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a good bit wiser

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A recent conversation with my pre-teen daughter about the latest happenings in her world at her new school where she is seeking to live as salt and light led to some healthy thinking and great conversation. (I really love talking with this kid and am thankful that I get to be her daddy.) Anyway, the conversation is an important part of what it means to live on mission.

In the gospels we see numerous times where the religious leaders came to trap Jesus with their sophistry. Following these encounters, the questioners would be silenced, red-faced, apoplectic. On the other hand, we see genuine questioners coming to Christ that were deeply impacted and changed or struggled with the answers he gave. Each encounter makes clear that he was the wise one. He seems to be thinking, speaking and seeing things on a higher plane. So, if we are sent as he was sent then….

The same goes for peace-making. Jesus didn’t make a let’s pretend to be nice ignoring the elephant in the room peace, but more often a reconciliation of relationships that were completely severed with no hope of making things right. For example, there was no way that Mary and Martha were going to have another minute with Lazarus on this earth until Jesus went and changed all that. If that’s a bit too extreme then how about the prostitute at the well that Christ restored to a healthy standing in her community. So, if Jesus was a peacemaker and we are sent as he was sent then….

We have such a privilege and I believe it is fair to even say a huge advantage in interacting with others. We are sent as the wise ones, the peace-makers. We go out from our homes into our community, the places where we connect, our workplace and our schools with our eyes wide open. There is a purpose behind who we are, a mission that propels us forward. We meet and relate to our neighbors to bless them. When they are kind to us, we in turn honor them. If they curse us, we in turn bless them. If they hate us it is OK because we have enough love for both of us. When they want to speak only of mundane or immoral things, we have the privilege of elevating our interactions to things that matter and are lasting.

Categories : discipleship, missiology
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once upon a time

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Lately I have been seeing and hearing some amazing stories that are so impacting less because of what is in the story but more of what is not. These are stories of giving–it seems it just actually may be better to give than to receive. These stories are about emptying one’s self of what was of value, at least it was of value once upon a time. You know the time when the fairy tales seemed better than the real story ever could be. Back when heroes were dreamed of more than walked with.

You know the story of the house with the white picket fence that was where a family could grow up and close together. This safe place would be where kids learned to be a blessing and the parents would be blessed. Where the kids would learn to play football and soccer and the piano too. And where the kids of the neighborhood could go to be safe when away from their own white picket fence trimmed world. Ultimately it was a place for people that looked like, thought like, behaved like, worshipped like and even earned as well as spent like us. This utopia may have been called a community with shared values, but that was code for a whole lot more expectations than we could ever say in a politically correct environment. This is where we wanted to establish the roots of our lives as well as those that would come in our future generations.

Now I continue to come across those that are trading in this American dream for one of uncertainty. Often the life plan can be seen only months out or maybe a year or two where a person knows that for the here and now, this is how and where God is directing. With this move to a new place in life, safety may be a little less than what one felt before. Language, culture and worldview may be a world away from what once was shared. Square footage may be divided by a factor rather than subtracted by a digit. It’s different, but when it’s part of the calling to make disciples, it’s freeing. It’s the only way to live and move and adopt a nomadic faithfulness. This is essential for those that are listening for the voice that would speak in our ear saying “this is the way, walk in it.”

Another story that is up for revision as some are living it out today is the family name. There has been great concern over the centuries for the family name to be upheld. More than a few kingdoms have been rocked by the need for lineage that would carry on the patronymic. Also, more than a few dad’s hearts have been broken by children that did not uphold the integrity of the family name. But there are some that upon hearing a call to the nations have to go and Google their name to see what is publicly available on the inter-webs about their life. Seeing that they are clearly identified in a way that would not be acceptable to the government and / or people of the place where they are moving, they take legal action. They change their name so that they can live among those who are open to the truth and love of Christ, but are not able to accept some of the cultural trappings that we have used to self-identify.

These areas of abandon are just a glimpse of the One who emptied Himself. Ultimately, His tale is the one that is the creative genius of all the once upon a time fables, but His mission is also the beautiful calling for the heroes that are living it out today.

Categories : missiology
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Since my time on the recent JetSet with Upstream, I have been reflecting on a number of things. One of those key things is the reign of God (a key theme of the second half of Isaiah) and the ways in which that is demonstrated. Frost shared three ways according to Wright in which the reign of God is visible here on earth and added a fourth. The four were:

  1. Frost facilitating discussion during a group session on '11 JetSet to Central EuropeThe presence of justice
  2. Reconciled relationships
  3. Beauty
  4. Presence of the supernatural

Now what? Because the gospel is Christ-centered, I have been working through the gospels over the last weeks with these four evidences of the reign of God here on earth as a filter. I have been asking the question where did Jesus effect justice; restore relationships; create or call attention to beauty; and/or display the presence of the supernatural?

