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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Are you the missionary or the mission field?

"The U.S. is the fourth largest mission field behind China, India, and Indonesia with 40% of pre-Christian culture located in the Western U.S. With such a high statistic, church planting is essential for the healthy growth of the Kingdom in both the U.S. and abroad." -Jeff Harris, The Greenhouse Effect, Aug. 2007 issue of The Leadership Summit email from Willow Creek Association.

Did I read that right? Yes, we live in the 4th largest mission field in the world.

Let that sink in.

So I'll ask the question again?

Are you the missionary or the mission field? Because Jesus said, "Follow me and I'll make you fishers of men." Are you fishing? That is, are you the missionary or the mission field.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Should your faith cost you anything?

"Any faith that costs nothing is worth nothing." - Rick Warren

"Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." -Jesus, Luke 14:25-27

Who ever said believing in God was a crutch never read the Bible.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Shine

Light does at least three things:

1. It warns.
2. It directs.
3. It reveals.

In all three cases, the light is shining. That's what light does--it shines.

Think of being out in a small motorboat in the ocean late at night. No navigation equipment. You look over and see a lighthouse.

1. It warns you that as you get closer you will be near rocks so be careful.
2. It directs you towards land.
3. It reveals anything else around you that it's light reflects off of.

Jesus said, "I am the light of the world." (John 8:12) Jesus warns us that He will be back and that there is a judgment (on sin) for all who haven't trusted Christ yet. Before that there is a judgment for His followers (on their works or lack thereof) as well.

Jesus also directs us. "Follow me" is for all those who trust Jesus.

Jesus reveals truth. He exposes evil deeds done in darkness. John 1:5
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
John 1:4-6

Finally, Jesus tells us,
"You are the light of the world." Matthew 5:13-15

In other words, we are to shine.

Therefore, to shine, we should warn others that we'll stand before God, direct them to Jesus (who is the way, and the truth, and the life), and reveal Jesus and His truth and love the others as His ambassador.

What a high calling we have. May God give us the faith and courage to follow through.

Are you shining?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Are you an answer to prayer?

Have you ever prayed for something and then God used you to be the answer to that prayer?

I can still remember praying for Bill, my agnostic friend at work. He loved to debate about anything with anybody. I prayed for God to open his eyes to truth. I prayed for Bill to be saved. I prayed for Bill to see Christ in the Believers around Him. I never saw him make any real movement towards Christ. It was difficult to watch at times.

What is interesting here is that while I was praying for Bill, God was using me to answer that prayer. I worked beside Bill for about a year. During that year Bill saw how I worked with other people, how I treated other people and how I treated and talked to him. He experienced grace and love through me (albeit not perfectly). He saw the Gospel.

Jesus does the same thing with His disciples.

Jesus said, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." (Matthew 9:37-38)

Then, right after he tells the disciples to "Ask the Lord" for workers, He sends them as workers into the world. (See Matthew 10)

That's just like God, isn't it. He teaches us to pray and then He teaches us to be willing to be the answer to our own prayer. Are you requesting of God prayers you're willing to be the answer to?

I would love to hear how God has used you to be an answer to prayer lately.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Curacao 2008?

I was very encouraged by yesterday's interest meeting about a potential mission trip to Curacao in '08. We have 10 families seriously interested in sending at least one person, and in most cases, more than one person from their family next July. I sensed it was a heart to make a difference around the world!

Well, I realize that it's much easier to attend one interest meeting than to raise $1,000 and go-but this is a great start! Pray for us as the Elders and I meet tonight to discuss if this is in fact a commitment we are ready to make. I for one feel like God has confirmed that already.

If you are interested in more information, go to www.GraceToday.net.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

"The Holy Wild"

"The God-life cannot be domesticated or used – it can only be entered into on its own terms. Holiness does not make God smaller so that he can be used in convenient and manageable projects; it makes us larger so that God can give out life through us, extravagantly, spontaneously. The holy is an interior fire, a passion for living in and for God, a capacity for exuberance in the presence of God." - Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way (Eerdmans, 2007)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A question to wrestle with...

Who did Jesus come for? Did he come for the world or the Church?

The answer I'm getting from scripture is that Jesus came for the world. In Matthew 9:13 Jesus says to the Pharisees, "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners."

After his encounter with Zaccheus Jesus said, "I came to seek and to save the lost." (Luke 19:10)

Also in Luke we see Jesus making the point through 3 consecutive "Lost" parables that the priority of the Father is to find the lost. (Luke 15)

My follow-up question then is if Jesus is sent to the world instead of the Church, who are we sent to? Are we (the Church) sent here for the world or the church?

If we're here for the world, how should that affect how we practice church life? If for the Church, then how do we engage the world?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Harry Potter: To read or not to read

I read the first two Harry Potter books. And I'll admit that I felt somewhat guilty for doing it. No w I thoroughly enjoyed them both, being the fantasy fan that I am. But there was such a firestorm of debate going around I was afraid of recommending them. So I quit reading them and stayed neutral on the debate. Wimp, I know. But there it is. That is, until now.

This is a great article from blogger James Emery White on why Christians should read the Harry Potter books. I for one will resume my reading of this series.

