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

An encouraging AND challenging word for anyone out there feeling hopeless in your marriage…

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Infidelity and distrust can crush a marriage. However, confession and forgiveness are more powerful than you may have ever imagined.

Over these 8 and 1/2 years of Westpoint Church, we have counseled with and walked with a number of couples struggling through the difficult, beautiful ebb and flow of a marital relationship. Some have not turned out as we hoped. The restoration of others have blown us away.

One couple in particular still moves me to tears almost every time I think of their story. Suffice it to say that one spouse thought everything was average to good with their marriage, until the day a confession was made.

For some reason, and they have told me as such, a groveling confession made it more possible for restoration, whereas getting caught might have been the doom of their marriage.

They connected with the Westpoint family and admitted that the teaching of grace and the emphasis on daily making disciples grabbed their attention. The message of God’s near love and His intent for us to live on mission together both encouraged and challenged them toward a refreshed relationship with Jesus. Both husband and wife were learning and growing. And as the Jesus tends to do, He graciously met them at their “sicknesses” and began to heal (Matthew 9).

Little did they know the rocky journey of discovery and healing that would come.

“I have to confess. I know it is a necessary step as well as a possible death blow. But there is no way we can be who Jesus intended without it.”

And the confession came. And so did weeks of denial and anger and profound grief and the very, tiny beginnings of forgiveness and restoration.

The Gospel. Mysterious. A “good news” that Jesus did not wait for us to say we were sorry to take initiative to forgive and love and restore. A “good news” that Jesus was good enough, because we won’t ever be. A “good news” that we are worth dying for. A “good news” that calls us to believe we are loved and compels us to love as we have been loved. Even when our parent abandons us. Even when our sibling takes advantage of us. Even when our neighbor lies to us. Even when our co-worker takes advantage of us. Even when our child forsakes our care. Even when our spouse cheats on us.

Really? Seriously? Yes. It is possible.

“Believe me,” they might say, “we know that not everyone would be willing to endure the pain and anger and bewilderment and difficulty we have endured for the length we have endured it to walk through confession and forgiveness and restoration and healing.”

But can I tell you what they say they have learned. Experienced. Witnessed in each other. Seen renewed like never before. Known intimacy they thought impossible.

It doesn’t always work out this way.

I have pastorally counseled with couples whose story is very different. It involved unfaithfulness, but it ended with ravaging divorce that added to the already instigated devastation. And if you are in that boat, don’t take this story as discouraging with a “why not me?” Rather, take it as encouraging with a “grateful He can.”

Cause this couple would be the first to tell you they are no better or more able than anyone else. They just both resolved to surrender to the One who makes all things new. And He did something in them, over time, still working and healing now even, for which they are eternally grateful.

Unfortunately, in most cases, both husband and wife are not resolved and surrendered. It is usually only one, and that one usually takes the brunt of it.

Even that is included in the Gospel. The “good news” of the One who knew no sin but became sin on our our behalf” (2nd Corinthians 5:21). Who took the brunt of it.

So take heart. Grace is near. Forgiveness is possible.

May we live confessionally and contritely and graciously with one another.

And Lord Jesus, please help us in all of our relationships to be surrendered and resolved to follow You, no matter what we have to endure. Because love can. It never fails. Your love, that is.

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

share your “one day without shoes” story

April 5th is “One Day without Shoes” Day. See the post below to watch the promo video. It is an effort to make people more grateful for the shoes we get to wear as well as encourage them to buy shoes for more than just themselves. Will you join me April 5th and go without shoes all day and everywhere.

If so, will you come back on Wednesday, April 6th, and share your “one day without shoes” story? What was it like? What did you notice? Why was it hard? What was the weather like? What did you stick in your foot? How will you be different? Or whatever else you want to share about the experience.

And you may do it and wish you hadn’t. If you thought it was dumb, share that too, including if you think it was the dumbest thing you ever did your whole life since that time in 8th grade when you gave Joey Weatherspoon a swirly in the locker room toilet. Or whatever dumb thing you did.

But I don’t think you will think it was dumb. You may even want to do it more than just once a year. Especially if you live in Florida.

And if you don’t own a pair of Toms, go to Toms.com and get a pair and you will also be buying a pair of shoes for a child who needs one.

Can’t wait to hear your stories!

So, who’s gonna be barefoot with me April 5th? Don’t forget to share with folks why you are doing it and how they can join in, too.

And no excuses here! I have fungus on the two smallest toe nails of my left foot, and I ain’t gonna hide it. No shame in this game. Especially if people who have no shoes get a pair of shoes because of the awareness it causes.

Grateful for Toms and the purpose of their business. Looking forward to next Tuesday.

-jason