I Will Please Him, Because He is Pleased

Pleasure is a universal desire. One which we all seek and search for. It is the impetus of the soul. It’s why we experiment sexually, seek out various relationships, try chemical substances, or pursue success. There is a certain amount of pleasure those things offer. But as most can tell you, they are fleeting. Pornography is a big seller because the pleasure of sex quickly dissolves and we return to recapture the moment of ecstasy that allured us in the first place. We are perennial daters and promiscuous lovers because the feeling of being loved by another human being fills a void of interpersonal relationships that we were created to need, even if that means we distort what those relationships look and feel like. We drink and inoculate ourselves with chemicals until our brain buzzes with a pleasure, that while powerful, is doomed to plummet into depression until we get our next fix. We kill ourselves and over-schedule our lives, using others and resources to become someone of great prosperity and austerity, only to look around and see we have alienated those closest to us to accumulate stuff which will eventually belong to someone else. We all seek pleasure, even if it means we seek it in inferior ways. We were made to seek it. We were made to seek it because our Creator also seeks it.

Is it difficult to think of God as seeking pleasure? For me, it sounds weird because the human experience of pleasure often seems so petty. Yet, God is consistently seeking His own pleasure.

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. (Psalm 115:3)

Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. (Psalm 135:6)

Both of these psalms use the word “pleases” to show that God does whatever He wants. Nothing holds him back. He is limitless and unfiltered. This is the essence of pleasure, to desire something and be able to follow through with obtaining it. The difference is where we are limited and are often thwarted; God is not.

So, what does God do with all of His power to do whatever He wants?

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. (Isaiah 53:10, NKJV) 

Isaiah 53 gives a despondent description of an innocent man who is beaten, ridiculed, and slaughtered in the place of guilty and vile people. Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, says that this description is a prophecy of Jesus and the people he died for are those in the church. (2 Peter 2:21-24) One of the major accusations laid against the church is that it is filled with hypocrites. It’s not too far from the truth. The church indeed has its share of hypocrites who do not love or honor Jesus as their Savior and Lord. The rest are simply sinners saved by grace. This is the prerequisite to being a Christian; admitting we are sinners and we can’t change ourselves. We understand we need someone to take the blame or we’re doomed. We believe that Jesus is the one who took our blame. That his soul was the offering for our sin. And we believed the Lord was pleased to take his life for ours. And it was a joyous thing for Jesus to give it.

…Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:2)

Why did God do this?

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

Because God loved me, it pleased Him to have His Son die in my place. Because Jesus loved me, he found joy in enduring the cross and the shame that comes with it. God does all that He pleases and with that power He chose to die for my sin and give me new life. This speaks of a volume and depth of love I can’t ascertain. How should I respond? How should I live my life now?

Pleasure is a funny thing, especially when it sprouts from our views of God. Some of us flee to pleasure because we don’t believe in a higher power or believe if he’s there then the thing he wants most is for me to be happy. We take hold of life and live seeking quick fixes and immediate joy because: what else is there to do? We don’t know when our lives will end so why not make the most of it now? Others shun pleasure because it makes us feel dirty or guilty or shameful. We take good things, like sex, and vilify them. Instead of seeing sex as the good and gracious gift God has given a husband and wife, we swing the opposite way of our sexually free society and take the joy out of the marriage bed. We do this with alcohol, marriage, friendships, money, material possessions, and on and on. We either loosen up or tighten up. Both of these responses have nothing to do with the God of the Bible, who loves us and is pleased with us.

I imagine my response to God’s love and pleasure much like my response to my wife. I have known my wife now for over 5 years and have given her several gifts during this time. Some of them have come from when I know I have messed up and wanted to make amends, others because I wanted something. But the best gifts I have given her have come from a heart that is overwhelmed by her love for me. The days when I am taken aback by her role as the mother to my child or the way she selflessly cares for me or how she places the needs of others above her own; so I decide to buy her flowers, to write her a letter, or to bring home her favorite ice cream or coffee drink. Though small, these are the purest gifts. The gifts that I am pleased to give because of her staggering pleasure and love for me. It is the joy born from love and affection of her to me, not out of obligation or means to another end. This is the proper response to God’s pleasure and love for you.

