Thursday, December 27, 2012

My Top 12 Books of 2012

Here is a list of the best twelve books I read in 2012. They made the list because (a) I read them in 2012 and (b) I enjoyed them or (c) they were significantly helpful in some way. What were your top reads in 2012?

  1. Jesus: A Theography -  Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola
  2. Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World - Bob Goff
  3. One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are - Ann Voskamp
  4. Beauty in the Desert: Discover Deeper Intimacy with God Through the Model of the Tabernacle - Eddie Broussard
  5. Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation -  Ellis, Joseph J
  6. Steve Jobs - Walter Isaacson
  7. Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship - Hirsch, Alan, Hirsch, Debra
  8. In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership - Henri J. M. Nouwen
  9. Advancing the Gospel: Colossians - Mike Treneer
  10. Evernote: The unofficial guide to capturing everything and getting things done. 2nd Edition - Daniel Gold
  11. Making Waves - Doug Nuenke
  12. 50 People Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Spiritual Giants of the Faith - Warren W. Wiersbe

Friday, December 14, 2012

Position, Title, and Authority

“and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year”
(John 18:13 NIV)

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”
(Hebrews 4:14–15)

“So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, “YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU”;”
(Hebrews 5:5)

It is interesting that in the book of John and among commentators there is much discussion of who the high priest was when Jesus was arrested. Most commentator say that Caiaphas held the office of high priest at that time, but that his father-in-law, Annas had formerly held that office and still continued to exercise its authority.

And yet the during the whole farce of a process, the real high priest was the one on trial. Yet Jesus had laid aside His office of authority in order to live life as the Son of Man.

I must be very careful when talks turn to "authority" and "submission" and titles. These things do exist, but they are not what is important in the sight of God. Jesus is the ultimate authority and all real authority must be derived from Him, not from the constructs of man. Jesus is the real army branch director, the real seattle metro leader, and any other "position of authority" that I may be placed in. I only have any real authority as I act in harmony with what Jesus would do in that role.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Lesson on Perseverance

““And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.”
(Luke 11:9–10 NLT)

The NLT captures the sense of Jesus' teaching on perseverance here. "Keep on". Now this teaching is balanced with Jesus' teaching elsewhere on prayer that a person should not think that their many words will have an impact on God. So it's not repeating a mantra or a well-rehearsed prayer that Jesus is talking about here. No, he is talking about a desperate person who refuses to give up. One who continues to knock on the door even though it's late at night and the noise is waking up the neighbors.

"One day George Mueller began praying for five of his friends. After many months, one of them came to the Lord. Ten years later, two others were converted. It took 25 years before the fourth man was saved. Mueller persevered in prayer until his death for the fifth friend, and throughout those 52 years he never gave up hoping that he would accept Christ! His faith was rewarded, for soon after Mueller’s funeral the last one was saved". (From: George Mueller, Man of Faith)

What are the longings of my heart? What are the loaves of bread I need because of visiting friends? Will I keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking? Or will I give up and assume that somehow, God is not listening to my prayers? Persistence, persistence, persistence! Prayer is an interesting thing. We are going to the God of the universes who already knows the end from the beginning. Yet, prayer is so important both to Him and to us. This teaching from Jesus came as a result of the disciples seeing Him at prayer "in a certain place" and asking Him to teach them to pray. After walking them through the Lord's prayer, he told the story of a man knocking on his friends door after hours looking for bread. He concluded the story with the exhortation to keep on asking, keep on looking, keep on knocking.

Lord, give me perseverance in my faith and in my prayers to you. Help me not to give up. Increase my faith and my faithfulness.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Key to a Tender Heart

“He *said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.” (Matthew 19:8)

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

The root cause of every interpersonal conflict from divorce to all out war is the hardness of the human heart. The opposite of hard-heartedness is the tender-heartedness described in Ephesians 4:32. A person develops the tender heart by forgiving people. The source for the strength to forgive comes from a reflection upon Christ's forgiveness. We grow into a deep understanding of all that Christ has forgiven us for and that allows us to forgive others. A life lived that way results in a tender heart. A life of unforgiveness results in a hard heart that demands a certificate of divorce. Such people deceive themselves that changing their circumstances will result in that which only a change of heart condition can accomplish.

