Friday, May 27, 2011

A Story of Inspiration

None of us have life all figured out. When we face struggles and obstacles, we're often left with more questions than answers. This is Cody's story. Born with complications, he didn't let this obstacle overtake him. No matter what you are facing in your are not alone. God is with you. May you find hope, rest, love and live in Him.

Cody's Story from Igniter Media on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Message vs. Method - Discipleship 139

This is a classic question in the discipleship conversation: How do we remain commitment to the message while using relevant methods to communicate the message?

In my younger days, I loved being a patron of The Cheesecake Cafe. This particular restaurant was known for its' desserts...and I'll admit it, I have a soft spot for cheesecake and other rich desserts!! If you wanted to experience cheesecake, this was the place to go. But then something happened. The quality of food remained the same, but it was almost as if the restaurant was clinging too much on reputation alone to communicate its' message (we make the best cheesecake) to people. Sadly, the Cheesecake cafe that has been in the area of Calgary in which I live recently closed its' doors because it wasn't making a profit. This restaurant had lost sight of its' originally defined goal of success.

In discipleship, the definition of success is obedience to God. The fruit (or result) of this success is a disciple; meaning that replication is the goal. When we are engaged in the discipleship of others, the goal is to see this other person become a disciple of Jesus and to then inspire others to do the same.

I wonder sometimes if we lean too heavily on our reputation as Christians that we resist things like creativity, originality and change in our pursuit of making disciples of others. We may hear a phrase like "we have a new way of doing things" and immediately shudder or cringe because the words 'new' and 'way' lead us to assume the message must suffer for the sake of this new method. I personally disagree. I think the message of Jesus is time-tested. The message, and therefore definition of success for discipleship, can not change. If they do, then we risk becoming heretical and living examples of defamation.

What can change, however, is the way we communicate this message. Our methods do not stand the test of time. We are constantly learning how to do things more effectively or differently in order to keep them fresh and unique. Why not employ this same strategy in our quest for discipleship? Does it really hinder the growth and development of others when we are looking at different ways to reach more people with the gospel message of Jesus?

The bottom line is that we sometimes enjoy celebrating the method rather than celebrating the message. We love to point to our strategy or our development plan and marvel at how our system has produced our desired result. Instead, should we not become more captivated by the God's message, and His messenger in Jesus, that we learn to embrace the message and discard the method when the method becomes irrelevant and disengaging? Or are we more concerned about the method and believing that it is equal in status with the message itself?

Be creative. Be bold. Hold tightly to the truth of the message of Christ Jesus, and loosely to the methods which you use to communicate it. The last thing we need is to be out-dated, irrelevant and disengaging as God's people.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Community - Discipleship 138

I'm hard pressed to find examples of discipleship that take place outside of the context of community. Whether online or offline, community plays a vital role in the spiritual transformation of people. The struggle we as humans have with the word community is that it's become quite ambiguous...we've lost site of its' original meaning.

Community is a cluster of committed people who gather together for the purpose of relationship and the expression of belonging. The great thing about community is that it isn't limited by genetic code or physical location. True community is both mobile and reproducible.

Discipleship is the by-product of true community. A community is focused on the growth and development of both its' individuals and its' collective gathered body. If, as followers of Jesus Christ, our greatest commandment (Love God & Love Others) and our great commission (go and make disciples) inspire us to live, breathe and create community, what will our personal and collective response be in the pursuit of discipleship?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Synthetic or Natural - Discipleship 137

I had an interesting conversation today with one of my teammates. We were talking about the desire to see spiritual fruit emerge in the lives of the youth, parents and volunteer leaders that we serve. We then began to discuss the difference between synthetically and naturally produced fruit. Many of us would be aware of the emerging organic vegetable and fruit sections in our local supermarkets. The difference between this type of fruit and the chemically engineered stuff is quality over quantity. Engineered fruit is often larger in size, produced more quickly and potentially lasts longer. Yet the nutritional value of this food is lacking when compared to that of the organic variety.

I think spiritual fruit functions in the same way. Fruit that is synthetically produced may look better, ripen quicker and be more prevalent, but is the quality still there? If we agree that there is a growing season for everything, why are we so determined to rush fruit into production? Part of this demand for fruit may be attributed to the external pressures we feel to measure our success in ministry based on life change, but it's also due to our own need to see tangible results for our efforts.

Being a pastor, a parent, a husband and even a human being means learning to live with tension. I cannot control or manufacture the response of my wife, kids or ministry members to the presence of Jesus, but I can influence this response. The question I am left asking myself is this: Am I engineering synthetic fruit, or am I helping to produce the organic stuff?

If my role as a follower of Jesus is to be who I'm created to be, to inspire others in their faith journey and to love and live like Jesus, am I willing to wait for spiritual fruit to ripen in its' season, or will I try to force fruit to emerge through synthetic means? My hope is that I do not underestimate the power of God's Spirit at work in and through me, and that I may be willing to follow the Spirit's promptings that will bear fruit in its' season.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Loving Your Enemy - Discipleship 136

Recent world news has informed us that this last decade's most wanted man has been killed. Osama Bin Laden is dead. When I first heard the news, I wasn't sure how to feel. I read many twitter posts celebrating this great feat, and while I agree with pursuing justice, I'm not sure if celebrating another person's failure or demise is the best response. Having said that, I am not belittling those who were greatly affected by the events of 9-11. I personally didn't lose much on that day. What I did gain was a heightened awareness of the struggle in our world. A struggle that is not against flesh and blood, but against evil.

Jesus taught a very tough truth about love and enemies. This conversation is recorded in chapter six of the gospel of Luke:

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Like it or not, Bin Laden was created in the image of God for the purpose of relationship. He, like you and me, is worthy of love. I do not condone his actions for one minute, so please do not reach that conclusion from reading this post. What I am suggesting is that mercy and justice play a role in the God's Kingdom. I can choose what my response to this, and any other situation will be. My hope and prayer is that in any and all response I will represent love, demonstrate humility, embrace justice and walk in mercy.