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 Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

If you’ve been a follower of Jesus for a while, this verse may roll right off your tongue. If you are a new believer, it may be something you are just now learning.  And if you are simply investigating this whole Jesus thing, this verse can potentially change your life!

Romans 5:8 is an amazing verse!  In regards to relational discipleship, it levels the playing field.  If you are a follower of Jesus, understanding that making disciples is not an option for the believer, this verse gives you common ground with anyone in which you will ever make contact.  And similarly, for the person who has not placed their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, everyone you will come in contact, whether they are a follower or not, has the same common ground.  That common ground is simply that we are all sinners in the eyes of God…and yet, He still sent His Son to pay the price for our sins because He loves us!  With that common ground, we never need to fall back on the excuse that we cannot related to someone else that may appear different from us, when in reality, they are sinners just like us!

You see, with every sin there is a consequence. It is prevalent in our lives every day!  You lie, and trust is broken.  Get caught speeding and you will likely be paying a fine.  Your kid hits another kid and gets put in time out. Isn’t it interesting how you don’t have to teach a kid how to sin?  It’s in their very nature to sin, and it’s in ours as well!

In the same way, as God has said, the consequence of sin is death!  Only death can eradicate sin!  And in typical God fashion, that’s precisely the reason for the amazing gift that God gave us!   If you will place your trust (faith) in Jesus, believing that He died for your sin (paid the price of death), took your sin to the grave where it could be eradicated, and rose again to life three days later, claiming victory over the very sin that you (and I) deal with every day, YOU WILL BE SAVED!  Saved to spend eternity with God in paradise!

It doesn’t end there though.  We are saved to make a difference in this life as well!  That’s the beauty of Matthew 28:18-20 where Jesus commissions us (all of us) to go make disciples.  We are all in the same boat, sinners deserving death (by God’s standards of perfection), yet by His grace we have been saved because we place our faith and trust in Him!  Those around us are sinners as well, so that is where the common ground is formed!  Are we willing to let our comfort level hold us back from sharing this incredibly Good News with the people around us?  May it never be!  Our mission is to go and build relationships with those in our everyday lives – building trust and friendship – and then loving them enough to share with them the only Good News that has the power to save them from an eternity separated from the Creator of everything!  That is what relational discipleship looks like when played out in our lives!  Relationships are not something we have to do, they are something we get to participate in because our relationship with God extends out to everyone we come in contact with daily!  Relationships (with God and with others) are the key to everything!

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Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Gossip, can be, and is, a sin that most completely kills a community, interferes in our communion with God, and stunts the growth of those involved in it and those witnessing that sinful behavior.  Gossip is really defined by motive; is the conversation edifying (building up) the person you are speaking to about?  If not, it is gossip!  I have recently been hearing rumblings of this sort within the local church community as well as our own community of believers…believers talking about other believers…not going directly to the person as the Scriptures direct.  It’s self-centered and arrogant!  Can it really make a person feel good about themselves knowing they are talking down about someone else instead of gently walking alongside them and loving them and God enough to take the plank out of their own eyes (sin) and help a sister or brother in their walk with God?  In a twisted answer, yes…but it’s a false feeling based on corruption and arrogant pride!  Satan always gives us a false sense of joy when we belittle another person in conversation.  Gossip, plain and simple, is from Satan and should never be uttered from the lips of a believer. Period!

Why is my statement above so harsh?  There are many reasons, but the one that is percolating within me lately, and is really the reason for this post, is this – the quickest way to kill community is to gossip!  And the quickest way for non-believers or people early in their faith to run away from church is for believers to engage in gossip…this is one of the main reasons the Church has been labeled hypocritical for so long.  Satan uses believers all the time to destroy intimacy and community within the Church, but we have a higher power in charge of our lives…The Holy Spirit!  We cannot give Satan free reign to rule our lives and behaviors!

Bottom line is that we, as a community, cannot live in a sinful and gossiping environment and expect God to bless us individually or as a community.  God will not work within the context or outpouring of sin!  Remember those caught up in that self-righteous behavior in the New Testament?  Jesus continually condemned and rebuked the Pharisees for the some of this unwholesome talk and behavior.  He always holds seasoned believers to a high standard, especially when conversing to or about someone else younger in their faith.  How in the world can a younger believer (or a casual believer) ever become mature (committed) if those who should be mature are behaving in sinful ways?  How can one become mature if others won’t come along side them and walk with them as they become more mature in their faith and beliefs?  Relational Discipleship really does encompass every area of our lives as we become mature and then begin making disciples of all those around us!