I want to be a forgiving person, keeping my heart tender before the Lord by reflecting on His forgiveness of me and extending that same forgiveness to others.

Some years ago, my friend Dave Legg wrote the following about forgiveness:

All too often our approach to conflict and hurt is separation. Unfortunately, separation is never the solution when unity is the problem. When God says make every effort to maintain the unity of the body (Ephesians 4:3), He chose to use a powerful idea. The phrase “make every effort” means literally to strive like a gladiator. In other words, it’s not a casual suggestion or something to do if we’re not busy. Often, a refusal to forgive a wrong keeps us locked in the past and unable to move into the future.

In Matthew 18 Jesus tells the story of the unforgiving servant who ends up in prison at the end. Jesus then concludes the parable by saying, "this is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart". I believe the prison that Jesus is talking about here is the prison of a hardened heart. It is a prison of the unforgiving person's own making.

Forgiveness is the key to a tender heart and a tender heart is key to finishing the race. Most people have thin skins and hard hearts. Christ followers must have thick skins and tender hearts.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Grow or Die

At a conference a few years ago, then 98 year old Jim Downing called together all those present who were above the age of seventy. He then gave them a message that only one of his years and stature could give to that group: “If you’re not growing you are dying.”
I’ve made a study of those who are old in years but are young in their spirit. They are still pressing hard in the abundant life that Jesus gives. They are people like Caleb who said “I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in.” (Joshua 14:11)
The one common denominator I’ve found with such people is that they keep growing. So how does one continue to grow as a person? A couple of years ago, I created the acrostic GROWTH to help me remember some key components in my own growth. They stand for:

God Caused
Response to Circumstances
Oneness with Christ
Word of God
Truth and Love in Community
Hidden Spiritual Disciplines

I need to keep a handle on the fact that God is the author of growth – He causes it. That helps me respond correctly to the circumstances of life, because by faith I can see God’s hand in all things, always working for my growth. I only have the ability to see and respond rightly to these life circumstances through my oneness with Christ, my unity with Him as I abide in Him. I am able to abide in Him only to the extent that I abide in the Word of God. I live out the truth of the Word of God as I love people in community. My secret energy source for continuing to grow is directly tied to a few spiritual disciplines that are largely hidden from view, but are part of my intimate relationship with Christ. Those are the elements of growth in my own life and I’ll work to unpack these further in my next few posts.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Keep Things Simple

When Jesus sent The Twelve out on their first missionary trip, he told them not to take anything for the journey - no staff, no bag, no bread, no extra clothes. The Message gives a hint as to why:

“He said, “Don’t load yourselves up with equipment. Keep it simple; you are the equipment. 
(Luke 9:3–4 MESSAGE)

According to the Message, the reason that Jesus did not want the twelve to take things on their missionary journey was that he did not want them loaded down with extra baggage. They themselves were the equipment that God would use.

Later Jesus said  “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:16–17 NIV)

Jesus teaches two main lessons here. First, he teaches that no person is disqualified from the Kingdom based on their physical age or maturity. Children are welcome. The second teaching is that children actually have an advantage when it comes to the Kingdom because all must receive the Kingdom of God like a child. The message stresses the simplicity of a child. While adults seem to complicate things, children see things in a simple way. In order to experience the Kingdom we must receive it in a simple way.

Be wary of overly complex solutions to advancing the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom moves in the simple hearts of children. We must strive to keep our teaching about the Kingdom accessible, viral, reproducible and simple.

Lorne Sanny once said that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. This old guy thinks that keeping things simple is a key to finishing well. “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.
(2 Timothy 2:4 NAS95)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hey Old Guy - What Keeps You Going? Lesson 2: Walk By Faith

Today I received a phone call from the office of the Seattle Prosecutor. The person on the other end told me that she had my Bible in her possession. Two years ago, thieves kicked in our front door and stole many things including my briefcase which contained the Bible I had used since the early 1990s. Now, for reasons unexplained, my Bible was sitting on the desk of someone in the Seattle Prosecutor's office. I expressed the hope that the person who stole it had read it. In fact I've prayed off and on that the people who broke into our home would read my Bible and find Jesus. (I have no idea if that happened, but it encourages me to think that they might have). This afternoon, a manila envelope containing my Bible was placed next to my front door.

