Going

Matthew 28:18-19 says, “All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me, go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” Jesus said this.

Let’s break this down a little in the context of our connectedness to God. It’s the same connectedness I talked about in the previous post on Prayer. Jesus claimed that we could abide in him and his word abide in us. Then he went a step further and said he was actually in us (John 14:20). Let’s put the pieces together, John 14:20 + Matthew 28:18 = we have the power of Jesus to do exactly what he commanded. Even if we looked at these verse individually, Jesus has all the power in the world to give us a disciple and it’s on God’s heart that we make disciples so… We can totally pray with this perspective!

So, if we really believe Jesus we can believe that he can and will give us disciples. If we believe what Jesus said here, we have no excuses not to go. In fact we can go with the expectation that God will give us a guy or gal to mentor and disciple toward obedience to Christ. As a good friend and mentor has always reminded me, if you don’t have a guy you can start praying for one. God has always answered this prayer.

Here’s a Major reason why we go. Romans 10:14-15, “how then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘how beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news.'”

Ultimately it’s going to take sacrifice. We must selflessly make ourselves available and intentionally place ourselves in places where we can rub shoulders with those that don’t know Jesus. Learn to say no to “your time” and yes to God time and people loving time. (Caution: this does not mean stop carving out time to intentionally rest in and with God).

Waylon Moore shared this simple story in his booklet ‘The Power of Mentor:’ The story is about Waylons daughter Martha who planned a summer vacation to visit a student she led to Christ. Here friend worked as a fitness and recreation instructor at a summer resort. Her time was limited. So Martha didn’t wait for this young woman’s free time. She signed up for the activities: stretch class, aerobics, hay ride, and (yawn!) the early morning walks. Martha was willing to do whatever it took to get into the live of her friends busy life! 

Here’s the implication: If there are 5.2 billion people without Christ in this broken world and the key way God has decided to get the gospel to them is through followers of Jesus going and making disciples, then what are we waiting for?

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Prayer

What if I told you Jesus claimed we could ask God of anything and He would do it. Hard to believe, right… Well, Jesus makes it pretty clear in John 15:7 when Jesus says, “if you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done to you.”

Jesus wants us to be so connected to him that the things we ask are the very things on Gods heart and the things God wants to give us. I believe this connectedness is so much deeper than we can even think. It’s as though this kind of faith can only come from God , yet at the same time something we strive for.

We strive for connectedness to God through getting to know him. Reading the Bible and spending intentional time with Him. The reason why we carve time out of our week to get with God is because he wants to get with us! He loves us so much that he doesn’t ask us to read the Bible, pray, have devotional times simply for the sake of command, but because he actually wants to spend time with us.

What does prayer have to do with perspective though? Truth is, it all ties together. If our perspective is God’s perspective we’ll pray for the things he want’s us to be praying for. Namely, his proclamation among all peoples – his ultimate glorification in any and every decision a Christian ever makes. Jesus told us to start our prayers like this, “Father, hallow be your name (your name be honored), your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” It’s on Gods heart for his kingdom to come and his will be done. We read later in Revelations how people form every tongue, tribe, and nation will worship God in heaven. It’s all about God.

Here’s the implication: The more we know God, love God, and trust God, the more his perspective becomes our perspective (He becomes our identity). This is where prayer becomes paramount. His perspective is so beyond our perception that we must go to him in prayer as a way to take part in his plan to reach all nations with the gospel and for him to be glorified by all nations through salvation in Jesus.

 

 

Perspective

I was riding today and prayed, “God give me your perspective.” I don’t do this enough. I mean, I don’t seem to pray this prayer enough… Think this enough… Want this enough…

There are people all over the world right now, who don’t know Jesus and it’s far to easy to just sit… watch… listen… Let’s take action, friends.

7.4 billion people in the world. As of 2010 an estimated 2.2 billion of those claim to be Christian. Who knows how much less really follow the claims of Christ… Lets go with the 2.2 billion who claim to be Christian though, that still leaves us with 5.2 billion people in the world who are without Christ spending eternity apart from the God of the universe.

So, thats billions of people who may have heard the gospel, yet reject it. Billions of people who have never even heard the gospel of God. Billions of people who are captive to other gods and have never heard of Jesus…

Please,

Join in praying for all people to know Christ.

Join in going to all people with the gospel.

Join in sending your friends and family in going to all people with the good news of Gods salvation through Jesus.

Seek out resources online and in your Christian community to get more involved in what God is doing all over the globe!

Practicalities of intentionality

What does practicalities of intentionality mean? Now, read this article carefully because how I am going to answer this question must manifest itself in the context of the Holy Spirit changing us and guiding us as we seek God in our relationships. Ultimately it must spring out of genuine love for others and an urgency for people to be reunited with God. Otherwise it’s only a matter of personal gain, and that has no eternal value. In the following paragraphs I will try to answer the question with 3 practical steps in being intentional in our relationships. These steps lead in one direction; spreading the gospel and discipleship.

