A Kingdom Paradox {one of many}

A quick thought from my personal worship time with Christ this morning…thoughts?

It seems that we have pursued (Been taught to pursue) personal fulfillment, comfort, “self-help”, & our own happiness in our religious pursuits. Because of this we do not know how to actually hear God’s voice and be obedient. Even if we learn to hear/know God’s voice (based upon scripture, prayer & other disciplines) we don’t seem to have the capacity/faith to obey it because it usually is not what is easy/comfortable. (Most of what we have been taught in our Christian pursuit is how to manage our personal relationship with God, avoid sin, and be “happy” as a Christian) Everything we’ve pursued in our Christian life was in pursuit of comfort and an “easier” life. If something “hard” does come along we write it off as “persecution”, and the enemy trying to attack us.

“Lord, continue to teach me how to hear your voice, and obey even if it goes completely against what seems logical at the moment. Grow my faith to trust what you’re up to. I can say it all day, but I want you to give me opportunities to act out those tough decisions in real life. Thank you that there is grace for it all.”

Texas. Baby. Daddy.

I just put my wife & mother in law on a plane to Texas. Yes, it’s ok to fly when you’re pregnant. I will head out tomorrow morning in the car with our dog, and enough stuff for a month or so of life in Texas. I wanted to post this to let you all know the “game plan” for the next bit of our lives…(If you know all of this feel free to skip down to the little “survey” at the bottom of the post…)

Our baby is officially due on June 28th, however, we’re praying for her to come a bit earlier. As many of you who have been pregnant or have children know, Morgan is beginning to feel a bit uncomfortable with this rather large baby growing inside of her. We have been reminded lately of how gracious our God is to provide us with such amazing friends & family who have supported us in everything along the way. From baby showers, to prayers for our marriage & pursuits of what God has called us to you have all been a reminder of the Grace of God in our lives.

I have been reflecting over our time in Vegas for the past few weeks. I can’t believe we’ve been here for a year and a half now. God has done incredible things here and all over the place. We have learned a lot, fallen down a lot, been humbled A LOT, and sanctified for His namesake. We have about 8 months left in Vegas, and will be packing up to move to Austin sometime in December of 2009. We will leave behind several thriving new communities of faith here in Vegas that will, by the grace of God, multiply into many more pockets of believers who will continue to proclaim the kingdom of God in Vegas.

We’re excited to return from Texas to Vegas with a new life in our arms. Up until now “how to handle children” in an “organic church setting” has been mere theory with a small amount of practical experience being involved with other communities with children. Our church here in Vegas is excited to pursue this experience with us…

While in Texas we will be spending time with our families, and old I.G. Community in Ft. Worth. It will be refreshing to say the least. I will be getting some things put into place structurally for “Intentional Gatherings” as an organization that will help to propel the vision and purpose forward. (Website, etc.) We will make a few runs down to Austin to prepare for Student CPx, which is coming up at the end of the summer. After the baby is born I will have a few places to go and teach on simple church planting. To say that things will be busy, fresh, and new may be an understatement!

I’m sure I am leaving some things out. I’ll bring this to a close for now. I hope this post answered some of your unanswered questions. I will be on the road for the next couple of days, but will do my best to update the blog. I have a few topics that I’m really anxious to write about. Hopefully, I will have a chance to do so once I arrive in Texas. For those of you who are quite a bit more interested in our new baby than anything else: don’t worry, I will be taking many pictures, posting many blogs/twitters, Facebook updates, etc. as the time comes.

To close: we’ve been playing a little guessing game around here. Would love for you to chime in…give your best guess for the following:

1) When do you think the baby will come based upon the June 28th due date? (early/late, & feel free to give a specific date as long as it is not a prophetic word claiming she will arrive AFTER June 28th!=)

2) Will she look more like her daddy, or mommy?

3) Will she come out with tattoos and/or piercings as many of you claim?

4) Will she have hair, and if so, what color will it be?

5) What color will her eyes be? (her mom has green eyes, and I have blue eyes)

6) Last but not least: Will she have me wrapped around her little finger…?

“What if…?”

pondering-manThose of you reading who are my loyal Twitter, and Facebook “followers” have already been commenting on many of the “what if?” questions I have been posting over the past week. I am compiling them, and plan on posting an entire entry dedicated to the many different “what if?” questions that I come up with in the process. Please feel free to contribute your own “what if?” questions in the comments section of this post, and I will add them into the compilation. (You are also welcome to leave any thoughts about this particular “what if?” question in the form of a comment)

I felt the need to give this “what if?” question it’s own post because Twitter posts only give you 140 characters…being the detail guy that I am, I had a terribly hard time narrowing this down to 140 characters. In fact, it hurt so bad after I posted the “Tweet” that I decided I HAD to elaborate by posting this blog. Here goes…

“What if” a person’s success, worth, or value was measured by the amount of time they spend with family, friends, and other important people as opposed to how much money they make, how many people they know, the car they drive, the size of their house, how “busy” they are, etc.?

