off to college as disciple makers rather than just moralists.

Surf the site. We kicked it off unpacking the four suggestions from the “suggestions” page over the first four weeks (two more to go). We will not only be sharing thoughts and stories and resources, but from time time you can enjoy guest bloggers offering their perspectives. Expect posts every Monday and Wednesday and Friday. Also, be looking for three to five ebooks free as encouraging and equipping resources to parents.

Comment with suggestions or any feedback.

Hopeful this will be a meaningful resource to help families live sent together and to equip moms and dads as they cultivate into the hearts of their children the gospel of the God who came near.

Much love.
-Jason

why SENT life? why TOGETHER? And a link for some resources for those who are or know those who are depressed or struggling in silence with mental illness…

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Can I give you three reasons why walking in SENT life with a few others is so crucial to both our own salvation as well as others experiencing Christ’s saving grace?

One _ because without intimate relationships, can we really learn the Gospel? I am not sure it is possible. In order to actually learn the good news of Jesus coming near to us as well as the security that Gospel bears upon my self-perception as well as the compelling love that Gospel moves me to give freely into my everyday friendships, I need community. I need the exposure of my weaknesses that an environment of intimacy provides. I need the edification of my becoming who Jesus is making me to be that the encouragement and sharpening of others offers. I need the tastes of conflict and grace and forgiveness and restoration and growth. This interaction provides me the space to believe I am fully loved as I walk with an otherwise selfish group of people who are uniting around a forever, selfless Love.

Two _ because without life together, how could I know when someone’s life is falling apart? Isn’t it irrational to think that some professional clergy can discern when a congregant is depressed just because he or she shows up for gathering on a Sunday morning? Isn’t it ridiculous to assume that one “church member” could know how to meet the need of another “church member” without walking in deep friendship together. Very few people cry out for help. Rather, they isolate themselves either to come out again when they hopefully feel better, which may never come, or to die a slow, lonely death. An emphasis upon community and a reorientation of our otherwise busy, suburban lives toward SENT life together is necessary in order to discern when each other is hurting. It is necessary in order to reach out and touch and care and simply be there to help. Jesus modeled this both with those seemingly healthy as well as those showing signs of dysfunction. Both the lost and the found. He lived like family with those who weren’t His literal family. He loved even the least of these.

Three _ because without each other, how can we live sent? This has often been a criticism of the live sent message we have emphasized – when are we gonna care for one another? The answer is found in the new command of Jesus from John 13:34-35. There, Jesus makes it clear that others will know we are His disciples (insinuating they would thus witness a glimpse or taste a small portion of “on earth as it is in heaven”) when we have love one for another. In other words, we love each other as we are going in daily life loving others. We care as we are caring. These small groups of people living SENT life together become family pictures in the here and now of what God’s family will be like in the not yet. A glimpse of Kingdom found in little pockets of Kingdom all across the community.

Jen and I are not doing this to the fullness with which we would like. We are learning, too. But we are becoming more and more convicted that SENT life with a few is essential for us to learn and live Jesus, for our marriage to embody the gracious, Gospel love, for our kids to see the reality of resurrection life, and for our neighbors to experience “on earth as it is in heaven.”

It also frames the purpose of our Sunday gathering. We gather to equip for the sending together. Nothing more. And it frames the motive of our together generosity. We give time and money and muscle because we want to share what we have found to be worth giving up everything else for. The pearl of the Kingdom, here and now.

May we not expect this to come as easy as a sign up sheet. May we look for and initiative SENT life with a few from the Westpoint family and then together with a few of our everyday neighbors.

This is the church.

The intention of Jesus for His people. The mission to which He is calling His church to exist for, not the mission that He is asking His church to add on top of everything else that we do.

May we think and live like missionaries in Lake and Orange Counties, family-like pockets of “on earth as it is in heaven” who happen to value and appreciate gathering together to be encouraged and equipped at an elementary school on Sunday mornings, gracious environments of friendship who generously give themselves away into one another as well as into neighbors and nations.

Love y’all. Praying to learn how to live this as well as equip for it better.

-jason

A BIG PS FOR THOSE WHO MIGHT BE HURTING _ the exponential network posted a blog post with resources and links for those depressed or struggling with mental illness who are ready to ask for help. In light of Pastor Rick Warren’s son taking his own life this last Friday, we pray for those hurting right here among us. Hope these resources help – http://blog.exponential.org/2013/04/mental-illness-resources-for-the-church/#more-5696

The Gospel is not some concept to believe. It is the proper lens through which to see yourself and others as God does.

As the WestpointChurch.org 2013 SENT life emphasis continues, the equipping focus for this month is NEIGHBORING. The Sunday teaching series is entitled “God became neighbor.” This past Sunday morning, we spent time in John 4. Each week, I close the teaching with “the bottom line.” Here it is from March 10th:

THE BOTTOM LINE:
The Gospel is not some concept to believe. It is the proper lens through which to see yourself and others as God does. It is the moving news of God changing locations, coming near, compelling us to take initiative to go near. God’s commands are not overbearing rules that when kept earn God’s love. They are rather eye-opening pathways down which we walk with Jesus in order to experience God’s love. And worship is not some emotional event defined by geography and circumstance. Rather, it is a breath-by-breath, relational response to the God who stepped into the geography He made to resurrect life from our consequentially deadly circumstances, transformationally declaring once and for all the Truth of His love.

