Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sydney in the Past - Canberra in the Future

It is Monday morning here in Australia.  Neil and I spent the weekend teaching about 60 or so people Organic Church Principles in Sydney.  The reception was strong as many of the people here have been reading and learning about moving church from being attractional to being apostolic (sent), that is, from being being spectators to realizing they are sent into their cities and workplaces to multiply God's Kingdom.  It was refreshing, exciting and encouraging.

On Sunday morning as we arrived to teach, there was a Chinese woman who came up to a few people outside wanting to know what we were about.  She saw the 'Greenhouse' and 'Organic Church' signs pointing to the conference and she found herself curious.  Her name is Eunice and she is part of a cult called "The Supreme Master".   We spent about 30 minutes telling her what we were learning and discussed whom she thought Jesus is.  I encouraged her to get some contact information from some of the people who lived near her home and they exchanged information.  As we began teaching Sunday morning, I noticed Eunice in the crowd.  Some of the ladies invited her to stay and she did.  Please pray for Eunice to remain connected to some of these people who love Jesus so the Eunice can find the true Supreme Master, Jesus Christ and all of her 'karma' taken away.

Neil and I are now in Bombadarry and we will be driving another 2.5 hours to the Capital of Australia, Canberra where we will be teaching tonight and all day tomorrow.  Your prayers would be greatly appreciated for more impact on this wonderful country.

We have enjoyed some excellent lamb, some good steaks, a lamb burger and Chinese food.  I'm loving the eclectic food choices in the country!  Neil and I got to see the new Batman movie with one of the younger men attending the conference in Sydney.  It was a good movie full of action and redemption.  

We have heard about the shootings in Colorado and we pray for the families peace.  Please pray against the demonic spirit that is somehow over Colorado.  This is the third shooting incident that I am aware of in Colorado; Columbine, the shooting at New Life Church in 2007 where 2 students were killed and now this shooting where 12 were killed 58 wounded.  Let's pray against whatever this spirit of darkness and death is hovering over the great state of Colorado.

If you want to see a few pictures, go to my Facebook page or follow me on Instragram.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Arriving in Australia

There are a few firsts in my life today.  Today is the first time I flew on Air New Zealand and it was very pleasant experience.  Today is the first time I have been on the south side of the equator (am I suppose to shave my head?).  Today is the first time I have been to New Zealand.  I was only there for a few hours but I met a great Orthodontists on the flight to Sydney and promised to pray for peace in his soul (see more below).  You can pray for my new friend as well.  Today is the first time I have been to Australia.

As you can tell, Neil Cole and I arrived safely here.  We have enjoyed a nice day with David and Helen Esdaile.  Tomorrow we will take a harbor tour, rest a bit and begin teaching Organic Church Principles in the evening and through the weekend.  Tonight we are staying with Greg and Diane who have spent time in Peoria, Az.  They know a mutual pastor friend, Brian Anderson (North Phoenix Vineyard) - small world.  I'm looking forward to lamb chops for dinner!

This afternoon we walked a couple of the streets of Cambramatta and it looked nothing like I might have imagined a city in Australia.  Take a look at the photo below and let me know if this is what you might expect to see...

 
 












I'm happy to report that it is apparent my presuppositions about Australia are not true!

We have three conferences to teach at over the next 10 days.  Your valuable prayers will be appreciated very much.

On my flight from Phoenix to Los Angeles, I sat next to a 20 something young man named Mark.  Mark and I began to talk and quickly he was lamenting the way church is often done and how he longed for things to change.  We spent the next 90 minutes pouring over the Scriptures to learn more about organic church principles.  It was a powerful time and I hope that Mark and I will stay in touch so he can learn more and hand off what he is learning.  

On my flight from Aukland, New Zealand to Sydney, I did speak to my Orthodontist friend that I mentioned above.  His first name is Allen.  Allen has traveled all over the world and when I mentioned that my wife and I traveled to France last year to celebrate her breast cancer recovery, he said good for you Mate, I lost my wife to cancer.  His wife had Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) which is the same cancer my neighbor, Lee, had a few years ago.  I told Allen that I would pray for him to have a surge of peace and he thanked me.  Just before disembarking the plant, he handed me his card when I learned he was an Orthodontists.  I pray Allen and I will begin an e-mail friendship and we'll see where God brings us.

