The Insanity of God

Every Now and Then a Book comes Along that is Truly Inspirational.

These stories must be shared. I have long thought that America would face persecution only when American Christians begin to say that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. The persecution will not be physical but emotional and relational. This book reminded me of my longing to love Jesus, live with Jesus and tell others about Him. It seems to me the Church in America has forgotten this and replaced this goal of life with a gentler and more comfortable pursuit of community with other Christians. There is nothing wrong with this pursuit of community, it is actually wonderful but the community we long for comes from a shared mission of facing fears, overcoming comforts and throwing caution to the wind. I want everyone in my church to read this book- young and old, new Christian and older Christian alike.

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Quotable:

Suffering is one of God’s ordained means for the growth of his church. He brought salvation to the world through Christ, our suffering Savior, and he now spreads salvation in the world through Christians as suffering saints. In the words of Paul, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3: 12). Clearly, there is a sense in which the danger of our lives increases in proportion to the depth of our relationship with Christ (loc. 182 Kindle).

Serving God is not a matter of location, but a matter of obedience (p. 75).

If Jesus is not the answer to the human condition, there is no answer (p. 141).

“Don’t ever give up in freedom what we would never have given up in persecution! That is our witness to the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!” (p. 196).

“Do you know what prison is for us? It is how we get our theological education. Prison in China is for us like seminary is for training church leaders in your country” (p. 231). 

Before we can grasp the full meaning of the Resurrection, we first have to witness or experience crucifixion. If we spend our lives so afraid of suffering, so averse to sacrifice, that we avoid even the risk of persecution or crucifixion, then we might never discover the true wonder, joy and power of a resurrection faith. Ironically, avoiding suffering could be the very thing that prevents us from partnering deeply with the Risen Jesus (pp. 308-309).

The Insanity of God (Nashville: B&H Books, 2013)

Every now and then a book comes along that truly inspires.  The Insanity of God has truly inspired me and  challenged me.  I read it on my phone and my iPad with the Kindle app.  It is 384 pages but it read like a novel and I simply could not put it down.  Every Christian who is serious about living for God should take a look at this book.  The stories alone will be enough to refresh, re-ignite or continue to feed the fire in your heart.

I wasn’t sure what the content of the book would be from the Title.  You really can’t judge a book by the cover.  I do get the idea of playing off the idea of Insanity.  God is not insane in any way but it sure seems like it sometimes.  The Insanity of God is from our perspective not His.  He is fully in control, sitting on His throne and is not nervous about anything.

I am deeply concerned but hopeful with/for the North American Church.  There has never been a time when it was easy to identify oneself as a committed follower of Jesus.  All over the world, whenever a follower of Jesus makes Jesus out to be the same as God and the only way to salvation, there will be persecution.  If we simply leave Jesus be and receive all of the blessings of knowing Him the pain from being identified with Jesus can be averted.  But it is the crucified life that rejoices mostly with the power of resurrection and knowing Jesus personally.

Memorable Quotes Underlined:

Suffering is one of God’s ordained means for the growth of his church. He brought salvation to the world through Christ, our suffering Savior, and he now spreads salvation in the world through Christians as suffering saints. In the words of Paul, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3: 12). Clearly, there is a sense in which the danger of our lives increases in proportion to the depth of our relationship with Christ (loc. 182 Kindle).

Serving God is not a matter of location, but a matter of obedience (p. 75).

If Jesus is not the answer to the human condition, there is no answer (p. 141).

“Don’t ever give up in freedom what we would never have given up in persecution! That is our witness to the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!” (p. 196).

“Do you know what prison is for us? It is how we get our theological education. Prison in China is for us like seminary is for training church leaders in your country” (p. 231). 

Before we can grasp the full meaning of the Resurrection, we first have to witness or experience crucifixion. If we spend our lives so afraid of suffering, so averse to sacrifice, that we avoid even the risk of persecution or crucifixion, then we might never discover the true wonder, joy and power of a resurrection faith. Ironically, avoiding suffering could be the very thing that prevents us from partnering deeply with the Risen Jesus (pp. 308-309).

 

How Do You Enter an Empty Field?

How do you enter a NYC Park, a mall, or neighborhood?

What is an empty field?  There are empty fields all over this globe.  The largest concentration of empty fields are found in countries where there is no gospel witness at all, these stretch across North Africa and into Asia.  It is commonly called the 10-40 window; start at 10 degrees north latitude and go up to 40 degrees north latitude.  An empty field is defined as a field that does not have seed being sown in it.  Houston is hardly an empty field.  There are plenty of opportunities for someone to go to a church that shares the word of God if they want to.  However, if everyone in Houston, along the 290 corridor through the Cypress area, went to church on a given Sunday it would make up about 12% – 14% of the population.  Although it may not be able to be classified an empty field, there is still great need for gospel sowing.  Is there any insight into entering an empty field?

