This blog has become a place where I can honestly and consistently write my most vivid detailing of how I see the Gospel of Jesus encountering us as believers in this day and age. Jesus Christ truly is the risen Savior of the world for all who simply believe. It’s staggering to see expressions of Jesus at work in day-to-day followers of Jesus today. Last night I had a dream where a friend of mine and I were leading worship and the Gospel hit him in a fresh way. He began to weep and we embraced as brothers in Christ and were genuinely, once again, truly impacted by what Jesus has done for us. This dream depicts for me and reminds me of many very genuine encounters I’ve been so humbled to experience with other believers “getting Him” so-to-speak. Being struck with how real and vivid the Gospel of Jesus is and ultimately Jesus Himself is for those who truly believe in Jesus and follow Him.
My deep belief in the Lord Jesus is not mine ultimately but is a gift from God. All followers of Jesus have this opportunity, to genuinely and consistently encounter the living God in the face of Jesus Christ as we pray and seek and follow the risen Jesus. May the church across the globe encounter Jesus for real and follow Him for real, knowing with certainty that this Jesus does not just attend to the beings of those who wear the right theological hats or who walk in lock-step with a particular preacher or denomination. No, in fact, Jesus wants us to step boldly into following Him TOGETHER. What’s humbling about planting and encouraging a work of believers following Jesus in the house church approach that’s growing in the USA is that we are all having to engage with the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Word more than ever. This model forces us to engage with the Word and with one another even on Sunday mornings. In a sense too we are all a part of the sermon once a short message is shared from the Word on Sunday mornings, so if we are all reading the Word throughout the week, we are better prepared to engage with the text and one another on Sunday mornings. We are all having to open our Bibles and read and engage with our fellow brothers and sisters as we encounter the Gospel of Jesus. There is nothing perfect about what we are doing, but there is everything perfect about the Savior we are encountering!
Yesterday it was a treat to study for a certification for my work with some other very sweet and interesting people from this same Central Valley. God sovereignly orchestrated for me to happen to mention I am a pastor during our class due to an illustration about ordination and authority in California to conduct a wedding. Technically the government does not have the authority to ordain… Who would have thought?! No, in fact, even an organization doesn’t have this authority if it doesn’t have people in it (meaning, organizations are ultimately organizations of people, not stuff or traditions or even ideals). Even groupings of people gathered for emotional or intellectual purposes don’t have authority to ordain their ministers. An organized grouping of people oriented around and toward God however can ordain their ministers, simply by agreeing they would like this or that person to minister sacred truths to them under a higher power’s ultimate authority. We believe in the only wise God and we follow the God-Man, the new human, Jesus Christ. So, ministers of this true Gospel of Jesus Christ have no need to question the authority God has given them to conduct weddings. My co-pastor and I are in this truest sense of the words in the fear and love of the God of the Bible ordained ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So, all of this stated, we were discussing ordination in our class and near the end of the class the only other Merced, CA student happened to sit directly behind me for the exam. She quietly asked about the ministry God has given me, and I was so honored to share with her about the grace we’ve experienced together as a little grouping of house churches. She shared that she’s been religious for a long time and yet feels her faith is dead and she wants to engage with other followers of Jesus and really follow Him – that’s the sense I got from what she shared with me, not her exact words. We discussed how she could track me down once back in Merced since I didn’t have any cards on me or anything like that. I get to see God’s plan for how to connect her with us as a community or direct her into another loving community of believers due to that conversation clearly having impact on her life.
This excites me and recent such situations and conversations have re-awakened my desire to chronicle Jesus encounters the Lord brings to me into day-by-day.
It’s come to my attention that we deprioritize these day-to-day encounters.
A friend of ours recently had a dream that got me thinking some more as well. She dreamed I was working on a house at rapid pace out in another country. She and another friend came to see how it was coming along. She asked how my wife and kids were back home and what the future of our house church network looked like. I shared that I wasn’t sure, and I shared she should check with my wife back in Merced. As I learned of this dream and thought through how I’ve felt at times unsure of what God wants to do with this house church network vision many Christian leaders have begun to adopt across the US, similar to movements in China and India and elsewhere, and similar to the way the church has grown mainly since Jesus rose… God has reminded me that it’s not about HOW first and foremost. I’ve been humbled to see how important it is for the church to unite around Jesus Christ. This has helped me to not over-prioritize the HOW TO parts of our faith as central. Instead, we keep Jesus Christ at center.
Interestingly, however, as we do this, as we keep God and people and loving others in biblical priority at center stage, we find ourselves raising the importance of everything else higher than it was when we over-prioritized this or that THING or HOW TO item.
Let me explain. Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior as genuine followers of Him.
