Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Making Babies

"There's no greater love than laying down your life for your brothers," Jesus said.  It's also what Jesus did.  He gave his life so that people could be born again - to become God's children. 

Making disciples is the ultimate act of love.  It's rescue, love, restoration, and rebirth.  When we give ourselves to the task of making disciples, we are bringing new life into the kingdom.  Paul understood this when he wrote to the Corinth church: "I became your father through the gospel." 

This video is a commercial, and it works - because we see a good father's love for his daughter in it.  What if each of the elements here were to be spiritualized?  Can you bring a new soul to Jesus and feel this way about them?  Watch him take his first spiritual steps?  Help her as she grows into a young woman in the Lord, and then one day becomes a spiritual mom herself? 

What's more beautiful than a new child?  Why wait? 
"Go, make disciples, baptize them ... and teach them to obey all I've commanded you" - Jesus

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Race

Though I am free from all, I’ve made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more.  

To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews … to the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.  

I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.  Don’t you know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize?  

Run in such a way that you may win!  Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. 

I run in such a way, as not without aim;
I box in such a way, as not beating the air;
but I discipline my body and make it my slave….
1 Corinthians 9:19-27

 I was in a mountain bike race last night and boy, did I stink!  I don’t expect much, since I’m either:

  • the oldest guy among the “Clydesdales” (a euphemism for guys too big to be on a bike) or

  • too fat to be racing with the old guys

– but good grief, I stunk so badly!  This was only one race among a race series, held weekly during the summer around Irvine Lake.  In years past, it was really fun and not competitive to the point of being obnoxious (with a few, rare exceptions). 

 Last night’s race was fierce.  Guys were just plain rude, harsh and brittle.  There was an area deemed by race management to be too dangerous for passing, but guys nearly knocked me off my bike passing there, anyway.  It wasn’t even a little bit fun, and I felt tempted to anger.  I may be too big to beat some of those guys on a bike, but I can assure you I could beat the living you-know-what out of them after the race with my fists. 

 Another thing happened last night: I saw a guy named Ryan. Ryan’s really fast, strong and athletic but he’s also not a jerk.  In fact, he’s active with his church and will miss some racing so he can take young people on an outing.  He’s a good guy.  The real reason I know Ryan is because I knew his dad (Gene) well. 

 Gene was amazing.  I write “was,” because Gene passed away suddenly and unexpectedly last fall.  I loved Gene.  He was so strange … he told awful jokes, and could be very boring.  He even was offensive some of the time, and occasionally creepy.  But EVERYONE loved Gene.  His funeral was the largest I’ve attended.  Because even though Gene was no great salesman, politician, or comedian … Gene loved people, and it showed.  Gene was a disciple of Jesus, and because of that he muddled through and always found a way to show that love to others.  He was humble, kind and hard working … and made everyone he met feel loved.  Last fall Gene went to be with God, where we also long to be.  He won the race. 

 The contrast between Gene’s life and that of those racers last night was stark.  It reminded me of Paul’s words to the Corinth church of Christ (above) … that some people will kick and claw and be mean and harsh … to win a perishable wreath.  The one Gene sought was imperishable.  Jesus & his brother (James) called it “the crown of life.”
 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.  James 1:12

 Don’t fear what you’re about to suffer. Behold … you’ll have tribulation ... but be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life Revelation 2:10

 How often we allow ourselves to get sucked into a worldly battle for a perishable wreath!  We’re fighting among friends, bickering as families, gossiping about brothers and sisters, breaking our backs for an extra dollar or promotion or to look better in certain clothes, or be more loved or respected … when we should be like our Lord, Jesus, who never got distracted by shallow, silly things of this world and stayed focused on the eternal. 

