Understanding in 3D

When we are students, the degree to which we learn something is often determined by a taking an exam. Our knowledge is tested as we are asked to answer questions which demonstrate the degree to which we have mastered the subject matter.

If you are a follower of Jesus, the quiz comes every day and it’s not for the sake of the knowledge. It’s for the purposes of the One that is offering the information in the first place. Followers of Jesus aren’t invited into an academic exercise; they are invited into life change and life transfer.

Jesus taught by experiences and imparted by proximity. He was living life with people, teaching them in the moment of living to give them a depth of understanding that exceeds the limits of information. It had to be that way because what He was teaching needed to go viral through their capacity to learn and their capacity to learn was their capacity to reproduce. The quiz for them was in their ability to give it away.

For too many of us, our attempts at discipleship are limited by our reliance on information. That information, which is vital to our learning but not conclusive of our mastery, is only the first step. The understanding comes in the implementation. The mastery comes in the multiplication.

Time and time again in the practice of law, I saw the depth of a passage that was in the Bible. The exercise of the knowledge in the lives of real people who didn’t agree with my beliefs opened the doors for me to multiply those beliefs. The grace, love, hope and encouragement that are talked about time and again by Jesus took on 3D perspective as I encountered real needs and needed real help in the application of the real Truth.

With eyes to see and ears to hear, we are invited into relationship with Jesus as He ministers. We minister where He ministers by agreeing with Him in the ways that we know are His way from His Word. Our knowledge of Him is put to work in our relationship with Him and our understanding is developed through our experiences with Him. Those opportunities are every day; in our families, in our workplaces, on a train or at a restaurant. Wherever people are, He is interested and we are invited.

The First Thing Fuels the Other Things

I was running on empty lately because I was running from my own ability. I have been invited into good things, eternal things, but I was applying temporary efforts to an eternal equation. The cost of the disconnection was my own relationship with the One that extended the invitation in the first place.

Our ability is fueled by our source. If we are the source of all that we seek to do, the well is perpetually running dry. We can get things done for as long as the weekends, whiskey, vacations, television, computer, exercise or other indulgences afford us the chance to escape. Those escapes, however, provide a stop-gap re-charge to a reservoir that is destined for empty.

The only way to realize the fullness of life in the living of life is by connection to the Source of life. Connection to the Source is intimacy, not knowledge. In fact, the intimacy is what fuels the understanding that is required for interpretation of knowledge.

He’s a Father. He birthed us from the design that He had for us. The plans for our lives are connected to eternity. As my friends David Terry and Marc Owings say, we are hardwired straight from the factory. Our hard wiring is for connection to the One that put the wires there in the first place.

Eternal purpose requires eternal supply. Temporal supply to an eternal purpose yields a diminishing return. In other words, even ministry and the stuff that we do “for God” requires God to fuel it. His fuel is relational connection. It’s intimacy.

Intimacy with the Father fuels everything. It fuels friendships and marriage. It fuels family and work. It fuels purpose and destiny. Intimacy with the Father is the point. The rest of the stuff is secondary.

C.S. Lewis said, “Put first things first and second things are thrown in. Put second things first and you lose both first and second things.”

The first thing is Him. He is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We when are routinely engaged in an intimate relationship with Him, that stuff comes out of us. When that stuff isn’t there, we are probably our own source. Even when we are trying to do His stuff. Doing His stuff without Him was never the plan.

 

Honest Interaction Equips the Ones that Do the Work

A simple, yet unique and amazing, thing happened the other night. I was speaking and a man politely interrupted with a clarifying question. He asked me what I meant by something I had just said and I clarified the point for him as well as for everyone else who might have not been clear. The man’s question initially seemed to come from a place of objection, depending on how I answered.

It was particularly unique and amazing in that I was preaching at our church. Right in the middle of the sermon came this potential objection. That was a greater level of conflict than you see in most sermons as the pastor typically goes unchallenged except at lunch behind his back or via email to inform him of his error. This was actual relationship. This was healthy.

I read a book by Patrick Lencioni over the weekend called “Death by Meeting.” In this excellent book he describes as a business fable, he makes the point that, business meetings are boring and non-productive because they don’t have any conflict. Everyone is saying all the right things except in the meetings after the meetings where the objections are raised with no way for collaborative problem solving.

Isn’t this true in church? Haven’t we resigned to the mundane predictability of three up songs, two down songs, announcements, offering, message and altar call or something similar? Haven’t we completely resigned ourselves to the passive consumer sitting politely as a critic of the show?

The only thing that’s likely to occur from our current patterns is either a thumbs up or a thumbs down. We are left to judge the excellence, or lack thereof, of the quality of the music, the content, humor and delivery of the speaker and opinions regarding the lighting, smoke, child care and parking. Too many thumbs down and we take our tithe to the show down the street.

I’ll submit that the early church, the model we were given, was a community of dialogue and even disagreement. Conflict affords the working out that is necessary for the equipping. We don’t mature passively, we grow experientially.

Why are we so afraid of the participation of the ones that are being equipped for the work of the ministry? If they don’t get equipped in the gathering, then where? A class? A program? How’s that working?

It’s time for the church goer to be the church doer. The only way that will happen is that the working out of faith and belief is given a voice and a safe place to figure it out. That safe place of working it out won’t be at work. It’s either in the gathering or the gathering may need some re-engineering. Engineering back to the blueprint.

