follow

Imagine being a part of the Jesus’ crew and the crazy roller coaster of emotions that had in the end. Jesus, their teacher, their friend, their Messiah had been present with them, then taken away, put on trial and nailed to a cross. Next thing they know…he is alive and standing in front of them. Resurrected. Alive. Whole. Then he sends them out as his witnesses to tell all of the stories they had in their story arsenal about what Jesus did on earth, while he is with the father until it is time to come back and make everything new.

It’s a lot to absorb, so what does Peter do?

“I’m going out to fish,” he tells his buddies in John 21:3 and then their response is, sure, why not, let’s go fish.

John 21 has been creeping up on me for several months, and I keep wondering at why Peter was driven to go fish in that moment. Jesus had proven himself resurrected! Alive! So Peter goes fishing?!?!

Was it a complete departure from what God was calling him to? Did he feel unworthy of that calling? Take a number, friend. We’ve all been there.

Was he in denial of the calling Jesus had placed on his life to be a witness to all He had done?

Was he still doubting his own belief? His faith?

Was it a desperate need to do something comfortable that he knew how to do without thinking? Did he just need to get away?

Did they need to raise some money before they went out? As a friend has suggested in the many conversations I’ve had surrounding John 21.

Peter had Jesus right in front of him…resurrected. He had the Holy Spirit breathed in him to wholeness. Jesus had SENT him out.

And then Jesus shows up again.

While the guys were fishing, Jesus shows up in true Jesus fashion telling them after an extraordinarily long night of fishing without catching a single fish to put the net on the right side of the boat. “When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” [John 21:6]

And then…then they recognize their Messiah.

After enjoying breakfast with each other, Jesus singles out Peter and starts quizzing him. Jesus ends up asking Peter three times if Peter loves him, and Peter seems to get more and more hurt as each time progresses. However, the statements that Jesus makes after each question are important.

“Feed my lambs.”

“Take care of my sheep.”

“Feed my sheep.”

“Follow me.”

Of course Peter loved Jesus, but Jesus also already knew that Peter loved him, which means we look at the statements Jesus gives Peter. Jesus was leaving, and he had been training and pouring into his disciples to take care of the flock after he left. Jesus knew life would get very hard for the flock of believers that followed him. He also knew his disciples were ready to care for them and continue to pour into them as Jesus had poured into the disciples.

Subsequently, Peter gets a specific instruction to follow Jesus. Many times we look at the verses that say, ‘Follow me’ and get all excited about how we are supposed to follow Jesus and use it as an anthem to bring others into the fold. But, friends, when we choose to follow Jesus, we don’t choose to follow him halfway and the path of Jesus leads straight to the cross where he was nailed. Jesus wasn’t giving a pep talk, ‘Hey bro, don’t forget to follow me when it gets really hard and the path it a bit too zig zaggy for you.’ No, Jesus was telling Peter, ‘Your path leads exactly where mine did. Are you ready for that? Because it’s coming, and you will die on a cross.’

It gives the order to ‘follow me’ a more intense meaning. Jesus was not joking around. Then to add to all of that, Peter gets a bit jealous that John is hounding in on his one-on-one time with Jesus:

“Peter turned and saw that the disciple that Jesus loved was following them. When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.’” [John21:20-22]

I think the part that God keeps hammering into my head is that we have a tendency to look at what God is doing in those around us and how they are being used by him. We all want that moment alone with him, without anyone else interfering in our conversation, but even in that moment, Peter questions what will happen to John. Jesus just told Peter that he will follow Jesus to his death, and Peter gets distracted by how John will be used.

Jesus tells him simply, “You must follow me.”

It’s not complicated. It is a bit terrifying. It is also very plain, no loop holes there, right?

Which leads us to examining ourselves…for most of us our world we live in is way beyond crucifixion in the literal sense, but what about the figurative sense? How plainly do we take the mandate to follow Jesus? Do we fight it? Do we go into denial? Do we simply claim we heard wrong and take a different path? Do we give up and decide it isn’t worth it? Does a someone who claims to be a believer hurt you and completely turn you away from Jesus?