He is pleased with you because He is pleased with Jesus, who stands in your place. He is pleased with you because before you ever had a cell in your body that appreciated Him, He loved you enough to give His immortal life for you. He is pleased with you and though you have rejected Him, he has accepted you in Jesus. He is pleased with you and though you fail, He has given you a new life empowered by the Spirit to please Him. He is pleased with you and there is nothing you can do fall out of His grace once you are in it.

This pleasure and love, as unattainable in knowledge as it is, motivates the heart to love back selflessly and fully in the truest, purest ways. Ways that please the One who does all the He pleases, like loving sinners like you and me.

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How do we interact with a God who allows Suffering?

The past few weeks I have been reminded of the numerous ways in which our world is cruel. A 12 year old girl committed suicide because of cyber bullying. A daughter of a friend’s has been working back from a paralysis with no known cause. Neighbors feel discriminated because of their race, a young couple are unable to conceive, gangs shoot each other a few blocks away, and women are on corners prostituting themselves. What do we do with such sin, such sadness? Where is God in the midst of all of the pain, death, and struggle?

Psalm 90 was written by Moses as Israel wondered in the wilderness. They had come to the promised land after being slaves in Egypt. Yet, they refused to go in out of fear of the inhabitants. They had seen God split the Red Sea, witnessed His amazing presence on the mountain when He gave the Ten Commandments, and had been shown over and over His power to provide for them. However, they did not trust Him enough to go into the land. God’s reaction; “Fine, don’t go. But you will wander in the wilderness for 40 years until all of the adults are dead and then we’ll try again with your children.” In those 40 years, Moses watched at least 250,000 people die. I can’t even imagine the depressive feeling that took over that camp. And in the midst of all the funerals, Moses wrote this beautiful and haunting Psalm about God’s sovereignty and man’s mortality.

In it, Moses paints a illustrative description of God as being outside of time: “from everlasting to everlasting.” He has no beginning and no end. God is a god who is unlimited in His lifespan. More so, He is the maker of our planet and the universe in which it resides. He is the Creator of all things. A timeless, omnipotent Being, fully in control over His work, including man’s fate. In v. 3, Moses writes, “You return man to dust, and say, ‘Return, O children of man.'” He is the author and taker of our lives. Specifically in this case, God “returned men to dust” over their refusal to trust Him. They had explicitly rebelled against Him.

But this is only a small part of the greater issue. We’ve all rebelled against our Creator. Each one of us have ignored, pushed, disobeyed, mistrusted, and flat out refused to acknowledge God and His wisdom. This is the essence of sin and of what happened with Israel. They thought they were safer and happier wandering the desert than risking their lives trying to take the land of Canaan.  They believed they had a better understanding of joy and life than the One who had created them. And so do we. For this reason, we join with the Israelites as men and women ordained to “return to the dust.” These words were first spoken by God in Gen. 3:19 as He banished Adam and Eve from the Garden. Generally speaking, all death, disease, and distortion of our created world is because we have all rebelled and hated the Creator who made it.

But that is generally speaking. Life gets harder to explain when we get specific. It’s difficult to climb to 30,000 foot when we’re so bogged down by our personal pain and struggle. In those moments, even when we know that sin is the root cause of all suffering, we still lash out at God. Asking hard questions like: If God is so powerful, good, and loving, can’t He stop all of this? Shouldn’t He?

Those are valid and important questions and you should never feel ashamed to ask then. And while I may never be able to answer ‘Why?”, I can tell you this: Based on the Bible’s description of God we know:

  • Suffering isn’t because God isn’t in control
  • And it’s not because He doesn’t love us

Most religions and philosophies deal with pain in a detached way. It’s something to overcome or it’s random chance. But Christianity offers us something totally different: a God who suffers with us and for us.

