“A Force of Reconciliation”

A friend of mine named Tim was preaching recently and he said that thanks to what Jesus has done for us through his life, death, and resurrection we are called to be “a force of reconciliation.”

I really like this image.

At first glance it’s an odd juxtaposition.  The word “force” brings to my mind a group of armed people who have a purpose, maybe even a menacing purpose.  And then the word “reconciliation” brings to my mind peacemaking, healing, and restored relationships.  Furthermore, the word “force” also implies something about power and energy, while “reconciliation” seems to imply empathy and soft-heartedness.

But when the words are put in relationship with one another — “a force of reconciliation” — something special happens.  We get a vision of a band of energized and empowered people who have come together for a purpose, namely to help bring fractured relationships back into proper order.

In fact, one of my favorite phrases in the English language is similar to this one in lots of ways.  That saying is “wage peace.”  The two words also seem to fit oddly together but when used alongside one another they have more impact.  “A force of reconciliation” is the same.

So during this Lenten season when millions of followers of Jesus all around the world are considering our need for repentance individually and corporately while reflecting on the amazing work of Jesus, why don’t we also consider being a force of reconciliation?

Think about it: Jesus paid the ultimate price for us so that we might be reconciled and become reconcilers ourselves.  He was obedient to the will of God, even obedient to death on the cross.  And why did he do it?  For us!  And not just for us, but for us so that we might become agents of this same reconciliation we’ve experienced (Romans 5.10-11; 2 Corinthians 5.18-20).

So let’s band together in our Christian communities large and small and become people completely and totally marked by reconciliation in Jesus’ name — reconciliation with other people and reconciliation with God.

A Proper Approach How to enter into gospel-centered relationships

How we approach people as we seek to be missional is important.

This simple truth reminds me of all the movies I’ve seen over the years in which a pilot is about to land their plane and they get ready to make their approach.

They have a checklist to go through, a way to be prepared.

And they know that if they do all that’s on that checklist, then they will be much, much more likely to land the plane safely than if they went about it all willy-nilly.

Why do we think being and sharing the good news of Jesus would be any different?  Our approach matters too!

Sure, we might not have a checklist that we must work through each time…but there are some tried and true ideas to help our approach be much, much more likely to succeed!

Why Talk about Our Approach at All?

This notion of writing about this topic became self-evident last week.  I wrote a blogpost called “5 Reasons Not To Be Judgmental” that got shared around on Facebook a little bit.

The response was what I expected.  Several people were in agreement with me that being judgmental is a bad thing and that, among other things, it hurts the way we present ourselves to those who have yet to follow Jesus.  And many, many more people were angered by the post, claiming that I had gone too soft or too liberal or had become too tolerant.

Despite the fact that I should have known better, I waded into the comments to duke it out with the latter group.  In one particularly tense comment thread I found an unexpected ally, Sam.  I don’t know much about Sam other than he seems to be somewhere on a path toward Jesus.  I don’t know where he might be on that journey, but I’m pretty confident that he’s on it!

Sam decided to make his voice heard in a conversation where one commenter was saying that any preaching of the gospel should include an strong effort to convince the hearers that they are “wretched sinners.”  And while an awareness of sinfulness and repentance is certainly part of responding to the good news of Jesus, it seems to me from a lifetime or reading and studying the New Testament that it is the role of the Holy Spirit to convict people of sin and lead them to repentance.

This is where Sam stepped in.  Here’s what he said:

approach

I was impressed by what Sam shared!  So I asked him if I could use his comments.

approach

And Sam replied:

approach

And he concluded with this zinger:

approach

I was left more or less speechless by what Sam had shared!  And from that day until now all I could think about was sharing Sam’s words on this blog.

So, there they are — the wisdom of Sam, highlighting the importance of having a proper approach when being missional!