God’s greatest gift to mankind was grace extended through Jesus Christ.  In accepting His grace He then asks us to extend that grace to one another.  So next time someone comes up to you and wants to talk about someone else’s behaviors, do not be a listening ear that allows the sin to fester.  Simply say to that person, “have you spoken directly with the person you are referring to?”…and when they say no, and they will, direct them to that person and simply let God convict their hearts.  Being on the listening end of gossip is as bad as being the one who is speaking!

If you want to be a mature follower of Christ, gossip must not be part of your life.  Your life and relationships matter more to the Kingdom than any sinful desires that Satan throws at you.  Seek God’s path and flee from sin!  Remember, our large group (Sunday morning) gatherings, Small Groups and one-on-one times are meant for building each other up, not tearing others down!

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:22-26)

I know this is a somewhat large passage from the Scriptures that has many different teaching points; however, a young friend of mine shared a post recently that really stirred my spirit and God has pressed upon me to share a portion of the Scripture she shared as well as what He is placing in my heart and calling.

The first part of 2 Timothy 2 shares a passage that is readily on the tongue of many who follow Christ - Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 NIV).  Taking that verse and applying it to your life can be a really good thing, but without taking it into context of the end of the chapter (verses 22-26) can and has created many who condemn people far from God and worse drive them away from the only One who can truly make them happy and can save them from an eternity of torment, separated from Him.  God desires that we correctly handle the word of truth AND expects us to extend grace and love to those in whom we interact.

That’s the fire that God keeps pressing in my heart.  That is the reason I am so passionate about Relational Discipleship!  Spending time with lots of people from every walk of life – from committed to casual believers, from seekers to those not even considering a relationship with God.  You know, the way Jesus did relationship!  I think He was the best model for how we are to relate to those around us on a daily basis!  Here is a small list of those in whom Jesus made contact and how He addressed them:

The religious people of His day (Pharisees and Sadducees) –  He rebuked them for their self-righteous behavior.  Prideful believers fall into this category.  As a mature believer, we must not step back from rebuking a fellow believer in their sin…we do so in love, but not doing so does not show love at all…in fact, it is exactly the opposite!

Sinners and Tax Collectors – He spent time with them and showed them grace, mercy and love.  He came to save the lost, the sinners and those far from Him…He did not come for the self-righteous, but for the sinners in need of His grace and love!  This is the model in which we utilize when interacting with those who do not know Jesus, those in whom we have a relationship with daily and are pointing to the Savior.

The Apostles – He spent lots of time with them, teaching, rebuking, doing life with them as He discipled them to go and change the world.  This is the model as believers we should hold to when discipling other believers.

Children – He enjoyed them and placed a high value on their innocence and pure undefiled faith.  Something we all can learn from in our faith lives!

Jesus meets people where they are and responds according to their belief and understanding.  We should do the same.  Correctly handling (or dividing) the word of truth can never be a point of emphasis unless it is presented to the non-believer, seeker, or new believer in the realm of grace.  We can never be Jesus hands and feet if we are treating everyone we come in contact with as He did the Pharisees.  Yes, we call out a mature believer in that way when they are acting self-righteous, but to those in the other categories, you extend love and grace as you develop a relationship and represent Jesus well to those around you.

I have said this before and will again…Jesus wants our love and devotion, not our begrudging submission out of fear.  He also does not want us to beat non-believers, seekers and new believers over the head with the law (the things we do), He desires our hearts and a transformation of our true selves (who we are) as we follow Him out of our love for Him, not our fear of Him.  Relationships can only be based on love, trust and respect, never fear and undesired submission.  He wants relationship with us at the heart level, the same way He wants us to extend His love to those in our circles of influence.

Simply put, Love God and love others…become a disciple who makes disciples, ones who love God with all their heart! Disciples, making disciples who will make disciples!  And remember…people who were nothing like Jesus liked Jesus, and Jesus liked people who were nothing like Him!  That’s our marching orders…go make disciples and be like Jesus!

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Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each another, just as in Christ God forgave you.

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This verse is a representation of our response to the new life Christ offers us when He comes in and takes up residence in our lives.  Once we have accepted the amazing gift that God offers us, salvation through the sacrificial work of Jesus, we have new life.  We are no longer subject to the sinful and malicious desires of our human nature.  We are new…created by God and saved through Christ to be free from the sinful nature in which we were born.

Sounds great doesn’t it?  Don’t you wish it were as easy as it sounds all the time?  I know we have glimpses of this nature – kindness, compassion and forgiveness – we see this sometimes in ourselves as well as those around us…the person who stops to help someone in their time of need; someone offering up words of encouragement when others are dealing with hard times; someone seeking forgiveness when they may not even feel at fault.

