Get the free ebook – “Say No to Discipleship?!?”

So grateful for the Exponential leadership team and the ebooks they have so generously offered over the last year. So grateful they would include one that I have written entitled Say No to Discipleship?!?

You can get your free copy by clicking here and choosing one of three sharing options.

It is worth connecting with the Exponential email blast that goes out. Such great equipping tools they share week to week. Hopefully the new ebook will be worth leaving them an email or posting on Facebook or tweeting out. :)

Much love.
-jason

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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?

Question for you. Would dig your comment on the blog. Five sentences or less – What does it mean to “make disciples?”

Question for all the readers today. I would really dig your comment on the blog or Facebook.

Five sentences or less:

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “MAKE DISCIPLES OF JESUS?”

I am obviously referring here to Jesus’ final words / command to His followers in Matthew 28.

Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks!!!

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

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

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

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

I am.

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

He is. And others are.

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

Two reasons why I want to suggest this.

(1) because Jesus said so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(1) because to Jesus, ONE is plural.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Suggested Shift 3 of 5 _ feed me to feed others

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider this:

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

And this:

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

And this:

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

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

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

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

Suggested shift # 4 tomorrow…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Type at you tomorrow…

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

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

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

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

SO, here goes the first one…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts?

Type at you tomorrow…

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 into Neighbors: are we ACTUALLY making disciples? Here’s two shifts that may need to take place…

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We know that Jesus said to make disciples. But are we, as His church, actually doing it?

This is a question our local church expression has been asking the last two years. And I have seen two major shifts occur for the folks who were doing it in theory only but are now actually doing it daily.

SHIFT ONE _ from discipleship to make disciples
The New Testament does not speak of “discipleship.” In the American church, we speak of it in terms of the thing that happens after evangelism efforts bring a convert. We think of it as a study for Christians in a classroom with fluorescent lights. On the other hand, the New Testament describes it in terms of “make disciples,” which is inclusive of evangelism. It is done out in the rhythms of the daily mainly, although a study can be involved at times. It is learning and living the ways of Jesus among the lost as we love them with a near love, like Jesus loves us, in hopes that those with whom we a walking will also believe they are loved by Jesus and begin to learn and live His ways among their friends rather than retreat to a classroom and church building.

SHIFT TWO _ from my family to being family
The church is not some program or event that serves the needs of my family once we follow Jesus. The church is people following Jesus together, learning and living His ways (especially His new command – John 13:34-35). I am not saying that the church doesn’t care for my family. I am just saying that the purpose of the church isn’t just about my family. Unfortunately, many of us treat the bride of Jesus in this way. However, what if the intent of Jesus was that we might be a family? More specifically, that we might be His family who lives as family with the people of our communities like He did with us. Read John 1:12-14. This is what He did. And the church must exist out among the lost and lonely that they might believe the God Who came near loves them and desires them in His family. But how will the know if all we do is think in terms of “my family?”

Francis Chan has shared for several years now a very simple teaching on HOW NOT TO MAKE DISCIPLES. It’s worth the watch for two minutes. Check it out below.

And may we not just memorize and study about making disciples. May we ACTUALLY make disciples.
-Jason

Cultivating Daily into Neighbors: Here are some recommended books to encourage us as we are actually loving our neighbors…

Not to long ago, I messaged out to some folks who are actually making disciples, in my opinion, and asked them to tell me three books they recommend that actually encourage followers of Jesus to make disciples in the daily rhythms of their lives. The list is below. I have not read all of these YET. But as you and I do, may we come back and leave our thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of each. Grateful to all the leaders who responded and recommended.

Hope this compilation of recommended books is helpful!

May we see “on earth as it is in heaven” on our block as we live believing that God loves us, compelled to love others that they may know His near, life-giving love, as well.
-jason

Cultivating Daily unto the Nations: a few thoughts on loving the nation that happens to also be our neighbor…

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It seems so far away from Orlando. And yet it’s only about a 2 and 1/2 hour plane ride. In today’s world, that makes them our neighbor. In terms of countries, in terms of states and provinces, they are. Canada to the US. The northeastern states to Quebec. And the largest city there is Montreal.

If I told you that demographic data states that less than 1% of the population there claims to be Jesus-followers, would you believe me, or would you think I was mentioning an eastern country that is far, far away from these “Christian” nations of the west?

If I told you that there were cities, not just communities, in Quebec that did not have a visible church presence, would you think I was speaking of another continent than our own?

