There’s a Party

You are cordially invited to a wedding banquet. This promises to be the celebration to end all celebrations. There has never been nor will there ever be another event like this one. The best food will be served, the best wine (maybe juice) will flow, the best music will be heard, the best scenery will be seen. The band has been practicing for what seems like an eternity. Our gracious and loving Host has spared no expense for this party and it will be spoken about for an eternity. Only family is invited to attend this spectacular celebration and you are fortunate enough to be invited. This is not a party you want to miss because even those on the outside will hear the joy from within.

That is at least how Jesus described heaven. In many places, He said it was going to be a party and Matthew 22 is one of them. Not only is there a party but you are invited! You get to attend this amazing wedding celebration that is going to happen. Can you imagine what this is going to be like? No of course not because we cannot dream up the awesome splendor of God. We cannot fathom His goodness, love, and glory. We cannot comprehend the richness and depth of His great love. His ways are so beyond ours that at best we can tell there will be an awe-inspiring event, but we cannot possibly know how awesome. It is going to be epic in the truest sense of the word.

Every tribe tongue, nation, and people will be there. Old, young, white, black, those born today, and those born a thousand years before we know will all be there in attendance. Some will speak Chinese, some French, some English, some Celtic, some will speak languages long lost, and some not yet known. There will be people telling stories about how they got invited and tears of joy will flow as lost loved ones are reunited. People will tell of how one action led to another and then their entire village became invited. Some will find out they helped invite without knowing if they would come and they will sing for joy when they see them there. Oh, it is going to be glorious.

When I think about heaven like this it is no wonder that I have no choice but to tell everyone. How could I possibly keep silent about this wedding we are invited to? How can I possibly not devote my life to telling everyone? How could I not with joy and love ask you to partner too?

Oh, and I forgot one important detail… you’re in the wedding! Not as some oddly dressed bridesmaid wearing a weird floral pattern and side bow either. No, you are the bride. You as part of the church that has been built through the ages are the bride and your Groom cannot wait to bring you home.

So, what do you say? You wanna go to a party with me?

 

Just a thought,

Mike

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Four Statements you need to hear

Did you know God is calling you? Not on the phone, although I am sure he could. No, God is calling and has been calling you all along. We can think God is distant, but He is not. He is present and calling. I for one know there have been times when I know God is calling me and other times like after I sin that I am sure He is not calling me. But again, He is present and calling. Not only is He calling but I like the way River Tree church in Ohio puts it – He is For, With, One of, and In Us.

God is the one who sought out Adam and Eve after they sinned. It was God who initiated the seeking. It was God who called Abraham to leave his homeland and become the father of the faith. It was God who called Moses. It was God who called Samuel. When we read through Scripture we read God calls to people. If we go back further even than the garden to pre-creation creation itself, we read that Christ was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8 NIV). Because God is omnipotent He knew before forming Adam that He would have to send His Son to pay the penalty for sin and still He was for us.

Because God is for us He was moved to be with us. Because God loves us He was moved to send Jesus to take up residence with us. Jesus chose to leave heaven and take on human form. Not only did He take up human form He spent time with some really bad people. How often did the religious leaders of Jesus’ day accuse Him of being friends with and liking sinners? It makes one wonder if I could be accused of such a thing.

Moving on, God is one of us. This is the incarnation! An event so great that all of heaven sang out in wonder that Christ is born as they gave glory to God and proclaimed peace on earth (Lk 2:14). This was a moment creation and heaven was waiting for. This was the first of what I think are four of the most profound statements in the Bible that relate to God’s relationship to humankind. The first being that the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us (Jn 1:14). God clearly pronounced what it means to be for someone. The incarnation is God demonstrating His great love for us. While the world is still sinning and far from Him, He has come to bring life. This creates the possibility for a second profound statement when Jesus says it is finished. God’s being for us moved Him to be with us, living like us and then dying as one of us.

Finally, we get to the God is in us. This is the third profound statement when the angels declare He is risen! The grave could not hold Him, and He is alive once again. This makes a way for the final statement which is in Colossians 1:27 when Paul declares that the glorious wealth of the mystery is Christ in you the hope of glory. God was for us and now He is in us.

FOUR Statements that changed the world!