We live in freedom to ask questions, but weigh it carefully against rebellion against God in how deeply you delve into getting answers. God doesn’t owe us answers, and demanding them makes us rebellious against his sovereignty. He deserves our faith. He deserves our love. He deserves our lives lived out for his Gospel to push forward in this world.

In the end, what matters is that we chose to follow Jesus down the path he asks us to go for him.

“You must follow me.”

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poor

Poor.

Perspective.

These two words cannot ever be too far from each other when judging the economy of a country or culture. Emphasis on the word ‘judging.’

Disclaimer: these opinions have nothing to do with actual numbers. I suck at numbers and honestly do not understand them.

However, in the states, I think we too quickly jump to harsh conclusions about poverty. The poor are in your neighborhood, and they are outside of the borders of your country. Frankly, you have no idea what the poor look like at all. Poor is also relative to a lot of things, most of which being the perspective of where you grew up and the cultural misgivings you may have based on location and economy of that location.

“They don’t have stuffed animals! We must get some in the next container going to [insert majority world country here].”

“They still have a flip phone?!?! They must not have enough money for [iPhone or Glaxay latest models fit here].”

“They eat beans and rice all of the time, because they can’t afford anything else. We should send down some [insert American processed food item here].”

“This house we are building in [insert majority world country here] is not the best way and it has to have indoor plumbing, we should [insert American idea of building here].”

“This school is not being run effectively and it should be torn down and rebuilt. How can kids learn in this environment? We should [insert American idea of what school should be here].”

“The kids are not wearing shoes! How can they not have shoes?”

What each of these lacks is perspective on who and how people are poor in this world. Should every person in the world have a basic human right to clean water, clothes, housing, education, food, medical care and employment? Absolutely. However, the version we commonly convince ourselves of in the states has a different perspective on how each of those seven elements are addressed.

A culture with families that put food, education and housing ahead of toys for their children for hundreds of years does not make them poor. Truly, having toys that are going to mold and be continually dirty in their living environment is not realistic, and it most certainly does not make a parent bad at being a parent, quite the opposite. As well as, in Haiti their children love to play outdoors and have killer soccer skills. Seriously, these kids are soccer ninjas. We need to also consider what gifting a toy to a child looks like from the perspective of a parent in the majority world. Is it worth it to take away their dignity by providing something to their child that they have not provided or have lived without? With perspective we start seeing the incredible value in making the parent a hero in the mind of the child, not the visiting American who is only present for a small amount of time.

In the states, we consistently have different choices of food. I run up against issues with this living in Haiti. I crave Chinese and Mexican food ALL the time, and that is WITH having an ‘American staff’ menu when teams are not here. It does not make someone poor because they like eating rice and beans, or spaghetti for breakfast. It we apply a bit of perspective, we might actually ask the residents of that country if they would eat anything else if it was available. If they are anything like the Haitians I hang out with, they really DO love rice and beans…ALL the time.

In regards to housing, we can easily judge poverty by how a culture lives. I once heard a story of a group that wanted to provide better housing, so they raised the money and built an entire community of homes. There was a lot of pride put into that accomplished endeavor. A couple of years later, they came back and found that the community was basically using the homes as barns for their animals. They had placed the front door facing the wrong direction, and their culture believes that a door should be facing a certain direction for good karma. Perspective on the poor can be made clearer when asking genuine, truth seeking questions and actually listening. Living in a mud hut doesn’t make you poor when the entire culture lives in mud huts…it actually makes it normal in their perspective.

And while we have a constant need for more shoes to fulfill requests from our pastors, the kids have shoes; they just don’t like wearing them all the time to the point that some of the boys like playing soccer barefoot. Sometimes we place judgments on cursory surface observations without asking questions, when we do ask those questions and dig a bit deeper we find that a judgment on their poverty based on what we physically see may be a bit off.