This is where the water hits the wheel for me. This past summer, I began to ask myself what my belief in Jesus really means to me. Because if I really believe that the lost can be found in Him, that purpose is defined by Him, and that hope arrives in our lives because of His presence and His love, then would I not be burdened to take His love to both the neighbor next door and even the nation next door?

Or is this “Christian” stuff just for me and my wife and kids and our betterment and our blessing?

Please pray with me. I am not suggesting that we all need to learn a polished presentation and be armed with a truthful tract and go declare a meaningful message to a people we don’t even know. I guess what I am praying is that the Lord will awaken me, awaken us, to how His love given compels the one to whom it is given to live with personal presence embodying God’s glorious truth displayed via consistent compassion in the midst of ongoing relationships among a people we are really wanting to know. A people whom we care more about what they are becoming than about our own betterment.

This is what God did. The presentations of previous messengers had not been enough. Truth declared alone had not restored. But God in skin delivering truth in the embodiment of love, that was enough.

The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 HCSB)

And Jesus said to His followers:

As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (John 20:21 HCSB)

We do not save. But we are sent. And sent together simply to “make disciples.” To go be the family of God in the midst of the lost and lonely like Emmanuel has done with us. And we go as a learner of His ways empowered by His Spirit to be a lover in His way that those who have not found their way may find Him and simply believe that they are loved by a near God.

How might we embody both truth AND grace to both our actual neighbors (those in our daily pathways) as well as to our neighboring country?

Please pray, if you sense His leading to do so, for wisdom and response that we all might feel compelled to give the love that has been given to us.

-jason

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Cultivating Daily into Neighbors: Simple Suggestions for Engaging Your Neighbors from @JoshReeves & @VergeNetwork

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Wanted to share this great article from the Verge Network by Josh Reeves about 25 simple ways to engage your neighbor. And there’s a bonus. There is a link to a previous article from Josh with 25 more ways that was actually a prequel to the article I have copied and pasted below :)

Hope it encourages you to love your neighbor! So grateful for the Verge Network and all the great resources they share.

-jason

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[ from the Verge Network ]
Recently, Josh Reeves wrote an article with “25 Simple Ways to Engage Your Neighbors.” Because there was so much interest in the article, we decided to give a follow-up with 25 more ideas to engage with your neighbors.

Here’s a recap of the original article, along with more ways to engage your neighbors:

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I have found that it is often helpful to have practical ideas to start engaging the people around me. Most of the things on this list are normal, everyday things that many people are already doing. The hope is that we would do these things with Gospel intentionality. This means we do them:

– In the normal rhythms of life pursuing to meet and engage new people

– Prayerfully watching and listening to the Holy Spirit to discern where God is working.

– Looking to boldly, humbly, and contextually proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.

Below is a second list of 25 simple ways to engage your neighbors. Not all of these are for everyone, but hopefully there will be several ideas on the list that God uses to help you engage your neighbors:

1. Cook an extra casserole and give it to a neighbor

2. Buy an extra dozen donuts and give them to a neighbor

3. Start a compost pile and allow neighbors to dump their compost

4. Host a coffee and dessert night

5. Organize and host a ladies craft night

6. Organize an effort for neighbors to help take care of elderly in neighborhood

7. Become a regular at your neighborhood pool/park

8. If you have a skill, let neighbors know that you can use it to help them for free

9. Host a movie night and discussion afterwards

10. Start a walking/running group in the neighborhood

11. Start hosting a play date weekly for other stay at home parents

12. Organize a carpool for your neighborhood to help save gas

13. Collect good will store items and offer to take them to goodwill

14. Have a front yard ice cream party in the summer

15. Start a sewing group

16. Go Christmas caroling in your neighborhood (invite neighbors in on it)

17. Throw a July 4th block party

18. Start a neighborhood Facebook/Twitter/Google + group

19. Ask longtime residents to help you learn about the neighborhood

20. Offer to babysit neighbors kids so they can have a date night

21. Find out your neighbors birthdays and take them a card and baked goods on it

22. Setup a meet your neighbors night with drinks in your driveway/front yard

23. Ask your HOA or apartment complex if they need help with anything

24. Host a regular Saturday morning breakfast potluck

25. Host a sports game watching party

Do you have some other ideas or ways that you or your Missional Community have engaged your neighborhood? Let us know below in the Comments section!

Missional Tip:
Pick one of these ideas and act on it this week. Let us know in the Comments Section how it went!
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Josh Reeves is the Lead Planting Pastor with Redeemer Church in Round Rock, Texas. You can follow Josh on Twitter: @joshreeves