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.

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!!!

How do you know if a “church” is “spiritually mature?” Here are a few thoughts & suggestions on the matter…

Last month on New Hope Digital, I suggested 3 questions to challenge us to rethink our understanding of spiritual maturity. You can read the post by clicking here. I promised that this month I would offer a few suggestions about how a spiritually maturing local church might gather, live, and love together.

Let me start with a disclaimer.

The church matters. It clearly mattered to Jesus. Nothing in this article suggests otherwise. What I am suggesting, however, is that we may need to rethink how we understand spiritual maturity in the context of the local church.

First, I would suggest that Jesus did not intend for His church to speak of people’s maturity in terms of being “in church” but rather in terms of being “in Christ.”

I have heard too often people declare maturity over someone with such descriptions as “look how much she is in church” and “he is back in church.” But did Jesus intend that people be connected with His bride or with the Groom?

The real issue stems from our typical understanding of church. Church is not a place or event. Church is not a list of religious practices. Church is the restored-by-love, now-compelled-to-love people of Jesus. Those people together are His bride. He is our Groom. We live by His love, in His love, and for the sake of giving His love.

In John 13:35, Jesus said the world would know we are His disciples by our love for one another. Loving one another and loving our neighbors puts on display the near love of Emmanuel. God uses those daily, interactive, learning relationships to help the lost and lonely see how loved they are by Jesus. In relating with the church (the bride), they often then are moved to relate with Jesus (the Groom).

That is the burning question, then. Am I only relating with the church through its activities, or am I—in Christ—relating with the church and loving as the church in all my daily activities?

People are not spiritually mature because they are back in church. They are exhibiting evidence of spiritual maturity when they are daily living as the church.

Next, I would suggest that Jesus does not intend His church to cater to spiritually mature consumers but rather cultivate spiritually mature caregivers.

People argue with me on this one and accuse me of thinking in extremes. But read me through here. The common argument I get is that it is more than OK for the church to have programs and events that encourage and serve their own families. I agree.

The problem is that we reap what we sow. If we sow for people to be given into through events and programs, then we reap people with an appetite for that. If we sow for people to be givers first, then we reap people who give into each other as we together give ourselves away. That’s the issue. It is OK to have programs and events for church families. But is it OK if the emphasis and purpose of those events and programs are not to equip and encourage the church to live sent? Otherwise, people will constantly expect to be given into by the pastors and the programs.

The “given into” mentality results in a self-absorbed strategy that strives to keep people coming back. This certainly must be questioned when Jesus said on more than one occasion that He has sent His church as He was sent. Furthermore, that self-absorbed strategy results in attempts to make church events and programs more and more attractive to those in the church.

However, we cannot make the bride prettier than the Cross already did; and our catering to consumers is not what Jesus intended. The sick mattered too much to Jesus to focus all of our attention on the healthy (Matthew 9:9–12). Instead, may we equip compassionate caregivers who daily are living to make disciples.

Finally, I would suggest that Jesus never intended that we measure our spiritual maturity with a mirror, but rather by how we relate in community.

John recorded that Jesus commanded His followers to love one another as He loved them (John 12:34–35). John then, in his three letters, expounded on that command.

Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old command that you have had from the beginning. The old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. The one who says he is in the light but hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother remains in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and doesn’t know where he’s going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
(1 John 2:7–11 HCSB)

This is how God’s children—and the Devil’s children—are made evident. Whoever does not do what is right is not of God, especially the one who does not love his brother.
(1 John 3:10 HCSB)

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.
(1 John 4:7–11 HCSB)

The person who “has been born of God and knows God” loves. Our maturing in Christ is evidenced by our love. Our love cannot be on display when in front of a mirror, sizing up whether we were good enough that day or whether our efforts were “holy” enough. Our love is only put on display when walking with and in a community of people.

For far too long, the American church has measured spiritual maturity by personal goodness on display rather than God’s goodness on display. Jesus avoided a compliment about His own personal goodness (Luke 18:18–19). So should we. God’s goodness, however, is displayed when an otherwise selfish group of people unify to daily grow together becoming, by His Spirit, a transformed, selfless people.

We must be very cautious to consider the church-attender and Bible-toter and fish-on-the-car-displayer with all good appearances as spiritually mature. May we remember how loved we are, live secure in His love, and let His goodness be on display as we love generously daily.

Don’t forget. We will never be spiritually mature this side of heaven, but we can certainly be spiritually maturing. And that journey of becoming will be characterized by grace, belief, confession, trust, learning, and love. A group of people becoming in those ways and giving themselves away together—now that would be a spiritually maturing church.

Here are 3 questions we may not be asking as we follow Jesus. But should we be asking them?