When things and activities become too central in our focus, we loose godly focus and become indifferent and those very things and activities begin to not be prioritized rightly and can actually get cheap and devalued.
Example: In my work life, I’ve slowly but surely realized how important it is for me to model and exemplify what I want to see my employees prioritizing. I’ve begun a re-engagement with process developments with nearly every part of my business, while still very much keeping my focus on the most important focus of CONNECTION with God and others in priority. Here is my list for CONNECTION IN LOVE: God in Jesus and because of His death for me and love to me, my wife, my children, my church family, my employees, my clients, my community, my prospective clients, my prospective / hoped-for church family members, hoped-for Jesus family members in general (meaning, not all new followers of Jesus I get to make disciples of need to end up in our Jesus community), and not least important and not to be unloved in any way… my enemies… These are all to remain in healthy focus… PEOPLE. The persons of the triune God – Father, Son, Spirit. The persons of my family, Carrie, Jackson, Amelie… and so on. In my business context, my employees have seen this shift over time. I take each employee much more seriously and want their ultimate and long-term best. I’m unashamed to share the hope of Jesus in my work context. I’ve seen one employee in-particular go from not engaging with Jesus to nightly studying the Bible on her bed and wanting to desperately to know Jesus more and more. She has grown into a lovely follower of Jesus Christ, prioritizing her faith and sharing that it’s Jesus and the local church, genuine followers of Jesus in her life, that she gives credit to for why she didn’t lose her faith in God and didn’t see all of her relationships disintegrate when she had a very hard personal hardship.
The word integrity has become more and more interesting to me. My friend Jedd pointed out the root word integer which ultimately means “a whole number or a thing complete in itself”. Let’s stay in the area of business for a second in a thought on integer or integrity. Many businesses for years have stated that at the core of their values stand honesty and integrity. Why is this when especially in the US we like to say, “It’s just business,” when referring to hard decisions that disrupt personal lives or an employees’ family life or health, etc. Sorry, it’s just business. No, truly honest and integrity-oriented business includes personal life conversations. To truly care about one’s employees is not to be politically correct for instance and avoid all controversial conversations. For instance, if we don’t discuss performance with an employee, we are now officially being nice in their eyes, but we aren’t being kind because if their performance is lacking, we’ll eventually have to evaluate it. If performance isn’t evaluated from early on, it’s an unkind business practice because the employee now has to recover from expectations not being clearly laid out.
In the same way, integrity across the board in all areas of our lives has to do with wholeness. This post in the popular and politically correct world for instance lacks wholeness. It is pretty all over the place. Yet, my goal isn’t to please crowds or impress any human publisher. My intention is to experience wholeness in Jesus. I happen to be a follower of Jesus, husband, father, church planter, neighbor, business owner, and yes, someone who loves my enemies. These “I am” realities about me have to do with wholeness in my life. For anyone who has read all the way to this point in my post here, you have “I am” realities in your life. Contentment is found when we rest in these, and wholeness is introduced to all other areas of our life right where we are, here on the ground, when we are first and foremost content and overwhelmed in love as followers of the risen Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, the God-Man.
When we rest in this wholeness, as children of God Himself, we get to see God unfold our lives and expose us to the loving Son of God in every area of our life.
As we are HONEST and repent and give over to God all that we thought we were supposed to be, God infuses HIS INTEGRITY, His wholeness into our lives and re-orients us.
Here in the West, we thing it’s all about GOING OUT WEST… Meaning, we believe we are defined by always pressing forward, being eternally optimistic, not letting anyone or anything get us down, and there is wonderful truth in the midst of all of that progressive dialogue, but it’s often muddied by the dangers of being overly oriented around human achievement. When we obsess over human achievement, we lose our focus upon connection with the Living God.
A social worker friend and I were discussing human change for good and what she’s learned from working for decades in the area of helping people actually encounter lasting change. She shared something so biblical, so deeply true about human relationship being more highly prioritized than the how to and stuff orientation we often overly fixate upon in the western world. She said, “The solution to addiction isn’t sobriety first and foremost; it’s connection.”
Isn’t that true for us, genuine followers of Jesus Christ? The solution for us when wanting to experience purity and genuine breaks from our sins and patterns of destructive behavior, breaks from distractions from following Jesus all-in and all-out… The solution is CONNECTION first and foremost with the Living God and also very much we find the solution in CONNECTION with other genuine followers of Jesus Christ.
May we encounter the Gospel of Jesus Christ here on the day-to-day ground with the Host of Heaven in our hearts, knowing we will be reunited for eternity one day, that Glorious Day when Jesus wraps up history and we are all together with Him for eternity!
Warmly in Christ,