Both of these stories remind me that when we are ready to hear from God and obey what He speaks into our hearts for another, mighty ministry can begin.  Let me encourage you to be listening, even straining to hear the voice of God in your hearts and then obey what He speaks to you at any given moment...who knows what adventure God might take you on?

Thanks for your prayers my friends.  Your prayers will be part of a great influence here in Australia.  We are begging God for a mighty work of His Spirit upon this land so that there is an unleashing of multiple, multiplicative movements across this great country for His glory!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Simple Way to Prioritize Your Life

Put the following four words in the correct order of importance;

Work, Family, Church, God

What did you come up with?

Actually, this is a trick question.  The best option is to remove God from the list, put the other three words in any order you'd like and then place God on top of the list.  It might look something like this:
Most of us today would describe our lives as busy.  Probably too busy is more like it.  When we consider our lives as having compartments like work, house work, hobbies, family time, devotional or quiet times with God, church activities, evangelism and on and on, there is simply no way we have time for it all.  However, if we follow the picture above, and we write God over whatever category you place on the list, pretty quickly we can begin to have more time.  How can that happen you might ask.

The Scriptures teach us that "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." (Colossians 3:17).  In this verse we find the principle of writing God over our lives, in all we do.  Here are a couple of suggestions to help you realize the time you need to live a full, faithful and fruitful life.

1. Hold your life open and accessible to God at all times.  Ask Him what His priority is for you in any given situation.  This will require you to die to your agenda and replace it with God's agenda.  This may require you add a hobby to your life so you will engage a person of peace (Luke 10) and help them to learn to follow Jesus.  It may require that lay down a hobby or other activity that is distracting you from hearing the Lord and following His lead.  Whether God adds, subtracts or rearranges things in your life, you will need to learn to become flexible in some ways as you discipline yourself to follow the Holy Spirit's lead in your life.

2. Stop seeing life as a bunch of categories (work, rest, play, church etc.) and begin to see your life as a continuous story where God interacts throughout.  When we move in this direction then God is prevalent in every moment.  Whether we are pumping gas, watching a sunrise, straining to lift weights, enduring another meeting at work or spending time leisure around the home, when life is viewed as a continuous action of worship, we find rest and fulfillment.  We are no longer missing out on doing something, we are enjoying God in whatever we are doing.  

So stop categorizing and start writing the presence of God over everything you do.  Listen to His voice and follow His lead.  You will more time than you can imagine and more fruit than you ever dreamed possible.

What are your thoughts?



Thursday, June 21, 2012

Speaking Sound Doctrine With Our Lives

In my last post, I mentioned how the concept of sound doctrine from the book of Titus looks more like living out our faith in action than a set of truths to be proclaimed or studied.  Of course I think sound doctrine consists of both aspects but the living them out part often gets ignored.  At least two thirds (probably more) of Paul's letter to Titus has to do with living out ones faith.  Let's explore exactly what Paul writes about living out sound doctrine.

Titus 1:16
In this verse we actually find out that people with bad doctrine don't really have a life represented by good deeds.  Paul says that people with unbelieving minds are those who profess to know God but by their 'deeds' deny Him being detestable and disobedient and "...worthless for any good deed."  Apparently Jesus was right when He said you shall know them by their fruit (Matt. 7:20).

Titus 2:1
Here we find Paul encouraging Titus to speak the things that are fitting for sound doctrine.  Paul wants Titus to be urging people to know, learn and apply sound doctrine to the people on Crete.  What did Titus speak as sound doctrine?

Titus 2:2-6
Here we see Paul exhorting Titus to instruct men and women how to live out their doctrine by passing on to one another proper behavior.

Titus 2:7
Paul wants Titus to be an example of good deeds in everything he does.  This indicates an outward focus on what others need, not on getting his needs met.  Titus should be engaged in good deeds with purity in doctrine.  Good deeds and good doctrine seem to go hand in hand.

