Continuing in Mark with Jesus revealing his response to us.
Archive for the ‘Missional Living’ Category
Listen in as we move through how Mark describes the life of Jesus and his Good News.
This podcast focuses on the reaction of those that view Jesus … particularly his opposition.
Also to note … Randy and Chad have swapped places with respect to use of time.
Mark’s account of Christ continues with Jesus’ authority on full display.
We get started in the book of Mark by taking a look at a guy who understood counter-cultural living and a few fishermen who were invited into the mission of God.
*Disclaimer – I’ve been pretty sick the past few days, including today. So, please excuse the somewhat monotone, unemotional voice. I promise to provide much more inflection in the future.
I want to clear something up about our intentions within PAX. It has become pretty fashionable within Christian circles (particularly “missional” ones) to claim that we have no agenda with our friends, neighbors, and co-workers who have yet to step into God’s family. In actuality, this could not be further from the truth. We absolutely have an agenda.
Now, some of my friends who read this blog are not Christians. Some of you are my neighbors and that last sentence has left a bad taste in your mouth. Please hear this: My agenda is not to convince you to agree with me. I’m not hoping to change your political affiliation. I’m not all that interested in making you conform to my idea of morality because, honestly, changing your behavior is not very high on my priority list. And, when you get down to it, there are areas of my life that would fail your morality test as well. You know what my agenda is? To give you an opportunity to meet your Creator and Savior, Jesus Christ. That’s it. I’m going to call you a friend, love you, and be around as long as you’ll let me even if you don’t decide to enter God’s family. You see, that’s what is different about our agenda. You don’t have to meet it to belong. It’s not about me winning and you losing or vice versa. It’s all about Jesus, the hero of an incredible story of redemption, and His ridiculous love for you.
So, I’d like to apologize to you. I often allow the “busyness” of my life to hinder our opportunity to get to know each other. I am interested in your story. Really, I am. I don’t want to be the guy who smiles and waves as you drive by, but never takes the time hear about your life and share mine with you. I want to be the guy who invites you to my family’s table, because God has invited me to His.
I’m sorry for not taking our relationship seriously enough. I have been selfish with my time. I’m asking for a second (or fifth) chance.
PAX, if you don’t want to see the people in your neighborhood and network meet Jesus, you don’t get it. Seriously, you must not understand who you were, who you are, or why you’re still here. Maybe Peter’s words can help you:
…. you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
“Once you had no identity as a people;
now you are God’s people.
Once you received no mercy;
now you have received God’s mercy.”
Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. 1
Jesus said something similar,
In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. 2
And not to be outdone, Paul wrote these words to the people of Colossae,
Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. 3
We absolutely have an agenda. We want everyone we know to experience the one relationship they were created to NOT live without: Jesus. Friends, that’s God’s agenda:
For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. 4
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 5
Ok, so we have an agenda. Here’s the important twist, you are called to invest in people regardless of whether or not you are successful in this agenda. The Church, the family of God, exists in the world as a community of people acting as Christ’s ambassadors 6. Throughout the Story of God we see a God who is patient and steadfast in His love. The story found in Hosea is just one picture of this.
As Christians we have a tendency to treat people as projects (I know, you’ve heard this before). We establish a desired timeline for them to shape-up and get right with God and then attack. If things don’t go as planned, we move on. Jesus didn’t do it that way. Just read the Gospels 7 and watch the love that permeated Jesus’ interactions with people. As His ambassadors, or representatives, it’s time for us to begin to invest in people with no expectations.
“But Chad, you just said we have an agenda.” Yeah, we do. Here’s the thing.
Our agenda is rooted in hope, not results.
We desperately desire our neighbors to meet Jesus. However, our friendship with them is not dependent on that. We’re there. Period.
On Tuesday morning, I’ll be moving this idea to the practical. It was just important that you and I came to a realization. We are seeking to partner with the Holy Spirit as He redeems the various corners of our city. We do have an agenda. To enter God’s story daily, love people well, and let God make Himself known.