God entered into flesh as Jesus. Jesus knew what it was like to be poor, to lose a parent, to lose a friend, to be ridiculed, rejected, disdained, alone, depressed, and verbally and physically attacked. He knew what it was like to be human. Additionaly, He not only suffered with us but took our sin upon Himself to bear the wrath of God which was reserved for us. God demanded our life back and Jesus gave His instead. Kari Seavey writes:

The Bible doesn’t promote karma. Job was a good guy, and bad things happened to him. In fact, Jesus was the best of the good guys, and the worst of the bad things happened to him…our sovereign God may wisely allow what we most fear, but our suffering God convinces us of his deep love as we face these things. The powerful hands that uphold all things are the hands that were pierced for us.
– “When God’s Sovereignty Scares You”

So, knowing God is in full control of all our life’s events and knowing He loves us more than we can fathom. How should we respond? Moses gives a good outline in Psalm 90.

  1. Pray. Seek out God. We often use suffering as a means to push God away. Fight against this urge and pursue Him instead.
  2. Be honest. Don’t sugar coat your feelings or your situation in your prayers.
  3. Determine if your pain is caused by idols. Idols are objects, people, or concepts we find identity in above and beyond God. We are created to find dependency in our Creator alone but instead find worth in His creation instead. When something we have placed hope in disappears it makes our suffering worse. Is that the case with you?
  4. Trust God’s character in Jesus. He is in control and He loves us. Everything has a good purpose, even the most tragic of events. The cross is the ultimate testimony of God’s plan and love for you. 

 

*A lot of thought here was formed by reading C.S. Lewis and Tim Keller. Both worth your time.

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Being a Missional Church in the City

When we think about how the church reaches the lost, we often think about it in one of two ways: Attractional vs. Incarnational. Simply put, we think about ways to get people to come to us or ways in which we can connect to people where they’re at. So, if a church is primarily attractional then they will form their Sunday service as the main way to meet new people. After meeting them on a Sunday Morning, then they work to connect and plug them into what they are doing during the week.  An Incarnational church, on the other hand, will focus more on their weekly events and ministries as the way to meet new people. The hope is that through their missions they can connect and funnel people to their main worship services. It’s a “come and see” versus a “see and come” approach. (Even though they aren’t really in competition with each other).

It’s at this point that I need to throw in a disclaimer: the above are very general definitions and are not inclusive of any church, but they do a good job of defining basic motivation behind mission. It’s also important to note that one way is not necessarily better than the other. Churches have grown and people have come to faith and grown in Godliness in both attractional and incarnational settings. So, I would encourage you (as I had to do with myself) to refrain from stating one’s superiority to the other, because God uses both very effectively. Additionally, I have to confess my inherent pull toward one model over the other (incarnational), as I am sure you will be too. With all of that stated, there are a few questions to ask:
  1. Is growing my Sunday attendance enough?
  2. Is connecting with people throughout the week enough?
  3. What would it look like to do both?
These are the questions I am wrestling with as I prepare to start our church. Basically, how do we enable people to connect to our church? Where will our focus be? In thinking through this, I am finding you can’t lean too far one way or the other.
If I focus solely on being attractional, I put myself at risk of the following:
  1. Most of our resources would be spent trying to get people into the church, instead of discipleship and mission. So while my attendance might grow, the spiritual growth of the congregation would be either slow or nonexistent. Willow Creek admitted this was a huge battle for them just a few years ago.
  2. Because my measuring stick would be Sunday Morning numbers, it becomes easy to cut the cord on necessary and beneficial ministries that don’t bring in money or seekers.
If I focus solely on being incarnational, I put myself at risk of the following:
  1. I’ll demand so much of my leaders, that they could get burned out. If my measurement of success is the level of involvement within the community, then my leaders may feel as if they can never take a night off.
  2. Additionally, in trying to be so active with so many ministries, we’ll burn through our finances due to being so stretched because of the unending needs of our community.
My desire is to move toward the middle, but how? The following advice was given during the Exponential workshop headed by Hank Wilson and Aaron Graham. They outlined how to navigate this tension in 3 crucial areas. The following is straight from my notes.
 