Yet, we all struggle!  Why is that?  Why can’t we just take on the new self and never struggle with our sinful nature again?  You know what I am talking about, right? Road rage; yelling at our kids when they don’t comply; snapping to judgment when we see someone else’s sin playing out in destructive ways; stretching the truth to make ourselves look better in a given situation; putting others down to imply we are better than them; etc.

You see, this life in Christ we share is not a one-decision thing.  We don’t accept that amazing gift and simply go about our lives the way we once did.  We are a new creation, which means we are growing in a new direction – closer to God, becoming more like His Son.  Jesus doesn’t just want to be our Savior, saving us from hell; He wants to be in relationship with us.  And that relationship requires each of us to spend time with Him…in prayer, learning more about Him through His word, seeking out community with like-minded believers, and practicing the things He calls each of us to do.  We do not earn salvation by doing the things He expects of us – be kind, compassionate and forgive.  By responding to His love and grace in our lives and obeying the things He calls each of us to do, we are showing our love for the only One who could save us from our own sin.

Again, we cannot earn salvation!  None of us are good enough to get a free pass to be with God eternally.  We receive salvation by the grace and love of Jesus, and all we need to do is accept that gift and respond by loving Him in return and applying what He says to our daily lives.  We will stumble and struggle at times, but that is why He expects us to be in community.  He designed us to be in relationship – first with Him, and then with others.  Relational Discipleship at its very core is simply having a relationship with Jesus, having relationships with others, and continually seeking to become more like Him as well as helping others begin a relationship with Him and begin their journey in becoming more like Him.  Disciples making disciples – that’s relational discipleship at its best and how Jesus calls each and every believer to live their lives while here on this earth.

Accept His gift, and get to know Him.  As you do, He will place passions in your heart for those lost without The Savior.  You can then build those relationships with kindness, compassion and forgiveness as you introduce others to this amazing Jesus; always seeking to be a disciple who makes disciples!  This is how we reach the world for the sake of Christ!

 

Why are so many topics highly polarizing in today’s world, regardless of belief in God or not?  I believe it is deliberate (training in a way); not because God is deceiving but because He knows how authentic relationships are built.  They are built by working through disagreements and misunderstandings yet still loving one another.   Jesus never said relationship would be easy.  Loving one-another may be one of the hardest, yet most rewarding things we will ever do while here on Earth.  Authentic relationships can be (and if we are all honest, will be) messy; you won’t always agree, but how boring would life be if everyone agreed?  Hard conversations can and should be a catalyst to build trust and love; they should not burn a bridge in a relationship or worse yet, drive someone away from our Savior!

Proverbs 18:2 – A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

Something God has been teaching me, but I still fail at far too often, is this: never go into a disagreement with the attitude of making a point or winning an argument.  Jesus condemned the Pharisees for such actions!  Having that attitude more often than not results in broken relationship, not conviction of Spirit!  “Seek first to understand”, should be our first priority when discussing any disagreement or misunderstanding with others.  Working through conflict, addressing differences of opinion, and loving one another are crucial steps to take in relationship if we are truly seeking to be like Jesus!  He never shied away from hard topics, yet those on the other end of that hard conversation always went away feeling loved and accepted (except the religious folks (Pharisees) since their desire was more about keeping rules not building relationships).   Accepting someone for who they are is in no way approving of any action on their part.  Accepting someone simply shows them that they are loved and are valuable to me and to God.

Regardless of disagreements, misunderstandings, or flat out disobedience to God, there is no sin (past, present or future) that has more power than the power of the cross!  Sin does not define you, Christ’s forgiveness defines you!  And that forgiveness is met with grace and mercy as we begin following Jesus.

“Grace, then, is grace,–that is to say, it is sovereign, it is free, it is sure, it is unconditional, and it is everlasting.” ~ Alexander Whyte

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I am soory Before you read on, I’d like to preface this post by saying I have friends who are gay and I love them very much and want to spend eternity with them in the presence of Jesus!  That love has driven me to study the life of Jesus to try and understand His love and grace that He extends to each one of us.  He truly does love each and every one of us and does not want to see anyone spend eternity separated from Him.  I feel some followers of His have completely botched His message of love, especially when it comes to the gay community.  Many would rather condemn than love the way Jesus did simply because they do not understand the extent of the love that Jesus offers us or how to show that love to others.  This post is a feeble attempt at trying to bridge the gap between the love that Jesus extends to each one of us and a community of people that have been all but shunned from His love and forgiveness by the very people who claim to be His followers!  The sinful behavior of those who claim to follow Jesus yet condemn others is not in any way representative of the way the true Savior, Jesus Christ, loves and extends grace to all who trust in Him.  I hope this post challenges and convicts some.  I also pray it gives hope and extends love to many more!