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Jesus tells us at least 4 ways in Luke 10:1-11:

  • Go 2×2-  There is power in accountability.  Two are better than one almost every time.  If one is struggling the other one is there to pick them up.  There are many who are convinced that reaching out like this requires actually going 2×2, that is, don’t go unless you can go with another person.  I am not convinced that Jesus requires this but will not diminish the blessing of 2×2.  I think it could be done 2×2 but I also believe there might be a sense of accountability that you know that the other person is living on mission simultaneously.  There is nothing more empowering than to know you have a partner in the outreach.  When we visit NYC, we go 2×2, that is mandatory.  But sometimes it is a logistical barrier to do this (i.e. work, neighborhoods, out to eat, etc.).  Question: Do you think it would empower you more or less to go 2×2?
  • Pray- Prayer is the Work of the ministry.  Jesus makes it clear to Ask the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers to the harvest field (Lk. 10:2).  Prayer is powerful because it forces us to stop and depend on God’s enabling, direction, empowerment, and mind.  Outreach is the last activity we want to do in our own strength.  It would be like having a brand new Ferrari that has not gas.  It looks nice in the driveway but a Volkswagen Beetle would be able to get you to work better.  Prayer is the power behind the work.  It is powerful. The power of prayer should not be underestimated.  James declares, “…The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops” (James 5:17-18).  God most definitely listens to prayers, answers prayers, and moves in response to prayers.

  • Go-  The Great Commission does not focus on going but on Making Disciples, however, we make disciples by going and not staying.  Discipleship will never happen if we stay.  In the Bible the word Go means Go.  It is the opposite of Stay.  It is the present tense of Went or Gone.  Just sitting around and not getting involved is like a group of firemen at a five alarm fire washing the truck instead of fighting the fire.  Paul says we have a spiritual resource of feet that are ready to share the gospel (Eph. 6:15).  Somehow, these beautiful feet of ours, have been given a compulsion, a readiness to share the gospel of peace.  It is a noun.  We have them.  Not to go is more work than going that is when one actually goes it seems like all is right in their world.  Make no mistake, GOING or NOT GOING is an act of obedience or disobedience.  Imagine a fully armed soldier. He has his sword, his shield, his helmet, his breastplate and his belt…but his feet are completely bare.  All of the other armor would be worthless without shoes. A shoeless soldier could run into real trouble in the heat of battle. Unless he is fighting on a well manicured battle field, he is going to encounter some rocks, sticks, and rough terrain that will compromise his ability to keep his footing.  In short, shoes allow us to step freely and without fear while we turn our full attention to the battle at hand.  Until we see living and reaching out for God as a battle, not against people, but against our own selves and powerful spiritual forces, we won’t quite know why to really pray or the true motivation for Going.
  • Look for the Person of Peace-  Who is this Person of Peace?  When we unlock the meaning behind the Person of Peace it will completely change the way we live on a mission of outreach with God.  Many have written on this lately.  In summary the Person of Peace is someone that receives you and you receive them.  One writer says, “They like you and you like them.”  Wow!  Here are some ways to consider who a Person of Peace is:  They Welcome and Receive You (they are really in the process of receiving the LORD that shines through you).  They Serve You.  You Intentionally Invest in them (the best idea here is pre-evangelism or showing they belong before they believe).  They are a Gatekeeper to a Network of other Relationships where the Gospel can Go.  Consider these questions in determining if a Person of Peace is around you right now.  Who are you called to love intentionally?  Who comes to mind in response to, “They like you and you like them”?  Who is your heart best shaped to reach for Jesus?  Who is already responding positively to you?  What is Jesus saying to you as you pray about this?

Sunday Reflections 7.12.2015

The Gathering, Life Group, Rock the Block, Equipped

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3.  His commands are not weighty, instead they are freedom.  Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commands” John 14:15.  Many see obedience like giving someone a piggy back ride, a burden and tiresome.  But where the spirit of the LORD is, there is freedom and the only burden we have in life is trying to do it on our terms.  Jesus never said life was going to be easy but he did offer to take our burdens (Matthew 11:30).

