Archive for May, 2013

community

community (Photo credit: planeta)

“I have the right t to do what I want to do, be who I want to be and have what I want to have.”  (1 John 2:15 & 16) Almost every American would agree with this because of our culture’s focus on individualism. Jesus hits hard at this prevalent attitude among people regardless of their religious or political persuasion. He constantly defines commitment in terms that offend our pursuit of what we want or think we need or deserve. His focus on people in need or who are marginalized is so constant it is scary.

The early church knew what Jesus was after, especially when it came to caring for one another. Community was more than a contemporary word thrown around in our innovative new church plants. It meant more than doing a Bible study with a few people once a week. There was real life stuff happening every day or throughout the week that was shared with one another. Needs presented by someone were met without hesitation by others.

Was that really like it was? If so, can we recapture it in our drive by mentality where we drop into one another’s life like picking up an order of fries at McDonalds drive through? Something is truth when it is not defined by culture but by God. It defies the busyness, self-centeredness or anything else that seeks to justify a lifestyle contrary to what the Bible defines as church.

Acts 4:32-35 introduces us to a deeper meaning of ownership and meaningful commitment to one another. There is no place for superficiality here. These people recognized that we are at war with an enemy who seeks to not only create disunity but also to cause us to think and live apart from one another. He doesn’t mind our occasional bumping into one another but he knows the power of people on mission together. There is unleashed power in our life being connected to the Holy Spirit but it is multiplied as we live in community.

Success Is Certain

Success Is Certain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The accomplishment of anything is only relevant if the matter pursued is defined correctly. A baseball player could be considered successful by getting a hit every three times at bat. A business person who closed a deal 75% of the time might be successful. What about raising a teenager, loving a spouse or mom and dad, as an employee or making disciples…? How success is defined is critical but equally critical is what it costs to succeed.

If the definition is to win, nothing else matters. Neglect of God’s priorities easily gives way to not only playing the game but in winning the game. But what if success is bringing out the best in your opponent and has nothing to do with winning?

It is never a matter of how many show up at our Christian meetings, but rather are they increasingly following Jesus? A person’s motivation and direction in life are critical components of success. Both come with costs.

Comparisons of athletic teams, economic achievements or appearances miss the point entirely. The widow who gave a couple of pennies gained the compliment from Jesus and consider Apelles in Romans 16:10 who was a “tried and true veteran in following Jesus.” Pain, confusion, frustration, darkness and failure are all costs to learn how to do life God’s way, but if we learn and live life God’s way the cost is worth it. If we achieve anything other than living as God intended, the cost is too great.

Mark 8:36, Luke 18:11 and 2 Corinthians 10:12 should cause us to carefully examine how we use our time and resources while on the planet. Would Jesus look over to the Father as he sees you or I and say “sweet, they’re getting it?”

“Tomorrow” is a word not only in everyone’s dictionary but combined with “think of” or “plan for” not only represents the mantra of our culture but also the passionate obsession of our insistence to control life. So we save, purchase more than we need at the grocery, store away enough to last for weeks or longer just in case… For everything, we are told we can never have too much.

But what if there was an insurance plan that would provide only for today, every day? Would you buy into that plan? God offered that to people a few thousand years ago. But that was then, and this is today and if you live in the Western world you have to think of the catastrophe if you did what they did. Exodus 16 is one of those chapters that you hope is on U Tube but it can’t possibly have meaning for today, right? Just think of what they would have missed or you and I, if we did not trust God to provide every day for our needs-“you’ll realize that I am God, your God.” For most of us, our relationship with God never gets this far.

But of course this is not possible today so we remain in bondage to lifestyles of busyness, striving, gathering for that medical expense, car wreck, or dropped I Pad that is just around the corner. God may not ha

Grand Slam Life Insurance Plan

Grand Slam Life Insurance Plan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ve changed but our life in these days makes believing God like this not only outrageous but qualifies us for the asylum.

