Praying On the Armor of God

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The following is a selection from my newly published book, The Life Jesus Made Possible: Embracing the Kingdom within our reach. Engaging in spiritual warfare is the unavoidable consequence of living on a fallen and broken planet informed by the reality of supernatural dark powers strategically at work to harm people and deter the advance of God’s Kingdom. Every believer has a commission to be battle ready!

When the apostle Paul instructed Christians regarding spiritual warfare, he gave them an emphatic exhortation meant to be taken seriously.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm. Therefore put on the full armor of God (Eph. 6:12-13).

Each of the six pieces of armor Paul mentions are strategically designed to cover areas that are vulnerable to the “devil’s schemes” (v.11). In 2 Corinthians 2:11 Paul assures believers of the advantage we have because, “We are not unaware of his [Satan’s] schemes,” which are disclosed to us through the Word of God and by the Spirit of God. Therefore, as we put on all the spiritual armor (we cannot afford to pick and choose!), the One who knows the enemy provides everything we need to be victorious in spiritual warfare.

It’s important to note that this is the armor of God. God has made his armor available to the Christian warrior, and our responsibility is simply to put on what the Lord has provided. Through the years the Lord has taught me to put on the armor of God daily and utilize my spiritual weaponry in order to be effective in advancing God’s Kingdom.

The Meaning and Purpose of the Full Armor of God

The belt of truth speaks of three things. First, it is a call to commit to knowing the Word of God. The Scripture is our God-breathed battle manual, and it is meant to thoroughly equip us for every good work.[1] If Jesus used the Word of God to combat the devil, we must know and use the truth of God’s Word as well.[2] Secondly, the belt is a call to truthfulness. This speaks of our heart integrity, as the enemy can easily gain the advantage when there is hypocrisy. This is not referring to perfectionism, but simple honesty before God and man. And thirdly, to tighten our belt, we must exhale anything we have believed that is not God’s truth, and inhale only what the Lord says, i.e., that we are totally known and loved by him, that he is always with us, and that as our All-Sufficient God he will provide all we need.

The breastplate of righteousness covers the life center, or heart, of the Christian. This means our “right standing” with God is a gracious gift received by faith, and, among other things, the righteousness of Christ enables redeemed mankind to minister “in Jesus’ name”. Unfortunately, the devil knows this all too well; therefore, he consistently seeks to accuse and condemn the saints.[3] His tactic is to get the believer to look inwardly and become fixated on his or her weaknesses and failures. This inward distraction can cause us to believe we are not worthy to stand before God as a son or daughter, much less as a minister of Christ—which quickly takes us out of the battle! Putting on the breastplate of righteousness is a call to remember that we have been made worthy by God’s grace, and we must rely wholly on the fact that our “right” to minister is a gift from God, not a reward for being good.

The Christian soldier must also have his or her feet fitted for readiness with the gospel of peace. An effective soldier is one who is always ready for battle, remembering that the enemy doesn’t take vacations. We must be prepared for the attacks that come unannounced,[4] as well as any unexpected opportunities to advance the Kingdom.[5] This spiritual mobility is gained as we walk daily in the Gospel of peace, enjoying peace with God, with others, and with ourselves. Then we will be spiritually flexible; ready to walk securely wherever the Lord takes us.

The shield of faith is provided to protect the soldier from the enemy’s long-distance tactics during spiritual warfare. The devil would rather weaken and defeat us from a distance than face us head on. He hurls flaming missiles at us that include doubt, deception, disbelief, discouragement, accusation, fear, and temptation. These are designed to take our eyes off the Lord and what he has instructed us to do, as the victory belongs to those who “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Therefore, considering this scheme, we must continually fix our eyes on Jesus and act in response to his commands—using our shield to protect us from any distracting arrows.

Paul himself defines the helmet of salvation as the Christian’s hope.[6] Soldiers of Christ must daily rely upon the fact that they are securely saved—they belong to Jesus forever—and that nothing, not even demonic rulers, possess the power to separate them from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (see Romans 8:38-39). Being sure about tomorrow, we are free to live courageously today, with our minds protected by the truth that we are God’s children… forever!

The sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon. The soldier of Christ is reminded that the sword that overcomes the enemy is the Word of God. A verse of Martin Luther’s famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, makes this point in a marvelous way:

And tho’ this world, with Devil’s filled,
Should threaten to undo us;
We will not fear, for God hath willed
truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

The enemy is not threatened by our words, but only by the Word of God. While the “belt of truth” may include our commitment to gain a general knowledge of the Scripture, the “sword of the Spirit” refers to being able to apply specific Scriptural truths to a specific situation as directed by the Holy Spirit. An excellent example of this is when Jesus used the Word of God to overcome Satan in the desert by saying, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’’.[7]

An Armor Prayer

It is significant to note that directly following the exhortation to “put on the full armor of God,” we are told to pray, because the armor of God and the ministry of prayer go hand in hand.[8] The following is a suggested prayer that I have written for putting on the full armor of God:

“Dear Lord, I quiet myself before You… You who are my Fortress and Peace in the midst of the battle. As I go forth today in your strength, I praise and thank you that you are in me, and you go everywhere with me, making me strong by your mighty power. Please anoint me afresh with your awesome Spirit. Thank you for your armor, which you have given me for my victory. I praise you Lord that you have provided me with what I need to stand fast against the devil’s schemes. I now take up each piece and pray it on.

I take up the belt of truth and buckle it around me. I am so thankful for the Word of God I have prayerfully read today. Please renew my mind and instruct my heart with it for your glory. Today I will walk according to the Truth, for I know that on that path is real freedom. I will also walk in truthfulness. I now confess and repent of any hypocrisy. I will seek to live truthfully before you and others.

I put on the breastplate of righteousness. Once again, I rely on the fact that you have covered me with your righteousness, and I do not go forth today because I am worthy in myself. You are my righteousness, and you have made me worthy to worship and represent you by grace. I know I am your beloved, and upon me your favor graciously rests.

I now apply the Gospel of peace in order that my feet are fitted for readiness. I want to be ready for the unannounced attacks of the enemy, as well as the unannounced opportunities to minister in Jesus’ name. Show me Lord if there are ways in which I am not at peace with you, with others, or myself. I now apply the Gospel as needed (confession, forgiveness, casting cares upon the Lord, etc.).

I take up the shield of faith. Lord, as I move into this day, I fix my eyes upon you. I will “walk by faith and not by sight.” I will be led and influenced by you and not the flaming arrows of the enemy. When the enemy sends his missiles of doubt, discouragement, disbelief, accusation, fear, or temptation—I will hide myself in you.

I put on the helmet of salvation. Before I go into battle, I renew my mind in the truth that I am securely saved, that I belong to you forever, and that even demonic rulers do not possess the power “to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus my Lord.” Knowing I am eternally anchored to you, Lord, I am free to courageously obey you today.

Finally, I take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Holy Spirit, guide me today in speaking forth and applying your Truth as needed in order to advance your Kingdom and dethrone your enemy. I want to walk and minister in the light of your written and prophetic Word. Under your anointing, I will unsheathe the Sword and apply specific Scriptural truth to specific situations as you direct me by your Spirit.

I rise now and go forth in the power of your name and in the comfort of your loving presence, for your glory and fame. Amen.”

[1] cf., 2 Tim. 3:16,17
[2] cf., Matt 4:4, 7, 10
[3] cf., Rev. 12:10
[4] cf., I Peter 5:8
[5] cf., I Peter 3:15
[6] cf., I Thess. 5:8
[7] cf., Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13
[8] cf., Eph. 6:18-20

Leave a comment and let me know what you think! And you can purchase my book on Amazon in either Kindle or print versions. Click here to order!

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Taste and See!

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Who doesn’t love the smell and artistic beauty of a well-cooked meal? I know I do! As many know, my wife Jill is an extraordinary chef. She loves to meticulously plan and prepare our dinners that we enjoy (and I devour) each evening. I know I should appreciate more the artistic nature of her craft. She thinks about the colors and the placement of the food on our plates. But honestly, what most often goes down as “awesome” to me, is the taste of every bite I put in my mouth.

