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Building On Jesus

Every once in awhile I think this is incredibly important to revisit. You and I will not always agree. What we do from there is very important.

Pursuing Glory

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You and I will disagree.

Most people think this is a problem. I disagree.

First of all, I disagree with myself sometimes. You may think that’s impossible, but as a growing human being, I change my mind sometimes. I think that’s healthy.

Other times, Future Me disagrees with Present Me. Or, sometimes Present Me disagrees with Past Me. So if I argue with myself, I’m bound to disagree with a completely different human being from time to time.

The question isn’t whether we disagree. The question is what we do with the disagreement.

Some disagreement comes from one or more of us not being submitted to Jesus. The fix for that is for both of us to submit to Christ in whatever area.

But a lot of disagreements come from the fact that we’re human. We’ll approach things differently. It’s bound to happen. In those places, the fix is for…

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Why The Goal is Multiplying Churches: A Case Study

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If you’ve been reading the blog for any length of time, you know that I am a huge fan of simple, multiplying discipleship and church planting.  The problem is so few people have seen examples of disciple and church multiplication that I find it helpful to provide examples when I find them. This most recent example came from a new Facebook Friend, Lee Wood:

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I trained Edward Kisembo and his 6 key leaders two months ago in Uganda. He Edward has launched 20 groups and last week they lead 103 people to Christ and launched many more groups in homes. Jude is a key leader who started one group of believers who he trained to all start groups. Those 5 groups have lead 12 people to faith and launched two new groups. Multiplying spiritual families (groups) is training every disciple to hear/accept, obey and spread all Jesus’ commandments. They trained this entire group of people to do the same thing in Rwanda the last two days.

All Disciples Are Involved

“The main purpose of life is to glorify the Lord. We can do this best when we know Him most intimately and serve Him most fervently. It is God’s intention is for every disciple to be engaged in ministry. Those who are gifted with the five leadership gifts in Ephesians 4:11-12 are to equip those with other gifts to do the work of the ministry, which results in the building up of the Body of Christ. Though each believer has a different gifting and a unique calling, everyone is to be engaged in living out the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:37-40) and carrying out the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18- 20).

If we are living out the Great Commandment then we will be making reproducing disciples because part of the disciple-making process is “teaching them to obey everything I [Christ] have commanded” and the Commission itself is one of those commands. Hence, every believer should by definition be involved in making reproducing disciples. It is a short step from this toward starting reproducing spiritual communities (churches) because several of the other commands demand a spiritual community to carry out. Reproducing disciples will result in reproducing churches as a matter of obedience.” -Curtis Sergeant

Photo Credit: 125/365 Dolls in the Rain by Joe Lodge

What the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Tells Us About The Father

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Today is Easter, the day all over the world Christians of all stripes and varieties celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. What I love about this holiday is that it, more than any other holiday that Christians celebrate, is one that pushes Christians to actually reflect on the most crucial elements of our faith.

One of the truths I’ve been mulling over the last few weeks has been the reality of the Father’s role in the death and resurrection of Jesus. For most of us, we’ve come to believe the lie that the Father is some sort of disapproving, hard to appease deity that spent this period of time waiting for Jesus to die, waiting to be appeased with humanity by the death of His Son*. The picture is more of an evil, distant Father than we care to admit. We believe because of a mixture of influences: Some good theology, some bad experiences with father figures, and a little bit of biblical ignorance. Lately I’ve been seeing the Father’s role in a completely different light.

At the moment Jesus died, Matthew records a unique detail:

At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

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This tearing of the veil wasn’t just a result of a terrible earthquake or the result of  stress on the Temple. This tearing of the veil was symbolic. The veil itself represented the idea that God and man were to be forever separate because man had sinned. To look at God in our sin would kill us. The veil in the Temple protected us from staring straight at God and dying, but it also separated us from God. It meant we had limited access to God. When Jesus breathed His last, the veil was torn to symbolize that the separation between God and man had ended.

But who tore the veil?

I can’t point you to a verse that conclusively says who tore the veil, but here’s what I believe: the Father Himself tore the veil. I believe that from Eternity He sat waiting to restore communion with mankind. He had longed to fellowship with man just like He had in the garden. So the very moment that Jesus breathed His final breath, the very moment the price was paid to cleanse us from our sin, that very moment, God the Father Himself tore down the veil that seperated us from Himself.

It was almost as if the Father was saying, “FINALLY!”