“Jesus was at Bethany, a guest of Simon the Leper. While he was eating dinner, a woman came up carrying a bottle of very expensive perfume. Opening the bottle, she poured it on his head. Some of the guests became furious among themselves. ‘That’s criminal! A sheer waste! This perfume could have been sold for well over a year’s wages and handed out to the poor.’ They swelled up in anger, nearly bursting with indignation over her. But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone. Why are you giving her a hard time? She has just done something wonderfully significant for me. You will have the poor with you every day for the rest of your lives. Whenever you feel like it, you can do something for them…’” [Mark 14:3-8 MSG]

In Haiti, a lot of visitors easily see the surface as ‘poor.’ Does Haiti have a lot of poor? Yes. But. Haiti has a lot of issues that pour into that and fixing one aspect of their poverty does not fix all aspects, and in some cases makes another aspect even worse. Based on American ideals, consider that the person who gets labeled as poor on the street does not have that opinion about themselves, but does know of someone who is worse off. There have been a lot of countries, organizations and people trying to ‘help’ Haiti’s poor for decade after decade. Of course, all done in their ideals and perspectives of what poor is and what is a basic human right. A basic human right does not include putting air conditioning in orphanages and making sure the lawn is the ideal perfection of green. In trying to help, many refuse to look at the perspective of the indigenous people, and most completely toss out letting them be empowered to make those decisions based on their own culture.

Many times I’ve wondered if no majority world citizen ever saw what the states physically looked like, would they still think it was the promised land? We know it’s not, but they’ve been made to think it is. I’ve gotten into this debate with many Haitians. Instead, would they be more content at seeing transformation in their own country?

Obviously, today’s word struck a chord with me. Many may brush it off as, ‘She is the crazy one who chooses to live in Haiti.’ Yes, yes I am. And I LOVE it. The world tries to solve the monetary problem of the poor, but what if the real problem isn’t monetary? Money will always be mismanaged, corrupt and lost in majority world countries. Money is not going to fix poverty. Donating enough rice to put rice growers out of business will also not fix poverty. Not seeing where relief ends and sustainability begins will perpetuate the expectation that everything should be provided, and that definitely does not fix poverty.

Jesus himself says the poor will always be among us and we can work ourselves into the ground trying to fix it, but when the core problem is sin of all kinds on both sides we have a responsibility to see each others’ perspective through a cultural lens and point out value in each other’s cultures. Well, I suppose that even depends on perspective, but I hope you hear a piece of God’s heart within these words as well because reconciling with God and allowing that to transform you will work towards the Kingdom God is building here. And friends, in that kingdom…poverty of all kinds is eradicated.

near

I am a huge lover of movies. I will watch anything except horror flicks, and I definitely do not enjoy all chick flicks. Some are just ridiculous. My favorites are action and comedy genres. The more action the better and more laughs are the best.

Every now and then in the movies there is a ‘Hollywood typical homeless man’ on the street corner yelling out scripture with a doomsday megaphone and holding a sign that says, ‘The Kingdom of God is near.’ I think we all collectively roll our eyes when we see this, because we know there is a disconnect between the message and the way in which it is delivered. Also, not discrediting the prophets from history, but prophets need to have an awareness and place within the culture to be able to accurately deliver the message to the culture they are calling out. Unfortunately, a random dude on a street corner doesn’t exactly qualify. It’s not the first or last time the stories of Jesus will get muddled in Hollywood.

“After John was put into prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!’” [Mark 1:14-15]

Jesus’ messages about the kingdom of God do get a bit intense, but we have to remember that those messages also coincide with GOOD NEWS: belief, transformation, love, grace, working towards that kingdom being restored and renewed.

We get so caught up in what is right and wrong, and how to obey socially unspoken rules in how to act as a believer within this culture that we forget what Jesus said.

“But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’” [Luke 18:16-17]

There is an innocence in little children, and there is a way that they accept truth when it comes from people they trust. And that doesn’t even take into account the easy faith they have when it comes to Jesus. Why is it so easy for children to believe? What happens as we get older to take that quality out of our lives?

What I do know is that proclaiming the message of good news is not something to be preached from a street corner and be taken seriously. Proclaiming that message is earned through genuine, honest relationships that are built over time and it brings in an element of the message coming from someone you trust. People ask questions when your life looks different, and that makes it the easiest proclamation you will ever make when someone asks why you do the things you do.

“Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” [Luke 17:20-21]

What does Holy Spirit transformation look like within you? Is it reflected in your actions? When people make observations about you, what do they say? Do they see God?

