Friday, May 12, 2006

They May See

“Let your light so shine before men,
that they may see your good works
and glorify your Father in heaven.”

(Matthew 5:16)

There are several interesting elements to this verse. First of all Jesus said, “Let your light so shine.” What happens when you open a kitchen window on a spring April day? You let the cool fresh air in. The air is already cool, fresh and blowing. The opening of the window simply lets that reality into your kitchen. Likewise, Jesus isn’t telling us to go make light, but rather simply open the window and let the wind, or in this case the light out. It should be natural, unforced and full of grace. The good works were never intended to be a program or a project, rather it was intended to be a living projection of Who Christ is within us.


 What are some passions, giftings, areas of resource that God has given you, that could be used to shine in our community?

 When you look around our community/city, what real problems do you see that could use practical solutions?

Recommended Reading

More Ready Than You Realize, Brian McLaren
The Secret Message of Jesus, Brian McLaren
A New Kind of Christian, Brian McLaren

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Practical Solutions for Real Problems

“If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead.” (James 2:14-17)

Traditional models of evangelism have been something akin to a group of people going out into the community and telling the people in need to come to church building. “All you need is Jesus.” We went, we told them the answer and we pointed them to the house of God. As well intended as this may have been, there seems to be a slightly different model portrayed in Scripture. It was a model that intersected culture in deep ways. It’s a model that looked at the real problem surrounding that culture and then extended a hand with practical solutions. The motivation was simply, loving their neighbors as themselves.


 What would it look like, if rather than pointing people to the church building to go get help and answers, followers of Christ decentralized from the church building, engaged the communities surrounding and became an incarnational reality of Christ in their midst?

 What would it look like for these areas of need to become areas of commonality, where little communities emerged full of people learning what it truly means to follow Christ?

In the context of this paradigm, each of us becomes ministers for the cause of Christ. Our platform may be more like Stephen and Philip’s than Peter and Paul’s, but the end result is nonetheless the same and equally as important.

Serving precedes anointing.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Serving Precedes Anointing

“In those days, as the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint by the Hellenistic Jews against the Hebraic Jews that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution. Then the Twelve summoned the whole company of the disciples and said, "It would not be right for us to give up the ministry of the Word to wait on tables. Therefore, brothers, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we can appoint to this business.”(Acts 6:1-3 HCSB)

There was a group of Greek speaking Jews of a Greco-Roman background who were raising a complaint against the Hebraic speaking Jews from Palestine. The complaint was simple, their widows were being overlooked in the daily distributions of food. To help solve this dilemma, the apostles sought out seven individuals who had a good reputation and were full of the Spirit and wisdom. On the surface these are strange credentials for waiting on tables. How much wisdom does it really take to dish out food? That is, unless there was more going on than just tables being set and cleaned.

It is true these seven’s primary responsibility would be to serve tables and wait on widows, but there’s a very important principle at work here that the apostles knew very well - serving precedes anointing. As we follow these seven out of the kitchen, we see some extraordinary things beginning to transpire.

Stephen was one of these appointed waiters. Scripture says that he “full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.” He was so full of wisdom that even the most educated resisters of the gospel could not “resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke” (Acts 6:8,10). His life was loud and his influence was powerful. Stephen became the first person martyred for the cause of Christ.

Or, what about Philip, another of these original table waiters. The book of Acts records that in the midst of persecution against those following Christ, all the disciples were scattered, dispersing from their headquarters in the city of Jerusalem. “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. And there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:5-8).

Serving precedes anointing.

Something happens when we simply step out and serve without pretension or hidden agenda – an anointing is released and supernatural signs begin to follow.

“There are many of us that are willing to do great things
For the Lord, but few of us are willing to do little things.”

