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.

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?

What is “scripturing” and what does it have to do with living sent? Read more here…

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This month, in order to help our church family prepare for our 2013 emphasis on SENT, I will be blogging about the four letters of the SENT acronym. One letter per week. Obviously flavoring it a bit with some Christmas cheer.

This week the letter S is for “Scripturing.” That last sentence was brought to you by Sesame Street. Look each week for one of the Dukes kids’ favorite Sesame Street short videos included below the post just as a lagniappe. This should be fun :-)

What is “Scripturing?”

The grill was hot. It wasn’t a special occasion, because they grill a lot. But one neighbor, who happens to be a follower of Jesus, had invited another neighbor, who happened not to be a follower of Jesus, into a normal rhythm of their family life. Conversation happened. A statement about marriage difficulty. A confession about personal selfishness being the cause. The Jesus-follower encourages with a simple yet profound statement – “I’m so sorry to hear that man. Marriage is tough for sure. Let me encourage you that I find in the ebb and flow of our marriage that it works well when we don’t go to bed angry and when we both fight for oneness rather than fighting to be the one who won.” SCRIPTURING.

This time, it wasn’t the child’s fault. He had actually gotten it right. But the mom, stressed from her husband leaving for work yet again with unresolved conflict between them and fatigued from carrying the load at home because her husband works too many hours, snapped at her son with a critical tongue that hurt more than a swipe of a spoon. His eyes said enough. Her heart ached with remorse. “I am so very sorry, sweetheart. Please forgive me. I snapped at you and know it hurt. I confess to you and to the Lord that was wrong and exasperating to you. Please forgive me.” SCRIPTURING.

The phone call had come. Tragedy. Unexpected. Tears. A text message followed. “I heard. I want to pay for your flight.” An email. “We will pick up your mail.” Yet another call. “We are so sorry. Will the kids and she stay here? We will make sure they have a meal and the lawn is mowed. You go. Be there. We got it.” SCRIPTURING.

All she had ever known was a family with no father. And the guy who shared her mother’s bed from time to time had a normal expression – condemnation. So her roommate in college reading about a Father who loves enough to come near and give His life – unthinkable. No words were said necessarily, except those that came in late-night talks over microwave popcorn. No verses quoted, except those that were unnoticed with no biblical address mentioned that came in normal flow of conversation. No bible study imposed, except the one she had studied in observing the living Word that was her life. But one night, between sobs, a secret revealed. She had hidden an unexpected pregnancy, confessing to having ended it with fearful heartache just the day before. Her roommate’s eyes filled with tears. No Bible was pulled out, but her warm embrace and eyes quoted the verse to her – “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And that was where she realized, finally, that she wanted to be. In Christ. The Father who came near. She believed she was loved for the first time. Restoration had already been completed. Discipling had been ongoing and would now continue. Healing began. SCRIPTURING.

Are you scripturing?

May His Word come alive in our daily rhythms as we do more than study it. May we live with the Word such that He is studied in the flow of our lives.

May we learn more together. Because I believe Jesus’ life embodied this form of disciple making much, much more than the contemporary patterns known as discipleship.

Thoughts???

More tmrw…

“The Art of Neighboring” – a post by Tim @Challies, re-posted with permission

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The Art of Neighboring
by Tim Challies
(re-posted with permission)

Take a look at the graphic above. Imagine that the middle box in the chart is your house and the boxes that surround it are the eight houses closest to your own. I doubt your neighborhood is arranged like a tic-tac-toe board, so you may need to use your imagination just a little bit.

Here’s what I want you to do.

First, write the names of the people who live in the house represented by each of the boxes. If you can give both first and last names, that’s great. If you’ve only got first names, that’s okay too.
Second, write down some information or facts about each of the people in that house. I don’t mean facts that you could observe by standing on the road and looking at their house (“Drives a red car”) but facts that you’ve gathered from speaking to them (“Works for a bank,” “Grew up across town.”).
Third, write down any in-depth information you know about each of the people. This could include details like their career plans or religious beliefs—the kind of information that comes from real conversation.
How did you do? Or how do you think you would do if you actually went through with this exercise? The degree to which you simply do not know your neighbors is the degree to which you will benefit from reading The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon. They premise their book upon this simple question: When Jesus told us love our neighbors, what if he meant our actual neighbors, the people who live closest to us? They explain that Christians have long been making “neighbor” into a safe metaphor that allows us to believe we are carrying out the Lord’s command when we visit soup kitchens and do acts of kindness to complete strangers.

