Get the free ebook – “Say No to Discipleship?!?”

So grateful for the Exponential leadership team and the ebooks they have so generously offered over the last year. So grateful they would include one that I have written entitled Say No to Discipleship?!?

You can get your free copy by clicking here and choosing one of three sharing options.

It is worth connecting with the Exponential email blast that goes out. Such great equipping tools they share week to week. Hopefully the new ebook will be worth leaving them an email or posting on Facebook or tweeting out. :)

Much love.
-jason

20130508-165426.jpg

A hymn I wrote this weekend. “i Need You.” I so need Jesus. So grateful He graciously came near and stays near.

20130418-110828.jpg

i need You.

You didn’t need, but were compelled.
To share communion, love, and worth.
The Word existing beyond the now
Breathed life in dust, brought heaven to earth.

I think I need more than You gave.
Delight in more. Discontent. Ongoing strife.
The Word made flesh one time You came
Resurrection needed. My untombed life.

I need You. Lord I need You. Every breath I need You.
You’ve blessed me now my Savior. You came to me.

Need forgotten. Accolades.
Pride swells. Favor won.
You were already proud of me
Not my own merit. But Your Son.

I need You. Lord I need You. Every breath I need You.
You’ve blessed me now my Savior. You came to me.

Help me remember. Keep believing.
My independence no longer chase.
So unaware how much I need You.
More gratefulness for Your grace.

I need You. Lord I need You. Every breath I need You.
You’ve blessed me now my Savior. You came to me.

We need You. Lord we need You. Every breath we need You.
You’ve blessed us now our Savior. You came to us.

“Triangle. Square. Arrow.” Three shapes metaphorically shaping our lives. A poem I wrote this last weekend.

Triangle. Square. Arrow.

Father and Son and Spirit in unity and love together.
Love can’t be held in a box.
Love is compelled to give love.

Time. Space. Earth.
Garden. Man. Woman. God.
Love sends beloved to enjoys what’s been made.

Man. Woman. Choice.
Serpent. Tree of life. Tree of more. Woman decides.
Love mercifully sends away selfishness to die.

Covenant. Geography. People.
Multiply. Bless. Tree of more again. Divide.
Love graciously sends then restores.

Legalism. Licentiousness. Emmanuel.
Rome. Jews. Authority. Disturbance.
Love selflessly buries selfishness then rises.

Live for self. Live for God. Live WITH GOD.
Believing. Confessing. Depending. Restored.
Love, as Sent One, now sends beloved.

Listen. Learn. Love.
One Christ. One mission. One church. One another.
Love given together to neighbors and nations.

Groom. Bride. Wedding.
No more evil. No more tears. No more death. Hope no more.
Love welcomes beloved as intended, fully restored.

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…

20130411-145204.jpg

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

Two quotes and two exercises that might help you lose the “wait” toward oneness in your marriage…

Hard to believe March 1st is tomorrow. That means the Sunday morning equipping focus for the Westpoint Church family moves on from the letter “E” to the letter “N” of the SENT emphasis – “NEIGHBORING.” This next teaching series is entitled “God became neighbor.” We will walk through four Scriptures in the Gospel of John as we consider the implications of God coming near to us. Looking forward to a special Easter season!!!

And here is the final Spouse Beach Diet weigh in! Even still, I hope you and your spouse will continue to give energy and effort to the diet and exercise of marriage together. To wrap up the month, consider the following two quotes and two questions together. Take some time on an upcoming date night or late night coffee at home to thoroughly discuss them. It may be just the workout you need to continue to lose the “wait” toward oneness and to go with God together on the intimate, beautiful intended mission of your marriage.

First quote…

“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”
― Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

QUESTION _ if the Gospel is not just something you trusted one day for conversion but everyday for abundant life in Christ, AND if the Gospel is something that is embodied more than just intellectually received, then how might you and your spouse need to center the Gospel more in your marriage? How is it absent from your relationship (in ways that you treat each other)? How would it be displayed to one another if Gospel was more central to your relationship?

