Even on Our Worse Days


Even on our worst days, we still serve a Great God who is on our side, and whose grace is sufficient for us. That’s good news. – Isaac Pittman

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We Are Complete


Reposted from Radical Mentoring

My church just had its annual Man Night. Quite a production with campfires, bacon snacks, brownies and milk, film clips . . . you know, real guy stuff. At the end of the main talk, 6 truths about identity were put up on the screen along with this question, “Which of these do you struggle to accept and believe about yourself?”

Here are the 6 . . .

  • I am forgiven
  • I am not alone
  • I am chosen
  • I am complete in Christ
  • I am significant
  • I am loved

Now I’ve been walking with God for a long time so I assumed nothing they could throw up there would trip me up. But my eyes locked on this one . . .

I am complete in Christ

Do I really believe that? Isn’t that arrogant? What happened to “I’m a work in progress”? What about sanctification? Growing in holiness? If I start believing I’m complete, won’t I get lazy?

This ‘big idea’ of being complete comes from Colossians 2:10 where Paul writes, “you have been made complete in Christ.”  Another translation says, “in Christ, you have been brought to fullness.” Through Jesus, I am complete. That means full. You can’t be more complete than complete. More full than full.

If I think ‘spiritual’ things like church work, giving, reading, writing, speaking, or mentoring are about trying to become complete, I’m wasting time and insulting the Father by discrediting His work of amazing grace.

My identity says I am complete in Him . . . that’s who I am. But I want to mature in my faith . . . to become more like who He is.1 I’m more likely to do that in community with other Jesus-following men. I want to know and understand the Bible and apply it to my everyday life in a meaningful way. I want to grow in personal holiness . . . being honest, bouncing my eyes, avoiding temptation. I’m learning to walk intimately with the Father by praying without ceasing, praising Him and thanking Him throughout my days. And I want to bring Him glory by loving my wife, my kids and every other person with the love of Jesus. We never get better at this stuff flying solo. We need the love and eyeballs of other trustworthy guys we invite into our dark corners.

So here’s my net-out. Believing “I am complete in Christ” means shutting down any doubt about my salvation or my status as an adopted son of the King of Kings. It means cranking up my efforts to grow in my faith, but not being duped into believing I have to perform for my faith. Out of gratitude for His love and for making me complete, I choose to pursue spiritual growth and Christian service.

Scripture: For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity dwells in bodily form. And you have been made complete in Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. (Colossians 2:9-10)

What Should I Do When I Disagree With My Church?


Reposted from rethink

If you’re in community, your likely to experience conflict.

Conflict is healthy for any growing organization, church, marriage, and friendship. To not have conflict probably means that passivity has taken residency in your conversations. We are all allowed to have have our needs met and challenged.

What happens when we disagree with our Church? Let’s explore 4 questions.

1. Is this personal conflict or communal conflict?

Personal Conflict

In Philippians 4:1-4, Paul pleads with Euodia and Syntyche to get along. There is personal conflict between two ladies. Paul asks the church’s leaders and members to come alongside them.

Spiritual formation is critical to your personal conflict. Are you taking the inward journey? Why do you care about the issues that you keep bringing up? How many people need to know your bent towards other things? I know a lot of Christian who do a lot of stuff. I don’t know many Christians are focusing on being at peace.

Communal Conflict

In Leviticus 4, Moses writes that the entire Israelite community is guilty of sin when the High Priest sins. Sin/Conflict/Tension is personal, but it’s also communal. It’s not just your conflict, but it’s our conflict.

Are the issues you are feeling/thinking through also being felt by others? By others, I don’t mean your friends. That’s easy to leave a church if your friends feel the same way. Do people outside of your circle feel and express the same thoughts and feelings? That might be worth exploring. When an issue is disrupting an entire congregation, you might be stepping into an unhealthy congregation.

2. Is this a problem to solve or a tension to manage?

Problem To Solve

There are multiple ways to approach conflict. This is necessary, because you won’t get the same result if you use the same approach.

A problem to solve is something that must be “figured out.” Your personal, theological, ethical, preferences and bents have been violated, called into question, or aren’t valued. This is something where you feel like the church has crossed one of your personal boundaries.

Are you the one that’s supposed to “figure out” the problem? Are your church leaders supposed to “figure out” this problem? 

Tension To Manage

A tension to manage is a conflict that doesn’t need to be solved now or possibly ever. This conflict doesn’t cross any of your boundaries. You are ok with this.