Quick post today.

Just wanted to suggest three questions we should at least consider asking as we follow Jesus.

1. Jesus, will you decrease me to love like You?
The evidence of our abiding in Jesus is not displayed in our personal goodness, but rather in His perfect love. Do you measure your spirituality with a mirror or within community? Read 1st John and ask which matters more – an increase in righteousness or an increase in love?

2. Jesus, will you increase wisdom to think and live like You?
This is a prayer Scripture declares will always be answered affirmatively. But may we not mistake our quest for knowing more with understanding better. May we not mistake our desire to have great understanding with our need to translate “not yet” into “right now.” And may we not mistake our yearning to explain heaven with His intention to announce “the Kingdom has come” through us. Wisdom has more to do with daily rhythms than devout righteousness.

3. Jesus, to whom are you sending me?
This is a prayer that if we are serious in praying will likely require REORIENTATION. We may have to exchange our going to church for going and being the church. We may have to surrender our scheduled church activities in order to follow Jesus in all of our activities. We may have to reboot our friendships to start up friendships with the lost rather than church-folks only. But He is sending His church.

Are you living sent?

Thoughts???

So grateful for the @WestpointChurch family and who Jesus is making us to become. Here are some highlights…

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On the night of February 15th, 2004, we sat in a living room here in West Orange County praying for and envisioning and committing to a local church expression committed to being the church, doing life together, and giving ourselves away. We were going to LIVE SENT daily, or at least try to learn and grow in figuring out and living out whatever that means.

On the morning of July 15th, 2012, we gathered in a West Orange County elementary school as Westpoint Church having equipped and sent His church into the daily, in the community, and around the world for over eight years.

Someone commented to me, “This is why Westpoint was started.”

The original vision of Westpoint was five bullet points for which we committed to cultivate, for which we continue to hope:

1 _ to be the church together as we follow Jesus daily and live sent in our in our spheres of influence.

2 _ to equip people with Biblical teaching to be growing up in Jesus most evidenced by love for one another as well as daily making disciples

3 _ to equip families to live out the Deuteronomy 6 command together, nurturing for healthy marriages and parenting

4 _ to serve locally and globally, giving away together what has been given to us

5 _ to multiply what we are doing together in West Orange County into various new and existing expressions both across the city and around the world

This past Sunday morning:

:: we gathered as a people who are following Jesus and being the church together daily.

:: we heard stories of and were equipped to love one another and make disciples.

:: there was ministry going on to kids and to families, and there were present couples whose marriages are being nurtured and are growing through some very difficult times.

:: we highlighted two significant ways we are giving ourselves away together locally and globally via IMPACT Winter Garden and GdE Haiti.

:: we heard from and prayed over Jim and Beth Collins as they are being sent to Las Vegas next month, AND there were present three couples who are seeking out mentoring from Westpoint as they look to cultivate for new expressions of the church right here in Central Florida.

WOW!!! Glory to God!!! Just wanted to celebrate that with you!!! So grateful that Jesus continues to make us to become what He intends for His church!!!

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 1:6 HCSB)

PRAYER
Lord Jesus, You said multiple times that Your followers are to live sent as You were sent to us. Please give us wisdom as to what that means and what You intended. Please help us to surrender to reorient our lives to follow You to those to whom You are sending us. Please grow us in our love for one another and caring for one another and unity with one another around Your beautiful, restorative, gracious mission. And please keep us reminded that we do not have to be LEARNED to go and make disciples, but rather we are to be LEARNERS as we go and make disciples. We are grateful that up have loved us first. Now, may we go as we are compelled to love as You have loved us. Amen.

Grateful for one of our local TV stations, @theGoodLife45, for an interview about “beyond MY church.” Watch it here…

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of being interviewed for a Central FL TV show called “The Good Life” hosted by Barbara Beck and Ken Mikesell. They asked some questions about my second book, beyond MY church. Yo can grab that book this month on Amazon Kindle for only $2.99. You can watch the interview on Vimeo, if you care to do so, and maybe see if you think it is worth grabbing :)

Grateful.

Let me know any feedback as we continue to sharpen this message about Jesus’ intent for His church based upon His prayer in John 17.

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

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)

BN: @NewHopeBooks releases Kindle titles at intro price of only $2.99, including @LiveSent & beyond MY church. Read more…

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New Hope Publishers Ebooks Discounted to Celebrate Kindle Release
by Kristin Easterling

(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.)—July 2, 2012—Ebooks from New Hope Publishers are now available for Kindle ereaders and Kindle apps. To celebrate the new digital outlet, New Hope Publishers’ ebook titles will be on sale for $2.99 from July 2–31 at Amazon.com (Kindle) and BN.com (Nook).

