Thursday…4?

I have been on the road a lot this week. Planes, cars and about to be on the road again for some  actual family time rather than work time. This has limited my ability to write this week. Since I won’t be able to write a “Friday 5” tomorrow, I did have 4 thoughts for the week to help sharpen our focus, so we’ll just call them the “Thursday 4”.

Here we go…

I think we’ve under sold our women.

I pride myself on being a good public communicator. However, recently, my wife Jennifer and I spoke at a partner church in town on the assigned topic of “Racism”. Since we have an mixed family we’ve had a few experiences. Nothing of our experience matches an African American family at all, but having an African American child has has a few challenges, so we were invited to speak. Afterward, it was my wife that was invited to speak at an MLK event. I have always known Jennifer to be a solid public communicator, but she’s just good. She needs more opportunities to teach.

I’ve also noted that usually our men are not first to volunteer for much. It’s usually women. Also, I’ve noted that women do a better job than most men. More detailed and nicer. Women will think through details and implications.

There is more brewing here in my soul, but that’s enough for now.

The world is open to domain leaders and domain engagers who are serious about being more than an employee who takes home a check…not preachers. 

The world is not opposed to Christian business men and women, doctors, attorneys etc. The world is wide open to those who take domain engagement seriously. What if God is inviting us through the front door but it does not look like that last season of success?

The modern missions movement was highly successful. It set the stage for today, but today’s world is not that world. We are truly in a “flat world” scenario in which the nations are fluidly available anywhere anytime. That is a game changing reality.

Bible degree guys can’t get in nor are equipped to work around the world. Business people are. Electricians are. What if we trained our people in all things gospel then released them to the nations? What if the next generation of pastors were domain engagers who then received bible training or walked by the empowering Spirit?

I’m so thankful for Bob Roberts Jr. who is my spiritual father and takes me under his wing to teach how to be in the public square, how to meet with other faiths and be friends yet never compromise the gospel and even invite people to know Jesus. Paul did that. That was his mode. Paul operated in Public. Yes it got him in trouble, but it put him in front of kings and leaders and opened the world to him. We’ve got to figure that out.

Our little bit of success in our part of the world has been due to perserverance through hardship but God is opening global doors that defies the old school methods. It’s blowing my mind and defying my chosen strategies. It may be time for my strategies to line up with what the Spirit is doing.

I’m not saying bible training is not important. I am saying that the world is NOT open to people whose only training is bible.

What if the whole church was the missionary? Does that quesiton sound familiar? Yes! You hear it all the time from me. It’s time for us to work those implications out.

We have to learn to be friends with people we disagree with. 

We are far too tribal. If someone disagrees with us we want to fight, argue or even not be friends with them. We can’t do this. Gathering into tribes of people who only agree with us keeps us from engaging people with the gospel long-term, it tends to reinforce false ideas that we could use some help straightening out (same propagates same and when we are wrong then same wrong propagates same wrong).

It’s good to have friends who will challenge you politically, spiritually and physically.

We are just tribal and develop tribal language. Break tribes. Be friends with people you don’t agree with, and if someone disagrees with you, don’t take offense.

We are by nature idolators, constructing images of truth shaped by our own desires. – Leslie Newbigin

That line is by Leslie Newbigin (go look him up). Or as my friend Ross Patterson recently said in response to a post I made, “Behavior driven beliefs versus belief driven behavior.”

I’ve found that much of the Christian sub-culture in the post-Christian south is formed around “images of truth shaped by our own desires.”

People will find bible verses to justify their hobby-horse for the season like a bird can find a worm (does that image work?)

For some reason we can major on things that are frankly irrelevant and make them centerpieces to our lives while ignoring justice, righteousness and truth as defined by God in the right reading of his word.

Truth is not what we perceive something to mean. Truth is reality from God’s perspective. In other words, when we come to the bible, we are not looking for verses to justify what I’m passionate about at the moment, but we are captivated by God’s word, hungry for God and are shaped by what he says as we know it from his point of view. That creates prophets. The former creates slaves of cultural fads. 

I hope these thoughts set you to thinking and searching God’s word. His Manual is true without any mixture of error, so measure up to it…don’t make it measure up to us.

 

Evangelism

I’ve been learning from some of my “Release” brothers and I had a conversation with one of our long time TRC members the other night at our men’s event and came away thinking we may need to do some formal training on the practice of evangelism. All this came together yesterday and this morning to put on “paper” my personal practice. So, I’m going to share this with you this morning.

We have preached a series on “evangelism” a couple of years ago and believed that covered it, but perhaps this is a terrible oversight or over assumption on the part of your pastors that we are all able to go and do effective evangelism. Regardless, I’m going work on putting together some formal training for our church. So, if you don’t know how or are afraid or just need a process, I’m going to share here and work into a formal format what I have done and what I do.

I could give you a “canned” process, but what I’ve found is that every process has to change based on who, where and which particular variables present themselves with the person and context you are in. So, what I’ve done is try to mimic what Jesus did, what the apostles did and what the church did in the bible and adapt it to my context. This is what I do. I invite you to take this and use it for yourself, you R-Life group and your other Christian friends.

