Monday, December 22, 2008

Non Sequitur

Non Sequitur: Latin for 'it does not follow'.
So, I was reading in the Gospel of Mark this morning for my LTG (Life Transformation Group).  I was reading along in chapter 3 and found these words...
"...He said to them, 'Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?'  But they kept silent.  After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, ' Stretch out your hand.'  and he stretched it out, and his hand was restored."  Mark 3:4-5
That is a pretty cool story.  Here was a guy with a messed up hand, couldn't be fully productive and probably had to rely on everyone else to do many things for him.  Jesus tells this guy to stretch out his hand and a miracle.  His hand was restored and useful.  You can imagine the glee that must have been all over this guy.  You would think that the religious leaders, the Pharisees would at least be happy for this guy for minute...even a second, but no!  The next verse is a non sequitur for me - it does not follow, does not make sense, is not coherent and probably, I'm a lot like this too!
"The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him."  Mark 3:6
This response does not seem like what should have been happening after this guys hand was restored.  What kind of people see miracles happen, right in front of their own eyes and go out and start plotting to destroy the guy who healed the withered hand?  What kind of hearts do they have?
It also doesn't follow that I have seen God do so much in my life and yet I often take it for granted.  Now, I'm not going out and trying to get back at Jesus as these guys were, but  I find myself often doing what I want instead of doing what I know Jesus would prefer.  I find myself going in directions that it shouldn't.  I'm glad that Jesus was 'grieved at their hardness of heart.'  I know Jesus may be grieved as he looks at me at times and I know He is praying for me.    Yeah, my life is often a Non Sequitur when it comes to living for Jesus...and I want that to change.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Calculating Faith

With many losing their jobs, pensions, equity and investments it makes sense to sit down with our finances and calculate how to protect what funds we have left. But what does that say about our faith? Admittedly, there is a balance between being good stewards of our resources and being generous with our resources; with calculating how to be safe and with placing faith in God who is our provider. How can we be generous and wise when things are rough financially? Is it possible to become even more generous when things are tight when we look at our checkbooks? Certainly many (some reading this now) 'calculated' and took out equity loans to buy things or pay off other debt. For most, that has not turned out to be such a good calculation. Certainly there are more opportunities today to bless people than in many years. There are people who need assistance with their electric bills, car insurance, groceries or small home repairs. If we choose to be generous, many seeds of the Gospel can be sown into lives we could have never touched before these difficult times. So how about you? Are you living by faith or by calculation? What does that say about where your faith is focused? How about your house church? Have you begun talking about being more generous to meet the needs of friends and strangers? What is Jesus saying to you and to us? I doubt it is to calculate more.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Growing Up

I walked my six year old grandson to school the other day.  It was cold morning in Phoenix so we invented ways to keep our hands warm as we walked.  The best way we found was to pull our hands up into our sweatshirt sleeves and make a fist.  Once we figured that out, Parker leaned into me and said, "Pop Pop, I'm almost as tall as you are" as his head bumped into my elbow.  We laughed and talked about what it is like to grow up.
Parker told me that one way he is growing up is that when he began school, he didn't know anyone.  He shared that he was a little scared on the first day of school.  Now he reports that he has lots of friends and how they came over for his birthday party and how they play together on the jungle gym in the school yard.  He also told me about many of the things he is learning in school and how that is a way he is growing up as well.  He said that school and new friends are a little scary, but necessary because he wants to grow up.
As I thought about that conversation, I began to realize that for six years old, Parker is very wise.  He didn't allow the fear of new things to stop him from embracing them.  He doesn't mind stretching himself because he has a thirst to grow.  Parker told me that he can't wait to turn seven and get taller and grow up more.  What six year old doesn't want to be seven and in first grade?  
With growth comes challenges, pain and hardships.  Parker is learning this in school and life and so far, he is choosing to embrace those challenges, pains and hardships because he wants to grow.  He doesn't want to stay in kindergarten.  That is way of life in a simpler form isn't it.  In my experience, it seems that as people become adults, their growth often becomes stunted.  Growth for adults comes in a variety of ways like maturity, knowledge, dealing with past wounds, becoming more responsible and so on.  To often in my experience, adults are not so excited to 'turn seven'.  Many are content to not grow, it just seems easier that way.  
I think we can learn some things from Parker's outlook on growth.  We should face it, embrace it and work through it.  We might even want to get excited about growing.  I know as well as you know that it is always difficult to grow (change), but just like you, I know that it is best when I do.
I'll bet that there is an area or two in your life that needs to enter a 'growth spurt'.  Maybe you have sensed God's nudging you to move out in a new direction or at a different (more difficult) level.  Why not follow Parker's example and face it and embrace it.  It will be good for your soul and those you rub shoulders with as well.  
As we turned the corner on the way to school, Parker wanted to race to the cross walk.  We took off running and Parker took the lead.  I almost caught him, but he won...again!  One day, he will actually beat me in a foot race and that will be a great day because it will show, once again, that growing up is something to be excited about.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Pursuing a Mystery

Debbie and I were watching "Without A Trace" the other night. Without A Trace is a T.V. mystery drama where a person vanishes from their family and friends and the F.B.I. then gets involved to solve the mystery of the missing person. There is something riveting about mysteries of all kinds.
The Bible talks about mysteries, things not fully understood, veiled or that needs the help of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Timothy 3:16, Paul says that "...great is the mystery of godliness." A few verses later Paul goes on to encourage his readers to "...discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness." (1 Tim. 4:7) and a little further in his letter he instructs his audience to "...pursue...godliness." (1 Tim. 6:11). So what is the mystery that we should be pursuing with discipline?
Godliness can be the quality of ones life. To be godly is to have qualities in your life that are likened to God. Qualities like love, purity, selflessness, faithful, kind and the like. Godliness can also speak of the content of ones beliefs. This seems to be the emphasis in 1 Tim. 3:16 when it is read in its' context. Therefore godliness can be both what we believe (truth) and living out the qualities of what we believe.
To be honest, the truth about Jesus being 100% God and 100% man is quite impossible. That is without God and His supernaturalness. This truth is a mystery. How can a man also be God without any imperfection, sinful thought or activity? The resurrection is another truth that is mysterious. How can a person who has died not only be raised from the dead but also raise himself from the dead (John 10:17-18). These two mysteries are only the beginning. These type of mysteries can only be believed, embraced and defended by a supernatural changing of ones heart by the Holy Spirit (another mystery as to how this happens). One can know the facts, but believing them in your soul is quite impossible without the Helper, the Holy Spirit (John 14:26, 15:26).
Becoming a true follower of Jesus Christ is more than knowing that Jesus was born, lived a sinless life, was crucified, died and buried and then rose again three days later. Knowing these facts are important, but they alone do not transform your soul. Simply knowing these things do not transfer you from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Jesus (Colossians 1:13). There is a difference between knowing truths in your head and knowing them in your heart. That 18 inches between the two can only be tranversed supernaturally, by the power of God Himself. If you have not had that experience yet but you know you believe the truth stated above about Jesus, then I encourage you to call out to God and ask Him to deliver you from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved Son, Jesus Christ. If you do that, be ready for some mysterious (positive) changes in your life.
So let me encourage you to pursue the mystery of godliness. Pursue both the truth of Jesus Christ and living out of that faith so that your character, over the time of your life, becomes more and more like Jesus Christ. How that has happened in my life is great mystery for which I am eternally thankful! Pursuing this mystery is a lifetime adventure.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Rest of the Story...

