Be A LIfe Giver!

What gives you life?

Jesus said, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10).  One way the thief robs us of the life God intends for us to have is religion.  Religion is our attempt to earn God’s approval or attempt to live up to the expectations of others.  The Gospel or Good News is we already have God’s approval.  We are accepted. We no longer have to do anything to earn his approval.  There is now no condemnation (see Romans 8).

Excuse me while I dance!

This one reality changes everything.  You may wonder if we don’t have to do anything to get’s God’s approval or acceptance then what is going to keep us on the narrow road.  Love!  When you have been loved by God well and begin to understand that love you can’t help but love him back.  Your motivation for everything changes.

When your motivation is right, everything is right!  When you motivation is wrong, everything is wrong.  Grace is the ultimate expression of God’s love.  It encapsulates everything good.  It changes our lives and the more we experience it the more it changes our lives.

Unfortunately religion and religious people seek to assert control over their environment and the people around them.  How do I know?  I did it for years.  It wasn’t until I went through the journey that led to the writing of Detox that I realized this.  I got born again.  The first time I got born again it was from sin.  This time I got born again from religion.

With this new birth my life is changing.  I’m like a baby learning to walk once again without the props of religion.  God is changing everything about me, expecially my motivation.  He is changing the way I view him.  He is changing the way I view my relationships.  He is changing the reason I do what I do.  He is even changing my relationships.  He is closing old chapters and opening new ones.

Yesterday I spent my day with one of the most life giving groups of followers I know. I am so thankful for my new friends at ARC (Association of Related Churches).  They are lead by Billy Hornsby and they plant life giving churches.  It’s easy to plant life giving churches when you are life giving.  I am so grateful for these new friends.

We all can experience the life giving presence of Jesus.  That’s what he does.  He gives us life.  Jesus invites us to “come follow him”.  This is our invitation to life.  Following Jesus is something that is possible because he has given us himself 24/7 through his Spirit.  God dwells in us and all around us.  The Kingdom is full of life.  We are invited into his Kingdom.

We believe, but are we following Jesus life giving way?  If your life is complicated and weighted down by the yoke of religion why not Detox.  That’s what I did.  Read through the Gospels focusing on Jesus’ life giving ways.  Maybe reading about my journey will help you alone the way. Pick up a copy of Detox for the Overly Religious.  Most importantly get around life giving people.  Connect with a life giving church.  Don’t worry when you find life giving people and life giving churches you will know it.  They will give you life.  Last, but not least be a life giver.

Peace!

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Recap….so much for twitter!

The last few days have been really busy doing things and spending time with people I really love.

Monday I drove to SC where I spent the evening with my parents.  Whenever I go home my dad always cooks me a steak and treats me like a king.  He’s been doing this since he welcomed me home as a prodigal over 30 years ago.

On Tuesday I made my way to Conway, SC where I spent a day working with Kevin Child’s Pastor of The Rock, a church he planted five years ago and has over 500 people attending every weekend in a high school.  They love people who need a new story and are seeing tons of people have the gospel rewrite their lives.

Left Conway and made my way to Fayetteville, NC where I meet up with my son where he’s stationed as part of the 82nd Airborne.  Dave is getting out in the next couple of months and just returned in the last 30 or so days from 10 months in Afghanistan.  We had an awesome meal at Carrabba and he paid.  It was awesome and I returned the favor the next morning at the Waffle House (well sort of).  You tell me who got the best end of that deal.

I was back home today (Wednesday).  Had an awesome hike up a Mountain just a few miles from our house with my best friend and wife Tami.

Tomorrow I have a live interview on my book, Detox for the Overly Religious with Char Binkley of WBCL Radio.   Join us at tomorrow July 15, 2010 at 9:05AM to catch us live (http://www.wbcl.org/MidMorningCurrentWeek.asp).