Each of us must determine whether God is being straight with us today and if so, how we are to apply it, but we must not automatically assume these words are irrelevant today. Consider Proverbs 30:8 & 9 along with Philippians 4:12 & 19 and don’t forget that prayer-…give us this day…”

EXPLORE   A deeper look at 2 Corinthians 5:17 shows that when we choose to follow Jesus we are not some genetically modified person but rather we are completely new. The ways we thought about life no longer work when Jesus is our life. Colossians 3:1-3 gets to the point even more by driving a larger nail into our former bucket list lifestyle by telling us to focus on what really matters and not to get caught up in the pursuit of the beautiful cultural lifestyle that ends up in the junkyard. It is true that God has put into each our our lives diverse passions that when pursued honor him. But that is the point-they should bring honor to him.

CONSIDER   What does it really look like to say that Jesus is your life? Do you curl up on a couch with a Bible and read it 24/7? Is there room for passion of any kind other than prayer? What about the coffee shop you want to add to your “coffeelogy” list? How do you determine what to spend your money on? What are the larger temptations that tend to win as you deal with this? What is the root motivation that keeps you giving into these temptations and not experiencing what matters most to God?

LIVE   Take some time to see if Jesus or anything else is your “bucket list.” Get together with a friend or two who seriously want Jesus to be the priority of their life and discuss how this should be lived out in our culture. When Jesus is your life it affects how you use your time, finances and energy. What is on God’s heart is not “tacked on” but is rather “built into” your lifestyle.

Cover of "The Bucket List"

Cover of The Bucket List

It’s possible to have many encouraging and  challenging conversations with someone. But after you leave the coffee shop, other than listening and talking about important and not too important things that do show you care, what are the real tests that prove you love them? It’s too easy to say “see you next week” and head off not only in different directions but in different aspects of life that really expose the desperate need for up close love.

What’s going on in their family or your family that if exposed would provide an opportunity for more sacrificial love than the talk over coffee? When someone asks you a tough question is it easier to deflect the question or only share part of the answer? That does not get love out of the starting blocks. Or what about if they ask if you could do them a favor? And after they tell you the favor, you realize you’re late for whatever and have to leave.

One stormy and rainy night I got a call from a guy I had helped in personal discipleship and he wondered if I could come and get him, his wife and kid and tow them back into town. I quickly said yes and then he told me where he was. His truck broke down 140 miles away in the middle of nowhere. It really was near the middle of Wyoming. I had a choice that would either tell him love has limits or it is this real.

If you dare, memorize John 15:12-14 and Romans 16:3 and 4. But don’t stop there. Get in your truck and go tow someone in from wherever. Bring them some coffee and dinner.

5 1/2 hours after the phone call I received, I finally got to bed and my relationship with this man became like a brother. And just seeing the face of his wife and little girl when I arrived made the trip worth it.

English: Lightning over St-Laurent River by a ...

English: Lightning over St-Laurent River by a stormy night in Quebec. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes you just get tired of mowing the grass or eliminating weeds that seem to never find a home except in your front yard. And at other times, you know something must change because the grass is dying and the weeds have figured out the multiplication principle.

We currently live in an apartment complex that has won awards for their xeriscaping throughout the complex. It actually is as attractive as grass, conserves water and requires less maintenance than a “normal” yard.

Established thinking about how to do church or discipleship can be OK if it is accomplishing “…teaching them to practice everything I have commanded you.”-Jesus in Matthew 28:19 & 20. The emphasis is on practicing or obeying everything. But if this is not happening, just tweaking a few words in a mission statement or taking small steps in changing discipleship group material may be like pulling a few weeds out of the grass or flower bed knowing they will only return a few weeks later.

One thing that must change if real discipleship takes place is to “do life” with those being discipled. This was the genius of how Jesus developed perspective and skills in the early followers. Mark 3:14 shows that Jesus wanted the disciples to be “with” him in everyday life. They ate, traveled, slept, cast out demons…together with Jesus. This often requires new thinking. For example, having a discipleship class and sharing life together will accomplish more than just having a 2 hour class once a week for several weeks.

Matthew 9:16 and 17 in the Message translation says it well. “…no one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes, you want fabrics that match. And you don’t put your wine in cracked bottles.”

How can you enter into the life of those you want to help follow Jesus? How can they enter into yours?

weeds

weeds (Photo credit: gusset)