Want to see pictures and a video of our trip?  Click on HERE!
Well, I'm home and recovering from jet lag.  There is so much to tell you and yet I'm sure that if I write a book full of information, many of you will not be willing to read so much.  I think I'll give you some bullet points of information that will fill in most of what happened in Raipur.  If what I write is not sufficient for you, please write me and I'll send you a fuller report to enjoy.  Here we go....
- While we were in Raipur, we had major Indian political people staying in the same hotel we were in.  This group represented the Hindu side of the political spectrum.  The hotel had many armed guards (with machine guns) and metal detectors.  It was pretty scary to see at first.  The benefit was that we received a double upgraded room.  Thanks Jesus!
- I taught about 7 hours on Tuesday, November 11th.  It was a grueling day and I was tired at the end of it.  The first few hours was full of gaining the students respect and connecting with them.  There were about 50 men and 5 women in attendance.  We spent about 2.5 hours dealing with deep questions and fears that these people had with the principles we that were being taught.  The rest of the day was spent in deep spiritual battles that needed to be broken.  After teaching, we went back to our hotel rooms with machine gun guards in place.  We had dinner and then went to our rooms and prayed together for God to break through the students pride.  We also had a great time of laughing.  Jeffery is very funny - my side still hurts!
- Wednesday began much like Tuesday with lots of question and opposition.  About 2 hours into the teaching, I was overcome by the Spirit of God to directly address these people about their opposition.  I had shared much truth with them and they only had tradition to combat the truth from God's Word.  I spoke clearly to them that many of them were Pharisee's, holding to the traditions of men and not to the Word of God.  I spoke to them how these things were holding them back.  I have rarely felt the Spirit of God so strongly.  God broke the spiritual strongholds.  Jeffery had a prophetic word for us from Isaiah 43:19-20 earlier in the week.  Those words of refreshment were beginning to flow.  God is amazing.   The rest of the day was amazing, free and full of rejoicing.  In the middle of day two, Matthew was smitten with a similar illness that I had on Saturday.  We prayed for him and he was instantly healed and was able to continue with translating the teachings.
- At the end of day two, the men began to come up to both Josh and myself for hugs, handshakes and prayer.  God was on the move.
- Day three, Thursday the 13th, began much differently.  There was freedom and a powerful and favorable response to the truth.  God was moving and I was rejoicing.  At the end of our teaching each of the men came up to us for hugs, handshakes and prayers.  We must had spent 45 minutes to an hour just praying for the men and women individually.  Friends were formed. Prayers were offered and God continued to heal.  
Josh and I made it home safely, exhausted and spent emotionally, physically and spiritually.  I know that our efforts and  your support will have several generation of affects upon India and beyond.  The spiritual battles fought and won were amazing.  God is good - He always is.
While I was gone great things were brewing in our church, ValleyLife Church here in Peoria, Arizona.  Two new house churches began, a strong move forward in going deeper with God continued and a list of folks coming close to salvation was shared with me.  I'm so grateful to God for His mercy and blessing.
Thanks again for your involvement in this adventure.  Your prayers and support made it all possible.  If you have further questions or would like more detail, feel free to e-mail me at edwaken@cox.net.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Prophet Visited Us

Today is a travel day. We are flying to Raipur this afternoon where we will be learning together with leaders for the next three days (and then home :-). Our time in Raipur may be the most rich and/or difficult stop in our adventure. Before I tell you about the prophet, let me quickly fill you in on what happened on Sunday. We began the day going to church. It was a very traditional (industrial - thanks again for the Mike) church. Except for the Indian accents, I could have been in a start up church in Phoenix. But God was beginning to do something new there. I shared with the church how the day of the Ordained is over and they should embrace the day of the ordinary believer doing amazing things. The people were excited. After church, we went to lunch with several folks and near the end of our time, I spent some time with the Pastor. This conversation spilled over to coffee back at Matthew's house which spilled over to dinner and further conversation. The Pastor and his family left for home about 9pm. It was a long day, but it wasn't over... During our 7 or so hours with the pastor, we talked about many things regarding Organic Church. He was very open and it seems that the Lord is opening his heart for new things. We will see what God will do through this man in the months ahead. SIDE NOTE: Days like today where we spent hours together in conversation, sipping coffee, eating snacks and enjoying 'community' is very normal here. I have not watched but 30 minutes of T.V. on the day of the U.S. elections (I am not having media withdraws). And I can hardly believe that the children I have spent time with do not watch much T.V. either. The two boys in this home (ages 9 & 12) have only watched 30 minutes of T.V. and that was on Saturday morning. They do not have gaming systems like Playstation and spend their time doing other fun things like football, cricket, playing their guitar or keyboard. The family culture is very different here. So our visit from the prophet. A friend of mine from San Jose, California happened to be in Delhi the same time we are. I did a Greenhouse (Organic Church) in his church in April and we have connected ever since. Mike arrived at Matthew's home at 9:30pm and we spent about 1.5 hours talking and sharing stories. At the end, Mike invited us to pray for one another and so we did. When Mike prayed there were two main emphasis'. The first prayer emphsis was that I would be like Philip the Evangelist from the Book of Acts as we go to Raipur. He prayed that we would be as powerful in words and deeds as Philip was. He also prayed for Josh to be like Barnabas and encourage the work of God that we are about to do. The interesting thing is that this very much confirmed to Josh what Jesus had already spoken to him before we left for India. Josh knew his role would be to support and encourage myself and those we spoke with - he has certainly done just that. It is a blessing that he is with us. The people who have spent time with Josh are amazed at how mature he is and only being 30 years old and for knowing Jesus only a few years. God is good. We'll see what God does in Raipur...I'm sure it will be amazing. I'm not sure if I'll have easy internet access in Raipur. We will be staying a hotel and our schedule is very full. Please pray for us to have clarity as we present the principles of Organic Church and please pray that we will be powerful in our love and dealings with the people there. This adventure has been fantastic...you can have not idea. Once I return, I'll tell you about several miracles that we were told about and how God is moving in amazing ways here in this land. I'll write as soon as I am able. Blessings, Ed

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Fever, Chills, Kidney Stones, Spiritual Warfare and Healing

Thank you for your prayers! They are so valuable to us during these days. The Lord is doing amazing things and I cannot wait to come home and tell you more detail. Yesterday, I woke up with a headache and feeling pretty yucky. I took some Advil and things calmed down. Much of the rest of the day was spent in strong conversation about internal and relational issues here in India. I could sense that healing was necessary for this ministry to move forward with power. About 2pm, we had to make a run to the airport to pick up one of the board members and on the way, I started to feel terrible. By the time we returned, I was feeling very sick. I went and took a nap and that is when the chills came upon me and I felt like a wet noodle. I knew that we had a very important meeting that afternoon and so got out of bed, ate some light food and then we sat down to talk about 3:30pm. That meeting did not end until 7:30pm and it was a spiritual battle. There was some tension between two people and we needed to sort it all out and get to the root and cut it out. The Lord was gracious to allow us to get to the root and destroy it. I felt such relief at the end of the meeting. The two who had the issues ended by feeding each other a cookie, much like we might see at weddings when the cake is cut. This was a cultural and symbolic event that says we have settled it and we are friends to support each other. God was so good. My friend, Josh, sat there and prayed the whole time which was so precious. At the end of the meeting he said a few words that were very powerful and helpful to the healing process. During the evening, Jeffery had to go back to the room he was staying because he was having some kidney pain. In the middle of the night, he passed a kidney stone. He actually showed it to us this morning and boy, did it look like it would have been very, very painful. This morning I'll be teaching at a local gathering and this evening, we'll enjoy an Indian wedding which should be a treat. Tomorrow we will travel to another city to teach on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. These have the potential to be the most difficult days from a spiritual perspective. Your continued prayers for our strength, wisdom and power in the Spirit are so needed. Blessings, Ed

Friday, November 07, 2008

You'll Never Believe it...

