All posts by admin

After 22 years of full time ministry, I want to do more to journey with people to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus. I love to write, teach, talk and build relationships. I have so much to learn and so much to share, and this blog is dedicated to growing disciples.

Grace Prevails

There is a song out by Matthew West entitled, “Grace Wins.”
The words are powerful, the concept beautiful, here are the lyrics from part of the song:
“For the Prodigal son
Grace Wins
For the Woman at the well
Grace Wins
For the blind men and the beggar
Grace Wins
For always and forever
Grace Wins
For the lost out on the street
Grace Wins
For the worst part of you and me
Grace Wins
For the thief on the cross
Grace Wins
For the world that is lost
Grace Wins
There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But i’m living proof
Grace wins every time”

As a person who writes and speaks, i am keenly aware of how important it is to define the words we use.

Traditional definition of GRACE – the free and unmerited favor of God.

Dallas Willard – “GRACE is not opposed to effort, but to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace is not just about forgiveness — if we had never sinned we would still need grace! GRACE is God acting in our life to do what we cannot do on our own. Grace is what we live by, and the human system won’t work without it.”
When God chose to act on our behalf, in the person of Jesus, He did what we could not do. That grace existed because of the very nature of our God, [who He is] and it shapes our relationship with God. We can not have a relationship with God apart from the GRACE of God in Jesus.
GRACE is God’s action in our lives. GRACE is not a once and done, rather it is a consistent living into. Relationships are constantly changing, either growing together or growing apart. God’s grace/action in our lives is designed to draw us closer in our relationship with God. When we refuse to accept this grace/action and choose our own will/way, we grow apart-the relationship suffers. This growing apart does not lessen God’s grace/action/love for us, God is not like us, God is not fickle. GRACE wins every time.
Why is this so important? Why spend five paragraphs defining GRACE? Because I believe that the lack of living into God’s action/grace/relationship is the single largest reason the light that disciples are supposed to shine in the world has dimmed.
The Christian church has become a people who love their position/opinion/beliefs/politics more than we love other people and more than we love Jesus. We are so convinced that our position is right that we love that supposed “rightness” more than we love the person who has a different position. When this happens, we have missed the point of God’s action/GRACE in our lives. To do this is to miss the mark that Jesus has called us to as disciples.

Think about Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax collector. Two people that couldn’t have been more politically/socially/economically different. For Simon the Zealot, he loved a free Israel so much that he was willing to kill Romans to accomplish that freedom. For Matthew the Tax collector, he loved money so much he was willing to be branded a traitor and nationally despised. And Jesus called them both to be His disciples. Can you just imagine Simon sitting at the camp fire as Matthew joins the group for the first time, and Jesus says, “Hey, Matthew, I think there is an open seat next to Simon.”
Plug what ever opposing “stances” you want into the equation. The result is the same. Pro-life vs. Pro-choice. Homosexual vs. Not. It doesn’t matter. Both sides love their position more than they love the people on the other side. This is where God’s GRACE/action in our lives comes to play. Simon and Matthew loved their positions, and had given their lives over to their cause/ideology. Yet, having encountered God’s GRACE in Jesus, both chose not to love their position, but to let go and to love Jesus more. GRACE wins every time. Their encounter of God’s grace in the person of Jesus led them to love him more than they loved their position. And because they loved Him more than their position, they were willing to obey when Jesus commanded them to love each other!

Grace cannot be experienced apart from a relationship. When we choose to define people by their stance, rather than a person whom Jesus loves, we miss the point of the Gospel. Many churches are going the legislation route. Legislation will not bring about healing, only relationships built on the person of Jesus can do that. In Christ, there is no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female…. see Galatians 3:26-29. A disciple of Jesus will always choose to build a relationship with another person because of the relationship the disciple has with Jesus. The encounter of GRACE/God’s action in their lives compels the disciple to seek the relationship with the other person not in spite of their ‘stance’ but because of who Jesus is.
This is the problem that the broader church faces: people want to love their position or their building or their theological stance more than they love their neighbor. We fail to love others because we fail to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. This dims our light/witness to the world. Our light is hidden under the basket/bushel of our position. The church has learned the lesson of the world all too well, that people are disposable. It’s OK to write off your brother; it’s OK to dismiss someone, if they don’t agree with your perspective/stance.
Don’t hear what I am not saying. I am all for Biblical authority, I am all for conservative values. But, above all, I am for Jesus. And Jesus commands me to build relationships with other people out of my love for Him based upon His love for me. I need God’s grace to do this. In the end, GRACE wins every time.

