Sunday, April 20, 2008

Exponential '08

Hi to everyone!

Things have been quite busy for the past few weeks. With the help of some great people, Convergence Christian Church has filed its articles of incorporation, which means we are now "officially recognized" as a church by the state of Texas. A lot of my time lately has been spent working on things that have to do with our initial start-up. Some of what needs to be done has been slowed by the fact that my family and I are still over a thousand miles away from Houston. As we draw closer to the end of April, I am reminded daily that the big move is coming, and I will likely need to go a little earlier than I had anticipated. I'll be sure to keep you updated on those dates.

In the meantime, I am working on parts 3 and 4 of "Full," which may be finished around the same time. Unfortunately, it won't be this week, because we will be out of town for the next several days at a church planters conference called "Exponential."

You can look for an update to this main page in about a week (it's April 20th as I write this). If you haven't ever checked out the link on this page to the "Extra Stuff," this might be a great time to take a look- I'm hoping you'll find something of value there, but at the very least, you can hear some great acoustic music, read a book review, and possibly get a laugh or two.

I hope you have a great week!

In Him We Live,


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Full, Part Two

If you read the last "Full" entry, you'll remember this quote from Blaise Pascal:

"What is it then that this desire and this inability proclaim to us, but that there was once in man a true happiness of which there now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object,that is to say, only by God Himself."

I can't speak for you, but I know that I have felt "the infinite abyss," and have known the longing to be filled up with the "infinite and immutable" God of the universe.

I believe that God wants us to be "full." And although this fullness is never promised to be "easy," I really don't believe that God ever intended it to be complicated for us to understand.

I would suggest that it is all about discipleship. Here's what I mean:

In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus says, “…All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." For the Church, there can be no better description of our purpose. Robert E. Logan shares this thought on the Church’s role: “The Great Commission sets disciple-making as our strategic objective. Throughout most of this century the Church has focused its attention on the sending imperative—‘Go therefore’—rather than on the making imperative—‘and make disciples.’ But the focus clearly is on the objective of making disciples—both more and better disciples. This is a very large expectation, but he offers us a great deal of help in this task.”[1]

If the church's role is to "make disciples," then surely the role of a Christ follower is to be a disciple. And I believe discipleship can be summed up in three simple words:

Love. Live. Serve.

Each of these words represents a significant stage in the simple process of discipleship, which is kind of an older word that basically means "to be a student of." A "disciple" of Jesus is literally someone who is asking Jesus to pour Himself into them.

“Love” is the first stage in this simple process of discipleship. Love God; Love your neighbor as yourself.

The logical question then is, “how does a disciple love God and love their neighbor?” The answer is through the vehicle of relationship. When using the term “relationship,” I am referring to “a connection, association, or involvement.”[2] In speaking of God, J. K. Jones says, “He longs for a relationship with His creation,” and suggests that we can learn about pursuing that relationship by looking at Jesus’ example in the Gospels.[3] Certainly He models disciplines such as prayer and solitude in passages like Mark 1:35 and Luke 9:28. But the Gospels themselves also serve as an example, since they tell the story of God incarnate.

Jesus communicates this very point to His disciples in the fourteenth chapter of John’s Gospel when He tells them “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well,” and “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”[4] If we truly desire to develop a relationship with God, we must get to know Jesus. And I mean, know Him.

I have read several biographies on C.S. Lewis, as well as a large body of his work. There are characteristics of Lewis' personality that I have identified in his books that can be confirmed while studying accounts of his life. Over the years, I have grown to know about C.S. Lewis. But I did not know him. As a matter of fact, he died several years before I was born. There was no relationship. I am little more than an amateur historian.

Jesus doesn't long for you to reduce your association with Him to simply becoming an amateur (or professional, for that matter) historian of the Scriptures, or of His time on earth in the flesh. The Scriptures are far more than historical; they are living and active! And so is HE! He loves you, and He longs for you to know Him through His Word, and to love Him! The environment in which our relationship with the living God/Savior/Spirit is cultivated is called worship. It is far more than a place. Worship is an authentic, "all the time" lifestyle.

Because it is "all the time," worship happens both privately and publicly. We have to carve out personal time to talk to Him (pray), to learn from Him (read His Word), and to listen (silence-this can be a tough one in our society!).

We also need to be a part of corporate gatherings/celebrations where we can study the Scriptures (“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17) and live out our growing love for God in its various levels of development along side of each other.

Paul talks about this kind of authentic worship when he addresses the church in Romans 12:1 (NIV Translation): “Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship."

Have you ever wondered about the term, "living sacrifice"? On the surface, it seems like a complete contradiction; an oxymoron, like "jumbo shrimp." But Paul chose his words for a reason.

Today, we use the word "love" in lots of ways-especially in Western culture. "I love you." I love summertime." "What do you think of the new restaurant? We just love it!" During the period in which the New Testament was written, the Greek language had 3 different words for expressing "love." One word referred more to a brotherly love, or strong friendship kind of affection. Another word referred to romantic love. And then there was the word "agape."

"Agape" represented a love that was absolute and unconditional. It primarily described God's love toward Jesus (John 17:6), toward humanity (John 3:16) and specifically for people who have chosen Christ as Savior toward one another (John 14:21).”[5] This love is not awarded to us because of our worth; it is given despite us. It is a very costly love; it is sacrificial. The ultimate demonstration of "agape" love is shown in God sending Jesus to die for our sins. If this kind of love is starting to seem a bit dangerous, you've got the right idea. It's really not safe to love like Jesus. At least, it doesn't allow you to stay too comfy.

In his book, The Barbarian Way, Erwin McManus talks about this very idea. In it he says, "Love always moves to sacrifice, which is exactly where He calls us to go. We shouldn't be surprised, then, that to follow Christ is to abandon the luxury of safety and security. If we are to be like Him, we must always risk for love." When Paul calls on Christ-followers to be "living sacrifices," he is essentially saying, "live and love like Jesus." And since his words indicate that our living sacrifice is directed to God, this act of worship is our way of expressing true love to Him.

When worship- both corporate and private- becomes our lifestyle, a Christ-follower gets the opportunity to live and love like Jesus. And it also gives us the opportunity to have real, authentic community with others. Living sacrifices after all, need a place where there can be honesty about both the joys and the pains of life “on the altar,” while growing to understand more about God's Truth.

In Him We Live,


[1] Robert E. Logan, Beyond Church Growth, (Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell Co, 1989), 96.
[2] (accessed: June 24, 2007).
[3] J. K. Jones, Longing For God, (Joplin: College Press Publishing Co., 1994), 13.
[4] John 14:7a & 9b.
[5] Vine, Unger, White, Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers, 1985)m, 381