Right after I entered my last blog (this morning for me), we left to walk to another apartment in the same complex to have breakfast with Matthew's aunt and uncle. We began breakfast about 9am and left their home about 2pm. What took place in those five hours was amazing! Breakfast consisted of pallappam (a flat bread like cake similar to a tortilla made of coconut milk, egg and yeast) and some stew that sopped up in the pallappam. It is a traditional south Indian breakfast. Yep, we ate using only our hands. So after breakfast we ended up just conversing and I thought we would leave about 10 am. But the Lord had a different plan. This couple had a son whose name was Rinson. Rinson passed away about a month ago. He had suffered his whole life from Muscular Dystrophy. Rinson was 21 years old. They were obviously sad. At one point, we were talking about church and they brought out a brochure about their church and the new building they wanted to build. They even asked us to give some funds to help with the project. We then began to talk about church leadership and how this couple felt like they could only attend. We walked through some Scriptures and landed on Matthew 28:18-20. I began asking them who is responsible to disciple people. They said, we are all responsible. I then asked who is responsible to baptize, their first answer was the priest or pastor. I asked them what this verse teaches us. Their answer was that they could baptize and teach people about Jesus. Smiles began to shine on their faces. We then talked about communion and they quickly understood that they could enjoy communion on their own without the assistance of the priest. Now the smiles were brilliant. This family attends a high church that is fairly formal. The auntie asked me why pastors and priests have held this information from them all their life? I could not answer directly but encouraged them to pursue Jesus with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength. With that, I asked them to bring some more pallappam and some juice. They brought the bread out covered with a clothe and the cup also covered with a cloth. After putting the bread and cup down, I asked the husband, John, to pray and serve the bread and cup. His mouth almost dropped. He responded, "I cannot serve the holy elements of the bread and cup". After some more discussion, John agreed to pray and serve the bread and cup with four pastors - and he beamed as he served us. At the end of our time together, John and his wife, Anna, actually hinted that they may even want to begin a church in their home. It was an amazing time where the Holy Spirit was certainly in charge and moving powerfully in our hearts. John and Anna joined us for a short worship time at Matthew and Suma's home. God is moving. We also met another man who is doing organic churches in the villages in North India. It was exciting to hear about what God is doing in amazing numbers in the lives of those outcasts of the world. Your prayers are working - thank you so much. Blessings, Ed

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Attacks

I knew it would happen. I received a call last night from my wife, Debbie who told me that she has had 2 gall bladder attacks. These were very painful episodes. She had our daughter, Bethany, stay at our home in case she had to go to the ER and leave Rachel with Bethany. The attacks subsided at this point. We gathered together here to pray for protection and healing on Debbie, I'm trusting the Lord is responding with love. The people in this land are full of bondage to so many things. This culture is full of idols and false gods that hold people in fear. We have seen a few temples where ugly worship of statutes and books take place. Women are often treated as second class citizens in the villages due to the concepts of reincarnation (one would prefer to come back as a man and not a woman) and the caste system, although illegal, remains strong in the rural areas. There is also bondage to shame, cheating and manipulation almost everywhere we look. But God is powerful to break every bondage and everything raised up against His name. I am reminded of Paul's words that say, "...and such were some of you, but have been washed...". Pray strong for us. The hardest work is yet ahead. Blessings, Ed
Hello! Thanks for praying for us as we are experiencing some wonderful discussions in these days. I have been meeting with some folks and we have had some amazing discussions about organic church principles. It seems that God has been preparing many people to receive these principles and those folks are excited to expose others they know to the principles. We are already invited to come back and 'infect' other people with the organic church principles. Tomorrow we will be meeting with both directors of Evangelism in Depth ministry here in India. These will be very important meetings to hammer out some of future needs current challenges. Saturday we will be meeting with the Evangelism In Depth - India, executive board to talk about how we can mutually support each other to move the Gospel forward in our countries. Sunday we will be teaching in a local church. Please pray for their hearts to be soft to the new things that we will be sharing with them. Josh and I are adjusting well. We each have had our stomachs yell 'enough', but we keep on pouring more of this wonderful food down our mouths. We could use some sound sleep, but we are managing. We are all feeling a sense of attack as we near our trip to our second stop. Please be in prayer for open hearts of the students and clarity of presenting the truth on our part. No sickness and we are feeling strong - your prayers have been, are and will be needed. Thank you. We have been learning much about the culture, religions and people. It is a dark place that needs much light.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Getting Adjusted

The pictures will have to wait until we return. I am sorry about that. I forgot my connection things to get the get the pictures off of my camera and onto the internet. We had a good day yesterday that consisted of discussion and rest. I learned many things about the Evangelism in Depth ministry here in India and we will continue our discussions today and tomorrow. These will be very important discussions as we help move forward the ministry in India in powerful ways. There is and will be much spiritual distraction regarding these issues - strongholds have a tendency to die horrific deaths. I love these people and they all want to honor Christ and move forward for His Kingdom's glory. We may get a chance this afternoon to travel to Old Delhi and see some more culture. The food is amazing and wonderful but my stomach is beginning to say something like, "hey dude, do you KNOW how much new spices you are pouring down your throat". Please pray for this weekend's meeting with the Evangelism In Depth board members. We have some very important things to discuss and solve. There is much excitement that evangelism in depth is something this land needs deeply. Love to you all, Ed

Monday, November 03, 2008

Safe in India

It is 12:30am Tuesday morning and we have had little sleep. We are praying that sleep comes quickly tonight. Our flight was long, about 16 hours, but uneventful. There were a bunch of cheesy movies that 'could' be watched...I mean, endured but it help to pass the time. We landed in Delhi and proceeded to get our baggage, we exchanged our dollars for Rupees and exited the airport to find my friend Matthew. After a half hour of searching, we finally connected and began to drive to Matthew and Suma's home. Delhi is building huge new airport and there was much dust in air near the airport, so much so that it looked like fog and you could smell the dust in the air. Both Josh and myself felt a sense of anxiousness as we waited for the plane in Chicago but I knew that ValleyLife was praying for us and I received a call from Clive Craigen in Chicago and his house church began to pray for us too. The peace of God warmed our souls and the anxiety left us. We will try and sleep now and tomorrow, I'll write some more and try to upload some pictures. Our plan for Tuesday is rest and recoup from a long hard and profitable seminar over the last weekend and a long fight. Thank you for your prayers, love and support for this trip. May the Lord be glorified through all that we here in India and where ever you are. Blessings, Ed

Safely i

Sunday, November 02, 2008

"In the Beginning..."

Our beginning of this adventure has been amazing!  Josh and I have been in Chicago for the past three days teaching Organic Church principles.  We taught about 40 people and they really responded well.  Your prayers were answered sweetly by Jesus - Thank You.  At the end of the teaching, the whole group gathered around Josh and myself to pray for us as we embark on our International trip.  Pray that tonight we sleep well on the plane and then go to sleep well once we arrive.  Please also pray for spiritual protection and for our families as we travel.  We are on the winning team!  

