Monday, March 04, 2013



MENTOR AND ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER The second universal agreement I believe that any follower of Jesus from any cultural background can embrace in order to walk together in unity, no matter the lesser disagreements, is to MENTOR AND ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER.
We tend to operate alone in life. This is due to many factors. Three come to mind. (1) Being self-absorbed. This is a narcissistic way of living life in the smallest package ever-being all wrapped up in yourself. When it's all about you, you are limiting not only others around you, but yourself. (2) Being controlling.
This is such a natural tendency due to our deep insecurities; we want to be in control. What's so ironic is that when you are in control, you are limited to only what you can do. (3) Rugged individualism. "If it's going to be, then it's up to me!" Operating alone is the most weakened position of all. True strength comes in relationship-in community.

You know what is puzzling to me? It's that when people are hurting or lonely or in great need, they withdraw from others. Safe relationships with others is precisely what they need, yet they run from them.

Walking together with a few others is actually practicing living in the presence of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is wherever the King is and as you are walking with Jesus, the King, He wants you to hear His words and practice them. We walk between two kingdoms-man's kingdom and God's kingdom. When you walk together, you are able to remind one another of how to live out these principles of Jesus in your daily life.

Jesus' Kingdom principles are revolutionary and counter most of the ways we think and live today. Here are just a few Jesus taught: The internal takes precedence over the external. You learn to die in order to live. You learn to lose in order to find. Little is much in God's Kingdom. You learn to give in order to receive. You learn to mourn in order to celebrate. You learn what it means to hunger spiritually in order to find satisfaction. You learn serving is the best leadership. You learn to forgive and you will be forgiven. You learn that individuals are more important than the multiplied masses. You learn to bless when you are cursed. You learn how to eliminate all of your enemies just by loving them.

Jesus practiced walking with a few. He chose three men to be with Him and then added a few more. He sent His disciples out two by two. He was careful to urge them to walk together. He even went so far as to say where two or three are gathered in His name, He will show up!

The early disciples practiced four things when they gathered together: They studied the teachings of Jesus. They enjoyed fellowship and sharing with one another. They ate together and they prayed together. As you look inside their gatherings and relationships you find them befriending one another, bolstering one another, being there for one another, believing for one another and bearing up one another.

I've been sharing 6 steps for walking together that seem to help zero in on what it is that we can do together. FIRST-OBSERVE the God of gods in action all around you. Don't miss out on noticing what God is doing in your world. SECOND-OPEN yourself up to His presence in your life and the possibility of being utilized in what God is doing. THIRD-OFFER your body to Him. I get this from Romans 12:1: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is true worship. On the basis of what God has done for you, offer your body back to Him to be used in such a way as to make a positive difference in the world. FOURTH-OVERHAUL your mind. Romans 12:2: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will. Don't allow yourself to be fit into the mold of this earthly kingdom, but allow your mind to be transformed into the Kingdom of God principles.

The next two go together nicely. FIFTH-OBTAIN a servant's heart. Romans 12:3: For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For mentoring and encouraging others to function most effectively, it's a must that you don't approach these relationships with a haughty attitude. Humility always works! SIXTH-OPERATE in a small group. Romans 12:4-8: For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. All of the prior steps come into reality when you learn to operate within the power of the few.

In order to mentor and encourage one another you need to live substantially. Living substantially requires that you walk with Jesus. When you walk with Jesus, you are the walking solution to people's needs everywhere. The only way to walk with Jesus is to walk together with a few. You can shine your lights together, sponsor love for one another, support blessing in the midst of being insulted and share your stories-your experience, strength and hope you have found in Jesus. Mentor and encourage one another!



In searching for a few universal agreements that any follower of Jesus from any cultural background can embrace in order to walk together in unity, no matter the lesser disagreements, I have settled on six of them. The first is easy: EMBRACE THE LIFE AND TEACHINGS OF JESUS AS A LIFESTYLE.
Three passages come to mind-one from Luke, one from Matthew and the last is from John. FIRST-Luke 14:25-35: Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: Jesus awakened a lot of emotion and attention among so many people who were following along after Him. So many were in the crowd of followers and probably for a variety of reasons. One day as they were moving along en masse, Jesus turns His attention directly at them and challenged them with three prerequisites to be an authentic follower. They are not easy. In Jesus' mind these are the essentials for being a disciple-a follower of Jesus. These are the things Jesus expects from any and all followers everywhere.

Jesus says: (1) "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters-yes, even life itself-such a person cannot be my disciple." This is the prerequisite of making Jesus your highest priority. This has been so misunderstood. It doesn't have to do with hating anyone. It literally means that a disciple of Jesus has to come to the point where he or she sets aside all other relationships as secondary to his or her relationship with Jesus. This is the pre-eminence of Jesus over all relationships, even over your own life!

Then Jesus says: (2) "And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." This is the prerequisite of making Jesus your highest priority no matter what. This has to do with keeping Jesus as your priority through great perseverance-no matter what happens to you, Jesus is still your most important relationship.

