Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sent Like Jesus

In John 20:21 Jesus makes the amazing statement: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you."  Do you believe this?  Do you see yourself sent like Jesus?  For that matter, how was Jesus sent?

I see four realities in the way the Father sent Jesus that should free us to also be sent like him.  Each are simple, yet powerful:

Jesus was sent as an ordinary man
Gene Peterson in The Message puts it this way, "and He became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood."  For the first 30 years of Jesus' life, he was just Jesus- the son of Joseph and Mary.  You know, the ones who claimed that God made Mary pregnant and then the king tried to kill their baby so they had to hide in Egypt. Yea, that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.  Joseph was the carpenter that you went to when you needed a new porch or a new bed.  He was the guy everyone in the neighborhood knew.  Jesus was sent just like you and me. That is how God sends us with our neighbors knowing our families and us.  We are just to be ourselves with our personality, our skills, our quirky ways who have our own unique experience with God.  We cannot separate who God made us to be when we are sent, we will bring it with us just as Jesus did.

Jesus was sent by love in grace and truth
Because the Father loves everyone He created, He sent Jesus.  For the same reason and full of the same love, Jesus sends us into a world starved for love.  The world searches everywhere to find some offer of love - bad relationships, pornography, homosexuality... the list goes on.  We carry the only True love, full of grace and truth.  People so badly need grace and acceptance.  Christ said He came not to judge, yet His church is often known as a place of judgement.   He came to bring truth; not truth that hurts, but truth that sets people free.  Christ invites us to engage in the simple act of loving people by offering them grace that they've never known. This along with good truth will set them, the love-starved, free.

Jesus was sent to the lost
Where did Jesus live?  What were the great accusations by religious leaders against Him?  He lived in the midst of those in need of the love.  He lived with the lost.  Where do we live our lives? Do we live as neighbors to the lost? Too often the walls of the church keep us from living where Jesus lived.  There are opportunities all around us to meet people hurting for love.  All God is asking is that we live like Jesus among those who need us most.  Where in your daily circles - work, social, community, super market - are there people that God would like to use you to love?  Learn to see His creation through the compassionate eyes of Jesus.

Jesus was sent to make disciples
A few years back, the question "What would Jesus do?" became a popular slogan.  However, the simple answer got lost in the church.  Jesus didn't come to make believers or followers, although that first step is important.  He came to make obedient disciples.  He says "As you go, make disciples".  So how are we doing?  Do we begin each day with the simple mission statement of Jesus?  Today, how can you - an ordinary person - find those in need, love them in grace and truth, and help them become disciples of Christ obeying all He commands?

Each one of these four simple statements is both powerful, yet simple.  Being sent like Jesus asks nothing more than being yourself and obedience to Christ.  Today, may you go out like Jesus ...

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Barricades and Bulldozers

Think back in your life about your teachers.  Some were life impacting and will be remembered as the best you ever had, and others were just bad.  What made the difference?  I asked this of a group of people and the best teachers were known for their passion and knowledge, their genuine care for the students, and the ability to maintain and demand high standards while challenging us to reach them.  The bad teachers were the opposite in almost every dimension.

Recently, I have been meditating on two statements of Christ that are very contrasting.  The first passage is found in Matthew 23:33 &14 where we hear Him say to the religious leaders, "I've had it with you! You're hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God's kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won't let anyone else in either." (The Message)

In stark opposition, to describe His ministry, Christ quotes Isaiah 40:3 & 4 "Thunder in the desert!  Prepare for God 's arrival!  Make the road straight and smooth, a highway fit for our God.  Fill in the valleys, level off the hills, smooth out the ruts, clear out the rocks." (The Message)

The title of this blog comes from the images of these passages.  In one case, spiritual leaders were barricades, blocking the believers ability to get to their destination in Christ.  In the other group, they were people who did everything possible to prepare the way and help people get there.  They were doing the hard work of the bulldozers leveling the road.

It is any easy to draw the conclusion that we are clearly bulldozers.  But are we really willing to look at our lives, our churches and our practices.  When I look at our own mission, I see procedures and policies that 40 years were at the time greatly simplified the preparation and sending of global missionaries.  Today, modern transportation, the internet, and global real-time communications  has changed our reality.  Those same policies that once simplified life, now represent barriers to the sending of a new generation of missionaries called to ministry together with a truly global missionary force.