 When I came home and Iris handed me the Bible, I held it for a few moments and then I began to page through it. I looked at promises that I'd underlined and remembered where I was when I first heard God speak them to me. I was really surprised by the emotion I felt and by the memories that came to me just by skimming through the pages. Then my eye fell on the title page and a statement I had written there: "Pray that God would always keep me in over my head".
This afternoon, standing in my office and holding my old, stolen, and now returned Bible, I thought about all the ways the Lord has answered that prayer and how much it has shaped my life. There have been so many times that I have taken on something that there is no way I could do on my own. In other words, if there is no God, I'm sunk. Everything from pioneering new ministries and moving my family to the former Soviet Union right after its breakup to my current role in leading the Nav work among the U.S. Army - all of those things are beyond my capability. And I'm not just talking about ministry challenges. Marriage, child raising, finances, disappointments and failures have all challenged me to the breaking point and pushed me to my knees.

So, I recommend it here as lesson two in how to keep going over the long haul. Trust God with your life and take the risk to pray the prayer I prayed years ago. Ask God to always keep you in over your head. I know, it's a risky prayer, but not really because our Father is a strong and loving God.

What's the practical lesson from the life of Jesus? It's this: He is looking for faith. Once Jesus told a story about a widow who needed justice and bugged an unrighteous judge until he finally granted her request. At the end of that story, He asked a question: When the Son of Man returns will He find faith on the earth? The people of faith are not found near the shore where their feet can touch the bottom, but out in the deep water where they can't make it for long unless there really is a Lord who promises to be with them always, even to the end of the world.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Hey Old Guy - What Keeps You Going? Lesson 1: Count the Cost

“In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple”
(Luke 14:33 NIV)

Jesus had just expressed entrance into the kingdom as a wedding banquet in which the bridegroom was so desirous that guests come in that he compelled people to do so. The invitation was broad and extended even to strangers in the street. This is the calling from God's point of view. He is calling us to a wonderful banquet.

This is however, not the whole story. To follow Christ means to put Christ ahead of everything. He comes before all other relationships and before any possession. In addition, each person who follows Christ will be asked to carry his or her own cross. That is, there will be life circumstances - unique to each individual that calls a person to put "self" to death. Jesus urges the crowds basking in the warmth of His presence, to consider the cost of following Him.

I'm fifty four years old and I'm often around Christ followers who are quite a bit younger than me. More and more, I'm being asked the question that I used to ask "old guys" who follow Jesus: "How do you keep going?" I think there are several answers to that question - and I'll take them on over the next few blog posts - but it seems to me that Jesus is giving one of the keys to beginning well: count both the blessings and the cost to following Jesus. If you calculate accurately, I believe you'll find that the costs are far outweighed by the benefits, but there are costs.

I'm still challenged to remember that I am not exempt from taking up my cross. That is true of every Christ follower. People in their 20s think I'm old, yet I think that I probably have some years yet to serve and glorify the Master. I want to follow hard all the way to the end. I must continue to count the cost.

Lord, help me to live as a disciple today. Help me to put my relationship with you above all earthly relationships, help me to let go of my possessions before you, and help me to take up my cross - whatever it is - on a daily basis.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Was Jesus Goal Oriented or People Oriented?

I admit that I sometimes get so caught up in meeting my goals that I forget about people along the way. It's tough to admit that since I am in the people business. On the other hand, I struggle with the fear of man and the desire to please everyone. This can cause the pendulum to swing in the opposite direction resulting in my missing the very goals that God told me to pursue. What about Jesus? Was he more of a task guy or a people guy?