  • The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. John 1:14
  • It is finished. John 19:30
  • He is risen. Matthew 28:6
  • The glorious wealth of the mystery is Christ in you the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27

Just reread those four statements and let that sink in. If you are “far” from God read those statements because they tell you that God is not “far” from you. If you are a lifelong saint, then read those statements because Christ is in you and He is your hope so don’t forget that. If you are a new Christian read those statements because they will be what you hold on to in times of trouble. If you are wondering what the purpose of your life is when read those statements because they will show you that Christ died and rose just to be with you. The beautiful thing about these simple little statements is they show so much about God and so much about you. So what are you going to do about it?

Just a thought,

Mike

Why must evangelism and discipleship happen at the same time?

Frank Sinatra sang that love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. According to the song, one belongs to the other and any attempt to separate them is an illusion. In the Western world, we marry because of love and those in love will, ideally, get married. Why must evangelism and discipleship happen at the same time, because you can’t have one without the other. Evangelism is the telling of the Gospel or the good news. The gospel among other things includes that the Lord Jesus came bringing the kingdom of God. Evangelism is telling people about Christ death and resurrection and relating how it is relevant to their life now. Discipleship is not only helping accept this reality but submitting to the Lordship of Christ because the kingdom is here now. If the Gospel includes the fact that Christ is Lord, then submission or discipleship is included in the message of the Evangelism.

The goal is not church growth or numbers. At best we can understand that each number represents a life that Jesus cares about deeply. Our mission as the church is to spread the message of the Gospel and help people become obedient to that message and as Rick Wood says, “everything we do as a church must be evaluated on [that] basis.”[1] To say that a church is growing with discipleship is to say my marriage is growing without love. The two are connected because they require one another. Discipling people with mere information or facts apart from faith is like someone in the Western world marring without love. The two go hand in hand because “discipleship is transformational, not informational.”[2] Trying to separate the two puts the carriage before the horse or worse it forgets the carriage and the people inside at home.

 

[1] Rick Wood, “A Call to Radical Disciple-making,” Mission Frontiers, 2010.

[2] Eric Geiger, “Discipleship: More than Information,” 2012.

I have heard so much about you

I have this habit of talking about my wife a lot. I don’t really mean to do it, but it just happens. More than just talking about my wife I talk about my wife like people know who she is because I think they should. Sometimes I have said multiple things about her and then realize I have to clarify that Julie is my wife. It is usually just little things like Julie and I like to do ______, my wife was telling me about ______, or Julie is doing ______. I find that if I spend enough time talking to someone that by the time they meet my darling bride they say something along the lines of “it’s so nice to meet you. I have heard so much about you.” My goal is for people to love my wife as much as I do. I want people to know what an amazing woman she is. I love when people met her and see what I see. It gives me such joy to see people see the wonder of my wife.

I want to do the same thing with Jesus. I want to talk about Jesus in such a way that people feel they just have to meet Him. That after spending time with me they think “wow this Jesus guy sounds amazing” because honestly, He is. I love Him so much and I want other people to love Him so much. The problem is that all too often I get in the way. I start to talk too much about the things of Jesus and not Him.

I can tell you all sorts of things about my wife. Fun facts and figures that would make you think me a crazy stalker. I know every mannerism about my wife. Usually, I know something about my wife before she does because I study her so much. If I told you these things you would know about her too, but it would not drive you to want to meet her. You would know a good deal about her, but they would not be things that make you meet her and say “it’s so nice to meet you. I have heard so much about you.” Instead, you met her and say, “wow your husband knows you a lot.” By me telling you all the facts and stats about my wife you would learn a lot about me. You might even think I am awesome for knowing my wife so well. But that is not my goal. My goal is for you to meet her and thinks wow she is awesome.

The same goes for Jesus. I love to study the things about God (what we call theology). For me, it is so much fun. I enjoy talking about it and learning about it. I also think it is ridiculously important and the more I tell you about these things the more you will know things about Him too, but they will not drive you to want to know Him. The more I tell you about theology the more you might start to think “wow this guy really knows His Jesus.” But I don’t want you to know I know Jesus. I want you to know Him.

I want to talk about Him in such a way that you can’t wait to meet Him. That the more I talk about Him the more you think “I have to meet this Jesus.” That is all I want in life. I want others to know this same God who loves me and saved me from myself. I want people to know that Jesus loves them and wants to be part of their life. That Jesus looked down from heaven and said, “I want you.” That’s it, that is the good news right there. God sent His Son to come and be with you. That He says you are pretty messed up, but I want you and I am going to do something so big and so amazingly crazy to make this relationship work.

That is all I want right there. I just want to be so in love with Jesus that I talk about Him in such a way that people say to Him “it’s so nice to meet you. I have heard so much about you.”

