“Confess with your mouth that Jesus is LORD and you will be saved……” Romans 10:9
Christians have used this verse over the years to get people “saved.” Unfortunately, I feel like some have missed the point. It’s not just the confession with the mouth that saves. Words are not enough. There’s more to it than that. It is the faith which accompanies these words that brings salvation. In it’s context, Paul wrote this verse to Romans, who could be killed for saying these kinds of things. They were coming up against the political systems in their culture and this statement would have been considered treason. They were risking their lives to make this confession. The verbal confession was not just a statement. It would have been attached to the rest of their lives. Anyone who made such a claim carried a faith which was expressing itself, not just with words but with a willingness to risk their very lives for this belief. Jesus is LORD.
We must confess with our LIVES that Jesus is LORD. Yes, confessing with our mouths is a huge part of it, but confessing with your life involves more – everyday decisions and sacrifices as well as boldness and taking risks in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is worthy of so much more than just a few words. He humbled Himself, and died on a cross for my sins. The only proper response to that kind of love is to give Him my all, my life. And even that’s still lacking if you think of it as repayment. It doesn’t matter what we give. We still come up short. It’s only by His grace through faith that we are saved.
We just got back from a little trip with our Community Group (or “Life Group” as they will be called soon) and so I’ve been reflecting on some of our times together:
I love this group. We play together, serve together, worship/learn/grow together, and just do life together. They have been there for us in both good and bad times. Don’t get me wrong – cultivating these relationships hasn’t been easy. We’ve all worked at being intentional and made sacrifices, but in the end, it’s definitely worth it.
In general, we just enjoy being together and find ways to be together. I don’t think it matters what we’re doing near as much as just being together. In doing so, we “rub off” on one another and begin to share memories/experiences which shape us. Even our parenting skills are influenced as we watch how everyone else “does” it. These are the people I consciously choose as “influencers” in our lives and I will protect those relationships.
Here are just a few of the things we’ve experienced together so far:
Before my son Kasen had surgery earlier this summer, the kids from our group gathered around him and prayed for him. In this one act, they were an example for taking our burdens to the Lord. Their faith gave him more courage and their little prayers communicated their love and support for him. They taught him that God is in control and his faith was strengthened as he witnessed God answering those prayers.
When my truck broke down, one of the guys in our group came to my house to help with repairs – truly an answer to prayer. I’m not good with this sort of thing, but my friend is. This is how the body of Christ should function – each one offering his own gifts.
Some of them showed up to support me on the night I was leading a fundraiser for another organization I’m involved in. One of them actually serves on the board.
We volunteer together at the Pregnancy Help Center and work to be a blessing to one of our local schools. We also serve at our church together by cleaning the building and working behind the scenes.
The girls celebrate birthdays together and the men hang out and see movies together. We plan “Date Nights” together. Our kids play on the same soccer teams.
We go on trips/retreats together – Jellystone and Livingston.
We spontaneously decide to do things together – bike rides to the park for picnics.
We spend time praying for each other and study the Scriptures together. We have worked our way through a few books (Respectable Sins, The Praying Life) as well as sharing our own life stories with one another.
Prayer: LORD, Thank you for giving these people to us. They are instruments in Your hands to help keep our family on track. When they speak, I often hear Your voice. When we’re together I sense Your presence and know You are near. When we’re together, I feel safe to ask questions and wrestle with what it means to live as You have called us. These relationships give us opportunities to practice living out this call to love one another and I must admit that sometimes it can be difficult. I’m so grateful that You brought them to us and pray that You will continue to draw us into deeper relationships that will push us deeper into our relationship with You. AMEN.
I want my students to live in the “First Circle.” Let me explain.
When I was a youth minister, someone once showed me the “First Circle” concept. I honestly don’t know where it originated, but I have reworked it a bit for my students. Here’s how it works:
The “First Circle” is where students work diligently on the things they are asked to do. When they do so, they are successful learners and end up being happy with themselves and their work. They make good choices and usually good grades as well.
Students enter the “Second Circle” when they come to a crossroads and make a bad choice – when they choose to break the class rules/procedures. There are usually consequences for these bad choices and they also disrupt the class. The learning process is also disrupted if a student enters the second circle.
Note: I have many student who enter this circle and then apologize. However, when they continue to misbehave and then apologize again and again without behavior change, they never return to the 1st Circle. The words of a true apology is backed up by actions and behavior change.