So, Are Gay Men and Women sinners?  Yes, absolutely!  And by the way, even if you do not have same-sex attractions, you are a sinner too!  Every person on the planet has this in common…we are all sinners!  It is in our very nature to sin.  And anyone (especially followers of Jesus) condemning someone else because of their lifestyle is simply a hypocrite and not following the example that Jesus laid out to us!

Romans 3:23 - For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Every sin ever committed has lasting, scarring consequences, even beyond the fact that they are sins against God.

If I view porn, my mind will forever be skewed with the images I have seen, and my idea of healthy sexuality will be changed.

If I lie, I will deal with the guilt and ill feelings over breaking trust with others.

If I have sex with someone that is not my wife, I break my commitment with her, obliterate trust, and skew my thoughts about proper, God-given sexuality.

If I am gay or have same-sex attractions, regardless if I act upon those urges, suppress them, or am fully living the gay lifestyle, I will forever be changed by those longings and will view human sexuality as somehow different than the way God calls out sexuality in the Bible.

Am I saying I believe homosexuality is a sin?  Yes, from what I read in the Bible, I believe homosexuality is included as a sin among many others!  I am also saying that any form of sexuality outside the confines of marriage is a sin.  That includes:

Looking at someone else lustfully including the occasional glances at a women’s chest, no matter how brief, or checking out the guy at the gym who is cut.

Watching TV or movies that show, talk about or insinuate any sexual act outside of marriage – comedy, drama or any other genre.

Telling dirty jokes with sexual references or even sarcastic sexual comments.

Flirting with the guy or girl at the office (if you are married), regardless of any physical touch.

Etc.

Get the picture?  Everyone either has or does deal with sexual sin!  Everyone, and I mean everyone, deals with some sort of sin on a daily basis! I cannot say I have walked in the shoes of someone who has same-sex attraction, but I can understand how easily it would be for someone to struggle with addiction to pornography or alcohol, for example.  Just because I do not understand the sin you are dealing with doesn’t make yours any worse of a sin than mine.

So why is it that we weigh others sins as higher than our own?  God sees sin as the problem from which Jesus came to save us – all of us.  God loves each of us sinners so much that He sent His Son to die for us!  So, when asked which is the most important commandment, Jesus said to love God and love one-another; everything else ever said revolves around these two greatest commands!  Love and relationship is the key!

Romans 5:8 - But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Following Jesus is an honor and a privilege.  What I do with my faith can draw people to my Savior or cause them to run from my “so-called” Savior and me.  I am daily trying to love others the way Jesus did, which is a struggle for me quite frankly.  He loved and showed grace like no one ever has or will.  But He also said that we are to become more like Him every day once we begin following Him.  So let me ask you…who did Jesus hang out with the most?  Yep, Sinners!  And not just anyone, He hung out the most with people the religious elite would have said were the worst sinners!  And whom did He condemn and rebuke often?  The Religious, pharisaical-thinking people – those focused more on keeping rules than on developing relationships and loving one-another!  I’d say His life example is a good indication for us to love others, spend time with them and develop relationships.  Relationships that not only offer opportunities to represent Jesus well to those who do not know Him yet, but also removes stumbling blocks that get in the way when inviting them into a personal relationship with Jesus.  If I simply condemn others, or worse yet ignore them, I am no different than the Pharisees that Jesus condemned and rebuked for their actions and behavior.  Unfortunately, many “religious” people land on the side of condemning those with same-sex attraction instead of following Jesus’ example of building a relationship with them and inviting them into a relationship with the only One that truly saves – Jesus!  As a believer, my focus needs to be on building a relationship and introducing my friends to Jesus, and His job is to begin changing each of us from the inside out.  Discipleship is more about relationship (with people and with Jesus) than it is about rules.  When He begins to change us, it is our individual convictions from the Holy Spirit that will change us to become more like Christ.  Telling someone to change simply does not work! recite-2321-1756883359-123qq5w Finally, to say change will immediately occur once one accepts Jesus as their personal Savior is a lie from the pit of hell!  Transformation is a process that takes our entire lives.  As Savior and Lord, Jesus will begin changing us from the inside out.  Yet, the consequences of our sin, which is still at our very core as humans, will always scar us until we go home to be with our Father in heaven.

So, what if the Church (those of us who have made Jesus our Savior and Lord) stopped condemning and started loving…you know, like Jesus showed us and commanded us?  It is a common misconception that the bible says to love the sinner and hate the sin.  It never says that!  Actually, from my research, Ghandi said that!  Jesus says to love the sinner, and hate your own sin.  Once you get rid of the sin in your own life then, and only then, can you see clearly to discuss the sin in your brother or sisters life!