So, here we go.

Start by making sure you know and have believed the gospel.

If we are unsure about the gospel message we would attempt, even in context ignorance, tell someone we have to question whether we’ve believed the gospel. We can’t believe something we don’t know.

Be sure you can articulate the gospel message. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). 

Here are some examples:

We’ve given you the framework of: Creation / Fall / Redemption / Restoration in which to frame this message. Use that framework and learn to articulate the message.

Make sure you are practicing 5-Fold, as we’ve instructed during preaching, in your R-Life group.

Why? Because the Spirit gifts the community with “evangelists” and “evangelism”. Jesus builds his church with evangelism and evangelism is a way we grow up into Christ. See Ephesians 4.

We really need to do some more training here. So, expect that to be available coming up.

Also, please don’t make a habit of missing the gathering of the church. Much good is shared and much instruction provided, and if you miss, you miss the instruction. Please make gathering with the church a priority (Hebrews 10:25). It’s commanded in Scripture.

Make a list of 5 people you know who need to believe. Begin praying for those people. 

Invite your non-Christians friends from your list of 5 to your R-Life group who need to believe, need to experience Spirit power and who need to get to know more Christians. 

Have an intentional gospel conversation with your friends in your top 5 who need to believe.

You can’t get around this. You have to talk to someone about Jesus and their need to repent and believe. This has to become a discipline. Don’t tell me about all our social exploits that we can’t tell someone about Jesus and the need to repent and believe.

Invite your friends to believe in Jesus through repentance and faith.

Trust the Holy Spirit to navigate you, your friend and the entire process.

To practice evangelism is to practice walking in a magical world of amazingness. It will grow your faith. It will make you more bold. It’s quite addictive.

If they say “yes”, then begin teaching your friend, get them a bible, bring them to the gathered community of the kingdom (church) and just do Matthew 28:16-20…teach them to observe everything Jesus has taught us.

If they say “no”, then still be their friend, continue praying for them and keep praying for them.

If they say “maybe/not yet”, then keep praying…pray more, keep talking about their questions and always use the bible.

Repeat.

Really, we have no excuse. Worse case scenario we just tell folks the message the way we heard it. Here’s the deal, our new friends in India heard, then they go tell someone else they know and invite them to follow Jesus too…and they’ve had no class, nor formal training, read no book other than some verses from the bible and they are effective evangelists. It’s really not a method or training we need. We just need to obey Jesus’ command to make disciples. 

I love you TRC. I’m proud of you. I love all those we serve around the world. I’m proud of you all too. We can do this and do it well. Let’s get after it!

Friday 5

Good Friday to you! TGIF…right.

Here are my 5 observations for the week. Some perhaps more useful than others to you. Some or maybe all not useful at all.

So, lets dive in.

1. There will always be groups of people who want to keep folks who break the unwritten rules of the mold on the outside.

This is unfortunate. We have a tendency to hold with a clenched fist peripheral things and hold with an open hand things that should be guarded with our lives.

Some people see our church and us as individual parts of that church as important to the community of Rome/Floyd County, and many of these are not Christians. This is due to our engagement of real and serious problems in the community as Christians who are seeking to apply real solutions in repairing what is broken while not hiding the fact that we believe we are to make disciples of Jesus.

Some people in Christian sub-cultures want to keep us as a church and some individuals at a distance because we represent something different and not part of the status quo.

I just find it odd that there is sometimes more acceptance from non-Christians than from Christians. It’s not the gospel. We are clear we believe Jesus is the way, the only way to salvation and that God’s word is true while containing no mixture of error. We believe it and seek its application in every domain of society.

Strange.

2. Temptation seems to come in waves of temporary assaults. Temptation is not often constant never letting up. Temptation seems to come in all out assaults at times then disappear at other times. I’m sure this is a tactic of the Enemy, and maybe I should take better notes of the times that temptations come, but they come in waves.

Maybe this is good intelligence to help us plan on fighting in waves. Gather up the necessary tools to fight those waves at the times the waves come.

Just a thought.

3. We teach domain engagement and practice domain engagement in our church as opposed to programs. We don’t run programs. Programs have designated leaders and can be limited and can limit a church to its building. Engaging domains releases the entire congregation to a local and global playground of opportunity for the gospel. Still, however, it’s easy to slip back into thinking about programs to consume not domains that need the gospel of the kingdom.

The shift from programs to domains has organizational implications. It changes how you organize for work and what work is undertaken. It is much more self-forming and Spirit led, as your members take ownership and responsibility for action (Release Training Manual, p. 34).

Ask: What if the whole church were the missionary? Don’t loose that question.

4. Numbers 29 has lots of blood. Lot. Of. Blood. 8 days to celebrate the day of atonement. Lots of animals getting slaughtered every day. Lots of blood.

I like to hunt. Processing a harvested animal is bloody. But that’s just one animal.

