The uncomfortable places

I was sharing our story with a new friend yesterday. He asked how we had come to reinvent ourselves as a church and how that led to the building of the coffee shop.

As I shared our story with him, I was reaffirmed in our calling as believers. Not just Heights Church. Believers.

We are to engage our culture. We are to enter into the tough situations and have the hard conversations. Our consumer-drive Christianity has inoculated American Christians from that process. We think we’re “challenging” people, but we’re not. We are sheltering people in our political/theological ghettos and lobbing theological grenades at straw men for arguments. (Excuse me… straw people, since we’re good at being equal opportunity grenade throwers.)

Over 18 plus years of ministry in my city, I have come to a place where I see incredible opportunities in places most American Christians now fear. Last year I remember a conversation with a couple while traveling who actually thought Minneapolis was under sharia law! Why? Because FoxNews told them so.

You know what I see? I see an opportunity for the Prince of Peace to actually have an encounter with a lot of Muslim friends now… because of ISIS. And I see it because I have Muslim friends. I have these very uncomfortable conversations. They are “uncomfortable” because it challenges me. It puts me in “tough” places. I have to think more about my answers, my tone, my language… and as a result it takes me deeper into Christ rather than farther away from him.

What I was reaffirmed in by the Spirit in that conversation yesterday was we are calling believers to a new level of engagement. It is almost always uncomfortable. But those are the places where we get to know Christ more. 

I have an incredibly brave church. It’s not “one of the bravest.” I am not ignorant. There are far more dangerous places in the world. But brave in the sense that this church chose to move away from comfort and trust Christ. It is the opportunity to trust Christ not just for themselves… but for a community that needs Christ. We get to walk that out daily.

Over the years of ministry in our city, I find ways to get out and meet new people all the time. In the past three days I’ve expanded that circle far more than I could have imagined just by sitting in the coffee shop we created. It’s a new level for me. Whole new areas of possible discomfort. But this adventure is great. And it’s all because Christ is great. I don’t want “comfort” in this cultural sense of “normal.” I want the Comforter empowering me every day in the tough situations because it is there I know his presence even more.

It is in these “uncomfortable” places I have become more secure in Christ than I could have thought possible. Ministry is engaging, empowering, and energizing once again.

All because we chose to be “uncomfortable.”

sailing_c3a5land_aerial

The knowing beyond the knowable

The task is odd, almost illogical. Well, it IS illogical.

This is part of Paul’s prayer:

18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:18,19)

It’s like saying, “I want you to know something you can’t know… but you’ll know it when you realize it’s past knowing…”

Our call to partakers of the divine nature is immense. It is truly beyond the ability to put into a formula and “know.”

This is the boldness we need. We need the boldness to climb the mountain we can’t conquer. We can never fully know God, but why should that stop us from making the attempt?

We don’t grasp who we really are

Verses that literally blow my mind: 

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Rom. 8:11)

And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,  which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Eph. 1:22,23)

These are actually very familiar verses to me. I love both of these passages (Eph. 1 and Rom. 8). I pray through these passages regularly. I have camped in Ephesians for months at a time in my life.

And these verses still send shivers up and down my spine. I regularly have to overcome the guilt of not living in that power. I also have to reach down deep inside and declare something radical for me: IT IS A NEW DAY. 

must live in this power. I must live resurrection on a daily basis.

The knowledge of these verses need to become revelation power for us as believers. No matter the circumstances… we have resurrection power. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in us.

How does that keep breezing on by my realm of thinking? A dead guy… a very dead guy… in a grave… and then, BOOM! Alive! And that Spirit that did that lives IN ME.

What in the world am I facing today that could possibly be called “impossible” when I have that resurrection Spirit residing in me?

Then I see those verses in Ephesians and realize, “The CHURCH is powerful! The CHURCH is the embodiment of all that Christ intended on this earth!”

As I look around at the state of the Church in America… and I am all too aware of the struggle I have in my own church… and I think, “This isn’t impressive. This isn’t the representation of ALL that Christ has… is it?”

Yet, that is precisely what Paul is saying the Church IS to be!

Let us pick up this great invitation. 

Let us BE the Body of Christ in this world! Let us lead the way in Resurrection power! Let the power of the Spirit flow through the Church once again and let the Church arise and BE the powerful representation of Christ once again in this world!

Let us move beyond the petty fights and dive into the deep issues of our world that the CHURCH is empowered to solve. Let us move beyond small issues that WE call “great” and let us see the driving agenda of the Kingdom… and do it. 

Let us be the place of healing. Let us be the place of deliverance. Let us be the place of peace. Let us be LIFE, not death. Let us be BLESSING, not cursing. Let us RISE ABOVE and not sling mud in the trenches. Let us LOVE one another and refuse hatred. Let us embody the power of our Savior and live in the power of Resurrection.

Get after resurrection power today. Let your mountains be moved. Let healing flow. Let us shout salvation full and free!

Live Resurrection. 

It is time for a renewed hunger

I am working my way through a book by Andy Lord called Transforming Renewal: Charismatic Renewal Meets Thomas Merton 

The book is a comparison of the teaching of David Watson and Thomas Merton. I know a David Watson, so I quickly discovered they’re not the same men… mainly because the David Watson in Lord’s book died several years ago. (I’m pretty quick in my deductive powers that way.)

There is a chapter on the process of renewal that has challenged me personally. Most of the following notes are thoughts from Lord on Watson’s writings. Not so much on Merton (for this post). Being a reader of Merton, this book has fascinated me. And this chapter is really challenging me.