Matthew 7:3-5 – Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

By the way, did you notice something…this verse is referring to your brother and sisters…fellow believers.  Not to those who do not know God yet!  That is huge!  How many people have ever been introduced to Jesus by first condemning their behavior and telling them they need to change?  Yeah, I don’t know of anyone either!  That is why Jesus simply said to love God and love others.  Showing His unwavering love and grace is the only way for us to become like Jesus.  We must practice this every day in every relationship God brings into our lives!  If the Church will get this simple truth, the world will be won for Christ…because He is simply irresistible!

Bottom line is that regardless of your sin, God loves you and so should every follower of His.  If you have same sex attractions, though it is defined as sin along with every other sexual sin, you are loved deeply by Jesus Christ and He longs for a relationship with you.  Don’t let religious people get in the way of you having the only relationship that will matter for eternity…one with Jesus!  We will all deal with sin while we are here on earth, but as Jesus said, once we go on to live eternally in heaven with Him, we will no longer marry or be given in marriage.  Since God created sex for the confines of marriage, sex will no longer be an issue in heaven.  Thus, sexual sin will be eradicated, as all sin will be; A sinless existence for all of eternity where love is abundant and undefiled in any manner.  That’s the kind of love that Jesus offers us all!!!

Don’t refuse the invitation Jesus extends to everyone based on the temporary sinful behaviors we all deal with here on earth.  The time we have here on earth is short, eternity with Jesus is the goal and a relationship with Him is the only way to get there.  Trust in Him and He will show you the way to true Freedom!  Freedom from sin and eternal separation from God!

My heart goes out to the gay community and any other group that has been condemned by some who claim to be His followers!  God has a plan for all mankind.  And God’s plan includes you!  Seek Him and discover Who Jesus really is and His love and grace will set you free!  He really is amazing and He loves you very much and desires to have a life-long relationship with you that extends throughout all of eternity!  Will you consider Jesus’ invitation in John 3:16-17 - “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 316

Until I heard the A Cappella version of The Little Drummer Boy by Pentatonix (thanks Keith Wooden for sharing it on Facebook) I had never really “heard” the message from the song.  I have now listened to that version dozens of times and my eyes flood over with tears every time now as I have discovered something…I am the little drummer boy!

Pentatonix

Click Here to watch Pentatonix The Little Drummer Boy

Can you imagine?  A baby has been born to be King to usher His people into freedom.  Rumor has it that He will be born in a little town called Bethlehem, and there is a bright star shining above the place He will make His arrival.  Something is definitely different about this birth.  Curiosity sets in…then someone asks you, a little boy, “come and see this new born King.”  They add, “You can bring your drum along as well if you want to!”

You think to yourself, this is Awesome!  I get to see this new King and witness the beginning of His reign.  But wait, people are bringing gifts…I am poor and have nothing to bring Him as a gift.  Maybe no-one will notice since I am a young kid.  They wouldn’t expect a kid to bring a gift, so I will just hang back and see what this new born King is all about.

So you walk with the others, lightly playing your little drum as you walk along…after all, that is the one thing you really enjoy and you are not too bad either!  At least that is what your mom tells you.  Some of the adults tell you to knock it off or stay back and play quietly, but your joy in this moment can only be played out on your drum.  So you quietly continue, maybe even playing in your head.

Then you see above all the adults this animal stable, when all of the sudden everyone stops and are gasping in amazement.  They have no words, only awe.  But you can’t see…so you slip your way through the crowd to the front and you see people offering gifts to this little baby.  He seems so fragile yet there is power in this moment.  Could He really be the One everyone is thinking He is?  I sure wish I had something I could give to Him as a gift.

Your heart jumps out of your chest as your joy bursts out.  All along the way you had been playing your drum ever so lightly with an increasing joy in your heart as you made your way to this moment, this place.  You didn’t even think twice…you look to His mother and ask, “Shall I play for you…on my drum?”  She nods yes…the whole place stands and watches what is to come.  The animals seem to be swaying with the beat.  You are playing your very best and are completely lost in the moment!  You look down and realize that Jesus is taking in every note and then something amazing happens…He looks you in the eyes and smiles at you in the most kind and loving way you could ever imagine!  Wow, this new born King, Jesus, has accepted my gift, and you realize that the best gift you could have given Him was to play your drum for Him…your very best talent is your very best gift!