When we believe this Good News, and over time as His Spirit grows us in understanding how this Gospel is embodied in our daily relationships (which is wisdom, by the way), then we realize how neighborly God has been with us and are gratefully and graciously compelled to go be neighborly with each other as well as to others.

So grateful to be reminded of the mysterious, beautiful, compelling news that God came near taking up residence among us. We are loved. His presence is our good.

-jason

Barbara Rainey suggests, “Without question, the biggest deterrent to romance for moms is children.” Read more in this repost of her article “Need Machines.”

Our emphasis on “marriage” and living the SENT life with your spouse continues with this great article from Barbara Rainey of Family Life Today entitled “Need Machines.” Great discussion starter for husbands and wives regarding their intimacy and oneness in the busy season of raising children. Good stuff! Thankful for Dennis and Barbara Rainey and how they encourage so many couples.

Hope it is encouraging to you!
-Jason
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Need Machines
by Barbara Rainey

Over our doors are all choice fruits, both new and old, which I have saved up for you, my beloved.
Song of Solomon 7:13

Without question, the biggest deterrent to romance for moms is children. These sweet, precious, innocent little ones given to us by God are also self-centered, untrained, unending “need machines” who can suck the life out of our marriage. They often leave us feeling like the mother who said, “It’s ironic. Romance gave us our children, and children ended our romance.”

But motherhood can simply be a tempting excuse for giving up sex. Caught up in her day-in-day-out responsibilities, a mother can experience a slow shift in loyalty from husband to children. She thinks the needs of her children, since they are so helpless and formative, are more important than the needs of her husband. After all, he’s an adult.

True. And yet one reason why this reasoning is faulty–one reason why it’s easy for us to have little sympathy for our husband’s sexual needs–is that we as women are able to experience our femaleness simply by nurturing our children. We feel fully alive as women when we’re caring for them (that is, when we’re not totally exhausted!). We feel a deep, innate sense of well-being and fulfillment; it is an indescribable privilege that brings us profound satisfaction. It’s what we were made to do.

But it’s only part of being a woman. God didn’t create you with the capacity and compulsion to nurture just for the sake of your children. He also meant for you to nurture life in your husband. Maintaining this balance is one of the biggest challenges of the parenting years; your children need to see Dad and Mom in love.

Nurturing life in your husband may not be as automatic as it is with your children, but it is no less important. God will help you balance the needs of both husband and children when you depend upon Him.

Discuss
What are some practical, creative ways you both could keep romance alive, even when living in a house full of children?

Pray
Pray for God’s wisdom in balancing life’s demands.

Jesus and the Sabbath _ an article my dad wrote on how Jesus thought of and taught about the sabbath…

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In light of our current teaching emphasis on “scripturing” and priorities and pondering “is sabbath a priority?,” I asked my dad to pen some thoughts about what Jesus thought about and taught about the Sabbath. Here is what he wrote. I love this guy!!! So grateful for my pop. :-)
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Jesus and the Sabbath
by Dr. Jimmy Dukes

How did Jesus react to the Sabbath? He was a Jew who honored the Law, but how was his reaction to the Sabbath different from the reaction of the Jewish leaders of his day? Mark gives us a great contrast between Jesus’ approach to the Sabbath Law and the Jewish leaders’ approach in two incidents from the ministry of Jesus in Mark 2:23-3:5.

Two simple stories. A walk through a grain field and a healing of a man in need.

The first involves Jesus and his disciples walking through a grain field on a Sabbath. Jesus said nothing here until after the Jewish leaders had spoken in criticism of the disciples. The disciples were doing nothing wrong in spite of the accusation of the Jewish leaders that they were acting unlawfully. They interpreted the plucking of grain and the rubbing of it to remove the husks as harvesting and threshing. The disciples’ action was allowed under the law, but was not generally acceptable in the tradition of the elders on the Sabbath. Jesus was not criticizing the law. He did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. He reinterpreted the Law in the light of who he was and in the light of his relationship to the Father, the Giver of the Sabbath.

So what was the problem? The Jewish leaders had become so focused on the law itself as something to be revered and protected that they ignored the Person who was to be revered and protected. God had made clear from the Garden of Eden that his desire was to have a relationship with his people. All of the Law, including the Sabbath law was given in the context of that relationship. He gave it to make life better for his people. That is why Jesus made the key statement in 2:27-28:

“Jesus said to them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

With his response to the criticism of the Jewish leaders and the healing of the man on the Sabbath, Jesus was teaching three things. First, he was making his Lordship clear. That authority extends to the Sabbath, which was given by God to his people to strengthen their relationship and to make their lives more abundant and productive. Second, Jesus was teaching that men cannot understand their relationship to the law properly if they do not understand their relation to the Giver of the Law. Third, he was teaching that man does not owe blind obedience to the law but he does owe obedience to the Lord of the Sabbath to live out the relationship with the Lord and with his people.

