Why does our gospel get us ready to die while the gospel of Jesus gets us ready to live?
Perhaps we should listen closely to the words of Jesus, and move from being consumed with where we will go when we die to being consumed with how we live here and now. How would that change, not only us, but also our world?
Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/practical-faith/4-things-jesus-never-said#suL7P3q7aEsKJAdx.99
Why does our gospel get us ready to die while the gospel of Jesus gets us ready to live?
“Why does God love us?” This simple question was a part of reading discussion from Kyle Idleman’s book, Gods at War. In all our rebellion, sinfulness, and apathy why does God love us? We killed his prophets, crucified His Son, and deny his existence. We choose promiscuity over holiness, selfishness over serving, and idol worship over worship in Spirit and Truth. We are disobedient. Basically we will choose anything and anyone but God, so why does He love us?
Despite all our rebellion and rejection, God pursues us relentlessly and at all costs. The question, why does God love us?, for some reason focuses us on our character as if there is something in ourselves worthy of God’s love. The real focus of that question is answered in the character of God – I John 4:16b God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. Love is the character of God. Love is who God is at the core so much so that God is love. God’s pursuit of us is not based on how loveable we are – Thank goodness. God’s pursuit of us is based on how loving God is.
My question of over the past few months is, “what does it mean to be EVANGELICAL?” I believe words like conservative and orthodox are used as synonyms, but really they are complementary words. We use evangelical and conservative interchangeably just as progressive and liberal.
As an evangelical I have a traditional historical view of the Bible and that my theology is “conservative.” I’m not sure you can describe yourself as evangelical and not be conservative, but I’m sure you can be conservative and not be evangelical. Conservative means you hold to certain fundamental and orthodox views. Evangelical means you place priority on sharing Jesus as Savior and Lord as a decisive activity in your life that flows through all other life activities. Therefore evangelical activity is actions and words intent on sharing Jesus as the crucified and resurrected Christ and Lord.
I chose the verb sharing intentionally for two reasons.
1. The action of sharing requires that one give something of his/her-self; truth and experience of Jesus, His life, death and resurrection. Truth is the Biblical account of God the Father sending, God the Son to reconcile the world through His death on the cross and resurrection in the power of God the Holy Spirit. Experience is the evidence that faith in Jesus is both transformational and relevant.
2. Sharing requires a moment of decision or acceptance from the receiving person. Everywhere Jesus went He confronted people with a decisive moment to believe in Him or not, to follow Him or not. This is the heart of evangelical activity – to bring people face to face with Jesus in a decisive moment.
The conservative and the evangelical might be in the same boat. They may believe the same things and attend the same church. The difference is that the conservative is painting the name on the back of the boat and making sure the boat is comfortable, and the evangelical is fishing from the boat. The conservative is compassionate about what he or she believes the evangelical is compassionate about making sure everybody has an opportunity to believe in Jesus.
Right before Jesus celebrates the Passover with his disciples, Luke tells a rather bland story of how Peter and John are sent to prepare the Passover meal. Luke 22 – 8 Jesus sent Peter and John ahead and said, “Go and prepare the Passover meal, so we can eat it together.” 9 “Where do you want us to prepare it?” they asked him. 10 He replied, “As soon as you enter Jerusalem, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him.
Mark also tells this story in his Gospel as does Matthew. Matthew simply says “a certain man” where Mark and Luke describe a man carrying a water pitcher. We could just glaze over this and go right to the Lord’ Supper. But, why a dude carrying a water pitcher? In my mind I went that is rather vague Jesus. Everybody has got to have water and since there is no indoor plumbing, everybody had to go get water. In ancient times women carried the water not men. The vagueness turns to uniqueness.
I begin to wonder about this guy. Is he the prototype of chivalry? Is he widower without children? Is he an outcast? Whatever he is, he is so counter-culture that he stands out in the droves of people who have descended upon Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. He is as Matthew says, “a certain man.” “A certain man” commissioned by Jesus for a task.
Our culture is oblivious to God’s ways if not defiant. I wonder, “Does my faith/faithfulness stand out in the crowd?” Can Jesus commission me for a special task that others may follow me? Can I be “the certain man (person)” that Jesus commands others, “follow him?” Do I just blend in with the culture?
