The Center Of My Universe

Who is at the center of your universe?  God?  You?  Your kids?  Your Spouse?  Your Values?  HIS Values?  It’s an important question for followers of Jesus, especially today.  I live in a very secular, very humanistic culture. And, I would guess that you do, too. I see it all around me: people who have decided humanity is the highest good. As a short definition for secular humanism, I would offer this: a belief structure that embraces social justice, human reasoning, ethics, and philosophy for the shaping of a value system while simultaneously rejecting anything spiritual or faith flavored UNLESS said belief stems from a sense of self-fulfillment or self satisfaction. Such a system would, then, value human choice, tolerance, and logic in the pursuit of self-fulfillment. And, self-fulfillment is the bottom line.

Before you go wagging your finger at such an obviously non-Christian way of living, ask yourself what drives you day in and day out.  For example:  if I were to sell all of my possessions, give the money to the poor, and live the rest of my life in the service of the least of these, it would appear to be a very Christ-centered life.  It very well could be.  But why do I choose that life?  Do I choose it ultimately because it’s fulfilling to me?  Is it my value being played out?  Or have I embraced something Christ has asked of me in the pursuit of obedience to Him?  That’s the issue.  As if reading my mind, The Nomad Podcast posted this quote from Carl Medearis this morning:
“As Christians, we’re faced with a problem difficult to see because it’s so obvious. We’re aware of Jesus, but we are obsessed with Christianity. We’re stuck on its requirements and we’re defined by its doctrines, caught in an endless struggle to find out where we fit, if we’ve “arrived” yet, and if we’re doing it right…In this state, we’re not living in the grace of Jesus. We’re trying to maintain our membership.”

Modern western Christianity seems to be moving toward, at least in part, an attempted  synergistic mixing of Christian principles and secular humanism.  We follow those teachings that bring us the greatest fulfillment or that broker acceptance from those we value, avoid most things that require deep faith or great sacrifice, thus elevating ourselves or the group to the position of god.  This is a very complex and serious thing to me.  We have found a way to secularly humanize Christianity with the pursuit of what feels right to us, often embracing logic, social justice, and self-fulfillment with no thought to God’s desire for us or faith while at the same time having the appearance of Christianity.  Still having trouble wrapping your brain around what I’m saying?  When people come together to study the Bible, they circle up, read a verse, and then ask, “What does this verse mean to you?”  Fourteen answers and perspectives later, we’ve taken a text and filtered it through us to derive its meaning.  And no one dare say, “This verse couldn’t mean that…” or you’re intolerant, dogmatic, and narrow minded.  I agree that there is room for interpretation of the Bible, but not to the extent it’s normally taken.  The flex should come in what that simple truth looks like as it’s put into practice in our lives.  In my 20+ years of being a Youth Pastor, I saw it countless times.  I would ask, “What does this verse say?”  And 20 answers later there’s been an honest attempt at deeply spiritual things, philosophical things, application-type things, only to have to say, “Look at the verse.  The answer is there.”  Typically, we’ve run God’s Word through the filter of “me” in order to find its meaning.

Anyway, I digress.  I really simply wanted to pose the question today, “Why do you and I do what we do?”  Here’s a couple of quotes to meditate on today:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)  “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”  (Luke 14:27)  “My food…is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”  (John 4:34)  “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  (Gal. 2:20)

If I do all the right things, but only because I find them fulfilling and derive great satisfaction from them, have I really embraced what Christ is all about?  Honestly, only if I can say that love for and obedience to Christ, no matter the cost, are my bottom line.

Shouldn’t it be simple?

