Category Archives: Discipleship

Supremely Ordinary

Jesus’ life on this earth presents a paradox of unparalleled proportions. The New Testament proclaims that Jesus’ death brings us life. The perfect, sinless man took on our sin. He who gave life to all things on this planet experienced the sting of death.

It is this tension between the humanity and the deity of Christ that makes Him so familiar yet so difficult to understand. There is none higher, there is none greater. Yet He humbled Himself in life and death.

Hebrew 1:3 explains, “He (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the power of His word. Colossians 1:15 further states, “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God.” Yet Jesus was fully human knowing the same temptations and limitations as us. Jesus was a very ordinary guy. Scripture describes Jesus as being like us in every way yet without sin (Hebrews 2:17, 4:15)

Jesus who made all things experienced ordinary life coming down in the form of a little baby born to a poor family. The King of Kings toiled as a laborer in an obscure village in a small country. He who ushered in divine mercy for all who would believe on Him knew hardship, betrayal, oppression, ridicule and injustice.

Jesus never really sought fame or the spotlight. Yet He became the most famous man in human history. Millions have proclaimed allegiance to Jesus as God and Savior.

Jesus had limitless power and authority to call down angelic warriors on His behalf. Yet, he went like a lamb to the slaughter. Jesus could have made an incredible palace for Himself. But He frequently went from place-to-place with no real home to call His own. Yes, Jesus was a homeless King.

Jesus is love. Yet, He knew what it felt like to be hated and despised. Worthy of highest praise, He was ridiculed and mocked by the elites of the day. Jesus was, and is, and is to come. He cannot be limited in time. Yet, His earthly ministry lasted only three short years.

It is in this great paradox that we find access to God and reason to stand in awe of Him. Jesus is the supreme One worthy of highest glory. Yet He was very ordinary – giving us all hope that we can follow His example and in some respects be like Him. While we will never become God, we can become godly and imitate Christ’s life. Face-to-face with this paradox. I am reminded of what Jesus said about His disciples. He said that they would do greater things than He had done because He was returning to the Father.

Do I really believe that? Can I really do greater things? Will Jesus find faith on the earth when He returns? I want to be so extraordinary. But I feel so ordinary at times. Lord I believe. Help me with my unbelief because You are Supremely Ordinary.

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Are You Living in Your Divine Calling?

While in discussion with some students at The Mix tonight, I noticed how they all seemed to think of the term “calling” as it relates to their future job or career. We were discussing God’s callings for our lives. It was a fairly open context. But the discussion tended to gravitate toward skills, interests and careers.

Sometimes we tend to think our call is just about what we do as a job. But it is so much more than that. It really touches every area of life. Our calling is really whatever the Holy Spirit is directing us to do at the moment. I believe that our calling is both a very complex and simple thing. Really, our calling can change through the years as we transition through various phases of life. What we do when we are sixteen is not likley to represent our life 10 years later, 20 years later or 40 years later.

Yet, as a Christian there are some callings that I believe are not unique to me. But they are part of the calling for every true believer. All Christians are called to love God and live for His Kingdom and glory. We are all called to be witnesses of Christ’s message and be connected to a body of local believers. We are all called to pray, read the Bible and seek to know God better.

Thinking about my own calling, I am reminded of what the Holy Spirit impressed on my heart ten years ago when I went out to Kansas City to pray at IHOP just as the prayer center was getting its start. I believe God placed the following four key calls on my life: 1.) Seek God’s face in a personal, intimate relationship, 2.) Write revelation that God reveals as I seek His face, 3.) Pray for those God has called me to love, 4.) Disciple the remnant.

The first part of my calling is very generic. All Christians are to seek Christ. But the second was unique to me. I was to write the revelation that the Spirit showed me as I seek God. The third connected to the fourth. Prayer was to fuel my ministry to disciple and train up future leaders in God’s Kingdom. All of these callings developed through the years. For example, I came up with a pretty well developed sense of what God meant by remnant.

I am seeking all four callings in some respects in my life today. None of these callings are directly related to my job as a journalist and publisher serving the forest products and logistics industries. My job provides me the resources, time and flexibility to carry out these callings.

It seems that sometimes when people are young they get all worked up over what they are going to do with their life. My suggestion is to simply give it away to God. Realize that your career path may change, but your identity as a Christian doesn’t – in time you only get to know the real you better.

I believe that more than worrying about your future career, the best thing to do is to make sure that you are living for God today. Focus on whatever path you are on to live as much as possible for God. Sure, you can prepare, study, and make smart education and lifestyle decisions. Education, training, hard work are all good things. You should think about the future. But you should not get so worked up over your decisions that you fail to realize how you walk down whatever path you take is as important as which path you choose to take.

Are you living in your divine calling? Stop to ask the Holy Spirit today to help you get to know the real you.

