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A Robust Gospel

In many ways the dismantling and deconstruction of everything we are familiar with has defined our lives and ministries.  It’s not that we have set out to dismantle anything, but things have been falling apart and coming back together again all around us for the past couple of decades. We are living on the edge of something new.  The old is dying the new is taking shape.  The wine has ruptured the skins and things have gotten a little messy.

We need a new wineskin.  We need a wineskin that is flexible and elastic.  We need a wineskin that won’t force the wine to yield to it shape, but is willing to expand as the wine consumes more and more volume.

This emerging world doesn’t only require a whole new wineskin, but it requires a whole new orientation in order for us effectively navigate.  There is no hiding behind a systematic theology or ole time religion in this new world.  While the ole world dismantled and deconstructed, this new world is about re-mantling and reconstructing.  Its one thing to bring down, its a whole new thing to put back together.  Things are falling apart and coming together again.  This time it looks a lot different.  No longer are we going to be defined by what we are against or what we don’t like.  This time we are going to be defined by our salt and light like qualities.

For those of us who live in the God world (as my daughter calls it) it requires a new shaping of our theology.  I would like to say that it’s not that our theology was wrong, but incomplete.  However, I’m not sure that it wasn’t a little wrong and a lot incomplete when I reflect on it.

Jesus seems to confer with my opinion when he began his ministry with the proclamation, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).

One writer suggest that when the dust settles on this cultural shift call post-modernity (there’s a word we don’t use much any more) we will see once again the fields white unto harvest.  The dust is settling and there seems to be many new opportunities for gathering a fresh harvest.

Creating a whole new and daring world is the bold adventure that Jesus invites us into to.  Donald Miller refers to it as writing a better story.

In order to do so we must return to the gospel.  What I call a rediscovery of the simplicity and centrality of Jesus and his ways.  Through the lens of Jesus we must discover that the gospel is more robust then we previously imagined, the church is much more redeeming, and our mission is far more sweeping.

Over the next few days I will explore each of these three vantage points for experiencing and living faith in the Jesus way.

I Had A Dream

Today is my wife’s Birthday.  This poem is my gift to her.  Her life is her gift to me.

I had a dream as a little boy.

In my dream I met a girl.

With this girl I fell in love.

With this love we built a life.

In my dream I had a home.

In this home were some kids.

I had a dream as a little boy.

It was such an odd dream for such a little boy.

Perhaps it was born out of the pain I live at the time.

Or, this dream a kind of reflection of hope that God gives little boys and girls alike.

Regardless I had this dream as a little boy and it was all my heart longed for.

This dream kept me going as a little boy when all that was around me lost momentum.

I had a dream as a little boy.

Last night I woke suddenly from that dream.

I woke up in a familiar place.

The music was loud and the crowd full of life just the way you like.

Across from us were our children Dave, Biddy, Amanda, and our soon to be grandson.

To the left was a mentor and friend, a little older and wiser who had helped us navigate through last ten years.

Directly to the right was a new friend, one that I think is going to fit nicely into our dream.

A table set for twenty, full of precious lives.

A celebration fit for my queen.

“The Putman’s are in the house.”

How do we become such friends with a Cuban family in another part of our city?

In came two strangers, and a dance taken right off the pages of Dancing with the Stars.

You loved them well.

New friends I’m sure.

I had a dream as a little boy.

This dream hasn’t been without moments of darkness and pain.

There have been times when I lost my way.

But you are always there to ever so gently show me the way.

Together, we have survived terrible accidents, deployments, bombings, and deep pain that came with loss.

There was a time when I lost my way to the pursuit of recognition and fame in the kingdom’s name.

A dream misspent.

Energy wasted.

Pain inflicted.

You were there at the end of my race to hold me gently in your arms.

You still are.

You held my dream together.

You held our family together.

I had a dream as a little boy.

I had a dream as a little boy and you were in it.

I love you and am grateful to God that you have always been and forever will be the girl of my dreams.

Happy Birthday to the most beautiful woman in the world!

I Am a Man Most Blessed!

I’m so grateful that God is a God of infinite chances and grace!  Over the past week I have had opportunities to experience so much life.

  • I spoke at Lifesong Church on my latest book, Detox for the Overly Religious.
  • Met some amazing guys who are architects and builders who love the church.
  • I help my friend Dean Herman at 5 Point Church as they consider a bold move for God.  A special thanks to Steve Head of Christian Brother, Inc and Ron Cochran of Wave who went on this journey with me. Thanks for loving new churches and loving me.
  • Celebrated my 51 birthday at a Falcon’s Game.  They lost, but I was with my wife and daughter.  What could have been better!
  • I had lunch with the new pastor of Revolution Church, Jason Gerdes.
  • I had an incredible coaching session with our church planting network and my church planting partner Shawn Lovejoy on Nurturing Vitality.
  • I hung out with one of my best friends on Friday Casey Graham of The Change Group.  We celebrated his book release, Funded and Free.
  • I got to plan a Compassion Party where we are going to partner with Compassion International.  I’m believing God for the sponsorship of 2000 children.
  • I hung out with Bret Harrison of Experience Missions International.  I love this guy.
  • We celebrated my birthday with about 30 people at my favoriteCuban Restaurant.
  • My friend Jim Shepherd of Generis surprised me.  He left me a special gift at the restaurant.
  • I spoke to my son who is getting out of the Army at midnight Monday.  I am so proud of him.  He spent 25 months in Afghanistan over the past four years.  Welcome home my son.  Excuse me while I shout!