A reflective exercise, this is something I need to continue. First because it is vital for me. Really! It is the gospel in me. Second, because it is the clearer formulation for me to “be prepared to give the reason for the hope that [I] have” to the world around me. This is the living story that is changing my life. It is the dynamic story I need to tell well to others. It is the story that is written for all time and is unfolding today in my community.

Categories : Bible, story
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Following “my name is ____,” the very next sentence he shared was: “I am also a Christian on the edge.” Others shared, “I am on the fringe.” Still others did not even know how to describe their situation. I heard this repeatedly during our recent Upstream JetSet in Prague and Budapest. There was even concern that none of the “leaders” were at one of the Frost One Day events. What these on the edge were saying was that the leaders of the long-standing church were missing. We were gathered as the planters, the rebels, perhaps the misfits according to some.

Undoubtedly we worked with and took some fringe guys on the journey with us too. (And no, I am not trying to exclude myself from this group.) I heard multiple stories of metric discombobulation and concerns about missiology and ecclesiology and its outworkings. It is not uncommon for me to have conversations via various communication modes about this fringe issue–about us. But I’m not sure that makes it easier for those that are out there who feel alone and cut off.

Be encouraged, you are not alone. You have a leader. I don’t think it an accident that Christ’s first miracle recorded in the gospel of John was to turn water into wine using the ceremonial jars–all of them. Though His time had not yet come, He took the opportunity, while honoring His mama, to start conveying that things may not be as right as they seem in the religious realm. This was just the beginning of course. He still would be accused of being a drunkard and glutton. This accusation was believable by many as Jesus often spent time with those that were the unwashed eating and drinking in their homes. (e.g. Matthew, Zacchaeus, a band of Samaritans in John 4). Tragically ironic, it would be the religious leaders that crucified the Messiah who was so often on the edge.

Be encouraged, you are not alone. You have a tribe. There is a band across the globe of those that are seeking to walk as Jesus did whether that puts them in the mainstream or on the fringe. Partner with these around you and walk together. Continue to bless and encourage each other. Draw from each other’s passion, creativity, stories of triumph and stories of failure. Know that there are places and networks where these fringe are likely to gather. These networks are relationally based. Good luck climbing a social ladder here. This is about people walking together on mission in grace.

Being on the fringe is not about a fight to be won. There is not a position of leadership that needs to be sought and attained. Ours is to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling.” Ours is to “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ….” Ours is to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ours is to love deeply both the washed and the unwashed as we continue to experience the “breadth and length and height and depth” of His love.

Take courage. I am so thankful that you are who you are.

I hadn’t seen this clip in years, but it kept replaying in my mind. For some reason I heard Dreyfus’ voice when I typed the word “misfits.” Almost discarded the word, but thought it even better to include the clip here.

Categories : Bible, church, missiology
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ethnocentric gospel

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If God’s desire was only for a small, homogenous group to live in obedience to Him, the Old Testament would have been significantly different. For example, no mention or model would be found in Melchizedek. Neither Ruth nor Rahab would play a special role. The Ninevites would be left to their own devices and certain peril. Other altered stories would have included Balaam, Nebuchadnezzar and Darius.

ethnocentricIf His plan was for only a select number from one ethnolinguistic people group in one geographic area to walk in the transforming love of Christ, then the New Testament would be radically altered–even more so than the Old Testament. If God’s desire was not for the nations, then Jesus would have dismissed the woman at the well, the Syro-phoenician woman, the Roman centurion and the thief on the cross. He would not have pointed to a good Samaritan as the hero in the story. The day of Pentecost would not have included God-fearing Jews from every nation. Peter would have had to refuse the invitation of Cornelius. Philip would not have stepped into the chariot with the Egyptian official. Paul would not have written his letters to the churches, as none would be outside of Jerusalem. He never would have gone to the Philippian jailer’s home because he never would have traveled to Philippi as a missionary called and sent out by the church in Antioch. And the church in Antioch would have looked nothing like it did. Jesus would not have spoken to the seven churches in Asia Minor. There would be no record in Revelation of “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne and in front of the lamb” wearing white robes, worshipping God.

These stories and others similar in nature are still with us. They are recorded in the Bible. The reason for this is simple. These stories are key to the plan of God. Removing the above stories would cause the loss of some incredible tales–a huge fish swallowing a man, a talking donkey, a sheet coming out of heaven filled with animals of all kinds, potential jail breaks and so much more. But if these stories were to be removed, it would alter history and eternity forever. The story of redemption would be incomplete. Stories such as that of Rahab and Ruth are more than interesting. The love of God demonstrated to these two ladies from other nations is key to the genealogy of Christ. Following His birth, the Messiah is visited and worshipped by humble, pungent shepherds from nearby and by wealthy dignitaries from the East, possibly from modern day countries like Iraq, Iran or Jordan. Even in the Christmas story God makes clear that He sent Jesus for the entire range of the socioeconomic scale and for the nations. The vast, far-reaching plan of God begins to unfold both prior to and following the coming of the Savior.

(This is an excerpt from beyond myself and even our own city on the Reproducing Churches site.)

