Tuesday, September 25, 2007

encountering Jesus

Our small group tonight looked at a passage from the gospel of John about 'the woman at the well"

it was a great dialogue because it gave us the chance to ask ourselves how we encounter Jesus.

the woman in the story has a transition:

  1. she calls him a jew and defines the relationship as adversarial

  2. she then calls him sir as he acts respectful towards her

  3. she then calls him a prophet as he exposes some things in her life

  4. she finally calls him Messiah [rescuer] as he offers her living waters

Then she tells others what she experienced / encountered.

What is ironic is most christians talk about Jesus like a religious theory more than a relational person. Also, most people really can't see in thier own lives a relational evolution of how they encounter Jesus as a person.

In the Bible we see different stages of relationship:

  • lostness and alienation from God

  • a possession of God

  • an awereness of God

  • a slave to God

  • a child who calls God Abba [dady]

  • a watcher of God

  • a disciple of Gods

  • a companion with God

  • a friend to God

  • an adopted heir of Gods

  • an espoused of God's

  • a bride to God

  • a lover of our souls

This is a short list. But it highlights how we should grow closer to God and have a relationship that is growing more and more rich and diverse. My own relationship with God grows more and more simple and complex every year. Much like that with my wife. Both are a mystery I will never understand and a piece of art that I see more and more beuty in as the years of appreciation pass. God is a paradox to me in many ways. I am both more comfortable with Him and more scared of Him than ever. And I love it!!! There is nothing stale, or boring...it is always fresh and more real.

I pray that for you as well.

and If you get bored on tuesday nights from 6:30-8 come join us on this journey.

Next week instead of looking at a scripture, we will watch a movie clip about Jesus and talk about how it effects us.

the scripture from this week is below, if you want to kick it around and think about where you are with Jesus.

He had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob's well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.
7-8A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, "Would you give me a drink of water?" (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)
9The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, "How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?" (Jews in those days wouldn't be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)
10Jesus answered, "If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water."
11-12The woman said, "Sir, you don't even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this 'living water'? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?"
13-14Jesus said, "Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life."
15The woman said, "Sir, give me this water so I won't ever get thirsty, won't ever have to come back to this well again!"
16He said, "Go call your husband and then come back."
17-18"I have no husband," she said.
"That's nicely put: 'I have no husband.' You've had five husbands, and the man you're living with now isn't even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough."
19-20"Oh, so you're a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?"
21-23"Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God's way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you're called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.
23-24"It's who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration."
25The woman said, "I don't know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we'll get the whole story."
26"I am he," said Jesus. "You don't have to wait any longer or look any further."
27Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn't believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.
28-30The woman took the hint and left. In her confusion she left her water pot. Back in the village she told the people, "Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?" And they went out to see for themselves.
It's Harvest Time 31In the meantime, the disciples pressed him, "Rabbi, eat. Aren't you going to eat?"
32He told them, "I have food to eat you know nothing about."
33The disciples were puzzled. "Who could have brought him food?"
34-35Jesus said, "The food that keeps me going is that I do the will of the One who sent me, finishing the work he started. As you look around right now, wouldn't you say that in about four months it will be time to harvest? Well, I'm telling you to open your eyes and take a good look at what's right in front of you. These Samaritan fields are ripe. It's harvest time!
36-38"The Harvester isn't waiting. He's taking his pay, gathering in this grain that's ripe for eternal life. Now the Sower is arm in arm with the Harvester, triumphant. That's the truth of the saying, 'This one sows, that one harvests.' I sent you to harvest a field you never worked. Without lifting a finger, you have walked in on a field worked long and hard by others."
39-42Many of the Samaritans from that village committed themselves to him because of the woman's witness: "He knew all about the things I did. He knows me inside and out!" They asked him to stay on, so Jesus stayed two days. A lot more people entrusted their lives to him when they heard what he had to say. They said to the woman, "We're no longer taking this on your say-so. We've heard it for ourselves and know it for sure. He's the Savior of the world!"

Monday, September 24, 2007

This is my small group for encountering Jesus. We will be meeting on Tuesdays from 6:30 till whenever at 836 STONE CREEK BLVD, ASHLAND OH 44805

We start this week and will focus on JESUS. Jesus stories, scripture, poems, art, movies…whatever. If you want to learn about and/or love Jesus better, this is the place to be.

No age limits, community or college people…atheists, whoever wants to come.

You can belong even if you don’t believe.