The problem, as they explain it, is that “when we aim for everything, we hit nothing. So when we insist we’re neighbors with everybody, often we end up being neighbors with nobody.” Ouch. Much like the Pharisees, we ask “Who is my neighbor?” in the hope of finding a loophole, not in the hope of loving those who live nearby. “Jesus assumed that his audience would be able to love those nearest to them, their literal neighbors, the people most like them, who shared the same heritage and geography. In telling the parable, Jesus was stretching their concept of neighbor to include even people from a group they didn’t like.” As we read the parable today we tend to go straight to the stranger on the side of the road and no longer include the person in the house next door.

This book is full of biblical counsel and simple wisdom about how to be a good neighbor. Perhaps the most freeing concept is that there is inherent value in being a good neighbor, even if your neighbor never becomes a Christian. The authors helpfully distinguish between ultimate motives and ulterior motives. The ultimate motive in engaging your neighbors is to share the gospel with them and to see them turn to the Lord, but we must never do this through ulterior motives. Too many Christians use engaging their neighbors as a thinly-veiled guise to try to “win them,” and give up when the neighbors do not respond positively. Pathak and Runyon say, “The ‘agenda’ we need to drop is the well-meaning tendency to be friends with people for the sole purpose of converting them to our faith. Many so desperately want to move people forward spiritually that they push them according to their timetable, not according to how God is working in them. It’s tempting to offer friendship with strings attached.”

They clarify: “Sharing the story of Jesus and his impact on our lives is the right motive, but it canot be an ulterior motive in developing relationships. We don’t love our neighbors to convert them; we love our neighbors because we are converted.” Christians have long been taught that we should do good things solely to have a spiritual conversation that can move people toward conversion; but Jesus never called us to use a bait-and-switch approach where we are friends only so we can share the gospel. “We are called to love our neighbors unconditionally, without expecting anything in return.”

The Art of Neighboring clearly comes from a little bit outside the theological “tribe” that I identify with, and that brings both benefits and drawbacks. The book is not without its weaknesses. I would have liked to see the authors wrestle a bit more with issues related to sharing the gospel and creative ways of doing that. I would have liked to see them focus more on the role of the local church in the life of the Christian. But those weaknesses are more than compensated for with their call to be good neighbors and the challenge they offer.

This is a book I learned from, a book that was of immediate benefit to me, and, I think, exactly the book I needed to read. We live in a closely-packed neighborhood where we know and are known (at last count at least four of our neighbors have a key to our house!) but I needed to be freed to simply love my neighbors, to be a good neighbor to them, without feeling guilt for not always offering gospel sneak-attacks where I work it into every conversation. There is value in being a good neighbor and as we neighbor well, we trust that very natural gospel opportunities will arise.

Christian – what is the essential message we have to share? Are we really sharing it? Please consider this…

Last night I had the privilege of hanging out with a group of Central Florida Spanish pastors. Our language barrier was less impeding than I expected it to be. Our kindredness was tangible, these broken hearts of leaders longing to see “Christians” go near with Jesus, burdened to see lost and lonely know they are fully loved. And the issue came up again.

It is an issue that has come up multiple times in conversation with leaders over these last years. The issue that we know Jesus intended His church to live sent, but why?

What is the essential message that we as His followers have to share? The message that we believed. The message that we hope others believe. And why?

Is that essential message the declaratoin that people are lost and hell is imminent and you need to choose Christianity? Is it the assertion that truth must be defended and a culture must be protected and so those pagans need to change? I am afraid that much of American church culture has mistaken that essential message to be one of or at least a derivative of these.

Hell is real. The Scriptures speak of it. I believe it. But I would suggest that Jesus lived and died and lived again to declare more than the message of hell’s imminence and the call to people to get their act together and grab a ticket out of it. He intended to give more than an alternative religion. He died to give life.

Truth is real. It is not an “it,” though. Truth is a person. Jesus needs not my strong defense for the sake of cultural preservation. Rather He asks for our selfless love for the sake of cultural restoration. This will not happen through our country’s capital. It will only happen through our respective community’s hearts. Jesus lived and died and lived again to go near with His love through His church’s going near with His love.

And maybe that is the essential message we have believed that we are now compelled to share. Could it be that simple?

The message I have believed and keep believing is that I am loved by the God who came near. The God Who did not wait for me to say I was sorry. Who did not leave me in my loneliness and hopelessness and hurt and shame and lostness. Who did not love me because I was lovable, but rather while I was still wayward and selfish and sinful and condemned did not condemn me. Who ached to give life again and was willing to lose life to be raised to life again. Who became “God with us” and asked me to go with Him, to love like I had been loved, now and forever.