“And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal.’” Luke 13:32

Jesus had a goal: to reach Jerusalem and His eventual atoning death. In the meantime, he also had short-term objectives: to cast out demons and heal people (teaching is not mentioned in this verse, but He was doing that also). Nothing - not the power of the king or the opposition of the religious leaders could stop Jesus from His focused effort. Jesus did not fear Herod or allow the death threat to get Him off track because He saw and knew the ultimate power of God. He made the clear statement: "I will reach my goal" and He did.

Depending on the Holy Spirit, I must discern which goals are God-given and then I must doggedly pursue those goals. I also must remember that there are things that God wants me to do along the route in my pursuit of the main goal. Jesus did not just ignore everyone and everything as He marched to Jerusalem. No, he healed people, battled demonic forces, and taught people about the Kingdom of God. These things He did as He was moving toward His ultimate goal. In this and so many ways He is a real example for me to follow.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Some Lessons from Hebrews

A few years ago, I was privileged to be a part of a learning community that met together once a month in Denver, Colorado. The group came together to wrestle with the question, "How does the gospel advance in a society that is both secular and religious?" We first met to brainstorm what scriptures would shed the most light on this question. After some time it was agreed that we would study  the book of Hebrews since it appeared to address an audience that came from both a Jewish background and a pagan one. The learning community was incredibly diverse. We had people ranging in age from their twenties to their seventies. We had people from multiple nationalities, ethnic groups, and denominational traditions. The six months we spent studying Hebrews and comparing our findings was a significant blessing to me and informs much of the way I look at our mission as the people of God in the U.S. At the conclusion my own study of Hebrews, I wrote several documents summarizing lessons that I had learned. Below is one of those summary documents - a case study really - looking at a very real situation (names changed) in light of some lessons that I had learned through my study of the book of Hebrews. It is below:

God led Israel out of Egypt, through the Red Sea and into the wilderness all the while meeting their every need. He gave them leadership, miraculous provision, and tremendous victories. The evidence of his presence was with them every day in a pillar of cloud and every night in a pillar of fire. Why did they turn from God and fail to enter His rest?

The recipients of the Epistle to the Hebrews had received the message of salvation from the Son of God, had it confirmed by those who heard Him, and saw God testify to the message by signs, wonders and various miracles. They also had received gifts distributed by the Holy Spirit.  Why were they in danger of having a sinful unbelieving heart, which turned from the living God?

Tim and Amanda became Bob's friends even though they were nervous about Bob’s strong faith. As they got to know Bob and the small group of believers that Bob belonged to, they saw something different from the abusive religiousness that they had both suffered in their past. At first they were curious about whether in could be possible to actually know Jesus. They began to read the Bible and respond to the words of Jesus. Their lives were changed through a miraculous encounter with Him. They began so well, but somewhere along the line they quit responding to Christ, trading the relationship for religious formality, lost their marriage and lost their faith. What happened to Tim and Amanda?

There is such a danger of starting off on the right track and then failing to reach the ultimate goal. From where does the danger come? Can we who are engaged in the ministry of the Gospel see the beginning danger signs and respond with truth that will make a difference and keep people from turning away from the living God?

Christ is superior; Christ is preeminent. God has spoken through Jesus; He is the heir of all things. The universe was made through him and he sits at the right hand of God. He came both as the perfect High Priest and as the perfect sacrifice. He is the fulfillment of God's promise, the mediator between man and God, and the substance to which all shadow pointed. Jesus has accomplished everything needed to allow us to move into an intimate, dynamic relationship with God.

Jesus fulfills every spiritual longing that man has ever experienced. Yet, it is this very longing that can lead man in the wrong direction. Man is a spiritual being, yet he also is a physical being living in a physical world. He is constantly trying to work out the dual nature of things. How does the spiritual reality of God work itself out in the physical world?

When the spies returned from spying out the promise land, the report of the ten fearful spies was based solely on what they had physically seen. They reported that the land did indeed flow with milk and honey (they even brought physical evidence of some of the fruit of the land).  They also reported that the cities were fortified and very large and that there were giants living there. Caleb had seen all of the same physical characteristics of the land, yet he believed that Israel could take the land.  He saw something that must be seen through the eyes of faith. Caleb saw that the protection afforded to the Canaanites had been removed by God.