It will be fun and thought / heart provoking friendship

see ya then!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

stunned by grace...again

The Bible still surprises me all the time. This week in Nehemiah 8 I am just bewildered by what happens.

let me catch you up quickly.

for over 140 years the temple has not been operational; Ezra [a priest] return to Israel to rebuild it...and fails. Then Nehemiah shows up and it is rebuilt. In the midst of all this Ezra gets up one day and they basically have a launch-service for the 1st church plant in Israel in 140 years. 50,000 people show up for the first service and listen to Ezra recite the first 5 books of the bible for 6hours! while standing...silently...pressed in like sardines.


the priests divide the people into smaller groups and explain it all. And people who have never heard God's word just start balling, and crying their eyes out. They realize for the 1st time all God has done for them and just how far off-base they are with God.


You'd have thought this was a good thing. I mean that's what religious people are looking for right? Conviction!!! I mean if I preached for 6 hours+ people would be crying but probably not out of conviction. But if they did I think I would be happy. I mean...that makes sense to me. People who don't know anything about God finding out and repenting.

but Nehemiah and the priests tell the people 3TIMES!!! to not grieve or cry. Instead they are to be filled with joy and have a 7 day party called the festival of booths.

[side note: God's providence...this takes place every year in mid-September...and NO I didn't plan this]


that has haunted me for a couple of days now...

I think this is the point. Just like the story of the Prodigal son coming home in the New Testament.

The prodigal and Israel want to repent...they have prepared confessional scripts all ready to go. But God doesn't want them impressed or focused on their sin; he wants them impressed and swept away with his love, forgiveness, grace, hope, second-chances, compassion, mercy....!!!!

and sometimes i forget to be stunned by this

I fall into a gray little routine of sin-confession-guilt-and a vague sense that I am forgiven

then I read this story, or the story of the prodigal son and I am just shocked again at how God handles us. He runs after us, gives us a signet ring, kills the fatted pig, and has a party every time we come home to him [old testament or new]

and I'm so busy trying to apologize...i miss the party...and the point

God isn't nearly as impressed with our 'sin' as we are


He is SO impressed with his 'son' and the grace he makes available to us

so who and what are we more impressed by?

or sin
or His son

our emotional well being stands in the balance of that choice. Life will either be a penitentiary of pain or a massive party caravan


choose wisely?

"for the joy of the lord is your strength"...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Chapter 10: Sympathy for Pete People wanted to peg Jesus into a category. Speculation abounded. Is he sympathetic or antagonistic to: the Pharisees [Ultra fundamentalists of their day]; Sadducees [liberal collaborators with the Romans]; Zealots [militant revolutionaries]; Essene's [mystical separatists]; Scribes [conservative traditionalists]; and a host of other splinter groups. People also guess that he is a reincarnation of John the Baptist, Jeremiah, or some other prophet from long ago. There is a whirlwind of controversy as the crowds seek to unravel the mystery of “who is this Jesus guy.” Oprah has a special; 20/20 sends a crew out; Frontline hosts a prime-time “event”. But Jesus refuses to be pigeonholed into an ideology, political party, or perspective. In doing so, his mystique only grows as his popularity starts to surge. Socratic questions; parables; paradoxes…passion, anger, compassion. Every mold that is constructed he shatters, every category is mangled, every presumption exposed-exploited-exploded.