Mad About Harry
The hype is over. It will be available for sale on July 21, 2007. People are already forming lines, camping out at stores, money in hand.
No, not for an iPhone. This doesn’t even take batteries.
They’re waiting for a book. A 784-page book.
The release of the seventh and final installment in J.K. Rowling’s (rhymes with “bowling”) fantasy series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is poised to break publishing records by the score, not least of which is an unprecedented initial printing in the United States alone of over 12 million copies.
Let’s face it. People are mad about Harry.
Some more so than others.
Read and comment on the rest of this blog.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

'I Like Jesus, Not the Church'

I picked up this book and couldn't put it down. It gave me great insight into how a large portion of our population today views the church and Jesus. While I wasn't real surprised about some of their views on the church, their views on Jesus were another story. Start with this article and see if you are surprised.

"Today's non-Christian 20- and 30-somethings are big fans of Jesus but are less thrilled with His followers and the churches where they worship. Pastor/author Dan Kimball reveals their six most common perceptions of Christians and the Church, what they wish church was like--and why you should be listening to these emerging voices." more

Sometimes it only takes a sentence

Craig Groeschel shares about the power of mentoring on his blog. These really hit home with me.

Craig writes, "When you have the right mentor, one sentence (or a very brief conversation) can make all the difference in the world. Make sure you’re listening!

Some examples:

When LifeChurch was stuck at four weekend experiences, Lyle Schaller (who was 77 years old at the time) said to me, 'Craig, why do all you young guys think so small? Who says you can only do church in one location?'

Gary Walters once told me, 'Most people overestimate what God can do through them in the short run and grossly underestimate what God wants to do in the long run.'

I heard Bill Hybels say, 'The way I was doing the work of God was destroying the work of God in me.' This one sentence helped redefine my relationship with God as a pastor.

Dr. Sam Chand offered this advice when I was avoiding a tough decision: 'The difference between where you are and where God wants you to be is the pain you’re unwilling to endure.'

When I was 22 years old and scared to death, Nick Harris—my pastor—said, 'It’s time for you to preach… whether you like it or not.'"

Are you investing in those younger than you? Are you listening?

Apostle

I learned some cool stuff about the word apostle today.

An apostle is "One sent forth" as in sending a messenger, special envoy or ambassador on your behalf. You could say an apostle is one sent on behalf of someone greater.

In the Bible, Jesus was sent by the Father as an apostle (among other things; see Hebrews 3:1) as the messenger and the message. (Do a study of the words "Sent" and "Send" just in the book of John for tons of examples) I had never picked that up before. Jesus an apostle. Go figure.

Jesus then sent his disciples, calling them apostles (see Mark 6:30), to testify to the Kingdom of God, initially, and later (after the resurrection) to testify to what Jesus Christ did on the cross and beyond.

Initially, the word apostle was a more official word (used rarely in classical Greek) to designate the twelve disciples. Peter outlines the criteria in selecting a replacement for the traitorous Judas Iscariot in Acts 1:22. This helps us see how they decided who qualified. Basically, a man who had been with Jesus from the beginning (at or shortly after his baptism) through his resurrection.

But later it was used more broadly to include people like Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus, Andronicus, Junias, Barnabus and Silas. There are even a couple of unnamed referenced.

So, let's take a step back and see what we have. The Father sent the Son to carry out a mission. That mission was to display the glory of God while teaching the Kingdom of God was at hand. It included living the perfect life and dying on the cross as our atoning sacrifice. His mission was to disciple others to carry on his work and then to die so that they would be empowered to carry it out.

So part two was as Jesus discipled his followers, he sent them on his behalf. He gave them their mission at least 7 times in scripture.

Two pre-resurrection Prophesies: Matt. 24:14, Mark 13:10.

Five post-resurrection commands: Matt. 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 24:46-47, John 20:21, and Acts 1:8

The resurrected Jesus said to his disciples, "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." (John 20:21)

It is clear that if we say we are following Jesus, then we are saying that we are carrying out the mission he left us to carry out. But are we?

Are we being Jesus wherever we go? Are we living the compassionate life that compelled Jesus to stop what he was doing and talk to a child or heal a leper? Are we carrying out the same mission that opposed injustice and gave grace to the poor and mercy to the broken-hearted. Are we living purposefully so that we don't waste away our days? Are we passionate like Christ who's passion and love for his Father compelled him to radical obedience that culminated with a cruel and torturous death on a cross? Not so much, I think.

I don't have to look far to draw this conclusion. The mirror answers me with brutal honesty. God's word as a mirror does even better. (See James 22-25)

What will we do in response to this? Will we remain apathetic? Or will we return to the Vine for abundant life, power and joy. (John 15:1-8)

"Father, we repent of our apathy and lack of pursuit of you. We spend more time pursuing what you can do for us than just pursuing you. You are more than enough for us. Help us believe that. Cleanse us from our sin. Fill us with your mighty Spirit that we may walk in confidence and passion for the mission you've commanded us to fulfill. May we embrace and flesh-out the mission and passion of Christ and let us begin right now. In Jesus' name I pray, amen."

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Advancing or Retreating?

Have you ever been to an "Advance?" It's someone's attempt to be cute and not call it a "Retreat" because it's better to advance than to retreat. Well, there are times when I'd rather retreat and it's a good thing.

But this isn't one of those times. The article below offers some pretty sobering data on how we're doing reaching our world. It's not just challenging: it's convicting. Read on and tell me what you think.

Knowing and being known
by James Emery White

Research shows that 80 percent of non-Christians worldwide don't know any Christians. Pastor James Emery White believes that stat exposes the heart of our cultural crisis. We've been called to influence the world around us, but we've often simply retreated into our own Christian subculture. [more]