So, I guess I lean toward being a taste guy. That works for a non-foodie like me. Yet in the Spirit realm, God exhorts us to both “taste and see”. Recently while reading the Word, I came across Psalm 34:8 and spent some time prayerfully meditating on that text. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Clearly, you need an encounter of both tasting and seeing to fully appreciate God’s goodness.

  • Taste is a physical encounter.
  • See is a perceptual encounter.

When you taste something, you physically encounter it. It happens to you.

When you see something, you have a testimony, an example or expression of its reality. This is significant but is less of an apologetic for the reality compared to tasting.

This certainly relates to the subject of the reality of the supernatural. No doubt, the greatest apologetic for the reality of God and his Kingdom is a personal encounter with the manifest presence of God. This is why signs and wonders are so strategic in the revealing of the gospel and the advancing of God’s Kingdom. A taste of heaven on earth is mission critical! It is also critical to a disciple’s holistic well-being. No one is wired to sustain a fruitful life and ministry without occasions of tangible, supernatural encounter with the Holy Spirit.

“Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’” – Psalm 79:10

“Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” – Psalm 85:6

I believe most believers have seenthe truth and reality of the Kingdom from afar—primarily by hearing, reading or studying about it. Many less have tasted the Kingdom as an encounter of his manifest presence. Therefore, such believers also have little expectation for such an encounter for others to whom they may minister.

What sort of faith is it that sees something, but never experiences it or expects it to be a reality for others?

I sure desire to taste and see that the Lord is good. Yes, I desperately need that experience to be built into the very rhythm of my life. And I passionately want my family, friends and pre-believing neighbors to taste and see that the Lord is good. These desires lead me to soak in God’s presence at his banqueting table.

If it is your desire to taste and see that the Lord is good, how might you soak in God’s presence at his banqueting table? May the Lord richly bless you as you create space to do so.

Please leave a comment and share how you are pursuing obedience to this command to taste and see that the Lord is good. What has proven fruitful for you?

 

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Published! “The Life Jesus Made Possible”

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“This is an intensely practical and applicable book that helps Christians activate their God-given agency by seeing where God is at work and joining him in His quest to transform the world, inch-by-inch, in the context of everyday life.  Dynamic!”

Alan Hirsch
Author & Activist
alanhirsch.org

From the introduction…

…Most believers hear and sing about God’s goodness, power and freedom every weekend in their church gatherings. A number give sacrificially so that the “Good News” can be shared by missionaries somewhere far away. But if honest, many would confess that they are desperate for an authentic Kingdom encounter. Many have settled for less than what is promised and provided for according to the Word of God.

What contributes to this situation? A primary factor is that many believers have little appreciation for just how good the Good News of the Kingdom really is. For these believers, Jesus’ startling announcement that, “The Kingdom of God is at hand,” provokes little response, let alone the revolution he intended. Jesus taught that when a person discovers the Kingdom they respond like someone who has found a pearl of great worth or a hidden treasure in a field. Such a person joyfully rearranges their whole life around that incomparable discovery (see Matthew 13:44-46). As a pastor, professor and now missionary, I’ve found that people most often lack fascination for God’s Kingdom, along with having little desire to organize their lives around it, simply because they’ve never encountered it…

My hope is that those who read this book will grow to appreciate and experience the Kingdom life Jesus made possible…Here is an overview of each chapter:

Chapter 1 – The Kingdom Within Our Reach

Jesus reveals that the gospel is the good news that his Kingdom is now accessible to all because he has come. The Kingdom can be defined as the effectual rule of God, which exists wherever God is having his way. The ministry of Jesus has opened the way for anyone who positively responds to his call to experience God’s reigning presence in the here and now. Though Jesus has inaugurated the Kingdom of God at the time of his first coming, the Kingdom will not be consummated until his return. We currently live in the tension of the “now and not yet.” This theological tension helps us understand, for example, why we sometimes pray for the sick and they are healed, and other times we pray and they are not. This chapter will explore the meaning of the Kingdom now among us, and emphasize the benefit of experiencing its tangible reality in our daily lives.