 How do you want to spend your life?  Do you want to compete to be popular, rich and funny; or would you rather compete for the eternal crown of glory?  You cannot do both.  You must choose.  If you choose the imperishable wreath … you must endure to the end.  I can tell you from personal experience the competition to be loving, giving and kind is a way, way better way to live in this life, and success is guaranteed! 
Lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and teleioser of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3

 As for me, I choose Yahweh.  I want a mansion in eternal glory – and I’ll do whatever I can to not only go there myself, but to take as many as possible with me.  And the great news is that even if I stink (as I did last night) there are no losers in God’s race, for His grace makes us all winners. 


Monday, June 11, 2012

A Prayer

Prayer is a gift from God - part of His grace.  Many people don't really understand how simple and beautiful prayer is, or even what it is.  For example, sometimes people talk about the power of prayer ... but this is wrong.  Prayer has no power at all.  The power is all God. 

Prayer is nothing more (or less) than talking to God!  What makes prayer appear powerful is when God responds to it.  This is important, because it's when we realize that we're going to GOD Himself that we understand how, when, why to pray.  How do you speak to The Creator of heaven and earth?  How do you speak to The King, the Boss, the Master, the Lord of all?  Do you speak to Him disrespectfully?  Do you question His ability?  Maybe you challenge His love?  This would be foolish, indeed!  And it's why Solomon wrote:
Guard your steps as you go to the house of God - and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they don’t know they’re doing evil.  Don’t be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God; for God is in heaven & you’re on the earth; therefore let your words be few. 
Ecclesiastes 5:1-2

 Prayer isn't just conversation ... it's approaching the throne of heaven and earth - and all that includes.  Because of that, there aren't many rules about prayer ... rather the rules change as each culture uses different signs of respect.  One shows respect by kneeling, another by standing with lifted hands.  Whatever is your custom - make sure you do that.  And because it's God, don't think for a moment you can fake it and fool Him - you cannot!

Prayer is something more than just words - it combines with action, or it's useless.  In Luke 10.2 when Jesus sends out the 72, he also tells them to pray that God would send forth more to go out.  You see there that the words of prayer are combined with action.  And it's the same in the Lord's Prayer, when we ask for His will to be done.  Does it make sense to ask Him to do His will, if we don't also DO His will ourselves? 

I've written some prayers that are intended to be combined with action.  I'll put them all on the website soon, but yesterday we talked about one of these prayers, so I'll try to attach it here, now.  Pray this prayer no less than three times a day (five times a day is better) for the next 21 days.  Pray it - and DO what the prayer suggests. 

You will be astonished at the power of God working in your life and in the lives of the people you contact.  I mean, it'll blow your mind.  But you must PRAY it, and DO it together. 

Just try ... I dare you            Love Prayer  (5x/day x 21 days + action  = growth)

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Magnificent Obsession

When it all comes down to it, everything we are and everything we do as disciples of Jesus and slaves of God comes down to only one thing: love.  It’s all about love. 

 We love God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength – this is the most important thing in the universe.  And the second is like it: we love our neighbors as ourselves.  This part is a LOT harder! 

 God is always loving, kind, patient, wise and giving.  But when we try to love our neighbors, they often prove to be difficult - even though we are trying to do what’s in their best interest!  People are selfish, they’re lazy and filled with excuses.  They will be slow, they’ll be late, they’ll be lazy.  They often won’t even bother to say thank you.  In fact, quite the opposite – they killed virtually all the prophets (including even Jesus our Lord).  Can you imagine?  Jesus left heaven, for crying out loud!  It’s not like he left Newport Coast to go to Tijuana, he left a place millions of times better to go to a place millions of times worse … and the thanks we gave him was to murder him for his troubles. 

 Loving people isn’t liking them, nor is it enjoying them, nor is it a way to get them to like you back.  That’s NOT love, it’s friendship, manipulation, relationship.  It’s a trade we make when we give up something to get something back.  We are nice so that they’ll be nice back.  This is the way the world works.  Pay attention to young people who are freaking out about marriage and dating and relationships, and you’ll see someone who will trade almost anything just not to be alone and to have a friend.  It’s pitiful, but that’s how weak we are. 