What I love about the kingdom of God is that it isn’t a physical place…yet, and we get to place our hope in the restoration of this world, as well as work toward it with how we live our lives. And that is a message that is easy to proclaim when we are faced with corruption in government, murders, racism, death, sickness, war and everything that breaks God’s heart in this world. Eventually, all of those things will be erased and God’s love wins. Maybe someone should yell that from a street corner…God’s love wins, friends!

path

Twisty turny, topsy turvy…if you were someone who didn’t know me and took a birds eye view of my life this crazy pattern is kind of the life path you would see.

My life doesn’t make sense to anyone who chooses to live outside of God’s Kingdom, plus a few folks who are within it, I’m sure. It does seem random. It does seem like there is no direction. And it really doesn’t not live up to the societal standards of the States. By a considerably long distance, actually.

But here’s the thing…I don’t give a shit what others think my life looks like. It’s not their choices. It’s not their path.

This path is mine, it was given to me from the Lord, and I alone own it.

I know the voice of the Holy Spirit. I know the choices I make. I know that I am happiest and have the most purpose while living within my calling and walking with God. I know the feeling of being lost, the pain and frustration of being off that path, and truly, it’s not worth it.

I hate the time and patience it takes to hear next steps on that path. Honestly, I do not sit well or contently in that time. But I don’t give orders and demands to God. Quite the opposite really. I serve him, not visa versa.

I am sitting in that place of impatience now. Knowing that I am working for an organization that I desperately love and fit within better than any other employer I’ve had in my life. I’ve never worked for anyone where my distinct calling in life perfectly matches to who an organization is at its’ core. Spirit led, Bible based, Jesus loving, Kingdom crazy people who all speak the same language God has put within me. There are not many believers called to Kingdom work within the global orphan window that find themselves working for an organization solely focused on global orphan care and prevention. I mean, really?

But my sense is that there is a time frame I am supposed to be in Haiti, but at the same time a sense I will be back, and I find myself praying intensely for clarity. Clarity on time frame. Clarity on the voice of the Holy Spirit. Clarity on discernment. Clarity that the next step I take on this crazy life path is the one I am called to take.

And let these words that I’ve prayed in the presence of God be always right there before him, day and night, so that he’ll do what is right for me, to guarantee justice for his people Israel day after day after day. Then all the people on earth will know God is the true God; there is no other God. And you, your lives must be totally obedient to God, our personal God, following the life path he has cleared, alert and attentive to everything he has made plain this day.” [1 Kings 8:59-61 MSG]
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Several years ago, one of my very best friends from college and I were hiking in Utah. We’d carefully chosen this path, and we’re digging in to accomplish it no matter what. Her patience and friendship that day were second to none, as she journeyed with a friend with newly discovered altitude issues. We were coming up the end of the path, victory of summit within or grasp and the final gasps of air filling my lungs when we realized it was a false summit. We weren’t done yet, but it was only going to get better. It was going to take anther intense push to get to the summit, and I seriously considered calling it quits, but had I really stayed there I never would have experienced the best God had for us of his beautiful creation at the top.

I feel like my life has been a perpetual ascension of false summits. Points that I find myself sitting as a placed believer not sure how it could possible get better, but what comes after continually puts me in places where I never dreamed my life could be. I feel as though I’ve come to another false summit, and I’m just not sure where God is taking the path. I can only see so far ahead, and it really looks like this is as spectacular as it could possibly get. However, the God I follow is crazy creative and very intentional at where we are placed for him. IMG_3635

What I do know is that living exactly within your God given calling is the most secure place to be in this world.

My life path is sticking as close to his path for me as I, in all my human junk, can discern, and I cannot wait to see where the next summit will be

 

joy

They have no clue what they were in for…this is what I think every time I read Luke 10. Jesus is sending out his guys, and he is giving them a myriad of marching orders. Do this. Don’t take that. Peace. Kingdom of God. And don’t forget to shake the dust off your feet if they don’t welcome you…wait. What?!?!

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’
[Luke 10:1-11]

Imagine the challenges these guys faced. Dirt, and lots of it. Stay with folks you don’t know. Don’t take anything with you. Sent out as lambs amongst wolves…that’s pretty intimidating. And all to spread the message the Kingdom is here, and if they were not welcomed they were to shake the dust from their feet and move on.

I think of all the challenges folks have when they are taken out of their comfort zone and how they adapt to them in those intense Kingdom moments. It’s hard stuff.