You look around and everyone is in tears as they have just witnessed a small child offering the greatest gift to this child King.  They all worship along with you as you pound away on your drum.  You lead them to a greater understanding of how we best honor Jesus by using our gifts and talents to the best of our abilities in worship of Him, the King and Savior of us all!  This moment will be etched in your soul for the rest of your life and you will retell the story until the day you die…the story of the day a little boy offered up his very best gift to the King of the World!  The day the Savior looked at you and smiled as He watched you share your joy with Him!

So, what is your drum?  What do you do well that you can bring to the King to honor Him?  Your drum may be a musical instrument or it may be the ability to sit down with someone and extent the love of Jesus to them.  Your drum may be playing basketball or acting in a play.  Your drum may be the very work you do on a daily basis.  Whatever your drum is, use it to honor and glorify Jesus…and when you do, close your eyes and imagine what it will be like to see Jesus looking directly in your eyes and smiling at you, saying, “Well done!”

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The Little Drummer Boy

Come they told me
Pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see
Pa rum pum pum pum

Our finest gifts we bring
Pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the kIng
Pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum

So to honor Him
Pa rum pum pum pum
When we come

Little baby
Pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too
Pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring
Pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give our King
Pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum

Shall I play for you
Pa rum pum pum pum
On my drum

Mary nodded
Pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time
Pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him
Pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him
Pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum

Then He smiled at me
Pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum

There have been times when someone (well meaning Christians in fact) will say to me that they do not feel Relational Discipleship is completely Biblical.  I feel their interpretation may be getting lost in the title, not in the example of Jesus from the Scriptures.  Relational Discipleship is not only Biblical, it is modeled by Jesus Himself, as well as many others throughout the Bible, as the way to make disciples!

Relational Discipleship can be understood by breaking it down into four easy to understand action steps (Yes, our faith is active not passive!):

1) Build Relationships – Connect with many people, everyone that God places in our paths on a daily basis, and get to know them, spending time with them, being there for them.  This can be as simple as briefly connecting at your local coffee shop or gas station with the person you see behind the counter, or with the person you sit next to at work or school every day.  Some of these relationships will blossom into friendships that can become more intentional as the relationship builds!

2 ) Build Trust – Be consistent and genuinely care.  Honesty and transparency can take the relationship to a deeper level and allow more openness in conversation.

3) Invite them into a relationship with Jesus – As relationship and trust are established, Spiritual conversations become natural as long as we are following Christ’s example and placing Him first in our own lives.  When we whole-heartedly are fully devoted followers of Jesus, it makes no sense whatsoever to not invite others into that relationship!

4) Walk with Them – Just as a baby new to this world needs a parent to raise, feed, nurture and guide them, so does a new follower of Jesus need you to guide, nurture, teach and mentor them to become mature followers of Christ Jesus.

This is Relational Discipleship!  It is not a new concept at all!  In fact, it was designed and modeled by Jesus for us to follow so that we would go make disciples!  The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 is our marching orders for Relational Discipleship:

Go – Build genuine relationships with many.  We are active in our walk!

Baptize – Invite others into a relationship with Jesus, the One who saved us!

Teach – Walk with the new follower of Jesus, teaching them how to become more like Him!   Teach others to obey and apply His word, not just gain knowledge about Him, but really get to know Him!

If you are a follower of Jesus, this is not optional!  We are His Church and this is our commission!  So Church, go make disciples!

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Relationship > Religion

Posted: November 27, 2013 in Discipleship
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If you win an argument regarding someone’s sin but lose the relationship, you are not following Jesus’ example! Relationship is crucial if you follow Jesus!  His final command to His followers was to make disciples.  Making disciples requires a relationship – first with God and then with those around us.  Let’s stop judging people away from our Savior!  Let’s stop making Jesus ashamed of the actions of His people!  Let’s start making disciples the way Jesus did – by building relationships with many and love them the way Jesus did!  We are to make disciples by acting like Him – and He loves!

Matthew 6:22-23 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

Eyes on Jesus

It’s been said that the eye is the lamp into our soul.  What we see, gaze upon, or linger on will mold our very nature and character.  In the same way, what we listen to shapes the way we think and behave.

Close to 15 years ago, I realized how listening to Sports Talk radio and watching Sports News was shaping my life – If I was to get on the path that God was drawing me to, I needed a change!  The negativity and sarcasm was so rampant that it had infiltrated my personality and very nature.  Sarcasm can still rear its ugly head in my life when I am not focusing on relationship with God and those around me.  It’s easy to see how sarcasm is killing intimacy in marriage and families all around us.