Meeting people – This is step number one. What this means is simply taking initiative and trying to meet people, get their contact information so you can move on to step number two. I learned this the hard way on an overseas trip to Central Asia. Our team would teach English to university students or go to the park to play sports and meet people. Well, often times we would meet someone, hit it off, and then forget to get the person’s number and never see them again. I would always kick myself for forgetting to get the guys number, because it meant I could not further our friendship. Now, we must remember God has purpose in all of our encounters no matter how long or short. So, don’t be discouraged if you’ve had this happen to you before, but we can strive to invest more heavily in people.

Inviting people – There are two parts to this. Inviting people you’ve met into your life, and then seeking an invitation into their lives. Jesus invited people into His life. He made it a point to ask people to follow Him. He invited 4000+ people to eat with Him, twice! He gave an open invitation to all, but He also invited Himself into the lives of His friends. He sought invitation into the lives of the tax collectors; such as with His disciple Matthew or the Samaritan woman at the well. He even invited Himself into the vary places where people hated Him. Jesus not only invited people into His life, but He showed a genuine interest in the lives of those He invited.

You can’t go wrong with this step. Everyone want’s to feel loved and inviting someone over for dinner or out to coffee is a way to show that love and belonging. So, even if they say no, being faithful to simply inviting is worth it. Also, you must remember who you are in Christ. For even if people deny you, you are not denied by God! He sent Jesus to be denied on our behalf so that we could be accepted and loved by Him.

Investing in people – This is the long term commitment to a friendship. This is what is born out of step one and two. This is what you should be striving for as you seek to be intentional with people. This is most often the time that someone get’s to really share the gospel or their testimony for the first time.

This step starts when you start inviting people into your life. The only thing with this step is you don’t stop doing it until God literally stops you. This might be because you are no longer geographically near each other or able to see each other or maybe the person you’re investing in has simply moved on. We must trust God and be faithful as we invest in people no matter how long or short.

Here are some principles to remember as you take these steps in your relationships:

Philippians 2:3-7 Have a servants attitude putting other’s above yourself.

Galatians 6:9 Keep at it! Don’t stop doing good; don’t stop meeting people, inviting people, and investing in people.

2 Corinthians 12:15 Even if you don’t feel any love in return God’s love for you will not change. Look at Ephesians 3:18-19 and Psalm 103:11-13 to see how much God loves you.

Multiplying Disciples

Here are a few things you need to hear about discipleship. Like the previous post on maturity in Christ; this is no exhaustive list and I am no expert. I simply want to get people thinking about who Jesus was and what He want’s of our lives.

  1. Jesus was serious about His followers making disciples.
  2. Making disciples means multiplying disciples.
  3. This verb “disciple” is all about helping others grow in their love for God, maturity in Christ, and their vision to helps others grow in the same way.

Firstly, before I expound on these thoughts I want to make clear what a disciple is. A disciple is simply someone who has professed faith. A Christian. I was reminded of this last night as I listened to a quick talk by John Piper. I do not want to elude anyone to think that there is a difference between a disciple-maker and a disciple; they are one in the same. The means to which we make disciples range as wide and far as God’s eyes can see. Isaiah 55:8-9 makes it clear that our God’s ways are different than ours. Also look at proverbs 19:21.

  1. Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus makes it clear that His disciples are to “go out into the world and make disciples.” This was a commission or mandate to His followers.
  2. 2 Timothy 2:2 shows Paul’s heart for there to be generations of disciples. Paul encourages Timothy to pass on what he heard from Paul to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. We see four generations here: Paul, Timothy, faithful men, Others also.
  3. Discipleship is all about helping and encouraging others to come into a closer relationship with God. This is discipleship in it’s rawest form. If you look at Jesus’ life; wasn’t that exactly what He did and continues to do? He constantly tried to help His followers get closer to God. Jesus shared His prayer life with the 12. Jesus shared His public life with the 12. Jesus even brought some of the 12 into the presence of God (or even in Himself Jesus constantly brought people into the presence of God). This is exactly what we are to do with those that are in our lies. Read the entire chapter of 1st Thessalonians 2 and get a picture of what this looked like with Paul.

If you were to look back at your life and ask the question: As a follower of Christ, was I helping others grow in their relationship with God, their maturity in Christ, and their vision to do this with others? Because doing this should be of absolute importance as we seek to spread the gospel throughout the whole world.

Here’s a link to the 9 minute talk from John Piper

 

Maturity in Christ

Here are a few things you need to know about maturity in Christ. This is not an exhaustive list and I’m sure there could be much added; it is simply three key thoughts that came to mind. I also will not, and can not claim to be an expert on this topic so read carefully and take time yourself to figure out what God says about spiritual maturity.