With free apps, titles can be enjoyed on the iPad, iPhone, Android, or desktop computers (Mac or PC).

With more than 60 digital titles and counting, New Hope Publishers “has jumped head-first into the digital stream,” said digital resource editor Randy Bishop. New titles are added regularly to our distributors’ sites.

Some of the most popular New Hope books are available, such as Orphanology, Live a Praying Life, Called and Accountable, Not in My Town, and Live Sent, as well as recently released titles like Character, Compelled, and Upside-Down Leadership.

The entire “Extreme Devotion” series by Kathi Macias is also available: No Greater Love, More than Conquerors, Red Ink, and People of the Book. Novels 1 and 2 in the “Freedom” series on human trafficking can be downloaded as well, Deliver Me from Evil and Special Delivery. The third and final novel in the series, The Deliverer, is scheduled to release in August.

[ added to this release by me _ beyond MY church and Cartas Vivas (the Spanish version of Live Sent) are also available on Kindle. ]

In addition to the new content available for Kindle ereaders, New Hope Publishers maintains a Web site, NewHopeDigital.com, that Bishop said adds value to the books published.

“Our authors and others are contributing articles and columns, podcasts, videos, small-group/book club guides, and even artwork to the site—all free to readers. Whether as individuals or as a group, our audience now has the opportunity to read, watch, listen, and discuss ideas and concepts—total immersion,” Bishop added.

“And we offer a free app that allows our audience to take much of NewHopeDigital.com’s content with them wherever they go. Now with eBooks available across a broad and significant spectrum of devices, we are beginning to truly meet the needs of the mobile generation.”

You may also find New Hope Publishers’ ebooks on sale at Kobo.com, Txtr.com, and Gardners.com.

About New Hope Publishers
Representing more than 80 authors and more than 130 individual works, the mission of New Hope® Publishers is to provide books that challenge readers to understand and be radically involved in the mission of God. New Hope Publishers is the general trade publishing imprint for WMU®, a missions auxiliary to the Southern Baptist Convention. New Hope Publishers is a member of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).

For more information about New Hope Publishers, visit NewHopeDigital.com.

Is it “family OR mission,” “family AND mission,” or “family ON mission?” Challenging thoughts from @Mike_Breen

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God definitely seems to be using Mike Breen‘s experiences in Europe to encourage and influence our future experiences as the church here in America. Below is an excerpt from a post Mike wrote earlier this year regarding the above title. It is worth the read, and I would dig your comments for sure.

Praying we will grow in wisdom as individuals and families living on mission together focused on what really matters to Jesus.

How our kids translate and interpret what it even means to follow Jesus depends on it.

Much love.
-jason
——————————
Sacrificing Mission on the Altar of Family?
by Mike Breen

Here’s the problem. For far too long, many of us felt we were pushed into having to make this false dichotomy: Is it family OR mission?

Rightly recognizing we shouldn’t sacrifice our families, we started to put some healthy boundaries in place, but also some unhealthy ones. So we started to compartmentalize. But I believe it’s part of the progression. So for many of us, this is now the question of our time: Is it family AND mission?

But when we learn to integrate our life and live well as a people participating in the mission of God each and every day and as we listen to the mission God is calling our family to, this is the next progression: Is it family ON mission?

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READ THE ENTIRE POST and the litany of comments by CLICKING HERE.

Is it a leader’s responsibility to get everyone in the same boat or equip the many boats on the river to move in the same direction? Read more…

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Unanimity is not unity.

But unfortunately lots of leaders buy the lie that they should get a grand vision and inspire great people to get on board of their personal dream and accomplish good stuff together.

Let’s all get in the same boat.

The energy is focused on a vision and on consensus. The product is typically one of three results, at least as I have seen it:

(1) People buy into the vision. They get on board. Everyone’s energy focuses on one vision. Some good stuff happens. But the effort is centralized and usually not reproducible without large amounts of resources and often leaves people inspired without the margin to even pay attention to the dream growing in their heart.

(2) People buy into the vision. They get on board. Everyone gets bogged down trying to come to consensus around that one vision. Dissension occurs. Divisiveness happens. The leader blames people for standing against a grand idea, describes it as some form of “attack” or “persecution” or “purging,” and goes with the group that sides with the leader to try it again.

(3) People buy into the vision. They get on board. Everyone focuses on one vision. Some good stuff happens. But the leader gets prideful. Things fall apart as the leader burns out or gets depressed or falls into self-destructive choices.

Maybe there is another option.

What if the leader led by serving? What if the leader believed in the respective dreams of people in their daily rhythms? What if the leader equipped people in their relationships and ideas rather than tried to rally everyone into personal relationship and the leader’s idea?