Mission:
  • Don’t delegate mission to a parachurch. If the church can do it, then you should. If not, then let another ministry or church.
  • Focus on your church’s unique gifts and values. What can we feasibly do? What would be too much for us?
  • The lead pastor has to be the mission pastor and drive vision.
  • Create several levels of entry for seekers: i.e. Community events, Sunday mornings, Service projects (long and short term), small groups. Above all, don’t make it a prerequisite to be a Christian to join in any of those.
Leadership:
  • NEVER launch a ministry without a leader. But make sure you know your leaders well and know they are committed and capable.
  • Strive to have an apprentice on every ministry project.
  • Develop a community for your leaders.
  • Ask for high commitments for short amounts of time, i.e weekly attendance for 6 months or read/pray everyday for one week. Then reevaluate them on their progress.
Finances:
  • Figure into your budget a percentage which will go to missional opportunities in your neighborhood and beyond. Percentages are better than amounts because you can always match a percentage.
  • Don’t let money stand in the way. The U.S. is the richest country in human history. So cast vision, not bills, to prospective financial partners and seek the Lord’s favor in asking for support.
Sounds easy right? As is often the case with wise advice, it is easier said than done. But by God’s grace, your prayers, and our hard work we will strive to walk this tight tension between being a place people want to come and being a church that goes to the places people live.
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From Leading to Being Led

It would seem ironic that I would enter ministry to serve God only to find myself  serving the ministry instead. People get traded in for programs, personal time with Jesus gets the back seat to performing, and dependent prayer gets replaced with quick fixes.  I would end up burnt out and broken and wondering ‘What happened?’ That’s why this session at Exponential was particularly good for me, especially the talk by Craig Groeschel. 

He started his session by sharing the following confession: when he first started his church, he thought ministry would be great and fulfilling but eventually found himself serving the church more than Jesus. In his words, “The way I was doing the work of God was destroying the work of God in me.”  He learned the hard way that before you can be an effective leader of people, you have to be a passionate follower of Jesus.  I had never heard it so succinctly.
The way I was doing the work of God was destroying the work of God in me.
I knew immediately what he was saying.  Several times I have felt abused and mistreated by God because He had called me into ministry. Yet, it was not until God allowed me to suffer through my brokenness that I realized the reason I felt so abused was because I was more concerned about serving the ministry than Jesus. Maybe some of you reading this are in that place or have been. Ask yourself these 3 questions:
  1. Are you are more concerned with what people think than God thinks? If so, then you will have a tendency to bend on your vision and God’s word, trying to keep peace and people-please. Until, one day you come to the realization that the ministry God placed in your heart is no longer the ministry you are serving and the God you want to serve has been replaced by a growing list of people you want to please.
  2. Are you more concerned with public image than private devotion? This one is personal. It is really tempting to be more concerned with having the right theology, doing the right things, and most importantly, not be seen doing stupid things, than simply getting on my knees in prayer in daily devotion to God’s word. I am so concerned with looking mature that I show child-like ignorance to what it means to be “saved by grace.”
  3. Are you more concerned about growing attendance than glorifying God? A question Craig asked was: Do you plan your series and events based on human response instead of Godly wisdom? The ultimate goal is not to grow the church but to grow the people in your church into Godliness. If they grow through discipleship, then your church should grow anyways as they invite and invest in others.
My push back to these questions was simple. The ministry would fail if I wasn’t doing enough, wasn’t pleasing enough people, was too flawed, or I was too preachy. But Craig stated this great truth:
If you take the blame for your church’s decline then you will inevitably take the credit for its successes.
His answer: simply pursue God and be concerned with being faithful. It is as easy and has hard as that. I say it’s as hard because, if you’re like me, then you want credit for the hard work you do. You want people to recognize your effort and applaud you. But there is a dark side to wanting credit: I don’t want anyone else to have it.  That’s why it is so important I’m led by God before I ever consider leading others.
So maybe it’s best to check your motivations first. Which of the following best describes you?
  1. You want to make a name for yourself.  You believe you are really good at what you do and you are the answer to the church’s need.  In this context, the enemy is anyone who has a chance to be more successful than you. From the church down the street who may have a bigger attendance to the associate pastor who may be a better preacher, anyone who you believe challenges your fame or glory becomes someone to fear.
  2. You want to make a difference.  You believe your church is good and is the answer to your city’s needs.  In this context, your enemy becomes all the other churches in the area who may take away people from you or start ministries to reach people you want to reach. The reaction is to position your church as the better option of all the churches in your community.  By making your church seem great, you make their church seem insignificant and nullify the work of God in their congregation.
  3. You want to make history.  You believe that God alone is good. The enemy is Satan and the hold he has on your community. The reaction is to see any growth by any church in your area as a success of God’s Gospel. Not only that but it means your ultimate measurement of success is not fame or the growth of your church, but the growth of God’s Church.
Can I just be honest? (If I haven’t been already) I want to make history but I get stuck trying to make a difference and a name for myself. My personal success often gets in the way of seeing how God is succeeding and I miss out on a lot of blessings and evidences of His grace because of it. Pray for my heart. I can’t plant a church until I get out of the way and take notice of how God wants to use my church in His greater plan. It’s His calling anyways. I am but a lowly vessel.
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Truths to Urban Church Planting