For me, I had to go cold turkey for an entire year – no sports talk radio or news.  God laid Romans 12:2 on my heart and showed me the way to beat the negativity and sarcasm out of my life.  He brought this Scripture to life for me: Do not conform to the patterns of this world (negativity and sarcasm for me) but be transformed (slowly into the image of His Son, Jesus) BY renewing your mind (focusing on the Truth of Scripture and not allowing Satan to bombard with his lies).  After that year, the desire for Sports Talk is no longer in me!

Do I still struggle with sarcasm?  Yes!  But now when I get caught up in it, God easily reminds me of the Scripture he laid deeply in my heart and I have a choice whether to continue in the behavior (which will damage the relationships I am engaged in) or take that thought captive and renew my mind on the Truth of Scripture (which strengthens my relationship with God as well as those around me).  I’ve found that even intermittent sarcasm wounds as much as consistent sarcasm.  We must build each other up, not tear each other down!

So what is your Sports Talk?  What do you see or hear that takes you in an undesirable (sinful) direction?  Gossip?  Porn?  Games?  Music?  TV?   Ask God to reveal to you your sin, and if He is too easy to ignore…ask your family!  Then seek out the Truth that God lays out in Scripture and dwell upon His Word as you renew your mind…your transformation from darkness to light will be apparent not only to you and to God, but those around you as well.  A wandering eye or mind is a breeding ground for sin…eagle-eye focus on Jesus is the cure!

 

This Heart

A thought has been driven into my soul today, even though God has placed this desire and calling in me for quite some time.  It’s not a new thought, but one that has been etched in my mind today as I have been going about my day. Here it is:

” I need to stop dying and start living!”

  How much time daily do I waste on things that just aren’t that important?  How often do I put things in me that are killing me: physically, emotionally and spiritually?  

 Anyone out there feel this way?

 Relationship – first with God, and then my wife, kids and those around me that He has blessed into my life – is the key to a fulfilled life in Christ! Our God is a relational God and He made us after His image!

  My prayer and earnest desire is this:

  God, grant me the will to only desire your life in me….to seek after you whole-heartedly in all I think, say, write and do!  Create a God-shaped heart in me and guide my path to fulfill all You ask of me…this is my one true desire!

“Sorry I am late; the traffic was horrible!”

“It wasn’t me, she did it!”

“I cannot tell a lie, I cut down the cherry tree.” (This is actually not true and was never uttered by Washington – it was a lie made up to show George Washington’s honesty…odd way to show his honesty, isn’t it?)

 

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Proverbs 12:22 – Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.

If we often find ourselves saying things like, “to be honest with you”, we might want to check to see how “honest” we are truly being with others and ourselves!  Small deceptions give birth to larger ones that will destroy you and those around you!  And, calling them little white lies are just a way Satan tries to convince us they really aren’t that big a deal.

A kid grows up and is a really honest kid and then one day he tells a lie and gets caught by his parents or by a teacher.  That lie has now created a level of distrust and second guessing in whatever that child is saying, or possibly will say.  Here’s an even tougher one; a husband is trustworthy, works hard and spends time with his wife and kids. Then one day he gets caught lying about an affair he is having with a girl at his office.  Trust may have been built for decades up to that point, but that lie and deception has now driven a wedge between man and wife that has completely emptied her trust bank!  Yes being unfaithful is a sin; however, being dishonest to cover up one sin is just another layer of sin!  Confession may hurt but it leads to healing.  Lying always kills the relationship!

Bottom line, any type of lie is completely disgusting to a great and perfect God!  Why is that?  Because lies are the fastest way to destroy relationship!

Relationship was God’s idea from the very beginning!  Lying is Satan’s attempt to thwart the amazing gift of relationship that God invented!  As we strive to be more like Jesus in our everyday lives, let us build relationships as we love one-another and God, and resist the enemy’s attempt to break down the very nature of who God is…He, as well as we, are built for honest relationship!

A good friend of mine named Mike recently asked me to review a new book he has written that will be going out to print in the coming months.  It is titled, 41 Days to a Generous Life, and it really got me thinking about what we discuss in regards to being generous and how our lives truly reflect our hearts in relationship to a generous life.  Mike has been called by God to help others understand and implement generosity as a lifestyle, and finances are only a small a part of that generous lifestyle shift that must take place for each of us to truly feel God’s heart for people.  Generosity reveals what we value!

On day 31 of this devotional, he targets Matthew 6:21 where Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  This chapter in Matthew is chock full of wisdom (as is all of Scripture).  Jesus really hits a key ingredient which has the potential of freeing us up or trapping us in bondage – whatever we treasure will be the object of our devotion and will take up much of our time and available resources.