Surrounded By A Cloud of Witnesses

Hebrews 12:1
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  (ESV Translation)

It was a night that testified to the potential of the individual and yet the power of a Biblical community. I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed as I participated in another blessing ceremony for a family at my church. This one was for Adam Watkins – the youngest of the Watkins boys. I have participated in three of these ceremonies with this family. And they have all been special. And as great as it is to see how these young men are turning out, I can’t help but think this didn’t happen by accident. These guys are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. They know that they are part of something bigger than themselves. They know the legacy they come from and the potential that lies ahead of them. They are loved and accepted not because of what they do but who they are.  

Thinking specifically about Adam, here’s a kid with a God-loving heart, a creative mind, a truckload of potential, a friendly face and a big supporting cast. Adam is a goofy genius of sorts. All you need to do is check out the Cheese Grows on Cows clips(http://www.youtube.com/user/cheesegrowsoncows) on YouTube to see what I mean. He has a lot of musical talent and is picking up new stuff each day. From his service as a worship leader for the youth group to the way he dispenses hugs and smiles to everyone he meets, here’s a young man who is moving in the right direction. Yeah… he’s had some very difficult times, especially the death of his father at a young age. But he has found a way to write hopeful melodies despite his losses and struggles. While he’s far from perfect, I get the sense that he knows that he doesn’t have to be because Jesus is the author and finisher of his faith.

While at the ceremony, I was struck by the power of story in our lives. When we know the story of those who came before us, we can be free and encouraged to live our story the best way we know how.

The ceremony is fairly basic and yet quite profound. A group of people come together in a surprise party to speak works of affirmation over a young person who is reaching a milestone. In this case, Adam was turning 16. Some people come with an object lesson. Others come with a prayer of blessing. Some bring a gift or make something to show how much the person means to them. Frequently, adults will tell stories about when the person was younger. Some of these can be kind of embarrassing. Others are just good times remembered. Adam’s mom had put together a slide show of pictures showcasing some major moments of this young man’s first 16 years. We ended the entire thing focusing on Jesus by taking communion together. This helped to make sure that Adam knew his story is first about Christ not himself.

Every time, I attend one of these ceremonies I am reminded of the power it can have to help a young person know that they are not alone. It may seem simple. But it provides a marker that they likely won’t forget. If you have a teenager in your house, consider celebrating a major life marker with a moment of affirmation, blessing and celebration. These moments come and go. You will never get them back.

The older generation needs to speak words of affirmation. I’m not talking about flattery or undeserved praise. We need to let young people know the truth. We need to let them know that their actions have consequences. We don’t need to sugar coat life for them. Yet, we also need to remind them that their choices matter and that they are not alone. Life is a story, and we all have an opportunity to live better stories.

Disciple Makers WANTED

Pastor Carter Goolsby, lead pastor at MCC, preached last week on making disciples of Christ. He said that many Christians believe that you have to be seminary trained or a seasoned Christian to disciple others. But he insisted that almost anyone can get in on the act. Making disciples is something we are called to do. Even the novice Christian can find someone else that they can encourage or at the very least hold accountable as peers.

Pastor Carter said that too many Christians hide behind the claim that they don’t know enough to disciple others. They are afraid of making a mistake. But this mindset fails to recognize that the original apostles were far from perfect. The whole concept is not to clone ourselves but to encourage others to be like Jesus. We are called to make disciples of Jesus not ourselves.

One of the biggest reasons that Christians shy away from disciple making is the fear of rejection. We should not be surprised when others reject us. Jesus said that this would happen.

Have you answered the call? See what Matthew  28:19 has to say about the original mission of the early disciples.

Fine One, Make One

How should a church go about discipling the flock? Are programs and workshops enough? How do you really change the culture of a people? Ho do people really become fully devoted to Jesus? These are tough questions with very demanding answers.

I believe you can’t rush perfection. And the process of becoming the Church takes time and intentional movement to strip away what is not necessary to reveal the masterpiece underneath. I am reminded of the process of sculpting a giant statute.

I recently visited the Next Wave E-zine, an online magazine dedicated to the Emerging Church and its leadership. It carried a flashback article by Stephen Shields on  developing church leaders. The article is titled, “When the Church Is Its Own Worst Enemy.”

Stephen made some great points. He basically said that a church can’t just setup a Christian education program and expect it to work without first modeling out the behavior we want to see replicated. It’s not a matter of teaching as much as showing. That is how Jesus made disciples. And it takes a long time. The key is replication.

Read Stephen’s article to see how churches can get in the way if they do the wrong thing and ignore the core problem.

http://www.the-next-wave-ezine.info/issue124/index.cfm?id=47&ref=ARTICLES%5FFROM%20THE%20ARCHIVES%5F640

Transition Is Like Jello

Transition is an inevitable, necessary and sometimes unbearable part of life. It seems that ever since puberty my life has been filled with transition. Sometimes it feels like I’m living out of a suitcase for long periods of time. I have found that changes that hit us by surprise are harder to deal with than life stage shifts that we see coming.

