why SENT life? why TOGETHER? And a link for some resources for those who are or know those who are depressed or struggling in silence with mental illness…

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Can I give you three reasons why walking in SENT life with a few others is so crucial to both our own salvation as well as others experiencing Christ’s saving grace?

One _ because without intimate relationships, can we really learn the Gospel? I am not sure it is possible. In order to actually learn the good news of Jesus coming near to us as well as the security that Gospel bears upon my self-perception as well as the compelling love that Gospel moves me to give freely into my everyday friendships, I need community. I need the exposure of my weaknesses that an environment of intimacy provides. I need the edification of my becoming who Jesus is making me to be that the encouragement and sharpening of others offers. I need the tastes of conflict and grace and forgiveness and restoration and growth. This interaction provides me the space to believe I am fully loved as I walk with an otherwise selfish group of people who are uniting around a forever, selfless Love.

Two _ because without life together, how could I know when someone’s life is falling apart? Isn’t it irrational to think that some professional clergy can discern when a congregant is depressed just because he or she shows up for gathering on a Sunday morning? Isn’t it ridiculous to assume that one “church member” could know how to meet the need of another “church member” without walking in deep friendship together. Very few people cry out for help. Rather, they isolate themselves either to come out again when they hopefully feel better, which may never come, or to die a slow, lonely death. An emphasis upon community and a reorientation of our otherwise busy, suburban lives toward SENT life together is necessary in order to discern when each other is hurting. It is necessary in order to reach out and touch and care and simply be there to help. Jesus modeled this both with those seemingly healthy as well as those showing signs of dysfunction. Both the lost and the found. He lived like family with those who weren’t His literal family. He loved even the least of these.

Three _ because without each other, how can we live sent? This has often been a criticism of the live sent message we have emphasized – when are we gonna care for one another? The answer is found in the new command of Jesus from John 13:34-35. There, Jesus makes it clear that others will know we are His disciples (insinuating they would thus witness a glimpse or taste a small portion of “on earth as it is in heaven”) when we have love one for another. In other words, we love each other as we are going in daily life loving others. We care as we are caring. These small groups of people living SENT life together become family pictures in the here and now of what God’s family will be like in the not yet. A glimpse of Kingdom found in little pockets of Kingdom all across the community.

Jen and I are not doing this to the fullness with which we would like. We are learning, too. But we are becoming more and more convicted that SENT life with a few is essential for us to learn and live Jesus, for our marriage to embody the gracious, Gospel love, for our kids to see the reality of resurrection life, and for our neighbors to experience “on earth as it is in heaven.”

It also frames the purpose of our Sunday gathering. We gather to equip for the sending together. Nothing more. And it frames the motive of our together generosity. We give time and money and muscle because we want to share what we have found to be worth giving up everything else for. The pearl of the Kingdom, here and now.

May we not expect this to come as easy as a sign up sheet. May we look for and initiative SENT life with a few from the Westpoint family and then together with a few of our everyday neighbors.

This is the church.

The intention of Jesus for His people. The mission to which He is calling His church to exist for, not the mission that He is asking His church to add on top of everything else that we do.

May we think and live like missionaries in Lake and Orange Counties, family-like pockets of “on earth as it is in heaven” who happen to value and appreciate gathering together to be encouraged and equipped at an elementary school on Sunday mornings, gracious environments of friendship who generously give themselves away into one another as well as into neighbors and nations.

Love y’all. Praying to learn how to live this as well as equip for it better.

-jason

A BIG PS FOR THOSE WHO MIGHT BE HURTING _ the exponential network posted a blog post with resources and links for those depressed or struggling with mental illness who are ready to ask for help. In light of Pastor Rick Warren’s son taking his own life this last Friday, we pray for those hurting right here among us. Hope these resources help – http://blog.exponential.org/2013/04/mental-illness-resources-for-the-church/#more-5696

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.

“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.

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 for Unity: here’s a great video from @VergeNetwork about followers of Jesus in Austin living in unity on mission to love their city.

Hope this video below will remind us all of the beautiful, gracious daily rhythms that come alive when we commit to live in unity to love the people of our communities TOGETHER.

Grateful for @_Stew_ and the Verge Network for sharing such great stories of encouragement. It’s not too late to sign up for Verge 2012 in Austin at the end of February. Click here for more details.

Praying that we may live as answers to the prayer Jesus prayed in John 17.
-jason