 So why bother?  Why even try to work with people at all? 
 I’ll quote some old songs:
“because he first loved me.”

“Why did my Savior come to earth, why choose a lowly birth, why on the cross be lifted up?  Because he loved me so.” 

 We owe God so much, the least we can give is our best.  How can we, who have received SO MUCH grace, not also extend grace to others?  How can we expect God to continually be patient with our failings, our flakiness, our laziness … but we aren’t patient with others? 

 We pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors.” 

  This is my failure and my obsession
It’s my failure because so many times I’ve been lazy and negligent.  It’s my failure because having been forgiven of that, I then become judgmental and harsh. 
It’s my obsession that I don’t remain that way!  I WANT to know Christ … I want to be as loving as he was, as forgiving as he was, and as devoted to rescuing others as he was. 

 I hope you’ll review again the stories in Matthew 24:42 – end of Matthew 25.  Do you see that we prepare, and we give and serve and invest … all for one reason?  It’s all about love.  It’s all about compassion.  Love is expressed by diligence, hard work, preparation and wisdom.  Please join me in this magnificent obsession … to become the Jesus version of ourselves … to love completely and passionately – even those who are failing and weak.

Monday, June 4, 2012

After Pentecost

[caption id="attachment_181" align="alignright" width="261" caption="Happy Rebirthday ROSS"][/caption]

Our first “official” Sunday gathering (last week) was on Pentecost.  I thought it’d be cool to see what happened after the church’s first Pentecost, and see how we compared.  Luke wrote: 
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 
Acts 2:42

 Teaching, fellowship, food and prayer … sounds just like what we experienced together yesterday.  Now let’s see if we can “continually devote” ourselves to it as they did.  It’s odd to me that religious people these days feel the need to add to these basic, simple principles.  Why do we need to make it so complicated?  If teaching, fellowship, food and prayer is all we need to grow in Christ, to serve and love others … why add religious ritual, giant churches, buildings, politics and arguments over everything under the sun?  Let’s just keep it simple. 

 I propose we accept a few basic principles for ourselves in Godwor.  Let’s speak only where the bible speaks, and be silent where the bible is silent.  That way we can all let God do the talking, through His word … and leave our own flawed personal opinions out of it.  Just read the word, understand it, and obey.  What’s wrong with that? 

 Another idea I propose is that we don’t have a formal organization or doctrines or rules or creed or statement of faith.  Rather, let’s just call the whole New Testament our creed.  Do we really need to add to that or take from it?  Paul wrote this in a letter to the Ephesus church:
 I implore you to:

Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

 There’s one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God & Father of all Who’s over all & through all & in all.

 But - to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
Ephesians 4.1-7

 Since we already have one Lord, why do we need more “bosses” and organization?  So long as we are all submissive to Jesus (our ONE Lord), and to one another - why do we need more? 

 Simple, easy fellowship around the table; where we eat, study, teach, and pray … it sounds too casual, too simple for many people.  They don’t think imitating the original church of Christ is enough, for some reason.  Yesterday sitting around that table with you all was just about as good as it gets for me.  The words of Jesus are music to my ears.  Obeying him is an honor and privilege provided by his grace.  And being able to have a church gathering that’s exactly like the way it was in the first church – simple and deep – is a blessing many people will never be able to know.  I thank Our Father in Heaven for each of you. 

 Our next meeting will pick up again in Matthew 24.42-25 … as we’ll reflect on what we learned, and how it affected our week.  We will review the main points of those stories:

    • Be on the alert – care for our fellow slaves

    • Be prepared – keep those lamps burning

    • Invest / manage wisely

    • Worship God by going out of our way to love the hurting

 Remember to live for the six words.  Make it your life, your habit, your joy … to see God smile. 

 When we’re together next time we’ll encourage one another to be continual, to grow stronger and to become more loving and less selfish all the time – just like Jesus. 

 May Yahweh bless and keep you this week!