The recipients of the letter to the Hebrews had experienced the reality of Christ, but they were now experiencing the reality of persecution. They were suffering the confiscation of their property and other forms of mistreatment because of their faith. Additionally, they were feeling a sense of loss because they saw the tradition, ritual, and physical realities of Judaism slipping away from them. They could not see clearly the physical dimension of following Christ apart from the traditions inherent in Judaism. They were in grave danger of hardening their hearts and turning away from God.

Tim and Amanda, as they grew in Christ felt that they needed to find a church beyond the small group of friends that had introduced them to Christ. Shadows from their religious past (that they had previously rejected) created uneasiness with the less formal group of believers, even though it was these friends who had led them to Christ. Although they had received Christ and grown in Him, they still felt that they needed to be in a more formalized fellowship. Before long, they were attending church multiple times a week, attending various functions and orienting their lives to the religious community that they had joined. Over time, religious activity replaced the reality of a relationship with Christ. They were “doing”, but they quit “being”. Their God-given longings for community and contribution had somehow turned their hearts from the living God. The problem was not that they chose to join a fellowship with more traditional forms than the community that had led them to Christ. The problem was that subtly they had replaced the power of a relationship with Christ with activities simply related to Christ. It was a subtle shift of the heart with dangerous consequences.

The author of Hebrews responded to this situation by constantly highlighting the depth and reality of Jesus; who He is, what he had done and what he continues to do. These deep teachings on the person and work of Christ are bridged by exhortations. Exhortations are an important part of this process, they answer the "so what" and provide a pathway for what it means to follow Christ in the real world. The writer even refers to the Epistle as a "word of exhortation" (Hebrews 13:22). The nature of the exhortations fall into three themes that are the dominant outcome of a dynamic relationship with Christ: Faith, Hope, and Love.

Hebrews 10:19-24 captures all three of these exhortations, although they are broached in numerous ways throughout the epistle: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Faith, hope and love are the means by which the spiritual reality of Christ's presence touches the physical world through the believer.

Faith comes as a response to the message of Christ (4:2). It must be held onto through the power of the priesthood of Jesus in heaven (4:14). Christ-followers learn to exercise their faith by imitating those who have gone before them in the journey of faith (6:12, Chapter 11). Faith enables God's people to have the confidence to draw near to God and experience the power of a cleansed conscience. (10:22). Through faith a person can see the unseen and prioritize life not based on physical things, but on spiritual. “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see” (Heb. 11:1 MsgB).

Like faith, hope is a gift which must be grasped firmly. The writher urges the Hebrew believers to hold unswervingly to the hope they professed. Hope is an anchor for the soul. It is the longing and earnest expectation that God is in control and that we are connected to God. Hope offers a refuge and is a source of great encouragement.

Love, like faith and hope comes as a response to the love of Christ in the believer’s life. Love is a proactive thing, practiced toward fellow believers and people in the world in concrete ways. Living a life of love gives a sense of meaning and purpose while spreading the love of Christ to those without Him.

The life of faith, hope, and love in the world addresses the natural longing for meaning and purpose that can never be really met through rule keeping or religious tradition. So, instead of sacrificing animals, God’s people are urged to offer the sacrifice of praise. Instead of offerings for sin, they are urged to do good and share. Instead of rule and ritual, Christ’s followers are urged to entertain strangers, visit prisoners, honor marriage, obey and submit to leadership, avoid sexual immorality, and pray. These are the practical, physical things that matter in the eternal kingdom of God.

Friday, August 10, 2012

More on Shepherds, Sheep, Fences, Religion, and Relationship

Today is Iris and my last day in Europe. It's been a wonderful time in so many ways. We've caught up with old friends, seen sights, encouraged laborers (and been encouraged by them), rested in the Alps and eaten enough good European bread to last us for a while.