Next quote…

“Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.”
― Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

QUESTION _ How are love and truth playing a part in your relationship? How might one or the other be missing? HUSBANDS – is your wife certain that, like Christ, the one thing she will always be able to count on is your love and your presence? WIVES – is your husband encouraged and affirmed in the ways that you communicate your needs, or is he discouraged and torn down? How can love and truth draw you closer toward each other? And how, if applied, might it transform the way you communicate with each other?

Hope this is a meaningful and fruitful exercise, even if it is hard, even if it hurts. Please remember that difficult does NOT equal bad. Often, in fact, it equals becoming. In the context of marriage, often it equals becoming one.

Much love.

-jason

What is the mission of your marriage?

Time for our Spouse Beach Diet weigh in again this week. Have the daily suggestions been helpful? Hope so!

This coming Sunday, the series concludes with the question – “Are you eating your way together into the Kingdom of God (aka what is the mission if your marriage)?

Marriage is not just for our own good. Rather, God uses marriage both to teach us of His goodness and grace as well as to teach others of His goodness and grace as they see it embodied in our marital relationships. Gospel believed and lived and given. There is definitely a mission to marriage. Are you engaged in it together?

Alan Hirsch’s mentor told him once that he was convinced of the following:

Followers of Jesus should eat their way into the Kingdom of God

.

I am convinced he was right, if couples will use the daily rhythms of meals to invite others along with them as they learn the ways of Jesus. And the mission of your marriage could be as simple as supper and hospitality. The conversations that Jesus had over meals and the oneness His hearers experienced with God are apparent. Imagine the conversations around your table becoming just like His, and imagine the oneness you would experience as a married couple watching others discover oneness with the God who came near to love them.

May you find the mission of your marriage and go with Jesus together to live sent.

One more extra resource to share this month _ “10 ways to joyfully keep your marriage vows.”

And, just like we shared in the last three weeks’ emails, from the minds and hearts of your pastoral team, here are “28 Days of Suggested Nutritional Choices for the Diet of Your Marriage” (aka The Spouse Beach Diet) – one a day for the wives to consider and live out (if they so choose) and one a day for the husbands to consider and live out (if they so choose). You can click on the links below to check them out.

Just to be clear, they are rated M for “marriage.”

Click here to check out what the husbands are encouraged to consider. Click here to check out what the wives are encouraged to consider.

Much love!
-jason
_____
PS _ The Northland DADDY-DAUGHTER DANCE is March 1st. If you are planning on going, reply and let me know. We will try to grab a meal together beforehand like last year. Click here to register.

PPS _ next month’s Sunday morning equipping focuses on the letter “N” of the SENT emphasis – “neighboring” – with a teaching series entitled “God became neighbor.” Looking forward to a special Easter season!!!

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
________________________
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.

marriage and making love _ encouragement for those embarking on the Spouse Beach Diet with us this month…

Our emphasis on SENT life together continues this month with a focus on the most intimate of all of our relationships – marriage. The oneness or lack thereof in the relationship between a husband and wife can define and empower SENT life or distract and hinder mission together. The hope this month is to better equip husbands and wives to grow in oneness and experience the SENT life Jesus intended.

Last Sunday in the teaching, we learned together about “Eating Jesus Together.” If you so desire, you can listen to the podcast by clicking here.

Meanwhile, here are some encouraging words about romance in marriage from Dennis and Barbara Rainey of Family Life Today. Enjoy…

________________________

Dennis and I received a cute email about the romantic differences between men and women. It began by asking, “How do you romance a woman?”

Answer: “Wine her, dine her, call her, cuddle with her, surprise her, compliment her hair, shop with her, listen to her talk, buy flowers, hold her hand, write love letters, and be willing to go to the end of the earth and back again for her.” I could go along with that.

But when it asked the same question the other way–“How do you romance a man?”–the answer was much more brief and to the point.

Answer: “Arrive naked. Bring food.”

Ahhh . . . men.