On Friday I get to hang out with the guys at ARC talking about how to help young fast growing churches maximize their spiritual impact.  I can’t wait to hang out with Billy Hornsby and his awesome team.  Then back home to hang out with friends and family.

Thanks Lord!

You Might be too religious if…

Let’s have some fun.  After all, us religious types are way to serious.  You might be too religious if…

  • You keep a small New Testament in your toolbox. Years ago I really had one in my toolbox.
  • You think I should still have it in my toolbox.
  • You take your suit and tie on your beach vacation so you can attend a local church.
  • You think those who didn’t go back to church on your beach vacation for the evening service are going to hell or at least backslidden. This actually happened.
  • You wear a suit and tie to church period.
  • You think I am going to hell because I don’t wear a suit and tie.
  • You have a bumper stick on your 69 VW that reads, “Hallelujah, What  A Savior!  He’s coming!  Are you ready?” I loved that car.

What about your overly religious moments?  Take a moment to laugh at yourself others…already have!

Discipleship and Door Greeters

Our ecclesiology or understanding of the church has a huge implication for discipleship.  If we see church as an attractional place to observe, then our disciples are going to resemble after school help in movie-theater consisting of a few greeters and concession stand workers.

On the other hand if you see the church as an extension of the living and breathing body of Jesus it makes all the difference in the world.  Disciples in this context are transformed from ordinary fishermen to fishers of men.  Infused with new life, hope, dreams, passions, and commitment they are compelled to live like Jesus, love like Jesus, and leave what Jesus left behind.  When confronted with hunger they respond because Jesus responds.  When they encounter an enemy they turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and give away their coat.  When reports of an earthquake come across the air they mount an all out relief effort.  When children are abandoned they become their adopted parents.  When their neighbor is alone they sit with them.  When blessed they become the one who blesses in return.  When given power they use this power to help those who can’t help themselves.  They are in process.  They are discovering a new kind of righteousness.  They are alive.  Boredom is far removed from their life.  They are filled with His Spirit and infused with power.  They are alive.  They are on fire.

Jesus declares them blessed and invites them into their reward.

There’s nothings wrong with greeters and doorkeepers, especially when they are holding the door open for people as they leave the church fully alive and fully engaged as the body of Christ.

Religious Detox

A few months back I began a journey of detoxing without even knowing it.  It has jacked me up.  My life is not the same.  It began when I started reading the Gospels.  To be honest it didn’t take long.  I got stuck on the very first words of Jesus’ ministry. From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:17-19, NIV).

Let’s face it we could all use a little detoxing.  If you find yourself tired, bored, or critical of others these may be early warning signs.  At the same time a religious detox isn’t easy.  Most of us settle until the pain of our current situation exceeds the pain of recovery.  Most of us have enough religion to make us miserable, but not enough to change.  Others have enough religion to make everyone else miserable, but we enjoy the control and god like quality that control gives us.  Jesus wants to set us free.  He wants to fill our existence with life.

Here is what I’m learning.