These days a person is accused of being irresponsible or lazy if they work any less than 50 hours/week, and don’t have a hefty retirement fund awaiting them. A person’s importance is weighed by the title they hold at “work”, the square footage of their house, the fanciness of their car…you get the point. Husbands and fathers begin finding their worth in these things rather than the love of their wife and kids. Somehow, in this completely screwy world we live in it is somehow a “difficult” decision for a man to wrestle with choosing between taking the higher paying job that will consume everything, or keep the less paying job so he can pour himself into his wife and kids. Oh wait, he gets the job so he can make money to be able “take care of the kids”, and send them to college, right? That seems to have worked out wonderfully in the last 50 years hasn’t it…?

So, here we are in a time in the world when the people we pledge our lives to in marriage, and the human beings that we create and bring into the world become less important to us than our status, income, retirement fund, comfort, security, and vacations. Everything in me screams out that this is wrong. Though I have VERY intentionally pursued something drastically different in my life, the world, my flesh, and those around me seem to constantly pull me into this vicious cycle of idolatrous sin. I am determined…

Side note: These things have seemingly crept into, and plagued the “church” in America. Oh, the lovely life sacrificed to “ministry”. The amazing titles, and salaries that grow with those titles. The business plans, and elaborate infrastructure. The hiring and firing. The need to perform, succeed, and maximize the “return on our investment”(ROI for you business majors. Oh, and i’m not lying: I was once told that by my “boss” while on staff at an institutional church) The husbands spending hours away from their wives and kids for the “sake of the ministry”, which somehow makes it ok. No need to keep going. Oh wait, the business models, strategies, COMPETITION for numerical growth, and fancy offices. Ok, i’m done.

So, I have made a lifelong commitment to value the TIME I spend with my wife, and children above the amount of money I make, the title/position I hold in any career, etc. I believe, and will continue to rely on the grace of Christ to model that deep relationships with REAL people are more important to me a vacation home in the mountains, TV’s in my car, or a bunch of people knowing who I am, but not KNOWING ME. I believe that I am not at all alone in this pursuit…

Won’t you join me in asking the hard, and gasped at “What if?” questions that MUST be asked…?

May Legitimization & Release Be The Fuel…

In Austin there are some students at UT who are committed to seeing the Gospel spread in a simple/reproducible way that brings light to darkness and life the death. They are determined to learn new, and fresh ways of living out their purpose as the ecclesia in the their city. This has been modeled for us in overseas missions for years, and it would behoove us to learn from these movements.

We must stop practicing evangelism through extraction in our attempts to fill and grow our current institutional churches. Do some people find home in these churches? Absolutely. Will these alone serve as a conduit for the Gospel to spread rapidly throughout the states, infiltrating the darkest places in our culture? Of course not. In our current mindset we are beginning to see many outwardly focused institutional faith communities, which is a beautiful thing. However, even these leave us with only one option if we actually do go into a dark place to reach that area with the Gospel. (Which is very rare for an individual believer, or group of believers to do. We are typically too busy with our “church friends & activities”, and uncomfortable with sin and darkness to do so). That option is to extract a person out of their current circles of influence in order “save them”, and then “church them”. There are many con’s to this form of practice, which I hope to dissect more in the future. So, not only does it remove the new disciple from the places in their lives that they have the most influence, but it also creates a bitterness in the minds of those who remain in that former circle. Those who remain behind are confused as to where their friend has gone, and are now resentful towards the Christian who “stole their friend”.

I am convinced that we must start equipping and empowering believers to take the Gospel into dark places, and plant Gospel roots deeply there. This means that NEW communities/church bodies must take root/birth in that place. This is much different from extracting people from one place, and giving them no outlet to grow other than an “established church”, which is far removed from their previous circles. For this to happen we must have Spiritual Fathers, current Christian leaders, and current local churches who will begin to release apostolic leaders into these cracks of society by legitimizing the birth of new communities of faith that will multiply, and flourish naturally.