Just a thought,

Mike

The who and how of discipleship.

Who can be a disciple of Jesus?

We have looked at what a disciple was and why we should be calling disciples.  We have seen that the call to disciple is not an option but a mandate, and looked at some examples of what happens when it is not done.  We have I hope scratched the surface of what it means to be a disciple.  We have discussed that we should be raising Gods children so that when they are old they will not depart.  I hope we covered that we should be teaching them to eat solid food and how to walk out their salvation.

Today I want to pick from where we left off with that discussion and see who can be a disciple and how to reach and disciple them.

The who is really an easy question but one I always enjoy answering.  I enjoy answering it because I think the Bible enjoys answering it.  Some verses to name a few Joel 2:32, Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13, Romans 11:17, John 1:12, John 10:16, and others.  These verses all echo the statement from Jesus in Matthew 11:28:

“Come to me all you, who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”

If you want to come to Jesus then you come.  If you want forgiveness then you come, if you want to trade your sorrow for His joy then you come, if you want healing then you come.  Come and not only receive Jesus come and be His disciple.

If we look back through Biblical history we see this constant reverberating message from God saying I am calling people who are not a people to be my people.  Look at the longsuffering of God with the Canaanites, the forgiveness He offered to the people of Nineveh.  Matthew starts his Gospel account with a genealogy and he is sure to include Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth all gentiles.  Bathsheba may have been a Hittite but at bare minimum she is known for what?  Cheating on her husband.  God says over and over again, I want you.

If we look at the disciples Jesus called we can see from the start of His ministry on earth that is calling all people unto Himself.  Here is Jesus’s starting lineup.

Peter, fisherman, Andrew fisherman, James the Elder, fisherman, John fisherman, Philip fisherman, Bartholomew (Nathanael) probably had some money and did not work, James the Lesser or Youner, Jude, Thaddeus, or Lebbeus, also known as Jude the troublemaker, Matthew (Levi), he was a publican or tax collector, Simon, the Zealot another troublemaker, Thomas Didymus aka the doubter, Judas Iscariot, the traitor.

Jesus choosing His team chose 5 fisherman, a socs, two troublemakers, a tax collector, a nobody, a doubter, and a traitor.  I think it is safe for us to assume He will take anyone.  On the cross He tells one of the two men that will be with Him in paradise.  So I say again If you want to come to Jesus then you come.


It is not always easy to call disciples.

A mother went to wake her son for church one Sunday morning. When she knocked on his door, he said, “I’m not going!” “Why not?” asked his mother. “I’ll give you two good reasons,” he said. “One, they don’t like me. Two, I don’t like them.” His mother replied, “I’ll give you two good reasons why YOU WILL go to church. One, you’re 47 years old. Two, you’re the pastor!”

There are many different ways to go about fulfilling the Great Commision.  There are different tactics (schools, feeding the poor, clothing, etc) we can take, differing opinions on the best way to fulfil it.  Groups like Samaritan’s Purse, Gospel for Asia, Compassion International, and New Tribes just to name a few all these groups have different focuses and different methods but they all share a similar trait namely seeking, saving, and maturing Christians.

Because it is hard I sometimes wish it was called the minor commission, or the the little job, or even perhaps the if you get around to it commission, but instead God chose to place a major emphasis on us reaching and maturing people.

I often looked at the calling of the disciples as a single event almost like gym class.  Jesus lined up everyone against a wall and said you, you, and you.  However once again the Bible corrects my thinking and I see something different.  When I look at the Biblical narrative I see something unexpected.  I see something challenging.

I see five different types of disciples.  Now at different times in peoples lives they can move from one stage or another and some actually cross over into different groups, but by and large you have five. With there being different groups different tactics need to be used to reach and teach them.

The first is a group I have called the Saved Seekers.  John 1:35-39

I place John and Andrew in this category. These are typically your Christians who are saved and trying to grow.  They are serving, ministering, and always on the hunt to do and learn more.  They typically do not need a lot of guidance, but instead they need opportunity to use their gifts.  They need someone to point them in the right direction someone to hold them accountable, someone to minister to them when they reach out for it, but for the most part they are ready to go batteries included born again men and women of God.  These are those who seek out ways to grow.  They are by far the easiest group of people and often the smallest and rarest to find.  If you do happen to find one it is actually more likely they found you.