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bon Appétit

I enjoy eating a good meal.  Recently I was sitting at a high top table across from my bride of 30 years and enjoying some fantastic Fish and Chips at a local Irish Pub, yum.  The Irish Pub reminds me of eating a great Shepherd's Pie at a Pub in London called, Sherlock Holmes.  I remember feasting on a Lebonese meal made of green beans, lamb and long grain rice that my Grandma used to make.  My moms meat loaf makes my mouth water.  Debbie and I have a fav restaurant in Long Beach, Ca. called Shendendoah's Cafe where we enjoy a Riverwalk Steak or Free Range Chicken and the apple fritters - OMG!  And then there is anything that my wife cooks, bakes or BBQ's.  She is an amazing 'chef'.  
Eating food is energizing, relaxing and the conversations that take place around food is most often as satisfying and fulfilling as the food itself.  Relationships are deepened over a good meal and life is encouraged to move forward.  Eating is certainly good for us.
Our souls also need to be filled and satisfied.  Our souls need to eat and there are some fantastic meals available for us in the Word of God.  This morning I was feasting on Psalm 8 and 34.  I can sense my soul wanting more even now.
"Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him."  Psalm 34:8
The Word of God invites us to sit down and feast at the table of true soul food.  If we will sit long enough to sample, to taste, we will discover that the Lord is good and our lives will be blessed.  There are so many amazing meals prepared for us in the Word.  Here are a few hor dourves from the Word of God.
I love the 'joy' that Philippians feeds to our souls.  The book of Ephesians is a wonderful letter about the church, her power, prestige in God's eyes and purpose.  The four Gospels are full of Jesus stories that will be sure to stir your soul and challenge your life.  There is wonderful poetry throughout the Old Testament but especially in the Psalms.  Reading the Psalms is like going to a huge smorgesbord.  There is such a variety of topics covered that you will surely find something to satisfy your hungry soul after spending some time there.  If courage is something you are craving for, take a look at 1 & 2 Samuel.  The list could go on and on and on.
Enjoy food for your body and your soul every day.  You'll grow strong bones and muscles that will provide you with health for your whole life.
Bon Appétit!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

What Does it Take to Make a Disciple?

What does it take to make a disciple? Just before Jesus took off from earth to heaven, He gave the charge of a lifetime to eleven men who walked with Him for 3 1/2 years. Here is what Jesus told them; 16 "Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! 18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 How this is to be done is not said in this passage. I think they were to take all that Jesus had done for them and how He discipled them and pass it all along to other people. Those people should then take the same way of living and information and pass it along to the next spiritual generation - and so and so one. That seems like quite a lot for a bunch of nobodies to accomplish. They had no text book, just what they had experienced...and yet...these eleven ordinary men did exactly what Jesus told them to do. But they had some help. About 50 days after Jesus flew off to heaven about 120 followers of Jesus were gathered together in a upstairs room waiting for what - they just were not sure - but Jesus told them to go there and simply wait. Here is what He said to them; 4 "Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. 5 John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:4-5 What did they understand when Jesus said just go and wait until you are baptized with the Holy Spirit? They probably were not sure, but I guessing it was a focal point of many conversations around the table in that room during those 50 days. Once the Holy Spirit fell upon them, everything changed. Now these very ordinary people were very super ordinary! Now they were empowered by God Himself to go and make disciples everywhere they went. We learn in Acts 2:38-39 that the Holy Spirit that they had received in Acts 2:1-4 is available to every generation of people who choose to follow the ways of Jesus. What this means is that every single believer from the moment they are part of God's kingdom is capable (competent 2 Cor. 3:6) to effectively find people who need Jesus, lead them to receive Jesus and help them to rely upon Jesus for everything they need. This is what making a disciple is in essence. The relationship, apparently, is to continue so that you can impart to this new follower (disciple) of Jesus everything that Jesus has taught you. This would include teaching them how to learn from Jesus themselves. My desire in writing this is encourage you to know that you are able to make disciples just as well as the first eleven disciples did. How can I say that? Because you have the same equipment that they had, the Holy Spirit. Maybe you have never 'discipled' anyone, now is a great time to start obeying what Jesus has told us to do. Because He told (commanded) us to be doing this, I assume it should be an intentional action for every believer to accomplish throughout their life time. Next time I'll share a tool that use to accomplish this disciple making task that Jesus has given to each us.

Who are You a Following?

Do people recognize you as having spent time with Jesus? For most believers, I think this is what they would like to be true about them. At least they know it should be true about them. It was true for Peter and John. "Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognized them as having been with Jesus." Acts 4:13 Many might think that of course Peter and John would be recognized for being with Jesus, after all, they were Jesus' disciples. We often think that people like Peter and John are somehow different than we are. We think they are somehow more able to be just a touch more holy than we could ever be or just a little more powerful than God would allow us to be. If you have ever thought that, were do you get such ideas? We know from Acts 2:38-39 that we have the same Holy Spirit that Peter and John had. We also know that Jesus told Peter, John and others to teach everyone everything that Jesus taught them. In other words, if there were any secrets that Peter and John knew about being a good follower of Christ, they were commanded to cough up the goods. Well, the 'goods' is the Holy Spirit. The difference, I would say, is my and your submission to Him. Just how hungry are you for Jesus anyway? Ok, so any believer can be recognized as having been with Jesus as they cooperate with the Holy Spirit and invest time and humility into the process. We can all be super saints but only if you are close, or getting close to the source which is Jesus Christ. And that is the key. We must each be a disciple of Jesus Christ Himself. We should not be disciples of another man. When we read words like "...go and make disciples of all the nations..." we might read that we are to make disciples of ourselves but this would be wrong. We are to be helping people become disciples of Jesus. Just think, if Matthew was a disciple of Jesus and then Samuel was a disciple of Matthew and Marian was a disciple of Samuel and Gomer was a disciple of Marian...and on and on, you and I wouldn't even know who the original was. We would be a highly diluted imitation of what Jesus wants us to be. We must each be pointing people who want to be a disciple back to the source, Jesus Christ Himself. Then each copy has the potential to the as powerful as they are willing to invest their life into following Jesus. So how about you? How close to Jesus are you? How close do you want to be? What stops you from getting that close to Him? Who is there around you who can help point you back to Jesus? I know for certain that Jesus is calling you to be more and more like Him. "My sheep hear my voice and follow Me." That is what Jesus tells us. share that we should be disciples of Jesus and when we make disciples it is not disciples of us - that is only a week copy of the original - we should be making people disciples of Christ - it is enough that a student becomes like his teacher.

How Serious are You Taking this Task?

I'm on a discipleship kick - hopefully for life!  I have a lot of thoughts about discipleship rolling around in my head like marbles bouncing around a room with hardwood floors.  As I begin to think about discipleship, the word is really awkward to me.  I mean, what is a disciple?  In the business world synonyms for disciple or discipleship would be mentor or life coach, business coach or something like that.  We do know that Jesus had disciples.  Some were really close to Him (Peter, James and John along with the rest of the 12 Apostles) and some were a somewhat removed (the 70 mentioned in Luke 10:1).  
We know that just before Jesus ascended into heaven that He told us that making disciples (passing on our faith to others) is to be a focus of our life.  Some of the things that Jesus said were involved with making disciples are; to be baptizing folks who want to follow Jesus and teaching people to obey everything Jesus said (we should know and obey those things for ourselves).  Paul tells us in 2 Tim. 2:2 that we should be passing on to 'faithful' people everything that we have learned and observed and heard from our mentors/life coaches/disciplers.  We are also to instruct the folks we teach about following Jesus to pass it along so the ball keeps moving forward.
If you think about making disciples and what it entails (baptizing, teaching them to obey everything Jesus said and helping the learn to pass it along to faithful people who will in turn pass it along too), this is a life long job description.  This making disciples business cannot be done on the fly or in passing or be caught by osmosis.  It doesn't just happen.  I appears that Jesus and Paul intended this process to be intentional.  Jesus, Paul and others were deeply serious about our role in passing on our faith in ways that will strengthen people to pass it on as well.  Every believer should be taking this task very seriously.
How serious are you taking this task?
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"  Matthew 16:24-25
Making disciples is serious business.  If you are a follower of Jesus, it is a business that you should be involved in!  More on this next week....