Categories : Bible, church, missiology
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God save the Queen!

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After helping host last week’s JetSet trip with The Upstream Collective, I had some additional meetings in Spain before returning back to London for a return flight home. With all of the conversations and things to do while in London last week, I never had a chance to break away and see Buckingham Palace. But today I took that opportunity on the way from the airport to the hotel. And….

Upon arriving there in the constant dreary rain, I walked past the front of Buckingham wanting to take pictures, but not wanting to ruin a SLR camera. Then I decided to come back to the entrance and try to snap a couple quick picks with the iPhone. That’s when the guards moved from inside the fence to the outside and began stopping all passers-by. Then just moments later, out rolled the Queen of England and Prince Philip.

Then I remembered that: He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. (Daniel 2:21)

Note: In the upcoming weeks I plan to spend more time debriefing some aspects of the trip and the conversation. I am still processing, and still trying to get back home. Some themes I am still thinking about and praying through include global cities, contextualization, presence vs. proclamation, working in a post-Christian context, etc.

Categories : Bible, story
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G2g: Professionalization

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Key principle #9 to move discipleship from great to good: Implement and promote the professionalization of discipleship.

It is both good and comforting to know that someone is responsible to ensure that the church is open at set times, that everything will be prepared for every meeting, that the worship service or outreach program will run smoothly. It is seemingly ideal if the person that will tend to these tasks is also seminary trained so that they will be qualified and able to pass out food to the hungry on behalf of the congregation and answer the complex questions of a child that is seeking to walk with Christ so a parent will not get tripped up.

Seeing how effective and eloquent professional ministers can be may lead lesser disciples bring the lost to the expert so that he can explain the love of God without error. Surely this is good. Surely he knows how to communicate with your co-workers, friends, and neighbors better than you do. Perhaps the shared community and history are irrelevant when sharing a contextualized gospel message.

As the son of a carpenter, Jesus would have been taught in this trade throughout his formative years. From the tribe of Judah, Jesus should have left the priestly activities to the Levites. But He didn’t. Neither personally or in tasking others. Jesus took a ragamuffin group of men that were completely untrained and unqualified except for having spent time with Him out to declare that “the Kingdom of God is near you.” Multiple times. And the results? They were great. Really great. Upon hearing of what God the Father did through the lives of these very normal disciples, Jesus said: “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure” (Luke 10:21).

In the early church, the use of regular, everyday people had great impact. Early in the book of Acts the religious leaders “saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men. The author of Acts continued to say that the religious leaders “took note that [Peter and John] had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13) “Being with Jesus” was the requisite, transforming qualification for one to be able to impact the lives of others for His glory. That was the requirement to lead. That was what it took to function in the realm of the great. In this regard, not much has changed.

(In the excerpts from my non-book, Great to Good (G2g), truth or satire may be employed. At times, the two may even meet.)

Categories : Bible, discipleship
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Psalm 96

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(Emphasis is mine.)

Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fileds be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forrest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth.

Categories : Bible, missiology
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Separate from the world?

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Author Michael Frost shares his view on the North American church’s use of resources and about a skewed theological framework about being “separate” from the world. This is the 7th video posted in this series.

Let me encourage you to register for email updates or add this site to your reader to learn about future videos and posts. Also, if you would like to view the previous Frost videos as well as other “favorite” videos that present ideas important to the church, you may visit or subscribe to the almost an M YouTube channel.

Categories : church, video
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The death of a Hero

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Slipping from this life earlier this year at 100 years of age, Miep Gies was truly a hero. Along with her husband and some friends, she had provided food for the Frank family and others as they hid from the German Gestapo above the Frank’s family business for two years. On the day that the authorities arrived to take away all eight people who had been in hiding, Gies was sitting at her desk in the Frank’s office. While this alone was sufficient to put her in great danger, she chose later to go to the Gestapo headquarters to try to purchase the prisoners’ release. She was unsuccessful in this attempt.

Miep Gies would not see Anne Frank again, but she was able to present her diary to Otto–Anne’s father upon his return from Auschwitz. She presented it to him on the occasion when he learned of his daughters’ deaths. She shared, “here is your daughter Anne’s legacy to you.” After the second printing, Gies finally was able to read the diary. She was not reading a story about someone’s life, she was reading about this little girl that she had known, identified with, and protected. (HT)

Gies was a hero for a some very basic reasons. She cared deeply. She acted courageously. Eloquent writing or speech would have done nothing to aid the Frank family in hiding for two years. But putting her life in danger on a daily basis to find, buy, and at times barter for food, she was a constant, faithful hero.

I am reminded of the heroes that are mentioned in Hebrews 11. Yes, several are named with brief accounts of their story shared. But for so, so many they are listed as the faithful–the heroes. Some of these were tortured; some “were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword…the world was not worthy of them.” These were people of action. Talking about being faithful was not enough. They lived it out daily through to the end.

May we be a generation of heroes….

Categories : Bible, story
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