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Truth with an agenda

Truth with an Agenda
February 19, 2019

I guess it shouldn’t bother me so much. But it does. Any more when I hear a news story, read a headline, catch a flash briefing, I have to ask myself the question: “What is the agenda of the writer/reporter/organization?” Some would tell me that this is part of being a well informed individual; to question the source and its motivation. I find it wearisome!

There are times when I just want to be informed about what happened, from an objective standpoint. I don’t want someone to spin the information to steer how I think and feel about a subject. It takes work to research the source of the information and to attempt to ascertain the hidden agenda. I do not want a hidden agenda. I just want the truth.

Now I know that there are some that would claim that there is no truth without an agenda. And I get that. Pilate wasn’t the first, but was probably the most famous to recognize this when he asked Jesus in Luke 18:38, “What is truth?” From Pilate’s perspective, in an ever shifting political environment, truth always had an agenda. People have agendas. People want what they want, and in that world and in ours today, they will do and say what ever they need to, to manipulate someone else into helping them achieve their agenda.

While this seems pessimistic, at least from my reading of history and the Bible, and being a father and husband and brother to so many people, it seems to be truth. But there is a greater truth, and it is found in the person of Jesus. John writes in John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory; the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus, calls himself the “truth” in John 14:6. And yes, Jesus had an agenda.

Here is the thing, though; Jesus’ agenda was to do the will of the Father. Jesus’ agenda was to tell us the truth as God defined it, in the person of Jesus. The scripture is full of God’s agenda for God’s people. God does not want to manipulate us to His agenda, God woos us to His agenda. If we believe that God designed us, made us in the image of God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, then it makes sense to us, that God would know best for us. If your cell phone broke you probably wouldn’t take it to an auto mechanic to have them fix it. [The one auto mechanic I know tends to break most phones.] The designer knows what is best and how to fix what is not working.

Many people in our world want to define themselves in lots of ways. Straight, gay, male, female, rich, poor, ethnic, etc. However, until we accept that we are made in the image of God, and God’s agenda for us is the best agenda, we are going to flounder. Like a fish out of water, we can’t seem to catch our breath or hit our stride. Any agenda, other than God’s agenda, is an agenda that seeks to push us in a direction. God’s agenda is to pull us into a relationship with God.

I know that it sounds rather simple and minimalistic to summarize God’s agenda down to the fact that God wants what is best for us and that is a relationship with God. Regardless of how simplistic it may sound, it is not easy. Jesus said it this way in Mark 12:30-31 “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second commandment is this: “love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment [agenda] greater than these.”

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My Good Stuff Outweighs My Bad Stuff

Discipleship is about a relationship -a relationship built out of love for the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  We are drawn into that relationship by the Father, we are adopted as sons and daughters into that relationship through the work of Jesus, and we are guided in this relationship by the Holy Spirit.  

Having said all that, there seems to be a growing wave of legalism in our faith community that mirrors the polarization of most of America right now.  The world wants to label and define who everyone else is, while at the same time, rejecting any label that is put on them.  Messages of tolerance are half veiled euphemisms for, “I think you ought to be more tolerant of me, but unless you agree with me, then I label you as intolerant.”  [Which begs the question:  Is the not accuser also intolerant?]

There exists a group of people who claim faith in God but have no outward practice of faith except for trying to be nice.  Whatever label you may choose:  semi-christian, faith-curious, nominal Christians, yet to be christians, etc, they really are in theological terms legalists.  Sort of.  Here is what I mean. Allow me to let you listen in on a conversation I have had many times over the last few years.  I say, “So tell me a bit about your faith journey.”  They say, “Well, I believe in God, and I think that He wants me to be a good person.  So I just try to be as nice as I possibly can and hopefully my good stuff outweighs my bad stuff.  I’m a good person, so I think I’m good with God.”