The way Mark writes it in his book; Pete has a hard roller coaster ride with Jesus from Chapter 8 through Chapter 9 of his narrative…1 week in the “Twilight Zone / Outer Limits” with Buddy Christ.
On the way to Caesarea Phillippi, Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say I am?” And so they throw out some of these ideas. You can almost see Jesus smiling with subtlety…but perhaps with a bit of anxiety. Perhaps he wonders what the disciples think of Him; if they understand yet; if they get it. So he asks “Who do you say I am?” What a question! This is THE question of the ages as people have tried to guess if he was madman, moral teacher, or divine. It is THE question that all serious seekers of truth, philosophy, and religion ask themselves at some time or another. 2,000 years later it is still hanging in the air, in the threads of philosophy, in the silent hopes and dreams of the billions. Peter pipes up 1st. You are the Messiah!” Boom! For Peter the great unfolding of the mystery has taken a crucial turn. Jesus goes from Rabbi to calling himself the mysterious and enigmatic “son-of-man,” to the Old Testament promised one from God. And on the brink of this incredible discovery Jesus tells him to shut up. Why? Isn’t the whole point to herald and shout this to everyone? Here is God or something; here is THE answer; here is the cure to everything. How befuddling, Peter who has signed on to follow Jesus everywhere and anywhere can’t even tell people who he is. If God told you the cure for cancer and then made you promise to not tell anyone…how would you feel? Confused, bewildered? It cannot have been easy. Read on and you will realize it wasn’t. It gets worse, and weirder. The very next thing Jesus does is explain that he will die. Whoa! No way! The messiah doesn’t die…I’ve got expectations, assumptions, and traditions to back me up on this. Peter who has just made this huge paradigm shift to Jesus being Messiah, and then is told to shut-up and keep it to himself is now told the Messiah will die. His fuses blow, and he takes Jesus off to the side. Smoke still coming out of his ears while his file registry goes through de-bugging…loose wires spark and fizzle inside his brain. He then says something like this “Whoa there big guy. You da man! We gave up everything for you, and now you want to destroy our expectations of the Messiah?! I got some Prozac dude, are you ok? Is this a suicide pact, some new teaching methodology, are you testing us…this isn’t a good plan. People will unravel and freak out…don’t talk this way. Don’t drink the kool-aid!” Jesus isn’t kind to Pete on this. He was off to the side privately with Pete, but he turns to face the disciples and shouts, “Get away from me Satan! You are seeing things like a human and not like God!” A verbal slap across Peter’s face in broad daylight before everyone. To add insult to injury he asks the disciples then and there to sign up with him for suicide. “Pick up your cross, deny yourself, and follow me…[to death]”. He then rips into them about cowardice for several more verses. Ouch. I would have been hacked. What happened to the bling, bling? 6 days later he takes Pete, John, and James to a mountain. On the mountain we see a Spielberg-like special effects show that is indescribable. Jesus is “transfigured,” he unzips his human flesh and a blinding angel-like being of shimmering silver, light, and aura is unleashed. Prophets show up, God’s voice [James Earl Jones style] thunders down. Holy cow! They all freak. Wouldn’t you? And then suddenly it is all over, and they wonder what is going on. Then Jesus tells them again to shut up about it. Whatever. Synopsis for poor Pete….”Everybody guesses who Jesus is, I somehow figure it out and win the lottery, and am told to shut up about it. Jesus is then a melancholy suicidal and a heretic who is dismantling the Messiah stereotype…and I carefully correct him in private only to be humiliated publicly and again be told to shut up. We then all get tongue lashed; told we are going to all die, and to suck-it-up and not be cowards. That is just crazy. Finally we go to a mountain where Jesus unzips his flesh and shows us the full wonder of being God…and again I am told to shut up. Welcome to my week from hell…oops…week 1 from hell I don’t even want to talk about the passion week, or the week after that. How in the world did I get drafted into ‘apostleship!’ “Mark wasn’t there for any of this. I wonder what facial expression Pete had when he told him about it. Was it funny in hindsight; mysterious; maddening; shaming…who knows? What I do know is that it must have been a fairly weird and crappy week for Pete. What would you have done? I’m not sure I would have handled it very well. But I would have felt trapped, that’s for sure. You see miraculous stuff, and are caught between the tension of that reality and the apparent death-of-God looming in the distance of destiny, like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming train.We have so many expectations and assumptions about truth, God, and life. What happens when almost all of them are mangled by reality. Pete felt that…so did Anne Lamott…Thomas Merton…almost everybody really. A big part of reading Christian biographies is watching people pass through the cliché-o-kingdom and embrace the radical Christ of experience and encounter. I had to go through that furnace a time or 2 and I suspect it will just keep happening. Who is he? And each time I define him he just smiles and winks at me while he morphs into something more. I can’t blame Pete for wanting him to just stay still…how do you worship something that is in motion-experiencing-emoting-and evolving right before your eyes?!

And like a moth in the moonlight or the porch light, I am both mesmerized and hypnotized by Jesus…while…being terrified and desperately addicted. I love him but don’t begin to understand him…not really…not ever. Is that enough? It is for me, but what about you? He would ask you: “Who do you say I am?” And as ever, believer or not…he waits for your response.

Monday, September 10, 2007

love is...

In Jumping off of what we talked about on sunday I thought this might be a good thing to remind people of.

There are a lot of values in the Bible. Things having to do with money, justice, morality... But in the new testament there are two crowning values that are repeated over and over and over and over again.

  1. One is the Mission of God's love. Flowing through Jesus and his death and resurrection...and continuing through our lives in searching and helping to rescue those who are lost to God.

