Category Archives: Christian Living

When God Feels Far Away…

I talk to many people who feel like God is far away.  A question I try to ask is, “Who moved?”

Paul says in Acts 17:27 that God, our Father, is not far from any of us and that his desire is that we reach out to him and find Him.  In James 4:8, James says, “Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.”

Paul and James are saying that whenever there is distance between us and God it is not God who has moved away but we have.   We end up wanting the world rather than God.  We end up prioritizing our pleasure, comfort, plans, and business and in doing so we drift away from him.  We come to him when we need him, but then we walk away when things are good.  Our relationship with God is just that, a relationship.  It needs to be worked on. It needs regular attention or we grow distant and our relationship breaks down.  If I only talked or spent time with my parents or my wife when I needed something our relationship would suffer and, in reality,there wouldn’t even be much of a relationship there.  Then when we come to him we are full of doubts because we’ve forgotten who He is,  We’ve forgotten his character and love.  We’ve forgotten how good he is and how he works all things for our good. God wants so much more for us.

God is the good Father from the story of the Prodigal Son.  We all have run away at some point.  We all have wanted the world.  We all have just wanted to run with our inheritance and live however we’d like outside of our Father’s house and rules.  Yet God is not far from us and He desires that we reach out to Him and come home.  We cause the distance.  We walk away. Yet God is the perfect Father who always wants his little boys and girls to come home.  He is just waiting for us to return so that we can have a full relationship with Him again. In fact, the story of the prodigal son is imperfect compared to the real story of us and God. In the real story, the Father sent His good Son, Jesus, to pay our debt, to share His inheritance so we could replace the one we lost, and to bring us home, back in the family, back to the loving arms of the Father.  When we come home, the Father runs to us, wraps His arms around us, calls us His children once more, and treats us as if we never left.

God isn’t far from you. He is near.  He’s right there.  Perhaps He’s even allowed you to see the distance you’ve walked away in life so you’d run home to Him.  He loves you so much he gave his Son, knowing that he’d suffer and die while rescuing you.  If He’s done that, he certainly won’t write you off.  He’ll certainly be with you as you return to him.  He’ll certainly run to you, embrace you, and treat you as if you had never left.

Picture found here

Serving in a Snow Storm

snow-shovel-100208-02

Jesus is a servant.  The way that he serves shows his love for us.  Jesus said his very mission was to serve us and demonstrate God’s love by saying:

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus is the good king who came to serve, who showed his love by serving us to the point of death on a cross (phil 2:6-11). It’s through Jesus service that the lie of Satan (the lie that said God doesn’t love us) is dispelled when we see that God loves us and will do anything to provide for us the very best of life and life to the full in his kingdom.

If Jesus is the Good King who came to serve, and if you are baptized into his name, you are his servants sent into the world to display the truth of God’s love through your actions–to show the world that God loves them through YOUR actions.  So how can you sere in the snow storm?

  1. Check up on the elderly and the infirm.  See if they need anything and then provide what they need.  Offer to drive to get their groceries or medicine if needed. The roads might be driveable but many won’t want to take a chance or might be to unstable to walk in the snow or ice.
  2. Shovel, snow blow, or plow your neighbor’s walk or drive way…even if they could do it themselves.
  3. Make a large pot of soup and bring some containers for the neighbors around you.
  4. Share some of the milk, eggs, and bread you started hoarding the moment you heard we were going to get snow. (Sorry, couldn’t resist).
  5. If you’ve got a good vehicle and confidence in your driving, offer to pick up a coworker or take them home if the roads are bad.

Finally, Ask the Spirit who you can serve and what you can do for them.  Use this as an opportunity to build relationships with neighbors you haven’t seen all winter or haven’t met yet.

Picture found here

Dads, You are heroes. It’s time to step up!

Dads,  You are heroes.  It’s time to step up!  

We started weekly worship gatherings in a new church about a year ago.  For three years we’ve been reaching out to people in neighborhoods, bars, and parks. We’ve heard countless stories of brokenness. It usually starts with, “My Dad never…” Most people, especially the men we’ve met, who are far from Jesus and the church, have serious daddy issues. We hear of how most these young men never had their dad’s marry/or remain married to their moms. Their dad was never there growing up. Their dad never said, “I love you” or “I’m proud of you.” Their dads never taught them what it was like to be a man.   A growing number of people we’ve met never knew their dads at all.

If you’re a dad, you are a hero. Your kid, even if he’s 55 and you’re 72, still yearns for your presence, your approval, your love. You are either going to give them those things and prove to him that you’re the hero he always thought you were. Or you’re going to show him you’re more like a villain…and more likely he’ll think it’s because of him, that he’s not worthy of a hero’s love.