The Butterfly Effect
I have recently started using my twitter account @drrobwave. I’ve had the account for almost 5 years and have yet to find a good use for it. I don’t quite understand all the ends and outs, but have found that there are some on Twitter who are quite effectively using their 140 characters per tweet. That’s right, for those of you that don’t use Twitter, it is a social media that allows it’s user to inform the world what they are thinking, up to, or feeling in 140 characters or less.
I “follow” a few folks like Tullian Tchividjian (pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian), Leonard Sweet, Brad Loemick, and Andy Stanly. I also “follow” my girls and some friends. The term “follow” means that you are connected to their accounts and receive their tweets (their 140 characters or leass). No matter how good your tweets are if you tweet more than 4 times I day, I will “unfollow” you. In the past few months I have been “followed” by people who I don’t know, but they “follow” 1000’s of people and are “followed” 1000’s of people. So if these people are receiving text messages every time someone tweets then I can imagine their phone constantly alerting them all day long. I often wonder if some of these people are paying someone to tweet for them.
Some of these people are tweeting, “I’m Tired” or “I ate at Olive Garden,” as if to inform their peeps “that’s how I roll, nap at 4pm Olive Garden at 7pm.” I’m thinking “good grief” to quote Charlie Brown. So here’s my deal, if you can attract 1000’s of people or even just 10 people to read your 140 character nuggets of wisdom or fodder of the mind, how effective are 140 characters? Does “I’m Tired” from your favorite superstar or your child tweeted have any impact. Does a great quote from C.S. Lewis or A.W. Tozier tweeted have an impact? Can the knowledge of your tiredness or your choice of restaurant somehow impact my life? Does a butterfly flapping its wings in Africa have an impact on the hurricane season in the Caribbean? What significance can 140 characters really have?
The jury is still out for me on this Twitter thing, but let me leave you with a few tweets from God.
John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (137 Characters).
Romans 8:39 – nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (135 Characters).
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 – Hear, O Israel the Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength (140 Characters).
Romans 10:9 That if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (129 Characters).
Revelation 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me (138 characters).
Like I told you I’m not sure about this Twitter thing, but I do know that every word that goes out from the mouth of God: will not return empty, but will accomplish what God desires and achieve the purpose for which He sent it.
I just wanted to share a few quotes from a book we are reading in CORE on Wednesday mornings
The Book is Creature of the Word by Matt Chandler
– “the problem with living in the shadows is that there is just enough light for you to justify staying there.”
And in reference to godly leadership – “We are all like a turtle on a fence post. If you walk by a fence post and see a turtle on top of it, then you know someone put it there. In the same way God gives leadership according to his good pleasure.”
We are in a struggle. Not with Jacob this time, but with the providers of Medicaid. In January 2013 the laws for medicaid changed or reformed. As I understand it when medicaid reforms, it is a fatal blow to those who abuse the system and to those who need the system. Two beds opened up in Strategic Psychological Residential Treatment Facility (PRTF) and Jacob was denied by medicaid until a team meeting could be organized. The beds are now filled. Since Jacob had left our home – he has been in therapeutic foster care and Thompsons PRTF. He has received hours and hours of therapy, intensive in home treatment, and intensive family therapy with no progress. In fact he has regressed in regards to school with 5 suspensions this year and the consequence of lower grades. We have just recently finished with the care team at One to One who who were extraordinary despite Jacob’s refusal to work. It looks like Jacob has come to the end of his resources and because there is no progress, funding will be appropriated to other children. This is rather bleak for Jacob and for us. The statistics are coming into play and Jacob looks like he is going to be one of those statistics despite all the effort and resources he has been given.
Grandfather Home is still standing beside us, but I get the sense that they are winding down their support as well. I feel like unless we get a miracle placement in a PRTF, Jacob will be in our home by August, worse off than when he was placed in Therapeutic Foster care. He is unsafe; DANGEROUS without a conscientious and no sense of empathy – all do to having no attachment to anyone or anything. The bleakness reminds me that our trust is not in statistics, doctors, medication, therapies, or even PRTF’s; Our trust is in God who created the heavens and the earth.
Yeah we will have to make major modifications to our home and activity structure, but God has a way of redeeming things for the good of those who love Him.
Yeah safety is a big concern, but God is our refuge and strength and an ever-present help in times of trouble.
Yeah it looks bleak, but times like these allow us to practice perseverance, and perseverance builds character, and character gives way to hope, and hope does not disappoint,because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Writing those last three sentences has lifted my spirits. God’s got this!
PS – In times of troubles remind yourself of God’s promises and remember God’s got it!