God had been wanting a relationship with His family this whole time. He wasn’t the neglectful Father turning His back on His Son. He along with Jesus had hatched a plan from the foundation of the world to draw us back into fellowship with Himself. The cross was the culmination of their planning and at the very first opportunity, the Father ripped down everything that separated us from Himself.

Today is Easter and the resurrection of Jesus is real and an enormously big deal. But I want to ask you a question: Is God your Father who wants a relationship with you so much that He tears down everything that separates us from Him or is He someone else to you? The answer may just shock you, but if we can believe rightly that the Father is seeking to tear down everything that separates us from Him, then we begin to see Him as He really is.

And then we are changed.

But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Paul, 2 Corinthians 3:16-17

Photo Credit: Tomb of Jesus by Dainis Matisons

*Note I do believe that Jesus’ death satisfied the wrath of God against sin.

House Churches and Organic Churches (Part One)

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If you’ve hung around with people who have been part of the house churches for long, you start to hear various terms for the same thing being thrown out: “House Church,” “Simple Church,” and “Organic Church” are the most common. These are often used inter-changeably as if they mean the same thing.

The problem is that when you really listen to what people in these conversations are saying, they don’t mean them as the same thing. Many who use the phrase “organic church” say that a church can be organic at any size. Obviously most people using the phrase house church are talking about a church of a certain size. So what do we mean by these terms and how do we reconcile the two?

Organic church is a phrase that means a church built around the life of Jesus Christ manifesting in a gathering of believers. Many people also read into the phrase organic the idea that it’s church unaltered by man-made forces, much like you would expect when you go out and purchase organic fruit. The debate about what is “man-made” depends on who you consult with, but the list can include the following: religious tradition, hierarchy, discipleship models, evangelism tactics and more.  Simply put, true organic church is based on around the life of Christ emerging within a church the way God designed it.

House church is a phrase that usually brings with it the connotation of size. These are small churches that generally, but not exclusively, meet in homes. Believers who are part of house churches don’t argue that the life of Christ needs to be central to what they do. But these churches tend to have reasons for meeting in smaller groups: The early church met this way, it helps them practice the “one anothers” of Scripture, the stewardship of finances, etc.

So, are these two the same thing? I think the answer is they can and should be. But how does that work? What does that mean for the churches who aren’t? These are the questions we’re going to look at in the coming days.

Jesus Frees Us to be Artists

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Yesterday, I wrote about my journey of writing (almost) daily for the last 100 days or so. Today I want to take a minute and address how Jesus frees us to be truly creative.

Before I get too deep into the subject, though, let me be clear. I’m not what you typically think of when you think of an artist. I write. And for a long time because there were no “beautiful works of art” out there that I had produced, I could never relate to a conversation about being an artist.

But you may not even write. You may be a business owner or a construction worker or a house church planter or a housewife. And in each of those fields where God has called you, you produce art, you just don’t see it that way. Your art is the effect that you leave on those who view your work. And so whatever field you are in, no matter how artistic it feels, you are an artist.  The key is accepting that fact.

For me, it was Seth Godin, a practicing Buddhist, who pushed me into the work of art*. His book, The Icarus Deception, pushed me to a place where I realized that I had been created to write. Art, according to Seth, is what happens when we get beyond our fears. My biggest problem was getting over the fear–not necessarily the fear of being rejected, that was there–but also the fear of having nothing to say. Maybe the biggest fear of all was that I would show up and pour out my heart and it would be met with a resounding yawn. Those of you who would be traditionally known as artists know what I mean.

This is where Jesus frees us to be an artist. Jesus comes to us in our lives and His goal is pour out the love of God in our hearts to such a degree that we are free from fear (1 John 4:18). Can you imagine what you would create if you were free from fear? Not just from the fear of rejection but also the fear of the yawn? The fear of no one caring? Jesus can even free us from the fear of not making an impact. In Jesus, none of these fears can keep us from creating, because our goal is not to please a man or a crowd–our goal is to love Jesus and obey Him. This is more rewarding than click counts and awards.

I’m still learning in this process. I still get that feeling in my gut–you know the one–this might not work…this will probably start a fight on the internet…my audience might hate this and this will be the one post that gets no traffic ever**…but I’m learning that as much as that feeling is designed to stop me from creating, it’s also an indicator. It’s an indicator that I may be onto something that no one else has been able to write because of fear. And so lately, as I’ve been feeling that fear, I’ve been taking it to the Lord. And He frees me from the need to be relevant and popular, from the need to make an impact, and from the need to be right. He loves me and that is enough.

