Defining Transformation Through Lordship.

Every moment of our life is an opportunity for the Gospel. Some call it everyday mission, some call it gospel intentionality, and some call it kingdom citizenship. Whatever you call it the point is our lives are not meant to be compartmentalized, but to be lived wholly, in which things simply bleed together in one great reflection of what/ who our identity is in.

“Jesus is Lord”

This is the single most identifying statement that someone can make, especially when their lives actually reflect the statement and they are not just words. The question we have to ask ourselves though is what does it mean for Jesus to be Lord. Sure there are a lot of cliche’s that you hear from various pastors on a sunday morning, or that you read in your favorite blog, but what does it mean?

First, I think it means that as hard as it may be we have to move out of old habits. See if Jesus is really Lord, then we are submitting to a new way of life, one that is actually life giving and not draining. This is what most people miss. Coming under the Lordship of Jesus Christ means that we are taking on a new identity. It means that who we once were is now redefined by who Jesus is, what Jesus did, who Jesus is now and what he does now in the world.

We must decrease that He will increase.

Second, we have to take a view of ourselves that actually reflects our new identity. This means that the things I say and the things I do actually have to magnify the greatness of Jesus Christ in our lives. We find this ever so clear in the life of the Apostle Paul. As you read through the narrative of Acts, in one instance you have a man hell bent on the irradiation of this new idea, Christianity. In the next instance he encounters Jesus as Lord, and as he did everything changes.

It didn’t matter how backwards it looked to people, Paul was going to no longer work for the destruction of the church, but rather that it would be built on a solid foundation. Paul would alter everything he knew to now make much of Jesus Christ, rather than purge the idea from the first century world. Paul would sacrifice what defined him, to be redefined by Jesus.

In many cases we think that redefinition might completely change who we are, but what I believe happens under the Lordship of Christ is that the best things about us become the tools of which Christ uses for his kingdom.

We dont really loose all of who we are, in fact in the case of the Apostle Paul the Lord used his zealousness to magnify Himself. Lordship is us finding the fullest sense of ourselves through Jesus. Lordship is what makes us whole, it is what fills an emptiness that everyone seems to have, and it is what gives meaning to what we are doing in every moment of life.

So when we say Jesus is Lord, what we are saying is we have found the very thing that completes us, that is restoring us to the way that we were suppose to be all along. That we are living our lives for something so much greater than our selves.

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Why I think the church is more than simple community.

It is not uncommon to hear someone reference the church as the community of faith, and that is not an inaccurate description. I have done it, and I have heard hundreds of others use the description as well. Although it may not communicate the depth of relationship that the church should have with one another.

Community is kind of a catch all word that can reel in a lot of different types of organization, it also seems to be a very disarming word, and often is very helpful in speaking with people about the church and its function. Here me loud and clear THIS IS NOT A POST ABOUT NOT USING THE WORD COMMUNITY. In fact I think we should use it, moreover I think that it really helps people get over a lot of baggage that comes with the word church. What I am proposing in this post is that we understand, and can articulate what we mean when we say community.

I have found over the years that in a culture where words can facilitate a multitude of connotations, it is incredibly important that we clarify how we are using any certain word so people know what we are talking about. So when I talk about community in reference to the church I am talking about a very deep relationship between people that binds them together in a much more significant way that mere affinity.

When we talk about community I would like to suggest that, what we are really talking about is the idea of communitas. Communitas is the idea of something incredible happening that drives individuals to find one another because there is a commonality in the incredible experience.

In Alan Hirsch’s book The Forgotten Ways he dedicates a chapter to the idea of communitas. In the chapter he talks about some research done by an anthropologist named Victor Turner, who studied rites of passage among several African people groups. He coins the term liminality which is the idea of a transition process accompanying a fundamental change of state or social position. Turner connects this with the idea of communitas, which is the comradeship that is forged in the testing conditions of liminality.

Communitas is therefore always linked with the experience of liminality. It involves adventure and movement, and it describes that unique experience of togetherness that only really happens among a group of people inspired by the vision of a better world who actually attempt to do something about it.

Alan Hirsch—The Forgotten Ways 

A community of people may or may not change anything. They may just simply be happy hanging out together, with little to no goal of ever impacting something externally. A community of people might not ever experience life together, in a way that creates the feeling of family. But, the church that is something deep. As we read the early narrative of the church in Acts we see that people had an experienced that pushed them together. This experience was not simply affinity, it was deeper, it was the extraordinary transformation of the heart that came from the Gospel that made being family possible.