Students can enter the “Third Circle” pretty quickly if they choose not to apologize. This circle is NOT where I like my students to be. They end up disrupting the class repeatedly and will suffer consequences both in the classroom and out (ISS/Parent Phone Calls). Many times they destroy the learning process for themselves but also for the class as a whole. These students are usually too angry to apologize and end up causing more problems out of anger. However, when they cool off, they still have the opportunity to apologize and then start making better choices to work their way back to the first circle. they have destroyed the learning process for themselves and sometimes for the class as a whole.
Anyway, this is just a concept that I thought was worth writing up. Like I said, I didn’t create it, but I’m not sure who did. I just adapted it from a discipleship concept that I learned as a youth minister. (They used “sin” and “repentance” as the two decision points.)
I was sitting in a meeting the other day when this thought struck me. I’m normally a pretty shallow thinker, but for some reason this particular moment was different. This thought is actually worthy of receiving “quotes,” so I present it here with them and a citation of my own name at the end. It makes me (normally a dumb guy), feel like I have something worth saying.
“Hidden within the mundane, we encounter the extraordinary.”
Life is found in the desert. Jesus came to the earth. And the extraordinary is within the mundane.
Knowing that God has promised, “I am with you always” (Mt 28:20), how could we dare to consider one moment more sacred than another? Aren’t they all lived out in His presence? Aren’t they all opportunities to honor Him and worship Him with the decisions we make and the activities we involve ourselves in?
In ancient culture, all of life was considered sacred. Even the mundane, was sacred. The word “profane,” came about to describe when someone took the sacred and treated it with irreverence. In many ways, the ancient idea that all of life is sacred has done a 180. Today, most people live as if the only sacred moment they have happens during the one hour of church they attend each week – with a few notable exceptions for weddings, funerals, and holiday services.
Anyway, I think this quote applies to life in so many ways. For example:
Maybe I’m a heretic, but I believe that when the family is together to celebrate Christmas (or any other holiday), it is a sacred moment – God is no more present in the worship service which seeks to celebrate the same holiday, than he is around the dinner table in your home. “Within the mundane, we encounter the extraordinary.”
I’ve heard many people complain about these social networks saying that they don’t care to know every detail of everyone’s life. “It’s just too much noise,” they say. But I feel very differently. Leonard Sweet refers to these networks as a “global commons.” I’ve also heard it described as the modern “water cooler.” Yes, it’s true that some “tweets” seem insignificant, but that doesn’t mean they’re of no value. These short updates reveal our lives to one another. “Within the mundane, we encounter the extraordinary.” Many times when I run into people (face to face), they refer to something I tweeted and begin a conversation. Prior to these networks, these moments were awkward. People didn’t know what to say (or know what we had in common). Within these mundane updates, I have encountered God and He has used them to impact my life. 140 characters or less is enough to encourage, express love and concern, pray, teach, rebuke, correct, train in righteousness, etc. These updates are “extraordinarily mundane.”
In my 20 years of ministry experience, I have often said, “We want to spend ‘quantity’ time together so that we can experience ‘quality’ moments.” The real ministry moments can’t be scheduled. In general, you can’t plan for them, orchestrate them, or manipulate an environment enough to create a real ministry moment. They just happened whenever God grabs a person. Since our lives are filled with the mundane (which is still a sacred moment), these times usually happened while you’re driving down the road together, or sitting at a fast food table, or when someone seeks you out and drives over to your house while you’re doing the laundry. “Within the mundane, we encounter the extraordinary.”
Anyway, these were just some thoughts than ran through my head today.
February of 1996. I was 26 years old. I had been a youth minister for 8 years. Full-time for 4. The youth had all gotten together for my birthday and given me $$ to go skydiving (on my bucketlist of things to do). My Pastor, Mike Mathews, (He is now my Father-in-Law) was organizing a trip to Israel and came to me saying he’d arrange for me to be able to go for free, but I’d still need some $$ for a passport, food, etc. I decided to skip the skydiving experience in favor of the trip. It was one of the best decisions of my life!
We got to walk in Jesus’ footsteps for 9 straight days. We saw Jerusalem and the temple mount, the wailing wall, the empty tomb of Jesus, Golgotha, Lazarus’ tomb, Bethlehem, & Nazareth. We rode a boat across the Sea of Galilee, hiked Masada, and explored Qumran. Seeing these sites was truly remarkable! I now understand why robbers placed themselves on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. (It’s a steep road and travelers would be too tired to fight them off.) I will never read the scriptures the same way again. Phrases like “Land of milk and honey” and “Armegeddon” have new meaning!