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The Gathering

Last night we answered the question, “How does a New Believer Grow?”  I stressed the importance of discipling for life transformation rather than filling heads with information.  There are so many that consider discipleship and maturity as the same as knowledge.  That is, the more one knows, the more mature they are or a stronger disciple they become.  That is simply a broken system.  Instead the Scriptures promote a doing over hearing strategy.  Further, it seems that it would be advantageous to the Kingdom of God to immediately put that kind of Ministry DNA in a new believer.

7 COMMANDS OF CHRIST

Repent, believe and receive the Holy Spirit (regeneration) (Mark 1:15; John 3:16; John 20:22)

Be baptized and live the life that it initiates (ongoing transformation) (Matt. 28:18-20; Rom. 6:1-14; Acts 10:48)

Pray (private and family devotions, intercession and rightly relating to God) (Matthew 6:9-13; John 16:24)

Love God, neighbor, believers, enemies (forgive) (Matt. 5:43-48; 22:36-40; John 13:34-35, Luke 10:25-37)

Make disciples (witness for Jesus, shepherd believers, teach the Word, train leaders, send missionaries) (Matt 28:18-20)

Break bread (The Lord’s Supper) (Matt. 26:26-28; John 4:24; Luke 22:19-20)

Give (stewardship of our time, treasure and talents) (Luke 6:38)

Here is an excerpt from George Patterson a retired church planter that shares the reason why he came up with the 7 Basic Commands of Christ.  Is this applicable in our setting today?  Is it good for follow up?  Hope this is encouraging, stimulating, and motivating.

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Keep praying for these.  They are the best way to meet neighbors and engage them in spiritual conversations.  I have always believed, if you take care of a person’s child, they will appreciate you.  We had several wonderful stories happen last week.  Our hope is to have some good conversations with the parents as well.  We will be asking them if they are interested in showing up at The Gathering or even our LIFE GROUP.  I will never forget the boy who said, “Has the Bible come yet?”  Oh that we would have that kind of hunger and pursuit of the word of God.

Life Groups

Sure hope your summer is going great.  Our Life Groups are hopefully starting to mesh well.  Let me encourage you to consider how you might include neighbors who might be interested spiritually.  Our Life Groups are not really for us, SOAP is for us.  A Life Group’s purpose is for reaching out and making a safe place for newcomers to feel welcome.  Let’s work at it.

Equipping Series

The messages have been uploaded to iTunes.  Simply go to the iTunes store and in the search bar type in 290 Community Church.  Subscription to the sermons given at the Gathering are free.  If you miss a week and want to stay current, simply go take a listen and be motivated.  The Equipped Series are these messages:

Kingdom– This message answered the question, “How does the Kingdom of God grow?”

Empty Fields- This message answered the question, “How do we enter an Empty Field?”

Power of Story pt. 1- This message answered the question, “How do I share my story?”

Power of Story pt. 2- This message answered the question, “How do I share God’s story?”

Maturity- This message answered the question, “How does a New Believer Grow?”

Multiplication- This message (next week) will answer the question, “How does the Church Form and grow?”

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Don’t Worry It’s Only a Test!

The Challenge of Psalm 115:1a to our Family, Ministry, and Marketplace Lives.

Self-Centeredness is rampant in America.  It is a challenge in every house on every street in every neighborhood or apartment.  What are ways we can start to remove some obstacles and barriers that cause us to keep God out of focus in our lives?  There is a way to be self-centered and still be others centered and God centered?  As a leader, when you connect your greatest good with allowing God and His word to control you, that is, you live for God’s glory and not for self glory or self focus, then you are onto something.  What does that look like for a real estate agent, teacher, engineer, marketer, salesman, or stay at home mom?  If we could simply live out Psalm 115:1a our neighborhoods and job sites would be changed, here’s how.

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If we are living for God’s glory then we are simultaneously living for the good of others…it is that simple.  God has a sense of humor in getting us to understand living for His glory by not being selfish.  Steve Farrar in Point Man said:

We’re all selfish. Selfish to the core. God sometimes chooses to deal with our selfishness by giving us someone to care for who is infinitely more selfish than you. Babies are not only the cutest creatures on the face of the earth, they are by far the most selfish. Farrar goes on to write: “The way God deals with my own selfishness is to give me someone to serve who has zero interest in serving me. You can’t tell me that God doesn’t have a sense of humor. Not too many people in the world could out-selfish me one-on-one. But every time we’ve had a baby, I’ve met my match. Each of my kids resembled me. I don’t mean they looked like me, I mean they were as selfish as me. That meant that somebody in the family was going to have to grow up. Guess who was nominated?

Psalm 115:1 is a Test of our Focus and our Choices.