The church is a deep family, it is a family linked together because of the transformation they have all commonly experienced with one another. It is this experience that causes people to give up what they own so that another does not go without, it is what moves you to reach into the darkness and shine the light of Jesus ever so brightly. It is the beautiful moment when you kneel down at the side of someone who is at the wits end and you advocate for them, even when that puts you in harms way.

The church is birthed out of people transformed by the Gospel and that bond being what drives them together. The church is a beautiful picture of the community that God has in himself, that we see in the trinity, it should communicate to the world a sense of hope and love and beauty.

Church has to be more than simply community, because communities come and go but the church will never cease. It will never die, it will never fail. The church is God’s vessel to proclaim the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, and to support one another as we engage in the task. The church is there when no one else will, be and the church is the expression of Jesus’ love for humanity on earth.

It is a high calling to be the church and not simply a community. Maybe that is the problem. Maybe the reason people see a decline in people connecting with the church, believing that the Gospel is real, is because we have simply let an inferior understanding of what the church is take over. We have stopped being a community bound by the adventure, experience, and transformation of the Gospel. The church needs to rediscover what it is that binds it together and regain its active place in the world, regardless of the circumstances.

New Life Means New Life.

It is not uncommon to hear someone who is a follower of Jesus talk about about being born again. We find this idea in many places of scripture. Most of the time when people are referencing this idea, they often will recite some part of John chapter 3.

In John 3 we read a story about a leader of the Jewish people, named Nicodemus, coming to Jesus by night and talking to him about the idea of being born again. It strikes me as an interesting conversation. You see Nicodemus opens the conversation by acknowledging Jesus as a great teacher with great power. He says that Jesus must have a special relationship with God because he would not possess such a power otherwise.

Jesus’ response, however pokes at how little Nicodemus really knows about the kingdom of God. This sticks out to me because you wonder what it was in Nicodemus’ greeting that triggered the response from Jesus. I think Jesus knew that Nicodemus’ idea of power was skewed. I think that Jesus knew that Nicodemus really didn’t know real power.

I know the same is true for us. We can see things in life and recognize the power that exists within those things. We might even be able to perceive some sort of divine touch in those things, but I think what Jesus is getting at in this passage is, unless we experience rebirth our eyes remain dim to what is really going on.

Jesus goes on to talk about the flesh and the spirit.

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”(John 3:5-8 ESV)

I think that when it comes down to it, we have to acknowledge that faith comes out of our encounter with Jesus. Jesus gives the wind as an illustration, and I think it is pretty solid. We can see the evidence of the wind. We feel it, smell it, and see the effects of it as it moves through the trees. However we dont know where it is coming from, we really dont know where it is going, it just exists.

Faith is similar. We begin to know faith as we experience it happen in our life. We may not understand it through and through, or even know all the who, whats, or why’s about it but it’s there. It manifests itself in our life through the evidence of things we do every day. I think this is why it is so important for us to live new lives in Christ.

Faith is what lets us see the evidence of new life, and new life means that we dont have to live the same way we did any more. We lay down all that crap that hindered us from living a full life before, and we want to see other people get rid of all the crap that hinders them from living a full life. This is the what makes the Gospel good news. We don’t have to live the way we once did any more, we can live fuller lives that have greater meaning.

Our lives change because we can finally see that God really does love us, that he is not some big cosmic jerk. What we see in Jesus’ words to Nicodemus is that God really isn’t condemning people, but that he is trying to rescue them.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17 ESV)

New life, means new life. It means that we recognize that someone has finally thrown us a life preserver and is bringing  us back to the boat. We embrace this new life and all that comes with it. We live in the power of the new life that Christ has given, and then we try to help others discover the new life that is available to them too. 

God is not being selective, he is trying to rescue, redeem, and restore the world and he is asking us to join with him. He has given us everything we need to partner with him, simply have to continue living in the new life that he has given us, and lay down the old life we once lived in. I think we people see that, when they see the greatness of Jesus Christ magnified and manifest in our daily lives it is undeniable and new life can be had by the people around us.

Be The Church:.

Over the last several years I have seen a movement in Christianity take root in regards to what the church should do. It is now not uncommon to hear someone say “we don’t go to church, we are the church.” This is a statement that I very much affirm, I believe and have for a long time that this is an incredibly true statement and the best way to understand the church.