When Mike described the experience to me, he said that I’d feel like I had gone “home” when we got there. I didn’t believe him. How could I feel “at home” in a strange country, where most spoke another language, and machine guns were seen regularly? He was right! I did feel “at home.” There’s something about that place that goes beyond description. Well, it’s not “something” – it’s someone, and His name is Jesus. If you love Jesus, you will love Israel. Some have called it the “fifth gospel.” Just like the other four, Israel has as story to tell about Jesus, the land itself testifies to His glory!
I hope to go back one day. You should consider a trip too. It will change your life.
If you’re interested, here’s a link to my journal entries from the trip.
Today I’ll write the first of a series five posts. I’ll post one a day over the next week describing an experience that changed my life. I will, however, avoid the ones that everyone expects – the day I began following Jesus, my wedding day, and the days my children were born. I could write volumes about these experiences, but will save this series to focus on other subjects – besides, I hope that my love for Jesus, my bride, and my children is expressed throughout everything I write.
Using Biblical examples, Donald Miller describes the power of story for teaching and influencing others.
He suggests that most American Christians have been allowing others to write the stories that they live in and encourages them to write our own stories.
Every good story has four elements –
1. A good protagonist/hero/lead character,
2. a risky mission/worthy objective,
3. a conflict,
4. and a resolution.
After watching, I wondered if most of us have been so concerned about protecting our families from the conflict that we have forfeited our mission and purpose? The problem is that if we don’t have a good mission/purpose, then our story is not one that most people would want to watch – it’s a boring story if the mission isn’t important enough to require sacrifice and effort. Miller relates it to watching a movie about a guy who is trying to buy a Volvo – not a very worthy mission.
He goes on to describe a friend who had a troubled daughter. She was involved in drugs and had a boyfriend that her father did not approve of. After a long talk, his friend (the girl’s father) realized that there were two stories being offered to his daughter. She could live in the exciting, on the edge story with her boyfriend where she felt loved and accepted, or she could live in the story she was finding at home where things were sort of boring and she was ignored by her parents who seemed to be fighting all the time. Once he came to this realization, he decided to write a better story for his family. At a family meeting, he announced that together they would raise money for a $20,000 orphanage in Mexico. Conflict ensued since he hadn’t warned his wife. With the new story being offered, his daughter was intrigued enough to start searching for ways to raise money on-line. Within two weeks, she had broken things off with the boyfriend and was focusing her attention on getting outside of herself to raise money and serve that little village.
I wonder if this is why men hate church so much. I mean. . .think about the story offered to men by the church. It’s a story where the heros are the little old men who have been “faithful” to the church by sitting in their pews for 40 years. Where’s the adventure? Passion? Like most families, the church has been so concerned with protecting itself, that it has lost it’s purpose, it’s mission. What if the church was everything God had called it to be? A place where people are willing to sacrifice everything to take the Gospel to a hurting and dying world. Now that’s passion. That’s a story that men want to be a part of. That’s a story worth dying for.
What story will be told by your life? Will you live in God’s story or allow the world to write it for you? Is your life story a page-turner? Are you a strong protagonist/hero? Is your mission/purpose worthy of dying for? Is there sufficient conflict to make a great story? (Jesus says, we will be persecuted if we follow Him, so we should have conflict.) Are you hanging on to the promise of Scripture for resolution?
Over Christmas I noticed something. Now that Kasen has learned to walk, we enjoy going out together to explore the world. I have to walk at a pretty slow pace so he can keep up, but it’s a lot of fun. Anyway, I noticed that when we walk together, I’m always looking up at the horizon – where we’re headed, but Kasen looks at the ground and the surrounding area. He’s worried about stepping over over rocks and picking up sticks, while my concerns are more about our direction and future. It’s important for me to look out for his safety and watch for cars coming over the horizon, but I wonder what I’m missing?
In the same way, if we live our lives always looking for the future – always concerned about being able to make the right corrections so we can be “safe”, we’re never fully present in the moment and will never be able to experience life to the “full” as Jesus talks about in John 10:10. By the way, we don’t have to stress about our safety/future if we’re in His hands.
Anyway, just some thoughts today.
Another example of Kasen being fully present in the moment and relishing life happened in the car on the drive home from Ft Worth. We stopped and got ice cream at Dairy Queen. Each time Miranda fed him a bite, he’d let it melt in his mouth and then laugh and clap for it’s taste. It’s as if he was encouraging God with a standing ovation saying, “Yeah God! You did a good job on this one! Do it again!”
Do I celebrate and thank God for the small things? Is the taste of ice cream really a “small thing” or is it truly another expression of God’s love for us?