Thursday, March 27, 2014

Humility - A Gateway Character Quality

The world disciples us to be the center of attention. Today, the discipleship of narcissism begins as babies. When children wear bibs that say "Chick Magnet" and "Supermodel" as they suck on pacifiers that imitate "bling" and their mommy reads them the new nursery rhyme, "This Little Piggy Went to Parada", something is seriously wrong. If that is not enough, Little Jackie came out with a hit song a few years ago titled, "I Believe the World Should Revolve Around Me."* Here are the words to the chorus:

I've had a lot of failed relationships
I don't get involved because I'm not equipped
I believe that the world should revolve around me!

I don't see the point of partnership
It won't be long until they start to trip
Yes siree, that whole world should revolve around me!

Humility has been lost in our culture and believers need to lead the way in rediscovering it. I believe humility to be a gateway character trait that leads to maturity and being spirit filled. The quality of humility allows us to be shaped by God in dynamic ways. Humility is often one of the lead qualities when leaders or maturity in faith is discussed in the Scriptures. Notice this sampling of Scriptures concerning Humility:

"It is to be a sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute. (Leviticus 16:31)

Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)

"You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. (Deuteronomy 8:2)

"In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end. (Deuteronomy 8:16)

13 "If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, 14 and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 "Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place. (2 Chronicles 7:13-15)

Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions. (Ezra 8:21)

O LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear. (Psalm 10:17)

He leads the humble in justice, And He teaches the humble His way. (Psalm 25:9)

But the humble will inherit the land And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity. (Psalm 37:11)

29 But I am afflicted and in pain; May Your salvation, O God, set me securely on high. 30 I will praise the name of God with song And magnify Him with thanksgiving. 31 And it will please the LORD better than an ox Or a young bull with horns and hoofs. 32 The humble have seen it and are glad; You who seek God, let your heart revive. 33 For the LORD hears the needy and does not despise His who are prisoners. (Psalm 69:29-33)  

It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly Than to divide the spoil with the proud. (Psalm 16:19)   

A man's pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor.  (Proverbs 29:23)

"For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being," declares the LORD. "But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word. (Isaiah 66:2)

Seek the LORD, All you humble of the earth Who have carried out His ordinances; Seek righteousness, seek humility. Perhaps you will be hidden In the day of the LORD'S anger. (Zephaniah 2:3)

"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. (Matthew 11:29)

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.(Philippians 2:8)

To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit (1 Peter 3:8)

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time (1 Peter 5:6)

These Scriptures teach us that we cannot get along in our faith without humility! Humility is vital to our spiritual strength and is used by God to develop us into a godly people. Humility teaches us perseverance through the trials of life and gives us an outlook throughout life that keeps us focused on the ways of God which benefits the world!

Humility is a gateway trait that leads us in the way of Christ! Next time I will discuss what a humble life looks like and how we can move in the direction of humility.

*You can find the complete lyrics to this song HERE (warning it is explicit at points)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Connecting Informally...A Key to Authenticity in Church!

In some recent conversations I've noticed that many people are connecting purely through their 'organized' church meetings. For some this is at a Sunday Church service, for others it is through a house church meeting and for others it is through a Life Transformation Group meeting. All of these encounters are good and necessary (Hebrews 10:19-25) but are missing an important element in building a true sense of community and authenticity.

In one chat with a friend*, I asked this person if she knew about one individual's family story whom we were discussing. She did not know anything about this persons background. I then asked if she had ever met with this person outside of a house church meeting in order to share their stories of how God had developed them throughout their lives. It was quickly evident that this sort of conversation had never taken place. Each week this wonderful woman had greeted her friend at a church meeting and even had dinner weekly at their house church, and yet, no deeper conversations had taken place. These people have been meeting for over a year and yet coffee or a movie or game night had never taken place. This may be because of the amount of people around, an 'agenda' that needed to be carried out or the pressures of a meeting, no matter how organic they may have seemed.

Connecting with people outside of formal settings is vital to authentic and committed relationships! Until we know each other's stories, pains, joys, dreams and passions, organic (natural) connections are not very possible. God certainly breaks through in these more organized meetings and strong ministry is given and received but friends don't only meet in formalized settings. Something needs to change. I wonder how normal this type of relationship that only happen in formalized settings are? 

What do you think about this concept? Is it true in your experience? How can we move beyond 'organized' friends to 'organic' friends? What needs to shift in our mindset or lives to accomplish this?

*Some elements of this conversation were changed to keep the situation anonymous.

Friday, March 14, 2014

You Couldn't Get Away With This At Work!

I received a call some time ago from a couple who wanted to experience church with more community and closer to their home. This couple had read one of the organic/missional church books recently and God was stirring them to make a change. This couple wanted to come and hang out at one of our house churches. I asked them to grab some coffee with me, share our stories and discover how we might be able to work together.

We set an appointment for the following week and sat down to talk. They had been followers of Jesus for more than a couple of decades and had been part of very strong church ministries and proclaimed these church as very good and strong in teaching the Bible. I listened closely and once they finished I began to ask them a few questions.

"Tell me a time," I began, "when you have spent time discipling one or two others who then followed your example and did the same thing you did with them." There was not an answer.  I then asked, "Well, tell me about some other people who you have spent time with in the Word and confessed your sins together on a regular basis and also worked together in seeing people come to know Jesus." The response was they had served as church office assistants, Sunday School teachers and helped with other short term social ministries through their local churches. It was apparent that these dear people had not learned to disciple others with life on life living. Unfortunately, this is a common story.