There’s some good news: It is never too late to step up and make things right.

Here’s even better news: Jesus can redeem the lost and broken years. With the help of his power, by faith in him, and the leading and directing of his Spirit we can change. God’s Spirit can transform our hearts and lead us to repent to our children in the ways we’ve wronged them. His Spirit can help us become the men and dads were are called to be. God can transform our children’s hearts to forgive us as well.

Here’s the best news: Jesus is a perfect father on our behalf who always did what was best for his children, who was always nearby, who always showed unconditional love and approval. He was the perfect father in your stead to your children. He was looking out for you children even when you weren’t. He did everything necessary to be with his children, to protect them from danger and provide for them a future.  Through faith in Jesus, His perfect record is your’s before the father in heaven.  You are guiltless for all the ways you’ve wronged your children and for every good thing you did not do for them.  You have a Father in heaven who loved you children in your stead, and, just as sweet, you have a Father in heaven who loves you.

Let’s live in that love, men!

 

Video found here

Jesus’ promise to be with us always is tied to us going on his mission!

One of my favorite bible verses is Matthew 28:20 where Jesus is about to ascend into heaven and says, “Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  I remember this verse was used all the time to remind us that Jesus is omnipresent, he’s everywhere which means we’re never alone.  You’re going through hard time?  Jesus is with you.  You’re lonely and having a hard time make friends, keeping friends?  Jesus is with you!  Having a hard time finding a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife.  Jesus is with you.  Facing an impossible challenge?  Jesus is with you!  You’re not alone. He’s there to be with you, comfort you, and help you through whatever is standing in the way of your happiness, health, or safety. Yet is that the right way to view what Jesus is saying?

A number of years ago I was reading the context of this verse again, Matthew 28:16-20.  For some reason I saw what I never saw before.

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.

His very next words are:

And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Jesus’ promise to be with us always is tied to us going on his mission!  He’s saying, “I’ve defeated sin and death through my death and resurrection on your behalf.  I’ve created you, my church, to bring my salvation to all people.  Go and make disciples, everywhere in the world, by baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything I’ve told you.  Oh,  Don’t be afraid, go in confidence that I’m now in charge and have all power and I’m going with you.  I’m never going to abandon you while you.  I’m on this mission with you until it’s completed at the end of the age.”

Now don’t hear what I’m not saying.  I’m not saying that Jesus is only with us if we’re “on mission” seeking the lost and making disciples.  There’s other verses in the bible that talk about God being near to all people and actively present in the lives of those who look to him.  However, this specific promise in Matthew 28:20 is given in context of mission.

We’ve started a new church in the last couple years, and are coming to the 1st year anniversary of our corporate weekly worship in September.  Since God has called me back to faith, I’ve had a passion to see all people come to the God who has loved me and saved me.  Yet in the last couple years, as we’ve given ourselves wholeheartedly to, and have reoriented our lives around, God’s mission, we’ve seen God everywhere.

Every day, I wake up or leave my house and it’s like I’m going on a crazy, epic, adventure.  I say to God, “How are you going to show up today?  What are you going to do to me, for me, through me for the sake of your kingdom?”  What’s amazing is that we are seeing God everywhere as we go with his mission in mind.  His fingerprints are evident all over the lives of the people we’re running into.  It’s almost like we can see his hands bringing our little missionary band into encounters and relationship with the unbelieving, doubting, and hurting at just the right time.  Why is this?  Because he has all authority and he’s with us always in a special way when we’re seeking to see others know Him and grow up to be His disciples.

Some Christians live their lives thinking that God has privileged them, that the world and our culture should be fit to bless them and so they engage in the culture wars to make this a “Christian” or “Moral” nation.  Some even wrongly believe that God simple wants to bless his people by removing their difficulties and pain and by blessings them with all sorts of good health, a beautiful spouse, a great career, etc.

One day the world will be perfect.  Jesus will come down and save his people, his church.  He’ll give us perfect health and perfect bodies as he takes away all sickness, pain, and death.  He will give pleasure, comfort, security, and peace.  He will give us the riches of his Father’s kingdom as we live with our Creator and Redeemer face-to-face.  We’ll have everything we’ve truly ever desired and dreamed of because we’ll have him.  We’ll have the best life that we could ever dream of because we’ll have him.  Yet that’s not what we have now.