Maybe it’s time for all of us to ask our neighbors for forgiveness and open our lives to them.
Take a look at the below list. It comes from Verge and is basically 25 simple ways to begin engaging people around you. Most of you do an incredible job of opening the door of relationship to the people around you, but I want to use this as a starting point for my posts for tomorrow, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning.
1. Stay outside in the front yard longer while watering the yard
2. Walk your dog regularly around the same time in your neighborhood
3. Sit on the front porch and letting kids play in the front yard
4. Pass out baked goods (fresh bread, cookies, brownies, etc.)
5. Invite neighbors over for dinner
6. Attend and participate in HOA functions
7. Attend the parties invited to by neighbors
8. Do a food drive or coat drive in winter and get neighbors involved
9. Have a game night (yard games outside, or board games inside)
10. Art swap night – bring out what you’re tired of and trade with neighbors
11. Grow a garden and give out extra produce to neighbors
12. Have an Easter egg hunt on your block and invite neighbors use their front yards
13. Start a weekly open meal night in your home
14. Do a summer BBQ every Friday night and invite others to contribute
15. Create a block/ street email and phone contact list for safety
16. Host a sports game watching party
17. Host a coffee and dessert night
18. Organize and host a ladies artistic creation night
19. Organize a tasting tour on your street (everyone sets up food and table on front porch)
20. Host a movie night and discussion afterwards
21. Start a walking/running group in the neighborhood
22. Start hosting a play date weekly for other stay at home parents
23. Organize a carpool for your neighborhood to help save gas
24. Volunteer to coach a local little league sports team
25. Have a front yard ice cream party in the summer
In the following three posts (Friday, Tuesday, and Wednesday Morning, respectively) I’ll be providing a few ideas of my own, as well as painting a picture of how to move beyond the initial connections to Gospel-centric conversations. Honestly, I will be doing a lot of repenting in the posts. Generally speaking, I have not engaged my neighbors or network well.
Praying for each and everyone of you today. Know that you are loved.
Most of you probably enjoy sitting down with someone and digging deep in the Bible. You then have no problem taking what the Holy Spirit has revealed to you and applying it to your life. If this is you, you probably have an extremely disciplined and intimate prayer life as well. Prayer and time in the Word come easy and often for you. If that’s the case, this post isn’t very important for you. Seriously, if how you practice the spiritual disciplines of prayer and time in Scripture are working for you, don’t change them.
However, if you’re like me, things don’t always come as easily or naturally. The goal of this post is to help us gain a little insight on how we can be in prayer and the Word more often. These are simply a few suggestions based on what has worked for me. Again, I would love it if you provided some of your thoughts via the comment section. As a community of people following Jesus, its important that we learn from each other. I don’t want to be the only voice here.
I am going to discuss prayer and Bible study in connection with one another. I believe they, like all spiritual disciplines, actually go hand in hand. So let’s take a look at how we can naturally incorporate them into our individual lives. Tomorrow we will look at how to do this in community (i.e. reading the Bible together, praying with one another, etc…).
Here we go.
Carry Your Bible with You (Or, have an App for that)
I was 17 years old when Jesus stepped in and changed my life forever. I received a lot of advice after that day. Most of it was well-intentioned and beneficial. Still some was actually extremely detrimental to my pursuit of Jesus (but we’ll leave that for another post). The one thing I heard the most was, “always make sure you have your sword with you.” Looking back, I really wish they would have just told me to have my Bible accessible. I hated the reference and it always seemed cheesy and distant to me (yes, I know it is taken directly from Ephesians).
To show how rebellious, stubborn, and just plain stupid I can be, I actually decided I would refuse to have a Bible with me just to spite those who would say “don’t forget to carry your sword.” I think the main reason I didn’t like the phrase was because it conjured up thoughts of me defeating all the evil people around me with my two-edged, leather-bound, heathen-ass-kicking, Bible (yeah, I just said “heathen-ass-kicking”… sorry). As if I would be sitting at Arby’s, overhear some people talking about drunkenness and debauchery, get up and put the Galatians 5 smack down on them. Crazy.