This would be the equivalent of trying to swim out to everyone in a boat on the river in an effort to encourage and equip people to sail in the same purposeful, intentional direction. There would be a need for shared leadership so that the leader doesn’t drown. One mission rather than one vision. One grand purpose rather than one great idea.

And no more “all in the same boat.”

The latter might actually produce multiplicative results that could be lived / implemented anywhere?

Every metaphor breaks down. Strengths of this suggestion? Weaknesses? Concern? Comments?

Praying we will grow as leaders who lead people rather than enlist people.

Much love.
-jason

3 questions to encourage us to rethink “spiritual maturity” as “American Christians”

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New Hope Digital asked if I would write a series of four articles on “rethinking” certain facets of our spirituality as lived out among American Church culture. The second of that series is entitled “3 Questions to Rethink Spiritual Maturity.” The premise of the article is itself a question – do we need to rethink our understanding of spiritual maturity as it is typically thought of inside American church culture?

Here are the 3 questions I pose:

1. Are we thinking of a “spiritual” person in defining terms as “a spectator of what is supernatural” or “a participator with the One who is supernatural?”

2. Are we thinking of “maturity” as a finished goal or as the journey of becoming mature?

3. Are we thinking of “spiritual maturity” as evidenced by knowledge and accomplishment or by wisdom and love?

Read the full article and leave your thoughts / comments / rebukes on the New Hope site which you can get to by CLICKING HERE.

Much love :-)
-jason

shift 5 of 5 suggested shifts if the church hopes to actually make disciples as Jesus intended _ from “live FOR God” to “live WITH God”

Well, here’s suggested shift # 5. This week, I have been re-posting a summer 2011 blog series from LiveSent.com. Here is the final post of the series. I hope they have encouraged and challenged you. Click here for shift # 1, here for shift # 2, here for shift # 3, here for shift # 4, and read below for # 5.

_________________________________
Suggested Shift # 5 _ from “live FOR God” to “live WITH God”

If I live focused only to be better personally, then who is the focus of my life?

I am.

However, if we live to share with others about the goodness of God, who is the focus of our life?

He is. And others are.

The former approach is what I would suggest is living to be “good FOR God.” The latter approach is what I would suggest is living to “go WITH God.” I want to suggest that Jesus intended the latter for His followers – that we not live FOR Him but WITH Him.

Two reasons why I want to suggest this.

(1) because Jesus said so.

21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
[John 20:21, HCSB]

He is sending us to follow Him. To go WITH Him. Not just to do stuff for Him. He said in Matthew 28:18-20 that He would be WITH us always.

(2) because Jesus avoided the compliment “good,” which might be an indication that I should, too.

18  And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.
[Mark 10:18, NASB]

Get honest with yourself. Do you study the Scriptures for nourishment for daily mission or for information for self-development. The rich young ruler in this passage seemed clearly to be looking for another reason to consider Himself good, to feel personally fulfilled with his accomplishments. Jesus did not live to that end, and He rebuked the rich young ruler with His very to-the-point response.

Jesus did not end the day hoping to feel good about Himself or His efforts. He did not practice religion for personal goodness. He lived to glorify His Father in heaven, period. Attention to His own works He considered a distraction from the work of His Father.

54 “If I glorify Myself,” Jesus answered, “My glory is nothing.”
[John 8:54, HCSB]

10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on My own. The Father who lives in Me does His works.
[John 14:10, HCSB]

I personally need to beg HIm to keep making that same heart and desire present in me, that I would want to make His goodness known and His goodness only.

Please understand what I am suggesting here. It is absolutely true that each of us needs to grow. It is absolutely accurate that we each will always need to be shaped into what Jesus intended. However, the purpose of our further holiness is not so as to be holy, but rather so as to show others a holy, loving, gracious, near God. A focus on personal goodness is a focus off of mission, for my pursuits are not to be centered in personal gain but rather in the interests of others.

3  Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4  do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
[Philippians 2:3-4, NASB]

So, what you do with that “salt and light” verse about our good works (Matthew 5:13-16)?

In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
[Matthew 5:16, HCSB]

You obey it. That’s what you do. It’s not about my personal goodness on display. It’s about my Father’s goodness on display in me. That’s the only thing it can mean if it has anything to do with His glory on display.

May we go preserve His presence and bring out the flavors of His presence right in the midst of this very how-could-God-even-be-present world by sharing His life given to us and His goodness proven together through us.

May we quit trying to just be good FOR God and actually daily go WITH God on mission to share this Gospel about a God who desires to be WITH us with a world who so often struggles to believe that the God who came near could possibly still be near today.