We have some measurements for the things we put into practice here in our work. Too often, as we search after something revolutionary to reach the world we live in, we implement things that don’t meet these standards and in doing so, we hinder a greater movement. Having studied Church Planting Movements (CPMs) around the world, we have discovered some things present in all of them. Mind you, each of them is distinct, and solely dependent on God and His moving. I’m not saying that God doesn’t figure in, because in the final evaluation, He is the only factor that matters. However, we’ve found that these other elements keep us out of God’s way, and keep us from doing things that lead to weird places. Some of these elements seem no brainers. For instance: urgent, fervent, and frequent prayer are present in the lives of believers where CPMs are happening. We also see a great emphasis on the sharing Jesus with those who don’t know Him. Anyway, I digress from what I sat down to write. Needless to say, there are things we, as His people, should be doing. And, if we’re not careful, we can spend all of our time talking about what we should be doing, studying what others are doing, and even training others to do what they should be doing: and not doing it ourselves. We can advocate the newest ideas and train people in the most effective uses of their time and relationships and remain disobedient to what Jesus modeled for us, and has asked us to do.

We don’t find Jesus giving a training conference with His disciples. He didn’t say, “Come, be trained by me, and I will make you fishers of men.” He said, “Follow me.” And for 3 years, His disciples WATCHED Him do what He did.  In John 20, we find Jesus being very clear on what He expects from His disciples, “As my Father has sent me, even so send I you.” Do what He did.  Go as He went.  He kept it simple and easily reproducible.

Similarly, we read about Paul, and get a glimpse into his training program: go with me and let’s do this! If we boil down what Paul modeled for people like Timothy, Luke, Barnabas, Mark, Silas, etc. we see him share his story, share Jesus, baptize those who believe AND those they bring to faith. We don’t see him extract people for further training. We don’t see him having people read more “how to” books. Share, share, baptize, send. It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s how it should be.  He kept it simple and easily reproducible.

I’m challenged this morning to simply ask the question, both of myself and of you, are you being obedient in this simple pattern of obedience? Are you loving God, loving others, and making disciples? If your answer is “No,” the next question is “Why not?” Here’s five simple & easy things you can do in the next week to change that answer to “Yes.”
1) Make a list of people you know who are far from God and pray for that list.
2) Write your story and practice sharing it in 2 minutes: My life before Jesus/How I met Jesus/My life since Jesus. Share it with someone who can help you make it easily understood by people who don’t speak Christianese.
3) Divide your list into groups of 5, and share your story with the first 5 on your list THIS WEEK.
4) With those that are interested in knowing more, share God’s plan to save them through Jesus.
5) With those that decide that want to follow Jesus, help them make their list, write their story, practice with them, and send them out to share. Or, as Johnson & Johnson have often wrote, “Lather, rinse, repeat.”

IT’S SIMPLE! And, honestly, it’s a matter of obedience. So the one simple question to answer is: Will you be obedient? To quote Elwood Blues, “We’re on a mission from God.” Well, at least we should be.

Change the parameters

My friend and I spend a LOT of time at our local coffee shop.  As a matter of fact, my whole family does. That being said, we’ve been very intentional about learning the names and stories of the staff there. Now, it’s pretty normal to get asked what we do for our careers, so most of the staff at this coffee shop knows that I am a church planter, and that I was a Pastor in the States. Last week, my friend and I decided it was time to take it a step further. We decided that we would be there on Tuesdays at 3:00 to read the Scriptures together, talk accountability, and to pray. And since we are going to be praying, why not pray for the staff? And, since we’re praying for the staff, we should ask them if there’s anything they would like us to pray about. Sounds simple enough, but try asking an acquaintance about prayer requests! You should have seen the look on the manager’s face when I asked if there was anything we could pray about for her! “Um, well, let me think, um, WOW, that’s nice, um, yeah, I can’t think of anything…” Then she looks at the other employees who were standing there, too, and had been asked the same question and says, “What about you guys? Is there something you need prayer for?” The shock then spread as the employees realized the manager had sucked them into this “weird” encounter! To defuse the situation, I told them it was okay, and I didn’t mean to put them on the spot. But, my friend and I would be here every Tuesday specifically to pray for them and the other customers, and if they thought of something, just let us know. Less than stellar response, and not what I’d hoped/prayed would happen. Well, at least not at first. I went back in on Friday while my oldest was at tutoring.  I had just sat down when the manager comes over, kneels down by my chair, and begins to weep. She goes on to tell me that, after thinking about it a lot, she has a request for me. Giving me a little back story, she shared a request about her family, illness, and gets to the request. I was amazed. I guess when I stepped outside the paradigm, it gave her freedom to do the same. I prayed for her right there, and have continued to pray for her and her family every day. Since last Friday, we’ve had a couple other staffers share requests with us. It just goes to show, as “Patch Adams” suggests in the video below, when you care enough to step outside the parameters culture has imposed, you might just be surprised at who steps out with you, and completely changes the nature of your relationship.