Where this becomes so complicated and demands the leading of the Holy Spirit is trying to determine what is a necessary 'high standard' that Christ is calling to, verses a roadblock to the the Gospel, the Kingdom and the future.

As I journey forward, my desire is to find myself on the side of Christ doing everything possible to make disciples who are so committed and engaged that they themselves form new disciples ultimately resulting in communities of Christians - "little Christs".  I want to be remembered as one of the good teachers - passionate, knowledgeable, demanding, and caring, doing everything I can to make others successful in Christ.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Follower, disciple, friend

The term "Follower of Jesus" has become popular in the last number of years.  At the highpoint thousands of people followed Jesus to hear his words, receive healing or other forms of blessing.  Hillsides were filled with people to see and hear this "prophet" or "rabbi" who was unlike all the others before him.

Yet, by the time we arrive at the beginning of Acts following the death and resurrection of Christ, this mass of people had dwindled to 120.  So, what changed?  I see the answer in the difference between followers and disciples.  Followers, whether of a football team or popular statesman, tend to determine their level of engagement based upon what they are receiving from being followers.  So long as Christ was meeting their basic need for food, healing their illnesses, and responding to their desires, follower-ship was high.  But, when that reduced and the need for life transformation increased, the decision to become a true disciple was often a step deemed too costly.

After 15 years back in America, I find a lot of Jesus Followers in our churches.  The criteria for attendance or engagement is often the benefit that can come to us, our children or the family.  I find the number of true disciples to often be in the same ratio that Christ experience.  So, who or what is a disciple.  The origin of the word in Greek education and culture is one who engaged in the life and purposes of the 'master' to whom they were engaged.  In the case of the disciples of Christ the model and the charge was pretty clear - to have a living, daily relationship with the Father-God that resulted in seeing, treating and caring for those around us from the eyes of His heart and soul.

Disciples knew, lived and were passionate about the Great Commandment long before it got that label.  They wanted to like Christ, to multiply that into the lives of other so they could share in the same loving relationship.  The natural outcome of this passion for multiplication where communities of believers who shared this deep, intimate relationship with the Living God.  Today, we calls these communities churches.

Christ however invited a few into yet a deeper relationship.  In John 15, surrounded by those 12 men who had become so close, Christ announces that He no longer calls them slaves, but friends.  Friends know what the master is doing.

As I begin this journey, I have realized that God is asking me to make this last transformation from that of a passionate, committed disciple to that of a friend of Jesus who knows on a daily basis what He is doing.  The image that burns within my heart hangs on the wall above my computer in my office.  It is the painting of the two disciples of Christ walking with Him on the road to Emmaus.  Today, I commit myself publicly to be a friend with Jesus - to talk with Him daily and to learn to do no more or no less than He is asking for that day.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

New Beginnings

This blog has had several expressions and several starts and stops. During a recent bout with pneumonia, I had time to step back and really pray and listen about what God might have for me both in the near term and in the longer future. During that time what surfaced was that God is about a new (yet old) thing and I was to play a part in that.

As I listened, one thing that became clear is that I was to provide an opportunity for others to join me in this journey. I have retitled my blog Pursuing the Light unto my Path. This loose reference to Psalm 119:105 captures three elements of the journey God is inviting me to take.

First is that this blog will have to be in pursuit of Him and his purposes. Anything less will allow the world around me to shape the walk with Him. Inherent in the word itself is the sense of deep, singular commitment that demands a disciplined seeking of Christ each day.

The second element is that of the Light. The future of global missions and the place of the North American Church within it is well beyond my comprehension. God is a work in unprecedented ways today and Christ alone is the Light who can reveal what is needed to be at the center of His work. I know in the days, weeks and months ahead many things will try to block out or obscure the light, so undivided pursuit is demanded.

Lastly is the concept of the Path. Jesus has invited me and any who would like to come with me on a journey. Diane and I like to hike. As we choose a hike, we often know the destination, but not the trail itself. On those hikes we have encountered all kinds of joys and challenges from coming across a moose to being chased by hawks when we came too close to their nest. In the same way, I know we are headed to a new reality of missions, but where the path will take me is only known of the Father.

My commitment is to write once a week to describe the part of the path for that week. I know that hiking alone is both dangerous and often some of the greatest joys are missed. So I invite as many as wish to come along as we Pursue the Light unto our Path.