Jesus used two examples to confirm his relational approach to the law. The first was David. He was fleeing with some of his men and they were hungry. They went to the priest and took away the Bread of the Presence, which legally only the priests could eat. David took the bread and shared it with his hungry men. The moral is clear. Meeting the genuine needs of people is more important than legal principles.

The second example is even clearer (3:1-5). Jesus, in the course of his ministry encountered a man with a withered hand. Coincidentally the encounter was on the Sabbath. The man could have waited another day to be healed, but Jesus was there on that day. He healed the man to demonstrate the importance of taking the opportunity to meet a need when it presented itself and to teach the principle that ministry to people is more important than legalistic rules. Here he affirmed his truth by contrasting a man in need and animals in need. (Man is more important than animals).

What can we learn?

A man so bound by tradition he ignores the needs of others is far off track from the purpose of God. If we have a relationship with the Giver of the Law we must demonstrate it as Jesus did by being obedient to the purpose of God. If tradition is more important than people, the purpose of God is violated. It always comes back to the purpose of God.

How are we working with Him to accomplish his purpose by meeting the needs he puts before us???

Eugene Peterson suggests that sabbath is the most important as well as most ignored function of the church today, for from this restful, trustworthy connection life comes.

The following is a summary from my notes of Eugene Peterson’s conversation with Gabe Lyons in Manhattan in February, 2012. One of the topics of conversation was SABBATH. Peterson had much wisdom to share on the matter.

:: a definition of “sabbath”

>> shut up and show up.

:: don’t try to be like God
It does not start with understanding sabbath but with looking at and understanding God from the beginning…when we don’t keep the sabbath, we are trying to be like gods.

:: when we started keeping a sabbath as a family
We didn’t start out doing sabbath in Maryland. However, I wasn’t working out of obedience but out of fear. Then, we would get away for a month as a family somewhere and just be together.

By the time I started working out of obedience rather than fear, we structured our sabbath for every Monday. I made lunch since Jan did the rest of the week. She prayed since I tended to the rest of the week. The kids would be in school. Jan would read a Psalm and we would be quiet and walk. Then we would come back and just debrief. Kids would come home from school and take part, too. First thing we noticed was the kids loved it because no one had to do work that day. We would do nothing we HAD to do.

I wrote our congregation a letter every year “why your pastor keeps a sabbath” in order to invite them to help us keep it. You can’t keep the sabbath alone. People took it seriously. And after 10 years or so, many of them began to keep one, too. And we helped each other. The most important thing we did was asking our congregation to help us keep it.

:: not just a cessation of work
Sabbath is not a cessation of work, but rather a contemplation of work. Non-sabbath keeping is a desecration of work, not honoring the real gift that our work is. When we do this, the work of man has inflated importance, rather than the work of God being honored most.

:: rest
Living in a rhythm of sabbath allows for restful living rather than guilty, busy, driven living.

:: evangelism may not be the primary work of the church…
I think evangelism may not be the primary work of the church, but rather sabbath-keeping. Because it puts us in the rhythm of stopping to listen to God and then responding and doing what he says. We try to do so much without being in this sabbath rhythm. Without it, how can we evangelize?

:: Jesus highlighted the importance of living in a listening rhythm with Him:

“I assure you: Anyone who doesn’t enter the sheep pen by the door but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. The doorkeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice. They will never follow a stranger; instead they will run away from him, because they don’t recognize the voice of strangers.” Jesus gave them this illustration, but they did not understand what He was telling them. So Jesus said again, “I assure you: I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.
(John 10:1-10 HCSB)

THE BOTTOM LINE:
Sabbath is a practical, merciful, intentional command. May we take it seriously. May it become a rhythm of our lives. May it be a priority.

Help “do good farm” get started as they hope for their first harvest this spring. Here are some upcoming work days…

Have you heard of “Do Good Farm” yet? It is a new hydroponic farm concept in the Winter Garden area led by Josh Taylor, the general manager of House Blend Cafe. The purpose is to learn how to create a sustainable food source for the hungry while providing fresh fruits and vegetables for folks here in our community as well as a few partnering organizations in impoverished communities around the world.

Josh is hoping for their first harvest this coming spring, and he could use our help. Can you come help dig and build and plant over the next four weeks? People can come work any window within the following time frames or all of that day.

Here are some dates for work days at the farm:

:: Thursday | Jan 17th | 9a-5p
:: Tuesday | Jan 22nd | 9a-5p
:: Thursday | Jan 24th | 9a-5p
:: Saturday | Jan 26th | 9a-1p
:: Tuesday | Jan 29th | 9a-5p
:: Wednesday | Jan 30th | 4p-7p
:: Thursday | Jan 31st | 9a-5p
:: Saturday | Feb 2nd | 9a-1p
:: Tuesday | Feb 5th | 9a-5p
:: Thursday | Feb 7th | 9a-5p
:: Saturday | Feb 9th | 9a-1p

Contact JoshT@HouseBlendCafe.com with questions or interest in volunteering.

So grateful for Josh and his wife and their willingness to lead out in this very important endeavor. And grateful to get to be the church together.