If it’s something to manage, the inward journey is critical. It means you don’t have control of how something may be decided upon, managed, or executed. If that sits well with you, then growth happens when you decide to not jab at it or passive aggressively get others on your side. Your spirit is at peace.

3. Is this a conflict of Theology or a Conflict of Proxy?

Theology

In any discussion, on theology, there are open-handed and close-handed positions.

Open handed issues are issues that you believe strongly, but are open to discussion and seeing where others land. These are different for different people. These conversations are fun (for me), because they can be heated and intense debates, but at the end you are ok with having your views moved or remain the same.

Close-handed issues are issues you believe strongly about and are not willing to change your position. For a lot of Christians, these are issues like: Is The Bible true? Did Jesus actually live? Did Jesus rise from the dead? Is Jesus the only way to heaven?

You need to know what are your open and close-handed issues. Churches need to know theirs too. Every church as a right to their own beliefs about Scripture and its theology.

What gets a lot of churches, in trouble, is when they don’t have an official position on a given issue. If there is an issue you care about, What is your church’s official position? If your church doesn’t have any official position, set up a meeting and explore it.

Proxy

Proxy is often the reason why most people leave their church. It’s not such much their church’s beliefs as much as it the way people live. They don’t like how they are treated or how things operate.

There are a lot of great churches whom have deep convictions about theology. However, they are not willing to invite discussions with people on the “fringes of society.” They will talk about suffering, but they are not quick to help with rocky marriages. They may say everyone is welcome, but only to a certain point of comfort.

Are you someone who prefers a more “conservative approach to theology” and a more “liberal approach to loving people” or is it vice versa or something else? How you sit with those questions might help you decide if your among the right community of believers.

4. Is this a conflict for decision making rights or reconciliation?

Decision Making Rights

Every church should know why they exist….beyond the great commission. Loving everybody is a great mission, but everybody isn’t everybody. We are all different people with different preferences, dreams, and hopes.

If your church has a mission, vision, and values to reach a specific target audience, allow them to do this. It’s a heavy weight to hear from the Lord. A church shouldn’t change who they are and what they do to win everybody. It’s impossible. Jesus didn’t win everyone, neither will his churches. Sometimes people have their minds made up.

If you disagree with a church’s mission, vision, and values and it crosses your personal, theological, and practical beliefs, it may be time to go.

Reconciliation

The high note of the Gospel is reconciliation – enemies of God to peace with God. It’s hard to seek peace if we haven’t taken the inward journey. If your goal is a curiosity that leads to peace and understanding, you should remain. You should stay even if it’s not something completely  the way you would do church. If it doesn’t violate those personal beliefs and actions, stay with your church family. You have a Kingdom to gain, community to extend, and depth to growth into.

Before Honor…Is Humility


Reposted from Radical Mentoring

When people strive to ‘be somebody,’ they’re often trying to be somebody else. But look around at the people you admire most and you’ll find humility. Humility may be the most revered character trait from God’s perspective. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven,” said Jesus.

So how do we ‘get low’ and get humble? Two ways . . .

  1. Gratitude – a grateful heart is a humble heart. A man who realizes his skills, his position, his opportunities, his relationships, his everything comes from the Lord . . . that’s a man who’s well on his way to a humble heart. When we give ourselves credit for the good stuff in our lives, we become proud. We think it’s all because of our intelligence, our tenacity, our intuition or our personality. Prisons are populated with guys like that. Some of them aren’t bad people . . . they just hung around bad people and made bad decisions trying to be somebody or have something. Pride.But the cool thing about gratitude is it’s a choice you can make. If we choose to believe God is who He says He is and that “every good and perfect gift is from above,” then we have no reason to be arrogant or proud.
  1. Brokenness – This is the way most proud hearts become humble hearts. So few of us have the faith to humble ourselves and recognize God in His rightful place. We have to stumble and fall and inflict significant collateral damage on our wives, families, businesses, churches and communities. The path to brokenness is littered with shattered hearts and busted dreams . . . consequences of sin born of pride and selfishness. My pastor recently said, “Every sin comes prepackaged with consequences.” None of us can avoid those prepackaged consequences, some are just more visible and public. Our sins and their consequences become like scars, the pain may go away but the memory of what we did, what we caused, who we hurt, what we took away from the people we love . . . that never goes away.