But the key here is how the guys returned…

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” [Luke 10:17]

With joy, friends. They returned with joy.

That is the difference between setting out on your own and being sent out by Jesus. That is the difference between being called to an endeavor and making choices on your own without leaning into the Holy Spirit.

They were energized. They were inspired. They had gone out into the harvest and seen the fruit of their labors. They used the name of Jesus, empowered by Jesus himself. They trusted the One who knows. Their faith was insane. The road was hard. Their comforts were few. They took nothing from home with them. No toothbrush. No air mattress. And certainly no food from home so they could eat what was familiar.

And they returned with JOY.

Friends, the Kingdom of God is joy. It is extreme faith. It is risk. It is promise. It is adventure. It is the sweet spot where who God has created you to be merges with the gifts and experiences he has given you. And it is, oh, so beautiful for those with eyes to see it and work toward it. And that joy is evident on every face that catches a glimpse.

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Side note: I have some really spectacular friends who are blogging one word a day with me through Lent. However, since I am posting from an iPhone in Haiti…it’s rather hard to link their fabulous blogs. Please check out Shawn Franssens, Lindsay Evans, Heather Kostelnick and Brian Swanson’s blogs if you get a chance. It is really interesting reading to see how each of us feels led to share about each word!

church

Where I live, wheelbarrows have many uses. As general transportation, gravel mover, nap location, boom box blast station and storefront…among other uses I am sure I am not aware of in Haiti. The point is that it is still the same object, a wheelbarrow. But the creativity, sometimes out of lack of anything else, of what it can be used for is insanely broad.

A wheelbarrow is so specific in the States and we have a very narrow view of a wheelbarrow’s function. There are so many ways that the wheelbarrow could be used, but we limit it to what it has always done instead of thinking outside the box and letting our God given creativity loose.

The American church has become just as limited, wasted in some aspects, and it is wearing people out on ‘doing’ church. Creativity is stifled. Holy Spirit inspired vision is suffocated. Passion is told to simmer down, it’s too much. Don’t even try using the ‘D’ word, discipleship…it takes too much time, but could be a great hobby for some people. Calling has become something you ‘should’ follow, but support of the church community in that calling is nowhere to be found. Well, that’s also assuming community is genuine and present among believers within a church. Come Sunday morning, worship isn’t what you really want, and whoever is preaching is not the person you hoped it would be. Trust me, I’m just as guilty here, too, all reasons I justify ‘righteously.’ For those with families it’s a struggle to get there, and then your kids don’t want to go to Sunday school. Everyone in the family was grumpy. Your kid wants to wear the superman socks where the cape floats off the back of their calf, and you would be mortified if anyone saw them. Or worse *gasp* the only thing your family wants to wear to church is jeans and a t-shirt.

People are burnt out on ‘doing’ church and the expectations it brings. It’s exhausting, and ultimately those distractions take away from the Church. Notice the caps. Not the building you show up at on Sundays and Wednesdays, or any other day of the week, but rather, the Church. I will confess to being jaded by local church. Working every Sunday, morning AND night, will do that to you eventually. Walking a thin line between it being a job and pouring into the church as a believer is hard, especially when you are passionate about discipling others into God’s calling on their life and being involved in student ministry, which both happen 24 hours a day. Politics within a church building will cut you, and damnit, it hurts. Not being wanted for who God has called and created you to be will also make you jaded. Desperate love for God’s Kingdom, Holy Spirit leading and living a sent life is ingrained in me in a very deep way, but local church can be very fickle when it comes to those three aspects of the Gospel.

However, within this confession has to be a joyful proclamation, full of God’s glory, that I am in love, absolutely infatuated and intensely in love with the global Church.

I see faith. I see hope. I see sacrifice. I see strength. I see loyalty. I see community. I see people fighting for justice. I see disciple makers. I see risk-takers. I see a deep reliance on the Holy Spirit. I see people sensitive to God’s heart. I see a reckless abandon in prayer as they connect with their Father. I see a thirst for God’s word to speak. I see a desperate desire to preach the Gospel. I see Pastors come alive as they lead their congregation into areas that are heavy in the chains of evil to drawn people into the freedom of Kingdom life. I see dependency on God in everything.