Maybe the essential message we are to believe is that God loves us. Maybe the essential message He has intended that we share is simply that – we are loved by the God who made us, whom we spurned, but Who came near anyway.

Jesus, in fact, taught this to Nicodemus in John 3. God so loved the world, and those who “unbelieve” this are condemned by their own unbelief (John 3:16-18).

The two questions I have been asking friends, and for that matter that I keep asking myself as a reminder, are:

“What do you think God thinks of you?”

“Do you believe that God loves you?”

Lord, forgive us, please. Have mercy on us, please! Those of us here in America who call ourselves Your church have far too often called people to moralism rather than to You, the Messiah.

He does not want us just to live FOR Him. He desires that we live WITH Him. And He came near to restore us and invite us into that relationship.

Abundant life does not come when we live perfect and give our best. Abundant life comes and keeps coming when we live loved and give love as it has been given to us.

Sin was not worth dying for because it was the symptom of rules broken. It was worth dying for because it was the symptom of relationship broken. It is the evidence of death. It is the result of life not present, of love not trusted.

We believe we are loved and are fully secure in Him and that love compels us to love as we have been loved. That is good news worth sharing!!!

You are loved!!! You are loved fully!!! You are loved securely!!! You are loved graciously, even in your feelings of not being worth loving.

Jesus thinks you are worth dying for!!!

And why do we share this message?

Because not trusting that we are fully loved by the God who made us, believing that He is hiding something worth knowing from us, choosing to pursue what we can know rather than pursue knowing Him, that is the root of our problems. The cause of all evil. The source of our loneliness and isolation. The brokenness of humanity.

May we share His message. Surrendered. Grateful. Selflessly.

People we encounter every day do not believe they are loved and are lost, even trapped, in that brokenness. May that break our hearts like it broke God’s heart. May we remember our own brokenness that we did not fix ourselves. May we go near like He came near to us.

May the world believe in the One who was sent.

Jesus replied, “This is the work of God-that you believe in the One He has sent.”
(John 6:29 HCSB)

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.

As followers of Jesus, should we show up at Chick-Fil-A today or Friday? A few thoughts… #chickfila

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Earlier this month, Dan Cathy made some comments on marriage and family in a Baptist Press interview that were quite possibly taken out of context by those who affirm same-sex marriage. Moreover, the Baptist Press probably mis-titled the interview in order to get more readership by stirring up controversy. Whether the article was titled poorly is a matter of interpretation I guess. Whether Cathy’s comments were intended to be a shot across the bow toward those in the gay and lesbian community can only be cleared up by Cathy himself. Nonetheless, what those who follow Jesus should now do about it is what I would suggest we need to seriously consider.

May I suggest three specific actions for all of us, both those who have adamantly spoken out from the gay and lesbian community as well as those who consider themselves religious conservatives, but especially all of us who profess to follow Jesus.

First, may we be gracious rather than gregarious. Webster defines “gregarious” as “tending to associate with others of one’s kind” in the sense of only socializing with the people of one’s own tribe or colony. Jesus was not gregarious. In fact, He took significant criticism for not being gregarious (read Matthew chapters 8 through 11). Unfortunately, human tendency is to be gregarious. Both of the opposing sides of the same-sex issue tend to associate only with their kind, and the result is typically a declarative imperative rather than a conversational viewpoint. Protests rather than relationships occur. A culture of grace is rarely displayed.

Next, may we look for opportunities to love others rather than lash out. Jesus said to love your enemies (Matthew 5). Now, I am not suggesting that the opposing sides of this issue are actual enemies. However, they are perceived as such and often act as such. For this reason, I am suggesting that those who say they follow Jesus, who say they love Him, should obey His commands (John 14:15). Jesus taught and modeled love for others. “Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down His life for His friends” (John 15:13). Paul asserted that we are to put the interests of others above our own as Jesus did, not even holding tightly to what was His right or what He deserved in order to be a servant of all of us (Philippians 2:3-11).

The only people whom Jesus lashed out against were those whom He called hypocrites (Matthew 6). It was a word derived from the actor’s guild in Tiberius near the Sea of Galilee. Jesus referred to the religious leaders as actors who were putting on a religious show but were not actually relating with the God of their religion. In some cases they were exploiting God-worship for personal gain (John 2), and in other cases they were proudly displaying how pious they assumed themselves to be (Luke 18). In either case, they were not loving others as much as they loved themselves. May we not be hypocrites.