About two millennia ago this week, the only man who had no pride in his soul . . . the only man who ever lived without sin in his life . . . the only man who didn’t need to be humbled, chose to humble Himself. He volunteered to lay down and let men drive nails in His hands and feet, taking the capital punishment for sins He didn’t commit. The sins were yours and mine . . . He took our punishment. David Crowder’s song “Forgiven” describes that moment on the first Good Friday well . . . “As I drop down to my knees with a hammer in my hand . . .” It’s painful to think but absolutely true.

But just as the Proverb says, His ‘getting low’ . . . His humbling Himself to be crucified was followed by honor. Jesus is the most honored man to ever live. More good’s been done in His name than any other, more lives changed through faith in Him than all the counseling and therapy ever given in all of history combined.

Learn from Jesus. Make a humble heart a volitional choice and avoid the brokenness and collateral damage from sin and selfishness. Choose gratitude over pride. If Jesus-followers will “humble themselves and pray,” He stands ready to “heal our land.” Follow His lead this weekend. Own it. Take responsibility for your pride, arrogance, sin and selfishness. Thank Him for taking all that junk to the Cross for you. Believe Him when He says, “It is finished.” Accept His gift of forgiveness and respond with a lifelong chorus of “Thank you Jesus. Thank you. Thank you!” Then “go and sin no more.”

Scripture: Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor. Proverbs 18:12

Begging for Scraps


chickfilaprayer

Reposted from Faith Tap

Helping the homeless is something that some of us love to do, and something others avoid for their own reasons. But when one struggling homeless man wandered into a Murfreesboro, Tennessee Chick-fil-A, he got the surprise of a lifetime.

The man came in wanting any leftover food scraps the store had to spare – but he left with so much more!

A father-daughter duo was enjoying a quiet meal to themselves when they witnessed the kind actions of the Chick-fil-A manager. The father, Joey Mustain, posted the entire story to Facebook as soon as they got home!

“I took Stella to Chick-fil-A today. It’s our normal daddy-daughter spot. It’s clean, so good, and the playground has a tractor beam on her the moment she sees it.

When we finished eating and she’d worked up her dessert appetite playing with the other kids, we went back to trade in her toy for ice cream. She wanted to sit at a table to eat the cone (something we usually do in the truck), and I’m so glad she did.

We took a booth right next to the spot where you wait for your drink to be ‘refreshed,’ and we had a front-row seat to this beautiful scene: a homeless traveler had walked in and asked if they had any extra food.

Mud was wet and caked on his well-traveled shoes.

His hair was matted, and his beard wasn’t a statement as much as it was a necessity and a sign that he doesn’t get to shave as often as most of us do.

People near him kept their distance, but that didn’t stop him from being kind. He spoke to people who reluctantly spoke back, and he smiled while he waited on a manager.”

It seemed as though nothing could faze this gentle homeless man.

The manager approached the homeless man, and Joey was shocked by what he heard during the ensuing conversation!
“All I could pick up on of the conversation was the manager saying that he’d love to give him a full, warm meal. Not just scraps or extras.

The only thing he required was that the man let him pray with him.

After the homeless man agreed, there was no waiting for things to die down, there was no scooting anyone to the side.

As busy as they were, the manager stopped then and there, laid his hand on the man, and proceeded to pray.

filet

I heard love in that prayer. The homeless man wasn’t some untouchable stain on business. He was the reason that store opened its doors this morning (or any morning).

I asked Stella to watch and she stared. She asked what was happening and when I told her, she bowed her head, too.

I realized then and there that Chick-fil-A doesn’t simply do business for profits, they truly use business to minister….

I love teaching my daughter life lessons, and I also love being there to watch other Christians teach her life lessons. Thank you, Chick-fil-A, for taking care of the latter today.”

The manager could’ve easily ushered the dirtied man away from his restaurant, but instead, he chose to make a positive difference.

As the weather gets chillier and the homeless are forced to endure frigid, dangerous conditions, think about how you can make a positive change! No matter where you live, there’s a homeless shelter that will gladly take your old clothes, volunteer time or money (if you have extra to spare).
You do have what it takes to change lives for the better, just as this amazing manager did!

We’re Called to Make Disciples, Not Converts


graphic-20

Reposted from Relevant Magazine

What if I told you that Jesus didn’t want us to win converts? What if I said that in all of Scripture we are never told to convert anyone? What if I proposed that people accepting Jesus into their life does not fulfill our mission?