  2. The other is the Description of Christian love. Starting with how and how much Jesus loved others and leading us to love one another in the church outrageously...loving those who don't know God...and even loving our enemies.

what this love looks like is listed below

The version is from the message.

1 Corinthians 13
The Way of Love 1 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. 3-7If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.

Love doesn't strut,

Doesn't have a swelled head,

Doesn't force itself on others,

Isn't always "me first,"

Doesn't fly off the handle,

Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn't revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Puts up with anything,

Trusts God always,

Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end.

8-10Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
11When I was an infant at my mother's breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

12We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
13But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation:

Trust steadily in God,

hope unswervingly,

love extravagantly.

And the best of the three is love.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Don't EVER expect any real blog entries on Saturdays in the Fall.

All I can do is vent about College football.

Dan and I both have wives who are keeping sharp objects and rope away from us. Being an Amy is a hard job.

Big Blue and the MiCks are now 0-2 with a looming showdown for a battle of the basements, and a turf war to see who's the biggest loser. National titles are gone...bowls are in doubt...already.

and yet...

Michigans loss seems far more tragic and humiliating right now...thank goodness. At least the Irish are losing to ranked opponents...I mean...ranked in the same DIVISION.

I have 6 days to talk

then next week I will cry a river.

go irish!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Jesus final instructions to his followers are very important to understanding his mission. We see him delivering them in an upper room just before his final passion week.

He is getting them...and us....ready for life when he is not around in the way we are accustomed to [physically].

Churches usually get on-track or off-track depending on how well they know the words of God. And more than even that, that they know them in terms of priorities and emphasis. IE: Jesus heals, but that is not the mission of the church...it is part of the Mission. The mission is to make disciples and present the gospel and live like Kingdom people in a tribal family called the church. Those are the essential matters, for every church, all the time.

a summary of John 17 might look like this:

  • Father you and I are 1 in love
  • Father you have made me 1 with these disciples in love
  • Father make them 1 with each other in love
  • Father make the future ones, 1 with all of us in love
  • Father help them to continue my mission of love
  • Father I can't wait till we all are 1 in heaven merged together forever in love


  • what he says to the believers about the need for unity. He knew there would be temptations for them to be divided
  • what he says about the mission continuing after he leaves. The mission of the kingdom and the gospel, he makes sure these are remembered and reinforced as primal priorities
  • what he says about those who don't know him yet but will in the future [us!]

John 17
Jesus' Prayer for His Followers 1-5 Jesus said these things. Then, raising his eyes in prayer, he said: Father, it's time. Display the bright splendor of your Son So the Son in turn may show your bright splendor. You put him in charge of everything human So he might give real and eternal life to all in his charge. And this is the real and eternal life: That they know you, The one and only true God, And Jesus Christ, whom you sent. I glorified you on earth By completing down to the last detail What you assigned me to do. And now, Father, glorify me with your very own splendor, The very splendor I had in your presence Before there was a world.
6-12I spelled out your character in detail To the men and women you gave me. They were yours in the first place; Then you gave them to me, And they have now done what you said. They know now, beyond the shadow of a doubt, That everything you gave me is firsthand from you, For the message you gave me, I gave them; And they took it, and were convinced That I came from you. They believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I'm not praying for the God-rejecting world But for those you gave me, For they are yours by right. Everything mine is yours, and yours mine, And my life is on display in them. For I'm no longer going to be visible in the world; They'll continue in the world While I return to you. Holy Father, guard them as they pursue this life That you conferred as a gift through me, So they can be one heart and mind As we are one heart and mind. As long as I was with them, I guarded them In the pursuit of the life you gave through me; I even posted a night watch. And not one of them got away, Except for the rebel bent on destruction (the exception that proved the rule of Scripture).
13-19Now I'm returning to you. I'm saying these things in the world's hearing So my people can experience My joy completed in them. I gave them your word; The godless world hated them because of it, Because they didn't join the world's ways, Just as I didn't join the world's ways. I'm not asking that you take them out of the world But that you guard them from the Evil One. They are no more defined by the world Than I am defined by the world. Make them holy—consecrated—with the truth; Your word is consecrating truth. In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world. I'm consecrating myself for their sakes So they'll be truth-consecrated in their mission.
20-23I'm praying not only for them But also for those who will believe in me Because of them and their witness about me. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind— Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. The same glory you gave me, I gave them, So they'll be as unified and together as we are— I in them and you in me. Then they'll be mature in this oneness, And give the godless world evidence That you've sent me and loved them In the same way you've loved me.
24-26Father, I want those you gave me To be with me, right where I am, So they can see my glory, the splendor you gave me, Having loved me Long before there ever was a world. Righteous Father, the world has never known you, But I have known you, and these disciples know That you sent me on this mission. I have made your very being known to them— Who you are and what you do— And continue to make it known, So that your love for me Might be in them Exactly as I am in them.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

why I love the church

85% plus of americans say they believe in God, pray, and think the Bible is very important.

and just under 50% nationally go to church.