The Hello Experiment

UPDATE:  On Tuesday, 1/29, we went to the counter to ask for prayer requests.  One of the ladies working asked us to pray for some tough decisions she has to make, and the arrangements of moving to another city where lodging is super hard to find.  She was excited to share with me.

UPDATE: On Tuesday, 2/5, we asked a staffer at the coffee shop what we could pray for. He was really confused about why we would pray anything for him. We were explaining the concept when the co-worker we prayed for last week comes over and says, “They prayed for me last week, and everything worked out perfectly! You should try it!”  Here’s to hoping God becomes famous in this coffee shop!

Some thoughts from The Green House

Back in September I attended a Green House with Neil Cole in Vienna. Although it was my first Green House, the content was not anything really new to me. Having read a lot of Neil’s stuff, and having had opportunities to pick his brain in the past, it was more of a refresher course and reaffirmation of things I’ve been processing since 2005, when I started on my church planting journey. I often site “The Shaping of Things to Come” by Hirsch and Frost as the book that turned my church concept upside down. And while that’s true, the book that plowed the soil was the “Organic Church” manuscript that I received in Cologne, Germany, in the Summer of 2004. Anyway, I digress. So, from the Green House in Vienna, I took copious notes on what these concepts look like in new forms of church. And, during my review of these notes this morning, I thought it could be fun to throw some of these ideas out there for discussion. I’ll say upfront, these are my thoughts on Neil’s talk. To say this is Neil’s point or his talk would not be completely accurate, although it could be. And to say that they are my original ideas is not completely accurate, but could be. Clear? LOL!  Let’s jump in.

*The Kingdom starts with the Good Seed!
In this parable, the seed is the word of God.  When the message is planted, it will reproduce.  John 5:39 says that eternal life is not in the Scriptures, per se, but in Him!  Blindly obeying commands on a page is not what He’s all about.  He’s all about the voice behind the words on the page; the breath of God.  It’s a living voice that is around me today and wants to talk to me today.  Make no mistake.  This does not discount or at all minimize the Scriptures.  But sometimes we replace God with just his word.  After all, aren’t there people who follow the Scriptures and do not know Christ?  The scriptures say the spirit and letter of the law are important, not just the letter.

*The Kingdom starts with Good Soil!
1) Hard Soil – repels the seed and the birds steal it
2) Shallow Soil – receives the seed, grows quickly, the wilts from heat
3) Weed-infested Soil – receives seed with joy, springs up, then fruit is choked out by the weeds (the worries of life, the deceitfulness of riches, the desire for other things)
4) Good Soil – receives seed, grows quickly, and reproduces

Some truths from this:
1)  it affirms the experience of my life – some people show up, then disappear.  The truth is 2/3’s of those who receive the word will not reproduce.  Yes, I know there are 4 soils.  But notice the third soil also produces fruit, but gets choked out.  I’ve wrestled with what that means exactly, but can only say there is some fruit there.  Regardless, many who have the seed sown too them are not good soil.  So, we change the way we do church in an attempt to bring them back, lowering the bar, and filling the church with bad soils.   (Aside:  and pastors wonder why their churches don’t “get it,” rise up, and storm the gates of Hell.)  Now, we’ve changed church so much that bad soil feels like good church to them:  that they should come and expect to receive, receive, receive…  The entrance exam for the church is to take up your cross and follow Him.  But we’ve reduced church to cater to bad soil.  But we can be set free from this need!  It’s not my job to change the soil!  I can’t change the soil!  I can’t give a sermon every week that will “get them through” for another week!  After all, if the death, burial, & resurrection doesn’t motivate them, can I really think my sermon will?

