Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Discipleship - a church with "it" - part 2

"I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong - that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith." Romans 1:11-12

If you have spent some time reading the Apostle Paul's writings in the New Testament, you are familiar with these kinds of encouraging statements in Paul's introductions, typical of Paul as he writes to churches. And so typical of me, I often blaze through the first few paragraphs of his writings, wanting to get to the real meat of his letters and miss these nuggets of gold. I haven't read Romans but maybe a half a dozen times, and am sure that I never paid much attention to this verse before, but for some reason, God illuminated this verse for me like never before.

In this passage, Paul is sharing his longing, his burden, his Chazon with the reader - discipleship. His desire is that the Church would be built up, that it would pursue Christ with barbarian wreckless abandonment and confidence, that it would be a light shining with such brilliance and intensity demonstrating to the world that this people (The Church) knows the risen Christ.

And what a pure light it is that God has put in us - one that demonstrates that by faith we have been forgiven by the almighty creator of the universe, that we are loved and accepted by God through Christ, and that there is undeniable hope and peace and joy found in living a life fully submitted to the leading of the Holy Spirit. How tragic it is that this light - which is meant to shine as the sun - shines so dimly from the Church, often found running on the equivalent of 2 double A batteries.

I think that Paul was writing this verse for the Church because he knew how absolutely essential that discipleship is enabling the Church to complete its task - the Great Commission; leading people to become fully devoted followers of Christ. In order for the Church to achieve its mission, it must focus on building up and making strong those already within the church. By discipling those who are already in the flock, a church will have exponentially increased its influence, its light, its effectiveness in making disciples of all the nations; the great commission.

It is interesting to note that Paul, being one of God's elite apostles, could simply communicate what God wanted the readers to know, without sugar-coating the message by including himself in the audience of the instruction. But to make the point complete, he helps the reader understand that we are one in Christ, and that discipleship benefits all. At the end of the verse, Paul adds this clarification "that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith." This statement communicates that Paul, one of the most enlightened followers of Jesus, saw his own need for encouragement and longed to participate in the edification of not only others, but himself as well.

But why the notable difference of those within the church? Why does the light of Christ shine so brightly in some and so dimly in others? Spiritual maturity - whatever that is - might have something to do with it. But I would argue that one reason for the gap is the lack of discipleship in the Church. Those that have "it" (those that are passionately pursuing Jesus and that are submitting to His Lordship in their life) are not giving it away, and those who don't have "it" are content in their apathetic/practical atheistic state and not interested in gaining it. Still others are earnestly looking for someone to show them the way, and the spiritual giants of the church are not stepping up to build up the body of Christ. Don't misunderstand me - discipleship is happening in the church, but not like it could...

I believe that a church with "it" is passionate about discipleship, and lives like they believe it. From the pastor(s) to the staff to the volunteers to the members/partners - longing to see each other so to impart some spiritual gift to each other to make the body of Christ strong, so that its members may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, so that the light of Christ shines so brilliantly that unbelievers will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!" (Borrowing from I Cor. 14:25)

For those of you with short attention spans who don't like to read long blogs - thank you for making it this far. I know I bounce around a lot, but hope that I didn't lose you along the way. Send me your thoughts; I hope that this has been an encouragement to you, fore I too am longing for mutual encouragement from the body of Christ

Friday, December 19, 2008

Comment setting fixed...

I heard that people have been trying to post comments to my blog, but were unable if they were not members of blogspot. I could care less if the readers of this blog are members or not of blogspot, so i have changed the setting for anyone to leave me comments.

Please take some time to leave me comments on my posts if you like them/encouraged by them/confused by them/disagree with them (you have the right to be wrong :) ). I look foward to reading your comments!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A church with "it" (part 1)

About a month ago, i finished reading a fantastic book on ministry leadership - "it" by Craig Groeschel. The idea behind the title is to capture the heart of a word that is used in the context of describing and individual, small group, or church that has it; the movement of God. For example, when we hear of a church that is ministering to a large number of people, and God is "adding to their number daily", where people's lives are being changed for the cause of Christ, where the hurting and those in need are being ministered to and cared for, where everyone from the pastor to every member is totally lit for God and are changing the world around them - that is a small example of a church with "it".

If you lead a small group, bible study, Sunday school class - you need to read this book. If you are the spiritual leader of your home, your wife, your kids - you need to read this book. If you ever encounter another person in your life, and you have the slightest bent towards kingdom mindedness - you need to read this book.

Getting off track... a church with it.

i was reading Romans a couple months ago, and read two profound things that never caught my attention before. I shared this with a few of you by email previously, and wanted to spend some more time on this. This blog will focus on the first of those two things; part two to follow... Here is part 1.

"First, i thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world." Romans 1:8

Would Paul say this of your church? Could he?