After all, when Jesus spoke His “final Word” to us – Jesus – the New Testament uses a synonym – Emmanuel. Do you know what that word means? GOD WITH US. 

That was the declaration from God when He moved into the neighborhood – He has always wanted us to live WITH Him (John 1:12-14).

If we will, then we will be that much closer to actually making disciples.

shift 4 of 5 suggested shifts if the church hopes to make disciples as Jesus intended _ “one is plural”

This week, I am re-posting five suggested shifts for the church to make is she hopes to actually make disciples as Jesus intended. These are from a summer of 2011 blog series at LiveSent.com. Today is shift 4 of 5. You can read shift 1 here, shift 2 here, and shift 3 here.

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Suggested Shift 4 of 5 _ from “one is singular” to one is plural”

When you read the word “you” in the Scriptures of the New Testament, do you think understand it as speaking to “me” or speaking to “we?” Because I want to suggest, and I think a lot of really smart people, much smarter than me, who have studied biblical Greek and who love Jesus, would agree with me here – in the New Testament Scriptures the word “you” (as translated in English) the large majority of the time is properly understood in terms of “we” not “me.”

It’s one of those nuances in the English language that trips us up. Most all languages on earth have distinguishing words for “you” that indicate clearly between 2nd person singular and 2nd person plural. English does not. This is to our detriment.

In the English translations, we tend to read “you” with “me” more in mind. I want to suggest to you two reasons why this is significant. 

(1) because to Jesus, ONE is plural.

In John 17, Jesus prayed that His followers would be one with the Father and one with each other the way that He was one with the Father. He defined “oneness” here in terms of “we” not “me.” Now, you know this. And yet the tendency in American church culture is to turn bible reading and prayer and fasting and church attendance and serving into me-first rituals that develop myself to be better rather than others-first initiatives that are catalytic for community development and loving relationships that mirror “on earth as it is in heaven.”

For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, almost every “you” is plural, except for the instance of Jesus teaching on personal prayer. But otherwise, He is describing in Matthew 5 to 7 the ways of the Kingdom lived out in together form rather than in personal form. 

If I take this to heart, then I must change the way I read “you” in the New Testament. At least, I must ask the question, “Is this speaking about ‘me’ or ‘we’ here?”

(2) because I would suggest that spiritual maturity, at least as I understand Jesus’ teachings, cannot be measured with a mirror but rather only within community.

Fruit in my life that blossoms is intended to be fruit given, not fruit consumed by me. Thus, the focus of my maturity cannot be to feel personally fulfilled at the end of each day when I look in the mirror and measure my day’s performance. Maturity is not measured personally as much as it is evidenced lovingly. Within relationships. Within community. Learning shared, not learning hoarded. Life given, not life hoarded.

If I take this to heart, then my reason for following Jesus and for being a part of a local church expression may need to change. It’s confusing. And transformational. And disturbs my selfish religious practices pushing me toward actually making disciples.

One is plural in the Kingdom of Heaven. And “you” is “we.” At least that’s what I am suggesting here.

Type at you tomorrow with the fifth and final suggested shift…

shift 3 of 5 suggested shifts to be made if the church hopes to make disciples as Jesus intended…

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This week, I am re-posting five shifts from a 2011 blog series on LiveSent.com. You can click here to read shift 1, click here to read shift 2, or read below for suggested shift 3. Hope it encourages us all to be the church as Jesus intended.

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Suggested Shift 3 of 5 _ feed me to feed others

I don’t think I am exaggerating here. I would suggest that the common approach to what the American church has called “discipleship” tends to be a very self-absorbed, personal development track for which the primary motivation is to “feed me.” This is not biblical. At least that is what I am suggesting in SUGGESTED SHIFT # 3 (IN ORDER FOR US TO ACTUALLY BE MAKING DISCIPLES as Jesus intended).

Now in this we must be brutally honest with ourselves. Whether individual or family, married or single, child or adult, have kids or don’t have kids, young or old. Do you look for a “church that meets my/our needs,” or do you look for a people with whom you can both learn and live the ways of the Kingdom as well as together share them with those who may not even be following the King yet, loving to both neighbors and nations.

Is your motivation when it comes to “church” more about “feed me” or more about “feed others?” Get honest with yourself here, because the answer to this question is found in why you are even a part of the local church expression of which you are a part.

Say you are single. You looked around for a church family with a happening singles ministry. They gathered. They had events. People were becoming not-single thru this ministry. It looked good to you. And you really liked the band and the speaker. A perfect fit. You may have even invited some friends to join you. But what I have described above is not you as the church engaged with God on His mission daily making disciples. It is you as a consumer choosing a church that feeds you and meets your needs.