2) Those that DO bear fruit bear a WHOLE LOT of fruit!  A single shaft of wheat, when left unhindered, will produce crops big enough to feed the entire world in 8 years.  To reproduce is a natural desire.  And, thus, a natural process.  I can’t pull the growth out of a seed.  I can’t grab the stalk of corn and pull it taller.  Our job is to plant God’s voice in peoples’ lives and their job to obey.  Those that do will bear much fruit (30x, 60x, 100x)..  If this was a stock, we’d jump on it!  With a minimum return of 3,000%?  Invest in the proven stock.  Invest in the good soil.  It only takes one seed to produce an apple tree.  One seed can produce one tree and that tree will produce enough seeds for an entire orchard of trees that will produce several orchards of trees.  Could this mean that Jesus isn’t saying that some will reach 3 people, some 6, and some 10?  Or, is he saying some seed will reproduce to the 3rd generation, 6th generation, or 10th?

3)  The proof of the type of soil comes from the production side, and not the planting side.  The seed is sown equally in all the soils.  There’s been a tragic miscalculation of the soils based on human standards and evaluations.  This was certainly true in my story.  My High School principal told me to learn a trade because college wasn’t in my future; and prison probably was.  He couldn’t see that my future had an “X-factor” in it, only that my life was full of fertilizer…which is great soil for seed.  You just can’t really know, can you?  Sow abundantly and faithfully.  Then, watch for fruit.

*The Kingdom Grows micro to Macro – easily seen in human reproduction.  Even now, my body is reproducing cells.  6 months from now I’ll be different.  It starts small.  Our attempt to reproduce the complex from the beginning is not natural.  We split churches in an attempt to plant them; like cutting off an arm and planting it in hopes that another person will grow.  All reproduction starts at the simplest level:  individual makes disciples, some of whom become leaders who plant churches that lead to a movement.  If you multiply the simple enough times, it will go global.  John 4:30-32

Translation Tables or Common Ground

One of the struggles anyone will have in moving to a different country will be learning the culture and/or the language.  In our case, learning both is something very hard to do.  I spent a few hours yesterday talking with an American who is moving here next year, and I bet he thinks I’m some type of language fanatic.  The one thing I said over and over was that he would need to guard his first year here JUST to get a basic handle on the language.  The other element we spoke about was the cultural differences between USAmerica and Germany.  Although a very western, post-modern culture, these two countries are VERY different.  At some point, I’ll blog solely about the differences.  Last weekend I was speaking with 3 men who live in Stuttgart, and we were speaking about American expressions like, “That was so good, it’ll make you slap yo’ mama!”  It just doesn’t translate.  When we spoke about Texas, the idea of a “Good ol’ Boy” came up.  I thought I’d done a great job of explaining this one when one of them asked, “So, is Arnold Schwartzenager a ‘good ol’ boy?'”  My saving grace is that the conference presenter used a clip from “Second Hand Lions” where Garth, Hub, & Walter realize the salesman sold them all the same seed, and that they’d be eating corn for the next year.  I was able to lean over to my friend and point to these two old men in overalls eating corn-on-the-cobb that they grew on their farm, and said, “Those are good ol’ boys!”

The next day I received an email from a very close and very wise friend.  He always seems to have the right words at the right time, and was speaking into my frustration getting the Harley road-ready.  And he drove home the point that where my American culture and German language may fail me, the Harley is a “point of translation.”  I’ve been chewing on that, and the implications for life overseas in general.  There is a great temptation to always be transfixed on the differences, and to see the cultural gap as unbridgeable.  But, I think that’s going about things all wrong.  The question should be, “Where are there commonalities that will bridge that gap, and make language and culture a minimal difference (or at least a smaller difference?”  Motorcycles, sports, family, kids, eating, art, the list is endless.  Caryn has been singing in a community choir for the last month.  It’s a group of mostly senior adults who don’t know a lot of English, but they love music and she loves music.  So, they come together in the medium of their interests and bridge the cultural and language gaps with music.