But in a way, this blending of our roman¬tic differences is similar to how you make a good salad dressing. Oil and vinegar are about as dissimilar as condiments get. The only thing they have in common is that they are liquids. Other than that, they’re night and day. Oil is smooth; vine¬gar is sharp. Oil is thick; vinegar is thin. Left alone in the same bottle, the two will always migrate to opposite ends and remain there forever–unless shaken.

Interestingly, however, even after the bottle has been shaken, the two ingredients retain their unique identities. And yet they complement each other in a savory unity. Together, they serve as a zesty finish to an otherwise bland mix of lettuces.

And so it is in marriage. No matter how many times a husband and wife come together, they always remain unique. He will always think like a man; she, like a woman. And although their innate design will never change, they can better under-stand each other and move to love one another with compassion, knowing that in so doing, they create a savory blend of romantic intrigue.

Discuss:
What do you love about your romantic differences? Which ones can drive you crazy?

Pray:
Pray for patient understanding and for new ways of embracing and loving this wonderful person you married.

__________________

As an ADDED BONUS _ here are “4 Ideas to Improve Your Love-Making” also from Family Life. Really enjoy this one :-)

Much love.
-jason

28 Days of Suggested Nutritional Choices for the Diet of Your Marriage (aka The Spouse Beach Diet)…

Eating was important to Jesus, and so it should be important to us as His followers.

“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'”
(Luke 7:34 HCSB)

Jen and I like to go out to eat. We don’t always like learning the nutritional information about some of our favorite restaurants, though. Jesus didn’t come with a nutritional information guide, but He did ask His followers to eat Him!?!

So Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves. Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day, because My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink.
(John 6:53-55 HCSB)

Paul gives us an indication of what it is that we are “eating” when we eat of the Bread of Life, because we become what we have eaten.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.
(Galatians 5:22, 23 HCSB)

The same principle is true in our marriages. Our marriages become what we are feasting on individually and together. The Spirit blossoms in us or the flesh rears its destructive head.

And so, “The Spouse Beach Diet.”

This month, as the Westpoint Church family focuses on the letter E of the SENT emphasis, as we continue to emphasize the mission of Jesus central to our daily rhythms and alive in our everyday relationships, we turn to the most intimate everyday relationship we can have on earth. Marriage is metaphorical of the relationship between Christ and the church, and it is literally the one relationship that can define the very purpose of our lives.

Because this is so, let’s take the time this month to discover what the Scriptures teach us about the dietary nutrition of our marriages.

On a very practical level, here are 28 Days of Suggested Nutritional Choices for the Diet of Your Marriage (aka The Spouse Beach Diet) – one a day for the wives to consider and live out (if they so choose) and one a day for the husbands to consider and live out (if they so choose). You can click on the links below to check them out. Just to be clear, they are rated M for “marriage.” :)

For the husbands to consider – https://jasoncdukes.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/husbands-spouse-beach-diet-28-days-suggestions-copy.pdf

For the wives to consider – https://jasoncdukes.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/wives-spouse-beach-diet-28-days-suggestions.pdf

Hopeful that this February will be a nutritious one for your marriage!!! Find a few couples to pray for you and with you and share the ups and downs with as you diet together this month.

Much love.

-jason

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

20130124-143053.jpg

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. :-)
____________________
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.

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.

One more word on “scripturing” and an introduction to “eating.” Read more…

In case you are jumping in new, each week this month, I am blogging two or three times a week on a letter from the SENT acronym – Scripturing. Eating. Neighboring. Together. Last week, I posted three posts on “scripturing.” This week, we sit down to the table for some “eating.”

One final word on “scripturing.”

Scripture memorization – does it play a part? I would say yes absolutely. In order to see the teachings of Jesus, the living Word, come alive in our daily rhythms and relational conversations, we must store up the Scriptures in our minds and hearts. How else would they come out in the flow of what we are doing and who we are becoming? How you memorize matters not. A system for remembering or simply immersing yourself in the by reading more slowly and intentionally such that they are remembered, either will work. But memorization is helpful for scripturing.