D. L. Moody

A Good Anointing

“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and with power,
who went about doing good and
healing all who were oppressed by the devil,
for God was with Him.”
(Acts 10:38)

When people think of the ministry of Jesus on earth they typically recall the miracles He did. Things like healing the sick, casting out demons and raising the dead. These are most certainly true and did take place, but Luke, the author Acts makes an interesting notation to Jesus’ ministry. He said, Jesus went about doing good to all. Moreover, Luke says that He was anointed to do good by the power of the Holy Spirit.


 Have you ever considered asking God for an anointing to do something good for someone?

 Take a few moments and meditate on Acts 10:38. Then spend some time talking to God. Ask Him to anoint you with the Holy Spirit to do good.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Go There

“Go therefore
and make disciples
of all the nations.”
(Matthew 28:27 NKJ)

Jesus simply instructed His disciples to go out into the world and be change-agents for the Kingdom of God. Interestingly, Jesus did not say, go out into the streets, round up as many people as you can, then bring them into a church building so the preacher can tell them about Jesus and call them to repentance. Rather, it seems that Jesus was putting the responsibility upon each disciple to go, interact with and engage those with whom they came in contact with, allowing the life that they lived before God to be proof-tested in the eyes of others. And, in the midst of these encounters they would journey with those coming to discover Christ for themselves first hand.

Jesus didn’t say, go and make decisions, or go and make converts, or go and lead them in the ‘sinner’s prayer.’ All of these could be done in an afternoon, or a one one-hour church service. But this is not what Jesus wanted – He wanted disciples, which is a byproduct of on-going relationships. When we reduce the Great Commission to a tag-on to the end of a church service, or an isolated event where the goal is to get people to the altar to pray the prayer, we may be in danger of cheapening the true gospel and leading people astray, for this is not the biblical expression of making disciples. This is not to say that the challenge to surrender one’s life and follow Christ should not be part of our corporate gatherings. Rather, it is to say Christ distributed the responsibility to everyone, everywhere, not simply clergy on Sunday.


 What does it mean to go and make disciples in the culture we live in?

 How is this different than going and telling them about Jesus?

 What are some symptoms of our cultures openness/hunger for spiritual things?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Leaving the Shell

“Speaking the truth in love,
may grow up in all things
into Him who is the head – Christ.”
(Ephesians 4:15)

From time to time,
lobsters have to leave their shells in order to grow. They need the shell to protect them from being torn apart, yet when they grow, the old shell must be abandoned. If they did not abandon it, the old shell would soon become their prison – and finally their casket.

The tricky part for the lobster is the brief period of time between when the old shell is discarded and the new one is formed. During that terribly vulnerable period, the transition must be scary to the lobster. Currents gleefully cartwheel them from coral to kelp. Hungry schools of fish are ready to make them a part of their food chain. For awhile, at least, that old shell must look pretty good.

We are not so different from lobsters. To change and grow, we must sometimes shed our shells – a structure, a framework – we’ve depended on. Discipleship means being so committed to Christ that when he bids us to follow, we will change, risk, grow, and leave our “shells” behind.

Regardless of age and level of maturity, this is a call we all must answer. Dietrick Bonhoeffer, author of The Cost of Discipleship said, “When we are called to follow Christ, we are summoned to an exclusive attachment to His person.” This is the essence of Biblical discipleship, attaching oneself to another – learning in close quarters.

Christ calls a man. The call bids him to come and die. This is Biblical Christianity. Bonhoeffer says, “Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship. Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” He goes on to say, “Discipleship without Jesus Christ is a way of our own choosing. It may be the ideal way. It may even lead to martyrdom, but it is devoid of all promise. Jesus will certainly reject it.”

Discipleship cannot truly exist outside of the context of Christian community. Christ’s intention is that we become wholly transformed. In order for this to happen, He more often than not chooses to use people in the process of our formation. When we find ourselves outside the context of intimate, truth telling relationships, we will find ourselves in some form of spiritual stagnation.


 Is there anyone in your life right now that has permission to ask you the difficult questions?

• How’s your relationship with God?
• How’s your relationship with your spouse?
• How’s your relationship with your vocation/job?
• How’s your relationship(s) with the people you work most frequently with? (the tough one’s)

 Do you have someone that’s mentoring/discipling you?