Finally, may we have ongoing presence rather than only making presentations. It seems that both sides of this issue have become well-versed in declaring their own stories, making their own presentations, even staging their own protests. Mike Huckabee declared on his TV show that today (Wednesday, August 1st) should be “Appreciate Chick-Fil-A Day.” This was in response to the uproar from the gay and lesbian community regarding Cathy’s comments. In essence, Huckabee called all those who stand against same-sex marriage to go out today to support the chicken chain, one that our family happens to frequent. At the same time, the gay and lesbian organization GLAAD has called for national protests today along with a “same-sex kiss day” to be held this Friday, August 3rd, at all Chick-Fil-A restaurants across the nation.

Presentations rather than presence.

Presence would actually mean relationships. I wonder how many of those who will go to Chick-Fil-A today to support the restaurant have a homosexual friend whom they have ever respectfully conversed with about their sexual preferences. I wonder how many who will represent GLAAD with public displays of same-sex affection have ever had public displays of friendship with a conservative evangelical.

To love someone, presence is required. Relating WITH someone is what is imperative. The presentation someone wants to make of which someone is trying to convince another cannot be held in higher value than that other person with an opposing view.

I would suggest that one of the most underestimated aspects of loving someone is simply valuing their story, actually wanting to hear what they have to say. We want to tell our stories rather than listen to someone else’s. We want to value our viewpoint rather than actually try to see from someone else’s. Jesus modeled the opposite for us when He partied with Matthew (Matthew 9), when He went to the house of Zaccheaus (Luke 19), and when He conversed with the woman at the well (John 4). His hope was to show them they were loved and let them respond to that love. It was not just to try to show them they were wrong. You can declare to someone they are wrong with a presentation, but you can only show someone you love them with presence.

THE BOTTOM LINE
I am going to go to Chick-Fil-A on Friday. That is, I am going to go there unless I am in the hospital meeting our newest little one who is due Saturday. If you follow Jesus, I would suggest that you go that day, also. Not to try to counter-protest, but rather to converse with the protestors. Possibly create a friendship. Offer a bottle of water. Maybe even have a meal together, even if it is at another restaurant near that Chick-Fil-A.

You can read CNN.com’s article that prompted my writing this post by clicking here.

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)

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
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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.

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…

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.

Do you have anyone to whom you can say, “I am discouraged?” Consider how important that really is…

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I sent a note out to some dear friends with whom I lead a few months ago. In summary, I was basically asking them for prayer and wisdom as I was in a season of deep discouragement. The responses I got reminded me of how important having those people to whom we can say “I am discouraged” really is.

Being honest, I was disappointed with most of the responses I got at that time. One-liner cliches back from folks in essence telling me I have nothing to be discouraged about. “Suck it up” or “why would you be discouraged?” aren’t appropriate responses to someone who rarely says, “I am discouraged.” Maybe for someone who says it so often you wonder when they are ever encouraged would it be appropriate to challenge them to wake up to what they are missing. But for someone whose declarations are much more optimistic or realistic at worst, it’s not an appropriate response.

So how might we respond appropriately?

Paul gives us a hint in 1st Corinthians 12 in the context of challenging the Church of Corinth regarding their unity and mission and importance together.

The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.
(1 Corinthians 12:25 MSG)

It’s the same as in marriage. If a fellow follower of Jesus hurts and we know about it, it is no longer just “their problem.” Like the text declared, “every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing.” It is OUR problem now.

So how are we then praying about it together, seeking counsel and wisdom about it together, carrying it together, checking in on each other to encourage each other together, and taking next steps toward restoration and wholeness and abundant life together?

We cannot do this alone. Don’t just give cliches to brothers and sisters who are trying not to do it alone. Or else they might not come to you the next time. Or else they may isolate themselves so much that no one suspects any problem until the issue sinks them in self-destruction.

May we be a people to whom it can be said, “I am discouraged.” And may we have those people to whom we can say, “I am discouraged.”

Loving one another is essential to making disciples together. Navigating those seasons together of not even feeling like you can love well is so important.

I am thankful for my wife and my brother and my dad and those I call friend who are such HUGE supporters. I pray I will be the same to them. And I pray you will have that crew around you, too.

-Jason

a note to pastors, cont. – are you actually equipping along the pathway of together walking with Jesus?

On Monday, I posted a heart-felt note to pastors because I am simply burdened that we are not actually equipping. So, Wednesday, I posted the first of three follow-up posts focused on actually equipping along the pathway of personally relating with Jesus. In today’s post, as we continue to think on whether I am actually equipping our local church expression to be who Jesus intended together, the focus is on actually equipping along the pathway of together walking with Jesus.

Two thoughts.

1 _ Followers of Jesus committed to being the church as they walk closely TOGETHER in a specific context is absolutely crucial with regard to obedience to Jesus’ command in John 13:34-35.