Here is a short video Josh put together introducing the concept:

Consider praying this prayer of disorientation and reorientation for the New Year…

Lord Jesus, WITH WHOM are You leading me to live sent? Those few people whom I will care deeply for and who will care deeply for me as we live on mission together with You.

And TO WHOM are You leading me to live sent? Those few people in my daily rhythms as well as that one group across the globe whom I can love first as You have loved us, pray for as You have prayed over us, dine with as You came to dine with us, and learn “on earth as it is in heaven” with as You delivered it to us.

I surrender to be disoriented from my current routines. Help me to follow You as You redefine and reorient my daily rhythms and relationship. I will follow You.

Amen.

Picking back up on “eating” as a SENT rhythm with Jesus, consider this…

Earlier this month, I began to expound on the SENT acronym that we use among our church family with regards to daily rhythms on mission with Jesus. You can look back and see the “S” posts as well as an intro post on “E” for eating. Today, following a Christmas hiatus, I pick back up with this blog series in hopes that we will all be encouraged to live a SENT life.

Jesus spoke of Himself as the bread of life in John 6. It was a hard word to hear, and many of His disciples abandoned Him after this teaching. Lord – help us not to be among those who abandon You, but who take Your teaching to heart, or better said to stomach.

Read that narrative in John 6 by clicking here. It is in The Message. Please read through the end of the chapter. Then come back for a few thoughts and questions…

Go ahead now. Read that Scripture. It is much better than anything I write :)

Did you read it? Ok.

Notice that Jesus spoke of Himself as bread. Bread nourishes. In fact, in its purest form, unlike white bread like we eat here in America, it is wholistic in its nourishment and nutrients. That nourishment gives life. So does Jesus.

Are you being nourished on Him?

Before you dismiss this as elementary thinking you are aware of this simple teaching, let me ask it another way – are you expecting anything else besides Jesus to offer what you need for life? And yet another way – have you confessed that you cannot find life anywhere else, of your own efforts or your own participation in anything else? Yet another way – are you living free to eat of Him dependent on His generous love for all nourishment or are you still living weary with obligations that you wrongly believe God expects of you in order to have a good life?

When we eat His flesh and drink His blood, we are filling ourselves on the life-Giver.

Maybe this is why Jesus valued eating with others so much. Maybe He knew that the environment of nourishment is the most opportune and most vulnerable place for supernatural Kingdom nourishment to enter the natural flows of conversation. Maybe He knew that in filling our stomachs together we could most practically discover the essential ingredients for abundant life.

This is a hard teaching isn’t it? It doesn’t seem like enough to just want to eat with and serve with folks while you discover how near God has come to be with us, to dine with us.

Is it enough? Is He enough?

May we value breaking bread together like Jesus did.

Next time – let’s consider what Acts might really be implying when it describes the early church as “breaking bread” together regularly…

A few thoughts and a prayer as my heart aches for the families of Newtown, CT…

Yesterday I had the blessing of being with my family on one of our little one’s – Ella’s – fourth birthday. With the events of today in CT, I was once again reminded not to have any regrets for missing work to be with family.

My heart has been aching since I heard the news of 20 children and 8 adults whose lives were lost in a small New England town this morning. Tragic is an understatement. Everyone has been taken off guard. It was at an elementary school. An elementary school!!!

I’ve struggled through anger and tears this afternoon. I cannot imagine, as my sister-in-law articulated on Facebook, how those family members will feel tonight as they sit around their living room looking at presents under a Christmas tree (or hidden in a closet) marked for their child who did not come home today from school.

This is yet another reminder of the death present in our world and the importance of our mission as followers of Jesus to live sent with His presence. Leaders, including today, cry out again that these things happen because “they keep God out of our school.” What bologna! God won’t be out of our schools until someone removes the Holy Spirit from those who follow Him as they go there!

We are not asked by God to legislate righteousness. We are not persuading and proselytizing for an alternative religion here. We have been loved by the God who came near compelling us to go near with His love to those who have yet to believe beyond the death and selfishness of the here and now. Our mission is not so trite as only to be about moralism in school or making a better culture. It has all to do with displaying the message of resurrection life so that hope can be found and dead can be made new again.

As Peterson so eloquently and appropriately wrote:

The church is a colony of resurrection in the country of death.

Jesus. You wept over the effect of death. Thank You, as the One who made us, for having a heart of grace for us when we, as the ones who were made, chose to eat of the tree that opened our minds and hearts to all we could know about what we are so beautifully as well as horrifically capable of. Thank You for resurrection. Thank You for hope. Amen.

Did Jesus do Scripturing? And how might that affect our bible study habits? Read more…

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This week, we jumped into a blog series expounding on the WestpointChurch.org acronym for SENT as we try to equip folks to live a SENT life.

The “S” stands for “Scripturing.”

The last two days we have looked at some stories and practices. Today, it is the last post this week on the letter S. Let’s think further about how Jesus involved Scripture in His life and how that might need to transform the very ways we study the Bible.

First, I would suggest that Jesus both taught the Bible in public to large crowds AND spoke about God’s truths in the flow of conversation with friends. Jesus had asked a few folks to come follow Him. Simply inviting them along, He began to eat with and serve with and learn with them. The pursuit of “on earth as it is in heaven” ensued.