Legalism at its heart is the belief that salvation is gained through good works. It is the judging of conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws.  In this case, people define “precise laws” as being nice or being good.  The hope is if they are nice more than not nice, salvation will be granted.

Here are some of the problems with this thinking:  First, the Bible does not teach this. The Bible actually teaches that it is the law that helps us understand grace and is the structure by which we live in a love relationship with God.  As Dallas Willard would say: “The law is the course of rightness, but not the source of rightness.”

 The second problem is that if someone plays out this thinking logically, no one would want this kind of God.  Here is what I mean.  Let’s say that your significant other was murdered. They caught the killer and put him on trial.  The defense lawyer for the killer listed to the court all the good things the killer has done in his lifetime.  The prosecuting lawyer would outline for the judge all the bad stuff the killer had done.  Now the judge has to make a decision.  And in his judgement, “the killer’s good stuff outweighs the bad stuff” so he is free to go.  No one would want that kind of judge [except maybe the killer.]  No one would think that scenario was right or that justice was served.  Yet at the heart of this very popular way of thinking, is this idea that God is the ultimate judge who has to make a decision on my fate at the end of my life.  

Problem three:  I want everyone else to play by the rules [law] when it comes to how they treat me, but I want grace to bend/break the rules when they are not convenient for me.  In this way of thinking, the righteousness of legalism is robbed of its power.  

I realize this particular blog is rather heady, and my intention is to bring clarity [truth] and create a discussion [with grace].  Are you a functional legalist?  Just trying to be good and hope that God notices?  Or are you walking in a relationship with God that seeks to mirror Jesus because you are learning to love Him more than anything else?  My hope and prayer for myself and for you is the latter, not the former.

I believe that we are called to live in a relationship with our God. This relationship is not based upon tolerance. It is based on love. Jesus doesn’t command his disciples to be tolerant of one another but to love one another. Tolerance is todays popular spin on “allow me to do what I want to do, but if I don’t like what you do, then I’ll tell you the way you should live.” That isn’t a relationship.

I welcome your input, questions and comments.

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Fear and the Kingdom of God

in Mark 5:36, Jesus say to a father who has been told that his daughter has died…”Don’t be afraid;just believe.” This is remarkable, because in today’s world, in the average person’s life, death kind of is the ultimate take down and a source of fear. Yet Jesus isn’t even phased by death.

So Jesus isn’t bothered by death. He see’s it differently than we do. His command to the caring and concerned father is not to give in to fear. Not to give in to the words of the people/world saying it’s over. Do not give up your hope in me! You came to me with faith that I could do something about your daughter’s situation. The other voices want to distract you from that faith. The voices of the world want to convince you that your faith is misplaced. Jesus’ words are truth. “Don’t be afraid. Just believe.”

Dallas Willard writes: “As disciples (literally students) of Jesus, our goal is to learn to be like him. We begin by trusting him to receive us as we are. But our confidence in him leads us toward the same kind of faith he had, a faith that made it possible for him to act as he did. Jesus’ faith was rooted in his gospel of heaven’s rule, the good news of “the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 4:17).” [Italics added by me.]

We are called to view death the way that Jesus viewed it. We are called to think and act like our Lord did. And he wasn’t even phased by the message of the people to give up hope or to give into fear, or that death had the final say. Jesus knew the truth: that fear and death and this world do not have the answers that humanity needs. Only the Kingdom of God has humanity’s best interest at heart.

What are you facing right now? The loss of a job? The inability to find a job? The end of a relationship? Financial hardship? Under-employment? Drug addiction? A family member with an addiction? Abuse? A wayward son or daughter? Loneliness, depression, or your failing health? A time of waiting, when it’s the last thing you want to do? A time of confusion when all you want is direction and clarity?

I think there are many times in our lives and different situations where we face fear and the Holy Spirit is whispering “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” Fear has no place in the strong unshakable Kingdom of God. Jesus didn’t fear. His command to this father was not to give into fear and abandon his fatih. Jesus’ message was simply to believe in Him. For me, it is a message to trust. It is a message to not over-think. It is a message not to worry. It is a message to depend on Jesus, not my self. It is a message to let go of the steering wheel and trust Jesus to drive.