“Missio Dei, as I understand it, is that God is reaching out to the world, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Although God could have used other methods to proclaim the message of salvation to the world, He chose to use the church. God needs the church as instrument of mission, not because He is incapable of reaching the people in other ways, but because He chose to use the church. And for this reason, the church is not unnecessary in mission. The church is a vital part of God’s plan to reach the world. And where the church refuses to take up this task, God’s work is being hindered. And this is quite a frightening thought!” [Taken from ‘Missio Dei, the Role of the Church’ by Arnau van Wyngaard]

American church, it is time to take a real good look in the mirror, because even though it is not a competition, when it comes to reaching out to the world through investing in relationships and community, the global Church is kicking your ass. And at the moment I am really glad they are, because your version of church is diluted and fractured.

For those offended by that statement, I would encourage you to pray. I know many believers and leaders of churches that are not in the majority of the statements I am about to make, and I am encouraged and inspired by you, but there are many more that need some real self-examination through discernment and prayer.

It is time the local church stopped with the asinine arguments and pointing fingers because they feel blame needs to land on one person. Set differences aside and figure out a way to move forward as one church body. Ironically, in Chinese culture, blame is shared by the whole community. It never rests on one individual…just a random thought.

It is time the local church embraced God’s creativity in how the Gospel is put forward into the world. A million programs and running church like a corporation is killing you. Jesus met people on a personal level, why aren’t you? Jesus sent out the disciples, and never once did they have the same experience in a city, with a family or on the road. Led by the Spirit Jesus breathed on them, they took the stories they had witnessed out from their home base. And when they returned, their stories invigorated the other believers and continued to draw others to life with Jesus.

Your people are worn out from this world and its’ death, sadness, sickness and fighting. But, you see, it’s not this world they are fighting for…more for the one that is to come. Fully restored, renewed and reclaimed by God. That’s what the Truth draws us to in Jesus. It’s time to inspire them beyond this pathetic, sad world and motivate them to fight for the real Gospel, and point to the new Kingdom to come.

It is time the local church removed the glue from pews and started pushing people out of the building and into the life of the city and neighborhoods. Be radical. Cancel church on a Sunday morning to be OUT and WITH people, but disciple your people to be real, not fake. And while I’m on a roll, quit perpetuating the idea that people with kids are exempt from living out the Gospel simply because they are ‘busy’ with kids. That’s a bunch of bullshit. I know plenty of families that are teaching their kids to live a Gospel life by actually living for God’s Kingdom while they are raising them and bringing them along. Confront fears they have of being ‘outside’ the church walls and among people, and don’t make it a check list of things they need to do. Lead them to live their Gospel led lives everywhere God places them. There is zero reason to make believers feel guilty for missing youth group when they are at baseball practice to pull others into God’s Kingdom by being present in the relationships he places around them. Be a support system, but ax programs that teach them their place is only within the building. It’s not there. Jesus didn’t actually build church buildings, he preached on hillsides, in homes and in synagogues that were already built then toppled a few tables because of the disrespect he saw within the building. Hold believers accountable to acting in love, and not judgment, within their relationships. The world needs no more ‘righteous’ people, it needs confessed sinners who are transformed through Christ’s love and grace ready to tell their story to draw others to their own transformation with Jesus.

It’s time the local church stopped seeing boundaries between each other and embraced a Kingdom community of believers who are led to transform this world together, not individually. And I’m not talking about a once a year retreat ya’ll combine on to save money. I’m talking about every day. Take a big risk and choose to be Church as one community together under the peace and direction of Christ as the perfect Cornerstone. Our foundation as believers is so much deeper than we tend to grasp. There is a long lineage that has gone before us. When we are truly built with Christ as the starting point of the foundation, crazy Kingdom things happen that are absolutely unexplainable and 100% of God. Wouldn’t it completely fulfill Christ’s call to the Church if we all advanced his Gospel forward as one body, with all of our quirks and callings embraced? What if our community so radically loved each other that people were actually attracted to God’s love among us?