Titus 2:8-10
Paul continues to urge people from all backgrounds to live out their faith, "...showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect."  What does it mean to adorn but to put on.  How is the doctrine of God our Savior put on in every respect if not how we live out out what we believe.  

Titus 2:14
Titus is to encourage people to be zealous for every good deed.  Here is an excitement to show what is deeply in our souls through good deeds.

Titus 3:8
We should lead by example and instruct folks to be 'careful to engage in good deeds'.  We must make this choice and live it out...from out soul up!

Titus 3:14
"Our people must also learn to engage in good deed, to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful."

Which is a true doctrine for me?
To believe I need to loose 10 lbs
or
To actually take action and lose 10 lb?

Sound doctrine has a lot to do with how we live, not simply what we believe.  I cannot recall a sermon I've heard on that topic and yet, it seems to be so right.  Certainly how we live and what we believe go together but you'll only know what someone truly believes by their attitude to live out sound doctrine with our feet and hands, not simply with our minds.

I'd love to hear what you think...

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Sound Doctrine May Be More Than You Think

For many, sound doctrine is a set of beliefs that should be adhered to in order to be deemed as Biblically sound.   As I said in my last post, some of the best descriptions of what sound doctrine actually is can be found in the passage before us; Titus 1:16-3:8.  Helping someone become like Jesus (discipleship) usually takes years and consists of right thinking/beliefs but also, and maybe more importantly, how one lives out her or his faith.  I would rather be with people who live out the one another verses of the Bible than with a group of people who know the one another verses (memorized) but turn their nose at those in need or those who need to be restored from some sinful way of life.  Making disciples takes patience, an imagination and a whole bunch of love.  Making disciples is a lot like sculpting.

I've never really sculpted.  Oh, I've made a snake and a snowman out of Play-Do but I'm certain that artists would not recognize my work as actual sculpting.   I am however intentionally pointing out areas in peoples lives where a sharp chisel needs to be placed and then hit with a hammer to remove an edge or two.  I am attempting to sculpt sound doctrine into the lives of people.  Although I've not sculpted in marble or stone, I imagine it takes a long time and a lot of care.  Sculpting flesh is a long process that is full of joy, pain, pausing and pursuing.

In the book of Titus, Paul instructs Titus to "speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine." Paul then goes on to talk about what 'sculpting' sound doctrine in the lives of people looks like.  It looks like older men having integrity and strong godly character.  Older women are to behave in a manner that honors God and to have their conversations full of grace and goodness.  Paul also says that sound doctrine looks sensible in the lives of young men and goes on to tell how sound doctrine should be lived out in the business world, the church world and in regards to our interaction with governing rulers.  It should all look the same by the way, we shouldn't look/act one way on Sunday morning and another way in Tuesday's sales meeting.

I'm learning that sound doctrine, although full of truth and absolutes, has much (maybe much more) to do with how we live.  What if how we live actually exposes the truth of faith in our hearts?  Can we go to church each week or read our Bibles daily and not really be concerned for the poor, widows and less fortunate?  Can we simply believe certain 'doctrines' and yet live how we want?  Should we be allowing consumerism to swallow us whole without a strong fight?  Should we horde our money instead of using it to spread love and help others.  Would Jesus encourage us to save for our retirement or to help out a widow who needs new windows in her home?

Whatever you think about my questions in the previous paragraph, do become active in sculpting sound doctrine in your life and the lives of others.  Get out your spiritual hammer and chisel to add depth and beauty to the lives around you.  How we live does matter.  Faith without works is dead.  So get alive and spend your faith by living out sound doctrine.

I would love to hear what you think about this.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Easy and Hard Parts of Making Disciples

In my last post, I began a discussion on what discipleship is all about.  For many Christians, making disciples is the role of the pastor or someone else...anyone else!  As we learned in the last post, Jesus' last words to His followers were to imitate His way of living by making disciples just as He did (Matthew 28:19-20).  I promised to comment on how making disciples is both easy and hard so here we go :-)

Making Disciples is Easy
The simplest way to explain what it means to make disciples is to be with people, pointing them to Jesus and living in a way is consistent with that direction.  It really is that easy but once you choose that way of living, it will become hard.

