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.

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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

 

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.

Restless nights quieted by the One who made me

This week has been odd. Twice did fear encapsulate me. The first time, I was biking down 27th to go see a friend. When I noticed an older looking lady laying on the ground, possibly hurt. I noticed some cuts and bruises that could have happened if she fell of her bicycle. Instinctively I stopped, thought of the training I have in First Aid, and approached the lady asking if I could help. Her response was quiet at first, but then when I asked if I could call for help she abruptly said, “No! Help me up.” This frightened me… I felt powerless as I continued to approach the situation and she seemed to get more irritable. Soon after a man and his wife pulled up and another man who claimed to be a doctor. I stuck around until the man and wife took the lady home. I struggled after. Why was I so fearful, I questioned? The second was just the other night as the fear of not having a job and being able to provide for myself paralyzed me. Tears formed as I struggled to trust God. I pleaded with God to help me trust Him. He’s given me every thing I need for life and goddilness, yet I battle to trust His timing, provision, love, peace, or joy?

Pray with me as I seek to trust God more and more during the times when it just doesn’t seem like He’s there…

Eagerness

Eagerness is a word that fascinated me just a few days ago. In Ephesians chapter 4 we read a series of verses that lead into the use of the word, eager. Ephesians chapter 4 verses 1-3 read like this, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” This is wonderful, and if we skip to the end of this section in Paul’s letter we will read how as a united body working properly we will be built up in love.

But the word eager… It is describing a strong desire that will cultivate in a person if the prior verses are true in there life. When a person is humble, gentle, and patient they are able to bear with one another in love. That is the outcome of an attitude of humility, gentleness, and patience. Then, from these attitudes spring an eagerness to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. This is a simple message, but the reality of living this way is very difficult.

In my own life I find my attitude the exact opposite at times. Where instead of living a humble, gentle, and patient life I tend to rationalize and quickly act on my emotions or feelings toward the church, friends, or family. This is not good and I am learning more and more that the correct response to my emotions or feelings toward a person are often times more affectively sorted out through an attitude of patience, gentleness, and humility in waiting and bearing with them in love!

Bearing is a word that I want to describe from the classic chapter of love in the Bible, 1st Corinthians 12. In verse 7 it says, “love bears all things” this could very well mean love puts up with all things, and does not irrationally act on all things. It is important to note that this is not the only type of love as we are not to be passive in our relationships, especially if there is a sin issue that needs to be confronted.  So, in Eph 4 we read Paul writing “bear with one another in love.” I am looking at this word, “bear” in the same way as 1 Cor 12, looking past the issues and simply loving the person because of how much God loves them and desires them to be with Him. Trust that God can change the heart of a person as you faithfully follow Him and Him alone.

I’ve recently moved and have been reminded of this as I meet many new people and have many expectations of the community, friendships, and roles I want to see in the lives of those around me… This is rarely the right way of thinking. We are to bear with one another in love and eagerly maintain the unity of the spirit amongst the people in our lives, trusting that God is at work, not us. I hope that from this you can start to see the importance of these attitudes and the result of living in this manner.

Goals

What are you goals in life? I bet you have a lot… I do. Goals are great in and of themselves. So, don’t let this post lead you astray from making goals. But now really, what goals have you made in life? To graduate college maybe? Or get married? good grades? get a good job? have a lot of friends? be really good at something? These all have become subconscious goals of mine… All of these are fine, but when did I say, My goal is to glorify God in every aspect of my life. All the above goals clouded my vision from what is most important. How do we glorify God in every area of our lives then? Please don’t pass this question up in your life. It’s one every believer I’ve met has wrestled with and is probably still wrestling with. Glorifying God is what we were made for (Isaiah 43:6-7, 1 Cor 10:31).

I cant entirely answer the question of how to glorify God, but I would agree with a statement made by John Piper, he said, “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.” If our goal is to glorify God, what will we care if we go to college or not, get married, get good grades, have friends, etc… if we are entirely satisfied in Him. Please, take some time this week to wrestle through this with God with me this week. I want Him to be the center of my life… Nothing else. 

The simplicity of the gospel

I am often awestruck but how incredibly simple the gospel is. God loves all people and desires to have a relationship with them. And because of His love He gives us choices. To either A) trust and obey / follow Him or, B) not trust and not obey / follow Him.  We choose not to follow Him because of our sin, and the punishment for our sin is separation from God. This is because a holy God cannot be in the presence of sin and being just he must punish those who sin. So, to clear our punishment, God has sent His own son Jesus, to take our punishment. Jesus did this by dying. He did not stop at just taking our punishment, He did not stop at taking our sin, He completely deleted it from our history, present, and future by raising from the dead. Jesus was victorious over our sin. So, not only is our punishment paid for and deleted allowing us to be seen sinless before God; we can now live in victory over the sin that once kept us in bondage.

God pouring our punishment on Jesus did two things. It gave all who believe in Him a relationship with God, and second, it gave them a new life. My life changed when I finally choose to follow Jesus. See, God had been knocking and knocking and knocking on my door. I wasn’t satisfied by stealing, or sex, or drugs, or alcohol, or friends, or, or, or… The list goes on. I wasn’t satisfied. God was knocking and knocking and knocking. Getting my tail whooped after a long night of partying, God was knocking. Getting caught drinking booz in class, He was knocking. Wrecking my friends car and almost killing myself, and someone else, He was knocking. Getting arrested for first degree burglary, He was knocking. Finally… I start to open that door. God wanted into my life! Finally, I let Him in. And this is what God asked, will you follow Me. Will you leave your old life and let me transform you. Will you let me SATISFY you. Will you let me be enough. Will you let me comfort you. Will you let me correct and guide you. Will you let me love you and acknowledge you. Will you let me discipline you. Will you, will you, will you. Will you trust me.

Philemon 1:6 is beginning to make sense for me. When we are active in sharing our faith we will gain a full understanding of every good thing in Christ. Just as much as reading your bible, praying, or memorizing scripture will help you know God more, so will sharing your faith. The more we know God the more we’re going to love Him, the more we love Him the more we’re going to obey Him, and the more we obey Him the more we’re going to trust Him. So to know God more lets start sharing our faith!

Oh how easy it is to forget this. And oh how wonderfully God reminds us of how GREAT He is. Tonight I got to share my story, and I think I have come to realize that every time I share my story, the gospel becomes that more real to me. My faith becomes stronger and my love for God and people larger.

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