I know there are church leaders who would prefer to debate this point by dreary point, but the reality is I’m not an expert and I’m honestly exhausted by the debating. I’m just one believer trying to discern what God has for me, my community and words he wants shared. Has anyone ever considered that the endless arguing by believers is actually being used by the forces fighting against us to distract from the real mission we’ve been given? We need to find common ground, and that common ground is Jesus. I am inspired by the believers I meet in the majority world, and I am inspired by believers within the American church. But as a whole, we have a lot of praying to do for the American church and for me I generally start with get them off their asses and into their communities.

Clarity comes when you are removed from unhealthy environments, and thankfully for me, it enhances the flow of my creativity and I find myself more in tune with Kingdom perspective while I am side-by-side with the global Church. For instance, in a place with a plethora of uses for a wheelbarrow…I think I will get one to use as a shelf for books. It’s got so many uses, it’s just seeing through the right creative lens for how it will be used this time, but it has a use.

jesus

‘Who do you say I am?’

Jesus asked his disciples this in Matthew 16:15, and since it came on my radar last weekend I cannot get it to stop playing on a loop in my head. Jesus asked the disciples in Matthew 16:13, ‘Who do people say the son of man is?’ and they go on to list what everyone else is saying about Jesus. Then Jesus turns it back on them and makes it a bit more personal.

‘But what about you?’ Jesus asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’

Peter immediately answers, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’

There is so much in that simple statement. Fulfillment of prophecy, the Trinity…hope…life…

When the disciples were left on their own to propel the stories of Jesus out from that place, there was a moment when they were faced with the decision of being who God has created them to be and fully accept who Jesus is, or turn the opposite direction and forfeit life in God’s Kingdom and the eternal life promised.

When we choose to pursue life in God’s Kingdom, we find ourselves in unique positions to answer Jesus’ question to the disciples.

‘Who do you say I am?’

This question has been annoyingly consistent at running on a loop in my head, I even challenged my community to mull it over…you know, just so I’m not annoyed alone. I hate doing things alone, which is why I love community so much.

Jesus is community. He gathered a group of friends, walked through life with them and drew people in with genuine kindness and never treated someone differently based on the wrongs they had done in their life. He calls us to the same…to gather and walk through life with a group of friends in such an authentic way that others are drawn to what they see in the community God has given us. We gather to be honest, loyal, supportive, faithful and actually, to completely call each other out on our shit when we need it. And for the moments when that happens in a setting of genuine community and relationship under the model Jesus laid out in Matthew 18:15-20, then we are able to work through that together as believers should when their community is built on the perfect Cornerstone, Jesus himself. Life with Jesus is 100% inclusive and 0% exclusive, I realize that is redundant, but more people need to live their life with the 0% exclusive mandate. We do not judge sin. We do not judge the level of belief a person professes. If we are not a visible image of who Jesus is, then how is anyone being drawn to the intimacy of his Kingdom? When we present ourselves as judgmental, exclusive, rule-driven, hateful and disloyal to each other…that is NOT the image of Christ.

Jesus is love. Unstoppable love to be more accurate. Unrelenting. Pursuing. Intimate love. Personal to who you are. His love will never leave, and you could never do anything to make his love separate from you. His love will never force guilt on you in order to be worthy of it. It is never dependent on how much good you do. It flows out of him like a colander. You could never plug all of the holes quick enough to make it stop flowing. Even in your anger and you don’t want Jesus or his love anymore, he doesn’t stop it from pouring over you. His love is perfect, and actually drives out fear. His love covers me constantly, and is at times so tangible that I am overwhelmed at my true unworthiness at receiving it. But I am so grateful for those moments and intimate reminders that I belong to him. He chose me.

Jesus is healer. I think it is hard to recognize Jesus’ healing without having experienced it firsthand. That incredible miracle of healing on body, mind, and soul…healing on every aspect of who we are as humans is so supernatural it is completely incomprehensible. It’s not just the incredible miracles that we read in the Bible, but how individualized it is to us as his daughter or son. Chipping away at protective walls we spent a lot of time fortifying, yet so tender, because he wants to use us through the walls we’ve built.

Jesus is peace. He is the peace. Your peace. My peace. Complete peace. It takes on so many different meanings in scripture. In 2 Chronicles 14 is means to be at rest and free from conflict. In Ephesians 2:14, more like tranquility, harmony and reconciling relationships. The most important part is that Jesus says he left his peace with YOU in John 14:27. Jesus knew he wasn’t bringing physical peace to this world, but he did know his peace would be left with those in this world.