 

Not para, but Part Of

You’ve got to know who you are. When you know who you are, everything flows from that as you do the thing(s) you are designed to do. It’s the first step towards understanding your context and understanding your context is the first step towards fulfilling your purpose.

I recently took the responsibility of becoming the Executive Director of Fellowship of the Sword. For the first time in the 15 year history of the organization, the ministry is Board-led where it had been founder-led. The fact that the Founders, Richard and Paige Henderson, had the courage and humility to facilitate the transfer is remarkable. For many organizations, the founder’s unwillingness to hand off operations cripples the capacity and potential of incredible vision.

Some would call FTS a “para-church” organization. One of the most important and enlightening things I have heard from Richard over the past several weeks is his clarification of that tag. “We are not a para-church, because ‘para-church’ means to come beside the church. We are not coming beside the church, but we are part of the church,” Richard said.

There is only one church. It’s not different churches determined by different buildings. There is one Bride of Christ. We are here to serve His Bride as part of His Body. We are in, not beside.

This is a big deal for many reasons, one of which was that the only grant of authority that Jesus gave was to make disciples (Matthew 28). He didn’t commission us to start a ministry or facilitate a Quest or anything else unless it is to contribute to the disciple making process. He gives us that authority and the mechanism through which that occurs is the local church.

This opportunity comes several years after answering a call into ministry which moved me away from a fulfilling practice of law. The only way that Julie and I want to do things is on a call from the Lord. His call includes this recent invitation to serve the local church through this ministry called Fellowship of the Sword.

The primary mechanism by which the Lord has equipped FTS for this purpose is the facilitation of Quest and HeartQuest events, which serve as catalysts in the disciple making process. That process, first and foremost, is accomplished through the local church. It’s our pleasure to serve the local church in this way as hearts get awakened and set in healthy rhythms, to be alive in their purpose and passions which are to be carried out in their eternal context. That context is as part of a local church.

 

Broken Bread Today Feeds Us Tomorrow

We can sit where we are or accept the invitation into more that comes at the cost of the comfort we enjoy in the predictability of the present. Where we will step into the discomfort of the new, we will have to rely on Him for comfort as well as faithfulness in the most recent expressions of our developing faith. In other words, when He puts in a position to depend on Him, we get to choose. The idea of new and dependence can sound just fine until the reality of the discomfort is tangible and not theoretical.

When we get to the next boundaries of our control, we’ll need to depend on Jesus like we did the last time it felt like this. Thankfully, because there was a last time, we can lean on that experience for assurance that He did it before and He’ll do it again. He’ll get us through this and if we’ll endure just a little longer, the promise of His glory always follows the discomfort of His invitations. Joy comes in the morning.

The original disciples were invited to follow Jesus and they gave up everything to do so. They walked with Him for three years, witnessing and participating in miracles and challenges as He increasingly equipped and released them. Then He was crucified and they didn’t get it. He rose from the dead and made Himself known to them, but they didn’t recognize Him until they remembered the last time.

Luke 24:30-31 says “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.”

He had done this before on the night before He died. By doing this again, He reminded them of the thing before. They were together and enjoying a meal. He used the bread to tell of what was going to happen to Him and now He uses the bread to quicken their senses to new belief. He uses the previous experience to get them through the current reality.

Following Jesus is intended as a life of experiences with HIm. In the experiences, reminders are born that will be useful for the next time. We go from glory to glory, leaving one to get to the next at the cost of the comfort that we have grown accustomed to in the former. Along the way, He’ll break bread with us to remind us that He is Who He says He is and He’ll do what He says He’ll do. Just like the last time.

 

The Impact of Fathers

I used to volunteer in youth prisons and over time developed a routine which I tended to default to when I met a young man (ages 14-17) for the first time in the facility. I would introduce myself and ask the boy his name and where he was from. He was reluctant to interact at all and would usually be looking at the floor with no interest in opening up even a little bit about himself.

I would then ask him where his father is and that would get his attention; he would usually look at me with interest for the first time. His eyes would communicate, “How did you know?” I would often have to repeat the question as he was caught off guard, “where is your father?”

The stories were always terrible; they were dead, in prison, never been around, drunk, on drugs, etc. The only reasonable response at that point in our conversation was, “I’m sorry; I’m really sorry that you have had to deal with that.” I can’t fix it, I can only hope to meet the kid where he is and show some comfort that his story and hurt is legitimate.

That was often a start to talk more about the hurts in his life that he had been challenged with and the choices that flowed from those circumstances. Connecting the heart and the head to begin to understand that he wasn’t weird for being angry and that the anger came from the hurt. Understand the hurt, hopefully choose to forgive and maybe begin to walk out of the cycle.

When I would offer comfort, however, it wouldn’t initially be received. “It’s alright,” or “It doesn’t matter” was always the response. Always. They were in prison; it mattered.

The need for affirmation and acceptance with unconditional love is foundational; we all need it. The connection to our experience with our father produces a lens within us for how we see God, how we see ourselves and how we see the world. The best dad in the world, however, isn’t the target; the Father is.

Our dad relationship is either a bridge or a barrier to realizing the love of the Father. Ideally, we have a father relationship that fosters an easier realization of trust and acceptance than abusive, neglectful earthly experiences would. Either way, though, we seek to hear from the Father, “You’re a son . . . and I’m pleased with you.”

Acknowledging the condition of our hearts related to our experience with our biological father positions us to hear from the Father. When we have let go in the natural, we can receive in the supernatural. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, we can hear this testimony of the Holy Spirit. From that, we will call out, “Abba (Daddy), Father!”