  1. Maturing in Christ requires giving Him your life.
  2. Maturing in Christ comes through obedience to Christ.
  3. Maturing in Christ means you will grow in faith.

Click on verse to go strait to reference.

1. Luke 9:23-26 From the git-go, the follower of Christ must give his/her life entirely to Jesus. Here are some examples of this: Mark 1:17-10, Acts 7:59-60, Romans 8:36-39

2. Matthew 28:20 Jesus could only ask His disciples to teach others to “obey all that He commanded them” if they sought to obey all that Jesus commanded. Here are some other references: Matthew 5:17-20, Matthew 22:37-40

Don’t miss this: For every Christian obedience to Christ completely means obeying His mandate toward His disciples to, “go therefore and make disciples.”

3. Luke 17:5-6 As we mature in Christ I believe we will continually come back to this; God give me faith. Wanting to believe God is God is a constant in our maturity. Do you believe your faith – namely faith that God is the creator of the universe and has power over all things even the supernatural, unseen, and unknown – can uproot a tree or move a mountain? Here’s some examples: Matthew 14:28-33, Luke 12:22-28

I want to expound on this faith aspect of our maturity. Paul writes about God completing our faith. In fact faith is at the very core of the gospel. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “for by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” To think that this faith can grow and that God increases and completes our faith is something to be excited about as you mature in Christ!

My greatest hope is that you investigate these thoughts for yourself. Then, ask the question – don’t judge – just ask the question: Is our / my focus as a community or individually to mature in Christ or is it something else??? Don’t lie to yourself, because if you find yourself answering with “no” and you think the focus is something different; say number of attendance, good worship music, or an inviting atmosphere then maybe you or your community needs to rethink what you’re focused on.

Strive for solid food. Hebrews 5:11-14

Sacrifice

Sacrifice. It is selfless. Being selfless is hard.

I wish I was a better example of this, but I’m not. Maybe some of you can relate. My hope is that by God’s strength I can be more selfless every new day.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Jesus’ words in Luke 9:23.

Every day I wake up and I want… I want, I want, I want. Just like a baby. It’s instinct to to be selfish. I’ve gotten to spend the last 3 weeks hanging with family which includes my two year old niece. I love my niece to death, but it’s funny to watch how selfish she is (I’m not saying this of her character obviously, but her humanity). Humans are clearly born with a predisposition to be selfish, it’s hardwired into our brains and for many it stays hardwired.

But, Jesus asks two BIG things of those who come after Him.

1. deny self: Above all, think of yourself last. Selfless.

2. pick up cross daily: Deny yourself to the point of suffering every single day. In Jesus’ time the cross was a device of torture; it killed a person slowly and painfully. Sacrifice.

The truth is, Being selfless is not easy and sacrificing is not painless. But if we truly believe Jesus, it is completely worth giving our whole lives to Him. In my opinion this is the biggest, and most important sacrifice we can give. In essence, this is denying self and picking up our cross daily and following Jesus.

Getting the gospel to the nations will require us to give it all to Jesus. Literally.

Pray with me as I really want this to be true for my life, as well as yours.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:5

 

The search for meaning

The search for meaning is a life-long journey for most people. Over the last few months I’ve had multiple conversations with a friend that lead to this assumption. “There’s gotta be more,” he’s said. There’s gotta be more to a relationship than surface level conversation. Or “there’s gotta be more to this life than work. Well, there’s the weekend I guess.” “But when I said, “but even then weekend…” Implying, even the weekend lacks meaning or purpose. He seemed to agree.

See, every human being is going to have to come to terms with this very simple question. What’s the meaning and purpose of life? If it’s only to toil, and strive, and struggle, what’s the point?

I met a guy about 7 year’s ago at a small community college. He and his twin brother were in my philosophy class. I loved the guys. They were more bold than I’ll ever be and they were only 17; I was 19. They’d ask tough questions or share their faith in bold response to fellow classmates condemning Christianity. I admired them and eventually we became friends.

One day I asked one of them for his story. He shared and it was powerful. What stood out most profoundly was when he mentioned the philosophical reality; that if their is no meaning or purpose in this world there is no point to life… Like the guy was extremely distraught as he serious searched for true meaning in life. He couldn’t find it. He looked in all the right places in my mind: other religions, science, philosophy… But he couldn’t seem to find it. He was incredibly smart, yet still could not find true source of meaning for his life.

I remember him telling me that he even contemplated suicide, for if there was no meaning why struggle in life and experience all the pain in the world for 80 plus years? He wasn’t the kind of kid that seemed like he would do something so extreme. In fact he seemed the exact opposite as he was a 4.0 student, working toward a college degree at age 17, and extremely bright. None the less, no meaning meant no life. Through the struggle to find truth he finally came to a conclusion. He concluded that Jesus had to have been right. My friend began to receive and believe Jesus’ teachings as truth, and what happened next was incredible. His life began to change and he found true meaning and purpose for his life in the source of the God of the universe who sent Jesus Christ into the world to reconcile sinful man to God. My friend found meaning in that truth.