People haven't given up on God, but they have given up on church. Let me tell you some reasons I haven't. [And believe me, I see the best and worst of the church, so this isn't a winking at the problems]

  1. Firstly, Jesus Christ promised to build the Church-therefore, my commitment should be to it (Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:39-47). But more than that Jesus commitment to it is unswerving. He LOVES the church and won't give up on it. So I shouldn't either. It's not a question of perfection, or finding what is wrong [that's easy] it's a matter of investing to make it good...and great.

  2. Secondly, He purchased the Church with His own precious blood-therefore, I love those for whom He died (1 Peter 1:19; 1 John 3:14-16). Jesus died to make the church viable. If He values it this much than who am I [if I believe in God, and value what he values] to give up on her?!

  3. Thirdly, the Church is the predominate agency through which God’s will is manifested on earth-therefore, it is the community with whom I labor (Ephesians 1:9-10; Colossians 1:28-29). Great individuals come and go, but revolutions are made in groups. People who say they love God and don't go to church...slowly fade in faith...and impact....I have seen it a hundred times. We need each other much more than our pride and ego is willing to admit. We bring out the best in each other in a way that being alone can never do.

  4. Fourthly, the Church is the only earthly expression of heaven-therefore, we must daily grow together in conformity to the fullness of Christ (2 Peter 3:10-14; Revelation 4:4-11; Ephesians 4:12-13). God tells us to give people a foretaste of Him, his kingdom, and heaven by how we live in community here. There are no islands or hermitages in heaven.

  5. Fifthly, the gates of Hades will not prevail against the Church-therefore, in light of the assured victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, our worship and toil is not in vain (Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 15:54-58). Call me a fair-weather fan but I want to be on the winning side. As a player on a team. Not just a couch potatoe playing monday morning quarterback and coach.

  6. Sixthly, I love the Christ of the church. The church belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. He bought it with His own blood. The Bible says, “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). I believe that we should loathe what Jesus loathed and love what Jesus loved.

  7. Seventhly, I love the creation of the church. The church originated in Christ and was forged by a handful of believers who had been on their knees in prayer and empowered by the Holy Spirit to change the world. They emerged from an upper room with an indomitable faith and an unconquerable zeal to face a world that had previously intimidated them into a paralyzing fear. Inspired by the miracle of Pentecost they launched out on a grand adventure that resulted in churches being planted throughout the whole world

  8. Eighthly, I love the convictions of the church. The convictions of the church are drawn from the Bible. The Word of God is an infallible handbook that is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 2:16). When a church fails to embrace the Bible as altogether true its doctrines and values are subject to weaken or disintegrate. However, thank God for those churches that don’t try to change the Bible or find fault with it, but just believe it, even where it is weird.

  9. Ninthly, I love the congregation of the church. There are always some surly, cantankerous, religious nut-jobs in the church, but the best people I know are also in the church. I have received great acts of love from caring church members. I have made intimate and lifelong friends in the church. I thrill to find warm, love among God’s wonderful people wherever I go. I just teach and preach grace to people till the mean ones change or go away.

  10. I love the commission of the church. Of course, the commission of the church is articulated in Matthew 28:18-20, and it charges the church with the responsibility of rescuing the world. We are to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to every person. Only when man’s heart is changed will the world be changed. No institution, entity, or organization has a higher or nobler commission.

  11. I love the cooperation and colaberation of the church. The world is known for its anarchy and competition, but the church is known for its camaraderie and cooperation. When God’s people get together incredible things are accomplished for the good of mankind and the cause of the Kingdom.

  12. I love the charity of the church. Think of all the needs that have been supplied, all the hurts that have been alleviated, all the homes that have been blessed, and all the lives that have been changed because the church is motivated by love. So long as the church insists on love being the quality which crowns her ministry worthwhile things will be attempted and achieved.