The next group I have dubbed Multistage Mullers

Peter is in this group all by his lonesome.  Peter is usually in his own group if you notice.  There is a lot that can be said about Peter, but for this lets just focus on what it took for Peter to become a disciple of Jesus.  If you think Peter was just called and responded correctly then you have not paid attention to Peter’s life.  Peter denied Christ, was rebuked by Jesus, fell asleep in the garden, and got scared and sank.  Peter was not a model of active obedience at first.  To see what it took to call Peter you need to look at John 1:40-42, Matthew 4:18-22 (Mark 1:16-20), and then Luke 5:1-11.  If we read them we see that there was time in between these different events.  Some people take time.  For some you need to really get in there and work them like old clay.  For some reason life has made them a little harder, a little rougher, a little more off. You need to add some water here and there and mix gently.  You need to be easy and rough.  You really have to work at with these people.

It starts in John 1:40-42 where Jesus just introduces Himself.  The next event is Matthew 4:18-22/Mark 1:16-20 where Jesus tells Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow Him and He will make them fishers of men.  Then we have Luke 5:1-11 which occurs after Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, and after Jesus teaches the fisherman to fish and Peter says to Jesus “Depart from me for I am a sinful man O Lord.”  Peter finally got it.  It was a good day.

Sometimes it takes time.  Some people need a lot of coaching and encouragement.  You need to be diligent with these people.  They are not just jump in people, they are watch and see what happens people.  They are not the entrepreneurial type.  No they want to make sure it is the real deal before signing on.  You need to be honest with them, they do not work well with flakey.  But if you look at Peters life after the resurrection there was no doubt he was in.  Peter died upside down on a cross.  That is commitment and an understanding of what it means to follow Christ.

The next group I want to look at is the Willing Waiters.

This is the group I place Philip and Nathanael in. Specifically Philip but Nathanael is always there if Philip is.  I think about the kid in the Incredibles who is always hanging out just waiting for something amazing.  When it happens he is all excited and says “that was totally wicked.”  Now I spend most of my time growing up in New England and I can tell you that few things are totally wicked.  Jesus however is.  Philip hanging out somewhere then Jesus comes along and says follow me, he does, and then tells his friend Nathanael about Jesus.  Willing Waiters are no less devoted, no less connected, no less involved they just don’t jump at everything.  They are careful about where they invest themselves.  But when they’re in they are in.  The most popular account has Philip being crucified upside down and still preaching.  Make no mistake these folks are in to win it.  We must realize that there are countless people sitting around waiting to follow the right thing, and there are countless “groups” and “causes” trying to get these people on board.  We should be looking for these people because they are waiting for us.

The fourth group is called the Desperate Destitutes.

Matthew is quickly becoming one of my favorites.  To call Matthew Jesus looked him in the eyes and said “Follow Me” as told Luke 5:27. Matthew did not need much convincing because he had no preconceived notion of self righteousness.  Matthew knew how bad he was, and he was ripe for the picking.  Matthew to me represents all the hurting people.  All those that feel they need to get cleaned up to get right with God.  Those who are very aware of their faults and failures.  I was a Matthew.  I knew how bad I was.  Not proud of it but not unaware either.  Matthew just needed an invitation.  Some people just need an invitation.  Then when they get it they are sold.  They are dedicated.  Think about Luke 7:47:

Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.

The thing about Matthews is they need to know they are accepted.  They just need to know they are wanted.  They need to be told and understand that they are part of the whomsoever that Jesus died for.  They need to know that they can come to the cross just as they are.  They then can become some of the most dedicated disciples you have ever seen. They will quickly become Saved Seekers.

I think it important to look at Luke 18:9-14.  Remember that Matthew was a tax collector and tax collectors were hated by everyone.  No one liked them.  I think but cannot prove that Jesus told this parable for Matthew.  To encourage him. Because the Desperate Destitute need a lot of encouraging in the beginning.  You know what else I notice?  That Matthew the author of a Gospel account does give us a retelling of this parable.  That tells me he got it.  I would imagine that when Jesus told this He looked right at Matthew and Matthew knew he was ok now.

Lastly I want to look at Apollos or the Faulty Fervent.

These people are a lot like Apollos in Acts 18:24-28 who understand portions of the Scriptures and are very passionate but miss certain aspects of the truth.  These people are on fire for God and ready to run.  The Bible literally uses the word hot (zeo) which is used to describe boiling water.  These people love Jesus with all their heart and will drop the Gospel wherever they are but often times they are missing some important things.  They need some Godly people like Aquila, and Priscilla to explain the way of God more accurately to them.  You have to be very careful with these people to not put their fire out but to have it burning the right fuel.  An important thing to note about some of these people is the thing they are usually missing is a little word called tact.  Now I am not trying to say Apollos was missing that but that is something that is usually missing from these fine folks.  They lack the ability to use tact and rightly divide the Word.

