Friday, April 29, 2011

I'm Alive

There are a number of you that read my blog regularly but are not on Facebook or Twitter.  As a result, I thought I would check in to tell you that I am still alive.  It is unlike me to go a week with no post.  The outreach preparation and start has been more intense and time-demadning than we anticipated.  We are learning plenty thus far, but mainly about ourselves and our need to keep becoming more like Jesus. God is shaping us. The last week has been rather hard for our family with some homesickness and a deep readiness to live in something with more space than we currently have.  


But, God....


Is amazing!


Is at work in and around us!


Is more than enough for us!


Just checking in.  I will write as I can. There are some exciting church plants on the horizon and I cannot wait to tell you what we are learning about storying.


Our May newsletter will be released soon.  Email us if you are still not on our mailing list. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Shifting Gears

We are in the process of shifting gears.  


For the last 3 months we have been in the teaching phase of CPx. In other words, we are in a church planting school and we have been in the lecture part of the school.  This week we are concluding this part of the school.  It has been awesome!!  I have already shared about much of what we learned. I will post more soon. 


Next week, we officially begin the outreach phase of CPx.  It will last until the end of June.  During this time, we will spend about 40 hours a week in the communities we are ministering in.  No teaching, all doing.  The goal: plant churches. 


We will be on Outreach in Masiphumelele.  There will be 18 people on our team. Tricia and I have been asked to lead the team.


Other students in our class will be heading off to Ocean View, Zimbabwe, Zanzibar, Malawi, and Northern India. Please pray for the 40+ CPx students over these next 2 months. 


Grace to you!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Opposite Spirit Living

The principles and nature of the Kingdom of God absolutely and totally fascinate me.  The pictures that Jesus painted and the values that He modeled in the gospels are so fresh and so revolutionary.  Of the many things that I love about Jesus' vision of the Kingdom, my favorite is probably this: we are most like Jesus when we respond to people and circumstances with an opposite spirit.  This is a key component of this upside down kingdom. 

So, today is Palm Sunday.  Early this morning I was reading the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey!  A DONKEY!  This is the Messiah, the hope of the world....and he is on a Donkey.  Where is the white horse? Or the chariot?  Or the magic carpet? Something.  Anything other than a half breed, non-reproducing, donkey.

However, in everything Jesus did, he seemed to run against the grain of culture and expectation.  

And so it's supposed to be with you and I as people who are bringing the Kingdom here and now on earth as it is in heaven. We work with Jesus in ushering in this Kingdom when we learn to be "opposite-spirit people."   It looks something like this:

  • Respond to bitterness with forgiveness. The opposite spirit. 
  • Respond to fear with courage. The opposite spirit.
  • Respond to intimidation with confidence. The opposite spirit.
  • Respond to violence with peace. The opposite spirit.
  • Respond to hate with love. The opposite spirit.
  • Respond to suspicion with trust. The opposite spirit.
  • Respond to betrayal with loyalty. The opposite spirit.
  • Respond to greed with generosity. The opposite spirit.
  • Respond to selfishness with unselfishness. The opposite spirit.
  • Respond to judgement with graciousness. The opposite spirit.


What can you do today to represent the upside down, counter cultural, opposite spirit Jesus and to plant his kingdom where you are now?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Obedience-Based Discipleship

I want to share about two different approaches to discipleship that are quite common in the church. 

Knowledge-Based Discipleship: Discipleship is based on gaining and attaining knowledge of God and the Scriptures.  Discipleship is measured by the amount of information you have and the level of knowledge that you have of the Word of God.  This is the most common approach to discipleship in most western churches.  Which is why we have so many programs, classes and bible studies.  As an example, many of the same people attend the same Bible Study at the same church year after year.  As a result, their knowledge increases, meanwhile they make no changes in their lives and they obey little to nothing of what they learn.  The more you know, the more discipled you are (so they think).  I will let you find verses to support this approach. Best of luck.

Obedience-Based Discipleship: Discipleship is measured when you obey and DO what you are learning.  It is not merely gaining knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but for the sake of action.  Learn, do.  Learn, do. Hear, obey.  Hear, obey. Even radically.  Obedience based discipleship means serious commitment to following Jesus, not just knowing him.  The demons knew Him and believed.  Will you follow what you hear? Three times in John 15 Jesus says if you love me, you will obey me. The very heart of the Great Commission in Matthew 28 is for us to GO and teach people to OBEY EVERYTHING that he has commanded.

This is serious!  I hope that you catch this.  Understanidng the difference between these two approaches can transform your life and your church. What if preaching became about obedience instead of a way that people actually had to show how they are oberying what the hear each week?  What if we decided that everything we do as a church will now consist of hearing God and obeying him?       

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Born Again; A New Perspective

Once upon a time there was a church of thousands of people.  After the service, the Pastor got up and announced that they had a gift for some of the women in the room.  The gift was for every pregnant woman in the church.  Every pregnant woman was asked to meet in the fellowship hall after service. The church had hired an OBGYN to come in and offer FREE deliveries.  No money at all.  "Just come to the fellowship hall and we will have a bunch of private beds set up and we will deliver every baby in every womb this afternoon free of charge. Of course, with the cost of deliveries these days, this is an offer you cannot refuse, ladies."  