  13. I love the celebrations of the church. I have seen the revelry that comes with winning a championship football game and the festivities that follow the final out in a Major League Baseball World Series, but there is nothing that compares with a worship service when the Spirit of God is moving, souls are being saved, heaven comes down, and glory fills the souls of the saints. Now that is a celebration!

  14. I love the consummation of the church. The church will outlive and outlast every other organization on earth. Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church. The church is the bride of Christ and one of these days He is going to receive the church unto Himself. It is going to be a “glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing: but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

In short I am dazzled by the church in every way. Abandoning her would be like amputating my heart. I am not blind to her silliness at times, but she has also accomplished more good than anything, anybody, or any other institution ever has or could even dream of.


Sitting at home, skiing at the lake, and sleeping in isn't accomplishing any great things on Sunday mornings.

Spiritual Conversations - My Paradigm Shift

Over the last twenty-five years I have seen a paradigm shift in evangelism. Here are a few of my observations:

1. Event to Process - I think the confusion between the event of conversion and the process of evangelism was generated by the majority of evangelism training being centered around leading someone in a prayer of repentance...while little was offered on identifying the steps a person takes in moving towards or away from Christ. In the mid-80's I discovered Dr. James F. Engel and his Engel's scale.pdf , along with Willow Creek's Seven Step Outreach Strategy. The combination of these ideas helped me make the shift from event focused evangelism to more of a process oriented approach. People consider faith over a stretch of time. God uses all sorts of conversations, events, movie clips, songs...to draw people to Himself. In many ways it is better to think of God courting or wooing people to himself...too often it looks like he is hijacking or mugging them [through us]. Viewing yourself and what you do as part of a long string of events God is bringing into persons life. When they are ready, don't worry...it will be an UNSTOPPABLE moment.

2. Combative to Attractive - Most of the evangelism training I experienced in school and in seminars was apologetically driven. Don't get me wrong, it is biblical to be prepared. Peter wrote, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." (I Peter 3:15) Yet all too often I missed the two key concepts around this phrase 1) Lordship - “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord." Making sure that my life aligns with Christ through personal purity, through confession of all known sin and being filled with the Holy Spirit turns controversial information into transformational truth. 2) Rapport - "But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (I Peter 3:15-16) Rapport is that emotional bond or friendly relationship between people based on mutual respect, trust and care. Lordship and rapport are the keys to save us from being combative and more attractive in spiritual conversations. Study Jesus' interactions with people. The only times he was combative was with the religious elite who distracted people from the truth of God. (Matthew 23; Luke 19:45-46) Here is a question to ponder: When was Jesus ever combative with anyone but the Pharisees?

3. Monolog to Dialog - There has been a profound shift moving from giving a memorized sales pitch to a meaningful two-way conversation. In my early days of ministry I was driven by decision theology (we had to report something to our superiors.) But, Jesus said "go make disciples" not "go make decisions!" Monologs are like decision based theology, they are neat and tidy. Dialogs are like disciple making, they are messy and unpredictable. Learning to see God at work in the messes is challenging and exciting. Monologs take a little practice and can come across as impersonal. Dialogs take faith, patience and love. Saying "I don't know" is fine, and liberating. Tell people what you do know..."Let me tell you what Jesus has done in me..."

4. Short-term to Long-term - A short-term mentality works through this type of sequence: 1) Presentation 2) Decision 3) Assimilation. A long-term mentality operates with this sequence in mind: 1) Belonging 2) Believing 3) Becoming. On an individual and corporate level the church is learning to love and accept people where they are at on their journey along with providing opportunities and experiences to engage with Christians and explore the implications of Christ's teachings. George Hunter III writes, "Effective communicators do not try to do all the communicating. They know that faith is 'more caught than taught', that a person's meaningful involvement can do its own communicating, and that involvement helps people discover the faith for themselves..." This meaningful involvement takes time and persevering love. There was a season in our church plant with lifechurch where several people came to faith through their engagement in our set-up team. It was a place in our church where they could make an instant impact and rub shoulders with other people of faith. Our top 10 list will take a decade or perhaps a lifetime, but will need to walk the long road of love and deny our american fixation on quick fixes and immediate gratification to see things happen.

5. Every day hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands come to be rescued by God. It is happening all the time. Ask God to simply insert you into the flow of this reality. Look for moments to love and opportunities to tell stories or ask questions. Remember: God has no back-up plan for this, He is trusting us to walk this path with Him. And he believes in you FAR MORE than you believe in Him!


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