By the way, I still don’t like that image. But I think I’ve grown up. Even if it’s just a little bit. Check out Paul’s words in Romans 7:15-20,
I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
It turns out there is an evil person that needs to be beaten back by the Word of God: Me. The reason I carry my Bible with me now (or, more accurately, downloaded youversion on my phone) is because throughout the day I will have small breaks and moments where I can pick it up and spend sometime with the God who wrote the words. I have found that I really need that time, even when the spare moments are few. You see, like Paul, I have a tendency to let my flesh (my desires, drenched in sin) control my daily actions and interactions. Thus, on my own I can become extremely selfish, cynical, and harsh. I carry my “sword” (still sounds cheesy) because throughout my day, when the time is there, I want to give the Holy Spirit an opportunity to cut through my bs. I know that my day is about Jesus and His kingdom. On my own I will forget that or simply choose to rebel against it. Reading the Bible when I get some time in my day helps me stay on mission. It’s also been amazing how God has encouraged me in those brief minutes.
Obviously, this isn’t the best approach for deep study of the original languages (unless you read Aramaic and Greek). But I don’t think God gave us His word simply so we could study it really intensely. Rather, I would bet it is designed to open us more and more to the Spirit’s daily, moment by moment, leading in our lives. Taking advantage of the little breaks in my day has been huge in my life.
Practice Constant Prayer
For the first 5 years of my relationship with Jesus, the passage I found most difficult to obey was I Thessalonians 5:17,
Pray without ceasing.
Seriously. Try it. Now. For the next 3 hours of your day you are only allowed to pray.
I’m kidding, but think about it. How well would you be able to perform your job or talk with your family? How would your conversations with neighbors and coworkers go? Oh, and if you’re one of those people who believe you always have to close your eyes when you pray…
This passage seemed impossible to me.
I won’t go into the whole study behind my next revelation (and to be honest, it was mainly based on other people’s study that I came to this conclusion), but it turns out that verse is referring more to a continual conversation with the Holy Spirit than to a formal “Dear God….” monologue where I tell God everything I would like. Apparently the Holy Spirit (God) would like to interact with me throughout my day. Apparently he wants to be involved in my daily choices and conversations. To “pray continually” means to regularly and intentionally talk with and submit to God.
So, I have learned to practice constant prayer (some days are way better than others). Before I walk into a meeting of any kind, I invite the Holy Spirit to have His way with my words and attitude. When I’m walking to get my coffee (all 4 times per day) I ask God to be my supply. After spending a few of my spare minutes in the Bible (because I have it with me…) I beg the Spirit to embed the truth in my soul. When I start to get selfish or impatient, I ask for the Spirit to produce his fruit in place of mine*. When my agenda becomes the most important thing in my day, I ask for a fresh reminder of the mission set before me. On my way home from the office I ask God to prepare me to be the daddy and husband my family needs that night.
Paul penned these words in Galatians 2:20,
… It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
It is not possible for Christ to truly replace me as the leader of my life unless I am continually asking the Spirit to replace my motives with his. This is what it means to be in constant prayer. To be continually talking with God as I go through my day. They may be brief interactions, but they are happening often and are specific to the situations before me.
Write Things Down
This last suggestion is much more effective if you’re practicing the above two first. If you are learning to spend spare moments in the Bible and to continually interact with the Holy Spirit, you will be amazed at what happens (or at the very least comes to mind) during your day. I would encourage you to write down the various happenings of your day, even some that may seem insignificant. At the end of the day you can take a look at the list of events and thoughts and spend some dedicated time in prayer (now we’re talking about the slightly more formal version). You can pray for the people you talked with or topics discussed in meetings. You can pray for more clarity on the thoughts or ideas God is placing in you. You can ask God to help you see where you missed opportunities to join His story.