Jesus finally says: (3) In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples." This is the prerequisite of what you're going to do with your possessions. It's not saying to give over everything you have to someone else or to some organization; He's saying it's important to give up your ownership of all of your possessions. The word for possessions is best seen as referring to all of your stuff, including all that you are-your very existence!

Note one thing Jesus repeats with each of the prerequisites. He says, "You cannot be my disciple, unless you do these things." It's not that you cannot be a good disciple, but that you cannot be a disciple at all.

The SECOND passage that comes to mind that speaks to embracing the life and teachings of Jesus as a lifestyle is Matthew 7:21-29: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

Here are people who speak in the name of Jesus, cast out demons in His name and performed many miracles in Jesus' name, yet they were not genuinely connected with Jesus. He makes it clear that "only those who do the will of the Father will enter." Jesus then goes on to define clearly what it means to do the will of His Father.

He says: "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

Doing the will of His Father is to hear Jesus' words and practice them. To hear the words of Jesus and not practice them doesn't get it. In a sense, doing the will of His Father-hearing Jesus' words and practicing them-is what it means to embrace the life and teachings of Jesus as a lifestyle. With eyes to see what Jesus does and ears to hear what He is saying you can then practice the life and teachings of Jesus and embrace them as your lifestyle.

The THIRD passage that comes to mind that sums up what it takes to embrace the life and teachings of Jesus as a lifestyle is John 12:26: "Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me."

It's clear! Whoever serves Jesus must follow Him, not just know a lot of things about Him. And, wherever Jesus is His servant will be also. Then, Jesus' Father will honor this one who serves and follows. So, stick close to Jesus, serve Him and follow Him. Hang out with Jesus in all that you do and you will find yourself embracing the life and teachings of Jesus as your lifestyle. Try it out!



In the last few weeks I've been in some fascinating meetings where I've experienced the ugly tension of Christians fighting Christians over things that don't matter. Oh, I know each side believes the issue matters, but when the name of Jesus or acceptance of Jesus is at stake all things are secondary and insignificant. If you hold anything-any teaching or tradition or belief system-higher than lifting up the person of Jesus to another person, then you are not following Jesus, but you're following that "anything" you placed above Him.
When I see this kind of in-fighting over insignificant things, I am reminded of one of the many instances where Jesus pulled off a clear miracle from God, yet the religious moved into a fighting, even hateful. Here's what happened:  

Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Stand up in front of everyone." Then Jesus asked them, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus. Mark 3:1-6

A man has obviously been healed. He's experienced a supernatural touch from God, yet the grumbling begins. This is no different today. There are many followers of Jesus who have observed Jesus apprehending the hearts and minds of men and women in other cultures and as they follow Jesus they don't plant churches and don't call themselves Christians. It's a real phenomenon! It's an authentic Jesus movement breaking out without looking and sounding Christian, yet there is no doubt these masses of people have been touched by Jesus Himself.

I have been aware of this for several years. It's a wonderful thing! Now, there are Christians who are organizing themselves against this kind of thing. They say that this movement is invalid and non-biblical, because they aren't planted into churches and they are not becoming Christians. This anti-movement is doing its best to cut off the supply of funds for those who are promoting this non-traditional Jesus movement. They are even gathering in conferences and events to do so! How sick and wrong is this?

It seems to me that the bottom line issue is to discover the absolute essentials for us to believe and hold sacred so that we will advance the Jesus movement? What is it that we can all agree upon in the midst of our various disagreements? How can we walk together, even though our cultural beliefs and traditions greatly differ?

I have a friend who is from a Church of Christ background and is still enjoying fellowship in that tradition. We agree that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, but we disagree about whether baptism is required for man's salvation. I have several Catholic friends who do things in their services that I just don't understand and I usually feel very lost as I attend a Mass. On the other hand, when they attend my traditional church service, they don't believe they have gone to church, but to a seminar. As followers of Jesus we can agree that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, even though we disagree how a church service ought to be conducted. This same thinking can be taken through every flavor of Christianity as well as within the non-Christian religious cultures. We can find agreement in Jesus, even when we disagree on the lesser things.

Well, the question then is what are the primary things and what are the lesser things? Over the next six days I want to suggest six primary commitments that I have come to believe holds the Jesus movement together.

To set us up for this little series of thoughts I want to suggest two reminders as we think in terms of the Jesus movement. FIRST-The Jesus movement is answering the summons or call of Jesus on your life-"FOLLOW ME!" That sets the movement in motion. SECOND-The Jesus movement is all about making disciples of all cultures. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)

There is only one command here-MAKE DISCIPLES! And, there are three participles: (1) By going-that's introducing people to this Jesus-advancing the conversation of Jesus. (2) By baptizing-that's identifying people as followers of Jesus as they begin to lean in. The disciples didn't know and believe much when they began to follow Jesus. (3) By teaching-that's instructing people who want to follow Jesus to practice all that He taught.

All of this culminates in the miracle of incarnation-fleshing out Jesus in your life-walking, talking, loving, thinking and bleeding like Jesus. This all happens within the context of walking with others in this movement. Going back to a simple familiar statement: "It's knowing Jesus and making Him known." These six agreements can become a unifying covenant that holds the Jesus movement together. Stay tuned!