I live in an inner city neighborhood. In the back of my house is a fairly good-sized garage for the neighborhood I live in. Two or three nights ago, I walked past one of my motion sensitive lights and it turned on to reveal a giant spider web that stretched from the roof of my garage all the way down to the driveway. It was simply the largest spider web I had ever seen.
The spider that had built the web was large, but not large in comparison to the size of web he had created. He had just built a really large web! Being a perpetual 13-year-old boy, I found a wad of paper and intentionally stuck it in the web just to see if the spider would wrap the piece of paper and try and suck its “blood” or if it would recognize the paper. The spider quickly noticed the paper, determined that it was not prey, and quickly removed the paper from the web.
We went inside. I didn’t think about that spider for a few days. In my mind that spider was going to be a problem to deal with. It wasn’t until this morning when I was leaving the house before the sun rose that I realized the spider web, without my help, was completely gone. It was like it had never existed.
This was strange for me. That spider web was impressive. I can imagine in spider hours it took quite awhile to build. I thought about all the effort that spider had put into that web only to have it disappear and start completely from scratch. I put myself in the spider’s “shoes” and thought if I had pulled something off like that spider, I would get really frustrated that my great accomplishment was just torn down.
It was at that moment that I felt the Lord speaking to me in a way I can only describe as a “knowing.” I didn’t hear a voice. I saw no vision. I just had this sense that I felt like was from the Lord. It was in this moment of clarity that I realized that the spider didn’t mind that his web was torn down and that he would have to build a new one. He was a spider. He built webs to catch food. He didn’t need the web for his ego. He didn’t need the web to supply more than food. He just needed it to catch enough food to survive. Now that the web had been torn down, he would build another one, somewhere else and catch some more food.
It was also in this moment of clarity that I realized I have a lot to learn from that spider. And the ants. And the birds. And the flowers of the field.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ around the country,
Recently a friend of mine from my time in Kansas City suffered a terrible tragedy. Jason Johns, an inner city leader of a church in Kansas City, was in a terrible car accident with his three children. All four were injured, but his daughters Hope and Elise need miraculous intervention. You can read more updates on their GoFundMe page. Please pray for Jason, his wife, their family and extended family with me and believe for God’s best for this young family.
…you can’t always see what is happening beneath the surface.
The call for many of us who are planting and participating in house churches is a call to the underground. In China, this is by necessity. They have to hide their fellowships, their worship, and to some degree their walk with Christ in order to survive. Here in the West, we participate in the underground by choice. House churches are one way we participate, foregoing some of the flash to focus on the essentials which happen under the surface. Regardless of whether it is by choice or by necessity, we are part of an underground movement.
The price you pay to go underground is to be misunderstood. It can seem like you’re not growing. It seems many times like things are at a stand-still. Often it seems like you are being lazy and not producing very much. In reality, deep below the surface of the Earth, where no one is watching and no one sees, there is a life being formed that will sustain and produce fruit.
It’s just that no one sees it. No one notices. Sometimes you aren’t even aware of the deep work that is going on inside of you. You just know you aren’t seeing the results you thought you would see. Jesus compared this process to death: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the Earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit,” (John 12:24). Every individual must go through this process, but each house church must go through this process as well.
It’s in this season that the foundation for life and fruitfulness is being laid. Everything depends on this season happening the way God designed it. So don’t be discouraged if you don’t see fruit as fast as you’d like. Don’t think that God isn’t working just because you don’t see results as quickly as others. If God has called you to His underground, He’s called you to grow deep so you can be fruitful in season and out of season.
I started to write this out yesterday and in the midst of writing it, a dear friend sent me a prophetic note that he had sent me about a year ago. In it, he describes the Lord showing him how apostolic works need to have shoots and roots. In the vision, the shoots could only go as far as the roots. The level of fruitfulness was determined by our level of rootedness.
Friends, don’t be discouraged by a rooting season. Give yourself to it. Grow your roots as deep as you can. God has a fruitful season for you, but your ability to sustain it will be determined by the depth of your roots.
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.
I have this theory that different types of Christians like different sets of parables. Truly evangelical believers love the parables of Matthew 13. End time-focused believers love the parables of Matthew 24 and 25. The list can go on. I suppose you should expect this because each segment of Christians you meet are called by God to manifest a different aspect of Christ.
I have this other theory that a parable in Luke 14 is one of the forgotten parables of Jesus.
It’s sad to me though, because this parable gives one of the most practical instructions on how to manage yourself with humility in a gathering you’ve been invited to. (I think it’s important to note that I believe Jesus would teach something very different if He were teaching you how to host a gathering. Don’t apply Jesus’ lesson on being a guest to the idea of leading or hosting.) Over and over I see believers not put this wisdom into practice.
Below you’ll find the parable in it’s entirety. It’s better if you read it and apply it to your own life. But this time, read the parable as if Jesus meant you to apply this idea in any event you’ve been invited into. How would it change how you act?
And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them,
When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him,
and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place.
But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Now that you’ve read the parable, where does it apply to your life? Are there other places (i.e. like when you’re hosting or leading) where this wisdom won’t work?