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So That You Will Be A Blessing

This morning I read through the first 12 chapters of Genesis and in the first three verses of chapter 12 I saw this:

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

The part that caught my attention this morning was the “so that”. The “so that” gives us insight into the LORD’s motivation behind His actions. His actions are made clear by all of the “I will” statements. Specifically, “I will”:

  • “show you” (the land to which Abram was to go)
  • “make you a great nation”
  • “bless you”
  • “make your name great”

The LORD was going to do all these things to (and for) Abram but it wasn’t just for Abram’s benefit. It wasn’t just because Abram was a special guy or had earned any of this. The LORD was going to do these things so that Abram would be a blessing.

Abram was simply a vessel or mechanism by which the LORD would bless many. It wasn’t so that Abram might be blessed as much as it was so that Abram would be a blessing to others.

As you find yourself being blessed by the LORD in 2016, certainly give thanks to the LORD and acknowledge Him as the source of all blessing. But don’t stop there. After you give thanks, consider the “so that”. Prayerfully consider how you might be a blessing to others.

Surely the LORD hasn’t blessed you just so you can be blessed. He has blessed you so that you might be a blessing to others that they might see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven.

The WYSIWYG Church

While pulling in to the church parking lot sometime before Christmas I noticed a sign staked into the ground near the entrance that announced our Christmas Eve service time. The sign was relatively small, similar to what you might see on a street corner advertising a yard sale or an open house. Even while driving right past it as I pulled in to the parking lot it was difficult to read the details on the sign. This spurred the thought, “we need a big banner that we put out that not only announces our Christmas Eve service but invites the community to join us”.

This thought came up this morning while having coffee with a friend and he commented that if we were to do that we would have to change our whole approach to the service. He thought that all of our services and events are more targeted at the “family” and building up the believers in our midst instead of being targeted at seekers. He said we would need to change things up to be more “outreach” oriented.

In principle, I get what he’s saying and I can agree with the idea of considering our target audience and thinking about ways we can usher them into the truth and give them onramps to get connected to the church. But I don’t think it means we would have to change our approach to the content and structure of the service. Sure, consider how we might communicate and promote the event differently so that we reached our intended target audience and help them understand the “value proposition” of attending, but the content of the service (telling the story and rejoicing over the incarnation of Jesus) shouldn’t change. As the saying goes,

what you win them with, you win them to.

I think about my life as a young person, growing up in a broken home. When I would go to my friend’s homes to hang out after school and was invited to stay for dinner, I got a small taste of what life in a nuclear family could be like. The structure, the safety, the security, and the routine. Although it wasn’t my family and it wasn’t what I was used to, I enjoyed those moments where I got to see how those families did life and it created within me a desire to have that for myself.

The same can be said for inviting newcomers, unbelievers, and seekers of truth to come and experience what family life in the local church is like. Should we go out of our way to be hospitable and make them feel welcome and comfortable? Absolutely! But should we pretend to be something we’re not and act and behave differently than we normally do? By no means!

The local church can be salt and light to a dying and dark world by being true, authentic, and faithful to what the Lord has created it to be. We are to be faithful to the mission and will of God and allow the Holy Spirit to do the attracting, convicting, and converting. We don’t want people to just come to church. We want people to be the church. When visitors come into the local church, it should be WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). And hopefully, they are seeing a whole lot of Jesus. To God be all the glory.

Unity

In John 13 Jesus issued a new command to His disciples to love one another and by so doing, it would let the world know they were His disciples. In John 15 He encourages His followers to abide in Him and prove to be His disciples by bearing much fruit. In John 17 Jesus is offering His “High Priestly Prayer” and what caught my eye this morning in particular is is the following (emphasis mine):

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
John 17:20–23

We often think of unity as being so critical because it allows us to get along well with one another. It allows the church to function much more smoothly if we’re unified. It’s more comfortable for us to be unified. It feels good to be unified. Read more

Fruit, Love, and Discipleship

The other day while reading through John 13 I noticed that Jesus told His disciples:

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
John 13:35

So, one of the ways we prove ourselves to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ is through the love that we have for other disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today while reading in John 15 I saw this:

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
John 15:8

Here in John 15 Jesus is telling His disciples that they prove to be His disciples by bearing much fruit and in fact, this brings glory to God the Father.

It can be natural to read those two verses and find yourself wanting to reconcile the connection between (1) loving other believers and (2) bearing much fruit. After all, if they are both means by which our authenticity as disciples of Chris is proved, surely there is a connection, right?

Perhaps, if I had longer than a quick 5-minute coffee break, I could draw out all of the implications of these two statements but that’s not what I’m drawn to this morning. I’m more focused the command that Jesus issues in verse 4.

Read more

Show and tell: a teaching on humble service

In John 13 we read of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples as they gather for what would be their final passover meal together before Jesus was betrayed and crucified. This morning I found myself wondering what it would look like if, instead of actually washing their feet, Jesus had simply delivered a compelling message to His disciples and offered them His verbal instructions on the merits of assuming a posture of humility and seeking to serve one another. What if He just used His words to instruct them on the behavior He desired them to model?