*The following is based on notes taken from a workshop led by Brian Moll and Jonathan Williams, both pastors in New York City.

The idea of church planting in a city is often romanticized but the reality is that the city can be a very difficult place to live. It is expensive due to cost-of-living increases, people come and go very quickly, and the constant flux exposes our weaknesses and demolishes our presuppositions.  If we are going to plant churches in the city, then we must not allow it to overwhelm us. The pressure from the city to mold ourselves to it, as well as the immense diversity, can leave us tired, broken, and damaged by the ministry. We must instead focus on these new challenges as ways God wants us to prayerfully depend on Him, not as ways we have to fix or change ourselves.

There are usually five mistakes people make when they move into the city to plant a church:
  1. They become tourists. They take all they can from the experience of living in the urban culture but never see the city as their home. When we don’t root our lives in the city then it becomes very easy to leave when things get difficult.
  2. They try to become like the urban culture around them. Be yourself, but be yourself in the city. Just because others stay up until two in the morning, spend large amounts of money on clothing or electronics, or live in really nice apartments, it doesn’t mean you have to. It is more important to live in the city as yourself, than allow the city to change you until you get worn out and move.
  3. They create a separate community within the city. Churches in the city do a great job of reaching other Christians but if we are going to reach the non-believer, we have to contextualize the message to the language and methods of the city. Don’t assimilate into the culture around you, rather learn and engage it with the Gospel.
  4. They see the city as an evil adversary. Make sure you see the city for the beautiful place it is, not just a place of wretchedness and depravity.  Most people think of the city as a place to escape, especially once you start a family. The city is a beautiful place full of diversity in the arts, cultures, ideas, music, food, people, and the list goes on and on. Additionally, it is important to understand the whole world is broken and in need of a Savior. Instead of focusing on the great sin around you, pray that God shows you the generous amount of beauty in your neighborhood and what it will look like when redeemed by the Gospel.
  5. They strive to be the hero. Just because we plant a church in the city, doesn’t mean we are the city’s savior. There is only one Savior and it is Jesus Christ. We are but lowly, clay vessels of His grace. As those vessels, our role is to listen and preach the Gospel, praying that the Spirit works in people for their salvation.

All five of these can best be summed up by the following: WE LIVE IN THE CITY; WE ARE DIFFERENT FROM THE CITY; WE ARE FOR THE CITY.

