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

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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.

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

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

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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
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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!!!

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…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can we learn?

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

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

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

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

:: a definition of “sabbath”

>> shut up and show up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

Did you read it? Ok.

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

Are you being nourished on Him?

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

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

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

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

Is it enough? Is He enough?

May we value breaking bread together like Jesus did.

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

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…

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

The “S” stands for “Scripturing.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right? Wrong.

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

Scripturing.

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

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

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

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

May we live SENT, scripturing daily.

Next week, the letter E – “eating.”

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

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

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

How do I practice “scripturing?”

Here are four suggestions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is what God intended.

May we practice Scripturing.

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

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

Contrast 5 of 5 _ parenting from grace vs. parenting for moralism _ hurry, haphazardness, & hands-off OR patience, priorities, and pursuit.

Parenting takes time. A fast correction at times is enough, but often a focused conversation is necessary. In a moment of frustration, a parent can react with an angry rebuke, but walking down a path toward restoration with a child takes much longer. Parenting doesn’t give much space for hurry.

Parenting is strategic. Inconsistency is guaranteed to produce exasperation both for the parent and the child, but intentional, creative, redundant emphases over time blossom into wise choices and relational joy, both for the parent and the child. Haphazardness is not characteristic of effective parenting.

Parenting requires presence. Quality time doesn’t happen without quantity time. Occaisional gifts don’t make up for frequent absence. Respect grows as connection is valued. A hands-off approach is no way to parent.

And thus the final contrast. A prayer of sorts.

Lord, help us to be parents who hurry less, avoid haphazardness, and settle for hands-off declarations and pithy lectures. Please make us to become parents who patiently walk alongside our children, who cultivate into our kids’ lives with priorities surrendered to You, and who pursue wandering children the way You have pursued us.

PATIENCE
Yesterday morning, Jen took the older four to see the play version of the classic “Frog and Toad” stories. They adored it. My favorite tale from that collection is the one in which Toad desires a garden just like Frog’s. He plants and them is impatient. Frog tried to encourage Toad that screaming at the plants to grow isn’t probably gonna be effective. Patience and watering and more patience and even some circumstances beyond the gardener’s control and some more patience are required.

One wise dad once told me that “steady plodding brings the truest wealth,” patient cultivation brings the greatest harvest. It is true in our parenting for sure.

What helps me most to be patient with others is simply my own remembering of how much patience I require others to have with me.

PRIORITIES
When I coached high school basketball, Coach Rick Majerus, whom I am quite sure is disappointed with the closing of Hostess, declared to the coaches at his coaching clinic this very wise leadership principle:

“It is not what you teach but what you emphasize.”

Dick Bennett, who coached the Wisconsin Badgers to the 2000 Final Four, told our coaching staff to settle on four or five things that we creatively, redundantly practiced every practice, and he guaranteed not an undefeated season but rather that we would find ourselves AT LEAST in position to possibly win every game. We applied this with much success.

With the same thinking in mind, Jen and I settled on six actions that we would try to live ourselves (with the Spirit’s help) and cultivate into and encourage from our kids. We are in no way suggesting that we are great parents who have arrived at some gold nuggets of wisdom guaranteeing wonderful kids. Rather, we prayed and paid attention to the teachings of Jesus and sought counsel from some other parents and arrived at these six:

:: be believing
…that God loves us and is good and showed us His love most clearly when He sent His Son to be with us to live and die and live again that we might live with Him. The question to ask may not be, “What do you think of God,” but rather, “What does God think of you?”

:: be confessing
…when we realize or have been confronted with our selfishness or our wrongful attitude and actions toward God and others.

:: be grateful
…for the God who came near and all that He allows to come into our hands and into our lives, trusting Him to hold us both through our own mistakes as well as our collisions with the mistakes of others.

:: listen
…every step to God and every situation to others.

:: learn
…from Jesus as we walk with Him and with others as we learn and live Christ’s ways together.

:: love
…the God who loved us first as well as neighbors and nations the way Jesus loved us.

