Yesterday was a hard day. It was the kind of day that would normally discourage me and cause me to wallow in self-pity for more than a few days. The good news was as I was preparing for the event that made my day hard, a Pharrell Williams song started playing in my head. Now, that’s not unusual, because Pharrell’s song “There’s Something Special” has been a song my kids and I have been listening to and singing since we heard it in Despicable Me 3.
But this time, it was different. This time, as I heard the words, I heard them as if the Lord was singing them back to me. I started singing along and felt the Lord draw close to my heart as I sang the song:
There’s something special on the other side of this moment
And it’s about what you and I decide
And it’s important for you to remember we did this together
And finally, they’ll know the story of our lives
It was more than just a song. It was an invitation to remember that no matter how bad the day got, no matter what went wrong or right with yesterday, my reward wasn’t what happened yesterday, but what waited for me “on the other side of this moment.” As I sang and received from the Lord, I could sense He wanted me to know there was a reward for treasuring Him in that moment, not the outcome.
We weren’t promised ease in this life. We were promised joy and trouble. William Barclay wrote, “Jesus promised his disciples three things—that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble.” How do those things go together? How is one absurdly happy and in constant trouble?
Much of it, I believe, is done by keeping our eyes on the reward that awaits us for perseverance, faithfulness, and loving well. This reward may be found to some degree in this age, but it is fully realized in the age to come. There is an eternal reward that is stored up for us that is so easy to lose sight of right now, but it’s real and designed to encourage us when things are difficult.
Friends, regardless of what you’re going through, “there’s something special on the other side of this moment.” We need to remember that even the trials and difficulties we encounter here are forming something is us…something that can receive a reward greater than we can contemplate. Don’t forget the eternal things that are being stored up for you, right now, in this moment, based on your obedience.
It will strengthen you to follow Jesus.
I just returned from a short trip to Kansas City. We went for a wedding of some dear friends, but it was a good excuse to make my way there to see some people I haven’t seen in far too long. The funny thing about our trip is I usually am looking for something “substantial” to happen: An important connection, a time of pouring into a friend, a time of being poured into by a friend, or a chance to do a little ministry. This time, none of those things happened. Instead, I got to love and be loved.
And what’s amazing to me about that is how often I forget that being loved and giving love is the point. I’m the first to point out that the pursuit of knowledge makes us proud but doesn’t profit us, but that’s only half the equation. The profitable part of understanding knowledge doesn’t build us up is knowing what does: love. Love is what causes the church to grow and be built up.
This weekend I saw that: through the family that hosted us and treated us like family, through the many, many hugs I got throughout the wedding, through friends who made time in their schedule and bought us pizza, through the friends who made time for us even though we just dropped in with no notice. There was no knowledge transfer, no official “ministry” activity, but I feel built up on the inside.
One of the friends we saw this weekend has always modeled this so well. I remember a time about 12 years ago where we spent time with a couple and I walked away from it feeling so empty. My wife pressed me on why I felt that way, and the only thing I could do was bring up my friend from Kansas City: “Whenever we’re with him, I just feel so loved. I don’t feel like a project or like I have to be entertained or entertaining. He just loves people.” It wasn’t that the couple we were with was bad. Instead, it was I realized the absence of the kind of love my friend from Kansas City shows when we’re together. Seeing my friend again this weekend reminded me of how essential love is toward building up the church.
Friends, knowledge inflates us beyond what we are, but love builds us into what we can be. As the church, we can be puffed up beyond what we are, which is not good. We could forsake the pursuit of knowledge, which would at least keep us from pride, but won’t take us very far. Or we can begin to grow in receiving love, finding our identity in being loved, and share the love we have received. If we can do this, in a hundred ways that are intentional and a million more that are spontaneous, we will build the church.
Join me, will you? Join me in pursuing an understanding of God’s love for us at a deeper level. Join me in accepting the ridiculous, undeserved, unmerited, never-stopping, never-giving-up, always-and-forever love of God. And when you have received it and have no more doubts about your status of being loved, will you share that love with someone else, just because?
Because that that kind of love builds the church.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ around the country,
Recently a brother in Christ who is dear to many of us hear in Iowa suffered a massive heart attack. Rick Lumbard is the Director of Wind and Fire Ministries, a man of prayer, and a servant of the Lord that has been used in a number of peoples’ lives throughout our city and the state. He currently is unconscious and in a hospital in Des Moines. Would you join us in prayer for Rick as we believe for healing for him? He has a wife and several children that would be thankful for the prayer support.
This is far more costly than any amount of money you can give. It will be inconvenient. There will be times of frustration. It’s not the most efficient process you’ve ever been a part of.