Now, on to EATING.

Let’s begin today with two questions.

1. Did Jesus value eating as part of His mission and purpose?
2. Why is eating so effective at connecting hearts and lives?

First, Jesus certainly did value eating as part of His mission and purpose. Every criticism has some element of validity to it. While I am not suggesting that Jesus was a drunkard and a glutton, it is clear that He valued fellowship over a meal or else why would the Pharisees have said such extreme criticism about Him in Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34. In fact, the Luke reference begins with the following:

The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!”
(Luke 7:34 HCSB)

Jesus came eating and drinking. Why? Because food fills more than stomachs. It creates an environment in which minds can be stretched and hearts connected and lives filled up with love.

Tim Chester wrote an entire book about it. And it’s worth the read. CLICK HERE to read more from Tim.

Secondly, why does eating so effectively connect hearts and lives? Simply stated, because our hearts tend to go into preparing and sharing food. We want it to be good. We want others to enjoy it. We want those hungry to be filled. We converse while we share it. We typically encourage the invitation to do it again together. This seems so ordinary. So everyday. No wonder the religious leaders criticized it.

It took their sacred work out of sacred space. It brought learning the Kingdom of God from Synagogue to supper table.

Alan Hirsch told us one time that his mentor while he was learning in Austrailia challenged him to commit to eating his way with others into the Kingdom of God. Alan and his wife Deb have practiced this with much fruit ever since.

With whom are you sharing a meal? To whom are you taking a meal? How many people both intimately acquainted with as well as not very acquainted eith the ways of Jesus have you invited to your supper table lately?

For Jesus, eating was part of a SENT life.

Will it be for us who follow Him?

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

20121205-145905.jpg

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…

20121205-142928.jpg

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…

20121204-143755.jpg

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…

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.

Husbands and wives _ ever “spit in your spouse’s soup?” Here’s a post from @FamilyLifeOrg worth the read.

Wanted to share this post from Barbara and Dennis Rainey’s enewsletter that I receive daily. You can get this daily dose from “moments with you” if you click here. Definitely worth the read. Hope it encourages and challenges you, too.

———————-

Underground Warfare

Not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.
1 Peter 3:9

Some couples just don’t seem to know any other way to relate to one another than with digs, comebacks and put-downs. But sometimes, that same bitterness of spirit can show itself in less vocal ways, when one or the other spouse stews underneath and passively retaliates. There’s more than one way to get back at your spouse.

This reminds me of the old story—supposedly true—about some soldiers who were living off base during the Korean War. They hired a local houseboy to do cooking and cleaning and other odd jobs for them, but they also took delight in playing tricks on him—just for meanness.

One morning when the boy got up and put on his slippers, he awkwardly fell forward to the ground—his shoes had been nailed to the floor. One night when he crawled into bed, he found shaving cream under his pillow. But no matter what pranks the soldiers pulled—whether short-sheeting his bed or setting buckets of water over his door—he always appeared to respond without much visible anger. “That’s okay,” he would say.

Finally, the young men realized they’d been inhumane in their treatment of the boy. They went to him and apologized. “We’re sorry for what we’ve been doing to you. It won’t happen again.”

“You no more nail shoes to the floor?” No.

“You no more short-sheet bed? No more shave cream under pillow?” That’s right.

A little smile crept across the boy’s lips. Then he said, “Okay. Then me no more spit in soup.”

There are many, many ways to spit in each other’s soup in marriage. I am amazed at how quickly my mind can creatively come up with ways to retaliate. The Scriptures tell us that it isn’t wrong to be tempted. But it is wrong to “spit in your spouse’s soup!” In the spirit of 1 Peter 3:9, find a way to give a blessing instead of an insult.

Discuss
Be honest: When and how have you undercut each other like this? What are your little tricks for getting even? How can you begin to practice “giving a blessing instead”?

Pray
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you turn away from hurting your spouse and to help you give your spouse a blessing in the heat of the moment.

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.