Say you are a mom and dad. You looked around for a church family with a happening student ministry. They gathered. They had events. Students behaved and dressed and spoke well. Even though they ate peanut butter from someone else’s armpit during some skit on the first night you attended, you were cool with it, because they gave away great prizes to the kids. A perfect fit, right? But what I have described above to you is not you leading your family to be the church together engaged with God on His mission daily making disciples. It is you as a consumer choosing a church that feeds you and meets your needs. I would go so far to even suggest this – if we as leaders don’t actually live out the intended mission of God in front of and alongside those middle and high school students, a whole lot of them will not stick with the hollow consumerism that attracted them to be a part of a local church expression once they get into college and are met with many other attractive options.

[SIDE NOTE: I am not suggesting that a happening singles ministry or a hip student ministry are bad things. God uses them to transform people in Christ a lot. I am focusing here on motivation and purpose.]

Wait a second!!! You scream out as you exclaim, “I HAVE NEEDS, TOO!!!” or “MY FAMILY HAS NEEDS TO!!!!” I know. I do, too. Two questions, though. One, are you basing your “church choice” on a need or a want? And two, are you truly fulfilled in getting or giving?

Our family has needs, too. I just don’t want my kids growing up having their attention spans grabbed for a season with an attractive ministry. I want them having their hearts gripped for life by a Savior who loved them first and now compels them to live with a beyond-me purpose – the only kind of life, in fact, that can even keep their attention and truly fulfill.

We must not forget what Jesus and Paul both taught about our needs being met and our life being full.

Consider this:

38 “If you don’t go all the way with Me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve Me. 39 If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to Me, you’ll find both yourself and Me.
[Matthew 10:38-39, the Message]

And this:

11 “I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that My joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. 12 This is My command: Love one another the way I loved you. 13 This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.
[John 15:11-13, the Message]

And this:

12 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. 13 Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. 14 And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. 15 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. 16 Let the Word of Christ-the Message-have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! 17 Let every detail in your lives-words, actions, whatever-be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.
[Colossians 3:12-17, the Message]

It sounds counter-intuitive, but our personal needs are only truly met when we live loved and give love. Our needs are only fulfilled when we trust that we have been loved first by a God who was willing to demonstrate that love through sacrifice, and we then live daily to give His love away into the lives of others. And not just through a service project. But through deep relationships in which “on earth as it is in heaven” is beginning to blossom, among both the “lost” and the “found,” via shared life together in the daily rhythms of our lives.

Relationships that do not just provide refuge and a false sense of security, though. Relationships that purposefully and intentionally push us toward disciple-making and mission engagement and selfless living because that is the mission around which those relationships have united and for which they ultimately exist.

We must move from “feed me” to “feed others.” And probably more appropriately, from “feed me” to “share what has been given to me with others” so that we can experience the love and life as Jesus intended. He loved us first and asks us to love as He has loved us.

Suggested shift # 4 tomorrow…

shift 2 of 5 suggested shifts if the church is actually going to make disciples as Jesus intended…

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This week, I am re-posting five blog posts from last year on LiveSent.com regarding five suggested shifts needed if the church hopes to make disciples as Jesus intended.

Click here if you want to read suggested shift # 1. Here’s suggested shift # 2:

Followers of Jesus must shift from thinking of themselves as having to be LEARNED to make disciples toward having to be a LEARNER to make disciples.

You may not have even thought about it before. But I actually hear it a good bit from people when we stress that each and everyone of us as followers of Jesus should be “making disciples” as we are going among both neighbors and nations. I hear this very significant excuse:

“…but I can’t do that because i don’t know enough to teach it.”

I assert that it is a significant excuse because it is very heartfelt. But I would suggest that the problem is that it is, although heartfelt, a demonstration of a misunderstanding of the word “disciple.”

The word “disciple” does NOT mean “I know a whole lot so much in fact that I can teach you all the ways of King Jesus so you should come sit in a classroom and listen to me teach and also grow to know enough one day to go and teach in front of a classroom.”

I am by no means discounting the importance of teaching in discipling. It is one of two key words in Matthew 28:18-20 – “to teach all that I have commanded you.” But we need to quit thinking about how to teach His ways like we have in the 20th century church under florescent lights to people in uncomfortable chairs, and instead we must look back to Jesus and how He taught the ways of the Kingdom under the light of the sun and the moon to a people with whom He walked in relationship daily.

The word “disciple” also does NOT mean “I don’t have to learn anymore because I have earned my Jesus PhD and have my not-gonna-go-to-hell tenure and actually don’t have to work hard anymore at teaching His ways to others.”