The key here is that believers must be affirmed, equipped, and empowered by current “Christian leaders” through acknowledging these new communities as legitimate local churches. A freeing realization I have recently stumbled upon is the fact that in order to begin legitimizing these new communities of faith does NOT necessarily mean we need to DE-legitimize the former. (I believe that many pastors have walls built up towards organic expressions of church because those practicing simple church have sought to DE-legitimize what those pastors are doing. I am guilty of this. This makes it impossible to function healthily as the body of Christ)

May we truly begin to respect one another, and work together as the body of Christ, realizing that none of us can reach EVERYONE apart from the other. In the name of Jesus may we begin to recognize apostolic leaders, and release them to start new communities of faith in un-reached areas. I wonder what would happen if we started recognizing the apostolic call in people’s lives as much as we recognize people’s “call” to “lead worship” on a stage or “teach” an existing body of believers. The focus here is making new disciples, and not simply trying to protect or sustain the only thing we know. Young leaders: be affirmed, be released, be encouraged, and be set free to fulfill the great commission.

I am believing God to raise up Spiritual Fathers to affirm you in your pursuit. However, do not allow the lack of approval, affirmation, and legitimization from current “Christian leaders” hinder you from pursuing what God has instructed for you to do.

Desperation Blog…Part 2

A couple months back I posted an entry titled, “The Godless: A Desperate Generation”. Though it is not entirely necessary to read before this entry, it may help you to see what sparked the thoughts below…

In the past few months I have been almost convinced that it is impossible to be desperate for God in America because of our lack of need for Him in regards to basic provision. My mind has shifted gears in the past few weeks, though I still strongly believe that it is MUCH more difficult to grasp a desperation for God without needing, and relying on Him for the provision of our basic needs.

I have realized that anyone, in any country, who takes the scriptures seriously, lives them out, and denies themselves daily, can begin to understand what it means to be desperate for God in a physical and Spiritual sense. If I truly live the scriptures, and take them seriously then I will be without some sort of fleshly need, or desire. I will have need for God’s provision in my life. Because desperation for God has not been modeled for many of us in our lives we will have to pursue it more intentionally, and with everything in our being. As we deny ourselves of fleshly desires we will quickly be made desperate for God, His presence, and provision in our lives.

If you are married, and truly seeking the scriptures/living them out in your marriage then you certainly know, or are learning to be desperate for God. If you are not married, that’s okay, you should still keep reading. At the core of the Gospel we see this idea of denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following after Jesus. (Matthew 16:24) This is a daily denial of self, which goes completely against everything in our being. This poses a question: if we are not desperate for God, are we truly denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following Jesus as the scriptures call us to? A second core principle of the Gospel is the idea of putting the interests of others before ours, having the attitude of Jesus. (Philippians 2:4-5) Second question: if I am not desperate for God on a daily basis I am basically saying that I have this “flesh”, “denial of self”, and “other’s interests before mine” thing figured out. That thought breeds self-righteousness, and arrogance. Scary.

I know many people who seem to have it all together. They have the right answers for everything. They have the best, most eloquent responses to all of life’s situations. They read all the right books, and spend large amounts of time studying scripture. This intrigues me, especially when very little of it is translated into life practice. It seems to be mere head knowledge. Ironically, many of these same people think very often about themselves, and very little about others. At the core there seems to be a lack of desperation for God. Maybe an even deeper root is the absence of the realization that NEED to be desperate for God should exist!? In our sin nature we have been deceived into thinking that a “good Christian” is someone who has it all together instead of someone who is daily crying out in need for God to save them from themselves.

I have learned lately that I am an extremely selfish person. I will probably be learning this more and more as I get older, lasting until the day I die. This has manifested itself in the relationships I have with friends, as well as my marriage. The Lord is making me desperate for Him to choke out my fleshly, selfish desires, and put my wife’s/others interests before mine. That is, after all, what I’m called to as a husband, and believer.

Some other questions that have crossed my mind in reference to this subject of being desperate for God:

Is my lack of desperation for Him, which we have seen can be translated to a lack of denying myself, and putting the interests of others before me, be hindering me from involvement in the growth of the kingdom? Ouch.

How many kingdom opportunities am I missing out on as a result of my lack of desperation for God, and my focus on self?

As Christians, when will we stop thinking it’s all about us, our walk with God, our time with God, our community, our church, our faith, our righteousness, our accountability, our sin, our forgiveness, etc. and start focusing on how those things can empower us to bring light/life to dark/dead places? (Take the focus off of ourselves, and our interests in order to redirect that energy to the focus on the interests of others)

Thanks for reading. I would enjoy, and greatly benefit from any insight you all have on these thoughts.