What Disciples of Jesus Need (Part Two)

Maybe you, like I, can have an issue with others telling me what I need, too – especially if I haven’t had a chance to decide for myself. But if you are a follower of Christ, it’s likely that you have thought about what it means to be His… and follow Him. These paragraphs can maybe help put words to these thoughts and longings.

Every follower of Jesus needs to meld. A strange word to put into a spiritual context, but stay with the rationale. To meld means to mingle, mix it up, or combine. It relates to two primary industries: metal-smithy and whiskey-making. Both use it to describe mixing unique elements to create something stronger than the individual parts. One creates very practical and concrete results; the other… well, let’s say random and less practical.

I need to meld my life with others. I am better and live the life of “Christ-in-me” with more consistency when I spend time with a small group of other followers. What I am made of somehow brings strength to them; and they make me stronger.

This need for melding landed hard on my life one day when I was at a funeral of a friend. One day, I was sitting next to my friend and his wife – Susan and I in dress-casual, they in full leathers and colors related to their biker group. Three days later, I am sitting in the balcony of a church, watching the ushers wheel in his casket. I watched as fifty or more bikers filed in to the center seats, and realized I was alone. I knew no one well; and worse, no one knew me.

Plato wrote, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” The Psalmist says: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” I examined my life and realized I needed some people around me who knew me, loved me, examined me, and “watched my back” as I sought to progress in my journey with Christ.

Whatever I call my group: small group, Sunday School, Life Group, Cell Group, or “Can-We-Meet-For-A-Coffee Group;” as a follower of Jesus, I need a group. I’m known, I fit, I can learn to use my gifts and “experiment” in learning to love and serve like Christ. Most of all, when I mix it up with these guys who are committed to me, I am stronger.

The Need? A place to meld with others. The Kingdom activity? I get to be involved in Kingdom service and relationships. And when I buy into this whole “melding” need, I get to see the activity and compassion of God in others… and this pleases Him.

By the way, every other week, I meet (read: meld) with a group of around eight others who are committed to be followers of Christ. It’s what a disciple needs.

Mixing it up,

Pain and timing

I’m hard-pressed to find a stronger example of the difference between freedom and imprisonment than this morning’s Genesis read. Joseph was a unique guy for sure, and a little cocky, but he took on some serious undeserved pain: he was abandoned, rejected, hated, enslaved, tempted in a huge way, accused wrongfully, imprisoned, forgotten, and otherwise tossed around by life. (start in Genesis 38 for the whole story.) He stayed at peace with God through it all; he trusted that God was at work, even in the pain.
His older brothers (count ’em at 10) were his opposites. They hated, rejected a life of faith, lived for the moment and thought nothing for the future. They might have lived outside of the prison cell, but their guilt and what their actions brought them fabricated bars stronger than iron.
No freedom can match what a clear conscience delivers. And viewing the pain, deserved or otherwise, we face through the lens of faith liberates us. It’s not good or fun, and none of us stand in line for more of it. But trusting that God is working something good inside of us, and fitting our lives into the nexus of his timing and will somehow creates peace in the middle of the pain.
When Joseph re-introduced himself to his brothers after all the pain they had cause him, he put all of it in perspective, and said: “God sent me ahead of you.” Going through pain, disappointment, delays, and dark times with trust in God’s goodness aligns our passions, our timing, and our place in His will, to His agenda.
Looking for the big picture from here,

What Disciples of Jesus Need (Part One)

This could get really personal… the nerve to tell others that I know what they need better than they! Just stay with me, though. Because, if God’s Grand Design for His people is anything…it’s deeply and painfully personal. So, maybe I can lift the painful part and couch it in first person.

I need mending. There is always a need for healing … because for me, there is always something wrong, needy, broken, misaligned, infected, or out of balance. In Christ, there is always a place for healing.

Could it be that I have limited my experience to salvation healing, but God wants to take the healing deeper to heal body, soul, mind, as well as spirit? (Jeremiah, with one breath, called out to God with praise for healing and for salvation!) I have a body that needs His touch, a soul that has taken on the scars of the battle, and a mind that has been smudged with the stuff of the world.

I need mending, and this comes by being in the presence of the Great Mender. In His presence, I find healing. Sometimes, right away. Sometimes, over the course of time, through much prayer and fasting, and with the help of friends whom God uses. I am mended.

Relationship with Christ always starts with mending. He heals my sin-sickness when I say “YES” to His gift of salvation through His sacrificial execution. He heals my misdirection when I take up the call to follow His plan and Lordship. He heals my relationships when I become less “me-centric” and more “other-centric.” And He continues to heal me when I come into His presence. And He opens the door to the waiting room, calls my name, examines me, and invites me to speak to Him about what hurts.

Disciples need mending.

Now, how painful was that?

More to come.

About Outreach

I think about Outreach… a lot. (I wish I did more of it.) We do outreach in America arranged around church flags. Each project or event has a banner planted in the middle, calling out the affiliation (and sometimes, the location, service times, and maybe even the PayPal connection.) We arrange a place and time for a project, and then claim turf over that area for a few hours. Sometimes, we then leave it, never to return… and we take our flag with us.

Evangelism is all about believers in Jesus making Him known so that those who need Him hear His heart, see His hands, believe His Message, and give Him worship. We want, we groan and long for, salvation and healing to come to those apart from Christ. But it’s not about populating one church or another (though I believe this comes with the healing.) It’s about populating His kingdom.

So, it follows that evangelism can happen best through relationships, serving, sharing life, and giving away the Message. What if, when we plan to reach out, we looked for ways we can do all this without the flags? Maybe we can find places, organizations, activities, events, and groups that are already in place. Then, we can serve, do life, and give away the Message in a context that is already ongoing and in place. Who we are, how we love, and what we say can declare Jesus, right there.

Outreach moves beyond the marque in the church lot, past the banner set up in the middle of the two-hour incursion, and into the space where people already do life, serve, and share what’s important. And they honestly and really need help. (I can’t think of a non-profit service group or event like the Special Olympics or the local Helping Hands that would turn away a volunteer who genuinely wanted to serve.)

It’s very important to get the word out about our church and how someone is supposed to connect to us.

But it’s mandatory that we get the word out about The Word. And a lot of the people who need to know Him are hanging out right around us, already seeking Him and a trying to find ways to make a difference in our community.

It’s important to spotlight who we are on our marque, too. (I live near “restaurant row” in a resort area — I’m still waiting to see a church marque that says “Now serving!” or “Special today! Forgiveness, wholeness, purpose, and relationships you can trust!”)

But it’s essential that we spotlight the Savior, His glory and mercy!

This week, Susan and I have taken the first steps in our new town to join the “Carolina Italian American Organization” — yes, that would spell out as CIAO. We met a couple of families at a beach music concert and festival a few weeks ago. The group is non-profit and they serve military personnel who return from Iraq and Afghanistan to our area and they work with other charities in the Carolinas. And I hear they throw a pretty good Christmas dance.

So, pray for us as we seek to build relationships, serve faithfully, do life with others, and give away the Message. Maybe CIAO can help us find ways to live an outreach life.

Walking it Out in Faith,