Chapter 2 – Disciples of the Risen King

At the core of the Great Commission is the command of Jesus for believers to make more and better disciples of Jesus who will serve to advance his Kingdom. This, along with knowing and loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, is the central task of the spiritual life. A disciple is one who is learning to follow Jesus with the aim of becoming more like him in word and deed. While many seem to be looking for a quick and convenient way to grow spiritually, nothing short of Jesus’ approach to formation can produce faithful and fruitful followers of Jesus. Leaders who want a discipleship program that neglects a tangible relationship with those they are “discipling” will contribute little to their formation or the advance of God’s Kingdom. In this chapter, we will explore the critical components of an organic/relational approach to disciple formation, as well as the most common impediments to authentic spiritual growth.

Chapter 3 – Empowered by the Spirit

The example of Jesus and the early church as they advanced the Kingdom is unquestionably a concert of truth and power. As we read God’s Word, we discover the necessity of God’s power. As we encounter God’s power, we discover that our desire for God’s Word increases. Yet in the church today it seems many feel they must choose to emphasize either the truth of God’s Word or the experiential power of the Spirit in their ministry settings. Disciples of the Risen King must embrace both as they seek to fulfill their mission to make more and better disciples of Jesus and advance his Kingdom. This failure to pursue a functional balance between truth and power explains the impoverished spiritual life and shallow Kingdom impact that is currently the reality for many Christians and ministries today. This chapter will highlight the importance of both truth and power. It will also cast a vision for why this balance is necessary for authentic disciple formation and missional impact. It is time for us to live and serve as empowered evangelicals!

Chapter 4 – Physical Healing Today

The God who never changes is still in the business of healing the sick and setting the captives free. The ministry of physical healing was and is a core component of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Yet few disciples today, especially in the Western context, have the same instinct of Jesus and the early Christians who offered to pray for the sick when confronted with the opportunity. In this chapter, we will consider the theological foundations for physical healing; the conditions conducive to divine healing; common questions regarding the ministry of healing; the relationship between the ministry of healing and discipleship; and how churches and individual believers can effectively minister to the sick.

Chapter 5 – Healing for the Broken Hearted

Though Jesus has placed his comfort, healing and inner freedom within the reach of anyone who would trust in him, many Christians today remain crippled by the failures and woundings of their past. The good news of Jesus Christ includes the healing of such pain. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1); yet the unfinished business of our inner lives inevitably becomes a huge encumbrance to the freedom that Jesus has made possible. This chapter will examine how to overcome past woundings and failures, along with the connected ailments of resentment, depression, fear and the common lies under which many people live.

Chapter 6 – Welcome to the War!

It is doubtful that many believers hear the words, “Welcome to the war” soon after crossing the line of faith into relationship with Jesus. But perhaps they should in light of the reality of our strategic enemy. It is dangerously naïve for a Christ-follower to believe that they cannot be a target of the devil and his minions. Believers must learn how to recognize and effectively renounce demonic footholds in order to get free, stay free and set others free. This chapter will examine how a person can be set free from demonic entanglements and become equipped to do the same for others.

Chapter 7 – Making Space for God

The initial response to God’s Kingdom invitation must be matched by a continuous cooperation with the demands of abiding under the rule of God. The call to the Kingdom is not first of all a call to power, a program, or even to Christian ministry. It is a call to love and follow Jesus Christ as his beloved friends. It’s a call to live in a continuous, willing surrender to the reigning presence of God. The Bible reveals that a life oriented as such is not only possible but is the promised destiny to all who would commit themselves to it. But such a life will never happen without humility, serious intention and effort. This chapter will help the reader know how to embrace the spiritual practices that serve to enable a fruitful abiding life with Christ.