It’s almost as if our land has been captured by an enemy power.  The true king has come out of exile.  He’s liberated our town.  We’ve seen him again face-to-face. He’s going to fight for us and His victory will be our victory.  Yet he can’t stay. His mission doesn’t end with us.  There’s others to be liberated but he invites us to take up arms and follow him.  He invites us to join his mission.  Those who stay in the village might see him from time-to-time when he returns between skirmishes or if the people are in danger again.  Yet those who join him in battle get to see him every day.  The get to see Him work and fight for them.  They get to witness his awesome power as he fights for them and his passionate love and he sets captives free.  This is the calling of the church, his people.

The World doesn’t exist for the Church.  It will one day.  Yet for now, the Church exists for the World.  We exist for the mission.  When we’re on mission we’ll see Jesus in ways we have never dreamed as we walk beside him and see him work in and through our lives for the sake of bringing the world back to him.

 

If you like this post you might also like It’s Dangerous Business

Pictures found here, here, and here

Don’t be Afraid of Making Mistakes

I love this quote from an African Archbishop:

Don’t be afraid of making mistakes because Jesus will wash you clean and then tell you to go play again. He does not say, “Stand in the corner and don’t you dare get dirty again.” Just like a mother, he bathes a dirty child and then tells him to go outside and play again.

Sometimes we’re so worried about our safety or cleanliness that we lose out on life.  I’m not saying we should try to get dirty with sin, but to boldly live as children loved by their heavenly Father.  We do our best to live by his ways.  We often fall short, but that NEVER changes his love for us.  He’ll wash us as many times as we’re dirty.

Quote found here.

Picture found here.

Why Do Our Children Leave the Church?

Why do so many people—with incredible conversions—parent children who leave Christianity? History overflows with great saints whose offspring lose faith:
•Samuel was a mighty prophet of God. His sons were a mess.
•David was a man after God’s own heart. His children were a disaster.
•Harvard, Yale, and Princeton were founded on the gospel. Now they lead the opposition.

I’ve witnessed dozens of families (churches, ministries, and prayer groups) who began with a furious fire of love for God whose next generation couldn’t blow a smoke ring.

Our children lose fire because of our mother-of-all-assumptions; we assume the gospel. This is how the gospel is lost…..Read More Here

I’d add to this that our children don’t see what we profess effect the lives we lead.  So we forget about he Gospel or we don’t allow the Gospel to be the motivating factor in our lives.

How do you relate to your members of your MCs?  How do you relate the faith to your children.  Is it “This do…then God will?”  Or is it, “God did…so we can?”

How To Disciple Someone Through Reading The Bible

So you’ve built relationships with somebody in your neighborhood or work place.  You’ve gotten to know quite a bit about them and they’re starting to consider you a friend.  You’ve had a chance to share the Gospel Story with them and they want to know more.  Now what?  Where do you go from here? 

You can always invite them to join your Missional Community in a service project to see the Christian life lived out in serving others.  Or you could invite them to join your MC in hearing the Story-Formed Way.  Yet the timing might not be right.  You might feel like this person needs a little more understanding regarding how to read, understand , respond to, or apply God’s Word.  One of the best ways you can help is to start reading the bible with them on a regular basis. Yet where do you begin?

If the person is already coming to your MC weekly, why not invite them to come 30 minutes before your gathering to read scripture with you?  You could also invite them to join you on your lunch break once a week.  Try to integrate the Bible Study into something that you’re already a part of so it doesn’t become an added “burden” to an already tight schedule. 

 

What is the Bible?

  You want to clarify what the bible is and is not.   

  • The Bible is not primarily a book of rules telling you what you should and shouldn’t do, though it does contain some laws and commandments.  The bible isn’t really about you.  It’s about God and about what he has done for you. 
  • The Bible isn’t a book showcasing a number of heroes that you should copy.   The Bible does, at times, present people that we should try to emulate.  Yet at the same time, many of those people aren’t heroes at all.  When you look at their lives, you see that even the best people recorded in the Bible have many problems and make many mistakes, sometimes even on purpose. 
  • The Bible is primarily a story about God and His love.   As Sally Lloyd Jones says, “Every Story Whispers His name”.  It’s all about Jesus and what he’s done for us.  (Luke 24: 25-27, John 5:39)

Method

Before we begin to read the Bible, we want to pray that God would give us His Holy Spirit to understand, trust, and put into practice what the Bible says.  Without His Spirit we cannot understand or believe the truth of God, nor can we put into practice what it says. 