Those close followers saw miraculous events, and therefore kept inviting others along. And those who witnessed it further passed the word along. Before long, large crowds gathered to see Him, to touch Him, to listen to Him. But in these moments, which were fewer than the intimate times, “scripturing” was not being done by those present. Rather, they were being challenged to consider truths they had never thought before. They were being taught Scriptures.

Scripturing takes what has been taught beyond listening to the Master teacher to living with the Master teacher.

Peter asked Jesus about forgiveness. Why we don’t know. Maybe a neighboring fisherman borrowed his nets and returned them tangled for the umpteenth time. Who knows. But as they walked, as they simply were together, Peter asked Jesus about forgiveness.

Jesus stopped everyone. He called out for the Scroll Donkey. Andrew put out flares. Judas logged their waste of time and money in the treasury books. John rolled out the Isaiah scroll. They all sat down, studied the scroll, asked what it meant to them, and then went on about their day.

Right? Wrong.

They walked. Jesus encouraged. Peter considered. Jesus offered insight. Peter asked a follow up question. Jesus clarified. Peter sighed realizing he had been too harsh with his fellow fisherman. Jesus probably forgave him. Peter saw how this infinite insight translated into the daily.

Scripturing.

Second, do our Bible study habits include these friendships and interactions and gracious conversations of discovery? Or are we parsing Greek but never translating it into life?

If God intended that we only know a belief, that might be fine if you never translated it into daily rhythms. But God did not intend that we only know a belief. He is more than something to be studied. His ways are more than alternative, religious concepts.

God intended that we do more than have a belief. He intended that we believe. He intended that we do more than study Scripture. He intended that we live scripturing.

Jesus, we cannot even know Your thoughts and ways without Your Spirit’s indwelling and empowering and enlightening. So, please help us to walk with You and not just study about You. Please lead our conversations. We will listen in and hope to live out.

May we live SENT, scripturing daily.

Next week, the letter E – “eating.”

To tide you over, here is another of our families Sesame Street favorites:

So, how do I practice “scripturing?” Here are four suggestions…

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Yesterday, I introduced the idea of “scripturing.” A few stories and an encouragement for you to consider it as you live sent daily. Today, I want to ask a very practical question:

How do I practice “scripturing?”

Here are four suggestions.

1 _ personally immerse yourself in the Scriptures.
This is not just a Bible reading program. It is not just some checklist for a daily quiet time. It is imagining yourself back in the story. It is praying for wisdom to discern the author’s intent. It is becoming a learner of the Word of God, but not so that you can be learned. Rather, it is so that you can be a learner, an apprentice who then practices what you are learning.

Rather, it is sit-down time with Jesus, opening the story of Him, and asking Him to help you read it with your mind and heart and mouth and hands and feet.

I read an article one time of a guy who used so much body lotion that had nickel in it, that his skin permanently turned blue. Well, immerse in the Scriptures with Jesus so often and thoroughly and longingly that it starts exuding from you.

2 _ invite a few others along with you in the immersion.
Learn personally. Learn together. Discuss its application. Look for the transformation. Remember that His ways alive in us are not seen with a mirror but rather within community.

3 _ ask “why” and “being” questions more than “how” and “doing” questions.
Don’t forget that one side of the coin of the “good news” is that you and I are desperate for God active initiation in our lives. We tend to want how-to formulas and action steps rather than surrender and submission to the Spirit.

“Why” questions help us wrestle with the heart and mind of God. Discovery therefore results in being closer to Him, walking more intimately and reflectively with Him, our daily rhythms being shaped by His rhythm of grace. “How” questions focus us more on our own heart and mind. Discovery therefore results in attempts to do good for God that don’t always draw us nearer to Him but rather make us less and less dependent upon Him and more and more striving to improve our behavior. The former rests in the Gospel. The latter skips around it.

Growing in wisdom includes the Spirit renewing our minds and transforming our defaults toward having the mind of Christ. The “why” questions help us imagine the Scriptures alive in daily rhythms, transferring them from a small group Bible study into everyday relationships.

4 _ finally, listen with your heart and mind for the way the Spirit leads you in your conversations.
He is with you. Are you with Him? Aware of Him? Listening for Him? Submitting to His lead?

There are so many conversations within our relationships that happen everyday in which the Spirit wants to whisper His truth, wants to weave the heavenly into the very fabric of the daily. It is how “on earth as it is in heaven” occurs. It is the embodiment of the eternal. It is love shining bright amidst the selfish.

It is what God intended.

May we practice Scripturing.

Tomorrow, last post this week on the letter S, let’s think further about how Jesus involved Scripture in His life and how that might need to transform the very ways we study the Bible…

Oh yeah – speaking of the letter S, I told you this blog series was brought you by Sesame Street. Here is one of our families favorite Sesame Street short clips:

What is “scripturing” and what does it have to do with living sent? Read more here…

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This month, in order to help our church family prepare for our 2013 emphasis on SENT, I will be blogging about the four letters of the SENT acronym. One letter per week. Obviously flavoring it a bit with some Christmas cheer.