Lots. Of. Blood. I couldn’t get that off of my mind as I read that passage this morning. But then I was reminded of Hebrews. Then Hebrews 10:4, 10, 14 all came to remembrance…Thank you Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 10:4-14 (ESV) For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”
8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

 

All that animal blood couldn’t do it. All that blood repeated couldn’t do it. The pattern was set though. There had to be a payment and man and animal couldn’t do it. Enter Jesus! The eternal Son. The God/Man. Jesus pays it all in one sacrifice. Verse 14 gives me glory bumps.

5. I let dumb stuff bother me too easy. Just had a revelatory moment when I realized that dumb stuff don’t matter. You know what’s dumb for you. I know what’s dumb for me. What matters most matters not dumb stuff. Don’t let dumb stuff keep you from the most important stuff.

Example: being kept out of Christian subcultures but welcomed into non Christian subcultures. That’s really what I want. I want those outside to repent and believe. Got to be with folks and let them know how to come into the Kingdom. Duh.

Hey, maybe one of these 5 helped you along and maybe sharpened your focus a bit.

Great Friday to you, and happy weekend!

 

Manhood: Protection

It’s easy to err on the side of inability to protect and even being unaware of the need or being paranoid.

Neither of these is a good place.

If one does not expect that things can go south and are unprepared when they do that man has failed to protect. When I say protect I’m referring to guarding against anything that can destroy one’s self and one’s family whether it be a physical intruder or non-physical assaults that destroy one’s soul and the fabric of the family. Us men can err on the side of physical intrusion and forget that this is only half the battle. Half a battle fought is a battle lost.

Nehemiah 4:14 says, ”And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, ‘Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.’”

This passage was often quoted by Dr. Tony Evans at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship when Jennifer and I attended there while we were in graduate school. That passage was so impactful that I have it etched on the inside of my wedding band. Here, Nehemiah exhorts his people to fight for their family in light of the physical threat of those seeking to stop their rebuilding of the wall as well as the spiritual and emotional threat that existed with the ongoing physical threat. Nehemiah and his men had to fight for the physical, spiritual and emotional security of their families.

Transferring this “type” to us and the kingdom of God, we are engaged in an epic battle to establish the kingdom of God through the preached and believed gospel and the values and will of God being done on his earth and in our homes as it is done in heaven. The kingdom of God conflicts with the kingdom of darkness and that conflict is physical, spiritual and emotional. This conflict has impact on our existence as family units and as the local church made up of family units. Therefore, we have the same charge to guard our families against threats.

Therefore, we must be aware and able but not foolishly barking at crickets. There is a time to fight and a time to be peaceful and use other tactics. A real man knows both and when to use one or the other and he is always ready for both.

I was raised to value both of these things, and for this I’m thankful to my dad for passing them on. I value being strong and able to defend my wife and kids against any threats. There are some who could take me man to man, but by God they’d know they were in a fight and they would be in a severely weakened state after that scuffle. I can take on many. I would lose some and win some. I run. I lift weights. I shoot guns. I have fought and practiced fighting. I teach my boys the same. I want them ready for all threats physical.

The word and the Spirit have taught me to be ready for emotional and spiritual threats also. Truthfully, I have had no mentor in this one. I’ve had to learn through Scripture, observing keen men from a distance in their writings on emotional and spiritual security (no specific books on this specific topic, just a general gleaning from reading broadly in Christian theology and practice as well as other non-christian authors on leading), global exposure and extensive work in other cultures, a discerning and helpful wife, and by God’s grace through the indwelling Spirit. I have learned that the emotional and spiritual battle are as much a threat as a physical intruder.

Just like the man who tried to enter my home at 5:30 am on an October morning in 2014 was stopped because I was too much for him to handle, I must, likewise, be too much for the enemy of my family who would affect our collective soul emotionally and spiritually. Those intruders can be anything that destroys the emotional and spiritual balance of my home from the media allowed to the thoughts allowed to germinate to the demonic entities that attack. There are multitudes more unseen intruders but time won’t allow to list them all. You know what upsets the balance of your home.

Men, we must be aware of physical, emotional and spiritual threats and be ready to win.

How?

  1. Be in the Scriptures. No excuses. Be a man and know your bible or you’ll be a victim.
  2. Prepare yourself physically. Just do something to be stronger than someone else. Don’t be lazy. No excuses.
  3. Develop emotional and mental toughness by leading something, handling the difficulty in critique and criticism, thickening your skin, learning what to listen to and what to tune out (because some people gonna open their pie hole in spite of it not being the best and you have to learn to listen, know when to defend and when to let it pass). No excuses.
  4. Be in small groups in your church consistently. Make the time. No excuses.
  5. Hebrews 10:25 it. Don’t be absent from corporate worship. That’s a discipleship issue. Plan around worship. That’s in the manual or you are in sin. No excuses.
  6. Have friends who you are accountable too in your small group. It’s in 1 John. No excuses.
  7. Listen to your wife and/or children’s needs and make sure the spiritual and emotional atmosphere is fully in tact. Put a guard over your home. No excuses.

Do these things and you and I will be a long way toward being able to protect our families like real men.