Another area where nearly all Urban church planters want to grow is in their diversity. Yet, there is a huge difference in being a diverse church and church where minorities happen to go. If you are wanting to know if you are a diverse church or simply a church with a few minorities, then ask this: Does our worship style look more like the me or like my community?
If you are wanting to really face the issue of diversity within your church, here are a few suggestions:
  1. Be intentional in asking questions and listening to those who are different than you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to the people in your community about their spiritual lives and be prepared to listen to the responses. This will take purposeful time, energy, and investment.
  2. Recognize you are inherently biased to your own culture. This is difficult to swallow but true. We all prefer to hang out with people who are like us. Why wouldn’t we? We are also wired to consider habits or rituals that are unusual to our culture as weird or ‘not right.’ For instance, pre-arrainged marriage is the norm for over a billion people who call India home but in the U.S. it is seen as a violation of the right to choose. Be careful of how you engage other cultures and pray that God would make you aware of your biases and that you aren’t forcing your preferences onto Scripture.
  3. Pattern your worship service so it looks like the community. This refers back to suggestion #1 but can be difficult, especially if the community doesn’t like the same kind of music as you do. It doesn’t mean you give up the reins but that you are flexible, inclusive, and aware of your neighborhood when planning your worship services.
  4. Don’t be afraid to address diversity amongst your leadership and congregation. When you are able to address the elephant in the room, you give others the freedom to discuss it too. It creates openness and honesty which helps build healthy Christian community, especially as we challenge each other with the Gospel.
  5. Develop a sensitivity to other cultures and diverse issues. This is one that will need to be developed overtime but prayerfully strive to understand the cultures and nationalities present in your community and try to relate with them on their terms. For instance, in the Arabic culture it is shameful to shake hands with your left hand. It is a small but effective way to avoid creating distance between you and people you would like to share the Gospel with, even if you are left-handed.

There is a lot to consider when planting in an Urban context but still the greatest key remains: WE LIVE IN THE CITY; WE ARE DIFFERENT FROM THE CITY; WE ARE FOR THE CITY.

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From Reaching to Making

As I mentioned in a post a few days ago, I was able to go to the Exponential Conference last week. The conference had a great impact on me spiritually and practically as I look a head to church planting. Because of that, I wanted to share what the Lord was doing in my heart through the notes and thoughts the sessions and workshops produced.

The first main session of Exponential 2013 featured Jim Putman and Francis Chan and the discussion centered on going from evangelizing to discipling. The focus of the church over the last twenty to twenty-five years has hinged on “front-door” policies. Simply, how do we get people in? Over the last five to ten years, pastors have realized that just because your numbers on a Sunday Morning grow, it doesn’t mean people are growing. These two men set about the task of hammering this truth home and bringing us into a better way. A way to make disciples.

Once again these are my notes from this session taken from my perspective.

Jim Putman:
There are two shocking truths that indicate the church is failing in discipleship:

  1. 90%of Christians in the U.S. will die without sharing their faith
  2. 78% of people in the U.S. claim to be Christian
If these numbers continue to hold steady what hope is there the church will live on?
Jesus provides hope in Matthew 16:18, claiming that his church will not fail. The gates of hell will not prevail against it. Well, what does it mean to be His church? Looking at Matthew 28:16-20 we see it looks like this:
  1. It is under His authority and His Word.
  2. It is under His mission to make disciples. We are to teach people what it looks like to follow Jesus and grow in holiness.
  3. It uses His methods. Intentional, personal relationships.
In thinking through the failure of the church to make disciples, a few questions surfaced.
  1. Do we truly believe and value the things Jesus taught? I know a lot of theology, can quote Bible verses, and understand that God loves me and loves others. But do I truly believe those things? Do I value them on a daily basis? If I do, my life should look different because my focus is different.
  2. Do I value community and specifically the church? What do my relationships look like? Are they superficial or do I allow people to know me? Do I ever talk about the personal impact of Jesus in my life outside of a church setting or a group of church friends?
  3. Jesus spent 3 years with 12 men. Am I willing to commit to invest in people for the long-term, with the understanding that deep relationships are also messy relationships? When the masks come off and we see each other for who we really are, am I willing to love and extend grace, prayerfully seeking Godly change in those I am discipling.
Francis Chan: 
The questions he posed at the beginning of his talk were: How many people who go to church on a Sunday Morning are going to Hell? How many don’t truly love Jesus or find joy in Him but instead are immersed in the religious cycle and ritual of the church life?
In 1 Thess. 4, Paul points out that the radical transformation of the Thessalonians was demonstrated by their dramatic love toward one another and the community. They lived in joy and in hope for the things to come though they were greatly persecuted.
So the questions you must ask yourself in light of this are:
  1. How is my heart? Do I have joy in Christ or in religious practice?
  2. Do I believe God’s Spirit can change people? That people can go from broken to healed?
  3. That the Gospel is enough? That no matter the circumstance, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is the answer?
  4. That the Gospel will never be overcome? No matter how the world goes, no matter the political climate; Jesus will win?
  5. What do I hope in? What motivates me to live on a daily basis? What gives me life and purpose? Is it Jesus or something or someone else?
The news of the past week (Boston Bombing) has reminded us of the reality that the world is a fallen place. God stated it would fail and crumble and He is not lying.  And while the state of our world is sad and demoralizing, it reminds us of the other promises of God. That those who are saved have a lasting Hope. The reality of that Hope should bring lasting Joy in our daily lives.
Be on guard and don’t let the weariness of the world take the Joy of your salvation. Don’t let the death and destruction around you shift you from the focus of life everlasting in the Gospel. When we know that the Truth we have speaks greater Joy and Hope than anything else in all the world, then we can disciple others effectively.
Discipleship is sharing your life. On a daily basis, how many people consider their greatest, current struggle a theological one? How many are simply wanting to see and know what it means to love and live more like Jesus? Show them with your Joy-filled life how to be a spouse, a parent, a child, a good employee, etc. and share your convictions for those things.
When we disciple others to the Jesus we find Joy and Hope in, then we disciple others to True life.
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Exponential Conference 2013: In Retrospect

This past week, I have been blessed to attend a church planting conference called Exponential 2013. It’s focus was on discipleship and the tagline was “DiscipleShift.” Five thousand church planters flooded the campus of First Baptist Orlando which is world-famous for being bigger than your church. Over the course of 3 days, I heard from Francis Chan, Mike Breen, Jo Saxton, Ed Stetzer, and many, many, many more. The sheer amount of information I have written down (25 pages total) is too much to work through at once. So, instead I will spend the next week and half blogging my notes and interacting with them.

The conference was broken up into nine events, five Main Sessions and four Workshop times.

The Main Sessions gathered all five thousand of us together in the main auditorium and we worshipped and heard short sermons from up to 3 different speakers over a period of an hour and half. The Workshops, on the other hand, were very specific in their material and because there were so many of them, the attendance to each was usually around 100.

I am going to blog about each Main Session and each Workshop. I will try to do this at a pace of one a day for the next week and half.

Why would I do this? For 3 reasons:

1. I feel that this conference has been integral in my walk toward planting a church. I told my wife that I feel it is the first conference where I had an overwhelming amount of take home advice and instruction. Since this blog is about the journey God is taking us on with this church, I have to let you know what I learned.

2. Reiteration of the material. I learn best by teaching others. By writing out my notes and interacting with them here, it helps cement them into my heart.

3. Maybe someone reading this wants to plant a church one day and the notes I took could be a help to them. Maybe that’s arrogant but I have been helped by others’ notes and maybe God could use mine in the same way.

I believe there are markers God gives us so that we can look back at a particular time and remember when things changed. This conference will be one such marker for me. My wife and I have been committed to planting a church for a long time now, but after this week, things are looking clearer. And I am glad to share that clarity with you.

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Posted in Exponential Conference