Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Emotions of the Righteous

Psalm 41 begins, 
Blessed is he who considers the poor;
The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.

The LORD will preserve him and keep him alive,

And he will be blessed on the earth;

You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies.

The LORD will strengthen him on his bed of illness;

You will sustain him on his sickbed.
We've been meditating on calling out the image of the Son of God in the people we love and serve. In the previous post, the Beatitudes have opened a door for us to understand how God has already been on mission to bless the wounded since before we ever dreamed up a mission ourselves. He shares a heart with the elemental struggles of everyday living to bring about what is good on earth. 
A broken and contrite heart God will not despise - Ps 51:17
The wounded are the sorts we find identified in the sermon on the mount. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the poor, both financially and of other humble states. Blessed are those who are grieving. These people seem to have pain, and it is unending, always there like a thorn that never gets taken out of their flesh so it can heal. Their pain lasts for a long season of their life. 

A not-yet-believer could really feel oneness with God through hearing the Beatitudes. So then: is it supposed to be different for a Christian to read that passage? We Christians are blessed, right? Are we cured of our wounds because we are in fellowship with God? Not always. 

The Psalmist's Emotions 

The Psalms are a blend of two intense meditations: the introspection of attuning in to one's own plight, and praise and faith in the character and promises of God. So if these are written as part of the infallible Word of God why do Christians sometimes feel guilty for attending carefully to their emotional needs?

How does God feel about the emotional person? Do emotions play an important role in your relationship with God and others? While they should not overtake truth as God's Word depicts, God's Word depicts the centrality of emotions in the relationship we have with God and with others. Right after discussing the blessing of caring for the poor, the Psalmist turns inward to his own state.  Ps. 41:4-8,
I said, "Lord, be merciful on me;
Heal my soul for I have sinned against You."

My enemies speak evil of me:

"When will he die, and his name perish?"
And if he comes to see me, he speaks lies;
His heart gathers iniquity to itself;
When he goes out, he tells it.
All who hate me whisper together against me;
Against me they devise my hurt.
'An evil disease,' they say, 'clings to him.
And now that he lies down, he will rise up no more.'" 
He admits he sins and asks for healing. Then he immediately pivots to describe the choices of others around him. Sometimes the Psalms tattle to God about the sins of others. More frequently it is even more elemental, issues of exclusion, for example. Yes, God cares for so small a thing as exclusion. It is a word Jesus used in the Beatitudes in the Gospel of Luke to describe persecution for which we should leap for joy. 

The more I read the Psalms, the more elementary I think about God's vengeance and the need for Body unity, and I fear the LORD. It did not take anything more than crossing the Psalmist's (a righteous man in Godly pursuits) emotions for God to comfort him with promises to battle against these who otherwise might have gone on their way. Ps. 56:8-9, 
You number my wanderings; 
Put my tears into Your bottle; 

Are they not in your book? 

When I cry out to You, 

Then my enemies will turn back; 

This I know because God is for me. 
How Quickly Does God Heal? 

Romans 8:18-28 teaches us that in Christ we can expect a "firstfruits of the Spirit" - which means instantaneous healing and redemption in our life. It then teaches that we are nevertheless subjected to this system of futility to be "saved in this hope" for some part we do not have yet. We will not have complete redemption and healing till the next dispensation. That means that God sovereignly chooses to heal some things right now and will not heal other parts, till later. I believe that it is always right to pray, for all kinds of healings and restorations, because we do not know what God will choose to honor now - and whatever requests we have to wait to see be answered in the next life - these are our treasures stored up in heaven. We know that from the perspective of eternity, He answers every good thing we ask. 