This week the letter S is for “Scripturing.” That last sentence was brought to you by Sesame Street. Look each week for one of the Dukes kids’ favorite Sesame Street short videos included below the post just as a lagniappe. This should be fun :-)

What is “Scripturing?”

The grill was hot. It wasn’t a special occasion, because they grill a lot. But one neighbor, who happens to be a follower of Jesus, had invited another neighbor, who happened not to be a follower of Jesus, into a normal rhythm of their family life. Conversation happened. A statement about marriage difficulty. A confession about personal selfishness being the cause. The Jesus-follower encourages with a simple yet profound statement – “I’m so sorry to hear that man. Marriage is tough for sure. Let me encourage you that I find in the ebb and flow of our marriage that it works well when we don’t go to bed angry and when we both fight for oneness rather than fighting to be the one who won.” SCRIPTURING.

This time, it wasn’t the child’s fault. He had actually gotten it right. But the mom, stressed from her husband leaving for work yet again with unresolved conflict between them and fatigued from carrying the load at home because her husband works too many hours, snapped at her son with a critical tongue that hurt more than a swipe of a spoon. His eyes said enough. Her heart ached with remorse. “I am so very sorry, sweetheart. Please forgive me. I snapped at you and know it hurt. I confess to you and to the Lord that was wrong and exasperating to you. Please forgive me.” SCRIPTURING.

The phone call had come. Tragedy. Unexpected. Tears. A text message followed. “I heard. I want to pay for your flight.” An email. “We will pick up your mail.” Yet another call. “We are so sorry. Will the kids and she stay here? We will make sure they have a meal and the lawn is mowed. You go. Be there. We got it.” SCRIPTURING.

All she had ever known was a family with no father. And the guy who shared her mother’s bed from time to time had a normal expression – condemnation. So her roommate in college reading about a Father who loves enough to come near and give His life – unthinkable. No words were said necessarily, except those that came in late-night talks over microwave popcorn. No verses quoted, except those that were unnoticed with no biblical address mentioned that came in normal flow of conversation. No bible study imposed, except the one she had studied in observing the living Word that was her life. But one night, between sobs, a secret revealed. She had hidden an unexpected pregnancy, confessing to having ended it with fearful heartache just the day before. Her roommate’s eyes filled with tears. No Bible was pulled out, but her warm embrace and eyes quoted the verse to her – “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And that was where she realized, finally, that she wanted to be. In Christ. The Father who came near. She believed she was loved for the first time. Restoration had already been completed. Discipling had been ongoing and would now continue. Healing began. SCRIPTURING.

Are you scripturing?

May His Word come alive in our daily rhythms as we do more than study it. May we live with the Word such that He is studied in the flow of our lives.

May we learn more together. Because I believe Jesus’ life embodied this form of disciple making much, much more than the contemporary patterns known as discipleship.

Thoughts???

More tmrw…

“The Art of Neighboring” – a post by Tim @Challies, re-posted with permission

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The Art of Neighboring
by Tim Challies
(re-posted with permission)

Take a look at the graphic above. Imagine that the middle box in the chart is your house and the boxes that surround it are the eight houses closest to your own. I doubt your neighborhood is arranged like a tic-tac-toe board, so you may need to use your imagination just a little bit.

Here’s what I want you to do.

First, write the names of the people who live in the house represented by each of the boxes. If you can give both first and last names, that’s great. If you’ve only got first names, that’s okay too.
Second, write down some information or facts about each of the people in that house. I don’t mean facts that you could observe by standing on the road and looking at their house (“Drives a red car”) but facts that you’ve gathered from speaking to them (“Works for a bank,” “Grew up across town.”).
Third, write down any in-depth information you know about each of the people. This could include details like their career plans or religious beliefs—the kind of information that comes from real conversation.
How did you do? Or how do you think you would do if you actually went through with this exercise? The degree to which you simply do not know your neighbors is the degree to which you will benefit from reading The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon. They premise their book upon this simple question: When Jesus told us love our neighbors, what if he meant our actual neighbors, the people who live closest to us? They explain that Christians have long been making “neighbor” into a safe metaphor that allows us to believe we are carrying out the Lord’s command when we visit soup kitchens and do acts of kindness to complete strangers.

The problem, as they explain it, is that “when we aim for everything, we hit nothing. So when we insist we’re neighbors with everybody, often we end up being neighbors with nobody.” Ouch. Much like the Pharisees, we ask “Who is my neighbor?” in the hope of finding a loophole, not in the hope of loving those who live nearby. “Jesus assumed that his audience would be able to love those nearest to them, their literal neighbors, the people most like them, who shared the same heritage and geography. In telling the parable, Jesus was stretching their concept of neighbor to include even people from a group they didn’t like.” As we read the parable today we tend to go straight to the stranger on the side of the road and no longer include the person in the house next door.