PURSUIT
In Psalm 139, David sang this prayer:

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.
(Psalm 139:23, 24 HCSB)

David’s profound gratefulness and contrite heart and surrendered life comes through in these words like no other. It is a sober and beautiful expression of worship toward the God who forgave and restored this great King.

A lot of people’s view of God is not one of a Divine Being who pursues them. For many of them, this is because their own father and mothers never pursued relationship with them in this way.

Dennis and Barbara Rainey applied these two verses to our parenting in a significant way. It is a powerful challenge to all of us as parents to pursue our kids.

When you pursue this kind of heart-to-heart relationship with your children, you’re actually following God’s example. Wouldn’t it be wonderful (someday) if your kids could say of you, “My parents have ‘searched me and known me.’ They know not just ‘when I sit down and when I rise up,’ but they also ‘understand my thought’ and are ‘intimately acquainted’ with who I am and what I’m like”?

I pray all of our kids will say that about all of us as parents, reflecting on the ebb and flow and ups and downs of a beautiful adventure with their moms and dads.

May we parent with patience and priorities and pursuit. Intentionally. Over the long haul. With grace. For the sake of God’s goodness rather than their own.

Contrast 4 of 5 regarding parenting from grace vs. parenting for moralism _ intentionality or interruption???

I like going to the movies. My mom and I used to go see every Bond film together when it would come out in theaters. Special memories. I wish she could go with me to Skyfall. My brother and I can hopefully enjoy it together soon.

I don’t like it when others act like they are the star of this movie called Life. I don’t even like it when I act that way. And our kids certainly don’t like it when I treat them like they are interrupting the scene of the movie called “My Life.”

Not trying to step on any toes here as much as I am being confessional, but may I encourage us all as parents to choose parenting kids with intentionality rather than treating kids like interruptions.

Kids need parents. They are becoming what they were intended to be, and we as their moms and dads play an important role in that becoming. God has given them to us. We are stewards of their lives. We do not need to treat them like they are annoyances. We do not need to make them feel like interruptions.

In a grace based parenting home, parents aren’t gonna bat 1.000 on this. We need grace, too. Kids as beloved as they are can be bothersome at times, can get under our skin. But in a grace based culture, the frustrations can be fruitful if kept in check and responded to with intentionality.

That’s the real issue with our parenting, isn’t it? We tend to give knee-jerk reaction instead of thoughtful proaction. We tend to correct them in the grocery store with perfection at 3 years old in mind rather than 33. We tend to think only of how they might embarrass us at a 9 year old’s birthday party rather than how they might embarrass themselves at a 19 year old’s birthday party.

Are we cultivating into their hearts and lives for the long haul or for the short term? Are we parenting as though steady plodding for harvest or impatiently waiting in line for fast food?

God would surely be considered the model parent. In His dealings with the children of Israel, He always saw obedient response, right? Wrong. They were a stubborn, wandering people. God had to deal with their selfishness. He intentionally parented them. Faithfully, He loved them no matter what. Purposefully, He disciplined them, restoring them with a long term view in mind.

With His help, by His Spirit and God-given wisdom, we too can patiently, faithfully, purposefully parent our kids with focused intentionality.

But what should be the focus of our intentionality?

Rather than pretending that there is a magic formula or a silver bullet for this, may I suggest an exercise for us parents? Read Matthew and Mark and Luke and John, specifically Jesus’ teaching emphases, and try to derive four to six major themes from His teachings. Consider these as the focus of your intentionality as a parent. Bounce them off of a few others moms and dads for suggestions. Then begin over these 18 plus years you, Lord willing, will have with each child, steadily, patiently, intentionally sowing the seeds of those teachings, those Kingdom seeds of the living Word of God, into the hearts and minds and lives of those beloved kids.

But be cautious. I worry that we often get caught up in intentionally, or possibly unintentionally, parenting our kids in such a way that they avoid hardship trying to manipulate or ensure their arrival at a happy, prosperous life.

Be willing to surrender this way of thinking if you do not see it as the emphasis of Jesus’ teachings. Did He teach that in our following Him we would avoid hardship? Did He teach that personal happiness was the goal for each of our lives? I would suggest He did not.