An example from my life before Christ became number one; if golf is the object of much of our free time, our finances will be hindered as golf is expensive and the gear used is always changing…$$$.  But that is only one portion of the bondage created.  Golf takes a lot of time away from those we love as well as those in which God wants us to build relationships.  For me, golf became an addiction of sorts as I wanted to keep getting better which required more time away and more money to be spent.  Golf in moderation, when it is not sacrificing relationships and generosity, is not the problem…my love and devotion to a game as well as undervaluing my family was the problem.  You can insert whatever you struggle with in here as well…we all have some stuff that we struggle with in this area of our lives!

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On the flip side, when God becomes our object of devotion, where we seek relationship with Him first and become stewards of the resources He has entrusted to us to manage, we are completely freed up to care about others more than ourselves AND have the means to do something about the passions God places in our hearts for people.  His desire for us is to love Him and love those He puts in our daily path.  He also desires that we would be good stewards of the things He entrusts each of us to manage so that we can not only care about and pray for those passions/ people He places in our hearts, but that we would actually be able to do something about that desire!  Remember, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works (action) is dead” – James 2:26.  He wants us to not only pray, but to also take action!

#PrayAndAct

As many of you know, my oldest daughter Kayla married her High School sweetheart, Andrew, this month.  As we were all making preparations for the celebration, I reminisced about the time spent with Kayla talking about faith and love, as well as praying together for that perfect someone to come into her life.   But as I looked back at how everything unfolded over the years, I discovered a huge truth that I’d like to share this month!

I have often prayed for and with my girls in regards to their future husbands, and still do as Haley and Chloe grow up, but I realized this past week a subtle shift I had made in that prayer that I hadn’t even fully realized.

Like many parents, we pray for our kids to find the “right” person for them.  I have prayed for someone to come into their life that would share their convictions and faith and would complement their personalities.  My hope is always that faith will drive all of their relationships.

Sounds good, right?  We all want our kids to find the right person and live happily ever after, whatever that means, right?

During the time Lisa and I have been raising our girls, we have always tried to instill in them a love for God and a love for people.  We’ve consistently taught that loving and serving others is a privilege that God desires for His people.  It is a natural progression in each of our faith journeys to first develop a love for God, and then develop a love for the things that He loves—people!  In the progression of discipleship, we not only love God and people, we serve them as we grow in our faith and put our actions where God’s heart is as He shapes our hearts!  That is not only true in each of us as mature followers of Christ, it is crucial that we teach this to our kids as we are raising them to be a generation that has the potential to change the world for Christ!

In this growing period, I realized that we had also been preparing our girls to BE the “right” person for the kind of guy that we hope they will all meet—you know, the “right” guy.  So my prayer for us all is that we will be parents and grandparents that will raise up a generation of young people that will not only seek to find the “right” one, but will become the “right” one that will be discovered in God’s time!  And for those who are single, vow today to become the “right” person so that when God shows you your “right” person, you will recognize one another by the fruits of your faith and love!  Romans 12:1 & 2 will guide you!

right person

Andy Stanley puts it this way—”Are you who the person you are looking for is looking for?”  For more discipleship from Andy on this topic, visit  this link:  “Love, Sex and Dating”.

 

Every year over the 4th of July, my family, as well as other families from Ovid & elsewhere, venture into the “wilderness” for a focused time of prayer, renewal, reflection and fun!  Family Camp at Miracle Camp is something I look forward to each year as the highlight of summer!

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             Getting away to camp, or anytime you can get away from the hustle and bustle of the busyness we bring upon ourselves, allows us to connect with God on a much deeper and less distracted level.  Jesus often modeled this when He would get away from the crowds to pray and rest.  If the Son of God got away for reflection, renewal and communion with the Father, why in the world would we think we could go through life without doing the same!  Jesus is the model we must follow as we continue to develop a biblical worldview and seek to love Him and others as Jesus always intended from His Church!

Luke 5:16 But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.

Personally, I have a huge heart for Miracle Camp and how they reflect the love of God and are completely in tune with what the Holy Spirit is guiding through them.  I know people around me think I am a broken record, but everyone I know who has visited Miracle Camp for a Summer Camp, Family Camp, Marriage Retreat, Ice Camp, or the many other camp weeks they offer have come away with a love for Miracle Camp and a sense of awe in how God is guiding and directing everything they do and everything they are at the very core of their being!  Miracle Camp is one of my favorite places here on Earth!

So how about you?  Do you have a wilderness place where you can get away from all the distractions and really focus on our Creator—His love and goodness, His majesty and glory, His amazing grace?  I challenge you this week to find a place, schedule the time away to be alone with God as a family or as an individual (I need both) and let God speak to your heart as you pray and seek to make Him Lord of your entire life!

For more info on Miracle Camp and Retreat Center visit this LINK!