Boiling Down Sam’s Ideas about Approach

So, how can we get the most out of Sam’s words?  Well, I think it might be good to look through them and find the best nuggets.  Here are the results of my mining efforts:

  1. We must have an audience that’s willing to listen!  If our approach is too aggressive, too judgmental, too churchy, or too negative overall, then no one will listen.  So if we are hoping to share and be the good news where we work, live, and play, then we MUST find ways for folks to listen to us!
  2. When we share we should be “positive and accepting.”  This is going to feel like watering down the gospel to some folks.  But stick with me for a minute.  The word “gospel” literally  means “good news.”  It follows logically then that we would want to have “good” things to talk about when we share the “good news”!  And simply because we’re in proximity to or having a conversation with someone whon our church culture deems as a “wretched sinner” doesn’t mean that we agree with or condone whatever sinfulness that is present.  Instead it means that we are trying our best to be like Jesus, who was infamous for being friends with “sinners and tax collectors” (Matthew 9.10-11, 11.19; Mark 2.15-16; Luke 5.30, 7.34, 15.1).
  3. Actions speak louder than words. Sam implores us to let our loving and selfless actions do the talking as we make our approach instead of talking about how others are evil for their actions.  What kind of actions should we engage in?  I love how Sam starts at a really simple level — just asking if everything is okay or if we can help in anyway.  I’m pretty sure that all of us can take those two steps!  And in so doing we will be more likely to move the relationship closer to Christ.
  4. Our actions in the community are noticed.  Sam said, “It’s really hard to shut out any group who displays positive work in their community, who supports groups of people who are otherwise ridiculed and discriminated against, even if they don’t agree with them.”  There it is, in plain English.  How we treat people in our neighborhoods is a known commodity.  People see us.  They see us as individuals, families, small groups, congregations, and as the Church as a whole.  So, wouldn’t we want what they see to be attractive instead of repulsive?
  5. Following Sam’s approach can lead to people feeling impressed, inspired, curious, and respectful.  Aren’t these reactions much better than the way that people tend to think of us today, namely as judgmental, hypocritical, old-fashioned, and too political?  And in so doing, wouldn’t the person we are sharing with be more likely to respond positively to the good news of Jesus and his kingdom?

Our Approach Should Be Like Jesus’ Approach

But those of us who are Christians follow Jesus and not Sam!  So how did Jesus do this?

Much could be written about Jesus’ approach but I only want to explore one little story here: the calling of Matthew.

A little background would be good.  At this point in Jesus’ ministry he has gained a reputation for being a good teacher, a worker of miracles, and a friend of the unlovable.  One group that was certainly unlovable by the vast majority of Jews living in Palestine in the first century was tax collectors.

Now when we think of tax collectors today we might think of IRS agents with their carefully pressed suits, calculators, spread sheets, and complicated tax codes.  But Matthew was a different sort of tax collector.  He was more akin to the member of a gang who shakes down local businesses for protection money.  In other words, Matthew had more in common with mob muscle than pencil pushers.

And Matthew did his work publicly.  Everyone knew who he was and what he did.

So when Jesus started his approach with Matthew, all of these things were true and everyone, Jesus and Matthew included, was aware of them.

Here’s how it went down:

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. (Matthew 9.9)

Notice what Jesus didn’t do.  He didn’t judge Matthew.  He didn’t tell him to shape up before he would be able to follow him.  He didn’t care much about the opinion of anyone other than Matthew.  And he didn’t try to convince Matthew that he was a wretched sinner.

Instead Jesus just said “follow me.”  Jesus asked Matthew to join his community, to become one of his traveling band.

How crazy!

Jesus’ actions certainly don’t line up with our typical approach.  We tend to tell people that they have to behave and believe correctly before they can belong to us.  But Jesus didn’t do that.  He told people that they belonged and then taught them through his own life how to behave and believe!

 

Friends, let’s follow the advice of Jesus (and Sam) and let’s fix our approach to sharing the good news!

 

What do you think?  How can we fix how we approach sharing the good news with someone who has yet to follow Jesus?  Let me know in the comments below!

#TimeForChange: New Wine Podcast #020

Why is a willingness to change important for those Christians who are seeking to be missional?

Here are a few of the resources that I mentioned in this episode:

I answer this question in my latest podcast.  You can listen to it on the bottom of this post, on iTunes, or on Stitcher.

If you like it, would you please rate it and even leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher?  That would be super cool!

Also, if you’d like to help support the creative process that helps bring this podcast to life, then please check out my Patreon page (http://patreon.com/JMatthewBarnes).  There are some fun rewards there for folks who pledge support although any level support will be greatly appreciated!

Thanks!

Missional Extrovert: Strengths What's good about being an extrovert when trying to follow Jesus in the real world?

What strengths does a missional extrovert have?  Are there advantages to needing to draw energy from social connections with others for a follower of Jesus?  And what are some practical ways that a missional extrovert can deploy his or her strengths for the benefit of Jesus, his mission, and his gospel?