I’m not saying this is easy. I’m sure that the father of this daughter wanted desperately to rush Jesus along [from healing the woman with the issue of blood Mark 5:23-34]. This father had faith, but he was also afraid. Coming to Jesus is the answer. Trusting in Jesus is the way. This father’s faith hung in the balance. Jesus must have known that at this point, the father’s faith wavered between faith in himself and faith in Jesus. Jesus’ words, “Do not be afraid; just believe.”, are words that recognize this struggle and acknowledge the faith that is dangerously on the edge of no faith at all. Jesus’ words meet the father where he is, but also bid him to move in the direction of God.
Do not beat yourself up when you have fear and doubt, for our Jesus meets us there. And in that divine meeting, in the midst of the storm around you, pause, listen, and and in your journey hear the words of God’s own Holy Spirit say to you “Don’t be afraid; just believe!”

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The Value of People

I have had my conscience pricked lately by they way our society values people; or the lack there-of. It has brought up some interesting questions, as I do an internal inventory to see how much of the world’s view has infiltrated into my own thinking. Do I dismiss people as unworthy? Do I write someone off due to their current actions or their ancient past? Do I draw conclusions about people based upon their __________________? [You can fill in the blank, but some that come to mind are gender, sexual preference, race, age, economic status, dress, etc.]
Ultimately, all these questions can be answered based upon value. How much do I value another person? What I am seeing in our world is a disturbing amount of value based upon selfishness. I value you or that person for what they can do for me. If you get in my way, cause me grief, don’t allow me to have my way, I have no time for you, and your value in my mind becomes vacant. While this is a terrible way to think and treat people, there is another level that is even more despicable. Many times we see the world assign value based upon how person can be manipulated. One only needs to observe the recent headlines regarding the firing of the FBI Director Comey so see that both sides hold him as valuable only as long as they can manipulate him to accomplish some other goal.
None of this is new. It is tragic, but it isn’t new.
In John 8:1-11 we see the story of the woman caught in adultery. The Pharisees brought her to trap Jesus. They were not interested in her feelings. They had no concern for her eternal future. They did not value her in any way, except to use her to manipulate Jesus. I had a conversation with a supposed “Christian” not too long ago. I was encouraging them to be on the look out for Godly encounters with people who were not Jesus followers. I mentioned, as an example, the barista at Starbucks. To which the person replied, “I don’t really care about them as long as they give me my coffee and get my order right.” Are we really any different from the Pharisees?
In Luke 19:1-9 we see a similar interaction with Zacchaeus. Tax collectors were people, too. Yet no one of “religious” value placed any value on them.
A Jesus follower will choose to find value in another person, not for what they can do, what they have done, could possibly accomplish, or how they can be used and manipulated. A Jesus follower will choose to find value in another person because that person is important to Jesus. Name one person Jesus didn’t die for. It can’t be done. Each of us holds value to our Father.
Maybe we determine the value of another person as less or more because we have not embraced the value that God has placed on us in Jesus. We think that we have to keep God happy. We think we have to obey all the rules. We strive to be a good person. We hope our good stuff out weighs our bad stuff. Thus, we completely miss the point of what Jesus did for us in going to the cross. I love this quote by Andy Stanley, “Stop worrying about how you are doing with God and start living out your faith [In Jesus] by loving other people.”
Each of us has value. Why? Because Jesus died for you! Our value does not come from the world, it does not come from within ourselves. It is not assigned by our actions, titles, bank account, or our outward appearance. Our value is found in Jesus. It is time for Jesus followers to stop circling up the wagons of what they are against. The “faith,” the “scripture,” the “church,” does not need our defending. All that is needed is for Jesus followers to do what Jesus said in John 13:34-35 – A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you re my disciples, if you love one another.”

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Running From? Or Running Toward?

We have so much in common with Jonah.
We want justice for our enemies. We want grace for our sins.
We want to take the easy route, ignoring the difficult path of repentance.
We ignore God’s instructions/directions/commands/laws/teaching, and then we are upset when we reap the difficult harvest of bad decisions.