Over vacation I heard a term from my girls – “Selfies.” A “Selfies” is a picture you take of yourself usually with your cell phone. I’m guilty of a few selfees, but I don’t make a habit of it. What I have noticed with these selfies is rather than recording an event the self photographer is trying to express an emotion or experience of oneself – I’m cool, I’m beautiful, I’m stone cold hot (yes that’s an oxymoron), I’m adorable, … however “I’m full of myself” is really all that is communicated.
Perhaps you are cool, adorable, cute, or obnoxious those are traits that you don’t get impose on me or anyone else for that matter. A picture is worth a thousand words, but actions speak louder than words. So your “I’m sexy” selfie freshly posted to your Facebook or Twitter profile simply says “I bored and I’m lonely with too much time on my hands.” I know this is coming from a middle age man who has only 52 tweets and less than 200 friends on Facebook. It doesn’t matter how much make up you put on, how long you tease your hair, and how you squint up your eyes and mouth a sixteen year old does not get to tell me a 46 year, she is cool beyond belief.
I feel like Andy Rooney, so to get out of the cynical ditch and get to my point, there are realities that are inherently ours. I wonder what a selfie would look like if you were trying to communicate – Jesus Loves this I know for the Bible Tells me so? What would a selfee look like that was trying to say, “I’m forgiven and freed by the grace of God”? How about I got the Joy Joy Joy Joy down in my heart to stay! Just trying to keep it real; if you want to pass on an experience that has inherent reality instead of an imposed reality – express what God has done for you and who you are in Christ.
NOS for car enthusiasts is a reference to Nitrous Oxide an explosive fuel to give a race car an instant jolt of power. NOS is also the name of one of those high powered energy drinks and you get the connection. In the world of bike restoration it has an entirely different meaning. NOS means New Old Stock, which of course is vintage parts that have never been used. It also means they are still in their original packaging. So I’m giving some NOS today – the following are 3 blog post I wrote a few years ago and have since shut the blog down. I don’t think they were ever read by anyone, but if you read them they are not NOS for you. They are re-runs.
Like Anything Else
Biblical History relates a powerful reality about the human heart, The heart can turn anything into an idol. The Israelites turned the Law into idol. Ancient people turn God’s glorious creation and creatures into idols. Today we turn money, children, and entertainment into idols. The heart is so intent on this that even salvation itself can be turned into and idol as we cherish our ticket to heaven instead of the Savior who suffered and died.
The missional church understands this, like anything else the missional work of the church can become an idol. We can lose sight of the intimate relationship God desires to have with us and make the Christian life about the work we do instead of the Savior we serve. The safeguard to this is remembering that God is on mission in Jesus Christ and in the Power of His Spirit. Our goal is God. To seek God in the communities we live in, because God is already there. The invitation is not to go on mission, but that we are invited to join God who is on mission. God is the means to the end. Our missional activities are simply tools to draw near to God.
Transformation Into a Missional Heart
In Luke 14:16-24 Jesus is telling a parable about the Messianic Feast. He begins with an invitation by a hospitable host who wants to throw a great banquet. The RSVP’s are sent out and returned, “yes we will be there.” At the right time the servant is sent out to tell the guests that the band is fired up, the food is ready, the celebration is about to commence. One by one the guest give insulting and lame excuses why they cannot come. Hearing the servant’s report and the insulting excuses the host turns his anger into grace and invites the outcasts, the marginalized, and in-firmed.
The servant sees his master’s grace and experiences the joy of those who accept the gracious invitation. The servant sees his master’s heart and the servant’s heart is transformed. He returns to the master transformed and fully engaged in the master’s vision, “Master what you have commanded is done and there’s still room!” The servant is then sent out into the countryside and to the crossroads and back roads to make sure the banquet is full. When the servant says, “and there’s still more room,” he exposes his transformed heart. He gets it and wants to be a part of the master’s gracious invitation.
How much more of an experience of grace than the death and resurrection of Jesus do we need to have our hearts transformed. God has changed his anger into grace. The invitation to God’s banquet is for all people. We the church are the servant sent into all the world to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey all that Christ Jesus has commanded. The missional heart is born out experiencing God’s grace in Jesus and a yearning to be a part of God’s mission in the world.
Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don’t have that problem. ~ President Ronald Reagan, 1985
Do we as Christians have the wondering problem? Are our programs effective? Is our worship inspiring? Are we drawing enough people? Are we making an impact? For the missional Christian these questions are the wrong questions to ask and they will always leave us wondering. Where is God at work in this place at this time? What is God doing in my neighborhood? How is God drawing the people around me to Him? Those are the questions to ask.