The twentieth century saw the meteoric rise of personality testing.  One test in particular has grown especially popular — the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®.  The popularity of the MBTI® can be seen in the proliferation of people self-identifying as one of the Myers-Briggs personality combinations on social media.

Here are a few examples from Twitter:

And there are thousands and thousands and thousands of other posts like these!

And some of the time people on social media and in real life like to pit their personality type over against others, especially with regard to that first Myers-Briggs category: Extroversion vs. Introversion.  This is something that I know first hand since my wife is an extreme extrovert and I’m a slight introvert.  Periodically we like to compare notes about why being an extrovert or introvert is awesome, while clearly hinting that the other side of the equation isn’t quite as good.

Which is better?  Well, in my humble opinion, extroverts had their time in the sun for years and years and years.  Think about it, an extrovert tends to let you know about how awesome s/he is, while an introvert hopes you figure it out on your own.

But introversion has become a hot topic these days.  With the popular book (which I highly recommend!) and TED talk (go watch it now…but come back!) by Susan Crain, introversion has become sexier and sexier.  I’ve even written about the strengths of being an missional introvert.

So, it’s time that we let the extroverts shine again.  Sure, being a missional extrovert comes with some challenges but I want to explore a few ways that being an extrovert helps someone follow Jesus in the real world.

Strengths of a Missional Extrovert

  1. Outgoing — A major part of being missional is interacting with other human beings.  And this is something that a missional extrovert is great at!  Since extroverts gain energy from being with other people, it only makes sense that they can use this for the benefit of the kingdom.  While many of us may have to find internal motivation to connect with people in a way that points them to Jesus, an extrovert may not need the same kind of internal pep talk.
  2. Deeply relational — Being communal is a must for those who seek to follow Jesus in the real world.  Why?  Because it’s hard out there!  And it’s hard within our missional communities too!  We need extroverts to use their natural relational abilities to help us navigate these waters well.  In fact, extroverts can really lead the way in helping us connect well with one another.  And connecting well is essential if we are to make disciples the way that we see Jesus doing it in the Gospels.
  3. Naturally develops others Leadership development is a key for discipleship to work properly.  Why?  Well think about it like this: If we don’t develop leaders as part of our disciple-making endeavors, then we won’t get past one generation.  If we only focus on helping people start the journey of being a disciple, then how will those folks make disciples themselves?  This is where we need extroverts since they are often good at helping others grow.  This is the case because leadership development is a relational animal and extroverts tend to be great at relationships!
  4. Usually great at communicating — In order to follow Jesus well in the real world we need to communicate well.  And a missional extrovert can really help a lot here.  All the extroverts that I know are good at communicating in one form or another.  Some are great at teaching.  Some are great at preaching.  Some are great at one-on-one talks.  And many are great at sharing the gospel with their words.  This is not to say that introverts aren’t good at communicating also but extroverts tend to be excellent communicators thanks to their relational natures.
  5. Working in teams is second-nature — Introverts tend to excel in all things that require solitude (and there are many!).  But a missional extrovert often finds great success working in teams.  They are good at communicating.  They’re great at relationships.  And they usually loved group projects and study cohorts in school.  So teams come pretty naturally to extroverts.  And teams are really at the heart of being missional.  We need to follow Jesus together.  We need to engage in evangelism together.  And we need to make disciples together.
  6. Generally pretty convincing — Business leaders often claim that extroverts tend to outsell their introvert counterparts, though not always, of course.  How many people explain this is that extroverts are not only more natural communicators, they are also better at convincing people of new ideas.  Now don’t get me wrong, evangelism is not about convincing anyone of something logically but it is about convincing someone of something relationally and experientially.  And extroverts have these ways of convincing down in spades!
  7. Often good at motivating others — Seeing that extroverts have spent more time relating with others than introverts, they tend to be quite good at helping others become more motivated.  Also, all that experience in relationships can help a missional extrovert put him/herself in the shoes of others, which is a huge help when trying to be encouraging.  And, if we’re all honest, following Jesus in the real world can be tiring and we all need a little motivation from time to time!
  8. Good at literally talking about the gospel — Extroverts have fears just like everyone else but often when it comes to talking to people about Jesus, the fears of extroverts are a little more surmountable than those of introverts.  The experience that extroverts have in speaking with others in many other contexts can be generalized to evangelism-specific situations as well.  It should be noted that not all extroverts are the best listeners, which is an important aspect of evangelism, but they generally have the speaking part down pat!
  9. Tend to be good with new people — For an introvert, there’s little that’s more awkward than trying to get to know someone new.  What do you talk about?  At what pace?  Where do you stand in reference to the new person?  What do you do with your hands?  For most extroverts, these questions don’t even make sense!  They very naturally have a knack for doing things just so in order to help a new person feel at ease.  So as a missional community makes disciples and folds new people into the mix, it will be imperative to have some a missional extrovert or two around to hep put the new folks at ease.
  10. Often excel in chaotic environments — While it’s not always true that introverts prefer controlled environments and that extroverts prefer a bit more potential disorder, it is true that the more relationships someone is entangled with, the more chaotic her/his life tends to be.  And it’s this entangled chaos that provides many extroverts with a perfect platform for them to continue to connect well with others.  And when following Jesus in the real world there is a ton of chaos to contend with.  Thus it follows that an extrovert may be able to manage that chaos a bit better than an introvert.