Making Disciples is Hard
I do believe that making disciples is as easy as walking with others in the same direction towards Jesus...for a long time and often for a lifetime.  That is the hard part for most people, the long haul mentality and just how messy that can be.  This type of discipleship requires a focus on others, not upon our selves.  This type of discipleship requires a deeper interaction and a commitment to engage others through good and bad times.  This type of 'walking together' towards Jesus demands transparency, authenticity, tolerance, humility, patience, prayer and a deep focus on love.  The Apostle Paul said it this way, "Be imitators of me as I also am of Christ." (1 Cor. 11:1).   Christ layed down His life for us and Paul was imitating that sort of living style - self-sacrifice.  That is were the real hard aspect of pointing people to Jesus is found, in the choosing to sacrifice our own profit, desires and even needs for the benefit of others.  Discipling others requires the uncommon quality of unconditional love and a focus of living out the truths of Christ in community.  This will cause for exposure, risk and pain.  It is a high price but it is the price Jesus calls us to live.  The rewards will be worth it, Jesus makes that promise.

Certainly in the midst of living life together there will be time to study the Bible, doctrines and truths from the Scriptures that are necessary for our souls.  Questions will arise, answers will be investigated and stronger footing will be found.  I think some of the best description of making disciples and sound doctrine (Titus 2:1) is found in Titus 1:16-3:11.  Take a look at this section of Scripture regarding the making of disciples and sound doctrine and see what God has to say to you.  Share your thoughts below if you'd like.  Next time, I'll give you a few of my thoughts on this passage.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Making Disciples: What's It All About?

I have been having an e-mail conversation with a guy who many would view as a seasoned believer who is faithful, an entrepreneur, and very talented having accomplished much in life and ministry.  Many churches could easily desire him to move in the direction of eldership in their community of saints.  With all of this man's wonderful talents, abilities and accomplishments he made the following statement in one of our recent e-mail exchanges; "Still trying to figure out what it looks like to make a disciple though."  

My friend is not alone.  There are many 'seasoned' people I meet that can't really articulate what it takes to make a disciple.  Most would admit that they have never made a disciple themselves.  This seems odd to me because it is the final commandment that Jesus gave in Matthew 28:19-20.  We really should be obeying this command with intentionality.  Many view the making of disciples as a cognitive (knowledge based) exercise.  Disciple making is too often reduced to a set of beliefs, Bible studies and doctrines.  When discipleship is defined as teaching people doctrines and facts, then I can understand that why most people don't make disciples or are even able to articulate what the process looks like.

I believe that helping people to be like Jesus (a disciple), is both much easier - everyone can do it - and much harder - it really takes commitment - than teaching a set of doctrinal beliefs.  Next time I'll write about how making disciples is both easy and hard, until then, I'd love to hear about what you think is involved in making disciples.  Please jot a thought or two (or more) below as a comment and let me know what you think is involved in making disciples.  If you'd like, let me know if you are making disciples or if you feel that you have ever made a disciple of Jesus.  I look forward to reading your thoughts.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Short Pop Quiz for All Christians

The following is a short four question quiz that any believer should be able to ace.   If you want the correct answers, please click HERE.  After you take this pop quiz, let me know what your thoughts on how you did.

1. Is the following equation true or false?
More right behavior + Less bad behavior = Righteousness

2. If God were to give you a grade today between 1 and 10 with 10 being the best grade possible, what number would He assign to your life today?

3. Which of the following two pictures more preciously captures the reality of God?

                         Picture "A"                                                                    Picture "B"

4. Do you view yourself as a sinner or as a saint?

If you want to see the correct answer with Scripture, please click HERE.  Please leave any comments you have below.




Thursday, May 03, 2012

Do You Have Unbiblical Thinking on Evangelism?

Here is an e-mail conversation I received from a pastor in North America who has bought into an unbiblical thinking regarding evangelism and the common believer.  