We may share the Gospel, but it’s not always the same Gospel Jesus shared. Our version can be a little softer. It can be easier. The message, too often, has been watered down. Many of us don’t want to be called radicals. Many of us take the message of Jesus, and we omit some of the more intense parts because they might scare people away.

An Inconvenient Truth

Out of our desire to win converts we’ve often tried to make Jesus more convenient. That’s what our culture is all about. So watering down the Gospel to reflect the culture can be an easy trap to fall into.

We often make following Jesus comfortable and easy, reducing the expectations: You don’t have to do anything different. Just believe.

Carrying our cross has been reduced from a radical relationship of self-sacrificing love and humility to cheap advertisements with bracelets, jewelry and bumper stickers. We turned following Jesus into little more than eternal “fire” insurance. In so doing we made Him something He is not: safe.

What happened to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s idea of, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die”?

The Consumerism Gospel

When we sell people on a Jesus who is easy to follow, can we really blame them for bailing out or drifting off when things don’t go smoothly?

It shouldn’t be surprising living in a consumer-based culture, that many times people bring the same attitudes into church: It’s my way, my preferences, my desires that are important. If I don’t get my way, I’ll take my business elsewhere.

In watering down the Gospel we have taken what is all about Jesus and made it all about us.

Jesus is a part of our lives when He should be our life. He is life. Following Him requires all our life. The disciples ate, drank, sweat and slept ministry from when Jesus called them to the day they died. Jesus wasn’t a part of their lives. He was their life.

We all are guilty of putting things above Jesus. Whether it’s health, wealth, comfort, causes, dreams, hobbies or interests, we all come to Jesus with expectations of what He will do for us. We all have our passions and causes.

But Jesus didn’t come to take sides. Jesus came to take over.

Disciples vs. Converts

Many people come to Jesus thinking it is enough to believe, to stand on the sidelines and root for Him. Jesus isn’t looking for cheerleaders. He is seeking men and women who will follow Him whatever the cost. He is looking for radical devotion, unreasonable commitment and undivided dedication.

Jesus isn’t looking for converts. He’s looking for disciples.

Converts are new believers. We all start as converts. Too often we stop there. We make Christianity all about what we believe. Converts aren’t bad or wrong. They are like babies. There’s nothing wrong with being a baby. The problem comes when that doesn’t change. When a baby acts like a baby, it’s cute. When a 35-year-old does, it’s sad. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

For years churches have worked to get people to make a decision to accept Christ, which is a great thing. It’s important. But what happens next? Where’s the follow up? How do we train up new Christians?

Not only is a disciple willing to die for Jesus, but they are dedicated to living every day of their life for Him.

Our mission isn’t to win converts; it’s to make disciples. So what is the difference?

Converts are believers who live like the world. Disciples are believers who live like Jesus.

Converts are focused on their values, interests, worries, fears, priorities, and lifestyles. Disciples are focused on Jesus.

Converts go to church. Disciples are the church.

Converts are involved in the mission of Jesus. Disciples are committed to it.

Converts cheer from the sidelines. Disciples are in the game.

Converts hear the word of God. Disciples live it.

Converts follow the rules. Disciples follow Jesus.

Converts are all about believing. Disciples are all about being.

Converts are comfortable. Disciples make sacrifices.

Converts talk. Disciples make more disciples.

A disciple is someone who whole-heartedly follows the life and example of Jesus, who makes His mission their mission, His values their values, and His heart their heart.

A disciple is someone who desperately seeks to be like Jesus. A disciple is someone so committed to the cause of Christ that they would follow Him through the gates of hell and back.

A disciple is someone who finds their entire identity, purpose and meaning in Jesus. Jesus is the center of their lives. They are all in, fully committed.

A Change of Heart

Jesus offers us grace and love without condition, but not without expectation. When we try to water down the message by saying things like, You don’t have give up sin. You don’t have to change. You don’t have to be transformed. You don’t have to die to yourself. You just need to believe. In doing this, not only are we depriving people of the truth. We are denying them access to a real, transforming relationship with the almighty God.

Christianity isn’t just a system of belief. It isn’t a lifestyle. It’s a life transformed by Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t call everyone to leave everything every day. He calls us to be willing to give up everything at any point.

His call for each of us is different. He has uniquely gifted every person to carry out a unique and valuable function in His kingdom. While what we are called to may be unique, the call is an extreme standard: Jesus must be greater than everything else.