So being an extrovert doesn’t have to be a bad thing if someone is seeking to become more missional.  In fact, being extroverted can be greatly helpful for those who are seeking to follow Jesus in the real world.  However, it must be stated clearly here at the end, this blog is not intended to say that extroverts are the best at being missional or that they are inherently better than introverts.  Not at all!  Both extroverts and introverts are needed for the mission of Jesus to move forward effectively!

What do you think?  Did I miss any strengths that a missional extrovert might have?  If so, let me know in the comments below!

#Courage: New Wine Podcast #017

Why is courage vitally important for any missional endeavor?

I answer this question in my latest podcast.  You can listen to it on the bottom of this post, on iTunes, or on Stitcher.

If you like it, would you please rate it and even leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher?  That would be super cool!

Also, if you’d like to help support the creative process that helps bring this podcast to life, then please check out my Patreon page (http://patreon.com/JMatthewBarnes).  There are some fun rewards there for folks who pledge support although any level support will be greatly appreciated!

Thanks!

Missional Introvert: Strengths What's good about being an introvert when trying to follow Jesus in the real world?

What strengths does a missional introvert have?  Are there advantages to needing to draw energy from being alone for a follower of Jesus?  And what are some practical ways that a missional introvert can deploy his or her strengths for the benefit of Jesus, his mission, and his gospel?

Introversion is a hot topic these days.  With the popular book (which I highly recommend!) and TED talk (go watch it now…but come back!) by Susan Crain, introversion became cool and more accepted.

This has not always been the case, however.  For a variety of reasons, extroverts tended to take center stage in the past.  This was especially so in the church.  The bombastic leader with the gift of gab and extreme charisma was the gold standard that everyone looked toward.  Full-time pastor-types tried to be that person, even if they were introverted, and most Christians who aren’t clergy seemed to find the extroverted type most interesting and appealing.

The challenges of being an introvert and trying to follow Jesus well in the real world weren’t always addressed well.  Introverts were told, explicitly or implicitly, that in order to be truly used by God, they needed to be more like those widely-lauded extrovert pastors.

Today, thankfully, things have changed, even with in the church.  Quiet and reflective voices are starting to be heard and respected.  Being loud and in front is still valued, but so is being thoughtful and in the background.

In fact, I think that it’s time that we let the missional introverts get a little shine.  With that in mind, here’s a top-ten list of the greatest strengths (in my opinion) of a missional introvert:

Strengths of a Missional Introvert

  1. Alone time to recharge — This is more-or-less the definition of an introvert and can be seen by many as a negative.  However, as we’ll see below, what one does with this alone time can be productive.  Here, however, I want to focus on the execute-retreat cycle that many people have found to be beneficial.  The basic gist is this: you give your all to something, expending lots of energy, then you retreat in order to recuperate and recharge.  Then, once you are ready, you go back at whatever it is with renewed gusto.  This cycle would be quite natural a missional introvert, who would need have some alone time after all the socially demanding parts of sharing the good news of Jesus and his kingdom.  In other words, there will be little need to convince an introvert to engage in some self-care during a socially-draining stretch; s/he will pursue it somewhat naturally.
  2. Don’t enjoy being the center of attention — Full disclosure, I’m an introvert and I love attention.  So this isn’t always the case for every introvert.  But most introverts are happy to let someone else take all the social limelight.  Thus, the basic ideas of putting Jesus first and focusing on the interests of others, may (and I stress may) be a bit easier for the missional introvert.  And this is important, of course, because there’s a really appealing temptation to put oneself at the center when trying to be missional.  The look-at-me syndrome can strike and strike hard.  But many introverts are naturally disinclined toward social attention of any sort.
  3. Limited interests which are explored deeply — Many times introverts only have a few things that they really pour their energies into.  It is typical or a missional introvert to be invested at work, in a personal relationship or two, and on mission with Jesus.  And that’s it.  This narrowing of interests helps the missional introvert divert less and less energy into things that don’t matter and more and more into the things that do.  And it’s that depth of attention that is a real benefit for an introvert.  It’s not just that s/he is focused on a narrow list of things, its that s/he is focused deeply.
  4. Tend to be deliberative and intentional  — It is normal as an introvert to be called thoughtful, reflective, and introspective.  But an introvert’s thinking is often directed outward as well.  In the case of a missional introvert, s/he can very carefully work through various options when seeking to follow Jesus well in the real world.  S/he often has a great capacity for weighing pros and cons against one another when making decisions.  And, often an introvert can exert a great amount of mental energy thinking about how to help encourage her or his friends and fellow missional practitioners.  Thus, many introverts are quite intentional, attempting to think three or four steps ahead at all points.
  5. Personal reflection is important — Related to #4 is inward-directed thinking, aka personal reflection.  This really is the hallmark of an introvert.  I mean, what does s/he do with all that alone time?  Well, many introverts spend that time evaluating themselves, their actions, and their motives.  A missional introvert can go over attempts to share and be the good new with a fine-tooth comb, painstakingly breaking down each detail.  This can be a good thing, helping the introvert make different and/or better choices in the future, so long as it is not overboard and unhealthy.
  6. Communicate best one-on-one — It’s not true that introverts hate people!  That can’t be said enough.  Introverts are simply emotionally and physically drained by too much social contact, especially if that social contact is with a large group.  Thus, missional introverts, like all introverts, communicate best one-on-one.  This is a great thing for someone seeking to share and be the good news.  It allows s/he to focus in on a single conversation and relationship, giving it ample attention and pouring into it lots of love and care.  Doing so can help someone feel loved, heard, and respected!
  7. Tend to think before speaking — Again, not all introverts are experts in thinking before speaking, but many are pretty good at it.  Why?  Well, mainly because one of the biggest fears for an introvert is to look stupid in a public setting.  And one of the most common ways to look stupid is by putting one’s foot in one’s mouth.  Thus, due to this fear and a general tendency toward being reflective, a missional introvert may do a slightly better job than others at not saying rude, offensive, and hurtful things.  This isn’t always the case, of course, but many introverts make concerted efforts to communicate well when engaged in socializing.
  8. Form a few deep attachments — Introverts don’t tend to spend their social capital in many places, instead investing in a few relationships (usually no more than three).  This is not dislike Jesus who while he was followed around be quite a few (100+), there was a smaller group he was close to (the Twelve), and an even more exclusive group he was closest to (Peter, James, and John).  Thus, the missional introvert can be a great benefit to any group of people seeking to follow Jesus in the real world together.  S/he can pour all their energies into the well-being of a few members of the group, bringing to them insight, accountability, and encouragement.
  9. Tend to listen well — Due to the fear of looking silly we talked about earlier, lots of introverts have learned the art of listening.  And the same is true for a missional introvert.  S/he would do his/her best always to listen more than s/he talked, especially as s/he engaged in sharing and being the good news.  In order to understand how best to expose someone to Jesus, we have to listen to the cues that they give us.  Introverts tend to do this well.
  10. Very observant — Lastly, introverts tend to be exceptionally observant.  This can really come in handy for the missional introvert.  S/he can see a need for the good news that others might miss.  On a prayer walk, a missional introvert might notice a detail about the neighborhood that everyone else missed.  And when engaged in strategic planning, a missional introvert can often see how all the various parts work together in ways that others miss.

So being an introvert doesn’t have to be a bad thing if someone is seeking to become more missional.  In fact, being introverted can be greatly helpful for those who are seeking to follow Jesus in the real world.  However, it must be stated clearly here at the end, this blog is not intended to say that introverts are the best at being missional or that they are inherently better than extroverts.  Not at all!  Both extroverts and introverts are needed for the mission of Jesus to move forward effectively!

 

What do you think?  Did I miss any strengths that a missional introvert might have?  If so, let me know in the comments below!

Proof and Faith What does evidence have to do with believing in Jesus?