The church that I attend has been the buzz for the last several years. In the church-world, people say that Life Church is innovationally leading the charge to find new ways to connect with a generation that rejects the church and the christian, and absolutely yearns for people to be impacted by God so that they would be fully devoted followers of the Lord Jesus.

Sounds like a great heart (and i believe that it is), but what does the non-Christian world say about us - you know, the one that doesn't believe in God, practically or actually? It seems that there is often a great disconnect between the belief's of a given church and the actions and hearts of its members. Is our faith being reported all over the world? Or are we just nice people who don't truely care enough to share the life-changing message of the gospel with a world that is hurting and looking for real purpose and meaning?

What if we just started with our own local church as the "world"? Jesus said that we are the light of the world, a city that cannont be hidden. Why would we ever even consider hiding it? My prayer is that God's people would absolutely shine for Him and that God absolutely wrecks the people of churches all over the world, so that they would possess an unwaivering faith in Jesus, one that demonstrates that we trust in God, and not our jobs or 401k, or anything else. I pray that God would use the local church to radically change people's live, so that the "world" reports our faith all over the world.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Little Drummer Boy

i am sure that you all are looking forward to all your awesome plans to be with family and friends for Christmas. The count down to Christmas Vacation is on at my house - 4 more days!! We'll be heading to Tulsa over the break to spend some time with my family and then return to visit with the Ashby-Avery clan (erryn's side).

As you may already know, the trash cans are coming out this weekend at the Ed for the Life Church version of the Little Drummer Boy. This is when the worship band and church staff man a trash can with drum sticks and absolutely beat the tar out of those poor metal trash cans, and release the most beautiful worship that i have ever heard. I think that this will be the third year that LC has done this song.

I can't even begin to describe what an awesome event this is. I've attached the lyrics for you to read below - take a minute to read them and think about them.

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That's fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.

This is the story of giving our very best to our Lord Jesus, our very best gift. We can give lots of gifts - just consider what we give our friends and family... dvd's, gift cards, clothes, electronics... often they are things that we spend little time thinking about and usually cost us very little, other than monetarily.

But consider the gift of the drummer boy. He had none of the fancy gifts that we see other people give, the kind of gifts that we would love to give, like a huge check, or a big honkin flat screen tv, or a car... And out of his poverty, he was able to give the most beautiful gift he could ever offer - he offered to use the unique talent that God gave him, and used it to the best of his ability to honor God! Sometimes, our extremely blessed lives blind us from seeing our true gifts bestowed by God. We have so much to offer from the heart, that which God has uniquely given us, but too often let our watch and our wallet get in the way.

And then Life Church just had to take it to a whole other level. They don't just play it from sheet music, they actually LIVE it on the stage! From Trent and the duelling drummers, to the church staff, everyone takes part in giving their very absolute best to God. In an explosion of percussion energy, the heart of the Little Drummer Boy is released. An experience that rivals any i have ever known in being in the presence of God. Everyone, playing their drum, their very best for our King.

And we know that the angles are rejoicing, for our hearts are singing their song - the song we will sing in eternity worshiping our Lord Jesus. I absolutely melt - totally releasing myself from the opinions and observations of those around me and embrace the moment and worship my Savior, tears running, smile beaming, and hands held high.

Here's a sample from 2006 - awesome!

If you haven't experienced it yet, make sure you find a way to be there this year. And don't keep it to yourself - invite your neighbor, your workout buddy, your co-worker, your mom - whoever God has put on your heart. And don't be surprised if he gives you an opportunity to invite one of "the least of these" - whoever that may be in your life.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

my first blog

kinda sounds like a caption for that would normally be seen in a kid's photo album, like "my first day of school", or "my first poo poo". Oh well, i guess we all have to start somewhere...

Welcome to my blog. I have not been a blogger, and never thought the day would come when this adjative would be used to describe me. I've only begun, so i won't get too far ahead of myself and use THAT word to describe me :). Not sure how often i will jump online to update this, though i intend to try it out and see if it sticks. I'd like for this to be a place where i download my thoughts, and share what's going on in my life. Reality though, i am not going to be one of those people who are constantly updating their blogs and telling the whole world about everything that ever happens in my day. Maybe someday, but for now, this will not be a Twitter-like blog.

I do intend, however, to use this blog to journal what God is teaching me and how i am responding to it. SO, check in with me every now and then - it is my prayer that in some way, God will use this blog site to be a source of blessing to you.

Take some time to check out the lists I've posted on the side - there you can see what books i'm reading, music i'm listening to, and teachers that i'm following. If you have any other books or music to recommend, please share it with me. I've also included website links of the teachers that I am following - check them out when you have some time. Over the years, these Godly leaders have had a part in developing my walk with God.

Please feel free to post your comments with me - ideas for my blog layout, content, books, music, etc. Thanks for stopping by and reading.