Now, I’m writing this in response to the conversations I’ve had or to people I’ve seen who’ve been out of college for several year’s and seemed to have settled into a comfortable life and routine. I want to encourage people to see anew the bright purpose God intends for our lives. Jesus asked His followers to “pick up their cross daily.” Please consider those words with me. It’s so easy to go through life half heartedly. To just “get by…” I don’t want to settle for that, And I don’t want to see other Christians settle for that either.

I want to pick up my cross daily as I serve my friends, and those I don’t know very well, and those that might even be hard to talk to… I want to pick up my cross daily as I seek God in His Word and in prayer. I want to pick up my cross in thankfulness praising the God who extends grace every day. I want to pick up my cross and not look back or put it down until the day I die. I want to repeat with Paul those iconic and terrifying yet purposeful words, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

We can know God!

Wow, to think we can actually know God. What a thought. What a beautiful reality. The God who created everything; the whole universe. The God who created man. Oh, what a thought. Man and woman, created in such a way that they, from the beginning, could walk with God.

We know the rest of the story. Man and woman disobeyed and evil entered. But, from that point on God began a desperate pursuit to restore the relationship, because He really loves us. He went to such extremes as to even allow His only son to take the full punishment for our disobedience. Death.

And to think God was willing to do all that so we could know Him – be forgiven by Him. Is this hitting you right now? Is it crushing to think God did this for us?

Think on this story for a moment: A man cheated on his wife; he has three kids. The man realizes his terrible actions and begins to seek restoration. He starts with his wife. He tells her everything. He apologizes and begs for forgiveness. He then goes to his kids, one by one as they grow old enough to understand for themselves. One of the kids really resents his father and it takes years for the relationship to be restored. His daughter no longer trusts him, and even thinks that he could be some pervert who may have treated her wrongly as a kid. The other son forgives him right away but then later comes to resent him and again it takes year’s for their relationship to be restored. The father was completely honest with his family even though it was a huge risk and cost him a lot.

I read basically the same story in “Scary Close” by Donald Miller. The story feels fitting to paint the image of forgiveness and restoration, and how through restoration a relationship can be closer and stronger then ever before… What I didn’t share is that the father in the story was wholeheartedly forgiven; restoration did take place, and I wept right there reading the story in Starbucks. It didn’t all happen right away, but his family forgave him. Restoration happened and it all started as the father took a big risk by being honest.

What does this have to do with knowing God, though? Well, I believe we’ve all in some way cheated on God. We’ve carved images in our minds or put money and other things above Him. We’ve even manipulated Him to be what we want Him to be… We’ve said we believe in Him, we love Him, and we’ve even really sought to know Him, but still (at least for me) come to points in life where there’s yet again something else getting in the way…

God took a risk, and sacrificed His son so that we could be totally forgiven and restored to Him. Now, all He desires is that we take a risk, ask for forgiveness, and pursue reconciliation with Him. Maybe this is a daily thing. In John Chapter 3 verse 30 John writes, “He (God) must increase, but I must decrease.” We must take risks to decrease. To replace God with the things that we’ve put before Him means decreasing, and having complete trust that God want’s to be totally connected to us.

Taking a risk like this is what I think could be the next step for many. For me, I’m asking myself, and God, what have I put above Him/you?

See, I’m at a place in my life where I don’t want to settle for the marginalized Christian life of Church on Sundays and Bible study on Wednesdays. Or a 5 minute devo in the mornings… And I don’t want to settle for the “easy life” that just “get’s me by…” I want to take risks for God. I want to be intentional with my relationships. I want to be wholly honesty and wholly human to those around me.

If your in a similar place please share what you’re doing to seek God these days? What has God put on your heart that you want to take a risk on? Where do you need to be completely honest with God?

 

 

Don’t settle for once a week

Why intentionally set a day for routine time with close friends that you share your life with? I believe this time is a catalyst for the rest of the week. I like this word ‘catalyst’ as it means, ‘a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself undergoing any permanent chemical change.’

So how does this relate to the weekly routine time? The time  you meet doesn’t change, but the vision cast and exhortation felt during that time is enough to create a reaction in each person that can push them into intentional and real relationship throughout the rest of the week.

Not only is the weekly routine time a time of depth, fun, and encouragement, it also serves as a catalyst for “that” throughout the rest of the week. If you’ve met with your group this week, I challenge you to send a text or make a phone call to one of the friends in that group and get coffee or go for a walk and ask a tough question. Don’t settle for once a week, be intentional throughout the week in however you feel led.

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