Yesterday, we were with old friends and NavStaff Roy and Debbie Garren. Roy and Debbie left a pretty confortable situation in Florida to follow the leading of the Good Shepherd to minister to young military people in Spangdahlem, Germany. As we were having lunch (enjoying that good, hard crusted, German Bread), Debbie showed us a picture she had taken of some sheep behind a fence (not the one above, but one like it), she pointed out that sheep behind a fence provide a pretty good picture of what man-made religion does to people. Such religion does not point to a Shepherd, but instead imposes rules designed to keep people from doing wrong things. That really got me thinking.

Then this morning (I could call it a coincidence, but I won't insult your intelligence), my quiet time happened to be in John 10:1-21: the story of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. As I read through the passage - probably influenced by yesterday's conversation - I noticed how Jesus used the word out in the passage:

John 10:3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

John 10:4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

John 10:9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.

Functioning both as the gate to let the sheep out of the pen and as the Shepherd who leads them out, Jesus provides all of the protection that religion promises, but ultimately fails to provide. He leads them out…when He has brought out all his own…he will come in and go out. When a person is being led by the Good Shepherd, he does not need fences. Religion is a man-made fence designed to keep people living within certain boundaries. What Jesus brings is shepherding. If Jesus finds you within the fence, He will lead you out. Those who follow Jesus have all of the safety that religion purports to give, without the fence. Following the shepherd means to go out. Jesus is the open gate; Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Where Compassion Leads

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”
(Mark 6:34 NIV)

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.””
(Matthew 9:36–38 NIV)

Notice the two responses of Jesus when he felt compassion for the people because he saw that they were like sheep without a shepherd. In Mark 6, right before the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus has compassion on the shepherdess people and began to teach them many things. In that case, Jesus himself functioned as a laborer in the harvest field. He did not wait around for others to do things, but dove in and taught. While he was ministering to the multitudes (in this case teaching them; later feeding them), he was also involving and training his disciples so that they to would become laborers.

Later, in Matthew 9, the scriptures declare that Jesus felt the same compassion and saw again that the people were like shepherdess sheep. Here Jesus commands his followers to pray to God the Father (the Lord of the Harvest) and ask Him to send forth laborers. After that, Jesus sends the twelve out on a training exercise on their pathway to becoming the answer to those prayers.

All of us must be laborers in the harvest field. Why? Because Jesus was. It is not enough to say that I just raise up laborers, I must be one. However just being a laborer is not all that Jesus commands either. I need to be a person who is praying for laborers. And by God's grace I want to be an answer to that prayer. I want to be a person that God uses to train new laborers in the harvest field.

What does a laborer do? Well, he must address the shepherdess sheep problem. In my mind a laborer fulfills at least three biblical functions:

1. That of a shepherd
2. That of a priest
3. That of a farmer

A laborer works hard to bring all that a shepherd brings into the sphere in which God has placed him. He cares for the people, he gives leadership and protection. A laborer also functions as a priest, interceding for the people in his care and representing God to the people. Those are the two functions of a priest - going to God on behalf of the people and representing God to the people. Finally, a laborer acts as a farmer. Planting, watering, and harvesting for the Kingdom of God. That is planting the seed of the Kingdom (the Word of God) in the lives of people. Then watering the seed and cultivating it and looking to the Lord of the Harvest and working with him to bring many into the Kingdom of God (Harvesting).

So where does my compassion for people lead me?

Be a laborer
Pray for laborers
Raise up Laborers

What about you?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Whose MInistry is it Anyway?

““My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”
(John 4:34 NIV)

“They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.””
(John 4:42 NIV)

The work - what we often call the ministry, belongs wholly and completely to God. It is His will and it is His work. When I lead someone to Christ, it is so that they can hear directly from Him. I want them to be able to say that they no longer believe just because I say so, but because they have heard for themselves. That is one reason why I work to expose people to the scriptures and especially the four life-accounts of Jesus that we call the gospels. I want people to hear from Jesus. And that is in harmony with what the Holy Spirit wants to do. He promises to reveal Jesus to people and also to convict them of sin and righteousness and judgment. I have a role to play in a person coming into God's kingdom. I am to be a fellow traveller and a witness. But God has reserved certain things for himself.