The Psalmist's Wound 

Psalm 42 begins with a most famous verse "as the deer pants for water, so my soul pants for you O God." But I don't think we often notice the context. Thirst according to the Beatitudes has to do with longing to see righteousness in the community. This is the context for his requests to be granted before God. Verse 4, 
When I remember these things, 
I pour out my soul within me. 
For I used to go with the multitude, 
I went with them to the house of God 

With the voice of joy and praise 
He isn't included at this time, probably out of God's slow developments and others noticing. "Where is your God?" This is a similar question to the enemy asking, "Where is your husband?" It is a challenge to the presence and headship and provision and wisdom the Saint has been given. It claims that if God were truly vested in the cause of the Psalmist, God ought to have healed and restored it all instantaneously. But, God does not restore everything instantaneously. All the wounds described in the Beatitudes could stand more than prayer to God to resolve; a picture of health includes the scope of the community to settle in an organic manner through intimate corporate discipleship. 

But the Psalmist doesn't have community as an option for healing. Ironically his bodily "evil disease" seems to be the reproaches of others. Ps. 42:10, 
As with a breaking of my bones, 
My enemies reproach me,
While they keep saying to me all day long,
"Where is your God?"
The Lament Psalms are categorically about misuse of language and distrust and deceit in relationships with others. Ps. 56:5, 
All day they twist my words; 
All their thoughts are against me for evil. 
He seems to understand his own fallen contribution to the situation -- he does confess his sins. But it doesn't help clear up the matter and that is why it has become a wound. Ps. 55:20-21, 
He has put forth his hands against those who were at peace with him; 
He has broken his covenant. 

The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, 

But war was in his heart; 

His words were softer than oil, 

Yet they were drawn swords. 
When Your Hope Is In God Alone 

Continue to seek good on the earth. Know that God's reputation is also on the line. Psalm 50:23, 
And to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God. 
The Psalmist did not trust in himself but in God alone to act through a desperate situation. God's objective is to show His glory and power so that all may fear Him. Ps. 40:2-3, 
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, 
Out of the miry clay, 

And set my feet upon a rock, 

And established my steps. 

He has put a new song in my mouth-- 

Praise to our God; 

Many will see it and fear, 

And will trust in the LORD. 
Dear Christian, what is your story? Did you lose a loved one? Are you suffering from the tragic effects of divorce? Have you never known job security and a decent paycheck? Or are you like the Psalmist in the Lament Psalms? Do you know your own story, and can you tell it to God? 

Ephesians 5:19 tells us to speak to one another "in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord...". How seriously should we take that? 

What good could possibly come from speaking and singing Lament Psalms to members of the Body of Christ? I hope your answer will be to continually identify with the Beatitude sort of man. The kind of man who is more like the not-yet-believer-in-Jesus than we could ever understand. If, in your position of woundedness you need God like the not-yet-believer, you just might lead a person to the fountain of living waters to drink eternal life for the first time. Give yourself permission to make much about your own emotional condition and also much about God's life. 

"Blessed is he who considers the poor" - it will require that you meditate carefully and identify emotionally with such a state. May the LORD grant you the joy of suffering for the sake of His gospel.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Let's Do Your Mission

Give thanks to the LORD and proclaim His greatness.
Let the whole world know what He has done.
Sing to him; yes sing His praises.
Tell everyone about His miracles.
Exult in His holy name;
O worshipers of the LORD, rejoice!
Search for the LORD and for His strength,
and keep on searching.

Ps. 105:1-4

In the previous posts share the Document I wrote beginning two winters ago.  It was good for a purpose; mostly my own to try and understand what God was doing and therefore what He wanted to do moving forward.  As I wrote in Missional Community: My Story, last December after months of praying God introduced me Soma (a Missional Community organization) on Christmas Day as a gift.  Here is Ben Joyce's vision document explaining Soma in the San Francisco area.  You will find it highlights more or less the same things I had been writing about.  Here are some key words and definitions they used in their document:

- "Identity"  So we see ourselves as missionaries, our homes as missionary outposts, and our neighborhoods and workplaces as the mission field to which we are sent. (pg. 6) 
- "Family"  God has always desired a people, an earthly family, who would live in such a way that the world would know what he is like (pg. 8) 
- "Discipleship"  As disciples who make disciples, we take responsibility for our own development and the development of others. (pg. 9) 


There was a page seven to the document I had written and I had just barely started on it:

Would you pray for these steps of implementation?