“Whether there is a gift of evangelism or not, some people just find it very difficult to get their friends across the line.  Where as others find it easy.  I for one find it very easy to share my faith and help people become Christians. I have led heaps of people to Christ.  My friends who are very passionate about reaching out to unchurched people find it much more difficult than I do. They really appreciate the fact that they can 'invest and invite'. They appreciate the opportunity of having someone who is better at communicating the gospel than they are. They see more evangelistic fruit by working as a team, bringing their friends to church, rather than just trying to share the gospel on their own.”  

This type of thinking continues to reinforce the bad evangelistic theology that is rampant in the church today.  It is sad and it is expanding and it needs to change.

It is no wonder the harvest seems poor.  It is in part due to the lack of seeds that are being sown because people believe evangelistic myths instead of Biblical truth.  Because the church is more about multiplying listeners than communicators, we are losing ground!  What the church needs today is a strong Biblical theology regarding evangelism.  These unbiblical teachings that gag us from sharing our faith must be debunked, destroyed and decommissioned from the pulpits, websites and teaching institutions around the world.  The truth must be told and we must be freed so ordinary people can give the Gospel of Jesus Christ away indiscriminately with power, precision, personality and passion.  It is time for the ordained to tell the truth to the ordinary about the authority and power that every believer is given by God from the moment his or her relationship with Jesus began.  Every believer is 100% successful, 100% of the time.

What are your thoughts or questions about what I've written today?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Catch and Keep or Catch and Release?


I love to flyfish.  There is something about wading into a river, looking for signs of a trout, learning what they are feeding on, choosing the right fly and casting with precision to the right location at the right time.  When the trout rises, sucks down the fly and my line takes off with that familiar 'zing', my heart pumps shooting excitement in my veins as I play the fish into my net.  Some fishermen may take that trout and put into their creel (basket) but I put the fish back into the water so it can swim, play and reproduce so that there are more and more fish to enjoy catching.

I also love fishing for people.  Not only to see them come to Christ but also to see those who are following Christ to become people fishermen as well.  I love to watch and pray for men and women who are hungry for Jesus, who will rise to the call of God in their hearts and suck down large quantities of His Word only to be released back into the world to grow, reproduce and bring others along in their faith.

The challenge for me in all of this is the waiting.  Waiting for men and women who are hungry for more of Christ - who are ready to exchange their life for His.  In my experience, these people are becoming more and more rare.  Maybe because too many fishers of men are putting their catch in their creel instead of releasing them to grow, thrive and reproduce.

What about you?  Are you hungry for more of Jesus, His Word and His people?  Are you willing to be a fisher of men (Matthew 4:19)?  When you do catch a soul, do you put them in your creel or to do you release them back into the world to grow, thrive and reproduce?  I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spiritual Farming

What does the picture of the farmer below communicate to you?  Take a look at where he is standing, what he has in his hands, look at his posture, and his focus.  Look at the soil, the water and lastly, look at the crops themselves.  What do you see?
Photobucket

The crops are often the focus in pictures like this, but there is so much more involved in this picture.  Without the farmer, his care, the shovel, water, dirt and sunshine, there would not be any crops.  Often Christians pray for the fruit, the crops, but are less excited about all that is required for the fruit to be enjoyed.

I can imagine this field a few months earlier; there was probably not much growing.  The farmer had to plow the ground and break up the dirt that had become calloused from the winter.  There may have been weeds pulled or rocks removed along with some cover crops planted that would grow quickly and then be plowed back into the ground for additional nutrients.  I'm certain there were was a lot of sweat, sore muscles and prayers for rain as the precious seeds of the crops were sown into the field with great care and anticipation.  Did you notice the knee brace on the farmer?  Possibly a reminder of injuries that come from caring for the land and the crops.  And then there was a bunch of waiting...waiting for the seeds to germinate and poke through the soil that was loved on by the farmer.

After much hard labor, the crops are still not ready for harvest, but they will be soon enough.  A little sunshine, a bit of rain and the tender care and sacrifice of the farmer and the crops will be ready to give up their precious fruit.