So you might be asking what the purpose of this post is?

I believe that we need to be the church in a refreshing unmistakable way, making much of Jesus Christ. I believe we do that in the ways that we engage the culture both in a scattered form, and a gathered one. So I guess you can say this is my attempt at a response to the question being asked about why the church Gathers.

I have personally been on both sides of the spectrum of this discussion. There was a time that I would have thought the gathered church is the only time the church exists, and there was another time that I thought that being gathered was simply a waste of time. I might have even gone so far as to make the case that Jesus never intended us to gather corporately.

The church is a community of people.

As I have worked through this issue over the years I have come to this conclusion: because people make up the church, the church is in some way always gathered, and that is the way it’s suppose to be. We are suppose to be a community on the grand mission given by our Savior Jesus.

The gathering of people may not always be big, in fact there are many cases of which there is a greater potency in the churches smaller size. I am not sure we are asking the right question. I don’t think the question is whether or not we gather, the question is what happens when the the church gathers.

The church should be a glimpse of Heaven.

I had a professor in college once tell us that the church should be a tangible picture of what heaven was going to be like. I believe that is true. I think that the community who has encountered Jesus Christ, is and should be a foretaste of what is to come.

However we are not just a foretaste of whats to come in the worship services that we hold, we also have to be a foretaste in the way that we bless people in the name of Jesus. In the church that I currently serve, what we believe about Jesus has always been communicated more clearly in how we live everyday, not just in those formal gathering times.

People in our community have said at one time or another, “you guys really love people, and each other.” I think this is what it is all about. I think when you gather this is what people should see and experience.

The church is always gathered in one way or another, otherwise it would not be the church. The church is the community of faith living with Gospel intentionality and carrying out the mission of the Gospel. We need one another, we can’t do this alone, and no matter how recluse we prefer to be we are always a better version of ourselves when we are in the company of others.

I think this is how God intended it to be. God himself exists in prefect community (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). If we are made in his image than there is a part of us that will always search for some kind of community. I think that the community we look for will always be subpar if it is not centered in the Gospel carrying out the purposes of God.

So when you hear “Be the Church,” remember that means that we need to be living among other believers calling each other and those around us to the Gospel.

is it worth it?

I often think about just how far the impact of western Christianity has had on peoples lives. On one had there are incredible stories of redemption, people whose lives have been transformed from a dark and desperate place to a bright and hopeful one. Yet on the other hand there are sorrowful stories of people who have just gotten tired of what these places called the church are selling, and these are not all people who have abandoned faith in God or Jesus’ work. These are people who have said I am not sure I want to participate in this organization, because it seems pretty shallow or self-serving or pointless.

I say “places called the church”, because I am not sure that many expressions really fulfill who and what the church really is. They may have perfectly good intention, but they lack a true sense of what Jesus really expects of people who follow Him.

See today you have those who have realized faith walk away from others who have realized faith, and we have been wrestling with this problem for a long time. We often ask: “what do we need to do to keep this relevant?” I am not sure we will ever stop asking this question, and I am not sure that we should stop asking the question. The problem that I see raising its head among western Christianity is that young leaders in the church are asking: “is it worth it?”

I can tell you personally that I have and still often wrestle through this question. There are times when the darkness creeps in and the jungle attempts to overtake me.

I find myself angry, at people, at christian culture and historical christian figures.

Then I realize, it really is worth it.

The Church is worth fighting for.

While I often feel as though we are in the middle of another babylonian captivity, I am liberated by the Gospel. I am see pictures that some of us have not been taken captive, but have clumsily infiltrated the captors and now work to liberate the captives.

Western Christian culture has created an incredible jaded generation of people. So much so that a beautiful hope that we have in fact have in the Gospel, a hope that says we don’t have to live a certain way any more, has been taken away. That hope has been replaced with a lifeless and ambiguous thing that people perceive to be the church, and really doesn’t look all that different from some starbucksesq corporation.

An organization that talks a lot about life, hope and acceptance, but really has this undercurrent of consuming as much of the market space possible to achieve the goals of the corporation and stockholders.

This is not what the Church is suppose to be.

The Church is not the purveyor of spiritual goods and services.

The Church is the manifest people of God working in the Gospel for the good of the Kingdom. The Church is made up of disciples who make disciples. The Church is made up of people who were dead, but were given life. The Church is made up of people who will die, who will sacrifice everything because of something bigger than anything they can perceive.