A. Prayer for God to bring out those willing workers 

B. Knitting together with the experienced in disciple making: what each part supplies 
C. Knitting together with those who are newer to disciple making: what each part needs 
D. Corporate prayer in faith for divine appointments with the lost in Salem

That's all I wrote.  Since December I have been in the stage of implementation.  My vision has been to find people who are experienced at making disciples who can help me, and/or people who want to learn how to make disciples, in the space of the context of their own neighborhoods.  But that's not all.

Something else has been developing in my mind.  Something even bigger than the Document.  I'm not done here; I'm aiming even higher.

Now I'm looking for people who might listen to the Holy Spirit with me and pray for the purpose of releasing our community in a fervent interest to experience God's powerful plans for their own life.  In one word, "release."  To me, anymore, it's not enough that God has released me to achieve my own vision of His will on earth as it is in Heaven.  Now I want to see your vision come to fruition through the power of God and through listening to His Spirit's voice and obeying it.  Remember the vision that I have?  It was "God was telling me that He was pleased that I wanted to make more disciples, but He showed me that I didn't have enough time for one more person.  He was showing me that what I needed to reproduce was not more disciples, but myself - I needed to reproduce disciple makers." But that's too small a perspective.  I don't want people following the vision God has given me.  It's not ultimately helpful for my own spiritual growth or theirs.

Let me explain to you where I am lopsided and weak.

In this simple diagram Mike Breen of 3DM (another Missional Community organization) depicts three components to spiritual health and growth.  There is the "Up" component.  Some churches, some individual Christians are really good at doing "up" - they have their devotions of God and they spend quality time connecting with God and being filled with His presence and purposes.  There is the "In" component.  Some churches and individuals are really good at doing "In" - when it comes to relationships inside the church with other believers, they invest deeply in them to receive and bless one another and grow in their appreciation of God through fellowship and unity.  Lastly there is the "Out" component.  Some churches and individuals are really good at experiencing deep connection with God through reaching out to people who are not yet God's, to revere Him at work in the lives of those outside the community of God.

Some churches/people are really good at say, "Up" and "In," but really struggle at "Out."  Or they could be really good at doing both "Out" toward the world and "In" toward each other but don't spend time focusing and gaining strength in time directed purely at God alone.

Me?  I am all "Up" and "Out."  :)  My relationship with the Father gives me fulfillment in His activity in the World.  I have been this way for years.  I believe the Document was a way to try and seed my own determination to develop "In."  It takes a lot of concentration because my values are pretty entrenched.

For example.  Just last weekend I had the opportunity to go on a camping trip to have fellowship with a bunch of Christians who I admire.  But at the same time I had just been getting to know a neighbor on my street who has the most amazing story.  This guy finds out he has a son, just 11 months ago and the mother gives him sole custody.  He's never been a father before and the boy came from a neglectful background.  The same weekend as the camping trip is the boy's birthday.  The father admits to me, "Gosh, I have to throw a birthday party for him."  He's never done it before!  And this man says none of the neighbors have even talked to him till us.  He hasn't talked to another adult in two months!

My usual way of thinking goes like this: "How in the world am I supposed to laugh and have fun with Christians when this neighbor has a real need?"  "I would always choose the lost over time with Christians," I think to myself.  I wonder at seeing my values in living color, right before my eyes!  It's not even a pride thing - I don't think I'm going to save the world.  It's so much simpler than that.  I just don't feel good when I know someone is genuinely hurting and I'm off having a grand time.  It's like the 99 and the 1 that was lost.  My heart screams, "go."  But at some point I have to trust God, (right?) with the "Out" and make some more space for "In" time, or it will never happen.  So by faith, I can do that.  I can trust God with a little less "Out" to make some "In."  :)  So, I'm learning.