As I was reading the book of the Prophet Jonah today, I was struck by two verses. The first was Jonah 1:3 – “But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish.”
What kind of God does Jonah have? Based upon his actions, Jonah’s God is one who can be avoided, who is not everywhere and has limits. None of this is true for the God we see in The Bible. But are we any different? Too many times we believe the lies of the enemy that we can not be loved, that what we have done is not forgivable, that God is angry and best be avoided. I would offer that if a theologian had sat down with Jonah prior to his escape from the call of God, Jonah would have affirmed that God was all the omni’s [Omniscience, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.] But just like Jonah, our actions often speak volumes about what we really believe deep down inside. Our thinking can agree with the “proper answers” but our actions belay a different belief system. We abandon what we are told in Genesis 1:26, that we are “made in the image of God,” and instead we remake God according to our ideas so that God fits in our box.

That leads me to the second verse that leaped off the page. In chapter two we have Jonah saved/held captive in the belly of the fish. We find him driven to prayer. This is a pretty normal reaction. In Jonah 2:8, we come to this verse, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” Wow! How true this verse is. This verse could not be more true of our world today. We cling to what the market is doing. We agonize over what the election might bring. We chase after the latest and greatest tech [that may catch fire in our pants, i.e.: Samsung Galaxy Note 7]. We model our lives after what someone famous is doing. We mimic our societal norms. All the while, we are “forfeiting the grace that could be ours.”

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” Jonah 2:8

God loves us. It’s a fact. He proved it in the life of Jesus. Jesus loves us. He proved it in His willingness to die for us. What sports star/team, famous person, rich person is willing to die for you? Yet we idolize them, devour their tweets, and buy the products they hock. What 401K plan, stock option, bank account can really provide the grace that we need to forgive our selves, forgive others, and live a life free of mental burden? What new CEO, business practice, worldly exercise, advertising campaign, or cunning insight is really going to bring about the heart change that you and I need?

At the heart of all discipleship is following, running toward whom we are following. It is time we stop running from God and forfeiting His grace. It is time to run toward God, and be blessed by His love. I am reminded of the old hymn with the stanza, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus name.” Let us stop running from God’s call on our lives. Let us stop trying to model God after our thoughts, and instead change our thoughts to match God. Let us stop running to the useless things of this world, so that we would not forfeit the amazing grace that God wants for us to enjoy.

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Constantly Representing Jesus

I have had the privilege of being a volunteer at our local police department for four years.  It was mentioned when I was “hired” and has been mentioned every time we have a new volunteer, that when we put on the uniform, we represent the Police department.  In our community, the police enjoy a strong relationship with the people who call our town home.  We don’t want to do anything while we are in uniform that would cast the police department in a negative light.  This is lived out by how we drive, talk, even stop in a local store or restaurant.  

Recently, I was asked to pick up a patrol car that had had some work done at a nearby dealership.  As I was driving home, I had the expectation that, driving a police car, other drivers would move out of my way.  In my mind, i was thinking: This is going to be the easiest commute I have ever had.  To my surprise, people driving in California don’t think anything about driving slowly in the fast lane with a patrol car right behind them.

Confession time:  had I been out of uniform and in my personal vehicle, I would have dropped the gas pedal to the floor, passed on the right, and given a look to the slow driver blocking traffic.  But because I was in uniform and driving a police vehicle, I did not.  I was very aware that wearing this uniform and driving a police vehicle was a privilege, and I needed to represent the department that I care so much about in the best light possible.

And then I was convicted by the Holy Spirit!  I am a follower of Jesus.  I represent Him to everyone I meet.  I have been made in His image.  I might be the only Jesus that someone may ever meet.  It is an honor to bear the name and to represent our Lord and Savior.  So why do I not conduct myself all the time in the same careful manor that I do when I am in uniform?  Why is there not the same conviction on my part to represent Jesus in the best light possible?

