Monday, May 16, 2016

The Necessity of Together

Jesus wasn’t kidding when he commanded every one of his followers to be engaged in helping each other to become like Him - making disciples (Matthew 28:16-20). Disciple making brings life to the soul. There are many ways that discipleship can be done but it must include the following basic ingredients: relationship, time investment and intentionally pointing each other to become more like Jesus. In Paul’s last letter, he instructs his closest disciple of over thirteen years, Timothy, that discipleship includes walking together in the same direction (2 Timothy 2:22 - Nurturing Relationships), a saturation of the Word of God in our souls (2 Timothy 3:16-17 - Divine Truth) and a strong engagement of sharing the good news of Christ with others as our mission (2 Timothy 4:5 - Apostolic Mission).

Discipleship is a core principle for the health of the church. When each believer takes seriously the task of growing deep in Christ with others, the gospel spreads wildly. Individualistic faith journeys, a hallmark of western Christianity, are not found in the Scriptures. Growth and spiritual reproduction always happens in relationship. Jesus sent out His disciples two by two (Matthew 10, Luke 10), He told us to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16-20), all of the Paul’s missionary journey’s in the book of Acts were done in communal relationships, the one another’s of the New Testament speak to our need of discipleship and Paul’s last letter focused on discipleship (2 Timothy 2:2). Discipleship requires sacrifice. Sacrifices of time, energy, transparency, forgiveness, risk and love. Discipleship is a necessity for true spiritual health.

Recently I had opportunity to hang out with several people who all said they were followers of Christ Jesus. They were from a variety of faith communities including Presbyterian, Evangelical, Methodist and Catholic. We had many spiritual conversations as I mostly listened and sprinkled our conversations with a few questions and comments. During these conversations I heard thoughts from devotionals, quotes from their pastors or priests, a recalling of what their brand of church promotes and a sprinkling of insights from the Big Book (from alcoholics anonymous), celebrate recovery and the twelve step program. None of them referred to the Scriptures as their source of truth to guide their lives. 

Some of their insights had hints of Scriptural truth but many others were really far from the truth. Each of these dear people were searching for meaning in their life and a greater purpose. They were wounded, sincere people in their faith but immature because they saw their faith as something that was administered to them by professionals. Although these people were somewhat faithful in attending church services, they had no real connection to the people in their churches nor to their spiritual leaders. Because their faith had been reduced to individualistic faith journeys of attendance with no relationship or accountability, they all were floundering on many levels of their faith. They were filled with doubts, disillusionment and despair. They were each hovering on spiritual poverty if they were not already steeped in it. 
A few choice questions and Biblical passages of encouragement from me brought life to their eyes. Most commented that they wished we could spend more time together. Their pain was real and deep and taking more of their soul. Who will walk with them to dig out of the mire clay?

Becoming more like Jesus is to be the goal of each His followers. To be more like Jesus must mean you can’t continue to be who you are today. Dying to yourself on a daily basis (Galatians 2:20) and putting on Christ (Romans 13:14) are crucial decisions each believer must make in community as we walk this earth. We are to “…flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22 emphasis mine). Being transparent and vulnerable with a few others is dangerous, risky, bold and healthy in our fight to be more like Jesus Christ. 

Are you living an individualistic faith journey or a saturated faith journey engaged with others? Should you choose the former you will likely miss the deep satisfaction of abiding in Christ and end up living for yourself. Should you choose the latter, you will find a deeper fulfillment and your life will be saturated with Scripture, living out the one others of the Bible and a missional bent to invite others to do the same…and the world will be blessed. 

I pray these thoughts have been of some benefit to you. I would love to interact with you on this topic.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Happiness and Satisfaction - Part 2

When we seek to find satisfaction in our accomplishments, we end up pouring ourselves into the tasks that promise satisfaction but leave us wanting more. The focus of our life  centers on us instead of Christ. Chasing satisfaction, self-worth or money are all fleeting objects of worship (Eccl. 5:10). Yup, read that last sentence again...all of us have worshipped satisfaction, self-worth, money or all three! 

We need to have confidence (self-worth), but not in ourselves. Our confidence should come  from Christ living through us (Philippians 1:6, 4:13, Hebrews 4:16). We should live abundant (satisfaction) lives, but that is only found in the ways of Christ (Psalm 16:11, 17:15). We all need money to provide for ourselves and families, but chasing (loving) money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).

In my last post, I wrote to you that finding true happiness happens when we become more and more like Jesus (Psalm 95:1-7; Matthew 5:6) not by pursuing self. Happiness comes through pursuing Christ as our priority and reminding ourselves about all He has done for us. His love for us is motivating like nothing else.

Psalm 95:1-7 invites us to remember what God has done for us and to enter into worshipping Him in community; "Come let US worship and bow down...". 

Psalm 95:8-11 warns us to not harden our hearts towards the Lord as the children of Israel did in the wilderness. 

8 The lord says, “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah,
as they did at Massah in the wilderness.
9 For there your ancestors tested and tried my patience,
even though they saw everything I did.
10 For forty years I was angry with them, and I said,
‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me.
They refuse to do what I tell them.’
11 So in my anger I took an oath:
‘They will never enter my place of rest.’” (Psalm 95:8-11 (NLT)

The above verses are referring to Exodus 16-17. The children of Israel saw the Lord provide daily food in the form of manna and meat and yet, they did not trust Him to care for their need of water. They complained against God and even said they wish they had not left Egypt where they were slaves and poorly treated. This caused God to be disappointed with them. That generation did not experience the promised land - they lost their reward but not their relationship with Christ. 

Happiness comes when we remember and are grateful for all that Christ has done for us. Trying to create satisfaction never works for very long. Resting in Christ, trusting Him and keeping His priorities are truths that will never disappoint...but...we must believe and trust Him. Who do you trust more, your own efforts or God's priorities?

Would love to hear your thoughts!