So - please help me by being "In" in my world, by rubbing off on me.  I'm a stubborn learner.

Here is another diagram by Breen.  The goal is to get Christians out of the Bored, Stressed or Cozy/Lazy quadrants and into the upper right hand corner, the Empowered component.  Breen calls this "Low Control, High Responsibility."  Another name for the Empowered quadrant is, "Release".

What I Believe

My mentors taught me, and I am 100% convinced, that everybody has a seat at the table.  Your story? That's your seat.  All you or I have to do in order to see God at work is show up with our story.  What is your story?  Your story is what your passions are and what has become broken along the way.  Perhaps you hunger and thirst for righteousness in the land.  Perhaps your passion is to care for the marginalized.  I don't know what God has put in your heart.  But God came and opened up His teaching on what the Kingdom of God was like and identified His mission with YOUR MISSION, YOUR battles for what is good on earth; Matt 5:1-10,
And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him.  Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

He didn't ask for a creed or a confession of faith in God as the ticket to participate.  He asked YOU about YOUR STORY.  There was something of God put in man - which is that we are made in His image, and He came to redeem what was marred and twisted and set it straight through blessing which comes through following the Son of God.

What's your story?  What happened to you?  That's where God wants to enter in and I want to watch it happen.  Before I can help you with your mission, I need to know your vision of God's will.  I want to walk in to the good works that you were set aside to do.  Most of all I want to do this together.  I want to pray for you and pray with you.  So much bigger than the vision of one person is many visionaries mutually releasing one another.

How do you find yourself on these diagrams?  I want to know!

I'm in the "Bored" and "Stressed" quadrants and I'm believing that making room for more "In" will increase the "Invitation" I am seeking.

I believe we all hear the Holy Spirit speak to us in different ways.  How does He speak to you?  I am curious to learn this.  I hear Him most clearly through hearing people's stories and considering the legitimacy of what God has put in their heart as they bring to bear their story on God's community.  But I am hearing in only one sort of way and I'm convinced I would hear God in a more fully rounded way if you would share what God is saying to you especially in the way that He confirms things in your life.   I need to learn the different ways of hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit.

I crave "In" - time with Christians - right now.

I don't even care about my vision anymore.  I'm interested in yours.  I want to do your vision.  I'm looking for a few people who want to come together and begin to pray and share what God might be saying to them.  I want to pray together at least once a week.  Maybe meet twice a week.  I have dear Christian friends who I share fellowship with regularly, and I am inviting them now for the space of specific prayer time for this purpose.  Want to??  Let's talk!

In this video Jeff Vanderstelt, the creator of Soma confirms my Document (wow!) with the theme of Identity ("the draw of this ministry is YOU with CHRIST") and the Epistle of Ephesians in what I feel is the best explanation on video yet of the missional movement.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


What's the word embedded in "submission"?  It's mission.  Where do we get our mission from?  From listening to others.

"Sub" means to set under
"Mission" means to cause to go

Today you might spend say five minutes listening to a story from a person you're not sure has eternal life.  How might you submit to their mission in this world and interlay it with the hope and power of the gospel?  What would that change of your objectives in a normal everyday conversation?

Michael Frost never connected the idea of "submission" with the concept of "listening" in the video below.  Nevertheless I would like to offer the suggestion.  Frost says that mission cannot be incarnated out of our own interests.  Incarnation comes through intimate-knowing the people you want to reach.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The Document: Location, Location, Location

The Gospel is Everything
Merging the location of incarnation and not-yet-believers

Perhaps you have found differently, but I used to be a scientific atheist who later explored the major religions of the world before becoming Christian.  I have not known another god who freely gives His presence upon request alone.  There is no other god who gives integrity that soberly stares in the face of trials.  There is no other god I've heard of who gives mercy for faults and grace for victory.  There is no other god who delivers on promises of freedom from bondage in addictions and wounds.  There is no other god who espouses a cocktail of unity and yet variety.  There is no other god which teaches me to lead with weaknesses or miraculously paints a picture of moving closer toward, not gaining distance, from the most dangerous of people on this earth.