You can also take a look at your day and go to Scripture to learn more about what God has to say about the specific situations you may find yourself.
Now, I know that I’m going to talk about some ideas on how to naturally read the Bible and pray in community tomorrow, but bear with me. If you are married or have kids, you could all go over your lists together in the evening. Emma asks me about my day every night. She wants to know every detail. How awesome would it be if I was more intentional with that time?! As a family we could share about our days in detail and then pray together or read together. Jess and I also talk about our days in the evening, but usually we’re so tired we don’t remember everything. This would allow us to pray together about specifics. If you’re not married and/or don’t have kids, you could do this with roommates or drinking buddies or… well, you get the point.
This is a discipline that I am just beginning, but I know it will be extremely beneficial in my prayer and study life.
Alright, there were a few ideas… what are yours? How do you get into the Word and spend time in prayer?
*About a year ago I was at a retreat with a bunch of high school guys. We were spending the weekend talking about Biblical manhood. The focus was on helping the guys begin to understand the only way to truly become the men God created us to be was to relinquish control to the Holy Spirit. We spent a lot of time in Galatians, specifically chapters 2 and 5. Most of the guys seemed to understand in principle, but were having a hard time recognizing how/when to give the Spirit control. Then Mike Amo said the following,
“I have this DVD player. It’s a nice DVD player, but one thing about it really annoys me. It doesn’t matter how many times I establish the settings I want for it, when I turn it off it automatically goes back to it’s default settings. Every time. So, when I turn it back on I have to go through the process of establishing the proper settings again. The works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) are your default settings. They are what we naturally do if we are relying on ourselves and not giving the Spirit control. The fruit of the Spirit is our proper setting (Galatians 5:22, 23). These characteristics are produced in us primarily when we are allowing the Spirit to have control. As we recognize our default settings rising to the surface (works of the flesh), we need to begin to ask the Holy Spirit to produce his fruit, thus returning us to our proper setting.”
Obviously I paraphrased this. Anyone who knows Mike knows he actually used much bigger words and talked a little longer. The dude is a word magician.
All kidding aside, this changed my life. My primary default behaviors are selfishness, pride, impatience, and pleasure first motives. I had not identified this about myself until that night. Now, as I begin to see these things making their way into my day I can turn to the Spirit and ask Him to take control. This hasn’t removed sin from life… but it has increased my sensitivity to the Spirit’s leading. And based on the words of Paul in Romans 7 that we looked at earlier, I’d say that’s a step in the right direction.
Something needs to be clarified before I begin this post: When we speak of “community” at PAX, we mean it. A lot of events and gatherings have been called community over the years and, while they may represent healthy components of community life, they are poor expressions of true, deep community living. While I am not going to spend any time tearing down what has (in my opinion) falsely been called “authentic community”, I do want to make clear how we define community. The following is taken directly out of our statement of faith:
We believe that Christian community is based on devotion to Jesus, the common mission of the Gospel, and the inclusion of all people*. As Christians, we are called and given the opportunity to do life together. All of it. 1 According to Jesus, the primary way people will see his effect on our lives, is in genuine community. 2
We are passionate about doing life together in a way that draws attention to the God who set us apart for his redemptive purposes 3. However, there is often a huge gap between passion and practice. My goal here is to give you a few ideas on how to create space for community to flourish in your life. This is not an exhaustive list by any means. Please fill free to include your ideas.
Protect Your Calendar
We have an incredible tendency to fill up our schedules. The moment we see free space in a week, we feel the need to fill it with something (even if that something is “me time” spent in front of the TV). If we want to do life as a community of people on mission for the Kingdom of God, we must leave room for spontaneous and unexpected interactions. Sometimes these unplanned get togethers will be in celebration of something. Other times they will center around a crisis of some sort. And occasionally, hopefully often, they will be “just because”.
