Search This Blog

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Manifesto of True Freedom

 "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:36)
 Recently, I handed out the following manifesto to folks on a Listening in Christ retreat I was leading. It was the culmination of what we had been working on during our time together.

FYI: A manifesto is a kind of declaration which expresses core values or deep convictions. It can be for something or against something.

I instructed the retreatants not to merely read and sign it. I told them to take time reading the Scriptures attached to each one and ponder what it was actually declaring. I did not want them to take it lightly. I told them not to sign it at all if they had not pondered in their hearts carefully what they were actually declaring. I would rather they did not sign it at all if they were not really going to work at living it.

If they did sign it, I told them to refer to it regularly to see how they are doing with each statement. I also said they should tell someone of the manifesto so they could be held accountable. My conception of the document is that it should be used as an instrument of deepening into following Jesus.

So I invite you to explore it and decide to let it guide you if it seems right to you and the Holy Spirit.

Notice that I left the last 2 blank for you to write your own declarations.


1. By the grace of God, and of my own accord, I declare that it is for freedom I have been set free, and I will spend my life learning to live in that freedom. (Gal. 5:1,13)

2. By the grace of God, and of my own accord, I choose to stay yoked to Christ as my primary identity. (Mt. 11:28-9)

3. By the grace of God, and of my own accord, I choose to surrender more of my heart and seek to become a Jesus-follower. (Mt. 16:24-6; Jn.12:25-6)

4. By the grace of God, and of my own accord, I choose to learn to live a life of service no matter my circumstance. (Ro. 12:11)

5. By the grace of God, and of my own accord, I declare that the redemptive Kingdom of God will be a primary longing of my heart. (Mt. 6:33)

6. By the grace of God, and of my own accord, I seek to fight the good fight of faith and bring pleasure to my Father in heaven, the one in whom I live and move and have my being. (1Tim. 6:12; He.11:6)

7. By the grace of God, and of my own accord, I will seek to run my race in order to get the crown, not merely finish. (Phil.3:12-4)

8. By the grace of God, and of my own accord, I

9. By the grace of God, and of my own accord, I

Soli Deo Gloria

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Vast Storehouse of Tears in Heaven

On January 28th, I wrote a blogpost entitled:"no tear dries alone . . . unnoticed." Today as I was in the Scriptures preparing for the WNEC Christian Fellowship's Listening in Christ Retreat, I stumbled on this:

"You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?" (Psalm 56:8)

What a ravishing picture of the God who knows intimately our tears. None escape his notice. None will be forgotten. None are triivial or insignificant to him. He keeps and records them all, sharing in our sufferings. Maybe he mixes them with his.There must be a vast storehouse of human tears in heaven, a book of countless pages.

I bet someday when Jesus makes everything right in all Creation, they will be emptied and wiped away leaving no stain of remembering. Our eyes will never cry again . . . or better yet, only when we are also leaping for joy.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

From My Listening in the Quiet This Morning: Thursday, February 18, 2010.

The following is part of what I heard Jesus say to me this morning during my sitting with him:

Be steadfast in the trials you endure.

Stay fastened to hope.

Cherish the truth.

Locate where love is needed and offer it.

Put on gentleness as armor.

Make no room for selfishness.

Give what you have and you will gain what is set aside for you.

Prior, he opened Isaiah 58:6-14 to me. From it, I realized that a central expression of loving God is to take action on behalf of the "least of these" his brethren, my brethren.Other sincere acts of devotion have their place, but the meat of righteousness Paul refers to substantially involves sacrificial service to everyone, but especially to the unloved and unlovely, the lost and broken, the sick, forgotten feeble and the defiantly stiff-necked.

It is through these acts of common life with God that we lift up and carry our crosses and live a full life dying to self. so we can be poured out for his glory.

So . . .

May he help us learn to feast on the meat of righteousness by shouldering our crosses and serving others without hesitating.

My he give you and me the grace to follow and serve him as our deepest daily sustenance.

May he silence our well-groomed selfishness.

May he wither our protective cowardice.

May he deflate our pride.

May he disturb our complacency.

May he harness our cherished distractions.

May he release our hearts into flat-out following.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Morning Reflections From the Quiet: Micah 3:1-4

"And I said, Hear you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel! Is it not for you to know justice -  you who hate the good and love the evil, who tear the skin from off my people, and their flesh from off their bones, who eat the flesh of my people and flay their skin from off them, and break their bones in pieces and chop them up like meat in a pot, like flesh in a cauldron. They will cry to the LORD, but he will not answer them; he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have made their deeds evil."
Micah uses the imagery of cannibalistic savagery to graphically highlight the depraved character of leaders who do violence against the oppressed instead of justice. He says brutal oppressors in Israel  perpetrate horrors on the people because they love evil and hate good. As a result of what they have done, when they cry out to God in need, he will turn a deaf ear. The rulers and heads of the house of Israel have betrayed their trust in such a vile way that he will ignore their day of anguish.

