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.
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GOD WITH US
Poem by Isaac Wimberley
The people had read of this rescue that was coming through the bloodline of Abraham
They had seen where Micah proclaimed about a ruler to be born in Bethlehem
Daniel prophesy about the restoration of Jerusalem
Isaiah’s cry about the Son of God coming to them
So for them—it was anticipation
This groaning was growing, generation after generation
Knowing He was holy, no matter what the situation
But they longed for Him
They yearned for Him
They waited for Him on the edge of their seat
On the edge of where excitement and containment meet
Like a child watches out the window for their father to return from work—they waited
Like a groom stares at the double doors at the back of the church—they waited
And in their waiting, they had hope
Hope that was fully pledged to a God they had not seen
To a God who had promised a King
A King who would reign over the enemy
Over Satan’s tyranny
So it was
Centuries of expectations, with various combinations of differing schools of thought
Some people expecting a political king who would rise to the throne through the wars that he fought
While others expecting a priest who would restore peace through the penetration of the Pharisee’s façade
Yet a baby—100% human, 100% God
So the Word became flesh and was here to dwell among us
In His fullness, grace upon grace, Jesus
Through Him and for Him, all things were created
And in Him all things are sustained
God had made Himself known for the glory of His name
And this child would one day rise as King
But it would not be by the sword or an insurgent regime
It would be by His life
A life that would revolutionize everything the world knew
He would endure temptation and persecution, all while staying true
Humbly healing the broken, the sick and hurting too
Ministering reconciliation, turning the old to new
A life that would be the very definition of what life really costs
Saying—if you desire life, then your current one must be lost
And He would portray that with His own life as His Father would pour out and exhaust
And Jesus would be obedient to the point of death, even death upon the cross
So just 33 years after the day that He laid swaddled in the hay
He hung on a tree suffocating, dying in our place
Absorbing wrath that is rightly ours, but we could never bear the weight
So He took that punishment and he put it in the grave
And He died
And when I say that He died, what I mean is that He died
No breath, noheartbeat, no sign of life
God is a God of justice, and the penalty for our sin equals death
That’s what Christ did on that cross
Then… On the third day, in accordance with scriptures, He was raised from the grave
And when I say that He was raised, what I mean is that He was raised
Lungs breathing, heart pumping, blood pulsing through His veins
The things that He promised were true
He is the risen Son of God, offering life to me and you
Turning our mourning into dancing
Our weeping into laughing
Our sadness into joy
By His mercy, we are called His own
By His grace, we will never be left alone
By His love, He is preparing our home
By His blood, we can sing before His throne
Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow
So now we, as His bride, are the ones waiting
Like the saints that came before, we’re anticipating
He has shown us that this world is fading
And He has caused our desire to be for Him
So church, stay ready
Keep your heart focused and your eyes steady
Worship Him freely, never forgetting
His great love for you
Immanuel, God with us
The Gospel is so beautiful! What do you think of this Gospel presentation? How does it speak to your soul?
For More on Folk Angel go here
I love the book of Ephesians. One thing I like about it is that Paul prays some amazing prayers for the people he was fathering in the faith. One such prayer happens at the end of chapter 3:
For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
In this majestic prayer, Paul prays that the Holy Spirit my dwell in us and cause us to treasure Christ in our hearts, that we might have faith and a relationship with the Son of God (16-17) And, being rooted in that love, that our eyes might be opened even more to the fact that God’s love is greater than just what we experience, but that it fills all things, not even the dimensions of creation (width, length, hight, and depth) can hold His love. Paul wants us to be astounded by and filled with awe and warmth by the awesome power and love of God.
Then he ends with this rousing doxology,
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Paul wants our wonders to overflow into praise of the great and awesome God who has loved us so deeply.
recently, verse 2o has been speaking into my heart, That God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” As I try to live for him and as we continue to move forward in church planting, I remember that God is able to do far more than we can possibly dream. His love is greater than the dimensions of this world. He has a greater passion and desire to reach the lost than any of us do. He has greater love for anyone I’m trying to reach than we do as well.
As we’re trying to forge relationships, show love, and share the Gospel, I’ve been keeping this in mind. While I pray for specific things, I remember that his love, his plans, his desire to save are greater than mine. So every conversation and at every transition in my day, I pray,
“You can do so much more than I can possibly ask or imagine. So surprise me, Lord! Astound me with your love. Amaze me with your power at work in me. Show up in a way that I do not expect and work awesome things to your glory and to the salvation of many.”
This week our glorious and great God has done some amazing things. He’s done way more than I’ve been praying for. He’s done way more than I had expected. Trust him in all that you do, and look for his power at work.