  1. Jesus came to show us a whole new way.  We have lost our way.  Religion is an expression of our lostness.  In our attempt to earn God’s approval and/or meet the expectation of God and others we emerge ourselves in religious behavior.  Our religion comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes.  We all have our religion of choice regardless if it takes the shape of the moralist, separatist, activist, or syncretist. Recognizing our need to repent from our various expressions of religion is the first step in a religious detox.  More importantly it the first step in the life   Jesus came to give you. Repenting involves asking,  “What if I’m wrong?”  In other words what if there is something fundamentally wrong with the way we view the Gospel?
  2. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. – Jesus didn’t come in order that one day we might go to heaven.  His purpose was much bigger than that.  Jesus came in order that he might bring heaven to earth.  The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand and it doesn’t end there.  Jesus invites us to be a part of his new creation.  He wants his creation to experience heaven on earth through us. Detoxing is a whole new orientation.  My life is not longer about me only. What use to be a “me project” has become a “we project”.  As we discover the secret and power of following him a whole new world opens up to us.  It is  then and only then we discover that we are citizens of his Kingdom.
  3. Jesus invites us to come as we are. This is the heart of the Gospel. Jesus invites us to come as we are.  Regardless of your past, come.  Regardless of what you believe, come.  Muslim or Christian; come.  Heathen or Pagan; come.  Moralist or Separatist; come.  Sinner or Saint; come.  Religious or Irreligious; come.  If we are willing to come, he will do the rest.  Coming as you are is the way.  No one is excluded.  This is good news!
  4. Jesus invites us to follow him.   In a religious world we believe.  If you believe the right things then you must be right with God.  In extreme cases we even go as far as to kill each other over our beliefs.  We see it in the Muslim world.  We even see it in dark periods of Christianity.  This is religion at its worst.  Religion steals our lives and kills our soul.  Jesus invites us to follow him as we are.  We believe, but do we follow?  Jesus invites to us to follow first and then believe.  Detoxing involves humility.  Detox involves coming as a learner, a disciple.  Detoxing involves trusting Jesus enough to follow him.  For me, following Jesus begins each day with a simple prayer, “Show me your way”.
  5. Following changes our life.  As we follow Jesus we will become.  For Peter and John it was “fishers of men”.  Life change is in the journey.  Over time we are supernaturally transformed.  At first we hardly recognize it.  When we reflect we see the difference.  This is a life long process.  We see Jesus at work, we hear his voice, we understand his ways, and we join him.  When we do we follow him and this following changes our lives forever.
  6. Jesus gives us purpose.  Jesus gives purpose to our everyday existence.  Our purpose is not an event, a position, or a moment in time.  Our purpose is a person.  That person is Jesus.  When we grasp that Jesus is our purpose then we can live out our purpose in spite of our circumstance.  When we recognize that Jesus is our purpose and learn to follow him every situation and circumstance in our lives can be filled with purpose.  This is what a religious detox is all about!  It’s about rediscovering the simplicity and centrality of Jesus and his ways. If we are really honest it may be about discovering the simplicity and centrality of Jesus and his ways for the very first time even though we have been religious or Christian for many years.

Five Things I’m Doing in My Pre-Retirement

Casey Graham of the www.thechangegroup.tv is one of my best friends in the world.  We do a lot of life together.  There’s seldom a week that goes by that we don’t talk a half-of-dozen times and hang out at least once on my deck.  In other words, when I say we are best friends, I’m not blowing smoke, we really are.  Recently Casey asked me a question that caught my attention, “What do you do?”  What he was saying is what is it you do since you transitioned out of MLC.

Drinking Tea with Friends in Istanbul

That’s a great question.  When I resigned my position I did so to “follow”.  I had just written “Detox for the Overly Religious” and I guess you could say it was time for me to do a little detoxing of my own.  Back in January I was preaching a message at MLC when I had one of those moments.  Toward the end of my message I asked the question, “We BELIEVE, but are we willing to FOLLOW?”  As I made my point I knew that this point was directed mostly to me.

Within a few days I did something sort of wild and crazy.  I resigned my position in order to “follow” Jesus.  It wasn’t that I couldn’t be a follower and still be Executive Pastor at MLC, but I felt God calling me to something more radical.  I sense that God was leading me to put myself in a vulnerable position of dependency.

When I say follow that’s exactly what I mean.  Each day I get up and I spend some time reading scripture, usually the Gospels.  I especially like the Sermon on the Mount and the chapters leading up to it.  I ask Jesus to “Show me his way!”  A lot of days I put two copies of my book Detox in my bag and I take off.  Usually I have some things plan and some things I have to do, but now that I’m not attending a lot of meetings and running a church from weekend to weekend I have more margin in my life.  I usually give the copies of my book to someone during the day.  I never know who they will go to.  I just ask God to lead me to the right person or persons and I give them my book.