But that time spent pouring over God’s word and praying through the issues of the heart and eating and laughing together and teaching/learning to share the Gospel and sometimes even doing nothing at all…all of it is investing in someone in a way that will pay off down the road, possibly in a way that you’ll never see.
Looking back over the history of those who have discipled me, its pretty clear that the most meaningful contribution many of the people in my life have given me was not a new teaching or a skill. They simply opened up their homes, their lives, and their calendars to me. I learned the most from those who made time to show me who they were.
We live in a rushed society. There will always be a temptation not to be generous with your time, but the most effective disciple makers will be those who spend time with those they are discipling.
Who are you spending time with?
God desires to be known.
Yet, often in modern Christianity, we settle for less. We settle for meetings, teachings, books, conferences, and running through the motions. A worship service may be exhilarating, God may feel near, but the real work of drawing near to God can remain undone.
God desires to be known.
Yet, often in even house churches and organic churches, we focus much on how we meet together, what we do when we gather, who should or shouldn’t be leading, or what gifts are manifesting as we gather. We work to make Christ the center of our meetings, but sometimes in all the work we miss drawing near to God.
God desires to be known.
So we tell other about Him. We go on missionary trips, we spread the message, and we hone our Gospel presentation. Yet, often in our attempts to make Him known and tell others about Him, we become a weary worker…more like a publicity agent for Christ than a friend who introduces Him to another friend.
Still, God wants to be known.
Some of the things listed above aren’t wrong. In fact, some of them are good things, but they are designed to be fueled out of a relationship with God. God desires friendship with His people. He desires not just to be obeyed but to be loved and enjoyed. He wants friends who know His heart and base their actions out of this friendship, not out of duty.
Don’t just give yourself to duty, Christian. Give yourself to Christ. Let your obedience flow from knowing Him. Talk to Him. Draw close to Him. It’s why He came in the first place.
God still wants to be known.
Often, discipleship in Christianity is focused on gaining more knowledge instead of growing in love and faithfulness. This causes us to pursue knowledge, thinking we will be faithful once we understand more.
The problem comes from an misunderstanding of the nature of discipleship. For many of us, when we think about discipleship, we picture a person sitting in a classroom with a book in front of them instead of people running a race or training for war.
Discipleship at its very nature is not passive, purely-mental learning. Instead it’s learning to obey what Jesus said and do what Jesus did. It’s going to the lost. It’s proclaiming the good news. It’s making other disciples. It’s serving others. It’s equipping the saints. It’s sending others. It’s serving the poor. These are actions that reflect biblical truth, not lessons learned in a library.
Because of the tendency for us to understand discipleship as purely mental learning, we’ve stopped talking about discipleship and started talking about “obedience-based discipleship1.” It’s not that we don’t teach people what the Bible says. It’s that we teach people how to obey what the Bible says, which is the only way to build your spiritual life in a way that will withstand the testing that will come (see Matthew 7:24-27). Obedience to a truth is how we know you fully understood it.
Compare this with our current training strategies in the West. Often we teach people truth and hope that people perform them. When they show back up again, we teach them again, but this time something new, because they heard what we taught previously. There is an assumption that if they heard and didn’t ask questions, that they absorbed our teaching and understand. Often the exact opposite is true.
This tendency to sit and absorb instead of learn and apply is at the heart of why we don’t see movements in the West. Movements move. There is a going, doing, action quality to them that makes them a “movement.” Our Western mindset allows us to come and sit and feel like a participant by hearing a teaching without ever necessarily obeying. In order for us to overcome this in the West, we must begin to teach and model training among the churches in a way that provokes people to obey and rewards obedience.
Jesus isn’t after our mental understanding. He wants us to understand and use our mind, but He is after us loving Him with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind, and all of our strength (Mark 12:30). He’s after the complete person. So we must train our hearts, souls, and strength to love and serve Him, and not just our mind.
This begins with obedience-based discipleship.
1We are certainly not the first group to adopt the phrase. In fact, it’s so widely used in discipleship making movements that its hard to pinpoint who first used the term.
It occurred to me the other day that Christians frequently handle information in the same way the world does. We often think more information will change our situation. If we only knew the Bible more, if we only understood theology correctly we could win more people to Christ, if we only had that seminary degree then people would really respect and listen to us…if…if…if.
I understand the situation. As a believer in Jesus, I believe that the Bible is the standard of truth and that knowing Jesus involves knowing how Christ is revealed in its pages. This has lead me [and many, many others, but hey we’re talking about me here…] to pursue knowledge, thinking that knowledge itself is how I grow up spiritually. Even typing those words, it sounds so wrong, but that is how we as Christians act.