“I want proof.”

So many of us say these words when confronted with the idea of God, much less the idea of following Jesus.  In order to make the existential jump of faith, most of us want some evidence.  At least a little.

But it doesn’t end with the beginning of a faith journey though, does it?  Nope.  Those of us who follow Jesus often want proof before we trust God with a new area of our lives, an important decision, etc.  We want an inkling of what God is up to before we fully hand over the reins.

Is this normal?  And is this okay?

Our Need for Proof

Not much needs to be said here.  The bald truth is that most of us humans are an un-trusting lot, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  And un-examined faith is pretty boring.

But sometimes we can take our desire to hold definitive proof in our hands too far.  We can demand evidence that is so clear that it can’t be controverted.  This level of scrutiny is just silly.  We don’t ask for this kind of proof when we fall in love, flip the light switch, or buy food from a local grocery store.

But we often demand proof in this way when it comes to faith.  And I honestly think that’s okay.  It’s okay to need some level of confidence before going all in.  To do otherwise would be irresponsible after all!

In John 4.43-54 we read about an official who needs some proof for his faith too.  We see this in three stages, and these three stages I believe will sound familiar to many of us.

Faith in Jesus’ Potential

I’ve written a little bit about this official before, specifically about how even though he was privileged, Jesus cared for him.  But how did their interaction begin?  What was its genesis?

The story starts with this man having a sick child.  He’s probably at the end of his proverbial rope.  I imagine that he’s sought out the best care that a government official could afford.

Then he catches wind of the fact that Jesus was back in Galilee.  This is the same Jesus who had dome miraculous things in the area already.  So, based only on this potential, the official makes the trek from Capernaum to Cana to visit Jesus.  When he arrives, the official begs and pleads with Jesus to heal his son (v. 47).

I think this kind of faith is the kind of faith that helped many of us begin our journeys with Jesus.  We probably saw the difference that Jesus made in the life of someone we loved and we wanted some of that for ourselves.  That’s faith in Jesus’ potential.

The proof that we’re looking at is in the lives of the followers of Jesus, the transformations that they’ve experienced, etc.  But this faith in Jesus’ potential is only really the first step.  It’s believing in what Jesus did for someone else.  It’s the kind of faith that leads us to Jesus.

(As a quick aside, this is the attractional life idea that I talk about quite a bit on my blog and podcast.  If we live the human life of Jesus in our human lives, then our very lives will serve as proof of Jesus’ potential for others.  Our lives can be the catalysts that first lead people to Jesus!)

Faith in Jesus’ Words

Once the man’s faith in Jesus’ potential led him to Jesus, the official then was privileged to hear Jesus’ words with his own ears.  Jesus says to him “Go, your son will live” (v. 50).

And the official has faith in these words which he demonstrates be obeying Jesus’ command to go.  John puts it interestingly in v. 50: “The man took Jesus at his word and departed.”

Where was the proof though? you may ask.  And I don’t have a solid answer.  Once this official met Jesus, based on his potential, he must have experienced something of the force of Jesus’ personality.  He must have felt his love.  He must have caught the vibe of his wisdom.

How do we know this? Because even though Jesus’ first response to this man was cryptic and a bit odd (“Unless y’all see signs and wonders, y’all won’t believe” [v. 49]), the man still obeyed Jesus.

As followers of Jesus we must move beyond faith in Jesus’ potential to having faith in Jesus’ words.  And how do we demonstrate this faith?  Despite however unclear we think God may be most of the time, when we do have a clear call from him, we’ll take him at his word and obey.  That’s the kind of faith that trusts in Jesus’ words.

(As a quick aside, if we follow through on this step, we’ll start living the kind of lives that serve as proof of Jesus’ potential for others.  Think about it: Jesus clearly calls us to do some very appealing things: love our neighbors, love and pray for our enemies and those who oppose us, care for the outcast and under-resourced, etc.  If we did these things as followers of Jesus, people would be drawn to us instead of being repelled by us!  God doesn’t want us to obey because he needs us to as if he were some desperate autocrat!  He wants us to obey because in so doing we will further his will to reconcile all things to himself through Christ Jesus!)

Faith in Jesus’ Fulfilled Promises

Lastly, as this official is on his way home, in obedience to Jesus’ words, his servants meet him and tell him that his son has been healed.  Upon further investigation of the evidence, the official learns that the child was healed at the exact time Jesus said that he would live.