Jesus is Savior. God born in flesh to sacrifice himself for the nasty shit we sink ourselves into on a daily basis. No need to point fingers…unless you are more than ready to have some pointed in your own direction. Jesus was the ONLY perfect human, and the faster we accept and honor that with our lives, the less pressure you put on yourself to be perfect. You are not responsible for 50 conversions this week…you aren’t even responsible for one. And if you happen to be present for a life transformation moment, you most certainly do not get the glory, it all goes to him. The small group that you are part of doesn’t need the perfect image you want to put up as a façade. They want the real you. The one who is just as much of an asshole as the people you are gathering with. Your façade of perfection just makes them feel like more of an asshole, and they don’t need that pressure if they are already admitting faults. You will screw up, and it is ok. Jesus wasn’t selective when he took on the sin of the world. He took it all. Every last bit, but you have to stop trying to keep some of your sin to yourself. When you hold back, that’s on you, not him. He wants your transformation and growth to reflect his sacrifice.

Jesus is present in Spirit. Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on the disciples in John 20:22, and they were blessed with the physical presence of that moment. However, ALL believers have access to the Holy Spirit. In Romans 5:5 is says that God’s love has been poured on us through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Jesus said he would send a comforter, a guide, helper, counselor, advocate, truth…and Holy Spirit is all of those things. It is not something to be afraid of, and definitely not something to ignore, because it is a piece of how Jesus is still active and present with us now. This piece of Jesus is like home for me. It’s the gift of grace that guides my decision making, sends me out and gives me words for those that Jesus needs to speak into. It is my connection to Jesus that is most substantial at times.

Jesus is sender. Some of his last words to his disciples were that the Holy Spirit would come on them and they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Jude and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Ironically, those church pews that tend to be pretty sticky and very comfortable for most believers were never a part of the sending plan. He was adamant that his people would be scattered and that they were sent out. It wasn’t a byproduct of a plan, it was THE plan. If you have never read the sent language of the Bible, dust off that Bible and get to it…start in John.

Jesus is empowerment. He left his disciples to propel his message forward, and calls every single person who believes in him to do the same to make the kingdom of God attractive to others so people would be drawn to God’s heart and grace. He didn’t tell the disciples, “Guys, hold down the fort and I’ll do it all when I get back.” Instead it was the freedom of, “Friends, you have a lot of work to do. Go out. Tell my stories. Be my love. Always point back to who I am.”

Jesus is a rebel. His presence as a baby incited Herod to kill all of the boys age 2 and under in and around Bethlehem. He pissed off the Pharisees. He said he would cause divisions in families when only part of a family chose to follow him. He tossed the tables in the temple when he saw the blasphemy that was occurring there. He hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers and all of the people that fell into the forgotten and despised part of society. Honestly, how popular would be in our world as that rebel? But it is who he is, friends.

Jesus is a storyteller. He was a master at it, actually, but also, a master at confusing people with parables. But the bottom line is he told stories that pointed to God’s kingdom and made people struggle with what that meant. He didn’t give all the answers, but he pointed in the right direction.

Jesus is victory…and hope. As believers we do not fight, pray or exist in this world for God’s victory. He’s already won. We fight WITH his victory, and that victory has us put our hope in a world that is fully renewed, restored and reconciled to God. At least, that’s the victory I am fighting with in this shitty, sinful world that rips people apart instead of draws them together. The enemy’s goal is to separate us, because we are worthless apart from Jesus and separated from each other. Our true strength is in being unified under the peace of Christ and fighting as one body.

Realistically, who Jesus is could go on for eternity…and really does. But, for where I am and who God has created me to be, this is who Jesus is for me.

It is our responsibility as a body of believers able to answer who Jesus is to a world that is desperately seeking his truth and unconditional love. How is he real? How is he present? How have I been transformed by him? Why did I choose him? How does my life look different? Where does my joy in a hurting world come from? Where does my story merge with his story?

If you cannot readily answer those simple questions, then you are not telling Kingdom stories when the opportunities arise to draw people to God’s heart and you are not pointing to the one who is Truth with your life. Gauntlet thrown.