When we read any passage of the bible, maybe the best way of understanding what God is trying to teach you in the passage is to look at the verse, within its context (the surrounding paragraphs, chapters, and even the particular book itself) and ask questions concerning what the text reveals to us about:   

  1. Who is God (His Character and nature)? 
  2. What has He done, or has promised to do (particularly through Christ’s person and work)?
  3. Who are we (both apart from God and as a result of who God is and what he’s done)?
  4. How do we live now (In light of who God is, what he’s done, and who He’s made us to be)?  

 

Additional questions to ask each other might be:  

  1. When was the text written?
  2. By whom and to whom was the text written?
  3. Why was it written?
  4. Does it reveal God’s law, (how we should live) or Gospel, (what God does for us)?
  5. How can this text be applied to me?
  6. What is striking you about this text?
  7. Does anything in this text shock you?
  8. When might we use this passage or retell this story?
  9. What can I thank God for?
  10. What promises of God can I trust in?
  11. How does this text point to Jesus?

 

Things to have with you 

  • A Study Bible
  • Pen/Pencil
  • Highlighter
  • Bookmark
  • Notepad

Resources 

Disciple ?

There is a lot of talk about faith in the bible.  Both Jesus and the disciples call people to look to and believe the Gospel (The good news of God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus).  Yet when Jesus commissions his followers, he doesn’t call them to make believers of the world, but disciples.  Yet what is a disciple?

Watch this short video from the poet and artist, Propaganda:

A disciple is someone who learns from another.  They learn to think like their teacher thinks.  They learn to live like their teacher lives.   When we come to believe and love Jesus, we want to then live for him.  Yet how do we begin?  Yes, we do want to read God’s Story in the Bible.  But, learning to apply it is hard.  Learning to walk in Jesus’ ways in the 21st century is difficult to understand without seeing someone else do it.  That’s why it’s important to be in relationship with other people who’ve been, not only learning about Jesus and his word, but learning how to walk like Jesus did.

Missional Communities are a great way to learn God’s Story.  Yet they are also great places to learn (with the help of other Jesus followers) how to walk as Jesus did.  Life is hard, in-and-of-itself.  Change is hard.  Living a life of Loving God and Loving others is hard.  Learn with the help of others.  Find a family in  a Missional Community at The Exchange Community.

Picture found here

Christian Life In A Post-Christian World

In his book, After Christendom, Stuart Murray speaks of the new place of the church in a culture where the Christian faith loses coherence and influence.  He lists five shifts that will take place:

  1. From the center to margins. In Christendom the Christian story and the churches were central, but in post-Christendom these are marginal.
  2. From majority to minority.  In Christendom Christians comprised the (often overwhelming) majority, but in post-Christendom we are a minority.
  3. From settlers to sojourners.  In Christendom Christians felt at home in a culture shaped by their story, but in post-Christendom we are aliens, exiles, and pilgrims in a culture where we no longer feel at home.
  4. From privilege to plurality.  In Christendom Christians enjoyed many privileges, but in post-Christendom we are a community among many in a plural society.
  5. From control to witness.  In Christendom churches could exert control over society, but in post-Christendom we exercise influence only through witnessing to our story and its implications.
  6. From maintenance to mission. In Christendom the emphasis was on maintaining a supposedly Christian status quo, but in post-Christendom it is on mission within a contested environment.
  7. From institution to movement.  In Christendom churches operated mainly in institutional mode, but in post-Christendom we must become again a Christian movement. 1.

Questions:

  • How do these shifts change the way you see your country?
  • What must then change with the way we act and operate as Christians?
  • What battles should we stop fighting as the church?  Where should we redirect our efforts?

 

1. Qtd. in Tim Chester and Steve Timmis’ Everyday Church, 22

Picture found here

How to Disciple Children for Mission with Paul Tripp

Watch this challenging short video from Paul Tripp about shaping your children into disciples by leading them into thinking through their lives as Mission.

In many ways, Paul Tripp is simply telling us to talk about the faith and its implications with our children.  Yet its also a reminder that everything that God has gifted us with is an opportunity to witness to Christ’s love.  It is a truth we need to learn and live out so that we can teach it to our children and show them how to live for God’s glory.

Questions:

  • What do you do to disciple your children?
  • What can you change to take the first, or next step, to help shape you child in the ways of Jesus?
  • Who else, besides you, needs to hear this message?   How can you share it with them and help each other become more effective at influencing your children for Christ?

Challenges:

  • Make a list of what you own.  Make a separate list of what your children have.  Have a discussion with your spouse and children on how you can use those things for God’s kingdom.
  • Make a list of the people you know  Make a list of the people your children know.  Put a cross next to each person you know are Christian.  Begin to pray, with your kids, each night for all the people who you know are not Christians.  Then discuss how you can show and share the faith with them.

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