FocusWhen our eyes on ourselves we are not thinking of anyone but ourselves we tend to be the most miserable.  We will not be able to work well on a team of people.  We won’t be able to meet needs at home. Self-centered folks are the least happy among us.  There was some research done by Bernard Rimland that sought to see if there was a connection between a lack of happiness and being self-centered.  Rimland found that “The happiest people are those who help others.” Each person involved in the study was asked to list ten people he knew best and to label them as happy or not happy. Then they were to go through the list again and label each one as selfish or unselfish, using the following definition of selfishness: a stable tendency to devote one’s time and resources to one’s own interests and welfare–an unwillingness to inconvenience one’s self for others.”   In categorizing the results, Rimland found that all of the people labeled happy were also labeled unselfish. He wrote that those “whose activities are devoted to bringing themselves happiness…are far less likely to be happy than those whose efforts are devoted to making others happy” Rimland concluded: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Ideas on helping people- Help the newcomers understand company culture quickly with kindness.  Go across team lines (if appropriate) by giving solid leads.  Keep the team’s goals ahead of your own.  Encourage veterans with timely praise.  Listen to peers and ask clarifying questions to their ideas.  Sharpen your Axe, that is constantly work at making yourself a better spouse, friend, worker, child of God, etc.  Over communicate with your boss and be willing to take risks in order to make the team better.

ChoicesWhen we make the choice to make God look good more than ourselves we are trusting God with our lives. When we choose to live and work for His namesake above our own standing then we are laying ourselves out there on the protection and provision of God.  A marketplace person can do this when they choose to be honest and giving rather than having a deceitful heart and an ungiving spirit.  D.L. Moody said, “I believe firmly that the moment our hearts are emptied of pride and selfishness and ambition and everything that is contrary to God’s law, the Holy Spirit will fill every corner of our hearts. But if we are full of pride and conceit and ambition and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God. We must be emptied before we can be filled.”

Ideas on making great choices-  Steal time in the morning to seek a fresh perspective on your future.  Sometimes it takes a few intentional and quiet moments to keep your agenda set at being focused on more eternal things.  It is a hard choice to do this but it maybe the most meaningful moments of your day.  Don’t forget your creator throughout the day.  Make a choice to pray for God to give you creativity to help others.

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If your soul is devoted to something that becomes more important to you than God, that is your idol. The soul cannot give up its idol by sheer willpower. It is like an alcoholic trying to become sober by promising himself that he won’t drink anymore. It never works. In many ways, what the Bible calls idolatry we call addiction. You can be an addict and never touch a drop of alcohol or a gram of cocaine.

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John Ortberg
Soul Keeping (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), p. 84, Loc 1184

More Highlights From 7 Deadly Leadership Sins

Quotes about avoiding Greedy and Lustful Leadership.

Michel de Montaigne said, “I am afraid that our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, and that we have more curiosity than understanding.  We grasp at everything but catch nothing except wind.”  Greedy and Lustful leadership starts from the place of excess.  A greedy leader struggles greatly with cutting corners for the team.  A lustful leader struggles to not have too many plates spinning. Are you a greedy and lustful leader?

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Beware of the Sin of Greed in Leadership

There will always be a fine line between spending money to make money.  The key for great leaders is to not make it about the money at all (p. 72).

Great leaders are decisive and set priorities.  Greedy leaders try to have it all by putting off decisions and keeping everything a priority (p. 77).

A lack of communication is a great way of leaving people in the dark and destroy a team’s morale.  It creates uncertainty and does not allow a team to anticipate what is coming next.

Beware of the Sin of Lust in Leadership

Frederick Buechner has said, “Lust is the craving for salt of a man who is dying of thirst.”

Lust in leadership is regular distractions by letting new things and new ideas come to the team’s attention instead of allowing the power of mundane follow through of the original goals you have agreed upon.

Lustful leaders really struggle to finish strong.  Finishing strong is difficult and takes consistent commitment.  A Lustful leader only wants to move onto the next thing and has a shifting focus.

Morissey gives some great ideas on how to avoid LUST:

  1. Use a T-chart.  Write down on one side projects that you are working on this month and the other side projects you have completed.  See if it is skewed.
  2. Limit your project plate.  Make yourself a rule.  You cannot take on a new project until an old one is done.  You can decide how many plates you are allowed to have spinning at any one time.
  3. The A, B, C, pilesWhen new things come up give them priority.  Don’t let them take your focus off of what you are working on now.
  4. Celebrate things completedGive yourself a reward for a job well done.
  5. Be accountable and Make targets publicFind a teammate to hold you accountable to setting smart goals and then make them public.