Paul spoke directly to this idea when he said, “…while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church,” (1 Corinthians 8:1). Paul knew there was a deception in the church that would cause us to substitute knowledge with true love and maturity. A.W. Tozer, echoing these sentiments hundreds of years later said, “You can be straight as a gun barrel theologically, and as empty as one spiritually.” Again, the idea is knowledge can make us feel like we arrived, but can leave us empty at the end of the day. If information was all we needed, we’d have completed the Great Commission by now and each made hundreds of disciples. There’s more to Christ than just mental understanding.
The other day I feel like the Lord spoke this to my spirit: “There are people alive today who have better theology than the apostle Paul, yet there are fewer apostle Paul’s on the Earth.” What I felt like He meant by that is there are people alive today who know the Gospels, they’ve dissected the epistles, they know historical theology and probably have a more articulate handle on the Bible than even the apostle Paul did. But these same people aren’t living Paul’s life. They aren’t turning the world upside down. They’re bookish, but not Kingdom-ish.
So to you are caught in that same trap that I’ve been caught in, I say this with love: repent. Don’t put your trust in your learning. Put your trust in a living Jesus who wants to encounter you, teach you to love, and carry the Gospel to the ends of the Earth, raising up disciples along the way. Don’t abandon a sound understanding of God’s word, but let the understanding be birthed out of love for Jesus and obedience to what He’s commanded, not out of a pursuit to know more.
A few days ago a prominent pastor/teacher/theologian/writer in the body of Christ indicated in an interview that he would be supportive of a homosexual marriage. The body of Christ in the West was shocked as someone who represented the best of evangelical Christianity seemingly betrayed what the church has stood for for generations. Since that time, this leader has taken back his words, but needless to say the body of Christ was a bit shaken.
In a few months, some very conservative, prominent Bible believing pastor/leader/writer who has made a stink about this issue will be revealed to have fallen to one particular sin or vice in his life. This will correspond with the book tour of the next Evangelical leader who will write a book about how the Bible isn’t true.
These are not prophecies as much as they are expectations based on the season that we’re in. It seems as if we are in a season where leaders are falling left and right and causing us to doubt the validity of Biblical Christianity. One minute a trusted leader is caving to some new form of heresy. The next minute, the one who stood for Biblical truth against that leader is falling into sin. It makes us believe there is no one standing for Biblical Christianity.
The truth of the matter is I wish I could say that most of this was the devil waging war on the body of Christ. Honestly, while I believe that in part, there is a higher truth that I believe is going on in the West right now. God says, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens,” (Hebrews 12:26) and the writer of Hebrews goes on to explain that ‘[t]his phrase, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain,” (Hebrews 12:27).
I actually believe we are in a season where the Lord is shaking everything that can be shaken. This is leading up to the end of the age, but it is not the end. The goal of it is to shake those things that we put our trust in that are not Jesus and His Kingdom. These aren’t just evil things that are being shaken–they are good things that we have put our trust in other than Christ! Where our lust for leaders is greater than our desire to follow Jesus, Jesus is actually shaking us, in His mercy, so that we put our trust in the eternal things of the Lord that will never be shaken.
I believe this is a season, not a day or a week or a month or even a year. I believe it will happen in waves and we will think it’s passed. Then it will happen in another wave and we’ll get all stirred up again. And then same cycle will repeat itself. It will jolt us but if we’re not careful, we can be lulled to sleep in the times between the waves. I believe this is primarily affecting Christians in the cultural West, but it’s leading somewhere greater than that. It’s not the great falling away that Scripture talks about, but it is a shaking that will cause us to choose between what can be shaken and what can’t.
Why would God do this? He desires that we find our fulfillment and our satisfaction in Him. Not in leaders. Not in their piety. Not even in their good theology. He wants us to trust in Him because He alone is the only Thing that cannot be shaken. We’ve thought for so long that the great shaking would come to the world, and we would be okay, but Peter tells us clearly “for the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household,” (1 Peter 4:17). So while there will be shakings that happen to world systems, there is a shaking that right now is taking place in our midst–and God’s goal in it is that we trust in Him, not just the evangelical brand of Christianity we’ve become comfortable with.
In this season, we should anticipate more things being shaken in the cultural landscape of Christianity. What need to examine our lives and identify areas where we are trusting in things that can be shaken and give those areas to God. If we get good at building on obedience to Jesus and His Kingdom, our lives and the lives of those we serve will stand even though they are hit hard by forces beyond our control (Matthew 7:24-27).
Are you ready?