The Church will not fade away, it will not die because it is the bride of Christ and He protects it. We need to find true meaning in what it means to be the Church. If God’s people can accomplish this then the Church in the west can find great significance in its work in the Gospel.

Posture

There is always this moment when we come to realize that the journey of faith seems a lot harder than when we first started. Maybe this is why Jesus says to us that the road is narrow and less traveled, or when he teaches something and then follows it up with “this is a hard teaching that few will get.” There is something about that we don’t seem to get right away. In fact, for me, it wasn’t until later in my faith journey that I began to struggle with the road less traveled stuff.
Although a great many things changed about my life when I came to faith, it didn’t seem tough. There was something about the whole newness of my new life in Christ that made things seemingly easier. Yet as I got further away from my moment of conversion the ability to make those same transforming decisions got harder and harder. All those teaching I read of Jesus that I thought would be no problem, actually got really hard, in some cases so hard I didn’t want to bother with them.
I found myself acting on my own power, I found myself believing that post conversion it was up to me. There couldn’t be anything further from the truth. What I have discovered more than ever is that I have a greater need for the Gospel than I did at conversion, because I can’t do anything outside of its power. Like a child to its mother I am completely dependent on Christ, his grace, mercy and forgiveness.
It has become clear to me that when the Gospel is out of sight, so is peace. When I loose focus of the Kingdom, I equally loose motivation for everyday things. As I consider these things I find that it is the teaching of Jesus that I must return to. Those things that Jesus said were going to be hard, he was right they are hard really hard, but not impossible.
In Jesus’ first set of major teachings he opens the teaching with our posture. He says to those who have been following him, “blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek…” and so on. What we see is Jesus telling his followers that if you don’t realize that you can’t do this on your own, then you will be miserable. There will be not comfort, no satisfaction, no mercy, no Kingdom. What we find in our own power is that our abilities are feeble and insufficient. But when we come into Christ his power is more than sufficient, and we can accomplish anything.
What we see is that when we take on the posture of the Kingdom our desires and values change. We are driven by the expansion of the Kingdom that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. That the Gospel fuels us to accomplish this expansion. That the power of the Gospel is our ability to live out the hard teachings. It is our ability to live in peace and see the peace of Christ expand to those around us.
So what I have found and I believe is true that while faith can be harder it doesn’t have to be. When we continue to see our need for the Gospel, even after conversion, and posture ourselves as Christ taught us then we find that faith doesn’t really have to be that hard. Christ is sufficient, for all things. We can be Christ-like we can live lives that are beyond anything we can imagine, and accomplish things we never thought possible.

Thoughts the Election and Christian Living.

Over the last year I have thought much about what Christians role is where they live. Here in the United States we have heard a lot over the past year about why we should cast our vote for the president one way or the other. There has been a lot of talk about this being liberal and that being conservative, and in the light of this some how lines end up being drawn in the sand between people.

As some one with faith in Jesus I identify as being a Christian, however I am concerned by they way I see many Christians representing Jesus as their king. I am concerned by what I read in various articles and hear on the radio about the ever so boisterous “evangelical agenda”. Not only am I concerned about these things, but I am also concerned that in the midst of political buzz we have incidentally placed our faith in something other than Jesus.

Some how Christians all over the United States have convinced themselves that their well being is going to be so deeply effected by who is leading the country that we live in. While we may not enjoy certain things the way that we once have, our well being is in the hands of someone much greater than any president or other ruler. In essence what we have given our faith to is a government. We have said that Christ is not sufficient to take care of us as long as this party or that party is leading the country. This is simply not true.

Further what seems to be unfolding in front of us is a blatant disregard for the words of Jesus regarding political authority. Not only that, but we also speak illy of those who do not agree with our political views. We do this in such a way that we communicate that Jesus would not accept them into the kingdom because their political views do not match up with ours.

Over the last few days as I have listened to and read different commentaries on the election, I am astonished at how disrespectful people are to one another. I wonder if we concern ourselves so much with all the peripheral stuff that detracts from loving God with all that we are and loving people the same way we love ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong what I am not saying is that it isn’t important to vote, being that we in the United States have the opportunity, what I am saying is that how we vote should not take away from our trust in Jesus and our sustenance coming from the Gospel. Assuming we remain in this democratic republic that we operate in, there will be another election and there will in a few years be a new president. These things change with regularity. Let us not get to caught up in the things that change so frequently and hold fast to Jesus, who is our rock and hope of glory.