This promise of Jesus was fulfilled.  And people witnessed it.  Firstly, the child witnessed it.  Then the servants.  The rest of the family.  The rest of the household, including all those who worked with and for this official.  And John tells us that, based on the fact that Jesus’ promise was fulfilled, the entirety of this man’s household believed (v. 53).

This is amazing!  Jesus’ fulfilled promised served as proof for those of this man’s household.  They probably then heard the story about how the official obeyed, perhaps also inspiring them to learn to obey as well.  And as they obey, they’ll experience Jesus coming through on his promises, which, in turn, will inspire others.

That’s a cycle that I want to be a part of of!

(As a quick aside, let’s do this!  Let’s get turned on to Jesus, obey him, and then celebrate when his word comes to pass.  In so doing, we’ll serve as testimonies and proof of the potential of Jesus to change the lives of others!)

 

What do you think?  What role does proof play in having faith?  And how does our faith and obedience influence those who may be far from God?  Let me know in the comments below!

#Focus: New Wine Podcast #011

What role does focus play in the life of a follower of Jesus?  And what should our focus be?

I answer this question in my latest podcast.  You can listen to it on the bottom of this post, on iTunes, or on Stitcher.

If you like it, would you please rate it and even leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher?  That would be super cool!

Thanks!

#SmallGroups: New Wine Podcast #010 How can small groups help us be more missional?

Do small groups help or hinder followers of Jesus becoming more missional?  My answer: depends on the groups!

 

I answer this question in my latest podcast.  You can listen to it on the bottom of this post, on iTunes, or on Stitcher.

If you like it, would you please rate it and even leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher?  That would be super cool!

Thanks!

 

 

The Ugliness of Envy How to ensure that you'll be unappealing and unattractive!

I think we all have that one friend, co-worker, or family member who insists on being annoyed that anyone else has anything good going on for them.  Do you know what I’m talking about?

This condition is called “envy” and it is really pretty unseemly and downright ugly!

But I think if we’re all honest, then we know that we exhibit lots of envy in our lives too.  So that means that our behaviors, words, and attitudes make us pretty ugly to others too.  (Did you see what I did there…”pretty ugly”…get it!?)

Envy

Green with Envy

Envy Invades Us All

Recently my wife and I were having a conversation and I was talking about someone that we both know.  Everything in his life has seemingly just come together without much effort while many things in my life have taken great struggle and persistence.  I went on and on and eventually I veered off into envy territory.  I started saying things like “Well, if I were him…” and “It would be nice if my life were as easy as his…”

My guess is that this story resonates with you.  Envy is real and its reach extends to each one of us.

The Impact of Envy

What’s so bad about envy?  Some people argue that envy doesn’t really hurt anyone, so why would God tell us not to envy what our neighbors have (cf. the 10 commandments)?

Well, I think there are two reasons, at least:

  1. Envy is a sign that we can’t be content with what we have.  Envy is primary side effect of the disease known as “I wish I had that other stuff over there.”  Honestly, envy communicates loudly that our desire for things we don’t have trumps our desire for God and his will in this world.  And I’m pretty convinced that it is envy that drives our desire for more stuff, more stuff, and more stuff.  If someone else has it, then I have to too!
  2. Envy impacts the people around us.  Check out John 4.1-2: “Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John — although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.”  Do you see it?  The envy of the Pharisees about who was more popular led to Jesus leaving Judea and returning to Galilee.  Their envy impacted Jesus’ plans.  The same is true in our worlds — our envy impacts the people around us.

Envy Solution

So what’s the answer to envy?  Well, I don’t think there’s a quick fix.

Honestly, I think we have to start by being totally satisfied with God and God alone.  If we lost it all but still had him, would we be okay?  Would we be happy?  Or are we so tied to our stuff and relationships that we can’t exist without them?

A second area to work on would is being content with what we have (cf. Philippians 4).  Do we really need more shoes, more gadgets, more square footage, and more fame?  Will it ever be enough?

And a third way to combat envy would be to surround ourselves with community, the kind of community that will love us, correct us, encourage us, and hold us accountable.  So when we start exhibiting signs of envy, they can call us on it and help us change.

Lastly, a fourth way would be to pray.  We need to ask God to help us.  We can’t do this on our own — we’ll always default back to envy.  We need the internal power that only God can provide through the indwelling presence of the Spirit.

 

What do you think?  How big of a problem is envy and what can we do about it?  Let me know in the comments below.