It is vital that we purposefully schedule times together. However, it is equally important (if not more) that we learn to intentionally leave space on our calendar for the “I didn’t see that coming” moments of community. I will expand a little on this in the next section, but I found the greatest times of intimacy I have had with others were seldom during planned, programmed meetings.
One final note here. As we continue to allow the Spirit to create a missional posture in our hearts, we will find that our desire to be with people outside the family of God will begin to grow. This is good. If this isn’t happening, you haven’t allowed the Spirit to truly penetrate your soul with his hope for the world. As this happens, we will want to fill all of our free time connecting with people yet to experience Jesus.
While this is noble, it is not God’s desire for you.
Yes, you read that right. Remember that Jesus told his disciples that the primary way people will know who they belong to is by their love for one another 4. Paul then reminds the Galatians to “do good to everyone, especially to those who of the household of faith.” 5 This does not mean that we are to neglect those outside the family. God’s plan for the church is to draw creation (including people!) back to Himself. It is simply a reminder that God desires to work this plan out through a people, not a person. Since we are all jacked up sinners, the best picture of Jesus your neighbor could see is a combination of our gifts and character, as the Holy Spirit reveals himself through our weaknesses.
As Hebrews 10 says, we cannot “neglect the meeting together”… no matter how missional you think you are being.
Remember, We’re Family
Last week I came home from work and Jess set three plates down on the table along with our leftover casserole. We pulled Brynn’s highchair up next to us and sat down for dinner. We didn’t have a ton of fixins’ or our nicest set of dishes (we actually only have one set of dishes). We didn’t have dessert planned or unlimited amounts of beverage options. We didn’t have a ton of preparation leading up to the event.
You know what we did have? Fun. We enjoyed dinner together. Emma asked us 150 questions, primarily why questions. We talked about our days, discussed some future plans, and then retired to the living room where Emma and Brynn held their traditional pre-bedtime dance party. It was a perfect evening.
Why do I bring this up? I think we often make our time together with our community way too complicated. We make it a huge production focused on impressing those we are traveling through life with. We need to have multiple meal options, a great dessert, and at least a decent sampling of drinks. The house needs to be spotless (at least the parts of the house people can see… just don’t open the closet!) It’s crazy. Seriously. Sometimes we actually drive ourselves crazy just getting ready to host our “family”. It’s ridiculous.
PAX, hear me on this, you belong to the family God. The Creator of everything seen and unseen pursued you, accepts you, loves you, is faithful to you, and will never forsake you. Why then this incessant need to perform for others?! I’m guilty, I know. I’m just asking, could we please stop feeling like we need to impress each other? If your gifting is in hosting an incredible meal, awesome. Do it. If it’s not, then don’t worry. Put a frozen pizza in the oven and buy some cheap beer. Its time we started acting like family. Warts and all.
This prideful need to perform can be a huge hindrance to the forming of community. Creating space in your calendar means nothing if you’re too embarrassed to have anyone over on short notice. Or, if you need an entire day to prepare for a “spontaneous” connection. I need to get better at this. We need to get better at this.
Now, sometimes a party is in order. I’ll provide one example of when we should go all out below. For now, just remember we’re family. We should be around each other too often to fake it. Quit performing.
Oh, and quick connections aren’t sinful. Sometimes we only have a few minutes to spare. I would encourage you to spare them with each other every now and then.
I know. This doesn’t exactly help us “create space for community”, but it needs to be something we think about as we are operating in a communal fashion. We exist for God’s glory and purposes. He desires to redeem the world. I think that could possibly include people in your network (neighbors, co-workers, classmates, kids’ friends’ parents, etc…). God is extremely specific about how you join His family, but throughout Scripture He opens the door of invitation rather wide.
With that said, do you know what constantly amazes me about the church and disappoints me about myself? Our/my inability to be inclusive. We often operate in such a way that screams exclusivity. We develop our own language, joke in a way that completely strips the dignity from people created in the image of our God, and set up lines that must be crossed in order for someone to belong. I hate this about myself and I desire more for you. We do not have to fear people who are different than us. We don’t have to be on morality patrol at every gathering. We don’t have to ask people to agree to our statement of faith before they can come into our house for dinner.