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Waiting for Change

Change can take a long time. I was at the check-out counter buying something I probably did not need when the guy in front of me used cash to pay for his purchase. I guess he had not seen the VISA commercial that teaches us that cash slows things down (see commercial below). I had to wait for what seemed like a long time for the person to stop and give the person their change. Change can take a long time. I'm really not talking about the kind of change that requires money. I'm have been thinking a bit about how long it seems to take for people (me) to change. Most of us really do not like change (unless it is our idea). As much as we might often fight change, change is inevitable.  As I look in the mirror, I can see lots of gray hair near my temples, and what are those deep lines on my face?  Could they be 'wrinkles'?  They were not there 20 years ago.  As I look out my back window, the grass in my yard is changing.  I just mowed it on Monday and although it is only Wednesday, it is looking a little long.  If I were to open my Quicken check book, I would see all too quickly that much of money has changed hands.  My children are adults now, I have grandchildren, I used to live in Long Beach, Ca. and now I live in Peoria, Az...and on and on and on.  Change happens, but it still is often hard to cope with.  
I think change is most painful when I want things to change.  It is not so bad that things change, but when I want them to change or when change is being forced upon me, that is when change can be painful or at least, very slo o o o o  o  o  w.  There are many friends in my life across the country with whom I am praying for change in their lives.  Some wrestle with various dark thoughts, others are handcuffed because of some experience they have had and can't or won't move through, others are good at putting up roadblocks to healthy change that will enhance who they are as a person.  Some of my friends are just not ready to even admit that change needs to happen.  As I look at my friends, pray for my friends and trust that God will move through my friends I must admit that at time, I get weary from the waiting.  I feel like the Psalmist who cry's out, "How long, O God will you wait?"  I get tired of loving and loving and loving that seems to be met with resistance.  Do you have friends like mine?
So, what to do?  What I have learned is to keep waiting.  In my waiting, I find that God is actually 'changing me'!  I begin to learn, little by little, that God is truly involved in the change process in my friends life.  I find out that God surely wants my friends (and me) to change and become more like Him.  And not only that, but that He IS working in their lives (Phil 2:13) albeit sometimes at a painfully slow pace - at least to my standards. I have found that people need to know that it is safe for them to change without being abandoned, made fun of or whipped into shape for trying to follow the leading of Jesus.  We ought to be patient with people as they change.  We should pray much for the process they are going through.   We should love them in strong ways never condoning sinful choices but always lovingly pointing to the cross of Jesus.  and we should have a deep hope and faith that God is on the move, even if we can not detect His movement.  If we would love each other like that, how different would our world be?  How different would our church be?  How different would I be?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Seventeen Years is a Long Time

Have you ever waited seventeen (17) years for anything? In our 'you can have it your way' world we often get out of sorts when things are not our way or if we don't get them right away. Our cultures 'have it your way' concept has been embeded in our commercials (and in this blog :-). Just look at this Burger King commercial from 1976. For most us, we somehow feel like we deserve whatever we want the way we want it and when we want it. In many of our drive through fast food stores, we find not one, but two windows to serve us. One takes your money and the second window hands you your order all in the name of getting you what you want fast. Basically, we are spoiled! We have lost the discipline of persistence. Persistence has become a pesky word to many in the West. But persistence is exactly what Jesus prescribes for us in prayer. Jesus often is on the opposite end of cultural thinking: "The first shall be last" vs. "He who dies with the most toys wins", "If you want to be great you must be the servant of all" vs. "Do whatever you have to do to get on top", "If you want to save your life, you have to lose it" vs. "Save yourself", and on and on and on. Jesus' Kingdom is upside down and inside out and so it is with prayer as well. I know that many times I am so indoctrinated with our cultural concepts that I begin demanding God to move or in someway answer my prayers NOW (yelling intended)! I usually find silence for the answer. At other times I find myself praying for 'a while' only to let the ideas, desires or requests fade off into the forgotten places of my mind. At times, God doesn't seem much interested in my requests. But that is never true. Yeah sure I feel that way but it is never true. So what is true about prayer and the pesky concept of persistence? Let's see... "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it shall be open to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." Matthew 7:7-8 You may already know that the Ask, Seek and Knock ideas would be more accurately stated like this, "Ask and keep on asking...Seek and keep on seeking...Knock and keep on knocking." That spells persistence! Through persistence, God is developing in us strength, dependence on Him and the character of sticking to things that really matter. In another passage Jesus has these words about prayer, "Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart..." Luke 18:1 Jesus again hits us with the idea being persistent. We are to be in prayer at all times and we are not to give up...PERSISTENCE. So get persistent in your prayers. Write them down, journal your requests and answers and pray, pray, pray until something happens. Jesus promises that if we ask and keep asking, it will be given to us (the answer that is). If we seek and keep seeking, we will find what we need. If we knock and keep knocking doors will be open that we are to walk through but we must be persistent. Many prayers may not be answered because we have not been persistent. I prayed for a particular issue for seventeen years and then God answered it. Seventeen years is a long time, but the answer was so worth the wait. If you ask me, I'll tell you that story sometime.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

But I Don't Know What to Say!