Such a stunning picture of corrupted hearts reminds me of the imperative God's leaders have been given to love his people the way he does. They are never to knowingly abuse, neglect, deceive or harm them in any way. To the contrary, they are to do unparalleled good to and for the people  because they are near God's heart. While such is a tall order requiring a manner wisdom and love only taught by the Holy Spirit, it is the invitation to any leader desiring to do God's redemptive, freeing work.

We all recognize what terror and suffering can result from leaders who do evil in the sight of God. What blessing and good come from leaders who love him, and because they love him, they love what he loves. When that happens men and women are freed and enabled to be God's people in the world for his pleasure and glory. They become unlocked, inspired and surrendered to his heart - a Jesus-following leader's deepest passion for people.


May the  leaders of imagine/Northampton, and all of the leaders who love and serve him in the Pioneer Valley be such men and women of the good.

May the desire to do good characterize all of us in a way that unlocks the Pioneer Valley for the Kingdom.

May our collective ministries be characterized by uncommon love, wisdom, graciousness, kindness and humility; breaking down walls of ingrained cultural distrust and indifference.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Use My Follower Widget to Follow My Blog

Hey everyone,

Don't you just love the word "widget."

Anyway, just a reminder to use the "Follower" widget on my blog. That way you automatically get a notification that I have made a new post. It also let's me know who is regularly reading it.

Peace and Happy Widgeting!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Worry and Discouragement: Wicked Saboteurs of the Heart.

"Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?" - Jesus.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication  with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."- Paul.
"Be strong, and let your heart take courage all you who wait for the LORD!" - David.
"Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you." - Moses.

Maybe it is just my emotive temperament, or maybe all geezers planting churches get waylaid more than their share by bouts with worry and discouragement. From what I have read through the accounts of even the great Kingdom missionaries over the centuries, these two pernicious saboteurs of the heart show up unwanted with frequency. They have to be battled or they can hamstring a mission, even turn it back leaving spiritual bodies everywhere.

What is a saboteur? The simple definition is anyone who commits sabotage.

What is sabotage? It is any underhanded interference or undermining of a cause, mission or enterprise. It is designed to cause so much injury or disruption as to derail the success of its target. It is secretive, and covert.

So a saboteur is someone or some agent dedicated to disrupting and destroying its object, and it tries to do so without detection.

All Christians are the targets of demonic saboteurs who work to obstruct, entrap and destroy them. They can attack subtly or overtly depending on the foothold they have gained in a person's life. Sin is the easiest entrance point for them, especially chronic sin that has serious disruptive or wounding potential. Even if not the case, demonic saboteurs are at work daily to obstruct, frustrate, tempt, lie to, and harass every believer. The goal is to distract, divert and destroy a Christian so he or she gradually walks away from God in despair: believing lies, trapped in sin or convinced there is no God - he gave up on the likes of them.

Harassment, enticement and deceit are key weapons of these saboteurs. The heart is the ultimate battlefield. It is in the heart that the battle is won or lost.

Of late, meaning the last month or so, the saboteurs of worry and discouragement have been whispering lies. It goes something like this:

"You know the money is going to run out again just like it did at the end of 2009.
 "Your counseling is drying up, little by little because you are a crappy counselor. No one wants to come and see a loser like you."
 "You know how many bills you have to pay each month? How long do you think you can keep doing that?"
"You know God is not going to keep bailing you out. He is frustrated and angry with how inept you are. Imagine/Northampton is going to fizzle and die. Everyone will see your shame because of the fool's errand you have been on. He never asked you to come up to Northampton."
"Look at how few people want to be involved with imagine. They came and went because they saw how lame you are. You guys couldn't do this if your lives depended on it. You just don't have it. God is abandoning you to your failure. Accept it."
"Admit it . . .it's over. What a joke. And all the people who trusted you are ruined because of you. They believed in what you said, and you let them down."
I could go on and on, but those thoughts were also accompanied by deep feeling of heaviness and emptiness showing up at night and at times when it feels we are dead in the water.The feeling were palpable and draining, both emotionally and physically.