Everything I have comes from the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  That is why the most worthwhile things I will steward will continue to come through the gospel.

People are Not Targets

For years when there was a large attraction at which the gospel message was eventually given I would crumple over.  Something struck me as off and for so long I couldn't put my finger on it.  Now I know how to say it:  People are not targets.  There are a few not-yet-believers who are seeking God very consciously and if they should walk into a gospel presentation, they'll joyfully receive it.  I praise God for these.  Most of the rest need more than a two minute invitation if they are to be enabled to understand the significance and power of the gospel.

I'm also feeling like an opportunist, in a different space.  I speak the term "Disciple Making" and it sounds condescending in my ears but Jesus didn't speak that term that way.  I get the same crumple feeling in my own attempts.  I still hope that the right time to share the gospel with a stranger is when they look like they need hope.  However are they too, obligated to hear the gospel message for two minutes?  Maybe.  There's something off inside of me and I know what it is now: people are not targets.

Incarnation Replaces Feelings of Opportunism

I feel crumpled about sharing the gospel and splitting out on a person, because the Spirit is prompting me to make the gospel three-dimensional.  To be fair there is nothing inherently opportunistic in sharing the gospel in two minutes in a large attractive event or on the street corner when someone needs a lift.  There is nothing wrong with approaching people directly and immediately sharing the gospel.  Paul took an opportunity with Lydia.  He sought out the riverside because it was known as a religious place of prayer.  He spoke aloud to see if God would open anyone's heart, and Lydia and her house responded.

After that scene Paul lived with them.  This was more than an opportunity to persuade people, it was a way of life.  He took it past the riverside and into daily life.  I believe daily life is the best avenue to make disciples.  All people are impressionable and are following something.  The ongoing exposure of daily living erodes initial suspicion of opportunism (or even manipulation to some perhaps) that comes through a two minute investment.  It replaces it with a sense of faithfulness and belonging and personality of Christ in me.  The gospel takes on the sensing of a pure gift, completely genuine, because I offer myself just as they do - both parties choose to engage simply through being present.  When I am asked to testify of the gospel in a context of those I see every day, all the walls and defenses have a chance to fall down, as true charity from the supernatural Spirit shines forth.  We call this "incarnation."

The way to make disciples though incarnation includes:

- Loving others and expressing oneness with the human condition  (the beatitudes)
- Serving others and demonstrating their worth at cost to our own interests  (identity as son of man)
- Testifying to others how Jesus is incarnating Himself in our own life  (imitation)
- Listening to others about what is happening in their life and pointing out to them where God is wanting to be or is currently at work in their own life (identity as son of God)

The Location Factor

Those of us engaged in church programs have the opportunity to incarnate Jesus Christ through daily living around those who already know Jesus; this is time spent with those who attend church.  It takes a lot of work behind the scenes to produce a viable program at church and so most of our relationships and time is vested there.  We can love, serve, testify and listen to fellow saints in those church places.  However we're sharing all that incarnation with people who already have eternal life.  We spend the great majority of our time with believers to bring about a two hour event where the gospel is shared with not-yet-believers for two minutes.  Nothing is inherently wrong with that, but is this all the time they're worth?  How might the church merge the location of not-yet-believers into this ripe place of Saints incarnating the Savior?

Below in "Personal Note" are stories of redemption with the people whom I spend the majority of time.  These are people we eat with, go to movies with, run errands with.  They're as good as family, friends to Ben and I and our kids.  We love them dearly and they love us too.  We've been together for years.  I continually need hope through Jesus and live and speak correspondingly.  And they know this and are excited to tell of their own hope in Jesus because they know I would understand it.  There isn't anything opportunistic about disciple making.  We are learning together how there is no other god that saves us.

(from the document...)