This book is full of biblical counsel and simple wisdom about how to be a good neighbor. Perhaps the most freeing concept is that there is inherent value in being a good neighbor, even if your neighbor never becomes a Christian. The authors helpfully distinguish between ultimate motives and ulterior motives. The ultimate motive in engaging your neighbors is to share the gospel with them and to see them turn to the Lord, but we must never do this through ulterior motives. Too many Christians use engaging their neighbors as a thinly-veiled guise to try to “win them,” and give up when the neighbors do not respond positively. Pathak and Runyon say, “The ‘agenda’ we need to drop is the well-meaning tendency to be friends with people for the sole purpose of converting them to our faith. Many so desperately want to move people forward spiritually that they push them according to their timetable, not according to how God is working in them. It’s tempting to offer friendship with strings attached.”

They clarify: “Sharing the story of Jesus and his impact on our lives is the right motive, but it canot be an ulterior motive in developing relationships. We don’t love our neighbors to convert them; we love our neighbors because we are converted.” Christians have long been taught that we should do good things solely to have a spiritual conversation that can move people toward conversion; but Jesus never called us to use a bait-and-switch approach where we are friends only so we can share the gospel. “We are called to love our neighbors unconditionally, without expecting anything in return.”

The Art of Neighboring clearly comes from a little bit outside the theological “tribe” that I identify with, and that brings both benefits and drawbacks. The book is not without its weaknesses. I would have liked to see the authors wrestle a bit more with issues related to sharing the gospel and creative ways of doing that. I would have liked to see them focus more on the role of the local church in the life of the Christian. But those weaknesses are more than compensated for with their call to be good neighbors and the challenge they offer.

This is a book I learned from, a book that was of immediate benefit to me, and, I think, exactly the book I needed to read. We live in a closely-packed neighborhood where we know and are known (at last count at least four of our neighbors have a key to our house!) but I needed to be freed to simply love my neighbors, to be a good neighbor to them, without feeling guilt for not always offering gospel sneak-attacks where I work it into every conversation. There is value in being a good neighbor and as we neighbor well, we trust that very natural gospel opportunities will arise.

Even though God communicated His Gospel over the course of 1000s of yrs, how would u summarize it in 140 chars or less?

Starting next Monday, I am gonna do a five day series on “the Gospel in everyday rhythms.” I would really value your thoughts over the course of this blog series, simply because how we believe the Gospel, live the Gospel together, and share the Gospel in everyday life is central to all we are as followers of Jesus.

I wanted to prime the pump by asking this question:

even though God communicated His Good News to us over thousands of years, how would you summarize it in 140 characters or less?

Can I kick it off with a very blunt statement?

God summed up this Gospel with one word – EMMANUEL.

How would you summarize it?

Thanks to Tim @Challies for sharing this simple yet profound short film on the Gospel by @GlenScrivener.

Big thanks to Tim Challies for sharing this video this morning. Big thanks to Glen Scrivener for writing and narrating it and Jeremy Poyner for illustrating.

Breathe it in deep. Share it.

Believe you are loved.

And may we go near with His love.

Parents. Have u had the “sex talk?” But when’s time for the “porn talk?” Here’s some help from @XXXChurch…

Parents. Maybe you have had the difficult “sex talk” with your kids. But when is the time for the “porn talk?” It is tough to discern.

Did you know the average age a child first looks at pornography is 11. Yep. Eleven. Wow.

As you and I pray for wisdom, here are some helpful tips from XXXChurch. And check out their PARENTS page for more tools, more info, more help.

Principle 1: You and Your Spouse Need to Talk First
Principle 2: It Is Going to Be Difficult
Principle 3:Write Things Down in Advance
Principle 4: The Earlier, the Better
Principle 5: Initiate
Principle 6: Ask Questions
Principle 7: Listen
Principle 8: Use Everyday Opportunities To Talk
Principle 9: Use Real-Life Situations to Talk About Sex
Principle 10: Talk to Your Kids Specifically and Individually
Principle 11: Have a Sense of Humor Principle
Principle 12: Talk About It Again and Again
Principle 13: Know What Your Kids Are Talking About
Principle 14: Asking Questions Doesn’t Mean They’re Doing It
Principle 15: Don’t Assume Your Kid Is Perfect
Principle 16: Patience
Principle 17: Share Your Values
Principle 18: Talk About Fighting Peer Pressure
Principle 19: Talk With Them About Reasons To Wait
Principle 20: Don’t Avoid the ‘Safe Sex’ Talk
Principle 21: Be Honest
Principle 22: Accurate Information
Principle 23: If You Don’t Know the Answer, Admit It
Principle 24: Don’t Hide Your Past
Principle 25: Grace
Principle 26: Reassure Them that Not Everyone Is Doing It
Principle 27: Remind Them that It’s Their Choice and Nobody Else’s
Principle 28: Sex Is Natural, Sex Is Fun; Sex Is Best When It’s One on One

Thanks so much to Craig and the team for all the ways you are both loving people in the Porn industry as well as helping those addicted to porn.

Christian – what is the essential message we have to share? Are we really sharing it? Please consider this…

Last night I had the privilege of hanging out with a group of Central Florida Spanish pastors. Our language barrier was less impeding than I expected it to be. Our kindredness was tangible, these broken hearts of leaders longing to see “Christians” go near with Jesus, burdened to see lost and lonely know they are fully loved. And the issue came up again.

It is an issue that has come up multiple times in conversation with leaders over these last years. The issue that we know Jesus intended His church to live sent, but why?