I need to say, however, that people I know and love have been telling us God is having them pray more and more for us. To a person, they send words of encouragement, from God and from their own hearts. And, my own prayer life has been deepened and restored by the true adversity we have faced here in Northampton. I am getting stronger in prayer. Knowing other people have been summoned by God to pray and give witness to his love and mission for us has been water in the desert - treasures of life and spiritual sustaining. I have actually felt the physical sensation of some sort of darkness lifted off me twice early in the morning, a loosening and freeing. Quite extraordinary because I did not expect it,  It happened all of a sudden.

I am realizing worry and discouragement are powerful saboteurs of the heart. They obstruct and work to inhibit the sustained enlivening of faith and hope. They work to undermine courage and plant cancerous doubt in the heart of Jesus-followers who are stepping out in faith to fulfill the Kingdom mission God has summoned them to.

Worry steals faith; discouragement turns us away from hope. Both wear down and exhaust our hearts until we are numb and weary. We become lulled into impotence and sterile submission.


The Truth is . . .

Jesus exhorts us not to worry at all. He avers that our lives are so much more than our daily needs which the Father already knows and will provide.

Paul says worry over nothing, and pray all the time for our need. He says if we persist, peace will guard our hearts against lying saboteurs.

David tells us to stand strong and let our hearts hold fast to courage while we wait for God who will be faithful.

Moses asserts God Almighty is with you and me; he's never left nor will he. In fact, he goes with us into the places and amongst the people we dread. Why be afraid?

So where are the spiritual saboteurs in your Kingdom mission these days? What are you doing about it? Where to you need to be healed or restored?

Cry out to God and tell others to cry for you.

God is near and he is not worried or discouraged.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Developing the Missionary Mindset Redux: Question 5: Am I Building a Relationship With Someone Who Doesn't Know Jesus?

On December 6, 2009 I published on this blog a post entitled: To Help Us Grow a Missionary Mindset. The post came from a simple tool I created to help folks on our team think and act as missionaries in Northampton. If you read it you would have seen the 8 questions I invited team members to measure their weekly progress against. It was designed to help us all really become missional rather than talk about it. Talking about it is easy to do and weirdly emotionally satisfying. It can take the place of actually doing it. I know, I am quite brilliant at giving lip service.

From looking at the tool lately I have decided to put some flesh on each of the questions I outlined. I will do so in 8 posts detailing one question at a time. I hope you all find it helpful in your own missional development. Remember it is about gradually developing a missionary mindset, i.e., way of life.

Question 5 takes us deep into the heart of having a missionary mindset and being missional as a primary way of living. It is one thing to connect with new people, pray for them, and take initiative to love and serve them. All good stuff. It is the next step (and deeply related), to devote the time and make the concerted effort to build a true relationship with a person who does not share your faith. Not so easy. Getting to know a person on their terms can take a large dollop of gumption.

Building such a relationship needs a sense of humor, creativity, quiet perseverance, flexibility, wisdom and all sorts of grace. Remember, the relationship I am referring to is one which gradually opens the person to Jesus, not merely having a new friend:

It is strategic, yet genuine.

It is focused, yet natural.

It has a purpose, but is gracious and sincerely loving at the core.

I hope it is abundantly clear I am not reducing such relating to "winning" converts as if we are making sales, and "upping our numbers" for God. Yuck! Seems to me such an attitude reduces the person to a target rather than a precious human soul, a person worthy of respect. Lord, keep us from such insulting practices!

Question 5: Am I Building a Relationship With Someone Who Doesn't Know Jesus?

1. Do I love Jesus to the degree that my heart longs for others to know him?

2. Have I allowed God to "break my heart" for people far from him: the broken, blind, stubborn, and superficially satisfied?

3. Have I asked him to help create more space in my life for building relationships with people who don't share my faith?

4. Have I examined my fears over "imposing my views" on others, and asked God to give me courage and "words salted with grace" toward them?

5. Have I decided to surrender some of my time to make this a way of life?

6. Am I studying ways of being more effective in this regard?

7. Am I satisfied with "God if you really want to use me this way, I guess I'm OK with it?" The passive approach is fine by me. I'm not an evangelist, you know.

8. Am I convinced going about building such relationships is the Scriptural way of life; being a missionary is just another way of saying Jesus-follower or Christian?

Take some time with God this week. Reflect on the questions. Pray and listen to God. Engage a fellow Jesus-follower and talk them over with him or her. Use these questions in your small group and commit together to engaging this adventure.

May Jesus take you and me far into the freedom and joy of building relationships with people who do not know him. May our lives be more and more characterized by the missionary mindset and way of life.