I know that I strive to follow Jesus and that living under His leadership affects my conduct, my conversations, my life.  But I do not feel the same weight to represent Jesus as I do when I wear my volunteer police uniform.  I am asking that the Holy Spirit lead me, remind me, convict me to represent well who Jesus is.  I am called to love God with all that I am, and to love others the same way Jesus loves me.  Some times I present well. Other times, I do not.  Thank God for grace!

So the next time that you think that no one is watching, or you are tempted to act in a non Christ-like way, represent well!  

Dusty Disciples Bring It!

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Dead to Sin – Alive In Jesus

Ephesians 2:4-5 “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”

What does it mean to be “dead” in sin? In Ephesians chapter two, Paul is contrasting the way of the world vs. the way of Jesus. Paul’s position is that there are two ways to live:
1. according to this world, which is controlled by Satan and is evident in the life of sin that this world displays through disobedience to God’s way [verse 2].
2. or according to our saved status, from Jesus,that is graced to us because of who God is. This Jesus status [verse 4 calls it “made us alive in Christ], that we share, boasts that we are seated with Jesus in the heavenly realm [verse 6], so that we might show off how amazing Jesus is [verse 7], and we are the handiwork of God, designed with a purpose to accomplish [verse 10].

This comparison, between the way of the world and the Jesus status, brings into focus what sin is. Sin is anything that is contrary to the will of God. Specifically, in verse 3, Paul shares with us that living for ourselves, seeking to satisfy our selfish thinking and desires, is of the evil one and deserving of wrath.

What is the will of God? It is that we love Him [God] and we love others [Matthew 22:37-40]. Anything that we do that is not loving toward another person, is sin. It is easy to pick out the obvious sin: gossip, lying, murder, abuse, cheating, adultery. But the not so obvious, that is not loving toward another person, is also sin. Like: assuming we know what a person is about/how they think, using guilt trips, manipulation, dismissive attitudes, passing judgement in our minds, taking a second [critical] look at another human being, is also unloving.

    Jesus is perfectly working on our perfection in Himself.

Jesus died [God’s mercy demonstrating grace] so that NOTHING could stand in the way of our relationship with God. Our creator loved us so much and so wanted to be part of our lives that, though we deserved wrath [verse 3], we did not receive wrath, but grace. God also wants this kind of relationship with every other human being. So, when we act in unloving ways toward others, we sin and we potentially stand in the way of that person’s relationship with God.

Any time we do anything that could damage our relationship with God or another person, that is sin. Sincere believers ask me all the time, how can I be dead to sin? The answer is that, if you follow Jesus, you already are dead to sin. Jesus accomplished this work on the cross and with the empty tomb. It is not something we can accomplish for ourselves. It has already been done.

Followers of Jesus are dead to sin when they live out their journey in light of the love relationship they have with Jesus.

A Jesus follower may struggle with surrendering a behavior or an attitude to Jesus. But that struggle is part of the relationship that is alive, growing, dynamic, interactive, real. Jesus is perfectly working on our perfection in Himself. He loves us so much that He is not willing to leave any morsel of sin hidden in our closet. Paul writes in verse 3 that all of us have lived according to the world at one time. It is God who makes us alive in Jesus.

A follower of Jesus who loves Jesus could simply ask this question when confronted with sin, “Will this hurt my relationship, or another’s relationship, with God?” Is this the loving thing/attitude/behavior/thought? We fail from time to time. We fall short, but we are alive in Christ, thankful and dependent upon His love.

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A Call To Discipleship

Now more than ever, the words of Jesus herald truth…“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.John 13:34-35”

The world needs disciples. What is not needed is more rhetoric, hate speech, divisive commentary, baiting of one side against another. The world needs Jesus. They way the world comes to experience Jesus is from His disciples.

Like so many, I add my voice to the fray of noise regarding the violence that we see played out in America. Senseless killing of individuals, regardless of color or ethnicity, a life lost is tragic. You may disagree, but then you may not claim the name of follower of Jesus.

Jesus chose to heal his attacker’s wounds. [And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.
But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. Luke 22:50-51]

Jesus chose to forgive the men driving the spikes through his wrists. [Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34]

No slight, no offense, no racial profile, no name calling is worth taking another person’s life. No one has been slighted, offended, profiled, racially slurred or called names more than Jesus. His path is not protest. His path is not angry words. His path is not violence. His path is forgiveness.