Chapter 8 – Making Space for Friends

A faithful and fruitful life in the Kingdom is made possible by a relational miracle between God and man. That miracle is meant to be experienced and supported in our relationships with others. We must each be encouraged and held accountable along the way, yet far too many believers today live isolated Christian lives. Perhaps the reason for this is that connecting with others is often marked with challenges, disappointments and pain. This chapter will consider what it takes to cultivate supportive friendships. And friends in such a community must be available and vulnerable to one another with Christ kept at the center.

Why this book is important

This book is unique in that it offers an important balance between the theological meaning and the practical implications of the fact that Jesus made his reigning presence accessible to all who would repent and believe. Every chapter will offer a creative movement between explanation, illustration and application. Perhaps the information covered in each chapter is not so much “new” but rather has been made newly accessible to thoughtful evangelicals who truly thirst for the Spirit and hunger for the Word. On the other hand, it may be new to those who have not seen a practical, theologically satisfying book addressing themes such as the Kingdom of God, discipleship, spiritual formation, healing, the power of the Spirit, and the mission of the church. I believe that The Life Jesus Made Possible can serve as a strategic resource for any individual with a desire for personal spiritual formation in their lives; for those who need a comprehensive yet easy-to-understand book for those they are discipling; for pastors who desire to equip and release the saints for ministry, spiritual renewal, and missional activation; for students pursuing ministry training and wanting to complement their more theoretical education with applied theology; for small groups to use as an interactive curriculum; and for ministry training centers that are developing the next generation of those who will courageously follow Jesus and serve to advance his Kingdom.

May God bless you with his renewing and empowering presence as you read this book. Are you ready to explore and experience the Kingdom within your reach? Assuming you are, let’s begin our journey to discover what it can mean to live the life Jesus made possible!

Purchase now on Amazon with print or Kindle editions!

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The Challenge of Being a Friend of Sinners

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Like many followers of Jesus that I know, I sometimes struggle to move outside the comfort zone of my family and established friends to hang out with those far from God. While God has given me a sustained passion to connect with the lost and help them discover Jesus, developing a functional lifestyle of doing so is a work in progress. What inspires and convicts me most to do so is the example of Jesus, who was accused of being a man who welcomed sinners and ate with them (see Luke 15:2).

Being a “friend of sinners” is the vivid testimony of how Jesus chose to prioritize his focus and time. This theme was also emphasized in his teaching. In the parable of the two lost sons, Jesus said of the younger, rebel son;

But when he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

The father’s son was not ‘home’ yet. He had not fully returned. In fact, he was still a long way off from that!

Question: How do you and I honestly feel about people who are a long way off from being where they were meant to be in terms of their relationship with God?

While the son was still a long way off, several things happened:

  1. The father sees him.
  2. Having seen him, the father is filled with compassion for him.
  3. The father pursues him.
  4. The father unmistakably embraces his very prodigal son.

Here are a few lessons I am wrestling with that come out of my reflection on this parable:

  1. Unless I am looking for those far from God, I will likely not see them. Oh, I might see them with my human eyes, but such limited vision won’t register deep within as it must for me to be like Jesus. Am I looking for the lost? And since they are often all around me, do I “see them”?
  2. One test as to whether I see those as Jesus did has to do with what happens to my heart. Am I filled with compassion for them or with disgust and judgement…or just plain indifference?
  3. It is a rather simple test to find out if compassion is at work in my heart. When I “see” a prodigal, does my heart motivate me to pursue them or avoid them? The active side of Jesus’ ministry was motivated by compassion. His heart was broken for the broken, and it moved him into action. Is this true of me…of you? If I do not move toward the lost and broken that God brings across my path, then this is a clear sign that my heart is not broken for the broken. God, have mercy on me.
  4. To see and feel compassion, and even then, to move meaningfully toward the prodigals, is one thing. It can be a dangerous scandal to then authentically embrace them…to warmly identify with them. Yet this is precisely what Jesus did every time he welcomed sinners and ate with them.
  5. Finally, am I worthy of being accused like Jesus of being the friend of sinners?