The roots of the word “disciple” actually imply a meaning more like this one –

I am a learner and will always be a learner, more like an apprentice, who learns from a Master and then does what I’ve seen Him do everyday.

We don’t learn enough to now have earned our “disciple degree.” We never quit being a learner who lives what is being learned. That is a disciple.

Not knowing enough, then, is not a valid excuse, if we understand the word “disciple.” At least that is my suggestion here. We actually would have to give an excuse as to why we don’t live as learners who walk with our Master everyday and then try to live out together with others what we are learning so as to see the Kingdom actually show up right here and right now.

What if we moved from being a “teacher” to being a “learner?” What if that actually is teaching – when learning happens? What if we prioritized learning the ways of Jesus with others who are also learning His ways along with those who have not found their way in Christ yet?

What if we defined who we are as the church in these terms:

a people who learn and live the ways of Jesus together, sharpening each other in His ways, introducing others to Him, and then learning together with Him how to live those ways in the rhythms of our daily lives as the Spirit changes us to be more and more like our Master

So, there is my 2nd suggested shift. For what it is worth. I don’t have to be LEARNED to make disciples. But I do have to never quit being a LEARNER who goes and learns Jesus with others. Jesus then is the Rabbi, the teacher, rather than me. That’s always gonna work out better.

Hopefully it encourages many of you to move beyond what you see as a limitation (i don’t know enough to teach) toward what is actually an opportunity – to learn and live the ways of the Kingdom within community together in the midst of a world longing for “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Type at you tomorrow…

shift 1 of 5 suggested shifts to be made if the American church hopes to actually make disciples as Jesus intended…

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This week on the blog, I will be re-posting five posts from LiveSent.com from summer 2011. These are five suggested shifts (one per day) that the American church must make in order for us to actually be making disciples as Jesus intended.

These are merely suggestions. They are not dogmatic assertions that if read and not believed will result in eternal damnation. They are not end-times prophetic announcements that will usher us into the ultimate day of “Good News” on December 20-something-or-other. They are simply this simple guy’s perspective as I am begging God for wisdom on what we must do to actually equip people to be making disciples in the daily.

AND, I really would value your feedback, since the ways of the Kingdom are learned and lived as we follow Jesus together.

SO, here goes the first one…

How do you think of “the Gospel?”
Do you think of this “good news,” this most-important message, as a presentation that Christians should make so that other people can choose to be a Christian?

While it certainly is a “good news” message that we now as “letters from Christ” (2nd Corinthians 3:3) present to a world full of “bad news,” I would suggest that it is more than just something we present.

And I would suggest that in order for us to actually be making disciples, we must make a shift in how we think of “the Gospel” if we think of it only as a presentation we make or a tract that we hand out.

First, the Gospel is not a presentation we make as much as it is a presentation that has been made to us.

4 All they have eyes for is the fashionable god of darkness. They think he can give them what they want, and that they won’t have to bother believing a Truth they can’t see. They’re stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we’ll ever get.
(2nd Corinthians 4:4, the Message)

Second, this Gospel was made known to us not just through a presentation but rather through an actual presence.

14 The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. 15 John pointed him out and called, “This is the One! The One I told you was coming after me but in fact was ahead of me. He has always been ahead of me, has always had the first word.” 16 We all live off his generous bounty, gift after gift after gift. 17 We got the basics from Moses, and then this exuberant giving and receiving, This endless knowing and understanding-all this came through Jesus, the Messiah. 18 No one has ever seen God, not so much as a glimpse. This one-of-a-kind God-Expression, who exists at the very heart of the Father, has made him plain as day.
(John 1:14-18, the Message)

Next, this Gospel, this “presence” of God coming near with His love to a people who had not acted very lovable, both wrecks us and restores us day after day after day as we move from death to life and are compelled to show a love that has been shown to us.

14 For Christ’s love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If One died for all, then all died. 15 And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised. 16 From now on, then, we do not know anyone in a purely human way. Even if we have known Christ in a purely human way, yet now we no longer know [Him in this way]. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, [he is] a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. 18 Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” 21 He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
(2nd Corinthians 5:14-21, HCSB)

And finally, we never quit needing this Gospel and we never quit needing to tell the story of how this Gospel is wrecking and restoring us. However, we don’t just need to present it. We need to share this story while living this story with presence.

9 Say the welcoming word to God-“Jesus is my Master”-embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. 10 With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!” 11 Scripture reassures us, “No one who trusts God like this-heart and soul-will ever regret it.” 12 It’s exactly the same no matter what a person’s religious background may be: the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help. 13 “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.” 14 But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? 15 And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That’s why Scripture exclaims, A sight to take your breath away! Grand processions of people telling all the good things of God!
(Romans 10:9-15, the Message)

Just like the God who came near to us right into the middle of our darkness, may we go near daily into the darkness and shine His ever-present light.