Most every follower of Jesus that I rub shoulders with want to see people come into relationship with Jesus Christ. In my last entry, I shared that although most believers befriend people who are not yet believers (a good thing) they still need to begin spiritual conversations with their friends if they are going to find people of peace and see what God does in their lives (Matthew 10:1-20).
When I share with my friends that they need to be 'inquiring' about their friends spiritual journeys or thoughts and that they should begin spiritual conversations, the number one reason that I am told why they do not 'inquire' is that they think that they do not know what to say. The next most popular reason I hear about in my informal survey is a concern about saying the wrong thing. My quick answer to that reason is that to say nothing is the only 'wrong thing' that can be said - or this case, not said.
I certainly do understand that folks have fear about sharing their faith (Jesus understood this too by the way). I do not want to go into too much detail on this because hopefully you'll be able to read my thoughts in detail when the book I'm working gets published (Probably some time in late 2009), but for now, let me give you a quick overview of the truth that the Word of God gives us regarding sharing our faith. Let me begin by dispelling one very strong myth in the Western world that I think reinforces our fear instead of relieving it. The myth is that you have to "...earn the right to be heard." I have been reading many contemporary books on Evangelism and most of them state this truth in one way or another. No where in Scripture does anyone ever teach that you have to befriend someone for a period of time so that you can 'earn' the right to share truth with them. Jesus often gives us a much different example. Jesus did not befriend the blind man in John 9 yet at the end of the story he seems to be worshiping Jesus. Jesus doesn't befriend the demoniac in Mark 5, in fact, by Jesus healing this guy Jesus makes some enemies (not very befriending) and when the demoniac wants to be with Jesus (to be his friend), Jesus tells him 'no'. That is just two examples of Jesus not 'earning' the right to be heard and yet sharing truth with his non-friends and in these cases in very direct fashion. The teaching that we must earn the right to be heard before sharing Jesus is a lie and I believe it stifles people in their witnessing. Because many folks have believed that they need to earn the right to be heard, the begin to ask if they have invested enough into this person in order to share Jesus? Have I earned the right to share Jesus with them? What if I haven't earned the right and they get mad? If I have to earn the right to share Jesus and if I haven't actually earned it yet and I share Jesus with my friend, they might walk away from me and I'll be hurt." So let me be clear... "YOU DO NOT HAVE TO EARN THE RIGHT TO SHARE JESUS WITH ANYONE!" In fact I would say this; Everyone has the God given right to hear the gospel. Besides, Paul teaches us that the power of God to salvation is not with the person sharing, it is with the truth of the Gospel itself (Romans 1:16). Ok, enough of that, let me give you a brief overview of what the Bible does teach us about freedom in sharing our faith - remember, this is a brief overview and not an in depth teaching. 1. Jesus knew you would be fearful to share His truth and that you would worry about not saying the right thing or having the best way to present it. Because Jesus knew this, here is the summary of what He taught in the Gospels. Jesus taught that whenever we are in an opportunity to share the Gospel at very moment He will give you the right words in the right fashion to meet the exact need of the person you are sharing. How cool is that. Too cool to be true you might say. Well here is the Scripture to back it up. I do expect you to look up these verses (I have hot linked them for you) and to study them because if you do, you will be set free forever in regards to sharing Jesus with boldness, confidence and success...every time. Matthew 10:16-20; Mark 13:9-11; Luke 12:11-12; Luke 21:12-15 ...and there are plenty more. 2. When you share the truth of Christ with folks, you can have complete and total confidence. Paul teaches us that every believer is a competent minister of the New Covenant (2 Cor. 3:6). That is a dynamic piece of truth. God considers you as competent to minister (deliver) the truth of what Jesus has done for us (the New Covenant) with those who need to hear about it. 3. Every time you open your mouth and talk about Jesus, the power of God pours out of your words. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit will come and live in every true follower of Jesus and one of the major purposes for this living inside of us is to give us power to be His witnesses in all the world (Acts 1:8). So in very short order we have learned that whenever you share your faith that you have the right words at the right time for whom ever you are sharing. You have the confidence that God knows that you are competent when you share His New Covenant and you have the power of God flowing through you as you tell the truth about Jesus. Remember that when you share it is not about you, it is all about Him. You do not determine if you are successful, Jesus has already determined that you will accomplish His purpose in the life of the person you are sharing with every time and that makes you 100% successful. "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for IT is the power of the God to salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." Romans 1:16 I hope this has benefited you in some way. Please respond with questions, comments or clarifications if you are so inclined. Jesus certainly has taken the fear of inquiring away (Matt. 10:11-12).

Blind Spot

As I talk with men and women across the USA, I find most of them deeply desiring to be discipling folks so that churches will emerge out of their efforts. I believe this is one of the better ways to begin new works for the Kingdom of God - inviting people to follow Jesus and walk with them as they learn to become dependent on Christ. This seems to start new Christians with the understanding that they are able to connect with Jesus themselves through prayer, Bible reading and study, worship and sharing their new found faith with their friends. So the folks across the USA that I have been talking with have this desire to see people come to Jesus and to see them emerge into healthy, strong and reproductive churches. But there is a huge problem that almost everyone of them is faced with. Most seem to not be able to find 'people of peace' or others who may be interested in discovering spiritual truth about Jesus. When I press deeper through conversation and questions, I begin to find out that they are missing a huge step in the process. I'm wondering if my experience of seeing many with the same blind spot that you too might have this same desire (to make disciples) and the same blind spot that my friends have. Now all of these people have been infected with the 10:2b virus, which is simply setting your phone to go off at 10:02 a.m. or p.m. or both, and then praying what Jesus told us to pray in Luke 10:2b. Jesus said "The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." We certainly all know of the problem. Not too many folks are coming to know Jesus in our country these days and it bothers us. These men and women are praying daily for the harvest to realized and for God to send out workers and raise up more workers for the fields that are so white. But they are not seeing this happen. What is their blind spot? These friends of mine not only have this grand desire to see people come to know Jesus and churches emerge, but they are actually hanging out with people who are not yet connected to Jesus. Some are joining bowling leagues, others are drinking way more coffee than they should at their local coffee pub, some are involved in the local PTA and others are soccer parents attending every practice, game and photo shoot but the harvest is not yet being realized. The blindspot can be found in Matthew 10:11-12. Here is what those verses says; "And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it and stay at his house until you leave that city. As you enter the house, give it your greeting." Matt. 10:11-12 Did you catch the blind spot that my friends currently have? My friends are 'entering the villages' and cities around them. They are hanging out with people who need Jesus. They are even 'staying' with their new friends, in some cases for years. My friends are even giving their greeting and love to the folks they are hanging out with. But yet there is a blind spot and it is a single word. The word is 'inquire'. My friends are not inquiring with spiritual questions, conversations or comments. It is like they are just waiting for heaven to open and angels to descend upon their not yet Jesus loving friends with fireworks etc. My friends are waiting for them to talk first or something. Jesus, however, puts the initiation upon you and I. We must be inquiring with spiritual emphasis. When we do this, we'll find out who is interested in pursuing a conversation and who is not. My friend, Neil Cole, says that when you speak about Jesus (when you turn on the light), you'll quickly notice who are the moths and who are the cockroaches. The moths will flutter to the light. They are interested in knowing and seeing more. The cockroaches on the other hand, run from the light. They love darkness. I've been telling my friends that their desire to see people come to know Jesus is spot on. Now they need to open their mouths (turn on the light). Some are still working on that part so next week I'll blog some notes about the truth that the Scriptures teach us regarding sharing our faith. I think you'll be amazed, encouraged and free to share more often. By the way, when you share more often (cast more seeds), you'll end up seeing people respond to the light (you'll find the moths). Remember, it takes an abundant amount of sowing seed for their to be an abundant harvest (2 Cor. 9:6). I hope this was helpful to you. Please comment or ask questions is you are so inclined!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I Peeked at a Soap Opera

Have you ever been around a fanatic? Don't they just put a splinter in your mind about whatever they are fanatic about?
These guys are really over the top "Dawg Pound" Fanatics.
There are food fanatics and all they talk about is food and how to prepare a certain dish and how a certain spice is so fantastic and where the newest, latest and greatest restaurants are located and on and on and on. Or there is the novel reader (lover). When you are around these people you will certainly hear about the latest book they are reading or the author they are currently enjoying and why. I find that when I am around fanatics, I usually give them a bad time about their hobby or passion but I enjoy listening to their passion and watching the pleasure on their faces as they rant about their favorite whatever. I even find myself considering being interested in whatever they are fanatic about. For instance, my wife has been into this soap opera and I hear her talking about this one dude who wears an eye patch and all of the antics that he is involved in and guess what? I find myself peeking at the recorded shows to find out what this eye patch dude is all about. Fanatics can be contagious I tell you.
This is the one eye dude on the soap opera.
My friend Josh is a ravid Denver Bronco fan(atic). Now that football season is beginning Josh loves talking about Denver Bronco football (never mind that they will be horrible this year :-). Each year he and I join a fantasy football league and after talking with Josh about his favorite team, I find myself wanting to learn a little more about the Denver Broncos (do not tell Josh I said that). His passion is contagious. As I hang around with Josh during football season, the Bronco Bug kind of piques my interest (I'm still an Arizona Cardinal fan).
Ok, here is the Bronco logo (just for Josh) - Go Cardinals!
So I came across this verse in Matthew 13 this morning and it caused me to think about how fanatics can infect our thinking. Here is what the verse says: "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened." Matthew 13:33 Leaven is like a fanatic that piques your interest. If you are around the fanatic long enough, you end up investigating what is so enthralling about cooking, a restaurant, a soap opera or even the Denver Broncos. The leaven of their passion kind of gets into you. The Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus says, is just like that. As we are passionate about Jesus' Kingdom and as we are involved in people's lives, this leaven of heaven (like the rhyme?) will pique their interest and the questions will begin to come.
This is a picture of leaven permeating the whole batch of dough - like we should be at work, home, gym etc.
Now Debbie doesn't know that I have 'peeked' at the eye patch dude on her soap opera (well I guess she will if she reads this) but I have. Her enjoyment of this soap caused me to investigate. Josh doesn't know that I have this secret things for learning more about the Broncos but I do (I'm giving away all of my secrets). His passion for the Broncos has stimulated me. And so it can be at your work or the gym or the with the parents in your child's school or wherever you go. When you are a fan(atic) of the Kingdom of Jesus, it will ooze out of your life and fill wherever you are with the scent of heaven. Your words and deeds will expose your passion and others will be affected by it - even if they don't tell you. Just being a fan(atic) of heaven and being involved in your work place has an eternally positive affect. So put some Kingdom of Jesus leaven into the lives of those you hang out with. It will permeate them and they too will become passionate about your King Jesus. May our friends be filled with the leaven of heaven. I hope this was of some help to you.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Conductor