He did, however, teach to love meant to lay down my life. He did teach that hardship was certain but His presence with me is a guarantee. He did teach that difficulty didn’t always equal bad, but might even be a means by which a blessing would come. He did teach that abundant life is given to me NOT as I pursue personal abundance, but rather as I live open handed with all that I have. He did teach that I find the fullness of who I really am when I love God and love my neighbor. He did teach that I was most likely to see Him not when I looked in the mirror at my own polished goodness, but rather when I looked into the eyes of the sick, the thirsty, the poor, the lame, the imprisoned, the ignored.

What will you intentionally cultivate into the lives of your kids? Is it in line with the teachings of our Savior, or is it more similar to the status quo of our society?

Tomorrow, in our last post of the week preparing us for the Grace Based Parenting Family Conversation, I’ll give “the bottom line,” including six things that Jen and I have decided to make priorities for cultivation into the lives of our own kids as we try to intentionally parent in a steady-plodding way.

Grateful to be learning together.

Contrast 3 of 5 regarding parenting from grace vs. parenting for moralism _ parental apology or parental pride???

One dad told me he would never apologize to his kids. My heart sank. Our kids so often do what they have seen their parents do. What would the likelihood be of his kids recognizing that God desires a contrite heart more than a polished exterior?

Are we as parents willing to model confession? Are we willing to show our kids the value of a contrite heart?

King David coveted, committed adultery, lied, manipulated, murdered, and covered it up. We know people like him as shameful, disgraced, untrustworthy, controlling, imprisoned, and treacherous. The Bible declares him to be a man after God’s heart.

Come again?

Let me say up front that grace based parenting is not an excusing approach to parenting. It is not a do-whatever-you-want-and-I’ll-always-overlook-it form of parenting. My wife and I, as we are praying for wisdom and learning the pragmatism of this approach, we still pronounce consequences and rebuke and interject and redirect. The people whom we have either read about or seen practicing grace based parenting do, as well. The difference is that we don’t do this expecting perfection. We do it hoping for confession.

It would be irresponsible for a shepherd to just let a sheep continue wandering toward the cliff or over by a wolf’s den. The good shepherd doesn’t do this. Rather, he wants the wandering sheep to be close to him. So, when the wandering sheep wanders, the shepherd goes to her to guide her closer. If she wanders again, he nudges her back. In the discernment of the shepherd, and it is different for each sheep, there may come a time when her legs need to be broken. If the shepherd does this, he then carried the sheep on his shoulders for the duration of her healing. The sheep learns walking again as she stumbles along near the shepherd, learning to listen to his voice rather than her own or the voice of any other besides the Shepherd. It is no guarantee that the sheep won’t wander again, but it is a demonstration of the guaranteed love of a near Shepherd.

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. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. [This happens] because he is a hired man and doesn’t care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep.”
(John 10:7-15 HCSB)

We have a shepherd who deals with us in this gracious way. We need Him, especially as parents. He will not model for us a way of loving others that will lead to destruction. And He gives us the chance to learn how deep the Father’s love for us, how willing to lay down His life the Shepherd is, by giving us the chance to be a good shepherd to our own kids.

Who is the burden on? The one whose legs are broken when they wander or the one who carried the wanderer? It is the former, for he carried the weight both of an aching heart of love for the sheep as well as the weight of the sheep herself.

And this is the difficulty they call parenting.

Are we practicing parental apology or parental pride? Let me ask it another way. Are we letting our kids see the near grace and forgiveness and love of a Shepherd willing to carry even their mom and dad in the midst of their struggles to parent, or are we pretending that we know it all and they should, too?

Confessing to our kids when we have been wrong in our dealings with them is simply a way to show them our once-broken legs, to share with them the story of the Shepherd whom we need desperately and who desires us close and who carried us, too.

Just like He wants to carry them. Just like He wants our kids to know His voice.

Will we apply the same principles to mom and dad that we do to our kids? Will we parent from the gracious relationship we have with the Shepherd, or will we wander out alone.

Parenting is too hard to go alone.

May we be willing to confess to our kids when we have wronged them. May they see in us more than polished behavior. May they witness the beauty of a contrite heart as we confess our wrong and admit our desperate need. May they be reminded of the Gospel of Jesus in the very ways that they see us navigate our sinfulness.