The story can be seen as an allegory of what it takes for fruit to be seen in the lives of believers and not yet believers.  There must be a farmer, one who cares for people and is willing to disciple them Discipling people is simply pointing them to Jesus and teaching them to obey His truth.  There must be a lot of prayer and spiritual sweat put into the soil of souls.  This will include time spent with the soil (people), time spent with God in prayer and in the sowing of the hope of God in their hearts.  There must also be patience to wait for the soil (the heart of a person) to be ready to receive the seed and then for germination to take place.  

Helping people become like Jesus is really simple, a heart (soil), the Word of God (seed), some prayer and care (water and sunshine) and a bunch of love (hard work).  It is really simple - just a few ingredients - but helping people become like Jesus does require hard work, discipline, sacrifice and a focus of obedience to what Jesus has called us: to help people become like Him.

Are you making disciples? 
Do you believe that you are to be making disciples?
What excites you or scares you about making disciples of Jesus?
If you are not making disciples, what would be helpful to you in order to begin the process?

Let's dialogue about this if you'd like by leaving a comment/question below.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

5:00 a.m.

I stopped by a friends house for lunch and conversation a couple of weeks ago.  It happened to be Spring Break week and his 18 year old son was on his way out to his part time job.  I greeted he and his father when I heard the Spirit speaking to me to repeat the following.  "Hey John (not his real name), now that you are 18 years old, I think you need a liminal experience."  "A what?" came John's response. "An experience that is transitional in developing a foundation in your life as you move into manhood."  John replied, "What does a liminal experience look like?"  "How about this summer," I said.  "we fly to Chicago for 3-4 days without any money, no cell phones and no place to stay and just trust God to supply all our needs?  At the same time, we would look for opportunities to spread the love and truth of Jesus anywhere the opportunity presents itself."  John got this large smile on his face as it say that he was all in.  John then said, "I have been thinking about growing stronger in my faith and closer to Jesus.  This is amazing!"  "Before we make those plans," I interrupted, "how about we see how faithful you are.  Going to Chicago is a huge commitment and proving yourself faithful is important."  John agreed and asked what I had in mind.  "How about we meet weekly to talk about Scripture we have read, confess our sins to each other and to pray really hard for lost people to come to Jesus."  John thought that was a good idea and asked when.  I knew John was interested, but I wanted to find out how interested he was.  I said, "John, because you are in school and working our options are limited.  The best option for me is really early in the morning on Wednesdays.  I currently have a 6:30am appointment so how about we meet at 5:00am at Starbucks?"  Without hesitation, John said that sounds great, I'll see you tomorrow, and off he went to work.

The next day at 5:00am, I was enjoying a Venti dark roasted brew at Starbucks.  John arrived somewhat late and said that wouldn't happen again.  I smiled and we talked about the process of a Life Transformation Group (LTG) and he agreed to be faithful that process.  The next week, John was at Starbucks at 5:00am ready to talk about God's Word, talk about our following Jesus and to pray for our friends who need Jesus.  I can't wait to see how God will use this young man in the decades ahead for His Kingdom building pleasure.  

My point for this short entry is to encourage us all to pray daily (10:2b virus) for men and women like John who are desperate for Jesus and are ready to learn and be faithful in following Him.  They are out there and they may come your way at the least expected times.  Be in prayer and be ready to act when the Spirit guides you.  Live out 2 Timothy 2:2 with all your heart and make Jesus' prime directive (Matthew 28:19-20) your prime directive.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Casual or Caustic Christianity - A Personal Note from my time in India.

(This entry was a note to our local network of Organic Churches here in Phoenix, Arizona during a trip to South India to visit Edith Greet's Bethel Foundation in February, 2012)

Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

Thanks for your prayers for Debbie and myself during these days while we are in India. They are felt and we are blessed. On a lighter side, I feel like I have gained 4kgs (9 pounds)! We are constantly being fed and there is always more food available. We feel like Kings and Queens - the hospitaly of the Indian people is amazing and I know I am learning much from their generousity even when they have so little (2 Cor. 8). 