I was driving form Savannah, Georgia to Tampa Bay Florida recently in a rented car. As I began down the highway with my wife, Debbie, I cranked up the radio. I pushed the first ‘pre-select’ button and expected to find whatever local station was assigned to it. To my surprise, the car I rented was equipped with XM Radio and suddenly a whole new world of options rushed through the radio screen. After searching many of the 300 or so stations, I settled on a classical station. The cooperation of so many instruments coming together to make amazing sounds was intoxicating. As I thought about the symphony I was hearing, I began to think about the central piece of the orchestra, the conductor. The conductor’s ability to know each instrument, what it is supposed to do and when it is supposed to do it is central for a unifying sound that can be so powerful and persuasive. As my mind drifted and danced with this wonderful music I kept thinking about the conductor, and a question kept rising in my mind. The question was simply, what is the center of the church to be? Who is the conductor of the local church? How would you answer those questions? In my experience, the center or conductor of the local church is often viewed as the Pastor. The Pastor is most often the one who hears from God, crafts the vision or mission of the local church and then calls the folks committed to that local body to work towards the goal of carrying out ‘our’ vision or mission of that church. This sounds right to us. It is all that most of us have ever experienced. But I am beginning to question if this is the way it should be. What if the spiritual directors (pastors, elders etc.) weren’t the conductor but the coaches? What if the pastors and elders were not to hear from God for the people and give them the vision to carry out but rather to help each person to discover God's vision for their own personal life and then live it out? What if the spiritual directors were viewed more as teachers of the instruments that people are gifted to play. What if the spiritual directors were to equip the musicians in their instrument and give them encouragement, permission, empowerment and ideas of how to more fully explore their instruments and all that they can do? What if the pastors and elders were to prepare and serve their friends to get ready to follow the lead of the conductor as a musical piece was learned and performed? I’ll bet the music would be beautiful. There really can only be one conductor in any orchestra and it simply cannot be the spiritual director(s) or leader(s). After all that job is suited for the only one who knows all of the instruments, musicians, music and full abilities of each one and how they fit into the music of the universe. Only Jesus can be the conductor (head) of the orchestra (church). The center of the church should be Jesus Christ, the conductor who puts all of the individual parts together to make beautiful music (just to make this blog cheesy ☺). With Jesus as the conductor and not a human being, unity will actually be realized and the tones and harmony that will be produced will be something we have yet to hear. Even though each person may have a different part or role to play with different sounds, the music will be wonderful. Some will be playing the harmony and others the melody; a masterpiece will be heard all over the world So, I am thanking God for rental cars and XM radio because that experience taught me who the conductor of the symphony of souls in the church is to be – Jesus. Do you have any thoughts about who the conductor of the local church ought to be? What did Jesus mean in Matthew 16:18 when He said, "I will build my church"? Next time I’ll (briefly) discuss the role of leaders in the church.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Your Work is a Spiritual Calling


What difference does balancing the budget and reconciling your company's bank account actually make for God? Why should you greet each customer at your shop with courtesy when you have had a rough week? How does placing people in jobs really make a difference in the world today? How can creating web sites for other businesses actually affect the Kingdom of God? Have you ever asked questions like those? I have. For years I viewed work as a way to make money to pay bills (and the church - I mean God) to survive financially, to buy a few nice things and then to get to the really important work of church. I'm talking about attending services, teaching, serving, singing, praying, learning, socializing and putting together programs to help the church grow. Worshipping and spiritual stuff, that is what we are put on earth for right? Well, maybe that isn't all of the answer.  Maybe not even the majority of the answer.


The church must rethink the role of people's employment. For many years (decades?) the church has said, in so many words, that your jobs are really to provide your needs and allow you to be faithful and serve the church.  Enjoy your work, but really, we all know that your spiritual work is more important.  As I read my Bible, it says something very different to me.

"Slaves (read employees today), in all things obey those who are your masters (read employers or bosses) on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve."  Colossians 3:22-24


Our work and the way we work is actually a spiritual act! It is a form of worship to Jesus as my ultimate boss. Paul teaches us in verses 24 that if we do our work with a full heart for the good of our boss and Jesus, that we will receive the reward of the inheritance. That sounds like your work is awfully important. Your work (job) is a spiritual act of worship towards God and a way to bless others that you work with.

Let's continue on to Colossians 4 and see what is said within the context of our daily work.

"Masters, (employers/bosses), grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you to have a Master in heaven. Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving...Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace as though seasoned with salk, so that you will know how you should respond to each person." Colossians 4:1-2, 5-6

Here the context doesn't change from our place of work and how we are act.  We are to not only do our work with eagerness and joy because we are doing it for Jesus and it pleases Him, but there is more.  We are to also know that our time spent at work is one of the greatest opportunities there is to make an impact for Jesus.  At work, you have the opportunity to daily give out little samples of heaven (you can figure out what looks like :-).  These little tastes will for some, bring them to a desire to have a triple scoop cone and to come back regularly for more.  Some where along the way, you'll be able to introduce them to Jesus  and watch them be transformed by His grace and power. 




Seek Jesus' will for you at work, know that your work is essential to the Kingdom of God.  You are His ambassador, representing heaven and giving out free samples of heaven to those God places in your path.  Your work is spiritual and it is important.  Your work is a calling of God upon your life and that makes whatever you do spiritual.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Drifting

There is nothing like sitting in an innertube drifting down a lazy river in the heat of summer. The birds are singing, there are giggles and splashing that wash over your ears from others enjoying the ride. The smell of fresh air, pine trees and dirt captivate the senses. As you lay your hand in the water and draw up a few drops to cool your head you fade away into a long day dream. Drifting can be fun until you hit some rocks, scratch your legs, bruise your bottom on a rock and get wedged between two boulders. It is important to know where you are headed. In my Life Transformation Group, I have been reading in the book of Hebrews. There are a couple of passages in chapters 2 and 3 that have stood out to me. "For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away." Hebrews 2:1 There it is, we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard. The book of James teaches us to not only be hearers of the Word of God but to put what we have heard into action. We should apply it so as to have effect in our lives. Hebrews 2 seems to say that if we do not pay close attention to what we hear and live by it, then we are prone to drift away from the truth. Drifting is such a lazy term isn't it? The author of Hebrews seems to know that slowly, silently and seductively drifting in our faith will cause a separation (in relationship) with God and then many other uglies will follow. "Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Hebrews 3:12-13. This passage teaches us that it is possible for believers to somehow 'drift' into an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. This is not an unbelieving and falling away that includes losing ones standing with God, that is not possible, however, these are very serious matters that affect our relationship to God and His body, the church. To guard against this drifting away problem verse 13 gives us a remedy. We are to be encouraging one another every day. Too often, IF this happens it happens in spurts or on Sunday's or another 'church day'. Why do we need encouraging everyday? I think the answer is that sin is very, very deceitful. It promises fulfillment but delivers sickness, emptiness and death. If we are not built up in Jesus, we may eventually find a hardened heart, not willing to listen or deal with spiritual matters. Remember the Word of God is always right (2 Tim. 3:16-17). We must believe what we learn here, even if you are not sure it is true - be assured that it is always true. So be encouraging to those in your close community (house church, sunday school, small group etc.). Encourage them daily (as often as possible) through e-mail, text message, voice mail, phone call or over a cup of coffee. I know I need the encouragement daily. I do not want to drift away and wake up hardened heart, a buised bottom and scratched up legs. Do you have any thoughts on this topic? I'd love to hear them.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