What I like most about giving away my book is beginning my day this way allows me to be more sensitive to what God is doing in and around me.  At the same time that’s not all I do.  There are five things that I am focusing on at this point in my life.  I wouldn’t exactly call this my job description, but it’s the closest thing I have to one.

Grow – I hesitate to use the word grow.  I’m not sure why?  I thought of the word “morph” or “transform”.  I like the word “follow” as I’ve used it above.  At www.churchplanters.com we call it “Nurturing Vitality”.  It’s a little of all of these.

Making this transition has been one of the most exciting things I’ve done in years.  At the same time it has been really challenging.  When I began the journey I felt that God was calling me not to commit to doing any one thing for an entire year.  I’m four months into it and my constant temptation is to build something.  I think all of us have in us a need to build a tower.  It may take the shape of a team, a church, a business, a non-profit or whatever, but we need to build something.

Eight months from now I may be building something else, but for now I sense that God wants to be the builder and he wants to build me into a more complete follower of him.

Write – I’m also writing.  I’m not sure what I will ultimately call my next book, but for now i’m writing on this idea of “Radical: Becoming an Ordinary Follow of Jesus.”  This came out of a conversation I had with my daughter shortly after resigning my position.  When I told her I was resigning she couldn’t believe it.  She said,”Dad, you are Radical.  You don’t only preach about this stuff you really do it.” At the end of the day I hope to have a honest look at what it looks like to follow Jesus.

Speak – I love to speak about the things I feel passionate about.  For me that is anything that relates to “Rediscovering the simplicity of Jesus and his ways.”  Jesus gave us all the same mission, “…go make disciples…”  That’s what I’m talking about.  I love talking about our mission and calling us back to it.  Unfortunately I’m afraid that we have made it all about the weekend.  While I understand the weekend is important, it’s got to be about more then getting people to attend a religious service.  One of my warnings for church planters is “be careful what you plant, for when it grows up you will have to live with it.”  Helping churches and leader find their way back to this disciple making mission is my passion.

Coach/Consult – I have always had a passion for leaders, especially pastors.  While at Mountain Lake one of the things I enjoyed most was being close to the Lead Pastor helping him make critical and strategic decisions about the future.  During my transition I made a commitment to continue to invest in pastor’s through a coaching and consulting role.  At any given time I have 3 to 4 pastors that I invest in through an official relationship.  These relationship usually last approximately 6 months.  I love the idea of investing in hundreds and even thousands of senior leaders over the course of my lifetime.

Lead – God has wired me to lead.  I’m really good at vision and decision making.  I spend about half my time leading a church planting organization that I co-founded with Shawn Lovejoy called churchplanters.com. Our goal is to give church planters permission to do what it takes.  To me to do what it takes to make disciples out of irreligious and overly religious people.

If any of you are like Casey Graham and wondering what I do, this is it.  More then likely you are not asking this question, but it does afford me the opportunity to answer it for myself.   Who knows you may even find the need to answer the question for yourself.  That’ is “What do you do?”

Next Chapter

I’m writing again.  No, I’m not talking about writing blogs.  I’m writing my next book.  I don’t have a name.  I don’t have an outline.  I’m just writing  I did put together a book proposal for my publisher I’ve just never sent it in.  This proposal was on following Jesus.  It hit me the other day If I’m going to write a book on following Jesus then why not simply write on what it looks like for me to follow.

I wrote four chapters this week.  Today I wrote a chapter on a painful place I find myself.  I simply trying to be truthful about my thoughts, feelings, actions, attitudes, and experiences.  Imagine for a moment a book that pulls no punches, holds nothing back, openly confesses sins, talks about the dark side of life and faith in the context of grace.  That’s what I’m doing.

The challenge is going to be not to edit out the real stuff and replace it with some almost real stuff.

If nothing else I’m sure this book will help me experience healing and growth alone my journey.  Maybe I will write it for my children and grandchildren.