What is wrong with this picture?  A number of things, of course.  But the biggest of which is this: THEY ARE NOT READY.  They are not in labor.  The baby is not ready to be born on command. 


Well, the very same thing applies to salvation.  Jesus intentionally chose language about being "born again."   Look, It is just as silly, unnatrual and impossible for someone to be born of a woman on command after a Sunday service as it is for people to be born AGAIN in a forced and immediate way.  Just like life takes 10 months for life to develop in a womb before coming forth, it also takes people time to develop and grow to a place of readiness to be born spiritually.  


May we be patient and help bring people to life in God's perfect timing. 


(I wrote about similar ideas in THIS POST about discipling to convert.)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Great Break

We have been keeping a pretty hectic pace during CPx. I am not quite sure how we managed it, but this week we have somehow attended to all of our CPx responsibilities while still giving Selah enough time that she felt prioritized. We have had a blast! We have taken scenic drives, gone to great places to eat, showed her our future home, and introduced her to many of our new friends. Then, today we went to Table Mountain and a winery for wine tasting and cheese. Selah enjoys wine, and South Africa is super famous for it. We had a lovely time. Enjoying wine is very much a part of the culture here in South Africa. Tomorrow, we will go back into Masi for ministry, then go to our nicest mall and take Selah to Hillsong Church.
Four more days to enjoy with her...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

God first? Or me first?

This week we had an awesome speaker at CPx.  His name was Lincoln Murdoch. Here is one of the things that he shared that really hit home for me:


All my life and training I have heard it said that God must always be first on our list of priorities.  I have been taught that a good and godly list of priorities must look something like this:

  1. God
  2. Wife
  3. Kids
  4. Ministry
  5. Friends
  6. Extended Family
  7. Education
  8. Etc...


Lincoln does not agree with this.  After having a major burnout twice in his life, he has learned that the list, rather, must look more like this:

  1. ME!! (with God leading me to the fullness of all He has for a healthy me)
  2. Wife (with God at the center of our marriage)
  3. Kids (God guiding and inspiring my parenting)
  4. Etc....


The point is this...

First, God is #1.  God is #2.  God is #3.  He is the center of all my life.  He is not a number on my list.  No, he IS THE LIST!  

And second, if I am not at the top of the list...if I am not healthy...if I am not renewed and intimate with Jesus, then I am no good to my wife, no good to my kids and no good to anyone else on my list for that matter.  


I thought this was a fresh perspective.  What do you think?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Staring at Black People

This post is hard for me to write, because the reality really saddens me.


First, a little lesson in racial vocabulary here in South Africa.  There are basically 3 groups of people here (with terrible relationships historically)....and this is how they are referred to:

  1. White (Mainly Dutch & English)
  2. Black (Dark people from all over Africa)
  3. Coloured (Mixed race people with decent from Malaysia, Indonesia and Madagascar)


The community we are working in is called Masiphumelele and is made up of mainly Blacks.  It is a Black township.  


Today was another eye opener for me.  I guess I never realized what a tourist attraction Masi is. This afternoon, I was leading a DBS (click HERE to read about what that is) on a roadside with 6 other people when a group of about 25 tourists came walking by.  They were fascinated by all the poor people and the shacks.  Then, they saw US!  3 White people sitting in a circle talking with 4 Black guys.  The cameras really came out now.  Why were we meeting with and talking to these (dangerous) black people?  


In my opinion, South Africa has turned it's poverty into a tourist attraction.  Groups come in droves to the local townships to stare at the Black people and poor people.  Poverty is just something to be stared at by many wealthy people around the world!  


It makes me sad, actually.  Because I think that many missions teams that come do something quite the same. They come as ministry tourists I cannot help but wonder what would happen if we took all the money that the rich spend to to come stare, and used it to eradicate hunger and give people work?  What if money was spent on something more fruitful than staring at the Black people?


What are your thoughts?  Are wasted Kingdom resources delaying the fulfillment of the Great Commission?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Reading through the Bible with Davis

Davis and I are reading through the Bible together. We are about halfway through the Old Testament.  He is only 4.  How are you doing that?  How are you keeping his attention, Noah? Glad you asked.


There is a REALLY awesome kid's Bible called the "The Jesus Storybook Bible" and I cannot recommend it enough!  It is brilliant.  It moves through the major stories of the Bible in the coolest way and short enough to keep the attention of a 4 year old all the way to the end of the story. The stories are accompanied by some neat drawings that Davis loves.  But the best part of all is the way that every story ends by pointing to Jesus.  


Here is an example...there is a chapter on the 10 commandments called "Ten Ways to be Perfect".  Here is how the chapter ends...


"...They couldn't do it. No matter how hard they tried, they could no keep all the rules all the time. God knew they couldn't and he wanted them to know it too. Only one person could keep all the rules. And many years later, God would send him- to stand in their place and be perfect for them. Because the rules couldn't save them.  Only God could save them."


If you have kids, get this Bible.  We are reading it on the iPad and love it.  But I am sure they sell it in paper form too.