We often quote Paul saying, “I’ve become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Cor. 9:22)  I know I’ve often used this verse to talk about being places the traditional church hasn’t been, but it’s much bigger than that.  And, even though Paul was a Roman citizen and a Jew among Jews, what does he really mean?  This morning, I’m chewing on the idea that he didn’t let things keep him from his appointed task.  He didn’t balk at cultural or language differences.  Instead, he found the commonalities and plowed ahead.  

Today was the first time I’ve ridden my motorcycle out to have coffee.  It wasn’t just a “ride through the country so the battery doesn’t die” ride.  It wasn’t a ride to the shop because there was a problem, or a ride home from the shop only to be parked.  I rode into town, found a parking place, and was unpacking my stuff when a German man walks up, looks over the motorcycle, looks at me, and, with a smile, says, “Wunderbar!”  Then, he turns and walks off.  For just a moment we connected.  As he walked off, I said, “Danke!” hoping he’d turn around, but he didn’t.  But I guarantee that, had you been standing there with NO knowledge of the German language, you’d have understood, too.  The gap was bridged, and, even for a short moment, we connected using an understood medium, or “translation table,” as my friend called it.

New concept?  Not at all.  For thousands of years, God sought to make Himself understood to humanity.  Although His language was clearly understood, our sin-nature clouded our understanding; a disconnect of cultures perhaps?  But, at just the right time, in just the right way, God made His perfect revelation of Himself in Jesus so that we could say, “Wunderbar!” and connect with the divine. (Gal. 4:4-5)

Instead of living your day today disconnected or discontent, feeling alone or misunderstood, why not follow the model of Christ, the model of Paul, and  strive to bridge some gaps today through commonalities.  You’d be good at it, I promise, if you’d just get out there and give it a try.  There is a world of very diverse people all around you that would benefit greatly from your presence.  Find a commonality and connect with them!

My Walk Today

Not too long ago, I was a stranger here in Germany.  It’s funny, because most days I still feel like a stranger.  Just some examples:  I’m the last to get jokes, I’d rather talk in person than on the phone (on the phone in another language is HARD), I greet men first (in Germany they greet the ladies first), I don’t know who to ask about simple things like meals at Cayla’s school (which right now are €80 ($100)/month, joining a sports club requires a Master’s degree to read the application (even the girl at the sport’s club office didn’t understand the form), and on and on.

Until today, that is.  I was out prayer walking, really with no other agenda than asking God to take me where I’m needed.  My hope was to stumble upon some very obviously needy place; a place where I could find the next Martin Luther (as funny as that sounds, it’s been my prayer since coming here that we could find the next Martin Luther who would usher in the new Reformation).  I’d walked almost 2 miles, turning this way and that, having a sense of where God was taking me, but not really feeling like it’s a place of great need.  I must admit, I’m already drawn to Starbucks in a supernatural way often enough!  But, that’s where I was heading after 2 miles of walking.  So, I’m praying something like “God, what could I possible be doing in a Starbucks?” when it happens.  A block from the Starbucks I hear a Vietnamese man ask a German lady for directions.  He’s speaking broken English, and she’s struggling to understand.  She’s answering in German, and he’s not understanding.  So I approach the man, the German lady, and the man’s wife and ask in English, “Do you need help?”  The German lady looks completely relieved and wanders away very quickly.  The man and his wife ask how to walk to the Central Train Station (Hauptbahnhof).  We’re a pretty good ways from there, but I explained to them that the train station we are standing by will get them there.  The wife says they don’t yet have a ticket, and wanted to buy the all day/all transportations ticket.  Well, you don’t have to do that at the Hauptbahnhof, so I explain to them there’s a machine right inside that they can do that, thinking I’ve helped.  But they both look at me with this desperation in their eyes that I recognize:  they will have to navigate a machine that is in German…  Oh man, in that moment I felt their pain and fear!  Even as the wife started to ask me if it was in English, I asked, “Could I come with you to the machine and help?”  They are overcome with joy that only a fellow stranger could really understand.  The depth of my empathy for them connected us instantly.  So, we walked together to the machine, and I showed them which ticket they wanted, navigated them through the payment methods, and prepared to go.  They both stopped as I wished them a good day, looked at me, and said, “God bless you!  That was so nice!  God bless you.”  Silly, but I’m pretty sure I found what God sent me this way to do.