 Who are you pouring yourself into and mentoring/discipling?

Recommended Reading

Everybody’s Normal Until You Get to Know Them, John Ortberg

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The One Another’s

Scripture has over 30 One Another commands. These are instructions that guide us in our interactions with others.

Meditate on the following one another directives.

Honor one another – (Romans 12:10)

Rejoice with one another – (Romans 12:15)

Weep with one another – (Romans 12:15)

Live in harmony with one another – (Romans 12:16)

Welcome (accept) one another – (Romans 15:7)

Instruct (counsel) one another – (Romans 15:14)

Care for one another - (1 Corinthians 12:25)

Serve one another - (Galatians 5:13)

Bear one another’s burdens - (Galatians 6:2)

Be kind to one another – (Ephesians 4:32)

Forgive one another – (Ephesians 4:32)

Submit to one another – (Ephesians 5:21

Give preference to one another – (Philippians 2:3-4)

Be patient with one another – (Colossians 3:13)

Admonish one another – (Colossians 3:16)

Encourage one another – (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Build up one another – (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Confess your sins to one another – (James 5:16)

Pray for one another – (James 5:16)

Show hospitality to one another – (1 Peter 4:9)

Minister gifts to one another – (1 Peter 4:10)

Be humble toward one another – (1 Peter 5:5)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Urban Tribes

“Now all who believed were together,
and had all things in common,
and sold their possessions and goods,
and divided them among all,
as anyone had need.”
(Acts 2:44)

In our culture, where we are seeing more and more people isolated and disconnected, we are beginning to see some new trends arising. One of these is being referred to as urban tribes. An urban tribe is a small community of people living and sharing together. Ethan Watters has written several interesting pieces on this topic (Urban Tribes: A Generation Redefines Friendship, Family, and Commitment and Urban Tribes: Are Friends the New Family?).

Characteristics of urban tribes vary, author Ethan Watters says, but attributes often include:

Intense loyalty. The group's message is "we are on your side."

Shared routines and rituals. Gatherings range from regular dinners to group vacations.

A sense of "barn raising." Members pitch in to help each other build decks, paint rooms or

Defined roles. Look for an organizer, an advice giver, an innovator.

Perhaps the Church has much that it could learn from these groups, as well as places.


 What are some road-blocks to people living in this type of community?

 What are some advantages of being a part of a tribal type community?

 What will it take to see this type of reality emerge in our church?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Jesus the Host

“Jesus said to them,
‘Come and have breakfast.’”
(John 21:12)

Jesus enjoyed being with people. In numerous accounts throughout the Gospels we find Him simply hanging out in the company of other people. Often in their homes and sharing in a meal of some sort. He felt comfortable eating in their homes. Even when He was a guest, Jesus became the host, serving others. Unfortunately, in the busyness of our lives we often find ourselves isolated from others, even at church.

Often throughout the Gospels we find Jesus using food as a point of connecting with other people. There’s something about sharing a meal that builds community. What would happen if we intentionally shared a meal with others, at least once a month, and while we were doing so were all there and fully present with those whom we were sharing the meal with? All too often, even in these moments, we are so preoccupied with ourselves and what’s going on that we are only merely present in physical form and verbal exchange, but our minds and most notably our hearts are somewhere else.

“You need to be in fellowship of a church…If you separate a live coal from the others, it will soon die out. However, if you put a live coal in with the other live coals, it will be a glow that will last for hours.”-Billy Graham, from World Aflame


Check out the following passages:

Jesus enjoyed being with people.
Matthew 9:10, 17:25; Mark 1:29, 14:3; Luke 19:5

Jesus enjoyed eating with people.
Matthew 26:26; John 6:1-13; Matthew 15:32-39; John 21:12-14

Jay Dennis points out four things that prevent us from joining in community with others,

1. Busyness – I don’t have the time.
2. Unforgiveness – I don’t want to be around people.
3. Broken relationships – I don’t trust people.
4. Jealousy – They have more than me.