What is the essential message that we as His followers have to share? The message that we believed. The message that we hope others believe. And why?

Is that essential message the declaratoin that people are lost and hell is imminent and you need to choose Christianity? Is it the assertion that truth must be defended and a culture must be protected and so those pagans need to change? I am afraid that much of American church culture has mistaken that essential message to be one of or at least a derivative of these.

Hell is real. The Scriptures speak of it. I believe it. But I would suggest that Jesus lived and died and lived again to declare more than the message of hell’s imminence and the call to people to get their act together and grab a ticket out of it. He intended to give more than an alternative religion. He died to give life.

Truth is real. It is not an “it,” though. Truth is a person. Jesus needs not my strong defense for the sake of cultural preservation. Rather He asks for our selfless love for the sake of cultural restoration. This will not happen through our country’s capital. It will only happen through our respective community’s hearts. Jesus lived and died and lived again to go near with His love through His church’s going near with His love.

And maybe that is the essential message we have believed that we are now compelled to share. Could it be that simple?

The message I have believed and keep believing is that I am loved by the God who came near. The God Who did not wait for me to say I was sorry. Who did not leave me in my loneliness and hopelessness and hurt and shame and lostness. Who did not love me because I was lovable, but rather while I was still wayward and selfish and sinful and condemned did not condemn me. Who ached to give life again and was willing to lose life to be raised to life again. Who became “God with us” and asked me to go with Him, to love like I had been loved, now and forever.

Maybe the essential message we are to believe is that God loves us. Maybe the essential message He has intended that we share is simply that – we are loved by the God who made us, whom we spurned, but Who came near anyway.

Jesus, in fact, taught this to Nicodemus in John 3. God so loved the world, and those who “unbelieve” this are condemned by their own unbelief (John 3:16-18).

The two questions I have been asking friends, and for that matter that I keep asking myself as a reminder, are:

“What do you think God thinks of you?”

“Do you believe that God loves you?”

Lord, forgive us, please. Have mercy on us, please! Those of us here in America who call ourselves Your church have far too often called people to moralism rather than to You, the Messiah.

He does not want us just to live FOR Him. He desires that we live WITH Him. And He came near to restore us and invite us into that relationship.

Abundant life does not come when we live perfect and give our best. Abundant life comes and keeps coming when we live loved and give love as it has been given to us.

Sin was not worth dying for because it was the symptom of rules broken. It was worth dying for because it was the symptom of relationship broken. It is the evidence of death. It is the result of life not present, of love not trusted.

We believe we are loved and are fully secure in Him and that love compels us to love as we have been loved. That is good news worth sharing!!!

You are loved!!! You are loved fully!!! You are loved securely!!! You are loved graciously, even in your feelings of not being worth loving.

Jesus thinks you are worth dying for!!!

And why do we share this message?

Because not trusting that we are fully loved by the God who made us, believing that He is hiding something worth knowing from us, choosing to pursue what we can know rather than pursue knowing Him, that is the root of our problems. The cause of all evil. The source of our loneliness and isolation. The brokenness of humanity.

May we share His message. Surrendered. Grateful. Selflessly.

People we encounter every day do not believe they are loved and are lost, even trapped, in that brokenness. May that break our hearts like it broke God’s heart. May we remember our own brokenness that we did not fix ourselves. May we go near like He came near to us.

May the world believe in the One who was sent.

Jesus replied, “This is the work of God-that you believe in the One He has sent.”
(John 6:29 HCSB)

Question for you. Would dig your comment on the blog. Five sentences or less – What does it mean to “make disciples?”

Question for all the readers today. I would really dig your comment on the blog or Facebook.

Five sentences or less:

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “MAKE DISCIPLES OF JESUS?”

I am obviously referring here to Jesus’ final words / command to His followers in Matthew 28.

Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks!!!

What did we learn / notice from the Chick-Fil-A brew-ha-ha? Your thoughts?

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Well, last Wednesday and Friday for Chick-Fil-A came and went. I was blown away by so many of you responding to the post I posted last week regarding all the attention and conflict.

Some of you inquired how my visit to my favorite carrot-raisin-salad restaurant went last Friday. It was completely uneventful. I visited both the Chick-Fil-A’s near our home, and there was nothing abnormal except for the shorter line in the drive-thru.

So what did we learn from / notice about this whole brew-ha-ha? I would like to hear your thoughts. Here are three of mine.

…that most people who “appreciated” Chick-Fil-A on Wednesday cared less about same-sex marriage and more about speaking out against government officials trying to manipulate private sector businesses. People spoke vehemently on the matter.

…that GLAAD doesn’t have the influence that Mike Huckabee has. I am actually not a big fan of Mike Huckabee, but let’s just say that Dan Cathy better send him a Christmas card with a million dollar gift card in it. Better yet, I like the suggestions of some commenters on CNN.com that Chick-Fil-A should give of the proceeds toward world hunger organizations they believe in.

…that there are a lot of folks who are part of the American church that are hurting for guidance and wisdom and insight on how to relate with and care about the gay and lesbian community. Lord, give us wisdom and teach us how to love both You and people.

So, what are your thoughts? Please share.

Much love.
-jason