Much of our time these days is being spent listening to and interacting with Edith Greet (Debbie's Great Aunt) who has done a marvelous work here in South India and yet, she is mostly unknown according to local people.  This is excellent because it means she does not seek her own glory or status. This is sad because I believe the more widely known this work is, the more influence her work will have well beyond this area. 

It seems that I am able to peak a little closer into our own US culture now that I have been here in India for almost two weeks. This trip is much different than any other I have been on. It is a much slower paced trip with less teaching and more observation and learning. This slower pace has aloud me to ponder my own life and our US culture. The Lord has also had me reading Luke 9, 10 and 14 which deals much with discipleship and the cost of it all. I would encourage you to spend some time reading Luke 9,10 and 14 on your own, asking Jesus to share His heart for you concerning following Him. 

In my journal the other day I wrote a short paragraph regarding Luke 14:34-35. This is where Jesus calls us to be salt but if salt loses its taste, it will become useless. I thought about my friend Dezi Baker who says that Chistians need to be different enough to make a difference..we need to be salty. We need to give flavor and a sense of preservation to the world with which we interact. If we simply, 'blend in' with our culture, we offer no preservatives nor flavor. In essence, we become useless. So in my life, I am purposing to become more salty/different so that I can make a difference - add flavor and offer preservative qualities to the lives of people with which I interact. I want to be a strong follower of Jesus, not a strong preserver of my comfort. 

One more thought from my time here in India thus far. I am learning that Christianity should not be casual but should be caustic. What I mean by that is that when Christianity is casual, it will normally conform to the culture we find ourselves, we blend in. I am seeing this lived out here in India and I see it a bit more clearly in our own culture. Here in Cochi, India, the Christian topic seems to be mostly about people adorning themselves with jewlery etc. (2 Peter 3:3-6). There is no thought that the car you drive or the motorcyle or even the watch you wear (watches have funcion and are therefore not adornments...even if they happen to cost a lot of money - so the logic goes). To us, this may seem like a meaningless focus but we have many such controversies in western Christianity. We think we are being spiritual or pleasing to Jesus when we focus on such matters, however, it seems to take our attention away from the command of Jesus to be making disciples and of His sending us out into the midst of wolves as sheep. When we focus on our own minor issues, we often just fit into the world. We may be odd to the world (you mean you can't wear jewlerly) but we are not salty (offering life and hope to a very thirsty world). 

What I mean by caustic is that Christianity should be attacking the culture by offering it a better way of living which attacks the current way of living. By offering love not selfisness. By offering generousity not greed. By offering words of encouragement to build up others instead of shooting words of self-preservation that build ourselves up. The word caustic may sound harsh, but Jesus was caustic. When He states that if we want to follow Him we must hate (place behind our affection and commitment to Jesus) all of our close relations or we cannot be His follower, that is caustic. When Jesus states that unless we die to our current life by taking up the cross daily (everyday), we cannot be His follower, that attackes (is caustic) our souls. When Jesus says that we must let go of our possessions and trust Him with them or we cannot be His follower, these are caustic words. They attack our self-preservation perspectives and demand we be transformed by the Spirit of God. 

So, this is more of a short reading of my journal than a report on our activities here. This trip is more about my soul being challenged and about me learning than about me teaching. When I look at the sacrfice that Edith Greet* has made to make an impact on the orphan girls of Kerala, India, I can hardly put my life in the same category. I do not mean to compare my calling with Edith's but when I look at all she has endured, accomplished and passed on, I want to imitate that with my whole heart. We look forward to being home and sharing our experiences with you in person. Please feel free to write us back or to respond to what I have written about what I am learning. I pray this note is of some benefit to you.

*May I encourage you to send a short note or gift to Edith Greet?  You may contact her at grtvirginia@gmail.com

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Truth, Adventure and Mystery of Evangelism

For too long the truth, adventure, mystery and joy that comes with giving away the life of Jesus has been stolen from the ordinary believer.  We have been taught methods of sharing Jesus that feel more cold, distanced and dutiful than life giving.  We have heard that just a few gifted ones will really be successful at evangelism.  This is yet another blow designed to sideline the ordinary person from engaging in the supernatural act of sharing the life of Jesus with those who are so thirsty to taste the goodness of God.