You Have Problems if You are in a Church

I was sitting in a circle of new friends in another state discussing living together in community for the glory of Jesus. In others words, we were talking about church and in this discussion it was a church that met in a home. Everyone had agreed that church is to be lived in unity (Eph. 4:1-6) where we are on mission together (Acts 4:29-31) and where the message of Jesus would be attractive to a people who live in a world with lots of pain (Matt. 11:28). I listened to stories about people wanting to make a difference in their communities and how that was fleshing itself out. There was a hunger and thirst for deeper connections with Jesus, each other and the world. These people were most excited about God, church and seeing the communities they lived in transformed for the Kingdom of God. Then something happened. The conversation seemed to change and not for the better. The excitement drained from the room and tension began to rise. Uncertainty replaced confidence and apathy filled the void of where excitement once reigned. The ‘something’ that changed the conversation was the mention of people in their churches, their quirks and the baggage that they brought to the group. Some brought the baggage of immaturity, others pain, some had affluence (which really bugged one couple) while others brought the baggage of…children (eeeek). Some thought others worked too much, others were too lazy, one couple thought people in their group were full of pride (unlike the judgment they were full of) and finally there were those who got upset because they were the only ones who would initiate anything. So, you can see that the biggest problem in any type of church is people who are around other people. So, what to do about working through these differences? Here are some simple (but hard to enact) principles that will help unity in your church. 1. Be others focused (Phil. 2:1-5). 2. Take on the attitude of a servant (Matt. 20:20-28). 3. Always be ready to give of your self to bless others (1 Cor. 14:1-3 & 26). 4. Be quick to admit when you are wrong (James 5:16). 5. Let words that encourage others roll off of your lips (Eph. 4:29 & Jms 4:11). 6. Let love be your compass (1 Peter 4:8). 7. Remind yourself that your struggles are not against people, but against darkness (Eph. 6:10-20). 8. Always work to preserve unity (Eph. 4:1-6). By the way, if your church is not currently facing difficulties, just wait about 5 minutes and it will. If you don’t have difficulties regularly, I would wager that there aren’t real people in your church ;-0
Here is a short clip that parodies what happens at times when people are together and wanting their way.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Stop Going To Church

Yep, you heard me correctly - I was not stuttering or misspelling. I want you to STOP going to church. Going to church is like going to a baseball game, concert or grocery store in our culture. I go to baseball games and concerts for entertainment. I go to grocery stores for food products. When people go to church, they are often going for either entertainment value (I like the music, preaching etc) or for spiritual products (I need to be fed or my kids need spiritual input). Going to church for either of those reasons is, well, wrong. Not wrong like adultery wrong, but wrong like helping somebody out of jam so you feel better (it's a motivation issue). Now I do understand what 'going to church' means to most people. As part of the religious practice of their faith, attending church services is expected for personal growth, a spiritual experience and to worship God. When church happens, I think people do actually get blessed, encouraged and learn some neat stuff. I do believe that most often the motivations of people going to church are good. I'd like to suggest an alternative to going to church however. Before I offer my suggestion it is important to understand that the word church in the New Testament literally means "called out ones". In the Christian sense, it means those called out by God to be His people and part of His Kingdom through faith in and the grace of Jesus Christ. Therefore, church is not a location. Church is not a building. Church isn't even a meeting - in a home or bar or gym. Church can happen in a building or a home or bar or gym, but we don't go to church. Jesus didn't call us to attend meetings, we are to go to the world with Christ's message of redemption. We are to be the Church, working with God as He redeems the world. When we are being the church we bring glory to God. What might being the church look like? In groups small and large it may be taking cool water to thirsty people, helping others to finish projects or loving discussions that point to eternal life. We might even sing some songs, hear some teaching and give of our time, talents and treasures. Being the church is not a model (mega, house, traditional, emergent), it is a mindset. The church, the called out ones (saints) are to encourage one another to take the good news of Jesus to our friends and strangers throughout our lifetimes. Being the church is in the present tense. Going to church assumes attendance at a spiritual activity. Being the church assumes action (ministry that you do for others) and also living out the presence of Jesus to the world. Going to church seems to indicate that you are going to receive something from the church (which does happen almost every time for me :-). Being the church indicates who you are and all sorts of action can go with that: giving your love, smile, heart, gifts, energy, etc. for God's glory and for the building up of the saints. In a word - Missional. What are your thoughts about being the church?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Can God be Refreshed?

Does the idea that God can be refreshed sound like a far fetched idea?  I mean, the God of the universe who can do anything He wants is the same one who never sleeps or slumber (Psalm 121:4), right?  I was quite surprised to come across this verse in Exodus 31:17.
"It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor and was refreshed."
Did creating the world take some of God's energy away?  Did creating cause Him fatigue?  How could one be fatigued when nothing is to difficult for Him (Jer. 32:17)?  I did take delight to learn that God rested on the seventh day and was 'refreshed', but I think that was more out of my sinful desire to be like God (thanks Adam :-) than anything else.  
So now that my vacation is winding down and I am refreshed, maybe I again have a glimmer of what God felt when He ceased from labor.  Maybe he felt relaxed, restored and energy replenished...or maybe God was simply trying to speak on our level.  Maybe He was trying to teach us how to care for ourselves by taking time to rest, so that we can be refreshed.  I think God loves us so much that He finds creative ways to communicate how we can best care for ourselves.
I have found out that one important way of caring for myself is to take time to rest and be refreshed.  Thanks God for teaching me important lessons on my level so I can understand. Thanks for showing me that you love me.
Do you have any thoughts about God taking a rest and being refreshed?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sand Castles

There are 15 Waken's (well, 14 + one boyfriend) on a beach somewhere hanging out, getting a tan and doing things we wouldn't think of doing normally. What am I talking about? Glad you asked. Here are some of the things that we have done that you normally do not find us doing... -swing from a vine suspended 15 feet above a pool over looked by a 25 foot water fall (some actually fell, I mean, let go of the vine and fell into the pool). - standing 25 feet above a pool of water and jumping over the waterfall into the pool. - making sandcastles with grandkids, children and adults. - snorkeling with hundreds of fish. - boogie boarding with fins on. - surfing (more like ungraceful falling down the face of a wave). - eating more fattening food than is legal. - sleeping more in one day than you have in years. - putting together jigsaw puzzles. - playing scrabble. - taking a dinner cruise and watching the sunset over the ocean. - going to be early (like 8:30pm). - begging and finishing a novel. - just being refreshed... I found a fantastic verses from Exodus that has to do with refreshment. I think you may just be amazed at what is said about refreshment - more on that later. Taking a Sabbath is good.