I have been thinking a lot about transition lately. It all started when a very good friend moved to Nashville in August. Transition intensified with the weddings of two good friends in November. I was the best man in each one. Then I had the revelation last semester that I wasn’t cut out for a PhD program unless I dropped everything else to focus on it. Thus a dream of sorts died.

In December I learned that one of my best friends was transferring to California due to sudden change at his company. He had to either move or face the prospects of unemployment.

Two more friends have left my church leaving me with less connectivity there than I have had in years.

Over the last two years, a number of the students that I have worked with very closely have gone off to college or entered new stages of their lives. Our relationships have changed, which is a blessing because this shows they are doing well on their own. But at the same time, it gets tough realizing that you have worked yourself out of a job.

A good friend died suddenly in late December. Attending her funeral was one of the toughest things I have done over the last several years.

Alex, the missionary who has been staying at my house over the last year or so, is just about ready to go back to the mission field. While I am very glad for him and want to see him go fulfill his call, I will miss the lad.

And last week I learned that the youth pastor at my church, a friend and fellow youth worker, is leaving to take on a  fantastic ministry opportunity in Florida.  I will miss Dave, but I wish him the best and believe that his new church is getting one heck of a communicator.

Hopefully this litany of experiences shows you that I certainly understand what it means to be in flux. To top it all off, I am not sure what direction I want to go in at this point. I feel like a bowl of jello just waiting to be pushed in one direction or the other.

All of this reminds me of one of my favorite movie quotes. The narrator said in Stand By Me, “Friends come in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant.”  I have sure found this to be true and am okay with that reality. I occassionalyy talk with only a handful of people that I knew in college or high school. It is amazing how time can create distance between people who used to be very close.

I have learned a few guiding principles that make transition easier. If you are like me and know what it feels like to be surrounded by boxes of unpacked stuff, then maybe these thoughts will help.

  • Transition and change is inevitable. You can either embrace it or fight a losing battle.
  • Transition isn’t personal. It just happens. Don’t be surprised when people come and go. That is the natural cycle of life. Don’t feel like you are being abandoned because they probably aren’t leaving because of you.
  • The above statement is true for people in professional ministry. The average pastor doesn’t stay put for long. Don’t be surprised if they move or even change professions. It is very hard to be a pastor.
  • I have learned to hold my friends and relationships loosely. This means that I value them enough to see them go forward in whatever God has for them. I celebrate God’s work in their lives even if it means that I may feel distant from them.
  • Embrace moments with those you love because you don’t know when you will get the chance to have those moments again. This means when it snows… go make a snowman or get in a snowball fight.
  • Keep in contact with distant friends but don’t be a menace. Everybody needs their personal space. Yet it is always nice to know that others are praying for you and thinking about you.
  • Help your friends as they transition. This includes helping them pack, clean up, paint the house, etc. It conveys how much you care, and I have found it helps you feel better about the transition.
  • I pray blessings on my friends even those who I haven’t talked with in a long time.
  • Finally, I may blog or write about a friendship. Mostly this information is private. I use it to help me remember all of those who have impacted my life and what I have learned from them.

Hopefully, these thoughts will help you jiggle in the right direction when you feel like a bowl of jello.

2009 Is…

While I generally avoid New Year’s Resolutions, I have decided to make a few  this year. Maybe these aren’t resolutions because that sounds kind of final. Life is too difficult to make such firm commitments. 

People generally make resolutions every January to fix things they don’t like about themselves. I have found that I am not very good at changing myself. I believe that is something that relies mostly on grace and divine intervention. I do have a small role to play. But the real power to change comes from God.

Here are declarations that I want to make for 2009 knowing that the only way I will keep them is with God’s help. If you are a friend, feel free to ask me in a month or so how something on this list is going.

  • 2009 is a year of worship in all things. That means I will try to view all things as an opportunity to glorify God. There are no longer ordinary moments because all things have the potential of being sacred space.
  • 2009 is a year of living, praying, blogging, crying, singing, questioning and journeying through the Psalms. I want to dig into the Psalms to such a degree that I touch the heart of God and unearth deep longings that only Jesus can fill.
  • 2009 is a year of organization. Yes, I am going to get organized and reduce the clutter in my life. Things are starting off better than 2008. But I still have lots of work to do.
  • 2009 is a year of praying first and doing everything else second. I want to start each day with a moment of prayer and have regular times just to listen to what God is saying to me.
  • 2009 is a year of giving to others when they least expect it.
  • 2009 is a year of working on my house.
  • 2009 is a year of making new friends and strengthening existing relationships.
  • 2009 is a year of setting achievable work goals and accomplishing them.
  • 2009 is a year of better health, less fast food, limited soft drinks and more salads.
  • 2009 is a year of at least one spirit quest in the mountains.
  • 2009 is a year of supporting new missionaries.
  • 2009 is a year of obedience to Christ not fear of man. 
  • 2009 is a year of grace where I learn who I am in Christ.
  • 2009 is a year of grace where I walk by the power of the Holy Spirit.