One of the Greatest aids to my spiritual growth over the last couple years are the 4 G’s, outlined in Tim Chester’s book, You Can Change. Chester says that All Sin and Negative emotions are the result of not believing some truth about God. Sin and Negative Emotions happen when we believe lies, and the lie of Satan, instead. To combat sin and negative emotions we then need to hold up the freeing truth of God. The four truths that Chester suggests are:
1. God is great – so we don’t have to be in control
2. God is glorious – so we don’t have to fear others
3. God is good – so we don’t have to look elsewhere
4. God is gracious – so we don’t have to prove ourselves
You can see how Chester links each truth to the freedom to us they give to follow God. One area where I find the 4 Gs harder to apply is to Stewardship. Yes, they do apply in part, God is Good so I don’t have to look for my good in what my money and time can give me. God is Great so I don’t have to look to my money and time to give me the power to secure my life. Yet I’ve been looking for another truth that could be memorized that specifically connected to us giving of what we are and have to God’s mission and glory.
The 5th G I suggest is: God is Generous – so I don’t have to cling to what I have. God promises to provide for us as we live for Him. Look at Mark 10: 28-30 where Peter reminded Jesus of everything that he and the other disciples gave up to follow Him:
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields–and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.
As we give God will keep giving to provide for our needs and ultimately our eternal need of life with him in a renewed creation.
Paul says, “We are God’s Workmanship, Created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10). When God asks us to do something, He enables us to it.
2 Corinthians 9:6,8-15 Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows generously will also reap generously….And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work…
10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your resources and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God; 12 for the rendering of this service not only supplies the wants of the saints but also overflows in many thanksgivings to God.
God generously gives to us so that we might give to others. He supplies all our needs and gives to us what we need to serve others. Sometimes we’re moved by God and asked by God to give what we think we’re unable to give. Yet even then, he provides for us. The Widow at Zarephath gave more than she thought she was able to when she gave the last of her food to feed Elijah, yet God provided for her in greater ways than she could imagine. In John 6:9 the disciples forgot the truth that God was Generous and they didn’t want to serve others because the cost seemed to much for them to bear. Yet they forgot that God was Generous and would bear the cost themselves and supply what they needed to accomplish Jesus’ request to feed the 5000 people who had come to see him. A little boy, with the faith of a child, remembered that God was Generous, so he didn’t have to cling to what he had. He gave up all the food that he had for that day trusting that God could use it to help feed the crowd. The amazing part is that the boy probably ate more than what he had given and they had far more left over than what they started with.
God is Generous – We don’t have to cling to what we have. We don’t have to run after other things either. We can serve others and give of our time, talents, and treasures because God will give us all we need for our well-being and all we need to accomplish his will.
- How often do you give of your time, talents, and treasures? How often do you find yourself serving and sacrificing for others? What positive and negative thoughts do you have when you give and serve others?
- How does remembering God’s generosity give you freedom to be generous?
- What truths do you have to remember about God to give you the freedom to follow him joyfully?
Are there perfect people in this world, in Church? Have you ever been in a church or a crowd where people acted or seemed better than you? If so, how did it make you feel? Did you feel rejected or accepted? Did you feel like there was hope or did you feel hopeless?
Below is a video that was very popular earlier this year entitled, Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.
After watching this video:
- Was the speaker saying, ditch the church and be spiritual on your own? Or was he drawing a different distinction between religion and Jesus?
- How does this speaker define religion? Is he right in doing so? What are your thoughts?
- If there really are no perfect people in church and this world, what should it look like when Christians gather as the church? How should we act in relation to other sinners?
- What hope do you have in a church that is a hospital for the sick that tells people “come as you are no matter what you’ve done or how messy your life is”? What fears do you have?
- How does the Gospel address the fears that we have about showing our sin and about allowing sinful people to be part of our lives and in our church?
As Christians we tend to cloister, separate, ourselves from people who are caught in sin. It’s like they are sick and we want to keep them out of our lives in fear of being infected as well. Yet the truth is, we are all infected. We’re all sick with sin. We all need a doctor, we all need healing to differing degrees and in different ways. Jesus said in Mark 2:17,
It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
In our new church we will encounter many people who “don’t have life together” but it’s okay because we don’t have life together as well. We’re all messed up. We’re all sick. We all need a doctor who is well and who can heal us. We all need him. And when we recognize that, we don’t have to hide or pretend. We don’t have to fear other’s judgment, because Jesus was judged on our behalf. We can be open about what we’re struggling with and allow Jesus to serve and to help us through our fellow Christians. And we can help others as well and we can show them that Jesus accepts, loves, and can help change them too, because he’s healed and is still healing us.
No perfect people are allowed in our Church except Jesus because only Jesus is perfect. We can’t pretend we have it all together, and if we think we do we deceive ourselves. Rather, we can all admit we are all sick and we can rest in his healing perfection.
For more about religion and the Gospel check out The Difference between Religion, Irreligion, and the Gospel.
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Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off. Pr 23:17-18
I’ve been reading through Proverbs over the last week and this verse seems to sum up the theme of proverbs: to be wise is to see that God is better and the only lasting good. How often I’ve envied sinners in my heart. How often I’ve wanted what was forbidden me because I doubted that God had something better in store. When I’m tempted to secure my own good and pleasure, when my heart starts to yearn for that which it wasn’t meant for, I need to remember that, “God is Good so I don’t have to look elsewhere.”