So I want to invite you–whether you call yourself an artist or not–to join me on this journey. You don’t have to be a writer. You don’t have to write everyday if you are. You don’t even have to follow my path. But Jesus can free you–yes you–from the fear of what will happen once you hit “publish” in whatever world you are in. And that freedom releases you to be the creative agent you were designed to be.

*The irony of a Buddhist marketer inspiring me to create for the Glory of Jesus is not lost on me. Christians through the last few centuries have had a name for this phenomenon–Common Grace.

**Ironically, that last feeling is how I feel about this very post.

Reason #2 We Started a House Church

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Editors Note: This is my second post in my ongoing series describing why we started meeting as organic house churches. You can find the first post in the series here.

Yesterday started off like any other Sunday. A buddy of mine and I usually begin the day doing some one on one discipleship at a local McDonald’s.  Before we had even begun to pray, we were talking with the store manager about her boys, some of the struggles she has with them, and how the gospel fits into that equation.

But one thing became quite clear during our conversation: Our neighborhood lacks men to help raise the boys in this neighborhood. After the manager went on to her normal duties, the idea lingered with us. We talked about how much more need there is than what we ourselves can handle. We prayed that God would raise up more guys to invest in the kids in our neighborhood.  Then, we moved on to our normal discipleship topics.

The next step in our Sunday routine was to join our families as we met as a church.  One of the newest families that has started to come is a single mom from our neighborhood and her three boys. Out of the ordinary for yesterday, though, was the addition of two boys from another family in our house church network. They were friends of my oldest son who were wanting to spend some time with us for the day. Our plan for the day after we met as a church was to take my kids and the two boys two a local play area (think Chuck E. Cheese, but on steroids).

But my buddy and I, after talking throughout our meeting, decided the single mom that had joined us could use a break. So, he loaded her three boys in his car, I loaded my four kids and their two friends into my van, and we hit the trail to the play place.  It was a fun day. The kids broke up into different groups. I intermittently got to talk to my friend in between chasing after one kid or another or waiting in line for face painting. Everyone had fun. Most importantly, it was our chance to practice what he and I were talking about earlier that morning.

Which brings me to the reason we do house church: Spiritual family. Our afternoon yesterday was full of activity, but it wasn’t just “ministry.” It was pouring into different kids and families that fills holes that the world has left in their lives. These holes can’t be plugged by another program. They are only plugged by flesh and blood humans who have been touched by the Spirit of God.

We’re able to do this not just because we don’t have programs. We’re able to be spiritual family to others who need it because spiritual family is the “program.” We’ve decided to make relationships around Jesus–even ones that don’t always focus on “spiritual” activity–the point of what we do. And this practice of family is exactly what the world, in all of its brokenness, needs.

God places the lonely in families…” is a truth we’ve come to live by. And it’s one of the reasons we’ve continued to start and meet as house churches.

Photo Credit: Cracked Ball by Earls37a

Doorways

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I sat with some new (and in someways old) friends last night talking about how the Lord had led us to start house churches in our city in Iowa. One of the ideas that came up at least a few times throughout the night was this: The doorway into any situation defines very much defines what normal looks like to us.

For me personally, it was when I began to share about my mom being healed of cancer at a church that many of us in the room had used to attend.  We all remembered those days and were encouraged by my mom being healed, but for me as someone who wasn’t yet a believer, that healing defined what living for Jesus would look like. Living for Jesus meant seeing the power of God heal people. I don’t always see healings when I pray for people, but my paradigm of the Kingdom will always include God’s power to heal.

We talked as well about how we’ve seen people come to know Jesus in the midst of our house churches, and for those who have, following Jesus has always been about relationships and community.  They don’t carry the same kind of preoccupation that some of our other Christian friends have with worship or preaching or leadership. They are part of a family and this is what Christianity looks like for them.

I had a mentor in my life who would regularly preach that those early days, maybe up to the first one to two years of being a new believer were a season where your life was like wet cement. Whatever was impressed into a believer’s life during those early days would harden and set the course for the rest of their life. If there was a mistake, it could be corrrected, but it required a lot more work than writing the right thing in the cement in the first place.

I write all of this to say this: Remember that whenever you have the opportunity to bring a new believer to Jesus, you are bringing them into the Kingdom by a certain doorway. Make sure it’s a good one. Bring them through the door built with the costly stuff: Gold, silver, and precious jewels, something that will stand the test of time and give them a vision for truly being surrendered to Christ and His Kingdom.

You won’t regret that decision.