The Truth
The great commission is often seen as Jesus’ marching orders to make disciples which must include the initial and ongoing sharing of Jesus’ good news with those who have not yet heard.  The great commission and Jesus’ similar instructions to the twelve in Acts 1:8 were delivered directly to His twelve Apostles.  This has caused some to believe that not every follower of Jesus is responsible to engage in giving away the life of Christ; it simply is not their gift.  This is not the truth.  There is an often overlooked statement in the great commission that instructs the Twelve to be teaching their disciples “...to obey everything I have commanded you”.  The Twelve were to teach the ordinary believer to obey everything Jesus taught them which includes the making of disciples or the being a witness to all the world.  Everyone is responsible to be intentionally sharing the life of Jesus with the world.

The truth is that the ordinary person is a competent minister of the good news (2 Cor. 3:6).  The truth is that success in evangelism should be measured by conversations about Jesus not conversions to Jesus.  Ordinary people are only responsible to tell about and demonstrate the love of Jesus.  Only Supernatural beings are responsible for the results, “I planted, Apollos watered but God was causing the growth.” (1 Cor. 3:6-7).  Everyone is an evangelizer and success is measured by obedience to share. 

The Adventure
The church needs to rediscover what has been stolen from them.  We need to give back the cold, distanced and dutiful methodologies* of evangelism for the more adventurous, risky and romantic renditions that only Jesus can create and place in our souls.  The church needs some fresh adventures in understanding how serious Jesus is at getting the message into the souls of people.  When we think about engaging people with the truth we should capture the understanding that Jesus is a customizer of methods, not a cookie cutter.

Jesus will take a believer with all their experiences and fears and have them cross the paths of not-yet-believing people who are a perfect fit for the customized approach Jesus gives the believer, at the perfect time.  This requires trust and obedience but it is exactly what Jesus promised.  Jesus said He will give us the right words at the right time, every time (Luke 21:13-15).  This takes the level of our faith and evangelism to a whole new meaning of adventure.

The Mystery
I can count fifteen people who shared Jesus with me in some form or fashion before Ralph shared the same truth with me and my life was transformed radically.  Who was more important in my choosing to follow Jesus, the fifteen or Ralph?  Was Ralph more gifted or skilled or persuasive than the others?  Did Ralph ‘close the deal‘ because he has an anointing ?  I believe that all sixteen of those who told me about Jesus are equally vital to my process of turning to Jesus.  All salvation experiences are mysterious.  Some are dramatic, some are mundane, others cannot be marked by an event.  Salvation is always a supernatural event where the God of the universe enters the life of a human being permanently.  When the rich young ruler heard what was required by Jesus to gain eternal life, he became very sad.  Jesus’ disciples asked him if a rich man can’t be saved “...then who can be saved?”.  Jesus answered, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” (Luke 18:18-27).

Enjoy the freedom of not knowing what God is doing in a soul - enjoy the mystery.  Be assured, however, that God is doing something in the souls of those with whom you share His truth.  Trust in His God perfect and powerful ability to draw people to repentance in the way they need.  Obediently follow His lead, even when it doesn’t make sense because most mysteries do not make sense.

The bottom line regarding evangelism is to enjoy it (weird huh?).  Jesus is an artist of the soul.  He created you specifically to engage the people He brings in your life with His truth.  Enjoy His adjusting the delivery of the message to fit the current need of the one listening to your words.

If we learn to enjoy sharing the life of Jesus with others as He leads us, we will most assuredly share that life more often and with more passion.  The Scriptures teach that the more we sow, the more we will reap.  The power behind people coming to Jesus is not in any delivery, method or medium.  The power behind people coming to Jesus is always in message (Rom. 1:16) so give away the message often and with joy and enjoy watching God at work.

* God can, has and will continue to use a more formal, methodological approach to giving out the Gospel.  It is not wrong to do so, however, it has robbed the fun of spiritual reproduction from the ordinary believer.  The giving out of the Word will never return without an effect on the one hearing the truth.