The good news that encourages my heart in all of this, is that the same compassion that God pours out to those far from God, he gladly provides to me as I continue to make my journey to become like Jesus in every way. Like Jesus’ first ding-a-ling disciples, you and I are also recipients of God’s patient, transformative love and power—at work in us to make us more like Jesus in word and deed.

Please consider leaving a comment and let me know how this theme registers with you. How and why are you challenged in being a friend of sinners?

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One Little Look

Aaron, Tim and I spending quality time together!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recently I came across the story of Mary and Martha from Luke 10:38-42. I read and reflected on this epic narrative while on a priority and planning retreat with my wife, Jill. The glaring contrast between what I will call the two postures of contemplation, became a source of practical conviction for me. I am generally diligent to live a focused life. But I have grown increasingly aware that with the barrage of technology that I have embraced in recent years, I can more easily than ever get distracted. Just one little look can lead to big distraction.

Consider the story:

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

What a contrast!

  • Mary – “Sat at Jesus’ feet listening to what he said.”
  • Martha – “Distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”

This biblical narrative powerfully illustrates the two postures of contemplation that I can find myself struggling with at times. Again, this struggle for me has been intensified since the era of smart phones and all they offer. It’s crazy, but while my soul and spirit yearn to sit and listen unhurriedly to the Lord, my mind and flesh are often too easily distracted by “all the preparations” that seem to call out to me with such urgency. Prepare myself for the day by seeing what my family and friends are up to by peeking at social media sites…Prepare myself for what may be going on in the world by just taking one little look at the news…and on and on it can go. And honestly, it can feel like these preparations “have to be made,” like Martha asserted. But who says so? Jesus clearly didn’t agree with Martha’s assessment. Rather than being distracted from Jesus by preparing a meal that he never ordered, Jesus highlighted the posture of Mary as the one that was better and would be lasting.

Sitting and listening. Better and lasting! I like that.

I do not believe that checking in on social media or the news is wrong or unhealthy in and of itself. It actually can be a pretty huge blessing when kept in balance. But when they end up distracting me from being quiet and still in the presence of God, something has got to change!

In the short run, Martha’s posture appears to be more tangibly productive. The felt need to be productive by this world’s standards can be a loud shout against the comparatively quiet and slow-paced posture of Mary.

For me, there are some days and seasons where I find it relatively easy to sit and remain quiet before the Lord. But occasionally, the posture of Martha rises up within me, even in the midst of experiencing the rich presence of God. Is it the devil? Addiction? Maybe both? I don’t know, but I hate it. All my constant connectivity to social media, email and the news have often proven to be successful at pulling my eyes and heart away the true Source of life. Sadly, on some mornings, I don’t even get to my intentional time with God before I am engrossed in the comparatively pointless chatter of my “wordy world” (A Nouwenism).

In light of all this, I’ve resolutely committed to resisting “one little look” at anything other than the clock and the coffee maker before hanging out with God in the morning. It was surprising to me that this commitment has not been that easy to follow through on. But I’ve committed this morning routine to the Lord, announced it to my wife and a few friends, and now recorded it for all to see on my blog. And while I know that Jesus doesn’t love me any more for making this resolution, I sensed his pleasure that I have “chosen the better thing.”

If you find yourself too easily distracted by this “one little look” syndrome, I want to encourage you that it can be overcome with spiritual discipline and accountability. The benefit this freedom brings to your spiritual and relational life make it more than worth it. May the Lord bless you as you experiment with ways to bring the use of technology into a healthy balance.

And please leave a comment if you have implemented some disciplines into your life that have proven to keep technology in check. What’s working for you?

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Making Disciples Requires Making Friends!

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Have you thought about a resolution or goals for this new year? I know I have. Among other things, I want to lose 10 more pounds, exercise daily, and get into a more consistent rhythm of writing several times a week. Perhaps more than all of these, in 2018 I want to more fully embrace a Great Commission lifestyle in the power of the Holy Spirit that results in seeing many of the lost and broken people in my sphere of influence begin to follow Jesus

If that last goal of mine interests you, let me share with you one thing that I have learned that is absolutely essential — To make new disciples of Jesus, you must make new friends with not-yet-believers.