And, as I walk away, God reminds me of a strong spiritual truth that I often try to forget:  We are all strangers here.  As familiar or comfortable as I want to be in this world, or in any culture, this is not my home or the world I was made for.  In 1 Peter 2:11, we are reminded of this very thing.  Jesus reminds us that we are to be wise as serpents, but innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16) as He explains how to navigate the world He has sent us into.  Today’s walk was a strong reminder that I’ll always be a stranger, but that I’ve been left here to navigate this world wisely and innocently, all the while proclaiming the kingdom and finding those in need of (metaphorical) navigational help.  There are literally 1,000’s of people in our paths every day (Greater Hamburg is almost 5,000,000 people) who are lost, without hope of finding their way, and have no understanding of what they need.  They are drowning in a world they were not created for either.  And, if we will walk prayerfully, God places us in their paths to help them navigate safely home.  Be willing to go out of your way, walk with someone today who needs a wise and innocent guide, and help them find their way.  I wish I’d had a chance to help this couple get further than the Central Station.  But there will be others needing help, I’m sure.

And, as I sit at Starbucks now writing and praying for this couple, I’m asking you to join me in praying for those in need of finding their way, even this couple, that God will place me and you in the paths of those in need that we might proclaim His Kingdom and help others find their way home.

12 on the 12th

I started something this year with my kiddos. For each of their birthdays, I write them a letter telling them things I love about them. The number of things I list corresponds with their age, so today, I write 12 things about Jeremiah that I love. For those of you who know him, you’ll agree, or may even want to add your own here. Feel free to jump on!
Here’s my letter to Jeremiah

My son,
I wanted to start a tradition with you to share with you on your birthday things I love about you. I wanted to do this in writing so that you can keep them, if you’d like.

12. You have such a patient nature. I admire that.
11. You enjoy the outdoors, and are always up for an adventure!
10. You love your family in a way your age don’t.
9. I never could have imagined that, at 12 years old, we would be able to talk about the deep things we talk about. You’re a great thinker.
8. You have great focus. When you set your mind on something, you see it through.
7. You have a genuine, Christ-like care for people.
6. Your love for reading is something I really admire and love.
5. You have such an easy-going demeanor. You’re not easily rattled, and you take life in stride.
4. You care deeply for spiritual things, and are growing in Christ.
3. You often teach me important lessons in life, and are used often by God to help me develop my character.
2. You show a sensitivity to the needs of others, to peace, and to being a peace maker. That’s a rare quality in adults, let alone a teenager!
1. But most of all, I love that you remind me so much of Jesus. I am so proud of you, and if I’m this proud of you, I can’t imagine how proud Christ is of you.

Happy Birthday, Jeremiah. I love you!

Essential Discipleship

“The things which you have heard from me…entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” -2 Tim. 2:2. Paul’s advice to Timothy was to always be making disciples. I think, often times, we think of discipleship as a class or a mass teaching time. But Paul advised Timothy to do two things: to teach/do as Paul taught/did, and to pick people who would pass it on. On the surface, we think Paul said “teach what I taught you.” But Paul’s actual words are, “entrust these.” As Timothy traveled with Paul, he received discipleship. Not only did he hear what Paul taught, but he saw what Paul did, how Paul did it, and received a hands-on training. And Paul didn’t entreat Timothy to gather as many people as he could for a weekly teaching time. Timothy was charged to entrust these things to faithful men who would pass it on. Our discipleship needs to be more than a teaching slot in our schedule. It needs to be life-on-life modeling, centered on instilling a skill set necessary for passing it on. And it needs to be narrowed in scope so as to ensure it gets passed on. Does that sound like discipleship you’re involved in? No matter what your age or place in life, you should be discipling and being discipled. Pass it on!