The reason the marines don’t have that problem is because they are using all their gifts, resources, and courage to carry out their orders either as a guardian of liberty or a protector of peace. The church is ordered to GO INTO ALL THE WORLD AND MAKE DISCIPLES AND TO BE CHRIST’S WITNESSES IN JERUSALEM, JUDEA, SAMARIA, AND TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH. But instead we see our calling is to get as many people as we can in the pews and in our programs and we will always wonder. If we will go make disciples and are witnesses of Christ Jesus using our gifts, resources, and courage we will not have that problem.
If you have been reading my blog without a clue as to who Jacob is and what Jacob’s deal is or if you are current with Jacob and just want an update read on. . .
Jacob is our adopted son. We adopted Jacob (age 7) and his older sister, Kaleigh (age 11), in July of 2008. Jacob will be 12 years old in February 2013. He has been diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder, PDS, and oppositional defiance. In Nov. of 2010 Jacob was moved into a therapeutic foster home due to his unsafe behavior. Thanks be to God for the staff at Grandfather Home for Children and Curtis, Jacob’s case manager who coordinated Jacob’s admission to Thompsons Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility in July of 2011. We thought Jacob would get what he needed at Thompsons, but the staff turnover rate was ridiculous and Jacob was able to manipulate everyone for 9 months. In April 2012 in order to get Jacob through the 4th grade and hopefully into a better therapy situation, he was moved back into therapeutic foster care. Jacob is now 30 minutes from us in a therapeutic foster home. He is still unsafe and highly manipulative.
I am currently the family liaison working in therapy with Jacob and his intensive home team. Jacob is intelligent, creative, helpful, and a great kid to be around if you have eyes on him at all times. He is also manipulative, sneaky, untruthful, and has sexualized behaviors all of which make him dangerous. If you have read my blogs you also know that Jacob’s core issue is relationships. Superficial relationships are his specialty, because they require no reciprocation or personal responsibility.
Jacob’s current status is two-fold. First, for the past 6 months Jacob has been surrounded with therapeutic staff, teachers, and caretakers that are all on the same page. For the first time in his life Jacob is being called out and accountable for his manipulative and unsafe behaviors. Jacob has been with this team long enough that they are actually starting to see his sexualized behaviors. On this front we are awaiting a psychological evaluation that should help. Second, Jacob is self-centered, entitled, and non-compliant, so he is totally defiant at this time. This has resulted in suspension at school, aggressive behavior in the foster care home, and his therapists are about done. On this front everyone is running out of resources and seeing no return in their investment in Jacob. In fact I just got a call while writing this and it looks like Jacob is about to be suspended again.
It’s the “again” that I have the most problem with. I don’t know how many meetings I have been in with Jacob thinking, “here I am again in the same exact meeting or here we are again Jacob is still doing the same behaviors.” In fact one meeting I actually got emotional and the therapist thought Jacob and me were having a moment, but all I was thinking was, “not this again.” Fran is saying to me, “what are we going to do,” again. I have a feeling Jacob is thinking, “are you really going to talk about that again?” I really would like to see some new behaviors, good or bad, because the “again” has got us all stuck. Maybe that’s what Jesus was thinking when he said to the church in Laodicea, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
It is incredibly tough to continue to work with and invest in some one who is stuck or not willing to move. It’s tough to remain in relationship with a person who is doing the same stuff that hurts the relationship. My guess is that is like living with an alcoholic who stays sober just long enough to give some hope and then back to drinking again. The “again” is always the same, no growth and no worse than it has been. Perhaps I do that to God on Sunday mornings with my prayers to “again” help me with the sermon that is not quite finished or the worship service I haven’t totally developed. Not much changes good or bad when the “again” keeps happening. That’s where we are with Jacob.
So when people ask, “how’s Jacob?” we can only respond again, “the same.” For people diligently praying it’s discouraging. For people who don’t quite get it, their response is “things will get better.” For those that don’t get it at all it’s, “poor Jacob.” So I sit here writing “again” trying to learn what God is doing in me through this season, hoping the church doesn’t fire me for all time I have to invest in Jacob, and thanking God that His endless resources are sustaining me and my family.
When all is said and done, I feel like Charlie Brown upside down in the air after trying to kick that football. Did this just happen again?