May we make more than a presentation. May we show the same love that has been shown to us with actual presence.

Thoughts?

Type at you tomorrow…

Thanks to my friend @LanLeavell for sharing this YouTube preview with me of a new IMAX film titled “JERUSALEM.” Good stuff…

Just had to share this majestic, fly-over preview of “JERUSALEM” – a new IMAX film coming out. Worth your 7 minutes to watch. If you have ever been there you will no-doubt recognize places. If not, it will make you want to go.

Enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=iPQI6Yupt48

“Five Ways to Eat the Bible Together” from @AnnVoskamp. Very much worth sharing with you…

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Yesterday on her blog, Ann Voskamp shared five “spiritual diets” she and her family have lived together. I thought they were worth sharing to encourage you and your family as you live sent together. They are below…

REMEMBER – if you are married, do not live on mission thinking you cannot include your spouse and kids. Including them is crucial. The near love of Jesus is best seen in the loving dynamic of a people on mission together. That includes the family unit. You don’t want your kids going to college one day having never seen a disciple made and having never loved the least of these. They need to define “following Jesus” as more than a prayer prayed and “church attendance.”

These family times immersed in the Scriptures are the nourishment they need for growing up in Christ. And you and I need it, too.

Make it a priority. I know I need to. Cause this “eating” is to important to relegate to leftovers, so may we do more than leave it to the energy left over when all else is done in the day.

Thanks, Ann, for this encouragement.

May we eat well and have some quality family meals, too :-)
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“5 Ways to Eat the Bible Together”
from Ann Voskamp

There are varied ways to eat healthy, and we often eat differently in different seasons… so it goes with Manna from heaven.

Here are some spiritual diets we’ve lived:

1. In Slow time…
Instead of swallowing large portions of scripture, certain seasons we eat very slowly, savoring only a few verses at a time by first listening to His Word, reading only a few verses…. then I linger, quietly meditating on those 2-3 verses, turning the words over and over…. then to lift voice in prayer, pray the Scriptures back to God… and then live the Words, contemplate on the verses long, and throughout the day, that hand and feet and tongue might do them.

For more: How to Savor the Bible

2. In Community…
In addition to meal-time meditations, there have been seasons where we’ve had personal quiet time together as a family, so children see parents savoring truth and parents can model how to eat.

For more: Communal Quiet Time

3. In Audio …
I’m making it a habit that when I clean, or run the morning routine, do domestic tasks, to always slip in another disk of the audio Bible: clean the heart while cleaning the house.

For More: Listen for free every day to the Daily Audio Bible and what I have in the stereo: Inspired By . . . The Bible Experience

4. In a Year …
There have been many seasons where I’ve read the Bible in a year. Perhaps my most favorite plan was with this plan on a bookmark, that has only 25 readings slotted a month, allowing for five catch-up days. And no flipping back and forth to find the plan…. Just tuck in the bookmarks. And begin whatever time of the year with whatever Bible you have.

Free Bookmarks for easy Bible-in-a-year Reading Plan — from John Piper’s Bethlehem Baptist

5. In Book Repeat …
This way of eating Scripture has yielded very toned, healthy souls and I highly recommend it to hungry hearts. I have found “the book repeat” way of Scripture reading truly lets a soul ruminate on Truth powerfully and effectively. Simply:

a. select a shorter book of the Bible (I’ve chosen Philippians once, Colossians another)
b. read it through
c. Then repeat, twenty times, reading at a your usual pace, considering the book as a whole meal.

Interested in starting a new church? Check out “what every church planter should know,” a free ebook from @PortableChurch…

I believe strongly in CHURCH SENDING. One result of church sending often can be a new expression of the church.

Church starters are faced with a unique set of challenges – mobile ministry, fundraising, creating ownership amongst their volunteers, creating momentum for survival, self-propelled leadership and building something from nothing. More than any of those, they are faced with the everyday insecurity of “what if this doesn’t work” type of thoughts. These can only be countered when our security as a leader is in Whose we are in Christ alone and when our focus in on His mission onto which He has invited us.

If you are interested in cultivating for a new local church expression, this ebook from Portable Church Industries is a valuable resource. They have asked learners and practitioners just like you to share thoughts and perspectives on “what every church planter should know” full of quick reads and provocative insights.

I am grateful to be one of the learners asked to share an article. You can read it along with all the essays by getting your own *free* copy here.

Hope it is helpful. Many thanks to Portable Church Industries for providing this awesome equipping tool!!!

-jason