Personal Note

By the grace of God I have had the privilege of doing a variety of things through Christ and I believe therefore that anyone else can exercise God's power and even much more. I have leaned into God to settle disputes and provide lay counseling. While sharing the gospel we once prayed for court proceedings against a loved one and the next day the charges were dropped and this person returned to their family. I have fed hungry neighbors and watched children because I was ready according to the whispering of the Spirit. By God's wisdom I wrote a parenting plan for a mother and her children, which a year later both child and parent told me that it was right. A 19 year old woman insists she is another child of mine, and now she calls me to hear what the Bible says about an issue in her life, and shares the gospel where she dwells the most and I am amazed how the gospel has taken on meaning for her. Another precious friend teaches me every time we're together what it means to share the gospel boldly as she believes she is learning that somehow from me.  When only God told me someone should obtain justice, by Him we found free lawyers from Willamette U. and food and money resources for a woman who was being abused and abandoned. God gave me courage to speak truthfully against drug use and homosexuality and lying and fornication and excessive anger. I was arranged by God when a checker at the grocery store was literally about to break at the news earlier in the day that her husband committed adultery and gave her a long hug and reminded her about help from the LORD. I have seen God save the mentally handicapped, children, the ungodly, the cultic, and the agnostic. I accept because I saw evidence of the Spirit, in spite how some barely express they believe for a long time at first. I have later reaped over and over again beautiful articulations of what the gospel means and how they are pleased to trust God with their circumstances. These people used to be strangers to me and without any way to understand who God is and what He means to them personally, even if they had heard the gospel somewhere and at some point may have been persuaded that Christ was their Savior, but had no way to grow. Those I shared the gospel with years ago have subsequently shared the gospel with several people in their sphere and so I am tickled that I have grandchildren in Him. This is my family! :) No one can put a cap on how awesome serving the King truly is. I want more power in me and in my family and more glory for Him. All this is a miracle, I am convinced, because I am not trained at all. Making much of the Spirit before others is His idea. It may be true that I have a gift in evangelism, but disciple making is for all believers; therefore anyone can do it, even if it is just one person in this city. So many Christians already do, so praise the LORD! 

With a prayer alone God could accomplish all these things Himself. He doesn't need anyone, however in disciple making, His way is to use just that. Peter was told to travel to Cornelius and use his own mouth to share the gospel. Cornelius had to wait for Peter to come to be saved. It wasn't until a disciple maker met a God-fearer and shared grace and truth that God had His purpose accomplished. For this reason I am not concerned with criticism of self-centeredness. 

My reason in proposing The Disciple Making Workhorse comes from prayer. God kept saying “Yes” to my prayers to connect with another person, and then later He would say “Stop!” when I was in the midst of it. I want time with my family to remain protected because those relationships are primary in God's eyes. I realized I don't have time to do it all. I want another disciple and God is pleased. But I don't have any more brain cells or moments on my calendar to have another person in. The LORD showed me that what I need to do is reproduce myself. I am willing, but I need not lead it. I think this is the LORD's heart: that the willing be conscientious and transformed to do the work of making disciples. 

There is something significant lost when I hand off a paper instead of talking face to face with other believers. I can't find visible networks of those who make disciples, I must be busy running down the wrong corridors or something. I would rather talk face to face, but I'm not sure who I need to talk to, yet. And the paper gives some advantages. You can check the scriptures mentioned here and see if God brings other aspects of His Word to your heart. It becomes something you can take home and consider how you would explain your hope of making disciples. You could write a testimony of what God has already done for His Kingdom, through you, and I would love to hear this! I don't feel it a matter of pride, God has commanded saints to proclaim the things He has done through His people. In any case, passion for the lost is being stirred up! Perhaps there are a few people at church who gather together outside of church to do this very thing, already - I would like to know where they are and join up with what they are doing! If this isn't for you, that's fine. I know it's for me. And I believe that God is going to bring me to the people who seek to be knit together, wherever they are at.

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