“The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion.”
John Wesley

“You know, the only think I miss is the fellowship I used to have with all the guys down at the tavern. We used to sit around, laugh, and drink a pitcher of beer, tell stories, and let our hair down. I can’t find fellowship like that with Christians.”
-A recently converted Christian

Monday, May 01, 2006

Jesus & His mother

“When Jesus then saw His mother,
and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby,
He said to His mother,
‘Woman, behold, your son!’
Then He said to the disciple,
‘Behold, your mother!’
From that hour the disciple took her
into his own household.”
(John 19:26-27)

Author Jay Dennis describes one of the last acts of Jesus while on the cross. He writes,

The sin of the world was all put on Jesus. Eternity hung in the balance. Nails were in his hands and feet. He had been beaten beyond recognition. He was bleeding profusely. The sin of the world on him had separated him from the Father. He was lonely. He hurt as no one has ever hurt. Yet he looked at John and said, “Take care of my mother. Take her into your home and treat her as your own mother.

“The family is the most basic unit of government. As the first community to which a person is attached and the first authority under which a person learns to live, the family establishes society’s most basic values.”
Charles Colson

There are many enemies that combat a consistent practice of family as a priority. Three of those are:

1. Time – One of these days I will…
2. Work – I’ve got to make a living.
3. Selfishness – What about my needs?

Jay Dennis describes 10 ways to make family priority a habit.

1. Recognize that according to God, the greatest priority on earth is your family.

That is God’s order of priority. The family God has given to you must become your first priority, after your relationship with Jesus Christ. The family is the first institution God established.

2. In God’s order of priority your marriage comes first, then your children.

It is a great mistake for parents to put their children before their marriage partners. When meeting the needs of one’s marriage partner becomes the priority, parenting is strengthened. A strong marriage is the family’s greatest ally.

3. Admit that you cannot do this without God’s power.

To be the marriage partner and parent you need to be requires God’s intervention in your life. As wonderful as marriage and parenting can be, they can be the most challenging assignments we will ever be presented. With God’s help, our family can be our greatest life experience.

4. Calendar family time.

If it is not calendared, it probably won’t happen. We calendar nearly every other event in our lives yet often fail specifically to incorporate into our schedules that which is most important. Each week have a planned-out family time. Quantity time, not just quality time, is essential.

5. Be Jesus to your family – serving them.

This especially applies to fathers, whom God has placed as spiritual leaders in the home. Each family member should see himself or herself as representing Jesus to his or her family. Remember, Jesus came to serve, not be served.

6. If your job is damaging your family, either adjust your schedule or change jobs.

7. Listen to your family

8. Have fun together.

Laugh together. Let there be laughter in the walls of your home. Deliberately create fun moments within your home. Humor is a great family asset.

9. Be principle centered, based on the Bible, not rules-driven.

The biggest difference between the two is the attitude in which they are presented. Rules-driven homes can be cold and legalistic, placing the rule ahead of the person. To be sure, there must be rules, but rules based on biblical principles will bring out the best in people.

10. Engage God together.

“It is my view that our society can be no more stable than the foundation of individual family units upon which it rests. Our government, our institutions, our schools, indeed, our way of life are dependent on healthy marriages and loyalty to the vulnerable little children around our feet.”
-James Dobson, Focus on the Family


A father came home tired and irritable. His son asked his father how much money he made in an hour. The father, not in a good mood, answered harshly, “I make $20 an hour.” A little later the son asked his father if he would give him $10. By now the father was really agitated and gave him the brush off. Later that evening the father felt he had been harsh and went to his son’s room and gave him the ten dollars. The son reached under his pillow and pulled out some crumpled dollar bills. Now the father blew up and asked why he asked for more money when he already had some. The boy said, “I did not have enough but I do now. Daddy, can I buy an hour of your time?”