Some think that it might actually have been Apollos who wrote the book of Hebrews.  Now whether or not that is true does not mean as much as the fact that he is thought of as the one who wrote it.  He went from needing to be taught to being one who is assumed wrote an extremely important book.  That should tell you what you need to know about these people.

We can see then that there are many types of people who can be discipled and that they can cross groups but the important thing is that we disciple them.  That we spend time with them teaching them more accurately the things of God.  We do this by spending time with them and inviting them into our lives.

We need to keep something in focus here.  We need to remember that the purpose of this thing called Discipleship has only one purpose.  It is not to grow a church, or to lay some shallow claim that we have built something special.  No the purpose of this thing called discipleship is to see lives changed.  It is to see hearts, lives, and minds changed by the power of Jesus.  If that is not the point, if Jesus is not the point then all we are left with is building filled with empty vessels.  We have to remember why we are doing it because it can be a thankless job.  The cost to call them is high and the cost to be a disciple is high.

In the middle of the 19th century a Welsh missionary was working in India where he came across a village and was able by the grace of God to bring one of these men to Christ.  That however is where the story turns.  The villager was brought before the chief and told to renounce his new found faith.  His response was was “I have decided to follow Jesus.”  They pushed him further and threatened his family his response was “Though no one joins me still I will follow.”  His wife was killed and as they executed him he sang “the cross before me the world behind me.”  It is said that his faith led to the conversion of the chief and other villagers.

I close with this thought.  He was only a disciple for a short time but changed the village and countless others because of his testimony.  What can we do with no such threat hanging over our heads and the freedom to preach His name?

Just a thought,

Mike

What’s the point or SuperDuperGrace

I have decided I am done reading the for and against on the newest fad to creep into the Christian community.  Namely this so called Hypergrace and inclusionary theology.  That is by the way the only time I will use that word (HG) because it is a stupid nonsense word.  We are talking about the grace of God (unmerited favor) here it can not be more than it is.  It is hyper.  Calling it Hypergrace is like calling it superduper.  SuperDuperGrace???

Anyway, here is why I am done.  Arrogance, and uselessness.  That’s right I said it.  I find that many of the authors I have read on the topic have the same issue namely arrogance.  It seems to seep out of everything they say on the topic (online at least where everyone can battle superman).  they have defined the entire thing and God in a nice neat box.  Anything they cannot fit in their box is deemed either an illustration by Paul because only what Paul says counts, or my favorite a lack of revelation from God (can you say gnositism?).  Everything I have read so far just seems to be so mean, and snooty.

But that is not my point.  I am not here to name call.  I will also point out the insanity of saying you have to work to keep your salvation or that God saves you but now you better do right or He’ll kick your butt aka mixed-grace.  Because that is stupid too.

My main concern with this movement is what is it doing to and for those who do not have a relationship with Christ?  I am going to assume that we can all agree that there are those who do have and those who do not have a relationship with Jesus. SO what about them?

Is this message reaching them?  IS it creating a hunger to go and find the drug addict, prostitute, abuse victim, cutter, suicide contemplator, murder, pedophiler, drunkard, or terrorist?  IS it creating a deep longing to go feed the homeless, visit those in prison, minister to the abuse victim, or visit terminally ill patients?

If the answer is no then what are you doing?  If all it is causing you to do is sit around talking about how good God is then you do not know Him at all.  I searched to try and find some examples of evangelist or examples of outreach activities and I am having a hard time.  That is not to say it is not happening but it does not seem to be a cornerstone of the movement, and for that main reason I could care less about it.

What I hear and what I see are two different things.  I hear about how God loves everyone and God saved everyone (but he didn’t at the same time I don’t understand that), but what I see is a bunch of people sitting around talking about stuff and leaving a lot of hurting people to suffer alone.  I see a bunch of people turning into communal monks leaving a world in pain to fend for itself all the while yelling from a distance “Jesus Loves you”.  A bunch of people who seem to spend more time defending their beliefs rather than act them out.  In short a bunch of hypocrites, and Jesus said something about that in Matthew 23.

Listen I am not saying that is everyone either, but from my understanding and reading it is a lot about me (general sense of the word) and little else.  God loves you yes, and He created good works for you to walk in.  How about instead of telling me about your faith you show it to me.

Just a thought,

Mike