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

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“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.

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…

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?

I am thankful for our church family, @WestpointChurch. How are you grateful for the church family with whom you are on mission?

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I am so thankful for Westpoint Church, the church family with iwhom Jen and the kids and I are blessed to do life together.

For the Gospel that has captured our hearts together and compelled us on mission together. For the many ways they encourage Jen and the kids. For the faithful friendships and loads of fun we have together. For the many truths we are learning and being affirmed in and even being challenged by as we navigate Kingdom alive in daily rhythms. For the many ways we are being sharpened by the folks with whom we do life from whose lives we learn so much as they walk with Jesus and love us like He has loved them. For the simplicity of the ways we are being the church that is welcoming of all who want to be the church more than just go to church.

I could write so much more, but I want to mention specifically how thankful we are for a pastoral team and a vision team and a volunteer group alongside whom we are so blessed to equip and serve. I know many of them would express the same sentiment.

Our journey has been such a beautiful, challenging, worthwhile one these nine years. And we are excited to see what 2013 holds for Westpoint Church!!!

How are you thankful for the church family with whom you get to do life and with whom you live on mission?

Hope the day is both refreshing and relaxing as you celebrate gratefulness to God with family and friends.

“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.