I decided to test the waters a bit more to see how serious they were at pursuing this new direction of church. I said, "Well, I don't think the churches you have been a part of are really all that good."  This caused their jaws to drop. They gave me an incorrigible look of horror. I smiled and responded, "Either those churches did not equip you to make disciples or you were not obedient to make disciples. Jesus said that everyone of His followers is responsible to make disciples as they go through life.  Making disciples is not an option or reserved for the vocational leaders."

Every Christian is an Ambassador for the Kingdom of Heaven to our world. Every believer has been given the word and ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:17-21). Now that is a powerful assignment for the youngest to the oldest believer, from the most seasoned to the immature and new believer. This means that every follower of Christ has the lifelong vocation of an Ambassador. The problem is that the vast majority of believers think they are still in training toward being an Ambassador when the truth is they have already been given this assignment. In fact, most believers never plan on leaving their job training program of sitting in church monthly to learn more truth that rarely gets lived out.

If every believer is a vocational Ambassador for the Kingdom of Heaven, this 'vocation' is the only one allowing workers to be in an eternal 'orientation' for the job and are never expected to produce for their employer (Jesus). After 1 year, 5 years, 10 years and even 30+ years of sitting in orientation meetings, believers can get away with never having produced a single follower of Christ. Not only this but they are lauded for their faithfulness to the orientation process (church meetings). In every other vocational arena, a person would be fired for this of lack of production. We must ask why it is allowed in the church? Could it be this is at the very core of why the church is not expanding?

If after many years of attending orientation meetings, people still don't believe they are competent to be successful ministers of the Gospel (2 Cor. 3:4-6), then those churches are not teaching people what the Bible teaches. If this is not true, these churches have no relationship with the people in the meetings to form community and mentoring so they can be producing at their vocation of being an Ambassador of heaven. This must change! You couldn't get away with this at your job!

What do you think about this topic? Why is it true that most followers of Christ are not intentionally helping others to be like Jesus? Why have churches not been successful at equipping and releasing believers in this most holy assignment of being Ambassadors of heaven? What do you think the church must do differently to get people believing this truth and out in the world as qualified Ambassadors?

Let the conversation begin!

Thursday, March 06, 2014

"It's in There!"

In the 1980's, I remember a commercial for Prego Spaghetti Sauce which claimed that this brand of canned sauce contained everything that a made from scratch sauce by mamma contained and it tasted just as good.  The tag line for Prego Spaghetti Sauce was, "It's in there!". Here is one of those 30 second commercials from the 1980's.

Like the father in this commercial, most believers do not believe that they actually contain the real spiritual 'sauce' to be competent ministers of the New Covenant (2 Cor. 3:6). This understanding has lead to more passive church goers instead of passionate disciples who believe that God has [super]naturally formed every one of His followers to be powerful ministers (diakonous - deacons or servants) to impact the world.

When competency has been limited to the trained and ordained, the impact on the world has been restricted to the confines of church meetings lead by 'the competent' ones.  Today many people think that they must enter holy buildings to experience the presence of the Holy effectively.  But is this what the Scriptures teach us?

"I planted you in the land, like a special vine of the very best stock."
Jeremiah 2:21a (NET)

When God chose the nation Israel, He intended for every Israelite to be a faithful seed of power and impact in the land they inhabited. God made each of them from the very best stock so the could grow and produce a goodness that could not be known apart from relationship with God.

In the New Testament God states this truth in powerful ways;

3 Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ. 4 For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. 5 He did this by predestining us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will. 
Ephesians 1:3-5 (NET) emphasis is mine

All believers have every blessing God could possibly give without reserve! He blessed every follower of His '...according to the pleasure of his will'. God is pleased to impart to everyone of His followers (to you) the ability to make a strong and direct positive impact in the communities that they travel.

'...his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the right knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence.'
2 Peter 1:3 (NET) emphasis is mine

You have been gifted everything necessary to be a powerful tool in God's hand from the moment you became a follower of Jesus Christ. This is done by God's divine power. Certainly maturity, knowledge and experience will be coaxed out of a person throughout their life by the Holy Spirit and mentors but from the beginning of our faith in Christ, we have everything we need to be impactful in our world.

"It's in there".  The divine ability to be a competent minister of the New Covenant is in you right now.  It is up to you to live this out. We must each discover how God wants these amazing qualities to be lived out throughout your lifetime. Your life matters to God and to those around you. You are a permanent possibly in God's hands and He means for you to be generous in living out this deep truth. A powerful impacting life for Christ is meant for the youngest, newest, oldest and most mature of believers.

There are weeds and pressures in life that want to come against us and steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10) this ability. We have the choice to believe the lie that you are not able (too much sin, not enough training or simply too common of a person) or to believe the truth that you are all God has placed in you immediately at the time of your allegiance to Him.

So which will you believe; that you are to live a common life or an uncommon one?  Will you take the responsibility to explore with Jesus how to live out this truth about you or will you live passively and watch others do what God craves for you to experience first hand? Will you move in truth or stagnate and be spiritually mundane?

I want to encourage you to choose to move out when you don't know what to do.  Choose to take risks of loving more deeply than you thought possible. Expose your life to the peril of rejection and failure and watch God stand up and cheer you on. He has already given you everything you need to live in this way. When the world is full of believers who walk in this truth, we will see God glorified like never before.

I would love to hear your comments on this important topic. 

"It will come about at that time that I will search Jerusalem with lamps, And I will punish the men who are stagnant in spirit, who say in their hearts, 'The LORD will not do good or evil!'  
Zephaniah 1:12 (NET)

"18 Others are the ones sown among thorns: They are those who hear the word, 19 but worldly cares, the seductiveness of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it produces nothing."  
Mark 3:18-29 NET