Let The Rocks Stay Rocks

I was recently encouraged by a friend to think about Christ’s time in the wilderness, and His temptations there. So, I was reading though Matthew’s account, and got to these verses: “And the tempter came and said to Him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’ But He [Jesus] answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’‘” (Matt. 4:3-4) I know what you’re thinking. We’ve all read this, and all contemplated what it means to depend on God for what we need and not our own provision. In German, they have a simple phrase when something is clearly understood. They say, “Ja, Klar.” And that’s what the main teaching of this passage is. It clearly states, as explained by Jesus, we are to depend on/rely on/live by God’s provision, and not our provisions alone. But there’s more; more that I think isn’t as clear, or is obviously ignored.

First, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3, which is a passage talking about God’s provision for the Israelites through the giving of manna. In both places, though, the Scriptures acknowledge that bread ALONE doesn’t sustain us… Implication? We do need bread! But we must also remember that even the bread we have comes from God, or as Moses wrote in Deuteronomy, “But man lives by EVERYTHING {emphasis mine} that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.” Before we assume that we’ve earned what we have, we must acknowledge that even our ability to earn bread comes from God. Being true to the passage from Deuteronomy, Jesus is taking a humble position. Everything we have, have had, or ever will have that is necessary to sustain us comes from the mouth of God. This passage reminds me to stay humble and LISTEN for God’s creative provision for my needs. This temptation comes to Jesus at the end of a 40 day fast, when Jesus was hungry. I’m reminded here of His words in John 4, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work.” (John 4:34) In humble obedience, do what He’s called you to do and trust Him to provide.

The other thing I’ve seen in this Matthew passage I had not thought of before. It’s been 40 days and nights since Jesus ate. Matthew 4:2 says He became hungry. His body is crying out for food, His spirit drives Him to obedience and humility. But His situation is filled with hard things and a tempter telling Him to make things easier for Himself. What could Jesus have done? He could have made bread. Ja, Klar. He could have made pillows to lay His head on and moan about His hunger. Shoot, He could have made the rocks into bubble-gum to at least assuage His grumbling stomach. But He didn’t. And here’s where God really grabbed my attention this time. The hard, seemingly useless things in Jesus life, stayed as they were. He left them rocks. My friend, Ian, posed it to me like this: “may you have the courage today to remain with the stones that cannot yet be turned to bread…” I’d never thought about how I try to make hard things at least comfortable for myself. I’ve never thought about how hard I work to make things bearable. This goes deeper than trusting God to provide. It goes to the core of obedience, suffering, and ultimately contentment. Ja, Klar. Trust God to provide. We all get that. But when it comes to suffering, discomfort, pain, fear, etc., we seem to strive to replace those things with promises of blessings and a better tomorrow. Jesus didn’t say, “I will wait for God to turn this stones to bread.” Paul, in the same way, came to realize that the hard things serve a purpose. He writes in 2 Cor. 12:9 – “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (ESV) When I attempt to turn the stones into something more palatable, do I keep the power of Christ from resting on me? When I avoid suffering, do I hinder His work in my life? I don’t like the idea that suffering is a part of my journey. Who does? I believe that many, however, short change the power and provision of Christ by avoiding suffering, bemoaning suffering, are trying to escape from suffering.
Let the rocks stay rocks and wait on God’s provision, knowing His power is perfected in your weakness and his power rests upon you in your weakness. Let the rocks stay rocks, but stay anchored on THE Rock.

Simple Church

I’ve been wracking my brain of late in an attempt to figure out how to multiply my influence with limited language skills. After spending a few days with some peers listening to their stories, and reading some great books, I’m still not sure I can wrap my brain around it. But tonight, as a new friend told his story, I heard something that resonated a bit: the world wide interwebs! Okay, yes, I know it’s the internet. Anyway, I thought I’d update my blog and just throw it out there: if you are interested in Simple Church and would like to strike up a conversation about it, hit me up! ESPECIALLY if you are in Hamburg (or Germany in general). Do you have to be in Hamburg to hit me up? Not at all! I’d love to visit with you about what you’re doing, and what we could be doing together!

Another idea I had was to re-establish a coaching posture through an online podcast about topics Simple Church people would find useful. Before I commit to that, I’d be interested in knowing if you’d “tune in.”

And, of course, I could write a book… But that’ll have to come later, when I’m not so busy!

Whatcha think? Hit me up!