The brokenness and emptiness that we often feel in this world will never be cured by attaining some other broken and empty thing. This world is fading. This world will one day end and my life here will end as well. Yet while my life will end here, there is surely a hope for me. God sent His Son, Jesus, into this broken world. He repaired my broken relationship with God by paying the debt I owed Him because of my rebellion. One day he’ll also repair this broken world, my broken body, and my broken soul. I’ll experience the ultimate good when God restores all things and I’ll see him face-to-face and live with him forever.
God is Good. I don’t have to look elsewhere. I don’t have to chase fleeting pleasure I can never keep. Rather I can be zealous for God’s good, because his good will last. My hope in His good will not be cut off. There is surely a hope for me. There is surely a hope for us.
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Two of our Missional Communities are starting the Story-Formed Way this week. The Story-Formed Way is a 10 week discipleship course consisting of interactive storytelling and dialogue through the major narratives of Scripture from Creation to Restoration. Below are some tips on how to prepare to lead the Story.
At the beginning of the lesson, there are big picture points that focus on the gist of what the lesson is leading towards. That is for your knowledge as the leader. Read through the Story out loud multiple times. Learn it. Ingest it. Meditate on it. Think of the tone in which the characters would be speaking. You want to story tell, not just read a paper to people. However, remember that the Story has been crafted to accurately convey the biblical story. Don’t change the words. If you misspeak, reiterate what you meant by saying what was written.
- To prepare the manuscript I’m telling the story from, I find it helpful to underline and highlight places where I want to emphasize something important that appears in the dialogue.
- Look through the questions at the end and try to answer them yourself. If there are no answers provided for a specific question, make sure you at least think of what that answer could be.
- When it comes to the dialogue, I look over the questions before hand and try to answer them myself. The leaders guide provides answers, but I try to pinpoint the key answers. If I can think of any others, sometimes I write them down as well. If the question is difficult or unclear, sometimes I’ll write down an alternative question just in case people don’t understand the question that was written
Setting the Tone
- The contents of the bible were originally told, retold, and passed down from person to person, from generation to generation, orally. Ancient Jews, as well as the church up until the 16th century, all learned the biblical story communally through story telling. This didn’t just leave them to try to make sense of the bible on their own, but they had a whole community to help interpret the bible and to retain the accuracy of its telling and interpretation. Two-thirds of the Bible is a narrative. One of the benefits of learning the narrative is that it opens the door to understand everything else in scripture.
- I often relate the Story to being a smorgasbord or a potluck. If only one or two people bring a dish, it isn’t much fun. Likewise, every voice is valuable and contributes. Our discussion is a smorgasbord. The more variety of voices and perspective, the greater the feast.
- Ancient Jewish people would say that there are “70 Facets” to the Bible. It was like a giant diamond with so many facets that at every turn you get a slightly different perspective and insight into the diamond. Likewise, One can study the biblical story over a lifetime and still learn new insights. It’s like an onion. You can keep pulling it back and find new layers of meaning. Each person present is like that facet of a diamond that the Holy Spirit uses to teach us of the beauty within God’s Story.
- Relax and have fun. Make sure that the tone matches the other activities done that night so it seems natural. We want sharing God’s word and applying the Gospel to each other’s lives to feel natural so when we gather officially to do that, we want it to seem like a very natural thing as well.
- After the first week, When you start the lesson, you can ask if someone is willing to review the last lesson or the whole story leading up to the current one. This reinforces the themes of the greater Story of God so that they are more easily connected to the story you are covering. Once the full story is remembered, then you go into telling that night’s story.
Telling the Story (This should take 2-5 minutes)
- When telling the story, I find it helpful to have already underlined or highlighted the most important phrases that are brought up in the following dialogue. This helps me know what is most important, and also helps me keep track of my place so I can look at people when I speak. I practice the story 3-5 times. I try to get to the point where I’m not reading the story, but speaking it and using the manuscript to keep me on track. The Key is to Stick to the Story.
- Stick to the Narrative. Don’t interpret on the fly. Don’t add things from future stories.
- This is where the Story begins to come alive and shape your community. The purpose of the dialogue is to help draw out the truths from the Story.
- Remember set up the expectation that all answers given are to come from the night’s narrative or a past narrative in the greater Story. If someone tries to quote Luther, Calvin, Billy Graham, Buddha, or Deepak Chopra, Joyce Meyer, etc, say, “I don’t remember them being in the story” or “where did you hear that in the story.” This is helpful even when someone starts saying, “I don’t think God would do that!” or “I think God is more like this…” We’re here to learn the biblical story and his truth as the story is interpreted through the individuals of the group.
- If you’re leading the dialogue, you’re job is to keep discussion going through asking questions. It is NOT you duty to answer the questions or to preach. The Holy Spirit works through hearing the word of God. The Spirit will work through the people present to lead the group into the truth.
- It is not necessary that you ask all the questions. There’s usually too many questions to focus on. The questions are meant to spur discussion. Remember, this isn’t a Q and A session. The best questions are often, “What did we learn about God in this story?” “What did we learn about human beings?”
- Make sure you spend some time near the end on some life –application questions. If the group hasn’t already naturally gone there with some of the previous questions, ask questions about how the story parallels their lives, informs their lives, is seen in aspects of their life, etc.