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.
(2 Corinthians 5:21 HCSB)

So if parenting involves seasons when we pursue our kids and even carry them, how can we do this for the long haul? Let’s look at this tomorrow…

Contrast 2 of 5 on parenting from grace vs. parenting for moralism _ “I can’t believe you did that” or “I know why you did that.”

I have said it, too. Caleb makes a mistake. I spout off, “I can’t believe you did that!” Or maybe an alternate derivative – “Why did you do that?”

Don’t we know? Maybe we don’t.

I was in a training seminar this week when, as an example of how even from an early age we look for someone else to blame, the teacher showed a video of a little three year old girl blaming her 8 month old sister of drawing high up on a chair (when the little one couldn’t even stand). It is in us. Selfishness. And when confronted, the selfish act of deflecting the issue onto someone else. It is our tendency. We make a selfish choice. We want to cover it up and hide.

The Garden story is the story of all of us.

So, why do we parent as though it isn’t?

Do we grow out of this? Can we self-actualize our way out of our selfish tendencies, our relationally destructive choices? Tell Jesus that is possible. His nail-scars declare otherwise.

Stay with me. I am guilty of this just like any other parent. Having brain lapses as though my kids shouldn’t make mistakes. You may have never thought of it, but if you parent with this “why did you do that” emphasis, you will sow the seeds either of self-sufficiency or self-destruction. Either that child will reap an air of “I am okay and don’t need anyone else,” or she will reap the stinch of shame and isolation wondering why she can’t ever get it right.

Do either of these welcome the Gospel?

No wonder God had to fit into skin to do something about it. We would have ignored him altogether or just hidden in shame. John, in chapter one of his Gospel, actually wrote that this is what we did.

So, if that was not the way to welcome Jesus, then why would we parent with the mindset and habits that cultivate for that level of self-absorption?

We as parents must beg Jesus to transform our default statement from “I can’t believe you did that” to “I know why you did that.” Furthermore, we know the One who did something about why we do that.

Are we parenting our kids to be perfect or are we parenting them with a perfect love?

Paul declared in Romans 2 that kindness leads to repentance. Repentance is turning from the path I am on to walk a different path. We need to repent as parents of our default mindset, and then parent in environments that encourage repentance, simply because our kids will always need to practice repentance and confession all of their lives. Just like we as parents do. And that environment that encourages repentance is one of perfect love.

Perfect love is not perfect parenting. Rather, it is parenting with a default of grace and forgiveness and multiple chances and ongoing training and expectation of mistakes made rather than perfect behavior. AND, we are in no way capable of this perfect love unless as parents we ourselves are living dependent upon the One who loves us perfectly.

Speaking of living dependently, may I offer a word of caution?

We must be careful of buying into the lie of American culture called “self-esteem.”

Are we parenting our kids toward self-esteem or God-esteem?

Hopefully the latter. Because anything prefixed with the word “self” seems to me to be referring to something that was nailed and buried. I don’t need to believe in myself. I need to believe in the One who believes in me. I don’t need to accept Him as much as I need to accept the truth that He has accepted me. Jesus, the Gospel incarnate, declares it!

WE ARE WORTH DYING FOR TO GOD.

As parents, may we remember that being worth dying for to God implies the need for sacrifice. For sin to be covered. For selfishness to be remedied.

We know why we make selfish choices. And we know why our kids do, too. Let’s not direct them toward expected perfection. Let’s introduce them to the One who loved perfectly, in the midst of our imperfections.

My brother pulled me aside when I was in high school during a time when I was especially down because of personal sin and selfishness. He reminded me that sorrow for that sin was healthy. But moping was not. And he challenged me that expecting to make myself unselfish was not healthy either. Rather, I should smile instead of feeling shame. I should smile, because my selfish insufficiencies were glaring evidence of my desperation for the All-Sufficient One. I should smile, a smile of confession, that I need Jesus.

And He met me in my need.

May we go with Him to meet our kids there, too.

———-

So we considered when our kids make mistakes today. But what about all the mistakes we are gonna make as parents? Let’s look at that tomorrow…