Instrumental to all of this is Jesus’ relationship with His Father. The second key is that Jesus chose. He chose to love his father, obey his father, honor his father. He chose these rather than his anger, hurt feelings, slighted ego, wounded spirit, selfish motives, entitlement attitude, and perceived rights.

There are all kinds of buzz and conversations happening at lunches, around the water cooler, in the break rooms, at the back yard BBQ’s. What if Jesus’ followers started acting like Jesus-followers and offered a word of forgiveness instead of jumping on the commentary wagon? What if Jesus-followers would go out of their way to be polite, smile, offer a helping hand, concentrate on building relationships that reflect Jesus?

Our broken, hurting world needs disciples of Jesus to be disciples; “love one another as I have loved you.” — Jesus

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What Happens to the Church When Disciples Stop Listening to Prophetic Voices

Some basic definitions:

By “Church” I mean to imply those who self identify as the people of God by their attendance and giving at a local congregation.

Prophetic, as I understand it is to be a message from God to the intended audience of God’s choosing. The message comes to warn, convict, encourage to choose faithfulness to God. Though our pop culture has relegated prophecy to predicting the future, that is not what I am addressing in this post.

This may seem like a odd topic for a blog on discipleship. However, the subjects of obedience and responding to the call of God is a matter oft discussed in discipleship circles.

A prophetic voice is so valuable. It is one of God’s ways for us to hear a message that is different from the “me” centered message that we receive from the world every day.

A prophetic voice in a local congregation can come from anyone. God frequently uses the least likely person from the world’s point of view. Prophetic voices can come from scripture, movies, TV, musicians, other Godly people. God uses those who are open to hearing Him. God uses those who are already striving at faithful living with God.

Prophetic voices are usually irritating. They remind us of what we are not doing. Prophetic voices call us to accountability. They beckon us to return to our first love, God/Jesus/Holy Spirit. A prophetic voice is going to sound discordant with the status quo.

This voice will also be condemned. The prophetic voice is many times shouted down. It is on the receiving end of anger, jealousy, and accusations from laziness to ineffective. The saddest condition for the church is that most often the prophetic voice is forced out because for the prophetic voice to remain is a constant reminder to the church of what it is not doing.

This is a generalization, but most churches seek comfort. They want to exist in their bubble of “being saved” however reality rejects them not looking any different from the world. A casual perusal of the parking lot, the amount of debt, the number of smart phones, the amount of make up and “toys” is a strong indication that not much is different here in this building than down the street at the local mall.

God has something to say about all of this. His Son came and lived and died and rose again so that the way of the world would not be our way. Matthew 7:13-14 grates against our comfort driven lifestyle… “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Jesus’ prayer for His disciples in John 17:14-16 is yet another reminder that we are in the world but we are not of the world. Disciples are to be different. It’s simply part of who we are. We do what is not comfortable. We go where others think we shouldn’t. We create relationships with people any way we can, so as to have the opportunity to live out the Gospel in the context of that relationship.

So when the disciples within the church cease listening to the prophetic voices, we cave to the current of our existing world, tossed about as any rubbish would be in the wake of a flood. In short, without a prophetic voice, disciples cease to be disciples, the church desists being a church, and they look no different than the rest of the world. No better, no worse than a private club or a charitable organization.

In a church culture that chases after business models, success strategies, and strategic goals, what is really needed is a humble heart to listen to the prophetic voices that God lovingly sends. God asks us to care for the widow, provide for the orphan, lift up the downtrodden, bind the wounded, mourn with those that mourn…
Eugene Petterson says in The Message, in Micah 6:8
But he’s [God] already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously––take God seriously.

This is the part of the prophetic voice that we find incongruent with the message that we have adopted from the world. “It’s quite plain how we are to live and what we are to do, do what is fair and right for yourself, cutting yourself plenty of slack. Expect compassion and loyalty from those that you love, but for you it is nice suggestion. And take yourself very seriously, and give a general nod toward religion.”

May you and I tune into the prophetic voices in our lives, they are calling us to discipleship, calling us to faithfulness.

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