It's an attitude that I need to have. Highly motivated to do the work of God and complete whatever task He gives me coupled with a deep conviction and understanding that all of the work is His. He owns it all. It is His work that I am doing. My self worth or esteem should not be wrapped up in it, he has already declared that I am His child. I am a co-laborer with Christ and that is a privilege.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Memorial Day and the cross

This email was just sent out by my friend (and boss), Dave Mead who directs the Navigators Military Mission. I thought it was worth reposting. Happy Memorial Day:

Memorial Day is a special day for Americans. For many it signifies the start of summer and all its halcyon activities. For some it means a shopping spree with the hope of finding a plethora of discounted items. But for all it should be a day of remembrance for those who sacrificed their lives while serving our nation as members of our Armed Forces.

In the span of our living generations, the last 71 years (since the start of World War II), we’ve lost over 507,000 men and women. The campaigns are many: WW II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Just Cause (Panama), Desert Shield/Storm, Restore Hope (Somalia), Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), and Operation New Dawn (OIF, OEF, & OND total 6,330 fatalities) with the addition of many peacekeeping missions. As we serve and minister to those in uniform, many of us are directly touched by the tragedy of war and the price of peace.

I am. Memorial Day has great significance for me and my family. I never knew my grandfather. He was a bomber pilot who died on a bombing mission somewhere in the South China Sea in November 1942. When I was stationed at Fort Campbell in December 1985, the 101st Airborne Division lost 248 soldiers when their DC-8 crashed while taking off from Gander, Newfoundland. Three were Navigators including one of my best friends. As a Reserve Commanding Officer, I had two of my men die in Iraq. I remember the difficulty of writing my letters of condolence to their families. I still weep when hearing “Taps” as I did at their funerals. Memorial Day is profoundly personal for me.

So on Monday, I’ll remember my fallen comrades, pray for their families, and solemnly reflect on the privilege of knowing some of these great Americans. But ultimately, Memorial Day leads me to the cross…remembering Jesus Christ who served and sacrificed more than we can ever imagine so that we can experience the incredible--true life and purpose in Him. Let Memorial Day be a true day of remembrance (Lk 22:17-20, 1 Cor 11:24-26). In Christ, it is a new season, full of hope through His sacrifice!

Dave Mead
Director, Military Mission
The Navigators

Monday, May 21, 2012

Getting Personal

“When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them.”
(Luke 4:40 NIV)
In spite of the fact that it was a very large crowd that came to Jesus (Mark says the whole town), Jesus healed each one personally and individually. He laid His hands on each one and healed them.
Never underestimate how important is the personal touch. Don't try to accomplish in a group what ought to be done face to face and person to person. How often for the sake of expediency, do I avoid the visit or the phone call when that is precisely what's needed?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Going to Home

“Then He got up and left the synagogue, and entered Simon’s home. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Him to help her.”
(Luke 4:38)

Jesus had ministered in a synagogue, but he ended up in someone's home healing and touching their family. That is the way of Jesus. He doesn't merely want to be present in our religious institutions, meetings and services - he wants to present in the intimate settings of family life. He wants to enter there and make a significant difference.

Whenever I meet someone, I need to think of their whole family network and hopefully, get into their home. It is there that the work of Jesus truly begins.

Monday, April 30, 2012


“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.””
(Matthew 4:18–19 NIV)

Peter and Andrew (and James and John) were fishermen. That was their profession. Jesus invited them to follow Him and promised that He would make them into fishermen for men. It seems that what Jesus did here is take their natural employment and say that with His training and in becoming His follower, that He would train them in such a way that their normal profession would be used by God to allow them to recruit people into the Kingdom of God.

Lord, help me to help others live out the calling of Christ in their profession whatever that is. And I pray that you would send forth laborers into your harvest field that are able to fish for men in whatever way makes sense for their context.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Receiving Jesus

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
(John 1:12–13 NIV)

Receiving Him means, inviting and welcoming Him into your life. Believing in His name means trusting Him. To those that welcome Him and trust Him, He gives the right (power, authority) to become children of God. A person does not become a child of God through human effort or through bloodlines. It only happens as they trust Him and are born of God.