This morning in my normal time set apart with God I came across a revealing example from the lifestyle of Jesus that speaks to this principle. In Luke 9:11 we are told that crowds of people were following Jesus. Then Luke adds; “He welcomed them and spoke to them about the Kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.”

Notice the progression:

  • Welcome
  • Proclaimed
  • Healed

The Kingdom principle that we learn here is that to engage the lost and the broken effectively with the good news of God, one must actually be among the lost and broken. Jesus had a lifestyle of welcoming such people. His life and heart was open and hospitable to the religiously marginalized among the masses.

Today there is a renewed interest among many Christians to proclaim the gospel in relevant ways to pre-believers. A few are even trained and able to pray for the sick. Yet most are seriously lacking the discipline and lifestyle of welcoming the lost and broken as Jesus did.

To make disciples as Jesus commissioned us to do, we have to first make friends with pre-believers through cultivating a welcoming heart. Here are a few things I have learned that are helpful in cultivating authentic friendship with non-believers:

  • Identify the pre-believers in your neighborhood and networks.
  • Begin praying for them.
  • Go and be where they are as led by the Holy Spirit.
  • Utilize or develop mutual areas of interest with those far from God.
  • Discover and exercise relevant ways to eat, drink, play and generally hang out with them.
  • Invite those who eventually become spiritually curious to connect with your interesting friends who follow Jesus.
  • Develop a pattern of welcoming not-yet-believers into your home and into your life.

These simple ideas are consistent with the exhortation that the apostle Paul offered the believers at Colossae where he wrote;

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:5,6).

Welcome proceeds proclamation and other forms of ministry. When you get this order right, proclaiming and demonstrating the gospel will be more naturally/supernaturally within your reach. Kingdom ministry happens best from an environment of relational relevancy.

If you are interested in taking some practical steps in cultivating a lifestyle of relational relevancy with non-believers, take a few minutes to consider the following questions:

  • Who are the pre-believers in your neighborhood and existing networks? List them.
  • How and when can you go and be where they are?
  • What mutual areas of interest do you share with people far from God?
  • Who could you soon invite into your home, or to share a cup of coffee or a hobby with?

Before I sign off, I want to ask you to consider doing a couple things for me:

  1. If you were inspired by this post, hit the “like” button and/or leave a comment.
  2. Forward this post to others you know who you think might be interested.
  3. Consider connecting with a few friends and talk through this post, and specifically the “Questions” listed above.
  4. In the comment section below, share with me your “next step” in cultivating friendship with not-yet-believers in your sphere of influence.

May you and I see many not-yet-believers discover Jesus and the life that he has made possible in the year to come. That would make it a truly Happy New Year!

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The Door of Hope

Door of hope

Because of God’s grace, there is always hope. Therefore, I will watch this day for every open door, and with God’s gracious hand upon me, I will embrace all that is possible on the other side!

“Behold, I have left an open door before you that no one can shut.”
– Revelation 3:8

 

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Obedience to Jesus — Just Do It!

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Why is it so easy for so many of us to put off being courageously obedient to Jesus’ call to live on mission? Several contributing factors likely come to mind that have been rehearsed in many books dealing with this subject. But one common excuse that I have run into numerous times over this past year is, “We are not sufficiently prepared for such a task. We need more training” I’ve heard this from individuals and teams in the U.S., and in several international missional contexts.

Don’t get me wrong—I believe in the importance of equipping the saints! Much of my ministry is focused on just that. But what I’m seeing is a not so subtle use of “training, training and more training” as a demonic strategy for procrastinating obedience to the simple and clear commands of Jesus.

  • Do you really need another book or podcast on inner healing to know that you should ask the Holy Spirit to help you forgive the person who has offended you? No, Just Do It!
  • Do you really need to attend another workshop on supernatural healing before you will develop the habit of asking the sick and wounded you come across, “May I pray for you?” No, Just Do It!
  • Do you really need another training event where you will fill out yet another workbook on what it looks like to live on mission before you will act on it? No, Just Do It!