There is an ongoing life in the Spirit. There is growing vitality, love, and power that we witness in the NT. We have to KEEP GROWING.

Watson calls believers to a consistency. This is enabled through the infilling of the Spirit.

HOW TO BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT.  (David Watson)

  1. Preparation

Search the Scriptures. Explore. Ask questions.

Explore a biblical theology that will enable the mind to be renewed in with a true knowledge of God as revealed in Scriptures. It is also about a review of the commitment made to Christ. ARE WE SAVED? ARE WE FOLLOWING CHRIST? These are tough questions to ask!

  1. ASK

It is rooted in our awareness. We have to KNOW we have a need. We have to search… and thirst. We need to be continually exploring the Scriptures and allowing a holy thirst to be developed. We often don’t know our need. Our heart for the Scripture is dry. We don’t have desire to engage. Thirst can’t be cultivated. We don’t even KNOW our thirst! But when we realize we have a need… we begin to ASK. We begin to SEARCH.

We need a new searching. We need a hunger rising. But that hunger rises up out of a disciplined life found in Scripture. If I am reading Acts, there is a better chance for my soul to get hungry and say, “HEY! I’m not experiencing that! WHY NOT?” It’s a far greater chance I might get hungry doing that than NOT reading Acts.

CULTIVATE THIRST.

Begin to realize that the power of the Spirit is REAL and you will start to long for more.

Thirst can be cultivated. When we are around people who have found that deep well, we get thirsty. There have been times I’ve been around men like Henry Blackaby and Dallas Willard and just being with them created thirst. I heard from them and there was a deep calling to deep. I had to know more.

I think of a missionary, Calvin Olson, who walked with God. To be with him was to want God more!

We need to ASK for more. We need to LONG for more!

  1. Give Thanks

We need to give thanks to God for answering our prayer. Psalms are filled with forward affirmations: places where they gave thanks IN ADVANCE for God hearing their cry. It is a step of confident faith.

It is time to get HUNGRY for the Spirit!

Renew Our Minds

 Renewal is a process of thought, will, emotions, prayer, waiting, and faith.

We need to get away from a one time experience mentality. Conversion is not a punctiliar action. Neither is renewal. We need permission to EXPLORE. We need to give people not yet in faith permission to explore. We need to have a hunger stirred. Create thirst.

Don’t be afraid of the journey.

It’s the same way in renewal. We have to STAY ON A JOURNEY.

We stagnate too easily and too often. We don’t keep renewal a priority. We don’t keep an expectation for thirst a priority.

Renewed churches flow out of a people whose hearts are being continually renewed by the Spirit. It’s a messy process. People move at different speeds. Not everyone progresses the same. Yet, it is VITAL we all move! We have to do it in community. It is impactful to the world!

Renewal happens even in tough times. Dare we say it? ESPECIALLY in tough times. We have to know our need of God!

Renewal is not a gentle pursuit for quiet times but a risky journey in times of pain, sin, and challenge as the Spirit breaks in afresh in visible ways. 

 For David Watson, he wanted believers to have a LIFELONG learning process. Let us be nourished throughout life. Let my own ministry be that model! Let me continually call out to my church to have them keep on growing. Don’t settle in.

How I would love to find a way for ministers in my own “tribe” (the Assemblies of God) to keep on learning. To find ways to grow. They need to keep on being challenged. We don’t just need pragmatic principles but a call to deep spiritual formation and a way to keep on expanding their theological training. We don’t have to have expensive education to grant ongoing degrees, but we should have a higher level of expectation so that we work to TRAIN our ministers.

If we can have conferences to talk about the nuts and bolts of church planting, why not have conferences to center in on how to develop a spiritual life? Bible study? Theological reading? How to read theologically? When we will ENDORSE those moves and PLAN those kinds of conferences (or at least tracks within those conferences), the rank and file will raise their levels of expectation as well.

CREATE THIRST.

Create LIFELONG thirst!

The importance of renewal with Watson and Merton is found in cultivating continual learning. Don’t stop. What’s more… as leaders of leaders we should RAISE that level of expectation. We should EXALT a hunger.

I don’t want to just relate what is the latest I’m learning from John Maxwell or Andy Stanley. How about what I’m learning from NT Wright or Amos Yong or Dallas Willard? Why NOT raise that standard? It just might create that necessary thirst.

Call us out, O Lord! Call us out to THIRST!

It has to be cultivated. It has to be modeled. It has to be PLANNED OUT. We can PLAN thirst. We can PLAN the cultivation of hunger. We can take people on a Curriculum of Christlikeness that is a lifelong journey.

 

Hard questions that create thirst

I am working my way through Thomas Kelly’s little book, A Testament  of Devotion and every few pages I must pause and reflect on a sentence, a phrase, or even a question.

This morning, here are the challenges from Thomas Kelly:

Do you love His presence?

The first of the love of God, of our love toward God, and of His love toward us, are very hot.

Our real problem, in failing to center down, is not a lack of time; it is, I fear, in too many of us, lack of joyful, enthusiastic delight in Him, lack of deep, deep-drawing love directed toward Him at every hour of the day and night.

There is a place the Spirit calls and I am all too unwilling to walk. Laziness. Distraction. Call it whatever… but when I read these challenges I am stirred once again.

Spirit empowered prayer

Quick thought for the morning from Rom. 8:26-30.

I am being formed into the image of the Holy One. Spirit-empowered prayer is crucial in my formation.

A quick quote from Bonhoeffer: “Their hearts are fully absorbed in seeing God.”

Lord, today let my heart be trained for the yearning I need to know you!