I don’t deserve any of this, but God is so good.  He is a life giving God.  Reflecting back on my birthday week is a reminder that I have experienced a lifetime in the past week.

Unless Your Righteousness Exceeds!

For I tell you unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20, NIV).

Jesus came to establish a new kind of righteousness.  In our world we havedefined this righteousness in terms of the things we do and don’t do.  We confuse being a good citizen with being a follower of Jesus.  We assume if we don’t drink, smoke, curse, chew or dance with girls that do we are righteous.  Yet these are the same things the Pharisees and the teachers of the law put a high premium on.  Jesus is clear that our righteousness must surpass theirs.  How could this be?  How could we possible be more righteous then the Pharisees when it comes to keeping the Law?  We can’t!

Our second option is to explain this through the lens of modern Evangelicalism.  All of us would quickly say that the only way our righteousness can exceed that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law is through Jesus.  Jesus is our righteousness.  He really is, but far to many of us end here.  While this is true this is not the complete story.

Throughout the Gospels Jesus leans in.  He teaches us that there is more to the Gospel then my personal salvation.  In Matthew 25:31 and following Jesus tells the story of the sheep and the goat.  He divides the sheep from the goats placing them on his right hand side.  We pick up the story in verses 34-36:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by           my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the            creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I       was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you         invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked    after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’”

Notice the next few words in first part of verse 37, “Then the righteous will answer him.” Who are the righteous in this passage?  The righteous are those who feed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, invited the stranger in, clothed the naked, looked after the sick, and visited those who were in prison.  These are the ones who enter into his kingdom.

Once again Jesus says, “For I tell you unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20, NIV).

Uganda Update

One mother’s newborn will live for another day or perhaps week with the sugar, and grain we gave her. For another mother, we didn’t make it in time.  They buried her baby that morning.  They said she died of natural causes.  When is starvation a natural cause?

For the past week I have been traveling all over Uganda visiting various Compassion International’s projects.  Please take a moment to visit theirwebsite and consider how you might get involved.

Here is my first attempt at an update.

  • My luggage didn’t arrive until the last day of our trip.  This meant I wore the same thing over and over again.  I literally survived on one pair of briefs, a pair of sleep shorts that doubled as boxers, two shirts, one pair of pants, and three pair of socks (two pair were gifts from teammates).  I discovered I can live on a lot less.  When my bags finally came I was disgusted at myself over all my stuff.  I will never pack the same again.
  • Compassion International is an amazing ministry that makes a difference in the world.  Every where we went in Uganda and Kenya we asked the people we met if they had heard of Compassion.  They all had.  Every one of them knew someone or were sponsored as a child.  All of them were impacted.  I’m not kidding.  I have never seen a single ministry that is having so much LIFE GIVING and LIFE CHANGING impact.  Compassion is the real deal.
  • Peter our host was a street kid that grew up in the streets of Uganda.  He was taken in my  family, sponsored by Compassion, and now he works tirelessly as an advocate for children all over the world through compassion.  Peter is one of many Compassion children who are making a difference.  I hope of have him and compassion at our conference.
  • The churches of Uganda or alive and well.  Every where we went the church was the difference maker.  It’s amazing what happens when social programs are not assessable and the church lives up to its name “Body of Christ”.  One rural church planters had raised up 21 pastors who had planted 21 other churches.  In another church where we worship they had an altar call where two elders prayed over me.  Every church we went to entire Muslim families are finding Jesus.
  • The people of Uganda are so incredible loving and giving.  One lady gave us a bag of stuff she had grown, it was here only source of income.  I knew we were in trouble when they went and got their pig.  They kept the pig.
  • Compassion is more then about sponsoring children.  Compassion has an incredible strategy that begins with Child Survival, Sponsorship, and then Leadership Development.  Compassion touches a child for his entire life.  We meet some of the most impressive, spirit-filled young people who are changing Uganda’s history.
  • I met some incredible people from the US Church.  I traveled with 25 other people from churches all over the US.  We came for all over the US and served all kinds of churches.  At the same time make no mistake we were and are the “Body of Christ”.
  • I’m all jacked up!  When I resigned my church ministry position I felt God calling me to follow him.  This following thing is overwhelming.  I know that I’m to help those who can’t help themselves.  Compassion is certainly part of that picture.

Finally, when you see me just ignore me.  It will take me a while to detox from my experiences.  I’m sure I will be a bit difficult to deal with.

I will continue to post on thoughts and reflections from my trip.

One thing I know, Jesus is LORD!

Life Giving Leader

As leaders we are either givers or takers.  We give life or we take like.  I know this sounds hard, but it’s the truth.  Those who take from others are always trying to get others to do their stuff their way.  Those who give life believe in people and want to lead them to success and significance.  Here is a simple acrostic from life giving leader Billy Hornsby. You can find it in his book Success for the Second in Command.

L – Love people

E – Encourage people

A-  Affirm people and add value

D- Delegate In order to develop

E- Exemplify the type of people you want others to be.

R- Respect everybody

S- Be wiling to serve people

H-Humble yourself

I – I may not have the best idea

P – Practice what you say you value