Recently, after a missional team leader that I coach was struck with the multifaceted ways the Lord was setting the table for him to spearhead the launching of a new expression of church, he said, “Hey, maybe we should arrange for so and so to come down and facilitate another training.” I looked at him and asked, “Seriously?” Soon we both were laughing. Yet, this instinct to delay taking action for the sake of “getting better prepared” has been a movemental stumbling block to this team (and many other individuals and teams I work with).

Of course we need to take serious the call to pray and prepare! (In fact, in some settings where disciple making movements are flourishing, the critical need is for more intentional leadership development to sustain the harvest.)

But praying and preparing must never become an excuse for the fear based tendency to procrastinate obedience to Jesus.

My question: What has God already asked you to do via his Word and whispers?

My encouragement: Just Do It!

What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Mentoring Stories: Nathan Edwardson

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Nathan no doubt wins the prize for being the emerging leader who I have spent the most time with, drank the most coffee with, laughed the hardest with, been the most frustrated with, had to ask forgiveness from the most, and who has leveraged what I poured into him more than anyone else I can think of. When Nathan and I first connected many years ago I quickly discerned his potential for impacting the advance of God’s Kingdom. Though not maturely formed or tested, he was clearly gifted, eager to learn and ambitious to serve. And so began the decade-plus discipleship relationship that I believe has shaped and transformed both our lives for the good. Today Nathan is a world class communicator and an extra-ordinary visionary leader who is literally impacting nations with the good news of Jesus Christ. Now hear our story from Nathan’s perspective:

Fifteen years ago, God brought Bill & Jill Randall in our lives. As my wife, Erica, and I began our young journey with God, the Randall’s very quickly became some of the most significant, encouraging, and prophetic voices in our lives.

For years, we gathered weekly, along with many other young adults, in Bill and Jill’s living room. They taught us, equipped us, challenged us, and empowered us to follow Jesus in every way possible. They have helped us to hear God’s voice, discern God’s leading, take risks, and dream boldly with God. They carry such a beautiful and authentic heart to see the next generation go further, faster, stronger and longer.

Bill and Jill have also walked with us through the most painful seasons of our life. They have helped us to face pain, to deal with discouragement, to forgive others, to embrace forgiveness, and to pursue healing and wholeness in the broken places of our lives. They have given us permission to weep, to feel, to fall apart, and to find God in all of it. They have shown us again and again, ‘It’s ok to not be ok,’ which has freed us beyond imagine.

Nine years ago, the Randall’s empowered us and commissioned us to plant a new church, the Stirring, in Redding CA. Our desire, more than anything, was to reach young adults, to see them come alive in Jesus, to encounter His wild love, and to live with courage the dreams God has placed within them; offering to this next generation what Bill & Jill so generously offered to us. Years later, the Stirring church has grown into a healthy and progressive expression of the kingdom in our city and beyond.

I am beyond grateful for Bill & Jill Randall, leaders and even more so, spiritual parents, who not only believed in us, but also took a great risk to invest their lives so deeply into ours. I can truly say, no couple has a deeper and more lasting impact on our lives than the Bill & Jill. We are profoundly grateful.

Nathan Edwardson
The Stirring Church
thestirring.org
WE LOVE | WE MAKE DISCIPLES

Question: What do think are the essential ingredients to an authentic discipleship relationship? Leave a comment!

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From Programs to Rhythms of Life

Time to Change

For the sake of contributing to movements of the gospel, the body of Christ needs to resolutely transition from developing more leader dependent, consumer driven programs to that of establishing organic rhythms of life that form and sustain the fruitful life that Jesus made possible. In simple form, here are the rhythms of life that each believer must creatively establish in order to authentically flourish as a follower of Jesus:

Rhythms of spiritual formation that create space for the abiding presence and power of God.

Rhythms of connecting with an intentional community that create space for developing healthy, collaborative, reproducing disciples who together serve to advance God’s Kingdom.

Rhythms of missional living that create space for every disciple to authentically connect with not-yet-believers so they can discover and begin following Jesus.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

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