You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
John 13:13-15

Jesus acknowledged His position and authority as their leader; both as Teacher and Lord. And yet, He is the one who took off His outer garments, wrapped a towel around His waist, assumed the most lowly and humble position possible, and washed the stinky, filthy, sinful feet of His disciples. The master humbled Himself to become the servant. Why? To provide the disciples with a living, breathing example. Jesus modeled the behavior He wished for them to exhibit. He showed them that if even He would humble Himself to serve them in this way, how much more should they serve one another in like manner. Read more

Showing Our Children the Gospel

As I sat with my three children last night walking them through our evening devotion I was reminded of something very important. I was reminded that, as important as it is to read the scriptures with our children and as important as it is that we teach and explain the gospel to our children and as important as it is that we pray with them that the seed of God’s Word will land on good soil and yield a harvest in their young lives, it is equally important that they experience the gospel in their interactions with us as parents.

One of the things we discussed during our devotions last night was sin – what it is, how it entered the world, how we are all guilty of it, and how God has solved the problem of sin. We talked about how Adam and Eve responded in their disobedience and how they hid from God in shame. We talked about God’s provision and we talked about how if we confess our sin to God He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Everything we talked about was real and true. But have you ever wondered what it does to the faith of a child if they hear one thing but experience another? How will it be received if we as parents encouraged them to not hide in shame but rather to freely come to God to find forgiveness and restoration and yet, their experience with us was the exact opposite? If their experience with us was constant condemnation, how would it impact their belief of what we tell them of their perfect Heavenly Father?

Thankfully, our children’s salvation is not hinging on how good of a parent we are or how well we communicate the gospel to them. God is sovereign and His grace is sufficient and His will be done. There is nothing we as parents could ever do to separate our kids from the love of God. But, how well are we showing, sharing, and leading them into that love? As a wise friend is fond of saying, “parents are Jesus with skin on”. Read more

Relationship Not Ritual

Reading in Zechariah 7 this morning I saw an expression of God’s heart that reminded me of James’ exhortation and definition about the type of religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father.

A contingent had been sent from Bethel to “entreat the favor of the Lord” and to inquire about whether they should continue with their weeping and fasting during the fifth month as they had faithfully been doing for so many years since the exile and the destruction of the temple. After all, the temple was now being rebuilt. The problem was, although the people were religious in their practice of fasting, they left God out of it and end up getting called out because of it.

Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me: “Say to all the people of the land and the priests, When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves?” Zechariah 7:4-6

The Jews fell in to the trap of simply going through the motions. Their sacrifice was hollow and it was self-centered. This wasn’t a God-ordained fast. This was something the people came up with on their own. The cynical among us might even say their practice of fasting every fifth month was simply an opportunity for them to hold a pity party for themselves and that really it was nothing more than an expression of grief regarding their circumstances rather than being motivated by a contrite and repentant heart because of their sin which brought about the circumstances. Regardless, God goes on to instruct them when He says: Read more

Discipleship in Disappointment

As a parent, one of the most difficult things for me to see is when my children are hurting; both physically and emotionally. However, as difficult as it is, it also provides a wonderful discipleship opportunity and a chance to teach and instruct my kids. I don’t know about you but as a father, I tend to turn pretty much everything into a teachable moment. Last night was one of those moments.

I’ll avoid the details but suffice it to say, my daughter was pretty upset, hurt, and disappointed about something that happened during her school day. Seeing as how this wasn’t my first rodeo, I followed my typical approach to dealing with these situations. At a high-level, my approach involves the following: Read more

The Seattle Seahawks Approach to Discipleship

I stumbled upon an article I clipped last May on Kris Richard, the Seattle Seahawks Defensive Coordinator. Before deleting it I gave the article a quick scan to remind myself of why I clipped it in the first place. And that’s when I saw it; the link to discipleship.

In describing his own preparation for his new position — which included four years as a cornerback in the NFL and seven coaching defensive backs under Carroll, first at USC, then Seattle — Richard says, “You’re always taking notes, always learning, because as soon as you’re stagnant, you’re done.’’

He preaches to his players what he calls “the brotherhood effect,’’ which is defined as “each one, teach one.” That means passing on your knowledge, because “we’re only as strong as our weakest link. But how about no weak links?”

You see, Kris Richard approaches the Seahawks defense the way we might approach discipleship.

Being a Disciple

As disciples of Christ we have an individual responsibility to be “always taking notes, always learning, …”. We are to continue (by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit) growing and maturing in our faith. Our purposeful practice of the spiritual disciplines (Bible intake, prayer, journaling, etc…) as well as regularly joining together with the saints for corporate worship in our local church context can help keep us from getting “stagnant”.

Part of avoiding stagnation is ensuring we are not just taking in and receiving but that we are also giving and sharing. Read more

Where is Your Faith?

While reading the story in Luke 8:22-25 about Jesus calming the storm it can be difficult to not react to Jesus’ chastisement of His disciples. After all, don’t we see them setting an example to be followed?

They set sail for the other side of the lake with Jesus and while He caught some shut eye, a terrible storm broke out and the boat was filling with water. The Bible even tells us they “were in danger”. And so, in response to their clear and present danger, the disciples woke Jesus saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!”

If we freeze frame right there, we might think we have a good Sunday school lesson plan. Sometimes we find ourselves in stormy situations in life and when we do, we should cry out to Jesus to help us and He is faithful to do so. And while this may be true, Jesus says something that gives us pause. Maybe our Sunday school lesson is not ready for primetime just yet. Because as we continue reading we see Jesus rebuke the wind and the raging waves, the storm ceases, and He asks the disciples, “Where is your faith?”.

Where is your faith? What a question for us to consider. Is your faith in Jesus? Or, is your faith in the activity of Jesus? Are you at peace in the presence of Jesus? Or, are you only at peace when Jesus is doing what you think He should be doing? Read more

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