When the time comes, we absolutely have the privilege to invite people into relationship with their Creator. If someone chooses to accept the price paid for their salvation and join the family of God, we have a responsibility to partner with the Holy Spirit in the discipleship process. Sometimes this may mean ultimately drawing some lines in the sand and help them understand what it means to be set apart. And when these times come, we must speak truth. Every time. No question.
I just want to make sure we aren’t more exclusive than God. It is very clear in Scripture that God desires for everyone to come and know Him. Everyone. God forbid I begin to define everyone as people who fit into my idea of acceptable! Keep the invitation wide-open and then, when the time is right, invite people into the abundant, hopeful, and remarkable life God created them for.
I will keep this brief because I think it is pretty self-explanatory. When we serve others together, we will naturally grow in our commitment to one another. If you would like a Biblical case for servanthood, feel free to start in Genesis and end somewhere in Revelation. It’s everywhere, specifically in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and the early church letters ending in “ians”.
Throw the Best Parties
As we do life together on mission in the context God has placed us, we should become the primary party throwers in our neighborhoods, offices, and whatever other sphere we find ourselves. When you’re together as a family, keep it simple. When you’re throwing a party that involves people yet to experience the grace offered at the cross, do it well.
I remember hearing Jeff Vanderstelt, one of the founders of SOMA Communities, challenge people at a conference to always “bring the better wine.” This was in reference to Jesus’ first miracle, turning water to wine. He notes, as do many commentators, that Jesus elected to turn the water into better wine than had been served at the party previously. Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus participating in parties and He was usually the one who made them awesome. As His representatives, we should desire to make the parties we throw awesome as well.
One day we will all gather for the greatest party ever thrown in all of human history. The host and central focus of the occasion will be Jesus. One small, and fun, way we can prepare the sojourners in our life for what God has for them is by throwing the best parties possible (just do your best to keep the festivities legal and the people sober). We want to give them a tangible taste of the Kingdom, right? Then throw great parties.
I hope this helps. What are your ideas to help us create space for community?
*I shared this post on facebook, but figured I would share it here also since it goes along with our series. Check it out: 8 Effective Ways to Reduce Missional Impact
I have had a lot of great conversations with a number of you over the past few weeks. Of course, some of you seem to have gone into hiding and we should change that by grabbing a coffee or something ASAP. Most of our discussions have centered around how to naturally do life as a community and individuals on mission… So, I want to write a series on just that. The goal is to help us all gain a little insight on how to go from a forced, overly programmed life, to one that is free and natural.
This is going to be a heavily practical blog series. Philosophy will certainly find its way in on occasion, but only to inform practice. Ultimately what we believe doesn’t matter if we never live it out.
I will be tackling the following subjects, but would also like some suggestions from you. That’s right, YOU. If you take a look at the below list and decide there is something else you would like covered, then let me know via the comment section. Don’t be shy. This initial list was intentionally left short to leave room for your ideas.
Initial Ideas for Series
- Carving out time for your Community
- Prayer/Bible Study (Corporately and Individually)
- Connecting with neighbors/coworkers/people in your network in a meaningful and intentional, yet disarming way
Alright, let me know what else you would like included. The series will post every day at 3PM beginning Monday, August 27th and will run until we’re done. We may ask some of you to guest post if you have proven to be the “expert” in a certain area. So be ready!
I wanted to take a brief intermission from the series on Holistic Discipleship. I will be finishing up the series on Monday and Tuesday next week. Before we get to that though, I have some questions:
- What do you think it means for a community of believers to pursue, or “chase”, the Spirit together?
- Are there biblical examples of this happening?
- Have you ever experienced this in your own life?
- If you do have examples (biblical and/or personal) where did the Spirit usually lead the community?
- And finally, is anyone even reading this series or should I just be meeting with you all individually to discuss these things?