I have been asked before how a church family can fully commit to living sent together and making new disciples and still care for the people of the church family. My response was simply this:

>> how can a church family fully commit to living sent together and making new disciples and NOT care for the people of the church family? 

We can’t.

Jesus commanded it.

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

And He is speaking to His followers here. He is therefore intending that His church, His followers united around mission, love one another. We would be disobedient if we didn’t. We would not be demonstrating our love for Him. Which means, it would be questionable as to whether we were His friends together.

12 This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you.
John 15:12-14, HCSB

2 _ Followers of Jesus committed to being the church as they walk closely TOGETHER in a specific context is absolutely crucial with regard to putting the near love of Jesus on display among those who feel lost and lonely. 

So how do you equip people who say they follow Jesus to actually love one another? Might I suggest two ways to equip for this that I have noticed actually work:

  • emphasize redundantly that we are loved by Jesus, that He has demonstrated that love clearly, and that only in living loved can we be secure enough to actually love like Jesus has loved us.
  • then, as the equipper, love first. That is how Jesus loved us. He did not wait until we invited Him to love us. He loved first. He did not wait until we said we were sorry. He loved first. He did not wait until we had communicated all the ways we needed to be loved. He loved first. If we as equippers love people we equip in this way and then encourage them to love others first, we will likely begin to see an environment of active love for one another.
These may seem too simple. I am just asserting that I have not seen any other formal approach or focused program end up or equipping concepts have more effective results than this “live loved and love first” approach.

Read that new command from Jesus again if you don’t mind:

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

People will know we are learners and livers of His ways, according to this new command He gave, by one thing and one thing only – our love for one another. Why?

Could it be because there is something very intriguing about seeing an otherwise self-absorbed group of people unconditionally, graciously, forgivingly, enduringly love one another? Could it be because the message of God’s near love is best seen than it is heard? Could it be because only when reconciliation is on display that the Gospel is really on display? Could it be that when this love for one another actually becomes a part of the daily rhythms of life that our beliefs becomes more than just intellectual presuppositions? Could it be that only the Holy Spirit could empower and enable us to love like Jesus loved us?

That last piece of rhetoric alone highlights how important this actually equipping along the pathway of walking together with Jesus really is. Because a lot of people can be generous and kind and compassionate and philanthropic. But only by the power of God can an entire group of people begin to faithfully and perseveringly through good and bad, through ease and conflict, through respect and disrespect keep loving each other.

Which leads to a segue for our next pathway. Consider this:

>> could it be that only when that love for one another as His church is on display out in the midst of our communities and out engaging the various domains of our culture and out in the everyday rhythms that people will begin to consider the practice of Jesus’ teachings as more than just an equal religious alternative? 

We will tackle that one next time.

Thoughts or comments?

Lord, please help me to actually be equipping along the pathway of together walking with Jesus.
-jason

Cultivating Daily in the Marketplace: a few insights from an attorney friend living sent in the marketplace.

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Continuing today sharing some insights from a friend, this time about how he is cultivating daily in the marketplace. Rod is an attorney and a good friend of mine. I am very grateful not only for his friendship but also for how he encourages and challenges me to live to help others know that they are loved by the God who came near.

Below, my questions are in bold. Rod’s responses in italics. Hope they encourage you and others you know who are cultivating the near love of Jesus daily at work.
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:: why do you think it is important to cultivate the near love of Jesus daily in the marketplace?

Because He asked us to do so. Jesus wants us to love our neighbors, like the good Samaritan. In other words, love those that are on our paths. For those of us on the path daily in the market place, we need to cultivate love where we are.

:: what are two examples of how you have done this?

Being that I am a lawyer, I will give a general response to this specific question. At our firm we try to regularly engage in bible study together, to pray for each other and to allow our respective lights to shine. I think it is important for every Christian leader in the marketplace to try to encourage an environment that results in people feeling comfortable to share their Christian values, and at the same time, foster a loving environment that for those that are not Christian, they too would feel loved and encouraged. (How about that for a lawyer answer!)

:: what are three encouragements you would give to someone wanting to live sent in the marketplace, understanding the challenges that come with it.

1. Remember that you play to an audience of one. You should be less concerned with what those around you may think about you and strongly consider what He thinks about you.

2. Keep an eternal view. I think Solomon or one of those old testament guys said this life is all smoke. What we do in this life matters, but only in as much as it effects our eternity.

3. You never know what impact you could have on someone on your path, what you say and do can change someone’s life.

Thanks Rod. Much love.
-jason