I want to continue to receive Jesus into my life. Constantly welcoming Him and inviting his leading in all things. Most of all, I want to trust Him - to believe in His name.

Lord, help me to operate by faith in you, to continue to trust you and believe in the power of Your name.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Amazed by Conversation

“Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.”
-Luke 2:47

Here is Jesus as a child talking with committed religious leaders. The two things that amazed the leaders were his understanding and his answers. The order is significant. Before Jesus could give answers, He needed to demonstrate understanding. Before they asked Him questions, the people He was with needed to feel like He understood what they were discussing.

This is a key to leadership. The first priority must be to gain an understanding of the people and the situation at hand. Then one must demonstrate that understanding to the point that people would want to ask questions. Finally, any answers need to come from the One whose answers always amaze.

Lord, help me gain an understanding. Help me to learn from every email, every phone call and every visit. Increase my capacity for understanding. Help me to hold off on giving my opinion until people are asking for answers....and when I answer, help my answer to come from You.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Overcoming Fear

“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
(Matthew 1:20 NIV)

“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.”
(Matthew 1:24 NIV)

The scriptures say that Joseph did what the angel of the Lord commanded him. But what did the angel command him? He commanded Joseph not to be afraid. Joseph's obedience to that command resulted in Joseph taking Mary home as his wife. The obstacle to Joseph doing the right thing was his own fear. Once he acted in faith and obedience, he overcame that fear.

What are the actions in my life that the Lord wants me to take, but which I shun because of fear?As a leader, do I implement actions, policies and procedures that are predicated on fear or those that promote faith and obedience?

Lord, help me to overcome fear. Guard me from making decisions based on fear. Help me to be able to say to people, "do not fear". I know that the ultimate slayer of fear is your very presence. Help me to always be aware of You.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Not another boring genealogy!

“A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:”

“Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,”

“the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.”

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”

Each of the Gospel authors wanted to trace Jesus back to "the beginning". For Matthew, that meant tracing His genealogy back to David. For Luke, it meant putting together an orderly account of the events of Jesus' life and also tracing His genealogy back to the first man, Adam. John points out that Jesus was with God at the very beginning of all things. Jesus is eternal, yet he is also very present in time.

Jesus is as human as can be. Every story of the Bible involves Jesus in some way. Every year that I read through the Bible, I'm amazed at the places I see Jesus. Jesus also exists outside of time; He is the Alpha and the Omega. As I launch this new blog I trust that we might be more and more aware of Jesus who exists both in time and outside of it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Invitation

When Jesus invited people to follow Him, the invitation was to a fourfold experience. First Jesus invited people to follow Him. When He initially made that invitation, it was literal. He meant go where I go, whether it's into the temple or through Samaria; whether it's into the desert or back to the hometown. Second, Jesus invited people to be with Him. In Mark 3:14, when Jesus appointed the twelve apostles, the first requirement was that they be with Him. Jesus knew that for people to learn to follow Him, they would need to spend much time together with Him. I often think about how much is not recorded in the gospels. How much walking they did, how often they slept under open skies. How many discussions did they have around the fire and over meals? So much of discipleship is really just hanging out together. Jesus also invited people to learn from Him (Matthew 11:29). The disciples learned from Him through experiences together (both natural and supernatural), through His teaching, and through dialogue together. There were a lot of questions involved. Jesus asked the disciples a lot of questions and they also asked their fair share. Finally, Jesus' invitation involved a call to become like Him. Jesus said that a student will become like His teacher (Matthew 10:25). Ultimately, that is the test of discipleship. Am I becoming like Jesus?

I'm launching this blog with that in mind. I'm calling it "PracticAl" because I hope it will contain practical lessons from the life of Jesus. This past year, I memorized the scripture contained in Handel's Messiah - a rich collection focused on the prophesies about Christ and His birth, death, resurrection, and triumphant return. All great thing to meditate on and I'm glad that I have hidden them in my heart. Yet, I'm struck by the fact that there is almost nothing in this great musical piece about the life of the One we follow. This blog will focus on that - on those practical things that we can learn from the life of Jesus and apply to our 21st century life.